Sunday, May 17, 2009

Fairland: a parable on Gay Marriage

I recently have been engaging in a discussion online with someone about gay marriage. They had said that they wanted two wives; after all, we should only do what's fair. In reality, this person believed gay marriage to be wrong, to be an unfair advantage to gay and lesbian couples, a special right conferred on them. I responded with a parable on fairness, which takes place in a fictional country called "Fairland."

Let’s consider the fairness of denying gay couples marriage rights in the state sense.

How about a little game of make-believe? We’re starting a new country today! This country is called Fairland, where we’re going to treat everyone fair – whether that benefits them or not. Invariably, there will be many debates about what is fair or not, and many subjects worth discussing. But let’s remain focused on the topic of marriage for a moment.

Many members of the new country have emigrated from foreign lands where marriage had been recognized by the government, which also rewarded them for being married. Couples were given the right to collect inheritance from their spouses upon death, visitation rights in hospitals, tax incentives, and other various privileges for being married.

The new citizenry of Fairland wants to have those same privileges afforded to them. Currently, a church can marry two people, but nothing after that happens, at least in a legal sense.

So the people of Fairland have decided to give a man and a woman who want to be with one another the opportunity to enter into a contract between themselves and the government. What’s more, Fairland isn’t going to just limit this right to couples married in a church: couples wishing to receive these benefits without religious overtones can get “married” as well, and gain the same recognition that those who DID receive religious marriages got. And it should go without saying that couples who are different races will of course receive these same benefits – it wouldn’t be fair to do otherwise, would it?

But let’s further suppose that a gay couple wants these same benefits. Fairland residents debate the issue for months without coming to a conclusion about this. Many ask, “What’s the big deal? It would only be fair,” while others consider it an attack upon their religious beliefs, an unnatural practice, and impractical towards the procreation of more citizens of Fairland.

The Council of Fairland, which decides on issues of Fairness when the citizenry cannot do so, decides to take up the issue, addressing each of these points one by one. First, they tackle the religious beliefs argument.

Looking at the role religion plays in state-sanctioned marriages, the Council notes that those without religious beliefs are able to wed one another without any worry. In fact, long ago the Council decided that religion shouldn’t play any role in government since it would rule over a citizenry that would not be 100% that religion, an idea that didn’t seem to be fair at all. A religion can incorporate its own rules on marriage when a couple decides to wed within their doors, but outside of its domain religion didn’t define marriage in the state sense. It wouldn’t be fair, then, to deny gay couples marriage based out of the religious beliefs of others.

Then there was the argument that homosexuality wasn’t a natural act. The Council pointed out that acts of homosexuality did occur out in the animal kingdom, being observed in well over 1,500 species, and that homosexuality among humans had been practiced for centuries, if not millennia, before now. And just because something wasn’t natural, it didn’t mean it was necessarily wrong – the Council pointed out the unnatural practice of agriculture, which was strictly a human trait, as evidence of an unnatural practice carried out by humans that was acceptable.

Finally, the argument that gays and lesbians couldn’t procreate took the Council’s attention. They didn’t think too highly of that argument as well, seeing as sterile and infertile couples were allowed to wed. In fact, some couples were voluntarily rendering themselves infertile, through vasectomies and hysterectomies. And what of older individuals, such as post-menopausal women, who also couldn’t conceive? There were instances of these women taking part in marriage ceremonies, and why shouldn’t they?

The Council rendered its verdict, and decided that gay marriages should be allowed. They didn’t affect the outcome of other marriages, didn’t make things “less fair” for other couples in Fairland, and in fact made things fairer for everyone.

As was custom, the Council took questions from concerned citizens and politicians who thought the decision was wrong – it would only be fair to do so. The questions were as follows:

Question: “Isn’t granting such rights to gays and lesbians rendering a special right to them? How is this fair to straight couples?”

The head of the Council responded: “Marriage rights toward couples are special rights for anyone who decides to wed. It began that rights weren’t even initially granted by the state to married couples until people wanted them. It is straight couples, then, who would receive special rights if we were to deny gay couples these special rights, too. That wouldn’t be fair at all.”

Question: “Isn’t this going to lead to a slippery slope, wherein polygamous couples and people who want to marry their pets could eventually do so?

An Associate Councilwoman answered: “It’s just plain stupid to compare homosexuality to bestiality. There isn’t any connection to suggest that the slippery slope argument holds weight here, seeing as we’re comparing straight marriage to gay marriage, and that both practices are between humans. As for polygamy, if a man has three women he is married to in a religious sense, that is fine. Fairland, however, is going to behave fairly, and grant this man only one marriage license to hold with only one of his wives. He shouldn’t receive three times the amount of marriage rights that a two-person marriage receives; that is not fair, and not sustainable to the nation at large since someone could conceivably marry 100 wives and receive 100 times the benefits.”

Question: “Aren’t gay couples going to corrupt the youth? And are we going to allow them to adopt?”

The head of the Council again responded: “There isn’t any credible evidence to suggest that gay couples corrupt the youth. Allowing them to adopt would only be fair, as we allow even single persons the right to adopt children in our nation of Fairland. The belief that gays are somehow going to corrupt or abuse these children is nonsense and ignores the fact that most abuse on adopted children comes from straight parents. In addition, it is a stereotype to believe that gays are bad influences upon children. There are ‘bad’ gays, but we cannot believe that EVERY gay is bad just because a few are – just as we don’t believe every rural citizen to be a slack-jawed yokel just because a FEW rural citizens are such.”

The judgment had been rendered; the citizenry, with some of them understanding that they might not like the practice, understood that the decision had been a fair one, and accepted the Council’s ruling. Fairland’s debacle regarding gay marriage had been solved.

If only we were so lucky here in America.

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