Question from Robert Jones on SSM strategy

comments form first comment

Early yesterday morning Robert Jones asked a good question about same-sex “marriage” and its opponents’ strategies, on a thread that unfortunately did not go well. His question deserves a better home for discussion. He wrote,

I’ve seen a few of your recent posts explaining why the push for same sex marriage has been so successful, but I don’t think your explanation is correct.

The problem is that you’re focusing entirely on the definition of marriage, and I think that many supporters of same sex marriage are not thinking in those terms. For many people who support same sex marriage, this is simply a debate over whether gay and lesbian couples should be given the same benefits as straight couples. These people are not reasoning from the definition that you mentioned in your post. For many people, the definition which is most relevant to this debate simply says that marriage consists of the benefits that the government currently provides to heterosexual couples.

The reason I believe the the movement has come so far is that opponents have not convincingly explained what’s wrong with allowing gays and lesbians to marry. I personally know many, many people who support same sex marriage, and if you asked them why they support it, I think a typical reply would be “Who cares if they get married? How does it affect me?” A lot of people simply don’t see anything wrong with same sex marriage, and so they have no reason to oppose it.

So while it’s interesting to compare different definitions of marriage, I think that for many people, this is not the point of the debate. In order for opponents of same sex marriage to win, they would have to argue much more convincingly that same sex marriage is harmful to society.

I am indeed focusing on the definition of marriage. In order for gay couples to be able to marry, the term “marriage” must be broad enough to include same-sex pairs. If it isn’t, then gay couples can’t marry. That’s a matter of simple logic.

I’m also focusing on why the definition of marriage is what it is, why it includes man-woman marriage only, and why that matters to all of us. That’s where I hope my argument’s strength resides. I’m trying to show in the process that if some people are not reasoning from the same definition, there are strong reasons that they ought to be.

I recognize that for many this is an argument over benefits for same-sex couples, but I’m not particularly involved in that debate if it doesn’t involve marriage itself. You say, of course, that for many people marriage “consists of the benefits the government currently provides…”; I say that’s a false view, and in the course of this continuing discussion I will continue to explain why that cannot be the case.

The reason I believe the the movement has come so far is that opponents have not convincingly explained what’s wrong with allowing gays and lesbians to marry.

Exactly. And how does it affect others? The answer to that is tied up intricately in what marriage is. The one-sentence compressed version of my answer to this is, “As marriage is intended to be a certain kind of comprehensive and life-giving union between man and woman for their joy and unity as well as for the good of the next generation, and as it has been placed under great stress over recent decades by failures in heterosexual views and practice, and as our society has been enormously damaged by those failures, to continue that same damaging trend forward by re-defining marriage would add immeasurably to that continuing damage.”

So in the end you and I are perhaps on the same page: arguing as convincingly as possible that SSM is harmful to society. I’m taking the definitional approach to try to accomplish that. I don’t think there’s an empirical way to do that yet (nor is there any good empirical way to show that SSM is not harmful) so I am arguing from a philosophical level instead.

I think it’s the best strategy. I could be wrong on that; but at least we agree that we need to demonstrate SSM’s harm.

Thanks again for the question.

top of page comments form

216 Responses to “ Question from Robert Jones on SSM strategy ”

  1. Part of the problem, I think, is that SSM proponents hear things we are not saying precisely because the terms have been so muddled and confused.

    When someone says: “same-sex couples should not be allowed to get married”, SSM proponents hear that we want to deny them a life of being together with the one they love. I’ll speak for myself and say that’s not what’s being said at all.

    What’s being said is, go ahead and live your life together – I won’t stop you – just don’t think that you can get married.

    Consider this parallel statement: “women should not be allowed to get knighted”.

    Some might take offense at this, but they should not. I’m not saying women can’t be recognized in a way that is equivalent to a man when he gets knighted. I’m saying women aren’t knights so they cannot get knighted.

    Likewise, same-sex couples are not marriages so they cannot get married.

  2. @Tom Gilson:

    Is Robert Jones correct in his surmise that for many people this is a debate over “whether gay and lesbian couples should be given the same benefits as straight couples”? I am asking this, first because I have trouble gauging the popular sensibility, and second, because if he indeed is correct than the SSM case is even *more* twisted than I thought it was.

    It is one thing to argue that marriage is a right (whatever conception of rights one has) that all couples independently of the gender of their members have; it is quite another to argue that the matter is simply a case of extending fiscal benefits or whatnot to all couples.

    And of course, this re-orientation of the issue, the asking of a different question, does not bypass one single argument made against SSM. For why *exactly* should same-sex couples receive the same benefits? The case could be made if one could show that society has a vested interest in same-sex couples; but this is patently false. Society does not have any special interest about same-sex couples in the same sense that it does not have about pairs of friends, platonic, colorful, with benefits or whatever variation you care to name, because this type of relations do not have ends, potential or not, that affect society as a whole. Only man-woman couples do, precisely because they have the potential for that most tragic of things that it is to bring new life into the world — just contrast the fathers of Hitler and Ghandi. In other words, if someone is *seriously* arguing for this, then he has to give a principled reason why Society as a whole should grant such benefits to same-sex couples. On what grounds? That they are in love? Good for them, but the obvious retort is so what?

  3. Good point. I have a Phil-and-Alex dialogue on that I’ve been meaning to post, but it’s 6,000 words long and I have to fight it down to a manageable length first.

  4. I recognize that for many this is an argument over benefits for same-sex couples, but I’m not particularly involved in that debate if it doesn’t involve marriage itself.

    Given the current legal framework, though, the two topics are not cleanly separable. And, unfortunately, many people opposed to same-sex marriage don’t seem to want them to be. Most of the state-level “Defense of Marriage” amendments have specifically banned civil unions as well.

  5. G. Rodriguez –

    The case could be made if one could show that society has a vested interest in same-sex couples; but this is patently false.

    From this discussion, where ‘nobody.really’ sums things up with admirable economy:

    Jo has kids via a sperm donor[*]. Jo and Sue live together, raising Jo’s kids since they were infants. Then Jo and the kids are in an auto accident; Jo is incapacitated. Should the law provide for Sue to visit Jo and the kids in the hospital or not?

    Jo dies. Is it better for Sue to get custody of the kids, or for the kids to become wards of the state? Would it be better if a randomly-appointed guardian ad litem had authority to prohibit Sue and the kids from seeing each other, or not?

    Title to the house, cars, and checking account were in Jo’s name. Jo had no will. Would it be better for the kids if ownership transferred to Sue, or if ownership transferred, eventually and indirectly, to minor children?

    If Sue gets custody of the kids, would it be better for the kids if Sue can get access to Jo’s Social Security Survivor Benefits or not?

    If instead Sue abandons the kids, would it be better if the state could attach her assets to help provide for the children, or not?

    For me, civil (not religious) marriage has less in common with candles and gowns than with work gloves: it’s a practical solution for practical problems. Civil marriage laws provide practical remedies for the problems noted above. Given a choice between granting legal recognition to the marriage of Jo and Sue, or not, I favor granting recognition. It’s simply practical.

    [*] Does anything about this change if Jo was previously married to a man who dies before she gives birth to the children?

  6. @Tom Gilson:

    And I forgot the most important thing: even if the case could be made for extending benefits to same-sex couples, what has *that* got to do with marriage? Nothing. Absolutely nothing (*). The issues are orthogonal as there are various ways to grant those same benefits without foisting SSM on Society.

    (*) From my POV at least; for an anti-essentialist this may be well be the *only* thing it matters, to which my only reply is that it is a truly sad, impoverished and ultimately self-defeating view of what marriage is — and we come back full circle to the heart of the matter.

  7. @Ray Ingles:

    I do not know if that was intended as a response to my query; because it is not. Many western societies already confer certain benefits to for example, *single* mothers, on the assumption that it is the biological mother who is best fit to take care of the child and that, more often than not, State facilities will just botch the job. But these benefits are not conferred *because* she is married — after all, she is *not* married — but because she has a child in her care. So the type of benefits you mention can be granted on the grounds that the couple in question is the legal guardian of a child, *not* because they have a “right to marriage” or whatever.

    This fudging and conflating of different issues is really jarring.

  8. G. Rodrigues (sorry I misspelled your name before) –

    So the type of benefits you mention can be granted on the grounds that the couple in question is the legal guardian of a child, *not* because they have a “right to marriage” or whatever.

    “Can be granted”, yes. “Are granted” in the case described – not so much. Which was sort of my point about the defense-of-marriage amendments going ‘above and beyond’ to ban civil unions, too.

    Clarity about definitions is all well and fine. So long as it is (forgive me) married to clarity about practical issues.

  9. Good question, Larry. I got that wrong. The corrected version is as follows

    As marriage is intended to be by nature a certain kind of comprehensive and life-giving union between man and woman for their joy and unity as well as for the good of the next generation, and as it has been placed under great stress over recent decades by failures in heterosexual views and practice, and as our society has been enormously damaged by those failures, to continue that same damaging trend forward by re-defining marriage would add immeasurably to that continuing damage.”

  10. Thanks for your post, Tom. I just want to clarify one thing about my position. You write

    “So in the end you and I are perhaps on the same page: arguing as convincingly as possible that SSM is harmful to society”

    and

    “at least we agree that we need to demonstrate SSM’s harm”

    suggesting that I am opposed to same-sex marriage. I am actually not at all opposed to same-sex marriage because I find the arguments against it completely unconvincing. I don’t buy the idea that allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry would “add immeasurably” to the damage to our society. Ultimately, I think that same sex-marriage will be legal, not because people think that marriage should be defined as in your previous post, but simply because most people do not feel so threatened by it.

  11. “failures in heterosexual views and practice” have given opportunities for SSC to provide a “life-giving union”…”for the good of the next generation.”

    SSC are taking care of the children of failed heterosexual marriages. These couples are working together and providing loving homes to these kids. I see this as good for society.

    If Christians are so worried that SSM will be harmful to our society, they should be a bigger force in filling the foster parent gaps in our country. Until then, all of this philosophy and definitions of marriage is or should be is really just falling flat to me.

    Looks to me like SSC are fulfilling even Tom’s definition of marriage (minus the genders of course) so I see no reason why they shouldn’t have the same legal benefits.

    Not only does marriage afford a legal benefit but a psychological one for couples. The vows of marriage promise a life long bond that gives a couple the strength to carry out the extremely hard practice of raising children. As a parent and a foster to adopt parent, I know first hand how important a strong marital bond is for the benefit of the children.

    As long as heterosexual couples continue to fail, leaving the children poor and fatherless, the definition of marriage will continue to grow to accommodate a people that want to provide a loving, nurturing, long lasting home for our future.

    Marriage is not exclusively a Christian idea, it has always been defined by a society as a whole. If Christians want to create an exclusive way to be a Christian married couple, then they should do that.

  12. ryan –

    If Christians want to create an exclusive way to be a Christian married couple, then they should do that.

    C.S. Lewis, writing in 1952 (and even before), would seem to agree with you:

    “Before leaving the question of divorce, I should like to distinguish two things which are very often confused. The Christian conception of marriage is one: the other is the quite different question – how far Christians, if they are voters or Members of Parliament, ought to try to force their views of marriage on the rest of the community by embodying them in the divorce laws. A great many people seem to think that if you are a Christian yourself you should try to make divorce difficult for every one. I do not think that. At least I know I should be very angry if the Mahommedans tried to prevent the rest of us from drinking wine. My own view is that the Churches should frankly recognise that the majority of the British people are not Christians and, therefore, cannot be expected to live Christian lives. There ought to be two distinct kinds of marriage: one governed by the State with rules enforced on all citizens, the other governed by the Church with rules enforced by her on her own members. The distinction ought to be quite sharp, so that a man knows which couples are married in a Christian sense and which are not.”

  13. Actually, there are two different kinds of marriage in some churches. The church I belong to won’t marry couples who are “involved” prior to marriage, will not marry people who have initiated a divorce and will excommunicate members who initiate divorce outside of church guidelines. However, these kind of rules don’t address or have much bearing on the SSM subject. SSM redefines marriage for everyone.

  14. @ryan,

    You assert “SSC are taking care of the children of failed heterosexual marriages.”

    Can you show that this is the primary reason that SSC’s adopt or foster non-related children?

    Can you also show why those marriages failed? Could it be in some cases one partner discovers that he/she is gay and divorces his/her spouse thus adding to the number of “failed” marriages?

    “If Christians are so worried that SSM will be harmful to our society, they should be a bigger force in filling the foster parent gaps in our country.”

    How large a force would satisfy you? How will you determine when this is met?

    While subjective, each of the several churches that I have worshiped with (one with less than 100 members to my current one with more than 2000 members) has supported foster homes, provided adoptive services and/or had a number of couples (would say greater than 25%)who foster or adopt. One couple I know has five children of their own and have adopted three non-related children. For my wife and me, while not currently foster parents, we are approved to watch and care for the foster kids of our best friends (who over the past year have had six different kids under their care) in emergency situations and have done so on several occasions. We also provide financial support for abandoned children in Africa and Central and South America, so I find your generalization that Christians need to do more as little more than empty words.

  15. [email protected],

    Considering Lewis, do you think there should be qualifiers attached to marriages to variegate them a bit. A couple would be in a Christian marriage, then. Another would be in a Jewish marriage. Another in an interfaith or secular or civil. Another in a same-sex marriage.

    In the USA, this qualification attaches to people who self-identify as African-American, Italian-American, and so forth.

  16. “Can you show that this is the primary reason that SSC’s adopt or foster non-related children? ”

    No, but I am willing to bet that…there are SSC taking care of the children of failed heterosexual marriages (I think I said that?) These couples probably foster/adopt for some of the same reasons hetero couples do: they love children, they want to complete their family, they know there is a need, etc…

    “Could it be in some cases one partner discovers that he/she is gay and divorces his/her spouse thus adding to the number of “failed” marriages?”

    Yes. Here’s a stat: Gary Gates recently found that of the 27 million American men currently married, 1.6 percent, or 436,000, identify themselves as gay or bisexual. Further, %80 of those marriages end in divorce. (As a side, I wonder how many of those had the human instinct to commit themselves to a mate, yet forced themselves into a hetero marriage, dooming it from the jump.)

    “How large a force would satisfy you? How will you determine when this is met?”

    When the foster system is not so overwhelmed that it has to look to SSC to foster/adopt to ensure a child has a loving home. It seems to late for that already, though. SSC are providing these homes and showing that SSC can also contribute to society and fulfill all of the duties inherent in hetero marriages. And now they want the same status.

    I think it’s fine for Christians to bar homosexuals from getting married in the name of the Christian God or in a church, etc…

    As far as social and legal marriage goes, what evidence do you have that homosexual marriages will be more damaging to society than our current marriage laws? Because so far, SSC have shown they are willing to help make society better.

  17. Ryan,

    Adopting and raising kids has absolutely nothing to do with homosexuality/SSC. Yes, two people of the same sex who are in a romantic relationship together may in fact raise children. Two people of the same sex who are just friends can also raise children. The romantic/sexual part of the relationship has nothing to do with the raising kids part.

    You also mention that people in SSC are willing to make society better. Again, that has nothing to do with them being in a SSC, that is about them as individuals. There is no reason that being in an SSC prevents someone from being an otherwise ‘good’ person per societal standards, being generally kind and compassionate and following the laws of the land.

    Committed same sex romantic relationships simply do not benefit society due to their commitment to each other and physical intimacy between each other. Whereas, committed opposite sex romantic relationships do, normally, benefit society by their commitment to each other and physical intimacy together. There simply is no comparison. There is nothing of particular societal value to same sex relationships that cannot be found between friends of the same sex.

  18. “Committed same sex romantic relationships simply do not benefit society due to their commitment to each other and physical intimacy between each other. Whereas, committed opposite sex romantic relationships do, normally, benefit society by their commitment to each other and physical intimacy together.”

    What’s is this based on? Because…same sex romantic relationships are currently making a difference in the next generation by making commitments to our poor and fatherless. And they want to have the same marital status as a hetero couple.

    Please provide some reasons for me so I can consider why they shouldn’t be able to have this legal recognition.

    “Two people of the same sex who are just friends can also raise children. The romantic/sexual part of the relationship has nothing to do with the raising kids part. ”

    This can apply to hetero relationships as well. Based on your assumptions, why do we need marriage at all?

  19. Ray, thanks for your C.S. Lewis quote – it’s what I’ve been saying for some time. Churches should reclaim Christian marriage for themselves and be less concerned about secular definitions.

    Robert: I don’t buy the idea that allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry would “add immeasurably” to the damage to our society. Ultimately, I think that same sex-marriage will be legal, not because people think that marriage should be defined as in your previous post, but simply because most people do not feel so threatened by it.

    I agree Robert. I don’t recall the “immeasurable harm” actually being defined very well, and it looks like a scare tactic that most people will ignore.

    If there is harm, I would think that since society is 99% of the way to SSM right now, we will suffer the harm irrespective of whether SSM is legalized.

    Ultimately, Christians don’t have much to say against SSM that a secular society is going to pay any attention to.

  20. @16 Larry Tanner
    re: qualifiers attached to marriages

    In some ways this is already the case, in the UK (and probably other jurisdictions) it is possible for a marriage to be recognised in civil terms but not by some particular religious body and vice versa.

    Isn’t part of the problem here that the discussion implicitly tries to reach a single all-encompassing definition of marriage, almost an ideal definition? Whereas in reality it is a legal construct and is bound to be viewed differently under different legal (or quasi-legal, e.g religious law) systems.

    On another point, I’m perplexed by the idea that opposite-sex physical relationships are beneficial for society at large in some way whereas same-sex ones are not. Commitment to each other, intimacy and love are positive values in which society does have a vested interest. (Contra G. Rodrigues who calls this ‘patently false’ @2)

    The harm argument needs to be spelled out further I think, rather than being taken as a given.

    In accordance with clause (6) of this site’s Discussion Policy
    I feel obliged to add the following notice to prevent my words
    automatically becoming the property of the site owner:
    (c) 2013 Frank Pennycook all rights reserved

  21. DR84 said,

    “Committed same sex romantic relationships simply do not benefit society due to their commitment to each other and physical intimacy between each other. Whereas, committed opposite sex romantic relationships do, normally, benefit society by their commitment to each other and physical intimacy together.”

    and Ryan asked why that was true.

    It’s easy, Ryan.

    Think about it. What happens frequently when opposite-sex couples are physically intimate? Something that doesn’t happen when same-sex couples are intimate, that is. What might be beneficial about those couples remaining committed to one another? What about that might be of some interest to society as a whole?

  22. Frank, you probably don’t realize it but you’re probably begging the question here:

    Isn’t part of the problem here that the discussion implicitly tries to reach a single all-encompassing definition of marriage, almost an ideal definition? Whereas in reality it is a legal construct and is bound to be viewed differently under different legal (or quasi-legal, e.g religious law) systems.

    I say “probably” because it depends on whether you mean it’s essentially a legal construct or only accidentally one, and whether you’re using “construct” in its usual technical sense, i.e., something brought into being by virtue of its status in law.

    If you mean it is essentially a legal construct in that sense, then you are assuming it’s not essentially something else, for example the comprehensive union of a man and woman for the purpose of unity, joy, procreation, and the raising of the next generation.

    Whether marriage is essentially a legal construct is controversial, and in fact it’s the most important question on the table. To assume it is to beg the question.

    Further, you say,

    Commitment to each other, intimacy and love are positive values in which society does have a vested interest.

    Sure. Society has a vested interest in good music, too. And good wine and good movies. Not enough to legislate them, however.

