Voting dogs

by Chris Bertram on November 25, 2004

Via Butterflies & Wheels I came across the following ludicrous and offensive argument against gay marriage from Keith Burgess-Jackson, the self-styled AnalPhilosopher :

I have said in this blog many times that the very idea of homosexual marriage is incoherent, which is why I put the word “marriage” in quotation marks. I do the same for dog “voting.” If we took our dogs to the polls and got them to push levers with their paws, they would not be voting. They would be going through the motions of voting. It would be a charade. Voting is not made for dogs. They lack the capacity to participate in the institution. The same is true of homosexuals and marriage.

Richard Chappell at Philosophy etc says nearly all that needs to be said about Burgess-Jackson’s “argument”, so I wouldn’t even have bothered mentioning it if I hadn’t been in conversation on Tuesday with the LSE’s Christian List whose article “Democracy in Animal Groups: A Political Science Perspective” is forthcoming in Trends in Ecology and Evolution . List draws on Condorcet’s jury theorem (previously discussed on CT here ) to shed more light on research by Conradt and Roper in their paper Group decision-making in animals , from Nature 421 (155—8) in 2003. Conradt and Roper have this to say about animal voting:

Many authors have assumed despotism without testing, because the feasibility of democracy, which requires the ability to vote and to count votes, is not immediately obvious in non-humans. However, empirical examples of ‘voting’ behaviours include the use of specific body postures, ritualized movements, and specific vocalizations, whereas ‘counting of votes’ includes adding-up to a majority of cast votes, integration of voting signals until an intensity threshold is reached, and averaging over all votes. Thus, democracy may exist in a range of taxa and does not require advanced cognitive capacity.

[Tiresome, humourless and literal-minded quasi-Wittgensteinian comments, putting inverted commas around “voting” etc. are hereby pre-emptively banned from the comments thread.]

{ 42 comments }

1

Bruce Baugh 11.25.04 at 4:39 pm

Now that’s really cool. I am surprised and delighted. Thanks!

2

abb1 11.25.04 at 5:13 pm

Democracy breeds tolerance — just as repression breeds extremism:

Puppy shoots Florida man, deputies say

Dog put paw on gun’s trigger as owner tried to kill him

PENSACOLA, Fla. – A man who tried to shoot seven puppies was shot himself when one of the dogs put its paw on the revolver’s trigger.

Jerry Allen Bradford, 37, was being treated at a hospital for a gunshot wound to his wrist.

3

Barry Freed 11.25.04 at 5:18 pm

Wait as minute here. You said he calls himself the AnalPhilosopher?

Oh, and this cite here:

Thus, democracy may exist in a range of taxa and does not require advanced cognitive capacity.

Is all the commentary required to understand the results of our recent election.

4

harry 11.25.04 at 5:26 pm

If you read to the end of Burgess-Jackson’s post it gets quite odd. He ends up saying that he would have no objection to gay ‘marriage’ if it were voted for by a democratic majority. What he objects to is courts themselves deciding independently, because that forces him to accept it. As if a democratic majority wouldn’t, also, be forcing him.

I think his argument, by the way, is missing some steps that I would want to see before deeming it an argument. EG, if a freshman came up with that I would say they didn’t know what constituted an argument, rather than that their argument was bad. But ‘argument’, I realise, is a term of art.

5

dsquared 11.25.04 at 5:30 pm

Tiresome, humourless and literal-minded quasi-Wittgensteinian comments, putting inverted commas around “voting” etc. are hereby pre-emptively banned

If a lion said he was voting for Bush, would we understand him?

I’ll get my coat.

6

Kieran Healy 11.25.04 at 5:58 pm

I know Christian from the ANU — we overlapped on the faculty there. He’s very decent, very smart and horrendously productive. I thought you were only allowed choose any two of those characteristics for yourself, but somehow he managed to snag all of them.

7

roger 11.25.04 at 6:11 pm

I thought it was called quorum sensing, not voting.
Voting seems… a little silly.

8

Nasi Lemak 11.25.04 at 8:54 pm

He also has the fourth key academic skill of accordion-playing.

9

Jason Soon 11.25.04 at 10:47 pm

this Burgess-Jackson fellow recommends Michelle Malkin somewhere on his site. Isn’t that enough reason not to read him?

