December 8, 2010

"Men tend to behave better when they're married..."

"... both because marriage likely helps improve their behavior, and nicer men are more likely to be married in the first place, a new study reports."

Via Instapundit.

The last couple of days, I've been preoccupied with the Prop 8 case, where the key question is: What is the government's interest in restricting marriage to opposite sex couples? The pro-Prop 8 side focused entirely — and oddly — on the fact that only opposite-sex couples make babies accidentally. If accidental babies are the problem, why express any negativity toward same-sex couples? They'll only get babies if they make a deliberate decision to have them.

But this study suggests another reason for the special treatment of opposite sex couples. Society extracts better behavior from men by encouraging them to pair up with women. Women are the tamers of men. Don't waste women on other women. The social order wants to maximize the use of women for the fixing of men. And if men pair with men, all hell will break loose. Double the chaos of men roaming solo. With synergy, even more than double.

I spent all day Monday watching the oral argument in the 9th Circuit, and much of yesterday, reading, talking, and writing about it. That would have been way more entertaining if the pro-Prop 8 lawyers had contended that there is a legitimate government interest in controlling men by yoking them to women.

99 comments:

kent said...

controlling men by yoking them to women.

Sounds hot.

Joe said...

(The Crypto Jew)


It’s not Rocket Science:
1) Not Nice Unmarried men, don’t, usually get married; and
2) The Not Nice Married Men who DO get married:
a. Are hit by Rolling Pins, until they ARE Nice Married Men, or
b. Are Killed by their Spouses.

Why do you think Meade is so nice?

Paul Zrimsek said...

It's not expressing negativity towards same-sex relationships to observe that the state does not have the same interest in their permanence that it has with opposite-sex couples.

GMay said...

"Women are the tamers of men. Don't waste women on other women."

Word. Lesbian relationships are like a thermonuclear timebomb. The fissile ingredient being two forces exercising their hereditary rights to tame on something untameable.

(Porn is a separate issue)

Big Mike said...

Women are the tamers of men. Don't waste women on other women. The social order wants to maximize the use of women for the fixing of men. And if men pair with men, all hell will break loose. Double the chaos of men roaming solo. With synergy, even more than double.

What a sexist thing to write! (It's true, but that's beside the point.)

Paul Zrimsek said...

The fissile ingredient being two forces exercising their hereditary rights to tame on something untameable.

That reminds me of something I've always wondered about: when you've got two lesbians in a relationship, how do they decide which one is always wrong?

ndspinelli said...

"Women are the tamers of men". I do agree that is the case...and men do generally need some civilizing. However, what some see as "taming" is really controlling. When men are controlling of women it is often vicious and criminal. When women are controlling of men it's often psychologically destructive and pitiful. It's all about balance, a concept that seems to elude our culture on topics from this, to food, to politics.

I'm not a fan of Fran Leibovitz but I always read, watch, etc. people I don't like because I'm sometimes surprised. She surprised me when she said, "Why do gays want to be part of two horrible institutions..the military and marriage. For centuries it was one of the few bonuses about being gay". I don't totally agree, however I've often wondered how the gay community went from open scorn of marriage just back to the 90's to an adamant declaration of a right to marry. The cynical answer is more biz for attorneys.

ironrailsironweights said...

Men married to unshaved women are the best-behaved of all. Tragically, the number of such men is rapidly declining to zero, as my research has shown that almost 95% of adult women are completely hairless.

Peter

chuck b. said...

Doesn't "Nicer men are more likely to be married in the first place" undermine the subsequent claim that women tame men? Of the men who aren't nice that get married, how many are "tamed"? What does tamed mean in this context? Is Bill Clinton tamed? He's married.

WV: honlaw. The body of law pertaining to honeys. Duh.

kent said...

Lesbian relationships are like a thermonuclear timebomb. The fissile ingredient being two forces exercising their hereditary rights to tame on something untameable.

(Porn is a separate issue)

I know just the Senatorial "connoisseur" to head up the (inevitable) congressional inquiry, too!

Jay said...

What is the government's interest in restricting marriage to opposite sex couples?

A) Because no gay society has ever re-populated?

B) Because being gay is: immoral, abnormal, and unhealthy.

ndspinelli said...

Big Mike,

Superb point. One of the dirty secrets is how incredibly controlling and abusive some lesbian relationships can be. Some of the nastiest cases involving realtionships I investigated were among lesbians.

