Thinking Christian

Thinking Christianity for church, home, and community

The “Marriage” That Isn’t There

Posted on Mar 21, 2013 by Tom Gilson

Yesterday upon the stair

I met a man who wasn’t there

He wasn’t there again today

I wish, I wish he’d go away.

Disturbed that he did not exist

I punched him with an angry fist

So from this day my guilt I’ll bear

For striking the man who wasn’t there.*

I have just now punched someone who isn’t here, right here near my desk, where I’m working entirely alone. I did it to test my guilt response. Nothing. Is there something wrong with me?

Proponents of same-sex “marriage” (SSM) tell us their view of marriage is a matter of civil rights, and that those who would deny marriage to gays are bigoted, prejudiced, intolerant, and on and on. It’s serious sin, and we bear serious guilt for committing it….

Read more >>>

*(The first verse is from “Antigonish” by Hughes Mearns, 1899. The second verse is my own.)

 

Print Friendly

105 Responses to “ The “Marriage” That Isn’t There ”

  1. Doug says:

    “For striking one who wasn’t there.” scans better ;-)

  2. John Moore says:

    This is getting really bizarre. You guys are so heartless and inhumane. The utter perversity of these arguments is mind-boggling. You focus on the so-called definition of marriage, but what about the people who are being hurt? It’s just callous and cruel, and it denies the spirit of Christ’s teachings. You’re a disgrace to Christianity.

  3. SteveK says:

    Why are you being so heartless and cruel, John?

  4. BillT says:

    So Tom writes a thoughtful article that carefully explains an important issue and you John have nothing to offer but name calling and invectives. But we’re the ones who are a disgrace?

  5. Tom Gilson says:

    Thanks, BillT.

    Notice the attempt to induce guilt over a swat I took at something that isn’t there.

    John, that’s the problem: the definition of marriage matters, and the gay “marriage” theory is built on a non-definition. So there’s no reason to call it marriage. You can’t change that, I can’t change it, no one can change it; or at least no one yet has ever successfully proposed a way to change the fact that gay “marriage” is built on a definition that doesn’t define.

  6. Keith says:

    This argument is over, absent some game-changing event; support for SSM is over 80% among adults under 30.

    Yes, SSM could still be “wrong” regardless of the number of supporters, that’s not my point. I’m saying it’s time to reconsider which arguments are worth making and which arguments are just restating lost positions.

  7. SteveK says:

    I’m sure some people said the same thing about Roe v Wade and abortion, Keith – but the tide is turning. A good argument doesn’t have an expiration date.

  8. Tom Gilson says:

    This argument still matters.

    How it matters will become much more obvious to everyone when we see the effect of a definition that doesn’t define. That’s down the road a little ways, but not far.

  9. d says:

    I ran across this old article the other day and I makes a great case for what the purpose of marriage IS, and why the state has a duty to recognize it. And it does so in a way that does not specifically argue for SSM, but it’s quite easy to see how same-gender relationships can (and do) embody what marriage is… a must read for those who claim “it isn’t there”…

    http://ordinary-gentlemen.com/blog/2011/03/on-nurturing-as-the-purpose-of-marriage/

  10. Tom Gilson says:

    d,

    My argument here has nothing to do with whether same-gender relationships can or do embody what marriage is. I’ve argued that elsewhere, but not here.

    My argument here has to do with the fact that the definition of marriage entailed by SSM is a non-definition, a definition that doesn’t define. And if SSM makes marriage an institution with no definition, that’s going to have very serious long-term repercussions.

  11. G. Rodrigues says:

    @Tom Gilson:

    Per your comment, this is straying off-topic, but in the linked article we can read:

    Marriage is about nurturing. That’s how we think of an ideal marriage. That’s how we, in our culture, judge marriages in the real world.

    This is just a sample, but is a representative one. And then we have to read d saying with a straight face that “And it does so in a way that does not specifically argue for SSM, but it’s quite easy to see how same-gender relationships can (and do) embody what marriage is… a must read for those who claim “it isn’t there”…”

    Of course what d means is that “I reject essentialism, but here is what marriage is essentially about” and then lists some ad hoc prescriptions that happen to support his prejudices and biases. IOW, the same old, tired antics.

  12. Tom Gilson says:

    Slosh is right. Wow. I hadn’t read the article, since I’m multitasking here.

  13. SteveK says:

    Nurturing is the purpose of marriage? They better define that very narrowly in order to avoid nonsensical “marriages” like

    – a boy and his dog
    – a parent and a child
    – a caretaker and a person in need

    But on what principled basis would they narrowly define it in order to exclude these from the list of marriages?

    Note: I merely scanned the article linked above by d and didn’t read it in depth so maybe this issue was addressed. If not, it’s a glaring oversight.

  14. Tom Gilson says:

    And that’s exactly what’s missing in their definition: exclusion.

    It sounds so cold-hearted, to exclude. But if marriage is a legal entity, it must be clear what it is; and whatever else everyone disagrees on, we all agree that in this time and place, it is a legal entity (among other things).

    But we cannot be clear on what it is unless we’re clear on what it isn’t.

  15. Tom Gilson says:

    And SSM itself is testament to the fact that this needs to be a principle-based definition. Otherwise someone is going to come along and tell us it’s wide open to expansion to some other kind of relationship. And another. And another…

  16. JAD says:

    What does LGBT stand for? According gay rights activists it stands “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender”. In other words, besides lesbians and gay men, the gay rights agenda also includes bisexuals and people who are transgender.

    Do you see the problem here? Monogamous marriage is exclusive of people who are bisexual. So logically monogamous marriage has got to go and be replaced by polygamy. When have you ever heard a gay rights activist honestly talk about that?

  17. SteveK says:

    And that’s exactly what’s missing in their definition: exclusion.

    Agreed. This is what is missing from the discussion by the SSM advocates. This, and the principles that form the foundation for making the exclusions.

    When people like me create a list of nonsensical “marriages” that fit the criteria the SSM advocates have spelled out, I’m accused of making a slippery slope argument (I’m not) and stirring the emotions of fear to garner support for my position (I’m not) – because everyone *knows* that nobody thinks those are real marriages.

    You’re right, nobody thinks they are real marriages (except those that do), but that’s not my point.

    My point is to get you to see the gaping holes in your own argument. SSM advocates lack *a principled argument* necessary to conclude those things on my list are not real marriages. And if (when) someone decides to legally challenge the status quo, you’re going to be in trouble because you’ll lose. It’s just a matter of time when you will lose in court, and when that happens what will become of the term “marriage” that you’ve fought so hard for?

    But maybe you don’t care what happens to the legal term, just as long as you get what you want. I hope that is not the case.

  18. JAD says:

    The all inclusivity of SSM activists is not really all inclusivity. It actually selectively excludes people with traditional religious and moral beliefs. The classical view of tolerance, which was embraced by our founding fathers, allowed moral and religious diversity. The SSM movement does not. You can see it in their rhetoric. Who do they demonize and marginalize? (Yes, they’re the ones who demonize and marginalize.) People who hold to traditional moral beliefs and values. There is no room for those kind of belief in the new culture they envision. Inclusive? Yeah, right.

  19. Larry Tanner says:

    SSM advocates say I’m attacking their position. As much as I might want to, I can’t find it in me to feel guilty for that. Is there something wrong with me?

    No. Your definition of marriage is just flawed. Marriage is not by any necessity at all restricted only to man-woman marriage.

    I understand you feel your definition is under attack, but I personally don’t feel guilty about your feelings because your position is so clearly and obviously incorrect.

  20. Tom Gilson says:

    Ironic.

    The last five words of your second sentence — what is it that’s sacred about them? Why didn’t you just stop after “restricted”?

  21. Larry Tanner says:

    I didn’t stop after “restricted” because part of the subject of your piece, which I read, was man-woman marriage. Had I ended the sentence with restricted, the reference of my response would have been unclear.

  22. Tom Gilson says:

    See my new post on this. Yes, I thought your comment worthy of an immediate public response, because of how beautifully it reveals one of the basic problems with SSM. If you can successfully propose a principled basis for restricting marriage at the boundary defined by the more moderate SSM advocates, you would be the first person I knew of who could.

  23. Larry Tanner says:

    If success is defined by convincing you, I think I’ll pass. Thanks, though.

    Do you think your “principled basis” is successful? If so, then stick with it.

  24. Tom Gilson says:

    Success is defined by proposing a principled basis for your position that is actually a principled basis for your position.

  25. Tom Gilson says:

    Is marriage restricted? At what boundary? Based on what principle?

  26. Larry Tanner says:

    Tom, I cannot answer you because I don’t see the specific principle upon which you base your preferred definition of marriage. Nor do I see why your individual principles should be binding on all people. Do the principles of other people count for anything?

