Monday, February 27, 2006



Pandering to minorities

According to an article in the Sunday Star-Times, couples are saying "I don't" to civil unions. In the year since their introduction, only 362 couples have celebrated civil unions compared with over 15,000 marriages.

Conservatives will no doubt see this as a failure, and complain about the cost of establishing a parallel system to pander to a minority. And on the latter point, I agree entirely. What I disagree on is the identity of that minority.

Bluntly, the reason we have a parallel system with all its resulting bureaucratic overhead is because of a small minority of religious bigots who felt that they had exclusive ownership of marriage, which they believed would somehow be "debased" if they had to share it with others. We should not have such a system. Instead, we should have allowed gays to use the perfectly good system we already had: that of the Marriage Act.

26 comments:

There were also over 10,000 divorces in the same period.

I prefer Civil Unions and am quite happy for it to exist in parrallel to marriage.

And most of the cost is met by those entering a marriage or Civil Union anyway - the licence fee.

Posted by Tony Milne : 2/27/2006 08:12:00 AM

Being one of the pairs of 62 heterosexual couples, I am quite happy for the CU system to work, but that is partly due to a desire to avoid marriage in that form espoused by said religious individuals who wish to keep it "pure" and "a bastion of modern civilisation". I do however think that anyone who wants a marriage should be able to get a marriage and anyone who wants a civil union should be able to get one, both homosexual and heterosexual. Or better yet, get the legally recognised bit to be just the CU component, with people able to do whatever they wanted after for a marriage ceremony or whatever. There is no reason other than historical for the legal contract to have any religious conotations whatsoever. But I suspect that is somewhat unlikely...
Jenny

Posted by Anonymous : 2/27/2006 11:57:00 AM

It's amazing who you meet on the net. Being another one of the 62 heterosexual couples (well, half a one anyway) I couldn't agree with Jenny more. We had a number of reasons for making the decision we made, but one was that I don't want to be part of such a bigoted insitution. What I want is for everyone to have the same choice I had, straight gay or bi. There's nothing wrong or inferior about civil unions, the problem is with limiting other people's choices.

Posted by Ghet : 2/27/2006 12:16:00 PM

As someone who is socially conservative I don't think the CU's are a failure. As people have said, it provides an alternative for people who aren't interested in the traditional concept of marriage.

However I do think it shows that something was forced upon everyone to accept, when it was only desired by around 600 people.

It shows how small the issue was in reality.

Posted by muerk : 2/27/2006 03:09:00 PM

I beg to differ muerk.

1. This isn't a small issue for the 724 people who have been joined in civil union.

2. We are in the middle of the wedding season. Apart from those people who chose to act on the new law straight away, most were more likely to get hitched in summer (especially seeing as secular unions are more likely to be outside than in churches).

I know for a fact that Births, Deaths, and Marriages has told the press that they can't provide reliable statistics until a full year has passed.

Posted by weizguy : 2/27/2006 03:32:00 PM

Your last paragraph is complete bullshit and I will be writing why oib my blog.

Posted by Dave : 2/27/2006 06:01:00 PM

However I do think it shows that something was forced upon everyone to accept, when it was only desired by around 600 people.

The implication of this of course being that who the fuck cares about the rights of minorities.

Well, I do, for a start. When it comes to fundamental rights, like the right to have your relationship recognised in law, we cannot deny them to some and then refuse to do anything about it on the basis that its too few people to be concerned about. Even one person being denied such rights is one too many.

I'd also take precisely the opposite message from the small numbers. If 600 people is too few to matter, then it wouldn't have mattered if we'd gone the whole hog and amended the Marriage Act...

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 2/28/2006 12:54:00 AM

Dave: Oh come off it. The reason Labour opted for the halway house of civil unions rather than simply amending the Marriage Act was because they believed the political cost of doing so was too high (or at least, more than they were willing to pay; a fact which BTW you acknowledge in stronger terms in your own post). And why did they think that? Because of a bunch of religious bigots who felt that they had exclusive ownership of "marriage" and didn't want to share it...

The only "bullshit" here is your denial.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 2/28/2006 01:04:00 AM

Idiot/Savant I know for a fact your comment (about halfway house etc.) isn't true.

Tim was asked by the PM to go away and investigate a variety of options in terms of recognising gay relationships. A taskforce group was set up. And they came up with what they thought was the best relationship model. Labour implemented what this group (the group weren't Labour members apart from Tim) suggested.

