Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The case for same-sex marriage

The Dublin LGBTQ Pride Festival is well underway, and continues this evening with the annual debate in the Walton Theatre in TCD at 7.30pm. The motion for discussion is: "Same-Sex Couples Want Access to Civil Marriage, not Civil Partnerships"Chair: Sen. Ivana BacikProp: Sen. David Norris & Ailbhe Smyth (MarriagEquality)Opp: Neil Ward (Dublin Pride) & Mary McAuliffe (WERRC, UCD). The festival encompasses céilís, sports days, club nights, workshops, community street festivals, poetry readings, film nights, table quizzes, remembrance ceremonies. The flagship event is the Dublin Pride Parade itself, which takes place the second last weekend of June. Last year, over 5,000 people turned out for the parade and the outdoor show that followed in the amphitheatre of the civic offices. This year even greater numbers are expected at this years' parade, so be sure to come along to this fantastic event. In that context it seems a good a time as any to focus on the thorny question of whether same-sex couples should be granted the right to conduct civil-partnerships or same-sex marriage. As a member of the gay community I have a special interest in this matter and in countering the often outdated and inconsistent arguments against partnership rights for homosexuals. This is the primary purpose of this post, and I hope my readers will draw the same conclusions I do on this matter - though that of course is up to you. I can only do my best. 3 years of experience in fortright debate on politics.ie does not leave me under any illusions that I have a monopoly on reasoned argument and persuasiveness, but neither do I consider myself deficient in this regard. But each to his own.

A measured perusal of the politics.ie pages would not leave a moderate visitor of that hallowed forum unfamiliar with the arguments on both sides - perhaps most vocally - and sometimes controversially - on the side of the argument against same-sex unions. Milton Fine is perhaps the most vocal among those holding to this line. The basis of his arguments stem from the traditional Abrahamic theist dogma that regards marriage as inextricably linked to the rearing of children. Milton states "What about the rights of married people? By opening up marriage to all and sundry you have to devalue the institution. I'm not advocating prejudice against "gay people"...I'm advocating prejudice against homsexual relationship because they are inferior. And I would like to reiterate that I support civil partnerships for homosexuals...although ironically, given the promiscuous nature of homosexuals, if civil partnerships or indeed marriage are permitted down the line, the take up will probably be negligible.". One could be forgiven - if only through ignorance of the blindingly obvious - for inferring from Milton's rationale that all married couples have children or intend to do so, and that all same-sex couples have no intention of becoming parents. But if that is true, then why does society and the State facilitate the marriage of elderly and infertile couples? How does Milton and those of his/her mind reconcile this apparent inconsistency in their arguments?

For his part, he does so as follows: "Because there's a few people who choose not to have have children or a few unfortunate couples who cannot, the homosexual lobby feel this legitimises their activities.Because a few unfortunate women have a physical ailment which requires the use of artificial lubricant during intercourse, the homosexual lobby feel it's wrong to argue that because their vile activities require artificial lubricant they are therefore unnatural.Because a rare species of mountain goat in darkest Peru was seen mounting a fellow goat last Thursday it's wrong to suggest homosexuality is unnatural.Because some unfortunate people are incontinent, it's wrong to suggest homsexuality results in incontinence despite the fact that practicing homosexuals will end up having to wear nappies in later life.Sensibly look at the correlation between homosexuality and being a victim of child abuse and you'll be attacked.I've seen all the arguments of the homosexual lobby...they think they're very smart.And finally the most vile and offensive...anyone who disagrees with their vile and dangerous way of life is a closet homosexual.I disagree with zoophilia and think it's an abomination...does that mean I subconsciously want to sleep with my dog?!".

I always try to look at both sides of almost every argument in politics - even where I myself have a conflict of interest in that I am a party whose rights are under dispute in this debate. I am trying really hard to keep my "rational" hat on, despite the odd gnashing of teeth reading such pronouncements provokes in me and many other members of the gay community. Milton and his like simply dodge the question of how they can reconcile allowing marriage for those who cannot produce children arising from their relationships with their opposition to similar recognition by the State of the non-reproductive relationships of gay couples. He and his like then resort to offensive analogies with zoophilia. This is profoundly disturbing and utterly devoid of an acknowledgement that the growing propensity of scientific evidence points to a biological basis for homosexuality. For example, In 1993, Dean Hamer published findings from a linkage analysis of a sample of 76 gay brothers and their families, finding that the gay men had more gay male uncles and cousins on the maternal side of the family than on the paternal side. Gay brothers who showed this maternal pedigree were then tested for X chromosome linkage, using twenty-two markers on the X chromosome to test for similar alleles. Thirty-three of the forty sibling pairs tested were found to have similar alleles in the distal region of Xq28, which was significantly higher than the expected rates of 50% for fraternal brothers. A later analysis by Hu et al. revealed that 67% of gay brothers in a new saturated sample shared a marker on the X chromosome at Xq28. Sanders et al. (1998) replicated the study, finding 66% Xq28 marker sharing in 54 pairs of gay brothers. Blanchard and Klassen (1997) reported that each older brother increases the odds of being gay by 33%.This is now "one of the most reliable epidemiological variables ever identified in the study of sexual orientation."To explain this finding, it has been proposed that male fetuses provoke a maternal immune reaction that becomes stronger with each successive male fetus. Male fetuses produce HY antigens which are "almost certainly involved in the sexual differentiation of vertebrates." It is this antigen which maternal H-Y antibodies are proposed to both react to and 'remember'. Successive male fetuses are then attacked by H-Y antibodies which somehow decrease the ability of H-Y antigens to perform their usual function in brain masculinisation. Bocklandt, Horvath, Vilain and Hamer (2006) reported that some mothers of gay babies have extreme skewing of X chromosome inactivation. Using a sample of 97 mothers of homosexual men and 103 mothers of heterosexual men, the pattern of X inactivation was ascertained from blood assays. 4% of the mothers of straight men showed extreme skewing compared to 13% of the mothers of gay men. Mothers of two or more gay babies had extreme skewing of X inactivation of 23%. This extreme skewing may influence male sexual orientation through the fraternal birth order effect.

