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February 07, 2012

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I (as a libertarian) don't have anything against your marriage. In the eyes of the state, all marriages (whether conducted civilly or religiously) would have exactly an equal status: civil union, which functionally would have all the rights and privileges of a marriage today. You'd be free to call it a marriage. I'd probably call it a marriage too. But maybe there are people out there (for example, adherents of the Catholic Church) who don't like to call things "marriages" that they don't consider to be marriages (for example, a second secular marriage of a divorcé(e)), and they'd not have to call them marriages.

Personally I'd rather see the term "civil marriage" replace "marriage" in the law, rather than "civil union," but I can also see how the term "marriage" brings in a lot of religious baggage that some would like to see excluded from the nature of the relationship in the eyes of the state, and that liberating the term "marriage" itself from some state-sanctioned definition would allow individuals and groups the freedom to decide for themselves what they want it to mean rather than whatever the arbitrary laws of 50 states want it to mean.

Chris, I don't see the removal of the term "marriage" from my (civil) marriage as a "liberation" -- I see it as isolating to non-religious people like me.

In your preferred world, Catholics and Protestants and Buddhists and Scientologists and Yazidis and Wiccans and Baha'is and would all be "married", but folks like me --and us alone-- would be stuck with a "civil marriage." Sure, we could call it "marriage", but that would have all the legitimacy of calling my driver's license an intergalactic star-ship permit.

There's still a stigma towards children of unmarried parents where I live. Your preferred solution here would bastardize my kid. Go libertarianism!

In the western legal tradition at least, civil marriages are much older than religious ones. Roman marriage was a civil contract before Christianity was even a chronological possibility.

I suggest retaining the term marriage, without qualification, for this original civil contract, and if any adherent of any faith wants to perform an additional ritual for the benefit of their god(s), that should firstly be known explicitly as a religious marriage and secondly have no standing in law whatsoever unless the recognised civil contract is incorporated into it.

I have advocated this for a long time.

Cultures and religions' conception of marriage varies far more widely than people appreciate, and there's no reason government should enshrine a single definition (broad or narrow) as the valid one. The state doesn't need to judge, as long as children are cared for and respected, and stuff like inheritance and visitation rights are handled empathically and sensibly.

Vic, no one can remove the term marriage from your relationship, as you've got as much right to define it as anyone else. There's no reason to add a "civil", or any other qualifier to it. Unless you want to, of course.

(But in the future, secular people should not rely on the state for any ritual or ceremonial aspect of marriage; these can be excellently handled by humanist associations, or any other organization or individual.)

I don't understand why people are worked up about this. I mean, I realize they are; Dr Science seems just as furious at the suggestion as the anti-gay marriage activist Nina Karin Monsen in my country. I just can't see what's upsetting about it. It's just a word, and anyway I'm not suggesting taking that word away, only ending the government monopoly on defining it.

Chris y, you do remember that there were other religions before Christianity? Judaism had marriages at least half a millennium before Rome was founded, and it was hardly the first religion to do so.

Dr. Science, libertarians would prefer that the State be out of just about all activities, and given the emotional energy being expended on attempts to overturn the traditional ideas of marriage, this looks like an opportunity too good to miss. I'm sure that many others who are displeased either with the status quo or the attempts to change it would find this proposal attractive.

It seems to me that libertarians and advocates of gay marriage are in agreement on one point which makes this sound like a good idea: that society has no valid interest in encouraging heterosexual relationships in preference to any others. Getting the state out of the business of marriage then sounds like a perfectly logical step. Why not just level the playing field by denying any state benefits to all?

I wonder if there is a misconception here; that government should recognize no civil unions. Of course it should - but only to the extent necessary for law (shared property, responsibility for children, etc.) The existing laws surrounding marriage are a decent template, so right away it would be a good idea to just do a search and replace on the word "marriage" with the words "civil union".

In the longer term, the laws should be made more generic, to remove any implicit sanctioning of particular conceptions of marriage, beyond what is absolutely necessary (e.g. children's rights to know the identity of their biological parents).

I don't really understand the uproar - I think this is a good idea (in theory, not necessarily in the way the USA republicans will suggest).

I like that it splits out the two sides of marriage - partnership in the eyes of the state and partnership in the eyes of one's religious or other community.

Most importantly, it means that the crucial contract stays in the hands of the government - the additional celebration is to each couple to decide in their own way (catholic/humanist/buddhist/wiccan/no party thank you/etc) rather than having certain religions privileged over others (some priests can marry people, others can't).

In Switzerland (caveat: I only grew up there, I am not a lawyer nor have I done research in the topic) there is already this system.

Everyone has to have a civil ceremony (which can be as minimalist as signing the paper work in the registery office with two witnesses up to bringing everyone you know) if they want to be married in the eyes of the law/government.

You then have another (non-legally binding) ceremony if you want to be married in the eyes of your god/religion/community.

So, for example, two friends got legally married in January. They were then married in the eyes of the state (visas, etc) but not in the eyes of either family (or their gods, I guess). They had 2 religious ceremonies (not legally binding) and are now thoroughly married in the eyes of pretty much everyone.

I think what libertarians are about is getting government the hell out of the marriage-validation business, Doc.

I have been married just a tad over 19 years, and I have to say that I am mystified over your fury. Government approval or lack thereof has absolutely no bearing on the legitimacy of my marriage. I don't identify as libertarian, but I do have a certain sympathy for the idea that government has become far too involved in matters of personal relationships. If you want to join your life to that of another person, with all of the legal niceties normally bestowed on a marriage, there should be a mechanism for doing so. That, and that alone, should be the extent of government "blessing".

I'd guess very few people in my church (or Synod, for that matter) agree with me on this matter, but in general the social-conservative notion that you can erase sin by legislating it away isn't one that I agree with at all.

I'm another nonreligious married person, and, speaking personally, it wouldn't be any skin off my nose if this magically happened in a consistent and universal way. I'd call myself married and so would everyone else; the government just wouldn't use the word.

My objection is not that this is so offensive to me in principle; it's that it's politically and practically useless. The proposal is to officially stop calling marriage by its right name just to placate a bunch of anti-gay bigots and satisfy the principles of libertarians, and it wouldn't accomplish the first goal anyway. So seriously considering it is not worth my time.

Also, doing it just at the state level, like this minority of NH legislators are proposing, would be worse than useless, because all straight couples would be thrown into the same situation as married gay couples under DoMA, with no federal (and chaotic interstate) recognition of their civil union. It's be nothing but legal trouble.

I'm sure that many others who are displeased either with the status quo or the attempts to change it would find this proposal attractive.

