Monday, July 10, 2006

Who's Marriage is it Anyway? and Why this Might Matter to Space Colonizers

Today the California State Appeals Court in San Francisco is taking up the issue of gay marriage and whether or not the ban against it is unconstitutional or not. On the side arguing against the ban are lawyers from the City of San Francisco and the National Center for Lesbian Rights, on the other side is the State of California which passed the ban in the form of Proposition 22 from the year 2000 election. A proposition embraced by the Proposition 22 Legal Defense and Education Fund and the Campaign for California Families (Randy Thomasson). Of course, the attorneys for the state have little choice but to do their job, but the ban's backers gall me to no end. Why? Because it doesn't seem right to me that one group (we'll call it Group A) in society should dictate the potential rights of another (Group B), especially when Group B's crime is that they give Group A the "heebee jeebees". Proposition 22 and the like are pre-emptive strikes from a (hopefully) minority of society against another minority of society, which strikes me as being not only profoundly mean-spirited but about as un-American as one can get.

My aim here isn't to defend or advocate gay marriage, but to address the underlying problem I see in going out of one's way to ban it. I am a married heterosexual with a kid and a lovely wife, and I can't see how it would really matter to me if my neighbors were a married gay couple, or a straight couple, or a comune for that matter. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg to have them there. But increasingly, people in our times are seemingly preoccupied with the goings on of their neighbors --needing to pry and meddle in the other's affairs. My theory is this comes out of fear -- fear during these times of radical change and future uncertainty. People are frightened and flustered by these changes and so pursue stability, with the unfortunate side effect that freedoms and potential rights are being traded in at an alarming rate for the perceived comforts of a sense security. As Benjamin Franklin said, "They who would give up an essential liberty for temporary security, deserve neither liberty or security."

It appears that most freedoms aren't lost by an invading army or a cruel despot. They are lost in the city halls and county seats every time a ruffled citizen stands up and cries, "there ought to be a law!" They are lost every time a citizen's group petitions their governing officials to keep a bunch of ne'er do wells out of town or out of the country. In a real democracy, you have to go out of your way to tolerate and defend the rights of the other guys, especially when they offend you the most. This is why you have to tolerate KKK marches through your neighborhoods and maybe even gay couples living next door. To do otherwise is to tolerate a general erosion of our rights and to trivialize the sacrifices made by our ancestry who gave us those rights at terrible cost.

So How Could this Possibly Relate to Space Colonization?

First and foremost. The greatest thing space colonization has to offer us is elbow room (and perhaps a bit of privacy). On Earth, we are stepping on each other's toes and getting our noses bent over each odd thing that happens in our society. In a space colony, the residents will have the chance to evolve social structures independent of earth in a much smaller environment. And since there will be many different space colony environments with differing social pressures, it is very likely that matrimony as we know it will evolve into a plethora of forms.

Should we be alarmed? Should we start passing laws and ammending constitutions now before it's too late? If you were to ask me, the answer would be decidedly "No!". Instead I shall raise a toast to my future space matrimonial friends, "Mes amies, laissez les bon temps rollez!"