Words that get misused: EQUALITY

I have been brought out of a long hiatus by the desire to have some way of railing against the overwhelming feeling of helplessness in the face of the widespread embrace of pro-SSM arguments, as well as to clarify my own thoughts.

To start off with, I’m going to rant for a bit about the fact that the different camps use the same words, though in different ways, and this has contributed to some confusion.

First word up for discussion: equality.

Same-sex ‘marriage’ proponents usage

The general gist of many people’s arguments runs thusly:

1. Everyone who is equal with respect to a particular characteristic should be treated as such (both by individuals and by law).
2. Everyone’s love is equal.
3. Therefore everyone should be treated equally with respect to who they love.

This often gets to reduced to simply stating that “everyone is equal”, or “everyone has equal rights”.

I don’t think that they mean to say that every human being is equal in every single way, but because they leave exactly in what way they are equal vague, the matter is open to interpretation, and it often ends up meaning that we’re all equal in every way, which is another way of saying that we’re all exactly the same.

Anyone who thinks about that last statement for half a second realises that this is obviously false. However, because it’s left unspecified, people fill in the blank with whatever their vague notion of equality is.

Thus, instead of the sophisticated debate this issue deserves, we are left with people asserting merely “But Equality! It’s good!” And well-meaning folk feeling there is no other option but to agree. “Well yes, I actually can’t see anything wrong with that statement… I guess I’m joining their team.”

Marriage proponents usage*

These would agree that equality under the law is important, and should be respected. The problem arises when we consider in what way are human beings actually equal?

I would suggest that the only sensible claim to make is that we are equal in dignity, as human persons, in light of our possessing an intellect and will, giving rise to our capacity to reason, discern the good, and to make choices based upon this discernment.

It is in the interests of the preservation of the inherent dignity of every human being that the notion of fundamental human rights comes into play. I’ll go into these in more depth later, but essentially, we have the right only to those things which uphold our dignity as human persons. For example, we have the right to having our basic needs for survival being met, but we do not universally have the right to a sumptuous feast for every meal.


*NB: I refrain from using “traditional marriage” because it caters to the idea that there are two equally valid ways of understanding marriage, whereas I think that same-sex ‘marriage’ is an impossibility, hence the inverted commas, and the so-called “traditional” kind is the only kind of marriage.


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