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Google Announces Global Campaign To Legalize Gay Marriage (ontopmag.com)
173 points by joeyespo on July 8, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 265 comments



This opinion is not going to make me popular here, but if I were a Google shareholder (and I probably am through an ETF) I'd be a little upset by this. And I say this as someone who has been for gay marriage since before it was cool. I'm a gay marriage hipster. But this still irks me.

I want companies to lobby only for the issues that are their immediate business (and I say that only because I know we'll never get laws banning lobbying at all) and let their shareholders privately endorse their beliefs. I see this as another example of corporate personhood.

Even though I have no sympathy for people who are opposed to gay marriage as private citizens, as Google shareholders I don't feel they should be forced with a choice between supporting their beliefs (however wrongheaded they may seem to me) and being a Google shareholder.

I also feel a little gross thinking about an American company preaching tolerance to Singapore. How about we get it fixed here before we start pressuring everyone else?


Some significant percentage of Google's employees are gay. Helping those employees achieve equal rights to everyone else improves those employee's lives not just in the feel good sense but it also makes a lot of practical things like health insurance benefit sharing much more straight-forward.

By lobbying to improve the lives of its employees, Google is improving Google. So as another heterosexual gay marriage hipster I disagree with you.

I also disagree with you that Google shareholders opposed to gay marriage shouldn't be forced to choose. They are just as wrong in their beliefs as those who supported segregation were or those who were against women's suffrage were. Marginalizing these people for their ridiculously antiquated beliefs is fair game, IMO.


Does Google regularly hold campaigns to help other kinds of employees to improve their lives? E.g., I imagine (random example), Google has a number of Jewish employees. Does Google engage in public campaign agains antisemitism, which is a real problem in some countries? Are there public Google campaigns for other equality issues, such as woman rights, religious minority rights, dissident rights, etc.?

Frankly, this is the first such campaign I hear about, and if indeed it is the only one - I tend to view it as cynical marketing exploitation of the political hot topic of the day rather than genuine attempt to improve lives of Google employees. However, if I am wrong and Google is regularly engaging in public political campaigns for the human rights causes and this is just another example - all power to them. However, it would be interesting to see the list of such campaigns - anybody knows one?


I've not worked there for a while, but while I was there they did support employees who were campaigning to help folks. Basically it would work by some employee wanting to help some group that they cared about and the company would generally help them do that. So to use your example a jewish employee who might be trying to do outreach in an antisemtic environment (or country) would get support in the form of time off or use of company resources to help their program or use of a conference room to hold meetings with an outreach group Etc.

However, there were pretty clear boundaries. I did not see any White Supremacists activities or holocaust denial outreach sorts of things either being supported or tolerated. My feeling was they try to support the employee caveat the fine line between supporting an employee who has a cause and supporting the cause itself. Recall that there were Google employees participating in the Arab Spring uprisings, and while Google didn't come out and say "we support overthrowing corrupt regimes" they also didn't immediately fire any employee who was working to that end.

Of course when the press reports anything its less nuanced than what actually goes on inside the Google Plex. Sometimes that is for the best, sometimes not.


What about the Google Summer of Code? [1] Google invests millions of dollars every year, both in direct money and in man-hours + infrastructure in random OSS projects. Many of the invested projects are even direct competitors to Google products, most are completely unrelated to Google. But they invest in them anyway and don't make a huge PR deal about it. What about their Solar energy investments? [2] Google Lunar X Prize? [3]

Both are just examples off of the top of my head, of investments that are not directly obvious help to Google. They don't make huge PR fuss about them. (Which I suppose is why you didn't hear about them) But instead they are indirect longer term benefits to Google, in the same way that fighting for gay rights is. So this is certainly not a first time thing. They've been doing this kind of thing for years. Unfortunately you cannot help everything in the world at the same time. So you cannot rule out what they done before just because they're not helping solve specific problems.

[1] http://code.google.com/soc/

[2] http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/technology/2011/12/google-in...

[3] http://www.googlelunarxprize.org/


Summer of Code is an awesome program, but absolutely not political. I was talking about political campaigns of course.


Supporting FOSS is political. It is not a hot button issue to the extent of gay rights or abortion, but it is certainly political... it only seems like it isn't because it already passed the threshold of general acceptability in our culture (it wasn't this way in the 80s and early 90s! It was a real dividing issue for the software industry).

By that same token, someday in the not too distant future support for gay rights will seem no more overtly "political" than supporting the rights of blacks or women to vote, it'll just seem like common sense. And if Google or any other company has to be "political" today to help achieve that goal, they have my full support.


> Does Google engage in public campaign agains antisemitism, which is a real problem in some countries?

Hmmm, anti-semetism is one thing, but it isn't illegal to be Jewish in Singapore.


Why the difference? Jews can't get legally married in Indonesia. Marriage in Indonesia is effectively limited to Muslims, Catholics, Protestants, Buddhists, and Hindus. If you are Jewish, or Orthodox Christian, or pagan, or atheist, tough luck....

Also it may be practically illegal to be Jewish in Saudi Arabia (I don't know about Sabbateans, which is a sort of weird crypto-Jewish Islamic hybrid that resulted after some forced conversions).


Who says that they won't run a campaign for that? That line of reasoning seems really strange to me. How do you ever manage to do anything, if all the time you think "but why not do x instead"? You have to start with something.

Were they to run a campaign against antisemitism, you would be the first to cry out "why don't they run a campaign for gay marriage instead".


Sure, why not. I am sure they could campaign for acceptance for eating cheeseburgers among the Jews too while they are at it. But that wasn't the point I was replying to.

Also in Indonesia, allowing same-sex marriage by law but keeping all the other marriage laws would change... exactly nothing. All marriages in Indonesia are required to be officiated by clergy of approved religions, and the approved religions are, iirc, fixed in the Constitution.


Google doesn't have an office in Saudi Arabia.


> Does Google engage in public campaign agains antisemitism

Well, regarding some of the search results for "Jew", they did put up this explanation: http://www.google.com/explanation.html


That's not a campaign though. It's just an explanation why some search results are displaying offensive things - which is completely alright, but not what I was talking about, not even close.


"Google has shown great responsiveness to this issue and a willingness to consider changes to better identify extremist Web sites, so that users can still have the benefit of Google's unique search technology while being alerted when they are about to enter into a hate zone."

Still a big deal to mark results as offensive and hate speech.


Indeed. That moves them from merely allowing people to search for messages to forming the message and framing other peoples messages.

This also makes me uncomfortable.

When so much of the information that so many people get from the internet is through gatekeepers like Google and Facebook, I think any distortion to this is deeply dangerous and hard to separate from the sorts of distortions the Egyptian state-owned media engaged in when covering the Tahrir Square protests.....


Is it OK for me to be irked that they reserved the /explanation URL only for the Judaism thing, apparently precluding it from being used in similar warning in the future?


Seriously, does everyone have to be irked about everything these days? It's a URL.

I'm sure if they get a bunch of emails from gay people saying that searching for "gay hookups in San Francisco" brings up insulting images of Rainbow Stalin they'd put an explanation right up their next to their Judaism remarks.


> Does Google engage in public campaign agains antisemitism, which is a real problem in some countries?

I'm unfamiliar with the issue; is it a real problem in countries where Google has an office and is employing Jews at?

I'm not saying anti-Semitism shouldn't be campaigned against, but if we're arguing that Google's push is based on the interests of its employees, then that's something of a precondition.


In other words, Google is part of the world -> improve the world -> Google improves. The same argument is valid for any effort to improve the world.

The argument that shareholders shouldn't care, would only have some weight if it was a insignificantly small improvement, not likely to positively the company visibly.

So it comes down to how big gay marriage is. And I believe many people take it for granted. Gay marriage is not just a small detail, it's huge. It'd improve the livinghood of a huge percentage of people, Google included, enormously. It's not about just a fancy ceremony, or legal rights to inheritance. It's an important door to better tolerance. And tolerance is huge.


More than "improve the world", it's "improve the part of the world that matters to Google". They've done the same thing with advocating for a free and open Internet for over a decade--a better internet makes a better Google.

Let's look at what this might mean for Google, in practical terms. Some 10-15% of people are LGBT. It stands to reason that the same holds true of engineers. Now, it's well-established that the well is running dry in SV; talent needs to be imported.

So if I'm a gay engineer thinking of moving to SV, how does this change my thoughts about where I want to work? It stands to reason that a significant number of LGBT engineers would be motivated to work for Google by this announcement.

Let's look at non-gay immigrants. Outside of places like China and India, most of the countries Google is looking to recruit from are way ahead of the US on gay rights. So much so that the mere fact that gay marriage is an "issue" in the US serves to perpetuate the bible-thumping moron stereotype of Americans. So even for non-LGBT engineers from Europe, Canada, Australia, etc, this would be viewed by the majority as a reason to work for Google.

Now, how would this hurt them? The argument can be made that, among more conservative (read: Indian and Chinese) societies, where gay rights are not accepted as human rights, that some percentage of potential hires would be put off by such a move. Perhaps, but I think that there are a number of mitigating factors, here. First, gay rights aren't nearly as big a political issue in those countries as in the US. It's frowned upon, but you don't have presidential nominees from one of the two parties proving how much they deserve the candidacy by falling over themselves to say who thinks gays are worse.

Secondly and generally speaking, "culture" is simply nowhere near as big an attraction for people from those countries as status and income. So while it may deter some people, it likely wouldn't be many.

Now for advertisers: will anyone really drop Google for online advertising because of this? Somehow I doubt it. There may be some of the Walmarts and whatnot who drop them, but I find the prospect unlikely.

To sum it up: advantages for Google include easier, more effective recruitment. Disadvantages include potential loss of customers.

I think Google wins this solely on the bottom line, let alone the fact that it's just a good thing to do.


>Some 10-15% of people are LGBT. It stands to reason that the same holds true of engineers.

Would love to see two citations for this! (post 1940s!)


The Swedish National Institute of Public Health did a large survey about sex in the late 90's and sexual orientation was one of the many issues. According to that survey:

~1% identified themselves as homosexual

~4% identified themselves as bisexual in varying degrees

~5% could be labeled as bi-curious (tried it/want to try it)

A further ~5% of men and ~15% of women had "fantasized about having sex with someone of the same sex at least once".

So by being extremely generous with definitions, you could claim that ~80% of the population is completely straight, and that ~20% is therefore "LGBT". But that's stretching it way too far. A reasonable interpretation is that ~1% is gay, and ~5% is LGBT.


I think 10-15% is probably too high, personally if I had written that comment I would have said 5-10%, but even then I wouldn't be able to prove it.

A variety of references can be found on http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographics_of_sexual_orientat... and if I were to cherry pick a couple from there to try and prove my 5-10% I could go with "2003, 12% of Norwegian respondents have had homosexual sex" and in the UK in 2010 "5% of people do not identify as heterosexual".

Off that same page you could pick out some other stats to suggest that my 5-10% is too high.

Here's a couple of reasons it's complicated:

1.) There's a hell of a lot of gay people in the closet, ranging from people who have told close family and friends but won't tell a survey, to people who are in denial to themselves.

2.) Different countries have different general stances on homosexuality. Even if everyone in, for example, the UAE answered an anonymous survey completely truthfully, without fearing for the fact that if they answered anything other than heterosexual could land them in jail or worse, you've got to assume that in countries like that far less people actually realise they are gay given they are in a society that assumes nobody is, so they are never going to question themselves about it.


I don't understand what you mean by this:

you've got to assume that in countries like that far less people actually realise they are gay

Can you please explain? Are you saying that people may be gay but in happy heterosexual relationships because they don't understand their true desires?


I'm no expert and I don't have anyone better educated than me in this area to cite, so I'm going off what seems to be logical to me.

There are people in areas where homosexuality is generally accepted (like American, UK etc.) - at least accepted enough that plenty of people can be open about their sexuality without too many problems - who don't acknowledge their sexuality early on in their life. Sometimes this means "not until a few years after puberty", sometimes not until they're middle aged or even older.

Whether it's because it literally doesn't occur to them to consider the possibility, or whether they've had some feelings but ignored them, I'm not entirely sure, I suspect both cases happen. All I know is that these people do exist, people who genuinely take a long time to realise, not talking about people who know early on but take a long time to come out to others.

So, if this is possible in society where, whatever your view on homosexuality, it's an understood fact that there are gay people out there, it logically extends that those people exist in countries where gay sex gets you a death penalty - and I would assume that it happens more there, because there's no built in expectation surrounding you that some people are gay. When I was at school there was a "known fact" through the school that 1 in 20 people are gay - so when I first thought about my own sexuality, I was aware that it was far from impossible for me to be gay. In some countries I'd have been raised to believe that I am definitely straight because there are no other options.

I believe sexuality is something you are born with not brought up to have, therefore there should be as many gay Muslims as there are gay Atheists - culture can definitely prevent people from admitting it, but I think it can also prevent them from knowing it too.

p.s. Hope you reply letting me know if I've made my thoughts clearer, and if so whether you agree or think I'm talking shit. It all makes sense to me, but I have no personal experience, having been lucky enough to never have had any fears or uncertainty about my being gay, and living somewhere where I've never actually spoken to someone (internet excluded) who had a problem with me because of it.


Ok. So consider my experience.....

When I was a kid and a teenager, and a young adult, I never found other men attractive personally. I suppose I could recognize attractive people to some extent but never felt sexually attracted.

Then I read Plutarch's biographies of Spartan kings and he talks a lot about the role of pederasty in the political structure of Spartan society, and also talks about wifeswapping as a part of the political structure. And I also read works talking about prevalence of homosexual activity in many other cultures. And so I asked myself "if I was in such a culture would I be attracted to other men?" and it seemed the logical answer would be "yes."

Keep in mind this was already in my thirties. I was already married, had 2 kids at the time (now have three), and all the sudden on realizing this, I started finding men sexually attractive too. I am not about to cheat on my wife with another man. But I will admit my attractions.

So what does this mean? Was I bisexual all along and just had to be convinced by Plutarch? Or was there a cognitive shift that occurred from contemplating other places and times? How can you differentiate?

Certainly it wasn't due to lack of exposure to gays. I had a gay roommate in college, a gay business partner for a while, etc....

My experience is a big part of the reason I am not convinced sexual orientation is in-born. I think it is very complicated and is relatively plastic.......


I read your comment a couple of minutes after you posted it but decided to sit on it a while try and think of the best way to reply - which hasn't come to me yet.

I do think sexuality can be fluid, just the same as a hetero might change what they consider "their type". However if you change from straight to bisexual, were you ever really straight? Same question for gay to straight, or whatever. Maybe everyone is on a bisexual spectrum and some people are just really near one end of it.. but if that's the case, that we're all bi, then the entire discussion is irrelevant, so let's ignore that possibility.

Is it possible that you have always been bisexual and for some reason didn't know it until reading up on history made you realise and accept it, I think yes. Is it possible that you were once genuinely not bisexual, but straight, and that this changed, yes as well. I don't think there's any way for me to know which is the case for you, I'm not sure there is any way for you to know either. Maybe I'm wrong - but hey, even if you think you know, are you necessarily right? I think I was born gay (well technically bisexual, homoromantic, but on the bisexual scale I'm about a 5.9 on the Kinsey scale [1]), but who knows, maybe if I hadn't gone to an all-boys school and experimented with friends when I was 11-13 I would today consider myself straight. For some reason I like to think that isn't the case, and that being gay is an original part of my DNA, but I guess realistically whatever way I ended up wouldn't have been any worse or better.

And finally, how "homosexual", "straight" and "bisexual" are defined changes the answer to your questions. If the fact that you never experienced MSM action, or considered it, or fantasised about it, then I guess you fit the definition of 100% straight, and therefore yes you did change to become bisexual. On the other hand, if there is something in our DNA that defines what genders we can or can't be attracted to, maybe you had homosexuality inside you without knowing it, and other people, even if they experienced the exact same life as you, down to the most minute details, couldn't become bisexual the way you did.

