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June 28, 2011

Comments

When Melinda writes,

Same-sex marriage is justified, in part, by claiming that we have a inalienable right to marry whomever we love.

I’m not exactly sure what the qualification is introduced by the “in part” clause. Perhaps the idea is that one way of justifying same-sex marriage (SSM) involves appealing to the principle that we have a right to marry whomever we love. That claim, however, is consistent with there being many other ways of justifying SSM that do not involve appeals to this principle. Alternatively, she might be suggesting that the principle that we have a right to marry whomever we love will constitute a part of any justification of SSM. In that case, she is claiming that appealing to this principle is essential to any justification of SSM.

If she is saying the former, then everything she says is consistent with there being many other good reasons to support SSM which make no appeal to the idea that we have a right to marry whomever we love. In that case, her remarks ought not to concern anyone that believe there are such reasons.

If she is saying the latter, then I see nothing in her post by way of argument for that substantive claim. Furthermore, I tend to doubt that it is true anyone. Consider, for instance, the following argument:

(1) For better or worse, same-sex couples (SSCs) will continue to be permitted to adopt children.
(2) If for better or worse, SSCs will continue to be permitted to adopt children, then if extending the benefits of marriage to SSCs will greatly benefit children raised by SSCs, we ought to extend the benefits of marriage to SSCs, unless we have overriding reasons to do otherwise.
(3) Therefore, if extending the benefits of marriage to SSCs will greatly benefit children raised by SSCs, we ought to extend the benefits of marriage to SSCs, unless we have overriding reasons to do otherwise. [1, 2]
(4) Extending the benefits of marriage to SSCs will greatly benefit children raised by SSCs.
(5) Therefore, we ought to extend the benefits of marriage to SSCs, unless we have overriding reasons to do otherwise. [3, 4]
(6) We do not have overriding reasons to do otherwise.
(7) Therefore, we ought to extend the benefits of marriage to SSCs. [5, 6]

I do not present this argument in order to argue for its soundness. I present it only because its premises, if true, plainly entail the conclusion and no premise appeals to the principle that we have a right to marry whomever we love. This argument, therefore, constitutes at least one example of an argument for SSM that does not appeal to the principle that we have a right to marry whomever we love.

So, if Melinda is suggesting that any justification of SSM must appeal to the principle that we have a right to marry whomever we love, then I think the suggestion is clearly mistaken.

"Extending the benefits of marriage to SSCs will greatly benefit children raised by SSCs."


This is an issue of government policy that is in question. Should government privilege two things, that are fundamentally different, in the same way? It is quite clear that the union between man and a woman is the only way that a family can be produced. Same sex unions cannot produce them. In order for same sex unions to have anything even remotely resembling a family, is through parasitic borrowing from the union of man and woman in various ways(adoption, surrogate, artificial insemination are all joining of man and woman in the truest sense) to accomplish this. There is nothing about same sex unions that qualify it for the same consideration of benefits as that of marriage as it has been traditionally held to be. Raising children is not tied to the kind of union we are talking about in the same biological way as is the actual creation of families. That being the case, the union between a man and a woman is uniquely special and valuable because of its natural ability to bring into the world the next generation. When something is unique and valuable it is worthy of protection, while that which is not...is not.

Malebranche,

I know you just sketched it out bare bones, but: there are several logical jumps in your argument that'll prevent it from being taken seriously (the "if" part of premise 2 is an example...you're really gonna have to argue hard for that one.)

Granted, your arg doesn't appeal to the "love" principle, but if its a bad argument in the first place, why does it matter?

Besides, the other main appeals being given for SSM, namely, equality, civil rights, and social justice, follow the same logic and fall to the same critique.

Rich,

You’ll notice that I never proposed the argument in order to defend its soundness. Rather, I proposed the argument in order to refute the claim that any justification of SSM will have to appeal to the principle that we have a right to marry whomever we love. As I have shown, that is simply untrue. There is nothing that you’ve said that calls any of that into question in the least.

Presumably, if you regard the argument as so bad, you must be aware of some defect. Perhaps you could elaborate on that. As it stands, you have given us no reason to believe any of its premises are false. Admittedly, I have given no reasons to believe its premises are true, but as the attentive reader will notice, that was never my aim to begin with.

