Friday, February 6, 2009

Hanks Had It Right The First Time

Hanks, exercising his Constitutional right of free speech, blasted members of a major U.S. religion who supported "Proposition 8" -- a successful effort in California to codify into law the prevailing discrimination against homosexuals by barring them from acquiring for their intimate relationships the same legal protections afforded non-homosexuals.

The basic idea of marriage -- even the marriage of an infertile couple, which is legal everywhere marriage is otherwise legal -- is that certain protections are given. Typically, a spouse can give consent to medical procedures when the other is incapacitated, inherits some property by default in the absence of a will, can share the legal protection afforded a homestead owned by either spouse, and so on. Some homosexuals have children from prior non-homosexual marriage, and children raised primarily in such households might benefit from their other effective parent being afforded the legal right to give consent for educational and medical issues.

Proposition 8 is lawful; the United States Supreme Court has not declared sexual orientation to lie among the especially protected classifications like religion or race, and defining marriage to discriminate against homosexuals does not offend current notions of nationally-guaranteed rights. However, the fact that something is legal does not make it good. The fact that "gay" and "faggot" are ordinarily considered unmistakable insults in middle-school locker rooms is unlikely to be ameliorated by laws that cement ongoing discrimination.

Homosexuality may not be your bag, but think about it this way: for every pair of gay men allowed to live together without aid of a beard, you get two unmarried women available for dating. And what straight man doesn't have fond thoughts about lesbian chicks? And getting back to the law, the United States Supreme Court has made it crystal clear that states haven't got any legitimate interest in the voluntary sexual practices of competent, consenting, adults who aren't sent to the hospital by their games. So let's be serious: who is their conduct hurting?

Tom Hanks, duly chastized by Mormons who point out that speaking your mind is always American, has published what has been publicly taken for an apology. And it is always American to speak our minds, crazy as our minds may be. But Tom had it right the first time. Speaking for Proposition 8 might not be un-American, but favoring it in the first place may require more hate and divisiveness than leaves room for American-ness in one's heart. Undermining individual liberty and the equality of every free person is hardly American, and after the 13th Amendment, we're all supposed to be free, so we should all be equal before the law. So it's not un-American to speak your mind, but it can be un-American to want to preach hate in the first place.

Government doesn't give married couples a cash bonus, and government goesn't pay for marriages. It costs the public nothing to let people live their gay lives in peace. It just rubs raw the pride of bigots.

Are we really such bigots?

1 comment:

Jaded Consumer said...

In a recent post on the values we should hope to find in justices of the United States Supreme Court, I received a comment suggesting that favoring strict construction of the Constitution was at odds with my post here.

I disagree.

While it is true I expressed doubt that preaching hate was an American virtue, I also pointed out that speaking one's mind -- right or wrong -- was definitely American. And I'm glad readers are free to disagree with me. We have in that event the makings of a policy debate -- and that's always worthwhile in a land that lauds participatory government.

I'm doubtful that there is a practical or social or other identifiable need to legislate that a statutorily defined category of supposedly depraved people should be unable to hold property as tenants by the entirety, to cover their loved ones' health on an employee benefit plan, and to do other things one does to protect those one loves.

Some say it has to do with raising families. I struggle to follow that argument. In some places, gays are (at least in theory) barred from adopting, so I understand what they hope to do: prevent the infectious unnatural ideas from being passed to children. I haven't ever met gays who said they became gay because they were persuaded by its superiority. I've only met gays who didn't make it as straights, either because they never could develop interest or because faking it made them miserable. I have known gays who raised children from prior marriage into happy heterosexual adults, and I can't say they've got a worse range of possibilities than the straight folks (some of whom raise wife-beaters, pedophiles, etc.; the problem is something other than just the sexual orientation, and if we could find that maybe we should regulate it as more closely related to our object of interest).

If the only reason to legislate against gays is to show them they are hated, maybe it's not really worthy of America to make this demonstration. Perhaps there is a policy reason I missed that does support some of the anti-gay legislation I've seen proposed (or passed), but there you have it: I have doubt.

And, whether in a minority or no, I'm entitled both to this doubt and to its expression.