Someone from a libertarian-conservative think tank publishes an opinion piece suggesting that same-sex marriage is a reasonable thing. As the piece concludes:
If marriage is so socially beneficial, why not encourage as many to join it as possible? The choice is between excluding gay people from the foundation of strong families or inviting them in.This prompted a prominent Australian anti-gay activist, Bill Muehlenberg, to write a piece claiming that homosexual motive was to change marriage and that same-sex marriage would be a social disaster:
The truth is, homosexuals do not at all have in mind what most of us understand marriage to be. Indeed, they have something radically different in mind. Most seek to radically expand and alter the common understanding of marriage. Long-term monogamous fidelity is seldom part of this new understanding.This is the standard “Homosexual Agenda” move: homosexuals have An Agenda and it's Baaaaad. After quoting various queer folk (six) suggesting that monogamy would not be part of same-sex marriage, Muehlenberg concludes:
The attempt to radically redefine the very essence of marriage is not a minor word change. It will be a major transformation of society as we know it. But the radical social activists know they have to weaken up the public to accept such massive social changes.This is the “Homosexuals Will Corrupt Anything They Are Allowed Into” move combined with the “There Can Be No Moral Truth To Their Claims, So It Must Be A Trick” move.
That is way it is a truism that social engineering is always preceded by verbal engineering. And there is plenty of this verbal sleight of hand taking place right now, even by so-called conservative social commentators.
So far, fairly standard anti-gay activist stuff: if anything, a relatively mild version.
Muehlenberg’s piece was published on Online Opinion, a very open online opinion website. The organiser, Graham Young, had packaged his website with various other ‘high end’ Australian blogs in a common domain for advertising. After some activism against the site for running Muehlenberg's piece, ANZ and IBM decided to pull their advertising, as Christopher Pearson set out in an article in The Australian. This is a form of secondary boycott, as Skepticlawyer explains in a post which prompted the original version for the following.
So, my response is one of: good grief, where to start?
First, equal protection of the law is a good reason NOT to have hate speech laws and codes. These things are never equal in application or coverage. Some ‘hate’ or ‘offense’ always counts more than others.
Second, Online Opinion is precisely about that: a vehicle for expressing opinion. It does not have an opinion line and it is ludicrous to target it as if does so (or expect it do to so), let alone thereby penalising such a varied range of blogs.
Third, Muehlenberg is very intellectually low rent. A task I keep putting off is wading through his stuff and documenting how intellectually poor it is.
Muehlenberg has the same problem that anti-Semites had when granting Jews equality before the law was a fraught issue: invoking a large majority against a small and vulnerable minority can so easily be portrayed as the monstrous bullying it is (or seeks to be). So, anti-queer activists such as Muehlenberg use exactly the same tactics as anti-Jewish activists did:
(1) Claim there is a single view and purpose among said group (hence all homosexuals have the same purpose regarding marriage, according to Muehlenberg).Arguments for equality for any group usually display two broad approaches:
(2) Claim that they are actually powerful group, not a small and vulnerable minority at all (which the secondary boycott nonsense just feeds).
(3) Claim that they are fundamentally perverse by nature (so, gays aren’t monogamous: of course, lesbians notoriously have stable monogamous relationships, but we just ignore that, as we do heterosexual infidelity and the argument that promoting monogamy is precisely a reason to extend marriage).
(4) Claim that they have enormous corrupting power. Hence allowing same-sex marriage will profoundly change society. The historical evidence is that is nonsense. But Muehlenberg does not want to consider evidence that the endless war against human sexual diversity he advocates is a pointless and destructive war (except for the purpose of promoting the prime benefit of bigotry — selling effortless virtue and selling oneself as a “gatekeeper of righteousness”).
(1) This society/institution is fine, it should just stop excluding us and will continue to work fine if we are included.Arguments against granting some group full membership of the moral community and equal protection of the laws regularly use advocacy of (2) to argue that (1) cannot happen, which is precisely what Muehlenberg is doing. The evidence is, again and again, that there is a great deal more continuity than profound change when exclusions are lifted. Giving Jews, Catholics, Protestants, blacks, women etc equal protection of the laws did not undermine the basic structures of society. On the contrary, it improved access to their talents and stopped wasting resources on exclusion. Giving votes to women made politics more responsive to their concerns, but the continuity in basic patterns and structures clearly far outweighed changes beyond such responsiveness.
(2) That we are excluded shows this society/institution is deeply flawed and needs to be replaced/restructured, which our inclusion/liberation will be a lever to do.
But, since the entire argument for exclusion typically rests on “they are not adequate/proper versions of the human”, the opponents are bound to, in effect, agree with the radicals and deny the case of the just-includers. As the claim of the excluders is, in fact, profoundly wrong, the reality of common humanity again and again proves to trump claims of special identity and produce far more continuity than change.
As it will here, as the anthropological evidence makes quite clear. But Muehlenberg is not interested in evidence except when it is convenient.
The historical evidence about marriage in general, and same-sex marriage in particular, is much more complicated than Muehlenberg’s simplicities imply. Regarding the medieval evidence, for example, it took the Church quite a lot of debate to decide that consummation was necessary for marriage, which makes contemporary natural law theorists making such a big deal of penile-vaginal sex as an “obvious” defining feature of marriage amusing. While Saint Aelred, Abbot of Rievaulx had this to say, in his Spiritual Friendship on Jesus and St John:
Jesus himself, is in everything like us. Patient and compassionate with others in every matter. He transfigured this sort of love through the expression of his own love; for he allowed only one – not all – to recline on his breast as a sign of his special love; and the closer they were, the more copiously did the secrets of their heavenly marriage impart the sweet smell of their spiritual chrism to their love.Then there is the fun dispute over Orthodox rites of same-sex bonding.
Yes, of course Muehlenberg is pushing a bigoted line. Bigots ALWAYS claim to be defending moral decency, because bigotry is always and everywhere a moral claim: it is a claim about who is in and who is out, who is up and who is down, in the moral community.
Secondary boycotts just feed the notion that he and his are Heroic Fighters Against A Force of Great Corrupting Power which anti-queer activists make in the same way and for the same reasons anti-Jewish activists make. But it is easy to knock over Muehlenberg’s arguments, which makes feeding the noxious analysis of social dynamics his sort of activism feeds off all the more deeply stupid and self-defeating.
UPDATE Things get murkier: it