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October 3, 2004

Forced to Accept

In response to Lane Core's comment to a post on this blog implying that the people of Massachusetts have been "forced to accept something," Chuck Anziulewicz writes:

All the people in Massachusetts who opposed marriage equality for Gay couples probably say the same thing: "I don't care if they are allowed to marry. I will never accept it."

There's something similar — and probably related — in this to the dynamic whereby freedom of religion is gradually narrowing to include the freedom to believe, in one's heart, that a religion is true, but not necessarily to act as if it really is. In the present context, the question is: What does it mean to be forced to accept something?

Whether or not Chuck would do so, there can be no doubt that many on his side of the same-sex marriage debate would scoff at the suggestion that the government ought to fund Christian missions overseas. The higher among the bricks on the wall separating Church and State often accompany the justification that a member of the public oughtn't be forced to fund a religion at odds with his own — indeed, one that is working to persuade others that his own is false. Why then, is it not being "forced to accept" same-sex marriage when a judiciary decrees that the citizens' shared government must deem same-sex marriages to be identical to opposite-sex marriages?

To be sure, in their heart of hearts, people cannot be forced to accept what they will not accept. But can that lack of acceptance extend to differentiated employment benefits? Adoption? To public school curricula that teach opposite-sex marriage as a preferable structure around which to build a family? The last question has two important implications.

First, Chuck falls to the narrow definitions by which SSM advocates argue that their proposed change will have no adverse effects — if it has any effects at all:

Has "traditional marriage" changed in Massachusetts? Not really. Gay couples have simply been allowed to participate. Does this mean that Straight couples are no longer allowed to marry? That Straight people are being forced to marry persons of the same sex? That married couples are divorcing more often? That families are falling apart? That Straight people are deciding to "turn Gay?" No on all counts. "Traditional marriage" for heterosexual couples will always be the norm, regardless how many Gay couples decide to tie the knot.

Well, if the choice remains forever and ever between traditional marriage and same-sex marriage, then I'd agree that it's probable that the former will always be the norm. The choices, unfortunately, aren't so limited. No marriage could become the norm, as could a view of marriage as a loose emotional contract authored anew for any given individual's preferences.

The second important implication of my above rhetorical question is that Chuck is almost silent the relationship between marriage and child bearing and rearing. In this comment and in a subsequent one, the only reason that he gives for marriage — and public encouragement of it — is "to declare before friends and family that [the spouses] are willing to pledge themselves to each other, ideally for life, and make a solemn commitment to one another's well-being." Indeed, stunningly (yet without apparently realizing it) his preliminary reasoning suggests exactly the perspective that traditionalists fear will be an effect of normalized same-sex marriage (emphasis added):

Straight couples don't need to get married to have sex or to have children.

To the extent that this statement is true, Chuck my friend, it is the problem. Affianced couples aren't just declaring that they will care for each other — "ideally for life" (well, you know, "for life" is something to shoot for, anyway). They are declaring that they desire to blend two families through future generations extending toward forever. They are declaring that they will only beget children with each other, and that those children will be born into households headed by their own parents, who are committed to raising them together.

The danger in same-sex marriage is that — not immediately, but as generations move along — it will further a corrosion whereby society at large is deciding that couples really don't need to be married to have children, that marriage and procreation can be treated as distinctly as marriage and sex unfortunately are already. Such an outcome is simply not acceptable.

Posted by Justin Katz at October 3, 2004 12:29 AM
Marriage & Family
Comments

"Straight couples don't need to get married to have sex or to have children."

I just don't see how recognizing gay marriage can possibly lead to that.

As an aside, I think I can safely say that fornication is COMPLETELY NORMALIZED in this society. So I don't think that it is possible for same-sex marriage to have a negative effect on that.

Regarding the institution of marriage, society basically says that sex, love & marriage, go together (what's the line, like a "horse & carriage"), that the proper place for life-long sexual love is marriage. In other words, gays, by wishing to join the institution are saying they want to constrict their relationships to that rule. How more people relationships wanting to BIND themselves to the marriage norm sends the message to others already in the institution that they DON'T have to bind themselves to those rules is beyond me.

And like it or not gay households are already having children. If anything BARRING those households from the institution of marriage sends the messages to heterosexuals that you DON'T need to be married in order to have children.

We have almost 300 million people in this nation (that's more than enough). The natural progression of going from a "developing" nation to an affluent first world one is to have fewer children (and hence an older population).

The reality is that without gays, children are wholly an OPTION in a marriage. Whether it be purposeful or by accident (infertility) childless marriages raise NO eyebrows, nor should they. And those relationships are every bit as valid and meaningful as marriages with children.

All of this talk about how "procreation" is the be all and end all of marriage is likely to turn off the many childless married couples and turn them away from your side, over to the gay marriage side.

Posted by: Jon Rowe at October 3, 2004 5:37 PM

Jon,

Your comment strikes me as awash in difficulties. Before I go into that, copying-over something that Ben Bateman wrote in the thread to which this post links seems appropriate:

If you support SSM and want to understand the other side, then try to imagine a world in sexual pleasure is not particularly important---it's equivalent to the pleasure of eating a fine meal or watching a movie. In other words, imagine a world in which no one makes their preferred mode of sexual pleasure a centerpiece of their identity. If you can imagine that world, then you can start to understand the perspective of SSM opponents.

First of all, the line that you "just can't see" as being valid is actually among Chuck's premises for supporting same-sex marriage. In other words, it is part of the thinking to which a desire for the ability to marry his lover has led him. Your policy preferences have led you to related assertions. Consider:

The reality is that without gays, children are wholly an OPTION in a marriage. Whether it be purposeful or by accident (infertility) childless marriages raise NO eyebrows, nor should they. And those relationships are every bit as valid and meaningful as marriages with children.

What I'm about to write would certainly be a jaw-dropper of a statement — offensive to some — in certain company, but frankly, I'm a little astonished that you believe that the introduction of a new life who is flesh of each spouse's flesh and blood of each spouse's blood adds not a whit of meaning to a marriage. To be sure, it is tragic when couples who wish to have children cannot do so, but it's simply not reality to say that their marriages capture "every bit" of meaning enjoyed by the majority of married families.

The only way to see reality as being otherwise is to reduce children, in marriage, to a subordinate (even inconsequential) appurtenance to the relationship. In doing so, you do as Chuck did and create the outcome that you claim to be a non sequitur. If children are a potentially nice side effect of marriage, rather than the defining centerpiece of it, then folks might begin to wonder why marriage must precede procreation.

For those couples that do have children, you similarly elide the difference of the family's being biologically linked, each member to each member. From the information that I've seen, the vast majority of gay couples' children are biologically linked to previous relationships. After that would be adoption and artificial means of conception. Thus, in constructing premises whereby to make same-sex marriage palatable — a "right," even — you've had to diminish the imperatives that children exist within marriage and that the marriage be between their biological parents.

Certainly, it is vicious to remind adoptive or childless parents that their situation isn't the ideal, but that's only because they can be assumed to know it's true. Unfortunately, some activists are deeming it convenient to take advantage of this instance of considerate equivalence; their doing so does not make what they say true.

And it all seems to be irrelevant, anyway, because you move on to a different, new claim that 300 million people is enough, and creating more would be contrary to the rules of becoming "an affluent first world" nation. (Let's pass by the tangent that could be taken to discuss the desirability of being an arid nation of rich, childless people.) Let it be noted that the only true modern examples that we have of the dynamic that you cite are Europeans, and I'm frankly not impressed with the societies that they've created.

P.S. — I imagine (just guessing) the majority of (older) childless couples who insist for their own reasons that there is nothing notable about their not being parents are a short jump from support for SSM, anyway, if they aren't already there. Thanks for your concern about the traditionalist constituency, though.