There are generally two types of lesbians; those who love women, and those who hate men. Certainly there are many hybrids. But the relationships between man hating lesbians are some of the nastiest.

woof said...

Let the hate speech begin !

shoutingthomas said...

Pointless to say this, since you're drowning in legalisms that I don't care about:

Maybe you should stop studying the Prophets Dylan and Lennon and go to the corner church, be it Baptist or Catholic, for a while.

For most of us, this goofy legalistic battle you're enjoying is just nonsense.

Once you lawyers hassle out this nonsense, I'll ignore the results.

jamboree said...

Well, duh. Though I think it's funny that the obvious is coming out in court arguments - it usually isn't spoken aloud.

It was one of my main youthful objections to marriage. We had spent my whole childhood with our lives revolving around my father's- errr- "issues" . As a family, we had very little energy left for anything else, and I wasn't going to spend my adulthood that way unless I found a guy that could mostly take care of himself, or at least have some quid pro quo going on.

And speaking about John Lennon (your earlier post), I feel the same way about the "Peace Movement". I see it as an externalization of that whole dynamic. I've never been part of it because I'm already pretty peaceful. I don't have some inner urge to violence that constantly needs quelling and I'm not going to waste my time/energy on what is largely women trying to tame men in aggregate and under a cloak of conceptual idealism.

That's also, I suspect, the real reason that they won't allow female priests into the Catholic Church. JP's rationalizing argument is bullshit - and made by a guy who was perfectly capable of making a good argument when he felt like it. He could write a Phd thesis on certain issues. The reasoning for women priests sounded like a 6th grader scrawled it on a napkin in crayon. That's why they issued the edict from their little chair instead of fleshing the argument out.

Men are more in need of "churching". Women largely don't need it and use the church as a theoretical safe haven. Theoretical. If you fill the pulpits with women, you'll get less men in there than you already do. It's a strategic move.

(Am I going off on tangents today, or what? ;-) ).

shoutingthomas said...

Whoops!

And, I should add that I'm beyond (I hope) any of the punishments and rewards lawyers can devise once they've haggled out this nonsense.

I'm over 60, widowed and unlikely to need a divorce lawyer in the future.

This stuff fascinates lawyers because they're hoping for a paycheck and power over the lives of other people.

Every day, I do whatever I can to avoid handing over a check or power over my life to a lawyer.

Saint Croix said...

What is the government's interest in restricting marriage to opposite sex couples?

Babies, babies, babies. Keep that human race goin'.

chickelit said...

..controlling men by yoking them to women.

Yoking is mere conjugation and lacks resonance.

Marriage has both.

ironrailsironweights said...

Some of the nastiest cases involving realtionships I investigated were among lesbians.

I always understood that Lesbian Bed Death is the normal outcome of Sapphic relationships.

Peter

traditionalguy said...

@Kent...It is hot.

zmous said...

Is it implied that women are also tamed from sluthood and into motherhood? It might be true that men are tamed, but women have to be considered marriageable, which is not true for many women. And men who get it now, will not buy the cow.

c3 said...

Professor;
This is NOT news (and I'm not alluding to religious texts) This has been written about in sociologic literature for some time.

As for Prop 8 it all comes back to "what is the state's interest in sanctioning/encouraging certain adult partnerships". I have my political beliefs (i.e. encourage reproduction and effective, two person parenting) but then again, I'm no lawyer so YMMV.

wv: troll (Wow, the internet equivalent of being called a racist.)

Fred4Pres said...

Isn't that the theme of Beauty and the Beast?

woof said...

encourage reproduction and effective, two person parenting

How does allowing same sex marriage discourage opposite sex marriage ?

jimbino said...

The underlying reason for the state to oppose recognition of same-sex marriage is that the state needs lots of singles and childfree to exploit (in those 1000+ ways) in order to subsidize the religion of marriage and breeding.

That's why civil unions are preferred: they do not grant the couples all the tax and inheritance benefits granted the married.

As a single, I oppose SSM because it will only serve to increase what I pay through the nose to support marriage and breeding by some 5 to 10%. If our tax system were based on one of the European models that give no tax break for marriage, I would only have to support the breeders.

ricpic said...

What the heck is Lesbian Bed Death?

Well, whatever it is it's not gonna happen to Oprah, who just assured Babba Wawwa that not only is she not a lesbian, she's not a near lesbian.

ironrailsironweights said...

