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Blankenhorn and the purposes of marriage:

In addition to the important procreative and child-raising purpose of marriage that David Blankenhorn and others opposed to gay marriage have emphasized, marriage has other functions arising from our history, tradition, and actual practice that are served by allowing people to marry even if they never have children.

So what does marriage do? What is it for? Marriage does at least six important things. I put these here in block text for ease of reference:

(1) Marriage is a legal contract. Marriage creates formal and legal obligations and rights between spouses. Public recognition of, and protection for, this marriage contract, whether in tax or divorce law, helps married couples succeed in creating a permanent bond.

(2) Marriage is a financial partnership. In marriage, "my money" typically becomes "our money," and this sharing of property creates its own kind of intimacy and mutuality that is difficult to achieve outside a legal marriage. Only lovers who make this legal vow typically acquire the confidence that allows them to share their bank accounts as well as their bed.

(3) Marriage is a sacred promise. Even people who are not part of any organized religion usually see marriage as a sacred union, with profound spiritual implications. "Whether it is the deep metaphors of covenant as in Judaism, Islam and Reformed Protestantism; sacrament as in Roman Catholicism or Eastern Orthodoxy; the yin and yang of Confucianism; the quasi-sacramentalism of Hinduism; or the mysticism often associated with allegedly modern romantic love," Don Browning writes, "humans tend to find values in marriage that call them beyond the mundane and everyday." Religious faith helps to deepen the meaning of marriage and provides a unique fountainhead of inspiration and support when troubles arise.

(4) Marriage is a sexual union. Marriage elevates sexual desire into a permanent sign of love, turning two lovers into "one flesh." Marriage indicates not only a private but a public understanding that two people have withdrawn themselves from the sexual marketplace. This public vow of fidelity also makes the married partners more likely to be faithful. Research shows, for example, that cohabiting men are four times more likely to cheat than husbands, and cohabiting women are eight times more likely to cheat than spouses.

(5) Marriage is a personal bond. Marriage is the ultimate avowal of caring, committed, and collaborative love. Marriage incorporates our desire to know and be known by another human being; it represents our dearest hopes that love is not a temporary condition, that we are not condemned to drift in and out of shifting relationships forever.

(6) Marriage is a family-making bond. Marriage takes two biological strangers and turns them into each other's next-of-kin. As a procreative bond, marriage also includes a commitment to care for any children produced by the married couple. It reinforces fathers' (and fathers' kin's) obligations to acknowledge children as part of the family system.

I suppose some people would dismiss these sentiments as the product of "adult-centered" thinking about marriage, with all the emphasis here on legal contracts, finances, sacred promises, sexual fulfillment, and private personal bonds. I suppose some would say I've missed the central importance of marriage as the place for child-rearing. After all, I've placed any procreative and child-rearing function at the very end. It doesn't even make the Top 5. I suppose others would say I've placed marriage in a largely private context and given little attention to the existence of marriage as a public institution with public purposes.

David Blankenhorn would not be among those people. He drafted these very claims about marriage as part of a "Statement of Principles" by the marriage movement in 2000, at a time when gay marriage was barely a blip on the radar. In the block text above, I have copied the statement word-for-word, except that in #4 I have substituted "the married partners" for "men and women." (The statement can be found here.)

Blankenhorn has also explicitly rejected the anachronistic and reductive view that the only public purpose of marriage is to encourage procreation and child-rearing. Marriage is a "multi-dimensional, multi-purpose institution," he acknowledges. "It is not true therefore to say that the state's only interest in marriage is marriage's generative role," he wrote a couple of years ago. "Instead, marriage's role as a pro-child social institution is only one, albeit the most important, of these legitimate state interests." (Emphasis original.)

Blankenhorn has been criticized for a "change of tune" -- for emphasizing procreation and biological parenthood in the context of the gay-marriage debate, while he did not emphasize these things before the debate took center stage. He has defended himself on this point by saying that it is only in the context of the gay-marriage debate that some people have insisted there's no connection between marriage and family-making. I suppose he could also say that the six dimensions of marriage are valuable only because they serve the family-making purpose of marriage by cementing the bond between two biological parents. But that is not how I read the statement and I don't think it fits the idea of marriage as a "multi-purpose" institution.

Blankenhorn, who has long been concerned about fathers leaving their families, is not necessarily being hypocritical by now emphasizing the role of marriage in bringing biological parents together. Nothing in the statement he endorsed seven years ago is inconsistent with the view that the central and important purpose of marriage is to encourage procreation and child-rearing within marriage. But that's the point: even if you erroneously thought gay marriage had nothing to do with benefiting children, and everything to do with, for example, a "personal bond" that "represents our dearest hopes that love is not a temporary condition," it would not be a threat to marriage.

Gay marriage can very clearly meet five of the six dimensions of marriage Blankenhorn himself has endorsed: it can benefit the couple with legal advantages that help "create a permanent bond"; it can facilitate the formation of a financial interdependence that "creates its own kind of intimacy and mutuality"; it helps the couple find values, including religious ones, that go beyond the mundane and everyday and that may be "a fountainhead of inspiration and support when troubles arise"; it can "elevate sexual desire into a permanent sign of love" and be more likely than cohabitation to lead the couple to withdraw themselves from the sexual marketplace; and of course it can be a deep personal bond between two people who share the common human desire for permanence and attachment to one other person.

Gay marriage can also serve the sixth, family-making, function identified by Blankenhorn seven years ago. A gay couple can't procreate as a couple, it's true. But they can fit and benefit from all of the dimensions listed above in the same way a sterile straight couple could. Marriage can turn gay couples, unrelated biologically, into next-of-kin, as it can for opposite-sex couples. It can reinforce parents' (and parents' kin's) "obligations to acknowledge children as part of the family system," just as it can for second-marriage couples and for sterile opposite-sex couples who adopt or use some method of assisted reproduction.

Even if they never have children, married gay couples will hardly be outside the bounds of marriage as it is actually practiced and as Blankenhorn described it in 2000. By choice or by necessity, lots of marriages never result in children. We do not think less of these marriages, do not think they transform marriage into something wholly adult-centered, and do not worry that they represent a threat to "the future of marriage" by making biological parents think family structure is unimportant. There are already far many more such childless opposite-sex marriages than there will be gay marriages. We recognize that these childless marriages fit the additional dimensions of marriage that Blankenhorn beautifully articulated seven years ago and that, in doing so, they do not undermine the important family-making purpose of marriage.

Many opponents of gay marriage would deny that homosexual couples can meet even the five companionate (non-generative) dimensions of marriage. But based on his public statements about homosexuality, I think Blankenhorn would have to agree that for gay Americans marriage would be "a personal bond," the "ultimate avowal of caring, committed, and collaborative love"; that gay persons equally share the deep human yearning "to know and be known by another human being"; and that they too possess "our dearest hopes that love is not a temporary condition."

If that's good enough reason to let childless straight couples marry, to let sterile couples adopt or reach outside their sexual union to produce a child, why is it not good enough for gay couples? The answer to that question might be found in moral or religious objections to homosexuality, in a desire to avoid placing society's imprimatur on homosexual relationships, or in ugly and unfounded stereotypes about gay people as hopelessly hyper-promiscuous or unstable. But it cannot easily be found in a world-view that affirms, as Blankenhorn recently did, "the equal dignity of homosexual love."

Blankenhorn is no flake. He's a serious scholar and thinker. He has thought long and hard about the needs of heterosexuals for marriage. He has challenged the idea that family structure is irrelevant. He has said that our ethical and moral traditions require that we place the needs of children above adult needs where they're in conflict. He has been right about all of this.

But for all his integrity and sincere opposition to anti-gay bigotry, I don't think he has thought very hard about the needs of gay families. That's why, for example, he and many others opposed to gay marriage could imagine that protecting gay families in law means placing the needs of adults ahead of children — as if we don't already have many childless marriages and as if thousands of gay families don't already include children whose welfare the gay parents place before their own.

Perhaps, just perhaps, Blankenhorn will one day see that marriage offers gay people and their families, at no cost to heterosexuals, the best hope that they too will not be "condemned to drift in and out of shifting relationships forever." They will have the prospects for permanence and stability enhanced but not guaranteed in their lives and in the lives of any children they may raise. That's all marriage can do.

