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July 21, 2004

When Allies Turn Out to Be Enemies

Whether it is deliberate or not, it has seemed to play out that some advocates for same-sex marriage take up the task of arguing the points, during which process they wind up making the clarifications and even concessions inherent in discussion. Then other advocates push the issue in a conflicting way, and the arguers merely adjust their rhetoric to incorporate the current circumstances or ignore what's been done and said.

Gabriel Rosenberg provides a largely symbolic example when, in response to my objection to the term "life mate," he offers alternatives that I might find more culturally satisfying. The point that he manages to sidestep is that his inclination was to use the phrase "life mate." Another advocate for same-sex marriage, James Trilling, referred to his own wife as a "life partner." In Massachusetts, the marriage license is for Parties A and B; in San Francisco, it was for Applicants 1 and 2. The response that my pointing this out is meant to spur is not a search for language that will placate me, but an appeal to other advocates to change their emphasis.

Indeed, I'm coming to think that many of those who argue on behalf of same-sex marriage should, if they mean what they say, be actively opposing the cause as it is currently constituted. Jon Rowe (esquire) argues that same-sex marriage will not allow incest, polygamy, and whatever to slip in after it because gender-based classifications involve "suspect classifications" and must overcome "intermediate scrutiny," while other categories can be excluded with just a "rational basis."

Let's put aside the fact that Jon is seeking to comfort his opponents by arguing that there's "just as much logical legal distance between" between SSM and further innovations as he is attempting to leap to reach SSM in the first place (from racial discrimination and "strict scrutiny"). The whole argument will be mooted if courts continue to do as the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court did in creating same-sex marriage for that state: it found that restrictions against same-sex marriage did not pass a rational basis test with reference to sexual orientation. Much of the argumentation of Jon's fellow SSM supporters is the rhetorical equivalent of the court's judgment. Shouldn't he oppose them in their efforts?

If the movement for this fundamental change — which many of its supporters will admit carries a certain risk — takes a tack that increases risks, shouldn't those who honestly seek to preserve the institution in question oppose them? Even to the point of supporting some form of Constitutional Amendment, if necessary?

Frankly, I can't help but conclude that many, even most, SSM advocates want the recognition — the normalization — of marriage for homosexuals more than they want to preserve a healthy institution. As Ben Bateman wrote:

Perhaps we can stop the sexual liberation juggernaut at gay incest (very unlikely), polygamy (unlikely), bestiality (somewhat unlikely), or pedophilia. I hope so. The question is: Will many of today's SSM supporters, who are riding the juggernaut, hop off in the future and help fight it? I'm skeptical, if for no other reason that today they refuse to think seriously about where it's headed.
Posted by Justin Katz at July 21, 2004 1:53 AM
Marriage & Family
Comments

Taken to it's logical extreme, pedophilia is the most worrisome. Treating as a distinct and exclusive "orientation" (apart from either hetero or homosexual, as Jon and others have done) is very dangerous.

By doing so, they become armed with the exact same "new civil rights" that homosexuals are now claiming, and thier claims of injustice are equally valid. Just like gays, they are "born that way" and they "cant change" and are discriminated against for arbitrary and religious reasons. Arguably, they have an even stronger case than homosexuals, because marriage has taken place among broad age ranges in different places in history, while same-sex marriages have not.

Which is the greater leap? Men marrying men? Or adults marrying children?

I'm not asking anyone to agree with me -- just to remember me when the age of consent is challenged. Gays will be behind it, and it will be presented as a matter of equality and justified accordingly. But the end result is still the same -- men trying to have sex with boys.

Posted by: Marty at July 21, 2004 9:18 AM

There is a parallel (well, I'm sure there are many) with another front in the 'culture wars' - the embryonic stem cell issue. In 1998 or so, proponents wanted to use embryos frozen in storage at IVF clinics to extract the stem cells for research purposes. The claim was made at that time that they had no interest in producing embryos, just in making use of embryos that had already been produced for another purpose, but were no longer going to be used for that original purpose. But just a few years later they were clamoring to allow cloning techniques to produce embryos, because of a need for immunological diversity. I'm not aware of anyone who was strongly in favor of using IVF embryos who is now arguing against producing embryos using cloning techniques.

I think, too, that this is why I keep harping on Mark Miller's (a self-professed conservative) assertion that the decision regarding SSM (that is, where to draw the legal lines) is just as arbitrary as many other judicial decisions. First of all, conservative political philosophy is based upon principles, so it is something of an oxymoron to call oneself a conservative and then assert that there are no universal principles involved in the legal definition of marriage. (Hence the term 'RINO', or, I suppose, 'CINO'). Second, if where one draws the line is arbitrary, it seems obvious that one should try to keep it in as 'conservative' a place as possible if one is truly concerned about the institution. I think Justin posed a version of this question somewhere earlier - if the risk (one of the risks) is an increase in acceptance of pedophilia, shouldn't we be highly cautious in our approach? And if the line drawing is arbitrary, how can one state so confidently that the risk of increased acceptance of pedophillia is not high enough to worry about?