    Does society have a vested interest in good sex? Enough to legislate sexual relationships per se? Because that’s what chiefly distinguishes a same-sex couple seeking marriage from a pair of highly committed heterosexual friends of the same sex. And if that’s the key difference, why make it a matter of legislation? Don’t liberals want the government to keep out of their sex lives?

  23. @Tom,

    If the benefit is simply procreation, then you would be saying that infertile heterosexual married couples are just as useless as SSC. Is that what you are saying?

    SSC that are bearing the burden of raising children that would otherwise be lost in a foster system is beneficial to society. It is possible for people that cannot procreate to be beneficial to society.

  24. “Does society have a vested interest in good sex? Enough to legislate sexual relationships per se? Because that’s what chiefly distinguishes a same-sex couple seeking marriage from a pair of highly committed heterosexual friends of the same sex. And if that’s the key difference, why make it a matter of legislation? Don’t liberals want the government to keep out of their sex lives?”

    Unfortunately, you are making the same mistake as many young men: thinking that marriage is just the opportunity for good sex. 🙂

    It is possible for LGBT folks to pursue lifelong partnerships. These partnerships can also grow into loving homes for children who have lost their parents. Society does have a vested interest in making sure children are taken care of and people are free to fulfill deep seeded social needs shared by all humans.

  25. Ryan, re #24 and infertile male-female couples, yes, that’s exactly what I’m saying. Therefore no couple that has been tested by the government in advance of marriage and has been proved to be completely and permanently infertile should be allowed to marry.

    If the government should find it impractical to conduct said test in the case of any given couple, the government should give the benefit of the doubt where possible.

    Said benefit of the doubt is of course not possible to grant to same-sex couples.

    Of course I was being facetious in my first paragraph (but only that paragraph) here. I hope you see from it, though, how ridiculous your suggestion is!

    “Useless”?

    Good grief. I never even began to hint at that. What I was talking about was…

    oh, never mind, if you can’t figure it out for yourself, then I don’t know what to do next.

  26. Ryan, this is a lie even with a smiley face attached to it:

    Unfortunately, you are making the same mistake as many young men: thinking that marriage is just the opportunity for good sex.

    I don’t appreciate it. You haven’t been reading what I’ve been writing, and unfortunately the error you say I’m making here is precisely what I’m trying to point out as being the gay insurgency’s error!

    And even though LGBT couples can adopt, that doesn’t explain why they should marry. Same-sex hetero friends can adopt too.

    Why does marriage exist in the eyes of the law? What is it about marriage that merits that attention? That’s what you really, really need to think through.

  27. It’s not so boys and girls can “make it” with each other without mommy and daddy getting mad at them, by the way.

    It’s not so men and women can have shared bank accounts, at least not primarily so.

    It’s not so men and women can inherit from each other without probate.

    It’s not so they can share insurance benefits.

    It’s not so they can visit one another in the hospital.

    It’s not so they can be special friends forever.

    Marriage does not exist in the eyes of the law for any of these reasons.

    Marriage was not created by law, but if it had been, it surely wouldn’t have been for any of these reasons.

    Think about it.

  28. Ryan,

    1. Do you believe our society would be better off if all people were cared for, raised by, and known by their own biological parents?
    2. Do you believe it is a good thing in and of itself for one to be raised by, cared for, and known by their biological parents?
    3. Do you believe that same sex couples can provide all good things in equal measure to a child that biological parents can?
    4. Do you believe there is any situation in which it would be in the best interests of a child to take them from even good, loving biological parents to be raised and cared for by others?

    I don’t think it is possible to answer question #3 with ‘yes same sex couples can provide all good things in equal measure for raising a child as opposite sex couples (biological parents)’ without answering #4 with ‘yes, there could be situations when it is in the best interests of a child to take them from even good, loving biological parents and give them to others to be raised’.

  29. The harm argument needs to be spelled out further I think, rather than being taken as a given.

    Yes, I don’t think the harm argument has been articulated very well at all. In particular, proponents will need to explain very clearly the additional harm suffered by society by existing gay couples getting married, i.e. no increase in gay households and so on.

    Without a clear and substantial argument that details this harm, opposition to SSM will not succeed – there will simply be no good reason for lawmakers to refrain from legalizing SSM.

    This is by no means assuming there is no harm, of course. But I’m doubtful as to the additional harm of legalizing what is already happening in practice. No doubt there is also some general societal harm – but again this is extremely difficult to quantify and demonstrate (particularly in advance), and is unlikely to sway opinion.

    My feeling is that from a Christian point of view, there is obvious harm, but from a secular point of view, additional harm is doubtful.

    I also feel that the “what is marriage” basis for argument is preaching to the converted – that most secular people upon hearing these arguments will consider marriage as an institution that can evolve as society changes.

  30. bigbird

    You may be correct, and I suspect you are, that harm based arguments are not going to be convincing anyone who is presently anti-marriage. However, what about arguments based on the goodness of marriage? The distinctively good things flowing out from marital relationships, when a man and woman commit to care for and be faithful (including sexually) to each other for life, simply do not flow and cannot from any same sex relationship regardless of how much they love each other and how much they care for each other.

    Everyone agrees that some relationships are marriages and others are not. The debate is where the line is drawn, how marriage relationships are to be distinguished from other kinds of relationships. One side wants marriage to be distinguished by romantic couplings. Two person romantic relationships can be marriages, other relationships cannot be. The other says marriage is distinguished by procreative oriented relationships. Relationships that are procreative oriented can be marriages, no other type of relationship can be (and yes, this includes infertile couples).

    Which view makes more sense, which view is more just and fair, if either?

    I believe this debate is really more about a segment of society that desires procreative oriented relationships to be de-valued and to lose their special status in our society. Its not about equality, not about justice, and certainly not about rights. Its about knocking marriage off its pedestal. Hence why I say its really between pro-marriage supporters and anti-marriage activists.

  31. One side wants marriage to be distinguished by romantic couplings. Two person romantic relationships can be marriages, other relationships cannot be. The other says marriage is distinguished by procreative oriented relationships. Relationships that are procreative oriented can be marriages, no other type of relationship can be (and yes, this includes infertile couples).

    Even from a Christian point of view, this split is controversial.

    The first recorded intentions of God when it came to creating Adam a partner have nothing to do with procreation:

    Genesis 2:18 The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”

    Promoting the view that only relationships that are procreative oriented can be marriages is likely to invite ridicule from those who wish to promote SSM. It is also insulting to infertile couples.

  32. bigbird

    Promoting the view that marriage is only defined by romantic feelings is bound to be insulting to those who have no romantic relationships, let alone people who never experience romantic desire for anyone. As I noted, the relationships of couples who experience infertility *are* procreative oriented. They do all the necessary things to generate life, their bodies just don’t work. Also, the helper that was suited for Adam was a woman…there must be something specific about a woman that makes her suitable for a man. Something that another man cannot offer. Something that goes beyond merely alleviating loneliness…

  33. Tom,

    You ask,

    “Why does marriage exist in the eyes of the law? What is it about marriage that merits that attention?”

    I don’t really know anything about the history of marriage in the United States, but let’s assume for the sake of argument that the government originally got involved in marriage because of the unique features of heterosexual relationships. Then obviously those original reasons for getting the government involved can’t be used as reasons for legalizing same-sex marriage. But can’t there be other reasons for extending the legal benefits of marriage to same-sex couples?

    I actually think the fact that there’s a demand for same-sex marriage is enough of a reason to go ahead and make legal as long as it cannot be shown to be harmful. You might argue that it’s a very weak reason, but if same-sex marriage causes no harm, then any reason will suffice. That’s why I say that opponents of same-sex marriage need to demonstrate very concretely that legalization is harmful to our society.

  34. Robert Jones

    Do you believe that sibling marriage should be legalized if there were some brothers/sisters asking for it? What if they were wanting legal marriage, but were not committing incest with each other? How about if two brothers or two sisters asked for a legally recognized marriage?

  35. What we see as religious persecution, others will regard as simply getting the bigots and haters out of civil society.

    Absolutely. But in terms of impact of SSM, this is the crucial area that will have most impact on Christians, and a coherent argument needs to be developed so that the rights of the religious to not endorse SSM are respected.

  36. As I noted, the relationships of couples who experience infertility *are* procreative oriented.

    Ah. Your comment was somewhat ambiguously worded and I had concluded you meant the opposite.

  37. “Do you believe that sibling marriage should be legalized if there were some brothers/sisters asking for it? What if they were wanting legal marriage, but were not committing incest with each other?”

    First of all, I’m going to assume that by “legal marriage” you mean the various benefits that married couples currently have, like hospital visitation rights, the ability to file a joint tax return, rights pertaining to children, and so on. In order to decide whether siblings should have “legal marriage” in this sense, you would have to weigh the pros and cons. You would have to answer all sorts of questions, like

    Can two siblings raise a child responsibly?

    Are children raised by siblings as successful as children raised in traditional families?

    If two siblings are asking for these benefits, can we trust that they won’t commit incest?

    Is there sufficient demand for these benefits to justify dealing with all sorts of legal complications?

    and so on. In principle, if the arguments in favor of allowing siblings to have these benefits outweighed the arguments against allowing it, then we would have to allow it. Does that answer your question? I’m afraid I cannot give you a more specific answer because the notion of sibling marriage is very foreign to me, and I don’t have the resources to answer all the questions that one would need to answer.

  38. Without a clear and substantial argument that details this harm, opposition to SSM will not succeed – there will simply be no good reason for lawmakers to refrain from legalizing SSM.

    Because, what – lawmakers are known for doing things for very good reasons often?

    My feeling is that from a Christian point of view, there is obvious harm, but from a secular point of view, additional harm is doubtful.

    Except for the fact that from a secular point of view, what does and does not constitute ‘harm’ ultimately feeds back into personal preferences or metaphysics – and once that occurs, there’s no real way or reason to privilege ‘secular’ preferences or metaphysics from ‘religious’. Indeed, it becomes pretty impossible to even tell them apart.

  39. Tom, yes I am saying that marriage is essentially a legal construct in the sense you mention (@23). I state this as a claim, and as a way of pointing out the contrary assumption which I think underpinned the discussion from the start and was not clarified. If I’m begging the question, I’m also suggesting that it had been begged (in the opposite direction) from the start.

    The proviso I placed was to consider religious law as a legal structure too, by which I mean that some (maybe most) religious communities solemnise marriages in some way, and have discussions within their own terms concerning which marriages are legitimate. This leads to a body of rules which are at least quasi-legal, and may actually function as legal obligations for members of that community as well as in some cases gaining a legal status within a given (civil) jurisdiction.

    The intervening discussion I believe supports this view, because the issues debated have concerned the harm or otherwise of permitting certain kinds of marriage, rather than a demonstration that SSM is in some way a logical impossibility. If we are debating desirability and the legislative possibilities, it seems implicit that it would be logically coherent to permit same-sex marriages, but there is strong disagreement on the consequences and desirability of doing so. You have said marriage “exists in the eyes of the law”.

    The key point for me is your further claim that (@28)

    “Marriage was not created by law

    That seems the heart of the matter and I wonder if you can explain what you mean by that.

    If one’s idea of marriage is Biblically-based then is it incorrect to see it as having been instituted as part of the Law of God? Surely the validity of a religious marriage for a Torah follower is determined by rules and ceremonies which have been established by their particular religious traditions, adjudicated by authorities which are functioning in a legal capacity by allowing or disallowing certain unions.

    In accordance with clause (6) of this site’s Discussion Policy
    I feel obliged to add the following notice to prevent my words
    becoming the unrestricted property of the site owner:
    (c) 2013 Frank Pennycook

  40. Bigbird

    If identifying the distinct differences between opposite sex and same sex couples along with the thousands of years of teaching regarding sin and human sexuality is not enough to persuade those who want to redefine marriage to protect the conscience, religious rights and freedoms in all areas of life both public and private, I dont know what will be. If the direction keeps going the way it seems to be, I do wonder if and when for one to get a good job they will be asked to fill out some sort of diversity assessment in which they have to agree in so many words that homosexual behavior is morally good and homosexuality is the same as and equal to heterosexuality. It seems we are already near or passed the point where the new socially accepted moral standard is that it is immoral/wrong/sinful to believe that homosexual behavior is immoral/wrong/sinful.

    Crude

    I think the commonly accepted view is that if a particular viewpoint (such as pro-life, pro-family) is typically held by religious followers, that that viewpoint is religious in nature. And, if a particular viewpoint (such as pro-baby killing and anti-family) is typically held by the religiously unaffiliated, that that viewpoint is secular in nature. Then the claim is that our society is secular, and should privilege secular views over religious views. The reasoning is terrible, but seems completely self-evident to many.

  41. DR84 –

    It seems we are already near or passed the point where the new socially accepted moral standard is that it is immoral/wrong/sinful to believe that homosexual behavior is immoral/wrong/sinful.

    That’s happened with racism and sexism, but people don’t have to fill out a diversity questionaire to get employed. Still, if their job is to register marriages, they have to register interracial marraiges. But churches are still free to refuse to admit interracial couples or perform interracial marriages.

    People can still advocate racist and sexist opinions. It’s just that don’t have the right to insist people like them or agree with them.

    People can certainly advocate anti-gay opinions; look that Westboro ‘Baptist’, who got full protection from the Supreme Court. Is there some way where you think Westboro doesn’t go far enough?

  42. If identifying the distinct differences between opposite sex and same sex couples along with the thousands of years of teaching regarding sin and human sexuality is not enough to persuade those who want to redefine marriage to protect the conscience, religious rights and freedoms in all areas of life both public and private, I dont know what will be.

    I don’t really see how the two are related at all. Religious groups will need to mount a robust and well-argued case for religious freedom otherwise that may disappear when (if?) SSM is legalized. Identifying the distinct differences between the sexes will be irrelevant.

  43. DR84 –

    The distinctively good things flowing out from marital relationships, when a man and woman commit to care for and be faithful (including sexually) to each other for life, simply do not flow and cannot from any same sex relationship regardless of how much they love each other and how much they care for each other.

    On the other hand, as I’ve pointed out before (e.g. comments #4 and #5 above) legal marriage has become entangled with a lot of things that aren’t necessarily associated with opposite-sex couples.

  44. People can still advocate racist and sexist opinions. It’s just that don’t have the right to insist people like them or agree with them.

    People can certainly advocate anti-gay opinions; look that Westboro ‘Baptist’, who got full protection from the Supreme Court. Is there some way where you think Westboro doesn’t go far enough?

    I see you’ve hit the point of desperation in suggesting that Westboro Baptist is at all comparable to most conservative or traditional religious or natural law views of this topic. Classy. 😉

    Tell you what, Ray. Next time you meet a pregnant woman, walk up to her, pat her belly and say, ‘You know, you can still get this parasite chopped up if you want.’ You should fully represent the kind of ‘moral progress’ you’re snarkily suggesting you advocate here when you equate opposition to SSM as being on the level with racism and sexism.

    Oh, and if the infant has a disability? Then I suppose you should strongly encourage her to kill it.

  45. there will simply be no good reason for lawmakers to refrain from legalizing SSM.

    Because, what – lawmakers are known for doing things for very good reasons often?

    If lawmakers feel that there is strong support in society for a law, and that there are no compelling reasons why it should not be passed, they’ll pass the law. Why shouldn’t they?


    My feeling is that from a Christian point of view, there is obvious harm, but from a secular point of view, additional harm is doubtful.

    Except for the fact that from a secular point of view, what does and does not constitute ‘harm’ ultimately feeds back into personal preferences or metaphysics – and once that occurs, there’s no real way or reason to privilege ‘secular’ preferences or metaphysics from ‘religious’. Indeed, it becomes pretty impossible to even tell them apart.

    Well yes, but I’m sure you understand the point. I’ll spell it out for those who don’t. It seems unlikely to me that research will demonstrate significant additional harm will result from SSM.

  46. If lawmakers feel that there is strong support in society for a law, and that there are no compelling reasons why it should not be passed, they’ll pass the law. Why shouldn’t they?

    Again, this just implies such an idyllic view of the political process that I can’t take it seriously. Lawmakers are entirely comfortable passing laws they don’t think there’s strong support for – hell, they’re quite content to pass laws they have not read nor understand. They are happy to ignore powerful arguments against their position if they dislike them, or lead to the wrong conclusions.

    Why should we pretend the political process is something other than it is? It’s almost idolatry.

    Well yes, but I’m sure you understand the point. I’ll spell it out for those who don’t. It seems unlikely to me that research will demonstrate significant additional harm will result from SSM.

    You apparently don’t understand my point: the harm is already apparent, given those metaphysical and philosophical views. SSM is, in fact, harm under those views – what it ‘results in’ is moot.

    I question the entire approach you have to this topic. On the one hand, you seem to regard the problem and situation in far more idyllic terms than it is remotely reasonable to. You also seem to overestimate the power and even relevance of the ‘arguments’ on the one hand, while on the other hand, fail to appreciate just what those arguments ultimately come down to, particularly on the ‘secular’ side.

    Now, maybe at the end of the day everything boils down to ‘Well, I just don’t think people will change their minds about this in the direction pro-marriage forces would like’. Sure, that’s possible. But I can practically guarantee you that to the degree that happens, intellectually compelling pro-SSM arguments really seem to have ridiculously little to do with it all.

  47. If lawmakers feel that there is strong support in society for a law, and that there are no compelling reasons why it should not be passed, they’ll pass the law. Why shouldn’t they?

    Again, this just implies such an idyllic view of the political process that I can’t take it seriously.
    Lawmakers are entirely comfortable passing laws they don’t think there’s strong support for – hell, they’re quite content to pass laws they have not read nor understand. They are happy to ignore powerful arguments against their position if they dislike them, or lead to the wrong conclusions.

    None of what you have related above negates the point that if there is strong public support for a proposed law and no compelling arguments against, a law will probably be passed.

    To negate that point, you would need to show instances where lawmakers reject strongly supported proposed laws that there are no compelling arguments against.

    Of course it is entirely possible also that your political process is a lot more broken than the governments I have lived under (UK and Australia).

    You apparently don’t understand my point: the harm is already apparent, given those metaphysical and philosophical views. SSM is, in fact, harm under those views – what it ‘results in’ is moot.

    The harm may be apparent to *you*, given your metaphysical and philosophical views, but I can’t see this as being persuasive to anyone else. Claiming that SSM is the harm is just mumbo-jumbo to those who don’t share your views.

    You also seem to overestimate the power and even relevance of the ‘arguments’ on the one hand, while on the other hand, fail to appreciate just what those arguments ultimately come down to, particularly on the ‘secular’ side … But I can practically guarantee you that to the degree that happens, intellectually compelling pro-SSM arguments really seem to have ridiculously little to do with it all.

    Logically then intellectually compelling anti-SSM arguments are equally likely to have ridiculously little to do with it all.

    Which would seem to undercut any point in these threads at all as far as Tom and other anti-SSM posters are concerned.

  48. None of what you have related above negates the point that if there is strong public support for a proposed law and no compelling arguments against, a law will probably be passed.

    I’m pointing out that ‘no compelling arguments against’ plays little role in the process. There were compelling arguments against prohibition, to use just one example. They didn’t matter all that much.

    There were compelling arguments against the second Iraq war. Same deal.

    Pretending that this is primarily a battle of intellect and arguments is part of the problem.

    The harm may be apparent to *you*, given your metaphysical and philosophical views, but I can’t see this as being persuasive to anyone else. Claiming that SSM is the harm is just mumbo-jumbo to those who don’t share your views.

    And claims that SSM isn’t harmful is only apparent on *someone else’s* metaphysical or philosophical views, if they even bother to try and justify that much. I see no reason to think it even gets that far for many – it’s far more emotional, personal or even rotted in apathy.

