Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Morality Monday (Tuesday Edition)

Arfanser inspired this Morality Monday post with his own very interesting posts on federalism. It made me want to talk about gay marriage. Now, it’s probably the case that out of the five or six people who read this blog, only one, or two tops, will disagree with any but the most minor points.

Let’s start with what I used to think, then what I think is wrong with that, and finally get to what I think now.

I used to be of the position that to placate the religious right who vehemently oppose gay marriage, we should legalize civil unions. Basically give homosexual couples all the legal rights of marriage, but call it something else. For a time, I was of the position that only churches should be able to enact marriages, and any secular coupling would be a civil union. Thus if two heterosexual atheists wanted to get married, they would get a civil union. If you wanted a “marriage” you would have to go to whatever church you thought was the right one and meet their standards. Thus the state gets out of the marriage business and into the business of recognizing consensual, semi-economical, rights-based unions between two consenting adults.

There are, I think, two major problems with this. First, I don’t think it would placate anyone vehemently opposed to gay marriage. They would probably view the compromise as a semantic game. They would be right. The second problem didn’t occur to me until the folks at South Park hit me over the head with it. Giving a homosexual couple all the rights of a marriage but calling it something else is actually a backhanded insult. Even if you use a term as innocuous as “civil union,” you are still saying, in effect, “Even though we’re giving you the same rights as us straight people, we want you to remember that you’re different, that you still are not an accepted part of society.” South Park made the point by suggesting that married gay couples be called “butt buddies.” Using a separate term further divides.

So my position now is that we open marriage up to any two consenting adults of any sex or gender. We let anyone get married and we call it marriage. As the opponents of gay marriage frequently point out, marriage is a stabilizing force in society. Married people live longer and make more money. Why wouldn’t we want everyone to get married??? Gender roles in marriage have vanished, if not in practice then at least in cultural perception. A man can stay home and raise the kids, a woman can work. Two men can adopt, and two women can use in vitro fertilization (or adopt). Every secular argument against gay marriage seems to be either false or actual supports gay marriage. As for religious arguments, I don’t think we should be making laws based on faith. We should allow people to have their own faith in the privacy of their own homes and churches.

Just because a book written a few thousand years ago says something is bad doesn’t make it so. And without some supporting evidence, we should not let it set policy that affects the irreligious and religious alike.

22 Comments:

Blogger Matt said...

I have to dust off some memory for this one, but let me try:

There is an argument against gay marriage which is not based on "the Bible says no". It goes something like this - since Stonewall, the gay community has tried to get society to let gay people be. That is, that society neither discriminates against nor offers things like opening up marriage to gay couples.

It could be thought of as a kind of gay libertarianism, in some respects. The argument is that gay people are better off the less that straight culture regulates it or does anything with respect to it other than just let it be.

But another aspect of it posits that queer-i-tude (or whatever it's supposed to be called) exists as a critique of heterosexual culture, that it's better to create one's own independent culture than buy into the straight society's dream. This is sort of an oreo/banana/whatever multicolored foodstuff kind of argument.

7:51 PM  
Blogger arfanser said...

I think your argument holds up because of what marriage has become in this country. If you look at your argument with marriage as it is currently defined then I agree that it makes complete sense. However, for a different view go to this link and read. http://www.lds.org/library/display/0,4945,161-1-11-1,00.html

You said here and also on my blog that you do not think that there should be laws which are based on faith. However, is that no asking those with a belief in God to make laws according to your faith? Just something to think about.

11:19 PM  
Blogger arfanser said...

So now I have a link in your post, maybe someday I can aspire to a link on your blog.

11:19 PM  
Blogger Fishfrog said...

"Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities."

I don't mean to attack you personally, Arfanser, but how does you and Squishy kidnapping and murdering hobos fit into the "wholesome recreational activities" part? You can try to deny it, but Nell and I saw you two last weekend when we were out setting fire to dumpsters. Murder, even of hobos, is unwholesome.

