Tom Gilson

What’s True About Marriage That Makes It True That Same-Sex Unions Should Be Treated as Marriages?

Same-sex marriage advocates are convinced, and want to convince the rest of us, that SSM is a genuine form of marriage, that a given same-sex couple’s closer and binding relationship is or at least can be an instantiation of real marriage, and that this is why it is right for the law to treat it as marriage.

The idea, obviously, is that SSM is really marriage.

Now, this could be true, but obviously it’s controversial. It seems that one thing that could help settle the controversy would be to ask what makes it true, if it is true. What conditions could make it the case that SSM is  really marriage?

It seems to me that one of those conditions must be something like this: What is essentially and inherently true about marriage is true about certain same-sex relationships just as it is true of certain opposite-sex marriages. 

That is, there must be some set of essential truths about marriage that are as true of certain same-sex relationships as they are of certain opposite-sex relationships. Only if same-sex relationships can fulfill that set of essential truths do we have a moral responsibility to recognize them as such in law. If there is something essentially true of marriage, which same-sex relationships never can fulfill, then there is no moral obligation or responsibility for the law to recognize same-sex relationships as marriage.

My question for same-sex marriage proponents, then, is this: What is it that is essentially true about marriage, that makes it true that same-sex relationships can properly be called marriage, and should be recognized as such by the law?

I’ve been asking this in comments, and the tendency there has been to answer, “The law recognizes them as marriage, therefore they are marriages.” This answers a different question, however. Undoubtedly the law can re-define marriage so that same-sex unions are included in the definition. That’s not controversial. The controversy is over whether the law should do that. That it can do that is no reason, by itself, to conclude that it should do that.

And it seems to me that the only way in which it becomes a moral responsibility for the law to recognize same-sex unions as marriage is if same-sex unions are (or can be) instances of marriage. The law has a moral responsibility recognize X as a member of the class Y only if X actually is a member of Y. Otherwise, while it may be possible for the law to declare X a member of Y, there is no obligation for the obligation for the law to treat X as a member of Y.

How then do we know if X is a member of Y? We know it by understanding Y what why is, and whether X meets the definitional characteristics that make Y what Y is.

This is precisely what I am wondering about the SSM debate: can SSM advocates produce a definition of marriage that explains why same-sex unions can be and ought to be regarded as instances of marriage.

In order for this definition to have moral force, it needs to be an essential definition, that is, it must get to the essence of what marriage is, or, it must explain what marriage essentially is. If SSM only speaks of contingent truths or opinions regarding the meaning of marriage, then SSM opponents can legitimately and rationally wave those things aside as mere opinion, or contingent truths, with no moral force behind them.

So again I ask, what is it that’s essentially true about marriage that makes it true that same-sex unions can be included as instances of marriage, and that the law ought to recognize them as such?

A final, very crucial word: the second part of this question has to do with same-sex unions. It’s not the first part of the question. The first part has to do with what marriage essentially is. I urge readers not to skip the first part, since it’s the part that’s most important in this context.

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118 thoughts on “What’s True About Marriage That Makes It True That Same-Sex Unions Should Be Treated as Marriages?

  1. John, what is it about that, then, that explains why the government should license and regulate it? Why can’t siblings be married? And why did you not include any mention of a sexual relationship? Marriage has always been able to be annulled prior to consummation, which means marriage has always been understood to involve sex as one of its essential characteristics. If two people are committed to each other but don’t have a sexual relationship, is it marriage?

  2. From the OP:

    *My question for same-sex marriage proponents, then, is this: What is it that is essentially true about marriage, that makes it true that same-sex relationships can properly be called marriage, and should be recognized as such by the law?

    From theistic moral perspective, let me list a few things that are essentially true about marriage.

    1. Man-woman marriage (MWM) is essentially natural. SSM is not. Two men cannot make a baby. Two women cannot make a baby. MWM is therefore the natural basis for the family. It cannot be claimed that SSM is, in any sense, essentially natural.

    2. Historically and traditionally MWM has always been recognized as marriage. No such history or tradition for SSM, prior to the mid-20th century, exists.

    3. MWM is not the result of a redefinition. SSM obviously is.

    4. Only MWM can be said to be God-given. There is no straight forward theological argument that SSM is God given.

    5. The purpose of MWM is not to oppress gays or gay couples. It is a legal fiction to claim that it is.

    6. SSM is (it cannot be otherwise) the result of legal fiat; MWM clearly is not.

    7. SSM must resort to legal coercion. MWM has always had a broad unforced consensus.

  3. Love obviously is the truth that equally or freely unites us all if we only let it just be. As God is One, Love is One; One is all there is. =

  4. John,
    Your reply is a start, but don’t you think there is more too it than this? The line that separates relationship X and marriage seems to not exist given the way you’ve described marriage such that I cannot figure out why dating couples, strong friendships, committed neighbors, and sibling relationships are not also marriages.

    Tom

    John, what is it about that, then, that explains why the government should license and regulate it?

    In my mind, to license means that the State has checked you out and verified in some way that you meet the requirements for licensing. What has the State been verifying all these years? If there is no need to verify because there are no requirements to meet, why does anyone need a license?

  5. It’s an undeniable fact that in a large and cosmopolitan civilization like ours, adult human beings can and do enter into all kinds of loving relationships with one another — long-term, short-term; strictly monogamous, serially monogamous, polyamorous; strictly heterosexual, strictly homosexual, bisexual, et alia. This is true whether or not we approve of some or all of these relationships.

    Civil marriage has traditionally been an option for couples entering into the most common of these relationships: committed long-term heterosexual partnerships. Civil marriage serves to define the legal rights and obligations of such partners toward each other and in terms of such matters as paying taxes, receiving public benefits, entering into joint contracts, raising children, etc. The law may also extend some of the same protections and obligations to couples who have not registered a civil marriage: this is the common-law tradition.

    Religious and metaphysical definitions of ideal marriage may (and often do) exclude many relationships the law uncontroversially accepts as civil or common-law marriages. Which is fine. But the law cannot and should not enact sectarian definitions of marriage. (Catholic doctrinal definitions of marriage and divorce should not be binding on Protestants, for instance.) The law has to address the situation on the ground — the kinds of relationships that actually exist and may or may not need legal regulation — rather than these metaphysical issues.

    What you’re objecting to is the extension of the rights and obligations associated with civil marriage to same-sex couples. Whether or not such relationships correspond to your (or someone else’s) religious or metaphysical ideal of marriage is beside the point. Only civil marriage is being addressed here. And civil marriage already extends to relationships that might fall short of your (or someone else’s) metaphysical definition of correct or “real” marriage.

    The real question is: What is there, in your view, about same-sex relationships that requires that they be denied the legal rights extended to heterosexual couples, which we call “civil marriage”?

  6. Stated another way, Same-Sex-Marriage (SSM) should never be established by federal court decisions. Our states don’t have mere “rights’ under the federal Constitution, they possess basic powers and such basic powers that the federal government is, by comparison–and moreover by establishment–clearly a government of limited powers. If the federal Constitution is to be used to force a redefinition of marriage the basic rationale would be by application of a rationale based on equal protection of laws.. That very theoretical rationale fails in light of the underlying truth: Unlike racial factors, SSM would always be a result that is derived from, and subsidiary to, the “truth’ of Man-Woman-Marriage, an historical legal and social fact for centuries. To impose upon the states what in essence a subsidiary and derived thing that would benefit a limited class is in essence a form of arbitrary and capricious law would not only be a real abuse of federal power it would also, by its arbitrary and capricious nature, result in a highly regrettable diminution of civil rights. Let SSM proponents be content to settle for full recognition by all states of civil/domestic partnerships enacted by any state.

  7. Tom:
    “what is it that’s essentially true about marriage that makes it true that same-sex unions can be included as instances of marriage, and that the law ought to recognize them as such?”

    Marriage is a contractual legal status that a government issues to people, distinguishable from other legal statuses by the benefits and regulations assigned to that legal status by the government’s laws.

    The law ought to recognize same-sex unions as instances of marriage for the equal protection reasons I’ve already discussed.

  8. That is, there must be some set of essential truths about marriage that are as true of certain same-sex relationships as they are of certain opposite-sex relationships. Only if same-sex relationships can fulfill that set of essential truths do we have a moral responsibility to recognize them as such in law. If there is something essentially true of marriage, which same-sex relationships never can fulfill, then there is no moral obligation or responsibility for the law to recognize same-sex relationships as marriage.

