pageok
pageok
pageok
[Maggie Gallagher (guest-blogging), October 17, 2005 at 10:34am] Trackbacks
The Marriage Debate:

Thanks to Eugene and also to Dale Carpenter whose work I admire a great deal.

Recently I had a front row seat at the great Andrew Sullivan v. David Blankenhorn debate on gay marriage at the Institute for American Value's annual symposium.. It was like watching two majestic battleships, armed and deadly with torpedoes ready, pass each other harmlessly by. The testoterone level was high but they were punching air.

David, who has spent the last two years researching a book on marriage as a cross-cultural universal human phenomenon, and that last twenty years building the nation's most influential think tank on marriage and fatherhood, said something like this (I'm quoting from memory here):

David: "Marriage is a trans-legal social institution whose main mission is creating sexual unions between men and women so they create families where children have fathers as well as mothers."

Andrew Sullivan: "That's a fantasy." (Andrew cited the usual argument: lots of married couples don't have children and lots of children aren't born to married couples.)

Two very bright people, face to face, mano a mano, looked each other in the eye and saw--a blank wall.

A lot of this debate is like that.

I've learned from much experience that when two intelligent people cannot even understand how the other person's can possibly believe their own argument—that's when something really interesting is going on.

I have no illusions I'm going to spend this week persuading people to change their minds on gay marriage. So I'd like to try to do something else big and important: to "achieve disagreement". To figure out for myself, and maybe for you too, what has changed that makes the original, cross-cultural, historic understanding of marriage literally unintelligible to so many of this country's best and brightest. In the process, maybe some advocates of gay marriage will understand why, quite apart from any disagreement about sexual orientation, so many Americans are deeply disturbed by the idea of gay marriage.

Simon (391563) (mail) (www):
Maggie-

With all respect, it isn't that we don't "understand" your arguments, or how you came to make them; it's just that they're bad arguments, oftentimes spectacularly so.

Simon
10.17.2005 11:43am
Mike (mail) (www):
I am always interested in inetlligent debate on this subject and I look forward to reading what both of you have to say over the next few weeks, but I think you may have inadvertantly hit the nail on the head when you mention that you are going to delve into why some people are "deeply disturbed" by same-sex marriage.

We should never, ever make law in this country based on what "deeply disturbs" anybody. If there is no better reason to prohibit (or allow) something then feelings, then that subject (whatever it is) is not something that is a matter for the state to be concerned about.
10.17.2005 11:53am
corngrower:
Gay Marriage

Marriage is not a right. It is a deffinition of a union that grants that union privliges granted by govt. Most people would have to spend less that an hour to find a church for getting wed. The battle is on what the union would garner in the manner of govt privledges. Last I checked thats a legislative issue, not, judicial. Got a bithch take it up with the Legislative branch. but, dont hold your breath. Look at abortion. Ted Kennedy could get back to his morning Bloody Mary if he would just introduce a law that permits a medical procedure already protected by Scotus, BUT, NO the legislative branch is not going to tackle this, Its just easier to not do your own job
10.17.2005 12:03pm
Wurly:
Good luck in your efforts. However, based upon these initial comments, I suspect that even your modest goal of tyring to increase understanding, if not agreement, is a hopeless one.
10.17.2005 12:03pm
Steve:
I look forward to a week of junk science and horror stories about the evils that have resulted from the legalization of gay marriage in other countries, like how polygamy has now become legal in the Netherlands as a consequence of civil unions (a Fox News myth that was widely debunked within hours), or how some Swedish man has found a lutefisk shaped like Satan.

The real question is, what is to be gained from banning gay marriage? Does anyone really think that the relatively small number of individuals who would have wanted to enter into a gay marriage will now renounce their homosexuality and enter into happy, "traditional" family units for the sake of the children? Is there anything, socially, to be gained by this, or are we simply exercising majority power over people whose lifestyle "deeply disturbs" us because we can?

I do not see any way in which my own marriage is strengthened or weakened by what two other people decide to do with their lives, but I wish you luck in persuading me otherwise.
10.17.2005 12:06pm
SeniorD (mail):
Ms. Gallagher,

A cultural-historic perspective strongly militates for Mr. Blankenhorn's position. The typical Judeo-Christian practice of granting the majority of inheritance to the elder son speaks well to the need for marriage to legitimize birth. Eastern religious/cultural pratices support the concept of children supporting parents in their old age. I cannot think of major culture supporting homosexual marriage. Granted, there are certain minor sub-cultures practicing such behavior, but one must stress they are sub-cultures.
10.17.2005 12:08pm
Anonymous Jim (mail):
I understand why so many Americans are deeply disturbed by the idea of gay marriage. Frankly, I am more confused by proponents who insist that Gay Marriage is so necessary (and I look forward to that argument).

What I don't get about gay marriage opponents is their insistence that gays be denied rights in other areas that are ancillary to marriage. For example, in Ohio we passed an amendment to our constitution which stated: "Only a union between one man and one woman may be a marriage valid in or recognized by this state and its political subdivisions." If that is all the amendment said, I could see supporting it and I may have supported it.

It is not all the amendment said though. The amendment went on to say: "This state and its political subdivisions shall not create or recognize a legal status for relationships of unmarried individuals that intends to approximate the design, qualities, significance or effect of marriage." I am not sure what this means legally and I am not sure that anyone knows what this means legally. I suppose it means "no civil unions" but it has been suggested that it means much more (most grotesquely that "domestic violence" refers only to married couples). In any event, I think that supporters of the amendment used anti-gay animus to push through an ambiguous amendment.
10.17.2005 12:09pm
Aaron:
With all due respect, this misses the point entirely. The efficacy of marraige as an institution is, to be sure, an interesting topic for debate. But the real question is why government is involved in marraige at all? For those who view marraige as a deeply spiritual compact, let them get married in the church of their choice and call upon an attorney to draft a marraige contract that articulates their own view of what marraige should be.

That people are disturbed by same -sex marraige is to be expected. They have every right to be disturbed. After all, no one wants the government to sanction what they find personally disturbing. But this conflict is government-created. Had government allowed marraige to remain a private issue, such concerns would never have come to the forefront.
10.17.2005 12:11pm
llamasex (mail) (www):
How do you explain marriage in the Early Middle Ages, when it was basically just a property transaction into your theory of a universal phenomenon? Or are those early years just tossed out as too historic?
10.17.2005 12:11pm
A2 Reader:
You might start by explaining why anyone should care for two seconds about the history of marriage: the history of marriage is replete with most foul discrimination against women (e.g., property rights) and people of distinct races (e.g., anti-miscegenation laws).

Hardly a guide by which to make contemporary policy.
10.17.2005 12:12pm
Hank:
I would like the opponents of gay marriage to argue against gay marriage not in the abstract, but to argue against allowing gay partners to visit one another in the hospital, against allowing them to inherit from a partner who dies intestate, against allowing them to file joint tax returns, etc., etc. If any opponents of gay marriage do not oppose these things, and would allow civil unions but not marriage, then what basis could they have for making a fuss about nomenclature, other than, out of bigotry, a desire to denigrate others' unions?
10.17.2005 12:13pm
Cornellian (mail):
I think rather than just stating "it's a fantasy", a more illuminating response would have been "if that's it main mission, then why are exceptions so freely allowed for opposite sex couples (AS's point about not requiring opposite sex couples to have children, want to have children, be able to have children etc.) but not for same sex couples?"

