Here's a common challenge on the issue of marriage:
One of the standard arguments provided by the homophobic right against gay marriage is a form of what we call the domino fallacy or the slippery slope argument. The idea is that if you take that seemingly innocuous first step, it automatically leads to a second, which will force a third, and so on and so on until, next thing you know, there we are in Satan's own livingroom listening to Yanni on 8-track. In the case of marriage, the argument goes, if we open up the institution to same-sex couples, then we will be forced down the slippery slope to include all sorts of unusual couplings including cross-species arrangements.
How would you respond to this one? Let us know in the comments, then look for Alan's answer to this challenge on Thursday.
(Incidentally, if you read the rest of the post linked above, you'll find that the author commits the fallacy of begging the question by defining marriage in a way that "proves" opposing same-sex marriage is bigotry. But of course, it's the definition of marriage that's the very thing in question.)
For years and years I've strategically bit my tongue.
Had I not, I would have sided with you. I would have agreed with you. Marriage equality will, in time, fundamentally destroy "traditional marriage," and I, for one, will dance on its grave.
It's not a terribly difficult conclusion to draw.
As same-sex couples marry, they will be forced to re-imagine many tenets of your "traditional marriage." In doing so, they will face a series of complicated questions…. As questions continually arise, heterosexual couples will take notice – and be forced to address how much "traditional marriage" is built on gender roles and perpetuates a nauseating inequality that has no place in 2014….
So yes, I told a white lie while soldiering on toward this inevitable outcome. I bit my lip in favor of dignity and equality….
It’s Kolodny’s view that the existence of genderless marriages will introduce new patterns of living as a couple and new ways of getting children (or not having them at all) that opposite-sex marriages will begin to emulate. I think she’s correct that this will happen, but I disagree that it’s something to celebrate.
Kolodny is specifically hoping for a rejection of all gender roles (which has its own problems, apparently); but ignoring the objective differences between men and women—and disconnecting marriage from the comprehensive union between them that creates new life—will have serious consequences beyond just this. Ryan Anderson has been arguing for a while now that the result of leaving behind the opposite-sex component of marriage will be a breakdown of the three major aspects of marriage: monogamy, sexual exclusivity, and permanency. Since a same-sex union and its public consequences are different from an opposite-sex union (as it's not a type of union that naturally produces children), the needs and concerns of those in same-sex unions are different, which means the ideas that naturally arise as to how to manage those unions will also be different. Along these lines, it comes as no surprise to discover that “monogamy is not a central feature for many” of their relationships.*
And while these changes to marriage will happen to suit the preferences of those who aren’t part of an opposite-sex union, the new perspective will (as Kolodny happily claims), change the way everyone views marriage, and children will be the ones to suffer; for the institution that emerged to give stability to the unique union that creates them will have been destroyed.
*From the New York Times: “A study...is offering a rare glimpse inside gay relationships and reveals that monogamy is not a central feature for many. Some gay men and lesbians argue that, as a result, they have stronger, longer-lasting and more honest relationships. And while that may sound counterintuitive, some experts say boundary-challenging gay relationships represent an evolution in marriage—one that might point the way for the survival of the institution.”
Unfortunately, I think Frank Beckwith is right about this:
There are many unfortunate consequences of the culture wars. But one in particular, rarely noticed, is how it has insulated secular progressive academics from the habits of mind, ways of life, and types of reasoning that are integral to the worldview of religious conservatives. Consider just these two examples.
On the matter of the sanctity of human life, secular progressives will sometimes accuse religious conservatives of only caring about the unborn child before he is born, but not afterwards….
On the issue of marriage, secular progressives often depict the view of religious conservatives as arising purely from animus against gay and lesbian citizens. In fact, this depiction has been so successfully advanced in the culture that even the deeply literate Justice Anthony Kennedy has made it the one dogma of his sexual orientation jurisprudence that cannot in principle be disproven.
But for religious conservatives, the distance between this depiction and how they really think of marriage is so great that they do not recognize themselves in it. Yet because the portrayal is so deeply ingrained in the wider culture, any rebuttal of the depiction sounds to the secular progressive as a desperate rewriting of reality in order to rescue a floundering political cause….
In the largely insular world of the secular academy, there is virtually no attempt to try to understand the beliefs of religious conservatives on their own terms. Although that certainly harms religious conservatives, it harms secular progressives and their students even more. For it denies them the sort of full-orbed appreciation of differences that secular universities incessantly preach, but rarely practice.
