The Courage of His Convictions

Ross Douthat, speaking at an event in New York, was asked whether he supports gay marriage. The results were enlightening:

At first Mr. Douthat seemed unable to get a sentence out without interrupting himself and starting over. Then he explained: “I am someone opposed to gay marriage who is deeply uncomfortable arguing the issue in public.”

Mr. Douthat indicated that he opposes gay marriage because of his religious beliefs, but that he does not like debating the issue in those terms. At one point he said that, sometimes, he feels like he should either change his mind, or simply resolve never to address the question in public.

He added that the conservative opposition to gay marriage is “a losing argument,” and asked rhetorically if committed homosexual relationships ought to be denied the legal recognition accorded without hesitation to the fleeting enthusiasms of Britney Spears and Newt Gingrich.

A theory: Ross Douthat, with his intermittent moments of intellectual honesty, may be a transitional form between the religious conservative who wishes to see his religion imposed on the world, and one who, finally, accepts that this result is neither possible nor desirable. God willing, the 2008 election will prove enough of an evolutionary bottleneck to effect that change, by finally ending the earlier political species.

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119 comments

  1. I don’t think that Douthat’s position on gay marriage is ideologically distinct from, say, Maggie Gallagher’s. He claims that he does want his religion imposed on the world. He acknowledges that he’s probably on the losing side, but that’s just a political judgment – I don’t see an indication that he thinks that this mode of reasoning will always be on the losing side (or, more importantly, that this means that no one should vote on it). And I think there’s every indication that he regrets the fact that secular arguments against gay marriage are unpersuasive. But he’s still not going to be very vocal about the issue because he’s “deeply uncomfortable” being seen as a public opponent of gay marriage.

    What this shows is that shame works. That, in fact, public shaming is a far more effective mode of achieving political change than, say, reasoned argument. We’ve done something similar with race – it’s not that racism is gone, but it’s at least unthinkable for anyone to defend an action that they acknowledge as racist. And in the long run, when all pro-racist speech is effectively kept out of the marketplace of ideas, people internalize the only remaining message – that racism is bad. It’s not that the arguments against racism beat the arguments for racism, but that the opponents of racism made it too embarrassing for anyone to argue with them. It’s just generally true with respect to political values that people don’t often change their minds – change in the population over time is caused by one side being better able to transmit their values to the next generation. One way of accomplishing this is to give the other side reason to shut up. This is what we’re seeing in Douthat. He’s aware that speaking his mind is going to get him labeled a bigot or a fundamentalist, so he won’t speak out for his position even if that means ceding the public space to his ideological opponents. He’s not a transitional form, just the same ol’ same ol’ but with more of an interest in maintaining the good opinion of those who disagree with him.

  2. I found your site by Googling “common sense beck”, after I had read Thomas Paine’s . I read Paine’s work in response to watching a YouTube video featuring Bob Basso as Tom Paine that has been widely watched. I didn’t like the video and I resolved to read the actual pamphlet to “compare and contrast”. Nothing to compare and contrast – Basso (and Beck) are living in a fantasy world. I’ll take a look at your site – maybe it will prove to be a refuge from the childish cross-fire that “liberals” and “conservatives” engage in constantly! I wish the Republicans would grow up and get out of their testosterone-charged puberty. I’m real tired of the crap that is being spread around. This country could use some principled coherent conservatism.

  3. Ooops! A “preview” option would be nice to confirm that the html code is correct!

  4. “…a transitional form between the religious conservative who wishes to see his religion imposed on the world, and one who, finally, accepts that this result is neither possible nor desirable.”

    LOTS of Americans oppose gay marriage for reasons that have nothing to do with their faith.

    1. Whom? And what reasons do they give?

    2. I hear this a lot, but I’ve yet to see an argument which passes the smell test for being a legitimate secular argument.

      1. I’ll give you an easy one: impact on the children of these unions. There haven’t been enough children raised by gay parents, IMO, to make a reasonable determination that raising children in a home devoid of opposite sex influence isn’t ultimately going to cause problems.

        1. Mike,
          I think where you and I (and many others differ) is in how you phrased this – you are assuming negative impact: “isn’t ultimately going to cause problems.” From a sceintific standpoint, that’s an a priori conclusion. Rather, why not ask if there have been enough children raised in same-sex homes to see an impact to the children’s psycho-social development that is good, neutral or bad? That would lead to a fairer study, and more robust conclusions.

        2. We don’t accept this as a valid reason to disallow interracial marriages, though, do we? To claim that one kind of disapproved-of marriage should be given a pass is sheer hypocrisy.

          1. More to the point, children already are raised in same sex environments and allowed to be adopted by same-sex parents in most jurisdictions; we have plenty of data regarding that. Moreover, your argument could also arguably apply to single parents, whether divorced/separated or widowed. Why aren’t you arguing for limiting the rights of single parents as well?

            1. There is a difference between single-parent homes and gay homes. #1) Single parent does not mean that the other parent isn’t around. I was raised in a single-parent home and saw my dad every week. He had a big role in my life. #2) While yes, gay adoptions and adoptions by single parents have been allowed, it is still a relatively new phenomenon and one in which I think a lot more research is needed. It is just assumed that a child raised by gay parents will turn out exactly like a child raised by straight parents and I think there is more than a little bit of reason to be skeptical of that conclusion.

              1. Effectively, you’re engaged in special pleading – every argument that can be put up against gay marriage is also one which can be used against interracial marriage, interfaith marriage, marriages with a large age difference between spouses – and yet, we don’t legislate against those.

                I see further down that you’ve also raised the issue of marriage’s essence being one of creating/raising the next generation… While that’s slightly more credible, it also fails, simply because we do not stop issuing marriage licences when people are unable to procreate, and nor do we annul them when they result in childlessness.

                And (even) furthermore, the same thing applies to the weak argument regarding child welfare, if I can take this full circle – if children’s health and wellbeing is the be all and end all, why are we not forcing bad parents to divorce?

            2. And I still have never met my dad. What’s your point?

              That doesn’t at all address what other people are saying.

              Any child, raised by any set of parents, will turn out differently than another child. How does that specifically affect homosexual couples? I also don’t think it’s fair to group up homosexuals as some across the board status that affects people equally. Gay people are all across the social/economic hierarchy just as everyone else. It’s not like, they’re gay, they’re going to raise their child X way instead of the normal Y way.

              Besides, I think the only thing making it difficult to raise a child as a homosexual couple difficult, is the stigma conservatives put on it. I think once we get passed that, it’s smooth sailing.

        3. There are plenty of studies on children of homosexual parents, some of which are reviewed in these publications.

          From a cursory reading of the abstracts, the general conclusion seems to be “no particular concepts except those caused by social prejudices.”

          1. “no particular *concerns*”, that is.

          2. Several of those reviews you cite say things like, “The review shows that research on lesbian and gay families is quite limited…” or something to that effect. Others point out that outside social pressures cause problems. So how do you fix that? You can’t will away social stigma.

            1. And the judge who was in the news just last week for refusing a marriage license to an interracial couple said he did so because “neither white nor black society fully accepts the children from such unions.” I’m sure this is actually true to some extent in certain settings, but we all agree that it is not an acceptable reason to prevent interracial marriage.

              Besides, the point about children would be a secular argument against homosexuals raising children, not against homosexual marriage.

