“New Research on Same-Sex Households Reveals Kids Do Best With Mom and Dad”

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I don’t have time to comment on this tonight, but you need to read it.

New Research on Same-Sex Households Reveals Kids Do Best With Mom and Dad.

Don’t just read the headline. Don’t just read the first portion, where Mark Regnerus summarizes the results. Read the part where he analyzes the ironic role social scientists have adopted for themselves in this controversy.

The British Journal of Education, Society, and Behavioural Science paper on which this article was based is available for download. I’ll read it as soon as I can find time.

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150 Responses to “ “New Research on Same-Sex Households Reveals Kids Do Best With Mom and Dad” ”

  1. You know, I’ve begun to wonder whether this is the right approach. Shouldn’t the question be more whether or not children would do better in orphanages/the foster system as opposed to being with a homosexual couple? Or would the kids who end up with a homosexual couple have in all likelihood been adopted by a family with a mother & father?
    Thanks.

  2. This research helps demonstrate what I think most Christians should expect to be the case – that a biological mother and father provide the best environment for raising a family. Actually, I’d think most evolutionists should come to the same conclusion for rather different reasons!

    However it is likely to be used by LGBT groups as demonstrating the need for closing the gap between the outcomes of same sex couples and that of having a mother and father. SSM will be promoted as one way of helping to achieve that.

  3. Sigh. Not again.

    There’s always so much wrong with these kinds of studies. Once again, we have a study that fails to compare the relevant groups. Instead of comparing married adoptive straight parents to married adoptive gay parents (which would actually be relevant), the author artificially extracts gay parents of out several different groups (married, unmarried cohabitating, single, etc), throws them all together, and compares them to married biological parents.

    Furthermore, it doesn’t even matter, because we don’t decide who can and cannot marry based on whether the social group they belong to is good at parenting.

    And of course this paper is praised by Regnerus, whose academic authority was practically laughed out of court in Michigan. Furthermore, the author is a Catholic priest (which should have been declared in the conflicts of interest, since there’s a possibility he could get defrocked if he supported same-sex marriage), working out of a private Catholic university (another conflict of interest – the opposite conclusion could get him fired) that’s currently under censure by the AAUP because “unsatisfactory conditions of academic freedom and tenure have been found to prevail”.

    Oh yeah, and the author has collaborated with Family Research Council, a noted hate group (not to mention that FRC leader Tony Perkins once gave former KKK leader David Duke $82k dollars).

    And to top it all off, the paper isn’t currently listed on the website of the journal it’s supposed to be in.

  4. SF:

    On Tony Perkins and David Duke. False facts, anyone?

    “Known hate group”? Sure, someone said so. I guess that makes it true, right? What if the SPLC was wrong about that, though? Or is their word not open to question?

    Mark Regnerus got laughed at? Is that supposed to be news? Did you read what he wrote about that whole situation?

  5. Tom:
    “What if the SPLC was wrong about that, though? Or is their word not open to question?”

    “One of the primary goals of the homosexual rights movement is to abolish all age of consent laws and to eventually recognize pedophiles as the ‘prophets’ of a new sexual order.”
    —1999 FRC publication, “Homosexual Behavior and Pedophilia,” Robert Knight and Frank York

    “While activists like to claim that pedophilia is a completely distinct orientation from homosexuality, evidence shows a disproportionate overlap between the two. … It is a homosexual problem.”
    — FRC President Tony Perkins, FRC website, 2010

    “Gaining access to children has been a long-term goal of the homosexual movement.”
    — Robert Knight, FRC director of cultural studies, and Frank York, 1999

    This is a small sample of things the FRC has said. I’ll let you be the judge.

    As for David Duke, note that the “Justice Sunday Preachers” article FRC is responding to says that Perkins was fined $3,000 by the FEC for attempting to hide the donation.

    Oh yeah, and look what I just found out about ScienceDomain International:
    http://carbon.ucdenver.edu/~jbeall/Beall%27s%20List%20of%20Predatory,%20Open-Access%20Publishers%202012.pdf

    “Mark Regnerus got laughed at? Is that supposed to be news?”
    When it happened *in court*, yes:

    “The Court finds Regnerus’s testimony entirely unbelievable and not worthy of serious consideration. The evidence adduced at trial demonstrated that his 2012 ‘study’ was hastily concocted at the behest of a third-party funder, which found it ‘essential that the necessary data be gathered to settle the question in the forum of public debate about what kinds of family arrangement are best for society’ and which ‘was confident that the traditional understanding of marriage will be vindicated by this study.’ … While Regnerus maintained that the funding source did not affect his impartiality as a researcher, the Court finds this testimony unbelievable. The funder clearly wanted a certain result, and Regnerus obliged.”

  6. Here’s another idea to try. How about reading the article and evaluating it on its merits?

    That’s a whole lot more relevant, and easier for us to discuss objectively, than all this history.

  7. “How about reading the article and evaluating it on its merits?”

    I’ll restate what I already said in comment #3:

    Once again, we have a study that fails to compare the relevant groups. Instead of comparing married adoptive straight parents to married adoptive gay parents (which would actually be relevant), the author artificially extracts gay parents of out several different groups (married, unmarried cohabitating, single, etc), throws them all together, and compares them to married biological parents.

    Furthermore, it doesn’t even matter, because we don’t decide who can and cannot marry based on whether the social group they belong to is good at parenting.

  8. It matters to the very live question, “is there damage that results from promoting gay marriage?” That isn’t the only question that enters into the legal decision, but it’s highly disingenuous to suggest it’s irrelevant.

    As for comparing the relevant groups, I’m about to study the paper, now that I’ve made it through a few hours of meetings. I’ll get back to you on that.

    And as for bias, let’s just openly admit that it exists on both sides. If you’ll recognize what I wrote about “defrocking,” and if you’ll demonstrate you’re taking it seriously, then I’ll be able to take your own arguments about defrocking seriously. But if you only recognize it happening one way, and if at the same time you think bias should disqualify a person from speaking something valuable into a conversation, then you’ve just disqualified yourself.

  9. “It matters to the very live question, “is there damage that results from promoting gay marriage?” That isn’t the only question that enters into the legal decision, but it’s highly disingenuous to suggest it’s irrelevant.”

    Tom, here is an indisputable empirical fact that even you cannot deny: there have been, there are, and there will continue to be same-sex couples that, intentionally or unintentionally, end up raising children together.

    Now, what’s best for those children – letting their parents marry, or not letting them marry?

  10. Tom, the only norm that’s being undermined is “marriage is *only* for straight people”. Not “straight people can get married”. I’m left wondering what you envision the future will look like if gay people are allowed to get married. Do you think a bunch of straight people will decide not to get married at all? Do you think a bunch of straight people will decide gay marriage is a better option *for them*? What is it?

  11. I think that undermining the norm, marriage is for a man and a woman, is significant on its own, for reasons I’ve stated elsewhere, and which are not the topic of the current post.

    Let’s get back to the paper now, please.

  12. You say,

    Instead of comparing married adoptive straight parents to married adoptive gay parents (which would actually be relevant), the author artificially extracts gay parents of out several different groups (married, unmarried cohabitating, single, etc), throws them all together, and compares them to married biological parents.

    From the paper:

    Findings for adopted children were consistent with this result, although because of the very small number of adopted children it was not possible to include this category in the multivariate models. As with instability and stigmatization, adopted children were at higher risk of emotional problems overall (RR 1.65 CI 1.5-1.8), but including child adoption status had no effect on risk due to same-sex parents (RR 2.10 CI 1.5-2.9 with adoption included). Among children with no biological relationship to either parent, the prevalence of emotional problems was twice as high for ones with same-sex parents (22.0% CI 8.0-47.6) than for those with opposite-sex parents (11.2% CI 10.2-12.1). This estimate should be interpreted with caution due to the sparseness of the data.

    The author “artificially extracts,” you say?

  13. As I’ve already said, we don’t decide who can and cannot marry based on whether the social group they belong to is good at parenting. *shrug*

  14. Shrug all you want, you disingenuous dissimulator, but promise me this: You’ll never, ever, ever suggest, for the rest of your life, that what happens to children is important for any reason whatsoever. Whenever the question comes up, you’ll just shrug and say, “hey, that’s not how we decide whether people get married. Who cares anyhow?”

    If you can assure me that’s what you really think about the matter, then I’ll believe your shrug.

    But actually I think you’re being dishonest about it. I think someday someone is going to claim that there’s no difference in outcomes between straight and gay marriages, and you’re going to jump on it as an argument against the conservative marriage position.

    When you do that, remember what you said here. Remember how you lied here.

  15. Oh, and by the way, I don’t know of any proposals to limit marriage according to the participants’ “social group.” Fine point there, but in some contexts it’s pretty important.

  16. “From the paper” (quote omitted for brevity)

    There’s a few things wrong with this. First, it admits that there was a very small number of adopted children, so the result, as it claims, should be interpreted with caution. Second, from page 4: “Almost all opposite-sex parents who are raising joint biological offspring are in intact marriages, but very few, if any, same-sex parents were married during the period under observation.”

    But we already knew that married partners do better than unmarried partners.

  17. I didn’t say child outcomes don’t matter. I said that child outcomes isn’t how we decide who can and cannot marry. And that’s obviously true. For example, poor parents do worse than rich parents, since they often can’t afford university tuition, nutritious food, or healthcare. But no one would dream of telling them that they can’t marry.

  18. But if you’re gonna call me a liar, I’m done. Have fun circling the wagons and crying when SCOTUS smacks you down in June.

  19. Ah. I withdraw the charge of lying, and refer you back to comment 10, hoping that you won’t try to chase this one back around the same circle back over again.

  20. For the record, you didn’t say child outcomes don’t matter, but you did say, “we don’t decide who can and cannot marry based on whether the social group they belong to is good at parenting.”

    Then you said “*shrug.*”

    As if that was all that you thought needed to be said, and all that mattered. Pardon me for thinking that was what you meant.

  21. FWIW, studies have consistently shown that kids do best with a Mom and Dad of the same race, rather than differing races.

    Can we use that as a reason to ban inter-racial marriages?

  22. I don’t believe the studies offered definitions of race. Rather, I think it let people self-identify–but I haven’t looked into this in a couple years.

  23. We’re not banning gay marriage. We’re standing against the de novo invention of gay marriage.

    Of all the most obvious facts in this debate, that one is the most frequently overlooked. And it makes all the difference.

    Here’s another way to look at it. Go to Google. Find as many articles as you can with the message, “Gay marriage is okay because kids come out just as well as they do in straight marriage.”

    Go again to Google. “Inter-racial marriage is okay because kids come out just as well as they do in single-race marriage.”

    Now ask yourself, who brought up this topic? Who raised the question?

    Now ask yourself again, How hard is it to figure out why we would be looking at the question of how kids do in gay marriages, more than we’re looking at the inter-racial marriage issue?

  24. Finally, ask yourself this, please.

    I’ve seen lots of reports claiming that kids do just as well in gay marriages as in straight marriages. I’ve never said, “Hey, that’s irrelevant, isn’t it?” Now that I’m seeing a report that disagrees with my preferred view, though, that’s what I’m saying. Is there some reason it should be relevant when it agrees with me, and irrelevant when it doesn’t?

    Thanks for asking yourself these interesting questions.

  25. You’ve lost me on these questions. Clearly, I’m missing something.

    Now ask yourself, who brought up this topic? Who raised the question?

    I have no idea.

    Now ask yourself again, How hard is it to figure out why we would be looking at the question of how kids do in gay marriages, more than we’re looking at the inter-racial marriage issue?

    Again, I don’t understand. Why are we looking at this question? My guess is because it is 2015, and not 1967?

    I’ve seen lots of reports claiming that kids do just as well in gay marriages as in straight marriages. I’ve never said, “Hey, that’s irrelevant, isn’t it?”

    Huh? I’ve said so. I fully expect kids in gay marriages to not do “as well,” for a variety of factors.

    Now that I’m seeing a report that disagrees with my preferred view, though, that’s what I’m saying. Is there some reason it should be relevant when it agrees with me, and irrelevant when it doesn’t?

    You are correct. It shouldn’t be relevant. So you are against it when the anti-SSM side does it as well? Why even quote the report here, if it is irrelevant?

