July 1st, 2015
Soon the Gaystapo is going to force everyone to gay-marry, just you wait and see.
This month’s raffle prize winner – a signed print – is KDB from Tulsa.
Soon the Gaystapo is going to force everyone to gay-marry, just you wait and see.
This month’s raffle prize winner – a signed print – is KDB from Tulsa.
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Best explanation of the actions of the nay-sayers that I have seen.
Stunned profits continually oppress
The sinners who approach them to confess
With solemn utterances from books
These pious fraudulent crooks
For a fee, any crime they will bless.
I am a conservative atheist who opposes gay marriage, which I guess makes me a little unusual. But at least I’m tolerant! I consider gay marriage to be a legitimate topic for democratic debate, I believe the American people (indeed, all peoples) have the right to determine what form the institution of marriage takes within their own country, and if I don’t happen to agree with their choice, well too bad for me.
What I find appalling though is how ferociously intolerant so many liberals are on this issue! I have friends I cannot talk about this with, because they end up screaming at me. Many others have noted the same. While I am willing to accept the results of the democratic process, the general consensus on the Left seems to be that five enlightened lawyers ramming their morality down the throat of a benighted nation is exactly right, because the unbelievers are bigots, and therefore deserve no say in the matter. Error, don’t you know, has no rights.
I’m familiar with all the arguments, and I’m not sure I want to try to rehash them here. I just want to note that it seems to me that for some (not all!) liberals, the question of gay marriage is sacred and off limits in exactly the same way that other questions are sacred and off limits to religious conservatives. When I try to talk about this with some liberals, it genuinely does feel like I am arguing religion, and arguing with a zealot.
At JB –
The issue is relatively simple – “gays” are people. As such, they have the rights otherwise available to people in the land where these judges have jurisdiction. And as many other countries, they have decided that these rights are not subject to a majority vote because that would create a second-class citizenship.
Same as you don’t get to vote whether women can possess property, or black people can vote. Or whether a suspect of heinous crimes is indeed allowed a lawful trial instead of summary execution. In essence, what it states is that minority groups are entitled all the human rights of the majority – and these are not subject to a popular referendum. You might also feel that Japan is an enemy of the USA and their descendants need to be interred in camps (or Mexico, or Cuba, or Milwaukee Brewer fans) – but this is also not subject to popular vote.
You state that you’re familiar with all the arguments, I’m sure you know this, then.
Jb- conservative atheist here, too. I think the main problem with the whole issue is that government ever got involved with marriage to begin with. If it weren’t for that, neither side would be able to use it as a weapon against the other.
Christians couldn’t ban gay marriage, and gays couldn’t force Christians to bake them cakes, or whatever. The root of the problem is an over controlling government.
Oh, Author, that was perfect!
But historically churches were not involved in marriage, it was primarily a contract between families at a community level and the preserve of the government among the aristocracy where marriages often had enormous political implications. It was only when the state did start getting involved in the marriages of all classes and wanted an organisation to record those marriages that they turned to the ubiquitous church. And that of course is only relevant in predominantly christian countries.
When you say “five enlightened lawyers ” are you by any chance referring to members of the U.S. supreme court? I know the author says this is a “friendly place for readers of J&M to talk, to exchange jokes and ideas” but you’ve caused my Irony Meter © to explode once again and I don’t know how I will be able to function without it during the upcoming presidential campaigns. I hope you’re happy….
This comment is directed to JB: I couldn’t help but notice that although you claim that you welcome debate, you proffered no argument for why marriage equality is wrong-nothing but your “benighted” opinion-so please, do tell, why is it that you think your “appalling” prejudice should be the law of the land.
@JB So if “we the people” decided that your rights could be taken away, you’d be okay with that? This is why the Constitution is so important. Democracy gets it wrong sometimes. “We the people” are often ignorant and uninformed. Peoples’ rights are not up for debate, and as long as marriage is conferred certain status and privileges, then the equal protection clause applies. The SCOTUS got this one right.
I would think that a conservative atheist would have a strong case for governmental gay marriage. If a premise is that marriage improves the fabric of society by strengthening stability in relationships, then that argument would also apply to gay people.
Unless the argument includes the ridiculous idea that gay people choose to be gay (which assumes that straight people are malleable and can change—and that someone would choose to be in a mistreated minority), there is no rational basis to treat gay people differently.
Even so-called Christians have little ground to stand on, as the bible never addressed the issue. In fact, gays are no more mentioned than bans against red dresses.
The court cases were won and won because no rational argument (religious or otherwise) could be made that would treat gay people differently.
Wowza – jb, is it the “ick” factor? Do what I do – don’t think about it. And, the Supreme Court members do NOT need to be lawyers. They just need to be confirmed by Congress. Yes, most – if not all – of them are any more. But lawyers are humans – last I checked – and they have differing opinions, even on the law.
As I see it, the problem of same sex marriage comes from the conflation of two quite separate issues: (1) whether same sex relationship/sexual activity is acceptable; and (2) whether, when the state gets into the business of regulating relationships, by regulating marriage and providing benefits (tax, inheritance, etc.) benefits for those who fall within that regulation.
(1) is clearly the tricky one – the Bible condemns it as immoral, and so many Christians do, Islam condemns it and so many Muslims do, etc.: there are a lot of religious objections, not to same sex marriage as such but to same sex relationship/sexual activity. Yet it seems to be that, in the human population, about 10% have a same sex sexual preference; same sex sexual relationships/sexual activity have been widely practiced and recognized in various cultures, more commonly among men – but that may be an artefact of history: we all know the origin of the word “lesbian”; and indeed same sex sexual activity has been observed in a number of animal species. If you think that same sex activity is wrong for religious reasons, yes, your documents support you, but anthropology and zoology suggest that it’s a condemnation of a fundamental characteristic of the animal kingdom; if you think it’s wrong for some unspecified “moral reason”, I’m not sure where you’re coming from.
(2) on the other hand seems to me simple – if the state is in the business of regulating relationships by regulating marriage, that regulation must be even-handed and cannot take account of religion. It’s possible that children may do better with parents of different sexes rather than two parents of the same sex, but as I understand it children raised in two same sex parent households do just fine, and the “studies” purporting to show otherwise have been proven to be biased rubbish; the state does not prevent couples who cannot or chose not to have children from marrying. It’s a question of fundamental fairness.
For more cartoons poking fun at peoples’ ideas about their fundamental rights as believers, see the series beginning with http://www.gocomics.com/nonsequitur/2015/04/27 . You can click on icons of the single arrowheads (near the upper right corner of the cartoon) to scroll forward and back through the series, which ends with the cartoon dated May 02, 2015.
jb, I can assure you that we will not get all screamy at you if you actually present us with an argument. I would really like to know why you think one group of people should be excluded from rights that are granted to most of us. If you are sticking to your guns after being called a bigot and screamed at by liberals, you must feel your argument is bullet proof. I’d really like to hear it.
Author, brilliantly put as usual. The chief complaint of the Christians seems to be that they are not allowed to oppress people any more. They lost the power to tell us not to dance, or wear jewelry (I’ve recently learned that the religious proscription against jewelry was a root cause of the Swiss watch industry), and now they’ve lost the power to tell us how to love and whom to marry. No wonder they feel so persecuted.
