Gay marriage amendment

Thursday 26 February 2004

Now Bush wants a constitutional amendment defining marriage (or he says he does, more on this below).

With all the talk of defending marriage and protecting marriage, and the threat to marriage, I still have not heard what harm will come to straight marriage from allowing gays to marry. Husbands and wives will continue to love each other. Straight people will continue to get married. What exactly is the harm?

All the people spouting off about how great marriage is, and how it's the cornerstone of civilization don't seem to get that with gay marriage, we'll have more people participating in this great thing, not fewer. Straight people have done a great job devaluing the insititution of marriage all by themselves. Think of Britney Spears, or Larry King (motto: "Forming long-lasting committed relationships is essential. I should know, I've done it plenty of times.")

I think it is disgraceful to propose to amend the constitution to limit personal rights. The only time that's been done was for Prohibition, and that's also the only amendment that was later repealed by another amendment.

I don't think the amendment will get out of Congress: Orrin Hatch (of all people) seems to be opposed to it. If somehow it does, I don't think it will pass the 38 state legislatures needed to ratify. I think Bush is hoping to win points with conservatives for having supported the amendment, then when Congress can't agree on one, will get to point fingers at "those in Congress who don't believe marriage is important".

Comments

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Doug 11:46 AM on 26 Feb 2004

Bill Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996... but somehow this is a new subject for this election year.
http://www.lectlaw.com/files/leg23.htm
http://www.indiana.edu/~glbtpol/doma.html

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Richard Schwartz 7:44 PM on 26 Feb 2004

Ned,

Click for my take on this

-rich

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Michael Brazier 2:21 AM on 27 Feb 2004

What's the harm in it, you ask? Consider this:

"So let's imagine that 1.5 percent of Americans without medical training apply for a get a license. Using Boortz's rationale, I would like any medical doctor reading this blog to explain just how your practice will be adversely affected by me and the maybe four million others simply being given a medical license and hanging out a shingle. So Dr. Smith or whatever your name might be, how would granting a medical-practice license to anyone who wants one adversely affect your practice?"

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Ned Batchelder 6:30 AM on 27 Feb 2004

There's a huge difference between doctors and spouses. Doctors claim to be able to perform a service effectively, and the public's health is guaranteed by licensing them.

So there are two faults to the comparison:

1) Other people are not directly harmed by two people having a "bad" marriage.

2) Where's the logic that says gays will have "bad" marriages? What makes a bad marriage? Failure to love? Gays love each other just as straights do. Failure to commit? Failure to support? Gays do all of these things the same as straight people do.

The only thing gays can't do is have babies biologically without outside intervention. There are plenty of straight people getting married who either cannot or will not have babies biologically, and we don't prevent them from getting married. In fact, two eighty-year-olds getting married show up as a heartwarming human interest story on the evening news.

I still haven't heard the harm. People's fears will be ignited and their conventions challenged, but no harm will come.

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Doug 8:01 AM on 27 Feb 2004

How about completely disrupting decades (centuries?) of family law? Alimony laws. Custody laws. Child support laws. Adoption laws. I suspect that divorced mothers could be the big losers.

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Ned Batchelder 8:42 AM on 27 Feb 2004

I'm sorry, I don't understand what you mean by "disrupting law". If you mean the law will now apply to new classes of people, yes, that's true. But what of it? Where's the harm? What actual bad thing will happen?

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Bret Young 12:05 AM on 28 Feb 2004

Interesting. I just happened to finish listening to this online radio show where the commentary would imply that your question is not material to the issue. I had never heard the issue put forth in such a way before. If you have the time to listen it's at http://www.strradio.org/current/021504.mp3

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Jonathon Duerig 4:41 AM on 28 Feb 2004

I have to agree with Ned on this. Here is my rebuttal to the radio show that was linked. Note that the radio show is quite long. Nonetheless, the first quarter hour or so seemed to capture the commentator's views in a nutshell:


Radio: Marriage is about procreation.
I say: This seems a bit shaky to start with. Later on, in support of his belief that 'Marriage is not about love', the commentator states the fact that the clerk who grants the license does not ask if the couple are in love. An analagous argument can be made about procreation. No clerk requires 'fertility certificates' at the time of marriage. But even this is too mild. If marriage were about procreation or the care of children, then licenses would only be granted to those who were adopting or pregnant. And then it would be granted to couples raising kids regardless of their relation to one another or gender.

