I'm James Maxey, the author of the Dragon Age fantasy series of Bitterwood, Dragonforge, and Dragonseed, the Dragon Apocalypse series of Greatshadow, Hush, and Witchbreaker, as well as the superhero novels Nobody Gets the Girl and Burn Baby Burn. I use this site to discuss a wide range of topics, with a heavy emphasis on cranky, uninformed rants about politics and religion and other topics that polite people attempt to avoid. For anyone just wanting to read about my books, I maintain a second blog, The Prophet and the Dragon, where I keep the focus solely on my fiction.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Yesterday's Progress Toward Legalizing Gay Marriage

So, gay marriage advocates had a bad day in North Carolina yesterday. Or did they? Roughly 40% of voters came out and voted against an amendment to ban same-sex unions. 40% acceptance is a pretty amazing figure considering that 30 years ago, if there had been google, and if you'd googled the phrase "same sex marriage" you would have gotten probably zero hits. The idea was not only not being debated thirty years ago, it wasn't even a thing people knew would be a debate.
As much as same sex marriage advocates promote the idea as a fundamental human right, the reality is we are asking for a radical change in human thinking. We are asking society to officially sanction a relationship model that has never been accepted before recent decades. We honestly don't know what changes will come to society by adopting this new idea. I'm optimistic that most changes will be positive, but I'm also certain there are unknown unknowns.

For instance, gay marriage could have the perverse effect of eliminating homosexuality. Assuming that homosexuality is a genetic trait, it's being passed down from generation to generation. Until recent decades, societal pressures have forced majorities of homosexuals to hide their true natures. Countless homosexuals get married to opposite sex partners and have children. This keeps the genes for homosexuality in the genetic pool.

But, if homosexuals no longer enter into show marriages with opposite sex partners, economic forces will reduce the number of children they have, since reproducing will require surrogate mothers, sperm donors, etc. If gays aren't passing on their genes because they now marry same sex partners, we could see a decline in homosexuality over generations.

I obviously don't know that this will happen. It's difficult to make predictions, especially about the future, if I may borrow a phrase. I'm just saying that it's not irrational for society to be slow to enthusiastically embrace a change of this magnitude.

But, one prediction I will make is that the future looks good for gay marriage. I just googled some stats. In 1988, the first year there were reliable polls on this issue, opposition to same sex unions was at 75%, and only about 15% were in favor. Today, nationally, the issue is very close to 50/50. North Carolina is part of the Bible Belt, so it's not surprising that it's 40/60 here, unless the surprise is that 40% of the citizens seem ready to say yes to the idea after so few years of the topic being in the public debate.

Assuming that 5% of the population warms to the idea each decade, even NC is only 20 years away from a tipping point. Anything that can be made illegal by a vote can be made legal by a vote. I recognize that, if you are gay, you have good reason to be disgusted and angered by the thought of having to wait another 20 years for legally sanctioned marriages in North Carolina. I would encourage you to turn this anger into a positive energy. Think about all the "vote against" signs you saw in people's yards over the last month. Momentum is building for your goals.

Are there bigots out there standing in your way? Yes. But you don't need to change the opinions of bigots. You need to change the opinions of ten to twenty percent of people who oppose same sex marriage out of simple momentum. You need to appeal to their hearts and minds, make your case that what you want is a positive change not just for you, but for everyone. Advocates have made astonishing progress in only a few decades. Keep moving forward. We've evidence that minds can change. Our greatest weapons in this war are reason and time.


Micah said...

As usual, your ideas are insightful. hadn't thought of the "less homosexuality b/c of smaller pool of procreaters" concept.

The one i've been bouncing around all morning as I've read through facebook reactions is the concept of bigotry. It seems a little underdeveloped to me. kind of like the person who injects race into any discussion where people of different races are involved.

can you clarify why a person in favor of male/female marriage is a bigot, by definition? It seems like many who are opposed to the amendment are also demonstrating the textbook definition of bigotry since they are intolerant of the more traditional position.

i am not addressing the "right/wrong" attached to the amendment per se since it was really a political play considering the current 15 year old law on the books banning same sex marriage. I was out of town and didn't vote.

I am more interested in dissecting the use of the term "bigot." What is the proper understanding? Why can't I have a strong opinion on a subject without being slapped with a pejorative label?


Hel said...

Quick flaw with your speculation regarding decreased homosexuality:

Gay men and lesbians can still reproduce. They use surrogates and artificial insemination. Since I see no way how legalizing same sex marriage would in any way decrease the frequency of this practice, I don't really see how the theory would hold up.

James Maxey said...

