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July 6, 2005

Sully Still Not Listening

I never actually expected to receive Andrew Sullivan's promised response to my piece about him, but I would have hoped that he'd begin conducting his end of the marriage debate with even the slightest indication that he's paying attention to what the other side is saying... or even who the other side is. Witness:

Since marriage has already been redefined to make the exclusion of gays logically absurd, the campaign against letting gays into the human family necessarily raises the suspicion of mere animus. It's not bigotry to say that these are the rules that govern civil marriage and too bad if you can't live up to them (i.e. procreation, or traditional gender roles). But it is suspicious when you abolish all those rules for straights and then use the old rules to bar gays. I don't see how gay marriage opponents manage to get round the logic of this - except by resorting to purely religious arguments (which would invalidate most heterosexual marriages today as well), or simply reiterating the definitional case that marriage is for straights, dammit.

One gets the sense that Sullivan has broken the world into straights and gays, with only the latter permitted to act independently of their "movement." Some gays wish to leverage same-sex marriage to undermine society as we know it, but Sullivan refuses to have their arguments considered as part of the issue. But through the magic of the passive voice, "marriage has already been redefined," and therefore traditionalist "yous" have had the hypocrisy to "abolish all those rules for straights and then use the old rules to bar gays."

I'm too young to have participated in the earlier debates, but I'm pretty sure — conversions excluded — that the overlap in names on petitions for divorce and contraception and against same-sex marriage is minimal. Unfortunately, one of the complicating factors when attempting to come up with resolutions to the current fight is that Sullivan's handling of the other side is way too likely to prove the norm for his.

Posted by Justin Katz at July 6, 2005 8:06 PM
Marriage & Family
Comments

Sullivan fails to distinguish between the positions of activists and the behavior of ordinary people, as you have pointed out.

I'm pretty sure — conversions excluded — that the overlap in names on petitions for divorce and contraception and against same-sex marriage is minimal.

This is probably correct, if by "names on petitions" you mean social issue activists.

But among ordinary people (non-activists), there must be many who have divorced and/or used contraception, but consistently voted against SSM, civil union, or anything else perceived as "pro-gay". These folks' approach to SSM is likely closer to the gut reaction of Carl Everett than the reasoned arguments of Maggie Gallagher et al.

So if Sullivan wants to group Maggie, Justin, and every other SSM opponent with homophobes, he should expect to see himself lumped in with queer theorists, anarchists, polyamorists, etc.

Posted by: Matt Taylor at July 7, 2005 10:56 AM

And what makes you think that Carl Everett's beliefs are a gut reaction? His opinions may be just as well reasoned as Maggie Gallagher's, but he's a baseball player. He doesn't get paid to be articulate like Maggie.

Posted by: smmtheory at July 7, 2005 11:38 AM

I wonder if Maggie would agree that Carl Everett's statement and her arguments differ only in linguistic sophistication. Has Maggie made any allusion to Everett's comment on MarriageDebate or elsewhere?

For his part, maybe Justin can answer whether "Gays being gay is wrong" and "I don't believe in gays being gay" are consistent with his views.


Posted by: Matt Taylor at July 7, 2005 12:40 PM

"Some gays wish to leverage same-sex marriage to undermine society as we know it, but Sullivan refuses to have their arguments considered as part of the issue. But through the magic of the passive voice, "marriage has already been redefined," and therefore traditionalist "yous" have had the hypocrisy to "abolish all those rules for straights and then use the old rules to bar gays."

Fair argument. Of course, you have taken sides with bigots and extremists, yet you seem to ignore their positions when articulating yours, while coopting some of their language.

Are you prepared to denounce your friends on the far right? Articulate how your positions are different than Focus on the Family, James Dobson, and Fred Phelps?

Posted by: Res Ipsa at July 7, 2005 1:10 PM

Matt Taylor said:

Has Maggie made any allusion to Everett's comment on MarriageDebate or elsewhere?

Well I suppose I'll hazard an attempt to answer your question even despite your ignoring mine. My guess would be that Maggie has not made any allusion to Everett's comment anywhere. Why should she since she is quite articulate enough without having to resort to quoting people who play sports for a living? Now I'll ask my question again... what makes you think that Everett's beliefs are a gut reaction?

Would you also pronounce the same of my beliefs that the only difference between a 'gay' practitioner and a 'hetero' practitioner is who they choose to be attracted to and that there are actually no 'gay' or 'hetero' class of people?

Posted by: smmtheory at July 7, 2005 1:32 PM

Now I'll ask my question again... what makes you think that Everett's beliefs are a gut reaction?

Everett's comments do not attempt to build an argument, are laden with negative emotion, and do not address the opposing point of view. These are hallmarks of a "gut reaction". The man may have a well-reasoned moral framework in his mind, but these comments show no evidence of it.

