Guest post: But if such explorations were interrupted

Originally a comment by kevinkirkpatrick on I did say.

It’s said no analogy is perfect; so take this with a grain of salt:

Say I took issue with the legal institution of marriage; and felt it was worth exploring whether our society would be better off massively redefining marriage or, perhaps, doing away with it altogether (I think such a case exists – marriage doesn’t seem to provide benefits, like financial assistance w/ guardianship. to many who need them; while it certainly has some massive rob-the-poor-to-feed-the-rich effects that do our society no good) . Such explorations might entail examinations of romantic couplings vs. friendships; childless couples vs uncoupled guardians; various toxic religious views of marriage; etc., etc.

But if such explorations were interrupted with “Do you support same-sex marriage, Yes or No?”, and that question came across in a way that was either outright disrespectful, or if I felt a “yes” or “no” might be used in a way to undercut my more nuanced considerations of marriage altogether… then yeah, I might be inclined to tell questioner where they could shove their question. However, I could easily see my refusal to answer the question be stripped of the context for which I’d refused to answer, and be used as an indictment of my having a homophobic stance toward gay marriage. And, by the way, there’s a horde of people whose lifelong aspirations seem to focus on destroying my reputation, who have no more interest in the situation than to throw fuel on any such fires in anyway they can. Yeah, I could definitely see the whole issue winding up in a pretty nasty place.

Anyway, not sure if that analogy fully captures the situation at hand, but for whatever reason, it’s definitely helping snap things into focus for me.


  1. says

    Another possibility in that analogy, which I thought you were going to say when I started reading, would be to shove my exciting thoughts on marriage on every married couple I met. That would be unbelievably intrusive and obnoxious, and I wouldn’t do it.

  2. John Morales says

    “Do you support same-sex marriage, Yes or No?”

    The parallel form would have been “Do you believe same-sex marriage is marriage, yes or no?”


  3. says

    True, actually, and not just pedant, because I just made that point in a post – that asking what I support is not the same as asking what is or what I believe is. Saying what I support is easy.

    It’s still an excellent analogy though.

  4. doubtthat says

    It’s a pretty good analogy.

    For quite a while – before there was much of a hope that same-sex marriage would be legalized – I have thought it would be a good idea to do away with state-sponsored marriage. Civil unions for everyone and churches can engage in a parallel but independent marriage ceremony – separation of church and state. It’s odd to hear a robed, religious authority say, “By the power invested in me by the State of …..”

    Now, in one context, the suggestion of civil unions really was, if not homophobic, at least a capitulation to the homophobes: straight people keep getting married, civil unions for the “wrong sorts.”

    The analogous shitstorm would be for someone to start screaming that I was a homophobe for wanting the state out of religious ceremonies and churches to have no say in who can gain tax benefits and other rights now conferred by marriage. Anyone who ever wants to discuss the concept of “marriage,” both the civil and religious aspects, is a homophobe. No discussion allowed. “Civil Unions” were once promoted by some homophobes, ergo anyone who mentions civil unions, regardless of context, must be a homophobe.

    So what if you favor equality, regardless of the specifics, and support same sex marriage in its current form even if you think wider modifications should be made? You have pondered the unponderable, and for that you must be punished.

  5. elephantasy says

    Well put. I attempted to make a related analogy a while back, but this is much clearer.

    The “related” part: I have certainly seen discussions like the ones doubtthat describes, in which anyone who questions the institution of marriage is declared a homophobe. In some cases, it may even be correct, that a person is just fine with the institution of marriage, and only decides to question it when the prospect of same-sex marriage comes up. This is exactly what is happening in states that suddenly decide marriage licenses are unnecessary; it is not a long-standing, carefully considered decision, but a reaction. But some people have indeed put much thought into it. It is unreasonable to lump them in with those who are only reacting just because of the timing of the comment.

    This timing issue is what came to mind when someone said, accusingly (and paraphrased), “all of a sudden people start to question gender”. No, not all of a sudden, the person just wasn’t paying attention, and assumed the questioning of gender was a reaction.

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