I really hope that sometime in my lifetime scientists discover some answers, because I think the whole subject is fascinating, and for that matter it's one that I haven't spent nearly as much time reading up on as I would like to have, so perhaps sometime I'll get onto changing that.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kinsey_scale#Table_of_the_scale


Thank you for your thoughtful reply.

There is another possibility too that is worth considering.

Sexuality may be, for humans, primarily social in the same way it is for Bonobos. Reproduction may simply be a functional necessity met as a side effect. If we see sex as a social interaction and the choice of a sex partner as a social matter, then the question is how various individuals fit within social structures or not.

There may be in-born aspects to how people relate to social factors and for some people these are quite evident (autistic people, for example, relate to social structures very different from non-autistic people). But even within the spectrum we might call "normal" (I don't like the idea of normal btw), there may be cognitive and even neurological reasons why some people may relate to specific social structures in specific ways.

However, beyond that, there are functionally necessary reasons why people must fit into social structures differently, and why at least some people must necessarily challenge and fall outside a social structure. Every taboo in society must have someone who challenges it. Every norm must have someone who falls outside it.

The reason is that without this process of perpetually challenging society, there are no individuals. You can't be an individual and blindly follow social norms. But beyond that perhaps on an evolutionary level, without people continually challenging, and redefining, social norms (a process which btw happens much faster in verbo-motor than literate societies), culture and society are static and dead and there is nothing to adapt it to the problems of the day.

So might be able to see various non-standard forms of sexuality (i.e. outside the social model of "normal" which in our society is defined by Barby and Ken, husband and wife, etc. i.e., monogamous and heterosexual), as necessary acts of rebellion which transform and breathe life into society. The only problem is how some Christians relate to their myths of rebellion but that's a different topic.

In this way we can perhaps past the argument as to whether gays are defective people who can't help it and simply can't conform to models of normality, or whether they are immoral people who choose to live outside accepted social norms.

I don't think that sexuality can be reduced to applied neuroscience just as chemistry can't be reduced to applied quantum physics.


Not that it's really relevant, but Ken doll was actually gay :)


In case you are still following this I figured I would briefly share this. Note I am not a Christian but rather a bit of a neopagan and polytheist.

One of the huge problems of course is how Christians relate to the story of the Fall from Eden. You hear this brought up all the time, and the lesson they draw from it is follow social mores. Don't rock the boat, don't rebel. But a close, careful reading suggests:

1) The fall from Eden is foreshadowed in Genesis 2 with the description of marriage.

2) The forbidden fruit is general heterosexual activity. This is particularly obvious when including a look at Middle Eastern iconography and, in particular, figures like the Pazuzu, who had a serpent-headed penis. Yes, the tree of knowledge is knowledge in the biblical sense ;-).

3) This act of rebellion creates the Biblical model of (heterosexual) marriage.

The problem for Christians is that the very model they want to push arises from the very act of rebellion they want to use to bludgeon everyone else into submission.


I have heard that argument but nobody has shown me evidence that the Ken doll was advertised as gay, which is what's important really for this target market.


The 10-15% number that always gets quoted can almost always be traced back to Kinsey (I believe his actual numbers where 13% for men and 7% for women). However if you look at the actual data from Kinsey you'll find that those numbers include both people who have conducted any sexual act with someone of the same sex (even if it was only once when they where young, and they decided it wasn't their cup of tea), and people who fantasize about the idea, but have never done anything about it.


Do I need to have homosexual sexual relations to prove I'm bisexual?

Furthermore, you can hate anal sex yet still be bisexual, homosexual, etc.


Do I need to have homosexual sexual relations to prove I'm bisexual?

Far from it, you have it backwards. My point is that having had homosexual sex doesn't automatically make you bi/homosexual. I've said nothing about the relation in the other direction.

Furthermore, you can hate anal sex yet still be bisexual, homosexual, etc.

Of course. I never said anything to the contrary. There are lots and lots of ways of having "sex", many that don't involve sticking your penis in an orifice and having penises stuck in your orifices.

edit: In case something was unclear, Kinsey's numbers obviously also included people who self-identified has home/bisexual, no matter their sexual history(or lack of it)


Ah, I see. Sorry, I misjudged you there. :)


The single biggest improvement they could do to help recruiting is to lobby as hard as they can for repealing the &"#&&¤#"!! Defence of Marriage Act.

If you get some sort of working visa in the US, you can in many cases also get a visa for your spouse so that both of you can live there and work there. However, the %#""&!! DOMA explicitly defines spouse as someone of the opposite gender that you are married to.

It doesn't matter if same-sex marriage is legal or not in the country you're from. It doesn't matter if same-sex marriage is legal or not in the US state you're going to. If your husband or wife is of the same sex as you, you're just screwed by the visa process, you can't bring them.


I am pretty confident DOMA section 3 (the only part that actually does anything) will get struck down next year, and the definition will revert to the states. Before Scalia's off-the-wall dissent in Arizona v. United States I thought it would be unanimous on 10th Amendment grounds. Now I think maybe 7-1 or 8-1 depending on whether Kagan recuses.

I think there is virtually no chance that Thomas will vote against a 10th Amendment argument. The only hope congress has on this (though kudos for them for defending the doomed law) is to hope the court follows Comstock and gives the federal government broad authority to tack on all kinds of things to federal powers.

I think the chance of this though is very, very small.

However, if they do strike it down on 10th Amendment grounds expect a lot of hand-wringing from liberal law school professors. When a district court found it violated the 10th Amendment, Jack Balkin (very much on the liberal side) said something to the effect that while he wanted to see DOMA struck down, the 10th Amendment was just too dangerous to the idea of centralized government to allow that to stand.


Just to clarify, there were other dissents in Arizona v. US, but the only one that was bonkers was Scalia's. The other dissents (Thomas, and Alito's partial dissent) thought the AZ immigration laws were similar enough to the federal law to survive pre-emption. Scalia thought the state had inherent rights as a separate sovereign to keep out non-citizens it didn't want there. It wasn't perfectly clear why Scalia didn't think Arizona could keep out foreign tourists if they wanted (though he did assert that the state would have to respect federal visas). I even knew people who usually agreed with Scalia who thought that opinion was "radical."


"So while it may deter some people, it likely wouldn't be many."

Also, deterring people who are against gay marriage might be a good thing.


>Gay marriage is not just a small detail, it's huge.

Really? How so? Because gays suddenly want to take part in the antiquated, religious inspired ceremony of marriage?


> Because gays suddenly want to take part in the antiquated, religious inspired ceremony of marriage?

How about gays/lesbians want a part in health insurance, inheritance, and non-harassment for them and their children?


> "religious inspired ceremony of marriage?"

Religion was ex-post-facto applied to marriage, not vice versa.

Note that marriage is pervasive in cultures without strong religious influence or state religions (see: marriage in China, where historically Buddhism rules, and scripture stipulates nothing about marriage).

Marriage, like many social customs, is a cultural phenomenon. Religion is only pinned onto it in cultures where religion is a Big Fucking Deal(tm).


>Religion was ex-post-facto applied to marriage, not vice versa.

Wrong, marriage was a religious ceremony all along. Maybe you have "mating" in mind, not marriage. Check anthropological accounts. Actually religion predates most forms of even government and cultural practice.

>Note that marriage is pervasive in cultures without strong religious influence or state religions (see: marriage in China, where historically Buddhism rules, and scripture stipulates nothing about marriage).

Buddhism in China is _one_ of several religions. Taoism, Shenism, etc, are as prevalent.

As for Buddhism stipulating nothing about marriage: "While Buddhist practice varies considerably among its various schools, marriage is one of the few concepts specifically mentioned in the context of Śīla (Buddhist behavior discipline). (Wikipedia)".

Not to mention that the pure and "non religion like" idea of Buddhism that westerners have is not at all how it works for common people in China or asia in general.

>Religion is only pinned onto it in cultures where religion is a Big Fucking Deal(tm).

Religion is a "Big Fucking Deal" in all fucking cultures. Visit any archeological museum of any civilization to check this out. It's just that there are many forms of religion, and not all involved a bearded deity in the clouds. Even confucianism serves the role of religion, with several societal norms and guidelines etc.


>Wrong, marriage was a religious ceremony all along. Maybe you have "mating" in mind, not marriage. Check anthropological accounts. Actually religion predates most forms of even government and cultural practice.

I think the problem here is defining religion. Many people here equate it with belief. Certainly religious marriage in the Protestant sense of religious only comes around after the advent of Christianity, perhaps after the advent of Protestantism....

But as you point out, ritualizing (almost always with religious symbolism, again for anthropological definitions of religion, not Protestant definitions) procreative marriage is universal. In fact I would point out it is more universal than is ritualizing remembering the dead. Fewer cultures don't have rituals involving procreative marriage than don't have rituals for funerals, etc.

>Religion is a "Big Fucking Deal" in all fucking cultures. Visit any archeological museum of any civilization to check this out. It's just that there are many forms of religion, and not all involved a bearded deity in the clouds. Even confucianism serves the role of religion, with several societal norms and guidelines etc.

I think again the problem is defining religion. Here in the West we see religion as a system of belief. Outside the sphere of Christian influence (Christianity, Orthodox Judiasm, Islam, Sikhdom, and derivatives), religion is a far more flexible concept than that.


Warning: long post, because I'm tired and kind of irked.

> "Not to mention that the pure and "non religion like" idea of Buddhism that westerners have is not at all how it works for common people in China or asia in general."

I'm Chinese. Please do not seek to describe my own culture back to me with Wikipedia.

For one thing, I object strongly to the use of "shenism" - it's as much an "ism" as "Westernism" is an "ism". It's an umbrella to try to catch entirely dissimilar and wildly variable things all in one bucket, and it implies a level of coherence that simply does not exist. The folk religions of China wildly vary depending on people and region, and to try and slam it all into an "ism" makes about as much sense as trying to corral all Native American beliefs into the umbrella "Aboriginism". "shenism" transliterates into "deism". How much sense does that make to you?

Reading Wikipedia articles on Chinese religious belief is like reading a terrible social sciences textbook from high school. It captures none of the context and none of the spirit of what is actually worshipped. Instead it's just a purely academic account with purely academic distinctions drawn between things.

> "Even confucianism serves the role of religion, with several societal norms and guidelines etc."

This has always been a vibrant topic of debate in Chinese society, and I'm surprised you can confidently say that when no one who practices it can seemingly agree. Confucianism lacks the hallmarks that identify other religions (including ones practiced in China) - most notably the complete lack of deities, or in fact any belief in the supernatural.

Most adherents seem to regard it as a philosophy and cultural imperative (given its dominance of Chinese intellectualism over history) rather than a religion. The need to label it as a religion, in fact, seems to derive from Western inability to categorize it in their world view.

IMO if we start classifying Confucianism as a religion, then we need to throw democracy, libertarianism, communist, and capitalism into the religion pot too.

> "Buddhism in China is _one_ of several religions. Taoism, Shenism, etc, are as prevalent."

Indeed. Well, not really, sort of. It's complicated. Traditional Buddhism and Taoism are relatively rare amongst the general population, though has gained more traction in recent times. Most people adhere to a mish-mash of Buddhist thought, Taoist belief, and what you describe as "shenism", not one of the above. This giant religion-gumbo more or less deserves its own name, but we really don't have a good word for it. An important side effect of this is that religion in Chinese society is largely grassroots and disorganized (well, until the introduction of Judeo-Christian thought). You will find people worshipping Buddhist deities (or deified Buddhist not-deities) right alongside traditional folk deities, using rituals that are not at all similar to what you might find in original Buddhist scripture.

Wikipedia tries to characterize this as "shenism", though as previously mentioned, this is a nonsense concept. Though I would not be categorically opposed to finding a word for "that crazy mix of Buddhism, Taoism, and local geocentric folk religions that is practiced in various ways in China" - bit of a mouthful after all. Only if they choose a word that's less stupid than "shenism". "Shenism" is not a coherent religion, and as currently defined just means "people that believe in deities in China".

In any case, this is a very roundabout way of addressing your point:

> "Actually religion predates most forms of even government and cultural practice."

Which means... exactly what? My contention is the marriage as practiced in China is not primarily a religious event. It features no priests, no church steeples, nor synagogues, nor mosques. It features no overarching religious motif, though it is common for various aspects of folk religion to manifest as ancillary rituals - folk religions that lack any form of organization and scripture, mind you. No religious figures are present - neither priest nor monk. In fact, none of the major components of Chinese marriage, from proposal to tying the knot, are religious in nature, nor do they even have hints of religious meaning.

If Chinese folk religion created the institution of marriage, then why is it none of the entire process involves religious worship of any sort? In fact, if it's primarily a religious exercise, why is it that the rituals and traditions are pretty much all the same even for traditional Buddhists and Taoists? Or perhaps, alternatively, marriage in China is primarily a cultural institution, where religious motifs are applied, removed, and changed over millenia to suit the religious mores of its time?


I don't know that much about Chinese religions so taking what you write about it at face value. My interest more is to try to clarify what we are talking about wrt religion.

I: Confucianism and religion.

I think the real challenge here is to define religion. As I define religion there is no question it qualifies. Namely:

A religion is a tradition of myths and/or rituals which transmit and encode patterns of meaning which can be flexibly applied to life in order to make sense of what happens all around us.

It is not necessary to believe in historical accuracy of myths (this obligation to believe was new with Christianity). Adherents may in fact have complete freedom to make sense of the tradition however they like.

Interestingly there are religions (the traditional Hopi religion among Native Americans, for example) which incorporate forms of atheism into them, so a lack of deities isn't fatal.

My understanding is that Confucianism would meet this definition. Would you disagree? You have rituals, stories, etc. which create the patterns of society. The same with Taoism in a different way.

II: Meaning and function of religion

I think our brains work on mythic levels as well as logical levels. I think that religion gives us ways to understand patterns of life which are beyond what we can do in a reductionist approach. I think it has always done this in a way which is deeply tied to culture. That's why I agree with the GP that religious rituals recognizing procreative marriage are entirely universal.

If Chinese folk religion created the institution of marriage, then why is it none of the entire process involves religious worship of any sort?

I don't know that you would define it as religious worship but at least what little I know of it has religious symbols woven throughout the practice. It is ritualized in a religious context. I don't think all religions demand worship though. For example, why is red so highly associated with weddings? Then there is the tea ceremony.

My knowledge of all this is pretty highly abridged because my wife told her family when we got married to abridge the Chinese rituals.


batista said Wrong, marriage was a religious ceremony all along. Which doesn't seem to make much sense given potatolicious' post.


Just so there is no misunderstanding.....

I think there is a functional reason why procreative marriages are so universally ritualized.

Everywhere, mothers are mothers by virtue of having given birth. Motherhood is thus a biological and physical state defined by what has happened to one's body, and the biological link between mother and child.

However, everywhere, fathers are fathers by virtue of social recognition. There is no biological state that corresponds to fatherhood. Fathers may be fathers of children not biologically related to them in societies which practice wife-loaning and wife-swapping, or in polyandrous cultures even without anything like an adoption involved.

In one formerly polyandrous culture (the Todas of India), a woman would ceremonially choose the socially recognized father of her children, and if she changed that choice for future children, she would have to go back and ritually designate a different husband.

So this difference in how men and women are situated relative to reproduction goes a long way towards explaining the trans-historical and cross-cultural emphasis on procreation as a necessary concern of marriage.


I don't really disagree with batista though. Procreative marriage is more universally ritualized with religious symbolism than funerals are.

The problem is defining religion. Religion can be a Big Deal somewhere like ancient Athens where as a resident, you participate in the religion or else maybe condemned to death but that doesn't mean you have to believe in it in any specific way. Similarly Hindus generally get to decide whether or not they think their religion has any deities or not.


>I'm Chinese. Please do not seek to describe my own culture back to me with Wikipedia.

Well, Americans e.g. are pointed to Wikipedia (or other sources) for falsehoods they believe about America all the time. And most of the time, Wikipedia is right and they are wrong. Being a national or resident of some country doesn't mean you are always correct about it (or even that you are EVER correct: Glenn Beck followers come to mind). So let's stick it to the facts and numbers and point to sources and/or arguments.

