Marriage and the State, or, Why SSM Advocates Can’t Win Without Losing

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Why do governments recognize marriage? It’s unique among all relationships. If it’s just about deep friendship, governmental involvement makes no sense: friendships have no state-sanctioned conditions attached to them. Those relationships that do come under governmental oversight or endorsement are obviously public ones, like business relationships. Why does the state care about marriage?

Further: why does the state treat marriage in just the way it does? Married couples are exempt from testifying against one another, under the Fifth Amendment. Investment, taxation, liability, and inheritance laws treat married couples as a single unit. How does that make sense?

In a recent blog post I offered this definition of marriage:

Marriage is the legally-recognized faithful, uniquely committed, loving, social, economic, and sexual union of two non-blood-related consenting adults of opposite sex.

To which I added as non-essential additional features,

Marriage carries with it certain legal, economic, and social benefits, not least of which is the social approval accorded to the partners’ sexual relationship.

Christians typically add “God-ordained” to the definition I’ve given here; some even (correctly) recognize marriage as a reflection of God’s relationship to his people. That’s all well and good. Still I look at these definitions and I find nothing to explain why marriage gets privileged treatment from the state. So what if two people get along with each other and want to commit their lives to each other? Why treat them as a single economic unit for that? So what if members of a religious group see special doctrinal significance in marriage? Why should the state sanction that?

I can’t see any good reason for it at all. State-sanctioned marriage is a complete mystery, unless there’s something about marriage in which the state has an active and ongoing interest. I’m a conservative with respect to big government, and all I see here are reasons for government to get its nose out of the marriage business. Why should I support state approval for same-sex “marriage” (SSM) when I can’t see any good reason for state involvement of any marriage at all?

And yet governments (or their analogs or equivalents) the world over have recognized marriage since the dawn of history, and they have always recognized it in the form of man-and-woman. Up until the barest sliver of historical time ago, this has always made perfect sense to everyone. Now I’m having trouble making sense of it. What’s wrong with me, I wonder?

Same-sex “marriage” proponents typically say that what’s changed is that we’ve finally discovered that marriage need not be confined to the man-woman version. Based on the definition above, I’d have to agree; but span class=”pullquote”>based on that definition, we’ve also discovered the state has no good reason to be involved in marriage at all. This is very confusing.

But there’s something else that’s changed in recent history: contraception, along with a wave of not just homosexual but also heterosexual de-coupling of sex, childbearing, and marriage. We’ve found a way to separate sex from childbearing, and thus we’ve been able to freely separate sex from marriage, and marriage from any necessary connection to childbearing as well. So the definition of marriage I’ve been playing with so far here is deficient with respect to the whole grand sweep of human history. It’s the wrong definition. That’s why its implications seem so confusing.

Marriage isn’t just about the two partners. It’s about founding a family; or at least it has been until just a few decades ago. Marriage is about procreation as well as interpersonal union. Girgis, George, and Anderson speak of marriage as a comprehensive union of hearts, bodies, destinies, and more, and that this comprehensive union necessarily involves the kind of physical connection that is ordered toward the conception of children.

There is much to their argument that I cannot rehearse here, but there’s enough in what I’ve spoken already to explain why marriage matters to the state. Marriage is a joint venture in building the next generation. The future of any society depends on its next generation being birthed and nurtured in an environment healthy for growth and development, of which the best possible arrangement is (in the main, according to much research as well as plain old common sense) to be raised by one’s biological parents.

Parenting is a joint operation, necessarily involving not only a physical union but also the uniting of economic resources, decision-making, and for the sake of stability, even of the parents’ futures. This is worth supporting not only by the extended family or church but also by the state.

Now, I’ve seen arguments tossed back and forth about whether it’s really best for a child to be raised by her biological mom and dad. I can bring forth empirical studies to support the common-sense answer to that question, and I’m sure the opportunity will arise to do that.

In the meantime, though, here are the three questions on which I want to focus attention:

1. If marriage is viewed as (among other important things) a joint venture in bringing forth the next generation, does it make sense for the government to endorse and support it as it always has done?

2. If marriage is not viewed that way, does it still make sense for the government to endorse and support it as it has always done?

3. What does that tell you about what marriage is, what marriage should be, and what the government’s relationship to marriage should be from this point on?

My answer to those questions goes like this:

If gay-rights advocates win this battle, they stand to lose more than they gain. It would be a Pyrrhic victory: they would win the right to enjoy all the benefits that have been accorded to marriage, and in the process they would strip the new “marriage” of any reason to be given those benefits.

There’s a reason marriage is what it is, everywhere around the world. It’s not about religion. Marriage is too universal, too widespread among too many diverse religions, for that to be the main issue. It’s not primarily about the moral status of certain sexual acts, although it is partly that. The ancient Greeks celebrated homoerotic relationships but they never confused them with marriage. Marriage is what it is because no other relationship expresses such a comprehensive private union with such a fundamental public purpose.

There’s more to be said on this, but this is enough for now.

 

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124 Responses to “ Marriage and the State, or, Why SSM Advocates Can’t Win Without Losing ”

  1. I’ll quickly reiterate a point made in the other thread…

    It seems to me that SSM can coexist just fine along with values that hold to the primacy of child-rearing in marriage, in both the hearts of people and in the statutes of our government.

    There’s simply nothing at odds there, try as some might to make it seem that way.

  2. You’re wrong, d, because SSM is not just an alternate form of marriage coexisting alongside “traditional” marriage. It is a complete redefinition of all marriage, which strips it of one of its most essential aspects, generativity, yet demands the rewards of marriage that only make sense in context of that generative purpose of marriage.

    Deal with the point of the post: if SSM wins, it loses. If it prevails in the law it destroys its own reason for being.

  3. I did deal with the point! I think I pointedly pointed out that the point is false, or at least unsupported.

    If SSM wins, it certainly does not lose, it.. well.. wins.

    And marriage in general wins, for it retains all that it presently has and is, and welcomes into its fold a group of long marginalized people, who by all counts, have the same sorts of longings and needs for mutual committed love, as the rest of us.

    And while their particular circumstances are such that they cannot bear children naturally together, they can live their lives in ways that pay homage too – and resonate with – the themes and values so cherished in heterosexual marriage. And overall through living their lives, they reinforce the values of marriage.

    Now… what is that prevents you from actually considering that as a possibility, beside an overbearing cynicism towards homosexuality?

    And Tom, on your reasoning, why shouldn’t we say the current definition of marriage is arbitrary and sloppily focused. After all, its not men and women per se that bear children in matrimony, it’s really those men and women pairings with the psychological desire to have children and/or reproductive organs capable of producing them.

    But nobody would seriously go there.. because its starkly obvious that both the view that childbearing is a central theme in marriage (and one of the most powerful reasons for state recognition of marriage), CAN and DOES actually coexist with belief that even childless marriages have value – except when gay people are involved, of course.

  4. d,

    I hope you won’t take this the wrong way, but I don’t see any logical relationship between my arguments in this post and your attempted rebuttals in your comments here. You’re contradicting my conclusions without addressing my arguments. All I see here is a repetition of your usual talking points without grappling with the new material I’ve delivered here.

    I’n not going to try to rebut you here, because it would be following you into changing the subject away from what I wrote, which I’m confident someone will want to discuss.

  5. I should add that I do have a reply to make to your question about male-female couples who are unable to bear children, but I don’t really want to go there until I see some indication that someone is taking up the same discussion that I started here.

    There is a way to understand marriage that makes proper sense of the state’s relationship to marriage even in the case of infertile couples. I’ll be glad to discuss it in context of the argument of the blog post, but not in context of your same old talking points.

  6. I read a lengthy essay a while back that fleshes out (encompasses might be a better word) some of what you say here. I may have posted it in a comment once before, but I think it’s really worthwhile, so here it is again.

    The second paragraph, which I think captures the essence of the essay, says:

    Once defined by religious doctrine, moral tradition, and home-centered commitments to child rearing and gender complementarity in productive labor, marriage has become a deracinated and highly individualistic and egalitarian institution, no longer implying commitment to home, to Church, to childbearing, to traditional gender duties, or even (permanently) to spouse. Gone is the productive husband-wife bond defined by mutual sacrifice and cooperative labor, replaced by dual-careerist vistas of self-fulfillment and consumer satisfaction. That homosexuals now want the strange new thing marriage has become should surprise no one: contemporary marriage, after all, certifies a certain legitimacy in the mainstream of American culture and delivers tax, insurance, life-style, and governmental benefits—all without imposing any of the obligations of traditional marriage (which homosexuals decidedly do not want). Thus, while the attempt to deny homosexuals the right to marry is understandable and even morally and legally justified, such an attempt is probably foredoomed if it does not lead to a broader effort to restore moral and religious integrity to marriage as a heterosexual institution.

  7. It’s so amusing how the same talking points show up again and again. Sault, why would you ask that here? I wrote a post in which I argued that if SSM prevails, it prevails in such a way that by its very victory it undermines any reason for it to claim any benefit from government. I didn’t make my case based on its effect on “hetero marriages” (“marriages,” in other words). I made my case based on SSM’s self-contradictory effect on its own desired outcomes.

    So, what’s your response to the blog post?

  8. Why do you assume that gay marriages aren’t a joint venture in bringing forth the next generation?

  9. Marriage is a contract that creates a legally recognized family. This is what gay people are fighting for: to have the person they love, the person they emotionally recognize as family, legally recognized as such. Our government–our society–has a vested interest in the creation of families because family members are responsible for one another. Families may or may not include children.

  10. Marriage is a contract? No. Sorry. A contract is a piece of paper, or if you prefer, it is a record of some agreement. What is the agreement? What is the relationship? What is marriage?

  11. Tom, you can’t deny that marriage is a legal contract. It’s an agreement between at least two people that they will share benefits and liabilities.

  12. Marriage is sealed by a legal contract; but that does not mean that marriage is a legal contract.

    Let’s set that error aside and get to what counts: what is marriage? What is the relationship (or legal entity, or union, or whatever term you choose) that is sealed by that contract?

  13. I answered that question, Tom: the relationship that is sealed by the marriage contract is family. Marriage creates a family between at least two people.

  14. Tom,

    What’s the connection? In so many words, the point I’m trying to make is that the premise (or should I say axiom?) you use to launch your argument is not a belief I share, and see no reason to share – which is that a gender neutral legal definition of marriage is somehow subtractive in a way that diminishes central role of child bearing as a reason for marriage (legally or otherwise).