    The key problem here is you’re operating under the apparent belief that convincing other people of something is largely or even entirely a matter of having very good, thorough arguments. That’s a joke, and arguments have not done the heavy lifting in this fight.

    Logically then intellectually compelling anti-SSM arguments are equally likely to have ridiculously little to do with it all.

    Yeah, they do. I’m not arguing otherwise.

    Which would seem to undercut any point in these threads at all as far as Tom and other anti-SSM posters are concerned.

    There’s multiple points in play here. Some people do discuss the arguments, or – more often – pretend to discuss them on their merits. But even Tom has talked about the ‘slogan effect’ with SSM. I’m simply noting that such things – sloganeering, demonizing, emotional appeals devoid of much intellectual substance, etc – are running most of the show.

    That is one of many criticisms I have of how Christians approach this topic. The idea seems to be that the one with the superior arguments will win the day. Nice thought. There’s simply very little reason to believe it.

  49. Please, please help me to understand. I’ve tried reading so many of these posts and discussions and they get so bogged down in wordiness, it gets overwhelming and confusing.

    I believe one thing (SSM is ok) and others believe a different thing that is mutually exclusive (SSM is not ok). Why am I not allowed to do something, that doesn’t affect them, because of their belief?

    I, of course, don’t think that two men marrying affects someone else who does not believe in SSM, but if I’m wrong, please explain how it does.

    I am also talking about marriage as recognized by the law.

    I truly do want to understand the opposing belief.

    (On a complete side note and I don’t want this to be the focus of my comment. As someone who is being challenged with the difficulties of infertility it is very scary to me that if I were to divorce and try to remarry I would be told I can’t because I am infertile and therefore not fulfilling the purpose of marriage.)

  50. Why am I not allowed to do something, that doesn’t affect them, because of their belief?

    Are you open to the possibility that legalized SSM does, in fact, affect other people? Are you open to the possibility that it’s harmful not only to others, but also the people who engage in it?

    Also – let’s say an argument was made that it does affect others negatively. Say, by redefining the purpose and expectations of marriage, altering the insitutions, making it deviate from what its purpose should be. Would you then say, ‘oh, well, I can see why someone would oppose SSM then’?

    Just seeing how open minded you are about this.

    As someone who is being challenged with the difficulties of infertility it is very scary to me that if I were to divorce and try to remarry I would be told I can’t because I am infertile and therefore not fulfilling the purpose of marriage.

    Can you explain why it’s very scary? I’d really like to understand why you think as much – and I’d also like to understand why you think such, given that the consensus here has been that, while marriage is for the purpose of having and raising children, that’s not very practical of a measure.

  51. Tom – your question about why marriage exists in the eyes of the law? No, I don’t think anyone has.

    Nor do I think my questions to you (#42) about the claim that marriage is not created by law have been addressed yet.

  52. Crude-I believe I did say in my post that I don’t believe it does affect people negatively but if you disagree, please explain how. So, yes, I am open to hearing your opinion.

    I will be flat out honest that I had a very difficult time understanding the consensus here. I do not have a philosophical background (and it seems many of you have a much better understanding of philosophy than me) and perhaps too short of an attention span but I became very lost, very quickly trying to follow everyone’s posts that often included NUMEROUS points. (I don’t mean that as a criticism). I also realize that makes me sound fairly unintelligent and perhaps unqualified to participate in the discussion. I guess that’s why I hoped to ask a simple question and get a simple answer.

    But if the consensus is that not allowing marriage because of infertility is not reasonable, then I stand corrected.

    I think I latched on to Tom’s comment that essentially said, no we could never require testing before marriage to see if anyone was infertile because that is impractical, but if we did/could then infertile people should not marry because the purpose of marriage is a loving union to start a family. I will try and look back through this post/comments or others to cite it directly.

    Also I believe he said that the only way we would know if someone were infertile other than gross deformities would be because they were trying to conceive and failing. However many women are diagnosed with conditions without ever trying to get pregnant that will make it difficult if not impossible to conceive and would be labeled infertile. Perhaps that is what he meant by deformities, not sure. Again, I will try to find the original comment.

    I would be scared that I would be denied the legal protections/benefits of marriage because I was identified as infertile from a previous marriage. This is of course all hypothetical based on one person’s comment. And it doesn’t even address the question of marriage after divorce which I know is often viewed as unacceptable.

    Hopefully we can get back to my original question.

  53. Tom-
    It looks like I combined your comment from this post (that you linked to) and a comment you made on your previous post:

    “How do couples find out they’re infertile? Except in cases of gross deformity or advanced age, they found out by trying to have a baby.”

    …and linked the two in my mind. You were saying it’s impractical to have the government test people before marriage, but if people were identified through normal/routine means as infertile, does the concept still apply?

    But like I said in my previous post, I really don’t want to derail the discussion to be about this. I see how I might have extrapolated some meaning that may or may not be true.

  54. Katie,

    So, yes, I am open to hearing your opinion.

    Well, hearing our opinions is one thing. But I asked if you’re open to the possibility that it’s harmful to others as well as the people who engage in it, and if you’d concede that you could see why someone would oppose SSM if they thought it was damaging marriage, changing the institution from what it should be to something other.

    So, that goes beyond just hearing the opinion. I’m curious if you’d be willing to grant, if it was explained what that damage was, what view people had of marriage, etc, that you could understand why people would oppose it. Because the way you asked this, you sound like you can’t even imagine why anyone would oppose it to begin with – or that you can’t even see why others would think it causes harm.

    I guess that’s why I hoped to ask a simple question and get a simple answer.

    Well, it’s not going to be a simple answer, because it’s not a simple question. Is that going to be a problem? I mean, really, I think most people here are going to be entirely willing to try and explain things so you can understand them, answer sincere questions you have, etc. But if your requirement here is that it has to amount to a soundbite or just a single paragraph, that won’t work.

    I would be scared that I would be denied the legal protections/benefits of marriage because I was identified as infertile from a previous marriage.

    Okay. So, if you were able to get those same legal protections and legal benefits, but it wasn’t ‘marriage’ and you weren’t considered ‘married’, that would really solve all your problems. Sound right?

    Now, that’s keeping in mind the clarification Tom put out just now. But for the sake of argument, since you sound pretty worried about this and you listed what your worries are, it seems like ‘marriage’ is actually not the concern.

  55. Oh my goodness. I am open to hearing your opinion, which if I find logical and persuasive I will agree with you. Please move on from the question of whether I am willing to consider your opinion and actually give me your opinion/reasons.

    How is SSM harmful to you, as someone who does not agree with it?

    I also think the phrase “institution of marriage” could be a whole other discussion.

  56. Oh my goodness. I am open to hearing your opinion, which if I find logical and persuasive I will agree with you.

    You know why I’m asking this?

    Because, frankly, a whole lot of these discussions turn into play-acting, where the goal isn’t “I want to hear and understand what you’re saying” but “I want to hear what you’re saying… but really, I just want to know so I can shoot it down immediately. The whole ‘I want to know’ thing is just some make-believe, because I’m hoping to put on a dramatic show for onlookers.” I don’t want to waste my time, and frankly, I’ve wasted a lot of it in the past.

    I also think the phrase “institution of marriage” could be a whole other discussion.

    Well, no, it’s not. It’s part of the same discussion, because ‘revamping’ marriage to include gay couples is one way that harm shows up: it changes the concepts, fundamentals and requirements of what is a bedrock institution of and even vision of society.

    In fact, you’ve actually helped me illustrate this to a degree.

    I said:

    Okay. So, if you were able to get those same legal protections and legal benefits, but it wasn’t ‘marriage’ and you weren’t considered ‘married’, that would really solve all your problems. Sound right?

    Now, that’s keeping in mind the clarification Tom put out just now. But for the sake of argument, since you sound pretty worried about this and you listed what your worries are, it seems like ‘marriage’ is actually not the concern.

    I’d actually like your answer to that. But more than that: would you say that, even if you got all of the financial/legal benefits of marriage, the fact that you’d be denied having it called ‘marriage’ would still be harm to you?

  57. The key problem here is you’re operating under the apparent belief that convincing other people of something is largely or even entirely a matter of having very good, thorough arguments. That’s a joke, and arguments have not done the heavy lifting in this fight.
    ….
    That is one of many criticisms I have of how Christians approach this topic. The idea seems to be that the one with the superior arguments will win the day. Nice thought. There’s simply very little reason to believe it.

    I think we are actually in agreement here – I don’t think arguments will make much difference (for this particular issue) either (as I’ve said previously).

    I’m not sure I agree that arguments *never* make any difference in the political process – I’ve certainly seen instances where clear argument has resulted in governments changing laws – but in this case, not much chance.

    The momentum is with the pro-SSM side and it is hard to see how that could be changed.

  58. Hi Katie, thanks for sharing your your personal situation with respect to the challenge of infertility. I really hope things work out for you, and do not worry about hypothetical example being used here to illustrate an argument.

    You will be unlikely, I think, to find a consensus on this thread about SSM as such. Fundamentally, there have been two opposing views here of what a marriage actually is or can be — first, that marriage has an essential quality which necessarily makes it a union of a man and a woman; second, that marriage is a human and legal institution which opens the possibility of permitting same-sex couples to be married. I’m firmly in the second group, and if I have mis-characterised the first position I hope one of its proponents can correct me.

    A further complication is this: suppose the second position were true, or even that someone who held the first position reluctantly found themselves in a society where the second view held sway, and laws to allow SSM were under consideration. Is it possible to demonstrate that permitting this would cause harm either directly (to the same-sex couple, or the people directly connected with them, e.g. their children or friends) or indirectly by means of effects on society resulting from the existence of same-sex marriages?

    Crude:

    So, if you were able to get those same legal protections and legal benefits, but it wasn’t ‘marriage’ and you weren’t considered ‘married’, that would really solve all your problems.

    As it happens, this seems to be where we are in the UK. We have had for some years something called a “civil partnership”, which is only open to same-sex couples. I believe there are similar arrangements in some US states and elsewhere, but I don’t know the details of all the jurisdictions.

    Now, the government is proposing to allow same-sex marriages, either civil or religious, but any religious denomination that wants not to perform such ceremonies will be able to opt out. They are in quite a lot of hot water over it and it is far from certain that it will become law, although personally I think it is likely. Those in existing civil partnerships will be able to “upgrade” to marriage.

    Public commentators on this issue vary between saying that CPs offer “almost all” the same legal rights as marriage, or that they offer “exactly the same” rights. I am not aware of any actual difference in rights or benefits, and it is likely that if there was one it would be open to legal challenge anyway. A possible difference lies in whether the partnership would be legally recognised abroad in the way that marriages usually are.

    So — the point is this. In some way, we have already legalised same-sex marriage. But we require segregation, by means of the fact that for civil purposes the relationship goes by a different name. However, civil partnered couples themselves, and their friends, habitually call themselves married and refer to their wife or husband. Additionally, certain religious groups like Quakers, Unitarians and Liberal Jews will carry out marriage ceremonies.

    There is a simple reason why this arrangement does not solve all the problems, and that is because it is like being told, “Your kind can’t sit up here, there are plenty of seats at the back of the bus”.

    In accordance with clause (6) of this site’s Discussion Policy, I feel
    obliged to add the following notice to prevent my words becoming the
    unrestricted property of the site owner: (c) 2013 Frank Pennycook

  59. Ok, I am officially done with Crude. I have asked three times, “how does SSM harm/affect you as someone who does not believe in it.” I’ve stated more than once I am trying to understand your position. He does not seem to trust me. I am not interested in shooting down his reasonings. I truly came here to try and understand an opposing point of view. He does not trust me, that is his issue. If there is anyone who would like to try to answer this question directly, fine. To me this seems like a direct question that should be able to provide direct answers.

    Frank seems to be making the most sense. It sounds like I believe in the legal and human construct of marriage and others believe in the biblical definition of marriage. This goes back to my ORIGINAL question. You believe one thing, I believe another, why does your belief trump mine? To me that has always been the essence of SSM. The answer I seem to be getting is that “Because SSM is harmful”. So I am still looking for some reasons and proof of that.

  60. @Frank Pennycook:

    In some way, we have already legalised same-sex marriage. But we require segregation, by means of the fact that for civil purposes the relationship goes by a different name. However, civil partnered couples themselves, and their friends, habitually call themselves married and refer to their wife or husband. [snip]

    There is a simple reason why this arrangement does not solve all the problems, and that is because it is like being told, “Your kind can’t sit up here, there are plenty of seats at the back of the bus”.

    I am going to be deliberately provocative, but this seems to me to sum up quite well the attitude of the typical SSM advocate.

    One the one hand, the word “marriage” has no intrinsic meaning, since it can be redefined at will. On the other, if someone puts up a fight over the meaning of that word he is the moral equivalent of racist segregationists.

    On the one hand, we have SSM advocates pledging with all candor that they just want enshrined in law “equal rights” and “equal benefits” — because after all, what more could there be to marriage than “rights” and “benefits”? On the other, granting those same benefits, on account say, of the social functions performed with rearing children, is not enough and will “not solve all the problems”.

    Crude is spot on the money; this is a cultural war. We better start sharping our knives.

  61. Katie, that’s a good question. Whether Crude has been that unresponsive I won’t say, but I’m going to try to come back later today with something like a comprehensive answer to add to this discussion.

  62. Robert Jones @#11: I’m sorry if I put words into your mouth: what I meant was that SSM opponents (“we”) need to show these things; I did not mean to imply that you were among that “we” group.

  63. I have asked three times, “how does SSM harm/affect you as someone who does not believe in it.”

    The answer is that Christians believe God instituted marriage, and that marriage as God intended it to be is good for society – in fact it underpins society. So changing the legal definition of marriage undermines the institution of marriage as intended by God – thus harming society and ultimately you – even if you yourself are not in a SSM (which is harmful to you in itself, as is the relationship).

    However if you do not share the same Christian worldview, you of course will be extremely skeptical of such reasoning. The natural response is to ask that the harm be quantified (because it seems, and is, rather vague). This is extremely difficult to do, and perhaps can only be accurately ascertained some years *after* SSM has been legalized.

    You believe one thing, I believe another, why does your belief trump mine?

    It’s a secular democracy so no-one’s beliefs trump anyone else’s beliefs. It’s all about convincing the right influential people to support your position and eventually get laws passed that enforce it.

  64. This is close, bigbird, but it needs some qualifiers, especially to make clear that the man-woman marriage position is not strictly Christian nor is it dependent on belief in revelation.

  65. I am going to be deliberately provocative, but this seems to me to sum up quite well the attitude of the typical SSM advocate.

    I have no problem with this statement, and I would hope my stated view does summarise a “typical” pro-SSM position.

    I can assure you the perception of segregation and discrimination is real, and is fought against in the courts — see for example a recent case where a hotel owner has been prevented from refusing double rooms to same-sex couples and just a few days ago a civil registrar has been told she has no right to refuse to register same-sex couples. The parallel with racial discrimination is not in the least far-fetched, and the issues are covered (at least in the EU) by very similar legislation and corresponding legal arguments.

    However I do not agree that your next paragraph sums up my view at all:

    On the one hand, the word “marriage” has no intrinsic meaning

    Before I’m able to comment further on that though, I’m perplexed — could you let me know what the difference is between “intrinsic meaning” and plain “meaning”? Thanks.

  66. Thank you Big Bird. That makes a lot of sense to me. Tom, I look forward to hearing your thoughts as well.

    In the end i think it will come down to democracy. We have a vote and majority opinion wins. As has happened in many states so far.

    I wish we could find a compromise that allows everyone to be happy.

  67. @Tom Gilson:

    Katie, that’s a good question.

    I must be on a contrarian mood, because I think it is a lousy question; it is at the very least very badly formulated.

    The question is: “how does SSM harm/affect you as someone who does not believe in it.” Does Katie mean to imply that the only rational grounds to object to SSM is if they “harm” or “affect” me *personally*? Why would that be so? And what would she acknowledge as “harm” or “affect”?

    She goes on to say that:

    It sounds like I believe in the legal and human construct of marriage and others believe in the biblical definition of marriage.

    Ok, she “believes” (the choice of wording is very telling) marriage is a “legal and human construct”. Then she asks:

    You believe one thing, I believe another, why does your belief trump mine? To me that has always been the essence of SSM.

    The SSM opponent can also ask “why does your belief trump mine?” And all of Katie’s retorts, which amount to the rhetorical question “what is the harm?”, are question-begging. Not to mention an implicit shifting of the burden of proof. If we have to give “reasons and proof” so must she, and as far as I can see, her “reasons and proof” amounts to the fact that allegedly SSM opponents have not given her “reasons and proof” to believe that SSM is harmful. Which as far as “reasons and proof” goes, it is very thin and meager.

    All this logical nitpicking just to say that Katie’s questions are bad, poorly formulated, and loaded with assumptions from the get go, assumptions that the people on the anti-SSM side of the fence will likely reject.

  68. @Tom, “Why does marriage exist in the eyes of the law? What is it about marriage that merits that attention? That’s what you really, really need to think through.”

    As I’ve started reading about this, I am finding an amazing diversity in types and reasons for marriages across cultures and history. Do you want me to research just American law? If so, common law, codified law, pre-constitution, post-constitution, marriage rites within certain subcultures (Puritan, jumping the broom stick)?

    Since we are a representative democracy, should I factor in landmark decisions in the constitution of marriage? Or modern social views on what marriage is and how that affects law?

    Overall, what time period or specific codified law should one interpret ‘marriage in the eyes of the law’?

    DR84,
    In answer to your questions:
    1. Yes. But this is not reality. Not all children have been blessed with this situation.
    2. Yes. This is simply not reality. There are kids living in boarding schools, streets, foster homes, NO parents, etc…And the numbers are overwhelming.
    3. I believe that SSC can provide better than an orphanage or the streets of New York. I believe that a SSC can care for a child better than a father who has violently thrown his/her baby sister across the room killing her while the mother is on drugs. Yes, I believe, that some parents are better than no parents and SSC could be better than a couple strung out on crack. In the opposite direction, I believe that a SSC that is abusive is also a terrible situation. Your point is silly because you are trying to say that just because a Man and a Woman are cohabiting, they are automatically a better force for raising a child.
    4. No. What rock you live under? Where is this happening? Where is the task force that is pulling children from parents houses for the sole purpose of giving them to SSC??? Is this a fear you have of SSM?

    Why don’t Christians just simply say that they don’t agree with SSM because the Bible says homosexuality is a sin? That is the ONLY valid argument against SSM that a Christian can hold.

    Because statements like Tom’s “…kind of comprehensive and life-giving union between man and woman for their joy and unity as well as for the good of the next generation…” can AND ARE being fulfilled by SSC.

    They would like the same status and frankly, I would not believe any Christian if they said they got married just to procreate, or because of a biblical mandate, or to benefit society. Riiiiiiight, let’s face it you got married because you were deeply in love with someone and wanted to share the rest of your life with that person. Marriage is THE symbol for acting on this.

  69. Crude –

    I see you’ve hit the point of desperation in suggesting that Westboro Baptist is at all comparable to most conservative or traditional religious or natural law views of this topic. Classy.

    No, I’m afraid that passage must have gone over your head. My point was that if even Westboro Baptist is tolerated – more, given explicit legal protection by the highest court in the land – then “most conservative or traditional religious or natural law views” will certainly get at least as much consideration.

  70. Ray, yes I understood your point I think – you were responding to DR84’s suggestion (#43) that we “are already near or passed the point where the new socially accepted moral standard is that it is immoral/wrong/sinful to believe that homosexual behavior is immoral/wrong/sinful.”

