Really Really Bad Arguments

by John Holbo on April 9, 2009

You know me. I love ‘em. The worse, the better.

Take the anti-same-sex-marriage stuff, for example. NRO has two perfect examples up right now: “The Future of Marriage”, signed by ‘the editors’. And Maggie Gallagher’s latest effort, “Married To Liberty?”

From the NR editors piece:

Same-sex couples will also receive the symbolic affirmation of being treated by the state as equivalent to a traditional married couple — but this spurious equality is a cost of the new laws, not a benefit. One still sometimes hears people make the allegedly “conservative” case for same-sex marriage that it will reduce promiscuity and encourage commitment among homosexuals. This prospect seems improbable, and in any case these do not strike us as important governmental goals.

Andrew Sullivan, responding:

Ponder those sentences for a moment. The fact that gay Americans may feel equal because of inclusion within their own families and societies is now a cost to society, not a benefit. Encouraging commitment, fewer partners, and greater responsibility are important governmental goals with respect to heterosexuals but not with respect to homosexuals. As far as National Review is concerned, homosexuals can go to hell. Their interests and views cannot even be accorded respect. They are non-persons to National Review: means, not ends.

Flip this around and you see what the theocon right actually believes: that society has no interest in the welfare of its gay citizens, and an abiding interest in ensuring that they remain unequal, feel unequal and suffer the consequences of a culture where family and commitment and fidelity are non-existent.

I expect a splutter of indignation at the Corner, in response. Andrew Sullivan is demonizing opponents of same-sex marriage. How can he accuse us of this truly awful stuff?

The irony is that, in fact, the editors surely don’t personally think anything so awful, although Sullivan is perfectly right that their argument makes no sense whatsoever unless they do.

What do the editors, and Gallagher, really think? The ick argument, I’ll wager. They want to stop same-sex marriage as a way of sending a message of ‘ick’ to gays, and about gays. But they also don’t want to be labeled homophobes. That is, although saying ‘gay marriage shouldn’t be allowed because I believe gay sex is icky’ is actually a less terrible argument than anything they’ve got – hey, it’s not flagrantly internally incoherent, it’s basically honest (I’ll wager), and who doesn’t believe that on some level people steer, morally, by emotional attraction-repulsion drive? – it’s considered embarrassing. (Homophobia: the yuck that dare not speak its name.) And, even if it weren’t embarrassing, it’s obviously not strong enough in the current environment. So what do you do? You end up thoughtlessly backing into something that’s frankly orders of magnitude worse than just saying gay sex is icky. Namely, gays are un-persons, so far as the state is concerned.

What makes these arguments so weird is the mildness of the underlying opposition to homosexuals and homosexuality – the implicit inclination to be basically tolerant. ‘C’mon, gays, you know you’re ok, and we know you’re ok, and you even know that we know you’re ok, but we don’t like it, so can’t there be some way that we can insist on us being a little better than you? It can be a small thing. Symbolic, but slightly inconvenient for you, so people know it’s also serious?’

I also like the sweet innocence of the assertion that “marriage is by nature the union of a man and a woman.” My very own daughter is charming in just the same way. Just the other day she was asking which boy cats the various girl cats in the neighborhood are ‘married to’. There are kittens in our neighborhood, you see.

{ 249 comments }

1

Bill Hoffman 04.09.09 at 2:35 pm

“Homophobia: the yuck that dare not speak it’s name.”

An instant classic. I’m going to be repeating this for years to come…

2

anonymous 04.09.09 at 2:35 pm

I don’t actually think they’re treating homosexuals as non-persons. I think they really just don’t consider homosexual “love” to be equivalent, generally speaking, to heterosexual “love”. They’re wrong, but that seems to be what they genuinely believe.

3

politicalfootball 04.09.09 at 2:38 pm

I dunno. I don’t see that the NR and Sullivan are really in disagreement about what the NR thinks – NR may be a bit squeamish about describing it in detail, but it’s all there.

4

politicalfootball 04.09.09 at 2:54 pm

I found the NR essay interesting as the most direct effort I’ve seen to describe why the institution of marriage is threatened by gay rights.

In foisting same-sex marriage on Iowa, the state’s supreme court opined in a footnote that the idea that it is best for children to have mothers and fathers married to each other is merely based on “stereotype.”

If worse comes to worst, and the federal courts sweep aside the marriage laws that most Americans still want, then decades from now traditionalists should be ready to brandish that footnote and explain to generations yet unborn: That is why we resisted.

I guess the antecedent to “That” in the final sentence is the idea that there are other arrangements for children that are as good as the traditional family. You let the gays get married, and soon there will be all kinds of tolerance for divorce and single parenthood and whatnot.

5

JRQ 04.09.09 at 3:04 pm

I’ve posted this suggestion a few places, but here goes:

I wonder if this can be understood as gay-marriage opponents co-opting the imagery of baptism to frame marriage as something its not in order to oppose it. when gay marriage opponents talk about marriage, it is never described as a decision one person shares with another person; They never refer to “marriages” in the plural as decisions between couples that occur with a countable frequency…instead its always “marriage” singular, and it is a “thing” you share with all other people who are married.

What they are doing is essentializing marriage as a sort of common “pool of stuff” you have to share with all people who are married — not unlike a baptismal font. You get married, and you take a dip in the marriagestuff with all the other married people. From then on, you and all people who are married (NOT just you and your partner) share the marriagestuff. The act of getting married is just the admission ticket – that you are married to another person is unimportant…what is important is that both you and your partner have the marriagestuff all over you like all the other married people.

This frame that allows them to say with a straight face that someone else’s marriage threatens their own — if getting married means you splash in the common pool, then it implies same-sex marriages will contaminate or dilute the pool — when they say “marriage is between a man and a woman”, what they really mean is, “don’t let those gays into the marriagestuff!”

The reason this comes off so well with traditional Christians is because it concords with the imagery of a baptismal font. That is an image they have a lot of familiarity with, and is easy to bring to mind. It never needs to be articulated directly — just referring to marriage in a manner consistent with splashing in a common pool primes the assumption implicitly, even if it doesn’t reach consciousness. And that makes the “my marriage is harmed if gay marriage is allowed” arguments more persuasive to this demographic than it ought to be.

6

Adam Kotsko 04.09.09 at 3:06 pm

That’s what is so annoying about those who are opposed to “changing the definition of marriage” — normalizing divorce was a much more radical change than gay marriage, as far as I can tell. If you wanted to return to traditional marriage, that’s what you try to undo.

7

Righteous Bubba 04.09.09 at 3:20 pm

It’s pretty hard to see the “icky” argument when Maggie says “God himself made man as male and female and commanded men and women to come together in a special way to image the fruitfulness of God). “

8

John Holbo 04.09.09 at 3:32 pm

“It’s pretty hard to see the “icky” argument when Maggie says “God himself made man as male and female and commanded men and women to come together in a special way to image the fruitfulness of God).”

Admittedly, I can’t read the woman’s mind, but I am skeptical that this is really about religion. After all the state legally sanctions lots of stuff that’s not really ok according to lots of people’s conceptions of religious duty. By and large, Americans are fairly forebearing about insisting that the state enforce their own religious ‘do nots’ on others. So when people get hot and bothered about writing their religious notions into law in ways that are binding on those who do not necessarily accept their religious notions, something else is going on.

9

dfreelon 04.09.09 at 3:32 pm

I firmly believe that most of those who are, at bottom, motivated by “ick” sentiments (probably a bit unseemly to call it an “argument”) are thoroughly unaware of it. It’s as if they’re operating under the effects of a political corpus callosotomy: the connection between the “visceral anti-gay sentiment” hemisphere and the “anti-gay marriage” hemisphere has been completely severed, prompting the latter to categorically deny the existence of its neighboring relative.

10

Uncle Kvetch 04.09.09 at 3:37 pm

As far as National Review is concerned, homosexuals can go to hell.

In other news, water is wet. But don’t tell Andrew, the shock might kill him.

11

Righteous Bubba 04.09.09 at 3:46 pm

Admittedly, I can’t read the woman’s mind

Funny failure on my part: I was trying to say that that sentence has an Ick Value as high or higher than gay marriage.

12

Righteous Bubba 04.09.09 at 3:47 pm

Erf. Now an insensitivity failure on my part. Just forget I exist.

13

PG 04.09.09 at 3:49 pm

@8,
I think Gallagher is an exception to the general civic rule — she has written recently about her belief that the Catholic prohibition of divorce ought to be part of the law (not necessarily because it’s what Catholics believe, but because divorce is bad).

But they also don’t want to be labeled homophobes.
That’s what is key here. Gallagher has admitted that she doesn’t want to be regarded the way racists today are regarded (even though our racist laws, including those against miscegenation, were in large part brought down through the courts, not through democratic means like the suddenly-sacred referendum).

14

Henry (not the famous one) 04.09.09 at 3:53 pm

At the risk of oversimplifying, demonizing etc., the obvious analogy is to the NR’s attitude toward civil rights for African-Americans in the 1950s. In addition to the distaste that Buckley had for black people of any class–but particularly for the poor black people who made up the foot soldiers of that movement–was the notion that “your equality diminishes me.” Which Buckley then spun into the death of Western civilization, the need to acquit White Citizens Council members who went a little too far in keeping blacks in their place, etc. etc. As Casey Stengel said, you can look it up.

15

PG 04.09.09 at 3:59 pm

Yeah, Buckley surprisingly enough didn’t stick to the Respectable conservative argument on these points (which is that courts should be minimalist in making societal changes, and should leave such changes to the democratic process). He went all out on the “Whites who are a political minority and therefore would lose in an election have the right to use violence to maintain power because they are superior — *maybe* not inherently so, but certainly in education, income, etc.” Sadly, Buckley never explained why Asian immigrants to small Southern towns, who were an even tinier minority with an even more superior average education, income and so forth, should not also go forth violently to take and then maintain power over inferior rednecks.

16

functional 04.09.09 at 4:07 pm

who doesn’t believe that on some level people steer, morally, by emotional attraction-repulsion drive?

Well, the problem is that you and everyone else ultimately rests all of your moral beliefs on the same icky feeling. Why object to cannibalism? There’s no real reason, it’s just icky. Why object to the mere consumption of child p**n? Icky. Heck, why object to anything that harms another human being (murder, theft, etc.)? Because harm makes you feel icky.

The only disagreement over gay marriage is that you don’t feel the same ickiness that other people feel. You don’t, however, have any really objective or rational reason behind your preferences as to ickiness. None of us do.

17

Russell Arben Fox 04.09.09 at 4:14 pm

[T]he state legally sanctions lots of stuff that’s not really ok according to lots of people’s conceptions of religious duty. By and large, Americans are fairly forebearing about insisting that the state enforce their own religious ‘do nots’ on others. So when people get hot and bothered about writing their religious notions into law in ways that are binding on those who do not necessarily accept their religious notions, something else is going on.

That “something else” is, in my experience, usually the belief that the heterosexual marriage relationship is much, much more important to God and/or civilization than any other one thing which religions may proscribe yet liberal society–necessarily or wisely or both–tolerates. I don’t fully agree with that kind of natural law or what-have-you reasoning, but I can see the point of it, and–more relevantly I suppose–I can see how it can persuasively fit into a sincerely held theology. The suspicion that behind all of this moral fervor is simply an “ick” argument can no doubt be substantiated in many particular cases–Leon Kass, take a bow–but assuming broadly that “ick” arguments is what the opposition to same-sex marriage is “really” all about simply demonstrates, I think, a reluctance to address the various (and voluminous) scriptural texts and religious arguments on their own terms. Which, of course, is fine: nobody has the time to read everything.

18

Flaffer 04.09.09 at 4:24 pm

Functional,
It seems to me that there is a disanalogy between the reasons why people find cannibalism and child molestation morally objective and the ostensible reasons people give for thinking gay marriage is morally objectionable. Namely, there are other reasons to consider cannibalism and child molestation morally objectionable besides icky-ness (in fact, icky-ness is a hanger-on: it is irrelevant to the reasons cannibalism is morally objectionable). However, I have not seen a cogent moral objection to gay marriage; some have seen “It’s icky!” as a moral argument (hence Holbo’s point).

19

afs 04.09.09 at 4:28 pm

JRQ —

Well hell. That makes such total sense, I’m shocked I haven’t heard it expressed before (or even thought it myself). Good stuff.

20

Maurice Meilleur 04.09.09 at 4:34 pm

I have to agree with Russell that it can’t be just about the squeamishness some people feel when they contemplate same-sex relations. If it really were, you might imagine proponents of same-sex marriage launching a campaign to remind people of how squeamish they might feel about what their opposite-sex couple neighbors are up to.

21

functional 04.09.09 at 4:36 pm

Sure, there are supposed other “reasons to consider cannibalism and child molestation” [note, I was talking about the mere consumption of child p****, which doesn’t directly involve harm to anybody] as morally objectionable. But whatever those “reasons” supposedly tell you, one can ask, “And why do you care about THAT reason?” If you manage to come up with a more fundamental reason, the question will remain, “And why do you care about THAT?” Ultimately, you’ll run out of “reasons,” and all you’ll be able to say is, “Because I just know that such-and-such is wrong.”

That is, it makes you feel icky.

22

Maurice Meilleur 04.09.09 at 4:41 pm

Having said that, though, I’d also add that we probably do underestimate the importance of feelings of disgust when we account for why people think the way they do. I am convinced, for example, that a lot of what we are inclined to term ‘homophobia’–fear of homosexuality–is really more a reaction to feelings of disgust about whatever it is the ‘homophobe’ imagines ‘those people’ get up to in their bedrooms, and not a fear of same-sex relations in the abstract. (That it’s none of their damned business is quite beside the point.)

I’d even be willing to hypothesize that squeamishness about any sexual behavior that deviates from they consider ‘normal’ is accountable for much of the opposition to same-sex marriage among those who are not, or not particularly, religious.

23

Jeff R. 04.09.09 at 4:45 pm

Flaffer: You’re stealing several bases when you shift from “consumption of child p*rn” to molestation.

And what exactly are these other, non-ick-based reasons to object to cannibalism? (presuming it is practiced only on corpses of people who were largely healthy before their deaths and the meat is thoroughly cooked and safely prepared, and all with the consent of any persons you may regard as having a property interest in the corpse.)

24

Jason 04.09.09 at 5:15 pm

Is that a common presumption?

25

politicalfootball 04.09.09 at 5:25 pm

But why even mention those conditions, Jeff R., since the basis for those objections (property rights, etc.) is based in the ick-factor? I thought we had established that all morality is based on the ick-factor.

For my part, I think there is a strong case to be made in favor of permitting canibalism if you really could wave away all those factors you talk about (and maybe some other factors).

Mind you, I wouldn’t do it myself, because it’s icky.

26

Rich Puchalsky 04.09.09 at 5:26 pm

This is an example of interpreting too charitably. It’s not just a matter of ickyness. Conservatives have a political system that depends on hierarchy. They literally can’t manage to continue within a society that does not have reminders that some people are inherently better than others. That’s why they’re fighting on things like this to the last gasp.

27

PG 04.09.09 at 5:33 pm

Child porn could be made only through the exploitation of the child. We ban possession and distribution of child porn because if there is a legal market for child porn, that encourages the creation of children porn. A strict liability ban on cannibalism minimizes the likelihood of someone’s being coerced into agreeing to it, or its occurring without any consent (particularly that of the deceased). Most of the arguments about same-sex marriage also deal with the consequences of allowing it, with opponents making their last stand on the claim that SSM will somehow discourage or devalue opposite-sex marriage.

Moreover, these prohibitions aren’t very far reaching as a limitation on liberty: there’s still plenty of porn out there, there’s still plenty to eat. Even incest prohibitions can be seen in this light — there are an awful lot of people left to screw and marry even when one’s close family members are not eligible.

In contrast, prohibiting a person from marrying a person of the same sex eliminates literally half the human race from ever being a potential marriage partner. That’s a much further reaching limitation on liberty, and therefore the harms that allowing SSM might create have to be both of significant likelihood and significant magnitude to justify the limitation.

28

Kenny Easwaran 04.09.09 at 5:55 pm

functional – I don’t think it’s a very common view about metaethics to say that morality just comes down to feelings of ickyness (though I suppose some might read Allan Gibbard as saying that). Instead you can note that decision making comes down to motivations of individuals, so that there’s a reason (from someone’s perspective, if not your own) not to do something, if someone doesn’t want you to do it. If someone’s desires about their own person are more meaningful than their desires about others, then you can fairly naturally get fairly strong reasons against non-consensual harm, without having to appeal to “ick”. Although you do have to appeal to the fact that the people being harmed feel bad about being harmed, you’re also appealing to a separate fact that their desires about themselves count more than the desires of others to harm them – it’s not just one person’s ick versus another person’s yay.

29

Colin Danby 04.09.09 at 6:17 pm

It’s the opposite of ick; it’s resistance to having the (pleasurable) ick taken away. A staple of homophobia is that gayness is pure irresponsible pleasure-seeking, endless excess. This gives the homophobe an easy argumentative groove plus the pleasurable frisson of imagining all the dirty stuff gay people must be up to. When advocates of gay rights stake a claim on love and responsibility, it jams this argument up.

30

Bruce Baugh 04.09.09 at 6:56 pm

JRQ: That’s a great bit of exegesis, I think.

One of the interesting things in anti-gay arguments is the shifting number of non-straight people they imply. When the issue at hand is something like equal access to housing, then we’re told that it’s irrelevant because there are so few LGBTs in the first place and it would be a huge burden on everyone for the sake of a trivial few. When it’s marriage, then there’s an implicit horde of LGBTs just waiting to rush out and ruin marriage for all.

31

Z 04.09.09 at 7:16 pm

Honestly funtional, it is hard to believe you seriously think what you wrote, but assuming so, let me answer your easy questions.

Why object to cannibalism?

Presuming standards of hygiene are respected and full informed consent has been given by the relevant right-holder(s) (including the heirs of the deceased, when they are involved in funeral arrangements under current law, which is I believe the case in most countries, and rightly so in my opinion), I personally don’t have such strong moral objections to cannibalism. Somehow, though, I doubt my premises will be often satisfied (because cannibalism is icky).

Why object to the mere consumption of child p**n?

Because to consume an object that can be made only involving a horrendous crime is becoming complicit in the larger context allowing this horrendous crime to take place. Just in case, and even though I can’t honestly believe this is needed, let me remind you that making child p**n is a horrendous crime not because it is icky but because it involves non-consensual acts.

