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February 23, 2005

Matters of Consistency

It's a frustrating feeling: I think if I'd used some other word than "consistent," perhaps those who've reacted to my "Whatever Works" post might have addressed the points other than the word. Perhaps the notion of consistency is particularly powerful among supporters of same-sex marriage, or something. (Whether their reaction is an indication of insecurity, I leave to readers to decide; I'm not sure either way.)

Look, if the opposite-sex definition of marriage discriminates on the basis of sex, then there is no discrimination on the basis of orientation. Neither homosexuals nor heterosexuals can marry people of the same sex. The tenuous bridge between the two points from Yale Prof. Jack Balkin that I addressed is evident in his phrasing of the sex discrimination case:

It violates sex equality to tell a man he cannot marry another man when a woman could do so. It violates sex equality to tell a woman she cannot marry another woman when a man could do so.

Perhaps the distinction can be best phrased thus: the sex discrimination case is a matter of "can"; the orientation discrimination case is a matter of "want." If we apply the "can" of sex discrimination to orientation discrimination, we find that there is no legal discrimination. The "cannot" is universal. Gabriel Rosenberg attempts a legal bridge:

Although the prohibition facially discriminates on the basis of sex and does not do so on the basis of sexual orientation, one could argue that while facially neutral it has a disparate impact on the homosexual population. That is one could claim that while both heterosexuals and homosexuals must marry a spouse of the opposite sex, homosexuals have greater difficulty finding such a spouse who will marry them.

It may be the case that a legal regime that has made it a dramatic matter of law to peer into the hearts of men can trace back to discrimination from the outcome of a particular policy. Taking up that argument would require entry into another area of likely disagreement, however. Suffice, for now, to say that I reject disparate impact claims, at least when there isn't other information than the outcome to indicate invidious discrimination, and that I'm skeptical that homosexuals wishing to enter into opposite-sex marriages would have any greater difficulty finding spouses than do heterosexuals. The debate's irrelevant, in this instance, because Rosenberg doesn't even want to "consider whether homosexuals could find opposite sex spouses if they wanted to do so, when [he] believe[s] they should not have to do so."

Consequently, Rosenberg takes another tack that, oddly, winds up requiring him to posit a scenario in which discrimination is desirable so that the two forms of discrimination can be made one and the same in a forced overlap:

The reason there is no inconsistency, though, is more basic. The fact is all sexual orientation discrimination is inherently a matter of sex discrimination because one cannot define sexual orientation without reference to one's sex. Suppose you know a person is attracted to women or in a sexual relationship with a woman. You cannot possibly decide whether to classify that person as homosexual or heterosexual unless you also know whether the person is male or female. [Emphasis his.]

The obvious response to the first part of this quotation is that one can define orientation without reference to a particular person's sex: heterosexuals are attracted to people of the opposite sex, and homosexuals are attracted to people of the same sex. Although I can't come up with a circumstance in which one would know the gender of a person's significant other but not of the person him- or herself, I will venture to suggest that if one cannot classify the person, one cannot discriminate against him or her on the basis of that classification. The only way to discriminate is to know that the person is homosexual — meaning attracted to a person of the opposite sex, whichever that might be.

At best, what Rosenberg has proven is that a policy beginning with the goal of discriminating on the basis of orientation must discriminate on the basis of sex, as well. That is not the direction in which this argument proceeds, however — unless we follow the path of those uncharitable enough to assume bigotry before the first round of debate has even begun.

Once again, and with all due respect to Rosenberg et alia, the objective appears to be to fit argumentation to a predetermined conclusion. That's fine, as far as it goes; consistency is only one consideration in ideology, after all. But it strikes me as odd that people engaged in that approach would be surprised and offended that others find their arguments to lack the aggregate import that would exist were they following reason rather than preference to their conclusions.

Posted by Justin Katz at February 23, 2005 11:34 PM
Marriage & Family
Comments

OK, so opponents of SSM are consistent in that gays and lesbians are free to marry persons of the opposite sex just as heterosexuals are.

But this ignores the fact that gays are lesbians are not allowed to marry the person who serves the same role in their lives as spouses do for heterosexuals. In this sense the marriage laws are discriminatory and inconsistent.

I understand that from a religious point of view, many religions don't recognize SSM. OK, so respecting the First Amendment, no church shall be compelled to perform a ceremony it does not approve of.

But from a governmental or legal standpoint, marriage is a set of legal relationship between two people that assigns certain rights and responsibilities between two people. Some of these rights and responsibilities concern children resulting from the marriage, but there is no requirement that married couples actually produce children. Heterosexual couples who cannot conceive children due to medical reasons are not prohibited from marrying in any way. So the inability of SSMs to produce children without the help of a third party is not a valid reason to prohibit them.

In America, we respect the rights of all to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. In general, the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness should not be impeded except when it interferes with the life, liberty and pursuit of happiness of others.

While opponents of SSM repeatedly claim that "marriage will be destroyed" by SSM, no one has explained exactly how heterosexual marriages would be destroyed, or how heterosexual couples who want to create the healthiest possible family environment in which to raise their children would be prevented from doing so.

Posted by: Dan Carvin at February 24, 2005 12:19 PM

But it strikes me as odd that people engaged in that approach would be surprised and offended that others find their arguments to lack the aggregate import that would exist were they following reason rather than preference to their conclusions.

Wow. I mean, wow. Hold on, I need a minute.

Wow. So any line of argumentation that comes down on the side of SSM is following a preference to a predetermined conclusions but any line of argumentation that comes down against SSM is following reason? I don't understand how you can't see the prejudice in that sentiment.

It is even more apparent in your discussion of "can" and "want". While arguing from analogies is never a good idea, I'm going to attempt to illustrate why your sentiments are prejudice and why "reason" can lead you to conclude what Rosenberg et al have come to:

Suppose the state, in an attempt to protect marriage, realized that marriages were significantly more stable if people married within their profession, and thus the state found a compelling interest to ban inter-professional marriages. Everyone is treated equally; they can marry anybody they want from their own profession. There is no physical discrimination because men, women, blacks, whites are all treated the same. The "cannot" here is universal. But what about the "want"? Let's say you want to marry a nurse but cannot because you are a writer. And she, likewise, cannot marry you. You can either choose to marry someone else, someone you want to marry significantly less, or you can change your relgion. There's no discrimination because every profession is treated the same and the government is not telling you cannot get married because you are a writer, only that you can only marry another writer.

Now, to take it even further, let's say the country has lot's of nurses and there are no other writers, or very few. So few in fact, that it would be virtually impossible for you to find a writer wife. But in the eyes of the nursing majority, it doesn't really matter because you can just change your profession. It's easy! Professions aren't fixed; they're a lifestyle choice.

So Justin, in this hypothetical situation, would you stop being a writer, go to nursing school and never pick up a pen again because you want to marry the person you choose? Do you think that you were being unfairly burdened because there are lots of choices available to you but only if you give up your profession? Does reason tell you that you are being discriminated against or is a predetermined conclusion based on the fact that you want to marry a nurse?

Posted by: Michael at February 24, 2005 1:26 PM

Michael -
you're overlooking one very important detail.

Homosexuality is _wrong_. Period, full stop, no caveats.

Any discussion on the subject - e.g., SSM, adoption, etc. - that does not take that as a given will beat against Justin, SMM, et alia, like waves against the rockbound New England coast.

Of course, that coast isn't quite where it was a century ago - thanks to the ocean's patient, perseverant beating.

Posted by: Robert at February 24, 2005 3:38 PM

Robert is right. Societal, legal recognition of a perversion is wrong. Period.

Dan, see Kurtz, Stanley.

One of the significant problems concerning constitutionality is the considerable success the left has had in redefining "discrimination" to be synomous with "unjust discrimination". (Sort of like, in an innocuous fashion, "quality" was redefined somehow to be synonymous with "high quality".)

Posted by: ELC at February 24, 2005 4:24 PM

ELC -
in the interests of full disclosure,
Robert does not actually believe that.
I was attempting to clarify to Michael
the depth, breadth, width and density
of what he was up against.

As for Kurtz, Stanley, I take what he
has to say on the subject as seriously
as you take what Sullivan, Andrew, has
to say.

Posted by: Robert at February 24, 2005 4:48 PM

Justin:

That is not the direction in which this argument proceeds, however — unless we follow the path of those uncharitable enough to assume bigotry before the first round of debate has even begun.

Robert:
Homosexuality is _wrong_. Period, full stop, no caveats.

Me:
The defense rests.

ELC:
Dan, see Kurtz, Stanley.

ELC, I don't believe you were involved in the conversation I'm about to reference, but I have an observation I'd like to make: Why do some people take a few weakly (if at all) correalated pieces of data and insist that we make social policy based on their 'obvious' veracity and yet some of these same people coarsely dismiss the 150 years of well-hypothesized, well-defined and well-tested data on evolution and insist that there's still not enough evidence as to accept it as the truth? Is that reason? Or "preference [for] their conclusions"?

Posted by: Michael at February 24, 2005 4:54 PM

I was attempting to clarify to Michael
the depth, breadth, width and density
of what he was up against.

I perhaps have wasted too much time and energy in this endeavor. Homosexuality as deviant behavior is always the elephant in the room when it comes to these discussions. I really, truly, wish it would just be said in every debate with full disclosure. I have yet to find a single opponent of SSM who is so solely on procreational or traditional grounds. Every single one finds homosexuality immoral to some degree, or at least icky.

Posted by: Michael at February 24, 2005 5:02 PM
I have yet to find a single opponent of SSM who is so solely on procreational or traditional grounds. Every single one finds homosexuality immoral to some degree, or at least icky.

Then you aren't looking hard enough. I've heard from homosexuals (at least one of whom you'd probably recognize) who are against SSM for generally the same reasons that I express. Understandably, although disappointingly, they are extremely cautious about coming out with their opinions.

Perhaps I'm not looking hard enough, but I can't recall ever coming across somebody who finds homosexuality moral or icky who supports SSM.

Posted by: Justin Katz at February 24, 2005 5:31 PM

Then you aren't looking hard enough. I've heard from homosexuals (at least one of whom you'd probably recognize) who are against SSM for generally the same reasons that I express.

David Morrison? Other celebate homosexuals? I hardly think any of them count as someone who doesn't find homosexuality immoral. And I may have been exagerrating when I said I couldn't find anyone. I'm sure there are a handful. Most homosexuals who oppose SSM do not do so for the same reasons that you do; they do so because they're radical leftists who want to see marriage disappear completely.

Posted by: Michael at February 24, 2005 5:46 PM

Okay. Let me clarify: homosexuals who do not share my moral views, but who agree with the "procreational or traditional grounds."

Posted by: Justin Katz at February 24, 2005 5:49 PM

I just read some Stanley Kurtz and what I got in so many words was essentially:

Scandinavia has SSM.

Marriage is in decline in Scandinavia.