Would you also pronounce the same of my beliefs that the only difference between a 'gay' practitioner and a 'hetero' practitioner is who they choose to be attracted to and that there are actually no 'gay' or 'hetero' class of people?

Your statement's tone is less emotional than Everett's, and offers a proposition from which opposition to certain "pro-gay" policies could be reasoned. Whereas Everett's comments are reflexive and malicious, yours are just empirically false.

Posted by: Matt Taylor at July 7, 2005 2:07 PM

Some gays wish to leverage same-sex marriage to undermine society as we know it, but Sullivan refuses to have their arguments considered as part of the issue.

And some conservatives want to re-criminalize sodomy and purge the nation of gays. You ignore the extremists. Now I'm astute enough to presume that they are in the minority and choose to ignore them; why is it hard to believe that radical queer theorists are in the majority?

But through the magic of the passive voice, "marriage has already been redefined," and therefore traditionalist "yous" have had the hypocrisy to "abolish all those rules for straights and then use the old rules to bar gays."

I'm not sure that Sullivan was pointing to traditionalist "yous" but straight America in general. To put it succinctly, why didn't the proposed FMA repeal no-fault divorce, return coverture, ban married contraception and remove individual property rights for married couples? That would certain strengthen marriage much more than banning gays. I'm curious (I've never seen a poll ask this question) how much the general population would be supported of banning gay marriage if they lost some of their amenities in the process. Oh, sure the "traditionalists" will probably be for it, but do you really think that 70% of Nebraska would have jumped on that bandwagon?

And that's what Sullivan means when he speaks of the hypocrisy. It's not the true traditionalists; they were already battling the divorce problem. At least they have consistent views. It's that middle of the country that only shares the view of the traditionalists when it doesn't effect them.

If the majority of the country wanted stricter marriage/procreation laws, I'd happily accept (well, not happily, but at least it would be consistent), because gays wouldn't really fit in that kind of marriage. But the kind of marriage the majority of the country wants fits gays perfectly; and yet the majority of the country still doesn't want to let gays marry because, I can only speculate, it wouldn't work with an ideal image of marriage, an image of married that they're too cowardly to commit to themselves.

Posted by: Michael at July 7, 2005 2:48 PM

Did Res just place Dobson into the same box as Phelps? Please!

Posted by: Marty at July 7, 2005 3:03 PM

I did, and I don't take it back. His SOLE agenda is anti-gay and I believe he has little concern for the problems of marriage if they don't correspond to his anti-gay, anti-liberal agenda.

Posted by: Res Ipsa at July 7, 2005 3:43 PM

Matt Taylor said:

Everett's comments do not attempt to build an argument, are laden with negative emotion, and do not address the opposing point of view. These are hallmarks of a "gut reaction". The man may have a well-reasoned moral framework in his mind, but these comments show no evidence of it.

Gee, who asked Everett to build an argument or address the opposing p.o.v. or even display evidence of his moral framework? Looking at the quoted comments, the only negative emotion they are laden with is whatever you import to them because he uses no wording to indicate emotion. It appears then to me that your criteria for labeling anything somebody else says as a gut reaction is when it elicits a gut reaction from yourself.

So just how have you determined that my statements are empirically false? Gut reaction?

Posted by: smmtheory at July 7, 2005 5:01 PM

If someone premises their support of SSM on a simple gut feeling that homosexual sexual behavior is both morally good and worthy of societal affirmation, how can such an advocate decry a gut feeling that goes the other way?

Posted by: JohnLuke at July 7, 2005 6:18 PM

Gee, who asked Everett to build an argument or address the opposing p.o.v. or even display evidence of his moral framework?

I only mention Everett in passing, and did not intend to make his comments the central theme of my post. I concede knowing next to nothing about Everett's personal viewpoint and hereby retract any implication that he is the poster boy for anti-gay "gut reactions".

So just how have you determined that my statements are empirically false?

I determine that your statment is false by counterexample. You said:

the only difference between a 'gay' practitioner and a 'hetero' practitioner is who they choose to be attracted to and that there are actually no 'gay' or 'hetero' class of people?

I know this not to be true for many people whom I know personally, including myself.

Posted by: Matt Taylor at July 7, 2005 6:40 PM

If someone premises their support of SSM on a simple gut feeling that homosexual sexual behavior is both morally good and worthy of societal affirmation, how can such an advocate decry a gut feeling that goes the other way?

Such a person would be contradicting himself, and I would disagree with him.

Posted by: Matt Taylor at July 7, 2005 6:42 PM

Matt Taylor said:

I know this not to be true for many people whom I know personally, including myself.

And what is the difference between you saying this and me saying "I know this to be true for many people whom I know personally, including myself." I don't think that your empirical evidence can absolutely repudiate my claim. It seems more to me that your empirical evidence could also suggest that people who 'believe' they are not capable of making that choice have worked extremely hard to convince themselves of it, or that those who are addicted to same sex intercourse are in a state of denial.

