The Burden of Proof in the Marriage Debate

comments form first comment

With a Supreme Court decision on marriage coming up this summer, there’s an almost palpable sense of fear among defenders of marriage that the day the Court rules on it will be the day we will finally lose.

I think that date is off by years. The day we lost was when we decided to persuade the country that gay marriage was wrong. It was a no-win battle from the beginning. That’s not because we were making the wrong case, but because we accepted the engagement on the wrong terms: terms that were so stacked against us as to be impossible from the beginning. Our defense was good, but we needed to play on both sides of the ball. We missed an opportunity to take the offense when we could have. It’s all about the burden of proof in the marriage debate.

Let me begin my explanation by reflecting with you on how the game (if I may call it that) has been played. It’s been something like this:

Think of some gay or lesbian couple you know, perhaps someone in your neighborhood, or connected to your family or your workplace. If you don’t know anyone like that in real life, surely there’s one you can think of from television or the movies.

Think of their love and devotion for one another. Think of the strong mutual commitment they’ve made, and the stigma they’ve borne to live it out. Think of their deep investment in each other’s lives. Visualize one of them in the hospital (or in hospice, even), with his or her partner watching faithfully, caringly, at the other’s bedside.

Now, why shouldn’t they be able to get married? Seriously, why not?

Do you have an answer to that question? I do. I have a whole list of answers: good, solid, rational ones, rooted both in the Bible and in sound natural-law philosophical reasoning. They haven’t been enough, though. No matter how many of us made that case, it was never enough.

Unreachable Proof

In retrospect there was never any chance it could have been enough. No matter how good, our reasoning could never have reached the level of proof. Proofs are for mathematics and pure logic, not for complex social and relational matters like marriage.

And make no mistake: nothing less than proof could have carried the day. Anything less, and the other side has a way out. We argue that marriage is for one man and one woman, and the other side asks us about polygamy in the Bible and patriarchal societies. That’s easily answerable, but not to the level of unassailable proof. It comes back, again and again, a talking point for same-sex marriage proponents to continue poking us with.

We make our case that marriage is for the purpose of building sound and stable future generations, and the other side asks why we allow elderly men and women to marry. We can answer that one, too, but again, not so well that it won’t pop up again.

And even if we had reached a level approaching proof in our answers to those questions, still our opponents would have brought up other talking points, resulting in a great, unending game of fragenblitzen, by which an argument is “won” by delivering more quick objections than the other has time to respond to.

Vacant Rhetoric

There is simply no proving that marriage isn’t for same-sex couples. It’s not that our position is lacking from a rational perspective, it’s that proofs are for mathematics and pure logic, and persuasion involves more than rational discourse. Look again at what I reminded us of above, on how the game has been played. Think of the pictures I invoked in your mind. Can you find any reason to explain why same-sex couples should be able to get married? Do you see any reasoning there at all?

The entire SSM juggernaut has been built on imagery and emotion. Sound reasoning has been hard to find. Their most effective slogan, “marriage equality,” certainly comes up empty. Everyone believes in marriage equality up to some defined boundary, and no one believes in marriage equality beyond some defined boundary. Our disagreement has never been about equality, but about the limits to equality. Let me say it again: marriage equality has never been the issue. It’s always been the boundaries around of what counts as marriage. (I happen to believe our boundaries are a lot more reasoned and a lot less arbitrary than SSM proponents’ boundaries.) And yet they use the slogan. Why? It’s not because they believe in equality any more than we do. They use it because it’s rhetorically effective among those who accept it without thinking.

That’s their best slogan. Rationally speaking, it has nothing going for it. If their best is that bad, is there any at all reason for gay marriage? Sure, I can think of reasons for same-sex couples to want financial or healthcare benefits and privileges like married couples have. I can think of reasons, some weaker, some stronger, to grant some of those privileges. But it’s hard to think of any reason to call their unions marriage.

The Burden of Proof in the Marriage Debate

There’s another reason slogans like “marriage equality” are working for the other side. We’ve taken a defensive stance, as if gay marriage were right unless it was proved wrong. This was a huge strategic error, certainly, but it was also an error with respect to reasoned debate. Here’s why. SSM proponents have put a positive, affirmative claim before the public: marriage should no longer be just for men with women, but also for same-sex couples. As the ones making the claim, they should have owned the burden of proof.

That’s the usual standard in debate, isn’t it? The side making the positive claim defends it and give reasons for it. Imagine how it would look the other way around: “The Keystone pipeline will be irretrievably bad for the environment. How do I know? Because you can’t prove it won’t be.” Or (equal time here), “The Keystone pipeline will be a net gain for human flourishing. I know it’s so because you can’t prove it won’t be.”

Does that seem silly? Then how about, “Gay marriage is right for our culture. I know it’s so because you can’t prove it won’t be.”

This was backward from the beginning, For a change as culture-shaking as same-sex marriage, we should have demanded reasons beyond imagery and emotion. This was such a deeply significant move, actually, we should have demanded something approaching proof.

Proofs are for mathematics and pure logic, though, not for complex social institutions like marriage. That’s undoubtedly why they haven’t really taken up that persuasive strategy.

A Case That Could Never Have Been Made

They would have had a hard time of it. They could hardly claim that same-sex unions should be called marriages because the essential nature of marriage rightly and inherently includes same-sex couple. An argument like that, coming as it does straight out of Aristotelianism (if not theism itself), would be as far as it could possibly be from most same-sex activists’ view of reality. The thought that marriage could have any essential nature at all is one of ours, not theirs.

They could hardly claim that same-sex unions should be called marriages “because the law says that’s what they are.” That goes nowhere toward explaining why the law should say so.

They would even have a tough time making a reasoned case that same-sex couples have a right to the same kind of relationship that married couples have always been able to enjoy. (This is a slightly more complex answer, but stick with me.) Same-sex marriage can only be the same kind of relationship as opposite-sex marriage if marriage itself is altered to become unlike anything it’s been throughout all of human history; in which case same-sex couples would have gained the right to a relationship that’s the same as nothing that’s ever been. The whole argument implodes.

Maybe they could recover one or more of those positive arguments for their position. But why should they care? They’ve been winning without any. Their imagery has been effective, for one thing. Besides that, they’ve been able to keep the burden of proof off their shoulders, and on ours instead.

Overstating My Case?

Am I being too rough on their side? Is it possible their strategy has been more rationally directed than what I’ve depicted here? You’re welcome to prove I’m wrong about this, but watch out: I can almost guarantee your reasoning will be some form of, “Gay marriage is right because you haven’t shown it’s wrong;” or else it will be an appeal to sympathy or other emotion

If that’s not convincing enough, then go to the source. Read their strategy, as it was summarized ahead of time, on the front end of their campaign. Ask yourself whether it was based more in reason or in manipulation of imagery and emotion. Ask yourself whether they followed that strategy, or whether (this is the test) they veered off it onto a more rationally-oriented track.

I know I’ve written something potentially explosive here. I invite you to prove me wrong. Let me remind you of this, though, by way of caution: if you react angrily to what I’m contending here, it won’t do much to support a case that your approach has been more rational than emotional. Just show me reasoning, if you have it, to demonstrate I’m wrong. I’ll learn from it and make the appropriate corrections.

What If?

What would have happened had we demanded that proof from them? It’s hard to say: they still would have had their imagery and emotional rhetoric working for them. And yet I wonder. I wonder about it even for this late stage in the debate. Maybe, in these last days of debate before the Court decision, conservative commentators—and counsel, too, before the Court—could call on the opposition to prove that same-sex relationships can be marriages. Maybe we could dare them to take the burden of proof upon themselves. When the other side brings the challenge, you can’t prove same-sex unions shouldn’t be called marriages, maybe we could answer by asking them to prove they can.

That wouldn’t be tit-for-tat, nor would it be “So’s your old man.” It would be a matter of recognizing who’s making the affirmative claim, and calling on them to give reasons to accept it as true.

And not just that: it would also be recognizing that the pleasant picture of the two gay men down the street is a pleasant picture. It isn’t a proof. It isn’t even a reason.

Related What is Marriage, If Marriage Equality is Real?

top of page comments form

107 Responses to “ The Burden of Proof in the Marriage Debate ”

  1. I don´t want to start a new discussion here, I´d rather like to make a test:

    We argue that marriage is for one man and one woman, and the other side asks us about polygamy in the Bible and patriarchal societies. That’s easily answerable…

    We make our case that marriage is for the purpose of building sound and stable future generations, and the other side asks why we allow elderly men and women to marry. We can answer that one, too,…

    I referred to both issues several times in the thread you link to at the end of your post, which at this point has 234 comments and to which you yourself and 4 people on your side of this issue have extensively contributed. Could you please select what you consider to be the best answer (or just a good one if you do not want to re-read the entire thread) to those two points above that were provided by either one of you and post them here?
    I do not want to debate these points here, I rather think it would be very informative to see the best answers that have been provided by your side in a long discussion thread next to the very high level of intellectual quality that you have claimed for your position regarding SSM here.

  2. The problem isn’t that you have no proof. The problem is that the facts are against you. Homosexual people exist. Homosexual people have always existed. Paul rails against homosexuality. Homosexuality was common in Ancient Greek and Roman Culture. Homosexuality is natural, no matter what your contortions of “natural philosophy” have to say about it. Homosexual couples want to be recognized and have the same legal rights as married couples. That is a fact, not all, but some significant portion of homosexual couples do. There is no legal grounds, from any sort of secular govt perspective, to deny them this right. Equal protection under the law is a thing. Homosexual marriages can’t be shown to be any kind of a legitimate threat to heterosexual marriages. That’s why you lost, not because there isn’t any “proof” or facts, but because the facts are against you. As my Grandpa liked to say “Tough titty.”

