I have never joined a Pride march, will never sign a Change.org petition again (thanks to the ridiculous amount of spam they send me), and find crowds of people all lined up and facing in the same direction rather intimidating. However, tomorrow, I will be performing at the Edinburgh Fringe.
How does one wrap up a stint performing on the Edinburgh Fringe? Or, more to the point, how did I end up performing on the Edinburgh Fringe in the first place?
The general rule was that those who headed north in the summer at least had pretensions to funniness. The unfunny rapidly ran out of money while, of course, the funny went on to bigger and better things (the West End, the BBC). However, the Fringe is now not only bigger than the original International Festival it was created to accompany (and the latter is pretty big), it has also spawned spin-offs and side-shows of its own. One of these is “Edinburgh Skeptics on the Fringe” which, true to its origins in the actual Fringe, provides a show every night and sometimes in the afternoons as well. The key difference, of course, is that each performer is different, and only some of them are funny (although all are informative).
My performance tomorrow is based on various papers I’ve written about marriage equality over the last eighteen months, which in itself is unusual. Like many classical liberals (although Students for Liberty are rapidly proving me wrong on this), activism doesn’t come naturally to me. This is partly because I work in a conservative profession (yes, I know, legal activism, but I doubt anything is going to make corporate law sexy, at least to non-lawyers), but also because I am a cat that will not be herded.
I became entangled in the gay marriage issue because–like many lawyers–I have a low tolerance for bad arguments. Note, I didn’t say “wrong arguments.” I said “bad arguments.” I have the traditional legal “mouth for hire” appreciation of a weak case well-argued. Strong cases often need no assistance, although I do think that the case for same-sex marriage is often not well-made, while the case against… well…
To that end, I thought about writing an “anti” case and then volunteering to argue against myself. However, the temptation itself is one of the many obvious reasons why people hate lawyers—no one wants to hear that. Instead, I spent some time researching and building an empirical case for gay marriage based on the evolution of marriage over time. When I make an argument for changing the law, I do on the basis of evidence. If changing the law creates civil rights conflicts (in Britain, between freedom of conscience for religious people and freedom to marry for LGBT people), I propose changes that attempt to ameliorate the conflict. This, I realize, is all very British and positivist, but also exposes the inner workings of lawmaking to the general public. Bismarck held that there are two things into which one ought not enquire too closely: the making of sausages, and the making of laws.
Tomorrow, I’m going to suggest that he’s wrong, at least when it comes to laws.