Posted by: Justin Katz at October 3, 2004 8:12 PM

You know, I donít have a problem with recognizing that those marriages that procreate *in theory* add something of value to society that childless marriages do not. But thatís all it is, in theory. In practice, childless marriages donít raise an eyebrow and, aside from some tax issues that depend on how many children one has, we donít treat them any differently. And there is a difference in recognizing that while one might be better than the other, that the other of lesser value is so valueless or even contrary to the purpose of marriage, that it is to be anathematized and barred from the institution. I think of my aunt who, in her mid sixties just got married for the fourth time. Sure her fourth marriage, ďin theoryĒ wonít be as valuable to society as was her second that produced 3 children, but thatís not necessarily stating that it will be of no value or because such marriage has absolutely nothing to do with procreation or begetting (any more than a gay marriage would) that it ought to be excluded from the institution. Just let them shack up and support one another instead.

I think the answer is obvious: Marriage serves a number of different important purposes. Procreation is one. But experience has shown us that there are plenty of marriages that have nothing to do with procreation that are also, in their own way, valuable to society. That one may be more valuableóbut that doesnít mean that the other doesnít have value or has negative value. If you accept the premise, as I do, that marriages that have nothing to do procreation are still have value, then you could see why gay marriage would be good for society. A childless gay marriage would offer all of the benefits to society and to the partners themselves that a childless heterosexual marriage would.

The issue is complicated by the fact that many gay marriages do have children. But thatís because gays are having children, with or without gay marriage. The next relevant question would be would those children in same-sex headed households be better off if their same-sex parents could marry?

Posted by: Jon Rowe at October 3, 2004 10:35 PM

Creating a child is a wonderful and special thing. And it definitely adds something to a marriage. However, adopting a child IS NOT a lesser blessing for those that choose it, regardless of why they choose it. Some choose it because they can't have children. Others choose it because they can't justify bringing another person to life with so many orphans in the world and so they adopt one or more. I have a friend who adopted triplets who have medical issues. She and her husband knew that going in. If anything, I would argue that their bond is MORE special than one between biological parents and their child, because it could only exist by choice.

And there are many couples that are choosing not to have children. Not because they can't have any, but because they don't want any. I don't see how they undermine the institution of marriage. Especially when they are supportive of their friends who have children. They just no it is not the right choice for them.

And what about people who remarry later in life. Are those marriages also wrong because they are too old to have children?

The children issue is just one of about a dozen straw men in the argument against marriage equality.

People opposed to marriages between same sex couples have the right to think it is wrong. But you are right, from a legal perspective, they are forced accept it.

Posted by: Brian Weissman at October 3, 2004 11:19 PM

Brian,

You've only recently begun reading, so there's a large body of my writing on this topic that you haven't read, and my schedule is not such that I can retype it all, now. I'm not sure how effective doing so would be, anyway; it's awfully fortunate, for supporters of same-sex marriage, that (in your view) those positions that opponents consider firmly held beliefs and even legitimate arguments are merely strawmen.

(I'm actually not quite sure what you mean. "Strawman" arguments are those that set up a point that nobody is making in order to knock it down.)

I've said again and again that this debate is so heated because it goes back to first principles. I, for example, believe that every child can only exist by choice. Even Mary chose her pregnancy. Those of us who have written often on the issue have also repeatedly pointed out that marriage is a cultural institution, and how it must be defined culturally to accommodate participants will affect the larger culture. In that respect, same-sex and opposite-sex couples — even if all sterile (by biology or choice) — are not comparable.

Except within some social enclaves, moreover, it is still presumed that married couples do or will have children. However "many" couples may choose not to do so, they are still a small minority.

Whatever way you slice it, whatever subsets you choose to highlight, it is simply a fact that marriage, as an institution, is about the complementary nature of men and women, as solidified in their ability to join themselves in the person of a child. Neither sterile couples nor elderly couples affect that institutional truth. Homosexuals, by their nature, would.

---------

Jon,

Well, now you've changed the topic to "value for society." At any rate, I still disagree that childless marriages "don't raise an eyebrow." One reason that it might appear differently is that there is no mark on opposite-sex couples without children to identify them.

Besides, such rhetoric as "marriage equality," inserted as if automatically in Microsoft Word, belies any professed willingness to differentiate between relationships. Somehow, we skip from "no value" to "no difference," right over the position that I espouse: pursue a debate about the benefits of recognizing same-sex relationships, and without the shorthand of "just like marriage," build up an institution to capture those benefits.

Posted by: Justin Katz at October 4, 2004 12:13 AM

Perhaps I've missed something. In all this, has anyone yet in support of SSM marriage focused any attention at all on the possible effects of SSM on children within it? Lots of talk abouty lots of things, but not this. Why?

I think the question originally turned upon the fact that this thing called "the state" sanctions this thing called marriage. For reasons that have to do with the protection of women and children.

Describing variations within the heterosexual context and the choices made therein, in no way alters the question of how children are to be regarded in SSM marriages.

Earlier I noted that the "adapatability" of children was used as the rationalization...that is children will adapt to same-sex parents, but that gay adults, on the other hand are too vulnerable to adapt happily to a world in which SSM marriage is prohibited.

I've seen a lot of talk here about procreation, and even a mention or two that gay adoption is already happening (so what?), but none whatever from SSM proponents about THE EFFECT ON CHILDREN! In fact, what substitutes for an answer is a good deal of petulance, frustration and evasion.

Jon, Chuck and others. Why won't you answer this question? I've heard in other places that this question hides the fear among straights that gay parents will create gay children. I won't accept that answer.

Posted by: Rhod at October 4, 2004 9:17 AM

"You know, I donít have a problem with recognizing that those marriages that procreate *in theory* add something of value to society that childless marriages do not. But thatís all it is, in theory. "

Jon, I think that's the most preposterous statement I've seen you make. Children are not theoretical, they are flesh and blood. And they are the future of the society (the cliche notwithstanding). How, exactly, do you expect a society to sustain itself, if it's children, and the environment in which they are raised, is considered, if not a theoretical problem, at best an ancillary one?

What is your view of the demographic situation in Europe? Is it problematic, or not? If it is, what is your proposed remedy?

Posted by: Mike S. at October 4, 2004 10:25 AM

"As an aside, I think I can safely say that fornication is COMPLETELY NORMALIZED in this society. So I don't think that it is possible for same-sex marriage to have a negative effect on that."

This is not an aside, it's one of the primary issues at stake. The question of whether fornication is completely normalized is debateable - at the very least it depends upon which parts of society you are talking about, but that doesn't mean that procreation out of wedlock is normalized. This is precisely the argument that Stanley Kurtz makes - that there are stages that society goes through in terms of its views on sex, marriage, and procreation. Acceptance of fornication is an early step, while acceptance of having a first child out of wedlock is a later one, and not getting married at all no matter how many children one has is the last step towards completely breaking the bonds between sex, marriage, and procreation. So saying that fornication is accepted doesn't address the question of whether childbearing out of wedlock either should be or will be accepted.

Your 'aside' also begs another question - is the normalization of fornication morally right, and is it healthy? Do you really think that such normalization has had not detrimental effects on society?

Posted by: Mike S. at October 4, 2004 10:33 AM

Fewer children + older population = demographic suicide


The value to society offered by procreation is the society's continued survival. Society therefore gives (or should give) special status to the arrangements that foster procreation. By design, SSM simply cannot foster procreation. Therefore, the one thing a society needs to avoid demographic suicide (which Europe has irreversibly committed) SSM does not offer. Where, exactly, are all these first worlders supposed to come from with a childless, older population? As we speak (or write), Europe has to import immigrants to help pay and support its older, dying "first world" population. And when the older "first worlders" kick the bucket (or are euthanized b/c of inconvenience) and the third worlder immigrants are the only ones left, they shall indeed inherit the first world. Much like the scene from Pirates of the Carribean, the third world immigrants will thank us for preparing our first world ship for their takeover - they never could have gotten it ready without us so kindly dying off for them. This ain't rocket science.

