Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Saving the Male-Female Binary Model: Mating Is Fundamental Reason for Marriage

Meanwhile (and as a counterpoint to what I just posted about how much Catholics have to learn from Christians of some other faith traditions about what it means to be authentically catholic), look who's funding the National Organization of Marriage, with its vociferous broadside attacks on the humanity of gay and lesbian citizens of the U.S.: 

Hint: if you see them at Catholic liturgies, they're likely to be wearing funny feathered hats.  And carrying swords.  And quite a few of them might also belong to the Chamber of Commerce, with its broadside attacks on Democratic political leaders and overt financial support of the Republican party.

And they're all men.  Heterosexual men--or so they profess.  

Meanwhile, that "man-woman binary model . . . in the best interests of children" that Catholic journalist Austen Ivereigh assured the public real Catholics endorse, as Benedict came to Britain?  It's cropping up everywhere now, as the political and religious right in the U.S. continue their assault on the human rights of gay persons in the area of marriage.  

As Andrew Sullivan notes at his Daily Dish yesterday, the latest cover story at National Review, arguing against marriage equality, reads eerily like something written by the Catholic eminence grise of the anti-gay movement Robert P. George.  Here's what that "male-female binary model" that's supposedly in the best interests of children translates into, in the political sphere: National Review argues that the "fundamental reason" society officially recognizes and sanctions marriage is that it's all about mating.

It's about procreation. And male-female relationships have a clear edge on same-sex relationships for this reason, and should have primary status (binary is primary!) when it comes to social decisions to allocate marriage rights.

Recently, on the blog of my statewide alternative newspaper Arkansas Times, a discussion arose about whether our state newspapers ought to carry announcements of same-sex marriages.  The statewide circulating newspaper, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, has refused to do so.  The Times notes that it will do so, gladly.

When a poster logged into that discussion to ask what happens to the children of same-sex unions, I responded by asking him whether the gist of his question was to propose that churches and civil society ought not to be marrying couples who either 1) cannot or 2) do not wish to procreate.

He never responded to that question.  As, of course, those trying to tag same-sex marital unions as inferior to heterosexual marital unions on the ground that these marriages are not procreative do not intend to do.  Because they can't.

They know full well that their goal is not to uphold procreation as an absolute norm for heterosexual marriage, or as a precondition for either civil or religious marriage.  They have no intent at all and never have intended to require that only heterosexual couples capable of procreation, who promise to procreate, will be permitted to marry.

The intent of their "male-female binary model" is to stigmatize gay folks, to suggest that the humanity of gay persons functions at a level lower than that of heterosexual humanity.  That the rights of gay human beings ought to be restricted across the board, in order to demonstrate the inferiority of gay persons and the superiority of straight persons.  That gay human beings ought to be kept under lock and key, placed beyond the pale where they can do less damage to the presuppositions around which, those promoting the "binary model" want to insist, the sustenance of social order depends.

And it's no accident that those promoting the "binary model" happen, to a great extent, to be heterosexual men.  Like the Knights of Columbus.  Heterosexual men who firmly believe that they ought to have the final word in determining who counts and who doesn't, in church and society, and who imagine that, if they are losing power and control, an entire society is falling apart. 

Who are, a recent New York Times/CBS poll indicates, poised to turn out in the coming U.S. election in record numbers to pull the lever for the candidates of the angry party of the angry No.  Men are angry, the poll results suggest.  And they intend to make someone hurt for their anger.

Meanwhile, supporters of proposition 8 in California have just filed their first briefs in the appeal to keep civil marriage of gay couples illegal in California.  And guess what their case rests on?  They insist that marriage exists to honor the "distinguishing procreative characteristics of heterosexual relationships," and permitting gay couples to marry will somehow cause the "distinguishing procreative characteristics" of what Mr. Ivereigh calls the "male-female binary model" to vanish.

How that will happen, when permitting non-procreative heterosexual couples has not caused the distinguishing procreative characteristics of marriage to vanish, is anybody's guess.  But, then, this discussion with all the ugly posturing of superiority over someone else that it entails never has been about reason, in any case.

Or about decency and fairness.  And democratic or Constitutional principles.  Or about authentic concern for the well-being of all families.  And the children of all families, despite the loud insistence of the binary-model folks that it's all for the sake of the children.

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