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Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The gay rights paradox

There's an interesting discussion going on at Dispatches about Michele Bachmann's recent statement to some Iowa high school students about gay marriage:
JANE SCHMIDT: Then, why can’t same-sex couples get married?
BACHMANN: They can get married, but they abide by the same law as everyone else. They can marry a man if they’re a woman. Or they can marry a woman if they’re a man.
JANE SCHMIDT: Why can’t a man marry a man?
BACHMANN: Because that’s not the law of the land.
JANE SCHMIDT: So heterosexual couples have a privilege.
BACHMANN: No, they have the same opportunity under the law. There is no right to same-sex marriage.
JANE SCHMIDT: So you won’t support the LGBT community?
BACHMANN: No, I said that there are no special rights for people based upon your sex practices. There’s no special rights based upon what you do in your sex life. You’re an American citizen first and foremost and that’s it.
Except, of course, that Bachmann fails to note that the "law of the land" allows gay marriage in several states, including Iowa. That's one important flaw in her tautology. The other is, as Schmidt alludes, that if marriage is really about having the opportunity to marry from a select body of people (men for women, women for men), then gay marriage doesn't grant a special right to anyone-- on the contrary, it grants greater rights for everyone. Currently gays can marry opposite sex partners if they want to (though they generally do not), and where same-sex marriage is legal it has become possible for straight people to marry partners of the same sex if they want to (though they generally do not). Nothing "special" about it.

The added irony is, of course, that one definition of "privilege" entails that those who have it are unaware that they have it, and unwilling to acknowledge when it is pointed out. To them, when others who are not privileged ask for something everyone else has, they are demanding a special right. This is because the privileged live in a tiny world where "something everyone else has" literally means everything that privileged person personally has and wants. Not the ability to fulfill a desire that everyone has, but in a different way. "Freedom to do X" means "Freedom to do X how I do it, and that's it." This is how, as a recent article in Slate points out, freedom has been defined by social conservatives as the freedom to obey their religious morality, not to do anything with diverges from it. If that makes your brain hurt, you're not alone. That is very likely how the mortal enemy of social conservatives in America, the Muslim theocrat, defines it as well. It's no wonder that the "freedoms" that they cherish are so remarkably similar to those of people like Michele Bachmann.

1 comment:

  1. She's not the first right-winger I've seen make this argument against gay marriage (that gays have the right to heterosexual marriage, so they're not being discriminated against).

    The obtuseness is mind-boggling, but the possibilities are endless. Laws against abortion don't target women, since men can't get abortions either. Black people have just as much right to sit at the front of the bus while light-skinned as white people do, so there's no discrimination. This may be the beginning of a whole new school of conservative "logic".

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