  26. I have always thought that marriage’s effects on children were relevant. Good grief. How could it be otherwise???

    So I never said those reports claiming gay marriage was okay for kids were irrelevant. What I have said (here, for example) is that their research methodology has been so inadequate that it would be irresponsible to draw any conclusions from them.

    This report’s methods are not definitive, but they are considerably better than what’s come before, and therefore very interesting.

  27. Ok. So Virginia could continue to keep inter-racial marriages illegal in 1967, due to the harm it causes the children?

    Why does the harm matter in one case (SSM), but not the other (inter-racial)?

  28. What exactly are they identifying with?

    I suppose whatever you identified with, when you answered such a question–assuming you’ve had to answer such a question. How did it work for you?

  29. Re: #35, No. What an odd question.What could possibly have motivated you to ask it?

    I know, I know, you see a bit of a parallelism there. I suppose somehow you think that a trace of a bit of information like that is enough to determine our decisions with respect to sweeping social change.

    Has it occurred to you that life might be more complex than that?

    I don’t mean to be condescending, but you’re not exactly presenting yourself here as someone who’s thought this through very completely. Either that or else you think you’re conversing with people who can’t think multi-dimensionally. We can. I invite you to join us in it.

  30. As to why the harm matters in the one case and not the other, I think perhaps you’ve failed to spend enough time thinking below the surface to the actual, non-parallel etiologies of the harms in the cases under discussion.

    We could go there. We could talk about it on a deep level.

    So far, though, what I sense in you is a desire to sting us with a one-liner that supposedly reveals some hypocrisy in us. Consider that attempt a failure; these are not the kinds of issues that lend themselves to one-liners.

    If you take the effort to present your question with some indication you’ve thought it through responsibly, I’ll take the effort to answer it. Otherwise, I’m not playing your stinger-game with you. Rhetoric is cheap. One-liners are easy. That’s what you’re displaying here so far. Thinking, on the other hand, is hard and takes time. Try it and see.

  31. For example:

    In your supposed studies (we haven’t seen any so far) showing that mixed-race marriages produce less positive outcomes for children, was there any statistical control included for homeownership, education level, and other known contributors to that effect?

    That’s just a start …

  32. Phil #39
    So everyone in these studies identified with the same thing? Wouldn’t then the problem be that thing – assuming it had the causual power to result in harm to kids. Labeling that thing ‘race’ doesn’t tell us anthing at all.

  33. So everyone in these studies identified with the same thing? Wouldn’t then the problem be that thing – assuming it had the causual power to result in harm to kids. Labeling that thing ‘race’ doesn’t tell us anthing at all.

    I’m not following you here.

  34. Which of these goals overall trumps the other?

    A. Maximize the odds that children will be raised by the most effective people, (i.e. the people that are most competent, have the most resources, and most desire to raise the particular child).

    B. Maximize the odds that children will know and be loved by their (biological) mom and dad.

    I bet most of us marriage supporters are going to say B trumps A, and that most ss”m” proponents will say A trumps B. Granted these goals are not necessarily mutually exclusive. Anyway, I am not yet sure what this means if I am right. Not sure how it relates to these kinds of studies. Not sure if it shows that they are relevant, that they can inform us whether B trumps A or A trumps B, or whether they cannot.

  35. Tom – you mentioned in the article that you didn’t have time to comment, but then in the comments I’m not clear on what your motivation was on posting this… other than merely to poke fun at gay right supporters for being inconsistent on quoting this sort of study when it suits them and ignoring when it doesn’t. (I’ll admit it happens… in most arguments both sides do stuff like this, so I don’t let it get me down too much… it’s kind of a natural mode of thinking for most people.) I’ll say for the record that I found this type of study largely irrelevant before as well – to answer your query in #31.

    You’re obviously against gay marriage… but here’s what confuses me: I can’t figure out a logical argument to get from this study to an argument for not allowing same sex couples to get married. If you have one, please spell it out.

    The study looked at same sex *partners* not children of married same sex couples. You might be able to make the argument that this is an argument against disallowing same sex couples to adopt but it says nothing of marriage. Going further, one could imaging that being married might make things better than just being partners (look at opposite sex married vs. co-habitating in the same study), which would suggest we might see better outcomes by allowing gay marriage. The only way I see you could using this as an argument against gay marriage is if a subsequent study showed that childhood outcomes were worse with married same sex partners as compared to unmarried same sex partners.

    In fact normalizing gay relationships by allowing gay marriage could also be argued as a help for children, because it might reduce emotional issues around being part of a family group that is “different”. If you want better outcomes for children, it might be more logical to allow for these different family groups to become more mainstream.

  36. ebaur,

    Is there “a” logical argument from this kind of study to the conclusion that gay marriage is a bad idea? No. This is one piece of a puzzle.

    Poking fun? Did I do that? My intention was quite seriously to present information that undermined the gay-marriage position. They present their side seriously enough. I think this is part of a pattern of evidence showing that one of their arguments is wrong: that gay marriage will have no damaging effect on future generations.

    You say,

    The only way I see you could using this as an argument against gay marriage is if a subsequent study showed that childhood outcomes were worse with married same sex partners as compared to unmarried same sex partners.

    I think I’m going to have to write a fresh blog post on the granularity problem.

  37. You claim that this study undermines the gay-marriage position. How? I really don’t see it.

    Furthermore, I don’t think I have a problem with granularity. I’m trying to match the argument you were making.

    You posted a link to a study. I read the study and then commented on the problems with it and what it *doesn’t* say that it would need to in order to be damaging in any way.

    Please explain why you think I’m arguing at a different scope than you.

  38. DR84 @47.

    I wouldn’t argue that either one trumps the other necessarily. In fact, I think your setup is irrelevant to the discussion.

    This would be applicable if we were talking about a custody battle, but not simply when talking about public policy about allowing people to get married. Furthermore, there is no precedent in modern times in restricting who can raise kids except in extreme circumstances (abuse, neglect, etc). Whatever the emotional issues children of same sex couples might exhibit, it doesn’t come close to that in any “population statistics” way.

    Even the study itself says:

    even in the worst case conditions examined in this study, the large majority of children did not experience emotional problems.

    So, laws dealing with exceptional circumstances shouldn’t inform policy on run-of-the-mill family groups.

  39. It specifically undermines one part of the gay-marriage position: that gay marriage is neutral or positive with respect to future generations.

    The study doesn’t really speak to that directly (as I pointed out at length in my original comment) – especially as you just stated it.

    I think you’re confusing claims here. I think you are wanting to compare same sex unmarried partners to opposite sex married biological parents – but this has never been a principle reason to legalize gay marriage. (Yeah, supporters like those studies, but that was never a grounding reason for the movement.)

    Years ago, without gay marriage being legal, there were still same sex partners raising children and there is no reason to believe there will suddenly be more children of same sex parents if they can get married. (I suppose some might be waiting to have children until they can marry, but I don’t believe it’s a significant number.)

    All that will happen if you legalize gay marriage is that children of gay partners will now be children of gay spouses.

    If anything this study suggests that childhood outcomes would be better if we allowed those people to get married (it shows married as better than co-habitating for opposite sex parents, I suspect it would be the same for same sex partners to spouses).

  40. Your original comment seems to have read the research wrong.

    Did you happen to look at opposite-sex cohabiting vs. same-sex cohabiting? Controlling for confounders, there was about a 2.46 percent greater risk factor for same-sex.

    The study agrees with virtually all others that children are best off when raised by their own biological mom and dad in a stable relationship. State approval of gay marriage is strong, emphatic state endorsement of the long-term trend to undermine that kind of family structure. Your solution is part of that problem.

  41. Your original comment seems to have read the research wrong.

    No, I didn’t. I find it irrelevant to the question of gay marriage.
    1) There were no measurements of children in gay/married families. Therefore, any claims about this are guesswork. Maybe believable guesswork, but not from the study directly.
    2) Gay marriage won’t put more children under the “raised by gays” category – only take kids out of the gay/co-habitating families and put them in gay/married families. By my read (believable guesswork) this can only be good.

    Did you happen to look at opposite-sex cohabiting vs. same-sex cohabiting? Controlling for confounders, there was about a 2.46 percent greater risk factor for same-sex.

    I didn’t miss that, but it’s also irrelevant to gay marriage. It doesn’t say anything about how the landscape will change if we allow those partners to marry.

    I don’t find the base conclusion controversial – as you said, children of biological parents in a stable relationship fair the best. But we don’t have laws preventing single parents, co-habitating parents, adopted parents, step parents, biological parents in an unstable relationship or gay parents. So why should we prevent gay parents to get married? There is no logically consistent reason to deny them that legal right.

    Put another way… imaging a parallel Earth, everything the same except in one gays can get married and the other they can’t. If you are trying to make the claim that children in the “gay marriage” version of the earth are *worse* off than the ones in the no-gay-marriage version then this study doesn’t support you. You’re going to have to look elsewhere.

    I think the problem here is that you’re responding to an argument that I’m not sure anyone is seriously making. Sure, you may find a couple people touting previous studies, but that was never a principle argument in favor. Heck, the first article I read years ago on one of these studies even cautioned that while the results were interesting it was not controlled and the results were likely due to the socioeconomic status of the parents and not their sexual orientation. This study just bears out that guess.

  42. State approval of gay marriage is strong, emphatic state endorsement of the long-term trend to undermine that kind of family structure.

    I separated the two responses because I think this is the meat of your objections to gay marriage, but it’s not really part of the study. (You said something similar in the comment you linked to above, I believe.)

    I was about to write back that you were off your rocker and pulling stuff out of your butt… and then I deleted it because I realized that it was unfair to claim that. I’m sure you really believe that this is true. You really believe that allowing gays to get married somehow undermines your marriage and/or family structure – or at least the institution of marriage and family.

    If that’s the case, we’re at an impasse. Have you seen the quote about “Being upset over gay marriage is like getting mad at someone for eating a donut when you’re on a diet.”? That’s basically this claim. You said it undermines the institution of marriage. I say it strengthens it. If you tell me that my donut eating is making your diet hard to maintain… I guess I have to believe it, but I don’t see why I should give up donuts because of your issues with food.

    It’s funny that you accused me of a granularity problem. That’s what this is. This claim is making a sort of meta-physical claim about marriage that I don’t feel you can back up. On the other hand, I believe that no matter what I say I’ll never convince you that it’s not true. Either way, this study is *still* irrelevant to the question because it doesn’t address it.

  43. ebaur,

    This claim is making a sort of meta-physical claim about marriage that I don’t feel you can back up. On the other hand, I believe that no matter what I say I’ll never convince you that it’s not true. Either way, this study is *still* irrelevant to the question because it doesn’t address it.

    Christian’s are making a metaphysical claim, yes. Can you tell us what your metaphysical claim is and how you arrived at this? You’re obviously making one, and and I’d like to give you the opportunity to explain why you think it’s true.

  44. My opinion on the institution of marriage? Marriage is a social and legal construct, which are intertwined but not wholly inseparable (I hope this isn’t a controversial statement).

    The social aspect:
    Marriage is a public declaration of an emotional bond between two people. It’s also a commitment that these people are in it for the long haul (or at least that they think they are). We can make jokes about divorce, it it’s still obviously more of a commitment than just hanging out together or dating.
    Because it’s a public declaration, it implies something to people I talk to. Saying “my wife” says we are more dedicated to each other as compared to “my girlfriend”.

    The legal aspect:
    The government (and other public institutions) recognize that this social commitment means certain privileges should be extended as well. Power over medical decisions, right to not incriminate, visitation rights, financial responsibilities / benefits, etc.

    Note: I recognize that the social and legal meaning of marriage has changed throughout history and in different cultures. This is how I see it in modern “western” cultures by and large. I’m trying to encompass the majority and boil it down to a base principle.

    They way I see it, neither of these is challenged by allowing same sex partners to get married. Socially, If two people love each other and want to make a commitment to each other, why should they be blocked? A friend of mine has been with her partner for about 20 years – more than many opposite sex marriages. It seems to me that they should be able to publically celebrate their emotional bond and commitment.
    Legally, it’s kind of the same story… Why should they not enjoy the same legal rights my wife and I received when we were married?

    Now, back at you. How do you define marriage? Can you explain how extending this legal designation to same sex couples hurts the institution of marriage? I hear this claim all the time from the religious right but I never hear it explained. I hear that it “destroys” the traditional definition of marriage, but they seem to take it as axiomatic that this is bad. (They also take it as axiomatic that their definition of marriage matches the “traditional” one, but that’s another debate.)

