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May 25, 2010

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It don't matter what color the plummin is as long as it matches. If the plummin don't match, it don't match, no matter what color you paint it.

Ah yes, the ever-effective argumentum ad redneckium

it will all be over in a couple of decades

Thanks for your kind words, Melinda, as well as your clear and concise summary of my essay.

Ron writes: "it will all be over in a couple of decades."

A generations will look back and come to understand that there is no such thing as generations.

Yes, indeed, it will be over.

"it actually illustrates how revolutionary and, frankly, cavalier such efforts are to fundamentally redefine an institution that has served humanity and society very well since the dawn of human history."

That should read, served straight people very well. 'Humanity and society' are not all served by a heternormative definition of marriage. While the ban of interracial marriage may not be a fruitful comparison, comparisons to the black civil rights movement are very persuasive.

The denial of other legal rights to non-whites was also part of an institution that had served humanity very well, at least those parts of it that were white. That was revolutionary and revisionistic. It was also the right thing to do.

There is a fundamental similarity that you are choosing to overlook in order to ignore the fact that civil liberties are still being denied to a minority group.

Sorry, I meant to say that revoking racist laws that denied legal rights was the right thing to do, not that the laws themselves were.

Francis,

"A generations will look back and come to understand that there is no such thing as generations."

Can you please clarify what you mean by this?

"That should read, served straight people very well."

Actually Harriet, unless those with same-sex orientation spontaneously regenerate out of thin air, the institution did serve them well, seeing as they are here in the first place.

The institution serves society not primarily in its making people feel self-actualized, happy, and fulfilled, as great as that is. Its service is to ensure that there will be people existing to carry on with some continuity the society that went on before it.

*spontaneously generate :~

>Ah yes, the ever-effective argumentum ad redneckium

>>Lets put it this way:

You need a spigot and a bucket. It don't matter what color they are. Two spigots won't do it, two buckets won't do it. Jus a spigot and a bucket linin up does it.

Harriet:

The economic function of marriage (in particular, the fidelity implied by it) is to protect the father's interest in the child. It takes a lot of resources to bring a child to maturity and the father needs assurance that the child he is helping raise is actually his.

In the case of homosexual union, there is no fatherhood to protect, therefore no economic basis for establishing a marriage for the union.

Johnnie,

In what way is your argument affected by childless (voluntarily or otherwise) different-sex couples? In what way is altered by same-sex couples with children? (There are, of course, several ways for this to come about)

Given the availability of highly-reliable paternity tests, do you think this economic function of marriage has been superceded? After all, a genetic paternity test provides far greater assurance of paternity than does marriage.

Eric:

The father has a right not to be parasitized (raising a child not his) even if he has no children of his own.

For there to be a paternity test there has to be paternity. The rights of the father in the child vests before a test can be made.

No need shown why I should altern my argument.

Is that a word? I meant to say *alter*.

"A ban requires something already be in effect, have a history of practice."

Melinda, this is a daft idea. It would mean that we couldn't ban human cloning. However, since this is part of your "clear and concise summary of [Beckwith's] essay," thanks for making Beckwith's weaknesses so transparent. (I had thought there was something strange about his argument.)

Johnnie,

I'm sorry, I don't understand your response.

You said, the "economic function of marriage ... is to protect the father's interest in the child."

Does this mean that you think marriages should not be recognized when there is not a biological child of the married couple?

What about childless couples? What about cases of adoption?

Eric:

When I said "the father's interest in the child" I meant the father's interest in the prospective child. I hope that clears it up. The marriage is recognized when there is not a biological child because it is entered into before the prospective biological child happens.

Adoption does not have to be by couples. The state takes a special interest in adoption precisely because the prospective adopted child might not be related by blood to the adopter(s). A separate issue from marriage altogether.

MijkV,

Some unmarried people have children; some married people do not. To pretend that the institution of marriage is necessary for the continuation of the species is ludicrous.