    If I don’t share that fundamental assumption (and I don’t), any subsequent arguments that rely on it are dead before they get off the ground.

  15. d,

    Your disagreement is duly noted.

    Do you really believe, though, that a gender-neutral redefinition of marriage has no impact on marriage’s essential relationship to childbearing? Really?

    Be careful with your articles. Child-bearing is a reason for marriage yes. Do you think, though, that anyone would have thought of marriage apart from child-bearing? Do you think that the modern state would grant it any kind of unique status apart from child-bearing?

  16. I think that families often share different kinds of liabilities and benefits than do business partners–your business partner is unlikely to nurse you through cancer, for example–but you are correct that there are similarities between families and business partnerships as well–and our society hss a vested interest in both. What’s the problem with that, as you see it?

  17. The main problem for our purposes is that I don’t know what you’re talking about yet. You say marriages create families, but I don’t know what you mean by families, and you haven’t said yet.

  18. Tom, re: your answer to d: the state grants marriage a unique status bc it creates families, regardless of whether those families include children. This is why childless couples are still afforded all the benefits of marriage!

  19. Tom, what is not clear in my definition of family as at least two people who are committed to sharing benefits and liabilities?

  20. A definition defines. It delimits. It marks off what something is and what something isn’t. Your definition includes business partnerships, corporations, employer/employee relationships, vendor/customer relationships, lobbyist/legislator relationships….

    So it’s not a definition. It’s a start toward a possible definition, but it’s not a definition.

  21. I’m having a bit of a restless night. Thought I’d add this while I was awake again awhile:

    By your definition so far, os, every budding family comes to an end when the first child is born.

    I think you want to work on it some more. It’s important or I wouldn’t keep asking.

  22. Tom, when try to make good on this claim:

    I can bring forth empirical studies to support the common-sense answer to that question, and I’m sure the opportunity to do that will come up.

    you will be refuted – first, because there is still only one study that claims to support your assertions about same-sex couples as parents (so the plural form “studies” is factually incorrect); and second, because the claims made in that one study have been debunked due to its flawed methods and invalid statistics.

    Since SSM is now being recognized as valid, and same-sex couples are being allowed to raise children, we are getting more and better evidence that they are in fact as capable as hetero couples in terms of successful parenting, where success is defined by the ability of the children, on reaching maturity, to lead happy, healthy, productive lives – usually as heterosexual individuals, as per the typical ratio of sexual orientation in the general population.

    You are avoiding some “inconvenient truths” when you say that SSM is unique in creating a first-ever substantive change in the definition of the term marriage. If that sort of argument were valid, the definition of marriage would not have changed 50 years ago to include interracial couples, or 100+ years ago to include interfaith couples.

    You are basing your insistence that the term “marriage” apply solely to hetero couples on sectarian doctrine with only a few phrases of support in your bible. Other sects of Christianity do not share your views on the matter. Religious freedom in the U.S., and the crucial constraints on Congress expressed in the First Amendment, make it both unethical and unconstitutional to impose a legal prohibition on SSM, just as it was unethical and unconstitutional to have laws against interracial marriage.

    (I’m not sure whether any state in the U.S. ever banned interfaith marriage – seems doubtful – but to the extent that “marriage” was (and is) defined by sectarian religious leaders, that definition was (is) prone to exclude interfaith marriage as well: in order to marry, one or the other partner must switch from one to the other religion. This sort of exclusion can still be practiced by those religious sects in America that consider it essential to their particular faith. The same would obviously apply with respect to SSM: particular pastors are entirely within their rights to refuse to conduct SSM ceremonies.)

    What I see in your position is unbending intolerance, because your continued, active campaign against SSM is ultimately not based on evidence. You cite a single feeble and flawed study as “empirical” support. Your claims about the “damage” caused by SSM are vague, insubstantial, and unsubstantiated. You want SSM to be fully banned before any more of the mounting evidence against your position can accumulate.

    Despite all your protestations to the contrary, your current position remains remarkably analogous to that of the segregationists 50 years ago. The number of people who see things your way will diminish over time, and our society will be better as a result, even though you may refuse to recognize the improvement.

  23. d,

    You are not only wrong, you are astonishingly, blindly, amazingly wrong. Only on the first point do you have anything close to a supportable claim–but you should have stayed up to date on my blog posts. There are zero methodologically sound posts supporting your conclusion, and Regnerus is standing stronger than you suppose.

    The definition of marriage did not change when interfaith or interracial couples were permitted to marry. No one had said an interracial marriage wasn’t a marriage. It was an unethical marriage, it was thought at the time, yet still a marriage. Interracial and interfaith marriages go back to biblical times, and were known as marriages. But what SSM advocates propose is indeed a change of definition.

    Your charge that I’m basing my opinion only on a few verses in the Bible is just weird. It’s bizarre! Where did I mention the Bible in this post here? And what about the consistent witness of all history and all cultures until a sliver of time ago, to the effect that marriage is between man and woman? And what about my frequent linked references to other studies, which I know you’ve seen?

    Why are you so persistently unwilling to see what’s in front of your nose?

    And why is it that you keep trotting out the same false accusations, the same talking points, when I’ve put a new question on the table for you to deal with? Why won’t you deal with the question?

  24. d,

    I have already referred to your persistent unwillingness to read what I write. You see in my writing what you expect to see instead of what’s there. You don’t see me, you see an image, a false one.

    I am a human being. I have my own thoughts and beliefs and feelings. Just because I disagree with you on some significant beliefs doesn’t mean that I am not a fellow human being.

    But you are treating me as something else. You are ignoring me, and responding to something else that you think of when you think of SSM opponents. That’s the only explanation I can think of for the way you get me wrong on this topic.

    So again, as I have before, I urge you to look within. What you’re doing with me is stereotyping. It is bigotry in its most classic form. Your prejudice against SSM opponents leads you to treat me as if I’m just the same as every other SSM opponent as you picture them in you mind. That’s hardly any different than the old racist (and horribly offensive), “They all look alike to me” line.

    So for your own sake I urge you to look within and face the reality of your own prejudice. I’m also telling you that your bigotry toward me does me hardly any damage, but it makes me sad for you that you can’t see more clearly.

    It does, by the way, make for terribly unproductive discussions, when you insist on talking with a falsely concocted distortion of the discussion rather than the real one. I’d really prefer you wouldn’t do that any longer. But I’m more concerned for you.

  25. How does the birth of a child change my definition of family? The child, too, shares the family’s fortunes, good and bad.

    Look at traditional marriage vows to understand my definition: for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, etc. These are the benefits and liabilities families share. Note that there is no mention of children in the traditional vows–because they are not essential to marriage.

  26. OS, please, think! You said that marriage was “an agreement between at least two people that they will share benefits and liabilities.”

    The baby does not agree. Therefore either the family ends, or at best the baby is not a part of the family, based on your definition. But what that really shows is that your definition fails

    I’m really looking for a clear definition of family here, OS, because it matters. My argument here might be wrong, and you might be on to something that will take it down. If so I want to know. So far, though, I haven’t been able to find out from you what you think you are saying.

    So please give this more careful attention. You’d be helping me if you did.

  27. The baby shares in the fortunes of the family without prior consent, of course. When the child reaches an age of consent (or even prior to that, in some jurisdictions), s/he can choose whether to continue to share in them (ie, whether to continue to be a member of the family.)

    There are legal agreements seperate from marriage that apply to the relationship between adults and children. Biological parents have legal responsibilities to their children, and if they don’t meet them, their right to make decisions on behalf of their children can be terminated. Adoption replicates between an unrelated adult and child the legal responsibilities a biological parent assumes on the day his/her child is born.

    So perhaps I should say that marriage creates a family between at least two adults (I’m allowing for polygamy here), and children become legal members of a family through other legal means (eg, identification of parents on birth certificate and applicable family law.)

  28. Okay, one last step, this is really helpful, and thank you.

    I’m not sure about the “marriage creates” language. It seems to me that it would be more accurate to say that it is
    (a) the interpersonal agreements, (b) the legal agreements, and (c) the exchanging of vows at the ceremony, that create what you’re describing here; for I think the term “creation” refers to beginnings, and not to continuing realities.

    If we could wrap up all of a, b, and c and abbreviate it to “the wedding,” I would say that the wedding is not the marriage. So although I think now I understand what you think “the wedding” is, I’m still not sure I know what you think marriage is.

    Again I want to reiterate that this is really helping me, because I’m working through a new line of thought here that may well prove to be a dead end, or else it may prove to be fruitful. This process will contribute a lot toward discovering which it will be. Thanks.

  29. A family is about raising children. There might be some idyllic vision of what it means to be a family out there, but the fact is that just as many families don’t fit the “father-mother-child” mold as do.

    A family is what you choose it to be. Maybe there is no father, and a single mother has to raise her child alone. That’s still a family. Another of my friends had no parents growing up – he was raised by his grandparents. Again, a family. Sometimes there is no biological relations – I am not biologically related to my parents or sibling. We’re still a family.

    Through divorces and separations and deaths and all sorts of human conditions we still have families – sometimes because of marriage, but sometimes in spite of it, too! So, I see marriages as benefiting families, but not being a de facto prerequisite. But they can still help, right?

    So, if two consenting adults are willing to enter into a committed relationship with the intent to raise children, then we should encourage that. They don’t need to be opposite sexes any more – we have adoption and artificial insemination. As ideal as that perfect “father-mother-child” image that we have in our heads? Possibly not, but there aren’t that many of us who get that lucky, either.

    In lieu of evidence that same-sex couples do a markedly worse job of raising children than hetero couples, I would think that the only humane thing to do would be to encourage forming relationships (i.e., including same-sex marriages) that would increase the number of healthy family environments in our society.

    In other words, Tom – if you were about to die, and had the choice of letting your children be taken care of by a hetero couple who were indifferent or by a same-sex couple who were loving and engaged, which would you choose?

  30. I’m not sure I understand your confusion, Tom. Marriage is the process through which two or more adults become legal family (similar to adoption being the process through which an adult and nonbiological child became legally recognized as parent and child.) The purpose of marriage is to create legal family of two or more adults.

    Are you asking me to define the relationship between adults who are married?

  31. Marriage is a process, OS? I don’t think that is correct, but suppose it is. What is the goal of that process? You say “The purpose of marriage is to create legal family of two or more adults.”