That said, while I agree about the general "cultural imperialism" of Shenism, the gist wasn't it, but that Buddhism is not THE prevalent religion in China. Which you agree with as far as I can see.

>My contention is the marriage as practiced in China is not primarily a religious event.

Nowadays it might not be. But wasn't that the case in USSR too, when religion was frowned upon? (Not that PRC is that kind of stuck up nowadays, but from what I've read about the Cultural Revolution a lot of things got a remake).

Wikipedia, again, gives these "mythological origins" of Chinese marriage:

The story about the marriage of Nüwa and Fu Xi, who were once sister and brother respectively, told about how they invented proper marriage procedures after becoming married. At that time the world was unpopulated, so the siblings wanted to get married but, at the same time, they felt ashamed. So they went up to Kunlun Shan and prayed to the heavens. They asked for permission for their marriage and said, "if you allow us to marry, please make the mist surround us." The heavens gave permission to the couple, and promptly the peak was covered in mist. It is said that in order to hide her shyness, Nüwa covered her blushing face with a fan. Nowadays in some villages in China, the brides still follow the custom and use a fan to shield their faces.

>Or perhaps, alternatively, marriage in China is primarily a cultural institution, where religious motifs are applied, removed, and changed over millenia to suit the religious mores of its time?

Well, that happens in the west too, but we're talking origins here. At the time the ceremony/idea was established, not even Buddhism or Taoism was available, but folk and pagan religions were. Actually Buddhism is a quite recent phenomenon, historically speaking.


If we're discussing whether it makes business sense, IMO you're only looking at the upside for Google.

Some employees of theirs are against Gay Marriage. Some contractors are against Gay Marriage. Some future employees are against Gay Marriage. Some potential business partners are against Gay Marriage. Some politicians, which Google is trying to lobby, will now no longer be receptive to them because their constituents are anti-Gay Marriage.

Is the overall effect positive or negative? I'm not sure. But try to separate the issue at hand from whether it is smart for Google to support it. Is it possible you're just rationalizing because you want them to support Gay Marriage?

P.S. An easy test to see if it's the issue itself clouding our judgement - what if Google had come out, say, against Medicare in the U.S., on the basis that it would be better for them in the long-term, and economists as a whole agree that it is better for the economy? What if they had come out on the other side of some issue that you care about. Would you still argue it makes business sense to do so?


This really is a huge argument against the concept of shareholders. So basically any publicly traded company really is forced to be immoral? Apart from the fact that it is impossible to enforce (how do you decide, as a judge, what is better for the company in the long run - not pissing off the anti-gay people, or not pissing off the pro-gay people?), it makes such companies very unattractive as employers.

Think about yourself, if you are a programmer: would you take on the task to develop a new web site for holocaust deniers? It's just business, after all... If you lose the freedom to pick your jobs, what is the point, really? I'd rather close down my company (but I think you can't do that as a publicly traded company, either).


Actually I agree with you on the shareholder argument.

One of the real reasons I am second-guessing whether to look for VC money is that I am afraid of what happens when we have shareholders, and even more worried about what happens when there is public ownership of stock.

The problem here is that maximizing shareholder value means to some extent working on elevating stock prices. So you can't do anything that might threaten stock prices once you go public.

WL Gore, IIRC, went public, then put 15% of their profits into a buyback program on behalf of employees and eventually bought all their stock back, and then delisted themselves from the stock exchanges. I really admire that they did this. Now they still have stockholders: employees.....


Not really.

Someone said "This makes business sense for Google". I said "Well, it might, but you forgot to take into account the downsides, e.g. X, Y, and Z".

This has nothing to do with whether Google should or shouldn't do it.


I think we are in the "as a shareholder I have mixed feelings about this" subthread, though? What is the point o considering the downsides (all economical, not moral) if you are not implying economic considerations should be the main priority?


I started my reply with this:

"If we're discussing whether it makes business sense, IMO you're only looking at the upside for Google."

I didn't comment at all on the morality issue and whether Google should do this or not.


Given average age of Google workers, the upside wins in their case.


> I also disagree with you that Google shareholders opposed to gay marriage shouldn't be forced to choose. They are just as wrong in their beliefs as those who supported segregation were or those who were against women's suffrage were. Marginalizing these people for their ridiculously antiquated beliefs is fair game, IMO.

A thousand times this. Some opinions need to be taken out back and shot, and being against gay marriage is one of those opinions. Shitty beliefs like that aren't something that needs protection, and adults who hold those opinions should not be coddled or kowtowed to anymore.

In programming terms, showing deference to these kinds of opinions is like being forced to support Windows 3.1.


I'm not sure I agree with this. In many ways, this fight mirrors that against racism, and in many of this similarities I find issues that could negatively affect progress.

For example, saying that anti-gay people shouldn't be coddled is fine, but trying to pretend those beliefs are just going to go away is ignorant. What Google is missing here is the 'why' and instead it comes across as pushy.

People are still, and will always be racist, just as they will be pro or anti gay. That doesn't make it right, but it's certainly something Google should be prepared to deal with. I get wary of public companies taking political stances in the same way i do with actors and musicians.

That said, Google is probably in a fine position to do this, as the majority of the Internet world is dependent upon them.


>Some significant percentage of Google's employees are gay...vBy lobbying to improve the lives of its employees, Google is improving Google.

Does that mean that if a company has a significant percentage of homophobes working for it, it should lobby against gay marriage? I work at a company that employed an obviously trans woman, and some of the cis women complained about sharing a bathroom with her. Since their lives would be improved by not having to share a bathroom with her, by your logic the company should lobby against TG rights.


It irks me a bit and I am not a Google shareholder. If it were just the US, I'd be for it. But a global campaign, no, I am 100% opposed. How many ways can you say "Cultural Imperialism?"

It's not that I am opposed to gay marriage. In fact as regards the US, I am for it. However.....

Marriage is deeply cultural. It means remarkably different things in different places. Something like 30% of Japanese marriages are still wholely arranged. Another 30-40% are at least partially arranged. Marriage is seen very much as a matter of extended families and so personal choice doesn't have as much to do with it as we see in the US. So suppose you legalize gay marriage? What then? Are you going to insist that the Japanese adopt our individualistic notions of marriage too?

It seems to me that the idea of marrying someone you want is a human right is nothing more than projecting our cultural preferences out to the rest of the world.

Fortunately cultural diversity is not threatened by recognizing new legal arrangements. Societies will find other ways of regulating norms, just as Japan has done following legal changes to marriage laws imperially imposed by the allies following WWII. So fortunately even if successful it will not have a major impact.


> "It seems to me that the idea of marrying someone you want is a human right is nothing more than projecting our cultural preferences out to the rest of the world."

As someone who has a trans member of the family still in Asia, who is deep in the closet for fear of persecution, who faces enormous obstacles simply with his immediate family, I heavily disagree.

We're not talking about matters of convenience here, we're talking severe persecution and prosecution.

The claim that persecution of LGBT individuals is a cultural preference, and that opposition to it is cultural imperialism, makes about as much as sense as saying slavery is a cultural preference, and that we should simply let societies "sort it out".

The difference between gay rights and arranged marriage is that, in many cultures where arranged marriage features prominently, everyone involved is consenting. In cases where gays are ostracized, persecuted, and prosecuted, one side is very obviously non-consenting. This issue is not nearly as gray as you're making it out to be.


Where do you draw the line?

Should we eliminate indigenous cultures because their coming of age ceremonies are barbaric forms of child abuse (and many may be seen by modern standards as sex abuse)?

Or do we leave the most deeply cultural concepts of society-- how we relate to our bodies, the form and function of marriage, and how we relate to growing up or dying to the members of that culture?


> "Where do you draw the line?"

I addressed this part - consent.

The most objectionable part of arranged marriages are the ones where one side is clearly non-consenting. There is still a dramatic misunderstanding of arranged marriages in the West because many fail to appreciate that in many cultures, everyone involved is consenting and uncoerced.

> "Should we eliminate indigenous cultures because their coming of age ceremonies are barbaric forms of child abuse"

Only if the children are non-consenting. It is not about how we feel about whatever tradition, it's all about whether or not everyone has the freedom to choose.

This is not enforcing the Western ideal of marriage onto others - this is giving the persecuted and the non-consenting a legal recourse to choose as they will. Once this framework is in place, cultures will naturally evolve around it - in the same way that the legal protection of black civil rights has over time dramatically altered our collective cultural perception.

Similarly, this applies to, say, women's dress in traditional Islamic nations. There are many people in the US who would seek to ban the hijab, or other clothing that is perceived to be harmful to women's rights. That is cultural imperialism, but that's not what this is about. The moderate, correct stance is to make sure that women who choose to opt out of traditional garb have the full protection of the law. With this foundation in place culture will evolve as it will - and maybe everyone will keep wearing the hijab, who knows. It is possible to enforce freedom and equality without moral judgment on specific aspects of culture.


Consent is not meaningful in the context of a mandatory rite like the Sambian example.

You either undergo the rite or you leave the society. There are no other options.

So you are for imposing consent requirements on indigenous rite of passage ceremonies... I am sorry but I must say that I am both saddened and sickened by that sort of response.


> "I am sorry but I must say that I am both saddened and sickened by that sort of response."

And likewise, I am saddened and sickened by yours. The fact that a tradition has existed since time immemorial does not in and of itself make it worthy of preservation, and it does not give it free reign to terrorize and persecute anyone it touches.

The weak deserve protection and freedom. No one should be forced to participate in a cultural rite against their will. If you believe that societies ought to have the legal right to force people to participate in its rituals and traditions against their will, then yes, I am indeed sickened.

If, given the legal framework to choose freely, people still choose to participate in whatever, then that's fine - it wouldn't matter one iota whether or not what I, or anyone else, thinks of the tradition.

Next up: we shouldn't be trying to get rid of malaria, because it evolved naturally, has existed since the dawn of mankind, and it just wouldn't be right to mess with that.


But who is the weak?

Put another way, do the Hopi need protection from the White folks more than the Hopi children need protection from their parents?


> "But who is the weak?"

This question is not really that insightful. The weak is the one who is being denied the legal ability to choose, and has little to no recourse about it.

> "Put another way, do the Hopi need protection from the White folks more than the Hopi children need protection from their parents?"

False dichotomy. The Hopi children need protection from both. They need to be protected from the "White folks" who actively seek to eliminate their culture and assimilate them. They also need protection from their own culture, where it may choose to persecute them for deviating from cultural norms.

It's not an all or nothing deal - the formalization of legal protection for individuals need not destroy an entire culture, nor does the influence of a larger, more powerful culture necessarily entail bad things. We do not need to overwrite "Hopi" with "modern American", nor do we need to accept persecution derived from culture and tradition, wherever it exists.


>The Hopi children need protection from both. They need to be protected from the "White folks" who actively seek to eliminate their culture and assimilate them. They also need protection from their own culture, where it may choose to persecute them for deviating from cultural norms.

Ok, now we have a problem. Because the only people who will impose such an end are predominantly white activists, and in doing so are effectively attacking their culture and trying to eliminate it. These rituals define their culture. I would rather try to learn from the wisdom of the (rather harsh) rituals they employ than worry about the kids being whipped (which is part of it).

background:

The Hopi carefully teach their children to literally believe in their religion. They are taught that the katcina dancers are really gods from another place that come to work miracles in their community. The children are carefully protected from ever seeing a katcina dancer unmasked.

Every three years, the Hopi gather the children of their town aged 6-9 and tell them they will be initiated into the mysteries where they will learn the real nature of the Katcina. They then begin a several day rite of passage where they interact with Katcina dancers. At first these are fairly mild and involve gifts which are bestowed but then become more harsh and involve fasting, and eventually being whipped, and told that if they reveal the secrets they are about to be shown they will be whipped a lot more.

Then they are shown a Katcina dancer who takes off his mask showing the children that he is an adult from their town. This utterly destroys their faith, but opens the way for them to participate in the religious community of the town and eventually join mystery organizations within the Hopi religion.

You can't impose informed consent on that ritual without destroying it and the powerful lessons included. So any attempt to do that destroys the Hopi culture in a very real way. The Hopi thus initiate their children from belief into atheism and later from atheism into mystery. It's really beautiful in a way.

So do we insist on white folks abolishing this practice (and the Hopi outlook on the world) in order to protect the children? or do we assume that the parents will usually protect the children and that the white folks need to back off?

I think if you can show long-term harm to the kids, then it's reasonable to try to convince the parents to change the practice but absent that, we have no right to destroy their ability to teach deep concepts to their kids.


> Marriage is deeply cultural.

Marriage is a legal contract, and it is the most universally recognized cross-cultural legal contract. It doesn't matter how you got married, whatever ceremony was performed or not, whatever bureaucratic process was performed or not, your marriage is recognized worldwide.

Unless it's a same-sex marriage, because then it suddenly becomes deeply cultural or whatever. That's bullshit.


I don't accept any of that btw, though there are certain exceptions. Certainly if you were right on the face of what you wrote, polygamous marriages conducted overseas would be valid in the US, which they aren't.

I don't think that marriage is the same in India as it is in Japan or the US. I don't think marriage is the same in Morocco as it is in Spain. I don't want to meddle in these.

The exception though has to do with some forms of recognition in the US as people move about the country.

If a same-sex couple is married in Massachusetts and they later move to Arkansas, I think it's fairly clear on the basis of what scant legal authority we have, that the Arkansas legal tradition determines whether they are still married. Andrew Koppelman suggests (and makes a good case for the idea that) the general trend is towards more recognition.

However, if the family is merely visiting Arkansas and not moving there, then I think the analysis is very different and we have over a hundred and fifty years of jurisprudence which says that marriages don't wink in or out of existence when people travel around the country, and that rather the venue which controls is the venue of residency. Even pre-Loving v. Virginia I am not aware of a single case where miscegenation laws were applied against a mixed race couple who were merely travelling through a state or present to conduct business. The two cases I know of which involved relocating into states which banned miscegenation went different directions at the state supreme court level, and ex parte Kinney (same facts as Loving but about a hundred years earlier) included dicta that while Virginia could criminalize marriages of residents, they could not do so to out of state residents who were merely visiting.

To hold that a marriage of a gay couple in Massachusetts would not need to be recognized in Utah while they are visiting Arches National Park doesn't work with our system of government. Similarly I would be entirely be supportive of a treaty that said that tourists' marriages would be recognized wherever they go. If you are a gay couple married in Massachusetts I think you have a reasonable expectation that Singapore will honor your marriage. I don't think you have a reasonable expectation that Singapore will alter their laws to let their residents follow in your footsteps.


Cultural? With the same excuse you could call keeping black people as slaves or treating women as second rate citizens "cultural".

Excluding gay people from marriage is about discrimination, hatred and bigotry.

It's not about changing other cultures, it's about allowing those who do not conform said culture to live their lives in freedom and equality.

This is the typical bullshit argument used against gay marriage: that it somehow negatively affects the existing cultural traditions. It doesn't.


Strangely the same sort of cultural arrogance that lead to praising slavery in many parts of the US as good for black people is behind this sort of global campaign. Just think of the number of Africans who would have grown up never knowing about Christ, or never seeing the marvels of the New World if it were not for slavery! Yes there were people defending slavery at the time in precisely these terms. So I think that issue works out the exact opposite way you say.

Indeed, in cases where slavery is primarily endogenous (say, ancient Greece or Rome, or even Viking-age Scandinavia), slaves tend to have some legal rights, and some freedoms because it functions as a bit of a safety net, and there are political incentives to free slaves. For example in those three cultures (Greece/Rome/Viking-age Scandinavia), freed slaves formed important sources of political and economic support. Dred Scott v. Sanford ensured in he US that such a solution could not exist here.

So slavery in the new world was uniquely evil and oppressive. One can defend many other systems of slavery in the world throughout history, but certainly not that one. Indeed the only second-person perspective defence that was made was that we were so much better than the Africans that it was better to be a slave on a plantation in Virginia than free in Senegal. That same arrogance is, once again, behind this today.