Ramza:
Just giving people a heads up. In the last link Dale Carpenter posted, besides giving some background info on the April 18, 2007 Ethics and Public Policy Center hosted debate between David Blankenhorn debating Jonathan Rauch. There is also an included audio mp3 file of the conference discussion if you want to listen to it. It is 78 mins long.

Here is a direct link to the mp3 file.
Note if you left click it may take a while for its 18 megs
4.30.2007 1:10pm
plunge (mail):
I think you left out some of the important issues from the family-making principle that John Rauch argued. The family making isn't just about the two people involved and their dependents. It's also about the entire two families of each person: it creates a bond between ALL of those people, tying together extended groups of people into a new family.

And, also as Rauch points out, this is something that is very important to marriage as a social institution, because it is this sort of extended network of support and expectation that helps keep marriages together and successful.

DC: I agree with Jon about the importance of marriage in tying together unrelated families, of course. I mention this in the post. But, as I think Jon would say, the center of the marriage is the couple and any children they may have. Their extended families are important -- but peripheral -- support.
4.30.2007 1:13pm
PatHMV (mail) (www):
My family law professor always told us that the ultimate purpose of family law was to keep people off the public dole. Child support, for example, is there to make the father pay for his kids so the public doesn't have to.

Like most laws, marriage exists in the law in part so that people don't have to reinvent the wheel every time they come into conflict. This helps keep life more peaceful for them and their neighbors. Cohabitating couples who split up cause disharmony in the community. Where they must resolve matters themselves rather than simply go by the law, with the help of a court when necessary, the risk of violent confrontation (or at least loud screaming matches on the lawn) go up considerably.

Ultimately, I think gay marriage is not nearly as important as gay divorce. It's possible to cobble together many of the benefits of marriage as a gay couple (not 100%, and not always easily, but possible). But when it comes time to split up, if that time does come, then the voluntary agreements and powers-of-attorney won't protect one or the other party from getting screwed by the more financially-secure partner.

If one partner gave up educational or promotional opportunities so the other could get through law school or medical school, or get the big promotion of their own, and then they split up, the poorer partner is in just as difficult a position as the "traditional housewife" can be after she is turned in for a newer model. Now the public might have to subsidize his retirement more through social security, or medicare, rather than through the wealthier partner's private insurance and retirement package. The odds of the poorer partner seeking revenge or showing up at 2am to cuss the S.O.B. out go up. Societal order is decreased.

So I'm not sold 100% on the benefits of gay marriage, but I see a real need for gay divorce.
4.30.2007 1:16pm
Ramza:

Like most laws, marriage exists in the law in part so that people don't have to reinvent the wheel every time they come into conflict. This helps keep life more peaceful for them and their neighbors. Cohabitating couples who split up cause disharmony in the community. Where they must resolve matters themselves rather than simply go by the law, with the help of a court when necessary, the risk of violent confrontation (or at least loud screaming matches on the lawn) go up considerably.

Ultimately, I think gay marriage is not nearly as important as gay divorce. It's possible to cobble together many of the benefits of marriage as a gay couple (not 100%, and not always easily, but possible).

Isn't one of the benefits of gay marriage, is that the ease in "creating the wheel." Yes you can replicate a good portion of the legal transactions of marriage through other legal documents (besides the legal benefits where a state favors a marriage). The difficulty of doing all the legal documents though deter a couple from doing so in the first place for it is a hefty investment.

Some may argue well we need to make these legal contracts simpler instead of giving gay marriage. Fine then, do so, actually make the legal contracts simpler and cheaper instead of just saying we need to do this. Don't say we need to do X, and then not follow through with doing X, doing this is dishonest, harmful, and unethical. Rhetoric without action is empty and useless.
4.30.2007 1:32pm
Adeez (mail):
For what it's worth, NY's highest court is on record stating that marriage has one primary purpose: an economic partnership. I think this comports with PatHMV's understanding of marriage's main purpose. And of course it provides yet another reason why homosexuals should not be denied the right to marry.
4.30.2007 1:50pm
Martin Grant (mail):
Plunge> It's also about the entire two families of each person: it creates a bond between ALL of those people, tying together extended groups of people into a new family.

That's a very eastern view point.

DC>... the center of the marriage is the couple and any children they may have. Their extended families are important -- but peripheral ...

Maybe here in the U.S. Other countries may have an entirely different view. In India where many marriages are arranged, the alliance of two families plays a much bigger role. Love matches are still only about 5% of marriages there.
4.30.2007 1:53pm
CJColucci:
I'd be interested in knowing how important names are to the people involved. If a legislature cobbled together an institution that replicated marriage, giving gay couples all the rights one gets through marriage (including ways to get out of it), but called it something else, how many people who oppose gay marriage would accept it and how many gay marriage advocates would think it good enough?
4.30.2007 2:15pm
Yankev (mail):
I can see why you had to re-write #4. Where is the yin and yang in a union of two men? Or of two women?
4.30.2007 2:16pm
Ella (www):
Ramza - I'll just add that even making the legal documents easier doesn't solve much. In my current state (Maryland), it's pretty easy to fill out an advance directive with a durable power of attorney for health care decisions - no notarization required, just a form you can get from the Attorney General's website. This doesn't stop hospitals from not only demandinig to see the document before so much as permitting someone to visit his same sex partner, but from refusing to recognize it until their attorney and god knows who else reviews and verifies it to their satisfaction. One overcautious or homophobic nurse can seriously screw someone over even when they've taken all the steps they're supposed to take to ensure that their partner can visit and make decisions for them when they're incapacitated. And if a family member decides to make trouble, forget it.

By contrast, when I was seriously injured a few months into my marriage, all my husband had to say was "I'm her husband" and no one questioned his right to be there or to make decisions while I was unconscious. No one asked for proof. And we have different last names and (at the time) separate health insurance.

"Husband" and "wife" are magic words in our society - all the well crafted legal documents in the world can't open the doors those simple syllables can.
4.30.2007 2:17pm
Ramza:
I am familiar with the problem with hospital visitation and those legal documents. Even legal documents are limited when it comes to things such as wills, the splitting of property , credit, etc.

This is one of the reasons why I favor gay marriage (out of numerous pluralistic reasons) regardless I am open to debate and new ideas, I just want to thoroughly hash all the benefits and costs of said new ideas. I am open to changing my mind if you can list good reasons why I should. Both sides of this debate should be like this, else we are just throwing back barbs back and forth.
4.30.2007 2:40pm
arbitraryaardvark (mail) (www):
Research shows, for example, that cohabiting men are four times more likely to cheat than husbands, and cohabiting women are eight times more likely to cheat than spouses.
I think "cheat" is the wrong word here. I'm not in position to know whether the error is in the post, or the research.
A promise, however sincere or insincere, of sexual exclusivity, characterizes many but not all marriages. Those who make and then break the promise, "cheat." Those who did not make the promise don't cheat. In cohabitation, it is unreasonable to assume that in every case there's been a promise of exclusivity. In my non-random-sample, promises of exclusivity are less common in same sex partnerships.
4.30.2007 2:46pm
plunge (mail):
DC, as another poster said, I still think you are underplaying it by describing it as peripheral (especially in cultural corners that are a little less nuclear). This isn't really a disagreement, just a difference of emphasis. But I think it is really relevant to mention precisely because it's so important to the policy distinction between marriage vs. some arbitrary legal arrangement between two people. Marriage has a social power that two gay people living together (and maybe having a legal will) does not. When gay people miss out on marriage, they miss out on that power and are further made to operate outside of the social norms that keep other partnerships stable and keep different people linked together via family.

DC: I fully agree with that and have written so in the past. The differences here seem semantic. I think "important but peripheral" accurately describes the function of the extended families, but I'm not especially wedded (pardon) to that formulation.
4.30.2007 3:23pm
BobNSF (mail):

Where is the yin and yang in a union of two men? Or of two women?


I often wonder about the quality of the marriages of those who spout such nonsense. Is the yin in their marriage penis-related? Is the yang exclusive to the vagina-bearer? Are all decisions based on what under the clothes for these people, like some sort of binary rock-paper-scissors game?
4.30.2007 3:44pm
Yankev (mail):

I often wonder about the quality of the marriages of those who spout such nonsense. Is the yin in their marriage penis-related? Is the yang exclusive to the vagina-bearer? Are all decisions based on what under the clothes for these people, like some sort of binary rock-paper-scissors game?