    But this strikes me as being way too broad of a definition. For example, my team of coworkers would be considered a family if only we were to sign a legal contract of some kind. We could all get “married” by going through this process you are describing. You’ve watered down the definition so much that I’m afraid the terms “family” and “marriage” don’t mean much.

    With such a watered down definition I’m a bit flummoxed as to why everyone is clammering to be “married”? It’s like clammering to legally change your name to “John Smith” – cause they get all the attention in society, and that’s not fair.

  32. OS, maybe you’re confusing “marriage” as the event by which persons become married, with “marriage” as the relationship that continues from that point on. I’m definitely interested in the latter, not the former. I want to know how you would define the state, condition, relationship, or whatever you think it is that persons enter into when they become married, and in which they continue as they remain married. According to your opinion, how would you define the state, condition, relationship, …, of marriage?

    Hope that’s clear.

  33. I think marriage is simply the loving union between two people. I feel like this is the definition most people today stand by. Whether children follow is irrelevant. Given this it’s unreasonable to disallow same sex couples the choice to get married. I think it’s fruitless to spend all day spending definitional and semantical games.

    That’s my two cents.

  34. Tom,

    Beyond what I’ve already said about married people sharing benefits and liabilities, I think the relationship of marriage is pretty much whatever people make of it. The relationship varies by individuals and by culture. In my work, I see many different marriages. I couldn’t say that there is any one element common to all of them beyond that sharing.

  35. Then what you’re really advocating for is government recognition of same-sex whatever, to be added to heterosexual whatever.

    And in a sense I have to agree with your description. Heterosexual marriage’s meaning has been diluted almost to nothingness, although not for all couples. Cohabitation is more than rampant, and now many couples reportedly are raising children in that status. A significant plurality see marriage as temporary for as long as “it lasts.” Childbearing is decoupled from sex is decoupled from marriage.

    So I think there really is room for people to conclude as you have done here, that marriage is whatever.

    But I still contend that marriage has only one good reason to be treated by governments with any special economic conditions, or for government to have any stake in how long marriages last or in the way they are dissolved, and that is that marriage is (among other things) a joint venture in birthing and raising the next generation.

    To the extent that marriage loses hold of that distinctive, to that same extent there’s no reason for marriage to deserve any more governmental special treatment than any other friendship.

    To the extent that SSM advocacy is pushing for marriage to be decoupled from childrearing, to the same extent SSM advocacy is pushing for ends that contradict themselves.

    Which is just to repeat what I said in the OP, only in a slightly different context.

  36. The relationship that exists in a marriage has always been individually and culturally determined, Tom.

    There is no mention of children in the traditional marriage vows. Marriage is for adults, regardless of whether they intend to raise children. Society supports marriage and government grants it special status because, as family to each other, married people take care of each other. Its that mutual caretaking that is the benefit to society and why society supports marriage regardless of whether a couple intends raise children. If society didn’t value marriage in and of itself, there’d be no tax, health insursnce, or estate benefits for couples unless they had children.

  37. OS,

    Can you imagine life in a world without contraception?

    If you can, then everything you just wrote needs to be re-thought.

    If you can’t, then you need to rethink more than just that.

  38. Tom,
    My first statement stands regardless of the availability of contraception.

    There have always been childless marriages. If marriage was not considered valuable in and of itself, society would not have afforded those marriages any special status, any benefits. It would have been exclusively the raising of children that triggered that status and those benefits.

  39. As I have written before I’m indifferent to what gays do with their lives.

    For example, if two gay men or two gay women wanted to invite their friends to a ceremony at a Unitarian church and call it marriage, so what? However, I don’t want to be forced to endorse that kind of relationship. Why does everyone need to endorse their moral choices? That is what the proponents of SSM are demanding that I do.

    In my mind this is analogous premarital/ extramarital sex. As a Christian those are moral choices that I do not approve of. That’s my choice. But, in a free and open democratic society I also respect the rights of others to make their own moral choices. That’s called tolerance. However, what sexually immoral people do not have the right to do is to demand that I endorse their life style choices. That’s exactly what the supporters of SSM are demanding that I do.

  40. @JAD:

    As a Christian those are moral choices that I do not approve of. That’s my choice. But, in a free and open democratic society I also respect the rights of others to make their own moral choices. That’s called tolerance.

    Sorry, JAD but that does not work. The Humpty-Dumpty redefinition of marriage wanted by SSM-advocates has profound social consequences. Tom has been stressing the other-ness, family-oriented essencial nature of marriage. He has promised a few more posts on the issue and I hope he will adress how marriage impinges on another crucial, fundamental, structural basis of any society: the concept of filiation.

  41. @ G. Rodrigues

    You took what I wrote out of context. In the next sentence I wrote:

    “However, what sexually immoral people DO NOT have the right to do is to demand that I endorse their life style choices. That’s exactly what the supporters of SSM are demanding that I do.” (emphasis added)

    Let me clarify. By tolerance I mean that the state should not be trying to regulate sexual behavior nor should it be trying to endorse traditionally immoral behavior. I oppose SSM because the proponents, through the state, are demanding that I endorse and legitimize their behavior. In other words, the SSM proponents are trying to legislate morality. My position is that different moral views concerning sexual morality can and do coexist in a free and open democratic society. I am willing to tolerate those differences as long as I am not being forced to endorse a position that I find to be morally objectionable.

    On the other hand, when it comes to children the state or society does have an interest in protecting children. Traditional marriage remains the best way to raise children.

  42. Gotta love it when they dodge your questions. Oh, well, whatever…

    While these statements were made by JAD, my responses are directed to everyone.

    ” I am willing to tolerate those differences as long as I am not being forced to endorse a position that I find to be morally objectionable.”

    Sometimes you don’t have a choice. I find faith-based schooling, the Afghanistan war, the “war” on drugs, and the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy to all be morally objectionable, but I haven’t exactly had a say in that, have I?

    Sometimes you have to acknowledge that your moral outrage and sense of disgust aren’t enough to trump other people’s rights or sometimes even the general consensus. You may object, based on your religious and philosophical opinions, but thankfully they are just your opinions (especially when you can’t back any of them up with evidence).

    “On the other hand, when it comes to children the state or society does have an interest in protecting children. Traditional marriage remains the best way to raise children.”

    Sure… that mythical, ideal unbroken family with a mother, a father, 2.5 kids, a dog, and a white picket fence somewhere in suburbia. One reference that I found states that 1 in 3 families are single-parent familes. “Traditional” marriage doesn’t always work, does it?

    I’ve already put the question out there (which was completely dodged) – if you have to choose between a broken “traditional” hetero couple and a loving, committed same-sex couple, which would you choose to take care of your children?

    The point is that many, too many, families aren’t “ideal”; if we really care about the children then we should support and subsidize every reasonable effort to keep them safe and healthy. As I’ve already pointed out, plenty of hetero couples don’t pan out – so why not let same-sex couples pick up some of the slack?

    (because of course it’s not about the children; it’s about your moral outrage and disgust, and that should be obvious to anyone reading this blog by this point)

    Btw – I registered to vote for the first time in almost a decade just so I could vote for same-sex marriage here in Washington. If it passes, I will be highly interested to read the reaction here. If it doesn’t – well, I won’t be too worried, it will happen eventually.

  43. Sault, this isn’t about one parent against another. This isn’t about one couple against another. This is about a radical redefinition of marriage.

    If what you call traditional marriage isn’t working, it’s because it’s broken. It has always suffered from bending influences, but it really began to break in the 60s with the breakdown of sexual morality. It has suffered much worse since then. So I do not deny that there are serious problems.

    In fact I would say that the current gay “marriage” push is just the logical continuation of the re-definition of marriage that began a half-century ago with the de-coupling of sex, marriage, and children. The negative results of that have been obvious and disastrous.

    So because it is not working, you seek to break it still further. Sorry, but no dice.

    Meanwhile, in the midst of all this complaining about people ducking questions, what’s your answer to the issues I rose in the OP? Why should the government provide special recognition to marriage on your definition of marriage? Why should it care?

  44. OS, you say,

    There have always been childless marriages. If marriage was not considered valuable in and of itself, society would not have afforded those marriages any special status, any benefits. It would have been exclusively the raising of children that triggered that status and those benefits

    That’s foolish. Marriage is the foundation for child-raising. Married couples get their start in being couples—which takes practice, by the way—then they have children, or else they don’t have children. Shall the government them them the realities of marriage unless they prove they can and will have babies first? How intrusive do you want the state to be? Do you want to add more governmentally-initiated changes into the mix while they bring home their first child? Isn’t it complicated enough to start out as a parent as it is?

    No, it makes sense to support the institution even in advance of the first baby.

    You’re grasping at straws to deny it.

  45. It appears that Sault wants to replace the ideal with the lowest common denominator. How is that going to improve our society?

  46. Let me rephrase that last comment in a simpler way.

    Suppose the government took you seriously and denied marriage licenses to any couple that was not planning to have a baby.

    Bob and Amy come in and ask for a marriage license. How will the government determine whether they are planning to have a baby? How, in other words, would the government enforce that policy? Can it be done without undue intrusiveness?

    Bob and Ted come in and ask for a marriage license. How will the government determine whether they are going to have a baby? Can it be done without undue intrusiveness?

    If your answer is, maybe Bob and Ted are planning to adopt, my answer to that is, if you want to make that the issue then make it the issue. You’re welcome to do that, and then we’ll discuss it. But you’ll have to find a way to show you mean it. One way you could demonstrate it would be by admitting there’s no other good rationale for governmental recognition of marriage.

  47. There’s no need to determine at the point of marriage whether couples are going to have children. Simply provide special status and benefits when children are born.

  48. You know what’s weird about that, OS? You almost sound as if you think that’s an idea worth a moment’s thought.

    Did you notice I answered it in advance, by the way?

  49. Oops. I’m in a similar conversation on another website at the same time, and that’s where I answered that question previously.

    Nevertheless, what is it about your proposal that makes sense to you? Why would the couple (man and woman) not share property and decision-making responsibilities beginning at the time of their wedding? Have you considered the immense complexities of doing that at the moment of a child’s birth—which is already probably the most complex and difficult experience most young couples ever experience?

    In sum: what makes you think this is a good idea?