Why are people strongly opposed to it? Well it's a change from the past certainly. I've never done any real research on it, but I understand the debate about granting women the vote was pretty vehement too, with lots of people strongly opposed (not all of them men), attacking the good faith of their opponents, predicting doom for society etc. Is opposition to same sex marriage any more vehement? More vehement than opposition to inter-racial marriage? Hard to say.

I also wonder how deep that vehement opposition really is. Is there a groundswell in Mass. to get rid of same sex marriage? Some effort certainly, but anything comparable to the decades long struggle over Roe v Wade? I don't see it. In other words, people feel strongly, but not strongly enough to actually do much about it if it happens.
10.17.2005 12:17pm
Cornellian (mail):
I think there's a kind of stealth tactic going on in which proponents of that kind of amendment trumpet the first line of the amendment (marriage - man and woman only) while hoping no one notices the far more damaging stealth language that follows, but which is the real agenda. But in their zeal to eradicate any kind of legislative recognition of any kind of relationship between a same sex couple, these stealth clauses are planting time bombs waiting to go off. The Ohio amendment in particular has an unintended consequences problem the size of a battleship. What happens to a constructive trust law, for example, that provides that a man must pay support to a woman he's lived with for 20 years, who supported him through medical school, helped build up his career by looking after the home front etc., but was never actually married to him? Such laws seems obvious candidates for attack on the plain wording of the Ohio amendment, which makes no distinction in that second part between same sex couple and opposite sex couples. I suspect maybe the consequences weren't really unintended by some, and that they really do view a law like that as eroding marriage, but nothing in the campaign for that amendment would ever admit that that's what's really going on.

What I don't get about gay marriage opponents is their insistence that gays be denied rights in other areas that are ancillary to marriage. For example, in Ohio we passed an amendment to our constitution which stated: "Only a union between one man and one woman may be a marriage valid in or recognized by this state and its political subdivisions." If that is all the amendment said, I could see supporting it and I may have supported it.

It is not all the amendment said though. The amendment went on to say: "This state and its political subdivisions shall not create or recognize a legal status for relationships of unmarried individuals that intends to approximate the design, qualities, significance or effect of marriage." I am not sure what this means legally and I am not sure that anyone knows what this means legally. I suppose it means "no civil unions" but it has been suggested that it means much more (most grotesquely that "domestic violence" refers only to married couples). In any event, I think that supporters of the amendment used anti-gay animus to push through an ambiguous amendment.
10.17.2005 12:23pm
Public_Defender:
The "historic" understanding of marriage includes more than limiting the institution to a man and a woman. It includes limiting the institution to a man and a woman (often a man and a girl), chosen by their parents, of the same ethnic, religious, racial and social groups, in which the woman (or girl) is legally subservient to the man to the point where to the point where he could legally "rape" her. (I put "rape" in quotations because until the last few decades, it was not "rape" for a man to force his wife to have sex.)

Perhaps conservatives could explain why they want to legally enforce only the limitation of one man and one woman. Some conservatives still admit to wanting to enforce the rule that wives must obey their husbands. But, thankfully, conservatives have abandoned the tradition of permitting men to legally rape their wives.
10.17.2005 12:24pm
Cornellian (mail):
Such an argument would have worked to deny women the vote, since that practice also had centuries of tradition behind it. Heck, slavery had centuries of tradition behind it, right up until it was abolished. The argument amounts to "we've been doing it for a long time so it must be right." You need to explain why this particular practice of long standing should be retained and "we've been doing it this way for a long time" proves far too much.

A cultural-historic perspective strongly militates for Mr. Blankenhorn's position. The typical Judeo-Christian practice of granting the majority of inheritance to the elder son speaks well to the need for marriage to legitimize birth. Eastern religious/cultural pratices support the concept of children supporting parents in their old age. I cannot think of major culture supporting homosexual marriage. Granted, there are certain minor sub-cultures practicing such behavior, but one must stress they are sub-cultures.
10.17.2005 12:27pm
Stephen1000 (mail):
What has changed is that we are a super rich society, and people are being freed from the responsibility of family.

The gay marriage debate is a debate about luxury. It is the ultimate spoiled kid's issue.

The comments in the section already point out just how nuts the discussion about this issue has become. My hillbilly aunt from Kentucky has the sense to know that marriage is about men and women creating families. But, our most educated have lost that ability. Those among us blessed with the brightest abstract intellects have become moral idiots. Dead souls. Happened in the 19th century in Russia, too. Marxist feminist and gay indoctrination in colleges has turned brains into shit. Note the hysterical assertions that marriage was about rape and dismemberment. The Marxist nitwits of the 19th century made the same sort of absurd statements about the Romanovs. The Romanovs seem like teddy bears in relation to their successors, the Bolsheviks.

This is indeed evidence of a stark and harrowing moral decline that will ultimately result in catastrophe. What the eggheads are telling us is that all human history can be ignored, and that their great transcendent intellects are all that matter.

Gay worship is now the norm in most American cities. This is the apotheosis of spoiled brat culture, the ultimate release from any responsibility to others, and the precursor to the ultimate failure of our society.

Nothing can be done about this. The die is cast. This is not really a legal or moral debate. The eggheads idiots have triumped and they are leading us to ruin. The eggheads have once again fallen prey to their vanity. They believe that the idiot ideals they are espousing have something to do with human society. The same mistake lead to a hundred million murders in the 20th century.

I expect the usual idiot intellect arguments in response. The indoctrination in Marxist feminism and gay activism of the past 50 years means that discourse is hopeless. The well is tainted. There is no goodwill here, only the feckless stupidity of those who possess the highest intellects.

Read Dead Souls, or a Hero of Our Times, or Crime and Punishment to understand the dreadful moral error the eggheads are falling prey to. Once again, the eggheads are entranced by their brilliance. Vanity is always the way the the Devil entrances and ensnares eggheads.

Have at it.
10.17.2005 12:31pm
Gordon (mail):
I am a mid-40's male. Twenty, ten, or even five years ago I would have viscerally and perfunctorily rejected the idea of gay marriage as ridiculous and unnatural. And I consider myself a supporter of the right of homosexuals to live lives unfettered by discrimination or prejudice.

But recently my automatic reaction has been challenged by the public debate on this issue. And I can articulate no reason (other than overtly religious ones) for limiting marriage to heterosexual couples.

Stripped of arguments steeped in religion, the only argument against gay marriage I can find is based in some vague and indistinct notion of "tradition." And I don't find such reasoning persuasive.
10.17.2005 12:31pm
Gordon (mail):
As a follow-up, while I no longer oppose gay marriage, I also reject the notion that it is some kind of consittutional right impervious to statute. It is a decision to be argued in our legislatures and at our ballot boxes, not in our courtrooms.

And I will be arguing on the side of allowing it.
10.17.2005 12:33pm
Stephen1000 (mail):
"Stripped of arguments steeped in religion, the only argument against gay marriage I can find is based in some vague and indistinct notion of "tradition." And I don't find such reasoning persuasive."

Yes, religion and tradition are the reason to reject gay marriage.

