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September 1, 2004

Finding the Direct Interest

While expressing another position related to marriage that leads me to wonder what, in his experience, has made his assumptions differ so dramatically from mine, Mark Miller's comments to a recent post bring forth a link between his views on divorce and on same-sex marriage:

In this case, I think I am the one being conservative - people taking personal responsibility and limiting government involvement. To me, this issue is akin to outlawing spanking. Some studies have shown that spanking is not good for children. Should the government criminalize it ? I don't want the government telling me how to raise my kids - and that includes not telling me I have to stay married - whatever good intentions may exist.

Spanking is just one of various examples that Mark has used in the same context — smoking being another — all of which fail in that they conflate various forms of state interest. One could argue — wrongly, in my opinion — that the government's interest in the healthy development of its citizens gives it the right to determine whether certain parental strategies, such as spanking, serve that interest and thereafter regulate them. But that would require quite a different argument from one suggesting that the government's interest in the same gives it the right to determine when it will recognize the dissolution of a marriage.

As has often been repeated lately, marriage is not merely a private contract between two parties. Rather, it's a relationship in which the public invests its cultural and financial capital and that the government certifies representatives to witness and recognize. Couples who do not wish for the public, through its government structure, to have a say in whether parenthood dictates a heightened barrier to exit from marriage are free to pursue religious sanctification and contractual union, while forgoing government recognition and its benefits. Even those who object to my offering that as an option ought to see that official marriage, on one hand, and parental strategy, on the other, are not at the same level of legitimate government interest.

The distinction between the two presents itself in the form of a decision in the issue of healthcare. Although some are trying, it's currently very difficult to argue on behalf of behavioral regulations for consumers of fast food. The dynamic would change, however, were the government to take a more significant role in the provision of healthcare. The public would actually be involved in the process of maintaining health, rather than just dealing with habits' results in indirect ways.

It seems at least possible, to me, that this same conflation of degrees of interest likely contributes to Mark's support for same-sex marriage. As an uninvolved third-party that merely recognizes private relationships called "marriage," the government would have insufficient interest in differentiating between those relationships on the basis of sex to have a right to make distinctions. (It would go beyond my purposes, here, to offer more than a parenthetical note that many supporters of same-sex marriage somehow expect that right to reassert itself when participants in other permutations of marriage-like relationships request recognition.)

In this light, something that might appear to be an ideological contradiction, at first glance, proves consistent. Among the more expansive points that Mark has made repeatedly while arguing for same-sex marriage is that one benefit is the "normalization" of homosexuality. Social acceptance of homosexuality, in his view, justifies changes to marriage law, whereas a preference for children to be raised by their married biological parents does not. Put another way, the public's involvement in individuals' marital bonds is a permissible tool for the legitimization of homosexuality, but it is not a permissible tool for the illegitimization of divorce.

Admittedly, I've crafted my language in such a way as to exclude various ways in which the two views are consistent (e.g., if one believes that the government ought to be able to force inclusion, but not exclusion). One consistent thread that may be irreducible, however, is the idea that the individual's rights always trump a society's rights.

An individual who is a spouse and parent would only lose his right to conduct his affairs as suits him if doing so infringes on somebody else's rights. The only applicable infringement would be on that person's children's right to be raised in the optimal environment... but who better than the parent to determine what that entails? Thus, Mark — who would also oppose giving one spouse veto power over divorce — is suggesting that the parent asserting his right to leave also has the exclusive right to judge his children's competing claim.

Cut from the equation is society's right to determine that children are better off with married biological parents, no matter what a supremely prejudiced parent might declare. Cut from the equation is society's right to reinforce the power, value, and importance of marriage — an institution "owned" at the social level. Cut from the equation is society's right to structure relationships in which it plays a role in such a way as to discourage one side from allowing himself or herself to want to break the entrance oath.

Whatever one thinks of such rights, cutting them is certainly not conservative.

Posted by Justin Katz at September 1, 2004 5:50 PM
Marriage & Family
Comments

I think I am catching on - so to speak. In the libertarian realm, Mark Miller may be a conservative as compared to a liberal libertarian (would that be a socialist?) or even a far left libertarian (anarchist or chaosian). I think this means that he is in favor of reduced government, but not reduced enough to eliminate social safety nets like welfare, or reduce protections for everybody, but enough to never have a freedom restricted or have external moral pressure applied and specifically no interference to secularism.

(I hope you will pardon me Mark, if I'm a bit skeptical of this model's workability.)

Posted by: smmtheory at September 1, 2004 6:39 PM

I have to say that I am disappointed and a little offended in this post. To me, you have misrepresented my views and also engaged in quite a bit of 'spin' or exaggeration' with regard to my comments. Based on the amount of time and sheer volume of exchanges we have had both off and online, I'd like to think you understood my position as different than what is shown in this post.

"As has often been repeated lately, marriage is not merely a private contract between two parties. Rather, it's a relationship in which the public invests its cultural and financial capital and that the government certifies representatives to witness and recognize."
------- The same can also be said of the contract between parent and child. It too is a relationship in which the public invests its cultural and financial capitol. The same can also be said of the contract between the public schools and the students, between corporations and its consumers. My point is that you are *asserting* that the government interest to keep parents together for the sake of the children is much greater than other governmental interests wiht regard to regulation based on your specific agenda. I don't agree and I'm sure environmental activists or gun control activists wouldn't agree either.

It seems at least possible, to me, that this same conflation of degrees of interest likely contributes to Mark's support for same-sex marriage. As an uninvolved third-party that merely recognizes private relationships called "marriage," the government would have insufficient interest in differentiating between those relationships on the basis of sex to have a right to make distinctions. (It would go beyond my purposes, here, to offer more than a parenthetical note that many supporters of same-sex marriage somehow expect that right to reassert itself when participants in other permutations of marriage-like relationships request recognition.)
--------- This attempt at linking my views on divorce and same-sex marriage is completely off base. I have acknowledged numerous times that I believe there is NOT a constitutional right to SSM based on the current definition. I do believe there is a constitutional right to divorce. My view on SSM is based on the fact that I believe the value of legally acknowledging same-sex relationships is a positive thing for our culture. My view on divorce is very different and not based on your false representation that I think 'adults should be able to whatever they want regardless of the effects'.

Among the more expansive points that Mark has made repeatedly while arguing for same-sex marriage is that one benefit is the "normalization" of homosexuality. Social acceptance of homosexuality, in his view, justifies changes to marriage law, whereas a preference for children to be raised by their married biological parents does not.
----- I never said that "social acceptance of homosexuality justifies changes to marriage law". I've said that social acceptance of homosexuality would be a positive byproduct of SSM. I do not believe that pursuit alone justifies SSM. I feel I've made that clear between the numerous exchanges between me and you and Mike S. but apparently not.

Put another way, the public's involvement in individuals' marital bonds is a permissible tool for the legitimization of homosexuality, but it is not a permissible tool for the illegitimization of divorce.
----- That's a nicely written line for use in a speech but when looked at closely, it makes no sense. The legitimization of homosexuality has nothing to do with the public's involvement in individuals' marital bonds. There is a relationship between the individuals' marital bonds and the illegitimization of divorce and I''ve said that should be a consideration - but not the only one. You and Mike keep trying to paint me into this corner where divorce has no public effect - because it meets your rhetorical agenda of "Mark doesn't care about the children". Reminds of how the anti-war left reacts to Bush.

Admittedly, I've crafted my language in such a way as to exclude various ways in which the two views are consistent (e.g., if one believes that the government ought to be able to force inclusion, but not exclusion). One consistent thread that may be irreducible, however, is the idea that the individual's rights always trump a society's rights.
----- More spin and rhetoric. My point is that there should be an attempt to balance the individual's rights with society's rights. And I also believe that individuals' rights is a significant part of society's rights. But hey, if it's working for you - HEY READERS, JUSTIN DOESN'T CARE ABOUT INDIVIDUAL RIGHTS. That's akin to how you misrepresented my view.

Thus, Mark - who would also oppose giving one spouse veto power over divorce - is suggesting that the parent asserting his right to leave also has the exclusive right to judge his children's competing claim.
------ Unbelievable. Are you really saying that a child should get a legal say about whether his or her parents should stay together. Then why not give that child a say about whether he or she gets spanked, grounded, allowance, have plastic surgery. Based on your view, a childs claims should be considered just as much or more than its parents. You've just joined the view of the ACLU.

I need to express my shock that reasonable people - such as yourself (I'm still on the fence about Mike S.) actually think one parent should have veto power over a divorce. Have you really thought this through ? So you are in a relationship and want to break up. But the other party says 'no'. So you stay together. (reminds me of the Seinfeld episode where George broke up with someone but she said 'no') I'll even assume that this requirement only applies to marriages with children. Should the government also require the married couple live in the same home ? Sleep in the same bedroom ? Talk to each other for x minutes per day ? Not argue in front of the kids ? How do you really think that would help the kids ? I guess you're hoping that in those cases the couple would say 'well, if I can't have a divorce, we may as well work on our problems and make the best of it - kiss me'. Is that true ? To me, your only interest is in lowering the official divorce rate. And my response to that is that your value on a number trumps both the individual's and society's rights. Sort of a 'ends justifies the means' concept - where the end is a lower divorce rate.

Cut from the equation is society's right to determine that children are better off with married biological parents, no matter what a supremely prejudiced parent might declare. Cut from the equation is society's right to reinforce the power, value, and importance of marriage - an institution "owned" at the social level. Cut from the equation is society's right to structure relationships in which it plays a role in such a way as to discourage one side from allowing himself or herself to want to break the entrance oath. Whatever one thinks of such rights, cutting them is certainly not conservative.
------- More rhetoric and outright lies. I have repeatedly said that those are part of the equation and it is you that are cutting off the individuals right to choose whether to be in a given relationship. Also, it is incorrect to represent my view as unwilling to discourage divorce. My view is that I am unwilling to support laws which *prevent* divorce. Even before 'no-fault', divorces were allowed regardless of circumstance but there had to be an official reason. The reality is that your assertion - admittedly exaggerated - that divorces should not be allowed for the sake of the children - is closer to the truth than your misrepresentation of my view.

This post uses as much demagoguery as I've seen from you since I've been a reader of yours.

