Obama, Gay Marriage and the Art of Debate

source: Associated Press

An so it all kicked off when President Obama publicly announced that he was a supporter of same sex marriages. The web through its various fora, social networks and blogs had a stream of commentary about the fact he finally took a stand on this position. For many it was the final part in a journey for many activists who believed that equality for all should be in place regardless of sexual preference and for other’s it sparked a renewed vigour in those who believe he should not be POTUS.

How do we define marriage?
I got into a bit of a small “tussle” with some on my timeline about some of the more inflammatory responses to this. Yes out rolled the birther commenters (yawn), the Obama-is-the-illuminati brigade, the more fundamental religious commenters and those who were fully in support. The main thrust of debate though was about how one defines marriage.

Now for many, religious or otherwise, is the mutual union of a man or a woman. Yet still for many others this is regarded as old hat and marriage is about the union betwixt any adults, regardless of sexual orientation. The interesting thing for me here, and I suppose which caused a bit of a debate online, is that I still believe that religions have the option to determine what they recognise as a marriage. Whilst there are those who would argue against this and accuse religions of being archaic or irrelevant, one has to recognise that for billions over the world religion is very important. I also understand that there are those in societies or cultures where to buck that trend could result in death or harm. Whilst I will respect the right of those who wish to stand beside their religious beliefs what tips it for me is that one does not need religious authority to have a marriage recognised. Civil authority and law outside the confines of a religious has more sway in the general public. It also grates me that there are those who consider such a viewpoint as ignorant because they are so determined in their views.

The Power of Debate
So moving on to debate. The power of debate is that both sides of the argument are required to respectfully put forward an  argument. The elements of ethos (credibility), pathos (emotion) and logos (reason) need to be present for the debate. It get’s so tiresome when those who would wish to enter debate don’t get this. If you are a person of faith and don’t believe in people of the same sex being married it behoves you to understand that supporters of same sex marriage may not share the basis for your argument. Whether it is based on writings within a holy book or is part of the dogma of that faith not all agree with it. To start baracking (see what I did there) the president based on your world view  win’s no supporters.

On the filp side those who don’t agree with the principles of a religion shouldn’t dismiss the fact that others have a belief. Whilst may not believe in the concept of a God or non human form of authority it is still key in a debate to have respect for the person. The reality is that whatever side of the argument one takes the laws that support individuals of the same gender are in place and more will take it’s place. Those who wish to marry/cohabit will be able to have the same legal rights for custody, inheritance in the case of a death, adopt children and other rights historically only afforded to heterosexual partners.

Obama Legacy
My honest opinion. I respect Obama for being able to take a stand on this. Yes it is difficult to appease  both sides of the argument and ethics aside he put his stake down on an issue he had promised as part of his original manifesto. Whilst many may see this in isolation it actually is one of many acts in a long line of many that has seen Obama provide equal rights for same sex partners. Of course the silly birther arguments, illuminati references and all things that detract from the main argument at hand will continue, but in the meantime there is this. All men are born free and equal, and have certain natural, essential, and unalienable rights; among which may be reckoned the right of enjoying and defending their lives and liberties; that of acquiring, possessing, and protecting property; in fine, that of seeking and obtaining their safety and happiness. For many Americans having seen, on paper at least, laws allowing for racial equality being a part of the American psyche, now to see the same extended to sexual orientation is a major shift.

The reality is in a number of sections of American society Obama may lose votes. This is a brave but big step. Kudos to him taking it regardless of the backlash he may receive as a result of it.


4 thoughts on “Obama, Gay Marriage and the Art of Debate

  1. Well said. My timeline was quite a few people saying Obama only voiced his support to gain voters which I am guessing they didn’t really do their research before typing such a remark.

    My 4th old daughter asked me if men can marry men, I said yes in some countries they can. A few weeks later I was confronted in the school playground by a mother wearing a hijab saying I allowed my daughter to watch gay porn. I asked what she was referring to and she said my daughter had told her son that men can marry men and can kiss men in certain countries. She said it goes against everything her and her husband have taught their son. What I told my daughter were FACTS, what her son will be told by the education sytem around year 5 anyhow. I never said whether I agreed, I do agree with the concept that any two adults can marry for love. It really bugs me that she and possibly many out there associate gay marriage with porn. Insane!

  2. It is definitely a slow process. There are those who are determined that their view is right and have no tolerance of opposing views. Their model of the world lends itself to extremes in language as you mentioned. So important for a new generation to at least no how to sensibly debate this.

  3. Dave — the US public sphere has been increasingly polarized over the last few years, so Obama’s announcement isn’t going to change that game in any direction. Might give him some personal sense of coherence and so if so, that’s cool. There’s no legal benefit. And if Obama loses office in November, that will make

    For LGBTIQ people in the US the larger issue is that they don’t have equal protection under the law (14th Amendment). They just don’t; no one can look at the case facts state by state and pretend that they do. Also, so much of the rhetoric leading to state laws and bans has been based on religion. Not based on secular reasoning, not science, but religion. And ridiculous fears about God abandoning American civilization. It’s embarassing.

    For LGBTIQ people in the UK, the situation is slightly different. The UK has an established church that the US does not. That church is fragmented based on the role of women, LGBs, and other social issues (as well as international governance). For now its English leader is hostile to gay and gender-variant people, and it’s gotta be constitutionally awkward for the British state to be so far ahead of the state’s church. I would never expect the government to do anything but give the Church of England and other religious groups an opt-out-of-equality card.

    In both countries, there are religious people (including me) and denominations (including the quintessentially English Quakers and the more modern Unitarians, the MCC, and in the US the UCC, ELCA, and Presbyterians) for whom religion is a reason to _include_ LGBT people within our religious groups, not to exclude them. For us, the current laws prohibit us from freely exercising our religious convictions.

    Nowhere in the proposed laws is there a mandate for anti-gay religious groups to transform themselves into inclusive communities. They can always remain exclusive. Only members would have standing to challenge how progressive or regressive their religious communities are… it’s really not the law’s concern.

    Also nowhere in the proposed laws is there a mandate for people who’re currently hostile to or ambivalent about gay marriage to participate in it. For me so much of the panic comes down to a basic misunderstanding. A mandate forces 100% participation. Permission allows those who wish to participate to do so. And a prohibition blocks 100% of those who wish to participate. What the UK government’s proposing is permission, and US activists are asking for the same, but what the churches keep lobbying for is prohibition. To me the difference says a lot.

  4. Hmm… lost part of my sentence there…

    If Obama loses office in November, that’ll make it _less_ likely that politicians waiting for the ok of public opinion will stand up or step up.

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