Different voices on gay marriage

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A somewhat belated link to an interesting column by free-market economist and social critic Thomas Sowell, addressing and criticizing some of the arguments in favor of same-sex marriage. According to Sowell:

There is, for example, the argument that the government has no business getting involved with marriage in the first place. That is a personal relation, the argument goes.

Love affairs are personal relations. Marriage is a legal relation. To say that government should not get involved in legal relations is to say that government has no business governing.

Homosexuals were on their strongest ground when they said that what happens between "consenting adults" in private is none of the government's business. But now gay activists are taking the opposite view, that it is government's business—and that government has an obligation to give its approval.

I strongly support, as I have before, legal equality for same-sex partners. But there are many troubling and complicated questions surrounding this issue. If we are looking at it from a truly libertarian perspective, all the legal privileges attached to marriage—whatever the gender of the partners—are illegitimate, because they represent the government favoring one type of relationship over another. Why should a bond of lifelong platonic friendship be less "privileged" than a sexual relationship? Are single people, for whom such a bond may be the primary relationship in their lives, being discriminated against by the very existence of civil marriage? If the government can favor some relationships over others, can't it also regulate these relationships in some fashion and express majoritarian preferences for certain types of relationships?

Another good column on the subject comes from Tammy Bruce, the maverick lesbian feminist turned right-wing darling. I've been pretty tough on Bruce in the past, partly because I felt that she was avoiding taking a stand on same-sex marriage so as not to alienate her conservative friends. I hereby offer a partial apology: Bruce's column on the subject is a good, thoughtful attempt to reconcile the case for equal protection with respect for the traditional cultural meaning of marriage. Her answer is civil unions with all the "legal incidents" of marriage, which is what a number of other nations (such as England) are adopting.

Is this discrimination? When the debate is over semantics rather than actual rights, we are talking about two different groups wanting to legislate their values: societal acceptance of same-sex relationships as fully equivalent to male-female ones, versus the view that male-female marriage should hold a special place in our culture because it cements the bonding of the two sexes and is (normally) related to childbearing. That, it seems to me, is a subject for debate in a democratic society, not a civil rights issue. (Again, from a truly libertarian standpoint, neither goal is legitimate and neither group should look to the government to validate its beliefs and identity.)

NEXT: A Pint of Plain Is Your Only Man

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  1. Andrew,

    That there are fellow bigots that you can call upon doesn’t mean that your bigoted arguments have been vindicated.

  2. joe

    Our popular culture has always supplied lots of “reasons”– variously sentimental and glamorised– to encourage straight men to marry, as opposed to merely sleeping around…and that is basically why hetero marriages unlikely to produce offspring receive the “benefit of the doubt” (apart from it is also more convenient).

    We WANT women to be married when they elect to have children– as overwhelmingly most will out of every generation– because the advantages of having children raised by the parents who conceived them have now been proven in the negative by the rise of commonplace single-parenthood…with all its disatrous consequences.

    Straight marriage where the couples are unlikely to conceive children– and it is hardly ever AS unlikely as when the couple are of the same sex– serves as a sort of useful adjunct to the REAL deal…marriages begun by straight couples during their child-bearing years. Same-sex marriages don’t.

    AND part of the “package” of marital stability is an expectation that couples commit to staying married over a lifetime– long after any children conceived have reached maturity, and no new chidren are likely to be conceived. That a straight couple might GET married in their advanced years reinforces the notion that elderly couples would want to STAY married. Again, gay marriages undertaken at any age are simply irrelevant.

  3. Andrew,

    “Our popular culture has always supplied lots of ‘reasons’ — variously sentimental and glamorised [or bigoted, racist, prejudicial, etc.] — to encourage straight men to marry, as opposed to merely sleeping around…and that is basically why hetero marriages unlikely to produce offspring receive the ‘benefit of the doubt’ (apart from it is also more convenient).”

    Which is hardly an argument against gay marraige; indeed, its neither an argument for or against the practice.

    “We WANT women to be married when they elect to have children — as overwhelmingly most will out of every generation — because the advantages of having children raised by the parents who conceived them have now been proven in the negative by the rise of commonplace single-parenthood…with all its disatrous consequences.”

    What are those “disasterous consequences?” Indeed, I would like you to demonstrate that “disasterous consequences” have ensued. Indeed, I suspect that this is simply another of your numerous unsubstantiated claims.

    “Straight marriage where the couples are unlikely to conceive children — and it is hardly ever AS unlikely as when the couple are of the same sex — serves as a sort of useful adjunct to the REAL deal…marriages begun by straight couples during their child-bearing years. Same-sex marriages don’t.”

    And why not? Indeed, this differentiation seems strange and utterly artificial; especially in light of the fact that both types of couples can have children via adoption, etc.

    “AND part of the ‘package’ of marital stability is an expectation that couples commit to staying married over a lifetime — long after any children conceived have reached maturity, and no new chidren are likely to be conceived.”

    Are you now going to argue for an end to divorce? Because clearly, if you are really concerned about that issue, then abolition of divorce seems to be a far more weighty matter for you to be involved with.

    “That a straight couple might GET married in their advanced years reinforces the notion that elderly couples would want to STAY married. Again, gay marriages undertaken at any age are simply irrelevant.”

