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[Maggie Gallagher (guest-blogging), October 19, 2005 at 10:48pm] Trackbacks
Marriage Debate and Motives:

I should say that I always assume good will and I know most people who support gay marriage do not want to hurt marriage.

But it is also true that some of the architects and advocates of gay marriage are interested in precisely that: overthrowing what they see as an archaic institution.

Judith Stacey, for example is a sociologist, who was asked to testify as an expert witness in favor of SSM . This is what she wrote several years ago about what gay marriage will mean for marriage:

"Legitimizing gay and lesbian marriages would promote a democratic, pluralist expansion of the meaning, practice, and politics of family life in the United States, helping to supplant the destructive sanctity of The Family with respect for diverse and vibrant families. . . . If we begin to value the meaning and quality of intimate bonds over their customary forms, people might devise marriage and kinship patterns to serve diverse needs. . . . Two friends might decide to "marry" without basing their bond on erotic or romantic attachment. . . . Or, more radical still, perhaps some might dare to question the dyadic limitations of Western marriage and seek some of the benefits of extended family life through small group marriages arranged to share resources, nurturance, and labor. After all, if it is true that "The Two-Parent Family is Better" than a single-parent family, as family-values crusaders proclaim, might not three-, four-, or more-parent families be better yet, as many utopian communards have long believed?" Judith Stacey, Gay and Lesbian Families: Queer Like Us, in All Our Families: New Policies for a New Century 117, 128-29 (Mary Ann Mason, Arlene Skolnick & Stephen D. Sugarman eds., Oxford U. Press 1998).

The academic literature is rife with such suggestions--from advocates of SSM. Of course when opponents of SSM bring this up, they get accused of a "parade of horribles" with no basis in logic. But both advocates and opponents of SSM see that something big has changed when marriage becomes a union of any two persons. Procreation and family structure are out.

What's left of marriage? The heart of marriage as a legal construct becomes a legal preference that adult sexual intimacy comes in twosome, for reasons no-one really makes clear except "tradition!"

Disconnected from its role in sustaining the family, fidelity, monogamy and marital sex itself become personal moral preferences, with little clear reason for being written into law.

Marriage becomes the way we stamp an official government Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval on how people have sex and intimacy.

Does that make sense to you? It makes no sense to me, and I'm not even a libertarian. (Although I once was: a Randian, as we called it, then. But that's a story for another day).

JB:
See, you're locking the barn door after the horse has gone. What with easy and frequent divorce, childless marriages, unmarried long-term couples, and marriages of post-menopausal women, the view of marriage that you champion is already severely on the wane.

Why shut the door on gay marriage without making any effort to rein in the rest of the herd?
10.20.2005 12:02am
Quarterican (mail):
Oh, JB. No-fault divorce and unmarried long-term couples (via curtailing access to contraceptives) are next on the list. After heading this one off at the pass, they're gonna try and corral the rest of the horses.

At least that's how it feels sometimes.

I still think Ms. Gallagher hasn't addressed the serious issues arising from logical inconsistencies with her position even if you grant that procreation is the purpose of marriage, but most recently she at last blurred the distinction between "purpose for which government encourages" and "is," so I guess I should be happy since she made herself wronger by doing so.
10.20.2005 12:06am
frankcross (mail):
This is a pretty weak approach to argumentation. Taking the most extreme position of the other side and knocking it down. I have no doubt that there are nuts on both sides. But responding to them doesn't really mean much.
10.20.2005 12:07am
This is dumb.:
Your argument would be similar to arguing in favor of same-sex marriage by saying that James Dobson is bigoted, so SSM must be the right way to go.

You have at best made the case for a stable home. Congratulations. At some point, you may want to actually make an argument why those homes should not be headed by same-sex partners.
10.20.2005 12:07am
Markusha:
Maggie,
Do you have ANY intellectual honesty to address the multiple arguments being made here. Your blogging is like a road in one direction: instead of engaging others, you completely ignore them and their arguments (with exception of Zywicki). I don't see any point in this; I am sure Professor Volokh had intelligent dialogue in mind, and not just providing a platform for your views.
If you want your experience here to be in any way halpful/useful, for Christ's sakes, engage the arguments or honestly say when you don't have a good response. At least, it would be honest on your part.
10.20.2005 12:11am
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
Maggie, you just chose one advocate of same-sex marriage. The vast, vast majority of people who want same-sex marriage want it because they want marriage to be available to gays and lesbians, not because they want to destroy the institution.

