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[Maggie Gallagher (guest-blogging), October 17, 2005 at 12:14pm] Trackbacks
The Marriage Debate

Thanks by the way for all your comments, especially this one: "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."

Here's my short answer: marriage serves many private and individual purposes. But its great public purpose, the thing that justifies its existence as a unique legal status, is protecting children and society by creating sexual unions in which children are (practically) guaranteed the love and care of their own mother and father.

The vast majority of children born to married couples begin life with their own mother and fathers committed to jointly caring for them. Only a minority of children in other sexual unions (and none in same-sex unions) get this benefit.

Sex makes babies. Society needs babies. Babies need fathers as well as mothers. That's the heart of marriage as a universal human institution.

Please note: Procreation is not the definition of marriage. It is the reason for marriage's existence as a public (and yes legal) institution. People who don't have children can still really be married (just as people who aren't married can and do have babies).

But if sex between men and women did not make babies, then marriage would not be a universal human institution, or a legal status in America. Yes, many people like intimacy—is that a good reason for the government to stamp the good housekeeping seal of approval on certain intimate relationships, but not others?

(Note: I'm aware the short description above does not answer all legal arguments about equal protection. Patience. BTW, the legal debate would be sharpened if more people participating in it distinguished between the individual interest and the state interests in marriage).

For a longer explication of this argument see my debate with Andrew Koppelman in the U. of St. Thomas Law Review, "(How)Will Same-Sex Marriage Weaken Marriage as an Institution?"

Medis:
So how would gay marriages threaten this great public purpose?
10.17.2005 1:25pm
Eric Rasmusen (mail) (www):
It's worth noting that easy divorce runs contrary to that basic purpose of marriage. Even if both parents want to get divorced, the interests of the children suffer, and those interests are entirely ignored by the law (probably because children don't vote). That is a good example of where individual interests ( the husband's and wife's) run contrary to society's (the kids' and those of the rest of us).

(Hi, Maggie)
10.17.2005 1:27pm
Cornellian (mail):
If one accepts that the purpose of marriage is to have and raise children, I still don't see the inferential leap that requires prohibiting gay people from getting married because they can't produce a baby with each other (though they can certainly raise children through adoption, children from a prior relationship etc.) but allowing straight people to get married without any obligation to meet this requirement. Old straight people can get married. Infertile straight people can get married. Straight people who don't want to have children can get married. Why does the state inquire only of gay couples whether they want/can have children?

The vast majority of children born to married couples begin life with their own mother and fathers committed to jointly caring for them. Only a minority of children in other sexual unions (and none in same-sex unions) get this benefit.

Sex makes babies. Society needs babies. Babies need fathers as well as mothers. That's the heart of marriage as a universal human institution.

Please note: Procreation is not the definition of marriage. It is the reason for marriage's existence as a public (and yes legal) institution. People who don't have children can still really be married (just as people who aren't married can and do have babies).

But if sex between men and women did not make babies, then marriage would not be a universal human institution, or a legal status in America. Yes, many people like intimacy—is that a good reason for the government to stamp the good housekeeping seal of approval on certain intimate relationships, but not others?
10.17.2005 1:31pm
Medis:
Eric,

Right, divorce policy obviously has implications for straight/procreative marriages.

Again, how are gay marriages tied to straight/procreative marriages such that they form some sort of threat to this great public purpose?
10.17.2005 1:33pm
Paul Gowder (mail) (www):
Ok, then...

1. Does society still need more babies? Or does society actually need less babies now? Are we not overpopulated? Consider:
a) The various resource problems we're
encountering (oil, soon water, etc.)
b) The political problems of running a democracy
where all communication is mass
c) The rate of unemployment both domestic and
worldwide
d) The rapid increase in housing costs, especially in urban areas.

2. What Medis said: since same-sex marriage is non-procreative, how does it cause children to be brought in the world without two parents? Or is your argument that same-sex marriage replaces what would otherwise be opposite-sex marriages? (If so, I'd like to see your evidence.)
10.17.2005 1:33pm
jimbob (mail):
Eric and Maggie:

Why do you think that your view of marriage and family, or even history's view of marriage and family, is superior to a progressive view?

For instance, Eric seems to assert that children are better off living in a home with two biological parents who hate each other, than in a blended family home. This just appears to be an opinion with no legal or persuasive weight.

Maybe you're right, but maybe we'll look at that the same way many in our society once thought black and whites marrying was an abomination.
10.17.2005 1:41pm
Gabriel Malor:

People who don't have children can still really be married.


This sentence may reveal a better starting place than (loosely paraphrasing:) "The purpose of marriage is children." Maybe we should be asking why the government gives its "good housekeeping seal of approval" to childless marriages. The fact that the government DOES approve of such marriages may be proof that the purpose of marriage is not, at least totally, about children.
10.17.2005 1:41pm
moonfall:
Marriage also provides a host of legal benefits related to taxation, medical care, etc. Why do we choose to confer these benefits? I believe it is because society realises that a) people in marriages are committed to caring for eachother and pooling resources and b) to offset the heavy financial penalties associated with raising children.

Why do childless couples gain the benefits of b)? And shouldn't gay couples that have children recieve these benefits?
10.17.2005 1:47pm
John S (mail):
The idea is society needs more babies is socialistic. Society needs more health care, educated children and less poverty. Government policy didn't and doesn't work in adressing these sort of issues.

What two gay people do (who already cohabitate and have children through various means) has no effect on my marriage or my and my spouse's decision to procreate.

This debate is just part of the ongoing battle between science and religion. Homosexuality is not a behavioral choice and once this is clearly established all the "tradition" arguments regarding it disappears.
10.17.2005 1:47pm
Shawn:
"The vast majority of children born to married couples begin life with their own mother and fathers committed to jointly caring for them. Only a minority of children in other sexual unions (and none in same-sex unions) get this benefit."

Some evidence to support this claim would be helpful. On the face of it, it's simply false and smells of bias.

1) it downplays the role of divorce in the life of a child. The parents that raise a child are often not the birth parents. Over 50% of marriages end in divorce which places a large number of children in this category.

2) According to the most recent census, roughly one million children are living in same-sex households. If marriage is for children, how can one write off such a huge number of them?

3) Adopted children are rarely raised by their birth parents. Thus, adopted children are already outside of the perfect, mythical world you conjure. If same-sex households adopt, they provide a better home than an institution.

4) Of those children raised in same-sex households by at least one birthparent, they have the same advantages and disadvantages of children raised by step-parents. Possibly including visitations by the other biological parent.


"Please note: Procreation is not the definition of marriage. It is the reason for marriage's existence as a public (and yes legal) institution. "

Can you provide some evidence for this claim?

John Boswell's scholarly work [Boswell, John, Same-Sex Unions in Pre-Modern Europe, (New York: Villard, 1994)] disagrees. He and others point first to the establishment of inheritance rights as one of the earlier roles for secular marriage.

How can you write off heterosexual unions that can never result in procreation as acceptable but homosexual unions as unacceptable for exactly the same reason? Four states explicitly require infertility for first cousin marriages. (http://marriage.about.com/cs/marriagelicenses/a/cousin.htm) Doesn't this clash with the idea that procreation is the primary purpose of marriage?


I was hoping to see some well-thought arguments from a Volokh.com guest blogger. Bigotry is the last thing I expect to read here.
10.17.2005 1:48pm
Londo:
I totally disagree with you, Kevin. Marriage is an arrangement, a partnership, where both parties agree that from this day forth, they are to be treated as a single unit. This way, both are protected should one partner hit lotto and want to run off, or if one gets very ill and needs support. Just as if you and I were to agree to open a bookstore together, and we'd split the profits, no matter how hard we each worked.

The McCartney-Lennon "marriage" is the best example. Paul is famous for saying something like "I wrote 95% of it, but it was John's 5% that really made the song work." Marriage creates an arrangement where that 5% performer doesn't get screwed.
10.17.2005 1:49pm
Gabriel Malor:
Furthermore, if this is your argument, that marriage is about children and government has an interest in children, then your argument suffers from a foundational flaw. As has been noted, any governmental processes run counter to the claim that the purpose of state-sponsored marriage is children, for example, no-fault divorce, allowing marriages with no possibility of children, and assistance for single mothers.

