Does Not Compute!

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Danger, John Derbyshire! Danger! Danger! The recent Massachusetts decision on gay marriage appears to have caused the equivalent of a divide-by-zero error in the circuitry of conservative brains, which are short circuiting en masse. The spate of frantic comments seen in the last twenty four hours may collectively make less sense than everything conservatives have said on the topic up to this point… which is pretty impressive.

It takes a special kind of hostility to equal rights, for example, to descend to the point where the following inane arguments count as "thoughtful":

Under the traditional restrictions, a man cannot marry his daughter, or, a fortiori, is son, and so if he leaves them a very large inheritance, it is taxed, although what he leaves his wife is not taxed. But under a general license to 'marry' another man, a man could marry his son, and thus pass his property to the son tax-free. […]

[W]hat if two men who are partners in crime take the precaution of marrying, so that they can each be sure that the other one won't turn state's evidence at trial, should they be caught?

So, despite the fact that a general right to marry someone of the opposite sex hasn't compelled us to allow father/daughter marriages, a general right to marry someone of your own sex is (apparently) going to require us to license father/son marriage. And while the spousal privilege loophole is apparently not cause for concern when it comes to mixed-gender partners-in-crime, so many male criminal partnerships will "take the precaution" of marrying first that we'll have to dispense with it.

Derbyshire earlier wondered whether cellmates might now marry (the point? your guess is as good as mine), while fellow Cornerite Stan Kurtz linked an only barely more coherent piece that pushes the limits of even Maggie Gallagher's prodigious powers of vacuity. Apparently, the notion that you should be allowed to marry the person you love, whether or not you intend to have children, is equivalent to the claim "that children don't need mothers and fathers." Permitting childless couples also, it seems, amounts to "conduct[ing] a great social experiment on children." Because, you see… err, no, I can't even come up with a facetious line of argument on which that follows.

NEXT: While America Slept...

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  1. I think the “partners in crime” and “take the precaution” argument is referring to sodomy laws – at least subconsiously.

  2. rst, please don’t try to reassert a higher level of discourse moments after calling everyone that disagrees with you a pussy. If you’re not upset, why can’t you keep things civil? Whether or not rights are recognized is completely seperate from whether they exist and should be recgonized. Homosexuals will be around no matter what, and I truly fail to see how allowing them to “get married” instead of “being unified” can make a difference in the context of families or society. Nobody owns the concept of marriage.

  3. I have some sympathy for those who don’t want to redefine the term “marriage” but want to allow gays to form civil unions. The big problem with this scheme is that everyone in a “civil union” will say that they are married. Adam won’t say that I “civil unioned” Steve, he’ll say that he “married” him. Calling it a civil union will be a technical legal distinction, and any “cultural damage” or whatever that might result from allowing gay marriage will result from this “civil union” stuff too. You might win the legal battle, but you’ll lose the linguistic/cultural war.

  4. “Margaret Cho was on NPR this morning, and mentioned that family rates at the federal parks currently discriminate against gay couples.”

    A-ha. Now we know why government has a compelling interest in regulating marriage – $$$$. But in some really counter-intuitive ways.

    This morning I was trying to figure out how gay marriage would effect me. And I can’t figure out a single way. The state already has a compelling interest in children that doesn’t begin at the wedding or end at the divorce. Everyone works the angles to save a few bucks on taxes and family discounts. If these discounts were worthwhile for straights, why not for queers, zooiphiles, or aubuorphiles?

    So why the hell is government regulating marriage at all?

  5. About this equal rights business – what about all the poor schlubs who aren’t attracted (or attractive) to anyone at all? How will we extend equal rights to them?

    This has nothing to do with equal rights, it has to do with equal privilege. One thing this should do is make the case to social conservatives for limited government. Married couples are beneficiaries of government privlege, people claim it’s unfair, then say the privleges must be extended to gay couples as well. Now conservatives’ favorite institution has been altered without their control, in a way they don’t like. Why isn’t that the libertarian angle? The government ought to be out of the marriage business altogether. Are there a lot of gay libertarians?

    Civil unions was the practical way to go here. Although, really, lefties should be happy about this. Think of all the great cracks about conservative (or conservative institution) X “still doesn’t recognize gay marriage” we’ll get to hear 10 years from now. Nevermind all of the arguments we hear now that people, churches, etc are free to maintain their own beliefs whatever the state sanctions.

  6. Slippery Pete:

    Thanks very much for putting words in my mouth. I said nothing, explicit or implicit, to imply that this new institution should be inferior to marriage as it stands right now.

    I’ve thought a bit more about this, so here’s my new angle.

    For most of its existence marriage has been a religious institution, i.e. marriages in most times and places were sanctioned by the religion predominating at that time and place. For me, this is still true. I am Catholic, and the important thing for me is that my marriage is sanctioned by the church. The “license” that I had to obtain from the state has little to no meaning for me.

    Perhaps the reason I have a visceral reaction to the term “gay marriage” is that until now my Christian marriage, and “marriage” as defined by the state, meant roughly the same thing. If the state wants to change its definition of marriage so radically, maybe they should recognize only “civil unions” for gay, straight, or other. Perhaps I’m arguing over trifles, but the meanings of words are important to me.

    For the cynics out there, I guess you could argue that I’m “burning the village in order to save it”; destroying state-sanctioned marriage in order to deny it to gays. Believe what you will…

  7. …moments after calling everyone that disagrees with you a pussy.

    Learn to read. I didn’t call everyone who disagrees with me a pussy.

    If you’re not upset, why can’t you keep things civil?

    When did I make them uncivil? Questioning the nature of what we call rights is not uncivil. Questioning the need to redefine terms which no one owns, and the authority whereby that is done, is not uncivil.

    I truly fail to see…

    That’s the root of all of our problems. As for me, I fail to see why it is necessary to change the idea of marriage, when the notion of domestic partnership works just fine and can be modified in any legal context to create the exact same effect. It’s strictly a civil service anyway; few if any prominent religions will marry gays.

  8. Rob:

    Perhaps the government should eliminate legal marriage entirely, and just issue civil union licenses. Although, truly, JDM has a good point about this being a privilege rather than a right, in some senses. People get married in the church because it is a ritualistic part of their faith. The government issues marriage licenses because…? It’s another form of behavior modification via tax credits and micromanagement.

  9. legal marriage entirely, and just issue civil union licenses

    A legal marriage is a civil union. Marriage itself is a concept that existed long before our civilization or our concept of legality. It was only adopted for use in our society; people can be married without having that union recognized by the state. Outside of the legal ramifications, to those people the position the state may take on their relationship is irrelevant.

  10. I think the government shouldn’t be in the bussiness of recognizing marriages. But as long as it does, I agree that people should be able to marry whom ever the hell they want.

    My real question with this decision is, does the mass constitution really suggest that gay’s have the right the to marry? Being a court decision, shouldn’t the only issue be the constitutionality of the thing? I haven’t seen anything to confirm this, but knowing what I do of the bay state, I suspect we’re dealing with an activist court. Though they might have done the right thing morally, does insisting that gay marriage is protected by their constitution really have any legal merit? I haven’t seen anything on this either way.

    Any help?

  11. If the state wants to change its definition of marriage so radically, maybe they should recognize only “civil unions” for gay, straight, or other.

    Exactly what I was going to propose, as a lesbian mother in a comitted, long-term, same-sex relationship. Get the government out of the business of “marriage” altogether, and issue licenses for “civil unions” or “domestic partnerships” or whatever term is bureaucratic enough to suffice for legally recognized committed partnerships between two consenting adults.

    Let the clergy have dominion over the specific term “marriage” and determine for whom they will perform ceremonies. Then the frightened NRO-types who are terrified that all of Western society will fall into chaos if a same-sex couple gets married can rest easy, and equal protection under the law is provided in this instance and without the imposition of “separate but equal” apologetics.

  12. Thanks, Joe M!

    That’s the first time I’ve heard anyone other than myself question why government needs to have a role in marriage at all. Their role should be limited to enforcing any private contracts between the couple.

  13. Gays could probably get popular political support for gay marriage if they just gave it a different name. Let me explain:

    Suppose that upon going to the courthouse there were 2 forms available. One for gay couples, the other for straight couples. Both confer the exact same rights in regard to property, power of attorney, inheritance, etc. The only difference is that the one for straight couples has the word “marriage” at the top, and the one for gay couples has some other word at the top.

    I venture to say that in many states a majority of the people would endorse this. Gays might not be happy because they don’t get the same name for it, but what’s in a name? A marriage contract by any other name would still confer the same legal rights. Oh, marriage contract, marriage contract, wherefore art thou marriage contract? Renounce thy traditional nomenclature and forsake thy name!

    oops, sorry, got carried away.