This debate should not even be taking place in a legal forum.
10.17.2005 12:38pm
akiva eisenberg (mail):
Color me ignorant, but allow to me to make a simple request. Before belly-flopping into an already acrimonious debate on same-sex marriage, would someone please define exactly what marriage is supposed to accomplish. Perhaps then the debate can proceed on firmer terra.

It is said (to music) that "love and marriage go together like a horse and carriage." Besides being obviously untrue - witness the large number of loveless marriages and loving non-marriage relationships - in any case we live in the age of the "horseless carriage."

I have been a practicing clergyman, and I still do not see a non-religious purpose for marriage. To say that it fosters a beneficial environment for child-rearing is wishful thinking. So, again I ask, why have marriage at all? What does it accomplish? And why should society in the form of government be involved?
10.17.2005 12:38pm
SKlein:
Stephen1000--accepting your premise, why is indulging a "luxury" a catastrophe? It might not be the highest virtue, and perhaps we should be saving all our passion for hunger in Africa, but few of us care aobut only the highest virtues, so why single this out?
10.17.2005 12:41pm
Chukuang:
Stephen1000,

Yes, most readers of this site are dedicated Marxists out to undermine the foundations of glorious Western society. That's why we spend our time reading a right-leaning blog by law professors.

And I also have to agree that thinking is bad, BAD!!! If we have any moral or legal questions, we should just ask your "hillbilly aunt from Kentucky." Maybe she'll be Bush's next SCOTUS pick!

But seriously, since I think debate is good, I'm looking forward to hearing the arguments against gay marriage that go beyond calling gays "spoiled brats." I have yet be hear a convincing one, but your name calling might actually be worse than the "'cause the Bible says so" position.
10.17.2005 12:45pm
Sr. (mail):
To my eye, this is a variable that exposes people's 'conservative' value, as in to what extent people believe governments should run personal lives.

For me, as a serious libertarian, this is a simple question. Not only should the state not be granting priviledges to people who perform a (usually religious) rite, anyone who wants to do the dance should be allowed to. If we can't get rid of the legal game, then anyone who wants to partake should be welcome. Sounds like Equal Protection, to me.

Conservatives, however, seem to want the state to interfere with their love lives. It seems to be a fear of change, to me, but maybe I'm missing something.
10.17.2005 12:46pm
Stephen1000 (mail):
avika, you are not a "practicing clergyman." You are a Trojan horse, a Bolsheviki who has infiltrated an institution for the purpose of destroying it.

God gave us free will and the sacrament of marriage. Do I have to instruct a "practicing clergyman" that the possession of free will means that many will fail to pass the test of being true to that sacrament?

SKlien, you've only noted part of my argument. I said, the die is cast. Somehow, the tail end of the civil rights movement of the 1960s has become the promotion of overfed, over-indulged (and almost entirely white) gay kids into victims of oppression.

Spoiled kids will have their way, especially in a completely indulgent, rich society. This cannot be stopped.

The Lord of the Rings is not just a fantasy. That evil eye searching for weakness is a reality.
10.17.2005 12:52pm
Hank:
Akiva Eisenberg: See my post nine above yours for three secular benefits of marriage.
10.17.2005 12:52pm
Sr. (mail):
Stephen: egghead...egghead...egghead...egghead...Gay worship is now the norm in most American cities...egghead...egghead..

What city do you live in? I might want to move there, and I'm not even gay. I lived in San Francisco for 10 years, and didn't find that to be true.

--A proud egghead.
10.17.2005 12:53pm
Aaron:
Stephen1000,

Your self-righteousness and your pechant for name calling is not going to win you very many supporters.

If God has given us the sacrament of marraige why is there any need to reinforce this sacrament with law or policy? Let marraige be regulated where it is properly dealt with - in houses of worship.
10.17.2005 12:58pm
Robert West (mail) (www):
Corngrower - the legislature of the State of California *has* addressed this issue. It passed a measure legalizing gay marriage in California this summer; the measure was vetoed by the Governor. (In addition, it may have been tossed out by the courts as conflicting with a statewide ballot initiative; it's hard to say, and that's not relevant to my point: some legislatures are willing to tackle this issue head on).
10.17.2005 1:06pm
Medis:
OK, so suppose I agree with David that has historically been the "main mission" of marriage.

Now, suppose I agree with Andrew that we frequently allow marriages that do not serve this "main mission," and draw the obvious conclusion that we allowed such marriages because they did not threaten this "main mission."

Finally, I now ask how allowing gay marriages would threaten this "main mission." Seeing no rational way in which allowing gay marriages would somehow threaten straight/procreative marriages, I assert that we have no more reason to prohibit gay marriages than any other marriages which don't threaten this "main mission."

So what's the problem with my reasoning exactly?
10.17.2005 1:07pm
ChrisH:
I think some of the best and brightest can't get past the fact that people of the same sex feel love, not only lust, towards each other.

I'm not gay, but I fully support gay marriage for this reason alone -- other's take a different approach. i found this pretty convincing ... a quote from E.J. Graff, author of What Is Marriage For?:


"Once upon a time, the West had a 'traditional' marriage philosophy." The husband owned his wife, whatever children she bore him. But capitalism eventually came along—thank God!—and freed us from those confining sex roles. "Each of us now has to make a living independently, based on individual talents and efforts rather than traditional roles. Over time this led to gender equality in the job and marriage market. Between 1850 and 1970, every developed country struck down its sex-based rules, both in labor (i.e., women can be plumbers and legislators) and in marriage (i.e., married women can own property, hold jobs without hubby's permission, have custody of children, and even—gasp!—say no in bed). The result: Gender equality is today's governing public philosophy, in marriage and in much else. For 150 years, courts and legislatures have changed marriage law to fit this philosophy, under which same-sex couples fit just fine." In other words, heterosexual marriage is not one man taking ownership over one woman, but two individuals, as equals, committing to each other. "The only sex-based restriction left in marriage law," Graff says, "lies in the entrance rules, where it no longer belongs."
10.17.2005 1:09pm
TFox (mail) (www):
When I looked at this question, two factors struck me:

1. Because sex and gender can be changed, there are substantial difficulties making sense of a strict rules regarding sexes in a marriage. What happens when one partner changes their sex? It may be rare, but it happens. And even imagining a totalitarian system which prevents sex changes for people in established marriages, there are substantial difficulties preventing same sex couples from living in marriage-like relationships. What law shall govern these relationships?

2. Marriage law is mostly divorce law, which concerns itself with protecting the weak and the innocent (in particular children and nonearning spouses) when the economic and social partnership of a household is broken. Arguments against same sex marriage must make an ethical case why the weak and the innocent from those relationships deserve no protection.

I'm looking forward to hear more about this issue, but particularly so with respect to the actualities of the joys and difficulties faced by real people in real relationships and how they are affected by the law.
10.17.2005 1:11pm
Houston Lawyer:
Changes in our social traditions which were backed up by law have consequences. Look at the carnage caused to society by no-fault divorce. If legislator's had had the last 40 years of empirical data on divorce rates and the effects of those divorces on people available when they were enacting no-fault divorce, they would have made different choices. Protections for women becoming pregnant out of wedlock and their offspring were also enacted, usually by judicial fiat. The cumulative results have been disasterous for the poor in this country who now see little virtue in marriage.