Nothing like a little ad hominem to give your argument credibility, Bob.

If you think that the only differences between the sexes is strictly physical, I can't help you.
4.30.2007 4:03pm
Ramza:

I can see why you had to re-write #4. Where is the yin and yang in a union of two men? Or of two women?

If you think that the only differences between the sexes is strictly physical, I can't help you.

Yin and Yang isn't just male and physical, its about opposing but complimentary forces. Males are Yang, females aren't yin; male forces are yang, female forces are yin (such as building something new out of raw materials will be yang, while refining an already existing product will be yin). Additionally yin and yang aren't just male and female forces, they also symbolize other concepts and are more universal than the caricature most people in western thought ascribe to yin and yang (such as saying one is male one is female.)

And this occurs with any permanent long term relationships. People are attracted to in possible long term partners they partners are usually complimentary opposites, someone who they can relate to, yet at the same time different enough that there mere presence, they way they talk and think, what they do, it excites them.
4.30.2007 4:20pm
LGFF:
Sterile couples and those unwilling to have children don't destroy the purpose of rules favoring procreative marriages. They're merely exceptions. They are exceptions that aren't excluded from the rule for two obvious reasons:

1) Privacy. How would you tell a couple is sterile? Would you mandate a fertility test before each marriage, with yearly check-ups to make sure? How would you tell if a couple "really" wanted to have children? By comparison, divining the sex of each spouse isn't exactly invasive or difficult. It's already on record with the state.

2) Circumstances can change. Certain sterility conditions can be treated, now and in the future. People's attitudes towards having children can shift. It would be grossly unfair to ban people from marrying based on a purely contingent ground that could easily change. While asexual reproduction might happen in the future, it's far from clear that it will happen, that it will be at all common or practical, or that the resulting genetic or parenting arrangements would be optimal. But we can answer those questions if/when we get there.

Everyone's right that we don't look down on sterile or willingly childless marriages, but I don't think you have to look down on gay relationships either. The question is whether the state should honor and encourage gay relationships with the exact same title and privilege that come with procreative relationships that help raise the next generation. What you choose to think of individual relationships and their moral worth is your business, and it's a whole other issue.

If the state allows gay marriage, it is unequivocally stating that rearing society's children is not a needed social aim of marriages the state wishes to recognize and honor. The rule, exceptions and all, is wiped away. My unscientific, though plausible, hunch is that this attitude will have seemingly unrelated consequences down the road, regardless of how ethical or loving the actual homosexual unions are. The last thing we need to do these days is de-emphasize the role of children in our families.
4.30.2007 4:23pm
Ella (www):
LGFF

I always have two problems with the argument you make. First, to the extent that marriage exists to provide support to children, that purpose has already been minimized by the elimination of the legal stigma attached to bastardy and by changes in the child custody and support laws that have largely separated these issues from the legal institution of marriage. Second, it is not at all clear that marriage exists as a legal or religious institution for the primary purpose of providing the optimal environment for child-rearing. Certainly, it is AN important purpose and would continue to be an important purpose for heterosexual and homosexual couples who reproduce/adopt, but it is not the only important purpose. Legally, this is reflected in the laws related to spousal property distribution, support, and inheritance. If children were the primary purpose of marriage, it would make more sense for these spousal protections to apply only when the marriage had produced children. On the religious front, the marriage ceremony in the Book of Common Prayer (Episcopalian) lists three purposes for marriage - mutual joy, mutual help and comfort, and, if it is God's will, the procreation and nurture of children. Children are only one of the three purposes, and not a necessary one at that.
4.30.2007 5:10pm
Dom (mail):
Gay marriage is a non-issue. Homosexuality will someday be cured -- and I think that is the correct word -- in the womb, then the whole issue will disappear.

I once stuttered severely. There were endless arguments about my employment rights. Some were about whether the air-traffic controllers were right to "discriminate" against me. That's a lot of fun for lawyers, but along came pagaclone and no one cares anymore.

A question for everyone: Do you agree that homosexuality is something that should be cured?
4.30.2007 5:29pm
BobNSF (mail):
Yankev:

Nothing like a little ad hominem to give your argument credibility, Bob.


You can see no complimentarity in my 26-year partnership. But that's not ad hominem, right?

I don't think it's much of a personal attack to wonder about people who view relationships in such stark, male/female ways, especially when their view seems to be tied to actual physical equipment, but if you took it personally, well, I'm sorry I offended you.


If you think that the only differences between the sexes is strictly physical, I can't help you.


And if you think that differences between people and all the factors that go into making a marriage work are based on gender, I can't help you.
4.30.2007 5:37pm
Adeez (mail):
Just as relevant to the abortion debate, adoption is an issue often avoided in this one.

It is an indisputable fact that there's an excess of children in this country, and world, who could use nothing more than a loving home.

For those who wish to deny homosexuals the right to marry, including the right to provide these children with such homes: you're all rushing to adopt and furnish that loving home that you want to deprive adoptees of, right? After all, it's all about the children.
4.30.2007 5:55pm
jimbino (mail):
This is a joke, right?

(1) "Marriage is a legal contract." Yeah, a legal contract whose terms, and whose migration, economic and tax implications neither of the parties fully understands. It is a contract for dumb people whom the state wants to keep dumb.

(2) "Marriage is a financial partnership." Here in Texas, the parties can elect to have no financial involvement with each other.

(3) "Marriage is a sacred promise." Tell it to Dawkins. We atheists and agnostics don't recognize anything as sacred. The sacred is the enemy of science.

(4) "Marriage is a sexual union." Cohabitators are more likely to be unfaithful? Did they pledge fidelity? NO. The cohabitors distinguish themselves by having the sense not to involve the gummint in their sex lives and by not being the hypocrites the married folks are.

(5) "Marriage is a personal bond." Get real. If I married, it would be for a cook and housekeeper, for money (tax savings, inheritance) or to assist in my own immigration to a foreign land or some partner's immigration to Amerika. In the biblical record, in most of the world today, and in the Western world until recent times, NOBODY marries for love or for a "personal bond." Check out Einstein's rules for the cousin he married!

(6) "Marriage is a family-making bond." True, at last. That is the lesson of history, and, nowadays, those who want no relationship with a partner's family (or some judge) would be well advised not to marry.
4.30.2007 6:06pm
Randy R. (mail):
LGFF: "If the state allows gay marriage, it is unequivocally stating that rearing society's children is not a needed social aim of marriages the state wishes to recognize and honor. "

Not at all. If the state allows gay marriage -- and it HAS in Massachusetts -- it will actually be stating that the children of gay unions are as important and entitled to the same benefits as children of hetero married parents.

It is today, by NOT recognizing gay marriage, that the state is saying that when gay people rear children, they are not recognized or honored.

If you still persist in this incorrect thinking, then please how any harm has come to the children of hetero marriages in Massachusetts and in Canada, which also allows gay marriage.
4.30.2007 6:43pm
CJColucci:
Dom:

N-n-n-n-no.
4.30.2007 6:46pm
Randy R. (mail):
Sorry, Dom, but you are about 30 years behind the times. There are no medical or mental organizations that have viewed homosexuality as any sort of disease that needs correcting for any time now.

Frankly, if there were a pill that would change me into being straight I would refuse to take it. And I would never, NEVER give up my Judy Garland CD collection!

And just think, if you WERE to somehow prevent anyone from being gay anymore, the world would be a much less interesting place. No good restaurants, no nice houses, no nice clothes or hairdos, no decent entertainment, and you could kiss all the arts goodbye. Is that the sterile world you aspire to?
4.30.2007 6:47pm
Samantha:
While I winced at a bit at some of Randy's stereotypes, I do agree that a diversity of sexual orientations leads to a more interesting world. I think there's something very valuable about a "condition" that by its very existence challenges traditional gender roles, which have been the source of so much pain, suffering and injustice throughout history.
4.30.2007 7:09pm
Randy R. (mail):
Well, true. The military, marines and pro sports teams have plenty of gay people, and there are actualy men who don't like musicals at all!
4.30.2007 8:54pm
Dom (mail):
Randy:

Of course you would never take a pill. The question is, would your mother have taken the pill if she knew the fetus was destined to be Homosexual.