  3. Thank you, pofarmer, for fulfilling my prediction.

    I wrote:

    I can almost guarantee your reasoning will be some form of, “Gay marriage is right because you haven’t shown it’s wrong;”

    You wrote:

    There is no legal grounds, from any sort of secular govt perspective, to deny them this right.

    And the rest of what you wrote–no argument there. Just a list of information.

  4. Andy, this post isn’t about our arguments for our position. It’s about your side’s arguments, and how (in my opinion, open to correction) they’ve been strong on imagery and emotion, and pretty much empty of rational content.

    So I’m more interested in knowing whether I’m wrong about that than I am in proving (once again) that no matter how solid our reasoning might be, it’s never going to rise to the level of persuasive proof.

  5. Pofarmer’s comment is almost as ironic as Andy bragging about how well he’s done over on the What Is Marriage, If “Marriage Equality” Is Real? thread.

    Not to mention that Andy’s challenge here in this thread:

    I rather think it would be very informative to see the best answers that have been provided by your side in a long discussion thread next to the very high level of intellectual quality that you have claimed for your position regarding SSM here.

    Does exactly what you predicted. Andy challenges us to prove that they’re not wrong in changing the entire definition of marriage.

    That’s two for two in the two secular comments made here.

  6. Tom,
    fair enough. I haven´t followed many debates about this issue so I can´t say much about how frequent appeals to emotion are used as a substitute for an argument here. In the “What is Marriage, If Marriage Equality is Real?” however (where the pro SSM was basically just me most of the time), I never once appealed to pretty imagery and emotion afaict. And looking back, I also doubt that any somewhat neutral observer would judge the views I expressed as pretty much empty of rational content or would agree with your characterization of how one sided the debate is.
    Too bad that neutral observers are hard to come by.

  7. I never once appealed to pretty imagery and emotion afaict.

    True. But you also never once got the definition of “can” correct either.

  8. BillT,

    Not to mention that Andy’s challenge here in this thread:

    I rather think it would be very informative to see the best answers that have been provided by your side in a long discussion thread next to the very high level of intellectual quality that you have claimed for your position regarding SSM here.

    Does exactly what you predicted. Andy challenges us to prove that they’re not wrong in changing the entire definition of marriage.

    Your reading comprehension is abysmal. I didn´t challenge you to “prove that [we´re] not wrong in changing the entire definition of marriage” (an interesting way to put it btw, how about “an implement consisting of a small, shallow oval or round bowl on a long handle, used for eating, stirring, and serving food” as a new definition for marriage?). I didn´t challenge you to prove anything in fact. I didn´t even ask you to comment on something.
    My entire request boiled down to a Ctrl+C – Ctrl-V job to juxtapose your best answers with Tom´s description of them.

  9. BillT,

    True. But you also never once got the definition of “can” correct either.

    That is false, I´ve let you play Humpty Dumpty as much as you wanted to and granted you every definition you wanted for the sake of the argument.

  10. False on both counts.

    My entire request boiled down to a Ctrl+C – Ctrl-V job to juxtapose your best answers with Tom´s description of them.

    Is a challenge to “prove” we’re right absolving you from having to do the same.

    Oh, yes. You “allowed” any definitions offered and then immediately ignored them.

    And just BTW that’s about the third of fourth personal insult you’ve directed at me. And you complained about the “sleep well.” Good at dishing it out but not so good at…

  11. BillT,
    in comment #106, I used the exact definition that you wanted for “can” (“having the potential to”) and demonstrated how this made no difference for the case you were trying to make – using a definition for “potential” copied straight out of an english dictionary. You got angry and replied with:
    “Again Andy, you continue to rely on a tortured interpretations of common words and tortured examples that are irrelevant in the context of what is being discussed. But I get that anything will do to create the conflict you need to make your “point”.”
    – in #107. I then pointed out the absurdity of calling the dictionary definition a “tortured interpretation” and pointed out that you have not even bothered to define what you yourself mean by “potential” since you evidently disagree with the one in the dictionary in #108.

    And that was it. If there is anything else you want to accuse me of, don´t just assert it – quote me.

  12. And you’re still doing it. What Andy, you’re tactics aren’t so fun when turned around.

    And the argument you kept making was shown to be without merit a number of times by a number of posters. You were the only one that couldn’t and still can’t see it.

  13. Andy @6, would you point out for us one of your positive arguments for SSM, please? I’m not seeing anything in what you’ve written here so far.

    This other quarrel isn’t getting us anywhere.

  14. Tom,

    Andy @6, would you point out for us one of your positive arguments for SSM, please? I’m not seeing anything in what you’ve written here so far.

    As I said in #1, I don´t want to start the same discussion over again. We were already turning in circles in the other thread and therefore I doubt that I would say anything that I didn´t already say there at some point or that I would hear new counterpoints from you or the other commenters that would likely chime in. I´ll step back and observe if someone else wants to try and will probably chime in if something novel (to me) comes up.

  15. It wouldn’t be the same discussion, Andy. It would be an answer, with evidence, to a new question: Do you or do you not have a positive rational argument for SSM?

  16. Tom,
    if you don´t think that I had any “positive rational arguments” that lead to the conclusion that same sex couples should be allowed to get married in the last thread, then I will still have none from your vantage point. Right now, there is nothing that I would say if someone would ask me to come up with such an argument that I didn´t already say at some points back there – so why shouldn´t we expect that it would simply be the exact same discussion all over again?
    If you can quote things I argued in the other thread and object with something that was not already said by anyone back there, I would be game for a discussion, otherwise, I´ll simply observe. If you count that as a capitulation, that is also fine by me.

  17. I re-read the other thread (up to #56) where Andy said he made an argument. All I’m seeing is the repeated “argument” below. If there is more to it, maybe Andy can point us there.

    Andy: You said “If you think the burden of proof is on me to show that this exception disproves the rule” but I never argued that the exception disproves the rule! My point was, as I repeatedly emphasized, that you are making an exception for straight couples but you are not making one for gay couples, and that you have provided no reason that would justify this different treatment.

    It was explained over and over again and Andy continued to not understand the reasoning. Andy understood the pen analogy, but for some reason he didn’t ask why an exception for broken pens as pens didn’t also apply to plastic tubes, sticks and other objects that cannot possibly write – I assume it’s because he knows it’s not an exception to count broken pens as pens.

    So, Andy, if this is your reasoned argument from the other thread, how does “I don’t understand your reasoning” translate into a positive argument for SS marriage?

  18. The most common argument for ss”m” that I come across is that it has been proven to be harmful to LGBT people to not recognize their relationships as marriages. The proof of this typically involves citing the 1000+ federal benefits of marriage are and pointing out that they are denied to gay relationships. Which harms the people involved (somehow). Apparently there is even research to back it up https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-hidden-brain/201003/the-mental-health-consequences-anti-gay-marriage-laws. This claims that so called gay marriage bans negatively affect the mental health of LGBT persons while recognizing gay relationships as marriages positively impacts their mental health. They also claim that recognizing ss”m” has been proven to not be harmful because everyone else has the same rights as before to marry (i.e. it is not as if it bans opposite sex couples from marriage).

    The argument is that it is wrong to harm people, “banning ssm” harms people; however, recognizing it harms no one. Ergo, we must recognize ss”m”.

  19. SteveK,
    also, this:

    Andy understood the pen analogy, but for some reason he didn’t ask why an exception for broken pens as pens didn’t also apply to plastic tubes, sticks and other objects that cannot possibly write – I assume it’s because he knows it’s not an exception to count broken pens as pens.

    Has in fact also been addressed ad nauseam:
    1. If you wanted to have a pen, but instead of a pen I could also give you a broken pen that can no longer write (because both are “pens”), then writing can evidently not be the only purpose that you wanted the pen for (if it would be, you would not accept a broken pen but rather insist on getting a working pen). And depending on which other purposes you needed it for, it is absolutely possibly that a stick would serve those purposes just as well as the broken pen would.
    2. This point you are trying to make presupposes aristotelian essences for things like pens and for marriage. However, even when I granted you that for the sake of the argument, you were still completely unable to tell me what the attributes are that “marriage” has by necessity and without which it wouldn´t be “marriage”. So this is all moot anyway since your only standard is “if I say it´s an x then it is an x because I say so”.

    This is what I meant by “would simply be the exact same discussion all over again”.

  20. Here’s an experiment that might be enlightening. Let me take off my partisan hat for a moment and try to sum up as objectively as I can my understanding of both sides of this argument. If I’m caricaturing either side, commenters can correct me.

    The secular perspective:

    — “Marriage” is a loosely-defined and morally neutral term we apply to householding customs across history and cultures. Thus we can speak intelligibly of polygamous marriage, forced marriage, arranged marriage, dynastic marriage, child marriage, et alia, without fear of being misunderstood.

    — Calling these customs and institutions “marriage” does not imply our automatic endorsement of them.

    — In our culture, “marriage” has traditionally referred to long-term mutual commitment and householding among heterosexual couples.

    — The law defines rights and responsibilities for married couples in order to protect both parties.

    — GLBT couples also enter into long-term mutual commitments and householding arrangements (“marriages” in the most general sense of the term: see above).

    — It is unfair to refuse to such couples the rights and responsibilities offered to heterosexual couples.

    — Thus, fairness requires the legal recognition of same-sex marriages.

    A Christian perspective, as offered by Tom:

    — Marriage is a conceptual category.