              1. From the government’s perspective, children are the logical product of marriages.

                1. No. The benefits of a civil marriage largely concern the relationship between the spouses. In a sense, children only enter into it the way any other joint property does. Plus, there are government concerns about children that are irrelevant to marriage. A biological father doesn’t lose his parental rights just because he’s not married to the mother.

                  1. So if we take kids out of the equation what’s to stop plural marriages and incestual marriages?

                    1. The simple answer is “nothing besides the unique quirks relevant to each idea.”

                      Philosophically and theoretically, I don’t have a problem with either one.

                2. From the government an legal perspective marriage is primarily an economic union. Arguments about children are usually a canard by those unwilling to openly proclaim religious faith as the basis for their opposition. For the argument that children of gay couples are somhow worse off to have any merit, judges will have to conduct a brief socioeconomic analysis on interracial, extremely young, and extremely poor couples before allowing them to marry.

                  The argument concerning children is generally a pretext for bigots unwilling to admit so. We just saw an example of someone who is “not racist” since he refuses to marry an interracial couple due to his concern for the children. Cognitive dissonance has always been the last refuge of the secret bigot.

  5. You want research Mike? Here’s a review article that summarizes a fair amount of previous research.

    http://www.jstor.org/stable/1131517?cookieSet=1

    Critical quotes:
    “In summary, concerns about difficulties in personal development among children of gay and lesbian parents are not sustained by results of existing research.”
    “Overall, then, results of research to date suggest that children of lesbian and gay par- ents have normal relationships with peers and that their relationships with adults of both sexes are also satisfactory. In fact, the findings suggest that children in custody of divorced lesbian mothers have more frequent contact with their fathers than do children in custody of divorced heterosexual mothers.”
    “There is no evidence to suggest that psychosocial development among children of gay men or lesbians is compromised in any respect relative to that among offspring of heterosexual parents.”

    Also, see:
    http://psycnet.apa.org/journals/ort/65/2/203.html

    1. This is, of course, to say nothing about why it is appropriate or not to deny homosexual couples the vast number of other legal rights (visitation, SS pension, rights and responsibilities after death) that heterosexual couples enjoy today,

  6. Mike,
    While you are right thatyou can’t “will away” social stigma, I would argue that the Civil Rights movement o fthe 1960’s offers us some excellent touchpoints for framing a strategy to diminish social stigma relating to “differentness.” Afterall, we now have an African American President . . .

    And Anzezzle is right – the lack of more data/research on the impact of same-gender families on children has nothing to do whatsoever with all the other legal rights that hetrosexual couples enjoy today and homosexual couples do not. I’d add, FWIW< that interracial couples used to be denied many of those rights as well.

    1. Phillip,

      The problem is that if the best arguement people can come up for as to why same-sex marriages are okay (from a child’s perspective) is to point out that a lot of kids are raised by one heterosexual parent…what does that same about the strength of their case? It’s like when they say that all the heterosexual divorces are evidence as to why it should be okay for gays to get married, because, y’know, marriage is already screwed up.

      1. It’s hypocritical. If divorce and homosexual marriage are both damaging to the institution of marriage, then you better have a good argument to support allowing one and not the other. If single parents (and I’m not talking about separated but fully involved parents, I mean totally single) are not generally prevented from raising children, then you better have a good argument for generally preventing homosexual couples from raising children.

        Besides, I’d think having two caring moms and no dad is better than having only one caring mom and no dad.

        We prevent unfit parents from raising their children, but “unfit” is judged more on a case by case basis. Why can’t that standard be applied to homosexual couples the same way it is to heterosexual couples? Or do you want to start legislating who can have babies, so that only the most fit, most caring, least damaging parents have kids?

      2. C’mon Mike.

        I think it’s obvious, that they’re not saying, marriage is messed up, let’s have homosexuals get married too. They’re saying that, there are horrible marriages out there, and the government still doesn’t make value judgements on marriages.

        You’re the only one here saying that homosexual marriage is bad anyway. They’re just following your line of logic. I’m willing to bet everyone here arguing against you doesn’t think anything is inherently bad about homosexual marriage or parentage.

        1. Let’s back up..I never said ‘homosexual mariage is bad’. What i said was that I have concerns about the children raised in these marriages. Take children off the table and I could care elss what two gays guys want to do, so long as they support civil unions for any two people who want to be responsible for each other and also acknowledge that polygamy is the likely next step on the road of marriage redinition and take a position on it now.

  7. Now I’m rather curious, Mike. What is your burden of proof to determine whether or not children raised in homosexual families experience undue psychosocial harm?

    And you still haven’t touched my other point.

    1. That was said a little awkwardly. I meant “What burden of proof do you require to show whether or not…”

  8. Arnold T Pants · ·

    Gay people can’t marry because there’s no data that gay people can get married, adopt children, and raise them to be functional members of society. This is like the old argument that women can’t become successful scientists because there are no successful women scientists. Hundreds of similar examples follow.

    This is an absurd argument, Mike, and one that you should abandon. Find me an atheist that is against gay marriage. Just one.

  9. Phillip,

    The problem is that if the best arguement people can come up for as to why same-sex marriages are okay (from a child’s perspective) is to point out that a lot of kids are raised by one heterosexual parent…what does that same about the strength of their case? It’s like when they say that all the heterosexual divorces are evidence as to why it should be okay for gays to get married, because, y’know, marriage is already screwed up.

    Comment by Mike October 22, 2009 @ 4:02 pm
    Reply

    Mike,

    First, heterosexual marriage IS screwed up, and I do not hear fundamentalist Christionas or Republicans (or LIbertarians for that matter) making as big a stink about that, and its impacts to society, as I do gay marriage. Conflating the two is disingeneous at best.

    Second, that’s not even remotely the best argument out there in support of gay marriage, and its not one I’ve ever used either. Anzezzle hints at the better ones – gay partners do not have rights of survivorship or inheritance; they can’t automatically speak for their partners in medical situtaions even though they are best qualified to do so; they can’t (always) be covered under a partner’s health insurance as can hetero couples; gay parteners have harder times buying houses or obtaining business loans because they do not have a marital presumption; gay partners are not afforded spousal protection clauses in civil and criminal litigation . . . shall I go on?

    The sole reason we’ve talked here, in this thread, about children is because that’s where you started asking questions. And I still maintain that, while children of same sex couples MAY experience negative socioeconimic challenges because of their family of origin, as other commentors have pointed out that doesn’t prevent society from allowing and even supporting other types of situations which MAY lead to similar socioeconimic challenges.

    1. Phillip,

      All of those legal hurdles can be addressed without granting marriage. A decent will and power of attorney fixes pretty much all of it. Health benefits for domestic partners are becoming more and more common (I work for a very conservative company and we provide them). So then if we take all of that off the table, what rationale is left?

      Obviously the answer is boiled down to ‘love conquers all’ and the pro argument is that the state should let people that love each other get married. Fair enough. But what norm does that create? That sexual love is the only criteria for mariage. Is that really in the state’s best interest?

      1. The norm it creates is that similar issues, and similar people/couples, ought to be treated similarly. Call it the antidiscrimination principle, but it has roots deeper than that. I imagine biracial couples could’ve dealt with simple contracts too, but separate isn’t always equal, is it?

        1. We can all pretend that the state’s interest in marriage is health benefits and medical decisions, but it’s not. The state’s only real interest in marriage as a legal construct is to encourage the creation of the next generation. It’s why our tax code is riddled with items that benefit parents far more than couples with no children. It’s why we believe that the state has an obligation to provide free schooling to kids. THAT is the state’s interest, not some vague sense of ‘fairness’.

