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An impossible situation

Yesterday I had been reading a rather annoying article, which I don't particularly feel like linking to, urging conservatives to present themselves (somehow) differently in the pro-marriage fight. The author was being fairly non-specific and was just urging pro-marriage activists to find a way to bill their fight as "progressive" rather than as "defending marriage." (Evidently he thinks the word "defending" won't focus-group well.)

Anyway, as I was cooking dinner I was asking myself, in a spirit of charity (!) what sort of "positive" efforts he might have in mind, so we could say we're being positive and progressive rather than negative and defensive. There was some mention of no-fault divorce laws, so I thought, well, maybe one idea was to try to roll back no-fault divorce laws. That this would be some sort of positive program of strengthening marriage that pro-marriage forces could try to take credit for. (Though honestly, in terms of self-presentation, does anyone really expect the public at large to think, "Oh, how nice, they're not just negative, they also are trying to roll back no-fault divorce laws, so now I feel better about the people who think marriage should continue to be between one man and one woman"? I don't think so either.)

Then it hit me.

In jurisdictions where homosexual "marriage" is recognized by the state, we don't want to do that. I never had thought of this before.

Think of Lisa Miller. Think of others who have left the homosexual lifestyle. Do we really want to strengthen the legal ties that bind them to that lifestyle? Do we really want to make it harder for them to break away? Do we really want to require them to remain "married" to a homosexual partner unless they can prove severe abuse or infidelity?

Let's face it: The desire to strengthen marriage is at odds with anything that will strengthen the legal ties of "marriage."

A legal situation in which pseudo-marriage is put on a par with real marriage places the defenders of real marriage in an impossible position as far as trying to make positive legal attempts to strengthen real marriage. (Sermons and counseling--so long as it is counseling under the aegis of a church and can be restricted only to really married couples--are a different matter.) Think of the covenant marriage initiative. It would be an obscenity for a homosexual couple to get a "covenant marriage" making it even harder for one member to get legally free of the other. Yet I'll bet dollars to donuts that there will be some homosexual couples, probably lesbians and probably only a small number, who will get "covenant marriages" in states where they exist, if only for symbolic reasons: "See, we're using the conservatives' initiative against them."

Now, except for the covenant marriage initiative, there are very few attempts to make it harder to get out of marriage that lie within the realm of practical politics, so the whole question may be moot. From the perspective of real marriage, this is a bad thing. But from the perspective of pseudo-marriage, it is not a bad thing. It is a necessity. Repentance shouldn't be blocked by the state. And at least when we think about what to urge in the public arena and how to strategize, we need to bear this in mind.

What a mess. An impossible mess.

(Note: As usual, this is not an invitation to trolls from a certain fever swamp of the blogosphere to come in making misogynistic comments. You gents haven't been seen around here for a while, so perhaps this warning is unnecessary, but the topic of no-fault divorce may pop up on your radar somehow, and this is just a warning that such comments are not welcome.)

Comments (45)

Interesting argument. Would you agree that it comes down to whether or not you believe it's more important to try and stop homosexual "marriage" or to try and end no-fault divorce?

From the Catholic perspective at least, both are always and everywhere sinful-though I agree with you that the more important issue right now is homosexual "marriage"

Yes. It is an impossible mess, except to the divorce industry. This is because this is really for the lawyers. I don't know if you've ever heard of the Bootlegger and Baptist thing before- superficially an unlikely duo, but prohibition was in both their interests, since the bootlegger received higher profits and had to contend with less competition. In this case, the 'holier than thou' are a few gay rights advocates, and the bootleggers are lawyers- who a) benefit from more people's relationships coming under the divorce court's jurisdiction, and b) tend to be in government, which means they end up making law. So, they will make the law include homosexuals. There are too many lawyers, so undoubtedly the will expand the scope of the courts in many directions- whichever directions that will secure them a dependable source of income.

Our only recourse is to marry without reference to the state, unfortunately this is not an easy thing to convey to any sort of church leadership. No one wants to go back to the catacombs.

MA is right, it is an interesting argument. But it's a practical rather than a theoretical argument, so allow me a practical objection:

Those who want to enter into homosexual "marriage" do not, as a rule, partake of the traditional understanding of marriage as an irrevocable covenant between persons. Therefore, to the extent that the whole movement for inclusion of homosexual relations as a basis for marriage is grounded in an explicit rejection of the traditional understanding of marriage as ontologically binding, homosexuals (or more particularly, homosexual men) will in fact be deterred from entering into marriages which they believe to be insoluble.

For that matter, I have always held that interfaith marriage was at least in part a by-product of the decline of the stigma attached to divorce, and the ease with which people know it can be obtained. Probably half of the ill-advised marriages I've witnessed up-close would never have happened if people knew in advance that they were really, actually, stuck with them. This kind of reasoning is also why I've never believed that marriages were as loveless and miserable in the past as advocates of no-fault divorce have always claimed. People assume that today's divorce rate is a reflection of an instability intrinsic to marriage, and there is a grain of truth in this, since human concupiscence is a factor in these things. But my belief, no doubt derived from many years as a right-liberal, is that incentive structures matter very much--an easily dissolved contract is one that will be entered into frivolously and with little concern for the future, and therefore one from which a disproportionate number of people will wish to extricate themselves at some point.

Sage, it's definitely something on which reasonable people can have different perspectives, and what I wrote here is something that only occurred to me for the first time yesterday. When it did, though, it hit me like a ton of bricks.

Now, you're suggesting that, if no-fault divorce is rolled back somewhat in various states, this might disincentivize homosexual "marriage" in those states, so that there would be fewer of them.