Posted by: Mike S. at July 21, 2004 11:52 AM

http://www.nationalreview.com/nr_comment/staff200407210828.asp

An interesting incident that happened in 1983 in Vermont.

Posted by: Mike S. at July 21, 2004 12:20 PM

And I thought we were just beginning to get along ....

"First of all, conservative political philosophy is based upon principles, so it is something of an oxymoron to call oneself a conservative and then assert that there are no universal principles involved in the legal definition of marriage. (Hence the term 'RINO', or, I suppose, 'CINO')."
—---- News Flash to Mike: Liberals have principles too. You may not happen to agree with those principles (and for the most part, I don't either) but your oxymoron comment as to what a conservative must or must not assert is just plain silly. People who have a general ideology don't have to agree on all issues.

"Second, if where one draws the line is arbitrary, it seems obvious that one should try to keep it in as 'conservative' a place as possible if one is truly concerned about the institution."
—--- And where exactly is this 'conservative' place ? To me, it is that the government should encourage gay couples to be monogamous and take care of one another and their dependents in the same way it does for heterosexual couples. Your argument is based on the harmful societal affects that would take place if we encouraged that 'freedom'. To me - that sounds akin to a liberal argument. The truth is that the only 'conservative' part of your view is that homosexual behavior is immoral and therefore, should not be legitimized. Other than that, the arguments against legally acknowledging gay couples strike me the same way as the arguments by those who fear the effects of global-warming. (mainly liberals)

With regard to the article, I agree that allowing that 'marriage' would have been a bad precedent. Are you saying that this is an example where acceptance of homosexuality leads to acceptance of incest because Dean also supported civil unions ? Spare me.

There are a number of politicians (most Republican, some Democrat like Sen. Byrd) that are against legitimizing gay relationships and also have a history of supporting segregation. Does this mean I can legitmately link racism to being anti-gay ?

There are also people who are against gay marriage but are not in favor of the FMA. So how do you reconcile that ?

Just stop with the attempt to generalize all people who support gay relationships. It works just as well as when Michael Moore uses it.

Posted by: Mark Miller at July 21, 2004 12:54 PM

"People who have a general ideology don't have to agree on all issues."

No, but their stances on various issues should be based on mostly consistent principles (nobody is perfectly consistent). I don't think yours are - they seem to be (which I believe is supported by your own admission) based upon what you feel, not some underlying principles about how government should work, or about human nature, or about what marriage is (or if I grant that you have a philosophy about marriage being about two adults committing to one another, that philosophy is not a conservative one). Simply put, there is no such thing as a conservative argument in favor of SSM. There is only the libertarian argument.

The FMA is a separate issue - it is related to the mechanisms. It does not forbid legislatures from enacting SSM, just the courts.

"generalize all people who support gay relationships"

First of all, we're talking about SSM, not 'support of gay relationships', and second of all, I wasn't generalizing - I was commenting specifically on what I perceive to be contradictory aspects of your stated positions. Perhaps that's unfair, since I know what your positions are on other issues and I don't know what others' are, but that's just the way it is.

Posted by: Mike S. at July 21, 2004 2:54 PM

Simply put, there is no such thing as a conservative argument in favor of SSM.

Unless you define conservative as being opposed to all change, I don't see how you can say there is no such thing as a conservative argument in favor of SSM. I guess it all depends on how you would define "conservative". How would you define it? And, by the way, the FMA most certainly would prevent legislatures in the US from enacting SSM. (Any such act would clearly be unconstitutional under the FMA).

Posted by: Gabriel Rosenberg at July 21, 2004 3:20 PM

Mike,

Prof Rosenberg put it nicely - but I need to say it - your assertion that there is no conservative argument for SSM is absolutely absurd.

Does everyone who claims to be a 'conservative' need to talk to your first to make sure they meet your criteria of how a conservative must view human nature, government and marriage ?

Please ask me for examples of high profile people widely known as conservatives who have different ideas for some of those. Please ask me.

This reminds me of when I first started reading Justin's blog and he was in the midst of a debate with a fellow Catholic blogger with whom he differed on some issue and I seem to recall Justin's response was something like (I'm paraphrasing) 'is there only way to be a Catholic' ? and I was impressed by that.

So either you agree with Mike or you lose your license to be a conservative. Got it.

Are you by chance Michael Moore ? He seems to think that it is impossible to have any respect for the value of human life and still support the war on Iraq. To me, your assertion is similar is perspective.

Posted by: Mark Miller at July 21, 2004 4:39 PM

"the FMA most certainly would prevent legislatures in the US from enacting SSM"

Sorry, you're right. It would allow legislatures to enact civil unions, not SSM.

On the definition of conservative, I'll first point out that Mark is confusing the identification of a person as conservative, with a conservative argument (aka an argument based in conservative principles).

"So either you agree with Mike or you lose your license to be a conservative. Got it."

I didn't say that one couldn't hold conservative positions on other issues, but argue in favor of SSM. I just said that I don't think this can be done in a consistent manner. I would be interesting in hearing of conservative thinkers, politicians, or pundits who are in favor of SSM, but what is important is not the fact that they support it, but their reasoning for doing so. If their reasoning is not consonant with their reasoning on other topics, their not being consistent.