Heck, I won't even defend the system of prison labor/slavery we have in the US today because I think that's beyond defence. But I won't just say "we're labelling it slavery and therefore it's evil."

So in New Guinea there is an indigenous tribe called the Sambia. In this tribe you can't become a man unless you go through a coming of age ceremony where you are given a nosebleed by having a tooth of a wild animal shoved in your nose (this is to drain feminine influences, and remove childhood), and where you are required to fellate a tribal elder. Of course this happens at an age roughly similar to adolescence.

Now obviously if this happened in NYC, we'd call this sexual predation, and try to send people to jail for life. But are you saying that we need to insure that if indigenous children don't want to go through such rituals that they have a right to be left alone?


Problem: slaves don't chose to be slaves. As for the indigenous tribe, at least I am not sure that we shouldn't interfere if those kids don't want to go through those rituals. What is the rationale for not interfering - preserving cultural diversity/turning the rainforest into a museum?

What about a sect that moves to an isolated island and comes up with the tradition that girls first sexual act has to be with the sect leader (such things actually happened)? Why should they be treated differently than some indigenous tribe?


>slaves don't chose to be slaves.

That's not always true with endogenous slavery though. Very often times people end up as slaves, selling themselves into slavery in order to avoid starvation. The constant turnover between free and slave in these systems curbs the worst abuses. For example, in Rome, it was illegal for a father to sell a son into slavery more than three times. After that, I suppose, it was the father's turn......

in these systems typically slaves have some level of personal autonomy, and there is pressure to free them. In Rome for example, freed slaves were adopted into the extended family of the former master, thus providing legal, political, and economic support for the great Senatorial families. This meant paradoxically that slavery could actually be a means of social advancement.

So I wouldn't say that was always true. In many of these societies, then, prisoners of war end up being a secondary source of slaves but they end up with the protections of the debt-slaves, again with the pressure to free.

One more thing that surprised me about the Roman example was this: Slaves could join professional associations (sort of proto-Guilds) and these associations usually handled burials of their members and the like. Many of these organizations actually had rules adopted for what happens if a member was a slave and the master refuses to delver the body for burial.

So slavery is a complex thing, and a lot of blanket statements don't necessarily work. Yes, a lot of slaves in Greece, Rome, etc. did choose to be slaves because it was better than the alternative, which was being destitute.

Also keep in mind that in most of these places, there is no strong central prosecutorial authority. Your family is supposed to prosecute crimes on your behalf. So if you were in ancient Rome, destitute and without extended family, you really were better off selling yourself into slavery.

As for the indigenous tribe, at least I am not sure that we shouldn't interfere if those kids don't want to go through those rituals.

A sense of humility, that our culture doesn't necessarily have more answers than theirs, and that we don't really understand what we are messing with.


"selling themselves into slavery in order to avoid starvation."

I don't think that counts as "voluntarily becoming a slave". Obviously it is complicated (I like to call modern workers "wage slaves" occasionally - obviously they tend to work because they must eat, too). But for example where I live the law puts some limits to exploitation, a basic fairness built into contracts. It would be illegal to make somebody a lifelong slave in exchange for an apple, just because they were starving at some point and needed the apple or die.

"A sense of humility, that our culture doesn't necessarily have more answers than theirs, and that we don't really understand what we are messing with."

But where do you draw the line? I think at some point you need to stand up for your values. If you are wrong and the others are right, but you are stronger, it is of course bad luck. But how do you prevent that? I guess one of the cornerstones of western societies is protecting children.

Maybe as a compromise that tribe could raise the age the kids need to have before they consent to the initiation rite...

Again the question, what about the pedophile sect?

Or another example: what about female circumcision? Should we accept it, because it is ingrained in some cultures?


>I don't think that counts as "voluntarily becoming a slave". Obviously it is complicated (I like to call modern workers "wage slaves" occasionally - obviously they tend to work because they must eat, too). But for example where I live the law puts some limits to exploitation, a basic fairness built into contracts. It would be illegal to make somebody a lifelong slave in exchange for an apple, just because they were starving at some point and need the apple or die.

I think that misunderstands the nature of endogenous slavery at least in the Roman and Scandinavian models. People aren't selling themselves into slavery for an apple. They are selling themselves into slavery for long-term subsistence and possibly an opportunity to prove themselves worthy of being freed (and thus adopted into a more powerful family). It's not really that bad of a deal really, compared with little legal protection, no income, and food insecurity.

Additionally political power comes with both buying slaves and freeing them, so being an attractive "business partner" in this regard isn't so bad a thing.

But where do you draw the line? I think at some point you need to stand up for your values. If you are wrong and the others are right, but you are stronger, it is of course bad luck. But how do you prevent that? I guess one of the cornerstones of western societies is protecting children.

Two places.

I think that direct action is appropriate only when directed at one's own culture. I don't think I have a right to insist that Indonesia recognize Jewish weddings. I do think I have a right and an obligation to insist that US corporations in Indonesia act in accordance with my ethics, to the best of my ability.

On general advocacy though, I draw the line at specificity:

It's ok to critique a specific culture and practice, looking at specific harms and trying to bring awareness as to social costs and injustice.

It's not ok to simply say "you must do things the way my American group thinks would be pretty cool if it happened in America but we haven't got there yet."


It seems to me that the idea of marrying someone you want is a human right is nothing more than projecting our cultural preferences out to the rest of the world.

Being forced to spend your life with someone who you don't want, is far more of an imposition than that of an organisation publicly stating that they think it would be nice if people were allowed to marry who they do want.

[edit] Also, that position in general, regardless of topic, is unsound.

If projecting cultural preferences onto other groups is bad, then all I have to do is claim to belong to a culture that finds it deeply offensive for people to claim that projecting cultural preferences is bad, and then anyone who holds the first position isn't even allowed to tell me about it, entirely by their own argument.

Personally I have little faith with philosophical positions that are that easy to catch out.


Gosh darn those crazy Japs! Even after we bring them our enlightened laws their families insist on keeping their arranged marriages!

Seriously though.... At some point the structure of marriage and how it fits into society is a matter only for the people of that society, not a matter for outsiders.

Regarding gay marriage, also consider this:

In many parts of the world, adoption is relatively rare, and the entire retirement support program is moving in with one's kids. This means marriage in most parts of the world is socially tied to procreation. This also means that gay marriage may be a bit of an economic luxury made possible by 401(k)'s and spermbanks..... We can afford that in the US. How sure are we that we want to push this on other parts of the world?


At some point the structure of marriage and how it fits into society is a matter only for the people of that society, not a matter for outsiders.

There are no outsiders. While you were away we found out that people from different cultures have been shagging all along and that we are all related (which should please mr incest at the bottom of the thread), and that all societies are deeply interconnected at every level. Thanks for worrying about the retirement plans of impoverished homosexuals though, without people like you making sure they behaved responsibly and bred, who knows where they might end up in later life.


One other point. I am not convinced by biological explanations of homosexuality. I don't think it's a choice anymore than some guy goes into a bar and sits down and decides what color of hair to prefer. The development of sexual identity is a complex thing and there are societies in the past where homosexual relationships have been a lot more common than they are at present.

For example, Plutarch characterizes pederastic relationships (probably circumscribed by all sorts of taboos in order to render them non-predatory) as forming the political backbone of Spartan society--- these relationships provided young male Spartan citizens the ability, he suggests, to make the sorts of political connections they needed to be successful later in life. If the surveys of Greek vase paintings are to be believed, it is likely that most Greek citizen women also engaged in some homosexual relationships within religious contexts in ancient Greece as well. Was this bad? I don't think so. These were all channelled into very pro-social frameworks if we believe folks like Aristotle, Plutarch, and the modern scholars who have studied vase paintings and the like.

Instead I think the "born that way" thesis is actually homophobic. Our society is very aggressively hetero-normal. You can find Barby and Ken playsets, but if there was an equivalent Barby and Kendra dyke playset, well... it would be seen as sexualized in a way that Barby and Ken are not. In this context, where our society says "straight is the way normal people are" in our toys, movies, bridal magazines, etc, the "born that way" thesis reduces to "well, there is a small minority that is just different and will never be like everyone else. You aren't one of them, are you?"

So in many ways perhaps even the gay rights movement entrenches obstacles to normalization of same sex relationships. I am not saying this is good or bad. I am just describing it how I think it is.


There is clear evidence for genetic and pre-birth factors in determining sexual orientation. Not all of the variance has been accounted for, but that doesn't mean that a substantial part of the variance has been solidly explained by biological factors. What exactly do you not agree with in the numerous studies that have been done?

Your last two paragraphs don't make sense. That our society is very aggressively hetero normal is not caused by gay rights movements or by homosexuality being determined at birth, on the contrary. It is however caused by people who argue that marriage is only for heterosexuals.


The problem is that trans-historically and cross-culturally the percentage of people who engage in significant same-sex relationships varies quite a bit. These range from approximately a hundred percent to a very tiny minority. We are on the lower-end of the spectrum, believe it or not.

All these studies show is that there may be biological reasons that aggressively acculturating kids into heterosexuality might not reach everyone. They don't suggest that heterosexuality and homosexuality are necessarily in-born. Indeed when you think about all the cognitive stuff that has to happen before we find someone attractive, they almost certainly cannot.


First of all, pederastic relationships are not at all the same as homosexual relationships between people of age. In ancient Greece, homosexuality between adult males was condemned. Your theory that the range is from 100% to nearly 0% is simply wrong.

I do agree with you that birth reasons do not determine the outcome. There are two separate issues: same sex attractions and calling oneself homosexual/bisexual and having homosexual relationships. It is obvious that culture has a larger effect on the latter than on the former. It's no surprise that there are fewer people who call themselves homosexual in cultures where people are killed for calling themselves homosexual. Yet studies indicate that pre-birth biological factors have a large influence on the latter. Sexual attractions are very hard to study, unfortunately, but would likely show even larger biological influence. Even so, I do think that culture has an effect on sexual attraction.


First of all, pederastic relationships are not at all the same as homosexual relationships between people of age. In ancient Greece, homosexuality between adult males was condemned. Your theory that the range is from 100% to nearly 0% is simply wrong.

I think we say this because we have stronger taboos against one than another. Keep in mind that women were considered to be at age of marriage at not much older, so... Also it is simply not true that homosexuality between adult males was condemned. At most homosexuality between adult male equals was condemned and the reason probably had to do with the association of anal sex with blurring gender lines (Greek pederastic relationships if we believe Aristotle, made penetrative sex strictly off-limits for this reason).

Keep in mind also that "adult" is another inherently cultural concept..... It happens at different ages in different societies. When does one become an adult? Age of 14? 16? 12? 18? 21? Something else? There is no biological line there either. Indeed we've known since van Gennep that puberty and adolescence are distinct and may not even overlap in any given culture for a specific individual.

But hey, if we take Plutarch's word for it wife-swapping in Sparta was the way adult male equals were supposed to... um... build connections.....

But it's not limited to Greece. When you look at cases where ritual male-male fellatio is practiced, some of these places have it going well into adult-hood rather than one-time becoming a man. I don't know that you can call ritual homosexual contact "not significant." I would certainly call it significant.

But even where we get to attraction, there are some basic problems which have to do with getting past the feeble nature of the senses.

We can't directly sense whether someone is male or female, what social class they belong to, what kind of personality they have. So we process social cues. We see someone from behind "nice long hair, skirt, must be an attractive woman." We walk by, check her out and are horrified to see it is a bearded hippie. Everyone has had some sort of experience like this, and in our culture it provokes immediate negative emotions.

Sometimes these emotions of shock and dismay (and even confusion) lead to tragedy. In one case in Denver not too long ago (see http://www.thedenverchannel.com/news/19121127/detail.html) a man murdered his transgendered girlfriend after discovering she had previously been a man. She had given him a blowjob the day before, and evidently he couldn't deal with the confusion over whether he had been given a blowjob by a man or a woman. This is a purely cognitive process, not one based on biology. If it were based in biology, I suppose we could treat her as the perpetrator of non-consensual sex-acts by failing to disclose the inherent nature of the act.... but I don't think think that works.

So sexual attraction, and reactions to what social category someone is in (and this includes gender) are fundamentally based on cognitive processes. There is no way around this. Cognition and social instincts, rather than the inherent nature of the object of sexual desires, determines who we are attracted to.

At most biological underpinnings of sexual orientation in our society affect these social instincts and cognitive aspects. They simply can't reach the underlying nature of the, if you will, archetype of attraction. (Using "archetype" here to mean the image we have that we expect to resemble the person we are attracted to.)


This debate will not be productive. It is clear that pederastic relationships are not the same as modern day homosexual relationships. You can shroud the concept all you want by applying an overdose of cultural relativism, but that doesn't make them the same. For example even though what adulthood is may not be clear to you, evidently it was clear to the Greeks since relationships with boys were OK but relationships between adult men were not. I believe the Greeks themselves looked at the body of the boy: if the boy was getting bodily hair, then he was no longer fit for a socially acceptable pederastic relationship. Of course there is a gray line. Every concept has grey lines. That doesn't mean that the concept (like "adulthood") doesn't exist.

Gender is actually a good example to illustrate my point. You claim that gender is based on cognitive processes, and I agree. That doesn't mean that there are not extremely strong biological influences on gender. You focus only on outliers, and ignore the bulk evidence. Gender is clearly strongly bimodally distributed and highly correlated with biological factors.


But whether they are the same or not is not the question.

The question is the extent to which one is informative on the other, in cross-cultural and trans-historical studies.

If we ignore the rest, I suppose we could say that only in the US is homosexuality biologically determined but that would be silly wouldn't it?

Simply put, you can't talk about trans-historical and cross-cultural patterns if you limit the discussion to homosexual relationships in the form they exist in the US today. That's tautologically true. So if you limit it that way, it's a fancy way of avoiding any cross-cultural/trans-historical analysis that could be meaningful.


There is a Stanford lecture on Human Sexual Behavior that is related to the discussion of neurobiology of homosexuality http://youtu.be/LOY3QH_jOtE#t=1h13m27s (the relevant part starts at 1:13)


See my comments above. We can't directly sense whether someone is male or female. If we could, I am sure the world would be safer for transsexuals.

We have to process what we see, and make sense of what we see in other people before we can find them attractive. Attraction is thus necessarily built on cognition. All you can show with current studies is that there might be a biological reason why aggressively indoctrinating all children into heterosexuality might not in fact cause everybody to conform.


But there are outsiders. We all have social circles and societies of structures. My ancestors may have come over here from various places in Europe but I am still an outsider to where my ancestors may have been from. This is why I far prefer the company of anthropologists to human rights activists.

I suppose though we can take this further. There are aboriginal tribes in Polynesia which engage in rituals where boys (presumably in early adolescence) become men by giving tribal elders fellatio. After all, I suppose, you are what you eat. We don't have to prove that this is harmful, since we can just claim it's child abuse.


As far as your preference of company, I don't think that human rights activism and anthropology are particularly mutually exclusive.

But on your other point, it is one thing to dispassionately note the behaviours of others, however this does not preclude having an opinion or forming a personal moral judgement on those behaviours.

And if you have formed a moral judgement on a behaviour then it is perfectly ok to express your opinion, even if the people you are judging are far away or long dead.

Everyone judges everyone, all the time, and this is not a terrible imposition that should be stopped, but rather is the main mechanism of social evolution throughout history.


But on your other point, it is one thing to dispassionately note the behaviours of others, however this does not preclude having an opinion or forming a personal moral judgement on those behaviours.

I think it does preclude taking a very broad line though, and studying the constructs and how a culture fits together tends to make folks a lot less prone to advocacy. This doesn't mean that criticism of another culture is out of the question--- there is a lot of great cultural criticism that comes out of this. Examples that come readily to mind include criticisms of our (in the US) trust that Obstetrics is better than Midwifery (statistically, midwifery has better outcomes on the whole, and this is optimized when midwives are the primary care providers for all lower-risk pregnancies and childbirths), criticism of how the Morroccan henna first-marriage ceremonies entrench patriarchy, and more. But these are very detail-oriented criticisms which tend to address specific cultures, and look at them in ways which are very detail-oriented.

