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February 24, 2011

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The conjugal view has been the sole perception of marriage in common countries for centuries, until the last 3 decades or so, updated periodically to eventually recognizes the spouses as legal equals. I support gay marriage, but the conjugal view isn't something made up last week or 20 years ago. It is an idealized view of marriage, not a recognition of marriage as a human and therefore imperfect institution.

My quarrel with conjugal exclusivists is that they think their definition (1) has or should have the force of law and (2) that the definition is the sole definition.

The essence of individual liberty coupled with equal protection under the law is that Group A does not get to define the lives and relationships of Group B, if Group B consists of adult citizens who propose nothing that harms or impairs the rights of a third person and if the activity proposed by Group B imposes no greater burden on the state than identical conduct by Group A. Put differently, Group A cannot reserve for themselves privileges/rights that are not equally available to Group A and not violate fundamental constitutional principles.

Any supporter of DOMA is in a tough spot.
a) DOMA is anti federalist which takes the wind out of the sails of the small government folks
b) defending DOMA requires reasoning for why discrimination is OK. Any full throated defense of this is going to turn off your more independent types that don't want to get called bigots.

So what are you really left with as far as conservatives go? Fundies and Zealots?

The link to Slacktivist's post is broken. Also, it's kind of odd to have both of these articles open at the same time for some reason...

Geds:

Thanks, it was the old "a herf" problem.

McKinneyTexas:

The conjugal view has been the sole perception of marriage in common countries for centuries
Obviously I did not make myself clear.

My post is about how NO, the conjugal view was NOT the sole or even main perception of marriage in centuries before the 20th. No definition of marriage that did not include the words "property", "kinship", or "inheritance" could be. In what way did I fail to make that point?

"a) DOMA is anti federalist which takes the wind out of the sails of the small government folks"

Are we using "anti-federalist" to mean opposition to a federalist system? I was under the impression that, in a "federalist" system, some matters are dealt with at the federal level, and some at the state or local. The DOMA apparently makes the definition of "marriage" a state level concern, and thus is not in any particular sense an "anti-federalist" measure. Well, not unless you're defining "federalist" as though it meant federal supremacy...

My main reaction to this development, is that the next time the administration defends some law I find odious, and this action is defended on the basis that that's what the DOJ does, defend federal laws, I'm entitled to call BS.

The DOMA apparently makes the definition of "marriage" a state level concern, and thus is not in any particular sense an "anti-federalist" measure.

Except that it attempts to negate the Full Faith & Credit clause in regards to mariages, without amending the Constitution.

the next time the administration defends some law I find odious, and this action is defended on the basis that that's what the DOJ does, defend federal laws, I'm entitled to call BS.

Well, bully for you! That and a dollar will get you a small coffee at Starbucks.

The DOMA apparently makes the definition of "marriage" a state level concern, and thus is not in any particular sense an "anti-federalist" measure.

Really? Wikipedia says that under DOMA, the federal government defines marriage as a legal union between one man and one woman. That seems to contradict your assertion above.

I would think that a federalist position would be that states get to set their own standards for marriages and that the feds have to honor them. DOMA prevents that.

They're not actually declining to defend the part about state recognition. They're specifically only declining to defend Section 3, the part about the federal definition of marriage.

And their justification is pretty narrow; they're specifically saying they can't defend it in circuits where there is no existing precedent for sexual orientation discrimination falling under rational-basis scrutiny. I'll leave it to lawyers to argue about whether this makes sense, but it's narrower than "I don't like this law"; it's "I can't in good faith argue that this section of the law meets intermediate or strict scrutiny, nor will I argue that sexual orientation falls under rational-basis scrutiny".

What Turbulence said.

DOMA pretty much is the federal government refusing to recognize a pretty obvious aspect of state power. It would be like the government saying states can elect whoever they want for senator... But the senate will only seat them if its a man.

Actually Console, I think just fundies. It's always been a bad law. CCDG could never support that level of usurpation? Of states rights if nothing else was wrong with it.

However, left to their own devices the states may continue to come up with the wrong answer. So this seems to me, just me, that the Justice Department sees an unfriendly Supreme amd is not inclined to set the precedent in front of this court.

My post is about how NO, the conjugal view was NOT the sole or even main perception of marriage in centuries before the 20th. No definition of marriage that did not include the words "property", "kinship", or "inheritance" could be. In what way did I fail to make that point?

Well, I guess I disagree with your premise. The New Testament notion of marriage is two people, a man and a woman, becoming one flesh and having children, forsaking all others, etc. The NT was the western canon for the institution of marriage for 99% of England and eventually the commonwealth. That there were add-on's including property, inheritance, etc. wasn't new at the time and remains the case today, marital property rights being among the many courses I barely got by in. Only in the latter part of my lifetime has the notion that two men or two women could have a state sanctioned marriage been discussed. The conjugal view, or its functional equivalent, was the reason why and the manner in which the Church, both the Catholic Church prior to the break with the Church of England and then the Church of England, sanctioned marriage. It's right there in the Book of Common Prayer, which is what, 450 years old or thereabouts?

On the 'full faith and credit' and federal/state separation of powers, DOMA raises consistency problems for both sides. If the definition of marriage is a state law call, it follows that the Supreme Court cannot be in a position to say otherwise or to declare, as a matter of state law, that the equal protection clause mandates that states redefine marriage. So, proponents of finding the denial of gay marriage to be a denial of equal protection may want to revise some of their arguments against DOMA.

Phil's point about full faith and credit is my view also. DOMA has otherwise strict constructionist switching places with the living constitutionalists.

I just reread Dr. S' quote from my comment.

"Common countries" should be "common law countries."

McKinney: you're citing the Anglo-Saxon religious view of marriage for the last 5 centuries or so. Um. And then asserting that they're exactly the same as Anglo-Saxon (nay, Western) legal views of marriage, without any evidence, or making any effort to refute Dr. S's cited evidence that no, it's a wee mite more complicated beyond passing references to "add-on's" [sic]. That doesn't really do enough to justify your assertion that said add-ons are necessarily to be viewed as utterly subservient to the aforementioned religious view of marriage when determining what the prevailing common view of marriage in the West is and has been...

Envy, the view of marriage, as an ideal, is laid out in the Catholic and Church of England Rites of Marriage. They have been around for centuries and they are substantively indistinguishable from the conjugal view. And no, I am not saying they are the same as the legal view of marriage in whatever time period you want to pick. The legal rights attendant to marriage have changed over time, they predate the New Testament "one man, one woman, one flesh" and have continued to this day, evolving over time. I am simply saying that the understanding of marriage for centuries has been pretty much as the conjugal proponents contend. The evidence lies in written texts going back centuries.

Simply because that is the case is not an argument against gay marriage. Marriage today between a man and a woman, as a matter of civil law, is barely recognizable compared to the legal trappings 100 years ago. Thus, what was a 'marriage' then is not a 'marriage' now. Same for gay marriage. The time has come. History is pretty much irrelevant.

CC* Logic: Is the word "marriage" in the U.S. Constitution? No? Now wait a minute....Why, then..well, er, it doesn't matter....we want what we want, and that makes it right.

QED

*CC=common conservatism. Conservatism as practiced by the hoi poloi, the great unwashed, the ignorant but virtuous masses, or the poor but petty. As opposed to the infinitely nubile rhetoric of High Conservatism (National Review, which see).

I am simply saying that the understanding of marriage for centuries has been pretty much as the conjugal proponents contend.

You are still missing the point.

The entire premise on which the anti-gay-marriage crowd's argument is based is that there is this one specific thing that is "real" marriage, and that specific thing just happens to be their particular take on the concept. And that premise is completely, absolutely, one hundred percent demonstrably wrong. It's not debatable and it's not a matter of opinion at all: their premise flies in the face of both history and huge chunks of the book they like to cite as the basis for their rejection of SSM.

That their religiously-centered, one-man and one-woman-at-a-time take on marriage has been the typical form for a number of centuries is entirely beside the point. The point is that historically speaking, their take on marriage is a very recent phenomenon and it absolutely has not even been the norm for the majority of the time marriage has existed as a social construct.

Their premise fails right out of the starting gate, because it is demonstrably untrue that "real" marriage can only take this one form that they proscribe.

Could someone explain to me again why the government defines and promotes "marriage" at all? Is it so that people can justify discrimination against single mothers?

What's the point of getting married, if one doesn't want permanence and exclusivity?

McKinneyTexas:

Marriage today between a man and a woman, as a matter of civil law, is barely recognizable compared to the legal trappings 100 years ago. Thus, what was a 'marriage' then is not a 'marriage' now.
On this, we completely agree. *high fives*

The argument I'm making is that marriage in, say, Doctor Johnson's day -- the time of the American Revolution -- wasn't the "conjugal view", either.

The New Testament notion of marriage is two people, a man and a woman, becoming one flesh and having children, forsaking all others, etc.
And I agree with you here, too.
The NT was the western canon for the institution of marriage for 99% of England and eventually the commonwealth.
Here I disagree.

The NT, conjugal marriage you reference was not the *basis* for marriage in Christendom for most of the past 2 millenia. Marriage as an institution -- organized around concepts anthropologists would call kinship, property, and division of labor -- had existed for thousands of years already, and didn't change all that much under Christianity.

IIRC, a truly Christian take on marriage was practiced at various times in the first millennium, and was eventually dropped under pressure from the legal system and society in general. It involved the concept that marriage was a pledge between two loving, consenting adults, and that it didn't require family approval or witnesses. Two people could say to each other, "we're married", and that would be enough.

But that wasn't what society wanted or needed from marriage, and it didn't fly. The Roman, Germanic, and evolving common law systems continued to need marriage to organize issues of kinship, property and status; it was the Christian conjugal marriage that was the add-on.

sapient:

Could someone explain to me again why the government defines and promotes "marriage" at all?