As far as the mental health organizations, they no longer believe that stuttering is a mental illness, but we still try to "cure" it.

Would a decrease in the number of homosexuals change society? Maybe, but a decrease in the number of downs babies would change it also. In any case, we assume the individuals would be the same, just the sexual orientation would change.

I still haven't had an answer. A cure of homosexuality is coming, just like a cure for downs, foro blindness, etc. Is that a bad thing.

BTW, I'm gay myself.
4.30.2007 9:09pm
BobNSF (mail):

BTW, I'm gay myself.


Well, since you're already born and are, therefore "incurable", I'm a bit puzzled why you think the issue of same-sex marriage should just be ignored until it "disappears".

Don't gay people, including those just growing up, deserve equality while we're still around?
4.30.2007 9:50pm
therut:
But, will all the gay rights people become pro-life when homosexuality can be found before the magic birthday? What are you going to do then? If homosexual babies ( I mean fetuses) can be detected and aborted at will then will it be a good thing to allow abortion cause having a homosexual child or for that matter a heterosexual child could definately be a health reason for the woman?
4.30.2007 11:17pm
Spec Bowers (mail):
As a legislative question, this post and the comments are interesting and relevant.

As a legal question, they should be totally irrelevant.

The fundamental question is not whether or not there should be gay marriage, it is whether the decision should be made by the people through their elected legislators, or by a handful of unelected judges.

I would expect a blog about the law to discuss what the law is, not what the law should be.
5.1.2007 12:39am
MidwayPete (mail):
Dom, there's a cure for Down Syndrome now or in the future? A cure, or the pre-birth elimination of those carrying the genes for Down Syndrome?
5.1.2007 1:43am
Randy R. (mail):
"The fundamental question is not whether or not there should be gay marriage, it is whether the decision should be made by the people through their elected legislators, or by a handful of unelected judges. "

And New Hampshire did just that last week by granting civil union status, with all the rights and benefits of marriage that the state could offer, to gay people, by the legislature. That's what the law IS in New Hampshire, so I'm sure you are quite happy about that.

And of course, that will happen in California if the governor there stops vetoing the legislative bill.

Therut: There are already a great many gay people who are pro-life, so I don't understand your point.
5.1.2007 1:56am
Randy R. (mail):
Dom, if you think that being gay is some sort of disease that needs to be cured, then you probably have several years of therapy ahead of you. Anyone who is uncomfortable with their sexuality is in for a bumpy ride in life, since you can't change your sexuality, but you can change your ideas on it.
5.1.2007 1:58am
Randy R. (mail):
Oh, and I forgot that civil unions were granted by the state legislature in both New Jersey and Connecticut last year, and in Canada and Spain a while ago. So the momentum seems to be that state legislatures are way ahead of the courts nowadays on this issue.

Ya happy now, Spec?
5.1.2007 2:00am
Chairm (mail):
Gay marriage can very clearly meet five of the six dimensions of marriage



1. What, if any, societal interest exists in whether or not two men form a bond, permanent or otherwise? Provision for designated beneficiaries does not depend on a presumptively sexual relationship.

In Hawaii all it takes is a small fee ($15 if I recall correctly) and an affidavit. Protection is made more accessible without creating a new type of relationship status. No one married and no marriageable combination is eligible.

However, that is because marriage entails a particular kind of sexual relationship -- the procreative type -- which is foreign to any one-sexed arrangement.

2. Only lovers who make this legal vow typically acquire the confidence that allows them to share their bank accounts as well as their bed.

What is the state interest, or the public interest, in two men, or two women, sharing a bed as well as finances? If the interest is really about joint finances, then, why even refer to a sexual relationship?

Because the conjugal union entails the combo of responsible procreation and integration of man and woman, fatherhood and motherhood, husband and wife.

That is extrinsic to the one-sexed arrangement, sexualized or not.

Afterall, there are plenty of nonsexual scenarios that could include shared finances and property.

3. Mention of these religions cuts against treating the homosexual relationship as marriage. And given the intolerance of SSMers in Massachusetts and in the UK regarding Catholic Charities, it is absurd for this item to be included in Carpenter's mirrored list.

4. The "one-flesh" reference clearly can not apply to two men or two women. Sexual union of husband and wife is not a means to an end. It is an intrinsic good. They create their conjugal relationship -- they mate and consumate their marital bond -- and do so as whole human beings, not as disembodied seekers of orgasm.

5. If the core of marriage is trivialized, as SSM argumentation must trivialize integration of the sex and responsible procreation, then, an asexual relationship (a profound friendship for example) would fit this dimension very easily. But here the dimension is contextualized: see the nature, the essence, the core of the conjugal relationship type.

6. Why do you imagine that marriage turns biological strangers into next-of-kin? See the nature of marriage.

This item #6, as David Blankenhorn puts it, is like the light bulb at the center of the other 5 items and it lights up those related items and gives them both context and special meaning. It is #6 that distinguishes the marital relationship from all other relationship types that might share, in some secondary or tertiary way, aspects of the previous 5 items.

I also find it amusing that yet again a prominent SSMer knocks down the "solo procreation" strawman. And then raises up the cherished sterility strawman repeated ad nauseaum in the SSM campaign.

You clearly have not understood the significance of the combination of integration of the sexes and the contingency for responsible procreation. Continue to mischaracterize this and pat yourselves onthe back for doing so, but you need to work harder at understanding before you can claim to disagree with it.

Mr. Carpenter, you post demonstrates that you argue for the two-person relationship type without giving an account of the nature of such a relationship type. In short, what is the essence of the thing you would have society call "marriage" -- if it is not illuminated by item #6?

Let's turn off that light bulb and proceed from there, as your post proposes, by the light of this two person relationship ideal.
5.1.2007 2:07am
Ramza:
Randy R.

Dom isn't arguing whether homosexuality is a disease, defect, or even superior/inferior. He is arguing it is perceived as inferior by potential parents. If a parent had the choice of the kid being straight or gay he/she would probably choose straight. For one of two reasons, 1) Religous/Traditional ones I don't want a kid that will struggle with something I find immoral 2) The idea that a straight life is easier or it is better not to be a minority.

It doesn't matter if homosexuality is superior or inferior in actuality what matters according to Dom if given the choice parents will go with their gut and they will go with what they percieve as superior/inferior.
5.1.2007 2:08am
Ramza:
I don't want to distract from Dale's original post, but since Randy brought up the states which has gay marriage/civil unions/domestic partnerships here is a comprehensive summary of the state of gay marriage and similar institutions in the US.

----------------------
Population Distribution of which states have what rights for gay couples, and how much of a population these states have compared to the total US population. Assuming 300 million people in the US

Current States with Marriage Equality (Equal Benefits at State level, Gay Married Couples won't get the 1049 federal benefits till Defense of Marriage Amendment is revoked since DOMA says only one man one woman can get those federal marriage benefits) Marriage in name.
*Massachusetts -- 6,349,097
Total percent of the US with Marriage Equality 2.1163%

Current States with Marriage Equality in all but name (Civil Unions, equal benefits at the state level)
*Connecticut -- 3,405,565
*New Jersey -- 8,414,350
*Vermont -- 608,827
*New Hampshire 1,235,786
*Total -- 13 664 528
Total percent of the US with Marriage Equality in everything but name 4.5548%

Current States that grant some benefits associated with Marriage at the state level, but not all. For example Washington gives 15 benefits out of the states 400. The 15 benefits deal with wills, after death burying, and if someone is injured what can the partner do medically. All other states offer more rights/benefits than Washington with the exception of Maine. (Washington is the most bare Domestic Partnership law and the rights granted via it)
*California -- 33,871,648
*District of Columbia -- 572,059
*Hawaii -- 1,211,537
*Maine -- 1,274,923
*Washington -- 5,894,121
*Total -- 42,824,288
Total percent of the US which recognizes some marriages benefits but not all State benefits (aka Marriage Equality or Civil Unions) 14.2747%

----------------------
Upcoming State Battles with immediate possible results

Oregon Civil Unions (all benefits with Marriage except name) has passed house but not Senate yet (will most likely pass Senate). Governor promised to sign
*Oregon population 3,421,399
Will add 1.1405% to Marriage in all but name aka Civil Unions

The current New York Governor proposes full Marriage Equality benefits and name just last week. If successful New York will be the second state will full marriage equality. It will most likely not be successful, for while the House is probably for it as well as the Governor, the New York senate is Republican Controlled
*New York Population 18,976 ,457
Will add 6.3255%to Marriage

If New York passes Marriage Equality the total percent of the US population that will have access to it will be: Marriage Equality 8.4418%. If Oregon passes its bill the percent will increase for Marriage Equality in all but name 5.6953%

----------------------
Note upcoming events.

