Tom Gilson

Why Same-Sex “Marriage” Makes So Much Sense To So Many

Christians and other supporters of man-woman marriage: we need to understand why same-sex “marriage” (SSM) makes sense to so many people. The first step in that direction is to recognize that it actually does make sense to a whole lot of people–people who are in fact reasonable and sensible.

If we don’t understand why it makes sense to those people, we’ll never understand why our arguments against it don’t make sense to them, and we’ll never be able to present arguments that make do make sense—not to SSM supporters, and probably not to many other people either. We’ll never understand why they think we’re fools for holding the position we do.

Here then is why same-sex marriage makes sense. It’s really quite simple, and it’s based in the way marriage is defined by the great majority of Westerners today—possibly including yourself.

I’m speaking specifically to marriage conservatives at this point. Ask yourself if you agree with this:

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

So far so good? Let’s add on some important additional facts about marriage. They’re not vital to its definition but they are true nonetheless:

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

Are we in agreement still?

Now, if you’re a conservative with respect to marriage, and yet you agree that what I wrote above defines marriage, then you have little to no principled reason to include the words “of opposite sex” in that definition. You have no just cause to exclude same-sex couples from the benefits attached to marriage. You have no case.

I’m serious.

SSM supporters, am I wrong about this, as stated here?

Of course I oppose same-sex “marriage,” and I am confident there is a principled legal and social (not just religious!) case to be made for that opposition; but not based on the definition I started with here. If that statement really were what marriage was, then marriage by rights ought to include same-sex couples as much as opposite-sex ones.

And I think most people really do think that’s what marriage is—which explains why same-sex “marriage” makes sense to so many people in our society. It’s because we view marriage as the legally-recognized faithful, uniquely committed, loving, social, economic, and sexual union of two non-blood-related consenting adults … which allows no principled exclusion of same-sex couples.

I’ll be back later to explain what’s lacking in the definition I’ve given, and why there’s another one that’s more accurate to the reality of marriage, and which by definition precludes same-sex “marriage” on just and reasonable grounds. In the meantime, if you as a marriage conservative were nodding your head in agreement with the statement I started with here, I hope you’ll find yourself worried about it—worried enough to know you had better start learning more about it. So consider this a teaser for my next post on this topic, where I’ll explain further.

Consider it also what I said it was in the beginning: it really is the explanation for why so many people think SSM makes sense. There’s a lot to be said for understanding others, even if we disagree. SSM supporters: please feel free to clarify, to explain further, and even to correct me in the spirit of understanding, please.

Update January 13, 2013:

Commenting Restored

The comment function here has been out of service, possibly causing frustration, for which I apologize. You can comment again now, and it will save and post as it should do. First-time commenters' comments will not appear, however, until approved in moderation.

62 thoughts on “Why Same-Sex “Marriage” Makes So Much Sense To So Many

  1. economic, and social benefits

    I expect that once these words are unpacked, you’ll find your just and reasonable grounds. Look forward to your next post.

  2. Thanks, Steve.

    All: I’ve decided to delay that next post until sometime next week, in order to get a week’s worth of responses to a questionnaire I’ve developed on this topic. I’m not posting the link here (sorry) because once you’ve read this post your answers might be unduly influenced by it. If you run across it on Twitter or Facebook, though, feel free to fill it in.

  3. There are a couple of problems in the definition from a strictly logical view point. First, if there’s no reason to include “of the opposite sex,” in the definition, then there’s also no reason to include “two people,” nor “not genetically related,” in the definition. Why is it cousins can’t get married if they’re straight, but they can if they’re gay? And if a gay woman marries a gay man who’s her cousin, would that be allowed?

    The second problem is “social approval accorded to a sexual relationship.” No, marriage isn’t social approval accorded to a sexual relationship, it’s social approval accorded to the results of that sexual relationship, because society expects those results to be raised by parents, rather than abandoned to the whims of social programs and the care of others.

    So what this definition misses is the children.

  4. Why does the definition have to include two people…why can’t i marry my cat by this logic…as long as society allows me to equate the union to the priveledges desired…the terms of the union are moot.

  5. Marriage is a legal contract between two people. Different cultures at different times have allowed and disallowed marriage contracts for various reasons. At this time, in this culture, society is in the process of deciding whether to allow that contract for two people of the same sex.

  6. look forward to your next post…..

    And if its going to be about ‘children’ and the ability to have/nurture kids do remember to explain why then, in your view, people of opposite gender who can’t have/look after children due to say, elderly age or severe disability should be allowed to marry? (Unless you think they shouldn’t?!)

    kind regards,

    Neil

  7. The question of whether to allow you to marry your cat, Mike, is not being considered by the general pol pulsation at this time.

  8. The question of whether to allow someone to marry a person of the same sex, Ordinaryseeker, was not being considered by the general population ten years ago.

    Do you have a principled reason why the woman who married her dog should not have done so?

    Admittedly that’s an extreme case and it might not come up in ten years.

    How about marriage to one’s sister? Do you have a principled reason why ten years from now you would not be writing on some blog,

    Marriage is a legal contract between two people. Different cultures at different times have allowed and disallowed marriage contracts for various reasons. At this time, in this culture, society is in the process of deciding whether to allow that contract for two people of the same birth parents.

    Further, and relevant to that question, do you believe that “marriage is a legal contract between two people” is the entire relevant definition of marriage?

  9. Neil:

    “And if its going to be about ‘children’ and the ability to have/nurture kids do remember to explain why then, in your view, people of opposite gender who can’t have/look after children due to say, elderly age or severe disability should be allowed to marry? (Unless you think they shouldn’t?!)”

    Two points.

    First, you’re mixing up the creation of children with caring for children –the way you’ve put it, “love” is all that matters in caring for a child. But clearly we need to define “love,” if we’re going to say, “love is all you need.” But what is a better definition of love than two people who commit to one another –no matter what happens– and to the children they produce for the rest of their lives? If you say, “well, gay people can commit the same way,” — how many people go into a homosexual marriage thinking, “I’m going to have children with this person,” rather than, “I’m going to have someone to care for _me_ in my old age?” Care to do a survey?

    Second, you’re trying to have marriage as something that is for the two people getting married only, and then saying, “but we can find a way to structure things to take care of the kids.” You’re starting at the wrong end of the stick –marriage isn’t about being happy, the way you feel, the way someone else makes you feel, or wanting someone to care about you. If you go into marriage to have someone to care about you, then you’ll have kids so they will care about you, too –and you’ll end up foisting horribly self centered children on the rest of society.

    The “old folks” and “barren” arguments are straw men.

