Monday, 21 July 2014

Doing Marriage Right

There's a worthwhile read on boingboing today about the history of marriage. If you are actually familiar at all with history or the history of marriage it isn't going to be full of shocking revelations, but I felt like it gave me enough new information to be worth my time.

Sadly and predictably someone took to the forums to say that the problem with the piece is that it never argues with the central point of the anti-same-sex-marriage crowd which is that same-sex marriage is wrong.

I've never seen the basic case against same-sex marriage made so bluntly. No amount of argumentation about what marriage is or was or ought to be matters. No arguments about the role of sex in marriage matter. What matters is some kind of intrinsic badness of same-sexness that ruins the intrinsic goodness in marriageness. Everyone who I have ever heard argue against same-sex marriage was essentially making this exact point, but I've never seen anyone who was aware that this was the point they were making.

When you make a case in favour of same-sex marriage and someone responds by saying:
The problem with your argument is that being a bigot is more important to me than argumentation.
You have to admit that they have a point. That is a problem with the argument. The problem with the argument is that there is little point in arguing.

Right now people explaining why same-sex marriage is fine are still doing very important work. In the United States in 2009 national polls showed between 35% and 42% support for same-sex marriage. In 2014 it was up to 55%. The US is following the same model as other countries have for same-sex rights, just a few years behind. At some point society hits a tipping point and public opinion shifts massively over about five years, essentially ending any meaningful debate on the issue with a win for rights.

But in Canada, despite gay marriage being legal here since 2003, public opinion still sits at only about 64% in favour of same-sex marriage. It's been a decade, society hasn't collapsed, and people are holding onto their views. For those people, I don't think any amount of information or argumentation will make any difference.

The Authoritarians makes me think that these people are not entirely lost causes. The antidote for anti-gay sentiment in people who are immune to argument is befriending gay people. Meeting people and getting to know them makes a big difference and might change some minds. But I think the sort of people who would actually go out and try to meet people who want same-sex marriages to see what it's all about are probably not the sort of people who are still opposed to same-sex marriages.

So as a percentage we'll ultimately see support for same-sex marriage go up and up, but in Canada we've already hit our saturation point for persuasive arguments and information. Further rise in support is just people who don't support it dying and people who do support it becoming old enough to say so in an opinion poll.

The wave of not-awfulness on this issue has reached critical mass and its crushing all opposition.The war is won, and I don't think there are any more strategic victories to achieve. At the point, I think its time to walk away from battles that don't involve people getting hurt, and that's exactly what I'm going to do with the homophobic forum poster.

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