March 23, 2006

Distinguishing gay marriage and polygamy -- part 2.

We were just talking at great length on this topic, but William Saletan has a new piece in Slate, so let's do it again. As you may remember, I said the solid basis for distinguishing gay marriage and polygamy is economic: those seeking gay marriage only want the same set of economic advantages that is available to heterosexual couples, but polygamous groups seek more than the traditional share. Saletan takes a different approach:
The number isn't two. It's one. You commit to one person, and that person commits wholly to you. Second, the number isn't arbitrary. It's based on human nature. Specifically, on jealousy.
An obvious problem with Saletan's idea is that it relies on nature, which has long been a favorite source of argument for opponents of gay marriage. What do you say to the people who claim not to share what is the predominate characteristic that appears in nature? Most people are heterosexual, and most people are jealous if their partner isn't monogamous. Gay marriage proponents need to be able to say that the minority condition deserves respect.

***

By the way, in the third episode of "Big Love," polygamy is compared to homosexuality more than once: We're like homosexuals. Why was I able to watch Episode 3? For some reason, it was on HBO on Demand -- by mistake, I assume.

Hey, Margene -- the youngest wife on the show -- has a blog!
Thumbs Down. Was "Pirates of the Caribbean" supposed to be funny or not? It wasn't. It was annoying.

Panda bears or Koala bears? Who's cuter? A debate for the ages...
And I know this is a device to get bloggers to link and give them publicity, but I'm constantly giving them publicity anyway, and I think it's nice that HBO is speaking to us bloggers in our own language.

417 comments:

1 – 200 of 417   Newer›   Newest»
Bruce Hayden said...

The thought that the difference is the number one, instead of the number two, is cute, but unpersuasive. On the TV special I saw recently on polygamy, they showed the marriage of a third wife. First the guy and the girl fell in love. Then, the other wives and the girl fell in love. And then you had a wedding ceremony where all four are comitting together.

And the theory that it is all about money also fails with polygamy. There, much of it is about kids, and, in particular, one guy fathering a lot of them, and then all of them raising this multitude. Yes, some do get government support. But it is mostly about kids.

Yes, gay marriage is apparently much about money. But to extrapolate from that to plural marriages is not legitimate here.

gj said...

Here's a question about polygamy: if polygamy were legalized, would it apply to people who were already married monogamously? Or would someone in a monogamous marriage have to divorce, and then remarry polygamously?

If it would apply to people who are already married, then that is a big difference between gay marriage and polygamy. The fact that gay people can marry does not in any way effect the structure of my marriage to my wife. But if it suddenly became legal for me to add a second wife or for her to add a second husband, the nature of our marriage contract would be seriously altered!

Ann Althouse said...

Bruce, I didn't say anything was "all about money." I said that the economic difference is the place to make the distinction so that accepting gay marriage wouldn't require accepting polygamy. And I'm only talking about the official legal recognition of the marriage, not whether the living arrangement should be criminalized or whether private organizations can perform ceremonies and call things marriages.

I also think concern for the welfare of children transcends any of these other things.

Ann Althouse said...

GJ: Well put.

Chris said...

I disagree with the supposition that accepting gay marriage "requires" acceptance of polygamy. As a purely practical matter, it's all politics. If you can get enough support, you can get the votes - either in a legislature or a statewide bollot measure.

Some are arguing that this is all about money. I disagree. I think it's all about social validation. The economic and legal issues can be addressed, if not perfectly.


The question we have to answer as a society is - what is marriage? Does it have a specific meaning, or does it simply mean what we want it to mean, based on our concept of "fairness?"

Slippery slope arguements can be frustrating - and often just silly - but, while Ann is trying hard to find some distinctions between Polygamy and gay marriage (not hard to do), she doesn't really address why it's "fair" to recognise one unconventional group, but not another.

FXKLM said...

In Utah, it is supposedly illegal for a man and wife to cohabitate with a second woman in a sexual relationship even if they don't claim any of the legal benefits of marriage with the second woman. Do you think that's defensible?

Joan said...

GJ: that's the best argument against legalizing polygamy that I've yet heard.

Saletan argues compelling that polygamy fails among typical Americans. But what's the divorce rate among devout Muslims practicing polygamy? And what's the divorce rate among those families along the AZ/UT border (like Tom Green)? Saletan ignores the hard-core practitioners and focuses on the dilettantes, giving an impression of polyamory that is skewed.

$CAV3NG3R said...

Prof. I'm not sure this economic argument would fly. Benefits should be determined based on your income not on the number of kids or wives that you possess. To the person who said it would be a benefit nightmare, the last time the issue came up, the problem exists only because the tax code is horrendously complex. Occams razor would probably help there.

GJ: legalizing polygamy has no effect on your marriage unless you're scared that your wife wants another husband, or you've thought about other women. I don't think most people here really understand what polygamy is like. It's an option. It doesn't nullify your existing marriage. How does that affect your marriage contract?

As to the nature argument. The evolutionary argument for polygamy far outweighs any for jealousy. Even in polygamous societies like the one I grew up in. It was always optional. Not all men married more than one wife. In fact it was almost a 50/50 thing. Most men can't handle more than one woman, that's just the way it is.

To those who've always been afeard that the white race is in decline polygamy would actually serve your interests better than gay marriage.

Even though I grew up in a polygamously optional environment, I never desired more than one wife and I've got plenty of cousins that are moslems who are all monogamous not because they can't have more but because most people know that it takes a whole lot out of you. Even if you legalize it, after the first wave of marriages and divorces, things would settle down to what it currently is with only a few people engaging in it.

Abraham said...

I disagree with the supposition that accepting gay marriage "requires" acceptance of polygamy. As a purely practical matter, it's all politics. If you can get enough support, you can get the votes - either in a legislature or a statewide bollot measure.

Granted, that's how it should work. However, many of us foresee the issue being decided by courts as a matter of constitutional right. In that case, politics takes a back seat, and being able to logically distinguish why one should be granted constitutional status and the other not becomes an important question.

Balfegor said...

GJ: that's the best argument against legalizing polygamy that I've yet heard.

But it's not much of one. All it takes is the addition of one more clause in the authorising law and you won't have that objection to lean on. Something to the effect of "the above provisions shall have effect only with respect to marriages entered into after the effective date of this statute."

Balfegor said...

It doesn't nullify your existing marriage. How does that affect your marriage contract?

It affects the marriage contract because the prior understanding of the parties was that they had entered into an exclusive relationship. It's not entirely clear to me in what dimension modern law leaves it exclusive -- certainly not sexual or emotional, given the relaxation of anti-adultery and alienation of affection enforcement -- but at least the forms of marriage have maintained exclusivity. The abrogation of that exclusivity (as could be expected under polygamy) is a significant revision of the marital contract.

Richard Dolan said...

Saletan's reliance on "nature" is no more persuasive than Ann's on economics. The existence throughout history of societies that tolerated, and even honored, polygamous marriages is a complete answer to the "nature" argument, if by "nature" Saletan means some immutable characteristic that supposedly inheres in the definition of "human." If that's not what he means, then "nature" here is just an oddball term meaning, more or loess, just "majoritarian." That is unhelpful for many reasons, not least because it would also rule out gay marriage. Since the point of this exercise is to inquire whether there is some persuasive distinction that would validate gay marriage but not polygamy, Saletan's argument isn't going to do it.

In addition, for those whose "nature" precludes a successful polygamous relationship (like mine, and probably like most people's), the easy answer is: You Don't Have To Do It. No one is talking about making polygamy mandatory.

Nor does GJ's argument get you anywhere. If I understand the argument correctly, it is that, if the legal definition of marriage is changed, then existing marriages may be changed as well in that currently married people may be able to force changes in their marriage contract that their current spouse dislikes. The distinction is that gay marriage is still just two people, and thus permitting gay marriage doesn't impact on existing marriages in the same way as polygamy might.

But that argument is just never-never land stuff, and ultimately fails on its own terms. In most places, existing marriages today must be between a man and a woman. The recognition of gay marriages, like polygamy, creates new legal options for currently married people just as polygamy does, and thus that change in the legal definition of marriage may impact on existing marriages. To the extent there is a formal difference -- that a currently married person would have to go through a divorce before exercising the new option created by recognition of gay marriage, while that step might not be required depending on the legal requirements for entering into polygamous marriages were set up --is neither an immutable result of recognizing polygamy, nor is it of any practical significance in the real world. If polygamy were recognized, the law could stipulate that currently married persons could not enter into polygamous marriages without obtaining consent from the current spouse. And in the real world, if one spouse in a current marriage objected to a polygamous relationship, the result would be either a prompt end of the discussion or an immeidate divorce.

Ann's economic distintion between gay marriage and polygamy fails because there nothing about polygamy that requires any particular economic or financial arrangements to go with it. All of Ann's concerns focused on the distribution of social goods of various kinds -- health and retirement benefits, tax treatments, etc. There is no reason why all of that could not be addressed to accomplish whatever "fairness" might be deemed to demand with respect to such matters. Nor is there anything to show that, on a purely economic analysis of the efficiencies in the distribution of such social goods, that polygamous arrangements are necessarily less efficient than other possible forms of marriage.

What it all comes down to, at least for me, is the need to recognize that marriage is a product of a particular social and religious tradition that has excluded gay marriage and polygamy as inconsistent with that tradition's concept of what is right, just and holy. Because that tradition has been so strong, and has lasted in the West basically unchallenged for millenia, proposals to change the definition and understanding of the institution of marriage result in strong reactions. That fact that this topic has generated hundreds of comments -- far more than anything I have seen in quite a while -- is a testament to taht fact. Yet nothing requires us as a society to remain faithful to that tradition, either in the context of the definition and understanding of the particular institution of marriage or in any other context. And in the public square it may well be improper to give weight to the "holy" part of the tradition. But there are definite costs associated with throwing it out. Then continuing turmoil on the subject of abortion, and how it has completely deformed the judicial confirmation process, is proof enough of that fact.

Ann clearly feels that tradition in that sense has only a weak demand on our loyalties in today's world and that the benefits of maintaining those traditions are far outweighed by the reasons to change (at least in the case of legally recognizing gay marriage). Many agree with her. Like Krauthammer (whose piece got this whole string going), I'm more on the fence. But however one comes out on that issue, rather than offering unconvincing distinctions as to why that tradition should be rejected in one case (gay marriage) but not another, I think it better to recognize the more intractable problem here and deal with that.

A prime reason for that conclusion is that the kinds of distinctions Ann, Saletan and others offer are an implicit invitation to courts, already too involved in our national life in imposing fundamentally moral views on a deeply divided nation, to wade in on this issue as well, and impose whatever notions they deem "fair" on an unwilling public. If change is to come in the legal definition of marriage, then these are all changes that should evolve slowly and as the result of a process that allows messy compromises and still ends up commanding broad acceptance. In short, any change here must result from legislative, not judicial, action.

Smilin' Jack said...

Ann Althouse said...
I said that the economic difference is the place to make the distinction so that accepting gay marriage wouldn't require accepting polygamy.


Several commenters in the previous post on this topic have pointed out that that isn't necessarily so. In any case, the tax code is already so complicated that adding a few adjustments for polygamous marriage is no big deal. The tax code is designed to take account of the institution of marriage, not the other way round.

gj said...
But if it suddenly became legal for me to add a second wife or for her to add a second husband, the nature of our marriage contract would be seriously altered!


No, it wouldn't. A polygamous marriage requires the consent of all partners, so if either you or your wife objected, your marriage would be unchanged.

It's amusing to see the tendentious rationalizations people will employ to reach the required PC result: gay marriage good, polygamy bad.

AlaskaJack said...

Ann, I think you have identified what has always been the at the root of this issue and what makes it so intractable: the question of "nature". The difficulty is this: if certain characteristics are said to be "natural" to human beings or human nature, then it follows that the lack of such a characteristic in a person is "unnatural". And though such a person deserves respect because of his or her inherent human dignity, their condition remains "unnatural" the minds of many of those who do not lack this characteristic.

The only way to avoid this mode of argumentation is to reject the dichotomy between "nature" and "natural" along with the notion of a fixed human nature. But the problem with this approach is that the concepts of "nature" and "natural" seem to be so much a part of the mind that they cannot easily be eliminated. That is, they appear to be ingrained concepts, like that of causality, by which human beings structure reality. Hence the impasse.

MadisonMan said...

No, it wouldn't. A polygamous marriage requires the consent of all partners, so if either you or your wife objected, your marriage would be unchanged.

Does it for all flavors of polygamy? I confess some fair ignorance on the topic of polygamy -- not in my nature I guess -- but I guess that would make sense. Otherwise, a polygamous man could not divorce his wife, just add on a new one, and ostracize the old.

I never read about polygamy from the standpoint of multiple husbands. Why is that?

monkeyboy said...

madisonman;

"The Moon is a Harsh Mistress" deals with polygamy with multiple husbands.

A serious question, if polygamy changes existing marraiage contracts in a way that gay marriage does not, then what about divorce? Didn't the intoduction of divorce irrevocably change the existing marriage contracts as well?

CB said...

Without diving too deeply into a very complex topic, I am puzzled at the assertion that human nature calls for monogamy. Polygamy exists all around the globe and has for thousands of years. Polygamy may be good or bad, but it is certainly not aganst human nature.

Zeldazot said...

Multiple husbands is called polyandry. Why don't some of you take your polygamy arguments and flip them around, using polyandry as an example?

All societies use marriage and kinship systems as a method of organizing and controlling social relationships. Societies that are inflexible eventually fail.

Joseph Hovsep said...

Smiling Jack wrote" "the tax code is already so complicated that adding a few adjustments for polygamous marriage is no big deal."

You're right that the tax code is very complicated but there is no obvious and certainly no easy way to take polygamous marriage into account. If the tax code changes to recognize same sex marriage, all the rights and responsibilities the apply to an opposite sex spouse will then apply to a same sex spouse. Period. Easy.

Accommodating polygamous marriage is a whole other ballgame. There are no obvious ways that rules designed for couples would extend to groups. If that were ever to come to pass, which I very seriously doubt it will, it would require extensive debate over how to deal with boring but critical things like joint and survivor retirement annuities and the estate tax exemption for spousal transfers.

$CAV3NG3R said...

Madisonman: apart from the fact that the multiple husbands scenario called polyandry, unlike men there are very few women who want to live with two men and even less men who would consent to share a woman. I might be wrong about the later though, but I'll hazard that a guys ego would generally get in the way of that arrangement.

Jack Roy said...

No one ever wants to engage in judgment about these things. Sigh. Is it really so hard to say "homosexuality is okay, so I approve of gay marriage, but polygamy is oppressive towards women, so I don't approve of polygamy"?

Balfegor said...

Is it really so hard to say "homosexuality is okay, so I approve of gay marriage, but polygamy is oppressive towards women, so I don't approve of polygamy"?

Oh, it's easy to say. And people say it all the time, actually. What's hard is persuading other people A) that your characterisation is accurate, and B) it isn't just a covert manifestation of bigotry against those cultures where polygamy is sanctioned.

Strictly speaking, (A) is the only relevant issue there, but an awful lot of the gay marriage debate has centred around denouncing people who oppose gay marriage as "homophobes," so well-poisoning accusations of bigotry are a well established part of the rhetoric surrounding marriage debates in this country.

Alex Elliott said...

Polyandry is a subset of polygamy.

Polyandry = one wife with multiple husbands
Polygyny = one husband with multiple wives
Polygamy = multiple spouses in any arrangement

gj said...

First, to set the record straight, I do not personally disapprove of polyamory. (I use that term to make clear that I'm speaking about both polygamy and and polyandry.) My comment was not meant to imply that I disapprove of polyamory, only that polyamory is structurally different from monogamy in a way that homosexual monogamy is not structurally different from heterosexual monogamy.

Saying that the two are the same strikes me as no different from saying that "baseball teams should be required to allow black players" and "baseball teams should be required to allow ten players." The first is correcting an unconstitutional discrimination. The second is changing the structure of the team.

As I understand it, the Massachusetts SJC decision was based on the concept of equal protection. Under its thinking, each person is allowed to choose 1 and only 1 other person to marry. The decision was not based on a concept of "freedom" or "liberty" or "being able to marry anyone who you love." It was based on equal protection, and the requirement that the same set of rules apply to everyone.

That argument clearly cannot be extended to require polyamory.

Abraham said...

It was based on equal protection, and the requirement that the same set of rules apply to everyone.

That argument clearly cannot be extended to require polyamory.


I disagree. The law in question applied perfectly equally to everyone. Everyone was equally prohibited from marrying a person of the same sex. It's just that this particular law burdened homsexuals more. In the same way, everyone is equally prohibited from marrying multiple people. It's just that this burdens polygamists more.

SteveR said...

"But what's the divorce rate among devout Muslims practicing polygamy?"

The honor beheadings probably keep the rate pretty low.

Michael Farris said...

First, I have no principled opposition to polygamy (though I might have some situational opposition, for example as a way to override immigration laws).

But it's my understanding that in most polygynous groups, the man is married to each woman but the women aren't married to each other (the tendency is for the women to not live together but rather each has her own household which may or may not have much contact with co-wife households. If two women have the same husband and he dies the women aren't married to each other, they're unrelated widows. Indeed I can see some people attracted to polygamy who would be horrified at the prospect of finding themselves in a same-sex marriage after the death of a common spouse. In other words, it's not a reciprocal arrangment, which makes it very different from same sex marriage.

I suppose some legal provision for some kind of polygamy will have to be made eventually, if only to deal with people who enter into such arrangments on their own. The only alternative is to enforce cohabitation laws, which I don't think most people want to do.

word verification: iborg, somehow very appropriate.

Balfegor said...

Re: GJ

It was based on equal protection, and the requirement that the same set of rules apply to everyone.

That argument clearly cannot be extended to require polyamory.


There are multiple arguments for polyamory, though, and multiple structures of polyamory. If we take the simplest, in which there are multiple marriages contracted by a single party (as opposed to a single marriage including >2 parties), then the equal protection grounds are clear: discrimination on the basis of marital state.

Re: The decision was not based on a concept of "freedom" or "liberty" or "being able to marry anyone who you love."

The Goodridge decision offers some support for such a view, though. Characterising out-of-circuit precedent on the subject of marriage and the limitations thereon, the court said:

As both Perez and Loving make clear, the right to marry means little if it does not include the right to marry the person of one's choice, subject to appropriate government restrictions in the interests of public health, safety, and welfare.

But more generally, the Goodridge decision is also one which is, I think, difficult to analogise to other states. For example, the court states, while attempting to exclude procreation as a primary rationale for marriage:

While it is certainly true that many, perhaps most, married couples have children together (assisted or unassisted), it is the exclusive and permanent commitment of the marriage partners to one another, not the begetting of children, that is the sine qua non of civil marriage.

There are some obvious rejoinders here. E.g. civil marriage is obviously not a "permanent" commitment any more, now that divorce is legal. Massachusetts does have a particularly strong position w/ respect to the exclusivity of the commitment, since MA has unusually strong adultery laws (even if they're rarely enforced), in that adultery is apparently still a felony there. So they might be able to argue exclusivity, for the duration of the marriage. But either way, even if you accept the MA court's reasoning here, in most other jurisdictions, to consider either permanence or exclusivity a "sine qua non" of marriage would seem awfully unpersuasive, in view of what marriage has now become, under statute, and in society. That is, the argument may have a leg to lean on in MA, if you ignore widespread social acceptance of adultery and even "open marriages" in some places, but I don't think it has one much of anywhere else.

CB said...

