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July 15, 2008

Comments

Most excellent. This argument has come up more than once.

I think some of what is written here is not quite true. There were many secular and religious institutions that felt inter-racial marriage was wrong. ie

"As late as the 1950s, almost half of the states had miscegenation laws. While the original statutes were directed wholly against black-white unions, the legislation had extended to unions between whites and Mongolians, Malayans, Mulattos, and Native Americans" (quote from the Organization of American Historians found at http://www.oah.org/pubs/magazine/family/cruz-berson.html)

Also this statement made in your quoted article: "On the other hand, no religious or secular moral system ever advocated same-sex marriage".....This is not a really accurate statement. John Boswell's study of the subject in his lengthly book called, Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality, demonstrates that this quote in your article is not quite correct.

It sort of makes me think of Charles Dabney's(not sure how to spell his name)support of slavery. He was a godly man who applied the Biblical texts on slavery and came out on the side of its moral legality.

I think there are more problems with the argument here that you are addressing and that the arguments made, at least in this part of the quote, are not substantiated.

Thanks.

Kim,

Prager's point was not that Christian/theistic/religious *people* have never opposed interracial marriage or supported same sex marriage. His point was directed at the *systems,* i.e., the Bible. Despite the fact that there were people and ministers back in the day that opposed interracial marriage, for example, the Judeo-Christian ethic itself, the metaphysical worldview (including the Bible) did not support such a position.

Can you see the difference? This explains the disconnect b.w the Bible and the people you note in your comment.

In any case the dislike of interracial marriage has existed for a comparitively short time. As I put in another post that I can't find, Othello was a black man married to a white woman. And Shakespeare never seems to have thought of that as more then an artistic curiousity. So the distaste for interracial marriage can't have gone on for more then two-hundred and fifty years, and even then it was hardly universal. The idea of gay marriage has never been thought of at all until recently, even in cultures where homosexuality was common enough to be considered more-or-less respectable. Usually homosexuality was treated like adultery as an escape from the responsibilities of marriage. And gay partners were treated either like courtesans or ordinary prostitutes.

"There are enormous differences between men and women, but no differences between people of different races... Therefore any imposed separation by race can never be moral or even rational." I applaud your progressive view on race. However, in 1948 when California became the first state to strike down a ban on interracial marriage, nine out of 10 Americans opposed such unions on the basis of "scientific differences" between the races. Expressing its disdain for interracial marriage, the Supreme Court of Virginia declared that, "... the moral and physical development of both races... require that they should be kept distinct and separate... that connections and alliances so unnatural that God and nature seem to forbid them, should be prohibited by positive law..." Not only did the majority believe that there were differences between races and that they were natural and significant, so did scientists. Most of us agree today that Chief Justice Warren was correct to say, "that restricting the freedom to marry solely because of racial classifications violates the central meaning of the Equal Protection Clause."It is a matter of time before the arguments used to oppose interracial marriage and same-sex marriage will be judged as equally discriminatory and will be a plight of the past. Thank you.

Margarita, the argument rests on the idea that men and women are different. You say that the argument (that SSM is different from interracial marriage because men and women are different from each other but races are not different from each other) is wrong because people in the past said there were differences between the races and they were wrong. Therefore, when we say there are differences between men and women, we are also wrong.

Are you saying, then, that you don't think there are any differences between men and women?

No, though I can see why you thought that. Let me clarify: There are three issues I have with the differences argument and one with the argument that “marriage between races is a moral aberration while opposition to marrying a person of the same sex is the moral norm.”
1. The use of differences, or the lack thereof, is a slippery slope if we are going to use it to decide against whom we will allow systemic discrimination.
a. If it is the differences between men and women that serves as the foundation on which we agree it is morally right to separate - bathrooms was the example used as moral and rational - then why stop at bathrooms? Why not also have separate pay scales, separate laws for men and women, separate rooms for them to sleep in, etc. After all, we can see that we are different and should therefore have separate bathrooms, bedrooms, laws, rights, etc. We should, based on this logic, have men sleeping with men and women with women. After all, it is the sameness between the races that justifies the same laws and it is the sameness between all men and all women that justifies same bathrooms, laws, rights, etc.
b. Since men and women are different and black people are not different from white people, what about gay people and straight people? Are they the same or different? If they are the same then they should fall into the race argument – no separation. If they are different, like men and women, then they should fall into the gender (or as Prager says, “sex”) argument. If black and white people are the same and thus can marry, but men and women are different and can thus marry… You see the problem.
c. Or is Prager saying that some differences matter more than others, and we, as a society, get to decide that. Then when Justice Warren rendered his decision against the will of the people he violated “Prager’s Law of Differences.” After all, men are men and women are women, regardless of their race, religion, political views, sexual orientation – oops not that one. Why is this logical? And is everything that is logical also moral or even reasonable? Here’s similar error in Socratic Logic: “Men die; grass dies; men are grass.” It’s certainly logical, but is it reasonable? Of course not.
2. Besides being factually incorrect, I find the “moral norm” to which Prager points as the second reason equally troubled in its logic. If 9 out of 10 people opposed interracial marriages when the laws changed then the people in charge of these “moral bases” didn’t have much influence over the masses. More likely though, the issue then is the issue now: ignorance, which it took a change in the laws and some time passing to recognize as such. The opinion of the majority (i.e., the belief that there are some differences that justify marriage discrimination) is not the basis of a moral norm when it comes to the law. The laws were changed before public opinion then, and they will be again. Why? Because Equal Protection does not have a footnote and is not a mystical concept. We are all the same regardless of our differences – the ones that matter to you and me and the ones that don’t. And thus all people must share the same privileges under the law, not some people. The church is free to set different dividing lines between people on behalf of God, and people can choose to attend a church based on shared beliefs. But the law will eventually be changed to ensure that Equal Protection under the law does not include a religious footnote or a footnote to accommodate some people’s discomfort – even a majority - with some differences. This was and still is a violation of Equal Protection; it defies logic to argue anything to the contrary, unless you want to go back to the discussion about choosing which differences matter. Thanks.