Another cartoon on rights: http://www.gocomics.com/jen-sorensen/2015/06/30
And one on how gay marriage affects traditional marriages: http://www.gocomics.com/mikeluckovich/2015/07/01
Excellent cartoon, Author. I have noticed that many theists insist on inflicting their assorted dogmas on people who don’t belong to their particular cult. Creationists want religious mythology taught in schools instead of science. Certain imams and mullahs want “insulting the prophet” made an international crime. The celibate bachelors running the Catholic Church want all forms of contraception (except Vatican roulette) outlawed. Etc., etc.
I’ll add my 2 cents here (now only $0.000148325 adjusted for inflation).
First off, I do not think the government has any business telling any consenting adults who can or cannot marry.
Secondly, and I think this is important, gay marriage does me NO harm at all in any way. I am not gay, never even considered trying that lifestyle. I worked with a very smart, nice gay man before I enlisted in the Marines back in the mid 1960’s after high school. He told me that by age 18, which I was then, I’d know for certain if I was gay or not.
In my view, this world needs ALL the love and caring it can get, so, if LGBT people want to marry, well, let them and we should all be happy for them and hope they have life long relationships. The more love in this world, the better for us all. Who knows, maybe if enough gay marriages take place even the fun die religious types might have to concede and accept it as a good thing.
Many thanks Author for ALL you do.
Do I get to choose the gay I must marry?
Does my wife get a voice in this decision?
The best explanation for the complaint that “Gay Marriage Destroys Traditional Marriage” is that “Traditional Marriage” isn’t just a contract between a Man and a Woman, it is a contract in which a Man is given AUTHORITY over a Woman. And, yep, extending Marriage to same-sex couples pretty much kills that concept.
1. In regards to claims that the government has no business being involved in marriage. In our society, marriage is basically a contractual relationship between two persons. The government issues a contract indicating this contract meets certain specified conditions (i.e., both parties are consensual and legally able to consent). In event of dissolution of the contract, the government provides a mediation court for dissolution. This is a valid concern of government and was even recognized as such by William Bradford, the first governor of the Massachusetts colony of pilgrims. No marriages could be performed until a government was established.
2. Why establish gay marriage as a right? In the United States a major principle has been that all are equal “under the law.” Law abiding citizens are entitled to all benefits of citizenship. That includes entering into legal contracts with other citizens (or non citizens). We would never consider forbidding blond citizens to marry. Why should we consider forbidding gay citizens to marry?
3. Gay marriage will destroy religious freedom. Remember that the legal contract of marriage is a secular contract. Gay citizens engaging in such contracts will have absolutely no impact upon others’ marriages or religion. Many religious groups desire to sanctify marriage and their pastors are allowed by the state to perform a dual ceremony in which the couple are married in both secular contract and their religion. Most such groups require persons desiring to be so wed to meet some criteria of that religion. That is reasonable and I cannot imagine our courts upholding a suitor demanding that the religion ignore their requirements. Surely, someone will sue in an attempt to force that action but they will lose based on our First Amendment of the Constitution.
3. If we allow gays to marry, we will soon see polygamy, bestiality, and other abominations. As to bestiality, most states (hopefully all of them) require participants in a marriage contract to be able to provide consent. While some religions might possibly allow beastly marriages, I doubt that any government will do so. As to polyamory marriage contracts, I (personally) see no reason why a reasonable government should object to this. If all participants are willing consenters, the contract is valid. Many or maybe most churches would object to this and would not participate in the ritual. In that event, a secular contract is issues. There is no requirement that marriages be performed in some sort of ritual proceeding in order to be valid.
re charlie+bear says:
not gay, never even considered trying that lifestyle.
lifestyle? being gay it is not a lifestyle it is a result of embyro variation! the only lifestyle choices they have are whether to come out or not and how they manifest their gayness
ps – good choice of background setting for this J&M
Soon the Gaystapo is going to force everyone to gay-marry, just you wait and see.
is totally stupid
its like saying that if we allow marriage across racial lines then everyone will be forced to marry someone of a different colour /race/ethnicity
Craig L, good point! I hadn’t thought of it before, because many years ago (at least where I live) women dropped “to obey” from their wedding vows. As I recall, when this phrase was dropped, there was no outcry that it was an “attack on traditional marriage.” Perhaps that’s because each couple could decide to include “to obey” in the woman’s vows if they wanted to.
JB, please DON’T explain your reasons for opposition to gay marriage from a conservative atheist perspective, there’s enough dullness in the world already.
First of all, micky wins an Emmanuel Goldstein crimestop award for his inadvertently revealing comment about how boring he finds disagreement.
Kevin Colquitt and Darwin Harmless demand that I produce arguments again gay marriage. But that’s missing my point! The issue is not whether I can convince anyone that gay marriage is wrong; the issue is whether I am entitled to have any say in the matter. The comic was about people feeling they should have the liberty to ram their morality down other people’s throats, and I was simply pointing out that most advocates of gay marriage fervently believe they possess exactly that liberty. Sheila is the most forthright about this, arguing that democracy is OK as long as “we the people” reach conclusions that she find acceptable, but that when we are “ignorant and uninformed” we need to be overruled by the an overclass of the wise (i.e., people like her). From this perspective, the Supreme Court is not a court of law, but a council of wise elders whose job is to impose virtue on the nation, and keep it on the right side of history.
The fact is, our marriage laws have never discriminated against gays — they have always had exactly the same right to a traditional marriage as straights (and who in fact often did marry). Of course one can reasonably argue that traditional marriage is of less value to gays, and is not what they want. But there is an important difference between “being discriminated against” and “not getting what you want”! This however is a distinction that gay marriage advocates have been willfully blind to, because it doesn’t take them where they want to go. Instead of acknowledging that they are arguing for something radically new and different, they invent rights where none had existed before. Rights are wonderful things! Once you have framed your goals in terms of rights, you have given yourself permission to disregard the interests of your opponents, and steamroller them any way you can. The Left is notorious for inventing rights and using them this way.
The right in question here is not the right to marry (which was never denied), but the right to marry a person of the same sex. This is a right that has never existed in the West, or indeed (with rare and fringy exceptions) anywhere at all in all of human history. So what does even mean to say that this right was being denied, given that it had never existed in the first place?
An analogy is often drawn between gay marriage and interracial marriage, but this is bogus. American law is based on English common law, which had nothing to say about race. By outlawing interracial marriage, Southerners were redefining traditional marriage to suit themselves (ironically, exactly what gay marriages advocates have done!!!), and denying interracial couples a common law right to a traditional marriage, a right they would have traditionally enjoyed in pretty much any other time and place. So it made perfect sense for the Supreme Court to roll this back. But it was not their place to invent a radical new right where none had existed before — that should have been left to the people! (You’ll notice, BTW, that when those nasty Southerners outlawed interracial marriage, they didn’t outlaw gay marriage at the same time. Southerners understood that interracial marriages were legitimate traditional marriages, and wanted to prevent them from taking place. But it never occurred to them to outlaw gay marriage, because it never occurred to anyone, black or white, that such an idea even made sense. That’s how alien the idea was!)