Why object to anything that harms another human being?

Because people don’t want to be harm, if they do it is not harm anymore. And you don’t do to someone something he doesn’t want to be done to him. To sum up, I think that a reasonable moral principle is to morally object to non-consensual acts and allow consensual acts, even if they appear repulsive.

Now, I am not saying your point is entirely without merit: many, if not all, countries prohibit some voluntary actions based on a “icky” factor (marriage between siblings, self-mutilations etc.). However, to contend that all, or even most, of our morality is based on the same principle is going much too far.

32

Rich Puchalsky 04.09.09 at 7:47 pm

Actually, a recent law and court case in the U.S. appear to have criminalized pornographic comic books with drawings that depict underage people. So no children need to have been harmed for the child porn to exist.

33

MarkUp 04.09.09 at 7:55 pm

I think all Protestant marriages, regardless of the couples genders, are “icky.”

Il Papa, Il Papa …..

Oy! and that’s just a the tip of da iceberg, which is sort of a melty icky itself.

“O popoi, hoion de nu theous brotoi aitioontai:
ex hemeon gar phasi kak’ emmenai, hoi de kai autoi
spheisin atasthalieisin huper moron alge echousin”

34

functional 04.09.09 at 7:56 pm

Right, there was a whole Supreme Court case about “virtual” child you-know-what. The Supreme Court struck down Congress’s attempt to regulate it. So enough with the false claim that child p**** necessarily involves molestation.

And talk about not getting the point:

, let me remind you that making child p**n is a horrendous crime not because it is icky but because it involves non-consensual acts.

OK, and why should anyone object to non-consensual acts in the first place? Because non-consensual acts harm people? And why should anyone object to this funny notion called “harm”? It makes you feel icky for someone to be harmed. That’s why. [Hint: If you want to continue the chain of reasoning as to why you object to harm, feel free. Whatever premise you end up with, the only reason you believe it is because the alternative makes you feel icky.]

35

Bill Gardner 04.09.09 at 7:58 pm

Emotions play important roles in our moral judgments. But that doesn’t mean we all base our judgments on the same emotions. Jonathan Haidt’s well-known research suggests that purity codes (e.g., bans on gay marriage) based on the emotion of disgust (“ick”) are not universal.

36

Z 04.09.09 at 7:59 pm

Yes, in my home country as well, fictional characters have to abide by certain laws. I am quite uncertain about whether I support these laws or not, but I don’t think their existence affect significantly the larger (and almost trivial) point that most of what we object morally to comes from the fact that it involves non-consensual acts.

37

Z 04.09.09 at 8:19 pm

OK, and why should anyone object to non-consensual acts in the first place?

So you are serious. I’ll grant you something: if one plays the “what do you mean” and “why” game long enough, one finally arrives at some aporia. Not too clever proponents of some religions like to play this childish game and declare that this aporia requires the existence of a supreme being, perhaps for you it requires that I feel icky. But let’s play.

If you define “evil” to mean “doing bad things to someone” and if you define “bad things to someone” to mean “things that this someone does not like, according to himself” and if you define “morality” to mean “learning to recognize evil, to refrain from doing it and to object to it” (and I might add that these definitions are not unreasonable in my opinion, and function as appropriate substitute for the common use of these words), then it follows (by definition) that imposing something on someone is evil and that morality dictates that we should object to it. I don’t need to feel icky at all. For instance, people, according to themselves, are attached to their properties and don’t like when someone takes them away, so I object morally to theft, even though I personally don’t think “theft” is icky at all; quite the contrary, I think it is a perfectly understandable human practice.

Now, you might say (in fact you did already at least implicitly) “but why should you be moral? Because being not moral makes you feel icky, that’s why!” But this is not correct. I never said one should be moral. All I said is that under the common definition of the word moral, then no need for icky factor is needed, and if one agrees that laws should try to promote moral behavior, then again no “icky factor” is needed (note the if in my sentence). People, including myself, can agree on these definitions and the logical implications without making any reference to their personal opinions on what is icky or not: for all you know, I could be the worse kleptomaniac, relishing the theft of whatever I can put my hands on, and yet I laid out the reasons why I object morally to theft.

38

functional 04.09.09 at 9:50 pm

Z, if all you mean by the word “moral” is “the things that I have elsewhere defined to be moral,” then fine. But that just raises the question, “well, why define the word ‘moral’ that way?” Obviously, it’s because you like some conduct and dislike other conduct. And why? [Keep going here as long as you like.] Because it makes you feel icky for such conduct to occur

You can’t get over this problem just by defining it away.

39

PG 04.09.09 at 9:54 pm

functional,

“Right, there was a whole Supreme Court case about “virtual” child you-know-what. The Supreme Court struck down Congress’s attempt to regulate it. So enough with the false claim that child p**** necessarily involves molestation.”

This makes no sense whatsoever. The law never was enforced; it immediately was enjoined and the Supreme Court struck it down. So in fact, any legally prohibited child p*** does necessarily involve molestation. If it’s not using real children, it’s not illegal (see Alan Moore’s Lost Girls, for example) and it’s completely irrelevant here.

Rich Puchalsky, can you give the name of the case? The Supreme Court stated in Ashcroft v. Free Speech Coalition (2002) that child pornography is not covered by the First Amendment only where the State has an interest in protecting the children exploited by the production process.

It doesn’t make me feel “icky” to be harmed. It makes me harmed, and angry. When I see another person harmed, I imagine that this could have happened to me or someone I love, and again, I don’t feel “icky,” I feel angry. If you devolve all negative human emotion down to “icky” I suppose you could categorize my emotions as “icky,” but then you’re just playing moronic word games in order to collapse a diverse universe of meaning into an Orwellian “icky” “not-icky.”

40

Righteous Bubba 04.09.09 at 10:01 pm

Obviously, it’s because you like some conduct and dislike other conduct. And why?

I go hungry if people steal my food. I don’t see an “ick” there.

41

salient 04.09.09 at 10:05 pm

Functional, if all you mean by the word “icky” is “the things that I have elsewhere defined to be icky,” then fine. But that just raises the question, “well, why define the word ‘icky’ that way?” Obviously, it’s because you like to generalize across a broad array of responses, emotions, thoughtful considerations, and principles obtained through dispassionate reflection. And why? [Keep going here as long as you like.]

Z has you in a bind, here. And you can’t get over this problem just by defining it away.

42

Rich Puchalsky 04.09.09 at 10:05 pm

I actually heard about it in connection with Lost Girls. The law is the PROTECT Act, and there’s an article about the guy arrested charged for possession of manga here.

43

Dan Summers 04.09.09 at 10:53 pm

Oh, the whole thing was so poorly written, and so bereft of intelligent thought.

Further thoughts:
http://bleakonomy.blogspot.com/2009/04/pass-me-my-hip-waders-darling.html

44

EngineerScotty 04.09.09 at 11:01 pm

I think that many people’s negative reactions to homosexuality goes further than “ick”.

There’s a whole lot of people on the religious right, including frathouses full of horny heteros, who think that gays are a predatory lot, and that homosexuality is (rather than being something you are born with, or otherwise come by naturally) an acquired condition, spread by seduction and/or gay sex–and one whose “victims” are compelled to perpetuate the cycle. I call it the “vampire theory of human sexuality“. And, in the spirit of this blog posting, it’s a really, really, really bad argument, one that never gets uttered in any serious public policy forum, but which I think under-girds the attitudes of many a homophobe.

45

Flying Spaghetti Monster 04.09.09 at 11:13 pm

maggie is clearly insane. praising Rick for breaking a commandment!?? gee, if only Jesus had lied to the mobs, maybe he coulda beat the rap too!

46

Z 04.09.09 at 11:23 pm

if all you mean by the word “moral” is “the things that I have elsewhere defined to be moral,” then fine

If you read what I wrote, you will see that this is not how I defined “moral”, and I strongly deny that there is any circularity in the definition I have provided (I don’t deny they are a bit naïve, but I tried to stick to simple things, and I think my definitions work reasonably well). To sum up: being bad is doing to others things they don’t want to have them done. Honestly, this is not so hard to understand, and again, there is absolutely no “icky factor” involved. I find incredibly icky that your pseudonym is functional (I am just that way), yet it is not immoral (according to my definition); I find it really funny and not at all icky to slap people in the face, yet this is immoral (according to my definition, and under the hypothesis that the people in question don’t want to be slapped in the face).

You can dispute that these definitions are too naïve, and I might agree, but you cannot in good faith stipulate they are circular, that they involved what I (Z) like or don’t like or that they involve ickiness.

Not to say, again, that there is no merit in the “icky factor theory of morality” at all. As I admitted in my first reply, there are some elements of our laws which are unmotivated within my framework, and which are perfectly well explained by ickiness.

47

Charon 04.10.09 at 12:23 am

Intentional-
Sure, people have an unfortunate tendency to prohibit that which they find “icky”. But the idea that all ethical stances are driven by the ickiness factor is ridiculous – no matter how far you stretch the definition of “icky”. There are any number of sexual practices that I find repugnant – but if it helps someone else get their rocks off – I say more power to ’em. I’m very squimish with the idea of incest – but I don’t think that means it should be illegal for consenting adult siblings to have sex (or get married for that matter).

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Aldous 04.10.09 at 12:33 am

Unfortunately, the icky debate is too tempting to stay out of. Seems to me that the two sides are talking past one another in many ways. On the one hand, the notion that there are no ultimately justifiable transcendental foundations for our moral claims (including, for the sake of argument, how one ought to define morality, although maybe I’m already being circular here) is not new nor is it without merit. On the other, the notion that we can conclude “aha! that must mean that the ultimate foundation is icky-feeling!” seems unwarranted for precisely the reasons appealed to in the former argument. I guess what I want to insert here is that to grant the impossibility of establishing moral truths is not at the same time to say that all morality is based on icky-feeling or subjective feelings of disgust. The latter seems to be an empirical claim, and the former to be a metaphysical claim, and the two need not be connected.

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MNPundit 04.10.09 at 12:53 am

Exactly. I’ll be honest, I think gay sexy is really icky and I want to stay away from it at all costs, but 2 things:

1) So what? It’s not like I’ll be forced into it if gays can marry, they’ll just do icky things in their own homes and I will never have to know about it nor will it affect me in any way.

2) Hetero sex is just as icky! You stick a boy sex into a girl sex and they have sex! And it can be sloppy! The only reason I don’t think it’s icky is because I’m used experiencing that ickiness, and I like what comes as a result of it. Gays are used to experiencing the icky and the pleasurable results of homo-sex so they feel the same way about it that I do about hetero-sex.

So, since I don’t actually have to deal with icky gay sex in anyway, let ’em get married, why should I care?

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functional 04.10.09 at 1:40 am

So in fact, any legally prohibited child p*** does necessarily involve molestation. If it’s not using real children, it’s not illegal (see Alan Moore’s Lost Girls, for example) and it’s completely irrelevant here.

Can we say “missing the point” even more spectacularly? I didn’t refer to “legally prohibited” child p***. My point is exactly the same if you confine it to the virtual stuff that’s not illegal. Is virtual computer-drawn child p*** wrong? If so . . . icky.

Z: To sum up: being bad is doing to others things they don’t want to have them done.

OK, fine, but why is it bad to do THAT? At some point, you have to fall upon an unproven and unprovable and completely pre-rational feeling that something is wrong — call it “ickiness,” call it “that’s just how I see it,” call it whatever you like, but it is most definitely on the same level as any other feeling of “ickiness.” At some point, all moral judgments boil down to something that you just “know” to be true. You have no right — no right at all — to pretend that this is a justificatory problem unique to opponents of gay marriage. It’s ubiquitous.

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bjk 04.10.09 at 1:43 am

Americans might have a poverty of imagination when it comes to practices like polygamy. The initial reflex, which I shared, is that polygamy is a canard . . . but the more I thought about it, I’m not so sure. When I lived in an Islamic country, my family’s maid left her husband after he took a second wife. He called it polygamy, she called it divorce. I remember being horrified at the time, but what is to stop that from happening here? And plenty of reasonable policies are based on slippery slope arguments. I think Christians recognize that nuclear family — Christianity — monogamy go together, which is why they’re drawing the line in the sand at gay marriage.

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bjk 04.10.09 at 1:48 am

Nuclear family – Christianity – monogamy go together in the same way that cousin marriage — Islam — polygamy go together, I think that’s part of the fear among Christians.

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politicalfootball 04.10.09 at 2:17 am

I remember being horrified at the time, but what is to stop that from happening here?

This is exactly right. If we let people insist on traditional marriage – only allowing marriage forms with thousands of years of history behind them – then polygamy is pretty much inevitable.

I’m in favor of the gay marriage thing for a lot of reasons, but mainly because we can’t let ourselves be put on this slippery slope toward polygamist depravity.

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politicalfootball 04.10.09 at 2:18 am

Also goat-fucking. I’m against that, too.

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Doctor Science 04.10.09 at 2:28 am

I don’t think it’s just the ick factor. I think same-sex marriage really, truly threatens traditional marriage.

Here’s how: a traditional marriage — one from the 19th century or before — involves two people: a person with full legal status as a human being (“man”), and a person with partial or incomplete legal standing (“wife”). The man is and should be dominant in the relationship as well as legally; the wife is and should be submissive. Marriage = man + woman = 1.5 or so human beings.

The closer women get to having the same legal status as men, the closer you get to Marriage = 2 human beings. If women are legally equal to men, and things that are equal to the same thing are equal to each other, then same-sex marriage becomes logically inevitable. If marriage is egalitarian, not an anatomically-determined D/s relationship, then same-sex marriage also becomes inevitable.

Conversely, if you believe in traditional, hierarchical marriage, the very existence of SSM is a threat, because it shows, right out there in public, that explicit hierarchies are not necessary for family life. And once you don’t have a hierarchy, it’s dogs and cats, living together, mass hysteria.

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jholbo 04.10.09 at 2:30 am

Russell Arben Fox: “That “something else” is, in my experience, usually the belief that the heterosexual marriage relationship is much, much more important to God and/or civilization than any other one thing which religions may proscribe yet liberal society—necessarily or wisely or both—tolerates.”

My thoughts on this are as follows: first, at least at the present time, the civilization arguments are what people are using. The NR editors and Maggie Ghallaghers are not just saying ‘God says don’t do this’. They are saying ‘civilization will fall’ and the closest they come to the God argument are implausible double-back super-secret probation arguments about how, if same sex marriage is allowed, it will be a violation of the private religious consciences of those who disapprove. That is, there is no real tendency to assert a right to impose religious belief just because it’s really theologically important. Only because it’s really civilizationally important.

And the civilizational arguments just don’t pass the laugh test. It isn’t remotely plausible that people really believe that it’s vitally important to have heterosexual sex and child raising together. If a family with two biological children are living next door to a family with two adoptive children next to a nice, childless old couple who got married to each other late, after their first spouses died, there is just no tendency whatsoever to think that only the first family are really ‘decent people’. The NR editors don’t actually think anything of the sort. But then they clearly can’t believe their own editorial for even a heartbeat. How is this dissonance possible? What’s really doing the pushing, causing them to confabulate this ludicrous ethico-policy argument that inadvertently implies that gays are un-persons, among other absurdities, must be the ick argument, in some form. (It would actually be quite interesting to try to work out what that unstated ick implies ought not argument is. Not that it would be easy and it would certainly be debateable. But I feel pretty sure it’s there.)

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bjk 04.10.09 at 2:33 am

There’s nothing written in stone about the two parent nuclear family household. The very high levels of illegitimacy, and the catastrophic increases in illegitimacy, is proof of that. Taboos are fragile things, that’s been proven over and over again. And I’m not the only one who suspects that gay marriage might prove to be a fad among gay men. Why stay married if you don’t have to? The gay male divorce rate is likely to be much higher than the already high heterosexual divorce rate.

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jholbo 04.10.09 at 2:45 am

Re: ick arguments. This is not simple by any means. On the one hand, I think it’s unrealistic to object to someone’s position JUST because you detect an ‘ick’ in there, doing most of the work. That’s just going to cause them to point out, rightly, that you yourself are guilty too, on some occasions at least. And that’s fair enough. On the other hand, if there’s any point to arguing about these things at all – and if we are arguing, we had better believe there is – then there must be some way of circling back and subjecting the ick to rational assessment and, potentially, rejection or adjustment. Also, in a democratic society it’s hard to see that ‘ick’ is going to be more than one vote. And in a society that thinks building defenses against the tyranny of the majority is important, even a majority of ‘icks’ has to overcome some further hurdles to win the day. The ‘ick’ argument sounds absurd, but it may not actually be such a bad argument (I don’t like it, but I have to concede that I myself make arguments of the same form sometimes). But it’s clearly not good enough, and there aren’t any other good ones.

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JMW 04.10.09 at 2:59 am

I find it hilarious/mystifying that seemingly logical people are taking functional’s bait. It’s like shouting louder when a sibling sticks fingers in their ears and sings “I can’t hear youuuu…”

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Charon 04.10.09 at 3:10 am

Functional –

So (I guess) you’re saying that the “ickiness” you’re talking about doesn’t necessarily have any qualities that we normally associate with ickiness – it’s just a categorization of principles we accept with no logical rationalization. Is your point that ultimately our ethics are reduced to principles that can’t be rationally justified? If so, I imagine that few people would disagree with you.

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Doctor Science 04.10.09 at 3:11 am

there is just no tendency whatsoever to think that only the first family are really ‘decent people’.

Not at present — but to the traditionalists, only the first family is a “real family”. The other couples are supporting the patriarchy by imitation. It hasn’t been that long since parents with adopted children weren’t constantly asked, “couldn’t you have any real children?” or told, sympathetically, “maybe now you’ll have children of your own.” (Now, I’m told, it only happens some of the time.) And elderly newlyweds were considered laughable or vaguely shocking.

The civilization-destroying aspect of same-sex marriage, as I said, is that it doesn’t support that patriarchal hierarchy. No hierarchy, no civilization.

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politicalfootball 04.10.09 at 3:24 am

There’s nothing written in stone about the two parent nuclear family household.

bjk gets it. The only question is, in the interest of two-parent nuclear family households, should we permit gay marriage? Or should we mandate it for every gay person? Or just limit the marriage mandate to gay people with children?

Gay marriage isn’t the problem – that’s just a red herring. Divorce is the problem.