10

rob 11.25.04 at 11:50 pm

In fact, he links approvingly to the map of counties by vote which makes it look like the vast majority of Americans voted for Bush. Oh, and he claims that Islamic terrorism is the most serious threat facing the world today (followed by people eating meat). To laugh is to give far too much credibility.

11

poker dog 11.26.04 at 1:20 am

Voting dogs? How do we explain the entire genre of Dogs playing snooker or Dogs playing poker? See here.

12

Ophelia Benson 11.26.04 at 2:08 am

Yeah! Not to mention all those politically aware possums and alligators and skunks and whatnot. We have met the nonhuman voter and she is us.

13

mike harper 11.26.04 at 6:15 am

Mr. Burgess-Jackson has made the point that no one posting here has attempted to engage his arguments. Could it be, perhaps, because he hasn’t given a single one?

The crux of the debate is the definition of “marriage” (which he conveniently puts in quotes, so I don’t have to). I’ve only heard three arguments as to why homosexual marriage isn’t marriage:
1. Marriage is an institution for child-rearing, which homosexuals are incapable of.
2. Marriage is religiously defined, and no religion believes in homosexual marriage.
3. Marriage is a long-standing institution that encourages healthy social growth of a population. It is a good by virtue of past success and tradition.

Is there another argument out there? The first is defeated by any couple that has no intention of having children, the second by pointing out that there are plenty of atheist couples who are legally married, and the third is tenuous at best. It’s also been argued that banning interracial marriage supports “healthy” social growth. Let the statistics speak for themselves.

As far as the state is concerned, marriage is a legal institution that affects property rights and taxation. That’s it. It’s amusing that he mentions his own affiliation (non-affiliation?) as an atheist. I’ve met way too many of what I call “Christian atheists” who define their morality as parallel or in direct opposition to what are viewed as Christian norms.

14

cleek 11.26.04 at 6:48 am

Is there another argument out there?

4. Homosexuality is ickky. Anything that lends credibility to it or legitimizes it, such as allowing the government to recognize it on an equal legal footing as traditional marriage, might just encourage our innocent but curious children to start down that dark path of sodomy.

That’s the opponents’ real issue here; all this other stuff is window dressing. They simply don’t want to legitimize homosexuality in any way, lest they or their children be led astray by the temptations of a permissive decadent liberal society.

15

John 11.26.04 at 9:03 am

When you strip down their facade of flimsy justifications and pretty-sounding words to try and make them seem not entirely like the bigoted fascists they are, that is indeed the core issue behind the “OH NOE TEH GAYZ R MARRYIN!!!111” movement.

16

nic 11.26.04 at 9:59 am

Marriage is an institution for child-rearing, which homosexuals are incapable of… Marriage is religiously defined.

Bzzt, wrong. Unless you’re living in a theocracy, that is. In no liberal democracy is marriage legislation established on religious principles, or with the defining goal and requirement of child-rearing.

Try again.

17

nic 11.26.04 at 10:05 am

Not to mention gays are perfectly capable of child-rearing anyway. Of course whether any individual is capable of rearing children responsibly from the emotional, psychological, social, cultural, financial point of view varies from person to person. You’ll find plenty of instances of incapability among heterosexual people. Why not ban marriage and child-rearing for everybody?

18

abb1 11.26.04 at 11:32 am

In no liberal democracy is marriage legislation established on religious principles.

Are you sure? An Italian friend of mine got married recently and I got an impression that the priest who married them gave them some kind of certificate that he later had to send to his townhall in order to get his marriage license.

I think the quasi-religious nature of marriage is exactly the problem; far fewer people object to civil unions. Every secular marriage – gay or straight or whatever should be called ‘civil union’. In addition, religious folks should be able to get married in their church, and their church can define ‘marriage’ in any way they prefer.

19

rob 11.26.04 at 12:07 pm

Abb1,

so far as I can tell, this confusion is what prevented the gay ‘marriage’ ammendments getting passed: the right was able to portray them as marriages in a religious sense rather than in a civil sense. In so far as the right believes in the strict separation of church and state, this is not only disingenuous, but a betrayal of their own principles. FYI, I had been under the impression that the Italian state did not recognize religious marriages, and you had to go and get married again in front of some state official.

20

nic 11.26.04 at 1:47 pm

Abb1, I agree with you there that the problem is the religious view of marriage. I was just pointing out that legally speaking marriage has nothing to do with religion.

