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.
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(no subject)

Date: 2012-03-12 06:40 pm (UTC)
eumelia: (omg lesbians!)
From: [personal profile] eumelia
There is division, I personally am on the so-called anti-marriage side of the debate, such as it is.

However, when you demand keeping the status quo of heterosexual privilege alive and well via a law that will keep same sex relationships as lacking in the criteria for current government benefits, it's a very slippery slope. And what about marriages in which one person transitioned from one gender to another - is what was once a different sex marriage now null and void because it is a same sex marriage?

I think marriage is the wrong battle to be fighting when it comes to human rights, but demanding different sex marriage be ratified even more into law? How is that not hate speech?

I think marriage as an institution is oppressive and is another form of government surveillance, but at the moment is grants the married couple benefits a long term cohabiting couple, in most countries, does not have. But things are changing and the demand to keep same sex couples who want to be married (for whatever reasons, it's not really our business why a couple wants to be married) is definitely on the side of those who don't consider QUILTBAGS human enough to married.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-03-12 07:09 pm (UTC)
redbird: closeup of me drinking tea (Default)
From: [personal profile] redbird
I don't think being opposed to all marriages is homophobic or anti-gay. Being opposed only to same-sex marriages is. I don't see a large movement to replace, for example, U.S. state laws that say marriage is restricted to other-sex couples with laws saying "this state does not recognize marriage, at all, by anyone." They aren't insisting that same-sex couples, even if they have been legally married for ages, make wills and create medical powers of attorney if they don't want their assets going to their parents or their siblings making their decisions if they're incapacitated. There are good arguments for making arrangements other than marriage: I don't see any good arguments for saying that marriage is such a dubious institution that only 90% of couples should have access to it. (This is, I think, more or less what [personal profile] eumelia is saying.)

Also, at some point I don't care whether someone who is advocating policies that are actively, specifically, and deliberately oppressive to non-heterosexuals is homophobic. They can have all the gay friends they like, if those people find them to be good friends otherwise, but they are still advocating policies that would harm us.

Yes, balancing loyalty to a friend with loyalty to principles is tricky. One thing I'm fairly sure of here is that you're right, "he's my friend and therefore can't be that bad a person" would be unhelpful even if you were sure it was true. Also that just about everyone, regardless of their opinions, has some friends; I don't believe in black hats and white hats and people who are always or never wrong. The questions are Is he wrong about this? (yes) and What should Mozilla be doing? Not Is Gerd a bad person? or How can we persuade Gerd he is wrong about this issue?

(no subject)

Date: 2012-03-12 08:51 pm (UTC)
elf: Leetah & Nightfall in the woods (Femslash)
From: [personal profile] elf
I can understand the argument that "marriage in the UK has been legally defined to require PIV intercourse, therefor same-sex couples can't have marriages." However, I was under the impression that opposite-sex marriage isn't forbidden to those people who, by disability or choice, won't be participating in "consummation" in the legal sense, and that nobody forcibly annuls those marriages if it's discovered they were never consummated.

Gerv brings up the question, "To give a blunt example: how do you define adultery if marriage no longer includes the concept of consummation?"

I don't get this. Is he saying that only "consummation" counts as adultery? Or that only marriages that have been "consummated" can have charges of adultery, which is, ah, many different kinds of sexual acts?

(no subject)

Date: 2012-03-12 09:36 pm (UTC)
nicki: (Default)
From: [personal profile] nicki
Whether he's homophobic or not probably only he knows, but it looks to me like what he definitely does have happening is religious bigottry. His entire standpoint seems to be, "My religion calls this a sin and therefore it doesn't matter what the majority of people or other religions/religious denominations think and therefore you all should be forced to do the thing my relgions says (with implied, because you all are wrong and only my group is right)." He has fallen for the same mistaken idea that many US fundamentalists make in thinking that it is the job of the civil government to legislate morality.

Unfortunately, I think we all have friends who we think are not bad people but at the same time are not really admirable in one or two areas.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-03-12 11:22 pm (UTC)
hairyears: (Default)
From: [personal profile] hairyears
The world moves on, and some people are left behind: Gerv appears to be one of them.

I am well aware that I would share his views were I living in the nineteen-forties in Ireland; I might well share these views today if I were immersed in a religious community and a social circle that still held such views and values in the present day. But I do not, and I am more fortunate in my friendships than I deserve to be.

Perhaps we all are.

Which raises the question: how do we ensure that we, in our influence on others, are beneficial? Cutting off Gerv would reinforce him in his views; and managing the inevitable 'distancing' as he finds himself further and further behind mainstream society is going to get harder - but that is going to happen.