Louis, a marriage between a barren woman and/or a sterile man is also not worthy to defend by your logic.

Are you consistently applying your argument, I wonder? Are you advocating that only men and women who are biologically capable of reproduction be allowed to marry?

If not, I'd be curious to hear your response.

To the argument as a whole, I don't think Melinda is accurately capturing the reasons to be for SSM.

Certainly, "people ought to be able to marry those whom they love" is part of the argument. But in no way is it the only argument being advanced.

In fact, I would argue that the above argument is an appeal to emotion and is thus supplemental to the legal/civic debate before us.

On that front, the strongest argument offered for SSM is that if two consenting adults want to be married, they ought to be able to marry legally and enjoy the same privileges as all other consenting adults who marry.

Legally, it's not about love; it's about whether or not adults who have the capacity to consent to something should be legally allowed to do so.

Malebranche,

I thought I acknowledged that you weren't defending its soundness in my comment (the point of my opening clause). One of my points was the fact that you can simply come up with any old argument that doesn't refer to the principle in Melinda's post doesn't carry much weight, in the same way that me coming up with any old argument against ssm that doesn't depend upon religion doesn't carry much weight either. What matters is that it doesn't depend upon religion/love *and* its a decent argument.


As to your other challenge, the key is the *nature* of the relationships. By its very nature, a same sex relationship is not even as close to as beneficial to children as a man-woman marriage. Both genders are needed to make the optimal environment for a child, and calling a same-sex relationship a "marriage" or conferring the benefits thereof won't change that, just like calling other kinds of relationships (one parent, three men, five college roommates, etc etc) "marriage" and conferring the benefits thereof won't change the nature of those relationships.

If you are concerned about the *legal benefits* of marriage (if that is what you think will be beneficial to children), then would you be satisfied with giving those benefits to same sex couples (say, through a civil union or something closely approximating) but reserving the label "marriage" to one-man-one-woman relationships (that is, giving same-sex couples benefits of marriage without changing the definition of marriage)? If not, you will need to amend the focus of your argument above.

Br,
three things:
1) consenting adults are already legally allowed to do what they want and enter into whatever relationships they wish. Same sex couples can live together, love each other, raise children, etc etc. The gov't is not preventing them from doing any of that. What is at stake is changing the definition of marriage such that the differences between same sex and opposite sex couples are erased, so that same sex couples can enjoy the same societal approval that traditionally married opposite sex couples enjoy. The mere fact that two men are consenting does not mean their relationship should be put on that level, for the same reason other consenting relations (two spinsters, a gaggle of single college roomies, etc) shouldn't be put on that level.

2) Lesbian, gay, and bisexual people can marry just as I can. I do not have the right to marry whomever (ie, another consenting adult). The state does not care about one's sexual preference.

3) the logic behind the "consenting adults" criteria is the same as the "love" criteria and falls to the same critique. If the "consenting adults" part is the key, why limit it to only two? Three, four, or five adults can consent, why not call those marriages too? Why discriminate against polyamorous relationships by limiting marriage to only two? It's denying a whole class of people thier rights...

4) While we're at it, what's the big deal about the "adults" criteria? If the opposite sex criteria is deemed arbitrary and up for grabs, seems to me that both the *number* and *adult* criterias of marriage are up for grabs too.

Sorry, meant four things, not three...

Rich,

You write,

As to your other challenge, the key is the *nature* of the relationships. By its very nature, a same sex relationship is not even as close to as beneficial to children as a man-woman marriage. Both genders are needed to make the optimal environment for a child, and calling a same-sex relationship a "marriage" or conferring the benefits thereof won't change that, just like calling other kinds of relationships (one parent, three men, five college roommates, etc etc) "marriage" and conferring the benefits thereof won't change the nature of those relationships.

I must confess that I’m at a loss as to which premise these remarks are supposed to undermine. You’ll notice that no premise of the argument claims that being raised by same-sex couples is just as good as being raised by opposite-sex couples. Perhaps you could explicitly identify the premise of the argument that you think is obviously false and expose its falsity plainly for all to see. As it stands I cannot see the relevance of your remarks to the argument outlined above. What premise do those remarks refute, and how exactly do they refute it?

