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Question for Maggie About Marriage:

Maggie: Thanks for guest-blogging with us this week. You raise some great questions. Historically, you are correct when you state:

Sex makes babies, Society needs babies, babies need mothers and fathers.

My question (and I am genuinely asking--I think that this is an unusually difficult issue to which I certainly don't have any easy answer): if marriage arises from procreation, what impact does modern reproductive technology have on the definition of marriage? With invitro fertilization, sex is no longer a necessary condition for producing a baby. Two women could have a baby with donated sperm; two men could have a baby using a surrogate. At that point you have procreation and two parents, just not male and female.

My current thinking, for what its worth, is that the best argument in favor of traditional marriage may be a Hayekian (and perhpas Oakeshottian) one--marriage by long and western tradition has been one man and one woman, and that the long-lived and widespread nature of the tradition gives rise to a presumption that should be rebutted only by relatively strong evidence.

[If you are interested in my thinking on the issue of same-sex marriage, my thoughts are continued under the hidden text]

Now Maggie's response may simply be that we should place greater limits on the use of alternative reproductive technologies or encourage a return to greater household specialization. But I would be interested in hearing how she wrestles with the issues raised by modern technologies that uncouple procreation from male-female sex and the implied male-female child rearing that results.

ralph:
And what impact arises from the fact that modern knowlege about reproduction allows couples deliberately to take advantage of all of the benefits of marriage without having children?
10.18.2005 11:13am
Aultimer:

Prof Z:
Given the general and natural proclivities of men and the social role played by marriage in "taming" men,

That attitude is unduly sexist unless the Beach Boys were right that the notable thing about East Coast girls are the styles they wear...

The rest of the country had a little sexual revolution while you were in high school and college, it seems.
10.18.2005 11:15am
ken (mail):
The first question that needs to be asked is that just because something can be done (in this case IVF) does that make it right?
10.18.2005 11:48am
Jesurgislac (mail) (www):
She's also ignoring the issue of children adopted by same-sex couples.

Indeed, her whole argument seems to depend on the idea that marriage is primarily conceiving children inside wedlock, and that providing a family environment to rear and nurture children is of secondary or trivial importance.
10.18.2005 12:07pm
A Berman (mail):
Todd,
Good Luck. Now that you have taken a position that is not unabashedly pro-SSM, you are going to be labeled a Hater by some. It already started with the second post.
10.18.2005 12:08pm
Nathan Whitehead:
I view marriage as a contract issue. By allowing men and women to enter into contracts that bind both of them, they gain benefits such as being able to specialize (child rearing vs. career).

It is not entirely obvious, but the ability to enter into binding contracts helps people. Think about loan payments; if you can't promise to repay the loan in a binding way, no-one will loan you money. If you can't marry someone (or otherwise enter into a contract with them), neither person will take the relationship as seriously.

From this point of view it is absolutely ridiculous that homosexuals and polygamists can't get married.
10.18.2005 12:16pm
Marriage Thoughts:
I'd like to add a twist to Todd's question; sort of the flipside to Todd's question.

I understand Maggie's point that historically, marriage was mainly about protecting children, because heterosexual sex produces them. Marriage is therefore an institution that evolved to this inevitable consequence of sex. (Also, marriage served as a form of social birth control. It works (well, worked) to stigmatize sex outside of marriage, and therefore to discourage it to some degree.)

But the need for marriage arguably is reduced when, thanks to technology, children no longer are the inevitable consequence of sex. Do we still need the institution that channels sexuality in the same way?

I wonder what Maggie thinks about this.
10.18.2005 12:17pm
A Berman (mail):
No, Jesurgislac, she's not ignoring it. She's been very clear that providing a family environment is extremely important. One of her claims is that Motherhood + Fatherhood is superior to Fatherhood + Fatherhood or Motherhood + Motherhood-- with a implied-claim that Motherhood is not the same as Fatherhood.

And the larger claim is that societies are more likely to thrive over the long term when they, through legal, cultural, social, economic, and political means, encourage men and women to pair up and raise children to adulthood. To encourage X implies elevating X over not X. Hence, opposition to SSM.

I'd like to see some evidence of societies that don't elevate man-woman pairings, yet thrive over a reasonable time period--say 100 years of growth. Any examples of this from history?
10.18.2005 12:24pm
A Berman (mail):
Marriage Thoughts:
I can answer this question-- it's not just the protection of children, it's also their creation. A society that doesn't create and raise enough children eventually goes bye-bye. This has happened repeatedly throughout history and is happening now in some areas of Europe.
10.18.2005 12:28pm
Untamed (mail):
What is this "taming" of men that you speak of? I have no idea what you're talking about. What is it about men that needs to be tamed?
10.18.2005 12:30pm
chris (mail):
I wish to take issue with Todd's assertion:

With invitro fertilization, sex is no longer a necessary condition for producing a baby. Two women could have a baby with donated sperm; two men could have a baby using a surrogate. At that point you have procreation and two parents, just not male and female.

Quite technically, the father of the resulting child is the sperm donor and the mother is the egg donor, regardless of who claims parenthood. At least under current technology, male-male couples and female-female couples cannot have babies. At least one is going to be an adoptive parent.

So what's wrong with adoption? It's obviously a second-best arrangement. Don't believe me? Then consider the following policy. If you have a baby, the government takes it from you but gives you another randomly chosen baby born that day. If adoption doesn't matter, then this policy should have no bad effects.
10.18.2005 12:31pm
Elliot123 (mail):
I think people are confusing public purpose with public benefits. There is no single public purpose for marriage; this is evident from observing the various purposes for which people marry. It's also evident in the various opinions the public has on the general purpose of marriage. There isn't a concensus.

