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October 23, 2009

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Actually, even the argument that Christianity requires denial of the right to civil marriage for same-sex couples is fairly easily debunked, if you know your Bible.

See also God needs Proposition 8 like God needs a starship.

It continues to astonish me that this guy has an opinion column and is taken seriously.

"The secular arguments against gay marriage, when they aren't just based on bigotry or custom, tend to be abstract in ways that don't find purchase in American political discourse."

This is the strangest I've seen from him yet. "I'm not really a religious bigot, all appearances to the contrary, but my thoughts are so subtle and profound that I can't share them with you." And "find purchase in American discourse"? Does anybody edit him? It reads like a gentleman's magazine, circa 1910.

I see now that he said it, not wrote it. That's even worse.

For religious reasons, Douthat should be arguing against the legality cousin-marriage and interfaith marriages in which the children are not raised Catholic. Yet he only opposes the legalization of gay marriage.

It's obvious why Ross is uncomfortable talking about gay marriage in public. He wants the state to impose his religion on other people, but he doesn't want to look like a theocrat in front of the liberal cultural elite.

Beg to differ, Lindsay: while RD is obviously uncomfortable discussing the issue of gay marriage, it doesn't necessarily follow that it is for the reason you cite. Even if it IS a religious thing with Ross, advocacy for "theocracy" doesn't seem to be part of his argument: ISTM that it is more of a personal thing with him. Not that that excuses the fundamental inanity and weasel-wiggling: Douthat sounds like he's merely trying to cast a "moral" cloak over his own opposition - which doesn't, of course, work very well here since the rest of his commentary seems to devoted to demolishing "conventional" anti-gay-marriage arguments.

Really: This is best the NYT could some up with as a conservative Op-Edder?

Douthat's uncomfortable because he knows that he opposes gay marriage and that he has no publicly defensible reason for doing so.

He admitted that his opposition to gay marriage is purely religious. Yet he's talking about what the civil law should be. If he knows that there's no secular argument against gay marriage, but he still wants the state to continue enforcing a religious prejudice, he's being theocratic.

He doesn't have the guts to come right out and say that civil society should ban gay marriage because his religion says so. But he knows that the secular arguments against gay marriage are transparently bogus and not the sort of thing sophisticated people repeat to each other.

My sense is it would be another matter if he made the argument in an op-ed, but, TBF, Ross was responding to a question -- and seemed reluctant to give it, at that*.

His conclusion "I am someone opposed to gay marriage who is deeply uncomfortable arguing the issue in public" seems the best you could hope for from a guy who can't bring himself to support marriage rights for same-sex couples out of religious reasons**.

*I'm inferring from his false starts.

**TBC, there's no contradiction between saying an instinct is "bigoted" and saying it's religious -- to deny this is to redefine religion as something we would rather it be than what it is in practice.

he doesn't want to look like a theocrat in front of the liberal cultural elite mirror

I'm not sure there's any evidence that he cares at all what the 'liberal cultural elite' -- whatever that even means -- thinks.

If he lived in a country that didn't institutionalize patriarchy and bigotry under the guise of "free speech" Douthat would prosecuted for hate crimes.

I disagree completely with his position, but Id much rather live in a place where he's allowed to articulate it.

"I disagree completely with his position, but Id much rather live in a place where he's allowed to articulate it."

I basically agree -- though I wouldn't go so far as to say he "articulated" anything*.

*or, given the position, that he even could

Douthat should come out of the closet and realise that to keep church and state separate - and this time, it's for the sake of the church, not the state - marriage should be split into a practical/legal bit and ... whatever we should call the rest. The latter should get to keep the name "marriage".

It should be no business of the state to determine if a multiple-wives marriage is a real marriage, or multiple husbands, or remarriage, or same-sex, or time-limited/what have you. The state should concern itself with economic matters, biological parentage, guardianship, and leave the rest to civil society (where the churches live).

I wonder what policies Douthat supports on the grounds that there should be "institutional support for reproduction?"

Guaranteed pre-natal care? Expanded maternity/paternity leave? etc.

Harald: Douthat should come out of the closet and realise that to keep church and state separate - and this time, it's for the sake of the church, not the state - marriage should be split into a practical/legal bit and ... whatever we should call the rest. The latter should get to keep the name "marriage".

No, Harald. Why does this silly, silly idea come up every time civil marriage is discussed?

Marriage is already split into a "practical/legal bit" and a "religious bit". It has been for centuries, and for centuries, churches have coped just fine with the fact that religion doesn't marry people legally, and that people can get legally married who aren't allowed to get religiously married.

It should be no business of the state to determine if a multiple-wives marriage is a real marriage, or multiple husbands, or remarriage, or same-sex, or time-limited/what have you.

Define "real marriage". The state can and does and must: legislation about civil marriage is persnickety and detailed. A church, on the other hand, can afford to be foggy and vague - Quakers, for example, do not permit just anyone to get married in a Friends Meeting: the couple must be either members of the Religious Society of Friends or at least regular attenders, but who is and is not a "regular attender" is up to the Monthly Meeting that determines whether a couple are ready for marriage. After all, Quakers believe sincerely that marriage is the Lord's work and we are but witnesses, unlike the blatant hypocrites who think that marriage is for government regulation but Christians should get to say who is allowed to marry.

The hypocrisy of churches and church members claiming that they have a problem with same-sex couples having a religious marriage is blatant:
Same-sex couples have been wed with a religious ceremony that was not legally binding since long before any country offered civil rights to same-sex couples. Yet it was only when the marriages of same-sex couples were recognized by civil law, that some Christians who define their faith by who they think their God says they should hate, put up any protest.

After all, Quakers believe sincerely that marriage is the Lord's work and we are but witnesses,
Yes, we do. Nice summary of that.

He doesn't have the guts to come right out and say that civil society should ban gay marriage because his religion says so.

I think there's a third option that you're not exploring: that his religion forbids such relationships, but that perhaps he draws the line at foisting his personal religion on others.

That's pretty much the way I think. I don't have any reason for assigning that viewpoint to Douthat, but nor do I have any reason for concluding that he doesn't think that way.

I agree, Slarti, that Douthat wants to be silent on the issue because he can only justify his opposition to SSM religiously, which he knows is not a defensible argument in civil American debate (I'm making an assumption here, please disabuse me if I'm wrong) . I appreciate him sparing us that.

However, he would VOTE (I presume) in opposition to SSM legalization, and I think that anyone who votes his religious views into law (for no other reason than the belief that his religion is true) is still guilty of "foisting his personal religion on others." That's why I think the onus is still on Douthat (who has a pulpit) to defend his position.

Given our political system, I'm trying to figure out whether I prefer to go up against Douthat-style embarrassed bigots or the more typical proud bigots.

"A society that allows pornography, misogyny, and homophobia is not a free society."

News to me*.

"Douthat is voicing bigotry without any substantive content; he might as well just write, 'burn all the faggots.'"

Am I alone in thinking this is a little hyperbolic? And in the very next sentence...

"He's contributing nothing to civil discourse..."

And there are times like this where he does so without any apparent sense of irony.

*(and if a "free" society forbids the first one, I'd rather have tyranny, thank you very much)

Also, I think Julian made the best point in the thread thus far. Of course, it's one I agree with, so...

Real democracies, like all of Europe, realize that free speech does not extend to hate speech.