          ‘Fairness’ is a pretty elusive concept when we really start looking at our laws and there is absolutely no reason the state has to make it a priority. We could spend months makinga list of all the ‘unfair’ situations that the government has no interest or responsibility to rectify.

          1. The state’s only real interest in marriage as a legal construct is to encourage the creation of the next generation.

            Then I propose that married couples be required to have children, or else the marriage will be annulled, or at least the marriage benefits would be inactive until they did produce a child. Or would that be ridiculous?

            Although now that I think about it, what are the legal benefits of marriage that come with having children? The only thing I can think of is that if you’re married you can file a joint tax return, and if you have one, a kid can be taken as a tax deduction. In the case of parents that aren’t married and therefore have to file separate returns, the child can only be claimed by one parent. But really, that’s more about encouraging parents to be married than encouraging married couples to have kids; despite tax breaks, it’s still cheaper not to have kids.

            Other than simply deferring to tradition, marriage can be seen as a convenience that the government offers its citizens, possibly to avoid complications for the government itself. People are going to cohabitate, share their lives and their incomes, so let’s offer a prepackaged contract called marriage that provides everything people would expect.

            1. Kris,

              But hetero couples already have marriage? Typically the government doesn’t remove rights that are already granted. And when the government got involved in marriage children were most certainly the main government interest.

              So what we’re talking about now, in 2009, is making access to marriage based on sexual love alone. So again, what is the key government interest in granting marriage based on that fact?

  10. Eh. I suppose you’re right. The constitution is largely silent on matters of equal protection and due process.

    1. I think if we’re going to find a legal right to ‘fairness’ then we’re definitely going to see a lot more challenges to a lot more laws. Is it ‘fair’ that two men can get married but not a brother and sister? Is it ‘fair’ that I can’t join the FBI because I smoked weed twice in college? Is it ‘fair’ that I have to be 21 to drink? Obviously a lot of our laws are drawing an arbitrary line (like the drinking age) and someone is always going to fall on one side of the fair line and someone else isn’t. Otherwise we just declare universal access to everything and make it a free-for-all.

      1. Hey, an actual slippery slope fallacy, alive and in the wild. Did anyone bring a camera?

        1. Show me a definition of ‘fairness’ in the Constitution.

          1. “No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.” U.S. Const, Amd. V

            “All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” U.S. Const., Amd. XIV, § 1

            It’s coming Mike. As soon as I get two seconds to myself.

            1. I think Mr. Lawyer Pants needs to explain the difference between Rights and Fairness.

              And let’s say you’re right and fairness does exist. Then again, isn’t it unfair to place the drinking age at 21 instead of 20 and isn’t it unfair to allow marriages based on two individuals and not 3 or more?

  11. Mike you’re better than this. Just be glad I can only spare one hand to type, and have no Internet other than iPhone. As soon as either condition changes, it’s curtains for you. Lacy, gently wafting curtains.

  12. marriage and raising children, face it, is a crap shoot for anyone!! i don’t care who or what you are, who or what you believe in.

    lumping gay marriage and drinking age together in a fairness argument is futile because the two have nothing in common.

    1. I’m not sure why they don’t. Gay marriage advocates claim that hetero-only marriage is an arbitrary line that just needs to be moved to include same-sex couples in the interest of ‘fairness’. The drinking age is also an arbitrary line and couldn’t 20 year-olds argue it be moved in the interest of ‘fairness’?

    2. Mike, there is a significant difference between drinking age and same-sex marriage in that the former is an essentially temporary limitation: Everyone eventually grows up to be 21 and is allowed to drink.

      A ban on same-sex marriage, on the other hand, permanently excludes a significant number of people from enjoying certain rights that the majority of the population has, without actually providing credible evidence that it doing so serves a public good.

      In other words, your hypothetical 20 year-olds will get to enjoy their full drinking rights simply by waiting one year, which is a trivial annoyance at worst. A same-sex couple wanting to get married, on the other hand, cannot do so without taking non-trivial steps such as moving to another state or country.

      Surely you’ll agree that these two situations are not the same by a long stretch.

      1. So arbitrary unfairness is okay, just so long as it isn’t permanent?

        I could also name countless institutions that people are denied access to on arbitrary grounds. No foreign-born being able to be President might be a good example. Or how about polygamists not having access to marriage? You act as though gay marriage is the only ‘unfair’ law on our books.

        The burden of proof still lies with gay marriage proponents. What benefit does gay marriage give to society other than the ‘fairness’ of recognizing a new kind of sexual love-based union?

  13. The state may not have an obligation to correct all instances of unfairness, but it’s ludicrous to suggest that it’s not a problem when the state is creating gratuitous instances of unfairness. Equality under the law is not exactly a niche ideal. “Justice as fairness” is a mainstream position (perhaps the mainstream position). Clearly there’s something important here. Of course, the Constitution gives its own purpose as, in part, establishing justice, and “due process”, in the document since the 5th amendment was ratified, has long been understood as, basically, providing that the government won’t act unfairly (substantive due process in the US seems to date to the 1930s, says Wikipedia). And certainly the history of civil rights jurisprudence and legislation seems to indicate that fairness is a major objective of the law.

    Sure, sometimes there’s a certain amount of necessary unfairness in the law. It’s simply not practical to come up with some test that we can administer to people to see if they’re mature enough to be allowed to drink, and there’s a clear public interest in not letting everyone drink. No one’s saying that no law can ever be allowed to be unfair to anyone, only that unfairness can only be justified by a compelling state interest (with drinking, it’s that we don’t want to let everyone drink but it’s prohibitively difficult/intrusive to determine responsibility on an individual basis). So what’s the compelling state interest for discriminating against same-sex couples with respect to marriage? “Think of the children” doesn’t work here – the children are, perhaps, a reason to have civil marriage. But there’s simply no plausible argument that holds that the children are further a good reason to prevent any two consenting adults (possibly excepting closely related male-female couples) from marrying given that we don’t use marriage to distinguish between child-rearing and non-child-rearing couples. Even the anti-marriage campaign that we’re seeing in Maine now isn’t really making this argument – most of what they’re saying is that legal gay marriage will threaten parents’ control over what their children think, not that it will actually harm the children.

    1. Gotchaye,

      With black civil rights the problem wasn’t that the original laws didn’t include them. The problem was that new laws were created to specifically exclude blacks from a variety of institutions. Anytime the government creates laws designed to exclude people from things they used to have access to, of course that is unfair. That’s exactly why I oppose gay marriage bans in various states, because it’s wrong and also unnecessary.

      You can say it is ,i>unfair to not redefine marriage to include sexual love between couples of the same sex and maybe it is based on the moral attitutdes of the day, but discrimination it is not.

      1. I think I’ve seen you advance this idea before, but I’m not sure where it’s coming from. You seem to be saying that what makes a law discriminatory and/or unjust is the intent of the legislators who wrote it. That is, they can have intended something really quite unfair, but as long as they weren’t thinking of themselves as being discriminatory, then the law is fine.