    And why are they irrelevant; again, another unsubstantiated assertion on your part.

  4. Andrew-

    We’ve been through this before. As near as I can tell, your argument is this:

    Civil unions for gays will lead to civil unions for straights. This will lead men to flake out on women even more than they do.

    A few problems with your argument:

    1) Will outright marriage for gays have the same implication for heterosexual marriage? Yes, yes, I know there is opposition to outright marriage for gays and that if it happens it should happen via the legislative process. The question is, if that opposition is overcome by via civil debate (hypothetially speaking), will your dire prediction of crumbling hetero marriages still come true? The answer to that question might have some impact on the ongoing debate over gay marriage.

    2) Even if the legal institution of hetero marriage were supplemented or replaced by the legal institution of civil unions, the social and religious institutions of marriage (which are not under the government’s authority, like so many other aspects of our personal lives) would remain. You seem to think that women would acquiesce to men who demand to only have a civil union rather than a full marriage (blessed by a church, or by family or other social institutions for those who aren’t religious).

    Well, consider another battle that a lot of men fight: A lot of men offer to enter into a full-fledged marriage (both religious and legal), but they ask to do so in a minimalist ceremony, perhaps eloping or something. Most such men (myself included) are shot down and forced to go through a 3-ring circus of a wedding. They have to get a tux, pose for pictures, do an overly elaborate ceremony, do the silly cake-cutting, stand in a receiving line while lots of people gush and hug them, dance, do a faux strip-tease of their wives during the silly garter-tossing ceremony, and for the year leading up to it every family gathering or even meeting with friends (if the woman and her female friends are present) turns into wedding talk. (Can you tell I’m not a big fan of weddings?)

    If most men can’t even persuade their fiances to accept a less elaborate wedding, how will they persuade women to accept a civil union without the social and/or religious aspects of marriage (i.e. a vow to love, honor, and cherish, in addition to a legal contract to share property)?

    BTW, I told my wife that if we have a daughter, the only way I’ll pay for a big wedding is if I don’t like her fiance. If I like the guy I’ll refuse to put him through the torture of an elaborate wedding, but if I don’t like him I’ll make him endure a wedding that would put the royal family to shame.

  5. thoreau,

    Its rather humorous that Andrew takes the radical feminist line that all men are scum.

  6. “Straight marriage where the couples are unlikely to conceive children– and it is hardly ever AS unlikely as when the couple are of the same sex– serves as a sort of useful adjunct to the REAL deal…marriages begun by straight couples during their child-bearing years. Same-sex marriages don’t.”

    My point is that “Straight marriage where the couples are unlikely to conceive children” are longer considered an adjunct, but the real thing. The knowledge that the pairing will never produce children used to put these types of marriages on a slightly lower plane (and “adjunct”), but no longer does.

    Which elminates the excuse that childlessness is the reason for considering gay unions as “adjuncts” to the Real Thing, and leaves with the actual reason at the heart of the rejection – but but but…they’re both guys! Ick!

  7. thoreau

    I don’t think you quite have my point. I believe that easy divorce and blanket tolerance for non-marital sex have ALREADY done a lot of damage to the deeply entrenched (and socially beneficial) institution of marriage, and same-sex marriage would do a bit more.

    Frankly, easy divorce and commonplace co-habitation are probably (certainly) much more to the point…but I don’t think we can or should try to put the toothpaste back in the tube: we just shouldn’t sqeeze more out.

    A case can be made for Civil Union/Domestic Partner laws (in the fashion you advocated– as a sort on One-Stop Off-the-Shelf package of domestic contracts)…and I am coming to think it would be a good idea– provided it was LIMITED to partners otherwise ineligible to be married by law (eg. same-sex couples and blood relations).

    For heteros it should be either marriage or cohabitation– there should be no legal half-way house.

    I don’t particularly have any problem with same-sex couples having sex (what is “icky” about lesbians, joe?) or living together as room-mates. Many lesbian children are raising children conceived in failed attempts at straight marriage– it isn’t difficult to see how civil union laws could be a benefit to them and the children involved, under the circumstances.

  8. Typo

    “Many lesbian children…” read “Many lesbian COUPLES…”

  9. Andrew-

    OK, I understand your argument against straight civil unions. I might not agree, but I at least see your chain of reasoning.

    But I still don’t know how gay marriage would do any damage to hetero marriage, especially in the absence of hetero civil unions.

    As to your question “What’s icky about lesbians?”, here I have to chime in: There’s nothing even remotely appealing about two butch lesbians. Sorry, but it’s just plain gross. Now, if the lesbians are, say, two models, that’s completely different. But two butch lesbians? Gross.

    Still, just because it’s gross doesn’t mean it should be illegal.

  10. Andrew

    “Frankly, easy divorce and commonplace co-habitation are probably (certainly) much more to the point…but I don’t think we can or should try to put the toothpaste back in the tube: we just shouldn’t sqeeze more out.”

    Of course this position is ultimately unworkable; people are going to do what they want to do as far as the arranging of their private affairs no matter what your social-ludditism tries to tell them.

    “For heteros it should be either marriage or cohabitation — there should be no legal half-way house.”

