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"Legalized same-sex marriage almost certainly benefits those same-sex couples who choose to marry, as well as the children being raised in those homes":

That's the claim made today by Andrew Sullivan Jonathan Rauch David Blankenhorn in an op-ed in the L.A. Times.

It's not a new claim, of course. Same-sex marriage advocates have been making it for years. Nor should it be a controversial one since it's very hard to see how gay marriage would have no effect on gay families and even harder to see how it would hurt them.

What's significant about it is that Blankenhorn is one of the leading public intellectuals opposed to same-sex marriage in this country (and in fact his op-ed goes on to explain why he still opposes it despite the good it will do). While supporters of gay marriage must constantly parry claims of harm, opponents of gay marriage almost never acknowledge the existence of gay families, much less their needs and the ways marriage might help them. The focus has been entirely on the potential cost to heterosexual families, an understandably important -- though not exclusive --consideration in the debate. Blankenhorn here accepts that forbidding gay marriage itself entails some cost. (In fact, Blankenhorn has previously endorsed civil unions for gay couples, minus marital rights to child-raising.) It's a small breath of fresh air in a debate that has become pretty stale.

John D (mail):
Blakenhorn needs to prove his "liberal Democrat" bona fides one of these days. I, personally, hope for the day when no one is advocating the limitation of other's civil rights.

But beyond his "liberal Democrat" canard, Blankenhorn makes this statement in this editorial:
initiatives like California's Proposition 8, which would reinstate marriage's customary man-woman form


Am I given to understand that unless Prop 8 passes, only same-sex couples will be allowed to marry? Is that the state of things in California today?

Perhaps he thought it would just sound too bigoted to say,
initiatives like California's Proposition 8, which would reinstate marriage's exclusively man-woman form


Maybe he needs to go back to pleading for the advocates of marriage equality to suggest weak points in their arguments.
9.19.2008 3:03pm
Randy R. (mail):
The San Diego Tribune, normally a rather conservative newspaper, has just endorsed SSM.
9.19.2008 3:09pm
AMB:
I live in a very traditional neighborhood of single-family houses on a parkway, with a park at the end of the street, and the elementary school three blocks over. ... For about three years, we've had two women living a block down the street, in an open and committed relationship. They have three young children. ... I recall having heard that the brother of one donated semen to impregnate the other, but it's not something I made particular note of. ... The kids are a set of twins about two years old, and a little boy about five. ... They haven't made the neighborhood fall apart. The two adults are good neighbors; the three kids are as cute as any other kids in the neighborhood, and my only confusion is figuring how how the kids distinguish between one mom and the other mom since both are called "Mom." ... Who gives a d*mn if they "get married" and the state recognizes the legal relationship? All the better for domestic relations attorneys. ... I'm a conservative, Catholic mom, and debating this is "so last century."
9.19.2008 3:11pm
Randy R. (mail):
Blankenhorn: ". But changing the meaning of marriage to accommodate homosexual orientation further and perhaps definitively undermines for all of us the very thing -- the gift, the birthright -- that is marriage's most distinctive contribution to human society."

And of course, Blandkenhorn not once in his article states how accomodating gays 'further and perhaps definitively undermines' marriage.

Par for the course for opponents of SSM.
9.19.2008 3:16pm
Cornellian (mail):
Blankenhorn: ". But changing the meaning of marriage to accommodate homosexual orientation further and perhaps definitively undermines for all of us the very thing -- the gift, the birthright -- that is marriage's most distinctive contribution to human society."

There's only so many times you can make this kind of bare assertion before people start to wonder why you are never able to explain how this undermining takes place, and why you never concede that your own marriage would be in any way weakened or diminished.
9.19.2008 3:33pm
smitty1e:
The unspeakable that some undertake in private is one thing. But consider the sage:
Matt18:6
But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and [that] he were drowned in the depth of the sea.
May the Lord have mercy.
9.19.2008 3:35pm
DiverDan (mail):
This is just one more area where the "social conservatives" risk driving away the Goldwater (libertarian or quasi-libertarian, depending on your point of view) wing of the Republican Party. I have long self-identified as a Republican; there is no way they will drive me into the arms of the Democrats so long as Dems like Ted Kennedy, Harry Reid, and Nancy Pelosi are in charge. But really, why should we give a damn if two gay people chose to marry? I have never yet heard a cogent or even marginally coherent argument as to just how gay marriage "harms" a traditional male-female marriage in any way. As a straight Republican, I'm all in favor of welcoming gay marriage, and the Log Cabin Republicans into the big tent, and letting the so-called "Social Conservatives" stew in their moral outrage for as long as they see fit. Are we really worried they'll run over to the Democrats?
9.19.2008 3:36pm
EH (mail):
The male-female construct of marriage is solely a religious one and should therefore violate the Establishment clause.
9.19.2008 3:43pm
John Howard (eggandsperm.org) (mail) (www):
Actually, allowing a same-sex couple with children to attempt to create a biological child would certainly hurt the existing children. Not only would it drain the couple's resources and attention away from their existing children, but it would send a deep scarring message that they don't love those children as much as they would love a biologically related one. Even just demanding the right to attempt to create biologically related children harms children that are being raised in adoptive and step-parent situations, not just of gay couples but all families with adopted/step children.

All the stuff Blankenhorn feels would benefit same-sex couples should be made available in CIvil Unions that are defined as exactly like marriage minus the right to attempt same-sex conception.