        So to ask the obvious question: is this a standard for discrimination in the law that anyone else has ever used, and is this something you really believe? If the foundations of black slavery were sufficiently far back in the mists of prehistory, such that legal systems endorsing it were more recognizing an existing social institution than creating a new social institution, would abolition have been misguided? Or, at least, would the law’s continued endorsement of slavery not be an injustice? I’ve also got to ask you to define “discrimination”. Nothing you’ve said seems to make legal recognition of only heterosexual couples not discriminatory by any appropriate dictionary definition I can find. If you just mean “wrong discrimination” by “discrimination”, then of course the statement is question-begging, as there’s a massive non sequitur from marriage law not existing to specifically exclude gays and it not being wrongly discriminatory against gays.

        Finally, it seems to me that you’ve only responded to the last sentence in my first paragraph. What if I grant that civil rights jurisprudence doesn’t provide much guidance as to how much we should care about fairness in the law? It remains the case that “justice as fairness” is perhaps the mainstream perspective among modern philosophers, and something resembling “justice is giving everyone what they deserve” dates back centuries if not millenia. And it’s almost tautological to say that the law ought to be just. And my second paragraph addressed your comparisons to the drinking age – if we had no reason to think that the average 20 year old who would choose to drink would be less responsible than the average 21 year old who would choose to drink, wouldn’t we be idiots for not lowering the drinking age? I assume it’s obvious that the average child who would be raised by a homosexual parent or parents would be better off than the average child raised by a heterosexual parent or parents in terms of just about any metric you care to name (keeping in mind that open homosexuality, to say nothing of open homosexuality and the desire to raise children, correlates with class variables).

  14. If the foundations of black slavery were sufficiently far back in the mists of prehistory, such that legal systems endorsing it were more recognizing an existing social institution than creating a new social institution, would abolition have been misguided? Or, at least, would the law’s continued endorsement of slavery not be an injustice?

    So now we’re comparing gay marriage to slavery? I think you are over-complicating the issue immensely. It’s rather simple; marriage as a legal construct was built on procreation. Gay marriage proponents argue that criteria is antiquated and instead the new criteria should be sexual love between any two people no closer related than 2nd cousins. They argue it is unfair to define it in any other way. Does that meet your idea of ‘justice as fairness’?

    I’ve also got to ask you to define “discrimination”.

    Easy enough – discrimination is limiting access to something based on arbitrary criteria.

    …if we had no reason to think that the average 20 year old who would choose to drink would be less responsible than the average 21 year old who would choose to drink, wouldn’t we be idiots for not lowering the drinking age?

    You tell me. I think those are the kinds of questions that will get asked more and more often.

    I assume it’s obvious that the average child who would be raised by a homosexual parent or parents would be better off than the average child raised by a heterosexual parent or parents in terms of just about any metric you care to.

    WOW! That is quite a statement. You’re contending that kids are actually better off being raised by homosexuals? That’s a new one even for gay marriage proponents.

  15. Mike, you’re doing two things in the above post. First, you’re going back and claiming that you meant something other than what the plain text of your posts would suggest, and then acting as if I’m the one “going there”. Second, you’re responding to some of my statements while completely ignoring the other statements I made addressing precisely the concerns you raise. My first inclination is simply to copy and paste my previous post, since obviously you didn’t read it very carefully.

    You clearly say in the post that I responded to that the problem with Jim Crow laws (and, presumably, legal slavery) is that the laws were specifically created to discriminate – they set up new social institutions that were unfair to one group. Your point very much seems to be that because marriage is such an old institution that wasn’t created to keep gay people down (but to show the state’s support for opposite-sex couples and procreation), then there’s no reason to change the institution. I was bringing up the obvious reductio – what if institutionalized slavery went back to prehistory and was plausibly motivated by concerns about productivity and labor (and, in fact, one can argue that this was exactly the case). Then legal slavery would seem to fit exactly those criteria that you claim make opposite-only marriage permissible. To use the new language you’ve adopted in this reply, abolitionists argued that the criterion of economic value for land-owners was antiquated and instead the new criterion should be individual rights. I don’t see how your argument wouldn’t have worked just as well. It’s ridiculous, and either thoughtless or disingenuous, to claim that I’m “comparing” gay marriage to slavery in any meaningful way, when what I’m doing is showing how your arguments work just as well in defense of either.

    You then offer a question-begging definition of “discrimination”. Clearly people are going to interpret “arbitrary” differently – it makes perfect sense to me to say that the current legal regime in most states is discriminatory, whereas you don’t think it an arbitrary distinction at all. Anticipating that you’d include a moral test in your definition of “discrimination” (see my talk of “wrong discrimination”), I pointed out how this would be question-begging. I don’t see what else I can say here until you finally get around to addressing the point I already made in anticipation of exactly the definition you offered. I will note that it’s a silly definition to use in a discussion with people who disagree with you. As well, by your own definition your last statement in your first reply to me seems to be clearly false. Given that the law is unfair and given that it’s only based on the moral attitudes of the day, then it seems that it is indeed arbitrary and is thus discriminatory.

    I’m not sure what your next sentence means. Do you think that, on average, people don’t become more responsible as they age, up to a point?

    It’s also nice that you duck my explanation of the claim that kids are on average better off being raised by homosexuals. You express shock, and I see that you were apparently so surprised that you submitted your reply before reading to the end of my sentence. Openly gay individuals tend to be wealthier and better-educated than the population at large, and children whose parents are wealthier and better-educated tend to do better. Only gay couples are affected by gay marriage – while many of these couples might subsequently split up, plenty of the children of straight parents start out in split-up families, so advantage: gay people. No gay couple will ever have a child when they don’t feel that they’re ready for one – another point. I’d bet quite a bit that, just among gay people, those that want to adopt a child tend to be wealthier and better-educated. You’ll note that nothing here or in my previous posts requires that all children raised by homosexuals do better than all children raised by heterosexuals, or even that a child raised by homosexuals will tend to do better than a child raised by heterosexual parents all else being equal. My point, as was blindingly obvious from my mention of homosexuality correlating with class variables, was that all else is not equal when we’re talking about the averages involved. Perhaps homosexuality is some sort of disadvantage, but all else is not equal, and one has to believe that gay people torture children for fun not to think that the myriad advantages that the average homosexual parent brings to the equation don’t make up for whatever these vague and unspecified harms are.

    And, incidentally, many of the gay couples who raise children won’t be creating new children to do it – most of the children that wouldn’t have been raised by gay couples absent gay marriage will be adopted children, and we don’t exactly have a shortage of those. And I really do hope that you’ll grant that the foster system does a worse job of raising children than two loving parents who both happen to be of the same sex would. But I’ve explained this to you before, and you ignored me then too.

  16. You clearly say in the post that I responded to that the problem with Jim Crow laws (and, presumably, legal slavery) is that the laws were specifically created to discriminate – they set up new social institutions that were unfair to one group.

    No – I’m not talking about slavery at all. This country was born a slave-holding nation. It wasn’t as though there was no slavery and blacks were walking around free and then we enslaved them all. What I am specifically referring to is blacks that had full legal rights immediately after the Civil War and then had those rights taken away through legislation specifically targeted at pushing them backwards. That is why the comparison between gay marriage and the civil rights movement is so bogus.

    Now that I just typed that out, I guess your slavery analogy IS valid. Gays never had the right to marry just like slaves never had a right o freedom. While you and I will agree that there was moral injustice in slavery we also differ of course is in your belief that injustice does exist because marriage hasn’t been legally redefined as an expression of sexual love.

