A discussion with my conservative readers

Yesterday, I posted to these pages a blog note of 619 words on the subject of the politics of Obama's flip-flop-flip on gay marriage. Of these, four words were "as we should be" which I used in reference to the nation's getting more comfortable with homosexual relationships.

To be perfectly clear, I am neither gay nor willing to learn. But not being gay doesn't cause me to automatically dislike gays anymore than not being black causes me to automatically dislike blacks. Of course, I'm perfectly willing to dislike any individual based on his or her own merits.

When I wrote those four words, I knew they would generate some controversy on the blog pages, but I did not expect that of the large number of comments to the note nearly 90 percent would be in reference to four words rather than to the other 615 words, in which I argued that Barack Obama's rapid "evolution" on gay marriage was not turning into political success, though it was bolstering his Manhattan and Hollywood fundraising.

Since you, esteemed readers, were so interested in those four words, I thought it only fair to respond.

A few specific replies. I won't mention commenters' names. You know who you are, or you know if you agree with those who made the initial points:

  • Libertarian is not the same as libertine. I presume you know that and are intentionally misrepresenting what you know, or should know, I stand for. If you don't know, then stop using terms you don't understand. (Beyond that, I am more Objectivist than libertarian, though some consider the difference subtle. Certainly Ayn Rand didn't...but that's a story for another day.)
  • I did not say "celebrate" homosexuality, nor did I say people should become comfortable with (much less celebrate) "homosexual acts." It is perfectly natural to feel uncomfortable with something so outside of one's own inclinations. What I talked about quite specifically was tolerance of two people's relationship, and I stand by my assertion that such tolerance is better than its opposite. It is better morally and better politically; the former is more important.
  • I understand that some people believe the bible says that homosexuals are going to hell. With you I have an unbridgeable gap; we will never convince each other and I am not trying to talk you out of your deeply-held religious beliefs. I do not believe that homosexuality is a choice for most gays and lesbians. Therefore, I do not believe it is moral to hate homosexuals for whom they fall in love with (or whom they have sex with) any more that it is moral to hate blacks for their color.
  • I never said that morality is an "oppressive device." I said that oppressive devices, i.e. the federal government, should not be used to impose morality. If any of you can convince others to follow your moral code by explaining it to them, by telling them why you think you're right and why you think your prescription is good medicine for our nation or culture, more power to you. But government is force and it must not be used, either by a majority or by a minority, to impose morality beyond those fundamental natural rights understood by our Founders and already protected by them, at least theoretically, in our Founding documents.
  • Thanks to the person who said that Objectivists are not liberals or "secular humanists." You are quite right. As you are right that I object to altruism as the left uses the term, though I do believe strongly in giving VOLUNTARILY to charities. I certainly don't believe in "social responsibility", again the way the left uses the term, but that does not mean I do not place value on helping others VOLUNTARILY. Feel free to read Ayn Rand's short non-fiction book "The Virtue of Selfishness."
  • What exactly is a "homosexual public display?" If it's two guys holding hands, I admit that makes me a little uncomfortable (though much less than it used to.) If it's two guys kissing, it makes me more than a little uncomfortable. But it doesn't make me hate them.
  • I don't suggest you/we (straight white guys) join in a Gay Pride parade any more than I suggest we join in an MLK Day parade or that non-Italians join in Columbus Day parades, waving the Italian flag. I do suggest you avoid literally or rhetorically bashing gays any more than you bash blacks or Italians, even if you are none of the above.
  • "Spouses" was in quotes because 60 percent of our United States (or somewhat less than 60 percent if you believe there are 57 states) don't allow gay marriage. Therefore, one state's spouse is another state's ___ (you fill in the blank; I don't know the answer.)
  • As for orgies in the back yard that neighborhood kids can see, that is improper (and I presume illegal) no matter the gender or sexual orientation of those participating.
  • I don't want to pay for higher health care costs for any group because of their behavior. So get the government out of health care costs. And let private companies discriminate, i.e. permit higher (health and life) insurance premiums for gay people. If they don't really cost more to insure, competition will bring prices down. If they do cost more, they should pay more just as smokers often do for insurance. People should live with the costs of their own behavior. I'll bet you that gays in committed relationships have little or no actuarial difference in health/life risks. Here is one example of a benefit from encouraging committed relationships among gays. Another example would be that, just as with heterosexual couples, if one hits a financial rough spot, the other can help out and keep an American off welfare, food stamps, and the government dole generally.
  • For the person who suggests that gays will "roast on Beelzebub's spit," I suggest a long look in the mirror when considering what God really thinks is OK.
  • For those name-callers out there (i.e. those going after me personally because of a disagreement of philosophy/religion), I can only think of this worst-possible insult: Your behavior reminds me of what I would expect from liberals, who routinely take political disagreement as personal attack.

Now, one thing I could have made clearer: I did and do mean that I believe we should be getting more comfortable with those in same-sex relationships...with those people as individual human beings or as couples. I did not say and did not mean we should necessarily be more comfortable with "gay marriage" per se (and not with particular sexual acts, though that is no more your business than your sexual acts are anyone else’s business.)

Even Barack Obama, in 2004, noted that marriage has a specific meaning with thousands of years of history behind it. I am among those who think that part of the problem with this debate is the use of the word marriage. My wife asks rhetorically: if the majority of us have to suffer through marriage, why should gays be exempt? I concur except for the use of the word marriage.