However, I think there is a concensus on public benefits from marriage, and procreation is certainly one of those benefits. But there are other benefits which also have widespread public recognition. These include companionship, security, and stability.

In many ways, the current issue of gay marriage is an attempt to create a concensus on a public purpose where none exists today.

What puzzles me is why people think the public benefit of procreation will no longer accrue to society when gay marriage is allowed.
10.18.2005 12:38pm
Defending the Indefensible:
The difficulty with this whole line of analysis is that it is founded on a false premise, and that premise itself was constructed for the purpose of *obstructing* marriage. I speak of the notion of marriage licenses, which were instituted to prohibit miscegenation.

Marriage is a covenant which does not include the state as a party. It is not for the state to say what covenants shall or shall not be made, if they are made and maintained freely and honestly by the actual parties, unless such covenant is an illegal conspiracy, which marriage hardly qualifies as.

Whether your perspective is religious or not, and whatever your particular beliefs may be, it is rightful that people should marry if they choose to do so, it is not a privilege that the state has authority to license under terms.
10.18.2005 12:45pm
Crane (mail):
Regarding polygamy:

You assume when you discuss the possibility of legalized plural marriages that this would necessarily involve one man and multiple women. With today's standards of gender equality, is it not possible that at least some of those who wish to enter into plural marriages would prefer an arrangement with one woman and multiple men? There are people today who consider themselves "polyamourous" and live in trios or even quads. (though I'm told the amount of work required to maintain the relationship as a whole increases exponentially with each additional person)

Also, what do you think would be the social cost and benefit of allowing homosexuals to have civil unions? Do you think that having an institution "like marriage but not" would also weaken heterosexual marriage, and if so would it do so to the same extent as allowing homosexual marriage? I notice Ms. Gallagher still hasn't answered this one.
10.18.2005 12:45pm
Salaryman (mail):
Nathan: Contract rights are generally enforceable only between the parties to the contract. If Fred and John enter into a valid marriage contract in which they agree they'll split assets 50-50, leave their estates to the other, etc., those provisions are enforceable.

But the controversy about SSM doesn't really relate to this, since most opponents of SSM except extreme homophobes would concede the right to contract between gay partners (and many SSM opponents in fact say, "well, heck, just let 'em contract with each other. That should be enough.").

The point of controversy really is what might be called extra-contractual marriage rights. While Fred and John might bind each other contractually, they can't contractually bind Hospital (a non-party to the contract) to allow Fred visitation rights if John is in a coma. They can't agree between themselves that State and Federal governments will treat them differently for tax or other purposes because they enter into a marriage contract.

In other words, the SSM controversy is not about enforcing contracts according to their terms but about the State deciding it's in the public interest to convey benefits (and impose burdens) on certain relationships. One can certainly argue that it's good public policy to offer that package of benefits and burdens to gay couples as well as straight, but saying "marriages are just contracts! Treat them like any other contract" doesn't resolve, or much clarify, the issue.
10.18.2005 12:50pm
Jesurgislac (mail) (www):
A Berman: She's been very clear that providing a family environment is extremely important.

No, she doesn't appear to be clear about that. At least, not so far on this blog. Her arguments in all her posts (apart from the last, which concerned something else entirely) have one and all been concerned, not with the family environment, but with whether or not the couple getting married are interfertile.
10.18.2005 12:51pm
Scott W. Somerville (mail) (www):
In a radically libertarian society we would probably wind up with heterosexual monogamy with a death penalty for adultery. Radical libertarians should not object to "death penalty contracts," in which the contracting parties grant the other person the right to kill them in the event of a breach. The marriage contract would be the most likely kind of contract in which both parties would freely accept a death penalty clause. In such a society, a person who wants out of a marriage would have to bargain away any other liberty and/or property in exchange for permission to live.

Marriage would not be required in this hypothetical society: people would be free to sleep with anyone or anything they choose. From what I know of lesbian and gay lifestyles, I would imagine that many lesbians would choose a "death penalty clause" marriage, while very few gay men would do so. (I'm not sure there would be any polyamorous death penalty marriages, but who's to say?)

What you would NOT get in a radically libertarian society would be a great number of "unwanted pregnancies." Without a social "safety net" to provide for dependent children, unmarried pregnant women would probably abort unless they had enough wealth of their own, or extended family, to provide for many years of child-rearing.

Our society is not radically libertarian, so we have to deal with broken hearts and dependent children in other ways. I can't say our current system is working all that well...
10.18.2005 1:06pm
A Berman (mail):
Jesurgislac:

No, she doesn't appear to be clear about that. At least, not so far on this blog.


Fair enough. I was including her writings from elsewhere in my thoughts. My apologies.
10.18.2005 1:19pm
Angelique Z. (mail):
With the discussion of the benefit that society gets from marraige, it strikes me as odd that no one is talking about what the purpose of marraige continues to be after people have left their reproductive years. Once the kids have left the nest, men are usually old enough to be 'tame' (as in violent crime and agression tend to decline with age). So how does society benefit by extending these benefits to older couples? Simply, society benefits by having older people take care of each other, instead of placing that burden on their children (who are usually raising kids of their own) or on the state/community when their are no children to care for them. Even with younger couples, society obtains benefits that extend beyond procreation. When those two people are bound by emotional, sexual, and legal ties, they are more likely to stay together when bad things happen in life, like job loss, illness, disability, etc. They take care of each other, instead of others having to take care of them. This is a clear benefit that has no relationship to whether the couple is homosexual or heterosexual.
10.18.2005 1:24pm
Hugh59 (mail) (www):
Let's not overthink the plumbing. Social and legal recognition of marriage between straight couples is a simple way of encouraging the creation of families and children.