  27. Tom Gilson says:

    Ah, so.

    The reason you do not have (or perhaps cannot express?) principles underlying the boundaries of marriage is because I haven’t stated mine. And if I did, they wouldn’t be binding.

    Funny how that works.

    Suppose you did have a principled basis for restricting marriage so that, for instance, it excluded fathers pr mothers marrying their daughters, or perhaps excluded marriages involving more than three adults. Would you have the same difficulty seeing why your individual principles should be binding on all people?

    I can state my principles, and I have, and I will again. They are not “individual” principles, but rather they are rooted in what it means to be human and to live in human society. But I don’t think it’s my turn yet. It’s yours.

    Is marriage restricted? At what boundary? Based on what principle?

    And if you can’t answer that kind of question, do you see where it leads?

  28. Larry Tanner says:

    I think the question is better stated as to whether there’s principled reason to deny two consenting adults the same rights and privileges granted to other people.

  29. Tom Gilson says:

    No, the question is better stated as to whether there’s a principled reason to deny three consenting adults the same rights and privileges. Or four. Or more.

  30. Larry Tanner says:

    Sure, but that’s not what we are talking about.

    Again, why does the line get drawn where you want? Why do your principles trump those of every other person?

  31. Tom Gilson says:

    You’re not grappling well enough, Larry, with the necessity of exclusion in any definition. And believe me, when it comes to legal purposes, definition is crucial.

    To whom will you deny the benefits of “marriage”? If to some category — any category — on what basis? If to no one at all, then what? Legal chaos.

    That’s another way of asking (pardon the repetition, but you’re repetitively ducking it), Is marriage restricted? At what boundary? Based on what principle?

    And if you can’t answer that kind of question, do you see where it leads?

  32. Tom Gilson says:

    No, Larry, that is what we’re talking about.

    Unless you get to draw the line where you want.

    “Why does the line get drawn where you want?” That’s exactly the question I’m trying to get you to answer!

  33. Tom Gilson says:

    After all, you’re the one who said marriage is not at all restricted. I don’t think you have any reason at all to draw any line anywhere.

  34. Tom Gilson says:

    Is there any point at which you would like to draw a line?

  35. SteveK says:

    “Why does the line get drawn where you want?” That’s exactly the question I’m trying to get you to answer!

    Exactly!

    And when the answer comes, Larry, we will ask you the follow up question that you asked Tom.

    Nor do I see why your individual principles should be binding on all people. Do the principles of other people count for anything?

    Now, if there is no objective, universally-binding, truth that addresses this follow up question then all we are left with is a power struggle, not a struggle over what is true regarding civil rights and our human moral duty.

    But since SSM advocates tell us this issue is about civil rights and human moral duty – not power – there *must* be a principled answer to your own follow up question such that it is an objective, universally-binding, truth . Do you have such an answer, Larry?

  36. Larry Tanner says:

    Tom,
    I am very glad you asked question to me about why the line should be drawn where I want. To decide the matter, we need a third, independent party. So if you’re not the one who decides where the line is drawn, and I am not the one who decides, then who should?

    Maybe the President of the United States should decide. Maybe Congress. Maybe the courts. Maybe the voting people. I am interested to hear who you think is best suited to make a decision about where the line should be drawn.

  37. SteveK says:

    Who it is that makes the decision is really inconsequential. What’s important are the principles that lead us to rationally accept the decision as justified.

  38. G. Rodrigues says:

    Per Larry Tanner:

    I understand you feel your definition is under attack, but I personally don’t feel guilty about your feelings because your position is so clearly and obviously incorrect.

    So not only is Tom Gilson’s definition categorically incorrect, but,

    Again, why does the line get drawn where you want? Why do your principles trump those of every other person?

    so that Larry gets to take the moral high ground because, according to him, Tom Gilson is “imposing his principles” on everybody else.

    Let us follow the i-logic of the reasoning to its natural conclusion. By parity of reason, *whatever* principled definition of marriage Larry has, it would be, per his own scruples, to impose *his* principles on everybody else. Not that Larry can come up with a principled definition; that would be asking too much, for all he has are biases and prejudices, not a real positive vision of how things should or ought to be. But now, he *cannot* even come up with a principled definition on pain of imposing *his* principles on everybody else. Here is some newsflash: I think I should be allowed to be married to my bed. I also demand equal rights to other marriages. And if Larry even so much as whispers a protest, well, we will know that he is a shameless bigot, whose vaunted talk of tolerance is nothing but a damn big lie put on up for show.

    edit: while I wrote the above, Larry Tanner came up with the following gem:

    Maybe the President of the United States should decide. Maybe Congress. Maybe the courts. Maybe the voting people. I am interested to hear who you think is best suited to make a decision about where the line should be drawn.

    Amazing. Principled reason? None, as in zero, zilch, puto, nada. For Larry is just a matter of politicks, of who gets to decide what. Not only that, it seems to have not dawned on him that his scruples apply equally well to the President, Congress or the Courts. In western democracies, Judges decide according to the rule of law, they do not make the law. The representatives of the people make the law. But if they get to decide, how come they are not imposing *their* principles on the rest of us? It must be that might makes it right.

  39. SteveK says:

    Tom,
    Perhaps you are due for another post pointing out the irony here. Here’s a suggested title:

    Theists explain the necessity of principled reasons to so-called rationalists arguing for SSM

  40. Tom Gilson says:

    Larry,

    These are straightforward questions, and I think the time has come to conclude that you have no answers:

    To whom will you deny the benefits of “marriage”? If to some category — any category — on what basis? If to no one at all, then what? Legal chaos.

    That’s another way of asking (pardon the repetition, but you’re repetitively ducking it), Is marriage restricted? At what boundary? Based on what principle?

    And if you can’t answer that kind of question, do you see where it leads?

    Also: “why do you get to draw the line?”

    Your best answer so far is, “Who should decide?”

    That’s not an answer.

    I remind you that I have an answer, I have written it, and I will write it again, but it’s your turn now.

  41. Tom Gilson says:

    Here’s the other way to look at it, Larry. Suppose we agreed that some other party should make the decision. Do you consider that it would be possible for them to make a wrong decision?

  42. Keith says:

    Tom @9:

    How far is “far”?

    What observable effects do you predict, and how soon will they happen?

    Denmark legalized SSM in 1989 (25 years of rocketing down the slippery slope, cats and dogs are not yet living together). :-)

    Do you see the anticipated effects in countries that have already legalized SSM?

  43. SteveK says:

    What observable effects do you predict, and how soon will they happen?

    Every decision that is lived out has an immediate effect.

  44. Tom Gilson says:

    Keith,

    Was SSM predictable 20 years ago in the U.S.?

    That should tell you something about the value of your question, or of your observation.

    Denmark may have had it a long time ago, but what they did not have was a culture-wide agreement to abolish any principle-based definition to marriage. They didn’t have momentum heading in a direction toward a place where principles would be necessary to keep boundaries around marriage.

    So I don’t think their story tells us much about what culture might or might not do.

    I do think that the question of defining marriage is still an important one.

  45. Tom Gilson says:

    So Keith,

    What is your answer to those who want to extend marriage to multiple new categories?

  46. Larry Tanner says:

    Here’s the other way to look at it, Larry. Suppose we agreed that some other party should make the decision. Do you consider that it would be possible for them to make a wrong decision?

    One party will consider the decision wrong, regardless. In any case, if you are aching for a principle, my position in based on the principle of equality before the law.

    If you understand that the proper decision lies with neither of us then you necessarily accept the rule of law and government. My principled opinion is that equality before the laws prevails over your principle.

    In addition, your principle sets up its own slippery slope. You have asked whether accepting SSM makes it anything goes for three-person marriages and human-animal marriages. My principled position does not fall prey to these concerns, but let’s look at your slippery slope. If you can deny otherwise typical rights and privilege to two consenting adults, then you can do it to others. You can prohibit interracial marriages (has this ever happened, Tom? Wink wink). You can restrict marriages between people of different religions. What can’t you restrict?

  47. Keith says:

    JAD @19:

    There was nothing “tolerant” about the founding fathers or their practice of their religious beliefs. The founding fathers advocated toleration of non-Christian religions, but themselves clearly recognized the preeminence and “truth” of Christianity, and unquestionably did not view other religions as equally valid.

    And moral diversity? It was a time when “sodomy” was a capital crime.

    George Washington wrote of his “Abhorrence and Detestation of such Infamous Crimes”, while Thomas Jefferson (admittedly, in opposition to the death penalty), argued for castration as the appropriate penalty for sodomy in Virginia.

