New Advertisement in Support of Same Sex Marriage

By Michael Edmonds 06/12/2012 21


I see that a new advertisement in support of gay maariage will now be playing on TV.

After the disappointing rejection of gay marriage by Australian politicians, it looks like New Zealanders in support of gay marraige want to make sure the same does not occur here.

There was a very revealing segment discussing this new advertisement of Breakfast TV this morning with psychologist Nigel Latta speaking in support of marriage equality and Bob McCoskrie of Family First New Zealand speaking against it (see here). I was so impressed with Nigel Latta, who faced with the completely irrational arguments of McCoskrie, calmly and assertively pointed out the flaws in his argument. When McCoskrie started to use the old “it all depends on which “research” you believe” type of argument, Latta shut him down brilliantly with a response I think we all need to be aware of, as this type of argument that you can legitimately select the science you want to support your political position is increasingly being used by everyone from the PM down.


21 Responses to “New Advertisement in Support of Same Sex Marriage”

  • I wasn’t as impressed as you were Michael.
    I won’t go through it blow by blow but it was clearly set up to ridicule (mit smirks) an old tradition of marriage and its followers. Marriage and marriage ritual is much older than Christianity. Of course it reflects older cultural traditions which discriminated but there are plausible explanations for that.

    But one conceptual problem. Equality does not mean “the same as” (Latta). A does not equal A. A is A. But A can equal B (in some respect); ie under the law, quantity, colour, or some other quality. In fact equality only makes sense in the context of difference, as Derrida and others maintain, and cultural relativism requires. Most satisfactory solutions in society are better describes in terms of equity.

    I also have a niggling misgiving about co-opting, something the Roman Church was happy to do during its early expansionary phase and Marxists recommended but I thought was questionable in these post revolutionary times. Would we approve of wealthy western couples flying into the Sepik River for an “authentic ceremony”? Presumeably Christians cannot marry in a mosque although I may be wrong. I think there is an element of cultural or political arrogance in this step or an example of respecting every other culture but your own.

    Personally I suggested civil ceremony to my beloved 42 years ago but Anna saw marriage as a community and family commitment and endorsement. A couple of memorable events from the service was the minister who shall remain nameless but whose dentures were loose and his discrete fart during the rehersal. Keeping a straight face was an exercise of iron will for all concerned.

    Hopefully in the absence of other commentary, possibly due to a fear of being terrorised and browbeaten by the thought police I will have provoked some further discussion and as always I am open to better arguments.

    • Stuart,
      I’m not quite sure I follow your line of reasoning, so I’m going to ask a few questions. I hope this is not interpreted as “being terrorised or browbeaten by the thought police”
      You suggest that equality does not mean “the same as” but then go on to state that “A can equal B in some respect” Surely one could also make the statement that A can be the same as B in some respect as well?

      Your beloved preferred marriage over a civil ceremony because she saw “marriage as a community and family commitment and endorsement.” This is exactly one of the central arguments that occurs in the advertisement and one that I feel is a very legitimate argument.

      And regarding the interview being set up to ridicule, if someone cannot defend their position then they open themselves up to ridicule with very little effort on the part of their opponent. I didn’t really notice the smirking, though in Latta’s position I doubt I would have been able to avoid the occasional eye roll at the circular and irrational reasoning employed by McCoskrie. Over the years I’ve seen some decidedly stupid arguments against gay marriage, and having them continually repeated is just frustrating (http://sciblogs.co.nz/molecular-matters/2012/03/18/stupid-arguments-against-same-sex-marriage/)
      And I certainly found Latta’s defence of how scientific research should be used to support an argument refreshing compared to those including our PM who think that they can buy or cherry pick the science that they want.

  • As a provisional response

    A equals A necessarily, but
    A equals B conditionally.
    —————————–
    So there is a difference.

