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[Maggie Gallagher (guest-blogging), October 19, 2005 at 5:15pm] Trackbacks
The Marriage Debates: What's the Harm?

So what worries me about SSM?

The big picture: we are in the middle of a huge and only partly acknowledged crisis around marriage and family. Every single society that that we think of as, in other ways, the very best for human flourishing (stable, democratic, market economies with respect for political and creative freedom) is experiencing grave dysfunctions and disruption in the family--and precisely around this whole business of generativity.

That, is the family crisis we face is not a crisis of intimacy, or sexual satisfaction, or emotionally satisfying relations, which our family system. taken altogether, may be better at than any in human history (I'm not sure how one would measure): it is about whether under modern conditions in modern societies, the man and woman who make the baby are going to stick around, love each other, and the baby too.

The conditions that create the creative class, and the conditions that create people, may be diverging.

This crisis is playing out in somewhat different ways in different regions (Italy has extremely low birth rates and much family cohesion, while Sweden has moderately low fertility and high rates of illegitimacy, for example. U.S. has relatively high birth rates, but extremely high rates of solo mothering and divorce).

But in every case technologically innovative, wealthy, western, democratic, market societies are no longer routinely doing what the family did really quite well for most of human history: reliably producing the next generation and reliably connecting most of those children to their father.

Conservatives like to blame welfare alone, or the Sixties and bad moral values. I think this seriously misunderestimates the nature and depth of our marriage and family crisis, which is institutional and structural in nature.

For most of human history children were assets. We depended on family members to produce most of the goods we consumed, and to provide most social insurance: someone to nurse us when we are sick, feed us when we cannot work, shelter and care for us in old age. Under these condition the necessity of procreation and family loyalty were obvious, urgent personal moral and social imperatives. People are always better at duties when it is apparent that you do well, by doing good.

Nowadays, government and the market have taken over large parts of these social functions. The main reason for this is: government and the market do them much, much better. (If you doubt this, imagine have to perform your current job functions while depending only on close kin for colleagues, bosses and employees.). The genius of the market is the way that it allows biological strangers to combine their productive energies.

We can quibble about specific government programs, but basically welfare, unemployment insurance and social security, Medicare and Medicaid aren't going away in a democracy because people like them. People prefer to depend on either the government, or a pension fund, to becoming dependents on their children in old age. (BTW, I'm cribbing this from a forthcoming essay of mine directed primarily at my fellow Catholics in Ave Maria Law J. called "If Marriage is Natural, Why is Defending it So Hard?").

So why don't we just let marriage go, stop worrying about what people do or don't do in the bedroom? Because there is this one critical, literally irreplaceable social function that marriage does, and only marriage does: making babies and connecting fathers to the babies they make.

Now in the middle of this broad, deep crisis, which I truly think does threaten American civilization in the medium term, if its not confronted, what's the one legal change powerful social, legal and cognitive elites support?

Why, making marriage a union of any two persons, clearly unrelated to procreation and paternity!

If SSM was really about the benefits, then I think in a democratic society, we could easily handle this and all go home. But the truth is that SSM advocates seek in the end the status of marriage (that is its social meanings), not primarily its "legal benefits".

Gay marriage advocates want to use the law enforce a new social narrative about gay people, whose main thread is: there is no difference between gay relationships and other people's, and anyone who says otherwise is a bigot.

The principal desire, then, is a deeply-felt and passionately moral one: To use the power of law to establish the principle of social equality for their sexually intimate relationships.

This is why the Goodridge majority, for example, knocked down the idea of creating civil unions so vigorously, telling the legislature very clearly:

"The dissimilitude between the terms "civil marriage" and "civil union" is not innocuous: it is a considered choice of language that reflects a demonstrable assigning of same-sex, largely homosexual couples to second-class status. The denomination of this difference by the separate opinion of Justice Sosman as merely a "squabble over the name to be used" so clearly misses the point that further discussion appears to be useless. . .the bill would have the effect of maintaining and fostering a stigma of exclusion that the Constitution prohibits. It would deny to same-sex "spouses" on a status that is specially recognized in society and has significant social and other advantages."

In other words, it's not the benefits, stupid.

Advocates of gay marriage want to use law to create a new sanctification about gay relations. Unfortunately, in the process, the court must simultaneously change the social understanding of marriage.

That is not an unfortunate side effect, it is the logic of gay marriage, because paying attention to generativity or family structure means same-sex couples and opposite-sex couples really are different in some way that makes a difference in law and society.

(I hope I need not say that special respect for generativity does not require stigmatizing the non-generative. There are many sources for social respect. Nobody does all of them.)

This is a long post, and I have to break now to get my boy at school. But at last I'm launched on the thing so many of you have been asking for: How do I think SSM will hurt marriage. Next post later tonight.

Jesurgislac (mail) (www):
Because there is this one critical, literally irreplaceable social function that marriage does, and only marriage does: making babies and connecting fathers to the babies they make.

So, again: to you, the useful function of marriage is not providing a stable, nurturing environment for children?

To you, the "critical and irreplaceable" function of marriage is to ensure that when a man has sex, he engenders children, and he knows that the children he engenders are his?
10.19.2005 6:25pm
paa:
Accepting your premise that society needs babies from homes with fathers, you still haven't shown why keeping gays from marriage will increase the number of babies from two-parent man-woman homes.

I see no causal link between my gay brother's ability to get married and whether or not I will get married, have kids, and not get divorced afterwards.

You need to make this link clear and explicit.

And I also don't accept the premise -- that there will be catastrophic consequences if large numbers of people are raised in single-parent or same-sex households. Some data on that would be nice, too.

Facts and logic please. You need to stop assuming your conclusion.
10.19.2005 6:29pm
Kendall:
So why don't we just let marriage go, stop worrying about what people do or don't do in the bedroom? Because there is this one critical, literally irreplaceable social function that marriage does, and only marriage does: making babies and connecting fathers to the babies they make.


How does that in ANY way impact gay couples? I think its a fairly safe assumption that gay/lesbian couples have extremely few unplanned pregnancies and any babies that come up are probably something that both parents want.

You're arguing for a hetro-normative culture obviously, but providing mostly empty examples. Sweden has a low birth rate, low marriage rate, and gives benefitst to unmarried couples. I think we all can see why giving unmarried couples benefits is a disincentive to marriage. What I HAVEN'T heard is why giving gay men/lesbians benefits and the title of marriage would be a disincentive for heterosexual marriage, or why it would produce more out of wedlock birth.
10.19.2005 6:32pm
DM Andy (mail):
Thanks Maggie, that's given an answer to my points.

"Gay marriage advocates want to use the law enforce a new social narrative about gay people, whose main thread is: there is no difference between gay relationships and other people's, and anyone who says otherwise is a bigot."

I don't like the word enforce in there and I wouldn't call anyone a bigot, but this statement captures my feeling on the matter. My view is that there is no difference between a man and a woman having a loving relationship and two men or two women in a loving relationship. Therefore, if mixed sex and same sex relationships are equally valid then they both ought have the same access to marriage.

What do you believe is the difference between gay relationships and straight relationships? Is it just the ability to procreate (in which case do we ban infertile couples from marriage) or is there something deeper?
10.19.2005 6:35pm
Antonin:
"So why don't we just let marriage go, stop worrying about what people do or don't do in the bedroom? Because there is this one critical, literally irreplaceable social function that marriage does, and only marriage does: making babies and connecting fathers to the babies they make."

If we were really concerned with connecting fathers to the babies they make, marriage would look very different. There is, for example, no legal requirement that a father pay any attention whatsoever to his kids. If he wants to work at a prestigious law firm like Cravath, Swaine, and Moore, where they require 3000 billable hours/year from their associates (that's 12 billable hours every weekday in a 50-week year, and only maybe 60% of hours are billable), he will pay no price for ignoring his kids to live at the office either legally or socially.

We'd probably also REQUIRE fathers to marry the women they get pregnant, or at the very least to spend a certain minimum amount of time with the kids. He doesn't pay much of a social penalty for not doing this either.
10.19.2005 6:35pm
TRL:
Just as in the law review article linked to (and summarized by me) in the other thread, by developing her argument in so convoluted a path, Gallagher is able to partially mask the fact that she has no actual evidence of any harm.