    Well that’s simply your normative, subjective notions talking; it has nothing to do with reality.

    “I don’t particularly have any problem with same-sex couples having sex (what is ‘icky’ about lesbians, joe?) or living together as room-mates. Many lesbian children are raising children conceived in failed attempts at straight marriage– it isn’t difficult to see how civil union laws could be a benefit to them and the children involved, under the circumstances.”

    Thankyou for completely undermining the edifice of your past positions. So much for the “slippery slope” argument you paraded about her just a few days ago. *LOL*

  11. thoreau,

    Actually, Andrew did argue exactly what you stated just a few days ago; he has now since changed his position, and of course lying about such.

  12. Jean Bart-

    I’m not interested in establishing whether somebody lied or not. I just want a straight answer: Can somebody, anybody, tell me how gays getting married will harm heterosexual marriage? Will it cause fewer heterosexuals to get married? Will it cause more heterosexuals to get divorced? Will it cause more heterosexuals to cheat on their spouses or neglect their spouses? Will it cause more people to turn gay?

    I just want a simple answer for what will happen, and how it will happen.

    So far, no luck.

  13. OK thoreau

    Now we are getting somewhere. Suppose whenever a couple goes to City Hall, in the same office there are two stacks of forms– one called Marriage for unrelated straights, the other called Civil Unions for partners who do not qualify for the Marriage form (as unrelated straights would not qualify for the Civil Union form).

    If you and your partner qualified for the Civil Union form, after getting it you may go to any church that is otherwised qualified to perform such ceremonies, and is theologically willing to sanctify such relationships (the Unitarians are willing to bless sibling Civil Unions, eg) and get the whole shebang…or just go down the hall and get the civil ceremony.

    After that, you would enjoy most (if not all) of the leqal privileges domestic law now extends to married couples. These priveleges are unlikely to change rapidly over a lifetime– most have been around since before your parents were born, and are variants of the privileges accorded to blood kin and/or the rights enforced in contract disputes.

    However, wisely or unwisely, many jurisdictions (local, state and federal) promote the interests of married couples in all kinds of ways that extend way beyond family or contract law: the provision of medical and old-age insurance benefits, family oriented zoning and tax breaks of various kinds come immediately to mind. Many private employers base benefit packages on similar considerations.

    THESE benefits are very unstable over even short periods of time…tax laws can be changed annually.

    They are a matter of social policy. In almost every case the provision of these benefits are intended to promote straight Marriage (and effectively discourage single-parenthood) for reasons that are nearly irrelevant in the case of same-sex or other kinds of Civil Unions. And for these policies to work at all, an unmistakeable distinction is necessary.

    A Marriage/Civil Union distinction would give legislators and other actors a handy tool for making such distinctions as they choose…a distinction they can neglect to make any time, simply by making the relevant benefit (or even liability) applicable to BOTH.

  14. I should add, that as concerns the welfare of children, benefits from both governments and private employers often extend to parents whether they are Married, in Civil Unions or single/divorced. Adoptive, or in some cases, even foster-parents.

  15. Andrew-

    OK, I think we’re zeroing in on your objections.

    Do you fear that the legislated benefits surrounding marriage would be unsustainable if too many other people signed up to get them? I hope we can agree that if these benefits were only claimed by gay couples it wouldn’t be much of an issue, since gays are a tiny portion of the population.

    But perhaps you fear that single heterosexuals will start to claim these benefits too. (e.g. a single guy loses his job, so his single hetero friend gets a civil union and then asks his employer to extend health insurance to his friend)

    I don’t have an easy answer there. I actually agree with you that it’s just a tad too easy to say “Oh, none of those things should exist in the first place.” One thing is that some of those benefits are not legislated, but are instead offered voluntarily, and with the rise of civil unions for everybody the private sector might decide to stop offering those benefits. And everybody here could say “Hey, that’s their right” and it is. But at the same time I see Andrew’s point.

    At the risk of sounding too optimistic, marriage has survived for millenia, and for most of those millenia there were few (if any) legislated benefits or employer benefits. Sure, those were different times and different economies. But we’ve already gambled on the private sector’s ability to cope with plenty of other innovations, e.g. letting women learn to read, letting women get jobs, letting women own property, etc. In fact, many here would suggest that it is in our national security interest to encourage Muslim nations to adopt those same innovations. So I’m going to be a wide-eyed optimist and predict that, one way or another, society would adapt and survive and find ways to cope with civil unions for same-sex couples.

    Finally, if your most compelling argument against gay marriage is “employers might not offer hetero couples health insurance anymore”, it seems like your objection is more easily surmountable than most. I don’t claim to have all the answers on how to solve it, but somehow I think a reform of health insurance (both the regulations and the private sector aspects) is not outside the realm of possibility.

    It’s certainly less daunting than the claims of some gay marriage opponents, who basically believe that civilization as we know it will collapse under the wrath of God. Unless you believe that employer-provided health insurance is the linch-pin of society. Given the quality of your posts, I doubt you’d say that.

    There, that wasn’t so hard.

  16. Tenn. County Wants to Charge Homosexuals – http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&cid=533&ncid=533&e=9&u=/ap/20040317/ap_on_re_us/county_gay_ban

    This is a good example of what people offended by gay marraige are really about.