Because rules for kinship (which in modern times includes many medical issues), property, and inheritance are central concerns of *any* legal system. Which is pretty much what Doctor Johnson was talking about.

Is it so that people can justify discrimination against single mothers?
No, against their children.

One function of strict monogamy is to create bastards. Only some children are real or "legitimate", others are "illegitimate", not quite real. Traditional, monogamous marriage is thus far from being "for the sake of the children", it is directly opposed to taking care of some children. In particular, in the case of a high-ranking man who can attract and maintain more than one mate (a type that is found in every society that has ranks), lifelong monogamy means that only the children of one woman, his wife, can expect support and inheritance. The others are SOL.

novakant:

What's the point of getting married, if one doesn't want permanence and exclusivity?

Didn't my post make it clear?

Kinship (including medical decision-making), property, and inheritance. Or rather, people often want permanent, clear kinship and property relationships, even if they don't want a permanent, exclusive sexual relationshp.

As far as permanence, I've seen people argue that for lots of cases, what we have is serial monogamy, in that people will be together and then move on. Some may think that divorce and remarriage is something for movie actors and talk show hosts, but I think it is a lot more prevalent, at least in the circles I have traveled, that one might think. I don't think that they don't NOT want permanence, but it is not the point of getting married. I'm not sure why permanance and exclusivity seem to be seen as being equivalent.

it attempts to negate the Full Faith & Credit clause in regards to mariages, without amending the Constitution.

I'm certainly no defender of the DOMA, but the one thing you cannot say is that it violates the "full faith & credit" clause:

"Full Faith and Credit shall be given in each State to the public Acts, Records, and judicial Proceedings of every other State. And the Congress may by general Laws prescribe the Manner in which such Acts, Records, and Proceedings shall be proved, and the Effect thereof."

Good point as usual, Dr. S., thanks for posting. It's an interesting thing, I notice, that George, et.al. make their "arguments" about "traditional" marriage (i.e., an idealized and romanticized stereotype) with little or no reference to what, in this day and age, has to be at least as major a component of the marriage equation: the legal aspect (though McKinney hints at it).

Leaving aside all the family-shmamily sappiness, and the kinship-property-inheritance factors, George and the other anti-SSM drones always seem to elide the fact that "marriage" also carries with it a specific set of legal (state-recognized) rights, responsibilities and privileges - a valid contract (more-or-less) universally recognized under applicable law. And one whose denial to same-sex couples seems always to be argued on either sentimental grounds (which ought not to have much bearing on issues of law), or religious ones (which really ought not to have bearing on the law).

Of course, IMO, all the hoity-toity "moral" arguments against SSM are just cover for the maintenance of institutional homophobia; but I suppose it's a positive development that they have to devise figleaf talking-points: "Teh Ghey is ICCCKKKYYYY!!!" isn't enouigh by itself these days.....

One function of strict monogamy is to create bastards.

No, that is the function of hopeful people who pretend at strict monogamy, and fail. It's got nothing to do with actual strict monogamy.

If one does not, in actuality, stray outside of the boundaries of one's marriage, no bastards will result.

Unless you know something I don't, I mean.

"One function of strict monogamy is to create bastards."

True. Without the concept of monogamy (be it genetic, social, legal, etc.), there would be no bastards.

Dr. Science: Has the Age of Accumulation tended to break down the need to use monogomy to institutionalize "kinship, property, and status"?

To defend DOMA, as a matter of political philosophy, you have to show that the federal government has historically had, and used, the ability to decide which marriages are legal and which are not. To take what I assume would be an obvious precedent, consider inter-racial marriages.

In the middle of the last century, there were states where inter-racial marriages were absolutely illegal. And there were others where they were permitted. Did the federal government make either a blanket non-recognition of those marriages, or did it mandate that they be permitted? Not that I recall. (Lawyers, feeel free to correct my admittedly sketchy understanding of legal history on the point.) If your state allowed your marriage, the federal government recognized it; if it did not, it didn't. (I'm not certain how they dealt with people who got married in one place and moved to one where their marriage was illegal.)

The arguments (not legal arguments, just the ones advanced by those opposing them) against inter-racial marriage were much the same as those against gay marriage: this is just wrong, and allowing it will irreparably damage society and "real" marriages. Yet somehow society does not seem to have disintegrated on account of them being allowed.

Slarti:

I'm not sure if you're being wry and witty, or if you don't understand me. I shall humorlessly assume the latter.

By "create bastards" I mean that the category "bastardy" is one specific to certain marriage systems. Parents may create *children*, it is the social system that creates or ascribes the status.

Any social system that legalizes strict monogamy (or strict anything else) also creates the category of "failed at our strict rules". These failures are as inevitable as entropy.

In this case, it is a human universal that high-ranking men will often be polygynous and have more than their share of children. It is also a human universal that this causes problems, especially the problem of how to allocate resources and inheritance -- and status -- among many mothers and children. Different cultures have different solutions to these problems, different ways of drawing lines and moving the trouble around.

Strict monogamy is a solution that gives one woman and her children indissoluble status, and gives all the other children the status of "bastard", absolutely forbidden to inherit their father's status.

Under Islamic law, in contrast, kings have no bastards: bearing a child to the king automatically gives a woman some of the privileges of a wife, and her sons have the opportunity to inherit their father's status.

Neither solution is problem-free. Christian rulers frequently ended up with an incompetant heir or none at all; Muslim rulers would see a Darwinian struggle among the many possible heirs.

I'm not sure if you're being wry and witty, or if you don't understand me. I shall humorlessly assume the latter.

I'd go with taking you literally. Hopefully, that's not a mistake.

By "create bastards" I mean that the category "bastardy" is one specific to certain marriage systems. Parents may create *children*, it is the social system that creates or ascribes the status.

There is a definite distinction between creating bastardy and creating bastards.

These failures are as inevitable as entropy.

Which is not the same as the failure rate being 100%. Bastards are not an inevitable consequence of monogamy.

This is somewhat akin to the abstinence debate. Abstinence, done correcly, results in no children.

Of course, the trick is in the execution. Any aikido master could tell you that.

The legitimacy of a marriage and a child thereof is completely undisturbed if events such as shipwreck or war separate a man from his wife from the time the child is conceived until its adulthood.

I'd like to note that even this was not a completely prevalent view in the post-reformation, pre-modern Western world. Sweden, which was protestant (Lutheran) and a decidedly Western country, did give such separation a legal effect. Any wife whose man had been separated from her for seven years, for whatever reason, was allowed to apply for a divorce, with the right of both spouses to remarry right afterwards. Notable here was that the husband did not need to be presumed dead. There might be ample proof to show that the husband was alive, but the divorce was granted solely on the basis of separation.

In the 17th century, such cases were routine and did not attach social stigma to the woman or to the husband. This was because a soldier taken to the army was extremely unlikely to return, ever and their wives were typically left behind, with both parties having no fault of their own. In many cases the soldier's wife having a divorce was not more than 24 years old.

Of course, this does not relate to the Anglo-Saxon legal history, but goes to show that any view citing that "Western" world did not give separation legal effect on the validity of marriage is not fully complete. Some parts of Western world did consider the unintentional separation of spouses a valid grounds for a no-fault divorce.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OFkeKKszXTw>Traditional marraige explained
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The argument against gay marriage as 'barren' implies that barren traditional marriages are also invalid. In the past this was indeed a recognized reason for divorce but few (outside the courthouse) would declare that to be the case, i.e. a vast majority considers childless marriages as as avalid as those with children.
---
The traditional (catholic) christian ideal was no marriage, a distant second was a Joseph marriage (=no marital sex) and marriage was for the weaklings that could not abstain (St.Paul: better marry than burn)*. And up to the encyclical Casti Connubii (1930) any non-procreative sex was at least a venial sin (from then on recreative marital sex was legitimate in moderate doses provided no contraceptive was used).

*some authors even calculated what percentage of heavenly reward members of each group could expect. Only virgins (male and female) could reach 100%, to have had sex even once reduced that to 80%, married people not going Joseph early enough could at best expect 50% (below 30% going to heaven was unlikely anyway).

people often want permanent, clear kinship and property relationships, even if they don't want a permanent, exclusive sexual relationshp.

Of course some people marry just for money and status, I just don't think that this corresponds to the idea most people have of marriage, indeed such a materialistic attitude is widely regarded as morally questionable nowadays.

Just imagine your child, sibling or best friend talking about getting married, while it is clear that the prospective partner is only after the money - most of us wouldn't feel very positive about this, would we?

And to be sure, I'm all in favour of gay marriage, I just don't see why we need to throw out the baby with the bathwater. I'm also totally fine with people living together unmarried, if they don't feel marriage is for them.

"Of course some people marry just for money and status, I just don't think that this corresponds to the idea most people have of marriage, indeed such a materialistic attitude is widely regarded as morally questionable nowadays."

"Nowadays" being the relevant word in this discussion. Choosing love over money/property used to be ridiculous.

sapient: " Could someone explain to me again why the government defines and promotes "marriage" at all?'

Doctor Science: "Because rules for kinship (which in modern times includes many medical issues), property, and inheritance are central concerns of *any* legal system."

Before the availability of DNA testing, kinship laws made sense, but property and inheritance are available through contracts and wills, and DNA is a more reliable determinant of blood relationships than marriage. Certainly determining medical status is more reliably done through DNA testing. Obviously, most people form families and claim their own relatives, and our legal structure accommodates the most basic nonmarital kinship obligations very well, placing support obligations on natural parents, for example.