Visit www.samesexprocreation.com (for it) or www.eggandsperm.org (against - my website) for more info on same-sex conception before asking what I am talking about.
9.19.2008 3:54pm
anoNY:
"But there is one constant. In all societies, marriage shapes the rights and obligations of parenthood."

Sterile couples, or those not planning on having children, should also have no "marriage," eh?

Furthermore, when science allows a homosexual couple to combine their DNA to create a baby, they should then be given the ability to marry?
9.19.2008 3:54pm
John D (mail):
DiverDan,

I have long held that my support of same-sex marriage is one of the more conservative opinions held by this liberal Democrat.

Honestly, as a liberal, shouldn't I say, "well, people don't need permission or something from the state to get married." I was pleased when Massachusetts dropped its cohabitation law. There should not be laws against unmarried people setting up households. (Okay, thank you, I feel more liberal now.)
9.19.2008 4:04pm
Soronel Haetir (mail):
If heterosexual marriage is a birthright when can I expect my sacrificial bride to be sent to my doorstep?
9.19.2008 4:08pm
anoNY:
"Even just demanding the right to attempt to create biologically related children harms children that are being raised in adoptive and step-parent situations, not just of gay couples but all families with adopted/step children. "

Doesn't that same logic mean we should stop heterosexual couples with step/adopted children from creating their own biological children?
9.19.2008 4:10pm
Happyshooter:
Legalized same-sex marriage almost certainly benefits those same-sex couples who choose to marry, as well as the children being raised in those homes

What about the medicare income and asset restrictions on spouses of those placed in long term care? A gay partner estate plan as currently used is much better for the non-care partner than the mess a spouse is punished with.
9.19.2008 4:15pm
Duncan Frissell (mail):
I, personally, hope for the day when no one is advocating the limitation of other's civil rights.

Come on. Someone is always trying to restrict my civil rights to carry a Streetsweeper on a public university campus, home school my kids, build and sell a car that gets 4 miles to the gallon and outputs tons of CO2 annually, to refuse to hire women (or men), to cut hair without a license, to build a house near Lake Tahoe without paying a $40K development fee to the State, to build a 6' high sight fence along the front of my property to keep the riff-raff out, to offer private bank accounts in America to Americans etc. You got 5 hours for the whole list.

Welcome to the world.
9.19.2008 4:28pm
Roger Schlafly (www):
Blankenhorn gives no support for that opinion, or explain what he thinks that the benefits are. The statement has little meaning. Dale just happened to find a sentence somewhere that he can agree with. That's all.
9.19.2008 4:34pm
NickM (mail) (www):

Furthermore, when science allows a homosexual couple to combine their DNA to create a baby, they should then be given the ability to marry?


IMO, yes. PLMK when that actually happens.

Nick
9.19.2008 4:45pm
Oren:
Roger, shouldn't you be complaining at Blankenhorn for not justifying his opinion (which, I'll admit, is thin on reasoning) rather than DC for agreeing?
9.19.2008 4:46pm
Randy R. (mail):
Roger: "Blankenhorn gives no support for that opinion, or explain what he thinks that the benefits are."

Then you didn't read carefully. The benefits that children of gay parents are the same as the benefits for children of hetero parents. And no one doubts that those benefits sizeable.
9.19.2008 4:52pm
JRL:
Should I know who any of those people are?
9.19.2008 4:55pm
LarryA (mail) (www):
Actually, allowing a same-sex couple with children to attempt to create a biological child would certainly hurt the existing children.
"Actually, allowing a mixed-sex couple with adopted children to attempt to create a biological child would certainly hurt the existing children."

"Actually, allowing a blended family couple with children to attempt to create a biological child would certainly hurt the existing children."

Really? Sort of like how our first daughter was "hurt" when we brought our second daughter home on the first daughter's birthday? True, it wasn't the present she was expecting, but she got over it.
Not only would it drain the couple's resources and attention away from their existing children,
So do any subsequent children in any family.
but it would send a deep scarring message that they don't love those children as much as they would love a biologically related one.
So do any subsequent children in any family, if the parents treat them differently. So don't. The first thing any child needs to learn is that there's enough love to go around.
But changing the meaning of marriage to accommodate homosexual orientation further and perhaps definitively undermines for all of us the very thing -- the gift, the birthright -- that is marriage's most distinctive contribution to human society."
So we should back to the Old Testament standard? One man and as many wives and concubines as he can support?

Marriages don't need the protection of government; they need the commitment of the people in them.
9.19.2008 5:04pm
Cornellian (mail):
"But there is one constant. In all societies, marriage shapes the rights and obligations of parenthood."

Actually you have an obligation to support your child regardless of whether you are, or have ever been, married to the other parent of that child. Your obligations as a parent do not depend at all on whether your are married.
9.19.2008 5:33pm
John Howard (eggandsperm.org) (mail) (www):
Sterile couples, or those not planning on having children, should also have no "marriage," eh?

They should have the right to have children (assuming they are both adults, not too closely related, and both unmarried to someone else). There is a difference between having the ability and/or desire, and having the right. Same-sex couples should not have the right to attempt to conceive children together, for many reasons.

Furthermore, when science allows a homosexual couple to combine their DNA to create a baby, they should then be given the ability to marry?

If we allow them to do it, then yes, absolutely, they should have the right to do it. And we currently allow them to do it (except in Missouri), so that's why the courts in CA and MA decided the way they did. But if we prohibited such unethical and expensive experiments in using genetically modified gametes, then they shouldn't be allowed to marry, so that marriage continues to protect the couple's right to use their own genes to have children.

