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November 06, 2008

Comments

Let's get government out of the marriage business. Too many religious folks think that marriage is a religious institution. Fine. Let them have it. Let them know that the only sensible solution is to change the name of what the government does and make absolutely certain that there is no discrimination when the government does it. From now on, we can make certain that your social security and all other government benefits will be dependent on a civil union contract that you write with your significant other.

If the religious zealots want marriage for themselves, let's give it to them.

Integrate the military. It will be much harder to deny gays rights once they have decorated, openly-gay veterans out front. And there's a lot of indicators, both inside and outside the US Mil that now* is a good time to do it.

*Not expecting it in Obama's first year, but sometime in the next four would be good. Perhaps after we withdraw from Iraq in three years?

I've already had this conversation with several fundamentalists.

Many of my clients are very religious and attend rightwing chruches. They are very poor and are overwhelmed with serious problems. Religion is a slolace and a support network. it is also the source of pridefulness, a sense of moral superiority.

The degree to wihich a fundamentalist is approachable about issues like gay rights is linked to the degeree thier relipion is a source of personal pride. Those people who retain a since of humility are in my experience very approachable and very open to the Deomcratic agenda once they understand what it is.

My ex mother in law was a fundamentalist but when she found out that her son was gay she got her church to pass a resolution condemning those whocondemn gay people. She didn't get her fellow chruch members to acceptance but she got them to formally renounce condemnation. They agreed to leave it up to their God to do the judging.

My client Susie was disgusted by gayness and gay marriage but soften when I told her about the tow gay couples in my neighborhood. She had never knowing met a gay person. Sebastian was right in the previous post when he said that desensitation by contact is key to ending prejudice. Talking to people who don't know anyone who is gay is part of that desensitation and I am happy to do it.

I appreciate hearing from Seb. I appreciate his desire to undo a wrong. I appreciate his "feet on the ground" approach. What I fear, though, is that his approach is based upon rationality and fairness, while the opposition is based upon faith and authority.

Reasoned arguments for rebelling from authority are viewed very suspiciously be the religiously and authoritarian motivated among us. I fear that such discussions would merely undermine their already shaky connection to the rational world.

And I AM talking about good people who believe the anti-gay message. Rational arguments are too suspect with these folks.

I like Freelunch's approach, but I suspect that the real solution is in motivating moderate religious folks to call this "cherry picking" of a religious proscription out for what it is. The Bible condemns divorce more strongly than it does homosexuality, for example. Religious folk have come to grips with this issue.

In other words, instead of rational arguments, talk religious arguments with them. At least this is true for many anti-gay people that I have known....

Sebastian, I don't think this can be charactorized as a 'temporary setback'.

Discussions on civil rights for gays do not occupy the high ground in our national discourse. Unlike the struggle for black civil rights we have no Truman, Kennedy, or Johnson on the national stage willing to lead the way and to pay the political price for doing the right thing for gays as these presidents did for blacks.

Have you ever heard a national leader give a speech for gay civil rights like Johnson or Kennedy often did for black civil rights?

Ever since Bill Clinton was demonized for his attempt to change the policy on gays in the military there have been no non gay leaders for gay civil rights in the Democratic Party.

In fact the nation just elected two people, Obama and Biden, who are not at all sympathetic to gay civil rights. Obama could, on his first day in office, take the next step prepared for him by Clinton by allowing gays to serve openly in the military. Gaining the right to serve openly in service to our country is much easier to optain than is gaining the right to marry. All it takes is the willingness of the CIC to order it done. But it will not happen with Obama.

Any time Obama opens his mouth on the subject he gives aid and comfort to those who oppose your rights. He shares the black bigotry against gays and has repeatedly made that clear.

I wish you the best of luck. You have my support, but I am only one liberal who is sorely disappointed in my party's choice of leaders.

If you do not have the support of the Democratic leadership in this country you will never achieve your goals for full civil rights. The Republican party will never be an ally in your struggle. It will fight you every step of the way.