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bjk 04.10.09 at 3:24 am

That would be some neighborhood, full of childless couples and orphaned children. Sounds like a recipe for societal suicide.

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Hobbes 04.10.09 at 3:33 am

OK, fine, but why is it bad to do THAT? At some point, you have to fall upon an unproven and unprovable and completely pre-rational feeling that something is wrong—call it “ickiness,” call it “that’s just how I see it,” call it whatever you like, but it is most definitely on the same level as any other feeling of “ickiness.” At some point, all moral judgments boil down to something that you just “know” to be true. You have no right—no right at all—to pretend that this is a justificatory problem unique to opponents of gay marriage. It’s ubiquitous.

There are Contractarian arguments that work. Basically, that what is moral is what a group of primarily self-interested agents would choose to be considered “wrong” in a social contract. This line of reasoning also meshes well with a lot of our intuitions about morality.

For example:
I’m opposed to murder being moral because I value my life, and see how a social standard which allowed murder would make my life unlivable. I have many self-regarding reasons to want to live in a society where I can go about my day without being murdered. (And, I want to live in a stable society… And people can’t live together peaceably if anyone can kill them without worry.) So I can make a case to other people who don’t want to be murdered that we ought to see it as wrong.

Of course, I’m also programmed to feel murder is “icky” based on my upbringing and impulses. But that’s not WHY I consider murder immoral. The ick-factor motivates my moral behavior but it’s not a source of moral justification.

Gay marriage is different than murder. Opponents have been raised to have a moral ick-factor towards gay marriage… But they can’t justify that ick-factor based on secular reasoning — the reason they feel gay marriage is gross is “the Bible and my culture tell me so.” So, when they try to come up with non-religious reasons for their opposition, they are either ridiculous (“Gay marriage destroys civilization”), appeal to other ick-factors (“if two men can marry, why not a man and a dog, EWWW”) or are premised on straight-supremacy (“marriage is a privledge for those of us who are better, ie straight”).

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jholbo 04.10.09 at 3:35 am

bjk, “That would be some neighborhood, full of childless couples and orphaned children. Sounds like a recipe for societal suicide.”

bjk, but does this cause you to be morally disapproving of couples that adopt orphaned children? That is, do you want to go up to them and say: you are setting a bad and shameful example? If not, then what’s your point?

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Ben Alpers 04.10.09 at 3:45 am

Though I’m sure there are certainly plenty of people who oppose equal marriage rights due to their perception of gay sex as icky, surely some religious opponents of gay marriage believe what they claim to believe: that God made marriage a sacrament, that He made it for one man and one woman (that’s not the way it shows up in the Hebrew Bible, of course, but never mind….), and that, therefore, the state shouldn’t sanction marriage between a man and a woman.

Now there are some real problems with this argument, especially in the final step (why should state sanction matter here at all when churches are still free to refuse to marry whomever they want to refuse to marry? what happened to rendering unto Caesar what is Caesar’s?). But it’s certainly not such an internally irrational argument that it’s implausible to believe that people actually hold it.

The biggest problems with it–beyond the question of why the role of the state should be of such importance–involve not its internal logic, but its utterly irrational premises. But I think we in contemporary American society generally try to avoid calling attention to the irrationality of people’s religious beliefs (let alone pointing out that those beliefs actually harm other people’s lives), so it’s in a sense more polite to simply say that they find teh gay icky.

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Ben Alpers 04.10.09 at 3:46 am

Ooops…there was a word missing there. This:

…and that, therefore, the state shouldn’t sanction marriage between a man and a woman.

Should have read:

and that, therefore, the state shouldn’t sanction marriage except between a man and a woman.

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jholbo 04.10.09 at 3:51 am

“so it’s in a sense more polite to simply say that they find teh gay icky.”

I don’t think that’s it. What most people believe is 1) “that God made marriage a sacrament, that He made it for one man and one woman” and 2) I have no business imposing my religious beliefs on others. The state ought to be neutral as possible on questions of religious conscience. The question is: why are people opposed to same-sex marriage when they believe both 1 & 2.

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EngineerScotty 04.10.09 at 3:57 am

There isn’t anything inherently wrong with the religious argument (“I am opposed to legalizing gay marriage because my faith demands it”)–except that it IS a religious argument. It is at least consistent and honest. Unfortunately, such appeals to faith are out of place in civil society–and are generally frowned on by the public at large, and especially by the courts; hence attempts to couch objection to SSM in appeals to nature and such.

It’s just like Intelligent Design–which is, after all, little more than an attempted workaround for the fact that courts across the land have dismissed creationism as little more than religious dogma (which is precisely what it is).

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bjk 04.10.09 at 4:06 am

Indeed, what do I have against societal suicide, if that’s the sum total of individual choices? Maybe we should experiment with all sorts of societal forms, including extinction. The teleology implicit in the conventional conception of marriage is indeed limiting . . . once we start to separating societal forms and functions, the possibilities are truly liberating. We don’t know what might result, but we’ll never find out if we don’t try . . .

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Ben Alpers 04.10.09 at 4:08 am

What most people believe is … 2) I have no business imposing my religious beliefs on others.

Perhaps most people believe this. But most people do not write for the National Review. A sizable minority of Americans are quite eager to have the state impose their religious beliefs on a whole host of issues from Creationism to abortion to school prayer to premillenialist fantasies about Armageddon in the Middle East to “abstinence-only education.”

As I’ve already said, it’s not that I don’t think the “ick” factor is important. It’s just that I don’t think it’s universally important. And I think that the need to impose hierarchy, which has also been mentioned in this thread, is probably more important than “ick.” Many people find abortion icky. But the nature of much of the opposition to reproductive rights suggests that the desire to subordinate women is more important than the ick factor in motivating that opposition. My guess is that the same is true of the opposition to equal marriage rights. After all, preventing gays and lesbians from marrying doesn’t get rid of–or even reduce–gay sex. It does, however, make gays and lesbians second-class citizens.

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ck 04.10.09 at 4:08 am

At some point, all moral judgments boil down to something that you just “know” to be true.

I think the above is basically right…

You have no right—no right at all—to pretend that this is a justificatory problem unique to opponents of gay marriage. It’s ubiquitous.

…but this is not. What you’re arguing is:

1) All moral systems must have axioms.
2) Axioms are by definition unprovable.
3) Therefore, no set of axioms is any more valid than another.

But moral axioms must have some empirical basis. An axiom that says “suffering harm is bad” is something that virtually every human being “knows to be true”. An axiom that says “having sex with someone of the same gender is bad” is something that is nowhere near universal and is pretty clearly heavily influenced by culture. It’s not reasonable to treat those two axioms as equally valid.

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Ben Alpers 04.10.09 at 4:09 am

Unfortunately, such appeals to faith are out of place in civil society—and are generally frowned on by the public at large,….

You obviously haven’t lived here in Oklahoma.

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bjk 04.10.09 at 4:55 am

“bjk, but does this cause you to be morally disapproving of couples that adopt orphaned children? That is, do you want to go up to them and say: you are setting a bad and shameful example? If not, then what’s your point?”

John, why do you limit adoptive families to couples? As you know, many adoptive parents are single, and they are heroes. Of course, the orphans would be better off with a mother and a father. That’s why marriage exists, not so adults can have weddings.

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EngineerScotty 04.10.09 at 5:06 am

You obviously haven’t lived here in Oklahoma.

You would be right–I happen to reside in Oregon, a place not known for supporting Christianist politics FTMP.

But still–what may fly in Oklahoma or other states dominated by certain religious faiths, is regarded as non sequitur elsewhere, including on the national stage–and SSM is a nationwide debate, even though most of the action is at the state level. I suspect that a majority of the readership of National Review have strong religious leanings–but NR, you will notice, generally doesn’t engage in openly theological arguments (“Gay marriage should be opposed because the Bible says so”, or alternatively, “God hates fags”). They instead try to frame the debate in secular terms–with the result being that utterly stupid arguments get advanced instead.

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bad Jim 04.10.09 at 5:46 am

The only coherent argument against gay marriage I’ve encountered enshrines Holbo’s 1 and denies his 2. In this view it’s critical that the entirety of society supports the divine plan, and any deviation threatens its collapse. This is, of course, the authoritarian mindset (see Altemeyer) and does not admit to argument. Tolerance, under that aspect, means that we godless may not object to their proselytizing, even when we’re paying for it.

However, I have a nephew, as godless as I am but less liberal, married, has a son, who opposes gay marriage because it contravenes tradition. I argued with him for hours without enlightening either of us, perhaps because his elder brother in law had already had at him twice. The tentative familial consensus is that his problem is merely homophobia, and JRQ’s image of the polluted font seems apt.

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John Holbo 04.10.09 at 7:49 am

bjk: “Indeed, what do I have against societal suicide, if that’s the sum total of individual choices?”

bjk, what is your evidence that couples who adopt children are, objectively, pro-societal suicide? Provide an argument for that, please.

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John Holbo 04.10.09 at 7:51 am

“John, why do you limit adoptive families to couples? As you know, many adoptive parents are single, and they are heroes.”

OK, now I’m doubly confused. First, why do I have to limit adoptive families to couples? Second, if adoptive families are helping society commit suicide, why are single adoptive parents heroes?

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bjk 04.10.09 at 12:00 pm

John,

you’re too smart for me. I give up.

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PG 04.10.09 at 3:32 pm

Rich Puchalsky,

I think you are confusing child pornography with obscenity, which can overlap but each lacks First Amendment protection for different reasons. Obscenity can be banned for offending community standards regardless of whether any real people were used in it. Child pornography can be banned because of the harms to children, and the Supreme Court says it has to involve real children, not just images thereof. Again, see Ashcroft v. Free Speech Coalition:

By prohibiting child pornography that does not depict an actual child, the statute goes beyond New York v. Ferber, 458 U.S. 747 (1982), which distinguished child pornography from other sexually explicit speech because of the State’s interest in protecting the children exploited by the production process. See id., at 758. As a general rule, pornography can be banned only if obscene, but under Ferber, pornography showing minors can be proscribed whether or not the images are obscene under the definition set forth in Miller v. California, 413 U.S. 15 (1973). Ferber recognized that “[t]he Miller standard, like all general definitions of what may be banned as obscene, does not reflect the State’s particular and more compelling interest in prosecuting those who promote the sexual exploitation of children.” 458 U.S., at 761.

functional,

If you’re not talking about legal prohibitions, then your point is completely irrelevant to this discussion, because the argument about same-sex marriage is not whether people are allowed to dislike it, but whether it should be legally prohibited. Gay people don’t give a damn about what you think of their relationships so long as the law recognizes and protects them. There’s undoubtedly lots of stuff I do that you’d find “icky,” but until you try to criminalize that stuff, or otherwise make me less of an equal citizen because I do it, you can take your opinion and shove it where the sun don’t shine. Once you get the law involved, on the other hand, I have to give a damn. You think my collection of porn is “icky”? Whatever, piss off. You’re coming to my house to seize it and put me in jail under color of law? I had better be ready.

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Harvey Wachtel 04.10.09 at 4:42 pm

Of course the definition of marriage has been changing for millennia, from patriarchal polygamy to patriarchal monogomy to partnership. The latest change, caused mainly by the widespread availability of inexpensive contraception, is to decouple, so to speak, marriage from procreation. Many couples marry with no intention of raising kids, and their unions have always been recognized. Marriage is now about commitment, companionship and intimacy, with procreation optional. This change has already happened whether conservatives like it or not, and if they think allowing homosexuals to marry will be the cause of the change then I can only say that they’ve slept through the sexual revolution.

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Don C. 04.10.09 at 4:43 pm

I find these two angles helpful in focusing the argument:

“The burden of proof, therefore, is on the advocates of gay marriage to show what state interest these marriages serve. Thus far, this burden has not been met…”

http://tech.mit.edu/V124/N5/kolasinski.5c.html

**

August 1, 2003

REAL TIME WITH BILL MAHER

BILL MAHER: And it does seem especially hypocritical since 9/11, when we are so crowing about freedom in this country. Freedom, freedom, freedom – but not the freedom to love who you want to love?

Okay, let me ask you this Congressman [Barney Frank (D-MA)], if gay people were allowed all the rights and privileges that anybody else could have, in other words, they could get the insurance and they could get everything else, but you couldn’t get the name “marriage,” would you go for that?

BARNEY FRANK: Oh, I would, yeah. If there were all the legal rights – remember, gay and lesbian people pay taxes and what we’re saying is, we should be eligible for all the benefits that are supported by the taxes we pay. If people want to create a situation which there is the full legal rights that go with being married, and the price of that was to call it something else, I’m not big on what you call things. And so that would not concern me at all.

What I’m looking for is the right, as I said, two people in love who want to join to their emotional commitment a legal and moral financial responsibility for each other, and if you wanted to call it something else, we can even have a contest.

http://www.safesearching.com/billmaher/print/t_hbo_realtime_080103.htm (expired link)

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Rocco 04.10.09 at 5:25 pm

You’re only waking up to it now Andrew? In the minds of Republicans, theocrats and homophobes, not only are we non-persons whose commitments and aspirations heterosexuals can feel free to deny and ignore, but our very existence and safety is worthless to them. When I was a kid, afraid to go to school because I could be beaten or worse, when my employer looked me in the eye and told me he would pay me less by the hour than a straight person because “I have to spend my money on families”, in those days when the police could knock on your door just for writing what we are writing here, did they ever protest? American homophobes have shown no mercy to gay people even at our most defenseless. This is a country where hetero thugs have slaughtered an innocent gay person for fun and then all they have to say to get off the hook is “he came onto me” because we know that gays are lustful animals who go after any hetero tr.ash. They don’t want to share the country with us, for them a country where gay people are afraid to speak afraid to go out afraid to love is a virtuous society. They wish we would just disappear.

Look at them comparing our lives to cannibalism and child porn even now. Next time I’m talking with a conservative American homophobe I’ll have to remember to casually compare his love and marriage to f.cking a chicken, see how he likes it.

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functional 04.10.09 at 6:18 pm

CK —

You seem to understand a simple argument. Thanks for that.

That said, I don’t really mean to argue the following:

1) All moral systems must have axioms.
2) Axioms are by definition unprovable.
3) Therefore, no set of axioms is any more valid than another.

1 and 2 are fine. 3 goes a little too far. I’d phrase 3 like this:

“Because no moral axioms are provable, don’t be quite so smug and gleeful, don’ t act like it’s an earth-shattering novelty, to find out that opponents of gay marriage can’t prove their axioms. Neither can you. All you can ultimately say is that you like your axioms better.”

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functional 04.10.09 at 6:21 pm

the argument about same-sex marriage is not whether people are allowed to dislike it, but whether it should be legally prohibited.

Um, no. No one is “prohibiting” anything. No one is “criminalizing” or “coming to your house” or any of that. Gays can have religious or non-religious ceremonies to their hearts’ content; they can move in together; they can have children (albeit by using a sperm donor or surrogate mother). The gay marriage debate is about whether the rest of society should give gay marriage official recognition.

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politicalfootball 04.10.09 at 6:53 pm

Don C., as you may be aware, Kolasinski’s argument is another really, really bad argument. Among other things, it assumes that the only reason for state-sanctioned marriage relates to reproduction. Gay people aren’t infertile, people were plenty fertile before state-sponsored marriage ever existed, there is no demonstrable state interest in subsidizing reproduction, and Kolasinksi makes a poor argument that marriage is, or gay marriage would be, costly to the government.

Kolasinski also says it’s not feasible to limit marriage to the fertile for practical reasons of identifying the infertile, but there are plenty of non-fertile groups – say post-menopausal women or people with vasectomies – who could be excluded by law. Why does he not favor this?

There’s also persistent confusion between “marriage” and “state-sponsored marriage.” He seems to want to ascribe the benefits of marriage to state-sponsored marriage, but makes no case that this is so – and in fact explicitly denies that state-sponsored marriage helps people form stable relationships even as, elsewhere, he says that the whole purpose of state-sponsored marriage is to create stable families. Gibberish.

Here, he tips his hand:

When married persons care more about themselves than their responsibilities to their children and society, they become more willing to abandon these responsibilities, leading to broken homes, a plummeting birthrate, and countless other social pathologies that have become rampant over the last 40 years.

So his gripe has nothing to do with gay marriage – his gripe is with hetero divorce.

More gibberish:

If the state must recognize a marriage of two men simply because they love one another, upon what basis can it deny marital recognition to a group of two men and three women, for example

And if a state must recognize a marriage because it will produce the maximum number of children, on what basis can it deny marital recognition to a group of two men and three women, for example?

How can someone make an argument this clueless?

Adam Kolasinski is a doctoral student in financial economics.

Oh. That’s how.

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politicalfootball 04.10.09 at 6:54 pm

and if you wanted to call it something else, we can even have a contest.

In a more sensible country, Barney Frank would be considered a political centrist.

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JM 04.10.09 at 7:14 pm

upon what basis can it deny marital recognition to a group of two men and three women, for example

Math.

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politicalfootball 04.10.09 at 7:20 pm

Math? That seems like a fatuous answer, but if you’re serious, fear not: legal gay marriage wouldn’t repeal mathematics.

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JM 04.10.09 at 7:29 pm

That seems like a fatuous answer, but if you’re serious …

I am. I can also distinguish between qualitative and quantitative criteria.

But, and this is the important part, I recognize that no one is born a polygamist. Since the issue is equal protection, it’s the analogy that was fatuous.

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politicalfootball 04.10.09 at 7:39 pm

My error, JM – I thought you were quoting me, and thus contradicting me, when you were quoting Kolasinski, whom I also contradict. (I only recognize my error because I said “on” and he said “upon.”)

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PG 04.10.09 at 7:51 pm

functional,

“they can move in together”
Not if the housing regulations where they live limit the number of “unrelated” persons who can live in a household. Without legally-recognized marriage, they have no claim to being related.

“they can have children”
They can have biological children if they have the cooperation of people in the private sector (who in many states are allowed to discriminate on the basis of both sexual orientation and marital status); they can’t adopt or foster children in several states.

Your beliefs about what is open to same-sex couples without marriage recognition is nice but not consistent with reality.

Moreover, you still don’t address the fact that your claims about the “ick” factor are irrelevant here unless the “ick” has been put into law. Moral objections can go on until the end of time; Catholics still find divorce “icky.” No one cares about their opinion because it’s not instituted in the law and therefore doesn’t constrain those who think differently. In contrast, those who find same-sex relationships “icky” do have their views instituted in the law.