Doesn't that same logic mean we should stop heterosexual couples with step/adopted children from creating their own biological children?

The existing children are indeed harmed, yes. But a married man and a woman should have the right to do it anyway, even if they already are raising children. There is no way to stop them from creating more, it would be a severe violation of their basic human rights. So we can't stop them, and it's totally natural and normal. On the other hand, we can and should stop people from attempting to create babies from two people of the same sex, and, there is no basic human right to create people from two people of the same sex. It never just happens, it isn't a fact of life.
9.19.2008 5:36pm
John Howard (eggandsperm.org) (mail) (www):
in that second paragraph above, I was unclear with my use of "it". I should have said:

"If we allow them to combine DNA to crate children, then yes, absolutely, they should have the right to marry.
9.19.2008 5:38pm
Roger Schlafly (www):
Roger, shouldn't you be complaining at Blankenhorn for not justifying his opinion (which, I'll admit, is thin on reasoning) rather than DC for agreeing?
It was not one of Blackenhorn's main points. It was just dicta, in lawyer-speak.
Then you didn't read carefully. The benefits that children of gay parents are the same as the benefits for children of hetero parents.
Blankenhorn did not say that. He said the opposite. He said, "Every child being raised by gay or lesbian couples will be denied his birthright to both parents who made him."
9.19.2008 5:52pm
Spitzer:
David, I know you've been riding this particular horse for many years, and if nothing else I appreciate your perseverance.

Many this guy is right, maybe he's wrong.

But I still have an important, rational question: if the law against the marriage of two consenting adults of whatever sex is eliminated, presumably it would be done on individual autonomy/equal protection grounds (I cannot think of a different reason for doing so - the effect on children is just a sideline issue of the harmful effect vel non of the proposed policy - but I am happy to be enlightened otherwise).

In that case, what is the rational argument against (a) the right of three or more consenting adults to get married, or (b) the right of two or more persons of whatever sex to get married even though they are closely related - perhaps even siblings or have a parent-child relationship?

This is a serious question: I am not seeking to make a slippery slope argument against SSM here, but rather I am trying to understand how, on individual autonomy grounds, one could support SSM but not polyamorous or incestuous marriages, assuming all of the aforementioned marriages involve consenting adults. Although I fully expect to be flamed for this, I hope that commenters will accord my question some respect and treat it seriously.
9.19.2008 6:15pm
Spitzer:
Er, "Dale" - apologies for the typo and my subsequent thoughtless surrender to a spell-checker.
9.19.2008 6:16pm
Aultimer:

DiverDan

Are we really worried they'll run over to the Democrats?



No, just that they won't turn up on Election Day.
9.19.2008 6:23pm
Randy R. (mail):
Spitzer: Currently, if you are hetero, you can get married to one person if that person is the opposite sex. If you are gay, you cannot get married at all to anyone of the same sex.

So: heteros can get married, gays cannot.

Heteros cannot get married to more than one person currently, but at least they have the option of getting married to at least one person. Gays cannot marry even one person.

Futhermore, being gay is an orientation -- it doesn't change, so getting married to someone of the opposite sex is a sham marriage. (If you want to destroy marriage, one terrific way is to encourage sham marriages.) However, there is no polygamy orientation. Heteros who want to marry many wives are deprived of that right, yet they are NOT deprived of the right to marry one person that they want to. Gays are.

As for incestuous marriage, if you can find one couple anywhere where the parent and child want to get married, or are siblings, then you have an argument. Until then, we can debate whether Martians should be allowed to get married, but it's hardly worth the effort. But if you must, there are already several states that allow close relatives to get married, and that hasn't brought down the marriage house yet either.
9.19.2008 6:55pm
jgshapiro (mail):
This editorial doesn't make a lot of sense. The fact that it is written by a self-described liberal Dem will get it noticed because it has a man-bites-dog quality about it, but it still makes no sense.

His argument seems like an argument against non-natural birth methods more than an argument against SSM. Once you concede that many children are not raised by their two biological parents, the idea that marriage needs to be reserved for opposite sex couples precisely to serve his increasingly non-existent two-biological parent ideal falls apart.

For example, he says "Do you think that every child deserves his mother and father, with adoption available for those children whose natural parents cannot care for them?" But gay couples are allowed to adopt children in 47 states. Is he arguing that this should not be the case? Because if he isn't, how does he square the fact that those adopted children are entitled to live with two parents in a marriage-supported family with the fact that under his arrangement, they will never have a mother and father (i.e., they will have two of one and none of the other) -- and the state has already endorsed this arrangement by permitting gay adoption of children?

The same flaws in his argument are apparent from looking at babies born through artificial insemination. He says "Every child being raised by gay or lesbian couples will be denied his birthright to both parents who made him. Every single one. " Yet, many straight couples use artificial means to conceive because one or both partners cannot do so naturally. Some of these artificial means involve sperm or egg donors, not just fertilizing the egg outside of the womb and implanting it. Is he arguing that this is wrong because the child produced will never know his natural mother and father? Yet no one would deny the parents of that artificially conceived child the right to marry. Indeed, most people would say that the marriage is good for the child.

And obviously, he is ignoring the fact that many married couples choose not to have kids, or are unable to, or are past the age when they could do so biologically. Yet, we do not tell those couples to get a civil union since children are not an issue. Why the double standard?