I think the 'ideal' is that you remain enough of a friend to be a source of support when the World comes crashing in on him; and nonjudgemental, unconditional support is the only thing that brings round truly dangerous, blindly-hurtful zealots - I hasten to add that I do would not put any of you friends in that category, known or unknown to me! - but you'll need to be quite calculating, and at times quite cynical, in managing the friendship in such a way that you never give validation to his more toxic beliefs, nor allow yourself to be seen supporting him in actions which *will* be hurtful to others.

Yes, it's distasteful taking that calculated approach to a friendship. Some people have the natural grace to do it all subconsciously, and I envy them. Some people can't, at all; and some people conclude - correctly - that some friends and some friendships can't be 'managed', or salvaged.

Place yourself somewhere in there, and see if it's a useful view.

My best advice would be to pursue whatever courses leave choices open, rather than close off avenues of communication: 'putting things off' and muddling through aren't always a bad way to go.

Also: the phrase: "They've crossed the line this time" is always worse than useless.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-03-13 01:38 am (UTC)
redbird: closeup of me drinking tea (Default)
From: [personal profile] redbird
I'm torn between "I will leave defining adultery to people who think it's a useful concept" and the poly idea that cheating involves violating your agreements with your partner(s).

A lot of monogamous couples are using a default definition thereof, but that can also run into trouble when it turns out that two people have picked up different ideas without discussing it. Those differences aren't at the level Gerv is talking about—just about anyone who thinks "adultery" is meaningful would include extramarital PIV intercourse—but things like Where short of PIV intercourse do you draw the line? And what about "emotional affairs"? Does he realize how much extramarital heterosexual activity would, by that definition, not count as adultery?

(no subject)

Date: 2012-03-13 08:31 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
I am well aware that I would share his views were I living in the nineteen-forties in Ireland; I might well share these views today if I were immersed in a religious community and a social circle that still held such views and values in the present day. But I do not, and I am more fortunate in my friendships than I deserve to be.

Perhaps we all are.

To my eye, there's something distinctively Rawlsian ( about that sentiment - I think I approve, but I'd have to read more to know for sure. The basic idea is to imagine a group of people drawing up a social contract and principles of justice from behind a veil of ignorance, such that:

"no one knows his place in society, his class position or social status, nor does anyone know his fortune in the distribution of natural assets and abilities, his intelligence, strength, and the like. I shall even assume that the parties do not know their conceptions of the good or their special psychological propensities. The principles of justice are chosen behind a veil of ignorance."

Emphasis mine; the business with the conceptions of the good is what makes me see a parallel here.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-03-13 08:33 am (UTC)
ptc24: (Default)
From: [personal profile] ptc24
Ooops, that was me, the emphasis on "I shall ... of the good" doesn't seem to show in [personal profile] liv's style. Oh well.

(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 09:51 am (UTC)
naath: (Default)
From: [personal profile] naath
Adultery is grounds for divorce, supposing you want a divorce. (non-consumation is grounds for annulment, supposing you want one).

I don't think that you get to have divorces/annulments imposed upon you without at least one of the spouses asking for one (you can be forced to seek an annulment in order to get a GRC, which is I think the closest the law gets to forcing people to divorce; and that's vile).

I think divorce law is screwed up; but mostly because I think "I don't want to be married to them any more" is all the "grounds" for divorce anyone should ever need.

(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)

(no subject)

Date: 2012-03-13 10:11 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
adultery is automatic grounds for divorce in the latter relationship, but not automatic grounds for legal separation in the former

This is historical, in that at one point adultery was the only ground (at least for women). Well, I say only, apparently they had to prove other bad stuff on top of that, according to the Guardian: Jurisdictions which have sort of started again with their divorce law don't have it: in New Zealand, they only have the 2 year separation requirement, for example, and that's the same as civil partnerships.

I could have used unreasonable behaviour in my divorce petition, my advice was that would be straightforward, as judges aren't that interested in getting in the way of people who clearly want a divorce and "being in another relationship" counts as unreasonable! I used adultery in the end as the solicitor said there was no room for even theoretical discretion there. In the UK, one can only commit adultery with a person of the opposite sex.

It seems an odd reason to prohibit gay marriage, though: you could normalise things so that adultery was no longer a strict ground or come up with a different definition of adultery. From my point of view, having a strict ground was useful, so perhaps the latter is preferable.

whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her

I bet most evangelicals would say Jesus wasn't giving a legal definition of adultery ("has already committed adultery with her in his heart").

(no subject)

Date: 2012-03-13 11:51 am (UTC)
lethargic_man: (serious)
From: [personal profile] lethargic_man
I could possibly point out to Gerv that the definition of adultery he's insisting on is in no way Biblical. The OT definition is quite a bit broader than that

What am I missing?
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