    A different time and place, but the American society of the 1700’s was neither “tolerant” or “diverse”, in the modern meaning of those words.

    John Locke, the actual author of “A Letter Concerning Toleration”, apparently had limits: “Those are not at all to be tolerated who deny the being of a God.” Oh, and Roman Catholics, he didn’t tolerate them, either.

    I’ll leave you with a little Jon Stewart:

    “Yes, the long war on Christianity. I pray that one day we may live in an America where Christians can worship freely! In broad daylight! Openly wearing the symbols of their religion… perhaps around their necks? And maybe — dare I dream it — maybe one day there can be an openly Christian President. Or, perhaps, 43 of them. Consecutively.”

  48. Tom Gilson says:

    Larry,

    Somehow you’re still failing to answer.

    Let’s cut a deal here. If you’ll answer, I’ll answer. Actually, I’ll do you one (or many) better. If you look in the sidebar you’ll see that I have a note there about an upcoming change in the blog. Part of that change involves a central, ongoing, lengthy series, probably to continue for a full year or more, on principles surrounding marriage.

    So I assure you that I will answer your questions.

    Not only that, but if click on the “Same-Sex ‘Marriage'” topic just under the OP, and if you scroll through the pages there, you can find some previous posts where I have already addressed your question.

    So I will answer your question.

    But I have no assurance that you will do anything but continue to duck, weave, bob, and evade the question yourself.

    For example:

    My principled opinion is that equality before the laws prevails over your principle.

    Equality for whom? For what categories of relationships? It’s the same question you’ve been refusing to answer the whole time.

    And here’s another one I asked before, and which you didn’t answer: Is it possible for persons acting under the rule of law and government to come to a wrong decision on this? Or was, say, North Carolina’s decision on marriage last year the right decision just because they reached it by the rule of law and government?

  49. Tom Gilson says:

    Keith, I cannot believe your intolerable intolerance! How can you stand to be a human being on earth? Listen to what you said:

    There was nothing “tolerant” about the founding fathers or their practice of their religious beliefs. The founding fathers advocated toleration of non-Christian religions, but themselves clearly recognized the preeminence and “truth” of Christianity, and unquestionably did not view other religions as equally valid.

    Your definition of intolerance here is the failure to view other religions as equally valid. Well, I know for certain you consider my beliefs about Christianity to be less valid than yours. YOU are GUILTY!

    Now, let me calm down a moment and ask you to as well, if I’ve riled you up with that. I don’t actually believe that’s a conclusion I can fairly draw concerning you — not unless I accept your meaning of tolerance, which I do not. (If I did accept it, of course, then I would logically be forced to consider you guilty, since you are clearly committing the crime that you describe.)

    The term “tolerant” never used to mean “regarding other opinions as equally valid.” It’s impossible for it to mean that; for it’s impossible to regard all opinions as equally valid. You just demonstrated it.

    Tolerance used to mean a willingness to respect the other person and to live with him or her in a mutual relationship in spite of disagreements and differences.

    And if you think the new version of tolerance is better than the old, I say that’s clearly false.

  50. d says:

    Tom:

    My argument here has to do with the fact that the definition of marriage entailed by SSM is a non-definition, a definition that doesn’t define. And if SSM makes marriage an institution with no definition, that’s going to have very serious long-term repercussions.

    Tom, but that’s what the article actually did. It presented a concrete model for marriage. It offers exactly what you keep asking for. What more are you looking for?

    SteveK wrote:

    Nurturing is the purpose of marriage? They better define that very narrowly in order to avoid nonsensical “marriages” like

    – a boy and his dog
    – a parent and a child
    – a caretaker and a person in need

    The article talks about a specific kind of nurturing SteveK. I humbly suggest you digest the article some more.

    Grodriguez:

    Of course what d means is that “I reject essentialism, but here is what marriage is essentially about” and then lists some ad hoc prescriptions that happen to support his prejudices and biases. IOW, the same old, tired antics.

    Well I’m sorry I strained your facial muscles so much there.. but quite frankly, I don’t concede that everybody but the haughty essentialists have no basis to speak about “what things are”. So there you have it. But putting that aside (I’ve no interest going down that rabbit-hole further, please and thank you), I’m happy to make appeals and arguments from an essentialist/natural law perspective, because even under that framework, the case for SSM is strong

    In other words, I think the case for SSM wins even on the turf of natural law. So sue me.

  51. Keith says:

    Tom @45:

    I’m shocked we’re here; 20 years ago I don’t think anybody could have confidently predicted SSM in their lifetime. Every gay person I know is wandering around in shock, trying to wrap their heads around what’s happening. It’s a true societal tipping point, I think. (Your post was a little cryptic: I’m guessing as to your point, and I think that point is valid. When a societal change is fought too hard or denied too long, the pressure builds up. When the pressure is finally released, things often move farther, faster, than is optimal.)

    Tom @46:

    Extending marriage to new categories?

    To answer that question we’d have to define marriage, a task I find daunting, to say the least.

    If “marriage” means “have sex with”, some new categories are fine, and others are not fine. (You may “marry” a chair, but you may not “marry” your adolescent child.)

    If “marriage” means “listed on my health-care”, marrying chairs is not OK, but marrying adolescent children seems like a good idea.

    If “marriage” means “allowed to adopt adolescent children”, marrying both chairs and adolescent children is bad, and probably only people owning homes between the ages of 25 and 70 should be allowed to marry.

    We’re simply unable to answer these kinds of questions without an agreed-upon definition of marriage.

    It should be obvious to one and all, by now, we’re not going to agree on the definition of marriage until the word has a whole lot less cultural, religious and and civil rights baggage.

    The reason to unpack the definition of marriage is to find a way to answer these kinds of questions.

    Would you agree to separate all the civil rights from marriage?

    If not, what civil rights are you unwilling to separate from marriage, and why not?

    What’s the fundamental definition of marriage you’d accept as a Christian, that would allow us to answer these questions in a consistent, secular, reasonable way?

  52. Keith says:

    Tom @50:

    Thank you for making that point, you’re right: believing themselves to be right isn’t the same as intolerance.

    I would, however, continue to insist the founding fathers did not treat other religions or moral views with (your words replacing “tolerance”), “respect”, “love” or “appreciation”.

    If you agree a “mutual relationship” requires equality of the participants, the founding fathers didn’t live with people of other faiths or moral practices in a “mutual relationship”.

    The founding fathers, and this country ever since, has systematically denied the civil rights of those of different faiths or moral values, and those are the facts.

    To clarify: this is a human condition, not a political one. I’m not bashing any political system, country or group of founding fathers, for that matter. But in terms of “tolerance” (or whatever word you prefer), things are far better now than then.

  53. Tom Gilson says:

    d,

    Now that I’ve had a chance to look briefly at that article, I agree I need to study it more before I respond. Some of its argumentation is new to me, and it’s worth thinking through.

  54. Tom Gilson says:

    Thank you, Keith, for recognizing the importance of definition.

    How is it that we’ve come as far as we have down a questionable path without one?

    You may not think it’s questionable, but the fact that people are asking questions about it pretty much disproves that.

  55. G. Rodrigues says:

    @d:

    In other words, I think the case for SSM wins even on the turf of natural law. So sue me.

    Sue me if I do not take your empty bluster seriously.

  56. JAD says:

    @Keith,

    Here is an excerpt from a letter George Washington wrote to the Virginia Baptists reassuring them that the new constitution would not endanger their religious liberty:

    If I could have entertained the slightest apprehension that the Constitution framed in the convention where I had the honor to preside might possibly endanger the religious rights of any ecclesiastical society, certainly I would never have placed my signature to it; and if I could now conceive that the General Government might ever be so administered as to render the liberty of conscience insecure, I beg you will be persuaded that no one would be more zealous than myself to establish effectual barriers against the horrors of spiritual tyranny and every species of religious persecution. — For you doubtless remember I have often expressed my sentiments that every man conducting himself as a good citizen, and being accountable to God alone for his religious opinions, ought to be protected in worshipping the Deity according to the dictates of his own conscience.
    http://baptisthistoryhomepage.com/va.bapt.washington.html

    Was Washington’s view of tolerance as “advanced” ours? Of course not. But what kind of religious tolerance existed in Europe 200 years before Washington wrote this letter?

    Do you believe in the First Amendment Keith? Who was it written by? Bigots?

  57. Keith says:

    JAD @57:

    To support your argument, G. Washington wrote to non-Christian organizations with similar sentiments as well, specifically Jews, where he said:

    For happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection, should demean themselves as good citizens.

    May the children of the stock of Abraham who dwell in this land continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other inhabitants—while every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree and there shall be none to make him afraid.