I do not think that the people who regard expanding marriage to same-sex couples as an attack on marriage would be satisfied by replacing the movement with an actual attack on marriage.

My objection is not that this is so offensive to me in principle; it's that it's politically and practically useless.

But it is worse than that. In addition to not accomplishing anything positive, it would take substantial political capital to effect. Low information voters would here bits about the state forcibly destroying marriage and become enraged. Legislators voting for it would be taking a huge political risk in order to accomplish a useless search/replace at best.

I think this idea appeals to people who are just too ignorant to know anything about how governments work.

all straight couples would be thrown into the same situation as married gay couples under DoMA

Whoah. Does that mean that if this idiocy ever passed, that straight NH couples wouldn't be able to file as married for their federal tax returns?

> just to placate a bunch of anti-gay bigots

I am not an anti-gay bigot. I have advocated this solution since well before we officially defined (gay) civil unions as marriages in Norway.

It is a matter of principle, not just a matter of base motivations as you seem to assume. Today, supporting gay marriage is popular. Tomorrow, who knows who's in charge?

Plenty of people have more restrictive ideas of marriage than me. A few people have ideas so wide I'd consider them pretty meaningless. I don't want either to force their opinions on society through government sanction.

I do not think that the people who regard expanding marriage to same-sex couples as an attack on marriage would be satisfied by replacing the movement with an actual attack on marriage.

It's a bit frustrating that people seem totally unwilling to reconsider the idea that "marriage is whatever the state says it is". If you believe that, then yes, this is an "actual attack on marriage". But if you question it, maybe you'll see why it isn't.

Doc,

It's pretty obvious. Your marriage, not being worth a warm bucket of spit, is sanctioned by the coercive(therefor evil)power of the state. It is better to move that recognition responsibility to other groups with coercive (therefore freedom) social power so that they may use it in any manner they so wish, one of these powers being, naturally, to use the evil power of the state for adjudicating things like tax status and property inheritance, you know, those things the evil state should be coerced into doing in the first place.

It's a bit frustrating that people seem totally unwilling to reconsider the idea that "marriage is whatever the state says it is".

The word marriage refers to two distinct things. One is a bundle of responsibilities and privileges defined by the state. And one is a hodgepodge of individual religious commitments. It makes no sense to define the first as anything but "whatever the state says it is".

I think what libertarians are about is getting government the hell out of the marriage-validation business, Doc.

What does that even mean? Someone has to record that marriages happened, right? In my state at least, that can be anyone; anyone can show up and fill out a form and become legally entitled to perform marriages.


So, for example, two friends got legally married in January. They were then married in the eyes of the state (visas, etc) but not in the eyes of either family (or their gods, I guess). They had 2 religious ceremonies (not legally binding) and are now thoroughly married in the eyes of pretty much everyone.

I'm really confused as to why you think current practice in the US is different from this. When I got married in the US, we had a religious ceremony. But the minister also certified our civil marriage. They're too totally separate things that just for convenience happen at the same time.

My friends who got married at the same time opted instead to have a friend marry them while hiking on a mountain. The friend wasn't a minister but he didn't have to be; he showed up at city hall, did the paperwork, and was able to marry people.

Separating the civil from the religious component of marriage is essential to recognizing gay marriages. Most main line religions aren't there yet on the theological side and having the state compel a religion to recognize a marriage within the particular tenets of that religion is constitutionally impermissible as well as a nonstarter politically. In fact, it would be a major negative in securing civil rights for gays.

In reality, marriage is, legally, a civil institution in which the states, for the most part, authorize religious bodies to perform the civil function of creating a marriage as an adjunct to theologically recognizing that same union.

By tradition and near universal practice, we call that union "marriage" (not scare quotes). It's a state of mind, of being, of a shared belief between two people. In Texas we have common law marriages, no state involvement is necessary to create it, but the state has to be involved to dissolve it. I am fine with that, despite the administrative hassle of determining whether there was, in fact, a "marriage" in the first place (the indicia are fairly straightforward, but in the heat of dissolution, well, memories tend to get a little bent sometimes).

The state is not going to enforce whatever additional religious overlay a particular sect imposes on the relationship. In this sense, marriage is no more and no less than the state says it is.

Fifty different states, some with populations the size of some of Houston's suburbs, will inevitably produce some unusual takes on what the rest of us view as convention. That's our system. I'm fine with folks doing whatever they want in NH.

Separating the civil from the religious component of marriage is essential to recognizing gay marriages.

But they're already legally separate, with each side able to decide which marriages it will recognize. As a lawyer you ought to recognize this. The government can't force religious organizations to recognize marriages it sanctions, and it can refuse to recognize marriages that religious organizations perform. There's substantial overlap in the set of people the two sides recognize as married, but they're not identical.

We don't have to take any further steps to separate civil and religious marriage in order to accommodate expansion of civil marriage to same sex couples. If nothing else, states like Massachusetts and Iowa should be proof; they expanded their recognition of marriage to same sex couples without any further changes to the legal relationship between civil and religious marriage. In some cases, it may be politically advantageous to explicitly state that religious groups are not obligated to recognize civil marriages, but that's a recognition of the status quo, not a change in it.

This kind of debate is why I have thought and continue to think that the fight for marriage equality has been terribly mis-framed by proponents, in that the debate shouldn't really be about marriage, which necessarily brings in its associated religious baggage, but about a state's ability to discriminate on the basis of sex in handing out privileges (and responsibilities).

But instead we have this horribly stupid debate that involves absurdities about religions being "forced" to "recognize" marriages between two men and/or two women, and destroying the family, and blah blah blah.

It really is pretty effing depressing, though at least the result appears to be heading in the right direction.

Not that it's determinative for this discussion, but simply as a matter of fact: Rome's marriages had a religious component, too. And, traditionally, marriage was a private matter, an agreement between families and individuals: the state only got involved if there was some sort of problem. (Say, if the parties didn't have the legal right to marry or if there was a dispute about the dowry in the event of divorce.) (Things get more complicated with Augustus' marriage laws, but the principle is the same.)

That Roman approach be the ideal situation nowadays, it seems to me--minus the religious element, for people who don't like it. People would be married if they say they are, and that's that.

This would destroy DEFENDING MARRIAGE as a rallying cry... and so it will never be adopted. People like Santorum get too much traction out of the issue to ever let be resolved.

(Disclaimer: I am not now, nor have I ever been, a libertarian.)

Roger, if you go back and reread what I wrote, you will find that you and I are saying the same thing. The state only recognizes and enforces the civil aspect of marriage.

Turbulence: The word marriage refers to two distinct things. One is a bundle of responsibilities and privileges defined by the state. And one is a hodgepodge of individual religious commitments. It makes no sense to define the first as anything but "whatever the state says it is".

