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For Want of a Nail

by Tony M.

From small mistakes come large failures. Or, as Aristotle puts it, a small error in the premises may lead to a grave error in conclusions.

I have been listening to the Supreme Court oral arguments on gay “marriage” – 2 days of arguments, one on Prop 8 from Calif, the other on DOMA and an estate tax marital deduction. Among many smaller thoughts, one thing stands out that is remarkABLE but is absolutely, utterly unremarked by both sides, and illustrates perfectly the way a cultural attitude shapes gaps in perception: In all of the comments about Prop 8 and DOMA, nothing by either side (so far as I have heard, anyway) allows one to think that both these laws allow gays to get married. You would think that both laws state: Homosexuals cannot marry. That’s false. NEITHER LAW stands in the way of gays getting married. The mantra of the gays is that they are being blocked from marriage, which is a civil right. Utter hogwash.

Of course gays can get married. In all 50 states, any man who is of age and unmarried can marry a woman who is of age, not closely related, and not already married. That includes gays. A gay man can marry a woman. A lesbian woman can marry a man. The law does not pick out homosexuals and say “homosexuals cannot marry”. The law doesn’t even ask if you are homosexual. You can be gay, straight, bi-sexual, or whatever, the law _does_not_speak to whether you can get married. It only speaks to the gender complementarity of the people marrying. Any gay man can marry a woman, just as any straight man can marry a woman. Any lesbian woman can marry a man, just as any straight women can marry a man. There’s no discrimination against homosexuals in THAT. Equal before the law.

OK, you’re nodding and smiling and saying “well, of course, but no gay men WANT to marry women.” In point of fact, this isn’t accurate: there are some gay men who want to marry women because they want children, and they want the children naturally. They love and have a respect for the natural good of children, and they respect the natural order in bringing children into the world in the context of a natural family. These gay men DO actually want to marry women for the sake of children, even though women cannot satisfy their cravings for sexual love. They don’t want the women for satisfying sex, but they want do want marriage for children.

But even aside from these few gay men, the discriminating that is going on in the law is a discrimination not about your sexual orientation but about the gender-difference of the union. The law discriminates in favor of gender complementarity, and as a result stands against gender neutrality or gender irrelevancy. The law says absolutely nothing at all about the sexual orientation of the parties. No discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation occurs whatsoever.

Yes, of course, but marriage is about sexually satisfying love - romantic love - so walling off marriage so that gays cannot marry people with whom they desire sexually satisfying romance is against civil rights, isn’t it? Well, is it? Let’s pick that apart a little.

Not all societies are so totally roped in on rights to protect our romantic desires. In fact, in most societies before the 20th century, and in India today, many marriages have been arranged between families. Sometimes the families did the arranging without regard to romance at all, (especially among the nobility), and other times they arranged the marriages with romance being a secondary concern.

Yes, I can hear your howls of outrage: but that’s not American! Our culture doesn’t force people into arranged marriages! Are you so sure? My last used car I bought off someone whose family arranged their marriage. Admittedly, they had emigrated from India, but they were here in America, getting along just fine among all of us romantic lovers. One of my closest neighbors is a man whose family has arranged marriages for 3 of their children, right here in America – and they are not from India. I am not pointing this out to belittle the notion of romantic love, I am doing it to make a point about the narrowness of cultural perspective. People just won’t stop and reflect carefully on “what is marriage for”, they make assumptions about it, historically unreflective assumptions that don’t necessarily hold up in the light of day. In the upper class families of Europe, at least among those without strong Christian scruples, it was commonly said that marriage was for dynasty, mistresses were for personal satisfaction. Many French still have some of that attitude. On the other side of the coin, in ancient Athens there was a quite considerable streak of toleration for homosexuality, and openly gay people like Alcibiades were not treated with hatred. Because only men (typically) were educated, in some circles it was thought that marriage is for family and children, but if a man wanted a “true equal” in a lover he would seek out another man. It is, therefore, possible to hold no animus against romantic fulfillment, without assuming that it’s the core, essential thing marriage is about. And it is possible to have no animus against homosexual relationships, without in the least bit imagining that two gays ought to be able to marry each other. Just to finish out the thought: The couple from whom I bought my car reiterated the long tradition (from both east and west) that if a man and a woman commit to marriage with respect for each other and with a commitment to making loving choices on behalf of each other (including in the bedroom), romantic satisfaction tends to follow, through natural causes combined with human effort. It isn’t that they treat romantic love as being irrelevant to marriage, but that they recognize it as being not the sole determining concern, nor even the first.

There is no definitive reason why people who feel romantic love for each other have to get married. Heck, some romantic couples don’t want to even live in the same house, they want to continue to see each other regularly but have their own independent establishments to retreat to. Similarly, some people who are happy to live in the same house / apartment have absolutely no romantic feelings for each other at all. Suppose two bachelors shared the same apartment for 3 years, but who each (separately) enjoy an active sex life with various women, for example, neither having any intention of marrying, and they eventually decide to buy a house, half each, to continue to enjoy their stable play-boy arrangements. So, if two people love each other, and desire each other sexually, and have no intention of living together or having children, should we socially “recognize” their romantic and sexual feelings by according their condition the name and status “marriage”? Nobody has ever suggested it so far, and with good reason. If two people live together and expect to continue to live together for many years indefinitely, should we give that intention the name and status “marriage”? Nobody has ever suggested it before now, and with good reason. Is NOT calling their long term intention “marriage” a denial of a civil right? Of course not. There is no civil right to having society grant the recognition of the status called “marriage” on people like the above.

If you ask 50% of 18 year old men, they would LOVE to marry X, Y, or Z starlet, say Taylor Swift. But they cannot do so, even though that’s what they “desire”. So, is that against their civil rights? Of course, it isn’t what Swift wants. The “civil right” of a man to marry a woman who doesn’t want to marry him seems to be something of a misnomer, doesn’t it? The civil right of the man can’t be a right that runs roughshod over the civil right of the woman, so we say that no, the man’s civil rights do not protect his right to marry someone against their will.

Can we generalize and say that among consenting adults who have a romantic love, they have a right to marriage as a civil right? Well, again, the societal answer to that has ALWAYS been “not necessarily.” A father has no right to marry his daughter, no matter how much “in love” they are. Likewise, a brother and sister have no such civil right. Why? Well, the reason is obvious, of course: CHILDREN. There is too much danger of children being genetically short-changed. So, let’s follow this out along the lines of an argument that took up at least 5 minutes of the SC’s time: what if both father and daughter are sterile – suppose the daughter aged 35 has had an hysterectomy and the father aged 52 is sterile from chemo drugs.. Can they get married? There is no genetic problem with that. What possible social objection could there be, then?