Marriage can be a huge benefit for those wanting to reproduce, but that is not its 'purpose'. We are arguing this in terms og legality: the legal purpose of marriage is to be a mutually beneficial contract between two individuals to protect and pool assets in a relationship, and to ensure certain benefits and obligations. The terms of a marriage contract can be enormously helpful for those wanting to have children - but that is not the sole purpose of it.

It is first and foremost a contract. There is no logical reason why two people of the same sex should not be allowed into such a contract.

Johnnie,

I'm afraid I'm still not quite getting you. When you say "the father's interest in the prospective child", do you mean that the reason marriage is recognized by the state is because it is likely to result in children and without the marriage the father will not have his parental rights protected?

Are you saying that marriage is valid only when it will result in children? This is what I thought you were getting at when you said,

"In the case of homosexual union, there is no fatherhood to protect, therefore no economic basis for establishing a marriage for the union."

This sounds like you are saying the reason for state-recognized marriage is dependent on there being a likelihood that children will result from the marriage. If this is the case, then do you think marriages should not be allowed when one of the partners is sterile? For example, should post-menopausal women be forbidden to marry?

If the issue is state-recognition of marriages (and I think that is the issue), then there would need to be some compelling reason for the state to recognize different-sex marriages which would not apply to same-sex marriages. This reason would have to apply to all different-sex marriages and to no same-sex marriages.

Johnnie,

Your argument is a vast generalisation: that may be the reason for some marriages but not all, such as those that are childless etc.

More importantly, you cannot make an assumption about the reasons people have for marrying. They might marry for fidelity, or for security, or finance, or fun - it's irrelevant. What is relevant is that same sex couples should be allowed to enter into a legal contract with each other if they choose.

Eric:

Reasons for state laws about marriage don't have to be about economics. I mentioned economics because it is my profession and I wanted to give an example of an inferior covenant (one based on self-interest, not God). Even under the inferior covenant, same-sex couples need not apply.

Whether under the inferior covenant post-menopausal women should be forbidden to marry is an issue for state interference in the freedom of contract, but is not relevant here. Same-sex couples need not apply.

Harriet,

I gave an economic reason because common-law issues tend to revolve around protecting people's economic interests. There can be other reasons offered for marriage. There can also be other reasons offered for forbidding same-sex marriage. Under the particular grounds I started with, same-sex couples need not apply.

Johnnie,

So you exclude same-sex couples from the economic justification for state-recognized marriage, but you agree that many different-sex couples would be excluded as well. I am not convinced that the economic reasons cannot also apply to some same-sex couples, but we seem to be in agreement that the economic reasons are not drawing a clean boundary between same-sex and different-sex couples, so let's move on.

What are the reasons for state-recognized marriage that apply universally, and exclusively, to different-sex couples?

I don’t know about the comparison between same-sex marriage and inter-racial marriage, but I’ll try and go some distance towards motivating the position of those who see the prohibition against same-sex marriage as objectionably arbitrary.

Consider the following principle:

Traditional Requirement (TR): For any two persons S and S*, S and S* may enjoy the benefits and responsibilities of marriage only if S and S* are not the same-sex.

Some have objected to the TR on the grounds that the TR is objectionably arbitrary or discriminatory. To the best of my knowledge, Stand to Reason has responded that this is not the case since the TR lays down the same restriction on everyone without distinction on the basis of race, sexual preference, etc. Notice, after all, that the TR quantifies over any two persons, period.

I do not think this feature of the TR, however, is sufficient to answer the concern. Here’s why. Suppose someone proposed the following principle:

Eye-Color Requirement (ECR): For any two persons S and S*, S and S* may enjoy the benefits and responsibilities of marriage only if S’s eye color is different than S*’s eye color.

The ECR rules out same-eye-colored marriages. Furthermore, the ECR, like the TR, quantifies over all persons without distinction on the basis of race, eye-color, sexual preference, etc. The same rule applies to everyone. But clearly this feature of the ECR is not sufficient to clear it from the charge of being objectionably arbitrary and discriminatory. The ECR extends responsibilities and benefits to some couples while withholding it from others and does so on the basis of a seemingly arbitrary feature. Some think the TR does the same thing.