  14. “until now my Christian marriage, and “marriage” as defined by the state, meant roughly the same thing.”

    Rob,

    Actually, the Church’s domain is over a sacrament called “matrimony”, not marriage. The two are not the same thing at all.

  15. does insisting that gay marriage is protected by their constitution really have any legal merit?

    No more so than insisting that abortion is covered by the US constitution. The interpretation is what’s important. Next week another court might say the opposite, that the Constitution of Mass. does not protect gay marriage. To the conservatives, that will be the “correct” interpretation. To the liberals, that will be the “incorrect” interpretation.

  16. Anon 2:00,

    The Massachusetts Constitution contains equal protection under the law language for sexual orientation. The SJC ruled that state sanctioned marriage provides protections and benefits under the law; thus, they must be provided equally, regardless of sexual orientation.

    Also, it contains strong “pursuit of happiness”/”individual liberty” language. The SJC ruled that the right to marry, and the right to choose who to marry, are essential parts of pursuing happiness and living your life.

  17. rst, you really don’t need to correct my english. I’ve struggled through a few developmental biology classes.

    her?i?ta?ble: adj. Capable of being passed from one generation to the next; hereditary. Capable of inheriting or taking by inheritance.

    There are very complex interactions between genes and the environment occuring throughout the development of an organism, from embryo to adulthood. Yes, I am suggesting to you that human physical and behavioral characteristics are the outcome of one’s genotype interacting with one’s environment. You got a problem with that?

    I don’t suspect there’s a single “gay gene” expressesed in a simple dominant-recessive manner, such as eye color. Not that simple. But because homosexuality appears across races, cultures, and through history, studies support the hypothesis (not yet a theory) that homosexuality has a hereditary component.

    Is that controversial?

  18. Suppose that upon going to the courthouse there were 2 forms available. One for gay couples, the other for straight couples. Both confer the exact same rights in regard to property, power of attorney, inheritance, etc. The only difference is that the one for straight couples has the word “marriage” at the top, and the one for gay couples has some other word at the top.

    I venture to say that in many states a majority of the people would endorse this. Gays might not be happy because they don’t get the same name for it, but what’s in a name?

    Equality.

  19. It’s not controversial, just irrational to make policy based on hypotheses. That people are homosexual is not at issue. Be gay if that’s how you get your rocks. Fill out a civil union form and get your power of attorney. Have a civil union, tell your friends you’re married, and then to everyone to whom it matters, it will have the sought-after effect.

  20. I agree, it’s still technically unequal. But it may be a good step toward full equality. They get everything but the name, and hence avoid the discomfort that many people feel about redefining the word marriage. Time passes, people see that gay civil unions haven’t ruined the world, and maybe in ten years they take the final step and use the “M-word”.

  21. “Permitting childless couples also, it seems, amounts to “conduct[ing] a great social experiment on children.” Because, you see…”

    Apparently, the author in questions believes that life arises spontaneously, like maggots in meat.

  22. I hate to break it to the opponents of gay marriage, but there are already plenty of gay couples who are married, not in the civil sense, but in the religous. There are ministers out there who will perform a religous marriage ceremony for same sex couples. So basiclly the religous conservatives here are arguing that secular marriage should be forbidden to same sex couples to perserve the sanctity of religous marriage.

  23. but what’s in a name?
    Equality.

    Untrue. What’s in a name? Letters. The ideas therein are a subjective interpretation; a word is only a word for as long as it is not read.

  24. Gays might not be happy because they don’t get the same name for it, but what’s in a name?

    Equality.

    I’m sorry, but that’s nonsense. Does the fact that there are separate words for “men” and “women” prevent equality of men and women?

    “Marriage” is an English word that refers to a union between a husband (“the male parter in a marriage”) and a wife (“the female partner in a marriage”). That has been the accepted meaning of that English word for as long as English has existed, a fact which is reflected in the dictionary. The union of a man and a man, or a woman and a woman, is not covered by the term. This is a plain fact.

    Now, I personally support expanding the definition of the term to include male/male and female/female relationships, which is why I refer to gay marriage without goofy Derbyshireisms like “so-called” prepended to it. But that proposed change, to a term that’s had a more consistent meaning than pretty much anything else in our culture, gives other people the screaming heebie-jeebies.

    What homosexuals and equal-rights advocates are demanding is twofold: equal treatment of unions under the law, and a change to the definition of an English word. The former is about equality. The latter isn’t; it’s about semantics. Throwing away a chance at the former because of an obsession over the latter is rank stupidity.

  25. Huh-huh. He said “a fortiori”. That was cool.

  26. opponents of gay marriage

    Not all opponents of gay marriage are religious conservatives.

    There are ministers out there who will perform a religous marriage ceremony for same sex couples.

    Likely not in the religion of the aforementioned religious conservatives

    So basiclly the religous conservatives here are arguing that secular marriage should be forbidden to same sex couples to perserve the sanctity of religous marriage.

    No, they’re arguing that changing the term marriage to include same sex couples is in direct violation of the definition of marriage for these religions (the “only” religions, to their respective believers), which were the institutions which defined marriage in the first place.

    The SC said that they must be extended equal protection under the law. That does not mean that the term marriage has to be redefined to accomodate them. It just means that the legislature has to extend those protections to gay civil unions.

  27. What’s in a name? Letters.

    what’s in the constitution? letters. what’s in the bible? letters. what’s your point?

    don’t parse to deny the point, mr clinton. 😉 creating a new or different catagory of union — even if different in name only — is still separate but equal and unconstitutional.

  28. What about single people? How long before it is recognized that all of the legal ramifications that straights and gays want in marriage are not endowed upon those who are not in love.

  29. what’s your point?

    My point is that equivalent terminology does not indicate equality. Equality does not necessitate equivalent terminology. Therefore, it is false to claim that the two indicate or require each other.

    is still separate but equal and unconstitutional.

    How so? It is the responsibility of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to provide gay couples with equal protection under the law, which provides specific benefits for individuals who are married. Not that it has to allow gays to be married, only that it must provide the same protections to their union.

  30. are not endowed upon those who are not in love

    Shady O’Grady:

    Whatsa love gotta do with marriage?

  31. it is false to claim that the two indicate or require each other.

    except, of course, where they do. and you and i both know that the entire reason for calling civil unions civil unions and not marriages is because they are not equal, even if they are legally identical. it is a ploy by defensive heteros to maintain social superiority to a class of person they’ve deemed unworthy of the sacred word “marriage”. are you always an advocate of keeping sacred what the church deems sacred?

    and don’t pretend that only the letter of the law matters and that the connotations don’t exist. they do exist, and (whether eventually deemed constitutional or not) this entire process from the conservative side exists to maintain the ancient set of connotations through the force of central authority at the expense of individual liberty. which is why mitt romney means what he says:

    “I agree with 3,000 years of recorded history,” the Republican governor said. “Marriage is an institution between a man and a woman … and our constitution and laws should reflect that.”

    the entire thing reeks of the parallel unwritten code of jim crow in the reconstructionist south. and the courts and nation paid and continue to pay dearly for that set of connotations to be put to rest.

  32. Not that it has to allow gays to be married, only that it must provide the same protections to their union.

    at the end of the day, rst, i guess what baffles me most about the conservative position is why they believe the state has any right to disallow any individual from being married on any basis, including sexual preference. it seems to me as clear a case of discrimination on that basis as you can have.

  33. Maddog,
    It’s true that some clergy are performing same sex weddings anyway. But many, if not most Judeo-Christian sects think they are in serious violation of God’s principles, and are telling them so. Rather vehemently, I might add. It doesn’t do much good, though, to air that in a political arena because we’re operating on entirely seperate values out here. Even if someone could *prove* that the Bible explicitly condemns homosexuality or gay marriage, it wouldn’t make a difference to you or to any one of us in terms of policy making. Most christians understand this, but not all.

  34. Blog all you want, if the IRS does not recognize gay marriages on the 1040, “Married, filing jointly” the Mass Supremes decission means nothing. As we all know spouses must include their names and SSAN on the tax forms. The IRS (the Feds) will decide if gays get the married status. Being denied married status by the Feds = not married in any State, Commonwealth or Territory

  35. Appeals to tradition by themselves tend to be little more than logical fallacies. Of course appeals to tradition are part of the conservative movement going back to Edmunde Burke and his comments on the French Revolution. Not that Burke was completely in error in his comments; simply that his comments themselves, in striving to criticize the French revolution, went too far in the other direction.

  36. Rick,

    It means something regarding Massachusetts state law; and its a crack in the armor so to speak. Why aren’t all the conservatives screaming “Hoorah!” and “States’ Rights!”?