    On the other side of the coin is this question: If marriage isn’t about children, then why don’t we let brothers marry their sisters, or fathers their daughters, so long as they promise not to have children? If contraception is free, then why not allow anyone to marry, so long as they pledge not to have children?

    Sorry for rambling…

  10. Tom,

    You are correct, we don’t know what we will be asked to decide in regard to marriage–or any other social issue–ten years from now. So what?

    On a side note, are you aware that gay people have on occassion adopted their partners so that they could legally inherit their estates? Is that preferable, in your opinion, to allowing SSM?

  11. Oridnary Seeker:

    “The question of whether to allow you to marry your cat, Mike, is not being considered by the general pol pulsation at this time.”

    And what would your argument be against it if it were? What argument, in general, can you give for allowing any two people to marry, and not any three people, or any two already related people (such as father/daughter), or any other combination?

    The point is you’re saying, “this is what we’re asking for, not that,” but then you don’t distinguish between “this,” and “that,” in any way that will actually hold water. Until you can provide a solid definition that is no less arbitrary than you claim “one man and one woman,” is, and keeps animals and people, or threesomes, or foursomes, or incest out of the realm of possible marriages, then you must accept that when you ask for SSM, you are asking for all these other things as well –whether or not that’s your intent.

  12. There is of course there is an important relation between marriage and children/parenting.

    I would passionately argue against anyone who claimed they were completely distinct.

    I imagine part of the issue will be how much the legal, economic, and social benefits of marriages are dependent upon the capability/actuality of having/raising children. However, my superificial understanding is that they can easily be disentagled (e.g. by giving child benefit to parents rather than all married couples) and there is good reason to give certain benefits to those married without children.

    I look forward to seeing how Tom integrates marriage and children, but I still struggle to see if there exists a solid social norm of “if you are going to have/raise children, it ought to be within the context of marriage”, how extending marriage to those unable to have children (and so in particular same-sex couples) is precluded by any of the above, and/or how any of the benefits given to married couples or parents would be weakened by such an extension.

  13. “…how extending marriage to those unable to have children (and so in particular same-sex couples) is precluded by any of the above, and/or how any of the benefits given to married couples or parents would be weakened by such an extension.”

    I don’t know how Tom will answer it, but this is what I would argue –when you define marriage as both “a relationship that leads to children,” and, “a relationship that is for personal satisfaction,” (which is, btw, what ssm marriage is –a relationship based on personal satisfaction), then you weaken marriage by entangling the two definitions. It doesn’t matter whether or not you intended that outcome, all that matter is that you have, in fact, caused that outcome.

    Once the additional definition of, “marriage is for personal satisfaction,” is in place, it will quickly take over any and all other definitions (in fact, the reason we’re here right now is because this has become the definition of marriage, so what I’m saying would happen has already happened).

    And once marriage is defined in terms of the marrying adults, what’s in it for children? Children, in such a marriage, become nothing more than playthings created by adults for self-satisfaction –and this violates a fundamental tenant of the Christian worldview, that people are people, _not_ things.

    The other option is to have two different things, one for creating children, and the other for personal satisfaction –but then you have to ask, “what’s the limit on personal satisfaction?” Who’s to say a father can’t marry his daughter, so long as they’re only doing it for “personal satisfaction?”

    No, allowing SSM doesn’t make things simpler, or more fair, or less arbitrary. In fact, it’s more arbitrary than “one man and one woman,” because you’ve now said, “marriage is about personal satisfaction, but the state declares personal satisfaction can only exist in relationships of two otherwise unrelated people.”

  14. Related people have been (and still are) allowed to marry. More than two people have been, and are, allowed to marry. It’s a question of what any particular culture finds acceptable. You, Tom, want our culture to find SSM unacceptable. I don’t.

    When the question becomes about cats, I and the rest of our society will make a decision then.

  15. Ordinary Seeker:

    “It’s a question of what any particular culture finds acceptable.”

    So your argument is based on the idea that whatever a culture finds acceptable is not only moral, but also an overall good? You do realize this broadens the discussion, right?

    You should really read _The Abolition of Man_ before you carry on talking about how right and wrong are just cultural norms; the answer to that proposition requires a book. In short, though, if all morality is cultural, then there is no morality, either individually or culturally.

    “Related people have been (and still are) allowed to marry.”

    What degree of relation? How does it turn out for the society? Is there any difference in the genetic structure from, say, 2000 years ago and today that might impact your allowance in this space? Have you ever investigated these sorts of issues?

    “More than two people have been, and are, allowed to marry.”

    Ah, the old polygamy straw man… Sorry, but Christianity hasn’t ever supported polygamy. In fact, Judaism doesn’t, either. Have you ever wondered why every polygamous marriage in the Scriptures is an object lesson on the various problems in such families?

  16. Ordinary Seeker:

    To carry your comment on cats and society deciding to their logical conclusions:

    ==
    When you “let society decide what morals are,” you are effectively saying that this magical being called “society,” gets to value individuals according to whatever rules society decides. To put it in simpler terms, people are no longer people, but things. Which means, in the end, that you and I are just things to be adjusted and managed and molded and modified as “society” sees fit.
    ==

    Is that really the moral structure you desire? Have you thought through the consequences of holding to this type of moral system?

    The entire problem with the radical individualistic project that SSM represents is that it doesn’t increase freedom in it’s quest for more license, it decreases humanness. The ultimate result is a bunch a monkeys that can do just what they feel like doing, any time, all the time.

    In fact, there’s an undercurrent of this thinking in Satan’s temptation of Eve –“Didn’t God give you the desire to eat that fruit? What could be wrong with a desire that God has given you? Don’t you want to be like me, a simple animal that follows your desires?”

    Which is just fine if you’re a monkey or a snake. But I’m neither; I’m a human.

  17. Russ,

    I’m aware of what you propose are the implications of moral relativity.

    And I didn’t say whether I agreed that more than two people or people who are related should be allowed to marry, only that some cultures have or do allow it.

  18. SSM decreases humanness? Wow. That’s the best anti-gay argument I’ve heard yet.

  19. Ordinary Seeker:

    “SSM decreases humanness? Wow. That’s the best anti-gay argument I’ve heard yet.”

    Nice snark. Now, how about having a real discussion?

    Your argument for SSM represents a view of marriage (marriage is for personal satisfaction) and morality (society decides what is moral and what is not) that, at their foundation, treats people as as things, rather than people.

    If you can refute the statement, then feel free to do so. When you jump to snark, the assumption is you can’t, in fact, refute the statement.

  20. Russ:
    I haven’t seriously tackled this subject for a while, so sorry if I’m a bit slow. I know this is early stages and prior to Tom’s more in depth post, but I think you’d need some clearer and more rigorous definitions and arguments to hold together your claims. It is by no means obvious that the motivations or outcomes of allowing SSM are “defining” marriage to be “for personal satisfaction”.