Posted by: smmtheory at July 7, 2005 7:36 PM

Michael,

I think you're putting a bit of a spin on Sullivan's position. Consider his use of the word "campaign." And frankly, your position gives a little too much credit to the <frightening chord> "theocrats" for Sullivan.

----

Res writes:

Of course, you have taken sides with bigots and extremists, yet you seem to ignore their positions when articulating yours, while coopting some of their language.

I'm not afraid to criticize "bigots and extremists," although unless their rhetoric directly conflicts with mine, I generally consider my limited time better spent arguing with rhetoric that does so. But Res as elided a fundamental difference in usage: It is part of the argument against same-sex marriage that radicals intend to use it as a tool to further their ends and, the argument goes, they've a chance at realizing their aims to too extensive a degree. In contrast, I haven't heard any arguments that sustaining the status quo will increase the foothold of "bigots and extremists" on the right.

A while back, Sullivan commented on the left radicals to the effect of: "This fight has been had among gays, and the pro-marriage folks won, so we can ignore the anti-marriage gays among us." That doesn't cut it. Perhaps if he had also offered suggestions for how to keep that supposedly defeated subsegment from regrouping.

Posted by: Justin Katz at July 7, 2005 7:48 PM

And what is the difference between you saying this and me saying "I know this to be true for many people whom I know personally, including myself."

There is no contradiction. You claim to know people who have chosen their sexual orientation, and I claim to know people who have not chosen it. If we both perceive accurately, then the conclusion is that sexuality is chosen by some, but is not a choice for others.

It seems more to me that your empirical evidence could also suggest that people who 'believe' they are not capable of making that choice have worked extremely hard to convince themselves of it...

Let me agree with you on one point -- homosexuals might be turned effectively heterosexual via certain conditioning techniques. The human mind is malleable, and can be twisted into virtually any shape if enough physical and/or psychological pressure is applied. However, many of us believe that 'conversion therapy' is just another form of brainwashing, and is far more morally repugnant than the homosexuality it is meant to cure.

If one has homosexual urges, but is morally opposed to homosexuality, it is more realistic to just abstain from acting on those urges than to try annihilating the urges themselves. In the context of marriage, the vows between husband and wife preclude sex with other people anyway, so sexual orientation becomes somewhat irrelevant.

...or that those who are addicted to same sex intercourse are in a state of denial.

I also agree there is such a thing as sexual addiction, perhaps more prevalent among male homosexuals because sex is so easily available to them. But in such cases the addiction can be treated without attempting to change the person's orientation -- the issue is that he's having sex with too many people, not that those people happen to be of the same gender.

Posted by: Matt Taylor at July 7, 2005 8:02 PM

I think you are asking Andrew to prove a negative. The only people talking about these "left radicals" are you and your allies. If you polled 100 supporters of SSM, you'd be hard pressed to find a single person who can both articulate and say they support these positions you are convinced so widespread.

If you look at the groups who are providing the money and support in favor of SSM, these "left radicals" would be pratically non-existent. In contrast, if you look at the money and support leading the anti-SSM efforts, it is predominately from groups and individuals with a long history of anti-gay efforts.

Follow the money, Justin, if you want to see who really influences which side.

Posted by: res ipsa at July 7, 2005 8:07 PM

Res,

I'm not asking for proof of anything, but for the addressing of a concern.

As for groups and funding, I suspect our definitions will vary on "anti-gay efforts."

Posted by: Justin Katz at July 7, 2005 8:19 PM

Res Ipsa equates Dr. James Dobson with "god hates fags" moron Phred Phelps, and won't take it back:

His SOLE agenda is anti-gay and I believe he has little concern for the problems of marriage if they don't correspond to his anti-gay, anti-liberal agenda.

Res, sometimes i wonder why you even bother opening your mouth. It just makes you look ignorant.

Posted by: Marty at July 7, 2005 8:25 PM

So essentially you want him to denounce and distance himself from people with absolutely no control, influence, or support? Why is this so important, since he has explained already that he doesn't support their position?

The most rudimentary look at his his work would indicate he doesn't support the positions of these people who have no influence.

Yours is a baffling concern.

Posted by: res ipsa at July 7, 2005 8:28 PM
The most rudimentary look at his his work would indicate he doesn't support the positions of these people who have no influence.

Yes, but a less rudimentary look would reveal that the judgment is a bit more complex than you are making it out to be. Something similar can be said about the "absolutely no control, influence, or support" comment.

But I'm not looking for distancing. I guess I'll tweak the point slightly before dropping it: I'm not talking about groups, but about the ideology and the logic that many such groups have.

Posted by: Justin Katz at July 7, 2005 8:34 PM

Oh and BTW Res, Moron Phelps is a liberal!