  45. ebaur,

    I’m trying to encompass the majority and boil it down to a base principle.

    Because this base principle as you have described it has “changed throughout history and in different cultures”, in what sense is marriage a particular thing such that someone like me, you or Tom can get it wrong?

    Can you explain how extending this legal designation to same sex couples hurts the institution of marriage?

    That question only makes sense if marriage is a particular metaphysical thing that can be defined. Your words here make it clear that marriage changes over time and location, so any answer I give will be compared to what, exactly?

    I hear a lot of talk about marriage being whatever “we” want it to be, but then I hear how we (Christian’s) get it wrong – as if it can’t be what history has held it to be.

  46. “in what sense is marriage a particular thing such that someone like me, you or Tom can get it wrong?”

    I didn’t claim your definition or Tom’s was wrong. Heck, I don’t even know what your definition is. I showed you mine, now you show me yours. 🙂

    Oh, and while you’re at it, can you explain this: “as if it can’t be what history has shown it to be.” Are you contradicting my statement that marriage has been defined differently over time and in different cultures, or are you only claiming consistency of the Christian definition?

  47. Marriage is the union of a man and a woman, and always has been, with virtually no exceptions.

    Polygamy is not an exception, by the way: it’s multiple instances of a man and a woman; the women are not married to each other, but each of them to the man.

    More later. It’s Valentine’s Day, I’m married, and I probably won’t have a whole lot more to say about it here.

  48. ebaur,
    I hold the Christian view of the institution of marriage that entails several metaphysical realities that I won’t go into now – but which make sense to me. I say marriage is intended, or purposed, to be a particular thing.

    I didn’t claim your definition or Tom’s was wrong.

    If you think about it, if marriage is not intended to be a particular thing then marriage can be anything we humans define it to be (trees and rocks, houses and people, dogs and cats, whatever).

    But if that is the case, in what sense is *any* marriage wrong or incomplete or incorrect? What are you comparing it to when you say it’s incorrect – and why ought we compare it to the standard you are referencing? Also, what are these “human rights” that people keep referring to?

    All these questions have answers under the Christian worldview. How about your worldview?

  49. Tom – if marriage is nothing more than a union between a man in a woman, what’s the harm in redefining it to a union between any two parties? Your definition only confirms that a change has been proposed, but nothing in that definition justifies claiming same sex marriage is bad… Only different.

    I’ve explained why I think get marriage will bring good to same sex partners (and others, because of a sort of shared happiness). I still don’t understand why you think it is bad.

    Also, we have lots of laws that are different from historical ones. Tradition by itself is not a reason to resist change.

    SteveK –
    “I hold the Christian view of the institution of marriage that entails several metaphysical realities that I won’t go into now – but which make sense to me.”
    So I give a definition at your request to bring clarity to the discussion and you avoid it again. Why?

    “in what sense is *any* marriage wrong or incomplete or incorrect? What are you comparing it to when you say it’s incorrect ”
    Um… Who are you talking to?

    Look, gay marriage proponents are seeking to change a legal definition, not forcing you to accept their spiritual one. I can’t help it if you conflate the two. Your church won’t have to perform gay weddings but same sex partners would enjoy the legal rights of marriage. How is this bad?

  50. “Bad” is not a legal term. How is any law bad? In your answer is the spiritual (metaphysical) component to this issue, so don’t pretend you aren’t relying on one to make your case.

    I gave you an answer regarding marriage. You can study Christianity if you want details.

  51. I never said “bad” was a legal term… Yet you use that to dodge the question. Then you claim to have answered my other question about the definition of marriage while dodging it again (if you think all Christians share the same views on marriage you are either naive or in denial).

    I’ll try once more… Please explain why gay marriage is bad.

    I’ll forget about asking for definitions from you since apparently you don’t want to share.

    I will say that you are also wrong about what case I’m trying to make if you think it requires a spiritual component. In fact, that is exactly my point… Gay rights activists aren’t asking for the government to require you to accept this into your religious views, only require that they are legally recognized. If you oppose gay marriage on spiritual grounds then you aren’t making a legally relevant argument (separation of church and state and all that).

    Trying to cap off the tangent… Tom seems to think this article undermined an (imagined) aspect of the argument for gay marriage (it doesn’t). He headed (mildly) down this path that you and I balooned into its own beast. If you have nothing more to share I suggest we abandon it since it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere interesting.

  52. ebaur-

    Is it possible for the law to be written so that a non-marital relationship is recognized as a marriage? (i.e. if a nation’s marriage law says that marriage is a relationship between 3 biologically related men, is that just what a marriage is there or is that law wrong about marriage?)

    It appears you are very focused on the law only being redefined for homosexual relationships, when there are many other relationships of different configurations that the law could also recognize as marriages.

  53. ebaur #67
    Regarding marriage, you gave me some information about the law and society, but you never answered my followup questions in #60. Who am I talking to, you ask? You. So if you want to talk about dodging questions, look in the mirror.

    The Christian view of marriage can be discovered with some digging on your part.

    Gay rights activists aren’t asking for the government to require you to accept this into your religious views, only require that they are legally recognized

    They were. The legally recognized term was civil union/partnership or something like that.

    You say they are only seeking to change the definition. Considering they have their own legal term, how is denying them the other term (marriage) bad? If, as you claim, the net impact of the legal change is inconsequential then what’s the harm in denying their request?

  54. DR84 – your question seems silly on the face of it. If marriage is defined as X in the law then X is marriage from a legal standpoint. However you want to define X.

    You don’t have to use that definition emotionally / spiritually for you and your family. Freedom of religion, remember? This is all pretty basic civics stuff.

  55. SteveK –

    I haven’t answered the questions in which I felt you asked me to clarify a claim I didn’t make. You keep asking for me to explain how someone can be wrong about their definition of marriage. If what you want me to say is that your definition and mine can co-exist then fine. They can co-exist. Spiritually & emotionally I can’t force you to accept my definition and you can’t force me to accept yours.

    Legally, the definition may not line up with either one of us… But so what?

    “The Christian view of marriage can be discovered with some digging on your part.”
    It’s cute that you think there is only one definition. The answer I gave earlier is what I was raised with in a Christian household… So should I assume you agree with me. Or is my view wrong?

    I would be okay with civil unions instead of marriage if they were equivalent in the eyes of the law. They are not, however.

    “If, as you claim, the net impact of the legal change is inconsequential then what’s the harm in denying their request?”
    Well, it’s certainly not inconsequential to the people who would now be able to get married. It’s probably inconsequential to opposite sex couples.

    You still haven’t explained why you think it’s bad…

  56. ebaur,

    I would be okay with civil unions instead of marriage if they were equivalent in the eyes of the law. They are not, however.

    This is encouraging to know. Why do you suppose SS activists didn’t try to gain equality with civil unions? We could do that now.

    So here’s my argument against what you are suggesting: if there’s no reason to co-opt the term marriage for SS couples, other than they’d like to have the same things that married couples do, then there’s no *actual* harm in denying their request and suggesting that they pursue what they want via legal civil unions.

    Agree?

  57. You still haven’t explained why you think it’s bad…

    Noting first my reply in #74, I will attempt to explain why it’s a bad idea.

    It’s a bad idea to associate the same legal term to two distinct people groups when there are legitimate reasons to view them differently under the law. If both groups are legally the same thing, then you have no legal recourse to view them as different. Now, I expect you’ll say there are no legitimate reasons to view SS couples and hetero couples differently under the law. Is this what you think?

  58. I characterized it’s as silly because it’s essentially a tautology. “Silly” was easier to spell. Legally things are defined as the law is written, anytime a law is changed something that wasn’t covered (eg: “non-marital relationships”) become subsumed in the new definition. I realize it came across as borderline flippant, but I really don’t get what it’s relevance is. If you disagree, please explain it to me.

    As for defining “spiritually and emotionally” I’m at a loss for words. Do you feel there is a spiritual component to your marriage? Do you feel there is an emotional component to your marriage? How do you define those?

    In my time I’ve seen many manifestations of relationships. I’m not trying to dodge by asking you to do my work here – I honeslty believe it’s not my place to define this for you. (And how I define it for myself is irrelevant to this discussion.)

    At this point it doesn’t feel like this is a discussion in good faith, though. You are nitpicking a fairly inconsequential aspect of what I wrote. If that is really a hang up for you then explain why, because I don’t see it.

  59. Regarding civil unions… This has already been tried in multiple states (including my own) and it was found to not be equivalent – and our version of the law came closer than most.. (As the Supreme Court said regarding civil rights: “separate is not equal”.)

    It’s also disingenuous to suggest that they give up on marriage and go after civil unions. In many places they did just that and were still blocked by the religious right. Ironically, if those attempts has succeeded we wouldn’t be fighting this battle now.

  60. Regarding legal distinctions…

    I see what your saying about keeping groups distinct, although I’m not sure it’s as black and white as you suggest (terminology can be overloaded with situational caveats without introducing new terms). I have not heard of reasons to keep them distinct, can you give me some examples?

  61. Well, okay then, I’ll ask it another way. Presumably when you said, “spiritualla and emotionally,” there was something you meant by that. The way I might define those words might have nothing to do with what you meant. Would you mind explaining for us what you meant, so we can understand what you had in mind there?

  62. Or, to put it in further context, the word “spiritually” to me has direct connections to the Spirit of God, who is also known as the Spirit of Truth; that truth being universal and applicable to all persons at all times.

    In the original context you said,

    DR84 – your question seems silly on the face of it. If marriage is defined as X in the law then X is marriage from a legal standpoint. However you want to define X.

    You don’t have to use that definition emotionally / spiritually for you and your family.

    By my understanding of “spiritually,” that parses to this:

    I don’t have to use the definition emotionally or as being connected to any truth in any way whatsoever for me and my family.

    But I doubt that’s what you meant.

  63. Legally things are defined as the law is written, anytime a law is changed something that wasn’t covered (eg: “non-marital relationships”) become subsumed in the new definition. I realize it came across as borderline flippant, but I really don’t get what it’s relevance is. If you disagree, please explain it to me.

    Legally the law could define a person of African descent as being a non-person. Does that mean that a person of African descent is a non-person?

    In other words, just because the law says x is y doesn’t necessarily mean x is y; and just because the law says SSM is marriage doesn’t necessarily mean SSM is marriage.

    You think that legally things are what the law defines them as; that the question involved a tautology. I suppose so. If the law can define something to be what it is not, then a thing’s definition is necessarily what the law says its definition is; and there was a time in American history when humans of African descent were not persons.

    Silly.

  64. I almost missed this, and I apologize for that.

    At this point it doesn’t feel like this is a discussion in good faith, though. You are nitpicking a fairly inconsequential aspect of what I wrote. If that is really a hang up for you then explain why, because I don’t see it.

    The reason I raised the issue is because I think your use of the emotional and spiritual terminology displayed a misunderstanding of what we believe about the truth of spiritual reality, a very important truth. Some people think that “spiritual” means “subjective, numinous, …” or something like that. For Christians it means something more connected to the reality of God himself, which is no side issue.

  65. Tom – if you read it in context I’m basically just separating the legal definition from everything else. I’m assuming here that there is more to your marriage than just a legal contract.

    For example, within the bounds of my marriage I would consider it breaking our vows if my wife slept with someone else. However, someone with an open marriage might be be okay with that.

    In our state adultery does not break the marriage contract. This is an emotional, not a legal, aspect of our marriage. I believe some states do state that adultery breaks the contract… But someone in an open marriage can still believe that their vows are intact.

  66. Regarding legal definitions… Yes, unfortunately if the law defined someone of African descent as being a non-person than they would lose legal rights associated with being a person.

    In fact, that’s where we started (sort of, it was obviously more complicated than that).

    But your making a category error to apply that definition outside of a legal context. According to biology a black man is still a person, even if they don’t have a legal status. That might be used to argue for a change in the law, but it is. It, itself, a legal argument.

    To give a less emotionally charged example: congress once declared that tomatoes were not a fruit. So? Tomato plants still used them to bear seeds and were completely unaffected by that legal definition. It did affect import tariffs, however.

  67. Regarding spirituality… “For Christians it means something more connected to the reality of God himself, which is no side issue.”