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PG 04.10.09 at 7:53 pm

functional,

Also, if you think the various states that have passed statutes and amended their constitutions to say that marriage can be only between a man and a woman are not “prohibiting” anything (specifically, licensing of same-sex marriage), your idea of “prohibiting” must be as narrow as your idea of “icky” is broad.

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functional 04.10.09 at 8:09 pm

They’re not “prohibiting” private marriage ceremonies; they’re just refusing to recognize such ceremonies. Refusal to recognize isn’t the same as prohibition. No one goes to jail for having a commitment ceremony.

Not if the housing regulations where they live limit the number of “unrelated” persons who can live in a household.

Are there any housing regulations that limit the number of “unrelated” persons to one? That’s the only such housing regulation that would prevent gays from living together in groups of two.

Anyway, this isn’t what I wanted to debate. My main point (which you do not and cannot refute) is that any law (or moral decision) ultimately rests on some unprovable intuition or feeling.

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MarkUp 04.10.09 at 8:17 pm

“This change has already happened whether conservatives like it or not, and if they think allowing homosexuals to marry will be the cause of the change then I can only say that they’ve slept through the sexual revolution.”

Au contraire, far from sleeping through it they’ve been busy; unless of course you use “slept” in the revolutionary with or around context. After all they were not just trying to save the souls of meth addicted weight lifters, turning the hallowed pages of Congress, or policing paper off the floors of airport bathrooms, they were re-elevating the values of the Family in America.

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MarkUp 04.10.09 at 8:25 pm

“Refusal to recognize isn’t the same as prohibition. No one goes to jail for having a commitment ceremony.”

Nor do they get the same legal benefits, therefore…….

“My main point (which you do not and cannot refute) is that any law (or moral decision) ultimately rests on some unprovable intuition or feeling.”

You need a new topic of debate then, as that one is self refuting to any one that is aware of more than 1/2 dozen laws and not worth the effort; something you can ponder over the next time you get a speeding ticket for example. Unless of course you mean law in a way other than “any” and limited to those that are “moral” based, but even then…….

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salient 04.10.09 at 8:25 pm

The gay marriage debate is about whether the rest of society should give gay marriage official recognition.

By extension, one might argue that slavery isn’t “prohibiting” anything: it’s just not giving the liberty of some human beings official recognition.

Gay marriage: the laws regarding married couples’ rights don’t apply to gays who marry (i.e., who ceremoniously declare marriage vows to one another).
Slavery: the laws regarding protection of personal liberty don’t apply to [some category of people].

This framework seems technocratic to the point of being sociopathic: it papers over the suffering that is incurred by groups affected by the exclusion.

“All you can ultimately say is that you like your axioms better.”

Isn’t there an apocryphal story where Opponent X claims this to Socrates, who proceeds to beat this opponent to death with a stick? The guy at least concedes Socrates has the free will to stop, and pleads for him to halt, in the name of justice and decency; Socrates just goes on with it until the bitter end, commenting “You can’t give me any compelling reason to stop, you just like your axioms better!”

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salient 04.10.09 at 8:27 pm

No one goes to jail for having a commitment ceremony.

(shrug) But they would go to jail for claiming they are “married” on their taxes.

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JM 04.10.09 at 8:40 pm

My error, JM – I thought you were quoting me, and thus contradicting me, when you were quoting Kolasinski, whom I also contradict

Yeah, I had to double-check, too. CTRL-F is my co-pilot.

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politicalfootball 04.10.09 at 8:46 pm

Anyway, this isn’t what I wanted to debate. My main point (which you do not and cannot refute) is that any law (or moral decision) ultimately rests on some unprovable intuition or feeling.

You think that functional travels the Internet, posting this on every single forum mentioning public policy?

salient, I believe you are referring to the famous “Socrates’ Stick,” which is one of those philosophical metaphors like “Occam’s Razor.” The usage in this case would be: “functional needs to be beaten with Socrates Stick.”

This is not to be confused with “Socrates’ Schtick,” which was asking dumb questions.

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matthias 04.10.09 at 9:00 pm

“Because no moral axioms are provable, don’t be quite so smug and gleeful, don’ t act like it’s an earth-shattering novelty, to find out that opponents of gay marriage can’t prove their axioms. Neither can you. All you can ultimately say is that you like your axioms better.”

But even this surely compells the same reply as the stronger version: so what? Of course there’s no transhistorical basis for taking human happiness, equality, autonomy, &c. as our goals rather than their opposites! It just so happens to be that the former are my goals and the latter very much not. The missing term of your enthymeme seems to be we shouldn’t have contempt for certain goals just because God and Nature, in their benign neglect, refuse to give a preference.

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JM 04.10.09 at 9:24 pm

The gay marriage debate is about whether the rest of society should give gay marriage official recognition.

No, just the state. The “rest of society” can hoard ammunition on their compounds and wait for the almost-certainly-immanent apocalypse. Looks like they have a head start.

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Twoshort 04.10.09 at 9:58 pm

“My main point (which you do not and cannot refute) is that any law (or moral decision) ultimately rests on some unprovable intuition or feeling.”

And lots of other peoples point, that you ignore, is that we don’t disagree. But laws and moral decisions rest on *different* unprovable intuitions and feelings. Despite lack of any grounding justification, I’m willing to just assume that hurting other people is bad. I freely admit I’m just stipulating that as an unsupported postulate. So if you can convince me that something hurts people, or supports or encourages hurting people, you’ve got at the least a good start on convincing me that thing is bad. If you describe to me something that doesn’t hurt anyone else, I probably don’t think it’s bad. Even if it is icky. “Icky” is different from “hurts other people” because one is convincing to me and the other is not. You can tell me my morality is baseless, but I don’t care, I’m going with it.

Opponents of same sex marriage apparently understand this, and this is why they tend to base their arguments on the idea that SSM hurts people somehow.

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PG 04.10.09 at 10:02 pm

“any law (or moral decision) ultimately rests on some unprovable intuition or feeling.”

Here you go again. There’s a big difference between the law and moral decisions. The law applies to everyone; moral decisions apply only to the person making them. Your repeated conflation, as with bringing up child porn and then backing away saying, “Oh no, I didn’t mean the laws against child porn, I just meant the moral disgust toward child porn,” is really weak.

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PG 04.10.09 at 10:05 pm

The law also often has nothing to do with morality at all, as noted above in the example of speeding. The fact that people in Houston can drive 70mph legally, but people in D.C. can’t, doesn’t make either the people or the laws more moral; they’re simply suited to each city’s needs. It’s unwise to conflate law and morality; they overlap but ultimately are separate analyses (as reflected in their being distinct areas of knowledge and study).

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MarkUp 04.10.09 at 10:07 pm

“According to a 2006 survey by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life and the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, fully 79% of Christians in the U.S. say they believe that Christ will return to Earth someday. There is less agreement among Christians, however, over the timing and circumstances of his return.”
@ http://tinyurl.com/cx78ak

Are polls similar to schticks?

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Z 04.10.09 at 10:23 pm

Because no moral axioms are provable, don’t be quite so smug and gleeful, don’ t act like it’s an earth-shattering novelty, to find out that opponents of gay marriage can’t prove their axioms. Neither can you. All you can ultimately say is that you like your axioms better.

No, that is not all I can say. Because, I am in a good mood, I will concede, as it is apparently important to you, that “any law (or moral decision) ultimately rests on some unprovable intuition or feeling” though for the record, it seems to me that it extends the meaning of the word intuition quite far. However, and I sincerely can’t imagine how you cannot see this simple point, this does not entail any kind of symmetry between “Killing someone is bad” and “Marrying someone your own gender is bad”.

Both judgments, if you insist, ultimately depend on unprovable axioms but “Killing someone is bad” admits the justification “because that someone didn’t want to be killed” whereas “Marrying someone your own gender is bad” does not admit this kind of justification. That is a difference between certain unprovable axioms and certain others unprovable axioms: some allow certain type of proofs, some don’t. Arguments against gay marriage, as far I can see, cannot appeal to a broad kind of “proof” of moral judgment. In that sense, they are extremely different from many arguments against many other acts (theft, torture, slavery, you name it).

It is not an earth-shattering novelty, because I think most 7-year old children should be able to understand it. Still, I feel I am entitled to being smug and gleeful, because even though (per functional) I cannot prove my axioms anymore than they can, mine at least allow some justifications than theirs cannot (as far as I can see).

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james 04.10.09 at 10:46 pm

Jholbo at 68 – “I don’t think that’s it. What most people believe is 1) “that God made marriage a sacrament, that He made it for one man and one woman” and 2) I have no business imposing my religious beliefs on others. The state ought to be neutral as possible on questions of religious conscience. The question is: why are people opposed to same-sex marriage when they believe both 1 & 2.”

“I have no business imposing my religious beliefs on others” – Talk about gaming the question. You might as well ask if conversion by threat of death is considered ok.

“Do I have the right to create laws based on moral beliefs, even if those beliefs are religious in origin?” – That question will get quite a few yes answers. How is passing laws based on morality from the Koran, Bible, Torah, Bhaqawat Geeta, etc inherently less just than passing laws based on the morality from Kant, Socrates, Plato, Hobbs, Lock, etc?

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ck 04.11.09 at 1:09 am

Because no moral axioms are provable, don’t be quite so smug and gleeful, don’ t act like it’s an earth-shattering novelty, to find out that opponents of gay marriage can’t prove their axioms. Neither can you. All you can ultimately say is that you like your axioms better.

Well, no, I can say more than that. In fact I’m pretty sure I did say more than that: moral axioms must have some empirical basis. (By “must” I suppose I mean something more like “ought to, in order to be reasonable”.)

If I told you that my morality forbids, say, wearing white after Labor Day, would you respect that view or find it ridiculous? Would it be a defense for me to say “you can’t prove your axioms either!” ? Some moral premises are rooted in universal human experience (suffering is bad) and some are just arbitrary matters of taste (same-sex sex is bad).

Nobody is criticizing SSM opponents for not being able to prove their axioms, the criticism is that those axioms are wholly arbitrary and, more to the point, entirely aesthetic (hence, “icky”).

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Z 04.11.09 at 1:10 am

How is passing laws based on morality from the Koran, Bible, Torah, Bhaqawat Geeta, etc inherently less just than passing laws based on the morality from Kant, Socrates, Plato, Hobbs, Lock, etc?

I don’t know about “inherently”, but laws based on moral principles derived from religious texts presuppose an article of faith, whereas laws deriving from rationalist texts (I leave you to judge if the philosophers you quote satisfy this criterion) strive to appeal to arguments whose validity is supposedly recognized by everyone. If you tell me that killing is bad because the Bible says so, and if I reply that I don’t believe what is written in the Bible, what do you do? Are you going to give up on trying to convince me that killing is bad?

This is why I think even if, perhaps especially if, your own moral code derives from beliefs in some religion, you should try to expose it in terms accessible to anyone (perhaps especially, because if you are convinced that your moral code derives from a supreme being, then presumably you have a strong moral duty to propagate this moral code).

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jholbo 04.11.09 at 2:26 am

James writes: ““Do I have the right to create laws based on moral beliefs, even if those beliefs are religious in origin?” – That question will get quite a few yes answers.”

Ah, but I didn’t deny THAT, James. I said that the state should try to be neutral about matters of religious conscience. It’s complicated, obviously. But there are various ways of negotiating between the proposition that simply imposing your religion on others is unacceptable and accepting that people have the perfect right to bring their religion into politics, insofar as they can certainly bringing their morals into politics, and their morals are religiously derived. One of the big dividing lines is effect on self vs. effect on others. If people think drinking wine (under certain circumstances) is a sacrament, there is a certain presumption that it ought to be allowed for those people. After all, it doesn’t really hurt others, even others who think you should never drink alcohol. On the other hand, human sacrifice is no-go. There is also so-called ‘overlapping consensus’. That is, we don’t worry so much about why people think they do, only that they do. Last but not least, there is public reason and debate. It’s not like this always works so great, but it is one thing that separates out some purely religious answers.

In the same-sex marriage case, the basic problem is that the only real harm it can do people is upsetting them and, perhaps, making them feel a bit ashamed, as though people are trying to tell them they were bad people for having opposed same-sex marriage. But we generally set the other-harming bar a bit higher than ‘it will upset them’.

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MarkUp 04.11.09 at 2:52 am

Having read this thread …. When reading the local news this afternoon it took me 3 times to see the “tr___”

“For many ministers, navigating the “I do” question is tricky. St. Timothys United Methodist Church accepts members of all sexual orientations and gender identities but will not sanctify same-sex unions.

“The official stance of the church is that homosexual acts are not compatible with the teachings of Jesus,” said the Rev. Dick Clark.

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jholbo 04.11.09 at 3:18 am

“For many ministers, navigating the “I do” question is tricky. St. Timothys United Methodist Church accepts members of all sexual orientations and gender identities but will not sanctify same-sex unions.

“The official stance of the church is that homosexual acts are not compatible with the teachings of Jesus,” said the Rev. Dick Clark.

Just in case it isn’t clear: I think this is an example of how far opposition can legitimately extend. Churchs can certainly refuse to santify same-sex unions.

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minneapolitan 04.11.09 at 4:55 am

“…but who wants to live in an institution?”

Will no one speak in favor of abolishing marriage and the family? It strikes me as outrageous presumption for anyone to lobby on behalf of whether the state (and, of course, capital, because this is ultimately an economic debate as well) should tell me who, how and when to fuck. This whole discussion is predicated on an acceptance of patriarchy that I find extremely distasteful, to say the least. The only reason I would vote for gay marriage is that the opponents are far more inimical to my liberty than the proponents. But that’s often not saying much at all.

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Shawn Crowley 04.11.09 at 4:58 am

EngineerScotty at 69 (one of my favorite numbers!) notes the similarity of SSM opposition and Intelligent Design arguments. This is an important connection in that the real issue for many conservatives is social control of the great unwashed (masses, working class, insert favorite term).

Many ID proponents have no actual concern with how we ended up with so many species of beetles; they are concerned with enforcing the vision of an afterlife where social deviants suffer for eternity. These are the folks who argue that, in the absence of God, ordinary citizens will rape, murder, and pillage.

If gays can marry the social structure of hierarchy and fear is challenged. And SSM opponents fret that bestiality will be next because, all we all know, only the lack of a marital option keeps people from screwing goats or whatever.

And of course, if you want to keep the religious right voting the right way their issues need to be respected. It’s been a good issue for many politicians. They can get votes simply by mouthing something about tradition, the heartland, blah blah. Not like those damn defense contractors who actually want money.

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Don C. 04.11.09 at 6:03 am

Politicalfootball wrote:

“In a more sensible country, Barney Frank would be considered a political centrist.”

That’s either hilarious, or chilling.

Say what you will (and have) about Kolasinski, but please answer his question:

What state interest do homosexual marriages serve?

If homosexual marriage advocates can answer that one persuasively, then the rest is will be a foregone conclusion, if not… status quo.

BTW, by what process should the definition of marriage be changed (innovated)?

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John Holbo 04.11.09 at 8:10 am

Don C, “What state interest do homosexual marriages serve?

If homosexual marriage advocates can answer that one persuasively, then the rest is will be a foregone conclusion, if not… status quo.”

Before I answer, a question: are you taking as a premise that things should only be permitted if they serve some compelling state interest. That is, the state doesn’t exist to serve the interests of the people? Rather, people are a means to the greater glory of the state. Or something like that?

Because is you are NOT assuming that, the answer to the question seems pretty obvious. (And I am happy to give it. Same-sex marriage is good largely because lots of people want to get married to people of the same sex. So it’s in their interest to do so, and the state has no overriding interest in stopping them, obviously. That’s the big ticket item right there. Other stuff is comparatively secondary.) But if you ARE assuming that people are means to the end of state service, rather than the state existing to serve the interests of the people … well, what is the greater glory of the state, according to you, that is not well-served by same-sex marriage?

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Don C. 04.11.09 at 1:12 pm

” Same-sex marriage is good largely because lots of people want to get married to people of the same sex. So it’s in their interest to do so, and the state has no overriding interest in stopping them, obviously. That’s the big ticket item right there. Other stuff is comparatively secondary.”

If simple self-interest is the ‘biggest ticket’ secular argument homosexual marriage advocates have, it’s highly unlikely to persuade enough voters to change the definition of marriage.

Folks have all kinds of selfish interests that the state (society) restricts and/or doesn’t promote.

I hope you can do better.

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JanieM 04.11.09 at 1:58 pm

The compelling state interest argument is exactly backwards.

There is no need for anyone to show a compelling state interest in having same-sex marriages recognized. On the contrary, the burden is on the state to show that it has a compelling interest in treating citizens unequally.

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jholbo 04.11.09 at 2:05 pm

Don C., you don’t really go in for all that ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’ stuff, I take it. Not your sort of value system, eh? Well, I’m sorry to say that I can’t really do any better. Your hopes are dashed.

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MarkUp 04.11.09 at 2:05 pm

”If simple self-interest is the ‘biggest ticket’ secular argument homosexual marriage advocates have, it’s highly unlikely to persuade enough voters to change the definition of marriage.

Folks have all kinds of selfish interests that the state (society) restricts and/or doesn’t promote.”

Indeed, there are ‘all kinds’ it does promote as well.

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Walt 04.11.09 at 2:19 pm

Don C., I think you would be more comfortable in another country. The United States of America isn’t for the likes of you.

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Don C. 04.11.09 at 2:24 pm

jholbo,

Your fallacious presumptions (intolerance) notwithstanding…

Why not take the opportunity to attempt a more persuasive secular argument for homosexual marriage?

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Don C. 04.11.09 at 2:26 pm

Walt (bully),

What state interest do you believe homosexual “marriage” serves?

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Walt 04.11.09 at 2:39 pm

Since I’m an American, I recognize that as a citizen of a free country I have no need to worry about serving state interests. It’s the job of the state to serve my interests, and that of my fellow citizens. I’d say that I’m sorry to hear that it’s the other way around wherever you live, but it doesn’t sound like you mind.

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politicalfootball 04.11.09 at 2:52 pm

Why not take the opportunity to attempt a more persuasive secular argument for homosexual marriage?

Don, for reasons I described (and which you make a special show of not rebutting), Kosalinski’s practical arguments make no sense from the ground up. Holbo has made a more philosophical point.

Now you can (as you again have made a special show of doing) ignore the content of our answers, but that’s not an argument (as they say), that’s contradiction. If you’re looking for an argument that can’t be contradicted, obviously you’re going to be frustrated. As fractional rightly proposes above, even the injunction against murder is subject to contradiction.