Lesbian Bed Death.

Peter

Scott M said...

@Jay

B) Because being gay is: immoral, abnormal, and unhealthy.

So is stuffing your pie-hole with Twinkies and Zingers all day, but the government has no vested interest there either.

Slight OT: Has anyone using ATOM to link to the RSS feed noticed that the HTML tags are showing up in comment titles today?

traditionalguy said...

One secret is that the unspeakable patriarchy works out well to meet the needs of a husband, a wife and their children. But women have discovered that they need a veto to protect them from unsafe, renegade men. But when women become married to a safe man, then that wife role usually does him a tremendous good when she merely demands from him honest and respectful conduct towards her and the community. It can be easier than it sounds.

MikeR said...

Ann, in the end, you lawyers are twisting things to cheat the rest of us of a basic right: the right to decide the kind of society we want. If people think something is immoral, they should have a right to design their society to show disapproval.

Marshal said...

"What is the government's interest in restricting marriage to opposite sex couples?"

The government doesn't restrict marriage to opposite sex couples. Marriage does not include homosexual couples and never has, even in places and times where homosexual relationships were open and accepted.

The real question is:

Does our government (which has existed for approximately a minute and a half) have the authority to change a universal human institution which predates civilization against the will of its citizens?

And a good follow up is: If you think so, what limits do you think do exist on our government's authority.

Obviously I think the answer is no. If our government decides it can't award benefits based on marriage because its unfair that's fine with me. But the government's decision to use marriage as a tool doesn't give it the right to make it into something it isn't.

Anthony said...

But what if it's the institution of marriage that is taming men, not the women to whom they are attached? That's a pro same-sex marriage argument, at least for gay men. Perhaps the gender that a man marries is completely irrelevant to his taming? Perhaps the taming actually comes from the structure of a state-sanctioned commitment recognized by the larger community that exerts pressure on the man to remain faithful, behave, and contribute to his new-formed family. I think that's at least as strong an argument as marriage being about the ability of women to tame men.

traditionalguy said...

This discussion brings to mind Jimmy Stewart's character in Meade's favorite movie: How the West Was Won.

Carol said...

"I've often wondered how the gay community went from open scorn of marriage just back to the 90's to an adamant declaration of a right to marry."

Notice they also went from "we can't help it" to "it's our choice!" back to "we can't help it" again. It's just a stop on the agenda to normalize the behavior.

And jamboree is right: We let men be the priests because if we didn't, they'd take there ball(heh) and leave. It's a man thing, gotta be master of the universe and all. And it's okay with me, ya know?

My crackpot theory of marriage: it's really, really hard for men and women to get along. It's a stretch, men are from Mars, etc. Getting them together is a big frigging deal. How much easier to just stay with your own kind.

So, to incentivize bridging that almost insurmountable gap between the sexes, they get a special perk, a privileged status, with all the rights and accoutrements thereto pertaining. Just for making that horrible leap, so they will have kids.

And, to provide role models for girls and boys, you (hopefully) have a parent of each type.

What is so hard to understand about that. Well, except that so many people really believe in the Population Bomb and do not welcome children anymore.

GMay said...

And here I decided against putting a remark about shaved lesbians my comment for IRIW. Damn!

Scott M said...

If people think something is immoral, they should have a right to design their society to show disapproval.

Respectfully, this wouldn't work above the village level any better than true democracy or communism.

campy said...

But OTOH, women tend to vote Democrat when they're single.

William said...

Mrs. Edwards expressed reservations about the methodology of this study.

ironrailsironweights said...

And here I decided against putting a remark about shaved lesbians my comment for IRIW. Damn!

Until recently, lesbians were among the very few women who still tended to remain in their natural state. Asian women and hippie chicks were the others. Unfortunately, as even a cursory glance at the lesbian categories on Image Fap and You Porn will show, even ladies of the Sapphic persuasion can no longer avoid the temptations of the razor.

Peter

Ann Althouse said...

"Ann, in the end, you lawyers are twisting things to cheat the rest of us of a basic right: the right to decide the kind of society we want. If people think something is immoral, they should have a right to design their society to show disapproval."

The majority doesn't have the right to appropriate the mechanisms of government just to "show disapproval." There are limits to what government can do, and there are individual rights. That is part of the rule of law -- a crucial part. Think about some rights you like and envision the majority disapproving of your enjoyment of those rights and then get back to me.