Ok, it is not the only way; but it is a simple, easy to understand policy. Now, we have people who want to take something simple, and make it much more complicated. In the end, the more complex you make the policy, the less likely people will be willing to follow it.

So, you can legalize gay marriage, but wind up with a vastly reduced number of overall marriages.

"We had to destroy the institution in order to save it." Or something like that!
10.18.2005 1:32pm
John H (mail) (www):
Forget about donor insemenation, the looming issue is actual same-sex procreation. Some experts think it is only three to five years away (see my blog). But others wonder if maybe gene expression is a little more complicated that we think, and if it would be ethical to allow. Other issues besides safety come up, such as lesbian couples only being able to have girls, and male couples being forced to hire a surrogate that might claim the baby. And issues about how it would cross the "Enough" line of all children being natural children of natural children, making genetic engineering much more likely, before we have had a chance to consider its implications.
This issue needs debate, and I think everyone agrees that the technology is not ready now (it took 451 tries to get one mouse to survive to adulthood from combining two eggs and no sperm). So the question is, who will decide when it is ready? IVF labs? Desperate parents? Or Congress? Should it be banned with a moratorium, or forever (unless unbanned in the future, of course), so that people know, with certainty, that if they want to have children together with the person they love, if they want to join together into new life, they have to love someone of the other sex? I think so...
10.18.2005 1:37pm
Cornellian (mail):
Not to mention the issue of a single gay person with children from a previous opposite sex relationship (maybe just a one night stand, maybe something longer) who now wants to get married to a person of the same sex.

She's also ignoring the issue of children adopted by same-sex couples.
10.18.2005 1:38pm
Cornellian (mail):
Are you seriously suggesting that allowing gay people to get married will result in a "vastly reduced" number of straight people who want to get married?

So, you can legalize gay marriage, but wind up with a vastly reduced number of overall marriages.
10.18.2005 1:39pm
mshyde (mail):
Since a lot of worst case scenarios have ocurred in the past couple of months, let's look at another one.
What are all of you preponents of modern technology of birthing going to stipulate if/when said technology fails?
A man and a woman can procreate anywhere, from a beach, to the back seat of a car to the loft of a hay barn. If modern technology is not reachable all of your arguments are false.
Nature has a way of always winning these kinds of arguments. All you have to do is go and dig up some lost and forgotten civilizations to see this for yourselves.
10.18.2005 1:41pm
dweeb (mail):
While technology makes sex no longer necessary for procreation, it is still often sufficient. The same-gender couples you mention using technology need not be
sexually involved with each other. Two heterosexual women, even two married straight women, could contract to share expenses of artificial insemination, without any personal relationship between them.

It all comes down to the idea that government has no compelling societal reason to regulate relationships that
are not INHERENTLY procreative. When a man and woman get physically intimate, you have a baby factory, just like, when a machine shop installs a rifling bench, it's a gun factory, and the situation becomes of legitimate interest to the greater society.

Same sex couples do not experience unplanned pregnancies. If they wish to avail themselves of reproductive technology, they have plenty of opportunity to make contractual provisions for the care of the resulting children. Society has no business promoting monogamy or any other arrangement for them. Society does have an interest in an arrangement that promotes responsibility surrounding relationships and activities that can produce unexpected or unplanned children
10.18.2005 1:43pm
Jesurgislac (mail) (www):
A Berman: Fair enough. I was including her writings from elsewhere in my thoughts. My apologies.

No, fair enough - I can understand the confusion. If this is indeed going to be Maggie's argument on this blog, I hope she begins this next phase soon, rather than continuing to post on procreation.

Hugh59: Let's not overthink the plumbing. Social and legal recognition of marriage between straight couples is a simple way of encouraging the creation of families and children.

So there's no reason in the world not to include same-sex couples as a simple way of encouraging the creation of even more families and children. Yes?

Hugh59: it is a simple, easy to understand policy. Now, we have people who want to take something simple, and make it much more complicated.

How so? It seems to me that the complication arises from the anti-SSM crowd. Pro-SSM argument is simplicity itself: here's the institution of marriage, now rather than mess it about or try to complicate things by introducing civil unions, etc, just add in that same-sex couples can also get married.

but wind up with a vastly reduced number of overall marriages.

No one has ever been able to show (a) why this would happen, if it happened; or (b) that it ever has happened.
10.18.2005 1:43pm
Jesurgislac (mail) (www):
dweeb: Same sex couples do not experience unplanned pregnancies.

Well, occasionally they do. Adultery happens and relationships go on. But you're right, that mostly same-sex couples have to decide "this year, we're going to have a baby" or "adopt a child".

So, in your view, marriage exists only to regulate unplanned pregnancies? If a mixed-sex couple want to get married, but he's got a vasectomy or she's had her tubes tied, they shouldn't be allowed to marry because they can't have unplanned pregnancies?
10.18.2005 1:46pm
Observer (mail):
I agree with Todd's view that the proponents of homosexual marriage have not demonstrated why the institution of marriage should be discarded or radically changed. It seems to me that the burden of proof must be on such proponents before subjecting society to such a radical experiment.

