Sunday, 7 March, 2004

Over the past week I'd been feeling kind of bummed about life in general and blogging more specifically. A lot of it had to do with the heat and light over gay marriage -- I was surprised at how angry I was, and how disgusted I had become, with opponents of marriage. Marriage, gay or not, is one of those things in which I think other people have more or less no business getting involved ("speak now or forever" notwithstanding, most of us don't actually have a good reason why two people should not be wed). Who the hell cares? For my neighbor to marry his boyfriend -- it neither picks my pocket, nor breaks me leg, and I cannot for the life of me figure out why anyone feels strongly enough about this to amend the US Constitution to prevent it.

But there are plenty of people who do. We all know that. And to me, every one of their arguments falls flat on its face, unable to stand up to serious scrutiny. I think my favorite argument of this type is the "judicial activism" position -- you know, the boogeyman various groups like to trot out whenever the courts do something they don't like. This is an offensive argument because it suggests the speaker thinks the judiciary is charged with applying law and not interpreting it. (Which would also tend to suggest the speaker failed a basic civics class, but now I'm just hurling invective.) But there are other arguments, advanced by people who clearly put a lot of thought into crafting an argument against gay marriage, and my only reply is, "Why? What's so fundamental about this that you feel the need to justify it with that much brain power?" Someone sat down to think of a way to make it OK to discriminate against another human being on the basis of a characteristic that has nothing to do with their worth as a human being. It's not the bigotry that bothers me, it's the malice involved.

A few weeks ago, an internal bboard erupted in a poor imitation of a Usenet-style flame war (give it time; they're not good at Internet Aruging yet) over choices made by certain employees to engage in, shall we say, extracurricular employment. Which is fine -- it's not something that I'd ever do, but I don't begrudge people the choice or the right to make that decision. Because there is a perception that we either stand or fall together, however, the more doctrinare among us decided to start howling for blood, screaming for professional solidarity. And it really bothered me, enough that I was surprised at the depth of my reaction: I couldn't help but think that we might be a lot better off if we felt a little solidarity for each other as people first, and as professionals somewhere else down the line.

It's exactly the same thing with gay marriage. I don't really care who does what with whom. I'm not even bothered by the idea that the state needs to bless a relationship. I am seriously bothered by the notion that you or I have anything to say about whether two people can pledge to devote their lives to each other. What business is it of ours? What right do we have? Not "what right do we have through the state," or "what right do we have through a church" or "what right do we have through society," but what right do we have as human beings to say no to these people? That anyone would argue from a secular position in favor of poking a collective nose into a place where it shouldn't be baffles me; that anyone would further argue from a secular position in favor of putting the full force of the state behind preventing that kind of a relationship makes me sick. Say what you want about the sanctity of societal organizations, I want to know what you have to say about the sanctity of human-kind.

I can't explain why I have reacted so strongly to this in the past two weeks. It wasn't an issue on which I had particularly strong opinions, and my support for it was buried inside a broad-based belief that the best thing the state (and individuals) can do for most people is leave them the hell alone. But in 14 days or so, it's now right up there with guns, drugs, and free speech on my "things my ideal political candidate must support" and it's largely why I think Belinda Stronarch is totally useless as a PC leadership candidate. (But that's another post.) Maybe it has something to do with love, that pesky human emotion that has all of the force (and inevitability) of a physical law on some days; maybe it's the language. I don't know. It's surprising and it's interesting, and I wonder if it's the start of a change in my political world-view.

And maybe it had something to do with seeing those pictures of ordinary people trying to do something that most other ordinary folks can do.

The argument isn't, "Why should we allow gays to marry?" It's "Why shouldn't we allow gays to marry?" And there is a very heavy burden of proof.

Stay tuned. This might be the point where I discover, much to my horror, that I am a Liberal. D'oh!

Epilogue: Canada legalized it. The world did not come crashing down. Vic Toews was appointed Justice Minister. The world still did not come crashing down. And with each passing day, I continue to feel more and more like a liberal, just one with better fiscal sense.

This issue remains one of the major stumbling blocks I have with most "conversative" movements. None of the emotions behind what I wrote two years ago has changed one bit. The hyperbole around this issue continues to frustrate and irritate me, and every time I read about how it is equivalent to a "granting of a new right" I want to throw stuff (Ben Schwartz, I'm looking at you). The ability to choose who we want to be with for the rest of our lives -- I'm not really sure it gets any more basic than that.

It's an odd hill to die on. I couldn't vote for the Conservatives in the January 2006 election wholly because of this subject. You would think that, given my political proclivities, I would have simply said, "ah, what the hell," sucked it up, and pulled the trigger anyway. Not so much -- the moment of pause was too great. It was odd that it would come down to such a polarizing issue for me, but it did.

I remain as shocked as I ever did that I feel so strongly about this subject.