Rob is right, you got the wrong impression about marriages in Italy, no religious marriage is recognised by the state if the couple hasn’t also already signed the papers in the townhall, with the mayor. People get that done rather quickly before going to church, if they have a religious marriage. If they don’t have a religious marriage, then the main ceremony is the one in the townhall.

So basically it’s priests who require the burocratic procedures from the townhall to be completed before marrying people.

(In theory, you could indeed get married only in church, and of course it’d be only valid for the church, not the state, but nobody does it).

21

Steve 11.26.04 at 2:09 pm

I certainly agree that Burgess-Jackson is a bigot who puts his views forward for bad reasons. However, I’m not so certain that his argument is flawed philosophically. After all, I’ve seen many articles where it is argued, for example, that people can’t be acting rationally in some situation simply because that’s not what “rational” means. There are two real questions here: first, is he right on the definition of marriage, as we use the term now, and, second, if he is, should we review our standard definition in light of the fact that certain of the values which we think are important in marriage, such as a loving commitment to another, can also be realised in relationships which currently don’t count as marriages? The real issue may not be whether a technically correct definition of marriage covers homosexuality, but whether we think that we ought to (re)define marriage such that those relationships can count as marriages. I believe we can and should do so, but my thoughts about what we ought to do surely have no bearing on the technical (and slightly boring) question of the current technical meaning of the term. Or am I missing something?

22

enthymeme 11.26.04 at 3:45 pm

And you wonder why certain sanctimonious portions of the Left are being taken less and less seriously. One would think that the principle of charity applies if one is serious about engaging the opposite argument, no? It’d certainly help if liberals stop assuming that the people they’re arguing with are idiots, for a start.

Burgess-Jackson has written on gay marriage at length and on numerous occasions. Try here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here. (There are probably more instances, but I haven’t looked.)

It is plausible that there are genuine public policy reasons for not allowing gay marriages. If we agree that the institution serves particular and important social functions – namely, that of raising children – then it behooves us to look at the arguments con instead of assuming that one position is ‘clearly’ or de facto correct.

One of the consequences of allowing gay marriage is that you’re according to an indeterminate class of people a whole host of pecuniary and legal rights. If you agree that parties to marriage are accorded these rights and benefits for important public policy reasons (i.e., to encourage child rearing), it follows that extending these benefits to a class of people who do not usually have children defeats the public policy purpose of the institution. (Burgess-Jackson addresses this argument and the ‘childless couple objection’ – so read it before you jump the gun). Of course, gay couples may adopt; but one may have reservations because we’re unsure as to the desirability of such deviant family units for children. Are same sex parents optimum for child rearing? Single parent families aren’t, so perhaps it is only prudent to ask questions of deviant family units. This is salient to the aforementioned policy reasons. In the absence of research into such concerns, should we really be rushing pell-mell into legalizing gay marriage? Moreover, would it be fair to the child? If society is not ready, and if stigma still attaches to same sex parenthood; should the state compel a minor into such an arrangement (considering that right of adoption is one such benefit that accrues to marriage)?

Furthermore, if gay marriage, why not polygamous marriage? Why not polysexual polygamous marriage? Or any of the permutations thereof? (Not as if this is entirely far-fetched: see Mormons) And would not the public policy arguments apply with even greater force against such deviant family units? Would not the list of Federal benefits accrue to these as well? What is to stop anyone engaged in a criminal conspiracy from getting married, and thus be protected by the right of spousal evidentiary immunity? What is to stop the Mafia from claiming evidentiary immunity under the auspices of a polygamous marriage? What is to stop any Tom, Dick or Harry exploiting the same right accorded to homosexual marriages? What about the economics of gay marriage? Do the costs exceed the benefits? (Posner on gay marriage I haven’t read but he probably has something interesting to say about this.) As to the pecuniary benefits, should not taxpayers, who fund these benefits – by proxy the electorate – be the ones who decide whether or not we should allow these benefits to accrue to an indeterminate (indeterminate because anyone can claim to be gay, or polygamous) class of people? This accords with Burgess-Jackson’s position – a corollary of the Federalist position on the issue.

