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[Maggie Gallagher (guest-blogging), October 19, 2005 at 2:41pm] Trackbacks
Marriage Debate DataDump:

I decided some people needed to see this, before I could go on:

1. Does society need babies?

The U.S. is the only Western democracy anywhere near fertility replacement levels. (We're just under 2.1, after dipping as low as 1.7 babies per woman in the late 70s)

The norm for the developed world is becoming a serious depopulation crisis:

The European Union's total fertility rate from 1995 to 2000, for example, was only 1.42 children per woman, sufficiently below the 2.1 replacement level that demographers label this "very low fertility." In 2002, 28 nations experienced very low fertility including Switzerland (1.4), Germany (1.3); Austria (1.3); Italy (1.3); Spain (1.2); Greece (1.3); Japan (1.3), Russia (1.3); the Czech Republic (1.1) and most other Eastern European nations. John C. Caldwell and Thomas Schindlmayr, 2003. "Explanation of the Fertility Crisis in Modern Societies: A Search for Commonalities," Population Studies, 57(3):241-263)

In 2004, a U.N. demographer warned:

"A growing number of countries view their low birth rates with the resulting population decline and ageing to be a serious crisis, jeopardizing the basic foundations of the nation and threatening its survival. Economic growth and vitality, defense, and pensions and health care for the elderly, for example, are all areas of major concern." Joseph Chamie, "Low Fertility: Can Governments Make a Difference?", paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Population Association of America, Boston Massachusetts, April 2, 2004.

There is no agreement on the causes of low fertility, which are likely to be complex. But many experts argue the move away from marriage, as well as a decline in the extent to which marriage is seen as a childbearing institution, play a clear role: Low fertility can also be linked to the movement away from marriage, which many western European countries have experienced for the recent decades. Of course, marriage is no longer a pre-condition for childbearing in most of these populations, but it remains true that married couples have a higher fertility than non-married people, even those who live in a "marriage-like" cohabitation. Patrick Festy, "Looking for European Demography, Desperately?" Paper presented at the Expert Group Meeting on Policy Responses to Population Ageing and Population Decline in New York October 16-18, 2000, Population Division, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, United Nations (2000).

2. Does sex makes babies?

An analysis of contraceptive failure rates in actual use concluded, "About three million pregnancies in the United States (48%) were unintended in 1994. Some 53 percent of these occurred among women who were using contraceptives."

Contraceptive failure rates in the first year of use varied considerably among different demographic groups but were never trivial: About 47 percent of cohabiting adolescent women experience a contraceptive failure (aka unintdended pregnancy) in the first year of contraceptive use, compared to 8 percent of married women age 30 and older. Haishan Fu, et al, 1999. "Contraceptive Failure Rates: New Estimates from the 1995 National Survey of Family Growth," Family Planning Perspectives 31(2): 56-63,

Another analysis of the 1995 National Survey of Family Growth concluded: "The risk of failure during typical use of reversible contraceptives in the United States is not low—overall, 9 percent of women become pregnant within one year of starting use. The typical woman who uses reversible methods of contraception continuously from her 15th to her 45th birthday will experience 1.8 contraceptive failures." James Trussell and Barbara Vaughan, 1999. "Contraceptive Failure, Method-Related Discontinuation and Resumption of Use: Results from the 1995 National Survey of Family Growth," Family Planning Perspectives 31(2): 64ff, 71

Nationally, three-fourths of births to unmarried couples were unintended by at least one of the parents. By their late thirties, 60 percent of American women have had at least one unintended pregnancy. Almost 4 in 10 women aged 40-44 have had at least one unplanned birth. J. Abma, et al., Fertility, Family Planning, and Women's Health: New Data from the 1995 National Survey of Family Growth, 23(19) Vital Health Stat. 28 (Table 17) (National Center for Health Statistics) (1997) (70.4 percent of births to married women were intended by both parents, compared to just 28 percent of births to unmarried mothers.)

Almost all children born to sexual unions of husband and wife begin life with both mother and father committed to raising their children together. Only a minority of children in other sexual unions do.

"National survey data show that children born outside of marriage have relatively little contact with their fathers and that, moreover, greater contact with nonresidential fathers does not signficantly improve child well-being outcomes." Cynthia C. Harper and Sara S McLanahan, Father Absence and Youth Incarceration, 14(3) J. Res. On Adolescence 369, 390 (2004).

3. Do children need mothers and fathers?

Child Trends sums up research family structures that have been well studied (not including children raised by same-sex couples):

"Research clearly demonstrates that family structure matters for children, and the family structure that helps the most is a family headed by two biological parents in a low-conflict marriage. Children in single-parent families, children born to unmarried mothers, and children in stepfamilies or cohabiting relationships face higher risks of poor outcomes. . . . There is thus value for children in promoting strong, stable marriages between biological parents." Kristin Anderson Moore, et al., "Marriage from a Child's Perspective: How Does Family Structure Affect Children and What Can We Do About It?" Child Trends Research Brief, June 2002.

The risks to children when mothers and fathers do not get and stay married include: poverty, suicide, mental illness, physical illness, infant mortality, lower educational attainment, juvenile delinquency and conduct disorder, adult criminality, early unwed parenthood, lower life expectancy and less warm and close relations with both mothers and fathers. (William Doherty, et al, 2002. Why Marriage Matters: 21 Conclusions from the Social Sciences (NY: Institute for American Values)

A few random samplings from a fairly large literature on family structure an crime: : a 2000 study that looked at crime in rural counties in four states concluded, "[A]n increase of 13% in female-headed households would produce a doubling of the offense rate. . . ." D. Wayne Osgood and Jeff M. Chambers, Social disorganization outside the metropolis: an analysis of rural youth violence, 38 Criminology 81, 103 (2000).