Let me ask you a question - why not just arrange all marriages with no divorce option ? On what grounds would you oppose that as it seems to meet all your criteria for what is best for children ?

smmtheory:
You are not catching on. I am not in favor of welfare or increased protections. I agree that there should be external moral pressure and that the wall between secularism and religious expression is unfairly high and goes against what I consider freedom as guaranteed by our constitution. But to say I believe in no government on social issues means that 1) you aren't reading my comments and 2) you are subscribing to Justin's false assertion that since I don't agree with the veto rule, that I don't care about the welfare of children. (sounds like rhetoric Michael Moore would use). I contend that those who support the veto rule in divorce are being overly simplistic and only rely on statistics when making decisions as in '% is too high' we need to do something - anything. To me, that rings more liberal than conservative.

BTW, Iran has a lower divorce rate than the US. I guess to you that means that family life is better there. Excuse me if I don't subscribe to your model of cultural improvement.

Posted by: Mark Miller at September 2, 2004 1:11 PM

Mark, there's a lot to reply to here, and I'm sure Justin will eventually, but let me just point out something that makes it hard to take your indignation seriously.

From an exchange we had on August 9th (in the post titled "Reason Overruled"):

Does that mean your support of SSM is motivated primarily by the desire to normalize homosexual behavior?
—---- I read it twice and it still makes sense so — yes.

And do you think it is legitimate in our form of government to force social normalization of particular behaviors via the courts?
—---- You don't deserve the final $21,333 for this silly question. Yes, I do. The same way the courts 'forced' social normalization of women's right to vote, forced social normalization of interracial relationships, forced social normalization of racial integration, forced social normalization of ending a marriage, and even forced social normalization of ending life (death penalty, abortion). The courts have ruled in certain cases that people have rights to do things which offend some other people and I agree that is within their role.

But now you say:

I never said that "social acceptance of homosexuality justifies changes to marriage law". I've said that social acceptance of homosexuality would be a positive byproduct of SSM. I do not believe that pursuit alone justifies SSM. I feel I've made that clear between the numerous exchanges between me and you and Mike S. but apparently not.

Apparently not, indeed.

Posted by: Mike S. at September 2, 2004 3:15 PM

"Does that mean your support of SSM is motivated primarily by the desire to normalize homosexual behavior?
—---- I read it twice and it still makes sense so — yes."

Mike - how clear can I make this so you can understand ....

Am I motivated by my desire to normalize homosexual behavior ? Yes.

Does this mean that I feel that a judge should change the definition of marriage based solely on his/her belief that homosexual behavior should be normalized ? No.

A little complex for you ? Let me analogize.

Are you motivated to oppose SSM based on the biblical view that homosexuality is immoral ? The answer is yes.

Does this mean that you believe that judges should base the decision solely on scripture ? Probably not. (but maybe so)


"And do you think it is legitimate in our form of government to force social normalization of particular behaviors via the courts?
—---- You don't deserve the final $21,333 for this silly question. Yes, I do. The same way the courts 'forced' social normalization of women's right to vote, forced social normalization of interracial relationships, forced social normalization of racial integration, forced social normalization of ending a marriage, and even forced social normalization of ending life (death penalty, abortion). The courts have ruled in certain cases that people have rights to do things which offend some other people and I agree that is within their role."

You misunderstood my response (there's a shocker). My point was that the purpose of the courts ruling in Mass and others was not simply to force social normalization. I do not believe the reasoning behind allowing women to vote was forcing social acceptance of women in voting booths. I do not believe the reasoning behind Roe v Wade was forcing social acceptance of abortion. I do not believe the reasoning behind allowing interracial marriages was forcing social acceptance of them. I'm not saying I agree with Roe v Wade but those members of the court believed that the right to privacy outweighed the right to life of the child. You are just trying to simplify the reasoning behind court decisions you don't agree with by saying 'they are trying to force social normalization of something I don't like'.

I never said that "social acceptance of homosexuality justifies changes to marriage law". I've said that social acceptance of homosexuality would be a positive byproduct of SSM. I do not believe that pursuit alone justifies SSM. I feel I've made that clear between the numerous exchanges between me and you and Mike S. but apparently not.
Apparently not, indeed.
—--- No Mike. Apparently so indeed. You don't agree with me but I have been consistent if you'd take the time to understand my points. Try reading with your eyes open next time. (yes, you annoy me).

Posted by: Mark Miller at September 2, 2004 4:13 PM

"Does that mean your support of SSM is motivated primarily by the desire to normalize homosexual behavior?
—---- I read it twice and it still makes sense so — yes."

Mike - how clear can I make this so you can understand ....

Am I motivated by my desire to normalize homosexual behavior ? Yes.

Does this mean that I feel that a judge should change the definition of marriage based solely on his/her belief that homosexual behavior should be normalized ? No.
----

I don't care what you think a judge should do (in the context of my original question) - I want(ed) to know what your motivation(s) for supporting SSM are. If you don't think it's a Constitutional right, then there must be something else. I asked you if normalization is the primary motivation, and you said yes. Now you're complaining that normalization is just one motivation, among others, presumably. If you aren't going to modify my use of primarily, and just answer the question, "yes", then I have to assume that you're saying that normalization is your primary motivation. What am I supposed to do, read your mind?

"A little complex for you ? Let me analogize."

No, it's not too complex, it's too self-contradictory and unclear. Being unclear is not a crime (I'm regularly guilty of it). Taking umbrage when others misunderstand you after you've been unclear is not a crime, either, but it is rather problematic.

I actually wish you would stop analogizing so much - and when you do it, I wish you would flesh out your arguments more as to how the two situations being analogized are similar or not. You're two-line analogies don't really help clarify anything, they just confuse things, because I don't know what aspects of the two situations you think are parallel, and which are different.

Posted by: Mike S. at September 2, 2004 5:10 PM
I do not believe the reasoning behind Roe v Wade was forcing social acceptance of abortion. ... I'm not saying I agree with Roe v Wade but those members of the court believed that the right to privacy outweighed the right to life of the child.

Harry Blackmun's recently released papers say that this is not true. The privacy argument was made up on the spot because Blackmun was convinced that abortion should be legalized. He had a desired result, and came up with the rationale afterwards.

http://www.catholicexchange.com/vm/index.asp?vm_id=72&art_id=23819

Posted by: Mike S. at September 2, 2004 5:19 PM

Mark,

I'm sorry to disappoint and offend; it wasn't my intention. Part of the problem may be that we haven't nailed down the scope of this discussion sufficiently to have a sense of where we all agree and disagree.

Nonetheless, part of what I was trying to do was to show that the positions that you (and others) hold — or at least that you express — have implications that you might prefer to avoid were they explicit. This...

I don't want the government telling me how to raise my kids - and that includes not telling me I have to stay married - whatever good intentions may exist.

... is not a statement suggesting a balance of "the individual's rights with society's rights." It doesn't, for one thing, make any differentiation about the circumstances under which the government can't tell you you "have to stay married." Your new admission that you "believe there is a constitutional right to divorce" cements the impression.

The same can also be said of the contract between parent and child. It too is a relationship in which the public invests its cultural and financial capitol. ... My point is that you are *asserting* that the government interest to keep parents together for the sake of the children is much greater than other governmental interests wiht regard to regulation based on your specific agenda.

Perhaps I wasn't precise enough, although I tried to make the same point in several ways, including my healthcare analogy: I wasn't using "interest" as a quantification. Rather, I was suggesting that various "contracts" and relationships involve the government with varying degrees of directness. (For one thing, I didn't want to have to write "legitimate interest" every time, although maybe I should have.)

A justice of the peace, or other recognized witness, actually proclaims a man and woman husband and wife. Without that proclamation, they are not married in the sense that we're using here. Parenthood is not comparable; at best, the government certifies the relationship or recognizes that it exists. That indicates a differing investment, a differing role for the government, and a differing barrier to infringement.

In other words, I consider the government's relative position to the parent-child relationship to be akin to my characterization of its relative position, in SSM-advocates' view, in the case of same-sex marriage: "an uninvolved third-party that merely recognizes private relationships," with insufficient legitimate interest to differentiate between parenting styles. That you so nonchalantly equate parental and spousal relationships, in this context, suggests that the thinking that I attributed to you is at least within the right ballpark.

My view on divorce is very different and not based on your false representation that I think 'adults should be able to whatever they want regardless of the effects'.

I didn't represent your thinking in that way (your quotation marks notwithstanding). (Note, too, my language: "seems at least possible," "likely contributes" — contributes, mind you.) The closest I came was "the individual's rights always trump a society's rights," on which I elaborated to suggest that effects might justify public action if they harm other individuals. In what ways is that an inaccurate representation of your view that divorce is a Constitutional right that government (i.e., the public) cannot remove?

I never said that "social acceptance of homosexuality justifies changes to marriage law". I've said that social acceptance of homosexuality would be a positive byproduct of SSM. I do not believe that pursuit alone justifies SSM.

Judging from your subsequent back-and-forth with Mike, there may be some disjunction between our intended meaning of "justifies." For my part, I didn't mean an immediate change through judicial finding; I was speaking more generally about justifying the motion to change the law... the impetus for doing so.

Frankly, I agree with Mike that your present statement is hard to square with previous ones. I suppose you could reconcile social acceptance as byproduct with legal acknowledgement as "a positive thing" (on which you say, in the previous paragraph, your "view on SSM is based"). Still, you've written, "remember that our goals are different - I wish to further normalize gay relationships in our culture and you do not." It would certainly confirm a lot of people's suspicions if proponents of same-sex marriage were to admit that a "byproduct" of their policy suggestion is actually their "goal."

The legitimization of homosexuality has nothing to do with the public's involvement in individuals' marital bonds.

Oh yes it does. Without public involvement, there are no marital bonds, and recognition of membership in such a deep cultural institution would indicate legitimization.

JUSTIN DOESN'T CARE ABOUT INDIVIDUAL RIGHTS. That's akin to how you misrepresented my view.

I didn't say that you don't care. In fact, my presumption that you do is what made me think it worth the time to trace the implications of your arguments as you've laid them out.

Are you really saying that a child should get a legal say about whether his or her parents should stay together.

Nope. I'm saying that, in a balance of competing claims, because you don't believe the other spouse ought to be able to prevent the divorce, the only individual who might have an adequate claim is a son or daughter. Imagine a child whom divorce would almost definitely send over the suicidal brink; whether legally or otherwise, that child ought to have a say, although it would generally be expressed by somebody else (e.g., a psychiatrist) and would convince (one hopes) the departing parent to stay without any outside intervention.