Most proponents of gay marriage seem to say that marriage has nothing to do with the production of children. That defies history and logic.
10.17.2005 1:14pm
Nunzio (mail):
Like anything else, what historically or trans-culturally had been the view for so long doesn't hold much water with Americans. Our attention spans and memories are short, at least mine is.

But I can respect that people who are more traditional and more historically-inclined oppose gay marriage as an erosion of an important institution. Many of these people are also perturbed by the high-level of divorce in this country post World War II and the number of kids born to unmarried parents.

Also, regardless of how libertarian anyone is, almost everyone has moral judgments and those who hold their moral judgments strongly, for example Andrew Sullivan and his pro-gay marriage position, should always hold at least some respect for other people who have strongly-held moral beliefs, even if they are the opposite.

I, for one, think it should be legal for gays to marry, but it's not that strong of a belief for me that I can't see where the other side's coming from, especially since this wasn't a mainstream issue even 20 years ago.
10.17.2005 1:18pm
Bryan G.:
The fallacy I see here is assuming that the "original, cross-cultural, historic understanding of marriage" had anything going for it. I've been happily married for a number of years now to a wonderful wife and have a great son. That said, our marriage today is absolute nothing like what the "original, cross-cultural, historic understanding of marriage" is. Both of us work for a living; I take care of my son as much as my wife does. I don't have absolute control over her life, just as she doesn't have absolute control over mine. And so it goes... our marriage now is *nothing* like what "marriage" a century or two ago meant. And I'm very, very glad about that.

I don't WANT the "original, cross-cultural, historic understanding of marriage" for myself. It's outmoded and antiquated; that happened right about the time that women were given the right to vote. It brings nothing to the table. So if I don't think it has any value to me, then why, in the context of gay marriage, should I think it has any absolute value? Convince me why that historic understanding of marriage has value, and hopefully I will understand how anyone could be against giving any two people the right to marry no matter their genders.

-Bryan
10.17.2005 1:19pm
Sr. (mail):
It seems to me that a big part of the discussion is a matter of entitlement. Am I entitled to make choices for other people, by virtue of having a stronger vision of "what is right", by whatever calculation I have, be that ethical, religious, or what have you?

I come out on the No side. But then, on Saturday, I went to a party, and talked for a while with a wonderful woman who went to Vermont to civilly unionize with her girl. She showed me the pictures. I have trouble seeing what harm she and her mate are going to do to me and my (opposite sex) partner.
10.17.2005 1:25pm
Aaron C. (mail):
Houston Lawyer says: "Look at the carnage caused to society by no-fault divorce."

What are you referring to? Surely you understand the difference between correlation and causation? As the porn industry has exploded over the last 15 years, crime rate has declined dramatically. Would you have us conclude that porn causes decreased crime? Surely I have never heard any conservative make such an argument.

To link urban poverty to gay marraige (homosexuals are MUCH less likely to be living in poverty than the average citizen) is sheer nonsense.
10.17.2005 1:26pm
Public_Defender:
Note the hysterical assertions that marriage was about rape and dismemberment.
"Hysterical"? "Truthful" is more accurate.

Take a look at your state's criminal code's definition of rape circa 1960. I bet it says that "rape" is not "rape" if the offender is a man and the victim is his wife.

In the Model Penal Code in my office's 1989 criminal law book, a man did not commit rape or sexual assault if the "victim" was his wife. The only exception is if he coerced the sex by force or by threat of "death, serious bodily injury, extreme pain or kidnapping. . . ." Then he would be guilty of "deviate sexual intercourse." MPC Sections 213.1, 213.2, 213.4.

So it was OK for a man to coerce sex by threat of non-serious bodily injury.

I can see why conservatives run and hide from this tradition.
10.17.2005 1:27pm
Medis:
I can understand how something like no-fault divorce could rationally be said to have undermined the institution of marriage (although in my mind, not necessarily in a bad way--but I digress).

But again, how exactly do gay marriages undermine the institution of marriage, or somehow threaten straight/procreative marriages? I still don't see the connection.
10.17.2005 1:29pm
John S (mail):
The funny thing is both Sullivan and Blankenhorn agree that government should have a big role in marriage and this is positive. They diverge on whether it would be good policy to include gays in the calculation. Given this premise it seems to me Sullivan's argument carries the day. Unless one believes gay civil marriage will cause more people to become gay (doesn't comport at all with science) the positives of gay civil marriage (stability for gay couples who already cohabitate and often have children) are clear to see.

The libertarian view, to which I subscribe, is that government should stay out of what historically has been a private act. This seems a sensible compromise.
10.17.2005 1:31pm
Aaron C. (mail):
Public_Defender,

What a strawman you have set up! Marraige is about rape and dismemberment because rape laws were written so as to exlcude rape by a spouse prior to 1960.

I am extremely opposed to government involvement in marraige and so, I suspect, we are on the same side of this debate as a matter of policy but your rhetoric indeed leans closer to hysterical than truthful.

An analogy to what you write might be: Free speech laws are about racism because free speech laws, on occasion, protect racists.
10.17.2005 1:34pm
corngrower:
Hank;

I am not opposed to gay marriage. People of the same gender can get married in a matter of hours, if that is their desire.

You brought up things that have not a thing to do with 'marriage'.

The 'right' to visit a person in the hospital. Ah, Congress, the President,and the courts have not restricted a single person from seeing a single person in the hospital. Hospitals have. See, hospitals set their own rules, with the rights that a private entity has to set the rules. This is such a straw man that it does not warrent a response, 'cept it is so fun to knock down strawmen. Want to see the most important person in your life in the hospital. Write it down. ONLY the hospital set the rules for visitation. Not SCOTUS.

The right to assets of your most loved person on earth, that dies without a will? A will is a legal document. I happen to be married to a person of the opposite gender. Shortly after our marriage, we both wrote a will and signed it. It is a prudent thing to do. I seem to remember several persons willing their assets to their pets. How can this happen? Oh yeh a legal document.

Joint tax returns. This is just tedious. Congress set the entirety of the tax code. Judicial branch dont get to play.

So got a legal or constitutional reason? No? Gee, I guess ya gotta go after the people you elected to office, 'cause, according to your post, now laws or constitutional concepts have been breeched
10.17.2005 1:53pm
JDS:
In the distant past, marriage conferred property rights on both parties - for one important example, a spouse's lover committed the tort of "criminal conversation" and could be sued for money damages.

The interesting question (for me, anyway) is why anyone wants to be married today. 65 clauses in the US tax code (mirrored in many state codes) penalize married couples. Divorce is horrifically expensive and can involve public disclosure and humiliation. Marriage can cut Medicare and Social Security benefits. For affluent people especially, most of the benefits of marriage can be obtained through private agreements.

Personally, "domestic partnership" would be much better for me and my girlfriend. We would get access to the other's health insurance but would not pay higher tax rates. Unfortunately, in California, domestic partnership is available only to same-sex couples and those over 65...

I agree with previous posters who have argued that the state should stay out of the marriage business, and instead should define and sanction "domestic partnership" agreements for any two (or more?) people who wish to enter into them.
10.17.2005 2:01pm
SKlein:
Stephen1000--I will hope against hope that you are not a troll and ask you again to answer my question. It was a serious question -- so far, your argument against gay marriage is that it mostly benefits spoiled, over-indulged, upper-middle class whites who have too much already and who can't distinguish between indulgence and entitlement. Whether or not its factual premises are true, I am underwhelmed.
10.17.2005 2:01pm
William Spieler (mail) (www):
What about real traditional marriage - polygamy?
10.17.2005 2:09pm
Public_Defender:

What a strawman you have set up! . . . An analogy to what you write might be: Free speech laws are about racism because free speech laws, on occasion, protect racists.