Incidentally (and please note that I have not read your book), however the title, The Case for Marriage: Why Married People are Happier, Healthier and Better-Off Financially, seems to ignore the fact that gays are not likely to get married EVEN THOUGH it is legal to do so. Why would they care that married people are "happier,healthier, and better-off?" They're not going to get married (in the traditional sense).
10.17.2005 1:49pm
anonymous coward:
"The vast majority of children born to married couples begin life with their own mother and fathers committed to jointly caring for them. Only a minority of children in other sexual unions (and none in same-sex unions) get this benefit."

Okay, so one-man-one-woman marriage is about advancing the interests of the state through the children (if any) of the union. The implication is that polygamy (or other multi-partner unions) is somehow worse for the kids. Is there any evidence whatsoever for this?
10.17.2005 1:50pm
Byron (mail):
I agree with Paul's direction. Why does society, by which I understand to be the United States, need any babies at all? Babies are expensive. I expect that there are more than enough educated people that would like to move to the United States to make up for lost labor. It may be nice to have children as part of society, but it's unclear we need them. If it's just a preference, why is it more important than a preference for same-sex marriage?
10.17.2005 1:51pm
Medis:
Gabriel,

Frankly, I'm not sure how much we really need to say in favor of childless marriages. Isn't it enough that they are not a threat to procreative marriages, and that the people in the marriage want them, and that we are generally favorably disposed to monogamy?

In other words, it is just nice when old folks and sterile folks and even folks who don't like kids get married. So why not add gay folks to the list?
10.17.2005 1:53pm
unhyphenatedconservative (mail):
Jimbob,
Ever seen the sexual abuse, drug abuse, dropout or conviction rates for folks raised in the "progressive" vision of family? As a practitioner of family and criminal law (funny how those disciplines have such overlap) I have seen the practical aftermath of our liassez fair attitude towards family.

Given that we have seen the socioal pathology that has arisen with the disintegration of the nuclear family, one wonders where "progressives" wish children to progress to: rehab and jail?

And before the flames begin, I understand that children can grow up just fine outside of the normal family unit and horribly abused inside the normal family unit. It is simply that the numbers for normal, nuclear failies are much better than for alternative families.
10.17.2005 2:00pm
Medis:
unhyphenatedconservative,

You seem like a good person to ask. How exactly would gay marriages threaten "normal, nuclear families"? Or are you even making that claim?
10.17.2005 2:04pm
Justin Kee (mail):
As a reply to the family-criminal law practicioner above, what is your definition of "progressive" families that have such poor outcomes for the children? Is it controlled for income, race, etc.? Do you have enought data about children raised in same-sex marriages, considering how relatively new the phenomenon is?
10.17.2005 2:05pm
Quarterican (mail):
Ms. Gallagher -

After reading the PDF that was (briefly? erroneously? it seems to have gone away) linked here, my initial thought is that I'm not convinced you can successfully maintain the position that: Procreation is not the definition of marriage. It is the reason for marriage's existence as a public (and yes legal) institution, and have it do the work that you want it to. If procreation isn't the definition for marriage, but the reason for its existence, the presumption of procreation serves as an umbrella under which a great many people who either don't want or can't have (w/out scientific/social interference) children can attain the status of "next of kin". I don't see a convincing argument as to why gay people shouldn't be accorded that right under the same umbrella (if that's what you think is going on). By allowing the blind presumption that a man and a woman might have sex and produce a child to be the reason for legally codifying/encouraging marriage, you logically have to extend the same presumption to gay couples.

If you asked me: "Who's more likely to have a kid: a recently married heterosexual couple or a recently married homosexual couple?" I'd of course presume the former. But: "Who's more likely to have a kid: a recently married man and woman in their 70s, or a recently married man and man [or woman and woman] in their 30s?" and my answer changes. It borders on silliness to say that the reason my grandfather is free to remarry (a woman his own age) is because other heterosexuals can have sex leading to children, and have that serve as the distinction between him and two gay men or two lesbians. Gay people can have children in ways identical to the methods by which a number of straight people can have children. I presume (though I'm not sure I've read of such a case) that a couple where the man is totally sterile could choose to have a child via anonymous sperm donorship. I know that couples use surrogate mothers. And, of course, adoption. I think it's unfortunate - or telling - that you don't mention adoption, either in your post or in the PDF. If the purpose of marriage is to create a space in which child-making is possible, I see no reason yet to deny gay couples that right when their child-making potential is equal or greater to that of many straight couples who get ushered into the party just because conceivably - when they were younger, or when they changed their minds, or when they weren't infertile - they could have kids through intercourse as opposed to another method.
10.17.2005 2:06pm
Goober (mail):
Unhyphenated---

I don't think there's much objectionable in your post from a matter of principle, but I've never seen an answer to the objection that it's not nuclear-family-ness that leads to well socialized and law-abiding children, but rather economic stability---which is in turn more likely to be present in nuclear families. But from my casual perusal of the statistics, a child raised by two parents in conditions of extreme poverty is in as much trouble as child raised by a single mother in the same poverty, and children raised by one or two children in wealthier conditions are likelier to do well. It's just that so many single parents are poor that causes the apparent correlation.
10.17.2005 2:06pm
Gabriel Malor:
unhyphenatedconservative,

Even if we assumed for the sake of argument that the numbers for nuclear families are better than those for alternative families, you still have to make the argument that the government should interfere in marriage (by giving hetero-marriages recognition, special tax status,etc). Are you really in favor of an overseeing nanny-state that controls social interactions based on numbers?

What's more, what if the numbers problem that you note is a result of the marginalization or illegality of alternative marriages?

What about the government programs that seem to go AGAINST your claim that the government has an interest in promoting traditional marriages?
10.17.2005 2:07pm
anonymous coward:
I am curious what, if anything, could convince Ms. Gallagher and others who oppose same-sex marriage to change their minds.

(Suppose that we control for relevant variables and have a dream dataset so that no one seriously doubts the results. Yes, this is impossible, but it is a hypothetical.)

1) Empirical evidence that the sex of a child's caregivers has no discernable impact on the children?
2) Empirical evidence that growing up in a family of two women fare better than children raised by a man and a woman?
3) Empirical evidence that children born in Union X (possibly same-sex marriage, possibly some weird polyamorous arrangement) fare as well as children from a conventional marriage?
4) Empirical evidence that children in Union X fare better?
5) Anything at all?

I suspect the arguments about the welfare of the children are basically beside the point, and most committed opponents of same-sex marriage would remain in opposition even with contradictory evidence. However, I could be wrong.
10.17.2005 2:08pm
duh! (mail):
Someone should inform maggie that sex doesn't always make babies.
10.17.2005 2:09pm
Atty in Chicago:
Maybe we should be asking why the government gives its "good housekeeping seal of approval" to childless marriages. The fact that the government DOES approve of such marriages may be proof that the purpose of marriage is not, at least totally, about children.

Why does the gov't encourage and endorse marriage? Because the government wants to promote raising children with the irreducibly important perspectives of both a mother and father, it's that important to society.

What the difference with a gay couple? A married man and woman can adopt a child or possibly create one, a same-sex couple can neither create a child nor provide it with a mother-father home.

The government should remain neutral, as it has always been, with gay relationships - neither endorse and encourage it (through marriage) nor prevent the relationships from happening.
10.17.2005 2:12pm
Mike (mail) (www):
Are the interests of society (and procreation/raising future generations with mothers and fathers) somehow served by preventing same-sex couples from visiting each other in the hospital?

I don't mean to be flip, but I'd have a better view of conservative attempts to "preserve" marriage if they recognized that society does have an interest in encouraging lifelong commitments between gay people by providing a legal structure around such relationships, even if that structure is NOT marriage.