Even the anthropologists who have criticized things like female genital cutting in Sudan have tended to note carefully how it fits into culture, and tended to avoid the inflammatory activist rhetoric (and in many cases argued even more forcefully against being overly activist on the issue).

You will probably never see an anthropologist endorse a global campaign like this, because the sorts of thinking are very different.

So you are right, it doesn't preclude an opinion of the way a specific culture does things. But it does seem to preclude arguments based on natural rights.

BTW, great book on this topic, which over and over addresses questions of criticism of other cultures and its place in anthropology:

"Deeply Into the Bone: Re-Inventing Rites of Passage" by Ronald Grimes. To say it is inspired by van Gennep's classic anthropological work "The Rites of Passage" would be an understatement.

Edit: To the downvoters: One of the reasons why broad lines are usually avoided is that dynamics are rarely simple. For example, in Africa, you have long-standing patterns of European meddling in local cultures, and consequently large-scale activism from the West against female genital cutting more or less frames that practice as one of nationalist resistance.


I'll never understand why people say outsiders cannot judge or critique other culture's practices. Of course we can.

If society A and society B, who have never come across each other before, were to meet, two-way judgement would be going on immediately (not to mention intrigue, wonder, learning, questioning etc etc). It is just one among many things that would happen.

And it should. It is how we advance as a world and humanity in general.

And today, we can form opinions and make judgments. Just today I saw this in my news feed: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/48105731/ns/world_news-south_and...

Do you think there is an argument that can be made that justifies this (btw, if you say "yes", we have bigger issues so we can just stop now)? Of course not. We have an opinion, formed a judgement and deemed this action morally corrupt and no way justifiable, no matter the beliefs of the society.

Lastly, on the matter of right-wrong and opinions, I'll leave this quote from Richard Dawkins:

“...when two opposite points of view are expressed with equal intensity, the truth does not necessarily lie exactly halfway between them. It is possible for one side to be simply wrong.” ― Richard Dawkins


I never said we can't critique.

However such a critique needs to take into account the totality of the other culture. It's not enough to say "everyone must recognize same-sex marriage." The critique needs to be bounded to the other culture and look specifically at it.

My comment was against global campaigns. If we want to talk about a specific culture we can do that.

There are huge dangers that come with the view that we can just remake the world in our cultural image. That's the view I am arguing against. If we are going to critique other cultures, we might at least make sure we are informed about them and understand exactly what we are critiquing first.

As to your Dawkins quote, I would respond with "and more often, they both are."

.

Edit: Additionally... I would suggest that if we build our own society to be the most just one we can manage, then other cultures will adopt whatever they like from our society. If you look at Malaysia for example, despite the fact that it is a constitutional Islamic monarchy, the clear influence of the US constitution and structure in its founding is evident. It is in this way that the world is made better, not in remaking the world in our own image.


However such a critique needs to take into account the totality of the other culture.

Why?

Did we need to know all there was to know about Nazism to deem the holocaust "bad"? In the above link, do we necessarily have to understand every nuance of the society before we say killing someone to a cheering throng of people without a trial on hearsay of adultery is "wrong"? No, I don't think so. Those actions stand on their own and can be judged on their own.

Now, if you are suggesting that we must completely understand a culture before we pass judgement on the entire culture, that has some weight to it. Individual acts or cross-sections, however, can be judged on their own. It might help to understand them in the larger picture, though it isn't necessary.

As a last example, take lynchings in the south of the US. Easy to pass judgement on them as "wrong" for any outsider to the US without understanding the rest of the US culture.

Sometimes things are just bad and we shouldn't be afraid to tell it like it is.


Of course, not all "holocausts" are bad. The ones that were central to ancient Greek religion probably mostly would have pissed of PETA....

to would-be downvoters: "Holocaust" means essentially "to burn whole" and was originally a technical term in Greek religion for animal sacrifices(usually funerary) that weren't eaten but rather were burned whole. Later it takes on the connotation of total annihilation and disaster, and hence is applied particularly to ha'shoah as a rough translation (I think that means simply "the disaster" in Hebrew).


Fucking hell, you manage to talk a bigger pile of irrelevant horseshit in an attempt to win arguments at any cost than almost anyone outside the field of politics or law. Do you practice at this or does it just come naturally?


Did we need to know all there was to know about Nazism to deem the holocaust "bad"?

If all we need to know is that trying to exterminate another ethnic group is "bad" then I suppose not. However, I do think that something is missing in that analysis, and that is that when you start looking at the functions the holocaust fulfilled in the Nazi regime, it actually starts looking even worse. For example Himmler quite conspicuously used the death camps as places to expose possible dissenters (such as Fredrich B. Marby) to in order to try to secure their cooperation (Marby interestingly declined to cooperate and was left to make up his mind in Dachau, something he declined to do for the ten years in which he was imprisoned there, only to be liberated by allied troops and condemned again for his pre-war antisemitic writings--- I am not aware of any evidence he was antisemitic though post-imprisonment). Thus it wouldn't be an overstatement to say that the holocaust was a central part of the Nazi oppression of everywhere they conquered. It was, quite literally, how Himmler kept the nationalists in line.

But there is a more subtle danger there too, and this is the tendency to take on others' authority that some evils were really good.

The Holocaust was in its day a war crime. While Jewish residents of pre-1939 Germany could have been killed without implicating the Geneva Conventions, the GC's protected every civilian, Jewish or not, in every country the Nazis occupied. While the GC's might not have been sufficient to prosecute every death camp guard in every death camp, the vast majority could have been tied to serious crimes against the laws of war. The Nuremberg Tribunals could have imposed a rule of law based on the law at the time of the violations and dispensed real justice.

But that's not what they decided to do. There were two problems with imposing the rule of law. First a few people they wanted to imprison (Doenitz, Raeder) might actually be innocent. Secondly they wanted something stronger. So they made up two classifications of laws after the fact and applied them retrospectively--- crimes against peace and crimes against humanity.

Interesting Raeder was sentenced to life in prison for treaty violations. Doenitz was convicted of violating the GC's and anti-submarine treaty violations but these violations were set aside because Admiral Nimitz filed an affidavit saying that everything Doenitz did was legal in the view of the US Navy, and indeed standard operating procedure in his fleet. However, he was convicted of crimes against peace and sent to jail for 10 years largely for fighting on the losing side of the war.

The Nuremberg tribunals could have been what we typically think of them today-- an opportunity to dispense justice to real monsters, and in a very few cases they were (Gen. Keitel's conviction for GC violations is the best example--- he was the one who argued he wasn't responsible since he was just following orders). But in most cases they represented Soviet-style star-chambered justice and an evil in their own right.

In our domestic law we have a much higher standard. These crimes against humanity and crimes against peace would have been thrown out as ex post facto. Additionally the crimes against peace counts are bald-faced victors justice that would not survive a first year law student arguing that they were unconstitutionally vague and thus adopted the primary method the Soviet Union used to put folks they didn't like in jail.

That the Nuremberg Tribunals adopted the Stalinist model really has to be one of the great tragedies in the area of international law, peace, and justice.


You will probably never see an anthropologist endorse a global campaign like this, because the sorts of thinking are very different.

Given that the American Anthropological Association is quite happy to weigh in on exactly this subject politically, I am not entirely sure that you are correct.

the AAA Executive Board issued in 2004, the following statement in response to President Bush’s proposal for a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage:

The results of more than a century of anthropological research on households, kinship relationships, and families, across cultures and through time, provide no support whatsoever for the view that either civilization or viable social orders depend upon marriage as an exclusively heterosexual institution. Rather, anthropological research supports the conclusion that a vast array of family types, including families built upon same-sex partnerships, can contribute to stable and humane societies.


Their statement is correct, but that is hardly a global campaign of this sort is it? I mean I read that statement as basically saying that the arguments in favor of the change to our system of laws are anthropologically flawed.

I don't see that as taking a stand on the matter globally. I certainly don't see them saying that if the Hopi don't allow same-sex marriage that they are in violation of the human rights of the members of their society.

Of course as far as different family structures, these include polygamous families, and other things like the Greek model (heterosexual, monogamous marriage with heavily circumscribed homosexual relationships filling important social roles in parallel). Same sex marriage could be part of it but it doesn't have to be. They aren't saying "you must recognize SSM" just that it is misguided to pass a constitutional amendment against if that's the fear.

It could even include the wonderfully complex polygamy pattern portrayed in the Mahabharata, where the princess Drupadi has five husbands, each of which had at least one other wife.


I am not sure of your point that it doesn't count because it is discussing the US. Anthropology applies just as much on a street corner in Delaware as it does in the middle of the Amazon. But ok, here's some more, and two of them are global. Perhaps I am researching the wrong sort of anthropologists.

Declaration on Anthropology and Human Rights Committee for Human Rights American Anthropological Association

...As a professional organization of anthropologists, the AAA has long been, and should continue to be, concerned whenever human difference is made the basis for a denial of basic human rights...

http://www.aaanet.org/stmts/humanrts.htm

American Anthropological Association Statement on Laws and Policies Discriminating against Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Persons

...the American Anthropological Association will henceforth sign no contracts for any of its annual meetings in any state or local municipality which has such laws or policies discriminating against lesbian, gay or bisexual persons...

http://www.aaanet.org/stmts/discrimination.htm

AAA letter to support the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

...we wish to express our grave concern for the status of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, in the ongoing effort to have it approved by the General Assembly of the United Nations...

http://www.aaanet.org/press/pdf/20070611120331.pdf


Read my point again.

I wasn't saying that the AAA couldn't issue specific lines protecting cultural diversity or addressing a specific policy in a specific time.

What I said is that they would not get involved in a global campaign of this sort. The question is particularity and whether one is actually understanding the culture affected.

One can have opinions of whether recognition of gay marriage is a good thing or not for the US, or whether discrimination against gays and lesbians are a problem in the US without making these into issues which homogenize the world.

Also it occurs to me, the question of human rights is kind of a funny one to bring into anthropology since on one hand ethnocentricity is inescapable, and on the other, there just is no solid epistemology to justify these on a cross-cultural basis. I can't help but think this is either somewhat overreaching or perhaps more likely a miscommunication.

For example, I could see an argument that human rights and human rights violations don't necessarily take a specific form, but rather are emergent properties of cultural systems. Perhaps there is a general right to dignity and not to be singled out for particularly harsh punishments by law, beyond that.... Can you really tell the !Kung tribesman that he has a right to marry a woman who has the same name as his sister? can you really tell the hunter-gatherer in the jungle that they must respect property rights of their co-tribesman? Can you tell the eskimo that he has the right to free speech and that taboos regarding speech should be removed? Can you tell the Sambian boy that he has a right not to be beat or forced into fellatio in coming of age ceremonies? Can you tell the Hopis they may not beat their children when initiating them into the religious community of the tribe?

One basic human right that I think most anthropologists would agree with is that of collective self-determination. I think the group to some extent has to define these issues for themselves. Hence the rights of "indigenous" peoples (although there is no consensus as to whether "indigenous" is any more than a political label--- the general trend in the articles I have read is to treat "indigenous" as only meaningful in political discussions).


>Being forced to spend your life with someone who you don't want, is far more of an imposition than that of an organisation publicly stating that they think it would be nice if people were allowed to marry who they do want.

Thats what you say after 200K hollywood movies and romantic novels, which is another form on imposition.

Is what you say good for society in general? Is it even better for the persons involved? If you answer yes without hesitation, you should question how much of your thinking has been shaped by the prevalent ideology on your country.

>If projecting cultural preferences onto other groups is bad, then all I have to do is claim to belong to a culture that finds it deeply offensive for people to claim that projecting cultural preferences is bad, and then anyone who holds the first position isn't even allowed to tell me about it, entirely by their own argument.

For one, that would be a fake culture (the one youll claim o belong to). Cultures are made by populations, not a random guy.

Second, the workaround is bs. Here's another version: "projecting cultural preferences onto other groups is bad, period, even if its acceptable in your culture".


Thats what you say after 200K hollywood movies and romantic novels, which is another form on imposition.

Interestingly the same industries which quite literally sell the idea of marriage as the way to personal fulfilment (particularly to young girls) also quite literally sell marriage as monogamous and heterosexual.


Thats what you say after 200K hollywood movies and romantic novels

Japanese cartoons and classic sci-fi, mostly. I don't really like hollywood, or romance novels.

Is what you say good for society in general? Is it even better for the persons involved? If you answer yes without hesitation, you should question how much of your thinking has been shaped by the prevalent ideology on your country.

Well, on balance, I think you'd have to ask the people in forced marriages and also look at the outcomes for different societies in comparison to each other. However my opinion already stands, so asking whether I would answer yes to things I have already said that I agree with and then trying to use the immediacy of any response to try and spread doubt seems to be a little bit of a false construct.

For one, that would be a fake culture (the one youll claim o belong to). Cultures are made by populations, not a random guy.

Fine. I'll go find some disciples. Twelve of them preferably, just to annoy people. We'll be up to culture status in no time.

Second, the workaround is bs. Here's another version: "projecting cultural preferences onto other groups is bad, period, even if its acceptable in your culture".

Please will you stop projecting your cultural preferences about not projecting cultural preferences. I don't want to have to send my disciples round again. You didn't like it last time when they refused to stop singing.


"Well, on balance, I think you'd have to ask the people in forced marriages and also look at the outcomes for different societies in comparison to each other"

Ok, so in upper castes of India the way it works is the parents come up with various candidates, the kids veto whichever candidates they don't like. In Indian culture you don't get married to the one you fall in love with, you fall in love with the person you get married to. Indian culture also takes the idea of worshipping your spouse to levels which are a bit more literal than in the US. The husband-wife relationship is literally supposed to mirror the god/human relationship.

They seem to have pretty good outcomes on the whole. People get married and then they start dating. I have read a number of accounts by Indians suggesting that they like this system.


"I have read a number of accounts by Indians suggesting that they like this system."

And I have spoken to many Indians here in Australia that dislike this system. One was dreading having to go back home to get married to a girl he didn't pick.

I'd be interested to see the cultural shift over time for this topic. How many disliked arranged marriages 50 years ago, vs now? Would be interesting.


But that doesn't get to the standard of "asking people in arranged marriages" right? The previous poster said that should be the basis. It sounds like the one that was dreading to go back either didn't have good prospects there, or had very bad relationships with his parents.


As a Google shareholder think of it as a.) a method for getting and keeping great employees and b.) marketing.

As a supporter of gay marriage, think of it as a nice bonus.


I think you could say this about a lot of social issues though. Taking any social stance will be a great way to get some employees, a great way to alienate some. I'm sure prospective Googlers are overwhelmingly in favor of gay marriage, so it's probably a net positive to them.

But let's suppose truckers were overwhelmingly opposed to gay marriage, would it be ok for a trucking company to lobby against it? That would bother me just as much as a shareholder as Google's stance. (And more in my capacity as a citizen).


I think it's okay for them to lobby against it.

The term "political issue" doesn't really make sense to me, honestly. A political issue isn't really "political" so much as it's "currently in contention"; Catholic-Protestant civil wars in Europe were political as much as they were religious, because they had political impact. Gay marriage is a political issue because, and only because, it's under contention.

Thus, every issue is something a special interest might decide to take a stance on whether it's Google or a trucking company. The question is whether or not it's relevant, and it's demonstrably relevant to Google, which has gay employees. (It would be okay for Exodus International to lobby against gay marriage, too. Which I expect they do.)


Companies _already_ implicitly do stuff like this when they donate to e.g. the Salvation Army, an org which itself has an anti-gay agenda. It's "OK" in that it is legal and it is probably not unethical.

Is it be morally right? That depends, but public opinion in the US and in many (but obvs not all) other industrialized nations suggests that it is wrong.

Shareholders can and should vote with their feet if a company takes a position they don't like. Ostensibly that's one of the levers available to you in our glorious free market economy, amirite?