I don't think that their democracies are any more "real" than ours. I simply think that their experience with the entire continent collapsing into a war which killed tens of millions of people colors their experience about what what counts as free speech and what counts as incitement. I can imagine they have good reason to err on the side of caution, but I think we do just fine with our "outdated mode of 19th century liberalism." In any case, it is always best to err on the side of such a form of liberalism, however outdated it may be.

What Douthat is doing is morphing from his preconceived position of no gay marriage to supporting the issue. It is seldom an immediate epiphany. Older people, like myself, grew up when outlawing even being gay was the norm. Change doesn't always come as fast as people would like. It is useful, as RD moves down the road, to be called out in this fashion. Hopefully, he will read this post and the comment thread.

Ms. Hoss, OTOH, points up what is scariest about the extreme left (with corollaries on the right). Prosecute someone for saying something? In the name her or others being free of subjectively distasteful viewpoints? Cheers to Carlton for being the first to call her out.

"I think being protected from hatred... based on race, gender, religion and sexual orientation is a basic human right."

There are several possible objections this, but here's one: why should it only be based on those things? Why not how much money you make? Or why should you be more subject to hate for pursuit of public service (e.g. politics)?

(tbc)

Jennifer, I guess I just don't think that the United States changed in any appreciable way for the worse because of its commitment to free speech. I do think, on the other hand, that Europe views itself on a precarious balance between cooperation and all-out nationalist war. In short, we have plenty of other mechanisms for preventing our society from collapsing even if we allow a few demagogues to say stupid things, and we generally trust those mechanisms and realize that there is limited damage that can be done via demagoguery alone: namely, a democratic system of government that ensures everyone's rights. Plus, we can easily see a situation is which the cure would be worse than the disease. In Europe, the disease was so bad that they have a higher tolerance for what sort of legal punishments they are willing to mete out for anything they feel might serve to prevent it.

Seems to me if "hate speech" is legal--or at least protected--then kicking a hate-speaker's ass otta be legal, too.

mebbe that's just me

Seems to me if "hate speech" is legal--or at least protected--then kicking a hate-speaker's ass otta be legal, too.

That sounds like a reasonable compromise to me. Jennifer is right that the U.S. tolerance for speech seems bizarre to the rest of the world.

I meant "hate speech." I'm not against speech per se.

i'm gonna go ahead and agree with McKinneyTexas.

RD has no confidence in the arguments he's using to justify his position, but he just hasn't given up on them yet.

that's an interesting place to be, actually. when rationales are that flimsy, you can often knock them over accidentally; one day, something emotionally jarring, but seemingly unrelated, will happen and the next time you visit the subject you'll discover that those old beliefs no longer stand. they were stomped into dust while you were dealing with that other issue.

The problem with 'hate speech' is its inherent subjectivity. Threatening to kick someone's ass would be 'hate speech' in many quarters.

As for US democracy somehow being out of step with the rest of the world's democracies, (1) we invented democracy, at least in its modern form, and (2) we have a constitution and a history accompanying that constitution that abhors limitations on speech, second-wave feminism notwithstanding.

However, he would VOTE (I presume) in opposition to SSM legalization

I don't know that I'd venture a presumption in this regard, but I haven't made any kind of study of Ross Douthat. It's certainly plausible that he might vote his preferences, but people have been known to abstain from voting to impose their religious/ethical preferences on others.

You might think of such abstinence as all too rare, and I'd probably agree with you if you did.

"Jennifer, I guess I just don't think that the United States changed in any appreciable way for the worse because of its commitment to free speech."

Agreed.

"I also think that if you'd ever been the victim of sexual assault, you might not find the objectification and degradation of women so amusing. Pornography has a social cost."

Alas, I fully confess, my opinion of pornography is shaped by my personal experience of being a heterosexual male. My physical need for regular* sexual release cannot be met without self-stimulation.

This is better aided by sensational stimuli; thus the appearance of women (and, sometimes, men with them) doing things which would offend others, especially those of the opposite sex. But that's the thing -- they don't need to experience it, just me, and those who would also enjoy it.

For society to ban materials that aid myself in this process is to restrict the way I use my body in a way that concerns only myself. It is thus a less free society, and if "freedom" is defined so that my body is not my own, then it is meaningless word.**

As to the claim that pornography harms women -- are we talking about the particular women who appear in porn because they enjoy it***?

Or are we talking "women in general" -- the idea that, if only that porn wasn't out there, women could be treated much more respectably.

Since I know you're not making the BS argument that pornography causes sexual assault, I can only assume you're referring to how it offends people (then don't watch it) or how it will make people less respectful of women.

And finally -- FWIW, there's plenty of porn in Europe too. A lot of it better -- but more "degrading" -- than what we yankees would think to film and market.

*Not that frequent, mind you...

**TBC, I do not intend to claim that my experiences are comparable in the level of suffering or loss to personhood involved as anything else -- I am invoking a principle, which, of course, can have different levels of enforcement or violation. If offense is still taken, I apologize.

***At least what I watch is done by solid professionals; the more famous ones will tell you plenty about how much they love what they do. "Rape porn", at least the "authentic" kind, is a whole other matter...

Threatening to kick someone's ass would be 'hate speech' in many quarters.

I'd chastise you for your intolerance, but doing so might seem to be intolerant.

I can't win.

Since I know you're not making the BS argument that pornography causes sexual assault,

depends on what's meant by that. As the court that ruled the MacKinnon-Dworkin ordinances unconstitutional said

'(we accept the premises of this legislation.) Depictions of subordination tend to perpetuate subordination. The subordinate status of women in turn leads to affront and lower pay at work, insult and injury at home, battery and rape on the streets. [note 2] In the language of the legislature, "pornography is central in creating and maintaining sex as a basis of discrimination. Pornography is a systematic practice of exploitation and subordination based on sex which differentially harms women. The bigotry and contempt it produces, with the acts of aggression it fosters, harm women's opportunities for equality and rights [of all kinds]." Indianapolis Code § 16-1(a)(2). '(but it's speech...)

(Hudnut. Text at http://www.bc.edu/bc_org/avp/cas/comm/free_speech/hudnut.html)

Jennifer, it seems, is accusing RD of "hate speech" although I don't see where it comes off that way by a long shot. I would be curious to see how objecting to same sex marriage is somehow synonymous with hate.

Cleek wrote: "that's an interesting place to be, actually. when rationales are that flimsy, you can often knock them over accidentally; one day, something emotionally jarring, but seemingly unrelated, will happen and the next time you visit the subject you'll discover that those old beliefs no longer stand. they were stomped into dust while you were dealing with that other issue."

Fully agree because I have been there during my journey from anti-choice regarding abortion to pro choice. It really snuck up on me and I was actually surprised when one day I just started arguing the pro-choice side. I think that this type of thing happens frequently when one is basing one's former argument on a religious point of view. It is not that the religious belief necessarily changes, but rather that one is able to declare that basing something only on that point of view is being "superior" and dismissing other solely for that reason.

Frankly, I'm all in with Molly Ivins. People are free to spout all manner of madness and hate, and I'm free to call them assholes and refuse to have anything to do with them.

And to judge them! Because, that way, I feel better about myself.

Fair enough, Judith -- but my understanding is the footnote (note 2) better illustrates the consensus:

"MacKinnon's article collects empirical work that supports this proposition. The social science studies are very difficult to interpret, however, and they conflict. Because much of the effect of speech comes through a process of socialization, it is difficult to measure incremental benefits and injuries caused by particular speech. Several psychologists have found, for example, that those who see violent, sexually explicit films tend to have more violent thoughts. But how often does this lead to actual violence? National commissions on obscenity here, in the United Kingdom, and in Canada have found that it is not possible to demonstrate a direct link between obscenity and rape or exhibitionism."