    Almost certainly more tolerance than was found in Europe of the time, or in many of the other founding fathers.

    Compare and contrast those sentiments with the man who dismissed a soldier from the army for sodomy, writing of his “Abhorrence and Detestation of such Infamous Crimes”.

  58. Keith says:

    Tom, @55:

    Speaking of questionable, you skipped mine:

    Would you agree to separate all civil rights from marriage?

    If not, what civil rights are you unwilling to separate from marriage, and why not?

    What’s the definition of marriage you’d accept as a Christian, that allows us to answer these questions in a consistent, secular, reasonable way?

  59. JAD says:

    The differences between catholics and protestants over the issue of birth control is a good example of what I mean by the classic view of tolerance. Most comitted catholics, following the teachings of their church, view most forms of birth control as immoral; protestant like myself do not. I tolerate their moral beliefs and every catholic I have ever known has been tolerant of mine. However, that would quickly change if my catholic friends started attacking me as being immoral, or they started trying to pass laws restricting birth control for society at large.

  60. Tom Gilson says:

    Keith@#59,

    Concerning the definition of marriage, I would say it is the comprehensive union of a man and a woman. I’ll have much more to say about that as time goes on: please see here.

    Here’s another’s statement that I think says it well.

    Your civil rights question is too broad for me to know how to approach it. Could you rephrase it, please?

  61. Tom Gilson says:

    I’m going back through old blog posts here and finding other places where I’ve stated a definition of marriage: one post here, several more here.

  62. JAD says:

    Maybe Keith should explain exactly what civil rights are being violated when society refuses to recognize SSM.

  63. Larry Tanner says:

    Tom@49,

    My comment at 47 really should answer your questions. Please understand that I am not trying to avoid answering, but your context and usage are not always clear. That makes it difficult to respond.

    Your first question is about equality before the law. My answer is that this equality extends to all US citizens of marrying/consenting age. Two citizens who wish to be recognized as married by law should be able to.

    Now, I suppose you or some of the devotees will ask about brothers and sisters being married or some other exceptional case. I think such rarities would have to be addressed individually to weigh the rights of the individual against the safety and welfare of the community.

    To your last question: yes, the government or the voters can make a wrong decision on these matters. As I sad before, though, wrongness is from the point of view of the losing side. I think SSM is fine and I welcome it as a normal part of a healthy and happy society. Decisions that go this way are correct in my view. But the important element here is that the matter be adjudicated by someone who can review on the matter dispassionately and without prejudice to either side.

    There’s a reason SSM is winning: it’s right. All the arguing has been good, but in the end your principled position cannot overcome one based on the equality of individuals before the law.

    I hope you will now favor me by acknowledging I have successfully made the principled SSM case.

    Happy Saturday, all. I’m off to enjoy the day with my wife and kids.

  64. Keith says:

    Tom @61:

    Your definition includes terms that are themselves almost as fuzzy as “marriage”.

    What does it mean to require “economic union”? Does society benefit if married partners share a bank account? Is “married, filing separately” a bad thing? :-)

    And “faithful” or “sexual”? Is adultery or divorce wrong in the eyes of the state, should there be civil penalties? Am I no longer legally “married” after adultery, or if I can no longer have sex?

    Where you are specific, you highlight changes in the definition of marriage:

    “legally-recognized”? Didn’t used to be.
    “two”? Didn’t used to be.
    “non-blood-related”? Didn’t used to be.
    “consenting adult”? Didn’t used to be.
    “of the same race”? Used to be.

    If the state can make those changes to the definition of marriage, and you agree those changes are sufficiently good you incorporate them in your definition of marriage, you can’t argue marriage shouldn’t be changed.

    If SSM is bad, I’m happy to hear that argument, I just haven’t heard anything that approaches the level of “evidence”. (I respect the argument we don’t have enough evidence to know if SSM will lead to bad outcomes, without agreeing.)

    Your link to Snell: I think the statement “Perhaps failure is inevitable when marriage means too many things.” is just about perfect. A +1 on that article.

  65. Keith says:

    JAD @63:

    Obviously, we’re appealing to the constitutional principles of equal protection and equal treatment.

    First, “marriage” itself is a civil right in our society:

    To quote from the Supreme Court on Loving:

    Marriage is one of the ‘basic civil rights of man’, fundamental to our very existence and survival. Under our Constitution, the freedom to marry, or not marry, a person of another race resides with the individual and cannot be infringed by the State.

    Removing the phrase “a person of another race” doesn’t harm that quote.

    Second, “marriage” carries with it other rights, such as inheriting from a partner in the absence of a will, or making medical decisions for a partner. Inability to marry denies those rights to citizens.

  66. Tom Gilson says:

    Larry, I’m sorry but your “principled” case boils down to the right people adjudicating it, with the possibility of being wrong, but without any principles to guide them (or at least none that you’ve articulated). That’s not a principled case.

    “Two citizens who wish to be married should be allowed to do so.”

    Really? Any two citizens? Do you see what’s missing here? You say such cases should be weighed individually, but that just means there is no overarching principle to decide. You say that rights of the individuals should be “weighed against the safety and welfare of the community,” but surely you know how that opens the door to completely arbitrary decision-making. And surely you know that if one brother-sister couple is given the green light to marry, then incestuous marriages will soon become the norm. Precedent has its effects in law.

    “Wrongness is from the point of view of the losing side,” you say. Now, think that through with me. You’ve postured it in terms of winners and losers. “Rightness is from the point of view of the winning side,” would be the corollary. If the other side had won, then the other decision would have been right, seems also to be the corollary.

    And this means what’s right is determined by who wins. Which means might makes right. Which is opprobrious and dangerous.

    But most of all (for present purposes) it means that your “principles” for defining marriage have no valid basis whatsoever, and you have not yet successfully put forth any principled case whatsoever.

    I’m sorry, but that’s just a logical analysis of your case in view of a realistic understanding of how our society works.

    In fact as a logical analysis, it really has nothing to do with whether I agree with your position or not. Suppose the question were “drinking sugary soft drinks” instead of same-sex “marriage.” Suppose your position were (as with 98% or so of New Yorkers) that the government ought not interfere. I would agree. If you were to try to put forth a “principled case” for that position, I think you could easily do so. But if you were to put it forth in the same manner as you have just done for SSM, I would analyze it in precisely the same way. To say that the matter must be decided by someone on the basis of no articulated principles, and that the right answer is determined by who wins, is to offer no principled position whatsoever.

    And so with SSM.

  67. Keith says:

    Tom @61:

    There are random civil rights associated with “marriage”, for example, inheritance, medical decisions, petitioning for immigration.

    The reason SSM has been successfully portrayed as a civil rights argument is because there really are civil rights denied to people who cannot marry, it’s not just a spin of the argument.

    To rephrase:

    Would you agree to SSM “civil unions” at the federal level, and accord to that civil union all legal rights currently associated with marriage? Why or why not?

    Can we make progress by identifying the benefits or rights a secular state should limit to “marriage”?

    It’s all hindsight of course, but I think the anti-SSM forces lost the SSM argument by refusing to separate civil rights from the definition of marriage. People under 30 have gay friends, and they don’t understand why gay partners can’t make medical decisions for each other; every gay person in your life knows a horror story about a gay person prevented from seeing their partner during an illness, by the partner’s parent. If you think for a minute about your wife or husband’s relatives preventing you from seeing your partner as your partner died, because the relative didn’t approve of your moral choices, well, you can imagine how deeply that story resonates.

  68. Tom Gilson says:

    Keith, you’re referring to a definition I gave on another linked page.

    Would you be willing to defer this discussion until another time when I initiate a new thread on it? It should be within a month or less. I’m not deflecting it; it’s just that your questions require fairly long answers, and I need to do some other work before then, to get the blog update finished and to get a book manuscript in to a publisher. Thanks.

  69. Tom Gilson says:

    RE: gay partners making medical decisions for one another, sharing economic resources, etc., I’m in favor of finding a good way to accomplish that. More on that later.

  70. JAD says:

    Keith,

    Removing the phrase “a person of another race” doesn’t harm that quote.

    However you have to change the definition of marriage. Civil rights of marriage only apply to marriage. In a society where morality is pluralistic or (for some people) relativistic, agreed upon definitions are very important.

    Another key question that needs to be asked: Why should I care about SSM when it’s advocates don’t care about my rights?

  71. Keith says:

    Tom @69, 70:

    Of course, looking forward to your longer piece.

    What’s the new book?

    JAD @71:

    I agree with your statement, but part of the point is the definition of marriage has repeatedly changed, is constantly changing, and has generally changed for the better. While we might agree on one definition today, we’ll have to agree on a different one tomorrow.