It seems like most of the anti-same-sex marriage debate is more driven by animus towards gays (as witnessed by the refusal of any recognition of same-sex couples' legitimacy, in any way, whatsoever) then an interested in preserving marriage.
10.17.2005 2:13pm
Medis:
Atty in Chicago,

But as Sullivan and others points out, your argument proves way too much, because we do allow non-procreative couples to marry.

So I'll ask you the same question I keep asking: how do gay marriages threaten straight/procreative marriages? Why aren't gay marriages as harmless as old folks marriages, sterile folks marriages, or folks-who-don't-like-kids marriages?
10.17.2005 2:16pm
Mike (mail) (www):

The government should remain neutral, as it has always been, with gay relationships - neither endorse and encourage it (through marriage) nor prevent the relationships from happening.


By treating committed same-sex relationships as if they do not exist, the government is not being neutral.

"neutral" would be the government not licensing marriages at all, and perhaps only extending a bundle of rights to "parents" rather then "couples" (of any type)
10.17.2005 2:16pm
Atty in Chicago:
Mike: Are the interests of society (and procreation/raising future generations with mothers and fathers) somehow served by preventing same-sex couples from visiting each other in the hospital?

Of course not. But that can be accomplished by a change in hospital regulations or act of the legislature. To suggest a harmful redefinition of marriage is required to accomplish hospital visitation is silly.
10.17.2005 2:21pm
Quarterican (mail):
Atty in Chicago -

You raise the other problem I had with Ms. Gallagher's article, and I alluded to (by noting that the word "adoption" doesn't come up). I avoided it then because I freely admit that I have not read any of the studies which purportedly serve as evidence that, by and large, children with a mother and a father turn out better than children with only one. (Given that the sample size for children old enough to "know how they turned out" raised by gay couples must be incredibly small, my presumption is that these studies have demonstrated that "two parents are better than one," which I'm willing to get on board with. But I haven't read the studies.) But I get uncomfortable when someone mentions the "irreducibly important perspectives of both a mother and father," because I don't know what that's supposed to mean. Generally I take it to mean that there are parental roles we traditionally ascribe to the mother and others to the father, but in practice many parental couples reverse those positions, or simply distribute the various "perspectives" between themselves in some other way, and kids seem to turn out fine. It's not my impression that these parents (like, say, mine) did this consciously, so I don't see why we shouldn't assume that a gay or lesbian couple could provide the same range of "perspectives".
10.17.2005 2:25pm
Atty in Chicago:
Medis -

Most married couples end up raising children, whether they think they will or not. They create their own, adopt, help raise kids of relatives, etc. The government treats a marriage as a special ideal, worthy of extra benefits and promotion, because it wants to encourage that family structure to raise children.
10.17.2005 2:26pm
Grant Gould (mail):
So, under this justification, would you support denying marriage to straight couples who intend to remain childless? And if not, why not -- don't they take away just as much marriageness from the institution as gay people do?

In particular -- why are straight couples who will remain childless more marriageable than gay people who will adopt?
10.17.2005 2:27pm
Atty in Chicago:
Mike: By treating committed same-sex relationships as if they do not exist, the government is not being neutral.

The government treats all non-married relationships the same - whether it is two sisters living together in a committed life-long partnership, two roommates, 5 polygomous individuals, or any other non-married arrangement you can think of. The government properly understands the stake society has in the next generation, so it wants to encourage the type of relationship that best raises children.

You can debate whether the government should even be in the business of encouraging marriage with money, but I think encouraging a strong family structure is likely a very worthy investment.
10.17.2005 2:32pm
Joe Ginder:
Atty, same-sex couples are just as capable of adopting or helping raise others' kids as opposite sex couples are. It makes just as much sense for government to support that structure as a marriage between two infertile people.
10.17.2005 2:32pm
Medis:
Atty in Chicago,

Right, most married couples end up raising children, but some don't. Gay marriages wouldn't change either of those facts. So what is the problem exactly?
10.17.2005 2:36pm
Atty in Chicago:
Grant Gould -

would you support denying marriage to straight couples who intend to remain childless?

No, because most married couples end up creating and/or raising children, even if they don't think they will before they get married. They end up getting pregnant, or they adopt, or they help raise their relatives, children, etc.

Government endorsement of marriage also encourages parents of a child to get married (or for the single woman to get married and provide the child with a father).
10.17.2005 2:36pm
Gabriel Malor:
Atty in Chicago:

To suggest a harmful redefinition of marriage is required to accomplish hospital visitation is silly.


From this, I take it you mean you would support civil unions?
...

Okay, that was a glib response to a serious argument, but you're going to need to do more to show why seeking gay marriage/civil unions for the purposes of acquiring some pseudo-spousal rights than call it "harmful redefinition."
10.17.2005 2:36pm
Gabriel Malor:
So I missed a verb in there. Should have read:

...you're going to need to do more to show why seeking gay marriage/civil unions for the purposes of acquiring some pseudo-spousal rights is wrong than call it "harmful redefinition."
10.17.2005 2:39pm
Medis:
Atty in Chicago,

By the way, are you saying that most married couples who are either incapable of having children or do not intend to have children end up raising children anyway? Because that doesn't sound right to me. I think you are conflating the overall rate of raising children with the specific rate of raising children among this subset of marriages.
10.17.2005 2:40pm
anonymous coward:
would you support denying marriage to straight couples who intend to remain childless?

No, because most married couples end up creating and/or raising children, even if they don't think they will before they get married.


Suppose this is not true. Do you then want to deny marriage to straight couples who intend to remain childless (or are sterile)?

My suspicion is that you don't, and that the "for the children" bit isn't your real basis for opposing same-sex marriage--but hey, maybe I'm wrong.
10.17.2005 2:42pm
My gay family:
Well, if it was only hospital visitation we wouldn't be having this discussion. But because government protects and offers over 1,000 benefits to couples whether they have children or not is the issue. No one has yet been able to offer an argument why only CERTAIN law abiding tax paying American citizens are eligible for these rights and priviledges or are any different from LGBT law abiding tax paying citizens in long term commited relationships many times with children? Hell, even murderers on death row are able to be married. I happen to be one of those tax paying law abiding LGBT citizens. During the course of my decade long relationship with my partner we have had to pay more taxes than your average married couple and there is a constant pull to have anything we do legally to protect our relationship whether it be our estate or our children done away with. In those states where the constitutional amendments have been adopted ANY legal recourse non-traditional families have put in place is being called in question. Not to mention protection from discrimination in jobs, housing, public access and credit. And if it solely for the children, I guess ours do not matter in the eyes of this government. After all we ARE legal strangers. BTW, In the last census they said that a conservative estimate of LGBT families raising children is somewhere between 1 and 9 million children. I have no desire for a religious marriage nor do I want to force churches to do this, but I would like to be able to take advantage of the civil marriage benefits that people like Britanny Spears (who is doing more to hurt the instituion of marriage and people like her) rather than constantly update costly legal documents to ensure my family is protected. Civil marriage should be available for all!
10.17.2005 2:43pm
mkl:
Maggie, are you arguing that society (and by extension government) has a reasonable basis only to grant benefit to married parents? This flowing from the positions that (a) well-raised children are the benefit couples return to society and (b) marriage provides a superior framework for the raising of children.

If so, supporting parents is fine -- to the extent the benefits to parents relate to the raising of kids. (As a father of four small kids, I'm in favor of all the help we can get). Though you will have a hard time denying such benefits to children unwise enough to be born to unmarried parents.

However, many of the benefits of marriage, particularly those sought by gay marriage proponents, do not address child-rearing issues. Most particular are those dealing with end-of-life issues, which most frequently do not occur until after children are raised. These benefits of marriage, which generally provide long term economic and social stability to the couple, also have little direct economic cost to society, and arguably reduce social welfare costs as couples care for one another.

[I'd specifically exclude the extension of health insurance to spouses in this regard; the dysfunctional employer-based structure of US medical coverage is beyond the scope of this debate.]

So, we can acknowledge that if none of us have children, all of human effort will be for naught beyond our remaining lifetimes. And acknowledge the substantial benefits to children of being raised in stable homes. Yet, if marriage is decidely beneficial to couples and to society entirely separate from child raising issues, these are not a basis to deny such benefit to all couples.

