Friday, June 09, 2006

Cracks In The Gay Ceiling

Jon Stewart strikes again. The toughest interviewer on television made life difficult for the "Virtues Czar," William Bennett, earlier this week. If you haven't seen it yet, go check it out on the Web or keep an eye out for re-runs of the episode.

Bennett was on to talk same-sex marriage and other assorted "moral" issues, but Stewart was deft at pinning Bennett down before the talking points could reach mid-stream. As with most same-sex marriage opponents, Bennett tried to frame the debate as a neutral sounding "defense of marriage" or a "defense of families" but Stewart rightly called him on it, making Bennett explain how marriages/families would be negatively impacted if committed homosexuals were allowed to share in the full cadre of rights that should be afforded every human with respect to familial relations.

Even better, Stewart pointed out that Bennett's arguments rested on the notion that homosexuality was a choice - better yet, a perversion or a fetish. That explains the beastiality/slippery slope argument employed by same-sex marriage opponents.

If you believe that homosexuals are born with an in-built preference, and that such a preference is a perfectly natural facet of life's rich pageant, then why would allowing same-sex marriage require you to legally condone beastiality and all other manner of unnatural perversion? That only follows if you feel that homosexuality cannot be distinguised. Here's the particular exchange, which was preceded by Bennett extolling the virtues of the family as the bedrock of society [emph. mine throughout]:
Stewart: So why not encourage gay people to join in in that family arrangement if that is what provides stability to a society?

Bennett: Well I think if people are already members of families...

Stewart: What? (almost spitting out his drink)

Bennett: They're sons and they're daughters..

Stewart: So that's where the buck stops, that's the gay ceiling.

Bennett Look, it's a debate about whether you think marriage is between a man and a women.

Stewart: I disagree, I think it's a debate about whether you think gay people are part of the human condition or just a random fetish.
Bennett had no real answer to that, but he sure did look uncomfortable - full of fidgets and stutters. Thus confronted with a bare accounting of his bigotry, he fell back on the tried and true slippery slope:
Bennett: The question of this debate is how do you define marriage, where do you draw the line. Immediately on the heels of this debate-

Stewart: Don't go slippery slope on me because that's ridiculous

Bennett: No it isn't. What do you say to the polygamists? What do you say to the polygamists?

Stewart: You don't say anything to the polygamists. That is a choice to get three or four wives. That is not a biological condition that I gots to get laid by three or 4 women that I'm married to. That's a choice. Being gay is part of the human condition. There's a huge difference.
Stewart even went one step further, and walked back up the slippery slope and down the other side. He asked Bennett if the government could prevent two consenting adults from marrying in this setting, why couldn't the government restrict marriage based on economic status, employment, criminal record, drug use, etc. Bennett clearly hadn't been put on that kind of defensive. Despite the extra time Stewart gave him following multiple commercial breaks, all Bennett could do was point to history and tradition of one man, one woman.

Well guess what, there are myriad moral traditions that we, as a society and community, would be far better off to leave in the dustbin of history. Slavery was a tradition, racism, owning women as chattel and denying them a voice, etc. Marriage itself, after all, used to be limited to members of the same race. That was a tradition, but was it self-justifying? Bigotry against homosexuals is just one more of them. As Stewart pointed out to Bennett, we are inevitably, and thankfully, headed in the right direction in terms of overcoming homosexual bigotry.

Like Stewart, there is no doubt in my mind that, eventually, human consciousness will progress to such an extent that legal discrimination against homosexuality will fade away, discarded like so many other bigotries and hatreds that we humans are learning to shed. And when that happens, I don't expect there to be dire consequences - at least I don't expect acceptance of homosexuality to be the cause. The strength of families is dependent on many factors - mutual love, respect, trust, relative economic stability, affordable health care, child care that enables time to be spent together, active interactions, etc. None of these factors will be lessened if we raised the roof on the gay ceiling. If anything, we might just add one more pillar to fortify the home.

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