On Identity - Again
October 18, 2014
Arizona Falls Beneath the Juggernaut
As a resident of Arizona, I was disappointed by the recent court ruling that imposed same-sex marriage upon our state. Given the current direction of our courts, the ruling wasn't a surprise, but it was disappointing nevertheless. Those who have been placed in a position of honor and authority should be expected to use that honor and authority to do the right thing; and in this case, they didn't.
The result is both frustrating as well as annoying because it is both wrong as well as incorrect. It's wrong because same-sex marriage is a bad idea. My past writing explains why, but for a more comprehensive explanation, I refer you to Discussing Marriage, a website which I recommend both for the intelligence of their arguments as well as the civility of their tone. May more people learn to speak about same-sex marriage with such civility. (And may I.)
The ruling was incorrect because limiting marriage to male-female couples is not unconstitutional. If the law hasn't changed, then judicial rulings should not change either. The people might have changed, but let them prove that through their votes. That's how a democracy is supposed to work. Instead, our judiciary is disgracing itself. Their faulty rulings will not be forgotten, nor will the names attached to them.
Unfortunately, too many ignore the judicial activism because they are satisfied with the result. They don't realize there are two separate questions here. The first question is whether or not same-sex marriage should be recognized. Some people think yes. Some people think no. But that is completely separate from the second question: Is it constitutional for a state to limit marriage to male-female couples? And that second question is where our courts are failing. How many millions of Americans have voted their preference about the definition of marriage? How many millions of Americans are now being told by judges: “We don't care what you think. We get to decide what marriage is, not you.” We are witnessing a repeat of Roe v. Wade. Just as was done with abortion, supporters of same-sex marriage are imposing their will through court rulings rather than by persuading the people to agree with them.
It's Time to Grow Up
We need to become more mature about our Constitution. The fact that we think a law is bad does not mean that that law is unconstitutional. The definition of “unconstitutional” is not “a law I don't like”. It's not even “a law I think is horrible”. Too many treat the Constitution as if it were something that should support all of their viewpoints, but that's not what it's for. The Constitution provides a foundation for our freedoms. The rest is left up to us to decide through our representatives. If we dislike a law, then the remedy is to elect better representatives. Transforming judges into kings is not the solution. All that does is strip the right of self-determination from the people, making all of us less and less free.
We need to learn the difference between “Must” and “Should” when it comes to our laws. “Must” means that something is constitutionally required. “Should” means that something is a good law. There are far fewer “Musts” than we regularly admit.
Must birth control be legal? No.
Should birth control be legal? Absolutely.
Must abortion be legal? No.
Should abortion be legal? Wouldn't it be nice if we were free to discuss this together and write laws that best fit us as a people?
Must same-sex sex be legal? No.
Should same-sex sex be legal? Yes. The time for community standards to be communicated through unenforced laws has past. (But California, apparently, didn't get the memo.)
Must states recognize same-sex marriages? No.
Should states recognize same-sex marriages? No, and if you disagree, at least have the decency to allow the people to decide that for ourselves instead of having it imposed on us by judges who fancy themselves kings.
We need to grow up. The fact that some aren't getting their way at the ballot box is no reason to transform our nation into a judicial monarchy.
Identity - Again
The key to this conflict is identity. Judges are accepting the arguments in favor of same-sex marriage because they are falling for the fallacy that gays are a separate group of people. But that isn't true. The truth is that gays are all of us, just like straights are all of us. Those words are just labels, not groups of people, and those labels are fantasy. Any judicial ruling that is based on them is based on nothing but fantasy. May that fantasy crumble shortly.
Is sexual attraction a core part of our identity? When we ask someone to reject an improper sexual desire, is it like asking them to cut off a leg? No. Asking someone to reject an improper sexual desire is like asking them to reject any other vice. Attraction isn't who we are. Treating it like it is is why marriage is losing in the courtroom.
This make-believe style of identity could be claimed for any behavior. Try it yourself. First, pick a behavior you consider to be improper. Now, identify everyone that wants to perform that behavior. Combine them into a group, give them a name, claim that the behavior is who they are, throw in some good PR, and—presto! Speaking against that behavior is now hate speech. You still consider that behavior to be improper? Well, now you're a bigot.
Can't you see this is nonsense? You could do this with any behavior. Why does our society keep falling for it whenever it speaks about same-sex attraction? Attraction is not who we are.
A Life of Constant Uncertainty
Have you considered the implications of the stories of those who “discovered” their sexual identity later in life? Let me give you an example. Suppose there is a woman who has been happily married to her husband for a number of years, has a few kids, etc. Life is good. She is happy. But then a new neighbor moves in next door. Let's call her neighbor Mary. This woman and her neighbor Mary develop a great friendship; and, unexpectedly, it doesn't stop there. Friendship leads to other feelings, which lead to more until eventually this woman and her neighbor Mary are having a sexual relationship.
Let's stop there. Now, what will people say about this story? Some will say it is an example of a woman who “discovered” herself, who realized that, unexpectedly, she wasn't straight after all, she was a lesbian. But haven't we forgotten something? Hasn't our rush to embrace same-sex attraction and same-sex relationships caused us to lose sight of an important part of the story?
What if Mary's name had been Mark? Did we forget the part where I mentioned this woman is married? If adultery isn't wrong when the neighbor is a woman, then adultery isn't wrong when the neighbor is a man. And if adultery isn't wrong, then what is the point of marriage?
