Gay Marriage, Equality, and Social Progress: A Secular Response to Matt Walsh

In the days following the supreme court’s decision to legalize gay marriage across the country, blogger Matt Walsh published a series of articles condemning the decision and responding to the general criticism he received from readers. Unfortunately, the internet is often a place for anonymous insults rather than honest debate. As Matt points out in his second article

“Most of the comments, emails and messages I read this weekend eschewed the process of even attempting to debate that point and skipped right to the insults.”

Well Matt, although I fundamentally disagree with your position I share your distaste of irrational name calling and hatred. This response will not resort to any such measures, but will rather deconstruct the arguments you have put forth to test their validity.

 

As the article is riddled with unsubstantiated claims and a-priori conclusions it is difficult to dissect each and every point in an orderly manner, the best I can do therefore is isolate some major points and examine their logic and implications. One of Matt’s primary arguments for why marriage must be the union of man and woman is procreation,

 “A man and a woman can create other humans. They can form families. They can bring forth life … It’s everything. It’s the whole point.”

This claim has numerous problems, and its easy to see why the argument does not hold weight. The most obvious point to make here is that there are many couples (many of them religious) who do not view procreation as the purpose of their union. For many of these couples marriage is the social celebration of accomplishing one of the most cherished human desires, finding a lifelong companion in this incredible journey that is life.

This is an utterly transforming process with an almost infinite level of nuances; you receive a new family and new friends and you are exposed to new views and idea. You teach someone about what you love and learn about their loves, you make goals together, share your dreams and your fears… for many marriage is inviting another author into the story of your life. This process has incredible potential for enriching your life, but requires and incredible amount of trust. For those of us who view this transcendent union of two partners as such a meaningful and nuanced experience reducing its value to the sexual procreation enjoyed by insects, fish, reptiles, plants, and even mollusks seem not just archaic but also de-humanizing. Two fish can make other fish Matt, they can bring forth life… if that is everything to you, if that is the whole point then I am afraid the depth of this discussion and the reason why the right to marry is so important to the homo-sexual community is far beyond you.

And we still haven’t even mentioned what the implication of Matt’s arguments are for couples who want to but are unable to conceive.

“Once you’ve removed the purpose (to create families), you have absolutely no reason to retain any of the defining features that sprang forth from that purpose.”

If we accept this argument, should couples who are unable to conceive children (which is after all the only real purpose of marriage according to Matt) be allowed to marry. Isn’t the logical conclusion therefore to tell sterile men and women everywhere that they will not be allowed to partake in this sacred institution which we have created solely for the purpose of making babies? Of course not, because this argument is so weak and its implications so detrimental it can hardly be taken seriously.

 

Lets move on to some other points…

“Your race, your sex, your species… They can’t be altered or modified. They are given to you, they are you… The same cannot be said of homosexuality.”

Again this is where some of the people on the other side of the argument hold a fundamentally different starting point and why it is so difficult sometimes to reach common ground. The superficiality of this statement seems to belong in a time where what you looked like and where you came from said more about you as a person than what you did and believed. I happen to believe that my race and my gender say very little about who I am as a person, and they certainly don’t define me. The decisions we make and the believes we hold define who we truly are, and not a reduction of labels which reference where my ancestors came from, the color of my skin, or my sexual orientation. But lets see where this argument is going…

“What a homosexual is experiencing is a compulsion, a temptation, a proclivity…They are just urges. And it is simply preposterous and insane to afford special rights to a man’s urges.”

And what precisely are we as hetero-sexual males experiencing towards women when we feel attraction? The love between a man and a woman can surely grow into something high minded, unique, even spiritual, but at a base level the reason why man and women pro-create is because they experience a compulsion, a temptation, a proclivity towards each other.  Even if you don’t accept the evolutionary necessity for physical attraction any honest observer of modern society and his/her own experiences must admit that physical attraction is fundamental to the union of man and woman.

If we accept that the bond between man and woman is ultimately reliant on the physical urge and desire for sexual intimacy we can no longer dismiss someone else’s urges and temptations as invalid simply because they are different from our own. And if we take the high minded approach that marriage really goes beyond hetero-sexual urges for intimacy and is rather a much deeper intellectual and emotional bond, we could no longer argue that sexual orientation is relevant to the institution. This isn’t an actual argument, it is a double standard which looks at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pays no attention to the plank in your own.

