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July 24, 2004

What Is and What Should Never Be

In the comments to this post, supporters of same-sex marriage — namely Gabriel Rosenberg and Mark Miller — continue to argue about the likely subsequents according to their own personal views concerning the whys and hows of their cause. Gabriel, for example, notes that if "you base your support on SSM on the right of the individual not to be denied equal protection on the basis of their sex, then there is no inconsistency in supporting SSM, but not polygamy or incest."

This is an argument that should be directed at supporters of SSM, not opponents. How many times must those opposing SSM explain that it is not only the nature of the change being sought, but also the method and thinking being brought to bear that threaten the most harm? At this time, with the logical and practical tack being taken by those advocating for SSM, it is incumbent upon anybody who would prefer to keep polygamy, incest, self-marriage, and so on out of the American norm and to bolster the principles enshrined in the institution to oppose that movement.

As things stand, even out to the edges of support for same-sex marriage, there's a clear mandate for it to be inserted into the law no matter the method. This has been among my central complaints from the very beginning — that those who wish to tear down barriers within marriage are reckless in their tearing down of the institution itself as well as presumptions and standards in the law and our governing system.

This problem can be seen in the negative, as well, with the only possible objection to any and all strategies from the SSM movement being seen as bigotry. It's an easy way to dismiss the other side's points, and it facilitates high self-esteem for those leveraging it. But it also blinds supporters to ramifications of their righteous demands.

The questions to which the fight comes down are whether it's more important to protect the institution or to be on the side of same-sex marriage, whether marriage is worth taking the position that is emotionally more difficult to ensure that the strength of the institution — if eventually expanded — justifies the struggle to grant it to gays or is worth risking so as to be on the "right side" of a civil rights issue, and whether maturity demands that what may be the wrong side wins for the right reasons or intellectual tricks and emotionalism free the movement of its consequences.

Posted by Justin Katz at July 24, 2004 10:07 AM
Marriage & Family
Comments

Here's a post I found from MarriageDebate.com that highlights the same phenomenon, even though the focus is on IVF and not SSM.

Posted by: Mike S. at July 24, 2004 6:03 PM

First, thanks for putting my name in the same sentence as Professor Rosenberg's.

Having said that, you have misrepresented my view. I have never argued in support of the method of change on this issue. I have even acknowledged to you that I am not sure that Mass SJC majority made the right decision by saying current marriage law discriminates against gays and also written that I acknowledge that SSM is a change in the definition of marriage. What I have said is that the justices were within their authority to make the decision and that the claims of 'judicial tyranny' are not valid.

So, to me, your accusations of my view are either misleading due to the fact that you misunderstand my view (hard to believe based on your intelligence and the sheer number of exchanges we've had) or disingenuous.

But my main point in responding here is to note your hypocrisy in comments such as:
- "... mandate for it to be inserted into the law no matter the method."
- " ... only possible objection to any and all strategies from the SSM movement being seen as bigotry."
- " ... also blinds supporters to ramifications of their righteous demands."
- "... wins for the right reasons or intellectual tricks and emotionalism free the movement of its consequences."

There is hypocrisy in that you feel very strongly in denying any legal legitimacy to same sex relationships and are in favor of codifying that belief into the law 'no matter what the method'. You also assert that any possible support of SSM is equivalent to being 'anti-family' or 'anti-children'.

To portray all SSM supporters as 'self-righteous' and wanting to move their cause forward using intellectual tricks and emotionalism is the height of hypocrisy. (as opposed to the intellectual honesty and high ground that SSM opponents are always on)

Posted by: Mark Miller at July 26, 2004 1:35 PM

Mark,

I didn't say you'd argued "in support of the method of change on this issue." I said that you've continued "to argue about the likely subsequents according to [your] own personal views concerning the whys and hows of [your] cause." I then offered an example from Gabriel.

The point is that you continue to self-identify as a "supporter of same-sex marriage," even though that puts you in league with those who take and are taking an approach to which you are opposed. As I put it in another thread: you can't separate the effects of SSM from its method of implementation. Perhaps I could have been clearer that I had transitioned away from the arguments that you've put forward, but the point stands that, as far as I can remember seeing, your attention is much more focused toward opposing the opposers than redirecting the supporters.

As for my hypocrisy, I'd be interested in your supplying the statements that lead you to believe that I am "in favor of codifying that belief into the law 'no matter what the method'." (Perhaps the quotation marks around that phrase indicate that you're demanding a bit of sliding room.) I would not favor, for example, a Supreme Court decision stating that the Constitution already requires that all marriages to be opposite-sex. I'd also like for you to supply the statements in which I "assert that any possible support of SSM is equivalent to being 'anti-family' or 'anti-children'."

Posted by: Justin Katz at July 26, 2004 2:00 PM

Mark,

Just out of curiosity, do you spend as much time arguing with proponents of SSM about their flawed methodological approach as you do arguing with opponents of SSM that most of their objections to SSM are illegitimate?

