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May 2011
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Ys [userpic]

This whole thing is sort of dry, but I needed to get all of the reasoning out. If you're at all interested, please bear with me. I make the assumption I'm speaking about the U.S. a few times because I live here, and so it's what's releveant to me at the moment, but similar arguments may well apply elsewhere.

Okay, so, previously, I attempted to establish two things:

- Limiting someone's behaviour when they are not harming anyone by it is unfair; using political or legislative power to do so is oppressive.
- Limiting someone's behaviour when they are harming someone by it is fair and reasonable.
- Consensuality can ameliorate the second case. (Conveniently, this alone can cover self-harm.) It is potentially unfair to limit someone's behaviour when the only harm involved is consensual. Issues of whether the situation allows consent muddy this, of course -- you can't give real consent when someone is threatening your life if you don't, for example.

I am willing to further defend these assertions, but given those, the sticky issue then becomes defining 'harm'.

I think it's practical to assert that someone simply claiming harm with no other evidence of harm is not sufficient, otherwise anyone who wants to can simply lie and claim harm in order to justify getting their way.

Also, there are cases where clear harm has occured. If someone is dead, they have been harmed; the only question then is whether there is sufficient consensuality.

The interesting stuff (which I'm trying to get to) is in the middle. What do we do when we cannot agree on whether there is harm involved or not? Particularly once religion gets involved, different definitions of harm are going to come into play.

One solution is that we require some kind of proof of harm. This is likely to lead to a lot of people being harmed before it's possible to demonstrate the harm to some sigificant level, and thus seems less than entirely optimal.

Another solution is to pick a religion or philosophy and use it as a guideline. Folks who assert that the U.S. is a Christian nation are trying to do this, as are folks who run Islamic or Judaic or Buddhist nations. Theocracy definitely provides a good basis for deciding harm, but only if you're willing to impose one set of religious beliefs on everyone. Obviously this is a pretty good personal solution if it happens to be your personal system of beliefs being imposed, but it can be pretty seriously bad if it's not. Given that the U.S. purports to practice religious freedom, this seems like a nonoptimal solution as well.

Similar arguments apply to a dictator or small group of autocrats imposing their values of harm and fairness.

An obvious solution is to allow the majority to decide on a (relatively) case-by-case basis. This means that whatever definition of 'harm' the majority of people feel is appropriate is going to be used, but also means that the majority can impose their beliefs on the minority, even if their beliefs are anathema to some members of the minority. If you're Christian, just imagine how you'd feel about the majority passing a law that required everyone to say Judaic morning prayers, or observe the several times a day Islamic devotionals, or practice some appropriate ritual to Kali regularly.

In my opinion, there is no ideal solution, given the practicalities of human nature. People lie, cheat, and use their power for personal gain, and as long as they do you have to have a system that takes that into account.

Personally, I am inclined to err on the side of permissiveness as much as possible, entirely because of the golden rule. I don't want to be forced to follow, say, Shinto morals, so as much as possible I try not to force anyone else to follow my morals. It seems to me that defining something as 'harmful' only if an overwhelming majority of people consider it so is the only way to get a society that both reflects the values of the people in it and also at least attempts to respect the rights of the minority groups within it. Even such a system can certainly fail to respect some set of people, sadly.

I will admit that my feelings on the subject are colored by the fact that I don't understand people who err on the side of restriction; perhaps they don't believe that the practices and morals they hold dear will be next on the chopping block. I think history suggests that that belief is naive.

The U.S. Constitution attempts to use a majority-rule value system with some checks and balances to prevent that sort of imposition. The practical upshot of that is that the judicial system is there in large part to overrule the majority in cases where they have unfairly used their power to impose on some minority group. The judicial system is supposed to use the Constitution and existing case law as guidelines in doing this, and the Constitution is written to be fairly permissive in some specific ways -- particularly with respect to religion and religious practices.