    And Westboro Baptist Church is offered as a counterexample because their extreme opinions have been judged to have legal protection.

    However, while expressing such opinions may be lawful, if we consider “socially accepted”, it depends what circles one moves in, but certainly homophobia is regarded quite widely at least as distasteful and perhaps worse. So there is some force in DR84’s point.

    Lastly, there is always a legal limit too. A pastor in my area was convicted a few years ago for towing a Bible-based homophobic billboard around the city behind his vehicle. I can’t remember the exact message but it was pretty offensive.

  71. Katie,

    Ok, I am officially done with Crude. I have asked three times, “how does SSM harm/affect you as someone who does not believe in it.” I’ve stated more than once I am trying to understand your position. He does not seem to trust me. I am not interested in shooting down his reasonings. I truly came here to try and understand an opposing point of view. He does not trust me, that is his issue. If there is anyone who would like to try to answer this question directly, fine. To me this seems like a direct question that should be able to provide direct answers.

    No, Katie – your response is disingenuous. I explained why I was asking the question I did, and I also explained why your call for simple answers – especially your desire to put the very question about the ‘institution of marriage’ aside – wasn’t going to work. These are not simple questions: they’re about philosophy, metaphysics, ideas of purpose and culture. They are not exclusively about religion.

    I asked you a straightforward question of my own – you declined to answer repeatedly, and frankly I think you know why: because when you argue that you’re afraid of being denied marriage because of the economic and legal benefits, then an arrangement which grants those benefits should solve your problem, even if it’s not marriage.

    But it’s about more than that. So why pretend otherwise?

  72. Frank,

    So — the point is this. In some way, we have already legalised same-sex marriage. But we require segregation, by means of the fact that for civil purposes the relationship goes by a different name. However, civil partnered couples themselves, and their friends, habitually call themselves married and refer to their wife or husband. Additionally, certain religious groups like Quakers, Unitarians and Liberal Jews will carry out marriage ceremonies.

    There is a simple reason why this arrangement does not solve all the problems, and that is because it is like being told, “Your kind can’t sit up here, there are plenty of seats at the back of the bus”.

    Thank you, Frank – you’ve just supported my point, and the position of anti-SSM advocates. Because what you just said here? It can be easily rephrased in another way:

    To have a wrong perception of a group or institution itself amounts to harm.

    You’re saying that, even if all of the legal and economic benefits are granted, that is not good enough – because the perception is different in people’s minds, and that very difference of perception amounts to harm. Not just harm, but actionable harm: harm that the state should take steps to discourage.

    But if that’s the case – if having the wrong perceptions, in and of itself, warrants state action – then the fight against SSM is justified upon the instant. Because to change the definition of marriage is to attempt to change perceptions, period, in multiple ways: first, the perception of marriage itself. Second, the perception of people who have differing views of marriage. Third, the perception of people who have certain views of certain kinds of relationships or sexual acts, regardless of the question of marriage.

    Which means that pro-family advocates have not just grounds, but secular grounds (contra bigbird, this goes far beyond Christianity or religious belief) for opposing same-sex marriage.

  73. Ray,

    No, I’m afraid that passage must have gone over your head. My point was that if even Westboro Baptist is tolerated – more, given explicit legal protection by the highest court in the land – then “most conservative or traditional religious or natural law views” will certainly get at least as much consideration.

    Bull. You were connecting the two, and generally connecting the position of anti-SSM advocates with not just the Westboro Baptist Chruch, but with sexists and racists, suggesting that “it’s okay, I mean, the sexists and racists and WBC people can have their beliefs. You can be just like them!”

    Like I said – make that move with a pregnant woman sometime. It’s similarly reasonable.

  74. But if that’s the case – if having the wrong perceptions, in and of itself, warrants state action – then the fight against SSM is justified upon the instant. Because to change the definition of marriage is to attempt to change perceptions, period, in multiple ways: first, the perception of marriage itself. Second, the perception of people who have differing views of marriage. Third, the perception of people who have certain views of certain kinds of relationships or sexual acts, regardless of the question of marriage.

    No, SSM advocates will make the obvious point that perceptions have *already* changed and they would like society’s laws to be aligned with those changed perceptions.

    Which means that pro-family advocates have not just grounds, but secular grounds (contra bigbird, this goes far beyond Christianity or religious belief) for opposing same-sex marriage.

    Again, this would have been true in the past, but because perceptions have already changed, SSM is merely legalizing what is already broadly accepted (except of course by those who oppose on religious grounds).

    People without any particular religious beliefs seem to be finding that they don’t have any reasons to oppose such a move – they don’t have anything substantial to counter the aggressive push of the SSM lobby. So they think, well, why not?

  75. bigbird,

    No, SSM advocates will make the obvious point that perceptions have *already* changed and they would like society’s laws to be aligned with those changed perceptions.

    No, bigbird – read both what I wrote, as well as what Frank wrote. Part of the point of legalizing the marriage is to help further change perceptions. It is the fight over those perceptions which motivates a good portion of this conflict.

    To make your point consistent here, you’d have to be suggesting that pro-SSM advocates aren’t really pro-SSM, but ‘pro-majority-perception’. It’s not that they think SSM is right or should be allowed or that certain relationships should be accepted and celebrated – they just think that the majority perception should be enshrined in law, whatever it is. That’s quite obviously false.

    Again, this would have been true in the past, but because perceptions have already changed, SSM is merely legalizing what is already broadly accepted (except of course by those who oppose on religious grounds).

    You’re simply wrong. Perception is driving a large part of this discussion – which is why Frank said that even if the legal benefits of marriage were entirely available to such groups, it would not suffice. Because there would still be a difference in perception and in language – and that is reason enough to push for more changes.

    Again, to hear you tell it, there exists no push to (say) get people to accept gay marriage, or same-sex relationships, or accept certain sexual acts as acceptable, normal, great, etc, and that people don’t think that legalizing gay marriage has anything to do with changing people’s perceptions. People just think that majority perceptions should be bolstered by law simply because they’re in the majority – altering perceptions is not on their mind. That’s ridiculous.

  76. Crude – you are pursuing a clear and important line of argument here. You may see it as a matter of perception but I want to make clear that I do not see the difference between a marriage and a civil partnership as one of perception.

    A marriage is a recognised cultural entity and as things stand in the UK it is one that is not available to same-sex couples. A civil partnership is not a marriage and it is known to be not a marriage. Both pro and anti seem to agree on that as far as I can tell.

  77. Sorry – just to try to clear up what might appear as a self-contradiction on my part.

    I said we have “in some way” legalised SSM. And then I say a CP is not a marriage. To be super-clear, let me say “not quite a marriage”.

    What I think happened — and this is a typical legislators trick — is that a fudge was used at the introduction of CPs, so the government could say to pro-SSM folk “Look we’ve given you all you were asking for”, while at the same time saying to anti-SSM folk “We haven’t given them marriage”.

    Unfortunately the fudge cannot last forever and now the fundamental issue has to be faced — is it a marriage or isn’t it?

  78. Crude – you are pursuing a clear and important line of argument here. You may see it as a matter of perception but I want to make clear that I do not see the difference between a marriage and a civil partnership as one of perception.

    A marriage is a recognised cultural entity and as things stand in the UK it is one that is not available to same-sex couples. A civil partnership is not a marriage and it is known to be not a marriage. Both pro and anti seem to agree on that as far as I can tell.

    Now, you say the difference is not one of perception – but you already granted that, prior to the push for gay marriage, couples were granted the legal and economic benefits of marriage. So all that’s left is the name and the recognition.

    But to say that is to admit that what’s left – and what’s being pursued – is an issue of perception. Hence the talk of “recognized cultural entity” – more perception talk.

    What I think happened — and this is a typical legislators trick — is that a fudge was used at the introduction of CPs, so the government could say to pro-SSM folk “Look we’ve given you all you were asking for”, while at the same time saying to anti-SSM folk “We haven’t given them marriage”.

    Why is this a legislator’s trick, assuming – as was once widely argued – that what was desired were the very things CPs granted? We even saw this in this thread with katie: she said she was terrified at the thought of being denied the same legal and economic protections. Well, CPs would grant those.

    Why isn’t it the case that the people saying they wanted those benefits were engaged in a trick? That it was never really about the benefits in large part anyway, despite what they said?

    Unfortunately the fudge cannot last forever and now the fundamental issue has to be faced — is it a marriage or isn’t it?

    But is that even the ‘fundamental issue’?

    Let’s say that tomorrow gay marriage was passed. Then a poll is conducted – 90% of the population (yes, an absurdly high number) thinks that gay marriages are not real marriages.

    Is the issue now settled? After all, we’ll have legalized gay marriage.

  79. Can the government ever be justified in treating same sex “marriages” different than marriages – ever?

    For all you pragmatists out there who are animated by “what works”…Suppose the government wanted to improve the long-term economic situation of a country who’s population is getting older. One way to do that is to increase the birthrate. More people, more jobs, more innovation, more tax revenue, etc. It works!

    To promote this idea, would the government be justified in giving heterosexual couples benefits and withholding those benefits from same-sex couples?

    If the answer is yes – and I’m confident it is – then what happens when there is no difference between the two groups under the law? It seems to me that the government would not be able to legally differentiate the two groups, and the harm would be in forcing the government to recognize two different concepts as the same concept. That’s called intentional equivocation, and we all know that equivocation isn’t a virtue.

    Note: I’m not a pragmatist, but a lot of you out there are

  80. Catching up on comments here:

    Ryan has brought up the issue of “failed heterosexual marriages.”I think it’s worse than that. I think the institution of marriage is failing. It began with heterosexual couples, of course; and one of the chief ways in which they undermined it was by making it an institution of, by and for the couple.

    So now the question of harm comes up, and the answer from my perspective is this: that marriage is crucial for present and future generations, and SSM will undermine marriage much more completely than has been accomplished so far. There will be more marriages undertaken with incomplete, misunderstood, or even false ends in mind. There will be more children born without benefit of marriage, and there will be even more children partially orphaned through divorce.

    SSM adoption is not the answer. Giving up on marriage (I’m speaking to you, bigbird) is not the answer. Bifurcating legal and “religious ” marriage is not the answer, because “religiously” married people are not unaffected by the generally debased overall culture of marriage. The answer is to strengthen marriage.

    The immeasurable harm that will come from SSM is not susceptible to social research in the short term, because it will take up to two generations to display itself in its fullness. We already do know, however, that children who grow up with both their biological parents fare much better than other children. SSM will not contribute to children growing up with their biological parents, will it?

    Katie, I think you took my satirical comments about infertile couples way too seriously. The government isn’t going to require men and women to submit a doctor’s approval to be married. That’s an invasion of privacy far beyond anything contemplated in any Western society, or probably any society whatsoever. Meanwhile no doctor’s opinion is called for in determining the fertility of a same-sex couple. Men and women are, as far as the law is concerned, either actually or potentially able to procreate. Men and men aren’t. Women and women aren’t. I have stated the obvious to highlight just how obvious it is.

    Robert’s answer to why marriage exists in the eyes of the law was U.S. based;and “I actually think the fact that there’s a demand for same-sex marriage is enough of a reason to go ahead and make legal as long as it cannot be shown to be harmful. You might argue that it’s a very weak reason, but if same-sex marriage causes no harm, then any reason will suffice. That’s why I say that opponents of same-sex marriage need to demonstrate very concretely that legalization is harmful to our society.”

    Frank (@#42), it is not the case that marriage was created as a religious law, because it came long before the law. That’s the case in both biblical and anthropological understandings of “law.”

    Robert, you seem open to sibling marriage. I’m curious why in your answer you spoke of “two siblings.” Why not three? Why not two siblings and their cousin? Why not two siblings and their dad? That’s a very serious question, and your answer should help us get to the heart of the problem.

  81. Once again:

    Why does marriage exist in the eyes of the law? What is it about marriage that merits that attention? That’s what you really, really need to think through.

    It’s not so boys and girls can “make it” with each other without mommy and daddy getting mad at them, by the way.

    It’s not so men and women can have shared bank accounts, at least not primarily so.

    It’s not so men and women can inherit from each other without probate.

    It’s not so they can share insurance benefits.

    It’s not so they can visit one another in the hospital.

    It’s not so they can be special friends forever.

    Marriage does not exist in the eyes of the law for any of these reasons.

    Marriage was not created by law, but if it had been, it surely wouldn’t have been for any of these reasons.

  82. Here’s a hint:

    Do you remember those old Westerns when the dad pointed a shotgun at the cowboy and forced him to marry his daughter? I certainly don’t commend that practice, yet I find something instructive in it. Why did the dad want this misbehavin’ ranch hand for a son-in-law? What good was that?

    There’s a common sense answer to that question, and it can help lead to an understanding of what marriage is all about.

    But not quite yet; for that practice has faded into dim black-and-white movie memory. Where did it go? Did it disappear from our society just because we’re not prone to committing assault with firearms anymore? Maybe partly, but that’s not the whole answer. There’s another reason that to my mind stands out even more strongly than that.

    Put all this together and maybe you’ll begin to see why marriage matters.

  83. Tom

    In regards to why marriage matters. The next generation matters, and marriage is the vehicle, so to speak, that brings for the next generation the most effectively and most efficiently.

    Marriage exists because a man and woman, together, can generate new life. A new life that needs years of care and nurturing. Frankly, a new life that needs their own mom and dad (there really are not equal substitutes). This is a basic, obvious, fact. A basic, obvious, fact that is so basic, and so obvious, it is hard to comprehend why there is even an argument.

    Sure, it is good for a child to be raised by caring adults. Yet, a child who is raised by caring adults who happen to be their own mom and dad, in that area, is not missing anything good. A child who is raised by caring adults who are not their own mom and/or dad *is* missing something inherently good. They have lost something, they have experienced a tragedy…no matter the circumstances. They may be cared for, but they have lost the good thing that is knowing and being care for by a biological mom and/or a dad. There is no corresponding loss for children who have married parents. There simply is no loss in not having adoptive parents, or step-parents, or three parents, or same sex romantic partner parents.

  84. Part of the point of legalizing the marriage is to help further change perceptions. It is the fight over those perceptions which motivates a good portion of this conflict.

    Oh I agree absolutely. SSM is the ultimate societal approval of gay relationships. But it would be a lost cause if not for the last 30 years of changing perceptions. My view is that a tipping point in perceptions has been reached. So for the average person who has no particular religious reason to oppose SSM, they now think well why not, whereas 30 years ago that would have been been inconceivable.

    Can that be changed? I don’t think so. I haven’t seen any arguments against SSM that are remotely convincing to the average person coming from a non-religious framework.

    I think it would help if someone could post in summary form the *What is marriage* book’s best argument in favor of marriage, and consider its merits.

    Giving up on marriage (I’m speaking to you, bigbird) is not the answer. Bifurcating legal and “religious ” marriage is not the answer, because “religiously” married people are not unaffected by the generally debased overall culture of marriage. The answer is to strengthen marriage.

    I’m not giving up on marriage. I’m suggesting that religious marriage become a beacon in a society where marriage is debased.

    SSM will not contribute to children growing up with their biological parents, will it?

    I’m playing devil’s advocate here, but a case could be made that SSM will result in fewer children suffering from broken marriages. Many gay people enter into marriages they probably shouldn’t have entered into, and it is devastating to children when their father leaves their mother for another man, or vice versa. SSM is likely to reduce these cases.

    Again, it seems likely that SSM will reduce the gay suicide rate. It may ultimately reduce the incidence of gay bashings. And so on. If you want harm to be the centerpiece of your argument, you’ll find plenty of reasons brought up why SSM could actually be good for society – many of them legitimate.

    Ultimately, it seems an extremely difficult task to me to weigh up potential harm vs potential benefits to come up with a clear net harm.

    BTW I’m not disputing that SSM will ultimately be detrimental to society in the long run. But I think we will only conclusively demonstrate that some years into the future after SSM has been legalized (if it is).

  85. Can that be changed? I don’t think so. I haven’t seen any arguments against SSM that are remotely convincing to the average person coming from a non-religious framework.

    And I haven’t seen any persuasive arguments for SSM that go beyond emotional theatrics or ‘well why not?’

    You say you understand or even agree, but you keep on circling back to the focus on arguments. As if good, powerful arguments have really played a major role in the change – but that’s precisely what I’m saying is false.

    It gets doubly confused when you start talking about ‘arguments that persuade people’. Right now, half the country still (apparently) does not accept evolution.

    Let me guess: no good arguments for evolution have been advanced, right?

  86. “I’m curious why in your answer you spoke of ‘two siblings.’ Why not three? Why not two siblings and their cousin? Why not two siblings and their dad?”

    I was simply saying that if there is a demand to have to legal benefits of marriage extended to more general relationships than the “one man, one woman” model, then I’d be willing to consider it. If nobody can demonstrate harm to society, then I see no reason why two siblings and a dad cannot have a shared bank account and visit each other in the hospital. I suspect there are many types of relationships that could take advantage of these benefits, but I also think you would have to exclude certain other relationships. For example, I think it would be pretty easy to argue that a child cannot be successfully raised by a hundred people…

    “There will be more children born without benefit of marriage, and there will be even more children partially orphaned through divorce.”

    These are the most concrete predictions I have ever heard from an opponent of same-sex marriage. How long do you think it would take for these effects to become noticeable?

    In your post #85, you quote a few of my sentences but don’t say anything about them. Was this a typo?

  87. bigbird,

    Your devil’s advocate case is unlikely to be true.The moral approval being given to homosexuality through SSM is causing more people to “experiment” with it. This experimentation will very likely cause increasing numbers of men and women to “change their minds” and decide they’re homosexual after they marry? (Did you know, by the way, that “being homosexual” is an invention of the late modern era?)

    Robert,

    Regarding siblings marrying, I’m not sure you got the point. If you think a case can be made for it, can you state any principled reason why it should not be extended to three siblings or to two siblings and their father? Your stated boundary of less than a hundred people seems to indicate that you think marriage could extend to large groups.

    The harm you’ve asked me to predict more concretely already exists. SSM will cause it to continue when in fact we need to be doing something to turn it around.

    We’re destroying our own children’s lives unless we recover marriage as it needs to be.

    And there is yet another harm that I haven’t even broached here. I’ll come back to it not long from now. It’s not complicated to describe, but to demonstrate it would be too involved for me to get into it right now.

  88. Crude, Bigbird

    A potential future harm that may be more likely to occur because of redefining marriage is the possibility of scientists trying to make a viable human embryo from the genetic material of two men or two women. Then going the next step and implanting it so this person is born. SSM cant cause this to happen, of course, but it does pave the way. Its not hard to imagine people in the near future arguing that it is an injustice that some “married” couples can have children together and others cannot.

    I hope the massive ethical issues involved with this sort of experimentation are clear.

    I have read comments from anti-marriage activists where they express hope that such a technology will be developed.

  89. Meanwhile, I can’t help wishing someone would address this, so I’m asking again:

    Why does marriage exist in the eyes of the law? What is it about marriage that merits that attention? That’s what you really, really need to think through.

    It’s not so boys and girls can “make it” with each other without mommy and daddy getting mad at them, by the way.

    It’s not so men and women can have shared bank accounts, at least not primarily so.

    It’s not so men and women can inherit from each other without probate.

    It’s not so they can share insurance benefits.

    It’s not so they can visit one another in the hospital.

    It’s not so they can be special friends forever.

    Marriage does not exist in the eyes of the law for any of these reasons.

    Marriage was not created by law, but if it had been, it surely wouldn’t have been for any of these reasons.

  90. Tom, a couple of people have addressed it at least briefly, and DR84 gave an answer which it seems (from other things you’ve said) you might agree with:

    “Marriage exists because a man and woman, together, can generate new life.”