Of course at some point legalistic arguments go out the window, and steamrollering your opponent is the only option. Slavery is a good example of this; it’s just intolerable, no matter what its advocates have to say. But the stakes with gay marriage are so much lower! In fact, aside from the symbolism of marriage, all that is at stake is an official stamp of approval from the government, and a package of benefits so modest that many straight couples don’t even bother with it. And nobody even cares about those benefits anyway! How do I know this? Well, one way is to look at what happened when Proposition 8 passed in California. Gays were screaming and crying in the streets, despite the fact that civil unions already gave them all the same benefits as marriage! They didn’t actually care about those benefits, they only cared about the symbolism. Independent evidence comes from the common argument that the government shouldn’t even be in the marriage business to begin with (see liz, above). Many gays find this acceptable, despite the fact that it would deny marriage benefits to both gays and straights. In other words, they don’t really care about the actual benefits, and are perfectly willing to give up the benefits for themselves, provided straight people can’t have them either. Because the only thing they really care about is the symbolism.
Which bring it back to religion. Religion isn’t fundamentally about the supernatural, it’s about the sacred. And nothing says “sacred” like an eagerness to disregard other people’s objections and ram your symbolism down their throats! I do know liberals who see gay marriage as a legitimate political dispute, and are capable of talking about it civilly. But as for the rest of you, it’s hard for me to understand your intolerance as anything other than crusading moralistic religious zealotry, albeit of a secular variety.
Jb, thanks for presenting your argument in some detail. I did understand that your original point was not about marriage equality itself, but about your persecution for holding contrarian views. I did not doubt that you were screamed at, and had no curiosity about that. What I wanted to know is what opinions you hold that got you screamed at. So, thanks again for stating them. I assumed you had simply run away.
“So what does even mean to say that this right was being denied, given that it had never existed in the first place?”
I’m not sure why you feel that a right that has never been granted can’t be considered a right. After all, every right which we hold sacred was once not a right at all, including the right to life. But this strange opinion isn’t very important so I’m happy to let it pass.
You may be correct that civil union provides everything that marriage provides, except the symbolism. Even accepting that this is true, symbolism is important. People have given their lives over symbolism, from the “holy” cross to the swastika various national flags. I can’t really see why gays should be denied marriage equality because you take it to be a mere symbol. It’s a symbol with a lot of implications, some of them practical and very important.
Take the situation with America’s famous woman astronaut, Sally Ride. Had she been married to a man when she died, you can bet that he would have been eligible for all kinds of death benefits and pensions. I understand that her partner got nothing, simply because she is a woman and therefore not a spouse, despite a long relationship that most thinking people would classify as a marriage.
Without the status conferred by marriage, gays and lesbians have problems with everything from hospital visitation rights if their partner is sick, to death benefits if their partner dies. And I’m sure that is just the tip of the iceberg.
But these practical considerations aside, can you give me one reason why two people who are in a relationship that in every particular resembles a marriage should not be allowed to present themselves as a married couple before society and in the eyes of the world?
as a big ol’ liberal homo, id like to say i welcome your perspective, but i do not understand them on the basis you have argued.
Judicial activity around the 14th amendment was also the reason for outlawing sex discrimination- i trust that you agree that discrimination on the grounds of sex is abhorrent?
if this is acceptable then why is unacceptable for 5 judges from 9 to determine that the 14th amendment applies to gay couples?
May i also point out, the decision was not about gay marriage, it was about the state not recognising a same sex marriage and denial inheritance rights afforded through their lawful marriage.
I agree whole heartedly that we should and have right to open debate. But lets debate the facts and the issues as they are, not as we see them to be
jb, to paraphrase Voltaire, I do not agree with your views on same-sex marriage, but I’ll defend to the death your right to discuss them. 🙂
Assuming you live in the USA, and based on the poll numbers I’ve heard, you are now part of a minority (those who are against same-sex marriage)–but, like members of other minorities, your rights are protected. In one sense, you do have a say about same-sex marriage. You are not forced to marry someone of your sex, just as (if you are a woman) you are not forced to abort an unwanted pregnancy.
Civil marriage is a civil right. Denying civil marriage to same-sex couples infringes on religious freedom–there are some religions that allow and bless same-sex marriages. (The Unitarian Universalist religion is one of these.) Two people who could otherwise be married in the Roman Catholic church cannot have a Catholic wedding if either person is a Catholic who is divorced (and has not had the prior marriage annulled by the Church), or if both people are the same sex. Just as civil marriage in the USA has long been available to the former couple, it is now available to the latter. Also, just as the Church has not been forced to marry the former couple, it will not be forced to marry the latter.
You wrote, “Gays were screaming and crying in the streets, despite the fact that civil unions already gave them all the same benefits as marriage! ” Actually, civil unions did not give them the same benefits as marriage. For details, see http://lcdwriter.hubpages.com/hub/Civil-Unions-vs-Marriage
Although you object to same-sex marriage, I think you will find that, now that you live in a society where same-sex married couples have the same rights as opposite-sex married couples, there is no fiscal cost to you, and society in general is likely to benefit. For example, marriage encourages people to have strong family values and give up high-risk sexual lifestyles (which can lead to higher health care costs). Also, the number of child adoptions should increase; more children living in loving homes should mean fewer children suffering under inadequate foster care.
You wrote, “it seems to me that for some (not all!) liberals, the question of gay marriage is sacred and off limits in exactly the same way that other questions are sacred and off limits to religious conservatives. When I try to talk about this with some liberals, it genuinely does feel like I am arguing religion, and arguing with a zealot.” Unfortunately, there are all kinds of zealots. Your best bet might be to avoid discussing same-sex marriage with such zealots, just as most people avoid discussing abortion rights with zealots who disagree with them.
Superbly done, @two cents’ worth.
It is always interesting to me when those who object to same-sex marriage rights use sexual imagery (ramming it down our throats). I seldom hear atheists using that language in that context. It’s nice to know that Christians aren’t the only ones who suck, and suck hard.
My views would best be described here by ‘grandpa’:
We do believe in equal treatment… 😀
Craig L says:
>it is a contract in which a Man is given AUTHORITY over a
>Woman. And, yep, extending Marriage to same-sex couples
>pretty much kills that
Based on most stories I heard from other people here in
Canada as well as from the U.S. it’s actually the woman who
is given authority over the man…
…I prefer to remain a ‘free person of male gander’. 😉
Change that last line to:
…I prefer to remain a ‘free person of male gender’. 😉
One of the things to strive to avoid in a fair society is the ‘tyranny of the majority’ if you can accept that as a precept then it should logically follow that civil marriage with it’s benefits and strictures be available to all citizens of that society if they so wish. I am far from a natural supporter of the Tories but here it’s one thing they got right.
How desperate are these people? Crying because they think they can’t prevent gay people getting married.
This is a pretty good response:
They couldn’t prevent it, before, either. Now, though, they can’t prevent the special privileges that go with legally recognized marriage. You know how they love their special, “us only”, privileges.
The Lutheran Church Missouri Synod is famously conservative. It opposed the Copernican Theory until about 1900. Children should not go out trick-or-treating on the day that pagans call Halloween, they should go to the evening Reformation Day service. But….