    Your point very much seems to be that because marriage is such an old institution that wasn’t created to keep gay people down (but to show the state’s support for opposite-sex couples and procreation), then there’s no reason to change the institution.

    I don’t use the age of the law as justification for not changing it. I just don’t find that legal marriages for gay couples serves the states’ interest.

    As well, by your own definition your last statement in your first reply to me seems to be clearly false. Given that the law is unfair and given that it’s only based on the moral attitudes of the day, then it seems that it is indeed arbitrary and is thus discriminatory.

    I see where I made the mistake there so let me attempt to remedy here. Current marriage law does discriminate against gays. So…
    No gay marriage = discrimination
    My next statement is that while discrimination does exist, it is not an injustice on moral or legal grounds, IMO.

    It’s also nice that you duck my explanation of the claim that kids are on average better off being raised by homosexuals./i>

    I ducked it because it’s a bad comparison. Polling on income data of gays has been noted as flawed because it doesn’t accurately reflect the number of closeted gays in minority and rural communities. The fact is, the people whose data goes into those stats on gay income are overwhelmingly white and urban. If I only used white, urban incomes to determine the median income for heterosexuals, don’t you think the number would rise?

    If the income of gays in rural and minority communities was included you would see the numbers drop to par with the median income for straight individuals, unless you believe that being gay also equates with higher intellect and/or greater drive to succeed financially.

  17. Fair enough on slavery. It seems to me that we can agree, though, that a law can be unjust even if it wasn’t created specifically to be discriminatory or to take rights away from people who already had them. So I don’t see how you can maintain, as you were earlier in the thread, that we necessarily have to show a compelling public interest in granting gay marriage beyond that of providing that right to a class of people.

    Polling on income data of gays has been noted as flawed because it doesn’t accurately reflect the number of closeted gays in minority and rural communities. The fact is, the people whose data goes into those stats on gay income are overwhelmingly white and urban.
    So? That was my point. How does gay marriage make it more likely that a closeted gay person will adopt a kid? Maybe I’m reaching here, but my feeling is that very few closeted gay people will get married to someone of the same sex. You will note that I was very careful to talk only about those who were openly gay in my previous posts.

    1. I don’t see how you can maintain…that we necessarily have to show a compelling public interest in granting gay marriage beyond that of providing that right to a class of people.

      Because I don’t think ‘fairness’ alone is enough to change access to an institution, especially one as vital to the strength of society as marriage. I also don’t think we should be quite so cavalier with changing law based on fairness alone.

      That was my point. How does gay marriage make it more likely that a closeted gay person will adopt a kid? Maybe I’m reaching here, but my feeling is that very few closeted gay people will get married to someone of the same sex. You will note that I was very careful to talk only about those who were openly gay in my previous posts.

      See – that’s my biggest problem with the gay marriage lobby. No one is willing to actually think about how it will change the landscape in 10-20 years. Logic dictates that more and more gays are going to come out of the closet as society continues to adjust to and accept openly gay individuals. This means we will see greater numbers of gays coming out in minority and rural communities, which of course means the median income for gays is going to go down significantly. So then you will have middle class and potentially lower class gay couples adopting kids. Do you still want to contend they will be better parents than hetero couples or are you willing to admit that the economic advantages are going to be rendered moot?

      1. “Do you still want to contend they will be better parents than hetero couples or are you willing to admit that the economic advantages are going to be rendered moot?”

        I’m going to vote that they’ll be comparable to other parents in their socioeconomic class. And given the references I and lanfranc have mentioned (imperfect that they may be), I feel that I am justified in saying so. If you think they will be worse, provide your own citations.

        1. ‘Worse’ isn’t exactly the right word. I would say that the parenting will be ‘incomplete’.

        2. Anzezzle is right. Regardless of ‘worse’ or ‘incomplete’, do you have actual citations, or is this just unfounded speculation?

          And as far as the impact on society is concerned, most western European countries have allowed either outright same-sex marriage or civil unions with essentially the same rights for quite some years now. I’m not entirely sure which particular threats to social stability it is you’re afraid of, but I note that those countries at least haven’t descended into anarchy yet.

          1. I’ve never really understood the liberal obsession with linked statistical data, so FYI I don’t play that game. Y’know, the one where you demand stats, then i post a link, then you criticize the source and/or methodology and then we’re back to square.

            Your point about Europe is the most relevant. But the US isn’t Europe. And if your only criteria for changing a law is that the change won’t lead to anarchy, then your criteria is very thin.

            1. Of course, the GOP’s only points, and the ones that you’ve trotted out here, are that the ban on gay marriage either (1) isn’t sufficiently “unfair” to require remediation, or (2) is the only way to preserve the American family.

              Given those thin defenses, proving that gay marriage doesn’t cause anarchy seems sufficient rebuttal.

              1. the burden of proof isn’t with defenders of the law…it’s with the people asking it to be changed. everyone of the legal challenges to marriage can be addressed with other legal actions (living will, power of attorney, etc). All that is left is ‘fairness’. That’s not enough.

            2. Unfounded speculation, then. Got it.

              As far as “anarchy” is concerned, I was being slightly hyperbolic. What I actually mean was that it has apparently had no negative effects whatsoever. People are still getting married. Horror stories of children in homosexual families getting poor upbringings are conspicuously absent. No one is seriously suggesting allowing incestuous or polygamous marriages. In fact, it’s pretty much business as usual.

  18. So the argument is “hire a lawyer, draw up expensive documents, remain second-class citizens, and like it”? If that’s enough why not just abolish marriage and let hetero couples be happy with a hodgepodge of legal obligations too?

    1. Are polygamists second-class citizens?

      I guess another option is all you libby lawyers could draw up those papers pro bono.

  19. Hurr hurr, that’ll git ’em!

    Polygamy isn’t tied to an innate, immutable trait. Homosexuality is. Boom.

    Seriously though, the argument that a web of legal obligations suffices for marriage proves too much by half. Either that should be enough for straight couples, or for interracial couples, or it shouldn’t be enough for anyone.

    1. I think a pretty convincing case could be made that a desire for multiple partners is a trait a whole lot of people are born with. Homosexuality may also be genetic, but they aren’t genetically hard-wired to seek marriage. That is a choice for both them AND polygamists. So both are just following their sexual impulses but you call one marriage-worthy and one not… how do you explain?

      Double-boom.

      I’m fine with civil unions which cover all of the above so you lawyers don’t have to work too hard for too little. As I said, legal concerns are easily addressed.

  20. If the argument is that men want more than one sexual partner, fine, I think network television and a decent exposure to modern society confirms that assertion. But at most that questions society’s decision to promote monogamy and the relative stability that comes with it, which, absent some proof that polygamy itself is biologically compelled, rather than just “lots and lots of sex,” is entitled to substantial deference. On the other hand, the decision to select some couples for the benefits of monogamy, and not others, appears on its face to be arbitrary, unless you’re willing to impermissibily establish Mosaic law, or start dissolving straight marriages that don’t produce children.

    1. “…absent some proof that polygamy itself is biologically compelled.”

      Of course it is biologically compelled. Anyone who has ever been in a relationship and considered being with someone else is hearing the whisper of biology.

      And that is my point. The redefinition being proposed by gay marriage advocates is to go from marriage being based on procreation to being based on sexual love. Once we rely on that aspect alone it’s impossible to deny marriage to polygamist couples or bisexual three ways, or even siblings without expanding the criteria beyond that which those advocates want.

