Some People Following the Crowd Doesn’t Diminish the Reasons Behind the Movement (A response to Hans Fiene)

Hans Fiene says the move to legalize gay marriage is merely the result of a desire to imitate the Civil Rights Movement.  His article has a number of issues, from making false claims to false equivocations, but it can be taken in sequence.

He first establishes that the current generation learned about the greatness of the leaders of the Civil Rights Movement as a sort of sainthood, and now we want our own movement to run to be good ourselves. He also reduces the issue to standing up for a cause others aren’t rather than standing up for a cause because we ought to.

The first alternative he proposes is the unborn. He claims the anti-abortion movement isn’t gaining ground because of cost. Outlawing abortion would require a new approach to sex, which would change the lives of many people now forced to risk an unwanted child if they want to have sex. Of course, he conveniently ignores every argument for the right to abortion, including the defense of bodily autonomy, the defense of privacy, and the common consensus that a fetus is not a person.

His second alternative he proposes is poverty. He ignores the push for a state-sponsored fight to end poverty, implicitly stating that if we aren’t personally giving money (due to having a negative net wealth) then we aren’t at all in support of the cause.

This brings us to gay people. Gay people have something in common with another group that the current generation is in wide support of: women. The problems of the gay and female populations both arise primarily not from something tangible like scarcity of resources, but from the minds of others. Equal treatment can be obtained through changing minds, since minds are the source of the problems. Changing minds is a feasible goal for individuals to embark on.

His statement

Of course we know that politely telling a customer you’ve served for nine years that you can’t, in good conscience,provide flowers for his wedding isn’t in the same moral universe as murdering a black teenager for talking to a white woman.

gets a spotlight on the side of the page. He’s chosen two completely different examples, and I could just as easily say the hate murders committed against gay people are of much greater magnitude than refusing to cater a biracial wedding.

He slips in the tired argument that an inherently-childless couple shouldn’t qualify for marriage, ignoring the tired rebuttal that if we take a child-only definition of marriage, post-menopausal women and all people incapable of reproducing need to be banned, yet nobody is calling for a ban on elder marriage.

Fiene also has an issue with Takei’s protesting the RFRA via boycott. Why using the tools you have at your disposal is a bad thing is left unexplained. Perhaps a cause is only righteous if it comes from a point of low power. (In which case any non-Christian religion in the US is poised for a righteous movement.) He goes into a general complaint against the complains against the RFRA, claiming it’s not a big deal, but Benjamin Studebaker covers quite nicely why it is a big deal and his continued comparison to other states is unfounded.

Are there legitimate problems within the movements Fiene has issues with? Sure. Gay marriage has gotten a bigger spotlight than housing and employment discrimination as well as hate crimes. As it turns out, love is easier to market than being anti-discrimination or anti-anything else. Hence why anti-abortionists prefer the term pro-life, even if they take decidedly anti-life stances on other issues. The RFRA also had bigger issues than refusing to cater a wedding: it more or less allowed the law to be ignored by hiding behind a religion. Employers could negate the health insurance laws by claiming parts of it violate their religion. Legislation by a democratic state could be vetoed by religious entities.

Fiene doesn’t take this route, though. He makes a strike against the gay marriage movement by pointing out the fact that some people have self-interested motivations and a bit of Civil Rights hero worship. However he also abuses any instance where he makes the movement look weak to attack the cause itself. Moreover, he ignores parts of the movement that fight things like hate crimes and parts like Stonewall that have taken serious action. Sure most people participate because they want to be good, but that hardly diminishes the core reasons for why equality is the right direction.

One thought on “Some People Following the Crowd Doesn’t Diminish the Reasons Behind the Movement (A response to Hans Fiene)

  1. Hey Nichi, thanks for linking to my blog. This is a good post–I was just talking to somebody the other day about how it’s much easier for people to blunder their way into being on the right side of our social issue debates than our economic ones. There are a lot of people who are on the right side of the LGBT debate for the wrong reasons. Some of them are bandwagoning for feel good reasons, and there are a lot of bad arguments for gay marriage that are intuitive and emotionally attractive, even though gay marriage (and LGBT rights more generally) are nonetheless very good policies. On economic issues (and to some extent foreign policy as well), the opposite thing happens–the bad policies also have all the attractive bad arguments. For these reasons, we tend to see progress on social issues in democracies (albeit often for the wrong reasons), while economic and foreign policy issues hold steady or regress. Many people mistakenly think that because we see progress on social issues, we will also see progress on economic or FP issues, and therefore they support democracy uncritically.


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