Please, Ms. Gallagher, prove me wrong -- present your argument in simple, concise terms. Like others, I'm genuinely curious.
10.19.2005 6:39pm
ggould (mail):
I'm with paa here -- I'm baffled by your argument.

First, it proves too much. Society has by your argument gone just as wrong allowing the infertile to marry as it as with gay marriage.

Second, it proves too little. Whether my gay friends can get married had little bearing on my decision to get married, and what little influence it had was in the opposite direction: I felt guilty marrying when the same situation was denied to my friends.

You've run through a lot of facts and deductions as if they added up to an argument, but they don't connect. If you want to ban infertile marriages, just say so and we can argue on that basis. If not, distinguish the case. Similarly, if you or someone you know isn't marrying because gays can in Massachusetts, cite it; if not, explain why people's attitudes toward marriage, which you admit have already changed, can be changed back by denying marriage to gays, or how denying marriage to gays helps society to adapt to those changing notions.
10.19.2005 6:39pm
Cabbage:
Jesursiglac writes: "To you, the "critical and irreplaceable" function of marriage is to ensure that when a man has sex, he engenders children, and he knows that the children he engenders are his?"

I'm sorry, but that's just willful idiocy. No offence, Jesursiglac. If you went out of your way to intentionally miscast Maggie's argument you couldn't have done a better job.

"Connecting" can only be read as "paternity proving" by one who is completely disconnected from reality.

In support of your willful misreading, you even quote the language that clearly states the opposite of your interpretation: "Because there is this one critical, literally irreplaceable social function that marriage does, and only marriage does: making babies and connecting fathers to the babies they make."

If I have to spell it out for you, she's saying (oh, only about 10 times) that encouraging stable two parent families, with a mother and a father, is the prime social function of marriage.


It's hardly even worth "debating" with someone with these reading comprehension "skillz". I'd write "blue" and you'd attack me for writing "green." :)
10.19.2005 6:40pm
Elliot123 (mail):
Gallagher describes a situation which she calls a crisis. OK, maybe it is. But what is the connection between that crisis and gay marriage?
10.19.2005 6:41pm
Dave Justus (mail) (www):
"What do you believe is the difference between gay relationships and straight relationships? Is it just the ability to procreate (in which case do we ban infertile couples from marriage) or is there something deeper?"

I have seen this argument before, and I think it a pretty poor one. Infertile opposite sex couples have the same 'form' or 'appearance' as procreative couples. While they don't have kids, the marriage itself 'looks' the same.

I am personally for gay marriage, I think whatever harms it will do are very, very small but I think Ms. Gallagher does have a valid point that redefining marriage to facilitate social acceptance of gays will have an effect on the definition and perception of marriage itself.

I think that this effect will be minor and something we can deal with, but in all honesty that is a guess, not anything I can prove.
10.19.2005 6:41pm
Angus (mail) (www):
Kendall writes:
What I HAVEN'T heard is why giving gay men/lesbians benefits and the title of marriage ... would produce more out of wedlock birth.

That's a particularly pressing question given the fact that extending marital rights to same-sex couples would have a direct, immediate effect in the other direction.
10.19.2005 6:41pm
Quarterican (mail):
Ahhh so. After much anticipation, the other shoe starts to drop.

Well, we know Ms. Gallagher reads the comments, even if she doesn't engage the arguments in them. I'm sure other people will do a more than sufficient job of arguing about all the points raised here, but this one stuck out to me:

Because there is this one critical, literally irreplaceable social function that marriage does, and only marriage does: making babies and connecting fathers to the babies they make.

This isn't what you've been saying, Ms. Gallagher. You've been saying that marriage encourages procreation, but that it isn't (only) procreation. And marriage encourages procreation, sure, whatever you say. But to say that "only marriage makes babies" is of course a lie and you know it. While we're at it, "only marriage connects fathers to the babies they make" is also a lie. Marriage doesn't make babies. Sex and turkey basters make babies. And marriage connects fathers to their babies, sure, but so do lots of other things. Those other things might not be codified into law (well, child support, but that's not really a connection) but they exist. If a father wants to be connected to his child, he will, marriage or no. If a married father doesn't want to connect w/his child, he can leave the marriage or ignore Junior. I don't deny that the social cost in doing so is currently higher than if he were unmarried, but come on, stop speaking in absolutes that don't hold up to mild scrutiny. Especially about sex and babies. I think what you wanted to say is: "...marriage, and only marriage does: making babies in the environment best suited to raising them." But you've spoken very little if at all about raising children, and not at all about adoption, and done nothing to demonstrate what the best possible environment is, other than that it isn't: (1) a single parent, or (2) a parent + step-parent.
10.19.2005 6:42pm
Aultimer:

But the truth is that SSM advocates seek in the end the status of marriage (that is its social meanings), not primarily its "legal benefits".

This advocate of SSM has no interest in saving or stripping status from "marriage" - it's a religious thing no matter its purpose. If Maggie helps in repealing the DoM acts that include "or anything like it" language, I'll join her in fighting against SSM advocates who won't accept a "civil union" "compromise".

Of course I'd be happier with the government out of the marriage business entirely, but it'll be a while until that cause gets a majority out to vote.
10.19.2005 6:42pm
jrose:
If SSM was really about the benefits, then I think in a democratic society, we could easily handle this and all go home.

How would that work, Maggie?
10.19.2005 6:49pm
Igglephan:
At best, preventing gay marriage is a case of closing the barn door after the horse has bolted, since it cannot be thought a "cause." But, two points:

(1) Does a gay-friendly right to adopt solve the problem?

(2) Is it legitimate to take such a communitarian approach, by which I mean, looking only at the costs and benefits to society, writ large. Shouldn't the harm the present regime imposes on gays -- by selectively denying them a right enjoyed by the majority, to marry the adult non-blood relative of their choosing -- matter a little? (And the benefits descending to their adopted children from being in a two-parent household that might not otherwise exist for them, but for the marriage union?)
10.19.2005 6:51pm
Thales (mail) (www):
Is anyone else getting the impression that there's no there there with this train of thought?
10.19.2005 6:51pm
Witness (mail):
I agree 100% that government-created disincentives to procreation and the formation and maintenance of stable households are harmful and should be avoided as a matter of policy. But you still haven't shown how gay marriage would function as such a disincentive. It seems like you've occupied a lot of space on this site, but you haven't yet proven the most important element of your argument.
10.19.2005 6:54pm
kipp (mail):
Gay couples with children, and in particular lesbian couples who artificially inseminate, are a big problem for all of Gallagher's arguments about procreativity and family stability.

Her only response is vacuous prose that only works as suppport for her argument if you accept a whole slough of implicit moral claims of her Catholicism (sex is only moral in a marital bed with procreative intent, women have a calling to be mothers and stabilizers for men, men have a calling to be fathers and protectors of women, fertility treatments are suspect, etc).

That's why alot of people write off her arguments as veiled homophobia: They are only convincing to people who already have negative views of homosexuality and exposure of children to open homosexuals.

Gallagher can't say that gays makes bad parents because we don't have good evidence for that - but she desperately, desperately wants to. Only be deligitimating gay parenting can any of her arguments actually work in secular society. Until then, she can only toss around "every child needs a mother and father" platitudes and imply that gays make worse parents than straights.

Until that evidence emerges, her arguments fail for gay couples, with children, who want to get married.
10.19.2005 6:54pm
A reader:
Good lord, so it all comes down to the old canard -- the species needs more straight sex to reproduce? Really, I don't think there is a shortage of new babies.

We've dressed it up with some well-known demography (what? economic development correlates with decreasing birth rates? you don't say!), and changed it to something along the lines of, "American civilization will collapse if more straight people don't get married and have more kids."

Of course, you might as well say that American civilization will collapse if more white middle class people don't get married and have more white middle class babies. There was, last time I checked, no shortage of people looking to come to this country, partake of the opportunities here, and bequeath those opportunities to their children. We have no population problem.

Nor, last time I checked, was there any lack of fertility among poorer and/or non-white Americans. Ms. Gallagher must be referring, then, to some other Americans.