[The can of worms opened by my position is acknowledged to include (a) what level of commitment ought society require of a couple in order to grant marriage benefits, (b) whether some benefits ought accrue to child-rearing couples but not to couples without, or with grown, children, (c) ought any benefits currently granted married couples be withdrawn or altered if marriage is expanded, and (d) polygamy, or why exclude threesomes. Many of these issues are not unique to this position, nor are positions that wave them away (e.g. in reliance on religious tenets) entirely defensible. I'm just leaving them out of this comment.]
10.17.2005 2:43pm
RTG:
Even if we accept the dubious proposition that marriage is all about raising children, comparing the success of children with opposite sex parents to children with same sex parents is the wrong analysis. There is no reason to believe that by banning gay marriage there will be any more, or less, children raised in different sex households compared to same sex (gay couples are unlikely to allow the legality of gay marriage to control their decision whether or not to have children). The proper question would be: assuming that a child is going to be raised in a same sex household, is it preferable that the couple is married?

If you believe that marriage promotes proper child rearing in heterosexual couples, what grounds are there to believe it would not have the same affect on homosexual couples?
10.17.2005 2:43pm
Jamesaust (mail):
Maggie,
I cannot agree with your attempt to distinguish the "purpose of" from the "rules for." The purpose of any human activity forms the rules by which that activity is (or is supposed to be) carried out. Marriage does not now nor never has had a requirement to have children. Nor am I aware of any society that allows government (or even religion) actively to dissolve a childless marriage (as opposed to passive action at the request of the married parties). Not being a requirement, it cannot, ipso facto, be the purpose. If such were THE purpose, couples would begin as civil unions and UPON THE PRODUCTION OF A BIOLOGICAL CHILD OF BOTH become converted into a marriage. Such a scheme accomplishes the end you claim and nothing more and avoids your error of simultaneously being too much and too little (usually words pronounced by a Court immediately before it declares a statute unconstitutional). Types of false distinctions such as your are often referred to as "rationalizing." [Please note: it can be A purpose but that has non-restricting consequences for the governing "rules," consequences you are attempting to avoid.]

And where'd this "seal of approval" business come from? What sort of approval theory blesses the Mary Kay Letourneau marriage? Or this: http://msnbc.msn.com/id/8716780 But for the direct protection of third parties, why is government involved in marriage at all?
10.17.2005 2:44pm
unhyphenatedconservative (mail):
Medis,
I think the danger is two-fold. Recognition of homosexual "marriage" is an implicit endorsement of homosexuality by society. It lessens the stigma of homsexuality as a force on individual behavior. Therefore, if someone is on the margin and thinking of leaving his/her marriage for a homosexual relationship, that much social pressure is removed in making that decision. Admittedly, this specific argument might not be a huge amount of people but then again, the margins never are.

Secondly, homosexual "marriage" is yet another competitor for the normal, nuclear family. It is a statement that any relationship called a family by those involved in that relationship is automatically equal to the normal family. Such relativism has decayed the normal family in the Scandanvian nations that have done this.

Gabriel Malor:
My arguments come from an unabashedly conservative position. I am not a libertarian. I do believe that the state has, within its constitution limits, a role to play in encouraging normal family relationships in order to best rear children so that they can become productive members of society. As an example of what happens when goverment and culture forfeit this role, read Our Culture, What's Left of It: The Mandarins and the Masses by Theodore Dalrymple.

Two, the numbers I note are not from "family" units that are illegal. Or has single parenthood and unmarried cohabitation become illegal and I just did not get the memo? If anything, alternative lifestyles have been lionized in our culture, despite the fact that it is harmful to children.

Finally, I oppose government policies that discourage the formation of normal family units or encourage the formation of non-normal arrangements.
10.17.2005 2:46pm
Mschette:
Maggie gets part of the way there. The purpose of marriage is not only to encourage loving homes for children, but also to encourage monogamy. If the societal norm were for everyone to have sex with anyone whenever they so chose, there would be a number of complications and costs. We as a society try to limit these costs and complications by encouraging monogamy through marriage. This applies equally well to both homosexual and heterosexual relationships.
10.17.2005 2:48pm
Medis:
anonymous coward,

I really think that you are right. A brief anecdote: I took a cruise for my honeymoon, and they had a special party for all the honeymooners. One of the couples was quite elderly. We were all asked to explain how we ended up meeting our spouse (just for fun). It turns out that the elderly man had been married to the elderly woman's sister for over 50 years. She had recently passed away and the two of them (widower and sister) had been comforting each other during their period of mourning. They then decided to get married.

Is it really true that as a society we allow this sort of couple to get married on the off chance that they will find themselves raising children? Seriously? I just find it hard to believe that is remotely close to the truth.
10.17.2005 2:50pm
Hans Bader (mail):
This is such a side issue compared to divorce. Divorce law often turns marriage upside down by causing the demise of relationships that would have endured had the couple never gotten married.

Marriage only benefits kids when it reinforces, rather than undercuts, the couple's relationship.

But that is only true in states that limit benefits for spouses who unilaterally end the marriage (which most states don't).

In many states, divorce law -- which applies only to those who are rash enough to get married in the first place -- actually increases, rather than decreases, the likelihood that a relationship will end, typically by giving the member of the pickier gender -- the wife -- an incentive to terminate the relationship. (In every state, two-thirds or more of divorces are sought by the wife (typically no-fault divorces), not the husband, and the proportion is even higher when the couple has children).

In most states, a wife can unilaterally seek a divorce, and then get alimony regardless of whether the husband was at fault, or even if she cheated on him. (In most states, fault theoretically cannot be considered in alimony decisions, although it plays a minor role in practice. In practice, alimony is heavily tied to gender: husbands -- even poor husbands who sacrificed earnings potential in order to perform household tasks -- almost never receive alimony except in one state (California), while wives often do, even when they are middle-class or wealthy. Even in California, poor men receive smaller alimony awards than similarly-situated women).

That broad entitlement by wives to receive alimony eliminates a disincentive for ending the relationship, since the wife can get the benefits of the relationship (her husband's income) without the costs (being married to the boring fellow).

That isn't true among unmarried couples, where a wife can't touch her husband's income or assets after they break up. Among unmarried couples, if the woman wants to continue to enjoy the man's living standard, she has to stay with him and put up with his annoying male quirks. That's an incentive to stay in the relationship and try to work things out.

Ironically, getting married sets in motion a chain of events that ends some relationships.

This is a much bigger issue than whether a few gays or lesbians can get married.
10.17.2005 2:50pm
Aaron C. (mail):
Maggie,

Why do we need government marraige to support society's need for well-raised children? Surely private religious organizations will continue to marry people!
10.17.2005 2:51pm
Gabriel Malor:
unhyphenatedconservative:

Two, the numbers I note are not from "family" units that are illegal. Or has single parenthood and unmarried cohabitation become illegal and I just did not get the memo?


unhyphenated, please address my post. I said "marginalized or illegal" NOT just "illegal." There's no need to be rude in order to make your argument.
10.17.2005 2:56pm
Medis:
unhyphenatedconservative,

First, marginal arguments in this context make little sense. Every sort of pleasure obtainable outside of marriage is a potential inducement to leave marriage. You might as well ban televised football on the ground that it potentially ruins some marriages on the margins when a person would rather watch football all day then be married.

The truth is that only a small percentage of people are gay, and there is no reason to believe that for more than a tiny percentage of those people, whether or not they can get a gay marriage will make the difference between staying in a straight marriage. So you have no more shown gay marriage is a threat to straight marriages than televised football, or any other pleasure available outside marriage.

Second, I'm not even sure what you mean by "relativism" "decaying" the normal family. That sounds just like a reiteration of your claim: that somehow gay marriages threaten straight marriages. But how, exactly? Are you saying that any time we value one thing we necessarily value other things less? That makes no sense.
10.17.2005 3:00pm
KC (mail):
"Please note: Procreation is not the definition of marriage. It is the reason for marriage's existence as a public (and yes legal) institution."