You wrote in the above-linked post that divorce's "'necessity' is better determined by the people directly involved." Well, if the father believes a divorce is necessary, and if the mother has no power to stop him, and if it is fodder for mockery to suggest that the child should have a say, and if the society cannot determine circumstances under which divorce isn't allowed, then the person who wants the divorce is the only person left with the power to determine necessity and to balance competing claims.

I need to express my shock that reasonable people - such as yourself (I'm still on the fence about Mike S.) actually think one parent should have veto power over a divorce. Have you really thought this through ?

Well, I don't believe the veto power ought to be as absolute as you believe the other spouse's divorce power ought to be. And the following is an odd run of rhetorical questions from somebody complaining that the other side is cornering him into a too-narrow range of opinions:

Should the government also require the married couple live in the same home ? Sleep in the same bedroom ? Talk to each other for x minutes per day ? Not argue in front of the kids ? How do you really think that would help the kids ?

For one thing, a veto power (which I believe some states effectively have anyway) is only an example of the various policies that I would support. For another, there are rightly limits to the public's reach and to the degree at which it is wise to set universal policy. (By the way, if I could interpret "talk to each other for x minutes per day" as meaning mandatory counseling, then I'd say "yes" to that one.)

I think that's enough ground for one comment reply, but I really want to ask one more thing. What does this mean:

Even before 'no-fault', divorces were allowed regardless of circumstance but there had to be an official reason.

How are "circumstances" different from "reasons"? Are you saying that divorces were allowed no matter what, but that officials merely required some semi-plausible statement to fill a blank line on a form?

Posted by: Justin Katz at September 2, 2004 6:54 PM

Mark Miller said:
smmtheory:
You are not catching on. I am not in favor of welfare or increased protections. I agree that there should be external moral pressure and that the wall between secularism and religious expression is unfairly high and goes against what I consider freedom as guaranteed by our constitution. But to say I believe in no government on social issues means that 1) you aren't reading my comments and 2) you are subscribing to Justin's false assertion that since I don't agree with the veto rule, that I don't care about the welfare of children. (sounds like rhetoric Michael Moore would use). I contend that those who support the veto rule in divorce are being overly simplistic and only rely on statistics when making decisions as in '% is too high' we need to do something - anything. To me, that rings more liberal than conservative.

Well, when you say something like - Obviously, things are already in place that when parents are irresponsible, social services needs to get involved. - I just kind of figured you were talking about the welfare program supporting the spouse that gets left with the children. Maybe you were referring to the children being removed from custody of the parents for lack of care. I don't know for certain which kind of social service you were implying. I guess I irrationally (hey, I'm not perfect, just forgiven) connected your statement with my disdain for the "nanny state" programs that a certain unnamed political party likes to put into place.

And I did not say that you believe in no government on social issues. I stated that you believe in reduced government, but not reduced enough to eliminate social safety nets like welfare. (Sheesh! And I get accused of "you aren't reading my comments".) The last time I checked, there was still a difference between reduced government and no government.

And actually, I was making a comment on your remark that you thought you were being the conservative, not subscribing to any assertions that Justin was making (and no, I am not going to get into a debate with you about whether the assertions were false or not, so trying to slam Justin or myself with Michael Moore simile is ineffectual at best). Also, I've never advocated a 'veto rule' in my posts, merely that if the divorce is contested, more time should be taken to determine the best course of action rather than willy-nilly automatic overruling of dissent. I am suggesting that the majority of divorcing couples are too tied up in their emotions to think rationally about something as drastic as divorce. What do we normally do when somebody is not being rational? We try to protect them from themselves, don't we?

As for Iran, and a lower divorce rate...
Since I don't read Farsi, and the Mullahcracy is notoriously reticent in the release of information, I can only go by the english version of the "latest" news that I've seen noting that divorce is on the rise. I think this is a non-sequiter, but I will make the observation that since they practice polygyny which is comparible to slavery for women, and they practice muta (short term temporary) marriage contracts that negate the need for divorce, I do not see anything about that model that I particulary care for either. In future, how about if we try to stick to comparing apples to apples instead of apples to oranges?

Posted by: smmtheory at September 3, 2004 2:16 AM

This is a lot to address. Time is limited.
I'll start with Justin and leave Mike for last.

"... is not a statement suggesting a balance of "the individual's rights with society's rights." It doesn't, for one thing, make any differentiation about the circumstances under which the government can't tell you "have to stay married." Your new admission that you "believe there is a constitutional right to divorce" cements the impression."
----- I am saying that the government should be able to take 'some' steps in regard to granting a divorce. Just as there are some steps the government takes to acknowledge a legal marriage and granting drivers licenses. Yes, I do feel there is a constitutional right to a divorce. In other words, I think a law saying that once a couple is legally married that under no circumstances can they get legally divorced would be unconstitutional.


Perhaps I wasn't precise enough, although I tried to make the same point in several ways, including my healthcare analogy: I wasn't using "interest" as a quantification. Rather, I was suggesting that various "contracts" and relationships involve the government with varying degrees of directness. (For one thing, I didn't want to have to write "legitimate interest" every time, although maybe I should have.)
---- Of course, there are various degrees of 'interest' - that is my point. But we still differ on which issues justify regulation and the degree of strictness.

A justice of the peace, or other recognized witness, actually proclaims a man and woman husband and wife. Without that proclamation, they are not married in the sense that we're using here.
---- What about common law marriage ?

Parenthood is not comparable; at best, the government certifies the relationship or recognizes that it exists. That indicates a differing investment, a differing role for the government, and a differing barrier to infringement.
---- Sorry, I can't accept that strict regulation of marriage is more justified than strict regulation of parenthood.

In other words, I consider the government's relative position to the parent-child relationship to be akin to my characterization of its relative position, in SSM-advocates' view, in the case of same-sex marriage: "an uninvolved third-party that merely recognizes private relationships," with insufficient legitimate interest to differentiate between parenting styles. That you so nonchalantly equate parental and spousal relationships, in this context, suggests that the thinking that I attributed to you is at least within the right ballpark.
----- Again, the same as above. I don't see your view of an insufficient legitimate government interest in parenting styles but then there exists a sufficient governmental interest in keeping married parents .... married (the govt can't keep them together - can they ?). If there exists a sufficient interest in having parents raised by their biological parents, then logically you'd support eliminating putting children up for adoption - would that be right ?

I didn't represent your thinking in that way (your quotation marks notwithstanding). (Note, too, my language: "seems at least possible," "likely contributes" - contributes, mind you.) The closest I came was "the individual's rights always trump a society's rights," on which I elaborated to suggest that effects might justify public action if they harm other individuals. In what ways is that an inaccurate representation of your view that divorce is a Constitutional right that government (i.e., the public) cannot remove?
---- I explained this above. With regard to permanently removing divorce in all cases, I don't think a law could do that. Put in limits, make requirements - that could be done. I thought we were debating the pros and cons of those limits and requirements..

I never said that "social acceptance of homosexuality justifies changes to marriage law". I've said that social acceptance of homosexuality would be a positive byproduct of SSM. I do not believe that pursuit alone justifies SSM.
Judging from your subsequent back-and-forth with Mike, there may be some disjunction between our intended meaning of "justifies." For my part, I didn't mean an immediate change through judicial finding; I was speaking more generally about justifying the motion to change the law... the impetus for doing so.
----- I was speaking about my personal view and agenda, also not via judicial finding.

Frankly, I agree with Mike that your present statement is hard to square with previous ones. I suppose you could reconcile social acceptance as byproduct with legal acknowledgment as "a positive thing" (on which you say, in the previous paragraph, your "view on SSM is based"). Still, you've written, "remember that our goals are different - I wish to further normalize gay relationships in our culture and you do not."
------- This drives me crazy. I can say that I am motivated by my goal of normalizing homosexual relationships. That does not mean that I believe that this goal can be used a sole reason to justify the legal change in the definition of marriage. You and Mike are motivated by not legitimizing homosexuality. It is possible to be motivated by something but understand that ones goal is not always enough to justify a legal change. I've acknowledged that I don't feel SSM is clearly a constitutional right. But I do believe that it is a worthy pursuit. You and Mike seem to think this at odds. But you are incorrect in that.

It would certainly confirm a lot of people's suspicions if proponents of same-sex marriage were to admit that a "byproduct" of their policy suggestion is actually their "goal."
------ Right. This is very unique to SSM advocates. That a "by-product" of their policy suggestion would actually result in their "goal". What a disaster there would be if advocates of other issues had similar motives. (are you serious ?)

The legitimization of homosexuality has nothing to do with the public's involvement in individuals' marital bonds.Oh yes it does. Without public involvement, there are no marital bonds, and recognition of membership in such a deep cultural institution would indicate legitimization.
----- Huh ? Does this mean that the illegitimization of opposite sex couples who live together but are not married refers to legitimization of heterosexuality ? So no marital bonds, no legitimization of the sexual preference .... what-ever.

Are you really saying that a child should get a legal say about whether his or her parents should stay together. Nope. I'm saying that, in a balance of competing claims, because you don't believe the other spouse ought to be able to prevent the divorce, the only individual who might have an adequate claim is a son or daughter. Imagine a child whom divorce would almost definitely send over the suicidal brink; whether legally or otherwise, that child ought to have a say, although it would generally be expressed by somebody else (e.g., a psychiatrist) and would convince (one hopes) the departing parent to stay without any outside intervention.
----- A child who is on the brink of suicide .... I see that and raise you a parent who abuses his wife and kids but doesn't want to get divorced. Do you want to get into an exchange of extenuating circumstances ?

You wrote in the above-linked post that divorce's "'necessity' is better determined by the people directly involved." Well, if the father believes a divorce is necessary, and if the mother has no power to stop him, and if it is fodder for mockery to suggest that the child should have a say, and if the society cannot determine circumstances under which divorce isn't allowed, then the person who wants the divorce is the only person left with the power to determine necessity and to balance competing claims.
----- Yes, that is how I feel. Your view here makes no sense to me. If a company wants to fire or layoff an employee, should they have to right to do that ? There are competing claims - the employee - who does not wish to lose his job, his wife, his kids, the economy, bureau of unemployment, the increase in the jobless rate, etc. Why should the company have the sole power to end the employee-employer relationship when there are competing claims ?

I need to express my shock that reasonable people - such as yourself (I'm still on the fence about Mike S.) actually think one parent should have veto power over a divorce. Have you really thought this through ?
Well, I don't believe the veto power ought to be as absolute as you believe the other spouse's divorce power ought to be. And the following is an odd run of rhetorical questions from somebody complaining that the other side is cornering him into a too-narrow range of opinions:
---- I'm not the only person in this exchange guilty of using runs of rhetorical questions from somebody complaining that the other side is cornering him into a too-narrow range of opinions.