Therefore, the decline of marriage is caused in part by SSM.

I'm no expert on Scandinavian culture, but based on this logic, I could add:

Scandinavia has long, cold winters.

Therefore, long cold winters contribute to SSM and the decline of marriage.

Marriage may very well be in decline in Scandinavia. Kurtz may be correct that co-habitation and out-of-wedlock parenting are increasingly acceptable in Scandinavian nations, but he never establishes a casual relationship (at least in the essays I've read). Simply repeating over and over "Gay marriages cause the decline of marriage in Scandinavia" doesn't make it true.

There are other factors to look at:

What is the history of marriage in Scandinavia? Some conservatives seem to assume that prior to 1968, sex outside marriage was always strongly frowned upon and consequently rare. When you look at history, this was not always true, even in the United States, not to mention the rest of the world.

Does Scandinavian culture promote marriage like American culture does? Thumb through one of those inch-thick bride magazines at the supermarket sometime. Marriage won't disappear in the United States anytime soon. The brides who buy those magazines and support those advertisers aren't likely to change their minds because "Adam and Steve" bought the magazine too.

Do marriages in Scandinavian countries have the same tax and legal advantages as marriages in the states? Do couples have the same legal and financial incentives to get married?

What percentage of children are living with their mothers and fathers? Stats for out-of-wedlock births may be misleading if many parents live together while raising children but don't get legally married. A stable and supportive family environment with a mother and father is more relevant to the well-being of children than the legal status of the parents.

BTW, I do find the idea of homosexual sex somewhat icky, but not immoral. I also find lutefisk to be icky, but not immoral. I would not prohibit people to get married because they like to eat lutefisk.

Posted by: Dan Carvin at February 24, 2005 7:13 PM

ELC,
I also don't believe you were involved in the conversation Michael made reference to, but I have an observation I'd like to make... why is it that some of those who get so defensive and critical of people who question the veracity of "150 years of well-hypothesized, well-defined and well-tested data on evolution" turn around and question the veracity of a couple of thousand years of well-hypothesized, well-defined and well-tested data on marriage?

Posted by: smmtheory at February 24, 2005 11:32 PM

And BTW Dan,
I do not find the idea of homogamous sex any more icky than the idea of extra-marital sex. That is why both are so tempting as behaviors in which to engage. But by the same token, I realize that both are wrong and not conducive to a healthy society.

Posted by: smmtheory at February 24, 2005 11:45 PM

Hey Gabriel,
Are you still checking in over here? In re:

I believe either way the decision is one that it is extremely important to the individual and forms part of their identity, much like religion. I base this view on (1) conversations with gays and lesbians and (2) extrapolating from my own situation with my wife. I hope this answers your questions.

Since you conceded that gay practitioners are not in fact excluded from the group of their corresponding gender in relation to the available choices of marriage partners being no more restrictive than on the non gay practitioners, that sort of answers the leading question of what excludes gay practitioners from being in the group some of them claim to be excluded from. (Hint: you won't win a friend in Michael with that concession.) I have at least agreed that practicing homogamous relationships is more closely analogous to being a religion. Of course, an atheist gay practitioner would take offense at that, as might one who is a self professed Catholic. If we can - for the moment at least - say that we stand on common albeit shaky ground, allow me to state that I for one cannot see what obligates the government to recognize any marriage on the basis of religion.

Do you see otherwise?

Posted by: smmtheory at February 25, 2005 12:49 AM

>> Simply repeating over and over "Gay marriages cause the decline of marriage in Scandinavia" doesn't make it true.

It does not make the SSM argument true, repeatedly misrepresenting what S. Kurtz has said. But assuming you've no reason to misrepresent him deliberately, perhaps you would clarify how S. Kurtz has said what you believe he said.

Also, you may be applying an unreasonable standard. Do you have a statistical example of what you'd consider to be an undisputed establishment of a casual relationship in some other area of family formation or dissolution?

>> What is the history of marriage in Scandinavia?

Marriage is declining. Cohabitation and nonmarital births are on the rise. Family dissolution has become much more prevalent. This is well-documented.

>> Does Scandinavian culture promote marriage like American culture does? Thumb through one of those inch-thick bride magazines at the supermarket sometime.

I don't think that Bridal magazines promote marriage in America or in Scandinavia. The very notion is a trivialization of the marriage idea.

>> Marriage won't disappear in the United States anytime soon.

That is the plan -- there are some signs that the decline of marriage has at least stalled for now. But marriage is disappearing in Scandinavia. And that trend has been given a boost in the past decade or so.

>> Do marriages in Scandinavian countries have the same tax and legal advantages as marriages in the states? Do couples have the same legal and financial incentives to get married?

This looks like a questionable premise that the purpose of tax policy and legal incidents is to motivate couples to marry.

>> Stats for out-of-wedlock births may be misleading if many parents live together while raising children but don't get legally married.

Increased substitution of cohabitation for marriage -- even with the arrival of children -- is a pretty good sign of the decline of marriage as a social institution.

>> A stable and supportive family environment with a mother and father is more relevant to the well-being of children than the legal status of the parents.

The instability of cohabitation has been well-documented. Cohabitating couples -- with or without children -- face a much higher risk of busting-up than do married couples. The legal status is probably not as influential as the marriage idea itself.

On the other hand, your assertions would suggest that the enactment of SSM would not make living together any more stable and supportive for same-sex couples, and guarding the man-woman criterion of marriage would not destabilize such couples. So I'm not sure where you're going with those assertions.

Posted by: Chairm at February 25, 2005 3:23 AM

Chairm:

>>It does not make the SSM argument true, repeatedly misrepresenting what S. Kurtz has said. But assuming you've no reason to misrepresent him deliberately, perhaps you would clarify how S. Kurtz has said what you believe he said.
Here is an excerpt of what Kurtz wrote at http://www.nationalreview.com/kurtz/kurtz200402050842.asp

THE ROOT CAUSE
I believe I have established that marriage in Scandinavia is dying. No one has disputed this. Instead it is objected that gay marriage is not a cause of this demise, but only an effect. I would like someone to explain how gay marriage could be only an effect of the decline of marriage, without also being a reinforcing cause. How can a change that becomes imaginable only after marriage has been separated from parenthood fail to lock in and reinforce that very separation?

He does not claim that SSM is the sole cause of the decline of marriage in Scandinavia, but he does claim it to be a “re-enforcing cause” factor.
>>Also, you may be applying an unreasonable standard. Do you have a statistical example of what you'd consider to be an undisputed establishment of a casual relationship in some other area of family formation or dissolution?
Certainly. You could show through statistics that the presence of a drug or alcohol problems, or extra-marital affairs often cause divorces. There are lots of divorced people who will tell you that’s why they divorced. Can you find Scandinavians who say “Our country legalized gay marriage, so we got divorced?”
>> I don't think that Bridal magazines promote marriage in America or in Scandinavia. The very notion is a trivialization of the marriage idea.
Then what do you think that bridal magazines do, other than promote lavish weddings, and young’s women’s fantasies of lavish fairy-tale weddings?
>>This looks like a questionable premise that the purpose of tax policy and legal incidents is to motivate couples to marry.
Tax and legal incidents are not the only reason most people marry, but they are a contributing factor for some. Otherwise, many people would do the church ceremony only and spend the $50 on their honeymoon instead of a marriage license.
>>The instability of cohabitation has been well-documented. Cohabitating couples -- with or without children -- face a much higher risk of busting-up than do married couples. The legal status is probably not as influential as the marriage idea itself.
I agree that getting married reflects a greater intention and effort to make a relationship permanent. But statistics don’t apply to individual cases, which means that some unmarried couples create great homes in which to raise children.
>>On the other hand, your assertions would suggest that the enactment of SSM would not make living together any more stable and supportive for same-sex couples, and guarding the man-woman criterion of marriage would not destabilize such couples. So I'm not sure where you're going with those assertions.
Here’s the point of my assertions:

In order for SSM to cause or accelerate the decline of heterosexual marriage and harm children, it must do one of both of the following:

1) Cause heterosexual married couples with children to get divorced.
2) Cause heterosexual couples who love each other and desire to start a family to choose not get married or start a family.

Neither Kurtz nor anyone else I’ve read has ever explained how SSM would alter the behavior of heterosexual couples.

Posted by: Dan Carvin at February 25, 2005 11:58 AM

SMMTheory:

>>And BTW Dan,
I do not find the idea of homogamous sex any more icky than the idea of extra-marital sex. That is why both are so tempting as behaviors in which to engage. But by the same token, I realize that both are wrong and not conducive to a healthy society.

What makes homosexuality wrong other than the fact that some religions say so?

Should the role of governemnt in a free society be to prohibit all activities that are not "conducive to a healthy society?"

Posted by: Dan Carvin at February 25, 2005 12:03 PM

that sort of answers the leading question of what excludes gay practitioners from being in the group some of them claim to be excluded from. (Hint: you won't win a friend in Michael with that concession.)

Gabriel Rosenberg will get my support no matter what concessions he makes, as long as he continues to argue intelligibly in favor of SSM. And incidentally, it's a concession that I make as well. I just don't think it's practical. What is being denied is not the freedom to get married but the freedom to choose to marry, which has been mentioned many times. Dr. Rosenberg has a good post on his site comparing marraige and voting.

But to bring it to a question raised in another comment box here, let's look at pregnancy. While it is generally gender-specific, getting pregnant is a behavior, not a physical trait. Any woman can choose to get pregnant and have a baby. And any woman can choose to be in the work force. Being pregnant can and does impact job performance. Therefore, from a purely economic standpoint, and even from a societal standpoint, it would make sense to not hire women of pregnancy age or to fire them if they become pregnant, especially if the woman works for a small business and her job performance directly impacts the functioning of that business. By getting pregnant, not quitting her job and forcing her employer to pay for maternity leave and personal days due to her pregnancy, she could severly impact not only her employer but her employer's family as well. Pregnant women are a liability.

However... we as a society have decided that the freedom for a woman to choose to have a child, no matter what the negative impact on others, is more important than the freedom of her employer to have the smoothest running business as possible. That is a right that, up until recently, a woman should have always had but wasn't being afforded to her.

Now, the question is, do we have a fundamental right to marry or a fundamental right to choose to marry? On the face, anti-SSM people generally don't see it as a discrimination because every one they would choose to marry, they are allowed to marry; their choices aren't being severely limited. If a gay man wants to marry, he has to make a choice that is considerably more sacrificial to his life and identity than a straight man. Kind of like a pregnant woman being forced to decide if she wants to keep her baby or her career. Sure, she's not being discriminated against because both men and women are held up to the same limitations and nobody is telling her she can't have a child. But we don't make her make that choice, even if society may ultimately benefit in some way from keeping a pregnant woman from working, because the choice involves undue sacrifice based on sex. I want to choose to marry a man but I cannot because I am myself a man. I am, by the government, being forced to make a choice that involves undue sacrifice to me solely because I am a man.