You can express your disapproval all you want using your freedom of speech, which you have a right to as an individual. You don't get government as your personal amplifier -- even if a majority wants to shout through that amplifier with you.

Mick said...

Come Now, is it really that hard to understand why the government would encourage opposite sex marraige? It's the propagation of the citizenry! Duh! Do lawyers have to make everything hard?
You know, like natural law, men and women make babies. Babies born of men and women who are US citizens are the natural born Citizens, who are eligible to be President. Natural Born Citizens are the largest subgroup of the population.
Same sex marraige is an affront to Natural Law, and the Laws of Nature (see the Declaration of Independence), therefore it should not be encouraged or sanctioned by our government.

shoutingthomas said...

You can express your disapproval all you want using your freedom of speech, which you have a right to as an individual. You don't get government as your personal amplifier -- even if a majority wants to shout through that amplifier with you.

This is really sophistry and self-serving crap, Ann.

It's become increasingly clear in reading your opinions that you've been obsessed with forcing your will on other people all your life. It's why you became a lawyer and why you became a law professor.

Most of us want to be free from social reformers like you, Ann.

Most of us want to live in a world where the word feminism doesn't even exist.

You live to coerce other people with this crap, Ann. You're very successful at coercing other people with your obsessions.

We didn't want your feminist crap to begin with, Ann. You appointed yourself our savior.

DaveW said...

Is it marriage or pairing? Would a study of same sex unions produce similar results?

I bet it would.

(And lest anyone be misled I am not a proponent of same sex marriage.)

Richard Dolan said...

"Legitimate government interest."

If that's the test, then the first step is often the most important: deciding what counts as "legitimate" here. The arguments Ann is looking at all focus on measuring hypothetical outcomes generated by the two policy choices. That approach has a utilitarian feel to it, the sort of thing an economist might like.

But as many commenters suggest, why focus just on outcomes, and how did that measure come to define the scope of legitimacy? Upholding a society's values and cultural traditions are equally legitimate governmental objectives (it would be astounding if it wasn't). They're an aspect of social self-preservation (and self-definition), which is surely something a gov't (even an illegitimate one) is (legitimately) interested in. Whether to do so at the cost of certain outcomes is a value judgment -- which is worth more (however 'worth' is measured for this purpose) -- and the answer to that question is not found in the constitution.

If you think this game is rigged, you're right. It starts with the first step.

lyssalovelyredhead said...

Interesting take. One of my reasons for supporting gay marriage has always been based on what I call the socially conservative argument for gay marriage- that marriage is naturally beneficial to the people involved (generally), and more married citizens equals a better, more stable society, on the whole.

But I never considered that women, and their moderating influence on men, could be part of that. What evidence do we have that men in long term, committed same sex partnerships don't have the same better behavior as men in long term committed straight relationships?

- Lyssa

chickelit said...

The majority doesn't have the right to appropriate the mechanisms of government just to 'show disapproval.'

On its own that sounds profoundly undemocratic. For example, the collective majority has a right to defend itself.

On the other hand, in support of the minority, I suspect that's why it's always important to search for penumbral support in the record.

traditionalguy said...

@ Shoutingthomas...You are trying to tell us that all we need is to, "First kill all the lawyers". That is a non starter unless the cultural differences of folks raised in other places than your small localality is not a part of the World. The more the differences , the more lawyers who use courts become the saviors of real victims every day. Close folks with a common culture still lie to one another or forget all about what they promised to others, but a foreigner here seeking to live a peaceful life can be very easily be victimized by the locals...then lawyers using courts come to their rescue. The Professor lives and breathes the rules of that American role, and teaches it to others amazingly well. We really don't want to saw off the limb on which we are sitting, do we?

c3 said...

encourage reproduction and effective, two person parenting

How does allowing same sex marriage discourage opposite sex marriage ?


I don't believe I said that. I suggested a (not the) rationale for a state sanctioning (which may include special benefits) of heterosexual coupling could be the encouragement of reproduction and two person parenting.

You see when heterosexual couples have sexual relations, they have a natural predilection toward procreation. And the further encouragement of that couple staying together may encourage effective parenting. Its a pretty neat process. Some precedence in history too. (And no lawyers needed either!)

MikeR said...

'The majority doesn't have the right to appropriate the mechanisms of government just to "show disapproval."' Well, I agree that the phrasing is clumsy, and I perhaps couldn't have found a better one. But you're still wrong. We have a right to design our own society.