For another, there are rightly limits to the public's reach and to the degree at which it is wise to set universal policy. (By the way, if I could interpret "talk to each other for x minutes per day" as meaning mandatory counseling, then I'd say "yes" to that one.)
---- We finally agree on something. Except that in the case of one person who fails to attend the mandatory counseling, I would not punish the other by not allowing the divorce, but that person would pay in some other way.
(i.e.: $$).

How are "circumstances" different from "reasons"? Are you saying that divorces were allowed no matter what, but that officials merely required some semi-plausible statement to fill a blank line on a form?
----- I'm saying that during the divorce process, someone had to say some semi-plausible reason for the divorce and one person had to be 'at fault'. My point is that all divorces were not denied. And yes, in many cases, no-fault divorces did occur in reality as long as one person was admitting to the 'fault' on the form.

My point is that it takes two people to form a maintain a relationship. Just as your view is that it takes two opposite married people to raise a child. I feel your logic is indicative of the intent to improve statistics without understanding the effect on real lives. I feel it is indicative of making sure that people who have children do not get legal acknowledgment of ending their marriage. That in the absence of the legal acknowledgment of a divorce, then all is well in the family. To me, it is indicative of closing ones eyes to reality.

I'm still committed to the pursuit of having couples who go through tough times end up wanting to remain married to each other. That should be the goal and government interest. I'll concede that my goal is more complicated than yours. But in my view, family life is more complex than the mere existence of a man, woman and child living under the same roof with a marriage certificate.


smmtheory:

Well, when you say something like - Obviously, things are already in place that when parents are irresponsible, social services needs to get involved. - I just kind of figured you were talking about the welfare program supporting the spouse that gets left with the children. Maybe you were referring to the children being removed from custody of the parents for lack of care.
----- That would be what I was referring to.

I don't know for certain which kind of social service you were implying. I guess I irrationally (hey, I'm not perfect, just forgiven)
----- Me neither - except for the forgiven part.

And I did not say that you believe in no government on social issues. I stated that you believe in reduced government, but not reduced enough to eliminate social safety nets like welfare. (Sheesh! And I get accused of "you aren't reading my comments".) The last time I checked, there was still a difference between reduced government and no government.
------ Yes, reduced government is not the same as no government. And reduced government is less than big government. My point is that I am for some social safety nets - just as you are in some cases. We just disagree on what circumstances those nets should be placed. Or put in another way, we may agree on the amount of government, but not the 'when' and 'where'.

And actually, I was making a comment on your remark that you thought you were being the conservative, not subscribing to any assertions that Justin was making (and no, I am not going to get into a debate with you about whether the assertions were false or not, so trying to slam Justin or myself with Michael Moore simile is ineffectual at best).
---- When my political ideology is addressed based on my comments, I often use the Michael Moore simile. Bad habit. Sorry.

Also, I've never advocated a 'veto rule' in my posts, merely that if the divorce is contested, more time should be taken to determine the best course of action rather than willy-nilly automatic overruling of dissent.
---- I am in complete agreement.

I am suggesting that the majority of divorcing couples are too tied up in their emotions to think rationally about something as drastic as divorce. What do we normally do when somebody is not being rational? We try to protect them from themselves, don't we?
----- Again, I agree. My point is that sometimes - the drastic event of divorce is appropriate. And I think it is the people involved who should ultimately decide. But a waiting period and counseling to sort out the emotions are good requirements.

As for Iran, and a lower divorce rate...
Since I don't read Farsi, and the Mullahcracy is notoriously reticent in the release of information, I can only go by the English version of the "latest" news that I've seen noting that divorce is on the rise. I think this is a non-sequiter, but I will make the observation that since they practice polygyny which is comparible to slavery for women, and they practice muta (short term temporary) marriage contracts that negate the need for divorce, I do not see anything about that model that I particulary care for either. In future, how about if we try to stick to comparing apples to apples instead of apples to oranges?
------- Again, I contend that many of the views and ideas are aimed solely at lowering the divorce rate. So I used Iran as an example of a lower divorce rate. You made my point - that we do need to consider the means of how we address the divorce rate.


Mike S.:

"I don't care what you think a judge should do (in the context of my original question) - I want(ed) to know what your motivation(s) for supporting SSM are. If you don't think it's a Constitutional right, then there must be something else. I asked you if normalization is the primary motivation, and you said yes. Now you're complaining that normalization is just one motivation, among others, presumably. If you aren't going to modify my use of primarily, and just answer the question, "yes", then I have to assume that you're saying that normalization is your primary motivation. What am I supposed to do, read your mind?:"
------ Focus. You said that my goal of normalizing homosexuality is inconsistent with my view that SSM is not a clear constitutional right. I responded as to how it is not. Now you are changing the question to 'what are my motivations for supporting SSM' and that you don't care what I think a judge should do. Memo to me: Never pick Mike to be on my debate team. You - as always - are all over the place.

No, it's not too complex, it's too self-contradictory and unclear. Being unclear is not a crime (I'm regularly guilty of it). Taking umbrage when others misunderstand you after you've been unclear is not a crime, either, but it is rather problematic.
---- Nope. In this context, I am not being contradictory nor unclear. You have a huge vocabulary but you respond to only 5% of my comments and when you do it's as if you haven't even thought about my comment in the context of our discussion. It's like exchanging with a wall. Maybe I'm in denial. Maybe I'm an incoherent writer. But for now, I'm sticking with ... it's you.

I do not believe the reasoning behind Roe v Wade was forcing social acceptance of abortion. ... I'm not saying I agree with Roe v Wade but those members of the court believed that the right to privacy outweighed the right to life of the child. Harry Blackmun's recently released papers say that this is not true. The privacy argument was made up on the spot because Blackmun was convinced that abortion should be legalized. He had a desired result, and came up with the rationale afterwards.
------ This is supposed to impress me ? Does Scalia or Souter ever have 'desired' results and then come up with the rationale later. (Let me guess, only liberals do it but never conservatives). My message remains - despite anecdotal exceptions - most court decisions on social issues have not been decided for the sole purpose of forcing social acceptance.

Posted by: Mark Miller at September 3, 2004 1:25 PM

Well, Mark, to quote you, "I have to say that I am disappointed and a little offended." As often is the case, I read your responses to me, and I'm not sure with whom you're arguing. I'd try to clarify, except for this stuff:

(are you serious ?) ...

.... what-ever. ...

I'll concede that my goal is more complicated than yours. ...

Focus. ...

Memo to me: Never pick Mike to be on my debate team. You - as always - are all over the place. [This one being part of a "memo to me" about Mike series.]

It seems to me that both Mike and I have made it clear that we aren't advocating the abolishment of divorce. Beyond saying that, I think I'll let this thread drop for the time being.

Posted by: Justin Katz at September 3, 2004 3:41 PM

"I can say that I am motivated by my goal of normalizing homosexual relationships. That does not mean that I believe that this goal can be used a sole reason to justify the legal change in the definition of marriage. ... I've acknowledged that I don't feel SSM is clearly a constitutional right. But I do believe that it is a worthy pursuit."

So, Mark, what other motivations do you have for supporting SSM, besides the normalization of homosexuality?

"You said that my goal of normalizing homosexuality is inconsistent with my view that SSM is not a clear constitutional right."

I don't think they are inconsistent, and I don't believe I said they were (if I did I apologize for the confusion). I said I wanted to know what your motivations for supporting SSM are.

"------ Right. This is very unique to SSM advocates. That a "by-product" of their policy suggestion would actually result in their "goal". What a disaster there would be if advocates of other issues had similar motives. (are you serious ?)"

The point is is that we both understand that you favor SSM. We understand that you say that you think normalization of homosexuality would be an important aspect/by-product of SSM, but that that is not your primary motivation for supporting SSM. We understand you do not think SSM is guaranteed by the Constitution. What we do not understand is what motivation(s) you have, besides normalization of homosexuality, for supporting SSM.

"That in the absence of the legal acknowledgment of a divorce, then all is well in the family."

Well, I don't think anybody stated that, and I seriously doubt anyone who is arguing with you actually thinks that. The problem is that you have made an error when you say "I feel your logic is indicative of the intent", since nobody claimed that they thought "all is well" in a family with married parents; all we claimed was that in most cases the parents staying married was better for everyone than getting divorced. Your argument is with a misinterpretation of my (our) position.


"My message remains - despite anecdotal exceptions - most court decisions on social issues have not been decided for the sole purpose of forcing social acceptance."

Can you give some specific examples?

Posted by: Mike S. at September 3, 2004 4:40 PM

Mark,
Given all that has been said from both of our points of view, I find it hard to believe that our opinions should be so close that you should say that we agree. If either of us were to have any say in the matter, I would make divorce harder to obtain, you would make it easier if anything at all. You say that most divorcing couples consider what would be best for all involved, and I could not disagree more.

The way I see it, you would favor the model that would allow more divorces precisely to prevent a situation such as physical or sexual abuse, such that it gives me the impression that you believe this situation one of the most common. Furthermore, it seems that you do not believe that the psychological harm to children from a divorce could be as bad as others claim or more prevalent than the harm from leaving a child in an abusive situation. Speaking from my own experience, I think my youngest brother who committed suicide at 25 might not have done so if my parents had not divorced. I'm not saying that I blame my parents for his suicide, I'm saying it was the divorce. I furthermore maintain that my other brother would not still be living at my mother's home at the age of 44. He doesn't know how to live a normal life. He barely knows how to relate to other people well enough to work with them but not well enough to establish relationships outside of our family. There may be other contributing factors to these circumstances, but I have to wonder at the world that does not consider these tragic events widespread or at least enough to act on.

I believe we can set the bar higher for no-fault divorces without making it unnecessarily difficult for protection of the children suffering from abuse. I don't see this as being your belief from your side of the conversation.

I also can see no evidence that you have any ideas about how to decrease the divorce rate, just that you think "somebody" should do something, as long as that "somebody" is not the government making divorce more difficult.

If you really believe in marriage as a social institution worth saving and can think of no other line of action, I urge you to at least consider devoting some time to working with married people in some sort of social program that has as its aim the reduction of divorce.

Posted by: smmtheory at September 5, 2004 6:29 PM

http://www.lifesite.net/ldn/2004/sep/04090204.html

I know this doesn't quite go with this thread, but I wanted to point it out anyway, and this was the best post to do it.