Posted by: Michael at February 25, 2005 12:52 PM

Michael:

>> I want to choose to marry a man but I cannot because I am myself a man. I am, by the government, being forced to make a choice that involves undue sacrifice to me solely because I am a man.

The state does not require a person to marry in the first place. Choosing an alternative outside of marriage is up to the individuals involved. Your choice is not restricted unless you circle back to the notion that marriage should be replaced by something else.

Posted by: Chairm at February 25, 2005 1:14 PM

Dan:

>> Can you find Scandinavians who say “Our country legalized gay marriage, so we got divorced?”

That misrepresents what S. Kurtz has written about.

>> He does not claim that SSM is the sole cause of the decline of marriage in Scandinavia, but he does claim it to be a “re-enforcing cause” factor.

Would you explain how SSM is not a reinforcing cause but only an effect of the decline of marriage? Is it not both? Is it neither?

Can you compare this with the presence of alcohol, for example, and the establishment of a causal relationship with divorce?

>> what do you think that bridal magazines do, other than promote lavish weddings, and young’s women’s fantasies of lavish fairy-tale weddings?

The point is that they do not promote marriage. Lavish weddings and fantasies, maybe, maybe not.

>> Tax and legal incidents are not the only reason most people marry, but they are a contributing factor for some.

Is a contributing factor like a reinforcing cause?

>>statistics don’t apply to individual cases, which means that some unmarried couples create great homes in which to raise children.

This is an odd construction. Do you claim that the increase in unwed parenthood has has been a contributing factor to a *decrease* rather than an *increase* in family dissolution?

When couples choose not to marry, they won't contribute to the divorce statistics, but they are much more likely to contribute to the stats on family dissolution. It is unclear if you are asserting that increased cohabitation is not an indication of the decline in marriage, or just claiming that it does not matter to family stability.

If the latter, then, it would appear that you are unconcerned with the decline in married parenthood -- whether or not SSM is a reinforcing cause.

Your note about individual cases is sentimental but irrelevant in monitoring the overall trends.

>>In order for SSM to cause or accelerate the decline of heterosexual marriage and harm children, it must do one of both of the following: 1) Cause heterosexual married couples with children to get divorced. 2) Cause heterosexual couples who love each other and desire to start a family to choose not get married or start a family.

Another odd construction that sidesteps the relevant question.

You read S. Kurtz and quoted him: "How can a change [i.e. SSM] that becomes imaginable only after marriage has been separated from parenthood fail to lock in and reinforce that very separation?"

He does not claim that this or that married couple with children will divorce should SSM be enacted. He does not say that men and women who want to marry will not marry. He does not say that couples who want to have children *and* marry will do neither.

But he has pointed to SSM as a factor that reinforces the separation of parenthood from marriage. That is measured at least in part by the replacement of married parenthood with unmarried parenthood.

If you believe that unmarried parenthood is not a significant concern for society, then, perhaps you are indifferent to societal recognition of marriage in the first place. State recongition of SSM becomes just a vehicle to elevate homosexuality, is that your bottomline

Posted by: Chairm at February 25, 2005 1:19 PM

Dan asked:
"What makes homosexuality wrong other than the fact that some religions say so?"

Do you mean other than the fact that it deviates from the normal procreative act? Or do you mean other than the fact that it demeans the value of a normative heterogamous union? Or do you mean other than the fact that a male union demeans the value of females in a relationship or that a female union demeans the value of a male in a relationship?

he also asked:
"Should the role of government in a free society be to prohibit all activities that are not 'conducive to a healthy society?'"

As a matter of fact, yes.

Posted by: smmtheory at February 25, 2005 1:22 PM

That last sentence was a question.

Posted by: Chairm at February 25, 2005 1:23 PM

I think I'm starting to get a clearer picture of your argument Micheal. It seems to me that you are saying that should the government restrict its recognition of a valid marriage to that of an heterocouple as oppose to a homocouple it is an invidious discrimination against your right to choose. Unfortunately for your argument, nothing in current law actually prevents choice. If your fundamental argument is about right of choice, you haven't got a leg to stand on.

Posted by: smmtheory at February 25, 2005 3:02 PM

Chairm:
>>Would you explain how SSM is not a reinforcing cause but only an effect of the decline of marriage? Is it not both? Is it neither?

I think it is neither. But Kurtz claims it is without adequately explaining how SSM causes the decline of marriage.

>>Can you compare this with the presence of alcohol, for example, and the establishment of a causal relationship with divorce?

We know that alcohol abuse and marital infidelity are harmful to marriage because we can find lots of people who cite these reasons as the cause of their divorces. Therefore, if SSM is also harmful to marriage we should be able to find Scandinavians who cite SSM as the cause of their divorces.

>>>> Tax and legal incidents are not the only reason most people marry, but they are a contributing factor for some.
>>Is a contributing factor like a reinforcing cause?

I do believe that tax and legal incidents re-enforce marriage in the United States, which is why I asked about these in Scandanavia

>> Do you claim that the increase in unwed parenthood has been a contributing factor to a *decrease* rather than an *increase* in family dissolution?

The fact that a woman is unmarried at the time her child is born does not mean that the child will be raised in a single-parent household. Some parents will marry after the birth. Some may live together without being married. What percentage of Scandinavian children are being raised by both parents? I don’t know, but that is a more relevant question than how many Scandinavian parents are married.

>>When couples choose not to marry, they won't contribute to the divorce statistics, but they are much more likely to contribute to the stats on family dissolution. It is unclear if you are asserting that increased cohabitation is not an indication of the decline in marriage, or just claiming that it does not matter to family stability.

Increased co-habitation is certainly a sign of decline of marriage, but it is unclear if it is a sign of decline of healthy families, since some co-habitating couples raise families.

>>>>In order for SSM to cause or accelerate the decline of heterosexual marriage and harm children, it must do one of both of the following: 1) Cause heterosexual married couples with children to get divorced. 2) Cause heterosexual couples who love each other and desire to start a family to choose not get married or start a family.
>>Another odd construction that sidesteps the relevant question.

That IS the relevant question. If one claims that SSM is bad for heterosexual marriage, then one must show that heterosexuals are getting divorced or not getting married at all due to the existence of SSM. Otherwise, it's just an abstract argument with no application in the real world. To my knowledge no one has shown how SSM has harmed or hindered actual marriages between actual people.

>>But he has pointed to SSM as a factor that reinforces the separation of parenthood from marriage. That is measured at least in part by the replacement of married parenthood with unmarried parenthood.

It may be that in Scandinavia, parenthood is indeed becoming separated from marriage. Why? I don’t know. I’m no expert on Scandinavian culture. I suppose that SSM might increase the separation because if you add SSM to the total of married couples, the percentage of married couples with children goes down. But no one has shown that the existance SSM by itself alters the behavior of heterosexuals.

>>If you believe that unmarried parenthood is not a significant concern for society, then, perhaps you are indifferent to societal recognition of marriage in the first place. State recognition of SSM becomes just a vehicle to elevate homosexuality, is that your bottom line?

I believe that unmarried parenthood is a concern, because I do believe that marriage strengthens family stability. But I don’t believe that the existence of SSM has any relevance to the stability of heterosexual marriages and families. I also see no reason why committed stable relationships among homosexuals deserve any less respect than committed stable relationships among heterosexuals.

Posted by: Dan Carvin at February 25, 2005 3:59 PM

SMMTheory:

>>>>What makes homosexuality wrong other than the fact that some religions say so?"

>>Do you mean other than the fact that it deviates from the normal procreative act?

Do you think that oral sex between married heterosexuals is wrong because it deviates from the normal procreative act?

>> Or do you mean other than the fact that it demeans the value of a normative heterogamous union? Or do you mean other than the fact that a male union demeans the value of females in a relationship or that a female union demeans the value of a male in a relationship?

Exactly how does homosexuality make heterosexual unions and partners less valuable?

The value of a heterosexual couple's marriage is determined by how the two partners conduct themselves with it. What "Adam and Steve" do is is completely irrelevent to the value of a relationship between a man and womam.

>>he also asked:
"Should the role of government in a free society be to prohibit all activities that are not 'conducive to a healthy society?'"

>>As a matter of fact, yes.

Should we re-instate prohibition and also ban tobacco because drinking and smoking are not condusive to a healthy society?

How about banning all movies, TV shows and music that does not promote healthy values?

Posted by: Dan Carvin at February 25, 2005 4:09 PM

The state does not require a person to marry in the first place. Choosing an alternative outside of marriage is up to the individuals involved. Your choice is not restricted unless you circle back to the notion that marriage should be replaced by something else.

And the state doesn't require women to get pregnant. Or to work. But it is a fundamental right for them to be allowed to choose whether or not to get pregnant or to hold a job. The option must be reasonably available to them. If a woman feared losing her job for getting pregnant or having the likelihood of getting pregnant (for example, young, married and childless), then the option of having a job is not reasonably available to her because we consider the choice to have children a fundamental right.

And while the state may not be forcing me to get married, I have the right to choose to get married. The state has a vested interest in providing marriage for reasons in the positive that include mutual stability, procreation, etc., and reasons in the negative which include prohibition of incest and mulitiple spouses. The state, however, does not have the right to prohibit an individual's choice in marriage if that choice doesn't fulfill those positive reasons it regulates marriage. That is why, while procreation is a fundamental reason for marriage, inability to procreate does not exclude one from marriage.

So, like a woman should not be unduly burdened to choose between a career and a child, gays should not be unduly burdened to choose between their homosexuality and marriage.

Now, this isn't to say that society might decide that this burden of choice is just simply something that gays are going to have to deal with. I disagree but at least that's an honest assessment. But a lot of people here (and elsewhere) seem to be arguing that it isn't a burden at all; that the choice between being gay and marrying a member of the opposite sex is like choosing whether or not to move to New York or Los Angeles for your job, ie not that important in the whole scheme of things.

Posted by: Michael at February 25, 2005 4:11 PM

If your fundamental argument is about right of choice, you haven't got a leg to stand on.

It is about the right to a reasonably unburdened choice, as I believe I have detailed. Which is fundamentally different from the right to choose.

Posted by: Michael at February 25, 2005 4:34 PM

But he has pointed to SSM as a factor that reinforces the separation of parenthood from marriage.

But here is where Kurtz fails; he never shows that SSM reinforces the separation of paranthood from marriage. The fact that, at least in this country, a large number of the gay couples suing for marriage equality have children and a significant number of gays who plan on getting married (or civil unioned) either have or intend to have children. As far as I can tell, only in his mind does SSM furhter separate marriage from parenthood. It could just as easily be argued (and it has) that SSM helps reinforce the link between marriage and parenthood. I don't know how you can't see the current policy (of refusing to allow gays to marry and at the same time allowing them access to IVF and adoption or allowing them custody of their own children from natural childbirth) as reinforcing the separation of parenthood and marriage. Allowing gays to marry would STRENGTHEN the link between the two.