    — Marriage has an essence, either in the Thomistic sense or under what the philosopher George Lakoff has called “the folk theory of essences.” (I’m assuming Tom is using the word in the Thomistic sense.)

    — Traditional heterosexual committed relationships partake of the essence of marriage.

    — Same-sex relationships do not partake of the essence of marriage.

    — Thus, because same-sex relationships do not partake of the essence of marriage, they should not be solemnized by Christian marriage ceremonies.

    — Thus, if same-sex relationships are to be legally protected, they should not be protected as if they partook of the essence of marriage.

    …. So, have I got it right?

  21. This is what I meant by “would simply be the exact same discussion all over again”.

    Yes, the one, as SteveK so aptly demonstrates, where you continue not get it. (You can toss another personal insult my way here if it makes you feel better.)

  22. BillT

    Yes, the one where you continue not get it. (You can toss another personal insult my way here if it makes you feel better.)

    Those alleged “personal insults” so far include calling your reading comprehension “abysmal” and saying “now that´s just pitiable”.
    And since you did in fact grossly misrepresent what I wrote (or do you seriously want to contest that?), the former was not an insult but rather an observation. And the latter might have been condescending, but it was not a “personal insult” (and it was certainly not uncalled for).

  23. BillT,
    sorry, I didn´t notice that you edited your comment.

    Yes, the one, as SteveK so aptly demonstrates, where you continue not get it.

    Thank you very much, this is similar to what I asked for in #1. So you think #19 by SteveK and #22 by me are an instance of somebody on your side aptly demonstrating how one sided this debate is and how utterly clueless people like me are.
    Excellent, I´ll let that speak for itself.

  24. Adam,

    Partially right but you miss the societal perspective I offered in #17 on the ‘Marriage Equality” thread.

  25. DR84, thanks for that. The Psychology Today article presents a rather one-dimensional perspective, but it’s interesting at any rate. It would be interesting to compare that result to Christian believers’ emotional and mental health following governmental actions to ban Christian belief, and even break up Christian families. I’m not talking about the U.S. (this is not a paranoid proposal) but other parts of the world where it has happened. There has been some recent field work done on that. It’s pretty informative.

  26. Andy,

    Yes, by all means ignore the insults from the other thread. And that you think your statements will speak for themselves is the same error you’ve been making all along.

  27. AdamHazzard, that’s pretty close. Thanks.

    Your secular perspective is very helpful and informative. You did a great job of summarizing my perspective, too, which is pretty remarkable. I would have added some additional points on the importance of man-woman marriage to society, but you got it right on a major part of the heart of my position.

    Looking at the secular reasoning there, it appears that you see same-sex marriage as an extended usage of the word “marriage.” I’m sure that a widely held opinion.

    I see it as a borrowed usage instead, and I see it even in the way you presented it. You see, all the marriage examples you provide in your first point are between men and women. Even in polygamous relationships, very rarely do the women consider themselves married to each other. Generally each one considers herself the wife of one husband, even though the man is not the husband of one wife.

    Additionally, I’m not sure how your reasoning would stand up to the question, “How far shall we allow the term ‘marriage’ to be extended?”

    Anyway, thank you for a helpful summary.

  28. I’d like to request that we stipulate this as an agreement: there were insults made and/or statements that were not meant as insults but had that effect anyway.

    If we can agree that this is the case, we probably won’t need to talk about it anymore.

    Thanks.

  29. Tom,
    can you clarify then what you believe the essence of marriage to be – what are the necessary attributes that a “marriage” has to have and without which it would lose its identity?

  30. Tom –

    You see, all the marriage examples you provide in your first point are between men and women.

    For cultures at a subsistence level, just maintaining the population is a challenge. The only security in old age is having kids, and the more the better to improve the odds. Even the ‘wealthy’ for most of human history have faced such challenges. (Consider – a few centuries ago, not even emperors had functionally unlimited access to fresh, clean water – something practically everyone in the U.S. gets.) Every pantheon I’ve ever heard of had a god and/or goddess of fertility, and even in Judaism procreation was regulated and strongly encouraged.

    In such circumstances, you can see why exclusive same-sex relationships would tend to carry a stigma (though they weren’t entirely unknown). There’s a survival interest in compelling as many people as possible to bear and raise children.

    Richer cultures don’t labor under quite the same restrictions, and there isn’t the same motivation to compel fertility, to block off any options but opposite-sex pairings. If there were a serious danger of exclusive same-sex unions becoming common enough to cause population to shrink dangerously, maybe that might become an issue. I know of no credible case that such a thing could happen, though.

  31. Here is my “bigoted,” “homophobic” view about SSM, expressed succinctly by a writer much more talented than me.

    Government is not in the business of affirming our love. Rather, it leaves consenting adults free to live and love as they choose. Contrary to what some say, there is no ban on same-sex marriage. Nothing about it is illegal. In all 50 states, two people of the same sex may choose to live together, choose to join a religious community that blesses their relationship, and choose a workplace offering joint benefits. There is nothing illegal about this.

    What is at issue is whether the government will recognize such relationships as marriages—and then force every citizen, house of worship, and business to do so as well. At issue is whether policy will coerce and compel others to recognize and affirm same-sex relationships as marriages. All Americans have the freedom to live as they choose, but they do not have the right to redefine marriage for everyone else.

    (emphasis added)

    Read more at: http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/344419/why-government-involved-marriage-anyway-kathryn-jean-lopez

    The danger to a free and open, democratic and tolerant society come from people who think that people like me are bigoted and homophobic. What about my rights? How is it equal when rights that I have are taken away?

  32. I’m not a U.S. citizen, but it’s my understanding that the USA was founded as a constitutional republic and that the United States Constitution is the supreme law of the land. And according to Wikipedia, ten separate Federal District Court cases were “unanimous in finding that bans of gay marriage violate due process and equal protection and were therefore unconstitutional.”

    So it appears that the courts have already made “a reasoned case that same-sex couples have a right to the same kind of relationship that married couples have always been able to enjoy”.

  33. Jad @35, what rights that you currently have would be taken away if SSM became legally recognized across the US?

  34. Ron-

    What is the reasoned case made by the courts? What about courts that have found that there is no right to have a same sex relationship recognized as marriages?

    Granted there is a major problem that I cannot gloss over, you mention a right to the same kind of relationship. How is this even possible? How can a same sex couple form the same kind of relationship that an opposite sex couple can? If that is possible, then it is also possible for a man and woman to form a homosexual relationship.

  35. Ron-

    I have thought a bit more and am leaning towards it being rational to believe that there is a rational pro-ss”m” argument based on court victories for that position. After all it one can have knowledge of the court system, that they are meant to decide cases on rational grounds, and even knowledge of court opinions from other cases that confirm that courts do indeed decide cases on rational grounds. From this, if someone knew nothing other than courts have been deciding in favor of ss”m”, I think they could rationally believe there is a rational argument for ss”m”.

    However, this rational belief is not a rational argument. As you present it I think it is an example of a “prove me wrong” argument. You make a claim about court opinions and then seem to be expecting its on us to prove you wrong.

  36. DR84,

    As explained in my opening post, ten separate Federal District Court cases concluded that banning SSM was unconstitutional on the grounds that it violates due process and equal protection under the law. (The specific reasons cited can be found via the link I provided.) And to my knowledge, no recent federal court decisions have gone in the opposite direction.

    Given that the U.S. Constitution informs all judicial matters decided within the USA, it stands to reason that all U.S. laws must comply (or be brought into compliance) with said constitution, and not vice versa—wouldn’t you agree? If not, then please present your case against that assumption.

  37. Ron-

    One court has not found that not recognizing SS”M” as marriage violates the Constitution.

    http://www.sixthcircuitappellateblog.com/news-and-analysis/breaking-news-sixth-circuit-upholds-same-sex-marriage-bans-in-ohio-michigan-kentucky-and-tennessee/

    This is much of the reason why the Supreme Court is taking the issue up.

    Yes, the Constitution is pre-eminent and all laws need to comply with it. This; of course, is not a rational argument for same sex “marriage”. I believe your argument here fits in the “we are right unless you prove us wrong” category.

    Again, if all you were saying is something like “based on a number of court opinions I believe there is a rational case for ssm” I could accept that. So long as you do not suggest that this is itself the argument.

  38. A few thoughts, Ron.

    First, I think the equal protection rulings are poorly reasoned.

    Second, the Supreme Court has not yet ruled on these questions.

    Third, no matter how the courts rule, there’s nothing preventing us from discussing whether we believe they were right or wrong. I do not believe in the inerrancy of the bench.

  39. Tom,

    I have a whole list of answers: good, solid, rational ones, rooted both in the Bible and in sound natural-law philosophical reasoning.

    That’s true. And equally SSM proponents have a whole list of good, solid rational answers based on secular and religious liberalism and humanism.

    So I don’t think reason is the issue, here, but rather basic moral and philosophical assumptions. Neither side will prevail by rational argument but rather by the direction in change of society’s fundamental assumptions about morality and humanity.
    ~

  40. Also, Otto, since you charged me with failing to answer a question, I’m expecting you to show me where you made that question clear before the alleged failure. Thanks.

  41. “And equally SSM proponents have a whole list of good, solid rational answers based on secular and religious liberalism and humanism” (DJC)

    I would like to see this list.