"Think about some rights you like and envision the majority disapproving of your enjoyment of those rights and then get back to me." I probably wouldn't like it at all. That doesn't mean that others don't have that right.

I don't mean to say that individuals don't have any rights against the society. I just think you're taking it way too far. This is a major societal change, whether or not you can find some study that shows this impact or that one.

deborah said...

What Lyssa said.

SMGalbraith said...

Society extracts better behavior from men by encouraging them to pair up with women. Women are the tamers of men.

Yes, that was Ross Douthat's point (or one of them).

But how does extending marriage licenses to same-sex couples weaken that encouragement?

Jonathan Rauch argues a sort of "Burkean conservative" point that recognizing same-sex marriages will do, in a different way, the same thing. It will encourage same sex couples, especially or predominantly males, to "behave better" (my words, not his).

Andrew Sullivan, as opposed to Rauch, wants same sex marriage because he demands equality. In fact, he argues that recognizing same sex couples will change how we view the institution of marriage. It will lead to greater sexual openness for the couples.

Rauch is right; Sullivan is wrong. And it's Sullivan's arguments that worry the opponents.

FWIW, I favor the recognition.

Scott M said...

Surely if there is a positive effect on a man for marrying a woman, there is a multiplier for having more than one wife. Polygamists don't marry more than one woman because they DON'T want to.

MikeR said...

I guess that part of the issue here may have something to do with establishment of religion. This country has always (till recently) been basically Christian in outlook (Judeo-Christian?), with various implications in attitudes towards morality.
In my lifetime, that has changed a lot, and a lot of people no longer have that outlook. But it's hard for me to see that (a) that's against the constitution, given that the ones who wrote the constitutions mostly had exactly the same point of view, or (b) that it's not important, so that that side could lose a case because "What does that kind of stuff matter anyhow?"

Roman said...

Many men are nice because they want to get laid. Remove the prospect of sex and see how nice they are and how long they stay around.

Does the term "pussy whipped" mean anything.

Not all men, just most.

Scott M said...

Remove the prospect of sex and see how nice they are and how long they stay around.

I think the term is jihadi.

mtrobertsattorney said...

There is some historical evidence for this. The mining and cattle towns of the old West, when they were populated almost exclusively by men, were hard drinking, quick shooting and generally violent places. Hard to find a flower garden in these places.

It wasn't until women began to show up that the wide-open character of these towns began to change into more civilized places. A coincidence? Maybe or maybe not.

Ankur said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lem said...

All that brain power behind Prop 8 and they could not.. would not articulate a simple thought..

"Men tend to behave better when they're married..."

It sounds true to me.. and it could be easily checked against FBI crime stats and census stats..

I agree with Paul Z at 10:52

Ann Althouse said...

"I don't mean to say that individuals don't have any rights against the society. I just think you're taking it way too far. This is a major societal change, whether or not you can find some study that shows this impact or that one."

Government is actively doing something, excluding gay couples from marriage, and all government actions must be supported by a legitimate interest. You need to start there. That is established in the case law. The case law also establishes that the bare purpose of expressing disapproval toward a certain type of person is not a legitimate interest. The key cases involve government actions that are aimed at: 1. hippies, 2. mentally retarded persons, and 3. gay people.

Ann Althouse said...

Of course, my original post is sarcastic. The stereotyping of males and females is blatantly at odds with principles of equal protection applying to sex discrimination.

Ankur said...

Is it extreme of me to wish that government shouldn't have ANYTHING to do with marriage - gay or straight? I realize this is an abstract ideal, and yes, government has an interest in social stability etc.

But still - can't individuals and religions decide for themselves how they want to define marriage? Marriage has traditionally been a religious institution. Can't the government limit its involvement to "legal partnership" (assuming consent)?

What are the ab initio pitfalls to this approach?

Ankur said...

Also - reading through the article - it talks about marriage being a stabilizer. But it doesn't single out male-female marriage.

I think, when one reads this article, what they take from it depends, at least partly, on their own assumptions.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

How does allowing same sex marriage discourage opposite sex marriage?

If the purpose of granting special status to heterosexual marriage is to encourage people to see that as the ideal to strive for, then granting other types of relationships that same status dilutes the incentive.

To paraphrase The Incredibles, when every relationship is special, then none are special.

Big Mike said...

Note to people who have responded to my comment at 10:54.