But concerning marriage:
Luther said, “I confess that I cannot forbid a person to marry several wives, for it does not contradict the Scripture. If a man wishes to marry more than one wife he should be asked whether he is satisfied in his conscience that he may do so in accordance with the word of God. In such a case the civil authority has nothing to do in the matter.” (De Wette II, 459, ibid., pp. 329-330.)
Martin Luther once advised an inhabitant of Orlamunde to take a second wife, in addition to the one then living. Luther also reluctantly approved of a bigamous marriage in the case of Landgrave Philip of Hesse, who was united to a secondary wife, Margarethe von der Saale, on March 4, 1540.
If a Moslem and his 4 wives convert to Christianity most churches have to ask which one he is going to keep as his wife. For Lutherans he can become a Lutheran with 4 Lutheran wives. They can join the Dorcas Guild (=women’s auxiliary).
So a couple years ago the Missouri Synod thought it over and quietly informed people that since the Missouri Synod recognizes all legal marriages as marriages, they would recognize gay marriage if ti became legal. I don’t know it they could get married in church, though.
jb – Thank you for trying to present your arguments against gay marriage, but I still don’t understand. I can imagine, though, that someone trying to understand them might lose it and get angry. If you will, could I ask you some questions to guide me to an understanding of your position?
First, if you are not gay, what effect does gay marriage have on you? I conjecture that there is no effect on you, and that typical conservative principles would cause you to say something like “whatever – your freedom dude, no skin off my ass”.
Second, if you are willing to declare that civil union is identical to marriage, what is the problem with calling it marriage? If it is not identical, what rights and responsibilities should go to a spouse that should be kept from a partner in a civil union?
Third, does it matter what the laws used to be? Isn’t it more important what they should be now?
Fourth, what is your opinion of the court overturning provisions of state constitutions that require that only Christians may hold state office?
I genuinely want to know because I never knew an atheist who is against gay marriage before. I want to know how you get there with a step by step reasoned argument.
Surely the point of giving Gays the right to marry is to give them full equality in the law as regards civil and fiscal rights
the right to marry in a religious building /context is not sought as a basic right;
assuming that LGBT people would even want to, given the negative opinion of most religions towards them.
USA makes Gay marriage for all 50 states
where are the earthqaukes, volcanoes, Tsunamis?
has Yellowstone gone up
has California split off along the san andreas?
what happened to ‘god’s wrath’
could it be that ‘god’ does not actually care
could it be that ‘god’ does not even exist
and the words in the book were just the mindset of bigoted individuals millenia ago ?
JB spends several paragraphs avoiding the questino of why they are opposed to gay marriage
the closet they come to an objection is :
The right in question here is not the right to marry (which was never denied), but the right to marry a person of the same sex. This is a right that has never existed in the West, or indeed (with rare and fringy exceptions) anywhere at all in all of human history. So what does even mean to say that this right was being denied, given that it had never existed in the first place?
which seems to be objection on the grounds that something that never existied before is sufficient reason to prevent it from coming into existence
a totally hollow arguement
as ‘Marriage’ itself even between a man and a woman is a totally artificial concept that did not exist before cultures evolved the concept
given that marriage is a cultural invention of humanity it is perfectly reasonable for human society to make marriage to be whatever it chooses
jb reveals the totatality of their conservative/conformist mindset with the telling phrase
very similar to Tony Blair’s statement [ a few years ago]
“that central American nation” [I forget which one he was referring to ] “has strayed outside “democratic norms”
these are the phrases of those with a herd mentallity, people who think inside the box
For me it is a basic humanitarian issue. There have been dreadful instances where people have not been able to be with their terminally ill partner in hospital because they were not considered next of kin or a close enough relative. The acceptance of same-sex marriage immediately does away with this problem.
Likewise, if a partner in a male/female marriage can receive the pension of their dead partner, why can’t this also be the case in a same-sex partnership.
There are quite a few things like this, where a marriage is useful to make sure all partnerships enjoy the same basic rights.
I cannot see why anyone, other than a religious bigot, would want to deny people these rights.
jb, I didn’t say disagreement was boring. Your ‘conservative atheist’ qualification is a bit like saying, “no offence, but…”. Fortunately you have spared us any actual content.
To the best of my knowledge, the idea of marriage involving a contract to protect the wife started with the ketubah (marriage contract) used in Judaism. Does anyone know whether there is such a historical or current contract in either Christianity or Islam? I don’t mean the governmental sort, as we have today regardless of religion.
Give jb a chance to explain his objections from first principles. I know what he posted so far isn’t very satisfying, but I am very interested in such an unusual (in my experience) viewpoint, and I prefer that we not drive him away with the very hostility he was complaining about in the first place.
jb, I promise not to be a dick. I’ll hold you to rigorous and clear arguments, but will not give you any quasi religious pushback. Just clear logic and clarificattion of premises.
Saying that marrying someone of the same gender is a whole new right that has never existed anywhere before would be like declaring that freedom of speak only applies to the spoken word and applying that to anything online would just be pulling a new right out of your arse.
Also having people say mean things to you is not curtailing your right to free speech.
On the topic of rights the idea of basing morality on a list of rights is simply not practical for legislative purposes. This is because is falls apart when ever two rights clash. Here you can either say some rights are more important and end up a zealot for one or two rights or you can try to fudge it somehow and end up incapable of doing anything (that probably being what the founding fathers of america intended to happen). Its good enough for lawyers but that’s about it. The only practical method to decided policy is utilitarianism. If the awesome is substantially greater then the suck then it goes ahead if not then it doesn’t and if the suck is much greater then the awesome then you stop the stupid thing. On gay marriage the positive is that millions of gay people and all those that care about them can achieve happiness, they downsize is that angry people that were going to be angry anyway are angry, this might be a upside as being righteously indignant is fun.
It seems the real central points to JB’s rant comes down to his false notion of the SCoUS decision has given some kind of “special rights” to gays, when in fact, many states still didn’t allow, and just as important, didn’t recognize same sex marriage. Similarly, “civil unions” did not, in fact, confer the same full range of rights as marriage and often carried even less weight across state boarders. That kind of outrage seems in common with race and women’s rights achievements that are also criticized as “special rights” when in fact they simply enforced equal rights.
My problem at this point is time pressure. It may not be obvious from reading it, but my previous comment took me over three hours to write. Writing brief and reasonably coherent essays on a controversial topic for a hostile audience — deciding what to leave in or leave out, and how to organize it — is difficult! (For me, anyway). Despite the long weekend I couldn’t find time for another comment, and I’m preparing now for a trip that is going to keep me occupied for at least a week. And this is all rather self-indulgent anyway; how often does anyone have their mind changed by debates like this? Nevertheless I’ll make an effort. I’m going to be traveling all day Wednesday, so I’ll see if I come up with something. But if I can’t manage then, it probably won’t happen.
