I figured that I’d throw my 2 cents into the ring concerning the fight over whether gays and lesbians should be allowed to get married or not. First, I think what this whole to do about nothing is, at its core (and pittifully so) a semantic argument. We’re not even arguing over the issue. We’re arguing over a word. A world that, so far as I know, isn’t copyrighted by any group so anyone is free to use it or any other word (I guess except for “threepeat”) any way they see fit. As we define marriage, marriage is rooted in the notion of a monogamous, legally binding, relationship between two people, traditionally between a man and a womam. Of course, traditionally, according to some had entitled them to more than one spouse, be it more than one wife or more than one husband. Here, of course, that practice has been traditionally regarded as bigamy. Lets also not fail to mention that, before the advent of all this marrying for love business, most marriages were arranged, and that the bride is usually younger (sometimes quite significantly so) than her husband. In fact, this type of traditional marriage is still practice around the world. But, in all of this, marriage not only had a biblical or spiritual element, but also a legal one as well. Marriages are binding in that they cannot be dissolved by one or both parties merely deciding that they’re marriage sucks and they’d rather not see each other ever again. (and if they did, it would be too soon). There’s always some kind of authority that has say over whether you are married or not. In our case, marriages are subject to licensing — like fishing, your firearms, or your pitbull. The fact that you both have to get a license to marry and/or pack heat is something to think about. That said, however, this is an important thing to consider — whether it is morally (or legally) ok to treat a group of people differently, or deprive them of something that I, as a breeder, can do freely myself. That is important. When Prop. 8 was passed here in California, there was some to-do over exactly which Californians voted for the proposition. There was plenty of talk about how a high number of black voters voted in favor of keeping anything but straight marriage illegal. They said it’s because many black folks are tied to churches, and although Liberal leaning, their moral compass is still firmly rooted in Christian ethics. I recall listening to a few talk radio shows where te hosts seem to be headed down the ‘blame the darkies’ path. Which is funny, because so many of those shows were on Conservative radio stations, which one would assume would also support Proposition 8. There were a few callers who told the hosts that, despite the fact that the local news outlets weren’t saying so, there was a bit of hostility in the gay “community” at the betrayal at the hands of black voters. If I may digress for a moment here, I ‘d like to say, that, despite (or maybe in spite) of my minorityness, I voted against Prop. 8. But I also have a problem with people who assume that the fact that I am a minority, that I must side with every other “oppressed” people’s causes. Sometimes, I do not. Although I will say that the argument is at its heart a semantic issue (especially in light of the fact that many people who oppose gay marriage say that they support civil unions, which are, qualitatively speaking, the same as marriage.), I understand that there is a serious legal issue at stake. I think that it is wrong, ethically and legally to disallow anyone the opportunity to marry whomsoever they choose. Alright. I’ve already started to fiddle with the language. Instead of using the word “right”, I wrote opportunity. I did this knowing that there are many who claim that gays and lesbians are assuming they have a right where no right exists. Unfortunately, this claim may have some merit. The United States Supreme Court has established that we have a right to reproduce and a right to not reproduce (as decided by Roe v. Wade). We have a right, if we decide to marry, to marry others of any other race than our own. But, we may not have an expressed right to marry. I assume that, on grounds of risking opening up a can of worms that no one wants to dael with, that very few people would want to challenge marriage as a fundamental right. Especially those who object to gay marriage on moral grounds. Saying there’s no right to marry can complicate hetersexual unions as well. Secondly, I’m aware that there’s the slippery slope argument that pops up whenever someone claims that we have a right to marry whoever we like. The immediate objection sometimes goes something like, ‘what if I wanted to marry my goat?’. This is exactly what Rick Santorum tried to pull of some time ago. This argument is specious on the grounds that, even if the right to marry a goat was an option, most reasonable people would not marry farm animals. I mean, I have a dog, he’s really cute and he’s always glad to see me. But he’s a dog. A not-so-minor qualification for marriage is that my spouse to be is a t least the same species! The same goes for those who claim that allowing homosexual marriage will lead to child molestation. First, let’s get the stats out of the way. If you are molested, it’s most apt to be at the hands of a relative. Second, most molesters tend to be self described as “straight”. I think that there are a few states (and in some spots in Europe) where gays are allowed to marry. I don’t think there was a rush on marriage licenses filed by 47 year old men wanting to marry 10 year olds. Likewise, I don’t think that, people being rational, that instances of necrophillia will skyrocket if the unstraight are allowed to join in holy matrimony. Most people, I assume, object to gay marriage on some sort of moral grounds. Even those who say that they support gay rights generally (meaning that they think that gays should be allowed to join the military or that a person shouldn’t be fired from their job because they’re gay, etc.),they still assert that they believe in gay rights on “everything but marriage”. I’ve heard this one alot. They say that marriage is something special. “Something special” traces back to God snatching one of Adam’s ribs