A study that analyzed a database following 6403 males from their teens to their early thirties concluded that after controlling for race, income and family background, boys who were raised outside of intact marriages were 2 to 3 times more likely to commit a crime that leads to incarceration. The authors conclude: "The results . . . show that, controlling for income and all other factors, youths in father-absent families (mother only, mother-stepfather, and relatives/other) still had significantly higher odds of incarceration than those from other-father families. . . . Youth who never had a father in the household had the highest incarceration odds." Cynthia C. Harper and Sara S McLanahan, Father Absence and Youth Incarceration, 14(3) J. Res. On Adolescence 369, 385-86 (2004). . The benefits of marriage for children described by this social science literature aren't legal incidents of marriage, of the kind that the state can therefore transfer at will to other family forms. Children living with remarried parents for example, do no better than children with single mothers, on average, e.g.: "[M]ost researchers reported that stepchildren were similar to children living with single mothers on the preponderance of outcome measures and that stepchildren generally were at greater risk for problems than were children living with both of their parents." Marilyn Coleman, et al., Reinvestigating Remarriage: Another Decade of Progress, 62 J. Marriage & Fam. 1288, 1292 (2000).

Existing scientific data thus suggests that the law of marriage protects children to the extent it increases the likelihood that children will be born to and raised by their own mother and father in a reasonably harmonious union.

Gabriel Malor:
This seems like a decent collection of reasons why marriage is a good thing. Aside from some libertarians who happen to hang out around here, it hardly seems likely that the folks in the gay marriage debate are arguing that marriage is a bad thing. In fact, many gay marriage advocates are saying: "You're right! We want to sign up."
10.19.2005 3:51pm
Humble Law Student:
Okay Maggie,

I'm right here with you on many of the things you argue. However, this line of yours shows how you are skirting the issue.

"Child Trends sums up research family structures that have been well studied (not including children raised by same-sex couples):"


Wouldn't the point be to look at studies that compare same sex and traditional families? I am aware that there have been several studies showing that children that grow up in same sex households tend to show similar traits and characteristics as those in traditional families. However, from what I understand the samples have been rather small, so the studies aren't conclusive as of yet.

I doubt many here would argue that American doesn't need babies. They would posit that children are just as likely (or almost so) to come from same sex marraiges if they are allowed as they are from traditional marriages. You need to explore that contention in more depth.
10.19.2005 3:53pm
Kendall:
Maggie, Why don't you address same sex couples raising children? Its not exactly an unheard of phenomenon, 1 in 3 lesbian couples are raising kids and a similar though smaller number of gay male couples are raising kids. Surely that relationship has some value for children. Now, of course you might argue that those children (who may be orphaned, may have one of them being a biological parent, etc) "Deserve a mother and a father" but at all costs? what if the father has zero interests in the kid? what if the mother is disinterested? I think all kids deserve loving parents.
10.19.2005 3:55pm
rico:
To change the legal definition of marriage to include gays, proof is required that children of gay marriages receive these same benefits. Otherwise there is no practical reason for society to extend the benefits of legal marriage to gays.
10.19.2005 3:56pm
Gabriel Malor:
I guess a more substantial response to your post would be:

1. Does society need babies? Assuming the answer is yes, does gay marriage lower rates of reproduction? Answer: Doubt it.

2. Does sex make babies? As your post indicates, not all sex does result in babies. A more important question: does gay sex result in fewer babies born? Answer: Again, doubt it.

3. Do children need mothers and fathers? Also, as your post indicates, it has not been government policy to force all parents to raise their biological children. If the state's interest in keeping mothers and fathers with their children were really as strong as you insist, then the state wouldn't allow divorce, single-parent welfare, or adoption!!!
10.19.2005 3:58pm
duh! (mail):
Maggie If I had one wish, it would be for you to answer one question:

1) In your opinion, the age of the earth is:

A) Closer to billions of years
B) Closer to Thousands of years
10.19.2005 3:58pm
DM Andy (mail):
um, isn't this meant to be a marriage debate? Maggie, how about addressing some of the points raised in the comments of your previous posts.
10.19.2005 3:58pm
Thales (mail) (www):
Rico:

Since no proof "that children of gay marriages receive these same benefits" would be possible without first legalizing gay marriage and then collecting data to see if said children in fact receive these same benefits, your suggestion makes little sense. I suppose you could mean that we need to wait and see what happens in Massachusetts, Spain, and Canada before trying this elsewhere. But I think it likely that you didn't mean that.
10.19.2005 4:01pm
Dave Ruddell (mail):
Didn't Maggie promise us some rationale for why gay marriage would damage straight marriage? I don't believe we've seen that yet.
10.19.2005 4:03pm
rico:
Thales - true, I mis-spoke. I meant committed gay relationships, where children have been raised from birth or near-birth.

Duh! - nice attack. The vast majority of conservative Christians dropped the 6,000-year-old earth theory long ago. Way to paint all Christian positions with the same tar of ignorance. You're halfway to convincing me already.
10.19.2005 4:06pm
adam (mail):
These are lovely reasons why straight people should marry; I don't see what impact they have on gays who want to as well.
10.19.2005 4:06pm
Goober (mail):
Gabriel gets it right.

1) and 2) are trivial points. As for 3), where is any evidence that children raised in two-parent households, where the parents are of the same gender, suffer the same disadvantages? Or alternatively, where is the argument that allowing gay marriages will cause other parents to raise their children outside of two-parent households? Because without some evidence on either prong, I can't see that 3) is a compelling reason even to disfavor gay marriage (let alone disfavor it so much that you think it's a good idea to disallow it).

We don't (and surely wouldn't) think it's a good idea or even tolerable to disallow single-parentdom. Yet every reason that Ms. Gallagher has put forward would counsel just as strongly in favor of that legislative distinction, as they counsel in favor of defining marriage as a straight institution. (And if Ms. Gallagher is resting her argument upon the benefits of being raised by biological parents, it would cut equally towards banning adoption. Yet we would surely find that absurd, as well.) In every context other than the gay-marriage debate, we would conclude that the denial of marriage rights based on the marriage-is-about-raising-kids would be capricious, needlessly cruel, and utterly illogical. So what changes when we add homosexuality to the mix? I came to this debate with the sneaking suspicion that it was mere homophobia and nothing more dignified. So far, I've seen nothing to change my mind.
10.19.2005 4:11pm
Goober (mail):
DM Andy---

I think that's a lovely idea, and I'm supremely confident Ms. Gallagher will decline to take you up on it.