It makes no sense to use one word to refer to two things - especially when the one is government business by definition, while the other is in an area government is forbidden to thread. I propose we rename the first sense "civil union".

You could go the other way, and define what the state does as the "real" marriage and what society/religions do as "blessing" or something else not-marriage (that's what the French do, I understand).

But I think in a pluralistic society, it's a lot easier to get government to abandon a word, than to get all the world's cultures and religions to do it. (It is also more in the spirit of separation of Church and State).

DrS -- I don't get it either. According to libertarian theology, the State has only two purposes: 1. Enforce contracts; 2. Keep the peasants from getting uppity. Marriage is essentially a contract -- just the sort of thing that government is *for*.

If a church doesn't want to recognize marriages between "inappropriate" people, that's their business -- but it doesn't affect, say, child custody.

I can never figure out what people even mean by referring to "forcing churches to recognize marriages." I agree that they can't be required or forced to perform marriages to which they are theologically opposed*.

But if, say, a church hires a secretary who happens to be gay and is married under the civil laws of the state in which he/she resides, that person better damned well be permitted to carry his/her spouse on any employer-provided medical insurance. (For example.)

*Or do I? Catholics have rules about who is and isn't eligible to marry in a Catholic Church, but what about a church that's "theologically" opposed to, say, interracial relationships? If ministers have the power to sanction the civil privileges of marriage -- to act, in effect, as an agent of the state -- to what extent do equal protection laws come into play?

It's a bit frustrating that people seem totally unwilling to reconsider the idea that "marriage is whatever the state says it is". If you believe that, then yes, this is an "actual attack on marriage". But if you question it, maybe you'll see why it isn't.

Personally, I'm not talking about what I see or don't see; I'm talking about United States politics, with its ideological divisions and highly federated legal regime. I can't speak to the situation in other countries.

I'm claiming that, in the US, giving up the fight to extend civil marriage to gay couples, and instead fighting to eliminate all government recognition of marriage and replacing it with a civil union open to all couples, will not be any more popular or politically savvy; in fact it will be far less popular and far less politically savvy.

And that the people in the United States who insist on this point are trying to exploit an increasingly successful movement for marriage equality to promote their own, largely unrelated philosophical preference, in a way that would harm the successful movement.

However, it did amuse me to see the same tendency actually getting in the way of a repeal effort, one that might cause trouble for people in my family.

It makes no sense to use one word to refer to two things - especially when the one is government business by definition, while the other is in an area government is forbidden to thread.

Sure it does. For example, consider the word Turbulence. In the world, we often have multiple names for the same thing or multiple things sharing the same name.

I mean, we have a President. But my company also has a President. Same word. Different people. We have law. And yet we also have scientific law, which means something totally different, namely a formalized observation. Life goes on.

As far as I can see, there is no actual problem here that needs to be solved. There is only bizarre semantic fixation.

I held the civil-unions-for-all position for a while, only because I naively thought it would make things easier for same-sex couples. But it never involved dissolving the legal aspects of marriage, or, to say it another way, ending the recognition of civil marriages and leaving marriage entirely to religious (or whatever private) institutions. It strictly involved fully separating the concept of legal marriage from that of religious (or whatever) marriage.

I've since come to the position stated by Matt McIrvin and expanded upon by Turbulence (generally speaking - I'm not endorsing everything anyone wrote).

Doctor Science, there are a lot of people who aren't "libertarians" who don't agree that the state should be involved in licensing sexual conduct. (Such a role for the state is way to close to allowing the state control over a person's reproductive choices.) Matt McIrvin, many of those people aren't haters of gay people; in fact, some are even involved in same-sex relationships themselves. You might wish to read about the late Paula L. Ettelbrick, for example. And I would recommend reading some of the writings of Nancy D. Polikoff.

There's a lot of discrimination against people who don't want to (or can't) define their families in the same way that you have done, Doctor Science. It's not surprising that you, as a member of a privileged class of people (people who have made a family life that conforms nicely with state guidelines), don't want to give up your privilege.

By the way, Matt, I would never oppose marriage equality laws. As long as marriage is an institution, it should certainly include same-sex couples.

"This kind of debate is why I have thought and continue to think that the fight for marriage equality has been terribly mis-framed by proponents, in that the debate shouldn't really be about marriage, which necessarily brings in its associated religious baggage, but about a state's ability to discriminate on the basis of sex in handing out privileges (and responsibilities). "
Whoah. Does that mean that if this idiocy ever passed, that straight NH couples wouldn't be able to file as married for their federal tax returns?

In my mind, a scary place, when we talk about getting government out of marriage the point is exactly this. Why should a Federal tax return have a different categorization if you are "{married"? Why should you get to leave x amount untaxed to your spouse if you are "married"? Why should you get to go into a hospital room because you are "married"?

The question is much more complex than changing the name. If, as someone stated above, the government shouldn't be able to discriminate based on if one group decides to call their relationship a marriage, then why should non married people be discriminated against?

There are thousands of laws that are defined as being applicable to marital status, none of them are required to be defined that way.

Hence the confusion with gay mariage. The criticism by the people fighting for gay marriage is that it is a more difficult, perhaps ultimately impossible, task to take the concept of marriage out of all of these laws. Thus it is just a way to deflect the discussion from their short term goal. That is true, IMHO, of many of the opponents of gay marriage that suddnly become libertarians.

It does not mean that reasonable people can't question the current system for more rational reasons.

The government's only role should be to register and adjudicate civil union contracts. Be that a man and a woman, two men, two women, two men and a woman, a man and two women or any other combination of consenting adults.

Doctor Science, there are a lot of people who aren't "libertarians" who don't agree that the state should be involved in licensing sexual conduct.

But marriage isn't about licensing sexual conduct. You can have sex without being married and the state doesn't care. Go ahead, try it. Marriage is about securing the welfare of children.

It's not surprising that you, as a member of a privileged class of people (people who have made a family life that conforms nicely with state guidelines), don't want to give up your privilege.

In fact, all sorts of people can benefit from those privileges. I have poly friends that have made a family consisting of husband, wife, 2 children, wife's live-in boyfriend, wife's non-live-in girlfriend and husband's occasional live-in girlfriend. They're happily married. The law mostly ignores the non-primary-pair adults, but that's fine. It does so because figuring out how child custody or alimony should work with more than two adults is both really really hard and a problem that very few people have. So those few people can work out their own arrangements. And they do.

Again, there's no problem here.


It does not mean that reasonable people can't question the current system for more rational reasons.

This is an incredibly radical endeavor, akin to social engineering on a massive scale.


