Dark Bilious Vapors

But how could I deny that I possess these hands and this body, and withal escape being classed with persons in a state of insanity, whose brains are so disordered and clouded by dark bilious vapors....
--Rene Descartes, Meditations on First Philosophy: Meditation I

Home » Archives » May 2004 » I notice that the world didn't come to an end yesterday....

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05/18/2004: I notice that the world didn't come to an end yesterday....

and for that matter, all my married friends are still married. But the best single line comment on the first day of legal gay marriages in the United States may have come from a Daily Kos community member:

If God frowns on this, why did he arrange for 70's, low humidity, and not a cloud in a sky across the entire commonwealth?
And while I'm on the topic of gay marriage, I want to give praise to Juan Cole for a most excellent post on the topic:
This Web Log has focused on Iraq so much in the past year that sometimes readers complain if I stray into other subjects. But it was originally created after September 11 to have a pretty wide purview, and I've talked about all sorts of things, from Pakistan elections to Mel Gibson's movie about Jesus. Sometimes the Iraq-oriented readers complain if I stray, so I suggest they skip this item.

What is on my mind is that the opposition to gay marriage in Massachusetts seems to me almost entirely religious in nature. I don't know of any organized agnostics or atheists agitating against it. The religious want to pass a Massachusetts law making gay marriage illegal. This development is disturbing for a number of reasons, but most of all because I think the religious people want to use the power of the state and Federal governments to impose their will on U.S. society. And that is a contravention of the First Amendment and of the Lemon Test put forward by the Supreme Court in 1971.


A law against gay marriage seems to me to fail the "secular purpose" test, and insofar as the political base for passing it is conservative churches, it would seem pretty entangled with religion, too. And that is my reply to Senator Rick Santorum and others who argue that gay marriage is equivalent to many deviant practices frowned on by society. There is a secular purpose for forbidding marriage of close relatives, since it exposes the offspring to heightened genetic danger. There is a secular purpose for forbidding pedophilia and pederasty, indeed there are many secular purposes fulfilled by such a ban (forbidding the manipulation through intimacy of the young by persons much their senior, which is unfair, and keeping the young from developing all sorts of neuroses and personality problems as a result of an inappropriate relationship for which they are unready). It is said that gay unions offend against the sanctity of marriage. Actually the secular state has no business marrying anyone if it is thereby affirming the "sanctity" of anything. That would severely contravene the Lemon test.

But I cannot think of a
secular purpose that is served by banning gay marriage. All the arguments against it are religious. It is said to be unnatural. But it is not, if by that it is being argued that same-sex behavior does not occur in nature (look at our close cousins, the bonobos). The "unnatural" argument is really an appeal to religious ideas of what is "natural," i.e., what is in accord with the will of the Creator as known by His revelation. From a purely secular point of view gay marriage has many benefits for society. Sex within marriage is safer with regard to health issues than is promiscuity. Gay marriages do not produce offspring, and so they reduce population growth rates and reduce the strain on the world's limited resources (the old custom of forcing gay men to marry women and father children was pro-natalist, i.e., contributed to population growth).
But for those who were disappointed that Cole would venture out of his area of expertise, he ventures back to it:
It is relevant to my interests because homophobia is deeply embedded in radical Islamism, and I think the intolerance that leads to terrorism must be fought across the board. The Taliban and the Khomeinist regime in Iran passed laws making gay affairs a capital crime. Yes, people were killed for being gay. For the Taliban, this harsh attitude derived in part from concerns about military discipline. Taliban society was highly gender-segregated, so the males mainly socialized with other males. Out in the field there was a lot of fooling around and sexual experimentation, but of course it reduced discipline to have two guys in the same platoon sleeping with each other. So if they were found out they were executed on the spot. The Taliban were expert at seeking out the weirdest and least reliable of the sayings attributed by the folk process to the Prophet Muhammad, and then applying them in a literal way to the law. So, they found some saying that a wall should be pushed down on homosexuals, and probably for the first time in Islamic history they implemented it.
Ironic, isn't it, how the freepers who rail against both gay marriage and "Islamo-fascism" are basically indistinguishable from their hated enemy?

Seems to me that the only way to "preserve the sanctity of marriage" is to make marriage solely a religious matter. The state has the obligation to bring some order to the legal aspects of relationships between individuals, and with the advent of legal gay marriage in Massachusetts at last one state has done something to make the benefits of that order accessible to all citizens regardless of sexual orientation.

Len on 05.18.04 @ 11:49 AM CST

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