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JanieM 04.11.09 at 3:03 pm

I have a comment in moderation (not sure why, except maybe that I rarely comment here) — and maybe that’s where this one will end up too.

The notion that proponents of same-sex marriage have to show a compelling state interest is a lovely example of what was being discussed on the “Making a hash of it thread”: that is, throw around a bunch of sophisticated and important-sounding vocabulary and hope that casual listeners won’t know enough to know that is’s misapplied or totally irrelevant.

“Compelling state interest” is a legal concept that applies in exactly the opposite way from the way in which Don C. is using it. A lawyer could explain it better than I can, but you don’t have to get too sophisticated to understand that it’s being applied backasswardly, and that of all the arguments against allowing same-sex couples to marry that might be worth bothering to refute, this isn’t one of them, because it isn’t really an argument, it’s an irrelevance .

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Bruce Baugh 04.11.09 at 3:03 pm

Don C: What function of marriage do you think doesn’t apply to same-sex couples? Keeping in mind here that fertility-related answers don’t apply, since there’s no fertility or childbearing requirement for marriage in the actually existing US.

Those of us who think marriage should be available to same-sex as well as opposite-sex couples think it serves the same mix of interests for all – encouraging stability in relationships, regularizing inheritance, providing a default flow of authority in matters like medical directives, and on and on. In practice, marriage is a tangled mix of personal and business considerations, all of which apply whoever the partners in a particular couple are.

(And “couple” is the reason I’d support well-crafted efforts to move for multi-partner marriages but am not rolling them in to this particular step. Going from a guaranteed fixed number to variable vastly complicates the flow-of-authority issues, and I haven’t yet seen any very good legal framework that could reliably cover the ground. I believe it can be done, just haven’t seen it yet.)

Meanwhile, back at marriage of the monogamous sort…people fall in love and sometimes want to formalize that, they mingle property, they have children, raise their own biological heirs and children they adopt or provide foster care for, they have wills and inheritances to leave, they wish to have the authority in matters pertaining to their spouse when the spouse is incapacitated, the list goes on and on. And I don’t yet know of anything here that’s somehow auto-magically different based on which sex the partners are.

“Gay marriage” is therefore kind of a misleading handle. There are no gay marriages for which legal sanction is being sought. There are just people who want to take part in the actually existing legal institution of marriage, and it seems to me that as loving, committed couples they’re at least as entitled to it as anyone else wanting to be married.

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jholbo 04.11.09 at 3:15 pm

Look, Don C, you asked for one reason why the state should, other things equal, permit same-sex marriage. I gave you a perfectly good reason: namely, the state should, other things equal, permit its citizens any reasonable opportunities in the life, liberty and pursuit of happiness department. Certainly the state should do so when the permitting is low-cost, and harmless to anyone else’s life, liberty and happiness.

You don’t find these to be compelling values or reasons. Fine. Why not?

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politicalfootball 04.11.09 at 3:15 pm

Anyway, if you’re going to accept Kolasinski’s rather incoherent argument, he identifies a state interest here. If the state must recognize a marriage simply because of its procreational potential:

upon what basis can it deny marital recognition to a group of two men and three women, for example

Well? If procreation is the sole state interest in state-sponsored marriage, why is procreation practiced among two people – to adopt Kolasinki’s logic – “more worthy of state sanction than … between three, or five?” Plainly (to Kolasinski) the state must oppose polygamy, and therefore must support gay marriage, lest the state provide the rationale for travel down that slippery slope.

Okay, okay – Kolasinki is a nut, and his arguments are both internally contradictory and don’t correspond to observed reality – but I’m not the one who introduced him to this thread, and I’m finding his piece entertaining to examine.

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Don C. 04.11.09 at 3:26 pm

Gentlemen,

It should be an easy question for you, but your evasions and reflexive intolerances betray your agendas.

Once you can present a politically persuasive answer/argument in reply you’ll be well on your way out of your dilemma.

Arguing for increased state intrusion into the institution of marriage while, at the same time, attacking it as “un-American” because it excludes same-sex (homosexuals) is a rhetorical tar-baby.

Obviously, attacking the questioner (Kolasinski/or me) won’t win you anything of substance.

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Rachel 04.11.09 at 3:29 pm

Here are some good arguments I’ve heard:
Gays can’t have kids so they can’t be married- Just like how it’s illegal for infertile people and people who don’t want kids to get married
It would be too hard to change the definition of marriage- California hasn’t already done this a few times and we already wasted too much time securing all those other silly civil rights for blacks
It would make marriage less sacred- Then other married couples, like Britney Speares and Kevin Fedorline, wouldn’t feel that their marriage was as special

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Righteous Bubba 04.11.09 at 3:30 pm

It should be an easy question for you

It’s been answered.

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Rachel 04.11.09 at 3:31 pm

But they can have their civil unions; its the same thing, just a different name- Seperate institution but equal rights, what a novel idea!

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Don C. 04.11.09 at 3:35 pm

jholbo,

If Barney Frank doesn’t care whether it’s labeled “marriage”, then why should I?

Furthermore, as you must be well aware, California afforded ALL the same legal rights to homosexual couples, absent only the label ‘marriage’.

So, why do homosexual “marriage” advocates (radicals) continue their bullying?

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Don C. 04.11.09 at 3:40 pm

Righteous Bubba,

It needs to be a politically persuasive answer.

Simple selfish interest, as asserted in this thread, isn’t politically persuasive enough to win the majority of voters you’ll need to redefine marriage in America.

You’ll have to do better, if in fact your goal is political persuasion, and not (as it appears) political thuggery.

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jholbo 04.11.09 at 3:43 pm

“your evasions”

You are playing your cards a bit close to your chest with that one, Don. Would you mind just telling us how you think we have evaded your question? On the face of it, we have simply given you what you asked for.

“Arguing for increased state intrusion into the institution of marriage while” … how so?

Letting more people get involved in some thing that is sanctioned by the state does not constitute increased state intrusion. (Suppose the laws are relaxed to let more people get drivers licenses. Would you say that is automatically more state intrusion? At least arguably, it is less.)

“attacking it as “un-American” because it excludes same-sex” … no, no. The ‘it’ here refers to marriage. No one is attacking marriage as un-American. A few of us have been pointing out to you that the basic values proponents of same-sex marriage have to call on, to make their case, are American values. But that’s quite a different matter.

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Bruce Baugh 04.11.09 at 3:44 pm

Don C: So, why do homosexual “marriage” advocates (radicals) continue their bullying? Because I take life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness seriously. Likewise with promoting the general welfare.

When I was growing up, part of the standard religious rap against gay people was that they were, as a group, flighty and unstable, neither interested in nor capable of sustaining lasting relationships like normal people. Now here we have GLBT people who clearly do seek to form – or did, long ago, form – lasting relationships for which they’d like the usual protections. Since I think lasting relationships and administration of legal matters with as little fuss as possible are both good things, I say, “By all means, of course.” I find it downright odd that anyone claiming to care about social stability would seek to bar a whole class of otherwise eligible people from one of the major stabilizing institutions.

And that’s about all the replying to Don C. I intend to do, unless something fresh comes up.

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Don C. 04.11.09 at 3:49 pm

Bruce Baugh: “What function of marriage do you think doesn’t apply to same-sex couples?”

For one, the normal male-female balance as viewed through the eyes of children being raised in our American culture.

Marcuse’s radical “polymorphous perversity” (in all its modern incantations) is, in the American view, an utterly uncivilized way to raise our young.

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Don C. 04.11.09 at 3:59 pm

jholbo,

Beyond the label “marriage”, what do you (advocates) find dissatisfactory about, say, California’s Domestic Partner Law, which states, in part:

297.5. (a) Registered domestic partners shall have the same rights, protections, and benefits, and shall be subject to the same responsibilities, obligations, and duties under law, whether they derive from statutes, administrative regulations, court rules, government policies, common law, or any other provisions or sources of law, as are granted to and imposed upon spouses.

http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/cgi-bin/displaycode?section=fam&group=00001-01000&file=297-297.5

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Bruce Baugh 04.11.09 at 4:04 pm

Okay, so we’ve got an intuition about normality, that turns out not to be backed up by studies of children raised in different kinds of households. That’s something. Already falsified, if we’re concerned with actual children’s physical and emotional well-being as opposed to just wanting to keep children from running the risk of seeing successful gay parents, but something. (Some linkage, and some more, and so forth and so on.)

I don’t think there’s a state interest in promoting whatever “the normal male-female balance” is. I do think there’s a state interest in seeing that children have a reasonable opportunity at growing up well. It looks to me like same-sex couples are just as capable of doing their part as opposite-sex couples, and that the real problem for children of same-sex couple is, hmm, let’s see here, the harassment of others and sense of stigma. Well, heck, making life harder for parents and kids trying to do well is just stupid. One more reason not to keep people who want to give marriage their best shot from having the chance.

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Bruce Baugh 04.11.09 at 4:05 pm

Whoops, one of my links got truncated. But the one that survives is itself link-rich.

I’ll let someone else explain why civil unions don’t help much in crisis situations.

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MarkUp 04.11.09 at 4:12 pm

“It needs to be a politically persuasive answer.”

It is. It’s just not Religiously persuasive except for [largely] Unitarians and other insipid splinterist. I seriously doubt that if the argument was adequate enough for 51% or even 66% you’d agree as to its then being “persuasive.” If one follows your line of thought so to speak, then those who divorce, esp when kids are involved, deserve to be stripped of some rights and probably punished further for messing with the “normal balance.” Obviously if we lived in Charleston 150 years ago and I owned you, I might agree about the needs to maintain a normal balance.

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MarkUp 04.11.09 at 4:30 pm

If the state confirms unions, and the church marriages, why should some members of some churches be allowed to deny that right for other members of other churches? Thus the state prohibition of a religious act.

If California Presbyterians want to sanction marriages on top of the states unions what state service is performed by not allowing it? Why such insecurity on your part by sharing a label? Wouldn’t it be better to adapt your label to that of say “G_d Fearing Marriage,” to indicate those who have chose to go beyond the everyday variety; the ones where all kids grow up straight and above average, show proper respect and deference, engage only in post ceremony [missionary only] intercourse, and never ever divorce or meet hookers of any gender in cheap motels? It’s only a label, right?

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Rocco 04.11.09 at 4:49 pm

BruceB: “When I was growing up, part of the standard religious rap against gay people was that they were, as a group, flighty and unstable, neither interested in nor capable of sustaining lasting relationships like normal people. Now here we have GLBT people who clearly do seek to form – or did, long ago, form – lasting relationships for which they’d like the usual protections.”

That’s the point, homophobic people grab at any argument but the real motivation is the “ick factor” or simple contempt and hatred of gay people. The relationship is to them a mere reminder of that. In the homophobic logic, gays are neither acceptable as promiscuous nor as monogamous, nor alternative nor married. They wish we would just disappear. But I won’t disappear, it’s my country too.

For a lot of homophobes gay relationships are WORSE than single gay people. I have a gay friend who, in a typical story, came out to his homophobic parents, and after the crisis was over and they seemed to have reached a balance, he started dating someone. It was worse, like a second coming out. The parents said “we realized you were gay but we were hoping you would never have a relationship”.

I don’t understand what kind of world homophobes live in where being alone your whole life is considered better than sharing it with someone

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Bruce Baugh 04.11.09 at 4:54 pm

MarkUp: It is. It’s just not Religiously persuasive except for [largely] Unitarians and other insipid splinterist. I seriously doubt that if the argument was adequate enough for 51% or even 66% you’d agree as to its then being “persuasive.”

Very true. I’ve run into that same sort of argument in libertarian circles a lot, that if something fails to convince the most stalwart, unmoveable, not necessarily honest or consistent resister, then it’s not really popular or democratic. Pretty much always, they regard every other cause’s stalwarts as obvious troublemakers, particularly when they’re getting in the way of some corporate steamrollering; the symmetry either doesn’t occur to them or is dismissed because of the dismisser’s stipulated specialness.

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jholbo 04.11.09 at 4:56 pm

Don, you are moving the goalposts. You asked for an argument. We gave you one. Several, really. I take it your position is basically religious. Fine. You don’t care about secular arguments concerning the values of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, at least where marriage is concerned. It’s all about realizing the one ‘normal’ view – yours, as it so happens (I take it) – and forcing others to accept it. Fine. But then why did you even bother asking for secular arguments? You have none yourself, and are unwilling to accept them coming from others. Fine. This considerably limits the prospects for debate on these grounds. But don’t lay that to our account.

As to civil unions and marriages. Eh. If it literally is just a matter of a word, I don’t much care. The main thing is to secure to these people all the practical advantages of marriage – or ‘marriage’, if you simply must go all elaborate scare-quote about it. But if what you are really worried about is Herbert Marcuse corrupting the youth, via same-sex marriage, how is depriving these folks of the word ‘marriage’ going to help? Why are you willing to accept civil unions at all, if the threat is so dire? And if there’s really so little threat that civil unions are ok, why the elaborate taboo on just calling it ‘marriage’?

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politicalfootball 04.11.09 at 5:03 pm

Don C, when I proposed Barney Frank as a sensible centrist on this issue, you were appalled and said so – but as always, ostentasiously refusing to provide the reasoning for your assertion. Now you are holding Rep. Frank up as sensible on this issue, in contrast to the 40% or so of the public that takes a more permissive view of gay marriage – again, without saying why.

You propose that the state enforce “the normal male-female balance” without recognizing that this is, in fact, impossible by definition. If the state has to enforce it, it ain’t “normal.” (For my part, I think “normal” is overrated, but this is your standard we’re talking about.)

As for a “politically persuasive answer,” you don’t say why this is relevant to anything preceding in this conversation, but are you saying that you support gay marriage in Vermont and anyplace else where the political system allows it?

Of course you’re not saying that. As with Barney Frank, you’re just flinging poo, striking out in whatever random direction can muddle the argument. You aren’t even rising to the low level of the National Review or Kolasinski. You aren’t even giving us, in our host’s words, a “really, really bad argument” – just contradiction and misdirection.

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Perezoso 04.11.09 at 5:16 pm

No state involvement in any cohabitation contracts–str8, or ~str8; xtian, or ~xtian–and no perks/tax deals, except those specified and agreed to. Problem solved. No need for bad arguments, whether from National Review, or Holblo.

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Bruce Baugh 04.11.09 at 5:22 pm

Perezoso: This doesn’t solve the problem of what to do when action is necessary and information is limited. People needing immediate medical help, for instance (particularly when they’re outside their home jurisdiction) – who makes decisions on their behalf? There’s a whole lot of things for which marriage provides a generally useful default assumption. There has to be some set of defaults, because “let’s never do anything without firmly evaluating this particular person’s choice” isn’t really feasible.

Even in non-crisis matters, having the defaults vastly reduces the necessary size and complexity of administration, while still allowing people to specify overriding preferences when they have them. Assuming nothing would put us in the same legal and legalistic hell as the idea that we can abolish regulation of pollution and the like and replacing it all with lawsuits – it’s a huge waste, and an unnecessary source of stress and misunderstanding.

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Rocco 04.11.09 at 5:38 pm

Also – the word “marriage” is more than just a word at least until the US and the rest of the world develop some uniform definition of “civil union”. All countries have an institution called “marriage” but relatively few countries have a “civil union” status and those that do are wildly different from one another in terms of what “civil union” entails.

A civil union is a regional or at best national instution, but marriage is an internationally recognized status, shorthand for a globally recognized set of rights and obligations. If I as a gay man want to emigrate to another country (that recognizes gay rights obviously), let’s say Spain, to bring my spouse with me then I have to produce a marriage certificate to get him a visa for that country. A a civil union certificate doesn’t cut it if it’s not a possible civil status in that country.

A marriage is exportable to other states of the Union that recognize marriage (some like NY or NM recognize gay marriages even though they don’t themselves perform them). With a civil union you are trapped in one state or are limited to states that have civil unions. There is no freedom of movement that comes with marriage. This is true in Europe as well.

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Bruce Baugh 04.11.09 at 5:52 pm

Footnote to my previous: A lot of straight people found the Terry Schiavo case not just morally appalling but just plain weird in how far the courts indulged bigoted parents’ efforts to override the normal prerogatives of a marriage they disapproved of. Many fewer GLBT people were boggled that way, because it’s depressingly common in the experience of non-straight partners, and in the absence of legal default protections, it’s really easy for courts to side with hateful relatives rather than actually loved and chosen partners. It’s an example of why persisting on marriage rather than some other-named equivalent is important – to make that kind of thing less routine in more people’s lives.

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Perezoso 04.11.09 at 5:52 pm

Assuming nothing would put us in the same legal and legalistic hell as the idea that we can abolish regulation of pollution and the like and replacing it all with lawsuits.

I don’t think the analogy holds. Civil unions, cohabitation contracts, even “marriage” so called do not require the Mommy-State’s supervision, as do pollution or national parks, etc.

Libertarianism may not apply to all political/institutional situations, but it does seem applicable to the marriage issue. With a libertarian approach, churches would still have the right to grant traditional marriages– though that blessing should not confer any bureaucratic perks (as in tax breaks, etc) above what the non-blessed receive. And via pre-nuptials the specific duties or benes could be worked out. That might not please the biblethumper right, or the liberal-statists, but Liberty rarely does.

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Don C. 04.11.09 at 5:55 pm

Politicalfootball: “are you saying that you support gay marriage in Vermont and anyplace else where the political system allows it? Of course you’re not saying that… you’re just flinging poo, striking out in whatever random direction can muddle the argument.”

The aggressive presumptions, defensive projections and displaced intolerances shown by you and other bullies in this thread only reemphasizes your need for a better argument than your own small selfish interests.

I’ve never argued against Vermont or any other state that has, by the will of its people, redefined its own marriage laws.

Your reflexive and bigoted hetero-phobic attitudes are unsurprising at best, not to mention self-defeating.

You present as incapable of self-critical thinking and refuse to examine the unpersuasive nature of your own selfish arguments.

But, again, I don’t think you are interested in persuasion. Petulant indignation, demonization and rhetorical coercion are your immature playgrounds.

Good luck.

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Hortense 04.11.09 at 6:02 pm

@ Don C. –

California’s Domestic Partner Law is “dissatisfactory” because it does not trump the federal DOMA and thus does not provide all the benefits of marriage – see Kozinski’s order for a brief overview of the st(ick)y issues –

http://www.ce9.uscourts.gov/articlefiles/Jan13_2009_USCA9_EDR_Order.pdf

Federal employees shouldn’t have to go to court to get health benefits for their spouses.