  50. Or:

    Are you proposing Marriage-A, for childless couples, and Marriage-B, for couples with children? Do they both get the name “marriage”? Is there a Marriage-AB for couples who are expecting? Is there a Marriage-ABC for couples who are trying? Is there a Marriage-AA for couples who don’t want/can’t have kids? What do you call a marriage where the kids have left the house? What if the kids boomerang back in as adults?

    I’m just trying to understand how all this would work. Well, to be honest, I’m saying it shouldn’t be tried. It’s too ridiculous.

  51. Tom, this is not complex. It’s really simple:

    First of all, I am not proposing that benefits begin when children are born or adopted. I am saying that IF the purpose of marriage was to raise children, THEN childless marriages would not be afforded the status and benefits afforded to adults who do raise children. That could have been easily accomplished by NOT giving married couples those benefits, but instead allowing benefits to adults who are caring for children. If a married couple had or adopted children, then they would get benefits. If they didn’t, no benefits. Easy.

    But, that’s not the way our society has chosen to do things. Our society gives benefits to couples when they marry–regardless of their plans to have children. I am saying that this is beause society benefits when two adults make the commitment we call marriage to each other, by assuming each other’s burdens.

  52. One of the purposes of marriage is to raise children, not THE purpose. But it is the purpose that explains why marriage gets the attention it does from government.

    If you’ll remove your historical blinders and recall a day when marriages rarely went childless, you wouldn’t say that “society gives benefits to couples when they marry–regardless of their plans to have children.” To marry was to plan to have children. And barring medical problems, to marry was to have children. And this is why no one ever dreamed of such a cockamamie plan as you have cooked up here.

    Second, the benefits afforded to couples who have children really need to begin before they have children, or else they’ll be underprepared to run a household with children.

    I can’t imagine why you can’t see this!

  53. Sorry Tom, I disagree. I think my definition and argument are valid, and calling it names doesn’t invalidate it.

    Let’s try this: People who have no intention of raising children get married. Why do you think they want to do that? And, why do you think society supports them in doing so?

  54. I’m sorry you disagree too, for your sake.

    Let’s try this: people decide to get married, and the state requires them to check a box on their marriage license indicating whether they plan to have children. Why do you think society doesn’t support the state in requiring that?

  55. Tom,
    I wonder if you realize how insulting your comments are at times? I have to ignore the insults in order to stay engaged in the discussion, and I don’t think that’s what you want here.

    You didn’t answer my question, but I’ll answer yours: I think society doesn’t require that because society supports marriage regardless of whether people are planning to raise children.

  56. Right and wrong, OS.

    Society doesn’t support it because it would be horribly intrusive, first of all. Second, yes, it supports marriage with or without plans to have children. But no, governmental support for marriage would not exist if children were not a chief part of the purpose of marriage. See above.

  57. See above?! You haven’t proved your point, Tom.

    But I’m done defending mine. I’ve said the same things over and over. I think we should call it a stalemate.

    I’m going to move on to your newest post. I hope there’ll be more comments there.

  58. It appears that Sault wants to replace the ideal with the lowest common denominator. How is that going to improve our society?

    Yes, I do, and I’ve already given the reasons why – because such a small percentage of the population achieve this “ideal” that it is time to broaden our definitions and be more inclusive. If this is all about the children (and that is the topic that this has become), then arguing solely from that perspective, if same-sex marriage is at least as good as a child being raised by a single parent, then we should validate and subsidize that relationship.

    Regarding raising a child – what is the least that a child needs to grow up a healthy, productive, tax-paying member of society? I would say two parents in a committed and financially stable relationship would be a good place to start.

    If two consenting adults, regardless of gender, can have a committed relationship with at least the potential to raise a child, then our society can subsidize that relationship in the form of calling it marriage and supplying the financial benefits that come with it. This couple need not even be able to conceive – we have adoption and artificial insemination if needs be.

    My responses have answered the question about why the government should care – if you want healthy, productive, tax-paying members of society then it behooves us (our society, our government) to subsidize marriage. It behooves us even greater to include those who can satisfy the essential characteristics of a marriage – in regards to the children, that means a couple who can raise a child.

    We can’t stop a drug addict from having babies and going on welfare to support their drug habit, but we can stop stable, committed, loving couples who are ready and willing to be parents???

    If you care about the children, it makes no damn sense… and that’s why I’m stating that none of this is actually about the children – it’s about you and your moral outrage and disgust, not about the families or children at all.

    Okay, I’ve answered your questions – how about you answer mine? If you’re not going to answer, just say so.

  59. Let’s make it simple.

    Is an average same-sex couple able to raise a child at least as well as a bad (e.g. drug-addicted, abusive, indifferent) hetero couple?

    Is an average same-sex couple able to raise a child at least as well as a single parent?

    Would a married same-sex couple be at least as able to raise a child as a non-married hetero couple?

    If the answer is ‘yes’ to any of these questions, then legitimizing same-sex marriage is a moral obligation when it comes to the health and well-being of our children.

    Well?

  60. Your previous comment has nothing to do with my questions. My first two questions have nothing to do with whether the same-sex couple is married or not. If the topic is indeed children, then just answer the questions.

  61. I’ll try to make it even more clear:

    If the system by which we are raising system is broken, the answer is not to break it further.

    Your error is to think in terms of individual situations, not recognizing that dealing with such things piecemeal perpetuates the underlying problems and makes it worse generation upon generation.

    It is not, by the way, a same-sex marriage issue. It is an issue of marriage being redefined so that it is no longer considered a lifelong comprehensive union for the benefit of the offspring as well as the partners.

  62. What about the children, Tom?

    All you have to do is tell me whether an average same-sex couple can raise a child as well as a bad married hetero couple, a single parent, or an unmarried hetero couple.

  63. I reject the premise of the question.

    No one is trying to legitimize one couple’s opportunity to raise one child. The effort is on to overturn the entire way our society views the family structures from within healthy children are raised.

    If it was about one couple and one child your question would be relevant and the answer would be obvious. But since that’s not what it’s about, and because your question is therefore not relevant to the overall issues at hand, I’ll just have to let you wonder what I think the obvious answer to your irrelevant question must be.

  64. I reiterate: this question is bigger than SSM. It also involves heterosexual couples and their views of marriage, unity, lifelong commitment, and child-rearing.

  65. Then I will expand the question.

    There are two additional versions of marriage that I have seen proposed (if there are others, feel free to chime in). One is plural marriage (polygamy), the other is same-sex marriage.

    If the ideal situation for raising a child is a heterosexual couple in the bonds of matrimony, are these other two definitions of marriage inherently less capable or competent in terms of raising a child?

    A dysfunctional, married, heterosexual couple is a less ideal situation for a child to be raised in than a functional, married, heterosexual couple.

    Compared to a dysfunctional, married, heterosexual couple, are couples in functional same-sex or plural marriages less capable or competent to raise a child?

    A dysfunctional relationship can be anywhere in a spectrum from emotional distance and lack of communication to drug addiction and outright verbal, emotional, physical, and sexual abuse. How dysfunctional can a heterosexual couple’s relationship be before a same-sex or plural marriage can be considered as or more competent or capable to raise that child?

  66. Sigh.

    See #51, #74, and #76.

    If you have something to say in response to my point about systemic issues in the definition of marriage, please feel free to bring it forth. Or feel free to keep asking your same question over and over again in different variant forms, ignoring my answer. I’ll ignore your questions until you cease ignoring my answers already given to them.

  67. ” It is an issue of marriage being redefined so that it is no longer considered a lifelong comprehensive union for the benefit of the offspring as well as the partners.”

    So are you saying that redefining marriage to include things (like say, same-sex marriage or plural marriage) damages or in some way lessens the meaning of a heterosexual marriage?

    This hearkens all the way back to my question #8, the one you summarily dismissed as a “talking point”. If redefining marriage damages heterosexual marriages, what evidence do you have that supports that claim?

    “for the benefit of the offspring”

    My questions are indeed relevant, because you are implying that redefining marriage would not be beneficial to the offspring (i.e., children).

    I’m merely asking for specifics – how is redefining marriage not beneficial for a child? By what metric do you measure the harm it would do? To what degree would we harm our children? In what form would that harm come?

    I’m a dumb ol’ atheist, Tom – I don’t understand what you mean. You say a lot of sweeping, generalized statements, but I’m trying to ask for specifics – you’re going to have to spell it out for me.

    I didn’t think that I’d have to labor to show how relevant my questions were, but whatever – it is Friday, and allowances should be made.

  68. Yes, Sault, changing the meaning of marriage does indeed change the meaning of marriage.

    I’m pretty tired of explaining it, though, and if I have to keep doing it over and over and over and over and over again to satisfy your questions, I’m just not going to try.

    Read the articles on Regnerus in the other current thread. There’s good reason to suspect that SSM is bad for children, and no good empirical reason to believe that it’s good.

    Look at the long witness of history. Marriage has been re-defined in the West beginning in about the 60s, and it’s been devastating on children. I hope you’ve seen me say here already that I’m not just talking about SSM when I say that. I’m talking about the general dilution of the meaning of marriage as a lifelong whole-person commitment between partners for the good of the family they bring into being. I’m talking about kids born out of wedlock. I’m talking even about millions of babies who were aborted. It’s all been incredibly damaging.

    Use your common sense, too. To weaken the meaning of marriage is to weaken marriage, which is to weaken marriages, which is to weaken families, which is bad for children.

    By what metric do I measure all this? Look, since when did all knowledge have to be stuffed into a graduated cylinder? And since when was it considered wise to run this kind of social experiment with men and women in white lab coats standing by for thirty to sixty years watching to see if the column rises or falls a milliliter? Why can’t you just think?

    And that is all I have to say to you on it. You’ve asked the same questions too often, and I’ve answered them too often, and I’m ready to say it’s already been too much.

  69. Even if all you say is true, Tom (and I don’t believe it is), it’s not possible to go back, to somehow undo the last 50 years and bring back what you imagine existed then. Our best bet as a society is to try and give all children, in whatever family situation they are in, the most support possible, and this means supporting all their families.

  70. Of course it’s possible to undo it. It happened in the first few centuries AD, as Christian categories of thought came to dominate Europe. It also happened as Christian individuals spread their ideals to other nations throughout the 2nd millennium.

    It won’t be easy. It will take time. And effort. And a lot of pain. But it’s certainly possible. Whether the will to do it exists – whether we see clearly where we are going before disaster overtakes us – is a different question altogether.