The government's only role should be to register and adjudicate civil union contracts.

There is zero political support for such a radical project in the US.

Why should you get to go into a hospital room because you are "married"?

The question is much more complex than changing the name. If, as someone stated above, the government shouldn't be able to discriminate based on if one group decides to call their relationship a marriage, then why should non married people be discriminated against?

So, should anyone at all be allowed "into a hospital room?" Why should people who are entirely unrelated be discriminated against? (I may be missing your point here, Marty.)

Marriage is about securing the welfare of children.

No, it's actually not, Turbulence. You can have children without marriage. Go ahead. Try it. The state doesn't care. And you can marry without having children. Go ahead. Try it. The state doesn't care.

On the other hand, a marriage can be legally annulled (at least, in my state) on the basis of impotency, which suggests that the law finds the idea of marriage to be impossible without consummation. Interesting that infertility is not a basis for annulment.

Marriage is a license to have sex. Sure, you can have sex without a license. You can also love people without getting married.

There is zero political support for such a radical project in the US.

Really? A lot of people seem to be indicating their support for such a project. Maybe not enough yet to change the law, but that was true 20 years ago for same-sex marriage as well. Now the law is changing because people were persuaded.

You can have children without marriage. Go ahead. Try it. The state doesn't care.

Haha! Good luck with that. I can assure you it does.

Phil, please explain how a parent's legal responsibility towards a child is different between a married person and an unmarried person. As someone who used to practice family law, I'd be interested to know.

I held the civil-unions-for-all position for a while, only because I naively thought it would make things easier for same-sex couples. But it never involved dissolving the legal aspects of marriage, or, to say it another way, ending the recognition of civil marriages and leaving marriage entirely to religious (or whatever private) institutions. It strictly involved fully separating the concept of legal marriage from that of religious (or whatever) marriage.

I've since come to the position stated by Matt McIrvin and expanded upon by Turbulence (generally speaking - I'm not endorsing everything anyone wrote).

Cosign. I don't have anything to add.

Meanwhile, the 9th Circuit strikes down Prop 8 in California.

A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 that a lower court judge correctly interpreted the U.S. Constitution when he declared in 2010 that Proposition 8 was a violation of the civil rights of gays and lesbians.

I look forward to the SCOTUS oral arguments just before the Presidential election.

Turbulence, the vocable referring to the person who commented above, beat me to the punch regarding "it makes no sense to use one word to refer to two things".

Goodbye poetry and most band names, not mention Citizens United's "corporations are people", because it would no longer make sense as well to use two words to refer to one thing.

I could go either way with this, of course, like the characters in "Alice in Wonderland", because on the one hand, if you repeat any word quickly ten times out loud, it deteriorates into a nonsensical little vocable, signifying nothing except the manipulation of tongue against teeth and palate.

On the other hand, George Carlin hated it when people would counsel "say it in your own words". What, we all have our OWN words, now?

In that case, spliffconk pheock bakink unghaha.

Then again, I would think a strict libertarian view of language, taken to slippery slope ridiculous ends, would entail each individual, all seven billion in fact, saying it in their very own words.

On yet another of my Shiva-like hands, I hate it when American nativists accuse the bi-lingual of throwing a Spaniard in the works.

Right now, I'm using someone else's words to write this comment, which is probably why I don't know what I'm talking about.

I'd like to ask Slart, for example, if his corporate-supplied group health insurance would continue to cover his wife and kids (if, in fact, that is his arrangement) if government no longer took an interest in the word "marriage".

By which I mean, wouldn't insurers and the corporate and government suppliers of health insurance interpret the removal of government's legal recognition of "marriage", whatever its present or future (hopefully) expanded parameters man-woman, man-man, woman-woman, Rick Santorum-the cloven-hooved cast of All Creatures Great and Small, as a reason to no longer recognize all of the accompanying structures we have in place, you know, to save money and increase prices.

Postscript: Sapient, maybe I'm not understanding your point which seems to agree with Phil but sounds like disagreement, but from a libertarian perspective, which is where Doctor Science started this discussion, why should the state have any interest in children whatsoever?

Also, Charles WT: "The government's only role should be to register and adjudicate civil union contracts."

Why? Why limit government's role to only that? Or, why should government even be permitted the "only role" you assign it? Why any role whatsoever?

Matt McIrvin, many of those people [opponents of government recognition of marriage] aren't haters of gay people; in fact, some are even involved in same-sex relationships themselves.

I did not intend to imply that they were; I was thinking of those as disjoint sets of people, actually, though I suppose there could be some overlap.

Breaking: Ninth Circuit rules against Prop. 8. Not a huge surprise, but I guess it's up to the Supreme Court now.

Countme-In: Sapient, maybe I'm not understanding your point which seems to agree with Phil but sounds like disagreement, but from a libertarian perspective, which is where Doctor Science started this discussion, why should the state have any interest in children whatsoever?

Phil seems to believe that the state has an interest in parents being married, at least that's how I read his comment at 12:56 p.m. (so forgive me I misunderstood).

The state has an interest in its citizens' material welfare (a role I enthusiastically support). In the case of children, who are dependent, it has a special interest in seeing that they are provided for, since they can't provide for themselves. The law imposes a duty on parents (married or not) to provide for their children, unless they can't do so, in which case the state steps in and provides for guardianship. In other words, although the state has an interest in child welfare, it doesn't have an interest in the marital status of parents. (In the old days, of course, it did claim an interest, and that's why children of unmarried parents were considered "illegitimate." The state also claimed an interest in people's sex lives, and criminalized "fornication" and "adultery" and other behavior between consenting adults. Most people these days agree that these matters aren't the really the state's business, and the laws have changed as has the terminology.)

I certainly don't think of myself as a libertarian, however when it comes to the state weighing in on people's reproductive choices, or choices about how consenting adults touch each other, or how people arrange their households, I suppose I am a "libertarian". Most people don't use that term to describe my politics generally (and I certainly don't) since I believe in a strong role for government in most ways.

Hope I understood and answered your question.

"..., for example, if his corporate-supplied group health insurance would continue to cover his wife and kids (if, in fact, that is his arrangement) if government no longer took an interest in the word 'marriage'."
Isn't this already negotiable between employer and employee? Besides, health insurance needs to be separated from employment anyway.
"Why limit government's role to only that? Or, why should government even be permitted the "only role" you assign it? Why any role whatsoever?"
The government already adjudicates civil contracts, including civil union contracts, in the civil courts. Government could continue this role without defining and placing limits on the content, nature and relationships of civil union contracts.

Government could continue this role without defining and placing limits on the content, nature and relationships of civil union contracts.

Yes.

