Saturday, November 08, 2008

Gay marriage and smoking - what the two have in common

The other day I heard a newscast referring to the passage of the gay marriage ban in California and the protests by those who opposed the ban and support gay marriage.

Now, this is not a post about the pros and cons of such a proposal, nor about gay marriage itself. It is, however, a post about the comment I heard referencing 'the tyranny of the majority to deny rights to the minority.'

Yes, that's what a gay marriage proponent said.

And then I thought about the smoking bans, because that's exactly what opponents of smoking bans said.

And they are right. The United States is not a democracy - we're a Republic, specifically because our founding fathers did NOT want the majority to be able to take away the rights of the minority by virtue of a vote.

You've heard the old joke about a democracy being two wolves and a sheep voting on what's for dinner? The punch line is that a republic is when the sheep has a gun...

The problem comes in when the same people who think it's okay to ban smoking due to a majority vote oppose other bans via the same method - in this case, gay marriage.

Now some will argue that gay marriage doesn't impact anyone except the two individuals, so it's not the same as smoking. I disagree. If a bar/restaurant allows smoking, you do not have to go in if you don't want to be exposed to the smoke. It's the choice of the individual, so you are not impacted by someone else's decision to smoke. Likewise, gay marriage opponents will say it can impact others if such couples want to adopt a child. There are arguments on both sides of both issues that can be used as examples to indicate why these two issues are the same.

But the hypocrisy of saying one is a tyranny of the majority and cannot be allowed, while defending the tyranny of the majority on another issue needs to be pointed out and condemned.

You cannot have it both ways.

So if the vote for a smoking ban must be allowed, so must the vote for a gay marriage ban. And if the gay marriage ban is wrong, so is the smoking ban.

I don't care what your opinion on either issue is, but be consistent in the principle.

19 comments:

Mad Jack said...

I don't care what your opinion on either issue is, but be consistent in the principle.

The eternal problem being that the ends justify the means. Having high moral standards and strong principles is well and good right up until the time that my particular issue is being discussed. Then things are different.

The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) is supposed to decide such issues in a clear, rational manner by applying constitutional law, and look at what a dismal failure that's turning out to be. Consider three red hot decisions; The demand for ID from a law enforcement officer, Abortion and Gun Control. The ID decision is obviously incorrect. The abortion decision did not decide abortion, which is what was wanted. Instead the judges hedged and wrote a nebulous decision about privacy. The gun control case was similar, SCOTUS citing 'reasonable restrictions' which left things open to interpretation again. Moreover, none of these decisions were decided by an absolute majority. They were all close decisions, and they shouldn't have been.

Now, I don't smoke and so have no trouble with a smoking ban, so long as the principles are not being applied evenly. If principles were applied evenly and consistently, I would have a major problem with a smoking ban.

Kadim said...

You're absolutely right Maggie.

A couple years ago I explained the same idea to some angry bar owners from Southern Ohio. They voted against gay marriage, thereby forcing their views on the people of my more liberal county, and we voted against smoking in bars, thereby forcing our views on their county.

Ohio is a very diverse state politically. We can't force our views on other people on this state. We need to work better to make sure that people can govern themselves a bit more locally than we have been.

And for the record, while I hate smoking, I didn't vote for the ban for that reason. I didn't want to force my views on other people.

Hooda Thunkit said...

Maggie,

I know that you don't want to hear about the issue, but humor me for just one short comment.

It seems to me that the hangup about gay marriage, to most of us, is all about one word, and one word only, marriage.

IMNHO, no "majority" seems to be fighting against the rights of gays to share benefits, etc., it seems to be mostly the insistence gays have in calling it marriage.

Let married couples have the term marriage exclusively and resistance will melt away...

Chuck Greer said...

I agree that, on principle, the 'guvnmint' should stay out of smokey bars and bedrooms. Let the market decide who wants to go to establishments that allow smoking. No nanny state, please!
I also have to echo hooda thunkits' thought. Gay marriage bans are not so much about gay rights but marriage. Gay unions should be allowed, no question here. The problem is: marriage is a union between a man and a woman, not two men, not two women, end of story. Sorry to be so inflexible, but there are certain absolutes, as well as certain relatives. Human life begins at conception. Smoking tobacco, as of now, is a legal activity. Gay marriage as defined by natural order is an oxymoron.