However, I reiterate my view that this is where federalism - the laboratory of the states - could demonstrate its utility. Let Vermont experiment with homosexual marriage - or Utah with polygamy - for a generation or two while the rest of us watch from a distance. So long as the rest of the states aren't compelled to partake in this experiment (by, for example, judicial invalidation of the Defense of Marriage Act), this would permit us to move beyond theoretical debate into the realm of physical experiment, where facts matter. If, after a generation or two, children and society are thriving in those states that have chosen to experiment with homosexual marriages, other states could choose to follow their example. And if the experiment doesn't work, if it harms children and weakens society, then the damage will at least have been limited.
10.18.2005 1:57pm
Jeff Grace (mail) (www):
If I may add my two cents:

1) The issue of SSM is "complicated" by the fact that this is about marriage in a peripheral sense. The real issue being fought over is the acceptance of same sex relations in general as being on the same level, morally and socially, as heterosexual relations.

2) The other issue: given the differences that exist in society at large (at east in the Western world) over the question of equivalence between the two, is it right and just to pass laws that recognizes, or ignores the question of, equivalence (SSM is allowed) or denies equivalence (SSM is not allowed). Once these issues are addressed and answered, the rest of the objections being raised by both sides will be settled.

This isn't complicated... it's only controversial. ;>
10.18.2005 1:58pm
mkl:
Can someone make a clear argument as to the costs to society of allowing same sex marriage? Simply saying it will weaken traditional marriage is rubbish.
10.18.2005 2:03pm
Jesurgislac (mail) (www):
Observer: I agree with Todd's view that the proponents of homosexual marriage have not demonstrated why the institution of marriage should be discarded or radically changed.

I have not seen any supporter of same-sex marriage either advocating that the institution should be discarded, nor that it should be radically changed. As a supporter of same-sex marriage, I disagree with both proposals: I think marriage should be retained, and that it should not be radically changed.

It does not constitute a radical change to marriage to say that same-sex couples as well as mixed-sex couples can get married.
10.18.2005 2:11pm
Roger Schlafly (www):
Several people have given arguments based on the possibilities of unconventional procreation (such as test-tube babies, same-sex couple adoption, etc.) Sure, those things are possible, but why should the govt encourage them?

The govt encourages opposite-sex married couples having and rearing children because of ample historical evidence that it is good for society. There is no good evidence that encouraging any other alternative is good for society.
10.18.2005 2:21pm
TM Lutas (mail) (www):
For those who think that same sex marriage is a simple addition, I have a simple question. If both my wife and I have pension accounts, my wife can do an early distribution on her own but I have to have her permission to access my account early.

So which of the "spouses" in a same sex marriage get the restriction and which doesn't? All of a sudden it's not as simple as just crossing out husband and wife on the forms, is it?
10.18.2005 2:31pm
anonymous coward:
"So, you can legalize gay marriage, but wind up with a vastly reduced number of overall marriages."

This claim, and many similar ones that provide a rationale for the rejection of same-sex marriage, are empirical claims. They may be true or they may be false; most likely they cannot be shown to be either true or false conclusively, leaving us to talk past each other about rights and traditions and oh god please think of the children.

But what if there was strong evidence one way or another, about any of the empirical questions that arise in discussions of SMS? Would any minds actually change? Very few, I suspect--certainly not mine. (Todd and Observer, above, may be exceptions.)
10.18.2005 2:32pm
John H (mail) (www):
All of a sudden it's not as simple as just crossing out husband and wife on the forms, is it?

Silly, these are lawyers your talking to. Things not being simple is good, not bad!
10.18.2005 2:39pm
Jesurgislac (mail) (www):
TM Lutas: So which of the "spouses" in a same sex marriage get the restriction and which doesn't?

The solution in the UK, where widows have better state pension rights than widowers, is to give both spouses in a same-sex partnership the legal rights of widowers.
10.18.2005 2:41pm
momof5 (mail):
Two points that have been made about "unwanted pregnancy" and contracts raise my eyebrows. First,if we take the presupposition that creation has been ordered in a particular way in order for it to best thrive, the argument becomes transparent. One might want to raise watermelons in Antarctica, and one might--by manipulating nature--be able to accomplish that without any ethical implication. But in the order of creation, watermelons will not naturally appear in the arctic. Human beings, being of infinately more worth (unless you are a cannibal), also have particular conditions in which they thrive. They are ordered toward family life--naturally--or we would not have the perpetuation of civilization. Of course with modern technology, we can remove the parents and create a baby in a petri dish. No longer does the child have to be created in the consummation of love, but like GMOs. Does a child have any rights here? Or is he just an object that is either "wanted" or "unwanted?" Does defining human life in these terms (wanted or unwanted) make of that person an object? (I want a bike, I don't want a bike, I want a child, I don't want a child etc.) Or is a child valuable simply because human life has inherent value?

Secondly, the idea that a marriage is a contract is logical on face value, but again we have to ask is there a deeper meaning? Not simply looking at "benefits" but at the purpose for which marriage has been "ordained," that is to say ordered in creation. We have to wonder is there a larger purpose than a mutual society or the distribution of tasks? Does family life offer anything beyond "contractual" boundaries?

That being said, one has to wonder if the best "condition" for a child is to be thought of as an object, as a right, to be conceived in a cold laboratory, to be placed in an environment without a balance of the sexes? Does a balance of the sexes matter? If not, is there any difference at all between the sexes? Does each contribute something unique to a child's upbringing that deliberately removing it denies the child some larger good? Or shall we just make ourselves neuter--denying our value, worth, purpose, meaning and natural order?
10.18.2005 3:00pm
KC (mail):
Dweeb said "It all comes down to the idea that government has no compelling societal reason to regulate relationships that are not INHERENTLY procreative."