That is indeed possible. A counter-prediction might be that, since homosexual "marriage" is mostly about symbolism, homosexual couples might still get the "marriages" in those states in order to advance the agenda while holding in reserve the idea of colluding in a divorce if they wanted one. This was often done in the old days of more restrictive divorce laws. A would "ask" B for a divorce, and B would set up evidence that he had committed infidelity (whether he had really done so or not), a case would be brought, and the fault divorce would go through.

But I have another worry that I didn't get into in the main post. That is this: Once homosexual "marriage" is already in place in a state (or if the SCOTUS should impose it on the entire nation), how will arguing for new restrictions on divorce for the sake of "strengthening marriage" compromise and corrupt conservatives? Here's what I fear: Conservatives will feel that they can't fight on all fronts at once. Therefore, if they are arguing for, say, covenant marriage as something new in a state that already has homosexual "marriage," they will feel like they have to talk about "how important it is to strengthen all marriages," without adding any kind of caveat about homosexual "marriage." I'm concerned that, in effect, they will have to waive that issue and *talk as if* homosexual unions are real marriages and as if they really do want to strengthen those bonds! This could lead to their actually believing it themselves. In fact, nothing is more likely.

I've already seen indications of this. These are anecdotal, but I think they are ominous.

--I've talked before about Douglas Mainwaring. Mainwaring *allegedly* is opposed to homosexual "marriage," and allegedly believes that children need both a father and a mother, but he actually speaks out of both sides of his mouth. He is an enthusiastic advocate of homosexual civil unions and of the families formed thereby and talks about the children of homosexuals as "our children." He's thus completely inconsistent on the idea that children should have parents of both genders. And one of his talking points is that we should have strong, permanent "families" for the sake of "all our children." You see the game? We should want homosexuals to keep their homosexual relationships going and to stay together, because we've accepted that they are going to "have children," and stability is taken to be an unqualified good for those children, even when it's the continuance of a homosexual relationship. Mainwaring is accepted by many conservatives as a spokesman.

--I just saw the other day a rather young conservative blogger (and I'm not going to link the article, because she was doing the best she could) who got herself tangled up on this very issue in a comments thread. She wrote a great main post, and then she got tackled by a liberal in the comments thread. In the course of the discussion, she actually said something like, "When there are children, even though it would be better for them to be with a mother and a father, I think we should encourage stability in those homosexual relationships because that will be better for the children." No, no, no, no, no! Children should _not_ be raised in homosexual relationships, and it is much better for one of the members of such and utterly perverted relationship to repent and break away from the relationship (as Lisa Miller did) than to treat it as though it's a real marriage and "stay together for the sake of the children."

I fear greatly that conservatives are going to get more and more confused on this very point, and arguing for rollbacks on no-fault divorce in jurisdictions with homosexual "marriage" is a perfect opportunity for that confusion to happen.

Moreover, the more conservatives _talk_ about those "marriages" as real marriages, as they will feel they must do perforce in arguing for such rollbacks, the more they cement the acceptance of homosexual "marriage" in the popular consciousness and even accept it in their own minds.

Think of Lisa Miller. Think of others who have left the homosexual lifestyle. Do we really want to strengthen the legal ties that bind them to that lifestyle? Do we really want to make it harder for them to break away? Do we really want to require them to remain "married" to a homosexual partner unless they can prove severe abuse or infidelity?

So we're letting 1/100th of 2% of the population dictate public policy in a way that perpetuates what is undeniably the most destructive assault on heterosexual, traditional marriage? Unbelievable. By that logic, we ought to let women with ectopic pregnancies hold hostage all of the efforts to end abortion on demand.

That's a really poor analogy. In what way would I have to appear to be approving of abortion, any abortion, if I move to ban abortions? How would ectopic pregnancies even come into it? Or is your point just that one could support a law to ban most abortions while still allowing an exception for ectopic pregnancies? Well, I still think that's a poor analogy, because it would be possible to argue for such a law while saying openly that one was making the exception only for tactical reasons. Or some people (I'm not trying to start an argument on this) might really believe that the removal of an ectopic pregnancy is allowable. Whereas I'm imagining conservatives who allegedly think that homosexual "marriages" aren't real marriage, and I'm trying to _keep_ them thinking that way rather than getting confused.

Please read my preceding comment. Look, can you imagine even today, much less ten years hence, any "conservative" activist fighting for a covenant marriage bill and telling some homosexual would-be co-belligerent that he (or more likely she) isn't welcome? Not a chance. I can see it now: "We're fighting here in Mississippi to strengthen _all_ our marriages. Please listen to this upcoming testimony by Butch Mary Smith and her beloved wife, Jody. They, too, are joining us in this fight to strengthen marriage, and we're so happy to have them here tonight. Butch and Jody, over to you."

The thing is, any such legal change has as its *express intent* to keep people together who are presently civilly married under the laws of that jurisdiction. If one believes that a known, identifiable, and highly politically visible sector of such civil marriages are actually obscene simulacra, destructive of true marriage by their very existence, then what are the legal, rhetorical, and psychological implications of saying, "I want as many civil marriages as possible in this state to be cemented together more firmly than before"?

Lydia,

I was addressing your main argument. You are letting the perfect be the enemy of the good here. The church cannot even articulate what a real marriage is to the public when we have serial monogamy licensed and respected by the state. As I said in another thread, no fault divorce changed civil marriage into an institution that is not, in fact, marriage. It made it nothing more than a dating relationship with a state license. It is as fungible now as a business partnership.

Society will change mainly by the numbers. Heterosexuals are the overwhelming majority. Whatever effects them will directly change the course of our culture. The damage that no fault divorce and its attendant fatherlessness and broken home culture tends to bring is well-documented and proven. It is also typically a generational sin that perpetuates itself quite reliably.

