Thursday, February 22, 2007

MLK, gay equality, and homophobia

Over the past month I've been engaged off and on in a very lengthy debate with someone on the Springfield News-Leader web forum about same-sex marriage. An editorial was written by the assistant editor of the newspaper about Martin Luther King, Jr., the civil rights movement, homosexuals within the movement, and homosexual rights issues. It's ironic that the article was referred to me by a closed-minded homophobic bigot and Bush apologist known on the forums as 'Pioneer'. I've had confrontations and extremely lengthy debates with him for months. What is ironic about it is that while he's admitted knowing nothing about gay marriage and such issues, he always has an opinion about it. He loves to make snide insinuations about my sexual orientation, among other things. In fact, we were in a heated exchange when he passed this article on to me, seemingly for dubious reasons.

Anyway, back to the real topic here. Naturally, some debate ensued from this controversial editorial written by Brian Lewis. There were suggestions from one of the dissenting views, "A real discussion about homosexuality shouldn't start with homosexuals, but with actual sexual practices of some homosexuals - the word is sodomy." That was written by 'Steve Maxwell'. Of course, nevermind the fact that sodomy is a rather insulting word. Legally, it has generally been used to describe a criminal act of "unnatural" sex, and though such laws are no longer legal, it is still used to describe "unnatural" sexual acts that are forced or coerced. And then of course it invokes the story of Sodom & Gomorrah where the god of the Old Testament destroyed two cities and all their inhabitants {save 4} for their sins, which according to conservative Christians included chief along them — homosexual acts. Of course some Biblical scholars will tell you that according to other passages it had more to do with other transgressions, one of which could include an angry mob demanding to rape god's angels. No, let's put all that aside. Why is it so important to the discussion the "sexual practices of some homosexuals"? I'm really not sure, but I do notice that we don't seem to apply that same standard when talking about the sexual practices of "some" heterosexuals.

Steve goes on to say, "I vow to never spy on you in your bedroom... All I ask in return is that you drop the silly notion that the time honored definition of marriage as a union between a man and a woman amounts to homophobia, bigotry, or injustice." Fair enough. I have a request of my own. I vow not to refer to people who think it's silly that same-sex couples be allowed to marry by their own government as homophobes and bigots, IF they are willing to let their belief in the "time honored definition of marriage as a union between a man and a woman" remain merely a belief, and not a law.

Later, Steve goes on to say that he believes homosexuals should have "basic human rights", but then throws out the ever tired catchphrase "special rights", meaning that he's opposed to them. That's funny, so am I. He uses the analogy, "If a criminal hits me over the head with a hammer, I want him to be punished with the same severity as if he hit a homosexual over the head with a hammer and shouted "faggot!" while doing so." Ok, fair enough. The sentence for hitting someone over the head with a hammer should be the same if you use an epithet as you do it. I can go for that. But can we also have some protections against being hired & fired merely because of our orientation? That seems reasonable too. Can we be permitted to marry the partner of our choosing, serve in the military, and adopt? Somehow I'm doubting he'll sign on for that. So, it looks like the compromise has to be entirely on our side.

Of course, he made another deal, "Don't put what you do in your bedroom in my face, and I won't put what I do in mine in your face." I'm totally okay with that. I will not have sex in front of him or anyone else and would most definitely appreciate the same courtesy. I never realized we were pushing for forced voyeurism anyway...? Anyway, the only issue I take with this statement is that as you dig a bit deeper into what most folks really mean by 'don't put it in my face', you find such things as 'I don't want to see, hear, or know anything about gay stuff...' In other words, you can't talk about your partner in ways that heterosexuals take for granted, holding hands & hugs is definitely frowned upon, and kissing in public is of course forbidden. That's been defined to me from good old 'Pioneer' as "advertising one's sexuality". Ok, so the deal is still on about the bedroom stuff, but as for the little romantic gestures, sorry pal, you'll just have to get used to it.

Now there was another participant in this debate, someone who refers to himself on the web forum as 'On Lawn'. He and his cadre of like-minded anti-homosexuals have a political blog which seems to focus almost exclusively on arguing against same-sex marriage. These guys really need a new hobby. So it turns out, he was in fact the person that I ended up debating the most. First he posted some quotes from civil rights leaders who opposed comparisons between the gay equality struggle and the civil rights movement. I responded in kind by providing several quotes by civil rights leaders that took a stand on gay equality, and made comparisons between the two struggles. Several of these quotes were by Coretta Scott King herself, as well as the President of the NAACP.

