The West vs. The Rest

The Irish have voted overwhelmingly in favor of same-sex marriage, making Ireland “the world’s first nation to approve same-sex marriage by a popular vote” which “would have been unthinkable just a few years ago in what traditionally had been a Roman Catholic stronghold,” reports the New York Times.

And from the Irish Times, Ireland becomes first country to approve same-sex marriage by popular vote.


The victory for marriage equality shows that with some remaining exceptions (hopefully soon to be remedied), same-sex marriage is or will shortly be the cultural norm in Western Europe and North America, also in New Zealand, and again hopefully, before too long in Australia, the last major English-speaking holdout (Northern Ireland also doesn’t recognize same-sex marriages).

What we shouldn’t forgot, however, is the West is different from the rest. Not only in the Islamic world, but in much of Christian Africa gay people face life-threatening persecution (South Africa is the one African nation that recognizes same-sex marriages). The lives of LGBT people are also marked by harrowing oppression in Russia and throughout most of Asia, and in much of Eastern Europe conditions range from merely bad to worse.

The struggle on behalf of LGBT rights should focus more on the world (in terms of supporting local efforts), and less on orchestrating overstated outrage to perceived slights against political correctness here at home.

21 Comments for “The West vs. The Rest”

  1. posted by Tom Scharbach on

    The struggle on behalf of LGBT rights should focus more on the world (in terms of supporting local efforts), and less on orchestrating overstated outrage to perceived slights against political correctness here at home.

    A few thoughts:

    (1) We best serve the cause of LGBT rights by creating a society that is a beacon for equality for gays and lesbians. We have much to do in that regard, much. What have we to say about Russia’s “don’t say gay” laws when we have similar laws in several of our states? What have we to say about religon-based special discrimination in other countries if we ignore a full-court press, sponsored by a major political party, to sanction religion-based discrimination in our own? “Do as we say, not as we do?” Is that our message?

    (2) To argue that our priority should be to clean up our side of the street is not to say that we shouldn’t be working — and demanding that our government to work — for equal treatment of gays and lesbians in other countries. We should. But if we don’t clean up our own country, we will put ourselves and our country in the position of the United States in segregation days, preaching freedom abroad while supressing freedom at home.

    (3) Supression of gays and lesbians in other countries is driven, for the most part, by cultural homophobia that is distinctive from the cultural homophobia that has historically existed in our own. But we should not ignore that the anti-gay industry in our country (AFA, NOM, FRC and so on) is well-funded and has been going international, aiding and abetting the worst abuses abroad. We need to consider a strategy of calling out the anti-gay industry in our country, having largely failed to impose their agenda on America, for exporting their vision of repression to other countries.

    The bottom line, it seems to me, is that we should not yet declare victory in our own country, and turn our attention elsewhere. We have much to do in terms of “equal means equal” before we can hold ourselves up as a beacon of a fair and just society.

  2. posted by Jorge on

    I think the most important thing is to create a society and a culture that respects human life and the inalienable rights of mankind. I think it is too early, even in this country, to declare victory on that score.

    At the risk of beating a dead horse, equality is not a human right, but rather something that is valued far more by the industrialized “West” than other countries. In these countries equality is used to stand for the principle that everyone has a right to life, to employment, to education, to worship, . . . and (most controversially) to be a patriot. It’s bad enough that many countries don’t even recognize human rights because of the rulers’ own personal self-interest. Equality is worse than meaningless in a country where equal rights would still mean no rights. Their outrageous treatment of G, L, B, and T people cannot be excused under any standard of decency, including their own putative standards.

    I believe much of the advances of gay rights have come because opponents have been forced, through the imposition of law and order and social vigilance, to consider the welfare of G, L, B, and T people on their own [the opponents’] terms, and turned moderate. I believe that about national conservative movements and I believe that about the street. I do not believe the cause is advanced when people are forced to consider the welfare of GLBT people on GLBT people’s terms. That’s when you get the most resistance.

  3. posted by Houndentenor on

    I agree that we need to focus more on gay rights in the rest of the world. We also must be careful how we do that because in Russia, Africa, and elsewhere gay rights is equated with “western decadence”. We could easily make things worse rather than better if we miscalculate our response. We also need to call out American politicians, ministers and others who are advocating for anti-gay laws in the rest of the world, often while lying in the US about doing so. (Rick Warren, for example) I’m happy to partner with anyone on such efforts although given the (obligatory?) jab at public accommodations law, I don’t think this post was really an opening for such cooperation and just another way to take a cheap potshot at liberals.

