Another day, another sad set of arguments against same-sex marriage, this one out of the Austin Daily Herald's Wallace Alcorn. We'll get to Alcorn's more impressive rhetorical flourishes in a bit, but first let's address this common meme among those prejudiced against gays and lesbians. Keep in mind that advocates of Minnesota's constitutional amendment defining marriage as One Man, One Woman were only a couple of days ago lamenting that proponents of gay marriage undeservedly call them "bigots." And what better way to prove that you have all the respect in the world for your gay and lesbian neighbors than to compare their relationships to -- you guessed it, incest!
This is one of my favorite little ditties in the anti-gay marriage bag of tricks. Nothing better illustrates both the weakness of their arguments and the prejudice that underlies them. If we allow gay marriage, why people will be allowed to marry their kids, marry multiple partners, maybe even marry animals, ad infinitum, ad absurdum. Writes Alcorn, "Marriage of siblings and cousins is not a civil right, and law prohibits any such attempt. So, too, is it not a civil right for a parent to marry his or her child whether same-sex or other-sex." Of course, Alcorn answers his own argument there at the end without even realizing it, which is perhaps unsurprising -- such laws against incest can be applied across the board, regardless of the sexes of the people involved, avoiding the very equal access claims inherent in the gay marriage debate. There are still state interests that can be argued with regard to making incestuous marriage illegal, but no convincing, objective reasons have been proposed to keep two consenting adults of the same sex from marrying. Such arguments fail in the light of the social and legal institution that marriage has become in modern America (see previous post). They ultimately derive solely from a group of people's unease with gays and lesbians in general, a group which has fought gay rights (from basic employment rights to sodomy laws to child custody to anti-bullying policies) every step of the way in light of that prejudice.
But Alcorn's supremely magnificent phraseology comes as he tries to debunk the notion that a vote to restrict marriage to heterosexuals in the constitution is in essence a vote to preclude the rights of some Minnesota citizens -- and in a document typically reserved for ensuring rights, to boot. Alcorn doesn't see it that way. In a truly impressive display of sophistry, he suggests: "But the thrust of the campaign to deny voters our vote to decide the matter strongly and clearly claims civil rights would be taken away from gays. It will not, because they just do not have this as a right. Nothing would be taken away from them, because they do not have it and never have had it and should never gain it."
Pretty fancy, huh? A group that has hitherto been denied a civil right should not be given said civil right because they have never had it, and never should have it. Because I said so.
Let's try that with other Great Monuments of Civil Rights History: Women should not be given the right to vote because they have never had the right to vote and they should never have it. Voila! Slaves should not be given freedom because, as slaves, they definitionally do not have it and I don't think they should ever have it. So there!
Such circular logic has always been at the root of resistance to change. When you get down to it, some people simply do not think that gays and lesbians deserve the full rights and privileges of the rest of us under law. It's always been that way, and that's the way they think it should stay, even if there is no rational or objective reason for it. It would be downright hilarious, if it weren't possibly on its way into the state Constitution.