Meanwhile, Maggie, there's all sorts of bad faith and bad motives in this debate. But they are all on YOUR side. Many, many people who now assert that they are concerned with nothing other than "preserving the institution of marriage" also supported sodomy laws, support employment discrimination, oppose gays in the military and gay adoptions, and are deathly opposed to having homosexuality be treated as a protected minority status. In other words, they are using the "protection of marriage" as a cover for homophobia.

And you, Maggie, have not uttered a word of support for gay civil rights on this blog despite numerous posts. Why don't you stop talking about the other side's alleged bad faith and address your own?
10.20.2005 12:23am
Shocked & Appalled:
Maggie,

Here's an argument that I like to make about SSM. It seems a little more logical and plausible than yours:

If gays were allowed to marry, they might be less promiscuous, dropping the demand for latex condoms. Latex is made from petroleum. As petroleum demand drops, the Saudis are destabilized, and Iran invades and nukes Israel. Then it's World War III.

See, SSM will lead to the end of Western Civilization.

Yours truly,

Mr. S. Appalled

ps: think I have what it takes to become an "expert" like you?
10.20.2005 12:35am
On Lawn (mail) (www):
Markusha,

Intellectual honesty would dictate the recognition that Maggie has addressed questions and conserns, sometimes specifically quoting them

Dilan,

I'm not sure that calling her "side" with all the bad faith is honest or accurate in this discussion.
10.20.2005 12:36am
Chairm Ohn (www):

I'd thought of having them guest-blog at the same time, but decided to try a less head-to-head exchange; we'll see in several weeks how well that has worked.
- Eugene Volokh


Two very bright people [David Blankenhorn and Andrew Sullivan], face to face, mano a mano, looked each other in the eye and saw--a blank wall.

A lot of this debate is like that.

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

* * * *

What Maggie Gallagher described is much like my own experience in observing and participating in various discussions in the blogosphere and in-person.

This process here has been less interactive, perhaps, but it is still early days in the exchange that Eugene Volokh and his two guest contributors have agreed to try together. Let's not be in such a rush to stare at more blank walls or to ascribe sour motives to the side with which we'd disagree.

Opine Editorials
10.20.2005 12:38am
Anon1ms (mail):
MG certainly hasn't convinced me that there is any emperical evidence that extending the benefits of marriage to gays would weaken traditional marriages and families.

And that is what I find most troubling -- the view that traditional marriage (such as the one I have been in for over 35 years) is so fragile that it cannot withstand the legalization of SSMs, even though only a very small percentage of the total population would ever enter into such an arrangement.

Sorry, but I just don't see that any conjectured harm to society put forth by MG outweighs the very real hurt that is imposed on a number of our fellow Americans.
10.20.2005 12:41am
Markusha:
On Lawn,
Except for setting up straw men ot fringe arguments (such as some pro marriage people want to destroy the marriage), I have yet to see Maggie's response to arguments raised in comments. By "response", I mean the actual response, not simply restating what others have said and then addressing something totally different.
While I am still ambivalent about where I personally come down on the same sex marriage (specifically, whether it is up to courts or people), Maggie is one of the worst advocates for her position. I am genuinely surprised by shallowness of her posts and her lack of response to comments.
10.20.2005 12:42am
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
On Lawn:

Calling her side the side with the bad faith is TOTALLY accurate. Do you really believe that there are large numbers of gays and lesbians who don't care about getting married themselves and are just plotting the demise of a pillar of Western Civilization through their stealth campaign? Because that is NUTS.

On the other hand, most conservative politicians and public figures TO THIS DAY do not support gays and lesbians on ANY of the major civil rights issues, and many SPECIFICALLY ENDORSE official and private discrimination against them. You wouldn't have to go to some obscure source to find these conservatives-- many of them are in Congress! Indeed, the PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES SUPPORTED THROWING GAYS AND LESBIANS IN JAIL IN TEXAS, AND HAS NEVER REPUDIATED THAT POSITION.

So my conclusion about bad faith is perfectly justifed. On my side, you may have a few academic weirdos and radical feminists who fantasize about eliminating marriage. On your side, you have the elected representatives of huge numbers of conservative voters who see this as a great wedge issue to keep the gays in their place.
10.20.2005 12:45am
Nunzio (mail):
Maggie,

The family structure in America is already pretty-well shot for a lot of people. So, despite Stacey's utopian commune child who forms intimate bonds with Velma, Daphne, Fred, Shaggy, and Scooby (can you imagine parent-teacher conferences in such a society?), what's the problem with gay marriage at this point.

