Sunday, March 07, 2010

Washington Post column today discusses achieving first-class citizenship

Washington Post Metro columnist Robert McCartney has a piece “Giving gays their due as first-class citizens” on the front page of the Metro Section, p C1, today, Sunday March 7. The link is here. He discusses the history of Dr. Franklin E. Kameny, 84 (fired from a civilian government job in 1957 after a wtichhunt; Kameny would later try a creative challenge to Virginia’s “crimes against nature” laws). He also portrays Maryland state senator Madaleno, 44, who is raising two adopted children with his same-sex spouse.

The motive for the article seems to be the historic registration of same-sex couples in the District this week; Maryland doesn’t recognize gay marriage yet in its own borders (it will recognize DC marriages soon) ; Virginia is pretty hopeless with Marshall-Newman, which, however, can offer some paradoxical twists.

Although most people see same-sex marriage as the existential battle for equality, I saw the battle over gays in the military as it grew in 1993 this way. Equal rights means equal responsibility and equal exposure to uncertainty and risk.

We’re left with pondering what the big battle is “about”. Older veterans like me used to know. Right wing books talk about the “natural family” (as Carlson’s, see my book review blog Sept. 2009), and then harangue against homosexuality without making any formal logical connection. One underlying theme seems to be the idea that everyone “owes” a generative investment in other generations, in causes bigger than what he or she can define for the self. In a certain existential way, that contradicts the aims of equality. (But gay marriage and gay adoption, and gay military service, would show "generativity".) There seems to be a troubling aspect to human nature: to maintain certain levels of emotional commitment in certain sensitive regions of life, one needs the reassurance that others make the same commitment and have to play by the same rules. This is what the religious "clobber passage" arguments amount to. And that was the idea I was brought up with in the 50s.

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