  42. I asked the pro-ss”m” people that I have interacted with on Slate for their rational arguments for ss”m”. To be upfront, they were not at all pleased that I was asking. There was plenty of insults hurled. For better or worse I have kept trying to ask in the hopes of getting their best arguments out of them directly or for them to point to another source. Which, they seem to be enamored with Judge Posner’s 7th Circuit ruling:

    http://blogs.findlaw.com/law_and_life/2014/09/gay-marriage-legal-in-wisconsin-and-indiana-7th-circuit.html
    In its opinion, the Seventh Circuit sought to clear the air with a new inquiry for testing whether laws are unconstitutionally discriminatory:
    1. Does it discriminate against a historically prejudiced group, resulting in harmful, unequal treatment?
    2. Is the discrimination based on immutable or tenacious characteristics?
    3. Does the law provide an important offsetting benefit to society as a whole?
    4. Is the law overinclusive or underinclusive in providing that benefit?
    In answering these questions with regard to Indiana and Wisconsin’s laws, the Seventh Circuit found they discriminated against a group that has been historically prejudiced (gays), who cannot and should not change their orientations. It also found that both states’ reasons for denying gays marriage (childrearing and possible future harms) were either illusory or were poorly tailored in light of the reality of families in both states.

    http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/zorn/chi-full-text-of-richard-posners-opinion-gay-marriage-20140905-story.html#page=1

    Below are direct quotes of how they responded to questions asking for their rational argument for ss”m” and questions simply asking them to support the claims they were making. None of these quotes contains a fully fleshed out argument, but I think some at least represent the start of one.
    __
    “Marriage is defined by society and culture. Marriage has multiple definitions. Marriage changes with the norms of society. Marriage is not based on your religion. Marriages currently exist that include same sex couples.
    Again, as I’ve told you repeatedly, there are religious marriages and civil marriages. They don’t have to have the same rules.

    ” If society sees a benefit, and it does, than there is no reason to not allow same sex couples to have the protections given by civil marriage.”

    “Civil marriage is already defined. If same sex couples are going to get the same rights, there is no reason to not use the existing laws. There is no need to define a new, government recognized institution.”

    “It’s a simple change to already codified law. The benefits have already been spelled out to you numerous times. The drawbacks are non-existent as proven by your failure to come up with any tangible negative effects.”

    “marriage is a social construct which is neither immutable nor determinative of only one type of relationship.”

    ” If there wasn’t a valid, rational argument there would be no way the tide would have turned so quickly. The speed of your side’s complete loss has been astonishing. Now all you have left is desperation and inane arguments.”

    “Then why not use existing marriage laws to give it to them? Much easier than coming up with a whole new set of laws. If they get the same benefits, just call it marriage. Civil marriage. Religious marriage is and will continue to be separate.”

    “It’s their identity, their very nature, to bond with a member of the same sex. It’s this nature that you and your kind deny as valid. They are as they were created and your continued arguments against allowing them the same legal protections that you and I enjoy is based solely on that inborn identity.”

    “what’s the harm in giving them the same rights anyway? Oh, there isn’t any definable harm? Than why do you keep arguing against it? Nothing but bigotry can explain it.
    Just err on the side of caution as my view may be right and ensure there is no discrimination.”

    “Just like marriage, society gets to define protected classes. Gays and lesbians have been provided protections on both state and federal levels so they are already a defined class” (not a marriage argument per se, but illuminating nonetheless)

    “Why should society recognize such relationships as marriages?”
    Go read the circuit and state court opinions, starting with Posner’s. Go read the U.S. Constitution.
    Yes, other societies should recognize basic human rights, but each society deals with these issues in its own way, on its own timetable. ” (Note: The latter part of this is a response to a question where I asked if other societies such as Russia, China, and Saudi Arabia should recognize ss”m”.)

    “There is no argument – rational, irrational, emotive, epistemological, phenomenological, ontological, sacerdotal, doctrinal, semantico-linguistic, libertarian, or anarcho-syndicalist – that would efface your bigotry, because your bigotry is who you are, and you’re not going to deny your self-identity. ” (Insult and vitriol aside, I take this point to be that their position must rational because our is irrational. As in, the rational argument for ss”m” is that the opponent’s arguments against it are all irrational).

    __
    “Marriage equality at least means what it says. ‘Biblical marriage’ is such a ridiculous misnomer that the only people who could believe it are those who really don’t know their own Biblical history.”

    “I am guaranteed equal protection under the law by the U.S. constituion. I have the same legal right to marry a man as any other American. I have the same legal right to marry a woman as any other American.
    And when I do so, it’s called ‘marriage’. Your approval is no more necessary for my marrying than mine is for yours. That’s marriage equality.”
    ______

    These two responses were to a question were I only asked if the pro-ss”m” side had a burden of proof at all and if so what:

    “making SSM illegal causes actual harm and violates equal protection”

    “There is no burden of proof required. The burden of proof is on those who would institutionalize discrimination, not on the targets of that discrimination.”

  43. DR84,

    I’ll give you the main argument roughly in my view.

    1: voluntary marriage between two persons is an inalienable human right.
    2: no one should lose inalienable rights unless they have violated the inalienable rights of others.
    3: Therefore, the rights and privileges of same-sex marriage should be recognized by society.

    1 and 2 are supported by what I’ve called secular and religious liberalism and humanism. They are probably not supported by conservative religious premises. For example, you may argue that you define marriage as requiring a procreation potential and therefore you reject 1. But secular humanism and religious liberalism specifically allow and expect traditional social institutions to dynamically change according to society’s needs. The definition of marriage has changed. You can not accuse an opponent of irrationality merely because they do not use the same definitions you do.

    The issue is similar to constitutional interpretation. Liberals use “living constitution” and conservatives use “original intent”. Think of marriage as having either a “living meaning” or an “original intent” and you’ve got the gist of most of the controversy.

  44. DJC-

    Thanks, and I agree that would not accuse someone of irrationality merely for using a different definition. Granted, I might if that definition was entirely disconnected from the typical meaning of the word. After all, calling a rock a tree and saying that is how you define the word tree after all would be irrational.

    I do consider this to be irrational, marriage has meant X, now by marriage we mean Y, and we ought to change the law and culture to marriage Y accordingly.

    Which I am not saying is precisely your argument, I admit I have not thought it through quite that far. So I mean that as an example and nothing else.

    I think the biggest issue with the argument you have presented is premise 1. I think you have a burden of proof to show that this premise is true, or even rationally plausible for that matter. Merely saying we define marriage differently, that it is a living, changeable institution, does not cover it. Not even close.

  45. Think of their love and devotion for one another. Think of the strong mutual commitment they’ve made,and the stigma they’ve borne to live it out. Think of their deep investment in each other’s lives. Visualize one of them in the hospital (or in hospice, even), with his or her partner watching faithfully, caringly, at the other’s bedside.

    Now, why shouldn’t they be able to get married? Seriously, why not?

    Do you have an answer to that question? I do. I have a whole list of answers: good, solid, rational ones, rooted both in the Bible and in sound natural-law philosophical reasoning. They haven’t been enough, though. No matter how many of us made that case, it was never enough.

    Maybe what you call “visualizations”, aren’t actually mere visualizations to many people anymore, but instead are concrete realities that they see and experience. Maybe when your arguments are paired up against those realities, they just don’t seem very good.

    And maybe those realities make people think that your natural law arguments are little more than gerrymandered abstractions, devised to produce the answer you had already pre-decided.

    Have you REALLY – and I mean *really* – ever approached this issue with an open mind, Tom (and others)? Dig DEEP on that one… maybe most people have sense enough to figure that answer out on their own.

    Whats good for the goose is good for the gander. You’re swimming in a well poisoned by dogma where this issue has been pre-decided for a couple thousand years. Why should we trust your supposed arguments anymore that a few links you cherry picked, to give us the view of the movement you want us to see?

    I’ve posted a piece several times here that makes the case that marriage is a life-long commitment to nurturing – a commitment to care for all-apsects of another person, so long as each partner lives. And I’ve echoed its sentiment, that while we take it for granted that children should be raised and cared for in such an environment, those relationships, in and of themselves, demand help (ie, not permission, or honor, or blessing) – from the government, so that both partners may fulfill their promises to one another without interference, whether or not children ever enter into it.

    http://ordinary-gentlemen.com/blog/2011/03/15/on-nurturing-as-the-purpose-of-marriage

    Its only been a couple years or so, no one has bothered to tackle it. Unfortunately, sensible pieces like this, or writings from guys like Andrew Sullivan are usually ignored, in favor of stuff you can dig up to make the opposition look bad.

    Like I said… people may be able to figure out whether you’ve approached this issue honestly and with an open mind, on their own… what do you think they would say?

  46. d, I’ll tackle the ordinary gentleman post sometime very soon.

    Open minds are hard to come by on either side of this issue. We all have deep worldview commitments. Some are more obvious than others.

    Otherwise, d, the way your language is poisoned here is more insidious than you might think:

    You’re swimming in a well poisoned by dogma where this issue has been pre-decided for a couple thousand years. Why should we trust your supposed arguments anymore that a few links you cherry picked, to give us the view of the movement you want us to see?

    That’s highly contentious, it’s soaked with imagery and loaded words, it’s biased by the belief that my position is mostly the fruit of dogma, and it ignores the strong likelihood that thousands of years of experience could equal the wisdom of the ages.

    I still say,

    Sure, I can think of reasons for same-sex couples to want financial or healthcare benefits and privileges like married couples have. I can think of reasons, some weaker, some stronger, to grant some of those privileges. But it’s hard to think of any reason to call their unions marriage.

    As I said, I’ll deal with that linked article very soon. Otherwise, I still have that same question.

  47. This is interesting, in the meantime

    Maybe what you call “visualizations”, aren’t actually mere visualizations to many people anymore, but instead are concrete realities that they see and experience. Maybe when your arguments are paired up against those realities, they just don’t seem very good.