“Not so fast,” some might protest. “The ECR is arbitrary in a unique sense in which the TR is not. The ECR picks out a feature that is arbitrary with respect to the teleology of marriage, which is the production of care of children. The TR, however, is not arbitrary in the same fashion, since whether or not the couple is a same-sex couple is very relevant to the production and care of children.”

I myself am not yet persuaded by this response. It is not obvious to me that it is part of the teleology of civil marriage that the couple be able to naturally produce children. A couple that obtained a child through adoption or (miraculously enough) by mixing XYZ and water would satisfy the teleology of civil marriage so long as the couple raised the child properly. It is the raising of children towards which civil marriage aims, not the obtaining of children via a natural reproductive process. Were every human being all of the sudden and forevermore unable to produce children except by mixing XYZ and water, the institution of civil marriage would not be threatened in the least. The inability of a kind of a couple to naturally produce children, therefore, is arbitrary with respect to the end of civil marriage.

harriet,

>>"What is relevant is that same sex couples should be allowed to enter into a legal contract with each other if they choose."

Per your definition of marriage as a legal contract...

Why?

(Such would be well beyond the bounds of private behavior, which no one here is arguing against.)

David,

[Hoping harriet doesn't mind if I respond as well]

Why? For the same reasons as different-sex couples, unless you are aware of a reason which would apply universally and uniquely to different-sex couples.

We are speaking of marriage as a legal institution here (which is why I am careful to specify "state-recognized"), and not as a social or religious institution.

Hi Eric,
Why should their be a legal recognition of equality between two things which are not equal socially, religiously, historically, biologically, etc.?
Marriage law is merely a recognition of a state of affairs that already exists. Why should it invent a new state of affairs?

Malebranche,

Try running this line of thought past an adoptee. I'm guessing you were raised by your biological parents given your insensitivity here.

Your insinuation that raising the child is what counts while the parent/child biological connection is merely arbitrary to the teleology of marriage is an outdated opinion of the modern era. Recently, child protection agencies have had to deal with embarrassing data such as the testimonies of adoptees and children raised in care. They have since changed their policies to allow for children to remain with their biological parents in unfavorable situations from which they would have previously been removed and placed into care or put up for adoption. We're still learning what it means to “properly raise a child,” and our most recent understandings are extending beyond mere environment and technique.

You could be right, but given what's at stake your disassociation between reproduction and child rearing is a little cavalier.

Daron,

"Marriage law is merely a recognition of a state of affairs that already exists. Why should it invent a new state of affairs?"

There must be a reason why this particular state of affairs is legally recognized by the state. Friendship is an important relationship, with a long history, and very far-reaching impacts on society. However, there is no legal institution of "Friendship", because no one has established a compelling reason for there to be such a thing. Friendships continue to exist, and are probably no worse off for the lack of legal recognition.

There must be some reason why marriage was granted a special legal status. If there is no reason, then it should not have that status. The reality of marriage, like the reality of friendship, should not be expected to suffer as a result. If there is reason (or reasons) for granting special legal status to marriage, then we should be able to examine the reasons when a new situation arises. We are currently faced with a situation in which same-sex couples are proposing that they qualify for legal recognition of marriage. In order to evaluate their claim, it seems we have to consider the reasons for state-recognized marriage and determine if the same-sex couples satisfy these reasons

If we are to deny the claims of same-sex couples, we should do so only on defensible grounds. In order to do this, there must be some compelling state interest in legal marriage which applies universally and exclusively to different-sex couples.

Are you aware of any such compelling state interest which is satisfied by all different-sex marriages and by no same-sex marriages?

eric,

You replied, but didn't answer...

>>"For the same reasons as different-sex couples..."

