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"Each individual should allow reason to guide his conduct, or like an animal, he will need to be led by a leash."
Diogenes of Sinope

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Thousand Flowers tapestry (15th Century) - Beaune, France (detail)

Thursday, January 01, 2009

A "classical liberal" on gay marriage

Publius & Flavius debate gay marriage & social conservatism at Gods of the Copybook Headings:
Flavius: What about social conversativism?

Publius: As far as that term means government regulating morality, as the Victorians did, I'm obviously against it. A stout defense of the traditional family is needed today, but keep government out. Legalizing gay marriage isn't going to undermine the family, the family is not fundamentally a legal construct. No doubt there are radical elements attempting to use the law to destroy the traditional family, they will fail. They have already twisted the divorce laws to deprive children of their fathers in many cases, and turn those fathers into cash cows for their ex-spouses. Energy used trying to deny gay couples their rights is energy that could be better spent correcting those laws, or introducing a moderately sane law on abortion - bringing Canada into line with every other civilized nation and banning it after some intermediate stage in the fetus' development.

Flavius: But how can you defend gay marriage and the traditional family, these are mutually exclusive options.

Publius: If you hold homosexuality to be morally wrong - something that most Christians happen to believe - then these objectives are mutualy exclusive. Family is a moral construct, you can't have a family based on an immoral concept or behaviour. Here's where the mix premises in religion comes into play. The importance of family can be empirically observed. The immorality of homosexuality can't be, it's inferred from scripture.

Flavius: But homosexuality isn't natural, so it can't be moral. It cannot even potentially lead to children, the ultimate purpose of sexuality.

Publius: Homosexuality is observed in nature, including in animals. Sex and marriage between infertile indviduals should then be equally opposed by those who attack gay marriage. There is no potential in either circumstance for children. Marriages have, historically, been annuled or voided on the basis on infertility, but they have also been allowed if both partners consent. As for sexuality, yes it can lead to children, but that is not its sole purpose.

Flavius: Yet the ultimate agenda here is not gay marriage, it is assigning multiple parents to children, to breakdown the alledged patriarchy of the traditional family. We will see poligamy soon enough.

Publius: Tell me Flavius, how many women want - or will ever want - to have more than one father for their children? Step families have ever been a reality of life, usually due to premature death and more recently from choice. It's not the ideal. The planners have their goals, the facts of life are what they are. If the Soviet and Nazi state could not destroy the family, the hippies entrenched in our law schools have a less of a chance.

Flavius: How to reconcile then, on a purely moral level - disregarding the state - the traditional family with homosexual marriage. You concede that the traditional family is a building block for society, a society where homosexuality is the dominant practice would destroy itself.

Publius: Again, you confuse the exception with the rule. In a free society some people will choose not to work, though they will not have the ability to force others to subsized their behaviour. The beggar adds nothing to society, he lives off the mercies of passing strangers. He is in effect a free rider. Yet he has few immitators. The burdens of work are irksome, the alternatives are worse. Liberalism - as I have put forward here - has "faith" - though it is based on long experience - that people will in the main do the right thing. If they will not, if people are foolish and need to be treated as children, then society would long ago have stagnated at the level of the feudal serf or lower. Most people, in the long-term, will prefer traditional family models, they represent a hard won truth about human nature. Some will make other choices, bear those burdens themselves and leave the rest of us alone, as we leave them.

Flavius: So few people will choose non-traditional marriages - gay, poligamy - that it doesn't really matter?

Publius: Yes.

Flavius: But you said traditional marriage needed to be defended? Why bother if most people will tend toward this in the end?

Publius: Because, to borrow from Keynes, in the long-run we're all dead. The long-run is a very long time. The 1960s were the Great Forgetting or Unlearning, rather than reforming society we simply - like the Jacobins of the French Revolution - destroyed what existed. Most moderns cannot make informed choices. Either one is a slut or a puritan, a cindrella or serial monogamist. Too few remember what marriage once was, warts and all, to know whether they would want it back or want to properly reform it. In the end we'll wind up surprisingly close to where we were before. The end might take a few more decades. If tomorrow morning the welfare state vanished, and with it its enormous tax burden, I would suspect a very large percentage of women with small children would quit the work force, or have more children.

Flavius: Your beginning to sound very conservative there.

Publius: Not really. I'm not saying everyone should be the same, simply that most people will behave in roughly the same manner. Dissent is vital, variety is essential, its how we change and learn. The family is not a fixed thing, it's a living arrangement that evolves but does so organically, like Burke - not like the fanciful interpretations of the Warren Court toward the US Constitution. Prudence is next to godliness.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The problem is that homosexuality and gay marriage did not advance "organically" but by state coercion.

"In a free society some people will choose not to work..."

In a free society some people will chose not to accept homosexuality and/or gay marriage and will be free to express their dissonance. However, that is not the case, at least in Canada. The state coerced acceptance by limiting speech, religious freedom and association through state organs like the HRCs.

The advance of homosexuality and gay marriage served to limit the freedom of Canadians, which is contrary to the 'classical liberal' principle of do no harm.