After all the argument about PB&I, it seems we don't even need to wait to see the answer - the California legislature has already passed a bill (it's not clear if the Governator will sign it) that weakens reporting requirements for those who witness signs of sexual abuse of minors (it's nickname is the "Pedophilia Support Bill")

Did someone say something about a slippery slope...

Posted by: Mike S. at September 6, 2004 5:12 PM

Justin:

It seems to me that both Mike and I have made it clear that we aren't
advocating the abolishment of divorce.
—---- and it seems clear to me that I am not advocating making it easier or
am against any changes to divorce law. I am against some of the changes
you have proposed and you have spun that into describing me as someone who supports divorce in any-all cases and who does not care about the welfare of children.

Mike:

"I can say that I am motivated by my goal of normalizing homosexual
relationships. That does not mean that I believe that this goal can be
used a sole reason to justify the legal change in the definition of
marriage. ... I've acknowledged that I don't feel SSM is clearly a
constitutional right. But I do believe that it is a worthy pursuit."
So, Mark, what other motivations do you have for supporting SSM, besides
the normalization of homosexuality?
------- Mike, we've been through this so many times it pains me to the
even think about it. For the millionth time, my motivation is the
legitimization and legal acknowledgment of gay relationships. I am NOT
an advocate for SSM. Where you seem to be confused is that in your view,
if I am not an advocate then I must be an opponent. I'd like to inform
you that there is something in between. I don't think it is a legitimate
government interest to discourage gay relationships. That does not mean I
support the judicial decisions that say that denying SSM is unconstitutional. But I do support laws that would give legal acknowledgment and benefits that married opposite sex couples have to same sex couples. Finally, my comments on this and other blogs have been in the context of criticizing some of the arguments made by SSM opponents rather than advocate why SSM should be the law of the land.

You said that my goal of normalizing homosexuality is inconsistent with
my view that SSM is not a clear constitutional right." I don't think they
are inconsistent, and I don't believe I said they were (if I did I
apologize for the confusion). I said I wanted to know what your
motivations for supporting SSM are.
--------- I think if you go back and read our exchanges, it will be clear
that you did say they were. One of my major issues is with you is that
constantly change the context of what we are debating. You assert "a" - I
respond - you respond that you do not care about my response to "a" and
then chastise me for not responding to "b" and so on and so on.

"------ The point is is that we both understand that you favor SSM. We
understand that you say that you think normalization of homosexuality
would be an important aspect/by-product of SSM, but that that is not your
primary motivation for supporting SSM. We understand you do not think SSM is guaranteed by the Constitution. What we do not understand is what
motivation(s) you have, besides normalization of homosexuality, for
supporting SSM.

---------- Here is an example of your changing the context. Justin said this:
It would certainly confirm a lot of people's suspicions if proponents of
same-sex marriage were to admit that a "byproduct" of their policy
suggestion is actually their "goal."

I responded with:
Right. This is very unique to SSM advocates. That a "by-product" of their
policy suggestion would actually result in their "goal". What a disaster
there would be if advocates of other issues had similar motives. (are you
serious ?)

Mike, where is the bridge that connects mine and Justin's above exchange to you asking for a clarification of my motivation for SSM ? I maintain that my "focus" comment may be pithy - but very appropriate where you are
concerned.

"That in the absence of the legal acknowledgment of a divorce, then all
is well in the family."Well, I don't think anybody stated that, and I
seriously doubt anyone who is arguing with you actually thinks that. The
problem is that you have made an error when you say "I feel your logic is
indicative of the intent", since nobody claimed that they thought "all is
well" in a family with married parents; all we claimed was that in most
cases the parents staying married was better for everyone than getting
divorced. Your argument is with a misinterpretation of my (our) position.

--------- Again, you changed the context in mid-course. That comment was
made in response to your veto power suggestion in divorce law. I said it
before and I'll say it again. I agree that in many cases the parents
staying married is better than getting divorced. My point all along has
been that while the government should do some things to discourage the
divorce, I think the final say should be with the couple. I also made it
clear that I feel that - after all government interventions and required
time has elapsed - if just one of the parties does not want to be there -
that the government has no legitimate interest in denying the divorce. I
still maintain that if your position is that the government should not
grant a divorce unless both parties agree, then that is indicative of a
view that lowering the divorce rate trumps all other considerations.

"My message remains - despite anecdotal exceptions - most court decisions
on social issues have not been decided for the sole purpose of forcing
social acceptance." Can you give some specific examples?
------ I wish I had a quarter for every time you asked me for examples
after a exchange in which I gave some. If I had more time, I'd go back
through all our exchanges and am confident that I'd have at least $2
worth.

smmtheory:

If either of us were to have any say in the matter, I would make divorce
harder to obtain, you would make it easier if anything at all.
------- I could not disagree more. All I've done is disagreed with some
of the specific suggestions you've made to make divorce harder. If to you
that means that I am unwilling to do anything about divorce then there is
nothing more I can say. Well, I guess I could say that you are willing to
do *anything* to prevent divorce. That is akin to what you are accusing
my view of.

You say that most divorcing couples consider what would be best for all
involved, and I could not disagree more.
------ I guess it depends by what you mean by "most". In most cases other than involving abuse or adultery, I think the decision to divorce where children are involved is agonizing for a majority of couples.

The way I see it, you would favor the model that would allow more
divorces precisely to prevent a situation such as physical or sexual
abuse, such that it gives me the impression that you believe this
situation one of the most common. Furthermore, it seems that you do not
believe that the psychological harm to children from a divorce could be
as bad as others claim or more prevalent than the harm from leaving a
child in an abusive situation. Speaking from my own experience, I think
my youngest brother who committed suicide at 25 might not have done so if
my parents had not divorced. I'm not saying that I blame my parents for
his suicide, I'm saying it was the divorce.
------ I'm truly sorry about what happened with your brother. I've had
knowledge of suicide events in children except the parents were married and the home life was horrendous. I guess we have different contexts but in the end I don't believe in easy answers. In other words, divorce should not be an easy answer and there needs to be other considerations when making decisions like that. But I also feel that 'not getting divorced' should not be considered a simple solution.

I believe we can set the bar higher for no-fault divorces without making
it unnecessarily difficult for protection of the children suffering from
abuse. I don't see this as being your belief from your side of the
conversation.
-------- Well, that is my belief - in theory. But we'd probably disagree on what steps should be taken to make the bar higher.

I also can see no evidence that you have any ideas about how to decrease
the divorce rate, just that you think "somebody" should do something, as
long as that "somebody" is not the government making divorce more
difficult.
-------- As I said above, my intent is to encourage people to WANT
to stay together and work out their problems for the sake of everyone
involved. If your intent is only about decreasing the divorce rate, there
are very simple steps that could be taken to accomplish that such as only
allowing the first x divorce applications each month. But I would argue
that the government interest goes beyond simply lowering the rate.

If you really believe in marriage as a social institution worth saving
and can think of no other line of action, I urge you to at least consider
devoting some time to working with married people in some sort of social
program that has as its aim the reduction of divorce.
-------- I'd be interested in doing that. How could I get involved as I am not a social worker by education ? Please let me know if you have
any suggestions. You did make a key comment here where you said 'working with married people ... has its aim reduction of divorce'. My point is
that most of the ideas made by you, Justin and Mike are less about
working with the couples than they are about having legal barriers to get
divorced without involvement of the family involved. I guess my main
point is that the prevention of divorce is a very worthy goal. But I feel
that it should pursued one family at a time.

Justin:

Well, Mark, to quote you, "I have to say that I am disappointed and a
little offended." As often is the case, I read your responses to me, and
I'm not sure with whom you're arguing. I'd try to clarify, except for
this stuff:
(are you serious ?) ...
.... whatever. ...
I'll concede that my goal is more complicated than yours. ...
Focus. ...
Memo to me: Never pick Mike to be on my debate team. You - as always -
are all over the place. [This one being part of a "memo to me" about Mike
series.]
Beyond saying that, I think I'll let this thread drop for the time being.
------- I have acknowledged that I agree with some changes in divorce law but you ignore that and have used the broad-brush approach to paint me as the extremist since I don't approve of all of the measures you suggested to lower the divorce rate. In addition, you addressed very few of my points and then have the hypocrisy to point out my pithiness but you ignore or refuse to point out similar pithiness made by people who share your views. I guess pithiness is based on which side of the issue one is on.

Posted by: Mark Miller at September 7, 2004 9:45 AM

Mark,

You always seem to want things both ways. You claim that you aren't in favor of SSM, but all we ever hear from you is arguments about how all our arguments against it are illegitimate. And I'm not aware of any arguments you've made about why it is illegitimate (just that you've agreed, on occasion, that courts shouldn't force the change on everyone. But on the other hand you claim that judges have made rulings with the purpose of changing social attitudes, and you think that's OK). If all you do is shoot down arguments against SSM, and don't offer any alternative arguments, isn't it reasonable for us to make the assumption that you're in favor of it? Especially when you claim as a positive benefit/goal the normalization of homosexuality? Wouldn't SSM further that goal more than civil unions and/or piecemeal changes in the law?

Regarding the quarter for examples - you listed a handful of court cases, with absolutely no discussion of how you viewed them, the details of the cases, or how they support your position. Regarding one of your examples (Roe v. Wade), I linked to an article claiming that Justice Blackmun's papers indicate that he was convinced that abortion should be made legal on other grounds, and came up with the privacy argument to support that position. Your response was "you expect me to be convinced by that?" Umm, yes. If you're not convinced, show me how the analysis is incorrect.

Like I've said before, we're just discussing things on a blog, and none of us has perfect reasoning powers, and most of us don't have the time to do thorough research, etc. So we're going to make mistakes, sometimes be inconsistent, and sometimes just have to assert things that we don't have time to fully defend. What is irritating about your approach, Mark, is the way that you turn things into a personal issue, as if Justin, or I, or anyone else, is attacking you personally. Your indignant responses and affectations of being disappointed don't really help anything. You keep repeating that you've gone over your positions, so they should be obvious to me. I assume you'd agree with the general statement that I'm a reasonably intelligent person. If you think your positions are so obvious, but I (and Justin) don't understand what they are, isn't it possible that at least part of the blame lies with your explanation of your position? If you keep repeating the same thing over and over again, and your listener doesn't understand, shouldn't you try a different approach?

Finally, I think I've mentioned before that your 'hypocrisy' complaint (i.e. that Justin is being pithy, so he has no right to criticize you for being pithy) is useless. Pointing out someone's hypocrisy adds a negative to their credibility (if the charge is true), but it does nothing to either contradict their argument or support your own position.