Like I said, nobody is perfectly consistent in all things, but that doesn't mean that there is a consistent conservative argument for SSM.

"Unless you define conservative as being opposed to all change, I don't see how you can say there is no such thing as a conservative argument in favor of SSM. I guess it all depends on how you would define "conservative"."

I don't think any conservative has ever said that conservatives are opposed to all change. Perhaps a slightly narrower version of my statement would be "at the present time, there is no such thing as a conservative argument in favor of SSM". This would leave open the possibility that future experiences would show us that SSM was good for the institution, as, for example, Rauch argues. Then perhaps a conservative argument could be made for it.

I'll try to think up a reasonable definition of conservatism if you both will make an attempt to outline what a conservative argument for SSM would be (you can point me to someone else's argument, if you want). As I said, libertarians and libertarian arguments don't count.

Posted by: Mike S. at July 21, 2004 6:08 PM

Mike I would point you to Rauch's book as an example I would give for an argument for SSM based on conservative principals. Apparently, though, you are already familiar with it, and I suppose do not think the argument is conservative in nature.

Posted by: Gabriel Rosenberg at July 21, 2004 8:52 PM

Mike, to be honest, I actually have very little interest in pursuing this 'thread' in the debate.

I still say that one can have 'conservative' principles and still support SSM. But I'll acknowledge that having what some may refer to as 'traditional' values would appear to be inconsistent with support of SSM (since SSM has no 'tradition'). But I do truly believe that there is a 'conservative' argument for SSM although it is true that it does go against 'tradition'.

So maybe we can just replace the word 'conservative' with 'traditional' and move on to what I'd consider more 'substantiative' issues.

Posted by: Mark Miller at July 22, 2004 9:50 AM

"Mike, to be honest, I actually have very little interest in pursuing this 'thread' in the debate."

OK. Obviously you're free to argue a point, or not, as you wish. But I think it is important, and I think it will make it difficult for me to take your arguments seriously if you're going to claim that you're supporting SSM based upon conservative principles, but you can't articulate what those principles are. Like I said, human beings aren't perfectly logical all the time, so you have every right to be inconsistent. But that means that you can't use the fact that you tend to favor conservative positions in other matters as an argument. My response will simply be, 'so what?'

"I still say that one can have 'conservative' principles and still support SSM. But I'll acknowledge that having what some may refer to as 'traditional' values would appear to be inconsistent with support of SSM (since SSM has no 'tradition'). But I do truly believe that there is a 'conservative' argument for SSM although it is true that it does go against 'tradition'.

So maybe we can just replace the word 'conservative' with 'traditional' and move on to what I'd consider more 'substantiative' issues."

Mark, this paragraph almost made me laugh out loud. Why are you putting scare quotes around every term? Do you think there are more substantive issues, or not? Putting conservative in quotes might be appropriate, since part of what we're talking about is the definition of conservative, but traditional? What is ambiguous about that? It's meaningless for you to assert that one can have conservative principles and still support SSM when you won't define what those principles are. Besides, the point is whether SSM can be supported based upon those principles, not whether you have conservative positions on other topics.

Posted by: Mike S. at July 22, 2004 10:46 AM

"Mike I would point you to Rauch's book as an example I would give for an argument for SSM based on conservative principals. Apparently, though, you are already familiar with it, and I suppose do not think the argument is conservative in nature."

I'm familiar with it, though I have not read it. I'll get back to you on it (as much as possible without reading it, since I don't have the inclination to buy it, and I don't have time to read it), and on my definition of conservative, but I'll just point out that Rauch is not a conservative intellectual/writer, even though he claims to be making a conservative case for SSM. The same is true of Andrew Sullivan, who I consider to be mostly a libertarian. Actually, I think the most prominent example is David Brooks - he wrote an editorial supporting SSM essentially based upon the idea that promiscuity is bad, and SSM will help reduce it. But I don't know if he's written anything else on the subject, and one editorial doesn't make for a very comprehensive case.

Posted by: Mike S. at July 22, 2004 10:53 AM

That's interesting that you don't consider Jonathan Rauch to be a conservative writer. As you noted earlier, regardless of what label you attach to him we are more concerned with the label attached to his arguments, but still I've generally seen Rauch referred to as a conservative. I believe he used to work for the American Enterprise Institute (also genearally labeled as conservative).

Posted by: Gabriel Rosenberg at July 22, 2004 12:18 PM

OK. Obviously you're free to argue a point, or not, as you wish. But I think it is important, and I think it will make it difficult for me to take your arguments seriously if you're going to claim that you're supporting SSM based upon conservative principles, but you can't articulate what those principles are.
—--- How do I say this .... total bunk. I'd like to give a transcript of all of our exchanges to 100 different people - regardless of where they are on this issue. I am very confident that 95% of them would say that while they may agree of disagree with my arguments - that I have articulated my views and have adequately responded to areas of disagreement and have not been ideologically inconsistent. I've had many exchanges with both Ben and Justin and while both of them certainly disagree with me, neither of them has accused me of the things you do - such as your constant "but why, but why, but why ..." or that I haven't explained my view in any way or that my view is inconsistent with Mike's definition of conservative principles.