    (I’m not saying I agree that’s the reason, but I want to examine it for a bit)

    Now it has been said that a same-sex couple do not have this possibility. Am I right in saying that this is one of the reasons why SSMs are thought to undermine marriage?

    Well, that leads me to a couple of questions:

    (1) When a 100-year-old woman marries an 87-year-old man, as was reported on my local news recently, does that undermine marriage also? Or when in the hypothetical cases we have discussed previously, if a couple married who were clearly for some other medical reason incapable of bearing children, would that undermine marriage?

    (2) It’s not quite true that SSCs can’t or don’t raise their own kids. Many have children where one partner is the biological parent. In such cases the donor biological parent often or usually has no role in upbringing, so the couple are raising their own child. And medically it is very possible that two women could have a dually-biological child of their own, I think that is inevitable (already achieved in mice).

    Frank (@#42), it is not the case that marriage was created as a religious law, because it came long before the law. That’s the case in both biblical and anthropological understandings of “law.”

    And can you support that with historical evidence?

    I would claim something different (for which I’ll be happy to find evidence too — but I’ll state my case), that in ancient societies marriage developed as a means of stabilizing family and inter-family power structures. It provides social clarity as to who is related to who, and familial stability which is beneficial to society (yes, for children, but also for adults, for property rights, for a whole complex of reasons). Marriages in many cultures have traditionally been arranged between families, where the power relations of family hierarchs are at least as important as the nature of the relationship between the couple involved.

    Lastly, marriage is far from essential for reproduction. I’m not married and I have two children.

  91. @Frank Pennycook:

    note: apologies for misspelling your name and thanks to Tom for correcting it.

    I can assure you the perception of segregation and discrimination is real

    I do not doubt that “discrimination” and “bigotry” exists; I also do not doubt that SSM advocates want to spin the issue as one of segregation and discrimination. It is a sleazy rhetorical ploy, but I suppose in their eyes the ends justify the means.

    Before I’m able to comment further on that though, I’m perplexed — could you let me know what the difference is between “intrinsic meaning” and plain “meaning”?

    To use the Scholastic jargon, it is the difference between a real definition and a nominal one. When I say that “water” is H2O I am defining not a word, but giving an account of what some word points to, refers to, denotes (e.g. “water”) in terms of its chemical composition. In a nominal definition one simply stipulates the meaning of an arbitrary sequence of letters to be such and such, that is, in terms of other words not in terms of reality out there.

    When a 100-year-old woman marries an 87-year-old man, as was reported on my local news recently, does that undermine marriage also?

    This objection has been responded to countless times in this blog so I will be brief (for my own private, nominal definition of “brief”); the reason the couple you cited cannot have children is not the *same* reason that a same-sex couple cannot have children. All man-woman couples have in them the potential to generate life; *this* is the important distinction. This potency is not actual in some man-woman couples because of infirmity, old-age, etc. but the potency is there as flowing from what human nature is. This is not the case for SS couples. This biological distinction, plain as a day and that no one in his right mind can deny, is the *basis* for why marriage *is* as a matter of real, metaphysical fact, only between a man and a woman.

    Governments come and go; laws get passed and then torn down. That is all inconsequential to the essentialist view of marriage, because it is rooted in what human nature is, and is confirmed by biology, anthropology and history. It is precisely because this is so, that SSM advocates *must* argue in the way they do; e.g. they have to take the nominalist route and deny any essential basis to marriage and say that it is only a human, social construct; and then in the next breath go on to impose *their* own biases and prejudices by saying that “marriage” is a “loving relationship”. Retort: f you raised the infertile couple objection, I raise the unloving couple objection. Is between “two adults”. Retort: adults I can swallow, but two? Why not three, four or twenty? And why persons? Why not bring in animals and inanimate objects into the bargain? SSM advocates want to be revolutionaries; they are just not revolutionary enough (read: intellectually consistent).

    It’s not quite true that SSCs can’t or don’t raise their own kids.

    Will you pay attention to what people say? Single mothers can raise children. Court-appointed wards can raise children. Should we also grant them the marriage status?

    [about Tom’s contention that marriage and family is prior to the state and the law]

    And can you support that with historical evidence?

    Is this a serious question? In case it, go read a book.

    Lastly, marriage is far from essential for reproduction. I’m not married and I have two children.

    You got it backwards. It is reproduction that is essential to marriage; we are not discussing reproduction, but marriage.

  92. Your devil’s advocate case is unlikely to be true.

    Why do you think so? It is quite common for gay people to marry and realize that it was a bad idea given their orientation.

    Also, I think it is quite possible that legalizing SSM will have a positive effect on the (high) suicide rate amongst gay youth, although I’m sure this has many complex causes. It is certainly an argument that is being used more often. It is a difficult argument to argue against, as it automatically casts the opponent as not being interested in reducing suicide rates amongst gay youth.

    Anyway I’m sure you’re aware this is the kind of thing you are up against.

    The moral approval being given to homosexuality through SSM is causing more people to “experiment” with it.

    I would agree with you that the moral approval currently given same sex relationships may cause (and probably has caused) experimentation.

    How much more approval SSM gives is uncertain, although obviously some, otherwise I doubt people would be lobbying for it.

    But quantifying how much experimentation might increase is difficult, particularly given that SSM is legal in very few jurisdictions around the world. Have you any research on this?

    Of course this isn’t a terribly useful point in debate, as pro-SSM people would probably regard such experimentation as not harmful (even desirable).

    Marriage does not exist in the eyes of the law for any of these reasons.

    Historically, in the eyes of Australian law, marriage law has been used by the state to assert control over who can marry who.

  93. Governments come and go; laws get passed and then torn down. That is all inconsequential to the essentialist view of marriage, because it is rooted in what human nature is, and is confirmed by biology, anthropology and history.

    So why care about legalizing SSM if it is inconsequential?

  94. bigbird,

    Quick note: When I make some assertion and immediately explain why I think so, it’s a matter of some consternation to see a reply that begins, “Why do you think so?”

  95. Equally a source of consternation: to pull one word out of someone’s comment (“inconsequential”) and to make a question out of that word as if it had been spoken without context. G. Rodrigues said “inconsequential to the essentialist view of marriage.” He did not say “inconsequential” to social policy, social effects, morality, law, or any other matter.

    In other words, he did not and certainly would not say it’s inconsequential without specifying for what. You ought not treat him as if he made such a silly mistake. It’s unbecoming of you to do so.

  96. And again, of course it’s hard to quantify the things we’ve been discussing. It’s also hard to justify the experimentation necessary to obtain an empirical, quantified answer. The social sciences have ethical standards that are being entirely tossed out the window in the name of this demand for research-based answers and the rejection of common sense on it.

    But wait, no, it’s not just the social sciences: human beings in general know (or should know?) that it’s irresponsible as can be to base today’s decisions on “gosh, we won’t know for two generations whether this will irreparably harm our current generation’s children and grandchildren, so let’s run with it as fast as we can for now, and let our descendants find out later what we’ve done to them!”

    That, in fact, may be the one most urgent reason I oppose SSM. It is the one aspect to SSM advocacy that is most likely to make me run and hang my head over the toilet. It is quite literally sick, and quite literally sickening. I hope you understand I am not saying that as a figure of speech; I intend you to take it in its plain literal sense.

    I wonder whether the best argument against SSM might not be the APA’s ethical requirements for human experimentation. I know, I know, even if it’s the best argument it probably won’t change people’s minds. But it would highlight the massive hypocrisy behind all these demands for empirical testing.

  97. G.Rodrigues:

    Ok, thanks for your comments, I’ll try to be brief too

    (1) On the issue of non-fertile unions, the reliance on scholastic categories and the supposed “natural potency” sounds very impressive, but it goes against present-day empirical actuality. If we take an 87-year-old male-female couple (A) and a 30-year-old lesbian couple (B) it’s a good bet at that couple B will bear genetically-own children first. So much for potency.

    This biological distinction, plain as a day and that no one in his right mind can deny, is the *basis* for why marriage *is* as a matter of real, metaphysical fact, only between a man and a woman.

    Repeated assertion of the basicness and obviousness of the matter does not add much. I deny it. Call the psych ward.

    [about Tom’s contention that marriage and family is prior to the state and the law]

    Note that I was referring just to marriage here, not the family. On that note:

    Is this a serious question? In case it, go read a book.

    OK, a good idea.

    Stephanie Coontz – Marriage, a history. Uses examples from many cultures to illustrate the ways in which marriage has developed in history

    Erwin Haeberle – The Sex Atlas – available online, here’s the chapter on forms and meanings of marriage, http://www2.hu-berlin.de/sexology/ATLAS_EN/html/forms_and_meanings_of_marriage.html

    He says:

    As we can see, marriage is a very special phenomenon which involves more than housekeeping, sexual intercourse, and procreation. These “natural” human activities do not, by themselves, make a marriage. Its real meaning derives instead from social sanctions and expectations. Indeed, as such expectations change from one society to another, marriage is bound to change with them.

    Tom, you said:

    That, in fact, may be the one most urgent reason I oppose SSM. It is the one aspect to SSM advocacy that is most likely to make me run and hang my head over the toilet. It is quite literally sick, and quite literally sickening. I hope you understand I am not saying that as a figure of speech; I intend you to take it in its plain literal sense.

    I do take your feeling of sickness seriously. It seems clear from the discussion that persuasion of either side by the other to change minds is not likely. Because we have utterly differing personal responses to the idea of SSM.

  98. Frank Pennycook –

    However, while expressing such opinions may be lawful, if we consider “socially accepted”

    Being concerned about being unpopular is different from being concerned about being oppressed, though. As I said, people “don’t have the right to insist people like them or agree with them.”

    Crude –

    Bull. You were connecting the two

    I can understand why you’d think that.

    After all, the same style of argument is used here very often. ‘Stalin was a bad person, Stalin was an atheist, therefore atheists are bad people.’ “Every act of sin is essentially an act of overt or latent atheism… Atheism is the rejection of the principle of overarching right and wrong.”

    But that wasn’t what I was saying. I was, in fact, drawing a contrast between Westboro Baptist and DR84’s position. Indeed, how could what I said have made sense if I wasn’t? I was saying, ‘even these repellent schmucks get the protection of the First Amendment; so your positions, which are far milder, can count on such protections too’.

  99. Frank,

    If we take an 87-year-old male-female couple (A) and a 30-year-old lesbian couple (B) it’s a good bet at that couple B will bear genetically-own children first.

    Huh? I’d like to see them do that all by themselves. I suppose that the next grasping-at-straws argument will be what DR84 mentioned here

    Its not hard to imagine people in the near future arguing that it is an injustice that some “married” couples can have children together and others cannot.

    Is this where you are headed, Frank?

  100. “can you state any principled reason why it should not be extended to three siblings or to two siblings and their father?”

    No, I cannot state a principled reason a priori. You would have to look at a large sample of such households to decide whether children can be raised successfully, for example. I admit that I probably do not see your point here. Why do you keep asking about three siblings or two siblings and a father?

    “Your stated boundary of less than a hundred people seems to indicate that you think marriage could extend to large groups.”

    Not really. I was giving an extreme example to show that you probably could not make an argument for extending legal marriage to arbitrary groups. In fact, I doubt that it will ever be extended very far beyond heterosexual and same-sex couples or that sibling marriage will ever become a reality.

    “The harm you’ve asked me to predict more concretely already exists. SSM will cause it to continue when in fact we need to be doing something to turn it around.”

    Of course I agree that the things you mentioned exist. Couples are getting divorced and children being born out of wedlock all the time. But how long would it take for same-sex marriage to cause a noticeable increase? In one of your comments you seemed to suggest that “we won’t know for two generations”. Is that your answer? Two generations?

  101. Frank, does the author you quote say that marriage involves less than “housekeeping, sexual intercourse, and procreation”?

    Whether marriage involves more than those things is not in question here.

  102. Tom Gilson – I don’t think you’re being quite fair to SSM advocates.

    Consider the objections to integrating the U.S. armed services during, and especially after, WWII. It was held that the military was far too critical to carry out such an ‘experiment’ as desegregation.

    And incidentally, many white soldiers from segregated states expressed a physical revulsion to the idea of showering with ‘coloreds’. Reading your words, as I understand them you weren’t expressing revulsion at homosexuals themselves, but what you perceive as a cavalier attitude toward ‘experimentation’ with things as important as family and marriage.

    But here’s the thing. The people pushing for military integration genuinely thought that the ‘experiment’ was low-risk. And in the end, it turned out all right. Perhaps we were just really lucky, but I think the more reasonable conclusion is that they were right – it was low-risk.

    It seems to me the people pushing for SSM aren’t quite as cavalier and careless as you’ve portrayed them as, there. They seem to genuinely think that the ‘experiment’ is low-risk. Now, they could be wrong about that, but that’s not the same as being reckless and negligent.

  103. Tom,

    There’s something else I want to clarify about my position. In responding to the question about sibling marriage, I was imagining some hypothetical future world where lots of people want to raise children with their brothers or sisters. I was not talking about the world we live in, and I can give you principled reasons why we should not legalize sibling marriage right now. For one thing, it would involve rewriting all sorts of laws, and I don’t think that such hassle is justified given that there’s virtually no demand for sibling marriage. In addition, most of the people who would be asking for sibling marriage would probably want to commit incest, and I don’t think that’s something the government should encourage…

  104.  
    SSM involves rewriting all sorts of laws.

    Most of the people who would be asking for SSM would probably want to commit immoral sexual acts, and I don’t think that’s something the government should encourage.

    Agree? Disagree? Let me suggest to you that those are not the most relevant questions to ask in context of what you’ve been saying. Instead ask yourself what the vast majority of Americans would have said about those statements just 20 years ago.

    Whatever prevents you from endorsing sibling marriage “right now” is as flimsy as whatever prevented the Western world from endorsing SSM then. It’s vapor. Sibling marriage in 2025 is entirely possible, even likely, if that’s all you have to say about it. That includes siblings-plus-dad, by the way.

    That’s not to say that every reason to oppose SSM is vapor. Rather it is to say that “rewriting all sorts of laws” and “there’s no demand” and “it would be immoral” didn’t do much to prevent SSM, and it won’t do much to prevent siblings-plus-dad “marriage,” either.

  105. Robert Jones #110

    “In addition, most of the people who would be asking for sibling marriage would probably want to commit incest, and I don’t think that’s something the government should encourage…”

    First of all I agree that the government should not encourage siblings to be physically intimate with each other. That said, you are implying that by recognizing a relationship as a marriage the government is encouraging them to engage in sexual acts together. Which to that, I agree. This raises a question; though, what reason does the government have to encourage sexual acts between people of the same sex?

  106. “SSM involves rewriting all sorts of laws.”

    There are many, many people who would like to take advantage of same-sex marriage, so in this case I think we are justified in modifying our laws.

    “Most of the people who would be asking for SSM would probably want to commit immoral sexual acts, and I don’t think that’s something the government should encourage.”

    Incest is immoral because it produces children with congenital birth defects. That’s a very concrete reason for rejecting incest, and I’m afraid I do not see a similarly compelling reason why homosexuality is immoral.

    “Sibling marriage in 2025 is entirely possible, even likely, if that’s all you have to say about it.”

    You may be right. I don’t know.

  107. “you are implying that by recognizing a relationship as a marriage the government is encouraging them to engage in sexual acts together.”

    At the moment, there is no significant movement to legalize sibling marriage, so I would guess that anyone asking for such a thing is probably having sex with their siblings. But in general, I don’t think that these benefits are encouraging people to have sex. You were the one who originally asked if we should legalize sibling marriage, and you specifically included the condition that they would not be having sex. Don’t you think it’s possible to offer siblings the same legal benefits that married couples enjoy while keeping incest illegal?

  108. Robert Jones #114

    Yes, I do think that is possible to offer marital type benefits to siblings and still make incest illegal. I also think if marriage is re-defined to include homosexual couples, that not offering “marriage” in this manner to siblings would be irrational and unjust. I also think that it would be unjust if friendship relationships were not fully recognized and accepted as proper ‘marriages’.

    The only thing better, more fair and more just for all, than all of that, is not re-defining marriage in the first place. More accurately, not effectively abolishing marriage as a legal institution.

  109. Quick note: When I make some assertion and immediately explain why I think so, it’s a matter of some consternation to see a reply that begins, “Why do you think so?”

    Sorry. I read your reply a bit hastily and didn’t realize you were claiming that more experimentation would lead to more people changing their mind about their orientation after marriage.

    My claim and yours can’t easily be quantified, but my main point is that your opponents can quite easily come up with claims of positive effects of SSM to counter the rather vague claims of harm that I’ve read here.

  110. bigbird

    The harm argument can go both ways. Is anyone harmed by society (and the state) having a distinct social institution for marriages of husbands and wives? An institution that is distinct from others by having its own name (marriage) and its own norms (permanence/fidelity/oriented towards family).

    Any vague claims of harm from such an institution existing can be countered by the distinct good this institution provides society.

  111. @Frank Pennycook:

    On the issue of non-fertile unions, the reliance on scholastic categories and the supposed “natural potency” sounds very impressive, but it goes against present-day empirical actuality. If we take an 87-year-old male-female couple (A) and a 30-year-old lesbian couple (B) it’s a good bet at that couple B will bear genetically-own children first. So much for potency.

    You asked a question; the answer I provided was necessarily brief. I will not make that mistake again. Your objection is completely irrelevant and refutes exactly nothing: potency and act are technical terms of art that have precise meanings in Aristotelian-Thomistic philosophy. Since I have very little patience for the condescending pontificating of ignoramuses, I will only suggest you keep it to yourself.

    As far as your “empirical actuality” objection goes, it fails even on its own terms. A lesbian couple to have a child must have recourse to outside help of a male to provide the sperm for either natural or artificial insemination. Of themselves and on their own they cannot have children, and certainly not “genetically-own” — as far as I know, the technology to do DNA replacement is still not available. Following your i-logic, we can conclude that even single people can have children: just hire the needed outside help.

    Repeated assertion of the basicness and obviousness of the matter does not add much. I deny it.

    You deny what? The biological fact that only a man and a woman can have children? If so, then yes, you should commit yourself to a psychic ward, or what is more likely, stop pretending that you are arguing rationally and in good faith because you are not interested in the Truth. The facts about marriage that I claim follow from that? Sure; if you did, then you would not be here arguing. But stomping your feet is not enough, an argument needs to be made.

    Stephanie Coontz – Marriage, a history. Uses examples from many cultures to illustrate the ways in which marriage has developed in history

    First, marriage is in the orthodox Christian view indissolubly tied to the formation of new families: in virtually all pre-modern cultures, getting married and forming a new family were one and the same thing. Second, I am not sure what you think I am claiming, but for the sake of clarity I said and I quote “about Tom’s contention that marriage and family is prior to the state and the law”. No one here disputes that marriage has had different social and cultural trappings; that *is* part of what culture, in the anthropological sense, is. This has nothing to do with the historical and anthropological fact that marriage is a reality prior to the state and the law. I have not followed your links, but your quote is completely irrelevant to this point.

  112. I’m a bit confused as to how you believe not allowing SSM will help children. I work in the foster care system, and marriage has very little to do with the problems the children and families in the system face. These families are struggling with alcohol and substance abuse, domestic violence, and mental health issues. These issues would need to be resolved long before marriage could possibly make any difference.

  113. Ray,

    I can understand why you’d think that.

    Yeah, because it’s a very common tactic that has been used in these discussions again and again. With the difference being that when you’re called on it, you back off.

    So expect to be called on it again and again.