(emphasis mine)

What would keep hate speech laws from becoming just another tool of the patriarchy to maintain itself by shutting down dissent?

The problem with 'hate speech' is its inherent subjectivity. Threatening to kick someone's ass would be 'hate speech' in many quarters.

As I understand it, hate speech laws generally apply in conjunction with a crime. That is, if you beat the daylights out of someone because you think they're gay and then scream "that's what all gays get here", you have committed a crime against the victim as well as a crime against every other gay person in the area since you have threatened them. Not only have you threatened them, but you've backed up that threat by actually beating the daylights out of someone you thought was gay.

I assume you agree that beating people to within an inch of their life is wrong. Do you believe that screaming "that's what gays get" while beating someone up is wrong also? Or do you think that this just shouldn't be a crime? And do you think that determining subjectivity in this case is actually difficult?

John Miller: I would be curious to see how objecting to same sex marriage is somehow synonymous with hate.

There is no reason for objecting to same-sex marriage but homophobia. Some homophobes are mentally ill, true, but most are just plain hateful. If someone objects to a same-sex couple getting married, it's pretty much synonymous with saying they hate gays.

McKinneyTexas: we invented democracy, at least in its modern form

Well, in the form that was modern in 1776. It's hardly a matter for national pride that you're still using the beta version when all the other democracies have long since upgraded to a version that actually works.

What Hogan said.

"There is no reason for objecting to same-sex marriage but homophobia. Some homophobes are mentally ill, true, but most are just plain hateful."

I think most are just homo sapiens -- they grew up believing that homosexuality is a sin and/or a mental illness. They can't bring themselves to understand that something they were brought up to believe was so wrong.

It doesn't follow that they "hate" homosexuals, as such (even if they have a deep instinctual antipathy toward the thought of homosexual sex). But it does mean that their abilities to relate to LGBT persons as equal persons is seriously hindered.

In short, most SSM opponents don't have their heels dug in as deep as many here think; with some basic information ("No, legalized gay marriage will not lead to homosexuality being taught in school"), their opposition softens considerably.

I do not agree that objection to SSM is synonymous with hate. What about the rest of the spectrum of animus? Dislike, fear, mild revulsion. It dilutes the meaning of "hate" and people who seriously do hate, to conflate whiners like Ross Douthat with the World Church of The Creator. There are a lot of people who oppose SSM, and I would agree that they are small-minded, hypocritical, ignorant, and so forth, but I am reluctant to so cavalierly extend "hate" to describe them. It's a serious word, and in the context of hate crimes, a serious allegation, and I think we should have a higher standard for applying it.

Well, in the form that was modern in 1776. It's hardly a matter for national pride that you're still using the beta version when all the other democracies have long since upgraded to a version that actually works.
The United States definitely suffers from some problems of having adopted standards too early. One could call American democracy the "Minitel" of democratic governance. On the other hand, like Intel and its inefficient 8086 processor architecture, it's been impressive how the USA has managed to make the system endure over the centuries.

"all the other democracies have long since upgraded to a version that actually works"

Oh please. Politics in every other democracy are just as stupid as in the US, each in their own unique way. Some places what looks like happy consensus really consists of a self-dealing supermajority stifling the political wishes of a minority; proportional-representation systems tend to be a mess of unstable coalition governments; parliamentary systems mean a party can rule with a meager plurality of the vote (as we are about to see in Britain, where the Conservatives are likely to take power despite the majority of the population supporting the other two left-liberal parties).

American democracy is stupid in its own set of ways and I'm not saying it couldn't learn something, but the idea that everyone else has an obviously-better system that the Americans are too stupid to adopt is just mindless oneupmanship.

As for hate speech, you all have been successfully trolled by Jennifer Hoss and her claim that this would be considered hate speech in other democracies. If there is a country on Earth in which arguing against same-sex marriage is considered hate speech I would like to hear which one.

There are left-wing trolls as well as right-wing. Best to keep that in mind.

Back to Douthat:

"The secular arguments against gay marriage...tend to be abstract"

Which is the entire problem, as anyone with an ounce of empathy would appreciate. When the best argument you can make is one that is "abstract" and you meet someone for whom it is a matter of practical reality, you ought to recognize that your abstract concerns are meaningless to them, and in the interests of "do unto others" you should probably get out of their way.

Turbulence--anytime someone is threatened with having their ass kicked because of something they said or something they might wish to say, the threat is 'hate speech'. Or, at least it proves my point that 'hate speech' is highly subjective. The idea of content police--can't outlaw 'hate speech' without having an enforcement mechanism--strikes me as repugnant.

Jes--there are objections to same sex marriage that are not the product of homophobia. For one, marriage historically and traditionally has been only between a man and a woman. For another, marriage historically and traditionally connotes more than a mere civil joining. To many, it is a sacrament. As a matter of civil law, a union with all of the civil rights of a married couple may be fine with some who still see marriage as a sacramental act and wish to reserve that for its historic and traditional role. You do not find either of these compelling--I don't either, particularly in the first example. But, they are both objections and neither are homophobic.

What Jacob Davies said.

I happen to think that some of the discussion on here is not tremendously well thought out. Before going into more detail, let me say two things: first, I am not a Christian, but grew up in a church family, and know various strands of Christian theology reasonably well, second, I strongly support gay marriage, and know of no coherent, fact-based philosophical argument against it.
However, I would have to point out that a case can be made from the Bible against gay sex, rights and marriage. I don't personally agree with it, and it seems to me to run counter to much of what Jesus appears to be saying, but there are passages that can be taken as condemning homosexuality. If, like Douthat, you are a conservative Catholic, those passages, combined with millenia of Catholic teaching on sexuality, may seem more persuasive to you, regardless of your personal feelings and intuitions. It may be that Douthat feels uncomfortable trying to articulate a defense of ideas that he himself does not fully share, but which he feels bound to agree with as part of the teaching of his church. This is, admittedly a charitable reading, but I would suggest that a little charity from those who are so quick to condemn Douthat in the name of their own understanding of the Bible and Christianity would not go amiss. If nothing else, it would give them some sort of legitimacy when demanding that Douthat show them tolerance.
On the subject of homosexuality and the Bible, the following might be useful, for those wanting to think through the issues:

http://www.religioustolerance.org/homglance.htm

For one, marriage historically and traditionally has been only between a man and a woman.

In the Western world. Maybe. It's a rather limited argument.

And, actually, I'm OK with labelling things hate speech. I'm not OK with legal penalties for it, though; I'm strictly for social and cultural penalties.

Gwan--where, outside the West, have same sex marriages been a traditional aspect of society?

It seems to me that the argument from "tradition" is weak for several reasons:

1) much of what we call "tradition" is actually not traditional at all, but a more recent invention (eg. Highland tartans - invented, essentially in the 19th century)

2) all traditions, even when venerable, had to begin somewhere. What was their basis - and would we uphold it today? In other words, there was a point when traditions were new, and had to be defended or endorsed. Just because that endorsement happened a long time ago does not make it valid for all time.

3) Even if we grant that a given tradition is old, age is not guarantee of the tradition being just, prudent or even sensible. We do not follow the divorce procedure of the Code of Hammurabi, for example. Nor, if you want a more tangible example, do we start fires with flints. Why not? Because we found something better. Why should we not look for something better than a "traditional" understanding of marriage?