    It seems to me that the impetus is on the person putting forward the idea that there are essential truths about heterosexual marriage to explain what those truths are first, before we can see whether they apply to homosexual marriage.

    It is possible that this was done somewhere else? Can anyone point me to where Mr. Gilson has done it on his blog elsewhere? (Serious question)

    Thank you.

  9. To amplify my earlier post: Any state that redefines marriage to embrace SSM, does have the power to do so and other states would, in my opinion, be required under the federal Constitution to recognize SSMs lawfully entered into in another state. Civil/domestic unions are different from marriage and I believe every state would be required by the federal Constitution to recognize a civil union/partnership lawfully entered into in another state, as I intended to indicate. Obviously, I believe civil union/domestic partnerships are a different matter from SSM and its also my view that although a state that redefines marriage to embrace SSM is being unwise, a state does possess that power.

  10. As a follow up: I think the idea of “common law marriage” pretty much sums of the essence of marriage:

    1) Do both parties consider themselves married?
    2) Do they hold themselves out as married? (For example, does the community believe them to be married?)
    3) Are both parties free to get married? (For example, not father and daughter).

    If so, then they are married.

  11. I’m on the road where a complete answer is hard to write, but what I’ve seen here so far fails to answer the question I asked. The question was bout directed toward sectarian definitions in any way, for example. The answer given in terms of civil marriage begs the question of why there’s some moral imperative for the law to provide for such a thing. Philmonomer said he thought the onus was on SAM opponents to explain why SSM isn’t marriage, but all that does is ignore the reasoning I gave for asking the question I asked, and it also assumes SSM to be the default correct answer, which is a strange position to try to get away with in a debate. The common law marriage answer is nothing short of bizarre; it assumes that the reason we should accept SSM as marriage is because we accept something completely different as marriage. SF thinks the reason we should give SSM legal status is so wet can give it legal status (equal protection).

    I want to know what’s essentially true off the class of relationship called marriage that makes it true that certain same-sex unions are members of that class, and should, with force of moral imperative (not just certain persons’ opinions or preferences) be recognized as such on the law.

    I haven’t seen a well-thought-through answer to that here yet.

  12. Remember how I ended this post. This not a question about SSM. It’s about marriage. We cannot properly know if any relationship should be included in the class, marriage, unless we know how that class is defined and delimited.

    Merely to say it’s wrong to exclude same sex relationships is not to explain why we should include it. To assume we should include it without answering that question is to beg every question and to pronounce one view the victor without argument or explanation.

  13. The common law marriage answer is nothing short of bizarre; it assumes that the reason we should accept SSM as marriage is because we accept something completely different as marriage.

    Something completely different? It seems like the same thing to me.

  14. Tom:
    “The answer given in terms of civil marriage begs the question of why there’s some moral imperative for the law to provide for such a thing. ”

    There is no moral imperative. In fact, the state technically doesn’t have to issue marriage licenses at all. There is, however, a legal imperative. That legal imperative, however, isn’t “issue same-sex marriage licenses” or even “issue marriage licenses”. Rather, it’s “if you issue marriage licenses to opposite-sex couples, then also issue them to same-sex couples”. Or, put another way, “in your issuance of marriage licenses, don’t discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation”.

  15. Philmonomer at 13. You think the two are the same, but you can’t show that they are. Our at least you haven’t tried.

    The legal imperative you describe in your next comment simply begs the very questions that I’m asking. There’s no legal imperative to treat SSM as part of the class, marriage, unless it can be shown to be a member of that class. Which takes us back again to the original post.

  16. Rather, it’s “if you issue marriage licenses to opposite-sex couples, then also issue them to same-sex couples”.

    What is the legal imperative that makes this true? There is no legal imperative that says because drivers licenses are issued to 18 year olds that they must also be given to 13 year olds – even the ones that can pass the test and drive really well. There is a sense in which this form of age discrimination is acceptable. Why is that?

  17. SteveK:
    As has been shown in court (see my comments on the previous post regarding DeBoer v. Snyder and rational basis review), laws that restrict marriage to opposite-sex couples aren’t rationally related to any government interest. Laws that restrict drivers licenses based on age are – the interest of public safety.

  18. SF-

    Are same sex couples opposite sex couples? Ok, that question probably sounds a bit clunky. So said another way is there anything essentially different between opposite sex and same sex couples?

  19. Remember how I ended this post. This not a question about SSM. It’s about marriage. We cannot properly know if any relationship should be included in the class, marriage, unless we know how that class is defined and delimited.

    But opinions on how marriage is to be defined and delimited — in other words, opinions on the essential nature of marriage — differ, often substantially, both within and between various doxastic communities and philosophical points of view.

    Rightly or wrongly, we didn’t wait for those ancient metaphysical arguments to be resolved before we legislated the rights and obligations that are available under civil marriage. Instead we took an extremely broad, non-sectarian view of what relationships ought to be regulated under law. Given that we did so, we can’t really ask the LGBTQ community to hold fire on their demands until we definitively answer a question the sages have been arguing about since well before the invention of Christianity.

  20. DR84:
    “So said another way is there anything essentially different between opposite sex and same sex couples?”

    Opposite-sex couples consist of a man and a woman. Same-sex couples consist of a man and a man or a woman and a woman.

  21. SF,

    There is no moral imperative. In fact, the state technically doesn’t have to issue marriage licenses at all. There is, however, a legal imperative. That legal imperative, however, isn’t “issue same-sex marriage licenses” or even “issue marriage licenses”. Rather, it’s “if you issue marriage licenses to opposite-sex couples, then also issue them to same-sex couples”. Or, put another way, “in your issuance of marriage licenses, don’t discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation”.

    Not true. Man-made laws are essentially arbitrary and have been used many times throughout history to justify evil. Good laws are based on true moral imperatives. However, true moral imperatives do not originate with man. Your reasoning fails on the merits.

  22. If there’s no moral imperative, what kind PhD imperative id’s there that says we must change our laws to recognize SSM? And why do people keep implying or even telling us we’re doing something morally wrong if we disagree?

  23. SF,
    I asked for the legal imperative to include SS couples in the law and you answered by saying that there is no imperative for OS couples to be included in the law. Hmm, we still don’t know why SS couples should be included in the law. I think that is one of Tom’s questions.

    You say the State has no legitimate, rational interest when it comes to OS couples. How does adding SS couples now make it something the State has a legitimate, rational interest in? It seems you comfortable taking a unjustified, unconstitutional law and modifying it to a new-and-improved unjustified, unconstitutional law. Am I right?

  24. AdamHazzard, right or wrong matters, because you keep telling us we’re wrong! If you have no basis for saying so, would you quit it, please?

    There’s something very weird about your position, anyway. You’re telling us that because we don’t definitively know what’s true about marriage,w should include SSM under the marriage classification. By implication, we should stigmatize everyone who disagrees with they view, since they’re wrong. Because we can’t wait to find out who’s right it wrong.

    Weird.

  25. Tom, at this point I feel like all I can do is point you once again to the equal protection argument. Not sure what else to say.

  26. SteveK:
    “I asked for the legal imperative to include SS couples in the law and you answered by saying that there is no imperative for OS couples to be included in the law.”

    No, you’ve misread me. I said that there’s no imperative for the state to issue *any* marriage licenses at all, in general. The legal imperative is to not discriminate when the state decides to issue marriage licenses.

    “You say the State has no legitimate, rational interest when it comes to OS couples. How does adding SS couples now make it something the State has a legitimate, rational interest in?”

    No, I said that the state has no rational basis for including opposite-sex couples while at the same time excluding same-sex couples.

  27. You’re telling us that because we don’t definitively know what’s true about marriage,w should include SSM under the marriage classification. By implication, we should stigmatize everyone who disagrees with they view, since they’re wrong. Because we can’t wait to find out who’s right it wrong.

    You’re grossly misstating my position. If I had to put it in the terms you’re using here, it would be more like: “Because we can’t definitively resolve sectarian or metaphysical disputes about the definition and limits of marriage, we should be open to including same-sex couples in our legal system of civil marriage on grounds of fairness, equity, and consistency.”

  28. If that’s all you can say, SF, then you have effectively conceded, because I have shown that the equal protection argument only applies if you can successfully explain what is true of marriage that makes it true that certain same sex unions can be considered members of the class, marriage, and should be recognized as such in the law.

    If you can’t show that these same sex unions are members of the class, marriage, then you can’t show why the law must recognize them as such. Nor can you claim that they must be treated equally under the law, because if they are not instances of the same thing, they need not be treated as instances of the same thing.