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Don C. 04.11.09 at 6:07 pm

Jholbo: “If it literally is just a matter of a word, I don’t much care. The main thing is to secure to these people all the practical advantages of marriage…”

So, what is your major malfunction with California’s Domestic Partner law?

http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/cgi-bin/displaycode?section=fam&group=00001-01000&file=297-297.5

Remember, I’m not the change agent arguing for marriage to be redefined by the state, you (all) are.

Simple selfish interest won’t win the argument.

Neither will thuggishness, be it in this thread’s rhetoric, or actual (e.g., http://tinyurl.com/5ln8km & blacklists).

You can do better.

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politicalfootball 04.11.09 at 6:18 pm

I’ve never argued against Vermont or any other state that has, by the will of its people, redefined its own marriage laws.

What’s this business about “normal balance” and whatnot, if not an attempt to say folks like the ones in Vermont erred?

But yes, I already acknowledged that you are refusing to engage peoples’ arguments, so there are lots of things you haven’t said. Even here, where you quote my question and act all outraged that I provided an answer you don’t like, you refuse to provide an answer that you do like – and then spend paragraphs talking about how offended you are by this.

But for the record, here’s the question again:

are you saying that you support gay marriage in Vermont and anyplace else where the political system allows it?

My conclusion was that you do not support it. Perhaps I’m wrong. But here you have a chance to clear it all up – I mean a second chance, since you refused the first chance.

What is your answer? Do you support gay marriage in Vermont and anyplace else where the political system allows it?

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Bruce Baugh 04.11.09 at 6:22 pm

Perezoso: People I know and like have lost custody of their children thanks to court support of homophobic grandparents and in-laws, and other people I know and like have been denied the right to make end-of-life choices on behalf of incapacitated loved ones likewise. Extending the protection of marriage won’t stop all that; these rights are abused and denied in cases involving straight couples too. But it will help. It moves in the direction of a more consistent presumption that people committed to each other are committed to each other, with the rights and responsibilities that go with that.

If I could see a way to protecting more of the people I care about via the abolition of a default status, I’d certainly be willing to consider it. But I see what life is like now for people outside the bubble of presumption, and it looks pretty bad to me whenever some outsider’s whim may intrude.

Don C: Out of curiosity…do you mind setting some context? Are there any changes to existing social boundaries you ever approve of? I don’t mean that in a sneering way, by the way. How do you feel about racial civil rights, for instance, or the abolition of the marital rape defense? Do you oppose no-fault divorce with the depth of conviction you oppose marriage for same-sex couples? It matters, because if you just don’t really ever want to see anything you can consider social engineering, then there’s nothing particular distinctive about the merits of this case, and the argument would need to be about whether American society is or was ever at a sort of Pareto optimum.

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MarkUp 04.11.09 at 6:30 pm

”Petulant indignation, demonization and rhetorical coercion are your immature playgrounds.”

Odd thing is Don C, when you ask a question of them they do actually respond with an answer; something you have failed to do a number of times. Is that selfish on your part. I think so, but then I are just a thug.

You are the child out on top of the rock in the playground professing it to be yours by virtue of being there. You shout out from on high in chastising tone at those others who do not share their toys, and cry about being mistreated when someone pushes you off the rock – even if only in threat.

Woe be unto those who threaten the Stander of the rock; may Ye be smote with perpetual unpersuasiveness!

A hearty arrgh Matie, I wonder if you can do better.

May the petulance be with you always, oh brother.

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Don C. 04.11.09 at 6:38 pm

Here’s your dilemma guys (as shown in the video http://tinyurl.com/5ln8km):

On the one hand, homosexual ‘marriage’ advocates brandish placards with: “I AM A VICTIM OF H8”.

While, on the other hand, their comrades menacingly wave placards with: “GO TO HELL MORMONS”.

I’ve attempted in this thread to extract the best possible secular argument from your homosexual “marriage” advocate perspective, but the best one (thus far) is nothing more than simple selfish interest, and reflexive and bullying presumptions as to my perspective (which is irrelevant to the outcome, so I’ll not play that game).

You can do better. Please try…

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Don C. 04.11.09 at 6:43 pm

Mark Up,

It isn’t my argument to win, therefore I needn’t offer my perspective either way.

It is homosexual “marriage” advocates’ argument that must be politically persuasive enough to convince the majority of the American People (state-by-state, for now) to vote to redefine marriage.

Selfish interest won’t do it.

So, I ask you: What state interest do you believe homosexual “marriage” would serve?

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Bruce Baugh 04.11.09 at 6:45 pm

Since self-interest doesn’t impress you, nor does actual other people’s well-being, Don, surely you won’t have any principled objection if we drag you off to forced labor for a few years, and deny you the right to work in any skilled occupation. That’s all just self-interest too, really, and you’re presumably demonstrating the level of concern for others you deem appropriate.

Some of us hew to a higher standard, which is why we’re interested in consistent treatment regardless of whether it bears directly on us or not, and why we favor actions that clearly lead to greater well-being for more people in society. Since “society” has no unitary existence, the measure of its well-being is the sum of its members’ well-being. We like happy supportive couples, successful kids, and a bunch of other things that don’t seem to interest you. But you’re always welcome to join us, if (like the Grinch) you ever find your heart a few sizes larger.

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Don C. 04.11.09 at 6:52 pm

Bruce Baugh: “How do you feel about racial civil rights, for instance, or the abolition of the marital rape defense?”

I think racial civil rights in America are better than any other country in the history of the world. I think the marital rape defense a barbaric idea from barbaric people.

“Do you oppose no-fault divorce with the depth of conviction you oppose marriage for same-sex couples?”

I think no-fault divorce is stupid. Loser pays in all tort is the best way to go, in my view.

Let me ask you,

By what process do you believe the word marriage should be legally redefined in America?

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MarkUp 04.11.09 at 6:58 pm

”I’ve attempted in this thread to extract the best possible…”

You can do better. Please try…

That’s your argument in a nutshell, claiming that while you have tried others have not. There are words to describe that, but that would be thuggish…

Young’s Literal Translation
Yea, thou hast not heard, Yea, thou hast not known, Yea, from that time not opened hath thine ear, For I have known thou dealest treacherously, And ‘Transgressor from the belly,’ One is crying to thee. Isaiah 48:8. 48:9 might be read as well.

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politicalfootball 04.11.09 at 7:01 pm

By what process do you believe the word marriage should be legally redefined in America?

I’d personally go with any process that is an appropriate part of a democratic system like ours. Vermont would be one example of this.

Oddly, you are proposing a question here that you have ostentatiously refused to answer yourself. Let’s give it another try, Don C:

are you saying that you support gay marriage in Vermont and anyplace else where the political system allows it?

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Bruce Baugh 04.11.09 at 7:02 pm

Don C: I’m pretty satisfied with the way things are going, though I wish the pace were faster. Since I have a basic grasp of federalism and the operations of democratic republics, I’m fine with both legislative rulings and judicial ones that treat marriage as a matter of equal opportunity for all couples. But then I don’t see this as a redefinition, any more than I think “citizen” was fundamentally redefined by female suffrage, the post-Civil War amendments, and the like – I see it as a matter of saying “yeah, this really is an equal thing, and those prohibitions on some classes’ participation were arbitrary and unjustified”. Same deal here. There is no gay marriage; there are only same-sex couples marrying exactly the way opposite-sex ones do.

Like others here, I have no problem with any religious or social group saying they disapprove of some marriages, refusing to perform them, all that stuff. Dissent and the selective practice by private groups are fine. It’s just that I approve of others not having to refrain because of your disapproval. Nobody is entitled to live without having to recognize that the republic is also for people they don’t like and wish would go away or at least hide.

In the real world outside this blog, right now, there are American couples suffering needlessly because of objections by people like you. I would like to see a federal law or ruling that would sweep all of that away at once, because their rights to equal protection of the laws matter more than your jitters. But since this Congress and Supreme Court are, to put it mildly, unlikely to do that, I’m happy to see as much progress on the state level as possible, and I regard every branch’s path to the affirmation of equal standing in marriage as a good one.

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Don C. 04.11.09 at 7:04 pm

Bruce Baugh,

Selfish interest isn’t impressive as a political argument for the obvious reason that there countless selfish interests of individuals that do not formulate a persuasive argument to change the status quo.

I wonder what you and your fellow bullies might label a gay man that is opposed to further state intrusion into the institution of marriage… a “sexual orientation traitor”?

You’ll all do better once you start self-criticizing your arguments in order to distill better ones that might gain you some political ground, instead of engaging in bullying and demonizing the messenger, ad hominem & straw man fallacies?

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Bruce Baugh 04.11.09 at 7:07 pm

Okay, I really am done. It’s obvious that Don will never give a, er, straight answer to the sort of question he’s demanding of others, and I have relatives and friends to go have fun with.

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Don C. 04.11.09 at 7:10 pm

Bruce: “In the real world outside this blog, right now, there are American couples suffering needlessly because of objections by people like you.”

Would these be the aforementioned people who complain: “I AM A VICTIM OF H8” or, their comrades who menace: “GO TO HELL MORMONS”?

You really should read the California’s Domestic Partner law. It’s a good model.

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politicalfootball 04.11.09 at 7:19 pm

Hey, Don C! Three strikes so far, but I still haven’t given up on you:

are you saying that you support gay marriage in Vermont and anyplace else where the political system allows it?

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Don C. 04.11.09 at 7:24 pm

politicalfootball: “I’d personally go with any process that is an appropriate part of a democratic system like ours. Vermont would be one example of this.”

I have no problem whatsoever with Vermont’s process.

“are you saying that you support gay marriage in Vermont and anyplace else where the political system allows it?”

Supporting or opposing homosexual “marriage” is not my concern. My premise remains the process by which marriage should be redefined in America, if it is to be.

I think court diktats do not settle the issue — just as Roe v. Wade has not settled the abortion debate — and therefore should be deemphasized.

Thank you for your thoughtful engagement, and I forgive you for your reflexive (inaccurate) presumptions about my perspectives.

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Don C. 04.11.09 at 7:28 pm

Hey PF!

Out of curiosity,

What’s your opinion of homosexual “marriage” activists who complain: “I AM A VICTIM OF H8” while their comrades menace: “GO TO HELL MORMONS”?

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MarkUp 04.11.09 at 7:37 pm

Must be mission on the web weekend.

”Would these be the aforementioned people who complain:”

I always thought it was those who knocked monthly to reaffirm I was on the wrong path; I understand they did re-baptize me or something to save my soul which I took as telling me, from an undisclosed location, that I was going to hell otherwise.

”It isn’t my argument to win, therefore I needn’t offer my perspective either way.”

Possibly true, but the opposite argument is. You needn’t do anything, but you have so your constancy of , “Selfish interest won’t do it,” becomes horribly self revealing, not just of your apparent inability but of the deep fear that must be within. Not too brutish I hope.

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Shawn Crowley 04.11.09 at 7:38 pm

When Don C. first posted I was tempted to reply but decided I’d let someone else take a swing first, sensing a troll. The exchanges above validate my intuition.

First, “compelling state interest” is one of three prongs used in a “strict scrutiny” analysis of governmental action impinging upon either a fundamental constitutional right or state action involving a protected class (such as race). Other posters are correct in that Don C. has reversed the burden of proof and that this standard for judicial review has nothing to do with the question posed (unless Don C. would like to include gays as a protected class but I doubt that).

Second, I note Don C.’s repeated attempts to portray other posters as intolerant or as bullies for contradicting him. This is a common tactic used by religious opponents of SSM; to portray the Christian majority in America as victimized by intolerance. A curious position to take when seeking to impose particular religious beliefs upon society as a whole.

Don, I can’t tell if you are asking for an argument that will convince you that SSM should be allowed (I don’t think anything will convince you) or whether you are asking for a politically/socially persuasive reason for SSM. For the latter, how about this: it is the right and moral thing to do. I count among my friends and co-workers gay couples who have been together for decades, leading lives of love and social responsibility. Some have adopted children (including children orphaned by US military adventures) while others have raised children from previous relationships. And, to steal from the Who. the kids are alright. Some of these couples are themselves religious, others are secular. All of them deserve the same civil rights as male-female couples who shoot meth, live in filth, and sexually abuse their children.

Don, feel free to characterize me as a bully and intolerant. Not being a Christian I feel free to slap back rather than turn the other cheek.

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Don C. 04.11.09 at 7:49 pm

Shawn Crowley: “All of them deserve the same civil rights as male-female couples…”

They have them in California, yet still complain: “I AM A VICTIM OF H8” & menace: “MORMONS GO TO HELL”.

“Victimized” and victimizer all rolled up in one intolerant pathology.

Your analysis.

Again, if Barney Frank doesn’t care what it’s called, why should I, or anyone else for that matter?

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politicalfootball 04.11.09 at 8:02 pm

Thank you for your thoughtful engagement, and I forgive you for your reflexive (inaccurate) presumptions about my perspectives.

But Don C, how can I be making inaccurate presumptions about your perspective when you confirm my presumption? Let’s do this again. I asked this question:

are you saying that you support gay marriage in Vermont and anyplace else where the political system allows it?

And I presumed this answer:

Of course you’re not saying that

You made a big show of being theatrically offended by this, while flamboyantly refusing to give an actual answer to the question. After repeated requests, you finally provide an answer, and here it is:

Supporting or opposing homosexual “marriage” is not my concern.

So I was right all along! You weren’t saying that you supported gay marriage in Vermont! As I described quite precisely (with particular note to the bold-face I’ve added:

Of course you’re not saying that. As with Barney Frank, you’re just flinging poo, striking out in whatever random direction can muddle the argument. You aren’t even rising to the low level of the National Review or Kolasinski. You aren’t even giving us, in our host’s words, a “really, really bad argument” – just contradiction and misdirection.

And you confirm it! You’ve got no argument at all on the subject.

I’ve got to admit, though, even though you provided the answer I anticipated, I still find it unsatisfying – even though you’ve confirmed that you were flinging poo, I still think that flinging poo is a bad thing.

So I’ll ask for a little clarity here: Do you really think that supporting or opposing homosexual marriage is not your concern? If so, why do you care if anybody else supports or opposes it? What is the purpose of your presence in this conversation?

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MarkUp 04.11.09 at 8:03 pm

Oh, at least be sincere Don C, it’s about Prop 8 and its legal status and you know it. Would you call prop 8 intolerant? Seems that label does matter, and judging by the amount of money put in to it by the Mormons, some felt that they were being restricted in law by the church. Is that mistaken?

Is “I AM A VICTIM OF H8” somehow inaccurate? The other is tasteless opinion which we do all have the ability to place in public as have any number of church marquees over the years. You are not afraid that such tasteless speech could be true are you. Doubt is a killer.

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Don C. 04.11.09 at 8:14 pm

Guys,

I represent the status quo in this argument. The burden is not on me, but on those (ya’ll) who want change.

The best argument that ya’ll have presented is simple selfish interest.

I think you need to do better than that, if you want to impact “progressive” change.

Ya’ll don’t like that I and the majority of Americans disagree with you… that’s fine, but it won’t win you the political argument.

You need to do better.

But, from what I’ve seen in this thread and in others like it around the web, I think it unlikely you’ll get there anytime soon.

Good Luck ya’ll!

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John Holbo 04.12.09 at 2:43 am

Don, I realize that, overflowing with good wishes for our argumentative future, as you are, your capacity for revisiting the recent argumentative past may be limited, but you haven’t really explained what you think is wrong with ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’. Many people regard those as attractive values. You, apparently, see all that as ‘simple selfishness’. Hence easily dismissed. But you do see, I take it, that this puts you on the wrong side of certain American traditions, to put it mildly? (You may be on the right side, with regard to certain other traditions, to be sure.)

You say the point is not for your to defend your personal views but to assess our arguments. But in this case what is stopping our argument is simply your indifference to certain rather traditional American values. Whence all this negativity?

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Don C. 04.12.09 at 3:52 am

John Holbo: “you haven’t really explained what you think is wrong with ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’.”

Plessy v. Ferguson; Roe v. Wade; Lawrence v. Texas; etc.

“You, apparently, see [Life, Liberty & the Pursuit of Happiness] as ‘simple selfishness’.”

Nope, I see your fundamental (failure) argument to redefine marriage relying on nothing more than selfish interest.

“what is stopping our argument is simply your indifference to certain rather traditional American values.”

Nope, what is stopping your self-interested “polymorphous perversity/change agent” argument is majority votes.

The question remains: what will you (radical advocates) do to persuade enough Americans to ‘change’ sides to your selfishness on the issue of homosexual “marriage?

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John Holbo 04.12.09 at 4:03 am

Let me put that even more fully: the main justifications for heterosexual marriages are ‘selfish’, too. That is, people get married because they want to. By dismissing selfish grounds as sufficient, you are in effect demanding that I prove same-sex marriages are of greater social utility than heterosexual marriages, as a condition of warranting their permissibility. I can hardly prove that since I obviously don’t believe it.

I think what you may be groping for is something like this: the interests of straight people in ‘life liberty and the pursuit of happiness’ should be greater than the interests of homosexuals, in the eyes of the state. That is, per the NR editorial, homosexuals should just plain ‘count for less’. Period. This is, no doubt, an eminently traditional attitude. Your argument is basically: suppose I stick with my belief that homosexuals should just plain ‘count for less’, in the eyes of the state. Why, then, should I be compelled to permit same-sex marriage? No reason, obviously. So long as you take this – very traditional – attitude you really have no reason to change your mind about same-sex marriage. What I am pointint out is that this attitude is inconsistent with other American values that you probably uphold. You feel bullied because you dislike the sense that your opponents are trying to shame you by showing you that you aren’t living up to your own values. But that is, indeed, the argument, annoying as it may be.

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John Holbo 04.12.09 at 4:14 am

“The question remains: what will you (radical advocates) do to persuade enough Americans to ‘change’ sides to your selfishness on the issue of homosexual “marriage?”

I can’t speak for the radical advocates, obviously. But I can speak for myself. In general public opinion is trending towards more acceptance of homosexuality and, by extension, same-sex marriage. The reason is surely that no radical advocacy for these things is necessary, only a straightforward expression of traditional values. You want to treat ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’ as sinister expressions of Marcusean polymorphous perversity. I think you will find, over time, that fewer and fewer people regard that as a plausible equation. Time will tell. (If you have no inclination to engage the arguments on the other side, then all we can do is wait on the court of public opinion, after all.)