But I will do my part and talk to people. I always have and always will.

freelunch is absolutely right. Domestic partnerships, which specify a certain "default" set of economic rights and responsibilities, as well as personal rights (such as being designated "next of kin") could be supported by government. The government should not support adults' sexual preferences, sexual practices, or try to determine matters of sexuality and affection. Only private (perhaps religious) entities should be chosen to do this. What's civil marriage about anyway? It's ridiculous to have the state regulate or even recognize matters of love.

A lot of religiously based anti=gayness is knee jerk, and comes from the church (obvioulsy). It's part of a bubble. Many of the people inside the bubble are actually receptive to information from outside. They just often get that information.

Yes relgious arguments work best. I walked one of my clients through the centuries of human interferencein the Word of God. She said that God revealled the Bible. I pointed out that the revelation came back in prelierate times and the the Bible in her living room id the English verson of a Laitin verson of texts written in a variety of Middle Eastern lanugaes which were the written down versions of oral texts--so what made her belige that that who long chain of people, mostly men, got everything right?

SHe then started pointing out all the contradictions and discrepencies that had been needling the back of her mind for years.

There can be other reasons people voted for such a proposition. I personally have no problem with the idea of gay marriage. As far as I am concerned, heterosexual couples have undermined the sanctity of marriage without any involvement from gay couples. If a gay couple wants to get married, it is of no particular concern to me, even though it may be counter to my faith.

But, what concerns me, as a Catholic, is whether this starts us down a slippery slope to the point where churches could be forced into performing marriages that are counter to the church's doctrines. Then it does have what I consider aan unacceptable consequence. And that really causes me pause.

If that potential problem could be averted, I think a lot of Christians would have no problem with gay marriage.

I agree with the "desensitization by contact" idea. The best way of advancing the cause of gay marriage is by introducing people to gay couples who want to be married. It's much easier to support bigotry in the abstract than when it involves denying specific people you know their rights.

Oyster Tea: "Reasoned arguments for rebelling from authority are viewed very suspiciously be the religiously and authoritarian motivated among us. I fear that such discussions would merely undermine their already shaky connection to the rational world."

I wouldn't really take either approach. I find that emotional arguments (that is to say arguments with an emotional grounding, not heated arguments) tend to be very effective. Ask a mother how she would feel if her daughter spent years alone, wondering if she would ever find love, and then when she finally found that she really deeply loved another woman she still couldn’t get married. Some people might say “that’s too bad” but even they might reconsider it a year or two later if you don’t go out of your way to piss them off. I think a lot of it is about planting seeds. You don’t have to win the discussion right this second. Mention how wonderful a recent gay wedding you attended was and how great it was that they could publically affirm their love. A year later talk about the wonderful gay couple who is doing so much work in the charitable area that is a special interest to your friend. Some of the seeds will fall on fallow soil. Others will grow in time. A very few will grow right now. The only thing we know for sure is that this is the type of issue where we can’t reap if we don’t sow.

ken: I do not normally delete comments. But next time you show up here, I will delete or disemvowel yours. You have been banned repeatedly. Please do not keep sneaking back.

Also: you are aware that Obama has spoken against homophobia at black churches, right?

Don't answer that by commenting here. Just don't.

Bob B., ideally churches should perform whatever marriages suit their doctrine, and the state should support domestic partnerships (of whatever people, including non-couples, who want to have a domestic economic relationship). The Catholic church doesn't need to be forced to recognize gay marriage if gay marriage violates Catholic doctrine - that would offend the separation of church and state. The civil law, though, must give equal rights to every person whether or not it angers Catholics or Mormons to do so.

the fight is far from over

we fight on.

Ken!!!!

Hey Ken, you were right about California going for [email protected]!!eleven!one!!!

Let's get government out of the marriage business. Too many religious folks think that marriage is a religious institution. Fine. Let them have it. Let them know that the only sensible solution is to change the name of what the government does and make absolutely certain that there is no discrimination when the government does it.