    In particular you would definitely need further detail than simply defining marriages as “a relationship that leads to children”, as you would still need to establish:
    (a) Why the physically disabled/infertile/asexual/celibate should still be allowed to marry as they don’t fall under your definition(*)
    (b) Why incestuous opposite-sex couples should not marry as they do fall under your definition (**)

    Apologies if I’m misunderstanding, I’m not sure I’m completely following you, but you seem to be saying that people with bad intentions will have bad marriages (neglect their children etc). Well indeed! But regardless of what marriage actually is, the good of a particular couple’s marriage will be dependent on their intentions/motivations. The fact that some people pursue opposite-sex marriage with dubious motivations (e.g. to secure entry into a country, shotgun weddings, or simply self-satisfaction rather than the greater good) is no serious argument against such marriages, as so is similarly neither a serious argument against SSM [even if some people cite such dubious motivations as their reasoning for it].

    Perhaps you’re saying that allowing SSM will cause more people to approach marriage with such bad intentions? This comes across as very hand-wavy to me, I’m quite sceptical of citing “society” as a causal agent, and would seem to go against the humanness you endorse so strongly. It would seem quite intuitive to me that it would boil down to a couple’s attitudes and behaviours rather than the rest of society’s that would determine how their marriage would unfold.

    Showing that good would come of allowing good, honestly intentioned same-sex couples to marry would to me seem sufficient reason to allow it, as almost all good institutions are open to abuse.

    I would probably need a bit of time and thought to rigorously present my own conception of marriage, but there a great many societal benefits to publically endorsed committed relationships, such that I think that having the greatest good in mind would lead to allowing same-sex marriages being a rational conclusion.

    Perhaps another way to look at the issue is establishing three facts:
    (1) Which definiton of marriage best corresponds to reality / how people view it
    (2) What the logical consequences of that definiton are
    (3) What other facts about the world inform us about the function and characteristics of marriage.

    Considerations such as (a) above lead me to think that children is not a fundamental part of the definiton of marriage, but the importance of children and their relation to marriage are established by (3) in that since their wellbeing and upbringing are of utmost importance, it is right and rational that you only ought to set out to have children if you are married, such that your children can be brought up in a stable family environment with their biological parents.

    (*) NB I have seen well substantiated arguments to deal with this along the lines of final causes, though I still haven’t got my head around what I think of teleology and the like; I don’t think your presented argument as yet deals with these examples though

    (**) NB2 I am personally quite happy to leave things like incest aside to not complicate the argument,just wanted to emphasise that presently the question of whether a father could marry his daughter would be equally problematic for you as for me. I will pursue this in more depth if you wish though.

  21. I don’t know how Tom will answer it, but this is what I would argue –when you define marriage as both “a relationship that leads to children,” and, “a relationship that is for personal satisfaction,” (which is, btw, what ssm marriage is –a relationship based on personal satisfaction), then you weaken marriage by entangling the two definitions. It doesn’t matter whether or not you intended that outcome, all that matter is that you have, in fact, caused that outcome.

    I don’t know about you, but I think kids generally fare better when marriage is both a personally fulfilling relationship for the couple, and also about good parenting. Marriage is multifaceted.

    The only place we ever see the staunch traditionalist talking of a marriage that is so narrow and reductionist, is in this very debate. Reproduction, reproduction, reproduction! Are you guys taking you cues from the sorts of inept Darwinists that chant that very same refrain in defense of their deficient “moral” outlook?

    We honor the marriages between elderly couples who are obviously barren. We don’t look at their union as something lesser than because their union is most likely about mutual fulfillment and the care-giving ans support they can offer one another in their remaining years. Nor do we do the same for younger barren couples.

    And why do we suddenly talk so dismissively of personal fulfillment, as if the type of fulfillment in a barren marriage is necessarily selfish and shallow? Its a type of fulfillment and longing that seems quite the opposite and like something that is vital and deeply integrated in the human condition – gay or straight.

    I just don’t buy it, and can’t help but think this sort of reasoning is just totally disingenuous.

    And of course, the natural law folks often like to respond that heterosexual barren unions are still of the “type” of union that produces children, and so honor the primacy of child rearing in marriage. But we can easily say the same thing of homosexual unions – just because the physical mechanics of the sex involved are different is a trite irrelevancy.

    As for polygamy and incestuous unions and bestiality… well there are plenty of reasons to oppose those – equal rights can override a lot of considerations, but they can’t override everything. It’s not hard to find reasons to oppose any of those forms of marriage that might override considerations of equal rights – the same is not true for SSM – but I’m short on time now, so I’ll leave that as a personal exercise for the readers (who strive to have charitable views, that is).

  22. Analogy: An SUV and an ambulance have a lot in common. The former can even substitute for the latter in a pinch. But to say that the similarities are more important than the differences misses what makes an ambulance “special” and the entire reason for existence.

    In essence, this entire discussion has happened because post-“enlightenment” western society has re-weighted the importance of “personal fulfilment” vs “responsibility”. It’s not that either is considered unimportant, but they key question is “in case of conflict, which wins?”. Changes to divorce laws over the last 50 years reflect this. In the process, we’ve downplayed the “ambulance” part of the ambulance, to the point where it is now considered optional or incidental.

    The SSM debate pushes this a step further. Ambulances get special privileges. Since there is fundamentally little difference between ambulances and SUVs (and indeed any road-going vehicle), is it not fair to extend those privileges?

  23. Andrew S:

    “The only place we ever see the staunch traditionalist talking of a marriage that is so narrow and reductionist, is in this very debate. Reproduction, reproduction, reproduction! Are you guys taking you cues from the sorts of inept Darwinists that chant that very same refrain in defense of their deficient “moral” outlook?”

    I think we are talking at cross angles with this one… I wouldn’t say the _primary_ purpose of marriage is to have children –the original marriage said nothing about children, in fact.

    OTOH, when supporters of SSM say, “marriage is about relationships of a certain quality, so any relationship of that quality/depth/caring/love will do,” the make the opposite mistake –they narrow marriage from the other direction by failing to take into account the other relationships that go into a marriage. Things like a relationship with God, and society at large, and the larger family –but since the argument for SSM generally ignores these other relationships (because an atheist, for instance, isn’t going to care much about an argument from a relationship with God), the focus naturally becomes the inclusion of the children into that relationship.

    Hence the focus on children as being what Tom left out above doesn’t mean that children and reproduction are the _only_ purpose of marriage, but that what’s missing from the self-satisfied view of marriage underlying support for SSM is precisely the one relationship that’s easily visible and easiest to ground a discussion on –the relationship with the children.