    After all, the same style of argument is used here very often. ‘Stalin was a bad person, Stalin was an atheist, therefore atheists are bad people.’

    Congratulations – you’ve graduated from a vaguer manner of dishonesty to out and out lying.

    Say – at least, very strongly imply – that I’ve said that all atheists are bad people because Stalin was a bad person. You link to a cutesy little site search of ‘Crude’ and ‘Stalin’ while making your claim.

    Put up or shut up. What you’re going to find is me making the point that the history of intellectual atheism is not without its dark side (contrary to the claims of many of its leadership). You will find me arguing that atheism, certainly materialist atheism, has necessary outcomes for how morality is considered and applied.

    But “Stalin was a bad person, Stalin was an atheist, therefore atheists are bad people”? Quote it. Defend it. Because I’m calling you a liar for suggesting I’ve said it.

  114. Meanwhile, I want to some basic points about the rest of this thread.

    * One of the original themes in this thread was that the fight against SSM had to proceed on secular grounds, with secular motivations and arguments, in order to get off the ground at all. Even granting that for the sake of argument… I think, between what Tom has said, and what I’ve pointed out about perceptions (and believe me, I could start racking out the list with additional concerns), that challenge has been met: there are an abundance of “secular reasons” and motivations for opposing SSM. Which is no surprise, because what amounts to a “secular reason” is an incredibly low bar to jump, if it makes sense at all.

    * With that established, what comes next is giving persuasive arguments against SSM. Note that that’s a different standard from merely having secular arguments. (You don’t suddenly ‘not have a secular argument’ just because people, even sizable numbers of people, disagree. If that were the case, there’d be no arguments for or against gun control or various other policies.)

    The key here is: disagreement should not be discouragement on this subject for anti-SSM advocates. Especially when that disagreement comes from very fundamental differences in basic assumptions, preferences and worldviews. There’s a point where you simply have to go ‘Well, we’re done here.’ and move on – not get bogged down.

    * I maintain that, sad as it is, arguments matter little, and the bulk of consideration shouldn’t be there on this topic for pro-marriage people opposing SSM. Think about delivery. Think about how to reach out. Think about framing. Think about presenting your worldview along with its fundamentals.

    But little of that depends directly on argument.

  115. Robert, you say,

    Incest is immoral because it produces children with congenital birth defects. That’s a very concrete reason for rejecting incest, and I’m afraid I do not see a similarly compelling reason why homosexuality is immoral.

    Who said the siblings weren’t a pair of brothers. Who said it wasn’t a brother-brother-father relationship?

    You still haven’t come up with any principled reason to reject this, based on your view of marriage in general.

  116. os,

    I’m a bit confused as to how you believe not allowing SSM will help children.

    In my mind it’s easy to understand how. The how comes from not legally defining different institutions – with different societal purposes – as the same thing. By not doing that, it allows the government the flexibility it needs to treat them differently, according to their societal purpose, when it sees a justifiable need to do so.

    If under the law there was no difference, then there would be no legal way for the government to recognize and act on those unique purposes.

    And for the record, I am not suggesting that SS couples be unilaterally denied the ability to care for children just because they are SS.

    Lastly, I suggest you read my #84 and then Tom’s #95.

  117. It’s not that “not allowing SSM” will help children. It’s that preserving marriage as an institution whose essence includes raising children will help children. Redefining marriage as being all about the couple will harm children. And that’s exactly how SSM advocates are speaking of marriage, more often than not.

  118. Incidentally, what a great procession of the argument on the part of pro-SSM people in this thread.

    We’re now seeing tepid defenses of straight-up incest in order to maintain the appearance of consistency required, on pain of having to concede that there’s an intellectual downside to accepting SSM.

    Of course, that method of pro-marriage critique of the SSM position is only persuasive insofar as someone is willing to eventually say “okay, that’s a bridge too far for me, I’m out”, or who isn’t willing to just accept intellectual inconsistency.

  119. “Who said the siblings weren’t a pair of brothers. Who said it wasn’t a brother-brother-father relationship?”

    Ah, sorry about that. When I said the government should take steps to prevent incest, I was specifically thinking about male-female incest. Incestuous homosexual relationships between consenting adults are exceedingly rare as far as I know, so I can’t really tell you what sort of harm they might cause. However, I do know that victims of childhood incest typically suffer serious psychological trauma and often develop mental disorders later in life. I suspect that the same is true for adult siblings who commit incest.

  120. Ok, how will preserving marriage help children and families, directly, in their daily lives? How will it help our most vulnerable children and families, the ones involved in the foster care system?

  121. “Tepid defenses of straight-up incest in order to maintain the appearance of consistency required.”

    That’s brilliant, Crude. Pithy, insightful, and positively damning for our SSM defenders here.

    Especially that word “tepid.” They don’t want to go there. They don’t like going there. They know it’s wrong, as everyone does. But darn it all, they have to go there once they start down the trail of trying to defend SSM. They can’t be very enthusiastic, but they can’t avoid it, either.

    Nicely worded.

  122. os, I’ve already answered that question.

    It’s not a short-term, done-by-tomorrow fix. As if such a thing could be possible anyway. It’s a real fix. It’s a way to put a brake on the conditions that create foster children predicaments. It’s a way to promote real families for children.

  123. The problem Tom, is that I’m intimately familiar with those children and those families, and I don’t see marriage having any effect on them whatsoever, now or in the future. If you could explain how it could, that could affects my opinion on the issue.

  124. The problem Tom, is that I’m intimately familiar with those children and those families, and I don’t see marriage having any effect on them whatsoever, now or in the future.

    When you say that ‘you don’t see marriage having any effect on them whatsoever’, what exactly are you talking about?

    The mere existence of a marriage certificate? Having a certain concept of marriage and an attitude taken towards it?

    Really, I’d love to see you explain just what you mean here.

    Tom,

    Well, I’m glad you and others have been asking the questions that have exposed that. It’s been an educational thread to say the least.

  125. OS,

    I mean that it has no role at all. Marriage simply isn’t a factor.

    Wonderful. Again, what do you mean by marriage? Simply the certificate? Any of the commitment or mindsets or whatever associated with marriage, particularly as expressed by Tom and others?

    Because really, if you say ‘Marriage is not a factor whatsoever. It’s about adults in committed relationships who have a certain idea of their responsibilities and duties as parents and…’ etc, it’s going to sound a little like “Airplanes are not a factor in flying. Now, metal cages with certain arrangements of mechanisms and a fuel source… Those are more important!”

    Robert Jones,

    Did I ever say anything in defense of incest?

    See your response about “sibling marriage in 2025”, for one thing. For another, see your focus on congenital birth defects, and then later, child abuse.

    Now, let’s put it in more stark terms. Let’s say we have a brother and a sister. They’re both 18 years old. Should society – whether in terms of legality, or simply in terms of serious social pressure – discourage their having sex, or getting married?

    Let’s grant that they’ll produce no offpspring. Should it be discouraged?

    Let’s further grant that – aside from, you know, the sheer fact that they’re siblings having sex and so on – they remain quite capable of functioning in civilized society.

    Should it be discouraged? Should they be allowed to adopt?

  126. So long as I’m commenting today, I want to swing on back and revisit something I said about ‘perception as harm’.

    Let’s take Manny. Manny is a law-abiding citizen. Not only that, but he’s outwardly very considerate. He’s fair, he’s hard-working. He commits no crimes.

    However, Manny has an additional feature: he is, personally, an extremely explicit, conscious racist and race-supremacist. He thinks his race is superior, across the board, to what he otherwise refers to as ‘mud-people’, who he thinks should be encouraged to be bred out of existence. Yay eugenics, sayeth Manny.

    Again, Manny breaks no laws. If he’s a manager at work and the the person he thinks of as a ‘mud-person’ is the best candidate for a given promotion based on objective metrics, he grants them it. He is polite and civil, and really, doesn’t feel the urge to be otherwise (he thinks acting snarly and vicious towards ‘the mud-people’ is unbecoming, low behavior.) He will, however, regularly vote for candidates he thinks are most likely to legally advance those eugenics laws he favors so much.

    So here’s my question: is Manny’s perception ‘harm’? Could someone reasonably say that a person who perceives others the way Manny does is ‘damaged’?

  127. Crude,

    I’m not sure what you’re trying to get at. None of the aspects of marriage have a role in these families’ lives–not marriage certificates, and not “commitment or mindsets or whatever associated with marriage, particularly as expressed by Tom and others.” Very, very few of the parents are or have ever been married. Typically their children are born from short-term relationships. Getting married would not help them; in fact, it would likely complicate their problems. So I am at a loss as to understand how “preserving marriage” would help them, now or in the future. What they need help with is alcohol and substance abuse, domestic violence, and mental health issues. Not until those issues were resolved could they even consider being able to function in any kind of long term relationship, marriage or otherwise.

  128. ordinaryseeker,

    I’m not sure what you’re trying to get at. None of the aspects of marriage have a role in these families’ lives–not marriage certificates, and not “commitment or mindsets or whatever associated with marriage, particularly as expressed by Tom and others.”

    So you’re telling me that these very broken, dysfunctional relationships were pursued without an eye on or concern for anything close to marriage as Tom has described and laid it out here?

    Typically their children are born from short-term relationships. Getting married would not help them; in fact, it would likely complicate their problems.

    Well, congratulations – you just illustrated one way in which marriage matters here. You’re talking about people who, for various reasons – some probably due to bad decisions, probably some where the reasons are a bit more complicated – threw themselves into situations without any focus on or much consideration of the sorts of responsibilities and commitments and attitudes they should really have when it comes to relationships, particularly where sex is concerned.

    Are you really suggesting that Tom, or anyone else here, is arguing that a marriage certificate itself cures ills? Especially when the talk has been about concepts and attitudes and social realities and more?

  129. os,

    You’re dealing with a very difficult segment of the population; outliers on the scale of failed homes. I’ll grant that no marriage law will help the families you are dealing with.

    But those families came from somewhere, and that “somewhere” also came from somewhere. That trail of failure probably didn’t begin with such utter dissolution, but with something lesser. There are lots of lesser problems out there. Some of them get worse, and they end up being the types of situations you describe here. Some of them get better and they don’t end up there. The goal, wouldn’t you agree, would be to structure person’s lives within society in situations where getting better is more likely? That’s what intact families led by intact marriages do: marriages in which the couple is there not just for themselves or each other, but also for the building of the next generation.

    That’s what I’m talking about.

    And I think that what SSM will do is to undermine that kind of healing structure in society, so that whatever bandaid a same-sex couple may be to the admittedly serious problem of hurting, lost, and orphaned children, in the end that bandaid will do less good than the harm that is produced by undermining the one structure that is most likely to solve the problem where it matters most: the home.

  130. “See your response about ‘sibling marriage in 2025’, for one thing. For another, see your focus on congenital birth defects, and then later, child abuse.”

    And how was any of that a defense of incest? In the first of the comments that you reference, I was saying that by 2025, there might be additional groups of people asking for the legal benefits of marriage, but I’m still doubtful that siblings will ever be able to marry. When I wrote about birth defects and child abuse, I was explaining why incest is wrong. How could you possibly have missed that?

    “Should society… discourage their having sex, or getting married?”

    Contrary to what you seem to think, I am NOT in favor of a brother and sister having sex. Yes, I think society should discourage that. Now, should they be allowed to get married? It depends what you mean by “married”. If marriage is just a package of benefits, then I don’t have any a priori objection. In order to decide whether to allow it, you would have to apply the same criteria that we use to make other policy decisions. You would have to weigh the pros and cons. On the other hand, if by “marriage” you mean “license to have sex”, then no, I do not support their right to be married.

  131. So here’s my question: is Manny’s perception ‘harm’?

    Yup. I said it before…harm is done when you accept falsehoods as the truth. It’s the foundation for all other forms of harm.

  132. And how was any of that a defense of incest?

    Because Tom pointed out an outcome of your rationale in application to sibling incest, and instead of obviously sacrificing the principle your response is ‘Well yeah, okay, that could happen.’

    Contrary to what you seem to think, I am NOT in favor of a brother and sister having sex. Yes, I think society should discourage that.

    Alright. Why?

    On the other hand, if by “marriage” you mean “license to have sex”, then no, I do not support their right to be married.

    So, you just think sex should be stripped entirely out of the concept of marriage? Sex has nothing to do with it, right? It can happen, it can not – who’s to say?

    Are you in the whole ‘two straight guys can marry each other, there’s no problem with that’ camp?

  133. “Tom pointed out an outcome of your rationale in application to sibling incest, and instead of obviously sacrificing the principle your response is ‘Well yeah, okay, that could happen.’”

    Tom was saying that our cultural attitudes could change significantly over the next ten years. If that happened, and if it became more common for siblings to live together and raise children (a possibility which I still consider pretty unlikely), then it’s conceivable that siblings would start asking for the benefits that married couples have. I was just acknowledging that this is a possibility, and I will confess that it’s not such a terrifying prospect to me. If some siblings decide they want to live together, and they’re not committing incest or harming other people, then I’m fine with that.

    “Alright. Why?”

    As I explained in my previous comments, incest is immoral first of all because it produces children who suffer from congenital disorders and disabilities. In addition, people who engage in incest are at a high risk for mental disorders, depression, low self-esteem, and sexual dysfunction.

    “So, you just think sex should be stripped entirely out of the concept of marriage? Sex has nothing to do with it, right? It can happen, it can not – who’s to say?”

    Throughout this thread, I have been discussing marriage from a purely legal point of view. I am regarding marriage as a package of benefits that the government currently provides to heterosexual couples. As far as I know, none of the rights and benefits that the government provides has any direct connection to sex. Of course there are laws related to children, custody, and so on, but I see no reason why it would not be possible, in principle, to offer these benefits to siblings, for example, and continue to enforce the laws that prohibit incest.

  134. Robert Jones #142

    What if some or all of those benefits were available to siblings, but not as marriage, but as something else? Perhaps merely as ‘domestic benefits’. Not marriage, not even civil union, not even domestic partners. Just benefits that are not attached to any sort of social institution. Just benefits that give no particular name to the relationship in question. The brother and sister will be just that, siblings, brother and sister….merely with access to some package of benefits.

    A package of benefits is not marriage. No one is married because they can jointly file taxes, be on each other’s health insurance, the legal heir to each other’s property, etc. People are married when they pledge to stay together and be faithful to one another for life. Have you ever been to a wedding? If you have you would know that the couple in so many words publicly promise they intend to 1. Stay together for life 2. Care for one another for life 3. Be faithful to one another for life. Being faithful including being sexually exclusive with each other and only each other.

    So, when a couple is married they have agreed to adhere to a set of social norms. These social norms have some backing, some grounding reason to exist…some reason they are *the* norms. My questions for you are:

    1. Do you agree that these are the norms for marriage?
    a. If so, can you explain why these are the norms and not something else?
    b. If not, what do you believe are the marriage norms? For clarification, the norms when getting married are about what a couple intends to do, not what they end up doing.

    2. Whether you agree or disagree with the 3 norms I listed. Do you believe there is a distinct good for all in society when people promise to adhere to those norms and follow through with their promise or do you believe these norms are just a reflection of present cultural attitudes?
    a. If just a reflection of present cultural attitudes, would you say marriage is just a package of benefits given to whichever relationships the present culture deems worthy of/harmless enough of to give them to?

  135. i do not wish to get into the fray here, just hope to offer something vastly different, from a very different point of view. i wish to state at the onset that i am a christian, and a Chinese. a very traditional one at that.

    in a way, i’m a bit amused by the arguments here. we just do not have these kinds of hangups in an Eastern society. if someone was gay in our society, it would never get to the realm of SSM. uppermost on the person’s mind is just…my parents will kill me when they found out.is this regressive? no POV should trump another, remember?

    there are no envelopes to push when it comes to gender and marriage. it’s about simply adhering to the archetypal patterns of how things are. not that there are no gay chinese, but then these people would be regarded as having trespassed archetypal norms of what it means to be man and woman…it’s like someone trying to open one lock with another lock. well, try by all means, but that lock is so ever going to stay locked. getting a Master key doesnt count. that’s cheating.

    so, ya. marriage between two guys and two gals will never be consummated in the true sense of the word. and what is marriage if it is not consummmated? there may be kids to show for it, but really, was it because of the sexual union between the two men? or the two ladies? wow. how did they manage with lock and lock, or key and key?

    My point? we are essentially male or female, each defined by the other. yin and yang.any newer categories are just plain deviations form the archetypes that have already been set in place.no eureka moments here. i’m not denying the existence of gender confusion. sure, they do exist. but a traditional eastern diagnosis of why they exist will only lead to the conclusion that they’ve deviated from the core of what it means to be man or woman.

    so, what harm is there? i’ll like to put it to you that SSM essentially destroys what it means to be a man or a woman if one grants that each is defined by the other. and essentially, if being male or female is core to our human identities, then ultimately what gets destroyed are human beings who wander around in a sea of confusion without a complete sense of who they really are. Mother is not Father.and can never be. i feed from her breasts and feel her nipples and hear her gentle soothing voice.

    i wil not answer to replies.you are entitled to your views. as i have mentioned, my point is not to argue anything.i just wish to offer my two cents’ worth and humbly ask that you will consider it. Thanks you.

  136. what comes next is giving persuasive arguments against SSM. Note that that’s a different standard from merely having secular arguments.

    So far I have not yet seen what I would regard to be a single persuasive secular argument against SSM.

    I’ve seen claims of harm that can easily be argued each way and are unlikely to be able to be verified. I’ve seen arguments that require acceptance of a particular definition of marriage to have any impact, when the debate is over what definition should be used.

    Has anyone here got one good reason that would cause an average non-religious college graduate who is not gay (say) to reconsider their support for SSM?

    We’re now seeing tepid defenses of straight-up incest in order to maintain the appearance of consistency required, on pain of having to concede that there’s an intellectual downside to accepting SSM.

    Acceptance of SSM does not require acceptance of incest – an advocate for SSM might simply believe there is a strong demand for SSM and no pressing reasons to reject it, and consider that this is sufficient. A suggestion that in the future there might be strong demand for laws permitting incest can be dismissed as scaremongering – does anyone think this is likely?

    In any case, who says there is any requirement for consistency? Is anyone entirely consistent in their beliefs? And certainly law making seems to rarely care about consistency.

  137. I think what Crude has uncovered, Robert, is your “tepid” defense of incest. You’re reluctant to go there, and you have a principled biologically-based objection to siblings having offspring, but that’s your only real objection to it.

  138. I’ve read their 2010 paper and their online responses to various criticisms of their work. I’ve not yet read the book.

    Can you please describe the argument that you found most persuasive?

  139. You say,

    Acceptance of SSM does not require acceptance of incest – an advocate for SSM might simply believe there is a strong demand for SSM and no pressing reasons to reject it, and consider that this is sufficient. A suggestion that in the future there might be strong demand for laws permitting incest can be dismissed as scaremongering – does anyone think this is likely?

    1. It’s not about “an advocate for SSM.” It’s about
    a) the principles upon which SSM is based, and
    b) advocates for other forms of “marriage” (they are not at all hidden; they’re easy to find), and
    c) the fact that (a) provides no reason not to go where (b) wants to go.

    Scare-mongering? Is it scare-mongering to point out that the direction SSM can and likely will take us is a bad one?

    Who says there is any requirement for consistency? Well, it’s generally considered a desideratum even if it’s not attainable; and what that means is that if I discover an inconsistency in my beliefs, I’ll work to resolve it by changing my beliefs. The alternative is either intellectual dishonesty or some kind of neurosis.

    (And I can’t believe I had to explain any of this to you as one who claims to follow Christ!)