    Sure, that’s more or less what I expected. But you hopefully understand that this is also deeply personal and a religious belief. As the government shouldn’t favor one religion over another, your feelings here – no matter how true you think they are – are not grounds for a legal argument.

    I have no desire to legislate what this means to you and your marriage. I also have no desire to let you use this as a reason to deny someone else the legal benefits of marriage.

  68. ebaur-

    “I also have no desire to let you use this as a reason to deny someone else the legal benefits of marriage.”

    In your view, if two brothers want the legal benefits of marriage for their relationship, should they get them?

  69. ebaur #77,

    This has already been tried in multiple states (including my own) and it was found to not be equivalent – and our version of the law came closer than most..

    And I would agree that it’s not equivalent, hence the different legal term.

    (As the Supreme Court said regarding civil rights: “separate is not equal”.)

    There is a sense that all human beings are equal – yet legitimate legal distinctions remain because there are times when it’s wise from a policy point of view to see human beings unequally. When? There are lots of reasons for when and why these distinctions are legitimate. One legitimate reason is to base the distinction on purpose. What is the purpose of marriage in society?

    It’s also disingenuous to suggest that they give up on marriage and go after civil unions.

    Why is is disingenuous? If women went after the legal term ‘male’ would it be disingenuous to suggest they give up on that?

  70. The difference I was hoping to highlight is coming more clear, ebaur.

    You wrote,

    Yes, unfortunately if the law defined someone of African descent as being a non-person than they would lose legal rights associated with being a person.

    They would not, however, cease being a person. The legal definition would define a certain way in which the person relates to the state, but it would not make that man or woman into something other than a person. “Person” for legal purposes would mean something other than what “person” means in actual fact.

    The point is, there are cases where a state cannot take something that is one thing and make it into something else by legal fiat. It cannot make a person into a non-person. The closest it can come is to make a person into someone treated as if a non-person for legal purposes.

    Similarly, if there is something that marriage actually is, some essential nature that defines marriage, then the statement cannot make marriage into something else. Our position is just that: there is something that marriage is, and that something essentially includes the union of a man and a woman. Because (on our view) marriage includes that as an essential feature, the state cannot make same-sex unions into marriages. It can only make them into something treated as if it were a marriage.

    Now, I know I haven’t explained here why I think marriage is essentially one thing and not another, but I want to pause and give you a chance to acknowledge that you’re tracking with me so far. In summary:

    1. If marriage is essentially a form of union between a man and a woman, and
    2. If the state declares that same-sex unions can be called marriages,
    3. Then the state has declared something to be what it is not.

    (Note: In view of your comment 65 I must emphasize the obvious: I’m not saying that “union between a man and a woman” is a comprehensive definition of marriage. Note also that you can acknowledge you understand what I’m saying about my position here, even if you don’t grant the truth of item 1.)

  71. ebaur #78

    I have not heard of reasons to keep them distinct, can you give me some examples?

    I didn’t see this until after I posed #87. The legitimate reason to keep them legally distinct is because the marriage relationship serves a purpose that society values differently than other relationships. Society may value marriage less than it did in the past, but my point remains valid and the law is a written testimony to this fact. Ex: parent/child relationships are viewed differently under the law compared to adult/adult relationships. You cannot treat them differently under the law if indeed both relationships share the same legal term.

  72. SteveK –
    I’m done arguing with you. You ask “Why is is disingenuous?” while the next sentence explained why… I guess I can spell it out, but I’m already pretty verbose, I thought, At any rate, if you’d like to expand on why there are meaningful legal distinctions that need to be codified separately (instead of obliquely referring to them) I’ll reengage. I’m not interested in playing out some sort of leading pseudo-Socratic mood with you, just state what you are getting at plainly – I’d love to have a discussion. Maybe our styles just don’t mesh well.

    Tom, I appreciate the detailed response, I’ll respond later tonight when I have a chance to digest what you wrote – There is a lot there and I’ve been reading/typing on an iPad mini all day. 🙂

  73. #90

    Steve-
    “The legitimate reason to keep them legally distinct is because the marriage relationship serves a purpose that society values differently than other relationships.”

    I am only meaning to reinforce the your point by saying something I assume you agree with. It is not merely that society does value the marriage relationship more, at least in some aspects, society should value the marital relationship more.

    To be frank, I do not think we should value homosexual relationships in the same way that we do marriages. The marital relationship simply plays a role in society that no homosexual relationship possibly can.

    I am not saying that homosexual relationships are socially inconsequential, but that is only because such relationships have some element of friendship to them, and I believe friendship is socially valuable (just not in the same way and same degree that marriage relationships are).

  74. ebaur,

    You ask “Why is is disingenuous?” while the next sentence explained why

    Your explanation didn’t intersect with the reason why I made the suggestion. My reason wasn’t to suggest that they would be successful in getting the law to view civil unions as separate but equal to marriages in every way. They aren’t equal.

    My reason was to suggest they maintain that same approach rather than make the illegitimate move that today’s activists are doing of co-opting the term of another legally defined group in order to achieve the goal of making them legal equals.

    I gave the example of women who seek to co-opt the legal term ‘male’ in order to gain full legal equality with men as an example of this illegitimate move you are suggesting. Yes men and women are equals up to a point, however they are not identically equal. There is value in maintaining the legal distinction ‘female’ precisely because females are different than males.

    See #90 for more. If you feel the need to bow out, okay.

  75. DR84

    It is not merely that society does value the marriage relationship more, at least in some aspects, society should value the marital relationship more.

    This value equation works in different ways. Suppose the values were reversed for a period of time – marriages had a low value to society. If SS and hetro relationships shared the same legal term, society could not legally place less value on marriages. It’s at that time that I’m willing to bet that SS couples would be clamoring for a separate legal term.

  76. DR84 –

    The marital relationship simply plays a role in society that no homosexual relationship possibly can.

    I can’t think of what you might be referring to. Not childbearing or rearing – neither of those requires or is required by marriage. So, what else is there?

    I am not saying that homosexual relationships are socially inconsequential, but that is only because such relationships have some element of friendship to them

    Are you suggesting that same sex couples are merely friends, with none of the additional commitment and bonding that a married couple has? If so, you are incredibly naive… I know a couple of women that have stronger “marital” bonds than many opposite sex spouses have.

    Of course, you still haven’t shown any negative from giving them this status. This isn’t a court of law… but I like to use the concept of standing – where you can’t challenge a law unless you can demonstrate harm. Can you? (In Oregon this specifically came up when it went to the state Supreme Court… the America Family Associate – IIRC – tried to defend the law in lieu of the state Attorney General. They were denied because they couldn’t show standing. Essentially the courts said that since they wouldn’t be harmed by the ban being struck down they weren’t allowed to defend it.)

  77. Tom –

    “Person” for legal purposes would mean something other than what “person” means in actual fact.

    I mostly agree with this, but I object to the phrasing “in actual fact”. There is not some platonic definition of person. This is exactly what I mean by a category error, this should read “in biology” or “socially” or something like that. You are suggesting there is an objective definition of person… but there isn’t. (I don’t normally attack analogies because it often sends discussions off on a different track… we’re already on a tangent… I only said something so you wouldn’t think I was conceding that point. I think we can dispense with the analogy because of the next quotes carry the same baggage.)

    [in our view] the state cannot make same-sex unions into marriages. It can only make them into something treated as if it were a marriage.

    Yup. No matter what happens I expect people like you will think to yourselves “they aren’t really married”. I don’t care what you think or believe as long as you treat them the same legally in the public sector.

    Similarly, if there is something that marriage actually is, some essential nature that defines marriage, then the statement cannot make marriage into something else.

    That’s a big “if” statement. First of all, I don’t accept that there is an objective definition of marriage. Even if I did think there was one, I wouldn’t necessarily agree with you on what it was. See, you make truth claims within the context of your religions and other relations make other truth claims. How should an independent observer decide?

    Since we aren’t in a theocracy, your religion’s truth claims don’t necessarily get elevated to legal status.

    So, to sum up… As gay marriage has been spreading throughout the US, I don’t care what you believe for yourself. You can go right on believing that gay people aren’t *really* married. But in legal dealings I expect you to honor the law.

  78. Regarding marriage equality… I almost responded to that article you wrote a little while ago. Yes, I believe in marriage equality!

    My default answer is usually that any other group should put forward a legal argument if they want to enjoy the use of that status. (I phrase it that way because as many times as I’ve said that gays want to chance the law, in most cases they are using the courts, not the legislature to do it… so it’s pitting laws against laws, not simply re-writing them.)

    Anyway, I think for cases of polyamorous relationships it will be harder to include them in the definition of marriage for practical reasons. Multi-party contracts are much more complicated than two-party contracts. It might not be as easy as simply challenging existing laws in the courts but probably *will* require introduction of new laws.

    Now, let me address your question in the other post: “What about if they’re brothers? What about if they’re brother and sister? Or a grown man and his father? What if one of them is already married to someone else?”

    I’ll answer by saying that marriage rights for gays is not *my* personal end goal. Really, I want marriage struck from the law books entirely. SteveK’s comments about civil unions are interesting because I really am okay with those – for everyone.

    See, I take kind of a libertarian attitude towards this one. The government should stay out of personal relationships. I don’t think the state should be deciding who I can have a life long relationship with.

    My idea would be to switch civil union out for marriage to remove the emotional baggage from it and then allow anyone willing to sign the contract to enjoy those rights. I think giving special rights to people willing to publicly declare a bond (whatever that bond is) is a good idea for various reasons.

    For example, two brothers? Sure, why not? I knew a couple women who lived together for about 30 years. They shared everything (in this case they were widows, not lesbians). I’d love for them to be able to say “we plan to live together and share all responsibilities…” Let them join finances, allow hospital visitation, etc.

    Without the government defining marriage each religious group can define it an call it whatever they want. And I won’t care what the word means to you.

    As for practical matters… I don’t think that vision is likely to work out very cleanly. But maybe over time enough groups will challenge the law and the bar for entry will be so low that I’ll get what I want.

    This is one where I think the slippery slope argument has merit (although it’s not a foregone conclusion).

  79. Really, I want marriage struck from the law books entirely.

    So let’s put a lot of effort into supporting the expansion of legal marriage to include SS couples – yay!

  80. ebaur, you’re awfully confident in yourself.

    . There is not some platonic definition of person. This is exactly what I mean by a category error, this should read “in biology” or “socially” or something like that. You are suggesting there is an objective definition of person… but there isn’t.

    Actually, if we’re going to engage in bare assertions, there is.

    Moving on…

    No, actually, I’m going to make a very simple argument for my case. First of all, this is Aristotelian, not Platonic. Secondly, apart from the fact that your confidence seems to outstrip your argument, there’s also the highly questionable conclusion your position forces to you: that if the government declares that African-Americans are not persons, the government is not wrong. The government is merely settling in on its own preferred category. Third, to say that someone is a person “in biology” is absolutely meaningless. To suggest that I’ve committed a category error in the way you’ve done is to suggest that Smith might be a person “in biology,” but not “socially,” and who-knows-whether-he-is legally; which is to say that you’ve muddled up personhood royally.

    Now, I suppose you might say that I’ve mis-analyzed all that, but if so, you might give me the grace of acknowledging that you haven’t given me a thing to work with. Instead you’ve pronounced me wrong, tossing aside millennia of discourse on definitions, natures, essences, and the like.

    Are you comfortable with yourself doing that? I mean, did you even know you were doing it? If so, it seems you would have at least acknowledged it.

    Your doctrine there is a form of nominalism that has extreme ethical consequences, not least of all with respect to marriage.

    Now, how should an independent observer decide? I don’t know what an independent observer is. Could you enlighten me? I think I’m independent, and that you’re tainted by your nominalist secularism. Maybe you disagree. Feel free to explain why.

    You didn’t do much better when you wrote, “I can’t think of what you might be referring to. Not childbearing or rearing – neither of those requires or is required by marriage. So, what else is there?”

    You’ve mistaken the point rather badly here. Childbearing is intimately connected with marriage, in the sense that children are most likely to be raised by their own mother and dad–the best situation for them–if their parents are married. That’s the state’s only real interest in marriage: its salutary effect on future generations. Or did you think…

    Are you suggesting that same sex couples are merely friends, with none of the additional commitment and bonding that a married couple has? If so, you are incredibly naive… I know a couple of women that have stronger “marital” bonds than many opposite sex spouses have.

