I imagine it must have been a pretty steamy session yesterday as the California Supreme Court all had to imagine graphic gay sexual positions (consciously or not) as they decided whether people who engaged in those sexual positions were entitled to gay marriage under Prop 8. Sonia Sotomayor be damned, diversity was not the order of the day at this Supreme Court. What “no gay marriage” means is simply this – men who are genetically pre-disposed to putting their parts and hearts in the hands of other men, and women who are genetically pre-disposed to doing the same with other women, are still considered too outside the societal norm to be trusted to say who makes them happy as a life partner in the eyes of the law.
Just as you cannot define the emotional spectrum of what is “a heterosexual relationship”, so too you cannot define the infinite varieties of what constitutes a “gay relationship”. The only thing you can say for sure about straight people is that they prefer getting their jollies with someone of the opposite sex. The only thing you can say for sure about a gay person is that they prefer to tickle their ivories with someone of the same sex. To consider “gay marriage” vs. “straight marriage” is quite literally a consideration of the sexual positions that people prefer.
God only knows what those California judges were picturing in their minds as they shuddered in disgust and handed down their decision. Pigs in a blanket? Oil rigs drilling mercilessly into soft mounds of earth? Two pink coin purses locked together in a dark handbag? Double meat sausage platters? Regardless of what lustful imagery they (and all the folks who voted for Prop 8) used to enable their decision, there’s only three explanations for creating and supporting laws that deny others their happiness, and none of them have anything to do with whether your taste includes oysters, snails or both.
Reason Number One:
You are really sure that you have the universe figured out, and want to make sure that everyone else gets it the way you do. This is also known as “moral superiority” or “intellectual superiority”. Though this worldview frequently masquerades as confidence, bullying, assuredness, and deep conviction, but like all bullies know from watching after school specials, it is actually a habitually learned behavior that hides a deep insecurity.
Anytime you feel that your security is dependent on denying rights or happiness to someone else, you are acting out of insecurity and fear, which I think is at least two of the poisons we talk about in Buddhism. A truly secure person with a healthy sense of the role their ego should play in their lives is able to live their life according to their own values, and not have to impose their values on others personal lives. Your church may not condone gay marriage, or letting women speak in public, but I don’t go to your church, nor would I want to. In other words, a healthy person knows where their territory ends and another’s begins. An unhealthy ego urges a person to extend their dominion over other’s lives as well.
The gay marriage argument has absolutely nothing to do with where people put their penises or vaginas. It is simply another opportunity for people who are suffering from a dissatisfaction with the level of their control over their own lives to spread the pain derived from their fear of non-existence. Like racism, war, and domestic abuse, it’s not about the issue – it’s all about power. I can marry my boyfriend, do whatever we do between the sheets, in the kitchen or in the woods, and if that somehow affects a “straight marriage” then that’s probably a “straight marriage” that needs a little work.
Reason Number Two:
You secretely admire, desire, or otherwise covet the thing that you are trying to eliminate. Inherent in every act of denying rights or happiness to others is a desire to eliminate that thing. Short of eliminating, a burning resentment can often manifest as a desire to “wipe that smile off your face”. Due to several hundred years of religions trying to make gay people feel guilty, there are loads of queers who will never come out and many of them are going through life as self-hating “heterosexuals”. Nothing makes an unhealthy ego feel as good as taking away something happy from the thing it cannot have.
Witness little kids playing together, and you will see that they frequently grab each others toys even if they already have plenty of their own. This is the nascent beginnings of racism, homophobia, war, and all other forms of denial of happiness. “If I can’t have it, neither can you,” goes this argument, even subconsciously. Not to say that everyone who voted for Prop 8 is a closet case, but odds are that a lot of them would (to mis-quote Jerri Blank) trade the pole for the hole, or vice-versa, if their church, society, or job wouldn’t demonize them for it. Voting against another’s happiness requires a great degree of insecurity in your own.
Reason Number Three:
You have confused your habitual behavior with reality, and believe that what you habitually believe to be reality is actually reality. This is closely related to reason number one but is a little more subtle. By nature human beings cannot be all things at once, so we choose certain habits and lifestyles. Many people in America eat beef all the time, while many people in India consider cows sacred. Some people in Korea eat cheddar cheese ice cream, while many in America consider Korean pickled cabbage an abomination against food. Wheat and marijuana both grow in the ground, but because of habitual conditioning some people say wheat is natural and to be enjoyed, while marijuana is a mistake to be outlawed.
You think what you do is natural; that’s only natural. But that does not equate to “what other people do is unnatural”. Beating up on someone for how they were born is the most primitive kind of ego boost – beating up on women, blacks and homosexuals is easy, because when you deny someone something based on who they intrinsically are, you’ve got an airtight argument. I can’t become un-gay any more than you can become un-human.
The religious argument against homosexuality is so silly as to not to bear even mild scrutiny. The bible also says you cannot shave, grow two kinds of plants in the same field, or be near a woman for seven days around her period. To the religious who say these are minor issues, while homosexuality is a major one, I say “who says?” The answer cannot simply be “those in authority”; that is letting yourself out of responsibility for infringing great heaps of unhappiness on people in love. Let’s outlaw marriages for clean shaven farmers whose wives are having their period while helping him harvest potatoes and carrots. Why not? Throw the heathens out!
There is nothing wrong with buying into the cultural, familial, and societal conditioning that is designed to make us each believe that we are right, and that our way of life is the best one, and that we are an isolated unit working our way through the universe – though this way of thinking often leads to an endless road of dissatisfaction, requiring ever greater consumption of things, emotions, and energy to satisfy an unsatisfiable emptiness.
To those who accuse me of being a liberal making an intellectually dishonest and morally lazy argument in favor of gay marriage, I say you are absolutely correct. Marriage should be allowed between whomever the church performing the marriage wants to allow it between. Marriage is a religious institution, and out of respect for those institutions we should not force them to marry anyone they don’t want to. The state should absolutely not have any say in this matter. As a growing movement suggests, the state should offer civil unions and the attendant benefits to anyone who wants one (gay, straight, or otherwise) and leave the business of marriage to the churches.
Meanwhile as a Buddhist I can offer compassion to myself, to those who want to marry yet cannot pursue their due of liberty and pursuit of happiness, and most of all to those who still find it worthwhile to invest their energy in the continual manipulation and manufacture of their perception of “reality” by subjugating their true boundlessly kind and compassionate Buddha-nature to the more superficial adrenaline rush the ego gets from asserting control and power over the inner workings of other people’s lives.
To those folks, I offer this question: If you think this issue is so important, do you plan on laying on your deathbed thinking about all the love you experienced and gave to the world, or do you plan on thinking about how successful you were in denying the queers of the world the right to marry?
Because one day soon, sooner than you think, you’ll be gone. Your kids will be gone. The queers will be gone – and some of them may even be your kids. This whole society will fall and decay and a new one will be born. Continents will drift apart, sink, and re-emerge. Oceans will dry up, explode, burn and become wet again. No one will remember you, yet you are inextricably a part of the fabric of all of it just for having been here. To think of the precious time you spend in vain trying to keep “the others” under your thumbs makes me indescribably say.
Please, meditate, pray, go for a walk, think about what really comes back to you whenever you “win” by taking away others happiness and come up with a different way to build yourself up. You’ll feel better about yourself. I swear you will. And you won’t have to make decisions based on thinking about the icky/hot things boys who like boys and girls who like girls do to each other when their naked, unless of course you want to.
Now here’s a little video I cooked up for ya’ll: