Tom Gilson

What Truth About Marriage?

Question: what truth about marriage do same-sex “marriage” advocates want us all to recognize, and to build our laws around?

Commenting Restored

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

35 thoughts on “What Truth About Marriage?

  1. Tom, it seems to me Mark’s answer is pretty obviously a truth (which you concede). Given that it’s a truth, and given that it’s important, isn’t this already pretty close to establishing why we should build laws around it? Not every truth is socially important, of course; and not every important truth is something that we can (in a free society) build a law around. But this certainly seems like one of them.

    I would simply add here that the truth here is that marriage is a social institution that has evolved significantly over the course of history. As such, in a free society, there is no reason to consider the institution immutable. Furthermore, in all things we should remain open to positive change.

  2. We don’t build laws around every truth, JB. There’s a reason I asked that question, and you haven’t gotten to it here.

    What is true about marriage that requires us to change our laws around it?

  3. What I really want to ask is this: is there something true about marriage that our laws ought to reflect? That marriage is evolving is not something we can recognize in law, for laws are fixed sorts of things. You either comply with them or you don’t. You’re married or you aren’t (in the eyes of the law). If there is any question about a law, it can go to court and there will be a decision, and within certain parameters those decisions reign over all future interpretations.

    SSM, where it is enacted into law, is fixed in law. It includes certain relationships and it excludes others, in quite a definite and unyielding manner.

    So flexibility is not a relevant truth about marriage, as far as law is concerned. (Its historic applicability to SSM in particular is questionable.)

    So what is true about marriage that the law ought to reflect?

  4. Personally, I don’t see the value in the government recognizing marriage, so I’m not really sure why there needs to be any laws about it in the first place. This is only to say that I’m not sure that laws need to reflect anything about marriage at all. If one is to have laws about marriage, though, then it obviously should reflect reality. But if the reality is that marriage has never really been one thing, but it has changed and will most likely continue to change, then perhaps the best law is that that there should be no government recognition or definition of it.

    In short, there is nothing true about marriage itself that *requires* us to change laws. We add/change laws because there are already laws that we deem unjust. Other laws were made, not for any truth about marriage, but because it reflected the societal notion of marriage at the time. It still isn’t clear to me why Mark’s answer would not be a truth of marriage that law should reflect, or why you otherwise find his answer unsuitable.

    As such, as Mark points out, SSM advocates would say that love and commitment are important aspects of personal relationships and society, and that marriage – in this society – reflects the value we place on those (this obviously has not always been true of marriage).

  5. Then it sounds like you would not advocate for SSM after all, based on what you believe to be true about marriage. For to advocate for SSM is to support legislation that permits it.

    “Love and commitment” are important for a mother and her baby. They alone do not define a marriage. That’s why I said what I did to Mark. There has to be some boundary around a definition, or it’s not a definition.

  6. I believe that part of what JB Chappell is saying (correct me if I’m misunderstanding) is that the additional truth is that marriage is only a societal institution, rather than being also a religious institution.

    However, the fact is that throughout the recorded history of at least Middle-Eastern and Western societies–I don’t know enough about the ancient history of Far-Eastern, and other societies to say–marriage has been both societal and religious, if not primarily religious, specifically one facet of God-given morality.

    Obviously, any individual can choose whether or not to acknowledge or practice marriage from a religious or moral perspective. But it cannot be denied that many, if not most, American’s still do acknowledge and respect marriage as at least partially a religious and moral institution.

    It appears to me that SSM advocates are trying to convince our government and our society that marriage should no longer be viewed as a religious or moral institution at all, and should be viewed only as a secular, societal institution.

  7. So…

    Marriage isn’t just for a man and a woman.

    Marriage isn’t religious.

    If that’s the idea, we’re not exactly making progress yet. It still leaves us not knowing what marriage is, or what is true about it in some positive rather than negative sense, to guide the laws we build around it.

  8. Earl, no that’s not really where I was going with that.

    What I advocate for is equality, which is what I think most SSM advocates are first and foremost concerned with – hence the red “=” sign. I know plenty of gay couples who could really care less if the government recognizes their union, it is the selectivity that is problematic for them. Why should a gay couple raising a child together pay any more or less in taxes than a heterosexual couple doing the same? Because of a definition? As if those are immutable?

    It seems to me those that would claim there is no discrimination here because gay people can still “marry” (to those who they don’t love) are missing two important points:

    1. Separate but equal is a flawed concept. Our society tried this with segregation. But we all know the motivation behind keeping things separate was prejudice. Likewise, SSM: calling one union one thing, and attaching certain connotations and/or benefits to it, while calling another something different with other connotations/benefits, marks a disparity – not equality.

    2. Presumably, love is important to marriage. Even Tom concedes this is the case above. If we insist that gay people can only be “married” to those they do not love, then it seems obviously discriminatory if we hold that love is a critical component of marriage. And if one is willing to toss that out as part of a definition of marriage, then I don’t know why that definition would be something held so dear.

    Tom, it seems as if the goalposts are moving, but perhaps I just misunderstood in the first place. At first, you just asked what truths about marriage we want to build around. Now, you seem to be asking about what things are ONLY true about marriage, which is somewhat different. Are you asking for a proposed legal definition of “marriage”, or what?

  9. JB, all I want you to do is to bring forth something for us that’s based on what’s true about marriage, not about people’s feelings, their sexualities, or any other such thing.

    Here’s why (and I’ll have more to say about this in a post that I’m composing for later this week). The law that’s under debate is marriage law. It is a proposed change in the legal definition of marriage.

    This proposal has either one purpose or another. Its purpose is either to bring the legal definition of marriage more in law with what marriage should be, or it is for something else. If it is for that stated purpose, that implies that there is some truth about marriage that current laws do not approach as closely as the proposed law would do.

    So I’ll be clear now about what I have been driving at indirectly. Is the proposed change in law intended to bring the law more closely in alignment with what is really true about marriage? If so, then what is that truth about marriage that guides the proposal?

    Again, I remind you: the law is not about sexuality, or about relationships, or about love and commitment. We’re not debating laws on any of those topics. So any truths about those factors would be relevant to marriage law only to the extent that they reveal or impinge upon truths specifically about marriage.

    Of course the other option, which I leave open for you to respond to, is that the proposed legal change to marriage has nothing to do with any truth about marriage.

    I hope that’s clear enough for you now. If not I’ll keep working at it with you.

  10. Tom,

    Sorry that I’ve not checked in before this. My day job has kept me very busy. Also, I misunderstood your intent in the original post when I commented. Love and commitment are two aspects of marriage that SSM advocates would seek to support in their redefinition of marriage. I thought you wanted to find the common ground between those who support and those who oppose SSM.

    You asked a question: “So I’ll be clear now about what I have been driving at indirectly. Is the proposed change in law intended to bring the law more closely in alignment with what is really true about marriage? If so, then what is that truth about marriage that guides the proposal?”

    In response, I would ask who’s definition of marriage do you intend to use in order to determine if the proposed change brings us closer to what is true about marriage? The answer to which definition you use will determine the response to the proposed changes.

    The problem that I see is that we disagree with SSM advocates over the issue of whether those with same sex attraction are “born that way” and cannot change. If no change is possible, then one would be more inclined to support SSM.

  11. JB,

    Why should a gay couple raising a child together pay any more or less in taxes than a heterosexual couple doing the same? Because of a definition? As if those are immutable?

    The proper way to solve these inequalities is to solve them without changing the definition of marriage so that the new definition reflects an entirely different reality.

    If you were a black man the 1960’s, you wouldn’t ask the government to change the legal definition of “caucasian / white” so that you could get equal treatment – or would you? But that is what’s being asked for today. We are being asked to take something that is different and have the government categorize it as something it’s not. Is the end result justified by the improper means of getting that result? Not at all.

    Imagine if someone were to suggest we pass a law that says there is to be no gender differences – and that all books, signs, communication, etc. must be devoid of any reference to gender. Would that be a good thing for society? No, and it would be dumb.

    Should the laws ultimately be changed with respect to SSM, I see some irony coming with it. One irony would be when a gay man says to me “my spouse…” and I assume he means “wife” because I don’t know him very well. It’s not going to make him happy having to explain it. And once he explains it, I’m going to think “marriage”, not marriage and view him in a way that isn’t like he probably wants me to view him – as equals.

    But it’s the same way when I learn that a couple is merely living together rather than living together as a married couple. Or when I learn that two men are merely friends not homosexuals. I view them differently — because they are different. Different is not equal and “marriage” is not marriage.

  12. SteveK, if the opposition to the civil rights movement had rested on a definition to support their position, then I think they most certainly would have at least considered changing the definition. This would especially be the case if the definition had never been static in the first place, and the main reason for adhering so strictly to it was religious. And I think one could probably argue that they did at least re-think the definition of “equality” and/or “civil rights”. Regardless, you actually haven’t any provided reason or argument against redefining words, you’ve simply asserted that it shouldn’t happen. Seeing as a free society (ostensibly) should not revolve around one religious groups’ view, why is it that the rest of America should hold to this definition as sacrosanct?

    Furthermore, potential awkwardness is hardly a convincing objection to injustice/inequality, especially when it arises from one’s own assumptions. In any case, I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t be assuming that a man’s spouse was a woman if he referred to his spouse as his “husband”. And I would hope you wouldn’t have objected to interracial marriage because back in the day it might have been awkward for someone that had assumed someone’s spouse was the same color.

    As for the “different is not equal” comment – of course, this depends on what one is referencing. Obviously, a heterosexual marriage is not the *same* as a homosexual marriage – they are different for obvious reasons. No one is asking for someone to simply ignore the fact that people are gay, in the same way that civil rights supporters don’t ask people to ignore race. One can recognize and appreciate differences while still respecting equality. I am going to assume that you do still hold to all folks being equal, despite the fact that we are all different. I don’t think it’s too difficult to see the same general idea being advocated here with regard to SSM.

  13. Tom, this statement jumped out at me: “It is a proposed change in the legal definition of marriage.”

    You’ve prefaced “definition” with “legal”, which seems to me to at least acknowledge that there isn’t exactly one, single, authoritative definition of “marriage” that exists. Sure, there is a Christian definition. But there is also a Hindu definition. And there is a Muslim definition. All of which also have various social mores attached to them. There are, obviously, also other governmental definitions that exist, some of which would be favorable to SSM. Maybe I’m overthinking it, but this seems to me to be a blow to the argument that SSM advocates are changing THE definition of “marriage”.

    Regardless, I’m not sure why the word “marriage” is considered so holy and its definition so inviolable. I don’t particularly care what we call the union, and I don’t think many/most SSM advocates do either. The point is simply that gay relationships of a certain nature (loving, committed, etc.) should have the same legal status as straight couples with similar characteristics. If we want to call all such unions “civil unions”, fine. If we want to call them “couples”, fine. Why care so much about the terminology? I don’t understand why someone would advocate for social inequality/marginalization for no other reason than semantics.

    I do not think that the purpose of the law is to arrive at some version of “marriage” that is more “true”. I think the idea of SSM is to provide equal protection under the law. Currently, the law is inequitable for no good reason. I realize that those with certain religious beliefs will feel differently, and that is their right. But, correct me if I’m wrong, this is not a society that should be passing laws that depend on specific religious beliefs.

  14. Tom, I agree that no one agrees that all relationships, period, must be held in equal status. I would not hold that someone’s relationship with a monkey should be held in the same regard as someone’s “marriage” – whether it be gay or straight.

    But there are social reasons for not acknowledging such a relationship, or a relationship between brothers, etc. that do not really exist for acknowledging homosexual relationships. I do recognize the difficulty of building a definition of “marriage” from the ground up, that definitions are by nature exclusive, and so that it will be impossible to have a definition of “marriage” that isn’t – to some extent – marginalizing someone’s relationship that they feel is legitimate. This is just one reason why I think the government should just get out of this regulatory business altogether.

  15. JB, I think apparently you draw a distinction between what is true and what is right; for the proposed change would not make the law more “true,” but I think you would say it would make it more right.

    I don’t get this “inequitable” thing, though: No one believes in marriage equality.

    And I hope you realize that I’m not making “religious” arguments the center of my stand for marriage. There are some serious social reasons for it. You’ll see as my series on the marriage debate continues.

  16. Further: when you admit that some relationships do not meet your standards for marriage, you admit that equality is not what it’s about. You believe in equality up to a certain socially acceptable line, as you understand social acceptability. I think your line is arbitrary, and its an imposition of your morality on people who ain’t gonna appreciate it: polygamists, pedophiles, and so on. What gives you the right?

    None of us has that right: not unless there’s something beyond ourselves that we can point to as being right for all. I’m talking about human nature, not God, when I say that. (I could also spell it out in terms of what God has done and said, but for you I know that would seem irrelevant.)

    Man-woman marriage is a distinctive human good, of the sort that it makes sense for the state to recognize, endorse, encourage, and support. The same is not so for same-sex relationships.

    Now this is a matter of extended argument. I can’t prove it to you in one blog comment. But hang in there with me, and I’ll show you what I mean.

  17. JB

    Regardless, you actually haven’t any provided reason or argument against redefining words, you’ve simply asserted that it shouldn’t happen.

    I have no problem with redefining words. I’m not objecting to that. I’m objecting to using the same word to refer to two different things. I gave examples where it would make no sense to do that – yet that is what we are being asked to do here.

  18. JB,

    Furthermore, potential awkwardness is hardly a convincing objection to injustice/inequality, especially when it arises from one’s own assumptions.

    My argument has nothing to do with potential awkwardness. I can’t control if people feel awkward. Sometimes it’s a good thing to feel awkwardness.

    In any case, I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t be assuming that a man’s spouse was a woman if he referred to his spouse as his “husband”.

    Since you’re changing the scenario I presented, I will change my response. Of course I wouldn’t assume this if he said “husband”.

    And I would hope you wouldn’t have objected to interracial marriage because back in the day it might have been awkward for someone that had assumed someone’s spouse was the same color.

    I can’t control if someone feels awkward. But getting back to my examples, I never mentioned that I objected. What I was doing was describing situations where SS couples might feel surprised that I view them differently than they expected – despite the law being changed. Not as lesser human beings, but as a couple that isn’t a married couple.

  19. SteveK, just as you wouldn’t be able to control whether or not someone feels awkward, so gay people/couples cannot control how others view their relationship. I don’t think many/most feel that just because the law changes, that people will magically transform their views to conform.

    I think you need to develop this objection to words referring to more than one thing. There are plenty of these kinds of words. If you have no problem with redefining words, what’s the problem here? Do you have problems with all homophones, or just “marriage”?

  20. JB,

    If you have no problem with redefining words, what’s the problem here?

    I’ve stated it twice. My problem is using the same word to refer to different things.

    Do you have problems with all homophones, or just “marriage”?

    Homophones have different meanings, so no, I don’t have a problem with them. Why do you ask?

    I think you need to develop this objection to words referring to more than one thing. There are plenty of these kinds of words.

    Give some examples and we can discuss them if you’d like.

  21. JB,
    Expanding on my last comment. My objection to the same word referring to different things is that it creates unintended consequences when applied to the law – which affects how society functions. If legal marriage means any 2 adults willing to sign up for the institution then we end up with unintended marriages masquerading as something other than what lawmakers intended them to be.

    Best friends, distant strangers, brother/sister, parent/child, etc. In other words, it’s dumb and the legal term becomes empty. If there’s a reason why government might want to value each of these entities differently, it will no longer be able to do that. So if research begins to show that certain relationships are less beneficial to a society (say, parent/child), the government cannot do anything legally to show a preference.

    Our natural inclination is to use different words for these entities because they are fundamentally different – each of them – and so I think if certain terms get watered down too much that it will spawn a future demand to introduce another term into the law. And then we will be right back to where we are now.

  22. Tom, I’m not making distinction between “true” and “right”. In this case, I’m saying there’s nothing “true” about marriage (that we should build laws around anyhow), and therefore we should consider other moral goods, such as equality.

    One does not have to believe in marriage equality for just anything. One can observe an injustice/disparity under the law and work to fix it. If you don’t want to call that valuing equality, I’m all ears for a better term. But it seems a silly objection. Acknowledging that there are limits to concepts does not mean that one does not believe in the concept itself.

    As for where these limits are set, you think mine is arbitrary, even though I haven’t really laid out what (and why) they are. But even if it was, there is no Constitutional roadblock for being arbitrary (but I agree that doesn’t make it a good idea) – there is for founding legal concepts on specific religious premises.

    You may not make religious arguments, but I think you’d have to be honest about religious motivation. Religious motivation does not make someone wrong, nor is it unconstitutional, but it is relevant when discussing social issues in the context of a free society. I think it is important to identify motivated reasoning. Nevertheless, I’m more than willing to evaluate arguments on their own merit. I’ve not heard any terribly compelling arguments against SSM, however, I look forward to your upcoming series on the matter.

    As for imposing morals on others, and what gives us this right, you state that “no one has this right”. And that is true – no single person has this right. And yet law is very much morals being imposed upon people. How did this happen? It happened because although no one person has this right, we have set up government where there is a process for this sort of thing. What gives anyone “the right” is the will of the people. The same rights that gave people to impose their originally cherished definition of marriage are the same rights that might change it.