If SSM couples want their own private commitment ceremonies, go for it. But there simply is no value offered to society by SSM (in fact, the arguments in favor of SSM are not what can SSM offer society, but rather that society must offer SSM couples all the benefits of marriage b/c its their right).

Posted by: c matt at October 4, 2004 2:42 PM

"Whatever way you slice it, whatever subsets you choose to highlight, it is simply a fact that marriage, as an institution, is about the complementary nature of men and women, as solidified in their ability to join themselves in the person of a child. Neither sterile couples nor elderly couples affect that institutional truth. Homosexuals, by their nature, would." I may have mentioned this already, at one time or another. The argument to which you give such a cogent reply is a transmogrification of the old monophysite heresy, which confused nature and person. Marriage by its nature is for the procreation of children and, therefore, requires a couple that by its nature can be procreative. Whether the individuals involved in a particular couple are capable of procreation is irrelevant to the definition, as long as by their nature (the union of male and female) they could be procreative. The union of male and male, or female and female, is by its very nature barren.

Posted by: ELC at October 4, 2004 3:14 PM

Slippery slope, anyone?

http://www.usatoday.com/news/opinion/columnist/2004-10-03-turley_x.htm

Posted by: Mike S. at October 4, 2004 4:09 PM

Congrats to Justin for his piece today on NRO!

Posted by: Mike S. at October 4, 2004 4:10 PM

I don't think that there is anything morally wrong with fornication. As to its effect on society, it depends. Out of wedlock births -- especially among minors -- are clearly detrimental to society. Yet, as far as I have been able to observe, middle-class folks in this nation, especially the more elite, white collar ones, by-in-large DO have sex before marriage, but relatively very few of them bear children before marriage: They take the pill, use condoms, or get abortions.

While I don't necessarily think abortion to be a good thing, if folks can fornicate responsibily --i.e., not bear children out of wedlock -- I don't have a problem with it.

Posted by: Jon Rowe at October 4, 2004 7:30 PM

The rumors of Europe's demise have been largely exaggerated. If you observe the natural progression of "developing" to "developed" nation, the more affluent nations have fewer children, invest more in the fewer children they have, and because of higher quality medical care and advances in technology, they live longer.

The developed world is having fewer children, but I don't think we need to worry as much about "replacing" ourselves. Absent some kind of World Catastrophe, Europe won't die off because people are living longer and longer. Our populations will get grayer. And we should expect people to work longer years.

My biggest problem with Europe is their big-governments and less-business friendly economics than we have in America. But then again, America has big government as well. And Europe, in attempting to keep up with US economic might, has been moving in the direction of greater market-friendliness every since the Thacher revolution -- which spread throughout most of the other Western European nations -- and the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Culturally, I think Europe is wonderful. I spent a summer in Rome in 2001. What a wonderful city. And Italy epitomizes the affluent Eurpean nation with a low birth rate. That place was jumpin -- a truly vibrant culture -- the exact opposite of "dead."

Posted by: Jon Rowe at October 4, 2004 7:39 PM

Jon,

You've illustrated reasonably well why the (generally speaking) two sides of the culture wars can barely converse, let alone compromise: Fornication is only bad, the thinking goes, if it results in out-of-wedlock births, particularly among minors. But luckily, there are birth control and abortion to handle the inevitable "mistakes." Well, thorough education about and easy access to birth control surely encourage sexual activity, and abortion devalues all human life (by ending some human lives).

There's more: these methods are most available for "middle-class folks in this nation, especially the more elite, white collar ones" — those who would be most able to absorb the birth of children. The poorer folks? Well, maybe we just need to subsidize their sex and feticide more.

(N.B., I'm giving you the benefit of the doubt on what the "it" with which you don't have a problem is.)

Posted by: Justin Katz at October 4, 2004 7:46 PM

Justin,

You're right. I am not fully familiar with your writing on the subject. I will try to read your earlier articles so that I can better understand your position. In the meantime, I'll try to comment on what has been posted in this particular thread.

I looked into the definition of straw man and I have been using it incorrectly. I've always understood it to refer to easily refuted arguments. I was missing the nuance that the arguments were created specifically for the purpose of being knocked down. I certainly don't believe that to be true of the arguments of SSM opponents. As to the easily refuted part, every argument I have seen until now has been substance free. Which is what I based my statement on.

This thread seems to have gone a bit wide. Let me go back to the original to make sure I am addressing your points. As I read it, the issue here is that it is your position that the purpose of marriage is to procreate. If we take that statement to be fact, SSM does not fulfill the purpose. Further, by accepting these marriages, we support the notion that childbearing and marriage are not linked. This will eventually lead to the converse, commonplace and socially accepted childbirth outside of marriage.

I submit that these things are already happening and that they have nothing whatever to do with homosexuality. The "Childless by Choice" movement is steadily growing. It is still a small portion of the population, but it is not a statistically insignificant portion of the population. A study from 2001 shows that over time, the percentage of childless women of childbearing age in each age demographic increased. Tracked separately was the increase in the number of couples that chose not to have children which went from 2.4 percent in 1982 to 6.6 percent in 1995. Sorry I couldn't find more recent data. So, childless marriages are becoming more accepted.

I don't think I need to dig up statistics on sex outside of marriage. I think we can all agree that that is getting out of hand. We aren't exaclty back to the free love generation, but the envelope on sexuality is pushed younger and younger on a daily basis.

If we combine this information with some data on single parents, we can see that there is already a cultural shift in place. The 1998 census showed that 28% of the children in the country live with only one parent.

Further, while homosexual couples cannot create children that are made from the genes of both parents, they can still contribute their genes to offspring. So, that said, they come closer to fulfilling your stated goal of marriage than the childless by choice couples and the as close as the single parent homes.

Let's take another quote of yours:
"I, for example, believe that every child can only exist by choice."

This statement is technically true, even though many people don't choose the child. To create a life, at least one of the two people must choose to have intercourse. If pregnancy occurs, the mother must choose to carry the child to term. But that doesn't mean that in the larger sense that they chose to create a life. They created a life and then chose what to do about it. It might not seem like a big difference, but to me it is.

Next quote:
"Those of us who have written often on the issue have also repeatedly pointed out that marriage is a cultural institution, and how it must be defined culturally to accommodate participants will affect the larger culture."

I agree with you here. Marriage is a cultural institution. That means that as the culture changes, the institution changes to suit the needs of the culture. We differ in that you feel the institution must be used to exert control over the culture while I feel that it needs to keep pace with the culture as dictated by society.

Another quote:
"Whatever way you slice it, whatever subsets you choose to highlight, it is simply a fact that marriage, as an institution, is about the complementary nature of men and women, as solidified in their ability to join themselves in the person of a child."

Actually, it is not a fact. Even throughout history there have been myriad purposes for marriage. And while procreation has been common in marriage, you can't even claim it as a fact that the purpose of that aspect of marriage throughout history has been for people specifically to join themselves. The belief you describe is fairly representative of the Judeo-Christian religions and their definition of marriage.

The basic problem is that there are two or three types of marriage nowadays. This is the main thing clouding the picture. The first is religious marriage. The goals of this type of marriage are to join two people with their deity with the purpose of procreating and further the religion. This needs to be carried out according to the doctrines of the faith. Many faiths forbid SSM. So, religious marriages cannot be granted to these couples. Then there is secular marriage. This type of marriage may be performed with or without a clergy member. If a clergy member is involved, it is typically a more liberal one which skirts around the role of G-d and religion in the family. People who enter into this type of marriage are entering into it with the purpose of joining together as a family and making a legal commitment to each other. Plans for children may or may not be involved. Then there is purely civil marriage. This is very similar to secular marriage with the exception that there is no clergy involved. Any of these types of marriage may or may not involve love. The latter two may involve SSM.