WRONG. It was the reason. Now, there are any number of reasons people get married, and the state does not choose to define procreation as the reason for getting married.


"People who don't have children can still really be married (just as people who aren't married can and do have babies)."

Well, I'm glad to see this recognized. And, in light of that awareness, is my point not even clearer?

What the state calls "marriage" is a very different animal from the institution that many religions call "marriage." Does it not make the most sense to remove "marriage" from the legal arena and make it strictly a religious institution? If this is about providing adequate support systems for families to raise children, it sure seems as though the prerequisite for conferring these benefits would be TO ACTUALLY HAVE A CHILD.

If we continue to allow heterosexuals the right to marry without requiring procreation, then we are living in an unequal society.

So, the logical choices are: force legal marriage to revolve completely around procreation/raising children, in which case ALL parents should have access. Or expand legal marriage to include those who the letter of the law is unfairly excluding based on its existing criteria.

The illogical choices are: keep arguing over definitions and separation of church/state or apply new legalities to further complicate the situation.
10.17.2005 3:03pm
Atty in Chicago:
There are many, many harms of the government promoting gay sex in the same way as hetero sex, and gay marriage the same as traditional marriage, and the harms will brew over time and over generations. For example, if you live in a community that has changed marriage to include same-sex couples, gay sex will eventually have to be taught and encouraged the same as heterosexuality in schools. Try this hypoethetical assuming same-sex marriage is endrosed by the government:

In a 6th grade classroom, student Johnny just heard his teacher describe the basics of gay sex and straight sex. He asks the teacher, "How do I know if I'm gay? I just don't know!". The teacher responds, "Johnny, you must look into your inner self, your feelings and inner voice. Maybe after you try it you'll know." Yuck, do I have to explain the rediculous confusion this causes for a child?

Another issue will be adoption. I think most would agree, a child available for adoption should not be placed in a motherless or fatherless household (which includes both gay and single households) if it can be avoided. If same-sex marriage is permitted, an adoption agency won't be able to distinguish or prefer a traditional family, even though it is clearly in the best interest of the child.

I only touched on two issues. There are tons and tons of articles written on the harms of gay marriage. If you want to debate it live, call into the Michael Medved radio talk show.
10.17.2005 3:04pm
Aaron C. (mail):
Atty in Chicago,

Issues of morality have no place in the public sphere. When the government interferes in private/religious issues, a conflict invariably arises.

In the situation you imagine in the 6th garde classroom, the appropriate response would be that this is not an issue for the classroom and is best discussed at home.
10.17.2005 3:08pm
Gabriel Malor:
Atty in Chicago:

In a 6th grade classroom, student Johnny just heard his teacher describe the basics of gay sex and straight sex. He asks the teacher, "How do I know if I'm gay? I just don't know!".


I'm confused. Are you saying you'd rather kids NOT be encouraged to find out their "sexual identity"? It seems that that would be something important even if you intended to encourage two-parent traditional families. After all, it would be bad for famiiles if men and women are marrying and a few years later the man decides he'd rather sleep with his poker buddies than his wife.
10.17.2005 3:10pm
My gay family:
"Johnny, you must look into your inner self, your feelings and inner voice. Maybe after you try it you'll know." Yuck, do I have to explain the rediculous confusion this causes for a child?

Funny thing is the same thing was said to me in regards to embracing heterosexuality and I was confused for years and even dated women to try and change who I was for society, for god and so that I wouldn't be hated. I am no longer confused but it took me years to know that I wasn't the only one like me in this world. If someone would have been honest with me I might not have gone through years of self-loathing and depression brought on NOT by my sexual orientation but by society's view of me as "less than". The confusion came from the heteronormative stance that ALL people are straight and those that aren't are deviants. But of course, there are no such thing as LGBT kids we because are all made that way by overbearing mothers and not present fathers, something I never experienced. Certainly we were not born with our orientation right? Even though I enjoyed sports and did time in the military, was as masculine as the next guy I still turned out this way. Funny, that.
10.17.2005 3:14pm
Medis:
Atty in Chicago,

They taught and encouraged heterosexual sex in your school? Wow, I was missing out. And why doesn't the teacher say, "Ask your parents," rather than trying to provide sexual guidance?

Why couldn't an adoption agency ascertain the gender of the parents?

These arguments really don't make much sense.
10.17.2005 3:16pm
Aaron C. (mail):
Gabriel Malor,

Public institutions should not play a role in encouraging children to explore their sexual identity. Such a decision is a very private one. Is it possible that people are, on average, better off pinning down their sexual identity early on? Sure. Does this mean there is a role for government in doing this? No way, no how. Why not? Because in so doing, we'd be slipping fast off the slippery slope into government interference into even the most private choices one makes.
10.17.2005 3:20pm
Aaron C. (mail):
Gabriel Malor,

Misread your post. Thought you were referring to ,e My apologies.
10.17.2005 3:21pm
Medis:
Aaron C.,

OK, but that is also an answer to Atty in Chicago: you don't need to worry about gay marriage forcing teachers to talk about gay sexual identities (yuck!) because all that is private and thus not a proper subject for school.
10.17.2005 3:23pm
Christopher (mail):
"It lessens the stigma of homosexuality.."
-unhypenatedconservative

And he says it like it's a bad thing.
10.17.2005 3:29pm
adam (mail):
For example, if you live in a community that has changed marriage to include same-sex couples, gay sex will eventually have to be taught and encouraged the same as heterosexuality in schools.

Funny, they don't actually teach how-to-have-sex in any school I've ever known. They teach "these are the diseases you can get from sex" and "this is the plumbing that causes babies to happen," but not "here are some foreplay tips, kids."
10.17.2005 3:33pm
Medis:
Christopher,

I think that is really the underlying sentiment. All these other arguments are really flimsy--they look to me like ad hoc rationalizations, and could equally well apply to the Great Elderly Marriage Debate that never was.

So, if the basic point is not that gay marriage somehow threatens straight/procreative marriage, but rather that gay marriage would "send the message" that being gay and having gay sex (yuck!) is OK ... is any of that remotely rational? It just sounds like people want to use legal policy to enforce a taboo, and unless you can do better than that, I don't see that as much of a reason.
10.17.2005 3:36pm
Cold Warrior:
Maggie Gallagher said:

Procreation is not the definition of marriage. It is the reason for marriage's existence as a public (and yes legal) institution.

Historical evidence, please?

Of course, you do realize the trap this type of argument sets for yourself. Assume the historical record (across cultures) generally supports this proposition.

Question: Why read it [the historical evidence] to support only monogamy? Why does it not also support plural marriage?

I generally support gay marriage, but I see the concerns of some regarding the extension of the very term --"marriage" -- to unorthodox relationships. We needn't get into the whole tired Britney Spears marriage in Vegas example. In my one, bounded, federalized spehere of work (immigration law), gay marriages are not recognized. But skim the case law and you'll see:

1. "Caretaker" marriages upheld as valid (e.g., 78 year-old woman and her 26 year old Indonesian nurse's aide).

2. "Mail-order brides" (e.g., senior U.S. citizen bringing over a 23 year old Russian bride, having met her just once, and that "just once" is only because the regulations require a face-to-face meeting).

3. "Gay man-lesbian woman" marriages in which there is a showing of some common bond of affection. Included in such marriages: either/both partner is involved in a long-term commitment to a person of the same sex.

4. Arranged marriages, in which the parties have spent no unsupervised time together and in which a substantial dowry changes hands.

So here's my point: what I don't understand about the conservative approach is how underinclusive it is. If you want to tighten up the definition of marriage, why stop at gay marriage? Why not also attack the other federally recognized unorthodox relationships I noted above? If marriage is about procreation, then why are examples (1) and (3) above not equally offensive? If marriage is (at least in our Western/American tradition) about romantic love, then why aren't examples (2) and (4) not equally offensive?

Att'y in Chicago said:

Yuck

And I'm afraid that proves the social liberal's point: it isn't that gay marriage is particularly offensive to the conservative; it is that they just can't get their minds off gay sex.
10.17.2005 3:57pm
Aultimer:
I think I see the argument put forth by the anti crowd - the government interest in having kids raised "well" is best served by providing certain advantages to people with a status which traditionally leads to raising kids well. Sounds ok.