  29. This seems to be the jist of the equal protection argument that SF is putting forward.

    There’s no rational basis for the old marriage law – SCOTUS determined that the law isn’t related to any government interest – but in order to be fair to SS couples let’s keep the law on the books and include them for no rational reason while we continue to exclude other groups.

    I should add that if SCOTUS decides the upcoming case this way that this is also the jist of their thinking.

  30. AdamHazzard,

    Rightly or wrongly, we didn’t wait for those ancient metaphysical arguments to be resolved before we legislated the rights and obligations that are available under civil marriage. Instead we took an extremely broad, non-sectarian view of what relationships ought to be regulated under law. Given that we did so, we can’t really ask the LGBTQ community to hold fire on their demands…

    Why not? There is no reason we need to rush the debate. But honestly you’re being disingenuous here, because you really want to railroad this through because of your anti-Christian prejudice. It’s rather hypocritical to argue against prejudice while being prejudiced—Isn’t it?

    Christians like me are not going to change our minds for no reasons at all. Tom asked you to give reasons why we should consider SSM the same or equal to traditional marriage. If you can’t give us reasons you are wasting our time, which is neither polite nor respectful.

  31. If you can’t show that these same sex unions are members of the class, marriage, then you can’t show why the law must recognize them as such. Nor can you claim that they must be treated equally under the law, because if they are not instances of the same thing, they need not be treated as instances of the same thing.

    And this is just one of the reasons that the equal protection decisions are wrong. There is also good reason to believe that laws that limited marriage to traditional marriage met any and all of the equal protection analysis either to “serve a compelling government interest”, “serve an important government interest in a way that is substantially related to that interest” or were “rationally related to a government interest”. So you can say the courts disagree and you’re right. However, when the courts start eliminating rights you value for these kind of reasons, you’ll have little ground to stand on.

  32. JAD:

    But honestly you’re being disingenuous here, because you really want to railroad this through because of your anti-Christian prejudice.

    JAD, the largest Protestant denomination in the country where I live — the United Church of Canada — performs same-sex weddings. Go tell them about their anti-Christian prejudice.

  33. SF,

    It kind of sounds like you’re advocating theocracy. Is that the case?

    Not at all. Now answer my question. What qualifies you to pronounce something as a moral imperative that applies to all mankind? Is any human being qualified to make such a pronouncement?

  34. Tom,

    If you can’t show that these same sex unions are members of the class, marriage, then you can’t show why the law must recognize them as such. Nor can you claim that they must be treated equally under the law, because if they are not instances of the same thing, they need not be treated as instances of the same thing.

    Do you know if SCOTUS has addressed this issue specifically?

  35. AdamHazzard,

    JAD, the largest Protestant denomination in the country where I live — the United Church of Canada — performs same-sex weddings. Go tell them about their anti-Christian prejudice.

    I was talking about you not them. And, what exactly are you trying to prove with that point?

    Heretics would be a better description for the UCC. They don’t speak for all Christians. Why are you messing with U. S. politics?

  36. JAD:

    Heretics would be a better description for the UCC. They don’t speak for all Christians.

    Nor do you, though you apparently feel qualified to pronounce on what constitutes a Christian heresy.

    Why are you messing with U. S. politics?

    (A) I’m not; I’m commenting on an apologetic blog, and (B) I’m a dual citizen, as it happens.

    And, what exactly are you trying to prove with that point?

    That supporting same-sex marriage is hardly a marker for what you called “anti-Christian prejudice,” given that I live in the midst of Christians who support same-sex marriage.

  37. SteveK:
    “This seems to be the jist of the equal protection argument that SF is putting forward.

    There’s no rational basis for the old marriage law – SCOTUS determined that the law isn’t related to any government interest – but in order to be fair to SS couples let’s keep the law on the books and include them for no rational reason while we continue to exclude other groups.”

    That’s not exactly what’s happening. The courts aren’t saying “let’s keep the old law on the books”. They’re actually striking down the parts of the old law. For example, the legislation known as the “Michigan Marriage Amendment” reads as follows:

    To secure and preserve the benefits of marriage for our society and for future generations of children, the union of one man and one woman in marriage shall be the only agreement recognized as a marriage or similar union for any purpose.

    The end of the decision in DeBoer v. Snyder (the actual ruling part of the decision) reads as follows:

    IT IS HEREBY DECLARED that Article I, § 25 of the Michigan Constitution and its implementing statutes are unconstitutional because they violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

    IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the State of Michigan is enjoined from enforcing Article I, § 25 of the Michigan Constitution and its implementing statutes.

    When courts strike down laws (in general), they’re not actually removed from the lawbooks. Instead, those responsible for enforcing them are prevented from doing so. (as an interesting side note, this has led to some really whacky laws technically still being “on the books”).

    ———–
    BillT:
    “There is also good reason to believe that laws that limited marriage to traditional marriage met any and all of the equal protection analysis either to “serve a compelling government interest”, “serve an important government interest in a way that is substantially related to that interest” or were “rationally related to a government interest”.”

    What reason would that be?

    ————
    JAD:
    “What qualifies you to pronounce something as a moral imperative that applies to all mankind?”

    I don’t agree that I’m pronouncing something as a moral imperative. Nor do I agree that it applies to all mankind – some countries don’t offer civil marriage at all.

  38. SF-

    You believe that it is a violation of equal protection laws if opposite sex relationships are recognized as marriages and same sex are not. Clearly this can only be the case if same sex relationships are opposite sex relationships. Again, there are no essential differences. Which per your answer to my previous question even you do not believe the case.

    Seems to me your argument has been amply shown to be incoherent and thus refuted. Which raises the question why you persist with it. I would like to think you could explore alternative arguments rather than continue beating a dead horse.

  39. DR84:
    You’re misunderstanding how equal protection works. It doesn’t just protect all groups that are identical in every way. As I’ve said before, it’s the protection that needs to be equal, not the groups being protected.

  40. SF, you’re claiming equal protection without showing how same sex unions are members of the class, marriage. If they’re not members of that class, then there’s no rational or moral basis for placing them under the same protection that class receives.

    Can’t you see that?

  41. Tom:
    “Why is it that no one is answering the question I asked in this post?”

    I answered your question in comment #8. You may not agree with my answer, but until you acknowledge that I have indeed provided you with one, we cannot continue.

  42. #8

    Marriage is a contractual legal status that a government issues to people, distinguishable from other legal statuses by the benefits and regulations assigned to that legal status by the government’s laws.

    Translation: Marriage is a contract that is issued to people that are identified by the benefits and regulations that the law assigns to those people.

    This is circular.

  43. SF #39,

    The courts aren’t saying “let’s keep the old law on the books”. They’re actually striking down the parts of the old law.

    How then did SS couples get included in legal marriage? That’s the part I don’t understand. Were SS couples in Michigan considered marriages prior to the “Michigan Marriage Amendment”. If the answer is no, then someone created a new law if indeed SS couples are legal marriages after the court struck down the amendment.

  44. I acknowledge that you have attempted an answer, which has been shown not to be an answer after all, because it begs the question. It assumes that SSM exists because the law has made it so. It does not explain what made it true that the law ought to have made it so.

    Your “equal protection” position has been answered often enough.

    So still I ask, in somewhat chastised wording, Other than several attempts that have all been shown to be guilty of question-begging, why is no one answering the question I asked in the OP?

    I could have also asked, Why are so many people trying to bring up other questions? Why are you so eager to change the subject?

  45. SF,

    I don’t agree that I’m pronouncing something as a moral imperative. Nor do I agree that it applies to all mankind – some countries don’t offer civil marriage at all.

    When you turn your interpretation of equal protection into something akin to a moral absolute in essence you’re are doing the same thing… But of course this way off topic. I am here to talk about the topic. You don’t have a chance to convince any of us Christians here unless you address the questions in the OP.

  46. SF,

    All it takes is a judge to say they are. Just like all it took was a judge to say they weren’t. There was nothing wrong with the arguments and the decisions had every bit as much to do with the political climate as the legal arguments. You’re being naive if you think this was all about the law.

    But you won so you can claim what you want. Like I said though, I hope you’re as happy when these kind of decisions don’t go your way.

  47. SteveK:
    “How then did SS couples get included in legal marriage?”

    The key here is the phrase “…and its implementing statutes.” This is going to affect anything that sets up “opposite-sex couples only” as a criterion for being issued a license. Once that’s no longer a criterion, there’s nothing legally stopping same-sex couples from obtaining licenses.