Rich, I do not understand where you're going with 1, and I'm not sure where it takes the argument (in either direction).

2) Black people can marry just as I do (within their race); they just can't marry white people.

This argument rightfully fails.

Obviously, the state does care about sexual preference, or we wouldn't be having this conversation?

3) I don't see a reason to limit it from a legal perspective with respect to "consent". I object to polygamy from a moral perspective, because I am convinced such relationships are never just or equitable; there is always an inappropriate power dynamic. But I don't think all that is immoral should be illegal, and I don't see a legal problem with polygamy.

(Aside: Personally, I'd prefer that the state get out of the business of giving preferential treatment to "traditional marriages." I think that is the tidiest compromise we can come up with. Alternatively, I'd like to see churches get out of the business of performing civic marriages.)

4) The "adult" part seems pretty obvious to me, but I guess not. We have all sorts of laws that assume that adulthood entails the capacity to consent, while being a juvenile does not. Take, for example, statutory rape. Under a certain age, the law says that young people are not capable of consent.

"Adult" functions similarly here. We should restrict things to adults, because marriage ought to be entered into with consent of both/all parties, and only adults have the capacity to consent to such an arrangement. It seems fairly obvious that we ought to prohibit adults from entering into marriage with a minor/juvenile, if that's where you're headed.

Hi Malebranche, I dont know why you are making such a big deal about Melinda's using the "right to marry whomever we love", phrase as a basis for this post, since this is an often stated reason given by proponents of SSM. In fact I think it's the principle reason given. Your longwinded offensive and proposed argument would be easily dismantled if assailed, and it seems you had to work hard to try to make Melinda look foolish. Maybe I just dont get it.

br:
1) was directed at your last paragraph. The point was that same sex couples have the legal ability to enter into whatever loving or consenting relationships they wish, and do whatever. The issue with SSM is something else entirely--redefining marriage wholesale. No one has the right to do that. Nor do they have a right to societal approval (which is what calling same sex relationships "marriages" is all about...)...might be nice, yes, but a right? No.

Your 2)nd comment is a category mistake. Race is irrelevant to marriage, while gender is fundamental to it. Genders are different, races aren't...that's why its completely understandable to have boy scouts/girl scouts, and separate men's/women's restrooms, but not black scouts and white scouts and separate restrooms for whites/blacks. Your comparison therefore suffers from a significant disanalogy.

And no, the state does not care about sexual preference...to see this, ask yourself the following question: if ssm is legalized in a state, can two straight men get married to each other? The answer is yes, otherwise the state would be guilty of discrimination...this is why the proper term is "Same sex marriage" not "gay marriage." Gays and lesbians can already get married.

As to #3, I specifically mentioned polyamorous relations, not polygamous. I tend to agree with your moral assessment of polygamous relations, though if marriage is a societal construct as ssm advocates argue and therefore the moral/natural teleology/practical arguments against ssm therefore don't have merit, I find it hard to see how your moral misgivings against polygamous relations would carry any weight either.

But that is beside the point...it sounds like you are agreeing with me that changing the definition of marriage in the way ssm advocates want would open the door to calling many other types of relationships marriages as well...yes?

Malebranche,
I'm referring to premise 4...my point is that simply conferring the benefits (I take it you mean tax breaks and such) of marriage on same sex couples will not *greatly* benefit the children raised by same sex couples...the same issues that were there in the first place due to the very nature of the relationship itself (a child deserves and desperately needs both a mother and a father for optimal development) are still present. Perhaps extending the benefits of marriage will *practically* benefit children of sscs in some vague way, but *greatly* benefit? No. If all you are trying to show (and you haven't shown it yet, just stated it in premises) is that extending benefits of marriage to sscs will help children raised by those couples in *some* way, well, I guess maybe...but that's a pretty small victory for you.

To see this, recall Br's point about polygamous relationships...they are flawed by their very nature (unjust power dynamic). The presence of such a power dynamic would greatly affect children. If extending the benefits of marriage will help children raised in polygamous families, would that give us reason to extend the definition of marriage to include polygamy? Would that erase the effects of the power dynamic?