    … that the reason the state is more interested in same-sex relationships including sex than they are in same-sex friendships of other sorts is because they have sex? That is, that what the state is actually interested in the relationship is the sex? If not, then what? If so, then would you please tell the state the same thing you folks did in your sodomy cases, which was, “GET THE HELL OUT OF MY BEDROOM!”

    But hey, if the state is in your bedroom because it can ensure you’re having sex, which makes your friendship more than a friendship, which means you can get the state to certify it as a “marriage,” you don’t give a damn about that, do you?

  81. Tom –

    Awful lot to respond to… all distinct. Let’s go for it!

    “Aristotelian, not Platonic”: This is my math background speaking. I was thinking of the Platonic Forms. Sorry if this confused the issue (judging by your answer I’m guessing no).

    To suggest that I’ve committed a category error in the way you’ve done is to suggest that Smith might be a person “in biology,” but not “socially,” and who-knows-whether-he-is legally; which is to say that you’ve muddled up personhood royally.

    Yup, humans do this a lot. Since you seem to like the African-American example… Fredrick Douglas was biologically a person, legally 3/5 of a person and – in many Southern social circles – not a person at all. I’m sure he thought of himself as a person. All muddled up!

    To what authority do you declare that he “is” a person? God? Cool… except that someone else might claim that God says he isn’t a person. So, when I refer to an “independent” observer I mean someone other than the two individuals comparing definitions. How does that person know if your claim that he is a person is correct?

    Instead you’ve pronounced me wrong, tossing aside millennia of discourse on definitions, natures, essences, and the like.

    Not really… I declared you wrong *because* of millennia of discourse. I see that as evidence that even if there was an objective definition we obviously don’t know (or can’t agree on) what it is. It’s actually a bit more complicated than that… I’ve seen talks between biologists and sci-fi writers (always a fun combo) trying to come up with a definition that doesn’t have weird edge cases. It’s a fun party discussion, try to come up with a definition and then look for weird examples which aren’t clear cut. Plenty of issues like this defy clear definitions.

    But, instead of continuing to defend myself on this… I’ll back off the claim that you’re wrong. I wouldn’t be an honest agnostic if I made that claim, I suppose. So, I’ll acknowledge that you think you have an objective definition… but I see others in our society who have other definitions. Between your definition and others’ how do I know who is right? Once I’ve decided, how does the guy next to me decide who’s right? In fact, this very question has come up in the law very recently in Colorado with some trying to change the legal definition of a person. How can we tell what the right definition is? Should I just take your word for it?

    I don’t know what an independent observer is.

    Really? Didn’t expect that to catch you up. Alright… an independent observer is a hypothetical party who is not biased towards one side or the other. Although like most hypotheticals this party can’t really exist (no one is truly without bias). Certainly in this debate it’s not you… and not me. (Okay, I used myself earlier, but only in the sense of me comparing what you say to what another religious person might say… I’m independent because for all my biases I might be able to maintain independence with respect to those two positions.)

    Childbearing is intimately connected with marriage, in the sense that children are most likely to be raised by their own mother and dad–the best situation for them–if their parents are married.

    I don’t want this to become a dictionary battle, but I said “requires or required by” and you said “most likely”. I’m going to slip into flippant mode here: do you really need me to explain why your response doesn’t contradict mine?

    Never mind… I’ll make a list for fun. I personally know.
    1) People who don’t have children who are married.
    2) People who can’t have children who are married.
    3) People who can’t have children, are married and adopted children.
    4) People who are married and have biological children.
    5) People who are not married and have biological children.
    6) People who are not marred and have adopted children.
    7) Same sex couples who are married with children (one parent biological).
    8) Same sex couples who are not married with children who were adopted (open adoption, so the child also knows their birth parents).

    Sure, most kids are born to biological / married parents. But do you find less value in the other families/marriages? Why?

    This is interesting, because it actually brings us full circle back to the article (which is why I went ahead with a list). You could potentially assign a score to each one of those in the list and we could talk about the likely childhood outcomes. But why should that inform our decisions as to who could get married or not? Because marriage doesn’t require childrearing and childrearing doesn’t require marriage.

    That is, that what the state is actually interested in the relationship is the sex?

    What? I didn’t bring sex into this, why did you?

    Do you think the only reason you and your wife are spouses is because you’re friends that have sex? Some people have sex before marriage, there are some marriages where people don’t have sex at all. Heck, I know people who are married and *aren’t* friends (I don’t get that myself, but whatever). I don’t care… as you said, the state should stay out of our bedrooms.

    Other comments – and now yours – seem to suggest that you think there is nothing deeper than friendship for spouses. Do you think that’s true of all marriages, or just same sex couples? Do you not believe me when I say my wife and I have a stronger bond than friendship that doesn’t require sex?

  82. ebaur-

    “Colorado with some trying to change the legal definition of a person. How can we tell what the right definition is? Should I just take your word for it?”

    I just want to say if you have to ask…and that be that, but sadly that probably will not be enough.

    FYI…I am a lay person with respect to philosophical issues. I have not studied and learned the millenia of philosophical discourse. Tom and many others around here can certainly answer this question better than me, but I am gonna take a stab at it nonetheless.

    I think you are going in the wrong direction about asking about what the definition of a person is and how can we know. I dont think there is a definition so to speak, a person is something we recognize. It is something we can describe, but it is not something we define. If there is anything we can be certain of, it is that we are persons. If I can know that I am a person with certainty, it seems to me that I can know that others are also persons with certainty (or close enough). If there is any bit of knowledge with no edge cases, no ifs, no maybes, that is truly black and white, it is this. It is the knowledge of what a person is.

    “Because marriage doesn’t require childrearing and childrearing doesn’t require marriage.”

    Yes, people can have children without being married, and people can marry without ever having children. So what? Does this really prove that there is no connection between marriage and children? Seems that you are convinced that it does. I think you are mistaken, and I suggest you consider why marriage exists at all. Perhaps consider if marriage could exist as it does if men and women did not have children together.

    More than that, consider the logical outcome of your claim. If marriage has nothing to do with children, there is nothing at all amiss if a married man has children with a woman that is not his wife. If you are right, he has done no wrong, even if his wife objects.

    I think your claim fails with respect to history and morality.

  83. ebaur-

    Perhaps the discussion has gone past this already, but I believe you had previously suggested it was on us to show that legally redefining marriage to include same sex couples would cause harm. I think that we have at least laid the foundations to show why it is as it stands. Nonetheless, I want to turn the tables on you. What harm is there in not recognizing same sex relationships as marriages? Many ss”m” advocates (and I know based on your previous post that is not exactly you) are making that claim, none are stepping up to the plate to back it up. Maybe you can.

    Seems to me the harm question can at least go both ways. Your side has a burden of proof as well.

  84. To address your second post first.

    Although, an aside first… for all practical purposes I am a gay marriage advocate… or a marriage equality advocate, no need to put a parenthetical around it. I have no expectation that my desired end state of no state recognized “marriage” will occur in my lifetime, if at all. 🙂

    Anyway, as for harm, I’ll leave it to the folks over at Freedom to Marry to answer that:

    There are over 1,100 protections and responsibilities conferred on married couples by the federal government including access to health care, parenting and immigration rights, social security, veterans and survivor benefits, and transfer of property—and that doesn’t include several hundred state and local laws, protections conferred by employers, or the intangible security, dignity, respect, and meaning that comes with marriage. Excluding committed same-sex couples from marriage means shutting out families from the safety and security created by these protections and responsibilities.

    http://www.freedomtomarry.org/pages/protections-and-responsibilities-of-marriage

    I’m quoting the legal aspects… there are emotional reasons they would like to have their unions publicly realized, but this is more quantifiable as “harm”. If you’d like I could go search for some specific stories where someone was not able to be at their partners side at their time of death, or someone being screwed out of property / estate or children being pulled away from the only other parent they’ve known after their biological parent died… but hopefully the above quote illustrates it enough.

    If you are truly interested to read up on the issue from “our” perspective I highly suggest you read their FAQ and – in light of some of the discussion here – their page on Civil Unions (side note: I was wrong, Oregon has a Domestic Partnership law, not Civil Unions – although they are related).

  85. Regarding personhood:

    If there is any bit of knowledge with no edge cases, no ifs, no maybes, that is truly black and white, it is this. It is the knowledge of what a person is.

    Just for fun… let’s talk about some edge cases. These are all rhetorical, I don’t expect an answer, I’m just trying to demonstrate how little clarity there is. Many of these you wouldn’t be able to get 100 people to all agree on the same answer.

    I’ll start with the issue in Colorado
    1) Is a fetus a person? (Colorado votes seem to come down as majority “no” but some said “yes”.)
    2) Is a baby born without a brain a person?
    – Maybe you say yes… if so:
    3) Are conjoined twins A person or TWO people? (That seems easy…)
    4) What if there is only one head, but nearly all other body parts are duplicated?
    Maybe you think that the genes are what makes a person… each person has a unique genetic signature, right?
    5) What about chimeras, are they one person or two? (Chimeras are people who have two completely distinct genetic signatures caused by fraternal twins in the womb that merged – like the opposite of how identical twins are formed.)
    I assume you’d think that a chimera is one person… but if you thought a set of conjoined twins sharing a brain was two people, why the difference? If you thought that a fetus was a person, then presumably fraternal twins were two people… where did the second person go when they merged. Which person is the new fetus – or is it both, or neither?
    As for the fetus, if you thought one born without a brain stem wasn’t a person… what about someone in a vegetative state, do they cease to be a person because of the brain damage?

    Again, I’m not interested in answers to these from you… and they aren’t a comprehensive list of potential edge cases, just ones I thought off of the top of my head. And these are all real world situations, I didn’t even get into the hypothetical “brain in a vat” type scenario.

    My point?

    I dont think there is a definition so to speak, a person is something we recognize. It is something we can describe, but it is not something we define.

    Maybe you’re right… it escapes easy definition but we can look at a situation and come to a decision without even knowing exactly why we decided it.

    However, in the case of marriage you seemed to suggest that it’s somehow wrong to change the legal definition to include same sex couples. If you agree with Tom, then you think there *is* a definition that exists outside of human control (Tom, did I get that right?)… and so changing the legal definition gets it “wrong” somehow. But if you say that it’s “just something we recognize” you have the same issue I complained about before with Tom of having no way to reconcile differences of opinions. If you think there is an objective definition then we still have issues trying to come to an agreement on what it is if there is more than one claim of “truth”.

    And all of this is somewhat irrelevant, since we don’t have to agree on the “true” definition of marriage to use it as a legal term.

  86. Regarding marriage:

    Does this really prove that there is no connection between marriage and children?

    I wouldn’t say there is NO connection, but children are neither necessary nor sufficient for marriage. So, whatever connection they have it doesn’t seem very useful for defining marriage in today’s society.

    By the way, I’ll accept that marriage probably started out as a recognition of a family unit for procreation – but humanity has evolved since then. The societal exceptions around marriage have changed significantly over time… and sometimes were different for the various classes even.

    More than that, consider the logical outcome of your claim. If marriage has nothing to do with children, there is nothing at all amiss if a married man has children with a woman that is not his wife. If you are right, he has done no wrong, even if his wife objects.

    In your view is it the act of sleeping with another woman that breaks his marriage vows or the act of having children that does it? For my own marriage I would say me sleeping with another woman is a problem regardless of the outcome.

    As for the wife objecting – by my usage that *is* what makes his actions wrong. They are the ones in this contract and they decide what is “right” for their relationship.

    Legally, in many states, the marriage contract would not be affected by one partner sleeping around or having other children. I believe in some states it would nullify the marriage contract.

    I think your claim fails with respect to history and morality.

    I’m not clear on what you think my claim is. Either I’ve lost track or you’re confused.

    Anyway, I’m not sure history helps either one of us…

    In the middle ages people often got married to join two families. It didn’t necessarily have anything to do with love. After a child was born to cement the link between the two families sometimes the married individuals would have many affairs on the side. Other children may have been born, but not from the original pairing. I don’t know how common this was, but it certainly happened and was generally accepted (maybe not officially, but not much was done to stop it).

    Marriage as a contract between families doesn’t really seem to be a thing anymore in the US. Personally, I got married because I loved my partner and wanted to spend my life with her. There was no discussion of payment between families, or a treaty between them or anything.