I don’t think there are easy answers. Obviously, one may not agree with the aforementioned concerns, but at the least, one should acknowledge that the situation is a lot more complex than it first appears. Dismissing these considerations out of hand – something that the Left seems remarkably adept at nowadays (just note post-election inquests which point to a disconnect with ‘Heartland America’, conservatives, and the Right, and also to the need to re-engage) – just means they go unanswered.

You might even persuade yourself that not everyone who disagrees with you is an idiot!

Burgess-Jackson’s prediction of an electoral backlash has some to pass. Push for too much too soon and it might just rebound at you. Might the depressing accuracy of his prognosis indicate that perhaps, he’s not – wait for this – an idiot?

Maybe – just maybe – one of the reasons why the Left is regarded as out of touch with heartland America is because the self-styled liberal ‘intelligentsia’ prefers to denigrate rather than engage. And maybe, just maybe, Burgess-Jackson is right in his prognostication of this tendency of the Left to mock rather than engage. After all, if you think everyone else is an idiot, why bother? You’re just preaching to the choir. As in the instant case when you assume that anyone who disagrees is a bigoted troglodyte. Sure, some bigots oppose gay marriage; just as some racists oppose the war on Iraq. So what? The merits of either position do not hinge on whoever articulates it. To suppose so from the outset is just ad hominem – cheap, expendable invective; easier than going to the substantive core of any position: just take the weakest statement of an opponent’s position, then proceed to caricature and ridicule. Intellectually infirm stuff.

23

Ophelia Benson 11.26.04 at 4:00 pm

“The folks at Crooked Timber are having fun at my expense. See here. What’s interesting (and ironic) is that nobody at the site engaged my argument. In the insular world of liberalism, argumentation is unnecessary. One mocks conservatives; one doesn’t engage their arguments. Perhaps this explains liberalism’s failure in the public arena.”

Now that is truly bizarre. 1) Does he seriously consider the dog analogy an argument? 2) Chris explicitly said he wasn’t addressing B-J’s ‘argument’ because Richard Chappell had already said nearly everything that needed to be said; he was making a comment on the dog analogy, not the post as a whole. 3) The argument (if there is one) may or may not be brilliant, but we can still point out some, er, issues with the analogy. In short, the argument isn’t the subject of this particular discussion; the analogy is; so that’s what’s being discussed.

“One mocks conservatives; one doesn’t engage their arguments.”

And that from the guy who compared gay marriage to voting dogs! Dang. That takes some gall.

24

Ophelia Benson 11.26.04 at 4:18 pm

“To suppose so from the outset is just ad hominem – cheap, expendable invective”

As is the dog analogy. That’s kind of the point.

“Maybe – just maybe – one of the reasons why the Left is regarded as out of touch with heartland America”

Gee, do even UK leftists have to be in touch with heartland America? Are US rightists in touch with heartland Britain? Or France?

And more seriously: have you read any Tocqueville or Mill, I wonder? They worried a good deal about precisely this coercive ‘how dare you be out of step with majority opinion’ move. Opinion can be majority opinion and still be wrong.

25

roger 11.26.04 at 4:47 pm

I’ve been a witness to a lesbian marriage. The analogy to dogs voting for Bush didn’t occur to me.

There are many arguments against gays marrying. And there are many arguments against marrying, period. These latter arguments are successful enough that in some places, like Sweden, marriage is becoming a minority arrangement. Think of it: two people of undetermined rationality whose only qualification for childrearing is that they bear the right genitalia can simply get married and have children without passing anything more than a blood test. We test plumbers and hair dressers with more stringency. We’ve already seen the results of unrestricted heterosexual marriage — 1 to 2 million people in jail in this country alone, not to speak of the countless numbers who have been processed through the jails; since 1939, maybe ten thousand wars, involving the deaths of, easily, 100 million people; and the income tax, don’t forget, which Grover Norquist has compared to the holocaust. All of these are actions done by people; all people were once infants; many of those infants came from heterosexual couples, and the vast majority came from heterosexual coupling.

The question before homosexual taxpayers is pretty simple: shouldn’t they, who fund this heedless class of literal miscreants, be the ones who decide whether or not we should allow them to continue to benefit from the tax breaks and legitimacy conferred by state sanction? I haven’t read Richard Posner on this subject, but surely someone of his ilk could affix some cost to heterosexual activity which would allow us to measure the damage it causes.