I for one as a Labour supporter think Civil Union is a preferable relationship model than marriage. Only 2 submiters on the Civil Union Bill argued for Gay Marriage rater than Civil Union. I sat through the hours of oral submissions, and it was quite clear and consistent that Civil Unions was preferred by most people in the gay/lesbian community over gay marriage (and preferable to the hetersexual couples supporting it also).

I'm not opposed to gay marriage, but its not for me, and I'm not going to go out and campaign for it. And I'm not aware of any strong desire in the queer community for it. I think it will happen one day because it is a logical next step. But that doesn't mean that Labour settled for a half-way house. And as someone who is engaged to have a Civil Union and has many friends that have had them, I feel quite offended that you have called Civil Unions a half way house.

If Civil Unions were just for gay couples only (which was one option the taskforce looked at) then indeed that would have been a half way house. But because Civil Unions are open to gay and strait couples, I think it is a better option.

A form of relationships that are equal from their very beginning.

A form of relationships that don't have the religious and patriarchal history of marriage.

I suggest you read this: http://www.gaynz.com/aarticles/templates/features.asp?articleid=1208&zoneid=16

Posted by Tony Milne : 2/28/2006 10:21:00 AM

"When it comes to fundamental rights, like the right to have your relationship recognised in law..."

Here is one place where we differ. I don't believe that this right exists for all relationships, which by the way neither do you or else pedophiles get their relationships recognised. And if it does, then you can also not logically exclude polygamy or any other flavour of poly.

You and I have totally different ideas of marriage, because for me marriage is the public institution that generally provides for a couple to raise and educate their children. For you it's about the personal relationship between the partners.

It's not about "sharing" marriage, it's about how we define marriage. It is just not possible for two men or two women to be "married". It's a biological (or natural law if you will) impossibility.

Posted by muerk : 2/28/2006 12:53:00 PM

Actually, Muerk, if you're going to go all 'Natural Law' on us, then we should be going polygamous - talk about anatomy, sexual responce, genes, etc, to the cladists, geneticists and so on, and it appears that humans evolved with a mildly chimpanzee type tendency towards competitive, promiscous polygamy, not quite as promiscuous as the bonobos, but much more so than the gorillas. And of course, if we want to go on about 'natural law' then, well, seeing as the bonobos (genetically closest to us) are known to indulge almost every sexual coupling type you can think of, then we should just adopt marriage laws based on a comparison of bonobo and human sexuality, eh?

Posted by Weekend_Viking : 2/28/2006 02:12:00 PM

WV: your analysis is all very well, except we are not chimpanzes, we are human. The difference genetically is slight, but still important. Hence I haven't met any chimps that have a conception of morality, or abstract form of entertainment, say piano concertos, or aesthetics.

Sure, you can bonobo away, ie. have sex for pleasure and socialisation, but humans can also decide to be celebite for religious reasons, say Buddhist monks, now your bobobo is _never_ going to be able to understand or practice such thought or behavior.

So your staw man was pretty, but not very useful.

Posted by muerk : 2/28/2006 02:56:00 PM

Um, Muerk, you're the one who brought up the 'natural law' strawman in the first place, so you don't need to be surprised if I make my own corn dollie to wave back at your corn dollie.

Genetically and taxonomically, we _are_ chimpanzees - there's good argument for either including us in with Pan or including the chimps in with Homo. You should try hanging out with some chimps sometime, its fun.

The point is - there is no "natural law" dictating monogamous marriage. It doesn't exist in our closest relatives, the chimps, and the range of human social behaviour goes right across the spectrum - monogamy is the average, but polygamy is very common, and fidelity is rare, and there are some odd forms of tribal group marriage that are rather kinky, and homosexual pairings are found in all cultures (chimps included). Human sexual behaviour is most similar to bonobos, less similar to pan troglodytes and markedly less so to the gorillas, not surprising as that's the order of increasing genetic difference. Morality and abstract thought has fuck all to do with sex when they get horny, and you can observe classic primate mating behaviour in any group of humans about town.

Like it or lump it, we're a secular society, albeit often incoherently so, and it's a damned good thing to get the state and the church out of the bedroom and the marriage business as much as possible. This is great, as it means that I don't have to pay any attention whatsoever to your beliefs in imaginary friends with unsual sexual obsessions (Especially celibacy - that's just downright perverted.)

Posted by Weekend_Viking : 2/28/2006 03:53:00 PM

I'm sure all those loving gay married couples in countries where gay marriage is legal will be fascinated to hear they're a biological impossibility.