Dave Ruddell---

Ditto.
10.19.2005 4:14pm
Marcus1:
I see a rational purpose for marriage, but not a rational purpose for denying the right to marry to homosexual couples.

Whether or not we want more people in America, preventing gays from marrying hardly leads to more children. If anything, married gays will be more likely to pursue artificial insemination. Nor are heterosexuals less likely to have children because gays can marry. And even if they were, the answer can't be to simply discriminate against gays.

As far as the evidence that broken homes produce unstable children, that's no evidence regarding gay couples.

Please give us some conclusions, though, so there's something real to argue against!
10.19.2005 4:16pm
rico:
In response, Goober, I don't think the state should disallow these parenting options. But do you think that the state should provide the same incentives in favor of single-motherhood as it does in favor of marriage?

In argument #3, the burden of proof should be placed on those who would change the social policy, not those who seek to keep it the same. That is, if the argument is really based on policy benefits, not on advancing a particular cause.
10.19.2005 4:17pm
Goober (mail):
Well put, Marcus1, but I believe that objection has already been asked-and-answered. If I recall, the answer was, "Well, a lot of people don't think gays should be allowed to marry, so there's obviously a rational purpose to the denial."
10.19.2005 4:18pm
Goober (mail):
Rico---

I don't see the distinction between policy and a "particular cause." So I'll refrain from responding, because I don't think my answer would be very responsive to what you have in mind. But if you'd like to clarify, I'd be happy to answer you.

With respect to incentives: I'm of the opinion that the state shouldn't provide any incentives to marriage whatsoever, so... yes. I think. I don't know where you're going with this.
10.19.2005 4:21pm
Steve:
Since the focus is on raising children, maybe we should be talking about gay adoption, rather than gay marriage.

Is a child adopted by a gay couple, or artificially conceived by them, better off than a child in a single-parent household? Some would say no, but I suspect the evidence points in the other direction.

And with a definite shortage of stable two-parent households in this country, should we let the perfect become the enemy of the good?
10.19.2005 4:24pm
rico:
Goober - policy benefits being an increase in birthrate, for example. As opposed to the desire to advance the rights of people with a particular sexual orientation. Effects that can be empirically shown to be of benefit to society. "Policy benefits" is probably not the best way to put that . . .

I can respect the position that society should not provide any incentives to marriage. If that is your view, why increase the number of people who can take advantage of those benefits? I do think far too many people get "married" as it is.
10.19.2005 4:29pm
Angus (mail) (www):
Piggybacking on what Steve just said, I'm struck by the complete absence of adoptive families from Gallagher's roundup --- by her failure to engage the crucial question of whether a child raised by his or her biological parents is any better off than a child adopted at birth by a married couple.

If the relevant variable for a child is not based in biological relationships, but rather in whether he or she is raised from birth by a committed partnership of two loving adults, then it seems obvious to me that it would be better for a child to be raised by a committed same-sex couple than in any of the other family arrangements that Gallagher discusses here.

And since Gallagher contends so strongly that marriage strengthens families, she would presumably have to agree that the children of same-sex couples would be well served by policies that did not merely allow, but encouraged, their parents to marry.

The only obvious rebuttal I can see to these conclusions is an argument that Gallagher has conspicuously declined to make in this forum --- the argument that same-sex couples are inherently less fit to raise children than opposite-sex couples. And if that is her position, then much of what we've heard in the last few days has been mere prevarication.
10.19.2005 4:31pm
rico:
Steve, your comparison is false. The true comparison would be whether being raised in a two-parent same sex home is as beneficial, or close to as beneficial, as being raised in a two-parent, opposite sex home. Assuming both sets of parents are in a committed relationship. I suspect that substantial benefits accrue to a child that is raised by a mother and a father, not two of one or the other.
10.19.2005 4:33pm
Jesurgislac (mail) (www):
Rico: But do you think that the state should provide the same incentives in favor of single-motherhood as it does in favor of marriage?

Isn't this meant to be a gay marriage debate? That is, if Maggie will ever get around to responding to any of the points being made in the threads? Therefore, the issue is not whether or not the state should provide "incentives" to single parents, but whether the state should provide the same "incentives" to all couples rearing children, or only (as Maggie appears to be advocating) to mixed-sex couples where the man got the woman pregnant.

As several other people have already noted, Maggie's concern that the state should support families with children appears to focus exclusively on a particular kind of family: the state should apparently not support any family with children if the parents are not interfertile.

Which is odd, given Maggie also appears concerned with the population crisis: it would be logical for Maggie to want the state to support all families, not just the ones Maggie thinks are the best.
10.19.2005 4:36pm
Gabriel Malor:
rico says: In argument #3, the burden of proof should be placed on those who would change the social policy, not those who seek to keep it the same. That is, if the argument is really based on policy benefits, not on advancing a particular cause.

The idea that people who desire social change should provide some proof is a difficult one to swallow. After all, by demanding proof before making a switch you are preventing advocates from gathering proof. How are advocates supposed to gather proof without the social change being effected? Here in the US, the only place such "proof" can be gathered is Massachusetts -- and that starting only recently.

Would you also make the argument that anti-slavery advocates were required to show proof that the VAST social change that the South would bear would not be threatening? There too, a social change was being argued for. Is it true that the burden is on abolitionists? I doubt it. Please, note, I am not analogizing slavery and traditional marriage. I am using slavery as an example of the absurdity of the claim that "the burden of proof should be on those who want social change."
10.19.2005 4:48pm
DC Lawyer (mail):
How is depopulation a crisis? For years scientists have warned about overpopulation. Wouldn't modest depopulation help a great deal with respect to resource use and other issues? Or are we just concerned about Western (read white) populations depopulating, while other populations reproduce at higher rates?
10.19.2005 4:49pm
rico:
This aspect of the debate is important because it addresses why society should provide incentives for marriage. One benefit to the state from childless marriages is that they provide a mechanism for the care of the infirm - this applies equally to gay and straight marriages, and has been mentioned before. Another is that marriages, whether reproductive or not, are a useful "norm" to have in a society. Tames the males, encourages other children to desire marriage (which leads to higher birthrates), etc. This benefit does not accrue from gay marriages.