California Supreme Court is considering whether the current marriage legislation is constitutional. One court found it unconstitutional, the appeals overturned it, and now the California Supreme court is viewing it. Note in 2005 the California state legislature, 21-15 in the Senate and 41-35 in California State Assembly, aka California's house, voted in favor of a bill that would have granted Same Sex Marriage in name and benefits. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed this bill. This bill may come up again as soon as Arnold is no longer Governor, until then recent changes to California by legislative action are dead on arrival.

The Maryland Court of Appeals, the state's highest court is also hearing another court case to see if the state ban is constitutional. There was multiple pre-emptive constitutional amendment attempt in the Maryland State Legislature, these constitutional amendment attempts didn't even survive the committee process, one such attempt was rejected unanimously.

Connecticut legislators, which already has civil unions which grant all the state benefits of marriage besides name is considering a full marriage bill in all but name. Additionally the highest court in Connecticut is seeing if there is a constitutional difference between Civil Unions (in Connecticut all benefits except name) and Marriage. The lower court said since there is civil unions, the state's actions are constitutional.

Rhode Island currently has no laws for or against Same Sex Marriage. The Rhode Island courts and Attorney General says that if you are a gay couple who gets married in Massachusetts, Rhode Island will recognize the marriage for there is no law against. Currently Rhode Island has 8 different bills proposed this year in its state legislatures, some for gay marriage, some for marriage between one man one women, some for civil unions.

----------------------
Note in the previous section I just mentioned the states that have a good chance of changing, or they have immediate chances of changing, that I know of by following the news there may be more states that are likely that somehow missed my radar.

Here are the states that are proposing in the current legislative session some change in the Marriage/Civil Unions/Domestic Partnership laws in the direction of marriage equality. I don't know how likely each one is to occur.
Connecticut - Illinois - Maine - New Hampshire - New Jersey - New York - Rhode Island - Vermont - Washington

DC: A good informative post. One change I'd make is that California more appropriately belongs in the list of states that have given same-sex couples marriage in all but the name, even though there are a couple of small differences under state law. California has done much, much more for gay couples than Washington state recently did, for example. If we move California into that category, about 1/6 of the U.S. population is now living in a state with either gay marriage or its legal equivalent.
5.1.2007 2:13am
Ella (www):
Chairm -

Regarding your question in # 6 - marriage does make your spouse your legal next-of-kin. Look it up.

Regarding the rest of your post, it's all premised on the idea that the primary or most important societal purpose is its procreative aspect. It's not that Carpenter or any other SSM advocate doesn't understand your argument - it's that we don't buy this premise. Marriage between two non-procreating people has a number of benefits for society - married people are happier and healthier, they have more money, they and their extended families provide each other a financial safety net, and disputes over their property are greatly simplified. All of these benefit society apart from their benefit to children.

And if you're going to paraphrase the pope's pontification about the nature of something he will never experience, it is worth pointing out that no religion, including the Roman Catholic church, has a monopoly on determining the meaning of sex and marriage. For instance, my religion recognizes three purposes for marriage, only two of which are necessary (hint: procreation isn't one of the two). Not that it matters greatly, since we have a secular government, but it does give the lie to the assertion that "everyone" recognizes procreation as the central aspect of marriage.
5.1.2007 8:25am
Amicus:
Dom, even if one has your view, it is the other way around. Marriage can't wait pending a "cure". That's like saying, we're not going to treat until there is a known "cure", something that even medieval doctors didn't do. (Stepping back, I would, in fact, reject that view, because LGBT folks are not functioning as 'diseased persons'. The only perspective on which to base a phenotypical judgment is that, as part of a species, gay people do not reproduce, which seems out line with biological imperatives. But the truth may be that 'mother nature' is wiser than that simple formulation, and LGBT folks have *other* roles to play within the collective functioning of a species. In fact, one could go so far as to say that their function was a form of higher-level specialization in a species, of adaption capabilities, even, if you are willing to go that far.)

Chairm wrote: "Sexual union of husband and wife is not a means to an end. It is an intrinsic good." Well, that's quite exciting, because, basically, that means that procreation is not a purpose of marriage, but a byproduct (a desirable one, hopefully, but still an ancillary one). Taking out the husband-wife formulation, it is also an argument for SSM.

Consider this proposition: The purpose of marriage, and the public's interest in it, is not "procreation", per se, but good parenting. Society needs good parents.
5.1.2007 10:55am
Dom (mail):
My point was already made by Ramza. Perhaps "cure" is the wrong word, but the fact -- at least I think it is a fact -- is that prospective parents will want straight children and will act accordingly. "Act accordingly" means either a "treatment" or some sort -- probably coming soon enough -- or abortion -- coming even sooner.

The number of Downs babies is decreasing because parents are aborting after the appropriate pre-natal testing. It is rare these days to see a Downs baby.

I'm very comfortable being gay, but let's face the facts. It is not gays who get pregnant and have gay children. The proliferation of the species is not in the hands of gays.

As far as gay marriage laws, it is probably irrelevant. My feeling on this is similar to my feeling on stuttering, which is why I brought it up. I went for so many years joining activist groups to protect my rights, I gave so many speeches listing the number of times I was turned down for employment. Today? Who cares. The same thing will happen with the current fuss about gay marriage.

Here is the only important questions. Should the government fund research into pre-natal testing for homosexuality?
5.1.2007 11:20am
Amicus:
I don't think that is a given because your are mixing two scenarios. Gay people historically have been stigmatized, in part, because 'parents' assumed their sexuality was a choice. 'A cure' of the type you are suggesting, would turn that upside down, by actually proving a biological case and that, in turn, might have broad implications for the 'moral case'. In other words, it's at least imaginable that acceptance would increase to the point that a parent's choice in the matter is not so obvious. Those with Downs and stuttering, your examples, face specific physiological hurdles, while gays and lesbians face only social hurdles, yes?
5.1.2007 12:19pm
Ramza:

DC: A good informative post. One change I'd make is that California more appropriately belongs in the list of states that have given same-sex couples marriage in all but the name, even though there are a couple of small differences under state law. California has done much, much more for gay couples than Washington state recently did, for example. If we move California into that category, about 1/6 of the U.S. population is now living in a state with either gay marriage or its legal equivalent.


California is the most comprehensive of the "Domestic Partnership states." Over the years since the beginning of California Domestic Partnerships in 1999, the California legislature have expanded the benefits received in every legislative session. The total benefits California Domestic Partnership receives are almost all the state benefits of marriage. They are still not treated as "equivalents" or "interchangeable" by statue unlike NJ, NH, CT, VT, civil unions. That said even though they are not interchangeable from the benefit, right perspective they are so close they are almost are interchangeable. So yeah which side you want to put California on is based on how you define your terms. California is almost civil union, but not quite, yet at the same time it is very different than other Domestic Partnership states.

Sorry if the previous post of mine was less clear as it could be, it was already very long and I didn't want to go into info overload. You can put California 33,871,648 in pretty much Civil Union or Domestic Partnership territory, depends on how you define the terms.
5.1.2007 12:29pm
Chairm:
Ella, but how and why do you imagine that a spouses become next-of-kin? As I said, relatives can marry. You won't find the how and why by relying on the law as the source of wisdom. Rather, the law merely recognizes marriage, the social institution, as per its nature. See item #6.

A. It's not that Carpenter or any other SSM advocate doesn't understand your argument

B. my religion recognizes three purposes [...] procreation isn't [one of the two necessary purposes] [...] [my religion] does give the lie to the assertion that "everyone" recognizes procreation as the central aspect of marriage.

You mistake the nature of marriage with instrumentation of marriage.