Abraham,
Careful there, that was the same argument made by the state in Loving v. Virginia to defend its anti-miscegenation statute (i.e., it applied equally to blacks & whites, so there was no equal protection violation), which was rightly rejected by the Supreme Court. I'm not saying you're ultimately wrong on the issue, but that specific argument won't fly.

Balfegor said...

I'm not saying you're ultimately wrong on the issue, but that specific argument won't fly.

We're in equal protection territory here, though, and remember that under equal protection jurisprudence, not all classifications are equal. Race is a suspect classification, and even gender (e.g. for gay marriage) gets heightened scrutiny. I think there's a colourable argument for marital status and equal protection, but to my knowledge, it's just rational basis scrutiny, and that hurdle is easily cleared. The argument may not be good enough for race or gender, but still pass muster under rational basis.

Aspasia M. said...

Accommodating polygamous marriage is a whole other ballgame. There are no obvious ways that rules designed for couples would extend to groups. If that were ever to come to pass, which I very seriously doubt it will, it would require extensive debate over how to deal with boring but critical things like joint and survivor retirement annuities and the estate tax exemption for spousal transfers.

And custody of children, inheritance laws, social security, ect. But particularly the custody of children in case of divorce seems like a big mess.

I never read about polygamy from the standpoint of multiple husbands. Why is that?

Yes, I've been curious about that, too.

Our theoretical discussion always seem to assume multiple wives.

(Although there have been occasional references to Heinlein's science fiction books. Monkeyboy mentioned The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, and, of course, Friday is his other book with a two husband/one wife marriage.)

CB said...

Balfegor,
You're right; I posted too hastily & came back to clarify--you beat me to it, though. I agree that in an Equal Protection analysis, the classifications would be gender for gay marriage, and marital status for polygamy. In that sense they are distinguishable (Constitutionally, anyway). But would an EP argument be the way to go, or would a Due Process argument be better?

Aspasia M. said...

Yes. And for _Loving_ SCOTUS decided that marriages could not be restricted on the basis of race. And for same-sex marriages the argument is that gender cannot be a discriminated classification.

----------------
I think this discussion should decide if polygamy is defined as one big marriage of multiple people, needing the consent of all members in that one marriage ceremony...

OR if the working definition of polygamy is a series of multiple marraiges.

Meaning that X (Susan) gets to marry Y(Bob) and then a year later X(Susan) marries Z(Mike), but Y(Bob) and Z(Mike) do not marry each other.

That is different from a particular day when Susan, Bob and Mike all get married to each other and adjourn together to the bedroom. Presumably Bob and Mike would need to be bi-sexual in their preferences.

A series of multiple marriages is very different then one big marraige with the consent of all people and all members simultaneously marrying each other.

A series of multiple marriages is the definition of bigamy and it allows a person to be married any number of times to any number of people.

One big group marriage would have a different legal meaning.

-----------
And, for the sake of argument, limiting marriages on the basis of either the number of marriages or the number of individuals in one marriage ceremony is not discrimination on the basis of a class: "race", "nationality", or "gender."

Aspasia M. said...

Balfegor,

same-sex marriage = gender as a classification = heightened scrutiny


polygamy = marital status as a classification = rational basis.

All the state has to do is argue that polygamy isn't in the interest of the state.

The state could argue anything under a rational basis test. The state could even say that the state doesn't want to spend any money printing up new types of marriage certificates.

Elizabeth said...

But what's the divorce rate among devout Muslims practicing polygamy? And what's the divorce rate among those families along the AZ/UT border (like Tom Green)? Saletan ignores the hard-core practitioners and focuses on the dilettantes

Read the end of the essay; he doesn't ignore that. Instead he notes the change in Western culture regarding how we view patriarchy. As he says, once women start to have a choice, polygamous cultures change to monogamous ones. Polygamous Mormons and Muslims exemplify patriarchal cultures, where women share a husband because it's expected of them.

Smilin' Jack said...

The number isn't two. It's one. You commit to one person, and that person commits wholly to you. Second, the number isn't arbitrary. It's based on human nature. Specifically, on jealousy.

Saletan's argument is just another strained attempt to reach the required PC result. I can make a much stronger argument along the same lines against marriage itself:

The number isn't one. It's zero. You cannot commit to one person, and no one can commit wholly to you. The number zero isn't arbitrary. It's based on human nature. Specifically, on selfishness.

But selfishness isn't an argument against marriage, just a reason why a lot of them won't work. Doesn't mean people shouldn't be allowed to try.

Harkonnendog said...

I don't know if this has been brought up, but if we're talking about equal rights, and therefore about courts deciding gay marriage is legal...

Gays have the EXACT same rights as heteros- to marry a person of the opposite sex. Neither heteros nor gays may marry members of the same sex.

I think gay marriage should be legal, but it should be made legal through legislatures. It isn't an issue of rights.

amba said...

Copying a comment here that I left on Donklephant, on Alan Stewart Carl's "Case Against Polygamy" (another post worth reading):

My eye was caught by a phrase in one of Alan’s comments — “the culture we wish to nurture.”

That is of the essence. We have a choice here. We are not at the mercy of gravity. This slope is not slippery. Every step “down” it (and some of them may be “up”) is optional and can and must be weighed and considered.

The culture I wish to nurture is one in which homosexuals are recognized to exist as a fact, not a problem, and encouraged to live a good life like anyone else, rather than shoved into the closet, shamed, and made to feel that there’s no point in aspiring to a stable, open, loving life since they’ll be despised anyway.

The culture I wish to nurture is also one that encourages the face-to-face intimacy of two people. I was thinking yesterday, “Marriage is really the only relationship in which you come to see and know and love another person a little bit the way God does — that is, as he or she is.” I don’t mean the word “love,” there, as a good feeling. I mean it as knowledge and profound acceptance regardless of your own tastes and annoyances. That’s such hard work and it can really only be done one on one, or it is diluted and provided with escape hatches (which of course we tend to find anyway).

-- Or as Tom Strong said it better, a few comments later:

"[T]he thought of actually being in a polygamous relationship, at this point in my life, just makes me tired. Especially after watching the first episode of Big Love."

MadisonMan said...

I don't know if this has been brought up

It has, last time around (See Ann's link).

CB said...

"The culture I wish to nurture is also one that encourages the face-to-face intimacy of two people."
Does that mean we shouldn't do it... oh, never mind.
...sorry, couldn't resist.

Balfegor said...

Re: Geoduck2
Balfegor,

same-sex marriage = gender as a classification = heightened scrutiny


polygamy = marital status as a classification = rational basis.


Indeed -- I said as much above @ 2:06 (does time show up the same for us all?).

All the state has to do is argue that polygamy isn't in the interest of the state.

The state could argue anything under a rational basis test.


My recollection is that actually, the state doesn't have to argue anything at all -- the court will make up justifications on its own. (Behold the power of Roosevelt and tremble!)

That said, I think the situation with gender is somewhat more complicated, insofar as it interfaces with marriage. Craig v. Boren does establish the new intermediate standard, but it is not at all clear to me that a test for substantial relatedness or ends/means won't allow a bar on gay marriage -- I don't find the Goodridge reasoning at all persuasive (as is pretty clear from the quotes I pulled above).

That's not really at issue here, though, since rational basis will allow us to do pretty much whatever we like to anyone else.

On the other hand, as CB suggests above, there's probably a possible due process argument too. You can pull out language suggesting that marriage is a fundamental right (I don't think there's any Supreme Court precedent saying this, but the Goodridge court and other state courts have hinted strongly that marriage may be so), and to the extent that the exercise of a fundamental right is burdened, strict scrutiny may be triggered. I think this is a pretty hard sell at the moment, though, in the absence of precedent that establishes any actual "right to marry," as opposed to the more general right to take advantage of particular statutory benefits (i.e. marriage) without regard to your gender or race.

Balfegor said...

Also, re: rational basis vs. heightened scrutiny, the court in Goodridge doesn't apply heightened scrutiny, even, but rational basis:

The department argues that no fundamental right or "suspect" class is at issue here, [FN21] and rational basis is the appropriate standard of review. For the reasons we explain below, we conclude that the marriage ban does not meet the rational basis test for either due process or equal protection. Because the statute does not survive rational basis review, we do not consider the plaintiffs' arguments that this case merits strict judicial scrutiny.

Needless to say, I think this decision is plain error. But there it is. If you attacked a ban on polygamy under their version of rational basis, I'm not so sure you'd lose. On the other hand, as I noted above, Massachusetts (on paper) penalises adultery pretty heavily, so the contention that "exclusivity" is a "sine qua non" of marriage is more defensible there than it might be in most other parts of the country, and in MA, therefore, a polygamy challenge would still have hard going.

Aspasia M. said...

Balfegor,

Would then the fundamental right argument be:

Someone has a right to marry multiple times?

Or someone has a right to marry multiple people one time?


------
And, marriage has been defined legally as a fundamental right along with the right to procreate, raise children, ect.(Griswold, ect.)

But I don't see why it must follow that if two people of the same gender can marry, thus the court cannot regulate any part of marriage laws what-so-ever.

For example, marriage is a fundamental right, yet we do not allow child marriage.

CB said...

Balfegor,
The SC in Zablocki v. Redhail recognized the right to marry as a fundamental right. Wisconsin (I think) had a law prohibiting men who owed child support from obtaining a marriage license. However, the reasoning was that the right to procreate was fundamental, marriage was the only way to legally procreate, therefore the right to marry was fundamental. Marriage laws prohibiting, or not including, same-sex & polygamous marriage do not interfere with the right to legally procreate.

Aspasia M. said...

cb,

People imprisoned in the U.S. can legally marry because it is a fundamental right. Prisoners who cannot procreate because they cannot have marital visits can marry.

Balfegor said...

I had a big long discussion here, but looking at the case CB cites, wow -- it turns out Griswold does create a right of privacy extending even to marriage, and I was completely 100% wrong! Cor. That case is here for anyone else interested.

On the other hand, although they're talking repeatedly about a "right to marry," it's more in the vein of the "decision to marry" (i.e. part of the life-decisionmaking covered by the zone of privacy introduced by Griswold). And I think it's arguably a right to marry that grows independently from the source right of privacy rather than being contingent on a right to procreation (in which case the abolition of anti-fornication laws would seem to have eliminated a corresponding right to marriage). The court says, after all:

Surely, a decision to marry and raise the child in a traditional family setting must receive equivalent protection [to the right to abort]. And, if appellee's right to procreate means anything at all, it must imply some right to enter the only relationship in which the State of Wisconsin allows sexual relations legally to take place.

The right to procreate thus seems like a secondary justification.

Anyhow -- Based on the way it's applied in Zablocki, attacking polygamy on parallel grounds doesn't actually seem all that far-fetched. The first step, of course, would be clearing out criminal penalties for bigamy. But there, the analogy seems quite clear. Whether it would be persuasive or not is a different matter, but the basic elements of the parallel seem to be lined up pretty well.

The court does say:

By reaffirming the fundamental character of the right to marry, we do not mean to suggest that every state regulation which relates in any way to the incidents of or prerequisites for marriage must be subjected to rigorous scrutiny. To the contrary, reasonable regulations that do not significantly interfere with decisions to enter into the marital relationship may legitimately be imposed. The statutory classification at issue here, however, clearly does interfere directly and substantially with the right to marry.

Similar statements in Griswold were to no avail, though, so I'm not sure that carries all that much weight. On the other hand, the current court has been much less willing to stretch the bounds of interpretation.

But hey -- I guess there is an excellent due process argument for polygamy. And gay marriage and incest besides.

anselm said...

balfegor:

but it is not at all clear to me that a test for substantial relatedness or ends/means won't allow a bar on gay marriage

But wouldn't you like to find out - that is, put the state interest in limiting marriage to 1M-1W to the test?

In any case, I agree with geoduck's point. The current definition of marriage should be subject to intermediate scrutiny based on gender discrimination because with respect to marrying a man, men are selectively (as opposed to women) disabled by the government. with respect to marrying a woman, women are similarly discriminated against.

The argument presented by Abraham:

The law in question applied perfectly equally to everyone. Everyone was equally prohibited from marrying a person of the same sex. It's just that this particular law burdened homsexuals more.

is analogous to separate but equal. Except, because the separateness is defined along gender lines, the judicial scrutiny is more relaxed, and a strong explanation by the state as to how Traditional marriage promotes public welfare will suffice to let it stand.

That's the argument I would like to hear, i.e. put up or shut up.

Balfegor said...

But wouldn't you like to find out - that is, put the state interest in limiting marriage to 1M-1W to the test?

. . .

I'm sorry, are you propositioning me?

anselm said...

er, if you'd be willing to agree that it would be an interesting (and the proper) argument to see the state make, that would be quite enough, thanks.

gj said...

Several people have asked whether the polygyny we're talking about involves one person married to several partners, or several partners married as one big group.

The polyamory community has been thinking about this issue for some time. The following quote from the Wikipedia entry on polyamory is illustrative:

So-called "geometric" arrangements, which are described by the number of people involved and their relationship connections. Examples include "triads" and "quads", along with "V" and "N" geometries. The connecting member of a V relationship is sometimes referred to as a "hinge" or "pivot", and the partners thereby indirectly connected are referred to as the "arms". The arm partners are not as closely bonded to each other as each arm partner is to the pivot. This can be contrasted with a "triangle", in which all partners are directly connected and all are bonded to each other with comparable strength. A triad could be either a V or a triangle.

This also indicates some degree of the complexity that would be involved in extending marriage rules beyond couples.

Aspasia M. said...

This also indicates some degree of the complexity that would be involved in extending marriage rules beyond couples.

And a multi-partner marriage sounds very un-stable. Particularly in a society that is industrialized.

(Meaning people can leave the marriage and survive economically.)

What about the jealousy?

Or what to do with a job transfer?

How would two husbands negotiate who got to father the children?

I think there are many rational reasons why these types of relationships are rarely found in the U.S.

Aspasia M. said...

On marriage as a fundamental right:

I thought in the 1920s the cases Meyer and Pierce were important precedent on the rights of family life. (as part of due process)

Meyer and Pierce come back in Griswold! In Griswold Douglas cites both Meyer and Pierce in his argument. And then Harlan, Goldberg and White also go for the substantive due process approach for unwritten rights. (like the Meyer & Pierce precedents) Of course, Black didn't like this, at all.

Balfegor said...

And a multi-partner marriage sounds very un-stable. Particularly in a society that is industrialized.

(Meaning people can leave the marriage and survive economically.)


Oddly enough, isn't this something people say about monogamous heterosexual marriage too? I mean, in view of our extremely high divorce rate? A lot of the anxiety about how "complex" polygamy is going to be, or how "unstable" it is are simply not persuasive to me. I honestly am not seeing how these are significant concerns for the state, sufficient that they justify depriving people of the freedom to join in solemnised relationships in the patterns they want.

Aspasia M. said...

Oddly enough, isn't this something people say about monogamous heterosexual marriage too? I mean, in view of our extremely high divorce rate? A lot of the anxiety about how "complex" polygamy is going to be, or how "unstable" it is are simply not persuasive to me.

Oh, yes - I agree. I just think that polygamy is much more unstable then a two-person marriage.

In agrarian colonial America it was difficult for someone to survive outside of marriage. (particularly in areas with labor shortages - which were quite a few.)

In Puritan New England the time a youngish widow spent unmarried was very short. It's actually quite surprising to see how fast people re-married.(Even people with 5-10 kids already born.) But not surprising when one considers the economic necessity of the situation.

Once woman and men could survive outside of marriage, divorce rates began to sky-rocket in the 19th century. It was particularly easy to get a divorce in Indiana. Huh- Indiana- the state of libertines.

(a good book is by historian Norma Basch, _Framing American Divorce: From the Revolutionary Generation to the Victorians_.
----------------

I honestly am not seeing how these are significant concerns for the state, sufficient that they justify depriving people of the freedom to join in solemnised relationships in the patterns they want.

If the state is deciding on a rational basis - they can use any sort of stupid reason they want. I mean, all sorts of nonsense could apply.

Rational basis is easy to prove. The only bar would be if multiple marriages are considered a fundamental right and thus must be treated with strict scrutiny.
--------------

On the whole legal history of marriage stuff:

Goldberg & Brennan in Griswold quote from Meyer v. Nebraska about the 14th:

"While this Court has not attempted to define with exactness the liberty thus guaranteed, the term has received much consideration...Without doubt, it denotes...the right...to marry, establish a home and bring up children..."

Meyer v. Nebraska, 262 US 390, 399.

Balfegor said...

If the state is deciding on a rational basis - they can use any sort of stupid reason they want. I mean, all sorts of nonsense could apply.

Well, there's two species of objections that are coming up here, I think. One is legal objections.

Getting "right to marry" to be a general and continuing right to marry at any time to any person isn't particularly difficult; I think an anlogy to Eisenstadt establishes the framework of the argument -- in particular:

Yet the marital couple is not an independent entity with a mind and heart of its own, but an association of two individuals each with a separate intellectual and emotional makeup. If the right of privacy means anything, it is the right of the individual, married or single, to be free from unwarranted governmental intrusion into matters so fundamentally affecting a person as the decision whether to bear or beget a child.

Or get married. That would raise the bar high enough that concerns like "the marriages will fall apart even faster than monogamous marriages already do!" or "dealing with polygonal relationships is hard!" or "people will be jealous!" are probably not going to be sufficient to overcome the level of scrutiny triggered.

On the other hand, that's a boundary-stretching argument (much as Eisenstadt itself was, and much that came after) and one unlikely to succeed in a modern legal environment. At least as I see it. But if the marriage right doesn't reach that far, then it's rational basis, and throwing up legal objections is just an intellectual exercise, because polygamy will lose no matter what. Those particular arguments may work, but any number of arguments, no matter how silly can work.

I was considering (just then) the "polygamous marriages will collapse" argument and the other arguments there as pragmatic arguments -- arguments why the state should not extend legal recognition to polygamous marriages. And there, I don't find them persuasive at all.

Chris said...

Wow, lots of comments. What I'm always baffled with is people who say that "societies all over the world have traditionally practiced polygamy" or some such. And exactly how many of those made the leap to anywhere near our levels of (classical) liberalism, tolerance, or women's rights? I just can't believe that after all the tremendous progress we have made in human rights people will just make massive changes to the institutions that underlied said changes without a second thought.

And yes, I am perfectly aware people make those same arguments with respect to gay marriage. But, as people have said in the comments here, there is a real fundamental difference between changing the nature of marriage from a union of two to a weird form of a corporation, and the extending of marriage to a very small fraction of the population.

Aspasia M. said...

Well, the courts could restrict polygamy, yet still recognize marriage as a fundamental right.

As it stands, marriage is already considered a fundamental right and subject to strict scrutiny. SS marriage can thus argued on the same grounds as Loving.

This does not, however, require the courts to accept polygamy, per say, as a fundamental right. The right to marry is a fundamental liberty. However, the court distinguishes between this and -

The right to polygamy, or the right to marry anybody without restrictions which is not a fundamental liberty.

The right to marry doesn't mean that a person gets to marry multiple people or gets to have multiple marriages simultaneously; it simply means a person has a right to marry one eligible person at a time.

------------

And quite frankly, even if a state legislature decided to legalize polygamy, I would expect it to be a very uncommon and unstable relationship. (Barring some unforseen radical economic shift in the organization of our society and in our economy.)

The rise of queer subcultures is connected to urbanization and the decrease of agrarian society. The labor performed by a wife was necessary to the economic survival of many families. The production of many children were needed to work the land. Industrialization and urbanization produce different social organizations.

There's no big economic or societal shift that is pushing polygamy as a popular form of relaitonship. If there was, we'd have seen a lot more of these relationships.

I can't see many American men or women who would be willing to enter into a long term group sexual relationship.

