Bruce Golding’s logic collapses on slippery slope
"Not in my Cabinet!" said the defiant former prime minister of Jamaica, Bruce Golding. Not that context is needed for those infamous four words, but the good gentleman was responding to whether he would allow homosexuals to serve in his Cabinet.
In effect, Mr Golding publicly admitted to openly discriminating against his compatriot simply because that person has same-gender attraction. Whether or not one agrees or disagrees on the right to same-sex marriages, I believe the compassionate among us, on both sides of this issue, could not, in good conscience countenance Mr Golding's open policy of job discrimination against our fellow gay and lesbian Jamaicans. We may not like what they 'do', but mustn't we all eat?
Yet, greater questions persist: How is it that who one loves has any bearing on the quality of work (s)he does? Have we never had a gay Cabinet member? And, if Mr Golding's interests truly lie in the country's prosperity, and the best and brightest happen to be gay, Mr Golding, apparently, would elect to have heterosexual fools rather than homosexual problem-solvers. If this isn't bigoted prejudice, anchored in the worst sort of morality, I don't know what would so constitute such decadence.
I raise these points to say that when Mr Golding storms shooting from the prejudicial hip in his fulmination against marriage equality in last Sunday's Gleaner column, we must recognise the calcified bigotry that appends every swipe of his pen. Mr Golding's slippery-slope argument is that gay marriage in the United States would lead to marriage of all sorts, that is: brothers marrying sisters, etc.
Ironically, opponents against interracial marriages in the 1960s made claim to the same arguments. The earth would rapture, they vowed; fire and brimstone would follow, and humanity would become tied in an incestuous knot. Indeed, they pointed to the Loving V. Virginia interracial marriage case as being complicit and contributory in creating an atmosphere for legalised same-sex marriages.
What I'm implicitly arguing here is that should the slippery-slope argument matter at all? Even if the legalisation of interracial marriages opened a judicial space that marriage equality could occupy and be legalised, in its own right, should that be an argument against interracial marriages?
matter of equality and justice
The argument Mr Golding puts forth is one grounded in moral consequentialism - that is, an argument is solely right based on its consequences. The fact is, gay marriage, like interracial marriage, is a matter of equality and, greater still, one of justice. And, it should be evaluated on its own terms - not necessarily by the apocalypse it 'could' bring.
If this were the standard of evaluating laws, every act of justice would be rendered unsound, as such laws could be perverted to accomplish ill will. That opportunity to pervert and corrupt is a real threat, regardless of the cause being advocated.
Those who stood against women's right to vote in the 19th century appealed to the slippery-slope logic of Mr Golding's preference, touting the calamity of animals soon having the right to the ballot. History ensured those alarmists rode the slippery slope, in their opposition to the fair and humane treatment of women, into the annals of shame.
So, too, will history allow Mr Golding's marriage slippery slope and Cabinet logic slide down their own slope of irrelevance, footnoted in a sort of historical Mein Kampf.
- Alec Williams is a former MSc candidate in the Department of Government, UWI. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.