Sunday, November 07, 2004

Slippery Slopes

Maybe there's a really vulgar pun in here somewhere, but we can just leave that aside for the time being...

I recently read an interesting statement about making pro-choice / anti-abortion arguments that suggested "in order to make a convincing case that will span religious precepts, you have to make arguments that are secular rather than faith-based in nature." (I'll credit that paraphrase to someone if I can find it again.) I tend to think the same is probably true for the seemingly more immediate cause of same-sex marriage.

During the past election cycle at least 11 states either passed or reaffirmed laws defining marriage as the union between 1 man and 1 woman. Spurred on by his recent mandate, it seems that Bush is going to push forward with his highest profile flip-flop. According to USA Today: "Karl Rove, who oversaw Bush's re-election victory, said Bush will renew the effort, which failed in Congress this year but may enjoy new support after 11 states approved bans on same-sex marriage on Election Day."

The courts will hopefully strike down the states' individual laws as unconstitutional; but if Bush finds support enough to pass a constitutional amendment through the congress it will be much more difficult to fight in the courts. I think it's critically important to build a grassroots movement among the general populous to support marriage rights for same-sex couples. The best way I know to do this, is to discuss the issue with your family members, coworkers, friends, barber, and mail carrier. But you have to be prepared to make a good solid case and refute ridiculous slipper-slope arguments.

Likening same-sex marriage to inter-racial marriage is, unfortunately, a somewhat poor analogy; although I hope that we can make it at least that far in our country's tolerance for same-sex marriage. I tend to take the equal-rights approach to support same-sex marriage. When confronted with "they can a civil union, just don't call it marriage," my best response is to sugest the difference between state-sanctioned marriage and religiously-sanctioned marriage. The thought that an individual religion defines marriage as the union between 1 man and 1 woman shouldn't preclude another religion (or the state) from defining it differently. Several christian denominations already support same-sex marriage rights. If the state chooses to define marriage as the union between 1 man and 1 woman, it should be based on secular arguments the are underpinned not only by religious morals but also by intellectual reason.

It seems to me that many people voted on the issue of "do you approve of gay marriage" rather than "do you think the state should deny same-sex couples the rights of marriage." I think that some people would rethink their vote on the issue if they thought of the vote not as a survey about how they believe, but rather as a definition of what everyone is allowed to believe. I hope that for some at least, this changes their vote.

In same-sex marriage discussions, you'll also need to be able to refute the slippery slope argument that allowing gay marriage will lead to legalized polygamy. This is nothing more than the same slippery-slope, fear-based argument that conservatives make on any number of issues. There are certain to be groups that want to abolish marriage all together, and they'll use same-sex marriage as a stepping stone; but still, the argument is falacious. There's no reason to believe that one will necessarily lead to the other.

Still, consider that in the 19th century when Congress outlawed polygamy, part of the justification was based on the traditional way in which polygamous relationships were structured: typically one man subjugating the others to his will. Most societies that still practice polygamy are also known for their denegration of women. Confronted with any one of the vaste number of hypothetically equal-powered polygamous relationships, the best argument I have is an analogy to committees. As the number of individuals involved in any decision making process increases, the complexity of the situation increase exponentially because the combination of relationships between each person and each combination of the other people increases. (With 2 people, each has only the other's opinion to consider. With 3 people, each person has to consider the opinion of each of the other 2 people as well as what their collective opinion may be. With 4 people, the combinations grow larget yet.) As the complexity of the relationship increases, it is human nature (as nearly all societal forms provide explicit evidence) that we will form decision making hierarchies based on a perceived ability to lead. So, even in a group as small as three, there is likely to be a power stuggle that results in one or two of the people subjugated to the remaining. We tend to consider this kind of subjugation as neglect or abuse.

All of my arguments, of course, could use some backup. I just hope that we can short-circuit any federal action by showing individual votes how wrong a legal ban on same-sex marriage are.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

New Hope...

Every cloud should have a silver lining, right? Well, just think. We've got 4 years to get ready for the next Presidential election. Plenty of time to relax, play some video games, mope around, and wallow to our heart's content. Or, alternatively, we could start trying to help all of our friends and colleagues understand what's wrong with implementing the conservative agenda.

But first, I need to play some Pikmin.

Vote (cont.)

It's great to see that so many people did come out an vote on Tuesday. I hope they all get counted, and I wish the best of luck to the officials who are eventually declared winners -- even if they aren't the officials I voted for.

That's me being generous...

What the hell is wrong with our country! I just want to shake people who believe (a) the war on Iraq can be justified by WMDs or terrorism, (b) a woman's right to choose isn't as important as our government's opportunity to dictate, (c) love and marriage, despite being sacred things, should be defined and controlled by the government, or (d) no matter what the rest of the world thinks, our own priorities in the world are clearly the most important. I haven't heard any rational, secular, legal, or scientific arguments to support any of those views. It's like some NASCAR guy said in his proclamation of support for W, "I'm not an issues guy." I guess there are a lot of people out there who have degenerated into letting their emotions drive their decision making.

Best of luck to our new officials. May the intellect God has endowed you with help you govern with wisdom; and may we all see our own intellect as a gift to be exercised regularly. Faith and wisdom don't have to be in such opposition.

Monday, November 01, 2004


Don't forget to vote on Tuesday.
No matter how the election turns out, we should all get to have our voices heard.

Visit (run, incidentally, by one of my favorite computer science authors) for some good information on the polls. Or visit Internets Vets for Truth if you haven't been inundated with enough information from the liberal media, yet.