    And maybe those realities make people think that your natural law arguments are little more than gerrymandered abstractions, devised to produce the answer you had already pre-decided.

    You’re doing exactly what I said in the OP.

  48. http://blog.talkingphilosophy.com/?p=7581

    http://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/what-same-sex-marriage-means-227/

    http://johncorvino.com/wp/academic/Corvino-PIB.pdf

    I havent had a chance to read all of these myself, but I believe John Corvino’s position is similar to the mutual nurturing view of marriage argued for by the ordinary gentleman. I believe his view is that marriage is your number one person and he defines marriage as :

    “The best anyone can offer is a rough and qualified definition. Here’s mine: ‘Marriage is the social institution recognising committed adult unions which are presumptively sexual, exclusive, and lifelong; and which typically involve shared domestic life, mutual care and concern, and the begetting and rearing of children.’ The ‘presumptively’ and ‘typically’ are crucial: there will be exceptions, as well as ‘grey areas’. (Are ‘temporary marriages’ marriages? What about ‘marriages of convenience’?) Notice however, that loose edges are typical in definitions of social institutions. (Does secular humanism count as a religion? Do tribal councils count as governments?)””

    Anyway, this may be another of the better pro-ss”m” arguments. At the very least, the guy making the arguments seems to genuinely respect his opposition (I believe he is on friendly terms with Anderson and Girgis).

  49. @DJC

    I’ll give you the main argument roughly in my view.

    1: voluntary marriage between two persons is an inalienable human right.

    Your argument permits siblings to marry – is that your intention? If not, why not?

    And why do you limit marriage to only two persons? That seems rather arbitrary.

  50. DR84,

    I think the biggest issue with the argument you have presented is premise 1. I think you have a burden of proof to show that this premise is true, or even rationally plausible for that matter. Merely saying we define marriage differently, that it is a living, changeable institution, does not cover it. Not even close.

    There are several assumptions in that premise and I’m not sure which you have the most trouble with.

    1: voluntary marriage between two persons is an inalienable human right.

    Social institutions change over time, driven by culture change. Suffrage, for example, was first understood as composed primarily of property-owning white men; then as society evolved it was extended to non-property owners, women, and other races. A change in the meaning and understanding of a social institution is not necessarily irrational.

    Positing the existence of human rights, valuing human rights, etc., appears to be a rational sort of thing, although I know different philosophies use very different strategies to get there. Deciding that marriage is a human right seems to be just a matter of recognizing how highly people value it.

  51. Have you REALLY – and I mean *really* – ever approached this issue with an open mind, Tom (and others)?

    I sure have. I can reach the same conclusion that SSM proponents want. I can do that easily and it doesn’t require much thinking. But that’s the problem – it doesn’t require much thinking. I mean that in the sense that if marriage is (a) nothing in particular or (b) a social construct then how is it a human right (some claim) and how is anyone discriminating illegally when the social legal construct of the day says marriage does not include SS couples?

  52. bigbird,

    Your argument permits siblings to marry – is that your intention? If not, why not?

    Although I have a certain squeamish factor on that and have doubts whether such cases actually exist, I don’t see why it should be denied if the intention were sincere.

    And why do you limit marriage to only two persons? That seems rather arbitrary.

    Only exclusivity seems to allow the level of co-nurturing that marriage requires. Any partner more than 1 necessarily represents a distraction in time and resources to one other partner. If a pair, each person is guaranteed 100% of voluntary resources (after job, children), and voluntary resources applied to the benefit of a spouse is what best fulfills the secular marriage definition in my view (and my reading of d’s link on Ordinary Times above)

  53. DJC-

    Yes, over time, more people have been eligible to vote. However, voting itself has not changed. At least, not what it means to vote. In contrast, you are suggesting that the meaning of the institution of marriage not only changes, but can change so much that it can include any kind of relationship.

    I do agree that positing the existence of human rights and valuing them is indeed rational. What is the argument that connects marriage being a human right to it being a human right that same sex relationships are included in the institution?

  54. DR84,

    Yes, over time, more people have been eligible to vote. However, voting itself has not changed. At least, not what it means to vote. In contrast, you are suggesting that the meaning of the institution of marriage not only changes, but can change so much that it can include any kind of relationship.

    You’re tightening up your criteria to allow change in the concept as long as there is a central, consistent, unchanging core meaning. Okay, well, then I would respond that the central unchanging core meaning of marriage has always been nurturing, not children or the sexes of the partners.

    This strategy alone won’t help you isolate an irrational step because each of us will pick what is most important, most irreplaceable, in the definition of marriage guided by our respective values and philosophies. I say nurturing, you say procreation potential.

    What is the argument that connects marriage being a human right to it being a human right that same sex relationships are included in the institution?

    Because sex chromosome as a criteria is less important than nurturing as a criteria in the meaning of marriage; that’s what I find upon moral reflection. But you may disagree after the same degree of moral reflection. If you find yourself immediately drawn to the issue of purity and the importance of keeping sexual relationships as God intended, you are instinctively using moral intuitions that I tend to de-prioritize (see http://www.moralfoundations.org/). These moral foundations seem to guide us towards or away from religious and conservative views.

  55. DJC

    Quick question, in your view, does marriage necessarily involve a sexual relationship or can it be platonic?

  56. DR84,

    Quick question, in your view, does marriage necessarily involve a sexual relationship or can it be platonic?

    Sure, I think it could be platonic assuming such a relationship is still striving for total well-being. There are people who, for biological or psychological reasons, simply aren’t interested in sex yet still need nurturing relationships.

  57. DJC-

    Yes, I do believe marriage has a core meaning. There is something that, in principle. separates marriage from other relationships.

    I do not reflect upon whether as a criteria sex chromosomes or nurturing or anything else for that matter more to determine what differentiates marital unions from other forms of companion/nurturing relationships.

    Lastly, thanks for clarifying your position that you think a platonic relationship can be an instance of a real marriage. If nothing else, that view is odd, and one that I am guessing even most pro-ss”m” people would scoff at.

  58. DR84,

    Lastly, thanks for clarifying your position that you think a platonic relationship can be an instance of a real marriage. If nothing else, that view is odd, and one that I am guessing even most pro-ss”m” people would scoff at.

    An exclusive relationship striving for total well-being between two persons is not just any platonic relationship in this case but a unique and special one. People that scoff are suffering from a deficit in thoughtful reflection, we can ignore them.

  59. What does total-well being even involve? Is it possible for both parties to strive for total-well being if one is outdoorsy and loves to hike, climb, and explore and the other has little interest in such activities? Also, what about this two person relationship is exclusive? Are they just like more committed to each other than other people and/or are there activities they only do together?

    Sorry, I am asking a lot of questions. Feel free to them specifically answer or not. The point is, if nothing else, your view seems to only raise more and more questions rather than provide answers.

  60. Here is an incident that occurred as the result of the controversy over Indiana’s recently passed Freedom of Religion Law.

    Yesterday, after telling a local reporter that they would not be willing to cater a same-sex wedding, the O’Connors of Walkerton, Ind., received death threats and threats to their business — leading them to shut down indefinitely. Kevin O’Connor, who owns the small-town pizza parlor, says he is not sure when he will be able to reopen.

    Read more at: http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/416375/ten-things-caught-my-eye-about-indiana-and-religious-freedom-today-april-2-2015

    Here is a little more background about the story:

    –The news media was trolling the State looking for a business that actually discriminated against gays. Apparently this was the best they could come up with.

    –O’Connor’s pizza parlor does not discriminate against anyone. Gays are welcome.

    –O’Connor was asked a hypothetical question about catering a same sex wedding.

    –His business, however, does not do catering.

    For that he received death threats and had to shut down his business indefinitely.

    Who is being intolerant here? Is these the kind of actions that can be rationally and morally defended?

  61. I copied liberal portions of two recent Slate articles. One clearly shows that mere legal marriage is not nearly enough. The other arrogantly proclaims Christians are wrong about Christianity. Both tie in well with recent RFRA anger.

    http://www.slate.com/blogs/outward/2015/03/30/same_sex_marriage_in_england_and_wales_lessons_from_the_first_year.html

    “I’ve been interviewing same-sex couples in the United Kingdom, the United States, and Canada about their experience of marriage and civil partnership, and in all three countries, I’ve been reminded that there’s still a very wide gap between legal and social equality.”

    “But this is only part of the story. For many couples, the wedding or civil partnership ceremony was a more bittersweet occasion, bringing difficult family relationships to a head—and reminding same-sex couples that despite their new legal status, they could not necessarily expect to be treated as equals.

    Relatives often had few qualms about refusing to attend a ceremony; one couple’s same-sex wedding was boycotted by the entire family. The idea of a same-sex relationship may have been just about tolerable in some families, but being asked to turn up at the town hall and look like they were enjoying themselves was often too much to stomach.

    Negative reactions were a surprisingly regular feature of the research interviews, giving rise to complex emotions, including anger, resentment, and a sense of despair about the prospects for achieving equality.
    Dealing with service providers such as local authority registrars, caterers, and jewelers was even more unpredictable. The task of arranging a ceremony or buying wedding rings meant coming out to complete strangers and meeting with anything from effusive acceptance to cold indifference.”

    “In contrast to couples’ expectations about equality, their experience of getting married or entering a civil partnership often ended up bringing them into contact with a sense of their difference and highlighted the limitations of acceptance. This brought up conflicting emotions about what was supposed to be a profoundly positive milestone in these couples’ lives.”