  23. SteveK, I’d agree that a word that refers to different things would overly complicate legal matters. But in legally changing the definition of “marriage”, it would not be referring to two (or more) different things, it would only be one thing. It would only be in the minds of those who oppose SSM that there would be Marriage and “marriage”. So, unless you can demonstrate to me how changing the legal definition of “marriage” would create a legal situation where it would be referring to different things, I think we’re back to the idea of changing the definition of words, which you say you have no problem with. As for legal “marriage” meaning any 2 adults willing to sign up, I’m not aware of any proposal on the table for such a thing. But you’re right on one thing – it’s very possible that “marriage” might be an idea that is revisited later on. Such is life. This is why we have processes in place to amend laws and add laws – current law is not considered immutable.

  24. JB,

    As for legal “marriage” meaning any 2 adults willing to sign up, I’m not aware of any proposal on the table for such a thing.

    Isn’t that they way it is now? The only legal requirement for adult heterosexual couples is that they “sign up” to be recognized as married? There’s a process involved, yes, but as far as I know there are no other requirements. Being in love is not a legal requirement.

    But in legally changing the definition of “marriage”, it would not be referring to two (or more) different things, it would only be one thing.

    Changing the definition doesn’t change the reality. So if they are different things to begin with, as I believe you agreed they were, then they remain different. Sure, there is a lot of sameness.

    That sameness is how I came up with my list such as brother/sister, friends, distant strangers, etc. Are those marriages too if they go through the legal process? Let me know if you think they are.

  25. SteveK, not surprisingly, the requirements for marriage vary from state to state. Nevertheless, there are many commonalities. Not just anyone can get married. Among the legal requirements (beyond ages and bureaucratic process, which you alluded to) are:

    – Proof of vaccinations and/or STD testing
    – Lack of pre-existing marriages
    – Not close blood relatives
    – Sexual consummation (in some states)
    – Consent/mental capacity (forced marriages are not allowed)
    – Parental consent is required if under 18
    – man & woman (in most states)

    I did agree that a homosexual union is different than a heterosexual union. Whether they are significant enough to warrant using different terms is, of course, precisely the issue. If you want to argue that “reality” dictates that we have to use different terms, then I would be curious how it is that you know what marriage “really” is.

    As for whether I’d consider something a “marriage” if it went through a legal process – no, not necessarily. But it’s unclear if you are referring to a specific legal process, or just any legal process.

  26. JB,

    If you want to argue that “reality” dictates that we have to use different terms, then I would be curious how it is that you know what marriage “really” is.

    My argument above went into the reasons why a government would want to maintain separate legal terms. I am sure there is more to it than what I said.

    Could society function without the legal distinction? Sure it could. We could also function without the law making a distinction between adult and child, single and married, retired and employed, military and civilian.

    There are good reasons why we as a society make these legal distinctions. You want to change that, and so far all I”m getting from you is that you want to make a change for no reason in particular other than it suits you. Well, no thanks.

  27. SteveK, I don’t see an argument from you about why the terms should be different, other than the rather superficial observation that there differences between homosexual unions and heterosexual unions. There are differences between heterosexual murders and homosexual murders as well, but we don’t charge them with different crimes. In other words, you’ve noted a difference, sure, but that hardly amounts to an argument.

    Your initial objection was that we shouldn’t change definitions to reflect “an entirely different reality”. You then re-stated you don’t have a problem with re-defining, but have a problem with using the same word to refer to different (legal) things. You also stated that if anyone and everyone can marry then the words becomes empty and meaningless. You’ve offered no counter to my point that, legally, the term “marriage” would not be referring to two different things, nor to the point that not just anyone and everyone can be married (even if SSM becomes law).

    You’ve referenced “reality” twice now, and I find curious that you aren’t offering any justification for how we “really” know what marriage is. And I don’t see any convincing reasoning so far as to why the government needs to make a distinction between heterosexual unions, and homosexual unions. You say there are good reasons for “these legal distinctions”, conveniently lumping in “marriage” with other terms that obviously do not carry nearly the same significance, nor is anyone objecting to. If you have good reasons for why the government should not recognize SSM, I’d like to hear them. Merely making vague references to other legal distinction being useful does not make that argument for you.