    To further illustrate this, imagine Michigan had enacted a law saying “only people with brown hair may get married”, and then that law was ruled unconstitutional. After that, there’s doesn’t need to be further legislation explicitly stating that redheads can now get married – they’re included by virtue of not being explicitly excluded. That’s actually how marriage laws work – everyone is included, except for those who are explicitly excluded.

    To even further illustrate this, Michigan comp laws section 551.51 set age of consent for marriage: “A marriage in this state shall not be contracted by a person who is under 16 years of age, and the marriage, if entered into, shall be void.”

    But notice the language here – it doesn’t include persons over 16, rather it excludes persons under 16.

  48. Not answering Tom’s question but extending it:

    Which elements of marriage are so essential that their lack makes it invalid, and which are key to the ideal but can be present in a degraded form without it ceasing to be a marriage?

    Examples:
    – is it possible to be married without a covenant or contract?
    – who needs to observe or recognise this contract?
    – is it possible to be married without sex?
    – is it possible to be married without procreating?
    – is it possible to be married while having sex with a third party?
    – is marriage dissolvable?

    – Does the absence of covenant indicate an impaired marriage, or invalidity?
    – Does the absence of sex indicate an impaired marriage, or invalidity?
    – Does the absence of (eventual) procreation indicate an impaired marriage, or invalidity?
    – Does extra-marital sex indicate an impaired marriage, or invalidity?
    – Can a marriage be dissolved, or does it merely become impaired?
    – Is there a distinction in validity between a marriage that becomes impaired, and one which was impaired from the start?

    Finally, which of the “essential elements” of marriage are of interest to the state, which are of interest socially, and which are merely cultural? Some examples that spring immediately to mind:
    – authority and responsibility for children
    – authority and responsibility for joint (financial) decisions
    – inheritance

    These are not small questions. For example, if being married entails custody of children and assets that are not solely for the benefit of the couple, who decides what happens if the couple cannot agree? Does one member have a casting vote, or does an external party (who?) step in and enforce a decision? What rights does that party have to step in even if the couple is in agreement?

  49. The question is what is marriage?
    As a Christian I believe that God created marriage to be a reflection of Christ’s relationship with the church and that this was to be represented as a relationship between one man and one woman, a husband and wife.

    Outside of a Judeo/Christian world-view it appears that a marriage has still been defined as a man and a woman. It strikes me that the producing and raising of children has been a primary influence in recognising this relationship.

    SSM obviously falls outside of these. If marriage is one man and one woman then SSM can not be a marriage in that sense.

    However in regards to a modern secular country the question is are the above two considerations relevant?

    Almost all non-Christians (and even some Christians?) don’t see/think of their marriage as being a reflection of Christ’s relationship with the church.

    Also most people are not of the view that a marriage is only a marriage if it produces children. Such a definition would be unfair to those who can’t conceive.

    So while as a Christian I disagree with SSM, from the point of view of a non-Christian I don’t think marriage can be defined in such a way as to exclude SSM.

  50. SF #50,
    So you’re saying Michigan law already included SS couples as legal marriages and that the amendment was attempting to thwart that. Would Michigan lawmakers who originated the law agree with that?

  51. Can you define it in a way that explains why SSM should be recognized as an instance of the class, marriage? Merely being unable to think of a reason it shouldn’t be recognized as such is insufficient to explain the level of social and moral furor directed toward us who disagree.

  52. SF #50

    ” After that, there’s doesn’t need to be further legislation explicitly stating that redheads can now get married – they’re included by virtue of not being explicitly excluded. That’s actually how marriage laws work – everyone is included, except for those who are explicitly excluded.”

    Are there any relationships specifically excluded in the Michigan law now? If not, I believe I would be correct in saying I could go to Michigan with 20 of my closest friends and family and have a nice group “marriage”. If the clerk refuses to issue the license, they would be quite literally in violation of the law. Absurd if so.

    Also, I do not intend for any of my questions to distract you or anyone else from answering the main question or conceding that there is no answer in your view.

  53. SF-

    “You’re misunderstanding how equal protection works. It doesn’t just protect all groups that are identical in every way. As I’ve said before, it’s the protection that needs to be equal, not the groups being protected.”

    I sincerely suggest it is you who misunderstands how equal protection works.

    I pointed out that your reasoning is incoherent, you recognize that same sex couples and opposite sex couples are essentially different, yet still insist that if marriage recognizes one of these relationships it must also recognize the other. In other words, you still insist they are the same kind of thing, essentially the same. Yet you also recognize they are not.

    In other conversations you have mentioned that opposite sex couples and same sex couples are similarly situated. I pointed out that this was a meaningless standard as in some respect any relationship could be seen as similarly situated.

    There is another concept being floated around, one I believe that has even mentioned by a Supreme Court judge as a hint on how the next marriage case will be decided. That is the concept of equal dignity. Which I believe the argument is basically that although same sex and opposite sex couples are essentially different, the purpose of marriage is in part to confer dignity on the couple, and same sex couples are morally and socially equal to opposite sex couples; therefore, they are equally deserving of the dignity conferred by marriage.

    I am actually surprised that neither you nor anyone else that shares your view has presented this argument in some form yet. Perhaps you are not aware of it, or perhaps you do not find it a strong enough argument to even defend. Which; if so, I dont blame you. I find it very lacking.

    My only interest here is to keep the ball rolling. I find this an interesting conversation and hope to see it continue. At the moment I believe this argument or some variant of it may be your best foot forward to attempt an answer to the opening question. Granted, I dont believe that you can succeed with it, but maybe you will surprise me and everyone else. Not to mention, as I noted, this argument has already been hinted at by a Supreme Court judge. If I were betting, I would bet on something akin to it being the argument used to justify claiming same sex “marriage” is a constitutional right.

  54. DR84,
    Here in CA they did it the legal way. They changed the law in order for SS couples to be recognized as legal marriages. It wasn’t enough to have the court reject some other law or amendment.

    I think SF assumes that Michigan law didn’t exclude SS couples so they were always included as part of the law, however, the excerpt below seems to disagree with that.

    MARRIAGE LICENSE (EXCERPT)
    Act 128 of 1887

    551.101 Marriage license; requirements; place to obtain, delivery to person officiating.
    Sec. 1.

    It shall be necessary for all parties intending to be married to obtain a marriage license from the county clerk of the county in which either the man or woman resides, and to deliver the said license to the clergyman or magistrate who is to officiate, before the marriage can be performed. If both parties to be married are non-residents of the state it shall be necessary to obtain such license from the county clerk of the county in which the marriage is to be performed.

  55. SteveK:
    “So you’re saying Michigan law already included SS couples as legal marriages and that the amendment was attempting to thwart that. ”

    Not exactly. In Michigan, the “opposite-sex” language was originally added in at the statutory level in 1996. The MMA added it into the state constitution. Prior to 1996, same-sex marriage technically was included (by virtue of not being excluded, as I mentioned earlier). However, I’m pretty sure that no same-sex couples had attempted to marry before then; or if they had, they were turned away contrary to the law and just didn’t do anything about it. Although to be fair, I might have my legal history wrong here; there may have been some other statue with said language prior to 1996. If there was, I’m not aware of it.

    But anyway, the point is that everyone who is not specifically excluded is by default allowed to marry.

    ————-
    DR84:
    “Are there any relationships specifically excluded in the Michigan law now?”

    Yes. See for example Michigan comp laws 551.51 I cited in comment #50. See also 551.5: “No marriage shall be contracted whilst either of the parties has a former wife or husband living, unless the marriage with such former wife or husband, shall have been dissolved.”

    Furthermore, “group” marriages in which there are more than two parties to the marriage at the same time (as opposed to multiple two-party marriages) generally aren’t going to be mentioned in marriage law specifically; however, there are more general laws dealing with who can enter into what kind of contracts that will restrict that.

  56. Here’s an answer to your question, Tom: There is nothing “essentially true” about marriage. Marriage is what we agree it is (or what most of us agree it is.)

    There is no “essential truth” about anything.

  57. Thank you, os. Of course I disagree, but I can see how a person might come to your conclusion.

    Based on that, then, there is no reason to consider it necessarily true that SSM should be legally recognized as marriage. Right?

  58. There is no reason to consider it necessarily “true,” no. However, there is ample reason, as other commenters have shown, that it is legally necessary.