From there, the real debate began with "On Lawn". He proposed all sorts faulty arguments as to why same-sex marriage should not be allowed. He defined marriage as "an institution to integrate the genders (a unique sense of humanity as one race with two sexes that were meant to be integrated is revealed in the definition)". I think of marriage as a union of two people, it shouldn't matter about the genders anymore than it does about the races. He touched on such things as the purpose of marriage is a "mooring for responsible procreation", and argued that it must remain that way. When pressed on such issues as heterosexual married couples that cannot have children, that didn't seem to matter because that's a physical impediment and not something the government can predict. He says, "government attempts to guess what situation is fertile and which isn't", no, thank goodness they don't!! Nor should they! Of course, it doesn't seem to matter either that people can choose not to procreate, yes, even healthy folks! His rationale seems to be that since the government doesn't know if they're going to procreate they can't deny marriage to straight couples that chose not to have kids, but in the case of same-sex couples, since they can't possibly procreate {which they can through a surrogate parent} then the government can be certain they won't procreate and therefore shouldn't be allowed to marry. Again this is going on the assumption that the law will state that marriage must involve procreation {not just raising children} if at all possible, and also that IVF doesn't count — at least not for same-sex couples.

Of course he attacked adoption too, though he praised it at other times so it appears his criticism was based primarily at gay-adoption though there were never any specifics given. He did say, "neutered marriage replaces not only heterosexuality, but procreation with a commercial enterprise." So because gay couples can't procreate between them, adoption is a "commercial enterprise". He even compared it to a type of slavery at one point. And of course, when I brought up IVF his response was an almost self-righteous indignation, "is homosexuality a handicap? You would find yourself in disagreement with myself and the GLBT if you would like us to believe it is." No, pal, as a homosexual myself, I don't think I quite equate it as a disability, but thanks for the concern... He goes on, " promote equality between" heterosexual IVF vs. homosexual IVF "is to devote the resources for the handicapped to those who simply feel they cannot love honor and cherish someone of the opposite sex in any marital way." So apparently by allowing same-sex marriage, and gay couples to use medical technology like IVF is to misuse or use up resources that should be spent only on hetero couples who are incapable of procreation...

He continued, "You tell me what to call it then when normal people are given access to resources for the handicapped. I know if I were to get a disability check for claiming I felt I couldn't work in any meaningful way, it would be tantamount to fraud. I wonder what you feel it is about homosexuality that makes their situation any different." Bad analogy. I don't think anyone is asking for money here. In fact, last time I checked people had to pay for IVF, and it's not cheap... Furthermore, those "resources" are there for whoever needs them. That includes people that can't have kids because they caused sterilization in some way, or waited to long to have kids, or are a same-sex couple who physically cannot procreate just like the rest... Like any of this matters anyway, we're supposed to be talking about marriage, and marriage doesn't have to include procreation or raising children. That isn't just my opinion, that is according to the law. Currently people are not denied marriage by the government because they can't or won't have kids.

Ah, but the arguments just get sloppier and sloppier. And then there was the slippery-slope, "A social momentum, like a train leaving a station, is projected on society as a sort of way to pull the argument to neuter marriage from its bootstraps. And it is concerns like that which are too easily dismissed to find later that we have become like the slave owners, the KKK, and others as derided through history for making a very bad mistake where at the time it seemed so natural." Now it gets even more insulting, somehow if we allow same-sex marriage history will look back upon it as an injustice on the order of keeping slaves and racism... No, actually I think you have that backward. History will look back on folks like you and say, "Jeez, what a bunch of freaking bigots!"

On Lawn writes, "looking at what marriage is, and what about marriage is lost, the institution itself is undergoing a dramatic reduction. My family, and the children who will come to us under such a plan are losing protection in order to accommodate homosexuality." Of course I argued that I thought marriage was, "a mooring for responsible behavior, like emotional and financial stability, monogamy, commitment. I also think it is better described as a union in which two people who are romantically involved enter into an indefinite {permanent?} commitment together. I reiterate, whether they have children or not is irrelevant to the legality and validity of their union." I also pointed out that his family and children everywhere are not losing any sort of protection to "accommodate" same-sex marriage. It only works that way in his delusional world. Again, I guess ultimately they insist on exclusivity for heterosexuals. Marriage MUST be for straight folks only. Hmmm... What was that someone was saying about "special rights"? Applying to only one group, majority or not, sure sounds pretty special to me.

