“the belief that gay people are evil”

A possibly large number of people seem to be convinced that discovery of opposition to or mere lack of unqualifiedly enthusiastic support for same sex marriage must always justify charges of bigotry, a finding that in contemporary American political culture is meant to require ostracism at least. This phenomenon would count as dismaying if history had given us any reason to nurture higher expectations for ourselves. To avoid further disappointment, one may prefer to presume the unlikelihood of being heard any further, or at all, by the self-styled enemies of bigotry. They will continue to believe, or choose to believe, what they prefer to believe, or remain invincibly non-cognizant of any belief other than the one expressed by a blog commenter at Ordinary Times: “No matter how much anti-marriage views are dressed up as simple political or religious differences, at the core it boils down to the belief that gay people are evil or gay people are insane.”

Heard and accepted or not, to maintain or to have maintained, or strongly to suspect, rightly or wrongly, that the costs of marriage equality legislation and jurisprudence are or may be or must someday be revealed to have been unacceptably high does not inherently require or reflect any prejudice or aggressive animus, in short any bigotry at all, in regard to anyone. Nor does belief that the traditional or gender complementarist or so-called natural or procreative marriage concept deserves a unique place in custom and therefore in law inherently require or necessarily reflect animus toward or judgment of anyone. Nor does belief that a different and in some respects more inclusive concept must, in displacing the former concept, produce likely harmful consequences, inherently require or necessarily reflect animus toward or judgment of anyone.

Such positions neither judge nor refer directly to the personal desires, character, or conduct of gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, or transgender individuals, or of anyone else or of anyone at all, even if insistence on one regime of marital customs necessarily precludes acceptance of an alternative regime, and even if insistence on the traditional regime also tends to imply an inherently subjective lower estimation, as morally diminishable, of the personal fulfillment, acceptance, and simple and very real greater conveniences offered to same sex couples and their families under the new regime.

The recognition that no one wishes to accept in a liberal society is that “pursuit of happiness” is not and never has been absolutely “inalienable”: Everyone’s heart’s desire and everyone’s absolute “created” equality  is subject to compromise and “alienation” from the moment social life commences, from the crib forward. That bigots as well as the normally selfishly indifferent are grouped together on the other side of SSM has been a problem, perhaps the decisive concrete political problem, for the socially conservative position on marriage. It has meant that to support SSM and the larger gay rights agenda equates with rebuking “the bigots.” It also has provided the element of truth in the charges made against SSM opponents. The potential for a parallel syndrome to appear in relation to the pro-SSM side has always been latent, and the political fortunes of the SSM movement may be overdue for market correction.

5 comments on ““the belief that gay people are evil”

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  1. I think you’re very much missing the point of my comment. I’m not trying to say that being opposed to same-sex marriage requires active animus. Clearly, that’s not the case.

    My point is this: at the core of every argument that opposes same-sex marriage, whether it’s a religious argument, or a philosophical argument, or a purely practical argument, is the belief that I am wrong. That how I feel and act is wrong. Whether that means I’m evil, or that I’m suffering from a sickness, or that I’m simply making the world a worse place through my actions.

    You write that your arguments don’t judge personal desires, character, or conduct of LGBT people or others. But of course they do, and it’s silly to pretend otherwise. The belief that marriage equality has a significant potential for negative consequences is a judgement about conduct. The belief that the heterosexual union has a special place in the natural order is a judgement about desire.

    And no matter how abstract these judgments are, in each case, I am found wanting in some fashion. I’m not trying to say that these judgments are evil. And my argument doesn’t even hinge on these judgments being incorrect (though, of course, I do think they’re incorrect). My point is that whatever the source of these judgments, whether they’re motivated by animus or not, whether they’re right or not, is an attack on my dignity and the dignity of people like me.

    I am not calling for the ostracism of those who oppose same-sex marriage. But (and here’s the important part) I will not and cannot be expected to accept those views as legitimate. They are, by definition, an attack on me, whether the person expressing them intends them that way or not. This is not an area where I can “agree to disagree”.

    You will find the same phenomenon, I expect, where a religious person is confronted with the belief that religion is a mass delusion, or a woman is told that only males are capable of true reason. Each of these beliefs isn’t just in conflict with the beliefs of the other party, but is actually in conflict with the basic dignity of the other party.

    It’s an unresolvable conflict. And what you identify as ostracism is a natural result of that. If some guy holds beliefs that are fundamentally opposed to my basic dignity, I’m not going to go on a crusade to get him fired and deported. But I’m also not going to invite him to my birthday party. I’m not going to hang out with him after work, and if he’s my boss, I’m going to start looking for a different job. And people that respect and value me will probably do the same thing.

