Saturday, March 14, 2009

Idiot of the Week ~ John McClaughry and his Horny Young Males

John McClaughry is a Vermont conservative, and president of the Ethan Allen Institute "think tank," whose views are stuck somewhere in the middle of the previous century, or perhaps earlier. He had an idiotic op-ed in the Rutland Herald this week titled Let the People Vote on Marriage

Never mind that the people of Vermont do vote. We vote for our representatives, whose job it is to be informed on the issues and communicate with their constituents. If we don't like the job they're doing, we vote them out. Unlike in states like California, in Vermont we don't have ballot initiatives that put sensitive issues--particularly civil rights issues--before an often ill-informed electorate. If everything was put up for popular vote, why bother having legislators? We'd just let Joe the Plumbers run the world and let them cherry pick for elimination civil rights that don't conform to their narrow world view. But John seems to think we have a precedent in Vermont for putting "emotionally charged" issues up for popular vote. How recent was this precedent? 2006, maybe? 2005? Nope, 1976!

Here's a few choice tidbits from the op-ed:

Probably a majority of opponents base their opposition on religious grounds, as contrary to church teachings and natural law. There is also a secular argument that deserves more attention than it has gotten.

Marriage, so this argument goes, serves three important social functions: procreation and child rearing, mutual care and assistance, and reining in horny young males by linking approved sex to a serious and long-lasting social commitment.

The gays and lesbians may well say, we're pro-marriage, and those are valid arguments, but how does allowing us, loving and committed couples, to enjoy the status and benefits of marriage undermine the institution of marriage?

The response is that prohibiting discrimination against same-sex couples seeking marriage cannot be limited to just those couples. If two men or two women can marry, why not two of each as a foursome? Or a Muslim taking four wives? Or brothers and sisters? Or an entire Perfectionist "complex marriage" commune (Putney, 1830s)?

And there's the rub. Statutes and judicial opinions allowing every conceivable collection of humans to unite in legal marriage will eventually make the idea and practice of marriage a laughing stock — especially among young heterosexual males who society most wants to channel into stable, legally recognized relationships responsible for child rearing and support.

The Legislature was faced with just such an emotionally charged issue in 1976: whether to create a Vermont lottery. The Legislature decreed a referendum to get the opinion of the people. By a 72-28 margin, the voters supported the creation of a lottery. The next year the Legislature adopted it.

And my response:

I'm not sure if John McClaughry is being disingenuous or simply dimwitted, but his arguments against civil marriage equality are empty.

His most prominent argument for "traditional" marriage is "reining in horny young males by linking approved sex to a serious and long-lasting social commitment." Excuse me, but how does allowing same-sex couples to marry conflict with a goal of keeping young heterosexual men from running wild? Funny, love and respect don't enter into McClaughry's concept of marriage.

Then, there's the old slippery slope argument. Allowing same-sex couples to marry will open the door to bigamists, polygamists, and, presumably, sheep, dogs, and water fowl. Nonsense. Firstly, I haven't seen the polygamist (or duck) community in VT lining up at the Supreme Court's door to make their case. Secondly, if they made such an argument, they would have to make it on its own merits. 12 people marrying is not comparable to 2 people marrying. It's a different argument, and no one is making it. Gay people made their argument, after decades of grassroots work and education, and they won in VT. He can't rewrite the Supreme Court decision.

As for the referendum idea: So, because there was a referendum in 1976, on the subject of the lottery, we should put civil rights up for popular vote? McClaughry seems unable to distinguish between human beings and gambling. (Perhaps why love doesn't figure into his assessment of human relations.) Referendums, on any issue, but particularly on civil rights issues, are divisive, costly, typically filled with misinformation, and unnecessary. They invite outside money and influence and, like billboards, have no place in VT. Our state is better than that.

Contrary to McClaughry's assertion, allowing same-sex couples to marry via the legislative process is a sign of progress, one VT should be proud of. But, since his arguments are rooted in decades-old thinking, his ideas of progress are likely similarly archaic.


Anonymous said...

I have read your blog a few times now and I would like to make a comment without being called an idiot. I consider myself to be an educated professional but I do not agree with marriage for homosexuals. I think that instead of constantly shouting to the roof tops about how everyone who is against gay marriage is an idiot, you should have a discussion about it with those opposed to it to hear their side.

place in sun said...

I do not consider all opponents of marriage equality to be idiots. I think many are basing their opposition on sincere--though, to my mind, misguided--personal beliefs. That said, I've read and heard too many hateful, idiotic arguments against allowing gay couples to marry. (See newspaper discussion forums, for instance.) I'm tired of them.

And I think John McClaughry's commentary was idiotic and coming from someone who should be more capable of making lucid arguments.

If someone posts a comment to my blog that respectfully disagrees with my opinions (it is my blog, after all, not a public forum), I'll likely post it. But I won't post "Anonymous" venom. There's a distinction, and it's my call here.

Anonymous said...

Wow. A lot of pontification about "morality" and "values" from McClaughry- a man who has been married three times...