Wednesday, January 21, 2009

More on the gay marriage thing

I got a couple responses to this post taking issue with my description of marriage as a basic human right. I agree that is an overstatement; I was just being lazy with words.

I want to clarify, because I think this is actually a really interesting (and tragic) issue.

Equality is the basic human right at issue here. The government should not give preferential services or benefits to people based on their sexual orientation. I hope we can all agree on that much.

The problem is that civil unions are not, and probably will not ever be, equal to marriage. The reason is that the term 'marriage' is used throughout the legal system and is defined to be a man and a woman. Thousands of laws have been written referring to the term 'marriage' with that definition, and it would be incredibly costly to update all those old laws.

In programming terms, what we have is a legacy system problem. The old system was written to assume that the concept of 'Marriage' in the religious sense and 'Marriage' in the legal sense were the same thing. Ideally, we would just rewrite the old system to work correctly and be done with it.

Unfortunately things are not so easy. Rewriting and passing all those laws would be a gigantic undertaking, and would not be a wise use of legislative resources given the other problems we are facing.

So the practical thing to do is redefine the term 'Marriage'. This would be a quick fix to update all those old laws to have the correct new behavior.

The thing that frustrates me is that I think most people would be in favor of this if the issues were clearly presented to them. It isn't complicated, and I really believe the number of people who actually want to restrict other people's rights is small.


Anonymous said...

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xtian said...

In NZ, they went through and added "or civil union" to all the places in the law that mentioned marriage. It was a big job, but I think everyone's pretty happy. NZ law's probably much simpler than US though, just 'cause we're younger.

(My worry about it is that someone could go back through and cross them out again - although I guess that would be equally true of the redefining marriage patch too. Maybe that someone could add laws later that treats the two different states differently in order to target same-sex couples.)

I agree that redefinition is much easier (as well as more morally correct), but the word is so stupidly loaded that it seems to be an uphill battle.

Anonymous said...

Yep, it'll be great.

Same sex marriages today, polyamorous marriages tomorrow, incestuous marriages the next day.

I just don't know.

xtian said...

Well, if you're worried about poly-marriages and incestuous marriages, campaign against them. (I have to say, I don't see any kind of groundswell campaigning for them.)

Saying "we can't allow gay marriages/civil unions, because then we'll have to allow these other kinds as well" is disingenuous - you're acting as if you agree that same-sex unions should be allowed, but you can't legalise them because it wouldn't be fair to polygamists. The slippery slope argument you seem to be pushing is really just stealth homophobia.

boots said...

@anonymous: whatever it was, it's gone now :(

I vaguely remember seeing animated menus last time I looked at it. Maybe they were using some of my javascript code.

Anonymous said...

if you worked on the ASP.NET driven - you guy the rest of .NET developers a bad name. Thanks Buddy!

Anonymous said...

Oops! I was so mad, I mistakenly typed 'guy' for give.

boots said...

@anonymous: Your comment made no sense, but the anger sure came through. Thanks for sharing!

Dan Phiffer said...

After the last election some friends of mine tried to convince me that marriage should be restricted to its religious meaning and the state should simply remove any special rights for the married. This is a frustrating position for me because it does nothing to assuage those who support the "tradition" of marriage and erodes existing rights that I don't think anyone actually wants to disappear.

I agree wholeheartedly with your last sentence, but I feel like that idea isn't being argued for effectively enough.

Dan Phiffer said...

Hmm, I'm rereading my comment and realizing it might be misunderstood as being in support of "tradition" (in quotes for its limited historical scope). Rather, I would want the idea of equal rights to be broadly appealing rather than threatening to some groups.

Anonymous said...

My feeling is that, legally, civil unions give homosexual couples every legal right they would have in marriage, except the right to call it 'marriage'. Don't those of us who are heterosexually married have the right to retain our identity? If you don't like the term 'civil union' pick something else, just not 'marriage'. This isn't an issue of legal rights, it's a radicalist attemt to falsely erase any distinction between homosexual and heterosexual relationships, which I think is quite unfair.

Anonymous said...

I'll admit it's natural for two men to get married when you admit it's natural for me to do my brother.

schuylertowne said...

I don't give a damn if you do your brother. Or multiples of your brother, or whatever the hell you want to do, so long as it doesn't impair my ability to live my life. Assuming you're not planning to break into my house and plow him on my nice dining room table, (which likely couldn't take the abuse) I'm cool.

Really, if all you can argue is that you have the right to retain your identity as heterosexually married or that it's not natural? That's weak-sauce. It's probably not natural for a guy to spend his life building cathedrals out of matchsticks:

but who the hell cares?

Is he taking my identity as an overweight white male and lighting it afire with his eccentric lifestyle? Hell no. I'm just as fat, white and male as I was before he came along. (probably a little fatter, even).

The fact is, even if the majority of people want to keep them from being treated equally, that's not what our country is about. We're not a democracy, we're a democratic republic. Specifically established to keep the tyranny of the majority from deny the rights of the minority.

Give up the ghost, boys. Separate but equal was taught to every damn one of us as wrong wrong wrong. How-in-the-hell did it come back?

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