Leaving all moral judgments (both pro and con) aside, does society gain more benefit by expanding the definition of marriage, contracting it, or keeping it the same?
10.19.2005 4:49pm
Steve:
Steve, your comparison is false. The true comparison would be whether being raised in a two-parent same sex home is as beneficial, or close to as beneficial, as being raised in a two-parent, opposite sex home. Assuming both sets of parents are in a committed relationship. I suspect that substantial benefits accrue to a child that is raised by a mother and a father, not two of one or the other.

My comparison is not false, you just didn't read what I said. My point was that if gay couples can provide happy homes for children, homes that are better than single-parent or broken homes, we should be in favor of gay adoption, because there are simply way more kids than there are stable, two-parent environments to raise them in.

No one is advocating taking kids away from a stable heterosexual couple to be raised by a gay couple, so whether the latter would only be 90% as good at raising a kid than the former is irrelevant. If a gay couple can provide a good environment for raising a child, they should be able to, period. We don't judge, for example, whether a working-class family can provide as good a child-rearing environment as an upper-class family, or whether a family in Mississippi can provide as good a child-rearing environment as a family in New York, so why should we suddenly start evaluating gay couples relative to straight couples? Either they provide a good environment or they don't.
10.19.2005 4:51pm
TRL:
How is this a "debate" if Ms. Gallagher never actually responds to any of these comments/criticisms?

Until she does, I think we can fairly assume that she has no response, other than to keep changing the subject.
10.19.2005 4:55pm
Gabriel Malor:
DC Lawyer,

It is general knowledge that a country faces declining wealth and standards of living if its labor replacement rate drops below 2. That is, each person must replace themselves in the workforce AND provide an additional worker for growth. Low labor replacement rates are part of the problem with Western Europe's declining birth rates and very slow-growth economies.

All that '70's-era excitement about overpopulation is just BS.
10.19.2005 5:02pm
Laughing Bear (mail):

GLOBAL WARMING clearly decrease fertility!

(hey if she can make up statistic without pointing out raw data, I can make up stuff to)
10.19.2005 5:07pm
Marcus1:
Humble Law Student,

>I doubt many here would argue that American doesn't need babies. They would posit that children are just as likely (or almost so) to come from same sex marraiges if they are allowed as they are from traditional marriages.<

Actually, the point doesn't need to be that gay couples are as likely to produce babies as straight couples, which I think is dubious. The real question is whether denying marriage to gays is going to cause them to enter straight marriages instead and have babies that way.

Denying gay marriage can't possibly increase the number of babies unless it causes gay people to turn straight. Which, of course, is absurd.
10.19.2005 5:11pm
Crane (mail):
Four or five "marriage debate" posts ago, Ms. Gallagher ended by saying,

"Ok, next, onto the question: What am I worried about? What's the possible harm of SSM?"

So, when is this question going to be answered?
10.19.2005 5:12pm
Aultimer:
Gabriel Malor -

The statistics presented didn't account for immigration, did they? Economic growth is indifferent to the workers' nation of origin.
10.19.2005 5:14pm
Quarterican (mail):
I think worrying about the size of our population - in *either* direction - is foolishness. As Gabriel Malor says, all that '70s-era excitement about overpopulation is just BS. Scholars at the time hadn't registered - perhaps they didn't have enough perspective - what's now called the demographic transition, namely: the industrial revolution reduced the number of conceptions/births necessary for the sustenance of familial (and national) economy, because child mortality decreased so drastically (among other reasons). It took several decades for industrialized societies to stop having all these "extra" kids. As industrialized modernity spread around the world, we were able to observe the demographic transition happening on different timelines in different countries. The lesson? - well, to me, it's that we return to balance. Which is why it's just as silly to worry about underpopulating as well...I think it's hubristic to believe that from the vantage of the present we can speak intelligently about what is or isn't good as far as birth rates, and foolish to think that we can design policy that will effectively bring about results which (a) are what we think we want, and (b) are what we ought to want. I think Mr. Malor's math is off though, unless I misunderstood what he was saying. Replacement rate means each person replaces himself - in practice, each couple has two children. By his metric, that each person needs to provide an additional new worker on top of his replacement, we'd be recommending four-child households.
10.19.2005 5:15pm
Randy R. (mail):
Gabriel,
What you say is totally true. What it ignores is the COST of increasing population in terms of increased use of energy (principally oil and gas), overcrowding (especially in Asia), more susceptibility to disease and disaster from such overcrowding, and so on. I will ingore the food issue, since famines occur often from lack of proper distribution, but not always. Iceland has a fairly stable population with a very low growth rate, and they have increased their standard of living. In China, the cost of 1.3 billion people is too much for them to bear when two-thirds live below their own low poverty standards, and so by enforcing a one child rule, have slowed the increase. The US could increase it's population, but the strain of growth is already creating problems in large cities like Washington, SF and LA.

In short, there are benefits and costs of population changes -- but no one ever knows exactly which ones will outweight the other, and it certainly changes from situation to situation. Therefore, to make a blanket statement is not helpful.
10.19.2005 5:16pm
JB:
Maggie: 4 syllables for you, concerning population crises:

Im-mi-gra-tion.
10.19.2005 5:17pm
Gabriel Malor:
You are correct that the replacement rate does not always take into account immigration (e.g. the Economist's definition).

Sometimes, when people say "replacement rate" they include immigration and birth rate. I generally think that when people mean "birth rate but not immigration" they should just say "birth rate." Since, when we are discussing the replacement rate, we are interested in the labor force, I think we should include immigration -- but that's just me.
10.19.2005 5:19pm
Dave Justus (mail) (www):
"I decided some people needed to see this, before I could go on:"

It is pretty obvious that Ms. Gallagher is attempting to establish a baseline of premises before making further arguments. In this post their are a lot of facts (which could be debated but for the most part seem to have general agreement on) and one conclusion: "Existing scientific data thus suggests that the law of marriage protects children to the extent it increases the likelihood that children will be born to and raised by their own mother and father in a reasonably harmonious union."

