Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Glaivester on Same Sex Marriage

Glaivester makes an interesting observation about "same sex marriage" proponents:

[T]hey scoff at the idea that same-sex marriage will weaken marriage: "how," they ask, "will letting more people get married weaken marriage?" The answer, of course, is that it will weaken marriage by removing the particulars that make marriage marriage.

If I were to insist that Rush Limbaugh's (or Randall Terry's) ideas were to be labelled "feminist" or that Jesse Helms be placed in the camp of the "anti-racists," the leftists would have a field day. Obviously in that case they can see why increasing their nominal number weakens, and not strengthens, them. But in the end they do not care about marriage, or see it as a mere legal contract no different than, say a business partnership, so the idea that the same principle applies is completely foreign to them.

Mmmm . . .

In many respects, political labels like "feminist" or "conservative" serve as expressions of tribal loyalty, and we adopt these labels to align ourselves with a specific group of people. I say, "I'm a conservative" because I want the status of having people associate me with the great conservatives like Ronald Reagan and William Buckley, and not associate me with all those whiny liberals like Ted Kennedy and George W. Bush. The status of "married guy" functions in a parallel way. For one thing, "married guy" status is a huge step up from "unmarried loser" for almost any man over 30. It buys us a level of social and professional credibility that was hitherto withheld. It grants us entrance into the "married guy" club doing "married guy" things with other married guys. We are therefore properly concerned that the value of our membership will be diluted by the presence of homosexual males; first, such presence would corrupt "like things" with "unlike things"; second, and more specifically, the status of "homosexual male" is one to which no heterosexual aspires to outside of the precincts of New York's fashion community.

But of course, political labels often mean much more. No doubt, most of the people adopting the label "feminist" do so out of adherence to a specific policy program, one that Rush Limbaugh doesn't share. And since our discussion of political issues trades in shorthand that allows us to discuss these programs with labels like "feminist" rather than describing the program anew at every blog post, liberals would rightly object that the value of the shorthand becomes diluted if their opinions are mixed with those of Rush Limbaugh.

What, then, is the analogue to marriage? Are "married guys" devoted to a policy program? To the extent children are involved, we might be able to make some generalizations; however, these generalizations would be weak, certainly compared to other generalizations like "Christian," for instance, describes a certain child-rearing philosophical program, and a set of priorities about what our common social space should look like. But since almost everybody get married eventually, the "married" club is too diverse to agree on what a policy program should look like.

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