I was being a bit tongue in cheek, mostly suggesting that Professor Althouse can say that "women are the tamers of men" and get away with it because of her gender (and because no one -- besides Meade -- can be absolutely certain that she isn't merely being humorous).

For what it's worth, I have been married just under 36 years, and have been putting the toilet lid, as well as the seat, down for at least 34 of them, so there is some anecdotal support for the notion of "women as tamers."

Also, for what it's worth, all of the lesbian couples that I am certain are lesbian couples, plus all that I have strong reason to believe are lesbian couples appear to be strong, monogamous relationships. Essentially ideal marriages. Not so the case with any of the male couples I know -- but I recognize that there may be many -- perhaps even a majority -- male homosexual couples where the partnership is also strong and monogamous but I simply don't about them (e.g., if they're still in the closet). So this is also anecdotal support for the notion of "women as tamers of men," but weaker.

But the real support for the notion of women taming men is the old adage that "men marry women in the foolish belief that they will never change, but women marry men in the desperate hope that they can and will."

Big Mike said...

Okay, while I was typing my comment just above I was cross-posting with the Professor confirming that she was, indeed, being sarcastic.

AllenS said...

Government is actively doing something, excluding sons from marrying their mothers, and all government actions must be supported by a legitimate interest.

AllenS said...

Government is actively doing something, excluding fathers from marrying their daughters, and all government actions must be supported by a legitimate interest.

AllenS said...

Government is actively doing something, excluding men from marrying multiple female partners, and all government actions must be supported by a legitimate interest.

Scott M said...

Government is actively doing something, excluding gay couples from marriage, and all government actions must be supported by a legitimate interest.

Can't a gay man still marry any woman he chooses?

edutcher said...

mtrobertsattorney is absolutely right (in addition to stealing my point) and it's no coincidence.

The deal made by respectable women (and even the not-so-respectable ones who finally got hitched) in the West was, "Yes, we'll cook your meals, sew your clothes, tend your wounds, and have your children, but we demand law and order, churches and schools, and an end to every other building in town being a saloon, gambling hall, or house of ill repute".

That's how the West was really won. It's even how the Indian wars were won. White families averaged anywhere between 5 and 10 children, Indians were lucky to have 1 or 2 (per woman).

traditionalguy said...

This discussion brings to mind Jimmy Stewart's character in Meade's favorite movie: How the West Was Won.

Yes, but he couldn't resist running off to the Civil War when he had the chance - got him killed, too.

Next time your husband wants to go to a Tea Party, Mrs Meade, I suggest you go with him.

Loren Ibsen said...

It's all about the free advice.

Dark Eden said...

But this study suggests another reason for the special treatment of opposite sex couples. Society extracts better behavior from men by encouraging them to pair up with women. Women are the tamers of men. Don't waste women on other women. The social order wants to maximize the use of women for the fixing of men. And if men pair with men, all hell will break loose. Double the chaos of men roaming solo. With synergy, even more than double.
>>>

This, pretty much exactly, was the reasoning my former gay roommate used as a justification for gay marriage, and gay relationships in general. And I have to agree, this is a pretty terrible sentiment.

"And if men pair with men, all hell will break loose."

GOOD! Society could use a good shaking up.

Loren Ibsen said...

Uggh. See what happens when she doesn't correct me? free advice

chickelit said...

Scott M said...

Can't a gay man still marry any woman he chooses?

Just like a straight man will soon be able to marry any man he chooses...
...for whatever reason(s).

lyssalovelyredhead said...

Ankur: Is it extreme of me to wish that government shouldn't have ANYTHING to do with marriage - gay or straight?

It's not extreme, but it is overly idealistic and unrealistic for a general rule of orderly society.

Basically, this system would work great if you assume that 1) no one ever dies, 2) no one ever has children, and 3) no one ever terminates relationships on less than pleasant terms; or you assume that everyone plans meticulously for these circumstances, and relationships are ruled by planned out, enforcable contracts.

Marriage (and civil unions) is a short hand contract, something that we all know and look at and can understand how it directs how things are handled when things go aray. When people pair up but don't get married, much litigation over the above issues results, and no one knows what to do with it. Do you want the court determining the status and effect of your relationship after the fact? I wouldn't- they're pretty bad at it.

With governmental marriage in the picture, we can at least say "If they had cared about it, they could have gotten married." It would be nice if we could assume that people would have entered into contractul agreements if they cared about the things above, but (think about couples that you know), we know that that's not the case.

