Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Leads Herself to the Water, Still Refuses to Drink 

Megan McArdle has recently written what I think is one of the best rational, non-religious based arguments against the redefinition of marriage to include same-sex unions. She is very careful, though, to bookend her points with disclaimers that her argument really doesn't mean anything.
Unlike most libertarians, I don't have an opinion on gay marriage, and I'm not going to have an opinion no matter how much you bait me.

(insert really good argument against gay marriage here)

I realise that this probably falls on the side of supporting the anti-gay-marriage forces, and I'm sorry, but I can't help that.
OK, maybe my characterization of her opening and closing is a little strong, but if you think about a subject matter and see a stronger argument against than for, why not say so? She often characterizes herself as an independent thinker or politically moderate, but I would think that means agreeing with positions from both major parties based upon the merits of the position and not the party endorsing the position. In this case, she seems to be defining these terms as merely adding the two positions together and computing the average. However, in some matters, like this one, it is impossible to compute the average because the solution set is binary: same-sex unions are either legally recognized as marriage or they are not. Contrary to the impression some want to create, I don't believe there is any serious challenge being mounted to the rights for individuals of the same sex to enter into any personal or legal arrangement that is available to any other citizen, regardless of sexual orientation. Why then the reluctance to embrace the conclusions one has reached?

I can't say this applies to Megan in this case, but similar equivocations I have witnessed seem to find their root in self-identity and group dynamics. Often we humans, as social animals, are reluctant to act outside of established norms within our groups, be they natural or self selected. As a corollary, we too are sometimes loathe to be perceived as belonging to an undesirable group. For example, if the KKK were holding a bake sale to raise money for the local school I would not attend, not so much out of a disagreement with the specific goals of the sale but rather because of the common (and in this case accurate) perceptions of the sponsoring organization and my opposition to their general goals. In another example, though, at one point in history there were many white musicians who would not perform "race music" or work with black musicians. I can easily imagine this may have been, at least in part, out of a fear of going against the norms of their own group as well as a fear based upon the common (and in this case inaccurate) perceptions of black musicians and audiences.

As I've pointed out before, simply because Conservatives or religious people (and no, they are not synonymous) support a specific position it does not magically make it a "rich," "white" or "religious" position. Policies and positions should be rationally judged on their own merit, just as Megan has done. To not follow the conclusions reached, though, presumably out of a sense of unity or principle, betrays the very rational train of though that got you to the water in the first place.

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