Michael Farris said...

"I was considering (just then) the "polygamous marriages will collapse" argument and the other arguments there as pragmatic arguments -- arguments why the state should not extend legal recognition to polygamous marriages. And there, I don't find them persuasive at all."

I think the most convincing argument for the time being is that polygamy (and grouping more of more than 2) is very undefined. Same sex marriage has the benefit of changing only one feature of current heterosexual marriage (both spouses belong to the same sex instead of one of each).

Polyamorous arrangements change the number and kinds of bonds between the members, a legal minefield (this may make lawyers dance with glee, I don't know).
Anyway, the smallest number of a polyamorous group is 3 and there (apparently can be two 'configurations', all three are married to each other, or two are married to one but not each other).
With 4 people you get a _lot_ more possibilities (I'm too lazy to count) but at least
diamond: 4 married to each other
N: a chain of three marriages with two people married to two partners and two married to one.
It's going to take a long time to figure out the legal complexities of each of these arrangements.
Plus, should there be an upper level limit? Should that be different for all-married-to-each other groups and those where some married to each other and others married to only one person? Shnould it be different for groups with at least one male and one female vs all same sex groups? I don't know, it will take years of social practice to work these things out.

Another advantage of same-sex couples is that a fair amount of such couples have been living together as married in practice (if not legally) for some time and the polyamorous (except for some who practice polygyny) don't have that kind of record AFAIK.

Richard Fagin said...

Prof. Althouse said, "[t]hose seeking gay marriage only want the same set of economic advantages that is available to heterosexual couples..." That is simply not true. That is no doubt part of what those seeking gay marriage want but it clearly not the only thing. those seeking gay marriage want their interpersonal relationships to be given the exact same legal, moral and ethical status as heterosexual unions. As was so well put by one wag, "The love that dare not speak its name is now the love that won't shut up."

brylin said...

From William Tucker's article entitled "Polygamy and Me" in the American Spectator:

"Both high-status men and low-status women are liberated by polygamy. As the old saying has it, men "date down and marry up." With polygamy you can do both. Meanwhile, the losers are: 1) high-status women, who must share their mate with lower-status females, and 2) low-status men, who don't get to mate at all.

It's that last one that causes trouble. Every society and species that practices polygamy is plagued with a "bachelor herd" of unmated males who are very unhappy with their lot. Competition among males becomes much more violent because the stakes are so high. You either score with a couple of females or you don't mate at all. Male fruit flies artificially bred to be monogamous have proved to be much less aggressive with other males. Take away that monogamous contract and your peaceful society disappears with it."

Ann Althouse said...

Brylin: "You either score with a couple of females or you don't mate at all."

Don't worry, the polygamy scenario only arises AFTER we've legitimated homosexuality.

Pogo said...

It is fascinating to watch those demanding gay marriages so quickly adopt the very arguments defending traditional marriage for use against polygamy. And without the merest sense of irony, either.

It proves the point of those predicting a slippery slope: the anti-traditionalists use the words and ideas of the the very culture they so soundly reject in support of their own aims. It leads me to ask: why so bigoted against polygamy?

What's it to you if three or six or nine wish to wed? Why ban marriage between siblings, or father and daughter? Between brothers, or perhaps a priest and his altar boy? And why does age have any purchase? Do we not teach children about condoms in school, cannot they make their own decisions? Were not Romeo and Juliet just 14? What possible ethic can you rely on, when all ethics appear to be merely relative, based on nothing more than prejudice and useless shame?

Why, when you cannot cede any reasonable basis for concern on the part of traditionalists that putting asunder the very societal pattern that led to our communal success will eventually destroy us, refusing us even that such a worry is not based in bigotry or malice, why should I now grant you leave to criticize polygamy? How ignorant and hypocritical.

It is only via the family that civilization is passed from one generation to the next. Part of creating the social structure that favors men who wed in order to sacrifice their own interests in favor of their children is the unique social status it offers the married male. Like it or not, expanding the definition of marriage will make an already unappealing (to men) institution seem even less necessary. If marriage means whatever you choose it to mean, ultimately it means nothing at all.

And just like the unintended consequences of identity politics in college creating a dearth of boys and balkanization (not communion) of the student body, the unintended consequences of gay marriage will be the slow dissolution of traditional marriage. Women will bear children increasingly alone. Men will roam free, their ugly ids unbound. And we will be the worse for it.

So far, I have seen not a single SSM proponent admit that their might be even the smallest downside to gay marriage. As a result, I find the rest of their discussions dishonest, hypocritical, and repellant.

downtownlad said...

Let's talk about slippery slopes.

First they ban gay marriage. Then they start imprisoning gays. Then they start killing them.

I'm sorry - but if people are going to make the slippery slope argument that gay marriage will lead to polygamy and marrying your dog, I'm perfectly capable of making the slippery slope argument in the other direction.

And let's not forget that the BIBLE calls for the execution of gay people.

Gahrie said...

Let's talk about slippery slopes.

First they ban gay marriage. Then they start imprisoning gays. Then they start killing them.


Talk about strawman arguments!

Banning gay marriage is not a step on a slippery slope...it's the status quo.

Pogo said...

Re; "I'm sorry - but if people are going to make the slippery slope argument..."

I'm sorry - but that could have been the single goofiest comparison ever. Yes, I suppose you could make that argument, but then it would be openly mocked. And rightly so.

Now go away before I taunt you a second time.

Gahrie said...

No one ever wants to engage in judgment about these things. Sigh. Is it really so hard to say "homosexuality is okay, so I approve of gay marriage, but polygamy is oppressive towards women, so I don't approve of polygamy"?

That is precisely the point, restrictions on marriage are based on judgements. What about those who say homosexuality is not OK, so I disapprove of gay marriage? They are told they don't have the right to make that judgement.

Once you tell them they cannot make their judgement, why should you be allowed to make yours?

Aspasia M. said...

Brylin: "You either score with a couple of females or you don't mate at all."

Don't worry, the polygamy scenario only arises AFTER we've legitimated homosexuality.


Heh. Mates for everybody!

(And Brylin, can you imagine any "high status American females" staying in a marriage if the husband brings home a second wife? She would be out of there so fast his head would spin.)

A bunch of women would leave their want-to-be polygamous husbands, or they would bring home a second husband. (Hey, honey, look who I brought home! His name is Sebastian.)

I haven't heard any economic, social or cultural causes that possibly argues for a polygamous movement in the U.S. (Or in other industrialized Western countries.)

There's good reasons why these relationships are not happening informally in the U.S. (Except on a very, very small scale.)

AlaskaJack said...

Pogo, wittingly or unwittingly, has suggested a solution to this whole problem. Get the state out of the marriage business altogether. Free individuals should be allowed to hook up with whomever they choose to. If any two individuals (m&f, m&m or f&f) want to consider their arrangement a marriage, let them. So what? If more than two individuals want to consider their arrangement a marriage, more power to them.

Ah, you say, but what about the children? Sparta and Plato had the solution to this: the state should assume the responsibility for raising children. The upside to this is that we will finally achieve equality of circumstances. No more will children of the verbal class have a distinct advantage over others because their parents read to them, introduced them to art and took them to museums.

As Plato suggested, this solution should be welcomed with open arms by all egalitarians.

amn said...

The easiest way to seperate legalization of same-sex marriage from polygamy is that polygamy requires an entirely new jurisprudence. In the slippery slope theory we assume that the Court strikes same-sex restirctions on marriage in the same way that they struck race restrictions in loving. This requires no changes in the existing law.

Polygamy requires many new laws and an entire jurisprudence to iron out the nuance. Would legalized polygamy be several serial marriages or individual marriages between groups of people? In divorce, would property be divided between households, between adults, or in another manner? Who would be able to demand a divorce? Would anyone be able to object to adding a new partner?

An unwillingness to write new laws would be a very significant way to seperate same-sex marriage from polygamy. And without a significant set of laws to lay out the bounds of polygamy, traditional marriage would cease to exist. If there was nothing to limit the number of people involved in a marriage, a woman would have no protection from her husband marrying additional wives (or, if we're down the slope from SSM, additional husbands). Her marriage, and any man-woman marriage in the future, would be forever changed.

The court in the slippery-slope argument wants to legalize same-sex marriage but cannot seperate it from polygamy. There are plenty of structural arguments that would allow the hypothetical court to make that distinction.

Aspasia M. said...

It leads me to ask: why so bigoted against polygamy?

I haven't seen a bunch of people talking about how horrible polygamy is. I've seen people arguing that polygamy is

1) not a legal fundamental right

2) Could be legally confusing - particularly in that it's many forms are very rarely practiced, and thus we don't have social practice to draw upon and

3) Very unlikely to happen with any frequency in America.


Let me just say this clearly:

No one has given any credible evidence, historical causes, economic causes or social causes that would indicate that polygamy is a popular form of relationships in America. In fact, it is very, very rare.

In contrast, the gay subculture, identities and relationships have been growing since urbanization and industrialization. (This goes back to the early modern period in Europe. I'm excluding anchient Athens with was more of a bi-sexual situation w/ out the gay identity.)

There are a multitude of social and economic reasons that support gay relationships that have been established by huge changes in our societies.

...why should I now grant you leave to criticize polygamy? How ignorant and hypocritical.

I'm not criticzing polygamy as much as saying that it won't happen among free, consenting, educated American adults.

So far, I have seen not a single SSM proponent admit that their might be even the smallest downside to gay marriage.

I don't think there is a downside to gay marriage. I think it legalizes long-standing relationships and provides security for families, partners, and children which is healthy for society.

Really, marriage is a conservative relationship, when it comes right down to it. I would think that conservatives should be happy to promote marriage.

gj said...

It's interesting seeing all this discussion of legalizing polygamous marriages without any reference to actualy polygamists in the US who want it legalized.

The people who I know who engage in this kind of relationship (and yes, I do know some) are for the most part strictly libertarian. They want their relationships governed by contract law, without state involvement except to help enforce the contracts. Marriage as such doesn't enter into it.

Synova said...

Historically polygamy isn't rare. Saying that it's rare here and rare now seems a bit narrow sighted.

How about polyandry? If I've gotten that right. Polyamory? Why *shouldn't* three or more people, of whatever combination, form an economic domestic union?

Heinleinesque group marriages? Why not?

Matriarchal sister groupings to raise children concieved by short term matings? Would that really be so bad? We've got the short term matings *now* so why not the long term domestic cooperation of heterosexual women?

What blows my mind isn't that religious conservatives are crying, Polygamy! but that social liberals fall for it. So many are scrambling to show that polyamory (polyamoury?) is not going to happen and has nothing to do with gay marriage.

I'm for gay marriage because it is the basic element of social welfare. But so are other pairings... even ones that aren't a "mating" but a partnership in life... who takes care of you when you are sick, who takes care of your affairs when you die, who you share domestic expenses with.

I wish that people would separate the religious sacrament from the civil version, but I honestly *don't* see how a man being free to marry a man doesn't equate to a man being free to marry a man and a woman. There's no logical reason to say two, but never three.

Why the heck not three? Rather than get all concerned, face it squarely. Why not a three person domestic unit? This certainly has FAR more historical legitimacy than does a homosexual pair.

I *do* think that polygamy is often very bad for women and that (often) young girls have little authority over their own lives. I *do* think there are practical difficulties to trying to get along with more than one other person, because getting along with one is hard enough.

But if this is about economic support, I think that more is better than less and can see no reason to claim that three is unthinkable.

Gahrie said...

Ah, you say, but what about the children? Sparta and Plato had the solution to this: the state should assume the responsibility for raising children.

Please tell me this is satire.

Or perhaps it is just a (il)logiocal extension of Sen Clinton's village.

Either way, this is the biggest prescription for disaster that I have ever read on the internet.

Aspasia M. said...

Historically polygamy isn't rare.

But it is in America - polygamy, polyandry, multiples, line marriages, whatever you want to call it. Three, four, whatever number of consenting adults you want.

Quite frankly, I could care less if mulitple people get married. I just think that it will be rare in the US because the economic and social conditions to not support those relationships.

I'm talking about historical causation here. That's why these relationships are so rare.

But, quite frankly, I could care less if all the states tomorrow passed laws legalizing all sorts of marriage combinations. As long as all of the individuals involved are adults and everyone consented freely - it's fine with me.

Oh, and everyone in the marriage would need to consent and participate in the marriage to validate it. (One partner couldn't unilaterally decide to marry someone else without everybody else consenting and participating in the marriage.)

Daryl Herbert said...

The number isn't two. It's one.

The logic, and even the wording, is similar to "Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve!"

Pogo said...

Geoduck said: "I don't think there is a downside to gay marriage."

And this is my point. The proponents of SSM here have thus far been been unable to point to a single adverse side effect of perhaps the most massive change to our culture since it began. Although lacking sufficient insight to critique their own position (even if only to better defend it), they demand that we who oppose them have the burden of proof against their goal. (That's chutzpah.)

Radical feminists, Marxists, Foucauldian theorists, and leftists of other stripes have repeatedly documented how they sought to undermine and eventually destroy the family. And I have to admit that, unlike communism, thus far it has been a successful revolution.

First it won among the blacks, then the Europeans. Marriage has begun to disappear among their members, replaced by the primacy of the single mom, an arrangement no serious scientist can claim is superior to traditional marriage.

Now the intelligentsia are becoming successful in redefining what marriage has meant for millenia, one tailored not to the raising of the best next generation possible, but designed for the maximization of the individual. Quite a feat; one can only marvel at the ability to beat down centuries of civilization's code with a few mere words.

The very fact that no SSM supporter can admit a downside exists suggests a poorly considered rationale, and in this case, a dangerous approach. I suspect my belief will not ultimately prevail in the US. As a result, I fear for my grandchildren, and for their children as well. For they will have lost the recipe by which we knew how to transmit our cultural ethos to them. Soon it will be something else, something I think not only a lesser thing, but one that will be unable to defend itself against a stronger society.

I pray the people that overtake us are kind, but I doubt it.

INMA30 said...

To paraphrase someone on another thread, be careful with that cane Pogo you might hurt someone.

Pogo said...

Re: "be careful with that cane Pogo you might hurt someone"

And that's about the level of discourse I've come to expect from the left: the sneer of the perpetual adolescent.

Contending that civilization might be in danger when its very basis is attacked is laughed away as the dmented rant from some dismissable old person. Because ..get it? Old people are stupid and funny! Hah!

Fine, go play marriage dress-up. Just get off of my damned lawn.

CB said...

Pogo,
Though I think you overstate the case, I am in general agreement with your distinction between marriage and same-sex marriage, namely that the former is primarily concerned, at least in theory, and more or less in practice, with creating and raising children, while the latter is not. I find this to be the most persuasive argument against same-sex marriage.

But returning to this thread's main topic, does this argument, i.e., marriage arrangements should be judged according to how they promote the nurturing of children, go in favor of or against polygamy? Here is an argument that it favors it: There are some men who have no business fathering children--considerably more than there are women who have no business having children. Polygamy would allow all suitable mothers to have children, and would allow the smaller pool of suitable fathers to maximize the number of their children.

P.S., I don't really believe this; it's just an argument.

Aspasia M. said...

Pogo,

What you do not seem to understand, is that the law is quite useless in some ways.

Shifts in the American family structure since the colonial era have been caused by historical causation.

The American family has been changing since about 1815 in a radical manner. First the birth rate for native born American women decreased from 10-13 live births to around 5-6 births. That was a huge shift.

After 1850 more people moved to towns or cities then to rural areas. This was a huge shift.

Around this time (1850) divorce rates began to skyrocket in America. Why? It was an option that was more available at that point. People could survive without marriage.

So unless you're willing to destroy the cities, bar women from the workforce, and force women to bear children throughout their fertile years - we're not going back there.

And guess what? The rise of the cities, urbanization, the transportation revolution and the industrial revolution also contributed to the growth of a queer subculture. Men can now survive without women; and women can survive without men. So heter-sexuality is a choice now.

It's laughable to think that a bunch of literary theorists convinced a population of 300 million to change their family and sexual habits.

Aspasia M. said...

Why is there a movement for single sex marriages?

Was it caused by literary theorists?

Why No. Check this out--

Fertility rates for white women in the United States:

1800: 7.04
1840: 6.14
1870: 4.55
1900: 3.56
1930: 2.45
1940: 2.10
1950: 3.00 (baby boom)
1960: 3.52 (baby boom)

(Native-Born white American women had significantly lower rates of fertility then white immigrant women.

However, the daughters and granddaughers of immigrant women (Irish/Italian, ect.) lowered their rates of fertility to match that of WASP women.)

Again: This chart summarizes one of the reasons for the sexual and family shifts in American society.

Note: The biggest shifts happened in the 19th century. (1800-1900) That's when the real action happened. And, not surprisingly, that when the rise of feminisim happened.

For example: 19th century women got property rights;
Women got paid wage labor as their work shifted from farm work to town work;
Women learned how to read;
Women were able to travel on trains and steamboats;
Women began to get equal citizenship rights.

Divorce rates go up in the 19th century. (1800-1900) This is the big shift in divorce -- just like the changes in birth rates.

Pogo said...

Re: "It's laughable to think that a bunch of literary [sic] theorists convinced a population of 300 million to change their family and sexual habits."

It took a mere few years to do so in China and Cambodia. Total dead: 50 - 60 million. In Russia, When the Bolsheviks came to power in 1917 they hated the family as "bourgeois", and set out to destroy it. Stalin reintroduced marriage, but by the 1970s, the USSR experienced low birth rates, frequent divorce, and among the world's highest abortion rates. The Soviet Union is now gone. It took several decades to degrade family and marriage in Denmark and Sweden; now the father for many kids is the State.

And the results aren't very funny in in any of these cases. (Except in the "old geezer with a cane" kind of way. And man, gotta go with you on this: old people are a laff riot.)

Re: "Why is there a movement for single sex marriages?"

After this statement, you merely list changes in fecundity for heterosexuals. What's that got to do with gay marriage?

Is your argument: "Marriage has changed and their are fewer kids, and divorce and stuff. Ergo, gays should marry!"? Because that argument is ludicrous.

It's the "underpants gnomes" method of planning:
Step 1: Traditional marriage has declined.
Step 2: ???
Step 3: Gay marriage!

INMA30 said...

Its funny because, yes, all of this the sky-is-falling, civilization is in peril, America will be invaded, rant is demented and rather silly. The idea of it be delivered by a crotchedty old man is just stylistic. It could easily be delivered by a nutjob televangilist and still be funny, but in the borderline creepy way.
I don't think the decline of America will, if it even happens, be the result of allowing people to get married. It is much more likely to be the result of economic factors or overeaching foreign escapades (and no, I am not suggesting that this is happening now).

Geo is right. You don't see many proponents find problems because there don't seem to be any real issues with it. Of course, they are also proponents, so there is that. BTW I think if you go back and look, when the whole SSM debate began there were a number of people in the gay community who were against the notion; not for any of the reasons argued here, but nontheless anti-gay marriage.

But if you want a potential downside, how about same-sex divorce. The breaking up of families occurs today, which can't be great for the participants, but at least it doesn't typically involve lawyers and courts and all of that. So, that would be new and netural to negative. Good for the lawyers, though.

Pogo said...

Re: "BTW I think if you go back and look, when the whole SSM debate began there were a number of people in the gay community who were against the notion..."
And what a bunch of wacko crotchety sky-is-falling nut-job bigots they were.

Re: "You don't see many proponents find problems because there don't seem to be any real issues with it."
Since I cannot see problems with it, therefore there are no problems. Solved. Next!