Yet, somehow, if I am prevented from marrying my partner of eight years, and/or if we are prevented from producing or adopting a child, these ills will be solved.
10.19.2005 6:54pm
John H (mail) (www):
Same-sex couples should have second class status: they should not be allowed to procreate together the way marriages are allowed to procreate together, by combining their gametes and creating offspring. Only a man and a woman should have the right to marry and procreate. Creating a child that has same-sex proginators is completely unethical and should not be allowed, for many reasons. So if it has different rights, it must have a different name. Civil unions could provide all the other rights, without granting procreation rights.

I do not grow tired of pointing this out, but I do grow tired of seeing people waste their time on other issues when this is so clearly the crucial issue. I wonder why people continue to ignore this point. If we continue to allow same-sex procreation (it is not currently illegal for a clinic to attempt somehow, and it is predicted to be three to five years from happening), then surely we must allow same-sex marriage, for marriage is about procreatino, right?
10.19.2005 6:55pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
So this was the big evidence of "harm"? She cites a bunch of figures about how societies are changing-- children no longer "pay" for themselves in economic terms, birthrates are lower, there's more illegitimacy, etc. But there's absolutely NO explanation of how prohibiting gays from getting married is going to solve any of that. Indeed, even with respect to the thing that she says prohibiting gays from getting married WILL do, i.e., tie fathers to their children, there is NOT A SHRED of evidence that prohibiting gays from getting married will do it.

Further, while she strikes a few notes about "tolerance" in this post, I don't think that's the reason why her motives are in question. MAGGIE: WHAT CIVIL RIGHTS DO YOU SUPPORT EXTENDING TO GAYS? If your answer is "none" or "very few", then your disclaimer of any desire to "stigmatize" is a baldfaced lie.

I have a feeling that if Maggie Gallagher actually supported extending any civil rights to gays and lesbians, she would have said so by now.
10.19.2005 6:55pm
Steve:
One of many flawed premises in this argument is that same-sex relationships "clearly" have no relation to procreation and child-rearing. Many long-term same-sex couples want to raise children. The invalid assumption is that same-sex couples seek to solemnize their unions for different reasons than opposite-sex couples.

In any event, the "crisis" in two-parent families seems to have a lot to do with the divorce rate, the prevalence of men knocking up women and taking no responsibility for the consequences, and the like, and very little to do with anything unique to same-sex relationships.

The real problem here is that some people believe same-sex households are unhealthy or unsuitable environments for child-rearing. Well, maybe that's the case, but someone needs to make it. Because if it's not the case, then I see no reason why it harms society's procreational interests to permit gay couples to marry and raise children.
10.19.2005 7:00pm
Noah Snyder (mail):
It also seems to me that not allowing gay marriage does a lot more to threaten marriage than allowing it does. For example, in Cambridge Mass. before gender neutral marriage if you wanted to live with someone else is a proctor in the freshman dorms you needed to be married *or* get a domestic partnership (because it wouldn't be fair to exclude gay couples who weren't allowed to get married). But the domestic partnership law was gender neutral, so I knew of straight couples who got domestic partnerships to avoid having to get married but still be able to live together.

It's domestic partnerships that threaten marriage as an institution, not gay marriage.
10.19.2005 7:02pm
Goober (mail):
I'm vaguely heartened by Ms. Gallagher's starting on this road, although as has been pointed out, she hasn't done any work on the "Why SSM hurts marriage" front. Hopefully we'll get the actual argument later tonight, and (also as pointed out by other commenters) hopefully it will be in concrete terms everyone can understand (if not necessarily those we'll agree with). That would be a good thing.

I'm not so encouraged by the implication that what makes SSM bad is that "elites" are for it.
10.19.2005 7:05pm
jrose:
I think whatever harms it will do are very, very small but I think Ms. Gallagher does have a valid point that redefining marriage to facilitate social acceptance of gays will have an effect on the definition and perception of marriage itself.

Certainly the definition will change, and trivially the perception will change from opposite-sex couples only to all couplings. I'm guessing Gallagher isn't merely stating the obvious and trivial. So, how will the perception of marriage change otherwise?
10.19.2005 7:06pm
anonymous coward:
John H: "Creating a child that has same-sex proginators is completely unethical and should not be allowed, for many reasons."
Namely...?

Puzzled by the whole baby crisis line of reasoning. I suppose that the purity of American Civilization would be dilluted if we regulated our population by increasing immigration?
10.19.2005 7:08pm
DM Andy (mail):
John H: Only a man and a woman should have the right to marry and procreate. Creating a child that has same-sex proginators is completely unethical and should not be allowed, for many reasons. So if it has different rights, it must have a different name.Preventing gay marriage wouldn't prevent a lesbian couple going to a clinic (overseas if neccessary) and getting such an embyro created and implanted, so what's the reason for outlawing gay marriage?
10.19.2005 7:08pm
Gabriel Malor:
Maggie: Because there is this one critical, literally irreplaceable social function that marriage does, and only marriage does: making babies and connecting fathers to the babies they make.

::Sigh:: This is why you feel conversations between you and your opponents go nowhere, Maggie. It is nonsensical that marriage is "irreplaceable" for making babies and connecting fathers to the babies they make.
10.19.2005 7:09pm
Wobuzhidao:
I think people are missing the point of what's being said. I believe the main thrust of the idea is that changing the traditional societal meaning of marriage will change the rate of out-of-wedlock births.

This may sound like a ridiculous idea. However, at your age, most of you already have your views of the meaning of marriage cemented. That is not the case of the generation that is only in their early youth, or the generation that hasn't yet arrived. If we change the societal meaning of marriage now we may not be effected by the resulting shift, but the children to come will be effected by how society deems marriage and the purposes of marriage.

The question that is important isn't whet.her the shift in meaining will have bearing on your personal actions, but whether it will have bearings on the actions of people whose views of the proper role and funtion of marriage have yet to be developed
10.19.2005 7:12pm
A reader:
If we change the societal meaning of marriage now we may not be effected by the resulting shift, but the children to come will be effected by how society deems marriage and the purposes of marriage.

Oh, now I understand. They will love their children less because they grow up seeing same-sex couples committing their lives to each other. Of course.
10.19.2005 7:20pm
Hans Bader (mail):
If you want to increase chances of keeping the family unit intact, you should be advocating putting an end to social engineering, in the form of statutory incentives for divorce. Gay marriage has little or nothing to do with that.

It's said that marriage is a partnership (which it ought to be). But a partner in a law firm or accounting firm can't leave the partnership and expect his partner to keep on paying him a share of the partnership income. We'd consider that involuntary servitude.

But that's just what divorce laws currently do. You can cheat on your husband, initiate the divorce, and still get alimony to maintain yourself at pre-divorce standard of living in many states, where considering fault in alimony and equitable distribution is forbidden by case law.

That's welfare, pure and simple. And just as welfare provides incentives for women to become welfare mothers and start single-parent households, alimony provides incentives for wives to become ex-wifes and turn their children's home environment into a father-absent, single-family household.

In contemporary America, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control, more than two-thirds of all divorces are initiated by wives. Typically, these are no-fault divorces. And researchers say more than three-quarters of divorces in families with children are by the wife.

One reason for this is that wives can get custody (there is a strong gender bias in custody decisions) and alimony based heavily on their gender.

(More than 99 percent of all alimony awards are to wives, even though husbands make less than their wives in at least one-third of all households, and do as much child-rearing as their wives in at least a third of all married households. Low-income husbands who help put their wives through college or professional school by working two jobs receive no alimony, while countless ex-wives receive alimony despite contributing nothing to their husbands' earning capacity and doing little work of any kind, in or outside the home, during the marriage).

This sort of discrimination has much more severe consequences -- lifelong financial consequences and lost contact with one's children -- than the discrimination gay marriage advocates complain about, which affects far fewer people.

If you got rid of the gender bias, and the redistributive bias, in divorce laws, that will do much to reduce the divorce rate and ensure that more children will grow up in an intact household with two parents.

That's much more important than all the fuss over gay marriage.
10.19.2005 7:21pm
Gabriel Malor:
Wobuzhidao says: If we change the societal meaning of marriage now we may not be effected by the resulting shift, but the children to come will be effected by how society deems marriage and the purposes of marriage.