And we get back to homosexual marriage. The only arguments that I have seen saying that homosexuality is harmful (as opposed to "less than ideal", which I think I've established is not sufficient reason to restrict it) are religious arguments, and thus restricting or penalizing homosexual behaviour is imposing one's religious beliefs on others.

This is, in a nutshell, why I support a seperation of religious "marriage" and civil "marriage". Regardless of whether a "marriage" is heterosexual or homosexual or polygamous or what-have-you, there is some civil interest in stable environments in which to raise children (read: new taxpayers), and so there is clear civil interest in fostering and promoting such stable environments. Out of respect for the folks who wish to keep the word "marriage" to represent their religious practices, all secular recognition of child-rearing environments could be called "civil unions", and they would not discriminate on religious reasons; marriages are then for individual churches to decide, and children raised in a particular church can be shown that the unions that their church recognizes are more appropriate than unions that their church does not recognize, and thus taught their parents' and communities' values.

If you want to disagree with me in comment, I ask (for simplicity's sake) that you tell me whether you're taking issue with my axioms or my reasoning (or both!) before we start, so that I'm sure I'm actually addressing your objection when I respond. Thanks!

Current Mood: contemplativecontemplative

my stance has always been that if there is supposed to be seperation of church and state then the state should have no say in who gets married and who doesn't. Actually until the issues of inter-racial marriages came to be the government didn't issue marriage licenses. Thus one was either married or not. There were not "civil unions" then.

Over time though the government has established different tax rates depending on whether one is single or married. As well as government benefits for being married. To the point that those who do get such benefits and tax breaks would not want to give those up in order for marriage to return to what it once was without the state aka government being involved.

So in order to have "seperation" between "marriage" and "civil unions" is to have the government not involved at all and absolve the notion of civil unions.

His ~angel~

I think I've made my views on it quite clear, in the past, but to summarize for all the people who don't overhear the rantings and ravings in the house, at the train stop, or in the car...

There is exactly one correct solution. "Not separate, and equal." Separate-but has been proven to fail rapidly in all cases it has been tried in; after all, if they're really, truly, bona-fide equal, what is the point in separating them?

However, I, personally, could give less of a shit about the word "marriage". In fact, since I still have some respect for the feelings of people I grew up around, if not for their chosen deity, they can have it.

The solution is to simply rewrite *every single law*, in one fell swoop, to refer to "civil union". In the eyes of the state, there would be no "marriage" at all; there would be a union between people that was recognized for the civil benefits the State (state or federal; generic term) saw in it. Anyone currently empowered to witness or officiate over a "civil marriage" today would remain able to do so; this would allow those who wanted to be "married" to take care of both their religious wishes and their civil paperwork at one time, if they are married before an official so authorized (and really, it just isn't that hard for someone to get authorized; I have been since I turned 18, though nobody's ever asked me to).

If we stopped calling it what it isn't, and called it what it is, life might be a lot simpler. "God prohibits civil unions!" - well, great, if your church objects to the state recognition, you don't *have* to get it. Just file as single with the IRS. Hell, you can do that today, as long as you don't fill out paperwork (barring certain issues with common-law union recognition).

America is not a Christian nation, nor is it an Atheist one. I would object to a declaration of God's absence on the wall of a court just as much as I object to a copy of the Ten Commandments. People treat "nothing" and "the anti-thesis" as being the same, when their thesis is being attacked, but *they are not*. Real science neither confirms nor denies the presence of a God at this time; it says "this theory is untestable given our current tools" (by it's very definition as a matter of faith, the question is often defined in such a was as to never *be* testable, but that doesn't change the answer).

Maybe God set the Big Bang in motion, maybe we're a pocket universe spawned from a singularity in another, and maybe Shit Just Happens - until there is some distinguishing feature between these theories to be tested, there is no way to test them, and so the answer is "We don't know" - words more people should be willing to say.

I'll stop ranting in her journal, now. Bah.