  71. The will to do it does not exist. I think you’ve more or less acknowledged that. It’s part of what makes it not possible.

    Given that, I ask you again, Tom, isn’t our best bet to support all children, in all families, in all possible ways?

  72. The will to do it exists in me. And in a lot of other people.

    Given that there’s a problem, the best thing to do is not to acquiesce in it.

    Of course we should support existing families. That’s not a binary choice. We should support children in their growing up. And we should also seek to correct the false understanding of marriage and family that has created so many of the problems children are facing.

  73. “To support in all possible ways” may be your key statement. But no, that’s not correct. There are a lot of possible ways that are wrong ways. Let me illustrate with something painfully obvious: we won’t support children by stealing money to help them.

    Less obvious but still true: we ought not support children by making the less fortunate among them all wards of the state.

    And still true, though less obvious: we ought not support them by continuing to teach them that what is false is true, with respect to the realities of marriage and family.

  74. By telling them the families theyre growing io in are wrong and bad? I don’t think that will have a positive effect.

  75. Tom,

    You addressed #30 and #31 to me, but the posts you were responding too were written by somebody else, FYI.

    Do you really believe, though, that a gender-neutral redefinition of marriage has no impact on marriage’s essential relationship to childbearing? Really?

    Gender neutral marriage actually removes no verbiage related to children from the definition of marrigae (as there was none there begin with). Marriage will remain a primarily heterosexual, child-producing thing even when gender-neutral.

    So your astonishment is duly noted as well, but your astonishment is not a reason for me to follow suit – its rather some evidence that you may not have considered all sides of this issue.

    Switch gears for a second – there’s a perfectly non-invasive way for the state to restructure marriages so that only people with children get them, and it would be trivially easy. Couples could commit to one another in a sort of pending marriage… then the state waits to issue the marriage certificate upon the issuance of the couple’s first birth cirtificate.

    If there were no other valid reasons for the state to recognize marriages, then we would (or should) probably do something like this. And its quite simple. But nobody would sign on for this at all, because we all recognize that baby-making, while a driving reason for marriage, is not a necessary component of all marriages.

  76. You say,

    Gender neutral marriage actually removes no verbiage related to children from the definition of marrigae (as there was none there begin with). Marriage will remain a primarily heterosexual, child-producing thing even when gender-neutral.

    Which definition (or non-definition!) is that, and who made it the official one? Keep this in mind: marriage has always meant having a sexual relationship. Always. Marriage therefore has always meant children. Always–except in cases where there was a medical disability. Until contraception was introduced, that is.

    Since the inception of contraception, society’s understanding of sex, childbearing, and marriage has changed year by year. But if you want to consider what marriage has always been everywhere, up until a very thin sliver of time ago, it has always meant childbearing.

    Now, was this written down in some official definition book of marriage? Probably. And probably not. Depends on what you call “official.” Surely there was nothing about children in any marriage license, because having children was never a requirement for marriage, rather it was the universal and virtually automatic (though at least 9 months delayed) concomitant of marriage.

    But wait! Children have been figured into the picture, even for marriage licenses. That’s why there have been limits on how young a person could marry. It’s why marrying your sister or brother or first cousin has been outlawed. It’s why the law regards marriage as consummated only upon the first coitus, which is the unique man-with-woman act of union, which carries with it the distinct possibility of conception (before contraception, of course). No other act, even other sexual acts, makes marriage final, such that annulment is impossible and divorce becomes the only legal way out.

    Marriage has always implied childbearing, until recently; and (need I repeat it?) the redefinition of marriage that began with the contraceptive era has been harmful enough already. Let’s not extend it any further.

    As for this…

    Couples could commit to one another in a sort of pending marriage… then the state waits to issue the marriage certificate upon the issuance of the couple’s first birth cirtificate.

    … I’m picturing the man on his knees before his beloved, ring in hand, saying, “I love you forever! I’ll always be yours. Would you pending-marry me?”

    When you propose,

    If there were no other valid reasons for the state to recognize marriages, then we would (or should) probably do something like this.

    … you fail to deal with what I’ve said twice already about the necessity for couples without children: if there is the potential for children, then they need to be united in all legal ways before the child is born.

    And don’t forget that I’ve sliced off just a bare minimum of what it means to be married for purposes of this discussion. I am absolutely not talking about what it means to be married in any broad sense. I’m not trying to describe the whole breadth and depth of the meaning of marriage. I’m only saying that if SSM advocates win state recognition for what they call marriages, they do it at the expense of any good reason for the state to grant them the benefits that properly go with marriage. That’s all. I wouldn’t want you to draw any further conclusions from my argument than that, especially if they are the kinds of conclusions that minimize the full meaning of marriage.

  77. Thank you very much for the discussion Tom, I’ve genuinely found it quite enlightening.

    I’m mainly considering the points in theHarvard JLPP article (Girgis George and Anderson), which you seem to suggest as a basis for your own reasoning, apologies if this is not the case. I certainly think it had a lot of good well thought out ideas (perhaps you should present it more prominently, I almost missed it!) although I do have a few niggles with it.

    It first strikes me that the authors set up a dichotomy of conjugal and revisionist definitions of marriage and do not seem to give serious consideration to a view inbetween the two extremes (indeed I would disagree with the revisionist definition as presented). However, I appreciate the fact that so many SSM proponents hold such strong revisionist views could spell out social consequences if that was proclaimed to be how they “won” legalisation if it occurred.

    By the article, the only thing that distinguishes real marriage from a “comprehensive” friendship is organic bodily union. On this vague condition alone, there seems to be no preclusion of same-sex couples. However, it invokes a natural law type argument to conclude that organic bodily union is necessarily coitus. I’m not up to scratch on natural law, but if you don’t agree with natural law, or disagree with that particular argument under natural law (is reproduction really the only possible biological purpose of two humans in coordination?) then the whole argument seems to fall apart.

    As the authors often seem to argue from analogy rather than explicity spell out the principles that back up their claims, I’ll do similarly here:

    Suppose you have a genetically male intersex man with essentially no sexual organs in a relationship with a woman. Does the fact he cannot practise coitus mean their relationship cannot be a real marriage? [I know you at times have addressed this kinds of things in the past, but the article only addresses infertile rather than sexually incapable couples].

    [Speculative (Nonsense?) Paragraph] Perhaps organic bodily union could instead be thought of more along the lines of physical union of a couple in so far as they are able. While I’m no clued up on it, I remember seeing a documentary on the “sex” lives of a disabled couple, one of whom was paralysed most of the way down his body, and so the physical relationship comprised of stimulation of erogenous zones like behind the ears, which was still considered a genuinely meaningful act of deep connection. Could this be considered organic bodily union for this couple or are they simply unable to unite in such a way? And again, if so, if a same-sex couple who cannot engage in coitus do physically unite in the most comprehensive way possible (whatever that may be) would that be considered organic bodily union? Why/why not?

    Perhaps you genuinely think cases like above would not be “real” marriages, and fair enough if so but could you please definitively state if you think that’s the case. Otherwise if you think they could constitute real marriages it was seem to contradict the necessity of coitus, and again then there would seem to be no reason a same-sex couple could not have an organic bodily union.

    Although already somewhat discussed, I still feel a bit surprised how little substantiation has been given for the claim/implication that legalising SSM would “sever” the link between marriage and children. It would do no such thing (certainly not necessarily). As I’ve said many times, if a social norm of “if you are to have children, it should be within the context of marriage” were upheld, all of the benefits of parenting primarily being restricted to marriage would remain, except perhaps the social effects. However, I see no reason the argument I.D.2 (Still in the Public Interest) that allowing infertile couples to marry would be in the public interest could not also apply to same-sex couples (namely that they “can live out the features and norms of real marriage and thereby contribute to a healthy marriage culture. They can set a good example for others and help to teach the next generation what marriage is and is not.”). Given the number of same-sex marriages would be relatively small it would not be any significant economic cost.

    PS I assume it hasn’t happened to anyone else as I can see there’s been plenty of comments, but over the last five or so days the website seemed buggy (unchanged as it was on 29 Oct, often missing the layout) so I’ve only seen the new comments/threads now; apologies for the delay in replying on the other thread, I’ll look to get to it now!

  78. Your truth is not my truth, Tom. I understand that your religion teaches you that it is the universal truth, and that you are bound by your beliefs to act in accord with it, but surely you recognize that from my perspective we are not lying to children by telling them that the families they love are as good as any other family?

  79. I was going to respond to Tom’s #92, but I’m short on time lately, and I think Alex mostly said anything I could have thought to say (but better) in his last response.

    I’ll look forward to Tom’s reply.

  80. Yes, OS, I recognize we disagree. We have to make our decisions based on what we take to be true.

    It almost sounds–though I doubt it, since it’s so unlikely–it almost sounds as if you’re saying that since we disagree I must yield to you on this policy issue. I hope that’s not what you meant.

  81. Alex, the article to which you refer is not vague about organic bodily union.

    Natural law is not some take-it-or-leave-it body of knowledge. It’s a way of drawing conclusions about the nature of reality and of the good, based on what we understand from nature. So one does not need to have an overall position on natural law; one can simply assess arguments case by case.

    I’m fairly stunned to hear you say that the authors don’t spell out their principles. Yes, they use analogy to illustrate their points, but only after they’ve stated their points. I suggest you re-read the article and see what it says.

    Your question about physically intersexed persons is a tough one. I’m not sure how it helps us solve the easier problems of conjugal marriage, though. It’s always possible to pose a hard version for any ethical position, but that doesn’t mean that every ethical position is wrong, or that all are difficult to apply in the majority of cases.

    Establishing SSM would certainly sever the essential link between marriage and childbearing, or rather it would complete the process already begun to accomplish that severing. That’s because it would finally and completely establish by law that marriage has nothing essentially to do with childbearing. If marriage can take place where childbearing is impossible, then childbearing is optional for marriage.

    The result of that is that the state’s interest in supporting marriage loses all traction.

    I don’t know how (in the vast majority of cases) you would prohibit infertile couples from marrying. Are you going to make them prove their fertility before they marry?? The exceptions would of course be the extremely physically handicapped and the elderly. If a man and a woman in those categories marry, then they participate in supporting a culture of conjugal marriage. I don’t see what’s hard about that. If a same-sex couple “marries,” then they participate in undercutting a conjugal marriage culture. I don’t see what’s hard about that, either.