Many here will question whether men and women will really decide not to get married based on whether their neighbors Joe and Tom got married. Are children going to decide that their parents' marriages are lame because gay people are married? (Aside: Don't kids already think their parents are lame?) Are parents going to suddenly stop teaching (or demonstrating to) their children about marriage because their neighbors Joe and Tom got married?

Has a similar social shift already occurred AND was it the end of the republic? I'm thinking specifically of children raised by single parents. Have those children decided that marriage is lame? Does that have to do with their parent's lack of marriage or does it have other causes?
10.19.2005 7:27pm
Jesurgislac (mail) (www):
Cabbage: If I have to spell it out for you, she's saying (oh, only about 10 times) that encouraging stable two parent families, with a mother and a father, is the prime social function of marriage.

Yes: but the reasons she's given for why this is good are (1) because that way a man knows the children that a woman has are his children.
(2) because that way more babies are born.

In short, she's arguing that providing a nurturing environment for rearing children is not a prime social function of marriage.

It's hardly even worth "debating" with someone with these reading comprehension "skillz".

Suggest you try out your reading comprehension skills on the text at the end of each thread on this blog. In particular, the sentence which says: "We'd like the posts to be civil, of course (no profanity, personal insults, and the like), but we're also hoping that people try to be as calm, reasoned, and substantive as possible."
10.19.2005 7:30pm
Atwater (mail):
The suggestion that SSM undermines the primary purpose of marriage as "making babies and connecting fathers to the babies they make" is nonsensical UNLESS you are arguing that homosexual partners, particularly lesbians, should not be allowed to have children -- something you obviously believe but will not come right out and say. The only other rationale is that SSM somehow detracts from the exalted status we want to give to straight couples who make babies, which leads you into the counter-example of non-procreative straight couples. In any event, I don't see how honoring another couple's devotion to one another undermines any honor accorded to my (procreative) marriage - quite the contrary.

If you think that gay couples shouldn't have kids, because every kid should live with a mother and father, then your beef is obviously with (a) divorce by couples with children, (b) all out-of-wedlock births, and (c) adoption by anyone other than a straight, married couple. All of the things have been happening for years without anyone seriously proposing a constitutional amendment to ban them. Why all of a sudden, with all of these horses out of the barn, are we picking on gay people? Because we can? Because we don't have the courage to take on any of these other symptoms of the decay of the family unit?

The Goodridge decision, whatever its faults, takes as a given that gay people ALREADY HAVE CHILDREN, by adoption, previous straight marriage, artificial insemination, etc. Denying the parents of those kids the benefit of SSM doesn't benefit them or connect those children to anyone with whom they don't currently have a relationship. Let's face facts.
10.19.2005 7:30pm
TRC:
Maggie, it seems you're a minority of one on this blog. There are three rational arguments against state-sanctioned gay marriage:

1. "Gay marriage" will never be written into law because of the cost of verifying that two individuals are gay is prohibitively high. SSM, in contrast, has in part been sanctioned because the cost of verifying that two individuals are the same-sex is extremely low. One probable consequence of "same sex" marriage laws is that two heterosexuals of the same sex will marry to obtain the benefits of SSM, and that this will lead to an expansion of the state benefits (to people who were not previously eligible for such benefits). Why would libertarians want to expand state benefits?

2. SSM has been tried in Scandinavia, and the upshot is not good: Fewer straights are getting married, more children are being reared out of wedlock, and more children are being reared by single parents, which places children at risk for poverty. (One theory is that expanding the definition of marriage to include homosexuals *further* decouples marriage from a procreative function, and social norms to have children within a marriage are subsequently loosened.). Why would libertarians want to endorse policies that, social science research suggests, lead to more single parent households and child poverty? (An increase in single-parent households (and poverty) would probably lead to expansion of the welfare state to address the problem.)

3. SSM could encourage an activist judiciary to redefine marriage. Lawmaking requires internal consistency: Once marriage is expanded to include gay couples, activist judiciaries might begin asking questions like: What is the principled objection to two member of the same sex (who are not gay) getting married? What is the principled objection to polygamous marriages? Why should employers not be forced to provide benefits to same-sex marriages when they already provide benefits to opposite-sex marriages?

Why would libertarians want to endorse policies that will likely to lead more government intrusion, particularly in the area of private employment?
10.19.2005 7:30pm
Kmeson:
Has the fertility rate suffered more from people remaining childless or from a decline in average number of children?

The fertility argument may argue for SSM. I weighed thousands of considerations as my opposite sexed wife and I planned for our two children. Stability was extremely important and consequently we waited for several years after marrying. As my sister and here partner consider whether to raise a child or not, the legal uncertainty that underlies that childs status is a significant issue. If the birth mother stays home to raise the child will the working parent's benefits be reduced by an act like Prop 2 on the Texas ballot? If not this year, what about next year? If the wage earner dies unexpectedly there is no social security safety net to protect the survivor. They both have deeply loving families who will support them. They love each other very much and have pledged to do so faithfully forever. They have chosen not to have a child yet. If they were supported by a society that affirmed SSM would they have? Perhaps not. I think that SSM would marginally improve fertility. I state that knowing that my evedence is purely anecdotal. Have I overlooked the counter argument?
10.19.2005 7:33pm
It's Mr. Queer to you! (mail) (www):
This is a long one, but I thought maybe some statistics from the last census about LGBT families would be useful:

This information was prepared in part by The Human Rights Campaign and Gary J. Gates, Ph.D. Center on Labor, Human Services, and Population at The Urban Institute.

The prevalence of children: Same-sex couples are raising children in at least 96 percent of all counties in the nation. At least one out of three lesbian couples and one out of five gay male couples are raising children nationwide.

The three counties with the greatest numbers of same-sex couples raising children are:
Los Angeles County, with 8,015 couples; Cook County, Ill., with 4,090 couples; and Harris County, Texas, with 3,050 couples with children.

- The stability of relationships. Gay or lesbian unmarried parents are twice as likely as heterosexual unmarried parents to be in long-term relationships (which Census 2000 measures by couples who have been together five years or more).

- Family income. Whether gay or straight, couples raising children earn less on average than couples without children. (This is probably due to the fact that one parent is often at home caring for the children -- a trend that is as common among same-sex couples as opposite-sex couples, and even slightly more common among gay male parents.)

But there are stark differences in how families headed by same-sex and opposite-sex couples are treated, both financially and legally. As of this writing, the full and certain protections of marriage are available in no state. This means that no same-sex parents or their children have access to the 1,138 federal protections that come with marriage. And only couples in Vermont and California have access to the hundreds of marital benefits states provide.

Moreover, same-sex couples with children are not even guaranteed the right in most states to establish a joint legal relationship to the children they are raising together. Nor may they enjoy the most basic protections that come through such a legal relationship. In fact, protections are least available in precisely those parts of the country that have the highest percentage of same-sex couples with children -- namely, the South and Midwest.

DEMOGRAPHICS OF SAME-SEX PARENTING IN THE UNITED STATES

One out of three female couples and one out of five male couples are raising children in the United States, according to Census 2000. More specifically, Census 2000 shows that:

- 45.6 percent of married heterosexual partners are raising children.
- 43.1 percent of unmarried heterosexual partners are raising children.
- 34.3 percent of female partners are raising children.
- 22.3 percent of male partners are raising children.

Same-sex couples raising children live in 96 percent of all counties in the United States, according to the 2000 Census -- forming essentially a part of every community in this country. But looked at regionally, there are some geographic surprises in where same-sex couples are likely to be parents. For example, of all same-sex couples:

- The South has the highest percentage of same-sex couples who are raising children, with 36.1 percent of lesbian couples and 23.9 percent of gay male couples doing so.

- The Midwest has the second highest percentage, with 34.7 and 22.9 percent, respectively.

- The West figures third for lesbian couples and the Northeast for gay male couples.

This pattern mirrors the geographical distribution of unmarried opposite-sex partners raising children, where the South also is home to the greatest percentage, followed by the Midwest, the West and finally the Northeast. For married opposite-sex couples raising children, the West is the most popular region, followed by the Northeast, the Midwest and the South.