And once again, I agree with you that the elderly are "funny, but in the borderline creepy way". Hah! Buncha cranky fossils, griping about the decline and fall. "Wisdom" with aging? WTF? They can't even dance.

Michael Farris said...

Pogo said:

"Part of creating the social structure ... is the unique social status it offers the married male. Like it or not, expanding the definition of marriage will make an already unappealing (to men) institution seem even less necessary. If marriage means whatever you choose it to mean, ultimately it means nothing at all."

Unique social status vis-a-vis who? Unmarried males? (All) women? Be clear here please.

And perhaps you'd choose to remind us what it is you think that marriage is for and how same-sex marriage will threaten/destroy that. The short version should do nicely.

INMA30 said...

Good Lord, Bolsheviks? What's next the role of the Che T-Shirt in the decline of the family. (Sorry different thread)

Not surprisingly you miss Geo's point. Even less surprising you seem to blame the Bolsheviks in 1917 for whatever you think the problem is. I think Geo is right that it is an industrialization issue and even more to the point it is an effect of capitalism. As women compete in the workplace and see their wages rises, the economic necessity of marriage disappears. There may still be economic benefits, but probably not as many as in the past.

Men and women will choose to be married or not, to bear children or not, based on a number of emotional and economic needs. The "market" sorts out a more or less efficient outcome. I get to choose being single or coupled with no children. My ex get to choose being single with 3 kids. If he were unable to support 3 kids I assume he would a) have not fathered them or b) find a mate that could help support them. Don't blame a bunch of early 20th century revolutionaries. It's the free market, baby. And I think that if nothing else, the fall of Soviet Union shows that the market usually has its way.

CB said...

While this thread hasn't technically succumbed to Godwin's law, the invocation of the Bolsheviks came close enough. Maybe it's time to quit before this (long and overall excellent) dicussion goes completely off the rails.

Fitz said...

A principled distinction can be made between gay “marriage” and polygamy. The problem is: what’s the principle? In your post you have relegated it to a mere economic one. Will this be sustainable politically?
Is this line as defensible as the present reproduction/ family formation centered line? What other principled argument would be surrendered along with gay “marriage” that would make arguing against polygamy more difficult? I believe these are valid questions based on your distinction.

Furthermore I believe the argument for Polygamy is actually a stronger argument than the one for same-sex “marriage".
1. The potential market for polygamy/polyandry/“polyamory” is vastly greater than for ss “m”
2. Polygamy has a historical & cultural heritage that ss “m” does not.
3. Polygamy can make authentic religious rights claims that ss “m” cannot.
4. Polygamy avoids the strongest arguments against ss ‘m’. It provides children their natural parents living together.
5. Polygamy’s children receive equal gender representation & would not be separated from their biological lineage.

Same sex “marriage” does two things necessarily (a..) Separates marriage from procreation. (b.)Androgynizes marriage.
1. Natural parents are not vital in raising healthy children.
2. All family forms are inherently equal.
3. Marriage in its traditional form is outdated. Any form is now acceptable.

It’s a question of the purpose of the institution and its importance to society. Government does not sanction marriage because it makes people feel better. Marriage wasn’t created to make homosexuals feel excluded. I and others don’t defend the institution to punish homosexuals or polyamorists.
The government has an interest in encouraging man & women to marry in order that their natural children are brought up in intact, married households. Gay marriage & polygamy undermines this norm. It locks in and reinforces the notion that all family forms are inherently equal. They are not.

University academic arguments for ss “m” always leave open the possibility for Polygamy or more precisely “polyamory”. That is: The serious law and humantites professors and their organizations (like the ALI) do not endorse so called “conservative” case for gay marriage.

They want to de-privilege the privileged
(i.e. – traditional marriage)
And privilege the de-privileged
(i.e. – anything but traditional marriage)

Indeed: Gay marriage and its natural cousin polyamory, are the synthesis of a long attempt to androgynize society and its laws. Feminists, anti-traditionalists, anti-religionists, sexual liberationists, gay theorists.. radicals of all stripes have a stake in undermining traditional marriage norms.
Far from being the exceptions, the make up a powerful cadre of activists and scholars openly pursuing this agenda. They are well placed in Universities and Law Schools. (my own family law professor was a polyamorist & her colleges in the department both lesbians)

Below is just a small sampling of what they continue to produce. (the list couls be much longer) These are important and influential works, advocated by mainstream respected organizations and institutions.


Principles of the Law of Family Dissolution, published
in 2002 by the American Law Institute (ALI).

http://www.divorcereform.org/ali.html

you will want to examine the work of scholars such as Judith Stacey, Martha Ertman, and Martha Fineman.
(or)
Emens's 2004 article, which appears in the Volume 29, Number 2 of The New York University Review of Law and Social Change, is called, "Monogamy's Law: Compulsory Monogamy and Polyamorous Existence."

Here are recent Canadian Government reports recomedations on Polygamy.

http://www.un-instraw.org/revista/hypermail/alltickers/en/0120.html


http://www.un-instraw.org/revista/hypermail/alltickers/en/0120.html

No I’m afraid the connection between Gay “marriage” & polyamory (while distinctions remain) is not a speculation.. But an empirical reality.

Fitz said...

Re: the “Bolsheviks”
Lenin did say he wanted to: “make sex no more important than drinking a glass of water

The antagonism toward the traditional family by such famous dialectical materialists like Frederick Engels, and Simone de Beauvoir is well documented.

Pogo said...

Re: "Unique social status vis-a-vis who?"

Girls become women primarily via a biological shift. Boys are deemed "men" only by other men (and other married couples); it's a social phenomenon. Married men are accorded a higher status than unmarried men (among men and women). To remain long unmarried was always a lesser or suspect condition.

Marriage tames the male id, steering the aggressive and competitive impulses into useful child-rearing. If marriage loses further status, men will have fewer reasons to marry. And then there goes the neighborhood. Literally. No longer a hopeful enclave, it's become the 'hood, as in hoodlums in hoodies.

The short version? Michael Farris doesn't know what gay marriage will do to heterosexual marriage, and he doesn't care; he just wants his free ice cream and he wants it now.

Re: "Good Lord, Bolsheviks?"
Let me see if I got this straight. Geoduck brings up colonial times to trace the arc of the modern family, and that's cool. I bring up something that happened less than 100 years ago, and now we're violating Godwin's law.

You had better arguments when you were mocking the aged.

I never cease to be amazed that the left seems unable to defend their position against the most important argument from those opposing gay marriage. They simply cannot stomach discussing it, preferring the juvenile responses of mockery and rolling the eyes.

They take for granted that because copulation will continue, and babies will yet be born, that our civilization will persist. Their pride in unexamined assumptions are sufficient reason to reject their view. The nuns used to call it "invincible ignorance".

gj said...

Pogo -

You keep attacking people who say they don't see anything wrong with gay marriage. I'm one of those people, and I'm just being honest when I say that. I haven't seen any evidence of specific problems created for society by gay marriage.

Your arguments have not changed the matter. You have not listed specific problems caused by gay marriage. You've only argued approximately that "civilization will collapse because civilization depends on monogamous heterosexual marriage."

If you want anyone to take you seriously, you need to make points that are more specific than that. The evidence I've seen to date (including things like the divorce rate in Massachusetts and studies that compare the psychological health of children raised by two same sex parents vs two opposite sex parents) indicate that there are no problems.

I try to base my beliefs on evidence, and so if you can bring in specific problems and evidence, you'll get a more traction here. But I think you'll have trouble doing that because, as far as I know, it doesn't exist.

Michael Farris said...

"The short version? Michael Farris doesn't know what gay marriage will do to heterosexual marriage"

No, not especially. As far as I'm concerned, as a proponent of same-sex marriage, it's not my role in the debate (maybe the rules of debate are different where you're from). Similarly, it's not your role to point out benefits of same-sex marriage or how denying it might negatively affect any gay children or grandchildren you may have.

Believe it or not, I think social conservatives do have a valuable role to play when big changes come up (with same sex marriage I think we're past the big change and into the little ones)* in pointing out possible dangers people hadn't thought of etc. So far, though, they haven't done that regarding same-sex marriage. They've said God doesn't like it or they don't like it (neither is a good basis for legislation in the US) or it might destroy or cripple heterosexual marriage without ever explaining how. That being the case, I see no realistic option but to go ahead and see what happens. If it's truly awful enough (a real but _extremely_ remote possibility IMO) then we can figure out what to do about it.

*The big change has been allowing and accepting gay people to live together in common-law type marriage conditions. Once that's accepted (and I assume even you're against trying to put that toothepaste back into the tube) the rest is small change. How are you going to stop gay people from publicly pair-bonding?

My own feeling is that vocal and legislative opposition to same-sex marriage hurts the institution more. It's a tacit admission that marriage is a trap for men and women who get 'respect' as a booby-prize for sacrificing their happiness to raise up the next generation of saps who'll sacrifice theirs (that's not my feeling about heterosexual marriage at all but it seems to be lurking behind the arguments of lots of people).

Fitz said...

Pogo

Your arguments with your fellow posters vis-a-vie their use of history compared to your own: remind me of a book I read recently By Stephine Coontz about marriage’s changing dimensions.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/067003407X/104-3425104-8145552?v=glance&n=283155


Stephanie Coontz basic approach is fundamentally flawed. In her book (Marriage, a History: From Obedience to Intimacy, or How Love Conquered Marriage) she collapses thousands of years of human history into 448 pages of agenda driven obfuscation. It is standard operating procedure for scholars in the contemporary academy to elevate the particular over the universal. By examining the institution of marriage through this lens, Coontz distorts its core meaning and value.

Of coarse marriage has always served a variety of social functions; this or that culture or class has sought to harness its power for this or that end. At this particular time, it is the agenda of gay & feminist activists to harness its power to normalize homosexuality, promote androgyny, and (in many cases) weaken marriages normative power.

None of this says anything about marriages essential purpose. She continually ignores its primary function of bringing men & women together in stable households for the successful rearing and education of their children. By focusing instead on the particulars of everything from the 16th century aspirations of romantic love, to feudal landed aristocracy’s ambitions of greater wealth and power, Coontz is able to distract the reader away from these universal timeless truths. In much the same way Coontz previous book (The Way Never Were: American Families and the nostalgia Trap) was able to use the straw man of 1950,s Ward & June Clever imagery to convince her audience that marriages essential features are a fanciful shibboleth of mere nostalgia.
Feminists assertions to the contrary, marriage has never failed to promote this core normative function.

Coontz has dismissed intellectual integrity and moral vision by using her work to foment an evolutionist paradigm that views progress as whatever happens next. She is merely another apologist for contemporary family breakdown. Coontz attempts to shift attention from the grave problems of modern society in its struggle to bring men and women together in lifelong monogamy; for the good of themselves, for the good of their children, and for the good of all society.


eg
(you wrote)
"I try to base my beliefs on evidence, and so if you can bring in specific problems and evidence, you'll get a more traction here. But I think you'll have trouble doing that because, as far as I know, it doesn't exist."

We are talking about social science here. Obviously Massachusetts is all to recent to draw any direct conclusions. Also, as I assume your aware; the variables that go into marriage/divorce rated are numerous and complex.

You may want to look at studies done by Governments and Individuals in Scandinavian countries. (they have had forms of gay marriage for the longest periods)
As far as studies of gay households go, that evidence is rather sparse and still disputed. However there is plenty of social consensus that children fare by far the best in a home who their own married natural parents.

Fitz said...

I’m sorry that last bit is addressed to gj

CatoRenasci said...

I think that Mickey Kaus has a great point when he said Americans may or may not like gay marriage, but they really hate having gay marriage crammed down their throat by self-righteous, unelected liberal judges!

Everyone who ever went to law school ought to remember the old saw hard cases make bad law. It seems to me that gay marriage and polygamy (in whatever variant one wishes) are clearly in the "hard case" category. Otherwise, society would not be so divided on the matter.

It seems to me that it's also a case in which the genius of our federal system shows itself: laws concerning marriage have generally been matters of state concern rather than federal concern. And, I would be perfectly happy to have the matter left to the legislatures of the fifty states -- although there may be 'full faith and credit' issues.

The analogy with the resolution of the question of negro slavery and the subsequent struggle for equal civil rights treatment strikes me as particularly inapt. It is inapt because it was not the opponents of slavery who took the matter out of the hands of the political process. Rather, it was the slave-holding states (or most of them) who, by secession, attempted to remove the question from political debate. While they preferred to submit the dispute to the ultima ratio regis rather than the courts, it was nonetheless a refusal to let the question be decided politically. And so, as we all know, it was determined by force of arms. Even so, the victorious North observed the political forms by amending the Constitution after the Civil War to prohibit slavery. The civil rights struggle was more complex, involving violence, poltical compromise and ultimately judicial activism, in the establishment of Jim Crow, but I think that despite the importance of certain court cases (e.g. Brown overturning the questionable Plessy case) the yeoman's work in eliminating racial discrimination was the result of the legislative process. Most of the court cases in the civil rights area rely on either statutory law against discrimination on the basis of race, or on interpretations of the Constitutional amendments following the Civil War - interpretations which would probably not have seemed far fetched to those who wrote and passed those amendments. So, as I read the historical record, the civil rights movement did not impose civil rights by court action, except to the extent that prior decisions (widely criticized at the time of their issuance) were overruled.

The gay rights movement generally, and the gay marriage movement specifically, wants to rely on the courts exclusively to interpret the Constitution in ways that any honest observer would have to admit would be seen as novel by not only the Founders but those who wrote and passed the Civil War amendments.

I am further puzzled by the arguments for the innate nature of homosexuality. If in fact homosexuality is genetically determined, and fewer homosexuals reproduce than heterosexuals, would it not be the case, over centuries and millenia, that the number of homosexuals would decrease? I'm somewhat agnostic on the question of nature vs. nurture on homosexuality because I think the evidence is ambiguous, but I have not ever seen the argument for the genetic nature of homosexuality deal with the fact that the percentage of the population that is homosexual is not declining. Of course, it is not convenient for the genetic argument to admit the possiblity that homosexuality may (at least sometimes) not be genetically determined and that there is a constant 'refreshment' of the pool of homosexuals through recruitment.

Of course, if homosexuality is a behavioral choice, that puts a very different spin on the entire debate, and especially the marriage debate.

Aspasia M. said...

Pogo,


"Why is there a movement for single sex marriages?"

After this statement, you merely list changes in fecundity for heterosexuals. What's that got to do with gay marriage?



Heterosexuality is now a choice.

Marriage and heterosexuality is not necessary for economic survival in the 20th and 21st century America.

That's why it happened.

And, it's not necessary to have 10-12 kids to work the farm. In colonial America there were constant labor shortanges - people needed children for their economic survival. It was literally very necessary to survive.

After industrialization, urbanization and the transportation revolution, women didn't need to have so many kids.

Single women didn't have to get married to economically survive. A lot more women had choices in their lives then in the previous century.

So if women didn't want to be married, they were less likely to get married.

If a woman wanted to live with another woman, she could. They used to call them "Boston marriages" at the end of the 19th century.

In the urban centers Queer subcultures evolved - this happened because it COULD happen. Once economic survival wasn't the question, people could make more of a personal choice about how to live their own lives.

The legalization of gay marriages is not a historical cause. It is more of a historical result of large sweeping changes that have occured in the early modern period and 19th century for the Western world.

Likewise literary theorists did not cause divorce to sweep the nation in the 19th century.

Feminists did not make women lower their birthrates from 10 to 5 kids in the 19th century. It happened as a result of large structural economic reasons.

Again - the key is ECONOMIC NECESSITY & SURVIVAL. If mere survival is taken out of the picture - then stuff changes.

Gay relationships are one of those changes. So is divorce. So is a lower birthrate. Do you see what I mean?

Pogo said...

Re: "I try to base my beliefs on evidence..."
Ah, an empiricist. An oven isn't hot until you get burned.
Civilizations that tried to destroy the family and their fate:
Soviet Union: Gone.
Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge regime: Gone.
Mao's Cultural Revolution: Gone, being transformed.

It is useful to study how civilizations decline and fall. To persist, a society must -at a minimum- pass the mechanism for its success from generation to generation. Parents must rear their children to be dutiful and unselfish citizens who follow the morality, manners, customs and traditions of their community. When the people abandon custom for convenience and selfish goals (especially common when opulence is common), they reject the old ethics and traditions. This pattern progresses from one generation to the next, with each succeeding generation discarding ever more customs, manners, and mores. As previous restraints are discarded, the fulfillment of private impulses becomes elevated above the demands of virtue as an appropriate object of pursuit. Each successive generation becomes increasingly selfish and uncontrolled, and ultimately it fails, overtaken either by conquest or absorption. (For example: Rome, ancient Greece)

Though you seek proof, the multi-generation time frame does not permit one to say "In June, gays married, in July the world ended." No, because the staus quo ante cannot be regained once gay marriage is introduced, the only proof of deleterious effect will be through historical autopsy.

What's weird to me is that what i have posted above was common knowledge, even as recently as 'the greatest generation'. How very quickly that wisdom has been lost.


Re: "It's a tacit admission that marriage is a trap for men and women who get 'respect' as a booby-prize for sacrificing their happiness to raise up the next generation of saps..."
Well stated; exactly my point. And when this become the dominant view, who will elect to be a sap and stick around to raise kids? What's in it for me?

Aspasia M. said...

Ironically, I'm a hetero-sexual married woman.


On the question of biology vs. culture: I think sexuality is most likely a mix of biology and cultural & social construction.

But just because one's sexuality is socially constructed doesn't mean that it isn't really powerfully & it doesn't mean I could change the fact that I'm attracted to men.

I can't change who I'm attracted too. I'm attracted to good looking men. Yum!

I really don't understand the "it's a choice" argument."

I mean, are you all bisexual? I mean, it's fine to be bisexual, but I really don't get why you would be against gay marriage.

Being gay is not really a choice unless you are bi-sexual.

You know how strong your attraction is to your own spouse or partner, right? What do you expect gay people to do?

Pogo said...

Re: Heterosexuality is now a choice.
I see. But homosexuality is genetic. Balderdash; not even worth a rejoinder.



...literary theorists did not cause divorce to sweep the nation in the 19th century
Sort of. The Enlightenment paved the way well before this, you forget. Similar destruction of the family has occurred under capitalism, communism, feudal societies, and tribes. "Follow the money" is often a useful reporter's dictum, but over-much reliance on it just produces silly scholarship.

Aspasia M. said...

And when this become the dominant view, who will elect to be a sap and stick around to raise kids? What's in it for me?

The people who want to get married and have kids, of course.

Like me and my husband.

If people didn't want to get married and have 2 or 3 kids, they wouldn't do it, because it's not economically necessary to their survival.

Didn't you want to get married? Or if you aren't married yet - don't you want to get married? I don't get this argument.

CatoRenasci said...

I really don't understand the "it's a choice" argument."
If (for the sake of argument) homosexual behavior is a choice, then it becomes no different intriniscally from any other behavioral choice. While society has always allowed a large scope for liberty, there are plenty of behavioral choices society regulates and/or prohibits because it is the general judgement of society that those behaviors are harmful to society. Homosexuality is a behavior that has been historically regulated (prohibited) and the strongest argument (at least the one that resonates with most people's sense of fairness) by those in favor of decriminalizing homosexual behavior has been that it's not a choice for homosexuals. Take away that argument from necessity and you take away any shred of a civil rights argument that's not risible. Then it becomes something that's entirely a matter for the political arena rather than the courts.

Aspasia M. said...

Heterosexuality is now a choice.
I see. But homosexuality is genetic.


Actually, no, my post discussed that marriage and kids are not necessary for economic survival.