Posted by: Marty at July 7, 2005 8:35 PM

Matt Taylor said:

But in such cases the addiction can be treated without attempting to change the person's orientation -- the issue is that he's having sex with too many people, not that those people happen to be of the same gender.

The orientation doesn't need to be addressed because orientation is a fictitious affectation held by people who want to feel good about the bad things they are doing by pretending they have no choice about what they do. The illusion of orientation helps them maintain their self delusion even in the face of convincing evidence to the contrary.

Look at your argument about the human mind being malleable. And yet I'd be willing to bet that you agree with the notion that when it comes to relationships, nobody can change their partner, they can only change themselves.

You do not perceive choice because your sample does not acknowledge choice of attraction and you pointedly exclude those who do acknowledge choice of attraction, whereas my sample of people fall on both sides of the spectrum, those who acknowledge choice of attraction, and those that do not. Whose empirical data is better here?

Posted by: smmtheory at July 8, 2005 1:17 AM

I asked, "If someone premises their support of SSM on a simple gut feeling that homosexual sexual behavior is both morally good and worthy of societal affirmation, how can such an advocate decry a gut feeling that goes the other way?

Matt Taylor answered, "Such a person would be contradicting himself, and I would disagree with him."

My response:

That is neat and tidy for you personally, but then you would disagree with most of the people who support SSM.

The bulk of that support is based on an emotional timidity in the face of accusations of bigotry. Rather than suffer such accusations, most supporters of SSM try to get on the side hurling the accusations at others.

Do you speak against that sort of pro-SM ntimentalism? It has appeared with incresed frequency in the writings of Andrew Sullivan.

Posted by: JohnLuke at July 8, 2005 3:38 AM

JohnLuke, you assume I am an SSM supporter. In fact, I do not support SSM at the present time, and am more in favor of civil union or some alternative arrangement for same-sex couples.

On the other hand, many people who do support SSM are motivated by more than just pure sentimentalism. For example, some believe SSM is demanded by the principle of equality, or that it will positively affect the lives of gay people by providing a guiding social norm.

Posted by: Matt Taylor at July 8, 2005 6:19 AM

smm: [...] orientation is a fictitious affectation held by people who want to feel good about the bad things they are doing by pretending they have no choice about what they do.

But of course we have a choice about what we do, which was my whole point. If you believe homosexual acts are a "bad thing", then don't do them. The question of whether sexual orientation exists is secondary.

Look at your argument about the human mind being malleable. And yet I'd be willing to bet that you agree with the notion that when it comes to relationships, nobody can change their partner, they can only change themselves.

On the contrary, people coerce their partners into changing all the time, but in many cases it's an unloving, destructive thing to do.

You do not perceive choice because your sample does not acknowledge choice of attraction and you pointedly exclude those who do acknowledge choice of attraction

I do perceive choice, in some people. I have known a number of them, mostly women for some reason, who have made a conscious decision to seek partners of one gender or the other at different times in their lives.

Posted by: Matt Taylor at July 8, 2005 6:35 AM

MT: The question of whether sexual orientation exists is secondary.... ...I do perceive choice, in some people. I have known a number of them...

Matt, in your opinion, doesn't this refute the whole "principle of equality" argument?

Posted by: Marty at July 8, 2005 10:02 AM

Matt,
A person can coerce, persuade, or manipulate emotions of a partner into affecting a wanted change, but that change would not be possible if the person changing were not a willing partner to the change.

Would you, or would you not agree that we make up our minds who to like and who to dislike? Would you, or would you not agree that we make up our minds about what we consider handsome or pretty?

Posted by: smmtheory at July 8, 2005 10:59 AM

Matt, in your opinion, doesn't this refute the whole "principle of equality" argument?

That some (but not all) people are able to choose their sexual orientation may weaken the equality-based argument for SSM, but I wouldn't say it refutes the argument.

Also, there is another dimension to equality, apart from sexuality, which is equal treatment of different moral and religious beliefs. Laws predicated on the idea that homosexuality is immoral (or, conversely, that it's a wonderful thing everyone should embrace) place undue burden on those who believe differently.

Posted by: Matt Taylor at July 8, 2005 11:09 AM

Would you, or would you not agree that we make up our minds who to like and who to dislike? Would you, or would you not agree that we make up our minds about what we consider handsome or pretty?

No, I would not completely agree with either assertion. We can control, to some extent, how we react to people, but it's not just a matter of "making up your mind". Changing a person's instinctive reactions, sexual or otherwise, requires deliberate, invasive conditioning such as electric shock, psychoactive drugs, sensory deprivation, etc. Extreme social pressure can also produce such changes.

Posted by: Matt Taylor at July 8, 2005 11:22 AM

Also, there is another dimension to equality, apart from sexuality, which is equal treatment of different moral and religious beliefs. Laws predicated on the idea that homosexuality is immoral (or, conversely, that it's a wonderful thing everyone should embrace) place undue burden on those who believe differently.