    And, why should we care if the definition of marriage changes yet again?

    Hopefully “marriage” changes for the better (insert evidence SSM, or polygamy, or marrying chairs is bad for society), but I think the idea of changing the definition of marriage is a big shrug to most people.

  72. Keith says:

    JAD @71:

    “Why should I care about SSM when its advocates don’t care about my rights?”

    Can you tell us specifically which of your rights are being violated or denied, and how?

  73. JAD says:

    keith,

    My question:Why should I care about SSM when it’s advocates don’t care about my rights?

    Your counter question: “Can you tell us specifically which of your rights are being violated or denied, and how?”

    I did not say that my rights were being violated or denied. Why are you trying to shift the meaning of what I said?

  74. Larry Tanner says:

    Tom,

    Larry, I’m sorry but your “principled” case boils down to the right people adjudicating it, with the possibility of being wrong, but without any principles to guide them (or at least none that you’ve articulated). That’s not a principled case.

    Then you are not paying attention. The guiding principle is equality of individual citizens before the law. One person cannot be denied a legal right of privilege granted to another person. We could qualify the principle by adding “without sufficient reason.” Then, in the matter of SSM, the question becomes whether two people of the same gender wishing to be recognized as married meets the standard of sufficient reason. If you wish to deny these people recognition as a married couple, then your burden becomes to show the standard has been met. A growing body of sociological evidence, and shifting cultural mores, makes this task harder for you to do.

    But the principles to guide one in deciding on SSM are: (1) civil equality and (2) sociological welfare/impact. Both principles favor SSM.

    “Two citizens who wish to be married should be allowed to do so.”

    Really? Any two citizens? Do you see what’s missing here? You say such cases should be weighed individually, but that just means there is no overarching principle to decide. You say that rights of the individuals should be “weighed against the safety and welfare of the community,” but surely you know how that opens the door to completely arbitrary decision-making. And surely you know that if one brother-sister couple is given the green light to marry, then incestuous marriages will soon become the norm. Precedent has its effects in law.

    Yeah, so what? Mind your own darn business./blockquote>“Wrongness is from the point of view of the losing side,” you say. Now, think that through with me. You’ve postured it in terms of winners and losers. “Rightness is from the point of view of the winning side,” would be the corollary. If the other side had won, then the other decision would have been right, seems also to be the corollary.

    And this means what’s right is determined by who wins. Which means might makes right. Which is opprobrious and dangerous.To say or imply that my comments advocate a might makes right philosophy grossly is a gross misrepresentation. Shame on you if that’s what you are trying to do.

    But most of all (for present purposes) it means that your “principles” for defining marriage have no valid basis whatsoever, and you have not yet successfully put forth any principled case whatsoever.

    Only someone so completely blinkered by ideology could say such a thing. It feels to me like you are not even attempting to understand what I have actually said.

    I’m sorry, but that’s just a logical analysis of your case in view of a realistic understanding of how our society works.

    Hardly logical or analytical. Just remember that “our” society includes a lot of people with values and views different than yours. I have no doubt that in a case where the rights afforded to everyone else were denied to you, you would be grateful to have recourse to a principle of equality before the law.

    In fact as a logical analysis, it really has nothing to do with whether I agree with your position or not. Suppose the question were “drinking sugary soft drinks” instead of same-sex “marriage.” Suppose your position were (as with 98% or so of New Yorkers) that the government ought not interfere. I would agree. If you were to try to put forth a “principled case” for that position, I think you could easily do so. But if you were to put it forth in the same manner as you have just done for SSM, I would analyze it in precisely the same way. To say that the matter must be decided by someone on the basis of no articulated principles, and that the right answer is determined by who wins, is to offer no principled position whatsoever.

    And so with SSM.

    The principles are there. They have been articulated. On the other hand, the danger of the “restrictions” you want have been identified (indeed, they have played out). I can’t do anything but encourage you to see with different eyes, hear with different ears, and think with a different brain.

    And remember, you are welcome to oppose SSM. You are welcome to hold to your principles. Marriage for you can mean whatever it means. But your definition need not govern everyone else. My definition need not govern, either. That’s the point of recognizing — as you seem to — that a disinterested third-party makes sense.

    Finally, let’s look at your baseball analogy. When I was a kid, we played baseball all the time. Sometimes, we did not have enough people for 9 players per team, yet we called it baseball. Sometimes we played in the street but not on a diamond, but we still thought it was baseball. Sometimes we used a tennis ball instead of a regular baseball. Sometimes we played not with a bat but with a stick. Other times, we cut a tennis ball in half and used that. Every form of baseball was to us baseball. We all had a lot of fun.

    Some other person may have wanted to level a principled case that what we were playing was not real baseball and not as legitimate or as good as real baseball. But I wouldn’t have listened because that someone clearly had no idea why we were playing what we were playing in the way we were playing it.

    I wonder if you really know — really know — why people would possibly want to get and to be married.

  75. Mr. X says:

    Larry @75:

    “Then you are not paying attention. The guiding principle is equality of individual citizens before the law. One person cannot be denied a legal right of privilege granted to another person.”

    So why does “equality before the law” demand that two men be allowed to get married, but not a father and daughter, say, or three men? Why is not allowing SSM so evil, but not allowing incest or group marriages apparently OK?

    “And remember, you are welcome to oppose SSM. You are welcome to hold to your principles. Marriage for you can mean whatever it means. But your definition need not govern everyone.”

    If we’re to retain marriage as a legal entity, we’re going to have to define it somehow. This definition will of necessity have to govern everybody. Absent a literally 100% agreement rate with the definition, you’re going to have to “impose” this definition on somebody. So your argument leads to one of three conclusions: either literally everybody who wants to get married should be allowed to (which would be absurd, unworkable and wide open to abuse); or we have to do away with the legal category of marriage altogether, and just keep it as a social institution; or you don’t actually believe that it’s wrong to impose your definition of marriage on society, and this argument is just a stalking horse for something else.

  76. Keith says:

    JAD @74:

    No shifting intended, I just have no clue as to your meaning.

    If none of your rights are being violated or denied in any way, why should SSM advocates care about your rights?

  77. Tom Gilson says:

    Could you change the word “violated” to “threatened” there, please? It would make it a more relevant question.

  78. Larry Tanner says:

    Mr. X, Earlier comments of mine in this thread answer everything you charge against the position I take.

    As I did with Tom, I will ask you to remember who “we” includes when you talk about “If we’re to retain marriage as a legal entity, we’re going to have to define it somehow.”

    As an aside, SSM proponents have a definition of marriage. Tom cites it in his article. He just doesn’t like the definition because it revises his preferred definition and is not restrictive enough. Like you, he is worried about the spate of human-horse marriages that will inevitably occur once SSM becomes normalized.

  79. Tom Gilson says:

    Larry, the answers you have given are completely inadequate. Answers I have given to each of your comments earlier in this thread demonstrate that.

    The “we” question certainly matters, but your last attempt at it reduces to might makes right. Your answer to that? Shame on you for saying so. That’s your next step in your principled position?

    I’m serious, Larry.

    You tell me my position isn’t logical, and you don’t explain why. You revert to a question of equality before the law, with which I have no disagreement whatsoever, and make it look like a rebuttal.

    I like equality before the law just as much as you do. Now, on what principled basis will you change marriage law? Because I do not like unprincipled law: it virtually guarantees inequality/injustice.

  80. Tom Gilson says:

    I’m trying to read you as accurately as I can, Larry. I think the principle you are basing your position on is that we should let the designated lawmakers make the decision; but in response to that, I asked what principle they should be guided by.

    I think your other chief principle is equality before the law, which I just responded to.

    Is there another principle I’ve missed?

    Forgive me if I’ve missed one. I don’t want to re-read the thread and sort out your position from others’, so it would help me a lot if you could recap it.

  81. Tom Gilson says:

    BTW: to clarify the end of #80, I am in favor of equality as it serves justice. Justice is the greater and deeper principle. It demands equality in many respects, but not without asking more probing questions: equality of outcome? equality of opportunity? are there differences based on a person’s character and behavior? and so on. There are many more such questions. It is naive to treat equality as the highest good.

  82. Larry Tanner says:

    Tom,

    I like equality before the law just as much as you do. Now, on what principled basis will you change marriage law?

    On the principle that it is immoral to prohibit two mutually consenting adults from marrying each other when no such prohibition is given to other pairs and when no danger or moral affront is posed to society at large.

  83. Mr. X says:

    Larry:

    “Mr. X, Earlier comments of mine in this thread answer everything you charge against the position I take.”