Again, illegitimacy rate is around 25% for whites and 68% for blacks, the divorce rate's through the roof, and men have no problem procreating and not raising their kids, much less financially supporting them (look at almost any NBA roster).

You're argument must be that SSM is going to be the straw that breaks the camel's back.
10.20.2005 12:46am
Dave Hardy (mail) (www):
Why shut the door on gay marriage without making any effort to rein in the rest of the herd?

The rest of the herd? Let's not go there.

Unless it is to www.muttonbone.com. webpage of the world's only inflatable sheep love doll.
10.20.2005 12:49am
Adam (mail):
This is an interesting point. No doubt most advocates of gay marriage are not trying to undermine marriage per se and replace it with radical social engineering, but it could be that that would be the inevitable result in the long run anyway. Most gun control advocates are not in favor wholesale banning of guns, but some are, and Eugene has done a great job of exposing examples of that. Given that, supports of the right to self-defense are right to be skeptical of even seemingly innocuous gun control proposals. Likewise, people who support the traditional family structure may be skeptical of even seemingly innocuous deviations from it, even if most of its advocates are not trying to completely overturn family life in our society.
10.20.2005 12:51am
Bob Van Burkleo (mail):
Just more obfuscation. The current issue is only about the marriage contract licensed by the state, not 'marriage'. Marriage comes from beyond government - from our inborn human need to couple up and form families - a valid government at best is just acknowledging it. People decide if they are married, not society not the government and same gender couples have been marrying for decades in the US: in places of worship and in their own commitments to each other.

So this is really nothing more than an equal access to a government feature and as this touches on an acknowledged fundamental right of all citizens any limitation upon its access must have very compelling rationalization, something that those against equal access of had a hard time doing hence the trying to shift the discussion away from each citizen's right to marry.

So what differences are there between a same sex and opposite sex married couple? They share the same origins for wanting the relationship, they and society derive the same benefits from them being in the relationship as do their families. Recent studies have even shown they bicker about the same things. What quality does one have that the other doesn't that rationalizes unequal access to government?

That opposite sex couples can procreate between themselves? Sorry, there is no requirement for procreation to license the marriage contract in any state of the union. In fact in many states that allow first cousins to marry that are only allowed to do so if they can prove they CAN'T procreate. So that doesn't work - if any non-procreative couple is allowed to license, then none can be denied license for that reason.

Acting as if the government can proscribe a citizen from any reasonable access to this civil contract is a shill. The real question is why should the government acknowledge only some citizen's right to marry and license them the contract and not every citizens?
10.20.2005 12:51am
Adam (mail):
To take the gun control analogy further, opponents of gay marriage may both attempt to stop gay marriage, and also work to turn back pernicious developments in relatively recent times such as no-fault divorce when children are involved, just as gun nuts may want to avoid newly proposed restrictions and also repeal already existing restrictions.
10.20.2005 12:54am
Dave Hardy (mail) (www):
f gays were allowed to marry, they might be less promiscuous, dropping the demand for latex condoms. Latex is made from petroleum.

No it isn't, ergo the argument fails, and legalizing gay marriage will not lead to destruction of the world! The US, perhaps, but not the entire world.

Marriage is a state of slavery imposed by the legal system in the interest of procreation and child rearing. Absent that imperative, it cannot be justified. Therefore gay marriage can be opposed on liberty-related grounds. As far as volunteerism, we do not allow slavery if the slave volunteers or sells themselves into that state. Why allow it here?

Got to sign off here. Just got word that a column of outraged gays, and one of outraged family-oriented conservatives, are going to collide in front of my house in 15 minutes. If I slip out the back, I can hope that they will be too busy fighting each other to realize that they both intended to tear me to shreds and post my head on a pike as a warning to similar evildoers.
10.20.2005 12:55am
Quarterican (mail):
Adam -

So do you think it'd be legitimate for me to end every post here with: "But push comes to shove, I don't trust you, because for all I know you're a slavering bigot"? (Or, more politely, join Dilan Esper's crusade?)
10.20.2005 1:02am
On Lawn (mail) (www):
> Bob Van Burkleo: That opposite sex couples can procreate between themselves? Sorry, there is no requirement for procreation to license the marriage contract in any state of the union.