I am amused (by which I mean, "frustrated to tears") at the notion that the Christian church "owns" marriage, considering that it was for some decades or centuries actively hostile to it.
It was only gradually that the Church tolerated even such a thing as a wedding in the church yard before services, and even longer until weddings were actually performed inside, by a priest, and made a sacrament.
And now they think marriage belongs to them...?

It makes no sense to use one word to refer to two things

We are speaking English, yes? Language is no bar to those of us assembled at the bar, even if we're predisposed to be nit-picky as members of the bar are wont to be.

I'd like to ask Slart, for example, if his corporate-supplied group health insurance would continue to cover his wife and kids

Ask away!

I'm pretty sure that I didn't, at any point, say it would be perfectly dandy with me for the government to rip the marriage-bennies tablecloth out from underneath the current scheme of things.

why should the state have any interest in children whatsoever?

Self-perpetuation. Societies which do not have (enough) children, and which do not pass on society values to those children do not survive. It is therefore the interest of any society to promote the creation and rearing of children.

As such, any society has an interest in encouraging men and women to live together in long-term relationships, because when they do, most couples tend to produce children. No such similar effect occurs when same-sex couples live together.

Of course, the usual counter to this argument is that we do not limit marriage to fertile couples or to couples who agree actually to have children - but we don't put this additional requirement on for a very simple reason. Doing so changes childbearing from something the couple chooses to do (and therefore are themselves responsible for), to something they do at the behest of the State.

Self-perpetuation. Societies which do not have (enough) children, and which do not pass on society values to those children do not survive. It is therefore the interest of any society to promote the creation and rearing of children.

No, you've kind of made a leap there from societies which do not have enough children to any society that is completely unwarranted.

I say this: let's have the government worry about procreation if we ever show signs of excess shrinkage.

Don't go there. You know that you want to go to your Seinfeld place on the shrinkage issue, but don't.

Marriage is about securing the welfare of children.

No, it's actually not, Turbulence. You can have children without marriage. Go ahead. Try it. The state doesn't care.

Marriage is one mechanism by which the state seeks to secure the welfare of children. That does not mean it is the ONLY mechanism. It provides a presumption of paternity which greatly simplifies legal efforts to procure child support.

And you can marry without having children. Go ahead. Try it. The state doesn't care.

The state cares about making sure that parents provide funds to secure the welfare of their children. In order to do that, the state must care about establishing paternity. Marriage is a remarkably easy way to start that process.


Government could continue this role without defining and placing limits on the content, nature and relationships of civil union contracts.

What specific classes of people are harmed by the current arrangement? I mean, if you have unusual needs, you can fit them into the existing structure with premarital agreements or wills or other ways of enriching your local attorney.

Moreover, what is the decision procedure for settling child custody and alimony in a family unit of 5 adults in which 2 want to leave? What is default decision procedure if the civil union contract that they formed under doesn't specify one?

I think the employer-insurance angle is a bit of a red herring. But, due to the preferential tax treatment of employer-provided insurance, employees would face a choice: either get insurance through your employer IF your employer recognizes your union OR pay significantly more for it on the open market. So, maybe your employer could determine that for insurance purposes, you are only "married" if one of N churches says you are. This strikes me as bad policy generally, but there are all sorts of bad ideas that stem from preferential tax treatment for employer provided insurance.

The Doc's point was that she is in a 'marriage', a lifetime joining of two people into a single unit for reasons that go way beyond the law and into levels that can't even be adequately described in words and she wants to keep it that way. Me too.

I'm married, not a party to a civil contract.

The state's only role is to lay out the civil law as respects formation and termination and rights on termination of marriages that don't pan out or are terminated by death. I am probably leaving out a couple of subsidiary points.

Individuals might come up with their own "here's how I'd like to see it" perfect world's, but as Turb noted, "that ain't gonna happen."

Marriage is what the vast majority of couples who want to be together for the rest of their lives want to have. Not a union or a contract. Sure, some people are in lifetime committed relationships without being married. These are exceptions, not the rule.

Sure, many marriages fail. Successful, lifetime relationships are the ideal and that ideal often crashes on the hard reality of life. That doesn't mean that most people don't want, if not the ideal, then the availability of the ideal.

Marriage is uniquely special. I think the Doc is saying she'd like to keep it that way. Again, me too.

Marriage is a remarkably easy way to start that process [of establishing paternity].

Yes, in fact, one historical basis for marriage was establishing a father's property rights in the fruits of his wife's womb. The presumption of paternity is quite convenient (although so is acknowledgment), but it sometimes leads to unjust, not to mention erroneous, results.

The correct link for Michael H. v. Gerald D. is here. The syllabus:

"In May, 1981, appellant Victoria D. was born to Carole D., who was married to, and resided with, appellee Gerald D. in California. Although Gerald was listed as father on the birth certificate and has always claimed Victoria as his daughter, blood tests showed a 98.07% probability that appellant Michael H., with whom Carole had had an adulterous affair, was Victoria's father. During Victoria's first three years, she and her mother resided at times with Michael, who held her out as his own, at times with another man, and at times with Gerald, with whom they have lived since June, 1984. In November, 1982, Michael filed a filiation action in California Superior Court to establish his paternity and right to visitation. Victoria, through her court-appointed guardian ad litem, filed a cross-complaint asserting that she was entitled to maintain filial relationships with both Michael and Gerald. The court ultimately granted Gerald summary judgment on the ground that there were no triable issues of fact as to paternity under Cal.Evid. Code § 621, which provides that a child born to a married woman living with her husband, who is neither impotent nor sterile, is presumed to be a child of the marriage, and that this presumption may be rebutted only by the husband or wife, and then only in limited circumstances. Moreover, the court denied Michael's and Victoria's motions for visitation pending appeal under Cal.Civ. Code § 4601, which provides that a court may, in its discretion, grant "reasonable visitation rights . . . to any . . . person having an interest in the [child's] welfare." The California Court of Appeal affirmed, rejecting Michael's procedural and substantive due process challenges to § 621 as well as Victoria's due process and equal protection claims. The court also rejected Victoria's assertion of a right to continued visitation with Michael under § 4601, on the ground that California law denies visitation against the wishes of the mother to a putative father who has been prevented by § 621 from establishing his paternity."

No, you've kind of made a leap there from societies which do not have enough children to any society that is completely unwarranted.

I say this: let's have the government worry about procreation if we ever show signs of excess shrinkage.

Right now, the US has an overall fertility rate of 2.06 children/woman, compared to the 2.1 generally understood to be simple replacement. We're still growing right now because of generational inertia, but that won't last long. If it drops, do you really thick it would easy to undo any damages we've done to the institution of marriage in the meantime because we thought we didn't need to worry about it? Waiting until you're drowning before you decide you need swimming lessons is hardly prudent.