Posted by: Michael at February 25, 2005 4:41 PM

"Allowing gays to marry would STRENGTHEN the link between the two."

And you KNOW this?

Again, we keep getting this basic argument in various forms: That for any proposed change to a complex system, no matter how radical and untested throughout history, and even when the complexity of the system is still way beyond our knowledge, the burden of proof should be on the opponents of the change to prove that it is harmful (and to demonstrate in detail exactly how the harm will result), rather than on the proponents to prove that it is not.

Please, SSM proponents, defend this as a general principle. Not by resorting to a one-sided diet of examples of changes that have been beneficial; I can easily give plenty examples of changes which have been for the worse.

I'm going to keep asking this until I get some kind of an answer.

Please note what I am NOT saying---I'm not saying that even radical new ideas can never be tried. I am saying that at the very least, they need to be tested first in a limited segment before being applied across the board. And it would take at least a generation to test SSM. But from the way things have been going, it is obvious that it's going to be implemented across most of the Western world before we have had anywhere near enough time to know its effects.

Posted by: R. K. Becker at February 25, 2005 5:06 PM

And I would argue that SSM opponents need to provide evidence that it would create harm. If the state is going to deny legal rights, it is not up to those seeking those rights to prove they won't create harm. Instead, it is up to the state--which seems to continue denying legal rights--to offer evidence justifying such an exclusion.

SSM opponents keep forgetting this is about legal rights, not just some Catholic or Christian perception of a social structure.

Posted by: Res Ipsa at February 25, 2005 5:10 PM

So, Res, if a manufacturing firm wants to introduce an untried chemical into the entire environment, the burden of proof should be on the opponents of the idea to prove how the chemical is harmful?

Or that if farmers want to spray an untried chemical on their crops because it will kill insects and thus help them economically, the burden of proof should be on those opposed to the use of the chemical to demonstrate exactly what harm it might cause to the environment in general? (Note: the farmers' rights to economic livelihood vs. a healthy environment for all).

Or, on a smaller scale, if an amateur who knows nothing about computers thinks that he knows how to fix yours, the burden of proof is on the skeptical third party to explain to you just how the amateur might harm your computer rather than fix it?

Again, Res, defend the idea that burden of proof should be on the opponents of change as a general principle. You haven't even tried to defend it; you've just restated it and begged the question.

Posted by: R.K. Becker at February 25, 2005 5:27 PM
the state doesn't require women to get pregnant. Or to work. But it is a fundamental right for them to be allowed to choose whether or not to get pregnant or to hold a job.

OK, Michael. You don't have to choose between begin gay and working.

Really, you're raising "choice" to the supreme fundamental right. What couldn't be declared a right if it's all about choice?

Posted by: Justin Katz at February 25, 2005 5:44 PM

Actually, in your environmental cases, it would be up to the state to prove the chemicals were dangerous. As long as I am not using a banned chemical, I can use any chemical I want on my garden until the state tells me otherwise. Thus, it is up to the state to regulate my behavior by proving it is dangerous.

When the state wants to discriminate in the allocation of legal rights, it is the state that has the burden of showing alleged harm to justify the discriminate. There is no burden on the individual wishing to obtain rights, except to show they have been denied the legal right.

This is fairly basic law.

Posted by: Res Ipsa at February 25, 2005 5:57 PM

If the possibley dangerious effects of chemicals to the envirinment is a valid analogy, then inter-racial marriage is certainly valid, as it is much more similar to the subject of the conversation.

Posted by: Dan Carvin at February 25, 2005 5:58 PM

So we don't even have an FDA to test drugs? Hmmm.

Don't fall behind legal arguments here. Regardless of whether it's legal, is it a good idea to hold that absent proof that a new chemical is harmful, it should be introduced into the environment en masse? And neither Res nor Dan have answered the question about the computer. I'm talking about defending this idea logically, as a general principle. Neither Res or Dan has done this yet.

Again, defend as a general principle (not legally) the idea that for any change to a complex system, the burden of proof should be on the opponents rather than the proponents.

Posted by: R.K. Becker at February 25, 2005 6:26 PM

As a general principal, if the state wants to discriminate, it has the burden of proving such discrimination is justified by evidence of some harm.

"if an amateur who knows nothing about computers thinks that he knows how to fix yours, the burden of proof is on the skeptical third party to explain to you just how the amateur might harm your computer rather than fix it?"

The third party--being the state--needs to prove its skepticism. I would completely agree with that.


I know you don't like talking about the law but marriage is THE LAW. We can't ignore legal requirements just because they don't fit into your thinking.

Posted by: Res Ipsa at February 25, 2005 6:30 PM

Becker:

Proponents of SSM DO have the burden of explaining how SSM would be beneficial to society, and they have at length in all the discussion and debate surrounding the issue.

Opponents of SSM object to SSM on the basis that marriage, families and children would be greatly harmed, but have never convincingly explained how the harm to marriages, families and children will occur.

Posted by: Dan Carvin at February 25, 2005 6:35 PM

Michael,

>> That is why, while procreation is a fundamental reason for marriage, inability to procreate does not exclude one from marriage.

Agreed, procreation is at the heart of marriage. It is the reason that the state recognizes the man-woman criterion of the social institution. Primarily, social supports (governmental and others) are meant to influence the behavior of those who'd join with their opposite sex. The marriage idea of bonding men and women with their children does not require that each and every married couple have children.

>> gays should not be unduly burdened to choose between their homosexuality and marriage.

And millions have married their opposite sex for healthy reasons, such as having and raising children with someone they love and cherish.

There are far more such couples than there are same-sex households in the USA. Of the estimated 11.5 million homosexual adults in the population, 97% do not live in households that include children. And a tiny portion of that tiny group have obtained children with means other than their previously procreative marriages with the opposite sex. Meanwhile estimates of 30-50% of homosexual adults who live in same-sex households have been previously married to their opposite sex.

The burden of choice, such as it may be, is not an undue burden on persons whose sexual prediliction is same-sexed. Homosexual adults, as are all adults, are free to live and love together. The man-woman criterion of marriage does not outlaw such arrangements.

There may even be a state interest in recognizing some aspects of such domestic arrangements. Rather than stretch to meet the outer exceptions, I think it makes much more sense for state recognition to conserve and strengthen marriage without abandoning the man-woman criterion that is at the heart of the marriage idea. That idea is needed to channel potentially procreative behavior of man-woman couples.

On the other hand, for unmarriagable pairs, some form of civil union -- distinguishable from marriage and inclusive of other types of caring relationships that are presumed to be nonsexual -- would be a better fit for meeting the actual needs of the relatively few among the adult homosexual population who have an interest in gaining official state recognition of their domestic arrangements.

In this way, I do not see civil union as a stepping stone toward enactment of SSM, nor as a compromise. It clearly would remove the sense of being overly burdened that Michael has described.


Dan,

You appear to be merky about the terminology and bouncing back and forth between the societal to the individual level. It is a sign that our exchange will probably go in circles. Perhaps someone with more patience will walk through the significant differences.

>> I also see no reason why committed stable relationships among homosexuals deserve any less respect than committed stable relationships among heterosexuals.

Whether they deserve respect or not, they are not marriages. The enactment of SSM would replace marriage with something else. This would deny state-recognized marriage to all of society. It would also undermine the marriage idea itself.

You wish to experiment in that way. Fine. Watch the experiment in Scandinavia for a couple of generations. Then your theories of "no-harm" can be reassessed. And confidence levels might be raised one way or another. I would still maintain the principle the marriage is not same-sexed, but if the evidence of no-harm becomes very strong, it would amount to support for the replacement of state recogniton of marriage by some form of state recognition of civil union of some form.

Clearly the stakes are very high and longterm. In my view, the likelihood of signfiicant harm is sufficient reason to not experiment on the well being of my society. The SSM issue is not one of fundamental rights but of social policy -- not least of which is how policy is made.

Posted by: Chairm at February 25, 2005 6:57 PM

Please note what I said previously:

"Please note what I am NOT saying---I'm not saying that even radical new ideas can never be tried. I am saying that at the very least, they need to be tested first in a limited segment before being applied across the board. And it would take at least a generation to test SSM. But from the way things have been going, it is obvious that it's going to be implemented across most of the Western world before we have had anywhere near enough time to know its effects."

Give a logical defense of the belief that for any radical change to a complex system, we should introduce the change without even testing the change.

Res: "As a general principal, if the state wants to discriminate, it has the burden of proving such discrimination is justified by evidence of some harm."

So this makes it different from other changes, in a general sense? Just because a change may end a "discrimination" for some is no guarantee that it won't have negative unintended consequences which outweigh the benefits.

"The third party--being the state--needs to prove its skepticism. I would completely agree with that."

In the computer example, the third party is NOT the state, Res, it's any person who may warn that letting an amateur try to fix your computer is not a good idea. Please tell me why this person should be ignored unless he can PROVE to you how the amateur may harm your computer.

"I know you don't like talking about the law but marriage is THE LAW. We can't ignore legal requirements just because they don't fit into your thinking."

Oh, but YOU can if they don't fit into YOUR thinking---like laws against SSM.

I have no problem talking about the law but you've been using it to evade questions about general practical logic and cause-and-effect, which are at least equally relevant here.

Dan: "Proponents of SSM DO have the burden of explaining how SSM would be beneficial to society, and they have at length in all the discussion and debate surrounding the issue."

To say that they have proven SSM beneficial any more than opponents have proved it harmful is a bit of a stretch. And this is not the same as showing how the concerns of opponents are not warranted, which they have not done. Only one thing---time---will tell, and that is why I think we should watch what happens in the Netherlands over a generation before jumping on the bandwagon everywhere else.


Posted by: R.K. Becker at February 25, 2005 7:09 PM

I should clarify something here. As I said:

"Just because a change may end a 'discrimination' for some is no guarantee that it won't have negative unintended consequences which outweigh the benefits".

Now I can hear it coming: "So you think ending the ban on interracial marriages, and other discrimination against blacks, should not have been enacted without a test?"

In fact, I supported interracial marriage and ending discrimination against blacks from the start.

Here's why. I never felt that ending racial discrimination was a radical, unprecedented change. Because it was qualitatively no different from ending discrimination against Germans or against Irish. Race is really qualitatively no different than ethnicity. And different ethnic groups have mixed, intermarried, and integrated throughout history and in numerous cultures without it leading to disaster. So there was nothing really "radical" about the idea of integrating blacks into American life or about allowing interracial marriage. It was NOT an untried experiment. The only impediment was the idea that blacks were so much more different, or less human, than all those other groups.

When my dad argued with me about this, I just asked him how marriage between blacks and whites was any different in principle than marriage between whites and Asians, or, for that matter, between Swedes and Italians.

By contrast, the idea of same-sex marriage is qualitatively different from any of these, and fits the definition of a radical, untested social experiment in ways that racial integration never did.