But there is another interesting side to this story. What if her neighbor Mary had never moved in next door? Would this woman have lived her entire life considering herself to be straight? What then is she really? Is she straight? Is she gay?
And now comes the fun part. I have a question for you, Dear Reader. Do you consider yourself to be straight? Ah, but according to stories such as these, how can you be sure about that? Perhaps you only consider yourself to be straight because your own “neighbor Mary” hasn't yet moved in next door.
Can't you see how unworkable that point of view is? If sexual attraction defines us, then we are doomed to forever be unsure of who we really are because each time our life changes we can “discover” we are someone completely different. And that's why the idea is so ridiculous. Do you really want to live in such an unstable society? Is that what you want for your loved ones, a life of constant uncertainty?
Attraction isn't who we are. Attraction is something that we feel, now, today. What we feel tomorrow might be completely different, but what we might feel tomorrow isn't important because right and wrong never change, and same-sex sexual intimacy will forever be wrong.
Those Who Should Know Better
It's unfortunately not uncommon to read opinions from those who believe that all churches will one day accept same-sex marriages and will all teach that same-sex sexual intimacy is moral. To hear this from a non-believer isn't surprising, but to hear it from a believer who otherwise accepts the moral code of their church is perplexing. How exactly do they expect such a change to work? Obviously they are falling for the fallacy of sexual identity and are splitting humanity into groups based on sexual attraction; but, more than that, they seem to have no appreciation for the amount of ambiguity that can be present, especially for youth. Do they expect everyone to just magically know? If a teenager scratches their arm, does a tag stating their sexual identity appear? “Oh, look,” the teenager will say. “My tag says 'Gay'. I guess I'm supposed to date boys.”
But people don't come equipped with tags, and that is where this vision for the future falls apart. What if someone isn't sure? How do you propose they decide? Should they look at porn? Should they experiment sexually until they know what they prefer? What if they still aren't sure? What if a woman marries a man, has children, and then, after her neighbor Mary moves in next door, discovers that maybe she decided wrong after all?
Those who embrace this vision of the future are headed toward a moral wasteland. All moral standards would have to be eliminated because they could otherwise stand in the way of us “being who we are”. There is no reconciliation between same-sex sexual intimacy and moral standards, not in any form similar to how we live today. And what about families? They can't exist in a moral-free world. They can't exist without the structure provided by standards, and standards can't survive unless we're willing to say: “What you want to do is wrong, and you shouldn't do it.”
Can We Stop the Decline?
In the short term, I'm pessimistic that our decline can be stopped. We are experiencing the consequence of identifying people based on sexual attraction, and the current social inertia is immense. Our main hope in the short term is that some of the remaining appeals court judges will have the integrity and courage to declare: “This is nonsense.” But even if that happens, we are still subject to the decision of the Supreme Court, a court that today has far too many kings and queens and far too few judges. And so, in the short term, inertia might simply have to run its course.
But I am more optimistic in the long term. The judicial rulings in favor of same-sex marriage are nonsense, and the more time that passes, the more people will come to realize that, especially after they realize that the concept of sexual identity is nothing more than fantasy.
Any ruling based on judicial activism, such as all the rulings in favor of same-sex marriage, can be reversed by judges in the future. The Dred Scott ruling is the example to keep in mind. Today, that ruling is viewed with scorn. May that scorn be unleashed soon upon the rulings in favor of same-sex marriage.
My Main Worries
But for now, we must deal with the consequences of same-sex marriage and what it brings. Of all those consequences, two things worry me the most. First, I worry that those with formal religious beliefs will be more and more marginalized by those with informal religious beliefs. (Everyone has a religion even if we don't all go to church.) The gay rights movement* has twisted the legacy of the civil rights movement into a bludgeon, and they are swinging it around like mad. Their claim that this is a struggle about civil rights isn't true. That's not what this is about. This is a religious argument. This is a dispute about who gets to define the word 'sin'. I'll have more to say about that in a forthcoming satire.
But I also worry about the youth. Same-sex attraction is a desire that all of us can feel. It is a universal possibility for everyone, man and woman. And yet, society today claims that if you fell same-sex attraction, then you're different. They claim that if you feel it, you're not a normal man or woman. They tell you to lock yourself in a little box and to mark yourself with a rainbow label. They tell you that that is who you are, that this is how you must live. And so, I worry that today those who would have brushed aside their same-sex attraction in the past (or not even noticed it) will find themselves locked in a life where they will be encouraged and expected to do wrong.
And that, to me, is one of the most offensive things about same-sex marriage. We are legally locking people in immoral relationships. Why in the world would we want to support that? You may live your life as you wish to live it, but don't expect me to help forge your chains.
Be Ready, Parents
The world has changed. The road that was so clear to us has been shattered and our children will have to find their way along the pieces. When your grade-school daughter holds the hand of her friend, you will know it's only innocent friendship. But what will other adults think it is? What will other adults tell her it means? All of us are flexible. None of us are magically locked in place. And our children will have to face possibilities that never even occurred to us at their age. Be ready. Prepare yourself by recognizing the possibility within yourself. Don't be afraid of it. Understand it instead. Know that it means nothing. Then, when your child, confused and afraid, comes to you and confesses they feel same-sex attraction, you will be able to tell them: “It's fine that you feel that. You don't need to be ashamed at all. But I expect you to reject it just like I do.”
* Update: I would replace the words "gay rights movement" with "same-sex movement" were I writing this today. The term "gay rights" is misleading, and I strongly discourage its use. It does not accurately describe what the conflict is actually about. [May 16, 2015]