Also your pont B contradicts your point A. You misrepresented what has been said. You are disagreeing with "solo procreation". You do not understand the disagreement. Please reread my comment and, if you have not already, maybe see if you can get hold of Blankenhorn's new book, as well. There is more to this than Carpenter's posts would suggest.
5.1.2007 7:57pm
Chairm:
Amicus,

I discussed the post in which Carpenter presented false equivalencies. Your comment did no better than his post.

As I said previously: "The "one-flesh" reference clearly can not apply to two men or two women."

It was Carpenter who introduced the false equivalency. You have misread my response and omitted the sentence that did not fit your rhetorical rejoinder.

Responsible procreation, not just any kind of procreation. Third party procreation, for example, is extramarital even when married couples use it. It is not intrinsic to marriage. Likewise adoption, which is a related institution the nature of which is to make-up for a shortfall experienced by a child due to parental loss or relinquishment. This too is not intrinsic to marriage. Both of these non-responsible-procreation options may be essential to the double-dad or double-mom scenarios, but this also distinguishes same-sex coupling from the sexual union of husband and wife.

Likewise, integration of the sexes is extrinsic to the one-sexed arrangement -- homosexuality is beside the point.

The essence of marriage arises from the two-sexed nature of humankind, the both-sexed nature of human generativity, and the both-sexed nature of human community. The family, founded on the sexual union of man and woman, is the basic organic unit of humankind, human procreation, and human community. It takes both sexes to form a single procreative organism. It takes both sexes to form a human community, ordered for flourishing and regeneration of itself. Integration of the sexes is not optional; neither is responsible procreation.

Compare this with the remedial function of third party procreation and adoption. Marriage is a social institution -- a coherent set of ideals based on the nature of humankind.

Now, if you would claim for the one-sexed arrangement some intrinsic good, please explain. That's an invitation, not a dismissal. I do not think that SSMers ought to base their call for recognition of some two-person ideal by attacking the nature of marriage. Instead, they ought to just explain the nature of the thing they wish for society to recognize and to protect.

Marriage is a preferential status, but it is not clear that SSMers want more than a merely protective status. And to get that for the two-person ideal, they argue that marriage must become a subset of a broader category of relationship types. Rather than leap to that argument, just provide your own "item #6" to illuminate all the points that Carpenter claims Blankenhorn has made and which would be applicable to the one-sexed arrangement.

By the way, is the one-sexed arrangment, or the broader two-person relationship type, a sexual relationship? If so, what is the state's interest in that if not 1) integration of the sexes, 2) contingency for responsible procreaton, and 3) these combined as a coherent whole?
5.1.2007 8:19pm
Ella (www):
Chairm -

I don't imagine how spouses become next-of-kin - the law says they do. When I got married, my husband was displaced as my parents as the default medical decision maker, primary heir, etc. because the law says so, not because of anything mysterious that happened when the priest pronounced us husband and wife and we signed the marriage license.

If your post isn't arguing that procreation is the primary or most important purpose and aspect of marriage, what are you saying? As near as I can tell, you argue that society recognizes marriage because heterosexual sexual relationships are uniquely beautiful, uniquely unitive, and uniquely worthy of recognition because heterosexual sex is capable of procreation.

And regarding your paraphrase of my post. I'm not confusing anything - Blankenhorn, you and many others assert that facilitation of procreation is the primary or most important reason that government and society recognize marriage. The section of the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer that I have paraphrased is the part of the ceremony where the priest describes the PURPOSES for which God instituted marriage. As long as you were paraphrasing the pope's pronouncements on the unique nature of heterosexual sex and marriage, I thought it was worthwhile to point out that not all religions share his views. This does undermine the claim (made by you and others) that procreation is universally understood in our society as the primary or most important purpose of marriage.
5.1.2007 8:33pm
Chairm:
Ella, you said "the law says they do" -- become next of kin. I did not dispute it. I asked how and why you imagine that the legal custom arose. Sorry if I was not crystal clear on that.

Also, the nature of humankind is not something the pope nor I have conjured up.

Blankenhorn, you and many others assert that facilitation of procreation is the primary or most important reason that government and society recognize marriage.

Responsible procreation. Contingency for.

Two sexes. Integrated.

These two aspects -- each an intrinsic good and inseperable from marriage -- combined. A whole that SSMers seek to deconstruct.

You continue to mistake the nature the thing for its various purposes.

The social institution is the thing. That a man is a lousy husband, for example, does not make his individual example definitive.

It is passing strange for you to cite the purposes of God and to miss the significance of the two-sexed nature of humankind.

Now, if you are claiming that the Book of Prayer listed three purposes and there are two that are essential, procration being optional, that's fine. What are the two essential purposes and what makes them a coherent whole?

Is it the number two, for example?
5.1.2007 9:40pm
Chairm:
In your religion, Ella, is marriage a sacrament? If not, is it sacred?

Perhaps you disagree about sacramental marriage on religious grounds. No problem, since the nature of marriage is at issue. The six dimensions are illuminated by that essence.

Perhaps, apart from your religion, your view would depend on a sacred promise founded on the "mysticism often associated with allegedly modern romantic love"?

How would it be distinguishable from nomarital arrangements?

I'm not pressing for answers on these points. I'm not attempting to personalize the discussion. And I am not setting Catholicsm against another religion. I'd appreciate it if you would do the same for the sake of a civil discussion of a difficult issue.

I'm more interested in the supposed nature of the two person relationship type which rejects the primacy of the purposes that flow from the integration of the sexes, the contingency for responsible procreation, and the combinatin of these as a coherent whole.

When that is established, more or less, we can ascertain its dimensions -- six or more or less. And the purposes that might flow from its nature.
5.1.2007 9:56pm
Colin (mail):
Also, the nature of humankind is not something the pope nor I have conjured up.

Your articulation of that nature is. You're simply expressing your opinion of what's good, over and over again, pretending to be dumbfounded that anyone disagrees with you. But people do disagree. Simply repeating your subjective opinion as to the "nature of humankind" ad infinitum convinces no one of anything, except that you have an opinion. You'll need some sort of evidence or logical argument to actually shift opinions, especially on a board full of lawyers.
5.1.2007 10:11pm
Ella (www):
Chairm -

Re: how the legal custom of spouses becoming next of kin arose. From a number of places. The Christian origin is probably in the unitive aspect of marriage - two become one. Practically, it reflects the intent of the parties who enter into the relationship. A more universal origin is probably in the tradition of "selling" a woman to her husband's family and marriage's traditional role in joining two families together, or cementing existing bonds between existing families.

I find the pope's ideas about the nature of sex and marriage unconvincing. It implies that the Christian ideal of marriage - one man, one woman - is universal, when polygamy is the more prevalent historical form of marriage and the multi-generational kin-network (rather than the husband-wife unit) is historically the more prevalent "family unit" that forms the basis of society. Moreover, while potential procreation is a unique aspect of heterosexual sex, it is only one of many positive aspects beyond the pursuit of orgasm - it allows people to express their love physically, it reaffirms and enforces the connection between lovers, it facilitates intimacy by permitting mutual vulnerability, it provides a model for the compromise and mutual self-sacrifice necessary to a successful marriage. I will point out that, in my experience, the pleasure of the act itself is much more relevant to promoting these benefits than the possibility of procreation.

Likewise, marriage has many benefits for individuals and society that do not stem from its potential for responsible procreation. As I indicated in a post upthread, married people are more financially secure, they're happier and healthier, they and their extended families are able to provide a safety net in the event of financial or other troubles, etc. These things are goods in themselves, as well as being good for any children who come into the relationship.

I only cite my religion's version of the purposes of God to indicate that the Catholic religion's version is not universally embraced. From the Book of Common Prayer (p 423 of my copy, "The Celebration and Blessing of a Marriage")

"The union of husband and wife in heart, body, and mind is intended by God for [1] their mutual joy; [2] for the help and comfort given one another in prosperity and adversity; and, when it is God's will, [3] for the procreation of children and their nurture in the knowledge and love of the Lord."


(It's also worth noting that the importance of societal purpose of marriage as a way to take care of children has been diminished by the elimination of legal stigmas associated with illegitimacy and by the current child custody and support regimes. The old law on these matters was justified both morally (wanting to discourage sin and encourage marriage) and pragmatically (how did you identify the father before DNA tests?).)
5.1.2007 10:11pm
Ella (www):
Chairm

I don't mind answering. Yes, in my religion, marriage is a sacrament. It is more than just a romantic union between the two spouses. It is a permanent union between the couple, through prosperity and adversity. The church community and each spouse's extended family vows to support the couple and the couple committs to being a socially and spiritually productive unit.