You might alienate religious people, but when I consider the merits of this particular topic, screw 'em. There's no reason their views (a choice) should trump other people's basic human rights.


From a shareholder's point of view then sure, the hypothetical trucking company should do that - except there are other considerations - shareholders who wouldn't want to invest in that company, bad press, other companies boycotting them... it's a lot easier for pro-gay companies to boycott a bigoted company than the other way around.

Of course morals come into play as well, personally I'd never run, work for or invest in a company that did that, and I like to think I'd still have that stance if I wasn't gay (actually I don't need to say "like to think", as I already have that stance for various other things that don't directly affect me).


Here's my concern though. It's one thing to get involved in a nation's politics where one reasonably understands what the costs and benefits are. It's a very different thing to get involved in a global campaign.

What's next? Convince Japanese and Indians to do away with arranged marriages? Where do we draw the line?

Or are we trying to remake the world in our image? That strikes me as very dangerous.


The US has always been remaking the world to its image; it's not always intentionally, though.

Personally, it bothers me more that there's a MacDonald's in every street corner than Google's campaign, even though the former isn't intended to promote any cultural values.


Yeah, I don't like the global reach of MacDonalds too.

But you haven't seen the horrible excuse for American food that is Pizza Hut internationally...... I swear after you see the Cheeseburger Pizza and the Chicken Nugget Pizza you will never complain about MacDonalds again....


How about a bus company owned by the richest man in the country lobbying against homosexuality being included within sex education in schools and then privately bankrolling a referendum, as happened in Scotland. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/693172.stm


In part I agree with The point of employee perk and marketing. My obscure view of capitalism justifies it even in light of the proposed arguments. My greatest fear is for the safety of employees in regions that will be hostile to this concept. It seems very dangerous to me. (btw .. I'm gay)


You have to get used to the idea that Google is the kind of company that has a different sense of priorities than most public companies. For starters, they prioritize employees over shareholders, which is why the food over there is still free despite costing them hundreds of thousands of dollars every day in food alone.

But more than that, Google is philanthropic, humanist and a scientific activist. Don't invest in them if you are not comfortable with these ideals.


(Disclaimer: I'm a Google employee, and a rather cynical one, speaking for myself and not the company.)

It's not actually that they prioritize employees over shareholders; it's that they believe that the best path to maximizing long-term shareholder value is to treat your employees well, because then you can continue to attract the best employees. Googlers who blindly believe that Google does whatever's good for its employees tend to be quickly disillusioned. Google does what's best for its business; it just so happens that what's good for employees often turns out to be good for business as well.

It's not an employees vs. shareholders thing. It's a long-term vs. short-term value thing, where free food, option repricing, and raises for everyone costs the company significantly in the short term, but ensures their long-term viability.


And culturally imperialist to boot.

Here's the thing that should give us pause about this.

Back in the late 18th and early 19th century there were a lot of people who basically felt that the European and American ways of doing things were just better than the ways of doing things elsewhere. Therefore, they reasoned that bringing people from, say, Africa to work in the plantations was a good thing. It was bringing Christianity to some people who hadn't heard the message. It was bringing these people into the domain of progress, and while the US never really had colonies elsewhere in the world in the same way the French or Dutch did, this was a major current of thought that justified a real evil, for the form of slavery these folks were brought into was uniquely oppressive even among systems of slavery.

Similarly we have seen human rights organizations argue that everything from gay marriage to sexual experimentation, to internet access is a basic human right. This justifies destroying cultures which are different than us, just because we can't be bothered to tolerate the difference. The loss of cultural diversity, and with it agricultural biodiversity, is just waved away as the price of progress, much like slavery of Africans in the US was.

I am not comfortable with this. It's one thing to say "in the US, we should push for gay marriage." It's something very different to make it a worldwide effort. One is permissible since Google is base here. The other can only be described as imperialist.


Are you seriously comparing a campaign to slavery?

Influencing other cultures is what we all do every day, and yes, probably you included. The fact that YC offers to take care of Visas influences people to choose jobs that are not part of their culture. Selling/distributing US music, movies and books is a huge influence for change in culture. That's not even talking about the MacDonald's in every corner.

But you're being extremely patronizing to the people that compose those cultures by assuming they are little idiots that have no choice but to be assimilated. If people accept gay marriage it's because they chose to, not because Google strolled around in a bus and brain-washed people.


No. I am comparing the arrogance involved to the arrogance involved in a specific defence of slavery.

Yes we influence other cultures. No we shouldn't try to tell them they must do as we say (but not yet as we do, no less)!


How is Google telling people they must do as they say, any more than you are telling Google they must do as you say by voicing your opinion?

not yet as we do, no less

Who's we? How is Google not doing what they're defending?


They are telling other countries that they must engage in a certain legal structure that has not been accepted universally in the nation they are based.

I would have a problem with them doing it anyway even if it was, but the fact that it is directed to Singapore more than Nebraska makes it not only culturally imperial but culturally hypocritical as well.


Google is not the US, the US is not Google. There's nothing hypocritical about their position just because their headquarters happen to be based on the US. Google's culture is what matters.

And they aren't telling anyone what they must do. They're giving their opinion. Just like you are doing here to them.


They are giving Singapore an option to pass laws?

Singapore didn't have that option before?


I didn't write option.


Why would it make you upset that people have to choose between their personal beliefs and owning Google stock? This is the entire idea of the free market. There's absolutely no coercion at play.

I understand being upset about what your government does. You can't easily escape being part of that. Anyone who doesn't like what Google is doing is free to disassociate themselves in an instant.


This opinion is not going to make me popular here, but if I were a Google shareholder (and I probably am through an ETF) I'd be a little upset by this. And I say this as someone who has been against whites-only laws since before it was cool. I'm an equal rights for coloreds hipster. But this still irks me.

I want companies to lobby only for the issues that are their immediate business (and I say that only because I know we'll never get laws banning lobbying at all) and let their shareholders privately endorse their beliefs. I see this as another example of corporate personhood. Even though I have no sympathy for people who are opposed to negros as private citizens, as Google shareholders I don't feel they should be forced with a choice between supporting their beliefs (however wrongheaded they may seem to me) and being a Google shareholder. I also feel a little gross thinking about an American company preaching tolerance to Singapore. How about we get it fixed here before we start pressuring everyone else?


You can make a strong business argument for this move, I think. Google comes across as young, hip, ahead of the curve, and that's among it's most key user base. It's an interesting concept but actually helps their PR with people they need most. "Pink-washing" if you will :)


I think you are seeing this in the wrong light.

It will not change issues that are part of its immediate business.

Instead google will be seen by others as a champion of freedom. A good force. Something that isn't "evil".

Therefore, the purpose of this strategy is twofold One, is that you get something that helps out your employees. Two, you get to be seen in the world as a progressive force of change. By changing the public perception can do no wrong or that google is a champion of good is worth more. This is a marketing program that you do if you have billions to use.

So, you are right. There is no reason that this is relevant to its immediate business. It's a marketing ploy that has the side effect of championing civil rights. I'm not complaining I think its great!


Even though I have no sympathy for people who are opposed to gay marriage as private citizens, as Google shareholders I don't feel they should be forced with a choice between supporting their beliefs (however wrongheaded they may seem to me) and being a Google shareholder.

I'd tend to agree but this isn't really about beliefs, it is about discrimination.


FWIW, if you read the prospectus before investing (I know, who has time for that), you'd find in the founders' letter to investors: "We aspire to make Google an institution that makes the world a better place."

Corporations are evil and self-interested by default, but that's not necessarily a condition for being allowed to sell shares to the public.


In regards to Singapore and Google's global campaign, other countries have far worse record of equal rights. Some countries like India still follows the Victorian code of sin as their legislature. Google is doing the right thing by making a noise about it.


Although I agree with that in principle, I think an exception can be made for anti-discrimination efforts, especially if said discrimination directly affects many company employees and shareholders.


What about disclosing information about Chinese dissidents. Should they do that, or not? Why does the answer seem more obvious with one moral problem than with another?


I don't think Google should be doing this, because I don't think employers should take positions on lifestyle choices of their employees. Nothing specific to gay marriage, I would also say that employers shouldn't push biking/walking to work over driving, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, eating or not eating a certain way, reserve premium parking spaces for "green" cars, etc. You can't make everyone happy so just focus on your business, please.


American corporations (in particular) have an economic interest in keeping employees healthy for one very important reason: they pay for their employees' healthcare.

It makes financial sense to demonstrate to health insurance providers that you're trying to keep your employees healthy, so that insurance premiums don't increase and so that you reduce time away from work due to illness.

Regarding commute options, they also benefit the company because employees can be healthier, happier and spend more time in the office if local traffic is reduced. In addition, commute campaigns are often driven by incentives from state and local governments. Whenever someone is stuck in a traffic jam, the opportunity to be productive is being lost.

(And as others have pointed out, there's not much evidence to suggest that sexual orientation is a lifestyle choice)


Being gay is not a "lifestyle choice". Being not allowed to marry the person you love is not a "lifestyle choice". Being incarcerated because you're gay is not a "lifestyle choice". Being killed for who you are is not a "lifestyle choice".


All employers take positions on lifestyle choices by offering them.

Cigarette, car, pornographic, internet food, and news companies takes a position on lifestyle choices by providing a choice.

The unfortunate thing for LGBT is that there is no way to generate revenue by converting non-LGBT to LGBT.


Is being gay a lifestyle choice? I thought the mainstream opinion is that choice has quite little to do with it.


Marriage in general is a lifestyle choice.


Unless it's illegal for you to marry the person you want to marry, in which case you don't have a choice. Hence this campaign.


I suspect it is about as much of a choice as which hair color you find most sexy.

Seriously I wouldn't call it a choice. Nobody goes and reads up on hair color and then decides "you know, I think from now on I am not going to prefer blonds, but rather readheads." To reduce it to a choice is just silly.

But the anthropological consensus is that sexual orientation is a cultural construct. These can be binding. For example, I suppose I can choose when spending a $20 bill that it has the same value as a $5 bill but there is no reason when I am being paid to choose that a $5 bill has the same value as a $20. So in this regard, I suppose one may argue that sexual orientation is as real as the difference in value between a $5 bill and a $20 bill....


> I thought the mainstream opinion is that choice has quite little to do with it.

Outside the USA, yes. Sadly, a majority of Americans thinks that being gay is a choice while being obese is genetic.


Being obese is partly genetic - or, more precisely, inclination to being obese is. However, choice has a lot to do with the result.

As for being gay and American opinion, I'm not sure what this is based on. Polls seem to differ wildly, e.g. compare: http://www.cnn.com/2007/US/06/27/poll.gay/ and http://www.pinknews.co.uk/2009/12/18/poll-suggests-almost-ha.... I suspect the results of these polls have a lot to do with current politics and how questions are formulated.


The more we learn, it looks more and more like obesity may be a general indicator of poor health. While there are genetic contributing factors, there are lots of other factors such as when you eat (do you eat breakfast), nutrition, and even quantity/quality of sleep can have an impact. Obesity may be the product actually of a large number of choices, not a single lack of self control or anything.


That argument can be made both ways.


Issues of social equality are every employers immediate business, and most shareholders are not driven by the lobbying positions that companies hold, but rather a desire to profit. Also, if disagreeing with a company's positions meant having to sell your shares, then shareholder meetings would be even more boring than they generally are.


For a probably-different point of view on this -

I'm a person of faith, who takes his faith seriously, and who's faith teaches that homosexual conduct is immoral. I think this puts me in a distinct minority among the HN community, but in a possible-majority among the American population (with the mainstream orthodoxy of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam all teaching the same; and ~80+% of the U.S. self identifying as holding one of these faiths).

Given my faith, advocacy like this from Google, Apple, and other prominent tech companies really put me in a bind.

Their products have become such fixtures in my day to day life that I'm not sure how to get by without them, but by using their products and providing these companies with revenue, I feel like I'm contributing to a fund for someone to publicly proclaim: "You're faith is a sham; your God irrelevant; and, by the way, we think you are a vile, hateful, homophobic bigot".

I wish Apple, Google, etc. would all just focus on making insanely great products and not jump into the fray of divisive-by-definition social issues.

And, no, I'm not a "homophobe" or "bigot". I have friends who are gay; I don't hate them. I just think they engage in behavior that's immoral, just like others of my friends who sleep with each other outside of marriage, etc. I recognize my faith condemns such behavior - but I'd equally condemn anyone who insults, harasses, or otherwise harms someone just because that someone is gay.


> " I have friends who are gay; I don't hate them. I just think they engage in behavior that's immoral, just like others of my friends who sleep with each other outside of marriage, etc. I recognize my faith condemns such behavior - but I'd equally condemn anyone who insults, harasses, or otherwise harms someone just because that someone is gay."

And how does that in any way conflict with the support of gay rights?

The legalization of gay marriage in no way denies your right to morally condemn their behavior. It simply removes your ability to actively harm their lives by continuously denying them equality.

You do not have to approve of someone's behavior in order to support their right to do it.

In other words, your very claim that you are not homophobic, and that you would readily come to the aid of persecuted gay folk, should mean that Google's move is not objectionable. After all, Google is not trying to ban browbeating, but merely to assert the right for people to do as they wish, moral or otherwise.


So if somebody is pro gay marriage, they are telling you "you are a vile, hateful, homophobic bigot", but if you are against gay marriage, you are "merely thinking their behavior is immoral". I think your self evaluation could be improved.

I find it surprising (but cool) that Google takes a stand on a controversial issue here.

Think about it another way: if Google doesn't take a stand on other human rights issues, there is a huge scandal. For example if they were to reveal information about Chinese activists to the Chinese government. So why shouldn't they be expected to take a stand regarding other human rights issues, too?


I think this puts me in a distinct minority among the HN community, but in a possible-majority among the American population (with the mainstream orthodoxy of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam all teaching the same; and ~80+% of the U.S. self identifying as holding one of these faiths).

I'm an agnostic atheist. At some point in my past I identified as "christian". At no point did I think gay marriage should be illegal nor did I think that gays were immoral.

Further, civil rights, interracial marriage (mine, for instance) and various other issues were deemed "socially unacceptable" by the majority of people in the US at some point in time. It wasn't majority voting that gave women the right to vote, removed segregation and created equal rights for all. It was a minority of people recognizing that this way of thinking was antiquated, crude and reprehensible.

The issue today is gay marriage and it falls in the same category as the above. Imagine looking back 50 years from now and seeing yourself on the complete wrong side of the debate. How stupid, and hopefully shameful, you'll feel.

BTW...I'm thankful the US is not a true democracy when I see what opinions the majority tend to hold. I am glad the leaders are not bound to do exactly as their constituents "want". As we as a human race advance in our thinking, some quicker than others, we need to shed the vestigial dogmas of our past...all of them.


See http://www.patheos.com/blogs/slacktivist/2012/06/11/you-cant... for some commentary on pretty much exactly your position, from a Christian who doesn't oppose same-sex marriage.

Basic point #1: If forbidding people to marry others of the same sex is unkind, unjust, or whatever, then it doesn't become any less so when the person doing it says "my religion told me to do it".

Basic point #2: If forbidding people to marry others of the same sex is unkind, unjust, or whatever, then those who campaign against the prohibition don't need to -- and generally don't -- do it on the basis that the people on the other side are homophobes and bigots. This isn't about the character of the opponents of same-sex marriage, it's about their actions, and if your actions are unkind, unjust, etc., then once again they really don't become any less so merely because you're a nice person underneath.


a possible-majority among the American population (with the mainstream orthodoxy of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam all teaching the same; and ~80+% of the U.S. self identifying as holding one of these faiths).

Please don't confuse calling oneself Christian (or anything else) to advocating their Church's beliefs. Where I live, the people who describe themselves as Catholics (which is obviously much more specific than Christian) are 95% for using contraception, and more than 50% are pro-choice in both pregnancy interruption and euthanasia.