Why families have to be centered on the presumption of a couple's sexual relationship only promotes the "conjugal marriage" myth, or something just as bad. Allowing any one living arrangement a preferred status necessarily causes other varieties of arrangements to suffer second-class status. Marriage laws are discriminatory per se.

The entire premise on which the anti-gay-marriage crowd's argument is based is that there is this one specific thing that is "real" marriage, and that specific thing just happens to be their particular take on the concept.

Pretty much correct. However, 'their particular take' is pretty much what that 'take' has been for centuries: one man, one woman, faithful and until death. That was the ideal, though hardly the reality. What is ideal and what humans make of the ideal are almost always two different things. Dr. S and other pro-gay marriage advocates seek to counter the conjugal view by declaring it to be invalid. Good luck, that will be a tough sell.

The better arguments are (1) the religious view, which is the conjugal view, is not the class of marriage under discussion (it is a matter of civil law) and (2) the role of women in marriage, from the get go, was pretty awful, so really 'traditional marriage' might not be so attractive to women these days, and what the anti GM crowd is arguing for is the very, very modern iteration of traditional marriage being the exclusive iteration of marriage. The problem with No. 2 is that that, by claiming exclusivity for only a certain class, the claim clashes with a society whose core elevates individual liberty and equal protection above all else.

What marriage was or was not in the eyes of the church or everyday people or the aristocracy prior to the US Constitution, the Civil War and the post war amendments is of historical interest but does not drive the substantive law debate today because we are writing on a historically new and unique canvas.

gives all the other children the status of "bastard", absolutely forbidden to inherit their father's status.

Maybe in some places and some times, but was this universal, even in the US say, pre-1950? I am thinking not.

"Because rules for kinship (which in modern times includes many medical issues), property, and inheritance are central concerns of *any* legal system."

Before the availability of DNA testing, kinship laws made sense, but property and inheritance are available through contracts and wills, and DNA is a more reliable determinant of blood relationships than marriage.

I am not a family lawyer, but there are a lot of misapprehensions here. A modern state's Family Code has a detailed statutory scheme for everything from how a marriage is formed, how it is dissolved, who has what rights to what property, how children are to be supported, access to children, who will be primarily responsible for the child, termination of parental rights and a ton of other crap. And we haven't even gotten to the Probate Code which is an entirely different animal. Yes, a will will solve a lot of problems, but suppose you die suddenly or you will is outdated and names your last spouse and none of your current children. These are crazy, unrelated issues to married people. They matter like hell.

Regulate relationships with contracts? Bring it, if you have the money. If you don't have a ton of money to (1) draft and (2) litigate your contract through trial and appeal, what do you have? Not a damn thing. My fees are relatively reasonable, but for a medium complex commercial matter through verdict and appeal, 175-225K minimum. These are reasonable fees BTW.

I am not saying divorce is free or that pre-nups in appropriate cases don't solve more problems than they create. But for folks who need out of a marriage and don't have unlimited funds, the Family Code gets them there at relatively affordable cost.

There are a ton of reasons to recognize and define marriage in civil law. People who, in aid of some other goal, imply that marriage is an institution we no longer need offer nothing useful to their side of the debate other than to insure that they lose.

Just imagine your child, sibling or best friend talking about getting married, while it is clear that the prospective partner is only after the money - most of us wouldn't feel very positive about this, would we?

I would not really mind, as long as the money grabbing is mutual. For example, two people doing it for tax reasons or immigration status. To the extent that I'd have negative feelings, it would be worry that they protect themselves. I'd strongly encourage them to meet with an attorney who could explain to them the long term legal consequences of what they're doing. But as long as they understand, I wouldn't have a problem with it.

Now, if they were trying to scam a church marriage in those circumstances, that would upset me greatly.

McKinneyTexas has a point here, although I don't usually agree with him. You can do a lot with civil contracts, but most people cannot afford to do that with the help of a lawyer and don't know how to write the documents themselves. So, if there is law that provides a "package deal" of social default rules for people who want to have a family, it is really fine. In this sense, marriage (and the rest of family law) is quite as useful a legal concept as Social Security, a form of social welfare to protect the weak and the short-sighted.

And if we want to have a society with equal rights, there is no rational, non-sectarian reason not to extend the benefits of this government program also to the same-sex couples.

In many places (perhaps all states), one can be married by a Justice of the Peace, for a fee. Why not have a JoP (or the local equivalent) be legally able to execute a civil (civic?) union?

The New Testament notion of marriage is two people, a man and a woman, becoming one flesh and having children, forsaking all others, etc. The NT was the western canon for the institution of marriage for 99% of England and eventually the commonwealth.

I'm with Dr Science here.

Yes, the NT, and Jesus specifically, refers to marriage as an exclusive bond between a man and a woman. The man and woman thing he grounds in the creation narrative, where humans were created male and female.

Kids BTW are not specifically discussed as being part of the purpose of marriage, at least by Jesus. FWIW.

But all of that said, it's a far stretch to say that the actual law and practice of marriage in any of the nominally Christian world has, at any time, complied with or reflected the teachings of Jesus, or of the NT generally. Regarding marriage, or any other thing.

Which brings us back to Doctor Science's point. The meaning of marriage is, historically, fluid and multiple.

In many places (perhaps all states), one can be married by a Justice of the Peace, for a fee. Why not have a JoP (or the local equivalent) be legally able to execute a civil (civic?) union?

A civil union is pretty much marriage-lite. As it currently exists, where it does exist, it's a bundling of rights and responsibilities into a convenient one-stop-shopping package. If you're suggesting it as a remedy to the problem McKinney points out with the idea of abolishing marriage and letting people join up by individual contract, it isn't.

Or maybe I'm misunderstanding your point.

McK: You're talking about marriage as preached; Doctor Science is talking about marriage as practiced. They both matter, but for this discussion I think the practice matters more.

McKinney: "People who, in aid of some other goal, imply that marriage is an institution we no longer need offer nothing useful to their side of the debate other than to insure that they lose."

I'm not sure what "other goal" you think "people" have. As someone who has practiced family law, I am aware of the various rights and responsibilities and social structures that marriage creates for people. Unfortunately, most people who are getting married are not aware of them, and don't become aware of them until they feel their effects, sometimes in a negative way.

What I'm suggesting is not that people go out and hire a lawyer to replicate a complicated version of family law for themselves. It would be quite easy to create legislation providing many of the "default" benefits of marriage to anyone who applied for them. Domestic partnerships (not necessarily limited to two people) could serve this purpose with far less reliance on Christian cultural norms, not necessarily shared by all Americans. In France, for example, civil unions are becoming much more popular than marriage among heterosexual couples. One reason cited is that "marriage bears the traces of a religious imprint." It's inappropriate for a government to foster an institution (to the point that it's promoted as a preferred lifestyle) which is so strongly imbued with religion (specifically Judeo-Christian religion, since polygamy and other cultural practices are not tolerated within the marriage structure). A truly secular alternative could easily be made available, leaving "marriage" for people who wish to take vows.

A truly secular alternative could easily be made available, leaving "marriage" for people who wish to take vows.

It depends on what you mean by easily. If you mean, "could a philosopher-queen with absolute power do it?" then yeah, it would be pretty easy. But if you mean "could the current American polity working with the current governmental structures and institutions and their many many many veto points do it?" then the answer is: no. We've been trying for years. And what we've ended up with is a ghettoized form of marriage called civil unions that gives people substantially fewer rights and privleges than civil marriage. Efforts to make civil unions equivalent to marriage are strongly resisted by people who are against gay marriage to begin with.

Speaking as a heterosexual guy, I'm horrified at the symbolism here. Just when LGBT folk start to get some legal success with marriage, one of the most respected social institutions, we're going to pull the rug out from under them and say "meh, now that folks like you can get married, we've decided that the marriage shouldn't be such a universal high status institution"? I get that that's not your goal sapient, but the optics are just awful.

In an ideal world, I think there's a good case for scrapping civil marriage and replacing it with something better, but I don't see how we can get to an ideal world from where we are right now. Marriage as a social institution has enormous prestige. And as long as that's so, I'm not willing to consign my LGBT friends to a crappy ghetto institution.

"And as long as that's so, I'm not willing to consign my LGBT friends to a crappy ghetto institution."

I'm not either, and I never said that my LGBT friends should endure discrimination in any form whatsoever. But when the original post by Doctor Science involved a discussion of "What is marriage?" and when a major European country has come up with a popular alternative, and when I just heard (yesterday) a popular NPR talk show featuring a discussion of the new PEW poll indicating that a large percentage of people think of unwed mothers as the lowest form of life, I think it's worth mentioning that marriage isn't an ideal institution.

But don't get me wrong, I'm all for it.

In France, for example, civil unions are becoming much more popular than marriage among heterosexual couples. One reason cited is that "marriage bears the traces of a religious imprint."

It's not a great comparison. France has a very different history of church-state relations than the US; they had to have a revolution and a long political battle over whether the Catholic Church or the goverment should perform public domestic functions like primary and secondary education and the registration of births, deaths and marriages. That kind of disestablishment happened much less contentiously here.

I would not really mind, as long as the money grabbing is mutual.

Well, I was talking about non-mutual money grabbing: "the prospective partner is only after the money" meaning "one partner marrying the other because of their money". Maybe I should have been more clear.

@Slartibartfast:
In many places (perhaps all states), one can be married by a Justice of the Peace, for a fee. Why not have a JoP (or the local equivalent) be legally able to execute a civil (civic?) union?

@sapient:
A truly secular alternative could easily be made available, leaving "marriage" for people who wish to take vows.