The answer is deeper than that, and a 5 minute oral argument before 9 justices ready to break into each other’s thoughts is not the venue for sorting it out, unfortunately for 300 million people whose future is riding on their decision. Social recognition of a special state, with special benefits and special requirements, arose in connection with and due to the relationship of children to their parents. If you look at the 1000 ways society conveys social respect to married couples, it is easy to see that most of them arose within the context of protecting and promoting the welfare of the children which normally are the fruit of a ”marriage” as traditionally defined - a permanent, social, emotional and physically (sexually) expressed union of two people, which union is of such a character and power as to be capable of engendering children without outside agency, when not impeded by physical circumstances. Defined properly, the complementarity of the sexes required for the entity is manifest and integral.

Even many of the benefits that apparently are accorded simply between the spouses arose within a context in which those benefits protected and promoted the welfare of children. To take a simple and easy example, look at the estate tax marital deduction from one of the cases at stake here. Thea Speyer’s estate claimed a deduction available to married couples. But why did society even decide to grant a marital deduction for estate tax for married people? Obviously, when two people have spent decades together and built up a unified household together, splitting that household apart and taxing one half is an unsavory sort of burden to put on the widow. But THAT situation, is, itself, rooted in a still deeper set of needs, namely that a married couple will spend decades together building up a household – which is for the sake of children. That’s because marriage is for the sake of children: the permanence of marriage is one of its core aspects, and is due to the needs of children. (By the way, there is no necessary assumption that the ENTIRE estate needs to be protected by such estate tax marital deduction: it makes much more sense to protect the household and (subsistence) farm estate for this than it does to protect the portfolio of stocks for a married couple, and not too long in the past only half of the estate was so protected. This is consistent with some state laws in intestate deaths – the state-ordered division of goods put only half in the hands of the widow, and the other half went to kids outright.) Similarly, the needs of children are what drives couples to base their economy on one parent’s large(r) income from full time work, which allows the other parent either to stay home for the kids or work only part time – and this is the basis for treating the entire “estate” of the couple as being a joint effort and according that property a marital deduction, even though most of the property comes from directly from only one spouse’s work. The presumptive rationale for this deduction benefit falls apart when there ceases to be any relevant connection between marriage and children, and between the status of marriage and having a combined estate (of not-very-equal personal property between spouses) for the sake of something beyond merely an associated household during life (given that we don’t accord 2 long-term housemates such a deduction).

So, any benefits accorded to the status of marriage on account of its permanence or its distinctive combined living is also due to marriage’s connection (in principle) with children. Without that, nobody would have cared enough (historically) to award the status such benefit. This remains true even of marriages where both parties are sterile: the definition of marriage includes physical union of such a character and power as to be capable engendering children, if no physical impediments stand in the way.

(Lest we have people carping that permanence of marriage is something that belongs just as much to marriage due to the emotional bond as due to children, that emotional need is ITSELF related to children. Christian marital ethics teaches that God designed man as an integrated entity, with its parts being harmonious. Thus, He designed man so that his emotional capacities and needs would fall in harmoniously with his physical dimension: the very same design that makes children need two parents for so many years makes parents ready to commit to being together permanently: human sexual love (as distinguished from animal desire) is a love of rational self-giving, so that the permanent self-giving by which a parent commits to bringing a child into the world is ALSO a permanent self-giving to the spouse by which that child is engendered. (The fact that not each individual act of sex engenders a child is again irrelevant – the act is of such a nature and power as to do so unless impeded by physical circumstances.) It is impossible to say that the affective unitive aspect of marital union is separated from the good of children. Likewise, the human need of children to be raised in a family of permanent complementary love is borne of the same integral design: To grow complete psychologically, the child needs graphic, personal examples of both fatherly and motherly (self-giving) love. The harmony between personal satisfaction, sexual love and children (conceiving, bearing, and raising well) is proof of the integrity of the design.)

What has all this to do with civil rights? This: the state doesn’t grant to two people who have feelings for each other with a special status merely because they have those feelings. That’s not what the social recognition is for, and there is no civil right violated. Nor does the state grant special status on two people who want to live together really, really strongly – again that’s not what the social recognition is for, and there is no civil right violated. To combine the two situations into one couple - 2 people who have really strong emotional feelings and who want to live together - merely adds one irrelevant condition onto another, without creating a relevant condition thereby. If, within their feelings and living together they generate a physical union which is itself of such a nature and power as to engender children (unless physical circumstances hinder), THAT’s a new condition to the enterprise that matters to society in a fundamental way and bears social recognition.

What has all this to do with the Supreme Court’s deliberation, and a shoe losing its nail? Here’s my prediction for the outcome: Going by the tenor of his comments in March in court and his earlier judicial theorizing, Justice Anthony Kennedy seems to be leaning toward bringing eternal infamy upon his first name (ahem) and the Court by siding with the gays, unless he can carve out a middle path that satisfies neither the gays nor normal marriage. That middle path could take this form: Prop 8 could have been a legitimate law in a state that protects children’s welfare by reference to marriage explicitly. But in a state that allows gay adoption (even if not married) and adoption by singles, they have chosen to disregard the ancient connection between marriage and children, and so this state at least cannot argue that they intend a rational protection of children by allowing only straight people to be married. If he takes such a position, at least for those purposes the cause of normal marriage will have been lost earlier in the so-called “little” battles over contraception, abortion, sodomy, and allowing gays “civil unions”, and allowing gays (or single people) to adopt – all individual smaller battles over the nature of sex and marriage. People who said back in 2004 “well, why NOT allow gays to adopt, it doesn’t have any greater import than just taking care of that child” were wrong, demonstrably so. Thus in arguments on both days, lawyers for traditional marriage were hampered in attempting to argue anything like traditional marriage, and it showed in what they were left with. Lawyers for DOMA hardly even attempted to make a case for the traditional marriage in its own right, and lawyers for Prop 8 had to thread a much more difficult course than simply saying that sodomy and gay sex is contrary to marital love because marital love is built into a context that relates such love and children integrally. The SC itself will have been the agency by which marriage was undone, but earlier in the midst of Griswold, Roe, Lawrence, etc, where the Court repeatedly ignored underlying principles connecting sex and marriage, thereby making those arguments nearly impossible to make without also running afoul of accepted dicta about contraception, abortion, sodomy, etc.