I can't speak for anyone else, but I've always found the notion of faith (firm belief in something for which there is no proof) to seem hollow and meaningless compared to the joy of evidence, humility from understanding the size and time of the known universe, and the fortitude to accept that some questions have no answers.

At some point in the future, science will probably identify the origin of homosexuality. (Given its prevalence in nature, consistent trigger rates, and the seemingly smooth continuum between hetero and homo, it's likely to run deep within our genetic makeup.) So if physical evidence is found for homosexuality, should your faith reconsider what it means to be "made in god's image"?


If your view is that homosexuality is immoral, and you don't want homosexuals to have the same rights as heterosexuals, then I'm afraid you are homophobic. You may be the best kind of homophobic, but homophobic none the less.


If homossexuals had the rights without calling it marriage, I think he (parent poster) would be all right with it.


You can be homophobic without opposing gay marriage (regardless of if you use "marriage" as the word), just like you can be racist without thinking black people shouldn't be allowed to get married. It's about attitude, not actions - the fact that he isn't trying to force his homophobia on others is what makes him the better kind of homophobe.


Well, perhaps the word doesn't carry the same negative weight that it does in portuguese. Here if you tell me someone is an homophobe, I imagine people that want to beat all homossexuals passing in the streets.


IMO there is a difference between prejudice and racist/homophobe.


I'm not racist, but I don't think blacks should be able to marry. I just think they engage in behavior that's immoral, just like others of my friends who sleep with each other outside of marriage, etc. I have friends who are black. I'm not racist! I'd equally condemn anyone who insults, harasses, or otherwise harms someone just because that someone is black.


This is a pretty surprising move, at least to me. In Singapore it's not even legal to engage in homosexual sex, and there's no recognition of same-sex unions:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Recognition_of_same-sex_unions_...

Pushing for gay marriage in a place where gays aren't even legally allowed to have sex is jumping right into the deep end. (I should clarify that the gay community here is nonetheless pretty active anyway, and there haven't been crackdowns in a long while. Homosexuality is pretty much tolerated as long as the sexual acts are kept private.)

All in all it's a strange move for a multinational corporation to make, considering how sociopolitical the issue is. Our government is very keen on having dynamic foreign firms set up shop here, but maybe not so keen once they take stances opposed to legislative policy. Google has established a big enough office (and datacenters) here to possibly not want to risk hurting relations (in my uninformed view).

I'd guess it's a hoax, taking all these factors into account, and the lack of an official press release.


Homosexual sex was illegal in some states as recently as 2003. Consodering the transformation in the USA since then, I don't think it's premature to start campaigning for marriage rights.


If Justice O'Connor had her way it might still be ;-)

Her concurrence with the judgement of Lawrence v. Texas was only on the basis that Texas singled out homosexual sex specifically. In her view, states could ban blow jobs and anal sex for everybody, but not allow it for straight couples and ban it for gays.

I must say the logic has a certain appeal to it. If sex truly is a private matter between two people then cohabiting with multiple partners as if they were spouses should be legally protected too under the same logic. But if we say equal protection is what matters and you can't specifically single out gays, then that problem goes away.

As it is, Lawrence has opened up a fair bit of uncertainty what the Supreme Court will do to Lawrence and de facto bigamy laws (enacted in really only a minority of states) if and when they review a case on appeal. (Most states do not recognize informal arrangements as potentially bigamous.)


Laws aside, homosexuality is alive and well in Singapore. There are gay clubs, lady boys at Orchard Towers (government regulated prostitution), and I had a number of gay friends who certainly weren't fearful for their life (never bothered about their sexual preference).


I'm in favor of gay marriage, pet marriage, sibling marriage, and all sorts of other kinds of marriage that people tend to feel the need to ban.

However, I think it's absurd that the state is involved in marriage. Google's move, while perhaps pragmatic in nature, reveals a very strong sentiment legitimizing the state role in marriage, which is the basis for all the backwardness.

Only when the state becomes involves in things can politicians attempt to control what others do via the power of the state. I'd rather see Google encourage people to just "marry" each other with private vows and no license or other nonsense.


Private vows don't work so well when your bigoted inlaws decide you can't see your lover at the hospital. People have compiled lists of hundreds of privileges granted through marriage that are difficult-to-impossible to arrange any other enforceable way. We'd have to rewrite family law from scratch.

That said, I don't know that they are better at lobbying than anyone else their stockholders could give the money to, which would be the only reason they ought to involve the corporation.


What privileges are difficult-to-impossible to arrange without a legal concept of marriage? Just curious. I also believe that the root of the issue is coming from the government being involved in the marriage conversation at all and I'm curious why that would be hard to change.


Off the first hit for "marriage equality" (http://www.marriageequality.org/get-the-facts), here are some choice ones:

* Married couples are permitted to give an unlimited amount of gifts to each other without being taxed. * The law provides certain automatic rights to a person's spouse regardless of whether or not a will exists. * With marriage, a couple has the right to be treated as an economic unit and to file joint tax returns (and pay the marriage penalty), and obtain joint health, home and auto insurance policies.


OK. Thanks for the list.

I think there are two issues in this "same sex marriage" debate that are being confused by people on both sides. One is the special rights and privileges given to married couples, and the other is the actual word "marriage". What I was suggesting is that the government should drop the term "marriage" from their vocabulary and change it to something else, like "domestic partnership". I highly doubt that anyone employing rational thought would suggest we can do away with the concept of mutually exclusive partnership between two people in the legal realm. Part of what the people on the right are arguing for is to not have the actual term "marriage" redefined by the government. That word has a lot of tradition and meaning. If we turn the conversation towards removing that word from the government's laws and replacing it with something that has less specific meaning to people, then the conversation is purely about equal rights and not a fight over a word and the tradition behind it. I think that's more what people are getting at when they suggest that the government shouldn't be involved in marriage.


Unfortunately most of the marriage protection amendments also ban establishing these "separate but equal" legal arrangements as well.


Oh, separate but equal?

No.


How is that separate but equal? Who is making anyone separate? I'm suggesting the government should treat everyone the same.

My understanding of "separate but equal" historically had to do with separating students based on race into separate schools. If the government were to say, "OK, call it a marriage, call it whatever you want, but 2 people can form what we call a 'domestic partnership' that creates certain legal rights by filling out this form." How is that separate but equal?


I think it sounded like you were saying that the new rule would be only for same-sex couples, and that opposite-sex couples would continue to call it "marriage".


Ahh, I should have made that more clear the first time.


In the US, marriage makes it trivial to bring your spouse over if you are immigrating from another country. Same sex couples are split apart for very long periods of times. I have seen this happen numerous times with my LGBT friends in tech, and it frequently does bad things for their relationships (as long distance relationships often do.)


A challenge to section 3 of DOMA has made it to the Supreme Court and the Supreme Court may take it up and rule on it next term. Section 3 defines marriage for purposes of federal law.

Section 2 (specifying that the full faith and credit clause does not apply to same-sex marriage), which Law Prof Andrew Koppelman suggests is roughly as effective as a ban on hunting unicorns is not before the court and if Koppelman is right (and the section does nothing anyway), will never be before the court.

My prediction is that they will, and they will strike down this provision on the grounds that defining marriage has been a traditional role of state governments and that the federal government must defer to the states as to who is married and who can be married. They would then hold that there is no valid reason for the federal government to treat these differently. This decision is likely to be 7-1, 8-1, or 9-0 depending on whether Scalia dissents and whether Kagan recuses herself.

The result will be that it will fully revert to a state-by-state approach and that if you are in a state which recognizes same-sex marriage you can bring your same-sex spouse over, but if you are a resident of a state which does not, you may not.


I hope so.


Assuming I am right, I would expect a decision striking DOMA on 10th Amendment grounds to be far more welcome on the right than the left of legal academia.....


Ok, so suppose that you live in a state like Washington that:

1) Has extraordinarily strong freedom of religion protections (a city may not enact a blanket ban on churches hosting tent cities for example, according to our state supreme court) and

2) Very narrow anti-bigamy laws (IANAL, but I think the best reading of the statute is that it bans intentionally legally marrying more than one person at a time, or telling the other individual that you are going to be legally married when you are not. It could be read to ban purely religious marriages, but given #1 above, I don't think so. Note a few years ago a bigamy case was dismissed by the state Supreme Court because the jury had not been instructed that they had to find specific intent, and that the individual marrying someone else while his divorce was pending and the process was being drawn out might not have met that standard.)

Now suppose you are in a polygamous household which avoids the very narrow bigamy laws and suppose your religion endorses polygamy (it doesn't really matter whether this is polygyny, polyandry, or some combination).

Would you argue that there is an equal protection violation by only allowing one spouse of each partner access to these rights?


The purpose of marriage has always been a state issue. The state didn't become involved; it invented marriage.


This is a very important concept which many miss, so it's a shame it's being downvoted.

Marriage is not a contract between two people, as many people think. Marriage is a contract between a two people, and society. The way you can tell is exactly because two people can live together all their lives, by their choice, without being married, but they don't get any of the societal benefits of marriage. All the marriage rights, fore example, but also social acceptance of their having children.

In fact, that's mostly the point of marriage. The contract benefits society by making more stable family units that will raise children, and be permitted to do so. The contract benefits the couple by giving them many legal rights and recognitions, including monetary advantages, that they couldn't get otherwise.

In fact, it's only in the last few years (relatively speaking) that marriage was even necessarily between two people who choose to be married to each other out of love, and it's still not that way in all cultures.


The comments on the article are funny. People saying this is a reason people might switch to Google from Apple or from Google to Bing, then being reminded that all the tech companies support the LGBT community.


Especially since Apple and Microsoft has been supportive of this issue way before Google was.

Also you know Tim Cook being gay and all.


I guess it says a lot that I had no idea Tim Cook was gay. Since it seems society thinks it is not a big enough deal to warrant a mention.


It has actually been mentioned quite a bit - https://encrypted.google.com/search?q=Tim+Cook+Gay

Maybe less than you'd expect, but quite a few people deemed it a big enough deal to mention.


Call me cynical, but I wonder (A) what is the real motivation behind this, & (B) how seriously is this campaign going to be pursued in unfriendly terrain?

I suppose the Singapore test will be interesting as it is some homosexual acts are technically illegal but not generally enforced. Sounds like a good candidate for an easy win... but if it's ineffective there it will presumably be ineffective everywhere.


(A) It loses them edge if they can't employ the people they want in the locations where they want them.

(B) See (A)


There's only one and single source reporting this news and everyone seems to be linking them without adding anything else. I don't know about others, but this seems suspicious.

EDIT: I am no anti-LGBT but saying above on principle.


Here is the press page for the conference where this was announced by Google’s Mark Palmer-Edgecumbe. - http://www.globallgbtworkplacesummit.org/press--media.html

Also, may I just say that as a I am a lover of smut, innuendo and really bad puns, I think that Mark Palmer-Edgecumbe is a wonderful name for a man in his position.


Great, this makes sense now.


As long as companies are gonna be able to lobby, might as well lobby for good stuff.


Did you ever see anybody lobbying for stuff they consider bad? Of course everybody lobbies for good stuff, just definitions of good stuff differ between people.

Or you meant "As long as companies are gonna be able to lobby, might as well lobby for stuff I agree with"?


Yup, all that lobbying to be able to carry on polluting air and waterways, to keep tobacco sales and advertising legal, the people doing those things thought they were good and pure too - right?

There's lobbying that's evil, and the people doing it know it's evil, but it affects their bottom line so they do it anyway.


Only way to not pollute air and waterways at all is to cease all industry and somehow dispose of the large percentage of the human population. Otherwise, they'd have some impact on the environment, it's inevitable. This impact can be bigger or lesser, and can be measured against they usefulness of what comes out of it. Of course, producers argue that their products are very useful and their impacts on the environment are minimal and well controlled. They may be wrong or misrepresenting how actually good is what they in fact do, but I never heard anybody arguing, for example "let's destroy the environment, to hell with it, who needs it anyway". Did you?

Same for tobacco sales and advertising - of course, many people - especially those who enjoy smoking - think it is a good thing that it is legal. They also think it is a good thing that they, being sane adults, can choose how to behave and manage their own bodies and property. Some people think instead it is a good thing to deny certain people choice in what they can do with their bodies and their property, for their own good. There's obviously some disagreement on the topic, but again, I don't see how the former are more evil than the latter. If anything, I'd prefer a smoker over somebody that wants to control minute details of my behavior using government coercion any day of the week, but that's my opinion of what is good. But I'd really want to know why you not only claim it's evil but also claim everybody who disagrees with you on these topics knows they are evil. That's an ambitious statement, I'd like to see some substantiation of it.


The latter. But I think it's hard to argue with "let consenting adults do whatever they want with each other". The gay thing specifically is not important to me for any reason other than I think people who have found love should have no barriers to expressing that love. Even though watching two guys do what they want to each other would probably make me vomit.


I don't disagree with your sentiment, but lobbying by nature is usually in regards to things that are not universally held beliefs.


Are you implying that pro-gay marriage sentiment is a universally held belief? Maybe amongst your peers, and that’s great. Globally, I’m not even sure if the sentiment has hit 50% yet.

Edit: Apparently I mis-understood, but I’m not sure what the correct understanding is, exactly.


No, that's precisely the opposite of what I said. In that, if Google is lobbying for it, then it must be something in contention enough to demand that they actively lobby for it.


There are no universally held beliefs. Even for things that seem fairly solid, you can always find people in disagreement.


Okay, I'll phrase it another way. If Google has to lobby for it, it's probably not as universally held as cheez seemed to be taking for granted.


Does calling it "good stuff" imply universally held?


The statement that something is good, without further qualification, does tend to imply that it is universally held to be good. Albeit the two aren't necessarily synonymous.

They tend to be taken as such in everyday conversation.


In my opinion "good" is subjective by default, not objective. Further, I would think that even when objectiveness is implied it would be that the speaker thinks it should be universally held, not that it necessarily is.

Gay marriage is not universally supported, this we know. Do you personally think it is "good"? If not, does that mean you think it is the opposite, "bad", just because not everyone supports it?


Think of it as a matter of communication. Everyone (or at least almost everyone) is lobbying for 'good stuff,' so it's not a particularly useful statement to make all by itself.

> Further, I would think that even when objectiveness is implied it would be that the speaker thinks it should be universally held, not that it necessarily is.

Hence the two not being synonymous. Perhaps I simply happen to know an unusually large number of people who believe that moral correctness implies a convincing argument.


I thought cheez was giving personal opinion, not speaking for the world. Is fairly obvious that it is not universally held to be good. The UN only recently removed homosexuality from the list of things states are not allowed to execute their citizens for and the arguments about gay marriage are currently tearing great holes in many of the major sects of christianity, accompanied by much public wailing and gnashing of teeth. To think that it was a universally held belief at this point in time would require an extremely restricted social circle and no access to any form of media, so given that cheez is posting on the intatubes, I doubt this is the case.


A lot of people outside of Google don't take it's "Don't be evil" pledge seriously anymore but I know from talking to employees that it's still something Google cares deeply about. Most of the people in this thread seem to analyzing it from an amoral, self-interested business perspective and twisting facts and circumstances to justify that narrative. I think the far more parsimonious explanation is that Google felt like it couldn't sit on the sidelines of the gay marriage debate any longer and still uphold it's values.


To the vocal minority who pop up on threads like this and argue that gay marriage is something that should be opposed, I offer the following: http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/en/lz_granderson_the_myth_of_t...

If you find yourself thinking bad thoughts while watching this, stop yourself and try to empathise with those whom you so blithely speak against. It won't hurt and no-one has to know ;-)


How about a campaign to end world hunger, government transparency, proper SEC accounting, banks accountability, or real-time online voting for current issues and abolish congress.


You should get right on those then.


Google is involved in a lot of projects that aim to make the world a better place...


So, what does a political campaign / stance mean for a search company? Would they skew search results to support a position? If I am their competitor, it seems like an opportunity for FUD, even if they are doing the right thing.


I'm interested in the legal effects of this. Singapore, for all of its prosperity and advances, isn't a democratic country. And I'm wondering what the EU would think about a multinational lobbying in one of their member states.