Micah, I personally don't broadly label opponents of gay marriage as bigots. It's not that I don't believe there are bigots out there, I'm just not sure that opposing gay marriage is sufficient evidence of bigotry. Non-legal gay marriage is the default position of human civilization to date. Resistance to change is also aa built in attribute of humanity. Combine the two, and the major barrier isn't so much bigotry as simple inertia. People need to be sold on the change, which will take time.

Hel, the old way of making babies was very cheap. The number of accidental humans probably far outnumbers the number of deliberate ones. Gay marriage will supress accidental pregnancy. The added expense and hassle of deliberately going to extraordinary measures to reproduce will, I believe, result in reduced birth rates.

Mr. Cavin said...

Well, and just because being gay isn't a choice doesn't mean that it's exactly a genetic trait, either. It could be a developmental trait, the potential existing in all (or many) human genetic markups, and emerging through some other process.

One thing I was thinking, along the positive reading of these statistics you were pointing out above James, is that even in under-populated Jessie Helms farmland counties the opposition to the amendment was barely under twenty percent (was the lowest I saw seventeen? Does that sound right?). That is astronomically pleasing. Less pleasing is that Guilford County, usually such a stalwart bastion of firebrand "progressivism," showed a narrow enough margin to end up passing the stupid thing.

What concerns me as that these results are confused by the real language of the amendment. I am afraid that, had this indeed been a referendum whereby NC “voted on the definition of marriage” it would have carried with quite a larger rate of voter approval. But since it also included all of its murkily worded criminalization of any marriage alternatives, many, many more people campaigned and voted against it than otherwise might have. I also predict it will be these added limitations that will get this amendment repealed sooner rather than later.

On the other hand, honestly (or politically), while this amendment may really bone current couples who are in unmarried relationships--but who are nevertheless used to getting some legal protections--the amendment likely actually advances the strategic position of homosexuals in committed relationships, which were already illegal yesterday, simply because there is a much larger body of people in the fight for legalized domestic unions now. Had this NC Amendment failed, then all sorts of progressives would be patting themselves on the back today for effecting some sort of positive change, even though in actuality no change would have occurred. I'm not trying to spin this result into something positive, nor am I desperately trying to find a brighter side, but the reality is, now that NC has endangered a significantly greater portion of its voters through reckless wording, there is a much larger fighting machine aimed at marriage equality than ever before.

Lastly, to Micah: I don’t want to open up a huge can of issues here, but I’ll attempt to answer your question since I imagine it was asked without any rancor. Generally, I consider the people pushing to limit legal protections for other kinds of people to be bigots. No one is suggesting we make any laws or constitutional amendments abridging traditional faith (unless a tenet of that faith is that some people deserve innate favoritism in the eyes of the law, in which case it has no place in an equal and diverse society). But in this case, those pushing for traditional marriage values are assuming the right to decide that other groups can be denied the very rights they grace themselves with, using the supposedly secular arena to legislate their theological morality, etc. To me, all the harm seems to be going in that one way. If this issue were about criminalizing the stoning of adulterers instead of the unions of homosexuals, could you imagine someone claiming that limiting one church’s ability to kill members of a mixed society was bigotry? I know my example is so extreme as to be ludicrous, but the roots of the way I look at this issue are still there.

James Maxey said...

Cavin, I'm completely in the dark on whether or not homosexuality is genetic in origin. It would seem like something that would get bred out by natural selection if it was, but there are definitely animals that also display homosexual behaviors, which means that it must have some biological origin as opposed to a cultural origin.

In any case, I was just throwing this out as a possible unintended consequence of legalizing gay marriage.

Fortunately, there are now nations and states that do recognize gay marriage, so in a few decades we should have some data about how such marriages impact societies. My hunch is there will be few net negatives.

oliverdale22 said...

An alternative to moving forward, of course, is moving out. I've already heard of at least three friends of mine from graduate school who are packing up to move out of state -- and they are taking their education and large disposable incomes with them. Not saying it is the best solution, but it is certainly a consequence.

As for me, I've already cancelled a trip to NC in July. It may have only been about $5k, but that's $5k that I will now be spending in San Diego instead. And I can't be the only one.

James Maxey said...

Oliver, I'm not sure I see the logic of boycotting NC for California. They altered their constitution via popular vote to outlaw gay marriage back in 2008! I'm not opposed to voting with your feet, but switching from one anti-gay marriage state to another seems to muddy the message.

oliverdale22 said...

It isn't so much that the law exists, but that it just passed. For me, it is about immediacy. I admit it probably doesn't make much sense. Besides, I will never be able to associate anti-gay and California in my brain.