To use your analogy, it's as if the First Amendment said, "Congress shall make no law abidging the freedom to make racist remarks."

Unlike the First Amendment which, "on occasion" protects racism, Western tradition, through its laws and customs, intentionally authorized men to "rape" their wives. Again, "rape" is in quotations because it wasn't legally a crime.
10.17.2005 2:09pm
Hank:
corngrower: You write, "The 'right' to visit a person in the hospital. Ah, Congress, the President,and the courts have not restricted a single person from seeing a single person in the hospital. Hospitals have." Yes, and the government knows this and by permitting gay marriage can take care of the problem. The hospitals are arguably reasonable to use a bright-line rule distinguishing permissible from impermissible visitors, and not to have to decide on a case-by-case basis.

Next you write: "The right to assets of your most loved person on earth, that dies without a will? A will is a legal document. I happen to be married to a person of the opposite gender. Shortly after our marriage, we both wrote a will and signed it. It is a prudent thing to do. I seem to remember several persons willing their assets to their pets. How can this happen? Oh yeh a legal document."

What you overlook is that not all couples are as superior people as you and your wife are (and by the way, your tone of superiority throughout the posting is obnoxious). Suppose that one spouse dies on the way home from the wedding? That could happen even to superior people.

Finally, you write: "Joint tax returns. This is just tedious. Congress set the entirety of the tax code. Judicial branch don't get to play." Congress doesn't get to set rules that violate the Constitution. But I'm not going to argue that the prohibition on gay marriage violates the Constitution, as that is not at issue in this thread.
10.17.2005 2:12pm
Aaron C. (mail):
Public Defender,

"Unlike the First Amendment which, "on occasion" protects racism, Western tradition, through its laws and customs, intentionally authorized men to "rape" their wives. Again, "rape" is in quotations because it wasn't legally a crime."

Yes but this is a problem with rape laws - not with marraige laws. To say that rape laws prior to 1960s were flawed is hardly an impeachment of the institution of marraige.

To use another anology, this is like saying the right to vote was about promoting Jim Crow Laws because under democracy, blacks were denied the right to vote. Of course, the problem was with poll taxes and the like - not with the right to vote in general.
10.17.2005 2:30pm
SeniorD (mail):
Since I respect the Judeo-Christian culture I was raised in; and since I am a firm supporter of an individual's right to believe as he or she wants; I will support the right for homosexuals to marry when they can, without any artificial means or methods, without any recourse to third parties of any kind, produce a living, human child, as defined by a child possessing DNA and RNA from both parents and complete mitochondrial DNA links to the mother, following a full term inutero pregnancy.

If they can do that, they have my vote. Not until then.
10.17.2005 2:31pm
AppSocRes (mail):
I'm going to suggest a simple thought experiment: Imagine a society with no institution of marriage, no laws or social norms governing: (a) sexual behavior or its consequences, (b) who was responsible for caring for or raising a child, (3) the disposition of estates. Now consider how such society, desiring to perpetuate itself, might pass laws that would encourage procreation -- at least to the point of replacement -- and ensure that society's offspring would be adequately cared for and socialized without putting undue and unfair burdens on either biological mothers, biological fathers, or those who choose not to procreate.

I'm imposing just one additional rule: I don't want any socialist fantasy material here about communal raising of children for two reasons: (1) Many believe that the current attacks on traditional marriages and families are a sneaky way of forwarding a socialist agenda. (2) As a sociologist/anthropologist I cannot think of any culture -- let alone any advanced society -- that has prospered for, let's say, five generations under some such system of child-rearing.

I suspect that what most people will wind up with, if they conscientiously perform this exercise, is a system resembling "traditional" marriage and the family. Most of my students have when in the past I've presented this exercise to them.
10.17.2005 2:35pm
Aaron C. (mail):
SeniorD,

It is apparent that you respect the Judeo-Christian culture you were raised in. But you clearly have a rather limited notion of which individual rights you support.

Jews and Christians alike are welcome to deny the sacriment of marraige to homosexuals who seek to marry. What business does the state have in involving itself in what should legitimately be a private, religious matter?

You alsoe seem to be sugegsting that childbirth be a prerequiste for government marraige. Last I heard, the religious among us wanted marraige to prcede childbirth not the other way around.
10.17.2005 2:39pm
Aaron C. (mail):
AppSocRes,

Government marraige is not necessary to compel society to adopt the rule you derive. Many people (indeed perhaps most people) want to get married. Surely a private system of contract law could provide for such demand.

And why are we to think that heterosexual demand for marraige will decline if homosexuals have acess to the market as well?
10.17.2005 2:46pm
Nobody (mail):
JDS wrote:


In the distant past, marriage conferred property rights on both parties - for one important example, a spouse's lover committed the tort of "criminal conversation" and could be sued for money damages.


This is not only in the distant past. I think it's still the law, in most if not all states, that a surviving spouse has the right to inherit a certain share (maybe one third?) of his or her dead spouse's estate, even if the dead spouse has specifically written the surviving spouse out of the will.
10.17.2005 2:47pm
Cornellian (mail):
I thought the proponents said that allowing gay people to get married wouldn't do anything to hinder the ability of straight people to get married and produce children. That seems highly plausible to me and certainly I haven't seen any evidence to the contrary.

Most proponents of gay marriage seem to say that marriage has nothing to do with the production of children. That defies history and logic.
10.17.2005 2:55pm
Jonny's_Light:
SeniorD, "I will support the right for homosexuals to marry when they can, without any artificial means or methods, without any recourse to third parties of any kind, produce a living, human child, as defined by a child possessing DNA and RNA from both parents and complete mitochondrial DNA links to the mother, following a full term inutero pregnancy."

How is childbirth a prerequisite for marriage? So all of elderly that wish to get married should be denied the ability to marry based on your statement, since after all they can't reproduce.

I also realize the influences the Judeo-Christian culture had on the Constitution and the law, but I don't think in this day and age, God should be used to justify the argument against Gay marriage.

The theory of marriage is also to ensure for future generations, to make sure that life will continue. With gay marriage, all they can do is adopt. If homosexuality becomes more widespread what will happen? Will our population go down? Again, this is all speculation. I am not saying this will happen or occur, I am just stating that there is the possibility of it becoming wide spread. As ridiculous as this may sound, it cannot be ruled out.
10.17.2005 2:55pm
speedwell (mail):
SeniorD: OK, now. Where, exactly, in the Jewish or Christian traditions, does it mention DNA, RNA, and mitochondrial DNA?

I will grant you that there's a place in the Bible that implies that only a full term utero pregnancy counts as a baby (it has to do with the penalty for harming a pregnant woman so that she miscarries). But you didn't mean that part; it would show that you think abortion isn't murder.
10.17.2005 2:57pm
Public_Defender:
Aaron C,
But unlike Jim Crow, the laws authorizing men to rape their wives were a part of the tradition that women were subservient to men in marriage. For example, another law legally merged a woman into her husband so that she had no legal rights distinct from his.