Actually, let's let all government-recognized unions between couples (or, hell, triples, or what have you) continue to be called "marriage" and let religious folks come up with their OWN word. Covenant, or cleaving unto, or somesuch.

But, what concerns me, as a Catholic, is whether this starts us down a slippery slope to the point where churches could be forced into performing marriages that are counter to the church's doctrines. Then it does have what I consider aan unacceptable consequence. And that really causes me pause.

Um, can the government currently force Catholic churches to marry two people who are eligible to marry under state laws but not eligible to be married by a Catholic priest in a Catholic church? Of course it can't. So why would this be any different?

I wish people would just think this stuff through.

Bob B:

The Catholic Church isn't currently required to marry non-Catholics or couples with children conceived before the marriage, why would they be required to marry same-sex couples? I don't see how civil recognition of gay marriages puts the church on that slope at all.

I appreciate the comments made by both Sapient and Jiminy Jilliker. I have read articles that indicate that pressure has been put on churches in Canada along these lines, and I also recall reading about issues of gay adoption in Massachusetts being forced on Catholic charities involved in adoption. Maybe I'm being an alarmist, but it is something that concerns me, to the point of being reluctant to recognize gay marriage.

I have thought that some sort of civil union distinction might solve the problem, but I understand that this can be viewed by gay couples as not being treated equally.

I made the comment mianly to point out that not everyone who might vote for such an amendment is insensitive to the interests of gay couples.

Not to pile on, Bob B, but my husband is (nominally) Catholic. I'm a childfree atheist Jew. I'm guessing that any Catholic church would laugh us out the door if we came in asking for a religious marriage ceremony. Heck, I think most synagogues would turn us down too, and I don't think there's any legal recourse (not that we considered anything but a totally secular ceremony with a judge). So how would allowing same-sex marriage on the civil level be any different?

I am catechizing my children, (7 and 5) and we do discuss, “what does the Bible say?” There are about 4-5 verses that attempt to control male desire/sexuality; (I don’t think there is anything concerning lesbianism). I attempt to be blunt, put it in context, Old Testament demands death, however it demands death for a host of sinful behaviors, which we no longer accept…and the New Testament describes certain types of male prostitution…”gay” “homosexual” were not operating within the same context as we know them today.

So the question for my family is “Why would someone/communities/societies, decide that these verses should be interpreted in a certain way?” Divorce, and many other “sins” are given higher priority, so then why the turmoil over passages that are very arcane or a blip?

One’s cultural context gives the frame/lens to interpret the scripture…the scripture/religion does nothing, until somebody interprets it, and gives it priority. There are reasons concerning power and sexuality and desire which color these lenses.


I think a lot of it is about planting seeds. You don’t have to win the discussion right this second. Mention how wonderful a recent gay wedding you attended was and how great it was that they could publically affirm their love. A year later talk about the wonderful gay couple who is doing so much work in the charitable area that is a special interest to your friend. Some of the seeds will fall on fallow soil. Others will grow in time. A very few will grow right now. The only thing we know for sure is that this is the type of issue where we can’t reap if we don’t sow.

IM(very)HO there is a great deal of both wisdom and patience in this approach, admirably so. I think that the slow process of cultural change and generational turnover is on the side of equality for gay people in this country, recalling Dr. King’s aphorism about the moral arc of the universe being long but bending towards justice. It seems to me that visibility is a key to planting these seeds – gay people need to be visible as such in order for their homophobic neighbors to stop imagining them as something scary and start seeing them as real people. Fear of the unknown is the worst kind.

Which leads me to ask: what can we do either personally or in terms of supporting changes in public policy, to make it safer and more comfortable for gay people who are in the closet or who may be reluctant to more openly show their sexual orientation in public, so that they may become more visible. Because it seems to me that what will keep driving our culture in the direction of being more accepting is the sheer boring ordinariness of increasingly large numbers of gay people – friends, neighbors, coworkers and other associates, who for ever larger numbers of Americans are simply no longer a novelty or even particularly noteworthy, they are just one of us.