    I’m not sure appealing to history helps your case much. Since in olden times your marriage wasn’t valid if the families didn’t agree to it and if you couldn’t consummate it. Do you think we should go back to that? Or should we go back to times when a many could have any number of wives and concubines?

    So… to sum up.
    1) Marriage may have been about procreation early on.
    2) Marriage is about more than procreation now.
    3) Some marriages have no procreation – and yet we still honor the marriage.
    4) An inability to have children isn’t a block to getting married.
    5) Therefore: You can’t use the lack of procreation in same sex couples to deny them marriage.

    If you were proposing we start giving fertility tests during the application process for a marriage contract, or a limited contract that expired unless you had kids then at least I’d consider you to be logically consistent.

  87. ebaur-

    “I’m quoting the legal aspects… there are emotional reasons they would like to have their unions publicly realized, but this is more quantifiable as “harm”. If you’d like I could go search for some specific stories where someone was not able to be at their partners side at their time of death, or someone being screwed out of property / estate or children being pulled away from the only other parent they’ve known after their biological parent died… but hopefully the above quote illustrates it enough.”

    I am not convinced that not getting a benefit constitutes a harm. Nonetheless, even if I were for the sake of the argument going to agree that all of this is harmful, none of it pertains directly to marriage, and none if it pertains only to homosexual couples. In other words, even if you are right, every bit of harm here can be fully addressed without touching marriage at all.

    “1) Is a fetus a person? (Colorado votes seem to come down as majority “no” but some said “yes”.)
    2) Is a baby born without a brain a person?
    – Maybe you say yes… if so:
    3) Are conjoined twins A person or TWO people? (That seems easy…)
    4) What if there is only one head, but nearly all other body parts are duplicated?
    Maybe you think that the genes are what makes a person… each person has a unique genetic signature, right?
    5) What about chimeras, are they one person or two? (Chimeras are people who have two completely distinct genetic signatures caused by fraternal twins in the womb that merged – like the opposite of how identical twins are formed.)”

    I can accept that a brainless baby is effectively a dead person. Otherwise, I am not seeing anything here that even comes close to being an edge case. If you think they are, that seems to be your problem to grapple with.

    “If you think there is an objective definition then we still have issues trying to come to an agreement on what it is if there is more than one claim of “truth”.”

    Id like to think there are ways to deal with truth claims, and I do not think universal agreement is necessary. Having disagreements about this does not strike me as a reason to abandon the institution of marriage altogether or recognize whatever configuration of relationship as a marriage. Not all truth claims are equally strong after all.

    “I wouldn’t say there is NO connection, but children are neither necessary nor sufficient for marriage. So, whatever connection they have it doesn’t seem very useful for defining marriage in today’s society.”

    Why is that? I see things exactly the opposite, seems to me that marriages connection to children is the only reason to justify it as a public institution. I also think it comes across as very convenient for your position to just say marriage was once connected to children but now is not. Its as if you think you can just (re)define marriage to be exactly what you want it to be, and I say as if, but really that is exactly what you are doing.

  88. And all of this is somewhat irrelevant, since we don’t have to agree on the “true” definition of marriage to use it as a legal term.

    Irrelevant?? Just define it according to popular vote and establish the legal term?

    Oh, wait, we did that with Prop 8 and got into trouble because apparently that wasn’t the true definition.

  89. The various truth claims about personhood, marriage, etc can be rigorously subjected to philosophical analysis. There are many philosophical/metaphysical views on these subjects but as you challenge and drill down on each of them, each view leads you to some interesting conclusions.

    One view is this: marriage isn’t any particular fixed thing. It’s defined by human beings which means that there is no one, true fixed definition or reality, which means Prop 8 is equally legally correct as any other legal definition that human beings decide on.

    SS activists disagree with this conclusion, saying it’s definitely the wrong definition, which means they are telling us that this view is the incorrect metaphysical view of marriage.

    And Christianity would agree with what the SS activists are saying about this view. That’s good news, right? So why are people attempting to exclude Christianity from the conversation as if it has nothing to say about what marriage is?

  90. Sorry to say it, but I despise the following way of doing business. I use that word advisedly and intentionally, for reasons I hope to make very plain. You wrote,

    And all of this is somewhat irrelevant, since we don’t have to agree on the “true” definition of marriage to use it as a legal term.

    You’re right. We can make laws without regard for true definitions. True definitions only matter if truth matters to the way a society conducts itself. Otherwise any consensus on any convenient lie is good enough.

    We don’t have to agree on the “true” (scare quotes? really?) definition of person to use it as a legal term, either. You don’t consider it necessarily true that African-Americans are persons. It’s only *legally* true in your mind, if that.

    That’s just sick. (I really hope I don’t have to explain why that’s no overstatement.)

    It’s sick for yet another reason. You and I can disagree over what the true definition of marriage is or should be. I can handle that. But when you disregard truth entirely, then you’re left with its definition being determined by the strength of legal power.

    Any time power overrides truth, it’s time for the populace to quake in fear.

    Were you aware that was the effect of what you were saying? If not, then I’ll back down from my strong words while you take time to review and reflect on it.

    But if that was what you meant, then I reject it utterly and with the strongest possible practical, ethical, and political condemnation. If there’s anything that everyone should know, it’s that when power overrules truth, we’re all in trouble.

    I suggest you re-think what you’ve said.

    Oh, and if you think the way out of that is in saying, “there is no truth regarding what marriage is,” then don’t EVER tell anyone again that their view is wrong. It couldn’t be, if there is no truth about the matter. It’s not wrong. It’s just on the (ahem) losing side for now. Because of power.

  91. Ah…. SteveK, you don’t seen to understand our legal system very well. But, I suspect others might be confused so I’ll see if I can clarify. Admittedly I’ve been a little careless in my comments saying “they want to change the law” but it’s not that simple. Let’s clear it up some by using Prop 8 as an example.

    Gay rights advocates aren’t (currently) trying to make new laws or modify existing laws to redefine marriage, although they were trying that in the past. Prop 8 was essentially that idea in reverse (i.e.: an effort to codify “one man / one woman”). Many other states did similar things, but California was somewhat unique since it was done in response to a previous court ruling – putting it in the state constitution so that it couldn’t be ruled unconstitutional by the state supreme court (like the previous Prop 22).

    Their strategy currently is to strike down laws like Prop 8 or, in states that don’t have explicit laws defining marriage in that way, testing the limits until they get denied a benefit and then challenging that (look at the Supreme Court case for DOMA a few years back). The way they are doing this is not by introducing new language or new laws but rather to use existing laws (either state constitutions or federal laws and next probably the US constitution – currently underway) that contradict laws like Prop 8 and challenging them in court.

    To repeat – gay rights advocates are not currently introducing any new laws. All these legal decisions are based on laws already on the books.

    Okay, that’s probably enough background…

    [If marriage isn’t a fixed thing then] Prop 8 is equally legally correct as any other legal definition that human beings decide on.

    SS activists disagree with this conclusion, saying it’s definitely the wrong definition, which means they are telling us that this view is the incorrect metaphysical view of marriage.

    This is where you start going wrong. They are pointing out that we have laws that contradict each other. This is purely a legal argument and requires no discussion of the metaphysical view of marriage.

    It essentially boils down to “Law A says I can have X. Law B says I can’t have X. Law A is higher in the hierarchy than Law B, so Law B is invalid.” So, when you say “equally legally correct as any other” that isn’t accurate. Well, more to the point, it’s for the courts to decide when we have laws in conflict.

    Now, I’m making an assumption here… but it’s looking like it will require a change in the US Constitution in order for to you prevent gays from getting married. We’ll know for sure in June.

    Just define it according to popular vote and establish the legal term?

    Oh, wait, we did that with Prop 8 and got into trouble because apparently that wasn’t the true definition.

    One of the ideas of a constitutional system is that of “Majority rule, minority rights” – it should be difficult to take rights away from a group and it requires more than just a simple majority. The US Constitution is hard for change for a reason.

    Again, this isn’t a judgment of a metaphysical definition of marriage at all.

    Something DR84 said:

    I am not convinced that not getting a benefit constitutes a harm.

    And yet this is exactly the legal argument they are making… and winning (by and large).

    I’ll address truth claims in my response to Tom separately. I was trying to keep this post as factual and devoid of my opinions as possible.

  92. “Again, this isn’t a judgment of a metaphysical definition of marriage at all.”

    Oh.

    Then what kind of a definition of marriage is it a judgment of? And how is a contradiction of a metaphysical view of marriage not a judgment of a metaphysical view of marriage?

    Or are you declaring our metaphysical (Aristotelian) view of marriage a non-metaphysical view, so you can contradict it without getting into metaphysics?

    Are you saying that your Epicurean/nominalist view of marriage isn’t a metaphysical view?

    In any case, you’re wrong. Objectively and obviously wrong.

    And you said SteveK was having a problem of understanding…

  93. Quick reply to just one thing DR84 said (the rest overlaps with Tom, I think):

    I also think it comes across as very convenient for your position to just say marriage was once connected to children but now is not.

    It may seem that way to you, but I assure you that’s now how I came to believe what I do. I’m actually a relatively recent supporter of gay marriage whereas my opinions expressed about childrearing and it’s relationship to marriage I’ve had since I was a teenager.

  94. This is where you start going wrong. They are pointing out that we have laws that contradict each other. This is purely a legal argument and requires no discussion of the metaphysical view of marriage.

    It essentially boils down to “Law A says I can have X. Law B says I can’t have X. Law A is higher in the hierarchy than Law B, so Law B is invalid.”

    The last sentence is where the metaphysical view of marriage comes into the decision making process. I don’t know which laws A and B are referring to in this situation, but I’m assuming one or both say something meaningful about marriage. If neither one did then both would be irrelevant to the marriage issue.

  95. Which hierarchy, anyway?

    If you’re going to claim that the Constitution allows same-sex couples the right to marry, then you’re going to have to find that right in the Constitution somewhere. You’re going to have to find that it is the kind of thing for which the law provides equal protection. (The law does not provide equal protection for everything, after all.)

    So you’re going to have to find that it is the kind of thing to which all persons have access, and you’re also going to have to find that the kind of access that has been available for centuries doesn’t qualify as “access” for purposes of legal rights. In other words, you’re going to have to find that marriage is fundamentally the kind of thing for which same-sex couples qualify.

    Without that finding about the nature of marriage, there is no Constitutional right to marry.

    This is not a mere case of legal hierarchy. This is a case of deciding that marriage is something other than what it has been, a finding of fact, as it were, about the essential nature of marriage.

    Absent that finding of fact, again, there is no right to same-sex marriage.

    Your attempt to place this on a purely juridical footing fails. The juridical finding is dependent on what the courts consider to be the essential nature of marriage.

  96. Then what kind of a definition of marriage is it a judgment of?

    A legal one. You know, like that *entire* post was talking about.

    And you said SteveK was having a problem of understanding…

    Look in the mirror.

    Get off your high horse, Tom.

    then don’t EVER tell anyone again that their view is wrong.

    #61 “I didn’t claim your definition or Tom’s was wrong. ”
    #67 “Gay rights activists aren’t asking for the government to require you to accept this into your religious views,”
    #70 “You don’t have to use that definition emotionally / spiritually for you and your family.”

    … I could probably find other quotes from myself in this thread. Even if you can find one where I did say something was wrong I think it’s reasonable to assume I meant that my believe is different given the number of times I’ve said I don’t care what you’re beliefs are. This is starting to feel like you are just waiting for me to say something slightly out of line so you can jump out and say “gotcha!” (like nitpicking my definition of “spirituality”) – I’m tired of that game.

    For example:

    You don’t consider it necessarily true that African-Americans are persons. It’s only *legally* true in your mind, if that.

    That’s just sick.

    Yes, it is sick that you’d take my answer to a hypothetical question – where I made a very specific and limited comment – and then misquote me on it. I never said what my definition of “person” was and I find it disturbing that you would put words in my mouth like that.

    I think I realized the deeper problem here for the discussion, though. You keep steering this to a philosophical “truth” discussion when I’m trying to stay in the legal grounds.

    For example:

    Your attempt to place this on a purely juridical footing fails. The juridical finding is dependent on what the courts consider to be the essential nature of marriage.

    Yes, IN A LEGAL CONTEXT. The Supreme Court won’t be making a metaphysical truth claim. Churches won’t be required to teach differently. This will only affect legal proceedings and laws that refer to marriage.