You see, while I disagree with many of the points made by Justin or Ben or others, I can see where they come from and I can acknowledge the basis for their views. But you do not seem up to that. To me, that could explain why your standard response after a lengthy exchange is basically "but you haven't responded".

Just to make it clear that I am responding, I repeat again - the conservative argument for SSM is that SS relationships should be held to the same standards of OS relationships. This isn't a libertarian argument as that would be that any consensual adult relationship should be legitimized by law. The conservative argument for SSM would draw a line between SS relationships and incest, polygamy and bestiality. And yes, I know that line is arbitrary but the same can be said when arguments such as the procreative model or 'intrinsically linked to children' are made by those against SSM. The difference between conservative and libertarian is that conservatives draw lines and libertarians mostly do not.

You may not agree with that and that is perfectly fine - the basis for a debate. But STOP saying that I haven't articulated my view. It is at the very least disingenuous of you and additionally, really really annoying.

But that means that you can't use the fact that you tend to favor conservative positions in other matters as an argument. My response will simply be, 'so what?'
—---- Please read this clearly. I have never used the fact that I consider myself to be conservative or the fact that I favor conservative positions on other matters as an arguing point. I'm sure the only reason it came up at all was that someone called me a 'liberal' (obviously, since I favor gay-rights) and I responded that I was not. If I had said something like "you must agree with me, I am conservative", then a response of "so what?" would be appropriate.

Mark, this paragraph almost made me laugh out loud.
—--- And reading your responses makes my head spin.

Do you think there are more substantive issues, or not?
—---- Are there more substantive than whether or not I am a conservative, then yes.

Why are you putting scare quotes around every term? Putting conservative in quotes might be appropriate, since part of what we're talking about is the definition of conservative, but traditional? What is ambiguous about that?
—---- I can't recall my thought process as to why I put it in quotes. I didn't mean that I thought the meaning is ambiguous. It isn't. But my point is that you seem to feel that tradition (see, no quotes) is synonymous with conservative. I don't agree with that.

It's meaningless for you to assert that one can have conservative principles and still support SSM when you won't define what those principles are.
—---- Just more of your bunk. See above. By the way, did you ever respond to my argument that the societal and cultural effects argument (like Kurtz's data) sounds a lot like the effects of global warming arguments made by environmentalists ? Probably not.

Besides, the point is whether SSM can be supported based upon those principles, not whether you have conservative positions on other topics.
—----- Finally, we agree on something.

Posted by: Mark Miller at July 22, 2004 1:06 PM

I guess I'll grant that Rauch can be considered conservative. I haven't read enough of his writing to be able to make a determination. He seems to have libertarian leanings, but we can call him a conservative. The fact that he's virtually the only one that we can think of, plus the fact that he is gay and has a longtime partner, puts a question mark on his objectivity, but as we've agreed the issue is the arguments he makes, not who he is.

As for how I define conservatism, I don't think there's a precise canned definition, and there are a couple of caveats. First, I'm talking about modern American conservatism. Second, while I realize that we're talking about political or philosophical conservatism, and not specifically about religious conservatism, I would point out that there tends to be a lot of overlap between the two. I assume you'll grant ( I believe Mark already has ) that there is no real conservative religious argument to be made for SSM. This doesn't rule out a conservative political case for it, but it does seem to make it less likely.

So I think there are two main tenets of conservatism that are germane to this discussion. 1) Conservatives generally take a position in favor of tradition. This doesn't mean they should be reactionary and oppose all change, but it does mean they place the burden of proof on those arguing for change in social and political institutions. With an institution as old and as deeply imbedded in our culture as marriage, the bar is extremely high. 2) Conservatives hold that there is a human nature that is fixed, which is why they favor tradition - they assume that human beings in the past had the same characteristics as human beings now, and thus the institutions passed along have cumulative wisdom built into them, sometimes which we are unable to elucidate. We only find out about that inherent wisdom when we try to change the institution in the wrong way.

Considering that marriage is essentially the oldest human institution, that the Western concept of marrige is so deeply embedded in our culture and laws, and that healthy marriages are critical to propagating our culture, changes to it, from a conservative point of view, should be made very slowly and only with an abundance of evidence that the change is necessary. From what I can glean, this is essentially the case Rauch makes - he quotes Hayek on the importance of tradition, but argues that SSM is basically necessary to save the institution of marriage. In a sense this is the only argument one can make while giving any respect at all to conservative principles - implementing SSM must have a strong positive benefit on marriage, since even the supposed injustice to gays of not having it is not necessarily outweighed by the risks to society as a whole of changing the definition of marriage.

So the question is, how strong is the case that SSM will benefit marriage as a whole? Here is the key point about Rauch's position, I think - he's arguing that marriage is becoming obsolete, and not allowing SSM will encourage this trend because people are becoming more tolerant of gays, and will want to provide them many of the benefits of marriage. Without SSM, this will lead to a blurring of the distinctions between married and unmarried. He's not arguing that marriage is in very good shape, and that SSM will only strengthen it. He's arguing that marriage is in trouble, and SSM is necessary to save it. This is another version of the same point that has been made by opponents of SSM - SSM is only conceivable because of the changes we've wrought in marriage over the last 30 years or so.