So, your fact is a fact within your religion, but not a universal truth. This is where the issue gets very murky. Civil marriage carries a number of obligations and protections in the law. These rules are interspersed throughout the judicial code. Creating a compromise in the form of civil unions will be unconstitutional because of the separate but equal rulings. If they carry the same benefits, they should be called the same thing. A better compromose would be to rename marriage in the legal code to civil union. Then marriages are only performed by religious officiants. You would get a civil union license as part of your marriage. Everyone has the exact same rights.

Denying a member of a protected class a right because it doesn't fit your religious view is incompatible with our legal system. That shouldn't prevent you from beliving in your moral code. You should, however, recognize that we can't legislate based on any faith's morality.

Posted by: Brian Weissman at October 4, 2004 8:20 PM

Jon:

This is WAY off the thread, but rumors of the demise of Europe (as it's now constituted) are hardly exaggerated. If your standard is nightlife, then that, too will probably be submerged in some forms of Sharia within a generation.

The pending "problem" with Europe is not that native Europeans are "dying off", but that Europe is being Islamicized or Islamized depending upon your construction of the verb. Unassimilated Muslims will not be denied, and they are currently essential for their labor and financial input to the welfare democracies throughout The Continent. Immigration controls are impossible.

By 2020, under current trends, more than half the population of Holland under age 25 will be Muslim, either by Third World birth or first generation European. Native Hollanders seem particularly inept or unconcerned about the end of native European Dutch culture. Hollanders are striking at this very minute in pursuit of greater social benefits and an even shorter work week, when the country is going broke.

Holland also has a perversely high rate of euthanized adults, with a trend toward child euthanization, a decline in marriage and a Christian church-attending population at about 8%. These and all the other social patholgies of Western societies are running headlong into a surge in Muslim arrivals, and the prospects for peaceful accomodations are pretty grim.

Holland is the canary in the mine; whatever happens there, fairly soon, will shine on a light on the rest of Western Europe, because the conditions for trouble are similar in France, Germany, the Scandinavian countries, England and in portions of Eastern Europe.

Posted by: Rhod at October 4, 2004 9:01 PM

Brian,

I really do wish to reply to you more thoroughly — your points represent a sort of recap of the arguments that I've had on this issue over the past three-plus years — but I'm extremely busy. I'll try to get back to your comments, but for now, I just want to respond to this:

Denying a member of a protected class a right because it doesn't fit your religious view is incompatible with our legal system. That shouldn't prevent you from beliving in your moral code. You should, however, recognize that we can't legislate based on any faith's morality.

This is among my larger... well, "peeves" is too superficial a word, but maybe a profound version of peeves. As a preliminary statement, let me note that you've ambiguously layered language that really needs to be defined in this context:

  • "Protected class": In what sense are homosexuals protected? To what degree? In what contexts, and by what mechanism? Can one deny the rights of non-protected-classes (e.g., straight white male Christians) for supracivil reasons?
  • "Right": Do you mean of the inalienable sort, or of the sort created by law? If the former, I'd ask where homosexuals get any inalienable rights apart from some morality outside of the civil sphere. If the latter, I'd suggest that you've merely asserted your preferred outcome of an argument in progress as an established fact.
  • "Incompatible with our legal system": What does this mean? Sounds like a euphemism for declaring my view of reality inapplicable to the makeup of our government.

Now the peeve, one that is most often pinched by secularist libertarians: it is entirely against the spirit and even the letter of our Constitution to invalidate moral conclusions in the legislative realm because they derive from religious convictions. The rest of the argument is just irreconciliable fluff if we can't agree on this basic matter. It would be against my Constitutional rights for the government to declare that I cannot vote for representatives who will support policies in line with my religious faith and expect, if enough of my fellow citizens do the same, to see my will, as a full citizen of the country, enacted into law.

This ties into the fear of a judicial oligarchy that presumes to judge not just the requirements of laws passed by duly elected representatives, but the motives and convictions of the People themselves. There is no such thing as an absense of morality for just about every question that faces a polity; to reject Catholic teachings (for example) as a basis for citizens' votes is to assert another ultimately faith-based morality as more true, which is to say: to establish a religion — probably secular humanism — as the official doctrine of the United States of America.

You've been entirely dismissive of non-religious arguments that I sincerely find persuasive on the question of same-sex marriage. That's your right. It is not your right to round up my reasons for supporting a policy and dismiss them as either "substance free" or illegitimately founded in religious belief with a view toward invalidating my voice in the debate over public policy. Yet, that is exactly what is being done through the judiciary.

We religious folks may lack the savoir faire of our enlightened betters, but if we cannot legislate according to our beliefs, our representative democracy is a sham.

Posted by: Justin Katz at October 4, 2004 9:04 PM

Rhod,

I'd be happy to address the issue of children in gay marriages. Let's start with talk of whether or not they are fit to be parents.

"Beliefs that gay and lesbian adults are not fit parents likewise have no empirical foundation (Cramer, 1986; Falk, 1989; Gibbs, 1988; Patterson, 1996)." This comes from the

On gender-role behavior - "In summary, the research suggests that children of lesbian mothers develop patterns of gender-role behavior that are much like those of other children."

On sexual orientation - "In all studies, the great majority of offspring of both gay fathers and lesbian mothers described themselves as heterosexual."

There have also been studies of sexual abuse on children of gay parents. The studies show that "Fears that children in custody of gay or lesbian parents might be at heightened risk for sexual abuse are thus without basis in the research literature. "

"In summary, there is no evidence to suggest that lesbians and gay men are unfit to be parents or that psychosocial development among children of gay men or lesbians is compromised in any respect relative to that among offspring of heterosexual parents. Not a single study has found children of gay or lesbian parents to be disadvantaged in any significant respect relative to children of heterosexual parents. Indeed, the evidence to date suggests that home environments provided by gay and lesbian parents are as likely as those provided by heterosexual parents to support and enable children's psychosocial growth."

Now, you can argue that the American Psychological Association is a biased organization, but I'd ask for your sources on that.

I found more supporting data than the above for gay parents, but the data was on gay oriented sites and so I questioned its objectivity. I also found data that purported that that children of homosexual parents were harmed in various ways such as gender identity and sexual abuse. But these came from sites that were ideologically opposed to homosexuality and so were equally suspect. I tried to stick with good science here.

I'm not sure why others haven't answered the question, but with all the facts available, I doubt it was a question of "won't".

Posted by:
Brian Weissman at October 4, 2004 9:35 PM

Brian,

I still haven't managed to unpack all of my books after a move during the summer, but I'm pretty sure that the study that you cite is an aggregation (by Patterson in 1996) of research from the '80s. Andrew Sullivan's Same-Sex Marriage: A Reader offers excerpts from an opposing reading of those studies (which I summarized here). Most of the studies were severely flawed in their methodology, but even the others deemphasized findings having to do with gender identity and orientation.

Again, with more time, I'd go into this more, but in a nutshell, the following statement in your APA source is, to be sure, carefully phrased:

Not a single study has found children of gay or lesbian parents to be disadvantaged in any significant respect relative to children of heterosexual parents.

Some prominent gay activists have cooed that an increased likelihood in children's becoming gay is a feature, not a bug, of the gay-parent household. Certainly, one's bias doesn't have to be that extreme to require readers' skepticism about what constitutes disadvantages and what results are significant.

Posted by: Justin Katz at October 4, 2004 10:10 PM

Justin,

I always considered my views on sex to be quite conservative for the "liberal" side of the culture war (I'm not a leftist, but a libertarian, if you've forgotten. But I suppose on many social issues, I come down with the lefties very often).