mistake above in point 1. a.
After all, it is the sameness between the races that justifies the same laws and it is the sameness between all men and all women that justifies same bathrooms, laws, rights, etc.
Should read, "After all, it is the sameness between races that justifies the same laws and it is the DIFFERENCES between men and women that justifies SEPARATE bathrooms...

Margarita, thanks so much for your response. I hope you'll consider what I offer here because I think you're misunderstanding a couple parts of the argument. And I think it's more reasonable than you are seeing right now.

>>1. The use of differences, or the lack thereof, is a slippery slope if we are going to use it to decide against whom we will allow systemic discrimination.

When differences are relevant, it's not an invalid systemic discrimination. For example, if two guys walk into a bar and the bartender says, "I can't serve people like you--get out!" Is that wrong? Illegal? One can't say until one knows why the discrimination is occurring. If the bartender is saying "get out" because the guy isn't white, then that's invalid. Why? Because a person's race is completely irrelevant to the issue of drinking at a bar. But what if he says "get out" because the guy is only fifteen? In that case, the age is relevant because drinking affects youth differently, they don't have the developmental ability to handle the impairment, etc. Yes, we systemically discriminate against fifteen-year-olds by law because of differences between them and adults, but it's not invalid to do so.

The first thing to note about defining marriage as opposite sex is that this is not done because of the differences between a gay person and a straight person. It has to do with the differences between a man and a woman--the emotional, physical, and parenting style differences. These differences are relevant to the family and to creating and raising children. There are things that a woman gives a child that a man doesn't give, and vice versa. If you had both parents, then you know that they bring different things to the family that lead to the healthy development of the children. The relevant differences are not just biological (leading to the creation of children), but also in the other ways I mentioned. The government has a special interest in bringing men and women together that it doesn't have in bringing me together with a friend or relative, or in bringing together two men or two women.

>>If it is the differences between men and women that serves as the foundation on which we agree it is morally right to separate - bathrooms was the example used as moral and rational - then why stop at bathrooms?

We stop at bathrooms because the physical differences are relevant in a bathroom situation, but they are not relevant when it comes to pay scales. Pay scales have nothing to do with anatomy. They have to do with skill, knowledge, and ability that are not affected by anatomy.

>>If black and white people are the same and thus can marry, but men and women are different and can thus marry…

To clarify, there is no relevant difference between a white woman and a black woman (what does skin color have to do with creating a family and raising children?), so "Joe" should be able to marry a white or black woman. However, a woman is different from a man, so it makes a difference if "Joe" marries a woman or a man. This is why the comparison is not relevant.

>>We are all the same regardless of our differences – the ones that matter to you and me and the ones that don’t. And thus all people must share the same privileges under the law,

First, we are equally valuable, but we are not all the same, and sometimes the differences are relevant (as in the case of restrooms and bars). Second, this has nothing to do with individual rights. Every single individual, whether gay or straight has the right to marry someone of the opposite sex. Everyone has this same right.

This has to do with defining the couple the state has an interest in recognizing. There is no guarantee of equal opportunity rights for couples, there's only a guarantee for individuals. A man will not be discriminated against if he wishes to enter into marriage as recognized by society. When he marries a woman, he's not asked if he's gay (he could be, but nobody will stop him or even think of stopping him), and it doesn't matter what race he is. But the definition of marriage is not a matter of rights. Even the judges understand this because they still support a particular definition (e.g., only two people, not close relatives, etc.) that rules out some couples or groups of people. They continue to deny some couples and groups the chance to be included in the definition of marriage. They can do this because it's not a matter of rights.

All that remains, since it's not a matter of rights, is to argue what the definition of marriage is (and/or ought to be). This, however, is a matter for us and the law makers, not the judges who only judge whether or not something violates rights. As soon as the judges make the definition, they're just forcing their own preferred definition of marriage on everyone else (inclusions and exclusions), and that's not their job.

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