If you listen to the debates, it will be immediately clear that if the SC vote goes for the gays and against normal marriage, there is no conceptual limit to “marriage.” Soon there will be 3 and 4 person groups who want to marry, and there will be no “rational” state basis for saying no. People will argue for, and attempt "temporary" marriages - which (if there are no children) might have the benefit of allowing the couple after the end of the term to call themselves "not married:" without having to go through a divorce, and without naming themselves "divorced". Ironically, line “marriages” will happen (6 to 15 or more people marrying, intergenerationally, adding new people as old ones die, so that a “line marriage” can last literally for hundreds of years) and will force a complete re-structuring of the marital deduction on estate tax after all. After things like that, people will attempt to “marry” the other partners in a limited partnership, and then the shareholders of a closely-held corporation will attempt marriage (thus putting a wrecking ball through the pension and health insurance systems organized with spousal benefits). Soon, governments will stop according X, Y, and Z benefits to marriage, and it will become a much less desirable status than it once was, so much so that many gays will wonder what the point was for pushing for gay “marriage” anyway. A pyrrhic (brimstone variety) victory, discerned only after they have brought down a whole culture. If we are incredibly lucky (after all that), we will eventually arrive at a “new”, separate status for people who want to have children within a permanent committed relationship of complementary love – and THAT status will again start receiving social benefits. But Hell forbid that we call it marriage.

Comments (44)

Thanks very much, Tony.

Your argument here makes very clear why we should always challenge phrases like "allowing gays to marry." It's a lot of nonsense. And it's instructive how few activists on the left of the issue are willing to use phrases like "giving gay relationships the civil status of marriage." It's not a particularly long phrase, and it is factually neutral. The reason they don't use it is because they don't want to admit that what they are asking for is a *special status*. They aren't asking just to be "allowed to do something." They are asking for _recognition_ by society and by government of a certain type for their homosexual relationships. The faux libertarianism in all of this sometimes makes me want to tear my hair out, all the more so as, while I am by no means a card-carrying libertarian, I have some sympathies in that direction. By this is emphatically *not* a matter of "leaving people alone."

I've not harrowed myself with following the arguments and didn't know that homosexual adoption had featured so prominently. Looks like Anita Bryant was right all along. And I must say here forcefully: I wonder how many of the very small number (in America) of so-called "allies" conservatives want to claim among self-styled homosexuals (Douglas Mainwaring, I'm looking at you) would favor a return to the days when it was illegal under state law for homosexuals to adopt. Or even would favor a return to the days where all adoption agencies, including those run directly by the state, would de facto refuse to give children to homosexuals to adopt. I'm betting, none. Hence, their arguments against homosexual "marriage" on the grounds of the good of children, which would otherwise be good arguments, ring hollow.

Very well written! I've had this discussion before and the response has always been that "homosexuals don't have the right to marry who they WANT to, unlike heterosexuals". You did a very good job addressing that point. Bookmarking this page.

I think you're right Tony - this will open the floodgates so that anyone can marry anyone. Father/daughter, brother/sister, and polygamists will all have precedence to cite in their favor. Plus, it will immediately allow those two heterosexual confirmed bachelors sharing a house to "get married" in order to get a tax break. Then, down the road, if polygamy gets legalized, two married men (say business partners) could "marry" each other without having to divorce their wives in order to get additional tax breaks.

It's the law of unintended consequences.

Great article. I am so sick of hearing that marriage is all about love (what about children? Generations? Communities?). And what happens when that love burns out? The belief that marriage is based on emotions is also what got us no-fault divorce. My father abandoned our family when I was 5 because my mother just wasn't working out for him anymore. I am now a young woman in my 20's and I still intensely grieve the destruction of my family, and will for the rest of my life.

I would much rather have Indians with arranged marriages in my community rather than couples who think marriage is all about two people expressing their love and gaining personal fulfillment.

SM, I am sorry for you regarding your family history. I see the same thing over and over in my cousins, nieces, etc. (Though, oddly, not in my own siblings even though only 2 of 7 are still practicing Christians). Ripping out the underpinnings of society's understanding of marriage as meaning something more important than feelings has made it much more difficult even for decent and well-meaning people to maintain their marriages intact. Young adults are finding it incredibly difficult to find a possible spouse with whom they can commit to a lifetime endeavor, based on acts of the will rather than emotion, because so few of their peers understand marriage to be that kind of thing.

Lydia, the arguments in court were not directly referring to gay adoptions much, although that did come up. Rather, it was that the lawyer for Prop 8 was so clearly and obviously constrained in the sorts of arguments he could bring to bear that, given the social degradation already encompassed, that he was effectively forced into weaker forms of argument. If he could have said point blank anything even remotely like "marriage is for children and that's one of the reasons we don't allow singles or gays to adopt" he would have had a better overall presentation. Similarly, the court decision in Lawrence also strapped him down: now that it is accepted dictum that the state has no rational basis for treating sodomy as a crime, another useful line of argument was barred to him before he even put foot in the courtroom. Although we can place the blame for many of these problems on the SC itself, given its history of undermining social morality for the last 60 years, it is ALSO true that the court has been playing along with a very definite (but relatively narrow) stream of elitist hatred of traditional morals together with a much wider stream of moral indifference and love of the easy way among both liberal followers and non-liberals of various stripes. If we didn't have at least 50% of the country basically _wanting_or_willing_ to live unchastely, we might have achieved something to put the SC back into its box after Griswold, or certainly after Roe. As many have remarked before, eternal vigilance is required, but it FIRST requires vigilance over one's own self: self mastery is needed in order to have public virtues in abundance.

The question always has to be asked: What is civil marriage? Why should it exist, and why should anyone care?

What the homosexual rights movement demands is that we treat civil marriage as a kind of government-granted pat on the head, a social smiley face, for a pair of people who love each other romantically and sexually and allege that they want to set up a common life together (or have already done so). But why the dickens should the government give smiley faces for that? Why put a special status on it? Why have justices of the peace administer vows for it and give a piece of paper for it? Why give it tax breaks and apply special rules for death in the case of intestacy to it? And so forth. I've sometimes heard the extremely weak claim that it helps societal stability generally for human beings of any gender to pair up romantically, so the government has a stake in encouraging human, romantic, long-term pairings of any sexual type. Really? Not seeing it. What has always helped societal stability is the sexually complementary family.

Just a comment on terminology: I don't think Tony meant to endorse forcing anyone into arranged marriages nor the idea that a marriage into which one is forced is a real marriage. In fact, my understanding is that Catholic teaching is that a coerced marriage is null.

Huh... I was going to say something along the lines of what Lydia just said but was afraid I'd get the whip for trying to "libertarianize" the conversation. Since Lydia broached the subject though, I second her point. We need a fundamental conversation about the proper role of government in marriage. My biggest fear (as I've often stated) is government coercion of Christians into accepting sinful acts via "non-discrimination" etc.