  37. How about this bit from Derb’s ‘thoughtful’ reader: “Marriage, with the special privileges that have grown up around it, is a potential source of advantages to the unscrupulous.”

    This would seem to imply that marriage has advantages that are ‘unscrupulously’ enjoyed by couples of differing sexes that would be ‘unscrupulously’ enjoyed by same sex couples. Uh, that is kind of the point.

    Conservatives are just insane on this issue. They know they can’t just say, “It is icky!” or “God says no way!” so we wind up with arguments like this.

  38. they are not equal, even if they are legally identical.

    mak, that is utter nonsense. The government has no power or authority to make anything equal outside the context of law.

    state has any right to disallow any individual from being married on any basis

    Standards of decency, which states are free to set for themselves. The state is free to decide what marriages they will recognize. You don’t have to agree with it, but that’s the way it is. You can marry a 14-year old in India, but it would be illegal to honeymoon in Florida. Isn’t that discriminatory?

    it seems to me as clear a case of discrimination on that basis as you can have.

    Only if you redefine marriage does it become discriminatory. Marriage has a connotation that does not include gays. To most it will not ever include gays, regardless of the laws surrounding it.

    Giving gays all the legal benefits and responsibilities of marriage creates the legal effect of a marriage. Beyond that, what legal recourse is there?

  39. rst,

    “Marriage has a connotation that does not include gays. To most it will not ever include gays, regardless of the laws surrounding it.”

    At one time marraige in the US also had a connotation that should only be between adults of the same “race”; and such was enforced by criminal penalties.

    As to your prediction, all I can say is that things change; people’s attitudes and prejudices change, wane, etc. And that of course that it is rather silly for you to try to predict the future. 🙂

  40. Jean Bart makes an excellent point. The U.S. constitution says NOTHING about marriage gay or straight. Therefore it stands to reason that it would fall under the 10 Amendment and be decided by individual states. Of course, you don’t hear right wingers use the same logic for doctor-assited-sucicide or medical marijuna, so it doesn’t really surprise me.

  41. Merovingian, States Rights began erroding during the post Civil War Reconstruction Period and continues to today. The Feds will get involved in this same sex matter. The CPA’s at DoJ will enforce the laws on tax evasion and people will go to jail for claiming married status. Should some people believe the Feds will not touch this political hot potato all they need to look at is the jail terms given the folks that claimed slave reparation on their tax returns.
    The CPAs rule in the long run.

  42. Therefore it stands to reason that it would fall under the 10 Amendment and be decided by individual states.

    Of course, and because individual states are free to determine their standards of decency, they are also free to define marriage using the language they deem appropriate.

    I’m pretty sure that if a state recognizes a marriage, then for the purposes of filing the IRS recognizes it, because the federal government doesn’t actually recognize marriages. It is in applying for a state license that one earns the right to file joint federal taxes.

  43. The government has no power or authority to make anything equal outside the context of law.

    rst, if that were true, i would feel far less compulsion to be libertarian in my leanings. unfortunately, the government has all manner of power and authority to do so, by choosing how and why they enforce the law.

    Marriage has a connotation that does not include gays.

    can you say why — or, more particularly, why this should not change as the connotations of race in marriage have changed?

  44. This is silly. How can gay marriage have any impact on hetero marriage? Those who would like the States pass laws that reflect the ‘will of the majority of the people’ need to remember a time not long ago when that will produced some truly evil results…Al Gore! :0

  45. Dan:

    I agree with you that gays would be stupid to refuse “civil unions” out of spite because they’re not given the right to marry right off the bat.

    It’s religous conservatives who are stupid to insist on creating this thing called “civil unions” as a way of precluding gay marriage. By doing so, so-called defenders of marriage are actually undermining it.

    How so? Consider this: Civil unions might be created “for” gays, but they’d be open to straight couples, too (or else risk being deemed unconstitutional for the same reasons the straights-only marriage law was deemed unconstitutional).

    So now we’d have a parallel system of marriage in all but name, open to straights and gays, and – wouldn’t you know – there are fifty times as many staights as gays. A good number are not religious. They might – and surely many would – choose the path of civil union over marriage, since the benefits are identical.

    Tell me, again, how exactly this is supposed to “defend” the institution of marriage.

  46. RST at November 19, 2003 12:07 PM :

    (directed to the audience at large…)
    “I just enjoy watching you pussies get riled up when people who aren’t tripping over themselves to be progressive are posting.”

    RST at November 19, 2003 01:29 PM :

    (directed to Joe M…)

    “Learn to read. I didn’t call everyone who disagrees with me a pussy.”

    RST, if you stop smoking so much weed, your short term memory may improve. Less than 80 minutes = too much dope.
    If you honestly didn’t mean to imply that everyone who disagrees with you is a pussy, you need to work on your writing skills.

    Rob:

    The joining of two people in Holy Matrimony describes my marriage perfectly. Well, except for the Holy part. I had a civil service, wanting to avoid the taint of religion in my vows.

    Doesn’t this description of marriage work for everyone?

  47. the government has all manner of power and authority to do so, by choosing how and why they enforce the law.

    It does not have the authority to be (un?)injudiciously selective, actually. It fraudulently exercises the power it does have to do so through the consent of the governed, who are Prozacked into not noticing.

    There is still no sufficient reason for a change to an idea so inherently wired into our consciousness that it is older than just about anything else we know. It’s exclusionary, but so what? So are historically black colleges, and historically white golf courses.

    The state can mandate its own decency, and it has the right to mandate gays right out of the marriage debate. All it must do is write a constitutional amendment. Then what?

  48. can you say why — or, more particularly, why this should not change as the connotations of race in marriage have changed?

    Why should it change? Because gays want it? So what, I want a lot of things. Just because I say something is my right doesn’t make it so.

    If you honestly didn’t mean to imply that everyone who disagrees with you is a pussy, you need to work on your writing skills.

    Directed to the audience at large? Directed to whomever was getting riled up. As for the rest I couldn’t care less what you took from it. Not everybody here who disagreed with me got riled up at my particular viewpoint. Have another hit.

  49. RST, you ignoranty pussy, it’s not only gays who feel gays should have the right to get married. And those of us – gay and straight and somewhere in between – who DO favor gay marriage don’t favor it just because “gays want it”. Do you really have such a shallow and pathetic conception of what our position is, or are you just sloppy in your argument?

  50. RST, you flatter yourself. No one here is “riled up” about your particular viewpoint. It’s not well considered enough to be worthy of that emotion.

    As for myself, I was merely attempting to dispassionately draw your attention to some memory lapses you may wish to seek help for. Best luck.

  51. It’s a basic human need to pair up for long-term relationships (almost always one other person). With “marriage,” you enter into a legal state that makes it easy to share property with your partner, without getting a lawyer to write extra legal documents.

    Some people happen to be gay. This has always been true and will always be true.

    I can’t think of any intelligent reason for continuing to disallow gay marriages. Every reason I have heard here is either 1) “but we never used to do that,” or 2) “eww, that’s icky.”

  52. >RST says: … an idea so inherently wired into our consciousness that it is older than just about anything else we know.

    Prove it.

    It may be deeply wired into *your* consciousness, but that doesn’t prove a thing.

  53. who DO favor gay marriage don’t favor it just because “gays want it”.

    Then why do you favor it? Gays can already have civil unions. As I said before it would be trivial and uncontroversial to adopt that in the Commonwealth and extend the legal definition of that civil union to encompass the exact rights as are present in a marriage, and they will have given not only the legal recognition demanded by the lawsuit, but also a means to quiet the religious folks with the god hangup. Stretching the term of marriage is unnecessarily extreme.

    I know, I know, how dare I suggest compromise?

    Maybe we should expand slavery to include the economic slavery of immigrants during the turn of the century. After all, it was slavery. I’m sure the blacks will understand.

  54. It’s religous conservatives who are stupid to insist on creating this thing called “civil unions” as a way of precluding gay marriage. By doing so, so-called defenders of marriage are actually undermining it […] Tell me, again, how exactly this is supposed to “defend” the institution of marriage.

    I have no interest in defending the irrational beliefs of religious people. I was simply pointing out that a lot of people will accept civil unions that grant all the benefits of marriage, who will never, under any circumstances, accept the redefinition of a key part of our culture.

    Simply put, if you force Americans into a choice between two options: “gay marriage” and “constitutional amendment banning gay marriage”, the latter will win. The pigheaded insistance on simultaneously gaining equal treatment AND redefining core elements of American culture is doomed. Get equal treatment first; culture will redefine itself to suit.