"For society to ban materials that aid myself in this process is to restrict the way I use my body in a way that concerns only myself. It is thus a less free society..."

Wondering what Point thinks then of Texas?

'That sounds like a reasonable compromise to me. Jennifer is right that the U.S. tolerance for speech seems bizarre to the rest of the world.'

It comes out this way because much of the rest of the world thinks of themselves collectively as free societies whereas the United States is a society composed of free individuals. It's a real difference and it's a big deal to those in the US who believe the Constitution and, in particular, the Bill of Rights mean what they say about the rights of individuals. The Constitution can be amended, of course, if the American people decide to agree with the rest of the world and become a collective 'free society', whatever that is.

I'm opposed to laws against hate speech unless it is directly linked to violence or threats of violence. It's not hard to find examples of speech that some consider hateful and others consider truthful. Right now Judge Goldstone is being called a "self-hating Jew". People who say that probably think he's guilty of hate speech. I think people who accuse him of such things are guilty of hate speech. I don't think either viewpoint should be criminalized, though some people on each side claim the other side is justifying atrocities. (I happen to think it's the critics of Judge Goldstone who are apologists for war crimes, but again, I don't want to criminalize this.)

"I'm opposed to laws against hate speech unless it is directly linked to violence or threats of violence"

I should say "imminent threats of violence". It's hard to draw the line. During the Gulf War I saw some stupid woman wearing a T shirt that said "I'd walk a mile to smoke a camel" and there was a picture of an Arab on top of that animal with a bullseye superimposed. Racist hate speech. A lot of what is said during wartime is pure hate speech.

I meant we should criminalize speech when someone is talking to a group of people and inciting a mob to go lynch someone at that instant. But take it to a larger level and you'd have to start locking up a fair number of politicians and political commentators, not to mention T shirt wearers. Or maybe send them all to re-education camps. The problem is real, but the solution --criminalizing the speech--isn't going to work.

Poor Douthat. How distressing he obviously finds it trying to reconcile an ethical sense with being a bigot.

A society that allows pornography, misogyny, and homophobia is not a free society. Douthat is voicing bigotry without any substantive content; he might as well just write, "burn all the faggots." He's contributing nothing to civil discourse, and the victims of his hatred should not be without redress.

I think the proposed cure is worse that the disease; once this principle is accepted I worry that it would be far too easy to use those tools against those with whom one merely disagrees, rather than finding morally reprehensible.
In fact, Id say that you've gone this far already- Douthat is not calling for murder, merely questioning homosexual marriage. Now I think he's very wrong, calling for second-class status for certain citizens to enforce his religious views. But that is not violence nor a call to violence.

I think being protected from hatred and discrimination based on race, gender, religion and sexual orientation is a basic human right. And free societies, by definition, protect human rights.

I think that being free to speak your mind is a basic human right. As with all rights, this right comes into conflict with other rights and people can disagree about how those conflicts ought to be resolved.

But, personally, I think respecting the rights of the victims is more important.

Undestand that those who advocate for free speech do not do so beceause they enjoy watching the KKK march through a black neighborhood. We do it because the alternative seems very dangerous. You, in fact, seem very dangerous- "a society that allows pornography... is not a free society"- so you would set yourself up as the arbiter of acceptable and unacceptable erotica? Shall you also rule on whether certain fashions are acceptable or (in your opinion) degrading? Shall you decide which consensual encounters are morally uplifting and which are unfit for a civilized society?

I find myself in the rather odd position of agreeing fully with something McKinneyTexas said. I am dealing with the cognitive dissonance as I type.

But he is correct. Not everybody who is against SSM is homphobic and hates gays. Not everybody who is against abortion rights hates women. Not everybody who was against the war in Iraq was a traitor. Not everybody who was for the war in Iraq was a bloodthirsty racist anti-Muslim.

There are probably some who would fall into those categories, but I would posit that in each of those examples the "are nots" outnumbers the "are."

When our country outlaws hate speech we will be in big trouble. And GOB, the founding fathers did indeed cherish individual rights. But they also believed greatly in societal rights and the need for the government to be there for all the people in the country.

Thought I'd help Carleton Wu out by adding a little note to his final point, just to be thorough:

If you're going to say "No, these standards would be chosen by the majority of people", then you need to explain why this principle doesn't apply to our current consensus against these prohibitions in the first place.

The problem with laws criminalizing "hate speech" is that they only work in the benevolent dictatorship of the philospher kings. In America, we have elections, and the good guys sometimes lose. Even when the good guys win, there are a lot of people out there who think they are the good guys, not us--and we want to resolve our differences with these people nonviolently, if possible.

The way to deal with hateful arguments is to out-argue the other side--as Jesurgislac showed in the first comment in this thread. Criminalize hateful arguments--invoke the state's monopoly of legitimate violence to suppress them--and you take the contest out of the realm of civil debate and into the realm of violence. Those armed with the truth ought not to fear debate.

If we had laws criminalizing "hate speech" in this country back in the 50's and 60's, then all of the civil rights leaders of that era would have gone to jail for "hate speech". That's the kind of result you get when you let those in charge of the government determine what speech is or is not permitted.

There are people in this country who believe that advocating legal same sex marriage is hate speech against Christianity. There are people in this country who believe Justice Sotomayor was committing "hate speech" by talking about wise Latinas. Not too long ago, they and their allies controlled all three branches of the federal government.

Freedom of speech protects us as well as them.

McKinney: there are objections to same sex marriage that are not the product of homophobia.

Name one. No one has come up with any yet/

For one, marriage historically and traditionally has been only between a man and a woman.

But the only people who justify denying access to civil marriage for same-sex couples with the rationale "you weren't allowed to do it before, and we don't want you doing it now"... are homophobes. (Historically and traditionally, marriage is a relationship in which a woman is given by her father to her husband, and she is not allowed either to choose or divorce the man her father chose for her. Is this a valid reason for denying women the right to choose husbands and decide to divorce?)

For another, marriage historically and traditionally connotes more than a mere civil joining. To many, it is a sacrament.

But the only religious people who think that's a valid reason for denying same-sex couples access to the sacrament of marriage... are homophobes.

As a matter of civil law, a union with all of the civil rights of a married couple may be fine with some who still see marriage as a sacramental act and wish to reserve that for its historic and traditional role.

Only if they're homophobes who think that lesbian and gay people aren't entitled to the same sacraments as straight people are.

You do not find either of these compelling--I don't either, particularly in the first example. But, they are both objections and neither are homophobic.

Of course they are homophobic. I've just explained how.

John Miller: Not everybody who is against SSM is homphobic and hates gays.

Some people may be against same-sex marriage in a vague haven't-thought-it-through kind of way. Politicians and their religious equivalents may find it necessary to be publicly against same-sex marriage because they need homophobic votes.

But there's no justification for opposing same-sex marriage that isn't sourced, and directly, in homophobia.

Not everybody who is against abortion rights hates women.

Again, some people claim to be against a woman's right to decide for herself what to do when she's pregnant because they haven't ever thought it through. I would say those people don't hate women, they've just... never been faced with that kind of decision, nor ever thought or cared about a woman who has. But someone who has thought it through, and concluded that a woman ought not to be allowed to decide for herself - that a pregnant woman must be forced against her will to do what an outsider has decided is the right thing - either hates women, or regards women as so subhuman that it's hard to distinguish this from human hatred.