The pros rightly point out that non-traditional status people can and do raise kids well, and some traditional status people raise kids badly, or raise no kids.

The antis must then be saying that ending those advantages will lead to kids being raised less well.

Frankly, I don't see how that mechanism works - if gay couples get the benefits they want, which kids will be raised less well? The kids of childbearing couples who choose against marriage based on the perceived (lesser) value of the benefits that are a bit more broadly available? The kids never born to the "legitimized" gays who don't stumble into hetero childbearing relationships?

Do we seriously think those families (non-"legitimized" gays in hetero relationships and hetero couples who elect marriage solely based on the benefits) are ones that do a good job of raising kids?

Wouldn't it make more sense for the government to offer benefits to government-licensed fit parents rather than to people who elect a status that traditionally results in fit parents? As a libertarian, I find that terrifying, but at least it makes logical sense.
10.17.2005 4:20pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
unhyphenated:

Could you please stop putting "scare quotes" around the term "marriage" when you are describing same-sex marriage? Putting "scare quotes" around a word is not an argument, it adds nothing to the discussion except ridicule, and it seems almost deliberately intended to hurt and demean people who feel they have marriages (and who may legally have marriages) that are just as valid as a heterosexual marriage is.

If you are against gay marriage, fine, argue against it. But do it without ridicule.
10.17.2005 4:27pm
Medis:
Aultimer,

Of course, no one really wants the government going too far in deciding which parents are fit. And even if married gay parents were somehow marginally less effective than married straight parents when all else was controlled for (an experiment that has yet to be run), does anyone really believe the effectiveness-gap would be bigger than for any number of much more obvious factors (like wealth)?

Unless, of course, one is worried about gay parents raising kids who think it is OK to be gay. Gay parents probably are a lot more likely to do that.
10.17.2005 4:30pm
unhyphenatedconservative (mail):
Gabriel,
To paraphrase my mother, if you want to see rude, I'll show you rude. But that is beyond the point. To say that non-traditional families are either illegal or even marginalized in our society is simply laughable.

Medis,

If you had cases of people divorcing their spouses to "marry" football, you would have a point.

On the other hand, I have a quite high profile example of someone who left his wife for a homosexual lover: V. Eugene Robinson of the Episcopal Church.

As to my second argument, my point is that if marriage becomes everything, it becomes nothing. If any grouping of people becomes considered a family, there will be less incentive for individuals to come together in traditional married families.

Dilan,
Since I find the idea of "gay marriage" ridiculous, scare quotes seem quite appropriate to me.
10.17.2005 4:44pm
Rhadamanthus (mail):

Here's my short answer: marriage serves many private and individual purposes. But its great public purpose, the thing that justifies its existence as a unique legal status, is protecting children and society by creating sexual unions in which children are (practically) guaranteed the love and care of their own mother and father.


Damm and here I was thinking that people got married because they love each other. I really must learn to control my tendency to err on the romantic side!
10.17.2005 5:03pm
Shawn:
Fewer men (and women) would leave their heterosexual marriage to join a same-gender relationship if there wasn't strong social pressure to not be gay or lesbian.

If you want to reduce the number of these defections, the best way is to reduce the social pressure, not maintain or increase it. Then these good people wouldn't live a lie, force a heterosexual spouse to live in an emotionally distant relationship, and otherwise create a bigger mess for marriage as an institution.

Examples of non-traditional families being "illegal or marginalized" would include any gay or lesbian couple with children in the state of Florida. Adoption by homosexuals is illegal. If a homosexual person wishes to adopt, they must remain single and pretend to be straight. (Single parent adoption is legal in Florida.) Seems to me the child would be better off with more than one care-giver. I'm uncertain as to what would happen if the state discovered a parent lied on the form after the adoption was completed.

And, odly enough, gay and lesbian couples are encouraged to become foster parents in Florida. These are children from some of the worst homes in the worst of circumstances--fragile at best. There have been some pretty horrible stories of gay families turning around troubled foster children to only have them refused adoption and the kids taken away from a loving home for adopton by heterosexual strangers.

Keep in mind, also, that in every state there is a waiting list to adopt healthy white babies but no such list for children of color, older children, or children with special needs.

When the welfare of the child is weighed against all other considerations, politics comes first.
10.17.2005 5:04pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
unhyphenated:

The fact that you find the idea of gay marriage ridiculous is good reason for you to argue against it. But your "scare quotes" are not an arugment. Insult adds nothing to a debate-- it just debases the person hurling the insult.

Imagine, for instance, a debate on poverty where those on the liberal side constantly referred to "compassionate" conservatives, with the scare quotes around "compassionate". Would those scare quotes add anything to the debate? Do they constitute any sort of an argument that conservatives aren't compassionate? Or are they simply a gratuitous insult, a substitute for actually explaining why one thinks that conservative anti-poverty policies are misguided?

I might add one other thing about this. Whether you like it or not, gay marriage is legal in one state in the United States and legal in many other foreign countries. You may not think that gays should marry, but those unions are legal marriages, not "marriages". So in addition to being insulting, you being dishonest as well. (Another analogy-- would it be OK for a socialist, in a debate about private property rights, to always put the word "property" in scare quotes? Even though those property rights are legally recognized and valid?)

Again, argue your position. There are plenty of arguments against gay marriage. Make them without insulting or ridiculing the legal bonds that have been formed by many loving same-sex couples.
10.17.2005 5:38pm
Jamesaust (mail):
Frankly, I find few things more UN-unhyphenatedconservative in nature than opposition to a social institutional that provides stability to two people by arguing that if marriage is everything then it is nothing. Who is proposing that marriage be this "anything"? Let's avoid the strawman arguments and keep on focus.

A friend of mine, nice but probably as "conservative" as anyone here, recently framed his distrust of marriage rights for gays and lesbians on his distrust of their underlying nature. Won't they fail to be monogamous, especially the men? After all, "they could marry but still sleep around whenever they wanted." I replied: indeed, just as married hetrosexuals can -- even can sleep around with members of the same gender! And yet, the State grants Maggie's "seal of approval" nonetheless.

All in all, a nice discussion. But it seems safe to conclude at this point that if there is an argument how restricting marriage rights from gays is distinguishable from banning certain people from joining a public club that admits everyone else we haven't heard it. Procreation doesn't seem to have enough stuffing to puff up this scrawny chicken.
10.17.2005 5:55pm
unhyphenatedconservative (mail):
Dilan,
Since "compassionate conservative" was simply a stupid phrase, I am not deeply offended by putting it in quotes. On a serious note, I refuse to grant the concept of "gay marriage" even the basic rhetorical legitimacy that losing the scare quotes grant.

And as to your arguments that gay marriage is legal in one state (only after court action, not as a result of democratic choice) and other countries is unpersuasive. Other countries do lots of things. If you are pointing to the effects of policies in another country as empirical evidence, that is one thing. But "other countries are doing it" is simply the type of argument my nine-year-old niece employs when she gets grounded. And, cutey-patootie that my niece is, she's no persuasive debater.

Jamesaust,
Your argument simply begs the question of where we stop. If we grant "gay marriage," what next?

You ask who is proposing that marriage be "anything." This is certainly not a stawman argument as several polygamists are challenging their convicions, citing Lawrence in their briefs.

You tell me. If we grant that marriage is not between a man and a woman, as has been its defintion through Western history, what defintition do we have?
10.17.2005 6:27pm
JADWW:
Perhaps it would help if we tried to go back to the original function of marriage -- what was its function 500 to 10,000 years ago: 1) every tribe needed every possible live birth, 2) there was a need to keep track of who was related, 3) a responsible man was needed since a woman alone could not survive, 4) A public commitment was to the above was required, 5) inheritance 6) There might be a dowry involved and 7) the father was stating that he wasn't going to feed this daughter any more. ( I don't claim this is complete or accurate but it is a starting place.)

