December 19, 2003

Seeing Eye Dogs & Gay Marriage

I know people who have great dogs, nice, friendly, really great personalities. They aren't allowed in stores, busses, or many other places. Growing up, I often saw other dogs in White Plains, NY who were allowed to do all those things. They were seeing eye dogs. They too were nice, friendly, with great personalities. But these dogs got to be with their owners an awful lot more than other dogs did. They were privileged and their privilege was enshrined by law and by the police.

Now there was no reason that other dogs could not be allowed into stores, etc, if the owners wanted to make a private rule accomodating them. But nobody was allowed to keep the seeing eye dogs out.

Is this justice?

Are not regular dogs participating in the same quality of dogness as these special privilege dogs? Why must their activity be circumscribed by particular private arrangement? Why must they suffer this awful discrimination and be separated at critical moments from their pack leader (owner)? Where is the basic sense of decency and fairness of it all.

Taken out of the human realm, the answer for this type of question is clear and people can more dispassionately analyze things. People with seeing eye dogs get special legal privileges because these dogs are useful tools to impart a recognized public good, enabling blind people (and those with other handicaps) to reduce their dependence on others, including the state, and live out more normal lives. The difference in effect justifies a difference in behavior.

An equal protection lawsuit seeking to let people with personal pets have the same rights as people with seeing eye dogs would rightly get laughed out of court. Their only hope would be demonstrating some sort of equivalent public benefit but reality shows there is none.

Gay marriage advocates are trying the same sort of thing as our hypothetical pet owners but they further demand that they don't have to prove equivalent state benefit. Andrew Sullivan acts as usual when he opines:

What I simply don't understand is why a woman as obviously as sensitive and humane as Morse nevertheless believes that excluding loving gay couples from such an experience is not only a good thing but a vital thing for people already in such marriages. Are gay people not also human? Can they not also put a joint life before personal gratification? Why does Morse simply assume that homosexuality is about "self-centeredness"? Morse doesn't actually provide any such arguments. She just seems to take it for granted that this is a zero-sum game, that including gay people in the profound experience of self-giving is somehow destructive of her own relationship. I don't get it. I don't see it. And her utter indifference to the actual lives, loves and relationships of gay people - does she know any, I wonder? - undermines her otherwise compelling moral sense. That's a shame. Gay and straight people have a common ground of understanding when it comes to marriage: we are all human. We all need and benefit from the experience of love and self-giving. It ennobles, sanctifies, elevates. Why does someone like Morse insist that gay people cannot be a part of this?

It's all about the emotional needs and wants of the couple. But marriage, as a state institution, is not about anything but public benefit. And before anybody bothers asking, yes, I have known monogomous gay couples who were pretty obviously committed to each other. Should the state have supported their relationship in some way? That's an interesting question. Should the state have mixed them in and given them the state status as heterosexual married couples? Absolutely not.

Posted by TMLutas at December 19, 2003 11:08 AM