To quote Doctor George Tiller, murdered by a man who couldn't tolerate the idea that women get to choose, "Trust women."

Mock Turtle skrev :

> I ... know of no coherent, fact-based
> philosophical argument against [gay marriage].
> However ... a case can be made from the Bible against
> gay sex, rights and marriage.

Mostly from Leviticus, right?

And so when I meet Christians who oppose gay legitimacy, and who also eschew all pork and shellfish, who would never combine beef and butter, who wear only clothing made from a single kind of fabric, and who have no tattoos or piercings, I can respect them for so consistently following the ancient Hebrew laws.

Otherwise, I smell bigotry carefully rationalized.
Your mileage may vary.

Point: ...even if they have a deep instinctual antipathy toward the thought of homosexual sex...

I had a friend once who was going through the process of realizing that there were gay people in her world, in her church, among her friends (e.g. me).

She said to me one day that when she saw the openly gay couple who came to our church, she couldn't help but think of gay sex, and it was icky.

But the interesting thing came next. She was self-aware enough to think the next thought, which was that it had then occurred to her that she didn't automatically think of sex when she saw straight people, but if she chose to think of it, it was just as icky.

So the distinction wasn't which kind of sex she was thinking about (more on that in a moment), it was which people made her "instinctually" think of sex. It was gay people who had that effect on her, because she hadn't thought she knew any, but now she did, and she was just getting used to it. And like many people, once she got used to it, it was just no big deal any more, and it wasn't all about sex any more either.

Furthermore, though the tally of certain body parts in the room is different, straight people (collectively) do pretty much all the same stuff gay people do.

So, as a 12-year-old boy said in a diversity film I once watched, "What's the big whup?"

McKinney: there are objections to same sex marriage that are not the product of homophobia.

Name one. No one has come up with any yet/

The only one I can think of is opposition to same-sex marriage in the context of opposition to all marriage. I haven't heard much from people taking that position, though, particularly not when discussing same-sex marriage.

McKinneyTexas: For one, marriage historically and traditionally has been only between a man and a woman.

gwangung: In the Western world. Maybe. It's a rather limited argument.

McKinneyTexas: Gwan--where, outside the West, have same sex marriages been a traditional aspect of society?

McKinney, your original statement said "a man and a woman." I can't speak for what gwangung was thinking, but one obvious counter to your statement as written is that marriage has not been historically and traditionally between "only a man and a woman" in places where polygamy was/is traditional.

Living in Maine, where we are on our fifth or sixth statewide referendum about gay-related issues since 1995, I can tell you that the yammering about how marriage has been defined as "one man and one woman" for "thousands of years," and how God made "Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve," has gotten far beyond tiresome.

My favorite riposte to the latter stupidity: "Last I heard, God made everyone."

A society that allows pornography, misogyny, and homophobia is not a free society.

...one of these things is not like the other. I leave it to the alert reader to evaluate.

Note that I don't think it's possible or a worthwhile use of time to debate the point with someone who genuinely believes that pornography belongs in the same category as misogyny or homophobia--but I do think ridiculous beliefs like this should be held up for public ridicule.

Okay, back to downloading porn.

Carleton Wu to Jennifer Hoss:

You, in fact, seem very dangerous...so you would set yourself up as the arbiter of acceptable and unacceptable erotica? Shall you also rule on whether certain fashions are acceptable or (in your opinion) degrading? Shall you decide which consensual encounters are morally uplifting and which are unfit for a civilized society?

What Carleton said.

Combining the thread on "Just tax" with this one, we can conclude:

Brett:fairness::Jennifer:freedom.

But -- though they can claim the power to define terms for the rest of us til they're blue in the face, the rest of us still get to form our own opinions on the subjects at hand. And, since we're in the US, we get to express them, too.

It seems to me that the discussion fails because the question is wrong. The real question is "should marriage be inflicted on everyone equally?"

I think it is unlikely that there would be a whole lot of religous people people arguing for a carve out favorable to same sex relationships.

It's true that US legal standards concerning hate speech are highly unusual among rich democracies; most such countries are far more restrictive. But, more to the point of the thread's original subject--is there any place in the world where arguing against legal same-sex marriage (without making some additional hateful point about gay people) is actually prosecutable hate speech?

Most of Europe still prohibits same-sex marriage, so I particularly doubt that arguing against same-sex marriage would be illegal in those countries.

Outlawing same-sex marriage makes no sense to me. But, based on recent history, it seems to me that attempts to make a rational case against SSM fall apart of their own accord so readily that this is exactly the kind of situation where a free marketplace of ideas actually works.

The only one I can think of is opposition to same-sex marriage in the context of opposition to all marriage. I haven't heard much from people taking that position, though, particularly not when discussing same-sex marriage.

Interestingly, the one place I have heard those arguments is from some leftist gay men and women, who think their GLBT peers should have more important issues on their minds and agendas than pursuing and being absorbed into another patriarchal capitalist bourgeoise activity.

Janie (9:26)

That's also a very good point -- though I think it's sad that so many people, even without malice, don't have the self-awareness, or the comfort with sexuality to have such self-awareness on the subject.

"The only one I can think of is opposition to same-sex marriage in the context of opposition to all marriage."

"Interestingly, the one place I have heard those arguments is from some leftist gay men and women..."

And the GOP -- don't forget about them! ;)

McKinneyTexas states:

marriage historically and traditionally has been only between a man and a woman.

This is not true. Marriage has historically and traditionally been an arrangement between two *families*, or between two *men* -- the husband and the wife's previous owner (father, brother, etc.).

Traditional marriage is between one human being (male) with full or potentially full legal status in that society, and one partial human being (normally female) with limited or incomplete status and rights.
1 marriage = 1.5 human beings, legally speaking.

Once women have the same other legal rights as men: to own property, to go to court, to vote, to run for office, etc., then 1 marriage = 2 human beings, and traditional marriage is *already* dead.

SSM is, IMHO, the final proof that women have full legal rights: that every human is valued equally, even in marriage, and things that are equal to the same thing are equal to each other. M+F marriages and M+M or F+F marriages can only be equal if women are legally equal to men, and *that* IMHO is the true stumbling block to SSM, though it's buried so deeply that most of the people are motivated by it can't even express it.

Been reading over the thread -- and maybe this is silly, but I got a warm feeling seeing how much consensus there is for free speech -- in, yes, protecting unpopular and even hateful speech.

I say this in all earnestness -- it's making me a little more proud of my country.

Doctor Science's comment reminds me of some time I spent last spring in the Law Library at the Maine State House, reading old statutes relating both to marriage directly, and to gender roles in relation to other things.

My photocopies aren't well organized, but this one is I think from 1821:

And when a feme sole [unmarried woman] shall jointly with one or more persons, be appointed executrix, or administratrix, and after such appointment shall, during the life of the other co-executor or co-administrator, marry, such marriage shall not make the baron [her husband, I presume] an executor or administrator in her right; but shall operate as an extinguishment or determination of such woman's power and authority. And the other executor or executors, administrator or administrators, may proceed to discharge the trust reposed in them in the same way and manner as if such woman were dead.

On the brighter side, Maine allowed interracial marriage (by removing the explicit prohibition of blacks and whites marrying each other) as early as 1883. It wasn't the first state to do so, but it was http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-miscegenation_laws>one of the earlier ones.