This is actually the same procreation trope that has been argued and dismantled again and again. There is nothing interesting about it except that the author claims to be a liberal Dem.
9.19.2008 7:13pm
Spitzer:
Randy R - thank you for the measured response. The "orientation" argument is interesting, but there may be a few lacuna. First, I am not confident we can ground SSM in "orientation" - to do so would suggest that there is an objective test for "orientation" and that, if anyone gets married against their "orientation", then the marriage is a sham, a nullity. That could reintroduce the government into our bedrooms, so to speak, for it suggests the possibility that bureaucrats could determine "orientation" by some "objective" measure - possibly even if the individual him/herself disagrees. Moreover, to suggest "orientation" as a substantive category for the purposes of determining rights simply begs the question - if there are 2 orientations, who is to say that there cannot be more? That leads to the next problem: I am not confident we could say that homosexuality is an orientation, but that polyamory is not - there are many historical instances of polyamory, and today it is widely held that many men (especially, but even women, especially of the "Sex and the City" variety) are essentially nomadic in their romantic inclinations. To an extent, this is borne out by biologists and the quest to spread one's DNA (or strengthen it). Therefore, if "orientation" is a substantive category for determining the right to marry, I cannot say with confidence that polyamorous inclinations would not be considered sufficiently "orientated" to be beyond the marital Pale.

Moreover, one could make an equal protection argument that follows from some of the SSM arguments: to the same extent that SSM should be allowed because single-sex marriage is prohibited by religion (and/or that marriage itself is a religiously-founded institution), then the same must apply equally to arguments that the (largely) Judeo-Christian argument against monogamous marriage unconstitutionally disfavor members of those religions that allow or even encourage polyamorous marriage (see, e.g., Islam and, albeit essentially Christian, Mormonism).

As for incest, I am sure that there are examples of incestuous love affairs in this world - I can think of many Roman aristocrats who engaged in it - and I am equally sure that I have seen news accounts of brothers/sisters who desired to get married. The argument against incest long has been that consanguinity threatens physical and mental ailments to the offspring, but in today's prenatal testing/abortion environment, I am not sure that that argument holds any water anymore.

Thanks for your insights. These sorts of friendly, academic, dispassionate debates are what blogs like Volokh are supposed to be about.
9.19.2008 7:25pm
Elliot123 (mail):
Is sexual orientation or conduct the business of the state? Does it have anything to do with civil marriage?
9.19.2008 7:45pm
Christian K:
Ok that OP-ED didn't make any sense to me.

A child had the right to grow up n a married household, but not the kids of gay people...

Why?

Because we love them.

Hun?
9.19.2008 7:55pm
John Howard (eggandsperm.org) (mail) (www):
Yet, many straight couples use artificial means to conceive because one or both partners cannot do so naturally. Some of these artificial means involve sperm or egg donors, not just fertilizing the egg outside of the womb and implanting it. Is he arguing that this is wrong because the child produced will never know his natural mother and father? Yet no one would deny the parents of that artificially conceived child the right to marry. Indeed, most people would say that the marriage is good for the child.

I would argue that it is wrong, and so would many DC children. You can find their blogs all over the net. Of course it's wrong. As to why we allow hetero couples that do it anyway to marry, it's because they have the right to conceive children together, regardless of any other children they already are responsible for, however they came to be their children. Marriage would be good for the child, but same-sex couples should not have the right to conceive children together, so they should get all of marriage's other good things, in the form of state Civil Unions defined to be just that: Marriage minus conception rights. (Did I read above that Blankenhorn suggests marriage minus the right to raise children? No one has a right to raise children, not even married biological parents. A child's parents are determined by the child's best interests. But married people do have a right to conceive children, even if the state is going to literally lock the woman up while she's pregnant and takes her child away at birth, as happened in Attleboro, MA. Blankenhorn is right with the "marriage minus X" formulation, but it should be conception rights.)

And obviously, he is ignoring the fact that many married couples choose not to have kids, or are unable to, or are past the age when they could do so biologically. Yet, we do not tell those couples to get a civil union since children are not an issue. Why the double standard?

Those couples that don't have kids for whatever reason still have the right to. The state cannot prohibit them from attempting to conceive, as it cannot prohibit a married couple from having sexual intercourse, and it cannot sterilize people, and everyone has the right to marry the person of their choice, and exceptions have to be on a supportable basis (siblings, children, already married). Whether they actually can or do or not is entirely a different subject. What interests us is rights.

The double standard is because a same-sex couple should not have the right to attempt to conceive together, just as an individual should not have the right to clone himself, and a scientist should not have a right to combine the DNA of Greta Garbo and John Wayne to make a child, or genetically engineer a designer baby, or whatever else he chooses to do, because the only way people should be allowed to conceive a human being is by joining their unmodified sperm or egg with another person's unmodified gamete, which means, with a person's of the other sex. The "other sex" rule is needed because evolution has created our genes to be complementary, and so they don't fit together right without reprogramming one. That's unethical and unwise on so many levels, it is a supporatble basis to prohibit such marriages.

This is not the same procreation argument you've heard.
9.19.2008 8:04pm
grendel (mail):
Couples, whether married or not, do not have rights. Individuals do. So the question is, can the state prevent a given individual from attempting to conceive?