  59. DR84:
    “you recognize that same sex couples and opposite sex couples are essentially different”

    Yes.

    ” yet still insist that if marriage recognizes one of these relationships it must also recognize the other”

    Yes.

    ” In other words, you still insist they are the same kind of thing, essentially the same.”

    No.

    Consider this: same-race couples and mixed-race couples are essentially different, in that there is something that can be said to be true of all the members of set A, and that thing is not true of all members of set B.

    It’s true of all same-race couples that the individuals in those couples match each other’s races. It’s true of all mixed-race couples that the individuals do not match each other’s races. Thus, there’s at least one way in which same-race and mixed-race couples are essentially different.

    Now, obviously it’s the case that if we recognize same-race marriages, then we also must recognize mixed-race marriages – despite the existence of an essential difference. To say that we must recognize both is not to say that they are identical in every respect – just that they are identical in the respects that matter.

    “I am actually surprised that neither you nor anyone else that shares your view has presented this argument in some form yet. Perhaps you are not aware of it, or perhaps you do not find it a strong enough argument to even defend. ”

    Personally, I find the equal dignity argument to be somewhat convincing, but not nearly as much as the equal protection argument, which is one of the reasons why I’m not making it here. The other is that the jurisprudence on what exactly “dignity” means, in legal terms, is just really messy; and a discussion about that would require many thousands more words than I’m willing to commit.

  60. SteveK:
    “Here in CA they did it the legal way. They changed the law in order for SS couples to be recognized as legal marriages. It wasn’t enough to have the court reject some other law or amendment.”

    That’s just what I like to call a “cleanup bill”, because it “cleans up” the language in the law after the court’s decision is made. It’s not as if same-sex marriage still wasn’t allowed after the court’s decision until that bill was passed.

    Consider the Loving v. Virginia decision, which was issued on June 12, 1967. Do you think that mixed-race couples still couldn’t legally marry on June 13, 1967? Did Virginia state legislatures need to pass a law before Mildred Loving could marry Richard Loving?

  61. If marriage is not necessarily anything at all, then it’s not necessary that SSM is marriage; and if it’s not necessarily the case that SSM is marriage, then how can it be necessary to grant it equal protection with marriage under law?

    It just doesn’t follow.

  62. What makes it necessary to consider same sex unions to be marriage is our prior agreements: our agreement that there is a legal contract that we call marriage, and our agreement that we should apply the standard of equal protection.

  63. OS, this is nuts.

    Because there is a legal standard we call marriage, you say, then therefore we should apply the standard of equal protection.

    That’s a great description for why we should apply equal protection under law to marriage, and I agree with it completely. It fits my views 100%, given the legal standard we called marriage for centuries.

    Where then does SSM come in?

    I suppose you might say that it comes in where some jurisdiction calls it legal. But the question I asked was, what is there about marriage that makes it true that legal jurisdictions ought to do that?

    You haven’t addressed that.

    And if your answer for why the law should treat it legally as marriage is because the law treats it legally as marriage, that doesn’t get you very far, does it?

    If it’s not marriage, then there is no equal protection requirement. If it’s marriage, then there is.

    So you have to answer these kinds of questions: Is there something inherently true about marriage that makes SSM an instance of marriage? You say no. Then what else is it that should make SSM an instance of marriage, in the eyes of the law?

  64. Tom, here’s is your original question:
    “what is it that’s essentially true about marriage that makes it true that same-sex unions can be included as instances of marriage, and that the law ought to recognize them as such?”

    Bold mine. Now let’s look again at my comment #8:

    “Marriage is a contractual legal status that a government issues to people, distinguishable from other legal statuses by the benefits and regulations assigned to that legal status by the government’s laws.”

    When I talk about marriage, this is the thing I’m talking about. This thing is a thing that exists; it is a thing that the government does, and it is a thing distinct from any other thing that you might refer to as “marriage”.

    Can the government include same-sex couples in this contractual legal status? Are they able to do such a thing?

    Clearly, obviously, the government can indeed do such a thing. Because they have done so.

    You can dispute whether they should do this, and that’s where the equal protection argument (which, btw, has not been successfully rebutted) comes in. But you cannot dispute whether they’re able to do it.

    I’m sorry, but after everything I’ve said, if you still cannot agree that same-sex marriages are events that can actually happen and have actually happened, then I just don’t have anything else to say to you on the subject.

  65. Tom, you are trying to dispute my argument using your definition. That’s not going to work.

    As a society we have agreed to recognize a contract we call marriage.

    As a society we have agreed that equal protection applies to our laws.

    Therefore, we can’t exclude certain groups from participating in the contract called marriage that we have agreed to recognize.

    That’s it. There’s no need for any pre-existing definition of marriage at all.

  66. SF, Why didn’t you bold the rest of my question? Why did you ignore it? Why don’t you realize that it’s important?

    The whole country is not in an uproar over whether the government in some places has created SSM. The uproar is over the part you ignored: whether the government should create SSM.

    Where SSM has been created, then those marriages (considered such by the law) must be granted equal protection under the law. Fine.

    But you’ve been saying that equal protection is the reason those unions should be treated as marriages. Don’t you see how circular that is?

    1. The reason they should be recognized as marriages is so they can be granted equal protection under the law.
    2. The reason they should be granted equal protection under the law is because they have been recognized as marriages.

    SF, this is as effective a logical rebuttal as one could ever face. If you don’t have some other support for your position, it falls flat on its circular face.

    I’m sorry, but after everything I’ve said, if you still cannot agree that same-sex marriages are events that can actually happen and have actually happened, then I just don’t have anything else to say to you on the subject.

    I have never disagreed that they can happen in the eyes of the law, which is your point here.

    Oh, and by the way, the fact that a bully can do something is no reason to think it’s good that he does. The fact that a corporation can do something is no reason to think it good that it does. The fact that a government can do something is no reason to think it good that it does.

    Is there some non-circular reason to think it good that the government has done this?

  67. There are LOTS of non-circular reasons to think it’s good that the government has done this, but you don’t agree with any of them.

  68. os, this is really, really shallow on your part.

    First, the contract view of marriage is not something that’s been agreed upon by society. Quite the opposite: there is no such contract as marriage. I did not sign a contract with my wife. Few couples do, and if they do, it’s ancillary to the marriage (a pre-nuptial agreement, typically), not the marriage agreement itself. If your position is based on a contractual view of marriage, then it’s obviously wrong.

    Second, we can exclude certain groups from certain privileges under law. I do not have the legal right to perform surgery on you. I do not have the legal right to control you as my child, ward, or adoptee.

    Third, if you’re going to call SSM a version or subset of marriage, you need to have some idea what it’s a subset of, or else you’re being completely arbitrary.

    Fourth, our society has never agreed to recognize a relationship called same-sex marriage.

  69. OS, I haven’t heard any non-circular reasons from you. If you have one, then by all means bring it forth. If there’s some reason to think my analysis of your last one is wrong, by all means tell us that reason.

    Or you could fall under the strength of my direct, and obviously more powerful, rebuttal to yours just now: There are LOTS and LOTS and LOTS of reasons not to think it’s good the government has done this, but you don’t agree with any of them. (There! Take that!)

  70. Tom, you continue to insist that there is this pre-existing thing that is marriage, and I’ve already told you that I don’t agree that there is. So, I don’t see any point in continuing to engage with you. I’m still interested in what others have to say, though.

  71. Obviously I didn’t intend that last paragraph to be taken seriously. I hope you didn’t intend your comment 74 to be taken seriously either. My invitation in the first paragraph of #76 is a serious one, however.

  72. OS, you don’t have to engage with me in insisting that there is some essential thing that marriage is. For purposes of this post, I’m not insisting on it at all. I’m merely asking what it is that makes it true that SSM is and should be regarded as an instance of marriage. I can’t find any morally compelling reason to think so, unless SSM fulfills some essential definition of marriage. No one here has come up with any way to avoid that requirement. Several attempts have been made, but they’ve all been either circular or else completely lacking in any moral force (any compelling answer to the “should” part of the question).

    Still, I’m not forcing anyone to agree with me that marriage has some essential nature. I’m just asking what it is that’s true of marriage that makes it true that SSM is and should be treated as an instance of marriage. You can read the question as if I’d written it that way, I don’t mind. That is, if you can find a way to answer it with “essentially” removed, then you’ve met my challenge, and I’ll acknowledge it, assimilate it as such, and decide what to do next with that new knowledge and perspective.