I don't think that minors (under 18) should be having sex, unless they are married (and I generally think it's a terrible idea to get married before the age of 18). As I've noted, sex, if done irresponsibly, can have drastic consequences. It therefore takes the utmost amount of responsibility to engage in it. We tend to allow or otherwise expect only ADULTS to engage in behaviors -- drinking, smoking, driving, voting, going to war, etc., -- that are "high responsibility" behaviors. Therefore, I think that only adults should have sex.

But I see no otherwise reason why someone in their early 20s with no present desire for marriage should NOT engage in responsible sex with their significant others, unless of course, their religion tells them not to. But mine doesn't.

And yes, of course, I believe that precautions should be taken to PREVENT the occurance of unwanted pregnancy, and in 95+% of the circumstances, this can be done. Hence, we ought not to have nearly as many abortions as we currently do.

Posted by: Jon Rowe at October 4, 2004 10:10 PM

Sorry, I should have been more clear, "it" referred to "fornication." What I meant was the pill and condoms to prevent out-of-wedlock pregnancies are fine with me (I think they are of the greatest inventions of Western society). However, I feel uncomfortable with using ABORTIONS as birth control under most circumstances -- THAT should be avoided.

Posted by: Jon Rowe at October 4, 2004 10:18 PM

As long as some of the comments have been off thread here, I couldn't help add this link about Enlightened European Society I just came across in Yahoo! News, where "apparently" women's rights have not gone far enough yet. Sweden will now be considering a "Man Tax" on top of having the highest taxes in the EU.

Posted by: smmtheory at October 4, 2004 11:00 PM

Population Trends: What, Me Worry?
Jon, you have succinctly expressed the real underlying disagreement in the SSM debate. Most of your ideas in this thread are the usual sex-obsessed stuff, but you have done us the courtesy of a few paragraphs on the real issue of procreation:

We have almost 300 million people in this nation (that's more than enough). The natural progression of going from a "developing" nation to an affluent first world one is to have fewer children (and hence an older population).

These kinds of ideas are fundamental to the SSM movement as a way to brush aside population objections. And yet they're based on essentially nothing. Remember, this isn't a legislative debate we're having. The SSM claim is that your opinions on these reproductive issues are written somewhere in some federal or state constitution, beyond the reach of democracy.

If you get rid of all the sex blather, the SSM position comes down to the idea that some mystical phrase in a constitution forbids our government from ensuring its own perpetuation through encouraging responsible procreation and discouraging irresponsible procreation. The thinking seems to be that procreation is private, and hence none of the government's business---even though procreation is vital to the nation's long-term survival.

If you don't see the logic there, try this hypothetical on an SSM supporter: A plague wipes out 80% of our population under 40. The country has lost a large segment of its workers and taxpayers. And worse, it has lost most of the people who produce the new workers and taxpayers. If the birthrate stays at the replacement rate of 2.1, and without immigration, in a few generations the nation's population will be a fifth of what it once was.

The country's only hope for returning to its position of power is to encourage young women to get the birth rate above the replacement rate, and to have their babies sooner rather than later. (Later motherhood is in many ways equivalent to a lower birth rate.)

But we have a constitutional problem: The moral giants of the early 21st century discovered that our constitutions forbid the government from favoring potentially procreative couples over couples that clearly cannot procreate. After the plague, can the government start heavily subsidizing bringing young people together for responsible procreation? Would the plague somehow change the constitutions?

Demographics 101
Jon, you're missing a point of basic arithmetic on demographics:

The developed world is having fewer children, but I don't think we need to worry as much about "replacing" ourselves. Absent some kind of World Catastrophe, Europe won't die off because people are living longer and longer. Our populations will get grayer. And we should expect people to work longer years.

Culturally, I think Europe is wonderful. I spent a summer in Rome in 2001. What a wonderful city. And Italy epitomizes the affluent European nation with a low birth rate. That place was jumpin -- a truly vibrant culture -- the exact opposite of "dead."

We aren't talking about 'dead' in some metaphorical cultural sense. We're talking about 'dead' in a very literal number-of-warm-bodies sense. Increasing personal longevity has a very small and transient impact on the problem. People will still die, whether they live 80 years or 200 years. If the birth rate drops below the replacement rate, then that population shrinks. And while total lifespan is increasing, a woman's maximum age for safe childbearing is not. The average woman must squeeze out her 2.1 children before 40, or the population declines.

That isn't rocket science; it's basic field biology. It doesn't matter how long they work, how affluent they are, or how vibrant their culture is. We're still mammals. If we don't produce enough babies, then our numbers will shrink. And our influence will shrink with it, no matter how talented or clever we are.

That's what happened to Sparta: They had the best warriors in the ancient Greek world, but their culture didn't adequately encourage procreation, so their numbers steadily dwindled until they were numerically overwhelmed on the battlefield by their faster-breeding neighbors. Ultimately it didn't matter how tough their warriors were. Without enough babies, their city and culture simply died.

So please reconsider this point, Jon. I appreciate you addressing it, but think about it a little more seriously this time. Italy's birth rate is 1.19 births per woman. You say that's no problem. Would a zero birth rate be a problem? A birth rate of 0.3? 0.6? At what point should we take it seriously, and then what would you suggest we do about it? Is there some specific birth rate that changes the secret invisible language of the constitution and allows our government to favor potentially reproductive couples over clearly non-reproductive ones?

Should We Live?
Or perhaps you reject my assumption that the nation's long-term survival is important---as I suspect the serious SSM supporters do. This is where SSM touches on the big political themes of our time. The real thinkers on the left are lost in Cold War defeatism: We are doomed. Our culture is rotten, our nation corrupt. Every other nation and culture is superior to ours. Our eventual destruction is inevitable. We do not deserve to live, and we don't intend to try.

That kind of thinking utterly hypnotized the left during the Cold War, much like Denethor in The Return of the King. The juggernaut that was certain to defeat us is gone now, of course, but their minds still work that way.

That mindset applied to questions of sex and reproduction logically produces the SSM conclusion: Reproduction is pointless. You only reproduce if you want to live. Reproduction is a lot of work: Nine months of pregnancy, followed by lost sleep, diapers to change, then extra time and expense caring for the little rugrat until it's out of the house. What's the point of all that work if we're all doomed? Why even bring a child into the world if we're all such terrible people, living in such a terrible nation as part of such a terrible culture?

But defeatism needn't be completely gloomy. If we're all doomed, then at least we can enjoy the time we have left. No more stodgy moral rules. Let's party! Let's all go out and find as much pleasure as we possibly can. That's the logical thing to do when you're doomed. Take whatever pleasure you like. Sexual and chemical are usually the most intense. And anyone who tries to deny you that pleasure is obviously doing something horrible, on par with denying a condemned man his last cigarette.

In my view, that's what's really going on in the SSM debate. The defeatists are so lost in their gloom and doom that they can't even imagine why someone would want to reproduce, much less why they would consider it more important than something as sacrosanct as sexual pleasure. Anyone who actually wants to reproduce and perpetuate our nation and culture is an uncultured rube who deserves a sneer and the derisive title 'breeder'.

You can't be neutral about your own survival. A nation or culture must either work on its own perpetuation, or it will die. Life doesn't happen without effort, and the sophistry of judges does not change life's requirements.

So here is my question for SSM supporters: Should we try to perpetuate our nation and culture? If you say 'No', then say it loud, and say it proud. You will be entirely intellectually consistent in promoting SSM. Just don't try to stop with SSM. It wouldn't be fair to leave out the polygamists, bestialists, etc.

But if you say 'Yes', then please explain how you reconcile that with your support of SSM. If you think about it long enough, I believe you will find that they cannot coexist.

Posted by: Ben Bateman at October 5, 2004 2:04 AM

Ben,

The real thinkers on the left are lost in Cold War defeatism: We are doomed. Our culture is rotten, our nation corrupt. Every other nation and culture is superior to ours. Our eventual destruction is inevitable. We do not deserve to live, and we don't intend to try.