    “And of course, the natural law folks often like to respond that heterosexual barren unions are still of the “type” of union that produces children, and so honor the primacy of child rearing in marriage. But we can easily say the same thing of homosexual unions – just because the physical mechanics of the sex involved are different is a trite irrelevancy.”

    No, it’s not irrelevant –folks of different sexes who marry are honoring the child bearing reality of the institution, even if they don’t fulfill it, by taking the same vows, and living in the same way. Folks who view marriage as a matter of self-fulfillment, however, are clearly not honoring the moral ethic of the Christian worldview at large.

    Further, I could bring another relationship into the picture –the relationship with God– and smash this argument. The problem with doing so is, of course, that everyone will say, “well, I don’t believe in God, and I don’t much care about relationships with mythical creatures.”

    “As for polygamy and incestuous unions and bestiality… well there are plenty of reasons to oppose those – equal rights can override a lot of considerations, but they can’t override everything.”

    Sorry –I don’t know of a single valid argument against any other form of marriage that isn’t also destroyed by the arguments for SSM. If they exist, I’d rather have something beyond a general pointer that such arguments exist –point to them specifically, so we can discuss them. Every time I’ve had a gay friend point to such an argument, it’s clear after a short discussion that the argument falls to the same lines of reasoning they’re using to support SSM.

    “The SSM debate pushes this a step further. Ambulances get special privileges. Since there is fundamentally little difference between ambulances and SUVs (and indeed any road-going vehicle), is it not fair to extend those privileges?”

    This can only be said from a scientific or atheistic worldview which denies purpose –and I think this is one of the major issues in the SSM debate. Suppose you were a member of some group of people who had never seen a car –in that case, an SUV and ambulance do, in fact, look a lot alike, etc. What you miss, though, is the difference in purpose, and how that purpose relates to human life.

  24. “Perhaps you’re saying that allowing SSM will cause more people to approach marriage with such bad intentions? This comes across as very hand-wavy to me, I’m quite sceptical of citing “society” as a causal agent, and would seem to go against the humanness you endorse so strongly. It would seem quite intuitive to me that it would boil down to a couple’s attitudes and behaviours rather than the rest of society’s that would determine how their marriage would unfold.”

    So let me challenge you with a question:

    Without children in the mix, what is the single unique purpose of marriage that:

    A. Cannot be served in any other way?
    B. Cannot be applied to any number of relationships other than two adult humans who are not otherwise related?

    What we are trying to discover here is not the purpose of marriage, but what the defining limits of the institution are. There’s a crucial difference between these two ideas –and it’s clear we often mix the two ideas up when discussing SSM.

    “(1) Which definiton of marriage best corresponds to reality / how people view it”

    Who’s reality? The fundamental temptation to Eve in the Garden was to set up her own moral rules, and by extension, her own little piece of reality. How people view a thing is not the same as reality. But what you’re doing here is coming back to the idea that marriage, like all other things, can be defined simply on the basis of what people perceive, that it’s just an institution grounded in social norms, rather than something that stretches outside the bounds of all social orders.

    And in this argument you step down the road of moral relativism and all that implies.

    “…it is right and rational that you only ought to set out to have children if you are married, such that your children can be brought up in a stable family environment with their biological parents.”

    So you would argue that SSM is okay, but not same sex couples adopting a child? Doesn’t your definition leave out all adoption, in fact?

  25. Russ:

    “No, it’s not irrelevant –folks of different sexes who marry are honoring the child bearing reality of the institution, even if they don’t fulfill it, by taking the same vows, and living in the same way. Folks who view marriage as a matter of self-fulfillment, however, are clearly not honoring the moral ethic of the Christian worldview at large.”

    Sorry to be repetitive, but you’re making exactly the same mistake as earlier. You seem to be making the bizarre claim that couples view marriage as a matter of self-fulfillment if and only if they are same-sex couples. I hope the absurdity of that claim is obvious. Without clarifying what you mean by “honoring the child bearing reality of the institution” and why only opposite-sex couples can do so there is no evident reason why same-sex couples cannot satisfy all the requirements you mention such as relationships with the wider family and society.

  26. “Sorry to be repetitive, but you’re making exactly the same mistake as earlier. You seem to be making the bizarre claim that couples view marriage as a matter of self-fulfillment if and only if they are same-sex couples.”

    No, I’m actually not. What I’m saying is that heterosexual marriages honor the form of marriage in it’s fullest no matter what the people entering the marriage might think, while homosexual marriages do not. Notice, specifically, that the original marriage between Adam and Eve was not self-fulfillment on Adam’s part or Eve’s part –and notice that in Paul’s comparison of marriage to the Church and Christ, the emphasis is on relationship and being other focused.

    Second, I would point out that for a heterosexual couple to get married only for self fulfillment is a tragedy –but:

    A. I’ve spoken to a number of homosexuals who want to marry, and their primary reason is consistently self-fulfillment.

    B. I’ve not found any argument for SSM that doesn’t resolve to self-fulfillment.

    I would like to see general (rather than anecdotal) arguments for SSM that do not revolve around self-fulfillment, but I’ve never actually met such a beast. The general argument for heterosexual marriage is grounded in the Scriptural/God given design for marriage and the bearing of children. Neither of these arguments are available for the supporter of SSM.

    P.S. Edited to clarify.

  27. Russ:

    Sorry, I don’t refresh the page often enough; I saw #26 after writing #27 and #28 after writing this comment.

    While I am conscious my own wolrdview needs evaluation and development, I would loosely look it at as the means of making a familial-life-partner-type relationship public, official and permanent. I don’t think the legalisation of SSM is one of the most severe pressing concern in the wider world, but as I think that the argument lies on the SSM side and benefits would come from its legalisation, I expound upon that view when the opportunity arises. While I am pro-reality I am sceptical of categorical statements on the nature of reality; the “whatness” of marriage is quite distinct to whether one is legally married in my view; I am sure there are some relationships out there that have the “whatness” of marriage but are not legal marriages.

    In my mind the question of whether to allow legal-same sex marriages is thus essentially a pragmatic one. As I feel that there are same-sex relationships that can/do fulfil the “whatness” of marriage, I think that such couples should be allowed to be legally married and gain the pragmatic benefits of being married (and society getting the pragmatic benefits of recognising such marriages). In some sense I thus see legal marriage as a public pronouncement that a couple’s relationship is or is striving to be such a “actual” “marriage”. [Which of course may be done honestly or dishonestly as with OSM] Apologies if this is a bit tangential and wishy washy – I will hope to clarify with time. As am I not a practising Christian I don’t feel it is my right to argue what the Church ought to do, although I am tempted to think it would still lie on the SSM side (perhaps with the caveat of celibacy depending on your persuasion). Even if the Church did not permit SSM it could still identify the distinct “whatness” of its marriages by identifying them as sanctified marriages or some such.

