Thursday, August 23, 2012

Brown v. Savage: False equivalents

I read, with great interest, Mark Oppenheimer's piece in the New York Times about the dining room debate that he moderated. How that ended up in the Times' Home & Garden section (usually devoted to controversies like the decor of your Amagansett cottage), will remain one of life's mysteries. What I concluded, apart from having viewed the video, is that Mr. Oppenheimer appreciated the futility of this exchange. I also think that he was immensely uncomfortable with the whole thing.

Days after the event, Mr. Oppenheimer contacted the participants. He spoke with Brown over the telephone who told him:
There’s this myth that folks like me, we don’t know any gay people, and if we just met them, we would change our views ... But the notion that if you have us into your house, that all that faith and reason that we have on our side, we will chuck it out and change our views — that’s not the real world.
First of all, that is not a myth. People who get to know gay people are less likely to discriminate against them. Was Brown intent on  disproving the obvious through his obstinance? Was that what this was about?

Secondly, I object to lumping "faith and reason" together. Faith is actually the absence of reason. Faith is something that one accepts without reasoning. Moreover, it seems rather arrogant of Brown to suggest that reason is "on our side." What Brown really means is that he has religion and God on his side.

Finally, Brown presents a false proposition. Nobody is suggesting that he should change his religious beliefs. We would be quite content if he would simply leave us alone and not try to impose his religion on everyone else. It would also be nice if Brown would stop lying about us and suggesting that gay people are a threat to children.

What concerns me most is that people will conclude that neither "side" was willing to change their views.  We don't care what people think. We are interested in their behavior. We are the minority and we do not want to be oppressed by the majority. We don't want our kids coming home beaten down and bloody. We seek equal protection under the law which includes the right to marry. None of this has any effect on Mr. Brown and his group. None. Mr. Brown's campaign is no more legitimate than would be the case if one of my relatives was running around trying to make the sale and consumption of pork illegal.

Mr. Brown's stake in all this seems to be limited to the service of the Catholic hierarchy. I have no idea why those people care about our marriages as long as they don't have to solemnize or even recognize them. The "sanctity of marriage" argument isn't terribly convincing.
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