Our culture can survive gay marriage. It cannot survive the rapid increase in out of wedlock birth, fewer stable families forming, etc. that no fault divorce caused. One may make us less civilized and more depraved; the latter will quite literally lead to societal collapse on a far more epic scale.

If one believes that a known, identifiable, and highly politically visible sector of such civil marriages are actually obscene simulacra, destructive of true marriage by their very existence, then what are the legal, rhetorical, and psychological implications of saying, "I want as many civil marriages as possible in this state to be cemented together more firmly than before"?

What are the implications of letting such a tiny minority stop a policy change that would strengthen the core constituency of civil marriage? Well, one merely needs to look at the proven effects of fatherlessness and out of wedlock birth to answer that question. It's a culture very similar to the de facto matriarchy of the black ghetto which is now about 2-3 generations removed from traditional marriage among heterosexuals.

Gays didn't do that. The welfare state and no fault divorce did that.

Society will change mainly by the numbers. Heterosexuals are the overwhelming majority.
Our culture can survive gay marriage.

I would have agreed with you right off the bat, Mike, if it weren't for one historical example. Two words, having to do with fire and brimstone.

I am not sure that our culture can survive gay "marriage" given the context of warping and deforming still further the notion of marriage that must needs take place under the coming gay regime. Societies have successfully withstood marriage being misunderstood by reason of polygamy, yes. But not all deformations of it are survivable. We seem to be giving every evidence of putting nail after nail into the coffin, and while gay "marriage" may not be the entirety of the list of nails, it may just be the first one beyond which recovery is impossible.

Our culture can survive gay marriage.

One would have to define "our," "culture," and "survive" in order to clarify that sentence. If those were all spelled out in ways that I would find compelling, I'd be strongly inclined to disagree. One has only to think repeatedly of the incredible strangeness and obscenity of both what is going to be taught to our children and what will be taught to them still more--both taught formally in the schools and taught informally by what they are surrounded with. The complete and utter deconstruction of gender, the meaning of parenthood, the meaning of "family," and normal sexuality is scarcely something about which one can readily say, "Oh, our culture can survive that." And that's what we're facing. To the nth power.

Numbers isn't the issue. Influence is. If we could have counted on the relatively small numbers of homosexuals to restrict their influence, we wouldn't be where we are today. The phrase "or sexual orientation" wouldn't fall like boilerplate patter from the lips of anyone listing allegedly illegitimate reasons for discrimination. The California schools (and others) wouldn't be revising their curriculum to integrate references to homosexuals into all areas and break down "heteronormativity." And so on and so forth. We are talking about a group of people strongly aided and abetted in a hugely destructive agenda by leftists en toto, throughout the culture.

But I want to make something clear:

I don't make any of these comments about covenant marriage initiatives and the like and their intersection with homosexual "marriage" with any pleasure. I find these reflections of the last couple of days intensely dismaying. The idea that we can't legally strengthen real marriage without functionally strengthening and even, perhaps, rhetorically seeming to accept obscene pseudo-marriage is an extremely dismaying prospect. But I'm having trouble finding any way around it.

"No-fault divorce" is a cheerful euphemism for the reality of no-responsibility marriage. And no-responsibility marriage is the consequence of no-responsibility sex, i.e. contraception. There will be no broad rollback of easy divorce absent a popular willingness to curtail easy sex.

I don't know if that clarifies somewhat the nature of the immense inertia that pro-real-marriage supporters face, or simply adds to the gloomy sense of the inevitability of Gomorrah's triumphant return.

Societies have successfully withstood marriage being misunderstood by reason of polygamy, yes. But not all deformations of it are survivable. We seem to be giving every evidence of putting nail after nail into the coffin, and while gay "marriage" may not be the entirety of the list of nails, it may just be the first one beyond which recovery is impossible.

Tony, I think this is where conservatives are going at this all wrong. They've become so accustomed to no fault divorce that they don't realize that civil marriage is already dead in form. It merely lives in name only. Civil marriage was literally destroyed as an institution the moment no fault divorce was enacted. Gay marriage is more akin, in my opinion, to desecrating a corpse at this point.

Numbers isn't the issue. Influence is. If we could have counted on the relatively small numbers of homosexuals to restrict their influence, we wouldn't be where we are today. The phrase "or sexual orientation" wouldn't fall like boilerplate patter from the lips of anyone listing allegedly illegitimate reasons for discrimination. The California schools (and others) wouldn't be revising their curriculum to integrate references to homosexuals into all areas and break down "heteronormativity." And so on and so forth. We are talking about a group of people strongly aided and abetted in a hugely destructive agenda by leftists en toto, throughout the culture.

I would say that you are correct that influence is an issue, but you seem to misunderstand my point. Our culture can survive in a degraded, even depraved state with gay marriage being fully accepted. Our culture cannot survive another generation or two of no fault divorce. The cultural damage it is promoting will destroy our age demographics, ruin the economy and send us into a societal tailspin on things like crime, military power, societal stability, etc.

Why? Because no fault divorce, out of wedlock birth and mass fatherlessness all walk hand in hand. The effects of those things is well-documented and known. Even some on the left are waking up to the reality of how dangerous this trend is.

FWIW, Mike T. (and I don't know how much this will influence you), some homosexual activists are now openly saying that their final goal is simply the abolition of marriage. This should not surprise anyone, really. The increasing chaos advocated is just part of that. (Slate advocating polygamy the other day, for example.) We're talking here about the utter deconstruction of fatherhood and motherhood. So, if you're concerned about fatherlessness and societal instability and such...

Civil marriage was literally destroyed as an institution the moment no fault divorce was enacted.

I can see some sense in that, but it wasn't "enacted" everywhere, fully, and totally in play without even partial limitation everywhere, all at once. For example, New York didn't officially adopt a no-fault law until 2010.