...literary theorists did not cause divorce to sweep the nation in the 19th century
Sort of. The Enlightenment paved the way well before this, you forget. Similar destruction of the family has occurred under capitalism, communism, feudal societies, and tribes.


The imposiiton of ideology on top of a society does not work - or it only works as a temporary thing.

For example - Cambodia - trying to drive people out of the cities. Stupid! A totalitarian government cannot change the fact of industrialization.

Or Romania - forced birth. Look at the abortion rate in Romania during the Soviet regime. They couldn't stop abortion with a totalitarian government there. And there rate is still high today!

Again - stupid - an ideology & the imposition of a totalitarian government ain't going to cut it.


Look- you're trying to change things like the industrial revolution.

The industrial revolution was one of the main causes of divorce.

If women can't earn any wages, they can't leave their husbands -- even if they have really, really bad marriages.

On the other hand, citizenship rights, the ability to earn wages, capitalism and democracy all allow women to make decisions in their own interests. If they get sick of marriage - they leave. Same with the men.

Aspasia M. said...

I really don't understand the "it's a choice" argument."
If (for the sake of argument) homosexual behavior is a choice, then it becomes no different intriniscally from any other behavioral choice.



I understand these are the rhetorical points. I don't understand it from a personal point of view.

Do you think you can change your sexual drive? Because I honestly do not think I could change mine.

Do you think all gay people are really bi?

Maybe conservatives don't really believe that anybody is gay?

Fitz said...

geoduck2 (wrote)

"Again - the key is ECONOMIC NECESSITY & SURVIVAL. If mere survival is taken out of the picture - then stuff changes."

You remind me of the methodology Stephanie Coontz uses in her book. The one I critique up thread…. (look up 10 comments under Fitz)

I wrote…
"Stephanie Coontz basic approach is fundamentally flawed. In her book (Marriage, a History: From Obedience to Intimacy, or How Love Conquered Marriage) she collapses thousands of years of human history into 448 pages of agenda driven obfuscation."

You do the same thing… There is a lot more going on over these periods than economic necessity. Culture matters quite a bit, to that end factors like religion, natalism, the honoring of motherhood, sexual morality and a healthy respect for institutions like marriage matter quite a bit.

Couples haven’t needed “10 to 12” kids to work the farm since the industrial revolution. Yet birth rates were well above replacement levels, divorce was low, and women relished domestic life.

Along those lines I recommend this recent piece from Foreign Policy review.
The author manages to discuss historical changes without simplifying or collapsing them to fit his thesis.

http://www.foreignpolicy.com/story/cms.php?story_id=3376&page=0

Edward said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Pogo said...

Re; "If people didn't want to get married and have 2 or 3 kids, they wouldn't do it, because it's not economically necessary to their survival"

Exactly. Since kids are now seen as "unnecessary" for your own survival, then they have kids only because they want kids. (However, I reject that reproduction was ever seen as ensuring personal survival, howevermuch it may have helped in agrarian economics.)

Strange how this line of thinking has become quite popular of late! "Having fewer kids" eventually results in a marked decline in reproduction. Across the EU, progeny are produced at less than replacement numbers. The populations of many Western nations are in decline. Will decline continue as Muslims out-reproduce them? What then?

Redefining marriage deletes the focus on kids, and the very basis of civilization goes with it. On the other hand, Elton John will now feel "fulfilled". So we've got that going for us.

Edward said...

I have a question for Ann Althouse: Are you a social constructionist in terms of gender and sexuality issues? At the start of this new thread on gay marriage and polygamy, you said that advocates of same-sex marriage probably should not make arguments based on nature, because nature-based arguments have usually been made in opposition to gay rights.

Of course, this comment overlooks the fact that nature- and biology-based arguments could be co-opted by same-sex marriage advocates, rather than be fearfully avoided by them altogether.

This leads me to wonder just how much of a social constructionist you are. Even more important than that question, however, is the issue of how same-sex marriage advocates might proceed in turning around and co-opting biology-based arguments to defend their position.

I’m not a lawyer, but I’m convinced that race and sex (male/female) have become suspect classifications under the law precisely because each is so obviously based in biology. The law has made race and sex suspect classifications and has made discrimination on the basis of either one almost impossible out of a realization that, while one’s race and one’s sex are clearly determined biologically, these traits do not have any relevance to the quality of one’s character or to one’s abilities.

With advancing scientific research, I’m convinced that the same conclusion will one day have to be reached by the courts concerning sexual orientation, most specifically in terms of gay rights.

In fact, there already is enough scientific evidence of the biological immutability of homosexuality for a court to reach that conclusion today. After all, even now geneticists and other scientists don’t understand perfectly the entire biological foundation for race and sex (male/female) differences. Nevertheless, the legal concept of suspect classification in terms of race and sex is very clearly grounded in these traits’ biological basis.

I agree that the case for same-sex marriage can be made without reference to the biological immutability of homosexuality. Any major reform movement that succeeds must be able to marshal a variety of arguments, so as to appeal to many different types of people with many different belief systems. The case for same-sex marriage is certainly diverse and strong in precisely this way.

Yet the biological argument must not be ignored, and it will be become increasingly important in the future.

Of course, opponents of same-sex marriage will say: What about people who switch from homosexual to heterosexual, or vice versa? And what about bisexuals?

In fact, Stanley Kurtz, one of the most inveterate enemies of same-sex marriage, has recently switched to the issue of bisexuality as his ultimate weapon. Perhaps he realized that his favorite argument from a few years ago -- that heterosexuals will stop procreating if gays are allowed to marry -- was patently absurd and was not convincing anyone.

The existence of bisexuals and the possible existence of people who are can switch from homosexual to heterosexual in no way undermines the fact that for the vast majority gays and lesbians, their sexuality is immutable and exclusively same-sex oriented. Even though the biological mechanisms of sexual orientation are not yet fully understood, there already exists a scientific consensus that sexual orientation is biologically determined.

As with racial minorities and women, there is also a long history of institutional and societal discrimination against gays and lesbians. This discrimination has been utterly unnecessary and has done nothing but harm.

What more do the courts need to make sexual orientation a suspect classification? Nothing, I would say.

Stanley Kurtz believes that bisexuals will force polygamy to be legalized following gay marriage. My response: after gay marriage, bisexuals will be able to satisfy both sides of their sexuality through serial monogamy, if they so choose. Anyway, most bisexuals insist that they experience love (as opposed to sexual attraction) just like everyone else. Love for them, as for almost everyone else, involves an exclusive focus on one individual at a time.

Aspasia M. said...

Re: Heterosexuality is now a choice.

What I mean here is due to industrialization, blah, blah, early modern period, 19th century, urbanization...ect. ect....

The gay people who got married in Colonial America because they had too get married, now have a choice.

They no longer have to marry a hetero-sexual for their economic survival. Economic necessity and survival does NOT dictate hetero-sexual marriage.

INMA30 said...

"Civilizations that tried to destroy the family and their fate:
Soviet Union: Gone.
Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge regime: Gone.
Mao's Cultural Revolution: Gone, being transformed."

You suggest a causality that is at best a stretch.

Isn't your whole theory exactly how American culture came into being, rejecting the traditions of the old world, opening to something new. How's that bad? Again, it just doesn't seem like that big of a deal. Evolution happens. The human race is not going to become extinct because of two guys shacking up in West Hollywood. We're much more likely to blow each other up or poison ourselves before less than 10% of the population's happiness is enough to drive the other 90% to stop breeding and raising successful families.

CatoRenasci said...

geoducks2: your last response to pogo I think actually undermines the gay marriage case rather than strengthens it.

All of the changes in marriage law, divorce and women's rights have been achieved through the legislative process. Not everyone likes the changes, of course, but they have come about because their supporters have been persuasive. In the case of some women's rights (voting), it took a Constitutional amendment, and that's what we have. The ERA, as is well known, was not ratified because it did not garner sufficient support.

Homosexuals seeking to change laws prohibiting their behavior generally and/or marriage specifically, have had to rely primarily on the courts expansively interpreting the law in ways that I think any honest observer would have to admit those who wrote those laws did not envision and about which the writers would generally have been horrified.

The grand push for homosexual rights, especially marriage, does not command majority support, even in many 'blue' states (e.g. California). Given the lack of support for changing laws on these matters, I would argue that it is the proponents of homosexual marriage who are seeking to impose their views by judicial fiat and that that imposition is (as you noted with other totalitarian impositions) ultimately destined to fail if they cannot convince a majority of the wisdom of their cause.

Pogo said...

Re: "Economic necessity and survival does NOT dictate hetero-sexual marriage."

Given that being a single parent (usually female) is one of the highest risk factors for predicting the risk of poverty in a family (and then when those children grow up), the statement is false.

Pogo said...

Re; "The human race is not going to become extinct because of two guys shacking up in West Hollywood."

Of course not. Western civilization is another matter, and was the subject of my post. Your response is therefore immaterial.

Aspasia M. said...

You do the same thing… There is a lot more going on over these periods than economic necessity. Culture matters quite a bit, to that end factors like religion, natalism, the honoring of motherhood, sexual morality and a healthy respect for institutions like marriage matter quite a bit.

Of course it matters! And I'm trying to reduce about 250 years of history to 3 paragraphs. Of course my argument is not subtle and is reductivist.

I do think the major shifts of the 19th century are critical - Industrialization, Urbanization, the Transportation Revolution.

And good Lord, I haven't even begun to talk about the eradication of indentured servitude and slavery.

And of course religion is important. I totally left out the 2nd Great Awakening and the temperance movement - both of which fed elements which fueled changes in women's public role.

Couples haven’t needed “10 to 12” kids to work the farm since the industrial revolution. Yet birth rates were well above replacement levels, divorce was low, and women relished domestic life.

Look at the divorce rates in the 19th century. Divorce takes off in that Era for a reason.

After 1850 more people move to towns then to the country in the U.S. (Towns are still defined as relatively small by modern standards - 2,000 people - but this is a HUGE shift.)

A much bigger change for American women happened between 1830-1870 then between 1930-1970.

The period 1830-1870 changed the family structure in America, and ultimately is more crucial to the development of both the modern family and modern feminism.

I'll check out your cite. Thanks for the citation.

Edward said...

Pogo: the increase in single motherhood is almost entirely the result of the welfare system, both in Europe and here the U.S. Conservative such as yourself already know this and make this argument repeatedly in debates about welfare reform

Yet when it comes time for you to attack gay marriage, you suddenly say that single motherhood is the result of increased tolerance for gay people. You also say that legalizing gay marriage will further increase the occurrence of single motherhood to catastrophic proportions.

Conservatives are right about the need to reform welfare and wrong (completely wrong) about gay marriage. Welfare should be changed to provide powerful incentives to marry.

CatoRenasci said...

Geoducks2 said:
I understand these are the rhetorical points. I don't understand it from a personal point of view.

Do you think you can change your sexual drive? Because I honestly do not think I could change mine.

Do you think all gay people are really bi?

Maybe conservatives don't really believe that anybody is gay?


Now, this is silly. Just because we are inclined to a particular behavior (that we agree is a choice) does not mean one must act on the inclination. Even in an area of such powerful drive as sex, we accept society's restrictions on the exercise of the choices based on that drive, including laws against adultry (which remain in places), incest, relations with the underage (regardless of consent), and so forth. Assuming (again for the sake of argument) that homosexuality is a choice, then telling people that they cannot act on that choice is no different than telling cousins they cannot have relations or marry or telling 18 year olds they cannot have relations with 15 year olds who consent. One could always argue those restrictions are a bad thing and ought to be lifted, but that would an argument about policy preferences, not about civil rights., and properly the province of the political process.

Fitz said...

Intentional Distortions
(someone wrote)
""In fact, Stanley Kurtz, one of the most inveterate enemies of same-sex marriage, has recently switched to the issue of bisexuality as his ultimate weapon. Perhaps he realized that his favorite argument from a few years ago -- that heterosexuals will stop procreating if gays are allowed to marry -- was patently absurd and was not convincing anyone."""

It always bothers me when people distort other peoples arguments in an effort to downplay their significance. I for one have been readily convinced by Kurtz arguments, as have many others. That argument of is Not that hetersexuals will stop reproducing but rather …

(I will Quote Mr. Kurt Directly)
“More precisely, it has further undermined the institution. The separation of marriage from parenthood was increasing; gay marriage has widened the separation. Out-of-wedlock birthrates were rising; gay marriage has added to the factors pushing those rates higher. Instead of encouraging a society-wide return to marriage, Scandinavian gay marriage has driven home the message that marriage itself is outdated, and that virtually any family form, including out-of-wedlock parenthood, is acceptable.”

(That article & others can be found here..) http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/003/660zypwj.asp

Of coarse that reasoning is buttressed by other scholars including Jan Latten of the Dutch Central Bureau of Statistics.
The Netherlands has had legalized Registered Partnerships since 1997.

http://www.cbs.nl/NR/rdonlyres/D479F5BA-87B2-4C6E-BCCD-8306450AF908/0/2004k4b15p046art.pdf

(I’m afraid it is, naturally, in Dutch)
Perhaps you can find an English translation somewhere?

Aspasia M. said...

Re: "Economic necessity and survival does NOT dictate hetero-sexual marriage."

Given that being a single parent (usually female) is one of the highest risk factors for predicting the risk of poverty in a family (and then when those children grow up), the statement is false.


Pogo!

I didn't say poverty.

I said economic survival and I meant it quite literally.

(Social Security?? Medicare?

Think about old age in Colonial America if you don't have any kids. What are you going to do? What if you get sick? How are you going to feed yourself?)


It was a matter of economic life and death in the colonial period.

A man could not farm and cook and do laundry and garden and nurse and sew his own clothes and expect to survive. He needed help. So did women. They both needed children in their old age. Or they were in big trouble.

What would an elderly couple do wiothout grown kids? Who would chop the firewood? Who would fix the roof? How would they keep from freezing in the winter?

Economic Survival - we used to have to take it seriously.

Now we have a fantasy version of what life was like in colonial America.

INMA30 said...

Ok, if we want to exclude everybody else from our sphere of concern, western civ. Go as narrow as you want. American? Texan? Wise County? My point remains the same. It is unlikely to move the needle. Demographics and economics will hold much more sway on our fate over the next 100 years.

Aspasia M. said...

geoducks2: your last response to pogo I think actually undermines the gay marriage case rather than strengthens it.

Catorenasci,

In the last couple of posts I've been laying out a historical argument for the causes of

1) the rise of divorce in the 19th century US and

2) why urbanization and industrialization are necessary to the development of a queer subcullture.

I'm saying same-sex relationships will happen in America for historical reasons.

My point is that either the legalization or criminalization of these relationships will not change the overwhelming historical causes that have caused the changes in the American family.

So these particular arguments don't directly speak to legalization or the political process.

Rather I'm trying to lay out the historical causes for what some people are calling "the destruction of the American family."

Gay marriage didn't/won't destroy the American family.

Industrialization and urbanization and wages for women, ect. ect. ect. - well that's what caused the major shifts.

Fitz said...

geoduck2 (wrote)

“I said economic survival and I meant it quite literally.

Social Security?? Medicare?

Think about old age in Colonial America if you don't have any kids. What are you going to do? What if you get sick? How are you going to feed yourself?
It was a matter of economic life and death in the colonial period.

What would an elderly couple do wiothout grown kids? Who would chop the firewood? Who would fix the roof? How would they keep from freezing in the winter?””


But geoduck2? Have things really changed that much?
When I say economic survival I (& Pogo) mean it quite literally…

Social Security?? Medicare?

Who’s going to pay into that?
(it’s a direct pay as you go system)

Along those lines I must once again recommend this recent piece from Foreign Policy review. (for any/and all who comment here.. its very instructive)

http://www.foreignpolicy.com/story/cms.php?story_id=3376&page=0

Pogo said...

Re: "Economic Survival - we used to have to take it seriously."

On this point we agree. Now that we can fall back on the nanny state as the "other spouse" for economic survival, there is less need to marry. Patrick Moynihan noted this disturbing fact when he discovered that The Great Society resulted in fewer men marrying, and a rise in single motherhood. And that explains the decline in urban black civilization.

Edward said...

I’ve just detected another contradiction in the argument against same-sex marriage.

First, the opponents of SSM say that it will cause the size of the population to fall catastrophically, because far fewer people will procreate.

Yet at the same time, the opponents of SSM say that it will result in legalized polygamy and (presumably) a sharp increase in the number of polygamous relationships.

Now I think everyone participating in this discussion knows that polygamists usually have lots of children. Polygamists in Utah are famous for having ten or twenty and sometimes even thirty children per family.

So this is a glaring contradiction in the arguments against SSM. SSM cannot simultaneously cause the population to collapse AND result in the dangerous growth of fast-breeding polygamists.

This contradiction only shows that most opponents of SSM don’t care about constructing a consistent position. They’re so frightened by SSM that they’ll throw out any idea that pops into their heads, no matter how absurd or intellectually reckless it is.

Aspasia M. said...

Geoducks2 said:
I understand these are the rhetorical points. I don't understand it from a personal point of view.

Catorenasci said:

Now, this is silly. Just because we are inclined to a particular behavior (that we agree is a choice) does not mean one must act on the inclination.


Catorenasci,

I have never been inclined to have sex with a woman.

(But I'm not Bisexual. Thus the question - do you think all gay people are really bi-sexual?)

I am a hetero woman. My husband is a hetero man. He is attracted to me. I would be very, very unhappy if he was not attracted to women.

In fact, if he was not attracted to women that would make our marriage unworkable.

If he had to fantasize about men to get it up - that's horrible! (Not to be crude - but I really don't get this.)

Do you want to marry someone who isn't attracted to your sex?

I don't understand how conservatives think this could ever, ever work?

Again -
Do you think all gay people are really bi?

Aspasia M. said...

Pogo,

Remember that the numbers of white unwed mothers far exceeds that of non-white unwed mothers.

Some poor teenage girls often have kids young because they know their extended families will help them with the care and economic costs.

It's actually an economically strategic decision for some working-class young girls.

CatoRenasci said...

Geoducks2 said:
Rather I'm trying to lay out the historical causes for what some people are calling "the destruction of the American family."

Gay marriage didn't/won't destroy the American family.

Industrialization and urbanization and wages for women, ect. ect. ect. - well that's what caused the major shifts.


While I would not disagree that there have been changes in the American family over the past two centuries, as an historian I am far less convinced of the direct causal (and deterministic) relationship you seem to be positing. But, then I am neither a materialist nor an historical determinist. Ideas certainly have consequences, and there are a myriad of different ways cultures and civilizations can react to various economic and social forces. And, the choices societies make in responding to these forces matter and tend to result in different outcomes.

I realize you are not laying out arguments in all their subtley given the constraint of the format, but I certainly think there is substantial room for disagreement with you concerning the 'causes' of the changes in the family and the possible outcomes which may (or may not) result from further changes, and even over whether it matters whether changes are the result of the legislative process or judicial fiat. As you know, perfectly respectable and erudite historians disagree on the "causes" of almost anything, even when they agree on the underlying facts.

Asserting as a fact what you either believe to be outcome probable future event or hope to be the outcome does not make it so.

Abraham said...

Do you want to marry someone who isn't attracted to your sex?

Perhaps marriage really, truly, is not for everyone. I think that is the central point of this debate.

Aspasia M. said...

fitz,

I'm looking forward to reading the article,

but when considering the colonial era or the 19th century prior to the 1830s...


But geoduck2? Have things really changed that much?

Yes!!! That's what I've been trying to say...these changes are a lot bigger then something simple like the legalization of marriage or not.

You don't even need to think 2006 for this discussion. (Or think prior to the 1960s or to the 1930s if that helps.)