So:

1. What are those reasons you elude to?

and

2. Why are those reasons (which you didn't list) okay for homosexual couples to lay claim to?

These days, the State is your daddy. It has no interest in supporting traditional marriage any more. In fact, it has an interest in destroying traditional marriage. Can't have actual parents directing the upbringing of children after all, usurping the the privilege of the State to mold and shape its future citizens.

One way to destroy the proclivity of parents to want to do things their own way is to expand the definition of "marriage" to the point that it has no meaning any more. Part of getting there is to make marriages not about family, but about feelings and "fairness."

If this is where we're headed, then let's just cut out the bullcrap and go straight to the State dropping all interest in "marriage."

David,

"1. What are those reasons you elude to?"

The reasons I allude to elude me. It is those very reasons I have been asking people for in this comment thread. So far, my requests have received no response that qualifies as a compelling state interest in marriage that would even cover all relationships currently covered under legal marriage.

It seems that some people (those opposed to state-recognized same-sex marriages) have something in mind. So far, I haven't encountered a cogent articulation of what that is, and in what way it applies to all different-sex marriages, but not to any same-sex marriages.

There may be good reasons, but I don't know what they are. That's why I ask.

"2. Why are those reasons (which you didn't list) okay for homosexual couples to lay claim to?"

See 1.

MijkV,

Try running this line of thought past an adoptee. I'm guessing you were raised by your biological parents given your insensitivity here.

I haven't the faintest idea what you're talking about. Whether I was raised by my biological parents or by swine is hardly relevant to my comment. As far as being insensitive goes, nothing in my comment is insensitive. I simply stated what seemed to me to be the truth. But in any event, if what you're concerned with is the inability of my comment to coddle hurt feelings, then my only defense is that the design of my comment was never to accomplish any such end. Those whose feelings are hurt by comments such as mine would probably be wise to not view such blogs or even leave their homes.

Eric:

You asked,

"What are the reasons for state-recognized marriage that apply universally, and exclusively, to different-sex couples?"

I don't make any claims about the "universally" part, but I have given an example of the "exclusively" part with the economic reason that I have already given.

Johnnie,

"I don't make any claims about the "universally" part, but I have given an example of the "exclusively" part with the economic reason that I have already given."

The reason would need to satisfy both the "universal" part and the "exclusive" part if it is going to justify the distinction between same-sex and different-sex marriages. If the line is drawn in a particular place, the reasons for drawing the line have to be sufficient to explain why it is in that place. If the reasons cannot explain why it is in that place, then there is not justification for protesting when someone wants to draw the line in a different place.

I also haven't quite followed your argument for how the economic functions of legal marriage can not apply to same-sex couples.

Eric:

Both the universal and exclusive parts don't have to be satisfied. The exclusive part is sufficient.

Johnnie,

Would you support a prohibition on post-menopausal women getting married? If not, why not? After all, your reason for excluding same-sex couples applies at least equally-well to post-menopausal women.

If you wish to classify couples into two categories (those who may be legally married, and those who may not be legally married), then your means of classification has to agree with the results of your classification. So far, I haven't understood you to present anything that reliably places different-sex couples in the "may marry" class while placing same-sex couples in the "may not marry class". You have offered one classifier, which has something to do with paternity (I'm still not clear on what the details are), which would seem to result in a mixture of couples in both classes. We would have different-sex couples that do not qualify, and same-sex couples that do.

It is not sufficient to have some criteria by which you reject certain couples, if you do not apply that same criteria to reject other couples when it would do so.

Hi Eric,
I'm sorry, but I don't accept your premise or your burden.
Absolutely, the state has some interest is recognizing and protecting that which already exists as a matter of reality - marriage.
But it is not incumbent upon a defender of marriage to enumerate any such reasons (as if you can't research the matter).
The burden falls upon those who demand the thing be dismantled or altered to show why it ought to be.
The way they choose to do so is by an appeal to "equality". But there is no inequality here. All are free to enter into a state-sanctioned marriage once they've met the criteria (legal age, availability, non consanguinity, etc.)
The thing they want recognized as a marriage is not a marriage and is not equal to a marriage (you want to rule out of court the reasons for this) and so it is not a matter of equality.
You eloquently laid this out yourself above: a friendship is not a marriage, does not need the same sanction, and will and has survived just nicely without said sanctions.