If this is the case, why does the government allow any couples past the child-bearing age to marry?
10.18.2005 3:02pm
jrose:
Several people have given arguments based on the possibilities of unconventional procreation (such as test-tube babies, same-sex couple adoption, etc.) Sure, those things are possible, but why should the govt encourage them?

The argument isn't that government should encourage unconventional procreation. Unconventional procreation for same-sex couples is going to happen no matter what. By providing SSM, the government is encouraging these kids to be raised in married households instead of unmarried ones.
10.18.2005 3:09pm
Unamused:
Are you seriously suggesting that allowing gay people to get married will result in a "vastly reduced" number of straight people who want to get married?

1940s liberal, on the fear that making divorce more readily available would increase the divorce rate:

"That's ridiculous! said the reformers . . . People stay married because marriage is a bedrock institution of our society, not because of some law! The only people who get divorced will be people who have terrible problems! A few percentage points at most!" (with credit to Megan McArdle)
10.18.2005 3:14pm
On Lawn (mail) (www):
To the grand concern of children being raised in homosexual households, potentially from scientific baby production, I believe this has two interesting ramifications on this debate.

1) It is seen by many ss"m" advocates that responsible procreation is indeed the impetus of marriage.

2) So far nothing has science produced that could not be imitated previously. Sperm donation was practiced by ancient Jews who had men marrying their brother's wives to "raise seed up unto" their brothers. This practice can be found among women in african tribes, as well as many other places around the world.

As it stands, the question of reproductive technologies is a major concern for people like Velleman of NYU. He notes that the practice of providing children through third party reproductive techniques seems to devolve into robbing children of their heritage. To me, I go further in observing that it devolves into a trade of human life which I believe should be addressed by the 14th ammendment.

Looking to the future where all sorts of things might be possible I note that environmentally we see many of these things already take place and we can learn something from it. We already have species who can change gender, but note that it only happens in times of environmental duress, and does not last when the possiblity of male-female interaction happens. Also by observing the various species we find that the more complex (higher up the evolutionary scale) the animal the more strict and unbreakable the demand for sexual (meaning male-female) reproduction is.

Sociologically we see that much of this environmental ensurance of diversity has its parallels. Much of the success of humans depends on the ability to transmit information, technology and morals from one generation to another. While gender roles played a sort of caste system in the past (and many argue is no longer needed) we find that even today what remains is two perspectives on life that genuinely help a child reach a more rounded, diverse development. These two perspectives come from the mother and father. A mother and father have a unique advantage to raising their own children, as they share many of the traits the children will have.

I believe even after science and a brave new world come about, we will still see the wisdom in the model of family upbringing that has evolved over millions of years. Always, deference to this model of parenting will be a part of every vibrant and rich civilization.

But thats just my thoughts.
10.18.2005 3:31pm
JosephSlater (mail):
First, American pension law is very clear that *either* spouse has the same rights vis-a-vis the pensions of their spouse. It's *not* that only wives have rights regarding their husbands pensions. So gay marriage would work exactly the same way and would present no problems.

As to Unamused, I don't know exactly which "liberals" in the 1940s were claiming that making it easier to get divorced would not lead to more divorces, but that's an entirely different type of argument. It's easy to see why making it easier for people in group A to take action X would lead to more people in group A to take action X. It's harder to see why letting people in group A would devalue an institution like marriage if a few more people were allowed to marry.

The better analogy to your argument might be to turn up some quotes from racist conservatives from the 1950s opposing inter-racial marriage, and claiming it would be the end of marriage as we know it. Were they right?

To summarize my personal experience on this, I and a bunch of happily married heterosexuals went to my sister's gay wedding in Boston last summer, and, believe it or not, I didn't feel that my marriage was in the least devalued. In fact, seeing the bond between two people I am very fond of be officially recognized made me appreciate my marriage even more.
10.18.2005 3:39pm
Elliot123 (mail):
Unamused,

Making SSM available will most probably lead to an increase in SSM, just as making divorce more available led to an increase in divorce.

But how will an increase in SSM cause a decrease in heterosexual marriage?
10.18.2005 3:44pm
Unamused:
Joseph Slater:



How did people go so badly wrong? Well, to start with, they fell into the basic fallacy that economists are so well acquainted with: they thought about themselves instead of the marginal case. For another, they completely failed to realise that each additional illegitimate birth would, in effect, slightly destigmatise the next one. They assigned men very little agency, failing to predict that women willing to forgo marriage would essentially become unwelcome competition for women who weren't, and that as the numbers changed, that competition might push the marriage market towards unwelcome outcomes. They failed to forsee the confounding effect that the birth control pill would have on sexual mores.

***

My only request is that people try to be a leeetle more humble about their ability to imagine the subtle results of big policy changes. The argument that gay marriage will not change the institution of marriage because you can't imagine it changing your personal reaction is pretty arrogant. It imagines, first of all, that your behavior is a guide for the behavior of everyone else in society, when in fact, as you may have noticed, all sorts of different people react to all sorts of different things in all sorts of different ways, which is why we have to have elections and stuff. And second, the unwavering belief that the only reason that marriage, always and everywhere, is a male-female institution (I exclude rare ritual behaviors), is just some sort of bizarre historical coincidence, and that you know better, needs examining. If you think you know why marriage is male-female, and why that's either outdated because of all the ways in which reproduction has lately changed, or was a bad reason to start with, then you are in a good place to advocate reform. If you think that marriage is just that way because our ancestors were all a bunch of repressed bastards with dark Freudian complexes that made them homophobic bigots, I'm a little leery of letting you muck around with it.