Posted by Ghet : 2/28/2006 04:47:00 PM

I'm using natural law in a Catholic sense, in that procreation is a good humans are inclined towards. So I'm using it in relation to reproductive anatomy as opposed to social structures of primate behavior.

I think most animals display same sex behavior, especially adolescent male mammals. But that does not mean there is a "natural law" reason for same sex marriage. God's revealed creation has men with a penis and women with a vagina, these two things "fit" together with the good of procreation coming from that act. The male and female coupling is our Divinely orchestrated nature.

Marriage is the Sacrament that joins the complementary male and female into one flesh and bears a child - the natural good that humans are inclined too. Same sex people can not marry because their genitals don't "fit" together, they can not reproduce together, our physical nature makes that impossible. They can never hope to attain the good of children in a one flesh (sexual) union.

Polygamy works with the natural law, certainly the Patriarchs practiced it, but same sex unions do not. De facto or common law marriage works with natural law, because these unions have (or had pre-menopause) the ability to physically bear children together.

The Church didn't invent the biological reality of human genitals, but it regards these (and their reproductive function) as the indicator of the natural law of marriage which can be rationalised from the Creation.

(NB. I don't mean a literal 6 day Creation, just the the cosmos is the Creation.)

Thus also no anal/oral ejaculations, masterbation, contraception other than recourse to a woman's biologically infertile times or in vitro fertilization treatments, or sperm and egg donation. It's not about stopping gay people... It's about making sure that sex, marriage and erotic love never remove reproduction from the sexual act.

Posted by muerk : 2/28/2006 06:40:00 PM

You do realise, Muerk, that as soon as you say 'in a Catholic sense', and follow it with that chunk of dogma, I read: 'unprovable assertions of priesthood of imaginary friends in the sky', and write it off completely - it's just outside the bounds of what observation tells me is sensible. No masturbation or oral ejaculation, eh? You poor buggers.

Posted by Weekend_Viking : 2/28/2006 07:03:00 PM

Well even the stupidest atheist could make the jump from penis goes into vagina -> makes babies -> man + woman = marriage.

Sheesh.

Posted by muerk : 2/28/2006 09:16:00 PM

Um, muerk, I'm not disputing sex. Oh, and if it's all penis-vagina, tell me how Hyenas do it? (Female spotted hyenas have a penis. As do the males. It's quite an intriguing bit of your creation, especially the bit where they can even invert the penis for fertilisation, then split it for birth.) Now, you said that:

"God's revealed creation has men with a penis and women with a vagina, these two things "fit" together with the good of procreation coming from that act. The male and female coupling is our Divinely orchestrated nature."

What I want to know here is: How is the above part of creation, and all the other varieties of physical and social sexual pairings, both human and animal, not part of it? - either your God created/evolved these propensities for sexual promiscuity, or knew they'd evolve, or not, and if he didn't, who did? Us? Satan? Isn't that giving the prince of lies a little bit much power to coopt sexuality like that? Why, apart from sadistic kinkyness, give us the ability, the propensity, etc, for all the variety we do, then tell us off for it?

What about the hermaphrodites born with both organs functioning, or neither functioning - where do they fit?

I'm disputing that a bunch of celibate old men in Rome with an imaginary friend have any right to pressure the rest of us as to what sorts of sex are right or wrong, and what laws we make to recognise who's made a commitment to each other.

Posted by Weekend_Viking : 3/01/2006 12:48:00 AM

Actually, putting some ballpark numbers on this, what, NZ population is around 4 and a bit million. Estimates of sexuality are that anywhere between 1 and 10% of the population may be gay, so lets take a middle estimate and say 200000 gay people at 5% of 4 million. 15000 marriages is 0.39% of the straight population (approx 3.8 million), and 300 civil unions is around 0.15% of the gay population. So percentage wise, the gay civil union rate is a bit under half of the straight marriage rate. (although if the gay population is only say, 2%, of the straight population, then the gay civil union rate is 0.38% of the gay population, on a par with the straight marriage rate). So really, the rate of marriage/civil unions is fairly well in proportion to the numbers when you break it down per capita.

Posted by Weekend_Viking : 3/01/2006 12:37:00 PM

Muerk, wouldn't it make more sense to call it "Catholic law" rather than "natural law", since there's nothing natural about it? Personally I think procreation is a bad idea, at least at the rates currently practised by humanity. And when are you going to start a campaign to ban infertile people from getting married, and annul marriages in which one party becomes infertile before a child is conceived?

