Monday, July 4, 2011

Marriage and the Arrogant Heterosexist Supremacist

Robert P. George, from Princeton University
Now that we have disposed of the December 2010 propaganda article co-authored by Robbie George, let’s turn to Robbie’s thoughts on marriage in New York, Sex and the Empire State, which seems to be either a play on Helen Gurley Brown’s Sex and the Single Girl or the more recent television and silver screen series, Sex and the City.  We’ll leave the origin of the “Sex and the. . . “  formula title to the students of the lingual arts.

Remember, the interview is in National Review, which is a conservative magazine with pretensions of the sort of lofty intellectual-seeming snobbery usually reviled by more bread-and-butter conservatives as an effete liberal trait.

So one can understand the article's introduction that indicates that Governor Cuomo “rewrote” the meaning of marriage when he signed the Marriage Equality Act last week.  Of course, the meaning of marriage has been rewritten in the New York Domestic Relations Law and its predecessors many, many times.  All this last “redefinition” accomplished was to complete the process pursuant to which the marriage laws of the State of New York have become fully gender neutral in their application.  The last step was to extend connubium – the right to marry – to persons of full age and sound mind regardless of the gender of their intended spouse.

In the interview, Robbie comes out swinging, referring to this simple vote on connubium as a matter rooted in the loosening of sexual ethics.

Pray tell, Robbie, how does the extension of the civil rights, responsibilities, privileges and obligations of marriage on a gender-neutral basis have anything to do with loosening any sexual ethics?  Indeed, this new law involves a re-affirmation by the State of New York of the dignity and favor placed on the institution of marriage as the basic unit of family formation and as the bedrock of stability in society.

One would think that advocates of marriage would leap with joy at the idea that persons with a homosexual orientation would no longer be denied the connubium with a spouse of the same gender.  The extension of marriage rights on a gender-neutral basis is morally neutral as to the rights of opposite-sex couples, and a moral good to same-sex couples previously denied the rights.

Robbie accuses Kinsey of being a liar and a fraud, accusations that if one merely reads the Manhattan Declaration that Robbie co-authored, one would know could be fairly lodged at himself.

 It’s interesting that Robbie seems to associate gender-neutral marriage with “sexual freedom” – when marriage itself provides legal limitations on sexual freedom.  One should suppose that society should discourage licentious behavior among those with a same-sex orientation quite as much as it discourages licentious behavior on the part of opposite-sex oriented people.

Robbie asserts that with this “sexual freedom” thing, that

“marriage simply cannot function as the central principle or standard of rectitude in sexual conduct, as it has in Western philosophy, theology, and law for centuries.”

The simple act of enlarging the range of connubium on a gender neutral basis doesn’t have a basis in any “sexual freedom” thing, so Robbie can rest easy.  But no.  Here is his central argument:

“The idea that sexual intercourse (the behavioral component of reproduction) consummates and actualizes marriage as a one-flesh union of sexually complementary spouses naturally ordered to the good of procreation loses its force and even its sense.”

Perhaps that idea was a misdirection in any case.  For Robbie, it seems, it’s all and seemingly only, about f-cking, and not just f-cking, but only heterosexual f-cking.

Robbie’s randy idea still works within the context of opposite-sex marriages.  But just as opposite sex marriage can exist in situations in which there is “one flesh” but not “one soul,” it is possible for same sex marriages to be situations in which there is “one soul” and where the “one flesh” aspect just does not happen to be procreative.

 That is not a tremendous leap, and if the examples of Canada, Massachusetts and other places where the right to marry has been made gender-neutral, Western society is not about to collapse because of this.

Perhaps Robbie should focus more on sexual liberationists and leave LGBT people alone.

As I pointed out in my last essay, Robbie’s next argument is false, as well.  Proponents of making civil marriage gender neutral are not against “traditional marriage” at all.  What we are opposed to are those who use “traditional marriage” as a means to enforce heterosexist supremacy, and who by their arrogant position seek to deny extending connubium on a grender neutral basis.

It’s not traditional marriage that is bigoted, it’s the heterosexist supremacist position that LGBT people are not as good as straights that is ignorant, intolerant, bigoted and immoral.

Heterosexual is good.  Heterosexist is bad.  There is a difference, Robbie, and if you can discern the difference you will be going a long way toward reducing the level of internalized and institutionalized heterosexism and cissexism.

The root of Robbie’s sexual ethics is misogyny and patriarchal dominance.  The idea that women are lesser beings who should have less rights has been deeply engraved in Western Culture until more enlightened and civilized times.  Western society once tolerated serfdom and chattel slavery, but we have become more civilized over time, and these cultural appendages are no longer tolerated.   