In the next weeks and months, talk to some generally good but misguided people you know about why marriage is so important.

I generally approach this from the other direction. (With non-fundamentalists anyway.) Essentially – what’s it to you? Why should you object? Give me one single way* in which gay marriage could impact your marriage or your life. How does a gay couple down the street getting married affect you in any possible way? Generally they don’t have any good answers, or you can tell that they’re just mouthing something they don’t necessarily believe to be true.

As Sebastian noted – plant a seed. I’ve seen folks go from “no way no how never” to “well, I suppose it’s no big deal but I wouldn’t want them moving in next to me, I don’t need to see that.” (What – you’re going to peek in their windows? You think they’re going to have sex in the back yard? You do realize that they don’t have to be married to move in next door right?) Finally to: “whatever – I guess it’s no skin off my a**”.

*The one semi-legitimate argument I’ve encountered is that small group rates tend to rise for the entire group when an insurance carrier covers same-sex couples. I don’t know if there is underwriting to justify that or not. Possibly same-sex couples are being treated as two single people (riskier) for underwriting purposes?

Bob B.,

Just to add an example to the one provided by JJ:

Many rabbis refuse to perform interfaith marriages. The fact that it is perfectly legal and fairly common for a Jew to marry a non-Jew has not led to even the faintest call for legislation to force rabbis to alter their practices.

Not only is the slope not slippery, it's not even a slope.

I still say, putting the rights of a minority in the hands of majority is horrible.

Phil, you say that "actually, let's let all government-recognized unions between couples (or, hell, triples, or what have you) continue to be called "marriage" and let religious folks come up with their OWN word. Covenant, or cleaving unto, or somesuch."

Why not do what we have control over, like get the government out of the marriage business? Why should civil law support marriage, which originated as a religious institution (at least the way it was imported into the law of the thirteen colonies)? Think about it, and if you know any lawyers ask them: what is the most noxious, counterproductive area of civil law? You got it: divorce law, starting with issues such as who was unfaithful to whom. It's a ridiculous waste of taxpayer money for society to get involved in that issue.

What's needed is leadership. By definition, that cannot be provided at the grassroots level.

We have a president-elect and a congress-elect that are nominally in favor of, and should implement, (1) civil unions and (2) a repeal of DADT. Public opinion is about 50-50 (or better) in favor of each. The best way to move the ball forward is to pass both. When the sky fails to fall, you will see even greater majorities in favor of each and growing support for gay marriage.

Touching personal story time!

I can remember 5 yrs or so ago when my sister met a guy named Kory at school, and they became pretty good friends. Kory was as far out of the closet as can be, and in high school nonetheless (which was pretty brave, IMO). One day, he has dinner at our house, and its obvious that my parents are freaked out that their daughter is friends with a gay kid.

That night, I have a private conversation with the old folks, since I know the guy and I don't want them to worry. As it turns out, Kory is the first gay person they know (Liberace and Paul Linde don't count). I ask them the standard stuff, like when they 'chose' to be straight, and they started to get it. They were still a little leary, but they slowly got over it.

Fast foward to August, when they were invited to Kory's marriage (more like a 'commitment ceremony' in IN). My mom was excited, this was her first gay wedding! My dad, in his curmudgeonly manner said, "Well, if they're are dumb enough to get married, then what the hell."

I think, for them, it was personally knowing a gay person and being able to see them as a person. It took time for them to grow comfortable with it, but all new things take time. So as per Seb's advice, just sit down and talk to people who are uncomfortable with gays and give it some time. Its unfair that I have to tell gay people to have patience and keep working, but I'm dead certain that my kids or grandkids will be able to marry whoever they love, as long as we keep working towards equality.