But even if I grant the argument that marriage should be offered if there is the potential for procreation, then I would say that homosexuals would still have as much right to marriage as the rest of us. Because, they can still adopt. Through artificial conception, they can still give birth. So his line of reasoning in this regard is flawed as well.

Neither can it be accepted that 'through thousands of years, the human race has learned that the best way to raise a child is to have a father and a mother'. This is the worst kind of argument from authority. As though our ancestors had key insights into the world because they are long dead. Slavery was an ancient social institution which was supported by most of our ancestors who also thought of marriage as between a man and a woman. If they were so wrong in the one case, how can they be infallible in the other?


Radio: Marriage is not about love.
I say: Marriage is a part of our culture, and the nature of marriage can only be judged by how it is evidenced of our culture. Nearly everyone who dreams of marriage in our society dreams of love. If you told any yound lady that they should marry the a random guy quickly, instead of waiting for the right one, to promote procreation at the expense of the heart. She'd they'd laugh in your face.

Does this mean that every marriage is conceived in love and remains that way forever? No. But the fact that there are corrupt cops and criminals who get away doesn't mean that the police don't strive for the ideal of justice. Why would marriage have to be perfect to epitomize love if the police aren't perfect and epitomize justice?


Radio: Love does not equal marriage. There are those you love whom you should not marry.
I say: This is a bit of a straw man. First, from ancient times there has been a recognition of more than one species of love. There is platonic/fraternal/sororal/family love, and there is passionate/concupiscant(sp?)/sonnet/marriage love. Second, love is an ideal that people follow to a greater or lesser extent. Even if there is somebody whom you love passionately, you may have higher priorities (for many people this is a career) such that you never marry or the marriage cools off. This is not a function of how related marriage is to love. Rather, it is a function of how valued both love and marriage are to an individual.


Radio: Marriage does not require love.
I say: Marriages (and couples of all sorts) break up every day because they've 'lost that lovin' feeling'. Often there are other factors that hold a marriage together. Routine, desire for things to stay the same, social embarrassment. But even in the face of these, people break apart when the love is gone. While two people may not necessarily love each other to be married, love is certainly an essential to a healthy marriage.


Radio: Some heterosexuals have commitment or families without marriage.
I say: This really has no bearing on the issue. If I were to say to a black person in the sixties 'well, some white people like to sit at the back of the bus', I don't think they'd be mollified.


Radio: Public gives affirmation through marriage.
I say: The commentator is right in a sense. But these homosexual couples don't want every person in the U.S. to say 'I agree that what you do is right.'. They want the public embodied by the government to affirm their commitment. This is always a sticking point for those who think that the law is a moral force to be wielded in the face of 'those heathens'. But this is an incorrect view of the law. If homosexual marriage were legalized, it would be no more a statement that 'homosexuality is good' than the fact that alcohol is legal mean 'drinking is good'. They want a legal affirmation, not a moral one. What right have we to say that these two people get priviledges for finding commitment and these other two don't?


Radio: We all have the liberty to marry someone of opposite sex.
I say: Liberty to marry someone of the opposite sex is like liberty to drink only water. As long as you want what the system allows, you are ok. But as soon as you vary from the majority viewpoint, you have run out of liberties. Liberty is truly about leaving the choice and responsibility to the individual. The choice of whom to marry. The responsibility of deciding who is The One. All of these belong to the individual, not the state. If the state stamps its approval on a particularly commonplace sort of contract between two people, that should not give it the right to decid who those two people are.


Radio: They demand that society agrees with homosexuals.
I say: Nothing of the sort. What is demanded is a legal affirmation. You don't have to agree with a writer to give her the freedom to write. You don't have to agree with a drinker to give her the freedom to drink. You don't have to agree with the artist to give him the freedom to create. But right alongside these freedoms, you don't have to agree with the lover to let them commit to their love as deeply as our society supports commitment. For that is what marriage is truly about. And that is what everybody, regardless of their sexual orientation, brings when they decide to marry.

