Sunday, August 20, 2006

So Many Things Wrong with Sowell Column on Gay Marriage

Thomas Sowell wrote a column entitled, "Gay-marriage advocates ignore history, reality" in which he defends the rights of the states to forbid homosexual marriage. (via Cap'n Dyke)



The "equal protection of the laws" provided by the Constitution applies to people, not actions. Laws exist precisely in order to discriminate among different kinds of actions.

I agree. And since homosexuals are people, and marriage is an action ... Anyway, he goes on to say,


Analogies with bans against interracial marriage are bogus. Race is not part of the definition of marriage. A ban on interracial marriage is a ban on the same actions otherwise permitted because of the race of the particular people involved. It is a discrimination against people, not actions.

Notice how he says, "race is not part of the definition of marriage?" That's so he can ignore the reality of the history of the definition of marriage in North America. Race certainly was a part of the definition of marriage in many states (or colonies) for centuries, and interracial marriage was forbidden. For centuries.

The limitations of sexuality and gender have also been part of the definition of marriage. What does he think it means when a law says marriage is defined as being between a man and a woman? Such language prohibits an action (marriage) for certain types of people (homosexuals).

In other words, a ban on homosexual marriage is a ban on the same actions otherwise permitted because of the sexual orientation of the particular people involved. It is a discrimination against people, not actions.

And when he says,

They argue against a "ban" on gay marriage, but marriage has for centuries meant a union of a man and a woman. There is no gay marriage to ban.

he's running in logical circles.

There is no gay marriage to ban because it has always been banned! I bet that's not even true. Somewhere, at some time, some culture had to have allowed gay marriage.

Still, his argument makes some sense when you realize that he believes sexual orientation is a choice, not an inherent part of human existence, like the "legitimate" human reality of race. It also makes sense when you realize that he thinks homosexuals are inanimate objects or sexual acts rather than actual people like everyone else.

When the law permits automobiles to drive on highways but forbids bicycles from doing the same, that is not discrimination against people. A cyclist who gets off his bicycle and gets into a car can drive on the highway just like anyone else.

To Sowell, being homosexual is like riding a bicycle; it's what you do, not who you are. There was that moment in your life when you could choose to either ride a bicycle or have sex with someone of the same gender. If you never have sex with anyone ever, you are a default heterosexual, no matter who you are attracted to and fantasize about. You chose unwisely, so stay off the Freeway of Love.

Here's another problem with that analogy; gaycyclists can't even have their own bike lane.

But to cover his illogical ass, Sowell quotes Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., who "said that the life of the law has not been logic but experience."

Here's the entire quote: "The life of the law has not been logic; it has been experience. The felt necessities of the time, the prevalent moral and political theories, intuitions of public policy avowed or unconscious, even with the prejudices which judges share with their follow-men, have had a great deal more to do than the syllogism in determining the rules by which men should be governed. The law embodies the story of a nation's development through many centuries, and it cannot be dealt with as if it contained only the axioms and corollaries of a book of mathematics."

There is, of course, great practical truth in this. Rights, privileges; what is considered right, wrong, good, bad; notions of fairness and equality and who are entitled to them change over time. And laws are determined by those prejudices of legislators and jurists. That's why the Constitution is, in fact, a living document. It says the people have rights. But "certain groups" don't receive equal rights until a majority believe that those "certain groups" are actually people, and not bicycles.

So at least Sowell recognizes - if only on a subconscious level - that there is no logic to forbidding homosexual marriage; there is only a history of prejudice, discrimination, bigotry, and twisting oneself into pretzels trying to come up with reasons for opposing it.

See also:
No Gay Marriage Amendment This Year
I Agree With a Conservative!
A "For the Children" Plea I Can Get Behind

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