Furthermore, while law may allow divorce without "cause", custom didn't do so equally, and in some circles custom is still a measurable impediment to "easy" divorce. You can't simply discount the disgrace it causes in active Christian circles as being irrelevant. Less important than it used to be, yes, but that's not enough to ignore it altogether.

I would say that easy divorce hasn't really done the kind of complete ruin you are talking about until you can say that most young adults not only don't plan for or expect marriage to be permanent, but don't even hope or wish for it. And while there is a very significant minority who are in that boat, I am not aware that it is now the majority. The culture still retains a thread of connection to what marriage ought to be in its ethos, beleaguered and failing though it is.

Slate advocating polygamy the other day, for example.

Everyone I read on the liberal side of the spectrum despises Slate. They are contrarian central. Polygamy as a feminist choice, what utter nonsense. Furthermore, as the article noted a previous Slate article detailed all the reasons it has harmful consequences to everyone, so they casually dismissed their own good arguments against plural marriage equality.
http://www.slate.com/articles/double_x/doublex/2012/01/the_problem_with_polygamy.html

Tony,

Please note my qualifier: civil marriage. I'm not debating whether or not sacramental marriage still exists in the Christian communities in such states or something equivalent in other religious communities. I'm saying that civil marriage no longer exists because no fault divorce so completely changed the nature of the sanctioned relationship that it is another relationship merely labeled as a form of marriage.

Lydia,

It is not an either-or, but rather which one would more immediately stop the bleeding. Gay marriage may affect the psychology of many people, but it doesn't affect both the psychology and actual marital status of heterosexuals. No fault divorce does. It is a real twofer in that way. Not only does it encourage serial monogamy, but it directly enables the destruction of marriage. Gays could engage in legally sanctioned polygamous arrangements with farm animals and that wouldn't impact heterosexuals in the direct ways no fault divorce does.

I believe Tony referenced Sodom and Gomorrah at one point in this thread. I'd answer that with a reminder that God hates divorce and adultery as passionately as He does homosexuality. Most Christians today don't seem to realize that God really does hate the sin of adultery every bit as much as He does homosexual fornication, and that serial monogamy is (for Christians, if not everyone, depending on how you read Jesus on divorce/remarriage) literally a form of adultery.

I realize this may sound merely depressing, Mike, but I doubt that the chaps in the inner city would start marrying the girls they are getting pregnant and whose children they are leaving fatherless if no-fault divorce were abolished tomorrow. And as far as social chaos, crime, etc., that fatherless demographic is the most noticeable.

But don't get me wrong. I'm generally all on-board with rolling back no-fault divorce. I hold no brief for it. And, while I probably don't see its continuance, in itself, a having quite the same violent consequences that you are outlining here, that doesn't matter to me too much. It's just that I've just realized some truly bizarre consequences of both the fight to roll it back and the actuality of rolling it back, once marriage has been defined to include homosexual "marriage." And I don't have a good solution to that. My arguments here are somewhat related to one another as well: I fear very much that there would be some sort of idea both that we _want to_ "tame" or "domesticate" or "make more stable" homosexual "marriage" and also that rolling back n.f.d. would be a way to do so. And I'm also thinking of the increasing number of evangelical "Christians" who are going soft on this issue and starting to believe that there could be such a thing as faithful, monogamous, and real homosexual "marriage." I'm thinking that if any of them were homosexual and got "married," they'd find it mentally even more confusing and even psychologically and ethically difficult to get back out of the relationship later if they'd entered into it as a "covenant" or without no-fault. They might even think that they were bound as a Christian to stay with the other person! It's not really all that farfetched.

It isn't far-fetched, but I think there are other issues at play here. Many churches are already unbound by traditional doctrine and take a reductionist view of scripture. Their goal is to expand the scope of personal freedom even into areas where traditionally no denomination believed in went. That in and of itself creates some very serious issues, and such people will probably lost on this issue if not something else. Many might find no fault divorce to be "morally necessary" because they know someone who is unhaaaaaapppppy in their marriage and need to leave in order "to not lose their relationship with God." Believe it or not, but a lot of Christian sites are rampant with the belief that divorce and remarriage are acceptable if you no longer love your spouse.

With regard to people like Lisa Miller, I can see why that would upset you. However, I don't think such hard cases merit being considered if the only choice is to lose the front on no fault divorce. My contention is that winning on no fault divorce would actually realign the legal reality of marriage with the traditional culture that a large minority still embraces. Even if homogamy were embraced and put under that umbrella, the idea that marriage is a separate, distinct and generally permanent institution would be restored. From that basis, we can more easily discuss what marriage is; right now, how does one articulate the substantial difference between civil marriage and cohabitation with children except in a few "rights" (which can become double edged swords such as when presumptive paternity forces a married man to pay for some cad's baby)?

The problem I see with the ghetto is that the welfare state and no fault divorce make mature, responsible black men unnecessary in the lives of black women there. It is terribly easy to just kick him to the curb and get state assistance. Who needs a boring old provider black man in the house who might want to tell mama what's what when she can just get welfare and find a more fun man? Restoring the black family won't happen overnight, but ending no fault divorce would knock out one of the pillars upon which the problem is built.

I'd also add that with out of wedlock rates going up among whites, it's only a matter of time before the white middle class collapses. At 40% and growing, it's wrecked the working class and single white women can only pull it off due to preferences in the workplace and academia as well as government programs.

The threat that out of wedlock birth rates poses to us is more of an immediate regression in our total culture and society. To paraphrase one example Vox Day used on a feminist recently, a society like Iran can survive with a rape culture and be merely less civilized. Now that Iran's birth rate has crashed to about 1 child per family, the whole structure of Iranian society is teetering on a demographic cliff. Now apply that to us and add in that many, many children are born fatherless which isn't even true of societies like Iran. Whatever we can do to restabilize the formation of heterosexual marriages and families will help.