    As for why I want to see this change, I don’t know why you think it’s simply because “it suits [me]”. I’m not gay, if that’s what you were implying. It’s an equality issue. There is a significant demographic in this country being treated as second-class citizens for no other reason other than they are, well, different. The objection to the legal recognition of their loving, committed unions is religiously motivated, but justified with almost nothing other than an unjustified semantic belief that the definition of “marriage” should be immutable. One occiasionally sees the reference to studies that indicate children don’t fare as well under SSM couples as other kids do, but of course this simply ignores other studies that report the opposite, as well as ignoring the implications of such an argument.

  28. JB,

    There are differences between heterosexual murders and homosexual murders as well, but we don’t charge them with different crimes. In other words, you’ve noted a difference, sure, but that hardly amounts to an argument.

    I really am surprised you don’t see the difference, but here it is….sexual orientation has nothing to do with murder so there is no need to separate out a new legal term. However sexual orientation has a lot to do with the kind of relationships we are talking about. Sex is a major component that defines the type of relationship.

    Consider the term “marriage” like a legal job description. That job description entails, among other things, producing and raising the next generation. People come to the state and apply for the job and get it without much scrutiny but not everyone who applies gets the job.

    You’ve offered no counter to my point that, legally, the term “marriage” would not be referring to two different things, nor to the point that not just anyone and everyone can be married (even if SSM becomes law).

    I have countered that point. I did it with my example of the law being unable to legally differentiate between people groups should they have a need to do that under the notion of what’s best for society. You are correct that not just anyone can be married — for now. That seems to be rapidly changing.

    And when someone argues that anyone should be married, what will you tell them? Will you stay true to your current arguments and agree with them? Just curious.

    You’ve referenced “reality” twice now, and I find curious that you aren’t offering any justification for how we “really” know what marriage is.

    I find it curious that you really don’t know. Marriage has been around for a long time – it even precedes the term “marriage”. Go read a book.

    And I don’t see any convincing reasoning so far as to why the government needs to make a distinction between heterosexual unions, and homosexual unions.

    I’ve given my reasons. You apparently don’t like them but so what?

    It’s an equality issue.

    Then argue to solve THAT. Don’t argue to co-opt a term that doesn’t fit the relationship.

    The objection to the legal recognition of their loving, committed unions is religiously motivated, but justified with almost nothing other than an unjustified semantic belief that the definition of “marriage” should be immutable.

    Nice try.

  29. @SteveK

    —“…sexual orientation has nothing to do with murder…”—

    OK. With you so far.

    —“Sex is a major component that defines the type of relationship.”—

    And yet only a few states actually require that “marriage”s be consummated sexually. Would you argue that a couple that has been ceremonially wed, but not had sex, are not actually “married”? Regardless, the federal government and most states seem to disagree with you on sex being critical to marriage.

    —“Consider the term “marriage” like a legal job description.”—

    Do you consider job descriptions to be immutable? Or if someone suggests adding/changing a responsibility, do you demand that they change the job title as well? I would claim that it simply depends on what kind of responsibilities we’re talking about here, and I imagine you would as well.

    —“That job description entails, among other things, producing and raising the next generation.”—

    OK, so marriage necessitates raising kids. Got it. So couples who don’t/can’t have kids aren’t “married”? Is this the litmus test? Or are couples capable of adopting children allowed to be “married” as well? Because there’s nothing preventing homosexual couples from adopting children. So it would seem that the most critical aspect of “marriage” to you is having heterosexual intercourse and willingness to have children – neither of which can be justified historically, nor do they have anything to do with the legal definition, which is what SSM objectors don’t want changed. If traditional marriage advocates are so passionate about conforming legal definitions to the “reality” about marriage, why aren’t legal marriages required to have children? Why is this not a bill proposed in Congress?

    —“You are correct that not just anyone can be married — for now. That seems to be rapidly changing.”—

    Yes, because the next step after SSM is allowing pedophiles to marry their victims and for blood relatives to legally conceive children together. Please. The alarmism is ridiculous. The “where will it end?” objection is not only irrational, but insulting.

    –‘Marriage has been around for a long time – even it even precedes the term “marriage”.’—

    Indeed it has. For instance, it was accepted within “marriage” to NOT have sex with your wife, and to ONLY have sex with concubines, so that they could spawn children for her. The women also had no say in the matter, and were simply trades like pieces of meat. It had nothing at all to do with love, commitment, or raising future generations, but everything to do with power and influence. Not that the two can’t be connected in a loose way. It was also acceptable to have more than one wife.