Number 1 meant that niceties like marrying for love, sexual preference, etc were entirely beside the point. There was tremendous social, religious and legal pressure to get married and have children. A very high percentage of conceptions never reached the age of reproduction. A very high percentage of women died in child birth, it was risky. If either party wasn't interested in sex there were work arounds.

In recent years all sorts of things have been "attached" to marriage, including marrying for love. I think that same sex marriages don't involve any of the above reasons.

I think that if we can get marriage into perspective it will make some arguments easier. For instance: "go forth and multiply". It is not unreasonable for a healthy woman to have from16 to 24 children reach the age of reproduction today. (My grandmother had 16 live births starting in 1895, with 4 still alive today) In one generation we could have 48 billion people on the earth. Frankly I don't know anyone that doesn't appear to be using some sort of "family planning".

How many things have we tied to marriage that done fit with the original "definition"?
10.17.2005 6:33pm
JosephSlater (mail):
I, along with my wife, son, mother, and mother- and father-in-law all attended my sister's wedding in Boston last summer. As any reader of this has probably already correctly assumed, it was a gay wedding. My sister married a wonderful, wonderful woman with whom she's had a long, happy relationship. It was a beautiful ceremony and a wonderful day. Having my extended family there helped remind me how marriage between two committed people can be a central building block in society. Finally being able to welcome my sister's partner as a fully recognized family member was also nice.

With as much respect as I can muster, which frankly isn't much on this point, let me say the following as categorically as I can. The argument that gay marriage somehow "threatens" heterosexual marriage because marriage now "means nothing" if people like my sister and her partner -- no, scratch that, SPOUSE -- can wed may be the single most ridiculous thing I've ever heard in a political discussion (and that's saying something).

Or maybe I should just say: A bunch of us straights went to a gay wedding, and lo and behold, we're all STILL HAPPILY MARRIED!
10.17.2005 6:36pm
Elliot123 (mail):
Several times posters have asked for the threat posed to heterosexual marriage from gay marriage. So far, only one answer has been provided: Gays married to opposite gendered partners might divorce and marry another gay. This would effect the subset of married people who are a)gay, b)married to an opposite gendered partner, and c)dissatisfieds with the gender of their current partner. I suspect this subset of married people is very, very small.

So, here's the elephant in the living room:

Can anyone provide three specific and material damages to heterosexual civil marriage posed by gay civil marriage?
10.17.2005 6:39pm
Jamesaust (mail):
unhyphenatedconservation: Your argument simply begs the question of where we stop. If we grant "gay marriage," what next?"

I think male/female, male/male, female/female pretty much exhausts the possible combinations that two adults can find in a life partner.

What's the logical slippery slope here? Santorum's "man on dog" wackiness? Same-sex relationships are comparable to animals? Bring back Biblical concubines? Or perhaps more limited - the slippery slope we've been on since blacks were allowed to marry whites, or *gasp* the lower classes were allowed to marry the upper classes?
10.17.2005 7:01pm
On Lawn (mail) (www):
JimBob: Why do you think that your view of marriage and family, or even history's view of marriage and family, is superior to a progressive view?

I know my answer to this, because its universal cultural adherence is a social anomoly that demands attention. There have been many institutionalized homosexual relationships in the past. Zulu, Spartan, Roman, even Samuri cultures institutionalized child molestation as warriors bedded aspiring warriors. There are even ritualized (I can't call them "lesbian" because it is unsure if any sex was involved) female-female family raising institutions. These have all been blips here and there and none of them have ever taken off like ss"m" is promised by self-proclaimed progressives. In short their track records speak for themselves.

Eric seems to assert that children are better off living in a home with two biological parents who hate each other

Oddly enough he seemed to assert that children were better off living with their biological parents. Better than what was not explicitely stated, as you noted. Here are some of my thoughts.

As a parent I see my children through much of my own experiences. We are all given many traits by our phisiology, so it follows that a keen parent has an advantage to raising their own children. But beyond that, our parentage gives a lineage, a link to the past. Being able to carry on and explain that past, culture and so forth is a unique capacity to a biological relative that should not be taken lightly. The UN recognizes that children have a right to their heritage, and after the genocides and cultural cleansings of so many nations it is no wonder why this right is so important to them.

our society once thought black and whites marrying was an abomination.

This comes up a lot, and so to head this off at the pass...

Race and gender integration are very different beasts. Gender is discrete and public and has no influence on the gender of your children. Race is mixable, and your race as the race of your mate does affect the children of that combination. Whole races have been extinguished by racial integration, where men were killed and women taken to bed. On the other case we shouldn't punish people for integrating race for themselves, as that would also be anti-cultural.

But in the end race is a matter of marriage regulation, while the equal gender representation in marriage is one of its (if not the most commonly referred) most defining qualities.

Gabriel Malor: Maybe we should be asking why the government gives its "good housekeeping seal of approval" to childless marriages.

This comes up often also. So much so that we've taken to calling it "The Sterility Strawman". Causes of childless marriages can be boiled down to the following:

1) Physical Disability
2) Personal Choice

In the first case, a same-sex couple suffers from social disability (they cannot love someone of the opposite sex enough to marry them) that brings about the lack of children. This is not even a disability, since the ability is not inherent in the relationship to begin with. So the first part of that strawman is simply, same-sex couples are not equatable since they are not disabled. When the government gives its blessing, it is to overcome physical disability, as it does in proteting and empowering any number of disabled individuals.

In the second case, the potential for children is present thus justifying the marital status. The second part of the Sterility Strawman is that marriage is not to enforce procreation but to enforce responsibility for procreation. Adeptly argued in numerous comments above by ss"m" advocates, we see that same-sex couples need no such enforcement of responsibility because the potential for procreation is lacking.

Shawn:

I'll respond to your enumerated points by number...

1) Taken from the other perspective, divorce does indeed downplay the responsiblity to ones children. Divorces happen (not all but they do happen) in effort to avoid responsibility to children. Even after divorce dead-beat Dads exist. Some divorces are good. My wife's parents divorced for reasons that no one would question, for instance. The harm was done, and as Elizabeth Marquadt notes there is no good divorce, just marriages that need to be ended. This is a small subset of the divorces that happen today.

Not all children are raised by their bio-parents, but in deference to the children's needs arrangements are made. Barbara Defoe Whitehead notes (and has been shown in subsequent studies) that often a bio-single parent does as well -- if not better than -- a step-family situation in raising children.

2) We also know that 95% of children in these situations come from one of the partners divorcing. Also the census doesn't say if these same-sex households are a mother and grandmother or sister raising a child. Certainly Reciprocal Beneficiary arrangements can be made that suit both those non-sexual relationships and homosexual households. Unfortunately such conflation is something that ss"m" advocates deliberately shun.

But those don't answer your question. But proper deferance to the parenting style that children do best in does. A same-sex relationship by design robs a child of a mother or father. While circumstances can be blamed such as death or divorce that require such assistance, as Rosie O'Donell is quick to admit she 'is the type of Mommie that wants another Mommie', and that is her only excuse. That pampering of gender segregationism, how it gives affect to personal and private biases is what makes ss"m" a very shady proposition.

3) Adoption is a double-edged sword. Some adoptions happen to give children a stable mother and father home where the bio-parents were unable to provide. Some adoptions are tantamount to a child-bearing commercial enterprise. I speak on the former when I say it is deferencial and polite. It is beneficial for all involved. The latter is a bad example of commercialization of people. As J David Velleman points out, the latter is associated with ss"m", and the former is not. Adoption in the former instance provides support to the assertion of marriage, while the latter goes in the opposite direction.

4) This point would be adequately addressed with RB's no?

John Boswell's scholarly work [Boswell, John, Same-Sex Unions in Pre-Modern Europe, (New York: Villard, 1994)] disagrees.

It is unfortunate you brought up Boswell's book. It is really some shoddy scholarly work. For instance it mentions Saints Serge and Baccius who we already understood as bonded with a special ritual as a marriage. There is a few problems with this assertion,

1) The ceremony applied to non-sexual situations (and rarely if ever to sexual situations)
2) Was not considered a marriage anyway.

