Saturday, August 4, 2012

Same-Sex Marriage: Anne Hathaway, Reason, and Rhetoric

Popular actress Anne Hathaway, who recently starred as Catwoman in The Dark Knight Rises, received an award in 2008 from the Human Rights Campaign, an organization dedicated to the rights of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) community. In her acceptance speech, Hathaway explained why she supports homosexuality and same-sex marriage. Read carefully the reasons she offers:


“In my household, being gay was, and is, no big deal. When my brother came out, we hugged him, said we loved him, and that was that…Just for the record, we don’t feel that there is actually anything alternative about our family values…I don’t consider myself just an ally to the LGBT community, I consider myself your family…if anyone, ever, tries to hurt you, I’m going to give them hell…There are people who have said that I’m being brave for being openly supportive of gay marriage, gay adoption, basically of gay rights. But with all due respect I humbly dissent. I’m not being brave. I’m being a decent human being. And I don’t think I should receive an award for that, or for merely stating what I believe to be true, that love is a human experience, not a political statement. However, I acknowledge that sadly we live in a world where not everybody feels the same. My family and I will help the good fight continue until that long awaited moment arrives, when our rights are equal and when the political limits on love have been smashed.”

In the last sentence Hathaway emphasizes two main points which are often appealed to in the same-sex marriage debate: equal rights and love. Many who listened to Hathaway found her speech worthy of praise, as evidenced by the many blogs, tweets, and Facebook posts still circulating which commend the actress. As you read her words, maybe you feel an emotional tug at the heart as well.

But what exactly has Hathaway offered us? Has she offered us any substantial reasons for supporting same-sex marriage or gay adoption? Or has she primarily offered us emotional appeals and empty rhetoric?

To answer these questions, imagine a different scenario for a moment. Suppose that Anne Hathaway was invited to speak at an engagement for NAMBLA (North American Man/Boy Love Association), an organization dedicated to defending and legalizing “intergenerational” love. Couldn’t Hathaway have given essentially the same speech in support of pedophilia?

“In my household, being a pedophile was, and is, no big deal. When my brother came out, we hugged him, said we loved him, and that was that…Just for the record, we don’t feel that there is actually anything alternative about our family values…I don’t consider myself just an ally to the NAMBLA community, I consider myself your family…if anyone, ever, tries to hurt you, I’m going to give them hell…There are people who have said that I’m being brave for being openly supportive of intergenerational marriage, pedophile adoption, basically of pedophile rights. But with all due respect I humbly dissent. I’m not being brave. I’m being a decent human being. And I don’t think I should receive an award for that, or for merely stating what I believe to be true, that love is a human experience, not a political statement. However, I acknowledge that sadly we live in a world where not everybody feels the same. My family and I will help the good fight continue until that long awaited moment arrives, when our rights are equal and when the political limits on love have been smashed.”

Most of us (thanks be to God) still have enough moral common sense to see the absurdity in such an attempt to validate pedophilia. The fact that an adult man and seven-year-old boy love each other in no way validates the relationship, establishes its morality, or argues for its legality and endorsement by society.

But the important thing to notice is this: the same justification for same-sex marriage offered by Hathaway and many other same-sex advocates can just as easily be used as justification for pedophilia. In fact, this is exactly what organizations like NAMBLA are doing (along with promoters of polygamist, polyamorous, and incestuous relationships).

Objection: “That’s Different!”

Some may object at this point saying, “That’s different! Same-sex marriage is about two consenting adult homosexuals. You are talking about child molestation. Child molestation is clearly wrong and we have age of consent laws in place to prohibit it.” I have three things to say in response.

First, this objection completely misses the point. The point is this: appealing to the fact that two people love each other and yet are legally prohibited from expressing that love the way they desire is not substantial or weighty enough to justify the morality or legality of any particular relationship. In fact, same-sex advocates concede this very point when objecting to pedophilia: they are acknowledging that love and equality alone are insufficient.

Remember, it is Hathaway and other defenders of same-sex relationships who are appealing to love and equality. What I am providing here is a counter-example, what might be called a reductio ad absurdum, a reduction to absurdity. If the concept of “love” and an appeal to “equal rights” are sufficient in themselves to legitimize the morality and legality of sexual relationships which are then subsequently endorsed by society, then these reasons can just as easily be employed in favor of pedophilia. But (and I am appealing to your moral common sense here) since pedophilia is a heinous evil and its endorsement by society absurd, there must be something wrong with the starting premise (or assumption) that “love” and “equal rights” are adequate to justify a particular lifestyle. And if that is the case, neither are these concepts ample enough to validate same-sex marriage.

Second, the “That’s different!” objection begs some of the very questions under discussion, including the morality of adult homosexual relationships. This is common among defenders of homosexuality and same-sex marriage: they assume that as long as two adults consent to a sexual act there is nothing morally wrong with it. But this is one of the central issues under discussion and raises an important point: debates concerning homosexuality and same-sex marriage are not just about “love” and “equal rights.” They go much deeper than that. They must include discussions about the nature of love, the grounding of morality, the law, government, so forth and so on. Appealing to “love” and “equal rights” has great emotional and rhetorical value but offers nothing in terms of real substance and value in helping resolve the debate.