No, the onus is not on the marriage proponent to show why certain unions are not marriages, but for the agitator to make his own case.

Again, this boils down to the same old clashes: objective truth against relativism; destruction of traditional institutions for destruction's sake; denial versus averring ontological ends; manufactured strife between in-groups, etc.

When marriage becomes everything it becomes nothing. Mike has noted that this is likely the end result of this strife and you subtly admit that it underlies your petition.

Daron,

"Absolutely, the state has some interest is recognizing and protecting that which already exists as a matter of reality - marriage."

What is that interest? I understand the benefits to the couple, but what are the benefits to the state?

"The burden falls upon those who demand the thing be dismantled or altered to show why it ought to be."

If they attempt to bear their burden by claiming that there is no good reason for the thing to be the way it currently is, what will be your response?

"When marriage becomes everything it becomes nothing. Mike has noted that this is likely the end result of this strife and you subtly admit that it underlies your petition."

Please keep in mind that this discussion, as far as I am concerned, is not about marriage per se, but about legal recognition of certain relationships, and different treatment of people under the law as a result of this recognition. A legally married couple is different in the eyes of the law from a couple that is not legally married. I think there is a need to justify this different treatment by the law. There may be good reasons to legally treat some relationships differently from others, but those reasons cannot simply be assumed. They have to be made explicit, and they have to be justified if they are challenged.

I have made no petition. I have asked people supporting a particular view to explain and justify their support. I expect the support to go beyond "that's the way it is". Think of the things we would still have if that were a valid argument.

Eric:

I don't know why you find "paternity" so difficult. There is not a mixture of couples where it is present. It is the union of a sperm and an egg. Same-sex couples need not apply.

It is not necessarily the case that the means of classification have to agree with the results of classification. Classification can be costly. From the viewpoint of the state, which has limited resources, the effort to classify (the results) should be taken to the point where the marginal benefit of a correct classification (defined by the means) is not greater than the marginal cost of the classification. Same-sex couples are easy to classify, so they all can be excluded. Mixed sex couples in which the woman is past menopause are costly to classify (how do you know if she is post-menopausal? How post her meno does she have to be paused?). So I would not advocate prohibiting marriage of post-menopausal women.

Marriage of heterosexual couples can be prohibited on basis of consanguinity, but the marginal cost of establishing the closeness of relationship by blood is much lower than the marginal cost of allowing a marriage that might produce children with congenital defects.

So there you have it. Exclusion of same-sex couples, non-universality of mixed-sex couples.

Should there be a ban on marriage of economists?


Hi Eric,

If they attempt to bear their burden by claiming that there is no good reason for the thing to be the way it currently is, what will be your response?

Anyone can gainsay. I'd ask them to make a case.

They have to be made explicit, and they have to be justified if they are challenged.
Then challenge them.

When things changed from "that's the way it is" people made a case. They didn't merely wave the word "equality" around and expect a politically correct generation to bow to them. Show why it is a matter of equality. Make a case based upon the historicity, biology and sociology that a same-sex union is the same and ought to be treated the same as a marriage.

Otherwise, show me that when you blow the doors off the legal recognition of marriage, making it whatever we want it to be, why we won't be allowed to marry our brothers and sisters, why adults ought not be allowed to marry minors or why we will not recognize polyamorous unions as marriages. Make sure your reasons are completely exclusive, rational and universal.

"Should there be a ban on marriage of economists?"
They should be allowed to marry, as long as they agree, in writing, not to generate any new economists.

[substantive response to follow…]

Let me get this straight, Eric.
Is it your position that you think the state never had any interest in sanctioning marriages? Do you think it was done accidentally with no underlying rationale?
Are you saying that however the laws regarding marriage came to be on the books that marriage ought not be seen as any different than singlehood?

