Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Hot Topic: Gay Marriage

Alright. I've been asked by a lot of people, due to my interest and activism in research in homosexuality and religion, where I stand on Gay Marriage. So, here's yet another blogger posting on such a hot controversial topic. Let it be known, before I start, that I am happy for those couples who have been waiting for this day to marry the person they love. Congratulations. I am excited that government will recognize you as married people and you get to share in that commitment. See any news site on their top stories, and you'll find the Supreme Courts decisions on Prop 8 in California and DOMA

However, I recently took a class on the Theoretical Foundations of the Family that opened my eyes to some issues on the marriage debate that do concern me. This worry does extend to marriage in general, but I'll center the issue around gay marriage. Now, I am still mulling this over, but as of yet, the following is the way that I see the world. I appreciate comments, debates, and the like.

Marriage is a bond and commitment that connects two other-interested people. Some might wonder what that means, other-interested, but I simply use it in contrast to self-interest. Economics, psychology, and many social sciences are basing scientific theory on the assumption that human beings are self-interested. However, that ignores a large amount of action and intention of moral goods that humans produce in direct concern for the other. The way I understand humanity draws much upon the works of Levinas (a great French philosopher) who argues that in meeting another person, we are called upon by that person to be for them or to do what we can to help them in any way--to provide for their needs. Even though we do not know what these needs are, we are still called to help people.

I've touched on this before, but an easy example of this is walking past people on the street. For many, it is an uncomfortable experience to look someone in the eye. I ask: why? One explanation could be this irrational "call" to fulfill some unknown needs to a complete stranger. So, what do we do? We ignore them and act like they don't exist. Some people, however, respond to this need by smiling and wishing the person a good day. I can guarantee that instead of feeling "awkward", they've responded to the 'call' and generally feel better for it. In any case, there are two ways of being that follow the call of responsibility towards another: being for the other (or true to one's nature) or being against the other (or false to one's nature).

Now, marriage is the most complete way to respond to another's needs. In the marriage commitment, you agree to take on the other's needs, wants, and dreams and live a future together despite what the future may be. No one knows the future, no one knows how their future spouse or even themselves will change. So, marriage is a complete giving of oneself to the other (to work, it obviously must be reciprocal). Only marriage (again, this is the way I see it) in this manner should stand and only marriage in which we are for the other rather than for ourselves (which is fundamentally against the other) can succeed in granting both spouses lasting and fulfilling lives.

Unfortunately, this commitment-type marriage has been degraded to the self-interested, individualist norms that permeate society. People no longer marry because they really love the other person and want to be for them. Instead, they love themselves in the relationship and what they are getting out of it. See the following news articles and research for examples on why people marry:
NY Times  - Social Status
Cosmopolitan - Sex, status, therapeutic needs (only lists one reason centered around the other person)
Helen Smith Book on Not Getting Married - again, all about the self
The Case for Marriage - Book on married people being happier and healthier


What worries me about gay marriage is that they have bought on to the myth of using marriage as a means to an end rather than marriage being a commitment to be for the other person. The arguments that I hear for gay marriage revolve around the self and legal issues: legal rights for finances, etc.; equality for everyone; financial stability; why can't I be happy, too?; etc. Obviously, just as in straight marriage there are many (if not most) cases where they fall into this framework, there are many gay couples who do desire commitment and being for the other. But I cannot in good conscience give my backing to a movement so totally devoted to self-fulfillment when I believe that it is ignoring humanity's essence.

This was obviously a much shortened version of what I believe about it, and it is very hard to take this position. I love everyone and hope that the gay community finds the ability to marry in the proper way through the Supreme Court decisions, but I would also hope that straight relationships can look at themselves and recognize whether or not they are loving the relationship with the other or their self in the relationship. Are you being for the other or are you being for the self?

For further reading on the topic, I recommend: Family Politics by Yenor. Yenor takes a stronger position on marriage, especially on the chapter about John Paul II's phenomenological debate on marriage, and argues against gay marriage completely on the basis that they cannot have children. He argues, similarly to what was explained, that this turns marriage into an instrumental relationship (what can I get out of it?) rather than the giving up of one's self to the other. I take issue with this and I want to develop a theoretical backing of homosexual marriage that combats Yenor's/JPII's argument's use of children as a reason to fight against gay marriage. But, that's for another post.

Peace y'all. Let's all be true to the other! I love talking about this, so if you have comments of any kind, let's hear them and discuss it.