I've only been married a few years, but even in my short time as a wife I've realized that nature of our union is not limited to the sexual, romantic, or (potential) procreative aspects. The first two are important (the marriage wouldn't exist without them) but the mutual financial and emotional support, the knowledge that my husband will be there to take care of me when I need him (and vice versa), and the security and stability that the legal institution provides are often much more important. All these things would benefit our children, if we had any, but they also allow us to be more economically productive and keep us healthier and happier. My experiences have been somewhat atypical for a newlywed - I was seriously injured a few months into the marriage, which immediately elevated the pragmatic aspects of marriage to central importance - but they have helped me become more convinced that my friends who are gay should have the opportunity to receive the same legal recognition.
5.1.2007 10:41pm
F. Rottles (mail):
Colin -- would you deny that the nature of humankind is two-sexed?

Or that the nature of human generativity is both-sexed?

Or that the nature of human community is both-sexed?

Surely you would not claim that this is subjective. Maybe you think the connection to marriage is subjective?

-------------

Ella -- Practically, it [spouses become next-of-kin] reflects the intent of the parties who enter into the relationship.

If they agree to marry without that intent, are they next-of-kin anyway? If yes, then, intent is irrelevant.

Ella -- polygamy is the more prevalent historical form of marriage

That is a common error made by supporters of deinstitutinalization of marriage. Maybe you support SSM and hope not to deinstitutinalize marriage, I dunno, however you are mistaken.

Polygamy is a series of one-man-one-woman marriages. The second wife does not marry the first wife, for example.

Also, only a small minority of families are polygamous even in societies that permit polygamy. In the major religions which condone polygamy, it is conditional upon remedying a social ill. Yes, the provisional remedy is probably exploited in unjust societies.

[It is usually at this point that such an observation is followed by a disavowal of polygamy. I don't support enacting polygamy nor any other form of multi-partner arrangement under the auspices of marital status.]

It is true, however, that allowing for multiple marriages is still a form of recognition of the combo of sex integration and responsible procreation. But, I think human reason and emprical evidence, apart and together, make the case that multi-marriage is inferior to one-marriage-at-a-time.

Ella -- why do you keep speaking of the pope? Is this your way of trying to dismiss the irreligious observation that marriage has a nature (of course it does) connected to the nature of humankind (maybe you prefer a disconnect).

Ella -- the pleasure of the act itself is much more relevant to promoting these benefits than the possibility of procreation

That is also a common view and your personal experience is valid, of course.

But you would instrumentalize sex in precisely the manner that you have objected to "solo procreation", as Chairm put it. I think that is a big flaw in your view of marriage, but maybe you see it as plus?

Ella -- potential for responsible procreation

I don't mean to pick on you, Ella, but your comment includes quite a few cliches from the pro-SSM arugment that are relevant to Carpenter's false equivalencies.

Responsible procreation is not a potential, in the sense that winning the lottery is a potential. Contengency for responsible procreation is in the nature of marriage. Built into it.

-------------

Ella, you brought up the Book of Common Prayer so I hope you won't mind my pointing out what seems rather obvious. Maybe I am mistaken but contingency for responsible procreation doies not appear to be consider potential nor optional.


The union of husband and wife in heart, body, and mind is intended by God for their mutual joy; for the help and comfort given one another in prosperity and adversity; and, when it is God's will, for the procreation of children and their nurture in the knowledge and love of the Lord. Therefore marriage is not to be entered into unadvisedly or lightly, but reverently, deliberately, and in accordance with the purposes for which it was instituted by God.

-- "The Celebration and Blessing of a Marriage", The Book of Common Prayer, according to the use of The Episcopal Church. [LINK]


[Emphasis added]

This states that the husband and wife are to form their marriage in accordance with contingency for responsible procreation. It is a requirement of their public union in their religious community.

This is what Blankenhorn means when he says that the man and woman are supposed to stick around and be the child's social parents and to be supportive of one another. That's the marriage idea.

As per the Blessing quoted above, to be in discord with this is to be in discord with the nature of the type of union formed by husband and wife and intended by God (not by the intent of the individual spouses by the way) for mutual joy and for help and comfort of man and woman, integrated in heart, body, and mind. God instituted marriage, not the individuals and not the religious community, according to this blessing.

Perhaps this is disputed among those who adhere to this blessing of marriages. In any case, the novelty of the dispute would not put a lie to what Chairm said earlier.

Note, he did not say that marriage is for the "facilitation of procreation" alone. Blankenhorn does not say that either. The disagreement that a pro-SSM advocate might have with marriage is with the nature of marriage, not some straw man argument about, as Chairm puts it, "solo procreation."

However, if you meant by facilitation that marriage provides that procreation, should it occur in the marital bond, is to be undertaken responsibly by the "two-made-one-flesh" i.e. the single human organism which is both-sexed (to be coldly descriptive) -- then, yes, the primary dimension of marriage is responsible procreation combined with integration of fatherhood and motherhood, husband and wife, man and woman.

Chairm did not say that all religions include this dimension, however, it is universal (or very nearly so) across human history, cultures, and religions.

Maybe there is a split in some (minority?) faith groups which would illustrate a dispute about the meaning of such a blessing, but that does not negate the gist of what Chairm said earlier.

Carpenter's implied equivalency remains false and just plain inappropriate.
5.1.2007 11:49pm
Ella (www):
F. Rottles

Don't have time or desire to go through your post sentence by sentence, but quickly

- Traditionally, polygamy is not just a series of unions between the man and each consecutive wife. Each subsequent wife joins the FAMILY, which includes the other wives, their children, the man's parents and siblings, etc. I'm not advocating polygamy or arguing for it's recognition in modern society, just pointing out that the universalist claims regarding sex and marriage are belied by world history and culture. History also belies the claim that the husband-and-wife unit are universally or predominantly the basic unit of society.

- I mentioned the pope because many of Chairm's points were clearly drawn from the past few popes' pronouncements on marriage and sex.

- Interesting reading of the BCP. I was taught (in premarital counseling and elsewhere) that it provided three purposes, the third of which (procreation) is contingent on it being God's will for that couple, but the first two of which are neccesary and indispensable for every marriage. Of course, I was only raised and married in a fairly conservative Episcopal church - what would I know? Maybe I should ask my sister, the priest.
5.2.2007 12:02am
F. Rottles (mail):
Ella, would you please double check regarding "Yes, in my religion, marriage is a sacrament."

The catechism of The Episcopal Church describes only two sacraments. Is there not a distinction between sacraments and sacramental rites?

Are conjugal relations sacred? Would sexual relations outside of marriage be other than sacred? Is it the marital bond that makes the difference or the intent of the man and woman who engage in sexual relations?

I ask not to pin you down but to explore if there is an irreligious dimension for which you would give priority when discussing procreation and sexual relations -- marital or not.
5.2.2007 12:14am
F. Rottles (mail):
Each subsequent wife joins the FAMILY

How would next-of-kin fit that paradigm? Only in the sense that the man is next-of-kin to each wife, in turn, not that each wife is the next-of-kin of all the other wives at once.

Who made a universialist claim? I think you misread.
5.2.2007 12:17am
F. Rottles (mail):
I was taught (in premarital counseling and elsewhere) that it provided three purposes, the third of which (procreation) is contingent on it being God's will for that couple, but the first two of which are neccesary and indispensable for every marriage.

Wait a minute.

How is that different from what I said? Do you mean to say that each marriage is uniquely instituted?
5.2.2007 12:28am
Ella (www):
F.Rottles

Now I wish I'd never brought up this tangent, since it ultimately isn't that relevant to whether or not the U.S. secular legal system should recognize SSM. I brought it up to counter the presumption that the procreative purpose of marriage was the primary or most important purpose. I think marriage and sex within the context of marriage has social benefits separate from and just as important as the procreative, which leads me to believe that there is no SECULAR reason to deny homosexual couples the opportunity to assume the rights and responsibilities associated with marriage.