Thank you, Harald Korneliussen, and thank you, Phil. And Jesurgilsac, we've been over this before and it's pointless to do it again, but you're right that historically (and in some parts of the world now) women have been treated as property in marriage, the main purpose of marriage being to trace a man's genetic lineage through children in order to establish legal (property) rights and obligations. It had nothing to do with love, and the institution has outlived its usefulness. It should be kept in churches where it belongs, and those of us who have more enlightened views of love partnerships (including the right to make contingency plans for dissolution) should be left alone. Marriage as a legal institution is nothing but a regulation of people's sex lives by the state, or a presumption that relationships based on sexual commitment are more honorable or worthy than other relationships. If there is any argument for allowing the state to "recognize" or "solemnize" a personal romantic commitment, I'd like to know what it is.

Doctor Science: and *that* IMHO is the true stumbling block to SSM, though it's buried so deeply that most of the people are motivated by it can't even express it.

I think that's mostly right. But the last six months in Maine have provided plenty of evidence that though the women-as-property element of people's resistance to SSM is deeply buried, the fretting about gender roles isn't. A lot of it is pretty much off in la-la land, like this letter from today's http://kennebecjournal.mainetoday.com/view/letters/7000933.html>Kennebec Journal (the Augusta paper):

LD 1020, the Marriage Equality Act, is being touted with the claim that it will not affect anyone else. This is simply not true.

This law completely negates the possibility for homosexuals to simply live as they choose without affecting others.

In it, the demand is made for a "genderless" recording of future relationships. No longer would the terms "bride/groom" or "husband/wife" be allowed on any marriage license or certificate.

Next, there could be no "mother/father" on birth certificates, because to designate that specifically would be illegal. The very real possibility of removing the gender of the children born alive also must be considered, as this "discrimination of labels" argument surfaces in all future encounters.

Genealogical records and family histories will become nearly impossible to track, as sons and daughters, fathers and mothers become "extinct."

This "no labels" mentality must be taken seriously, as it eventually makes its way into every fiber of our lives, including the removal of gender designations on public restroom doors or the non-admittance of specific sexes into clubs and organizations.

Legal prosecutions, then bankruptcy of businesses that refused to provide their service in a situation that compromised their own values have occurred, meaning this law that grants special rights to a few results in astronomical loss of personal rights to those who are not gay, still the clear majority in Maine.

In my opinion, Mainers need to seriously consider the consequences of this law for our state before voting allowing it to remain a law.

I particularly like the assertion that "those who are not gay" are "still the clear majority in Maine." ;)

More depressing, because it was from a source you would hope had more sense, last spring we had a professor of Constitutional Law moaning http://kennebecjournal.mainetoday.com/view/columns/6210902.html>thusly.

http://kennebecjournal.mainetoday.com/view/letters/6260359.html>My reply followed. (My research in the Law Library, mentioned above, was largely inspired by my great desire to show that professors of Constitution Law should do their homework.)

"SSM is, IMHO, the final proof that women have full legal rights: that every human is valued equally, even in marriage, and things that are equal to the same thing are equal to each other."

This makes perfect sense. Though I would add that, since SSM opponents have no coherent argument left, and even if they made an express patriarchal argument, it would have no legal weight, that this proof is already here -- states have already begun legalization, and SSM has acquired a sense of historical inevitability.

It's the sort of thing that makes you feel good about where we are and where we're headed, even as it makes you less complacent.

Realized I had a weird phrase in my last post:

Janie's rebuttal to Reisert actually illustrates what "not having any legal weight" looks like; my hats off to her. ;)

"If there is any argument for allowing the state to "recognize" or "solemnize" a personal romantic commitment, I'd like to know what it is."

I would think the state had a interest in tracking the children born of those commitments, for various obvious reasons.


Jesurgislac: "But there's no justification for opposing same-sex marriage that isn't sourced, and directly, in homophobia."

You can repeat that ad-infinitum, and you'll still be wrong.

We have a mixed crowd of regulars in my neighborhood L.A. Dive Bar, ethnically mixed, racially mixed, and sexual orientation mixed. One of the gay men, in his 60s, a published poet, actor (with billings in at least 30 flms and tv shows) singer-songwriter (performs regularly in So Cal restaurants and bars), a regular contributor to the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, and various annaul Aids Walks (I know all this because when he was incapacitated in the hospital for a few weeks last year I picked up his mail for him, half of it proselytizing letters for contributions) -- is against gay marriage.

Is he homophobic too?

Thanks, Point. ;)

There was a lot more that could have been said in response to Reisert, but at the time I was saving my quota of letters to the editor for the months to come and thus trying to address only the most important points. (Letters have both a word limit and a frequency limit -- <= 300 words, <= 1 letter every 2 weeks.)

I have written letters and op-eds in the KJ now and then over the years, for a long time as one of the very few people (early on probably the only one) to write as an openly gay person. One of the really wonderful things about the last few months, especially once fall started and the referendum campaign got under way, has been to see letters in the paper almost every day on the subject of same-sex marriage. Wonderful, thoughtful points are being made every day and by many people, straight and gay, and that's new, and even if the vote goes the wrong way this time, we're not going back to the old world, where people were in the closet and the subject wasn't considered fit for the local daily paper. (Someday it will once again not be fodder for the local daily paper, because no one will care. We're not there yet.)

Of course, the converse is that the other folks are writing to the paper every day too. Some of it is appalling, and it can wear me down, but it doesn't make me question the First Amendment one little bit. That the "No on 1" folks (no meaning let's not veto the new law) talk about families and children and commitment, while the "Yes" people rant about imaginary disasters like "the very real possibility of removing the gender of the children born alive" (?!?) is pretty good evidence that like Ross Douthat, they got nuthin'.

hairshirthedonist: The only one I can think of is opposition to same-sex marriage in the context of opposition to all marriage. I haven't heard much from people taking that position, though, particularly not when discussing same-sex marriage.

Fair point, if applied equally all round.

However, in general, people who oppose marriage, and who therefore don't ever intend to marry, but don't in general insist on imposing their views on the whole population any more than most religious people think that their religious beliefs should be imposed by law on people who don't share them. They might not ever join in a campaign for civil marriage, but they won't oppose one.

Then there's people who claim to oppose civil marriage for all, but who only ever crawl out of the woodwork and say so when the ban on civil marriage for same-sex couples is under discussion - they argue that first of all, same-sex couples shouldn't be allowed to marry, and then there should be some kind of legislation (hand-waved) that will ban civil marriage altogether. That the "and then" is just not going to happen - banning civil marriage would be the most hugely unpopular move any government could make - leaves the ban only on civil marriage for same-sex couples. Which is obvious enough to be their probable goal in the first place.

Sapient: If there is any argument for allowing the state to "recognize" or "solemnize" a personal romantic commitment, I'd like to know what it is.

To avoid nasty little bigots who think it's their role to police other people's sex lives, allowing this to happen. Or indeed this.

You can argue, for the first example, that the hospital staff who wanted Lisa Pond to die alone, separated from her wife and their children, might have done so in any case faced with a valid marriage certificate rather than durable powers of attorney: but in fact the marriage certificate itself brings with it the force of law that says a wife or husband is the legal next of kin, and - in the experience of people who have lived with both - is far harder for even the most vicious bigot to oppose.

True, all that Janice Langbehn and Lisa Pond had was a love partnership of 18 years and four children. You with your "more enlightened view" might feel the hospital was right to treat it as less honorable or worthy than Lisa Pond's relationship with her own family (as soon as Lisa Pond's sister arrived, Janice Langbehn was let in to be with her partner: sadly, this was after Janice had died).