Posted by: R.K. Becker at February 25, 2005 9:15 PM

Sorry i missed this thread... it bloomed while i was away...

But the varied and passionate topics being discussed here makes me glad i live in a reprsentative democracy, where such unsettled questions are decided piecemeal, and tested locally, in areas where the citizens are prepared to accept them -- rather than unilaterally implemented by tyrannical fiat.

I trust my neighbors to not make rash and potentially harmful decisions on my behalf. Would that we all trusted each other enough to let all voices be heard in this matter.

But every single time an activist judiciary ignores the will of the people, we just shout a little louder. We WILL be heard, one way or another -- are you listening yet?

Love your neighbor as yourself.

<><

Posted by: Marty at February 25, 2005 9:44 PM

Dan asked:

"Do you think that oral sex between married heterosexuals is wrong because it deviates from the normal procreative act?"

Well, it is certainly deviant, so it most likely is wrong. Shocking that I should say so, huh?

he also asked:

"Exactly how does homosexuality make heterosexual unions and partners less valuable?"

Elevating same sex unions to the same value as heterosexual unions is like the government printing more money because it needs more readily available cash. When the government does something like that, what happens to the cash we already have? But don't take it too badly, pre- and extra-marital unions do the same thing.

he further asked:

"Should we re-instate prohibition and also ban tobacco because drinking and smoking are not conducive to a healthy society?

How about banning all movies, TV shows and music that does not promote healthy values?"

Surely you don't believe that somebody's right to smoke trumps the rights of asthmatics that have an attack triggered by smoke. That's just not right. All over the nation the government is prohibiting smoking in public places because it creates a hostile environment to health and to a healthy society.

Surely you don't believe that somebody's right to drink alcohol trumps somebody elses right not to get struck and killed by a drunk driver. That's just not right. All over the nation the government is cracking down on DWI and DUI because they create a hostile environment to health and a healthy society.

I don't know why you are even asking a question about re-instating prohibition like this. It would be analogous to banning all marriage because same sex marriage is not good for society.

As for banning music, movies, and television, et cetera for not promoting healthy values... there is a difference between creating a hostile environment (not being conducive to a healthy society) and doing nothing to promote healthy values (not being conducive to a healthy society). I suppose it is entirely possible that this may come as a shock to you, but there are some types of speech that the government prohibits because it is harmful and creates a hostile environment to a healthy society. I don't know about you, but I definitely believe that free speech and the free exchange of ideas is conducive to a healthy society, whether or not any individual movie does or does not promote a healthy value.

Living in a free society does not abrogate responsibility to that society though.

Posted by: smmtheory at February 26, 2005 12:00 AM

Michael posted:

"Gabriel Rosenberg will get my support no matter what concessions he makes, as long as he continues to argue intelligibly in favor of SSM. And incidentally, it's a concession that I make as well. I just don't think it's practical."

I can guess as to why you think it is not practical, but if it is a concession that you make as well, why do you continue to argue that your choice is unreasonably burdened?

Posted by: smmtheory at February 26, 2005 12:41 AM

I can guess as to why you think it is not practical, but if it is a concession that you make as well, why do you continue to argue that your choice is unreasonably burdened?

Because while gays are technically not excluded from being in the marrying population, they are unreasonably burdened in deciding whether or not to get married.

And millions have married their opposite sex for healthy reasons, such as having and raising children with someone they love and cherish.

There are far more such couples than there are same-sex households in the USA.

Really, Chairm? You think all those gays married to members of the opposite sex did it for healthy reasons? You don't think a good portion of them were ulitmately unhappy in those relationships?

And as for the relatively low numbers of same-sex households, you are forgetting that sodomy was just decriminilized fully last year. Last year. You don't think that that has anything to do with the relative hesitence for gays to get into relationships that they would prefer And how many of those gays in "healthy" opposite sex relationships are f*cking around on the side like McGreevey because their relationship is ultimately unfulfilling?

Posted by: Michael at February 26, 2005 3:05 PM

Michael,
That doesn't make sense. Why concede the point that they are not excluded because of their choice being unreasonably burdened if you continue to argue the point? Either you have the same rights as everybody else, or you don't. If you don't believe that you do have the same rights as everybody else, then why concede the point that you do if you don't believe that everybody else is unreasonably burdened as well?

Posted by: smmtheory at February 26, 2005 3:28 PM

>> And as for the relatively low numbers of same-sex households, you are forgetting that sodomy was just decriminilized fully last year.

Yes, fully. However, there have been openly homosexual communities in our country and elsewhere in which same-sex households have been free to form without interference.

Unsurprisingly, about 97% of homosexual adults do not live with children -- even in long-established gay-friendly urban areas.

The advocates of SSM promote a form of monogamous two-person bonding that is little practiced in the homosexual population. About 11% of homosexual adults live in same-sex households (and fewer commit to sexually monogamous conformity). The concept of monogamy is scorned by opinion leaders in the gay community. SSM advocates would abandon the man-woman criterion of marriage and hold-up as normative the exceptions in the homosexual population.

Yet, as Michael hints, 'mixed orientation' marriages (subject to the normative ideal of marital monogamy) are automatically suspected of being inappropriate two-person bonds prone to extramarital affairs and unhappiness.

Should SSM be enacted, and the newly espoused norm be given the imprimatur of the state, the goal of channeling unisexed sexual behavior toward state-recognized same-sex unions could lead to fewer and fewer homosexual adults in procreative marriages with their opposte sex. That may or may not be considered a good ooutcome, however, since about 95% of children living in same-sex households were obtained through their previously procreative relationships (primarily marriages) with the opposite sex, the prevalence of children in same-sex households would markedly diminish as a result.

It is doubtful that more time for further social experimentation will do the opposite and increase the prevalence of children living in same-sex households.

Finding ways to encourage parents to remain active in the lives of their children would do more to honor the marriage idea across society than the enactment of SSM which would lock-in the separation of marriage and procreation.

Posted by: Chairm at February 27, 2005 5:12 PM

>> You think all those gays married to members of the opposite sex did it for healthy reasons? You don't think a good portion of them were ulitmately unhappy in those relationships?

The man-woman criterion of marriage does not force a homosexual adult to marry, let alone to marry unwisely. It does not force him or her to do anything he or she would not choose to do. Including extramarital affairs.

There is not enough known about this segment of the population to declare such marriages as universally unhappy experiences (not that Michael has said they are). Most of what little is known has been drawn from the experiences of divorcees which naturally means a reported bias toward unhappy marriages.

We do know that a "good portion" of all kinds of marriages in general go through unhappy times and that while some become stronger others dissolve. These 'mixed orientation' marriages are unexceptional in that sense. They are exceptional only in the one aspect that Michael deems as nonessential to marriage. The man-woman criterion despite some degree of same-sex attraction.

This may be stating the obvious, but one's preference of sexual partner is not the same as a man's choice of wife or a woman's choice of husband. Traditional sexual moores hold out the hope that one's preferred sexual partner ought to be one's mate for life, but that is the challenge and the power of the man-woman criterion of marriage.

The inevitable presence of extramarital temptations is a factor in all marriages -- yes, even apparently happy marriages. I find it hard to fault the readiness to marry for the purpose of producing shared offspring with someone cherished. I do find it exemplary to do so while remaining sexually monogamous.

But is there a state interest in extramarital sexual relations that feature unisexed partners? If a man has extramarital sex with another man, neither of them run the risk of becoming pregnant. Likewise with extramarital affairs between women.

But, yes, the presence of 'mixed orientation' marriages -- in their millions -- does indicate that the marriage idea has socializing power. It is drawn from the connection with procreation. the enactment of SSM would be no mere tinkering with a legal definition.

There does not appear to be a similarly powerful norm within the homosexual community where same-sex households remain on the margins. If there was, it would point to something that may share some aspects with marriage, but it would not be marriage.

Posted by: Chairm at February 27, 2005 5:17 PM

Typo in the first of my comments this afternoon:

"since about 95% of children living in same-sex households were obtained through their parents' previously procreative relationships"

Posted by: Chairm at February 27, 2005 5:22 PM

And the standard disclaimer that should go unstated but will be stated anyway: I do not advocate that homosexual adults be coerced into relationships with their opposite sex. I do not advocate that any person be coerced into marriage.

Posted by: Chairmq at February 27, 2005 5:28 PM

Ultimately, Chairm, the question is would you want your hypothetical daughter to enter into a loveless, sham marriage with a gay man? Would you want any potential grandchildren raised in a home where mom and dad married and produced children not because they loved each other or were even sexually attracted to each other, but because society mandated it?

While you will be able to tell your grandchildren that their parents made a commitment that deserves respect, what will you tell them about the lack of affection mom and dad have for each other, why they seem so unhappy, and don't adults deserve to be with people who love each other and are both romantically and physcially drawn to each other?

Posted by: Res Ipsa at February 28, 2005 3:02 PM

Res,

I think you belittle the love and respect of marriage by reducing it to sexual attraction, in part because you persist with the formulation that Chairm has explicitly rejected:

There is not enough known about this segment of the population to declare such marriages as universally unhappy experiences (not that Michael has said they are). Most of what little is known has been drawn from the experiences of divorcees which naturally means a reported bias toward unhappy marriages.

Although, I suspect that you would cease to count anybody with same-sex attraction in a happy marriage on the grounds that they couldn't really be homosexual. This may be a fundamental disagreement.

I find it difficult to imagine the circumstances under which a hypothetical son-in-law, or anybody involved, would see the marriage as a "sham" if it continues in the mission to raise its children. Nonetheless, I don't see it as an entirely negative thing to have to accept that the father of one's grandchildren so loved them that he chose a potentially less sexually gratifying lifestyle in order to give them life.

Posted by: Justin Katz at February 28, 2005 3:15 PM

So Justin, are you prepared to enter into a loveless marriage with a lesbian who is not attracted to you romantically or physically?

While I believe arranged marriages can work and I can even accept that there are mixed-orientation marriages that can work, they are not a realistic alternative for gays or straights. I personally can't imagine a more miserable alternative for gays or straight then being relegated to a marriage where my partner has no erotic or romantic desire for me and only agreed to marry me because soceity forbid me to marry the person I truly loved.

Imagine 25 years of living with someone who you know isn't attracted to you, would rather be with someone else, and married you only out of guilt or obligation. Imagine what your life would be like married to that lesbian who recoiled everytime you touched her and had sex with you only out of an obligation to have a child. Imagine what lessons your children will learn when they realize mom and dad are not intimate and have no romantic interest in each other.

Before you say, "But we don't know what those relationships are like," imagine an alternate universe where you, as a straight man, are expected to enter into a homosexual marriage out of a social obligation. What will your life be like living with someone to whom you have no sexual attraction.