      1. I still don’t buy that marriage is based on procreation. I always thought it was based on the concept of ownership of women as property, if you want to get all historical.

        1. Actually, it’s the quite opposite – it’s to make sure that women have rights other than being just property. A common misunderstanding, really.

      2. Mike, you completely ignored my point. The inclination to polyamory is different than the inclination to fulfill one’s sexual identity through marriage. Now it’s me who’s defending marriage — at the point that your argument is “oh, marriage isn’t a big deal,” I’ve won.

        1. Ames,

          You said the inclination to polygamy isn’t an innate, immutable trait. By innate, I thought you meant biolgical. Was I incorrect?

          Assuming I was right, the inclination to have sex with more than one partner is certainly a combination of genetics for most people. I am quite sure that the same is true for homosexuals and for heterosexuals.

          You can’t have it both ways. If homosexuality is hard-wired, certainly the inclination towards multiple partners is equally hardwired in certain individuals. I’m just asking you to explain why you would allow for homosexual monogamous relationships based on sexual love but not for polygamous relationships also based on sexual love.

          1. Again, we’re talking past each other. Parse the distinction between polygamy and polyamory.

            1. I understand the differences between homosexuality and gay marriage and polyamory and polygamy. What i am saying is that in both cases, sexual love between the participants is the basis of the desire for marriage. And that sexual love is a biological urge in both case. Do you disagree? Is it your contention that one is biological and one is cultural?

            2. So, the only reason to get married is sex.

              1. The question isn’t the motivation to get married. The question is what separates their love from the love between a mother and a son, or two friends. The answer of course is a sexual attraction.

          2. So far, you’ve managed to debase not just the love between monogamous gay partners, but the love between husband and wife, too. If you think the only difference is sex, for God’s sake, read some poetry or something.

            Is love then more than the kick galvanic?

            As you can see, even faux Victorian poetry will do.

            1. Oh, now you’re reaching Ames. You’re refusing to look at the core definition of marriage as proposed by gay marriage advocates. If procreation is off the table, something has to set these relationships apart from other loving relationships. If not sex, what else could it be? Permanance? Nope. Intenstity? Nope.

            2. Let’s try this another way. By law passed yesterday and codified at 12223 U.S.C. § 23423(b)(1)(c)(2), all straight married couples must divorce. Now. What will you miss? Sex? Anything else?

              1. The only legally-definable thing that seperates my love for my wife from my love for friends or my mother is sex. That doesn’t ‘debase’ my love for my wife, but it is an accurate description.

                You’re a lawyer Ames. Let’s hear your legal definition for the basis for marriage in the absence of procreation.

            3. Actually, that was the wrong response. Better, what separates your marriage from a “Just friends” relationship?

      3. The fault is assuming there has to be one. There isn’t now. Marriages between straight couples are predicated on nothing more than a document, no legal conditions attached. The same should happen for gay couples.

        1. And polygamists…right?

        2. No. The “one per customer” condition creates valuable incentives towards stability in family relationships. If you’re worried about the integrity of marriage, that’s where you draw the line.

  21. “I’ve never really understood the liberal obsession with linked statistical data, so FYI I don’t play that game.”

    I don’t view this as a liberal obsession, I view this as a scientific obsession. And unless you want to start arguing an extremely post-modernist interpretation of society (what is reality?), I think that the argument needs to be one based on evidence. To do otherwise is just throwing out conjecture–this doesn’t work in medicine, and this shouldn’t work here either.

    You’re defensive about us criticizing any data you bring to the table, but that’s just too bad. Data should be scrutinized; You’re more than welcome to make valid criticisms of anything we trot out. And we should be equally welcome to do the same with whatever you cite.

    To just say “screw the evidence” and dodge the issue is frankly dishonest as far as I’m concerned. This is a tactic of the creationists.

    And you still haven’t answered my question. What evidence would you require in order to change your mind about whether a homosexual couple would provide a “complete” experience for any child they raise?

    1. Anezzle,

      If this were a rationale forum, say, an academic conference, trading data would be a sensible and fruitful exercise. I learned many years ago that doing so in a political forum is absolutely pointless. In the 6 years I’ve spent first on political chat boards and then blogging I have never seen one side request data and then say, “Oh – now I see the light.” after they get it…so again, i don’t play that silly game. We’re all adults and if you are interested in contrary data try googling something like “children+both parents” and i’m sure you will get plenty.

      1. Then I am wasting my time trying to discuss this with you.

        And you still haven’t answered my question.

        1. I consider the best environment for a child to be a home with a mother and a father. Period. There’s no evidence that is going to persuade me otherwise. Some things can’t be measured with a study.

        2. I believe Lynn Wardle is the only respected psychologist to come to the conclusion that kids don’t do well with gay parents. Everyone else, I think, is on our side.

        3. Damn straight, sir! All those fancy-schmancy psychologists and their “evidence-based research methods”. Why, next they’ll be telling us that women are just as smart as men or something. Crazy talk!

  22. You know Mike, Ames, and EVERYONE ELSE, this thread is starting to remind me of the blog wars that have erupted over the last year about the impact of so called New Athesists on science and the place of science on american culture and economics. No one listens, and everyone shouts. Makes them all look a little childish, and thus, IMHO, not really worth my intellectual effort.

    Ames, Mike raised valid points. Like it or not, for many people, THE SOLE POINT of marriage is procreation. Period. The economic justifications, supposed protections for women, etc are all secondary to such folks. And that being the case, you will never convince them that two men or two women can have a functional marriage because those couples can’t procreate. SO stop trying. Use some economic arguments, try some legal ones, but recoginze that in the end, if a person relates marriage soley to biology, you’ll be hard pressed to win them over.

    Mike,
    While I respect you a lot, you need to open up a little on your POV. Depending on who’s statistics you use (and yes, I brought numbers) the gay/lesbian population in the U.S. is somewhere between 10 and 15% of Americans. Now, assuming that gay marriage is allowed, and assuming that is the last barrier to coming out of the closet – and I don’t for a second believe it is – then experience with heterosexuals shows that only a certain % of that 10% will marry, and a smaller % of the 10% will have or adopt children. So, like it or not, you are seeking to deny the legal benefits of marriage (which can not always be overcome by a raft of lawyer generated paper) on the basis that (and this just my back of the envelope guess) 7-8% of the population wants to marry and raise children in a home that has only one gender for the parents.

    Now, where I get so . . . frustrated . . . seeting . . . off kilter . . . with conservatives – and Mike this means you – is that you are looking at speck in my eye (metaphorically) that is gay marriage, while saying not WORD ONE about the pernicious economic and public health disaster that is divorce in this country. NOTHING. If, as you note, the best environment for children is a man and a woman raising them in a marriage based on love and fidelity, then you need to stop worrying about the 8% statistic, and start worrying about the 50% of first heterosexual marriages that end in divorce. Otherwise. please go keep you hipocracy to yourself. I like you, I respect you, but you are way out of line here about what constitutes a threat and what doesn’t.

    1. Phillip,

      First, if Ames wants to start a post about the divorce rate in this country, I will be happy to offer my condemnation of it and suggest ways it could be improved upon (although divorce isn’t so much of a problem anymore for the middle and upper class). So, I don’t see that it’s really relevant to this thread and how it makes me a hypocrite to not discuss it here.