The problem with "civil unions" (IMHO, anyway) comes down to matter of semantics. Which, oddly, is the main stumbling-block in positing a "secular alternative", as I see it. Since a "civil union" which does not confer the same package of rights, privileges and protections as a conventional "marriage" is pretty much by definition an inferior (and discriminatory) form of contract. And one that does, i.e. "marriage in all but name" has, ultimately, to base its status and/or legitimacy mainly on that "name". Which leads us back to the question of semantics: and undercuts the argument against same-sex marriage: if it really just a matter of definitions, why the importance?

Of course, the arguments against same-sex "marriage", AFAICT have mainly to do with the "same-sex" part: the circular debates about the "marriage" bits are just so much deflection.

@Turbulence"
It depends on what you mean by easily. If you mean, "could a philosopher-queen with absolute power do it?" then yeah, it would be pretty easy.

I agree. Unfortunately, Hilzoy already has a full-time job...


sapient:

A truly secular alternative could easily be made available, leaving "marriage" for people who wish to take vows.

As someone in a heterosexual civil marriage, I find this personally threatening. What you're saying is that because I didn't take religious vows I don't deserve to be called "married".

If my type of civil marriage is not available to my gay friends, then it is not truly a civil marriage, it's a religious marriage in disguise. Even though we *deliberately* did not want to have a religious marriage.

Furthermore, several states (Texas, certainly, but I think one of the Carolinas as well) have passed laws explicitly stating that they won't recognize anything substantially similar to marriage but flying under a different name.

On the other hand, leaving "marriage" for people who wish to take vows will not keep same-sex couples out of it. There are Episcopalian, Unitarian, Congregationalist, and Reform/Reconstructionist Jewish ministers who are more than willing to perform religious same-sex marriages, and AFAIK they are already doing so in states where it's legal.

"It's not a great comparison."

There's no perfect comparison. My point is not that there are perfect comparisons, or even that I would wholly embrace the French model. My point is that it's very feasible to come up with a statutory model that incorporates many of the legal "defaults" that McKinney was talking about without also incorporating the cultural and religious accoutrements (like families which are based on two people's sexual relationship).

But, as Turbulence noted, the timing isn't good. Even on this "progressive" blog, most of the commenters freak out about the possibility of contemplating a less rigid system than "marriage." People don't really care whether single mothers are considered a scourge of society, or whether promoting "marriage" might contribute to that feeling. There are plenty of people whose position in society is at least as uncomfortable as gay people, but we're obviously not allowed to think about how our family laws exacerbate the situation for these people.

In other words, I agree that we're not ready for the discussion.

"What you're saying is that because I didn't take religious vows I don't deserve to be called "married"."

Doctor Science, please don't tell me "what I'm saying". I didn't say that and wouldn't have said it. I didn't say "deserve" and I didn't say "religious vows." Anyone who wants to be called "married" should ask that people call them that.

Well, I was talking about non-mutual money grabbing: "the prospective partner is only after the money" meaning "one partner marrying the other because of their money". Maybe I should have been more clear.

I'd be very upset, but that's because the relationship is exploitative. I mean, I'd be just as upset if one of my unmarried friends was just dating someone who was exploiting them. Exploitation is the problem, and it has nothing to do with marriage per se.


There are Episcopalian, Unitarian, Congregationalist, and Reform/Reconstructionist Jewish ministers who are more than willing to perform religious same-sex marriages, and AFAIK they are already doing so in states where it's legal.

A small quibble, but I don't believe that there are any Episcopalian ministers performing same sex marriages in the US. It is a subject of great political debate within the Episcopal church, and while some ministers will perform blessings or commitment ceremonies, these are specifically not marriages as far as the church is concerned.

Novakant: you wrote this:
Of course some people marry just for money and status, I just don't think that this corresponds to the idea most people have of marriage, indeed such a materialistic attitude is widely regarded as morally questionable nowadays.

--after quoting this from Doctor Science:
people often want permanent, clear kinship and property relationships, even if they don't want a permanent, exclusive sexual relationship.

If you meant that as a response, it is a really weird, narrow reading of what she said. I don't see how you can equate "wanting to define a kinship and property relationship" with "marrying just for money and status"; the latter is clearly a subcategory of the former, but you're leaving out all the others:
1. people who have more money and status than their partner and want to share it, rather than to increase their own;
2. couples who don't have much money or status at all, but still want to be legally committed to each other in recognition of their personal bond-- it just doesn't include an exclusive sexual relationship;
3. people who have a child, and are no longer romantically involved but still want to be a legal family for the kid's sake, because legal kinship is sometimes a big deal.

You could, I guess, argue that "money and status" are still relevant in all of those cases, but your reference to "materialism" certainly sounded more specific and pejorative, as if you thought Doctor Science was talking about gold-diggers. If so, you may want to re-examine your assumptions.

Great post, Doctor Science.

At risk of complicating things, and I hope not diverting overly, but also in response to some comments, I'll also throw into the mix that a small, but noticeably visible in many subcultures and urban communities, increasingly so for many years, are what once were called open committed relationships, or non-monogamous committed relationships, or nowadays polyamory.

Sometimes these include the only form of legal marriage possible, but also non-legally-binding marriage ceremonies and vows taken by three people, or more, and thus the "it's complicated" categories on Facebook, and similarly so on some sites such as OKCupid, and so forth, and many websites devoted to polyamory: "About 493,000 results"

I will add that I have good friends, some Hugo-winners among them, and/or famous editors and authors, and/or other highly well-known people, who may keep this aspect of their lives known only among their friends, others "out" of any closet, who have been in such marriages, some for over thirty years.

It's all about honesty and committment, too, and in many cases other legally binding contracts are signed. It's the best present law allows.

Naturally, many people will find this news, and shocking, and take issue, but there it is. It's also about honesty and commitment, and it works, by my observation, as well or badly as conventional marriages and partnerships, which is to say that some last, some don't, some are irresponsible, some responsible, everyone is an individual, but yes, the more people you involve, the greater the complications, and the greater the need for more communication and honesty, and yes, sometimes children are involved, and yes, sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn't, just like two-party marriages, which fail and result in affairs, and divorce and so on.

Sapient: Even on this "progressive" blog, most of the commenters freak out about the possibility of contemplating a less rigid system than "marriage."

What are you talking about? I mean, seriously, what are you referring to and what conclusion are you trying to advance?

As a statement of fact I don't think it's defensible at all, unless you have unusual definitions of "most" and "freak out". But even if it were true, the implication that one can infer something about what progressive Americans in general are "not ready for" from a survey of comments on one particular blog on the Internet, because that blog has a generally lefty set of front-page authors, would still be ridiculous.

Hob, point taken. Still, I'm forever surprised by the shock and anger that seems to accompany responses to what seems (to me) like a fairly benign suggestion that the law be changed to accommodate creation of family structures not necessarily based on people's sex lives.

Before the availability of DNA testing, kinship laws made sense, but property and inheritance are available through contracts and wills, and DNA is a more reliable determinant of blood relationships than marriage.

I assure you that with anyone I marry, DNA tests will only demonstrate that we are not related.

I'd be just as upset if one of my unmarried friends was just dating someone who was exploiting them. Exploitation is the problem, and it has nothing to do with marriage per se.

Both cases would be upsetting of course, but in the case of dating the partner being exploited at least has the chance of terminating the relationship and walking away with little loss, while in the case of marriage he/she might loose a large amount of their money in a settlement and/or be bound by financial obligations towards their partner for the rest of their lives.

Generally speaking, if one wants to make the case for gay marriage, I don't think it's the best rhetorical strategy to devalue any romantic notion of marriage based on love and respect and instead liken it to a merely legalistic, business-like arrangement. Of course some conservatives are over the top speaking of "traditional marriage", but this would only be a minor point in my argument, while I would emphasize that there is no reason gay people cannot be as devoted to each other as heteros.

sapient, what did you think you were saying?

Here's how I read it:

A truly secular alternative could easily be made available
-- implies that my civil marriage is NOT truly secular
leaving "marriage" for people who wish to take vows.
-- leaving the word "marriage" for people who want to do it under religious auspices.

Every single time the issue of SSM comes up, here or elsewhere, someone says something like, "why not get government out of marriage altogether and leave it to the churches?" Every. Single. Time.

Statements like that are IMHO an attack on *my* marriage and other civil marriages. I don't think they're consciously intended to be (for the most part), but that's what they actually *are*.

So possibly I over-reacted to you, thinking you were making a get-the-government-out-of-marriage argument when you meant something else. In which case I don't know what that something else is.

Gary:

The trouble, legally speaking, with poly marriages, and the reason they aren't on the slippery slope from SSM, is that there's no legal tradition -- anywhere in the world AFAIK -- to use as a template.

There are legal traditions that incorporate polygyny, but in those cultures the husband has legally distinct relationships with each wife, the wives aren't spouses for each other.

Crucially, all the marriages end at the same time, when the husband dies. Something like the line marriages in Robert Heinlein are more like corporations -- immortal, wealthy, and amoral.

Gary, do you think we'd have fun if I made that old blogspot post a separate post here?

Every single time the issue of SSM comes up, here or elsewhere, someone says something like, "why not get government out of marriage altogether and leave it to the churches?" Every. Single. Time.

And so often that someone is sapient, which makes it bit of a mystery why s/he could still be not only "forever surprised" by people's reactions, but also confused about the reasons for them.

From Jesurgislac, in http://obsidianwings.blogs.com/obsidian_wings/2009/11/wanted-thread-or-alive/comments/page/2/#comments>a previous iteration of this discussion:

Sapient: We've been discussing this issue at length, and obviously many people think there's nothing wrong with the legal institution of marriage.

"Obviously"? Huh. Your problem here is you have consistently been walking into a discussion of a civil rights issue - the ban on marriage for same-sex couples - and trying, for the most part very, very aggressively, to turn the discussion into talk of "What's wrong with marriage", beginning with your belief that the ban on marriage should be extendd to everyone.