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Bret Young 10:15 AM on 28 Feb 2004

The radio host was making the point that marriage is a particular kind of thing and not just any sort of thing we want to make it. Regardless, to simply say "Straight people will continue to get married. What exactly is the harm?" as some sort of justification for the gay marriage position doesn't seem to me to be relevant. That was the original point of my reply.

I think the point being made about marriage not being about love is that love is not material to what marriage is. Right or wrong, it seems incorrect to say that gay marriage should be allowed because the two people love each other. The counter examples given in the show seemed (to me) convincing on this point.

Closer to my original point is this. If we are going to make love the issue, then Ned's plea could be turned around as: Gay people will continue to be able to love each other without any change in the law. Now, I know the reply to this is to say that they won't have all the allowances as afforded by society in heterosexual marriage. But, that is the point made in the radio show. Namely, there are lots of relationships of love (or not) that society doesn't grant these allowances. To simply say these allowances should be given to people because they have love for each other and doesn't cause harm to other marriages, doesn't seem persuasive to me. I think there is a simplification of the radio hosts argument and definition of marriage being a particular kind of thing made here. People can listen for themselves and make up there own mind.

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Jonathon Duerig 2:51 PM on 28 Feb 2004

A) Marriage is no more a particular kind of thing than government is. In some times and places marriage is monogomous. But in some places it wasn't (Mormon polygamy, harems, etc). Sometimes it has been about political alliance. Sometimes its been about procreation (political heir, for example). Sometimes its been about love. We already know how varied the expression of government is. I would argue that the expression of marriage has been nearly as varried.

B) If we are going to make love the issue, then your plea could be turned around as: All people will continue to be able to love each other without being married. Now, I know the reply to this is to say that they won't have all the allowances afforded by society for marriage. But, there are lots of relationships of love (or not) that society doesn't grant these allowances.

When a heterosexual couple wants to get married, nobody grills them about love or procreation or whether the marriage is for political alliance. The mere fact that they want to get married is enough for the official. Why should any other couple have to justify that their marriage is because of some 'accepted' reason?

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Bret Young 12:06 AM on 29 Feb 2004

A) OK. So governments have been varied. However, the variation isn't always good. What criteria determines the good ones from the bad? Maybe the same is true for the historical variations of marriage. If so, what criteria would we use to determine its limits? Or, does anything go?

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BlueRhythmJohnny 5:14 AM on 8 Mar 2004

The proposed amendment divides the world between 'married couples' which "consist only of the union of a man and a woman" and 'everyone else' - and it says that the "incidents of marriage" will be denied to EVERYONE who is not married.

It does not deny the "incidents of marriage" only to gay couples; it says they will be denied to ALL unmarried people, including heterosexual couples. The current language of this amendment could easily be used to outlaw ALL sex outside of marriage.

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Corey Furman 10:01 AM on 19 May 2004

This thread is pretty old, but I just ran across it, and thought I would add the perspective you folks aren't seeing. Just so you understand, I am a conservative Christian, but that doesn't mean that I agree with everything every other CC believes; everything has to pass my own logic tests.

I used to wonder what was the problem, too. I'm not gay and I don't support that lifestyle, but I used to think that wouldn't it be better in the long for society if homosexuals were more tightly paired? It might cut down on AIDS.

BUT... the problem with that logic is that it assumes homosexual behavior is somehow identical to heterosexual bavior, and it just isn't. That's not what the founders of this country thought, and it certainly wasn't what God thought when He instituted marriage. My worldview has changed - when you legalize gay marriage, you legitimize it.

This has been the problem with every behavior that at one time or another society facilitated. Take abortion. Pro abortion activists said that legalizing it would make it safer, but what decades of history now show us is that while the percentage of deaths during an abortion went down, the overall number greatly increased. Why? When they legalized it, they legitimized it, and people flocked to it. As a CC, I want to say let's not forget the destroyed babies!

I will not deny that my beliefs color my judgment - of course they do! I am always amazed and greatly disappointed by people who claim to be Christian, but don't agree with the principles of the Bible. Bear in mind, better than 90% of Americans claim to be Christian.

Thanks,
CF

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