      Second, contrary to what it may appear I’m fairly libertarian on the subject of gay marriage. I don’t really like the idea of changing laws based on a ‘fairness’ alone just because I think there needs to be more than that, but if gays want to get married, it doesn’t really affect me at all. I have gay friends. I want to see them happy, even if I don’t understand their lifestyle. I DO have concerns about the children raised by those couples but I also take a ‘wait and see’ approach to the issue as gay marriage becomes more common. I will also happily admit that kids needing adoption are obviously much better off in gay homes verses foster homes or an orphanage. So that’s where I stand on gay marriage specifically.

      Lastly, let me be very clear here about why I continue to try and engage liberals on the subject of gay marriage:it’s not because I oppose gay marriage so strongly but because they refuse to acknowledge the likely effect it will have on other issues. I press Ames over and over on the subject of plural marriages and the rare but certain incestual relationships because that IS the logical next step once gay marriage passes. Now some people are going to use the lame-o ‘slippery slope fallacy’ remark to contradict me, but the fact is, gay marriage will redefine marriage away from the traditional definition of a marriage based on procreation towards a marriage based solely on the sexual love between two people. And to address Ames’ point again, that doesn’t ‘debase’ gay marriage or hetero marriages. The truth is that we can’t quantify being ‘in love’ with someone in legal terms. So the only legally-definable thing that separates the kind of love between a married couple and a mother and son is sexual attraction. I have absolutely no problem with that new definition because let’s face it, a lot of couples don’t have any intention of having children, but I can also see forward far enough to know that once the new definition is established it’s going to be very, very hard to argue that we will honor the sexual love between a hetero couple or a homosexual couple but three or more people is over-the-line.

      My whole beef with gay marriage is not gay marriage itself. It’s the complete BS of gay marriage proponents pretending there won’t be new challenges down the road and having a honest dialogue about it now instead of later. I think some gay marriage proponents know that polygamy will be the next challenge and plan to oppose it on some kind of pro-feminist, anti-fundamentalist line. I would also guess that there are some who really don’t even think it will be an issue. The rest of gay marriage proponents (and I would guess the majority) know polygamy will be next and honestly don’t care. And I’m okay with that. But be honest about it. Don’t dodge the topic, don’t pretend it’s a non-issue. Take a stand now because I PROMISE that as gay marriage ramps up across the country polygamists are plotting their legal challenges and will have a much better chance of winning their cases.

      It’s important to remember that one of the greatest criticisms conservatives have of the Left is their jump-first-think-later approach to issues. They never think things through to their logical conclusion. They see a perceived injustice and they leap. Now I will be happy to admit that we conservatives are exactly the opposite in that we are often scared of any action because we fear change and we always see the worse-case scenario. But this is where conservatives and liberals should take the middle ground. We all know gay marriage is coming. Why not have a real dialogue about what that means America will look like in 10-20 years. And let’s plan for how we will handle the inevitable challenges to marriage law that will follow.

  23. Mike, honestly, the “fairness isn’t enough” argument is a complete load. If you truly believe that, at least have the decency to get out of the way, and while you’re there, consider finding a new country. America is premised on the idea that freedom (and fairness) constitutes its own reward. If you don’t hold with that sentiment, or don’t consider it applicable to things that are, to you, new or scary, then your disagreement isn’t with liberalism, it’s with a foundational precept of constitutional government. Constitutional provisions like the equal protection clause are best read as challenges to the American people to find the right balance between the liberty of the few and the collective good, and if you consider that debate superfluous, I suggest you become better acquainted with American history.

    As to the definition of marriage, neither love, sex, nor the ability, capacity, or intent to have children have ever had even the slightest legal significance. You’ll be hard pressed to find an American statute saying, “Provided the parties experience sexual love…” In fact, the only places any of those issues appear in statute are in divorce law, where sexual abandonment or the inability to have children both can (but aren’t necessarily) grounds for divorce. It’s up to the partners of the marriage to define whether either matters to them. So don’t pretend we’re talking about legal definitions. We’re not (and if we are, I’ve already won). We’re talking about the societal interests that legislators informally take into account when choosing whether and how to promote marriage through tax cuts, etc. On that point, the notion that the goal of marriage is to create children faded long ago, as couples took advantage of the institution of marriage for their own purposes. Today, marriage is properly understood as a way of cultivating stability in family relationships — regardless of how or whether one chooses to build their family. That line is not compromised by adjusting the identities of the parties that can enter into marriage, but it might be by adjusting the number.

    Further, as I’ve said again and again, equal protection law attaches significant importance to the immutability of certain traits. Sexual orientation IS immutable. The desire to marry multiple people is NOT, and to the extent that it exists in the form of a desire to have sex with multiple people, society has made the reasonable decision to deter that conduct through marriage. Moving to polygamy would therefore raise questions that moving to permit gay marriage would not. And you’re right that we’ll line up to prevent a move to polygamy. Wrongly, I would argue, polygamy groups DO see this as giving them an inroad even though, properly understood, it does not. Giving gay couples an interest in the institution of single-couple marriage might be a way to enlist new allies in that fight, which is probably coming anyways.

    As to the issue of children — there were “reasonable” racists in the 1960s, too, who “didn’t mind” the idea of blacks and whites getting married, but had “real concerns” about how multiracial children would fare in the world at large, and how it would rework race relations, and wouldn’t be convinced by any of that thur statistical mumbo-jumbo. Well, today we have a President who’s the child of a mixed race couple. I’d say it turned out alright.

    1. Today, marriage is properly understood as a way of cultivating stability in family relationships — regardless of how or whether one chooses to build their family. That line is not compromised by adjusting the identities of the parties that can enter into marriage, but it might be by adjusting the number.

      How does adjusting the number do harm, but not the gender? I REALLY want you to explain how society is harmed by plural marriages. How do you arrive at two, regardless of gender, being the perfect number when procreation is no longer a factor?

      Further, as I’ve said again and again, equal protection law attaches significant importance to the immutability of certain traits. Sexual orientation IS immutable. The desire to marry multiple people is NOT…

      You’re intentionally comparing apples and oranges. You’re calling one ‘sexual orientation’ but making the other a non-biological desire. That’s not accurate. In both cases you have someone whose sexual preferences are beyond the traditional one man, one woman. In both cases love arises out of this relationship. In both cases the parties seek to formalize that love with a legal and permanent bond. HOW ARE THEY DIFFERENT?

      …and to the extent that it exists in the form of a desire to have sex with multiple people, society has made the reasonable decision to deter that conduct through marriage.

      It also made the reasonable decision to deter gay relationships through marriage, no? And also interracial relationships.

  24. …and to the extent that it exists in the form of a desire to have sex with multiple people, society has made the reasonable decision to deter that conduct through marriage.

    It also made the reasonable decision to deter gay relationships through marriage, no? And also interracial relationships.

    Mike, Interracial marriage is no longer illegal, while some judges (and why do they always seem to come form my home state) still refuse to recognize that change. Gay marriage, is, unless I’ve missed something – illegal in the vast majority of states in this country in that you can’t get a marriage license for a gay marriage ceremony, nor can you get legal recognition of one that was performed in another state. That’s a key difference, and why you need to stop putting interracial marriage up as a canard. Oh, and BTW, my wife’s sister is married to an African American man, so please apsre me the “what do you know about interracial marriages” response.