I don't think the answer to that question is going to hinge on the marital status of the individual in question.
9.19.2008 8:21pm
John Howard (eggandsperm.org) (mail) (www):
AnoNY: Furthermore, when science allows a homosexual couple to combine their DNA to create a baby, they should then be given the ability to marry?

Larry: IMO, yes. PLMK when that actually happens.


Well, there is already the mouse Kaguya from two females, and other researchers talking about stem cell derived modified gametes, and say it might just be a couple years away. It's not too soon to discuss whether we should allow this or not. The benefits of prohibiting it right now are very substantial.
9.19.2008 8:27pm
jgshapiro (mail):
John Howard:

Your arguments are dizzying indeed. I'm trying to parse through your punctuation, but here is what I get:

Of course it's wrong

That is not an argument, just a statement. Obviously, many people think it is NOT wrong, which is why it is legal in (I think) every state.

As to why we allow hetero couples that do it anyway to marry, it's because they have the right to conceive children together, regardless of any other children they already are responsible for, however they came to be their children.

It hardly follows that because straight couples can theoretically conceive by natural means, that they should be allowed to do so by artificial means. Yet hardly anyone is opposed to sperm banks. Look at the political candidates for a reality check: when is the last time you heard a mainstream candidate say they were opposed to SSM (they all do this) as opposed to saying that they were opposed to sperm banks (no one does this).

Marriage would be good for the child, but same-sex couples should not have the right to conceive children together, so they should get all of marriage's other good things, in the form of state Civil Unions defined to be just that: Marriage minus conception rights.

Who says that civil unions are marriage minus conception rights? Civil unions can mean anything, and I have yet to see a model that excludes conception rights.

Those couples that don't have kids for whatever reason still have the right to. The state cannot prohibit them from attempting to conceive, as it cannot prohibit a married couple from having sexual intercourse, and it cannot sterilize people, and everyone has the right to marry the person of their choice, and exceptions have to be on a supportable basis (siblings, children, already married). Whether they actually can or do or not is entirely a different subject. What interests us is rights.

Saying that you have the right to do something you cannot do is absurd. I suppose I have the right to fly by flapping my arms, but until I can actually do so, I don't think government should justify its policy decisions on the possibility that I could someday fly.

Two straight 80 year olds who want to get married are allowed to do so even though it is scientifically impossible for them to have children. If marriage is just for procreation, they should be told to get a civil union because they don't need marriage and it devalues the institution to let them get married. The state does not need to prohibit them from conceiving; they can't do it any more than the gay couple you would exclude from marriage.

Yes, this is the same procreation argument we have heard. You are turning somersaults to avoid the obvious double standards between the way your proposal would treat straight couples and gay couples. The fact that you want to take away the non-controversial rights of gays to adopt or artificially conceive children just to support your argument does not help you because you still can't get past the inconsistency of treating senior and sterile straight couples differently than you would treat gay couples.
9.19.2008 8:30pm
jrose:
jgshapiro: This is actually the same procreation trope that has been argued and dismantled again and again.

It strikes me as a different form of trope. Typically the argument is that gay couples generally don't have kids and marriage is for raising kids. Blankenhorn instead argues that the problem is gay couples who have children.

Nonetheless, you disassemble his argument by persuasively claiming he is arguing against non-natural birth methods, not SSM specifically. I wonder if he opposes artifical insemination, and supports adoption by non-biological same-sex couples on an equal basis with non-biological opposite-sex couples (both would be consistent with opposition to non-natural birth methods).

Assuming he opposes non-natural birth methods, then opposing SSM makes sense. Without SSM, fewer children will be raised by one or fewer non-biological parents. Yet, it will not result in more children being raised by two biological parents (straight couples will not have more of their own children, only some gay couples will choose not have children at all).
9.19.2008 8:34pm
Waldo (mail):
That same-sex marriage benefits same-sex couples shouldn't be a hard argument. But Blankenhorn's main argument is still about the effect on heterosexual couples. And there is evidence that same-sex marriage will undermine marriage among heterosexuals.

The reason is that there are different kinds of morality. Some are individual in nature, but others are group oriented. Based on research by Jonathan Haidt, individual morality is based on fairness and do no harm. (Also reported in the NYT:) This system works for economic relationships in a free society. But groups, including families, need more. In order to function, families also need the values of "ingroup/loyalty," "auhority/respect," and "purity/sanctity." Without those ideals, heterosexuals will no longer make the commitments to make heterosexual marriage work.

If marriage is about two individuals falling in love and wanting legal recognition of their relationship, then homosexual couples should be able to marry. But if marriage is also about the family as a group, where everyone has the right and obligation of relationships with their parents and children, they should not.
9.19.2008 8:36pm
trad and anon (mail):
If marriage is about two individuals falling in love and wanting legal recognition of their relationship, then homosexual couples should be able to marry. But if marriage is also about the family as a group, where everyone has the right and obligation of relationships with their parents and children, they should not.
I'm pretty sure marriage is about many things, including (but not limited to) love, legal recognition of couple's relationship, social recognition and support of the relationship, childrearing, etc. I don't see how this stuff about it also being about "the family as a group" changes that though. The children would have a relationship with their (two gay) parents, no?

The only way I can make sense of your comment is to classify adoption as a kind of second-class parenting. The non-biological parent is a parent too.
9.19.2008 9:00pm
jrose:
Waldo: If marriage is about two individuals falling in love and wanting legal recognition of their relationship, then homosexual couples should be able to marry. But if marriage is also about the family as a group, where everyone has the right and obligation of relationships with their parents and children, they should not.