Elliot123:


What's more, easy divorce didn't only change the divorce rate; it made drastic changes to the institution of marriage itself. David Brooks makes an argument I find convincing: that the proliferation of the kind of extravagent weddings that used to only be the province of high society (rented venue, extravagent flowers and food, hundreds of guests, a band with dancing, dresses that cost the same as a good used car) is because the event itself doesn't mean nearly as much as it used to, so we have to turn it into a three-ring circus to feel like we're really doing something.

A couple in 1940 (and even more so in 1910) could go to a minister's parlor, or a justice of the peace, and in five minutes totally change their lives. Unless you are a member of certain highly religious subcultures, this is simply no longer true. That is, of course, partly because of the sexual revolution and the emancipation of women; but it is also because you aren't really making a lifetime committment; you're making a lifetime committment unless you find something better to do. There is no way, psychologically, to make the latter as big an event as the former, and when you lost that committment, you lose, on the margin, some willingness to make the marriage work. Again, this doesn't mean I think divorce law should be toughened up; only that changes in law that affect marriage affect the cultural institution, not just the legal practice.


Seriously, you people need to read this.
10.18.2005 3:51pm
On Lawn (mail) (www):
Elliot:

This might satisfy your curiosity.
10.18.2005 3:52pm
MCG (mail) (www):
In an early book, Enemies of Eros, Maggie made the point, as I recall it, that the sex act permits men and women to experience their maleness and femaleness fully. This is not a legal argument, and I don't think it will ever be part of a legal argument, but something like the same thing can be said about traditional marriage. Not only do married people get to experience their own maleness or femaleness successfully in marriage, but the rest of us get to walk around in a world in which the separate virtues and capabilities of male and female are, by convention and law, kept separate, and yet combined, in marriage.

Mary Campbell Gallagher
(Disclosure: Not related to Maggie Gallagher)
10.18.2005 3:56pm
Alixtii O'Krul V (mail) (www):

Not only do married people get to experience their own maleness or femaleness successfully in marriage, but the rest of us get to walk around in a world in which the separate virtues and capabilities of male and female are, by convention and law, kept separate, and yet combined, in marriage.


I'm trying to, in the spirit of hermeneutical charity, come up with an interpretation of the above that is not deeply sexist (and thus to me morally abhorrent) and failing horribly. Insofar as this view does pertain to Maggie Gallagher, it explains our disagreement perfectly. Could someone help me here?
10.18.2005 4:48pm
John H (mail) (www):
Unconventional procreation for same-sex couples is going to happen no matter what.

Well, if a man is allowed to have children by combining his gamete with another man's, so that the child is the offspring of only those two men, then I don't see how anyone can think that those men shouldn't be married. Obviously, the horse is out of the barn at that point.

But I take issue with your feeling that it will happen no matter what. That's not true, it would be very easy to stop researchers and clinics from pursuing same-sex procreation or offering the service. It would be unethical for many reasons, and the researchers should work on something useful, like finding the causes of diseases that cause real suffering, rather than something entirely unnecessary that will probably cause suffering.

We could easily change the Brownback anti-cloning bill into a bill that prohibited all forms of procreation that do not combine the gamete of a man with the gamete of a woman, thus banning cloning, animal-human chimeras, genetic engineering, and same-sex marriage all at once. If we can consider banning human cloning, why can't we consider a bill that bans all that stuff all at once and affirms that all people are created equal, by the union of a man and a woman.
10.18.2005 4:50pm
Randy R. (mail):
First, in ancient Rome, the Emperor Hadrian married his male lover, Antinous, in a large public ceremony, with several days off for Roman citizens to attend the festivities. There are several accounts of other Roman emperors married to men. In ancient Greece, men did marry women, but that was a mere formality -- often times, their emotional, physical and intellectual ties were with other men. Quite a bit different from today's society in many ways. And ancient Rome and Greece are the glories of our civilization. So gay there is no evidence that gay marriage or gay unions are a long term detriment to society.

SEcond, the divorce IS indeed quite high, but because people now have options other than staying in bad marriages. The fallacy that people make is that when the divorce rate was low, it was because people were in happy marriages. There is no evidence to support that -- in fact, there is plenty of historical evidence that women were quite miserable but had no other option. And there are plenty of victorian novels that support this view.

Actually, divorce rates are quite low in societies were arranged marriages are the norm. Is that because people are happily in love? Not necessarily -- it if often because women have no other choice, and even if they could obtain a divorce, they would be ostracized by both the husband's family and their own. Both men and women often go into these marriages with low expectations, and with the expectation that the man will take mistress to satisfy himself better. So to merely use divorce rates as an indication of the health of marriage is misplaced.

Third, this discussion was prompted by a statement that if something has worked for so long, why should we change it unless there is compelling evidence?
Again, where is the evidence that it worked for so long? Is the measure producing children, divorce rates, marriage rates? These have all gone up an down over the past 2000 years. The divorce rate in Shakespeare's England was about 80%, yet they society not only functioned well but flourished.
And if that is the ONLY reason for keeping the status quo, then surely we should not allow interracial marriage, since that prohibition worked so well for us all these years, right?
10.18.2005 5:02pm
Randy R. (mail):
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Okay, fine. Then at least us just ONE example of how gay marriage will affect anyone else's hetero marriage! Just use your imagintion and give us something. And why do you assume that any affect will be negative. Could there not be positive affects? So let me venture this: If my getting married to a man (and I'm a man) will help stop a married man from beating his wife, then it's worth it. discuss....
10.18.2005 5:08pm
On Lawn (mail) (www):
If my getting married to a man (and I'm a man) will help stop a married man from beating his wife, then it's worth it.