    Further: whether Person A is satisfied with her inconsistencies of belief may not be important to A, B, C, or … K; but then Person L comes along and says, “You know what A? The reasons you give for SSM are also pretty satisfactory reasons for three or more people marrying each other.”

    Person A could say, “No, no, I didn’t mean that!” To which Person L would just say, “So what? It’s true whether you meant it or not: your reasons for SSM are adequate reasons for taking marriage in other new directions, too–whether you meant it or not.”

  140. bigbird, I’ll be working through that book in some detail over the next several months.

    The most persuasive thing they did in it, in my view, is that they showed that marriage, understood as a comprehensive union between a man and a woman with a view to the next generation, is a distinctive human good.

    That’s not an argument, it’s a description of what they argued for, so I know it’s not an answer to the question you asked. For the rest, I’m sorry to say, you will need to wait.

  141. Also:

    I believe that you make a distinction between good arguments and persuasive arguments: that an argument could be perfectly rock solid and yet not move an opponent from his position.

    I believe it is your position that if we don’t make persuasive arguments, defined as those which actually change opponents’ minds, we are doomed to lose this battle.

    I believe it is also your position that we are indeed doomed to lose this battle.

    I put this down here so you can correct me if I’m wrong, and so you can also clarify just what you mean by a persuasive argument. Thanks.

  142. I believe that you make a distinction between good arguments and persuasive arguments: that an argument could be perfectly rock solid and yet not move an opponent from his position.

    I regard a persuasive argument as a good argument within a person’s philosophical framework.

    Arguments that are good according to a Christian framework are not necessarily good to someone operating from say an atheistic framework.

    So an argument that is rock solid according to Christian principles may be not be a good argument (and thus not a persuasive argument) to someone hostile to those principles.

    I believe it is your position that if we don’t make persuasive arguments, we are doomed to lose this battle.

    Yes. However I agree with Crude that persuasive arguments probably won’t make much difference either.

    I believe it is also your position that we are indeed doomed to lose this battle.

    Yes. I can’t see that much can be done about it, hence my desire to see Christian marriage as a distinct contrast to secular marriage. Which it should be anyway, but mostly isn’t, sadly. Which has probably contributed to the situation we face now.

  143. Scare-mongering? Is it scare-mongering to point out that the direction SSM can and likely will take us is a bad one?

    It could take us in that direction, but I think it is extremely unlikely. Virtually every culture ever known has seen parent-child and sibling-sibling unions as taboo, despite homosexuality being fairly widespread. So yes, I think it is scare-mongering.

    Who says there is any requirement for consistency? Well, it’s generally considered a desideratum even if it’s not attainable; and what that means is that if I discover an inconsistency in my beliefs, I’ll work to resolve it by changing my beliefs.

    So do I where I’m aware of them. But that’s certainly not the case for many people. Talk to most people about spiritual matters for instance, and you generally find a mish-mash of inconsistencies. Many people simply don’t give these things that much thought or contemplation.

  144. bigbird,

    Your answer on “consistency” is really weak. It’s basically an argument not to work together toward truth, since people aren’t going to go there anyway. It’s giving in.

  145. Further on good vs. persuasive:

    Could there be any such thing as a good reason to adopt social position A rather than B; with such reason actually being good, whether the hearer initially supports A or B?

  146. You say,

    It could take us in that direction, but I think it is extremely unlikely. Virtually every culture ever known has seen parent-child and sibling-sibling unions as taboo, despite homosexuality being fairly widespread. So yes, I think it is scare-mongering.

    Virtually every culture ever known has seen same-sex marriage as unthinkable, despite homosexuality being fairly widespread.

  147. Clarifying note: by “unthinkable,” I do not mean, “too horrific to think about,” though that’s the common meaning of that word. What I mean is, “impossible to conceive or imagine.”

  148. Is there any such thing, bigbird, as an argument that is simply good, i.e., an argument that is good regardless of “persuasive frameworks”?

    I didn’t use that phrase. Is there any argument that is good regardless of philosophical frameworks? The best that can be done I suppose is to find arguments that are good according to the more common philosophical frameworks. Difficult but not impossible.

  149. While out for a run earlier today (which is when I do a lot of thinking), and after reading a bit of Plato, it occurred to me that it might be interesting for someone to write a Socratic dialogue which involves a Christian exploring someone’s support for SSM, and gradually turning them around to their point of view.

    It might be useful to clarify things in a very readable way. Just a suggestion.

  150. Crude,

    “Well, congratulations – you just illustrated one way in which marriage matters here. You’re talking about people who, for various reasons – some probably due to bad decisions, probably some where the reasons are a bit more complicated – threw themselves into situations without any focus on or much consideration of the sorts of responsibilities and commitments and attitudes they should really have when it comes to relationships, particularly where sex is concerned.”

    Again, correct—except for the “one way in which marriage matters here” part. Are you saying that marriage matters because it’s absent? But then, how would it’s presence help in these situations?

    “Are you really suggesting that Tom, or anyone else here, is arguing that a marriage certificate itself cures ills? Especially when the talk has been about concepts and attitudes and social realities and more?”

    No, I’m asking how “preserving marriage” would help these most vulnerable children and families. Their reality is a social reality, and a pressing one. Close to half a million children are in foster care nationwide at any point in time, and far more are involved in the child welfare system. Earlier in this discussion, the issue of SSC adopting children was raised. The majority of these children are adopted from the foster care system. Opponents of SSM posit that these families are not entitled to the benefits of marriage despite the fact that they are raising these children. How does this position help these children?

  151. Tom,

    “You’re dealing with a very difficult segment of the population; outliers on the scale of failed homes. I’ll grant that no marriage law will help the families you are dealing with.”

    As I told Crude, there are close to half a million children in foster care at any one point in time, and far more involved with the child welfare system. You admit that your position on marriage, which you defend primarily because you believe it will help children, is of no help to these children? Who exactly then will benefit from it? The children of divorced heterosexual couples only?

    “But those families came from somewhere, and that ‘somewhere’ also came from somewhere. That trail of failure probably didn’t begin with such utter dissolution, but with something lesser.”

    It begins in relationships. It begins when men and women are unhappy in their relationships. Living in unrelenting unhappiness incubates these problems. Let’s take your ranch hand forced to marry by his pregnant girlfriend’s father, for example. He marries her; they are both profoundly unhappy; he begins to abuse her; she becomes depressed and begins to drink, the children are neglected. Those are the types of situations that develop when people are forced to conform to societal expectations that are contrary to self-determination, and it is large part the reason that our society allowed more liberal divorce laws and is headed toward SSM.

    “The goal, wouldn’t you agree, would be to structure person’s lives within society in situations where getting better is more likely?”

    Yes.

    “That’s what intact families led by intact marriages do: marriages in which the couple is there not just for themselves or each other, but also for the building of the next generation.”

    I agree that this is what healthy, intact relationships of all kinds do.

    “And I think that what SSM will do is to undermine that kind of healing structure in society, so that whatever bandaid a same-sex couple may be to the admittedly serious problem of hurting, lost, and orphaned children, in the end that bandaid will do less good than the harm that is produced by undermining the one structure that is most likely to solve the problem where it matters most: the home.”

    I think SSM will enlarge that kind of healing structure in society and make it available to more children. Your solution—“preserving marriage”– limits the availability of healthy families to children. By your own admission, it does not help our most vulnerable child

  152. DR84,

    Yes, I do support things like civil unions which provide all the benefits of marriage. The word “marriage” is really not important to me. I just think that same-sex couples should be able to get the same rights that legally married heterosexual couples have. My original comment, which started this whole thread, was that opponents of same-sex marriage have not provided any compelling reason to deny these rights to same-sex couples, and that’s why I think they’re losing. For many people, this is not a debate over whose philosophy of marriage is better; it’s a debate over whether gays and lesbians should get the same rights and benefits as straight couples.

    In response to your questions, I would say yes, the things you listed are the norms for traditional marriage. I also agree with you that marriages of this sort provide a lot of good to society, and that may be why those norms exist. But I also think that same-sex marriage would provide some good to society. I don’t see how allowing same-sex marriage would destroy the good features of traditional marriage.

  153. os, I had written a more direct answer to your questions (mostly repeating things I had already said), but I have decided before I do that I would like to know your answer to this question.

    Of all the children needing foster care, what proportion, would you guess, came from circumstances in which both mother and father were pleased to have that child, and to raise that child together?

  154. I’d also like to know what the trends are: over the past 5 to 8 decades, what has been happening with the numbers of children needing foster care?

  155. Tom,

    I would guess that more than half of parents initially believe they are pleased to be having the child and raising the child together. Unfortunately, they are ill-prepared for the reality and their issues and lack of skills prevent them from being able to actually follow through.

    Your second question is very difficult to answer. In the state I work in, fewer children are going into foster care, but the reasons for this are very complicated.

  156. Robert Jones #164

    Thank you for the response. If I understand you correctly, you are not so much for re-defining marriage as you are for opening up the package of benefits traditionally given for marital relationships to non-marital relationships. However, if it takes re-defining marriage for non-marital relationships to get those benefits, you are for doing so.

    I think the philosophical question regarding what marriage is matters, and is, if anything, immensely important. Others may have already succumbed to the believe that the package of benefits/rights is all that matters. I believe it matters as it directly relates to the next generation and all the ones that come after. Which, I hope, you and most people believe is of immense importance. The question raised here is this: Why have the package of benefits at all? What reason does a society have to have social institutions such as marriage, civil unions, domestic partnerships that contain some legal benefits/rights? Im asking the benefits such as shared health insurance and joint tax filing that may material benefit the people in the relationship.

    Your reasoning to me seems to lead to an ultimate conclusion that there is no reason for marriage to even exist in any form. Which, I believe, may be the ultimate aim for those seeking to change marriage. To ultimately eliminate marriage as a social institution altogether…in particular to knock the man+woman relationship off of its pedestal.

  157. Thank you for that, os,

    One more question, if you happen to know: of those who are in foster care, what proportion came from parents who were married at the time of their conception?

    I’m especially curious to know that answer as it concerns the subgroup of families you just mentioned. Of those parents who initially thought they were happy to have the child, and who proved to be ill-equipped to raise the child, what proportion were married to each other when the child was conceived?

    That would be very helpful for me to know. I understand you may not have access to those numbers, though, so if you say you don’t know, I’ll certainly understand.

  158. Tom,

    My answer likely fits the argument you are developing. I don’t have exact numbers, but I’ve worked in the field a long time, and I can tell you that very few of the children are from married parents.

    I hope you will present your argument now so that I can see how it fits my understanding of these families.

  159. bigbird: The best that can be done I suppose is to find arguments that are good according to the more common philosophical frameworks. Difficult but not impossible.

    Tom: Could there be any such thing as a good reason to adopt social position A rather than B; with such reason actually being good, whether the hearer initially supports A or B?

    I think “significant, demonstrable harm” is a good (and persuasive) argument for most people – and probably the best argument SSM opponents have got. It may not sway the hard-liners, but I suppose nothing will.

    The trick then is to conclusively demonstrate this significant harm, whatever it might be. This certainly can change opinions – only a couple of generations ago the majority of people smoked. Over time research has conclusively demonstrated its harm, convincing most people to either give up or not start.

    My question then is what significant harm will result from SSM [that isn’t happening now]? Can that be conclusively demonstrated?

    I’m not too interested in statements such as SSM *is* the harm, as that presupposes a certain framework.

  160. Crude –

    Say – at least, very strongly imply – that I’ve said that all atheists are bad people because Stalin was a bad person. You link to a cutesy little site search of ‘Crude’ and ‘Stalin’ while making your claim.

    No, you missed my point again. I didn’t say you advocated that. I’ve pointed out that it’s common here – on the theist side, against atheists – and I can’t find any examples of you calling theists on it.

    But when you perceive it being used by an atheist, that’s when it’s suddenly worth your notice. Oddly enough, you didn’t actually address where I pointed out that I wasn’t using that style of argument, and why. You just misinterpreted – again – what I wrote and took offense at something I didn’t say.

  161. @bigbird:

    I think “significant, demonstrable harm” is a good (and persuasive) argument for most people – and probably the best argument SSM opponents have got.

    A consequentialist argument is not only not the best argument (although I do think a “good” argument can indeed be made out of it), it runs the risk of giving away the whole shebang by buying into a false and most pernicious view of morality, consequentialism.

    The idea that arguments must be made outside of “frameworks” is simply nuts, because the battlelines *are* drawn in different metaphysical views and presuppositions , or “frameworks”.

  162. bigbird #171

    It seems the SSM debate can be basically broken down into two camps

    1. Those that argue marital relationships should be distinguished from non-marital relationships based on their procreative orientation. This is called the conjugal view by the authors of What is Marriage?

    2. Those that argue marital relationships should be distinguished from non-marital relationships based on the romantic feelings of the couple. This is known as the revisionist view by the What is Marriage? authors.

    Are you aware of any good and/or persuasive arguments that the first view is harmful to anyone?

    I would argue, amongst other reasons, the second view is harmful because it unjustly discriminates against:

    1. Practicing homosexuals who do not adhere to ‘straight’ norms in regards to relationships. (SSM clearly benefits homosexuals who live by or pretend to live by ‘straight’ norms more so than homosexuals who do not)

    2. Siblings who, for whatever reason, live together (their gay neighbors will get marital benefits, but they will not have access to them)

    3. Although SSM will let friends get ‘married’ SSM is clearly meant for same sex homosexual partners, not friends of the same sex.

    4. People in polygamous/poly amorous relationships. (At least upfront)

    5. Most of all children: We risk having a child regardless of life choices and relationship status becoming a ‘right’…which makes children a commodity. Just an example, I believe Google now offers insurance to pay for lesbian couples to get sperm donations…

  163. The idea that arguments must be made outside of “frameworks” is simply nuts, because the battlelines *are* drawn in different metaphysical views and presuppositions , or “frameworks”.

    Good luck with that. If what you think is a great argument is nonsense to someone who doesn’t share your presuppositions, you’ll get exactly nowhere. Which is what is happening now.

  164. bigbird,

    If what you think is a great argument is nonsense to someone who doesn’t share your presuppositions, you’ll get exactly nowhere.

    It is possible to change a person’s mind in this situation, so there is hope. Tapping into our common humanity is one such way. We are all made in his image and therefore we all have the ability to “see” his goodness and his grace – albeit some more clearly than others.

    The question as I see it is whether or not the person will be naturally moved by what they perceive (even if they only see a little), or if they will dig in their heels and demand that Goodness & Grace do something about their decision to dig in their heels. It’s not so much about a person’s presuppositions as it is about their heart.

  165. @bigbird:

    Good luck with that. If what you think is a great argument is nonsense to someone who doesn’t share your presuppositions, you’ll get exactly nowhere.

    First, as Christians we are entreated not to be successful but to stay faithful. If to “convert” the others we have to sell our souls, thanks but no thanks. Second, you do realize that one can have a rational discussion about presuppositions, right? That is what Philosophy is all about, after all. Third, I will assume that you are not claiming the same for SSM proponents; after all you do not speak for them. But then we are in the curious asymmetric situation that this side of the barricade has to bend over to make a “successful” argument, while the other side only has to stomp their feet and shout “nonsense!” Now, why should I agree to a rigged game like that?

  166. That’s a very good word you said there about selling our souls, G. Rodrigues.

    bigbird, a while ago we were talking about good arguments vs. persuasive arguments. I asked a question then that you answered, but I want to change the focus a bit and ask you to answer again.

    In #156, I asked, “Could there be any such thing as a good reason to adopt social position A rather than B; with such reason actually being good, whether the hearer initially supports A or B?”

    You answered in #171, “I think ‘significant, demonstrable harm’ is a good (and persuasive) argument for most people…”

    What I want to know is whether you believe there is such a thing as an objectively good reason. I don’t mean a good (persuasive) reason “for most people,” but an actually good reason for all people whether some, most, all, or none recognize and accept it as such.

    Do you believe there is such a thing could conceivably exist, especially in the case of socially divisive issues?

  167. First, as Christians we are entreated not to be successful but to stay faithful.

    Faithful to what?

    If to “convert” the others we have to sell our souls, thanks but no thanks.

    I don’t see my mission as a Christian having a great deal to do with lobbying to change secular laws, or to “convert” people to the conjugal view of marriage.

    It’s got nothing to do with selling my soul – I just don’t see it as a priority, or in some instances as at all useful. Don’t get me wrong – there are some laws that are so unjust that they demand opposition, even if it appears futile. Opposing slavery was and is one of them, and abortion is another(in my view).

    Each of us have to decide what our priorities are. For example, I share Philip Yancey’s bemusement at one of the top ten priorities of one denomination as “Repeal of the capital gains tax”.

    I also look at the example of Jesus and the early church. I don’t recall Jesus speaking out explicitly against slavery, homosexuality, infanticide or any of the many ills of his society. Similarly the early church. Their priorities seemed radically different for the most part.

    That’s not an argument to do nothing of course. Each person should do what they believe they are called to do.

    But for my part, I’m cautious about vigorously opposing laws simply because I have a moral objection. I morally object to many things. But sometimes, the reality of the human condition needs to be acknowledged in law, particularly in a society that must cater for a host of world views, not just my own.

    My judgement when it comes to the particular issue of SSM marriage is that like it or not, it will need to be accommodated.

  168. If you don’t recall the early church doing such things, bigbird, it’s because you haven’t done any study into the question. Or you’ve forgotten it. Or something.

    But it’s certainly not because the early church didn’t get involved in those things.

    I’m pleased, though, that you’re beginning to make reference to church history here. I think you’re heading the right direction.

  169. What I want to know is whether you believe there is such a thing as an objectively good reason.

    Well as a Christian of course *I* do. But I’ve never found appealing to objectively good reasons to be of much help when discussing issues with someone who doesn’t share that view.

    After all, my belief in objectively good reasons is usually (once I drill down) part of the fundamental reason for disagreement in the first place!

  170. If you don’t recall the early church doing such things, bigbird, it’s because you haven’t done any study into the question. Or you’ve forgotten it. Or something.

    Rather than just make the assertion, why don’t you give some examples?

    The Apostle Paul would be a good place to start.

  171. After all, my belief in objectively good reasons is usually (once I drill down) part of the fundamental reason for disagreement in the first place!

    Part of the process is getting the other side to “drill down” to see where their own thinking/worldview leads them. People can be dishonest to you, to themselves and can tolerate all sorts of conflicting beliefs for a time, but God won’t let a lie sit quietly. You play a role in that.

  172. The Apostle Paul wasn’t the only person in the early church, as you and I both know. Your attempt at snarkiness there is to no avail.

    I didn’t give any examples earlier before because I was about to do something with my wife this evening. She’s busy texting someone now.

    Would you like some examples now?

    http://www.thedidache.com/, Part II #2

    http://books.google.com/books?id=J9hETdMVwowC&pg=PA62&lpg=PA62&dq=epistle+of+barnabas+infanticide&source=bl&ots=UkgpvYiobv&sig=j86LCyWIp7Xxknbi4szqyIxh85I&hl=en&sa=X&ei=GvT9UIqRH5Di9gSrxYHoAg&ved=0CDAQ6AEwADgK#v=onepage&q=epistle%20of%20barnabas%20infanticide&f=false

    http://www.christiancadre.org/member_contrib/cp_infanticide.html

    http://www.mtio.com/articles/bissar53.htm

    http://books.google.com/books?id=9Kw7dajPh7oC&pg=PA406&lpg=PA406&dq=epistle+of+barnabas+infanticide&source=bl&ots=zOl-lbVTn9&sig=moa9HmM_PmOZ3pEO5YzE2Fw4GWU&hl=en&sa=X&ei=w_P9UOCDIdSp0AG3nYGwBg&ved=0CEgQ6AEwBQ#v=onepage&q=epistle%20of%20barnabas%20infanticide&f=false

    http://suite101.com/article/abandonment-infanticide-in-ancient-times-a119201

    The record does not show that the early church opposed slavery with tremendous vigor, a fact that has complex social as well as theological considerations feeding into it. But slavery, where it was ended, was largely put to an end by Christians. Would you like to argue that that was a bad idea?