  17. Oh, I should add that I am not in any way proposing that gay marriage be implemented via judicial fiat. That’s a whole other issue. My only point is that if it happens I don’t see how society will be destroyed by two men getting married. There may be negative precedents set by the way it is done, but not by the simple fact that it is done.

  18. Thoreau

    I think you pretty much have it. I would put a lot of weight on the larger gain for society in getting straight men to settle, and raise those children that straight women (and lesbians, in most cases, also) are GOING to have in any case.

    I am glad we live in a culture that permits easy divorce and non-marital sex (this is the way I live)…but there is no such thing as a free lunch, and the rise of single-parenthood, with all its attendent problems, has been a burden on us all. On the margin we need to do what we can to help remedy the situation…or at least not make it worse.

    If same-sex marrige was legal, would society all at once collapse? I wouldn’t guess so…but the purpose of debate is to arrive at the BEST answer. It appears most other countries comparable to ours are arriving at a Marriage/Cilvil Union compromise, and I believe we can perhaps go them one better with the limitations and distinctions I proposed.

    As with high-tech, sometimes it pays to be LAST in the field– why not craft a fine-tuned compromise?

  19. I should add that for the foreseeable future (perhaps forever) there WILL be a significant portion of the population that does hold serious moral and religious objections to homosexual conduct

    (call them bigots if you will, but I am humble enough to entertain at least a little agnostic open-mindedness on the matter)

    and a Marriage/Civil Union distinction will make it (probably) a LOT easier to craft rational social policy toward family life AROUND such strong objections…and THAT is a lot more important to me than the posturing and street-cred of the activists.

  20. Whoa, Andrew, you just returned to an older argument without answering my objection: The notion that this is about getting straight men to settle down.

    You never addressed my contention that straight men will mostly be defeated if they ask a woman to accept a civil union without the addition of a private-sector marriage. Since most men can’t even get their way on the wedding itself, how will we persuade women to settle for a civil union without marriage? Indeed, who says that straight men don’t want marriage? I certainly did, and I’m very happy to be married.

    Anyway, what do you think about my contention that somehow society will find a way to deal with the strains civil unions might put on employer-provided health insurance?

  21. Andrew,

    Just the other day you were adamently opposed to civil unions for anyone; now you are are for civil unions for homosexuals? Your inconsistencies boggle the mind.

  22. I will say that until this morning it simply hadn’t occured to me that Civil Unions could be confined to those otherwise ineligible to be married…I am slapping my head at my own lack of imagination! All I can say in my defense is that that is not the way they have been pioneered in other places (as far as I know…could be wrong about even that).

    I think that all kinds of ways to sort out same-sex from opposite-sex marriages could be engineered…but the process itself would be a lot more difficult than simply requiring two different forms of union in the first place. Distinctions could then be made, or not, and rapidly changed. It would make a useful tool– why require a verification process afterwards, when the handy distinction could be required in the first place?

    The introduction of a seperate Civil Union arrangment would interact less with traditional notions of marriage in ways that might undermine its appeal to straight men. This is no small thing…although it may not be EVERYTHING. Why not tread carefully?

  23. Cathy,
    Gee Whizz!

    Sounds an awful lot like the group of related points I have been trying to make for weeks now– so brace yourself, you are about to be castigated in some most unflattering terms for having the temerity to even field such considerations.

    Expect to get a string of posts addressed “Cathy (Bigot)”, revealing that you and all your kind (including Thomas Sowell, and the express majority in France as I take it) are REALLY opposed to to racial equality…or some such.

  24. Andrew,

    Well, the basis of your argument is that men act in a certain way, and generally only in a certain way (indeed, you adopt the radical feminist approach here); its unsubstantiated. And I don’t accept your explanation regarding your volte-face.

  25. Andrew,

    this is a pressing issue for a good number of families. instead of theories about how the government should coerce stereotypical straight males into behaving how you see fit, i’m hoping to get your opinions on something more tangible. i’m a young gay man…i intend to raise a family someday with another man. please explain to me, why should my family be treated any differently under the law than anyone elses? why should my children not be afforded the same legal security as yours?

    i’ve asked this question in many past threads…the only response ive gotten was a bunch of nonsense from ‘vigilance matters’. something about feces. discrimination against my family, something you support, will clearly hurt my children. how is the current state of legal affairs, or even some future separate-and-unequal civil unions arrangement, at all compatible with the ideal of equal protection?

  26. Scott

    Well I can’t speak for how anyone else has treated you in this forum, I am interested in what you have to say. (Although I will be leaving my home for a while, and will probably not return to this thread until late tonight.)

    Why don’t you start by describing what kind of benefits you expect to get from same-sex marriage, that you don’t believe would be included in the “seperate-but-unequal” Civil Union package?

  27. Andrew,

    “Why don’t you start by describing what kind of benefits you expect to get from same-sex marriage, that you don’t believe would be included in the “seperate-but-unequal” Civil Union package?”

    how about if instead you tell me which of the current benefits to straight-parented families should be denied to mine? 🙂 what protections would you feel comfortable giving up for your family?