Here is part of the reasons for my concerns:

http://www.boston.com/news/local/articles/2006/03/11/catholic_charities_stuns_state_ends_adoptions/

As far as the issue of same-sex marriage issues with the Catholic church in Canada, I was mistaken. The problem there has been with Catholic priests who oppose same-sex marriage for religious reasons being investigated by the Canadian Civil Rights Commission for hate speech. Sorry for that mistake.

Great post, Sebastian: thank you.

(Even the completely stupid comment immediately following could not spoil it: someone always moronically burbles that an institution older than the United States of America itself ought to be abolished, having clearly never thought even once - or not for more than say 30 seconds, when drunk or stupid - about the impossible complications that would follow if no one in the US could get married any more, only have religious unions without force of law.)

Oh, and I see freelunch isn't the only person who has never thought at all about the complications that arise - just for starters - when no American can go anywhere outside the US without first finding out if the country they visit will recognise "civil unions" (which, I can tell you in advance, most won't).

I also recall reading about issues of gay adoption in Massachusetts being forced on Catholic charities involved in adoption. @Bob B.

The Church wants to have things both ways. They want to accept the state's money for providing adoption services, but they don't want to obey the state's rules requiring them to allow gay couples as adoptive parents.

It's really a matter of "render unto Caesar those things that are Caesar's". If you accept state money, you also have to accept the state's rules. They could, if they chose, refuse the state's money and continue to manage adoptions privately. Other churches that oppose gay adoptions have done exactly that.

Bob: I appreciate the comments made by both Sapient and Jiminy Jilliker. I have read articles that indicate that pressure has been put on churches in Canada along these lines, and I also recall reading about issues of gay adoption in Massachusetts being forced on Catholic charities involved in adoption.

No, you have that the wrong way round. The problem was that Catholic Charities in Boston was assessing same-sex couples as adoptive parents, and had placed children with those couples. They were doing this slightly covertly, because the official position of the Catholic Church has been since about 1995 that for a same-sex couple to parent a child is exactly like child abuse.

When Massachusetts recognised same-sex marriages, the church hierarchy in Massachusetts declared that they didn't want Catholic Charities to be "compelled" to assess same-sex couples as adoptive parents exactly as they would mixed-sex parents, and then it came out that this was exactly what CC had, in fact, already been doing: and then the church hierarchy - not the state of Massachusetts - forced Catholic Charities to close down.

Joseph Ratzinger, who is heavily implicated in several cover-up operations with regard to abusive priests, wrote the doctrinal instructions to the faithful that they must regard same-sex couples as child abusers - and not the priestly sort who can always be supported and given a second chance, either.

Very good post. Talking NEVER hurt!

I think, for them, it was personally knowing a gay person and being able to see them as a person.

I agree. For some (maybe many?) people, the issue isn't so much marriage per se as it is recognizing that homosexuals are normal people. My parents did a 180 regarding gay marriage when they learned that one of my brother's school teachers was gay. Once they had someone in their lives that they could connect with the word gay, they were going on and on about how stupid it was to keep those people, their friends, from getting married.

And Seb, this was a good post. I especially like the planting seeds comment.

I've seen several people suggest that the solution to the problem is to make marriage a purely religious institution; then we can implement "civil unions for everyone" to handle the legal side. I think these proposals are well-intentioned, but they ignore the importance of symbolism in human life. I'm not religious in any conventional sense, but would I be content with a civil union rather than a marriage? Um, no. Call me a hopeless romantic, but the symbolic aspects of my marriage are very important to me. From speaking with my gay family members, I know that they feel the same way.

Also, I don't think that the civil union proposal really gets at the core of the problem, which is the notion that gay partnerships are somehow "less" than heterosexual marriages. It is the underlying bigotry that we somehow need to address, and I think that Sebastian is right about the best way to tackle it.