Posted by: Mike S. at September 7, 2004 10:24 AM
------- Mike, we've been through this so many times it pains me to the even think about it. For the millionth time, my motivation is the legitimization and legal acknowledgment of gay relationships. I am NOT an advocate for SSM. Where you seem to be confused is that in your view, if I am not an advocate then I must be an opponent. I'd like to inform you that there is something in between.

Part of the problem is that you think you're adopting some sort of enlightened middle way on this issue, and that by arguing against both sides you're somehow more nuanced, or something. I think this just makes you incoherent, not nuanced. As Justin pointed out in an earlier post, you have to deal with the situation as it exists, not in some sort of abstract ideal world. The reality is that SSM will either be enacted by the courts, either more or less gradually, or some form of legislation (e.g. DOMA) or a constitutional amendment will stop it. You're basically taking the same position as John Kerry - you're in favor of traditional marriage (or not in favor of SSM), but you're not willing to do anything to protect traditional marriage (or to prevent SSM from becoming law).

Furthermore, being in favor of increased legal recognition of gay relationships can only lead to eventual recognition of SSM. How can it be otherwise? If gay relationships are no different than straights, how can SSM not be enacted?

Posted by: Mike S. at September 7, 2004 10:33 AM

Mike,

I am not playing both sides as you assert. I have a specific position. In your world, it is not coherent to support legal acknowledgment of gay relationships and also still believe that SSM is not a constitutional right. How about affirmative action ? Using your logic, if you are against affirmative action then you are against giving minorities the opportunity to pursue higher education.

I'm sorry if you actually believe that I have not provided any reasoning behind my arguments.

But it is not an incoherent position to be either pro or con on an issue but not necessarily agree with every argument made in support of that issue.

But on the other hand you claim that judges have made rulings with the purpose of changing social attitudes, and you think that's OK.
—---- Wrong. I have claimed that changing social attitudes has not been the sole purpose behind all social related rulings (or just those you disagree with). With regard to your article, I said that was one anecdotal example from one judge in one case. I can also provide anecdotal examples in support of SSM or abortion or affirmative action. How many anecdotes does it take to change your mind ?

If all you do is shoot down arguments against SSM, and don't offer any alternative arguments, isn't it reasonable for us to make the assumption that you're in favor of it?
—---- Actually, Mike it isn't reasonable. For one, I have given alternative arguments. Two, your assertion that if one does not agree with argument x then it follows that that person also does not agree with argument y is simply incorrect. If I remember, you once said that you did not support the Texas sodomy law. If I were to apply your logic, I could say that was an incoherent position because by not supporting that law, you are saying that there is some legal right to gay sex which in turns leads to legal acceptance and I know you are not in favor of that. So, in summary, if you oppose further social acceptance of homosexuality, then you'd support ANY policy to further that agenda. That is akin to what you are accusing me of.

Especially when you claim as a positive benefit/goal the normalization of homosexuality? Wouldn't SSM further that goal more than civil unions and/or piecemeal changes in the law?
—---- Yes, it would. Wouldn't putting all homosexuals in prison (as they do in Cuba) further your goal of discouraging social acceptance of homosexuality ? Just because I have a goal, doesn't mean that I would support any policy to achieve that goal. Would you support *any* policy that discouraged homosexuality ? I have said this again and again and again .... I don't believe SSM would do the cultural harm that you do. I believe that many of the arguments made in opposition to SSM are not valid. My hope is that laws are made to give legal recognition to gay couples (i.e.: civil unions) and that, in time, marriage law can be CHANGED (via the state legislatures) that would allow for SSM. I said CHANGED and have acknowledged and even argued with SSM supporters that SSM is a SIGNIFICANT CHANGE in the definition marriage. That does not mean it is not a worthwhile change.

What is irritating about your approach, Mark, is the way that you turn things into a personal issue, as if Justin, or I, or anyone else, is attacking you personally. Your indignant responses and affectations of being disappointed don't really help anything. You keep repeating that you've gone over your positions, so they should be obvious to me. I assume you'd agree with the general statement that I'm a reasonably intelligent person. If you think your positions are so obvious, but I (and Justin) don't understand what they are, isn't it possible that at least part of the blame lies with your explanation of your position? If you keep repeating the same thing over and over again, and your listener doesn't understand, shouldn't you try a different approach?
—----- What approach would you like me to try ? I concede my indignant responses and sarcasm. But I truly do believe that I have made my positions clear to you and that they are not at odds with each other. I can also say that I'm not dumb and have had positive feedback regarding my ability to define a clear and coherent position regardless of whether one agrees with it. My opinion is that you are less interested with understanding the logic of an opposing view and more interested in just repeating and repeating and repeating the same point over and over and over and over again. You won't even really engage in a discussion. You just request examples, ask "why do you feel that way", and routinely change the subject again and again and again. But that's just my side.

Finally, I think I've mentioned before that your 'hypocrisy' complaint (i.e. that Justin is being pithy, so he has no right to criticize you for being pithy) is useless. Pointing out someone's hypocrisy adds a negative to their credibility (if the charge is true), but it does nothing to either contradict their argument or support your own position.
—----- I agree - I was not meaning to support my position and was attempting to add a negative to credibility. I still maintain that it is unfair to criticize my pithiness while using it himself and endorsing it in others.

Part of the problem is that you think you're adopting some sort of enlightened middle way on this issue, and that by arguing against both sides you're somehow more nuanced, or something.
—----- Are you kidding me ? Are you saying that because I think homosexuality should not be labeled as immoral that I am adopting an enlightened position ? That my positions are based on nuance because they do not fit in with either far-right or far-left ? Again, in your world, the only legitimate position HAS TO BE one that is advocated by either the far-left and far-right and that one must agree with all of their stated positions - because otherwise that would be at odds. Not in my world.

I think this just makes you incoherent, not nuanced. As Justin pointed out in an earlier post, you have to deal with the situation as it exists, not in some sort of abstract ideal world.
—--- To borrow your phrase, give me an example where I have not dealt with the situation as it exists, not in some sort of abstract ideal world. I will address it.

The reality is that SSM will either be enacted by the courts, either more or less gradually, or some form of legislation (e.g. DOMA) or a constitutional amendment will stop it.
—--- Why is that reality ? What about if there is no federal constitutional amendment and state legislatures begin to give benefits to gay couples (i.e.: Vermont) ? Why can't this happen ?

You're basically taking the same position as John Kerry - you're in favor of traditional marriage (or not in favor of SSM), but you're not willing to do anything to protect traditional marriage (or to prevent SSM from becoming law).
—---- John Kerry is running for President. I am not. If I ran (never happen) I would say that I am not against personally against gay marriage and am not in favor of a constitutional amendment but do not agree that SSM is an a constitutional right and would support legislation aimed at giving gay couples the legal protections of marriage.

Furthermore, being in favor of increased legal recognition of gay relationships can only lead to eventual recognition of SSM. How can it be otherwise? If gay relationships are no different than straights, how can SSM not be enacted?
—------ Maybe so .... There is no constitutional right to receive rx benefits as part of Medicare. But there are people in Congress who are working on this very goal (not that I agree with them) . Why can't I be an advocate of a similar thing for legal acknowledgment of gay relationships ? Or ... why doesn't that make sense to you ?

Posted by: Mark Miller at September 7, 2004 12:57 PM
My hope is that laws are made to give legal recognition to gay couples (i.e.: civil unions) and that, in time, marriage law can be CHANGED (via the state legislatures) that would allow for SSM. I said CHANGED and have acknowledged and even argued with SSM supporters that SSM is a SIGNIFICANT CHANGE in the definition marriage. That does not mean it is not a worthwhile change.

So you're for SSM, if it is done by the legislatures. That's what I've generally understood your position to be.

I am NOT an advocate for SSM.

So I guess my characterization was backwards: you favor SSM (under the right conditions), but you're not going to do anything to advance it.

I think this just makes you incoherent, not nuanced. As Justin pointed out in an earlier post, you have to deal with the situation as it exists, not in some sort of abstract ideal world. —--- To borrow your phrase, give me an example where I have not dealt with the situation as it exists, not in some sort of abstract ideal world. I will address it.

How about this:

The reality is that SSM will either be enacted by the courts, either more or less gradually, or some form of legislation (e.g. DOMA) or a constitutional amendment will stop it. —--- Why is that reality ? What about if there is no federal constitutional amendment and state legislatures begin to give benefits to gay couples (i.e.: Vermont) ? Why can't this happen ?

First of all, the Vermont legislation was prompted by the Vermont Supreme Court. Second, the Vermont scenario is not stable over the long term. SSM actvists are not going to be satisfied with civil rights legislation - that is just a step forward towards their goal - and will keep pushing for it in the courts, and ultimately the Supreme Court will have to decide the issue. It is not tenable to have different rules on this issue in different states, because of the fluid nature of our society and the Full Faith and Credit clause. So, the options are that a) the SC says that different states don't have to recognize marriages enacted by other states (i.e. they uphold DOMA), b) the SC says that banning SSM is unconstitutional, or c) some version of the FMA is passed.

If gays are allowed to have civil unions, why can't straights? And if they're both allowed to, doesn't that weaken marriage? Why should we have two versions of marriage: marriage, and marriage-lite? Vermont's solution only makes sense as a temporary solution on the way to full-fledged SSM. The only alternative is to have laws that allow various couples/housemates to gain benefits irrespective of their romantic/sexual relationships. But this does nothing to promote normalization of homosexuality, since that aspect is explicitly factored out of the equation.

The reality is that there is no chance of your preferred route happening - there is no chance, in the foreseeable future, of a groundswell of support developing for SSM in either the state or federal legislatures. The only mechanism for getting it enacted is via the courts. While it is coherent to claim in the abstract that you favor SSM, but are against its imposition by the courts, in reality you have to pick one of the two positions: either you will acquiesce to SSM being enacted by the courts, because that is your preferred outcome, or you will fight against SSM because your support for it doesn't overcome your objections to having important social issues determined by the courts.

Here's another point: I assume that you favor legal recognition of monogamous gay relationships. Do you really think that civil unions will have the effect of encouraging gays to stay together, and to stay faithful to one another? Doesn't that require the more significant commitment implied by marriage? So how can Vermont be anything other than a halfway-house for SSM, in your view of things?