My arguments apply also to the 1890s; or the 1920s.

By the 1880s a woman could survive economically in a way that was impossible in the 1810s.

In the 1810s a lot of places in America didn't even have a poor house. We didn't have jails, we didn't have a bunch of hospitals, we didn't have poor houses.

By the 1880s an elderly person had an institution to go to in desperate situations. It might have been not a nice place; and a person would be more likely to, say, die of cholara if they didn't have family to care for them - but there were a bunch of institutions that just didn't exist.

We didn't have police forces before the 1850s in a bunch of places. A lot of the firehouses were privatized before 1840.
--------------------
Really think about life before train, before coal, before steamboats and before we had a good market in place in America.

It used to cost more money to ship corn from what is now the suburbs of Phily to the city of Phily prior to 1815.

By 1850 It was cheaper to send the same ammount of corn from Indiana to Phily.

Pogo said...

Re: "So this is a glaring contradiction in the arguments against SSM."
You missed it by a mile, friend. No one is arguing the general population will fall, I am arguing that the children born of traditional marriages will become ever fewer in number, and the basis for our American form of Western civilization will be undermined. Eventually, and soon in the EU, it will fail, and be overtaken by another patriarchal society. The population won't fall much, so you misunderstand the argument.

Re: "the numbers of white unwed mothers far exceeds that of non-white unwed mothers."
The percentage is far higher among blacks, but the same process is in fact happening to whites. When the calculus of reproduction becomes a mere personal economic strategy, unrelated to marriage, the civilization declines. Gay marriage and polygamy just push it even further toward failure.

CatoRenasci said...

Geoducks2 asks:
Do you think all gay people are really bi?

Perhaps the better question is do I think all people are really bisexual. I suspect that most of us, under the right circumstances, could feel an attraction to a member of the same sex that might turn into a sexual attraction -- even if we regard ourselves as exclusive heterosexual. For me, the issue is not whether one is ever attracted to a member of the same sex or the oppositive sex, but what one does with the attraction.

As I said in an earlier comment, I remain somewhat agnostic on the question of whether homosexuality is an innate behavior or a behavioral choice (which may be the result of nurture or may be a conscious choice), because I think the evidence is ambiguous.

If you held a gun to my head on the point, I supposed I'd say it depends . I am prepared to believe that some homosexuals haven't a choice in the matter from the get go. On the other hand, I also believe that some homosexuals become homosexuals as a result of choices made during a tumultuous adolescence in which their sexual identity is not fully formed and it's a matter of fixing on one sex or the other, that could have easily have turned out the other way. In the latter category, I would place the victims of homosexual seduction ("chickenhawks") who fall into exclusive homosexuality as a result of the experience. I know a couple of particular cases that fit that mold, so I know the phenomenon exists. But I don't mean to argue that's always or even generally the case from anecdotal evidence. Likewise, I know young women who went through a 'lesbian' phase as a way of getting attention and seeming "cool," and who later returned to exclusive heterosexuality or bisexuality. I believe there is very little honesty about homosexuality and how those who end up practicing a homosexual life style end up there. But that's another question altogether.

Michael Farris said...

"the staus quo ante cannot be regained once gay marriage is introduced, the only proof of deleterious effect will be through historical autopsy."

The old status quo cannot be regained at present, the real change has aleady happened. Legal recognition of same-sex unions is more about being honest about the current status quo - those attracted to their own sex also want to pair bond and settle down and are already doing so without legal recognition and will continue to do so with or without legal recognition unless actively prevented (do you want to actively prevent it? how?).


"Re: "It's a tacit admission that marriage is a trap for men and women who get 'respect' as a booby-prize for sacrificing their happiness to raise up the next generation of saps..."
Well stated; exactly my point. And when this become the dominant view, who will elect to be a sap and stick around to raise kids? What's in it for me?"

Why do you have such a low opinion about the power of marriage and bringing up children to be fulfilling? Do you really think that people have to be either tricked into it or decevied about what's going on until it's too late. We'll have to agree to disagree about that.

Men have conflicting drives (as do women) about fooling around and settling down. Most settle for some period of fooling around (or trying to) and then settling down (or trying to). You have to work very hard to keep them from doing that.

Low birth rates are primarily about women having more choice about how many children to have. When women are mostly in charge of how many children they have some will have more, some will have less but the overall birthrate will go down. If you want to tackle that, then figure out ways to make having and raising kids of more short term value, but short of drastic measures most women don't want to be brood mares turning out as many as some man thinks necessary.

Aspasia M. said...

Catorenasci,

In my own work I actually spend more time on the cultural history of ideas then economic history.

I would be the first to promote the importantce of cultural and intellectual history such the Second Great Awakening; the Englightenment and the importance of concepts such as "citizenship"; "freedom" and "liberty."

In fact, I think a lay view of popular rights and liberty is part of what has driven the debate about gay marriage into the public sphere.

I also think that the history of religion in America is feeding into popular culture beliefs about marriage as a site for love.

Several congregations are willing to preform religous ceremonies.

Certainly as individuals we have very little control over the course of this debate or the course of history.

I think that cultural, religous and social history must be set within a context of material conditions. But I don't see one necessarily driving or "dominant" as a historical cause. Rather -they work together in complex ways.

Edward said...

Pogo: OK, maybe you yourself don't say that the population will fall, but many other opponents of SSM do make exactly this argument.

Most famously, Stanley Kurtz makes this argument. And look at Fitz's posts in this thread. Fitz says that he agrees with Stanley Kurtz that the population will fall.

Stanley Kurtz also insists that polygamy will become commonplace after legalized SSM.

Yet a growth in polygamy should increase, not decrease the population.

Thus, there is a contradiction in the anti-SSM position. The opponents of SSM don't even agree among themselves.

Aspasia M. said...

Low birth rates are primarily about women having more choice about how many children to have. When women are mostly in charge of how many children they have some will have more, some will have less but the overall birthrate will go down. If you want to tackle that, then figure out ways to make having and raising kids of more short term value, but short of drastic measures most women don't want to be brood mares turning out as many as some man thinks necessary.

Very few married men want a lot of kids. (Let's give a common number for Colonial people - ten kids.)

Husbands don't want ten kids for the same reason that the wife doesn't want to have ten kids.

For middle-class kids are very expensive. Kids are not a labor supply and most of us don't have farms.

It's a very unusual western man who wants the family size that his ancestor would have had in the 17th or 18th century.

Aspasia M. said...

I can prove that we all have a very modern point of view when it comes to family and children:

How many men want to have 10 kids?

There are people who want large families, but we forget that this was the average family for colonial Americans.

Fitz said...

CatoRenasci
(you wrote)

“As I said in an earlier comment, I remain somewhat agnostic on the question of whether homosexuality is an innate behavior or a behavioral choice (which may be the result of nurture or may be a conscious choice), because I think the evidence is ambiguous””


Along those lines, perhaps this paper by the following individual will help your query, and bring you up to date.


JEFFREY B. SATINOVER, Ed.M., M.S., M.D., A.B.P.N.
Presently conducting research in complex physical and economic systems in the department of physics and the condensed matter physics laboratory at the University of Nice, France. The present work reports on research conducted while teaching constitutional law in the department of politics at Princeton University and physics at Yale University, and consulting to groups writing briefs in various state and
federal Supreme Court cases.

S.B., Humanities & Science, M.I.T., 1971
Ed.M. Clinical Psychology & Public Practice, Harvard University, 1973
M.D., University of Texas, 1982
M.S., Physics, Yale University, 2003

http://www.narth.com/docs/TheTrojanCouchSatinover.pdf



CatoRenasci, we have a lot in common, we’re both attorneys & both live in tony suburbs.

Pogo said...

Re: "Do you really think that people have to be either tricked into it or decevied about what's going on until it's too late."

You misunderstand. I pointed out that devaluing marriage from its ideal state of duty, virtue, and sacrifice into a selfish calculation of personal economic utility is dangerous to us all. But the idea is fast gaining a foothold, and explains the drift of heterosexual men away from marriage ("afraid to commit") among whites, or the siring of numerous kids by numerous women, unmarried, as among blacks. Neither scenario is conducive to societal longevity.

And geoduck, you metnion that "ten kids" was not uncommon in colonial times, but neglect to say that the mortality rate was extremely high, such that survival was somewhere less than half. And the wife often died in childbirth. Few families had the majority of births survive to adulthood.

INMA30 said...

To further Michael's point re: not being able to turn back the clock easily, I expect that even the absence of legal victory, either legislative or judicial, that the market is already there and products will emerge to effectively provide whatever end result gay families need. They may be expensive or complicated, but they will exist.
Churches will already marry couples. Contracts can be drawn up. Not cheap or easy always, but possible. Just not wanting it isn't going to change the trend and I think Michael's right, trying to reverse it would look pretty ugly.

CatoRenasci said...

Geoducks2 said:
In my own work I actually spend more time on the cultural history of ideas then economic history.

I would be the first to promote the importantce of cultural and intellectual history such the Second Great Awakening; the Englightenment and the importance of concepts such as "citizenship"; "freedom" and "liberty."
and much more....

I think we may be on opposite sides of a generational divide as historians. I am much more an intellectual historian than a cultural historian, having been trained in the early '70s and focusing primarily on the Enlightenment and 19th centuries. I did do some American intellectual history as well. While am not an economic historian, I have done a couple of years worth of graduate work in economic theory, which makes me doubly suspicious of economic arguments by historians.

I would agree that we are currently in a period of cultural flux - and there have been other periods in our history -- but I would not presume to be able to predict the outcome of that flux or to be so certain that ever libertinizing of mores will continue. There have certainly been periods where behavior became more conservative rather than less. These are, however, not simple questions that admit of pat declarative answers.

American religous history is certainly important. As you no doubt know, a larger percentage of the population is churched now than was the case during the colonial period, despite what most people would regard as a decline in our (notional at least) moral standards.

I don't think you can draw any meaningful conclusions about support for homosexual marriage from the fact that some congregations in some denominations are OK with it. Even in the most liberal of mainline denominations, it is a matter that evokes strong feelings and substantial opposition (e.g. even in the United Church of Christ) and has exacerbated the large declines in their membership.

Where we may also differ is in your statement as individuals we have very little control over the course of this debate or the course of history. At the risk of succumbing to a 'great man' theory of history, I think it's clear that particular individuals have in fact exerted significant control over the course of history, and that representative government requires us to (at least) act as if we believe that our individual acts are meaningful in the debate and, ultimately, in the course of history.

Marghlar said...

Pogo said:

Marriage tames the male id, steering the aggressive and competitive impulses into useful child-rearing. If marriage loses further status, men will have fewer reasons to marry. And then there goes the neighborhood. Literally. No longer a hopeful enclave, it's become the 'hood, as in hoodlums in hoodies.

Civilizations that tried to destroy the family and their fate:
Soviet Union: Gone.
Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge regime: Gone.
Mao's Cultural Revolution: Gone, being transformed.


Sorry, Pogo, don't buy it. To take on point one: I live in Andersonville, a community in Chicago that is about 30% homosexual (I myself am in a heterosexual marriage). These people, by law, cannot marry. They live in a variety of informal committments of varying permanence, quite happily. Crime is incredibly low -- the area is economically prosperous, with levels of crime significantly below the surrounding areas and far below Chicago's averages or medians for neighborhoods. The only violent crimes I can recall taking place nearby involved one act of retaliation against a federal judge (having nothing to do with culture war issues), and one hate crime against a gay couple.

Our low rates of marriage haven't brought on crime, or poverty, or anything like it. I live in one of the best neighborhoods in Chicago.

Furthermore: in my personal experience, economically successful gay and single parents are just as good caregivers as heterosexual parents. In fact, some of the best parents I know are in non-traditional family arrangements. They are raising some great kids (and inculcating good Western values in them -- just the tolerant kind). I find your assertion that these loving parents will be responsible for the downfall of Western civilization to be both laughable and insulting. We need more parents like them, not fewer.

As for your societies will collapse if the family is non-traditional argument: I too can show the illusion of causation by cherry-picking my examples.

China permitted (and indeed, encouraged, under confucianism) polygynous marriage for thousands of years. This arrangment lasted with stability through numerous different ruling regimes. It may have been a bad arrangment for women, but it was damned stable.

In Japan, homosexuality was part of Buddhist and samurai culture, and was stable for over a thousand years.

In ancient greece and rome, pederasty was practiced for hundreds of years, and probably had little to do with the downfall of either civilization.

What conclusions should be drawn from this? Certainly not that any particular sexual arrangment is intrinsically bound up with a society's ability to thrive. Rather, one should look to other possible sources of collapse.

It is easy to find commonalities between the societies you listed. The USSR, the Khmer Rouge and Mao's China were all brutallly repressive totalitiarian regimes. They were also all economic failures, in the long run. One can try to draw any number of lessons from their collapse, but to pick out the family structure issues as predominant seems pretty far-fetched. After all, one can throw in Hitler's germany, yugoslavia and rwanda, and draw the simpler lesson:

"Regimes that murder a large part of their own population tend to bring the country towards economic and social collapse, and tend to be very unstable over time."

I mean, you have to acknowledge that out of a long history of different traditions regarding the family and sexuality, you isolated only the mass-murdering ones. Surely, it is at least possible that it was the mass murder, and not the liberated attitidues toward sex, that made these socities unstable.

Fitz said...

Edward:
(you wrote)
“Most famously, Stanley Kurtz makes this argument. And look at Fitz's posts in this thread. Fitz says that he agrees with Stanley Kurtz that the population will fall. Stanley Kurtz also insists that polygamy will become commonplace after legalized SSM.”’

Now you are intentionally distorting, Kurtz, mine & Pogo’s arguments!
(does this make you fell accomplished)
Its called a strawman argument: That is when you ascribe a false,and weak argument to your opponents, only to knock it down for effect.
(your not the first person to come up with this tactic)

I have provided the link to Kurtz arguments (that I do in fact subscribe to)
They have much more to do with family formation & childrearing than overall population.

To this end I will provide a link to ALL of Kurtz’s work
(This way you can re-familiarize yourself, & others can objectively judge for themselves)

http://nationalreview.com/kurtz/kurtz-archive.asp

(as for this)
“Yet a growth in polygamy should increase, not decrease the population.”

That’s your own weird conclusion, as is the silly contradiction you posit from it.

Eli Blake said...

Ann,

I think you missed the mathematica rebuttal of your economic argument that you made the first time, so here it is again:

The total number of people being eligible for benefits is the entire population, were they to get married (however marriage is legally defined). So in a 'worst case scenario' economically, one hundred percent of the adult population might get married, while about sixty percent of those eligible are now married (down from about 75% a couple of generations ago), so in a 'worst case scenario' you would less than double the total spent on benefits.

But in fact, other than the increase caused by maybe classifying more people as 'married' if you broaden the definition, there is zero economic impact. Here is why:

Suppose for example, that you have 100 married people in a community. Now, if they all get married in groups of two, then each group gets 1/50 of the total benefit, and there are fifty groups of two. If they got married in groups of four, then each group gets 1/25 of the total benefits, while there are only 25 groups of four. If they got married in groups of ten, then each 'marriage' would each get 1/10 of the total benefit, but there would only be ten groups.

Your economic argument is a mathematical fallacy which centered only on the impact of larger groups taking a larger share of the pie, while ignoring the fact that the pie is sliced into fewer pieces. Hence the pie (the economic benefits) remains the same size.

A pizza is the same size whether you cut it into six, eight, or twenty pieces, and even if the pieces themselves may vary within each partition.

Pogo said...

Marghlar said: "I live in one of the best neighborhoods in Chicago."

So rich and intelligent, yet you failed to read much of this thread or the last. I am not arguing that gay marriage will be deleterious in the next two months or next year, but in a generation, and over time. Your current neighborhood only proves that it is far more lucrative to care only about your own needs, and forget entirely raising kids.

Plus, you get to free-ride off of the efforts of others who did waste their time creating the next generation, instead of shopping and fine dining and vacationing in fabulous opulence. Those brats will pay your medicare and Social Security, if someone got around to making enough of them, and they were trained with a sufficient work ethic to generate the kind of income you can confiscate to care for your aging self.

INMA30 said...

"Those brats will pay your medicare and Social Security"

Can we call it even for me supporting putting them through school for twelve years? I was happy to help pay their way.

Edward said...

Eli Blake and Pogo: Please read this post of mine from Ann's first thread on gay marriage and polygamy. I was responding to someone with the display name of Taxpayer. Here's the post:

Taxpayer: The crassest thing is reducing marriage to a mere economic consideration. Most married heterosexuals would be horribly insulted if their marriages were judged solely in terms of an economic cost/benefit analysis.

Nevertheless, gay relationships have to suffer all kinds of indignities in the course of this debate.

Please clarify something for me. Are you saying that you would support gay marriage if an objective analysis by a blue-ribbon panel showed that it would have no net economic cost to society?

If that's what you’re saying, there have already been two such studies that show a positive economic impact to government and society overall from gay marriage.

I know the state government of California commissioned one of these two studies. If I had time, I'd go looking for it on the Internet and provide you with a link. If you have the time, I'd encourage you to look for it.

I would also recommend that you investigate the research of Richard Florida. His two most famous books are The Rise of the Creative Class, and Cities and the Creative Class. He demonstrates that the presence of a significant gay population in a community provides powerful economic advantages by encouraging innovation.

And what's the way to attract and retain a sizeable gay population? By recognizing their relationships legally, especially by allowing them to marry.

Don't ever forget that our economy will undergo enormous changes in the next few decades. The patterns of thinking and the open-minded worldview that accompany the acceptance of gay marriage will fit perfectly into the creative and idea-based economy of the future.

tjl said...

Pogo:

You are missing Marghlar's point about the characteristics of his neighborhood (which evidently resembles my neighborhood in Houston). As he notes, its desirable qualities are partly the product of a substantial gay population which has been in place for some period of time and which at this point is forbidden to marry. Allowing them to marry will not change the neighborhood for the worse, nor will it reduce the percentage of residents who have offspring.

Aspasia M. said...

And geoduck, you metnion that "ten kids" was not uncommon in colonial times, but neglect to say that the mortality rate was extremely high, such that survival was somewhere less than half. And the wife often died in childbirth. Few families had the majority of births survive to adulthood.


Pogo,

I'm talking live births. Ten live births would not be unusual. In fact, colonial women could expect to have 12-15 live births or pregnancies.

My Italian-American great grandmother had 12 kids in Ohio. It's not that uncommon.

Actually, colonial women usual had a baby once every 2 years or 2 1/2 years in their fertile years. A woman would be pregnant for 9 months and then breast feed, which would lower fertility for a while, and then get pregnant again. In her 20s and 30s she would regularly birth children for the family. It wouldn't be unusual for a woman to have at least 15 pregnancies. A lot of effort and time went into pregnancy and reproducing the next generation.

See Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, _A Midwife's Tale_ for the rate of live births in colonial Maine. (Won the Pulitzer prize & makes a a good gift for grandmothers.) They actually did a pretty good job of having sucessful births, especially considering that they didn't have antibiotics. But, yeah, giving birth was dangerous. A breech birth was real serious. And child mortality was high.

And really, we shouldn't be surprised that women had so many children. They needed the labor - children were essential.


If I was rich I'd consider having a huge family. Ten kids isn't that many.

SteveR said...

"Can we call it even for me supporting putting them through school for twelve years? I was happy to help pay their way."

Well no..

Aspasia M. said...

Catorenasci,

It sounds like a very interesting course of study.

As you know, there's been a merging of cultural, social and economic history. (Not being able to choose one, historians decided to do them all, simultaneously!)

I'm more a student of social/cultural history with side interests in in religious, legal and intellectual history.