We need a post on the Prop 8 decision. I think it's narrower than many think, or hope.

Marriage is uniquely special. I think the Doc is saying she'd like to keep it that way. Again, me too.

Sure, McKinney. I'm sure the way you and Doctor Science feel about your respective relationships would withstand the nuclear destruction of the marriage records, and everything else. That's part of the point. The legal institution doesn't create the relationship. It provides benefits and presumptions relating to the relationship. Of course, you want those benefits and presumptions when they coincide with what you're doing anyway! Who wouldn't? It's called privilege.

Fuzzy Face, we live in a big world, not just our country. We're overpopulated. The answer for the U.S. is immigration.

If it drops, do you really thick it would easy to undo any damages we've done to the institution of marriage in the meantime because we thought we didn't need to worry about it?

Do the damages you're supposing derive from this?

No such similar effect occurs when same-sex couples live together.

Are you suggesting that allowing same-sex couples to marry will reduce our fertility? Is the encouragement of procreation the only aspect of marriage that matters? Even then, can't same-sex couples have children, even if only one parent is so biologically, given modern technology (not to mention that future technology might allow both parents to be at least genetic contributors)? Might they be more likely to have such children if they can attain the civil/legal benefits of marriage?

It's called privilege.

We can debate semantics all day long. Once gay marriage becomes the law of the land--and it will--marriage will be an option available to every person over the age of consent. Access to that option will be a 'right'.

For those who want to have something less than marriage, that option is currently available--they can make a contract that maximizes their enforceable and testamentary rights under current law. If they want the full range of rights associated with marriage, then get married. Unfortunately, this last is currently restricted in access, but that will change. When it does, people can opt for or not as they choose on the marriage decision.

As such, any society has an interest in encouraging men and women to live together in long-term relationships, because when they do, most couples tend to produce children. No such similar effect occurs when same-sex couples live together.

Uh . . . I don't even know where to start here. We all know that gay people still have functioning sex organs, right? And that they actually, through a variety of surrogate and insemination arrangements, produce their own children all the time?

Fuzzy Face, to follow up on HSH's comment: gay people currently partner up for life. That affect's fertility in what way? Hell, gay people have kids. I am totally missing your point.

Just last weekend I was at a birthday party for a girl with two moms (and no dad, other than genetically). She even has a sister. Crazy!

For those who want to have something less than marriage, that option is currently available--they can make a contract that maximizes their enforceable and testamentary rights under current law.

Virginia state law -- as well as others, I believe -- specifically forbids this.

Gay people do sometimes have kids, yes. But overall, fertility for gay couples is way lower than for straight couples, basically because it's an expensive and intrusive process. Hetero couples frequently have to work hard not to have kids.

"For those who want to have something less than marriage, that option is currently available--they can make a contract that maximizes their enforceable and testamentary rights under current law. If they want the full range of rights associated with marriage, then get married. Unfortunately, this last is currently restricted in access, but that will change. When it does, people can opt for or not as they choose on the marriage decision."

Most eloquently stated McK. But I still have to be married to get access to all those benefits. You assume that's ok, or even great. I don't. It is pure discrimination.

(maybe a silly example, but to make the point.) Why should I have to pledge a lifetime of fidelity to get a tax break for living with someone else? Or suffer the consequences of a divorce? Outside responsibility for a child, which is in place whether married or not, what is the governments place in defining the consequences of not living together anymore?

Why can't I claim my cats as dependents on my taxes? Why do I have to have actual human children? I pay for food, medical care, housing and everything else for the cats just as I would a child.

Why should I have to pledge a lifetime of fidelity to get a tax break for living with someone else? Or suffer the consequences of a divorce? Outside responsibility for a child, which is in place whether married or not, what is the governments place in defining the consequences of not living together anymore?

Why should you get a tax break at all? In fact, why does government offer benefits to married couples? Isn't it specifically because they want to encourage marriage? We have tax breaks for home mortgages in order to encourage home ownership; we have tax breaks for capital gains in order to encourage long-term investment. The whole point of tax breaks is to encourage certain behaviors that are viewed as benefiting society.

We need a post on the Prop 8 decision. I think it's narrower than many think, or hope.

I think so too, but that's probably by design, to make the Supreme Court as likely to uphold it as possible.

Why should I have to pledge a lifetime of fidelity to get a tax break for living with someone else? Or suffer the consequences of a divorce?

What are the long term consequences of this radical social engineering experiment? Do you know? Have you given any thought to it at all? Can you point to any comparable societies that have radically restructured themselves along these lines? Or is this just a complete shot in the dark?

On the other hand, if we do this, what concrete benefits will accrue to specific people? I've been asking this question repeatedly and haven't seen any answer yet.

So, we've got a potentially large harm to our society balanced against a benefit that is, well, no one is willing to even say what the benefit is. At heart, I'm a conservative. I don't like radically altering society on a whim just to make the legal system slightly more conceptually elegant.

But overall, fertility for gay couples is way lower than for straight couples, basically because it's an expensive and intrusive process.

While this may be true, the real question is what the fertility rate is for gay couples who marry versus those who don't (or can't), assuming that fertility is really the issue in the first place. Or perhaps it's also a question of the fertility rate for straight couples, based on the existence or non-existence of gay marriage.

Mr. and Mrs. America: "We really wanted to have children, but then they let gays marry each other."

There's an awful lot of unexamined assumptions here about just what "tax breaks" accrue to married couples qua married couples. (Hint: There aren't any, not really. The apparent "benefits" are the result of attempts by Congress to remedy the "marriage penalty" that resulted from having progressive marginal rates resulting in married couples with nearly-equal incomes paying higher rates than they would have if they were single.)

Unless you're referring to the very existence of the "joint filing" status, in which case take it up with last century.

"What are the long term consequences of this radical social engineering experiment? Do you know? Have you given any thought to it at all? Can you point to any comparable societies that have radically restructured themselves along these lines? Or is this just a complete shot in the dark?"

I don't agree that it is so radical. The first step is to take all of the marriage related perks out of the tax code. Since we are talking constantly these days about rewriting that then it should be easy to include those changes.

Over time we simply don't define government benefits or restrictions using "marriage" as the defining characteristic. Do you have to live together? Do you have a child together? Do you have to have a cobtract based on sharing healthcare costs? What is the REAL criteria that we have rolled up into our definition of marriage?

Then there may be a set of contractual requirements between a set of people in terms of property etc. that is a civil contract, that can be called marriage or whatever else you want., because that is easier than every couple negotiating a prenup.