Robbie’s worries about multiple-party marriages are premature.  The legal structure to define, support and govern two-party marriages are already there.  With the gender-neutralization of all aspects of marriage with the single exception of connubium, the extension of marriage rights to same sex couples is an easy thing to do.

Getting to the point where multiple party marriages will be possible will take a great deal of effort.  If Robbie is interested in getting this done right, rather than willy-nilly, perhaps he could start a call for legal and sociological experts to put together a model statute that would cover the mutual rights and respobsibilities of multiparty marriages.  Commencement and dissolution issues would be much more complicated in these marriages, and of course, the safety and care of children should be a paramount interest to the parties and to the society.

So let’s not bring in multiparty marriages to the discussion, we're not there yet!  But alas, Robbie doesn’t seem to understand that society hasn’t got anything put together that would support such a structure. 

I am aware that polygynous polygamy is an easy adaptation, but that kind of multiparty marriage is only a standard traditional patriarchal marriage on Viagra.  The practice of splinter Mormon sects is more of a warning of the wrong way to do it than it is an example of what should be done.

When Robbie refers to New York as being “one of the most socially liberal states in the Union,” he seems to have forgotten that there is more to New York State than New York City, and once one gets beyond Westchester and Rockland counties, the social conservatism is so thick one can cut it with a knife.

It isn’t sexual liberationist ideology that is at work in the drive to marriage equality on a gender-neutral basis, yet Robbie keeps playing that line in the hope that if he repeats it often enough, people will believe it.  Well, Robbie is barking up the wrong tree.

Robbie thinks that the extension of connubium on a gender neutral basis has “abolished marriage” and “replaced it with a counterfeit.” 

All Robbie is doing here is histrionically raving heterosexist themes.  The fact that Robbie cannot see that only one thing has changed in the law – two, if one counts the “religious protections” that were put in place to insure that the Catholic Church and the Knights of Columbus don’t have to sacramentalize same-sex weddings or allow the receptions in their halls. (The religious protections are broader than that – all a church has to do is say that racial mixing is against their religious principles, and presto, the Masons don’t have to allow a racially-mixed marriage reception in their halls, either.

For Robbie’s heterosexist notion, marriage is not a marriage without heterosexual f-cking.  And if that isn’t a limitation placed on the institution, he would just take his balls and bat and go home.

Without heterosexual f-cking, to Robbie, with this “counterfeit” marriage:

“there is no intelligible basis in them for the norms of monogamy, exclusivity, and the pledge of permanence that structure and help to define marriage as historically understood in our law and culture.”

That, of course, is the purest heterosexist hogwash.  Whatever was in the New York Domestic Relations Law as it related to monogamy, exclusivity and fidelity, etc, that was there immediately before the Marriage Equality Act, is still there afterward.

As to permanence, that is a point to which Robbie’s Roman Catholic Church only gives lip service.  Its canon law makes the obtaining of an annulment incredibly easy these days, and the grounds have been made such that virtually any Catholic marriage can be nullified on the basis of the parties’ allegation that at the time they got married, they were not truly ready to get married.  If we are going to agree with Robbie that permanence is a mark of marriage, then be forwarned, no Roman Catholic marriage is a true marriage either.

New York was the last state in the United States to allow true “no-fault” divorce.  New York already allows serial polygamy, the parties do so one spouse at a time.  With the no-fault divorce, it’s so much easier to change partners.  And it was this way even before the connubium was extended on a gender-neutral basis.

If Robbie was concerned about the state of marriage, his concentration on heterosexist concerns meant that he did little or nothing to oppose “no-fault” fivorce.

For that matter, what has Robbie done about restoring the common law law of bastardy, pursuant to which no child born outside a marriage has any inheritance rights or rights of support from the sperm provider, unless the sperm provider voluntarily filiated himself to the child.  The abolition of these laws in the 1950’s was perhaps the single largest blow to the institution of marriage.  Women who had previously refused to allow sexual congress to a man unless and until “the ring is on the finger” within a few years were throwing themselves at rock stars and sports figures in the hopes that a child would be produced, and the paternity suit would follow.

That is what heterosexists have already done to marriage.  Robbie cannot blame LGBT people for the failings of heterosexuals.  But he does.

I am all for monogamy, exclusivity and yes, even permanence, though with the last, there must be a way out of a truly abusive marriage short of ending the life of the abusive spouse.

Robbie’s idea that mothers, children and the poor are harmed by same sex marriage is ludicrous.  The fact is that in New York alone, there are tens of thousands of children in poor black and latina lesbian families who will be immeasurably helped by the marriage equality act.  For Robbie, though, the inconvenient facts just get in the way.