This of course doesn't say anything about Gay Marriage per se but I suppose that that will be developed further in other posts. As such, most of the comments here so far seem to be somewhat off topic in that they are arguing that she hasn't proved things that she hasn't yet claimed to have proved.

I am not sure I agree with her conclusion here though. The data could be just as easily interpreted to be that people that are good parents also tend to marry and stay married opposed to her conclusion that marriage is an intrinsic benefit to children. Correlation does not equal causation.
10.19.2005 5:19pm
Goober (mail):
Rico---

I don't think I follow your point w.r.t. incentives. There's a critical difference between thinking the gov't ought to encourage certain behavior and thinking it ought to be allowed. I'm sure a lot of libertarians believe that citizens ought to be allowed to own guns, for instance, but don't think the government should subsidize gun purchases. (And the government's non-subsidy of gun ownership wouldn't at all entail that gays shouldn't be allowed to own guns.)

With respect to your point about policy benefits vs. political causes---in one sense, the distinction is illusory; in another, it's completely beside the point. Political scientists (if I'm recalling my schooling) have long ago abandoned the project of distinguishing public interests from private interests because there's really no principled line between them. The interstate highways were a public interest project that also yielded direct benefits to certain private interests, etc.; distinguishing the two is rather pointless, from science-y point of view. (And that science-y point of view is the one you need when you desire to quantify the policy benefits of changing the legal rules, if you're asking how much additional utility / GDP / etc., would be gained by legalizing gay marriage.)

But of course from an evaluative point of view we can still talk about the distinction, as we do when we say lobbyists have too much sway over Congress etc., so I can't just stop there. But once you adopt the evaluative perspective, it's hard to see to what purpose asking the policy benefits of legalizing gay marriage. Although it was possible to describe the purpose of the Civil Rights Act in a quantitative way (increasing the national income, e.g.), that's not the description offered by people who supported civil rights as a matter of principle. Those observers---the evaluative ones---were concerned with rightness and wrongness, not general public interest. Likewise, here, I cannot conclude that supporters of same-sex marriage have an obligation to show generalized social benefits of allowing such marriages; it seems that they've made their prima facie case if they argue that the distinction is wrong.

But I've mistaken you before and may be doing so again. I look forward to your response.
10.19.2005 5:22pm
Gabriel Malor:
Randy R.,

I agree with what you are saying, except that I do not believe the problems you cite are meaningful at the population levels we are talking about. While it is technically true that energy, space, and food are finite, it is untrue to say that we are anywhere near the limits for acquiring or creating energy, space, and food. The easiest example is that as more people are born it becomes possible to have more scientists, engineers, and farmers. It's not like we've actually come up against the limit of petroleum technology, usable land, and arable land.
10.19.2005 5:24pm
Randy R. (mail):

Some of Maggie's statements are a little bizarre.
1. So what if the western countries are being depopulated? (A little alarmist, by the way.) Eastern countries are overpopulated! So let's allow more immigration from China and India and Bangladesh into the US. Problem solved. Unless, of course, you have a problem with those races....

2. perhaps it's true that children born outside of marriage are less likely to have both parents stick around. All the more reason to allow gays to marry, so that when they DO have kids (and they have been for some time now), there is a greater chance both parents will be there for kids. Problem solved. Unless, of course, you have a problem with gay people having kids.....

3. I agree, kids need two parents! But not always. Sometimes the father is an alcoholic, or he beats his wife. Or he's a deadbeat. Or sometimes, there is simply no love between the parents, only distrust. Is this a good environment for raising kids? Nope. Sometimes divorce is BETTER for the kids, where the parents are not continually fighting. My own cousin (female) just married a guy with a 5 year old son. The husband was divorced. According to Maggie, the husband should have stayed with the wife who was cheating on him for the sake of the children. However, I think it better they divorced, and now he can grow up with a good dad and mother-in-law who actually love each other. Not all divorce is bad, and sometimes it leads to a much better situation.
10.19.2005 5:26pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
One thing that Ms. Gallagher's emperical statistics miss is that plenty of children grow up in situations that statistics might identify as "less than ideal". For instance, one could impose a minimum income level on marriage, on the ground that children raised in poor households are statistically far less likely to succeed in life, far more likely to have psychological issues, far more likely to commit crimes. Indeed, those statistics are quite a lot firmer than the statistics on children growing up without 2 opposite-sex parents. I am sure that children raised in some religions do worse than those raised in other religions. I am sure that children raised in some areas do much better than children raised in other areas. Again, with all these issues, the statistics are probably far firmer than the statistics regarding gays.

Yet Ms. Gallagher would never deny marriage to any of those people. Only gays. Again, it suggests the point that I have been hammering on-- Ms. Gallagher's arguments are make-weights. They have completely illogical implications. She's smart enough to know this, but she won't reconsider her arguments. Why? My guess is that her arguments arise from animosity against gays and lesbians that she desires the law to reflect.
10.19.2005 5:32pm
Randy R. (mail):
Gabriel <>

Hold on, pardner! Don't be so quick to make these assumptions. The NY Times Sunday Mag just had a big article from a respected conservative expert on oil production, who stated that we will probably run out of oil with a two or three decades (That's admittedly an oversimplification of what he said. Go read it for more info.) he also stated that never in the history of the world have we been able to switch from one primary fuel source to another on a dime. he predicts dire consequences if we continue to ignore this issue.
Global warming -- with temps going higher, there are predictions that weather patterns will be disrupted with more floods and droughts than previously. Land which could grow vegetables may only be able to grow dry-climate crops like cotton. At the least, it will disrupt the usual food supply (see my statement above that famines are often created by distribution problems).