    1. Phillip – you missed my point. Ames is suggesting that society made a ‘reasonable’ decision to deter multiple partners through marriage law that dictates one man, one woman. I’m just pointing out that it also attempted to deter interracial and gay marriage as well, both of which Ames sees as an injustice. It’s peculiar then that he doesn’t see it as an injustice to use marriage laws to prevent multiple partners. i see that as fairly arbitrary, unless he wants to make a hell of a good case why numbers trump gender as potential problems to society.

      (PS – you guys REALLY have to quit reading things into my comments. Suddenly now I am a racist that doesn’t want interacial marriage? My step daughter is of mixed race and I’ve dated girls of other races. Seriously guys, you all want to believe conservative = X, Y and Z so bad, don’t you?)

  25. Haven’t I made this argument a couple times to no effect? Increasing number jeopardizes the interest in stable relationships.

    1. How? Especially with the advance of gay marriage, wouldn’t bisexual plural marriages, where all the partners have an equal role, going to be pretty stable? You still aren’t explaining where this vague instability comes from. Jealousy? Property ownership? Which wife’s kids are cuter?

  26. Marriage has traditionally been regarded as a way of controlling rather than succumbing to polyamorous tendencies. If you’re going to forfeit that definition, it works a greater change in the institution than having an extra dude.

    1. You’re STILL not explaining what makes a polygamous marriage more unstable than one with two partners.

  27. I feel like I’ve answered this many times — hence the delay. But if marriage is valued because it promotes stability — that is, the traditional husband/wife union has some virtue — gay marriage is only a superficial alteration of that arrangement. After all, not all husbands and not all wives are identical, or fulfill traditional gender roles. Changing number fundamentally alters that arrangement. It’s your argument to lose, really, that proves one is a graver threat than the other.

    1. I’m going to throw in the towel on this one. You don’t really want to actually explain in specifics why a two-person marriage is superior to a plural marriage other than to keep saying that two-people are more stable, which is sort of vague and doesn’t really tell us anything.

  28. I suppose it’s no less amorphous than your “hetero parents are better” argument…

    1. I explained why I think they are better. I think kids need exposure to both genders and not just when the dads or moms invite a friend of the opposite sex over. And I was also clear that I think we need more time to study these situations as more and more gay people raise kids. But don’t use my perceived reluctance be a crutch – you’re a graduate of two prestigious universities while I’m from little ol’ U of L. This should be a piece of cake.

      The point is Ames, I believe polygamy and possibly incestual marriages will be the next challenge once gay marriage is more widespread. You say it won’t be because society has already decided that plural marriages are bad and so it couldn’t possibly happen again. When I ask you to explain how those marriages are bad, bad, bad and deserving of society’s condemnation you just say (paraphrasing), “Changing the gender doesn’t alter the fundamental goodness of the two person marriage – but plural marriages would.” So you’ve decided that gender is irrelvant to marriage but numbers are. I ask you to explain why and you (again) say that gay marriage isn’t harmful, plural marriages are. I get it Ames, now how about you elaborate?

      1. This discussion, while not uninteresting, seems only remotely relevant for how things actually are in reality. Whatever the difficulties with distinguishing between same-sex marriage and polygamous marriage in theory, it is simply not an issue in practice.

        There are numerous countries which already allow same-sex marriage, and some (such as Denmark, Netherlands or Belgium) have done so for almost a decade now. And yet, as far as I know, none of these countries have seen any support for polygamous or incestous marriage as well.

        It has simply not happened, and it does not seem realistic in the slightest to think that it would in the forseeable future.

        1. Lanfranc,

          I realize that you live abroad and that is your persepctive, but comparing cultural progressions in Europe verses America is, well, apples and oranges. I could fill a notebook with all the things that have not folowed the same trajectories on the two continents.

        2. I expected you would say that, and I certainly agree in general terms. However, then I have to ask what in particular it is about American society that you think makes it so ‘vulnerable’, if that’s the right term, to polygamy etc.?

          1. Well the most obvious is a well-established polygamous population here in the United States. 40,000 people in Utah alone.

          2. And how many in the US as a whole? Maybe, what, 100-150,000 at most? That’s nothing compared to the Muslim or Hindu populations found in most European countries, many of which originate in societies where polygamy is entirely legal.

            As another interesting point, the United Kingdom actually recognizes polygamous marriage itself for certain purposes, provided the marriage was legal and made prior to immigration. But not even there do you find any support for the polygamy – quite the opposite, in fact.

            1. Those are just the people practicing polygamy. We don’t know how many more would like to. And it’s not about the numbers. I might remind you that the majority of the US population still opposes gay marriage. Obviously i’m sure you advocate ignoring said majority in the interest of ‘fairness’.

  29. Mike, the idea that people in the US are MORE likely than Europe to convert to polygamy is laughable, and frankly, you can do better. Granting that there are 40,000 FLDS already practicing, the fact that there’s NO move to expand that, or grant them the right to do so openly — none whatsoever — proves rather than undermines my point. People only care about polygamists to the point that they make good jokes, better HBO series, or intellectually dishonest points about gay marriage.

    1. Something tells me that people were having similar conversations about gay marriage circa 1989.

      The Mormom church has around 6 million member in the US. If just 4% of them want plural marriages, that’s a quarter of a million people. It’s estimated that 15% of the US population is gay. If 15% of Mormoms want plural marriages, that’s 900,000 people. That’s not even including possible plural bisexual relationships which may become more common with the advance of gay marriage and also Muslims, some of which believe in plural marriage.

      The fact is that plural marriages are already de facto legal in Utah and only a misdemeanor in several other states. A push for full legal status isn’t a huge leap in credibility.

      What I’m really interested in though (not holding my breath) is the ACG legal position that you would argue on behalf of keeping polygamy illegal if the case came before the Supreme Court.

    2. That I can set out for you. Scrutiny under equal protection law turns upon whether a trait constitutes a “suspect class” — where “suspect” modifies any attempt to discriminate against the class (“no blacks can drive” would be a “suspect” classification). “Suspect classes” are generally those who constitute a “discrete & insular minority,” whose history reveals a track record of invidious (and unjustified) discrimination, and who share a trait that’s either immutable, or that the law ought not force people to change. Soooo skin color, alienage, gender (KIND OF… long story), and, oddly, religion — any discrimination on those grounds is likely to fail, unless “narrowly tailored to a compelling government objective.”

      So, polygamy. Our imaginary plaintiffs are Mormon, and argue that they should (1) be able to practice their religion freely, and in the alternative (2) desire to multimarry constitutes an immutable trait, because guys love doin’ it with lots of women, and they’re entitled to strict scrutiny.

      (1) is a loser. While religion IS a suspect class, religion IS NOT an immunity from laws of general application. So the religion issue collapses to the question of whether the law itself is just, regardless of religion. So we turn to the second argument.

      Setting to one side your seemingly willful inability to understand the distinction, the impulse to polygamy is different than the impulse to polyamory. The instinct to marry grows out of one’s sexual attraction to a gender, which is immutable, and is the natural fulfillment of that sexual attraction. Defined thusly, polygamy is mutable; polyamory is not, but that’s not relevant. I can be fairly sure that any court would agree. That forecloses “instinct to get it on with four wives” from being a suspect class, which means it gets rational basis, which means open season, and I win.

      1. Justice Mike: So your argument is that sexual attraction to a gender is biological, whereas the attraction to multiple people at once is not?

        1. *blinks* I have no idea where you got that idea from…

  30. And we’re up over a plurality for “at least civil unions,” I believe.

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