Posted by Commie Mutant Traitor : 3/01/2006 01:03:00 PM

"Oh, and if it's all penis-vagina, tell me how Hyenas do it? (Female spotted hyenas have a penis. As do the males."

Argh! Don't be dense in purpose. What is right for humans and what is right for hyenas is obviously different. Snails are mostly hemaphrodites, but for us it's an abnormality. I'm not wanting to argue with you about who is right or wrong, I'm just trying to explain the "traditionalist" position and how the definitions of marriage differ between social groups.

I define marriage as being about reproduction/care of children/continuation of the generations and unitive love. Thus, same sex marriage is _FOR ME_ a logical impossibility. I'm a member of the body politic, and I'm allowed to voice what I believe too. It's not just you atheists that get a voice you know.

And CMT:

Sterility between married couples does not void a marriage and honestly, I can't be arsed licking your boots to explain myself. So here's the Catechism, if you actually want to know more, why then Google it.

2374 Couples who discover that they are sterile suffer greatly. "What will you give me," asks Abraham of God, "for I continue childless?"[163] And Rachel cries to her husband Jacob, "Give me children, or I shall die!"[164]

2375 Research aimed at reducing human sterility is to be encouraged, on condition that it is placed "at the service of the human person, of his inalienable rights, and his true and integral good according to the design and will of God."[165]

2376 Techniques that entail the dissociation of husband and wife, by the intrusion of a person other than the couple (donation of sperm or ovum, surrogate uterus), are gravely immoral. These techniques (heterologous artificial insemination and fertilization) infringe the child's right to be born of a father and mother known to him and bound to each other by marriage. They betray the spouses' "right to become a father and a mother only through each other."[166]

2378 A child is not something owed to one, but is a gift. The "supreme gift of marriage" is a human person. A child may not be considered a piece of property, an idea to which an alleged "right to a child" would lead. In this area, only the child possesses genuine rights: the right "to be the fruit of the specific act of the conjugal love of his parents," and "the right to be respected as a person from the moment of his conception."[169]

2379 The Gospel shows that physical sterility is not an absolute evil. Spouses who still suffer from infertility after exhausting legitimate medical procedures should unite themselves with the Lord's Cross, the source of all spiritual fecundity. They can give expression to their generosity by adopting abandoned children or performing demanding services for others.

Posted by muerk : 3/01/2006 07:04:00 PM

Ok. Muerk, I'll make it easier this time and leave out any sarcastic bits (that's what the hyenas were about...) and re-state the bits of my last comment you sidestepped by deciding I was being dense (you used to do this a lot on the kaos list, too.):

Now, you said that:

"God's revealed creation has men with a penis and women with a vagina, these two things "fit" together with the good of procreation coming from that act. The male and female coupling is our Divinely orchestrated nature."

What I want to know here is: How is the above part of creation, and all the other varieties of physical and social sexual pairings, both human and animal, not part of it? - either your God created/evolved these propensities for sexual promiscuity, or knew they'd evolve, or not, and if he didn't, who did? Us? Satan? Isn't that giving the prince of lies a little bit much power to coopt sexuality like that? Why, apart from sadistic kinkyness, give us the ability, the propensity, etc, for all the variety we do, then tell us off for it?


Answer me that.

Posted by Weekend_Viking : 3/01/2006 09:12:00 PM

Okay, fair question. I didn't answer it because honestly I don't know the "official" Catholic theology of this, so I can't fairly answer this as definitive for Catholicism. That's why I didn't answer some stuff on the Kaos list too.

But I can give my personal opinion, for what little that is worth, ie. not much.

"either your God created/evolved these propensities for sexual promiscuity, or knew they'd evolve, or not, and if he didn't, who did? Us? Satan?"

Now, Genesis is not literal history or science, but it is "true" in a mythical/social/theological sense. (You might want to have your Old Testament handy here)

Ok, Gen 1:26 onwards, the text has God making Adam (hebrew for mankind) in his own image - we have something about us that is specificaly a "God-trait", now it can not be our physical body, we know that our cells etc, DNA are just like the animal world, so it must be something else. Our mind? Well we do have the frontal lobes of doom, but still, not enough. What about our abilities? We can reason, but then so can apes, what distinguishes us?

Anyway, read on... to Gen 2:16. Why would God create a tree that mankind shouldn't eat from? Shrug. I have no clue, but the curious note is that it is the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. If prior to Gen 3:7, mankind had no conception of good and evil, we were morally incapable, just as a chicken can't act "evil". We were still in God's image, but morally unaware - innocent.