Maggie Thurber said...

REMINDER:

This post is not about the pros/cons of gay marriage...

thanks!

Chuck Greer said...

Maggie, not trying to be argumentative, but IMHO, one cannot divorce the issue of a gay marriage ban and the problem many of us have with the idea of such an "institution", pun intended.

Antipelagian said...

Maggie said:
This post is not about the pros/cons of gay marriage...

Unfortunately, one implication would be that if someone thinks the smoking ban is wrong, then he should be opposed to banning sodomite marriage is as well.

Many would disagree with your premise since it rests on equivocation.

Maggie Thurber said...

Chuck - I understand your point. I just didn't want to debate the gay marriage issue, because it's really just one of many 'bans' that are being pushed.

My focus was not on WHAT was being banned, but on the LOGIC - and the hypocrisy of saying X can be banned by a majority vote, but Y cannot be.

Maggie Thurber said...

Antipelagian - that's not quite correct.

You can oppose gay marriage and still not support a legal ban on the practice, just as you can support establishments that are smoke free without supporting a legal ban on that practice.

The issue isn't your personal position on whether or not either (or any of a number of other subjects) is 'right or wrong,' but whether or not you use the force of the majority to dictate to the minority.

How can you reconcile using the force of the majority and government in one instance but then say it's wrong in the next? I also think this argument could apply to tax levy votes, where the force of the majority 'deprives' you of your 'right' to your property (earnings).

I just want people to be consistent in their approach to these things and not make an exception to the principle because they happen to like/dislike a particular issue.

Jay Ott said...

they happen to like/dislike a particular issue.

Yes, I think that preferences and prejudices have a lot to do with the abandonment of logic and objectivity. I think we've all been guilty of this to some degree at one time or another. A discussion like this is good because it redirects our focus.

So why do people like/dislike particular issues? I think it might have to do with whether their natural inclination to ban comes from the right or the left. If we're not careful we can become slaves to either one of these ideologies instead of reason.

A good example of this is groups such in the "religious right" which I believe has done more harm than good due to the problems its approach. (see Cal Thomas' Nov. 6, 2008 article The Religious Right R.I.P.) Now that the religious right has failed, I think the next assault will come from the religious left.

John Warwick Montgomery in a critique of the Falwell's and Wildmon types offers these suggestions:

one observes the mobilization of believers to fight against the "unholy abandonment of the Panama Canal" and the "immoral rejection of Formosa." The specter of Cromwell's Holy Commonwealth rises up: a tyranny of Christians pressing their values on an unwilling society in the name of divine revelation. . . .a "third way" for evangelicals living in a pluralistic society. First, believers must learn not to pass off their sociological preferences as biblical truths. They do neither society nor the gospel any service when they endeavor to legislate their personal temporal values as if these were, commanded by Scripture. Saint Augustine long ago emphasized that when the revelational is contaminated with the nonrevelational, the unbeliever loses respect for God's Word. To be sure, Christians can fight for nonrevelational viewpoints, but they must make plain that these are their own personal opinions, not necessarily God's opinions. . . .To legislate such biblical teachings is to confuse law and gospel by forcing non-Christians to practice Christianity apart from personal acceptance of it. (http://www.mtio.com/articles/bissar66.htm)

Another way to look at this is to view the "tyranny of the majority over the minority" is to ask the question:

Does it make any difference that bans on smoking generally come from the left and opposition to changing the definition of marriage to include homosexuals comes from the right?

The issue isn't your personal position on whether or not either (or any of a number of other subjects) is 'right or wrong,' but whether or not you use the force of the majority to dictate to the minority.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think what you are saying is HOW the cultural wars are being fought--not WHAT they are about.

Maggie Thurber said...

Jay - perhaps you are correct...HOW the 'fights' are conducted.

It's not a war for the hearts and minds - it's a war of who can get government to force their perspective on the unwilling.

Antipelagian said...