    I’ve read the entire thread, and I haven’t seen an answer. Maybe I’m just missing something, though. Which comments in particular are you referring to?

    “As I did with Tom, I will ask you to remember who “we” includes when you talk about “If we’re to retain marriage as a legal entity, we’re going to have to define it somehow.””

    “We” = the country/society.

    “As an aside, SSM proponents have a definition of marriage.”

    They certainly do, but no-one I’ve asked has been able to give any convincing reason why we should accept their definition.

    “On the principle that it is immoral to prohibit two mutually consenting adults from marrying each other when no such prohibition is given to other pairs and when no danger or moral affront is posed to society at large.”

    Why only two? Why not three or more? And who exactly gets to decide what counts as “danger or moral affront… to society at large”? And whence would whoever decides get the right to impose their views of morality on society?

  84. Keith says:

    JAD @74, Tom @78:

    I think I see where you’re going with “threatened”. Tell me, though:

    Do you agree Jehovah’s Witness EMTs should have the right to refuse to perform blood transfers for accident victims?

    Do you agree Christian Scientist employers should have the right to refuse to provide conventional medical treatment for employees?

    Do you agree Quakers and Mennonites should have the right to refuse to pay taxes that might fund a war?

    But if a Christian druggist might have to sell birth control, or a Christian limousine service rent to gay couples, or a Christian adoption agency accept gay parents, you care.

    The best analogy I can think of is that shop keepers lost the right to refuse black customers, and schools lost the right to refuse black students, when “separate but equal” was struck down.

    Anyway, I see your point and agree: when SSM is the law of the land, Christians will lose rights.

  85. Tom Gilson says:

    Thank you, Mr. X.

    I don’t know why your principle is restricted that way, on a principled basis, Larry. Why just two? And don’t you see how that is explicit permission for incestuous marriages?

  86. Tom Gilson says:

    Maybe I need to clarify what we mean by “principled reason,” or “principles by which decisions are made.”

    Let’s suppose there is some decision D to be made by some decision maker(s) M. M’s reasons for D are principled to the extent that M can explain D in terms of reasons that:

    1. Are sufficient to fully explain why D.
    2. Explain why D, and why not alternate decisions E, F, G, etc., without the use of ad hoc reasoning.
    3. Are rooted in timeless and transcendent facts and/or values rather than local or time-bound.
    4. Are consistent with M’s other principles.

    I’m doing this off the top of my head, so I might have missed something, but you get the idea.

    I said “to the extent that” above intentionally. Conditions 1 through 3 may be met in varying degrees, so it’s possible to have a satisfactorily principled reason without it being perfectly and absolutely principled.

    The problem with your “principles,” Larry, is that they lead to the outcome you want them to produce only if your side wins politically, thus failing to meet condition (3) and (4); and they fail to explain why not expand the definition of marriage far beyond same-sex couples, thus failing to meet condition (2).

  87. JAD says:

    keith @ 77

    keith: “If none of your rights are being violated or denied in any way, why should SSM advocates care about your rights?”

    If a gay man or lesbian’s rights are not being violated or denied in any way in regards to marriage, as it is presently defined, why should I care?

    Did you understand the main point of Tom’s article?

    “SSM is the ‘marriage’ that isn’t there.”

    If it isn’t there, why should I care?

  88. Larry Tanner says:

    Mr. X at 84:

    no-one I’ve asked has been able to give any convincing reason why we should accept their definition.

    Perhaps this is because you are not prepared to be convinced?

    Why only two? Why not three or more? And who exactly gets to decide what counts as “danger or moral affront… to society at large”? And whence would whoever decides get the right to impose their views of morality on society?

    Indeed, why not three or more. Is it your business?

    Do you agree that governments and laws are our means for implementing and formalizing social values? If so, do not governments and laws get “the right to impose” from the consent of the governed?

    Tom at 86:

    I don’t know why your principle is restricted that way, on a principled basis, Larry. Why just two? And don’t you see how that is explicit permission for incestuous marriages?

    I answer this just above and ask again what business of yours it is.

    Your comment at 87: Points 3 and 4 are funny. Right, no incest or polygamous unions anywhere else in human history or the natural world. Just timelessness and transcendence. I don’t intend to sound mocking, but the selectivity you employ is notable.

    You keep trying to define marriage according to your preferred ideal, and now you want to define principles according to a preferred ideal. When does it end?

  89. Tom Gilson says:

    Have you noticed, Larry, how many of your objections to me take the form of emotions rather than reasons?

    Maybe you could help the discussion along by tying your accusation of selectivity to something I said, by way of a chain of reasoning.

    If you want.

  90. Larry Tanner says:

    Tom, I don’t feel the need to provide a reasoned answer when you don’t. You don’t, for example, tie your principles to the four conditions. You just assume they match up. But you have an obvious, glaring problem at number 3. But fine, let’s match my position against your four:

    1. Are sufficient to fully explain why D.
    2. Explain why D, and why not alternate decisions E, F, G, etc., without the use of ad hoc reasoning.
    3. Are rooted in timeless and transcendent facts and/or values rather than local or time-bound.
    4. Are consistent with M’s other principles.

    1.Equality before the law is a cornerstone of US government. It is called out explicitly in our Declaration of Independence, and has been used to correct past wrongs in human slavery, sufferage, so-called separate but equal and Jim Crow policies, segregation, and more. Equality before the law, though pre-dating the US, is the most cherished principle of government, governance, and social order.

    2. In fact, equality before the law takes precedence over everything else. If you want Citizen X to legally be denied something that is granted to Citizen Y, then you need to provide self-evident examples of real harm that would befall Citizen X and/or Citizen Y and the community. There is at present no such case that can be brought in the case of opposing SSM.

    3. The authors and signers of the Declaration of Indepence took life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness to be self-evident truths. Truth, as you know, is timeless and transcendent. People who advocate SSM simply ask you to respect their transcendent, timeless rights to life, individual liberty, and personal happiness. Opponents of SSM continue to afford this respect.

    4. I don’t see why consistency is necessary. For instance, some who signed the Declaration were inconsistent insofar as they held slaves.

  91. Tom Gilson says:

    I think we’re about ready to wind this down Larry, until I actually bring up my position in new blog posts in the next few weeks. Then you’ll be in a position to critique it knowledgeably. Just a couple final words from me here:

    1) Equality before the law is harmed by denying SSM only if SSM is valid in itself. See below.

    2) Justice takes precedence over all, followed by social good vs. harm. I agree with you if that’s what you’re saying. I think there’s a case that can be made for harm through SSM. I haven’t presented it here yet. Maybe you’ve seen it elsewhere, I don’t know. That’s a discussion for another day.

    3) Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are good, indeed possible, only within justly defined boundaries, which is why (for example) a friend of mine is being denied liberty for a full seventeen year sentence unless he gets an early parole. My neighbor cannot pursue his happiness by taking the liberty of golfing in my yard. And so on: in every realm of life where there is liberty, there is a boundary around it. Justice before the law requires that these boundaries be clear enough to eliminate arbitrariness.

    Your position lacks good boundaries, as I’ve been saying all along.

    4) You are obviously wrong on this, wrong as in splutter-and-drop-the-coffee-wow-he’s-wrong. Every call you make on behalf of one principle (equality before the law, for example) can be applied selectively, ad hoc, and on arbitrary whim, if you’re right about this. It is the opposite of principle.

    You must take note of what I said about “to the extent that….” Until you think this through, I would say your overall position is self-refuting, and it is the inconsistency and ad-hocness of your views on marriage that make it so. That’s the overall problem with SSM (actually one problem among many, but the one I’ve had in view in this article). It renders SSM “the ‘marriage’ that isn’t there,” which is why I think I can justly say what I did in (1).

    I don’t expect you to be persuaded by this all of a sudden, but I think it’s time for me to be satisfied with what I’ve said on the matter.

  92. Mr. X says:

    Larry:

    “Perhaps this is because you are not prepared to be convinced?”

    No, it’s because the reasons are all transparent rationalisations for imposing their own arbitrary whims, rather than well-thought-through and consistent arguments.

    As a matter of fact I used to be moderately in favour of SSM; I changed my mind precisely because nobody could give a good reason for allowing gay marriage which wouldn’t if followed through result in an unworkable mess.

    “Indeed, why not three or more. Is it your business?”

    If people start demanding that the society of which I am a part view their relationship in a certain way and give them certain social and legal benefits, then yes, I rather think it is my business.

    Incidentally, you haven’t at all managed to extricate your position from the dilemma I brought up in post # 76: either we let everybody who wants to get legally married, which would be absurd and wide open to abuse (I expect, for example, that we’d see lots of group marriages between family members to avoid inheritance tax); or we get rid of marriage as a legal entity altogether.

