14.12.08

Gay Marriage vs. Civil Unions

Kristen had a nice post on Huckabee's recent appearance on the Daily Show. I wrote this as a response there, but wanted to publish it here as well. I do so a bit hesitantly, knowing what a charged topic this is. I am also hesitant of my own answer, one I am often quick to critique (when students oppose the idea of using the term marriage, I sarcastically respond with "yes, and wasn't it nice when we gave black people their own water fountains and native americans "special" plots of land"). But I've published before on avoiding critiques of conservative values which claim the intellectual high ground. There is no absolutely logical way of demonstrating that liberal values are somehow more rational than conservative (don't confuse "rational" with "better," but "better" for me is "more ethical" in a strict Levinsian sense of the words--let's save that for another day). And my ultimate concern is with changing public policy as quickly as possible. So here goes:

I would, not to defend Huckabee, point out that the binary is not necessarily between fundamentalism and liberals–it can be framed as between conservatives and progressives. Conservatives feel that human logic is itself a threat to True human values. There is dire need to protect our (metaphysical) inheritance from the deprecating influence of time. I doubt I need to explicate progressives for this audience...

And I do not think any logological approach (drawing from Burke, an approach predicated on logic, reason, etc as its metaphysical basis) will “destabilize” this view. I’m thinking of Grassi here, neither view can claim to be “more rational,” since all first principles (faith in the primacy of God, faith in the transient historical power of reason) are non-rational. There is no logical way to prove God’s existence. Nor, however, is there any way to disprove that existence. And there is nothing more reasonable about not believing in that which cannot be proved (etc. etc.). All logic is ultimately circular--at least that's what I think Nietzsche taught Foucault.

I believe the more strategic maneuver is to craft new language to usurp old power. Stop advocating for gay marriage, and instead advocate for civil unions. Yes its euphemistic. And yes, I realize that it is not the ideal solution. I realize it would be a very large concession on the part of the gay, lesbian, and bi-sexual communities.

But it sidesteps a large part of the fundamental argument that words have stable fundamental meanings. Thus, it sidesteps having to popularize a very sophistic(ated) notion of language. And it sidesteps the arguments about whether a particular group of people can “own” a word. It reframes the scene of the debate, and hopefully offers moderates a more appealing option.

5 comments:

liebana1 said...

Yes, skip the word "Marriage", use the word "Wed" to include all people who are wed to each other, LGBT or Staight. At every wedding that I have attended, the people who are to be joined say, "With this ring, I thee wed". Hence, www.civillywedd.com The two "D's" represent two persons, doesn't matter their gender.

Insignificant Wrangler said...

I like that too.

Wishydig said...

but the major interest on each side is (as far as policy goes) is to appropriate the advantage that the written laws currently afford. the offer of another term that is equal doesn't guarantee protection that is identical.

new terminology is fine, but because language is already (and always) mutable and diffuse the argument about current terminology is an important one.

Floyd the Barber said...

This is my favorite blog that I've ran across in the past couple of weeks. Not good for much except to give me a laugh during finals week. http://fuckyoupenguin.blogspot.com/

Insignificant Wrangler said...

True, Wishy. I guess I'm making a "meantime" argument--getting some protection, quickly, is better than no protection. And as Prop 8's keep popping up, we need to do something now. That something will not be ideal, but it might reverse the trend.