Equally, for the other example, Earl Meadows's cousins might have tried to grab the ranch where their cousin had lived for 25 years with his life partner Sam Beaumont even if Meadows and Beaumont had been married: dirty little crooked people who are creepy enough to try to invalidate their cousin's will because it's short one witness signature would probably have tried it on anyway. And you, with your "enlightened views" may feel that Sam Beaumont had no right to suppose that just because he and Earl Meadows had lived and loved together on that ranch for quarter of a century, he had any right to suppose it would continue to be his after his life partner's death.

Lacking your enlightened views on how love and committment are unimportant, I want same-sex couples to have the same right to legal civil marriage as mixed-sex couples to do.

sadly, this was after Lisa had died).

Sorry, Janice. Commenting pre-coffee. :-(

There is a non-homophobic argument against (as a part) SSM. Infertility of one partner has been for a very long time a reason for divorce that even the RCC accepted. Some more radical theologians inside the church even demanded it in order to free the non-infertile partner for a procreating relationship. This implies that a marriage not producing children within a certain time period is/was considered invalid. Btw, the church until far into the 20th century was very critical of infertile people having sex at all and that included post-menopausal women. In particular the German RCC section during the Third Reich opposed forced sterilization not because of the eugenic goals (which the church supported) but because sterilized people could still have sex. The proposed moral alternative was the gender-separated KZ. The RCC has shifted only recently (in the 70ies or 80ies) from refusing known infertiles a wedding in church to known impotents (i.e. before: No childbearing capacity => no wedding; now: no intercourse capacity => no wedding).
Thus, if marriage is understood as a granted privilege for the purpose of procreation (and there are seculars that think that should be the case), then denying SSM is a logical conclusion without homophobia necessarily implied. But it would imply that couples that can't or want to have children should not be granted the perks that marriage brings with it (taxes etc.).
Personally, I find gay sex (and many other extremly common sexual practices) disgusting but that's just me and I have no right to impose my personal taste on others on that. Also I think that many types of pornography are both disgusting and demeaning but, except in extreme cases*, banning it would not be practicable.

*true child porn definitely, porn with non-voluntary participants too (fake involuntary may be a border case).
A special case would be hate-porn that is not meant to work as a masturbation aid but to incite hatred against certain groups (like graphically depicting Jews, blacks or Asians as sex monsters)

Hartmut: Thus, if marriage is understood as a granted privilege for the purpose of procreation (and there are seculars that think that should be the case), then denying SSM is a logical conclusion without homophobia necessarily implied.

Yes, if those seculars argue with equal vehemence that no woman should be allowed to get married past menopause or after a tubal ligation, and no man should be allowed to get married if he has a vasectomy.

I know of no seculars who do. None. Indeed, people who make this apparently-secular argument why same-sex couples shouldn't be allowed to marry invariably come up with some quite twisted justifications why marriage isn't allowed to same-sex couples, even where they have children, but can be allowed to mixed-sex couples, even where they have neither the intention nor the ability to have children.

It's a homophobic argument, not-too-thinly-veiled. If you can find an example of someone who argues as vehemently that no woman past the menopause ought to be allowed to marry, then you may have a case that it is technically in that instance not a homophobic argument.

true child porn definitely

Pornography made with minor children is in fact evidence of child abuse and/or statutory rape - I don't want to get involved in the pornography argument, since as you say it doesn't matter how personally distasteful I may find certain varieties of human sexual practice: providing no one is involved except consenting adults it's no one's business but their own. But abuse or rape of children is another matter: "porn" which makes use of children is evidence of a crime being committed, and ought to be treated as such, not as any example of "extreme pornography".

...One of the gay men, in his 60s, a published poet, actor (with billings in at least 30 flms and tv shows) singer-songwriter (performs regularly in So Cal restaurants and bars), a regular contributor to the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, and various annaul Aids Walks (I know all this because when he was incapacitated in the hospital for a few weeks last year I picked up his mail for him, half of it proselytizing letters for contributions) -- is against gay marriage.

Is he homophobic too?

Maybe or maybe not. But he can hold a position that is (perhaps necessarily) rooted in homophobia regardless. I haven't given it enough thought to be as certain as Jes is that all opposition to SSM is necessarily rooted in homophobia, but your example doesn't disprove Jes' argument. This man may engage in twisted logic that allows him to hold contradictory positions in his head such that he may not be homophobic, per se, and still take a position that is rooted in homophobia.

In the end, it probably doesn't so much matter what intricacies are going on in people's heads. What does matter is what they are doing and what effect they are having on the world around them.

@JanieM 12:19am:

I read that particular bit of inanity elsewhere, and found it just so - sadly - typical of so many anti-SSM "arguments". When faced with a paucity of supportive evidence or logic in any of the the three legs of Douthat's Tripod (bigotry, custom and religion), the anti-marriage crowd is pretty muched forced to have to rely on (the equally evidence-and-logic-defective) device of apocalyptic speculation; usually of the simpleminded "Gay marriage will destroy families - if you don't want to destroy YOUR family, vote Yes/No on Prop Q" variety.

"Arguments" like the KJ LTE you cite make extraordinarily little sense, of course, looked at logically. If anything, gays in Maine (or anywhere) who want a formal recognized [state] marriage are looking to tie themselves even more firmly into traditional family structures, rather than demolishing them (which accounts, I think from some of the SSM opposition in some gay circles).

But since - at least IMHO - the quibbles over gay marriage are mainly a blind for the real issue at stake (toleration of homosexuality), it's not surprising that so many arguments veer off into space rather than face the point that it's Leg 1 of the Tripod that is the main driver.

Complete agreement w/ Jes (have I ever said that before?) about "child porn". It is evidence of crime - it DEMANDS action - and all adult parties should be pursued, apprehended and prosecuted.

Jes, I could name a few theologians that still hold the position of the only moral sex being the procreating one (although the church itself dropped it officially). In their case it is clearly not anti-homo but anti-sex in general. As far as seculars go, those described above see it as a fiscal case.
In Germany it is still a crime to marry just for the perks* and there have been cases where couples that were married on paper but lived separate lives before and after the wedding were prosecuted for tax evasion and the like. It would therefore be legally possible to narrow the definition of marriage to 'child-producing/rearing coupling'. On the other hand our Supreme Court just this week decided that same sex couples in civil unions can't have disadvantages compared to married opposite sex couples (and marriage is protected yb the German constitution).
You are of course right that most opponents are homophobe (in both senses: fearing/loathing homo-sex and hating gays/lesbians) but you are wrong that all are.
A last remark on pornography. There was recently the legal problem of virtual kiddie porn, i.e. CGI porn not involving any meatspace child. Can and/or should that be punished the same way as real child porn? Does it depend on the realism of the images?

*or as in the US to just get a foreigner our equivalent of the green card.

to avoid nasty little bigots ...

That's not an argument in favor of marriage generally; it's an argument against discriminatory marriage laws (and I fully agree that marriage laws shouldn't discriminate on the basis of sexual preference). I'm wondering why you think though that any person has to die alone when there might be a caring person who could be a companion and assistant? What about single people - should they have to die alone even if they have a friend who could be available?

Lacking your enlightened views on how love and committment are unimportant, I want same-sex couples to have the same right to legal civil marriage as mixed-sex couples to do.


I actually believe that love and commitment are very important. I just don't see why people need legal preferential treatment based on their love and commitment, whether they are heterosexual or homosexual. Any legal issues that arise in relationships can be addressed through contract law.