Now, I'm a lifelong pacifist. I occasionally say as a joke that I'd have no problem with banning GLBT people from the armed forces if only all straight cisgendered people were also banned. But I recognize this is a joke, not a strategy. You are presenting the equivalent - your detestation for marriage - as if it were a serious contribution to discussion on civil rights.

It's not.

I don't expect people to want to discuss my lifelong pacifism in a discussion on DADT: why do you expect people to want to discuss your detestation of marriage in a discussion on DOMA/other bans on marriage for same-sex couples?

Any reaction I have to sapient has nothing to do with “shock” or “anger” at the idea of re-assessing the idea of marriage. Rather, it has to do with what Jes said last time (or at least the last time I was here for it), i.e. that repeatedly bringing up the idea of abolishing civil marriage in discussions of same-sex marriage is like repeatedly p33ing in someone’s else’s pool. What surprises me is that sapient is still surprised that people still don’t like it.

In relation to people who support same-sex marriage, it’s a slap in the face to say, in effect, that they’re fighting for the right to be included in an institution that would be better abolished. Whether it’s meant to be or not, it comes across as both a denigration of that effort and an attempt to derail attention from it.

In relation to people who don’t support same-sex marriage, it’s perfectly designed to feed the idea that same-sex marriage is a step down the slippery slope that leads to horrors. So again, whether it’s meant to be or not, the effect is to undermine the effort to establish same-sex marriage by feeding the worst fears of its opponents, who are well known to be a little bit touchy about the idea of abolishing marriage as we know it.

Not to mention that there are tens of millions of people like Doctor Science (including a few right here at ObWi) who are married and don’t appreciate the institution they value being so casually and airily waved away.

“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Benjamin_Franklin>Misattributed to various people, including Albert Einstein and Mark Twain. The earliest known occurrence, and probable origin is Rita Mae Brown, Sudden Death (Bantam Books, New York, 1983), p. 68.

(Who knew.)

There is a river at the edge of town. Every so often someone brings up the notion that building a footbridge over the river would be a good idea. Many people think it would be great if the people could walk across the river.

One person thinks that it would be a good idea to build a bridge that would handle cars and other vehicles. It would be more difficult, take more time but ultimately help many more people.

He is labelled a troublemaker for bringing up the bigger picture every time the subject comes up.

Hopefully, the footbridge gets built, he soesn't really object to a footbridge. Someday the other bridge will be important toenough people to build it.

One person thinks that it would be a good idea to build a bridge that would handle cars and other vehicles. It would be more difficult, take more time but ultimately help many more people.

No, that one person in your anecdote is objecting to the concept of bridges or even the idea of going on to the other side of the river at all and has long winded explanations about why the other side of the river sucks and even if you wanted to go on to the other side of the river, you wouldn't just have everyone use boats.

I not really talking about sapient, so much. But really, folks, Every. Single. Time. Sometimes it's sapient here, but sometimes it's something else. I've lost track of the commenters who say it at slacktivist, Kit Whitfield & I have a whole tag-team routine to reply to them. I've seen them at Balloon Juice, at Ordinary Gentlemen, at Balko's, in random newspaper comments sections. It's been going on for YEARS.

Where does this meme come from, and how can I make it stop?

Where does this meme come from, and how can I make it stop?

I think there are a few traits that combine to make this sort of behavior depressingly common:

(1) Most people don't know a damn thing about public policy and are very ignorant of public institutions. Their ignorance of the fact that American governance has an absurdly large number of veto points stops them from realizing that their ideas are unworkable in the extreme.

(2) Contrarianism. You know how Slate has carved a niche writing insane things like Creed was good and black people really are genetically inferior? There's a fundamental human drive to proudly assert that the conventional wisdom is wrong, that everyone else is a simp who lacks your unique vision which allows you to see the world as it is rather than as hand puppets on the cave wall. Of course, a true contrarian can't just say "gay marriage is wrong!" because lots of people already believe that. They need a way to be contrary without being on the wrong side of history. So they say "marriage should be eliminated" instead. That gives them contrarian cred without having to feel ashamed in 20 years when same sex marriage is universally accepted.

(3) They're Architecture Astronauts:

That's one sure tip-off to the fact that you're being assaulted by an Architecture Astronaut: the incredible amount of bombast; the heroic, utopian grandiloquence; the boastfulness; the complete lack of reality. And people buy it! The business press goes wild!

The hallmark of an architecture astronaut is that they don't solve an actual problem... they solve something that appears to be the template of a lot of problems.

This desire to wish away all the legacy encumberants of our culture and our history (will married people be pissed off when we demote marriage as an institution and blame it on the guys? Pshaw! I'm an astronaut!) is of a piece with solving the meta problem. Sapient makes it explicit: people think unwed mothers are the lowest form of life. What do we do about that problem? Radically reorganize our society! But how do we do that? Let's take advantage of all the hard work that LGBT folks have done. They probably won't mind.

As for how to make it stop, I have no idea. I'm still boggled at the thought of people writing, in public, that Creed is good. In comparison, the bizarre tick that compels people to say "let's eliminate marriage!" whenever same sex marriage discussions arise may not be that bad.

Well, I guess I disagree with your premise. The New Testament notion of marriage is two people, a man and a woman, becoming one flesh and having children, forsaking all others, etc. The NT was the western canon for the institution of marriage for 99% of England and eventually the commonwealth. How nice for England. However, examine world population over time, check your facts:
According to the Ethnographic Atlas Codebook, of 1231 societies noted, 186 were monogamous. 453 had occasional polygyny, 588 had more frequent polygyny, and 4 had polyandry.[3] At the same time, even within societies which allow polygyny, the actual practice of polygyny occurs relatively rarely. There are exceptions: in Senegal, for example, nearly 47 percent of marriages are multiple.[6] To take on more than one wife often requires considerable resources: this may put polygamy beyond the means of the vast majority of people within those societies. Such appears the case in many traditional Islamic societies, and in Imperial China. Within polygynous societies, multiple wives often become a status symbol denoting wealth, power, and fame.
Then explain why your particularly chosen subculture in world history, and the tiny little country you've chosen, whose imperial history was significant for no more than a few hundred years about of thousands, should matter more than the majority of the world's population's customs for the majority of world history.

Start by reading all of this, and then come back. :-)

But I'm serious. You don't seem familiar with the facts, MT.

To pull one rabbit from my hat, explain why China should matter less than England.

(Let's not get into how angry many people from the United Kingdom will be if you call them "English" since England is only one of four countries in the unitary state of the UK: England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales; I'd look further into the history of those lands, as well, but I digress.)

China

Technically, ever since the Han Dynasty, it had been unlawful for Chinese men to have more than one wife.[citation needed] However, throughout the history of imperial China, it had been common for the rich and influential Chinese men to have one wife and various concubines.

Polygamy in China is considered to be a by-product of the tradition of emphasis on procreation and the continuity of the father's family name.

Although the establishment of the Republic of China made it explicitly unlawful for a man to have multiple spouses/concubines, such legislation were generally not enforced, especially among the societal elites who were most likely to live such lifestyles.[citation needed] The most serious changes occurred during and after the Communist Revolution, where traditions considered backward and feudal (such as concubinage, foot-binding, slavery, prostitution, etc.) were thoroughly outlawed and severely punished for.

Are you a Red Chicom, McKinneyTexas? :-) :-) :-)

Here's a thought: would you agree that "English" history is culturally based in significant ways, as is American, on Greek and Roman culture?

If so -- and perhaps you don't, and wouldn't that be a fun debate? -- then consider why it might be that polygyny is:

from neo-Greek: πολύ poly - "many", and γυνή gyny - "woman or wife"
and polygamy is:
Polygamy (from πολύς γάμος polys gamos, translated literally in Late Greek as "often married"
Why do you suppose that might be?

Would you like to discuss Roman history and culture next?

Justme:
I assure you that with anyone I marry, DNA tests will only demonstrate that we are not related.
I assure you that everyone is related and that DNA tests prove it.

All that matters is that we now have genetic testing to avoid genetic disorders.

This is a solved problem. Move on.

Hey Doc,
Is the 'it' just this thing about marriage, or is it more general?

It may be cold comfort, but I explain to my students any number of things, and, as soon as there is another assignment, they make precisely the same mistake. In some cases, it has been PRECISELY the same mistake, without the fig-leaf of a different word, or a different context. It happens in aikido as well. I'll teach something, I'll get someone to the point of doing it correctly, and, when their attention is moved back away from that specific point, the same exact mistake.

There's an open thread opp there that will be exploited later, so please go back to discussing marriage, though.

Where does this meme come from, and how can I make it stop?

Maybe just plug your ears? ;)

But if you do figure out how to stop it, I hope you'll share your methods so that we can apply them to some other pesky memes, like the idea that blizzards mean climate change isn't happening, or evolution has something to do with the big bang....

Doctor Science:

The trouble, legally speaking, with poly marriages, and the reason they aren't on the slippery slope from SSM, is that there's no legal tradition -- anywhere in the world AFAIK -- to use as a template.
Without sparing time to go and do fresh research, last I looked, this is true, and you're correct, and it's definitely problematic, I agree.

But the solution, legally, I think, is simply to let contract theory and contract law prevail.

Then we get into questions of international scope, the essence of whether nationalism should exist, to what degree there should be federalism, globalism, localism, and I walk away at that point to leave that for another discussion. :-)

Gary, do you think we'd have fun if I made that old blogspot post a separate post here?

Fine by me, but I can't resist pointing out that only hours ago, minutes ago, and right now, I'm avoiding an argument on Facebook between Scott, and one of my oldest and best friends (someone I tend to exchange long sets of email and other communications with many times a day, many days), a major science fiction editor, about comparing the Wisconsin to Egypt.