  4. posted by Lori Heine on

    “(E)quality is not a human right…”

    Equal treatment of all under the law most certainly is a human right.

    This is why the libertarian viewpoint is so widely misunderstood. Yes, we believe that government is over-involved in marriage. But we (or at least most of us) believe that whatever privileges government grants to some must be extended to all.

    I’ve always loved Irish women. If I could make head or tail out of the accent, maybe I’d move there!

    Seriously, at my old parish we had a monsignor from Ireland. He’d go back there for a month every summer. When he returned, nobody could understand a word he said. Inevitably, I’d get him for confession right about then. I’d spend less time on my list of transgressions than on simply saying, “Huh?”

    • posted by Anastasia Beaverhausen on

      “But we (or at least most of us) believe that whatever privileges government grants to some must be extended to all. ”

      Lucky for you that you included the parenthetical. *This* gay Libertarian wants government privileges eliminated, not expanded – and I’m looking favorably at news out of Alabama that a state Senate committee just approved a bill that would eliminate the government licensing requirement for marriage, substituting instead a contractual relationship.

      I can’t in good conscience vote to expand government in any way, even though in theory I’d be able to “benefit” from an expanded definition of government marriage.

      • posted by Lori Heine on

        Hey, if the Alabama thing happens, then that’s great.

        The challenge in that direction is getting the heteros’ faces out of the trough. If that’s possible, then perhaps government control over the institution can be scaled back after all.

        In Alabama, it’s probably happening not as a result of any libertarian moment, but as part of the general soc-con temper tantrum against same-sex marriage advances.

        But however government is limited, if it truly is limited government authority over all — including a scaling-back of the benefits gobbled up by the majority but denied to the minority — then I’m in favor of it.

      • posted by Houndentenor on

        Explain to me how this would be different from legal marriage now?

        I think people confuse the religious part of marriage (which was always option) with the legal registration of marriage which for legal purposes is the part that matters anyway. Even if we “take government out of it” won’t you still have to register the marriage with the state?

        • posted by Lori Heine on

          We are getting weirdness with how our replies to comments are being arranged, so I know what you’re trying to say to whom–it just takes a minute or so to figure out what goes with what.

          I don’t know that civil marriage would be different, except that it might make it easier for the religious component to be understood as a separate thing.

          • posted by Houndentenor on

            My question was about the Alabama proposal. How would it work exactly?

      • posted by Tom Scharbach on

        In terms of achieving the Libertarian goal of getting the state out of the marriage business, Senate Bill 377 will not change much, but it is a step in the right direction because it eliminates the role of clergy in creating a civil law marriage in Alabama.

        Instead of applying for a state-issued license to marry with a Judge of Probate and having the marriage solemnized by an agent of the state (either a government official or clergy), the bill requires a couple that intends to enter into a civil law marriage to appear in the office of the Judge of Probate and sign a state-mandated contract.

        The bill eliminates the need for a marriage to be solemnized by an outside party, but that is about all it does. Alabama laws regulating marriage and divorce would otherwise remain unchanged.

        • posted by Tom Scharbach on

          I think that getting clergy out of the civil marriage business is a good idea, in case anyone wonders. A lot of the confusion that exists about the so-called “sanctity of [civil law] marriage” stems from clerical involvement in the civil law marriage process. Although the clergy are acting, with respect to civil law marriage, as an agent of the state, too many people are ignorant of that fact, and mush religious marriage and civil law marriage into a single, indigestible lump. Get the clergy out of it, and maybe we can have a more rational discussion.

        • posted by Tom Scharbach on

          Update: The bill I looked at before I commented was the “As Read” version, which provides, in Section 1(d): “(d) No civil or religious ceremony shall be required to be married.” I subsequently checked the “Engrossed” version, which is the version that actually passed the Alabama Senate and will be transmitted to the House. In the “Engrossed” version, Section 1(d) has been changed to read: “(d) A civil or religious ceremony may be required to be married.”

          That kind of shoots the idea of getting clergy out of the civil law marriage business right square in the ass. I’m going to have to look into the legislative history a little deeper, and find out why the bill was changed between the “First Reading” and passage. The bill that goes to the House is the “Engrossed” version.

          So much for my hopes of ending the confusion about the role of clergy and the nature of civil law marriage. And so much for the idea that the bill changes anything material.

          • posted by Lori Heine on

            Hmm…it’s Alabama. I wondered about that.