Posted by: Res Ipsa at February 28, 2005 3:44 PM

I also think you have a misguided understanding of orientation. Just as you, presumably, are attracted to women not just sexually but also emotionally, spiritually, and romantically, the same happens for gays and lesbians. Being "homosexual" is not just about sexual attraction, but whom one is drawn to on a deeper, emotional level as well. Just as you are drawn to have romantic relationships with women beyond just sexual attraction, gays are drawn to romantic relationships with people of the same sex, notwithstanding sexual attraction.

Thus, to force people into marriages with people whom they are not physically or emotionally or romantically drawn seems, quite frankly, cruel and no power of marriage will change that fact.

Posted by: Res Ispa at February 28, 2005 3:50 PM

I think you belittle the love and respect of marriage by reducing it to sexual attraction, in part because you persist with the formulation that Chairm has explicitly rejected

But Justin, I think you pervert the marriage bond by explicitly de-emphasizing the importance of sexual attraction for forming spousal intimacy. If Chairm's claims can be correct, why can't Res's and mine, namely that these marriages were only entered into because tradition dictated that that was what should be done. Contrary to what Chairm would like to think about the popular acceptance of homosexuality, society still (let alone twenty years ago) keeps many gays unhealthily closeted, even ones who live in relatively progressive communities. All these stats do nothing to tell us why these gay men and women entered into a sexually unsatisfying relationship in the first place.

I think it's very easy for you to claim that these marriages can be filled with love and respect. That love and respect has to be earned at great personal sacrifice, akin to arranged marriages of the past, whereas most people, yourself included, understand sexual attraction to be so inherent in the formation of a spousal relationship that it doesn't even register on your radar as something important. And that is because you've never had the government or society disapprove of your marriage. Just as marriage is more than sexual attraction, so is homosexuality.

Posted by: Michael at February 28, 2005 3:52 PM

I'm sorry, Res, but you're arguing as if from the context of a bad noire romance novel. Who is obligated to marry anybody? That's not at issue, here. Extra encouragement to enter into and stick with monogamous heterosexual marriages is not an obligation to do so (no more than tax breaks are an obligation to give to charity).

You're imagining a scenario in which you've got a particular gay lover whom you truly love, but whom you must leave behind, being forced by law to marry a woman. For all its vividness about recoiling spouses, your comment isn't based in reality.

Posted by: Justin Katz at February 28, 2005 3:55 PM

If the state cuts me off from the legal right to enter into a marriage and says the only way I can have children who are protected by legal rights is to marry a woman, than I am forced to marry a woman and therefore have been forced into an obligation.

Posted by: Res Ipsa at February 28, 2005 4:07 PM

I don't think it's the state that's dictating that the only way you can have children is with a woman.

Posted by: Justin Katz at February 28, 2005 4:11 PM

It's the state which is saying that if I want to raise children that are protected by the legal rights of marriage, I have to marry a woman.

Posted by: Res Ipsa at February 28, 2005 4:17 PM

Res Ispa, to quote my previous comment:

>> The man-woman criterion of marriage does not force a homosexual adult to marry, let alone to marry unwisely. It does not force him or her to do anything he or she would not choose to do. Including extramarital affairs.

What is the core of the SSM definition?

I may be mistaken, but I doubt that you would say that enactment of SSM would force a homosexual adult to make an unwise commitment or to do anything that he or she would choose not to do. Including extramarital sexual relations.

If you base the commitment of any couple on romance and sexual attraction, then, you place their happiness on a very thin reed. I think we can all agree on that much.


>> Michael: All these stats do nothing to tell us why these gay men and women entered into a sexually unsatisfying relationship in the first place.

You assume too much, but I can respect that we look through different lenses.

However, we might agree that the newly articulated idea of SSM is far from universally embraced within the homosexual community. It does not possess the social power and the high status displayed by the marriage idea within the general population where the vast majority of adults marry and have children.[Decreasingly so on both counts, but that's another related concern.]

While it is clear that SSM advocates hope to tap into the normative marriage idea, it is doubtful that the vast majority of homosexual adults will ever conform to the two-person domestic ideal that SSM advocates espouse as an arrangement that would resemble marriage in some aspects.

Rather than stretch to the outer margins, to replace marriage with something designed to fit a few exceptions, society has a greater concern in strengthening the battered social institution of marriage. In our society, this means conserving the man-woman criterion of state recognition.

It seems to me that the energy exerted in pursuing SSM might be better spent in exploring alternatives for unmarriagable combinations without the presumption of sexual relations.

Posted by: Chairm at February 28, 2005 4:46 PM

"It seems to me that the energy exerted in pursuing SSM might be better spent in exploring alternatives for unmarriagable combinations without the presumption of sexual relations."

I don't know what this means? Are you proposing advocating for more sham marriages between mixed-orientation couples?

"While it is clear that SSM advocates hope to tap into the normative marriage idea, it is doubtful that the vast majority of homosexual adults will ever conform to the two-person domestic ideal that SSM advocates espouse as an arrangement that would resemble marriage in some aspects."

What basis do you have for this? That some voices in the gay community discuss non-monogamy?

Posted by: Res Ispa at February 28, 2005 5:15 PM

RI: Just as you, presumably, are attracted to women not just sexually but also emotionally, spiritually, and romantically, the same happens for gays and lesbians.

This may be close to the crux of the matter. You are saying that not only are you emotionally spiritually and sexually attracted to members of the same sex, you are also saying that it is impossible for you to have an emotional, spiritual, and sexual relationship with a member of the opposite sex.

And that, my friend, is complete BS. If you are incapable of an emotional and spiritual relationship with your sexual opposite, then your love bone is broken -- seek therapy immediately.

Likewise, if your sexual needs interfere with your ability to connect emotionally and spiritually with anyone -- of either sex -- seek therapy immediately.

There is a hierachy to these relationship themes, and sexuality is at the bottom of the ladder. Except in our current culture, where it comes before anything and everything else.

Posted by: Marty at February 28, 2005 7:21 PM

Marty -
I am incapable of experiencing feelings of romantic love for my 'sexual opposite'; this
is (IMNSHO) exactly equivalent to my elder
brother's incapability to experience feelings
of romantic love for another man. He does
feel deep romantic love for his wife; I, for
my part, feel deep romantic love for my husband.

Who you fall in love with is the issue here, not who you rut with. I've known quite a few men and women who are capable of falling in love with people of either biological gender; the technical term is bisexual. I know they exist, because I'm married to one. I happen not to be one myself.

Who I connect with 'spiritually and emotionally' has a lot more to do with who they are as human beings (character, personality, shared interests, etc) than any sexual component. I'm not sure of your inference here, and will refrain from criticizing what I'm unsure of; but that kind of human connection is different in both kind and degree than the romantic, spiritual, emotional, intellectual and, yes, physical bond that I think of as 'romantic love' - the kind that results in decades of marital union.

What exactly is 'BS' about this?

Posted by: Robert at February 28, 2005 7:32 PM

>> Res Ispa: "Are you proposing advocating for more sham marriages between mixed-orientation couples?"

I don't advocate fraudulent marriages, at all.

--

What is the SSM definition, in your view? And how widely is it practiced by homosexual men and women, in your assessment? What would it take, do you think, to make the idea of SSM a normative ideal for the vast majority of homosexual men and women?

Posted by: Chairm at February 28, 2005 8:02 PM

Robert, the BS is that (and i know i'm either putting words in yours, michaels, or res ipsa's mouth there) you are somehow "incapable" of a spiritually and emotionally (which is more than enough to justify a physically) meaningful connection with someone of the opposite sex.

As someone who considers himself VERY openminded (yeah, you wouldn't be the first to accuse me of being a closet bisexual in this debate -- but that's only the first chapter of my large life, LOL), i find that position to be just as small and heterophobic as i would consider the opposite to be small and homophobic.

For those who would say "I can't" i would have to respond "Not with that attitude you can't."

Small minded phobias of interpersonal relationships (liberally sprinkled with post-modern sexual tension) are not the sole domain of right-wing bigots...

Posted by: Marty at February 28, 2005 10:52 PM

I think Res Ipsa, Micheal, Robert and bunch have forgotten that there is a romantic element to all friendships, at least in the fullest sense of the romantic. I can't think of a one of my best friends that I didn't have a strong attraction to. That is undoubtedly why we became best friends no matter which gender they happened to be. What gets to be a problem is when people forget that love is not about sex or physical attraction or feelings. So it cannot be said that a marriage is loveless if the couple no longer or never had a physical attraction to each other. The commitment and the promise of continual commitment is what infuses love into a relationship. So when I see somebody say they "can't&qout; love somebody of the opposite gender it amuses me. If they have a friend of the opposite gender, they are already putting the lie to the words, so to speak.

Posted by: smmtheory at March 1, 2005 12:25 AM

I think Res Ipsa, Micheal, Robert and bunch have forgotten that there is a romantic element to all friendships, at least in the fullest sense of the romantic.

No, I think that Justin, Marty, Chairm and bunch have forgotten that there is a sexual element to romantic love. Sure I've had strong attractions to very close friends, one of the closest a woman. But I'm not sexually attracted to her. Could I spend the rest of my life with her and raise children with her? Probably. Would I end up going blind masturbating or go out to the bathhouses every other night when the sexual pressure got to bad? Probably.

What some people seem to be forgetting (and I'm going to beat this like a dead horse) is that, in order to experience the fullness of married life (and by fullness I mean everything from raising children right down to my boss inviting me and my spouse out to play golf with him and his wife) gays have to sacrifice their sexual urges. This is easy for you to say on paper, but I want you to seriously think about courting a member of the opposite sex and her telling you that you can get married but you can never have sex, expect for a few times when she's ovulating and she can guarantee you won't enjoy it.

It's fine to say that sexual urges are at the bottom of the laundry list of things that make up romantic love, and I agree but only to the extent that those urges are so wholely satisfied for the most part that you *can* put that at the bottom of the list. I seriously want you all to tell me that you could go home tonight, tell your wives that you are from this day forward going to live a completely celebate life. See how well that goes over, for both parties.

Posted by: Michael at March 1, 2005 10:47 AM

While I agree with Marty and SSM that there is a romantic component to friendships, I would ask them whether they would want to live in a lifelong, intimate mongamous relationship with one of their male friends.

Posted by: Res Ipsa at March 1, 2005 10:48 AM

Michael,

I have no idea why you think a so-called "mixed orientation" marriage would require celibacy except during rote attempts at procreation. Presumably if every other piece (or most of the other pieces) than sexual attraction is in place, the spouse with alternate leanings would be disinclined to thwart the other spouse's advances and to "guarantee [he or she] won't enjoy it."

Rational people, entering into marriage, understand that the spark of sex will sometimes wane. That requires neither furious masturbation nor dangerous, irresponsible affairs.

Posted by: Justin Katz at March 1, 2005 12:13 PM

Rational people, entering into marriage, understand that the spark of sex will sometimes wane. That requires neither furious masturbation nor dangerous, irresponsible affairs.