  55. “I can’t think of any intelligent reason for continuing to disallow gay marriages. Every reason I have heard here is either 1) “but we never used to do that,” or 2) “eww, that’s icky.””

    Then you haven’t been paying much attention. Everything else you said is perfectly reasonable, but the fact is that there is one eminently intelligent reason to question gay marriage: marriage is defined (as in, in the dictionary, in common English usage as, not as in “the Bible says”, or “traditionally”) as a union of a man and a woman. That is, for the same reason I question the existence of stationary travel or cold fire.

    And that’s also the reason the comparison to racially-mixed marriages falls down. Sure, at some times in history, some governments have banned (note, banned) certain types of marriages (marriage being defined, again, as a union of a man and a woman). I don’t think there has ever been a time when marriage was ever actually defined, in a dictionary, as “a union of a man and woman of the same race”.

    What’s being talked about here is not the lifting of some ban on gay marriage–what’s being talked about is the alteration of the definition of marriage to include same sex couples. It may seem like a subtle distinction, but it really changes the nature of the argument, and, I think, explains some people’s gut reaction against it.

    Come to think of it, that brings up an interesting point–historically, even in those few societies that were relatively favorable to homosexual relationships, were such relationships ever, ever termed marriages? I honestly don’t know, but the fact that none come to mind does seem to indicate that we’re talking about a fundamental change to an institution, not just the removal of a simple discriminatory practice.

    Bottom line is, those asking for “gay marriage” as such are asking for the gov’t to impose a definition on a word contrary to the generally understood definition of the word. And to a lot of people it just happens to be a pretty important word. All that is entirely separate from whatever emotional/religious objections one might have to homosexual relations (not the gov’t’s business) or whether legal/tax benefits should be allowed for gay couples (big deal).

  56. “So, despite the fact that a general right to marry someone of the opposite sex hasn’t compelled us to allow father/daughter marriages, a general right to marry someone of your own sex is (apparently) going to require us to license father/son marriage.”

    Surely Julian you can recognize the difference. Under the old state of affairs, the state was given the arbitrary power to limit the right of marriage to any category it saw fit. It was never a “general right to marry someone of the opposite sex,” despite your claim.

    Disposing of the straw man however, under a judicial ruling preventing the government from limiting marriage for arbitrary reasons, it stands to reason that restrictions against polygamy and incest could also be challenged. Not necessarily succesfully, I grant, but certainly plausibly under the line of reasoning of the Mass. Supreme Judicial Court. Restriction of the state’s power to arbitrarily restrict the institution of marriage in one way certainly strikes at its power to arbitrarily limit it in other ways, whatever your positions on the subjects.

    Merely having the state *allow* homosexual marriage of course (while presumably retaining the right to prohibit it if it so chose) would of course not have the same effect of precedence.

  57. That has been the accepted meaning of that English word for as long as English has existed, a fact which is reflected in the dictionary . . .

    . . . marriage is defined (as in, in the dictionary, in common English usage as, not as in “the Bible says”, or “traditionally”) as a union of a man and a woman . . .

    Did I just go nuts, or are there actually people here arguing on the basis that, if we allow gay men and women to get “married,” we might violate the Great and Powerful Lexicon?

  58. if we allow gay men and women to get “married,”

    The point is that it’s not necessary. There is already a solution in Vermont. Adopting that solution in Massachusetts helps the idea pervade more quickly, both legally and culturally, without having to first overcome the stigma of being the first state to allow gay marriages. The latter is highly divisive and unwise, given the fact that there is a compromise that has served gay Vermonters. The problems with that solution? Same as marriage: it’s not recognized in other states, nor by the federal government, and health insurance companies are still not uniformly extending benefits. But for some vague reason, that’s just “not enough”.

  59. Civil unions in Massachusetts aren’t “enough” that is.

  60. RST: This pussy finds your arguments wanting, and almost as willfully misguided as those of that dipshit, Jonah. Why do gays want marriage? Uh, cuz the state confers benefits on male/female couples who enter into that civil union. Duh. (Yeah, it might be tactically wise to accept a different term for it, for now; I could live with that.)

    I’m about as het as a broad could be, but a (former) dear friend of mine is as gay as any man on the planet, and has long been domestically partnered with an Austrian national. They are both lawyers in NYC. The games they play with INS (when it existed) have been a travesty — the Austrian half has had to repeatedly fill out zillions of forms and show up for interviews to “prove” that he is handling real estate transactions in Manhattan that no American lawyer could undertake. Nonsense? Of course. But otherwise, he’d have to return to Austria (which had been his plan when he went to NYU Law, where he met my former friend and fell deeply in love).

    Austrian Gertrude could marry my former friend and they’d be done with such craven and humiliating shenanigans. But Werner and my one-time friend cannot go that route, and are always under a Damoclean sword threatening to separate them. Let me tell ya, RST, that sucks for them, and even tho we are now quite estranged, I continue to feel outraged on their behalf. (Setting aside the general absurdity of immigration prohibitions, an area in which I adhere to the predictable libertarian position.)

    Libertarians, RST, understand that equality under the law is foundational to any just government. A system that confers benefits on one set of two, but denies it for no reasons connected to the benefits to another similarly situated set of two, is unequal at law. Hence, most libertarians (in my experience) believe that *if* the state is going to be involved in the business of marriage and conferring attendant benefits, it must do so equally.

  61. “Did I just go nuts, or are there actually people here arguing on the basis that, if we allow gay men and women to get “married,” we might violate the Great and Powerful Lexicon?”

    Not at all; that would be purely pedantic. The problem is people miss the true meaning of dictionaries; dictionaries are not law, they are record. Assuming that the ol’ Noah isn’t advancing some agenda of his own, then the definitions of a word present in the dictionary should reflect what users of the language generally understand a word to mean.

    And, of course, the meanings of words change with time, but the changes are always (in the case of English) a result of changes in society, and not enforced from above. The problem isn’t that a word might be misused, it’s just a matter of the gov’t sticking it’s nose further into the private affairs of the people, by _literally_ redefining a fundamental, personal, and (for many people) deeply religious institution such as marriage.

    To be perfectly honest, I can’t get too worked up about the issue one way or the other. What riles me up, though, are poorly defined arguments. The pro people are saying “We (or they) deserve equal rights, so stop banning this particular type of marriage; anyone who opposes this does so for selfish or foolish emotional or religious reasons.”

    The fact is that that simply is not the case. This is not about lifting a prohibition on a particular type of marriage; this is about altering, in a pretty damned significant way, the definition of marriage to include homosexual relationships. It may or may not be that that’s the right thing to do; I don’t know. But what I do know is that when you ask a large segment of population to do something significant like that, it really doesn’t help your cause to say “Duh, don’t be so stupid and backward.” Sigh… of course, there’s plenty of stupidness and backwardness being expressed over this (as in the original post), but there are legitimate, nonhomophobic, thoughtful reasons why someone might oppose gay marriage as such.

    And the whole freaking problem wouldn’t exist at all if the gov’t didn’t insist on sticking its collective nose into marriage to begin with.

  62. (Yeah, it might be tactically wise to accept a different term for it, for now; I could live with that.)

    That is all I seek. The civil union in Vermont is in effect a marriage, but one that is unoffensive to the people for whom the tacet definition of marriage is an important and fundamental basis of their lives. Opposition to this particular change comes from many, many more than those who merely have religiously oriented opposition to it. L.A. wants its parts suppliers and contractors to change terms like Master and Slave on equipment because the terms might be, essentially, patently offensive. If that can even find its way onto a serious memorandum, can I at least get it granted that the “redefinition” of the term marriage may be even more offensive for shall we say, more than just a Los Angeles purchasing clerk and Leonard Jeffries?

  63. A system that confers benefits on one set of two, but denies it for no reasons connected to the benefits to another similarly situated set of two, is unequal at law.

    Benefits != “Marriage”. cf. VT.

    You were too busy chastising me to pay attention to my actual position on the matter. Go read.

  64. Please help me out here. I don’t see why gays shouldn’t be allowed to marry. They should have the same rights as hetero couples for inheritance, taxation, employment benefits, medical issues, etc. But if we allow this, should we also allow the same things for my aunts that live together in a committed relationship? How about letting me claim my worthless brother on my medical plan at work? What makes a marriage?

  65. “…but one that is unoffensive to the people for whom the tacet definition of marriage is an important and fundamental basis of their lives.”

    Are you kidding me, RST?! Give me a break. Find me 10 people for whom the exclusively hetero definition of marriage is a “fundamental basis of their lives” and I’ll show you 10 people who need a fucking hobby.

