Monday, 20 June 2011

A Return To Dolan

It seems Archbishop Dolan just can't stop making stupid comments about gay marriage:
One has to wonder why the proponents of this radical re-definition, who claim overwhelming popular support, would not consider, for example, a referendum to determine the people’s will on such a drastic departure from traditional values? 
The redoubtable attaturk explains exactly why we shouldn't take this idea seriously:
why not bring a vote on birth control and if you lose in New York you have to shut up about it?
Political rule #1 for referendums: they only count when (you think) they're going to agree with you.


BigHead said...

Dolan seems just to be having an argument about definitions, which is fine and reasonable (for instance, I say Pluto is still a planet in common usage because it's not up to a small bunch of scientists to redefine something like that), but basically irrelevant in practice. Also in this instance I think it's misguided for subtle reasons, but whatever. It'd be OK to choose a different name for it if that's the only thing the churches can pick faults about.

Of course that's not the only thing they have against it, but I don't mind paying attention to people who have a decent argument for utterly wrong reasons.

SpaceSquid said...

I don't think that's all he's arguing - his suggestion that expanding the secular definition of marriage is trespassing on his freedom of religion is a bog-standard example of someone misinterpreting the right to do something and the right to tell other people they can't do different - but I agree that definitions is part of it.

I think the idea of coming up with a different name is probably a good one from a coldly logical perspective, as it undercuts the Archbishop's argument. The immediate problem is that we get into "separate but equal" territory. Not only are people going to be annoyed (not unreasonably) by the idea that they can't participate in a centuries old institution, but have something new "but just as good!" instead, every time you altered the laws regarding marriage you'd have to have another fight to ensure that law applies to the homosexual-marriage-equivalent as well.

In short, it would create resentment, and a whole host of new battlegrounds. Even if it was just the name that was the sticking point, I wouldn't recommend changing it.

BigHead said...

I don't see it so much of a freedom of religion question as a freedom of language question, but I'll definitely agree that havign a religious figure making this argument is unhelpful. Particularly since you know it's not the real problem he has with same-sex marriage.

I would also be worried, were I trying to Defend Marriage, that giving same-sex marriage a different name gives a sneaky opportunity for those who don't like marriage so much to undermine it. It is easier to sneak from "married couples and civil partners" to "partners" than just from "married couples" to "partners". I've always thought it's a bit of an own goal from religious figures to be so opposed to a policy that actually demonstrates how much people like marriage and want the right to it if they're denied it.

SpaceSquid said...

I think you're right that it's linguistic rather than religious, but I think it's pretty clear that Dolan is conflating the two.

In any event, once you make that substitution, Dolan's argument is now mistaking the right to use one's own language to the right to prevent others using theirs. "We refuse to call this marriage" is one thing, but what Dolan wants is for there to be a law preventing anyone from calling it that, effectively.