Granted, but that spark of sex has to be there in the first place in order for it to wane. I'm merely saying that I don't think any of you are actually thinking these demands through. Again please, how would you feel if you were only allowed to have sex with a man? I'm assuming you'd rather not. Do you think it would be fair for the government to expect you to suppress your natural urges to have a sexual relationship with a woman if you wanted to participate as fully as possible in societal public life (ie marriage)? You make these flip statements which imply that it's not a hard choice for gays to make and I don't believe you've actually given any consideration to full ramification. Now, I realize you're also coming at this from the perspective that homosexuality is deviant behaviour and shouldn't be indulged anyway, but all of these arguments of non-discrimination and fairness neglect the fact that gays don't see their sexuality as deviant. If you don't want gays to marry each other, fine. But don't pretend like there is an acceptable option available to them.

Posted by: Michael at March 1, 2005 12:26 PM

Res Ipsa,
I can't imagine not having that desire, but it sublimates to my desire to remain faithfully committed to my spouse.

Posted by: smmtheory at March 1, 2005 12:56 PM

SSM, that's a bit of a cop out.

Imagine you weren't married. Could you live in an intimate, committed monagomous relationship with your male friend, including submitting to his sexual advances (as Justin proffers)?

Posted by: Res Ispa at March 1, 2005 1:16 PM

RI: I would ask them whether they would want to live in a lifelong, intimate mongamous relationship with one of their male friends.

Whether or not i would "want to" is largely beside the point. If course i could, and if it were the expected norm and the sole way familys are created, i'm pretty sure i would. Unless i didn't want to, of course, then i wouldn't.

Now, as for what i "want", well, i "want" my wife to be tall, slim, blonde, athletic, elegant, and utterly ravishing. But living in the real world, i married a woman who is some of that on some days, and other than that on other days.

Choices choices choices. We all make them, but they aren't all "equal".

Mi: but all of these arguments of non-discrimination and fairness neglect the fact that gays don't see their sexuality as deviant.

Funny, i've never met a drug addict that didn't favor legalization of drugs. Never met an alcoholic who didn't deny he had a drinking problem. Never met a stripper who didn't think pornoraphy was harmless. Choices choices choices.

Posted by: Marty at March 1, 2005 1:26 PM

Marty -
I've never met a woman who didn't favor
women having voting rights and legal
equality with men (neither of which was
considered mainstream a century ago),
nor an African-American who didn't
favor the 1964 Voting Rights Act.

And, FWIW, most of the alcoholics I know
acknowledge that they have a drinking problem.
You seem to be employing what I call Wertham's
Fallacy, named for Dr. Fredric Wertham. He discovered that almost all of the incarcerated
felons he interviewed had been voracious readers of comic books as children. However, he neglected to interview a control group of non-felons.

Posted by: Robert at March 1, 2005 1:45 PM

Now, as for what i "want", well, i "want" my wife to be tall, slim, blonde, athletic, elegant, and utterly ravishing. But living in the real world, i married a woman who is some of that on some days, and other than that on other days.

Marty, are you being deliberately obtuse or are you just a complete moron?

I want my boyfriend to look more like Orlando Bloom and be independently wealthy, but I'll settle for a penis. If you can't separate homosexuality from a fetish for leggy blondes, then I don't see how you're capable of forming complete sentences.

Funny, i've never met a drug addict that didn't favor legalization of drugs. Never met an alcoholic who didn't deny he had a drinking problem. Never met a stripper who didn't think pornoraphy was harmless. Choices choices choices.

So homosexuality is a deviant behaviour that should be criminalized? Fine, but not everyone agrees with you. And your examples are only relevant if you feel this way. But the argument isn't being framed by mainstream opposition that way; it's being couched in sentiments like there not being sex or orientation discrimination and that gays have equal opportunity to make marriage choices as straights. But that only works if you make idiot statements comparing the level of burden you have to choice by selecting a brunette over a blonde with a gay man's choice of selecting a woman over a man. As much as you'd like to pretend they are equal, I hate to break it to you but they aren't.

Posted by: Michael at March 1, 2005 2:21 PM

Res Ipsa,
As long as I have been married (60% of my life), it is difficult to imagine not being so, but if your stated conditions existed I could. I wouldn't pursue SSM though.

Posted by: smmtheory at March 1, 2005 2:33 PM

>> Again please, how would you feel if you were only allowed to have sex with a man? I'm assuming you'd rather not.

But if one is inclined to have same-sex sexual relations, the state neither forces one to marry nor forces one to remain celibate. The man-woman criterion of marriage neither forces one to remain monogamous nor forces one to partake in extramarital sexual relations nor forces one to partake in blinding masturbation.

Res Ispa, it seems to me that you have described reasons that some individuals might desire some alternative to marriage. That may be a hard choice to make but it is a choice that is undenied today.

The template for SSM may be compatable with marriage, or not, but it is not marriage. It is one newly emerged alternative to marriage that has yet to take hold as a normative ideal for unsexed combinations.

>> I would ask them whether they would want to live in a lifelong, intimate mongamous relationship with one of their male friends.

SSM would enable "buddy marriages" of male friends. As far as I can tell, it would not enable the state to impose sexual monogamy on such arrangements even if they were designed for the sake of this or that tax benefit and legal incident.

--

For SSM advocates here, what is the core of state recognized SSM?

--

Off topic: I'd like to commend commentators here for the civility of discourse. It is appreciated.

Posted by: Chairm at March 1, 2005 3:40 PM

Heh, Robert, i almost added this to my comment, but since you mentioned felons:

"Everyone in prison will tell you he's innocent"

Posted by: Marty at March 1, 2005 6:14 PM

Mi But the argument isn't being framed by mainstream opposition that way; it's being couched in sentiments like there not being sex or orientation discrimination and that gays have equal opportunity to make marriage choices as straights

Heh, i see my very own line of reasoning has finally taken hold and is now considered "mainstream opposition". This is a welcome turn of events!

As much as you'd like to pretend they are equal, I hate to break it to you but they aren't.

My moronic and obtuse examples simply point out that this is not about getting "what we want". For some, everything seems to come so darned easy, and for others, it's damned hard just to do what's right! But you're trying to frame this argument as "what i want" is a right, and "what's right" is completely impossible.

Sorry you feel that way -- and i'll concede that your burden must be harder than my own -- but that's not because the load is heavier, it's because my arms are stronger. Just because your burden is heavy doesn't mean you are not capable of carrying it, nor is anyone even asking you to carry it at all. But to drop it and pick up a lighter load while claiming you are still "pulling equal weight" is disingenuous. If you want to be "equal" to those of us carrying the same load (regardless of the relative strength of our arms), then you'll have to carry an equal load -- not merely "perceive equal strain".

You don't want equality -- you're asking for some very special treatment.

Posted by: Marty at March 1, 2005 7:01 PM

Michael said:

"I want my boyfriend to look more like Orlando Bloom and be independently wealthy, but I'll settle for a penis."

I'm going to let that last bit just kind of hang in the air there...

"but I'll settle for a penis."

Posted by: smmtheory at March 1, 2005 9:17 PM

Sorry you feel that way -- and i'll concede that your burden must be harder than my own -- but that's not because the load is heavier, it's because my arms are stronger.

Oh spare me the martyrdom. Look, if I believed that homosexuality is a sin, then I'd agree with you. But I don't believe it is more of a sin to be gay than it is to be black.

But to drop it and pick up a lighter load while claiming you are still "pulling equal weight" is disingenuous. If you want to be "equal" to those of us carrying the same load (regardless of the relative strength of our arms), then you'll have to carry an equal load -- not merely "perceive equal strain".

I may be carrying as equal load as everyone else. It's just that the government and people like you are sitting on that load, actually making it heavier. So get off your damn high horse.

Posted by: Michael at March 2, 2005 10:19 AM

That's ridiculous Michael. The reason you find the idea of marrying a woman impossible is because it is too heavy a burden for you to bear. The reason you find the idea of marrying a man instead to be appealing, is because it is easier for you to bear.

I too, think that marrying another man would have been an easier burden for me to bear. But i'm not a weakling, and can bear the burden of an opposite sex partner.

Posted by: Marty at March 2, 2005 12:15 PM

That's ridiculous Michael. The reason you find the idea of marrying a woman impossible is because it is too heavy a burden for you to bear. The reason you find the idea of marrying a man instead to be appealing, is because it is easier for you to bear.

I too, think that marrying another man would have been an easier burden for me to bear. But i'm not a weakling, and can bear the burden of an opposite sex partner.

That's nice. Does you're wife know that she's sucha burden? I'm so glad that you're such a "real man" that you sucked it up and married a woman because that's what tradition and society tell you to do.

Well you know what? F*ck society. There is absolutely nothing deviant about homosexuality. Nothing. Sure there are deviant homosexuals just like there are deviant heterosexuals. You ask any average heterosexual if it is a burden to marry a woman over a man and what do you think he'd say? Do you want to know what real strength is? It's standing up to the world who wants to, for no clear compassionate reason, keep you ashamed of who you are; it's standing up to that world and saying that I am not "broken", that this is a natural part of who I am and a natural part of humanity and to demand that you be treated accordingly. And by standing up in that way, a real man serves as a role model for all those children who cry themselves to sleep every night because they think there's something wrong with them.

So if you want to be a real man you don't suck it up and marry a woman; you fight to make the world recognize your equality. And you don't get married to a woman because marriage is not an obligation, as everyone keeps trying to tell me; you choose to get married.

So tell me, Marty, how did a real man come to the decision to marry a woman if he'd rather marry a man?

Posted by: Michael at March 2, 2005 12:32 PM

Michael: "F*ck society".

Thank you, Michael, for just stating simply what we know most SSM advocates really feel.

I guess this belief could be stated in more sophistication as "the social order must never outweigh individual rights".

Which nobody really believes in an absolute sense anyway. But this formulation ignores an important point: that if the 'social order' falls, dictatorship follows as it becomes seen as the only way to restore the order, and there go all of our 'individual rights'.

Posted by: R.K. Becker at March 2, 2005 1:53 PM

Michael,

>> Do you want to know what real strength is? ... It's ... saying that ... this is a natural part of who I am and a natural part of humanity and to demand that you be treated accordingly.

One axiomatic statement can be countered by another. But I wanted to pause and say that while we disagree on SSM I do appreciate your passion and your readiness to speak your mind and to explain how you aspire to live by your principles.


>> what we know most SSM advocates really feel.

R.K. Becker, it is doubtful that one can ascribe motive in this way.

I take your point that the SSM argument relies heavily on radical individualism which, I also agree, is unsustainable.

I think most of us can agree that the social institution of marriage is a huge factor in the social order. That is at once the reason that many wish to guard its primal meaning and others would alter or replace its meaningn with something else.

Posted by: Chairm at March 2, 2005 4:09 PM

But I wanted to pause and say that while we disagree on SSM I do appreciate your passion and your readiness to speak your mind and to explain how you aspire to live by your principles.