    Regarding defining the limits of marriage, I would say that they are not obvious, and so it requires careful consideration on a case by case basis of whether certain pairings could in fact satisfy the “whatness” or marriage and thus be sensible to legally permit such marriages. I think it is very easy to argue that the non-human do not satisfy the “whatness” of marriage (animals do not have the cognitive capacity to make such a high-functioning relation as commitment [certainly not communicate it]), and probably the same for non-pairs (by considering the nature of a life-partner and stability perhaps). I think your questions are very deep and important, but ultimately having imperfectly known limits is an irrelevance if certain pairings (e.g. same-sex couples) are known to be firmly within the limits [I appreciate that is a significant part of what is in contention, but if what I say re the validity of SSM is true, the imprecise limits of marriage have no bearing on that fact]

    I tried to edit out the “how people view it part” just after posting but obviously didn’t go through, I only meant it in the trivial sense of semantics – what part of reality they were identifying with the word “marriage”.

    I think adoption is a distinct subsequent question, so perhaps not best to get into here. In short I would think it obvious that the ideal situation is for a child to be brought up in a stable family with their biological parents, and so same-sex parents in an ideal world are unnecessary. Obviously the real world is imperfect and there are orphans and incapable parents, and so adoption is a good pragmatic decision in some cases. As a most extreme case I think (and I would hope obviously) that it would be better for an orphan with no living family to be raised by a same-sex couple than get no parenting at all. Of course more often there is the possibility of other family members raising such children, or opposite-sex adoptive parents, which would probably be better bets. I haven’t given the adoption issue much serious thought though so wouldn’t want to say anything categorical on it.

  28. What exactly is a “principled reason”?

    And why are definitions and labels important in the first place? Suppose the government instituted legislation for homosexuals which enabled them to enter into a state-recognized legal agreement called “g-unification.” Suppose that, legally, g-unification consists precisely of what marriage consists, except that takes place between same-sex couples. What, then, would be the argument against legislating state-recognition for g-unions? Why shouldn’t the state make that move if its legislature wants to do so?

    If no such reason is available, then why shouldn’t the state enact the very same legislation, except under the more familiar label “marriage”?

  29. Pardon my going back and forth on this, but at first I was going to follow this up with another post very soon, then I was going to wait a week, and now I’ve written it and will post it in just a couple of minutes. You’ll see it as a new post very soon.

  30. A principled reason, Ben, is a reason that is not ad hoc; one that relies on something other than “this is what we think for right now;” one that covers more than the current case, but can be relied upon to help make good decisions in other related circumstances.

    Is this news to you, I wonder?

  31. Further, you ask why definitions and labels are important in the first place.

    I ask in return, if you don’t know why they’re important, and if you think that adds force to the case for SSM, then you’re contradicting all the SSM advocates who have thought them important enough to launch a full-scale aggressive assault on a long-established social structure. So ask them why labels are important.

  32. Tom,

    You wrote:

    “Is this news to you, I wonder?”

    It is indeed. I guess I don’t understand why you need a reason to define marriage in a particular way, which is applicable to other issues and/or other times. Why not just have a reason for this case, for right now? Is it any less of a reason if it is not a reason for some other issue at some other time?

    You continue:

    “I ask in return, if you don’t know why they’re important, and if you think that adds force to the case for SSM, then you’re contradicting all the SSM advocates who have thought them important enough to launch a full-scale aggressive assault on a long-established social structure.”

    If an SSM advocate thinks labels help his case, then I would disagree with him too. But I don’t see how any of that helps you here.

    So if you get a chance, I’d appreciate answers to my previous questions. Namely: Do you have an argument against g-unification? If so, what is it? If not, then why is it important to disallow g-unification under its usual label, “marriage”?

    I’ll check out your other post.

  33. Alex:

    “While I am conscious my own wolrdview needs evaluation and development, I would loosely look it at as the means of making a familial-life-partner-type relationship public, official and permanent.”

    Why should a marriage be any of these things –familial, public, official, and permanent? There are some cultures where marriages are declared privately for a short period of time, so if your basis is cultural, “marriage” is just a word that can be defined to mean anything at all, including the mating of a nail to a piece of wall “permanently and publicly.”

    So you are saying marriage has a “whatness,” but you can’t say where that “whatness” comes from, nor what it really is, other than to say it should pass some “pragmatic test.”

    Are you then arguing that all morality should be based on pragmatism, and the ultimate side effects of that base?

    If marriage between one man and one woman is arbitrary, then:

    A. Explain what makes such a definition arbitrary.
    B. Explain a definition that is less arbitrary.

    In the Christian worldview, “one man, one woman,” is not arbitrary –there are reasons God did it this way, revolving around relationships (the relationship to God, the relationship between the partners, and the relationship to the children assumed to result from the marriage bond). If you step outside those bounds, what new set of “less arbitrary” rules would you propose?

    And saying, “society will decide,” isn’t enough, because it’s simply saying, “there is no definition, and there are no rules, other than what one person can force on another person either through persuasion or force.”

    Russ

  34. “It is indeed. I guess I don’t understand why you need a reason to define marriage in a particular way, which is applicable to other issues and/or other times. Why not just have a reason for this case, for right now?”

    Have you considered the implications of this view in law? Judges should not decide by the rule of law, but by deciding “this case, for right now?”

    Could anyone actually live their lives under such a scheme of law, where anything could change at any time because someone decides, on “pragmatic grounds,” that this case is wrong, and that one right?

    Suppose you build a house on a piece of land, and someone decides to buy a piece of land next to yours and build another house –but the court argues that while building a house was right at the time and place for your house, but not for this new house (no reasons needed, just that it’s no longer the “right time, right place.”

    What would be the result on society at large?

    Russ

  35. Russ,

    You wrote:

    “Have you considered the implications of this view in law? Judges should not decide by the rule of law, but by deciding ‘this case, for right now?'”

    Then it’s a good thing I don’t have that view in law!

    If we have a reason to define marriage a certain way, why should we ignore that reason just because it is not applicable to other issues at other times?

    Also, you wrote this to the other fellow, but I’d like to respond if you don’t mind:

    “…there is no definition, and there are no rules, other than what one person can force on another person either through persuasion or force.”

    I have a couple of problems with this. First, I’m sure you already know that nobody is suggesting folks be forcibly married. So this seems like a very odd objection from the start. What exactly do you think people are going to be forced to do? Second, the only alternative I see you’ve proposed to society making its decision is religion making its. But I would hope you agree we shouldn’t impose your favorite religious views on the other citizens of the USA.