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Don C. 04.12.09 at 4:34 am

John Holbo: “You feel bullied because you dislike the sense that your opponents are trying to shame you…”

Nope, you are a bully to those that disagree with you.

And, in America, we don’t live in a shame culture therefore, the rest of your pathetic attempts at shaming disagreeable folks are ridiculous.

“I can’t speak for the radical advocates, obviously.”

LOL! Yet you’ve mad zero attempts to marginalize their alliances to your arguments.

“In general public opinion is trending towards more acceptance of homosexuality and, by extension, same-sex marriage.”

See liberal California & Oregon’s rejection of homosexual “marriage”

“You want to treat ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’ as sinister expressions of Marcusean polymorphous perversity.”

Piffle. I reject Marcuse et perverse ilk’s fraudulent attempts to redefine civilization in their own deconstructive images.

“If you have no inclination to engage the arguments on the other side, then all we can do is wait on the court of public opinion, after all.”

As long as you don’t cravenly regress to the moronic “I AM A VICTIM OF H8” there’s no reason I see for you to “GO TO HELL”.

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Amicus Blogae 04.12.09 at 4:54 am

Don C. is just Fitz with better spelling.

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John Holbo 04.12.09 at 5:04 am

Look, Don, you have to learn that not all disagreement is bullying. It’s possible for someone to suggest you are wrong without it being the case that they are just bullying you. Arguments that you are not living up to your own values are always annoying, I’m sure. But it doesn’t follow that they are dismissable out of hand as mere abuse.

I understand that you don’t like marcuse. That’s fine. But what do you have against same-sex marriage and, more specifically, the arguments for it. Obviously those don’t depend on Marcuse, one way or the other.

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John Holbo 04.12.09 at 5:07 am

OK, let me just say in advance of Don’s response: I give up. I’ve offered my arguments. The rest is just needling around the edges. I’ll leave it at that.

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Nabakov 04.12.09 at 6:35 am

And a big round of applause to Don C. for that wonderful demonstration of a really really bad argument in action. I’m deducting a few points because I suspect you prepared it in advance but all in all a fine illustration of the thread topic.

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Don C. 04.12.09 at 12:23 pm

Welcome Nabokov!

3 questions that will assist you in distilling your argument (good luck!):

What state interest do you believe homosexual “marriage” would serve?

Have you read California’s Domestic Partner law?

By what process do you believe the word marriage should be legally redefined in America?

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Don C. 04.12.09 at 12:29 pm

A final (obvious) observation:

Guys,

Stop agitating for “sameness” (gay marriage ain’t the same thing as hetero marriage) and focus on equal rights (as in Cali), and you can do better… just like Barney Frank said.

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MarkUp 04.12.09 at 1:54 pm

Don, you for got the “nah, nah, nanah nah” at the end of your post.

Cogito cogito ergo cogito sum

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Walt 04.12.09 at 2:31 pm

The argument against you, Don C, is not that people need to make the case for gay marriage — obviously they do — it’s that the standard of argument you are requiring has absolutely nothing to do with any view of society held by almost anyone in America other than you. You are far more out of touch with Americans and how they view the function of society than your average inhabitant of the Castro District. We’re not trying to convince you about gay marriage. We’re trying to convince you to rejoin the mainstream of American thought, where the people are sovereign, and not the state. The sad thing is that while gay marriage supporters understand the ways in which they are in and out of the mainstream, you are completely deluded how normal your opinions are. They aren’t. You don’t understand the legal concept of “compelling state interest”, which a constraint on state power not individual liberty. The only person I’ve ever heard advance a philosophy of state interest like yours is Vladimir Putin.

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Down and Out of Sài Gòn 04.12.09 at 3:06 pm

There are people with rigid personalities to whom gay marriage doesn’t “compute”. There’s a lot of overlap with the religious authoritarians, but the sets aren’t exactly equal. All their lives, they’ve thought of marriage as a union of man and woman; redefine it to equal man and man, or woman and woman, and their brain breaks. Subtract the homophobes and fundamentalists; there remains a sizable minority that are fine with “civil unions” (or similar term) between gays that offer the same rights and responsibilities as marriage.

For example, if someone gets sick, their partner gets to call the shots; they can’t be overruled by the family of the ill even if they are the same gender. I think of Kevin Rudd, an Anglican prude that’s against gay marriage but seems to support civil unions to some extent. He’s not an out-and-out-homophobe – he appointed Penny Wong to his cabinet, despite her limitations[*]. But he obviously feels uncomfortable with “gay marriage”.

I was hoping Don C was that sort of person, but no. Too much passive aggressive behaviour from him (such as calling people bullies because they disagree with him).

[* Nothing to do with her sexuality. It’s her disastrous Emissions Trading Scheme that concerns me.]

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Don C. 04.12.09 at 4:36 pm

All states that have put homosexual “marriage” on the ballot, including liberal California and Oregon, have voted against it by decisive margins (the majority).

Yet, according to ya’ll, I’m the one who is “out of touch”?

Go to the mirror boys, it’s there you’ll find the delusional images in denial.

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Martin Bento 04.12.09 at 4:52 pm

JM wrote: “But, and this is the important part, I recognize that no one is born a polygamist.”

Really. How do you know this? Certainly many people regularly fail, despite good intentions, to remain constrained by their monogamous relationships (and others do so without good intentions). This despite the fact that our culture encourages monogamy. And, viewed cross-culturally, polygamy is quite common. If having strong, perhaps uncontrollable desires for sex with others of the same sex is a part of a person’s essence, why would not strong perhaps uncontrollable desires for multiple sexual partners be so?

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JMW 04.12.09 at 4:56 pm

And I thought Functional got too much press. I love this site, and now I love it more, knowing that if I ever feel the need to have stubborn, illogical repetition greeted with a series of subtle, respectful responses, I’ve got a place to go. The most hilarious of many things that Don C. writes (and no, I’m not addressing him directly, since that would probably just result in him replying, “JMW: [cut and paste the same comment I’ve posted 245 times.]”) are these two:

1. “I represent the status quo in this argument.”

How bold! How philosophically relevant! Listing the number of issues in American history for which this would have placed Don on the absolute wrong side of the argument would take the better part of the day.

and, related:

2. “Ya’ll don’t like that I and the majority of Americans disagree with you…”

This betrays Don C.’s ignorance of the fairly simple fact that the status quo can change, without any work by the courts. In short, Don sadly won’t be in the majority on this issue for much longer. What effect that will have on the substance of his arguments (or, well, his ability to argue), civil society waits with bated breath to see.

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Walt 04.12.09 at 5:02 pm

No, Don, that’s right. A majority of Americans are not in favor of gay marriage. Congratulations, you found the one issue in which you are in lockstep with the country. But that’s not what we’re discussing. We’re discussing your “state interest” theory, which a majority of Americans would also oppose, since it violates the principles our country was founded on. We don’t have to convince anyone that gay marriage has to satisfy a state interest, since you’re the only person in America who thinks that’s the relevant standard. It amazes me that any American citizen (which I’m presuming you are) is that poorly informed as to the philosophical underpinnings of the American system of government. You should hang out on Hollywood Boulevard so that Jay Leno can pick you for one of those Jaywalking segments.

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Bruce Baugh 04.12.09 at 5:24 pm

By the way, something that people who aren’t Don C may want to know: Talismanic invocation of Barney Frank doesn’t work to dispel arguments against civil unions instead of marriage because Barney Frank is *gasp* not the be-all and end-all of prominent GLBTs. And in fact he’s not much favored by a lot of GLBTs who are lower class, less male, and/or less white than he is – he has a history of responding to the concerns of working-class, female, and trans concerns with something less than the enthusiasm he has for the well-being of his peers. He’s a good guy in a lot of ways, Congress is certainly the better for having him there, but in the long run he’ll be seen as very much a transitional figure in political opportunity for GLBTs.

When it comes to something as massive as pushing for civil unions or for equal access to marriage, people make their decisions for lots of reasons. Among those is a certain tendency for people whose own position is relatively secure to favor civil unions. If you’re rich, or prestigious, likely white and likely male, you are less likely to suffer a lot of the consequences that come from being stuck without the protections of marriage for your relationship, and to have a lot more recourse if they hit you. The further you are from centers of social power, the more important it is to have solid, standardized, not-based-on-you-personally supports.

Don’s usage is, however, a fascinating demonstration of Altermeyer’s authoritarian follower personality in action. He seems to just plain not get it that some of us aren’t driven by authorities and their rulings but by our own judgments.

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MarkUp 04.12.09 at 5:29 pm

”It amazes me that any American citizen (which I’m presuming you are) is that poorly informed as to the philosophical underpinnings of the American system of government.”

You must live a life of constant amazement then. Don has a script that says we live in a democracy where the majority rules; he is in the majority on this issue based on a couple of votes and a few periodic polls so he rules, as did Pharaoh, as did Honorius. Quite simple really, as is he.

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Perezoso 04.12.09 at 5:37 pm

All states that have put homosexual “marriage” on the ballot, including liberal California and Oregon, have voted against it by decisive margins (the majority).

Assuming secular interpretations of the Constitution (ie, proper interpretations), one could argue that the ballot measures should not have ever been put to a vote anyway, any more than a proposition suggesting that Cali-peoples vote on “let’s make the Baptist (catholic, jewish, mormonic, muslim, moon goddess, etc) church the official religion of California” should be put to a vote. The Black Robe Posse (ie judiciary) should have halted the process a priori as it were (then they should also eliminate all perks/tax breaks for traditional marriages, not that that’s likely to occur).

The big churches are the ones pushing for these measures, and often resorting to religious arguments (either explicitly or not) to justify the anti-same sex marriage policies. The Mormons kicked in millions to fund the Prop 8 phunn (rather amusing, since Brigham’s Army is not that strong in CA, thank Osiris). Madison, Jefferson & Co may not have approved of Ellen-Land, but they consistently opposed theocracy: scripture had no standing in law. So any arguments claiming hetero marriages are superior to non-hetero would have to proceed via non-religious grounds, perhaps psychological arguments, and the fundies do not appear to be too interested in that. Really, the Prop. 8 looks like classic tyranny of the majority.

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JayJonson 04.12.09 at 5:46 pm

Even the “ick” factor is a cover for something else. Despite the pretended revulsion for “gay” sex acts, the fact is that homosexuals do nothing sexually that heterosexuals don’t do. One only has to look at the amatuer porn posted by gays and straights alike on sites like xtube.

The real motivation of those opposed to gay rights is simply meanness. They opponents are bullies. They like being able to look down on others. They enjoy the fact that they have “special rights” that gay people don’t. In other words, the opponents of gay rights are not nice people. One doesn’t have to demonize them to realize that they lack the kind of moral compass one gains from being able to empathize with others not like oneself.

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Bruce Baugh 04.12.09 at 5:54 pm

Religious arguments wrapped in big doses of outright lies, known to be false by the sponsors.

(That’s a “yes, and” sort of comment, Perezoso. I agree 100% with your point.)

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Mitchell Young 04.12.09 at 6:09 pm

Those on the left constantly insist on labeling those with whom they disagree as somehow mentally deficient. Spreading around accusations like ‘homophobia’ and ‘xenophobia’ is just a less harsh version of the old Soviet practice of consigning to psychiatric wards those who dissented from the workers paradise.

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Righteous Bubba 04.12.09 at 7:04 pm

Tolerance argument: no good.
Intolerance argument: no good.
Justice argument: no good.
Injustice argument: no good.
Rational argument: no good.
Irrational argument: no good.

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Lee A. Arnold 04.12.09 at 8:16 pm

Over the long-term, the polls have moved massively toward allowing gay marriage. In California, Prop. 8 is likely to be reversed by the voters in one of the next several elections. It only passed by a 5 point margin, and after disproportionate tons of dough spent by the homophobes.

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Don C. 04.12.09 at 8:29 pm

Perezoso: “Prop. 8 looks like classic tyranny of the majority.”

California’s Domestic Partner law shatters that assertion.

On the other hand this thread is, in fact, what classic tyranny of the majority looks like.

YMOV.

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Righteous Bubba 04.12.09 at 8:39 pm

On the other hand this thread is, in fact, what classic tyranny of the majority looks like.

Because the minority can’t express itself? Because the minority is really representing the status quo? Because the minority has designs upon the dictionary? Because, uh, because?

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Perezoso 04.12.09 at 9:17 pm

You missed the central part of the post, Don C.: should the justices have allowed Prop 8 on the ballot in the first place, knowing that it was supported by religious groups, who use scriptural authority (supposed authority) as a basis for the claim that trad. marriage is superior to than non-trad. marriage/civil unions?? Obviously the fundies wanted to suggest that religious-blessed, hetero- marriages are “better”–if not more patriotic– than non-religious, and non-hetero types, and the Justices allowed this–which seems to violate First Amendment if not the secular principles of the Constitution as a whole (however quaint, sort of an issue).

Given that the majority of population is protestant or catholic, the fundies knew they had a good chance: in effect the justices allowed xtians to vote in a theocratic measure, under the guises of “democratic” politics. What if secularists, atheists, and pagans obtained enough signatures to put an “Ending Monotheism in CA” measure on the ballot: would that be acceptable, if it went to victory? The Cont. and Bill of Rights supposedly prevent some topics from being subjected to popular vote/legislation.

And I suspect you’re with the fundies, Don C.

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Walt 04.12.09 at 10:02 pm

It’s a Zen koan, Righteous Bubba. Meditate on it for another five minutes, and you’ll achieve Enlightenment.

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roy belmont 04.12.09 at 10:05 pm

Z: “Both judgments, if you insist, ultimately depend on unprovable axioms but “Killing someone is bad” admits the justification “because that someone didn’t want to be killed” whereas “Marrying someone your own gender is bad” does not admit this kind of justification. That is a difference between certain unprovable axioms and certain others unprovable axioms: some allow certain type of proofs, some don’t”

Your arrogance and gratuitous borderline insults in that phase of the discussion were uncalled for and sidetrackingly irritating.
What functional got down to is the blurry vagueness at the goal end of all moral systems besides libertarianism and some forms of institutional religion. People are cooperating with processes and moving toward ends they can’t conceive, aren’t capable of comprehending but moving toward them nonetheless.
The movement through time of the moral system and the culture it maintains and is maintained by will have a eugenic effect that will be invisible without a lot of history and science, because it’s so complex. But that’s really what’s up in all this.
It’s no coincidence the Mormons are heavily about survival on a pragmatic level. Stockpiles of food, rigid codes of obedience etc.
Biological survival is what marriage is about, it’s what religion is about, it’s what laws and society are about. Survival of who and what is where everything goes cockamamie.
The easy way out, which most here seem to take, is to bring it all into the present moment and base any valuation on that. Harm as perceived in the immediate present. It gets too awkward to speak of harm seven generations and further down the line. And harm is easy. Determining benefit and optimum enablement that far ahead is beyond all of us. But we’re going there just the same, only not consciously, by individual choice.
Holbo: “In the same-sex marriage case, the basic problem is that the only real harm it can do people is upsetting them “
The only real immediate harm. But for those whose biological survival, whose presence in the safer middle of the herd depends on the architecture of patriarchal reproductive codes, real harm will ensue if those codes are dismantled.
The patriarchy was very very good for patriarchs, and eventually it began to produce a breeding mass who were in affinity with the patriarchs, even when they weren’t themselves members. Any system that has that extensive control over the population will tend to do the same thing.
For those who are part of that patriarchal breeding program to become self-aware that they are is disempowering, and the system works by empowerment. They need to feel either that their god is in charge of the cull and reward, or that no one is.
This is probably one strong reason why the polarity around evolution/ID is so viciously engaged on the fundamentalist side, it’s to keep that knowledge from surfacing. Because aside from first cause differences both sides in that debate are in agreement about the appropriateness of human institutional control of human evolution, the disagreement’s about which institutions should be doing it, and that runs right back to functional‘s axiomatic conumdrum.
The conceit is humans have evolved and are essentially finished, so institutional pressures and programmatic effects aren’t material, but that’s clearly not so. The way we live, the things that reward us and eliminate us now, has as profound an effect on our biological shape-to-come as the savannah and its predators did when we lived there.
No accident that prisons are gender-isolated absolutely. And only those prisoners who qualify by behavior (obedience to the institution) and official marriage (obedience to the institution) are allowed conjugal (breeding) visits.
The argument that gay marriage is undermining the institutionally sanctioned marriage of religious and civil approval is probably accurate. The assumption that that’s automatically a bad thing is inaccurate, at least in part because it’s incomplete. Bad for some, good for others. Functional’s point, again.
It forces change on a system that rewards some and denies others. The end of the patriarchy will be a good thing for those who were marginalized by it, but for the patriarchs it will be a not-good thing.
Don C seems to be arguing for the preservation of a way of life, which means breeding as well as cultural indoctrination etc, that will give him and his affinity group a more optimal chance at survival, as it has been doing for a long time.
At the heart of it is biological competition, evolution. Without a specific place in the game, without an affinity, there’s no accurate rational moral stance. Third-party moral evaluation of a tiger attacking a deer.
Careering around rational arguments for and against has an effect on the outcome and is important, but it isn’t the nut. The nut is survival, not of us, now, as individuals, but us, later, as a species. Not just either/or, but what, and who.

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roy belmont 04.12.09 at 10:09 pm

End italic. Please, here.

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MarkUp 04.12.09 at 10:42 pm

Italics are all about procreative replication, though in print they don’t quite shimmer like The United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing.

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PG 04.12.09 at 11:46 pm

1. The state interest in marriage is to encourage support systems outside close blood family in order to reduce the likelihood that someone will instead become a burden on the state. For example, if my spouse is an only child and his elderly mother needs assistance (either money sent to maintain her, or a place to live), he is more likely to be able to incorporate her care into his life if he has a spouse, because the spouse will be able to share in the financial and practical requirements of such care. People without such family structures are more vulnerable to falling back on the state. It’s in the state’s interest to maximize alternatives to the state in assuring citizens’ welfare. Granting recognition of marriage is a minimal cost to the state that creates significant benefits.

2. For every argument that same-sex couples ought to be satisfied with domestic partnerships and civil unions, I always wonder what the arguer would think of having interracial relationships shuffled into such a separate-but-equal grouping.

