Comments:French Senate vote in support of same-sex marriage

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Redefining "marriage" silences ideas that the queer community finds inconvenient.604:27, 16 April 2013

Redefining "marriage" silences ideas that the queer community finds inconvenient.

This is all about silencing. It is not about civil rights. It is about silencing ideas that the queer community finds to be inconvenient. "Marriage" refers to "the marriage norm", which defines the rights and duties of a mated male and female. Mating is part of the reproductive "subsystem" of human beings and other mammals as well as all other animals and many plant species. The coupling of a male and a female involves emotional and psychological changes that all promote the care for and feeding of children. The male-female couple is a form of intimacy that is important and distinct.

What we are seeing today is not a sudden enlightenment of the world's population. We are seeing the effect of mobbing, of thought control promoted and facilitated by the mass media and the coercive power of the state, hijacked by a special interest: the queer community.

This attempt to silence the marriage norm by redefining the word "marriage", using the coercive force of the State, is going to backfire and become celebrated as "Exhibit #1" exposing the moral effluent flowing from the queer community like a volcano and raining down on all of humanity, wreaking havoc.

It is selfish. It is illogical. It is not going to work. It is going to harm many people who identify themselves as queer. It is going to result in a dramatic increase in hate. Hate has a function in society. The queers have gone too far in this, and the response is going to be like a coal mine fire. Once such a fire is ignited, it is impossible to extinguish until every last bit of coal has been consumed.

I am not writing this to encourage acts of hate against queers. I am writing to plead with you all to engage in a vigorous and respectful discussion in which all viewpoints, including mine, are given serious consideration.

Please post your opinion about the following idea: The best way to promote liberty, in which government is not involved in enforcing any group's views about sexual mores, is to elevate the concept of "civil union" in law and in society, without attempting to redefine "marriage" or any other word. The queer community should concede that the mated male-female couple is a distinct and important form of intimacy. The queer community should concede that people should be free to express the opinion that sexual intimacy outside of that context is immoral. The language must not be altered, using the coercive force of the State, in ways that would prevent the expression of ideas involving sexual mores.

If the queer community is really interested in promoting liberty and justice, then it must abandon its efforts to silence its critics by redefining words to make those criticisms inexpressible.

Wo'O Ideafarm (talk)04:36, 14 April 2013

Today I learned: the only way for members of the LGBT community to not have their heads smashed in by bigots is to accept the condition of permanent second-class citizenship, apparently.

The United States "redefined" marriage many years ago to allow for inter-racial couples to get married. Has that made the people who oppose inter-racial marriage unable to express their viewpoint (as opponents of same-sex marriage keep saying, for some reason)? Surely, the words "I think marriage only ought to be between people of the same race" expresses that sentiment today just the same as it did fifty or a hundred years ago.

Many Western governments have changed the legal definition of rape so that marital rape is not legally acceptable as it used to be. Presumably, that was "silencing" the people who think that marital rape is okay. Under the sentiments you've expressed, the only way to not "silence" dissent is to not change anything. No same-sex marriage because that silences the anti-same-sex marriage people (of course, by doing that you are silencing the pro-same-sex marriage people, but that's okay because they are just a bunch of queers). Why just limit it same-sex marriage though?

Here's what will actually happen. Over the next few years, more and more Western countries will legalise same-sex marriage. Except a tiny minority of religious fundamentalists, straight people won't give a shit. And a proportion of gay people will get married. And they'll mostly be happier for it. The small number of people who will continue to have a bee in their bonnet about it will claim to be persecuted and silenced by the state because their view lost in the democratic process: they'll still be able to utter phrases like "I think marriage is between a man and a woman". People might look at them in the same way we now look at people who think that inter-racial marriage is wrong, but that's not a civil liberties issue.

Tom Morris (talk)06:39, 14 April 2013

Mr. Morris: Thank you for your thoughtful response, for using your true name, and for refraining from labeling me and calling me names. Please join me in exploring what unites you and me before moving on to where we might disagree.

I am a libertarian. I want to see a world in which every human being on the planet enjoys real liberty, real justice, and real economic empowerment. I fully agree with "the queer agenda" as I understand it with the sole exception that I oppose a change in the definition of the word "marriage". In particular, I oppose the use of either violence or economic discrimination against queers, either by the State or by private persons, as a means for promoting the "queers are perverts" viewpoint. On that point, my position is that we are all queer, because queer just means failure to completely and always conform to the cultural norms for gender and sexuality that I often call "the marriage norm". The most important example is masturbation; every person who has ever in his or her life, even one time, masturbated, is queer, even if that person does not identify with "the queer community". So I do not see this issue as "us versus them". We are all queer. Where we differ is whether we think that being queer is morally wrong.