    “Far too many lives are still blighted by prejudice and discrimination. As I found in my own research, this holds true for lesbian and gay couples’ experience of marriage and civil partnership as well. Legal reform only takes us so far; it’s usually one of the first steps toward real equality, but it’s certainly not the final one.
    So one year on, we should raise a glass to same-sex marriage but not lose sight of the challenges that lie ahead in delivering meaningful, day-to-day equality.”

    http://www.slate.com/blogs/outward/2015/04/02/instead_of_condemning_anti_gay_christians_we_should_ask_them_to_examine.html

    “It can be tempting to pile on the scorn for the O’Connor family, who own Memories Pizza, as they tell the news media with a straight face that refusing to serve gays is somehow not discrimination if it’s based in religion. But watching the news clips of the O’Connors and seeing the rush to pan their pizzeria on Yelp to retaliate for their bigotry, I almost felt sorry for them and the millions of other anti-gay Christians who seem genuinely not to understand how their views could be problematic in 2015. Indeed, as fun as it can be to watch and contribute to the pillorying of anti-gay Christians, reductive name-calling may actually be hindering progress for people on both sides of this issue.”

    “Now, just because it may be sincere does not make it right; it’s still discrimination. Indeed, it’s abundantly clear to anyone who thinks about it that citing religion in asserting anti-gay beliefs is prejudice pure and simple—just ask them for evidence of giving divorced people the same litmus test as gay people, and you’ll have proof of cherry-picking religious texts to suit a bias. Where, for instance, is the outcry to let adherents of the Old Testament stone adulterers to death?”

    “But here’s the thing: Millions of people still haven’t thought about it. And even when they do, according to a growing body of research, their biases can lie beyond their own awareness”

    “Prejudice is universal, but particular prejudices are learned in particular contexts. This is what too many anti-gay Christians seem not to realize—there is no religious reason why the Bible’s anti-gay passages should have come to dominate the hearts and minds of Christian conservatives more than its passages condemning divorce or environmental degradation. Christianity doesn’t require actually withholding services for same-sex weddings any more than it requires stoning adulterers. This fixation on blocking gay equality is nothing but a rationalization for feelings and beliefs that many people hold quite apart from religious traditions (another fascinating body of research has tied both conservatives and anti-gay sentiment to heightened disgust sensitivity). These attitudes are, in certain circles, culturally learned and socially reinforced—not mandated by the Bible.”

    “There is no doubt that many Christians truly think that by refusing to cater to same-sex marriages, they are simply being faithful to their religious tradition. They’re wrong. But they’re wrong because they lack self-knowledge, not because they are expressing socially unpopular views. And as fun as it may be to publicly sneer at their ignorance and to attribute it to malice, it may be more effective to nudge them toward self-examination, to offer a kind of amnesty for their sins of omission.”

  62. Gay activists and their secular progressive allies are not in favor of equal rights. They favor coercion to take away people’s freedom of thought, belief and conscience. Taking away someone’s rights, under the threat of punishment is not treating that person fairly, justly or equally. Equality without freedom of thought, belief and conscience is tyranny.

    Secondly, they are demanding for gays something nobody else has, universal affirmation. They are demanding that “society” as a whole affirm, not simply tolerate and respect thinking and moral beliefs with which they disagree. However, hypocritically they don’t grant that same right to “people of faith.” But I am not suggesting that they should. My point is that universal affirmation is not feasible.
    A free, open and democratic society can exist only if it tolerates beliefs that are mutually exclusive. Forcing everyone to think the same is not equality it, in fact, destroys any possibility for any kind equality.

    If I have any right, I have the right to be indifferent. It is impossible for me to examine and evaluate every moral, philosophical and religious belief system. For example, I am indifferent to what Mormons and Jehovah Witnesses think and believe. From time to time they show up at my door wanting to talk to me about their faith. I don’t have the time or the patience to argue with them. My point is they are free to believe what they want. They are also free to advocate for their beliefs. What they do not have the right to do is to demand that I in any way affirm their beliefs.

    Gay rights activists apparently believe that government or society, through law, can by fiat can create or take away rights. Rights, however, come from God, not man.

    Laws created by men are not moral absolutes, especially when they are created by moral relativists. (Most people on the left are moral relativists.) Making something legal doesn’t make it moral.

    Clearly gay activists (and other secular progressives) are motivated by an animus towards Christians and other people of faith– an animus that they clearly condemn (and rightly so) when it’s directed towards gays. If they want to have hatred towards others that’s their business, but that does not give them the right to act upon hatred. Misusing the law to discriminate against people you hate is not something any one has the right to do.

    If you use so-called “anti-discrimination” laws to discriminate then they’re not really anti-discrimination laws.

  63. I often see comments on this site about what gay people want or what gay people believe. I’m curious: has anyone who has identified him/herself as gay ever commented on this site as to what s/he actually wants and believes?

  64. os-

    JAD refers to gay activists and social progressives. I think we can only check the recent Dolce and Gabbana flap to see that not at all gays want the same thing.

    That said, among the activists…both those that are gay *and* those that are not. They clearly do not merely want legal “equality” they also want what they call social equality (which I would say is not equality at all). I posted a recent Slate article above that shows there is disappointment already for many of these gays who have legally “married” but their “marriage” was not received with the affirmation and excitement by others that they wanted. Their friends, family, and even strangers are often indifferent and even sometimes want no part of it. It seems this is a common experience for them.

    I think we can plainly see with the RFRA flap in Indiana and Arkansas that what they call a right to marriage is really a right to be able to go through life without ever encountering someone who openly opposes their idea of marriage. In other words, it is a right to force their view on everyone else. (i.e. how dare a wedding planner exist that does not affirm marriage exists for homosexual couples).

  65. DR84 –

    They clearly do not merely want legal “equality” they also want what they call social equality (which I would say is not equality at all).

    Sure. Why wouldn’t they want that? If you believe you are being discriminated against on illegitimate grounds, you would want that to stop, no?

    Of course, what they want and what they feel should be legally required can be – and so far as I can tell, usually is – different. I haven’t seen any proposed laws compelling relatives to attend a wedding, for example. The protections I’ve seen lobbying for include employment, housing, and what might be called ‘access to business’. In this case, five different florists in one town would refuse to provide flowers for a same-sex wedding. Why wouldn’t people in such circumstances be worried about a lack of alternatives?

  66. They clearly do not merely want legal “equality” they also want what they call social equality…

    Though a bit off topic, but related, I saw a network newscast featuring a story about pot smokers in Colorado lamenting the fact that though smoking pot is now legal they still face a social stigma and not everyone approves of what they do. And the network thought this was newsworthy and the people who were interviewed thought they were being treated unfairly. You can’t make this stuff up.

    And Ray. How does this (and your above) not concern you given what we have seen from many, many regimes in the past and present that demand complete acquiescence to whatever the state mandates as acceptable. Not just legal acceptance but groupthink, thought police type stuff. It has been and still is a reality in the world. Do you really think “it can’t happen here” even with what we see in this regard happening.

  67. Here is a common sense perspective from a lesbian. I totally agree with her. I guess that makes me a bigot, right?

    http://video.foxnews.com/v/4149090757001/mainstream-media-attack-indiana-pizza-shop/?playlist_id=930909787001#sp=show-clips

    Yeah I would vote for her if she was running for something.

    Tammy for President!

    Of course, I don’t know that much about her. I would at least vote for her views on tolerance… But she’d be a lot better than what’s her name—that former first lady.

  68. Ray-

    Sure, I can understand in a sense why they feel the way they do. What do you imagine would have to take place for them to get what they want? A society in which people are as enthusiastically supportive of homosexual relationships as we are now for marriages. How will them getting what they want legally (marriage licenses for homosexual relationships) be used by them to achieve their social goals?

    This is after all a zero-sum game. For them to achieve their “rights” it comes at the expense of others rights, and by and large the courts are on their side.

    OS-

    I will just say this in blunt terms. They would be treated the same as anyone else if they made the same choices. A man’s friends and family that may be cold and indifferent about his homosexual relationship would not be so if he found a wife. Social “equality” is not equality because they already have real equality.

  69. Ray-

    Hope you dont mind if I revisit a past topic.

    http://www.layman.org/faq-what-do-we-do-now-that-same-sex-marriage-is-permissible-in-the-pcusa-how-do-we-exercise-the-freedom-of-conscience-at-our-church/

    “Here’s the scenario:

    A gay or lesbian couple wants to get married in the little (or grand) idyllic (or iconic) Presbyterian church in your town.
    Your church has allowed non-member weddings in the past and you have a fee schedule that looks pretty much like a secular “rental/use” agreement. (Or, alternatively, you have a really good wedding policy but everyone knows of times when the rules have not been applied, non-members have been allowed to get married, counseling requirements have been waived, and other ministers have been allowed to perform weddings that your policy says have to be performed by your installed pastor.)
    The same-sex couple fills out the paperwork and the session declines their facilities use request.
    The couple brings civil action against the local church in state court alleging an unfair trade practice under state law. They couple that with an ancillary claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress for which they seek substantial damages.
    The first call the church makes is to their insurance company. If you do not already have a policy covering such claims you need to get a rider today.”

    Do you think it is completely obvious the church does not lose the discrimination lawsuit in this scenario?

  70. In his OP Tom wrote:

    We’ve taken a defensive stance, as if gay marriage were right unless it was proved wrong. This was a huge strategic error, certainly, but it was also an error with respect to reasoned debate. Here’s why. SSM proponents have put a positive, affirmative claim before the public: marriage should no longer be just for men with women, but also for same-sex couples. As the ones making the claim, they should have owned the burden of proof…

    This was backward from the beginning. For a change as culture-shaking as same-sex marriage, we should have demanded reasons beyond imagery and emotion. This was such a deeply significant move, actually, we should have demanded something approaching proof.