Anyway, a more serious response to Arfanser will come later.

As to Matt's point, the gay libertarian subculture's fairly radical position should not prevent the majority of committed gay couples from enjoying the same rights as any other Americans. I guess my problem is that prohibiting homosexuals from having access to marriage seems to me to be discriminatory. And opening up a societal institution so that everyone (except bigamists and people who want to marry animals or children) has access does not, to me, seem like we're "offering things" to the homosexual community, only that we are finally starting to recognize and treat them like human beings.

6:59 AM  
Blogger Fishfrog said...

"By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children. In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners. Disability, death, or other circumstances may necessitate individual adaptation."

OK, so it seems from reading the link that it is very important to have children. The very function of a marriage is to have children. Now, of course, some people can't have children. But this seems to be taken care of with the last sentence, "Disability, death, or other circumstances may necessitate individual adaptation." So, how I read it, you're not totally screwed if you have faulty piping and can't procreate. You can still get married and adopt or otherwise individually adapt to your situation.

This sentence also seems to me to explicitly support gay marriage. After all, what else is homosexuality if not an "other circumstance?" If it turns out to be true that people do not choose to be gay, if they are in fact born that way, doesn't this seem to suggest that they should be allowed to adapt to their individual circumstance, get married, and raise a family?

7:14 AM  
Blogger Arfanser said...

So writing comments at 1 in the morning causes you to forget things.

After the link, I meant to include the following. If you accept the premise that marriage is not just about the two people getting married, but about the family (see children) they are bringing into the family then research supports having both a mother and a father.

First, research has shown that a mother and a father contribute differently to a childs development. In order to have the most well adjusted child both a mother and a father are needed. Fathers teach children about rules of society. Mothers teach their children about compassion and love. Each parent teaches these lessons through their actions, and so a male gay parent cannot sit down and teach their child about compassion. The lesson will nto take as well.

Second, research has consistently shown that gay couples who have children are more likely than strait couples who have children to get a divorce. Research has also shown that the divorce of parents is one of the most traumatic and lifealtering experiences a child can go through, leading to a less-well adapted child.

Third (no longer what I meant to type, but new material), there is nothing in the link that explicilty supports gay marriage. You can take the one sentence and make an argument that it supports gay marriage, but I do not beleive that homosexuality is genetically predetermined. I do think that there is a gene that if you have it, you are more likely to live a gay lifestyle, but predisposition is not predetermination.

Finally, to answer the murdering hobos charge, I never said that I was a perfect example of wholesomeness, and lets face it, since fishfrog wont go golfing with me, I needed something else to fill my time.

7:32 AM  
Blogger Fishfrog said...

I would love to go golfing, but I'm so busy at work (as you can see). And although I don't agree with your hobo-killing, I will fight to the death to protect your right to do it.

Now to respond to your points:

First: I have no doubt the research supports the proposition that children of stable and loving heterosexual parents are more "well adjusted" than otherwise. But I would submit that the state of being "well adjusted" is defined as that child entering into a stable heterosexual relationship. So do I quibble with you on this point, no. But I would say that I question the value and legitamacy of being "well adjusted" by the standards of the survey.

Also, there doesn't seem to be any evidence to support the idea that women are better at being nurturing and men are better providers. This seems to simply be a social construct based on outdated sexist oppression of women. As society progresses, the construct will change. We have already seen it change considerably just in the last three decades. In another fifty years, these gender-based ability distinctions will hopefully have disappeared.

Second: It seems like if you are a child raised by gay parents, it is inevitable that your chances of getting divorced increase. But this seems to me to reflect the reality that these children have grown up in households where their parents were not allowed to be married. Why would someone place any value on marriage if they weren't raised to value it. And why would they value an institution that is maliciously withheld from their parents, whom they no doubt love.