That comes up often. We've dubbed it the Sterility Strawman. Essentially, just as automotive insurance doesn't require people to get into accidents marriage contracts do not require people to have kids.

> Dave Hardy: Marriage is a state of slavery imposed by the legal system in the interest of procreation and child rearing.

I believe this is another instance where the mask slips, and we see the logical conclusion of the arguments for same-sex marriage. In a reductio ad absurdum kind of way...
10.20.2005 1:02am
MikeTheActuary:
I've often wondered if part of the challenge in the SSM debate is that there are at least two dimensions of marriage.

On the one hand, we have the social construct called marriage, which provides a building block of families, fostering family continuity and maintenance of traditions across generations, and providing framework that many people consider ideal for child-rearing.

On the other hand, we have the legal construct called marriage, which is the default mechanism we use to recognize some forms of families as discrete entities, discrete economic units if you will...and we have laws that define and package a set of rights and perceived advantages in support of this building block of family.

If I understand the stance of opponents of SSM, they perceive a threat to the social construct through the expansion of the legal construct.

This seems to me to be the reason that "civil unions" has an appeal to some who otherwise reject the concept of SSM -- a granting of a legal status that is (at least theoretically) legally equivalent to marriage, but is not called "marriage" in deference to the belief of many individuals that SSM doesn't fit within the scope of "marriage".

I would think that a more appropriate way to handle this is to remove the state from the business of defining marriage. Let the state register and recognize civil unions, regardless of the gender(s) of members of the union; and leave other, less-official social institutions to grant and recognize "marriage" according to their beliefs and conscience.
10.20.2005 1:27am
HC:
Quarterican - from the perspective of a legislator, the purpose which the government seeks to encourage in marriage is the purpose of marriage as a legal status. If there was no public interest in marriage, marriage would not involve a change in legal status just as a bar mitzvah or first communion does not involve a change legal status.

For all the several commenters who agree that Maggie has not proven that SSM will cause the collapse of marriage, or that marriage could not withstand SSM - true enough.

But off point - as best I understand her, she's arguing that SSM will marginally impair marriage's social function in encouraging 'having and raising babies' and that marginal impairment is sufficient to generate significant social costs as measured by lowered fertility rates, rising incidence of single motherhood, and so forth.
10.20.2005 1:27am
Quarterican (mail):
HC -

True enough re: a legislative perspective. But Ms. Gallagher has acknowledged that the legal/legislative is only one facet of the debate, and she's also acknowledged that much of the time she's slipping from one angle to another. And also, initially, she did say something to the effect of "Now, by saying that's the purpose in the government promoting it, I'm not saying that it's the definition." But I think that bit of verbal judo fell apart a few posts ago.
10.20.2005 1:39am
Adam (mail):
Quarterican:

The argument is a slippery slope argument, not an argument from lack of trust. You can trust the sincerity of your opponent and still think that gay marriage is likely to be a stepping stone to even more radical proposals/demands, even if that's not what its proponents support at the moment.
10.20.2005 1:51am
HC:
Quarterican - I didn't see the judo fall apart, and if there's an easy cite I'd be grateful. I don't quite see how it would matter, though - it can hardly be surprising that someone who favors a government purpose thinks that it would be better if society also supported that end, and vice versa. How does it make her 'wronger' to personally support the government rationale? Assuming you accept her contention that that is the government rationale?

Also - I'd second Adam. Slippery slope arguments judge capability more than intention - whether or not anyone wants to slide down, it's easier to slip and fall when you're on precarious footing.
10.20.2005 2:05am
Humble Law Student:
To continue on the slippery slope argument, need I remind everyone on how the Goodridge court partially justified its decision on Lawrence? Despite the fact that the court in Lawrence specifically stated that its decision was not to be interpreted as a basis of support for SSM?

Its a great example of as HC said, "[its] capability more than intention."
10.20.2005 2:10am
Humble Law Student:
Sorry, that should read, "partially justified its decision based on the decision in Lawrence."
10.20.2005 2:11am
Adam (mail):
Adapting the slippery slope arguments at Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slippery_slope#Examples), based on Eugene's paper:

"Gay marriage may lead to widespread breakdown of the traditional nuclear family."

Cost-lowering: Once gay marriage is recognized, the social costs of having a non-traditional family structure will tend to decrease, thus making it easier for people to break their families structure in ways that are not good for society or for the other members of the family.