I do want to make one comment here though. Everybody seems to be criticizing me for not laying out my reasons for opposing gay marriage. Wasn’t it clear that I wasn’t even trying to do that??? I do have my reasons, but the fact is I don’t expect you to be persuaded by those reasons. And you know what? There is nothing wrong with that! You have a right to your opinions, and in democracy you have a right to vote on them. All I’m asking is that you allow me the same. I am not angry at you for disagreeing with me about gay marriage; I’m angry because so many liberals refuse to respect the right of anyone else to disagree with them. Someone here mentioned “first principles,” but I think that’s bullshit. Moral reasoning is not calculus. Questions like this will never be answered by gentlemen of good will sitting down and saying “Let us calculate.” People live in different moral universes. Many differences are irreconcilable, and democracy is all about dealing with this. The fundamental contract in a democracy is that you accept that the other guy gets a vote even when his reasons make no sense to you at all! There are exceptions — e.g., slavery — but these are extreme cases where democracy fails, and so the guns and torches come out. But the question of gay marriage isn’t anywhere near that extreme, and it should be dealt with democratically. Marriage is an absolutely central cultural institution in any human society, and I think the American people have the right to decide what form that institution should take in their society. You disagree. You believe, as best I can tell, that your superior moral wisdom gives you that right. My point when I first commented on this comic is that to me this looks an awful lot like religious intolerance. That’s what I care about! As to whether you accept or reject my personal arguments against gay marriage, that’s something I care about a lot less.
Oh, and Mark S, thank you for your willingness to listen, and please don’t take my remark about “first principles” personally. I do hope I get a chance to answer your questions, but there are more important things than arguing on the Internet — even when someone is wrong.
JB is right on the matter of debate, positions do get shouted down, often with a self-righteous certainty of the “obvious truth” of position X. And that is a tendency that any largely self-selected group of like-minded folk can fall into. Got to watch that.
On the other hand, he has to realize that when it sticks to well-reasoned debate that he doesn’t like, it is not being shouted down.
Finally, I’m no moralist on the SCotUS decision, it is simply a matter of equal application of law.
Jb – yes, I understand that you get a vote. As I’ve mentioned before, my opinion is that you should use that vote for the good of the country, not just for “what you would like”.
I think the reason for how you vote IS significant. If you vote for a jim crow law because you think Africans are not human, then I cheer when your irrational vote is overturned by constitutional rights.
This is what made me ask in the first place. You say you are an atheist against gay marriage, but I can’t tell why. I guess I am really looking for “gay marriage is bad because –consequences–“. I have not seen that consequence stated, so at this point I don’t even know if you can produce one. If you can’t, then your argument is weak. I wonder if you have anything better than a grudge against fags.
One other important thing: I do not expect to be persuaded. I want to understand.
One of my best friends is Catholic. We talk about philosophy and morality a lot. I will never convert her, and she will never convert me. We both find it highly valuable to understand the other side.
Hmm, seems you’ve touch on a rather hot-button issue among your readers, Author! This is the longest comment thread I’ve seen to date.
jb, thank you for your willingness to engage. Although, as you’ve explained, your reason for posting was not to argue against SSM, the reasons for your position are more interesting than the reaction to it. Because we don’t know the people with whom you’ve argued, or what they said, or even what you said, we can imagine that your perceptions are accurate, but without that knowledge, your initial comment resembles this: https://xkcd.com/774/
OK, here goes. I tried to stick to the issue I care most about, which is how liberals engage in intolerant and quasi-religious crusades to impose their morality on unbelievers, even while bitterly condemning traditional religions for doing the same. I think there’s a huge blind spot here, which makes it interesting for me. But you are all much more interested in examining the purity of my thought on gay marriage, so you can anathematize me for being as not-liberal as I appear to be. I’ve already acknowledged that I don’t expect to be able to convince you that I am right about gay marriage, and I’ll acknowledge further that this is because by your standards I am not right. But in the interests of understanding (and because arguing can be both fun and an excellent intellectual discipline) I’ll make an effort — but I’ll tell you right now you are not going to like it.
But first I’m going to say a little more about rights. Darwin Harmless considers the idea that one must distinguish between enforcing existing rights and creating new ones to be a “strange opinion” that “isn’t very important.” But it is absolutely central! Rights are not laws of nature that human beings discover; they are our creations. They derive their legitimacy not from first principles (there are no first principles everyone agrees on), but from tradition and consensus. Some rights — such as the right not to be murdered — do appear to be universal, but that is only because they line up with the natural interests and desires of pretty much everybody. But other rights may legitimately exist in one society but not in another.
And that’s OK! If the people of the Ooga Wooga tribe of the Upper Wahuhu River do not allow members of the Dog clan to marry members of the Cat clan, I may not think it makes any sense, but it’s their decision to make. They have the right to decide what form marriage should take in their own culture. I have no business sending gunboats up the river because I think there is harm in the fact that Romeo Dog and Juliet Cat aren’t allowed to get married — even if there actually is harm! Of course this only goes so far. If the Ooga Wooga practice FGM, it’s possible I might decide to send those gunboats. But if I did, I would at least openly acknowledge the fact that I was ramming my morality down their throats. (Which, BTW, I always thought of as a force feeding metaphor rather than a sexual one, but to each his own I guess).
The takeaway is that rights have no independent existence — they’re just reflections of what people want. What Western liberals want is for all rights to be based entirely on narrow considerations of harm and equality, and that’s OK. But it’s not the way most people think — not Western conservatives, and even less so most people in the non-Western world. (Jonathan Haidt has a lot of interesting thing to say about this in his recent book). My complaint is that Western liberals, being by and large intolerant quasi-religious moralists, feel entitled to impose their morality over the objections of others, rejecting negotiation and compromise. I see them as aggressive missionaries on the Upper Wahuhu, riding roughshod over the indigenous culture, because they know with absolute certainty that they possess The Truth. Existing rights should be enforced, because they represent agreements that have already been made. But to pull a new right out of your ass because it seems like a good idea to you is moral imperialism. That looks like a pretty significant distinction to me!
OK, that was the important part. The unimportant part is why I personally oppose gay marriage. Hold on to your hats: I oppose gay marriage because I think there is something wrong with homosexuality. Not morally wrong, biologically wrong. The liberal party line is that homosexuality is every bit as natural and normal as heterosexuality, but I disagree. I have heard various evolutionary explanations for the existence of homosexuality, and IMO they are all nonsense. It is clearly a dysfunction; and I would prefer that marriage in our society not celebrate a dysfunction. Believe it or not, there actually is a universal definition of marriage. It goes something like this: marriage is a union of men and women (usually, but not always, one of each), subject to varying restrictions on age and degree of relatedness, which exists for the purpose of creating and raising children. There, that’s it. An institution meeting this description can be found in every human society known, and this likely has been true for millions of years. It is to human beings what the troop is to chimpanzees, or the harem to gorillas. I see it as part of our nature, part of what we are as a species, and I see no need to mess with it. (Anticipating one objection: SSM advocates often try to obscure the centrality of children to marriage, saying things like “traditional marriage is really all about property rights.” Well sure, but who inherits the property? Could it be… the children? Marriage may have other functions, but children are always central)
At this point I expect you to pull out the heavy guns and accuse me of Hate and Bigotry and Dehumanization. But you know, I don’t actually hate gays. I have openly gay co-workers and it doesn’t bother me a bit. (Well, it occasionally gets on my nerves how the gay guy who sits behind me can go on and on about his gay politics while I have to be silent about mine. But personally he’s a good guy, and I like him). Hate, in liberal theology, doesn’t always involve actual, you know, hatred; it can also serve as a catchall for all kinds thought that liberals find offensive. And Bigotry often seems to serve as the liberal equivalent of witchcraft: it’s under every bed; it explains everything; and it must be tirelessly rooted out. (And if you question this, well, maybe you’re a witch…). Dehumanization is another liberal trope: “if you won’t give me what I want, then you’re treating me as less than a human being, which makes you a (Godwin alert!) Nazi, who deserves no rights.”