Virginia state law -- as well as others, I believe -- specifically forbids this.

Fair point up to a point. Currently, too many states have laws or constitutional amendments that are expressly anti-gay. You are correct: in those states, attempting to 'contract' into some kind of relationship may be problematic. However, when gay marriage becomes the law of the land, those statutes/amendments will be voided. Then, any couple that, for whatever odd reason, wants to have something less than marriage can make whatever contracts the law allows.

But I still have to be married to get access to all those benefits. You assume that's ok, or even great. I don't. It is pure discrimination.

Understood as to 'what you think.' However, yours is a minority point of view and a very small minority at that. You might as well say that you are being discriminated against because you aren't allowed to depreciate your personal automobile but people whose businesses own automobiles are allowed to depreciate.

Also, what Turb said. His questions are completely valid. We aren't talking about a tweak here or there, we're talking about turning settled law, relationships and conventions totally upside down. And, as Turb rightly asks, to what good end?

I think so too, but that's probably by design, to make the Supreme Court as likely to uphold it as possible.

Yep, but I an very interested to see if Kennedy hints at moving toward a broader application of equal protection.

Two years ago, or thereabouts, I was not warm to the idea of judicially-imposed gay marriage, primarily for reasons of legitimacy and the fear of blow back. I am wondering that, perhaps, in a a year or two, whether a decisive opinion would be fine. The likely response would be an amendment to the constitution making marriage between a man and a woman only. I think (wishfully or realistically?) it would fail and we could be done with this particular divide.

McTx: We need a post on the Prop 8 decision. I think it's narrower than many think, or hope.

Well, if Volokh's summary of the decision is accurate (and it most likely is), it seems that Boies/Olson (and their clients, of course) are going to win the battle but leave the outcome of the war up for grabs.

I mean, if the 9th Circuit decision is that narrow, then SCOTUS should deny cert and we'll all wait another few years for them to weigh in. It's all rather silly, at a certain level.

"However, yours is a minority point of view and a very small minority at that."

So we certainly shouldn't be discussing this. :)

...because that is easier than every couple negotiating a prenup.

So you support the legal/civil recongnition of marriage?

What percentage of co-owners of homes do you think are married? What percentage of people who have children together living in the same household do you think are married? What percentage of people who are co-owners of automobiles do you think are married? What percentage of people don't want their estate to go mainly to their spouse, if they have one, when they die?

How complicated do you want to make things for people who have chosen to partner up in this manner, and why?

Discrimination isn't in treating people differently based on marital status, so long as the different treatment is directly related to marital status in some reasonable way. Discrimination is in not letting certain people marry each other while letting others to do so.

McTx: I am wondering that, perhaps, in a a year or two, whether a decisive opinion would be fine. The likely response would be an amendment to the constitution making marriage between a man and a woman only.

I think that if this issue came before the court in, say, 2014 and we still had the current justices, that Kennedy would be comfortable signing on to a Lawrence/Loving-type opinion barring state-based sexual discrimination in marriage, but if he has to decide this year he's not going to go there. So, I think they'll punt and deny cert, unless Alito/Roberts/Scalia/Thomas want to force the issue, in which case Kennedy will probably effectively adopt the narrow decision of the 9th Circuit and then we'll replay this show in 3 years or so.

And, should SCOTUS declare opposite-sex only marriage unconstitutional, I don't think there's a chance in hell that there would be Constitutional Amendment overturning the decision. We haven't had a real Constitutional amendment in over 40 years and, barring some sort of general societal upheaval that seems unimaginable right now, I doubt we'll have one in the next 40.

The first step is to take all of the marriage related perks out of the tax code.

Excellent plan. One of these perks is that spouses can make unlimited gifts to each other, free and clear of gift tax. Happily, under the new regime, that will no longer be the law. Result, in a working/non-working relationship: the working spouse will have to pay gift tax on the money he/she gives to his/her spouse for support. Ditto children. So, pay income tax for the money you earn, then pay a gift tax every time you spend money on your lazy spouse. Audits will be fun. Slarti and Russell will get rich writing Marriage 2.0, a handy household accounting software suite that seamlessly integrates food, mortgage, insurance, utilities, transportation, vacations, dining out and movies.

Marriage 2.1 will address full time and part time working spouses and Marriage 3.0 will address full time working spouses who make the same amount of money while 3.1 will deal with different earnings by spouse.

Simple as pie. Really.

Over time we simply don't define government benefits or restrictions using "marriage" as the defining characteristic.

Awesome. Attention all married people: your marriage will begin to expire in three years. In five years, it will cease to exist. Plan accordingly and have a nice day. Cordially, Your Government

Do you have to live together? Do you have a child together? Do you have to have a cobtract based on sharing healthcare costs? What is the REAL criteria that we have rolled up into our definition of marriage?

I am unclear here. Are you proposing that we have a checklist of elements and, if a couple checks 'yes' on enough of the elements, it gets certain bennies that other's don't. No problem, I'll just check 'yes' on everything.

And this simplifies what?

Then there may be a set of contractual requirements between a set of people in terms of property etc. that is a civil contract, that can be called marriage or whatever else you want., because that is easier than every couple negotiating a prenup.

Holy carp, I'd be rich if people could afford the cost of drafting their 'partnership agreement' and then dissolving it.

My head hurts thinking about just how f'd up things would be in this upside down world.

unless Alito/Roberts/Scalia/Thomas want to force the issue, in which case Kennedy will probably effectively adopt the narrow decision of the 9th Circuit and then we'll replay this show in 3 years or so.

In terms of high quality 'what if?', this is high quality. I could see this. I also see it as a good move in the right direction, making the final stage much easier for the country to accept.

And, should SCOTUS declare opposite-sex only marriage unconstitutional, I don't think there's a chance in hell that there would be Constitutional Amendment overturning the decision.

This I am not so sure about. Absolutely, someone in the House will propose an amendment. Would it pass the House, the Senate and get signed and sent to the states? Maybe not. Five years ago, I'd bet real money on an amendment clearing all three hurdles with the only question being whether 75% of the states would ratify.

Well, the federal amendments proposed so far have failed, though of course that's not indicative because we're not yet in the situation being imagined here.

An amendment giving states the ability to refuse to recognize same-sex marriage in various ways might pass relatively easily.

I mentioned Nancy Polikoff upthread. I didn't realize that she has a blog.">http://beyondstraightandgaymarriage.blogspot.com/">blog. It's interesting to read her take on things, including today's ruling.

While this may be true, the real question is what the fertility rate is for gay couples who marry versus those who don't (or can't), assuming that fertility is really the issue in the first place. Or perhaps it's also a question of the fertility rate for straight couples, based on the existence or non-existence of gay marriage.