  28. Well

    One important difference that would likely be made between Marriage (which is currently in the civil laws of all states) and any kind of Civil Union adopted by a particular state, would be whether the “full faith and credit” clause in our constitutional law would apply in the same way. States broadly HAVE to recognise marriages legitimised in other states, even where the laws of the respective states vary (concerning age or degree on consanguinity, eg).

    I would guess the same imperative would not apply to Civil Unions.

  29. Thanks for a reasonable survey of some reasonable arguments. I’d only add that everyone needs to be concerned when wildly eccentric interpretations of the Massachusetts constitution which gain a 4-3 majority seem likely to lead to a fundamental reinterpretation of marriage laws in the entire country. If courts can do this, they can do anything, including many things which are decidedly less libertarian. I support gay marriage, but not this way.

  30. Oh, cat’s out of the bag now… lol… one of the little, tucked-away reasons I support gay marriage (besides things like equality before the law) is that maybe it WILL eventually help de-emphasize legal marriage as the only clear and simple way to designate someone else the permanent sharer of one’s life. You can call it “destroying the sanctity of marriage” if you like. I won’t fight.

  31. “Why should a bond of lifelong platonic friendship be less “privileged” than a sexual relationship?” Cathy

    You wouldn’t even have to live together!
    You could be a pen pal, even, or a cousin!
    Lawyers are going to get rich off this
    when it comes to breakup and inheritance.

    If gay couples rights have been denied up til now,
    could it be that law suits could go back and right some wrongs?
    IF a gay couple lived together for a few years,
    broke up, and parted ways, couldn’t, shouldn’t,
    one be able to go back and claim some compensation
    for whatever was lose or left from the de facto marriage?
    Lawyers will prosper from civil union/marriage/divorce.

    Let your old lover know,
    Y O U M E A N B U S I N E S S!!!
    Call the offices of J. Thurston Wadd, now!

  32. Viewing marriage as being primarily about child rearing was an obsolete notion before the gay marriage issue was even on the radar. 100 years ago, the wedding of a 90 year old man and an 88 year old woman would have been the subject of humor. Words like “marriage” and “bride” would have been pronounced with a chuckle, because obviously they’re not going to start a family. The whole event would have had a second class status about it.

    Today, virtually everyone would view such a wedding as just as real, just as good, as any other wedding.

  33. scott,

    Your family doesn’t matter to Andrew; he’s got bigger, “duty to the state,” “fostering the health of the state,” and other fascist notions to promote. Indeed, your situation is “unimportant,” “meaningless,” etc.

    Andrew,

    It would actually; full faith and credit extends to a wide area of the law, including contracts. All a marraige is a contract; the same would be the case for a civil union. Indeed, New York courts are now recognizing civil unions from Vermont for the purposes of will contests and the like.

    Andrew, your shrill, hysterial, illogical and bigoted comments remind me of those who argued that women should not vote or wear pants.

  34. scott,

    You also have to remember that Andrew advocates terrorism.

  35. Cathy,

    An excellent post.

    ” Why should a bond of lifelong platonic friendship be less “privileged” than a sexual relationship?”

    Heterosexual marriage exist as a “privileged” institution because historically a heterosexual sexual relationship is the only form of human relationship that can create another human being. The need to manage the consequences of the children created in the normal course heterosexual sex drove the evolution of the institution of marriage in all the worlds cultures.

    From a libertarian perspective, a heterosexual relationship creates an involuntary 3rd party in the child. Those who create the child are responsible for it. Law and culture must arise to address the consequences of the child’s existence.

    Relationships that do not inherently produce children do not produce involuntary 3rd parties and therefor don’t have the same level of responsibility and “privilege” attached.

    In the modern era, we have pretty much severed heterosexual sex from reproduction using advanced technology. This is the only reason we even begin to ask, “what’s so special about heterosexual sexual relationships?” A heterosexual relationship is the same a homosexual one only because heterosexuals can now reliably choose to have sterile sex. In the past, the two forms of relationship would have radically different consequences.

  36. Just as a way of figuring out an ideal state,
    perhaps another way of looking at this is to ask, “What is the purpose of legal protections for spouses?”

    If we find that there is some set of reasons for such things as joint survivor rights, joint ownership of assets, and the like, then any type of relationship in which these reasons arise should be subject to the same protections. If there is no reason, we should drop them as protections from every type of relationship.

    See how easy that was? 🙂

  37. The government need have no further interest in marriage beyond the enforcing of contract.
    Making parents responsible for their offspring has already been seprated from marriage, if a couple divorce, both are still held to be the lawful parents unless both agree that one shall surrender parental rights. Ithey never marry, or even live together, both are held as lawful parents.
    When my wife and I married, we didn’t get a government license. I called a lawyer and inquired about a marriage contract, she assumed I was talking pre-nup. I gave up on lawyers, and we wrote our own contract and had it witnessed and notarized. There is no reason many, if not all, of the so-called benefits of marriage cannot be hnadled through contract. Medical matters can be handled through durable power of attorney.

    Who wants their marriage contract (indeed, any contract) written by politicians?

  38. “But now gay activists are taking the opposite view, that it is government’s business — and that government has an obligation to give its approval.”

    Recognizing contracts and managing government protections/benefits IS the government’s business. People getting freaky-deaky is not. They are not the same thing; why is that so hard?