Attitude altering: People may begin to think of marriage as a institution for personal pleasure and fulfillment rather than for childrearing, and thus regard broken families and deviant family structures less seriously.

Small change tolerance: People may ignore long-term monogamous gay marriage because it constitutes just a small change, but when combined with other deviancies, it could lead to widespread breakdown of traditional families.

Political power: Gay marriage may create a constituency of people who see marriage as an economic benefit, and the constituency will grow and lobby legislatures to expand their new-found right to more people, thus further altering people's conception of families.

Political momentum: Once the government has recognized gay marriage, it becomes easier to pass other laws redefining traditional social structures.
10.20.2005 2:26am
Quarterican (mail):
Adam -

If I'm paranoid enough, the slippery slope argument runs from denial of gay marriage to re-enforcement of anti-sodomy laws (for gays only, of course). I'm not that paranoid. I wasn't responding to slippery-sloping, but rather the explicit assumption of motives germane to some advocates as sufficient cause to be dubious of all advocates. But I take your point.
10.20.2005 2:32am
Quarterican (mail):
HC -

Sure, it's all the better for Ms. Gallagher if her ethical, social, and legal arguments all match up. This was one place where I thought she collapsed her early distinction to the point that it ceased to be meaningful for her (which is fine, for her, but she seemed to want to make a meaningful distinction).

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.

Which is drastically overstating the case (in that thread, the one titled: "The Marriage Debates: What's the Harm?" I said I thought she should have written something like: "...marriage, and only marriage does: making babies in the environment best suited to raising them." But she's avoided talking about baby raising.) Clearly, procreation was always at the center of her marriage argument, but I thought this seizure of penis-in-vagina-makes-baby-with-responsible-father as the province of only marriage and as the only facet of marriage worth the name rendered her earlier distinction pointless - made it seem like a conciliatory gesture more than something she really cared about or believed. In the broad scheme of things, it didn't affect the critique I have of her argument, but I found it interesting at the time.
10.20.2005 2:40am
Bob Van Burkleo (mail):
On lawn

That comes up often. We've dubbed it the Sterility Strawman. Essentially, just as automotive insurance doesn't require people to get into accidents marriage contracts do not require people to have kids.


The link ignores the facts and is a bit humorous in its rationalizations - we are talk about a civil contract in a government formed around the philosophy that all individuals have the same fundamental rights. If there is a right to marry than all citizens have it. If the government is going to license a contract in support of this right then all citizens have a right to reasonable access to this contract. If it is going to preclude some citizens from access because they lack some essential quality than ALL those citizens that lack that quality MUST be precluded by an ethical government. As such, if people are being excluded because they and their spouse can't personally procreate than all such combinations MUST be precluded for the government to retain any credibility.

And of course the whole 'procreation' angle is just another dodge. Almost 50% of American children are being raised by other than their two genetic contributors. Modern reproductive technologies allow for two mutually non-procreative people to have children regardless of their gender combinations as well as all the obvious sources of children of adoption, previous marriages, and the like. The fact is that many families are not the result of mutual procreation of the parents and this is true regardless of the parent's gender combination. So the ability to procreate can not ethically be used to determine eligibility for contract license considering the contract has been licensed historically without regard to this quality. The contract supports families regardless of the etiology of any children involved - to try and and tie it exclusively to procreation all the while making convenient exceptions is a transparent deception.

Same gendered or opposite gendered, married couples want and need the same things, they, their families, and society benefit the same from the licensing of the contract, and all citizens have a right to expect reasonable access to a civil contract that touches upon one of the individual's fundamental rights. This is an equal access to government issue, nothing more.

The question is how can the government justify only licensing the civil contract to some married couples, and how can it rationalize precluding some citizens any reasonable access to it? Simple answer - they can't and be ethically competent.
10.20.2005 2:46am
Pauly (mail):
The UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights defines marriage as being between a man and a woman (article 16).

So what the advocates of SSM are saying is that they want to seek more rights than what is declared in the UDoHR, which as an aside I think is a pretty damn good list.
10.20.2005 3:07am
AbsoluteFreedom:
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights proclaims "periodic holidays with pay" as a fundamental human right. It is clearly not a document to be taken seriously.
10.20.2005 3:24am
Paul Sherman:
Pauly,

As far as I can tell, as an advocate of SSM who thinks the UDoHR is mostly B.S., we're asking that one of the entitlements that happens to appear in the UDoHR be extended to them on equal protection grounds.