    The problem with that strategy is that it assumes that those on the SSM side of the debate are actually trying to be, or want to be, rational. They’re not. So demanding that they give “reasons beyond imagery and emotion” wouldn’t have worked and it is not going to work if we continue to try it now. The SSM advocates are motivated by a self-righteous ideology that is driven by power and passion, not reason.

    This is not to say that they do not think of themselves as rational. No one is going to confess to believing in something that is irrational. So obviously like all human beings they have to justify their POV by rationalizing it. But rationalization is not the same as rationality. This is why their rhetoric so quickly turns emotional, self-righteous and angry. It’s hard to argue against anger, hate and self-righteousness. It’s hard to expose the underlying irrationality without creating more anger, hate and self-righteousness.

    The big mistake that Christians have made for the past 55 years is that we have been reactive rather than proactive. For example, the pro-life movement is a reaction against a liberalized view of abortion. In a similar way we are reacting against SSM. We are against abortion—“a woman’s right to choose.” And, we are against SSM—the right of two consenting adults to marry the person of their choice. But what are we for?

    Notice that tactically speaking the pro-abortion/SSM side (which are part of a broader of a secular progressive agenda) has made some clever moves. The smartest one was to co-opt the idea of rights—the right to an abortion, the right to marriage. Who can be against rights? Therefore, it’s easy then to caricature and vilify our side as insensitive and intolerant.

    What is the secular progressive (SP) agenda? It’s easy to see when we list the issues they champion—race, class, gender and sexual orientation. Notice that the first three on the list are issues that Christians should be championing and could be championing. Why aren’t we?

    The sad truth is that we did at one time champion these issues. Not only did we champion them, we owned them. It was Christians, starting with first century Christians, who created western societies moral conscience (and consciousness) about these issues. In other words, these were the kind of things about which we were proactive.

    There is an opportunity here to still seize the high ground here, but the door has been closing. What I am suggesting is that we need to outflank the SP’s on the issues of race, class and gender. The dirty little secret about their side is that they really don’t care about these issues. “The hand’s up don’t shoot” lie that grew out of the Ferguson riot last summer reveals that. The SP’s only interest in race is to exploit it as a wedge issue (the same is true for class, gender and sexual orientation.) The truth doesn’t matter. The SP’s don’t want solutions here, they want to keep these issues the way they are so that they can exploit them for political purposes. Christians should be, and could be, offering real solution here. We haven’t been and that is why we are losing.

    I am not saying that we should throw in the towel when it comes to abortion and SSM. I am saying that just being reactionary is not going to win us any battles. It certainly isn’t going to win us the war.

  71. JAD,

    Christians should be, and could be, offering real solution here. We haven’t been and that is why we are losing.

    Offering real solutions is an excellent idea.

    -Gavin

  72. BillT –

    How does this (and your above) not concern you given what we have seen from many, many regimes in the past and present that demand complete acquiescence to whatever the state mandates as acceptable… Do you really think “it can’t happen here” even with what we see in this regard happening.

    Because the U.S. has things like the First Amendment. It’s certainly been imperfectly applied in the past – McCarthy witch-hunts, Alien and Sedition Act, the FBI during the civil rights movement, etc. But we’ve done a lot better than most regimes in history.

    And, of course, remember that you’re talking to an atheist. I don’t confuse being unpopular with being oppressed. For example, stores choosing not to sell liquor on Sunday is one thing; being legally required to is something different.

  73. DR84 –

    What do you imagine would have to take place for them to get what they want?

    Let’s say someone is a Christian. I think it’s safe to say that they want everyone to be Christian, too. It’s a tenet of the religion, after all, that they should work and pray for this. I strongly suspect you fall into this category yourself, in fact.

    So, that’s what you want. Does that mean you think it should be legally required that everyone convert? How about just that everyone be “enthusiastically supportive” of Christianity?

    Or, maybe, you make a distinction between what you want – socially, even spiritually – and what you think should be legally required? That those can be different things?

    This is after all a zero-sum game. For them to achieve their “rights” it comes at the expense of others rights, and by and large the courts are on their side.

    The truth of what you write there depends critically on exactly what “rights” we’re talking about. For example, when the Civil Rights Act ended Segregation in the U.S. south, was that a ‘zero-sum game’? Did the gain in the rights of blacks come at the expense of the rights of whites?

  74. JAD –

    The dirty little secret about their side is that they really don’t care about these issues. “The hand’s up don’t shoot” lie that grew out of the Ferguson riot last summer reveals that.

    Huh. “Lie”?

    Apparently Darren Wilson didn’t violate the law, shooting Michael Brown. But consider the context. The DOJ report documented the – ahem – adversarial relationship between the Ferguson police and the community it “served”. They have been racist, and habitually used unnecessary force, as anyone who reads the DOJ report can attest.

    In those circumstances, expecting people to just take the police’s word regarding their use of violence is… I’m having difficulty coming up with a suitable adjective. “Surprisingly wrongheaded” is the most polite way I can come up with.

    The protesters were, apparently, wrong about the specific case of Michael Brown. Don’t assume that means they were entirely wrong about the problems in Ferguson.

    It wouldn’t be the first time a political cause picked the wrong symbol. You don’t hear so much about Cliven Bundy after his racist statements came out…

  75. Huh. “Lie”?

    The protesters were, apparently, wrong about the specific case of Michael Brown. Don’t assume that means they were entirely wrong about the problems in Ferguson.

    Yes Ray a “Lie”. “Hands up, Don’t shoot” was a lie and an obvious one at that (given it came from Brown’s accomplice in the convenience store robbery he was being arrested for).

    And whatever “the problems in Ferguson” were and are “Hands up, Don’t shoot” was and is a lie. Talking about “the problems in Ferguson” doesn’t make it less so or excuse it in any way. In fact, given that there are “problems in Ferguson” lying about Michael Brown not only hasn’t helped but it has certainly hurt deal with what those problems really are. Lies are lies Ray. You trying to soft sell them is part of the problem, too.

  76. BillT – I don’t want to get dragged into a side issue here, but even when concluding that Michael Brown didn’t have his hands up when he was shot, the Washington Post wrote, “In this case, it is important for us to note that the initial “Hands up, don’t shoot” chant after Brown’s shooting has evolved into a message that is no longer connected solely to the Ferguson event. A series of other fatal shootings by police occurred following Brown’s death, and the “Hands up, don’t shoot” came to symbolize the need to hold law enforcement accountable.” Especially given the militarized response to the protests.

    The people chanting that weren’t lying. JAD claims “that they really don’t care about these issues”, but this doesn’t establish what he claims.

  77. The Washington Post, huh? Really!!! You’re not kidding me now are you?

    Wow, I’m totally shocked that a prominent player in the mainstream media who were at the very center of the whole “The hand’s up don’t shoot” lie, and the violence it engendered, is touting it as having “evolved into a message that is no longer connected solely to the Ferguson event.” One lies, the other one swears to it. What an absolute crock.

  78. Ray,

    And just so you don’t think I’m being unfair to the august Washington Post tell me this:

    If 1 is the number black men killed by white men,
    10 is the number of white men killed by black men, and
    100 is the number of black men killed by black men.

    So if “Hands up, don’t shoot” chant after Brown’s shooting has evolved into a message that is no longer connected solely to the Ferguson event.” Just what is it connected to? What message is it conveying and what real problem does it address?

  79. Ophis,

    True, but I think we need to be especially careful when we’re assessing evidence that supports a belief that we like or that we hold for other reasons. At those times, there’s a risk of being less motivated to look for holes in the arguments.

    Exactly … and why do you think this doesn’t apply to you in this particular case?

  80. BillT – If you read the links I gave, you’d see that there averaged three warrants per household in Ferguson. I mean, In 2013, the municipal court in Ferguson — a city of 21,135 people — issued 32,975 arrest warrants for nonviolent offenses, mostly driving violations.

    When combined with the sheer disrespect regularly shown by police – read that Red State link – you might be able to grasp why people simply did not and do not trust the police in Ferguson.

  81. Ray,

    Whether people do or do not trust the Ferguson Police has absolutely nothing to do with “Hands up, don’t shoot”. That’s a wholly separate issue only made worse by a blatantly false accusation involving the assault of a police officer by a violent felon and the quite justified shooting that followed. And the very rare unjustified shootings by the police, however tragic, don’t really hold a candle to the thousands of black deaths perpetrated by other black citizens.

    The Huffington Post makes big headlines over a rare unjustified police shooting but never mentions the twenty school age kids shot every month in Chicago. Double standard much? And which is the real problem Ray. This cop or the hundreds of dead black teenagers killed before they graduate high school.

  82. BillT –

    Whether people do or do not trust the Ferguson Police has absolutely nothing to do with “Hands up, don’t shoot”.

    Can’t agree with that, sorry. It was easy to believe that Wilson had done something wrong because people “do not trust the Ferguson Police”, and there have been plenty of examples elsewhere. It’s astonishing how often cases are turning up where video evidence doesn’t match the testimony of multiple officers.

    Especially when there were things like “Officer Go *** Yourself” going on during the protests.

    And the very rare unjustified shootings by the police, however tragic, don’t really hold a candle to the thousands of black deaths perpetrated by other black citizens.

    Yup, the black-on-black homicide rate’s around 93 percent. (Guess what the white-on-white homicide rate is? 84 percent.) That’s not to say there aren’t serious problems with violence in poor communities, but unjust police aren’t going to help.

    Besides, why are you framing this as an either-or issue? Why can’t we tackle both problems?