  39. It is the social experimenters who really need to make their case for change.

    That depends on how you look at this. (Indeed, it’s the crux of the issue.) If this is a matter of consenting adults entering into any contract or relationship that they choose, then the burden of proof should be on those who would stand in their way. It’s then a matter of individual liberty, and the burden should always be on those who want to infringe an individual liberty.

    On the other hand, if this is a matter of societal change, then absolutely the burden should be on those seeking change.

    If we could just determine which category this fits in (individual liberty vs. societal change) then the answer would be trivial. The problem is that we can’t agree on which category it fits in. Or, even worse, maybe it’s a matter of both. In that case then it’s the classic debate of individual vs. society. I always assumed that libertarians would err on the side of individual liberty.

  40. “…the acknowledgement that marriage is based on the procreative model. This is less about values than about objective truth.”

    Clearly marraige is not based on the procreative model; if it were, then all people who married would procreate. Yet they don’t. Indeed, this reductionist approach to the notion of marraige ignores values and issues which are related to marraige and are equal or even more important than procreation. All you’ve done is create a definition that supports your position; you’ve not actually proved or otherwise established your proposition.

    thoreau,

    “On the other hand, if this is a matter of societal change, then absolutely the burden should be on those seeking change.”

    Why? I’m not quite sure why the default position must be that those who seek societal change must bear the burden wholly.

  41. I have enough of a conservative streak in me (mingled with my liberal and libertarian streaks) to acknowledge that people seeking to change society (as opposed to people seeking to change their own lives) must bear the burden of proof. It’s worth noting that plenty of reformers have successfully borne that burden of proof. Sometimes it’s taken quite a while for a majority of their fellow citizens to recognize that, of course.

    Anyway, when those seeking change are really seeking individual liberty rather than changes for everybody else as well, then the burden should be on those who would stand in the way of individual liberty.

  42. thoreau,

    “I have enough of a conservative streak in me (mingled with my liberal and libertarian streaks) to acknowledge that people seeking to change society (as opposed to people seeking to change their own lives) must bear the burden of proof.”

    So its your personal prejudice; it has nothing to do with any objective requirement.

    “It’s worth noting that plenty of reformers have successfully borne that burden of proof. Sometimes it’s taken quite a while for a majority of their fellow citizens to recognize that, of course.”

    Which is really beside the point; its not a question of whether they did, but whether they should have to do so in the first place.

    “Anyway, when those seeking change are really seeking individual liberty rather than changes for everybody else as well, then the burden should be on those who would stand in the way of individual liberty.”

    Well, on the issue of gay marraige, there would be no “changes” for anyone else. Unless of course you accept Andrew’s crackpot theories about the nature of men being all scum, and that they can’t be trusted.

  43. Thoreau

    I believe you confuse (either deliberately, or mistakenly…or a little of both) two senses of the word “marriage”.

    One, which embodies the set of contractual relationships found in our common law–

    and the other, the timeless pair-bonding of loving couples.

    The question before us is NOT why individuals would want the latter– it is why society would want, and should supply the former…and what would be the most sensible way to do it.

    (And of course women can “trust” men, and not marry them at all. Some do, and sometimes that works out…and often it doesn’t.
    But we have created a nexus of family law, and a LOT of specific benefits, to ENCOURAGE family stability…not to leave it up to chance.)

  44. “The question is, if that opposition is overcome by via civil debate (hypothetially speaking), will your dire prediction of crumbling hetero marriages still come true?”

    If it is done cautiously and through legislation, it could be turned around if the predictions (based on solid social science) prove out. The real hypothetical is the speculation that SSM will do no harm. It is the social experimenters who really need to make their case for change.

    “Can somebody, anybody, tell me how gays getting married will harm heterosexual marriage? Will it cause fewer heterosexuals to get married? Will it cause more heterosexuals to get divorced? Will it cause more heterosexuals to cheat on their spouses or neglect their spouses? Will it cause more people to turn gay?”

    On what basis would you forecast that the answer to each of the first 4 questions is, No? The 5th, I presume is a sarcastic exclamation point.

  45. Joe said, “Viewing marriage as being primarily about child rearing was an obsolete notion before the gay marriage issue was even on the radar.”

    Most Americans marry — 95% — and most of us go in expecting children and indeed do have and raise children. Nothing obsolete about the procreative ideal either. Who enters a marriage expecting that the children born of that marriage will be raised in either a fatherless or motherless home? Yes, divorce, or widowhood, can make such circumstances very real, but not the ideal. The idea that marriage is about procreation remains influential in our lives. Examples may be good exceptions that test the rule, but old folks marrying, or re-marrying, does not overturn the ideal. That example reinforces the ideal.

  46. Shannon Love said, “In the modern era, we have pretty much severed heterosexual sex from reproduction using advanced technology. This is the only reason we even begin to ask, “what’s so special about heterosexual sexual relationships?” A heterosexual relationship is the same a homosexual one only because heterosexuals can now reliably choose to have sterile sex. In the past, the two forms of relationship would have radically different consequences.”