Posted by: Mike S. at July 26, 2004 3:25 PM

The point is that you continue to self-identify as a "supporter of same-sex marriage," even though that puts you in league with those who take and are taking an approach to which you are opposed.

I'm guessing based on the original post that you would apply that criticism to me as well. I do identify as a supporter of same-sex marriage because I support same-sex marriage. When I speak, I am speaking to supporters, opponents, and the undecided. If some supporters of SSM were taking an approach which I found objectionable, I would say so, but I would still consider myself a supporter of SSM. (Likewise, I assume that you would consider yourself an opponent of SSM even that put you into the same group as people who took views you found to be quite objectionable.)

I base my support for SSM on a number of reasons, not the least of which is that I find it to be unjust discrimination on the basis of sex. That is an argument that I support both as a matter of law, and it is one that drives me emotionally. That is my conscience finds the discrimination objectionable. Because of this view I support people filing suits to have the courts enforce this right to equal protection. Now I suppose the question is what if these people also make arguments in their briefs that I do not support? Well, I generally do not blame an attorney for trying any argument which might have merit. The right to marriage argument I find to be a little weak, but it does some have merit because the way things are the Supreme Court of the US has recognized a fundamental right to marry. Whether or not I believe such a right ought to be recognized, the court has recognized it, and I feel if that is the case the right should be broad enough to include same-sex marriage. (But even here my reasoning has to do with gender apsects). There is also the argument about discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. I find that to be also fairly weak, but I support the attorneys making the argument. Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is really discriminating against people for doing something that would be considered acceptable if the person were of a different gender. So again it boils down to my views on discrimination on the basis of gender.

What about other arguments which I flat out oppose? For example, the claim that FF&C requires recognition of a sister-state marriage. I have written about this, and I have explained why I find the arugment faulty. Yet despite this disagreement, I still support SSM. Ultimately I would like to see SSM adopted by the state legislatures and I have tried to work to make that happen. I do not object, though, to people whose rights have been violated taking their case to court.

So, I'm wondering how do you think I should self-indentify on this issue?

Posted by: Gabriel Rosenberg at July 26, 2004 3:58 PM

I have very little time to respond. (job duties)

Justin - I can't think of any specific examples where you asked for the. I guess my response was based on the generalities you used towards people who support SSM. So I responded with other generalities which have been used towards SSM opponents. Bottom line is that neither of us are willing to be defined by those. Fair enough.

As far as redirecting the supporters and Mike's pithy comment - I have had exchanges on those points such as whether SSM is a change in the definition - including with Professor Rosenberg. But this site doesn't attract many SSM supporters to so there is fewer opportunities for you to see that.

But it does irk me that I while I can see where I'd be labeled by you as a SSM supporter, I'd like to think I've had enough personal exchanges with you that I could avoid being automatically lumped in with ALL SSM supporters.

Keep in mind that you specifically mentioned my name in the post. That is what I responded to.

Posted by: Mark Miller at July 26, 2004 4:06 PM

Gabriel,

You're a bit closer to the profile (and the opinions) of an SSM supporter than, for example, Mark, so I'm not sure that I can profitably advise you to self-identify differently.

What I'm trying to get at, not particularly effectively, is a mushy idea, nonetheless valid, that there is a difference between supporting SSM in theory — under a different set of circumstances — and supporting it enough to accept the implications of the label as it currently stands.

I suppose one approach might be to suggest the image of a telephone poll that asks whether you support or oppose SSM. Knowing that the force of your answer will be no more nuanced than yes/no, generating numbers that will benefit one of the sides of the debate as it currently stands, which answer do you give?

I contend that, given the positions that they state, many who would say "support" ought to be saying "oppose."

Posted by: Justin Katz at July 28, 2004 12:25 PM

I guess I'm not sure what you mean by the fact that I am not the 'profile' of an SSM supporter. Does this have to do with the fact that my opinions are totally inconsistent and make no sense as Mike S. has asserted ?

In any case, I'd like to respond.

To an extent I agree with you that some of the responses to a simple telephone poll may not glean an accurate representation - for either side of the debate. Actually I think that would apply to a great number of political/social questions which are routinely polled - which is one of the reasons I see poll results in general as having very little relevance.

I think a legitimate question could be "do you feel that same sex relationships should have the same legal acknowledgment as opposite sex relationships?". Not that I mean that should be used in your telephone poll example - but that this question is the gist of what this debate is about - well, at least for me.

Posted by: Mark Miller at July 28, 2004 4:33 PM

Mark,

The telephone poll is just symbolic, and the way public debates play out, the average Joes among us don't get to rephrase the question.

Take abortion. Suppose you believed that it ought to be legal in cases of incest, rape, and medical emergencies, but that under any other circumstances it amounted to cold blooded murder. (That's an inconsistent position, but it's one that many hold, nonetheless.) Asked to answer a question that, in effect, supports either the pro-abortionists or the pro-lifers, do you support or oppose abortion?