  83. Besides, why are you framing this as an either-or issue? Why can’t we tackle both problems?

    Because black on black crime doesn’t get mentioned at all, ever. We get national coverage, media outrage and the street violence it caused over a completely bogus incident in Ferguson and zero, nada, nothing about black on black crime or anything related to it. Tackle both problems! Is that suppose to be a joke?

  84. As I said earlier rationalization is not the same as rationality. Rationality starts with the facts and honest desire to find the truth, not with an ideological agenda or spin.

    The point I was trying to make earlier is that Christian’s have squandered a lot of great opportunities. One of these has been in the area of race and race relations. On the positive, proactive side, here is an example of a couple of Christian pastors– one white, one black– who had churches—one white, one black– in the urban center of Akron, Ohio. Beginning with a personal friendship, Pastors Knute Larson and Ron Fowler built a bridge, an alliance, between their two churches.

    I attended Pastor Larson’s church when I was living in the Akron area in the late 1990’s. I had a chance to personally meet both Rev. Larson and Rev. Fowler. Both were very warm, positive and compassionate human beings. We need more Christian leaders like these two men. We need for their message, which is Christ’s message, to take fire and spread. If we had started, like they did 20 years ago, I don’t think the church would be standing, like it is today, with its back against the wall.

    Also, here is a transcript from a 1997 town hall meeting that President Clinton had on race in Akron. Pastors Larson and Fowler were part of the panel. Their comments start towards the middle of the transcript.

    MR. LIEBARTH: Mr. President, to widen the circle of the debate and to illustrate Mr. Shipler’s point about the quiet work going on, to continue, the dialogue focuses very directly on the most segregated hour in America, it has been said, on Sunday morning. You have two pastors before you — Reverend Knute Larson, pastor of the Chapel in Akron, and the Reverend Ronald Fowler, pastor of the Arlington Church of God. Each of them have experiences to share along these lines.

    Reverend Larson, your background and your input into this.

    REVEREND LARSON: Yes — very white. Our passion is that people of faith, which are many Americans, will apply that so clearly taught. I grew up in a church where we talked about all the things of love and reconciliation. My dad was one of the kindest men I ever met. When we go to the Hershey Bears games and sit way up, it would be in “nigger heaven.” And it wasn’t until I was older that I thought how awful some of the things that were side issues were. And visiting as a pastor once with a man from our church to an African American home, as we left, he thanked me that I treated them as regular people. And that was when I woke up that I’ve got to do something.

    My friendship with Pastor Fowler has been the best thing in the world for me.

    REVEREND FOWLER: Mr. President, it’s been a mutual friendship. And one of the things that I can remember growing up, both in a rural as well as an urban setting, was that the community was predominantly African American. The families were very stable. We had our problems, but we lived every day dealing with racial issues. And part of my positive experience is being rescued from a drowning experience by a white person. Now, that experience gave me an outlook, a view, of life that has literally transformed my whole life — the way I respond to issues.

    I have to differ in part with our noted author in that part of what we’ve always dealt with in the black community is that whites have always had affirmative action. They’ve always had preferential treatment. Trying to level that playing ground sometimes is made to seem not working in the interest of all Americans because some people get disadvantaged as a result.

    I think we do need to talk about how to do it fairly so that we can continue to provide incentives for all the people to continue to do what the Bill of Rights did for soldiers coming back from that second world war. It gave them opportunities. Minorities need that. Much of what we have seen as success is not because we’ve been intentional in bringing about one American. It’s happened in spite of us.

    And part of what Pastor Larson and I have been trying to say is how could we be intentional in creating a relationship, an atmosphere, in which we could be free to talk about racial issues and getting people to dialogue about it so that we can keep crossing boundaries and building bridges.

    THE PRESIDENT: Let me ask you something. What impact has your relationship had on the people in your churches? I mean, it’s all — preachers are supposed to do the right thing. (Laughter.) I mean, come on. What impact has it had on people in your churches…

    Read more of the conversation at:

    http://clinton4.nara.gov/textonly/Initiatives/OneAmerica/19971204-2751.html

    My point, again, is that secular progressives are driven by ideology, not reason. Just coming up with better arguments as Tom suggested in the OP is not going to accomplish much. You can’t have an honest conversation when the SP’s persistently answer reason with spin. Taking back parts of the SP agenda (race, class and gender) where Christians once had a strong, if not dominant, voice will give us more credibility when talking out against different forms of discrimination. In other words, it’s a case where actions speak louder than words.

    It will require some compromise on the part of Christians. But where we won’t need to (indeed can’t) compromise is in the area of morality and theology. Something like marriage, which is sacred, must remain non-negotiable.

  85. BillT-

    Because black on black crime doesn’t get mentioned at all, ever.

    Yes, our country has real problems with race. And guess what? Our police system – our justice system – is a big part of that.

    When blacks are more likely to get stopped, and searched, and arrested, and convicted, and get longer sentences – when our fantastically wrong ‘war on drugs’ amplifies all the above – so that we have the largest prison population in the world, drastically skewed toward black prisoners, and on top of that, our entire economic system penalizes anyone convicted of a crime… yeah, you’re going to see a whole lot of young men who see no future at all. And, thus, violence.

    Not the whole story, of course, but a big contributor. Separating it out is misguided at best.

    (BTW, anyone want to get back to things like 80 or 81, or are we sticking with this side issue?)

  86. Ray,

    The police don’t make black people kill black people. The police don’t make black people commit felonies at multiple the rates other races. Those aren’t problems that have anything to do with the police. Trying to blame the police diverts attention and resources that are needed away from where they are needed to places they aren’t . And that’s just what these kind of stories are intended to do. Make sure the real problems aren’t addressed and everyone is kept looking at something or someone else to blame. Come on Ray, you’re too savvy not to see that.

  87. You know, I’ve just been vaguely aware of this debate, and I can’t help wondering how an article on the burden of proof in the marriage debate morphed into this. I’m not going to take the time to re-read the thread and find out. I’d rather somebody would explain it and let me know how it’s relevant. Thanks.

  88. Tom – JAD’s comment #78, and my reply #82.

    BillT – I don’t think you processed what I wrote. I said the police and justice system contributed, not that it was ‘the’ cause or anything. Race, poverty, and crime have a complicated relationship, but – as I said already – “unjust police aren’t going to help.”

    If you really intend to pursue this, I want to hear how you would address the “real problems”. Whatcha got?

  89. It’s good to hear the Supreme Court asking the lawyers some good questions.

    Justice Alito: “Suppose we rule in your favor in this case and then after that, a group consisting of two men and two women apply for a marriage license. Would there be any ground for denying them a license?”

    Notice the response is about how difficult the *divorce* would be. The divorce would be messy therefore we cannot let them get married. Who gets married with divorce in mind? Nobody. What a lame answer.

  90. SteveK –

    Notice the response is about how difficult the *divorce* would be.

    Not exactly. Remember my talk about “data structures” in another thread?

    The response is pointing out that polygamy would require a large restructuring of marriage law, whereas allowing same-sex marriage doesn’t require that kind of reorganization. As I noted before, treating corporations as people allows re-using a lot of existing law without change. This would be an example of that sort of thing.

  91. The difficult task of restructuring laws nullifies the law that pertains to equal rights, Ray??

  92. Sorry, SteveK, I can’t parse that. The point is that SSM doesn’t require such restructuring.

    It’s like, someone says, “It’s hot. Could you turn on the fan?” and someone objects, saying, “We’d have to tear out the walls an reroute ducts to put in central air conditioning.”

    Central air might or might not be desirable, but how much work it requires is not relevant to turning on a fan, nor does turning on a fan obligate anyone to buy an air conditioner.

  93. You can’t parse it?

    The response is pointing out that polygamy would require a large restructuring of marriage law, whereas allowing same-sex marriage doesn’t require that kind of reorganization.

    If I were the judge and this was the jist of the response as to why 4 people should be denied a license, then I would ask the lawyer the question I just asked.

  94. If you were a Supreme Court justice asking me that question, and I were arguing before the court, I’d say, “Since no restructuring is necessary in the question before the court, I have to say I don’t see the relevance of asking about the ‘difficulty of restructuring’ the law, nor do I see how this ‘nullifies the law that pertains to equal rights’.”

    How’s that?

  95. Ray.
    The judge asks a question and the lawyer responds with the legal reasoning for denying a license to 4 people.

    The lawyer (you in this case, #100) clarifies what the response actually means and the judge (me in this case. #101) then summarizes that response in the form of a question. Either the lawyer’s response (yours) isn’t relevant to the question or the summary (mine) was incorrect. I’m not sure which one it is.

    I hear you saying that the SC justice’s question isn’t relevant to the current case. Perhaps you’re right, but I’d think a SC justice would know. Maybe he’s searching for the underlying legal principle that justifies the current case. I can see that.

  96. SteveK –

    Either the lawyer’s response (yours) isn’t relevant to the question or the summary (mine) was incorrect. I’m not sure which one it is.

    The latter. She (and I) are pointing out that the question isn’t relevant to the case the Supreme Court is being asked to decide.

    Perhaps you’re right, but I’d think a SC justice would know.

    Scalia didn’t know – or, for rhetorical effect pretended not to know – that clergy are not legally required to marry people they don’t want to marry. Sotomayor and Kagan had to correct him. So I’d be careful of making such assumptions.

  97. Ray,
    The reason I think the question is relevant is because it gets to the principled understanding of why the lawyer thinks SS couples have the legal right being argued for in the case. If you cannot sufficiently explain why then have you met the required legal burden? Maybe, but I would say the outcome depends highly on how well you address the principle.

    In my view, I see the question as a “what is marriage?” kind of question.

  98.