    But that credits technology with far too much power. Anyone who has ever used contraceptives can attest to the comedies and dramas of human error; and to the lack of 100% certainty in the technologies. If abortion is offered as a technically failsafe surgical means of cutting procreation out of the heart of marriage, consider just how much individual intervention (moral, legal, logistical, physical) is required to seperate parents from the fruits of their sexual labor. Just as the surest way to avoid pregnancy is to abstain from heterosex, the surest way to have sterile sex is to have homosex.

    The procreative model of marriage is still very much present in binding men and women with each other and with children across society.

  47. Cathy said, “we are talking about two different groups wanting to legislate their values: societal acceptance of same-sex relationships as fully equivalent to male-female ones, versus the view that male-female marriage should hold a special place in our culture because it cements the bonding of the two sexes and is (normally) related to childbearing.”

    The way I see it, there are two issues being conflated. 1) The call for the equivalence (not equality) of homosexuality and heterosexuality; 2) the acknowledgement that marriage is based on the procreative model. This is less about values than about objective truth.

    1) Sexual orientation is not a criterion in eligibility for a marriage license. All individuals are treated the same by the law — regardless of the individual’s self-affirmed sexual identity. The conflation occurs when same-sex “marriage” is said to be the equivalent of authentic marriage. It is not. It shares some aspects but they are different in obvious ways. As I discussed in another thread, same-sex “marriage” is not even an exclusively homosexual proposition; and marriage today is not exclusively about heterosexual relationships.

    2) The State did not create marriage; it created “civil marriage” which is given recognition by virtue of the asymmetries of the procreative model of marriage; marriage existed before the US Constitution. Marriage is largely about children but it is also about bonding men and women in society at large. The procreative model is the normative ideal. It cannot stand as a norm for long if government undermines it; the call for same-sex “marriage” cuts procreation out of the heart of marriage. That is would be a legalistic fiction designed to deny objective truth.

    I’m for same-sex union if it can be implemented without harming marriage; if the same-sex union is really meant as a replacement of marriage — the SSM model is being sold as the equivalent of marriage, it must be rejected. While the SSM model may be suitable for homosexual partnerships, it has yet to prove its societal value even within the homosexual community. Now that the issue is being widely discussed as a matter of public policy, SSM advocates have their work cut out for them.

  48. The question keeps arising “What harm does allowing gays to marry do to other marriages?” Its seems like a fair questions, but it puts the burden of proof on the wrong party. Those advocating for gay marriage have the burden of proof to show that it would not cause harm. They are the ones trying to make the change that we will all ultimately have to pay for if real harm is caused.

    In times past, there was a direct and immediate DANGER to having sex. 1) a fertile woman regularly engaging in sex had an almost 100% chance of getting pregnant. 2) Dying in childbirth was a real risk. 3) Abortion was mostly unknown, and at best an extreme health risk. 4) Having a child outside of marriage endangered the child to poverty and starvation since 5) the father had no obligation to care for it, and could legally deny paternity without consequence. 6) promiscuous sex exposed one to STD’s which were disfuguring, sterilizing, stigmatizing, and many times fatal.

    Interestingly, with the exception of the danger of STD’s, the danger of having sex was primarily to the woman, and primarily because the inevitable result of sex was a child. Those who advocate gay marriage conveniently ignore the fact that in nature, without the interference of science and technology, sex is a dangerous activity with extreme consequences. Could it be that marriage was created in all cultures and all societies to deal with the natural consequences of sex – namely children.

    Science has attempted to overcome the consequences of sex. Marriage alone accomodates the consequences of sex. Some suggest that modern science, including contraception, medical care, abortion, and DNA testing for paternity, combined with modern law allowing no-fault divorce and forcing involuntary servitude on fathers until children are grown had obviated the need for marriage. They argue that with modern science and modern law, marriage has simply become a voluntary cultural arrangement between consenting adults that is outdated.

    But this ignores the fact that children are still born. They still need their parents. And they still suffer when their parents are not together – for whatever reason, be it illegitimacy, divorce, or death. It ignores that the primary result of sex is still children, and society has both a need and an obligation to provide for the creation and development of the next generation.

    Cathy asks, “Why should a bond of lifelong platonic friendship be less “privileged” than a sexual relationship?” A good question since gay relationships more closely resemble friendships than they do marriage.

    The promise of gay couples to raise children, and become “families” is specious because 1) few gay couples will actually raise children, 2) we should not allow them to raise children, and 3) we all know that what gay couples REALLY want is access to the legal privileges of marriage without any of the concurring responsibilities.

    So back to the question “what harm?” The harm is not to the adults who already made their choices to be gay or straight, to copulate or not, to cohabitate or not, to marry or not. The harm is to children specifically, and to society generally in that we will have further encoded in law that marriage is primarily about the adults, not about the children. This will further denigrate the value of children in the view of society at large, reinforcing the notion that life is all about self-indulgence and self-fulfillment without self-sacrifice. It is a charge-card philosophy of enjoy now, and pay later.

    And pay later we will. That is the insidious threat. The fact that the consequences cannot be immediately known obscures the nature of the threat. Those advocates of gay marriage who point to adultery and divorce as equally or more destructive are correct in their analysis. And perhaps we should thank them for clearly bringing attention to our folly. But the conclusion that creating same-sex marriage is proper course of action – as if validating the destruction of marriage “for the kid’s sake” is desirable – in insane.

