Tuesday, October 2, 2012

A False Argument Against Marriage Equality

I’ve lived in several major metropolitan areas in my life, including San Francisco and Boston – but the bulk of my life has been in the Cleveland area. San Francisco and Boston each have two daily newspapers. During my Boston years I preferred The Boston Globe over The Boston Herald, which is nothing more than a right-wing tabloid. Cleveland used to be a two newspaper town: The Cleveland Plain Dealer competed with the Cleveland Press until the latter closed in 1982. I don’t have memories of reading the Press, but I don’t think it could have been any worse than the very PD.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer’s letters section is my early morning read. There’s always something there to jolt me from my sleepiness. It’s surprising that in a metropolitan area of some 2,881,937 people, the Plain Dealer can’t find more letters demonstrating a degree of probity and intellectual rigor. That is, it’s surprising unless you’ve written such a letter to the Plain Dealer or its suburban subsidiary, the Sun – only to wait in vain for your letter to be published. The almost relentless barrage of stupidity and offensiveness on display there is surpassed only by that which is displayed on cleveland.com’s comment stream. Mostly, the letters section is dominated by either the usual Tea Party talking points or Muslim bashing, but this letter from Ziggy Rein of Lakewood took me by surprise.

There are so many flaws in the logic of this letter, but let’s start with the obvious: People are going to have sex whether they are married or not. The AIDS epidemic in the United States began back in the 1970s, when the thought of same-sex marriage hadn’t even occurred to most gay people – indeed, many gay activists revolted against monogamous relationships as “heterosexist” and “patriarchal”. Faithful relationships didn’t drive the spread of AIDS. Promiscuity and unsafe sexual activity did. From a medical standpoint, encouraging gay men to get into stable relationships is beneficial to slowing the spread of HIV. True, not all same-sex marriages are 100% monogamous – but neither are all heterosexual marriages. (I refrain from mentioning the lesbian community here since HIV is extremely rare among that group, but of course I support marriage equality for them too.) As for the religious argument against homosexuality, which is the crutch of choice when one doesn’t have a real argument: religion has been used to justify banning everything from slavery to interracial marriage the eating of shellfish – the argument against same-sex marriage isn’t any more valid than the other ones were.

I can’t say it any better than Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron – a Conservative – did a few months ago:

Yes, it’s about equality, but it’s also about something else—commitment. Conservatives believe in the ties that bind us. Society is stronger when we make vows to each other and we support each other. I don’t support gay marriage in spite of being a conservative. I support gay marriage because I am a conservative.

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