How about some fact checking prior to launching into an enflamed debate? This seems a rather unlikely event, and the source provided doesn't look like a tremendously trustworthy news source. Where's the Google PR statement?


This might not relate, but I'd be interested to know how many of the people that think this is a good idea would also support Google were they to take a stance on something as charged as abortion?


I'm waiting for the crowd that got all upset over the rainbow oreo picture to start their outcry about this, they vowed to boycott oreos but i doubt they'd do the same with Google.


I'd much rather they campaigned to ban marriage for everyone. This is awful, it's bad enough as a government/legal institution without corporations weighing in.


Marriage isn't a bad insitution. It's easy to say it's unncessary, but then your partner dies, and now you have no legal rights or protections.


Ask someone whose been divorced! I forgot to add religion to that list. If it was gay civil union, there would be far less outcry or interest. Some gay marriage campaigners are for religious recognition, and that's a hard battle.

I don't think marriage in its current form as a relgious, legal and government institution is that great, and I don't think getting corporations involved is going to improve it.

Marriage is certainly not the only way to ensure legal rights or protections for people. That what's married people are, just people. As an institution, marriage interferes with that.

In fact where I live, marriage grants some legal rights, like cheaper taxes, but takes away others from married women, who don't receive our equivalent of 'social security' if their partner is still working and they are unemployed. That and social conventions around divorce, which has quite a high rate, can make Marriage a miserable institution for more than half of the people who have got involved in it.

In times past, Marriage was used as an enforcer of policies that kept women under the thumb of a male hierarchy, and that cannot be denied. In the present day, I think alternatives can and should be sought, where these external forces such as corporations, governments, relgions and corporations cannot interfere with people's private lives to push their institutional agendas. One way to achieve this would be to ban different treatment for married couples versus normal people, banning outright is too extreme, I was being flippant.


I wonder if US 'conservatives', will erect an alternative, conservative search engine, like they have for wikipedia (http://www.conservapedia.com)?


If it's meant to appeal to old conservatives surely it will be called "The Google"


There is still no primary source on this, and the only citation I can find that Bob Amnnibale is gay is this article and those reposting it.

This might be a better source: http://dot429.com/articles/2012/07/06/google-wants-the-world...


There's no press out there calling me gay, but if something like this happened in close enough proximity to me that I was asked for a quote they could still call me "an openly gay something something...", the lack of citation doesn't mean it's incorrect, it's more likely to mean he told them that.


I mostly meant that the initial information on this had been copy-pasted across several sites (I've seen it four different places before it was even posted here) and I was trying to spot check information. I didn't mean to doubt the actual facts or anything, just a mini-snopes.


Worth doing; there's no official/PR link for this "global campaign".


How do you configure Firefox to make Duck Duck Go the default search engine?


about:config -> browser.search.selectedEngine


Go to DuckDuckGo, click "add to firefox" and tick "start using it right away".


Why on Earth are you asking that here, on a HN thread about Google and gay marriage, instead of just googling it?

Oh. Now I get it. You're a homophobe, and by the new account, a coward.


why would you start insulting random people because they happen to hold a different view from the mainstream? it's sound like dictature to me. Have you ever considered that you can be against gay mariage without wanting to harm gay people or resent any kind of hate toward them?


Yes, I've considered it, and no, it's not possible, since inequal marriage rights harms gays by definition. What scenario did you have in mind?


Some people oppose the redefinition of the word "marriage" to include unions other than a man and a woman. There's nothing homophobic about that.

Think of what it'd be like if Women were pressing for the redefinition of "men" to include women :/


> Some people oppose the redefinition of the word "marriage" to include unions other than a man and a woman. There's nothing homophobic about that.

How else would you categorise it? What other reason do you have to oppose the slight broadening of the definition of a word? "Loving union between a man and a women" into "Loving union between two people"?

> Think of what it'd be like if Women were pressing for the redefinition of "men" to include women :/

That's a non sequitur and I hope you know it. Redefining marriage in this way is more akin to the last century's redefinition of the word 'citizen' in the US and the UK to include black people - it erases a distinction that was incorrectly made in the first place. "Men" and "Women" are biologically separable.


Having words for different things is useful. It makes language more efficient and reduces the need for clarification :)

We have words such as "waitress" and "waiter", because it adds useful information. It tells us their sex. It's not sexist to have such words, it's just useful.

Similarly, being able to tell the sex of the people involved in a union, is useful information. It means you don't have to ask for clarification, and reduces the chances of faux pas.

To compare it to a persons colour is silly. Sex matters... That's why our language is full of words like son/daughter, waiter/waitress. Colour does not matter, which is why our language doesn't have specific words for say a black waiter. It's irrelevant.


> Having words for different things is useful. It makes language more efficient and reduces the need for clarification :)

Well that's my point precisely - the fact that you see gay marriage as being different to heterosexual marriage simply because of who is involved illustrates the flaw in your reasoning. If you think you would feel awkward entering into a conversation with someone who may or may not be gay, may I suggest you refer to their 'partner' or their 'other half' until it becomes clear what gender the person is that you're talking about? Or just be direct and say 'your... wife? husband?'. Most reasonable people really won't mind.

But let's be honest - your delicately-phrased attempt to pour logic onto the question does not disguise the fact that your concerns run beyond linguistic convenience. It's a very weak argument.

> Similarly, being able to tell the sex of the people involved in a union, is useful information. It means you don't have to ask for clarification, and reduces the chances of faux pas.

It's really not that useful - if you need to know, ask, but the chances are that you don't - and as I'm sure you realise, 'mere' language is a powerful tool for enforcing segregation and bigotry. It makes a real difference to the people actually involved, and, if you're honest with yourself, not a jot of difference to you. If you think about it, carving the world up based on sexual preference would be hilarious in its stupidity if it didn't cause so much pain. I mean, honestly, how does anyone's choice of lover alter your life? Millions of people are in happy homosexual relationships RIGHT NOW and I bet you hadn't noticed.

> To compare it to a persons colour is silly. Sex matters... That's why our language is full of words like son/daughter, waiter/waitress. Colour does not matter, which is why our language doesn't have specific words for say a black waiter. It's irrelevant.

Actually, likening the redefinition of 'marriage' to the redefinition of 'man', as you did in the parent comment, is silly. The parallel I was drawing was between predjudice that existed (and in places still does) based on racial differences and the predjudice that you are demonstrating, whether you realise it or not, against homosexuality.


> the fact that you see gay marriage as being different to heterosexual marriage simply because of who is involved illustrates the flaw in your reasoning.

It IS different. Just like "women" is different from "men" simply because of who is involved.

Logic doesn't seem to be working... As someone else noted, it's like extreme feminists who consider 'waitress' to be sexist.

What is so offensive about having two words, marriage and "union/civil partnership", to describe things, and have completely equal rights for all?


> It IS different. Just like "women" is different from "men" simply because of who is involved.

No, marriage is a social construct whereas gender is based on biology - there's a big difference there. You can measure the gender of a person without them having to give you any information, but (as you have argued) not the gender of a person's spouse. Besides, you've already made this point earlier:

> > > Colour does not matter, which is why our language doesn't have specific words for say a black waiter. It's irrelevant.

So which is it? Are these things relevant or not? You don't need to say 'black waiter', but you do need to say 'civil partnership'? Why is one important but not the other?

Once again - your insistence upon this distinction and the value of it speaks volumes about your unconscious prejudices. Perhaps you like being able to say you're married and have everyone know you're not gay? But of course that would be outright homophobia and you're still apparently labouring under the misapprehension that you don't suffer from that. Perhaps you're actually a closet homosexual and trying hard to deflect people away from finding out? If that's the case then I'm genuinely sorry for you, as the need to hide from the world can take a terrible toll on a person. Fortunately our society is (generally) becoming more open.

If it's useful to keep a different word for same-sex marriages, perhaps you also advocate having different words for inter-racial marriages, marriages between people who are more than a certain number of years apart, who wear different types of clothes, etc.? After all, that's all equally "useful" information and one wouldn't want to make a faux-pas.

> What is so offensive about having two words, marriage and "union/civil partnership", to describe things, and have completely equal rights for all?

It's very easy as a white, heterosexual male to insist that words are meaningless and ask 'who cares?', but the reality is that linguistic distinctions contribute significantly to prejudice. You can't have "completely equal rights for all" whilst making such distinctions between people - that's a sad fact of human psychology (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/In-group%E2%80%93out-group_bias for example). Additionally, let's not forget that the whole debate in the larger world isn't just about the definition of a word - it's exactly about creating a situation of equal rights for all that doesn't exist currently. It's not about being 'offended' and the fact that you trivialise the issue thus suggests that you really don't understand the issues at stake.

It's not only completely ridiculous to make a distinction about someone based on their sexual preference, it's harmful and often very unpleasant to be on the receiving end of - perhaps you read this article when it did the rounds on here? http://intransigentia.wordpress.com/2010/02/22/why-sexist-hu... That's about sexism but the point is the same. "It's just a joke!" "It's just a word!" etc.

If you truly desire equal rights for all, then the 'redefinition' of marriage shouldn't matter to you. On the other hand if you want to keep tabs on who's gay and who's not - you're homophobic. You may insist you're not but that stubborn refusal to introspect or question yourself doesn't change the fact.


Quite a lot of personal attacks there...

We're all minorities, depending on how you cut the population. The question is whether you let it define you negatively and become a 'victim', or just get on with being happy. People who get offended by words are wasting their energy on silly things that don't matter, and often actually making racism/sexism/etc worse by drawing attention to things that aren't actually there in the first place. Judge people by their actions. Not by words.

If you really want to redefine the word 'marriage', then go ahead. I do not think it's the most pressing fight for those after equal rights though. If I was gay, I certainly wouldn't care, as long as I was free to love who I like.

I'm done here...


Being told that you

a) are possibly homophobic, or a closeted homosexual

and

b) enjoy certain privileges as a white, heterosexual, (cis) male

Is not meant to be a personal attack, IMO, but a wake-up call. Read it again, as if danparsonson were talking to a third person, and maybe you'll gain some new perspective.

If you feel like marriage has had an immutable definition since forever and just now, people are trying to change it for the first time, you should check your facts: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marriage#History_of_marriage_by...

And words do matter. You can tell a lot about a person or culture based on the words they use.


Thank you - that's it exactly.


The tone of my reply was unnecessarily aggressive, and I apologise for that.

> Quite a lot of personal attacks there...

Maybe less than you think - I'll attempt to enumerate and expand upon them in a less emotionally-charged way:

- "Perhaps you like being able to say you're married and have everyone know you're not gay?"

I still don't see where you've explained why you actually "oppose the redefinition of the word "marriage"", so was attempting to find the real reason, however this was not a constructive comment.

- "that would be outright homophobia and you're still apparently labouring under the misapprehension that you don't suffer from that"

Homophobia can simply take the form of an unconcious bias just as it can refer to physical violence for example - there's a spectrum. You demonstrate this bias in many places, as I have attempted to explain. It's very 'meta', though, so I appreciate that you may not see what I'm talking about - the apparatus you could use to understand it is also the apparatus that's exhibiting the bias which would tend to limit your visibility of it.

- "Perhaps you're actually a closet homosexual and trying hard to deflect people away from finding out?"

I'm aware this has touched a nerve with some people but if anyone thinks it is intended as a personal attack then they are actually suffering from exactly the unconcious bias I was referring to. I was aware that I was using strong language in an effort to make my point, but it also occurred to me that perhaps you suffer from these issues more than you let on and are attempting to displace attention away from them. In that case, I was trying to take the sting out of my words.

Seriously though, anyone taking offence at this - strenuously defending gay rights and then using 'maybe you're gay' as some sort of insult? That would be bizarrely hypocritical of me. Just for the record - I don't feel that suggesting someone is gay is offensive; if you do, think about what that means.

- "the fact that you trivialise the issue thus suggests that you really don't understand the issues at stake"

I stand by this - 'walk a mile in their shoes' before you brush these things aside so lightly.

- "On the other hand if you want to keep tabs on who's gay and who's not - you're homophobic"

As above - the desire to make that distinction stems from unconscious bias; after all, what difference does it make really? Any more than who likes the Beatles, who lives in London, etc.?

- "You may insist you're not but that stubborn refusal to introspect or question yourself doesn't change the fact."

It's not clear from the way I wrote it but this is conditional upon "if you want to keep tabs" etc. I'm not saying you ARE stubborn, but that you would be if the former comment were also true.

I hope this clears things up a bit.

> We're all minorities, depending on how you cut the population. The question is whether you let it define you negatively and become a 'victim', or just get on with being happy. People who get offended by words are wasting their energy on silly things that don't matter, and often actually making racism/sexism/etc worse by drawing attention to things that aren't actually there in the first place. Judge people by their actions. Not by words.

Yes we are all minorities in our way, but some minorities suffer more for it than others. It's easy to sit on the other side of that fence and say 'just get on with being happy' but when you're subject to violence and abuse from other people because of some minor fact of your being that harms no-one, it's a lot harder to actually do it. Comments like that thoughtlessly trivialise other peoples' problems.

> If I was gay, I certainly wouldn't care, as long as I was free to love who I like.

This, for me, is the key point - if you are actually gay, then I can't argue with you. However if you're not (as your choice of phrasing suggests), then you have no way of knowing what you would think if you were - your life would've been markedly different in certain (many?) ways and you have no frame of reference for knowing what that is actually like. It's like telling a person with clinical depression that 'if I suffered from that, I'd just cheer up and try to focus on the good things in life' - an 'armchair critic' type of comment which betrays no understanding of the reality of the situation.

> I'm done here...

In closing, then, maybe you can take this as an opportunity to rethink your position on some issues - I'm not getting that from your comments but hope springs eternal.


Just in case you see this (I left it a bit late)... My stance is one supported by Stephen Fry whom I absolutely adore. It's nice to see that at least he can accept the argument.

http://www.pinknews.co.uk/2009/04/21/stephen-fry-it-doesnt-m...


Well there we go - thank you for that. There is however a crucial difference between:

> Some people oppose the redefinition of the word "marriage" to include unions other than a man and a woman (your original post)

and

> It doesn’t matter what you call marriage (Stephen Fry)

If you agree with him then perhaps you could choose your words more carefully next time - Stephen's position is one of indifference, not opposition.

On the other hand, if you still feel 'oppose' is the right word then he doesn't support you, he's just disinclined to argue with you ;-)


> "It's not sexist to have such words, it's just useful."

Less so now than in the past, but there are feminists who would disagree with you on that, and who do consider "waitress vs waiter", "actress vs actor" etc. to be sexist.

> "Colour does not matter, which is why our language doesn't have specific words for say a black waiter."

Actually our language does have some specific words for people of different colours, plenty of them are now considered racist. I'm sure you don't need a list of examples here.


English doesn't distinguish between male and female because it's important, it does so because it is sexist. Read this[1] to see what it would be like if our language were racist instead, and then you might see that sexist/racist analogies are valid.

Will we ever reach a gender-neutral English language? Not in the near term, but it's worth being aware of.

[1] http://www.cs.virginia.edu/~evans/cs655/readings/purity.html


you don't have to recognize it, nor does your church or whatever. All marriages are civil unions in the eyes of the state, precisely because it's a legal distinction that affords lega rights and tax status. nothing homophobic about that.


I have, in all my years, never heard that position successfully argued.

Marriage-protection amendments almost universally outlaw not only marriage equality but also the establishment of other non-"marriage" arrangements that carry the same benefits as marriage. Please explain how someone could agree with that but not hold any hate towards homosexuals.


Marriage benefits are a subsidy towards a particular social arrangement (and it changes all the time, mostly through the shape of tax and divorce laws). You don't have to hate anyone to be against extending it. There are supporters and opponents of beef subsidies but cow hate is not the major driving force there.

Of course, politics is not about policy http://www.overcomingbias.com/2008/09/politics-isnt-a.html so it's very difficult to successfully argue anything because the argument (on any political topic, and in any direction) will almost always be disingenuous.

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