    Only extreme narcissistic libertarians could agree, because they see no further than their own temporal self-indulgence. At least gay people have an understandable agenda – trying to grab benefits to which they have no moral right. Libertarians just don’t want to be bothered with sustaining our society for future generations. After all – they won’t be here. As for future generations, let them eat cake (that is if we have future generations.)

  49. “… elminates the excuse that childlessness is the reason for considering gay unions as “adjuncts” to the Real Thing…”

    Childlessness does not demote a particular marriage to something that squeezes into the same-sex “marriage” model.

    Before substituting the unproven model for the Real Thing, there really ought to be a truly compelling reason or purpose that would serve better than the longstanding normative ideal.

  50. “The problem is that we can’t agree on which category it fits in. Or, even worse, maybe it’s a matter of both. … I always assumed that libertarians would err on the side of individual liberty.”

    On the surface, sure, it is a bit of both. Yet, each individual’s liberty doesn’t exist in a vaccum. Wouldn’t libertarians err on the side of maximum liberty?

    Individualized liberty depends on a stable non-governmental foundation; and it is in the interest of society — incuding libertarians I should think — to encourage the well-being of marriage (as per Andrew’s previous post) as the base upon which community is built.

    It may be less pure ideologically, but a social pragmatist would err on the side of supporting liberty by lending societal supports for marriage and family. Tradition hold intergenerational value and we reform it only with the greatest of caution. That’s why I’d support a nationwide explicit acknowledgement of marriage as man-woman; and still leave the state lawmakers to regulate it, and to add solutions for other forms of civil union.

    “when those seeking change are really seeking individual liberty rather than changes for everybody else as well”

    A same-sex couple need not be homosexual. If civil marriage was reformed to include double-straight couples (as with double-gay couples), it becomes meaningless as an instrument of public policy. The reformers need to convince a majority that removing the procreative model (the paradigm) would improve marriage; at the very least, it won’t harm the institution.

  51. “If this is a matter of consenting adults entering into any contract or relationship that they choose, then the burden of proof should be on those who would stand in their way.”

    Minus state sanction (a 3rd party to every civil marriage contract), the consenting adults are free to make their arrangements one-on-one. Homosexual men and women, and the rest of us, are not banned from living and loving together and making contracts to suit our particulars.

  52. “All you’ve done is create a definition that supports your position; you’ve not actually proved or otherwise established your proposition.”

    Certainly not. Marriage existed before the civil regulations. The State merely acknowledges what existed prior to the State. It regulates the parameters, not the core. It is the SSM preference that would hollow out marriage to make it androgenous. It never has been gender-neutral. And in its regulations, the State has never asked about the sexual orientation of the individuals who, as a couple, come for a license. This really can’t be reduced to a semantic hop-skip-and-jump. The definition is not up for grabs. Marriage itself is either man-woman or it would be a fraud.

  53. Actually, less than a fraud. It would not be marriage but something else. Since we might experiment seperately with that something else (i.e. some basket of supports for “civil union”), why not leave marriage intact? Learn without doing harm to all of society for the sake of a small segment of society? (Surely gay domestic arrangements deserve some form of dignity under the rule of law.)

    Better yet, if the case can be made that society need only acknowledge an emerging new model for gay domesticity — one that has a beachhead in practice — it stands to reason that the more liberty could be expected.

    But it seems to me that the theoretical SSM model is something that the advocates are demanding that the State *must create* before it can come into existence. Again, the better option would be a cautious experimentation that doesn’t touch marriage. I am not sure how gay “civil unions” could be lawfully distinguished from straight “buddy unions”. There is no objective test for sexual orientation, nor for “mutual love”, that would 1) be reliable and 2) be unintrusive on personal liberties. But perhaps this is a small practical problem provided these unions are not confused with marriage.

  54. I said, “The way I see it, there are two issues being conflated. 1) The call for the equivalence (not equality) of homosexuality and heterosexuality; 2) the acknowledgement that marriage is based on the procreative model. This is less about values than about objective truth.”

    Objectively, homosexuality is not the equivalent of heterosexuality; these are different. And, objectively, the procreative model is acknowledged in civil marriage. That is explicitly denied in the new SSM model.

    Another poster responded, “Clearly marraige is not based on the procreative model; if it were, then all people who married would procreate.”

    That is a misleading statement. It mistakes procreation itself for “the procreative model”. And it confuses particular instances of marriage with the social institution of marriage. The statement presents mixed terms and meanings and knocks a straw man.

    [ Competing in the Marathon is not based on running the distance; if it were, then *all* who ever enter it would cross the finish line. ]

    “Indeed, this reductionist approach to the notion of marraige ignores values and issues which are related to marraige and are equal or even more important than procreation.”

    The approach is objective. Marriage is a social institution. Its normative ideal is procreative (even if there are exceptions that test the rule) and it entails values and traditions that flow from the bonding of men and women with each other and with their children. It is a public act with private motivations.

    Which values and issues are not included in such a model? Is the SSM model a superior notion of marriage since it excludes procreation and the bonding of men and women and their children?

    Maybe the newly espoused model is a better norm for “gay union” than it is for civil marriage.

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