Tuesday, April 21, 2009

What Miss California, Carrie Prejean Should Have Said About Gay Marriage

Miss California, Carrie Prejean Source (CC)

When front running Miss USA contestant Carrie Prejean was asked whether all fifty U.S. states should legalize gay marriage, her answer lit a firestorm of controversy.

The Question: "Vermont recently became the fourth state to legalize same-sex marriage. Do you think every state should follow suit, why or why not."

Miss California's answer: "I think it's great Americans are able to choose one or the other. We live in a land that you can choose same-sex marriage or opposite marriage. And you know what in my country, in my family I think that I believe that a marriage should be between a man and a woman. No offense to anybody there, but that's how I was raised and that's how I think it should be, between a man and a woman."

Here's the video (followed by my commentary):



Now before writing what she should have said, I would like to make a couple observations about what she did say. Notice that she did not say that gay marriage should remain illegal in the other states. She said in fact, that she thinks it's great that Americans can choose one or the other. That does happen to be factually inaccurate- if she means that all homosexuals can marry in America- because as the question clearly stated, gay marriage is only legal in four states. She did express however, the sentiment that it's great for people to be able to choose, free of any interference by the law, which she then qualified with her personal belief that heterosexually is the better of the two choices.

I would like for homosexuals and gay rights activists to extend to Carrie Prejean the same right that she affirmed they have, the right to choose. Is it intolerant for her to say she believes homosexuality is wrong? Should she keep her morality to herself? If you answered "yes" to both those questions, then you have accused her behavior of being wrong and you haven't kept your morality to yourself. You've been intolerant by your own standards. You see, the essence of tolerance is disagreement. You disagree with someone, but you do not forcibly coerce them into acting according to your conclusions. You allow them to act according to theirs even if you disagree with them.

I think Miss California's answer was a perfectly good summation of the proper attitude for someone like her (who has conservative sexual mores) to have. She said she thinks it's great that people can choose, but she personally disagrees with some of their choices. Miss California summed up the essence of tolerance. It was an extremely tolerant answer to give. Unfortunately, it didn't really answer the question.

The question was whether the other 46 states (53 if you're Barack Obama) should legalize gay marriage. A much better answer would have been: "Yes. Absolutely. The other states should legalize gay marriage. Not everyone agrees with it morally or would make that same choice, and they are certainly entitled to their beliefs, but homosexuals are also entitled to theirs and it is not the proper role of government to regulate the personal morality and sexual mores of its citizens."

But the best answer would have been: "You know, this is a tricky question that has bitterly polarized our nation, but it seems to me there is a clear solution that should satisfy both sides. Instead of all fifty states legalizing gay marriage, they should de-legalize straight marriage. Social conservatives would be happy to see government regulating one less thing- marriage is after all, a private, religious institution and it seems odd that government should regulate it and license people to marry. Then the issue would become a private one, and believers in gay rights would be free to decide for themselves what marriage means."

18 comments:

TennZen said...

Very, very, very good answer and summation, Wes! I couldn't agree with you more.

The gay marriage issue is just one example of how government is involved in micro-regulation of things where it really just has no business whatsoever.

If two people want to marry, no matter what their sexual persuasion, then that's their right as private citizens to do so. If some people disagree with the marriage, then it's their right to exercise free speech and disagree (as long as they don't cross the line and cause illegal harm).

Perhaps you could oragnize the Miss Libertarian USA pageant? :)

LadyGlutter said...

Wow, spot on, and very well said. I'm pretty sure that answer wouldn't have been very popular either. :)

W. E. Messamore said...

TennZen, that is a fantastic idea. I need to look into the existence and workings of web-based beauty pageants. That would be so cool. And it would be cool to get intelligent answers to questions!

Thanks, LadyGlutter. I'm sure it would have certainly surprised everyone! Man I wish that could have been what made headlines instead of what she did say.

Polednice said...

