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Even bright foe clings to expired logic

Submitted by Geoffrey Bara on March 14, 2013 – 5:28 pmNo Comment

There’s been a lot of talk lately about a paper released by, among others, Sherif Girgis.  Girgis is an extremely accomplished scholar, having graduated summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from Princeton, only after winning prizes for best thesis in ethics and best thesis in philosophy for his senior thesis on sex ethics.  After Princeton, he left the United States for Oxford, where he earned his master’s in moral, political, and legal philosophy as a Rhodes Scholar.  He’s currently a student at both Princeton and Yale (so who the heck does he root for at football games?) working toward his Ph.D. and JD, respectively.

The paper I speak of is called “What is Marriage?,” and it’s admittedly the most intelligently worded defense of what most of America would call “traditional marriage”.

Much as I’d like to, I can’t call Girgis stupid, or poorly read, or even, if I were to resort to schoolyard tactics, basically unattractive.  This makes him, to my mind, the worst sort of opponent.

The very existence of a man like him serves to prove a lesson we all should learn and remember well: just because we disagree doesn’t mean one of us is stupid.  There is right and wrong, certainly, though it’s not as easy to identify in every argument, but someone can be wrong and smart, and right and stupid.  These terms are none of them mutually exclusive.

So, yes, while I will agree that Girgis is very intelligent and academically skilled, in  general, I have to say that while watching him on CNN, I was struck only by the hackneyed and trite nature of his arguments not just in favor of traditional marriage, but also against gay marriage.

There has yet to be a study produced that shows that children raised by same-sex parents do poorly in school, are unhappy, unhealthy, or in any other way diminished by the experience.  In fact, most research seems to indicate the opposite.  Girgis’ oft-touted assertion that the institution of marriage is meant for reproduction primarily is out-dated and ridiculous.  As usual, the argument neglects to allow for barren heterosexuals to marry, a union that I have never heard decried as against God’s plan, despite the fact that this union, too, will be as fruitless as a same-sex union without scientific or social intervention.

I am reminded of Cate Blanchett’s inspired portrayal of Queen Elizabeth I in the film Elizabeth.  Before ascending to the throne, the then Princess Elizabeth is questioned regarding her Protestant leanings, and she responds with, “my lords, why must we tear ourselves apart over this small question of religion?”  Her description of religion as small was not well-received by the bishops and clerics who were questioning her, but I thought her answer to be marvelous.  Marriage, like religion, is so personal, and really doesn’t affect anyone around you negatively or positively unless you wish it to.

The problem as I see it continues to come down to separation of church and state.  These arguments exist only because people are unable to mind their own business, and are afraid of what they might see through my front door as I open it so they can better disturb my afternoon by proselytizing at me.  I saw a wonderful quote by a fellow named Michael Shiller online the other day.  It read: “Marriage equality threatens traditional marriage in the same way that abolishing slavery made freedom less enjoyable for white people.”  I don’t think I’ve ever heard to so wonderfully or dryly put.

If Girgis is allowed to use patently obsolete cliche and argument and still come off as a genius, then I feel very comfortable closing with, “if you don’t want a gay marriage, don’t get one.”


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