I would not presume to be able to predict the outcome of that flux

Yes, I agree. Although there can be several things happening at once.


American religous history is certainly important. As you no doubt know, a larger percentage of the population is churched now than was the case during the colonial period, despite what most people would regard as a decline in our (notional at least) moral standards.

Martin Marty at Chicago has the number of evangelical Christians holding at a constant percentage since the Second Great Awakening. (I think 30 or 35 percent?) Of course, the type of evangelicalism is very important as there are several different strands with different political leanings in America.

I was thinking about how our religous tradition have informed the popular idea of the soul. I'm playing with the idea that the soul and the concept of a direct relationship with God feeds into our concepts of natural rights and also our concept of romantic love.

Anyways, this Protestant Christian tradition of a relationship with God is important in sects with very different traditions - from the Quakers and the Universalists to southern Baptists to Pentacostals.

Anyways, these intellectual and religious tradition are interesting to me in how they inform popular American ideas of liberty. I'm mostly talking off the top of my head here - its more as an example of my approach to history.


Where we may also differ is in your statement as individuals we have very little control over the course of this debate or the course of history. At the risk of succumbing to a 'great man' theory of history, I think it's clear that particular individuals have in fact exerted significant control over the course of history, and that representative government requires us to (at least) act as if we believe that our individual acts are meaningful in the debate and, ultimately, in the course of history.

Although I certainly think that certain individuals have a signficant control of history - most of us do not have the control of, say, President Bush.

As a social historian I look for patterns in behavior, but I'd never discount the power of certain individuals to have a real affect on history.

Fun talking history with you.

INMA30 said...

"Well no.."

Then you'll understand my lack of concern about the burden my old age puts on said "brats".

Elizabeth said...


Girls become women primarily via a biological shift.


Oh, the old women are bodies, men are social structures argument. To be a woman, one must simply menstruate. To be a man, one must earn the distinction.

And this means we must stave off gay marriage, because through some unexplained mechanism it will cause men not to want to be tamed. Pogo doesn't have to prove the mechanism by which this will happen, only point to the imaginary specter of it. And anyone who doesn't believe in things that don't exist are selfish, and want their "ice cream."

Cranky and illogical. That's not a dig at old people, just an evaluation of this "argument."

Elizabeth said...

I am not arguing that gay marriage will be deleterious in the next two months or next year, but in a generation, and over time.

More fevered imaginings. Someday, in some manner that I can't actually articulate nor prove through any rational means, civilization will crumble if we allow gays to marry.

Balfegor said...

Re: Edward's comment:
I would also recommend that you investigate the research of Richard Florida. His two most famous books are The Rise of the Creative Class, and Cities and the Creative Class. He demonstrates that the presence of a significant gay population in a community provides powerful economic advantages by encouraging innovation.

I think Florida's ideas are worth looking into. On the other hand, for a dissenting view, see here, in City Journal.

Re: geoduck2
I'm playing with the idea that the soul and the concept of a direct relationship with God feeds into our concepts of natural rights and also our concept of romantic love.

I'm not sure if it predates your area of speciality, but where do you see "romantic love" emerging as the major justification behind marriage in Western (or at least Anglo-saxon) cultures? My impression is that it wasn't part of the general understanding of marriage in the middle ages, where there were apparently notions about romantic love being attainable only outside marriage, but I think by the early 19th century (e.g. Jane Austen), the notion that marriage requires love seems to be there, at least in an aspirational sense. Was this a Restoration thing? Earlier?

INMA30 said...

Fitz- Forgot to thank you for the FR link. Looks like an interesting read.

Edward-- Florida's ideas are also interesting and, surprisingly perhaps, driving a lot of capital flows in the commercial real estate markets.

Edward said...

Elizabeth: You've just realized something that a few of us here have known for a long time when it comes to debating Pogo.

He's simply scared of same-sex marriage, and he tosses out one nightmarish scenario after another that he claims will ensue from its legalization.

Yet he cannot logically explain the mechanism by which any of these nightmares would come true. His evidence for them is very weak, as well.

He's not willing to admit that he's merely scared, and he won't accept our help in overcoming these irrational fears.

Anyone who writes the following sentence is simply scared of the future: "I pray that the people who overtake us are kind, but I doubt it."

Pogo wrote that sentence in a post near the beginning of this thread. He talks about the world's future like a vision from Planet of the Apes. His case is sad, really.

Of course, I fully realize that this post is going to make him furious.

Marghlar said...

Pogo: thanks for the ad hominem. I'll admit that I skimmed some of the above 130 comments, but I did understand what your position was. I just don't think you've proven it.

But apparently, you were unable to read and understand my single post. I said quite clearly that some of these people were rearing children, and doing it quite well. My wife was raised by a single mother (after her mother divorced her abusive horror of a father), and turned out to be a splendid person. One of the best parents I know personally is a single mom by choice. I also know plenty of people raised in two-parent households who are screwed-up in the extreme.

That's not to say that I don't know any married heterosexuals who are good parents -- I do know plenty of them. But that is beside the point, since you are asserting that having children raised by gay people and other non-traditional family groupings will destroy the fabric of society. I just don't buy it, and you've adduced no evidence to show it.

I think permitting homosexuals to marry will make them more likely to raise children then they currently are (it would certainly facilitate adoption, which many gay couples would like to do but currently have difficulty doing). I don't think it will increase the number of homosexuals in this society. And I think that children of such relationships will be as likely to thrive as are the children of traditional heterosexual marriages (perhaps more likely, given the often superior economic position of gay people).

So, I just don't buy that gay marriage will lead to any decline in population, to any decrease in the quality of life or community, or to any dire consequence at all. If it will impact these things, I think it will be for the better.

So rich and intelligent, yet you failed to read much of this thread or the last .... Those brats will pay your medicare and Social Security, if someone got around to making enough of them, and they were trained with a sufficient work ethic to generate the kind of income you can confiscate to care for your aging self.

As an aside: I find your assumption that I will be living off of other's income amusing -- especially since you had just called me rich. I am just about to finish law school, as is my wife. I do not expect that I will ever depend either social security or medicare, nor do I expect my children (if I should choose to have them) to. Indeed, I will spend much of my life giving a significant portion of my income to the government, some of which will be redistributed to the poor children produced by over-fecund heterosexuals. I do not object to this -- I think I have communitarian duties to my society, some of which include supporting those who are less fortunate than me. But I think your assumption that I am simultaneously rich, and on welfare, goes pretty far towards negating whatever credibility you brought to this argument.

By the by -- my neighborhood isn't "rich" -- it is of good quality. Home prices are pretty moderate for Chicago, much lower than an opulent area. Lots of working class and upper middle class people live here, too. Surveying the building I live in, I find that: we are 1/3 gay, 1/3 single, 1/3 married. All of us work for a living and pay taxes. Most work in a pretty regular job. Sorry to disappoint, but my gay neighborhood does not fit your fantasy of a bunch of crazy welfare queens and champagne drinking selfish millionaires. Some raise kids, some don't. Those who do, seem to be doing a good job.

CatoRenasci said...

Geoducks2:
As you know, there's been a merging of cultural, social and economic history. (Not being able to choose one, historians decided to do them all, simultaneously!)

And, given the contraints of time in graduate school (and most historians level of understanding of economics and mathematics) they often don't do any of them well.

But, I confess to being something of a traditionalist as an historian, thinking that all historians ought to know their "kings and battles" cold before they do more specialized work in more esoteric subfields (including intellectual history). In this regard, I have a daughter who is a freshman at Northwestern, who reports that in her American history survey survey course, the professor had to be corrected on significant facts by the TA and/or students on something like a dozen occasions. We all make mistakes, and know one knows everything, but it just shouldn't happen that a professor at an elite university gets significant facts wrong in a survey course. The whole course was taught (1865 to the present) from the perspective of gays and lesbians and feminism. Faugh!

As part of the lost generation of scholars trained in the '70s who ended up leaving academia for more lucrative fields (in my case the law), I sometimes wonder if academia would be a different and better place today if we'd stuck it out and fought against cultural relativism and political correctness from the beginning, instead of walking away in disgust.

MadisonMan said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
MadisonMan said...

If I was rich I'd consider having a huge family. Ten kids isn't that many.

It's most important that the childbearer in a couple feels this way.

Balfegor said...

More fevered imaginings. Someday, in some manner that I can't actually articulate nor prove through any rational means, civilization will crumble if we allow gays to marry.

I think the real weakness in the argument you're characterising unsympathetically there is that no civilisation in all history has, to my knowledge, had something we would recognise as legal gay marriage. So we can't draw links between state recognition of gay marriage and any historical consequences proposed.

But part of this, of course, is a kind of trick of language. When we encounter a foreign culture, we are presented with a problem of translation -- what relationship in that other culture is the analogue of marriage in our culture. And naturally, in forming the comparison, we will pull out what we consider the essential characteristics of marriage, and find "marriage" analogues among the Indian peoples, among the Mahometans and the Africans, among the Chinese and the Japanese, and so forth. If they do have things modern man might consider a marriage-analogue, we just don't recognise them as marriages, and would call them something else, I suppose. Like brotherhood ceremonies. Or something.

But that difficulty of classification suggests -- to me, at least -- that if there are consequences to gay marriage, they shouldn't be following from what we call it, but from its substance. Similarly, with many problems people think will appear with polygamy -- jealousy, for example, or a shortage of wives among young men, who will then turn to the seductive and all-consuming darkness of revolution -- these aren't actually dependent on legalising polygamy. They can arise perfectly well quite independent of state recognition of polygamy.

If there are any novel evils to arise from gay marriage, they will arise anyway, once gays enter into commited long-term relationships, as some already do. For broader social effects, outside of gay and lesbian communities, I think one ought to keep in mind that the state's forcing people to recognise gay marriages as full "marriages," in the legal sense does not actually determine what the social meaning of a gay marriage will be. Millions of people will still go on thinking that gay marriages are a bit of a joke, no matter what some law says they ought to think. There is no lever, in the machinery of the state, that can be pulled to alter peoples' opinions.

downtownlad said...

Good argument Marghlar.

Perhaps Pogo could explain how gays can move into the most desolute neighborhoods in a city, and then turn them into the most desireable neighborhoods in less than a decade.

See Chelsea and Hells Kitchen in New York for a couple of examples. Or South Beach for another example.

Doesn't seem like the end of civilization to me.

Nothing, and I repeat NOTHING, is a better indicator of a real-estate upswing than gays moving into a neighborhood.

But I do admit that I get a rush that Pogo is attributing all of this power to me. Gays, only 10% of the population, have the power in their hands to DESTROY THE ENTIRE WORLD!!! Cool. And I'm Jewish to boot, which means that I control the media and finance as well. I guess that makes me SUPER DUPER POWERFUL!!!

BOO!

Balfegor said...

I said quite clearly that some of these people were rearing children, and doing it quite well. My wife was raised by a single mother (after her mother divorced her abusive horror of a father), and turned out to be a splendid person. One of the best parents I know personally is a single mom by choice. I also know plenty of people raised in two-parent households who are screwed-up in the extreme.

I think the problem here, Marghlar, is that this is proof by anecdote. Unless Pogo's position is absolutist -- to wit, All children raised by nontraditional families will be screwed up, and No children raised by traditional families will be screwed up, your anecdotal evidence doesn't rebut his argument. I am too lazy to read the entire thread, but my guess is that his argument is something like:

Incidence of screwed-up-ness among children of non-traditional families is higher than the incidence of screwed-up-ness among children of traditional families, to a statistically significant degree. Therefore, to maximise the mental health of the next generation, and to minimise the rate of up-screwing, we should promote traditional forms at the expense of non-traditional forms, so that marginal decision-makers opt for traditional forms in the highest rates attainable.

Now, you can quibble with the argument, based on whatever the rates are, or by quibbling with the proposed causal nexus, but in terms of its form, it seems sensible enough to me.

Elizabeth said...

Balfegor,

I agree with you that legalization won't change the attitudes of many. But I know that it will matter to me, and to my partner of 13 years. Some of that meaning will be practical, and a relief in terms of our duties to one another in the legal realm. But I think there will be another dimension as well, and it matters not to me what people who oppose our marriage think. I believe that public ritual is transformative. I wouldn't take Communion if I did not believe that. I don't think being married could make me love my partner any more than I do now, but I am open to the idea that we might experience greater depths still, and feel more fully a part of the society we inhabit.

Marghlar said...

balfegor:

i do understand that the evidence offered is anecdotal -- but it is representative of my experience, and hence goes to why I think what I think. I haven't seen any evidence offered to support Pogo's belief that civilization will decline if gay marriage is accepted. I'm not sure what such a study would look like. But, until someone cites some well-performed and reasoned statistical evidence on this subject to me (hard to do, since the legal recognition of gay marriage is very new), I think it is fairly reasonable to argue from anecdote.

Smilin' Jack said...

downtownlad said...
Perhaps Pogo could explain how gays can move into the most desolute neighborhoods in a city, and then turn them into the most desireable neighborhoods in less than a decade.


Let me try: gays, being excluded from bourgeois society, have been forced to work harder and more creatively to achieve even a modicum of success. But if they are socially absorbed into the middle class (through e.g. gay marriage) they'll become humdrum middle class drones themselves...and there goes the neighborhood. Sound like a good argument against gay marriage to me!

P.S. Not sure what a "desolute neighborhood" is...but many would say a desolate neighborhood isn't necessarily dissolute until the gays get there....

Edward said...

For everyone who did not participate in Ann Althouse’s first thread on gay marriage from a week ago: I strongly recommend that you read it. Here’s the link

http://althouse.blogspot.com/2006/03/distinguishing-gay-marriage-and.html

Pogo’s irrational fear is even more obvious in this first thread. Many of my own best posts appear there, too.

To avoid repeating ourselves and to make sure this debate advances rather than turns around in circles, maybe we should all look it over.

Balfegor said...

Marghlar:
i do understand that the evidence offered is anecdotal -- but it is representative of my experience, and hence goes to why I think what I think. I haven't seen any evidence offered to support Pogo's belief that civilization will decline if gay marriage is accepted. I'm not sure what such a study would look like. But, until someone cites some well-performed and reasoned statistical evidence on this subject to me (hard to do, since the legal recognition of gay marriage is very new), I think it is fairly reasonable to argue from anecdote.

I think we can unpack that. Yes, I agree anecdotal evidence is reason for skepticism, particularly if he's failed to supply statistics. Indeed, I consider love-matches inferior to arranged marriages largely on the basis of anecdotal experience, even though I know that statistically, they succeed and fail at about the same rates.

The other thing is that re: gay marriage, I suspect Pogo is conflating the substance of gay-marriage and state recognition of gay-marriage, which is really just a cherry on the top, as it were, and doesn't much affect the substance of the relationship. It may carry psychic benefits for Elizabeth and her committed partner, but whether we call it marriage or cohabitation makes little difference, I think.

But then, I also think traditional marriage is broken, and, as a good little social darwinist, think that if we just let things sit for a century or two, maladaptive patterns of family organisation will naturally drop out of society without our having to lift a finger.

Edward:
To avoid repeating ourselves and to make sure this debate advances rather than turns around in circles, maybe we should all look it over.

But it's soooo loooong. -_-

Balfegor said...

It may carry psychic benefits for Elizabeth and her committed partner, but whether we call it marriage or cohabitation makes little difference, I think.

I mean, as far as the destruction of civilisation is concerned. Naturally, Elizabeth is rather better positioned than I to evaluate the effect on her life.

Pogo said...

Re: "Then you'll understand my lack of concern about the burden my old age puts on said "brats"."
1. You do not pay enough in taxes to recompense what they will be forced to pay for your old age. In addition, you contributed no labor to their raising. Hence "free-riding" on heterosexual marriages.
2. However, my kids may feel differently, when their taxes hit over 60%. We'll see about your concern over their burden then.

Re: "...because through some unexplained mechanism it will cause men not to want to be tamed.
...Cranky and illogical. "

You must have taken "logic" in one of them newfangled Foucauldian schools, I'll bet. I put it pretty simply; I think you can get it. Men are not generally known for commitment to marriage, so communities have created traditions that favor this arrangement. Children raised in such families are more likely to transmit the ideals of society. Weaken marriage and you weaken families. Weaken families, and you weaken society. Decrease the status of marriage, and there's one less reason to get married. This has already occurred in the EU and among black men in the US. Gay marriage will simply accelerate the decline.

Re: "He's simply scared of same-sex marriage..."
Scared as in frightened? Yup, the Queer Eye marriages have me quaking. That's pretty funny. The left has no means by which to discuss this except to mock, belittle, demonize, and otherwise emotionally engage their opponents here. And then, while posing a massive change in Western society, they demand their opponents prove why it should not be undertaken.

re: "until someone cites some well-performed and reasoned statistical evidence on this subject to me"
Such chutzpah. No; You prove your results to me that gay marriage is safe for society.

Re: "I just don't buy it, and you've adduced no evidence to show it."
I don't care. prove to me why I should support such a huge change in the meaning of marriage. You haven't done so. So prove it.

Re: "your fantasy of a bunch of crazy welfare queens and champagne drinking selfish millionaires"
Say what? Welfare queens? Whaaa? You readin' with crazy glasses agains?
You brought up your tony neighborhood, and the lack of crime. I noted how this can only last one generation, being given over to indulgence of the self, and not remotely concerned with the task of raising the best next generation possible. It's inward-looking, self-indulgent even, no matter how nice the people.

Re; "Nothing, and I repeat NOTHING, is a better indicator of a real-estate upswing than gays moving into a neighborhood."
Gosh! So if everyone became gay, we'd be rich beyond our wildest dreams, and the next generation would, um, uh, ....

Ed said "Many of my own best posts appear there, too."
Blogatory onanism.

downtownlad said...

It's time that we gay people gave up on gay marriage. It will never happen.

Let's start taking the alternative approach. Convincing our heterosexual friends that marriage is a bigoted institution, one in which they shouldn't partake.

Now THAT approach, would certainly lead to the end of marriage. And it certainly stands a good chance of success.

downtownlad said...

Last time I checked, Massachusetts (the only state in the country where gay marriage is legal) had the LOWEST divorce rate in the country.

The states that have Constitutional Amendments against gay marriage happen to have some of the HIGHEST divorce rates.

downtownlad said...

It's Friday. Time to go and have a drink and bring an end to civilization once and for all. :)

Edward said...

Downtownlad: You have no reason to be so pessimistic. Gay marriage will become a reality in this country, just as it has in Canada and in several European countries.

We just have to keep making the case for it intelligently and be patient.

Trying to convince everyone to abolish marriage instead is just ridiculous.

Pogo said...

Re; "We just have to keep making the case for it intelligently and be patient. Trying to convince everyone to abolish marriage instead is just ridiculous."

Not to mention redundant.

Marghlar said...

Pogo, by your logic, we should never have ended the prohibition on interracial marriage, because we couldn't have proven ex ante that it wouldn't lead to the downfall of society. Interracial marriage was equally not part of the "traditional" concept of marriage. But we said that was unconstitutional. Why? Because it was class-based and exclusionary.

You have given us no reason to think, even as a hypothetical matter, that giving legal recognition to already existing long-term homosexual relationships will in any way impact the rate or qualtiy of child-rearing. So I call bullshit on you. If you give us neither reasons to agree with you, or evidence showing that your position is valid, all you are doing is rhetorical wanking. And I'm just calling you on it.

In my experience, non-traditional family arrangments raise children just fine. You have given me nothing to indicate that my experience isn't representative. Thus, I'm not going to agree with you until you give me some reason to do so.

