The Sensible Knave

"I do not see that we are further along today than where Hume left us. The Humean predicament is the human predicament." - W.V.O. Quine

Monday, November 07, 2005

South Park Conservatives?

So much for that idea! Well, not entirely, but this week's episode certainly slammed the opposition to gay marriage. They nailed it. I thought that last season's Simpsons gay marriage episode was insightful as well, but only more generally on the issue of acceptance of gays.

Playing Devil's Advocate, I can't find a principled reason to oppose the proposition either. However, it is only human nature to rationalize opposition when it is backed by such strong cultural currents (in many regions, at least).

Let's be charitable and agree that not everyone who opposes gay marriage hates gays. What could be motivating their opposition? Here are a couple of factors that must get some play:

Traditionalism - "marriage is between members of the opposite sex, period." What if there was a push to Valentine's Day from February 14 to a Sunday in May? The original timing could be compounding the winter blues of lonely people, so why not move it to a nice spring day. Isn't terrible when V-Day falls on a "date night"? I would vote against the proposition, because February 14 is a tradition. In the case of gay marriage, however, I'd have to say the interest of a minority population in long-term happiness probably trumps a sense of tradition.

Fear - I suspect that many people who have nothing against gays would still not want their children or close friends to turn out to be gay, all other things being equal. Gay people are less likely to have children, of course (even adopted ones). Since the gay population is so much smaller than the straight population, it can be much harder to meet someone suitable for a long-term relationship. All considerations of long-term happiness aside, however, I think that many parents just don't want their kids to be gay, and this includes parents who would love their gay children just as much. For such people, I think the prospect of gay marriage is a specter of permanency. Sure, one's child might come out of the closet in high school or college, but one can always hope that this a "phase", "experimentation", or "confusion" that will run its course. Marriage would then be seen as more than a lifelong commitment to a partner; it would also represent a lifelong commitment to a sexual preference. Would many people see it as bad public policy to sanction a commitment to a preference they would rather see go away?