The states with the highest percentages of lesbian couples raising children:

- Mississippi, with 43.8 percent
- South Dakota and Utah, with 42.3 percent each
- Texas, with 40.9 percent

The states with the highest percentages of gay male couples raising children:

- South Dakota, 33 percent
- Mississippi, with 31 percent
- Idaho and Utah, with 30 percent each



The 10 counties with the greatest number of same-sex couples with children. The counties with the total number of same-sex couples raising children also harbor some surprises, as the top 10 list includes counties in Texas, Arizona and Florida -- all of which have poor protections for same-sex couples and their children. For example, Florida is the only state in the nation with a law that bans gay and lesbian individuals and couples from adopting, even though it relies on gay and lesbian people to serve as foster parents for needy children. It also forbids the establishment of joint legal parentage for same-sex couples who have become parents by other means.

They are:

1. Los Angeles County, Calif. 8,015 couples
2. Cook County, Ill. 4,090
3. Harris County, Texas 3,050
4. Kings County (Brooklyn), N.Y. 2,485
5. Maricopa County, Ariz. 2,335
6. Queens County, N.Y. 2,050
7. Dallas County, Texas 1,970
8. Orange County, Calif. 1,930
9. Miami-Dade County, Fla. 1,915
10. San Diego County, Calif. 1,900

Note: Census 2000 counts of same-sex unmarried partners should not be interpreted as an actual count of either the entire gay, lesbian and bisexual population or the same-sex coupled population of the United States. Counts of same- sex couples do not include any single gay men or lesbians as the Census questionnaire did not include questions about sexual orientation, sexual behavior or sexual attraction. Further, Census 2000 probably undercounts same-sex couples (identified by their sex and relationship status: an adult of the same sex is identified as the "husband/wife" or "unmarried partner" of the person filling out the Census form). Several factors could explain this undercount. For confidentiality reasons, some same-sex couples may feel uncomfortable identifying the nature of their relationship on a government survey. Some couples may define their relationship as something other than "husband/wife" or "unmarried partner." Estimates of the undercount vary. In their report, "Missing Same-sex Couples in Census 2000," Badgett and Rodgers (IGLSS 2003, http://www.iglss.org/media/files/c2k_leftout.pdf) find that the Census Bureau missed at least 16 percent to 19 percent of all gay or lesbian couples. If 5 percent of the U.S. adult population is gay or lesbian and approximately 30 percent of gay men and lesbians are coupled (as several surveys suggest), then Census figures did not count 62 percent of all same-sex couples.

Stability of same-sex parenting relationships. Same-sex parents, who are denied the right to marry, are on average more than twice as likely to be in long-term relationships as heterosexual parents who choose to remain unmarried. (They have lived together for five years or more, which is the only Census 2000 question about relationship stability.) Specifically, 19.9 percent of unmarried heterosexual couples raising children have been together for five years or longer while 41.1 percent of same-sex couples raising children have stayed together that long.

Since marriage is generally considered a stabilizing factor, the implication appears to be that granting marriage rights to same-sex couples would lead to an even greater degree of stability in these families.
10.19.2005 7:38pm
DM Andy (mail):
TRC: I understand and partially agree with you on argument #1 and have no opinion on #3 but it would be best if you could back up #2 with evidence. From the sources I have seen (admittedly pro SSM sites) the Mixed sex marriage rate hasn't fallen since introduction of single sex partnerships, neither has the out of wedlock birth rate.
10.19.2005 7:48pm
Jesurgislac (mail) (www):
TRC: SSM has been tried in Scandinavia, and the upshot is not good: Fewer straights are getting married, more children are being reared out of wedlock, and more children are being reared by single parents, which places children at risk for poverty.

Actually, what Scandinavia has is technically not same-sex marriage, but state-recognized civil unions: Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden, and Greenland all offer registered partnership to same-sex couples, which is legally almost identical to civil marriage, offered to mixed-sex couples.

The argument that these civil unions have "caused" fewer mixed-sex couples to get married is invalid: marriage rates have been declining steadily in Scandinavia for some time, and the rates for each country have not changed when civil unions were introduced.

More children are being born and reared outside marriage, but Scandinavian countries have no legislation penalizing children born/reared outside wedlock.

More children are being reared by single parents, but this does not place children at such risk of poverty as it does in the US: childcare facilities are available for children aged 0-6 (the age at which a child starts school), mothers get an average of 18 months paid maternity leave, and everyone (not just mothers with children) is covered by the public health care system. cite, cite.
10.19.2005 7:51pm
James Earl (mail):
I might be in the minority here - although I think the overwhelming majority of arguments raised up to this point have been grossly inconsistent and lacking any kind of true logical flow, this post actually struck a nerve with me. Although I'm with Aultimer and would prefer the government butted out of marriage entirely, I have some sympathy with the statement that "Gay marriage advocates want to use the law enforce a new social narrative about [homosexuality]."

To me, "fairness" in the SSM issue should start and stop with true civil benefits-type concerns. SSM couples should have access to all of the government-conferred benefits of heterosexual marriage - tax credits, etc., etc. That said, I see no real necessity for conferring the title of "marriage" (as opposed to civil union-type arrangements) that does not rely primarily upon the need to linguistically institutionalize a particular view of homosexuality. I have no problem per se with anyone believing that homosexuality is a mortal sin, an abomination, or anything like that; you can believe whatever you want, as long as you don't take anything substantive in the process.

At its base, marriage is a religiously-based institution that has as much of a right to self-define as any other group. Contrary views can be held but should not be enshrined with the legitimate mandate of the government.
10.19.2005 7:51pm
It's Mr. Queer to you! (mail) (www):
DM Andy, is this one of the sources you've seen?

Will Providing Marriage Rights to Same-Sex Couples Undermine
Heterosexual Marriage?
Evidence from Scandinavia and the Netherlands

http://www.iglss.org/media/files/briefing.pdf
10.19.2005 7:52pm
BobNelson (mail):
Argument 1: if two heterosexuals want to get married to get the benefits, that's really nobody's business. As for society, it receives something back from marriage in the form of the responsibilities it requires of each partner in a marriage toward the other.

Argument 2: No Scandinavian country even has SSM, so don't blame SSM for Scandinavia's problems* (like lower infant mortailty, higher education rates, better healthcare, longer life spans, higher income levels, and any of the rest of the awful things happening there).

Argument 3: If SSM were legally recognized, there wouldn't be any of those questions, so no judge -- activist or otherwise -- would have to rule on any of them. The only exception from your list would be polygamy. Let polygamists make their case. It's an entirely different argument.
10.19.2005 7:56pm
On Lawn (mail) (www):
Since marriage is generally considered a stabilizing factor, the implication appears to be that granting marriage rights to same-sex couples would lead to an even greater degree of stability in these families.

The counterpoint to this argument can be found here and here.

Marriage is a word we use to describe something, its like finding a flat surface suspended on legs and wondering "what do we call this thing?" A table, is the answer for english speakers. A table holds up many objects and supports my family dinners. But calling a bench a table does not enhance the capacity to equalize it with properties of another entity called the same name. Does labelling a can of cola with a "Pepsi" moniker.

The question boils down to this, is the properties of marriage come from its gender integration or from a piece of paper from the government entitling it to priveledges? Given what we've learned through biological and humanitarian studies the diversity and integration of genders provides a much more likely candidate than government recognition. Especially considering marriage's history which predates government (or at least was the foundations of the first governments).

So whats the harm? Imagine if the government required all Cola's to be labeled as Pepsi, or even Fanta.
10.19.2005 7:57pm
BobNelson (mail):

I have some sympathy with the statement that "Gay marriage advocates want to use the law enforce a new social narrative about [homosexuality]."


Do you have any sympathy for the converse, "Gay marriage opponents want to use the law [to] enforce the OLD social narrative about [homosexuality]."?

It's so blatently obvious.
10.19.2005 8:01pm
DM Andy (mail):
It's Mr. Queer to you!, Yes, that was, although I found it on a different site. I'm willing to be shot down on that if that paper's statistics are flaky. I seem to remember Andrew Sullivan having some stats when Stanley Kurtz cited Sweden as evidence.
10.19.2005 8:05pm
Scott Scheule (mail) (www):
Regardless of the merits, Maggie, I think you're quite brave to face so much commentary criticism here.
10.19.2005 8:10pm
Captain Holly (mail) (www):
Interesting post, Mr. Queer, but you've fallen into a statistical fallacy and assumed that the subset of gay parents is equal to the subset of straight parents. They're not the same.

