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March 27, 2013

Comments

Amy,

While definitions are certainly at stake, that doesn't make gay marriage any less an issue over legal rights. For instance, imagine that back in the 60s, a bunch of Southern conservatives had argued that the very definition of a university involved white people teaching other white people. "Look," they whined, "we just want boundaries on the definition of a university." Would such an argument have been disconnected from the civil rights movement because it was aimed at a particular English definition? Clearly not.

Now, I agree that the gay marriage debate involves disagreements over how to define marriage. You could perhaps even argue that everything else hinges on the issue of definitions. But clearly, each side of the debate has more to lose than just a language preference. Anti-gay-marriage advocates like yourself want to cultivate certain attitudes towards the LGBT community, including attitudes within the LGBT community itself. Indeed, you no doubt want to prevent gay unions regardless of how they end up being referenced in the English language. So the notion that this is just a disagreement over definitions alone seems naive at best. (In fairness, you did not say that straight out, but it seems implied.)

On the other hand, I'm not completely unsympathetic to your view. For one thing, it's not clear to me how exactly this is supposed to be an issue of rights, although many gay-marriage-supporters certainly want to make that kind of argument. My objection here is to point out that nothing you've written counters such arguments. And in any case, however you want to characterize the controversy, there is obviously a lot more at stake than just a preference in how to use the English language.

Personally, I'm inclined to say that we would be better off instituting gay marriage along with heterosexual marriage, but I don't really have strong feelings about it. I'm intrigued by the arguments I've heard here and elsewhere about the reasoning behind involving the government at all, to the effect that it makes sense for it to be involved with heterosexual marriage but not gay marriage. But I'm still not convinced. As far as I'm concerned, having the government back gay marriage along with straight marriage seems the best path towards securing the well-being of LGBTs. Moreover this seems an appropriate act for the government, since LGBTs face an excess of pressure from the majority population. So for me, the issue really isn't about rights, except insofar as I want LGBTs to be given the legal right to have their unions recognized by the government. But it's not just about definitions either. It would be pretty silly for us to get all frosty about something so mundane as language!

"It would be pretty silly for us to get all frosty about something so mundane as language!"

Tell that to George Orwell.

I am on of those who supports keeping the religious word marriage in tack but I also understand where the gay-rights activist are coming from. This is why I've adopted this compromise from a professor of mine:

1. Remove marriage from our legal language, reserve that right for the individuals & churches to use as they wish.

2. Adopt a new name(civil union, domestic partnership, etc) & that because simply legal union between two consenting adults

The goal is to get the government out of the church and also to allow gay couples to be legally recognized with the exact same title as every other couple.

Andrew,

In your scenario above, would the terms "husband" and "wife" be reserved only for those who are married in a church or religious ceremony, since those terms are directly tied to the term "marriage"?

I think even in the above scenario, the same-sex marriage advocates would still cry foul. Those married in a church would have the "traditional" titles of husband & wife and have with them the respect & tradition that those titles afford, while those in #2 above would then be referred to as something else - domestic partner? Civil union partner?

They would still see this as a "separate but equal" thing in my opinion and it would not satisfy them.

These are just some initial thoughts upon first reading that came to mind.

Darth Dutch

A few of the rights that are automatically, legally protected by the government upon marriage are disability benefits, special consideration for immigration/citizenship if the spouse is a citizen, domestic violence protections, bereavement leave, joint tax filing, making medical decisions for spouses, right to make funeral arrangements for a deceased spouse, inheritance of property, and Social Security pension and other pensions/benefits from deceased spouses.

The government is willing to legally go to bat for heterosexual marriages to protect these rights but these rights are not granted to homosexual spouses. Is this a problem and if so, what is the best way to address that homosexual spouses are legally the same as two strangers as far as the law is concerned?

Personally, I like what C.S. Lewis had to say on the government's regulation of marriage (with regard to whether the government should enact laws preventing divorce):

Before leaving the question of divorce, I should like to distinguish two things which are very often confused. The Christian conception of marriage is one: the other is the quite different question—how far Christians, if they are voters or Members of Parliament, ought to try to force their views of marriage on the rest of the community by embodying them in the divorce laws. A great many people seem to think that if you are a Christian yourself you should try to make divorce difficult for every one. I do not think that. At least I know I should be very angry if the Mohammedans [Muslims] tried to prevent the rest of us from drinking wine. My own view is that the Churches should frankly recognise that the majority of the British people are not Christians and, therefore, cannot be expected to live Christian lives. There ought to be two distinct kinds of marriage: one governed by the State with rules enforced on all citizens, the other governed by the Church with rules enforced by her on her own members. The distinction ought to be quite sharp, so that a man knows which couples are married in a Christian sense and which are not.

"Definition" is the operative issue in play here. What is the definition of "gay?" It is not a lifestyle or genetic disposition. It refers to a sexual act that happens between individuals of the same sex. It is a behavior. Thus, individuals want their sexual act to not only be accepted as normal but promoted. The marriage aspect has nothing to do with choices of love but rather choices of sexual behavior. The misdirection is obvious.