  66. Hick American:

    There’s no point to debating or discussing what makes a marriage. As that doltish pussy, rst, has pointed out, the term “marriage” has an historical meaning that is unalterable fixed in the firmament. In fact, I think it’s a newly discovered law of thermodynamics. The very fabric of the universe would shred were we do even think of expanding the “definition” slightly. The hubris of it all. Really.

  67. Method says:
    “This is not about lifting a prohibition on a particular type of marriage; this is about altering, in a pretty damned significant way, the definition of marriage to include homosexual relationships. It may or may not be that that’s the right thing to do; I don’t know.”

    It’s been said before, but I’ll say it again: how is this different than the repeal of the laws against miscegenation? I’m sure that a large segment of the population had their panties in a bunch over that issue. They got over it. Well, most did, anyway.

    Should we have coined a new label back then? Muttmarriage? And how long should this type of majoritarian appeasement continue?

    (Stop right there, the joke about Buttmarriage is too obvious).

    According to Webster’s, the third definition for marriage is simply “an intimate or close union”.
    Close enough for me.

  68. Three hundred years ago, the definition of “human being” was, shall we say, rather less expansive than it is today. I suppose eighteenth-century rst (already a pussy, way back then) would have held forth with great energy that toying with the historical meaning of the term “human being” was so syntactically absurd that it was not even worth debating.

    See, folks, what really matters here is not basic human decency or human rights or science. What matters is lexicon. Yes, yes, allowing homosexual couples to marry would be an advancement for human rights and human dignity, but it has no basis in semantics, so just fucking forget about it.

  69. RST writes: “You were too busy chastising me to pay attention to my actual position on the matter. Go read.”

    I paid attention to what you wrote. Yes, you have endorsed civil unions w/ benefits, but object to denominating them as marriages. And you characterize any who disagree with you as pussies– always a hallmark of reasoned and civil exchange of views.

    For many legal reasons, nothing less may work than gay *marriage,* for example, those charged with enforcing our tax and immigration laws will be applying statutes dealing with “marriage” and its attendant benefits.

    Do gays also seek the social approbation that comes with recognizing their unions as marriages. Sure. But black/white couples did, too. So what? How is that a “special” right?

  70. TJ sez “It’s been said before, but I’ll say it again: how is this different than the repeal of the laws against miscegenation?”

    Depends, can I quote myself? “Sure, at some times in history, some governments have banned (note, banned) certain types of marriages (marriage being defined, again, as a union of a man and a woman). I don’t think there has ever been a time when marriage was ever actually defined, in a dictionary, as “a union of a man and woman of the same race”.”

    How else can I say it? In spite of the fact that some gov’ts have in the past restricted mixed marriages, it was still seen, even then, as a restriction placed on marriage, not as something that would not constitute marriage. It’s really hard for me to see the comparison; mixed marriages have happened throughout the history of mankind–it’s not a new idea (and was not at the time of the repeal of the offending laws), and it doesn’t require one to alter how one views the institution. Gay marriage, as far as I can tell, is and does.

    So, here’s the point as blatantly as possible: the repeal of miscegenation laws involved the REPEAL of laws that specifically restricted the actions of individuals (and had not always existed)–gay marriage will require action to change the way society views a fundamental institution.

    Whether that is a good thing or not, it’s a lot different from ceasing to prohibit a type of marriage.

    “According to Webster’s, the third definition for marriage is simply “an intimate or close union”. Close enough for me.”

    Uh huh. And for an example of that def, Webster’s uses “the marriage of painting and poetry”. There is such a thing as a figurative use; again, don’t try to muddy an already complicated matter. If we use that definition and abstract concepts can achieve wedded bliss, the duck-lovers really _will_ have a field day. 🙂

  71. Slippery sez –“See, folks, what really matters here is not basic human decency or human rights or science. What matters is lexicon.”

    Dude, you’re seriously missing the point. The people who object on these terms probably don’t take the time to object when someone calls a bull a cow. The point is not that such a change flaunts the dictionary; the point is that such a change flaunts a fundamental understanding that a very large number of people have about their own personal relationships, and about society as a whole.

    What you’re missing is that marriage really is a “fundamental basis” of many people’s lives–not marriage in general necessarily, but their marriage in particular, now or in the future. And marriage, like so many things legal and cultural, is purely a construct, and as such is a thing that does not exist outside of the meaning that it holds for people. So, when the meanings of such important cultural constructs change, for whatever reason, people get antsy. But when a change in meaning is mandated by the gov’t, worse, by a court in another state, people might well get just a little worked up.

    The simple fact is, we can redefine marriage as a society if we so wish; the meaning of a word is only a matter of what the speakers of a language think it is. But this (court action; finger pointing, etc.) is really not the way to do it.

    And again, this really shouldn’t be any of the gov’ts business–people should be able to enter into any contracts they like. But now we’ve got to have marriages “approved” for purposes of taxation, immigration, inheritance, and so on, so we’ve got to deal with this crap, which forces us to governmentally define marriage, which then impinges upon the societal, and finally personal definitions.

  72. Method writes: “gay marriage will require action to change the way society views a fundamental institution.”

    Society is an abstraction that holds no views. A lot of *individuals think gay sex is gross, and that “they” should not be allowed to do “that.” For most of human history, slavery was an accepted institution among many individuals, including among many of the enslaved. Times, fortunately, do change, as notions of individual rights and equality before the law increasingly gain currency.

    The U.S. Bill of Rights would have seemed madness to most people in most other ages. But we have insisted on a Constitution under which the individual is the unit of moral analysis, and which demands equality under the law. To hell with prior regimes, and so, too, for those who reject the novelty of gay marriage: it is but another extension of individual liberty and equality at law.

  73. Mona–“Society is an abstraction that holds no views.”

    Granted; I misspoke. Should’ve said it would require a great many individuals to change their views.

    “A lot of *individuals think gay sex is gross, and that “they” should not be allowed to do “that.””

    Sigh… and here we go again. Please don’t conflate an uneasiness over the altering of the definition of marriage with homophobia. Of course, some people surely feel that way, but the point I’ve been trying to make is that you can ask people to slow down a little when they talk about changing the meaning of marriage without giving a damn what they do in the bedroom–or in public, for that matter. There is an absolutely massive difference between being hesistant about gay marriage, and being gung ho on sodomy laws.

    You’re right, times do change and the dominant view of an issue can change completely, and the worldwide abolition of slavery is a good case in point. But keep in mind that not every change is necessarily good, and even if it is, it can, and sometimes should, take a while to come about fully. Even our bill of rights, while a trememdous advance in its own right, built upon a few centuries’ worth of advances in philosophy, liberty, and law.

  74. Ah, yes, Painting and Poetry. I knew them well. Right buggers, they were, but no one ever tried to legislate the intimacy in their union. Instead, if I recall correctly, everyone tried to cultivate it.

  75. Method wrote:

    “And marriage, like so many things legal and cultural, is purely a construct, and as such is a thing that does not exist outside of the meaning that it holds for people.”

    But what if those people are wrong?

    What I hear you saying is that marriage fundamentalists (how else to call it?) feel strongly about it, so it’s unreasonable to expect them to accept gay marriage. On that, I agree to a certain extent. I advocate gay marriage but I don’t expect that right to be won in one great victory, so I accept that.

    But I also hear you going beyond this – not just that basic human decency is currently unattainable, but that the refusal of certain people to accept gay marriage is morally acceptible. On this, I strongly disagree with you. I don’t dispute the reality of the situation, or that advocates of gay marriage should happily accept civil unions for the time being. They should, and that’s probably the best they’ll get in a while.

    But regardless, I maintain that those seeking to exclude people – who through absolutely no choice of their own, are gay – from the institution of marriage are morally wrong. This isn’t just a debate over tactics.

    (And please – I’m not interested in a debate over relativism or whether it’s ok to disagree with other people, or any of those other tired and unresolvable debates. The definition of politics is debate over what’s right and wrong, and I’m in that game.)

  76. Method wrote:

    “Granted; I misspoke. Should’ve said it would require a great many individuals to change their views.”

    I think you just misspoke again. It doesn’t require anybody to change their views. It requires them to deal with the views of others, to accept that people don’t always get their way. But they can think whatever they want.

  77. Mona, thank you for being a shining light of clarity. Your post made my day.

  78. “Marriage is a passing plaything of the latest fashionable ideology, a toy for adults with graduate degrees to tinker with, at their pleasure.”

    uh…so what?

    there’s some sort of grand point here i don’t understand, that i just don’t get and keep missing. it’s like asking someone to show you the fnords.

  79. i truly find social conservatives to be fascinating. how does one acquire so much fear?

  80. Maggie was on Jim Lehrer, decrying the fact that the ruling identifies marriage as being based on the desire to two people to define their lives, rather than the foundation of a social order. It sounded exactly like she was arguing in favor of arragned marriages, rather than marrying for love.