Maggie asks:
How can you reconcile using the force of the majority and government in one instance but then say it's wrong in the next?

While I do not support democratic rule, it is my position that sodomy is a criminal offense...if the State won't recognize this fact, then I will opt for the next best thing: a ban on sodomite marriages.

That's probably where we disagree...I think homosexuality is not only immoral, but criminal.

I just want people to be consistent in their approach to these things and not make an exception to the principle because they happen to like/dislike a particular issue.

I would agree with you when it comes to democratic rule...but I wouldn't agree with you that an issue such as sodomite marriage is a "personal opinion"...hence, I am opposed to a ban on smoking issued by the State but will support a marriage ammendment if the State will not recognize the criminal aspect of sodomy: Personally, I think smoking is stupid and the addiction to it immoral...but not criminal, therefore that is outside of the State's jurisdiction. Sodomy is immoral and criminal and if the State won't recognize that then a marriage ammendment is the next best thing.

Tim Higgins said...

Maggie,

The comparison that you make is a valid one, but one incomprehensible to some extremists on both sides. In their perspective, there can be no tyranny of the majority when such decisions are made in "the public good". As always, the larger question is who gets to decide what that good is...

Antipelagian said...

As always, the larger question is who gets to decide what that good is...

Precisely.

In their perspective, there can be no tyranny of the majority when such decisions are made in "the public good".

Not quite (well, not according to my perspective).

Frank said...

The one question I would have is this: Where would society be if there were no laws?
"Why are there laws/bans on killing people? Why can't people drive anywhere they please, at any speed they want? ETC...."
Where did we get laws from?

Personally, I voted for the smoking ban due to health reasons while eating in a restaurant and I would vote for a ban of same sex marriage in Ohio if it ever came up. Either way you look at it, one side is trying to force their agenda on the other side.
Just my opinion.

Antipelagian said...

Frank said:
The one question I would have is this: Where would society be if there were no laws?
"Why are there laws/bans on killing people? Why can't people drive anywhere they please, at any speed they want? ETC...."
Where did we get laws from?


That is the question, Frank...where do we get laws from? Are they foundational to the individual? Are they foundational to the society? Which society, and who decides? Who decides the society gets to decide?

Laws that depend on the individual lead to anarchy...laws determined by the masses leads to mob-rule oppression.

The only way freedom can be achieved is through just law. Just law is dependent upon God.

Tim Higgins said...

antipelagian,

Here we go with that pesky little term morality again. Personal or even societal morality have in fact proved themselves to be transient, changing with the times. They are powerful and mostly necessary things, as they help to restrain the behavior of the individual in society. They can also be extremely dangerous.

Government morality is something entirely different. It was moral and even legal to kill Jews at various times in history. It was moral and legal to kill Christians at others. The martyrs in Rome, the Spanish Inquisition (which nobody expected), the Witch burnings in Salem were all moral; and within the law of the time. When morality and the force of government ride the same train, it usually runs out of control and eventually off of the tracks.

If your premise is true, then it would be hard to decry the Sharia law and its courts in many parts of the Middle East, as it is according to their "morality", and entirely within their religious belief in God.

I would prefer to find a different path.

Antipelagian said...

When morality and the force of government ride the same train, it usually runs out of control and eventually off of the tracks.

I'm not sure you are even speaking of the same thing that I am, to be honest.

There is a certain sense where the government cannot make persons moral...that I would agree with you on. However, whenever we acknowledge the State has a duty to execute justice, protect rights, etc...that is a tip of the hat from government to morality. So you still have that pesky problem of "who's morality"?

When law becomes a mere fiat of the State, we have serious problems...that's tyranny...not to mention arbitrary. If law is the product of a society, that is simply mob rule. If law is relative to the individual, you have anarchy.

If your premise is true, then it would be hard to decry the Sharia law and its courts in many parts of the Middle East, as it is according to their "morality", and entirely within their religious belief in God.

I'm not sure you really know my premise so I'm not sure how you come to believe I couldn't decry Sharia law.

I would prefer to find a different path.

Whose path? Your own? Society's? Which society, and who decides that path is right?

Logi-call said...
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