    That’s why Brendan Eich lasted years as CTO but couldn’t last two weeks as CEO. Because as CEO, Eich needed to maintain positive relationships with his gay and gay affirming employees, and that’s something that he couldn’t do while espousing the beliefs he espoused.

  2. Hi, Alan, thanks for coming by and for sharing and defending your views. It helps me very much with my own thinking.

    First, I want to distinguish between opposing same sex marriage at all, and opposing particular approaches to same sex marriage in theory, custom, and law. Second, the only view of mine put forward in the above notes is that it is possible to oppose same sex marriage as actually advanced – i.e., the actual “marriage proposal” that is offered in politics and law – for reasons other than bigotry.

    On the first point, one can believe that gay people are capable of forming relationships that are in a moral or philosophical sense equal or superior to the relationships that straight people form – that, for instance, they can represent an even higher ideal of human love – without believing that the two types of relationship need always be treated as “absolutely the same” conceptually. Precisely because erotic relationships between people of the same sex were not tied up with all of the endless breeder baggage, they could, it was and still is believed by some, be pursued with greater purity and intensity, on their own terms, spiritual or carnal or both. This view is associated with the ancient Greeks, and was once more common among self-identified gay men and women, and in different ways among “libertines,” than before “marriage equality” moved to the top of the gay rights agenda. The view is still articulated by a few in approximately these terms, and may, as a kind of essential human possibility or potential, be universal in human social life, regardless of prohibitions on its expression.

    The matter of organizing affairs relating to sexual re-production – or social reproduction through the bearing and raising of children – can be addressed separately, though the degree to which and the ways in which it can and should be separated may be strongly contested. Whatever position we take on the latter problem, we can still observe the social institution that grew up in the West and that has been handed down to us as “marriage” encodes numerous assumptions about how this central task of all human societies might, on average, best be handled. Many of these assumptions are deeply embedded in our beliefs about what a good life is, at a level where the differences between “practical necessity,” “perceived necessity,” “simple convenience,” and “moral belief” can be difficult to ascertain. These assumptions are inculcated through education at home and in schools, and are constantly reinforced in society – in culture, in custom, in the law. For most of us, the associated precepts – that mothers will love and protect their children, that fathers will take pride in being fathers and be especially concerned with their own genetic offspring, that society will support families formed on this basis, and so on – are second nature at least.

    There is a complex argument to be made about whether such attachments are actually “first nature,” or as to just how “natural” or “instinctual” they are, and then secondly whether it should make any difference to us whether they are natural or instinctual. I don’t want to get sidetracked on that discussion here. The point that’s relevant for us, I believe, is that it is possible to hold a number of different positions about the best ways for a society to handle or for us to think about what appear to be two different, possibly overlapping but not absolutely interdependent sets of potential social questions: those relating to contractual bonds based on emotional commitments, and those relating to sexual re-production.

    It is possible, for instance, to take the position, as is somewhat frequently heard among libertarians, that the state should just “get out of the marriage business” altogether. Someone holding this view may oppose – or refrain from supporting – same sex marriage legislation without taking any position on the equivalence or non-equivalence of homosexual and heterosexual relationships, while judgment of the comparative moral or essential rightness or wrongness in any moral sense of gay or straight people never enters into the equation. If we understand “marriage” to mean “civil marriage” or “state-recognized marriage,” then someone holding this view is “against same sex marriage,” but because in this sense he or she is against “marriage” (i.e., as a state-supported institution) at all.

    For my own part, though I share some of the libertarian-anarchist or libertine’s nausea regarding the idealization or sacralization of a bourgeois institution in a particular highly contingent form, I have a different view. I can point you to longer pieces I have written on the subject, but, really, and not to make light of this matter, I think I have to be allowed to reject your marriage proposal without being taken to think the less of you. That is, you have to be able to cope with rejection, or you are placing an unfair burden on anyone you propose to, and giving them an independent reason to reject you.

  3. On the wider point of the state vs. liberty, Person of Interest, has been examining it, from an interesting angle, last season, a
    anarchist group, called Vigilance, arose, against the various data mining organizations, one of them is called Decima, well it turned out in the season finale, that the latter group had brought the former into being, as the scapegoat for a terrorist outrage, they
    had themselves perpetrated, in order to sanction another more interactive outfit, not unlike the helicarriers in the last Captain America film,

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