    Regards,
    Ben

  36. Ben, you ask,

    I guess I don’t understand why you need a reason to define marriage in a particular way, which is applicable to other issues and/or other times. Why not just have a reason for this case, for right now? Is it any less of a reason if it is not a reason for some other issue at some other time?

    What you’re saying—and I can’t believe it’s really true, yet you are saying it—is that you have no principles upon which to base you advocacy for a wholesale change in the way marriage is viewed by society and by law. It is in the precise sense of the term an unprincipled stand you are taking.

    Why not just have a reason for this case, for right now?

    Because it’s ad hoc and arbitrary, and because it leaves your reason-for-right-now
    floating on its own, with no deeper principle by which to assess whether it’s a good reason, and with nothing within it to prevent society from flip-flopping on it six months or six years from now. Further, if your reason-for-right-now happens to be one that also supports practices that we consider wrong-for-right-now, there’s no rationality in thinking those things are wrong right now.

    But my first answer is the more important here: you are describing yourself as careless about principle; you are saying you are yourself unprincipled with respect to this issue. There was a time when if one man called another man unprincipled he would get punched or shot in retaliation. There was a time when that was an insult to integrity and to honor. For me it still would be. But you’ve described yourself that way, and you don’t know why it even matters!

  37. Could you provide some information on those cultures where marriages are private and temporary, Russ? Your statement on that is meaningless unless we know how it’s working for them.

  38. “Then it’s a good thing I don’t have that view in law!”

    Marriage is a law, so you do hold that view in law.

    “First, I’m sure you already know that nobody is suggesting folks be forcibly married. So this seems like a very odd objection from the start. What exactly do you think people are going to be forced to do?”

    Given your line of reasoning –that it’s up to the society to decide what is legal and what isn’t (and by implication, what is moral and what isn’t), what prevents the law from saying people must marry? You’re already saying that people who have a faith based view of marriage should be forced –by law– to accept what you believe about marriage, but you don’t consider that “forcing people to do things through the law.” What is the law then, in your opinion –a suggestion?

    Law, at it’s base, is always enforcement of some moral code, from “good food” laws to speed limits. The only real question is whether you want to amalgamate the views of different religious systems (within a band of views) into something we can call “natural law,” (see C.S. Lewis, _The Abolition of Man_), a single religion (theocracy in the raw), or whether you want to try and base it on the pitching deck of relativity.

    There isn’t a “fourth alternative” available.

    So to return to my former challenges (which you’ve not yet answered):

    ==
    So you are saying marriage has a “whatness,” but you can’t say where that “whatness” comes from, nor what it really is, other than to say it should pass some “pragmatic test.”

    Are you then arguing that all morality should be based on pragmatism, and the ultimate side effects of that base?

    If marriage between one man and one woman is arbitrary, then:

    A. Explain what makes such a definition arbitrary.
    B. Explain a definition that is less arbitrary.

  39. Further:

    So you are saying marriage has a “whatness,” but you can’t say where that “whatness” comes from, nor what it really is, other than to say it should pass some “pragmatic test.”

    Are you then arguing that all morality should be based on pragmatism, and the ultimate side effects of same-sex coupling, as you’ll see there. It does have a pragmatic side to it, though there’s also a deeply principled aspect accessible from within a Christian worldview. The interesting thing is that both pragmatism from a secular standpoint and religious views have come to the same answer since time immemorial.

  40. “Could you provide some information on those cultures where marriages are private and temporary, Russ? Your statement on that is meaningless unless we know how it’s working for them.”

    There are Islamic cultures in which, particularly in time of war, a marriage can be entered into for one night, a couple of weeks, or a couple of months, as the husband is away from his wife (wives), or the woman is a prisoner of war, etc.

    For instance:

    http://www.law.emory.edu/ifl/legal/iran.htm

    http://islamicweb.com/beliefs/cults/muta.htm

    http://www.firstthings.com/blogs/firstthoughts/2012/09/26/can-matchmaking-websites-help-iran-with-marriage-crisis-la-times/

    HTH

  41. “I don’t suppose you think Islam provides an ideal model for marriage…”

    No, not really… 🙂

    OTOH, it shows the folly of saying, “The definition of marriage is simply social and pragmatic, rather than fixed.” From my reading in Islam, this temporary marriage thing is purely pragmatic (the article on First Things is based on the implication that it should be brought back for pragmatic reasons).

    In fact, it also shows the folly of setting the sweep of religious beliefs on which you base the laws on which a society is based.

  42. Also to Ben,

    I have a couple of problems with this. First, I’m sure you already know that nobody is suggesting folks be forcibly married. So this seems like a very odd objection from the start. What exactly do you think people are going to be forced to do? Second, the only alternative I see you’ve proposed to society making its decision is religion making its. But I would hope you agree we shouldn’t impose your favorite religious views on the other citizens of the USA.

    What’s being forced by means of power without principle is the new definition of marriage and all the social and legal effects that redefinition entails.

    I think it’s very telling that you think there is no alternative to arbitrariness, and therefore no principles to be found, anywhere except in religion.

  43. The Muslim example actually shows the folly of Islam.

    And you’ll note that my more recent post on this topic says nothing whatever about religion, except to agree that religion alone doesn’t explain why we’ve ever had the marriage laws we’ve had.

  44. Russ,

    You wrote:

    “Marriage is a law, so you do hold that view in law.”

    If you were talking about making law, then your previous criticism does not apply. Yes, I do think we can and should make certain laws according to whatever reasons can be mustered, regardless of whether they apply to all issues at all times. But I had supposed you were talking about applying laws, for which I agree we must be consistent and follow the rules set forth at all times and in all cases for which that law applies. Obviously, these are two very different issues. But whichever one of them you raise, it is not applicable to my view.

    You continue:

    “…what prevents the law from saying people must marry?”

    What prevents the law from doing that now? The constitution I suppose, and perhaps also other laws.

    You continue:

    “You’re already saying that people who have a faith based view of marriage should be forced –by law– to accept what you believe about marriage…”

    To some extent, yes that’s true. It’s a lot like the situation where Muslims who think we should not visually represent Muhammad are forced to accept what the wider public thinks about free expression.

    You live in a society where not everyone shares your religious views. If you resent having to get along with the rest of us, well, I’m sorry, but that’s just the way it goes.

    Next you spoke of the three alternatives you see: theocracy, natural law, and relativism. But I’ve been talking about the will of the people. Now, if you want to call that “relativism,” I can’t stop you. However it seems to me that, ultimately, the government ought to respond to the will of those governed, as opposed to some kind of service to a set of abstract principles with which the people do not agree.