 

In the second article Matt displays some of the many mean spirited and insulting comments he received as a response to his original piece. While I share his distaste for this behavior I am disappointed to see him leverage this into a broad categorization of an entire ideology, he claims “Progressivism, as we’ve seen, is a bubbling cauldron of vile, hideous hatred.” This is intellectually dishonest at best, as I am sure he is aware that both conservatives and Christians (with almost every other major group) are very negatively represented in millions of forum posts, blog entries, and comments throughout the internet. One does not have to look far to find mean spirited racial and homophobic terminology, wishes of eternal torture, and sadistic threats all in the name of Christ. I do not take these views and comments to be representative of the Christian majority, but rather the result of radicalism and abuse of internet anonymity in an evolving society. If you would like to use ignorant hate mail as evidence that the entire progressive movement is a cauldron of vile and hatred you are more than welcome to, but you instantly eliminate yourself from the discussion as a legitimate and thoughtful contributor.

 

“There’s no practical or moral reason for the romantic lives of homosexuals to be recognized or elevated or protected in any way.”

This is perhaps one of the most poignant and difficult to address sentences in the entire piece for the sheer boldness with which it dehumanizes homosexuals. It also serves as a stark reminder of how necessary this court decision was as a turning point in our society. Although detractors claim to simply support “traditional” marriage, it is sentences like this which reveal the true level of contempt and injustice the gay community has been experiencing.

There are certainly practical and moral reasons and I will briefly spell them out here. From a practical perspective gay couples have experienced multiple injustices under the law because their union wasn’t recognized from a legal standpoint. Individuals who spent decades building a life with their partner have lost property, inheritance, and even burial rights after their partner’s death because the courts did not see their union as one worth “recognizing, elevating, or protecting in any way.” Were something unexpected to happen to 99% of us we can know that the person we have built our life with will at least retain the hard-earned assets we have built together. Unfortunately homosexuals for generations have not had this luxury because people with Matt’s views simply didn’t see their bond as one worth protecting.

If that is not a moral reason in itself then I would ask you too look at the history of humanity and this country and hopefully learn from it. This story has played itself many times, and the arguments have barely changed. When Mildred and Richard Loving, a white man and black woman, chose to spend their lives together they encountered exactly this type of opposition. Opponents said it simply wasn’t natural, one judge explained that for thousands of years the races didn’t mix (sound familiar Matt?), and that is the way God intended it. It took years for the supreme court to rule that laws prohibiting interracial marriage where unconstitutional, but eventually love did win.

The same type of arguments where also laid out on the battle of women’s suffrage and women’s rights. Opponents angrily explained that a woman’s place was in the household, it had been so for thousand of years. They argued that the relationship of the man as the provider and the woman as the nurturer was the foundation of the family and the bedrock of society, without it civilization would collapse (sound familiar Matt?).

These variables change but the principles remain the same. Every one of us, regardless of our background, gender, race, or sexual orientation has a right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Traditions change, and without question there are growing pains. With every forward step humanity takes there will be those who fearing the unknown will cling to the past, shaking their fists and forecasting our demise. But the momentum of the movements towards equality, empathy, and justice are too strong. Society will keep moving forward, and the future looks brighter every day.

So what will become of the fist shakers? History has shown they will experience a two-step process before they ultimately converge with the rest of society. It is true that some will hold their position until the bitter end, but it will become increasingly difficult to pass these views along with each and every generation raised in a culture of increasing tolerance and diversity. This was the case with those who believed the poor shouldn’t vote, that slavery should be legal, that blacks weren’t equal, and that women belonged in the kitchen. What is the second step? After generations have passed the ideologies will evolve to believe that they were on the right side of history the whole time. The intellectual descendants of Matt will some day reference this period in history with the positivism and admiration that Matt uses when referencing the civil and women’s rights movements, while actively opposing the current social change towards equality, whatever that may be.

Does this hypocrisy anger me? Should it anger you? Absolutely not, what matters is the real tangible progress we make as a society. Slavery is over and so are most forms of blatant segregation. You do not have to own land to vote, women can vote and pursue the careers they choose, and now the union of two gay individuals has the same protections as those the rest of us have enjoyed. We are one step closer to a society based on equality, empathy, and love, and in the words of my dear Matt, that “is everything, its the whole point”

 

2 Comments

  1. You never cease to impress me. This is an amazing piece and incredibly powerful. This message needs to be shared and spread. #lovealwayswins

  2. Very, very, well written article, I’m hoping that Matt has a rebuttal.

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