Friday, December 03, 2004

Gay Marriage Arguments

Since I've been away with computer problems (which persist), Keith Burgess-Jackson, the aptly or inaptly (depending on what you take it to mean) self-described AnalPhilosopher has been working hard to come up with an argument against legalizing gay marriage, while attempting to impugn liberals for their argument style(s). His anti-gay marriage arguments have been all over the place, so far, with the original being a strange comparison between gay marriage and both dogs voting and men having abortions, an "argument" which I addressed here, and Richard of Philosophy, etcetera addressed here. Since then, he's gone through a few arguments. One was essentially that judges shouldn't be able to force people to do things they don't want to, like accept gay marriages (I'll leave that absurd argument untouched). Currently, he is arguing (apparently through an ignorance of the history of marriage) that marriage's only purpose is to facilitate child-rearing. The basic argument is that only people who are likely to have children should be able to marry, straight couples are much more likely than gay couples to have children, and therefore only straight couples should be allowed to marry. It's not clear what this means for sterile couples (B-G argues that they should be included in the law because there's no easy way to exclude them, but that seems pretty arbitary to me), nor is it evident, to me at least, that if gay marriage were legal, gay married couples would be much less likely than straight couples to have children. Still, that's his argument. Fortunately, Richard has torn this argument apart for us here. Unfortunately, B-G's arbitary, if not absurd arguments, be they about dogs voting or child-rearing, are likely to be more convincing to the anti-gay marriage crowd than any rational, non-arbitrary arguments offered by Richard or others.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

The only really good argument, from the public sphere, that I can think of is the one about mixing religion and secularism. i.e. the idea that the state has made use of a religious concept, marriage, and that by allowing gays to marry it is exerting control over the concept thereby imposing on religions.

The difficulty with this view is that of course, by imposing one view of marriage, it already is imposing on religion. (As Mormons from the 19th century can attest -- an army tried to enforce the rule then)

But the argument has some strength in the following. If the state plans on persisting in making a religious concept a part of legislation then it can't redefine the term but must make use of the normative meaning of the term. Thus the state can and perhaps ought make other benefits based upon other criteria. But it can't redefine an existing theological term.

Of course I confess I've never understood why the state has to meddle in marriage at all. I've long thought it would be better to leave marriage up to religions and keep the state entirely out of it. But the fact is that has never been the case and thus we have an odd mixing of state and religion.  

Posted by Clark

Anonymous said...

Historically, states (when states have existed) have been involved in marriage pretty much as long as marriage has been around. If states didn't grant marriage, they still regulated it, or provided laws pertaining to it (adultery laws, laws related to property inheritance, laws related to the rights of husbands and wives, etc.). At this point in western society, marriage has both strongly religious and strongly secular aspects. As someone who is not religious, I have no problem with the state granting marriages, but I think that state marriage laws should not affect the marriage rules of individual churches. If a church or denomination does not want to marry gay couples, so be it, but if states want to marry, descrimination seems unjustifiable.

By the way, I can't think of any good reason for making polygamy illegal, either. 

Posted by Chris

Anonymous said...

I fully agree with the historical issue. But that's have the problem - historically there hasn't really been that much separation of church and state. That's why I find some of the comments from various blogs ranging from Leiter to Will to Blog on theocracy so funny. If anything there is far, far less religious influence today than through most American history. I sometimes wonder exactly what period they are comparing US government to when they warn of fascist theocracies. Considering my own faith's experience in the 19th century, I think that a good thing. But some of the places where new separations are introduced will be extremely controversial.

Marriage is a particularly difficult issue. Far more than the question of whether documents that underlie the historic development of rule of law, such as the 10 commandments, ought be in the public sphere. (When, once again until very recently they were ubiquitous in the public sphere - especially courthouses and government architecture)

Part of the issue is really these various spheres and whether they ought be under the public secular sphere or the private religious sphere. The past two decades have seen some issues move from the private to the public (i.e. sex education) and now we're seeing a divorce of one that has historically been rather significantly in both.

 

Posted by Clark

Anonymous said...

I wholeheartedly agree about the cries of "fascist theocracy" from people like Leiter. God knows what they're thinking. I do think that they serve a valuable purpose, though. Better to have people crying "fascist theocracy" at the slightest hint of one than having no one cry "fascist theocracy" even as one religion takes over all aspects of the public sphere (something I don't foresee happening, but which we have to be wary of).

As for marriage, my view is that we should almost completely separate state marriages and religious marriages. Marriages performed by religious officials can, of course, still be recognized by states, with all that entails, but that should be the only connection between the two types of marriage. No religion should have a role in defining state versions of marriage, and the state should not have a role in defining various religious versions of marriage. The only exceptions to this would be instances of religious marriage that violate other state laws. For instance, pedophilic marriages should be illegal, as they do not involve two consenting adults, and so should attempts to marry humans and animals (sounds odd, I know, but it's not outside the range of possibility). Incestuous marriages are the real tough issue, I think. While I see no rational reason for excluding gay and bigamous marriages, I wonder about the potential harm to the offspring of incestuous marriages. 