  81. You wanna know how we can tell that the Neanderthals over at NRO are a bunch of liars?

    Their lips are moving. Ha ha.

    No, seriously. In the US, 50 percent of all marriages end in divorce. I.e., half of all marriages fail, leaving chaose in trail. Half. H-A-L-F. That’s huge.

    Yet you rarely hear any bellyaching from them about this. Oh, yes, sure, they’ll remark upon it and say it’s bad. And they’re right – it is. But they never advocate banning divorce, or making it difficult enough that that 50% number drops by much.

    But when it comes to the gay 2% of the population that wishes to marry, suddenly the (broken) Institution of Marriage is under grave assault, on the verge of utter collapse. This “argument”, such as it is, is asinine. It is preposterous on its face.

    Plainly, the knuckle-draggers at NRO, simply and openly, hate homos and want to maintain social superiority over them. That’s it. That’s why they’re reduced to making (other) idiotic arguments like the one Julian has highlighted. Dispite all the affected speech over there, they’re really a bunch of moral cretins.

  82. First of all, let me say that there is NO AMOUNT OF MONEY that I wouldn’t pay to see Julian Sanchez debate John Derbyshire. I cannot think of anything, real or imagined, in this universe that would be more entertaining.

    Maggie Gallagher’s article is fundamentally unserious. Strawmen, red herrings, etc. It’s like a catalogue of logical fallacies or an object lesson in _How NOT to Argue_.

    It’s too bad, too. I think that somewhere underneath the bigotry, revulsion, and stubborn resistence to change, there’s a serious conservative argument. A diamond in a mountain of shit, if you will. But conservatives would rather hand-waive and grandstand. So now the plausible part of their argument is orphaned, left without an advocate. What serious person can take these conservatives seriously?

    Here’s a serious argument. What if gay marriage really is *bad for the children*? What if children of gay couples grow up and have more psychological problems, a higher suicide rate, are more likely to commit crime? What if they’re categorically unhappy, alienated, unassimilable into mainstream society, messed up? What then?

  83. Yes. Everything I heard from conservatives Tuesday was that this ruling makes marriage something between individuals, and ignores the “important” societal considerations. Also, this has nothing to do with equal protection under the law, because marriage is meant to advance societal values, such as procreation and traditional roles. Absolutely ridiculous crap. And so we come to find out (not that we didn’t already know it) that conservatives don’t really give a damn about individual rights when it conflicts with things upset their standards of behaviour.

  84. Go, Pete! Gut level brainwashed gay-bashing is the foundation of their thinking, with their tortured arguments coming later. Even the Biblical argument is post-whatever.

    Has anyone ever known a person who wasn’t instinctively anti-gay, who reluctantly decided to oppose gay rights because of what the Bible says?

  85. Conservatives like Derbyshire are generally opposed to the “Death Tax”, so wouldn’t they be pleased at the prospect of children being able to inherit tax-free? 🙂

    In all seriousness, those arguments are as bizarre as they are irrelevant. Government sponsored marriage is a contract between individuals, and it’s gender discrimination to prevent some couples from entering into it because they are of the same gender. Anyone who says otherwise is just being political.

  86. C,

    “What if?” is a serious argument? What a maroon.

  87. Phil–

    More plausible than a lot of what is being said. (E.g., this will lead to the death of the west).

    Do you have any evidence, for or against?

  88. I count John Derbyshire as a friend, and I’ve debated Kurtz about this a number of times, and all I can figure is that in both their cases the underlying impulse comes down to “Gay marriage means that those people are having sex, and gay sex is icky.”

    I will happily admit that I’m damned if I know what to do about it.

  89. fear

    Not acquiescing to every little progressive idea that comes along is not fear. The term “homophobic” has been abused and twisted to mean anything that does not embrace a gay-friendly progressive mindset. Some people have no desire to see an idea that is integral to their lives undergo such upheaval because some tiny minority — far less than the 10% Out magazine would have you believe — wants in on the legal action.

  90. From Derbyshite’s column yesterday:

    “I see nothing in your “construal” to prevent me from marrying my sister, for example. Is this actually OK in the state of Massachusetts?”

    Reminds me of Lincoln’s take, in the Lincoln-Douglass debates, on the so-called “miscegenation laws.” A similar rejoinder to Derbyshire might be in order: “Maybe Mr. Derbyshire, in his weakness, needs a special legal prohibition to stop HIM from marrying his sister. I feel no inclination to do so, even without a law.”

    As for the idea that marriage is a building block of a larger social order, rather than just a personal relationship between two people:

    Doesn’t that contradict what they were saying in response to Hillary’s “It Takes a Village” a while back? (“It doesn’t take a village, it takes a family.”) I hated Hillary’s self-serving use of the slogan, and (as O’Rourke said) her equation of Washington DC to the village and us to the child. But the saying itself, it seems to me, was unimpeachable from a social conservative point of view.

    It was the atomization of the nuclear family in the early 20th century, and its divorce from the context of stable community other intermediate institutions providing social support and reinforcement for the family’s values, that finally rendered the isolated nuclear family itself vulnerable in the late 20th century.

  91. rst:

    Maybe I’m wrong in my view on it, but how does allowing gay marriage create “upheaval” in a straight person’s marraige? Does gay sex create upheaval in a straight person’s straight sex life? I really don’t feel like that makes any sense, and tend to agree with the idea that it’s all about people hating the idea of icky gay sex happening on a regular basis.

  92. C: If we look at the statistics, children of single parents are more likely than other children to be criminals, to do badly in school, etc. Does that mean that if a heterosexual married couple gets divorced, we should put their kids in foster care? Come to think of it, children of heterosexual married black parents are more likely than children of heterosexual married white parents to be criminals. Does that mean we should abolish marriage for black people?

    If a particular situation is bad for a particular child and we have a better alternative, the child should be removed. But that’s not an argument against allowing the couple who parent that child to get married. It’s not even an argument that they shouldn’t be allowed to have kids, since in many cases, even a problematic home life with 2 stable, married parents is better than the alternative for these kids, who would otherwise be bouncing around in foster care for years. People who say that gays shouldn’t be allowed to adopt seem to be woefully underinformed about the fact that being adopted by a gay couple, even if not ideal, is far, far better than being in the child welfare system.

    But again, none of that has anything to do with whether we should allow them to marry. Marriage and children are related, but separate issues.

  93. “What if gay marriage really is *bad for the children*? What if children of gay couples grow up and have more psychological problems, a higher suicide rate, are more likely to commit crime? What if they’re categorically unhappy, alienated, unassimilable into mainstream society, messed up? What then?”

    There is very solid evidence that children raised by black parents have higher rates of incarceration, drug addiction, poverty, and lead paint exposure than those raised by white parents. Shall we deny them marriage licenses?

    Even if we grant that having two dads is not “ideal,” so what? Measuring up to a statistical ideal is not part of the criteria for having a marriage recognized.

  94. I mean, I’m sure there’s a civil liberty to be celebrated somewhere. So I’ll leap in exultant jubilation.

    They’re biological dead-ends anyway, it’s not like it’s going to go anywhere. I suppose the approach of here, get married, go away works quite well. But don’t sit up there with your fashionably hyperprogressive mindsets thinking everybody who resists change is a conservative fascist who wants gays back in the closet. Such slight of mind sometimes.

  95. “Government sponsored marriage is a contract between individuals,”

    That is true now, but it wasn’t always so. I guess I’m a bit of a social conservative when it comes to marriage, because I have to admit that the phrase “gay marriage” pushes my buttons, for reasons that must be partly emotional, because I am unable to articulate exactly why at this point.

    I really don’t have any objection at all to gay people entering into civil unions recognized by the state; I just wish they would use some other terminology than marriage. The institution of marriage is an old one; and the word has always meant the union of man and woman. If we want to establish a new institution in this country for homosexuals, that’s fine. Just don’t refer to it as a marriage.

    Let’s acknowledge that there’s a difference between the union of two men/two women and the union of a man and a woman.

  96. rst: “Some people have no desire to see an idea that is integral to their lives undergo such upheaval because some tiny minority — far less than the 10% Out magazine would have you believe — wants in on the legal action.”

    Hey, that’s a good argument – the majority rules, only the majority has rights, special treatment for the majority is moral. Anything that might upset a member of the majority is rightly prohibited.

  97. In other words, Rob, let’s give them what they want in terms of rights, but deny them social equality. They must remain inferior to me.

    I actually respect your post and it’s obvious that your intentions are good. And I suspect that probably the majority of the US population would agree with you. But to me, it sounds merely like a desire to maintain social superiority to a heretofor inferior group that’s getting uppity.

