Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Camille Paglia's take on gay marriage

Camille Paglia's perspective on gay marriage is somewhat different from mine:

I may be an atheist, but I respect religion and certainly find it far more philosophically expansive and culturally sustaining than the me-me-me sense of foot-stamping entitlement projected by too many gay activists in the unlamented past. My position has always been (as in "No Law in the Arena" in my 1994 book, "Vamps & Tramps") that government should get out of the marriage business. Marriage is a religious concept that should be defined and administered only by churches. The government, a secular entity, must institute and guarantee civil unions, open to both straight and gay couples and conferring full legal rights and benefits. Liberal heterosexuals who profess support for gay rights should be urged to publicly shun marriage and join gays in the civil union movement.

Those unfamiliar with Paglia and her writing would do well to note that she's not heterosexual. This might or might not change how you read the above paragraph.



bob koepp said...

As I read her, she's speaking words of wisdom. My only qualm is about the government guaranteeing "full legal rights and benefits" to those in civil unions. If the rights and benefits in question involve being subsidized by those of us who choose to remain unattached, there's still something "unfair" about the arrangement.

The Maximum Leader said...

My own view and Paglia's are pretty close.

rwellor said...

Same here... it is the attempt (which is often from the religious side of the world) to conflate religious "marriage" with civil "marriage" that effs things up.

Let religions decide whatever they want about "marriage." It's their religion, after all. But the state should have a set of civil/contractual rules about "marriage" that are the only ones supported by laws and courts.

Separation of church and state.

I'm the kind of commie who supports that.

bob koepp said...

I agree that the distinction between religious and civil marriage is crucial to the current debates about gay marriage. But why should any particular civil/contractual rules be the only ones recognized by laws and the courts -- given, of course, that contracts must meet minimum standards of transparency and mutuality if they are to be fairly enforced? Why should the state give its "blessing" to any particular sort of living arrangements?

Kevin said...


Many states already give their blessing, in a manner of speaking, when they allow certain people legal hospital visitation rights, etc., while not allowing others with different but equally committed living arrangements the same rights.

As for the federal government subsidizing marriage of any sort... why would it? I agree that that would be uncalled for. The government doesn't currently subsidize heterosexual weddings, nor does it automatically give periodic stipends to married couples throughout their married existence. Married partners should be providing for each other, not seeking outside aid (except perhaps from their respective families, as already happens in most cases).


bob koepp said...

Kevin - As a "rule of thumb", policies permitting "family visitation" in hospitals, prisons, etc. are fine. But as someone who has been involved in medical ethics for three decades, I know only too well how such rules are sometimes counterproductive. Why shouldn't one be able to designate whomever and however many one wants as "significant others"?

As for subsidies of married couples, check with a good tax preparer about what sorts of "benefits" are available to couples.

Kevin said...


Would those benefits be problematic if they applied equally to hetero and gay couples (and possibly to "group marriages" and other forms of life-commitment), or are you saying that such benefits shouldn't exist at all? If the latter, I'd like to hear more, because I haven't really thought about that at all. My instinct is to say that married couples should be about the business of providing for each other; government financial assistance should be reserved for emergencies.

Any married readers care to weigh in with disagreements?


bob koepp said...

Kevin - I view consensual living arrangements as a matter of lifestyle choice. Those who want their own arrangements to have legal status would be well advised to make the relationships in question contractual.

Society can have a legitimate interest in promoting certain sorts of living arrangements, and when that is so, subsidies or incentives might be quite reasonable. I don't object, for example, to tax deductions for dependents, particularly dependent children. But couples, (or triples, or whatever, of whatever orientations) shouldn't be given indirect subsidies simply because they have formed a "union". As often as not, there are already significant practical advantages to partnerships in living. Do they need material support from those who have not formed partnerships?

Maven said...

Just spitballin' here... but I've always thought the same thing. That the idea of "marriage" being a sacrament vs civil union being essentially/legally the same thing. I believe the government (as well as some church elders) should get the hell out of all of our bedrooms, gay, straight, what-have-you.

I've always thought too, that if one were born into a religion that did not support gay marriage and wanted precisely that, "marriage," there are several other religions with which to explore: Unitarianism, Quakerism, certain Episcopalian churches.

Granted, the Protestant Reformation was brought about for other, non-sexual reasons, I wonder how much this issue will affect "The Church" in the general scheme of things. But then again, here in the USA, you can't drive through a town without finding various churches in communities, each offering something different to its congregants.

Your favorite (some might think) Heretic.