Popular actress Anne Hathaway, who recently starred as Catwoman in The Dark Knight Rises, received an award in 2008 from the Human Rights Campaign, an organization dedicated to the rights of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) community. In her acceptance speech, Hathaway explained why she supports homosexuality and same-sex marriage. Read carefully the reasons she offers:
“In my household, being gay was, and is, no big deal. When my brother came out, we hugged him, said we loved him, and that was that…Just for the record, we don’t feel that there is actually anything alternative about our family values…I don’t consider myself just an ally to the LGBT community, I consider myself your family…if anyone, ever, tries to hurt you, I’m going to give them hell…There are people who have said that I’m being brave for being openly supportive of gay marriage, gay adoption, basically of gay rights. But with all due respect I humbly dissent. I’m not being brave. I’m being a decent human being. And I don’t think I should receive an award for that, or for merely stating what I believe to be true, that love is a human experience, not a political statement. However, I acknowledge that sadly we live in a world where not everybody feels the same. My family and I will help the good fight continue until that long awaited moment arrives, when our rights are equal and when the political limits on love have been smashed.”
In the last sentence Hathaway emphasizes two main points which are often appealed to in the same-sex marriage debate: equal rights and love. Many who listened to Hathaway found her speech worthy of praise, as evidenced by the many blogs, tweets, and Facebook posts still circulating which commend the actress. As you read her words, maybe you feel an emotional tug at the heart as well.
But what exactly has Hathaway offered us? Has she offered us any substantial reasons for supporting same-sex marriage or gay adoption? Or has she primarily offered us emotional appeals and empty rhetoric?
To answer these questions, imagine a different scenario for a moment. Suppose that Anne Hathaway was invited to speak at an engagement for NAMBLA (North American Man/Boy Love Association), an organization dedicated to defending and legalizing “intergenerational” love. Couldn’t Hathaway have given essentially the same speech in support of pedophilia?
“In my household, being a pedophile was, and is, no big deal. When my brother came out, we hugged him, said we loved him, and that was that…Just for the record, we don’t feel that there is actually anything alternative about our family values…I don’t consider myself just an ally to the NAMBLA community, I consider myself your family…if anyone, ever, tries to hurt you, I’m going to give them hell…There are people who have said that I’m being brave for being openly supportive of intergenerational marriage, pedophile adoption, basically of pedophile rights. But with all due respect I humbly dissent. I’m not being brave. I’m being a decent human being. And I don’t think I should receive an award for that, or for merely stating what I believe to be true, that love is a human experience, not a political statement. However, I acknowledge that sadly we live in a world where not everybody feels the same. My family and I will help the good fight continue until that long awaited moment arrives, when our rights are equal and when the political limits on love have been smashed.”
Most of us (thanks be to God) still have enough moral common sense to see the absurdity in such an attempt to validate pedophilia. The fact that an adult man and seven-year-old boy love each other in no way validates the relationship, establishes its morality, or argues for its legality and endorsement by society.
But the important thing to notice is this: the same justification for same-sex marriage offered by Hathaway and many other same-sex advocates can just as easily be used as justification for pedophilia. In fact, this is exactly what organizations like NAMBLA are doing (along with promoters of polygamist, polyamorous, and incestuous relationships).
Objection: “That’s Different!”
Some may object at this point saying, “That’s different! Same-sex marriage is about two consenting adult homosexuals. You are talking about child molestation. Child molestation is clearly wrong and we have age of consent laws in place to prohibit it.” I have three things to say in response.
First, this objection completely misses the point. The point is this: appealing to the fact that two people love each other and yet are legally prohibited from expressing that love the way they desire is not substantial or weighty enough to justify the morality or legality of any particular relationship. In fact, same-sex advocates concede this very point when objecting to pedophilia: they are acknowledging that love and equality alone are insufficient.
Remember, it is Hathaway and other defenders of same-sex relationships who are appealing to love and equality. What I am providing here is a counter-example, what might be called a reductio ad absurdum, a reduction to absurdity. If the concept of “love” and an appeal to “equal rights” are sufficient in themselves to legitimize the morality and legality of sexual relationships which are then subsequently endorsed by society, then these reasons can just as easily be employed in favor of pedophilia. But (and I am appealing to your moral common sense here) since pedophilia is a heinous evil and its endorsement by society absurd, there must be something wrong with the starting premise (or assumption) that “love” and “equal rights” are adequate to justify a particular lifestyle. And if that is the case, neither are these concepts ample enough to validate same-sex marriage.
Second, the “That’s different!” objection begs some of the very questions under discussion, including the morality of adult homosexual relationships. This is common among defenders of homosexuality and same-sex marriage: they assume that as long as two adults consent to a sexual act there is nothing morally wrong with it. But this is one of the central issues under discussion and raises an important point: debates concerning homosexuality and same-sex marriage are not just about “love” and “equal rights.” They go much deeper than that. They must include discussions about the nature of love, the grounding of morality, the law, government, so forth and so on. Appealing to “love” and “equal rights” has great emotional and rhetorical value but offers nothing in terms of real substance and value in helping resolve the debate.
Third, the “That’s different!” objection is arbitrary and inconsistent. Remember, same-sex marriage proponents are arguing for the redefinition of marriage. On their view, marriage can be defined, and redefined, by a given culture or society as they see fit. In other words, marriage is what we make of it. But on this view, what holds true for marriage also holds true for the age of consent. If the concept of “marriage” is a cultural convention with no moral or ontological grounding, age of consent laws are likewise merely social customs which can be changed with enough voting power (e.g., if NAMBLA were to gain enough political influence and persuade enough voters, age of consent laws would be done away with). Herein lay the inconsistency: you cannot assume that “age of consent” laws have real, moral, cultural transcendence and foundation while at the same time deny this very thing for the concept of “marriage.” Therefore, it is arbitrary and inconsistent for same-sex marriage proponents to appeal to age of consent laws as genuine, meaningful, moral distinctions between same-sex marriage and pedophilia.
What should we say then about what Hathaway and other same-sex marriage defenders have offered us? Is the concept of “love” and an appeal to “equal rights” enough to justify the morality, validation, and legal endorsement of any particular relationship? Hardly. I leave it to supporters of same-sex relationships to advance more compelling and persuasive reasons given the cultural and ethical importance of this topic.