Johnny,

"I don't know why you find "paternity" so difficult"

It's not the paternity part I find difficult. It's the relationship between that and your reason for excluding all same-sex couples without excluding many different-sex couples.

"the effort to classify (the results) should be taken to the point where the marginal benefit of a correct classification (defined by the means) is not greater than the marginal cost of the classification"
Okay. So, you are opposed to allowing sterile people to legally marry in principle, but you are ready to allow it on pragmatic grounds?
"Mixed sex couples in which the woman is past menopause are costly to classify (how do you know if she is post-menopausal?"
We could just ask. It could be a line on the marriage license form. "I declare that I am, to the best of my knowledge, currently fertile." It may be costly to test for, but the woman knows.
" Same-sex couples are easy to classify, so they all can be excluded. "

Sterile males are easy to classify (at least a large subset of them). It's a non-invasive, low cost, procedure, and the results can be known in less than an hour. Shall we exclude sterile males from legally marrying?

Daron,

I'm not saying any of that.

If you say, "A is true", and I say, "Why do you think A is true?", that is very different from me saying, "You are wrong, A is not true." I may agree that A is true, but for different reasons. I may just be curious about what your reasons are.

As it is, I am not aware of the compelling state interest in legally-recognizing marriages. That doesn't mean I am sure there is no good reason for it, it just means I don't know of a good reason. So when people are so convinced that there are good reasons, and that those good reasons necessarily exclude same-sex couples, I am interested in learning what their reasons are.

None of this says anything about my opinion of the value of marriage itself. This is about the way people are treated by governments, and the reasons why some people are treated differently from other people (i.e. married people versus non-married people).

So far, two reasons have been offered:

1. Marriage is for making babies.
2. That's the way it is.

Reason 1 falls short, because we all recognize that childless marriages are legally valid. This is the case for voluntarily childless marriages as well as non-voluntarily childless marriages. The reasons why a marriage is not producing babies are not considered legally relevant. Couples are not legally penalized for failing to produce babies. The means by which a marriage does produce babies is not considered legally relevant. Child tax credits apply to adopted children as much as to biological children. (In fact, there's an additional tax credit for adoption.)

Reason 2 is hardly a reason. It's just inertia.

If anyone thinks I have mischaracterized your reasons, please clarify. If you know of other reasons, please provide them.

David,

Two consenting adults should be able to enter into a mutually beneficial contract together and enjoy the same state benefits as others. To deny those benefits because of the gender of the parties is discriminatory.

I've yet to see a valid reason for this discrimination.

Johnnie,

Even if we discuss this in purely economic/reproductive terms, there are still strong arguments for same sex marriage:

- Why should gay couples be denied the benefits and assurances of having a long term relationship recognised?

Even if you don't accept these, the fact that same sex couples 'need not apply' because they do not fulfil your chosen criteria, doesn't prevent them from fulfilling almost every other one.
- Seeing as gay couples can and do raise children together, why shouldn't they be allowed to have their economic interests - say, working to feed the family - protected in the same way? Even if paternity isn't an issue, custody rights and child support still will be, why shouldn't these families be protected?

Eric,

Sterile males are costly to identify. The self-sterilized males who identify themselves as sterile are easy to classify, but why would such males identify themselves if the result would be a denial of the license? The incentive of sterile males seeking a license would be to lie about their sterility. So the state would have to screen all males for sterility, which would be very costly, even more than for the women because there is no male menopause. So I do not advocate denial of marriage to sterile males.


Johnnie,

You have nibbled around the edges of my challenge, but have not addressed the main substance.

Would you advocate denial of legal marriage to sterile people in principle? If it were very easy and inexpensive to identify such individuals, would you disqualify them from legally-recognized marriage because of their inability to produce babies?

Eric:

I am talking about economic justification, not moral principle. I have not nibbled around the edges of your challenge, I have given an answer to each challenge you have given. If you want answers based on principle, talk to a moralist, or talk to God.

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