Getting out of a homosexual union would actually not be that difficult, though it might cause scandal to the church. All Miller would have to do is seek out a religious union with a man willing to go through the court case with her and get pregnant by him. She could probably then file for her own civil divorce on the basis of her own adultery for which her unborn child would be a preponderance of evidence that she committed "adultery" with her husband.

Your second idea is highly creative, but I don't think it would be at all fair to the child (therefore, if for no other reason, not morally right) to use its conception as a means to an end, with that conception taking place in a legally volatile and unstable situation. Among other things, some (most?) states actually extend presumed paternity to anyone you were married (or in this case "married") to nine months prior to the birth of the child. Hence, it is entirely plausible that the child would be presumed to belong to the lesbian partner, with whom the civil bond would have existed during some portion of the pregnancy, creating all the horrible custody issues we have already seen.

For that reason and for others, my guess is that virtually no minister would perform a religious marriage ceremony until after the civil bond with the lesbian partner was severed.

Lydia,

You say above:

FWIW, Mike T. (and I don't know how much this will influence you), some homosexual activists are now openly saying that their final goal is simply the abolition of marriage. This should not surprise anyone, really. The increasing chaos advocated is just part of that. (Slate advocating polygamy the other day, for example.) We're talking here about the utter deconstruction of fatherhood and motherhood. So, if you're concerned about fatherlessness and societal instability and such...

I wonder if you had this in mind:

It’s a no-brainer that (homosexuals) should have the right to marry, but I also think equally that it’s a no-brainer that the institution of marriage should not exist. . . . Fighting for gay marriage generally involves lying about what we are going to do with marriage when we get there—because we lie that the institution of marriage is not going to change, and that is a lie.

The institution of marriage is going to change, and it should change. And again, I don’t think it should exist. And I don’t like taking part in creating fictions about my life. That’s sort of not what I had in mind when I came out thirty years ago.

I have three kids who have five parents, more or less, and I don’t see why they shouldn’t have five parents legally. . . . I met my new partner, and she had just had a baby, and that baby’s biological father is my brother, and my daughter’s biological father is a man who lives in Russia, and my adopted son also considers him his father. So the five parents break down into two groups of three. . . . And really, I would like to live in a legal system that is capable of reflecting that reality, and I don’t think that’s compatible with the institution of marriage.

[Source: http://www.firstthings.com/blogs/firstthoughts/2013/04/16/what-few-deny-gay-marriage-will-do/]

I tend to be on Mike T's side here, just because I worry about all the damage divorce has already done and I want to think of creative ways to heal some of that damage and to stop the bleeding. However, when I read about the ways in which religious liberty is under attack from the gay "marriage" movement and read quotes like the one above, I suspect that we need to both protect traditional marriage and work to strengthen existing marriages at the same time. Both/and.

Yes, I did have that in mind.

I'm deeply inclined to be a both-and person on these things and had _never_ before thought of there being any sort of competition between the two--between, e.g., efforts to roll back no-fault divorce (though who is really spearheading any such effort effectively?) and opposing homosexual "marriage."

It's simply that I was suddenly struck with the insane consequences of homosexual "marriage" after it's already in place and one *then* attempts in a jurisdiction that recognizes it to rollback no-fault. What is one doing *then*? What might this look like rhetorically, as well? The fact is that one _does_ hear people, particularly those who are most concerned with a consequentialist argument against homosexual "marriage," who seem to be saying that if homosexual "marriages" proved to be more stable than they expect them to be, they would reconsider their appropriateness. Together with some of the other anecdotes I listed above, I fear this points to a completely misguided "conservative" trajectory of trying to convince gays to stay together in their "marriages"! To make them allegedly better or better for kids or more like heterosexual marriage or whatever. Which is wrong wrong wrong.

Lydia,

Consider this. A heterosexual may believe that two homosexuals can actually be married, but then when he or she wants to marry they must do so within the civil framework of traditional marriage. Thus while the civil framework might recognize a homosexual bastardization of traditional marriage as an equal, for the heterosexual couple it has the effect of actually forcing them to choose between traditional marriage or no marriage for themselves.

From where I stand, that seems like a positive step in the right direction. Even if the system encourages many heterosexuals to support a fiction about marriage, it may force them to actually live a real marriage when they marry. Holding out seems to me to be the worst of both worlds as they gay assault is likely to win anyway. Probably the best way we can sneak around the gay movement is to make "gay marriage" so much like traditional marriage that it makes it highly undesirable. Considering just how promiscuous so many gay men are, giving the one victimized by adultery a clear title to financially rape the other in divorce court would terrify many of them into never going there. (This is what many MRAs have mused about how if one homosexual had to be "the husband" under current family law court proceedings, virtually no homosexuals would even dream of marrying)

states actually extend presumed paternity to anyone you were married (or in this case "married") to nine months prior to the birth of the child. Hence, it is entirely plausible that the child would be presumed to belong to the lesbian partner, with whom the civil bond would have existed during some portion of the pregnancy, creating all the horrible custody issues we have already seen.

Presumed paternity might extend some sort of visitation rights to the lesbian partner in some states, but it wouldn't inherently make them the "father" of the child. I do believe that the mother has a right to name whoever she believes is the actual father. This would make things interesting because a mother dead set to prove that the child is not in any way connected to the lesbian and who is firmly committed to proving her own "adultery" would probably blindside the family law courts. They're really only accustomed to dealing with women who want to hide paternity fraud, not women who want to throw the out of wedlock conception in their husband's face and leave the marriage.