It's not an exact parallel, but I think it gets the point across. When it comes down to a choice, is the preservation of the option of abortion in "extreme" cases the bottom line, or is saving the lives of unborn victims of whim? When it comes down to a choice, is normalizing homosexual relationships the bottom line, or is preserving the institution of marriage?

My observation is that a significant number of SSM supporters simply don't want to acknowledge that it could come down to such a choice. Of course, anonymity and a lack of influence allow most of us to hold positions without reference to how they affect the outcome of the practical battle, but with this issue, given most folks' reluctance even to think about it, I think the effect is cumulative.

Posted by: Justin Katz at July 28, 2004 4:52 PM

Justin,

The telephone poll is just symbolic
—--- I figured that.

Suppose you believed that it ought to be legal in cases of incest, rape, and medical emergencies, but that under any other circumstances it amounted to cold blooded murder. (That's an inconsistent position, but it's one that many hold, nonetheless.)
—---- I agree with you that is an inconsistent moral/ethical position.

Asked to answer a question that, in effect, supports either the pro-abortionists or the pro-lifers, do you support or oppose abortion?
It's not an exact parallel, but I think it gets the point across.
—---- Yes it does get the point across.

When it comes down to a choice, is the preservation of the option of abortion in "extreme" cases the bottom line, or is saving the lives of unborn victims of whim?
When it comes down to a choice, is normalizing homosexual relationships the bottom line, or is preserving the institution of marriage?
—--- Here's where we part ways. In the case of abortion, the act of abortion directly results in the death of the unborn. The bottom line choice is an actual choice between having a right to do something which results in direct harm (to an unborn, in this case). In the case of SSM, in my view, it does not fall that way. In other words, while I've said many times that I can see how SSM does change the traditional definition of marriage, I still maintain that the act of normalizing homosexual relationships does not clearly result in harming the institution of marriage.

My observation is that a significant number of SSM supporters simply don't want to acknowledge that it could come down to such a choice.
—---- Or people like myself do not see how it is such a choice.

Of course, anonymity and a lack of influence allow most of us to hold positions without reference to how they affect the outcome of the practical battle, but with this issue, given most folks' reluctance even to think about it, I think the effect is cumulative.
—---- Obviously, we disagree on the effect of folks' reluctance to think about it or what the effect of further contemplation would be on how folks' view would change.

Posted by: Mark Miller at July 29, 2004 9:20 AM
Or people like myself do not see how it is such a choice.

I think it would be more accurate for you to say: "people like like myself do not see how it has to be such a choice." The point is, roughly speaking, that the effect of the current movement is to make it such a choice.

Posted by: Justin Katz at July 30, 2004 10:04 AM

I don't agree.

The truth is that some (not all) of the people who support SSM truly do not believe that it would negatively affect the institution of marriage.

Therefore, your statement "that the effect of the current movement is to make it such a choice" only applies to those who see the cause-effect exactly as you do.

You should visit Gabriel's site as I've had some exchanges with him on the definitional argument of SSM. I'm playing both sides (not really, I just happen to disagree with him on this part of the debate) Mike S. just might be impressed. Might.

Posted by: Mark Miller at July 30, 2004 12:46 PM

Justin,
Do you even KNOW any gay people who are in committed relationships? I know a lot of gay couples who have been together, living together for 5, 10, 20 years and they are happy people and they set great examples for how marriages should be. Much more than some of my heterosexual friends. There are other ways to live life and be happy and healthy besides the way you have chosen. What is this "institution" that you are so worried about? Marriage has been abused between heterosexual couples for years (for green cards, for example). How does it hurt you if 5% of marriages are abusing the rules and the other 95% are not, but are bound by love.

Angie

Posted by: Angie at July 30, 2004 4:54 PM

Angie,

Answers to your questions/points and more can be found among the hundreds of thousands of words that I've written on this topic even since January. Whether or not I know gay couples is irrelevant to whether same-sex marriage is intelligent or dangerous public policy. Whether or not individual good gay couples are better (e.g., responsible and committed) than bad straight couples offers very little useful information for the debate at hand.

I'd go into more depth, but the nature and tone of your comment suggest that it would be wasted effort.

Posted by: Justin Katz at August 4, 2004 5:38 PM

Justin,
I believe that people who are arguing against SSM do not know any gay couples. If you socialized regularly with gay couples--benefits, dinner parties, workplace--you would not be too popular if they knew you were writing hundreds of thousands of words on the computer daily about why THEY should not get married while you yourself are married and enjoying the benefits of that. And besides that, you'd have a face and a personality to add to the subject matter. Not just a logical analysis. Similar to how I believe most pro-life advocates either cannot bear children or they have a loving partner who will support them emotionally and financially should an accidental pregnancy occur. Just another way to think about these issues which leaves out the legal/logic/ethic speak and brings real humans into the picture.

Angie

Posted by: Angie at August 6, 2004 11:55 AM

Angie,

I've replied here.

Posted by: Justin Katz at August 9, 2004 11:16 AM