    Again, I don’t *care* what you believe marriage “is” and your truth claims about it. (And sometimes quotes are just quotes.) Lots of people have different views and we have to make laws regardless of what any individual feels… not everyone will be happy – that’s why laws change over time.

    So…. as tempting as it is to respond to other comments to correct misconceptions about my views, or answer questions about them. Or explain to you again how the legal system works (really, you don’t understand the hierarchy of laws in our nation?), or find articles explaining the legal argument… I’m going to stop going in circles.

    As a parting shot, I’ll point out that no one here has demonstrated that any harm will come to you in a legal sense if gays are allowed to get married. Heck, you haven’t shown *any* type of harm that I can discern.

    Since I know that your beliefs contradict the proposed legal definition of marriage its pointless to argue about what you or I believe. It’s almost axiomatic that we disagree on the “true” definition of marriage. The only thing that matters is if the law nets a benefit or detriment to society. If no harm comes to you and others benefit then the net is good. EVEN IF YOU DON”T LIKE IT.

    Granted, a absence of evidence is not evidence of absence necessarily… but I do find it fascinating that no one has come up with anything. SteveK started down a path on that, but apparently got distracted since I don’t remember him actually finishing out that train of thought.

  97. A legal one. You know, like that *entire* post was talking about.

    You missed something: “And how is a contradiction of a metaphysical view of marriage not a judgment of a metaphysical view of marriage?”

    You’re ignoring important questions, and you’re also having a real problem of understanding. And you’re telling me to get off my high horse because I reflected something back to you that you yourself said to SteveK.

    Look in the mirror. Again.

  98. This is starting to feel like you are just waiting for me to say something slightly out of line so you can jump out and say “gotcha!” (like nitpicking my definition of “spirituality”) – I’m tired of that game.

    This is not gotcha. This is you insisting that you’re not dealing with metaphysics, and ignoring valid questions that demonstrate that you are.

    I realize you did not say that African-Americans are not necessarily persons. You merely made an argument that metaphysical kinds of designations involve category errors, that legal designations carry weight while “metaphysical” ones do not; and I think it’s fair to conclude from this that on your view, African-Americans are not necessarily persons, but that their personhood is contingent on something other than some definable, ontological reality. That’s not a far stretch. I’m open to correction on it.

    In other words, it’s a conclusion your position tends toward. I doubt you realize it, and I understand why you would react against my verbalizing it that way, but I don’t think you’ve done a good job of explaining what it means to be a person if the law says someone isn’t.

    never said what my definition of “person” was and I find it disturbing that you would put words in my mouth like that.

    I didn’t put those words in your mouth. I find it disturbing that you would put words in my mouth like that. What I said was that your category-separation of this definition led to the conclusion that African-Americans are not necessarily persons.

    You complain,

    You keep steering this to a philosophical “truth” discussion when I’m trying to stay in the legal grounds.

    I’m trying to tell you (see #117) that you can’t keep “truth” (with or without those damnable scare quotes) out of it. You quoted from #117 without paying attention to what it said. There has to be a finding that marriage is the kind of thing to which all persons have an equal right, otherwise there is no way to find that the Constitution grants that right. This is not just a “legal” finding; or if it is, it’s a travesty, an invented right that has no basis in any law or precedent. The court has to find that SSM is the same kind of thing that’s covered by Constitution, legislation, or precedent, or it cannot properly declare it to be a right. This is a philosophical issue. Further, if it’s not true (no scare quotes) that SSM is that kind of thing, and if the court declares it to be a right, then the Court is WRONG.

    Have you recognized that? Do you realize that I understand your separation of categories; that I understand there is such a thing as a legal definition that may not necessarily track with other definitions; and that I’m pointing out that in this case it is erroneous to view it in that manner?

    You seem to think I don’t understand what you’re saying about the legal category of definition. I do understand. I’m arguing against it, because I think it’s very highly susceptible to counter-argument.

    Truth (no scare quotes!!!) matters in the courts. Does that shock you? Would it surprise you to find that truth is connected rather closely with justice?

    I don’t need your high-horse condescending explanation of how the legal system works.

    As a parting shot, I’ll point out that no one here has demonstrated that any harm will come to you in a legal sense if gays are allowed to get married. Heck, you haven’t shown *any* type of harm that I can discern.

    Thanks for stating the obvious. That wasn’t the subject of this blog post.

    It’s almost axiomatic that we disagree on the “true” definition of marriage.

    You don’t think there is a true definition of marriage. You told me earlier that was a category error. In fact, just moments ago you promised you would never, had never, told anyone they had the wrong definition.

    Apparently you think that by using scare quotes around “true,” you’re not telling me you disagree with me about the true definition of marriage.

    Granted, a absence of evidence is not evidence of absence necessarily… but I do find it fascinating that no one has come up with anything.

    No one on this blog post has mentioned anything. That’s absence of evidence in a very small sphere. I find it fascinating that you find it fascinating that a blog post that doesn’t attempt to discuss harm doesn’t discuss harm; except wait a minute: the OP mentioned harm, in one limited sphere. So I find it fascinating that you find it fascinating that no harm has been described in a post where harm has been described, with empirical support no less.

    Now, where were we? Oh yes. You were saying that your definition wasn’t a judgment of a metaphysical definition, even though it contradicted a metaphysical definition. Y’know, I’m still trying to figure out how you do that! It’s quite a trick.

  99. If you think my concerns about power overriding truth were just gotchas, then you misunderstand me utterly. This is extremely important. It is one of the most important political issues there is. Does the state rule by mere power or is it subject to truth? I can’t think of a more crucial question for the state.

  100. One last point:

    For example:

    Your attempt to place this on a purely juridical footing fails. The juridical finding is dependent on what the courts consider to be the essential nature of marriage.

    Yes, IN A LEGAL CONTEXT. The Supreme Court won’t be making a metaphysical truth claim. Churches won’t be required to teach differently. This will only affect legal proceedings and laws that refer to marriage.

    I’m not sure you realize that when I was speaking of “the essential nature of marriage,” I was carefully distinguishing that conception from any purely legal context, and I was explaining why that distinction needed to be made. For you simply to yell IN A LEGAL CONTEXT at me is to demonstrate that you didn’t catch the argument or you didn’t think it worth paying attention to. There was an argument there, however; and I made it in context of the law.

    Perhaps you disagree with my argument or its conclusions. Simply declaring it irrelevant IN A LEGAL CONTEXT, however, you missed the fact that I made the argument in that context

  101. Actually, I think most of what I just said really could have been considered caviling about minor points, compared to the one huge one in #121. If you would accept my apologies for getting stuck in small issues that don’t really matter, and if you would take a closer look at what I said there and why I said it, I’d appreciate it.

    Note that #121 depends on what I said in #117; that in order to find SSM to be a right protected in the Constitution, it is going to have a basis for that finding. That basis is either in some actual truth about marriage, which I don’t know if you think exists, or in something other than truth, which in the case of the government usually means the exercise of pure power to declare something that is not as if it is.

    This is crucial. This is not a gotcha. This is where metaphysics meets jurisprudence; or if not, then it’s where jurisprudence is nothing more than power in action. Which do you think it is, and how do you support that opinion ethically and philosophically?

    (If you support it merely on the basis of SSM’s political victories, then you’re saying power justifies itself. Watch out.)

  102. “The Supreme Court won’t be making a metaphysical truth claim. ”

    The court is deciding if some laws were unconstitutional based on a violation of equal/civil rights. The court will ask itself, do SS couples have the right to be married? The answer to that question will depend on what marriage is (it’s principle form, function, value, purpose, etc), and if it’s the kind of thing that SS couples are unfairly being denied.

    If marriage is no particular thing and everyone has their own view about what marriage is, then you cannot reach a decision.

    In summary, you cannot answer the legal question of equal rights without addressing the metaphysics of marriage.

  103. “In summary, you cannot answer the legal question of equal rights without addressing the metaphysics of marriage.” (SteveK)

    That is absolutely true.

    For example:

    “I am not convinced that not getting a benefit constitutes a harm.

    And yet this is exactly the legal argument they are making… and winning (by and large).”

    Yes, that “legal argument” is winning, and that “legal argument” is hinged upon a metaphysical claim about marriage. That claim being that by its nature it involves homosexual relationships. The courts are saying that this claim reflects capital T Truth.

    For example from an actual court opinion:
    http://media.ca7.uscourts.gov/cgi-bin/rssExec.pl?Submit=Display&Path=Y2014/D09-04/C:14-2526:J:Posner:aut:T:fnOp:N:1412339:S:0

    “The harm to homosexuals (and, as we’ll emphasize, to
    their adopted children) of being denied the right to marry is
    considerable. Marriage confers respectability on a sexual relationship;
    to exclude a couple from marriage is thus to deny
    it a coveted status. Because homosexuality is not a voluntary
    condition and homosexuals are among the most stigmatized,
    misunderstood, and discriminated-against minorities in the
    history of the world, the disparagement of their sexual orientation,
    implicit in the denial of marriage rights to same-sex
    couples, is a source of continuing pain to the homosexual
    community. Not that allowing same-sex marriage will
    change in the short run the negative views that many Americans
    hold of same-sex marriage. But it will enhance the status
    of these marriages in the eyes of other Americans, and in
    the long run it may convert some of the opponents of such
    marriage by demonstrating that homosexual married couples
    are in essential respects, notably in the care of their
    adopted children, like other married couples.”

    Note the metaphysical claims from the above paragraph:
    – Marriage confers respectability on a sexual relationship
    – the disparagement of their sexual orientation,
    implicit in the denial of marriage rights to same-sex
    couples
    – homosexuality is not a voluntary
    condition
    -homosexual married couples
    are in essential respects, notably in the care of their
    adopted children, like other married couples

    These claims says something about the Truth of marriage (or at least what these judges believe to be the Truth of marriage). These claims are ultimately used by the court to conclude that homosexual relationships fit within the Truth of marriage and accordingly the law must recognize them as marriages.

    Ebaur, if you are still paying attention, you seem to want to think that this issue can be discussed in purely legal terms. Yet, in the real, even the judges deciding the cases base their legal arguments on metaphysical claims. There is no real separation.

  104. For what it is worth, I have experience debating this issue elsewhere. Almost without fail SS”M” proponents are very slippery about metaphysical and legal arguments. They say they just want to talk about the legal arguments, and yet make metaphysical claims over and over and rarely (if ever) own up to it.

    A more alarming trend I have noticed, particularly among SS”M” advocates that identify as gay, is to shut down the argument altogether by saying to even argue the issue at all is demeaning and marginalizes them.

  105. DR84 wrote:
    “Note the metaphysical claims from the above paragraph:
    – Marriage confers respectability on a sexual relationship
    – the disparagement of their sexual orientation,
    implicit in the denial of marriage rights to same-sex
    couples
    – homosexuality is not a voluntary
    condition
    -homosexual married couples
    are in essential respects, notably in the care of their
    adopted children, like other married couples”

    All of these are sociological claims, except the third one, which is either biological or psychological, depending on how you look at it.

  106. In this case I agree with SF. There are other points where metaphysical views are brought in, especially when people begin discussing what marriage is or isn’t.

  107. The idea that marriage is a right is also one that’s based in beliefs about the essential nature of marriage. It cannot be a right unless there is first something that it is. An ontology of marriage necessarily precedes any ethic of marriage, including any political ethic. Absent that, there is only opinion, and opinion does not lead to fundamental rights.

  108. Above all, I am ok with being wrong, I am participating here more to learn than anything else.

    Maybe I can re-phrase those claims to simply show how I understood them:

    -Marriage confers respectability on a sexual relationship (Marriage is necessarily a sexual relationship, it cannot be a platonic relationship)
    – the disparagement of their sexual orientation,
    implicit in the denial of marriage rights to same-sex
    couples (Marriage can involve same sex relationships)
    – homosexuality is not a voluntary
    condition (homosexual behavior is not voluntary)
    -homosexual married couples
    are in essential respects, notably in the care of their
    adopted children, like other married couples” (homosexual relationships are just like heterosexual relationships and both are what marriages are)

    Maybe those are not metaphysical claims, maybe I am misunderstanding the claims being made, again, I am ok with being wrong on this one.