My guess would be that 75% of all feminists would be in favor of sticking it to the woman who left the union because at the end of the day, mainstream feminists care more about racism and "homophobia" than genuine women's rights. At least that's the impression I get as a white male who has seen Western feminists stridently denounce criticism of Islamic culture while enthusiastically denouncing Western culture as misogynist.

On a related note, a liberal relative of mine was bemoaning a documentary where some guy was bragging about impregnating 5 or 6 women out of wedlock. Obviously, welfare was involved and he was too poor to pay child support. She kept waxing on and on about how he was a piece of human garbage, and I asked her precisely what incentive did society give those women to close their legs to a man they knew wouldn't marry them (and who was a serial impregnator).

She couldn't name a single one other than "loss of opportunity" or the child being some sort of burden. That, right there, is part of the problem here. If society were to tell those women that as a matter of public policy, they'd be on their own and at the mercy of private charity to care for that baby most of them would likely have not given him much attention.

Even now, most defenders of traditional marriage firmly believe that if push comes to shove, we need to give them child support claims and welfare. I contend that such legal rights and privileges are the sole domain of married mothers. An unwed mother cannot make a claim that her lover gave her a commitment to raise a family. She cannot claim that she had sex with him in good faith that he'd be there as a father.

I would certainly _disagree_ that it is a "positive step" if we are doing something (especially if we know we're doing something) that positively _encourages_ more people to accept the idea that homosexuals are really married. Bad move. That's my whole point. So we have a big gap between our perspectives right there, Mike, if you're saying what I believe you are saying in your last comment--namely, that it's a net gain if we do something that positively encourages more heterosexuals to believe in homosexual "marriage" as real marriage but at the same time cause more heterosexuals to make permanent marriages for themselves. That pretty much defines a mixed bag outcome as far as I'm concerned, and I wouldn't do it if I could foresee the former consequence. (Which I'm foreseeing right here in this post, so...)

As for this

Presumed paternity might extend some sort of visitation rights to the lesbian partner in some states, but it wouldn't inherently make them the "father" of the child. I do believe that the mother has a right to name whoever she believes is the actual father.

a) It doesn't matter what you believe should be the case, it's a matter of what is the case in law.

b) Presumed paternity could create any sort of situation the judge wanted it to, up to and including joint custody. The lesbian partner would be very likely to declare the child to be "my daughter" or "my son," no matter how ludicrous this was from every perspective, because of the symbolic value. In Lisa Miller's case, it was held to require *unsupervised* visits including overnights with Jenkins. When Miller eventually stopped complying, the judge awarded *full* custody to Jenkins to punish Miller.

c) It would be _wrong_ to conceive a child without a clear _legal_ father, simply because one hoped to use the child as a means to the end of getting out of a lesbian "marriage." Completely wrong.

That pretty much defines a mixed bag outcome as far as I'm concerned, and I wouldn't do it if I could foresee the former consequence. (Which I'm foreseeing right here in this post, so...)

But what you're actually doing is encouraging them to have two erroneous views, not one. They'll believe in the non-permanence of heterosexual marriage and believe in the legal fiction of gay marriage. So you'll go from having a mixed bag to a completely rotten bag. Instead of a possible path to renewal, you will have a reliable path to precisely where you don't want to be because broad support for gay marriage is likely anyway. What you are losing here is an opportunity to teach many children what real marriage looks like and to have them growing up with the association of "one man, one woman for life (adultery, abandonment, documented abuse and whatever extenuating circumstances are applied notwithstanding)."

Zippy made an interesting comment on his blog a little while ago to the effect that our divorce culture has made the church come full circle. Where once fatherhood was used to explain God to the congregation, now God will have to be used to explain fatherhood to the congregation. That's a pretty damning and true statement of our divorce culture's impact on understanding basic human relations. I think a child that fits that description is far more likely to be clueless about gay marriage than one who has more closely lived the reality.

a) It doesn't matter what you believe should be the case, it's a matter of what is the case in law.

"I believe" in the context of "I believe the actual law is..." that a woman can actually positively name a father other than her husband and have it stick.

c) It would be _wrong_ to conceive a child without a clear _legal_ father, simply because one hoped to use the child as a means to the end of getting out of a lesbian "marriage." Completely wrong.

It would be wrong and stupid. Sinful? Probably not. I would simply tell an ex-homosexual in such a situation to take their lumps and not involve a child in the consequences of their past life at that point.

** I'm not a lawyer and neither are you, but I would imagine that if a woman positively identified and proved the child is not her lesbian lover's child and then sought divorce on grounds of adultery she'd have a strong case.

From Virginia law:

f. A child born to a married birth mother shall be presumed to be the child of her husband and his consent shall be required, unless the court finds that the father's consent is withheld contrary to the best interests of the child as provided in § 63.2-1205 or if his consent is unobtainable. The consent of such presumed father shall be under oath and in writing and may be executed in or out of court. The presumption that the husband is the father of the child may be rebutted by sufficient evidence, satisfactory to the juvenile and domestic relations district court, which would establish by a preponderance of the evidence the paternity of another man or the impossibility or improbability of cohabitation of the birth mother and her husband for a period of at least 300 days preceding the birth of the child, in which case the husband's consent shall not be required. The executed denial of paternity by the putative father shall be sufficient to rebut the presumption that he is the father of the child. If the court is satisfied that the presumption has been rebutted, notice of the adoption shall not be required to be given to the presumed father.

A rebuttable presumption. I get that. And it could be possible to pull it off. But I would tell anyone not to do it to a child. Because that _is_ in a sense involving the child in the consequences of your past sin.

As to your previous comment about "encouraging people to have two wrong views," that raises the interesting question of whether not doing X is encouraging people to think Y.