As such, people like Milton Fine - whether they would concede this point or not - are effectively arguing for discrimination by the State against those who happen to be born with differing DNA from perhaps 90% of the remainder of the human population. As a homosexual adult myself, I believe that not only myself but also society at large can benefit from the legalisation of same-sex unions. Indeed I would prefer these take the form of marriage, even if this might not in practice entail the exact same provisions as heterosexual marriage. Even within the gay community, there are many who acknowledge that as heterosexual marriage is more likely to result in the rearing of children, that certain tax-benefits that accrue to marriage as currently constituted in Ireland might not need to apply to a same-sex form of marriage. But the terminology is important to me. While civil-unions would be a major step forward, I have one problem with them - by not calling them "marriage", the State is arguably implying that same-sex relationships are not equal in moral terms to heterosexual relationships. I dispute this thesis. Society has a common interest in social-stability, and in turn the evidence would seem to suggest that children benefit from their parents being married, because of the greater stability parental marriage gives to the child's emotional development. Many children suffer emotional pain from the breakup of their parents, and it seems such breakups are more likely to occur outside the context of marriage. While I have argued that children are best brought up by a mother and father, I acknowledge that in the real world, some gay couples are in practice rearing children. In that respect I found a story on the Late Late Show some months ago about the sad case of the lack of legal rights afforded to the surviving partner of a lesbian relationship when her partner died, including in terms of parenting rights. Despite what might be ideal in life, the world is more complicated than that, and one size - despite what Milton and co. feel - will not always fit all. It is in the context of the above then that I call on the Government to legalise same-sex marriages, and to assign to the parties to such partnerships inheritance, property, and guardianship rights as apply in heterosexual marriages. In a world where America may be about to elect its first African-American president and where a woman came close to being the first of her gender to breach that glass ceiling, we need to remember we have a few of our own to breach in this country.


JC Skinner said...

The argument in favour of gay marriage is always dependent upon the concept of equality, as if there is something unequal about calling different forms of relationships different things.
To my mind, if civil gay unions offer the exact same rights in law, in taxation and in inheritance as marriage, then the equality argument falls apart.
I've not seen a lot of resistance to gay marriage among Irish people. We've grown up a lot since the Catholic church was revealed to be one big paedo-ring.
But nor have I seen a lot of demand for gay marriage among my gay friends.
Some relish the greater freedom within the gay community NOT to be tied down to a single partner.
Others, who are monogamous by nature, are perfectly content with their lot as is. You could say perhaps, that they're too accepting of second-class citizenship.
I'd disagree, because what they really, really want is for their relationships to be accepted in the eyes of the law, the eyes of the revenue and the eyes of their fellow citizens.
The M-word won't achieve that. In fact, by antagonising the large rump of hetero conservatives, it will only foster greater prejudice.
I think the solution is to implement civil unions that emulate marriage, with the same rights, and leave the M-word out of it.
It's not needed for equality because it defines a different sort of relationship, one between a man and woman.
My father and my mother are equally my parents without my calling them both Dad, you know.

ecci non-lover said...

Why are weirdly sexed people so anxious to pretend to be straight?

Hibernia Girl said...

I've thought about this issue a bit and I can't see anything "wrong" with gay marriages nor can I see any problems that they would cause -- except, perhaps, for the rather major one JC Skinner mentions above -- that it might antagonise a large section of the hetero population. Doing that wouldn't really contribute to the social stability which you mentioned, FT.

Still, I have to say that I, personally, support the gay marriage movement (from the sidelines here) and if the Irish public went for it I'd say good on 'em! I can't see any problems with gays or lesbians raising their own children either.

V said...

So long as you are not Black and Gay,
right Hib girl?

Hibernia Girl said...

V: So long as you are not Black and Gay, right Hib girl?

I have no problems with Blacks or homosexuals or Black homosexuals.

What you're suggesting about me is just your little fantasy.

Hibernia Girl said...

FutureTaoiseach -- btw, in case you haven't seen this:

Sexual Reorientation: The gay culture war is about to turn chemical.

FutureTaoiseach said...

Thank you for that Hibernia Girl. Disturbing. I think it demonstrates the need for proper regulation of science. In this respect the Charter of Fundamental Rights is a cause of concern in its references to the unfettered right to scientific research. It would not be a good thing for the State to be able to impose eugenics on the people it governs.

Hibernia Girl said...

FT: It would not be a good thing for the State to be able to impose eugenics on the people it governs.


V said...

Wow, look who mentioned 'Eugenics' this time.

Future Taoiseach:
I love your subtle understated moniker..

Anonymous said...

I think that all this press propaganda to 'normalise' homosexuality by the media, is a plan to cover the ass of the pharmaceutical industry, by concealing the use of the contraceptive pill as the cause of the rise in homosexuality.

Think of the lawsuits.

V said...

Ha! Is that you, Jim Corr?