And if your main concern is the legal benefits of marriage, I ask again:
If you are concerned about the *legal benefits* of marriage (if that is what you think will be beneficial to children), then would you be satisfied with giving those benefits to same sex couples (say, through a civil union or something closely approximating) but reserving the label "marriage" to one-man-one-woman relationships (that is, giving same-sex couples benefits of marriage without changing the definition of marriage)?

But...I'm doing too much arguing, and you are starting to act like I've got the burden to disprove your premises. Why should I take your argument (specifically, premises 2, 3 and 4) seriously? No one in a debate sketches premises, then sits back and says "now, which premises do you want to refute?" Premises 2,3, and 4 seem pretty far fetched.

Rich,

Concerning the criticisms of the argument.

It seems that you think that it is false that extending the benefits of marriage to same-sex couples will greatly benefit children raised by same-sex couples. But as far as I can tell you give no good reasons to think that. For instance, you say

...conferring the benefits (I take it you mean tax breaks and such) of marriage on same sex couples will not *greatly* benefit the children raised by same sex couples...the same issues that were there in the first place due to the very nature of the relationship itself (a child deserves and desperately needs both a mother and a father for optimal development) are still present.

Your reasoning here seems to be, “Since SSM will not remove many of the problems children of same-sex couples already have, SSM will not greatly benefit children of same-sex couples.” But that is bad reasoning. I may have many problems that owning a car does not do away with, but it in no way follows that owning a car does not benefit me greatly. Similarly, children of same-sex couples may have many problems that SSM doesn’t do away with, but it in no way follows that SSM will not greatly benefit those children.

But perhaps you’re saying that virtually no problems present in the lives of those children raised by same-sex couples will be addressed by permitting their parents to marry. If that is your claim, then you’ve given us no reason to think it’s true. If you’re interested in the alleged benefits that marriage brings to children, the following have all been cited in plenty of articles as factors that will likely contribute either directly or indirectly to children’s welfare:

(a) Marriages tend to be more stable than mere cohabitation.
(b) Marriages tend to make people more financially secure.
(c) Marriages enable a more orderly distribution of property.
(d) Marriages tend to make people happy and healthier.
(e) Marriage confers insurance benefits.
(f) Marriage enhances medical-decision capacities.
(g) Marriage confers protections on children in case their parents split up (e.g., child support).
(h) Marriage enhances wrongful death benefits to surviving children.

Etc. If SSM will confer benefits (a) though (h), then it probably will generally tend to improve the welfare of children raised by same-sex couples. It will tend to do this even if it doesn’t rid those children of all of the problems involved in being raised by same-sex couples. And if that is the case, then premise (4) of the argument is looking pretty good. Are you aware of good reasons to believe that SSM will not generally tend to confer benefits (a) through (h)?

Concerning the burden you’ve incurred.

You’ll recall that I never proposed the argument in order to argue for its soundness. In response to my post, however, you asserted the following:

Granted, your arg doesn't appeal to the "love" principle, but if its a bad argument in the first place, why does it matter?

That gave me the impression that you regarded the argument as a bad argument, perhaps even an obviously bad argument. That is when I asked you to plainly expose its falsity, which for the reasons I've given I think you've still failed to do. That is an entirely legitimate request following your suggestion that the argument is hardly worth taking seriously. That is how your burden was incurred. It was not incurred by me merely throwing out an argument and demanding that others refute it while I sit back and watch.

Rich,

I forgot to respond to something you raised. You write the following,

If you are concerned about the *legal benefits* of marriage (if that is what you think will be beneficial to children), then would you be satisfied with giving those benefits to same sex couples (say, through a civil union or something closely approximating) but reserving the label "marriage" to one-man-one-woman relationships (that is, giving same-sex couples benefits of marriage without changing the definition of marriage)?