"There is no constitutional right to receive rx benefits as part of Medicare. But there are people in Congress who are working on this very goal (not that I agree with them). Why can't I be an advocate of a similar thing for legal acknowledgment of gay relationships ? Or ... why doesn't that make sense to you ?"

This is yet another example of a totally inappropriate analogy from you. Prescription drug benefits and SSM? Really? In order for this to make any sense whatsoever there would have to be 1) a large consituency for enacting SSM, such that Congress and the White House would be pushing it because they think it would help them politically, or 2) judges ordering Congress to enact legislation making a drug benefit available under Medicare.

I stand by my claim that your positions are largely disconnected from the political and legal realities.

Posted by: Mike S. at September 7, 2004 3:48 PM

So you're for SSM, if it is done by the legislatures. That's what I've generally understood your position to be.
—----- As usual, you are over-simplifying my position thereby adopting the position I have described you having which is - one has to be either for SSM under any circumstances or the only alternative is opposing any and all policy which may result in acceptance of homosexuality. Like I said, I don't live in your world.

I'll repeat what I said earlier which you ignored:
If I remember, you once said that you did not support the Texas sodomy law. If I were to apply your logic, I could say that was an incoherent position because by not supporting that law, you are saying that there is some legal right to gay sex which in turns leads to legal acceptance and I know you are not in favor of that. So, in summary, if you oppose further social acceptance of homosexuality, then you'd support ANY policy to further that agenda. That is akin to what you are accusing me of.


I am NOT an advocate for SSM.
—-- Maybe one could say that my position is not the same as your stereo-typical gay rights advocate. That may make me incoherent to you, but not to me. I apologize for my position not falling into a simple and neat category for you.

So I guess my characterization was backwards: you favor SSM (under the right conditions), but you're not going to do anything to advance it.
—--- Wrong again. I do favor SSM but that does not mean I agree with any or all means of getting there. I am willing to do some things to advance but not all things. Let me guess, you want me to give examples ....


First of all, the Vermont legislation was prompted by the Vermont Supreme Court.
—----- Many laws are prompted by lawsuits and judicial decisions. The truth is that the circumstances of the Vermont law were different than the mandate in Massachusetts.

Second, the Vermont scenario is not stable over the long term. SSM activists are not going to be satisfied with civil rights legislation - that is just a step forward towards their goal - and will keep pushing for it in the courts, and ultimately the Supreme Court will have to decide the issue.
—-- I agree with you. But I am not one of those SSM activists. I am not supporting those advocates. You have this problem of equating me with all other activists because I favor SSM and they favor SSM so therefore we must agree on everything. Not so. I am arguing my position not defending all SSM advocates. There is a difference.

It is not tenable to have different rules on this issue in different states, because of the fluid nature of our society and the Full Faith and Credit clause. So, the options are that a) the SC says that different states don't have to recognize marriages enacted by other states (i.e. they uphold DOMA), b) the SC says that banning SSM is unconstitutional, or c) some version of the FMA is passed.
—--- Again, I agree that it won't be tenable in the long run and with your options. You seem to be arguing that this means that my position is therefore inconsistent and at odds. Not true. I also want peace in the Middle East and all over the world but would agree that it isn't tenable. That doesn't make it inconsistent.

If gays are allowed to have civil unions, why can't straights?
—-- Because they have other options.

And if they're both allowed to, doesn't that weaken marriage?
—-- Yes, that is why I favor SSM.

Why should we have two versions of marriage: marriage, and marriage-lite?
Vermont's solution only makes sense as a temporary solution on the way to full-fledged SSM. The only alternative is to have laws that allow various couples/housemates to gain benefits irrespective of their romantic/sexual relationships. But this does nothing to promote normalization of homosexuality, since that aspect is explicitly factored out of the equation.
—--- Almost but not true. Maybe what I want is not the normalization of homosexuality but more of the removal of its criminal status. In other words, I want laws to be neutral regarding homosexuality versus heterosexuality.


The reality is that there is no chance of your preferred route happening - there is no chance, in the foreseeable future, of a groundswell of support developing for SSM in either the state or federal legislatures.
—-- I don't agree at all. What do you mean by "foreseeable" ? 10 years ? 20 years ? 30 years ?

The only mechanism for getting it enacted is via the courts.
—--- Not true.

While it is coherent to claim in the abstract that you favor SSM, but are against its imposition by the courts, in reality you have to pick one of the two positions: either you will acquiesce to SSM being enacted by the courts, because that is your preferred outcome, or you will fight against SSM because your support for it doesn't overcome your objections to having important social issues determined by the courts.
—--- I pick a).

Here's another point: I assume that you favor legal recognition of monogamous gay relationships. Do you really think that civil unions will have the effect of encouraging gays to stay together, and to stay faithful to one another? Doesn't that require the more significant commitment implied by marriage? So how can Vermont be anything other than a halfway-house for SSM, in your view of things?
—------ Civil unions should have some effect on gays staying together. Marriage would have a greater one. I'm not arguing that civil unions are not a halfway-house for marriage. I am arguing that a halfway-house is better than no house and may lead to SSM in the future. Civil unions are marriage-lite. Not the ideal solution to me. But your solution that gays are denied any legal recognition is also not ideal (except to you). I guess you are trying to say that any legal acknowledgment of gay relationships short of marriage will not meet all of someones needs including mine. Duh. I've acknowledged there are costs and benefits to all of these proposals. Where we differ is that I say just because one solution won't meet everyones needs does not mean it isn't tenable or coherent.

This is yet another example of a totally inappropriate analogy from you. Prescription drug benefits and SSM? Really? In order for this to make any sense whatsoever there would have to be 1) a large consistency for enacting SSM, such that Congress and the White House would be pushing it because they think it would help them politically, or 2) judges ordering Congress to enact legislation making a drug benefit available under Medicare.
—----- You are in denial if you don't think 1) is true. It may not be a majority but those people exist and some of them are in the Republican party. If it isn't then why so much interest in this issue ? Have you seen much news about whether incest should be legal ? It may not tenable in the short term but there is a push to legitimize gay relationships whether you wish to admit it or not.

I stand by my claim that your positions are largely disconnected from the political and legal realities.
—-- and I stand by mine that your assertions are largely untrue.

Posted by: Mark Miller at September 7, 2004 5:10 PM

Mark,

I'm sorry, but you'll have to take me at my word — hypocrisy notwithstanding — that I'm not just trying to knock you off your game in your battle with Mike. With all respect and goodwill, I have to say that I have difficulty filling in gaps that you seem to think are simple steps of logic. (Just because something can be tenable, for example, doesn't mean it is in a particular handling of it.)

I just don't see how this:

As usual, you are over-simplifying my position thereby adopting the position I have described you having which is - one has to be either for SSM under any circumstances or the only alternative is opposing any and all policy which may result in acceptance of homosexuality.

Applies to this:

So you're for SSM, if it is done by the legislatures. That's what I've generally understood your position to be.

Mike essentially said that you aren't "either for SSM under any circumstances or the only alternative is opposing any and all policy." At the least, I guess, you're making the leap from responding to his paraphrase to attacking the conclusion that you think he's implying. Attacking the conclusion is fine, of course, but trying to head off the debate by attacking pre-conclusions as such only serves to confuse things.

That point being made, however, I also don't see how even your attack of the ostensibly implied conclusion is valid, considering this subsequent point:

... either you will acquiesce to SSM being enacted by the courts, because that is your preferred outcome, or you will fight against SSM because your support for it doesn't overcome your objections to having important social issues determined by the courts. —--- I pick a).

Honestly, I leave the possibility entirely open that there's a nuanced step that I'm not seeing between being "for SSM under any circumstances" and being willing to "acquiesce to SSM being enacted by the courts, because that is your preferred outcome." I just can't see what that step might be. Under what realistic circumstances might you consider yourself opposed to an action that brought about SSM? Or is the nuance that you aren't really "for" doing it that way, but — hey — a policy win is a policy win?

I'm also puzzled by this:

You are in denial if you don't think 1) is true.

Where "1" is:

a large [constituency] for enacting SSM, such that Congress and the White House would be pushing it because they think it would help them politically

Unless the Republican platform has done a huge U-turn in the past few hours, I'm not aware of Congress and the White House pushing SSM for political gain.

Posted by: Justin Katz at September 7, 2004 6:17 PM

Mark said:
I'd be interested in doing that. How could I get involved as I am not a social worker by education? Please let me know if you have any suggestions.

Like you don't know how to Google it for yourself? I don't know where you live. I don't know if you practice a certain religious denomination. My spouse and I aren't "trained" social workers, but we got involved with a program called Retrouvaille. There are other equally valid programs such as Engaged Encounter, and Marriage Encounter. How many weddings have you attended for your friends (rhetorical question, I don't even want an answer)? Do you encourage any of those friends to work hard on their marriages?

Mark also said:
My point is that most of the ideas made by you, Justin and Mike are less about working with the couples than they are about having legal barriers to get divorced without involvement of the family involved. I guess my main point is that the prevention of divorce is a very worthy goal.

My main point is - My goal is much more worthy than you have been stating it. You may think it is a matter of semantics, but it is more a matter of outlook. I aspire not to reduce divorce, but to strengthen marriage. No-fault divorce does nothing to strengthen marriage. It has, in fact, the opposite effect.

Mark said later:
I'm not arguing that civil unions are not a halfway-house for marriage. I am arguing that a halfway-house is better than no house and may lead to SSM in the future.

And this is why I am against even civil unions for gays. This is what happened in the Scandanavian countries, and the institution of marriage is dying a slow, ugly, and painful death over there. Birthrates have declined to levels that cannot sustain the population of those cultures. I cannot bear for this to happen in our country.

At one time, I also did not see any harm in SSM, or even in civil unions for gays. Since I have gotten involved in saving marriages, my opinion became more traditional. In arguing the "nuances" since then, I've come to a very different conclusion than what I had prior.

Posted by: smmtheory at September 7, 2004 10:15 PM

"You are in denial if you don't think 1) is true."

Surely you've heard about the results in Missouri, Mark? And Hawaii (where a judge tried to impose SSM, and the constitution got amended to prevent it)? Where is your evidence that even half the population supports SSM to the extent that they are willing to base their votes on it? It's more like 20%, with another 10-20% that supports SSM, but not passionately enough to vote for it, or tell their represenatives to vote for it.

"It may not tenable in the short term but there is a push to legitimize gay relationships whether you wish to admit it or not."

