Call ’em as they lie

Maurice Williamson, a member of New Zealand’s Parliament, addresses the floor yesterday on a bill that would amend the state of marriage to apply to same-sex couples as well:

Initially, I really liked his statements. There’s still (despite my efforts) a lot of emphasis in this country on not speaking sarcastically, especially in something as official as government assemblies. It was refreshing to hear someone treat trivial, nonsensical arguments with derision, because if we treat them with respect, we’re implying they have an equal status with arguments that provide rational consideration and actual, unimagined consequences. Same-sex marriage is a mere formality of legal standing, preventing the disenfranchisement of a select group of people (who take no actions that have the slightest public affect) from the benefits of a married status. It does not encourage homosexuality, any more than hetero marriage encourages heterosex. Think about that one if you like…

I reconsidered when I thought about it a little bit – not the same-sex bit, but the use of sarcasm and derision. I remain in favor of them too, but any statements that rely solely on belittling a standpoint while lacking rational arguments aren’t really arguments – they’re opinions, and of course can be used both ways. There’s no shortage of such approaches in topics like anthropogenic global warming and Barack Obama’s policies. Agreeing with an opinion, even liking the way it’s presented, doesn’t make it a good argument. A good argument is one that provides unassailable points, whereupon the only rebuttal can be to make emotional, opinionated declarations.

Now, Williamson’s remarks do indeed address some of the statements that have been put forth in support of marriage bans, so I don’t want to give the wrong impression – there are few arguments against same-sex marriage that don’t stem entirely from fundamentalist sources, and there’s no reason to believe religion has anything to contribute to legal rights or privileges. Even more, I’d love to see someone point out that this is only using scripture to bolster personal bigotry, since no one is ever going to introduce a bill against tattoos, trimming beards, avoiding contact with women during unclean periods, or wearing clothes of two different materials – all very distinct prohibitions from abrahamic religions, as distinct as prohibitions against homosexuality. Scripture contains a lot of ridiculous horseshit, most of which we happily ignore as pointless – it’s only when someone cannot make a rational argument in favor of their prejudices that they resort to using “god’s decree.” Such hypocrisy needs a lot more verbal bitchslapping, just to demonstrate that honesty has not been forgotten by some.

I’ve heard the argument that if the voters support it, that’s the way it should be – majority rules. What this ignores is that the voter’s responsibility is not to encourage legislation to their personal benefit, but to select the legislator that will best represent the entirety of their electorate. Lawmaking is not about indulgence – it’s about useful structure. The same people who want their bigotry stroked seem to get upset when large corporations strive to indulge their own interests, curious as that may seem. The creation and support of laws is to prevent harm; select groups of people should only be disadvantaged if their practices end up harming others. Laws that specifically disadvantage a select group without providing any advantage or benefit to everyone else are valuable… in what way?

Yes, this needs to be thrown into sharp relief. Yes, every crass insecurity hiding under the skirts of religion should be paraded around publicly and humiliatingly. People should be embarrassed to hold petty little views, rather than allowed to pretend they’re respectable because it’s holy somehow. Sometimes the decision we have to make is if we’re going to actively get into someone’s face about this – or remain silent (because confrontation is so emotionally harrowing) and thus be complicit in the victimization of others. Inaction is not innocence.

And take it from me: verbal bitchslapping is actually a lot of fun!

Just so you know – the amendment passed, and same-sex marriage is now a protected right in New Zealand. Go Kiwis!