I don't see anyone here demanding that gay people, or anyone, be given every "right" in the UDoHR. Advocates of SSM are asking that an entitlement be extended to a small portion of the population which is currently excluded for reasons that might not pass rational basis review.
10.20.2005 3:24am
Jesurgislac (mail) (www):
MikeTheActuary: I've often wondered if part of the challenge in the SSM debate is that there are at least two dimensions of marriage.

Three, certainly: the two you listed, and Maggie's dimension, in which marriage is primarily about a man conceiving children that he knows are his.

On the one hand, we have the social construct called marriage, which provides a building block of families, fostering family continuity and maintenance of traditions across generations, and providing framework that many people consider ideal for child-rearing.

And this social construct is one that same-sex couples can and do fit into.

On the other hand, we have the legal construct called marriage, which is the default mechanism we use to recognize some forms of families as discrete entities, discrete economic units if you will...and we have laws that define and package a set of rights and perceived advantages in support of this building block of family.

And this legal construct supports the social construct, and same-sex couples can - and do - fit into it.

If I understand the stance of opponents of SSM, they perceive a threat to the social construct through the expansion of the legal construct.

Well, that may be so for some opponents of same-sex marriage. Maggie's opposition to same-sex marriage seems to be that neither the social construct nor the legal construct is anywhere near as important as men conceiving children inside wedlock.
10.20.2005 6:31am
Phil (mail):
Back to the original post. Once issues of procreation are bracketed, as they must be if SSM is under serious consideration, are there any good legal and/or moral arguments for limitng marriage to twosomes? Certainly history and comparative anthropology offer little support and I assume naked bigotry against trios, quads, etc. is not sufficient. It seems an odd world that insists that society dispose of its prejudice against SSM but treats the preference for duos as inviolable.
10.20.2005 6:34am
Jesurgislac (mail) (www):
Phil: It seems an odd world that insists that society dispose of its prejudice against SSM but treats the preference for duos as inviolable.

The problem with trying to link same-sex marriage to trio or quad marriage is that they don't rest on the same points.

It is an acknowledged and accepted fact these days that sexual orientation isn't something to pick and choose: whether it's nature or nurture or something in between, by the time you're old enough to be aware what your sexual orientation is, it's too late to change it. (And why would anyone want to?)

So, whether bigots like it or don't, there will always be people who fall in love with someone of their own gender, just as there will always be people who fall in love with someone of the other gender. And there seems no reason in the world except homophobia to oppose this.

The arguments about restricting marriage to mixed-sex couples only are, as Maggie has shown, wobbly, vague, and based on hypothetical alarms and homophobic paranoia.

Further, it is possible to admit same-sex couples to the legal status of marriage without changing marriage legislation: women and men in the US already have the same rights in marriage.

However, there is still debate about whether people are naturally inclined to fall in love with two people simultaneously; some debate about whether it is sufficiently beneficial to society to make poly relationships legal to justify the added expense; and a genuine problem in that changing marriage legislation to include trios and quads would be intrinsically more complicated. Just as an example, in a multi-person unit where one person might wish to leave while the other two wanted to remain married: what happens?
10.20.2005 8:43am
Phil (mail):
Jesurgislac
Thnaks for the thoughtful (in both senses of the word) post
I am unsure that it is quite that simple. People who defend polyamory (which I believe is the neutral word for such relationships) claim that there will always be people who need plural relationships. It is unclear to me that there is a good argument that this must be false. As for the substantive law, trios, etc could already be allowed for by simply eliminating the current power of the state to discrimnate against married people in the issuing of marriage licenses. I assume that in an age no-fault divorce people couldleave plural marriages just as they leave other marriages.
As for the benefit to society, this is far from clear for any arrangemtn, includign the current one. I think that moist people would raise families w/o any government recoognition/benefits. I can only explore my own intuitions on most of this, and on this I have none. I find the status quo neither especially objectionable nor particularly attractive.
(I am, of course, ignoring the meta-issue: to what extent should states be permitted to get it "wrong". In other words, suppose that, e.g., plural marriage is in fact "superior" under what circumstances should states be allowed to ban it anyway?)
10.20.2005 9:05am
rico:

It is an acknowledged and accepted fact these days that sexual orientation isn't something to pick and choose: whether it's nature or nurture or something in between, by the time you're old enough to be aware what your sexual orientation is, it's too late to change it. (And why would anyone want to?)