It's not so much that the government needs to "have a role in marriage" as that it's important that there _be_ marriage, civil marriage (as Tony and I have both argued before, if it didn't exist, it would have to be invented) and that government give that important status on better grounds than "these two people (because we just arbitrarily picked the number two) claim to luuuv each other." This is why it needs to be given to one man and one woman only.

Tony and Lydia,

This was a timely and well-written essay which I'm about to send to a particularly foolish Chicago Sun-Times columnist who decided to run this "story" today:

A child’s plea. . .

In the midst of the same-sex marriage muddle comes an appeal from a 10-year-old girl, Braiden Neubecker, who lives in River Forest with her brother, Michael — and their two dads.

It is an essay written by Braiden that was included in the legal briefs filed with the U.S. Supreme Court, which is now hearing cases dealing with same sex marriage.

Braiden was adopted in 2009 after living with five foster families. She and her family paid a visit to Sen. Mark Kirk’s office a few weeks before his announcement last Tuesday that he was supporting gay marriage — and they left him her essay, which reads, in part:

“Love is important!

“It doesn’t matter who people love, as long as they are happy. Everyone should have the right to marry who he or she wants. You may not like two men being married, but for them, it’s normal.

“My two dads should be able to be married and have the same rights as any married couple. How would you feel if you couldn’t marry someone just because the government said you weren’t allowed to. If I loved someone and wasn’t allowed to marry them, I would be really sad.

“My family has taught me that even if you don’t agree with someone, you should still be kind and respectful. The government should too. Also, my church tells me that you should treat other people the way you want to be treated. . .

“Before I lived with my two dads, my life was horrible. My old family never treated me well. They wouldn’t stand up for me. If my foster sister fought with me, my old mom would just sit there and watch me get hurt, so I would have to fight back. Each time I was at foster home, the foster parents promised me they would keep me safe and treat my brother and I equally. But they always broke their promise.

“I moved five times until my dad and daddy found me. They also promised that they would always love me and keep me safe and they would treat me equal to my brother. I was four when I met them. Now I am ten and they have kept their promises. They do so much for me. They never hurt me or my brother. I feel so safe.

“I believe I can do anything with my two dads. Would there be any purpose to ban the marriage of two men or two women when they can treat children the same or even better than other couples. I hope that you will do the right thing and let anyone marry who they want to.”

Braiden’s parents, David and Lee Neubecker, were married in San Francisco in 2004 when then-mayor Gavin Newsom was issuing marriage licenses to gay couples. But their marriage was nullified when Newsom was told he had no legal standing to issue the licenses. They are currently waiting to get married (again) when Illinois makes it legal.

Notice the confusing language in the story -- "marriage muddle" (what's muddled is this columnist's thinking), "two dads" (as if such a thing were possible), "dad and daddy" (the poor girl is already morally corrupted), "Braiden's parents" (as if two men could ever be "parents"), etc.

There is a good reason that the Catholic Church says "[a]llowing children to be adopted by persons living in such unions [meaning so called "same-sex marriage"] would actually mean doing violence to these children, in the sense that their condition of dependency would be used to place them in an environment that is not conducive to their full human development."

Pray for Braiden and her brother.

Lydia, you are quite right: in the Catholic view, a coerced marriage isn't a marriage at all, because the marriage essentially consists in the consent of 2 parties to that kind of union (other factors being present). Without real consent, it's not a real marriage (which is what about 99% of modern Catholic annulments are based on).

Daniel, I will live with some discussion of why the state needs to do anything formal about marriage at all, but I may decide at some point to put some brakes on it.

I'll even flush out some particulars of Lydia's bare-bones reference. According to the classical Christian (but not just Christian) understanding of marriage, there is an ontological reality that occurs when a man and woman marry: the two become a "one thing" in a certain way. That one thing is a family. Because of that one-ness, the 2 act in certain ways that would not otherwise obtain, and these ways pertain to certain core components of the marital union, its defining character. Superficially: obviously 2 people who are in love and have made permanent vows for each other are going to look out for each other, and protect each other, possibly even to the point of lying to protect the other in danger. Similarly, 2 people who have taken vows of permanent union and have combined households may divide wealth-gaining and home-ordering tasks unevenly, to maximize total human benefit (including leisure, etc). Clearly, a state organized to simply ignore the fact that 2 people are in love and have committed their lives permanently together may have some trouble putting one of them on a witness stand to testify against the other - the testimony is unlikely to be worth much, and may simply put the spouse in the way of perjury for no socially redeeming benefit. Similarly, in a state that has organized a tax system to grant each person a "personal exemption" against his income so as to exempt a base amount in order to be "fair" to those whose income is miniscule, if the state simply _ignores_ the condition of a couple who have vowed to permanently unite themselves and their worldly goods for the sake of family and subdivide tasks (like wealth-gaining) unevenly, the state ends up being inequitable to the couple on account of the spouse who doesn't work for income, because she loses out on a personal exemption.

Dozens of similar fact patterns could be adduced. But all of them pale into insignificance with the state's relationship to children. If the state simply ignores the existence of marital vows and treats the married couple as if they were just 2 independent people, then the state cannot recognize the father as anything other than an independent party. The state could not, for example, recognize fathers having any sort of custody that would be in any sense different from the temporary, incomplete, legally limited "custody" that teachers or day care providers have during the hours a mother leaves her kid there. There simply would not be any category for any more developed custody for fathers, since the state wouldn't care about fatherhood at all. without recognizing a marital union, there isn't any fatherhood for the state to care about. (Sure, there is the biological sire of a child, but absent a history of biological fatherhood coming typically within the context of the ontological entity of the marital union, the state would never have arrived at any concern whatsoever WHO happens to sire a child.)

But even more disturbing than that, if there is no such thing as "family" due to the ontological reality of a marital union, there is no reason for the state to treat the child as "belonging" to the mother, either. Even if you grant that the state would for some reason recognize the biological mother having a special relationship to the child on account of having borne and birthed the child (not a given by any means in the anti-traditional treatment of the Peter Singers of the world) there is no fundamental guarantee that this relationship would be considered, by the state, as constituting a fundamental restraint on the state's relationship to the child. Without recognizing "families", the state would have no definitive reason to respect familial decision making on behalf of children, or the mother's restraint of the child's wishes or actions. The state could well end up treating the mother's spanking the misbehaving 4-year old as assault. And there are a dozen more reasons to repudiate such a potentiality.