26

enthymeme 11.26.04 at 4:57 pm

Ms Benson,

I agree that the analogy is unfortunate; but it’s not unreasonable if read in context: that is, same sex couples do not have the capacity of participating in an institution the purpose of which is to raise children. That is not ad hominem: it goes right to the heart of policy arguments against gay marriage. The jury, I think, is out on this – as I mentioned before; but I don’t think one can dismiss it out of hand.

Gee, do even UK leftists have to be in touch with heartland America? Are US rightists in touch with heartland Britain? Or France?

Sure, if they purport to speak about social phenomena in the US. But that wasn’t my point. My point rather, was that this tendency to dismiss arguments out of hand (not confined to the US Left) may be one reason for the Left’s spectacular failure in trying to unseat the incumbent in the recent elections.

And more seriously: have you read any Tocqueville or Mill, I wonder? They worried a good deal about precisely this coercive ‘how dare you be out of step with majority opinion’ move. Opinion can be majority opinion and still be wrong.

And that is precisely the point. You beg the question when you assume from the outset that so-and-so must be a bigot or a fool if he disagrees with you, thereby necessitating instant dismissal.

Note that I did not say that the majority must be right. I said that it is not wrong for the majority to decide where their money goes, when there may be very good policy reasons for leaving the decision to them. In other words, if there are good policy reasons against allowing gay marriage, _then_ it would be up to the electorate to disregard these policy reasons.

And yes, I’m the idiot now, ignorant about Tocqueville and Mill.

Chappell says: ‘This is the closest I’ve ever seen him get to providing an actual argument to supplement his anti-gay marriage rhetoric.’

Which is unfair, if you’ve been keeping tabs on his ‘anti-gay marriage rhetoric’ and know him to have advanced arguments other than this analogy.

Everyone seems to have too little time for soi-disant philosophers. This fratricidal contempt is probably mutual.

27

Ophelia Benson 11.26.04 at 5:12 pm

Enthymeme,

“Note that I did not say that the majority must be right. I said that it is not wrong for the majority to decide where their money goes, when there may be very good policy reasons for leaving the decision to them.”

No you didn’t. You said what I quoted you as saying.

“Maybe – just maybe – one of the reasons why the Left is regarded as out of touch with heartland America is because the self-styled liberal ‘intelligentsia’ prefers to denigrate rather than engage. And maybe, just maybe, Burgess-Jackson is right in his prognostication of this tendency of the Left to mock rather than engage.”

I didn’t bother trying to intuit your point or your wider meaning, I just addressed the words you actually typed.

28

John 11.26.04 at 5:20 pm

[i]Sure, if they purport to speak about social phenomena in the US. But that wasn’t my point. My point rather, was that this tendency to dismiss arguments out of hand (not confined to the US Left) may be one reason for the Left’s spectacular failure in trying to unseat the incumbent in the recent elections.[/i]

I continue to be amazed that a 3% margin is considered a spectacular failure. I am also stunned at the hypocrisy of expecting the so-called Left to be understanding and, what’s the word, concilatory towards the Right’s point of view, to stop deingrating and mocking it, when the Right seems to be quite willing to deingrate the left as over-intellectual hippies who smoke pot all the time, are obviously immoral, and are probably members of some feminist fascist conspiracy. I hear and have to take enough crap from the Right that I’m not going to suddenly back down from a viewpoint that I think is the correct and moral one; namely that all people are equal regardless of gender, race, religion, or sexual orientation, that religion should not and was never intended to have a steering hand in our U.S. government, and that morality doesn’t mean beating up somebody else because he or she is different. If that steps on the toes of any number of bigots, even if it’s a majority of bigots, f*ck em, I’m not going to change my mind to something objectionable to me because otherwise I might offend someone, if I did that I’d be a flip-flopper.

So press on with the civil unions, press on with reproductive rights, continue to fight for separation of church and state, and don’t listen when they try to tell you that 51/48 is some vast sweeping overwhelming victory. And happy frigging Thanksgiving.

29

abb1 11.26.04 at 5:50 pm

So basically it’s priests who require the burocratic procedures from the townhall to be completed before marrying people.

Maybe that was it. I remember being surprised by the necessity of some paperwork between the church (sorry, the Church) and the state as he was describing the procedure.