and making the worst mistake that God ever made, the wife. Womam was given to Adam by God, and they were bound to each other by divine decree. Anything else is ungodly. Ok, first, I’m not going to argue that that belief is just plain stupid (prima facie stupid), because I believe that people are entitled to believe whatever claptrap that they wnat about whatever deity that they wish to receive their orders from. If a head of cabbage wants you to dance the hokey pokey every morning for fifteen minutes, and you believe that your salvation depends on it, believe away. Maybe you’ll drop a few pounds. But, where I draw the line is where people attempt to place their God’s instructions on everyone else. This, of course, is notthing new. I’m simply saying that I don’t appreciate someone trying to legislate morality. I also submit that there is some of this that is done. After all, I can freely walk up to any lunch counter and demand to be served. The fact that people had moral objections to racial discrimination led to the end of racially discriminatory behavior on the part of the law and private businesses. But, I realize that Americans, more so than being moral, are also pragmatic. (it’s no wonder that the only school of philosophy contributed by America is pragmatism). Racial segregation, in the long run, isn’t very useful. It’s bad for business to keep people out on the basis of race. Sure, you can say that God hates racists (as well as you can make arguments that God loves those who keep to their own), but it’s just as useful to say that being a racist is plain counterproductive. It causes more problems than it solves. Likewise, keeping marriage a heterosexuals-only institution is counterproductive. If you listen to the governator, the our state of California stands to benefit from revenue to be had by gays and lesbians flocking to the state to make their fornication legal. One could say that, to keep marriage restricted would be to deprive the state of much needed funds, and that is not exactly the moral thing to do, either. We can, and do, go around in circles till Jesus himself descends from a cloud and tells up what’s up. The problem with making the moral argument is that someone can come back at you with their version of what morality should be. If I for instance, say that God does not condone the ordination of women clergy, I’m bound to be confronted by some Unitarian who emphatically objects to my assertion. we’ll each claim that our God does or does not condone some activity. I can think of a half dozen sins, such as adultery or bearing false witness, that can be used as some grounds to deny people all sorts of rights — if we use God as a grounds for doing so. If someone who is divorced wants to remarry, do we have the right to deny him on the grounds that his second marriage is adulterous? No, we do not. So let’s get rid of the religious argument now, shall we? Besides, once someone admits that we have been rendering laws by way of the Bible, we’re off to First Amendment challenge land. As a philosopher (excuse me, “philosopher”), I should say a word or two how keeping gays from getting married is unphilosophic, that is that a prohibition violates the philosophic principles upon which American ideas of freedom is based. At the heart of much of the American way of life is the idea that we are free individuals who have an inalienable right to choose. (Says so in the Declaration of Independence). The idea of choice, including the right to choose what makes us happy, is found in the works of Mill, Locke, and Kant. Man’s freedom is based, in part, in determining the life path of his own choosing. He is not a truly free individual is he is thwarted in his attempt to live his life according to his plan. Now, I’ve used the word “happy”. One may define “happiness” as a felt emotional state, as in the notion that strawberry milkshakes make me happy. (They do). But, “happiness” as defined philosophically, is more than what we feel. Happiness, for the philosopher, connects to what is Good (another ambiguous term). The good life is a life in which the rational individual flourishes (to borrow an idea from Aristotle). A part of flourishing is the cultivation of beneficial, meaningful relationships. I would not doubt that a stable, committed romantic relationship would contribute to one’s flourishing. The philosopher John Rawls’s “veil of ignorance” demonstrates how prohibiting gay marriage is philosophically damaging. According to Rawls, if we are to consider which laws we should adopt for our society, we should first cast ourselves in the veil of ignorance. Rawls asks, if we were born unaware of what we were to be, which rules would we adopt for our society? That is, if we did not know our race, gender, physical condition, sexual orientation, etc, would we cast laws that would discriminate against a group of whom we may be a part? The answer is no. If I did not know that I would be born a (fill in the blank here), would I make laws that would restrict the freedom or opportunities of that group? The answer is hell no. We would, and should, make laws that allow for the most freedom of everyone. That’s the idea behind having the freedom to choose. The idea that a person cannot choose to do (or pursue) what makes him happy is inherently un-American. But that’s just what some philosopher thinks, it’s his opinion. And we all know about opinions.I can argue philosophy and waste daylight the same as one can take up religious arguments that take all day and solve nothing. The point is, is that our nation is a nation of laws — and that’s the only argument worth looking at — the only one that’s got even a snowball’s chance of working. The bigger matter to be confronted is the plain fact that banning gay marriage is legally wrong. So lets look at the law, shall we? The 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause abides by the principle that all men are created equal under the law. Physical or biological differences, such as race, disability, or gender are insignificant according to the law. The courts have already determined that in the arena of employment that a person’s sexual orientation is beyond the reach of the law. The