Robbie says:

“Of course, among the activists and leaders of the movement to redefine marriage, it is already difficult to find anyone who believes that same-sex marriages demand as a matter of moral obligation sexual exclusivity.”

 Well, Robbie, here I am.  Though I don’t refer to the marriage equality movement as “redefining marriage,” all I think of it as doing is making connubium fair to LGBT people.

What Robbie should be doing, rather than opposing gender-neutral  connubium, is to preach the principles of “monogamy, exclusivity and permanence” as hallmarks of a moral marriage.  I would be happy to join him in that.

The harm happens when same-sex couples are not granted the connubium.  There was a time when marriage laws created unequal marriage rights that had a basis in the gender of the spouse.  Wives had one set of rights (and at some times, no rights), while the husbands had a completely different set.  The idea of two husbands or two wives was virtually inconceivable from a legal standpoint.  With different appurtenant rights and responsibilities, people ith a same-sex orientation developed what Robbie would disdainfully refer to as “alternate lifestyles.”  Having been denied the right to marry, many turned their backs on the institution and all of its trappings.  I am of the opinion that with the availability of marriage, the next generation of same-sex-oriented people can be integrated into the society much better.  The preachers and the priests should think of how to reach them with moral messages of “monogamy, exclusivity and permanence.”

One of the useful bits I adapted from Paragraphs 24 and 25 of Casti Conubii in an earlier essay bears repeating here

24. This mutual molding of [husband and wife] spouses, this determined effort to perfect each other, can in a very real sense, as the Roman Catechism teaches, be said to be the chief reason and purpose of matrimony, provided matrimony be looked at not in the restricted sense as instituted for the proper conception and education of the child, but more widely as the blending of life as a whole and the mutual interchange and sharing thereof.

25. By this same love it is necessary that all the other rights and duties of the marriage state be regulated as [the words of the Apostle: "Let the husband render the debt to the wife, and the wife also in like manner to the husband,"] not just a 50-50 proposition, but as each spouse giving 100% to the other, to express not only a law of justice but of charity.

NOTE: [Bracketed] portions to be deleted, Italicized portions are my gender-neutral replacements.
There was also an earlier encyclical, Pope Leo XIII’s Arcanum from 1880, that also dealt with Catholic marriage,  While it’s aimed at Catholics, I’ve adapted a little piece of it to illustrate a message drawing to other religious traditions as well:

In the story from the Biblical book of Genesis, God, who had created the original Adam in God’s own image and likeness as male and female, proceeded to divide Adam into two people so that the human person would not be alone.  The Greeks contribute to our understanding of this unitive nature of human beings, a story, from Plato’s Symposium, about how human beings were first created in combined pairs, male-and-male, and female-and-female, as well as in the form of male-and-female from the Genesis story.  In the Biblical First Book of Samuel, we read of the love between David and Jonathan being so great that they become “one soul.”
From the Gospel we see clearly that this doctrine was declared and openly confirmed by the divine authority of Jesus Christ Yeshua, son of Miriam. He bore witness to the Jews and to His Apostles that marriage, from its institution, should exist between two only, that is, between one man and one woman; that of two they are made, so to say, one flesh; and that the marriage bond is by the will of God so closely and strongly made fast that no man may dissolve it or render it asunder. "For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife, and they two shall be in one flesh. Therefore now they are not two, but one flesh. What, therefore, God hath joined together, let no man put asunder."  And Yeshua never said a word against marriage as being between men, or between women, and thus, while the conjugal “becoming one flesh” is representative of the generative power of marriage between a man and a woman, we must not forget that becoming “one soul” as did David and Jonathan is the form of marriage appropriate to those with a same-sex orientation. 

One thing I might hasten to note, about the “let no man put asunder” part, is that at the time that Yeshua walked on earth, divorce was something only the husband could obtain, and it was incredibly easy,  All he had to do was say out loud, three times, “I divorce you.”  And that was it, the wife had to leave, the husband kept all the children, and it was a very, very patriarchist, misogynist and sexist process. No wonder Yeshua spoke so strongly against the abuse as a part of his messahe of social justice,

Same sex marriage, while it was enjoyed by David and Jonathan, was not something that was available during Yeshua’s life, or for most of history.  Western civilization only became civilized enough to abolish chattel slavery in the 19th century, and to gradually improve the legal rights of women and minorities.  Only in the 21st century have western societies become civilized enough to extend connubium on a gender-neutral basis.

When it comes to divorce, it makes sense to recognize that it is a solution best left to last resort.  But when there is an abusive relationship, or one spouse has broken the marriage vow by way of marital infidelity, divorce should be an available option, but marriage should not be terminated by a court except for grave cause.  Is no-fault divorce somehow “more civilized?”  I doubt it.  But Robbie and his friends at NOM are so focused by the blindness caused by a heterosexist supremacist mindset, and have devoted millions of dollars and tons of hours fighting against justice, when there are real moral battles to fight that they have not addressed.