Now God created us to receive his love, we are made to love and to be loved. (This is the bit that came from his image) We walked in the Garden with him - Gen 3:8. Weird, if you think of Jewish images of an incorpreal deity. Therefore, there was some very special intimacy with the divine prior to the apple.

So Eve and Adam eat, we rebel against our most intimate parent and we gain the ability to discern ethical behavior. At this point we know we are naked, we feel our first shame. We learn the ability for evil.

Our bodies are ordered for certain activities, eating, sex, sleep, etc. We have biological drives. But we also have the knowledge around these drives to regulate our "animal" behavior. Eating the apple brought sin (decay) into the cosmos.

An animal can not, by definition, be perverse, can not sin. He can't choose to rebel against God or God's law. But nor can he love God. Our propensities for lust, greed, sloth, etc. are all physical stimulus/response for certain behaviors. Sex, eating and sleep feel good. But their purpose is to make sure that we reproduce, have energy to survive etc. If you make the desire the end, you subvert the meaning of the act.

Eg. people who eat because they like food rather than being hungry are gluttons, the means becomes the end. It's a distortion of the purpose of eating. Hence, gluttony has traditionaly been a sin.

Lust is the same. The pleasure of sexuality is ordered towards marriage, union and fruitfulness. To pare away any of the wholeness of the act is to make the act the end, not the means. We ate the apple, so we can knowledgably _choose_ to do that, but see Gen 2:17, the wages of sin are death.

Reject him and he won't make you love him. Reject him and die, Christ's Gehenna, the rubbish fires of the theological cosmos are awaiting.

I don't know why the tree with the apple was there, why have the temptation in the first place? And I don't know what happened in any historical sense either - although at some point we stopped being big apes and became Homo sapiens.

At some point, our species discovered "gods", a metaphysical experiencial reality, at this point we could know, love and worship God. At some point we gained the ability to discern ethics. At some point we began to carefully bury our dead, use fire, make complex tools, wear clothing, live in cities, create art, adorn ourselves with carefully crafted objects.

Why does our DNA code us to be able to do any of that? Genesis, is somehow a clue as to how we gained our humanity.

No doubt you have a million more questions from what I've said, but I'll try to do better at answering the hard complex questions, although I feel bad posting such a huge comment here in Idiot's blog.

But did you really want to all this? Was it genuine interest or just point scoring against the token Christian fool?

Posted by muerk : 3/01/2006 11:52:00 PM

"Research aimed at reducing human sterility is to be encouraged"
"physical sterility is not an absolute evil. Spouses who still suffer from infertility after exhausting legitimate medical procedures...can give expression to their generosity by adopting abandoned children or performing demanding services for others."
"Same sex people can not marry because...they can not reproduce together"
Should research aimed at allowing same sex couples to be fertile be encouraged? It is theoretically possible to create a viable human by mixing the DNA of two people of the same sex. And failing that, same sex couples are certainly capable of performing demanding services for others. Even adopting children is merely an option for infertile couples, not a requirement, so the rights of children are not relevant to this issue. Either "because they can not reproduce together" is a reason why two people can't get married, or it's not. If infertile opposite sex couples can marry and homosexuals can't, then there must be a different reason - what is it?

Posted by Commie Mutant Traitor : 3/02/2006 11:08:00 AM

"If infertile opposite sex couples can marry and homosexuals can't, then there must be a different reason - what is it?"

Because homosexual couples are not physicaly complementary, bluntly put - penis fits in vagina. They can't even attempt to fufil a fruitful sexual union.

Sorry about being short with you before, I posted when tired, my bad.

If you really want to delve into the sacramental meaning of marriage then I recommend John Paul II's "Gospel of the Body" and Christopher West's "Theology of the Body Explained".

Posted by muerk : 3/03/2006 10:22:00 AM

Penises fit other places too, and there are things you can do with a vagina other than put a penis it in. Men who have lost parts in an accident or are chronically impotent also cannot even attempt to fulfil a fruitful sexual union. Should they be denied marriage?

And to say that inserting a penis in to a vagina is an attempt to create a child when both parties are fully aware that there is no possibility of conception whatsoever is quite a stretch. Hoping for a miracle doesn't justify it - God is perfectly capable of arranging a miraculous pregnancy without any need for intercourse.

I'm not interested in delving in to the sacramental meaning of marriage; I am interested in anyone who publicly states that I can't marry my partner giving a consistent, logical justification.

Posted by Commie Mutant Traitor : 3/03/2006 05:34:00 PM