Well I have not yet claimed that I support SSM of any sort, which your question seems to presuppose. I merely proposed an argument for consideration and have responded on its behalf to your remarks. My aim has not been to defend SSM or offer substantive advice concerning the use of the word “marriage.” It has merely been to show that Melinda is mistaken if she is suggesting that any justification of SSM will appeal to the principle that we have a right to marry whomever we love. I can understand why an apologist would want something like that to be true. They would want it to be true because that simplifies their task: refute the “marry whomever we love” principle and then declare victory over all arguments in favor of SSM. That strategy, however, simply won’t work, as I demonstrated by producing an argument for SSM that did not appeal to that principle Melinda rejects. You then suggested that even if the argument I produced shows that technically one can argue for SSM without appealing to the principle Melinda rejects, the argument is still so bad that it doesn’t really matter. The subsequent back-and-forth has consisted of you trying to give reasons in support of this claim and me explaining why I don’t regard your reasons as good ones.

None of that commits me to any particular position about the use of the word “marriage,” although it seems to me that if it is merely the use of the word “marriage” that conservative Christians have been in such a fuss about, they truly are among those most hysterical about the monumentally trivial. Those in the Midwest seeking evidence of this hysteria need only to tune into Christian radio to witness the paranoid predictions of the collapse of civilization that these Christian radio folks work themselves into on a daily basis.

Malebranche,

Melinda never claimed that any justification of ssm will appeal to the love principle. Go back and re-read her post. The only thing she implied is that the princple is the main argument used, which is true...listen to the news, see the bilboards, listen to gov. Cuomo, get on Facebook, read the newspaper, etc.

As to your other comments, first, it is easy to see how some of the things in your list would apply to ssc's (eg, insurance benefits), but what about other key things in the list, specifically a and d? The studies you cite were on traditional marriages, and you gave no reason to think the stabilizing/happier/healthier factor would carry over.

Secondly, and more to the point, if they apply to ssm, they apply to the other relationships that are often brought up in this context too (eg aforementioned polyamorous relationships), yet few would think that justifies opening marriage to those relationships. I've brought this up before and you've ignored it. These relationships have many problems intrinsic to the nature of the relationships themselves, but if your reasoning is legit, then it in no way follows that conferring the benefits of marriage upon those relationships will not benefit the children of those relationships(your words--the car analogy), and we should therefore define marriage to include those relationships.

The sword cuts both ways here...if it doesn't justify opening marriage to those relationships, neither does it justify opening marriage to same sex relationships. If you deny this, based on what criteria do you do so?

Btw, your car analogy fails. If you have a drug problem, why is a mere, undefined benefit an argument for allowing you to own a car? If you have a drug problem, owning a car is the wrong solution, and could do more harm than good (ie, giving you greater access to drugs, opening the possibility that you will drive while high, etc). It'll benefit you, for sure, but the way in which it benefits you is hardly relevant to your problem. This brings up why I've also mentioned premises 2 and 3. If I grant, for the sake of conversation, that conferring the benefits of marriage upon sscs will benefit--or even greatly benefit--children raised by sscs, why does it follow that we therefore *ought* to extend the benefits of marriage?

As the point about polyamorous etc relationships shows, the trick is showing that it will benefit them in relevant ways, and that the benefits will override the harm. Your argument does not address this, therefore the connection b.w the antecedent and consequent is murky.

There is actually reason to believe that conferring the benefits of marriage on ssc's will *harm* children. Frank Turek, citing Scandinavian countries, elaborates here:
http://townhall.com/columnists/frankturek/2008/05/26/gay_marriage_even_liberals_know_its_bad/page/full/

Here's my main issue: Words have meaning, Malebranche. The meaning of marriage is no "monumentally trivial" discussion. No one acts in a vacuum. We often take our cues from culture, and part of culture is the law...ssm advocates concede this point, otherwise why would they be so dissatisfied with civil unions, which confer the benefits but keeps the definition of marriage the same?

Given that ssm advocates themselves acknowledge this yet you refuse to, and given that last paragraph where you twist my position into quibbling about a mere word--we conservatives are not in "hysterics" about the "monumentally trivial," we are concerned about the meaning and institution behind the word, as well as the effects changing the definition will have on society...easy to see these effects if you follow the logic--are two reasons why part of me thinks you are being intentionally difficult. Your last post confirmed my suspicions. Up until you gave your a-h list, you refused to give any defense of an argument you proposed. Granted, not your purpose I guess, and granted, the argument is not based on the "love priciple" (which is still one of the main arguments used by ssm advocates), but who cares.