Wouldn't the same argument apply if you replace "homosexual" with "infertile" or "elderly"?
9.19.2008 9:00pm
trad and anon (mail):
That same-sex marriage benefits same-sex couples shouldn't be a hard argument. But Blankenhorn's main argument is still about the effect on heterosexual couples. And there is evidence that same-sex marriage will undermine marriage among heterosexuals.
You can find some evidence for anything. The question is whether it's any good or not.

Hetero marriage seems to be just fine in Canada, Massachusetts, and Spain, which have had it for several years.
9.19.2008 9:08pm
John Howard (eggandsperm.org) (mail) (www):
That is not an argument, just a statement. Obviously, many people think it is NOT wrong, which is why it is legal in (I think) every state.

Yeah, many people seem to think it is acceptable at this point in time. Lots of people don't, too. I think it's a transgression, doing something people don't really have a right to do and getting away with it, and sperm banks should be padlocked and closed down. But that is a separate question to whether or not to allow two people of the same sex to conceive together, we can prohibit that while we continue to debate the other.

It hardly follows that because straight couples can theoretically conceive by natural means, that they should be allowed to do so by artificial means.

Right, that doesn't follow. They just cannot be prohibited from attempting to conceive, by any means. We could still prohibit specific technologies or arrangements without prohibiting any couples from procreating together, since they would still be allowed to do it by other means. Same-sex couples should be prohibited by any means, they shouldn't be allowed to try to conceive together at all.

Yet hardly anyone is opposed to sperm banks. Look at the political candidates for a reality check: when is the last time you heard a mainstream candidate say they were opposed to SSM (they all do this) as opposed to saying that they were opposed to sperm banks (no one does this).

Yeah, that's probably because too many people have done it, or their friend has done it, or they think they might want to do it. It'll be really hard to stop that, now that we have let it develop so far, but maybe now that donor conceived kids are starting to speak out, it'll get easier.

Who says that civil unions are marriage minus conception rights? Civil unions can mean anything, and I have yet to see a model that excludes conception rights.

That's my suggestion. I came up with it about four years agao and started my web site, and proposed The Egg And Sperm Civil Union Compromise a little later. I've been trying to spread the idea on blogs like this. Would you agree to the Compromise?

Saying that you have the right to do something you cannot do is absurd. I suppose I have the right to fly by flapping my arms, but until I can actually do so, I don't think government should justify its policy decisions on the possibility that I could someday fly.

But people might be able to do same-sex conception. Kaguya the mouse was created in 2004, the very first mammal ever with two mothers and no father. 450 other embryos died, including 9 mouse pups that were born alive. I don't think anyone has a right to try that with human beings.

Two straight 80 year olds who want to get married are allowed to do so even though it is scientifically impossible for them to have children. If marriage is just for procreation, they should be told to get a civil union because they don't need marriage and it devalues the institution to let them get married. The state does not need to prohibit them from conceiving; they can't do it any more than the gay couple you would exclude from marriage.

They have the right to attempt to conceive children together, and they should have that right for as long as they are married. There shouldn't be any old age limit.

Yes, this is the same procreation argument we have heard. You are turning somersaults to avoid the obvious double standards between the way your proposal would treat straight couples and gay couples.

You are answering as if it is, but it isn't. I am saying we need to prohibit same-sex couples from attempting to conceive, as well as all forms of conception that do not combine unmodified gametes from a man and a woman. I'm also saying that all marriages should continue to protect the couple's right to conceive children together.


The fact that you want to take away the non-controversial rights of gays to adopt or artificially conceive children just to support your argument does not help you because you still can't get past the inconsistency of treating senior and sterile straight couples differently than you would treat gay couples.

Wait, I don't want to take away the rights of gays to adopt. And I think everyone's use of donor gametes is wrong and something else we should be considering. But that has nothing to do with marriage, single people can do those things too.
9.19.2008 9:15pm
John Howard (eggandsperm.org) (mail) (www):
Couples, whether married or not, do not have rights. Individuals do. So the question is, can the state prevent a given individual from attempting to conceive?

I don't think the answer to that question is going to hinge on the marital status of the individual in question.


Grendel, individuals should only have the right to conceive with someone of the other sex. Relationships can indeed be prohibited if there is a supportable basis. If you are in love with your sister, you each just have to marry someone else. No couple that is prohibited from conceiving together is allowed to marry. There has never been a marriage in history that was publicly prohibited from conceiving together, conception rights are the sine qua non of marriage.
9.19.2008 9:31pm
John Howard (eggandsperm.org) (mail) (www):
What I mean by "publicly prohibited" is the public knows they'd go to jail if they conceived together. Of course no marriage is "privately prohibited" either, though that could be the case in the future if say labs were prohibited from doing any more IVF, and that is the only way a certain couple could conceive. But they'd still publicly have the right to conceive together, they just wouldn't, for reasons that are private.
9.19.2008 9:37pm
Randy R. (mail):
Waldo: "If marriage is about two individuals falling in love and wanting legal recognition of their relationship, then homosexual couples should be able to marry. But if marriage is also about the family as a group, where everyone has the right and obligation of relationships with their parents and children, they should not."

So then if gays make a pledge to not have kids, then they can get married?

"But groups, including families, need more. In order to function, families also need the values of "ingroup/loyalty," "auhority/respect," and "purity/sanctity."