I like the idea of private relationships only, too. But I've watched too many family court cases to think that it would work in real life.

- Lyssa

c3 said...

Lyssa;
Marriage (and civil unions) is a short hand contract, something that we all know and look at and can understand how it directs how things are handled when things go aray. When people pair up but don't get married, much litigation over the above issues results, and no one knows what to do with it.

So are we talking about a contract or something else?

lyssalovelyredhead said...

I'm not sure what you mean, C3?

Marriage is a contract, but it's a simplified one; it's sort of a short hand that we (as a collective culture) all know what it means and what the rights and responsibilities are. If it's all private, we lose the ability to use that shorthand, and no one knows what to do with it.

A good example is the couple who live together for a long time and have significant assets that are primarily from one person. For example, A is a doctor, B is a teacher; they live together but don't get married. A dies (or leaves), leaving B high and dry because everything reverts to A's heirs, not to B, although, if they had been married, B would have been protected. This would still be the case if B had, say, put A through med school and helped A grow a business, while putting off B's own career aspirations.

In a perfect world with no marriage, we should expect that A and B would have planned out their relationship and contracted for what would happen in these circumstances (which is basically what a marriage does), but most As and Bs just don't do that, so the court would be stuck trying to determine whether A's assets should go to B or to A's family. Ugliness.

Does that in any way answer your question?

- Lyssa

Ankur said...

Sometimes I think the battle is all over nomenclature.

I think a civil union is all that a government needs to care about.

If we are reducing marriage to simply its contractual obligations, we might as well distinguish between the contract (and call it a civil union) and let the government only care about THAT aspect of it - and the emotional aspect of marriage, the rules of which can be ascribed to either privately or through religion.

I realize that in today's reality, the contractual nature of marriage is a big part of it. But somehow, I can't see that, in and of itself, as a justification for government to be able to define what marriage should or shouldn't be.

chickelit said...

@Ankur Thank you for that cue: shameless plug.

Scott M said...

Sometimes I think the battle is all over nomenclature.

Nearly the entire argument is over nomenclature. Marriage has been around since before organized governments and ours should never have used the word in it's statutes.

Of course, maybe they did exactly what they were supposed to and we're the twits. Anything is possible in a world where Oprah could be gay.

Robin said...

I think its a serious argument and correctly describes a key benefit of hetereosexual marriage. There is an echo of the argument in Randy Stilts' "And the Band Played On" where he relates a description of male sexuality as combined with female sexuality.

John said...

Can't a gay man still marry any woman he chooses?

As a gay man who hopes to someday settle down, and marry if I can, I find this to be glib and insulting (and I'm sure it's intentionally so). It's a sort of "Let them eat cake" sentiment. Not a real, valid option for almost any of the gay men I know.

Scott M said...

I find this to be glib and insulting (and I'm sure it's intentionally so)

Glib, yes. Insulting, no. What's insulting (mildly so) is someone pushing for the rights for two men to marry using the argument against one-man/one-woman as discriminatory, but slams the door closed on polygamists.

DADvocate said...

Married men behave better because they're scared of hearing about for the rest of their lives if they don't behave.

Mick said...

Ann Althouse said,


"Government is actively doing something, excluding gay couples from marriage, and all government actions must be supported by a legitimate interest. You need to start there. That is established in the case law. The case law also establishes that the bare purpose of expressing disapproval toward a certain type of person is not a legitimate interest. The key cases involve government actions that are aimed at: 1. hippies, 2. mentally retarded persons, and 3. gay people."



The government is not "actively" doing anything. They refuse to acknowledge a practice that violates the laws of nature.
The government is not "disapproving" gay marraige, it is encouraging a practice that serves to propagate the citizenry. There is no "equal protection" for gays to marry (but EP is one of the most abused clauses in the USC). I am always amazed how self interest colors one's perception of the law (even w/ law profs, who knew?). The law (and nature's law) is the law, despite your misguided self interest.

Kirby Olson said...

Some random complicating factors:

1. 2% divorce rate among Asian-Americans (article I once read in City Magazine).

2. 80% divorce rate among African-Americans (according to Cosby).

3. If all child molesters got to marry a child by court fiat, would they then behave better, and only rape the one child? Could such children be grown through stem cell research, so as not to have any parents that cared about them?

c3 said...

