liv: cast iron sign showing etiolated couple drinking tea together (argument)
[personal profile] liv
So Gerv posted a call for people to sign the petition to keep marriage restricted to one man and one woman. This offended lots of people, and appears to have turned into one of those internet imbroglios. I didn't realize just how far it had spread until I was idly browsing Geek Feminism, of all things, and stumbled across some commentary.

In some ways this has played out exactly like every other internet imbroglio where a fairly high profile person makes inept or offensive comments about members of a minority group, and there is a rush to condemnation and links get passed round and the argument reaches a much wider audience than the people who were involved in the original discussion, and it all turns ugly. You've got people trying to make completely irrelevant arguments about free speech and censorship, ridiculous attempts to quantify just how offensive the original comment was, lots of posturing about who is the most righteous, tone arguments and arguments about the tone argument. (I'm not convinced Addie's analysis is entirely correct, but it at least has the advantage of being charitable towards the people on the "wrong", ie harmful to members of a minority, side of the argument.)

The difference is that this time, the person at the centre of the controversy is a friend of mine. I've known Gerv since first year chemistry lectures in 1997; that's pretty much all my adult life, and a lot of history. I'm pretty sure he's not "homophobic" in any obvious sense of the word. But of course, entering the discussion to say that would be thoroughly unhelpful, it's what everybody always says: he's my friend, he can't possibly be a bad person! What he is is a committed, active member of a religious group, as an Evangelical Christian, whose leadership can be quite homophobic. This means that his reasonably balanced, sincere remarks about gay issues pick up the connotations of frothing homophobia from players in the US culture wars who take a similar position, but much less reasonably.

It's incredibly difficult to break with your religious leadership on a matter of conscience, because people are naturally strongly influenced by the accepted position within their communities, and that's even more intensely the case if you are actually a sincere believer in the key tenets of your religion. I belong to a religion that doesn't have much of a centralized hierarchy, and a denomination within that which is even more decentralized than most, but I definitely do still experience conflicts between my commitment to redressing social inequalities, and my religion's official positions. In my case I have bigger problems with the treatment of converts and with anti-Muslim / anti-Arab prejudice than with homophobia (not that Reform Judaism is perfect on that score, but it's reasonably good), but I feel that it's more individuals not living up to our shared religious ideals, rather than the leadership trying to drag its membership socially backwards.

It's a bad idea for me to come out in support of a non-homophobic person because he's coming from a religious context with harmful views about homosexuality. That just contributes to the further marginalization of QuILTBAG folk. It's basically irrelevant that Gerv is a decent person; even though he meant well, his words still contributed to harm, and people have the right to push back strongly against that. The issues are muddled because that's what happens with internet discussions, but the main problem here is that his blog post can be interpreted as a official statement on the part of Mozilla, and this could be said to contribute to creating an unsafe environment for volunteers and employees of Mozilla who aren't straight. I don't know how Mozilla should address this; I'm not part of that company or that community, but I do know that attempts to address the problem should not automatically be dismissed as "bullying" or "censoring" the poor widdle homophobes.

I am a little concerned that Gerv's call to sign the gender-specific marriage petition is being regarded as hate speech; it seems a bit much that anything at all except the party line of completely equal legal status for same sex marriage is in the category of homophobic hate speech. Last I checked, there were divisions even within the QuILTBAG activist community about whether marriage equality is the best outcome we should be fighting for. What happened to the assimilationist versus separatist debate? What happened to the faction who think the best solution is to get rid of state-sanctioned marriage altogether? Is it homophobic hate speech now to question whether marriage in its current form is an institution worth supporting?

And on a personal level, you know, Gerv is still my friend whom I disagree with about lots of stuff. I am forever grateful that university brought me into contact from people of all kinds of backgrounds with all kinds of views. I argued with him a bit on his original post, but I know I'm not going to change his basic opinion all sex is sinful except within a highly gendered marriage between a man and a woman. There are some opinions I might consider disowning a friend for, but I don't think this should be one. But it's always tricky to balance loyalty to a friend with loyalty to principles, and my deep commitment to pluralism and diversity with my commitment to ending oppression.

One thing I do find encouraging is that it seems like even the political voices most strongly against marriage equality are falling back on the argument that civil partnerships are good enough, not that gay people are sick and disgusting and perverts and deserve to be cast out of society. So at least in the UK, it seems like the battle is very close to being won.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-03-13 09:29 am (UTC)
eumelia: (master politician)
From: [personal profile] eumelia
As I understand it civil partnerships in the UK are not equivalent in rights and benefits as marriage, but I guess that's beside the point, because the argument is about semantics and the semantics, unfortunately, are part of the package of relating to minority groups as human beings.

If civil partnership is the same all but in name to marriage, then the double standard exists to keep discrimination alive. If civil partnership exists in order to keep religious institutions "safe" from conducting same sex weddings which several religious doctrines and denominations oppose as a matter of principle or dogma, then that is discrimination.

Is supporting discrimination "hate speech"? I don't know, really. I think it is hateful, because you are pushing to keep minority groups further marginalised.

But I don't think it's hate speech to argue for two parallel systems with different names; after all, that is a compromise that prominent gay rights orgs in this country were prepared to accept.

"Separate but equal" much? We all know it doesn't work that way.

I think the fact that prominent gay rights groups compromised on this is neither here nor there, they are lobbying orgs and they have to compromise lest they be painted as "radical". There's nothing more harmful, in representational politics, than to be thought of as radical. Also, I would go out on a limb and say a great many QuILTBAG people are pretty pissed off at that compromise - barring those who think pushing for marriage just isn't the way to go, when it comes to civil rights.