  98. “Has anyone ever known a person who wasn’t instinctively anti-gay, who reluctantly decided to oppose gay rights because of what the Bible says?”

    Quite a few. And I always remind them that Leviticus also states that you must kill your neighbor if you observe him working on the Sabbath. But make sure you do not kill him on the Sabbath though, or we would all fall into an orgy of a feedback loop that would wipe out mankind.

    :-

  99. the majority rules, only the majority has rights, special treatment for the majority is moral.

    What are you talking about? It is not “special” that throughout the entirety of history, marriage was an idea with a specific connotation, and now a relative handful of people want to change the connotation. We’re not talking about country club membership and voting. We’re talking about an act which is a phenomenon of our biology, specifically the biology of reproduction, in which gay couples will not participate. I don’t hold that homosexuality is unnatural, I simply hold that it does not in general contribute to the propagation of the species. Changing the idea of marriage is nothing more than special treatment for a minority; how is that functionally better?

  100. I only support civil unions if they are available to heterosexual couples too. Since marriage seems to promote certain traditional values that the conservatives love, I’m not sure I want to get married. Let’s leave marraige for the religous wackos and make something new for the rest of us.

  101. Wow. I didn’t realize that my marriage to my wife was merely a conveyance for the “propagation of the species”. As a childless couple, we’re really just dead weight, aren’t we? I mean, what good is marriage in the absense of, you know, output. Here I thought it was about love and commitment and beauty and togetherness and sharing, but we’re really just a couple of breeding machines.

  102. Slippery Pete, what you said to Rob is much the same as what I would’ve said. Yes, marriage has been defined as a man/woman union for a long time, but as we know, the ancients didn’t have a perfect society that respected the rights of individuals. For me, it will always go back to individual rights. They trump all other concerns about society and such. It’s similar to the idea of sacrificing freedom for security.

  103. On the gay marriage issue: Get government out of the marriage business; isn’t it obvious that marriage has suffered because it is controlled by said government?

    And another thing, what is with the argument that gays will be ‘granted,’ this ‘priviledge’ of marriage? Why do we confer the government with omnipotent powers to ‘grant,’ us rights and priviledges? Aren’t we endowed with inalienable rights that only through stupid legislations gives the government the power to restrict them?

    Am I looking through the eyeglass in reverse?

  104. What if children of gay couples grow up and have more psychological problems, a higher suicide rate, are more likely to commit crime?

    as amy phillips pointed out, the question then is, ‘more than who’?

    and children are not the immediate consequence of marriage anymore — sanctioning marriage for love in individual freedom does not implicitly harm children. there’s a step in between.

  105. NRO: Libertarians are “ducking” the issue:

    LIBERTARIANS AND GAY MARRIAGE [Jonah Goldberg]

    TCS has an interesting take on the relative silence of the libertarians on the issue. by James Miller. He argues that libertarian opposition to sodomy laws made sense because a limited state shouldn’t criminalize private activity. But state endorsement of gay marriage is a different question because it means the state will actively take a side in the culture war rather than stay neutral. And, from a libertarian perspective, taking sides is a no-no. Rather than face this reality, the libertarians are ducking the fight.

  106. an idea that is integral to their lives

    who made it the social conservatives’ idea alone? who put them in charge of it? what is to say that it isn’t a gay man’s idea as well and integral to his life?

    rst, such narrowminded interpretations of institutions of law as being the provance of only certain social groups has been the source of a lot of killing over the years. i can’t believe you seriously advocate this point of view.

  107. Jonah’s email address is JonahNRO@aol.com. Hey Jonah! Duck this!

  108. They’re biological dead-ends anyway, it’s not like it’s going to go anywhere.

    to the contrary, rst — the continued existence of gays and lesbians lo these many thousands of years after the ancient historical accounts of same is evidence enough that gays and lesbians are a permanent feature of society.

    here, queer, get used to it. 🙂

  109. I don’t understand why gays want to get married. What is the difference between a civil union and a marriage that’s worth fighting about?

    I suppose it’s possible that gays want to get married for the same reason I got married. That doesn’t help, however, because I can’t easily articulate why my wife and I are married.

    On the other hand–perhaps because of my poor understanding of the institution of marriage–I don’t understand why some people feel that gay marriage would harm heterosexual marriage. Even if you think gay marriage is a pretty bad thing, how does that hurt your straight marriage?

    I mean, degrees granted by unacredited “colleges” reduce the value of degrees from “real” colleges because it’s hard to tell the difference without doing a little research. It’s pretty easy to tell gay marriages from straight marriages, so I don’t see what the problem is.

  110. Thanks S. Pete. I’m sending him an e-mail right now.

  111. Slippery Pete, I wouldn’t be so quick to say that a new “Gay Marriage” institution would necessarily be inferior to that of traditional marriage. Many cultures have carved out roles for gay people, or however they defined sexual minorities, that were of equal standing. Sometimes, the two souled people were held in high esteem.

    Johan’s a dipshit. His implication is that a government that grants rights equally to all is taking sides, while one that discriminates is strictly neutral. I think the problem here is that only one side is waging this culture war, while the other is just going about its business.

    A great man once said at the Democratic National Convention, “This isn’t a culture war. This is a party!”

  112. I think “separate but equal” is inherently unequal. And ask almost anybody opposed to gay marriage but supportive of gay civil unions, and they’ll tell you simply that they just don’t think civil unions are equal. It’s all about social status – “Gay unions are not equal to my marriage”.

  113. I mean, degrees granted by unacredited “colleges” reduce the value of degrees from “real” colleges because it’s hard to tell the difference without doing a little research. It’s pretty easy to tell gay marriages from straight marriages, so I don’t see what the problem is.

    lmao — perfectly said. it’s irrational fear of a nebulous something, simply put.

    rst, the only point i can see in your comments so far is the conferral of advantages — tax breaks, et al — upon couples who are unable to reproduce conventionally. okay. so why confer them to hetero couples that don’t reproduce (an increasingly large proportion)? attach the advantages to the children, not the marriage, and open marriage to everyone regardless of anything. i should be able to marry my dog, if i so choose.

    in fact, i think i can in nevada…

  114. Queer is fine. Changing a term that has significant meaning for those who are not queer, and until recently no meaning at all for those who are? Who knows, probably not so much. Honestly I don’t care, I just enjoy watching you pussies get riled up when people who aren’t tripping over themselves to be progressive are posting.

  115. RST: Ah, yes. You’ve nailed us. We don’t really believe what we believe for any good reasons, we’re just afraid of being not-progressive and take our positions as a matter of unthinking reflex. Obviously you’re putting a lot more deep thought into this than us spineless pandering pussies. Good work.

  116. rst: “We’re talking about an act which is a phenomenon of our biology, specifically the biology of reproduction, in which gay couples will not participate.”

    I wasn’t aware the DOMA included obligatory reproduction. It’s about time. I’m tired of all those childless “hetero” couples reaping the benefits their “marriages.”

  117. XRay: You and I are breeding machines. We are here to propagate the species. Beetles outbreed us 1000-to-1. We’re losing the battle for number superiority, and we need to breed faster. Let’s f*ck, baby.

  118. I agree with the assertion that some conservatives, i.e., Derbyshire, are opposed to gay marriage/civil unions, etc. simply because they believe gay sex is “icky”. Too bad. I suppose that for them watching gay porn would cause their heads to explode.

    Mr. Derbyshire also makes a number of claims about homosexuality that are not founded in science or statistics. For example, the idea that straight couples who try what he calls “buggery” (anal sex) will eventually stop because they dislike it. Sorry Mr. Derbyshire, how would you know? Its not like NRO staff is really in touch with sexuality, anyway. (Well, maybe masturbating to a picture of Margaret Thatcher.*)

    *a low blow, I know.

  119. you pussies

    and i’m 240 pounds of fighting fit pussy that would kick your ass. 😉 😀

  120. Married, filing joint return.
    The IRS will have the last word on this.

  121. Ah, rst, that’s a real shame. I was hanging in there with respect, but you had to let the facade slip for a moment and show just how upset about this you really are. And my progressive friends would probably die laughing trying to imagine me tripping over myself to be progressive on this issue. That’s hardly a priority for me. I just support individual rights as a primary, not as something that comes from societal blessings.

  122. I’m betting Derbyshire and Kurtz do a,ot of towel sanpping and soap dropping in the National Review shower room!

    I can’t wait for my invite!