By the even the most generous estimates, gays and lesbians make up only 3% of the US population. Therefore, while straight parents make up about one-quarter to one-third of the US population, gay parents are less than 1% of it.

Furthermore, while there may be at least one gay couple in 96% of US counties, the overwhelming majority of gays live in urban areas, especially on the coasts.

In other words, the two groups are quite dissimilar, both in size and distribution.

That makes a big difference when you're seeking to do valid, objective research about the effects of gay parenthood. You're far less likely to get a representative sample of gay parents to compare to straight parents simply because there's not very many of them to begin with, and they tend to be a highly self-selecting group due to the costs associated with artificial insemination and adoption.

Which brings up another point: I'm extremely curious as to the definition of "raising children". I suspect that someone like my former neighbor, who "discovered" his gayness after several years of marriage and got divorced, would be defined as "raising" his son because he happens to have monthly visitation.

This is the reason I don't put much stock into research which "proves" that gay parents are equal to or even better than straight ones. Most of the studies I've seen used very small, very carefully-selected groups of parents and the results are simply not applicable to gays or lesbians in general.
10.19.2005 8:12pm
TRC:
Jesurgislac:

Thanks for the thoughtful reply.

Stanley Kurtz makes a compelling argument that SSM is one of several "mutually reinforcing" factors in Scandanavia that have led to a change in social norms, which has reduced incentives for parents with children to get married. His argument is developed here.

I grant that social science data are difficult to interpret. However, such data may be the best (and only) data available.

Question:

What (if any) empirical data from countries that have adopted SSM would convince you that state-sanctioned same-sex marriage is a *bad* idea?

TRC
10.19.2005 8:15pm
SP (www):

If SSM was really about the benefits, then I think in a democratic society, we could easily handle this and all go home. But the truth is that SSM advocates seek in the end the status of marriage (that is its social meanings), not primarily its "legal benefits".


So much to disagree with here, and in general with Ms. Gallagher. I think this whole exercise is destined to be fruitless as long as the cross-talk about 'purposes' of marriage continues. If one were to accept Ms. Gallagher's premise that 'procreative stability' is the primary purpose of marriage, then much of her argument does follow. However, from a strictly legal standpoint, marriage is much more about stuff - property - then it is about procreation.

Moving on from that point, no, I don't think as a democratic society, we can all agree that marriage-like propert benefits for gay couples are fine "and we [can] all go home". From the incoherent 'cheapens straight marriage' argument to TRC's comment detailing more principled objections, American society does not have a consensus on this matter.

As to SSM advocates seeking the same social status as married, I think this is both an overgeneralization, and carries an element of "so what?" Homophobes aren't going to change their opinion of loving gay couples because of a piece of paper. (And, what would be so wrong about it if SSM did reduce homophobia in our culture?)

Finally, and this point has been made ad nauseum, but allow me to pile on: who seems more likely to properly care for and raise a child in a loving environment, two gay/lesbians who have battled social stigma and legal obstacles and managed to adopt or otherwise become parents, or a 'shotgun-wed' straight couple? With the current divorce laws, it seems mildly disengenous at best to argue against SSM on the basis of 'sanctity of the insitution'.
10.19.2005 8:15pm
jrose:
James Earl,

How about we call what the state gives "civil unions" for all couples, and leave "marriage" to the private sector?
10.19.2005 8:18pm
paa:
Captain Holly,

But it always will require significant effort on the part of gays to have kids. They're not going to have any "accidents." So it's not crazy to think that those gays who become parents will be more dedicated, on average, than straight people who do. You've got to really want to become a parent to have a kid if you're gay.

And that's not going to change if SSM is legal.
10.19.2005 8:28pm
jrose:
The raw data for out-of-wedlock birth rates can be found here. Careful analysis is required. Not only do you have to overlay when SSM (or civil unions) began to see the "before and after" effects, you need to establish a baseline for what happened in countries without any same-sex legal recognition.
10.19.2005 8:32pm
The Word Police:
You lost me at "misunderestimates."

I hope the Bush administration didn't pay you to promote Dubya's make-believe word!
10.19.2005 8:34pm
TRC:
DM Andy:

Fair enough. Stanley Kurtz musters a considerable amount of evidence that SSM in Scandanavia has had ill effects on children. The evidence can be found here, here, here, and here

I found most of these links here, which is an interesting take on the issue.

I am still searching for an answer to the following question:

What (if any) empirical data from countries that have adopted SSM would convince people on this blog that state-sanctioned SSM is a *bad* idea?

I suspect that for some individuals, no empirical data could demonstrate that SSM is a bad idea.
10.19.2005 8:39pm
Adam (mail):
Regardless of the merits, Maggie, I think you're quite brave to face so much commentary criticism here.

Is she? Has she posted in a comments thread, or responded to a post in any way?
10.19.2005 8:40pm
Jesurgislac (mail) (www):
TRC: What (if any) empirical data from countries that have adopted SSM would convince you that state-sanctioned same-sex marriage is a *bad* idea?

Let me draw you an analogy.

In the UK, in the 1980s, a right-wing government decided that the best way to prevent teenage kids from leaving home was to make it illegal for them to claim any state benefits until they got to be 18. It was explicitly a piece of social engineering: the government felt that too many kids aged 16-18 were leaving their parents and applying for state support, and they wantd to discourage it. The presumption was that if a 16-year-old knew they wouldn't get any cash handouts from the state, they'd want to remain with their parents.

Now, I happen to agree that it's better for kids that age to be living with their parents, or with foster parents: at 16 you may be old enough to leave home legally, but I think most kids that age simply aren't savvy enough to live on their own and deal with all the issues of living on their own.

But the empirical data showed, almost immediately, that the government's legislative solution to the problem of teenagers leaving home wasn't working. The teenagers who left home before were still leaving home: the only difference was that instead of being able to claim state benefits while they studied or looked for work, and getting state assistance to help pay their rent if what they earned wasn't enough, they had no option but to sit on the sidewalk with a cup out in front of them and a cardboard sign saying "Homeless, hungry, please help".

The reason for this failure was because, as became clear, the teenagers who had been leaving home had not been leaving home to get state benefits: they'd been leaving home because their parents were kicking them out, or because the way their parents treated them had become literally intolerable. If they were under 16, the state was obligated to offer support: but a teenager between 16 and 18 was in limbo. Or rather, sitting on a sidewalk wrapped in a blanket begging for money to stay alive.

You could find these kids both in the official data reporting number of teenage homeless, and the knock-on effects for long-term poverty, crime, and drug use: you could also see those kids in any large city, where they'd run to get away from their parents. I mean that literally: I visited London several times in the late 1980s, and found it almost literally unbearable to have to walk past so many teenagers who clearly so desperately needed help.

Now, if the empirical data from countries that have adopted same-sex marriage (or from countries that have adopted same-sex civil unions legally equivalent to marriage) showed some kind of direct negative effect such as the direct negative effect caused by withdrawing state benefits to 16-18s in the UK, that would convince me that this legislation is a bad idea.

But, same-sex civil unions have been around since 1989. No country that has adopted same-sex civil unions has been able to show any direct negative effect.

Further, no one has been able to show that same-sex marriage will have (or has had: the Netherlands has had it for five years) any direct negative effect.

The analogy I offered showed a direct negative effect to a piece of social engineering that was, in fact, hypothesised in advance, and the hypothesis was backed up by statistical facts: the social scientists who opposed the change said that evidence showed that when a 16-18 year old left their parents' home, it was usually either because their parents had kicked them out or because their parents had behaved towards them in such a way that they found living there intolerable. The government's response to this when justifying their legislation was that if parents knew their kids would be begging on street corners if they kicked them out, they wouldn't kick them out: and if kids knew they'd be begging on street corners, they wouldn't find how their parents treated them intolerable.

The analogy here seems to me that the pro-marriage people are arguing that evidence shows no negative effect either from same-sex couples marrying or entering civil unions, nor from children being reared by same-sex couples.

Whereas the anti-marriage people are arguing that because they can imagine, without data, all sorts of negative effects, their ability to imagine the negative effects means there might be.