Which brings up another point about conservatism: conservatives take a longer view of things. That is why I claim that the idea that marriage is unrelated to procreation is totally nonconservative - it is only possible to make that claim given the current circumstance of widespread birth control and no-fault divorce (that doesn't mean the claim is correct, just that it is possible to make it). But if you look at marriage prior to 1960, it is ludicrous to claim that it was not related to procreation. It doesn't have to be the case that it was only about procreation, just that procreation was an integral part of it.

So the first step from a conservative point of view would be to repeal no-fault divorce laws - that is, undo a change that was made fairly recently - and see if the status of marriage improves. If it does, then the argument that SSM is necessary to help marriage is considerably weakened.

So here are two tests for the 'conservative' case for SSM: we'll allow SSM if we also get rid of no-fault divorce laws, and SSM must be implemented by the legislatures. There are a few people who support SSM who speak out against the judicial imposition of it (I think Rauch does), but their voices are not very prominent. And I'm not aware of anyone who is in favor of SSM who is also pushing for tightening of divorce laws. I think there are other arguments to be made that the conservative case for SSM doesn't really exist (and I'm sure the ones I've made aren't entirely cohesive), but just think about how many people would support SSM under these two conditions, and how long it would take to get the laws changed. For all intents and purposes, we're talking about not being able to implement it for the foreseeable future, which gives you some indication of how weak the case is in the first place.

Posted by: Mike S. at July 23, 2004 5:34 AM

Mark,

"You see, while I disagree with many of the points made by Justin or Ben or others, I can see where they come from and I can acknowledge the basis for their views. But you do not seem up to that."

I can (usually) see where Gabriel is coming from, even though I disagree with him. I know what your positions are, I just don't know what the reasoning behind them is.

"Just to make it clear that I am responding, I repeat again - the conservative argument for SSM is that SS relationships should be held to the same standards of OS relationships. "

That's a position, which I've always understood that you favored. What I don't understand is what makes this a conservative argument. What conservative principles is it based upon? How does it fit with conservative positions on other issues?

"The conservative argument for SSM would draw a line between SS relationships and incest, polygamy and bestiality. And yes, I know that line is arbitrary but the same can be said when arguments such as the procreative model or 'intrinsically linked to children' are made by those against SSM."

How can your defense of a particular position be both based upon conservative principles and arbitrary?

"The difference between conservative and libertarian is that conservatives draw lines and libertarians mostly do not."

You're talking about the end results. Of course, libertarians draw lines as well, they just draw them in different places than conservatives do. The question is, what is the source of those differences in where the lines should be drawn?

"But STOP saying that I haven't articulated my view. It is at the very least disingenuous of you and additionally, really really annoying."

I'm sorry, Mark, I'm not trying to annoy you. I don't mean that you haven't articulated your view - you think SSM is possibly, or probably, the right thing to do, and you don't think that implementing it will lead to PB or I. But we're having a discussion about whether SSM is the right thing to do or not, and about how the laws should be changed if so. In order to do that, we have to discuss philosophies of marriage, politics, and the law. So far, the only argument I've seen you make is that the line between married and not married must be drawn somewhere, but that you think where the line is drawn is mostly arbitrary. Isn't something that is arbitrary not based upon an external principle, by definition?

"But that means that you can't use the fact that you tend to favor conservative positions in other matters as an argument. My response will simply be, 'so what?'
—---- Please read this clearly. I have never used the fact that I consider myself to be conservative or the fact that I favor conservative positions on other matters as an arguing point. I'm sure the only reason it came up at all was that someone called me a 'liberal' (obviously, since I favor gay-rights) and I responded that I was not. If I had said something like "you must agree with me, I am conservative", then a response of "so what?" would be appropriate."

If I recall, you didn't say that I must agree with you, but you did use it as an indication that you generally hold conservative positions, the implication being that you weren't necessarily holding an unconservative position in the case of SSM. If you didn't mean to imply that, and you only meant to say that in most other things you hold conservative views, but on this issue you hold a more liberal or libertarian view, then that's fine - like I said, you're not required to be perfectly consistent. But that would disagree with your statements that there is a conservative case for SSM. If so, then I would like to see it spelled out how the same principles used to defend conservative positions on other matters can be used to support SSM.

Posted by: Mike S. at July 23, 2004 5:56 AM

(that is, where to draw the legal lines) is just as arbitrary as many other judicial decisions

That brings up a very important point - when it comes to drawing arbitrary lines, that is really a job for the legislature, not the courts (eg, legislatures decide what the statute of limitations is, who is a healthcare provider, what the speed limit is, etc). Courts are not equipped (no "investigative" resources - data gathering, survey taking, etc.) to handle that aspect. Their job is to apply the law to a given set of facts, not create information or data ab initio.