Let me put it this way: I don’t hate the deaf, or dwarfs, or people in wheelchairs. I certainly don’t consider them less than human! (My mother is in a wheelchair, and an accident could put me in one tomorrow). Yet if you were to demand that, in order to avoid hurting the feelings of these people, I must celebrate their conditions as normal and natural diversity that enhances our society, I would angrily refuse. These individuals may be wonderful, wonderful people, but still, it would be better if no one were deaf, if no one were a dwarf, and if no one were crippled, because these are all bad things. Likewise I consider homosexuality to be a bad thing. It either deprives parents of grandchildren, or it deprives children a childhood spent with both natural parents, or it deprives the gays themselves of a satisfying marriage (if they engage in the kind of marriage that can produce children). I don’t hate gays, but I do not want to be forced to celebrate their condition in order to soothe their hurt feelings. And that’s what I think this is all really about.
I might feel differently if I thought the harm to gays were sufficiently great. But as I argued previously, I believe the harm is mostly symbolic. Even without special legal provisions, gays can already do most of the things straight couples can do, i.e., live together, proclaim their love, etc. And special provisions like civil unions can cover much of the rest. Darwin Harmless noted that symbolism is important, but it didn’t seem to occur to him that it is important to both sides. If gays want to be out and proud I’m fine with that. But I would have preferred to reserve the symbolism of marriage for traditional human marriages.
So the question remains, should I have had a say in the matter? I find it a bit ironic that in his most recent comment Mark S tells me that yes, I do get a vote — and then in the very next paragraph cheers a court decision denied millions of Americans any say in the matter. To me this looks like doubletalk. I’m reminded though that I promised to answer a couple of questions for Mark S, so here they are:
1) “whatever – your freedom dude, no skin off my ass” is not a conservative position, it’s a libertarian position. Libertarians are social liberals, which I am not (although I do agree with many specific liberal policies). I have doubts about their free market fundamentalism as well.
2) I am not in fact sure that civil unions should provide the exact same legal benefits as marriage; my point in bringing them up was that these benefits are a talking point that nobody really cares about. Granting all the legal benefits would not mollify SSM advocates in the slightest if they could not have the symbolism of marriage; OTOH, they would give up those benefits in a heartbeat if straights couldn’t have them either.
3) Liberals live in an “eternal now,” where the past has no weight, and anything can be upended on the spur of the moment if you can’t instantly think of a reason not to do so. But I stand with Burke on this; I think our reason is imperfect, and that prudence requires we give some weight to tradition.
4) I would think that fell under the incorporation of the First Amendment. In any case, I’m pretty sure such provisions aren’t actually enforced, so the question is moot.
OK, that’s all. There’s lots more I could say (seriously, there is!), and I’ve left all sorts of openings for you to dispute what I’ve said already (I’m nowhere near good enough a writer to prevent that — I don’t think anyone is). I’m not going to write any more essays, but if anybody is interested enough to pose follow-up questions that allow brief answers I might take a shot at them. The ironic thing is that, despite all my reactionary opinions, I really do think I am the tolerant one here! I’m honestly not angry at any of you because of what you believe. I don’t think your ideas are crazy, and I really do believe you have the right to vote on them, and that if you have enough support you should win. I just wish you gave those who disagree with you the same respect.
JB, I appreciate your taking the time to help us understand your positions on liberal zealotry and same-sex marriage.
You wrote: “Let me put it this way: I don’t hate the deaf, or dwarfs, or people in wheelchairs. I certainly don’t consider them less than human! (My mother is in a wheelchair, and an accident could put me in one tomorrow). Yet if you were to demand that, in order to avoid hurting the feelings of these people, I must celebrate their conditions as normal and natural diversity that enhances our society, I would angrily refuse. These individuals may be wonderful, wonderful people, but still, it would be better if no one were deaf, if no one were a dwarf, and if no one were crippled, because these are all bad things. Likewise I consider homosexuality to be a bad thing. It either deprives parents of grandchildren, or it deprives children a childhood spent with both natural parents, or it deprives the gays themselves of a satisfying marriage (if they engage in the kind of marriage that can produce children). I don’t hate gays, but I do not want to be forced to celebrate their condition in order to soothe their hurt feelings. And that’s what I think this is all really about.”
Thanks for explaining your viewpoint. I hadn’t thought of it that way. To me, just as the infertile, the elderly, the deaf, dwarfs, and people in wheelchairs have long been able to marry, now same sex couples can, too. I don’t think of it as celebrating homosexuality, but as giving homosexuals the same rights as others. Many same-sex couples (whether married to each other or not) do have children. (I can’t come up with a good word that means “one member of a couple, regardless of that couple’s marital state” so I’ll use “spouse” here.) Such a child may be the biological offspring of one of the spouses from a previous opposite-sex marriage or from another arrangement with someone of the opposite sex to beget/bear the spouse’s child. The biological child of one of the spouses might or might not be adopted by the other spouse. If the child’s other biological parent is alive, depending on the circumstances, the child may spend time with both biological parents, just as children of divorced opposite-sex couples do. Another such child may not be the biological offspring of either of the spouses, but be a child who has been adopted by one or both of the spouses. Marriages are more durable than cohabitations, and they create a stable and committed environment for children. Marriage will reduce the social stigma and discrimination that has been experienced by same sex couples and their children. And the children of married same-sex couples now have the same legal and financial benefits as the children of other married couples if one of the spouses dies, or if the spouses divorce.
This is just my opinion. It’s not my intent to “engage in intolerant and quasi-religious crusades to impose [my] morality on unbelievers, even while bitterly condemning traditional religions for doing the same.” 🙂 Maybe the Author will create a cartoon that will give us an excuse to start a new thread of comments about zealotry. When is it best to live and let live, and when is it right to work to get others, whom we see as committing sins of commission or omission, to change their ways? Setting aside “intolerant and quasi-religious crusades,” what methods are the most effective in getting others to change their ways?
good job, sir!
Two cents’ worth,
You say ” Marriage will reduce the social stigma and discrimination that has been experienced by same sex couples and their children. ”
This is one of the main problems with SSM. Same sex couples do not have children naturally, they get them by other means. The natural way of bringing up children is with a father and mother, ie: a man and a woman. Children will lose out if they are brought up in a single sex household, they will not receive the natural role models, being able to see how man and woman react together. That is a poor way to bring up children.
C.Law said “[i]Children will lose out if they are brought up in a single sex household, they will not receive the natural role models, being able to see how man and woman react together[/i]”
If only every for want of a better word conventional relationship was perfect there might be some merit in your assertion. However, we know from the society that surrounds us that many children are born into fairly unpleasant family lives, even in the affluent west. That is a poor way to bring up children
I’d postulate that being raised by a same sex adoptive couple who have adopted them would be a better upbringing in many events and is unlikely to harm the child just because the parents with familial responsibility are the same gender.
jb, you present some interesting arguments. You might find it enlightening to look into the reasons behind the recent court decision. Here’s a good place to start.
