Patenting Marriage:
Same-Sex Marriages Vs the Right Wing
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Same-Sex Marriage Rights:
Conservatives are not the Patent Holders on ‘Marriage’

Same Sex Marriages

By Martin C. Winer - September 2009.

The debate continues to rage on about same-sex marriage rights. Just recently the debate continues in California where the right is granted and repealed with an equal frequency of the ever present earthquakes. In California flaming wildfires and flaming same-sex marriage partners are given equal treatment under the law: They are both invited to take a cold shower. With a recent defeat of a proposed amendment, same-sex marriage rights have officially been ‘terminated’ in Governor Arnold’s state.

A tangled mess of red tape and conflicting legislation has been spewing in and out of the legislative cabinet providing for and then rescinding the right. Behind the debate is the more fundamental debate over the use of the word ‘marriage’. It is almost as if conservatives are the patent holders on the term ‘marriage’ and same-sex proponents are infringing on that patent.

In the United States, the bulk of these conservatives are Christian, often fundamentalists at that. They are highly motivated and well represented politically. In fact former President George W. Bush is one of them and frequently intones God during speeches. If this be truth then it would appear that God allows for men to hold each other only so long as they are comrades in arms in a quixotic war against non-existent weapons of mass destruction. Any other form of holding men in other men’s arms would appear, by this logic, is strictly forbidden.

Bush, McCain, Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh and fellow fundamental Christians believe that ‘marriage’ was defined by God himself and the prohibition against same-sex marriage likewise comes straight from his mouth. In addition, they look to the example of nature (technically homosexuality is commonplace in nature) to demonstrate that homosexuality is simply against God’s ways.

They also tend to forget that the bible wasn't written by god. Its all letters and stories written by men.

Same Sex Marriages

Looking first at 'God’s word', bible thumpers quickly thump twice on quotes like Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 in much the way the lame reach for a cane.

Leviticus 20:13 reads:

"And if a man lie with mankind, as with womankind, both of them have committed abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them."

Leaning on this quote for support, they neglect to notice that lesbianism is excluded from this prohibition. They also miss that a few short verses prior...

Leviticus 20:9 reads:

"For whatsoever man there be that curseth his father or his mother shall surely be put to death; he hath cursed his father or his mother; his blood shall be upon him."

Corporal punishment is illegal in Canadian schools, but it is still legal for parents to spank their children (provided they don't inflict real physical or emotional harm). The Supreme Court of Canada says parents may use "reasonable" force when disciplining their children and this ruling only applies to children between the ages of 2 - 12. Many countries also still allow for parents to inflict corporal punishment. 24 countries have made it illegal in the home.

In many countries society has thought fit to ban corporal punishment in schools, the death penalty and on many other occasions to overrule biblical beliefs. For example there is a line in Leviticus saying that women must cover their heads in public as a form of modesty. Only conservative Muslims still adhere to that belief.

Thus same-sex advocates are not asking for an unprecedented act. Religious ideas have been overturned by common sense before.

Same Sex Marriages

Furthermore the bible thumping conservatives also fail to take note that ‘marriage’ in biblical terms was originally polygamy. Many of the bible greats were polygamists and no where is it written that this is a sin. Men in biblical days were allowed to assemble large harems of wives. It is in fact still a common practice in some Middle Eastern countries. In allowing the hoarding of women, this led to the denial of courtship to many other men. Also, the women in these harems could possibly be shunned or neglected and treated as chattel. Conservatives of the day decided that this was an unfair practice and outlawed it.

When you bring up these points to a conservative in a debate, they will typically run off for a day or two and thumb through their bible to check the veracity of your claims. In many cases this would be a first reading for them. They inevitably return, somewhat frustrated but with renewed vigor and make the claim: “it’s just not nature’s way.” So they shift the argument from God’s word to examples of God’s work. Unfortunately if they are such poor biblical scholars, they are likely even poorer students of biology.

Monogamy, specifically “one man, one woman for life”, can be found in nature but it is a minority player in a broad spectrum of other mating options. The idea that homosexuality absent in nature is patently false. It is found all through the animal kingdom. The argument that ‘it is not God’s way’ presupposes that the arguer knows God’s way.

In evolution there is a notion of indirect inheritance. This is the passing of genes from one generation to the next by helping those of similar genetic makeup. For example when a beaver slaps its tail on the water to warn of an impending predator, the beaver puts itself at risk of being eaten. Intuitively this would seem to be counter productive to the reproductive success of the beaver. Evolution allows for this sort of altruism in that the beaver’s actions benefit other beavers who are its relatives. Thus, even if the beaver is killed, its genes will be passed on indirectly by the relatives it saved. This is a concept known to evolutionary biologists as “Kin-Selection”.

A recent study of Samoan culture, which is believed to closely mirror our ancient existence, reveals that homosexuals do indeed help in the rearing of relatives’ children. In so doing they indirectly pass their genetic material, indeed, the predilection for homosexuality, on to the next generation. The argument that homosexuality is not natures way simply reveals a lack of understanding of the ways of nature.

A function for “gay genes” after all?

Studies of some unusual men in the remote Pacific have led scientists to surprising conclusions about homosexual and other gender-bending behaviors.

One of these conclusions: sexual attraction to members of the same sex may have an evolutionary function, though past studies had failed to find one.