I realize that most people can't read that discussion, but if you got onto Facebook, and friended me, and since Moshe has their privacy set to Friends of Friends -- you could -- and since that includes Moshe's 957 Friends and my -- it says 772 Friends at the moment (but, weirdly, I have not Friended Scott, nor asked him to Be My Friend, so I don't know his number of Friends), that's a lot of people -- and then I might suggest that people simply google the two phrases, together, of and then stand back, because that'll take through decades of my history with RAH and Alexei Panshin, and more.

Then I might talk about how I gave so many notes on my friend for over thirty-three years, Bill Patterson's manuscript of his biography of RAH -- the disk of that draft is within arm's reach of me now, I "talk" with Bill most days -- and I might, you know, digress, though I could, having now done that his far, probably stay on topic if I'm awake enough. :-)

So, sure, why not, if we find a slow moment.

I'll not mention that I'm probably the only person in the world who is a good friend of Bill Patterson's and a friend of Alexei Panshin's, and that I actually can, it turns out, be diplomatic, under many circumstances. :-) :-) :-)

I'm going to be away, btw, next weekend, with friends, and the weekend after, doing stuff:

Friday, 4:30-5:45 P.M. [...] No-Blah Blog
California Room

In 2011, many authors are not just writing stories, novels and articles. They’re blogging. How do you create a blog readers will want to return to again and again without sacrificing your other writing projects?
M: Amy Sundberg, Cassie Alexander, Gary Farber, Carolyn E. Cooper

And other stuff:
Sunday, 9:00-10:15 A.M.
Power Structures in F/SF Cities
Redwood Room

Who holds the power in the cities of alternate worlds? Are cities ruled by individuals, single organizations, or coalitions? How is power exercised: through religious, economic, legal, or other means? Can people move freely among classes? Does the nature of power held in a city influence the nature of the underclass? Take examples from modern and classic spec fic works and examine how these questions have been addressed over time.
M: Michele Cox, Mary Anne Mohanraj, Debbie Notkin, Gary Farber

I have some guest blog posts lined up, and if I have time, will write some of my own and time them to auto-post, but mostly I'll be out of contact, more than not, for much of March 3rd through March 7th, and March 10th though March 14th, so those are good gap times, I expect, although who knows, maybe the place will be jumping?

It's not as if, after all, we had some system for coordinating posts.

Although I do have in mind a possible suggestion for sending around a single sentence note to those of us willing to receive such more or less saying "I'm going to address Current Event X" so we don't wind up with two of us putting a bunch of work into the same thing and accidentally duplicate each other, but for now that's doesn't seem to be a problem, and can wait until it becomes one, if it ever does.

Have fun! Er, TANSTAAFL? Talk away.

Influence of the Science Fiction Writings of Robert A. Heinlein on Polyamory. We have some dinkum thinkums, but I'm afraid my own philosophy has never always been "Keep mouth shut."

Or I wouldn't be a blogger and writer. Apologies.

JanieM:

(Who knew.)
Um....

I'm afraid not.

And just last month, at the Answers.com entry (which also cites Brown), commenter Davidt 9 offered a slight antedating:

The quote "Insanity is repeating the same mistakes and expecting different results" is contained in the Basic Text of Narcotics Anonymous which was published in 1982. The review form of the book was distributed to members in 1981 and work on the book began in 1979. All of this predates Rita Mae Brown's book.

He gave a link to the book, which does, as advertised, have the relevant quote on page 11 (25th page of the PDF). I also found a 1980 pamphlet from the Hazelden Foundation, "Step Two: The Promise of Hope," which quotes the same aphorism, so perhaps it got its start in the literature of addiction and recovery.

And of course there may not be an original author; probably these three sources picked up a formulation that had been percolating in the spoken language, possibly in less eloquent variations, just as it was settling into the pithy form we now consider good enough for Einstein.

I do not regret to inform you that I quite frequently find myself a much better researcher than Wikiquotes, although in general, it's probably the best single site on the web for authenticating quotes.

But -- I really don't like sounding immodest, I really don't -- the fact is that I've frequently checked when something seems doubtful, and found more correct information, so, immodestly: I'm better.

Example, on my sidebar:


"First they ignore you. Then they ridicule you. And then they attack you and want to burn you. And then they build monuments to you."
-- Nicholas Klein, May, 1919, to the Third Biennial Convention of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America (misattributed to Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, 1914 & variants).
You have to look carefully, but 1919 and 1914 are not, in fact, the same years, Wikiquotes' link goes to the wrong place, it's close, but Wikiquotes is wrong, I'm right, I've done this a lot of times. :-)

DS:

Where does this meme come from,
It's not an illogical progression of thought, offensive as it is when considered from better angles, so:
how can I make it stop?
You can't, any more than I can stop people referring to "Ghandi", or get people to stop referring to "Ursula K. LeGuin" instead of her actual name, Ursula K. Le Guin.

Gary:

Sorry, I don't cross the streams. No bloglandia friends on FB. And I only log onto FB in a "playpen" -- Google Chrome, in which I log into absolutely nothing else (including gmail). I don't trust Chrome not to send every click back to Google, and I don't trust FB not to track me everywhere, so I give them each other to play with.

Gary:

You say, of the "leave marriage to the churches" meme:

it's not an illogical progression of thought

-- and I don't see the logic *at all*. It reminds me more of an exasperated parent giving a kid the toy he's whining for to shut him up -- with (to me) the implication that the toy isn't worth the whining, anyway.

I don't trust Chrome not to send every click back to Google

I think you should reconsider because:

(0) Google says they don't right here (Matt Cutts is a google employee).

(1) Almost all of Chrome's source code is open to the public here.

(2) Anyone can check exactly what data Chrome sends back to Google by running a packet sniffer like Wireshark.Needless to say, no one has ever found evidence that Chrome was secretly sending all your clicks back to Google.

Higher up, sapient said:

Before the availability of DNA testing, kinship laws made sense, but property and inheritance are available through contracts and wills, and DNA is a more reliable determinant of blood relationships than marriage.

McKinneyTexas did a good job of pointing out the legal difficulties of using contracts and wills to do some of the job of marriage.

I'm going to also explain that "kinship" is a technical anthropological term that does *not* mean "genetic relationship". Every human society has a set of kinship rules that specify which relationships *count* as family, whether the people are genetically related or not.

To take the classic example, rules about incest.

There are cultures in which half-sibling incest is permitted, but usually it is only permitted where the half-sibs have the same father, not where they have the same mother. Both sorts of half-sibs are genetically related to the same degree, but in these cultures half-sibs who share a mother are considered "brother and sister", while half-sibs who share a father are not.

Another example, about which different European cultures have diametrically-opposed rules: a widow and her late husband's brother. In some kinship systems, this marriage would be considered incest (see: Catherine of Aragon, Henry VIII's first wife) and not permitted. In other kinship systems, it would be mandatory: levirate marriage. In Tibet, the widow might already be married to the brother, via sibling polyandry.

Biologically speaking, the marriage between a widow and her brother-in-law is *never* incest, because they have no (family-level) genetic relationship. But kinship systems aren't about genetic relationships, they're about *family* relationships, as a culture defines them.

Turb:

I don't suspect Chrome of being a keylogger. I know, though, that it sends a *bucket* of data back as I surf -- look at how fast the I/O reads pile up. I assume that it keeps track of every link I visit, To Serve You Better.

Google says they don't right here (Matt Cutts is a google employee).

Having Google vouch for its own behavior is *not* convincing.

look at how fast the I/O reads pile up.

That doesn't actually tell you anything meaningful. Not all network IO goes to Google.

I assume that it keeps track of every link I visit, To Serve You Better.

All browsers keep track of links you visit in order to implement history. But that doesn't mean Chrome sends back history data to Google's servers.

Having Google vouch for its own behavior is *not* convincing.

When they open source the code, it becomes pretty convincing to me. When anyone can download Wireshark for free and verify for themselves, that becomes pretty convincing. I don't know what Google could do beyond that: their word isn't good enough for you and neither is evidence.

I mean, your belief that Chrome is sending your clicks to Google is either something that can be tested or it is some sort of religious belief. There's zero evidence that Chrome sends clicks to Google. It is easy to check, and no one has ever detected such transmissions. Fire up Wireshark and look for connections from Chrome that are going to Google. You won't find any except as described in the link I gave you. I get that most people aren't comfortable running a packet sniffer, but there are a few million people in the world who are and none of them have ever found anything problematic here.

"No bloglandia friends on FB."

That's fine.

I do talk to Russell, Slart, on occasion Eric, and now LJ, there. Also various ObWi commenters; some lurkers here lurk there as my Friends.

Most of my FB Friends are either bloggers, journalists/academics, sf people, or other commenters here, fans of my own writing, plus various misc.

I've recently been using Twitter, which I have relayed to FB. Eric is quite active on Twitter.

There are also mailing lists; I could nominate you, but not if you're not interested.

No need to include yourself in any of these things, or anything else.

Google is something I also know a great deal about, and I also have very good friends very high up there, but I decline to further involve myself in this discussion.

Okay, not declining, this much: Turbulence is correct.

And: "I assume that it keeps track of every link I visit, To Serve You Better."

a) Don't use Chrome, then. Not a problem.

It's a very nice program, but shouldn't be used if you have paranoias about Google.

In fact, don't use Google, or gmail, or any Google tool. This is easy, if you prefer.

b) Use Firefox, add-ons HTTPS-Everywhere, BetterPrivacy, and NoScript.

c) Don't use MyGoogle.

How they could do anything if you take any of these steps, let alone all, let alone also use any of a zillion other possible security software tools, I'm unaware.