    The invitation remains open for you. Ignore “essential,” and answer the question in some logically valid way without concerning yourself over that condition. I’ll be very interested to find out whether it can be done.

  73. SF #58

    But anyway, the point is that everyone who is not specifically excluded is by default allowed to marry.

    It’s interesting to note that the decision in DeBoer v. Snyder said that the government has no legitimate interest in licensing some of the people in that group. You have to think that the same sentiment applies to everyone in that group – yet here we are. Somebody tell the government.

  74. Quite the opposite: there is no such contract as marriage. I did not sign a contract with my wife. Few couples do

    Are you sure about that, Tom? I grant that you likely didn’t sign a contract, but in a “traditional” wedding the husband and wife exchange vows, and the celebrant declares that they have been witnessed by the assembly. That’s pretty much a contract, even if it’s not written.

  75. I could be wrong about all that. Still, I really don’t think most couples consider their marriage a contractual relationship. It’s certainly not so widely agreed that it could form a solid basis for the argument that’s been built on it here.

  76. Further, it’s plainly true that the law doesn’t treat marriage as a contractual relationship. Look for example at how breaches are handled, and how marriages are ended under law, versus how contracts are nullified or otherwise terminated under law.

  77. OS,

    Here’s an answer to your question, Tom: There is nothing “essentially true” about marriage. Marriage is what we agree it is (or what most of us agree it is.)

    There is no “essential truth” about anything.

    It is self-refuting to say there is”no ‘essential truth’ about anything.” Didn’t you notice that you’re making an essential truth claim about truth?

    Furthermore it cuts the legs out from under every argument you have been making. Why would I even consider an argument that’s not true?

    The government does not create rights. It did not create SSM. SSM was created whole cloth by the secular progressive left and gay activists. Their agenda is not equal rights or equal protection under law but cultural domination and the elimination of religion (specifically in our culture Christianity). Their agenda is one of rank hypocrisy. Secular progressives and gay activists have no problem discriminating against people of faith. What about our equal rights?

  78. Do you know the legal definition of a contract? What’s the consideration?

    Further, it’s plainly true that the law doesn’t treat marriage as a contractual relationship. Look for example at how breaches are handled, and how marriages are ended under law, versus how contracts are nullified or otherwise terminated under law.

    As you have pointed out earlier, what the law does and what the law ought to do are not necessarily aligned.

    That said, there is ample historical evidence of treating marriage as a form of contract, including covenants, bride prices, and various other formal or implied expectations on behalf of the couple, parents or community. Is it even possible to have a marriage without some form of binding agreement between the spouses?

    Is there, after all, no difference between creating a contractual relationship and creating a familial relationship?

    Is there, after all, no difference between creating an employment contract and building a successful working relationship? Analogous question. That an attribute is necessary doesn’t imply that it is sufficient, or even primary. However, the absence of an otherwise unremarkable attribute may invalidate something.

    For example, what is the fundamental difference between a monogamously cohabiting couple with kids and a married couple with kids? Is the former a marriage? Is it necessary for the state to confirm a their arrangement to make it a marriage?

  79. Here’s a minimal set of properties that seem to me to have historically been true of marriages:
    – one man to one woman
    – oriented towards permanency
    – expectation of exclusivity on behalf of the woman
    – oriented towards procreation of children
    – associated with inheritance and property law

    Note that this list is minimal. There seem to be very few cultures who would accept less than this list as constituting a marriage. Many added additional requirements, but deciding whether those are necessary moves us from “is” to “ought”.

  80. Andrew-

    “For example, what is the fundamental difference between a monogamously cohabiting couple with kids and a married couple with kids? Is the former a marriage? Is it necessary for the state to confirm a their arrangement to make it a marriage?”

    I believe the distinction between cohabiting couple and married couple is intent. The married couple has openly expressed their intent to remain together in a monogamous relationship. The cohabiting couple has not. The married couple has placed on themselves obligations and duties expressed in vows that the cohabiting couple has not. These obligations and duties are not merely contractual.

    No, a marital relationship is a marital relationship regardless of state confirmation. The state does not create marriages, it recognizes them.

    Which I believe brings us back to the OP question (What is true of marriage that makes SSM relationships instances of marriage?).

  81. SF-

    “When I talk about marriage, this is the thing I’m talking about. This thing is a thing that exists; it is a thing that the government does, and it is a thing distinct from any other thing that you might refer to as “marriage”.”

    Do you believe it was possible for a man to “marry” a man prior to the legal recognition of SS”M”? As in, the men would be truly “married” but their “marriage” would just not be legally recognized.

  82. Ahh the same old arguments going on this blog after all these years…

    I’d like to see Tom et al. engage more about the points AdamHazzard raised, and respond to them more seriously and in depth. The more low hanging fruit is tempting, I know.

    So far, the direct responses basically boil down to: “Your position is weird” (Tom, #28) and “You’re prejudiced” (JAD, #35). Maybe there’s more history there than I am aware of, I don’t know (I don’t intend to read through old comment threads to find out).

    Did he technically, directly answer the questions in the OP?

    No, but perhaps because…

    Why concede to Tom’s carefully crafted framing of the issue within his own sectarian, essentialist, and legal assumptions? It’s quite fair to doubt and question that what “is essentially true about marriage” (in the platonic plane, according to Tom), is directly relevant to its legal reality.

    Since we’re a country with a core value that government is meant to protect life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness – or otherwise get out of the way – our legal system typically (and thankfully) tends to cast wide nets that may accommodate many differing metaphysical beliefs. Our laws need to do more than narrowly serve Tom’s particular brand of metaphysics – or anyone’s else’s for that matter.

    So.. gay marriage is a contradiction in terms according to your worldview. Support it anyway.

    I doubt we’ll have to look very hard to find laws that you do support, yet either directly permit or enable institutions or acts that conflict with your metaphysical view. But.. there are other values at play in a society that respects life and liberty and all that stuff.

    But.. that being said, I’ll bite. I keep coming back to this one particular article every time I see a question like Tom’s raised in the OP. I can’t say it any better in my own words, it *directly* responds to the challenge of the OP, so I’ll take the easy way out and repost some of it here. It would be nice to see it *thoughtfully* confronted by those who fail to be convinced. And I’ve probably posted it here before, years ago – and most likely, been less than impressed with attempted rebuttals. So here it is again. Do over.

    (this is just an excerpt – click through for the full writing).

    ….

    Marriage is not, after all, merely about choosing a steady sexual partner. On the contrary, it is a reciprocal agreement with another individual (and often with God), to look after the total well-being of that person, sexual and otherwise, and of any children that might come into your mutual care.

    This total well-being encompasses all aspects of life, including the spiritual, social, economic, psychological, and physiological best interests of the partner. Ideally, it lasts from the time the marriage is solemnized until the death of one of the partners.

    It cheapens the covenant to say that marriage is just about sex, or just about rights, or just about children. Marriage is about all of this — and more. Marriage is a complete, all-encompassing, nurturing relationship. It’s about care for the whole person, so much so that no one else in all the world is quite as important.

    ….

    I also suspect that many find the arguments tying marriage to children persuasive because we so much want our own children to have a nurturing bond as a foundation for their own growth, one that will serve as both a safeguard and an example for later years. Indeed, most of us wouldn’t have it any other way.

    But the great benefits that children get from marriage do not exhaust or interfere with the great benefits that adults may also derive from it. Who really wants to grow old alone? It is perhaps the bleakest question in all the modern world. Marriage answers it with the promise that no matter how ill or how deformed we may become in old age, someone will stand beside us until the end. Next to this, the thrill of having a new sex partner is negligible.

    The nurturing model of marriage comports well not only with our common hopes for the institution, but also with Judeo-Christian ideas about love and charity. In the modern era, Judeo-Christian religions have seldom placed any great stigma on the infertile or associated greater virtue with greater offspring. The very best of the Christian message, at least as this infidel understands it, is that we are to love one another as we love ourselves. An all-encompassing, all-nurturing marriage is a mirror of the relationship between God and man, just as all true forms of love reflect their source, which is God.

    And as you might notice, none of the above really mentions same-sex marriage in particular, but it doesn’t need too. That is because it is simply describing a notion of *marriage*.

    Read and digest the whole thing here: http://ordinary-gentlemen.com/blog/2011/03/15/on-nurturing-as-the-purpose-of-marriage

  83. DR84:
    “Do you believe it was possible for a man to “marry” a man prior to the legal recognition of SS”M”? As in, the men would be truly “married” but their “marriage” would just not be legally recognized.”