    I also am not sure how it can be said that not recognizing same sex relationships as marriages is socially harmful without making a metaphysical claim about marriage.

  109. @DR84:

    Almost without fail SS”M” proponents are very slippery about metaphysical and legal arguments. They say they just want to talk about the legal arguments, and yet make metaphysical claims over and over and rarely (if ever) own up to it.

    As if the law is a Platonic entity, complete in itself, and divorced from any considerations or grounding, be they metaphysical, moral or anthropological. And of course, to interpret the Sayings of such a Mystical Oracle, there must be a specially trained Priestcraft, the Legal Pharisees, that will wrangle and squeeze out of the Tortured Words a Dead Hand Wrote, anything they like.

    But this is just war conducted by other means, with cudgels replaced by briefings. It has the curious rhetorical advantage that its proponents can pass off as being “neutral”, as not trying to “impose their morality on others” and other, similar lies.

  110. Tom, the right to marriage is like the right to an attorney. Not like the right to life. The reason the state legally has to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples is *because* they issue them to opposite-sex couples. They don’t have to issue marriage licenses at all, really*. But since they do, they have to issue them in accordance with the equal protection clause of the 14th amendment.

    *this was tried in Alabama recently. Some counties stopped issuing marriage licenses entirely. There’s an interview with a disappointed opposite-sex couple that was denied a license.

  111. “The right to same-sex marriage only exists if same-sex marriage exists. That’s a claim about the ontology of marriage, a metaphysical claim.”

    The right to an attorney only exists if attorneys exist. That’s a claim about the ontology of attorneyship, a metaphysical claim. Except I wouldn’t call that a metaphysical claim at all, and I don’t think you would either.

    Tom, once again you’re missing the point. Same-sex marriage exists. Attorneyship exists. Limited liability corporations exist. The office of Secretary of Defense exists. This isn’t metaphysics, it’s just legal structure.

  112. No, I’m not missing the point. I’m not talking about the same thing you think I am.

    So let me try again.

    Same-sex marriage didn’t exist 50 years ago. Was there a right to same-sex marriage 50 years ago?

    Same-sex marriage exists now as a legal category. No one is disputing that. What you’re missing is that mere legal existence does not automatically make it a right.

    Let’s put it in another way.

    Is it true that same-sex marriage is a right? You say yes. What makes it true, then, that same-sex marriage is a right?

    Is it something inhering in the nature of marriage? If so, then we’re talking about the ontology of marriage. If not, then what? The decision of the courts? But courts exist to protect rights, not create them. The decision of the legislatures? But the purpose of rights in our Constitution is to stand above legislatures. Legislatures are subject to the rights-language there.

    What makes it true that same-sex marriage is a right? If you could just address that question, maybe you would understand why your strictly-legal language misses the point.

    And until you do that, kindly quit telling me that I’m once again missing the point. I am not unaware of how the law works. I’m talking about how rights work instead. I guess I wasn’t clear enough on that earlier.

  113. “What makes it true that same-sex marriage is a right? If you could just address that question, maybe you would understand why your strictly-legal language misses the point.”

    Two things, taken together:
    1. The state grants opposite-sex marriage licenses.
    2. The 14th amendment.

    Marriage is a legal right, not a natural right. You could get rid of the right to same-sex marriage by abolishing the institution of civil marriage altogether; that technically wouldn’t run afoul of equal protection. But I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t want to do that, unless you’re an anarcho-capitalist. You could also do it by getting rid of the 14th amendment. But that would be the worst idea in history. 😛

  114. With 1 and 2, you haven’t explained how SS marriage is a legal right.

    One could cite (1) the state grants drivers licenses to those 18 and older and (2) The 14th amendment and you couldn’t get from those two facts the legal right to drive at 16 – or the right to drive at all. There are situations where you can be denied that right. If you’re unfit to drive you can be denied. Can you be unfit to marry? Nobody can answer that question – especially the Supreme Court – unless marriage is a particular thing with a particular form, function, purpose, etc.

  115. Indeed, 1 and 2 provide absolutely no basis for the right to same-sex marriage. Opposite-sex marriage licenses (quite obviously!) do not imply a right to same-sex marriage, unless there is something true about marriage that entails that it should be available to same-sex couples.

    So I’ll ask again:

    What is true about marriage that makes it true that same-sex couples should have the right to it?

  116. In case that wasn’t clear, I’d like to rewrite your argument in a logically valid form, and then pose the question that it implies.

    1. Opposite-sex marriage is historically a legal right administered by the state.
    2. There is something true of marriage, such that if opposite-sex marriage is a legal right administered by the state, then same-sex marriage is also rightly considered to be a legal right administered by the state.
    3. Because of (2), Equal protection under the law (the 14th amendment) requires that the state grant same-sex couples the right to marry.

    What I want to know is what the “something” is that’s true of marriage, that entails that same-sex marriage be considered a legal right, administered by the state.

    You could take another tack on it, of course:

    1a. Opposite-sex marriage is historically a legal right administered by the state.
    2b. There is something true of the state, such that if the state decides that same-sex marriage is a right, then it’s a right.

    If that’s your view we can talk about that. I think it’s either one or the other, unless I’ve missed another possibility somewhere.

  117. “There is something true of marriage, such that if opposite-sex marriage is a legal right administered by the state, then same-sex marriage is also rightly considered to be a legal right administered by the state.” (Tom)

    Would it mean the same thing to instead say that “everything that is true of opposite sex relationships is also true of same sex relationships?” Im asking because it seems to me that this gets past the objections that marriage is only a man-made institution that is just whatever we want it to be.

    It seems to me that if there is something true of opposite sex relationships that is not true of same sex relationships, then these forms of relationship are not equal, and accordingly the 14th amendment equal protection clause is inapplicable.

    SF-

    If you misunderstand the nature of marriage and the 14th amendment and it does not mandate same sex “marriage”? Does that matter to you? Do you care, or do you still want what you want regardless?

  118. DR84: “It seems to me that if there is something true of opposite sex relationships that is not true of same sex relationships, then these forms of relationship are not equal, and accordingly the 14th amendment equal protection clause is inapplicable.”

    Not necessarily. It depends on what the difference is. Consider: there’s something that is true of white people that is not true of black people (skin color), but equal protection still applies there. It’s the “equal protection” clause, not the “equal” protection clause. The protection is the thing that needs to be equal.

    “If you misunderstand the nature of marriage and the 14th amendment and it does not mandate same sex “marriage”? Does that matter to you? Do you care, or do you still want what you want regardless?”

    If the equal protection argument turns out to be a failure, I’d still *want* society to view same-sex marriage as just as acceptable as opposite-sex “marriage” is. But I’d lose the legal backing, and I’d have to convince everyone that it is, despite not being mandatory, a good idea.

  119. See comments 138 and 139. You don’t have an explanation for your position unless you can put it in a logically valid form, which you haven’t done yet. Your answer to DR84 is not an answer to the questions I asked.

  120. Tom:

    This post will contain some quotes from DeBoer v. Snyder ( http://www.freedomtomarry.org/page/-/files/pdfs/MichiganRuling.pdf )

    “Historian Nancy Cott testified that, from the founding of the colonies through the early years of the republic, civil authorities regulated marriage to foster stable households, legitimate children and designate providers to care for dependents who otherwise would become wards of the state. During the twentieth century, the state and federal governments furthered these goals by granting many benefits to married couples. For instance, Social Security survivor benefits and government sponsored healthcare benefits are available to legally married couples, but not unmarried partners. Yet, by effectively foreclosing same-sex couples from obtaining these benefits, the MMA undermines the very aim of one of the central historical bases for civil marriage, namely, family stability.”

    This is “something that’s true of marriage”; most notably, that one of the purposes of marriage is to “foster stable households”.

    “Cott further attested that there is no historical precedent for prohibiting marriages that are incapable of creating biological offspring. After surveying the domestic legal history of every
    state in the country, Cott indicated that none of them have ever required a couple to possess the capacity or inclination to procreate as a prerequisite to marriage. “

    This is something else that’s true of marriage; that procreation has never been a requirement for marriage in the United States.

    “As defendant Lisa Brown testified, Michigan county clerks are not authorized to consider a couple’s stability, criminal record, ability to procreate, parenting skills, or the potential future outcomes of their children before issuing a marriage license. Brown, Tr. 3/3/14 pp. 34, 38-40. County clerks may only evaluate the age and residency of the license applicants and whether either of the applicants is currently married.”

    This is another thing that’s true of marriage; basically the requirements for obtaining a marriage license (in Michigan, but other states will be similar to this).

    “The Equal Protection Clause forbids a state from denying “to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws,” U.S. Const. amend. XIV, § 1, and promotes the ideal that “all persons similarly situated should be treated alike.” Cleburne v. Cleburne Living
    Center, Inc., 473 U.S. 432, 439 (1985). “

    “Similarly situated” is the key here. Same-sex couples, generally, meet the historical and current requirements for marriage; except that there are now laws designed to explicitly exclude them for other reasons; reasons which *are not* applied to opposite-sex couples looking to marry. That does not treat all persons similarly situated alike.

  121. Also:

    “Your answer to DR84 is not an answer to the questions I asked.”

    Obviously, because I was responding to DR84 and not to you. 😛

  122. So a court has found that to be true of marriage. Or at least, these statements have been read into the record. Could you do me a favor and let me know if the judge(s) agreed with those statements in the final opinion that was issued? Just because someone testified to those beliefs doesn’t mean that the court counted them as facts in the decision. I don’t have time to read the case right now.

    But for now let me suppose these were found to be facts in this case. Let me even go so far as to suppose that this case sets precedent for all jurisdictions (unlikely, but useful as a supposition for the sake of argument). Does that mean these findings are true or just “legally true?”

    The difference is very, very important, because it’s the difference between the state being the creator of “truth” or being subject to truth.

  123. “Could you do me a favor and let me know if the judge(s) agreed with those statements in the final opinion that was issued?”

    That was part of the actual ruling, and yes, the court agreed:

    Quotes 1 and 2: “The Court finds Cott to be highly credible and accords her testimony great weight. ”
    Quote 3: “The Court finds Brown to be highly credible and gives her testimony great weight. ”
    Quote 4 was Judge Friedman, the author of the opinion.

    “Does that mean these findings are true or just “legally true?”

    You’re welcome to dispute them, if you think you can. For example, you could pour through history books and try to find some law that required “intent to procreate” before a couple would be issued a marriage license.

    But good luck with that. The quotes aren’t legal judgments, they’re historical facts about what laws there were and are.

  124. SF-

    ““Similarly situated” is the key here. Same-sex couples, generally, meet the historical and current requirements for marriage; except that there are now laws designed to explicitly exclude them for other reasons; reasons which *are not* applied to opposite-sex couples looking to marry. That does not treat all persons similarly situated alike.”

    I am just going to go with Greg Koukl’s line here referring to husbands and wives (he might actually say long term relationships between a man and woman), as a group, as a rule, and by nature they produce the next generation. If same sex couples are similarly situated in that respect, fair enough. Otherwise, similarly situated is such a loose criteria that it could apply to any relationship at all. Its all but meaningless.

    “If the equal protection argument turns out to be a failure, I’d still *want* society to view same-sex marriage as just as acceptable as opposite-sex “marriage” is. But I’d lose the legal backing, and I’d have to convince everyone that it is, despite not being mandatory, a good idea.”

    I find it odd that if you knew it was true that same sex “marriage” is not really marriage that you would still want to convince people that it is good to pretend that it is. If the reverse were the case, and what marriage is really does include homosexual relationships, I would be for the law and society recognizing them as such.

  125. Same-sex couples, generally, meet the historical and current requirements for marriage;

    This is only true if SS couples meet the legally intended purpose of the law. What is that purpose? As DR84 alluded to, what does similarly situated mean in the context of marriage law?

    …county clerks are not authorized to consider a couple’s stability, criminal record, ability to procreate, parenting skills, or the potential future outcomes of their children before issuing a marriage license.

    If you cannot consider any of the relevant facts, then I guess any form of relationship will foster stable households. Is this true? No, but according to the sum total of #143, the following relationships must be allowed to be recognized as marriages: brothers/sisters, mom/son, friend/friend, gay man/lesbian woman.

    Why is the State interested in recognizing legal relationships that fit the description of literally every kind of human relationship? What is the purpose of having such a law on the books – is it to collect fees/taxes for licenses?

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