I don't believe either of those are the relevant questions. I believe a much larger impact would be on bisexuals. If gay marriage is legal and socially acceptable, many of them are likely to choose gay marriage. If law and custom overwhelmingly urge hetero marriage, that's what they would be more likely to choose.

Marriage contracts are one of the oldest sorts of contracts, far predating the United States. One is left with the conclusion that some vocal libertarians, in evidence in this thread, despite talking so much voluntary contracts and and their adjudication, don't know anything about them.

Ugh, per a chart at Andrew Sullivan's blog, there are 15 states with either gay marriage or civil unions, two more than needed to block a constitutional amendment.

I am still a little fuzzy regarding the need to have a monotonically increasing or even constant population. Why is that important, again? It's not as if procreation is some technology that we will surely lose if we fail to practice it a lot lot.

Not that we shouldn't, you know, at least stay current on the mechanics. I mean, guys, am I right?

Fuzzy Face, are you engaging in some sort of Onion-like, blog-based parody? Am I now engaged in the equivalent of this by replying seriously to you?

In late March 2004, Deborah Norville of MSNBC presented as genuine an Onion article titled "Study: 58 Percent Of U.S. Exercise Televised".

McKinney: We can debate semantics all day long. Once gay marriage becomes the law of the land--and it will--marriage will be an option available to every person over the age of consent. Access to that option will be a 'right'.

Funny. That's what opponents of gay marriage say right now. Do you see the mistake your making (not that you'll admit it)? Everyone can now get married, if they 1) can find a partner, and 2) are willing to make a commitment that makes them miserable. Likewise, after gay marriage becomes accepted nationwide, everyone will be able to get married if they 1) can find a partner, and 2) are willing to make a commitment that makes them miserable.

Obviously, some people find a partner and make a commitment that makes them happy, a commitment that fits the marriage mold. Congratulations that you are among them. But a significant portion of the population either doesn't find a partner, or can't be happy in a traditional marriage relationship. Those people's families are considered weird, "alternative", second-class, etc., and their children are ostracized, considered "disadvantaged," etc.

But fine, I'm not going to solve this problem here, as we've had these conversations before. I'm surprised, though, that Doctor Science, who claims to be concerned about patriarchy, is more concerned about street hooting (which most women are fully capable of ignoring) than she is about men and women whose day to day lives are limited by antique stereotypes and gender roles.

Turbulence: "As far as I can see, there is no actual problem here that needs to be solved. There is only bizarre semantic fixation."

"But marriage isn't about licensing sexual conduct"

If it's just a semantic fixation, it's one that is important to many people, including gays. We see that in countries where there exist (gay) civil unions that are legally fully equivalent to marriage, LGBT groups keep pushing for full "semantic" equality.

This, to me, suggests that it IS about licensing sexual conduct, not just for the marriage amendment folks. Society has traditionally looked very dimly at certain sexual conducts, and a goal for LGBT interest groups is to change it - a legitimate goal I happily can endorse in this case.

I just can't approve of the means. Yeah, enshrining the social and religious concept of marriage in law has historically been used to license and sanction sexual behavior, but it really shouldn't have. And in the longer term, we're better suited with the government getting out of the business as much as possible.

Not that we shouldn't, you know, at least stay current on the mechanics. I mean, guys, am I right?

I can't agree with you enough, here, Phil. You are more right than you've ever been.

McTx: Ugh, per a chart at Andrew Sullivan's blog, there are 15 states with either gay marriage or civil unions, two more than needed to block a constitutional amendment.

Thanks McKinney, essentially no chance of a constitutional amendment, even if we do end up with a President Santorum.

I don't believe either of those are the relevant questions. I believe a much larger impact would be on bisexuals. If gay marriage is legal and socially acceptable, many of them are likely to choose gay marriage. If law and custom overwhelmingly urge hetero marriage, that's what they would be more likely to choose.

What an utterly bizarre argument. This is some sort of justification to ban gay marriage in your mind? Wow.

If population growth is so crucial (and, given our economic setup, it probably is, actually), then I fail to see why immigration isn't a perfectly acceptable solution.

No! Instead, we should deny rights to a minority, and attempt to push them into relationships they would not otherwise have chosen, so that we can gain a marginal increase in the fertility rate!

What?

Regarding the OP: my wife and I were married by a justice of the peace. It's all part of our dastardly plan to destroy marriage, applie pie and the American Dream.

I can't agree with you enough, here, Phil. You are more right than you've ever been.

Agreed. I might add that it is a worthy goal for everyone to not only stay current on the mechanics, but to strive for improvement.

On the larger issue of population growth/replacement: is it etched in stone that a country of 300,000,000 and growing needs to be at replacement level on reproduction? If we shrunk back to 200,000,000 over the next 50 years, that would be bad in what way?

A final note to Marty and then back to work. Not every longstanding societal construct is, for that reason alone, bad. Marriage is common to every large, successful society. Granted, for most of human history, the sexes were not equal. Now, in the West at least, that is much, much less the case and yet, marriage is still the near universal desire and goal of many, many people. While marriage need not be for the purpose of procreation, it is the optimal environment for child raising. Children are a benefit to society, as are happy, productive citizens. Marriage promotes and encourages all of this, and granting state protection and regulation to the institution promotes and allows, if not certainty, then a reasonable degree of stability and predictability. Tearing down an institution so thoroughly and universally embedded because some cannot accommodate to it is really a demand by those who cannot or will not make use of an option that the option not exist.

In that sense, state run universities are discriminatory against those who cannot or will not apply themselves to their studies and therefore should be eliminated.

What an utterly bizarre argument.

Rob, my February 07, 2012 at 10:16 PM comment may be explanatory. It was sort of a goof when I wrote it, but after further reflection, I thought I may have been on to something.

If we shrunk back to 200,000,000 over the next 50 years, that would be bad in what way?

Mostly replacement-rate arguments are bandied about by Pat Buchanan-mold paleocons who are (at least in public) afraid that American culture will get swept away by Other culture.

It's not an argument that I'm completely unsympathetic with, but I don't really place the value on cultural stasis that Buchanan seems to.

There's an economic argument for growth, but as a longtime Florida resident I've heard that argument flogged way too much, and lived with the consequences of it long enough to know that it comes with a cost.

per a chart at Andrew Sullivan's blog, there are 15 states with either gay marriage or civil unions, two more than needed to block a constitutional amendment.

does having a law that says X is legal somehow prevent a state legislature, which might be controlled by a party opposed to X but which hasn't yet revoked that law, from voting for an Amendment to ban X?

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