In response to your idea that our rejection of Prejean's beliefs somewhat disregard our own rights and morality, there is one vital point on which I would argue this is not the case.

Though I do not agree with her views, I am not offended by them. No offense has been caused, but I am frustrated with her logic. Indeed, people should not compromise their beliefs in the face of adveristy, but every person who does not wish to take their individual rights for granted has a duty to question the morals with which they are educated throughout their lives.

It is not enough to state an unchanging opinion because it is family tradition. You must always ask why? Why does my family believe this and should I believe it too? The idea that adhering to ‘tradition’ is beneficial for society is flawed. At best, a wholly conservative society would remain content in its stagnation, and, at worst, divisiveness is caused because some people wish to hinder social progress due to their stubborn opinions.

Also, I can understand your view regarding the delegalisation of marriage, but, on a purely pragmatic point, does it not need to be defined by law because of all the benefits that the government bestows in the instance of getting married?

W. E. Messamore said...

You have some excellent points and questions. Sorry for my relatively late reply; I'm usually more prompt at staying on top of comments, but am a little swamped this week.

1. I trust you to say that you aren't offended by Prejean's opinions, but I would point out that a very, very many people did take great offense to her comments (not the least of which was Perez Hilton) and criticized them harshly.

All I'm saying is that there is no difference between what they are doing and what she is doing- which is judging another person's behavior to be morally wrong and saying so. The only difference is what they happen to consider right or wrong in their respective views.

It's one thing to disagree with her assessment, it's another thing to say that she's wrong simply for making the assessment (and it's hypocritical because in order to do so, one has to make a moral assessment of their own).

2. You are absolutely right that she seems to justify her belief by saying that's the culture and family setting she was raised in. She seemed to offer that fact as justification, as her reason for believing what she does.

I noticed that and forgot to mention it in my analysis of her answer and I appreciate your bringing it up, because it's a rather obviously silly logical fallacy.

Even if her view of marriage is correct, she's confessing that she stumbled into it by the accident of her birth rather than concluding it by the conscious and deliberate activity of her reasoning mind- so how could she really know it's correct?

3. As for your question on de-legalizing marriage... I think we solve the problem you pose by getting rid of government benefits for marriage. Why should government sanction and promote cultural institutions that it believes deserves promotion? By what right and according to whose opinion can government exercise such judgements?

In fact, that's not simply a technical obstacle to be overcome in de-legalizing marriage, it's part of the moral reason why we ought to de-legalize marriage.

indigomyth said...

Is there not an essential difference though, between the criticisms received by Carrie Prejean, and those she has made of homosexuals.

What Carrie has said is that she thinks that what someone else does, with their own body, is wrong.

What Perez Hilton has done is criticise Carrie for her criticism of the way he uses his own body. Notice, he did not criticise how she uses her body, but her opinion on how he should use his. Or, to put it another way, Carrie committed the "first offence" (as would be known in duelling terms). She went outside herself, and made a judgement on what someone else does with their own body. Perez did not do that, in any way. What he did was criticise her judgement of him. Now, if Perez had said that heterosexual intercourse was wrong, then I could agree with your assessment, however this is not what has happened. Perez has only criticised someone for criticising the way he uses his body. What Carrie has done is criticise someone for the way they use their own body. Are not the two things very very different? Is it not like someone trespassing on your property, and you using violence to get them off? They are the ones at fault, because they stepped into your area. Likewise, ones own body is ones own property, and when one trespasses on it, by passing comment, is it not fully justifiable to retaliate with harsh words?

I would be interested in your thoughts.

indigomyth said...

Further Thoughts;
//Is it intolerant for her to say she believes homosexuality is wrong? Should she keep her morality to herself? If you answered "yes" to both those questions, then you have accused her behavior of being wrong and you haven't kept your morality to yourself. You've been intolerant by your own standards.//

I would be inclined to say that any individuals opinion of the way someone else lives their lives should be kept to themselves. I would spread this to most areas of personal conduct. Indeed, it is interesting to me as to why people should have opinions about the way other people live their own lives.