Men and women weren't equal in marriage until the latter part of the 20th century. Equality in marriage is a very modern, very non-traditional idea.
10.17.2005 3:04pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
Medis: But again, how exactly do gay marriages undermine the institution of marriage, or somehow threaten straight/procreative marriages? I still don't see the connection.

I think the rational (i.e., not 'God said so') argument goes something like this: marriage has traditionally been about procreation. Gay marriage is not; therefore, to create it requires that we redefine what marriage is. Now, try to do just that: come up with such a new definition, that encompasses the broader scope we're discussing. It is likely to sound something like either "people who like having sex with each other," on the one hand, or a civil union or a business partnership, on the other.

But if that's all marriage is, then why have the state involved at all? Why have benefits associated with it? The state doesn't give special tax or legal preferences to two siblings living together (not sexually); why should it give special preferences to a married couple? And why can't two siblings be "married," under this expanded definition? I'm not talking about whether incest itself should be legal; I'm talking about why a business partnership-marriage should be limited to unrelated people. And why not more than two people?

In other words, the claim that "gay marriage threatens marriage" is not saying, "If gay people can get married, I'm going to dump my wife." It's saying, "If gay people can get married, then what does it mean to be married? Why should I be interested in getting married at all? What does it mean, other than an entitlement to various government benefits and tax advantages, and why should those even exist?"

I'm not saying this is a winning argument; I just think this is the best argument one can make for this view.
10.17.2005 3:07pm
Aaron C. (mail):
Public Defender,

Again, I suggest you are conflating two different things. That secular law has discriminated against women is beyond dispute That marraige is the source for such discrimination is, in my opinion, a bogus claim, predicated on a misunderstanding of the nature of the relationship between marraige and discrimination against women.
10.17.2005 3:15pm
Houston Lawyer:
Very few people have claimed that allowing homosexual marriage would undermine existing marriages. But conservatives are concerned about how the redefinition of marriage will affect future generations. Traditional marriage is fairly easy to explain to a child. They understand that a man marries a woman and that the bride and groom can't be from the same family. They also understand that not long after the marriage ceremony the couple will start having children. This has been consistent for thousands of years of Western culture.

Most people in this country believe that we are all better off if the maximum number of children are raised within traditional marriage. They believe that society will suffer if the assumptions underlying marriage are changed. Now we are told that the existing system is wrong, and possibly unconstitutional, because "it's not fair" or "it is based purely on prejudice". They don't buy the assurances that this will be the only change made to the definition of marriage. They see this as the camel's nose under the tent for polygamous and incestuous marriages.

Underlying the thinking of the proponents of gay marriage is the idea that all sexual relationships should be treated the same under the law. Correlary to this is the demand that society treat homosexual relationships exactly the same as heterosexual relationships. A majority of the people in this country reject both of these ideas.

To date, the proponents of gay marriage have primarily operated outside of legislatures to enact their proposals. They have actively sought out friendly courts and have met with some success. A few elected officials in this country have actively defied existing laws to perform gay marriages in jurisdictions where they are clearly not allowed. They have then complained loudly when their opponents fight back in the legislatures and with constitutional amendments, calling the countermeasures mean spirited and unnecessary. This is the only movement I have ever seen where incremental success actually sets back the cause.
10.17.2005 3:16pm
Aaron C. (mail):
Houston lawyer,

This is simple. If marraige is merely a private contractual arrangement, society won't be allowing or disallowing anything.

You are free to define marraige solely as a ceremony presided over by a church of your choice.
10.17.2005 3:24pm
Medis:
David,

That probably is the best they can do (I think that is what Maggie was claiming in her article as well). The problem is that Sullivan has the obvious answer: we have always allowed marriage to be a little broader than that (eg, some non-procreative marriages are allowed), so why is this particular overbreadth somehow more dangerous than all the others?
10.17.2005 3:29pm
SeniorD (mail):
Aaron,

There is no question in my mind that a marriage is between and is limited to adult men and women. A social contract exists between the man and woman by the act of marriage. The existance of the social contract, whether implicit or explicit, mandates the necessity of ensuring the recording of the existance of a marriage. Under Judiac or Christian culture, that role is assigned to the priest. Under the system of government we enjoy here in the United States, the rule of law is supreme. That the elected government reserves the right to govern marriage is moot. It does; fortunately, the citizens of this country can change the law. All you need to do is follow the rules.

As to your charge I have a limited notion of individual rights, maybe I do. But my 'limited' perspective includes that most initmate of individual rights. The right of an unborn child to draw breath and live long enough to draw his or her own conclusions.
10.17.2005 3:36pm
SeniorD (mail):
Speedwell (and others),

I believe my recent post to Aaron should clarify my position in re: abortion.

Given the secular reasoning employed by the legal system, it behooves one to couch the argument in physical terms. For some strange reason, I thought that children were the natural result of a marriage between an adult man and adult woman. Given that only life itself may create new life, and given the biologic facts of the human anatomy, homosexual couples are at a distinct disadvantage.

The dysfunctional nature of a homosexual couple begs another, more basic question. Do homosexuals want to create life (i.e.; have children)? Or do they want to enjoy the legal structures that defend marriage? One is selfless the other selfish.
10.17.2005 3:58pm
Aaron C. (mail):
But again, why is there a need for government *marraige*? Currently, individuals interested in marrage apply to the government for a lisence. What I am suggesting is that individuals interested in binding their religious vows by contract meet with an attorney to draw up a marraige agreement. If either party violates the agreement, the parties can bring suit in civil court.

In this way, government would not be promoting anything. It would simply be enforcing contracts between individuals. Now, obviously no homosexual couple's marraige will be recognized by the Catholic Church. But their contract will be recognized by the civil courts.

What is your objection, if any, to such an arrangement?
10.17.2005 4:04pm
corngrower:
Hank;

I apologize for the tone. That’s first. The tone though is backed up by your response to me, now. Hospitals…. They set their own rules. You throw up a straw man, and then refused to respond on a constitutional or statutory basis on hospital visits for those persons affected. No, I am not so much superior. As doing what adults do, is what adults do. See I protect myself and family from those things I can anticipate. You can write out an agreement that I know, not a single hospital would refuse and you do not even need a lawyer! Got a point?

A will…..Myself and spouse had nothing when we wed. If either of us did, we would have gone to a lawyer before the wedding. Its called being an adult. If you consider this an attitude of supiuorority, so be it. I do not want the Government in my life, so I plan around them when possible.

." Congress doesn't get to set rules that violate the Constitution. But I'm not going to argue that the prohibition on gay marriage violates the constitution.”

Yes. I am sure of that. There is NO violation of the constitution. That is why you are sounding silly. Violation of the constitution? Saying it, does not make your statement true. A thought. Quote that part of the constitution that is being violated.