  123. Miller should stick to economics; it’d be less embarassing for him and less painful for the rest of us–the sort of Pareto optimality one would hope a game theorist could appreciate. His argument turns on the notion that equal restraint in criminalizing behavior is neutral, but equal access to state benefits implies endorsement. By that logic, the repeal of miscegenation laws constituted a state “endorsement” of interracial marriage, not simple evenhandedness. Indeed, on that premise, the Supreme Court decided wrongly in Zelman v. Harris when it wrote that the “true private choice” between schools made by parents meant that making vouchers available to parochial schools did not constitute state endorsement of Catholicism. Will people pushing this line now conclude that vouchers violate the First Amendment after all?

  124. If you’re really worried about traditional marriage, why not go back to the old days of arranged marriages? Incidentally, the same Bible that forbids homosexuality also endorses polygamy. Should parents marry off their daughters as soon as the girls start menstruating? Traditionally, that’s how it was done.

    I argued the topic with a homophobe, who responded with the usual witticism: “If God had meant for gays to marry, he wouldn’t make Adam and Eve, but Adam and STEVE.” I swear, that comment gets wittier and more original every time I hear it. I responded:

    “If it HAD been Adam and Steve we never would’ve been kicked out of Eden, because Steve would have been too busy mixing pineapple daiquiris and hanging Judy Garland posters to bother messing with any damned apples.”

  125. I wasn’t aware the DOMA included obligatory reproduction.

    You sneak the word obligatory in there, and you change the connotation of both positions to support your side. Clever.

    so change is bad, even if it promotes equality under law?

    I’m not exactly a libertarian. I agree with most of their bit. I like the idea of domestic partnerships, I just don’t agree that they should be called marriages.

  126. did derbyshire come down with a bad case of the shitdick as a youngster or something?

    there are plenty of boy-girl couples who dig going browntown.

  127. Green: That’s funny about the buggery. I had to leave my last gf because she wouldn’t stop beggging for it. (Well, that’s not why I left her, but it’s true, she loved it. And she has been willing to bed down with conservatives in the past, poor Derbyshire would have a nervous breakdown.)

  128. show just how upset about this you really are.

    Patently false. I have nothing vested in marriage or homosexuality. Be careful how much you think you can presume about me; you come across as delusional.

    individual rights as a primary, not as something that comes from societal blessings.

    The “rights” that we “recognize” are little more than societal blessings; you have them at the leave of the government.

  129. mark_nas, you are absolutely correct in suggesting that homosexuality is not at all a biological dead end.

    Think of sexuality like many other inherited traits, like body size (there’s some evidence homosexuality is a heritable trait). Sexual preferences exist in a continuum from those who only prefer the opposite sex under all circumstances, to those who only prefer the same sex under all circumstances, to those who are somewhere in between. The distribution is heavily skewed towards the “opposites attract” side of the curve, but the existence of the “in between” types guarantees this trait will persist.

  130. Wake me when it’s over.

  131. Margaret Cho was on NPR this morning, and mentioned that family rates at the federal parks currently discriminate against gay couples.

    It immediately occurred to me that my hiking buddy and I could claim to be married and save the $$. It’s not dogs and cats sleeping together, but we are certainly moving towards an interesting world.

  132. rst: “I’m not exactly a libertarian” Finally, something we can agree on and I don’t have to take you out of context, or make up words for you.

  133. Think of sexuality like many other inherited traits, like body size (there’s some evidence homosexuality is a heritable trait)

    So let me get this straight, so to speak, you want us to accept that sexuality is absolutely an inherited trait because there is some evidence that homosexuality is an (in)heritable[sic] trait?

  134. I like Derbyshire on gays. He’s uncowed by the usual shaming. Some room has to be left for the idea that yes, there are some amusing things about gays. Stick an oar into a gay stereotype and you stir up a gratifying hornets’ nest; against which he plays uncomprehending as to the offense. I liked the letter to National Review urging that Derbyshire be fired. My own plan would be to leave Derbyshire alone if I were an activist. Derbyshire is playing, in short, Gaymanship. See anything by Stephen Potter.

  135. >RST says: the civil union in Vermont is in effect a marriage, but one that is unoffensive to the people [snip].

    A civil union in one state is NOT a marriage as far as tax, inheritance, INS, bank loans, and other such matters are concerned. And that is the point.

    So let’s examine the options:

    1) Let gays enter into civil unions and change every single piece of legislation & procedure to treat civil unions identically to marriages.
    2) Let gays enter into civil unions, but not make those changes to the law, so that the civil union does not provide any legal force.
    3) Redefine the LEGAL definition of marriage so that aforesaid changes are not necessary.
    4) Disallow civil unions and ban these people from society, just like the good old days.

    So which is it? Please tell us what you think is right.

  136. “…real estate transactions in Manhattan that no American lawyer could undertake…”

    LOL! Yeah, it’s real hard to line up attorneys for closings in Manhattan.

  137. Andrew Lynch writes: “Mona, thank you for being a shining light of clarity. Your post made my day.”

    Thank you, but my thoughts are derivative: Hayek explains all this lucidly and I am informed and wholly persuaded by *most of what he has written re: society having “rights” and such. I read the man over 20 yrs ago, and it transformed my thinking.

    And method is right, as Hayek would concur, that liberty should allow for experimental change rather slowly leading to the optimal state of social interaction. To some extent, I agree with those who would leave this gay marriage issue up to legislatures, except that I am so convinced this is a matter of equality before the law. On the cusp, I am, as between whether courts are with the angels here.

    RST is not arguing well and the NRO folks, including Derby and Jonah, are applying their reasonably fine intellects in the service of anti-liberty bullshit of-a-piece with those many in the West who recently (historically speaking) defended blasphemy laws. Fine company they are in.

  138. Getting a little late; I might as well have another go…

    Slippery — “But what if those people are wrong?”

    Well, if you accept the argument that marriage is what we think it is, then the flippant answer is that they can’t be wrong.

    But really, that’s not the point I’m trying to make; my point is simply that many people see marriage as a union between a man and a woman, and the fact that they may be resistant to having that viewpoint changed may well have nothing to do with whether they find homosexual relationships good, bad, or indifferent.

    I suppose what I find hard to understand is why state sanction of gay marriage is so necessary for some people. Marriage is not a gov’t matter, and gov’t recognition is, to my eyes, purely a legal matter. If you call yourself married, and tell people you’re married, have a ceremony, whatever makes you happy, then what else matters? Particularly if the civil union route is there for tax and legal matters. But I suppose that’s beside the point.

    The point is certainly not that I’m here to argue against gay marriage, as such. Private contract, and all that. My point is that it’s not as simple a matter as it seems. By allowing gay marriage, the entire meaning of the institution is changed, at least from the point of view of the state.

    And you’re right, this isn’t just about tactics; as far as tactics, it sounds as though you and I are more or less in agreement.

    I don’t think I misspoke at all the second time. In order for gay marriage to gain acceptance (and that really is what this is about, isn’t it?), a great many people will have to alter their views on the subject.

    As far as the morality of someone opposing gay marriage, I would say that if done so for the right reasons, that that would be morally indifferent. Yes, there are some people who feel the need to exclude gay people from marriage and that is, of course, wrong. But I think there are people who honestly don’t think that a gay couple can be married any more than they can have a biological child together. Not for reasons of right or wrong or exclusion or any value judgement, just because that’s the physical reality of it.

    And so the end result along that line of reasoning is not about moral relativism, but a difference in the terms of discussion, I suppose. You see marriage as something that can easily be changed to include gay partners. Others may not; others may see marriage as requiring two people of the opposite sex, not because they want to (or even care about) excluding gays, but because they feel it is part of what gives the word its meaning. They may be wrong, but that’s not the same as being evil.

    My main point, through all this, is to combat the idea that this is all about exclusion, and the tendency to lump people with thoughtful objections in with the fire-and-brimstone crowd. There are very good arguments for gay marriage, and some have been well stated here. Whatever the arguments, however, it cannot be denied that allowing that to happen is simply a matter of lifting a restriction. What is required is a complete and total redefinition of a fundamental part of our society. It may be that it is well worth doing that thing, but one can’t expect everyone except the evil people to immediately jump on the bandwagon.

  139. EMAIL: krokodilgena1@yahoo.com
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    DATE: 12/10/2003 11:44:54
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  145. Check out my blog fellow time travellers.

    1. SIV, I already have checked out your blog, you fucking twit. Plus, if I check out your blog from here, I’m afraid my brother’s face will disappear from the picture I keep of him and my sister in my wallet.

      By the way, I think we just found that catty stalker that loves snipey and passive-aggressive comments. Is she rather/MNG/spussy/everything rolled into one? We’ll never know, I guess.

  146. And I just unintentionally killed the beautiful consistency of unthreaded comments. Whoops. I hate snakes.

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