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In Response to Justice Scalia’s Argument re Homosexuality

by Verpal Singh

There is a Bill currently before New Zealand Parliament, which seeks to give gay couples the same rights as heterosexual married couples – this includes the right to marry. My interest in this matter (of gay marriage) stems from the fact that I was asked to make a submission to parliament putting forward the Sikh viewpoint on gay marriage. I never made the submission – for after mulling Sikh philosophy and history I reached the conclusion that this (the issue of gay marriage) was a non-matter for the Sikhs.

Having said that, any discussion around gay marriage and gay rights now attracts my attention because I personally have now veered around to the view that issue of gay relationships is personal to the people involved in those relationships – I do not need to approve or disapprove of them.

It was this new-found interest in gay rights discussions that made me read through the report on a question from Duncan Hosie to Justice Scalia at Princeton University [http://www.salon.com/2012/12/11/scalia_quizzed_at_njs_princeton_on_gay_issue/singleton/].

I was surprised at the rather weak explanation from Justice Scalia of his equating gay marriage to murder and bestiality. Justice Scalia was asked, as per the link above, why he equates laws banning sodomy with those barring bestiality and murder.

His explanation?

“It’s a form of argument that I thought you would have known, which is called the ‘reduction to the absurd,’” Scalia told Hosie of San Francisco during the question-and-answer period. “If we cannot have moral feelings against homosexuality, can we have it against murder? Can we have it against other things?” Scalia said he is not equating sodomy with murder but drawing a parallel between the bans on both. Then he deadpanned: “I’m surprised you aren’t persuaded.”

Whether he was equating sodomy with murder or drawing a parallel, there is a problem that must be overcome in order for the logic of Justice Scalia’s argument to stand scrutiny – that a gay relationship occurs between two consenting persons while a murder or bestiality occurs without consent.

Where consent is missing, the state can (and must) speak up for the rights of the party seen as the victim. But where consent of the parties involved is mutual, the state should mind its own business. Thus, laws already exist to tackle a situation where a gay contact occurs without consent – it would be rape just like a similar non-consented heterosexual contact.

So what is my view on gay marriage? That it is a matter for the individuals involved. A religious institution has the right to refuse to accept a gay relationship if the majority of the congregation wishes so. The state, however, should not discriminate between gay or heterosexual relationships, especially as separation of state and religion is sacrosanct in a democracy. And the logic for objection to gay relationships is based on religious principles rather than any principles of governance.

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