And I think this may get to the heart of the argument against gay marriage. The jury is still out on whether it is nature or nurture. And if it is nurture, and if you believe that homosexuality is sinful, then you are going to do what you can to reduce the opportunity for that "nurture" to take place.

Yes, that position does require that you believe that there is a God, and that He has standards that include sex only within a marriage between a man and a woman . . . but think carefully before you decide that everyone who believes this is a bigot.
10.20.2005 10:42am
Bob Van Burkleo (mail):
Phil

Back to the original post. Once issues of procreation are bracketed, as they must be if SSM is under serious consideration, are there any good legal and/or moral arguments for limiting marriage to twosomes?


First, there is no SSM marriage, there is only marriage - marriage is an individual right - the gender of the partner does not ultimately make it any special form of marriage.

And that is why this is an equal access to government issue. No one is arguing that government can not regulate marriage, just as it regulates other rights such as free speech. What government can't do is say that a citizen has no reasonable access expectation of exercising their right at all.

Lets look at the other limitations on the licensing of the civil contract:

Age - totally in keeping with cultural expectations of when a citizen becomes a contract-able entity. A temporary restriction, not a proscription.

Relation - while some focus on the genetic issues, this is more a case of wanting to not make the immediate family a hunting ground for life partners. In the end a mere handful of potential contract co-licensees are excluded from a far vaster pool. A restriction, not a proscription.

Polygamy - this is actually two issues, more than 2 people in a single contract (actually a very rare request) and the more common biblical bigamy, where the usually a male is married to more than one woman but the women are not contracted with each other.

Obviously in biblical bigamy the male has access to the civil contract - he can pick one wife and license the contract (and usually does) and just not have a civil contract with the rest. I know a 3rd wife to an islamic man right here in Washington state. The first wife is in the contract with the husband, the other 2 aren't. Limiting each citizen to one contract is a restriction, not a proscription.

In true polygamy the same is true but an argument would have to be made that the citizen can only be truly married if there are more than 2 people in the contract, a pretty hard case to make considering the factors that could suddenly decrease their number to 2 - are they saying the marriage would be dissolved? So failing in this, we see another case of just a contract licensing restriction.

So then we come finally to gender. Hopefully most agree there are people that for whatever reason would only want to build a family and a life with someone of the particular gender. For those to whom this is someone of the same gender it is the ONLY proscription that is permanent and denies the citizen any reasonable ability to license the civil contract. The only case of proscription rather than restriction. So the gender restrictions are unique in that they deny a citizen all reasonably expected colicensees.

And that is the difference - the gender mix proscriptions make licensing the contract totally inaccessible to some citizens, all other proscriptions still allow the citizen to license the contract eventually. Polygamists of both variety either already have access to the contract or still have a large pool of potential cosignees.

This is an equal access issue and only those who need a colicensee of the opposite gender are totally blocked from access. And there is your difference. Could a case be made for creating a polygamy capable civil contact? Dunno, but it is obviously a totally different issue than just allowing all citizens reasonable access to the existing civil contract.
10.20.2005 1:09pm
On Lawn (mail) (www):
Bob Van Burkleo,

The link ignores the facts and is a bit humorous in its rationalizations

Arguments by personal incredulity, like that one, are noise in this debate. Your wrested spin of others through such egregious commentary discredits yourself.

we are talk [sic] about a civil contract in a government formed around the philosophy that all individuals have the same fundamental rights.

This parable illustrates how poorly stated arguments to equality wind up damaging everyone's freedoms.

And of course the whole 'procreation' angle is just another dodge. Almost 50% of American children are being raised by other than their two genetic contributors.

More incredlity and pretzled commentary?

Procreation is not a dodge, please look up the sine qua non of marriage.
10.20.2005 5:24pm
Bob Van Burkleo (mail):
Arguments by personal incredulity, like that one, are noise in this debate. Your wrested spin of others through such egregious commentary discredits yourself.

People too lazy to state their opinions and only providing links are hardly one's to complain about brevity or appropriateness of responses. They in effect presented nothing at all. If they wanted specifics they would have presented specifics here.

This parable illustrates how poorly stated arguments to equality wind up damaging everyone's freedoms.

Well since you don't like opinions of links I would assume that if this parable is truly relevant you will state it here - if its not worth that then it probably isn't worth reading.

Procreation is not a dodge, please look up the sine qua non of marriage.

