Saturday, April 09, 2005

Gay Marriage and Rights

Lawmakers in Texas are now considering a bill that would amend the state constitution to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman. In other words, it would amend the constitution so that it bans gay marriage. This might be considered overkill, given that Texas law already bans gay marriage, and mandates that the state cannot recognize gay marriages from other states, but this is the big government Republican Party, and no amount of government interference is too much. Now I don't want to get into a deep discussion of gay marriage, but I do want to note the utter stupidity of one of the arguments for the amendment. State Representative Charlie Howard (R - Sugar Land), one of the authors of the bill, has responded to the argument that the amendment, and gay marriage bans in general, limit the rights of gays and lesbians, by saying,
It's not a civil right. It has nothing to do with civil rights. It's not a right.
Now, Howard may be right. Marriage may not be a right, and the gay marriage ban may have nothing to do with civil rights, but Howard's argument for this position is frustratingly stupid. He says that the amendment would not limit anyones rights, because even under the ban, anyone can marry, as long as it is someone of the opposite sex. So, the rights of gays and lesbians aren't limited, because they can still marry, as long as they're marrying the type of person that the amendment says that they can. I wonder if, in the 1950s, it was argued that laws banning interracial marriage did not limit the rights of individuals, because they could still marry, as long as they married someone of the same race. Obviously, in the case of interracial marriage bans, individuals' rights were limited. What Howard, and others who have used this argument (and I've seen it all over the place, including in the blogosphere) apparently fail to grasp is that there simple access to an institution does not guarantee that rights are not limited. The right that pro-gay marriage advocates argue is denied to gay and lesbian couples is not the access to marriage, but the right of consenting adults to marry whom they choose. Once again, you may deny that this is in fact a right, and thus that the gay marriage ban "has nothing to do with civil rights," but you can't argue for this position by simply stating that gays can marry, so long as they marry a member of the opposite sex.

UPDATE: In a comment, Brandon provided a link to an excellent article comparing the gay marriage debate to the miscegenation debate. Specifically, the quotes from Justice Roger Traynor of the Supreme Court of California, and of U.S. Supreme Court Cheif Justice Earl Warren, both arguing against bans on interracial marriage, are relevant to this post.


Brandon said...

On the miscegenation point, this article at HNN is relevant (see the fifth justification).

Curt said...

Doesn't your objection rest on an unproven link between homosexuality and genes? The idea that genes control more than physical features is very controversial, as best I know, in all feilds except homosexuality, where gay lobbyists have picked it up. If there is no genetic link one can still make the race / sexuality comaprison but it is considerably weaker. One could say apples and oranges need to be treated the same because they are both round but that is no more compelling that one who says they are different because they have other properties that are different. In short, I don't think the argument you're taking aim at is not as weak as you make out.

btw! fine blog. keep it up!

Chris said...

Brandon, thank you, that was a great article.

Curt, while the link between homosexuality and genes is hardly unproven, my point has nothing to do with it.

Richard Zach said...

See also this article.

Chris said...

Richard, thank you. See, this is why I have a blog. So that people who know more than me can point me to good sources.

Curt said...

Chris, I would be interested in seeing why you think genetic influence on behavior is not controversial. Any links? If you have the time and the inclination, I did two posts a while back in this subject and I'd be happy to hear your thoughts. One is here:
and the other is here:

Chris said...

Curt, this is pretty far off topic, since it's really irrelevant to the debate over gay marriage, but I'll answer briefly anyway. If you want more info, including citations, feel free to email me.

The link between "homosexuality and genes" is not controversial because there is a large body of literature demonstrating that homosexuality, at least in males, is heritable at a rate of about .5, which is about the same as traits like intelligence, and higher than ordinary personality traits (which range between .1 and .3). Most of the studies are DZ-MZ twin studies, of course.

Now the role of genetics may be controversial (it's not clear which genes affect sexual orientation, and how, though there are some hypotheses), but it is not controversial that there is a genetic component.

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joe said...

give them possibility to marry and close that problem forever!

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