Interestingly enough, incidents of violence among lesbian couples is greater than gay couples, which is greater than married couples.

Jane Gault (who's been referenced numerous times in this discussion as a whole) explains how any particular marriage is not the issue here. It is the margional cases of marriage that we worry about.
10.18.2005 5:32pm
Randy R. (mail):
On Lawn: Hmm, The studies I've seen state that the incidence of violence among gay men is lower than straight couples.
Okay -- whatever.

Regarding Jane Gault, I agree with her statements: ." It is better for the kids; it is better for the adults raising those kids; and it is better for the childless people in the communities where those kids and adults live. Marriage reduces poverty, improves kids outcomes in all measurable ways, makes men live longer and both spouses happier. Marriage, it turns out, is an incredibly important institution"

That's exactly why I'm all in favor of it! Wouldn't it be better for the kids of a gay couple to have their dads married than not? According to this argument, Jane would of course agree. So why can't I have the chance to live longer, and my male spouse live happier? what's so wrong with that?

Regarding the argument of marginal marriages: Jane has a point. There might be people who won't get married simply because gay people are getting married. Might these be exactly the type of people who shoudn't get married in the first place? Some people are not the marrying type, and should remain single, and even perhaps childless. But Jane's assumption is that all these marginal marriages that we will fail to see would have been good stable ones. The odds are that they would not be. and perhaps that's GOOD thing!
10.18.2005 6:20pm
Randy R. (mail):
But my other point is still unchallenged. All opponents of gay marriage say that there are all these unintended consequences that we can't predict, but somehow they are able to predict that all the consequences will be bad for society. No one is willing to see the fallacy of this argument. If you can't predict the conseequnces, how can you be so sure that they will all be negative, and there can't be SOME positive?

I can think of one. Since I'm 44, most of my gay friends are around my age. That means when we were in our early 20s, it was the early 80s, when being gay was NOT cool, and completely unnacceptable in virtually every place in America. Some of my gay friends got married at that point, other were merely engaged, but broke it off. Most got divorced eventually (although I know of several gay men who are still living a lie). Almost always, the reason they got married is because that's what they felt was expected of them.

If gay men can get married, then there is far less pressure to get married in sham hetero marriages. I believe this is a great benefit to society, as what's the point in being in a loveless marriage? These people should not be married, and they should definatley not have children! Today, few gay men feel pressure to marry. Surely we can all agree on this one.
10.18.2005 6:31pm
Randy R. (mail):
I should have said, few gay men feel the pressure to marry a woman....And that's a good thing! (I do love to quote Martha....)
10.18.2005 6:34pm
On Lawn (mail) (www):
The studies I've seen state that the incidence of violence among gay men is lower than straight couples.

Which is also born out in the studies I pointed to. However I mentioned married couples as specifically being lower, and they in fact are.

Wouldn't it be better for the kids of a gay couple to have their dads married than not?

Studies don't bear this out, actually. For instance step-families statistically look identical to single-parent families. It seems once in-tact family structure breaks there really isn't really any government subsidy or recognition, that brings things back together fully.

In the article The Parent Trap we read:

Generally, adoptive parents experience obstacles in raising their child that the ideal situation does not. Step-parents married to divorces experience even more. A step parent who is simply co-habiting with a parent, or parents who were never married seem to have an even tougher row to hoe. Foster parents seem to have even more obstacles to rearing children than the rest. The more obstacles the more we see a greater risk failure.

So while it seems like a wacky plot line in a Joseph Heller book or Pogo cartoon, the answer we are told is the socially conservative option is to do away with the obstacles. If we simply call them all parents, and in so doing make them all marriageable. The obstacles, one would conclude, are created by the distinctions rather than the distinctions created to demarcate the obstacles.


In short I submit you are putting the cart before the horse...

But Jane's assumption is that all these marginal marriages that we will fail to see would have been good stable ones.

I do not believe she is saying "all" but enough that it makes a difference. But sufficient for the point at hand is that marriage would see a decline as a direct result. Stanley Kurtz observes such a decline happening already, but note that the decline is not with the advent of ss"m". You ask how we can extrapolate that the change will bring harm. It is because we see simular changes away from marriage's responsibility and selfless devotion to pampering adults in their selfishness. NoFault Divorce, etc... all bring a dent to marriage, and ss"m" looks like more of the same. Its not the slippery slope, its the edge of the cliff.
10.18.2005 7:00pm
Jesurgislac (mail) (www):
On Lawn: Interestingly enough, incidents of violence among lesbian couples is greater than gay couples, which is greater than married couples.

An article from the Family Research Council is hardly going to be considered an unbiased source, is it?


Although Frieze (1980) reported that sexual violence occurs in 31% of lesbian relationships and Waterman et al. (1989) concluded that sexual violence occurs in 12% of
gay relationships, several researchers suggest that violence in same-sex relationships occurs at approximately the same rate as abuse among heterosexual couples -- between 25-50% (Pitt, 2000, Alexander 2002, Gunther &Jennings 1999, Wallace 1996).
(emphasis mine) link
10.18.2005 7:46pm
On Lawn (mail) (www):
Family Research Council is hardly going to be considered an unbiased source, is it?