You’ll find that the court decision had little to do with marriage equality and everything to do with unreasonably denying rights to one group of people that were granted to other groups. Much as two cents worth explains. we do allow people in wheel chairs to marry.
I find it amusing that you understood, and in fact restate, my point about the origin of rights, but somehow think it is “moral imperialism” to make them logically consistent. “Existing rights should be enforced, because they represent agreements that have already been made. But to pull a new right out of your ass because it seems like a good idea to you is moral imperialism. ” Say what? Marriage is an existing right. It’s not a new right we pulled out of our ass. But it’s a right that is being granted only to one group, and denied to another for no good reason. If you don’t see that as wrong, as an injustice, then you have divided society into those worthy of having this right, and those not worthy. Small wonder you’ve had a bit of push back on this opinion.
I have long been puzzled about how homosexuality, which I believe may have a genetic basis, could avoid being bred out of the gene pool. It seems the reason is that a proclivity for gay sex has little to do with bearing children, and even when it does the contribution the homosexual makes to preserving his/her genes, as represented by brothers, sisters, nieces, cousins etc, outweighs the disadvantage of not having biological children of his or her own.
“Children will lose out if they are brought up in a single sex household, they will not receive the natural role models, being able to see how man and woman react together. That is a poor way to bring up children.”
Your “won’t somebody think of the children” argument really doesn’t hold up to examination. In fact, it verges on the absurd given the number of heterosexual couples who will never have children either because they don’t want them, are infertile, or are beyond child bearing age. By that argument, my current wife and I should have been denied the right to marry. And your suggestion that children need role models of each sex in order to be…. what? Intolerant? Sorry. I don’t seen the damage you anticipate, and there seems to be no evidence that it exists.
I believe you are profoundly ignorant of history, regarding the various forms of marriage in the past, and nature when you label homosexuality a dysfunction. It’s hard to call something that seems to be universal and within many species a dysfunction. Isn’t it more likely that you just don’t understand the causes and functions?
It seems to me that denying somebody a right that most people have can only be justified based on an actual resulting harm. You don’t seem to find much harm in allowing marriage equality (a term I prefer to gay marriage), other than purely speculative negative effects on children. Your argument seems to come down to: We just don’t like it. And that’s fine. It appears that you are no longer in the majority. So suck it up, so to speak, or move to a place where your opinions are still in the majority. Russia might be a good choice.
O wad some Power the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us!
Your “some of my best friends are _______ (fill in the persecuted minority)” argument is really tiresome. I’m not going to get all screamy at you, or get into name calling, but some signs of self awareness might make you a more attractive person to us ever so intolerant liberals. When one adopts the rationalizations of racists or bigots, it’s no surprise when that person is classified as such.
“But you are all much more interested in examining the purity of my thought on gay marriage, so you can anathematize me for being as not-liberal as I appear to be.”
You totally misunderstand me. Dude, you are a fucking ** unicorn ** ! You are an atheist AND against gay marriage, and I have never seen anything like it before. How can I not want to know how you came to that conclusion???
Of course, I know you are wrong, but that makes it MORE important that I understand you, not less.
I’m with you on the Ooga Woogas, except that you tell it from outside the culture. I would expect that the real issues here is about members of the Dog clan and Cat clan want to marry, but it is the Horse clan that is most vigorous in supporting the ban. Is our different perspective on the tribe key to the point you want to make?
(b.t.w. I also thing that the gunboats are entirely appropriate as an analogy, except they aren’t your guns — they are the guns of the Cat and Dog clans uniting against the Horse clans, who really don’t have any stake in Cat/Dog relations.)
I also wonder how the rights of the culture as a whole balance against the rights of the people living there.
jb – it appears to me that your objection to gay marriage can be summarized as
1 – there is something biologically wrong about homosexuality
2 – you conjecture various forms of harm from gay marriage; it is also your claim that those harms would be avoided if the marriage were forbidden?
3 – you don’t want to be forced to celebrate their condition
Of course , 1 is the key point of contention. If we agreed on that, it would be a very different discussion. But suppose you are right? Are we to condemn them to second class citizenship for it? Or do we make accommodations?
It is unclear to me how the types of harm listed in 2 would be avoided by prohibiting gay marriage. They would not be married, but the conditions you describe will still exist.
For 3, nobody is asking you to celebrate. This is primarily about things that you are not involved with.
One of the plaintiffs over DOMA was legally married to another woman in one of the New England states. When her spouse died, the IRS demanded $300 000 in inheritance tax. She was not eligible for the spousal exemption because of DOMA. Do you consider that sufficient harm? Certainly more than symbolic, right?
“I find it a bit ironic that in his most recent comment Mark S tells me that yes, I do get a vote — and then in the very next paragraph cheers a court decision denied millions of Americans any say in the matter. To me this looks like doubletalk.”
Are you referring to this?
“I think the reason for how you vote IS significant. If you vote for a jim crow law because you think Africans are not human, then I cheer when your irrational vote is overturned by constitutional rights.”
If you don’t also cheer the repeal of Jim Crow then we really don’t have anything to talk about. It’s not doubletalk to say that the country should be held to a stricter standard of fair treatment than you would get from a simple majority vote.
Constitutional protections are intended precisely to guard us from the tyranny of the majority. If the bill of rights is to mean anything, it necessarily requires the overturning of the popular vote in some cases.
jb – thanks for the answers. Here are observations on the answers.
1) My confusion about libertarian vs conservative. A lot of the people running around claiming to be conservatives are kind of half-libertarian. When they want to repeal the Affordable Care Act, it’s all freedom, freedom, freedom. When they get to social issues, there is a lot more control, control, control. I’m not accusing you specifically, but observing various prominent conservatives/Republicans/whatever.
I think I gather from context that the freedom of gay marriage is worth limiting for the reasons you gave. That is, without government regulation, there would be no issue, but that the government should regulate in this case.
2) civil unions do not provide the same rights as marriage. They try, but to really make it work, you have to legally define that “civil union” is exactly the same as “marriage” for legal purposes. Otherwise, you keep playing catch-up with all the places where you have to change “marriage” to “marriage or civil union”.
I don’t deny that the symbolism is important. It is obviously very important to you, so why not them?
b.t.w. The willingness to give up the benefits themselves if they will also be denied to you is a talking point. If you don’t think these benefits are important, you should be just as willing to live without them as you would ask others to be. It is not a serious proposal that married couples not be permitted to visit each other in the hospital.
3). Not so much. An eternal now with no cognizance of the past it useless. We are willing to make changes for the better, given compelling reasons. In my life, the culture of the US changed dramatically. We had the civil rights movement, feminism, skepticism of a government that really was lying to us, the less rigid (and unhappiness producing) sexual morals brought to us by the counter-culture of the 60’s and 70’s — all good things brought to us by liberals.
It just happens that liberals are often promoting change and conservatives are resisting it. Or the conservatives want to change back to what something used to be. We don’t seek ignorance of the past. We seek something better.
4) The question became moot in 1961, with Torcaso v Watkins.