Sure, but this is true for any law, whether it is to outlaw crack cocaine, or to set age limits for drinking alcohol. The best compromise yet devised, is democratic government. Let the people decide, at varying levels of granularity (local/state/federal), according to their level of consent.

Only those radicals at the extreme fringes would consider it an "undue burden" to respect the wishes of their fellow citizens and neighbors.

Posted by: Marty at July 8, 2005 12:05 PM

The best compromise yet devised, is democratic government. Let the people decide, at varying levels of granularity (local/state/federal), according to their level of consent.

I agree completely.

Posted by: Matt Taylor at July 8, 2005 12:10 PM

Matt,
I must confess my confusion then. Why are you an opponent of SSM? You seem to be echoing quite a few of the proponent talking points which they claim are salient to the discussion.

Posted by: smmtheory at July 8, 2005 12:13 PM

smmtheory, I do not support SSM at the present time because of the present cultural reality that marriage is male-female. Legal recognition should be provided to same-sex couples; however, artificially labeling such unions "marriage" is an attempt to legislate cultural change, which could produce unintended adverse consequences.

On the other hand, the people in some geographic area may develop a concept of marriage that accommodates SSM, such that a majority of them vote to write SSM into law. I would support that policy, since it has the horse (culture) pulling the cart (law) rather than the other way araound.

Posted by: Matt Taylor at July 8, 2005 2:14 PM

Matt,
In other words, if the prevailing trend was for SSM, then you would be for it? Your stand appears to me to be not so much as an SSM opponent as it is a stand against judicial fiat. Didn't anybody ever tell you going with the flow is a spectator's position?

Posted by: smmtheory at July 8, 2005 5:36 PM

I think Matt's position is quite honorable, even if we disagree on the policy in question.

Posted by: Marty at July 8, 2005 6:02 PM

In other words, if the prevailing trend was for SSM, then you would be for it? Your stand appears to me to be not so much as an SSM opponent as it is a stand against judicial fiat.

Correct. I don't claim to be a full-fledged "SSM opponent". Maybe an "SSM non-proponent"?

Didn't anybody ever tell you going with the flow is a spectator's position?

What you mean? I don't maintain that whatever the majority believes morally right is actually right, if that's what you're thinking.

Posted by: Matt Taylor at July 8, 2005 6:08 PM

Nah, all it means is that going with the flow never makes policy, only follows it. It's about as safe a position as you can have most of the time. Wasn't necessarily implying anything wrong with it, if that was your concern. Thanks for clearing up my confusion on your beliefs with respect to SSM.

Posted by: smmtheory at July 8, 2005 6:34 PM

I'll put it this way: if 70% of my fellow citizens and neighbors voted to make abortion illegal, i probably would not oppose it as strenuosly as i do now. Not because i don't hold a strong opinion, but because i strongly respect my neighbors and the democratic process.

But of course, we were never given a chance to vote on abortion rights. And SSM supporters are working very hard to make sure we are not given a chance to vote on same-sex marriage.

They clearly do not hold the opinions of their fellow citizens and neighbors, and the democratic proccess, in the same high esteem as Matt and i do.

Posted by: Marty at July 8, 2005 8:39 PM

Crap, that first line should read "voted to make abortion LEGAL". I guess it shouldn't matter either way though... You've got to go along to get along.

Posted by: Marty at July 8, 2005 8:41 PM

If 70% of my fellow citizens voted to legalize abortion, I would be more vocal about it than I am now. Currently (whether right or wrong) I believe that the majority of them do not support abortion. I don't make it a habit to preach to the choir. I can say the same for SSM.

It is my opinion that the rest of the percentage that vote against marriage amendments outside those with something at stake are the ones that want to hang on to cash-n-carry divorce, believe in children-free marriage, obligation-free casual sex and who consider abortion a form of birth control.

Posted by: smmtheory at July 8, 2005 11:20 PM

SMMT, i agree 100% with your 2nd paragraph. Besides well-meaning gays who i believe are being duped, most other supporters of SSM are either actively hoping to dismantle the institution of marriage, or are expressing a certain amount of guilt over their actions that have served so well to weaken marriage to the fragile state we find it in today. (divorcee's, single parents (and their children), abortion advocates, and those who expect other people's children to fund their prescription benefits amd healthcare and military)

Posted by: Marty at July 9, 2005 10:07 AM

I have to disagree somewhat with ssmt and Marty here---I think we would all be mistaken in believing support for SSM is limited to the heteros they both describe, or, more importantly, that its support cannot extend beyond such groups. To do so would be to dangerously underestimate the obstacles we might have to face in opposing SSM in the future.