Perhaps you can agree with me on all of the above. I want to establish as much common ground as possible with you because I intend to argue that the values and ideas that unite you and me are more important than the values and ideas on which we find that we disagree.

Before I respond to your points, please confirm for me that you agree with all of the above. Please also let me know where you would draw the line between sexual behavior that is moral and sexual behavior that is immoral by categorizing each of the following:

masturbation ; exclusive monogamous male-female * ; exclusive polygamous male-female * ; promiscuous male-female ; orgy male-female ; violent male-female (sadomasochism) ; male-male ; female-female ; adult-child (pedophilia) ; adult-animal (bestiality) ; adult-corpse (necrophilia) ;

I have used an asterisk (*) to indicate the sexual behaviors that I think are moral. Which ones would you mark?

Wo'O Ideafarm (talk)17:02, 14 April 2013

Okay, I shall play along.

I believe all of the sexual behaviours that you list are acceptable except paedophilia, bestiality and necrophilia. In the case of paedophilia, children are unable to consent to sexual behaviour and are thus trivially exploitable by adults. I believe that the animal involved in a bestiality encounter is unable to have informed consent for sex, and it is thus possible to cause pain for the animal. Necrophilia is a weird one: it is theoretically possible that a system of legalised necrophilia could be set up that would allow for people to consent to posthumous sexual activity, but given the social ickiness that most people have towards necrophilia, it would be unlikely that such a system could be plausibly setup, so the forbidding of that type of relationship is quite reasonable. We generally allow people some say in the disposal of their body after death (including honouring preferences for the religious or secular nature of funerals, whether organ donation is conducted, whether a person is buried or cremated or donated to medical science (etc.). Most people are disgusted by the idea of necrophilia and would thus not consent to necrophilia being performed on their body after their death.

It is my view that any sexual activity where all partners consensually participate is morally acceptable. Therefore, masturbation is morally acceptable (because if you do not wish to participate, you simply abstain). All adult relations whether straight or gay are morally acceptable if they are conducted consensually. In the case of polygamy or other situations: if one has entered into an exclusive monogamous relationship with a partner, it would be wrong to break that commitment. (It would be inadvisable to enter such a commitment if you are reasonably sure that you may break it at some future point.) I reject the idea that sadomasochism is "violent". There are physical sensations that are similar in type to those that are done as part of a crime. But we do the same in sport: great physical pain can be caused playing a game like rugby, and great physical pain can be caused through doing sadomasochism wrong. But in neither sport nor sadomasochism are people being violent, they are just causing physical sensations that may be painful. We can see that it isn't pain that sadomasochists are seeking: nobody gets sexually turned on by getting their hand caught in a car door.

I reject the idea that "queer" covers anything that doesn't fit some kind of "marriage norm". Masturbation certainly isn't "queer" in the sense that "queer" is used to refer to by the LGBT community. You may be using the term "queer" in rather a queer and unorthodox way, so if we are to continue this discussion, you may wish to define what backing and normative force you have for the designation of some sexual practice as queer and others as not queer.

Tom Morris (talk)20:44, 14 April 2013

Thanks for playing along. My goal is to reveal that what unites you and me is much more important than anything that we might disagree on. From your response, it looks like...


We agree on these things from my conversation opener post:

(1) We both want to promote liberty, justice, and economic empowerment for every human being, including people who identify with the queer community.

(2) We both agree with every part of "the queer agenda" other than the redefinition of the word "marriage". (I am postponing consideration of that.) We both agree that queers (as I define the term) should have the same legal rights and duties as anyone else, should not be subjected to harassment or hate crime by either government or private persons, and should not be discriminated against economically, i.e. by customers, employers, coworkers, and vendors. Queers should be treated just like everyone else in their economic lives and in their relationship with government, including their legal rights and duties.

(3) We both agree that any tax subsidy granted to married couples (as I use the term) should also be given to same sex civil unions. (I actually have a weak preference for using tax money to subsidize marriage, excluding civil unions, but am willing to set that preference aside to increase our common ground.)

(4) You would apparently define the word "queer" differently, but you understand how I am defining and using the term so no miscommunication is being caused.

We disagree only on this part of my post: You would not categorize these sexual behaviors as immoral: masturbation ; promiscuous male-female ; orgy male-female ; violent male-female (sadomasochism) ; male-male ; female-female. So we agree that some sexual behaviors are perverted or immoral. We are only disagreeing on where to draw the line. You agree with the behaviors that I view as moral, and you would add a few others.

Now, I will note where I agree with the points you make:

(1) I like the fact that you derive your answers from a principle. You base your response on the idea that a sexual behavior is moral if and only if it is consensual, and you apply that idea to the various behaviors on my list. Your reasoning seems logically correct, and it interests me. I like your logical, analytical approach.

(2) I accept your correction of my reference to sadomasochism as "violent" sexual behavior. Perhaps "sporting" or "combative" or some other adjective would have been a better differentiator.