I'm not sure what you mean, C3?

My point exactly, demonstrated by your follow up discussion regarding the legal complexities of co-habitation and break up and how a state-sanctioned contract makes the legalities less messy. That's all very important but when I said things like "in sickness and in health", "till death do us part" etc. I wasn't thinking

This will make the legal issues much neater, should that become necessary in the future

lyssalovelyredhead said...

I wasn't thinking
This will make the legal issues much neater, should that become necessary in the future


Still not sure what we're debating, or even if we are, but I think that you confirmed my point there. When you were pledging your life to someone, you didn't think too deeply about the legal ramifications of what happens if that goes wrong. Love is blind and all of that. But the legislatures and courts are thinking about that (we hope!) and have looked at what happens when things are less neat. Marriage is a shorthand that covers all of that, which can't really be replicated by private relationships free of governmental interference/recognition.

To be honest, what I'm arguing (that the liberatarian ideal of government having no say in what constitutes marriage is not a good idea) is a little bit paternalistic, something I strive to avoid. But it's realistic, too.

- Lyssa

c3 said...

Lyssa;
Yes, I think we're discussing the same thing. I think you've taken a legal/utilitarian approach. (i.e. We have to call these arrangements something so that we can put the appropriate legal definitions and boundaries around them.) Agreed.

I'll go back to my first point. Beyond those "housekeeping" issues is there any reason for the state to sanction/encourage a particular relationship?

Julie said...

I realize that in today's reality, the contractual nature of marriage is a big part of it.

The essence of marriage is its contractual nature. Any other meanings to marriage are private. That's why marriages greatly vary across cultures in details such as how they are arranged (by the individuals to be married or by the families, etc.); how much love and affection is expected in the relationship; how many partners one may legally have; and what the roles of the contracted individuals (and, often, their families) are. The reasons for the contract also sometimes vary. For us, now, it has a lot more to do with inheritance rights and so forth than it does with binding extended families together in some way, but the contract is the point. Without it, no matter how much you love each other, you don't have a marriage. And so, it's the contract and the implications of it, that the state has some interest in, in the same way that the state has an interest in other kinds of contracts.

Beth said...

when you've got two lesbians in a relationship, how do they decide which one is always wrong?

I've never had any trouble deciding that I'm right.

Beth said...

Fran. L. also said that the problem with nature is that there aren't enough comfortable chairs.

I love her wit, but I also like camping, am an Air Force brat, and have been happily domestic with the same woman for about 16 years now.

Beth said...

Can't a gay man still marry any woman he chooses?

Why would a gay man choose to marry a woman?

dbp said...

Beth said...

Can't a gay man still marry any woman he chooses?

Why would a gay man choose to marry a woman?


I think the point is that all men and women are treated equally--they are all subject to the same set of rules. That is, there is no law preventing a gay man from getting married. That he doesn't want to marry a woman is his problem not society's.

Beth said...

dpb, but they're not treated equally. Only heterosexual men and women can marry a person to whom they are emotionally and sexually attracted. It's a lie to suggest otherwise.

dbp said...

Beth said:

Only heterosexual men and women can marry a person to whom they are emotionally and sexually attracted.

Well, yes. But this is not why marriage exists: It is not there to make us happy, it is a two edged sword designed to provide a stable environment for producing and raising children. By two edged, I mean there is a lot of social pressure to "do the right thing" and get married if you are shacked-up, and there is some degree of status associated with being married.

Children are not a natural outcome of homosexual unions and so society has no interest in promoting such unions. In my own opinion, pregnancy is so easy to achieve via sperm bank, or helpful guy-friend; that marriage ought to be re-defined as a union of two people, at least one of which is a woman.

The Crack Emcee said...

"Men tend to behave better when they're married..."

And women tend to behave better, when, exactly?

We now live in a sick society delusional enough to imagine no man will ask that question and no woman needs to provide an answer.

Pussies.

bagoh20 said...

I'm outta control! I Always have been - I always will be.

el polacko said...

where the heck do some folks get the idea that, were it not for state registration (civil union) and/or religious 'marriage' heterosexuals would not be attracted to each other and not have babies ?? seems like there are plenty of babies being born without any legal papers or priestly blessings joining the parents...and there is no requirement in the state-issued 'marriage'/civil union license to procreate...so what the heck IS the issue other than wanting heteros to have legal rights that are not afforded to gay ciizens ?