He "chaffed at framing this debate as same-sex marriage" saying, "A true same-sex marriage option is not an integration of the sexual orientations, which is the ultimate thrust of so much argumentation in that name." Right, marriage = an integration of people, not races, not genders, not orientations, people.

Almost in passing, 'On Lawn' wrote, "Let marriage be marriage, and let homosexuality be homosexuality." Whatever that means... I mean, does it make sense to say 'let marriage be marriage, and let heterosexuality be heterosexuality'? Not really. In one sense, they are two distinctly different things. One is a legal and/or religious contract, the other is the attraction to and/or pairing of opposite-gendered people. Conversely, in the example On Lawn gave, one is a legal and/or religious contract, the other is the attraction to and/or pairing of same-gendered people. In another sense, marriage and sexuality go together, as couple with a sexual attraction may decide to enter into a legal/emotional/spiritual contract. So, treating homosexuality and marriage as separate things, while traditional, isn't necessarily accurate. The two are no more distinct than that involving heterosexuals other than what people make of it.

He went on to make a total mockery out of gay adoption with remarks like, "Excuse me [sic] me and my lover wish to register this child we just purchased for our relationship, please change the birth certificate accordingly" and "It is robbing the innocent of their rights to pamper a sexual lifestyle. I'm not against that lifestyle, but I am not against children either." Supposedly to be in favor of same-sex marriage equates to being "against children". And we all know the hysterical frenzy people can get worked up into with notions like 'think of the children'...

Of course, he resorted to some loaded rhetoric, saying of the Massachusetts decision to allow same-sex marriage as, "they neutered the marriage definition for the sake of homosexuality, removing any significance to heterosexuality to our humanity." Now there's some major overreaction and a hell of a false dichotomy. By allowing same-sex marriage the significance of heterosexuality to our humanity is removed? I suppose if you insist on heterosexuality being exclusively the only sexuality allowed... Homosexuality takes places in much of the animal kingdom yet we don't see that stealing anything from a species, and populations tend to continue to thrive. Surely clever humans can work it out to where less than 5% of the population can be homosexually coupled and the human race doesn't go extinct from it... Again he went on to state, "it is clear that there seems no way to integrate homosexuality in marriage without neutering the definition." It most certainly redefines traditional marriage, but redefinition isn't the same as neutering, furthermore it doesn't in any way impede other people, in fact, most people from engaging in traditional marriage just like they always did. This rhetoric is mere hyperbole. Use a harsh word like that and it conjures all sorts of diabolical schemes in the imaginations of the squeamish, kind of like when people talk of "marriage being under attack".

Needless to say, this "neutered marriage" idea would continue to come up a lot. It amazes me how inconceivable it is to folks how insulting phrases like "sodomy", "neutered" marriage and "protecting the sanctity of marriage" is to those of us they are said about. I mean honestly, how the hell would they feel if people said such things about them and their inherent desires {which harms no one}, their partner, and the relationship they share together? Yeah, I think a lot of folks would be inclined to respond 'them's fighting words!'

Things really got off on a tangent there for a while, he was trying to make the argument that if marriage doesn't have to involve procreation, why does it have to involve romance. Of course, I think it should, but it doesn't have to within the law. He used a mother/daughter team who want to get married for the benefits. He really doesn't see the insult here either, it's just entirely a financial arrangement for us eh? Therefore, anyone wanting to partner for financial reasons should be able to marry like gays can... Interesting logic. I said I thought it was fine for them to get a domestic partnership, but not a marriage. He tried to make an argument at one point that there was some requirement somewhere that a couple in a domestic partnership must verify they are sexually involved. I'd never heard of such a thing, the state would actually request that, would they? Since when? Turns out the state doesn't, some private companies did... Can we please stay on topic?

So we've gone back and forth and back and forth at length with each other. It has now hit a lull. Here are my closing comments. I haven't as of yet had a response, though I expect to get one eventually. The article and the numerous comments on it can be found here.

I must say, I still wonder just how 'On Lawn', who, according to his profile on blogger is from California, found an obscure editorial in some small town in Missouri... What are the odds? And he made an account with the news-leader forum on the day of this article, so one would think he hadn't been to the forum before. I notice too that he hasn't written anything in any other topics on the forum. This seems to be the only topic he's concerned about. Like I said, get a new hobby. This subject affects me far more than it ever would him, and yet he and his comrades have turned stopping same-sex marriage into some kind of crusade.

There was at least one thing he said that I agreed with, "there are aspects of this debate that are simple common misconceptions with very grave circumstances." Yeah, and he's made quite a few of them...

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