30

harry 11.26.04 at 6:10 pm

I think enthymeme is right that there are serious public policy issues at stake concerning gay marriage. The case does need to be argued, and not presumed, and that is one reason to be uneasy about judicial activism on this issue, because it does preempt the kind of serious political debate and winning of hearts and minds that is needed in order for gay marriage — and, more generally, public acceptance of homosexuality as morally on a par with heterosexuality — to become a stable part of the social environment. For this reason I (personally) look very carefully at arguments against gay marriage.

But 2 points. 1) despite looking carefully I am stunned by how poor the arguments tend to be. 2) I struggle to find instances of people who oppose gay marriage taking seriously the best arguments in its favour. If someone can point me to exceptions to either point I’d be grateful. There are lots of bad arguments for gay marriage in the public arena, but lots of them are made up by opponents as far as I can see.

Sorry if this is off-topic.

31

Richard Zach 11.26.04 at 6:37 pm

Is the argument is supposed to be that “gay marriage” is a conceptual impossibility (because “marriage” supposedly means “union between two humans of opposite sex” or something like that)? I thought that Adele Mercier had conclusively shown that that’s not right, and why, in her affidavit for Halpern v Canada (one of the cases that led to the legalization of gay marriage in Canada).

32

bellatrys 11.26.04 at 6:55 pm

No, the real *reason* is not that homosexuality is icky and our kids might be tempted. That is a decoy, and while it may be the conscious reason for many it is not the reason for the architects of conservativism, the plutocratic Hegemony which has been running what we see today most efficiently since Bill Buckley got togehter with the Booth Luces and Paul Weyrich and put together a disinformation project, which is currently to be seen in Town Hall, Moral Majority, Independent Women’s Forum, Institute For Justice, and any number of supposed independent, grass roots, nonpartisan think tanks.

The *real* reason is that we are being outbred by them. From the point of view of those for whom “us” = “WASPS” or “assimilated” “ethnic Catholics” to use Huntingdon and Buchanan’s terminology, and “them” = brown people here or in other parts of the world.

This has been explicitly argued in conservative publications for as long as I have been alive – back in the mid-70s when in addition to the Walker Percy-like fear of a Race War, (why is Zulu one of the NRO’s favorite films?) the “declining birthrate of Europe” was always raised in conjunction with the spectre of Islam immigrants, and the godless homosexuals and selfish feminists who contributed to that declining birthrate.

(Overpopulation? No such thing, dear chap, no such thing…)

And homosexuals who adopt children are *not* contributing more warm bodies for the Volk or for assembly-line/cannon fodder (which is why they don’t really want to stop the growth of Third-World nations either: we need millhands in Bangdalesh and enemies to keep the country in a Forever War.)

33

Anticorium 11.26.04 at 6:56 pm

infertile couples do not have the capacity of participating in an institution the purpose of which is to raise children

Absolutely so, enthymeme. Absolutely so. One might even extend the same argument to same-sex marriage, eventually.

34

enthymeme 11.26.04 at 7:25 pm

anticorium,

Absolutely so, enthymeme. Absolutely so. One might even extend the same argument to same-sex marriage, eventually.

Yes, very glib. One wonders why I bothered to write:

“Burgess-Jackson addresses this argument and the ‘childless couple objection’ – so read it before you jump the gun.”

Perhaps anticipating precisely this kind of response. Who knows. Quite the idiot, this enthymeme.

35

nic 11.26.04 at 7:38 pm

Let’s follow this theocratic argument against gay marriage to its logical conclusions. Why not start demanding that only virgins are allowed to marry?

Then, let’s add a requirement to make adultery illegal.

And while we’re at it, let’s require contraception to be banned for married couples and children to be conceived, born and bred within five years of marrying, otherwise the marriage will be declared null (exceptions allowed only when infertility is medically ascertained and certified). Proof of paternity would also be required, if the husband and father don’t match, another motive for annulment. Plus, a $10,000 fine for wasting government resources on fake claims.

How many people would still get married? it’d effectively kill marriage as we know it. Anyone who cares about marriage should be thankful gays are trying to revive the institution.

36

John 11.26.04 at 9:07 pm

If all these people worried about the sanctity of marriage put half the effort into preserving the marriages between heterosexual couples, they’d do a lot more to protect the institution of marriage then prohibiting people in love from being a part of it would accomplish. Seriously, to say gay marriage isn’t valid in a country where the divorce rates are showing *straight* marriage to be pretty invalid is really just funny.

