Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Gay Marriage/Rights in the US

Although Harmon has refused to respond to my questions about the possible time, subject, and readings for the next philosophy group, I assume it will be in later June or early July; I also assume it will concern Gay Marriage/Rights in America. I hope Harmon or someone has at least two good texts to read and discuss.

I thought I would introduce the topic – or at least introduce it in the way that I personally find problematic and/or intriguing. The question in my mind runs as follows: 1) What reasons does the US have for limiting marriage or rights to gay couples other than religious reasons? 2) Should religious reasons such as these be enough to create laws in a country that has separated Church and State? Let me elaborate upon and clarify both questions briefly.

1) “Reasons” for disallowing gay marriage or rights cannot be personal, trivial, or nostalgic. For example, if you say gay marriage doesn’t continue the species, well, neither does the priesthood per se. Also, economic arguments, in my opinion, are not plausible enough. We don’t disallow things at a basic level because they may not be economically feasible in the long run. We need an important, strong, and sufficient reason for saying gay marriage should not be allowed.
2) I understand that separation of Church and State does not mean that the Church has no influence on the State; this is a hasty conclusion made by many anti-religious liberals. However, we should distinguish between two types of laws/rules/morals: A) laws like abortion that simply go against the dignity of the human person, and B) laws of specific religions that should NOT be set-up as federal laws, i.e. making it a law for Catholics to attend Church on Sunday. In my opinion, you should not have to appeal to religious tenants for any specific federal law.

As usual, I’ve probably made a certain amount of this too complicated, while hyperbolically simplifying everything else. This is where everyone else’s voices need to be heard. Speak to me peoples!


  1. In my mind, this discussion brings up two tangential questions:

    1) Is the US a Christian nation? We may have been founded on certain Christian principles, but doesn’t the founding fathers’ “separation of Church and State” clause ensure the freedom of all religions – and in one sense, the equality of all religions? (At least religions that comply with “Constitution;” i.e. a religion that did not treat people as having the right to life or liberty would only be tolerated as far as it didn’t infringe on federal laws, etc.) In this sense, isn’t Islam and Christianity equal in the eyes of the Law? We seem to be fine with laws being affected/caused by Christianity, but not with Islam.
    2) As I mentioned in the original post, the “separation of Church and State” clause does not mean that the Church has no influence on or relationship with the State. But this becomes a complicated and entangled discussion: What is the relationship? If the country is mainly Christian, should purely Christian principles affect the law? And if your answer is yes, if the country becomes mainly Muslim, should purely Islamic principles affect the law? If this sounds “scary,” it shouldn’t be, if we view the freedom of the US as intrinsic to the nation’s greatness.

    I am SURE I botched up arguments and principles within these two points, so feel free let me know where. I guess two running themes in my mind presently is a) whether the US is Christian and b) the seeming hypocrisy of Americans that revel in her freedom but refuse to allow that freedom to people of other religions, etc.

  2. Are you asking if there's a non-religious argument for saying homosexual marriages are universally immoral, no matter what religion you are? Or if, regardless of morality, homosexual marriages are harmful or helpful to society?

  3. Strunk and White inform me that, in my second question, "if" is being incorrectly used to mean "whether". What insufferable snots.

  4. My dear Basil,

    As I am wont of kidding myself for, I tend to ramble. So I hope the next paragraph answers your question quickly and quietly. Everything afterward will be elaboration – or in my case often, confusion.

    Your two reinterpretations of my question(s) do not quite get at the fullness of the issue at hand. The present question/issue is an “American Legal Question.” So your first question should read, “Are you asking if there's a non-religious argument for saying homosexual marriages shouldn’t be allowed in the United States?” And perhaps your second question should read as follows: “Or whether [sic], regardless of morality, homosexual marriages are harmful or helpful to society? And if so, do we have the right to make them illegal?” Perhaps I should have begun this sentence by referring to John Harmon’s simple sentence “The topic is whether gay marriage can be consistently opposed w/o relying on religious authority.” I intended my question to be similar to his.

    By the way, my response to my own post introduces other tangential questions. I think we should stay focused on the first one – unless, of course, we have time to argue it all.

    Let me know if this makes sense.