    I find your second point persuasive.
    Community endorsement and commitment to the welfare of children must have been important in the survival of ancient communities. The same kind of priorities can be discerned in other social animals. Sacrilizing institutions like marriage (and others) which promoted the continuity of the community through the welfare of its children, would have been decisive in the reproductive success of a community and it’s cultural continuity. That explains the evolution of such institutions in the first place.
    It doesn’t logically preclude it’s extension to same sex partnerships in modern environments but it helps to explain the reluctance of conservative religious communities. I for one am reluctant to ride roughshod over their sentiments when theoretically alternatives such as Civil Union, are available, updated if needs be. Civil Union accommodates everyone. As the poet said, a flower by any other name would smell as sweet.
    Finally I didn’t find Nigel’s parody of the slippery slope argument very mature. One does wonder if there is a further agenda. One thinks of the age of consent being lowered and rent boys on the streets of Christchurch. In this age of uncertainty someone somewhere will be entertaining such ideas as we speak and they could be promoted with the standard MO. Its already happening so let’s make it respectable with the stroke of a pen and all will be sweetness and light. Well we may be a society but were are not a homogenous society and becoming less so. Neo liberalism has been great for the competent and well qualified. It has been an unmitigated disaster for some perhaps most.

    • Stuart,
      You and I obviously think quite differently, but I appreciate your views so eloquently put, even if I disagree with them

      With regard to there being “theoretically alternatives such as the Civil Union” one only has to listen to the way some of those using this argument refer to civil unions to see that they perceive them as an inferior institution, something that I find incredibly patronising and arrogant.

      Your suggestion of a “further agenda” perplexes me. I don’t see how the age of consent could possibly be linked to this or to “rent boys on the streets of Christchurch”. I have no more (or less) concern for there being male prostitutes on Christchurch streets as for my concern over there being female prostitutes on Christchurch streets. Indeed, the participation of gay men in prostitution is sometimes linked to their poor self esteem at feeling separated from society. For young gay men (and lesbians) to see that they will be treated equally with regards to marriage can only serve to help them feel accepted into society.

      Also, the one thing that keeps bugging me is what do heterosexuals LOSE if same sex marriages come to pass? Those resisting same sex marriage never seem to provide an answer to this. While some argue that it will lead to the destruction of marriage, I think divorce is far more effective in doing so.

      And having mentioned divorce, now that divorce is legal in most of the Western world even if some religions reject it as immoral, why can’t the same societal/religious separation occur with marriage?

  • I did not see the interview you mention Michael. I am, though, fascinated by what passes for “research” in circumstances such as this.
    Just this week I was at Terrace Station in Hororata, the home of Sir John Hall, Premier of New Zealand when woman received the vote (sadly we were there following the funeral and burial of his biographer, Dr Jean Garner, a dear friend of mine). What research was available when Sir John voted for women to have the right to vote? None, because no other country had taken that step. Sometimes the arguments that persuade us to change the law are not based on research and certainly not science, but on less easily tied down concepts of fairness, justice, & rightness which necessarily depend on where we draw our values from – the “standard” by which we measure our “shoulds” and “oughts” against. Is not the current debate merely reflecting the shifts in society where many, if not most, now hold to “as long as it does no harm” as the standard to base their position taking on rather than the Judeo/Christian heritage standards? If so, then I think Stuart has a very real concern of “slippery slope” in the sense that trends will drive law – I’d like to think we would not “descend” to the Roman levels of rent boys, however if Rome could… Polygamy (practiced by some now), euthanasia (in what form?), infanticide (I recall a couple of Australian academics advocating for it) may all become legitimate as society shifts to collectively believing in fewer and fewer absolutes.

  • Stuart,

    First off, with regards to “Equality does not mean “the same as”, you are incorrect. The definition of equality is “The state of being equal, esp. in status, rights, and opportunities”. This is what the debate is about, giving the same rights to all citizens. The “separate but equal” argument was also used by the Boer presidents during apartheid.

    Secondly, I am having trouble understanding the logic behind your A/B argument. I’ll try to explain how I see it. Lets look at it is the context of the women’s vote, something that was also restricted to one group. (I apologize to any women out there, this notion is purely hypothetical).

    Lets start with this;
    A = Male
    B = Female

    There are significant differences between the sexes, both physically and mentally. Therefore, “A equals A necessarily because men are the same, but A equals B conditionally, because there are differences between men and women”. That’s not to say that there aren’t significant similarities, but we’ll focus on the differences as this seems to be the main point.

    But women have historically been treated as inferior to men. With regards to voting, lets propose that women were not allowed to vote because they are more emotional, whereas men are more rational. It is the basis of democracy that we vote based on informed choice based on facts. In this case, men would vote for a candidate with the best policies, whereas women would vote for the candidate who appealed to their emotions, but may not have the best policies. This could be damaging to traditional democracy, but women want to vote! How about we give them a little bit of rights to appease them?