If the point is that the parents are more likely to get a divorce, that is impossible. How can you get a divorce if you can't get a marriage? Even if it were true, I would attribute a higher divorce rate to the added stress society puts on homosexual couples. Constantly being told that what feels to you to be natural and beautiful is actually sinful and evil seems like it would take its toll.

Third: I was really just baiting you there. But it is pretty broad and ambiguous language. Kind of reminds me of the 14th amendment. I think you'd agree that the line was included because the church didn't want to tell heterosexuals who were unable to have children for one reason or another that they would never fulfill god's plan for them. That would be pretty harsh. But that marriage and family should not be limited because of medical conditions beyond your control acknowledges that the physiological ability of two parties to a marriage to procreate is not fundamental to a marriage. And if that's the case, then the scale begins to tilt in favor of gay marriage.

As far as whether homosexuality is a choice or not, it is certainly not entirely resolved. Being a heterosexual, it is hard for me to imagine voluntarily choosing who I am attracted to. For instance, I never thought Britney Spears was particularly hot. I think Heather Graham is very hot. And even though I have said in the past and will continue to say in the future that Nick Lachey is very good looking, the idea of making out with him is quite gross. I would imagine, and I have no reason not to think, that a homosexual would feel the same way about the opposite sex. And if that's the case, then a homosexual entering into a heterosexual marriage would have an extremely high incidence of divorce.

8:12 AM  
Blogger Arfanser said...

"But I would submit that the state of being "well adjusted" is defined as that child entering into a stable heterosexual relationship."

No, well adjusted is defined as the ability to form and keep friendships and the ability to relate to and understand other people.

"Also, there doesn't seem to be any evidence to support the idea that women are better at being nurturing and men are better providers."

The research shows that women and men teach a child different things through their interactions with the child. You can have two parents who treat each other equally, who both work the same hours and make the same amount of money, and they will still teach the child different but equally important aspects of life.

"This seems to simply be a social construct based on outdated sexist oppression of women. As society progresses, the construct will change. We have already seen it change considerably just in the last three decades. In another fifty years, these gender-based ability distinctions will hopefully have disappeared."

As you have defined it I agree that it would be sexist. However, research shows that there are differences between a man and a woman (look down your pants if you dont believe me), but as long as we believe that different means one is better then we have a problem. African americans and white americans are different, but I dont think any of the people that frequent your blog would say that one race is superior.

"It seems like if you are a child raised by gay parents, it is inevitable that your chances of getting divorced increase."

I know of no research that supports this proposition. The research I was refering to stands for the proposition that gay couples, even highly devoted gay couples, are more likely to get a divorce than equally devoted strait couples. However, correlation does not imply causation and so it is possible that it is due to societal influences like you have said, or a number of other factors. No matter the reason, if nell were a man, or you were a woman, you would be more likely to get divorced. As a side note, my using the word divorced was an error. I meant break up because the study included heterosexual unmarried couples.

"But that marriage and family should not be limited because of medical conditions beyond your control acknowledges that the physiological ability of two parties to a marriage to procreate is not fundamental to a marriage. And if that's the case, then the scale begins to tilt in favor of gay marriage."

Only if you accept the proposition that homosexuals are genetically predetermined. I do not. I agree that there is a genetic component, but that does not mean predetermination.

9:03 AM  
Blogger Fishfrog said...

"The research shows that women and men teach a child different things through their interactions with the child."

Does the research suggest that the differnt things the mother and father teach their children have anything to do with their genetalia? Is it possible that any two people who are raising a child will each teach the child different thing, regardless of gender or sex? Perhaps owing to the fact that everyone has different experiences that they bring to a relationship.

"However, research shows that there are differences between a man and a woman (look down your pants if you dont believe me..."

I hope we didn't spend a lot of resources investigating this.

"African americans and white americans are different, but I dont think any of the people that frequent your blog would say that one race is superior."