No one has made a persuasive argument in favor of marriage. It made sense when men wanted to stake a claim to women's bodies and the fruit of women's wombs, but it makes no sense now. (As to the idea that marriage is necessary to "track" children, since 40% of children are born to unmarried women, I fail to see how this is an effective "tracking" method.)

Every time we talk of gay marriage, along comes someone who says that the whole idea of state-sanctioned marriage is bad.

The parallel to public swimming pools in the South back in the 60's is . . . disturbing. When the courts started holding that public swimming pools could not be racially segregated, local governments started abolishing public swimming pools.

I don't mean to impugn the motives of anyone posting here, but it's frustrating when a demand for equal rights is met with a suggestion that no one ought to have those rights.

The point of demanding equal marriage rights lies rather more in the equality part than the marriage part. If only heteros were allowed to wear Mohawk haircuts, I'd fight for my right to wear a Mowhawk haircut, however bad an idea me wearing a Mohawk haircut might be. :)

Douthat is confused, but Beyerstein may be even more so.

Religious fundamentalists, which apparently includes Douthat, say that God forbade homosexuality (which is what the Bible says) and that is that. Many gays do not want to abandon religion or even the Bible, so they want to change the stance of official religion to acceptance of homosexuality. Should being gay require renouncing Judaism, Christianity or Islam? If not, the acceptance of gays requires more than civil rights. Those who claim to believe literally in the Bible understand this.

If maximal reproduction is desired, then obviously homosexuality is to be discouraged as it it involves abstinence from reproduction. (Of course the Catholic church and other religions which encourage or require celibate priesthood and orders have a strangely contradictory policy on reproduction). If sexuality is largely arbitrary and is culturally determined, as some extremists who are generally classified as "liberal" argue, then raising of children by homosexuals would obviously not be good for reproductive rate. (Some of these "liberals" should make up their minds whether behavior is culturally determined, as they argue for many sexual characteristics, or hereditary, as they argue for homosexuality - as should some conservatives who take the opposite positions).

I would think the state had a interest in tracking the children born of those commitments, for various obvious reasons.

There is a risk to leaving your argument within the "various obvious reasons" bit- I have no idea what you mean. Genetic heritage? Inheritance?

Is he homophobic too?

1)You're right, it's impossible for homosexuals to have any amount of self-loathing or self-hate.
2)I would hope by now you would not bother presenting unverifiable anecdotes as data.

rea, me too - I totally support equal marriage rights for same-sex couples. Likewise, I support equal opportunity for gay people to get Mohawks. What I don't understand is why people who choose to get Mohawks would get any legal advantages over those who don't choose to do so, including bald people who can't get a Mohawk. Similarly, I don't understand why people have legal advantages for getting married when there are people who, for whatever reason (choice or not), can't or don't choose to get married. Despite everyone thinking that this view is a guerrilla attempt to oppose same-sex marriage, it's not. There are unmarried people who would like to have the option to have health benefits, to not die alone, etc.

Oh, and as to why I (and maybe other people) "crawl out of the wordwork" when another aspect of the institution of marriage is discussed to air my belief that marriage is an obsolete civil institution, it's because I don't have the time or energy to organize a movement around every single injustice that exists in the world. Anti-discrimination against the lgbt community is, conveniently, already an organized movement that I can support without devoting myself to a full-time crusade. I don't care enough about my beliefs about marriage to organize a movement. I do care enough to state my opinion.

It's a simple question, do you want this kind of bigoted "speech" in your society or not? I don't. Europe doesn't. Canada doesn't. Australia doesn't. America does.

Interesting: "In France, the actress and animal rights activist Brigitte Bardot was fined $23,000 for criticizing a Muslim ceremony involving the slaughter of sheep." ABA Journal. Ugly outcome, in my opinion. Speech needs to be protected. Videos? Not so much.

Jennifer, it doesn't look like the Canadian case law supports the argument you're making.

First, Canada's Criminal Code.

Section 318: "Every one who advocates or promotes genocide is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years." There's nothing in Douthat's column which approaches advocacy of genocide.

Section 319(1): "Every one who, by communicating statements in any public place, incites hatred against any identifiable group where such incitement is likely to lead to a breach of the peace is guilty of . . . an indictable offence". There's also no reasonable reading of Douthat's column that is "likely" to lead to a breach of the peace.

Section 319(2): "Every one who, by communicating statements, other than in private conversation, wilfully promotes hatred against any identifiable group is guilty of . . . an indictable offence."

I'll provisionally accept that Douthat's prior writing "wilfully promotes hatred," as its purpose is to frustrate civil equality for gays. But unfortunately for your thesis there's a carve-out "if the statements were relevant to any subject of public interest, the discussion of which was for the public benefit, and if on reasonable grounds he believed them to be true." There's a similar carve-out for topics of a religious nature.

Second: the Canadian Human Rights Act.

Section 13 imposes civil (NOT criminal) penalties to someone who repeatedly communicates "any matter that is likely to expose a [protected group] to hatred or contempt" by means of the Internet (oddly it doesn't affect broadcast media).

In other words, you can try to sue Douthat for posting bigotry on the Internet (although in this instance it was a talk), but he's not a thought-criminal.

I don't have access to actual case law under the Canadian Human Rights Act, but from Wikipedia it looks like the standard is a lot higher than what Douthat actually said in this instance, which is that the arguments against gay marriage boil down to bigotry, tradition, or attenuated public-policy BS and that in the end gays will be able to marry.

Would you care to explain why you think viewing pornography should carry criminal and/or civil penalties? What about the imbibing of spiritous liquors, which is the cause of considerable social harm against women?

Sapient: I'm wondering why you think though that any person has to die alone when there might be a caring person who could be a companion and assistant?

You need to address that question to the staff at Jackson Memorial Hospital, not to me. They're the ones who were arguing that a person ought to die alone, not me.

That's not rhetorical advice, either. Please, do contact Jackson Memorial Hospital and ask them why they feel a person ought to die alone when their partner and children are waiting outside the ICU. Their public relations/media number is 305-585-7213.

I actually believe that love and commitment are very important. I just don't see why people need legal preferential treatment based on their love and commitment, whether they are heterosexual or homosexual.

Neither did the staff at Jackson Memorial Hospital. If you share their views that strongly, you can always call them up and tell them how much you approve of their not giving Janice legal preferential treatment based on her love and committment to Lisa.

No one has made a persuasive argument in favor of marriage.

If you find it unpersuasive that Janice Langbehn wanted to be with Lisa Pond as she lay dying, then I fear there's no hope for you. What, by the way, does this have to do with "men wanting to stake a claim to women's bodies and the fruit of women's wombs"?

Similarly, I don't understand why people have legal advantages for getting married when there are people who, for whatever reason (choice or not), can't or don't choose to get married

Is that a good reason for opposing GLBT people having the same right to get legally married as any heterosexual person? If, as you say, you "totally support equal marriage rights for same-sex couples"...?

Better to level up than level down, always. Giving better access to rights for unmarried couples is a goal worth fighting for. Presenting your case as being in opposition to equal civil rights for all regardless of sexual orientation is strategically stupid, aside from anything else.

A society that allows pornography, blasphemy, and public indecency is not a free society. Richard Dawkins, for instance, is voicing bigotry without any substantive content; he might as well just write, "burn all the Christians." He's contributing nothing to civil discourse, and the victims of his hatred should not be without redress.

Just saying.

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