    “Do you agree that governments and laws are our means for implementing and formalizing social values? If so, do not governments and laws get “the right to impose” from the consent of the governed?”

    No, I think that governments and laws are there to create an environment where we are able to pursue virtue, and that they derive their right to govern from the degree to which they do this.

    “Points 3 and 4 are funny. Right, no incest or polygamous unions anywhere else in human history or the natural world. Just timelessness and transcendence.”

    For something to be timeless and transcendent, it doesn’t have to have been followed by every human being in history, it just needs to be rooted in something greater than “this makes me feel happy” or “modern society thinks…”.

  93. Larry Tanner says:

    Tom at 92:

    I think we’re about ready to wind this down Larry, until I actually bring up my position in new blog posts in the next few weeks.

    I agree on winding things down.

    Then you’ll be in a position to critique it knowledgeably.

    Do think your position is not clear or transparent? You have simply re-defined marriage to a cherished ideal, attempted to sell it as timeless and transcendent, and then lamented that any changes to the definition open the door to utter social chaos. Oh, and you seem to be under the delusion that your position is more philosophically rigorous than other positions.

    I understand why you are going back to the drawing board. Your baseball analogy was demolished in comment 75. What you need is evidence, but you should find that the evidence actually points against your position, unless you are too far gone as a thinker. Look to a comprehensive body of studies and avoid commentary on those studies by ideological organizations.

    I was serious when I asked if you really knew why people would want to be married. Do you?

    On your final points:

    1) Equality before the law is harmed by denying SSM only if SSM is valid in itself. See below.

    I will see below, but you must realize what you are doing. Equality before the law is something that is played out in the realm of practice, between real people. You use “valid” in what appears to me more a philosophical and legal sense. Perhaps that makes it easier, to try dealing with concepts only and not to look at people in their faces. One name for that procedure, however, is cowardice. I am not calling you a coward, of course, but I think we all need to remember that this entire issue boils down to two responsible, consenting adults who are in love with each other.

    2) Justice takes precedence over all, followed by social good vs. harm. I agree with you if that’s what you’re saying. I think there’s a case that can be made for harm through SSM. I haven’t presented it here yet. Maybe you’ve seen it elsewhere, I don’t know. That’s a discussion for another day.

    OK, just strive to be comprehensive and disinterested in gathering sources of information. You will guess that I think there’s a better case for SSM being a social good alongside man-woman marriage. I also think it bears mentioning that a loving, mutually supportive marriage of whatever type is good. Marriages that cease to be loving or mutually supportive create issues for everyone, beyond the two people in the marriage.

    3) Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are good, indeed possible, only within justly defined boundaries, which is why (for example) a friend of mine is being denied liberty for a full seventeen year sentence unless he gets an early parole. [snip]

    Yes, justly defined boundaries. Defining these boundaries will require you to stay in the realm of practice, the realm of looking in people’s faces. Make sure you do this. You’ll be telling real people who really love each other that they should be denied the privileges you and your wife enjoy. You will be telling them that your marriage is valid while what they want is invalid. You will tell them that what they want harms society. Look them in the eye when you explain it.

    in every realm of life where there is liberty, there is a boundary around it. Justice before the law requires that these boundaries be clear enough to eliminate arbitrariness.

    Your position lacks good boundaries, as I’ve been saying all along.

    Really? In terms of practice, all my position does is move your boundaries. Everything else remains the same. You say moving the boundaries opens the door to questioning or even moving other boundaries. I am not opposed to opening that door, nor am I afraid of it. Our boundaries and traditional views ought to be questioned and challenged.

    Besides, whatever the consequence might be with future questioning, it has no bearing whatsoever on the real justice required in the case of SSM. You cannot deny SSM because you are afraid of legalized three-ways or bestiality.

    4) You are obviously wrong on this, wrong as in splutter-and-drop-the-coffee-wow-he’s-wrong. Every call you make on behalf of one principle (equality before the law, for example) can be applied selectively, ad hoc, and on arbitrary whim, if you’re right about this. It is the opposite of principle.

    You must take note of what I said about “to the extent that….” Until you think this through, I would say your overall position is self-refuting, and it is the inconsistency and ad-hocness of your views on marriage that make it so. That’s the overall problem with SSM (actually one problem among many, but the one I’ve had in view in this article). It renders SSM “the ‘marriage’ that isn’t there,” which is why I think I can justly say what I did in (1).

    I don’t expect you to be persuaded by this all of a sudden, but I think it’s time for me to be satisfied with what I’ve said on the matter.

    None of the above make sense to me. Your reasoning is unclear, as far as I can tell. In general, it appears to be a diversion, an attempt to get people to do anything but face the fact that two people love each other, want to declare that love before their community, and want their community to recognize the marriage as the wonderful thing it is.

    Enough of that. On to Mr. X at 93:

    No, it’s because the reasons are all transparent rationalisations for imposing their own arbitrary whims, rather than well-thought-through and consistent arguments.

    As a matter of fact I used to be moderately in favour of SSM; I changed my mind precisely because nobody could give a good reason for allowing gay marriage which wouldn’t if followed through result in an unworkable mess.

    Uh..ok. Why don’t you try and think it through for yourself?

    I am glad that I didn’t have to justify my desire to marry my wife (of nearly 13 years now) in front of you. We would have said, “we love each other and want to build a life together.” That probably would have been good enough for you then. The arbitrary whim of man-woman marriage would likely be fine and dandy. But with the arbitrary whim of SSM, you want a bit more, I suppose.

    Incidentally, you haven’t at all managed to extricate your position from the dilemma I brought up in post # 76: either we let everybody who wants to get legally married, which would be absurd and wide open to abuse (I expect, for example, that we’d see lots of group marriages between family members to avoid inheritance tax); or we get rid of marriage as a legal entity altogether.

    LOL! You are the one with a dilemma, not me. As I said to Tom above, don’t give me the gloom and doom of the future. I don’t care about your fearful speculations. Instead, look at those two people in the face. They feel love just like you do. They wish to live their lives, work, grow, and do all the things other people do. Tell them that their love is an arbitrary whim, unlike the yours. Tell them that their love and their desires are invalid, unlike yours. Tell them that their marriage opens the door to three-ways, bestiality and whatever else gets your rocks off late at night. Tell them also that your marriage does none of this. In your world, there is no divorce, no abuse, no adultery, no childlessness. Tell them about your marriage being the rock of civilization.

    You give me no reason to think your opinion is based on anything other than pious fear. The way you do it is the way everyone should, because you are right.

    No, I think that governments and laws are there to create an environment where we are able to pursue virtue, and that they derive their right to govern from the degree to which they do this.

    Fine, then for this reason you should support SSM. People in happy marriages are better able to pursue virtue.

    Or, when you say virtue, do you happen to hold the key that says what virtue is for all people in all cultures in all times and places? Are you the arbiter of virtue for all, or how does that work?

    For something to be timeless and transcendent, it doesn’t have to have been followed by every human being in history, it just needs to be rooted in something greater than “this makes me feel happy” or “modern society thinks…”.

    Fine again. Let’s use the Koran of Almighty Allah as our root. Or we can use the Tao of Lao Tzu. Or we can use the works of Shakespeare. Which one do you prefer?

  94. Tom Gilson says:

    My position could hardly be clear or transparent to you if you’re going to summarize it that way, Larry.

    My “baseball analogy” was demolished? No, Larry. When kids play some version of baseball that accommodates the limitations of their situation, they know they are playing some version of baseball that accommodates the limitations of their situation. They know it’s not the same thing. But that’s not a major part of what I was trying to get across, which is why I didn’t press it when you challenged it in #75. It’s also why I’m not going to waste time explaining why it matters that they know it’s not the same thing.

    What evidence do you think I need?

    Which ideological organizations are you planning to stop listening to?

    Do I know why people want to be married? Yes.

    If equality is not to be used in a legal sense in this situation, then fine. Let’s quit making SSM a legal issue. Let’s take it out of the courts, legislatures, and plebiscites. I was happy the way things were before anyone took the question there.

    You say “a loving, mutually supportive marriage of whatever type is good.” You still don’t see what’s wrong with that word “whatever.” More on that below.

  95. Tom Gilson says:

    Larry, I want to ask you to cease misrepresenting what I have said. You said,

    I understand why you are going back to the drawing board. Your baseball analogy was demolished in comment 75. What you need is evidence….

    In other words, you think I’m backing off because my position here fails. That’s not what I said, and you’re putting words in my mouth. First, I don’t think my position here fails. That’s arguable, obviously, but here’s what’s not arguable: I don’t believe that my position fails. What I mean is this: if your suggestion here is correct, that I’m going back to the drawing board because I don’t believe my position succeeds, that’s not true: I do believe my position succeeds.