This is exactly right, I think, and this attitude is manifest in all sorts of policy views. I think where Jon will disagree is that he will say that libertarians (as opposed to modern liberals/leftists) are optimistic - they put their hope for the future in mankind's creativity, in science, in technolgical progress. Glenn Reynolds is sort of an archetype, in a sense: he's exuberant about anti-aging technology, space technology, internet technology, etc.

Many libertarians, I think, make the same mistake Jon does in taking Western culture for granted. They assume that it will sustain itself, without understanding how it came about in the first place, or how easily it can disappear. When you think about it, this is an astonishingly myopic view of things - WWII only happened 60 years ago, and it very nearly caused the end of Western civilization in Europe. Rome's nightlife would not be so great today if Hitler and Mussolini had prevailed, Jon. Ben used Sparta as an example, but there are numerous others. I think it is highly self-centered to take the benefits we enjoy for granted and to put them at risk for future generations just so you can revel in your own 'freedom'.

Posted by: Mike S. at October 5, 2004 5:20 AM

I'll point out another common error made by people who extol Europe's culture vis-a-vis America's: much of European culture has Christian roots. They have been obscured by a century or more of secularism, but much of the lasting art, music, architecture, etc. is from Europe's Christian past - you can't disconnect culture from religion, as libertarians are wont to do. More accurately, you can, but you end up with low culture, not high.

Posted by: Mike S. at October 5, 2004 5:25 AM

"I agree with you here. Marriage is a cultural institution. That means that as the culture changes, the institution changes to suit the needs of the culture. We differ in that you feel the institution must be used to exert control over the culture while I feel that it needs to keep pace with the culture as dictated by society."

That's a rather one-sided view of things. The institution of marriage helps shape the culture (indeed, it's one of the bedrocks of the culture), so you can't say that it should simply follow changes in the culture, as if it were a dog on a leash, going wherever the culture takes it. And how is this 'society' of which you speak differentiated from it's culture, such that the society can dictate the culture? Why can't the culture of a society dictate what type of society it will be?

Most important, where is the evidence that the society, as a whole, is interested in changing the definition of marriage? Everytime people have a chance to vote on the issue, the result is overwhelmingly in favor of the traditional definition. Note that this is the case even as there has been widespread changes in people's views towards homosexuals.

Posted by: Mike S. at October 5, 2004 5:55 AM

Jon states that he doesn't see anything immoral about fornication, when condoms and the pill are used, and although he provides a lukewarm disclaimer, he doesn't come right out and say that he believes abortion to be immoral either. RU486 anyone?

Considering this view, in the light of depopulation that will result in a demographic imbalance of young taxpayers to older retiree's, i'm 100% certain that even if Jon doesn't think so, his own children and their peers will find nothing immoral about euthanizing the lot of us as we decline into the expensive irrelevance of old age.

Posted by: Marty at October 5, 2004 10:11 AM

[sarcasm]No, no, Marty, you don't understand - technology, like embryonic stem cells, will enable us to stay healthier longer, so when Jon gets old he'll be able to take care of himself. He won't need anyone to take care of him, or to pay for his care.[/sarcasm]

Posted by: Mike S. at October 5, 2004 1:17 PM

I was also under the impression that Jon didn't have children because they were superfluous to his survival.

Posted by: smmtheory at October 5, 2004 2:32 PM

I am interested in Jon's recent visit to Italy and the vibrancy of the culture he saw. Does his vibrancy refer to its night life and adult entertainment? Or did he see multitudes of children playing in the parks and strolling down the streets - and if so, were these mostly native or immigrant children (if he could tell). Yes, the native populace may live longer and healthier, but they will be outnumbered, and no matter how old or healthy, their vote will count for one only. Twenty younger votes from immigrants for each old man vote - to whom do you think the politicos will cater if they wish to hold on to power? Can you say SHARIA? Its all about the numbers. There is one possible solution, although I fear it would be worse than sharia law - ala brave new world, new generations could be "grown" from test tubes and incubators. Did Huxley see it or what!?!

Posted by: c matt at October 5, 2004 4:04 PM

Ben wrote:
If you get rid of all the sex blather, the SSM position comes down to the idea that some mystical phrase in a constitution forbids our government from ensuring its own perpetuation through encouraging responsible procreation and discouraging irresponsible procreation. The thinking seems to be that procreation is private, and hence none of the government's business---even though procreation is vital to the nation's long-term survival.

Can someone please enlighten me as to exactly how SSM discourages responsible procreation? The government would still be giving heterosexuals all the privileges and benefits of marriage they had before. In fact, many gays want marriage precisely so that they can protect the interests of the children they already have.

Posted by: Michael at October 5, 2004 4:13 PM

The natural progression of going from a "developing" nation to an affluent first world one is to have fewer children (and hence an older population).

But are we talking cause and effect here? Does fewer children/older population cause affluence or is one of the side effects of affluence fewer children and older population b/c of more self interest? Is it a natural life cycle of a nation to die off in that sense b/c they can't (or won't) catch the self-interest problem in time (ie, start promoting policies that do not differentiate between self-interested behavior and community-interested behavior)? Maybe that's nature's (or nature's God's) way of showing you that you reap what you sow (in a very literal sense). I understand, in theory, some of your arguments sound good. In theory, if I am standing on a meteor as I pummel towards the earth and I jump off the meteor in the equal and opposite velocity at which I am travelling two feet before I hit the ground, I should be no more injured than jumping off a two foot stool. In practice, it can't be done.

Posted by: c matt at October 5, 2004 4:19 PM

Part of the difference is, I think, many SSM supporters simply disagree with the opponetns on first principles. The benefits of marriage are not for the couple; they are for the children. The culture really has no interest in the adults. The culture's interest is in the offspring of the adults. Thus, the culture needs to favor arrangements that favor the children. Since the beginning of time, the most favorable arrangement for children has been a stable heterosexual marriage. To alter that arrangement, I'd say some pretty convincing evidence that something is better would have to be forthcoming. Better for the future offspring, not better for the couple.

Posted by: c matt at October 5, 2004 4:30 PM

"Can someone please enlighten me as to exactly how SSM discourages responsible procreation?"

It publicly states that there is no difference between heterosexual marriages, which are intrinsically, if not always practically, fertile, and homosexual ones, which are intrinsically infertile. In other words, that marriage has nothing to do with procreation. If marriage has nothing to do with procreation, why get married if you want to have kids, or if you get pregnant, or if you have two kids already and are cohabiting? It also publicly states that there is no difference to the child between having a mother and a father and having two mothers or two fathers. Part of the push for SSM is precisely the ideology that says that there are no real differences between the sexes, and that there is nothing fixed about our sexual natures, or about human nature in general.

In any case, these arguments have been made multiple times, and are easily found on the web. If you're really interested in the question, you can read them yourself. But the 'tone' of your question implies that you already know the answer, and you can't even imagine a coherent alternative view. In which case you've either already read the arguments and dismissed them, or reading them won't have any effect on your iron-clad confidence that opponents of SSM are ignorant and bigoted.

Posted by: Mike S. at October 5, 2004 4:50 PM

Here's another question I have for the SSM supporters. I've asked it before, but I've never heard a coherent answer. Why is monogamy important in a same-sex relationship, and why should a same-sex couple pledge to forego sexual relationships outside their relationship?

The answer for heterosexual couples is fairly obvious, and can be explained fairly simply by biology. (This is not the whole explanation, but it's the one with the most immediate relevance for society.) When heterosexuals have sexual relations outside of marriage, they will tend to produce children who by definition cannot be brought into a family headed by their biological parents. It also increases the likelihood of divorce, which leads to the same result.

Posted by: Mike S. at October 5, 2004 4:57 PM

In any case, these arguments have been made multiple times, and are easily found on the web. If you're really interested in the question, you can read them yourself. But the 'tone' of your question implies that you already know the answer, and you can't even imagine a coherent alternative view. In which case you've either already read the arguments and dismissed them, or reading them won't have any effect on your iron-clad confidence that opponents of SSM are ignorant and bigoted.