I understand that civil unions and domestic partnerships may be perceived, and may be intended by some, as the camel's nose under the tent -- a giant step toward gay marriage. But having spoken to a few gays about this, I know that a substantial percentage of them don't care about the word marriage as much as they care about equal treatment under the law. And in that a least they have a reasonable argument.

I maintain my view that we should get government out of marriage, allow any two people to make any contract they want to (which does not infringe on the natural rights of others), allow any house of worship to decide whom they will or won't marry, and only have government involved insofar as contract enforcement.

Lest my conservative friends and readers on these pages think I am a full-fledged apologist for "gay rights," allow me a couple more points:

Some gays wildly exaggerate the "rights" that they don't have. But more importantly, "gay rights” crusaders, just as many other crusaders for other "victim groups" that the left likes to create in their permanent divide-and-conquer strategy, misunderstand and misuse the word "rights."

Our rights are inherent in our being human beings. Our Founders said that our rights come from God. It is in that sense of us being equally human -- no matter your view of God -- that we have equal rights. But we are a nation of negative rights, which is to say that our fundamental law, the Constitution, is a code which says what government may NOT do to us. Neither the Constitution nor any politician gives us rights. (In fact, this was part of the original argument about the Bill of Rights: James Madison, among others, initially opposed the idea of a Bill of Rights as potentially implying that rights not spelled out were rights not retained by citizens; thus the inclusion of the 9th and 10th Amendments.)

No group has a claim to special “rights” that others don’t have. (One example of the government violating this precept is the existence of "hate crime" laws. There should not be a bigger penalty for beating up a gay or black than for beating up a straight white guy.) Furthermore, I believe that private businesses and private citizens have a First Amendment right NOT to associate with people just as much as we have our rights of association as normally considered. Thus, those who dislike gays or blacks or Jews or left-handed people or people who enjoy the sport of curling should have the right to exclude them, or anyone else they don’t like for any reason whatever, from their private property.

The other side of the coin, however, is that the government should not be able to discriminate at all. Government’s picking winners and losers in no more appropriate in society or culture than in business; I say this in complete realization that today’s government does all of the above. Because, I repeat, government is force. This means that government must not treat gays, blacks or any others worse than they treat members of society’s (then current) majority; but it means just as importantly that government must not treat them better than they treat others.

One commenter got something right yesterday: When I deleted those four words – not because I was backing away from my position, but because I wanted people to focus on the other 615 words – someone suggested I should have left them. I probably should have. After all, the virulent reaction of several commenters, both against gays and against me, says at least as much about them as my words said about me.

In any case, I am appreciative, as always, of the conversation and of those who engage in a civil discussion on issues, regardless of whether we agree or disagree.

  • johnhenry
    Comment from: johnhenry
    05/16/12 @ 08:43:57 am

    1,841 words to rebut 619, efficient.

  • jessd
    Comment from: jessd
    05/16/12 @ 08:59:10 am

    I do not believe that homosexuality is a choice for most gays and lesbians. Therefore, I do not believe it is moral to hate homosexuals for whom they fall in love with (or whom they have sex with) any more that it is moral to hate blacks for their color." Whether or not sexual orientation is a choice there is still the choice to act on it or not whereas blacks are unable to choose to alter their skin color. Also, I would stipulate that it is likely not a choice for a pedophile to be inclined towards children. There are a lot of behaviors that are unacceptable in society (and should be) person may be genetically or biologically predisposed towards that they have still have a responsibility not to act on. That said I do NOT equate homosexuality with pedophilia in terms of what should be acceptable in society. I do not have an issue with homosexuals forming partnerships and agree 100% with your position that consenting adults should be able to form whatever contracts they wish with the only role of government being to enforce the contract as it would any other. I’d also like to say that I especially agree with your comments regarding the distinction between private vs. government action.

  • airbus
    Comment from: airbus
    05/16/12 @ 12:37:44 pm

    When I see the term gay "rights", the term "benefits" should be substituted. People are being given advantages based on a subjective, self profession, not an objective, proof of activity. If I was applying for food stamps, I would have to prove income, household status etc, not just to declare such and be awarded benefits. When I apply for a medical position, the first thing the employer wants to see is my license which gives me permission to practice, proving I have satisfied the requirements of the state. We just take someone's word for it in gay rights. We accept it in a heterosexual relationship because it is a natural occurence. After all, where do gay children come from?

  • johnhenry
    Comment from: johnhenry
    05/17/12 @ 07:12:15 am

    You're right! Rebutting the comments of your conservative friends.

  • surfcitysocal
    Comment from: surfcitysocal
    05/17/12 @ 06:52:41 pm

    Just a note with regard to your statement: "Therefore, I do not believe it is moral to hate homosexuals for whom they fall in love with (or whom they have sex with) any more that it is moral to hate blacks for their color." In 2008, when blacks went to the polls to vote overwhelmingly for Obama, in California, blacks also voted strongly for Prop 8 banning gay marriage. Many cited pro-gay marriage (or anti-Prop 8) ads equating the blacks' struggle for equal rights to the gay community's "struggle" as offensive and insensitive since the gay agenda is based on behavior while skin color certainly is not. In general, we need to resist equating the two.

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