In this case, the court did exactly what you are complaining about. It overturned the democratic will of the people is favor of protecting individual rights. That provision of the Maryland constitution that prohibits non-Christians from holding any state office is no longer enforced, but it is still in the text of the constitution. We probably could not get it repealed because it would have to go to a popular vote of the citizens of Maryland.
I claim that you are in a similar situation. You have your vote, but you voted to limit the rights of a minority. You have your reasons, but the arguments were not persuasive to the court. They decided. Should it work some other way?
Darwin Harmless —
You say: Marriage is an existing right. It’s not a new right we pulled out of our ass.
This is frustrating, because you just seem to be missing my point! You talk about “marriage” as though you were talking about a single thing, when in fact there are two distinct definitions in play. There is the traditional definition, involving a union between a man and a woman. I’ll call this UnionManWoman. Then there is the definition you favor, which is a union between two people of arbitrary sex, which I’ll call UnionTwoPeople. They are not the same thing! The institution of UnionManWoman actually existed, was universally recognized in the Western world, and was never denied to gays. OTOH, the institution of UnionTwoPeople never existed, not in the Western world, or, for all practical purposes, anywhere else. It is an absolute, unprecedented novelty. If there is going to be a right to the institution of UnionTwoPeople, it can’t be anything other than a new right, because the institution itself didn’t exist previously. (Can we at least agree that nobody can have a right — or be denied a right — to something that doesn’t exist?)
So my challenge to you is this: see if you can make a rights based argument for gay marriage using my terms — “UnionManWoman” and “UnionTwoPeople” — rather than “marriage”. I believe you can’t, because I believe the rights argument is based entirely on conflating those distinct definitions, and strategically flipping back and forth between them, using the single term “marriage” for both. Seriously, I’m challenging you (or anybody) to take a shot at this! I’ll be surprised if you are able to do it even to your own satisfaction, let alone mine.
You can however make an intellectually honest argument for gay marriage based on fairness, rather than rights. In fact, I believe the reason liberals find the rights argument so compelling is that while conservatives tend to see unfairness as a problem that (maybe) can be fixed, liberals tend to see unfairness as an intolerable violation of rights that must be fixed. Liberals are always inventing new rights: the right to a job, the right to decent housing, the right to medical care, the right not to be triggered, and so on. Conservatives see (some of) these as worthwhile goals, but not as rights. One approach isn’t necessarily better than the other — conservatives can certainly be complacent and let injustice slide — but they are different, and I think that explains something.
Mark S —
You know, I may not be such a unicorn as you think. I personally know someone else (a relative) who thinks very much the way I do. Heather Mac Donald, a well know conservative atheist, has written skeptically on gay marriage (although she does not seem to feel as strongly about it as I do). And a little bit of Googling turns up Seculars Against Same Sex “Marriage”. How many conservative atheists do you know anyway? I mean, who would be comfortable talking to you about this?
For that matter, if I somehow did change your mind, how comfortable would you be about talking about it with your own friends or coworkers? It’s risky! You could lose friends, or even your job. If you were a public figure, you would face ferocious reprisals from the liberal thought police, as illustrated by the auto-da-fé of Brendan Eich. True, his defenestration was deplored by some SSM advocates. But many more cheered, and in the end the witch-hunters — who firmly hold the whip hand on the progressive left — convincingly won. They didn’t just get Eich booted from his job; more important, they made an example of him, for the encouragement of others. So it’s entirely possible that you may even know liberals who have reservations about gay marriage, but simply don’t dare say anything.
(Other comments were worth responding to as well, but unfortunately I have to go to work tomorrow. In my next life I want to be a professional pundit, so I can get paid for spewing my opinions all over the place!)
jb, You are quite correct that I define marriage as a committed union of two people, regardless of their gender or genitalia. So if you insist that it has always been a union of a man and a woman, though I don’t believe this has always been true in all cultures, then I am indeed proposing the creation of a new right, or at least a new definition of the term.
I guess all I can do is reject your definition of marriage in favour of mine.
Nobody’s marriage is diminished by this expanded definition. It takes nothing away from those who are married under your definition, and it adds considerably to those who are married under mine.
You stand against commitment, stability, and love for reasons I simply do not comprehend. You obviously hold values I don’t hold, and don’t like. But of course that’s your right and your choice. You seem happy enough being the person you are. Now that I understand your position, it seems we have little more to talk about.
I’ll let Roy Zimmerman have what I hope is the last word in this discussion.
Darwin Harmless —
You say: I guess all I can do is reject your definition of marriage in favour of mine.
Wow, we may have actually reached agreement here! I have no problem with you believing that your definition of marriage is better than mine, and advocating for it on that basis. We might disagree — but disagreement about the best way to structure society is the essence of politics, and if I find myself on the losing end of a political dispute, well, it sucks to be me. I just wish this hadn’t happened through the courts, that’s all.
jb, you might be happy to know that for a lot of us Europeans, the US still looks weirdly conservative in a lot of ways :-). Even the right-wing nationalist party here motivates its resistance to immigration with the risk of getting less money left for public health care.
It seems basing families on a single couple is an invention that came with becoming farmers, and our genetic predispositions largely developed before that, mostly before any of us left Africa. We are flock animals, so you might in fact argue that raising children with only two responsible adults (regardless of gender) is not natural.
As for dysfunctions – what is actually an advantage or disadvantage? Sickle cell anemia e.g. confers protection against malaria – so is that an illness or not when living in an area with a lot of malaria? Is a certain percentage of homosexuality in the population good or bad in an over-populated world causing climate change and extinction of an increasing number of species, possibly eventually also our own? Might fewer people competing for the alpha male position contribute to more cooperation and less fighting, which could benefit the flock/species as a whole? Altruism is also somewhat counterintuitive from a darwinist perspective, but remains one of humanity’s most redeeming qualities. Our species has become successful because of our ability to work together beyond immediate family.
Regarding courts deciding – they are just doing their job according to the principle of division of power, where the people (or elected representatives) gets to do legislation, but the executive power and interpretation of the law are performed by (supposedly, at least) experts in the respective areas.
You know, the comment on the decision in one of the major newspapers here was that while conservatives protest, the decision in fact further establishes marriage as the norm, making single people even more abnormal. “Perhaps it will take another 50 years to change that”. And speaking of voting – if the US is the leader of the free world – how come we don’t get to vote in your presidential elections? 🙂 You want to have a say in what society looks like. Shouldn’t we get a say in what kind of free world we are being led into then? And no, I am not holding my breath :-), but if you ask what you collectively refer to as liberals (pretty much the whole political scale here, I imagine, although you will find they still disagree on a lot of things) to consider history and not be too hasty to change things, then I would ask you in turn to try to keep an open mind and see things from different perspectives, even when they seem foreign to you.
jb – I am not aware of knowing any conservative atheists, except you. All the atheists I know speak as if they are liberal and in favor of gay rights, ssm, etc. That is why I so wanted to know about your position.
If you could convince me you were right, I expect I would be able to convince others with the same argument. I would not fear reprisals from friends, though I would expect to have to climb a mountain of WTF!?!?! After all, I don’t just have to support your argument, but also refute my own strong arguments that date back to the 1970s.
I agree that getting paid for this would be great. There could be so much more time for research and thoughtful writing.