Posted by Chris

Anonymous said...

I agree fully and have argued for that many times. However it has been my experience that few, on either side, want that solution. Most gay rights activists want their unions to be recognizes as marriage. Likewise most of those opposed to gay marriages want to retain the traditional meaning and do not want to recognize gay marriages. There really is little common ground, beyond the position I outlined. Compromise in this matter is unlikely since I think both sides really want a kind of quasi-theocracy in the sense of having the state emphasize a particular religious perspective in terms of acceptance. 

Posted by Clark

Anonymous said...

Oh, I also tend to think that those rather out of the mainstream are useful. Thus I'm glad there are groups like EarthFirst on the environmental left as well as all these rather fundamentalist religious groups, even if I don't agree with either side. I think such groups help keep leaders honest, raise awareness, and also are a valuable input of ideas into the arena of ideas. Having only mainstream ideas would not promote progress, I think.

Logically, I think the prohibitions against incest are more due to child abuse and other sorts of coercision. I've read a few places that while manifesting recessive genes is a real problem, the genetic complications are more than a little overhyped. Further that whole line of thinking, based on genetics, smacks a little too much of eugenics and has dangerous implications.

I do think though that society can ban things if there is a preponderance of abuse that arises from the practice. I think incest fits into that quite well. I'd say the same about bestiality. (Although to be frank, I think the latter is more a problem of mental illness)
 

Posted by Clark

Anonymous said...

Ten Arguments Against Gay Marriage:
1. Gay Marriage means the government is promoting sexual behavior that the majority of society regards to be immoral. Promoting gay marriage will promote gay relationships as a morally equivalent choice to heterosexual relationships when the majority of society believes that homosexual relationships are contrary to society's standards of moral behavior. We may all agree that sex between consenting adults can be legal, but marriage is a societal institution to promote relationships which are deemed by society to be moral and beneficial to society.
2. Marriage is not a fundamental right -- not everyone who wants to get married can do so. For example: siblings, fathers and daughters, uncles and nieces, and people who are already married. Also, group marriage is outlawed.
3. Being gay or lesbian is not the same as being black or physically disabled. One can choose to engage in gay or lesbian sexual relationships, but one can't choose whether or not to be black or physically disabled. The idea that because gays or lesbians are genetically so predisposed their conduct should be acceptable is no more rational than to say that because child molesters are genetically predisposed to sex with young children society must approve their behavior, or because some men are sexually attracted to animals society should promote marriage between people and animals.
4. Gay/lesbian marriage will result in the promotion of committed homosexual relationships, which will thus dilute the promotion of heterosexual marriage, when the majority of society agrees that committed heterosexual relationships are the best for our society because they result in human reproduction (thus, the continuation of our society) and the best relationship to raise children.
5. Gay/lesbian marriage will promote gay and lesbian couples to seek to conceive children through artificial means and purposely raise them without both a mother and a father, when the majority of society believes that children should, whenever possible, be raised by their own biological parents and that promoting the conception of children whether to gay/lesbian couples is not in the best interest of society.
6. Most gays and lesbians really don’t care about getting married, but only want to change society’s acceptance of their lifestyle. Most gays and lesbians don’t live as couples. Even with nearly a half a million people living as openly gay/lesbian couples in the United States, less than forty thousand have chosen to be married. With a tremendous effort since the 1970's the GLBT community has worked very hard to gain social acceptance for homosexual and other deviant behavior. So far, it looks like they have convinced a little less than half the population of the USA. This is quite a feat, given that the GLBT population is only 2-3% of the population.
7. Promoting gay/lesbian marriage will do more harm than good in society so it should not be promoted with a social institution like marriage. We don’t promote polygamy (more than two people in a loving, committed relationship) or polyandry (group relationships) because we deem the relationships not good for society. They are not illegal, just not promoted. Our laws also do not make adultery illegal, but the majority of society will agree that adultery is not good for society, so there is not a social institution to promote the behavior of cheating spouses.
8. By promoting gay/lesbian relationships through allowing gay/lesbian marriages, the government will be promoting the gay/relationship relationship to be a relationship role model for our society’s children when society deems homosexual behavior to be immoral.
9. Gay/lesbian marriage will promote men and women to leave heterosexual relationships and result in their biological children not being raised in families with a father and mother, which the majority of society (as well as sociologists) agree is the best way to raise children.
10. Gay/lesbian marriage will promote gay and lesbian couples to adopt children when the majority of society (as well as sociologists) believes that the best way to raise children is in a family with a mother and father in a committed heterosexual relationship.

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