    We’ll give women a vote, but in the spirit of being “separate but equal” we’ll call it “Women’s choice”. It wouldn’t be the same as men, because that would change the traditional nature of voting. Men would be able to vote for both a party and an electorate. Women would only be allowed to vote for a party, not an electorate as well. Thereby, women get a bit more rights, but not equal to what men get.

    Do you see where I am going with this? It’s a logical fallacy to give different rights based on perceived differences between people. It’s not so long ago that people of different races were not allowed to marry each other. If we go to the very core of the issue, as you put it, “marriage is a community and family commitment and endorsement.” We may have many differences but we are all at the very core the same, which is why we should all enjoy the same rights.

  • John,
    Sorry to hear about the death of your friend. I hope the funeral was a good celebration of her life.
    The cherry picking of research by either side of an argument is something that I find very concerning.

    Jared,
    Thank you for a very eloquent argument.

  • Michael, I don’t approve of prostitution at all. But I would have prosecuted the customers, not harassed the women. It is interesting that the flourishing of sex work always corresponds to limited economic choices and relative poverty (all things being equal). I know women who are very reluctant sex workers ( so they say) and I note their male minders are involved in drug trafficking.

  • Hi Stuart,
    Completely agree with you that it would be far more sensible to prosecute the customers of prostitutes than the prostitutes themselves.

  • I didn’t intend to derail discussion on the main topic, gay marriage. I intended in fact to stimulate discussion of issues ignored by political activists and career politicians. They are a bit like professional corporate executives and directors. Their short term interests often conflict with the companies long term interests. Likewise the companies short term interest can conflict with the wider communities interest. And so it goes on. 
    Clearly marriage accumulated a range of social functions. Contra the God botherers, marriage was not for the conception of children. Conception is a given. Marriage was for the responsible conception of children and much else; certainty of parenthood, appropriate succession of property and other rights, mitigation of promiscuity, jealousies, disease, violence and abuse springs to mind. Marriage was not a right. It was an institution to enforce responsibility, a concept unpopular in our current pop culture.
    If gay marriage mitigated against social evils and encouraged positive lifestyles it would be difficult to argue against it.
    An element of suspicion remains however, mainly with the politicians I am inclined to say, gay marriage could be a Trojan horse for gay adoption, a matter that requires deep scientific and social consideration. We know from experience political activists frequently operate this way.
    We believe that biological parenting is better than adoptive parenting all things considered. Similarly breast is best where possible. I believe the statistics on child harm and mortality are fairly conclusive here. There are issues regarding oxytocin and bonding including three way bonding that are important here. Ideally the bonding extends through the whole family and the extended family and generally thank goodness it does.
    But I worry that activists are oblivious of these considerations. They are focused on creating and rewarding a constituency without regard to wider issues. We have seen this with many of the neoliberal reforms which have come back to bite us.
    Some of the PC smugness and schadenfreude I imagine I detect does not instilled confidence in a well thought out resolution of this issue and the gay community won’t thank us for subsequent recriminations. By then the political activists will be cultivating new constituencies. Fluoride for example!

    On the other hand unplanned pregnancies happen due to a number of unfortunate realities and a good case can be made out for higher standards of adoption than for example simple minded ethnicity our simple minded bureaucrats often settle for. I know of an amazing case of a gifted girl brought up in a suboptimal environment due to erroneous assumptions who turned her life around when she discovered her real biological and cultural heritage. It would be great if gay couples allowed us better options. But just more of the same justified by some spurious appeal to rights won’t cut the ice with me. 

  • Stuart, the suggestion that gay marriage is being used as a Trojan horse for “gay” adoption seems to imply that there would be something inferior about a gay couple as parents. Is that what you are suggesting? Your comments about bonding and oxytocin are no more applicable to an adoptive gay couple than to an adoptive heterosexual couple or a de facto relationship which the government has no control over at all.