I think I have given you reasons that your argument is a good one, some of which you've ignored.

One of the main objections against the traditional marriage arguments is that they are all based on relgion. I will now proceed to give an argument against ssm that is not based on religion, in order to prove that supposition wrong:

1) if the sun is a star that heats our planet, then same sex marriage should be illegal.
2) the sun is a star that heats our planet
3) therefore, ssm should be illegal.
--This argument in no way appeals to religion. I do not advance it to argue for its soundness, only to prove them wrong that all arguments against ssm are religious. I make no committment one way or the other in terms of same sex marriage. If you think it is a bad one, perhaps you could enlighten us all as to which premise is bad.

--Such a way of arguing would be silly, and rightfully so, not because the argument employed was just made up off the top of my head, and not because you could easily refute one of the premises, but due to the strategy of arguing itself.

Rich,

You are right that the studies relied on traditional marriages (for an obvious reason!). If there are relevant dissimilarities, then an argument from analogy from the sample of traditional marriages to same-sex marriage will be weak. That is true. But at least with respect to items (b), (c), (e), (f), (g), and (h), the application to same-sex couples is fairly straightforward and doesn’t rely on an argument from analogy at all. I take it that is why you focused on (a) and (d), which probably do rely (at this point) on some sort of argument from analogy.

It is also important to remember that I did not propose (a) through (h) in order to prove that premise (4) of the original argument is true. On the contrary, I called attention to (a) through (h) merely in order to point out that if all of (a) through (h) are true of same-sex couples raising children, then premise (4) is probably true. Are you aware of good reasons to think that (a) through (h) do not apply to same-sex couples raising children? Are you aware of good reasons to think that premise (4) is false? It certainly is not a good reason to reject premise (4) on the grounds that SSM will not solve all of the problems children raised by same-sex couples have. That should now be obvious, for the reasons I gave. So, are you aware of other reasons to think premise (4) is false? If so, what reasons do you have in mind?

You suggest that if the argument I proposed is a good argument, then a similar argument for legalizing polygamous marriage is a good argument. Now the first thing to point out is that this sort of response fails to identify a premise of the argument and clearly explain where the premise goes wrong. At best this would only convince someone that something or other is wrong with the argument (I don’t even think it does that, actually), but it would do nothing to tell us what exactly is wrong with the argument.

With that said, is it true that this same argument strategy could be used to justify polygamy? I am not well enough informed about adoption laws, so I wonder if premise (1) would be true of polygamist families in America. When premise (1) speaks of couples being “permitted” to adopt, I have in mind “legal permission.” Is it true that polygamists can legally adopt children? I’m not sure. Here’s an article that suggests they at least could in the recent past in Utah:

http://www.nytimes.com/1991/03/29/us/utah-polygamists-allowed-to-adopt.html

I suppose the best way for the proponent of the argument I gave to respond is as follows. If polygamists across the country were legally permitted to adopt children and there was no real chance of this being overturned, and if extending the benefits of marriage to those families would greatly benefit the children, and if we did not have overriding reasons to not extend those benefits for the sake of the children, then of course we should extend the benefits of marriage to those families. Why on Earth wouldn’t we, if all of that were true? Suppose I were in some other country where polygamy is deeply entrenched in the culture and I knew nothing could be done about that. Suppose I also knew that extending state marital recognition to these families would greatly benefit the children and was aware of no overriding reasons to not extend those benefits. Would I extend them? Of course! What is absurd about that? It seems to me that the absurdity lies precisely with those unwilling to help the children in that circumstance by extending legal recognition of marriage to polygamists.

That is not to say that I think it is wise to permit polygamists to adopt children. Before I got behind that I would have to be confident, on the basis of empirical evidence, that those arrangements tend to do no more harm to children than is done by more traditional arrangements. If the data did suggest this, then I would have no objection to polygamists adopting children.

Finally, we have still yet to see you identify the premise you regard as false and clearly show that it is false. Is there some particular premise that you think you could clearly refute?

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