(3) I don't have any problem with you defining the term "queer" differently, e.g. to exclude people who masturbate. We just need to remember these terminology differences when we communicate with each other.

(4) Ditto for you disagreeing about what "the marriage norm" is or whether it exists. For our purposes here, when I use the term "the marriage norm", I am just referring to a cultural meme or idea or rule that says that male-male and female-female sexual behavior is immoral. I think that we can agree that such a meme exists.


We agree on a lot of important stuff. Our list of what is moral differs because your list is based upon whether the behavior is consensual. I like that rule, since I am a libertarian. For our purposes here, I will concede that my libertarian views compel me to agree that male-male and female-female living partners should not be second class citizens.

Now, a thought experiment. Imagine that you, Tom Morris, and I are standing together on a street, with signs in our hands, and we are shouting, "Liberty and justice for male-male lovers! Liberty and justice for female-female lovers!" Some hecklers arrive, and shout back, "Male-male sexuality is immoral. Female-female sexuality is a perversion!"

Do they have a right to say such things? I think that they do. I think that you agree with me that they do. Am I right?

If you say, "yes", then we will have established the immense and important common ground that unites you, Tom Morris, with me. We will be able to proceed to the question of whether changing the definition of the word "marriage" would be a good or a bad thing. Whether or not we ultimately discover that we agree on that question, we will still be able to be friends, due to all of the important things that we agree on.

Do those heckers have a right to shout, "Immoral! Perversion!"? Do the other people on the street have a right to hear their viewpoint?

Wo'O Ideafarm (talk)04:41, 15 April 2013

I do not so much see it as a matter of "immoral" or "perverted". I see it as a matter of whether it is permissible or not. All behaviours you listed but for bestiality, necrophilia and paedophilia ought to be legally permissible. They may be morally problematic in certain circumstances: for instance, if someone has made a monogamous commitment to one person, they ought to not be having sex with others without that person's permission. I also find the framing of this as simply being about sexual activity to be potentially problematic: the sort of relationships we are considering mix together sexual, romantic and other behaviour. For a long time, LGBT issues have been reduced to simply being a matter of sex, so I'd rather we avoided that. There will be marriages between same-sex couples where no sex will occur (perhaps between elderly couples).

But, I see a problem with your definitions. In your earlier message, you said that "the marriage norm" opposes a wide variety of behaviour including masturbation and various male-female activities, while in your most recent message you have narrowly defined it to be "a cultural meme or idea or rule that says that male-male and female-female sexual behavior is immoral". So, we have shifted definitions already.

Do people have a right to speak loudly in opposition to same-sex sexual behaviour and/or relationships? Sure. This right is not unlimited. I'd rather we did not have permanent protests outside the homes of gay and lesbian couples or outside gay bars. That right also doesn't mean that the state has to agree with them. An analogy here: we allow protests in Britain from radical Islamists who think that Britain ought to be run along the principles of sharia law. The state is not required to be neutral here: they can allow free speech and advocacy of sharia law, but also take a view as the state in opposing sharia law because, say, it runs counter to women's rights. Similarly, just because there are people who oppose same-sex marriage, there is no requirement that the state be silent in that discussion. There are people who think racism is fine. That isn't a good case against racial anti-discrimination laws, or the state supporting organisations or campaigns against racism.

Freedom of speech also doesn't mean freedom from consequences or an untrammelled right to never have that speech suppressed. Employment constrains speech. If I were to write a long piece critical of my employer, they might be within their rights to not continue employing me. I have worked for the government in the past, and there were similar limitations on what I could say about politicians in public. We see cases of people saying that the passage of same-sex marriage laws would prevent them from teaching their traditionalist views in the classroom. Even though we hire teachers to teach the curriculum rather than their personal views. If it is your strong personal view that Paris is actually in Egypt, you do not to continue being a geography teacher in a publicly-funded school system. The same is true with sexuality: if you are unable to to teach the legal acceptability and equality of gay people in the classroom, then you ought to find a new career.

The thread starts with the title "Redefining "marriage" silences ideas that the queer community finds inconvenient". Perhaps it does. But only as much as the National Curriculum silences the idea that Paris is in Egypt or the Race Relations Act silences the ideas that the non-racist community finds problematic.

I will concede that my libertarian views compel me to agree that male-male and female-female living partners should not be second class citizens.

My challenge to you then is: I can go to a registry office in Britain and marry a woman in a purely secular ceremony. I can go to a registry office in Britain and enter a civil partnership with a man in a purely secular ceremony. The two relationships are treated differently by the state. The difference in treatment between the two makes gay people into second class citizens by providing services differently to different citizens. Do you agree with this state of affairs?

Tom Morris (talk)07:32, 15 April 2013