Once we take it for granted that the state should at least recognize the entity called the family, with a father and a mother, and that family reality itself constituting limits on the state's relationship to children within it, the state needs to be able to distinguish such things from other things that might (truly or falsely) claim to be "family". That is to say, the state needs (at least) a working definition of "family", and this means that it needs a working definition to be able to say when 2 people are married. In a homogeneous state in which marriage is already defined and identified by another uniformly recognized entity, such as the Church, the state could of course piggy-back off that other entity's determinations and simply say "we recognize as married couples that the Church recognize as married." This works really well in a uniform culture. Not so well in a highly splintered pluralistic culture where large groups don't accept anybody else's church identification of who is married. Whatever the state wants to use as a working identifier, it has to be something that crosses church boundaries and works well for most people readily. Fortunately, marriage as an ontological reality is so firmly built into human nature that virtually all significant religions respect it in some regular fashion, so it's not an impossible task for the state. All it really has to do, then, is formulate a working definition for who is married that incorporates enough of the basics without including too many of the "optional extras", that almost everyone can go along with it. (The state's definition doesn't need to be universally accepted to be good enough: witness, state definitions not accepting polygamy, in spite of a significant religion holding to it quite notably (in the early days).

This does not imply that the state needs to actually be the one administering marriage vows. It is possible to DEFINE marriage "for purposes of the state" without having the state be an agent in charge of proving the conditions were met. But clearly, given how many marriages take place and how many disagreements arise about whether "he did X" or "she complied with Y condition", it isn't fundamentally irrational for the state to put in place some modest regulation of the process itself, to help record and verify that all of the conditions were in fact met. Yes, having such state regulation of the process does put the state into a role that is potentially problematic, and so the decision shouldn't be passed off as simply an "of course". In Europe, the Catholic Church was quite vociferously opposed, at times, with some states taking on roles like this, mostly because in those situations she saw or anticipated the state making decisions about marital status that differed from the Church's decisions. But the loudest of those complaints were generally within the context of uniform Catholic societies, not pluralistic societies.

So, my view is that the proper role of government is to operate within the valid understanding of marriage as constituting an ontological reality rooted in human nature which the state (and society) recognizes but does not own or create outright. Given that understanding, the state must recognize marriage differently than 2 independent people who drew up a contract about something. The state cannot do so without having an operating definition of marriage, and thus it may either draw up a definition or rely on another agency's definition, and it may (for the sake of common peace) within some limits regulate the process of getting married when doing so does not grossly interfere with the underlying nature of marriage itself. Whether the state attempts to regulate marriage or not, it has no authority to force onto society a fiction that something that is NOT the ontological union of family is to be treated as if it were anyway, because doing so of its own operation will tend to eradicate the social recognition of marriage and family in their proper roles as given by human nature.

Jeffrey, what a disgusting, horrifying column. Evil takes on many forms indeed.

"two dads" (as if such a thing were possible), "dad and daddy" (the poor girl is already morally corrupted), "Braiden's parents" (as if two men could ever be "parents"), etc.

While I agree with you, aren't you begging the question if you say that these things are issues? The whole argument centers around what we're defining as a parent and the definition of marriage. Answering the charge with the claim that two dads can't be married misses the point, right?

Especially when this girl has been adopted anyway, so neither is, in a sense, her "real" parent. And then her alternative would apparently have been a horrible foster home or some such thing.

Call me stupid or naive, but to open up this can of worms I'm apparently missing something big here.

The belief that marriage is based on emotions is also what got us no-fault divorce.

The main argument for no-fault divorce was that it would force all of those awful Don Draper-like husbands to behave themselves by giving their poor victimized wives the power to nuke them in divorce court. Ironically, what it did was give the minority of real life Don Drapers like your father and countless middle class wives who found their husbands boring the power to easily destroy their marriages. The 1960s-1970s were not a good period for America and the law of unintended consequences.

I am now a young woman in my 20's and I still intensely grieve the destruction of my family, and will for the rest of my life.

I watched my parents marriage spectacularly explode when I was in college under the same circumstances, gender roles reverse. Some of the things that came out of it caused me to question whether or not everything I believed was a complete and utter lie. It's a truly awful thing, and I get where you're coming from.

The faux libertarianism in all of this sometimes makes me want to tear my hair out, all the more so as, while I am by no means a card-carrying libertarian, I have some sympathies in that direction. By this is emphatically *not* a matter of "leaving people alone."

I've never understood how libertarians can sign on with this movement. They know that giving state licensure will open the doors to loss of liberty to those who oppose gay marriage. They'll be forced to lose a host of economic freedoms as employers and can be fired for creating a "hostile work environment" if they speak against it at work (note: the employer would be doubly willing to fire them due to the increased likelihood of having it declared a hostile work environment now that the institution is expanded by law).

Generally, libertarians take a very dim view of positive rights. Getting them to recognize them is like pulling hens' teeth. Yet for some reason they are enthusiastically for gay marriage instead of far lesser evils such as separating hospital visitation rights from marital status.

The only explanation I can think of is that this riffs on the general attitude that many of them have which is that the individual rights of the adult actor supercede all rights children might have. That's why they support gay adoption and other things like that even though there is a rights imbalance with the children. Acknowledging an imperfect right to a mother and a father would mean denying gay adoption on the grounds that it puts children's rights further away from realization.

"While I agree with you, aren't you begging the question if you say that these things are issues? The whole argument centers around what we're defining as a parent and the definition of marriage. Answering the charge with the claim that two dads can't be married misses the point, right?"

Um, no MA, we're not "begging the question." We're disagreeing. And furthermore, we're saying that the position we hold should be so obvious that ideally there wouldn't even BE a debate about it. This would be like if we reacted to a rationalization of abortion by saying, "She calls it 'a blob of cells' [yeah, right]" and you were to come along and say "I agree, but aren't you begging the question by saying it's a blob of cells, since the unborn child's humanity is the very thing in question?" That would make just as much as sense, which is to say, nil.

MarcAnthony, what's wrong with the column is a) the way that it is manipulative towards adults reading it and b) the way that the child has been thought to think of a man and a man as _actually_ married. Obviously, since we disagree with that (Tony just wrote a column on it) and think it _importantly_ wrong, we don't want the child to be taught to think otherwise from a young age. Her entire notion of what is normal in a family has been warped. Now, it's important not to confound that with the fact that she was (allegedly) in a terrible situation in the foster family before. I'm going to put this in a way that will cause any gay-rights readers to combust spontaneously, but here goes:

Suppose that a man thought he was married to his dog. Suppose that he believed that dogs are persons (following the theories of Peter Singer and alleging that his dog met the consciousness, self-awareness, etc., cut-offs for Singerian personhood). Let's even suppose that he kept whatever he did with his dog (which we won't talk about) away from his child. And he became a foster parent to a child who had been previously stranded in the foster care system, and she wrote a letter like this, all about how Dog and Daddy really are married, and the world should recognize their marriage, and so forth.