Similiarly, the social scientists who opposed withdrawing benefits were doing so on the grounds that the evidence showed it would have direct negative effects: the government who withdrew the benefits argued that, without data, they could imagine the positive effects, and therefore the positive effects should come to be.

Sorry for the length of this comment.
10.19.2005 8:46pm
Aasem (mail):
I'm a heterosexual divorced male lawyer with kids. I'm engaged to a divorced female with kids. We're currently "living in sin" and we have a very strong, healthy family. Our kids have strong relationships with our ex's. I'm an athiest and a republican.

For days I've been reading Gallagher's verbose ad hoc rationalizations for promoting her Catholic agenda and trying to ram it down our throats. Most of the intelligent legal and social policy arguments against her position have already been made by other commenters. I agree with most of those.

As yet, she hasn't even attempted to make a coherent argument to support her bald claim that SSM would erode the institution of marriage. Nor do I see how she could even if she devoted another 10,000 words to the effort (which she will attempt, no doubt).

Engaging her seems like a complete waste of time, because she will not truly engage. She's of the Catholic baby factory mold, and the dogmatic "gay is sick and immoral" ilk. Regardless of how many jugs of words she sloshes in our direction, it all distills to the same drops of irrationality. So why bother?
10.19.2005 8:50pm
Igglephan:
James Earl, you write:


At its base, marriage is a religiously-based institution that has as much of a right to self-define as any other group. Contrary views can be held but should not be enshrined with the legitimate mandate of the government.


This obviously raises church/state issues, and a good argument for separation -- namely that state involvement inevitably secularizes. By getting state recognition of what used to be exclusively a religious function, religions lost the ability to assert dominion. It's like dropping your keys in lava -- just forget about them, because they're gone. People have rights-claims on marriage by virtue of citizenship, as it is a state-provided benefit. The ability to self-define was lost when the first statute regulating the subject was passed. This extends to symbolism and nomenclature, too, I'd submit. The state may not define marriage in an overtly religious way, nor may it delegate the definition to religious groups, only. In fact, the state never really had any business endorsing one narrative about gays or another. "Gays are just like everyone else," just moves the debate back to square one. Procreation is already a red herring, as others have noted.
10.19.2005 8:50pm
Igglephan:
Warrants mentioning, as well, that there's no such thing as the Institution of Marriage. All you have is the sum of particular relationships. The only way the "institution" is threatened is if individual marriages are threatened. The only way that could be so is if people would leave to go have gay marriages. But that seems unlikely; is homophobic (since it says the closet is best for all involved); and makes individuals worse off. The sooner we stop saying aggregated data equals some sort of reification, we're all better off.
10.19.2005 8:54pm
jrose:
TRC,

A rebuttal to Kurtz can be found here. The raw data behind both Kurtz and the rebuttal are here.

Sometimes, the out-of-wedlock (OOWB) birth rate goes up after SSM (or civil unions) and Kurtz concludes SSM causes couples to have kids out of marriage. In some cases OOWB goes up before SSM, and Kurtz concludes couples choosing not to marry causes SSM. He posits the two are self-reinforcing.

What he failed to do was establish a baseline by analyzing the OOWB in countries without SSM. The OOWB increases are very close between SSM and non-SSM countries. The data suggest the cause of rising OOWB are factors other than SSM.
10.19.2005 9:00pm
paa:
As for James Earl's Quote


At its base, marriage is a religiously-based institution that has as much of a right to self-define as any other group. Contrary views can be held but should not be enshrined with the legitimate mandate of the government.


So let's say my religion wants to marry gay people. Why then should the government prevent it from doing so? It seems the religions that support gay marriage have a claim for marriage equality based on your reasoning.

SSM advocates don't want to force baptist churches to marry them. They want to get married on their own. Nobody's going to be forcing religions to recognize marriages they don't want to. This is solely about the government, and about having it treat its citizens equally.

Your argument is not against gay marriage, but against any government involvement in marriage at all, if you agree with what you wrote.
10.19.2005 9:02pm
DM Andy (mail):
TRC, Thanks for the links, it's 1am here so I can't spend too long commenting but I'm not very convinced by his data, for instance his selection of 2 of the 19 Norweigian provinces rather than Norway as a whole and his use of 1990 rather than 1993 (the year Norway introduced same sex partnerships) suggests to me that he's picking the data that most supports his case.

To answer your other question, I would have to see clear datasets that can be tied back to the introduction of SSM (or equivalent).
10.19.2005 9:09pm
James Earl (mail):

James Earl,

How about we call what the state gives "civil unions" for all couples, and leave "marriage" to the private sector?


Sounds good to me.


James Earl, you write:

This obviously raises church/state issues, and a good argument for separation — namely that state involvement inevitably secularizes. By getting state recognition of what used to be exclusively a religious function, religions lost the ability to assert dominion... People have rights-claims on marriage by virtue of citizenship, as it is a state-provided benefit. The ability to self-define was lost when the first statute regulating the subject was passed...



I'd agree in principle that the state should stay out of marriage. That said, it needs to have some interest here in enforcing what is essentially the contractual agreement you enter into in a marriage - the division of property, custody, inheritance, etc. that go along with it.

I would disagree with the latter statement however, on two grounds. First, if you were to accept that people may have a "rights-claim" to the benefits of marriage once they are extended to a group, I don't see how that extends necessarily to a particular title, especially one that is religious in origin. The term "marriage" is, as a state function, a secular convention embodying the sum of benefits, priveleges, and responsibilities that the state recognizes as accompanying the filing of a marriage license. We could just as easily call it something else but use the traditional term for convenience.

I also don't know that I buy the fundamental premise here either. We pass laws that restrict certain priveleges to one group of citizens all the time; affirmative action, various tax breaks, and so on and so forth. The fact that something is codified in law hardly requires it to be extended to all citizens. This is rather secondary to the main argument though.
10.19.2005 9:15pm
TRC:
Jesurgislac:

Kudos to you, for the thoughtful reply.

Perhaps what is needed is an "interrupted time series" design, in which states experiment with and adopt SSM at different points in time.

If states adopted SSM at different time points, and if the consequences that ensued after the adoptions were the same across states (e.g., increase in single parent families), one could reasonably infer the SSM caused the outcome.

From a policy perspective, then, perhaps the best approach (in the absence of evidence that SSM is good or bad) is not to force states to adopt SSM but to allow individual states to adopt SSM on their own schedule.

This proposal presents at least two problems (at least in the US): (a) gays in states that do not adopt SSM would probably bring 14th Amend. violation suits, and (b) gays that married in a pro-SSM state and moved to a non-SSM state would probably bring suits based on "full faith and credit" provisions of the Constitution. (I'm a neuroscientist, not a lawyer, and so I might be wrong on the law.) Either (a) or (b) would not allow for the experimentation that the proposal calls for.

Anyway, it's good to make your acquaintance. I'm in San Antonio, Texas.
10.19.2005 9:16pm
TRC:
jrose:

Point taken. The absence of a baseline represents a significant problem in interpreting Kurtz's data. To be fair, however, social science research must often rely on "messy" data because controlled (laboratory) experiments are not possible. I think I have a possible solution, though (see my "interrupted time series" proposal above).

Thanks for providing the links to the counter-arguments. (I probably spend too much time on National Review and the Weekly Standard; and too little time on Mother Jones and Kos.)

It's 7:26 pm (CST in the US), I'm at my office, and my wife wants me home.

TRC
10.19.2005 9:30pm
Slippery Slope:
Ghallagher, how can you first argue that the market has improved upon some traditional functions of family, but then turn around and claim that other functions are "irreplaceable"? I do not think you have thought through all the ways the free market could connect people for the purposes of procreation and then link fathers (and mothers for that matter!) to children.
People already seek sperm/egg donors and surrogates. Adoption procedures aren't quite as free-market as outright buying of babies but they do favor the rich.
If the genetic family is so irreplaceable, why does the State involve itself in removing children from their natural parent(s) on grounds of abuse, neglect, etc, and then parcel them out to other, more objectively capable parent(s) through adoption?