Robbie gives the credit for the Marriage Equality Act to the Republican-controlled New York State Senate (though from his perspective, it’s an allocation of blame).

What happened in New York does not damage marriage, it gives marriage the biggest boost it has ever had.

One can only hope that the marriage vote in New York can help the U.S. Supreme Court in making a decision in the Prop 8 case, Perry v. Schwarzenegger.

On the third page of the online article, Robbie does address the idea of divorce, and he identifies no-fault divorce as marriage’s equivalent of Roe v. Wade.  This is surprising, since the National organization for Women fought very hard against no-fault divorce in New York, a fight in which both Archbishop Dolan and Robbie George were silent or nearly so.

Robbie believes that the anti-marriage position of his NOMbies will help Republicans in 2012.  Perhaps he will prove prophetic, but the damage already dons since 2010’s mid-term congressional elections should be a strong signal to voters to elect Democrats in 2012 at all levels of government.

Robbie temporized about the idea of bringing marriage discrimination back to New York, but we already know that his colleague Maggie Gallagher has already unveiled a four-year plan to do this – a plan that is entirely unrealistic.

Robbie pooh-poohs Governor Cuomo’s membership in the Roman Catholic Church.  Andrew may well be a cafeteria Catholic, because he takes seriously the obligation of having an informed conscience seriously, and has chosen to reject those teachings of the Roman Catholic Magisterium that are immoral and evil.  Perhaps if the Catholic Church reformed itself, Governor Cuomo might be a “better” Catholic. (And yes, I would like to see Governor Cuomo and Sandra Lee get married, but I won’t judge their personal moral choice on the issue.  Perhaps now that the Marriage Equality Act is the law in New York, they might make a point of doing so, and explain that their main reason for not getting married is that they could not do so in good conscience until the Act becomes law.  Now, that would be a sweet statement to make in favor of marriage – not the heterosexist supremacist kind that Robbie George espouses, but the real thing, on a gender-neutral basis that is inclusive of and respectful to all marriages.

Robbie also has unkind words for the moral struggle of upstate State Senator Mark Grisanti, who provided the 33rd vote for marriage.  He had not been on the whip count, but he explained his vote so eloquently on the floor of the senate that it brought tears to my eyes.  Robbie thinks the very real religious protections will be “cover” for Grisanti and the others who fought to make sure they were in place.

What Robbie does not realize is that it took 17 Republicans to allow the bill to go to a vote.  All they needed to do was bring the vote up to 32 from the 29 Democrats willing to vote for it.  But it took at least 17 of them to tell Majority Leaser Dean Skelos to let it go to a vote.

Don’t discount the reality of the religious protections, Robbie. 

Before the vote, I was afraid that the religious “protections” were going to be a poison pill.  To a very small extent, they were, but not a fatal poison.  It turns out that they should appease thpose whose heterosexist supremacism is built into their religion, but only to the extent of the celebration of weddings and wedding receptions.  That is fine, we can live with that,

Robbie is fearful that the protections might not survive judicial scrutiny, even though the New York Act contains an in terrorem clause designed to provide further protection for fearful religious bigots.

As to legislative repeal of the "religious protections?"  There is the possibility of that, I don't deny it.  The only concerns I have is organizations that use state funding to discriminate.  Other than that, the religious protections are fine.  I would not insist that the Catholic church sacramentalize same-sex marriages - that would actually violate religious liberty (unlike the bogus religious liberty that Robbie prefers, that would protect only those who believe in religious liberty for those who agree with him).

Robbie incredibly still believes that religious liberty should belong only to heterosexist supremacist Christianists.

To illustrate thatm, take this quote from Robbie, in which  says:

“If you ask, “What can be done going forward around the country to protect religious liberty?” the answer is this: Win the fight to preserve the legal definition of marriage as the conjugal union of husband and wife. Period.”

Robbie should really consider taking a really serious look at his moral blind spot.  The institutionalized heterosexism (again, heterosexuality is okay, heterosexism is evil!) is his biggest failure.  Heterosexism itself is built on a foundation of misogyny. It’s built into the Catholic Church’s moral theology, which is the biggest failure of the Catholic Church itself.

Robbie sums up a truth, but expresses it in heterosexist terms. Children actually need loving parents.  The sex of those parents is immaterial, except to the heterosexist supremacists, for whom only an opposite-sex marriage should be permitted.

 Robbie closes with the “intellectual challenges” that he thinks that marriage equality advocates “have not met and cannot meet.”  I have news for Robbie, I took care of that yesterday. 

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