Well, of course I've read them all. But you missed one possibility. I do believe your view is a coherent alternative to mine. I don't, however, believe that that makes you ignorant or bigoted (although you may very well be, since I don't know you). But I also believe you are wrong.

I don't believe that SSM says anything about the improtance (or lack thereof) of marriage for procreation. I can understand how someone might have that view, but I disagree with it. I also think the argument about SSM marriage shows that children don't need mothers and fathers. I think allowing SSM shows society that we value stable, monogamous relationships in which to raise our children.

Why is monogamy important in a same-sex relationship, and why should a same-sex couple pledge to forego sexual relationships outside their relationship?

OK, maybe you are a bit ignorant (or uninformed). Pregnancy isn't the only result of promiscuous sex. There's lots of diseases out there. And one of the complaints from the anti-gay camp is that homosexuals are too promiscuous and have caused the spread of AIDS while at the same time expecting them to not want to get married, or saying that they can marry a woman, which leads to more temptation and a greater risk of adultery and bring back diseases to their poor misguided wives.

Oh, and there's also the emotional stability of monogamy. I'm kind of happy my boyfriend isn't going out whoring every night, not just because he might bring home a nice, ripe disease but because he might find someone else better. If i didn't expect monogamy I'd spend half of my life worrying if he'd leave me and the other half wondering if I might find someone better. Did I really have to answer this question?

Posted by: Michael at October 5, 2004 6:34 PM

Michael: ďCan someone please enlighten me as to exactly how SSM discourages responsible procreation? The government would still be giving heterosexuals all the privileges and benefits of marriage they had before.Ē
Letís consider two kinds of benefits:
Tangible Economic Benefits
Letís assume that the government somehow directly subsidizes marriage through direct payments or through the tax code. Why would it matter if the group of people eligible to marry were to suddenly expand? Letís consider it in the abstract:
Suppose that the government takes a dollar from everyone and gives $10 to Favored Group 1, which is a tenth of the population. The people outside the favored group have a $1 net loss, and those in the favored group pay a dollar but receive $10, so theyíre $9 ahead.
Now consider Favored Group 2, which is a tenth of the population that doesnít overlap with Favored Group 1. FG2 demands that its members also receive the $10 subsidy. The government agrees to do this. The programís cost has doubled, so the government will now need to take two dollars from each person to pay $10 to FG1 and FG2, which together are a fifth of the population. Those outside the favored group are now paying $2 into the program, while those in the two favored groups pay $2 to receive $10, so theyíre $8 ahead. FG1 lost a net dollar when FG2 started receiving the subsidy.
Now letís suppose that the Egalitarian Party takes over the government, and they think that everyone should receive the subsidy. This increases the programís cost dramatically, of course. The egalitarians will handle that with tax increases. Now everyone must pay $10 into the program, and everyone will receive the $10 subsidy. If FG1 or FG2 complain about this, the Egalitarian Party tells them that theyíre still receiving the same subsidy that they always were, so they shouldnít complain.
This is pretty basic arithmetic that has nothing to do with marriage: A tangible benefit to a narrow group becomes less of a benefit as the group increases in size. Itís true of any kind of tax break, increased tariff, or direct payment program. A narrow subsidy costs less and usually benefits its recipients more, while a wider subsidy costs more and usually benefits its recipients less.
Intangible Benefits
Not all benefits of marriage are tangible economic benefits. A major goal for the SSM movement is to give SS couples social recognition equivalent to the recognition that married OS couples enjoy. This is why the Goodridge Court rejected a legislative proposal to make SS and OS couples precisely equal in an economic sense, but reserving the word Ďmarriageí for OS couples.
While social honors seem at first glance very different from government subsidies, the underlying logic is the same: The more honors you distribute, the less each honor means.
Grade inflation is a familiar example. Once upon a time, only a small proportion of students received an A in any given class. It was a serious honor, a real recognition that the student had done well. In many schools today, half of the students receive an A in any given class. The higher grade doesnít make them any smarter, though. The grade simply means less, because more people received it.
When my daughter was in third grade, I remember an end-of-year ceremony in which the teacher handed out achievement certificates. Except this was a liberal school, so each student received exactly the same certificate while the teacher gushed about how bright and special they all were. (I was hoping that she would say they were all above average, but no luck.) The kids werenít fooled, of course. Even at eight years of age they could tell that if everybody got the same certificate, then it didnít mean anything.
The fascinating moment came when the teacher mentioned that the certificates had gold stars on them, and the number of gold stars varied with the studentís achievement. It took about half a second for those kids to understand what that meant. They immediately began comparing certificates, to see who had actually been recognized.
If you double the number of people who receive an honor, then you cut that honorís value in half. The purpose of an honor, as with a government subsidy, is to benefit some favored subset of individuals. Give an honor or subsidy to everyone, and youíve given nothing to anyone.
Distinct Issue: Do They Deserve It?
You can always argue that the favored group shouldnít be favored, but thatís a completely separate question. The Congress argues all the time over which industries should get income tax breaks or tariff protection. Do students and home-buyers deserve student loan guarantees? Should the taxpayers bail yet another airline out of bankruptcy? How poor should people be to receive welfare?
None of that changes the underlying zero-sum logic of subsidies and honors: If every industry got the same income tax breaks and tariff rates, then we wouldnít be favoring any industry at all. If anybody could get a government-backed loan, then we wouldnít be favoring students and home-buyers. If the government bailed out every bankrupt business thenówell, it would run out of money. If everybody got a welfare check regardless of income, then it wouldnít be welfare any more.
So letís get past the initial argument that the government can expand a favored group without diluting that groupís subsidy or honor. Even third-graders understand how silly that is. The real SSM argument is that OS couples donít deserve any favor, because they arenít different from SS couples in any important way. And that loops us back to the real and obviously non-constitutional SSM question: Is reproduction is a national priority?

Posted by: Ben Bateman at October 5, 2004 6:38 PM

Ack! Forgot to add extra line breaks for paragraphs. Sorry.

Posted by: Ben Bateman at October 5, 2004 6:39 PM

See, this is the sort of thing that gets my head shaking:

I also think the argument about SSM marriage shows that children don't need mothers and fathers. I think allowing SSM shows society that we value stable, monogamous relationships in which to raise our children.

First of all, what does it mean? If you're saying, Michael, that the debate shows that children really do not need mothers and fathers, well, then I imagine most opponents of SSM will thank you for confirming their accusations and declare the case closed.

I'm guessing, given the rest of your comments, that you meant to say that "the argument about SSM does not suggest that children don't need mothers and fathers." In that case, opponents of SSM will point to the very next sentence as evidence that the argument about SSM actually does suggest just that, because you've slipped in "monogamous relationship" for "mother and father."

"Mother and father" are words directly related to the child. "Monogamous relationship" is a phrase directly (and exclusively) related to the adults.

Posted by: Justin Katz at October 5, 2004 6:52 PM

I don't believe that SSM says anything about the improtance (or lack thereof) of marriage for procreation. I can understand how someone might have that view, but I disagree with it. I also think the argument about SSM marriage shows that children don't need mothers and fathers. I think allowing SSM shows society that we value stable, monogamous relationships in which to raise our children

Which is understandable as well. Precisely because people can somewhat rationally differ on this issue, it is not one that should be decided by the courts, and "forced to accept" by a majority of the culture that, in fact, does not accept it. While I analyze history and evidence to firmly conclude that SSM will lead to societal suicide, others may not believe that to be the case. A court ruled by five persons is not the place to make such a decision for a society of 300 million.