    No.

    Also, enough with the square quotes already. You don’t see me going around talking about Oh hey, here’s the problem with this argument for “God”.

  84. JAD:
    “SSM was created whole cloth by the secular progressive left and gay activists. Their agenda is not equal rights or equal protection under law but cultural domination and the elimination of religion (specifically in our culture Christianity).”

    Would it surprise you to learn that I often defend religious folk from unfair critiques by atheists? Because I do. Would it also surprise you to learn that the Metropolitan Community Church, a Christian denomination, has probably done more to advance same-sex marriage than any other group? Because it has.

    You really need to take a step back and reconsider your assumptions about the intentions of people with whom you disagree.

  85. @SkepticismFirst:

    Consider this: same-race couples and mixed-race couples are essentially different, in that there is something that can be said to be true of all the members of set A, and that thing is not true of all members of set B.

    Sorry, but you do not have a clue of what “essentially” means.

  86. d,

    Thanks, but no.

    I have said considerably more than “weird.” I have provided reasons supporting that assessment.

    My original post was not sectarian. There’s nothing of the sort in it. I did ask for people to explain what is essentially true about marriage, but I also gave non-sectarian reasons to consider that important to the debate. To wit:

    In order for this definition to have moral force, it needs to be an essential definition, that is, it must get to the essence of what marriage is, or, it must explain what marriage essentially is. If SSM only speaks of contingent truths or opinions regarding the meaning of marriage, then SSM opponents can legitimately and rationally wave those things aside as mere opinion, or contingent truths, with no moral force behind them.

    I did not build my post on legal assumptions. I raised certain legal questions and explained them. I did not proceed on the basis of assumptions but on the basis of a position for which I made an argument.

    You say,

    It’s quite fair to doubt and question that what “is essentially true about marriage” (in the platonic plane, according to Tom), is directly relevant to its legal reality.

    I never said there was a Platonic plane there. That’s an odd conclusion for you to draw about what I wrote. I just said that if SSM is an instance of marriage, there must be something true about marriage that SSM conforms with, and I asked SSM advocates to explain what it is. As to its legal reality, it is what it is. My question was more along the lines of its moral force. If SSM conforms to what is true about marriage, then there is moral force to the demand for SSM. If SSM does not conform to what’s true about marriage, then SSM is a counterfeit form of marriage and should be rejected. And then further, if there is nothing true about marriage to which SSM either conforms or not, then it’s arbitrary and contingent, which has no force of moral persuasion to it.

    You can complain all you want about my narrow brand of metaphysics. In the meantime you’re assuming a certain metaphysical position yourself, if you think SSM carries moral force. See the previous paragraph.

    So.. gay marriage is a contradiction in terms according to your worldview. Support it anyway.

    Is there a gun pointing at my head when you issue that command?

    No. But it is a power statement, intended to induce me to do the opposite of what I believe. A world in which someone thinks that’s an acceptable thing to say to another person is very chilling.

    I doubt we’ll have to look very hard to find laws that you do support, yet either directly permit or enable institutions or acts that conflict with your metaphysical view.

    Go ahead and try.

    The article to which you link is an interesting one that I did not deal with adequately when it was first brought to my attention. I accept the truth of that. But I can’t help wondering why you’ve spent all this time complaining about the legitimacy of my request, calling it sectarian and Platonic, and then you’ve introduced an article whose purpose is to answer the exact question that I’ve asked.

  87. SF,

    Would it surprise you to learn that I often defend religious folk from unfair critiques by atheists? Because I do. Would it also surprise you to learn that the Metropolitan Community Church, a Christian denomination, has probably done more to advance same-sex marriage than any other group? Because it has.

    I’ve never heard of that denomination. What gives you the right to redefine marriage for all Christians? What gives the secular progressive left to redefine marriage for everyone else? You can’t disagree, unless you’re ignorant or blinded by your ideology, that marriage has been redefined by people who are predominantly hostile to religion.

  88. The MCC is a church that defines itself as being for LGBT people. That’s its unique and distinct identity. They are not hostile to religion, but their adherence to the Bible as a source is suspect, to say the least. I was unable to find any doctrinal statement on their website, but they do have this on their “about” page:

    MCC began in 1968 as a small home church to provide a Christian sanctuary for LGBT people. Today, we have grown in numbers and purpose, and we are now an international denomination committed to radical inclusivity in all areas. We are a movement that celebrates the diversity of the whole human family and all of creation.

    Our communion table is open to everyone. There are no requirements or limitations. God welcomes all with open arms, and so do we!

    Following the example of Jesus and empowered by the Spirit, we seek to be a transformational community that demands, proclaims, and does justice in the world. We are a Christian denomination who worship together in love, respecting the spiritual paths of each of our companions on the journey. Our paths converge in our commitment to justice so that all may thrive.

    “Justice in the world” is of course a very noble and proper goal, but justice divorced from the truths of Scripture is not biblical justice, it’s some other version of justice. There are many “Christian denominations” that do not draw their primary beliefs from the Bible. This is one of them.

    Regardless of the MCC, it remains true that marriage has been redefined by people who are predominantly hostile to biblically-oriented religion.

  89. Marriage is about two people becoming one, in every sense of the word, mind, body and spirit. Two people who love each other with all their heart and soul. Marriage is about love and commitment, not about the sex of the people entering into this holy union. Stop fanning the flames of hate and start cherishing the love, because this world needs as much of it as it can get, especially nowadays.

  90. MJM, what is it about marriage as you’ve described it here that explains why the government should license and regulate it? What is it that differentiates it from the love of a parent and a child, or two siblings? What principled reason do you have for limiting it to two people? What is it about asking questions like this that causes you to do the arguably hateful thing of accusing me of fanning flames of hate? I’m not a hater. Are you?

  91. Tom, your question is a wise one. Just like Prof. Loftus’ Outsiders Test of Faith, however, there is no way that anyone can correctly answer it without meeting a condition. In the OTF the condition was centered on the word “faith”. From the atheist side, faith means belief in fairy tales, therefore, no person can put forth an answer based in that definition of faith without seeming foolish. This may play into the hands of the atheist because they can point out to their buddies that the religious person is thinking irrationally and will never give a correct answer because it is obviously (according to the atheist POV) lacking in evidence. Of course Christians go about answering the question with the thought of “worldview” rather than “faith” and see plenty of evidence which, brings about a good laugh (assuming mal-intent from the designer of the question). In the same way, the only correct answer to your question will be one that is based on objective truth and/or morality. Without the use of an objective truth then everything else is just someone’s opinion. Even when courts rule, they are only providing an opinion that is subject to change. (as we have experienced, civil law is fluid and is particularly true as governing constitutions move away from the recognition of a higher authority such as God). I am quite convinced that it will be virtually impossible for any proponent of SSM to come up with an objectively true reason for SSM. It is unlikely that many will realize that the only proper answer to your question must be based on objective truth or it will fail. I hope someone does come up with an answer based on objective truth even though I do not agree with SSM. If someone does, it will show us something that we have clearly missed in our own understanding and we can adjust our worldview accordingly. Alas, it is highly improbable… As the answers come in from people who sincerely are trying to answer a question that may, in truth, be unanswerable (for SSM). Let us remember that we are working to find truth and let us do so in love Let us not succumb to sarcastic laughter as others have done when forming a question that has power in its form and function.

  92. Michael, I realize that my question leads in a direction SSM advocates may not want to go, and that they won’t think it’s even legitimate to be asked for objective truths about marriage. That’s a problem for them.

    If there’s another way for them to explain what makes it true that SSM is a subset of marriage, I’m certainly open to hearing it. I’ve examined two approaches I’ve seen them use commonly, and I think they both run into a serious problem. Most SSM advocates make it a matter of ethical obligation, and their reasoning needs to explain that as well; it needs to show why we should agree that SSM is a subset of marriage. So these explanations don’t explain enough.

    That’s not to suggest they have no other options. If they’ve got a better explanation for why SSM is and should be counted as a subset of marriage, I’d be happy to hear it.

  93. @Tom Gilson my friend I wasn’t accusing you of fanning the flames of hate, I was more so speaking in general terms. I don’t know you from Adam, so to say that you are hateful would be unjust and totally uncalled for. I apologize for the misunderstanding.

    Now with that said, I don’t honestly believe that if we made it legal for same-sex couples to marry that it would open up the door for all sorts of crazy combinations to marry and/or request for their union (if you will) to be considered legal, as you have suggested. I think that’s a little far fetched and a weak argument against same-sex marriage, sorry that’s just how I feel.