Court’s decision in Lawerence v. Texas declared that consentual, private sexual activity is protected by the 14th Amendment. The Court stated, ” moral disapproval does not constitute a legitimate governmental interest under the equal protection clause”. Simply put, the Court stated that whatever people choose to do in their own homes is their business, and should not be used to deny constitutionally protected rights. So, if one has an biblical objection to a married gay couple doing what comes naturally (in the privacy of their own bedroom), their objection has no legal merit and should not be used to interfere with a right to engage in a constitutionally protected activity (which is why it it important to determine if there is a constitutional right to marry). This isn’t a matter of one group demanding “special” rights, but, like minorities and women before them, it’s a matter of a group demanding that their rights be recognized. Sometimes, a legal decision establishing a right to a particular activity can be used to establish a right to another. Allow me to explain: In light of some dastardly (an highly morally objectionable) unconsentual sterilizations of poor, white Southerners during the early part of the last century, it was established that no citizen can be denied the right to bear have children. Citizens of the U.S. have a constitutionally protected right to reproduce. That was fine and dandy. But, it was soon discovered that some people, although they can have children, don’t want to have children. So the question arose, ‘can one be compelled to have childern even if one does not want them?’. Some assumed that a right to reproduce had a correlate: the right to reproduce implies a right to not reproduce. The question was finally answered with the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade, which established that the government had no power to compel individuals to have children. Some find a correlate to gay marriage in the debate over interracial marriage. The Supreme Court’s 1967 decision Loving v. Virginia, struck down the last of the nation’s anti-miscegenation laws. (I mention the year that the decision was reched by the court in interest in showing that it was a full century after the end of the Civil War before it was legal to marry a person of a different race in all 50 states). The Court recognized the fact that individuals are entitled to marry whoever they choose to marry, and that the state cannot prohibit individuals form marrying based on mere biological differences such as race. The Court ruled that the previous system of racial segregation based on the principle of seperate but equal violated an individual’s freedom of choice. Mixed-race couples were treated significantly different than other, same-race couples in that they weren’t allowed to marry based on mere biological differences. The Court found that to do so is unconstitutional and ended the legal practice of anti-miscegenation. Interracial couples won the right to marry based on the idea that two individuals who love and respect each other should not be denied the right to marry. Likewise, the fact that one’s gender is a mere biological characteristic should not be a factor in determining whether homosexuals can marry. Modern science has proven that our sexual preference (s) may be one of dozens of traits that are biologically rooted and are as much a part of genetic make-up as our eye color, height, body type, or race. We cannot help being gay or straight any more than we can help being short, prone to baldness, or to high blood pressure (not to say that being gay is a malady akin to being bald or hypertensive). We would not support barring two individuals with different eye color from marrying based on the fact that the thought of a blue-eyed person marrying a brown-eyed person offends us personally. If we say that homosexuality is a personal choice and not a matter of biology (as many claim), the argument for allowing gays to marry is even stronger. If being gay is a choice, then being gay is no different from a person choosing to be a Republican or an anarchist, or choosing to be a vegan or a Catholic. If the thought of two vegan Catholic Repubilcans marrying offends me morally, and it does, I can’t restrict their right to marry on the grounds that I merely disagree with how they choose to vote or what they choose to eat. To say that my moral sensibility trumps their right to marry in this case would be absurd. Likewise, to say that the fact that a gay person’s behavior offends me should be a reason why they should not get married is equally outrageous. Lastly, we often hear that allowing gay people to marry is somehow akin to detonating a society-destroying atomic bomb. Allowing homosexual marriage will end civilization as we know it. But, here’s the fact: there are places on this hellhole that we call earth where same-sex oriented people already possess the right to marry. That’s right, no one can make any sort of argument without bringing in the European — especially the Canadians and Scandanavians. Oh, wait — did I just write that Canadians are Europeans? I think that I just proved somebody’s point about Americans, eh? Anyway. In Denmark, where same-sex marriage has been legal since 1989, statistics show that rates of suicide, sexually transmitted disease, sexual promiscuity, and infidelity among homosexuals has decreased. In a declaration that certainly would not be music to many American ministers’ ears, Denmark’s clergy has declared that same-sex marriages have not destroyed marriage, but strengthened them. In other countries where same-sex unions have been legalized, such as the Netherlands, Canada, and Belgium are not societies on collapse, but in fact, thes countries often enjoy a higher standard of living than in the United States. Ultimately we cannot decide if allowing gays and lesbians to marry is harmful to society until we actually make same-sex marriage legal. To sum it up, I think that I agree with actress and Christian, Kristin Chenoweth, who told host Terry Gross of NPR’s Fresh Air, “people are born a certain way, and God doesn’t make mistakes”. I think she’s right. Besides, George Takei seems happy.