Men and women are different. Neither is better than the other. Some women are better at hunting than some men. Some men are more nurturing and sensitive than some women. Some men are better cooks than other men or other women. The fact that men and women or blacks and whites are different is irrelevant. They are different in superficial ways that have nothing to do with maintaining a stable relationship or raising a well adjusted child. The fact is that everyone is different from everyone else. Requiring one person of each sex to be represented in a marriage is no guarantee that they are bringing more to the table. If we really want well adjusted children, we should limit marraige to one man and one woman, and require that they be different races. A black male can bring skills to the table that are different than a white woman. Of course, there is nothing inherent in race that would correlate to a particular ability. Similarly, there is nothing inherent in sex that makes a woman better at anything than a man or vice versa (Mammaries and womb aside).

"Only if you accept the proposition that homosexuals are genetically predetermined. I do not. I agree that there is a genetic component, but that does not mean predetermination"

This seems to be a real stcking point for you. If homosexuality was genetically determined, would you support gay marriage?

Let's say for a second, that homosexuality is not at all genetic, but is entirely environmental. A child does not choose the environment they are born into. A four year can't pick up in leave if he feels like his circumstances are starting to hard-wire him for gayness. Some things once learned cannot be unlearned, no matter how hard you try and how hard you pray. The failures of Exodus and other religious homosexual saving groups attest to that. Do you think that if you just tried hard enough, you could be as emotionally and sexually attracted to a man as you are to your wife. I certainly don't think I could. So whether it's genetic or not seems a bit irrelevant. Even if it's not genetic, that would leave only environmental factors early in life to account, and a child has as little control over those as he does his genetics.

9:42 AM  
Blogger Arfanser said...

"Does the research suggest that the differnt things the mother and father teach their children have anything to do with their genetalia?"

Yes, even if it is a rather irreverent way of putting it.

"Men and women are different. Neither is better than the other. Some women are better at hunting than some men. Some men are more nurturing and sensitive than some women. Some men are better cooks than other men or other women. The fact that men and women or blacks and whites are different is irrelevant."

This is anecdotal. Just because research shows that women are more nurturing then men does not mean that all women are more nurturing than all men. Only that if you take one randomly chosen man and one randomly chosen woman, it is more likely that the woman will be more nurturing.

"They are different in superficial ways that have nothing to do with maintaining a stable relationship or raising a well adjusted child."

I never looked at any research about the differences in racial parenting that took into account socioeconomic factors so I dont have anythign to say about that, but as for the sexes, the research does not support your statement. However, I respect your right to an opinion that is not based on science. :)

"This seems to be a real stcking point for you. If homosexuality was genetically determined, would you support gay marriage?"

I would be a lot more likely to.

"Some things once learned cannot be unlearned, no matter how hard you try and how hard you pray."

Other than the subtle crack about religion which I will let go, what you described is an addiction. "Addiction is a chronic disorder proposed to be precipitated by a combination of genetic, biological/pharmacological and social factors. Addiction is characterized by the repeated use of substances or behaviors despite clear evidence of morbidity secondary to such use."-wikipedia

10:02 AM  
Blogger Fishfrog said...

"Only that if you take one randomly chosen man and one randomly chosen woman, it is more likely that the woman will be more nurturing. "

So what I hear you saying is that because statistically one random woman will be more nurturing than one random man, and one random man wil be more whatever it is men are than one random man, we should not allow a variation from the male/female paring. Is that right?

"what you described is an addiction."

Wait, so am I saying that gays are addicted to homosexuality or are you? Also, what is the morbidity secondary to homosexuality? Is there a twelve step program people can enroll in?