    If you want to exclude these things from the concept of “marriage”, then you’re merely arguing for a socially acceptable form of “marriage”, and hence no reason to consider it anything sacred or immutable. And if you still insist that “marriage” must include the responsibility of raising children, then SSM is still on the table, but many, many traditional marriages are not. And if you want heterosexual sex to be the litmus test for a “marriage”, then I guess I’m just mystified as to why and would love to hear how this isn’t simply begging the question.

  30. JB Chappell:

    “OK, so marriage necessitates raising kids. Got it. So couples who don’t/can’t have kids aren’t “married”?”

    Not every house is inhabitable. Does this imply that the practice of building houses actually has nothing to do with having a place to live?

    “Yes, because the next step after SSM is allowing pedophiles to marry their victims and for blood relatives to legally conceive children together. Please. The alarmism is ridiculous. The “where will it end?” objection is not only irrational, but insulting.”

    Except that the conclusion is right there in your argument. If it’s wrong to deny people the right to get married, it’s wrong in the case of blood relatives, polygamous unions, and the like. If it’s actually OK to deny people the right, then your argument against SSM falls apart. What’s irrational is claiming that restricting the definition of marriage is wrong, and then inserting loads of ad hoc exceptions just because you don’t like the conclusions of your own argument.

    “Indeed it has. For instance, it was accepted within “marriage” to NOT have sex with your wife, and to ONLY have sex with concubines, so that they could spawn children for her. The women also had no say in the matter, and were simply trades like pieces of meat. It had nothing at all to do with love, commitment, or raising future generations, but everything to do with power and influence. Not that the two can’t be connected in a loose way. It was also acceptable to have more than one wife.”

    Dietary regulations have also varied a lot over human history. Does it follow that the human diet is entirely determined by social or legal forces?

    Anyway, getting back to first principles for a moment, could you perhaps tell us what in your opinion is (a) the purpose of the institution of marriage, and (b) the purpose of state recognition and regulation of said institution?

  31. Mr. X, you seem to be making my point for me. If the purpose of houses is to inhabit them, and yet we know of many examples of “houses” that do not serve this purpose, then it would seem as if there is nothing intrinsically wrong with “co-opting” definitions. A model house may or may not be habitable, yet no one (that I know of) objects to calling it a “house”.

    Have I argued that marriage is a right? Or that it is wrong to exclude *anyone* from marriage? No. My only point has been that there’s no good reason not to include same-sex unions under the umbrella of “marriage”.

    As for the dietary regulations analogy, no, mere variation in custom does not necessitate that these are caused *exclusively* by social means. Food supply, for instance, is heavily affected by geography. But I’m not sure that geography affected marriage customs. I’m all for considering additional forces that may have shaped marriage customs, but you have to make that case. Religion is an obvious extra influence – but it’s not really something we can predicate law around, now is it?

    Regarding the purpose of marriage, I don’t think that THE purpose of marriage exists: ask any couple why they want to get married, and they might provide any number of reasons. In general, though, I would say that the purpose of most could be summarized as “to establish a family”, even if they wouldn’t necessarily choose those terms.

    The purpose of government involvement, even if I think it is overrated and/or unnecessary, would likewise be multi-faceted. Primarily, I would say that because we afford individuals in marriages different rights, we need to keep track of who has those rights. Obviously there is an element of social welfare involved as well: if marriage establishes family, and family is recognized as a vital social unit, then we want to ensure that nothing crazy is going on (like in-breeding or spreading STD’s).

Comments are closed.

Subscribe

Subscribe here to receive updates and a free Too Good To Be False preview chapter!

"Engaging… exhilarating.… This might be the most surprising and refreshing book you’ll read this year!" — Lee Strobel

"Too Good To Be False is almost too good to be true!" — Josh McDowell

Purchase Here!

More on the book...

Discussion Policy

By commenting here you agree to abide by this site's discussion policy. Comments support Markdown language for your convenience. Each new commenter's first comment goes into moderation temporarily before appearing on the site. Comments close automatically after 120 days.

Copyright, Permissions, Marketing

Some books reviewed on this blog are attached to my account with Amazon’s affiliate marketing program, and I receive a small percentage of revenue from those sales.

All content copyright © Thomas Gilson as of date of posting except as attributed to other sources. Permissions information here.

Privacy Policy

%d bloggers like this:
Clicky