And of course. Not a single issue you bring up does not apply to couples of a different gender. They have to follow all of the rules. Just like anyone else.
10.17.2005 4:51pm
ajf (mail) (www):
Houston Lawyer,

what, exactly, has been consistent for "...thousands of years of western culture."? that all married couples will have children? or that children intuitively understand that married heterosexuals generally have the capacity to procreate?

like many others who have commented, i find it hard to see the credibility in the anti-gay-marriage argument that is based on notions of western traditions. and contrary to what many may believe, marriage has never been an immutable institution -- in addition to being a different "thing" in different cultures, it is continually changing and evolving, sometimes in ways that make people uncomfortable.

there was a time when the notion of marriage for love was heretical. when the idea of a married woman owning her own property was preposterous. when divorce was anathema. when children were required to care for their aging parents. there are still cultures in which men are expected to assume responsibility for their brothers' widows, where polygamy is allowed if a man can support more than one wife, where women are the sole keepers of the household finances.

rational opposition to gay marriage must consist of more than "it isn't traditional."
10.17.2005 5:08pm
On Lawn (mail) (www):
Some observations:

Simon starts the salvo with a direct poisoning of the well. I suppose with adequate examples it would not have had to be that way.

Another interest is how Anonymous Jim pre-emptiviely answers (along with) Aaron a question by Hank. The key here was provided for those that missed it by Corngrower here.

In this very confused noise I see Maggie has emerged with some substantive thoughts on just what marriage is, which is good. I have some thoughts also that I'll offer over at that article.

But sufficient for here we should note that a marriage creates a new family and a family is a political entity. One may see as federalization has taken power from states and cities, it has also taken power from families as a political institution. This can be good or bad, I argue neither conclusion at this point.

But we should search out ourselves and research our past to find out just why a family is a political unit. One will most likely find an answer that includes what SeniorD enumerates, as well as what Maggie, myself and others are protecting in marriage as well as what homosexuals seek to gain access through with marriage (enumerated I believe by Aaron in the link provided above). AppRocSoc's thought experiment is a good place to start.

Certainly how each person answers the question about how a family is a political unit will follow to conclusions as to whether or not marriage is worth government consideration. I submit that how each person answers that question determines much of what same-sex marriage means to them also. You will also, if your experience is like mine, find a correlation between the two.
10.17.2005 5:22pm
A Guest Who Enjoys This Site:
What I find interesting is the, essential, differences in points of view between pro- and anti- proponents. As Miss, Ms., or Mrs. (I'm not sure which is appropriate or the preferred.) Gallagher mentions in her post, there seems to be some "blank-wall" staring going on. Let's see...

1.) While pro- (or, at least, not anti-) posters seem to dismiss government's role in marriage and don't see the relevance of historical tradition or cultural identity, the anti- crowd use these very arguments to substantiate their case.

2.) While anti- posters tend to speak to the issues of society at large, the pro- crowd continually points to the individual.

3.) While the pro- contingent seems to hold the assumption, even if they dismissively choose to 'not want to broach that topic,' that homosexual marriage is explicitly guaranteed in the Constitution, the anti- group insists that evidence be shown that a ban on such marriages would violate any, plain reading of the Constitution.

4.) While anti- proponents point to historical facts the pro- pundits appeal to emotional considerations.

There are more contrasts that can be shown, but these four make the point. We're still talking past each other. And, I suppose, that was stipulated as the agenda in the post. What distresses me, based on these differences, is:

1.) No one can argue that marriage is NOT a SOCIAL institution. It is part of the identity of our culture. Whatever your position on homosexual marriage, it is a component part of how we are identified around the world. So, the question is, how do we wish to be identified? Remember, there is a difference between being recognied for individual freedoms/liberties and being recognized as sponsoring a anarchic free-for-all.

2.) Historically, there is an irrefutable connection between the undermining of traditional social institutions and the decline of a society. Again, part of this is an issue of cultural identity. But, just as significantly, it is the Pandora's Box opened by eliminating or weakening the cultural pillars upon which a society is based.

If individuals are allowed to behave, conduct themselves, and perform acts without limitations to generally accepted standards of behavior, what would be the point of laws, social institutions, and a system of government? In other words, if we do not wish to recognize any limitation to the social institution of marriage, what's the next standard of our society that needs to be broadened to the point of being a 'commerically enforceable contract' between individuals? At what point do we no longer have a society, admitting that we'd prefer to regress to tribal/family groups? Since 'contract law' is exceptionally difficult for the average citizen to properly execute, how long before we recognize that leaving social institutions to the complexities and vagaries of 'contract law' is tantamount to the creation of an aristocracy of the judiciary?

3.) Discussion of individual happiness is a reference to the Declaration of Independence. You will NOT find the word 'happiness' in the Constitution. So, even if we want to rely on the intent presented in the Declaration, we are forced to recognize that the self-evident 'truth' is that we are entitled to the 'pursuit' of happiness, not 'happiness' itself.

Therefore, the Constitutional issue becomes one of 'equality.' Thus, the main, Constitutional argument in favor of homosexual marriage centers around Section 1 of the 14th Amendment, to wit:


"Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."


A plain reading indicates that this is a 'state' issue as regards equality. Problem, a 'marriage' is TRADITIONALLY recognized as valid from state-to-state. Such tradition has become a legally recognized necessity from a functionality standpoint. Thus, we are, or will eventually, be forced back to the national arena. And, if it is a NATIONAL issue, it is, by definition, a Constitutional issue.

Therefore, we are forced to ask what the NATIONAL laws are related to the institution of marriage. So far, I have seen absolutely NO discussion related to the statutes on this issue. If you wish to base your pro- support on a standard of 'equality' under the laws vis a vis the 14th, then please confine your Constitutional arguments to how a ban on such marriages would violate the FEDERAL statutes on marriage. Of course, this would REQUIRE that you establish that homosexual marriage does not violate the explicit definition provided by the Defense of Marriage law which states:


Section 1.

In determining the meaning of any Act of Congress, or of any ruling, regulation, or interpretation of the various administrative bureaus and agencies of the United States, the word "marriage" means only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife, and the word "spouse" refers only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife. Pub. L. 104-199, sec 1, 100 Stat. 2419 (Sep. 21, 1996) codified at 1 U.S.C. §7 (1997).

Section 2.

No State, territory, or possession of the United States, or Indian tribe, shall be required to give effect to any public act, record, or judicial proceeding of any other State, territory, possession or tribe, respecting a relationship between persons of the same sex that is treated as a marriage under the laws of such other state, territory, possession or tribe, or a right or claim arising from such relationship. Pub. L. 104-199 sec. 2, 100 Stat. 2419 (Sep. 21, 1996) codified at 28 U.S.C. §1738C (1997).



Unconstitutional you say?! For all the anti- pundits, that means it IS a judicial issue. For, in the end, it is SCOTUS which determines the constitutionality of the laws as they relate to this issue. Therefore, the job of the anti- group is to show that the plain language of the Constitution supports the parameters of this law. The job of the pro- contingency is to show that this violates 'equalty' or 'privacy' or 'full faith and credit;' i.e., those portions of the Constitution which do not specifically address the institution of marriage.

4.) As was pointed out above, law is not about the 'emotions of the moment.' This is the "ordered liberty" that allows a society to function. So, here's the challenge for the pro- constituents: "Given the plethora of valid qualitative and quantitative studies the legitimate, anti- side can cite showing the historical and contemporary causal relationships between breakdowns of cultural groups/societies and the diffusion of meaning and definition of social institutions, where are the legitimate, valid, pro- studies which qualitatively and quantitatively support the contention that there is NO such relationship?"