That is to say: Suppose that someone says, "Oh, look, here in Massachusetts we have no-fault divorce. Hey, Lydia [supposing I lived in Massachusetts], how about if we start an organization called Massachusetts Citizens for Covenant Marriage, made it a 501c3, and started lobbying our state congressmen to reform Mass. marriage law to make it much harder to get a divorce?" And suppose I said, "If you'd suggested that to me fifteen years ago, I'd have been all over it, but now there's this horrible complication, because I'm afraid we would end up getting entangled in seeming to say that we want homosexuals to stay together permanently, which we don't, plus it would make it harder for them to get away from the lifestyle..." etc., etc., just as we've been discussing here.

Now, in doing that and throwing cold water on my hypothetical friend's suggestion, am *I* encouraging anybody to think of real marriage as impermanent? Not exactly. It's not that I don't understand what it means to say, "Our present social context with its laws encourages people to think of marriage as impermanent." I do understand that. But in simply refusing to get on board with my friend's suggestion because of the bizarre new context in Massachusetts, I don't consider myself to be _endorsing_ that situation. And I'm certainly not going to be _saying_ anything that endorses it. To the contrary, I can say all kinds of things against it any time and any way I want.

But how easy would it be for members of Massachusetts Citizens for Covenant Marriage, speaking to the press, say, to speak out (if asked) against homosexual "marriage"? Very hard, is my guess.

So the issue here is sort of like, "First, do no harm." I would want to be shown *at a minimum* a clear way to run MCCM that would be allowed to be as "homophobic" as possible. And even then, I would have other hesitations such as we've discussed about the actual legal effect of whatever law we were seeking, especially since it couldn't be restricted to heterosexual couples only.

I am fine with the idea of pushing against no-fault divorce, just for the sake of standing up for truth alone, whatever the other consequences. Truth has a way of clearing the air, and making other truths more knowable, so if you succeed in pushing one truth, you may make other lies more difficult to stand up.

Also, there is no problem with being so-called "inconsistent" with pushing for marriage to be protected by the state and not pushing for homosexual "marriage" to be protected. In practice, it's an almost irrelevancy (in terms of sheer numbers). In theory, in terms of what we say and think and ask others to think when we say the state ought to protect marriage, there are LOTS of other grounds to enable the state to not spend effort to uphold the "sanctity" of gay "marriage" than just the basic contract itself, so we can always push on those other things. And frankly, I am more willing to BE just plain in their face inconsistent about protecting marriage. Yes, heterosexual marriage should be protected under law, and NO, gay "marriage" should not, and nuts to them as thinks marriage is marriage, when it aint.

I am with Lydia that it would be a grave injustice to a child to conceive a child for the explicit purpose of unraveling a gay "marriage" by so-called adultery. And it is always a grave injustice to a child to conceive a child outside of marriage anyway. But given our screwed up culture and how people cavalierly walk away from partners and spouses, I am okay with a situation where a former lesbian has turned her back on her lesbian partner for good, wants out of the stupid so-called marriage, has turned semi-hetero enough to have a child with a "committed" male sort-of kind-a father, to use the conceived child who is there anyway to undermine the gay "marriage" in court. Maybe we could get the courts so thoroughly turned around, doing 360's and 540's and 720's, not to mention 3600's, that they just bloody well let the actual, biological, birth mother do ANYTHING that is half-way reasonable instead of forcing a child to spend time with a lesbian "father" that nobody actually wants around anymore and is connected to the child neither by a biology, nor a remaining sexual relationship with the mother, nor any ties of affection with the mother, nor any essential good of the child. There's just nothing

there with which to construct a good reason to force an ongoing relationship with the child, and be damned to trying to pretend that a former "marriage" in the past continues to provide a reason.

Lydia, form MCCM to have as its reason for being to "promote the permanence of complementary marriage" - that is, marriage between two people whose physiology is such as to constitute, between them, sufficient inherent capacity as to generate a child without outside (human or natural) agency, extraneous impediments notwithstanding. Since gay "marriage" isn't complementary, it doesn't come under their scope of what they want to promote, and they can attack it (with side-swipes, at least) all they want while promoting complementary marriage.

In fact, why not just ask the state to put in place a BRAND NEW category of marriage, "complementary marriage" and make it a covenental arrangement right from the first?

Ah, Tony, you're a creative guy. I thought yesterday, "Tony is the man I need on the job here."

Okay, your suggestion here is an interesting one:

In fact, why not just ask the state to put in place a BRAND NEW category of marriage, "complementary marriage" and make it a covenental arrangement right from the first?

Certainly, MCCM can _ask_ for anything it wants. One question right off is this: Will Massachusetts legislators say, "The courts would tell us that is unconstitutional"? Would that prediction be right? About which courts? Probably Mass. Supreme Court (which forced homosexual "marriage" in Mass. in the first place). Possibly SCOTUS. We'll know more about that (sigh) this summer.

My guess is that, if it's left to the states, some states, the ones that have homosexual "marriage" because of some alleged right in the state constitution, will say that any creation of _any_ category of marriage that is between a man and a woman, whatever it is called, is a "not allowed law," because it is allegedly unconstitutional. Some states that have non-discrimination laws that include sexual orientation will probably say the same for that reason--that any category of covenant marriage between a man and a woman would be in conflict with their state non-discrimination laws.

But speaking for myself, I'd have no problem *at all* with *asking* for such a thing, seeking to have it put into place.

Now, if our hypothetical MCCM exists avowedly for the purpose of strengthening complementary marriage, a question arises here: Suppose that some state legislator says he's willing to sponsor legislation that would create a covenant marriage category _without_ the restriction to complementary couples, or that he's willing to sponsor legislation that would roll back no-fault divorce across the board. Does MCCM endorse that legislation?