In that case, we wouldn't want to conflate the idea that this child has obviously had a rough life and apparently is being well-treated personally by this man with the question of whether in the big picture this is a healthy situation for her to be in and whether her whole view of things like families, sexual complementarity, love, marriage, etc., is being warped.

The point is not that the two situations are exactly the same but rather that we should want children to be adopted and raised within normal homes for the sake of the children's development, and therefore what is "normal" becomes a relevant consideration.

I think it's interesting: Tony pointed out how there is some difficulty arguing robustly against homosexual "marriage" if one isn't prepared to argue robustly against homosexual adoption.

Yet originally homosexual adoption was pushed as a solution to hard cases, like kids stuck in the foster care system. In other words, it's the old, old story: We're told that this isn't really normalizing anything, that it's just helping out people in hard cases, and then in fact it _is_ normalizing something. We moved instantaneously from homosexual adoption to homosexual "families," and as this girl's argument shows, if these two men's relationship is considered normal enough for them to be a pair of parents for her, then are they not a "real family" and should the men's relationship not be regarded as "marriage"?

It's extremely difficult to see how one can support homosexual couples' adopting without supporting homosexual "marriage."

MarcAnthony: Anti-miscegenation laws also did not speak to whether you can get married. They only spoke to the racial compatibility of the people marrying. Not a good argument fifty years ago, and not a good argument now.

Daniel: "Traditional" marriage already allows two heterosexual people sharing a house to "get married" in order to get a tax break. That's an argument against marriage in general, not against gay marriage in particular.

Those are good rules-of-thumb to test the quality of many of the anti-gay-marriage arguments.

Tony: You claimed that there will be no “rational” state basis for saying no to 3 and 4 person groups who want to marry. Yet two sentences later you give a great example of such a "rational" basis: the forced complete re-structuring of the marital deduction on estate tax.

Add the wholesale re-structuring, or abandonment, of immigration laws and every other law predicated on a just-two-person marriage and states have more than enough rational basis to go around.

They also have more than enough rational basis to go around when it comes to defining marriage in terms of sexual complementarity. As in: There is no point in the state's bothering with civil marriage at all if there is no point in sexually complementary marriage. But there is a point in the state's bothering with civil marriage--a point which is tightly bound up with the point in recognizing sexually complementary marriage. QED.

Indeed, anyone who seriously maintains that the rational basis test cannot be satisfied by current and long-standing marriage laws is legally ignorant. The rational basis test is the _weakest_ of the tests in the three-tiered system of our court's developed jurisprudence. As Justice Scalia points out, what the activist jurists are doing is using the _term_ "rational basis" while actually applying strict scrutiny. "Rational basis" does _not_ mean, "I, the justice, think this is a fully reasonable and just law." It means, rather, that the state has _some_ halfway decent argument for what it is doing, that the law is not _wholly_ arbitrary. Normal marriage laws pass that test with absolutely flying colors.

It would also have been inaccurate to characterize anti-miscegenation laws by saying that they "don't permit black people to marry." The accurate characterization would be, "They didn't permit black people to marry white people" or "they didn't recognize interracial marriage." Similarly, current marriage laws don't give state recognition to same-sex "marriage" or "marriage" between a man and a man. So the point concerning accurate characterization of the issue stands either way. That doesn't speak to the injustice of anti-miscegenation laws, merely to what would or would not have been an accurate way of describing them.

Indeed, comparing gay marriage to the civil rights era of the 60s is a common scare tactic used by the homosexual agenda, although it is no doubt a sincere belief held by most people who support gay marriage.

My family and I are literally the only people I know who are against gay marriage. Every single one of my friends is for gay marriage, and I know most of them well enough to know that they honestly see this as a civil rights issue, comparable to interracial marriage.

Nobody has said otherwise, of course. I'm just pointing out that the same-sex marriage/interracial marriage comparison may be the most common argument I hear against gay marriage. People today simply fail to see the difference between race and sex and why it matters, and that's a very sad and troubling thing.

That comparison and that civil rights mindset is so ingrained in people and in their sense of justice that it's nigh impossible to talk to them about the subject unless you agree with what they're saying. You'll just be shouted down, like the one friend I talked to who compared same-sex marriage to liking a different type of cheese on their sandwich-to which one of my family members wryly responded, "So you're comparing provolone to sex?"

I might hasten to add that the vast majority of my friends are pro-life as well, interestingly enough. The two are connected in their heads as moral issues.

If I may say so, that comparison is objectively insulting to black people. We live in a culture where allegedly anything remotely racially insensitive is punished, but apparently that's only a certain set of racially insensitive comments. That the leftists do not realize that comparing being black to being a sexually active homosexual is incredibly insulting to black people just shows what we might call their selectively sensitive ear. Or their tin ear, whichever one wants to call it.


I don't know if you check out the website The Public Discourse regularly, but this guy wrote a recent essay touching on some of the same themes you address in your piece:


Worth a peek.

Lydia, perhaps this is related to the "nature vs. nurture" debate---that just like people can't help being born black, gay people "can't help" being "born gay." Of course, as usual, any distinction between the orientation and the activity is smugly ignored.

Of course, as usual, any distinction between the orientation and the activity is smugly ignored.

Well, I've seen a couple reactions to what I'll call the "activity" response:

1) They simply say "Who cares if they choose it?" You need to remember the mindset here-it's something sort of like handedness, really. Sure, you can "choose" to use your hand that isn't "natural" to you, but it just causes you unnecessary trouble and doesn't really affect anybody else.

2) It's really all about love-that's the connection to race. You're really going to deny people who choose to love each other the right of marrying? Huh? HUH?!?!?!? Just like with black people! You're just an evil meanie homophobic bigot who relies on these stupid Bible verses for your evil, evil bigotry.

And of course, once you've been called a homophobe rational discussion has effectively ended.

You claimed that there will be no “rational” state basis for saying no to 3 and 4 person groups who want to marry. Yet two sentences later you give a great example of such a "rational" basis: the forced complete re-structuring of the marital deduction on estate tax.

Fergal, I think in a court's view that's supposed to count as a rational basis to revise the tax code, not a basis to repudiate a "civil right". That is to say, in the arguments of the gays and their judicial supporters, if persons have a "right" to marriage on the basis of a firmly held emotional bond, then the fact that granting that right its due expression in legally sanctioned marriage is a higher obligation on the government than maintaining its tricky little tax code arrangement. They have to ignore that this kind of problem applies to 1100 other civil matters as well, in effect forcing society to re-write half of the laws, but they don't care and they don't want us to care about that.