    I caution you to be careful about which argument applies to what. My argument with respect to childbearing has mostly to do with the relationship between marriage and the state. I haven’t begun to deal with the larger position that Girgis, George, and Anderson articulate, which is that of “comprehensive union.” Your objection here doesn’t deal with that larger position either. The number of man-woman marriages that experience challenges participating in that comprehensive union is minuscule. The number of same-sex marriages that can participate in it is exactly zero.

  82. @Tom Gilson:

    It’s always possible to pose a hard version for any ethical position, but that doesn’t mean that every ethical position is wrong, or that all are difficult to apply in the majority of cases.

    The (informal) fallacy of judging the normal, everyday cases by using ab-normal (in the statistical sense) or even contrived imaginary cases.

    And the whole field of casuistics (whether in law or in moral theology) is an attempted answer to this: working through the settled general principles in specific instances, weighing them in the balance and working out the best solution to what are undeniably difficult, messy, complicated cases. But isn’t human life, at least some of the time, like that? Difficult, messy and complicated.

  83. SSM may “sever the essential link” between marriage and child bearing but not between marriage and child raising.

  84. @ordinary seeker:

    SSM may “sever the essential link” between marriage and child bearing but not between marriage and child raising.

    Wrong, because SSM *also* overthrows the concept of filiation. Starting with the obvious: a child ends up having two fathers or two mothers, whichever the case may be. This is a metaphysical absurdity, even if *practical* considerations may lead to such cases (e.g. imagine an adoption scenario where there are no elligible couples and it must decided whether the child stays in the care of some government agency — usually the worst solution — or in the care of a single person or even two or more persons).

    I could expand on this, but I will leave it in Tom’s competent hands.

  85. Sorry was a bit messy, not up to scratch on my jargon with natural law etc, I suppose I meant more along the lines of there are different methodologies for discovering natural law?

    I do apologise I shouldn’t have been so banterous about principles/analogies, its not the least bit constructive. The qualifier “often” was probably too strong but I felt in a few instances the analogies weren’t obviously substantiated, but nowhere of importance from memory so I’ll happily leave that aside (& as you say it was probably my error).

    Perhaps I’m too used to the rigour of mathematical texts where any jargon is clearly defined as soon at it is mentioned, I think as it wasn’t (immediately) that just threw me off.

    I saw them say that organic bodily union of a couple is their bodies coordinated for some biological purpose of the whole, but it was unclear to me whether that was a conclusion from some unstated definition or simply a definition in and of itself. Perhaps you could clarify on this is you have a greater understanding? I’ll probably come back to this point after clarification.

    The concept of comprehensive union does seem intuitively appealing to me as a definition of marriage’s purpose. However, they cite intellectual union as an example of what alone would not satisfy being a marriage, but then would marriage imply intellectual union is necessary? For instance I don’t know of many academics who bring in their spouses to join in on their research. I’m primarily just trying to reach a clear understanding of the idea and what it entails myself I suppose; what actually constitutes comprehensive union and what is/isn’t necessarily included in that. I won’t rush you Tom; I’m sure you have a lot to cover but I do look forward to your expounding of comprehensive union.

    (*)Perhaps we should narrow down to one issue at a time to avoid confusion, but just to clarify my point on severance; if same-sex relationships can in fact be real marriages, then the fact that they cannot have children is no reason for the state to withdraw support for marriages. As with infertile/incapable opposite-sex couples, they could still equally support the marriage culture. Given the premise I think that’s pretty obvious, but of course the premise is in contention, so I’d suggest focusing on that first.

    Also if I wasn’t clear, I found it quite clear from the article that by their definitions/explanations infertile couples can have conjugal marriages.

    Regarding the “tough questions” (those incapable of coitus such as interesex persons), I do appreciate your point, but consideration of tough questions helps shed light on what our ideas really represent. I wouldn’t encourage you to jump at the question without serious thought (I’m certainly not trying to pull a gotcha), I’m just interested in greater understanding the concept of marriage as presented. I’m just surprised in what was otherwise a pretty comprehensive article that they entirely omitted what I thought was a quite obvious issue.

    (*)Edit: I keep flip-flopping between reading your point on severance as weak and strong. Again I think it boils down to the point of what organic bodily union entails. If real marriage includes anyone incapable of coitus, then it would seem to me child-bearing is not an essential part of marriage. This is not the same as saying it has nothing essentially to do with/no essential link to marriage (caveat: bar my own terminological misunderstanding). The definition of marriage would entail that child-bearing is best accomplished in marriage, and so should only be undertaken in marriage. I’m trying to think of a less dry (pardon the pun) example but its like saying there’s no essential link between fish and water, because although fish (should) only be found in water, there are bodies of water without any fish in (which seems absurd to me).

  86. If a man and a woman in those categories marry, then they participate in supporting a culture of conjugal marriage. I don’t see what’s hard about that. If a same-sex couple “marries,” then they participate in undercutting a conjugal marriage culture. I don’t see what’s hard about that, either.

    Tom,

    Well it must be pretty hard, because so far nobody has provided any reason to think that when a same sex couple marries, they undercut anything.

    What if I believe that when a same-sex couple marries, they also participate in supporting a culture of conjugal marriage? (I’ll re-iterate – there’s been nothing in this thread to challenge this belief *at all*) If you believe the state has an interest in recognizing relationships that “support a culture of conjugal marriage”, then the state has a reason to recognize same-sex marriages, base on this premise.

    So far, in this thread, nothing has been said that can logically touch a person who holds such a belief.

  87. d,

    I accept that you don’t see this undercutting. Apparently you even think that a “marriage” that contradicts the conjugal definition of marriage supports it. I am quite sure you’re logically and rationally in error on that, but that’s that. You can continue to believe it, and I expect you will continue to believe it, and apparently there’s nothing logic can do about it.

  88. Clarification: Hope my intention was clear but I meant “any one” rather than “anyone” in my edit; if there is some couple (or potentially could be) who could have a real marraige but absolutely incapable of coitus, it would seem to make child-bearing not essential to marriage.

  89. Let’s bear in mind what this post was about. The arguments in favor of conjugal marriage are available for you to read in the Girgis, George, and Anderson paper. I didn’t present them here; it just wasn’t my purpose. Probably at some point in the near future I’ll do a summary here, but this wasn’t it.

    What I was doing here instead could perhaps be summed up this way:

    Either the conjugal view of marriage, which involves a comprehensive union of man and woman, is correct, and marriage is intrinsically tied to raising a family, or it is not.

    If SSM advocates win, they will create a environment in which for purposes of law, the conjugal view so described is not the legally operative definition and description of marriage.

    There is already momentum in that direction as a result of the last half-century’s decoupling of sex, marriage, conception, and birth, all four of which were at one time physically and or normatively parts of a single package.

    SSM’s effect would be to ratify that movement into law.

    And the effect of that would be to eliminate the primary and essential reason for the state’s interest in marriage, which ironically is what SSM advocates are seeking to participate in.

    That has been my argument. Note that it doesn’t depend on my defending the conjugal view, and that it therefore stands or falls regardless of attacks on the conjugal view.

    So it would be more than a little bit interesting to me if we could back on the topic of the OP.

  90. Taken from a legal perspective, it would not necessarily be inconsistent to restrict many of the “legal” benefits of “marriage” to those who are either pregnant or have born children.

    That said, if one wants to encourage filial childbearing, some of the benefits of marriage have to accrue before pregnancy, in order to encourage it.

    The other perspective is to see children first and foremost as “wards of the state”, with the connection to their biological parents as more or less incidental. Aspects of this occurred in European communist countries, and is even occurring in the west (wards of schools / child care centres, anyone?).

    Also, please note the distinction between “best case scenario” and “best case remedial scenario”. I think wheelchairs are a fantastic invention, and that enabling wheelchairs as far as possible is a good thing. But I also support them only for people who already need them.

  91. @Alex Dawson:

    Again I think it boils down to the point of what organic bodily union entails. If real marriage includes anyone incapable of coitus, then it would seem to me child-bearing is not an essential part of marriage. This is not the same as saying it has nothing essentially to do with/no essential link to marriage (caveat: bar my own terminological misunderstanding). The definition of marriage would entail that child-bearing is best accomplished in marriage, and so should only be undertaken in marriage.

    I have only skimmed the linked article, and it was a long time ago, but speaking from the perspective of classical natural law theory from a Thomistic angle, the supposed objections raised by infertile couples just betray a misunderstanding of what natural law theorists claim.

    Let us start in the beginning: what is the purpose of sex? To make babies. I mean by purpose, the biological or nature’s (if you allow a little bit of anthropomorphizing) purposes, not human purposes which in general are very far removed from having babies. Given that human beings are not just animals, but rather rational animals, there are other issues involved, namely the bonding or unitive aspect. This bonding is needed because rearing a human child is a life-time job so couples must mate for life if they are to accomplish it. And because it is a life-time job, a commitment is made between the couple, a commitment that is sanctified by the sacrament (in several senses) of marriage. But the unitive aspect is subordinated to the procreative end, in that if children were not the (probable) end result of sex such bonding would not be needed. All this is blindingly obvious, and you can even concoct a just-so story about the evolutionary advantages of it all.

    note: there are two (or more) ends but only one act, so it is not like you can separate the one end from the other. To abuse the Scholastic jargon, it is a mere distinction of reason when we refer to the procreative and unitive as if they were different aspects, but they really are just two sides of the same coin.

    Now a natural law theorist will say that it is morally wrong to do anything that is directly contrary to, or frustrates the end(s) of the sexual act; in other words, even as a married person you are not obliged to have sexual intercourse (some qualifications are needed here) but if you do, then you cannot act contrary to its end.

    This, in short, is the perverted faculty argument. There are others, but this argument in particular makes it clear why raising the case of infertile couples just betrays ignorance of natural law. Because an infertile couple is not acting contrary to the ends of sex; it just so happens that by various reasons (infirmity, old age, etc.) the potency to give birth is not actualized. But the potency is there. And in some cases it can even be restored by the work of medicine.

    Of course, this is precisely *NOT* the case with SSM couples. The sexual act is by its very *essence* barren and infertile and thus a frustration of the natural end of the sexual act. And because by the very barren and infertile nature of SSM couples (or a man and a dog, a woman and the eiffel tower, etc. See here for more examples) they cannot be said to be married, not in any metaphysically relevant way.

