I enjoy reading the Whale Oil blog. If nothing else it is entertaining. If I have any great problem with it, it’s because of Slater’s predilection for focusing on the micro-battles and minutiae of the political debate (“look at what that arsehole Garry Parsloe is doing now!”) instead of the great ideological battles on the principles of society and government (“the council should not own a port, end of story”). But I realise I am on thin ice to criticize too much here, since Slater has built his blog up to be the most widely read in New Zealand, while I have gone from having a top ten blog half a decade ago to having sweet buggerall people reading me now. C’est la vie.
But I find myself very frustrated by Mr Slater’s constant carping on the issue of gay marriage. He posts almost daily on the subject, despite the fact that he is not gay, and despite the fact that the issue is largely irrelevant to the great political debates of our age. It is becoming embarrassing.
What is even more risible is that he is deliberately deceptive in his arguments in favour of the state sanction of gay marriage. I have no problem with somebody arguing that the state should issue marriage certificates to same-sex couples who make that commitment to one another. But he is not doing that. He is trying to argue that the government is preventing gay couples from marrying – a complete lie. He is arguing that the government currently discriminates against gay couples – again, a complete lie. He is framing the debate in terms of people being bigots if they do not agree that the government should confer the status of “married” on gay couples making a commitment to each other. And while there are plenty of bigots out there to reinforce his bullshit by their over-reaching comments, his demagoguery is a disgrace.
In New Zealand, any gay couple who lives together for two years is regarded as a defacto couple by the state. And any couple who decides to go to their local liberal Anglican church and get married in front of some atheist bulldyke priest can do it. It’s legal. No police will show up to stop you. Yet Slater continues to argue, on a daily basis, that neither of these things can occur in New Zealand. It’s bullshit. The only substantial difference is that a gay couple cannot get a Certificate of Marriage issued by the government – if they want a certificate from the government confirming vows undertaken to each other, they have to get a Certificate of Civil Union instead.
So the rights of couples making a formal commitment to each other, straight or gay, are essentially equal in New Zealand. There is no human rights issue here. It’s all in the name and nothing more. Therefore, what homosexual couples are asking for is a privilege from the government – they are asking for a title to be conferred upon their relationship which only heterosexual couples can currently ask for and obtain.
I have no problem with this situation, because it is fair enough. I don’t believe two men, or two women, constitute a “marriage”. That has not been the traditional definition of marriage for thousands of years, and can no more be accommodated into the concept of marriage any more than the traditional definition of a vegetable can include strawberries. I think it is ludicrous to ask the government to call a relationship a marriage when it is not. And petty and pointless to boot, since it is only symbolic. I can understand that some gay couples want to “normalize” themselves in society, but since men and women identifying as gay constitute less than 5% of the population, and gay sex is, by objective scientific definition, biologically abnormal, such attempts will fail whether you call it a “marriage”, or a “menage a deux”, or simply “two dudes, y’know… just hangin’ out, like… doin’ guy stuff”. I am not going to presume to completely understand the paths these men and women take in life, but frankly, if they want to be normal, they should not live as “gay”. They are mutually exclusive ideas. And why be “normal” anyway? Normal is boring. I sure as hell ain’t “normal”. Why would you want to be “married” when you can just be a committed gay partnership, beloved and adored by bored, gossipy Remuera housewives everywhere?
Even if you don’t buy my argument and still think that a committed gay relationship should be as normal as a committed straight one – well fine. Let’s get the government out of the marriage business entirely. They can either offer civil unions, or nothing at all, leaving it to cultural and religious organizations to decide for themselves what constitutes a marriage. This is actually the point of view that I support. To me personally, marriage is something between me, my fiancée, my church and my God, and the Department of Internal Affairs is an unwelcome intruder. Let the government legally protect commitments couples make to each other, as they do now, but leave the definition of those commitments to the people making them.
To my mind, if you disagree with this viewpoint, and are still pushing the gay marriage barrow, then you have conceded that the government should have a vested interest in steering that aspect of our culture and society. You have conceded that there is a vested social interest in the government supporting the commitments couples make to each other. In which case, why assume all relationships are equal?
Now it is possible to argue about various aspects of gay vs straight couples and which coupling, on balance, contributes better to society as a whole. I’m willing to concede that most of these are swings and roundabouts. But to my mind, if you are going to argue the value of government supporting marriage as a social good, the most important of these social goods, inasmuch as they exist, would be the raising of children in a stable and secure environment. Well what is better for a child then? A straight couple raising them, or a gay one? You could name some terrible straight couples and some very worthy gay ones, but all things being equal, it is clear that for a child to have a mother and a father living in the same house together is the most ideal environment for them. If the goal of government is to support good conditions for child-rearing, and promote a stable society of well-adjusted citizens, and one way of doing that is through the issue of marriage certificates, then why would the government issue them to anyone other than a man and a woman?
None of this is bigoted – it’s all logical, practical stuff based on a clear and consistent view of how society works. You can disagree and debate of course, but there is no ill will here. I am happy to tolerate a society where gay couples can have sex, form relationships, formalize their relationships, have a right not to be discriminated against, and even adopt children if that is no problem with the biological parent or parents. I just don’t think that marriage is a term that should be applied to gay couples, don’t think the government should be involved in the concept anyway, and think that if they are involved, the stable upbringing of children is better served by keeping marriage as a heterosexual institution in the eyes of the state.
Mr Slater is entitled to his opinion the other way, but his continuous carping bothers me. In Britain it is currently illegal to quote certain passages of the Bible dealing with this very topic, because it is classified as “hate speech”. I think that is far more of a disgrace than any issue that a couple can’t get the government to call their relationship what they want to call it. But Slater has been all but silent on this outrage against freedom of speech. He has also been very much silent on his personal beliefs about homosexuality. Does he believe it is a sin? Does he believe God creates people gay, or is same-sex attraction a learned behaviour developed as someone grows up? If he takes the view that it is not a sin and that God creates some men to fuck other men, that is one thing, and we are now in the realm of theology and psychology, not politics. But if he holds to the opposite, evangelical viewpoint, as I do, why support a policy that actively promotes it in society? It is one thing to display Christ’s love by accepting all people equally as they are, and not discriminating against them just because the sins they commit are not the sins you commit, but I am not sure that granting the government the mandate to sanction gay marriage falls within that scope. It seems a bit above and beyond the call of duty!
So why is Slater doing this? In one post he intimated that Christians need to reconcile with how they have discriminated against gays in the past, and apologise for being judgmental. I agree with that, but allowing the government to gay marry is not how you do that, no more than you should apologise to Maori for confiscating their land by giving them half the seats in parliament. No, this is a simple case of someone on the right seeking credibility from the left wing elites. Gay marriage is one of those relatively insignificant issues which you can take a populist approach on, so that when you start advocating something really right wing and “nasty” like a flat tax, or privatising hospitals, you can say “oooh but look – I’m not a right wing nutcase – I support gay marriage remember?”
Unfortunately, the left are never going to respect Slater no matter what liberal causes he supports. He should just do what he does, not give a fuck as is usually the case, and reassess this silly one-track recording of his on gay marriage.