More often, I find that heterosexuals who support SSM are those who have developed a sort of secular religion (which may even coexist with membership in a regular church) with "equality" as one of its main pillars (probably the main pillar). They also very much subscribe to the "sympathy ethic" whereby the first (and last) question asked in assessing an issue is "Who do I feel sorry for?".

This belief is far more widespread in society today than are the rather limited radical stances which ssmt and Marty describe.

Posted by: R.K. at July 9, 2005 10:24 AM

Heaven forbid people perceive a legal question in terms of equity, one of the founding bases of both natrual and common law. If people believe that law should have equity and encourage equality, supporting SSM makes sense.

Posted by: res ipsa at July 9, 2005 10:36 AM

The problem, Res, is that their understanding of "equality" is superficial and rife with R.K.'s "sympathy ethic." One could argue that the children of the future ought to have an equal chance to be born into a family consisting of his or her own mother and father; of course, it's more difficult to feel sympathy for future generations than for a well-marketed minority.

The problem with centering a social philosophy on this sort of "equality" — which minimizes judgments about the actual qualities of the parties involved — is that any given issue can be phrased as having inequalities in exactly opposite directions.

Posted by: Justin Katz at July 9, 2005 10:49 AM

And that's why we have courts (I know you hate hearing that, but that is what courts are for) to balance equities and equality.

Throught history, there has always been competing equalities, yet we have been able to muddle through. At it's core, isn't the collective consternation of the religious right really an equality argument. Our religious symbols aren't given an equal place in the public square, our values aren't given equal place in the schoolhouse, our values aren't given equal space when the federal government is handing out public grants.

And whether those equality views on SSM are legitimate--in your eyes--or not doesn't really matter in the long haul. Instead, it desribes what the driving force is behind what motivates supporters of SSM and it is no more illigitmate than basing opposition on nostalgia and scattered, disputed passages of some religious text.

Posted by: res ipsa at July 9, 2005 12:11 PM

No, we have courts to make judgments about the law. If the law grants a specific form of equality, then it is within the courts' purview to judge cases on that basis. It isn't the courts' place to take two forms of equality — not even comparable in kind (e.g., benefit claims of adults versus social claims of future children) — and judge between them. But at this point, it's clear that you truly do see the judiciary as a legislative body, within its rights to rule over a nation that did not elect its members. Not much I can say beyond disagreeing.

Other than that, I'm not sure we disagree much on the various points currently in play, Res. With respect to "the collective consternation of the religious right": as I said, the problem with the "equality principle" is that any problem can be defined in terms of equality in opposite directions. Your characterization doesn't capture my feelings about my own consernation, but I could see how it would serve to translate the religious right into terms that you more directly comprehend.

As for this:

... it desribes what the driving force is behind what motivates supporters of SSM and it is no more illigitmate than basing opposition on nostalgia and scattered, disputed passages of some religious text.

I'd just be happy to see you concede that it is no more legitimate, either.

Posted by: Justin Katz at July 9, 2005 12:23 PM

"two forms of equality"... intersting...

Because i still maintain that with respect to marriage, gay people are currently just as equal as anyone else. There is no equality argument to speak of, it's all a mirage -- because regardless of anyones orientation, men are men, and women are women, and no two men can ever become "equal" to what a man and a woman can become together.

One key is equal to another key, and one lock is equal to another lock. Two keys are as equally useless as two locks are. Neither combination can rise to "equality" of a lock and key.

Two bullets are harmless, just as two empty guns are just aesthetically formed scrap metal. They are impotent alone, and combined, are just as impotent. But put the bullet in the gun, and you're talking about a whole other matter -- even if it is never actually fired.

No, not all equality is created equal. Two halves don't always make a whole -- only the symmetry of opposite halves can do that.

(R.K., amen and amen and amen)

Posted by: Marty at July 9, 2005 3:33 PM

R.K.,
I believe you are falling into that gender trap that the SSM proponents work so hard to propagate. I did not specify in my description any sort of preference for same or opposite sex sexual partners. But you are correct that I did accidentally leave out that group of people that have been duped into the victimology proffered by the most vocal SSM proponents. But I beg to differ that the groups I described are not that limited and they are not that radical minded. It is more out of selfishness that they do not support marriage amendments. Obligation and responsibility are too much a burden to them. And it is not just to their attitude toward partners, it is doubly so to society.

Posted by: smmtheory at July 9, 2005 3:53 PM

ssmtheory: But I beg to differ that the groups I described are not that limited and they are not that radical minded.

Maybe not, but I would still venture that if they were the only major group of heteros who supported SSM, it wouldn't stand a chance as far as softening public opposition to it. It is because of the beliefs I described---the elevation of "equality" to a principle overriding all others, and the "sympathy ethic" (and of SSM opponents' underestimation of these)---that I predict (though I hope I'm wrong) that am amendment to the Massachusetts constitution overturning Goodridge will probably fail in that state, at least if present trends continue, unless those advocating it change their line of argument to one which won't be so easily dismissed by those leaning toward those beliefs. Or better yet, if those beliefs are directly challenged themselves.