A bit of a straw man? Perhaps. But, despite the myriad, emotion-ridden, religion-based studies on the anti- side, there ARE legitimate historical analyses and legitimate sociological studies that rely on scientifically valid procedures which support their position. So far, I haven't seen ANY on the pro- side that was not predicated on fallacious assumptions, methodology designed to achieve specific results, emotional appeals, or applying contemporary sensibilities to historical events, while ignoring historical context, as a means to undermine contemporary arguments.
10.17.2005 8:43pm
GK (mail) (www):
I am a near 40 year old married man.

I have a question that I feel is pertinent to this discussion. If I were to divorce my wife, could I marry my mother? If we decide that gay marriage is legal, can I marry my mom?
10.18.2005 10:45am
Seamus (mail):
"We should never, ever make law in this country based on what 'deeply disturbs' anybody."

I'm glad to see you're on my side as I campaign to get rid of those stupid "cruelty to animals" statutes.
10.18.2005 3:23pm
dannyboy:
I do think that GK's point is important here. I don't mean to skirt the legal issue, but I'm hardly qualified to comment on constitutional law. I just wanted to point out that the way in which this conversation inevitably tends toward the logical dissolution of any conventional definition marriage is proof enough that, in one important sense, the push for same-sex marriage does undermine the conceptual foundations of marriage, as most people seem to understand it.

I'm not saying that this is good or bad. I'm just articulating the (perhaps obvious) point that the 'undermining' of conventional marriage is pretty clear even from this thread. Some might argue that this 'undermining' isn't real because it is merely conceptual, but I think ideas do shape historical realities. Just because a particular person's particular marriage may not break up because same-sex marriage is allowed doesn't mean that they are stupid, bigoted, or religious zealots when they say that they feel our society is threatened by same-sex marriage and its logical consequences.
10.18.2005 4:09pm
Darby Crash (mail):
There's a difference between undermining marriages and undermining the conceptual framework of Marriage. The adjective "conceptual" implies that this framework is the product of the conceptions of individuals, which last are notoriously variable---there can be broad areas of agreement, but even there levels of intensity of feeling can vary.

Actual marriages are not agreements over values and principles; actual marriages are generally ways for persons to channel their behaviours into approved patterns of delineated by associated rewards and punishments. At the root of the issue in question, I can't shake the feeling that many of the people against gay marriage are motivated by a real (if, to my mind, unseemly) dislike of homosexual sex---it's off-putting, can lead to burning forever in a cellar, leads to hurricanos, and so on---and so are very disturbed by the idea that the State is seen to be sanctioning that which they think should instead be sanctioned.

Those on my side, on the other hand, don't disapprove of gay sex---I see it as essentially irrelevant to me---and also conceive of men and women as people who happen to be male and female: there is more variation of personality and action among some groups of women than there is between some groups of women and men (e.g., female nerds are more like male nerds than female jocks; I find it much easier to imagine being a Jewish woman than a non-Jewish man).

It may be that marriage was originally an economic and social arrangement for procreation and nurturance of children. However, evolution seems to show a great ingenuity in the adaptation of extant structures to new purposes as those new purposes become desirable.
10.18.2005 10:16pm
Op Ed. (mail) (www):
Darby: However, evolution seems to show a great ingenuity in the adaptation of extant structures to new purposes as those new purposes become desirable.

What new purposes?? Name them. Why can no ss"m"-oholic name a purpose to the new union? And it's not just this thread. This challenge has stood for months and still no takers. Though you do give us a glimpse of what drives the intense yearning for same-sex "marriage," since it clearly is not its non-existant purpose:

At the root of the issue in question, I can't shake the feeling that many of the people against gay marriage are motivated by a real (if, to my mind, unseemly) dislike of homosexual sex...

So this "feeling" of "unseemly" disapprobation justifies a retaliatory strike to make those anti-homosexuals suffer! Whatever impact removing this fundamental pillar has on the rest of society, if it makes those derned anti-homosexuals sad, it's worth it! If it takes out innocent bystanders and children who just don't spend much if any of their time thinking about homosexual acts, so what?? If they're not actively campaigning against those anti-homosexuals out there then they deserve what they get! At least those anti-homosexuals will rue the day they dared think disapprovingly about any particular sex acts!

Another glimpse behind the mask.
10.18.2005 11:43pm
Walter Hensley (mail):

What new purposes?? Name them. Why can no ss"m"-oholic name a purpose to the new union?


Life long companionship, commitment, marriage.

Oh, sorry, that's not new. I guess that's the point.

I read your site Op Ed. I'm kicking myself for wasting the time. I should have been more discerning. You did clue me in when you used the phrase ss"m"-oholoc. Yes, your site is disrespectful too.
10.19.2005 12:07am
Op Ed. (mail) (www):
Walter: Life long companionship, commitment, ...

Walter, you yourself point out that no government involvement is needed for any of that. Further, why does the government not involve itself in other "life-long companionship, commitment" relationships?

Oh, sorry, that's not new. I guess that's the point.
10.19.2005 12:29am
dannyboy:
Darby,

I'm not so sure that 'real marriages' are as utilitarian as you think. I think that few married people would agree with your claim that "Actual marriages are not agreements over values and principles; actual marriages are generally ways for persons to channel their behaviours into approved patterns of delineated by associated rewards and punishments".

You see, it is this very devaluing of marriage that many same-sex marriage opponents complain about. You are enacting that devaluing in your post. The reductive attitude that you assume toward marriage is what many fear will become encoded in our laws, thus erasing the whole world of values and ideals on which the laws were based. Of course concepts can and do change. But that doesn't give us free rein to change them by judicial fiat. This seems to be the core difficulty that the anti-SSM activists have with the way this has all been playing out in our laws and courts.

IF we see marriage as simply a system of rewards designed to control sexual behaviors, and IF that is OK, then it is easy enough to make the case that either A) our Democratic society ought to feel free to use marriage to encourage permanent heterosexual bonds and discourage homosexual bonds as the majority see fit, or B) that we ought to reward all kinds of committed relationships equally by changing the definition of marriage. The 'utility' argument doesn't determine anything -- it could go either way.

What is determinative for many people on both sides is the values associated with marriage. Expanding the concepts and values associated with marriage is the primary objective of the pro-ssm activists, isn't it? The arguments are full of non-quantifiable ideas like 'respect', 'companionship', 'commitment', 'social stability', etc. Perhaps the most important of these concepts is 'normalcy'. A marital relationship is, and generally has been seen as a 'normalized' sexual relationship -- one that can take a public role in the building of culture and society. It seems to me that this is what pro-ssm activists want to gain access to, as much as or more than they want the legal, contractual protections that come with marriage.

I don't feel any revulsion about homosexual intercourse. However, I understand that some obviously do and that they shoot their arguments to pieces before they have even begun by basing everything on a personal feeling (a caution that I might offer to you about your feelings in regard to your opponents). But why not address the best of the arguments against you, rather than straw men who aren't worth your time?

I am a fan of broadly-defined civil unions, but I think it is important to respect the very real weight that most people in our society attribute to the word 'marriage'. I think that a big tactical error of the pro-ssm activists has been to push for same-sex marriage instead of civil unions. Now everybody is in such a tizzy that we can't seem to talk about civil unions without lumping them in with marriages. Thus, the unfortunately broad amendments and deepening polarization that doesn't really get us anywhere.
10.20.2005 3:11pm