A second assertion to emerge from the work is that psychologists should reconsider the way they classify as a “disorder” transsexualism—a strong desire to be the opposite sex.

The research focuses on a remarkable group of men who have sex with men, though they defy much conventional wisdom on what being “gay” is. They form a broadly accepted social class in Samoa, a south Pacific island nation.

The studies are directed in part toward resolving a scientific mystery: why does homosexuality persist in the world? It seems to make little evolutionary sense.

Evolutionary theory, the lens through which most scientists study biological traits, holds that in each population, the genes of members who reproduce the most come to dominate the gene pool. That’s because these individuals, unsurprisingly, spread their genes most widely.

By that logic gays, who reproduce little, shouldn’t exist. Yet they do, along with some evidence their tendencies may have a genetic component. What gives?

The explanation, many scientists argue, could be that the childless gays put extra efforts into helping raise nephews and nieces. That would boost the children’s chances of survival, and someday reproduction. These youths, even if not gay, might share with their aunt or uncle a few genes promoting homosexuality—ensuring a clutch of “gay genes” in every generation.

One problem with this proposal: it has failed past scientific tests. A few studies have found gays aren’t especially helpful to their families. Those results have worked in favor of an opposing argument, that homosexuality has no evolutionary function. Scientists who back this view say homosexuality is an aberration, so it has about as much biological function as a birth defect—none.

Mainstream physicians no longer consider homosexuality a disorder; it was dropped from the American Psychiatric Association’s handbook of mental disorders in the 1970s. Transsexualism, or “gender identity disorder,” is still listed, though the manual says it’s only a disorder if it causes the patient significant distress.

In the new studies, Canadian psychologists sought to test some of these competing ideas by visiting Samoa, a relatively un-westernized land. By studying people who they said live closer to the ways of humanity’s “ancestral” past, the researchers said they hoped to assess possible evolutionary functions for homosexuality and the roles of other gender-blurring behaviors.

The idea about gays helping their kin, called the kin-selection hypothesis, might have failed past tests because these were done in modernized Western societies, the researchers said. Gays might help relatives more in traditional, tribally-based cultures, the scientists claimed, because these often have tighter-knit families and fewer anti-gay biases that could alienate gays. Moreover, the researchers argued, the traditional environment is more appropriate to study, as it’s more like the setting in which humans mainly evolved.

Men who habitually have sex with men are socially accepted in Samoa, where they’re known as fa’afines. Some characteristics of fa’afines, the psychologists said, are quite foreign to Western concepts of homosexuality: notably, they have sex only with men who are considered “straight,” not with each other. But they are Samoa’s equivalent of what Westerners would call gay men.

Based on fa’afine responses on questionnaires, compared to responses of heterosexual Samoan men, the researchers concluded that fa’afines put “significantly” more effort into raising nephews and nieces. The childcare activities that saw stronger input from fa’afines included babysitting, buying toys, tutoring, exposing the children to art and music, and contributing to day-care, medical and education expenses, the surveys indicated.

It’s the first study to offer real evidence for the kin selection hypothesis’ basic prediction, “that androphilic [“gay”] males should direct more altruistic behavior toward kin than gynephilic [“straight”] males,” the team wrote in a report of their findings. The paper appeared in last May’s issue of the research journal Evolution and Human Behavior.

But more studies will be needed, wrote the authors, Paul Vasey and colleagues at the University of Lethbridge in Alberta. A stronger study would compare the fa’afines to childless non-fa’afines, they noted. In their own study, 58 percent of the “straight” respondents had children, who might have diverted their attention from nephews and nieces.

In another study, Vasey and Nancy Bartlett of Mount Saint Vincent University in Nova Scotia concluded that psychologists’ assessment of transsexualism as a disorder, at least for children, should be revised.

The relationship between transsexualism and homosexuality, if any, is unclear, though some experts say that many boys with “gender identity disorder” become gay.

Vasey and Bartlett wrote that fa’afines they interviewed seldom recalled being “distressed” by feeling or acting like a girl in childhood. Most such distress—the researchers concluded based on that and other factors—arises in Western societies because of the stigmatization of such children.

Thus, the researchers wrote, the diagnosis of “gender identity disorder in children” should no longer be listed “in its current form” in the American Psychology Association’s handbook, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Some gay activists have called for the condition to be de-listed completely. Vasey and Bartlett didn’t go that far. But in their study, in last fall’s issue of the research journal Perspectives in Biology and Medicine, they did write: “There is no sound evidence that cross-gender behaviors or identities, per se, cause distress.”

Thus we lay to rest the idea that conservatives own the patent on the use of the term ‘marriage’. The authority they claim from the Bible is inconsistent and the case they make from the example of nature is incoherent. Nature’s way has been for centuries to allow for the evolution of ‘helpers’ in the form of homosexuals. Nature’s way is to allow for a plurality of strategies and family structures to deal with evolutionary pressures. Perhaps this lesson from nature is the one conservatives ought to better focus on. The Bible, in turn, is an inconsistent guide for modern morality containing ordinances for the execution of unruly children, while omitting commandments against lesbianism and polygamy. The fact that passages like Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 happen to agree with the conservative definition of marriage is a happy coincidence; only happy mind you, certainly not gay.

Same Sex Marriages
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