Posted by: R.K. at July 9, 2005 8:14 PM

An amendment in Mass. will fail because the citizens--who have one of the lowest divorce rates in the country outside of Utah--realize their marriages and lives are not harmed by SSM. All of the "sky is falling" predictions don't jibe with their day to day reality that children are going parentless because gays get married.

Posted by: res ipsa at July 9, 2005 8:21 PM

Res: An amendment in Mass. will fail because the citizens--who have one of the lowest divorce rates in the country outside of Utah--realize their marriages and lives are not harmed by SSM.

Again, Res, as I and others have said before over and over, the question is not whether or not present marriages will be harmed, but whether marriage (and much more) in the future will be harmed. Unfortunately, this may not become obvious until a generation raised under the idea that marriage is between any two "persons" grows up. That's what needs to be stressed to voters.

All of the "sky is falling" predictions don't jibe with their day to day reality that children are going parentless because gays get married.

Obviously a typo here. Hey, we all do it.

You may be willing to bet that no negative consequences of SSM may be apparent in a mere three years. But are you so willing to bet that none will be apparent in thirty?

And if so, explain why an androgynized definition of marriage has never taken root in any long-term culture that we're aware of. Don't give me the "because it's never been tried" excuse.

And you're not predicting that SSM would also pass in Utah, are you?

Posted by: R.K. at July 9, 2005 8:59 PM

Androgynized definition of marriage has never taken root because this is the first era in which people with same-sex orientations have had the political or social power to demand relationships.

Marriage, as we know it, is not universal in a "long-term culture" for that matter, either. It is actually a rather recent phenomenon (200 or 300 years). And for most of that time, large numbers of people were excluded, including poor people, slaves, mixed race couples. Don't forget that until 1967, mixed-race marriages were forbidden in many states.

Marriage has always adapted to social change. It made the transition from a caste-oriented relationship designed to protect wealth, to an institution designed to protect women and children--who had no power and status in society and thus were dependent on men--to a more modern relationship we began to see in the 1900s.

Posted by: res ipsa at July 9, 2005 10:13 PM

Androgynized definition of marriage has never taken root because this is the first era in which people with same-sex orientations have had the political or social power to demand relationships.

So I guess Alexander the Great, Richard the Lion-Hearted, Frederick the Great, and all those other leaders who have been identified as gay or bisexual for years (by gays themselves) weren't gay after all.

This explanation does not work, Res. Are you saying that gays have never been in power in any culture, or what? And the fact that so many cultures have been as tolerant as they were toward homosexuality (many even coming close to granting homosexual marriage, but never in the form advocated today) only begs the question even more. The more likely answer is that it probably was tried at numerous times and quickly proved a failure.

Cultural ideas are not as new as we like to think. As far as cultural innovations are concerned (at least those not requiring some technological advance), there is nothing new under the sun. "We're the first society to think of it, or have the opportunity to do it" doesn't make a satisfying answer, because to believe this denies the extreme variety of human culture through the years. This argument is reminiscent of the feminist argument which tries to explain all sex roles and/or stereotypes as being merely due to patriarchal power, and it makes even less sense.

Marriage has always adapted to social change.

Oh, it has? Aren't you one of those who always remind us about what a bad state heterosexual marriage is in today? The argument of course being 1) that it's therefore hypocritical for people to be concerned about the effect SSM may have on marriage because it's already been hurt enough, and 2) that because marriage is in such bad shape anyway, SSM couldn't make it any worse.

Or are you going to argue that "social changes" had nothing to do with marriage's current problems?

Nothing, no matter how old, can adapt to just anything. Ask the trilobites or the dinosaurs. Marriage survives today not because it is impervious to any change but because if it dies, the society dies, hence only societies with marriage survive. The argument that "it's still here, therefore it's resilient to all change" is as silly as me or you saying that because none of the diseases or challenges we as individuals have been through has yet killed us, therefore we're immortal.

Posted by: R.K. at July 9, 2005 11:23 PM

Justin,

Well, you certainly did well on this one.

No, Sully won't respond to you (he hasn't responded to Kurtz's "thunking" of both him and Jonathan Rauch in 2001, over 4 years ago).

He hasn't even attempted a response to his vacillations on the War on Terror (ably recounted by both Mickey Kaus at Slate & Uber-pundit, Glenn Reynolds).

He accused National Review of (1) Being "weak" on the War on Terror during the hullabaloo in Fallujah (this was the same time that the cover of the issue stated "Whatever It Takes"). (2) Then, he accused them of being too JINGOISTIC (folks this was about a week after he had accused them of going, essentially, "soft" on Iraq; that's right, one week) after too many talking heads started screaming about the lack of postwar planning (a perfect, if more unstable, Henry Morgenthau for our times....uh, on certain days, anyway).