    You also spoke of your “former challenges,” but these were directed to the other fellow, not me. They do not apply to my view. In particular, I am not arguing for pragmatism, and I don’t know what he meant by calling a definition of marriage “arbitrary.”

    Regards,
    Ben

  45. Tom,

    You wrote:

    “Because it’s ad hoc and arbitrary, and because it leaves your reason-for-right-now floating on its own, with no deeper principle by which to assess whether it’s a good reason, and with nothing within it to prevent society from flip-flopping on it six months or six years from now.”

    What’s stopping us, on my view, from deciding if our reasons are good reasons? That seems like a nonsequitur. And if society flip-flops later, then it is because it so wills, in which case the government has a reason to respond to that will.

    You continue:

    “…you are describing yourself as careless about principle; you are saying you are yourself unprincipled with respect to this issue.”

    Remember, when we say that this or that person is “unprincipled,” we mean that he lacks moral principles. But the principles we are discussing are legal, not moral.

    If you think you can make a moral case against SSM, knock yourself out. But I don’t see how that’s possible.

    Anyway, you haven’t given any reason to hold more general principles for deciding the issue of SSM. Instead, you have intimated that the reasons are obvious, and suggested that I’m a fool for not recognizing them on my own. Well, if they’re so obvious, then instead of continuing to mock and insult me (what’s up with that anyway?) perhaps you could just state them plainly.

    Regards,
    Ben

  46. “If you were talking about making law, then your previous criticism does not apply. Yes, I do think we can and should make certain laws according to whatever reasons can be mustered, regardless of whether they apply to all issues at all times.”

    Making law and enforcing law are the same thing in effect. Enforcing laws in an arbitrary way simply looks like making law itself arbitrary in practice. If you’re going to be arbitrary in enforcing law, you should at least be honest and make the laws themselves arbitrary.

    “Remember, when we say that this or that person is “unprincipled,” we mean that he lacks moral principles. But the principles we are discussing are legal, not moral.”

    Laws are simply morals a society has decided are important enough to enforce at the point of a gun, so the distinction you’re trying to draw doesn’t exist in the real world.

    “Anyway, you haven’t given any reason to hold more general principles for deciding the issue of SSM.”

    Actually, he has… and I have. Support for SSM relies on a narrow definition of marriage that leaves out critical relationships and issues –and by so doing, reduces the sanctity of the home as a child rearing environment at large.

    Russ

  47. Ben, you ask,

    What’s stopping us, on my view, from deciding if our reasons are good reasons? That seems like a nonsequitur. And if society flip-flops later, then it is because it so wills, in which case the government has a reason to respond to that will.

    The way we decide if our reasons are good reasons is by referring to principles. Otherwise (I’ll have to say it again) it’s arbitrary. If it’s arbitrary, and if not everyone agrees with it, then there’s no deciding principle to help determine what society as a whole should do, now or in the future.

    The principles we’re deciding upon are not legal. It’s only a legal principle after it becomes enshrined in law. Before that it’s something else. Laws are not enacted on legal principles but on principle related to morality, economics, national defense, economics, human flourishing, and a host of other factors.

    I could make a moral case against SSM, but as you’ll see elsewhere in my recent post, that’s not the primary case I have to make against it.

    I’m not insulting you, by the way. I said I couldn’t believe what you were saying of yourself was really true, even though it was what you were saying.

  48. Russ,

    You wrote:

    “Enforcing laws in an arbitrary way simply looks like making law itself arbitrary in practice.”

    I’m not sure what you mean here by the term “arbitrary.” But it’s worth noting that I do not suggest we be capricious or inconsistent in our enforcement of the law. I’m only saying that we don’t need to have any deeper set of principles from which to decide which laws we should put on the books. It is quite enough to look at individual needs in individual situations or kinds of situations. Nothing you have said so far suggests otherwise.

    You also said that laws are just morals which the government and/or society has decided to enforce. But this is clearly false. There are plenty of laws which have no inherent moral component. For example, most of the tax laws have nothing to do with morality. Or, why is it law to drive only on the right side of the road, and not the left? Surely you would not suggest the British are morally inferior with respect to their driving habits!

    You might be able to argue that criminal law is closesly related to morality in some way, although even then the relationship will be much more complicated than what you have suggested. But we are not discussing criminal law.

    Finally, you wrote:

    “Support for SSM relies on a narrow definition of marriage that leaves out critical relationships and issues –and by so doing, reduces the sanctity of the home as a child rearing environment at large.”

    But I have no need for sanctity. That is a concern of the religious.

    Regards,
    Ben

  49. Tom,

    You wrote:

    “The way we decide if our reasons are good reasons is by referring to principles.”

    Sometimes, but only if we want to serve those principles. Either way, it all bottoms out in our will. What do we want?

    Suppose for instance that we did have a principle P which informed our decision on SSM. In that case, we can ask, “why should anyone care about P?” And if you answer by invoking a deeper principle Q, we can ask, “why care about Q?” And so on.

    But at some point, the regress stops. We either find that we have no reason to care about our deepest principles other than our own personal desires, or else we discover that we do not in fact care about them after all.

    Regards,
    Ben

  50. In the meantime, though, I must respond to this from Ben:

    Next you spoke of the three alternatives you see: theocracy, natural law, and relativism. But I’ve been talking about the will of the people. Now, if you want to call that “relativism,” I can’t stop you. However it seems to me that, ultimately, the government ought to respond to the will of those governed, as opposed to some kind of service to a set of abstract principles with which the people do not agree.

    The will of the people is what’s in debate here. You treat it as if it’s a given, but that’s hardly the case when SSM advocates over the last 20 or so years have been carrying on an intentional strategic campaign to change the will of the people. They’ve been pointing to reasons and to principles they think hold sway. They’ve been using emotional and propagandistic rhetoric (not my term–theirs). They’ve been using every means at their disposal.

    So why can’t we ask whether the principles behind their campaign are valid? Why must we assume the will of the people is merely given? That’s just naive.

  51. “There are plenty of laws which have no inherent moral component. For example, most of the tax laws have nothing to do with morality. Or, why is it law to drive only on the right side of the road, and not the left? Surely you would not suggest the British are morally inferior with respect to their driving habits!”

    Wrong. 🙂

    All laws have a moral component. Why do governments tax people? One reason that is a darling of the left is to take care of the poor –so you’re going to argue that taking care of the poor doesn’t have a moral component? Or making certain people are poisoned by food en mass?