Another point:
What about about a marriage where one member is legally or genetically one gender but living as the other? Doesn't this couple have the same appearance as a non-procreative hetero marriage, which you have already stated is acceptable because it has the same appearance as a procreative one?
10.19.2005 9:49pm
Straight Woman:
I am a heterosexual woman. I've been in a monogamous, heterosexual relationship for almost ten years. I plan to have children soon. But I will not get married so long as the state limits access to marriage on the basis of sexual orientation. In other words, just as I wouldn't (as a white person) join a club that my non-white friends couldn't join, I won't join a club from which my gay friends are excluded. I don't know how many other heterosexuals share my views, but I know at least a handful of similar thinkers among my own acquaintances. So if the goal is to ensure that child-bearing heterosexual couples get married, keep in mind that some of us won't do it until same-sex marriage is an option.
10.19.2005 11:14pm
A Country Lawyer (mail):
TRC - You make an excellent suggestion. The Defense of Marriage Act (which President Clinton signed into law) says that states are not required to give full faith and credit to homosexual marriages performed in other states. Assuming the Supreme Court behaves rationally (which, after Lawrence, is a big stretch, but hopefully the Court will have changed personnel by the time this issue comes up), it will hold that there is a rational purpose to DOMA and reject the constitutional, due process challenge under the 14th Amendment. That will permit the states that want to experiment with non-traditional forms of marriage to do so, without forcing the rest of us to join in the experiment.
10.19.2005 11:31pm
A Country Lawyer (mail):
Straight Woman - Please be honest with us. Are you sure that your political feelings about the legality of homosexual marriage is the real reason you are not going to marry this man you've been in a relationship with (dating? cohabitating?) for 10 years? That doesn't really pass the smell test.
10.19.2005 11:34pm
Aasem (mail):
To A Country Lawyer:

Please explain just how would that "experiment" manifest itself in your life, particularly in the context of your marriage? How would you even know whether the gay couple living down the street tied the knot? How would your working relationship with your co-habitating gay colleagues change if they became married? What would unravel in your own marriage? What in the hell are you afraid of?

I'm serious, that is an honest quetion. Be straight with me.

Also, I've gotta say that the only thing irrational about Lawrence is Scalia's dissent. I have a lot of respect for Scalia, but he's an irrational homophobe if he believes half of his own opinion in that case. For a guy who pretends to be a strict constructionist, he sure enjoys torturing that poor Constitution. For the brilliant jurist he is, he demonstrated his own idiocy there.
10.19.2005 11:52pm
Straight Woman:
Country Lawyer --
Your sense of smell is off. I won't promise to tie the knot as soon as same-sex marriage becomes legal, but I'll have one less reason not to do it. As I see it, marriage is a mixed bag, and the ultimate decision is a highly personal one rather than a political one. But my *personal* (not just political) feelings about equality -- e.g., the fact that I'd be ashamed to send wedding invitations to gay friends who desperately want to marry but can't -- lead me to decline to sign up for an exclusively heterosexual institution.
10.20.2005 12:02am
Cal Lanier (mail) (www):
That would create a huge number of hassles if a gay couple moved from a state that did recognize it to one that didn't.
10.20.2005 12:05am
Josh Jasper (mail):
Horsefeathers. SSM advocates can, and frequently do have ceremonies that thier religions, friends, and usualy families recognize as marriages.

If it's not about the benefits, and SSM advocates are really in some sinister conspiracy as Maggie mentions, just the ceremonies alone should be enough.

What really cheeses Maggie off is that an same sex couple might be able to demand and force people to give things like health insurance anywhere in the US that they're granted to het heterosexual couples. To her, it's only OK is heterosexual couples have that right.
10.20.2005 12:24am
Steve Sanders (mail):
After reading Ms. Gallagher's attempt at an essay, I am literally stunned that the VC would turn over space to someone so incapable of both literary grace and cogent, persuasive argumentation.
10.20.2005 1:20am
BobNelson (mail):

Please explain just how would that "experiment" manifest itself in your life, particularly in the context of your marriage? How would you even know whether the gay couple living down the street tied the knot? How would your working relationship with your co-habitating gay colleagues change if they became married? What would unravel in your own marriage? What in the hell are you afraid of?


In your question to Country Lawyer, you failed to notice that he also objects to the Lawrence decision. If he had his way, he'd wouldn't have any gay neighbors or gay colleagues. They'd all be in jail.
10.20.2005 2:49am
Jesurgislac (mail) (www):
TRC: Perhaps what is needed is an "interrupted time series" design, in which states experiment with and adopt SSM at different points in time.

Globally, that is precisely what is happening, of course. Inside the US, it would appear that this is also what is effectively happening.

Anyway, thanks for the compliment! Good to make your acquaintance.
10.20.2005 5:48am
Joshua (mail):
Point taken. The absence of a baseline represents a significant problem in interpreting Kurtz's data. To be fair, however, social science research must often rely on "messy" data because controlled (laboratory) experiments are not possible. I think I have a possible solution, though (see my "interrupted time series" proposal above).
Of course, even ITS studies have two significant problems. First, just as a lab rat used in medical studies is merely an approximation of a human being, a study of the societal effects of SSM on, say, Norway would paint a skewed picture of SSM's likely effects on American society. Simply put, Norway is not America. Any number of societal and cultural factors present in Norway but not in the U.S. (or vice versa) are bound to color the results, possibly to the point of meaninglessness. The same holds true for states within the U.S. - Massachussets is not Alabama is not California is not Wisconsin, etc.

The second problem - and by my guess, what troubles many SSM opponents even if they have not articulated this concern well - is the long-term ethical one. It will probably take at least a couple of generations of people living with legally recognized SSM in any given nation or state in order to get anything close to a true picture of its impact on its society. If the SSM opponents' stated fears turn out to be well-founded - or even if other unintended consequences emerge that neither side was able to foresee - then you've just left millions of people to pick up the pieces of their society, and an untold number of broken lives, damaged by this little social experiment. Simply repealing SSM won't undo this damage if it comes to pass - as the old cliche goes, you can't un-ring a bell. (To be fair, this also applies to any other form of social experimentation.) It is no more ethical to use an entire nation or state (even your own) full of living human beings as a social laboratory than it is to use one as "flypaper" for terrorists.

Neither of these points, mind you, should be taken as an argument against SSM. My view is that if you're going to legalize SSM, legalize it on principle (the Declaration of Independence's assertion of the inalienable right to the pursuit of happiness seems to fit this bill nicely), and not just because SSM happened to work out well in some other country or state.
10.20.2005 12:41pm
Joe Clark (mail):
"...making babies and connecting fathers to the babies they make..."
It's the noblest goal in sight. By far.
More accurately you might want it to read "making sure kids grow up with positive gender role models in a secure domestic environment".
But then dead kids don't have much need of fathering do they?
And car wrecks are the single greatest cause of death for kids in the US.
Why isn't that more threatening than gay marriage?
Why isn't that more disturbing than whether two people of the same sex who declare themselves a union have the civil rights of inheritance etc. that traditional couples do?
That hypocrisy - using the safety of children as a shield for your own sexual insecurity - is more dangerous than anything else you're talking about.
10.21.2005 12:32am
On Lawn (mail) (www):
Joe,

Such is the nature of a red-herring. Child safety in automobiles does not suffer because people point out the danger in ss"m" for children. Both pursuits are possible, and its doubtful that anyone who really cares about kids does not pursue both. That you wish to throw something out as more important to lead people away from something you want is... well... a red herring.
10.21.2005 2:33pm
Joe Clark (mail):
Lawn-
Without the stats to hand I'll have to get out on the limb here some but I feel pretty safe saying a very high percentage - say 85 cause it's probably over 90 - of the American public know that SSM is a controversial subject at present, and that they know what it's about.
And I'll say less than 20 per cent, because it's probably in the singe digits, of American kids know that their greatest non-health threat is coming from the family car.
And I'll bet you even money far less than a majority of their parents know that the single greatest killer of children in the US is car wrecks.
It's fishy, but it's not a herring and it's not red. What it means is the values in operation are unsound, hypocritical, and dishonest.
What it means is public opinion's being manipulated. I was trying to point that out without spelling it out - a mistake, maybe.
It's a method of illustration by contrast which probably has a Greek name in the oratorical glossary that I'm unfamiliar with.
I'm not trying to shift the argument to cars, I'm trying to get the champions of decency to realize how irrational and misguided they are, so that they'll shut up and get out of the way.
10.22.2005 12:13am