37

enthymeme 11.26.04 at 9:48 pm

nic,

Let’s follow this theocratic argument against gay marriage to its logical conclusions. Why not start demanding that only virgins are allowed to marry?

I don’t see how this follows. And of course, casting secular policy considerations as ‘theocratic’ is probably another manifestation of the pathological need to ascribe bigotry to opponents of same sex marriage.

Then, let’s add a requirement to make adultery illegal.

Well, adultery is grounds for divorce. But let’s say you criminalize adultery – what would the sanctions be, and how would it be enforced? Even assuming we have the resources to do so, would the costs of surveilling instances of adultery exceed the costs of pecuniary benefits accorded to marriage? If so, then what is the point of criminalizing adultery in the first place? The resources could be better spent achieving the policy end via some other policy instrument.

Further, would it discourage reconciliation, which may be better for the child? And if it does, would not such an outlet be better provided for by the civil law, where the parties may choose whether or not to pursue sanctions (in the form of suing for alimony, or getting custody of the child), or to pursue reconciliation? Criminalizing adultery precludes or creates disincentives for the latter, is difficult to enforce, and is likely to be inefficient as a result.

So it’s not just about “carrying policy arguments to their logical conclusion” (what you say doesn’t follow anyway) – rather, it’s about whether the law encourages certain policy ends for which the institution is meant.

And while we’re at it, let’s require contraception to be banned for married couples . . .

And you’d enforce this how? Apart from practicability of enforcement, you forget that the policy end of child rearing may be enhanced by the couple having only the number of children they can afford. It’s not about quantity. How would banning contraception encourage this end?

. . . children to be conceived, born and bred within five years of marrying, otherwise the marriage will be declared null . . .

And what if the child is better served if the parents decide to put off conception till they are able to afford it? This severely limits the autonomy of couples who do serve that policy end, and creates disincentives to get married, thereby defeating the policy reasons for the institution to begin with. If the requirements are so draconian, why would people want to get married in the first place?

How many people would still get married? it’d effectively kill marriage as we know it.

Exactly – how do your suggestions achieve that policy end? They don’t, by your own admission. Here the old saw that legislation does not need to be carried to its logical conclusion is pertinent. By contrast, legal precedent set by judicial fiat has to be carried to its logical conclusions, or be thus compelled.

In short, none of your suggestions follow from the premise of encouraging the policy aim of marriage – indeed, they create disincentives for that aim, limit the autonomy of those who pursue that aim, and are a waste of resources to boot.

38

Bruce Baugh 11.27.04 at 6:21 am

I recently read a bit of speculation that made sense to me. The theocratic approach to marriage is not a union of equals: there’s a superior partner and an inferior one. In the evangelical Protestant version of this, the one I’m most familiar with, the man’s authority over his wife is a symbolic expression of God’s authority over the Church. There is worth in being the subordinate part of such a pairing, but there’s no question of it being equal with the dominant one.

Now, there’s always been some conservative derision aimed at couples who specifically aimed for an equality of condition in practical terms. But gay marriage pushes it much father. If there are two men…which one is the wife and therefore subordinate? If there are two women…which one is the husband and therefore superior? It’s a challenge to the whole tangle of symbols, raising the ghastly possibility that perhaps if there is no image of Christ and Church in this marriage here, maybe there isn’t in any other.

That seems to me to fit the emotional intensity one sometimes sees applied to the issue, at least.

39

nic 11.27.04 at 12:47 pm

enthymeme, you bring the definition of “humourless” and “literal-minded” to new levels…

40

enthymeme 11.27.04 at 3:37 pm

omg lolz nic you were just kidding i thought you were seriously attempting a counter argument by showing a reductio.

guess not :(

41

bellatrys 11.27.04 at 5:12 pm

Bruce, that’s exactly what they’re arguing. And there are “colonized mind” women as well as fundie preachers of all denominations pushing this (I grew up among RC conservatives myself who taught that the Pill was an abortifacient and all contraception against nature, and the state had failed its duty when it legalized any of it.)

And some of these folks get money from oil barons and steel barons and are very close to the WH these days…

42

Progenital 11.28.04 at 9:07 pm

Methinks the anal philosopher really needs to get laid.

Comments on this entry are closed.