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politicalfootball 04.13.09 at 1:17 am

I can’t think of a legitimate reason why the line ought to be drawn at civil unions – if those civil unions are identical to marriage, why not call it marriage? The obvious answer is that if you call it marriage, you are forgoing the opportunity to insult the participants. Is there some other reason?

It’s interesting to watch Don C’s refusal to admit to a position on gay marriage. He says:

I’ve never argued against Vermont or any other state that has, by the will of its people, redefined its own marriage laws.

Or:

I have no problem whatsoever with Vermont’s process.

Or:

Supporting or opposing homosexual “marriage” is not my concern.

Now, of course, we know that Don isn’t a bigot, and doesn’t harbor any hatred or ill feelings toward gays, and has no position on the subject of gay marriage. But among people who are> bigots (again: not open-minded people like Don, who want to talk endlessly about an issue on which they have no position), I’ve noticed they have an increasing amount of shame in admitting their agenda outright. You get a lot of evasions.

You saw this transition in the civil rights movement, too, where openly bragging about bigotry was at first acceptable, but later became embarrassing.

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Don C. 04.13.09 at 4:35 am

My position is that of observer.

I’ve observed that the best argument in this thread for the redefinition (downward) of marriage is nothing more than simple selfish interest, an unpersuasive argument which can be applied to countless selfish desires that remain restricted or prohibited by the state.

I’ve observed intolerance masquerading as enlightenment.

I’ve observed the hypocritical projection of the “tyranny of the majority” in a thread that claims to abhor such demonstrations of “H8”.

I am not “arguing for the preservation of a way of life”, I am, if anything, arguing in favor of the most democratic political process possible i.e., the will of the People (*not* the fashionable diktats of unaccountable/unelected/activist judges).

I appreciate and respect many of your views, however the tendency towards defensive rhetorical bullying (not to mention the actual bullying seen in the video linked up-thread) presents as symptomatic of homosexual “marriage” proponents whenever their selfish arguments fail to persuade the needed will of the People (majority) to their side.

Both Vermont *AND* California have, in my view, handled their respective political processes appropriately and their outcomes, while different on the surface (just because of a word), their outcomes are the same: equal rights under their laws.

Homosexual “marriage” advocates have threatened churches. So, what’s to stop these deep-pocketed activist organizations from threatening and/or pursuing lawsuits against churches that refused, based on their 1st Amendment free exercise protections, to perform a “marriage” ceremony for homosexual partnerships?

Follow the money, as they say…

Traditional marriage ain’t broke (it’s just been viciously attacked by modern culture’s polymorphous perversity, atheism, no-fault divorce and an abundance of wealth that has allowed selfishness to reign over sacrifice to family structure), so attempts to “fix” it by defining it downward, or defining perversity upward as the case may be, are in my view reckless and not beneficial to American society as a whole.

A delectable irony is that Barney Frank’s rationality has flummoxed the irrational advocates’ radicalism.

One trusts that ya’ll can see that and at least have a chuckle at your own expense.

Or, just laugh at your opponents because laughter is good medicine, and worrying doesn’t increase one’s lifespan.

Hasta Luego!

215

Don C. 04.13.09 at 4:47 am

Has anyone highlighted the fact that President Obama claims to be opposed to homosexual “marriage”?

216

Nabakov 04.13.09 at 4:56 am

I’m adding extra points for Don C.’s now frequently demonstrated ability to flag he’s made what he thinks is a conclusive point and no longer needs to return to this thread – only to keep returning.

Another deftly handled display of an attribute so common to really really bad arguers.

You’ll certainly get a high distinction if you respond Don.

217

Don C. 04.13.09 at 5:05 am

Oh, and another delicious irony in this thread is illustrated by the sarcastic criticism [ “How bold! How philosophically relevant!”] that my support of the status quo is, de facto, intellectually discredited.

It’s almost as if dissent and speaking truth to power (i.e., my speaking to this thread’s pro-homosexual “marriage” power-elite) is discredited simply because I engage in dissent here.

Hypocrisy! Thy name is pathological.

218

Lee A. Arnold 04.13.09 at 5:18 am

Don C., if you’re an observer, you’re not an unbiased one. Not even Calif. Prop 8 supporters think their win was “decisive,” as you have characterized it. And “marriage” could hardly be defined further “downward” than heterosexuals have already taken it.

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Nabakov 04.13.09 at 5:54 am

OK, a high distinction for Don C. You can relax now, no one likes a high achiever who doesn’t know when to stop.

Now class, what did we see displayed in Don C’s show and tell?

Disingenuous questions? Tick
Meretricious attempts to claim the mantle of rationality? Tick
Logic chopping? Tick
Moving the goalposts, if not the entire playing field? Tick
Ad hominen accusations of ad hominen (that phrase does not mean what you think it means Don)? Tick
Pointless and off-topic namedropping? Tick
“I’ve provided a link that proves my point!”, “Have you read it?”, “That’s not the point!”? Tick
Countering question with question while refusing to acknowledge other’s answers? Tick
Frequent cries of bullying and suppression of dissent as one of your points implodes under the weight of logic? Tick
Very slippery slope syllogisms? Tick
“I’ve won! Yes I have! I’ve really won! Here’s parting shot to prove it”? Tick
Back again? Tick

And yes you have won. I’m not particularly concerned about gay marriage but I am a veteran and connoisseur of good blog stoushes (eg: I commented in the frontlines during Davies’ Den Beste campaign) and you are marvelous. A perfectly formed bunching bag. Just enough resistance to know a punch has been landed but dim enough to keep taking more while displaying a range of completely stoppable fight styles.

Don’t go changing y’hear?

220

Righteous Bubba 04.13.09 at 5:59 am

Traditional marriage ain’t broke (it’s just been viciously attacked by modern culture’s polymorphous perversity, atheism, no-fault divorce and an abundance of wealth that has allowed selfishness to reign over sacrifice to family structure), so attempts to “fix” it by defining it downward, or defining perversity upward as the case may be, are in my view reckless and not beneficial to American society as a whole.

Speaking only for myself, I am hereby resolved to do my best to put an end to this “abundance of wealth” problem. I expect thanks from Don C.

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Nabakov 04.13.09 at 6:20 am

Righteous Bubba has just displayed a classic metric for deciding how to rate who’s really up and down in a blog stoush.

Who’s posting longwinded explanations of justifications and who’s sharply pinging their inherent absurdities? You can bet your cotton socks, it’s the former scrabbling for self-righteous purchase here.

Here yer go Don C. For an extra extra distinction, boil your point down into a zingy ten words or less and encourage responses in similar vein.

Here’s a starter response.
“Why should politicians approve how we fuck, love or bond ?”

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Henri Vieuxtemps 04.13.09 at 10:00 am

Leave marriages to churches and mosques, and out of the hands of the government. The government should be concerned with legal intricacies of ‘civil unions’ or ‘domestic partnerships’ or whatever you want to call them – regardless of gender, sexual preferences, and even the number of participants. If, say, 7 men and 5 women want to form a civil union, why shouldn’t they be able to sign a contract? And if the government doesn’t want to give them the tax breaks it gives to the one-man-one-woman civil union, that should be discussed rationally, not within the utterly idiotic framework of “what is the definition of ‘marriage’.”

What’s so controversial here that requires 200+ comments?

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Don C. 04.13.09 at 12:55 pm

Nabokov (hypocrite) agitates, insultingly, for pith.

Easy:

Homosexual couplings are not and have never been a legal definition of marriage.

The arguments against redefinition continue to win decisively.

Therefore, homosexual “marriage” advocates need better arguments.

**

“Why should politicians approve how we fuck, love or bond ?”

Love the sinner, hate the sin.

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Don C. 04.13.09 at 12:59 pm

RB: “Speaking only for myself, I am hereby resolved to do my best to put an end to this ‘abundance of wealth’ problem.”

Selfish! ;)

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Don C. 04.13.09 at 1:08 pm

HV: “What’s so controversial here that requires 200+ comments?”

Homosexual “marriage” activists (hetero-phobes) demanding redefinition in the name of “fairness”.

And, obviously, the hypocrites pathologically enjoy their tyranny of the majority in their attempts at stifling and intimidation against anyone (the only one in this thread) in opposition to their totalitarian demands for *special* rights.

On the other hand, your criticisms are rational.

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Don C. 04.13.09 at 1:13 pm

Pith:

“The simulacrum is true.”

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MarkUp 04.13.09 at 1:27 pm

Don you fight the Good fight to protect the Word; to protect the sanctity of the institution and to keep it pure and unspoiled for the majority so intrusions of folks with signs of H8 do not offend your eyes. Aaron McKinney was a protector too, as is Bob Peters – I’ll leave it to you to connect the dots doubtful that you can or will. I want to know when you expect to be pushing forward plans to dis-label the Unrighteous from tags like Citizen, American or human. Oh wait, that’s already started. Y’all can do better yah heaha.

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Don C. 04.13.09 at 1:40 pm

Bob Peters wrote:

“This secular value system is also reflected in the ‘sexual revolution,’ which is the driving force behind the push for ‘gay marriage;’ and the Iowa Supreme Court decision is another indication that despite all the damage this revolution has caused to children, adults, family life and society (think abortion, divorce, pornography, rape, sexual abuse of children, sexually transmitted diseases, trafficking in women and children, unwed teen mothers and more), it continues to advance relentlessly.

“It most certainly is not my intention to blame the epidemic of mass murders on the gay rights movement! It is my intention to point out that the success of the sexual revolution is inversely proportional to the decline in morality; and it is the decline of morality (and the faith that so often under girds it) that is the underlying cause of our modern day epidemic of mass murders.

“I would add that if conservative media’s irresponsible talk of revolution can ‘poison weak minds,’ the liberal entertainment media’s irresponsible portrayal of mayhem can also poison weak minds.”

http://www.christiannewswire.com/news/904759988.html

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MarkUp 04.13.09 at 1:55 pm

Very good Don, for a parrot. Surely you can add insight to those words, or perhaps be a bit more inclusive and add those from other supporters like the KKK or Fred Phelps. Why “argue” from the gutter without your best ammunition? {BTW, either group will provide you with some good video to use in your crusade}

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Don C. 04.13.09 at 2:16 pm

You introduced Bob Peters to this thread.

No doubt the “class” can benefit from your views as to any inaccuracies or untruthfulness in his words.

Good luck.

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Uncle Kvetch 04.13.09 at 2:24 pm

It most certainly is not my intention to blame the epidemic of mass murders on the gay rights movement!

Well, that’s a relief.

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MarkUp 04.13.09 at 2:58 pm

”You introduced Bob Peters to this thread.”

Very good once again Don. That’s twice today! I smell a gold star coming your way. Keep it up. Likely did not dawn on you then that I already had some knowledge of his words.

“not my intention to blame the epidemic of mass murders on the…”

Moral Majority? The Contemporary Conservative movement [say Nixon on.. or go back to Ike or forward to GHW Bush or the Newt/Rush gen if you like]. I noticed that the stronger the Graham Crusades grew so grew the Gay movement. Jerry Falwell seemed to propel not only Gay activism but the industry of prostitution as well. Come to think of it, ever since that radical Jesus fella gays have become more and more emboldened. Could have something to do with hanging with only guys for the most part. Of course we can’t blame that completely on him as there just were not very many women back then according to The book. But back to Peters, you are right the class could benefit from that but as there are none….. c’mon boy you can do better than that, like you did sweeping McKinney aside, or did I need to add video for the word challenged?

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Nabakov 04.13.09 at 3:07 pm

Oh Don C,

It’s never been my aim to debate you on the issue in question. Would you ask the wind to darn your socks and wash your dishes?

Rather I was just offering an experienced and discerning opinion on your blog stoush debating style. Which frankly is now totally crap.

It’s devolved into a flurry of frantic non sequiturs , genuinely ad hominen last stands and ramparts bolstered by links from whackos.

You came here looking for an argument, you found one and lost big time. It happens to all of us. Well OK, not as pathetically disasterious as your foray here. But we’ve all been there in one way or another. Come closer so I can bleed on you.

Now I seriously suggest you move on to avoid unwittingly playing your part in the wrong end of the online reenactment of what happened to the Old Guard at Waterloo.

Happy to teach you how to pronounce “merde” though. I have a distinct feeling the sentiment behind it will continue to play a big part in your life.

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Down and Out of Sài Gòn 04.13.09 at 3:09 pm

Homosexual couplings are not and have never been a legal definition of marriage. The arguments against redefinition continue to win decisively. Therefore, homosexual “marriage” advocates need better arguments.

Pithiness through haiku:

Faulty syllogism
Derived from faulty premise
Makes bad argument.

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PG 04.13.09 at 3:11 pm

Considering that Don C. didn’t rebut my point about the state interest in encouraging marriage without regard to the sex of the spouses, I think he’s not interested in the argument about same-sex marriage so much as the argument about the argument. Which is probably great for the average CT reader, but a little too meta for me.

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Don C. 04.13.09 at 3:18 pm

Great groupthink-echo-chamber you’ve got going here guys.

You really do need to apply a modicum of self-criticism and self-refutation if you hope to ever improve your argument for homosexual “marriage”.

But, clearly, that is not ya’ll’s goal.

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Barbar 04.13.09 at 3:27 pm

Reading over these comments, it’s pretty clear to me that there is only one true champion of gay rights in this thread, and that’s the guy who truly cares about the development of logically sound arguments that can appeal to a broad audience. It’s ironic, because he’s selflessly offering his advice to everyone else, but everyone seems to think that he’s an attention-hungry troll.

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Uncle Kvetch 04.13.09 at 3:28 pm

But, clearly, that is not ya’ll’s goal.

My’s goal is to get y’all to bid us all a final farewell (and really really mean it this time) and slam the door on your way out at least a half-dozen more times before the end of the day.

Now, dance for me, monkey! Dance!

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Don C. 04.13.09 at 3:43 pm

Quoted For Ironic Emphasis:

CALIFORNIA CONSTITUTION PREAMBLE:

“We, the People of the State of California, grateful to Almighty God for our freedom, in order to secure and perpetuate its blessings, do establish this Constitution.”

ICK! ‘Fundies’!!! ;)

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MarkUp 04.13.09 at 3:50 pm

“It’s ironic, because he’s selflessly offering his advice to everyone else, but everyone seems to think that he’s an attention-hungry troll.”

Well there is irony, that’s for sure. None of us has any idea about how “selfless” his act of “advising” is or where any real advice in his comments lay. Yes there is difficulty selling the whole gay marriage idea to the “majority” – at the current rate it will take some time yet before it encompasses the nation, but it is moving. No one has disputed that, but based on his selfless advice to date, regardless of if he is doing DA’s duty, he is a trolling dude.

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Nabakov 04.13.09 at 4:05 pm

No no Uncle Kvetch. we’re dealing, as I said before, with a marvelous bunching bag. He twitches and squirms with every hit yet keeps popping back up so invitingly.

I think he likes it too.

Would it help Don C if we all wore black leather masks, beat you with the thick thick Penguin edition of “Discipline and Punish” and didn’t play the soundtrack from ‘Eyes Wide Shut”?

I ask only out of curiosity and the small matter of a sporty wager about whether you’ll quote the Bible at some point.

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Perezoso 04.13.09 at 4:24 pm

grateful to Almighty God for our freedom

Itself unconstitutional.

Some of us are not arguing that the state recognize all marriage, hetero, and non-hetero. The word itself connotes religious tradition: civil unions for all a better solution. Not exactly same as No on prop. 8–8 should not have been put to a vote (the rage should be directed not at the hordes of xtians and other monotheists who voted for it, but for the justices who allowed it to be placed on the ballot). We’re arguing that that state has no business being involved in ANY civil union, cohabitation contract, domestic partnership, etc., unless agreed to.

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Don C. 04.13.09 at 4:30 pm

‘grateful to Almighty God for our freedom.’

“Itself unconstitutional.”

What hard evidence supports that claim?

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Perezoso 04.13.09 at 4:40 pm

Uh, the First Amendment of US Constitution, and the separation clause–which does not recognize the jurisdiction of God, or gods (I suspect you will now find some trivial religious language from a founder or prayer or something, but that does not at all overcome the Sep-Clause).

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PG 04.13.09 at 8:20 pm

Don C.

What was the problem with my argument @ 212 for recognizing marriages in a gender-neutral manner? (i.e. without regard for the sex of the spouses, just as we recognizes marriages in a race-neutral manner without regard for the race of the spouses, and not putting a different label on same-sex marriages just as we don’t put a different label on interracial marriages)

If you don’t bother to refute someone who makes the argument you requested — one that focuses on the state’s interest in marriage — you look just that much more silly claiming that no one has made such an argument.

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Cygna 04.13.09 at 11:39 pm

…I see, Don. So, “because it would make no one’s life worse and many people’s lives better” is, for you, an insufficient argument for change. I shall bear this in mind. I shall also bear in mind that the inherent moral rightness of extending equality to more citizens, altruism, and wanting people they care about to be happy have never been arguments that have changed people’s minds on issues, ever. That said, the arguments for gay marriage:

-form a more perfect union (I for one consider it my duty as a citizen to improve the state of the state insofar as I am able)
-establish justice (see also: decision in Iowa, for a detailed explanation of why restricting marriage to opposite-sex couples is unjust)
-ensure domestic tranquility (I don’t like having to keep having this argument any more than you do; less, probably)
-provide for the common defense (…okay, I’m just reaching here)
-promote the general welfare (Math time! Effect on opposite-sex couples: 0. Effect on same-sex couples: +. Net result: +!)
-secure the blessings of liberty for ourselves and our posterity (because it’s not just self-interest. For those of us who are capable of empathy, it’s the interest of generations who shouldn’t have to be unhappy just because we couldn’t get our shit together and give them equal rights.)

Gee, that sounds awfully familiar…Nah, I must be thinking of something else. I mean, what kind of nation would consider goals like that important?

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John Holbo 04.14.09 at 12:51 am

Just so you all know: I’ve stopped turning Don C’s comments on in the moderation queue. Mostly because he had started to spill over into our guest’s “Inequality” post.

Don C, I hereby satisfy your expressed desire for everyone to know that you, indeed, kept leaving comments even though I stopped turning them on.

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Martin Bento 04.14.09 at 3:43 am

I’m still interested in hearing how JM knows no one is born a polygamist.

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PG 04.15.09 at 12:25 am

Martin,

Unlike sex, marriage is a social construct, so I don’t see how one can be born monogamist, polygamist or misogamist.

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