Anti-miscegenation laws also did not speak to whether you can get married. They only spoke to the racial compatibility of the people marrying. Not a good argument fifty years ago, and not a good argument now.

Quite right. Anti-miscegenation laws were written because whites (and some blacks, too) didn't WANT whites and blacks to marry, but they realized (at least if they knew the least bit of history and human nature) and understood that such unions were actually marriages and many ancient peoples considered them real marriages. Because there is nothing in the root concepts and essence of marriage that refers to "same race" as such. The very possibility of there being such a thing as a "same race" core element to the nature of marriage falls apart when you consider the offspring of such mixed unions, and the sheer arbitrariness of trying to "define" who can marry whom by the requisite ratios: well, let's see, if you're 4/16 black, 7/16 white, and 5/16 Indian, you can only validly contract marriage with a mate who is between 1/16 and 5/16 black, between 5/16 and 11/16 white, and between 3/16 and 7/16 Indian - because NATURE tells us anything else wouldn't be marriage, you know. It's self-evident!" The half-way thoughtful people against mixed-race marriages opposed it for reasons of prudence, not because they thought that in principle it wasn't marriage to begin with.

Yes, forcing states and the federal govt. to recognize homosexual pairings as marriages will cause a need to rewrite a whole slew of laws, forms, codes, etc., etc., etc. Yet _that_ isn't taken to satisfy the rational basis test by committed proponents. Indeed, that isn't by any means the most serious reason against it! So why should the sheer troublesomeness of group "marriage" or polygamy be taken by _its_ advocates (or by progressives who are sympathetic to their arguments) to satisfy the rational basis test? Besides, one can always use a sorites argument: Three people wouldn't be _that_ much more troublesome than two, so why not? And four people wouldn't be _that_ much more troublesome than three. Etc. And if someone truly believes that groups have a _right_ to marry or that there is a _right_ to polygamy, than that just shuts down the whole discussion. We have to compass land and sea if necessary to insure people their rights.

I'll just link to someone who can make Court predictions rather than attempt the heroic task of making sense of the post.

If DOMA "goes down" what does that mean in concrete terms of federal law? Would that mean, for example, that the federal government must count homosexual couples who are "married" in some state as married for purposes of all federal laws--inheritance laws, social security spousal benefits, tax filing? I mean, the author linked by Step2 doesn't appear to think that a very big deal, but actually it would be a _very_ big change in federal law. Or is that not what "overturning DOMA" would mean concretely at all?

Step2, I think that the article is very shrewd, and the author is picks up on important perspectives in some of the justices. I don't think, however, that Chief Justice Roberts will end up denying Calif. standing on Prop 8, even if he does deny the House standing on DOMA. I think that the conservative justices (Scalia, Alito and Thomas, that is), will prevail upon him with this consideration: it is clear that as a STATE, California has an interest in defending its own law. Fundamentally, (according to American jurisprudence) the powers, privileges, rights and authorities of the state originate in the people, and the people put those powers normally in the hands of the government. Typically, then, the government exercises the STATE's authority to defend its laws before the federal courts. However, that authority is, finally, one that belongs to the people of the state. If, for various reasons that have a rational basis, the people take up that authority, pull it out of the government's hands and place it instead in the hands of Prop 8 sponsors, then BY DEFINITION those persons have the state's authority to represent its interest before the federal court. For the federal court to deny California its own specified person for representing its interest is to REALLY overturn federalism. I really doubt that either Kennedy (if he really is a federalist), or the other conservative justices will fail to prevail on Roberts in allowing the Prop 8 standing.

I think there is a less strong argument for the House in the DOMA case - not an absolutely frivolous argument, but not definitive either.

As far as the effect of overturning DOMA: the overall effect will depend on exactly what happens with Prop 8, of course. If Prop 8 is upheld (if the District Court is overruled) then overturning DOMA will make the country a hodge-podge. Federal law will give effect to marriage in those states that allow gay "marriage", and won't in other states. That will make it really hard on interstate businesses, and a number of lesser problems, but it won't really be utter anarchy. Divorce and remarriage may get more messy still - how do you get a "divorce" if a gay couple moves to a non-marriage state, or one half does? I suppose the two gays could move to Virginia or one of the other non-gay "marriage" state, establish residency, and apply for an annulment. The state should grant an annulment without any trouble since it repudiates the "marriage" anyway. Full faith and credit, though, becomes a really sticky wicket, and I didn't hear anything about the issue in oral arguments. I don't know if this received much attention in the briefs. Certainly if DOMA is overturned but Prop 8 is upheld, there will be many more lawsuits coming down the pike on various other state issues, but the really difficult ones will be the inter-state problems.

If, on the other hand, the SC upholds the District Court and leaves Prop 8 out the window, the effect of overturning DOMA could be much more damaging, depending on HOW it leaves the lower court's ruling standing. If the SC rules in such a way that it leaves the RESULT of the lower court in place, but repudiates its argument and arrives at its conclusion differently, that could leave other states' constitutional provisions intact - as my theorized "middle way" above suggests. If it absolutely affirms the lower court's argument that gay "marriage" is a civil right as such, it would seem to have the effect of overturning all state constitutional and statutory provisions against it. I don't think the Court is going to take that latter approach, though, and in fact I suspect that the only way Roberts (or possibly Kennedy) will go along with a liberal majority on the holding (of leaving the lower court ruling in place) is to explicitly carve out a different basis that does not simply state gay "marriage" is a civil right, and that DOES leave the possibility of some other state's position against it intact. Which would give us all round 2 in a few years or less. I don't know why Roberts would relish that prospect, but maybe he doesn't care about all the constant uproar such a course would create.

1) They simply say "Who cares if they choose it?" You need to remember the mindset here-it's something sort of like handedness, really. Sure, you can "choose" to use your hand that isn't "natural" to you, but it just causes you unnecessary trouble and doesn't really affect anybody else.

Ummm, right. Imagine that human beings greeted each other by 'shaking hands" in a special skin receptacle that was specifically designed to fit RIGHT HANDS ONLY - and we developed a social custom of awarding prizes to people who do it really well. If a lefty came along and said "it is my civil right to shake hands with my left hand", even though doing so caused illness and injury to others, we wouldn't say "well, it's just like using his left hand to write or throw a ball." If some weird other lefties decided they didn't mind having other lefties shake left hands with them (in spite of the injuries) instead of their right hands, we wouldn't decide that doing so meant that they were entitled to win prizes for it.

