Most of my retweets come via America, since the only basis for opposing homosexuality (that I have found) comes from a religious viewpoint. Despite being founded on a secular ideal, the land of the free and the home of the brave is ridiculously religious, which is particularly strange for me since I come from a Christian country that has a fairly secular society.
Recently, however, there has been an upsurge of anti-gay tweets from a little closer to home.
There will shortly be a referendum on changes to the Constitution of Ireland, which has got a fair few people in a bit of a rage for some reason. At the time of writing seventeen countries perform same sex marriages, and the world has yet to be destroyed. There haven’t been any floods sent, nor cities toppled by earthquakes. Miraculously our little planet has yet to be demolished by an asteroid despite the fact that two people of the same sex can get married.
Whilst the religious argument against homosexuality can be fun to debate, it doesn’t really work in reasoned discourse. Theists might cling to their Bibles and recite verses that agree with their position, but it’s a little too easy to tie them up in knots, although it’s entertaining to watch them squirm and twist in an attempt to justify things like slavery and rape. The referendum has split a devoutly religious country, with #VoteYES and #VoteNO both using biblical scripture to promote their choice.
There is, however, a number of people attempting to avoid using Christianity as a reason to cast a negative vote. They’re attempting to use a scientific argument that they genuinely believe works, and they’ll keep using it even after it’s been demonstrated to them that it is wrong.
I’ve recently been retweeting @pauljoneill, who first brought this “argument” to my attention, or at least made me care enough to respond. He stand against same sex marriage because… wait for it… gay people can’t have children and therefore should not be able to get married.
As is customary with TakeThat accounts, we have followers who let us do the work of finding these wingnuts and then engaging them in discussion. Some are polite and civil whilst others simply abuse them. I prefer the former when I engage in discussion as calling someone names is rarely likely to get them to change their minds. What I noticed in the replies to Mr. O’Neill was that a lot of people were using the wrong argument to illustrate that he was incorrect in his opinion.
The general tactic that I saw was examples of other people who can’t procreate and, by his rule, should not be allowed to get married. So there were lots of “what about infertile couples?” or “then the elderly should not be allowed to get married” and “I have no intention of having children, is my marriage false?”. Whilst these statements are entirely correct, they’re missing the point.
The first half of @pauljoneill’s argument is truthful, once he made the amendment of “naturally”. At this point in time two gay men or two gay women cannot produce a child without intervention. This could be surrogacy or adoption, but these are not “natural” means. There is nothing wrong with the first half of this statement, but it has nothing to do with the second half.
According to Google, marriage is “the legally or formally recognized union of a man and a woman (or, in some jurisdictions, two people of the same sex) as partners in a relationship”. Dictionary.com has an entire list of examples of what a marriage is and do you know what is missing? Children. There is no part of the union of marriage that requires there to be children involved.
Other tweeters opposing same sex marriage have attempted to use the same argument: Two people of the same sex cannot produce offspring naturally so should not be allowed to marry. Rather than start a debate with examples of others who cannot procreate I have found it is better (and quicker) to point out that marriage has nothing to do with procreation, and procreation has nothing to do with marriage. Marriage is nothing more than a legal contract between two people and the tactic of linking it with procreation is fallacious.
Once this is pointed out to them they inevitably take a step back and bring in the Bible, which is where the fun can really start.
I bring this up because it’s important for those of us who engage people on Twitter, who seek out others who have different views from ourselves, to remember to stick to the topic. Don’t allow them to shift it to something else. Evolution is not about the origin of life. Marriage is not about procreation. Just because you don’t know the origin of the universe does not make science defunct. It’s an attempt to move the argument into an arena that they think they can win. Look at what they’re saying. Does it make sense or can you erase it in 140 characters or less?