Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Bigots, religion, and the case for same-sex unions

At the heart of Christian group’s opposition to same-sex marriage is the ingrained appetite for suffering and abnegation, and the desire to make it universal

Taiwan’s Ministry of Justice on Oct. 14 held its first public hearing on the matter of legalizing same-sex marriage, which we should regard as a welcome sign of progressiveness within Taiwanese society. As both supporters and opponents of homosexual unions were invited to participate, the event also highlighted the extent to which intolerance continues to animate certain (by no means all) religious organizations.

The pro side of the argument is pretty straightforward: love is love, and all humans, being equal, should be entitled to the same rights, which includes the right to form a family.

The con side, meanwhile, resorts to more convoluted arguments to deny extending that right universally, and usually conjures unquestioned religious doctrines, pseudo-science or outright bigotry to make its point. Once again, religious groups and organizations such as the Taiwan Union for True Love (台灣真愛聯盟) did not disappoint (apparently “true love” can only manifest itself between members of the opposite sex, everything else being fake or something less).

According to them, marriage can only occur between a man and a woman, and is the only form of union that is suitable for raising children. Purporting to speak for the rights of children, such prophets argue that same-sex partners are incapable of providing the love, stability, and guidance that are necessary for the healthy development of young people. Of dysfunctional families such people have little to say, which implies that a divided household, one that is marred by alcoholism, absenteeism, violence is still better than the alternative of one in which both parent figures are of the same sex. Moreover, their position implies that homosexuality is akin to a contagious disease, that by sheer exposure to homosexuals one is bound to “learn” or “develop” the trait, a view that has exactly no foundation in science (this author, who has a legally and happily married homosexual mother and who for years lived in the gay village in Montreal, never learned or acquired, or was “infected by” homosexuality and remains entirely confident of his sexual preferences).

At the heart of this doctrine is the masochistic Catholic hankering for abnegation and suffering, two conditions that deny reality for the sake of an undefined (and by no means guaranteed) afterlife. Not only does religion tell us that it is acceptable — desirable, in fact — to live a lie, to abnegate one’s true nature, and to be miserable, it instructs us that such personal tyranny should be imposed universally. Only then will one’s personal choices turn into a messianic campaign to meddle in the affairs of others and decide what is best for them by seeking to block amendments to regulations that would make same-sex unions possible and legal.

Every other argument used by the oppositionists is characterized by slander and lies, from the claim that legalizing same-sex unions would encourage promiscuity, incest — hell, bestiality — to warnings that doing so will expose the nation to AIDS, as if HIV/AIDS were solely a problem for homosexuals. Supporters of the oppositionists often counter that such arguments against same-sex unions are protected by their right to freedom of expression, a claim that immediately crumbles as such expressions are acted upon so as to deny other people’s rights (e.g., blocking legal amendments). And when their case is built on lies, intolerance, and a desire to repress others, its messengers must be called by their true name — they are bigots (and please, spare us the “I have nothing against homosexuals, but…”)

As one of the speakers at the hearing said, religion is and should remain a personal matter, not something that is imposed on others. Religious individuals have every right to live their lives as they see fit, even to the extent that some choose to be repressed and unfulfilled. But that’s where it ends; don’t cross the line into the affairs of others, and don’t assume that the Catholic appetite for suffering (and the redemption that supposedly follows) is a universal desire, or one that should be force fed upon individuals who choose to be whole, happy, and fulfilled in this world, in the immediate, rather than in a promised afterlife. (Photo by the author)

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