Even if true, why do you assume that gays are not capable of these values?

" Without those ideals, heterosexuals will no longer make the commitments to make heterosexual marriage work."

Any basis for this other than pure speculation? Since Mass. has had gay marriage for several years now, and Canada, Spain, The Netherlands and Belgium even longer without any of these problems, do you find there are problems in any of these places?

At some point, people who make these high-sounded arguements against gay marriage are going to actually provide proof to back up your claims, and you will have to show how this as affected hetero marriage in at least Massachusetts. Until you have something to back this up, give it up.

BTW, the Mass legislature this summer approved expanding the right to gay marriage to even out of state residents. If, after several years of SSM there, if there were any problems at all, you'd think they would have realized it by now.
9.19.2008 10:58pm
Elliot123 (mail):
"Grendel, individuals should only have the right to conceive with someone of the other sex."

Is there any alternative way to do it?
9.19.2008 11:23pm
quarkgluonplasma (mail):

"Grendel, individuals should only have the right to conceive with someone of the other sex."

Is there any alternative way to do it?

Yes there are actually a few different methods currently being worked out, but right now the most promising line of research is creating female sperm which could subsequently fertilize an ovum. Hopefully this technique (and its male ovum counterpart) will be perfected which will nullify any procreation argument against same sex marriage, although I'm not too sure why there is even an argument against it in the first place. Sexual orientation is innate, so why strip someone of a right because they were born a certain way? What are opponents of same sex marriage defending?
9.20.2008 12:07am
John Howard (eggandsperm.org) (mail) (www):
quarkgluonplasma, you're claiming that a same-sex orientation leads to a right to attempt same-sex conception? I don't agree. I can accept that it leads to a right to live with and love someone of the same sex, but not to conception rights. That would require too much risk and costly research, and unethical animal research, and is entirely unnecessary. It contradicts the ideal that love makes a family, and that people should not have to marry and procreate if they don't want to. There is no right to attempt to conceive with someone of the same sex, and there shouldn't be. All people should have to cooperate with someoen of the other sex to conceive children, if that's what they want to do. That's the only way to avoid a brave new world where genetic engineering and designer babies are forced on everyone. But I'm glad we're getting to the point: same-sex marriage means same-sex conception and genetic engineering and designer babies.
9.20.2008 3:31am
Franklin Drackman:
C'mon, its just that 2 GUYs getting married looks rediculous and a little creepy. Angelina Jolie and Winona
Ryder is a different story.
9.20.2008 10:20am
Elliot123 (mail):
"That's the only way to avoid a brave new world where genetic engineering and designer babies are forced on everyone."

There's really no way to avoid it. Who will reject the opportunity to grow a new heart from their own stem cells when their original ticker is diseased?

Some will claim that other people's use of GE means it is being forced on them. But those feelings are not something anyone with a failing heart will care about. In fact, those folks will probably be first in line to grow a new heart.

And deigner babies? Just think of it as Intelligent Design.
9.20.2008 12:43pm
John Howard (eggandsperm.org) (mail) (www):
Elliot123, there are so many benefits to prohibiting genetic engineering and concentrating on medicine for natural people. I am glad though that we all seem to agree though that SSM means BNW.
9.20.2008 1:32pm
MikeS (mail):
The focus has been entirely on the potential cost to heterosexual families,

And it take a powerful focus to try to examine anything that small.
9.20.2008 3:08pm
Elliot123 (mail):
"Elliot123, there are so many benefits to prohibiting genetic engineering and concentrating on medicine for natural people. I am glad though that we all seem to agree though that SSM means BNW."

The folks who get to grow a new heart due to genetic engineering also see that as a great benefit. I figure those who want to partake of such advances can do so, and those who don't can shun them. Think many will really shun them?

I'd say genetic research and engineering will continue to make great strides regardless of the status of SSM. What does SSM have to do with growing a heart?
9.20.2008 6:29pm
Bob Van Burkleo (mail):
In that case, what is the rational argument against (a) the right of three or more consenting adults to get married, or (b) the right of two or more persons of whatever sex to get married even though they are closely related - perhaps even siblings or have a parent-child relationship?


While a legitimate government can't selectively prohibit any expression of a natural right, it can regulate a natural right. It has long been established that citizens can only reasonably be expected to marry someone of a particular gender, what's changed we now know that for some that is someone of the same gender. As we have always allowed gender selectivity in marriage this minor extension in light of present knowledge is a reasonable expansion.

However there is no indication that there are any citizens that can only marry more than one spouse, or that can only marry a parent or sibling. Allowing a reasonable expansion government marriage does not abrogate government right to regulate the natural right of marriage in absence of any proof that by doing so they would effectively removing all reasonable potential of the citizen to exercise their right.

That's what changed; being gay is no longer a vice or a conscious choice - its just a variation of biology - still just people wanting to marry someone of a particular gender. Doesn't open any doors that aren't already open.
9.21.2008 3:34am
John Howard (eggandsperm.org) (mail) (www):
Elliot, SSM doesn't have anything to do with growing a new heart, that's true. You're the one who brought that up, not me. It does have something to do with having biological offspring with the person you are married to, though. I don't think people should be allowed to create a person any way except combining unmodified gametes - their own and a person's of the other sex.
9.21.2008 3:46am
John D (mail):
John Howard,

Past experience tells me that debate with you is generally useless. However, under current law I see no way that a ban on same-sex marriage becomes a ban on people using modified gametes. They are separate issues and the merits of each should be evaluated separately.