In short, we simply don't know what the next few decades will be like. I HOPE you are correct, that the status quo will continue, but there is little evidence, from all sorts of sources, that this will continue. Few people are factoring in these factors when they make the assumption that the planet can hold a few more billion people. That's only IF we optimize what we have (which across the globe rarely happens) and IF all conditions remain the same.

And any geologist will tell you, the earth never sits still.
10.19.2005 5:35pm
Dave Ruddell (mail):
Crane-

I was saying the exact same thing; when is Maggie going to get around to telling us what the harm of SSM is? I get the feeling she's going to link declining birth rates to the decline in marriage in general, and argue that SSM will dilute the meaning of marriage, thereby accelerating the process. So, fewer babies (at least in Western countries). I believe this is essentially the same argument made by Stanley Kurtz in re Scandinavia.

Of course, for this to be true, you have to believe that a people are likely to think "Hmmm. Well, if they let gays marry, then I shouldn't bother, 'cause it's clear marriage doesn't mean anything anymore". Or something. Kurtz never demonstrated causation with his arguments, only correlation, and we all know the first rule of inferential statistics...
10.19.2005 5:39pm
tdsj:
To me, the idea that there is a "serious depopulation crisis" right now (or looming) is pretty silly. World population is still growing, isn't it? And the UN, even after taking into account declining birth rates, projects world population to rise to over 9 billion by 2050.

And after all, would it really matter if world population shrank to, say, 5 billion? Or held steady where it is?

I'd like to ask Maggie -- is it important that population keep growing forever? Is there some ideal population level you're after?

"jeopardizing the basic foundations of the nation and threatening its survival."

I mean honestly... isn't that just a touch melodramatic? Is Italy really about to disappear because of low birth rate?

Or is your real concern not overall human population, but U.S. population? So the idea is that we need to stop gay marriage to prevent the U.S. from shrinking in size (or relying too much on immigration)?

That sounds more like a reductio than a real argument.
10.19.2005 5:42pm
Aultimer:

law of marriage protects children to the extent it increases the likelihood that children will be born to and raised by their own mother and father in a reasonably harmonious union

Not true. Taken at face value, we can say that MARRIAGE increases that likelihood. Whether the LAW of marriage has any influence is untested.
10.19.2005 5:42pm
RTG:
Ms. Gallagher's conclusion:
"Existing scientific data thus suggests that the law of marriage protects children to the extent it increases the likelihood that children will be born to and raised by their own mother and father in a reasonably harmonious union."

Where was your evidence that by legalizing same sex marriage there will be a decrease in children "born to and raised by their own mother and father in a reasonably harmonious union"? How about we compare children raised by same sex couples to children raised in orphanages, because that's where the trade off is.
10.19.2005 5:46pm
Gabriel Malor:
Randy R.,

How'd you know I was from the South!

Seriously, without going too much further afield AND very succinctly, I don't believe (note that I am not a scientist) that we will come up against a limit on energy because technology development responds to economic incentives. As petroleum becomes more expensive, it is easier from an economics standpoint to spend money on alternative energy sources (like hybrid-tech, nuclear, solar, shale-oil, etc.). Since it is not likely that petroleum will run out "on a dime" but gradually, the price of petroleum will rise and therefore make alternate energy tech-development economically viable. Call me an optimist, but I just don't think the predicted energy crisis is going to materialize.

As for global warming (if there is such a thing), farmers would rejoice for a longer growing season and more rain. Heck, I would, too -- I hate cold weather. I will admit to not being an expert on climatology, however. If the experts are saying floods and droughts, then maybe we should see about drainage and irrigation.
10.19.2005 5:47pm
Randy R. (mail):
Yes, Maggie makes the common causal fallacy -- that children of married parents are better care takers than children of unmarried parents. She makes the leap to conclude that married parents are therefore better than unmarried parents.
Where is the evidence to support this conclusion? Perhaps intuitively it seems reasonable that most married parents are better than most unmarried, but can you say all are? If so, should you encourage gay parents to marry, then, to become this wonderful parents married people turn into?
I just don't get her point -- marriage is good for straight people, but not for gay people? But we want gay marriage! So how can she say she knows what's best for us than we do, and without any evidence to support it?
Of course, we know. She doesn't care at all what's best for us gay people, other than to really really try to become straight. And she doesn't care what happen to the children of gay people.
Basically, she wants to pull up the drawbridge and retreat behind the castle walls of "traditional marriage," and to hell with the rest of us.
10.19.2005 5:48pm
tdsj:
"Existing scientific data thus suggests that the law of marriage protects children to the extent it increases the likelihood that children will be born to and raised by their own mother and father in a reasonably harmonious union."

do you even try to take into account contrary data?

The American Psychological Association recently conducted an extensive review of existing literature and concluded:

"there is no evidence to suggest that lesbians and gay men are unfit to be parents or that psychosocial development among children of gay men or lesbians is compromised in any respect relative to that among offspring of heterosexual parents. Not a single study has found children of gay or lesbian parents to be disadvantaged in any significant respect relative to children of heterosexual parents."

http://www.apa.org/pi/parent.html

If empirical data really matter to you, then the APA study would have to, at the very least, weaken your argument just a little bit.

But let's be honest — does anyone really care about studies? If there were a million studies showing that gay parents did just as well at raising children, would Maggie change her mind? If there were a million studies showing the opposite, would the pro-SSM people change their minds?
10.19.2005 5:48pm
Angus (mail) (www):
For those who missed it, Gallagher linked in an earlier post to a law journal piece in which she laid out her arguments regarding the harms that she foresees from same-sex marriage.
10.19.2005 5:51pm
Nikos A. Leverenz (mail) (www):
Question 1 should have been "Does the State Need Babies?" The quote from the UN demographer, beyond the ham fisted invocation of lower birth rates "jeopardizing the basic foundations of the nation and threatening its survival," pointed to economic growth, defense, public pensions, and the provision of old age care.

It is not society that seeks to provide a steady flow of cannon fodder and income in to pursue the "public good," but rather a coercive political apparatus that imposes a regulatory climate that fuels warfare and the inter-generational transfer of wealth.