Thank you very much.

I take your point that the SSM argument relies heavily on radical individualism which, I also agree, is unsustainable.

I disagree. I truly believe that society will benefit from having SSM, basically because I believe that it will do more good for gays than it does bad for straights. Sure, it's individualism at it's core, but it's not *radical* individualism; that's anarchy. I advocate individualism with responsibility. And what is more responsible than getting married?

As I've said before, and I think Justin's quoted me on it, how society acts and how society legislates are two different things. The role of marriage in Western society has been critically altered by both the civil rights movement and by women's suffrage. It's understandable that people want to either alter or retain such a strong societal institution. But we need to take a long hard look at how we, as a society, treat each other and form our social pairings. Polygamy was abandoned for a reason. It's quite possible that gay marriages will come next.

Posted by: Michael at March 2, 2005 5:35 PM

Marty's fervent objections to 'deviant' behavior remind me of a scene in one of Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels. A city guardsman is reporting to the city's ruler about a murder. The ruler inquires as to the guardsman's obvious disapproval of the murder victim's profession (he owned a condom factory).
"Not natural, sah. Don't approve of unnatural things."
"You mean. . . you eat your meat raw, and sleep in a tree?"
"Sah?"

I believe quite sincerely that the vast majority of what we consider 'natural' and 'unnatural' is due to cultural conditioning.

Posted by: Robert at March 2, 2005 7:52 PM

Chairm: "R.K. Becker, it is doubtful that one can ascribe motive in this way."

I didn't mean to come across as if I was saying that SSM advocates want to destroy society, if that's how it did come across. No, I don't think that.

But I think an underlying attitude of "who cares what happens to society a generation from now" is widespread, not just among SSM advocates, but a large segment of the general population as well. And it relates to a perception that seems to develop anew with each generation: that theirs has learned some special moral truth that previous generations never thought of, and that hence the past can be disregarded for its lack of real moral and social wisdom. Truth, morality, and wisdom are all NOW.

Well, if the past can be so easily brushed aside, so can the future. Everything is now, because this current generation is so enlightened.

Cultural changes involve changes in perception more than anything else, far more than they involve a simple linear progressive understanding of moral truth. (This leads to another myth, that of the linearity of progress itself). I don't think we understand nearly enough about how small changes in perception can produce secondary and tertiary changes far beyond what might have been expected.

The problem with SSM is that it does not involve just a small change in perception, it involves an enormous one, one which can only have a myriad of secondary and tertiary effects of which we can't begin to guess. The cultural perception which all generations have grown up with until now is that their relationships with one-half of the human race (at least their peers) is potentially sexual (excluding immediate family), and that their relationships with the other half are potentially friendships. SSM changes this; now all relationships will be seen as potentially sexual, yes, for gays, bisexuals, and heterosexuals, and where this leaves the concept of friendship is anybody's guess. My feeling is that a massive increase in bisexuality and ultimately, pansexuality, is inevitable. What happens from there is another debate. I hope to elaborate in detail on why I think this is the case sometime later, in a really long post, but I just don't have the time right now.

Posted by: R.K. Becker at March 2, 2005 8:21 PM

Tell you what then. If you and your "hubby" can create a child by having sex with each other, anytime between now and the day i die, i'll give you everything i own. Deal?

(no cheating now, no laboratorys or bodily fluids from any females of any species -- its gotta be 100% natural, mmkay?)

You need therapy friend, as you are suffering from a severe case of denial. I really pity you too -- because the mental health industry has abandoned you to your own dementia.

As i said, feel free to embrace it if your must - i really do understand such things - but please stop trying to tell people it's perfectly normal. It just makes you look silly. And pitiable. Be deviant and proud! Or get some help my friend!

Posted by: Marty at March 2, 2005 8:23 PM

R.K.Becker gets very close to the big picture right there (2 comments up). Please make a note of it.

Posted by: Marty at March 2, 2005 8:27 PM

Robert said:

"I believe quite sincerely that the vast majority of what we consider 'natural' and 'unnatural' is due to cultural conditioning."

Or perhaps counter-cultural conditioning?

Posted by: smmtheory at March 2, 2005 11:13 PM

Don't hang your hat on "next generations" for too long -- most of them will grow out of their self-centered liberalism when the confronted by the demands of the real world. I certainly would have supported SSM when i was 20...

Sometimes i think it's sad actually, to watch people like Michael Moore, Jeanne Garofolo, etc. who still believe that the things they beleived when they were young knew everything are still true. Somewhere along the lines, i suspect they staked a claim and refused to let go -- because admitting you were wrong is so hard to do, especially if you staked your claim loudly and publicly and fashioned a career and personal identity out of it.

I'll call it arrested intellectual development. Thankfully, most people are smart enough to learn from their mistakes, rather than cling to them like Linus's blanket.

Yes, i was a pinko commie fag -- and damned proud of it -- back in 1985. Then i started to grow up.

Posted by: Marty at March 3, 2005 11:08 AM

Yes, i was a pinko commie fag -- and damned proud of it -- back in 1985. Then i started to grow up.

Yeah, you're a real big boy there, Marty. Funny thing is, I've never been a pinko commie fag and resent being lumped into the same category as Michael Moore. I was part of the conservative union in college, campaigned for Dole, voted for Bush in 2000 and still proudly vote for conservatives and won't give up my Republican affiliation. See, there's a difference between small-government, civil rights, captilist conservativism and the big-spending theocratic socialism mascarading as conservativism that is currently infecting this administration.

And just because people get more conservative as they get older, Marty, doesn't mean they'll turn their backs on social changes; do you think that young people in the 60s are as racist now as their parent's generation was?

Oh, and I don't find it at all surprise you were a pinko commie fag. Radical left to radical right. All that means is that when you hold an opinion you hold it in the extreme.

Posted by: Michael at March 3, 2005 12:19 PM

The topic, folks.

May I suggest other (more personal) stuff be discussed off-line through email?

--

>> I truly believe that society will benefit from having SSM, basically because I believe that it will do more good for gays than it does bad for straights. ... And what is more responsible than getting married? ... Polygamy was abandoned for a reason. It's quite possible that gay marriages will come next.

The reasoning and the process that pushes enactment of SSM has been far removed from that which produced the abandonment of multi-marriage (MM). A nationwide consensus emerged in favor of removing legal status of MM; and today there is an emerging consensus in favor of preventing the establishment of legal status of SSM.

Today, as then, it is evident that most men and women who would live in MM do so of their own free choice. And advocates of MM claim that re-establishing the legal status of multiple-partnered relationships would do more good for those involved than bad for individuals in marriages formed by just one man and one woman.

Posted by: Chairm at March 3, 2005 4:50 PM

>> Sure, it's individualism at it's core, but it's not *radical* individualism; that's anarchy. I advocate individualism with responsibility.

Radical individualism gives almost absolute primacy to the individual as opposed to the family or the community. This is not, for example, the 18th-century understanding of individualism that inspired the founding generation and writers/ratifiers of our Constitution.

But perhaps the following snippets from Young and Nathanson would better impart my meaning:

>>> A good case can always be made for reforming any institution in this way or that. And our society has reformed marriage many times, most recently to improve the position of wives. But there is a big difference between reform and revolution. The result [of destroying the man-woman basis of marriage] would still be called marriage, but it would in fact be another institution.

--

>>> At the heart of this campaign for gay marriage is radical individualism (coupled with, ironically, a form of radical collectivism). We are not referring to the kind of individualism that emerged in the eighteenth century ... Personal liberty was not synonymous ... with personal license. Today, individualism has come to mean ... [that the] ... larger interests of society ... no longer function as constraints. ... Allowing gay people to marry, they say, would be beneficial to gay individuals (or to the gay community). How could that, they ask, harm straight individuals (or the straight community)? But advocates of gay marriage have made no serious attempt to consider the possible harms and object to those who want more time to assess the evidence from other periods or other cultures.

--

>>> If we were to argue that equality permits no exceptions, moreover, then we would be both morally and legally obliged to oppose current laws against polygamy. ... the demand for polygamous marriage would follow directly from the demand for gay marriage, especially in view of the fact that some Muslims and Mormons would approve.

--

Answering Advocates of Gay Marriage
http://www.catholiceducation.org/articles/homosexuality/ho0064.html

Posted by: Chairm at March 3, 2005 4:59 PM

Thanks, Chairm, for noting the excessive heat of this thread. Marty and Michael, I'd like to keep these comment threads as civil as possible. That needn't prevent particular points from being made, but make them reasonably.

Posted by: Justin Katz at March 3, 2005 5:53 PM

Sorry, never meant to offend anyone or be unreasonable. Thanks for the warning.

Posted by: Marty at March 3, 2005 9:09 PM

Ditto, Justin. Things can get dicey sometimes.

In an attempt to make this comment thread hit the 100 mark, I'd like to address Chairm's quote:
But advocates of gay marriage have made no serious attempt to consider the possible harms and object to those who want more time to assess the evidence from other periods or other cultures.

What constitutes a serious attemp to consider possible harms? I've heard this a lot. I've read a great deal on this subject, have been personally exposed to a variety of family forms, etc, and have come to the reasonable conclusion that, while there will be shifts in attitude, they won't be *harms*. So is this just a matter of perception? Because I don't think that advocates of gay marriage haven't given harms a short shrift. Although maybe they have. I remember a debate on Gallaghar's site wherein it remained clear to me that opponents weren't considering any of the possible harms of not having SSM. So I don't think that this is a fair accusation.

Secondly, time. I understand the sentiment that it's important to wait to examine other cultures. But what about CT (granted a culture in and of itself)? There is a serious *legislative* push (not "elite" judges) to have civil unions. Why can't we legislatively try this out in one of our own states, if they think they're ready? Why is there a major push by marriage activists against this? People seem to be constantly complaining about judges intervening but when the representatives of the people want to do something for gays, they still fight.

Posted by: Michael at March 4, 2005 11:56 AM

I'm perfectly fine trying this out -- legislatively (democracy). Having morality shoved down my throat (tyranny) is what i object to most of all. I'm SURE you can understand that.

Posted by: Marty at March 4, 2005 6:13 PM

>> Michael: "opponents weren't considering any of the possible harms of not having SSM."

I may be mistaken, but one side is primarily concerned about the prospect of harm to society down the road and the other is primarily concerned about possible harm to individuals immediately.

Do opponents of the state-recogniton of the man-woman criterion of marriage have a list of possible harms? What are the top three, say, that should tilt the balance?

Do defenders of the man-woman criterion have their own list of harms should the criterion be discarded?

For both, what takes primacy -- the possible harm to the individual or to the society?

And to return to the them of Justin's post, do we cede too much ground in arguing consequences and utility instead of overarching principles?

Posted by: Chairm at March 5, 2005 7:21 PM

That was "theme" not "them".

Posted by: Chairm at March 5, 2005 7:22 PM