Besides, your whole point with modified gametes is that no one should be allowed to do this. I assume you would be opposed if Bob and Sue want to have a baby derived only from Bob's genetic material.

And you'd be equally opposed if Sarah and Rebecca wanted to have a baby derived only from Sarah's genetic material.

That would be treating opposite-sex and same-sex couples equally. Maybe you could apply that principle to the unrelated question of marriage.

But moving on into your first contention:

[Marriage] does have something to do with having biological offspring with the person you are married to, though.


(Grammatical nit-picking that may be important: the antecedent of the pronoun in the quoted sentence is "SSM," but I think you mean marriage.)

Actually marriage has nothing to do with having offspring (biological or otherwise) with the person to whom one is married.

Nothing. There's no obligation for married people to have children. People may marry when it's evident that they are unable to have children. Opponents of same-sex marriage often claim that it would be intrusive to ask if the couple can have children, but when the bride is over 60, there's no question is there?

Your argument is, as always, irrelevant. If you want to tie marriage to procreation, then you have to say no to those sexy sexagenarians.

And for the younger set, as one of the judges asked in the California hearing, "and at what point should we nullify a marriage if there are no children?"

No one is doing that. the "marriage is for children crowd" has no problems with post-menopausal women marrying. They have no problem with couples that elect not to have children.

The procreation argument is raised with no intention of applying it across all marriages. Your variation, if applied across all marriages, lacks any relevance to whether same-sex couples should be allowed to marry.
9.21.2008 12:34pm
Elliot123 (mail):
John Howard:"Elliot, SSM doesn't have anything to do with growing a new heart, that's true. You're the one who brought that up, not me. It does have something to do with having biological offspring with the person you are married to, though. I don't think people should be allowed to create a person any way except combining unmodified gametes - their own and a person's of the other sex."

John Howard: "Elliot123, there are so many benefits to prohibiting genetic engineering and concentrating on medicine for natural people. I am glad though that we all seem to agree though that SSM means BNW."

Growing new hearts is genetic engineering.
9.21.2008 1:13pm
John Howard (eggandsperm.org) (mail) (www):
However, under current law I see no way that a ban on same-sex marriage becomes a ban on people using modified gametes.

Right, the proposed law is a ban on cloning, which I think needs to be worded like Missouri's ban, to prohibit all forms of conception except joining a man's sperm and a woman's egg. That is independent of the marriage question only if we strip conception rights from marriage, which would happen if we even just consider allowing SSM and also prohibited modified gametes. We need to preserve marriage's right to conceive with the couple's own genes, which means we cannot allow same-sex marriage if we want to prohibit same-sex conception.

Alternatively, we could write a law that prohibited joining genetic material of unmarried people, and then prohibit same-sex marriage, but that would be harder to pass because it would prohibit something that lots of people do today. The way I am proposing it, it wouldn't ban anything that people currently do, only stuff that hasn't been done yet.

Yes, we would treat all people and all couples equally: no person, and no couples, may use modified gametes. That leaves only heterosexual reproduction.

Marriage gives the couple the RIGHT to have children, it approves of them attempting to have children. By allowing sexual intercourse (Lawrence v Texas), marriage allows the couple to attempt to conceive. You can't prohibit a marriage from attempting to conceive with their own genes. Infertile and elderly marriages are not prohibited from attempting it, nor should they be. Siblings and same-sex couples should be prohibited, even though (and precisely because) they ARE able to have children together. Marriage is about the right, not the ability. People should only have it with someone of the other sex.
9.21.2008 1:49pm
John Howard (eggandsperm.org) (mail) (www):
Elliot, I'm only worried about creating new people from modified genes, not forms of medicine that might involve stem cells or gene therapy. When I say "genetic engineering", it is short-hand so I don't have to write "human genetic engineering to create people." Engineering means "changing", and I don't think that growing a new heart requires changing the genome. Even if it does, if it doesn't create a whole fetus which is then used for parts, the Egg And Sperm law wouldn't prohibit it. But hopefully it would prohibit creating fetuses to use the heart for someone else. I think people would need at least a year old heart, probably a five year old heart.
9.21.2008 1:56pm
Bob Van Burkleo (mail):
No couple that is prohibited from conceiving together is allowed to marry. There has never been a marriage in history that was publicly prohibited from conceiving together, conception rights are the sine qua non of marriage.

Oh come on, you must know that's not true. In a number of states (Utah, Arizona and a number of others) that allow first cousins to marry they are only allowed to do so if they can prove they are mutually infertile.

14% of people in US heterosexual marriage never pass on their genes for one reason or another. This idea that 'marriage is only for couples that can/do procreate' is 'a dog that won't hunt' because it is long dead if it were ever alive at all.
9.21.2008 2:02pm
John Howard (eggandsperm.org) (mail) (www):
They're still allowed to attempt to conceive. That law is based on the assumption that they simply will not, so they let them try. We don't know how that law applies to use of IVF, it is really impossible to be infertile these days. I think now that IVF and new research has made infertile people effectively fertile, those states should use my definition of Civil Unions for those couples, and not allow them to attempt to conceive.

Marriage is only for couples that would ethically procreate, if they were to procreate. It is not for couples whose procreation would be unethical, like siblings, and same-sex couples. "Can/do" is irrelevant, what matters is whether we approve of them trying to.
9.21.2008 2:43pm