"but as for the sexes, the research does not support your statement. However, I respect your right to an opinion that is not based on science. :)"

I would ask that you not support my right to an opinion not based on science. But I would say that my opinion is completely rationale and calls on no supernatural force for justification. The research which you reference, but not cite (I would not expect any citations in a blog discussion; it would make things very boring), certainly seems like it can be interpretted to support your position that a child can't be raised well by two men or by two women. However, I am suggesting that the results are in fact influenced heavily by externalities that were not and probably cannot be adjusted for. Such externalities are societal pressure to act according to dominant social constructs, bias of the researcher, failure to account for miscellaneous other things.

My point here is that the research likely reflects the ways things have been, not the way things are. In other words, just because it has been historically true, for the most part, that men have been the heads of their families and women have been in charge of raising the families does not necessarily reflect that men and women are inherently better at those tasks. Based on my amateur explorations into genetics, there has not yet been discovered a gene on the X chromosome that controls good homemaking.

I want to say something about the big picture. For many people in committed homosexual relationships, the lack of equal marriage rights translates to a lack of inheretance rights, child support, maintenance, visitation, and other rights incident to marriage. A gay couple getting married has absolutely no effect on a heterosexual marriage. Nell and I will not get divorced because Steve and Adam get married. It is also a fact that some gay parents raise better adjusted children than some straight couples. To deny such a fundamental right to homosexuals just because statistically they may or may not have certain tendencies is cruel and inconsistent. We let poor people get married even though they are statistically more likely to have poor children. We let infertile people get married even though they are statistically less like to have children. No one's marriage is perfect. That we should withhold the right to marriage until homosexuals show that they are capable of perfection is downright unamerican.

10:35 AM  
Blogger scarlet panda said...

The it's-all-about-the children argument is problematic:

1. Outside this context, we don't base decisions about who is allowed to get married on research about how well-adjusted the potential children would be. Lots of marriages are more likely to produce kids with problems or challenges: mixed-religion marriages, interracial marriages, marriages between people whose families hate each other, marriages involving people with fatal diseases, marriages involving people with genetic disorders. On what theory do we allow all of these but draw the line at gay couples?

2. Even if gay parents are worse than straight parents, how does a ban on gay marriage discourage gay parenting? Unlike many of the marriages described above, gay marriages do not produce kids. Gay marriage converts kids who have gay parents but none of the practical benefits of two legally married parents into gay kids who have the practical benefits of having two legally married parents.

8:25 PM  
Blogger Fishfrog said...

Watch it with the inflammatory comments, S.P., or I'll have to ban you. This is your last warning.

9:01 PM  
Blogger Arfanser said...

The point of the "its all about the kids" is that there is a rational nonfaith based reason for not allowing gay marriage. I dont particularly like it, I like the faith based reasons more, but as I have been told by FF and SP at different times, you have to draw the line somewhere. I would point out that the research I refer to is good research, meaning that they attempt to control for extraneous factors. So in that respect of line drawing, I see no difference between prohibiting gay marriage and picking a firm age of consent. You have to draw the line somewhere. If society wants to draw the line at gay marriage and there is a rational nonfaith based reason (assuming fishfrog's belief that any law that is faith based is bad) then the problem you should have is not the law's permissibility, but the people's attitudes behind that law. Incidentally, if states are permitted to govern this area instead of the national government, it actually increases the probability that gay people will have to marry. But now I am hijacking Fishfrog's blog for my platform.

9:24 PM  
Blogger Fishfrog said...

Let me start by saying that anyone is welcome to hijack my comments for any reason whatsoever.

I guess the major point where we differ is that I don't view the principal purpose of marriage to be procreation. You can procreate anywhere, anytime, with anyone (given complimentary components), and so it doesn't seem inextricably linked to marriage to me. I see marriage as a sort of economic and emotional support system, where the principal purpose is to aid one another in accomplishing individual and mutual goals.

The idea of marriage as an principally an economic arrangement is not new or particularly controversial. It dates back to at least 5th century BCE Rome, and no doubt much farther.