Also, does not intolerance of intolerance promote tolerance, in a case of Popper-esque reasoning? Is not condemning those that themselves condemn actively good? In the same way that restricting the liberty of those that would restrict the liberty of others, promotes liberty?

W. E. Messamore said...

I think it's important to remember that far from being the same as agreement or acceptance, the essence of tolerance is disagreement.

You disagree with someone, but do not coercively interfere with them- this is tolerance. Prejean's answer exemplified this.

She did not call for government bans on homosexuality or gay marriage. She did not call for discriminatory legislation or favoritism for heterosexuals.

She simply said that she believes marriage should be between a man and a woman. That belief is not intolerant (saying government should enforce that belief would be though), so being intolerant of her belief in order to maintain a tolerant society, as you suggest, would be misguided.

You say that you "would be inclined to say that any individuals opinion of the way someone else lives their lives should be kept to themselves." Then shouldn't you say nothing at all about how Miss Prejean lives her life (which would include what she says)? The only way to maintain this ethic is to say nothing at all about others or about ethics.

indigomyth said...

Thank you for the response.
//She did not call for government bans on homosexuality or gay marriage. She did not call for discriminatory legislation or favoritism for heterosexuals.//
However, her belief that marriage ought to be between a man and a woman has within it the exhortation that it should only be that way. It is absolutist. Her belief is that something should be a particular way (that marriage should only be between a man and woman), in that sense, her belief is that legislation should discriminate against same-sex couples. If she believed that same-sec marriage was wrong, but that same-sex couples should be allowed to get married anyway, then she would have said that. She did not.

//You disagree with someone, but do not coercively interfere with them- this is tolerance. //

One could argue that disapproving of same-sex marriage, saying marriage should only between men and women, is itself coercive. It dangles the incentive of marriage before homosexuals, but forever keeps it out of their reach.

If Carrie had wanted to be "tolerant" she could have said; No I utterly believe that marriage should be between a man and a woman, however I think same-sex marriage should be legal because my beliefs about the way people live their lives should not dictate government policy. Your penultimate and last paragraph exemplify the tolerant responses. Carrie's was not tolerant.

//Then shouldn't you say nothing at all about how Miss Prejean lives her life (which would include what she says)?//

No, because as I explained, Carrie made the first judgement of the way other people live their lives. As my analogy of trespassing shows, she was on the offensive, making statements about what other people do. I am making no judgement about the way she lives her life; I am making a judgement about what she thinks about the way other people live their lives. Do you regard an opinion of the way other people live their lives, as an integral part of your life? If not, than there is a difference between criticising Carrie's opinions and her criticising the way other people live their lives.

indigomyth said...

Further thoughts.
//I think it's important to remember that far from being the same as agreement or acceptance, the essence of tolerance is disagreement.//

Hmmm, yes. However one has to agree to permit difference. So, Carrie could have said that she disagrees with same-sex marriage, but that the government should recognise same-sex marriage. Would that not also be tolerance? Agreeing to disagree on the nature of marriage; tolerating gay marriage, but not accepting or approving it?

Tell me, what do you believe tolerance of gay marriage would entail?

W. E. Messamore said...

Believing absolutely that marriage is between a man and a woman does not imply as you suggest that the state should enforce this belief.

I happen to believe you should drink water through your mouth, not your nose, but I wouldn't lobby for legal disadvantages against someone who preferred to drink through their nose.

Though I would have every right to say that I thought what they were doing is dysfunctional. And I could and would do so without hating or fearing them.

There is nothing coercive about either this belief or the belief that homosexuality is a dysfunction. Indeed- there is nothing coercive about "beliefs" at all.

Only actions are coercive- specifically acts of forcible aggression against another human being (I will also say that the explicit threat of forcible aggression falls into the category of coercion).