  • Michael, Interesting that you were impressed with Nigel Latta in that interview. In my view he was entertaining but completely unconvincing. Perhaps this just shows that so much depends on what side of this debate you are on. Nigel was unable to answer simple questions. Answering a question with another question (or even an insult) is not an answer – good politics perhaps but not an answer. Nigel has clearly been called in for his wide public appeal and I am afraid that is all he has to offer.
    On another point, gay marriage is certainly being used as a trojan horse for gay adoption. Bonnie Hartfield who is Co-Chair of Legalise Love Auckland says on their website; “… I am proud to be a part of the Legalise Love campaign to achieve full marriage equality and adoption law reform.”(http://www.legaliselove.org.nz/index.php/about/auckland/).

    • Rob,
      Given that most of those driving the gay marriage proposal state upfront that it will also allow gay adoption then this is hardly a Trojan horse approach. Gay adoption is not the main driver, but something that accompanies gay marriage.
      By suggesting it is a Trojan horse you are implying that gay adoption is the main driver for this law change and that it is being done surreptitiously, neither of which is true.

  • I’m not necessarily against gay marriage/union or child raising/adoption. This is happening on a defato basis anyway. ie parents separating with children and clearly women are using men as cheap inseminators and then in some cases denying them access to the kids and tragically exposing them to other dangers. I am disappointed this can’t be debated in a transparent way with some scientific evidence produced. It’s a bit of a mess really and I despair of the sort of world we are creating. It’s a sort of sociological tragedy of the commons with everyone pursuing their singular wants and ignoring (externalising) their community responsibilities. It exactly parallels the current market orthodoxy. We might even think of it as the commodification of humanity.

    • Stuart,
      I appreciate your desire to have issues debated transparently and based on scientific information, I think a lot of readers here can appreciate that. It appears that society isn’t completely ready for that but we can keep trying to inject more reason into these arguments or asking for rational explanations.
      Also, just as some parents mistreat children dont forget that a great many parents, gay and straight, bring them up in loving and enriching environments.

  • Furthermore this is the problem Sam Harris and Joshua Greene are courageously addressing and being pilloried for it on the logical grounds that no one has succeeded in deriving “oughts” from “is” to the philosophers satisfaction. One suspects the real reason for the criticism are special pleadings parading as logical and ideological scruples.
    I’ll let you know when I’ve cracked it.

  • Michael I agree totally.
    But hostility will arise and shouldn’t be slandered as homophobia with the implication that misgivings are irrational like arachnophobia. Because the proponents deem the resisters as irrational the reforms will be presented in untransparent ways rven trojan horses with the usual “end justifies the means”. As Ken teminds us rationality is used to rationalize. This is the standard MO in left versus right encounters. As a result distrust and polarisation flourishes.

    • Stuart,
      “But hostility will arise and shouldn’t be slandered as homophobia with the implication that misgivings are irrational like arachnophobia”

      I’m going to have to disagree with you there, Stuart. One of the arguments I have heard commonly used against gay marriage is that “it will destroy marriage/the family” however, no rational explanation of this argument is ever provided. Hence it is both irrational and demonstrates a fear of homosexuality therefore I tihnk it is perfectly valid to consider this argument as homophobic e.g. an irrational fear of homosexuals/homosexuality.

  • In Helen Clarke’s day Civil Union was proclaimed as a realistic compromise that could deliver the same rights and responsibilities without the traditional view that many religious communities defend. The more aggressive claim does seem to harbour anti heterosexual, generational and gender hostility, in other words selective cultural schadenfreude.

    • Stuart,
      “In Helen Clarke’s day Civil Union was proclaimed as a realistic compromise that could deliver the same rights and responsibilities without the traditional view that many religious communities defend.”

      I think you will find that this was proclaimed by those conservatives who wanted to placate the gay and lesbian community. It is a compromise position and not the preferred option of most gay and lesbian people I know. Besides, times change and laws need to evolve with them.

    • “The more aggressive claim does seem to harbour anti heterosexual, generational and gender hostility, in other words selective cultural schadenfreude”

      Stuart, could you please explain this more clearly? Which “more aggressive claim” are you referring to, and what do you mean by “anti-heterosexual”?

      I can’t see anything “anti-heterosexual” in gay and lesbian couples wanting the right to marry in the same way heterosexual couples are able to do.

      This is the crux of the debate and and have not yet seen a convincing argument against gay marriage any stronger than certain social minorities saying “but we don’t like it”. Not a convincing argument.

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