If low birthrates result in a political aversion to war and the amelioration of legalized graft, I am all for it.

What about "growth" in the abstract? Society sans state intervention provides a legion of opportunities for personal growth and interpersonal growth, including economic prosperity.

Ms. Gallagher should look to Franz Oppenheimer's distinction between "the political means" and "the economic means" in order to re-calibrate her base assumption.

Many gay persons have entered into domestic relations despite the lack formal legal recognition. Sexual minorities will continue to do so whatever the outcome of various ballot measures and bounty of political currency they carry (chiefly for those who seek to wield power over others). This represents the quiet triumph of "society" -- individuals pursuing their own tangible interests and metaphysical "happiness" absent harm to others -- over the dictates of the not-so-rational disposition of the "State."

Further, the rearing of a child is a biological, economic, social and psychological crapshoot. Any person who's lived in a family knows this. The percentages may swing one way or the other given a number of variables, but how can one prove that gays and lesbians -- as a class -- are not every bit as competent as their heterosexual counterparts?

Surely a couple's biological lack of procreative capability is not dispositive, unless one seeks to relegate sterile heterosexual couples to the same legal purgatory as gays. If that is the case, Chief Justice John Roberts and his wife should have their adopted children removed from their home (assuming that one of them maintains a "God-given biological deficiency").

America's body politic has a marriage problem. However that problem is ultimately resolved -- whether it be the inclusion of all persons, or an ad hoc exclusion of particular persons -- one thing is clear: American society will continue to have a commitment problem.

No one, it seems, wants to address that challenge. For many, it's much more beneficial to take sides, "lock and load," and tear one another to shreds under the auspices of "democracy" while Johnny and Jane raise themselves. There are too many headlines to be won and too many donations to be had.

At bottom, that's what any campaign rooted in the political means is about. And those who make an ostentatious display of their religious fortitude are perhaps the best players in such crass worldly games.

The death of society is the ultimate triumph of politics.
10.19.2005 5:56pm
tdsj:
The argument: we need to avoid depopulation, so we need to ban gay marriage.

Why not a more direct measure? Why not give a $10,000 tax credit for every kid born? Why not run television ads telling people it's their moral duty to have another baby? Why not outlaw contraception again?

Wouldn't those be much more effective at helping us avoid the ravages of declining birthrates?
10.19.2005 6:08pm
RTG:
This discussion has been quite disappointing. As someone who has never been able to get a solid grip on why people opposed same sex marriage, I was honestly looking forward to hearing an intelligent and articulate individual present the argument. I'd like to think I am the type of person who can change his views one major social issues like this; I used to be "very pro-choice," but after hearing out the arguments from the pro-life camp (admittedly over a number of years) I have become not only more sympathetic to the pro-life movement in general (I certainly oppose "abortion up to the day of delivery"), but I have also come to oppose the constitutionalization of abortion rights. In the environment I grew up in the pro-life position was never effectively articulated.

I was hoping this discussion might have a similar eye-opening effect on why so many people vehemently oppose gay marriage, but I have been deeply disappointed. There is simply no logical connection between the facts Ms. Gallagher is asserting, and the arguments that she is making, and the conclusion that allowing same sex marriage will be a bad thing. Surely there is someone who can argue more persuasively? There must be some compelling reason why so many people oppose gay marriage? I hate to be mean, but this seems like some sort of joke.
10.19.2005 6:09pm
MarkW (mail):
But let's be honest — does anyone really care about studies? If there were a million studies showing that gay parents did just as well at raising children, would Maggie change her mind? If there were a million studies showing the opposite, would the pro-SSM people change their minds?

If there were solid evidence that SSM was harmful to children, or created some other tangible, significant social harm, then there would be a basis for considering whether the prevention of the harm justified the denial of rights to gays and lesbians. Without such evidence, there is nothing to even debate, as there is no rational case against SSM
10.19.2005 6:12pm
Jesurgislac (mail) (www):
Thanks, Angus. However, I just get "an error has occurred" when I try to access the PDF file linked to.

So, Maggie, you don't actually intend to cover the damage you hypothesise might occur from same-sex marriage on this blog?
10.19.2005 6:12pm
Elliot123 (mail):
A decreasing population really has no undesirable effects by itself. However, it can contribute to two situations which may lead to problems.

First, in the early years of a decrease, the ratio of older to younger people will increase, and the subsequent distribution of goods could become skewed. (In either direction)

Second, decreasing or stagnant productivity could cause a decrease in the total output of the working population. This would also be a problem with an increasing or static population, but not to the same extent.

Problems with both distribution and productivity are managed by social policy, and there is no reason to think that increased production of children is best policy available.

(Note that increased longevity with a constant birth rate can also create an increase in the ratio of old to young.)
10.19.2005 6:23pm
TRL:
For those who missed it, Gallagher linked in an earlier post to a law journal piece in which she laid out her arguments regarding the harms that she foresees from same-sex marriage.
Interesting piece. Is St. Thomas even accredited?

Having just read that article, Gallagher's arguments for how SSM weakens marriage appear to boil down to the following:

(1) SSM "chang[es] the public meaning of 'marriage,'" namely, "since marriage is one of the institutions that support heterosexuality and heterosexual identies, heterosexuality and heterosexuals will change as well." In short, change is bad.

(2) Gay couples have different needs than straight couples do (including a predilection for promiscuity). Plus, marriage is weak already, and since there are so few homosexuals, why change? Again, change = bad.

(3) Something about the "sanctification narrative" of gay couples that frankly makes no sense. But there's definitely something in there about change.

(4) In conclusion, "[c]ourt-created same-sex marriage will ... disconnect marriage from any further relationship with its great historic task of making the next generation, and connecting those children to both their mothers and fathers." Huh?

Please, I beg of all of you, don't waste your time reading that. Or do, but only if you want to see how pitiful Gallagher's "arguments" about SSM harm truly are.
10.19.2005 6:28pm
Taimyoboi:
TDSJ -

"World population is still growing, isn't it?"

Yes world population is still growing, but you need to looks at decceleration of rates. Everywhere the world over, birth rates are declining, even if at the moment they are over replacement levels in developed countries.