Unless you respond to my argument by giving either a coherent logical reason why giving legal recognition to existing relationships will either 1) decrease the rate of reproduction or 2) reduce the quality of child-rearing, I'm done responding to your ad hominem and childish argumentation. For instance, you say that my neighborhood is selfish and antagonistic to child-rearing, despite my having said that many of its residents are raising children, and doing so responsibly. Read my arguments and respond to them on their factual terms; failing to do so will lead to your being ignored from here on out.

The reason to give legal recognition to homosexual marriages is because failing to do so is exclusionary and discriminatory, and serves no identifiable useful social function. Being denied the benefits of marriage won't make gay people straight. It'll just disadvantage them. I think that's not only bad social policy, it arguably violates the constitution.

Aspasia M. said...

...but where do you see "romantic love" emerging as the major justification behind marriage in Western (or at least Anglo-saxon) cultures? My impression is that it wasn't part of the general understanding of marriage in the middle ages, where there were apparently notions about romantic love being attainable only outside marriage, but I think by the early 19th century (e.g. Jane Austen), the notion that marriage requires love seems to be there, at least in an aspirational sense. Was this a Restoration thing? Earlier?

I was literally playing on line with that statement - I was just having fun so this is off the top of my head.

The US population believed in a particular type of popular rights philosophy in the first half of the 19th century.

The Second Great Awakening was an important moment in American cultural and religous history. That religious movement fueled both concepts of bodily autonomy, the anti-slavery movement, and movements against wife and child beating. Furthermore, the states changed many of there laws to get rid of state corporal punishment. This was a gradual process, and a lot of the ideas originated in the late 18th century. There adoption by the states was uneven, and I think the 2nd Great Awakening helped push some of these cultural concepts of liberty, empathy for the weak, and bodily autonomyy.

These concepts complemented the decrease of indentured servitude. Likewise, public whippings or the stocks as a punishment for white people were fading as incarceration increased in the early 19th century.

The structure of the American family was drastically changing as the birthrate for native-born American women went down dramatically.

All of these factors fueled what I'd call a more modern view of marriage and modern "love."

Certainly there are earlier concepts of romantic and courtly love in the early modern world. Shakespeare certainly promoted a kind of love. But that's not my time period.

Here's some references if any of this sounds interesting:

On Legal History, Marriage, and a bit about Love

Nancy Cott, _Public Vows: A History of Marriage and the Nation_ (Harvard, 2000)

Michael Grossberg, _Governing The Hearth: Law and the Family in 19th century America_ (Chapel Hill, 1985)

Hendrik Hartog, _Man and Wife in America: A History_ (Harvard University Press, 2000)

On the Middle Class and 19th century ideologies

Paul E. Johnson, _A Shopkeeper's Millennium: Society and Revivals in Rochester, New York, 1815-1837_ (Hill and Wang, 1978)

On The History of Sex

George Chauncey, _Gay New York: Gender, Urban Culture, and the Making of the Gay Male World, 1890-1940_ (Harper Collins, 1994)

Louis Kern, _An Ordered Love: Sex Roles and Sxuality in Victorian Utopias -- The Shakers, the Mormons & the Oneida Community_ (Chapel Hill, 1981)

Kevin J. Mumford, _Interzones: black/white sex districts in chicago and new york in the early twentieth century_ (Columbia, 1997)

Just Because it's a fun book - she does some fun stuff with Englightenment ideas and the French revolution & gender

Lynn Hunt, _The Family Romance of the French Revolution (Univ. of Cal Press, 1992)

Balfegor said...

Interracial marriage was equally not part of the "traditional" concept of marriage.

Really? Unlike with gay marriage, there's plenty of historical examples of interracial marriage. I don't know when the anti-miscegenation statutes came into play (my recollection is that they were part of the post-Reconstruction legislative changes that introduced segregation, although I may be wrong, as I am not an historian), but in the 18th century, in the Raj, plenty of European men took native women to wife. I suspect the same was true among the American colonists and the Native Americans.

Edward said...

Pogo: You want us to prove that all your nightmares won't happen if we legalize SSM, but that can't be done.

To begin with, you're so irrational on this subject that no amount of evidence could convince you that SSM should be legalized.

Here's a dare that I make to you: instead on insisting that we prove that SSM is beneficial and harmless, I dare you to tell us precisely what kinds of evidence and how much of it you will need to change your mind on SSM.

Aspasia M. said...

balfegor,

Oh, no, interracial sex and marriage is another long list of books.

See Kathleen M. Brown, Good Wives, Nasty Wenches and Anxious Patriarchs: Gender, Race and Power in Colonial Virginia.

Anyways, in the 17th century Virginian slaveholders outlaw interracial sex and marriage in a serious of laws in their developing slave code.

South Carolina has the same issues, although they adopted the slave code from Barbados.

But there was a lot of interracial sex, just not marriage in the US.

Aspasia M. said...

It's most important that the childbearer in a couple feels this way.

Madison Man,

Now that I think about it, I'm being insane. 10 is way too many. (we've always planned for 2) I think my comment would give my husband a heart attack.

Balfegor said...

Anyways, in the 17th century Virginian slaveholders outlaw interracial sex and marriage in a serious of laws in their developing slave code.

South Carolina has the same issues, although they adopted the slave code from Barbados.


Indeed? Well, I suppose racialised slavery would have implicated the same concerns, so it's not all that surprising.

But those are post-Enlightenment developments. I don't think a claim that interracial marriage is incompatible with traditional marriage is sustainable. One might claim it as a distinctive tradition of the American colonies (the English parts at least -- didn't the French population intermarry with the native population?) but it certainly lacks the universality of the traditional 'ban' on gay marriage. For another example of interracial marriage (from the 17th century), see Pushkin's ancestor, Ibrahim Petrovich Gannibal.

Aspasia M. said...

Marghlar,

Well said.

Balfegor,

Well, in the Anglo world the status of the slave follows the mother. So the regulation of sex became very important to the continuation and regulation of racial slavery in the early modern world.

But, race is a social construction anyways, so why would we need precedents for marriage? Perhaps I'm not following the argument.

The Berdache in Native American cultures is a historical example of gay marriage. (although, obviously not a modern example.)

Marghlar said...

Balfegor,

My point was regarding anglo + african american marriage, of which there was certainly not an established tradition. Opponents of interracial marraiges made many of the same claims Pogo is making, with a similar quantum of evidence. I used the example to show the absurdity of requiring ex ante proof that no harm will result from a novel social change.

Honestly, I just don't think the whole lack of historical precursor example holds much water. On that logic, we shouldn't have started driving automobiles. Or flying planes. Or have a written constitution protecting the freedom of speech.

Societies, and social conditions, evolve and adapt. Part of this is trying out new things. Especially when the equities point strongly in one direction, one shouldn't allow the fact that one is doing something for the first time prevent one from doing something -- especially when there is no logical reason to think that the new thing will create any problems.

But one more thing: isn't the state's intervention in the regulation of marraige a pretty new thing (help -- historians please come to the rescue). How old are statutes setting out who can get married? Wasn't this just the church doing what it wanted for a long time?

Just how old is the tradition of secular marriage? I suspect not very old. In that case, I think the tradition arguments aren't as strong.

downtownlad said...

Edward - I was being sarcastic.

Well, sort of.

I do think that there is a very good chance that the next generation will come to view marriage as a bigoted institution, if archaic Constitutional amendments (which will be VERY difficult to overturn - 3/4ths majority, etc.) stay on the books.

Do not be surprised to see straight people start to boycott marriage when they realize that their gay friends are being denied their rights.

I don't make my straight friends feel guilty for getting married. But if I don't get my rights in 10 years, I might very well start to do so. And why shouldn't I? It's no different than a black person making a white friend feel guilty for joining a country club that bans blakcs.

Edward said...

Balfegor: You seem troubled by the fact that no culture in history has legalized same-sex marriage before the recent trend started in Europe, but you also seem open-minded.

Let me suggest this to you: the status of gay people is closely connected to the status of women.

Homosexuality, especially male homosexuality involving love and equality (rather than just sex), is a threat to patriarchy. Patriarchy has been dominant in all of recorded human history, and it did not really start to be dismantled until the twentieth century.

Just as women in the twentieth century achieved rights and status that were unprecedented in all of human history, so did gays.

Until the twentieth century, there was virtually no culture in human history where women were treated as the equals of men in the political, legal, social, economic, educational and religious systems.

Gay marriage may be unprecedented, but that’s not a reason to oppose it. Many of the rights that women won in the past fifty years were also unprecedented, but that didn’t make them wrong, either.

Edward said...

Downtownlad: the United States and the world are going to see a lot of changes in the next twenty years. These changes will be economic, scientific, technological, political and social; and virtually all of them will contribute directly or indirectly to the movement for gay equality.

Yes, the state constitutional amendments banning gay marriage will be difficult to overturn, but there will be various ways of accomplishing that.

Balfegor said...

Just how old is the tradition of secular marriage? I suspect not very old. In that case, I think the tradition arguments aren't as strong.

Well, what do you mean by "secular marriage?" I mean, the tradition in the West is clearly interrupted by Christian marriage (at least among the aristocracy) throughout the Middle Ages. But there was a kind of secular marriage co-extant with Christian marriage during the Roman Empire.

Re:
How old are statutes setting out who can get married? Wasn't this just the church doing what it wanted for a long time?

The Codex Justinianus (535 AD) sets out marriage laws. And I think many of the Roman marriage laws actually date back much earlier, to the Twelve Tables, putting the date back at least 2000 years ago. On the other hand, checking wikipedia, it looks like the marriage law of the Twelve Tables establishes only that marriage between patricians and plebians is forbidden.

downtownlad said...

Edward - The civil rights movement in the United States happened because of the courts.

You are simply not going to get that with the Courts going forward in regards to gay rights. If anything, expect the courts to PUSH BACK gay rights.

Anti-gay judges will soon reach a majority on the Supreme Court once Stevens dies. Lawrence is just one vote from being overturned. I expect that anti-gay majority on the Court to last for at least 30-40 years. But heck, anti-gay Presidents have the elections, so what are you going to do. That is how our country works.

Honestly - I don't see states like Alabama overturning their anti-gay amendments for at least 70 years, even if the people of Alabama come to endorse the concept in 10-20 years time. It's going to take 70 years before you can get 3/4ths of Alabama legislators to overturn the concept.

I don't think I'm being pessimistic here. I'd call it realistic.

People will be embarrassed by these laws in a generation hence. As they should be. And a rational response to this might very well be a rejection of marriage altogether.

No wouldn't that be the height of irony? Marriage destroyed by those who claim to "save" it.

Balfegor said...

Balfegor: You seem troubled by the fact that no culture in history has legalized same-sex marriage before the recent trend started in Europe, but you also seem open-minded.

Let me suggest this to you: the status of gay people is closely connected to the status of women.


You don't actually need to persuade me -- I don't oppose gay marriage. Largely because, as you may get from what I've been saying, I think it's an irrelevancy. I don't think it's cause for worry, because I don't think it will (or can) destroy society. Even if sexual license and the destabilisation of the family cause our present civilisation to rot away, I can trace my ancestors back over a thousand years, past war, revolution, occupation, and worse. I have perfect confidence that regardless of what happens to the world without, if we do not fail in my generation, our line may yet endure a thousand years more. My vision of marriage and family is apocalyptic.

You'll probably have some difficulty convincing me that gay marriage makes sense, though (so to speak), because my vision of marriage is centered around children and continuation of family, not romantic love.

INMA30 said...

1. You do not pay enough in taxes to recompense what they will be forced to pay for your old age. In addition, you contributed no labor to their raising. Hence "free-riding" on heterosexual marriages.
2. However, my kids may feel differently, when their taxes hit over 60%. We'll see about your concern over their burden then.


I certainly don't imagine that the state will have any meaningful contribution to the quality of my golden years, so I'd definitely be willing to take that bet. Of course, only in theory, as I am willing to contribute to your children's future even if they will likely have no effect on mine. As for #2, I wholeheartedly agree with you. It is a devastating burden that your president has placed on our children and far more likely to hasten the decline of our country than any of your doomsday views of SSM.

Balfegor said...

On the other hand, checking wikipedia, it looks like the marriage law of the Twelve Tables establishes only that marriage between patricians and plebians is forbidden.

I should not trust Wikipedia alone -- other sources indicate that there are further laws from what we know of the Twelve Tables establishing a procedure for getting married. I did not see it, but I vaguely recall there was an analogous procedure for divorce.

Elizabeth said...

Thanks for speaking slowly, Pogo. I put it pretty simply; I think you can get it. But it's not the simplicity, it's the lucidity that's missing. You keep making the assertion that gay marriage will "devalue" marriage, slipping it in with your bastardized Rousseau (men hate marriage! They only do it because they must! Women ought to make it very, very appealing for them, or they'll just stop doing it!) as if there's some provable, logical cause and effect going on.

You do not demonstrate a reason to believe that gay marriage will cause heterosexual men to reject marriage. You simply assert that they will. It is not an a priori fact. It is an assumption, and assumptions must be explained in order to be used in an argument.

That's just your every day, boring old logic. No fancy French faggot version designed to obfuscate the straight, conservative mind.

Joan said...

Elizabeth, here's the rest of the quote from Pogo you dismissed as lacking lucidity: Men are not generally known for commitment to marriage, so communities have created traditions that favor this arrangement. Children raised in such families are more likely to transmit the ideals of society. Weaken marriage and you weaken families. Weaken families, and you weaken society. Decrease the status of marriage, and there's one less reason to get married. This has already occurred in the EU and among black men in the US. Gay marriage will simply accelerate the decline.

Which of these simple declarative statements do you find opaque? Let's see:
Men are not generally known for commitment to marriage, so communities have created traditions that favor this arrangement.
Since a huge amount of rom-coms and all sorts of entertainment center on the idea of the male "fear of commitment," I'd be surprised if anyone would dispute the notion that men by nature are not predisposed to settle down, and so our society has created incentives for men to do so.


Children raised in such families are more likely to transmit the ideals of society.
We learn to parent from our parents. There is skads of research showing higher incidences of risky behavior from kids from single-parent households, and such kids do less well overall than kids from 2-parent households. Evidence of the success of children from 2-same-sex-parent households does not rise above the level of anecdote, at least as far as I know.

Weaken marriage and you weaken families.
Yes? No? If no, please defend your position. Evidence from poor black communities buttresses Pogo's statement.
Weaken families, and you weaken society.
Again, we have only to look at the higher illegitimacy rates and higher incarceration rates among poor blacks to see this effect in action.
Decrease the status of marriage, and there's one less reason to get married.
Human nature -- but I'm sure this is where you'd protest that redefining marriage to include gays would not devalue it.

This has already occurred in the EU and among black men in the US.
Plenty of empirical evidence from the EU, already linked up-thread.
Gay marriage will simply accelerate the decline.
Another statement you disagree with, but that you can't argue why, exactly, we (Pogo and those who agree with him) are wrong.

You claim his statements are non-sensical, but I don't see that. I see statements you don't want to agree with, but that doesn't mean the statements themselves lack lucidity.

Edward said...

Joan: No one on your side of this debate has responded to my post from earlier today that welfare is the real cause of family breakdown in Europe and in the black community.

The United States will never become a huge welfare state as Europe has been for a long time. Thus, there will never be the same kind of family breakdown here, even if (when) we approve gay marriage.

The only exception to this has been the black community, which over decades became far too dependent on welfare.

Continued welfare reform will fix most of the problems you identify.

There is nothing inherent to gay marriage that will teach irresponsibility and aversion to marriage to young heterosexuals.

On the contrary, gay marriage will will teach that family and personal responsibility are expected of everyone.

Abraham said...

I agree with Joan. I'm not wholly persuaded by Pogo, but as someone who is definitely concerned that the west is declining due to decadence - in parallels to the empire of Rome? - and freefalling birth rates, I do not find the rebuttals of "well, I don't think it will" to be very convincing. I personally do not tend to care what people do with their lives, but I am concerned with the vigor of western culture.

Edward said...

Joan and Abraham: I pose the same challenge (or dare) to you that I posed to Pogo earlier this evening:

What kinds of evidence and how much of this evidence will be required to get you to change your mind about same-sex marriage?

I really believe that the three of you are simply closed-minded, and that nothing that anyone tells you or shows to you concerning gay people and same-sex marriage can ever get you to change your minds.

Oh, and here's somehting you definitely should know: Pogo never, ever answered my challenge.

Balfegor said...

Joan: No one on your side of this debate has responded to my post from earlier today that welfare is the real cause of family breakdown in Europe and in the black community.

I would quibble with calling it the cause, but I do think it's one of the most significant causes. For those of us chilled by the memory of Eternal Rome, there's parallels there too. Bread and circuses and whatnot.

On the other hand, I don't think we can discount independent changes in social mores, which came in roughly in parallel with a broad expansion of welfare. It's not only the Black urban community in America that is experiencing the breakdown of the family, after all. They just have suffered the most total devastation.

Aspasia M. said...

Marghlar,

I used the example to show the absurdity of requiring ex ante proof that no harm will result from a novel social change.

I completely agree. People who are freaked out about gay marriage should really be much more upset about women's ability to earn wages and not bear 10-15 kids.


But one more thing: isn't the state's intervention in the regulation of marraige a pretty new thing (help

Yes. The statutes themselves are not new. Rather the legal practice of having all of one's ducks lined up is new. Through the first half of the 19th century there was more frequency of informal marriage arrangements; or people neglecting to get legally divorced before re-marriage; or actually registering before a Justice of the Peace.

The historian Henrik Hartog has made this argument in _Man & Wife in America. Hartog is a legal historian at Princeton. (unless he's moved)

Even Pres. Andrew Jackson ran into some problem's with his wife's Rachael marriage status.

From Hartog's book on pp.20:

"Too many men went to the Gold Rush, leaving wife and childre, and never returned...Meahnwhile, wives went to cities, took jobs in domestic service or factory work or opened boarding jouses. They were widows, they told people around them, and then they remarried. Andrew Jackson's beloved wife Rachel lived on of those narratives. She and her first husband parted; they went their separate ways, to different jurisdictions. Then she met Andrew Jackson and married him--except she was still married. During much of the nineteenth century, the divorce laws of a few states forbade the party at fault in a divorce from re-marrying during the lifetime of the faultless party. Did that stop people from remarrying? Of course not."

So SNAP! for the state and the law and so called "tradition".

That is why I don't buy the argument that legalizing marriage would, you know, blow up the world. It's just silly. People will live their lives as they choose (if allowed too) unless a totalitarian state steps in and messes stuff up.

Gay marriage would simply affirm the status quo, not cause some radical societal change that would destroy western civ.

Aspasia M. said...

balfegor,

My vision of marriage and family is apocalyptic.

What are you concerned about? Or am I misreading you?

Balfegor said...

What are you concerned about? Or am I misreading you?

I think you're misreading slightly. My understanding of what marriage and family are about is "apocalyptic" in the sense that it is eschatological, romantic, and somewhat fatalistic -- a desire that at the end of the world, my family, and the memory of my ancestors, will be there to face oblivion.

There's also a certain humdrum neoconfucianism in it, though. And tribalism and overweening family pride mixed through as well.

Balfegor said...

Yes. The statutes themselves are not new. Rather the legal practice of having all of one's ducks lined up is new. Through the first half of the 19th century there was more frequency of informal marriage arrangements; or people neglecting to get legally divorced before re-marriage; or actually registering before a Justice of the Peace.

Isn't this really just a uniform enforcement issue? Because my sense is that enforcement of any law was pretty uneven throughout the 19th century.

Regardless, secular regulation of marriage is not some novel invention of the 20th century, but has antecedents stretching back well into antiquity.

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