Third, the “That’s different!” objection is arbitrary and inconsistent. Remember, same-sex marriage proponents are arguing for the redefinition of marriage. On their view, marriage can be defined, and redefined, by a given culture or society as they see fit. In other words, marriage is what we make of it. But on this view, what holds true for marriage also holds true for the age of consent. If the concept of “marriage” is a cultural convention with no moral or ontological grounding, age of consent laws are likewise merely social customs which can be changed with enough voting power (e.g., if NAMBLA were to gain enough political influence and persuade enough voters, age of consent laws would be done away with). Herein lay the inconsistency: you cannot assume that “age of consent” laws have real, moral, cultural transcendence and foundation while at the same time deny this very thing for the concept of “marriage.” Therefore, it is arbitrary and inconsistent for same-sex marriage proponents to appeal to age of consent laws as genuine, meaningful, moral distinctions between same-sex marriage and pedophilia.

Conclusion

What should we say then about what Hathaway and other same-sex marriage defenders have offered us? Is the concept of “love” and an appeal to “equal rights” enough to justify the morality, validation, and legal endorsement of any particular relationship? Hardly. I leave it to supporters of same-sex relationships to advance more compelling and persuasive reasons given the cultural and ethical importance of this topic.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

First of all, I find apologetics very interesting since Christianity is a topic near to my heart and technically I'm still a Christian (member of the church). However, since I'm an agnostic leaning towards atheism, I think you're making a mistake in opposing Hathaway's statement. True, there's not much substance to it, but how can you justify respecting your fellow human beings? Ultimately, you must appeal to the heart, and to compassion.

I'm just wondering: Why shouldn't those who OPPOSE gay rights be the ones in duty of giving compelling reasons?

Just assume for the sake of argument that Christianity isn't true. Then what good reason is left to discriminate against our fellow human beings -- gay or members of other minority groups -- who can and will suffer the emotional pain caused by such persecution?

IF your brand of faith should be false, (and isn't it at least possible?) then this anti-gay attitude would be a sad mistake and cause much unnecessary suffering. Life can often be hard enough. Why make it even harder by bullying one another pointlessly?

Anonymous said...

Way to pull out NAMBLA to make you case. A joke of an organization that promotes statutory rape. Comparing that to gay marriage is laughable. Am I to conclude that you would be fine with statutory rape as long as it is heterosexual? The premise of you argument is not sound, please think harder and come back with a cogent argument. It also should be noted that marriage was originally put in place as a method of trading one's daughter for another's property. The church had nothing to do with the 'sacrament' of marriage util the dark ages when nation states could no longer keep up with the accounting. So by all means go back to the traditional form of marriage and keep the church out of it.

Aaron said...

Hello Anonymous. Thank you for your comments. I have responded below.

I'm just wondering: Why shouldn't those who OPPOSE gay rights be the ones in duty of giving compelling reasons?

Same-sex marriage is not an equal rights issue. There is no unequal protection under the law. This is about whether or not "marriage" is something in particular or can simply be defined as society sees fit.

Just assume for the sake of argument that Christianity isn't true. Then what good reason is left to discriminate against our fellow human beings -- gay or members of other minority groups -- who can and will suffer the emotional pain caused by such persecution?

Again, when it comes to marriage no individuals are being discriminated against, and I am not sure where the idea of "persecution" fits in.

IF your brand of faith should be false, (and isn't it at least possible?) then this anti-gay attitude would be a sad mistake and cause much unnecessary suffering. Life can often be hard enough. Why make it even harder by bullying one another pointlessly?

Just because something is possible doesn't mean it is reasonable. Upholding natural marriage does not reflect an anti-gay attitude but rather a pro-marriage and family attitude. You will have to offer something more substantial here and some arguments to back your assertions.

Aaron said...

Hello Anonymous. Thank you for your comments. I have responded below.

Way to pull out NAMBLA to make you case. A joke of an organization that promotes statutory rape. Comparing that to gay marriage is laughable.

Perhaps you need to read the article more carefully. I am not making a comparison, rather I am saying that the reasons offered for same-sex marriage can just as easily be offered for other concepts of "marriage," and indeed they are. Also, that objectors are arbitrary and inconsistent in their objection.

Am I to conclude that you would be fine with statutory rape as long as it is heterosexual?

No. Where did you get this idea from?

The premise of you argument is not sound, please think harder and come back with a cogent argument.

Your statement hear offers nothing substantial in terms of critique, so please let me know what part of the article or argument you are referring to so I can offer a response. You are making assertions, not arguments.

It also should be noted that marriage was originally put in place as a method of trading one's daughter for another's property.

Marriage is a natural institution that has been here since the beginning of the human race. It is the foundational institution, prior to both church and government.

The church had nothing to do with the 'sacrament' of marriage until the dark ages when nation states could no longer keep up with the accounting. So by all means go back to the traditional form of marriage and keep the church out of it.

I'm not sure how this comment is relevant at all to the original article.