Check out Phillip Longman's "The Empty Cradle"
10.19.2005 6:31pm
Taimyoboi:
That should read undeveloped countries.
10.19.2005 6:32pm
Taimyoboi:
MarkW -

"Without such evidence, there is nothing to even debate, as there is no rational case against SSM"

The argument could be flipped on its face. There is nothing to debate since it has yet to be proved that SSM will not harm the institution of marriage as it stands now.
10.19.2005 6:34pm
tdsj:
"Yes world population is still growing, but you need to looks at decceleration of rates. Everywhere the world over, birth rates are declining, even if at the moment they are over replacement levels in developed countries. "

yes, I understand that the rate of growth is slowing. But even with a slowing growth rate, population will continue to grow for the foreseeable future. Even the UN's lowest estimate has significant growth:

http://esa.un.org/unpp/

And again, so what if the rate of growth slows? So what if world population stabilizes or even falls somewhat?

Longman's hysterics strike me as no different than Ehrlich's overpopulation hysterics of the 70s.

And even if depopulation is really a looming problem, the idea that we should solve it by preventing gay people from marrying (as opposed to some direct measure) is just... bizarre.
10.19.2005 6:39pm
TRL:
The argument could be flipped on its face. There is nothing to debate since it has yet to be proved that SSM will not harm the institution of marriage as it stands now.
Not so. SSM proponents (and even Gallagher herself, in a backhanded way) have convincingly shown the broad array of benefits which will follow. Gallagher's attempted point is: "yes, but that is outweighed by the harm." Thus, the burden has shifted; for her argument to stand, she must show precisely what that harm is.
10.19.2005 6:44pm
rico:
Sorry, in a meeting . . .

Gabriel, I would say that to push for a social change, one needs to either prove its value or convince a majority that it is the right thing to do. Slavery fits in that statement, gay marriage does not (at least, not yet). What I find distasteful is convincing a handful of people who sit on a court, especially when the other two options have failed. This is why there have been a number of amendments which seek to overrule court decisions.

In reference to Slavery: Freedom is a right - marriage is a privilege.

---

Goober, thanks for the respecful discussion.

The legal and financial benefits that come with marriage amount to an incentive. I think that society receives significantly more benefit from "straight" marriages than gay ones, and that we should consider that benefit as we try to decide whether to expand the group of people eligible for those incentives. It's not simply a question of legality.

You are equating "political causes" with "private benefits", right? If so, I think I get you - it's impossible to determine how much "value" someone gets from advancing their cause, so you can't weigh that against the public benefits.

Why ask for proof? If it can be proved that society benefits from expanding the definition of marriage, then my objections based on morality and faith lose weight. I'm free to continue to believe that gay marriages are wrong, but I need to reconsider whether I should vote against them as a matter of government policy. In my case, the advocates of gay marriage may not win my heart, but they may win my vote.

It just seems like a lot of the arguments in favor of AND against gay marriage start with "it's the right thing to do".

I hope I understood your questions.
10.19.2005 6:47pm
Goober (mail):
Rico, I'm going to go on a limb and guess you're somewhere in law school right now?

The ability to focus on material / consequentialist benefits of some given policy is a talent too rarely seen, so I can appreciate your concern. However, I don't think someone's moral opposition to gay marriage would cease to be compelling if they were convinced gay marriage would benefit, say, the environment, or public health institutions, etc. That's the point of moral reasons: they don't stop being reasons merely because there's some sort of profit to be made. So while I think you're admirably viewing the policy considerations, you go too far if you think that policy considerations always trump moral decisions. It's not only possible to keep both considerations in mind, it's often necessary to fully explain a decision.

Anyway, thanks to you, too, for a nice convo.
10.19.2005 8:34pm
MarkW (mail):
The argument could be flipped on its face. There is nothing to debate since it has yet to be proved that SSM will not harm the institution of marriage as it stands now.

However, the burden of proof is unquestionably on Maggie's side of the argument, since she wants to deny rights to others.
10.20.2005 2:12pm
ron moline (mail):
One of the arguments often advanced (including by Maggie) for opposition to SSM is: if this, then what? If same-sex marriage, then why not polygamy? Or, for that matter, bestiality? It is seldom rebutted, possibly because it is a tricky issue. Indeed, why NOT polygamy? Where is the data to suggest that children raised in a polygamous environment (only Mormon, to my knowledge), are less advantaged, from a societal perspective, than in a monogamous invironment?

Let me give you a context in which to consider my comments.
I am a psychoanalyst, inclined to generalize about people from the perspective of someone who has spent years listening to troubled people, in depth, from a particular perspective. First: I believe human relationships are most satisfying, mutually-enhancing, and beneficial to society when they are based on love. Second, I believe love is not a simple, but a highly complicated, concept, which however has as its base - through whatever amalgamation of underlying motivations - caring for another person as much or more than one cares for oneself.

Are there people on this earth who feel that way toward their pets? I suspect so. Does that lead to "bestiality," i.e sexual intercourse with those pets? I think not. I believe there is a genetic morality which tells every individual of every species that it is "wrong" to have sexual relations with a member of another species.

Is there any reason, however, to prohibit polygamy, if one extends the boundaries of marriage to gay couples? A more difficult question. All I can say is that I believe - based on my in-depth experience of exploring the psyches of many different individuals - that, when one loves another, there is a profound hurt if that "other" becomes sexually intimate with a third party. I know there are Mormon wives who dispute that. I simply can't believe it, without having spent time, in depth, with those individuals. Possibly my pre-existing values and beliefs would preclude my accepting what they have to say. Who knows? All I can tell you is that I have yet to meet a person who, whether or not they consciously admit it, is not injured when the partner they love has sexual relations with a third party.

In short, I don't think there is a slippery slope here. Just as, with gun control, to allow personal possession of certain handguns and rifles does not preclude restrictions against automatic weapons, so also to allow gay marriage does not open the door to the sanctioning of any and all sexaul coupling
10.20.2005 7:37pm