    Same-sex couples should have the same rights as us heterosexual couples do, they love each other and shouldn’t be held back because they don’t fit the traditional sense of what we have come to know as marriage. We should really worry about our own lives and making them lineup with God’s values and not about what our neighbors are doing or not doing.

    We are not God’s mouthpiece, we are his children and are told to love each other as we love ourselves.

  94. Hi Tom,

    “So again I ask, what is it that’s essentially true about marriage that makes it true that same-sex unions can be included as instances of marriage, and that the law ought to recognize them as such.”

    I think you are asking the wrong question, or at least asking it in the wrong way. If the equal protection law is for the equality of individuals than the question should be;

    “What is it essentially true of the relationships between gay people that mean they deserve the right to marry under the law?”

    And it seems to me that the answer is “the same thing that is essentially true of the relationships between heterosexual people, who already enjoy the right to marry.”

    Now if you can demonstrate that their relationships are not the same in a pertinent way (or, I suppose, that gay people are not entitled to the same basic rights as heterosexual people) then we might be on the way to putting this case to bed once and for all.

    Cheers
    Shane

  95. I think, then, Shane, you’re saying that what marriage is has little to do with whether marriage is the kind of relationship that same-sex couples can take part in.

    I think that means you’re concluding on the one hand that marriage is that kind of relationship, and on the other hand, that it doesn’t matter what marriage is.

    I can’t imagine how you can get to the conclusion that marriage is something while not knowing or caring what marriage is.

    I’ve written recently enough on the illogical question-begging of the equal protection argument, and you’ve just committed the very error I picked out there.

    Then you say,

    Now if you can demonstrate that their relationships are not the same in a pertinent way (or, I suppose, that gay people are not entitled to the same basic rights as heterosexual people) then we might be on the way to putting this case to bed once and for all.

    Obviously the relationships are not the same. Nothing could be more apparent. The question is whether the differences are pertinent, and I think I’ve made the case over and over again on this blog that they are.

    Gay people are entitled to the same basic rights as straights, but that doesn’t mean that their unions are marriages, unless what’s true of marriage makes it true that same-sex unions could be treated as marriages. If that’s so, then obviously gay couples should be allowed to marry. If it’s not so, then obviously they shouldn’t. See how this brings us back where we started from?

  96. Hi Tom,

    “Gay people are entitled to the same basic rights as straights, but that doesn’t mean that their unions are marriages, unless what’s true of marriage makes it true that same-sex unions could be treated as marriages. If that’s so, then obviously gay couples should be allowed to marry. If it’s not so, then obviously they shouldn’t. See how this brings us back where we started from?”

    Same sex unions shouldn’t be treated as marriages because they don’t contain the essential ingredient that makes a true marriage. This essential ingredient is … ?

    Feel free to link to a previous entry if you believe you have answered this question already.

    Cheers
    Shane

  97. Shane, I have a question for you. What’s true of marriage that makes it true that same-sex unions can be marriages?

    Does that question sound familiar? It should. If not, scroll to the bold type at the top of your screen.

    Look, Shane, I’m getting mighty tired of people asking me the same set of questions over and over again, without noticing that I’ve raised a new issue here. The question you just asked is one I’ve answered multiple times in multiple posts on this blog. Do you honestly think that by asking it again you’re making progress? Really?

    Maybe you don’t agree with my answers. Maybe you also haven’t noticed that I’ve changed the subject by asking you a new question, one that I think is definitive for you on your side of the issue.

    I’ve explained why this question is important to answer. If you don’t think it’s important, either explain why, or else admit you have nothing to say with respect to the content of this blog post.

    When you make your explanation, if you choose to do so, take account of what I’ve written. If you can address my points directly, and if I’ve gotten something wrong there, I can learn from you. If you just throw tired old re-hashed gay-activism talking points back at me without showing any evidence that you’ve thought through what I’ve said here, I’m really not interested in hearing that again. This blog is for thinking, not for lobbing talking points at each other.

    Kapeesh?

  98. Here’s another way to look at it, to help you actually engage with the content here instead of consulting what seems to be your talking-point page somewhere on the Internet.

    You wrote,

    Same sex unions shouldn’t be treated as marriages because they don’t contain the essential ingredient that makes a true marriage. This essential ingredient is … ?

    My answer is this. If you think same-sex unions should be treated as marriages, you need to explain what’s true about the class marriage that makes it true that same-sex unions can properly be counted as members of that class.

    Now, don’t just answer me on the basis of this one-sentence summary. I wrote a whole blog post about this. If you can answer in terms of the complete argument, I’ll learn from it and be grateful. If you can’t understand the argument, you can ask questions and we can work with it. If you decide to ignore what I wrote, then let us know that’s your intention so we can ignore you in return, which would be only fair, after all.

  99. Hi Tom,

    I’m trying to ask of you the same question you asked, but reversed. Possibly I’m not doing a very good job of it, and I apologise for the frustration. I understand your argument to be; “What is marriage? Why should some same sex unions be included in the group “marriage”? You are suggesting that proponents for SSM should be able to describe what marriage is and why some same sex unions meet that criteria. I am saying that by the same logic opponents of SSM should be able to describe what marriage is and why no same sex union can meet that criteria. More plainly, and changing just one word of your question;

    What’s true of marriage that makes it impossible that same-sex unions can be marriages?

    You say it’s question begging to not define marriage but claim Same Sex Unions can be part of that group. Is not defining marriage but claiming that Same Sex Unions can not be part of that group the same thing?

    Cheers
    Shane

  100. Shane, I knew all that when I wrote you that last comment. Feel free to re-read it in light of the fact that I was completely aware of your intentions. My comment reflects (among other things) my thoughts about your intentions.

    We’re defining marriage and providing reasons for our definitions, duo your last paragraph is moot. I’m on my mobile where it’s hard to give you links, but search here for “Girgis” or “Esolen” or “secular reasons,” and you’ll find what you’re looking for.

  101. I have to apologize for one thing. I thought you were involved in discussions on those posts. I’ve checked, and I see that you weren’t. Maybe you didn’t even see them. I’m sorry I made the mistake of assuming you had.

  102. You ask,

    Why should a homosexual couple be denied the
    ability to “express their intent” in the same way?
    Why should a homosexual couple be denied the right
    to “place on themselves obligations and duties,
    etc”

    Why should the state have to be involved in it? Why should it have to be called the same thing as marriage?

  103. What’s true of marriage that makes it impossible that same-sex unions can be marriages?

    Shane,

    What is true of traditional marriage that isn’t true and can’t be true of SSM is that traditional marriage consists of a man and a woman and because of that creates a unit capable of procreation and because of that it can be and is the foundational element of families in great enough numbers for it to be the foundational element of societies and cultures. Thus, for society, marriages are unique in that way that SSM cannot be. That’s why traditional marriage should and always has had a special relevance to society and was sanctioned and privileged by the society because it is absolutely necessary for the survival of any society. SSM is totally ancillary to those important societal imperatives.

  104. Hi BillT,

    “What’s true of marriage that makes it impossible that same-sex unions can be marriages?

    Shane,

    What is true of traditional marriage that isn’t true and can’t be true of SSM is that traditional marriage consists of a man and a woman and because of that creates a unit capable of procreation and because of that it can be and is the foundational element of families in great enough numbers for it to be the foundational element of societies and cultures. Thus, for society, marriages are unique in that way that SSM cannot be. That’s why traditional marriage should and always has had a special relevance to society and was sanctioned and privileged by the society because it is absolutely necessary for the survival of any society. SSM is totally ancillary to those important societal imperatives.”

    How about this is another reason;

    Marriage has traditionally been about the strengthening of relationships between families, either in the tribe or with members of other tribes, for the greater good of both parties. These deals were struck by men, with fathers marrying off their daughters to other men they wanted to forge relationships with. Women were treated like other property that could be bartered and traded. They were owned by men, the children they bore belonged to the man, and any income that might be generated by them belonged to the man as well.

    Now men wouldn’t marry other men, because obviously no man could be the property of another man (except for slavery, but that’s a different topic) and women couldn’t marry women because obviously property didn’t have rights of it’s own, and with no man to own them you are left with the notion of property owning other property? That’s as absurd as your dog owning a house.

    Is SSM different to how marriage worked for centuries? Yes it is. But so is OSM today. Things change.

    As I said in the other thread I have some reading to catch up on.

    Cheers
    Shane

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