I have a different sort of compromise. Eliminate marriage from the law entirely. Allow people to declare one beneficiary and emergency power of attorney (in place of next of kin) and come up with some new legal word for that position. Whether or not that position applies to a marriage partner or sexual partner would be a personal decision. Under that compromise, if I were married and had a will giving rights to my husband, it would be so. The same would be true of a same-sex couple. If I were a single mother and wanted another adult to be able to make decisions regarding my medical care and my children, just in case, I could appoint my best friend even if we are straight and of the same sex and have absolutely no chance of a romantic relationship or a domestic partnership of any kind. Allow any number of people to file taxes jointly if they have joint bank accounts, regardless of their relationship. (In other words, I could file taxes jointly with my parents).

I have to agree with Courtney, if the government were not involved at all, this would all be a moot point.

Is this merely about being able to file joint taxes or add a gay partner to your health insurance?

That is the real question. If the government were taken out altogether, would the SSM proponents be satisfied with that?

Of course, that would mean a company wouldn't have to offer health benefits at all to any spouse - gay or straight. The moment you ask the government to create a law for that, they are defining marriage.

So let's take the government out of marriage so no marriage penalty, no joint filings of taxes, no forced health care for spouses but I am sure you could purchase a policy from your insurance provider - just not at an employee discount - and you can have whatever type of union service you want and no one can stop you (not that I want to as I can only tell you what the truth is, you have the free will to reject it).

See page 270 for why privatizing marriage would be a disaster.

Governments have recognized marriage for a reason.

Then ultimately, you have to decide what the moral standard is for marriage and if you say "the majority", that would be the argumentum ad populum fallacy (at least for arguing the point logically).

So as I have for most of the day, I would like for proponents of SSM to establish for me the moral standard that society should follow.

For example, here's the exchange between Scalia and Olson

JUSTICE SCALIA: I'm curious, when—when did — when did it become unconstitutional to exclude homosexual couples from marriage? 1791? 1868, when the Fourteenth Amendment was adopted? Sometimes — some time after Baker, where we said it didn't even raise a substantial Federal question? When — when — when did the law become this?

MR. OLSON: When — may I answer this in the form of a rhetorical question? When did it become unconstitutional to prohibit interracial marriages? When did it become unconstitutional to assign children to separate schools.

JUSTICE SCALIA: It's an easy question, I think, for that one. At — at the time that the Equal Protection Clause was adopted. That's absolutely true. But don't give me a question to my question. When do you think it became
unconstitutional? Has it always been unconstitutional? . . .

MR. OLSON: It was constitutional when we as a culture determined that sexual orientation is a characteristic of individuals that they cannot control, and that that -­

JUSTICE SCALIA: I see. When did that happen? When did that happen?

MR. OLSON: There's no specific date in time. This is an evolutionary cycle.


Given that Olson is now invoking evolution in his arguments, that presents a problem.

Richard Dawkins said "In a universe of blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people
are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t
find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe we observe has
precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at the bottom, no design,
no purpose, no evil and no good , nothing but blind,
pitiless indifference.... DNA neither cares nor knows. DNA just is. And we
dance to its music.”

This is the natural [chuckle chuckle] progression of evolution. So some proponents of SSM might argue "well, I believe in God and I think He created people homosexual". Ok, where's your evidence for that? If you're a Christian, you just walked onto the slippery slope of salad bar Christianity.

But let's say you're not a Christian but you believe in God or a god. Where shall we get this ultimate standard of morality from?

Bertrand Russell said he knew evil simply by the way he felt. But, since history shows us some people were perfectly fine with sacrificing their own infants to pagan gods, feeling alone is not a good barometer.

So, if someone could just share the moral standard with me, it would help me to better understand just what makes SSM the right thing to do.

Ben, thanks for your comment. The point of this post is to say that nearly everybody supports putting boundaries on marriage, therefore to say that traditional marriage supporters are against "marriage equality" is to be hypocritical.

Now, as to your comment on definitions, the question is, is the definition a person is offering for an institution arbitrary? And actually, I would say that the definition of marriage as “two people who love each other” (the definition being proposed by same-sex marriage advocates) is as arbitrary as the definition you've offered of a university as being “white people teaching other white people” (not to imply that you agree with that definition). There’s nothing inherent to the institution of the university that calls for a restriction on race.

Marriage, on the other hand is rooted in biology and realities about human nature—the difference between the sexes, the fact that two people complete the man/woman union (the only system in the body that requires two people in order to work), the fact that the union produces children, the fact that both mothers and fathers provide different and necessary things for the children, the fact that permanence is best for the children, etc.

Because of these things, there’s nothing arbitrary about making an institution that creates a permanent bond between a man and a woman, protecting any children that might result from that union.

So ironically, your university example (where an arbitrary definition of an institution is imposed by the government) is closer to the same-sex marriage advocate's position than mine. (See an article by Beckwith that makes this point.)

there is obviously a lot more at stake than just a preference in how to use the English language

This isn’t about preference in how to use the English language, this is about the legal definition of marriage recognizing the reality of what marriage already is. The legal definition will have profound effects on our society. (See here, for example. Also, here.)