As pointed out above, the application of the same title to homosexual and non-sexual relationships is not supported by ss"m" advocacy. Neither is the differentiation of homosexual relationships as marriage. Thus it violates intellectual integrity to turn around and opportunistically call that a same-sex marriage.

Londo: Marriage is an arrangement, a partnership, where both parties agree that from this day forth, they are to be treated as a single unit.

Aye, indeed it is. But I'd submit that gender integration is a wonderful aspect of the partnership, one that gives it potency both biologically and in the law. The partnership is a means to an end, not the end itself.

Gabrial (part II): then your argument suffers from a foundational flaw.

The assertion you make has its own flaw. Law is a comprimise of many concerns and obligations. Such comprimise is always the product of political process. To conclude a logical flaw based on an exception to a rule expects you be dealing in a homogeneous and absolutely enforcable government. Which, of course ours is not. Therefore the reasoning stands as examples are provided (even by Maggie in a subsiquent article).

unhyphenatedconservative:

Aye I have. It is plain to people outside that profession also.

Medis: How exactly would gay marriages threaten "normal, nuclear families"?

You seem interested, I'd like you to read this. More often than not, the violence against marriage has already been done in the mind of the questioner in that marriage has already been devalued to something much less than history has recognized it as.

anonymous coward: I am curious what, if anything, could convince Ms. Gallagher and others who oppose same-sex marriage to change their minds.

I can answer that question for myself, if that interests you. As you can tell I would like to see better planning as well as empirical evidence.

1) A realistic plan that would encourage gender integration that can perform as well as marriage has. A vast majority of what I have learned about the opposite sex comes from either my parents marriage or my own. Lack of gender integration leads to many bad things, one of which is outlinedby a co-hort of mine.

2) Some expectation that the rights of children to their heritage will be preserved. This is also a concern of NYU Professor J David Velleman.

There are more but these seem to be deal breakers on a fundamental leval. These concerns are inable to be surmounted by same-sex unions, while completely consistent with heterosexual life-long procreative unions.

Atty in Chicago: The government should remain neutral, as it has always been, with gay relationships - neither endorse and encourage it (through marriage) nor prevent the relationships from happening.

Agreed. Its important that ss"m" is not something that we passively unlock the gates and things happen naturally. With it is a very active government subsidisation of third party infertilization technology (which industry is already dominant in Massachusetts) as well as brushing aside the rights of those children. It is, in essence not a passive letting things be equal, it is an equalization. It lays the heavy hand of government into regulation of romance and sexual habits rather than the current posture of monitoring procreative responsibility. It is this very transformation that has already occured in the minds of so many individuals here that leads them to exclaim that the government should get out of marriage. And is the logical extension of the arguments behind ss"m".

Medis: But as Sullivan and others points out, your argument proves way too much, because we do allow non-procreative couples to marry.

As has been pointed out earlier in this post, such an argument is simply the "sterility strawman".

Why aren't gay marriages as harmless as old folks marriages, sterile folks marriages, or folks-who-don't-like-kids marriages?

Having pointed you to an article answering your first question, I will do the same here.

Mike: By treating committed same-sex relationships as if they do not exist, the government is not being neutral.

Yet the ss"m" argument goes that by treating gender as if it does not exist do we say that marriage is gender neutral. Perhaps the reconciliation of these arguments is possible, but it is only one of a number contradictions born of opportunism that are thrown at me in this debate.

"neutral" would be the government not licensing marriages at all

That wouldn't make the government same-sex neutral, it would make it abolish marriage. Just more evidence that the logic behind ss"m" does in fact lead us to wonder why government is in marriage at all. Which in turn, in fact, does threaten marriage as an institution.

[[ --- ]]

And I'll have to leave it there for now. I'll try to get to the rest in due time.
10.17.2005 7:05pm
Atty in Chicago:
Elliot123 :

The harm comes over time as the attitude of adults and children change to be more selfish (I matter more than kids) And when there are more fatherless and motherless households in any society, children are more likely to engage in crime and deviant behavior. People don't want a society like Amsterdam where sex and culture is willy nilly and deteriorating.

1) Children will learn that marriage is about sexual preferences rather than a fostering relationship for children.

2) Children will be taught to view sexual preferences like choosing a career, it doesn't really matter if you choose gay or straight, go back and forth, as long as you feel good.

2) Gay activists want marriage to have less standing in society, and it will with gay marriage. But a society that values marriage low by taking the emphasis away from kids results in less less marriage, more out-of-wedlock pregnancies, and more divorce. Is that good for soceity? Hell no.

There are three that will happen. You can argue whether the harm is important, that a society and culture like Amsterdam is preferable to a more conservative nation. Societyal norms matter, gender roles matter, mothers and fathers matter, the government not promoting alternative sexual activities matters.

Again, the government should be neutral on gay relationships - not endorse but not prevent.

I don't have time to dig up the articles now, it's been a while since I've debated this topic. There of articles on the net.
10.17.2005 7:09pm
Jamesaust (mail):
It might surprise Atty in Chicago but "gay activists" have traditionally been the groups MOST oppossed to marriage for homosexuals - mainly because they are radical leftists who question the institution itself (that they're gay is incidental).

The pressure for marriage right for homosexuals has bubbled up from the significant, very traditional non-activists and from younger gays who have refused to be stigmatized as sinister individuals. The fractures within the gay community (as if there was such a thing anymore than a straight community) have been very deep.

"And when there are more fatherless and motherless households in any society, children are more likely to engage in crime and deviant behavior." Actually, the studies show that when there are more single parents and broken households there are measurable negative social consquences. There are NONE that address stable same-sex households that are both long-term and use a significant sample size (not surprising considering we would not have been discusssing this topic even ten years ago). It is a common error to confuse studies of unstable households with same-sex ones.
10.17.2005 7:55pm
On Lawn (mail) (www):
It might surprise Atty in Chicago but "gay activists" have traditionally been the groups MOST oppossed to marriage for homosexuals

And that continues today. Atty's post doesn't seem to bear out any indication of such ignorance. She does appear to be talking to gay activists who do want homosexual relationships to be recognized as marriages, as well as the ones you indicate. The parallel between the two that she describes I have also noted.
10.17.2005 8:54pm
ajf (mail) (www):
on lawn:

the rights of children to their heritage


what, exactly, is this right? does it mean that interracial adoptions should be banned? (as an aside, let me give two examples of interracial adoption, one successful and one less so. in the first, a black girl was adopted by liberal jewish parents. she grew up to be a doctor, adores her (adoptive) parents and siblings, and has married a black man. in the second, a half-korean girl was adopted by conservative lutheran parents (dad is a minister). she grew up to be a stripper, couldn't hold a day job until her late 30s, and still can't get a bank account due to earlier fiscal irresponsibility. so what does this illustrate? nothing, really -- except that for every example there is a counterexample.)

the rights of children to their heritage. funny thing, "heritage." is it biological? cultural? what is the telos of heritage? and what rights do children have, anyway? i realize there's a growing body of jurisprudence that recognizes some rights, but how far do they go? and how relevant are they, really, to the question of gay marriage?
10.18.2005 2:05pm
On Lawn (mail) (www):

I'll refer you here to NYU Professor David Velleman who winds up also referencing Ms Gallagher. It will give you at least a good primer on the perspective of the UN on the issue you raised.
10.18.2005 2:13pm
SteveInLR:

Sex makes babies. Society needs babies. Babies need fathers as well as mothers. That's the heart of marriage as a universal human institution.


I'm gay, so when I have sex, it doesn't make babies. Care to re-phrase?

Why does society need babies?

Lots of folks grew up just fine without a father or without a mother.

What else ya got?
10.19.2005 12:39am
Just A Guy:
Sex is different from sex play. Sodomy, for example, is not the basis for the social institution of marriage. Surely.

A society without babies is a society bereft of families and will lack the next generation. Obviously.

Fatherhood is unnecessary, now? Motherhood is superfluous, now? A society of orphans is acceptable, now? Misfortune now dictates that SSM be enacted?

Got anything more to add to the discussion?
10.19.2005 6:10am