Having said that, the Episcopal church recognizes the same seven sacraments as the Catholic church. Like many non-Catholic denominatins, however, we only recognize two as necessary to all believers - baptism and eucharist. The current catechism in the BCP even limits marriage to heterosexual couples, although that restriction is currently being debated (perhaps you saw the headlines). I direct you to the "Outline of the Faith" in the BCP, the section entitled "Other Sacramental Rites" - p 860-1 of my version:

"Q. What other sacramental rites evolved in the Church under the guidance of the Holy Spirit?
A. Other sacramental rites which evolved in the Church include confirmation, ordination, holy matrimony, reconciliation of a penitent, and unction. . . .

Q. What is Holy Matrimony?
A. Holy Matrimony is Christian marriage, in which the woman and man enter into a life-long union, make their vows before God and the Church, and receive the grace and blessing of God to help them fulfill their vows."
5.2.2007 12:29am
Colin (mail):
F. Rottles,

Humankind is naturally bilaterally symmetrical. It's not germane to the "purpose" of marriage that the couple have a total of four thumbs, any more than it's crucial that they have a total of one penis and one vagina. This, despite the fact that one "purpose" of marriage is mutual support, and spouses with both hands can more easily support their partners.

Your selection of what characteristics are elemental to marriage is an arbitrary and subjective process; it's obviously very persuasive to you, but it carries no weight with those who don't already agree with you. Reiterating the same dogmatic elements over and over again isn't an argument, it's merely an assertion of your opinion. We've heard it, we understand it, but we don't agree with it. Repeating your opinion as if it's an unassailable and totally obvious truth makes no progress whatsoever. If we were going to be convinced by your just-so stories about the "nature" or "purpose" of marriage (or humankind), it would have happened by now.

Ella,

As an aside, noticing your mention of the debate in the Episcopal church, let's hope the Convention is as progressive and courageous as they were in '76.
5.2.2007 1:43am
Chairm:
--> "We've heard it, we understand it, but we don't agree with it."

Saying that does not make it so, Colin.

1. If you have heard it, have you listened carefully enough to accurately restate it? Do so.

2. Thusfar not one SSMer here, including Carpenter, has done so. The parade of false equivalencies in his post above, followed by the SSMers who missed the target also, strongly indicates that, no, you have not understood the argument.

3. Since you have yet to restate it in your own words, and appear not to comprehend it, saying that you disagree with it is premature.

* * *

What is the nature of the two person relationship?

Maybe Colin can state for the rest of the SSMers here. Or maybe there is disagreement and that ought to be aired right now.

The essence of this relationship type must be such that it connects together the five dimensions that Carpenter says gay "marriage" can clearly meet.

Since a dimension is not a purpose, I am leary that he hasn't quite understood the list of six items. I don't read in the statement any mention of the items being listed in order of priority. But Blankenhorn has said that the dimensions presuppose the sixth item as it uniquely makes marriage the most pro-child institution.

A brick house with four walls, a roof, and a foundational floor, may indeed get kind windy without one of those walls or without the roof; but it would be very unstable without its foundational floor.

So which is optional? Will the house hover above the ground or shall it be open uptop? Or perhaps the southside wall is superfluous. Maybe we should forget the house and settle for a lean-to or an umbrella or a just pitch a tent.

* * *

Colin, do you deny the both-sexed nature of human generativity and the both-sexed nature of human community? I would hope not. But maybe this too is not germane to the pro-child institution and to the basic element of human community (indeed the foundational element of human civilization). I doubt it but you may have some explaination that justifies treating all the husband and wife unions as if they lacked one sex.

If so, please start by describing the essentials, the can-not-do-without core of gay "marriage". Then map that to all other relationship types by excluding some and including others. If you have not gone through this simple exercise before, maybe you don't understand your own proposition and argument.
5.2.2007 3:12am
Grover Gardner (mail):
"So which is optional? Will the house hover above the ground or shall it be open uptop? Or perhaps the southside wall is superfluous. Maybe we should forget the house and settle for a lean-to or an umbrella or a just pitch a tent."

Or we could all sit under an umbrella on the beach and let our bathing suits flap scandalously in the breeze.

"...please start by describing the essentials, the can-not-do-without core of gay 'marriage'. Then map that to all other relationship types by excluding some and including others."

Submit your answer on standard 8.5 x 11 paper, single-spaced, complete with footnotes and a bibliography, by no later than 12 noon tomorrow. Points off for brevity. Responses with Twinky stains will not be accepted.

"If you have not gone through this simple exercise before, maybe you don't understand your own proposition and argument."

Worse, you just haven't lived!
5.2.2007 6:46am
Amicus:
Chairm,

Thanks for your reply (5.1.2007 7:19pm). Let me try this, if I can. Since this seems to be one of the few, deliberative forums on the issue, that is relatively open, without too much flaming (although the repetition sometimes gets a little loudy).

Blankenhorn comes along and says that he is not truly against gay people. Suppose we take him at his word, as long as you/he does the same, that not everyone is out to undermine or "revolutionize" or "define down" (ug!!!) the institution of marriage. (If you don't want to believe that on face value, then imagine that there is an argument that it is in gay people's self-interest, as members of the broder society, to not do that)

Part of knowing your arguments is knowing their weaknesses. You have to realize that, in capable hands, your arguments can be shredded. What's more, there are plenty of people just at the gate willing to do what Maggie Gallagher fears the most, namely folks who really do want to revolutionize marriage and everything else, and they are willing to run with scissors to do so, so to speak.

Now, given those two things, let me ask you a question. Extending from your comments, your analysis suggests that gay and lesbian people are mostly after 'protective status' for their relationships.

Suppose I just agree with you for the sake of argument. Are you prepared to go so far as civil unions for gay people or domestic partnerships?
5.2.2007 7:10am
Amicus:
By the way, here is an observations for the lawyers on the board.

Have you noticed that, when folks like Andrew Sullivan make an political argument, folks like Hugh Hewitt call him nothing short of an ignorant Constitutional philanderer, for not realizing how our constitution is set up. Public policy, no strict scrutiny, Arizona supreme court, blah...blah....

But, when you start to talk to the people who are defending marriage, they have all these high level requirements that the aspects of marriage fit into one purpose, that it has an "essence" and must be "coherent" or amounts to an "intrinsic good" - all things suggesting that there really ought to be a higher standard, perhaps even strict scrutiny ....

What's more, they insist that marriage is not a "civil right", but you can bet that, just as soon as you suggest that logically implies that society's can "ban" marriage, you can bet they'd either fall absolutely silent or be right in their shouting that marriage is a fundamental right that the government cannot ban ...
5.2.2007 8:19am
Amicus:
Also, by the way, Chairm, it seems to me that 'contingency' is a step in the wrong direction for your argument, because the 'contingent' is seldom necessary, and it seems you want procreation to be a necessary condition for marriage.

In any case, I've taken a few moments to ameliorate Blakenhorn's list, in a framework that shows that aspects of marriage are independent, but inter-related, and that procreation is an ancilliary good -- worthy in itself, worthy of dignity and respect, no doubt -- but not the overriding essence.

Through this formulation, you can see how people can have conceptions of private purposes (perhaps polygamy or polyamory) that do not get recognized as public "purposes"; that the public interest in good families and good parents, no procreation; that, with regard to homosexuals and heterosexuals, "God's Will" for for the blessings of procreation may be interpreted with respect to each of them, not solely for one at the exclusion of the other.

Rewrite of Blankenhorn (if you don't like "God" just substitute "fundamental" or some other suitably secular nonsense):

Private purpose: to bear witness to the profound mystery of their God-given, mutual joy and for the help and comfort given one another in prosperity and adversity. To honor that witness with a confessional pledge of fidelity. ["help and comfort" includes the sharing of the burdens of life, so we might conflate Blankenhorn's "financial bond" here].

Public purpose: to raise praise and give voice to the private purpose, an in so doing pay witness to a love that not only connects the individuals to each other but to all the world; to celebrate God's gifts of this kind; to bless what is recognized as such, right and worthy; to protect and defend and support by such declaration, both the couple and the family bonded to it. [we can conflate Blakenhorn's "legal contract" stuff here].

God's purposes: to provide worldly comfort to the lonely heart and the nourishment to the soul, through the joys of selflessly giving to and self sharing of a sexual union; to provide fulfillment of Promise; when and if it is God's will, to receive the gift and responsibility of children, in service to His will, without privileged or prejudice.
5.2.2007 10:24am