Religion being in charge of civil institutions is a slippery slope and does nothing but corrupt the systems themselves. I can't even think about marriage equality in Israel when people of different religions can't get married in this country.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-03-13 09:43 am (UTC)
naath: (Default)
From: [personal profile] naath
Civil Partnerships in the UK have, within the UK, all the same rights-and-benefits as marriages. Outside of the UK they may (or may not) be recognised. Notably (unlike all current US efforts) they are recognised in the same way as marriages for the purpose of immigration.

It is simply a ludicrous attempt to keep the word "marriage" for a subset of people. Which is painful bigotry, but at least it doesn't keep one from useful legal rights.

The idea that religious people get to own the word "marriage" frankly offends me. And it's not all religious people with these views of course - many religious groups are keen to be able to marry same-sex couples in their religious rites; so these groups are not just anti-secularism, they are also anti-religious-freedom for religious groups who disagree with them.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-03-13 09:45 am (UTC)
eumelia: (Default)
From: [personal profile] eumelia
Thank you for clarifying that.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-03-13 09:58 am (UTC)
naath: (Default)
From: [personal profile] naath
An interesting wrinkle in the UK debate at the moment is that some people in different-sex relationships want to have "civil partnerships" because they like the idea getting rights-and-benefits from the government but they don't like the historical/religious baggage that comes with the word "marriage". (Personally, as a person in a different-sex relationship I think same-sex marriage is a more important thing to get into law; but I would like different-sex civil partnership too).

(there are some legal differences between the two - but they are mostly to do with how you get one and how you undo one)
(deleted comment)

(no subject)

Date: 2012-03-14 06:55 am (UTC)
eumelia: (diese religione)
From: [personal profile] eumelia
No, religion isn't necessarily a choice, much like any other social frame work into which we a born and raised, class isn't a choice either - nor is race and ethnicity.

The thing is, sex and sexuality are singled out by several religions and denominations (some Christian denominations more than others, but there is a trend within some of Judaism as well) in a way that is disproportionate to what is represented within Biblical text. I'm no Biblical scholar*, but picking out one verse in a whole book about laws which, frankly, have no bearing on our lives whatsoever is, more than anything, lazy and dishonest. In that same chapter there's stuff about bestiality, slavery (it being an economic foundation and all), about selling one's daughter for marriage (of which there are various permutations, just by the way, many of them today illegal), about cutting limbs off, about all kinds of things which just aren't bandied around as Aboniable, when they clearly are - according to Holy Writ - then I can only conclude that some things in religion and faith clearly are a choice and the choice; not always and not by all but that hardly matters when the people pushing for bigotry are using religion and faith as rhyme and reason for dehumanising minority groups.

I don't live in the UK, my dealing with Christians has always been advocating for their religious freedom in a severely oppressive environment, because as an atheist in a country in which family and civil law is controlled by state sanctioned religious institution, I do not consider it an equal "live and let live" situation. Some same sex couples are religious, do they not have the right to be served by the institution they believe in? Religion, as far as I am aware and so far as history shows, evolves along with a society - a religion that doesn't, stagnates and dies (or is killed off in more Mediaeval situations).

So get off your high horse and consider the fact that religion is there to connect between people and the divinity they believe in, not push a significant portion of the population under the bus due to a pick and chose attitude towards morality, which for me, is precisely the problem with religion.

*I actually think reading the Bible (whichever version you follow) as anything other than the Levant equivalent of The Odyssey or any other world building mythology is far fetched, but that's a discussion for another time.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-03-14 09:58 am (UTC)
mathcathy: number ball (Default)
From: [personal profile] mathcathy
That sounds like a personal attack to me. Why would you do that?

(no subject)

Date: 2012-03-14 01:59 pm (UTC)
eumelia: (Default)
From: [personal profile] eumelia
Pretty sure we're talking past each other because I don't think religion should be judged through different standards than any other public institution which is required to follow civil law and, well, she does.

Should I take the "direct/confrontational style of communication" comment as an admonition?

(no subject)

Date: 2012-03-15 10:42 am (UTC)
eumelia: (Default)
From: [personal profile] eumelia
Okay, noting all that.

Thank you.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-03-14 01:55 pm (UTC)
eumelia: (Default)
From: [personal profile] eumelia
If religious institutions are going to partake in services and charities which are supervised and sanctioned by the state, which treats (or should, in a democracy) all and every citizen as equal under the law and seek to serve the whole of society and not just the members of that particular religion, then the religious institution must comply and not discriminate against citizens who don't fit the criterion of "acceptable human being". If a same sex couple wants to adopt through this service, whatever their reasons may be, turning them away because they are a same sex couple is discriminatory and bigoted.

It doesn't matter whether an adoption society (per your example) has a religious affiliation, if it serves the public it serves the entire public, or it discriminates via an arbitrary set of criteria then, as a public institution it is bigoted.

Religion is not government, it cannot and should not, dictate civil law which creates or deepens, second class citizenship. This is the crux, because your life as a religious person is not marginalised by a same sex couple deciding to get married or adopt a child. It's not even affected if a same sex couple want to attend the same services as you. It's not affected by overt sexuality in any way. Why? Because no one is trying to change how you worship or your belief in a deity, because those are your choices and your own business - the minute Religion has a say in the personal lives of people outside the self identified members of the religion, it must adhere it civil law and not the other way around.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-03-14 02:00 pm (UTC)
mathcathy: number ball (Default)
From: [personal profile] mathcathy
Look, I don't know you and although I would normally feel fine continuing an internet conversation with someone I don't know, in this instance I'm going to stop.

You are phrasing your comments in the second person and this comes across accusatory even though you are not reflecting my opinions back to me.

There's clearly (at least clearly from my perspective) a huge misunderstanding here and it isn't a subject I care enough about to untangle the confusion.

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