    Nevertheless this can also be adduced: http://newlife.id.au/uncategorized/the-early-church-and-slavery/

    http://www.orthocuban.com/2012/01/did-the-church-fathers-address-the-issue-of-slavery/

    And here’s a nice compendium on homosexuality and the early church:

    http://www.catholic.com/tracts/early-teachings-on-homosexuality

  173. I’m glad to know you believe in objectively good reasons. You danced around that question frequently enough that there was considerable room to wonder.

    I’ll be back in just a moment.

  174. Now, having established that there do exist such things as objectively good reasons, do you think that on the whole, and for objectively good reasons, SSM is a good idea or a bad one, or both or neither? I’m not asking whether there are good reasons to oppose SSM (or support it), because that gets into the question of persuasive impact, impressions, and so on. I’m talking about SSM itself: is it (on the whole, or perhaps in God’s eyes, depending on how you view such things) objectively and for good reasons more of a good thing, more of a bad thing, or both or neither, in your view?

  175. Tom, I was not disputing that these things (homosexuality, infanticide and so on) were condemned by the early church. It isn’t necessary to read past the New Testament to understand that(in my view).

    Most of your links provide further evidence of the internal views of the early church which I don’t dispute.

    The point I made (or was trying to make) was that I have seen little evidence that the early church attempted to change the laws or speak out on any of these things.

    I see one of your links says that Christians were starting to speak out on infanticide and abortion by around 200 AD, according to Rodney Stark. That’s still within the early church period, so that’s a valid example. Thanks for providing it, and I’m happy to find something that proves me wrong.

    Have you found any evidence that the early church (or later) lobbied against homosexuality? I don’t have any idea of whether they did or not.

    But slavery, where it was ended, was largely put to an end by Christians. Would you like to argue that that was a bad idea?

    And you reckon I was being ‘snarky’. If you read my posts you’ll see that I think there are certain issues of justice that require action, no matter what the prospects of success are. And yes, two of them are slavery and abortion/infanticide.

    I simply don’t put homosexuality or SSM in that category when it comes to the secular society that I live in. It’s simply one of the many things I tolerate because I consider I have no particular right to control how other people live.

  176. do you think that on the whole, and for objectively good reasons, SSM is a good idea or a bad one, or both or neither?

    Again, I thought I’d made it clear that as far as I’m concerned SSM is a bad idea, for objectively good reasons.

    Overall I think it will have a (small) net negative impact on society in various ways.

  177. bigbird, thank you for clarifying your position on the early church.

    They did not lobby against homosexuality, nor did they lobby against legalizing meth labs. I hope you see the connection. Lobbying was unknown then (although see below) and same-sex “marriage” wasn’t on the table for discussion, either.

    Please, please don’t fall into the trap of thinking the church today decided one day to make homosexuals miserable, and so we mounted a campaign against them. The only reason the church is involved in homosexuality as a legal issue is because homosexual activists made it one.

    That didn’t happen in the first several centuries. It didn’t happen until a decade or so ago.

    Not only that, but the early church was a very small minority church in a non-democratic culture. They didn’t “lobby” against homosexuality, but did they did everything they could to support marriage? Yes, from what I know. Did they hesitate to speak out on moral issues? Of course not. Some of that was unpopular. They did it anyway.

    Finally, I’m not lobbying against homosexuality.That would be idiotic on several levels. I’m not even lobbying, nor are many Christians, though I’m fine with the idea that some are. But none of us are mounting a campaign against homosexuality; rather it’s an attempt to persuade persons through common persuasive means that same-sex “marriage” isn’t good (or even real, for that matter).

    So in sum, the early church set an example of using the means at its disposal to do what it could do in culture, while putting forward the name and the truth and the grace of Christ. I don’t see anything there to suggest we shouldn’t do the same.

  178. Thank you, too, for your answer in 188. I’m sorry to have made you repeat yourself.

    You consider SSM to be a bad idea, and you believe there are objective reasons why that is so.

    But you think we ought to quit trying to oppose SSM, because there is no way we can be persuasive, no way our efforts can be effective. You’ve said that clearly enough.

    So what you’re saying to the community supporting SSM is this: SSM opponents have objectively good reasons for their position, but I’m advising them to back off because you won’t listen to objectively good reasons.

    Is that the message you want to convey, for the sake of protecting and preserving our witness in this culture?

    It’s a milder form of what Holopupenko does sometimes, when he says in very direct terms, “Tom, give it up: atheists can’t reason.” What I’ve noticed here is that atheists like it better when we engage them mind-to-mind than when someone says to us “There are objectively good reasons for our position, but they won’t do any good with the people who don’t accept them, so just give up.”

  179. It’s very clear in Scripture that there will be enmity between the people of Christ and the people of the world. The fact of enmity is no sign in itself that we’re doing something wrong. It could be a sign of doing something right.

    The way we know which it is, is this: are we expressing grace and truth? We cannot, must not, back down on truth, including the truth of what marriage is. We cannot, must not, back away from giving grace, including genuine love toward people who disagree with us.

    A blog is more suited to the expression of truth than to the real exchange of friendship and love. My expression of grace toward homosexuals is in the context of face-to-face friendships, and it’s real, by the way.

    Perhaps the church has failed to make genuine friends, to express genuine love in real relationships with gays. Then the solution is to move forward on that, not to move backward on truth.

  180. But you think we ought to quit trying to oppose SSM, because there is no way we can be persuasive, no way our efforts can be effective. You’ve said that clearly enough.

    Yes, I think we had better get used to the idea and consider how the church can make Christian marriage a genuine, desirable distinction in a society that includes SSM.

    I think the situation we are in now is (corporately) largely the fault of the church. We divorce at a similar rate to non-Christians, and we happily re-marry. We have failed to value Christian marriage as we should have and now we’re paying the price.

    So what you’re saying to the community supporting SSM is this: SSM opponents have objectively good reasons for their position, but I’m advising them to back off because you won’t listen to objectively good reasons.

    It’s not as simple as “won’t listen” – I don’t think it is purely obstinance. Our “objectively good reasons” are nonsensical to them. Only we think they are objectively good (and there remains the possibility that we are wrong). We shouldn’t expect them to listen to our objectively good reasons.

    This seems to be analogous to the difference in approaches between pre-suppositional apologetics and classical apologetics.

  181. @bigbird:

    Faithful to what?

    To the Truth. What else could it be?

    Tom has already tackled some of the points, but I would like to point out a few other problems with your response.

    Each of us have to decide what our priorities are. For example, I share Philip Yancey’s bemusement at one of the top ten priorities of one denomination as “Repeal of the capital gains tax”.

    If all you were saying is that we are finite beings and thus we must choose our battles (even if some of them are not our choice; the Enemy attacks us and we must defend ourselves), and that you *personally* do not see the need to fight this particular battle, then who would bother to refute you? But that is *not* what you are arguing here, you are saying something much stronger — either that or we are all misreading you.

    There are at least two conceptually distinct claims you are making: first that our efforts are largely ineffectual because of fundamental disagreements in presuppositions, and second that we should not lobby for a change (or lobby for the status quo — whatever the case may be) in marriage laws.

    There are several problems with both your claims. For the first, “ineffectual” is alone and by itself meaningless, because you have already conceded that some battles *should* be fought even if the prospects of success are next to none, e.g. the pro-life battle. The second prong in your first claim also fails; because there are also fundamental presuppositional disagreements in the abortion debate, and yet you still think it a debate worth having. What is more, and to repeat a point made earlier which you have not responded to, it *is* possible to have a rational discussion about presuppositions — that is what Philosophy is about — so the fact that there are fundamental presuppositional disagreements is not an insuperable hurdle. Lastly, I suppose you could still say that there is a difference in kind between abortion and SSM, because the life of a third person is involved. Ok, I grant that that is a cogent point. But granting that abortion is a fight worth fighting because of this reason alone, where exactly do you draw the line of the fights not worth fighting? What is the *principled* distinction? Because up to now, the only thing I am getting from you is a matter of personal preference. But if it just that, why not remain silent and leave everyone to make their own judgment about the fights worth fighting? After all, what social issues on the table today have a greater importance than the SSM debate?

    As for the second claim, a distinction must first be made. In the public debates we as Christians can voice the Truth without insisting that it is plastered and enshrined in the civil law. How the Christian truth gets translated in the law of the land is a practical matter which varies from case to case (and even from Christian to Christian, but let that pass for now). But as you also concede, there are some issues that we *should* fight to be enshrined in the civil law. The law is a tutor. Right now, on most Western societies it teaches for example, that it is a “right” of a woman to kill her unborn child. This is a Lie, a Damning Lie, with disastrous consequences. But if SSM marriage were to be widely recognized, it would also promulgate the Lie that SSM “marriage” (and here I do have to use quotes) is at the same level as marriage as traditionally conceived. Add to that that there is still a chance for the Truth to prevail in this matter, so why should we not grab it? For years and years, we have watched passively lawyers twist the Freedom of Speech laws just to line the Pornographer’s pockets with gold and look at where we are now. What have we gained by keeping silent? Nowadays, if I am walking down the street and happen to pass by a newsstand, I almost have to walk with downcast eyes so as not to see the shameless pornographic magazines in display. And I am far from being a puritan — if I relayed what I have read or the movies I have seen I would probably shock a sizable amount of the Christian population. But that is just to show how bad things have gotten.

  182. Please, please don’t fall into the trap of thinking the church today decided one day to make homosexuals miserable, and so we mounted a campaign against them. The only reason the church is involved in homosexuality as a legal issue is because homosexual activists made it one.

    This is important to remember. Had the other side not started the public legal battle, Christians would just be talking about this every now and then in mainly private circles.

  183. SteveK –

    Not sure what that has to do with the public legal battle over SSM.

    To a large extent, people pushing for SSM view it as an extension of battles they’ve already fought over equality before law for homosexuals. There was plenty of Christian upset over Lawrence v. Texas – they weren’t “just talking about [that] every now and then in mainly private circles.” They submitted amicus curiae urging the Supreme Court to uphold the Texas law, for example.

    So it depends to a large extent on exactly when you place the “start” of the “legal battle”.

  184. Ray,

    To a large extent, people pushing for SSM view it as an extension of battles they’ve already fought over equality before law for homosexuals.

    Then they need to be educated about how wrong they are to think that this is an equality issue. We’ve been over this multiple times.

  185. SteveK –

    Then they need to be educated about how wrong they are to think that this is an equality issue. We’ve been over this multiple times.

    Seems to me Christians need to explain clearly why their principled, nondiscriminatory objections then are totally different from their principled, nondiscriminatory objections now.

    Or are they the same? That’s what I was asking. Do the arguments against SSM also argue that Lawrence v. Texas was wrongly decided?

  186. Ray,

    Seems to me Christians need to explain clearly why their principled, nondiscriminatory objections then are totally different from their principled, nondiscriminatory objections now.

    Why do Christian’s need to explain how L v. T is different when discussing SSM in general? You’re the first person I know who mentioned this case. Explain how the two situations are the same in principle.

  187. @199,
    Thanks for that link. Homosexuals in France seem to understand the argument better than here in the USA.

    The “marriage is a particular thing argument”:

    Xavier Bongibault, an atheist homosexual, is a prominent spokesman against the bill. “In France, marriage is not designed to protect the love between two people. French marriage is specifically designed to provide children with families,” he said in an interview.

    The “natural law argument”:

    Jean Marc, who has lived with a man for 20 years, insists, “The LGBT movement that speaks out in the media…They don’t speak for me. As a society we should not be encouraging this. It’s not biologically natural.”

  188. SteveK –

    Why do Christian’s need to explain how L v. T is different when discussing SSM in general?

    Take a look at this amicus brief for the case. Note particularly section III. Do they go wrong there? If so, where?

    It seems that, based on the same arguments as put forth here, Christians have not in fact confined themselves to “just [] talking about this every now and then in mainly private circles.” Rather, many went to considerable lengths to engage in a legal battle over things beyond marriage.

    Homosexuals in France seem to understand the argument better than here in the USA.

    France also has robust laws regarding civil unions. Whereas in the U.S. – well, as I noted in my very first comment above, “Most of the state-level “Defense of Marriage” amendments have specifically banned civil unions as well.” So the cases differ rather extensively.

  189. Ray,
    I have no interest in discussing L v. T. I asked you to explain how they are the same in principle. I can take your explanation and apply it to the SSM discussion if you wish.

  190. Ray, my chief arguments against SSM are not arguments against homosexuality. The two issues are almost (not completely, but almost) orthogonal. The question at hand is, “what is marriage,” and “how can we best support it?” The answer applies in different ways to homosexuals than it does to hetero marriages, because their legal status differs to markedly. But even though the strategic response differs, the question is still the same.

  191. Rather, many went to considerable lengths to engage in a legal battle over things beyond marriage.

    “Christians” and “many” are two different, and perhaps overlapping, groups.

  192. France also has robust laws regarding civil unions.

    So? This has nothing to do with my comment about France understanding the argument.

  193. SteveK –

    The question at hand is, “what is marriage,” and “how can we best support it?”

    I don’t see why I need to quote the whole thing, but the amicus I pointed to argues that marriage is between a man and a woman, and that part of “the best way to support it” is to outlaw homosexual sex. And they were quite happy to argue for jail time over it.

    At this point I have little hope for an explanation, but can I get you to say whether you agree with their argument? A “yes” or a “no” would be at least something.

  194. Ray,
    You were quoting Tom, but I will answer your questions.

    the amicus I pointed to argues that marriage is between a man and a woman,

    I agree with this. This is part of the SSM debate.

    and that part of “the best way to support it” is to outlaw homosexual sex.

    I don’t agree with this. This is not part of the SSM debate, generally speaking. It’s likely to be an issue for some, but you cannot say this is a mainstream Christian issue or even a mainstream issue in general.

  195. Tom, SteveK – Sorry ’bout the misattribution.

    This is not part of the SSM debate, generally speaking.

    Not today. Not in the United States, at least. But if we’re going to bring up France, I can certainly bring up Africa: https://www.nytimes.com/video/2013/01/22/opinion/100000002020130/gospel-of-intolerance.html

    In any case, the “marriage is between a man and a woman implies homosexual actions should be outlawed” idea has been part of the public debate in the US. I mean, 2003 was only a decade ago. 2012 was the first year since Lawrence v. Texas that the Texas GOP platform didn’t call for re-criminalizing homosexuality.

  196. Ray,
    If I could speak to these people making the argument “marriage is between a man and a woman implies homosexual actions should be outlawed”, I would ask them to explain the logic. How does the fact that marriage is a particular thing imply that some other thing ought to be illegal?

    It’s like saying “The fact that a car is a motorized vehicle with 4 wheels implies that drunk driving ought to be illegal”. I don’t see the connection.

  197. The connection between outlawing homosexuality and SSM and is not as tenuous as we think even though we would all like to be charitable and we fear a backlash of opinions. And of course homosexuals would be outraged. But really, a man gets labelled a criminal for murder, FOR EXAMPLE. So we all know we shouldn’t go there.what is so wrong with that? murders get committed anyway, but that’s quite beside the point. That law is put there to uphold the sanctity of human life. Why can’t laws be put in place to uphold the sanctity of family the same as for property, where we say its a crime to steal even though many are itching to get their hands on their neighbours’ stuff and feel like dying when they can’t.

    The reason is very simple. A family is made up of father and mother, brothers and sisters. Sons and daughters. And it’s supposed to stay this way. The very genesis and foundation of a family is the sexual relationship between a man and a woman. Again it becomes a Pandora’s box if we even want to dispute that. Come on.

    The other kinds of relationships don’t count. There is ZERO possibility of children coming from all other relationships. Man-man, woman-child, man-dog etc ( I mention these not as an insult to LGBTs but because they becomes legitimate if the arguments for normalizing non-heterosexual relationships are to be accepted) . LGBTs can by all means go ahead and engage in whatever sexual relations that suit them. And I have no ill-will whatsoever towards them. But it becomes a different story when they try to gain legitimacy for their lifestyle at the expense of family.

    Everybody knows that thereafter we will be going down the slippery slope of LGBT becoming mainstream and ‘normal’ definitions of family when in truth they are neither. In any case, we need to think again if such legal recourse to an illusory equality is tenable. In Canada, they tried to get so-called equal rights for transgender personnel by an act which allows them to use the bathroom of their preferred gender. No prizes for guessing how receptive people are to this equality. I do not hate LGBTs. But I will do whatever I can to leave a legacy of an intact family for my children.

  198. Before:
    (A sexual union B ) leading to possibility of children = family

    After homosexuality is decriminalized:
    (A sexual union A) = family too. Hey we’re legit. We got most of it right.
    (A sexual union b) leading to possibility of children = family too???
    (EFG sexual union HIJ) = family too….

    Let’s just throw out everything and just keep the sexual union part.
    (…sexual union…)= Family

    So, do we really want to redefine family?

  199. SteveK –

    How does the fact that marriage is a particular thing imply that some other thing ought to be illegal?

    Why can’t you read the brief where they argued exactly that to the Supreme Court? It’s a free download. I gave you the link.

    Or, apparently, you could ask 慕道者 to elaborate…

  200. Ray,
    Read the brief (briefly), and I’m not sure what assumptions are involved in their first premise.

    What does it mean for the sexual intimacies of married couples to be constitutionally protected and how does that protection, if it exists, mean that the logic goes through as they see it. That’s why I said I would ask them to explain.

    I’m not saying there isn’t a valid argument to be made about making certain sex acts illegal. I just don’t see it in this particular case. My failure to see it doesn’t mean it’s not there either.

    Regardless, there’s a balance that needs to be maintained between the law and our personal freedoms. There are many evils out there that I would argue are objectively evil. However, I won’t argue that every single one of them should be deemed illegal according to the law. Many evils are handled nicely via normal everyday social interactions like this “You ought to be ashamed of yourself” followed by “I’m sorry, please forgive me.”

  201. I realise I am a little late to this party. 🙂 I read your blog only occasionally. 🙂

    I think one of the reasons that Christians have not been making much headway in this debate is because we see the world quite differently. As a catholic I feel the answer is right on the first page of the Penny Catechism:

    Why did God make me?
    To love Him and serve Him in this life and the next. (Paraphrased)

    For a Christian, marriage is a `vocation’, a solemn undertaking of service and obligation. Service to God brings joy as its fruit, but that is not fundamentally what it is about. Not everyone who marries will be called to carry out the fullest bonds of these obligations, but nevertheless, that is what we undertake. Should our wives or children suffer illness or accident, or be severely disabled, we reflect that we have taken upon ourselves the duty and obligation to care for them in faith to the best of our abilities.

    The popular view of marriage has long abandoned the concept of marriage as an obligation. It is instead about “personal growth” and “happiness”. Indeed the whole concept of divorce is opposed to a Christian understanding of marriage. Indeed, SSM and divorce are intrinsically linked, because they both depend crucially on the view of marriage as something that an individual enters into for their own happiness, rather than as a service to God.

    Christians will never win this argument until our argument becomes a positive statement about what marriage *is*, and how that is fundamentally different from how marriage is currently understood, and that the world would be a much better place if people took their marriage obligations much more seriously.

  202.