As for Miss Prejean- please reread the quote from the article above. She did say that she believes homosexuals should be allowed to marry regardless of her disagreement. She said it's a great thing that in America people can choose either kind of marriage.

On that count, she's factually inaccurate with the exception of just a few states, but it shows her sentiment and belief that it is a good thing when people can choose either kind of marriage- that in fact they should be able to.

As for my beliefs on the matter- reread the final paragraph of the article above. In it, I summarize the best legal solution for the issue. In any event, a proper and tolerant solution would codify the principle of non-aggression: everyone should be free to live according to the dictates of their own beliefs and consciences without forcible interference from others and without forcibly interfering in the lives of others.

indigomyth said...

//As for Miss Prejean- please reread the quote from the article above. She did say that she believes homosexuals should be allowed to marry regardless of her disagreement. She said it's a great thing that in America people can choose either kind of marriage.//


Now, I know it is rather futile to analyse a spontaneous answer to an unexpected question,however, if one analyses her response, in context of the question asked, her response is unLiberatarian.
//Vermont recently became the fourth state to legalize same-sex marriage. Do you think every state should follow suit, why or why not.//

Notice, it did not ask what she thought of gay marriage, but what she thought of making same-sex marriage legal in all States. She started saying that she thought it was great people could choose, however, she transfers over to what she believes, as opposed to what she thinks should be legislated against. I more resolute answer would have plainly stated the answer as either "Yes" or "No". And, given that the additionally part of the question was a request for information with regard to why she had reached her position, in context with her explaination of her own views, it seems strongly implied that she did not support legalisation of gay marriage, and, given her subsequent actions with NOM, it would seem that this analysis is accurate. If you were correct when you say //She did say that she believes homosexuals should be allowed to marry regardless of her disagreement. She said it's a great thing that in America people can choose either kind of marriage//, then could you explain her support for campaigns to prevent gay marriage?

indigomyth said...

//In any event, a proper and tolerant solution would codify the principle of non-aggression: everyone should be free to live according to the dictates of their own beliefs and consciences without forcible interference from others and without forcibly interfering in the lives of others.//

Hear hear! I fully agree with you on this.

W. E. Messamore said...

Well it would appear that we can close our discussion in agreement.

I cannot find fault with your interpretation of her words in the context of the question or her subsequent actions (about which I'm taking your word, because I haven't followed her too closely since the initial controversy).

As for tolerance and civil society, I'm glad we're on the same page there as well. Thanks for a challenging and fruitful discourse!

indigomyth said...

Thank you also W.E. Messamore for a polite and insightful discussion. By your grace I may stop in again and make further comment on some other articles?

Just to show that I am not making up Carrie's subsequent affiliations, I include the link below.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8s8dkcWXo7s&feature=related

NB; I would like to make it clear that I completely support Carrie's right to hold the beliefs and views she has. My only criticism here has been of her view of the legislative action.

W. E. Messamore said...

Absolutely. You are always welcome.

I'd love to talk religion and philosophy with you sometime, though it's not typically the focus of this blog.

It's a shame we have an ocean between us, because I would enjoy a good talk over a cup of coffee (or perhaps tea?).

Ted Rodrigues said...

Hey Wes. I know I'm a muchly late commenter on this, but I just have to challenge you on one thing: marriage is not per se, a religious thing at all. Pair and group bonding have existed even before rudimentary religions. And, not to mention, every religion has its own tradition of marriage, and every culture, even secular ones. And many different marriage structures ranging from a guy and girl, a guy and more than one girl, a girl and two or more guys, a guy and guy, and a girl and girl. So wouldn't it be more factually accurate to say that marriage is a "cultural thing"?

W. E. Messamore said...

Yeah I guess it definitely depends on what you mean by "religion." When I call marriage a private, religious institution, I mean of course that it concerns our private, most deeply held values and understanding of ourselves, whether those values proceed from a belief in God or from some atheistic system of belief.

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