As Turb notes, sniff your own packets.

If anyone can specify ways around this, I certainly would learn much I don't; unlike Turbulence, I'm not remotely a computer expert of any kind, nor any kind of engineer, etc.

I merely know people who are, like Bruce Schneier and his wife, for decades, they've bought me dim sum, had beers with Whit Diffie (bored him talking sf fandom with Avedon Carol, very close friend since 1974ish, not so much currently), have read a certain amount, know what I've learned.

That only goes so far and anyone remotely expert knows much more than I do.

But I don't assume much.

I've also never gotten a computer virus, ever.

I use the internet rather heavily. And Google.

And before Google, Alta Vista, before that: gopher, veronica, archie.

Before the web, before the internet, I read and archived print-outs of all messages from sf-lovers on ARPANET since 1978.

I do know a little bit of relevant stuff.

In general, I try to assume as little as possible.

But I'm very human and flawed, I do make all sorts of errors all the time. I have my ups and downs.

If you're using FB, and have concerns, I would hope you're using the https option, per Security › Security: Opt-in security features and Secure Browsing.

If not, you might want to, though it will break certain FB parts. This may be a feature, not a bug; it is for me in many ways, but then, FB constantly breaks itself, anyway, so 6 of 1, half dozen of the other, and FB is a tool, use it or not as one wishes. I'm agnostic.

No one has talked about Robert George's "revisionist" definition of marriage, and whether it is correct. Just wondering what people think of it:

"Marriage is the union of two people (whether of the same sex or of opposite sexes) who commit to romantically loving and caring for each other and to sharing the burdens and benefits of domestic life. It is essentially a union of hearts and minds, enhanced by whatever forms of sexual intimacy both partners find agreeable. The state should recognize and regulate marriage because it has an interest in stable romantic partnerships and in the concrete needs of spouses and any children they may choose to rear."

I would offer a different definition:

"Marriage is a legal action taken by two unrelated people, who with the purpose of creating a new family unit (with the possibility of children and in-law relationships) make their relationship subject to state and federal laws associated with family rights (involving, among other things, medical access, custody, property, inheritance, immigration and tax treatment)."


I realize I'm late to the party (gotta remember to check in before bed). But I can't resist commenting (OK, ranting) on the civil unions ("domestic partnerships" here in California) question.

The problem with these, in my mind, is not so much that they are marraige-lite because they do not confer all of the rights of marriage. It is that they are marriage-lite because they entail very few of the responsibilities that come with marriage. Which is why, IMHO, the substantial majority of all domestic partnerships in California are between heterosexuals who have no legal bar to marrying -- it gets them (most of) the rights, without the burden of the responsibilities.

Which is why I would think that any real conservative, being big on responsibility as a concept, should argue hard to both legalize gay marriage and simultaneously repeal any and all domestic partnership (i.e. civil union) legislation. Insist that people accept the responsibilities if they want the rights. And if they don't want the responsibilities, they can just shack up and get neither.

sapient:

Your definition seems, offhand, to be a heck of a lot better than what Prof. George came up with. I'd appreciate a response to some of the other things I've said to you, though.

For the record, btw, I wrote "like Bruce Schneier and his wife" not as sexist language, but because Bruce is very public, and ***** ****** is very private, and wouldn't like further clues to her name being added to the public internet. But I'm friendlier, last I looked, with her than him, actually; we're FB Friends.

Incidentally, Doctor Science, it's perfectly easy to not Cross Streams on FB by simply having separate Friends Lists for blogging Friends, Friend Friends, Relatives, and as many separate lists as you want, create them once, set Privacy Levels once, then simply post to whichever list you want, it's all invisible to the other set, problem solved; you can similarly do this via Groups, or any number of systematic ways FB provides, trivially.

I have dozens of such Friends Lists. And read accordingly, but mostly being an open person, I just mostly post to Friends Of Friends, save when I'm protecting other people's privacy.

One of my private lists is Boring People. :-)

The great thing about FB, though, is the nigh-infinite configurability, though the often breakage as they tweak stuff every day is a downside.

A lot of people have learning curve issues, but the Help is generally very good, and my own opinion is that, as a generality, the tweakage is generally towards improvement, and the Learning Curve problem is simply an inevitable outcome of our increasingly headed, if not towards a Technological Singularity, but certainly along an ever-increasing rate of growth of knowledge, information, information systems, technology, and played out in software and capitalist competition, and in other words we either constantly adjust or stagnate, but, on the other hand, we also must all deal with the need for the comfort of routine and habits, which I crave myself, for efficiencies sake, there are only 24 hours in a day, and there's always a tension between these two, and a balance to be found that each of us must find for themselves.

Apologies if this is too much of a digression or thread diversion.

Doctor Science: "I'd appreciate a response to some of the other things I've said to you, though."

Hi, Doctor Science. I appreciate your posts, and thank you for inviting me to respond. I have to say, I didn't feel particularly welcome to do so since you said:

"Where does this meme come from, and how can I make it stop?"

By not responding, I thought I was helping to make it stop.

I didn't realize your post was specifically about "LGBT marriage issues" since you were quoting Robert George, who is trying to define "marriage" in a certain way, and who is trying to force the rest of us to accept that view of marriage. I thought the subject was, in other words, "marriage."

I had already, of course, learned that if someone brings up LGBT marriage in this blog, I am not allowed to raise any objection to the legal institution of marriage. Apparently, only LGBT rights matter, and until LGBT rights are vindicated and all jurisdictions accept LGBT marriage, the rest of us will have to wait if we wish to discuss whether it's right for the government to prefer certain family arrangements over others.

I believe McKinney is incorrect that the law can't address kinship, property, descent and distribution, custody, etc., without the institution of marriage being the centerpiece. In fact, there are many people opting out of marriage who live together, have children, and even die. All of these people have kin, and the law deals with their custody issues, property issues, and death. (Perhaps they don't have "in-laws," but in the scheme of things, "in-laws" aren't very important in the law.) There are certainly creative ways to allow the law to do a better job of coming up with "defaults" for all of these categories of things (using partnership law mixed with aspects of domestic relations law). But no "default" system addresses every need in an ideal way, according to every person's preference. That's why attorneys still advise married people to draft wills and estate plans, designate medical representatives, etc.

You stated that you felt "threatened" by a change in the legal construct of marriage because you believe you have a secular marriage, and everything is fine with it. You're worried that Texas might not recognize your relationship if your state made changes in its marriage laws. Of course, I don't suggest burning the statutes down all at once, and those matters would have to be addressed gradually. Frankly, having a "preferred" status of "married" when my LGBT brothers and sisters can't avail themselves of that status in most states is unappealing to me. For Texas to recognize my hypothetical "marriage" when they don't recognize my friend's is as offensive to me as it is "threatening" to you. I'd rather not be part of the discriminatory "preferred class".

But, I'm glad that you're fine with the status quo - most people are. That is, until they find that they want to get a divorce, or until they want a divorce but don't get one because they are locked into a relationship that is too difficult and expensive to extricate themselves from. Your marriage is emotionally whatever you want it to be. But no matter how liberal the jurisdiction you were married in, if you move to certain states where the law is very much based on an ideal similar to what Robert George describes, you might be in for a surprise if your spouse decides to leave. (Again, this isn't personal - I'm not suggesting that YOUR spouse would want to leave.) Your marriage isn't a contract between you and your spouse; it's a status and you're stuck with the law of the place you're living in. So all is good when your relationship is great - not so good if things go wrong and you happen to be in the wrong place.

Many people avoid marriage for the very reason that marriage has religious implications that they prefer not to live with. "Marriage" in the United States does not include polygamy, polyandry, and polyamorous arrangements - even though those arrangements are accepted in other cultures (as has been pointed out, but this is another interesting source.) But forget about sex, the idea that single mothers are disparaged by society - how can anyone be a feminist and not consider this problematic? Idealizing "marriage" contributes to this problem. Maybe the reason that Every Single Time people bring up marriage as being a problem is because they see it as being a problem.

Because marriage is an important to so many people as a cultural institution, it can continue to exist as such, separate from a legal institution. In fact, to have it co-exist legally for awhile along with a domestic partnership regime (which would not be based on sexual relationships at all, but on the idea that two or more people might want to live in a household) would satisfy me. This is what is already happening in France and other places. Marriage could then either thrive or atrophy, but at least people could get out of the habit of thinking that it was the only respectable option.

I'm tired of talking about this alone here, and being maligned by other commenters, as though I'm trying to subvert progress in the realm of gay rights. Frankly, it's an interesting topic to me, but it's not the most important thing in the world. I feel that my country is disintegrating. I'll be very happy to see LGBT people have all of the rights that everyone else has - I think (hope) that's inevitable given the demographic trends. The fact that gay and lesbian people are well represented among the wealthy makes me confident that their interests won't be ignored. I'm not so sure about the interests of single mothers or a whole lot of other people. "In 2009, 29.9 percent of households headed by single women were poor, while 16.9 percent of households headed by single men and 5.8 percent of married-couple households lived in poverty." Is it that marriage is preferable? Or is it that marriage is preferred? Maybe there are other systems that could provide support more effectively for some people. (But, of course, marriage is the least of their worries - it's a luxury even to ponder it. in fact, I read recently that the wealthy are getting married in droves; the less wealthy no longer bother. Not sure what the economic demographics are with respect to LGBT couples.)

I only comment on ObWi when I have a difference of opinion that I think is worth expressing (although my comments are rarely valued similarly by the community). I don't comment when there are plenty of people stating the same case I would make, and better. But I do think it's fruitless to talk about this issue here any further, since this community rejects out of hand the idea that alternative possibilities might be more fair and inclusive for everyone.

