The Indiana legislature is working on a bill to ban gay marriage. On my “real me” facebook, several of my friends characterized this as an act motivated by hate: “Stop the hate!” “Boy, they really hate us.” “Could they be more hateful?” I found this formulation interesting, perhaps because semantics has been such a big issue lately, what with the liberals trying to redefine Reagan so that they can redefine Obama. (For two excellent articles on the politics of semantics, check out this and this.)
Saying that people are motivated by hate is a very powerful and demeaning argument. Most everyone at whom such an argument is aimed reacts instinctively to deny that he or she is hate-filled. Often, to prove that there is no hate, the person will back of from the allegedly hate-filled position.
I’m wondering, though, if there is any merit to the “hate” argument when it comes to gay marriage. I don’t like gay marriage because I’ve increasingly come to believe (here come the semantics again) that it would be better if “marriage” was kept to religious institutions, with civil unions belonging to the state. The state can then decide how best to advance the goal of stable two parent families, which are the backbone of every growing, healthy society.
To allow state gay marriages as a civil right raises the horrible specter looms of a gay couple being denied a Catholic marriage, only to sue, alleging that the couple is being discriminated against under the Constitution. The Church, of course, reasonably responds that, under the same Constitution, the government has to stay out of its doctrinal practices, and where are you then? In other words, I don’t hate gays; I just hate the idea of gay marriage.
Those who oppose gay marriage for other reasons also don’t seem motivated by “hatred” for gays. They may believe that marriage should be between a man and a woman; they may believe gay marriage is a slippery slope to polygamy; they may believe these matters should be put to the popular vote, not the courts or even the legislatures; they may believe that their religion prohibits gay marriage; or they may believe something else entirely. But what one hasn’t heard from the majority in the gay marriage debate is personal animus towards gays. Ignoring the fringes, one hasn’t heard “hate.”
Or am I misdefining hate? Is it hatred if you place obstacles in the path of a specific group, without explicitly demeaning, deriding, insulting or attacking that group? What if you justify those obstacles on grounds unrelated, or reasonably unrelated to the group?
I actually don’t have answers, just questions. Nor am I seeking to open a debate about gay marriage. I’m simply wondering about politics, semantics, and identity groups.