            Can anything good come out of Alabama? (My maternal grandmother was born there, but had the sense to leave as soon as she turned eighteen.)

            I agree that religion turns the issue into a tangled mess. Maybe the Deep South is not the best place in the country to look to for a rational discussion to begin.

        • posted by Houndentenor on

          So would this be something more akin to what they do in France where marriage involves a trip to a civil servant where you sign some papers (entering into the marriage contract) and the religious part is separate and option? If so, I have no objection to that.

    • posted by Houndentenor on

      Agreed. Human rights are just that…the rights that belong to all humans. That should be at the forefront of everything we do in foreign policy and diplomacy. Sadly we too often overlook horrendous rights abuses for short term political or financial gain. And where has it gotten us? An increasingly unstable world. We don’t have to continue this insanity.

    • posted by Jorge on

      Equal treatment of all under the law most certainly is a human right.

      No, it is not.

      In this country we do not treat minors the same as adults under the law, nor women the same as men, nor whites the same as blacks, nor gays the same as straights, nor the elderly the same as adults.

      So by your standards the laws of the United States would be violating just about everybody’s human rights.

      • posted by Tom Jefferson III on


        Government discrimination on the account of age would be perfectly Constitutional, if their was some rational reason for doing so, which when dealing with public health and safety concerns are readily apparent. Now, if the government said something like. “old farts cannot have sex” that would probably be hard to justify.

        I cannot think of too many situations where the government still engages in overt racial discrimination against citizens (certain areas of criminal sentencing? and affirmative action, in certain narrow situations).

        A great deal of overt sex discrimination by the government itself has also been repealed or struck down (although their is a connection between sex and sexual orientation based discrimination, I would argue)

        Remember that if the discrimination ain’t being done by the government (or one of its agents or political subdivisions), equal protection/due process claims do not really apply (at least, not directly)

        • posted by Jorge on

          Government discrimination on the account of age would be perfectly Constitutional, if their was some rational reason for doing so…

          From rational basis to strict scrutiny, the US Constitution’s guarantees of due process and equal protection can only be overcome if the end result is still a system of government that serves the public interest of each and every individual governed by its laws, even if in not the same way for each person. Even with equal protection under the law, there is no mandate for equal treatment, much less equality in fact, as you have hinted at. We are not a socialist system. We are a capitalist and Democratic one.

          Such things as life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, however, are much less open to social and political whim. At least, under the law.

  5. posted by Tom Jefferson III on

    I was under the impression that in all States a couples can already choose between a civil ceremony (or just going to a judge or clerk) or trying to find a church or priests that is willing to officiate over a religious ceremony.

    Churches and priests do not have to officiate over any wedding now (they have their own rules about interfaith marriages, interracial marriages, divorced people getting remarried, the infertile getting married and so on), so I fail to see why this would alter with the legalization of gay marriage.

    Someone at the civil clerk’s office — if that is where a secular marriage gets done in Alabama — would have to be willing to process the civil marriage paperwork for a gay couple. Even if this was an effort by Alabama to make this a problem, I cannot see it working out.

    I am not entirely sure how this changes in Alabama (I generally have enough trouble reading the laws that get proposed in the upper Midwest), unless they are somehow trying to make it harder for gay couples to get married.

  6. posted by Jorge on

    I noticed today there is some Catholic News!

    Church unnerved by Ireland’s huge ‘Yes’ to gay marriage

    “The Church has to find a new language which will be understood and heard by people,” Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin, a senior Irish cleric, told reporters after mass at the city’s St Mary’s Pro-Cathedral.

    Hey Bishop-Dude. You did that already when the Popemobile lost its wheels and Panzerkardinal got away.

    That’s why they all voted yes.

    “We have to see how is it that the Church’s teaching on marriage and family is not being received even within its own flock.”

    I believe it occurred when the shepherds held a synod and voted down the Catechism’s words on the matter. Or was it the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faiths?

    I do not wish to be snarky. Nor am I unmindful of the argument that “It’s all the pedophiles’ fault.” However the shifts and power struggles of the Church have consequences. The consequences are predictable and prepared for. If the Church as field hospital is more than just a passing fad, now is the time when we will see it.

    • posted by Jorge on

      I say, I can make a while verse out of that.

      “Jingle bells, something smells, Dublin laid an egg.
      The Popemobile lost its wheels, panzerkardinal got away.”

      Unfortunately not a very flattering one.

      Maybe “Jingle bells, snow in hell(s), Dublin laid a swan”?

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