Forming friendships is not a state government-grant matter: the right to form friendships is a civil right, but we don't award privileges and benefits for that. If gays want to form friendships with other gays, they are free to do so without any legal impediment. But if they want privileges and benefits, they need to do the things society thinks ought to be awarded privileges and benefits. Society awards 95% of such privileges on marriage PRECISELY on account (in the long run) of the fact that the complementarity of the sexes constitutes the basis for the union of the man and women being of such a nature and power as to be capable of generating a child, unless some physical impediment prevents. Since that's what the privileges pertain to, gays can only position themselves "equally" for them by marrying someone of the opposite sex. Which they are free to do.

Tony, to make it clear I was not arguing for that review, merely presenting it here. I agree that it's ridiculous for the same reason that you said.

Ugh, excuse me, not review. Just "view". Stupid typos.

But if they want privileges and benefits, they need to do the things society thinks ought to be awarded privileges and benefits

A majority of Americans believe that gay marriage should be legal, so obviously most Americans think that gays deserve the same benefits that heterosexual couples receive. QED

For what benefit to society? Feeling "luuv" towards one another? Engaging in sexual acts with one another? Being a sexual couple? In that case, why not a triple or quadruple? Setting up house together? In that case, why not have special rewards for roommates?

I myself have real questions about any poll that shows a majority of Americans favoring the special legal status called "same-sex marriage." But if it were true, those Americans would just be wrong. There is nothing about being a same-sex couple romantically and sexually involved that "deserves" special societal recognition. Nothing. Very much to the contrary.

I agree that the fact that a majority of people supports a thing doesn't mean that thing is good, that was sort of my point.

Why does gay marriage benefit society? The biggest benefit that I can see is that it will further marginalize Christianity and other religions. If gay marriage becomes legal and it is seen as normal then Christians who argue against it will turn young Americans away from the church. That decrease the influence of organized religion and put America on a more secular path. As an atheist who thinks that Christians are wrong about almost everything I think this is a huge benefit. The second reason to legalize gay marriage is that people should be able to legally tie themselves to their romantic partner and form a family. You don't have to agree with me that society should recognize gay marriage because love is important, but that doesn't make what I am saying logically invalid.

Well Dunsany, at least you're honest and have effectively made our point for us. Also, what I'm getting from that last line is that you either didn't actually read the post or read it with preconceived notions already formed and didn't take it seriously enough to think it through at all when you finished with it.

What if one's "romantic partner" is one's mother or father? What if one has three or more "romantic partners"? "Family" literally cannot be defined as "any group of entities that think they should be considered a family." And any line-drawing on that question must involve both metaphysical and moral premises.

The "romantic partner" thing is simply inane. If gender doesn't matter in a "romantic relationship" why should the number, the age, the family status or even the species matter? What makes gender so special?

Richard Weaver was right -- we have become a nation of moral idiots.

I agree that trying to decide what a family is requires us to use moral and metaphysical premises, but my premises are no doubt very different from yours. Do I think that incest should be legal? I think it should be legal between siblings but outlawed between parents and their children because the power imbalance makes it nearly impossible to determine consent. Polygamy should be legal as long as the parties involve can show that they are actively engaged in a romantic, sexual relationship and agree to deal with the messy legal issues themselves using some sort of prenuptial agreement.

Polygamy should be legal as long as the parties involve can show that they are actively engaged in a romantic, sexual relationship and agree to deal with the messy legal issues themselves using some sort of prenuptial agreement.

So you would deny that marriage is applicable to persons who don't have sex together. Does that mean that society should stop recognizing old people who have stopped having sex 10 years ago?

Furthermore, you do nothing to suggest a reason why society should care if 2 people have having sex together (romantic or not). Certainly society does nothing about 2 people who shack up for 3 years having sex regularly. So if they can do that without society caring one way or another, why should society care if 2 gays (or straights) say they want "recognition" for their romantic sexual liaison? There's no special reason for it. You don't need privileges because you're having sex. And why does romance change the essence of the union? Do you mean that an arranged marriage is not to be considered marriage? No, the fact is that what you want is that marriage be something different from what it was always recognized to be. Well, make up your own damn word, and then you can define gay "asfasdag" to be just that.

The second reason to legalize gay marriage is that people should be able to legally tie themselves to their romantic partner and form a family.

Unless there is an ontological reality formed by the union of 2 people due to a committed, permanent vow of union of such a nature as to be capable of generating children through its own faculties, THERE IS NO REASON TO CARE about notional "families". SO WHAT if they "form a family?" Suppose me and my business partner declare we are a "family." Suppose a house builder declares he and his most recent house are "a family." Or a businessman and the profit from his business - to ensure the government doesn't separate him from his profits, now there's a romantic relationship. Unless the term "family" means something definite and real apart from society's recognition of it, merely naming a pair of people "family" is a useless act of nonsense. And in fact, if the gays get their way the notion of family as a socially important concept will pass away altogether, it will become irrelevant.

Polygamy should be legal as long as the parties involve can show that they are actively engaged in a romantic, sexual relationship and agree to deal with the messy legal issues themselves using some sort of prenuptial agreement.

So what you are saying is that you don't like western society, and you want to live in a different kind of society altogether, one in which whatever you say goes. Well sure, lots of people think they would like that. But any society like that is also one in which whatever Bill, or Pete, or Ken says goes too, and so it becomes the rule of the strong over the weak. You want something that never has existed and never could: a society where everyone gets their own way, no matter how depraved, destructive, and deformed their desires are.

I think what Duninsane is arguing for is not a redefined, more inclusive version of marriage, but for its abolition. Revolutionaries are always like that.

In Dunsany's world "marriage" is simply a state-issued stamp of approval on a sex-buddy relationship. The sex is the important thing, o/w any two (or more) people could "marry." In this view any combination of entities can be a family: three lesbians, a baby seal and a rubber plant, for instance.

Dunsanay's frankness is useful.

I find it much more wearying and time-wasting to deal with any of the following:

1) Liberals who claim that there really is, is, is a good principled reason to recognize legally two-man (or two-woman) homosexual liasons but to stop right there.

2) Christians (or "Christians") who claim that it really _needn't be_ about sex at all and that we Christians should support civil unions between or among any sort of group of people, including family or Platonic groups or pairs, that such civil unions have a point and are needed in law and justice, and that they would just _happen_ to apply to sexual liasons between homosexuals.

3) Those who claim to be conservatives or traditionalists who take a kind of unpleasant joy in watching marriage be torn apart by homosexuals because "it all went down a long time ago with divorce law," so we might as well tear it down all the way now, or not care very much, or something like that.

Dunsany, I can just let him talk and be Exhibit A of what we've all been saying.

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