    I’m not retreating. I’m not hiding away and licking my wounds. I’m not falling back to re-strategize because the first attempt was no good.

    What did I say?

    I don’t expect you to be persuaded by this all of a sudden, but I think it’s time for me to be satisfied with what I’ve said on the matter.

    That’s it. For you to read something further into it is wrong on your part.

    Further: I don’t think you’ll be persuaded because you don’t understand the reasoning I’m using. My reasoning is not unclear, as you have charged me just now.

    I’m also backing away because I’ve tried all I can try, and you refuse still to understand the implications of your “whatever” usage. You don’t get it, and I accept that. I’m not going to keep trying when I know there’s nothing more I can add.

    For you to imply that I am stopping for any other reason is wrong on your part.

    And then you applied words to me like “Cowardice…. afraid….”

    Do you think I don’t know I’m bucking a cultural tide here, Larry? Do you think I’m doing this because it’s safe?

    Do you think I’ve never looked someone in the eye and told them these things?

    Your charges are wrong, baseless, highly prejudiced, and no help to the conversation whatever.

  96. Larry Tanner says:

    You say “a loving, mutually supportive marriage of whatever type is good.” You still don’t see what’s wrong with that word “whatever.”

    No, I don’t see what’s wrong with it. But there’s two matters: SSM and whatever. They are not the same.

    Have a good day.

  97. Tom Gilson says:

    SSM and whatever are not the same thing: excellent! Thank you!

    You say you’re supporting SSM, and yet you also say you’re in favor of “whatever form of marriage.”

    Think that through. They’re not the same thing.

    And you have a good day, too.

  98. Mr. X says:

    Larry @ 94:

    I call SSM an “arbitrary whim” because so many of its proponents are so obviously going on emotion rather than reason. When they do try and reason logically, their reasons are almost always transparently ad hoc, self-contradictory or lead to absurd conclusions. Case in point: you throughout this thread have consistently refused to respond to any criticism of your positions, instead throwing around red herrings and appeals to emotion as if it were going out of fashion. Sorry to be so blunt, but there it is. Your arguments have all been atrocious.

  99. Larry Tanner says:

    Mr. X,

    Aww, gee. And there I was agreeing with you. I was looking forward to rooting our timeless and transcendent principles in Allah’s word. Is there a reason you’re avoiding the undeniable truth revealed to Muhammad? Or did you just realize that in the end your timeless truths are just your personal opinion? Of course you think my arguments are atrocious; you are incapable of recognizing an argument that doesn’t end in “Praise Jesus.” Go back and mature your thinking, please.

  100. Tom Gilson says:

    Larry, please review the discussion guidelines. Thank you.

  101. Mr. X says:

    Larry, responding to your points in reverse order:

    “Of course you think my arguments are atrocious; you are incapable of recognizing an argument that doesn’t end in “Praise Jesus.””

    Given that none of my arguments on this thread presuppose the truth of Christianity, that statement is obviously false.

    “Or did you just realize that in the end your timeless truths are just your personal opinion?”

    I never said or indicated that I believed such a thing. Incidentally, if you reject the existence of timeless truths, perhaps you could explain to me why a society with SSM is objectively better to one without, or, if it’s not objectively better, why I or anybody else should support SSM in the first place.

    “I was looking forward to rooting our timeless and transcendent principles in Allah’s word. Is there a reason you’re avoiding the undeniable truth revealed to Muhammad?”

    I will happily root my principles in Allah’s word if anybody presents a sufficiently good reason to become a Muslim.

    Incidentally, I’m not sure why so many SSM proponents refuse to accept that people can disagree with them for reasons unrelated to being a Christian fundamentalist, even when presented with clear proof that this is not the case (such as, for example, a 100-comment thread in which people repeatedly raise objections to SSM arguments which have nothing to do with religion). Maybe they’re worried that once they admit this, they’d actually have to engage in a proper argument, instead of pre-emptively dismissing anybody who might point out the flaws in their reasoning.

  102. Tom Gilson says:

    Bravo!

    Incidentally, I’m not sure why so many SSM proponents refuse to accept that people can disagree with them for reasons unrelated to being a Christian fundamentalist, even when presented with clear proof that this is not the case (such as, for example, a 100-comment thread in which people repeatedly raise objections to SSM arguments which have nothing to do with religion).

  103. Larry Tanner says:

    Mr. X,

    if you reject the existence of timeless truths, perhaps you could explain to me why a society with SSM is objectively better to one without, or, if it’s not objectively better, why I or anybody else should support SSM in the first place.

    Let’s first keep our eye on the ball. The first thing to recognize is that what you are calling timeless truths may in fact boil down to your own personal opinions. I have no intention of getting embroiled in the lovely, rarefied talk of objective jibber-jabber.

    As I have said several times now, the SSM issue boils down to what right you feel you have to tell two people who love each other every bit as much as you and your partner, who want to build a life and possibly a family like millions of other couples–you need to justify why you get to step into their lives and prohibit them from being recognized by the government as a married couple.

    You don’t have to like their marriage. You don’t need to approve of it. You don’t need to think those crazy kids are right for each other. You can rend your garments to your heart’s delight. But ultimately, you want to step into the lives, homes, and bedrooms of other citizens, and you need a way to feel good about it.

    I will happily root my principles in Allah’s word if anybody presents a sufficiently good reason to become a Muslim.

    Oh, really? Why should that matter. Please recall what you said in comment 93:

    For something to be timeless and transcendent, it doesn’t have to have been followed by every human being in history, it just needs to be rooted in something greater than “this makes me feel happy” or “modern society thinks…”.

    Whether we choose the Koran or Shakespeare, are we not in both cases talking about roots that go deeper than “this makes me feel happy” or “modern society thinks…”? Maybe you could explain what this means, if you now want to clarify why the Koran and/or Shakespeare are no good without some prior conversion on your part. I thought the truth would be the truth no matter who uttered it.

    Incidentally, I’m not sure why so many SSM proponents refuse to accept that people can disagree with them for reasons unrelated to being a Christian fundamentalist, even when presented with clear proof that this is not the case (such as, for example, a 100-comment thread in which people repeatedly raise objections to SSM arguments which have nothing to do with religion). Maybe they’re worried that once they admit this, they’d actually have to engage in a proper argument, instead of pre-emptively dismissing anybody who might point out the flaws in their reasoning.

    You cannot be referring to me, as I absolutely accept that people can disagree with me for reasons unrelated to being a Christian and/or a fundamentalist. On the other hand, I must confess to never having had the pleasure of conversing with a SSM opponent whose opposition was not rooted in religious beliefs of the Abrahamic variety. Orthodox Jews, Christians, and Muslims all seem to get along very well when it comes to homosexuality and fear of it. My observation. Most of the SSM opponents I have talked to have been happy to declare that homosexuality violates the personal vision of morality they use religion to confirm and clarify.

    It’s disingenuous to suggest I’ve been dismissive of any position after all the time and energy I’ve invested in this conversation. It’s equally disingenuous to suggest that the arguments opposing SSM have had nothing to do with religion. Bollocks.

    This thread starts with an article attempting to criticize the pro-SSM position as philosophically immature. OK, great. Then one probes into the anti-SSM argument to see how philosophically sophisticated it is, and what happens? Oh, the standard shield defense, such as “I have objective values that co-incidentally decide the issue in a way that exactly matches my personal opinion. What do you got?”

    But there’s only one conversation we should be having, and so I will ask one more time directly (without hope of an answer, apparently): By what right do you get to intervene into the lives of two citizens and prohibit them from enjoying the recognition that the government gives to you and your partner?

    By what right given to you, Mr. X? By what right?

  104. Tom Gilson says:

    Larry, you’re showing your anger now.

    Your question has an answer, and in fact it has been given several times in this thread. (It has to do with the inconsistency of your position, and the fact that at some point there has to be a boundary on what kind of “marriages” the government will allow, and your inability to see that fact).

    But when anger shows like this, I don’t think a philosophical/logical answer is what’s most called for.

    The real weakness of blog discussions is that we can’t look one another in the eye, as you questioned me on a while ago, Larry, and meet each other on some level deeper and more human than the argument. I can’t sit next to you and the couple(s) you know and actually look them in the eye, simply because it’s impossible on the web.

    Maybe we should do something by Skype.

    Anyway, this doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, and when anger crops up I’m even less hopeful of making progress.

    I’m going to close comments on this thread. I’ll make a note to myself to re-open them tomorrow afternoon, after everyone has had a chance to take a break from it.

  105.    
Comments RSS Feed
Real Time Analytics