    Now, how could an SSM advocate respond? They have some options at their disposal, but at the end of the day it all boils down to denying that marriage has any fixed nature *objectively* based on reality, but is rather a contract, a social convention, etc. No doubt, marriage also has those social, conventional aspects to it; but what the SSM advocate *must* do on pain of conceding the point to his opponent is to emphasize those over every other type of considerations. But then, if marriage is a matter of social mores, a mere institution, there is no *principled* reason why it should be restricted to two human adults (see the previous link). More, if marriage is an institution, filiation goes the same way; that is, to the trash heap of irrelevancy. If two men or women can get married, then a child can have two fathers and no mother or two mothers and no father, whichever the case may be. This is not a slippery slope argument; more precisely, it is not *just* a slippery slope argument. Rather, it is the definitive reductio of the position defended by SSM advocates.

  92. Tom:
    I suppose my point was questioning whether the “conjugal” view of marriage as a comprehensive union could in fact include same-sex couples (rather than allowing SSM via the revisionist view), which I guess is disputing one of the premises of your (OP) argument. Perhaps I am misguided in doing this, however.

    If that is not the case it would certainly strengthen your argument, and I would probably agree of the thrust of it.

    What I think it depends upon is whether the state is more concerned about:
    (1) The relationship between marriage and child-bearing enshrined in law
    (2) The actual correlation between marriage and child-bearing in society

    As while of course some dynamism exists between what’s enshrined in law and the ideas and behaviour of society, they can differ (as evidenced by the unfortunate decoupling of marriage and child-bearing).

    This suggests to me (2) would be the way the look at it (although I don’t honestly have any evidenced idea). In such a case the correlation and thus the state’s interest would would hinge upon the prevalence of the social norm “you should only have children if you are married (and remain married to raise them)”. For your argument to be more forecful I think you would need to more rigorously demonstrate that enshrining the revisionist definition of marriage in law would significantly alter the prevlance of the above norm.

    Indeed, although I haven’t given it much thought I would be tempted to think that the best way to improve the upbringing of the next generation would be to focus on instilling that norm more widely in society (which I appreciate is being done), rather than worrying about the legally enshrined defintion which I wouldn’t imagine the average person would really care about (or even know at all; I didn’t until researching this topic thoroughly myself).

  93. G. Rodrigues:

    Don’t want to disrupt Tom’s thread too much; do you know any other good place to discuss this?

    Regarding natural law, in brief the points I’m struggling to get my head around are:
    (1) Why the unitive aspect is subordinated to the procreative
    (2) Why you can’t have multiple distinct ends to an act which can be pursued independently (and then why it would be immoral to pursue one at expense of the other in some instance)

    With regards to SSM I don’t think the morality of certain sexual acts were of direct relevance to what I was getting stuck with; taking comprehensive union as the basis of a definition for marriage I was considering if and why/why not such a union could exist between a same-sex couple. So in particular:
    (A) whether a comprehensive union would necessarily imply an “organic physical union” (which I *think* I’m okay with, perhaps subject to definition of organic physical union and comprehensive union)
    (B) whether an organic physical union would necessarily imply (the potential for) procreative sex
    And it was the latter point (B) that wasn’t obvious to me.

    Thank you very much for the explanation though, I think it clarified why the physically incapable can form real marriages without necessarily extending it any further.

  94. @Alex Dawson:

    Why the unitive aspect is subordinated to the procreative.

    Because the bonding experienced by couples as an effect of sexual intercourse is there to make them mate for life. And why should couples mate for life if not for the rearing of children? And what is the rearing of children if not the procreative aspect of sex?

    Unless you have some other explanation for why nature felt the need (sorry once again for the anthropomorphizing) to wire such feelings in human nature. And feel free to translate this in evolutionary terms; in fact, by all means do.

    Why you can’t have multiple distinct ends to an act which can be pursued independently.

    There is a misunderstanding here; couples may have all sorts of reasons for why they engage in sexual intercourse. It could be as simple as them being in an amorous mood. The ends relevant for the discussion at hand are not the ends in people’s minds, whether capricious whims or the desires cultivated long and hard by reasoned reflection and contemplation, but the ends that nature set for us, the immanent telos of our various faculties. And precisely because they are the ends set for us by nature, they are a matter of objective fact discoverable, at least in principle, by a combination of observation and reasoning. Whether other such goals can be pursued is largely irrelevant for this particular question (although it is not in deciding moral questions as intent plays no small part in such issues).

    With regards to SSM I don’t think the morality of certain sexual acts were of direct relevance to what I was getting stuck with;

    My bad; I wrote “morally wrong” but it was not my intention to drag morality into the discussion. Brain short-circuit. The point is simply that it is the immanent goals or ends of our various faculties that dictate what counts as their proper or improper use. Given that sex, and under this umbrella gather all the various complex human phenomena attached to it, is the distinguishing feature of the relations regulated by marriage laws (as opposed to say, friendship), if we are to understand what marriage is, what functions it serves, we must have the right conception of what sex is and what functions it serves. And I am sure you will not be surprised to see me writing this, but modern society’s conception of sex is *deeply* distorted.

    About your questions, to answer them correctly I would have to reread the linked article to know what the authors mean by such expressions as “comprehensive union” and “organic physical union”.

    Even so, allow me to say that if natural law arguments are correct, then such a union is only possible between a man and a woman. At this point, probably SSM couples would interject and violently disagree with me. This is certainly a thorny and difficult issue (hey, men and women *are* complicated), so I will stop here.

    note: About your first question, sorry no, not really.

  95. I appreciate that there are people like you in a world of irrationality. Thanks for all you do. You are a HUGE inspiration to me (and I’m sure many others). Keep fighting the good fight, God bless!

  96. Since the last time that I’ve commented, three states (including mine) and Spain have all legalized same-sex marriage, and one state has defeated a measure that would have banned it. You no longer get to say that everyone else thinks like you, and that people who favor marriage equality are in the minority.

    For these things, if He exists, I thank Him.

    There’s a lot that’s been spoken here about natural law. I’m studying it, to better understand it, but at this point when I hear it I keep thinking back to the people who said once upon a time that if God would have wanted us to fly that He would have given us wings, or that vaccines were an affront to God because they disturbed the natural order. We have made our tools, but they have made us, too!

    In an age where we have fertility treatments and artificial insemination and sperm/egg donors and adoption I just don’t see why “oh, you can’t have children, so nyah nyah nyah” works as an argument. So what if a same-sex couple can’t “procreate”… can they raise a child? Can they love? Can they pay taxes? Okay, so what’s the big deal???

    When I’ve engaged in this discussion I’ve consistently asked for real-world examples, for evidence, for specifics. Have I gotten them? No. My questions have been dodged or mocked, the responses have gotten increasingly vaguer, and the claim has even been made that no evidence is even needed!

    It’s nice to be a Thinking Christian, but what happens when your thoughts and opinions and philosophies have no basis in reality?

    Paragraph deleted by request

  97. I can offer you a simple moral choice and you cannot answer it – isn’t this just a recasting of Rowe’s Fawn? I repeat the same question that I’ve asked before –

    Is it better for a child to be raised by a broken and unstable married heterosexual couple, or by a loving and stable married homosexual couple?

    This question is an easy one for me to answer, because I value the quality of love over having parents of two different genders. When it comes to you, however, there must be some battle in your intellect or soul that prevents you from answering. Why? What is it?

    The worst thing is that this isn’t some theoretical Rowe’s Fawn… it’s a real world question. There are tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of children out there in that situation who could be helped, but the idealism and theology that you and those like you espouse seems to imply that they may never have that chance to be raised by loving parents.

    Should they tangibly suffer than somehow intangibly suffer by permitting those who could love them to do so, simply because they don’t fit your philosophical/metaphysical ideal?

    How can this possibly be moral??? Of what value is your philosophy if you cannot use it to make what should be a simple moral decision?

    That is why this question is so important to me, and why I keep asking it! Why should I be a Christian if I can’t answer this question??? You’re a Thinking Christian – I honestly consider you to be a really intelligent person. Even though I disagree with you, from what I know of you I think that you are undoubtedly an excellent parent, a moral person, and a loving husband… You come across as a passionate and well-spoken advocate for your faith. You pose questions to me that I honestly cannot answer (how can an atheist have an objective morality, for instance – I’m still puzzling over that one!).

    So… help? Am I completely misunderstanding, and this is an abstract or theoretical exercise, and I just don’t have the education to “get it”?

    EDIT – Tom, I apologize for the last paragraph (“well, perhaps…”) of my last post. I ask you to delete it, and I ask your forgiveness for it. It was unnecessarily snarky, and added nothing to the conversation.

    I also apologize for my tone in general if I have come across as hostile or antagonistic. I have been unable to maintain objectivity during these debates, which is one reason why I’ve tried to stay away from them. You know that – you’ve seen that in the past. I’ve felt like these are reasonable questions, and I’ve felt like I haven’t gotten fair answers. It is entirely possible that you have and that I simply don’t understand your responses – it wouldn’t be the first time, and surely won’t be the last. If I am grossly out of line and need to simply stop responding to your posts about same-sex marriage on your blog I will do so.

  98. Sault wrote:

    Since the last time that I’ve commented, three states (including mine) and Spain have all legalized same-sex marriage, and one state has defeated a measure that would have banned it. You no longer get to say that everyone else thinks like you, and that people who favor marriage equality are in the minority.

    How many states are there? Three makes a majority? How many people live in those states? Billions?

    So, now this means you can be intolerant?

    Am I a bigot for not caring about chickens?

  99. Sault, you ask “Is it better for a child to be raised by a broken and unstable married heterosexual couple, or by a loving and stable married homosexual couple?” As you say, you’ve asked this question before in several forms and haven’t gotten an answer that satisfies you. I hear your frustration, and it sounds like at least some of it comes from genuinely seeking an answer, and not feeling like you’re getting one. I think perhaps that the answer is of a different kind than what you expect, which is why you don’t see it. The first thing I thought of when I read your post is someone asking me “Would you rather be stabbed with a knife or burned with a hot iron?” My answer is “Neither!”

    As I read the Bible, an unstable heterosexual home, and a divorced single parent home and a two-parent homosexual home are all against God’s plan for how families should be. Asking to pick which one is “best” is looking for the lesser of several evils. Jesus answer to any of these situations is similar to his response to the woman caught in adultery – “Go and sin no more”. We are called to come as we are, and let Him change us to conform to God’s standards, not find the least objectionable of several bad alternatives.