1. this community rejects out of hand the idea that alternative possibilities might be more fair and inclusive for everyone.

-- Can you produce a single cite to support this assertion? Disagreeing with your particular suggestions (or disliking the way in which they're offered) is not the same thing. Nor is skepticism as to whether massive wholesale reform of the marriage laws is likely to produce the consequences, and only the consequences, you’re counting on.

-- There is nothing -- other than the flat fact that we all do some reading here -- that “this community” does or agrees upon monolithically. If so many people from such diverse areas of the political map are less than enthusiastic about your topic, maybe there’s something else at work besides the shortcomings of “this community.”

2. But forget about sex, the idea that single mothers are disparaged by society - how can anyone be a feminist and not consider this problematic? Idealizing "marriage" contributes to this problem.

-- Can you quote any self-described feminists saying that they don’t consider this problematic? Again, being skeptical about whether your proposed solution will solve the problem isn’t the same thing.

-- Do you go around bringing up the abolition of civil marriage every time someone writes about poverty, or birth control, or job training, or child care resources for working parents, or gender stereotyping of all kinds, or any one of dozens of other factors that contribute to the problems of single mothers? If not, why is it only the topic of same-sex marriage that inspires you to grab coattails and try to ride along?

3. I'm tired of talking about this alone here.

-- Nobody’s making you talk about it. Conversely, no one is obliged to talk about something they’re not interested in.

4. Apparently, only LGBT rights matter, and until LGBT rights are vindicated and all jurisdictions accept LGBT marriage, the rest of us will have to wait if we wish to discuss whether it's right for the government to prefer certain family arrangements over others.

-- Leaving aside the snotty mischaracterization of what other people have written, nobody’s stopping you from starting your own d*mned blog and hoping someone shows up to discuss what you want to discuss.

Somewhat digressive, but I think not entirely, and of interest: Who's Behind the Bills that Could Legalize Killing Abortion Providers?

I had already, of course, learned that if someone brings up LGBT marriage in this blog, I am not allowed to raise any objection to the legal institution of marriage.
You've learned incorrectly. These are the Posting Rules.

They are the only rules ObWiM has. Until such time as the front pagers who chose to vote vote to change them, they remain The Only Rules.

Period.

If any commenter or front pager tells you otherwise, they're wrong. All that is not forbidden is allowed.

Period.

No front pager has the right to make up their own rules, even assuming anyone were to try, or mistakenly assert such a right.

Period.

When, if, you see new Posting Rules appear, those will be the new Posting Rules.

Period, end of story.

[...] I am not allowed to raise any objection to the legal institution of marriage.
I'm reading your comment, and it hasn't be deleted.

You appear to be confused about what the word "allowed" means.

[...] I'm tired of talking about this alone here, and being maligned by other commenters, as though I'm trying to subvert progress in the realm of gay rights.
We all tire of many things.

If "other commenters" malign you, what do you want anyone to do about it? If they don't violate the Posting Rules, they're allowed.

Everyone is free to argue with you, you're free to argue back, Doctor Science is free to argue with you, you're free, enjoy your freedom.

I suggest trying persuasion. It will work on some, not on others. Unless you think someone has hypnotic Mind Ray Control Satellites being used to create a conspiracy against you, you're going to be argued with until such time as you can magically convince everyone in the world who is free to post here not to argue with you.

Best of luck with that.

But I do think it's fruitless to talk about this issue here any further, since this community rejects out of hand the idea that alternative possibilities might be more fair and inclusive for everyone.
You're precisely as much a part of the community as any other individual who chooses to post. All commenters are equal.

Some are more persuasive than others. Some are more like-minded than others.

If you're tired, I recommend rest.

JanieM: "why is it only the topic of same-sex marriage that inspires you to grab coattails and try to ride along?"

Is same-sex marriage a completely different topic than the subject of marriage itself? Is Doctor Science's post exclusively about same-sex marriage? Did I misread Robert George's article that he was talking about two competing definitions of "marriage," and how same-sex marriage would, in fact, change "marriage" for everyone? I'm not sure whose coattails I inappropriately grabbed. Yours?

And no, I don't think changing domestic relations laws would solve the world's problems. In fact, I said as much: "marriage is the least of their worries - it's a luxury even to ponder it". I think it's an interesting possibility to ponder, and pondering is what blog commenting is there to promote. IMHO.

Gary, thanks for the link to the Mother Jones article. I hadn't seen it or read about the trend it describes. It's disturbing. And yes, I will rest.

I believe McKinney is incorrect that the law can't address kinship, property, descent and distribution, custody, etc., without the institution of marriage being the centerpiece. In fact, there are many people opting out of marriage who live together, have children, and even die. All of these people have kin, and the law deals with their custody issues, property issues, and death.

If two people cohabit and are unmarried, one owning the home and the other not, and if the home owner dies, the survivor has no rights. Moreover, if the law tried to create rights to address this issue, what you would have every time an unmarried person died would be contestants coming forward claiming whatever relationship would be necessary to get a piece of the action. It's the seamy underbelly of humanity, and it's something lawyers see all of the time. If want a screwed up legal situation, put two people in an unregulated relationship and have one become disabled or die. Oral wills aren't enforceable and claiming a "gift" is very chancy and very expensive. Written wills are subject to claims of 'undue influence'. There are a tons of other examples of why not being married AND having an up to date will is a really bad idea.

On the larger issue of 'yes' or 'no' on gay marriage, attempting to persuade the 'no' camp by telling them that marriage has not traditionally been between a man and a woman, with the intent of exclusivity and having children is not going to change many minds. The trend in favor of gay marriage/civil union is not because people question the institution of marriage, it's because, for the first time in history, gay people are being accepted as people and because it isn't fair to treat people differently. It's not complicated. Really.

Finally, I am unaware of any state which does not recognize valid, heterosexual marriages from other states, even if the recognizing state doesn't permit the form of marriage in question. Example: Texas has common law marriages: cohabit, consummate and a mutually holding out publicly as man and wife. Many states do not have this form of marriage, but all AFAIK recognize a valid Texas common law marriage.

Finally, I am unaware of any state which does not recognize valid, heterosexual marriages from other states, even if the recognizing state doesn't permit the form of marriage in question.

Maybe this is a quibble, but from http://www.mainelegislature.org/legis/statutes/19-A/title19-Asec701.html>the Maine statutes:

§701. Prohibited marriages; exceptions

1. Marriage out of State to evade law. When residents of this State, with intent to evade this section and to return and reside here, go into another state or country to have their marriage solemnized there and afterwards return and reside here, that marriage is void in this State.
[ 1995, c. 694, Pt. B, §2 (NEW); 1995, c. 694, Pt. E, §2 (AFF) .]

1-A. Certain marriages performed in another state not recognized in this State. Any marriage performed in another state that would violate any provisions of subsections 2 to 5 if performed in this State is not recognized in this State and is considered void if the parties take up residence in this State.
[ 1997, c. 65, §3 (NEW) .]

Headlines of subsections 2 to 5:

2. Prohibitions based on degrees of consanguinity; exceptions.

3. Persons under disability.

4. Polygamy.

5. Same sex marriage prohibited.

Interesting that consanguinity rules are included, but not rules about age.

Surely Maine isn't the only place with reservations like this?

On the larger issue of 'yes' or 'no' on gay marriage, attempting to persuade the 'no' camp by telling them that marriage has not traditionally been between a man and a woman, with the intent of exclusivity and having children is not going to change many minds.

Well, yes, probably, but it should also be true that "defending traditional marriage" -- i.e., convincing people to fight against gay marriage -- on the basis that "thus has it always been, thus should it always be" should be pushed back against, because it simply isn't true.

Janie, I think that every state has laws against polygamy, incest and lack of capacity. My point was, if the form of marriage is recognized in State A, and if its' a valid marriage in State A, the other 49 states usually recognize that form.


"thus has it always been, thus should it always be" should be pushed back against, because it simply isn't true.

In place of 'true', I would insert either 'right' or 'fair'. I'm quibbling. It's Monday.

Doctor Science:

The trouble, legally speaking, with poly marriages, and the reason they aren't on the slippery slope from SSM, is that there's no legal tradition -- anywhere in the world AFAIK -- to use as a template.

Without sparing time to go and do fresh research, last I looked, this is true, and you're correct, and it's definitely problematic, I agree.

But the solution, legally, I think, is simply to let contract theory and contract law prevail.

I meant to address this first. Poly marriage is, first of all, a total nonstarter in the US and probably most other places as well. More importantly, introducing a third, co-equal partner into a relationship makes it administratively near-impossible for the law to address coherently. As but one example, if two of the three procreate, what parental duties/rights does the non-biological partner have? Inheritance, right of possession/visitation upon dissolution? Suppose two of three want to sell the family home, or buy a business and third wants out? Or, two gang up on one emotionally, etc.? It's a really bad paradigm which, outside a grossly patriarchal and anachronistic model, you won't find anywhere in a successful society throughout history.

McK, I got what you were saying. I just thought it was interesting that based on this from the Maine statute:

Certain marriages performed in another state not recognized in this State

I.e. Maine does not recognize all marriages from other states, e.g. if the other state's consanguinity restrictions are different from Maine's.

"Usually" is not what you said the first time.

Is there quibbling in the water today? ;)

"If two people cohabit and are unmarried, one owning the home and the other not, and if the home owner dies, the survivor has no rights."

Isn't it just as easy to get a deed with joint tenancy and right of survivorship as it is to get married? It should be!

Not to mention the fact that a statutory scheme could easily be set up where a person could designate (and record in a courthouse) unrelated parties who could be considered next-of-kin. Just curious - doesn't Texas's common law marriage system promote the "imposter" problem that you describe, or the problem of people denying a marital relationship when there's a disability?

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