The key phrase here is "large constituency". There is a constituency, and it is vocal and powerful, but it is not large numerically. If they didn't dominate the media, entertainment, and legal professions, it would be a total nonstarter. Even with all that, there's a good chance that if they overreach, as the Mass. SC did, there will be a FMA passed. Perhaps if they are more politically savvy, they'll end up getting what they want piecemeal over a longer period of time. But it's ridiculous to claim there is a large constituency for SSM that exists today.

"The reality is that there is no chance of your preferred route happening - there is no chance, in the foreseeable future, of a groundswell of support developing for SSM in either the state or federal legislatures.
—-- I don't agree at all. What do you mean by "foreseeable" ? 10 years ? 20 years ? 30 years ?

The only mechanism for getting it enacted is via the courts.
—--- Not true."

By foreseeable I mean a minimum of 10 years, and probably more like 30 or more. Can you explain a realistic mechanism for enacting SSM where it isn't imposed by a judge or judges? Can you name a state where this would happen?

"ll repeat what I said earlier which you ignored:
If I remember, you once said that you did not support the Texas sodomy law. If I were to apply your logic, I could say that was an incoherent position because by not supporting that law, you are saying that there is some legal right to gay sex which in turns leads to legal acceptance and I know you are not in favor of that. So, in summary, if you oppose further social acceptance of homosexuality, then you'd support ANY policy to further that agenda. That is akin to what you are accusing me of."

With the sodomy law, it would still exist if the SC hadn't declared it unconstitutional (improperly, in my view). I would not have done anything to remove the law, but I wouldn't have been vocal about efforts to remove it from the books, either. There is a balance between keeping the notion that homosexual sex is immoral in the legal code, and the disrespect engendered for the law by having laws on the books that everyone knows are not going to be enforced. And in this case, the costs for enforcing it on any kind of consistent basis are too high. So, I'm very much against the reasoning used in Bowers, but I wouldn't actively support or oppose the removal of any anti-sodomy laws on the books.

I think this comes down again to the distinction between a punitive law and positive recognition of gay couples. You seem to think that nonrecognition is equivalent to a punitive law. That doesn't make any sense to me. The proper analogy for the anti-sodomy laws would be if there was a law that stated that if two gay people were married in a private ceremony, the state could lock them up, or ask them to leave the state. But that is clearly not what we're talking about with the SSM situation.

Anyway, I'm just going to go on the assumption that you favor SSM, and that you don't particularly care whether it is enacted by judges or by legislatures. You can protest all you want that your position is more nuanced than that, but unless you can point out a difference that is significant, I'm just going to conclude that whatever differences are there are too small to be of any relevance.

Posted by: Mike S. at September 7, 2004 10:23 PM

Mike,
We were having a discussion and I responded to something you said something about that is how I thought the judge ruled. You responded back that you didn't care what I thought about the judicial scenario but you wanted to know how I personally felt about SSM. I tell you how I feel about gay rights and SSM. Then you respond that my view isn't a politically reality or tenable. So let's summarize - Mike asks for a legal analysis. I respond. He says he doesn't care about my legal analysis, he wants to know how I feel. I respond. He then says that my feelings won't happen because of political realities. Changing contexts. And this example is typical of an exchange with Mike - and the cause of my indignation.

Let's finish this:

If I were elected prime dictator, what would I do about SSM ?
My first reaction is that I would enact something akin to civil unions for gay couples and then say that I'm going to wait for some time (maybe 10 years) and determine at that time whether I would grant full-fledged SSM.

I bet I already know what Mike is thinking. - "But that doesn't make sense. We live in a democracy and Mark can't be elected dictator. At odds, inconsistent, can I have examples ? why ? why ?"

There is a balance between keeping the notion that homosexual sex is immoral in the legal code, and the disrespect engendered for the law by having laws on the books that everyone knows are not going to be enforced. And in this case, the costs for enforcing it on any kind of consistent basis are too high. So, I'm very much against the reasoning used in Bowers, but I wouldn't actively support or oppose the removal of any anti-sodomy laws on the books.
—--- Balance ! He used the word balance ! Thank you thank you. You seem to be saying that you support the reasoning behind the anti-sodomy laws but the costs for enforcing it are too high. I support the reasoning behind SSM but acknowledge it is a significant change in marriage law which has costs so I am not actively supporting it at this time. But I do support some of the reasons behind it - such as the law being neutral towards homosexuality. (just say it - it's nonsensical)

"a large [constituency] for enacting SSM, such that Congress and the White House would be pushing it because they think it would help them politically
Unless the Republican platform has done a huge U-turn in the past few hours, I'm not aware of Congress and the White House pushing SSM for political gain."
—---- The Republican platform - that means a lot as much as ... the Democratic platform. There are local, state and federal congressman and some mayors or governors that advocate SSM or civil unions. Are you saying SSM is not a hot issue ? Come on.

Surely you've heard about the results in Missouri, Mark?
—-- Ever hear of Massachusetts ?

Where is your evidence that even half the population supports SSM to the extent that they are willing to base their votes on it? It's more like 20%, with another 10-20% that supports SSM, but not passionately enough to vote for it, or tell their representatives to vote for it.
—-- Check out the stats - a majority of younger people - age 18-29 support SSM. Bottom line is that the percentage of supporters does not mean much to me as I am not on the front lines of this issue. Just as the fact that support for the FMA is under 50% also has little relevance to me - in the context of what we are debating which to me is "why or why not ", not "if". But if you are going to try and tell me that this isn't a big issue and there is little support for legitimizing gay relationships then you are wrong - again.

smmtheory:
My main point is - My goal is much more worthy than you have been stating it. You may think it is a matter of semantics, but it is more a matter of outlook. I aspire not to reduce divorce, but to strengthen marriage. No-fault divorce does nothing to strengthen marriage. It has, in fact, the opposite effect.
—----- Did I say I was in favor of no-fault divorce ? I too want to strengthen marriage as opposed to simply reduce divorce.

Posted by: Mark Miller at September 8, 2004 11:57 AM

Mark,
I'll let whether or not you have said you were in favor of no-fault divorce drop right now since I don't have the inclination for digging through all the history at the moment to highlight your arguments. I want to go on to something else you have just said, being that you have just now stated that you want to strengthen marriage as opposed to reducing divorce.

I have yet to see a satisfactory explanation of how gay civil unions or same sex marriage does anything to strengthen marriage. Perhaps you would care to expound on what makes you think that marriage would be strengthened by either of those things?

Posted by: smmtheory at September 8, 2004 12:45 PM

Simple.

Civil unions are effectively marriage-lite and do not strengthen marriage. They are just the best-case scenario in the current climate to achieve some legal acknowledgment of gay relationships.

I think SSM would ultimately strengthen marriage by providing the same ideals and standards to gay couples as currently exists for opposite sex couples. There are a number of books on this very subject - most recently by Jonathon Rauch.

Finally, my goal is to strengthen marriage by giving information, support and assistance to people who are currently married and giving additional consideraton to those considering getitng married.

Your attempt to piggy-back an attack on SSM based on my goal to strengthen marriage is ... to use your words .. useless.

Posted by: Mark Miller at September 8, 2004 1:30 PM

"Mike asks for a legal analysis. I respond. He says he doesn't care about my legal analysis, he wants to know how I feel. I respond. He then says that my feelings won't happen because of political realities."

I was originally arguing with you based upon the premise that you were not a supporter of SSM, but that you disagreed with some of the arguments raised against it. This premise derived from statements that you have made to that effect. Then you claimed to support normalization of homosexuality, but that this was not sufficient for you to support SSM. Then you claimed that you support SSM, but not solely based upon the normalization argument. Now we've reached the position that you support SSM, though not all the arguments made in support of it, your primary motivation for that support is the normalization of homosexuality, and you are not that concerned about the mechanism by which SSM is implemented.

I'm now comfortable arguing with you on the premise that you support SSM, regardless of how vocal/active your support is. To me, it doesn't much matter if you think your motivations are different than those of the 'typical' SSM supporter, whatever that might mean - the end result is the same.

"the percentage of supporters does not mean much to me"

But that goes directly to the political question - you cannot enact a change in legislation if a large fraction of the population is against it. Or if you do, you have to do it as quietly as possible (see, Vermont, and Dean, Governor Howard). And I like how you transmuted the whole population of the US to those aged 18-29. Very subtle.

"But if you are going to try and tell me that this isn't a big issue and there is little support for legitimizing gay relationships then you are wrong - again."

I'm saying the consituency for it is limited numbers-wise, and the issue would have no traction at all if they didn't have recourse to the courts to change the laws. Do you mean to tell me that you think Mass. would have enacted SSM if the MSSC were not involved?

"I too want to strengthen marriage as opposed to simply reduce divorce."

Reducing divorce does strengthen marriage. Simple.

Posted by: Mike S. at September 8, 2004 2:35 PM

As Reagan once said in a debate, "there you again" ...

It seems very important to you to place me or exclude me in this category "SSM supporter". For some reason, you cannot debate specific things without that label - and we were not debating about whether or not I am a SSM supporter but for some reason, your responses need to be based on whether I fit into that label or not.

But that goes directly to the political question - you cannot enact a change in legislation if a large fraction of the population is against it.
----- Huge sigh. I am not interested in enacting the change. I am interested in justifying and debating the value of the change. How can you not understand that ? What you are saying is that there is no legitimate arguments for a specific issue unless the majority of the public is for it. Really ? A lot of activists may as well close shop since they don't have the majority of the public on their side. Oh, you mean the intent of these activists is to inform and educate and persuade people ? But that don't make sense ? Activists ? Campaigning ? Non sense.

And I like how you transmuted the whole population of the US to those aged 18-29. Very subtle.
------ You said the vast majority of the people are against legitimization of same sex relationships. That is absolutely incorrect. It is you who are transmuting the whole population to those aged 55 and older.

I'm saying the consistency for it is limited numbers-wise, and the issue would have no traction at all if they didn't have recourse to the courts to change the laws.
---- Ridiculous. That issue is not like taking "G-D" out of the Pledge. It does have traction outside of the judicial arena. Many people are debating. Get real.

Do you mean to tell me that you think Mass. would have enacted SSM if the MSSC were not involved?
----- Based on polls I've seen, a majority of people in Massachusetts favor the decision ? Not that it matters.

Reducing divorce does strengthen marriage. Simple.
----- ... in the same fashion that not going to war strengthens peace. Very simple indeed. And then based on your pristine logic, preventing any couple from getting divorced regardless of circumstance strengthens marriage. Because ..... reducing divorce means strengthening marriage. Very simple.

Posted by: Mark Miller at September 8, 2004 4:04 PM