Posted by: c matt at July 23, 2004 10:49 AM

Mike,

I can (usually) see where Gabriel is coming from, even though I disagree with him. I know what your positions are, I just don't know what the reasoning behind them is.
--- Yes, Professor Rosenberg's responses are clearer and better articulated than mine. He teaches at Yale. I just got promoted but am yet far from that level. I still claim that I have provided my reasoning just as much as you have provided yours.

That's a position, which I've always understood that you favored. What I don't understand is what makes this a conservative argument. What conservative principles is it based upon? How does it fit with conservative positions on other issues?
------- The only way in which your question works is if you assume that 'same sex relationships are immoral' is a tenet of conservative principles. I contend that it is not. It is a tenet of religious evangelical principles as based on scripture - and yes, most of those are conservatives. But that does mean that the assertion of homosexuality as immoral is a conservative principle.

"The conservative argument for SSM would draw a line between SS relationships and incest, polygamy and bestiality. And yes, I know that line is arbitrary but the same can be said when arguments such as the procreative model or 'intrinsically linked to children' are made by those against SSM."
- How can your defense of a particular position be both based upon conservative principles and arbitrary?
------ Read this again: ... I know that line is arbitrary but the same can be said when arguments such as the procreative model or 'intrinsically linked to children' are made by those against SSM."

OK, now explain to me how the position that marriage should be intrinsically linked to children yet you support OS couples who cannot procreate to marry - how is that not arbitrary or relative ?

You're talking about the end results. Of course, libertarians draw lines as well, they just draw them in different places than conservatives do.
--- That is true.

The question is, what is the source of those differences in where the lines should be drawn ?
------ The same source as yours - beliefs and principles based on research, education and personal experience. I am tired of your constant accusation that your view can be legitimately based on principles but mine cannot be. Since you understand the basis for Professor Rosenbergs views but not mine, tell me what you see as the basis for his views, with which you disagree, and maybe I can apply some of those to me despite the fact that I don't always agree with him.

I'm sorry, Mark, I'm not trying to annoy you. I don't mean that you haven't articulated your view - you think SSM is possibly, or probably, the right thing to do
--------- I think there is some merit and value to SSM but acknowledge the fact that it is a change in the definition of marriage and therefore, the question is whether the benefits of SSM justify that change in the definition.

"... but that you think where the line is drawn is mostly arbitrary. Isn't something that is arbitrary not based upon an external principle, by definition?"
----- I don't understand your question. I've already said that most laws are arbitrarily applied - ranging from age requirements for legal driving, sex and marriage to speed limits to most regulatory laws. Ben has it right - the question is whether the definition of marriage is a basic and universal truth - and therefore should exempt from any definitional change. I'll acknowledge that as a legitimate debate point.

But that would disagree with your statements that there is a conservative case for SSM. If so, then I would like to see it spelled out how the same principles used to defend conservative positions on other matters can be used to support SSM.
---- In my view, I already addressed this above. Your accusation of 'inconsistent' ideology only works if you assert that homosexual behavior is the moral equivalent of PI&B - as a 'conservative principle'. I contend that it is not.

Posted by: Mark Miller at July 23, 2004 1:28 PM

"OK, now explain to me how the position that marriage should be intrinsically linked to children yet you support OS couples who cannot procreate to marry - how is that not arbitrary or relative ?"

As has been pointed out before, by myself and others, the phenomenon of having significant numbers of people around who know ahead of time that they are unable to conceive a child, and who want to marry, is very recent when compared to the history or marriage, or the history of marriage laws in the West. So we have an existing definition of marriage, which carries with it the cultural expectations that the married couple will produce the next generation and raise them. Over a period of, lets say, 50 years, changes in demographics results in large numbers of people over the age of 50 who with to marry, with no expectation of having children. Their getting married doesn't require any change in the law, and it doesn't effect the cultural attitudes very much, because nobody expects 50+ year-olds to produce and raise the next generation. Basically, they get to participate in marriage because they don't significantly alter the institution.

The question is quite different if you consider younger couples. First of all, there aren't that many of them that know for sure that they are infertile prior to getting married. Many people try to get pregnant for a long time, then are surprised after they've given up. What has changed significantly for younger people is the idea that a) people should marry before having sex and b) that if people marry, they should have children. Actually, as c_matt pointed out awhile ago, this latter expectation hasn't fully gone away - people are still expected to 'settle down and get married', which usually means raise a family. It's just that this has been pushed back to later years, and now there's a large gap between 20 and 40 where people commonly date lots of people, or live with their S.O. without getting married, or marry while putting off having children until some indeterminate point in the future (i.e. not "in a couple years", but "when we're both ready"). Birth control means they can do this with the expectation that they won't get pregnant, although this happens anyways a high percentage of the time. It is still largely the case in America that when a couple is living together or dating, and the woman becomes pregnant, that they should get married. But if she doesn't become pregnant, the expectation of marriage is much less strong - it's in the category of "if it feels right for us". You see the connection between marriage and procreation?

Divorce is another change - we now have lots of people who are divorced parents, but want to remarry. Often though, they don't want to produce new children with their new spouse (although oftentimes they do).