Hmmm, considering a number dictionaries today include same sex marriage under marriage I guess procreation is not part of the current 'sine qua non' and not a requirement for any US civil contract of marriage (though non-procreation is) Please look it up. :)
10.20.2005 8:46pm
On Lawn (mail) (www):
Bob,

Fascinating observations. Truely you can resist any set of information you wish to, and if that is your wish then who is to stand in your way with reason and discourse?

Your opinion of the links is margionally important, your opinion that they are links is much less so. Having noted your drive towards triviality I'll note your one attempt at substantive discussion...

considering a number dictionaries today include same sex marriage under marriage

Dictionaries are descriptive, not prescriptive. Never the less I know of no dictionary that has replaced the definition of one man and one woman in favor of simply saying "two people". They are different definitions, denoting different things. If anything they are synonyms. A useful but egregious amphibology waiting to happen.

Hence, this argument which I quote in part...

If the religious right were leading a campaign to redefine words like "homosexual," "gay," or "lesbian," the gay community would have reason to feel concerned. These are words that certain people use to describe their sexual identity, so they feel a sense of ownership over those words. If someone says "I am gay," we generally have the good manners not to second-guess them, and tell them that they are wrong, that they don't know what "gay" means.

"Heterosexual" on the other hand is NOT that sort of an "identity" word for most people, any more than most non-Jews self-identify as "Gentiles."


But that is just a teaser. Its a well constructed argument, and its hard to quote just a little. You should really read the whole thing. You didn't think I was actually going to indulge you in your laziness were you?
10.21.2005 12:01am
Phil (mail):
Bob Van Burkleo
One problem in discussing polygamy is, of course, that I am an outsider. My wife comes from a country where plural marriage was practiced until about a generation ago, but none of her family members ever chose that route. (I believe that it had been on the decline for several decades even before it disappeared.) I am forced to speculate as to the probable response, but if, for example, I understand the religious views of those in, e.g., Utah currently pursuing plural marriage, both fornication and divorce are not permissible. For such a believer, saying that you can have polygamy so long as you do not get married and/or are willing to divorce would be comprable to telling a SSM candidate to have gender re-assignment surgery. The appropriate response from either seems to me to be: Why?
It seems to me that both are driven by the same (strange) prejudice, sever marriage from procreation (Some would say, with justification, that this has already occurred) but maintain a simulacra of this connection by limiting marriage to twosomes (the minimum number required in the bad old days to crank out kids). If marriage is really about forming families with loved ones, I remain unconvinced that limiting it to duos is driven by anything other than prejudice.
Of course, this leaves open the question of the extent to which it is permissible fro a state to make law based upon its prejudices, though Lawrence seems to say not at all.
10.21.2005 4:06am
Jesurgislac (mail) (www):
rico: And I think this may get to the heart of the argument against gay marriage. The jury is still out on whether it is nature or nurture. And if it is nurture, and if you believe that homosexuality is sinful, then you are going to do what you can to reduce the opportunity for that "nurture" to take place.

But there is nothing anyone can do to "reduce the opportunity" for the "nurture" that may (or may not) affect sexual orientation. Before anyone could do that, they would first need to figure out what does affect sexual orientation. And on that subject, the jury isn't out; the lawyers haven't yet been able to figure out what the case is, so the jury hasn't even been selected. They have, however, been able to eliminate a few gross causes: one of which is that statistically, it makes no difference to a child's sexual orientation whether either or both of their parents are gay or straight, and it makes no difference to a child's sexual orientation whether they are reared by a same-sex couple, a mixed-sex couple, or a single parent.

Which means that same-sex marriage is irrelevant to the issue of whether or not it's "nature or nurture" that affects sexual orientation.
10.21.2005 10:04am
rico:

But there is nothing anyone can do to "reduce the opportunity" for the "nurture" that may (or may not) affect sexual orientation. Before anyone could do that, they would first need to figure out what does affect sexual orientation.


In a controlled scientific experiment, true. But in the real world there are a significant number of people that believe that the more society treats homosexuality as a perfectly acceptable lifestyle choice instead of an inappropriate expression of sexuality, the more that homosexuality is going to be "nurtured". And this viewpoint is not unsupportable: View the change in societal views of divorce and promiscuity, and the increase in those "inappropriate expressions of sexuality" that followed.

Legitimizing SSM is another step toward acceptance. And acceptance of our behavior, regardless of whether it's homosexuality, promiscuity, or anything else, is what we all seek in place of having to face the fact that we fall short.
10.21.2005 12:50pm