    Now for the example of which side of the road on which to drive –there are some decisions which simply must be made. If the decision is not made, there is a clear moral component. Or do you not consider people dying off in huge car crashes because the government refuses to regulate driving a “moral issue?” The case of which side of the road to drive on is one of these –it doesn’t matter which you choose, but you must choose. Not choosing or choosing is a moral choice, which choice you make among several possible choices is not a moral issue.

    But does this apply to SSM? Can you really say, fully and clearly, that whether or not SSM is not a “moral issue?”

    No, you can’t –because it clearly has many moral implications.

  52. Oops. I was wondering why no one had anything to say there!

    I didn’t realize that when I toggled comments off for my Vote post, they stayed off for future posts unless I toggled them back on again. (That’s using Ecto for Mac as my desktop blogging application.)

    Things ought to become more interesting there now.

    Thanks for letting me know.

  53. Analogy: An SUV and an ambulance have a lot in common. The former can even substitute for the latter in a pinch. But to say that the similarities are more important than the differences misses what makes an ambulance “special” and the entire reason for existence.

    In essence, this entire discussion has happened because post-”enlightenment” western society has re-weighted the importance of “personal fulfilment” vs “responsibility”. It’s not that either is considered unimportant, but they key question is “in case of conflict, which wins?”. Changes to divorce laws over the last 50 years reflect this. In the process, we’ve downplayed the “ambulance” part of the ambulance, to the point where it is now considered optional or incidental.

    The SSM debate pushes this a step further. Ambulances get special privileges. Since there is fundamentally little difference between ambulances and SUVs (and indeed any road-going vehicle), is it not fair to extend those privileges?

    What are two 90 year old newly weds in this analogy?

  54. I think we are talking at cross angles with this one… I wouldn’t say the _primary_ purpose of marriage is to have children –the original marriage said nothing about children, in fact.

    OTOH, when supporters of SSM say, “marriage is about relationships of a certain quality, so any relationship of that quality/depth/caring/love will do,” the make the opposite mistake –they narrow marriage from the other direction by failing to take into account the other relationships that go into a marriage. Things like a relationship with God, and society at large, and the larger family –but since the argument for SSM generally ignores these other relationships (because an atheist, for instance, isn’t going to care much about an argument from a relationship with God), the focus naturally becomes the inclusion of the children into that relationship.

    Don’t confuse atheism with gay marriage. Yea ok… I’m sure the shared area in a Venn diagram of gay marriage supporters and atheists would be larger than the shared area in one of gay marriage supporters and religious people, but so what? The gay marriage crowd includes plenty of people who are religious and seriously believe their views DO take into account their relationship with God. You’re free to disagree with their theology but its wrong to declare that they are “ignoring a relationship with God”. Maybe you think they are going about it wrongly, but that’s not the same thing.

    As for your claim that SSM entails writing off society at large, and the larger family, well – I’m having trouble figuring out what that actually means. Is there anything concrete or specific that you have to support those statements?

    Hence the focus on children as being what Tom left out above doesn’t mean that children and reproduction are the _only_ purpose of marriage, but that what’s missing from the self-satisfied view of marriage underlying support for SSM is precisely the one relationship that’s easily visible and easiest to ground a discussion on –the relationship with the children.

    The only people I ever see to claiming that SSM entails a “self-satisfied” view of marriage, to the exclusion of all other possible views of marriage, again, are the traditionalists here. But they aren’t mutually exclusive, or at least I’ve never seen a good reason to think so.

    I think Alex Dawson also effectively responded to your other points along these lines. Certainly some SS couples will marry for bad reasons. But many others will marry for good reasons. So they are no different than heterosexuals in that regard.

    No, it’s not irrelevant –folks of different sexes who marry are honoring the child bearing reality of the institution, even if they don’t fulfill it, by taking the same vows, and living in the same way. Folks who view marriage as a matter of self-fulfillment, however, are clearly not honoring the moral ethic of the Christian worldview at large.

    Same point touched on above: “Folks of diffferent sexes who marry” vs “those who marry for self-fulfillment” – that’s not a mutually exclusive pairing.

    So it makes just as much sense, if we amend your first sentence to say: “Folks of the same gender who marry are honoring the child bearing reality of marriage, even if they don’t fulfill it, by taking the same vows and living in the same way”. Why should that not make sense?

    Further, I could bring another relationship into the picture –the relationship with God– and smash this argument. The problem with doing so is, of course, that everyone will say, “well, I don’t believe in God, and I don’t much care about relationships with mythical creatures.”

    That your own theology envisions a God who forbids gay marriage certainly does not “smash any argument”, except maybe an argument that specifically states that your own theology envisions a God who approves of gay marriage. But not much else.

    Sorry –I don’t know of a single valid argument against any other form of marriage that isn’t also destroyed by the arguments for SSM. If they exist, I’d rather have something beyond a general pointer that such arguments exist –point to them specifically, so we can discuss them. Every time I’ve had a gay friend point to such an argument, it’s clear after a short discussion that the argument falls to the same lines of reasoning they’re using to support SSM.

    Actually, in the case of polygamy, most of the arguments have more in common with arguments for traditional marriage than the other way around. Arguments from religious freedom, arguments from tradition, the central role of child bearing in marriage, appeals to the biological reality and/or spiritual nature of man and woman, etc – all arguments of the same form as those used by traditional marriage supporters.

    Perhaps the problem is that you just don’t have any good arguments against polygamy, bestiality, or incest? Are you sure you actually have strong reasons to oppose them, and haven’t just taken it for granted that they should be prohibited?

    Now, I can actually point you to some good, strong, independent arguments against them, but indulge me for a second here in a little experiment… do you actually have good arguments against polygamy, bestiality and/or incest? If so, can you provide a brief outline that touches on some of the major points? How about polygamy in particular, if you don’t want to do all 3?

  55. Which original marriage said nothing about children, Russ? If you’re talking about Genesis, it most certainly did (“be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth”).. If you’re talking about something else, what would that be?

  56. Russ:

    As I said, I’m still very much working things out myself, and thinking on my feet (probably too much so).

    In terms of setting out a purpose for marriage, I would be tempted to go along the lines of complete union between two people (and to be fair this is fairly akin to defining it as familial-life-partner-type relationship as I did previously).

    Don’t want to get too distracted dissecting my entire worldview, but I think I am a realist, and so in particular with regards to morality, perhaps I’m not using pragmatic in a technical sense; more just in the trivial sense that we’ll think and act/our conclusions will be subject to our imperfect knowledge and information etc, so being pragmatic in so far as doing what is most sensible in the circumstances to our best undestanding. I do appreciate viz your other comments on the thread that the issue of legalisation is indeed still a moral decision in some sense.

    I’ll probably switch my attention to the other thread now, hope I haven’t left any big questions hanging, please do chase up if so.

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