This is a real problem, and it’s one I’m not sure how to get around, because no amount of reasoned arguments can trump a suspicion of bad motives once it’s firmly implanted. If it’s assumed our arguments aren’t being made in good faith, why should anyone take the time to try to understand what they consider to be illegitimate rationalizations?
Just last week, after a brief back-and-forth between us, one commenter on this blog thought he was getting down to the real issue when he said in response to a post arguing for man/woman marriage, “Please ask yourself: what is the source of the bitterness or fear or personal discomfort that leads you to oppose an expansion of the concept of family? Is it all really just based on a half-dozen or so phrases from religious texts from thousands of years ago?” His characterization of the situation revealed not only that he didn’t understand the arguments I was making, but also that it didn’t occur to him we’re convinced our arguments are true. It’s only because we think the health of our society depends on an accurate understanding of what marriage is that we’re arguing against same-sex marriage; but because he hasn’t worked to see things from our perspective, the only thing that makes sense to him is that we’re reacting out of bitterness and fear.
Whenever something like this happens, I’m amazed that people are more willing to believe that half the country is made up of hateful bigots than to consider that either they’ve missed the arguments sincerely being made or they’ve failed to take them at face value.*
(It’s worth reading the rest of Beckwith’s article to hear his brief description of the conservative religious view on both marriage and abortion.)
*I can already hear the inevitable comparison of our arguments with those promoting slavery. Weren’t those arguments made out of bigotry? And weren’t they made by half the country? Yes, but the inability to see the difference between our arguments and theirs illustrates the very problem I’m explaining. Those arguing for slavery cited the ontological inferiority of black people as a premise in their arguments. But none of our arguments contains the premise that homosexual people are less deserving of rights than heterosexual people. The arguments aren’t about a lower status of human dignity for homosexuals, they’re about the objective and relevant differences between men and women. And yet, despite the fact that it plays no part in our arguments, bigotry against homosexuals is consistently read into them, and the real premises ignored. The fact that people can’t see this major difference between these two lines of argumentation merely proves they don’t understand the actual arguments well enough to do so.
The testimony Ryan Anderson (co-author of What Is Marriage) gave to the Indiana House Judiciary Committee earlier this week is a succinct defense of man/woman marriage, so it’s worth taking ten minutes to watch and then pass on his testimony to friends who are interested in understanding why you’re against redefining marriage.
Everyone in this room is in favor of marriage equality. We all want the law to treat all marriages equally. But the only way we can know whether any state law is treating marriages equally is if we know what a marriage is. Every state law will draw lines between what is a marriage and what isn’t a marriage. If those lines are to be drawn on principle, if those lines are to reflect the truth, we have to know what sort of relationship is marital, as contrasted with other forms of consenting adult relationships.
So, in the time I have today, I’ll answer three questions: what is marriage, why does marriage matter for public policy, and what are the consequences of redefining marriage?
Watch his testimony below, or read the written version here.
The headlines this week about the judge declaring Oklahoma's marriage amendment unconstitutional stated that the "ban" was struck down. Virtually every time amendments such as this one are reported in the media, they're referred to as bans against same-sex marriage.
These state amendments are not bans – they don't single out same-sex marriage specifically. These amendments are attempts to clarify and define what marriage has meant in each state for centuries, and in civilization for millennia. Sure, same-sex marriage may be the instigating factor that makes it necessary to clarify what marriage is, but that's not the same as banning it. Indeed, all kinds of variations on the definition of marriage are also excluded from state amendments, even if they aren't mentioned specifically. The judge in this case got that wrong:
Kern said that "the Court's rationality review reveals Part A an arbitrary, irrational exclusion of just one class of Oklahoma citizens from a government benefit." Proponents of the state constitutional measure, he points out, "purposefully (drew a line) between two groups of Oklahoma citizens – same-sex couples desiring an Oklahoma marriage license and opposite-sex couples desiring (a) marriage license."
Same-sex couples aren't singled out in the Oklahoma amendment or other state amendments. They may not fit the definition, but neither do all kinds of possible variations on marriage.
The "ban" language isn't accurate and it's misleading. It's not as though these amendments are being passed as mere displays of discrimination. It's not as though citizens who think government has a special interest in traditional marriage are singling out same-sex couples. These amendments are defensive attempts to clarify what marriage has always meant because of aggressive efforts to change marriage. And in clarifying marriage in that regard, it also clarifies it regarding other attempts at redefinition, which are in the works already.
The "ban" language isn't accurate, and it misrepresents the dynamic of what's going on in culture right now.