Bullshit Philosophy

Half-assed political and religious commentary from a cynical left-winger

Random thoughts on the Vermont gay marriage hearings

Posted by Kevin on March 20, 2009

As you may or may not be aware, a gay marriage bill is currently being considered by the Vermont legislature (an expansion of the first-in-the-nation civil union law passed in 2000). It’s probably going to pass; the main question is whether the Republican governor is going to veto it. He’s not especially conservative socially, but he’s on the record in opposition to the bill, calling it too divisive and a distraction from dealing with the economy. This despite claims from marriage supporters – including business groups – that it will actually help the economy. Just today the bill passed the Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously.

On Wednesday I went to the public hearing on the bill in Montpelier, although I didn’t actually get to see the testimony; I got stuck in an overflow room because, as the Burlington Free Press reports, over 1000 people showed up, but there was an audio feed so we could still hear it. Among the part of the crowd I saw, the vast majority were marriage supporters; you could tell because each side passed out buttons and/or stickers. I was there with the pro- side, obviously, as were my wife and one of our friends. As for people testifying, from BFP again: “[the committee] heard from about 70 Vermonters, although about 200 signed up to speak. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Richard Sears, D-Bennington, said there were 115 for same-sex marriage and 85 against on the list.”

This post isn’t intended to be all-inclusive of everything that happened at the hearing, just some general thoughts on things that stood out to me. The BFP link above includes video of some of the testimony if you’re interested in hearing more; the Valley News has good coverage as well.

Listening to the testimony, one thing that struck me about the opposition was that many of them didn’t even bother making a secular argument for their position, especially the clergy that testified (one of whom railed against the threat posed by “secular humanism”). They obviously didn’t feel they had to; it’s God’s will, so they think that should be enough justification to keep people stripped of their rights. Admittedly, these people were in the minority of those testifying against marriage, but that doesn’t mean that religion wasn’t a large part of the opposition’s case. It’s important to note that the main identifier for opponents that I saw was stickers that said “Don’t Change God’s Plan, 1 woman, 1 man.”

I was, however, surprised at how few people ranted against “the homosexual agenda,” or talked about homosexuality as being immoral. That doesn’t mean they don’t think that, of course, but it might hint that they think they’re on the losing side of that argument.

The other prominent theme in the marriage opponent’s arguments was respect for tradition. “It’s ALWAYS been one man and one woman! Surely civilization will collapse if gay marriage is legalized!” Similarly, some people talked about gay marriage as denigrating their marriages. How? They didn’t say. I think one could make a good argument that this sort of fear of change is an even bigger motivation for opponents of gay marriage than religion.

The obvious reply to this argument is that moral standards do change over time, otherwise we’d still be stoning disobedient children, for just one example. Even the definition of marriage has changed, and only the most ardent theocrats want to turn back the clock on the issue. Lisa Miller had a good article on this in Newsweek some time back. “[N]o sensible modern person wants marriage—theirs or anyone else’s —to look in its particulars anything like what the Bible describes,” Miller wrote.

Marriage opponents, and religious fundamentalists more generally, never explain why we should studiously follow scripture on the subjects of marriage or homosexuality even as they willfully toss out huge chunks that are incompatible with their lives in modern society.

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2 Responses to “Random thoughts on the Vermont gay marriage hearings”

  1. I do hope some anthropologists piped up with the fact that the “one woman/one man” version of the nuclear family has not always been the norm, and is not the only form families take in the world today.

    I would think that all the “one man/one woman” married people getting divorces would be denigrating “God’s plan”. I wonder why this never comes up in the anti-civil rights groups?

  2. Gay marriage is just bad for everyone it seems.

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