Quick lesson... the source is the people doing research, FRC in that instance is reporting it along with many other studies on the subject.
10.18.2005 8:04pm
Dr. T (mail):
The postulate is that governments &societies created the legal institution of marriage between one woman and one man to promote procreation and a better child rearing environment. In that purpose, the institution of marriage has often failed. There are many traditional families that produce mentally ill, criminal, or nonproductive children. There are many nontraditional families that produce mentally healthy, productive children.

If governments and societies really believe that they need special legal institutions to promote better child rearing, then they should develop a parent licensing program and ban child raising from adults without licenses.

Most people would be appalled by such a draconian and fascist solution. If that is the case, then the argument that one woman, one man marriage is mostly about protecting the children is seriously flawed. If we are not willing the regulate and restrict parenthood, then we should not restrict legal marriage to opposite sex couples.
10.18.2005 8:51pm
Perseus (mail):
Enough with the ignorant abuse of ancient Greek practice already! How many times must I repeat that the relationship between lover and beloved was intended to cement the political partnership, not the economic partnership of the family. I'd add that those who like to cite ancient Greek practice to support SSM omit the critical fact that ancient Greek practice was rooted in deeply "sexist" notions of beauty and manliness (at least by today's tiresome abstract egalitarian standards). But hey, if you want to try to re-create ancient Greek practice, be my guest, but somehow I don't think that it would go down too well with liberals (of any sort) and feminists.

And speaking of "sexism," the idea of marriage as a means to tame or civilize men can be traced in the modern context to Rousseau (Emile). But I don't think that many of the lawyers who considered themselves eminently qualified to debunk the idea and to discuss moral issues generally have studied Rousseau or any other philosopher in a serious way.
10.19.2005 12:22am
roy solomon (mail):
As a life long bachelor, I find this statement,
"
...overall impact in terms of the damage that can be done to a society by a posse of unmarried men, and the oppressive and unproductive social investments that have to be made to control them..."


deeply offensive and unsupported by any factual data.
10.19.2005 11:40am
Fred (mail):
The notion of taming men in marriage and that fact that a large body of bachelors is not good for society is pretty widely understood and if you are unfamiliar with the concept a little research can be done to examine the issue. Basically unmarried men are unattached and unhindered. Sounds romantic and free I know but taken to extremes you get wilding parties, gang warfare and predatory situations galore. The most extreme example is the inner city were the idea of marriage is pretty much dead and there are hordes of unmarried males everywhere you look.
Having a family that your responsible for leads to a willingness to submit to society's strictures, to buckle down and work steadily, to work to enforce the laws rather than to break them. It might lead to some stultifying situations but order is inherently superior to disorder.

All this talk brings something else to mind. China is currently suffering a bachelor glut that will only get worse due to the selective abortions that have been going on there for some 20-30 years now. There is a lot of concern over what this large collection of unmarried males will do to Chinese society in the years to come. But I wonder if we here in the US/the West are facing a similar issue, not because of selectively aborting female babies but because of our rather draconian divorce laws.

Men here are starting to shy away from marriage because they know that with the odds of divorce being pretty high the costs of the marriage and the subsequent divorce is more than they are willing to shoulder, especially since the stigma of unmarried sex is pretty much gone from society. "What's in it for me" is the attitude.

So as a consequence we too could be facing a situation similar to the inner city of unmarried males disrupting rather than supporting society.
10.19.2005 1:54pm
Fred (mail):
The first sentence above sounds rather snarky especially coming as it does right after Roy's email. I wrote this out well before reading your comment Roy and was not speaking directly to you about the need to research. Sorry if it sounds that way...
10.19.2005 1:58pm
dweeb (mail):
Jesurgislac - No, I don't believe marriage exists to regulate only unplanned pregnancies. The unplanned pregnancy aspect is mentioned merely to highlight that mixed sex relationships are INHERENTLY procreative, regardless of, and often in spite of, the intentions of the participants. This differentiates erotic interaction between people of opposite gender from all other interactions/relationships - all the other forms of relationships do not produce offspring without a decision to do so. The "adultery" against a same sex relationship exception put forth actually involves a second, separate, mixed sex relationship, which is the inherently procreative one in that scenario.

Society has an interest in promoting monogamy in inherently procreative relationships.

I'd like to add that it's interesting that this debate centers on marriage as a set of benefits. Anyone who's been through divorce court realizes it's far more of a set of intrusions and impositions. Where does the government get off telling someone they have to give another person half their hard earned wealth, regardless of the second person's contribution to it? The most significant aspect of civil marriage is the liability - that in order to walk away from it, you must essentially submit to being a chattel of the court system, stripped of most of the normal freedoms of being an adult citizen, handing over most of your property and self-determination rights to a judge. The benefits cited don't begin to compensate anyone who truly cares about liberty. As such, this is really a limited government issue - the government needs a good reason to impose that on a relationship, and when the relationship isn't inherently procreative, that reason doesn't exist.

I think it will be interesting to see what happens when same sex couples start divorcing in Massachussetts. It's only matter of time before some gay divorce litigant argues that the state's marital property laws aren't applicable to same sex couples because they are based on the need to provide for children, or archaic concepts of the role of a gender that isn't even involved. It will happen, because far too many people's views on this are based completely on whose ox is being gored.

To those who ask about sterile or post-menopausal couples, women have been known to conceive and bear children naturally into their sixties, if I recall the Guiness book correctly. Advances in health care and life expectancy will only raise that age. A mixed sex relationship can't be shown to be non-inherently-procreative without violating the privacy of one of the parties. The birth gender of every person is a matter of public record - it forms the only information legitimately available to society for determining if a relationship is inherently procreative.
10.19.2005 2:08pm