So basically as I said before, the assertion that marriage is unrelated to
procreation only makes (partial) sense in light of the current status of marriage. However, I think the current situation is barely tenable over the long run (and may not be at all). I claim that we actually need to move back towards viewing marriage as more focused on procreation and children. Publicly claiming that couples that cannot possibly produce children are no different from those that are, by legalizing SSM, will move us in the opposite direction (i.e. with the flow over the last 30 years, not against it).

Here's another way to look at it - look at Europe. Forget about whether you believe Kurtz's interpretation of the data, and forget about enactment of SSM. They've had below-replacement rates of reproduction for some time. This is obviously related to the idea that people don't need to make babies (for whatver reason). It's also obviously going to result (has resulted) in the weakening of their society. I think you agree with me that babies should ideally be born to and raised by their married biological parents, right? That is, do you think that if people are going to make babies, they should get married? But on the other hand, you're arguing that the connection doesn't work the other way - that couples getting married shouldn't necessarily be expected to produce children (and raise them). Well, if that expectation doesn't exist, then who is going to produce and raise the next generation? This is an example where I think inconsistency comes into your arguments - all the data says that children do best when raised by their married biological parents, so that's why I assume you favor that situation. And society needs to produce enough children to propagate itself, or else it will die off. Yet you claim that there is no relationship between getting married and producing children. In a sense, Europe is an example of your claim that marriage and procreation are unlinked, but most European countries are facing serious problems in the next 20-30 years with aging populations, large welfare states to support, slow-growing economies, and large amounts of immigration (which is necessary to keep the economy growing, since there aren't enough homegrown workers). You see why I think your position is untenable?

Posted by: Mike S. at July 23, 2004 5:03 PM

Mike, you have totally misrepresented my position.

I never ever said that marriage is not connected to procreation. Of course it is.

What I have said and still maintain is that the connection between procreation and marriage does not justify the exclusion of couples that cannot procreate from having legal acknowledgment or in this case - marriage.

Or to put in another way, I have said that marriage and procreation are not linked TO THE DEGREE that the inability to procreate should prevent a couple from having their relationship legally acknowledged.

That is very different than saying that I do not believe marriage and procreation are not connected in any way.

Also, the argument that SSM or legal acknowledgment of gay couples (as in Scandinavia) could result in society not producing enough children to propagate itself is totally absurd - or to use your words, an untenable position. Why ? Because it makes no logical sense why or how legitimizing gay relationships would result in a decrease in reproduction. None at all. The argument that SSM could result in increased illegitimacy is at least worthy of debate (just barely) but to say SSM would end or even decrease reproduction is silly.

Posted by: Mark Miller at July 26, 2004 12:57 PM

Mark,

First of all, I specifically said to forget the SSM issue when I was talking about Europe - I was focusing on the connection between marriage and procreation:

Forget about whether you believe Kurtz's interpretation of the data, and forget about enactment of SSM. They've had below-replacement rates of reproduction for some time.

My argument was that if a society separates marriage and procreation too extensively, then it will face serious problems (either many children born out of wedlock, or not enough children born, or both). Even if there isn't a strict logical link between European birthrates, attitudes towards marriage, and advocacy/support of SSM, isn't it suggestive? Do you think there is no relationship between those things?

As for your position vis-a-vis marriage and procreation, I guess I don't understand why you can't see that allowing older heterosexual couples to marry doesn't sever the connection between procreation and marriage, but SSM does. I think it comes down to the fact that you, as in the case of many people who support SSM, are narrowly focused on technical definitions and not on the broader cultural assumptions that are both built into and flow from such definitions. Asserting that "some people who cannot procreate get married now, so we can't use procreation as an argument for how to define marriage" misses the forest for the trees.

Posted by: Mike S. at July 26, 2004 3:21 PM

Mike,

I was saying that the 'procreation' argument does not work for the simple reason that SSM opponents, such as yourself, are not willing to apply that same logic or rationale towards opposite sex couples.

"I guess I don't understand why you can't see that allowing older heterosexual couples to marry doesn't sever the connection between procreation and marriage, but SSM does."
----- You're right - I don't understand. Please explain how allowing opposite sex couples who cannot procreate to marry does not refer to the marriage=procreation equation but allowing same sex couples who cannot procreate does.

All I am saying is that the argument that same sex couples cannot procreate is not enough to warrant legal exclusion.

In my view, you may be trying to say that there is more to it than just "inability to procreate" and you know what, I'd agree with that.

But if you are going to insist that the inability to procreate justifies the denial of legal acknowledgment of said relationship, I'll never agree with that.

Posted by: Mark Miller at July 26, 2004 4:53 PM

Mark,

This is a perfect example of how I think you are missing the forest for the trees. You are focused on particular legal arguments for or against SSM. e.g. "the argument that same sex couples cannot procreate is not enough to warrant legal exclusion." When I talk about marriage being linked to procreation, I'm talking about the institution as a whole, not a particular legal argument. My point is that marriage is a complex institution that is embedded in our culture, laws, and social expectations. My argument is not that not being able to procreate is sufficient justification to not recognize a particular marriage. It is that changing the law to say that couples that are inherently unable to procreate, as opposed to just contingently, will subsequently effect the cultural and social attitudes surrounding marriage (for the worse). I understand that you disagree, but I don't think you really address this issue in any depth. That is part of what Justin is (and I am) complaining about. You appear to treat the law as an independent entity, that has no relationship to the culture it is in, the methods used to change it, or sociological effects.