Posted by: c matt at October 5, 2004 7:44 PM

Just to be clear - when I say somewhat rationally differ I don't mean that the supporters of SSM have good arguments. All I am saying is the evidence is not 100% conclusive that SSM would totally decimate our culture. I think the evidence is extremely high that it would be a total disaster, and certain that it would have at least some negative impact.

If i didn't expect monogamy I'd spend half of my life worrying if he'd leave me and the other half wondering if I might find someone better. Did I really have to answer this question?

And how would SSM with no-fault divorce reduce this fear?

Posted by: c matt at October 5, 2004 7:57 PM

Michael said,

"There's lots of diseases out there."

The assumption that married couples will only have sex with each other has been around for thousands of years, long before anybody knew about STD's. This line of argument also indicates that the drive for SSM is predicated on the particular epidemiological state of affairs; that if STD's were not a problem, there would be a weaker, or nonexistent case for SSM.

"Oh, and there's also the emotional stability of monogamy."

But why is that relevant to the society at large? Are you really saying that the government has a direct interest in your emotional stability? If you don't have any children, is there any larger effect on society if you and your boyfriend break up?

Posted by: Mike S. at October 5, 2004 9:59 PM

Michael said:
"I'm kind of happy my boyfriend isn't going out whoring every night,..."

Just kind of?!?! You're not even serious about your relationship, why should anybody expect you would be serious in this discussion?

Posted by: smmtheory at October 5, 2004 11:34 PM

I'm guessing, given the rest of your comments, that you meant to say that "the argument about SSM does not suggest that children don't need mothers and fathers." In that case, opponents of SSM will point to the very next sentence as evidence that the argument about SSM actually does suggest just that, because you've slipped in "monogamous relationship" for "mother and father."

Ok, I didn't want to get fully into this, but I suppose I do to clarify my points.

Children should have mothers and fathers. Ideally they should have their own biological mothers and fathers and ideally that mother and father should love each other and be devoted to each other and provide a stable and nurturing environment for that child to grow up in. I do think we need to break down some of the gender-bias our country has but I'm not stupid enough to believe that there are no differences between men and women.

That said, legal marriage in this country favors marriage between a man and a woman and it denies marriage between two men or two women. But it also (legally) equally allows children to be raised in an environment of remarriage, divorce, single-parenthood, spousal abuse, drug-addicted parents, etc. And legally we are saying that all those environments are better for children than growing up with two stable, loving, monogamous gay parents.

So yes, it's sad that I have to substitute "mother and father" for "monogomous relationship" but there are many, many "mothers and fathers" out there who are mothers and fathers in name and name only.

Posted by: Michael at October 6, 2004 11:04 AM

But by your "argument from the worse", one could point to just as many same sex environments of remarriage, divorce, single-parenthood, spousal abuse, drug-addicted parents, etc. and we are no further along.

Posted by: c matt at October 6, 2004 3:36 PM

Michael, we all agree that it's sad that so many children can't be raised by their mothers and fathers. The question is what we should do about it.

You are talking about the despair approach: Things are so bad that there's no hope of them ever getting much better. So we should give up, accept the situation as it is, and let people enjoy whatever pleasure they can find.

Consider instead the optimistic approach: Things have been much better in the past, and there is no reason we can't do it again. People are capable of restraining their sexual impulses. Societies can ensure that most children will be raised by their mothers and fathers.

It isn't a particularly complicated task, but it does require some willpoweróand a desire for our nation and culture to go on living after we are gone.

At its heart, the SSM debate is not about logic, because you can never logically prove that a group of people should want to live. But at least we can be clear about the choices. As long as we are mortal, the long-term future of our culture and nation will depend heavily on the number and quality of the children we produce. So letís produce better children, and letís produce more of them. If we donít, then we will eventually fall to some other nation and culture that is more willing to perpetuate itself.

Choose life or choose death. But be honest about the choice youíre making.

Life is pain and work. Itís waking up in the middle of the night to feed a newborn. Itís picking up a baby and getting vomit all over your shirt. Itís discovering your toddler smearing poop all over himself and the carpet. Itís spending the evening teaching your child math instead of watching TV. Itís being told by your 13-year-old that you know nothing about anything Itís staying up late hoping your 17-year-old will come home when he said he would.

Death is fun and easy. Itís a life free of restraint, devoted to every kind of pleasure: a puff of marijuana, a shot of heroin, fine dining, hard drinking, and sex of whatever quantity and type you want. Have your fun, none of it matters, because in the end weíre all dead anyway.

Life or death. Hope or despair. Those are our choices. No volume of social science data will tell us which we should take. There is no objectively correct answer, because it isnít an intellectual decision. It is an act of will to live, or an absence of that will. Ultimately each American must decide for himself. I suggest that we choose life.

Posted by: Ben Bateman at October 6, 2004 3:50 PM

James Kushiner said something similar to what Ben did, on the "Mere Comments" blog at Touchstone Magazine:

http://www.touchstonemag.com/blogarchive/2004_10_03_editors.html#109710112384826430

Posted by: Mike S. at October 7, 2004 4:00 PM

You are talking about the despair approach:

No, I'm talking about the dignity approach. Right now, legally all those examples I gave, some much worse than others, are treated equally under the law. I personally don't see same-sex marriage as worse than any of that, or as a choice of despair. In fact, if I had a choice we would repeal no-fault divorce, etc, and still have gay marriage because I believe that homosexuals can have the same meaningful relationships and adopt children who would otherwise be abandoned. I cannot have children myself but I have the opportunity to love and care for a child who wouldn't get that from his current life. I see nothing but honor and dignity in that choice, more dignity and honor than in Elizabeth Taylor's five marriages.

If the anti-marriage equality camp wants to trumpet the blessed foundations of marriage and
preserve it, then the FMA should repeal no-fault divorce which is a bigger problem than queers walking down the aisle. If you want to protect marriage, don't blame homosexuals. I consider lack of same-sex marriage in this country a position of despair because for the children, I see it as leagues above any of the other choices that are not his own father and mother. Taking on gay marriage as the root cause and the ONE THING THAT MUST BE STOPPED FIRST is like looking at a crumbling building and making sure the facade isn't cracked before attempting to reinforce the framework.

Posted by: Michael at October 8, 2004 11:05 AM

Michael,
Repealing No-Fault divorce would be wonderful, but allowing same sex marriage in place of it wouldn't be a step in the right direction either. There are plenty of barren heterogamous marriages that can take up any "slack" that might possibly be "covered" by homogamous marriages, so it's not like homogamous marriages are really "needed" to take care of orphans. You shouldn't really expect people to believe that homogamous marriages would adopt any of the orphans (the tweens and the teens) that get passed by as it is.

Also, pointing out all the divorces occuring (a wrong) to justify homogamous marriages (another wrong) is not very convincing. Keep in mind that 2 wrongs don't make a right. Neither is this blaming people who engage in homogamous relationships for the state of marriage today. Plus your analogous attempt to equate homogamous relationships with the facade of a building that is crumbling is understating the effect of those relationships. They are equivalent to the cracks in the framework.

Posted by: smmtheory at October 8, 2004 1:50 PM

Michael,

I've long said that the same-sex marriage advocates would really have a shot at getting full marriage rights if they bundled their cause with the repeal of no-fault divorce. Frankly, not enough people on your side share your opinion to make that possible.

As for your analogy, for it to be applicable, SSM would have had to be possible all along. Most, or at least many, of those who oppose it see doing so as planting their feet against a pushing trend. One must stop a trend to reverse it. And, bringing this back to the first paragraph, those who support SSM doing generally give the impression that they're interesting in turning around and helping once they've passed the barriers.

Posted by: Justin Katz at October 8, 2004 4:46 PM

Michael:

You are probably correct that no-fault divorce (in fact, divorce at all, really) is a bigger problem for marriage than SSM. But that does not mean SSM is not a problem. To use your analogy, adding another crack to an already fractured building is not going to help anything.

Posted by: c matt at October 8, 2004 6:07 PM