    As an aside, my opinion is that the church has set itself up for the hard time it’s having over SSM by (mostly) accepting divorce as normal. People who call themselves Christians, yet accept a broken definition of marriage in regard to what is an acceptable reason to divorce and remarry, have given up the right to tell others have to accept “the rest” of God’s definition.

  100. Sault,

    You ask a very theoretical question. I have explained to you what’s wrong with it, and now David has too. I hope you’ll understand now that we are refusing to answer precisely because it is not the easy question you say it is. You have set it up as a simple binary having simple immediate implications, and it is neither of those. Please accept our word on that, okay?

    I am not sure who the tens or hundreds of thousands of children are who could be helped by being raised in homosexual-parented homes, or how they would be identified, or how they would be placed, or how it could be known in advance that placing them there would be advantageous, or why they couldn’t be placed in the thousands and thousands of already-married couples’ homes who are looking to adopt. Those are my questions in response to your solution. I do not think they have simple binary answers either.

    I do not as a rule delete paragraphs on request except to correct typos, only entire posts. I’ll do it this time.

  101. @Sault:

    My first answer was actually a long one, but I ended up scratching it. It would be a mere waste of both our times.

    Everything can be summed up nicely in this two juxtaposed quotes paragraph:

    There’s a lot that’s been spoken here about natural law. I’m studying it, to better understand it, but at this point when I hear it I keep thinking back to the people who said once upon a time that if God would have wanted us to fly that He would have given us wings, or that vaccines were an affront to God because they disturbed the natural order.

    It’s nice to be a Thinking Christian, but what happens when your thoughts and opinions and philosophies have no basis in reality?

    Trying and failing. And if you do not understand why don’t you just keep silent? Because if you spout patent ignorant idiocies like the one above, I am going to call you out on it and expose your ignorance.

    The second quote is even more telling. It is nice of you to concede that “thinking” is good, since it clearly is something you have a tremendous difficulty with. You do not, and seemingly you cannot, understand an argument. If an argument is sound and valid it *IS* based in reality insofar as it expresses a true statement and statements are true if they “match” reality.

    Apparently, thinking is an inconvenience for you as it does not deliver the answers that you find emotionally satisfying, so what better course than do away with it? You do not like the answers, so you berate them and say they have “no basis in reality”. But on what grounds can you possibly claim this if you not have the least iota of understanding of natural law arguments?

    I am not going to waste more time (both yours and mine) on this: Holopupenko diagnosed the situation to a T. When thinking is needed and there is none to be found, resort to the next best thing: sophistry, power play, emotional manipulative screeds.

  102. Am I a bigot for not caring about chickens?

    Let me make it clear that I am not calling anyone here a bigot for their opposition to same-sex marriage.

    I think perhaps that the answer is of a different kind than what you expect, which is why you don’t see it. The first thing I thought of when I read your post is someone asking me “Would you rather be stabbed with a knife or burned with a hot iron?” My answer is “Neither!”

    Thank you for the metaphor. It is still difficult for me to grasp how much antipathy towards same-sex marriage exists when a question like mine can be likened to being stabbed or burned. That’s pretty rough! I don’t know anyone who would react that way to my question, so perhaps that is why I have been so frustrated with the responses up to this point.

    You have set it up as a simple binary having simple immediate implications, and it is neither of those. Please accept our word on that, okay?

    Thank you for giving specifics on why you reject this question.

    From previous statements that you have made (and certainly from the metaphor that David used!) I gather that there is a belief that children are damaged or harmed by having married same-sex parents. If I understand G Rodriguez correctly, he feels that the loss of filiation is damaging to a child.

    When people start talking about hurting children I think abuse and people living in broken homes – that is why I have used those examples in my series of questions. If it is not “abuse”, how can I frame it properly in my head so as not to misconstrue you?

    I ask for your correction if I have inadvertently misstated the question or posed it in an inappropriate way, and humbly ask for your help in understanding your viewpoint.

    And if you do not understand why don’t you just keep silent?

    Because sometimes the only way to learn is to ask questions, and sometimes it takes opening my big fat mouth and looking a fool before I can do so. I didn’t take philosophy in college (only got as far as Logic 102 or whatever), so I’m operating from a place of ignorance. I’m trying to learn, but I’m going to crash and burn a *lot* in the process.

    Hey, think of it this way – I sometimes succeed in learning something, and the rest of you get to look extremely educated and intelligent by comparison. We all win!

    Because if you spout patent ignorant idiocies like the one above, I am going to call you out on it and expose your ignorance.

    Well…

    “Vaccines interfere with natural law and God’s plan for humanity. Disease is a natural occurrence, and humans should not interfere with its trajectory. “
    [source]

    ” If you’re unaware of how today’s palliative medicine disrespects the natural law,…”
    [source]

    “If God had intended that man should fly, he would have given him wings.”

    — attributed to George W. Melville, chief engineer of the U.S. Navy, 1900

    Some people have and actually do say these types of things. Crazy, huh?

    The more I look at it, the more natural law seems to be inherently theistic. Perhaps that is why I don’t “get” it – I’m discovering that I fall more and more into non-theistic utilitarianism. Oh, well…

  103. @Sault:

    If I understand G Rodriguez correctly, he feels that the loss of filiation is damaging to a child.

    No, you do not understand me correctly. I never mentioned the well-being of children. Although I could try to mount such type of arguments, on all probability you will not see me doing it, simply because those issues do not concern me the most and I am not competent to speak of them.

    When people start talking about hurting children I think abuse and people living in broken homes – that is why I have used those examples in my series of questions.

    How can granting same-status marriage to SSM couples help with that? Really, how? I presume you mean adoption. But SSM couples are a minority of the population; and the couples willing to adopt are a minority inside this minority, so what difference could it make for the “thousands” (if I recall that was the figure you used) of children in “suffering”?

    Maybe you want to say that even if the problem cannot be solved, even if just one children “can be saved” it surely is a good outcome, is it not? But I repeat, what has *that* got to do with SSM marriage? Given that *one* single person can adopt, why not larger groups of people? It would seem to be a discrimination against such larger groups of people. Without having given any thought to it (and I stress this, I really need to inform myself), I will just say that it is a prudential, practical matter.

    As for your direct response to me, may I suggest you read more carefully the second source you provided? On a first reading it seems to me that you lifted the quote out of context (the death-orientation of the current crop of palliative cares).

    Because sometimes the only way to learn is to ask questions, and sometimes it takes opening my big fat mouth and looking a fool before I can do so.

    Yes, to learn one needs to make questions. You made none. An if you do want to make one, maybe opening with an idiotic salvo is not the best way to do it? Just a suggestion.

    Some people have and actually do say these types of things. Crazy, huh?

    Yes some people say remarkably stupid things. I for sure have said many stupid things in my life and I am also positive that I will say many more. And?

    But here is what is really stupid. To think that because someone uses the expression “natural law” to automatically assume that he is speaking of natural law as an Aristotelian-Thomist (e.g. me) understands it. Here’s some newsflash: he is not. “Natural” in natural law as conceived in AT has a specific sense that you fail to grasp. But hey, I understand you. After all, as an avowed utilitarian (see below), if you have nothing in response (and you do not, since by your own admission you do not understand it), why not hurl a couple of straw-man silly caricatures at your opponent, right? To hell with the truth, as long as you get the right results. Of course, one can quibble what exactly counts as the “right results” under utilitarianism — but never mind, you are not to be be stopped by such inconvenient trifles.

    I’m discovering that I fall more and more into non-theistic utilitarianism.

    You are already there, Sault. You have always presented yourself as an atheist and all your moral claims are and have been utilitarian through and through.

  104. Sault #113
    I get the sense you are confusing what God had intended with what God is allowing humans to create of their own free will.

    True, God didn’t directly intend on creating things like flying machines and vaccines. If he did, he would have created them directly. These things are not part of the natural order. We created those things (by God’s grace). Does this act of creation fly in the face of what God intended for us? I can’t point to anything from within Christianity that says God would want us to avoid creating flying machines and vaccines, so it’s likely okay.

    Contrast this with humans creating a culture where SS relationships are championed. Championing these relationships is not part of the natural order – never has been. The differences in biology can attest to that fact, yet you want to create this new non-natural thing much like we have created flying machines and vaccines.

    So here’s my question: Can you point to anything from within Christianity itself that can tell us if it’s a good idea to create a culture where SS relationships are championed?

  105. G. Rodrigues;

    Thanks again for the explanations, I really do appreciate it! My viewpoints are a bit too much in flux to constructively continue on this thread; I’ll try my best to better ground myself in (particularly AT) natural law before I chirp in again on such things, although its hard not to join in debate to the best of my understanding even when I know my knowledge limitations.

  106. SteveK,

    Contrast this with humans creating a culture where SS relationships are championed. Championing these relationships is not part of the natural order – never has been. The differences in biology can attest to that fact, yet you want to create this new non-natural thing much like we have created flying machines and vaccines.

    I’m quite sure, if biology does attest to anything on these matters, its not quite so simple or clear as you make out to be. There’s no obvious logical leap from the observation that when male and female parts go tother, babies tend to come out, that any other form of romatic coupling is “against the natural order”.

    G. Rodrigues is right to say “if natural law arguments are correct” (and that “if” is so large it dwarfs everest). Even if we get to the point where natural law is taken to be more or less true, there’s still a LONG road to hoe before you get to the conclusion that same-sex marriage is wrong.

    I’d go so far as to say that the within the confines of natural law, gay marriage arguments are actually rather weak – its far easier to justify it than not.

  107. d,

    Your treatment of natural law in this context shows that you are not qualified to assess whether one argument or another is easier to justify under natural law. It shows when you say, “if we get to the point where natural law is taken to be more or less true…”

    Natural law is not some monolithic thing that is either true or false. Natural law is a way of understanding reality, an approach, a method. The method yields one result here, another there, and those results will be more or less credible and reliable depending on the skill of the thinker and the adequacy of the information at hand.

    So it’s not up to whether “natural law” is true. It’s up to whether natural-law arguments relevant to marriage stand up to scrutiny.

    You’ll have to forgive the paucity of my education, but I’ve never heard a natural-law argument for SSM, other than the equal-rights argument. But that one doesn’t stand up even against what I argued in the OP here.

    Do you have another one that does a better job than that?