This is why I accuse you of adopting liberal arguments on this issue - you focus on legal(istic) arguments, and on 'rights'. You and Gabriel both treat marriage in some sense like it is a golf club that denies gays membership. But if marriage is intrinsically linked to procreation, then denying gays from marrying is akin to denying a man with no hands from joining the golf club - he's incapable of playing golf. You're viewing this from a negative aspect - that gays are being denied something. But the point is that marriage between one woman and one man should be held up as the ideal because that is the best environment in which to produce and raise the next generation. When that ideal can't be met we should make accommodations, as in the cases of abuse or death of one or both of the parents, but we shouldn't pretend that single parenthood is just as good as dual, or that divorce and remarriage is no different from married-for-life. Marriage of older couples who cannot procreate mimics the case of the empty-nester couple - it still holds the ideal to be one woman, one man, married for life. But allowing SSM introduces a wholly new element into the mix - now we are talking about privleging a particular relationship between two adults, even though they cannot produce a child together.

It's like Justin said - "many of those who oppose same-sex marriage really do privilege the family type indicated by marriage rather than the sexual relationship of the spouses" - I want to promote one woman, one man, married for life, and with children, if possible, as the 'gold standard', if you will, of marriage. Minor variations on that theme that don't change the standard we can accommodate. But SSM is a variation too far, one that essentially obliterates the standard. I think you misunderstand the extent and nature of the change when you admit that SSM changes the definition of marriage.

Posted by: Mike S. at July 27, 2004 11:32 AM

Mike,

"It is that changing the law to say that couples that are inherently unable to procreate, as opposed to just contingently, will subsequently effect the cultural and social attitudes surrounding marriage (for the worse).
I understand that you disagree, but I don't think you really address this issue in any depth."

First, let me say that we are talking about civil marriage - in all its both legal and social/cultural realms.

Second, I do understand your view but you are correct that I don't agree. As I asked before (and you did not address), please explain the difference between an elderly opposite sex couple who are inherently unable to procreate and a same sex couple. How does one effect the cultural and social attitudes about marriage and the other not ? Now I know there is an answer which is - one involves same-sex couples and one involves opposite sex couples. But that does not address the differences with regard to procreation in and of itself. That answer refers to a different argument - the definitional argument that marriage is defined by opposite sex partners (regardless of ability to procreate).


"You appear to treat the law as an independent entity, that has no relationship to the culture it is in, the methods used to change it, or sociological effects."

That is simply not true and another example where I've accused you of not even reading my responses. I am not a libertarian on this issue. I do believe the law has a relationship to culture, methods of change and sociological effects. Hence, I am against legalized PI&B. Where we differ is that I don't agree with you that legitimizing same sex relationships has the harmful affects as those others. (repeating for the zillionth time)

"This is why I accuse you of adopting liberal arguments on this issue - you focus on legal(istic) arguments, and on 'rights'."

Huh ? You mean like those conservative arguments in support of affirmative action, welfare and increased environmental regulation - for the sake of the culture. Please.

"You and Gabriel both treat marriage in some sense like it is a golf club that denies gays membership. But if marriage is intrinsically linked to procreation, then denying gays from marrying is akin to denying a man with no hands from joining the golf club - he's incapable of playing golf."

Yes, I think a man with no hands should be allowed to join a golf club if he wants. Based on your analogy, the only reason to get married is to procreate. (why join a golf club if you can't play golf ?) First of all, let me say that I think this is a really poor analogy. But I'll go with it - is procreation the only reason opposite sex couples should get married ? Or going further, do these principles you apply to marriage apply equally to same sex and opposite sex couples ?


"But the point is that marriage between one woman and one man should be held up as the ideal because that is the best environment in which to produce and raise the next generation. When that ideal can't be met we should make accommodations, as in the cases of abuse or death of one or both of the parents, but we shouldn't pretend that single parenthood is just as good as dual, or that divorce and remarriage is no different from married-for-life."

I agree with you - in theory. But the reality is that we do legally acknowledge single-parenthood, we do legally acknowledge divorce and remarriage. If you supported that the law should not acknowledge those ... well, I'd disagree with you for other reasons but I'd admire the consistency of your argument - that there should be legal ideals and it is the role of govt to acknowledge which are better. And I do that by supporting gay relationships but not polygamous ones. So if you want to draw the line at marriage-for-life and children having two opposite sex parents for legal acknowledgment, OK. But that is not where I would want to draw the legal line.


"I think you misunderstand the extent and nature of the change when you admit that SSM changes the definition of marriage."

Fair enough. But just to be clear, I also think you are exaggerating the extent to which SSM would affect the view of the family within our society and culture.

Posted by: Mark Miller at July 27, 2004 5:06 PM