Time is running out on y'all.

Thinking yet about what you'll do when the sky doesn't fall?

RonH

That's the nice thing about the truth--it doesn't depend on the weather.

So, Jim, what will you do when the sky doesn't fall? Won't these falling sky predictions be FALSE?

RonH said: "Thinking yet about what you'll do when the sky doesn't fall?"

(sigh) What do you mean RonH?

You're right RonH, if SSM is upheld by the supreme court, sin will continue as it has since the fall of man.

By merely being a Christian, we are drawing lines in the sand without ever uttering a word. Being a Christian isn't about pointing out other people's sins but rather pointing out that everyone has sinned and is accountable to a holy God. And because of those sins, a holy God must be just. But, because He loves mankind, He metted out this justice on His only Son who willingly took His wrath upon Himself and after 3 days, rose again from the dead so that everyone, gay or straight, could be forgiven of their sins, exchange their old life for His, and have eternal life.

Because we believe this, we make ourselves targets. Now, that doesn't mean that some Christians (self proclaimed or otherwise) haven't done things that are sinful. If we were perfect, we wouldn't need Jesus. But loving someone doesn't' mean accepting their sins as being OK. If I really think that without Christ, you would spend an eternity in Hell, then I wouldn't be loving you if I didn't tell you that so you could have the opportunity to repent and be forgiven.

But there has to be a moral standard that show us our sins. Proponents of SSM call us bigots for not agreeing with them. This stems from a moral ideology that they hold. Where does that morality come from?

"Time is running out on y'all.

Thinking yet about what you'll do when the sky doesn't fall?

RonH"

RonH,

Are you saying that Christians should have their beliefs change to match the whims of culture and society?

And what exactly do you mean by the sky falling? Can you give some concrete examples?

Darth Dutch

I thought RonH was saying, "aren't you going to feel silly when the country goes for SSM (as the survey in the link implies it will) and the sky doesn't fall ", i.e. society continues to flourish without a sign of collapse.

My point was: isn't it nice to have a view based on objective truth, whether society agrees with it or not. And whether we fall apart socially and culturally overnight because of the blatant moral catastrophe of SSM.

By the way, RonH, I'm a little more inclined to believe NYT polling now than before the election.

Jim,

Nate Silver doesn't use just NYT polls; he uses lots of polls.

I haven't been through Silver's method but I hear it's based on Bayes Theorem.

That would explain why he was able to predict 49 states on 2008 and 50 on 2012.

Better than Carl Rove, eh?


RonH

We would do well to remind ourselves that, when Paul wrote Romans the culture he wrote to was polytheistic, very "liberal" and accepting of all types of lifestyles and beliefs, basically very similar in many ways to our culture today.
And yet he wrote the words he did and particularly addressed homosexuality.

Whether the culture agrees with a particular view or not is no reason in an of itself to adopt that view.

Darth Dutch

Great point, Darth! Great point. That's a real comfort. So distressing to see the country caving on SSM, good to see timeless truth.

RonH, I grant you the point on Nate Silver's polling. Actually, it was the whole party which felt a little silly the day after the election, not just the pundits.

Ron-

I've never thought the sky would fall with the adoption of SSM.

I do think it will result in many churches getting out of the business of brokering civil marriages for the state.

A lot of churches, I expect, will start performing religious matrimony ceremonies, possibly requiring the signing of church approved legal contracts. Whether the couple also gets a civil marriage will be a matter of indifference to such churches.

They will do this to avoid becoming the targets of lawsuits from gays who they refuse to marry.

WL,

If churches stay clear of offering public accommodations they should stay clear of lawsuits.

Others, like the OP, do seem to think the sky will fall - society will disintegrate.

Marriages, in contrast, are a matter of urgent public interest, as the record of almost every culture attests—worth legally recognizing and regulating.68 Societies rely on families, built on strong marriages,to produce whatthey need but cannotform on their own: upright, decent people who make for reasonably conscientious, law‐abiding citizens. As they mature, children benefit from the love and care of both mother and father, and from the committed and exclusive love of their parents for each other.

See link above 'page 270'.

RonH

Well, it is also true that the state will have stopped offering any special advantage to the child-producing union. So the state will lose that benefit. I don't think that that's the sky falling, but it is a cost to the state.

BTW by "the state losing that benefit", I mean that it will lose the benefit of incentivizing child production, not the benefit of child-production itself. Obviously people will keep having kids.

RonH,

Gleefully anticipating judicial activists forcing a redefinition of marriage on the rest of society from an infinitesimal minority position?

The article's "page 270" talks about the privatization of marriage, not redefining marriage to include same-sex couples.

The OP, and everyone on this thread, argued against so-called SSM for either legal, rational, or religious bases, not with predictions of dire consequences.

You're not too concerned with any of this though. But you might want to wait for the actual decision to launch your strawman offensive. SCOTUS doesn't appear too keen to legislate on this one.

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