The idea of prohibiting gays from marrying because of concerns for their potential children, when there is absolutely no obligation or indication that a married couple will choose to have children seems like a sloppy line to draw. If the main argument against gay marriage if the children welfare angle, then the line would better be drawn at prohibiting homosexuals from adopting or using reproductive technology to have children. Of course, I would also strenuously obect to that.

I obviously don't know what studies you're refering to. Honestly though, I prefer to go with my gut, like my good friend Stephen Colbert. And my gut says that the most important thing a child needs to develop well is one or two devoted parents who love, support, and protect the child. I see no reason why homosexuals would be in any way less capable of providing the unconditional love the child needs.

Also, I disagree with your implicit call for mandatory abortions for single mothers. That is barbaric and I hope you'll reconsider.

7:16 AM  
Blogger Arfanser said...

As a different thought, what about prohibiting gay marriage as a feminism issue. By not allowing two men to marry and combine their wealth that creates greater economic advantages for women. Men are still higher paid, and men control more money in this country than women do. If you allow gay men to marry you have two highly advantaged people. If gay women marry, you will have two people who earn less because of their sex. This would lead to greater disparity between the sexes.

8:19 AM  
Blogger scarlet panda said...

I like the outside-the-box thinking, arfanser.

Anyway, just as the children of gay couples exist with or without marriage, the income disparities exist with or without marriage. Gay couples have tons of money. Lesbian couples have less. Marriage doesn't change that. It might actually be equalizing in some ways. A lesbian couple is more likely to involve one partner without a health-benefit-generating job, and such people would get benefits if they could get married.

If you think gay marriage increases gayness, though, as you may, I suppose your argument could work.

2:27 PM  
Blogger Arfanser said...

Like I said previously, I dont necessarily "buy" any of these arguments. But the challenge as I understood it was that faith based laws are bad, antigay marriage is only faith based. I am merely presenting nonfaith based arguments for not allowing gay marriage.

I dont believe gay marriage promotes gayness, I believe gayness promotes gayness. I believe that gay marriage is a step to increasing gayness. So I think gay marriage promotes gayness because it makes people believe that behavior is completely acceptable, and makes it easier for people to choose to be gay. Yes, I said it, I think that ultimately it is a choice at come point that may later become so ensconced in a personality that it no longer is or feels like it ever was a choice.

8:13 PM  
Blogger Arfanser said...

"Society is divided into three groups. Those intelligent and wealthy members of the upper classes who have obtained knowledge of Birth Control and exercise it in regulating the size of their families. They have already benefited by this knowledge, and are today considered the most respectable and moral members of the community. They have only children when they desire, and all society points to them as types that should perpetuate their kind.

The second group is equally intelligent and responsible. They desire to control the size of their families, but are unable to obtain knowledge or to put such available knowledge into practice.

The third are those irresponsible and reckless ones having little regard for the consequence of their acts, or whose religious scruples prevent their exercising control over their numbers. Many of this group are diseased, feeble-minded, and are of the pauper element dependent entirely upon the normal and fit members of society for their support. There is no doubt in the minds of all thinking people that the procreation of this group should be stopped. For if they are not able to support and care for themselves, they should certainly not be allowed to bring offspring into this world for others to look after. We do not believe that filling the earth with misery, poverty and disease is moral. And it is our desire and intention to carry on our crusade until the perpetuation of such conditions has ceased."- Margaret Sanger

S.P. isnt the first to think that poor people whould be prevented from having kids.

2:39 PM  
Blogger scarlet panda said...

Umm....where did I say that?

6:20 PM  
Blogger Arfanser said...

Your first comment on this post talked about how we dont prevent other people who will raise less than ideal children from having children using poor people as an example. This was meant as a joke.

8:02 AM  
Blogger scarlet panda said...

I didn't actually use poor people as an example in that post.

In that post I did, however, inadvertently use the phrase "gay kids" instead of "kids with gay parents," thereby suggesting that I think that when gay parents with kids get married, the kids become gay. I don't think that.

11:23 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home