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The Roads to Equality

February 16, 2012 Leave a comment

On a recent episode of Real Time with Bill Maher, Reihan Salam argued that it’d be better for gay marriage’s “stabilty” if it was passed democratically rather than by court order. In a certain sense, he’s onto something. It’s almost tautological: if a majority of citizens in a democracy support gay marriage, we don’t have to worry about the majority undermining gay marriage.

To bolster his argument Salam and The Economist’s Zanny Minton Beddoes compare gay marriage rights to abortion politics. Salam and Beddoes suggest that without persuading a majority first and passing it democratically, gay marriage rights won’t seem as legitimate and we’ll be left with a tension similar to the one that’s followed Roe v Wade for 40 years.  As you can see, although public opinion waxes and wanes in the short term, support hasn’t changed dramatically.

I don’t fully disagree with their case; it’d certainly be wonderful and especially validating if marriage equally was reached by popular vote. Yet, we don’t need to look at abortion or any other social issue for speculation.

The Massachusetts Supreme Court ordered marriage equality in 2003. At the time, “50 percent [of the Mass residents] agreed with the justices’ decision, and 38 percent opposed it.” Nine years later the Massachusetts’ public isn’t unsettled by court-mandated gay marriage, risking its stability; instead, 60% now believe same-sex marriage should be legal. Living with equality has increased support to a 2 to 1 margin over opponents. Now, maybe it will be different in states like South Carolina where 20% of likely Republican primary voters think interracial marriage should be illegal! But the trends in all states seem positive any time marriage rights are expanded for race or sexuality. The most likely reason why?

I hope and am confident public opinion will continue to shift toward equality, yet if the Supreme Court gets there before voters do, there is no need to worry. We’ll just have to celebrate with our fellow citizens a bit earlier.

Morality Vs Dogma

February 2, 2012 Leave a comment

Anyone that cares about women’s rights and health is rightly upset at the Susan G. Komen Foundation’s break with Planned Parenthood. The decision to stop grants to Planned Parenthood was clearly motivated by anti-abortion politics, but E.G. from the Democracy in America blog wonders why the healthcare provider receives such a high level of aggression:

The bulk of its activities are focused on contraception, STI screening, and cancer screening, and it places a particular emphasis on providing reproductive health care to people who otherwise wouldn’t have access. They also provide abortions, which are controversial, obviously, but legal, obviously. And insofar as access to contraception and other family-planning services reduces the demand for abortion, Planned Parenthood also prevents abortion. In my view, it is an important part of civil society. Even from a pro-life position, I would think it qualifies: being pro-life is a coherent moral position, and not one that necessarily implies a lack of concern for women’s health. So I really don’t understand why Planned Parenthood gets so much grief from the right.

It’s difficult to understand because most of the pro-life right is not anti-abortion because of a reasoned moral opinion, but rather because of religious dogma. So when E.G. looks at a moral calculation based on the consequences of behavior and policy and she notices that contraception services reduce the number of abortions it seems inconsistent to disapprove. However, if you recognize that fundamentalist religious ethics is based on a rule-based system that says abortion, contraception, and church-unapproved sexual activity are all evil in principle it makes “sense.” I wouldn’t go so far as to say the religious consciously don’t care about the effects on actual people, but religious ethical dogma is not concerned about the effects on actual people. It’s not morality. It’s fundamentalism.

Categories: Religion Tags: , ,
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