Yes, MCCM can (if they want to) get on board with endorsing that legislation, for the basic standard of just plain supporting truth (even when it isn't the entire truth), and for the practical effect, since very, very, extremely few instances of problems will arise precisely from the state having to treat gay "marriages" under this rubric, compared to the hetero marriages affected.

When the state is already saying totally grotesquely incoherent things, it doesn't due to say "No, you shouldn't have the state STOP saying X very wrong thing because then it would be saying something incoherent with respect to Y." That's not a good enough reason, given how incoherent it is already. The state is already being totally and utterly goofy on marriage already, saying six incomprehensible things at the same time (and before breakfast, no less). Putting a new one (putatively) in its mouth while taking an old one off the table isn't worse.

Well, I know what you mean, and with an org. like MCCM as we have defined it, they can issue explicit pronouncements that they are doing this entirely for the sake of the complementary marriages they hope it will strengthen. Hence no scenarios like my Butch and Jody horror story above.

However, suppose the legislation passes. Then, suppose you are providing help and counsel to a homosexual person who has entered into one of the "marriages" under the new legislation. Now he's become a Christian, he's repented, he wants, quite rightly, to be disentangled from the other person. He needs to disentangle their finances so as to have some capital to move on in his own life and try at least to get _partial_ custody of and some continued ability to help the children they have adopted together, rather than just abandoning them to the entirely pagan and unrepentantly homosexual man. (Let's suppose it's a male couple, so neither is biologically related to the children.) But he can't do this unless he can get a "divorce" from this "marriage." And the other man hasn't obligingly provided him with clear evidence of "infidelity."

How do you counsel him?

Things are even _more_ complex as the conditions for divorce in such a new-fault (as it were) state are made more restrictive. I suppose there are some who would advocate in an ideal world for laws that don't even have an infidelity exception, or even for no exceptions at all. Making it literally impossible for your counsellee to get away from a complex connection to his former partner!

I could well imagine his saying, "This would have been easier before that legislation passed. Talk about the law of unintended consequences."

Lydia, depending on the state, he can still get a divorce, based on "grounds" (i.e. "fault") for divorce. Such as separation for 1 year. In some states it apparently doesn't matter who moved out from whom.

In any case, if a state goes far enough to get rid of "no fault" divorce, I can guarantee you there will be some enterprising lawyer willing to attempt to force the courts to dream up a judicially satisfying basis to find a cause for divorce (within the law if necessary, extra-legally if they are very activist) in the situation. If nothing else, if one partner converts to a religion that holds gay 'marriage" to be evil, he can plead for divorce on religious freedom grounds - which may not succeed, of course, but there is no harm in making the attempt. Looking at the matter semi-consistently, if the state thinks "wanting to have sex together" is sufficient basis for allowing a marriage, then "being morally or religiously opposed to having sex together" ought to be grounds for divorce, or at least legal separation. And you can always ask for a legal separation even if you can't get a divorce.

I like your arguments, Tony.

Ultimately we just need to persevere in doing what is right, even though it may (temporarily) inconvenience some people right now.

The thing about liberal "what about divorce?" concern trolling is that when same-sex marriage becomes a constitutional right, abolishing no-fault divorce becomes unconstitutional in all likelihood, because marriage/procreation/child-rearing are solidified as having no intrinsic connection

I'm certainly not "concern trolling," James E. Good grief. Nor do I know of _any_ liberal that has or would bring up these questions. Nor do I know of any liberal "concern trolling about divorce." What do they have to worry about here? These concerns are strictly questions that arise from an extremely conservative perspective.

No I know. I meant that I've seen it pop up as a talking point in this particular debate, i.e. someone against SSM is asked "don't you think divorce is more of a problem?" but the person asking would most likely be horrified if any legal changes against no-fault divorce were proposed.

Oh, *I* see. I'm sorry. I misunderstood.

Yes, one definitely sees that a lot. Sapping people's energy to fight against SS"M" by saying we have to roll back no-fault first, or that's the "real" problem (like there can't be more than one real problem), and so forth. Liberals do it, and some conservatives really believe it.

or that's the "real" problem (like there can't be more than one real problem), and so forth

No fault divorce did fundamentally change the conception of marriage in the mainstream. It reduced marriage to a relationship where one need only stay in it as long as one felt in love or that it was convenient. In that sense, it made same sex marriage possible by changing the philosophical foundation of marriage in the mainstream society.

Spiritually, same sex marriage is every bit as severe of a problem. However, I would say that from a legal perspective the danger no fault divorce poses is far more clear and present.

By the way, I'm not sure if you're aware of this, but feminists are now trying to give cohabitating women the same rights in separation as married women in divorce. Conservatives should oppose this because every step toward making married and unmarried women equal is another step toward erasing all earthly distinctions between marriage and living in sin.

By the way, I'm not sure if you're aware of this, but feminists are now trying to give cohabitating women the same rights in separation as married women in divorce.

Is there the remotest chance that (if they were to succeed) this would put a damper on cohabitation, so that its frequency declined significantly? Seems to me that one of the major reasons, socially, that cohabitation arose so widely was that it DIDN'T have the social implications (like support) that marriage had. If that ceases to be true, I would think there would fall out new social reactions. Don't know what, though.

But giving those cohabitation right to women is of no benefit...

If that ceases to be true, I would think there would fall out new social reactions. Don't know what, though.

The men capable of managing a friend with benefits or two would probably be even less likely to commit to anything at that point. Meanwhile, we'll hear all sorts of commentators lament the absence of "good men," how all men are enjoying a cornucopia of sexual fulfillment at the expense of the pooooor widdle womyn and why we need more matriarchy not patriarchy.

(That would be despite the fact that many feminists like Hanna Rosin have noted that the hookup culture is more popular with young women than young men today)

Sigh. Enough, Mike. See my note in the o.p.

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