In a world full of questions, where the wrong answer might steer you into darkness, The Moral Compass is here to guide you safely through the moral quagmire of human existence.
The intention of this blog is to examine the ethical and moral choices that should be made regarding some of modern society’s biggest issues. And hopefully still provide a few laughs along the way.
Today, I start with one that directly affects our state: Should gay marriage be legalized?
When Gov. Chris Gregoire announced her intentions to legalize gay marriage in the next legislative session, there was an uproar of support and a gasp of horror from the two sides of this debate.
On one hand we have the natural progression of civil and equal rights in our country. On the other hand we have the decay of our traditional values. Two arguments rooted in morality.
This particular debate is one that cannot be properly answered via the morality route. Morals are subjective; based upon individual or societal belief systems and subject to change through time.
Human sacrifice is highly taboo today, but try telling that to an ancient Aztec. You would probably wind up on the sacrificial altar.
Ethics, on the other hand, are far more neutral, and the following tool I am about to employ proves that point nicely.
John Rawls was a philosopher who developed something he called “the veil of ignorance.” To judge if an action is ethically acceptable, a person must stand behind the veil and imagine how the action would affect them. But the person must also strip all identifying characteristics of his or herself.
Your religion, race, gender, income, politics, hometown, number of Facebook friends, football team you root for, etc. must all be washed away – leaving a clean slate, an anonymous human being.
Then you must judge the action at stake from as many points of views you can think of.
Try it. Remove yourself from everything that makes you…well…you.
Not easy, is it?
Now think of the action we are employing: We are banning a type of marriage. Since you no longer know who you are, it does not matter what type of marriage. Just imagine if it should be applied to you. What if you were prohibited from marrying the person you loved more than anything else in the world? I suspect the notion irks you, to say the least.
What if someone you knew, a friend or family member, was kept from marrying their loved one? I bet that hurts, too.
Now imagine you are the one who developed the idea of banning a certain type of marriage. Without any cultural context, you have no reason to prevent people from devoting themselves to one another. Instead, you are left looking like a cartoonish evil villain out of a Disney movie – a two-dimensional figure with no reason for your villainy.
Rawls’ “veil of ignorance” successfully removes the moral question from the matter.
That is why I support Gregoire’s push to legalize gay marriage in the state of Washington.
Until next time, don’t do anything I wouldn’t do. No, seriously, don’t do it. The Moral Compass would not approve.