Thursday, December 03, 2009

"Causes celebre" in the gay marriage culture wars

Written for Freedom Democrats

The culture wars surrounding gay marriage are dragging on, and each side has a new anecdote showing how they are the victim of injustice.

First well take a well known injustice from the gay marriage proponents, the risk of being prohibited from visiting one's partner in the hospital:

...after the 39-year-old was rushed by ambulance to a Florida medical center, she fought for her life alone.

Her partner of 18 years, Janice Langbehn, said she was not allowed to see Pond for eight hours as she lay dying, and their children were never given the chance to say goodbye.

A libertarian radical may want to avoid the issue of state recognition of marriage and look at what gives a hospital the right to turn away visitors, or what gives visitors the right to demand access to a patient...but such investigations would be largely academic and as a practical issue, we need to recognize (as the commentators here do) that the state has no business granting special privileges to people who adhere to a particular lifestyle or ideology. Any two people should be able to enter into a partnership with all of the rights and privileges typically associated with marriage.

The other story supports the contention of gay marriage opponents that the recognition of gay marriage will result in everyone being forced to express approval of gay marriages. This is basically the communitarian position that our lives cannot be coherently partitioned into public and private aspects. In this particular case, we are dealing with the social pressure to acknowledge major events in the lives of our co-workers and sympathize with their feelings regarding these events--our economic lives cannot be separated from our social and family relationships. A Massachusetts man claims that he was fired for refusing to express support for his coworker's same-sex marriage.

Vadala claims the woman...mentioned four times that she had married her partner. He said he then left the store briefly to visit the airport's chapel before returning.

"I found it offensive that she repeatedly brought it up," Vadala said. "By the fourth time she mentioned it, I felt God wanted me to express how I felt about the matter, so I did. But my tone was downright apologetic. I said, 'Regarding your homosexuality, I think that's bad stuff.'"

The woman, according to Vadala, then said, "Human resources, buddy — keep your opinions to yourself," before exiting the store.

Two days later, Vadala, who had been employed for just a matter of weeks, received a termination letter citing the company's zero-tolerance policy regarding "harassment" and "inappropriate and unprofessional" comments.

This story lends some credibility to the assertion that state recognition of gay marriage will essentially force everyone to kowtow to the idea that a gay marriage is just as valuable to a heterosexual marriage. I would normally consider that argument to be pure paranoia, but even with the example before me I have little sympathy for that concern. First, if these people are concerned about employers using their influence to silence their employees, then they shouldn't be fussing over gay marriage, they should be objecting to the fact that employment can typically be terminated without cause. Gays have to live with this reality every day when they hide their romantic lives from their employers out of fear of being fired for being gay. At least this guy got fired because of how he interacted with his coworker. Second, their "solution" is actually a more extreme version of the "problem": for fear of ideological conformity being imposed in the workplace, they want to impose an ideological conformity on the entire society. Funk that.

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