Infernal Ramblings
A Malaysian Perspective on Politics, Society and Economics

Morality, the Law, and Homosexuals

Written by johnleemk on 3:11:57 am Mar 21, 2007.
Categories: ,

After I wrote about legalising homosexuality, helen responded:

"Homosexuality should be legal. Whether it is immoral is a personal question that should be left to the individual,"

Freedom, regardless moral or non-moral ones are a myth. I believe there are many levels of freedom but each operate within the boundary of their confinement. For example, think of a cupboard with shelves and equate them as our different level of freedom. Now, throw in a ball. Let's say the ball is our freedom.

The ball is free to roll around up and down to different levels. Is the ball free? Yes and no. Yes, the ball is free to move around but no matter where it goes, our freedom still operates within the confinement of the ball itself. That is freedom.

It is one thing to have have affection for a member of your same sex, it's another to actually legalize homosexuality. I know people get upset when the law tells them you cannot love and marry anyone you chose. But think about it, so do ordinary folks. The rules are the same. I cannot marry just about anyone I like either. Especially if the guy don't want me, if the guy is married to another individual, he's my brother, uncle or father.

Homosexuals are not above the law. They cannot throw tantrum and say they are victimized just because they cannot marry whom they want. You and I cannot marry whom we want either... there are conditions to fulfill.

If we legalize homosexual relationship just because it's consentual, what's stopping another man taking another woman as his wife when he's already married just because the mistress consented to the relationship?

You said "Whether it is immoral is a personal question that should be left to the individual.."

IMHO, it is a dangerous thing when it is left for an individual to decide what is morally right or wrong. There has to be a standard in which moral can be measured against. Having said this, I am against enforcing the law of this country to enforce certain moral judgment. Meaning, if you commit a moral crime, make no excuses for yourselves. You know what you did is wrong. But, the law of this country should not be enforced to punish you for that.

Absolute freedom is of course mythical. No matter what happens, we are bound by the laws of nature (e.g. the principles of thermodynamics) and our rights are limited by the effects they will have on others. As one eminent figure is said to have remarked, "The right to swing my fist ends where your nose begins."

To compare the plight of homosexual couples to that of, say, people whose parents are against the marriage, and thus argue that homosexuals should not complain so much, strikes me as a bit facetious.

As an aside, the original article merely dealt with whether homosexual conduct should be legal — not whether homosexual marriages should be allowed. That's a whole different kettle of fish which I hope to address in another article. My position, though, can be summed up as stating that homosexuals should have certain rights traditionally associated with those of a married couple, but their civil unions should not be placed on the same level as marriage.

The question of whether homosexual marriage should be legal, nevertheless, is not important at the moment. What I'm concerned about is the inappropriate (in my opinion) analogies being used to criticise homosexual marriage.

If I am of the age of majority and want to marry someone, and that someone wants to marry me (assuming that someone is legally capable of marrying me), then the law does not get in my way. Our parents may object, but the law does not care. If anything, this comparison actually lends support to homosexual marriages.

The comparison with incest is a good one; another reader mentioned that incest should be legalised, and I agreed to a certain extent (even though I find both incest and homosexuality repulsive). The important distinction to remember is that incest does affect the rights of others — namely my unborn children.

If I marry my sister, the odds are very high that at least one of our children will be disabled in some way, physical or mental, thanks to genetic inbreeding. Thus, legally it can be justified to forbid a sexual relationship between close relations, for the protection of their potential children.

On the other hand, who are we protecting by banning a consensual activity between adults done in private that does not affect anyone outside their bedroom? Are we any worse off that there are homosexuals and adulterers going at it, as I type this and as you read this? I do not think so — you could make a very strong religious argument that this is so, but considering the lack of empirical evidence for a connection between immorality and direct negative effects on society, the legal argument is non-existent.

The analogy of bigamy is an excellent example. It strikes me, though, as one that should be dealt with by an article focusing on the subject of homosexual marriage, as opposed to homosexual conduct in general. In short, though, I admit I find it hard to see why polygamists shouldn't be free to have an open marriage, provided that all parties consent.

On a different note, though, the main reason marriage has been defined to consist of one man and one woman is because of the traditional family unit. If there was more than one mother, or more than one father, in the family, things would get very messy, and the spillover effects on the children could be said to justify banning polygamous families.

Thus, it seems illogical to ban homosexual activity, since as I mentioned, it does not appear to harm anyone. Incest and polygamy can have very negative effects on other members of the family, but homosexuality? It seems unlikely, considering that homosexuals are (by definition) unable to naturally reproduce.

Since we've arrived at the question of whether homosexuals should be allowed to start their own families (whether by adoption or in-vitro fertilisation), it seems wise not to further continue down this route, as reams and reams of material could be written about this scandal-filled field. Suffice it to say that I don't think the case for banning homosexual activity has been proven.

The question of an absolute standard of morality, and who should set this standard, is a very good one. I think that the standard of morality should be up to the individual, because even though I believe there is an absolute moral standard set by God, from a legal point of view, as you say, there is no reason for morals to encroach on the jurisdiction of the law.

The law does not exist to enforce morality. It exists to protect the welfare of the people. If something is morally wrong, but does not harm anyone, the individual should be free to declare it morally wrong. But he should not be free to declare it legally wrong.

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