So, no, Justin, he'll just ignore that you've bested him (just as he continues to ignore that Kurtz bested him, and that - again and again), that David Frum bested him (Sullivan supposedly gave Frum a "fisking" which Frum turned right on over and gave to Sullivan, with accurate data, and......again, silence from Sullivan).

He just makes his charges and moves on.

Consistency?

He's as consistent as Walt Whitman, the wil-o-the-wisp of HIS age.

With apropos to Michael, I'm glad to see that Thirdofthemonth has decided to come on back.

I'm STILL waiting for an explanation of the "reasonableness" of Roe V. Wade (other than Michael's mere opinion, that is).

But, I suppose I'll be waiting as long as you and all of the others who've bested Sullivan will be waiting for (1) A reply and (2) Anything CONSISTENT or RATIONAL in any such reply.

Take care, Justin, and best to the family.

Posted by: Aaron at July 10, 2005 12:19 AM

An amendment in Mass. will fail because the citizens--who have one of the lowest divorce rates in the country outside of Utah--realize their marriages and lives are not harmed by SSM.

It will come as no suprise to everyone here but Res Ipsa, that states with the lowest Marriage rates also have the lowest divorce rates, and states with the highest marriage rates also have the highest divorce rates.

Didn't it occur to you that few Massachusans divorce because few of them still believe in the institution anyway?

Posted by: Marty at July 10, 2005 1:10 PM

Wait a minute. I must be confused, because I thought the Massachusetts voters passed the amendment but it got overturned by the activists sitting on the bench, same as Nebraska.

Marty's right though Res. You're putting the cart before the horse. When fewer people get married, there are fewer couples to get divorced. And the ones that are staying married are the ones for whom marriage means a lot more than to somebody in favor of SSM.

Posted by: smmtheory at July 10, 2005 3:27 PM

There was never an amendment in Mass. And after the Goodridge decision, support for SSM has actually grown in Mass., with anti-SSM politicians losing in elections. Except for the grandstanding Gov. Romney--whose eyes are on the Presidency and not the people of Mass.--there's almost no call for an amendment.

Posted by: res ipsa at July 10, 2005 5:51 PM

I would add another reason for the apparent drop in support for an amendment overturning Goodridge in Massachusetts---a dislike of doing anything which might be perceived as "taking away rights", even among many who still may harbor severe doubts about what SSM will lead to in the future. In fact, I would say that this is probably the main reason for the apparent rise in support for SSM in Massachusetts (as support has dropped elsewhere), followed by the fact that it is generally our most "liberal" state and hence most likely to subscribe to the "sympathy ethic" and to the belief that equality always trumps all other principles.

The reluctance to do anything which smacks of "taking away rights" is understandable, but it doesn't tell us anything about what SSM is going to lead to a generation from now. Those concerns are still there.

At the very least, if Goodridge is to be overturned in Massachusetts, it would be necessary to offer an alternate type of union, of which the type Matt Taylor proposes (in his comment under the "What It Means To 'Compromise' On Marriage" thread) would probably be the best idea. (And by the way, I do appreciate Matt's attempt to find a centrist solution here, even though we may not always agree).

Posted by: R.K. at July 10, 2005 8:26 PM

Another reason Mass. is aquiescing to the Goodridge decision is that raised by Justin in the post titled "A Revolution's First Mumble" - a large fraction of their population has absorbed the idea that judges get to say what the law is (or what it should be, in this case). The fact that judges don't seem to feel bound by any restrictions on what they can "interpret" the law to say doesn't seem to faze people. Does anyone know what is going on in Nebraska in this regard? Is anyone putting up a fight there?

The extremely aggravating thing about the judicial usurpers is that it is exceedingly difficult to do anything about it without causing chaos.

Posted by: Mike S. at July 10, 2005 9:50 PM

The Nebraska decision is being appealed by the State Attorney General if I remember correctly.

Posted by: smmtheory at July 11, 2005 2:30 AM

To learn more about the new marriage amendment in Massa see the following:

http://voteonmarriage.org/

The Coalition for Marriage and Family opposes the Travaglini-Lees Amendment that would join marital status with civil union status. The Coalition has proposed their own amendment which they can get to the 2008 ballot when they collect about 65,000 signatures. A previous citizen initiative in 2001 gathered about 130,000 signatures but was killed by underhanded procedural tactics at the constitutional convention.

This new citizen-proposed amendment would say nothing about civil union and it would not nullify the same-sex marriages that would have already taken place due to judicial lawmaking.

For more info see the Coalition's FAQ:

http://voteonmarriage.org/faqs.html#eight

[Hat tip to Opine Editorials]

The Nebraska amendment is gonna survive judicial review. The trial judge was off the rails.

Posted by: F. Rottles at July 11, 2005 3:24 AM