The fundamentalists are going to be tough, though. Many of them can be brought around to the idea that gay people are "okay," but it will be much more difficult to sell the idea that gay marriage is just as meaningful and important as heterosexual marriage. I think that even those who are more tolerant than their peers are still likely to vote for things like Prop 8. Supporting gay marriage really amounts to relinquishing their fundamentalism, which is a major shift in their worldview. Some will do it, but many will stop short of a full embrace of gay couples as equal in every sense.

in the meantime:

http://www.salon.com/opinion/greenwald/2008/11/06/doma/index.html

Oh, and I see freelunch isn't the only person who has never thought at all about the complications that arise - just for starters - when no American can go anywhere outside the US without first finding out if the country they visit will recognise "civil unions" (which, I can tell you in advance, most won't).

But if the government lets the churches take the word "marriage" and choses, say, "hinterpix" as the definition of the civil contract, then it can write the definition of "hinterpix" to conform with international law.

====================

Call me a hopeless romantic, but the symbolic aspects of my marriage are very important to me. From speaking with my gay family members, I know that they feel the same way.

There would be nothing stopping someone from finding a church (or other group) to perform a "marriage". Such a ceremony would be personal and symbolic, but wouldn't have any civil meaning.

=============

http://www.salon.com/opinion/greenwald/2008/11/06/doma/index.htm>The salon article requires a site pass. Can you summarize?

The institution of marriage does not predate the state--at least not the modern institution. Lets not throw around words without grasping their meaning. Marriage--that is a legitimate sexual union between two or more people--always involves a community bigger than those involved in it and only sometimes involves religious communities or duties. Marriage isn't necessarily a religious sacrament at all. But for the entire history of the US, including the colonies, it has always been a *state function*--that is, the state liscences people to marry, determines who may marry (age of consent laws, consent laws at all) and what marriage means for children and in cases of adultery. OK? Without state definition and control we could have no orderly way of apportioning rights over children, marital property, and marital dissolution. Religious groups have their own rights in determining who they will marry, and who they will divorce or consider divorced, and how they will handle legitimate and illegitimate offspring of unions within and outside their own religious community but those have no force of law that the state can enforce or effect. If the Catholic church wants to call its nuns "married to christ" and the nuns want to come to the state and ask for a divorce the state just throws up its hands and says "we can't divide the property." Conversely, if someone has a civil marriage and divorce and wants to get married in the catholic church its up to the church to decide whether they count the first marriage as a marriage or the divorce as a divorce or not for its own purposes.

The logical thing to do is for the state to demand the right to issue liscences to all couples wishing to register their unions legally, wishing to avail themselves of tax breaks, inheritance law, etc... that the state guarantees and treat religious marriage as utterly superficial and epiphenomenal. That already happens, in effect, with muslim marriages for second and third wives. The state just pretends they don't exist.

The continued dog in the manger attitude of religious communities in this country is simply disgusting. They are protecting rights they aren't losing, and hurting real people in the meantime. And all because they simply don't grasp the obvious distinction between sacred marriage and secular marriage.

aimai

Jesurgislac, what makes you think that other countries of the world will recognize gay "marriage"? Problems such as this, regarding international interpretations of United States law, are solved through treaties. As to your view that "marriage" is a recognized institution that can't be done away with: actually, marriage started out being a religious institution and only became a civil institution to provide a legal remedy for the problem of women being abducted and raped, with the perpetrator claiming the right to do so because the parties were "married". Statutes regularized a procedure (and evidence) for "marriage" in order that society would know when to prosecute sexual intercourse as a crime. If intercourse occurred after certain formal requirements were met, it was legitimate, even if it occurred in circumstances that we would now call rape. Honestly, except for the religious "sacramental" view of marriage, the history of the civil institution of marriage is tawdry and shameful, based on the idea of women and children are property.

Many people believe the arguments you make for gay marriage are met with a civil union ceremony. Do you have a cheat sheet of federal and other rights granted by marriage that are not granted by a civil union that i could memorize for my conversations with some of those "many people" that i reference? I want to fight for gay marriage, not just civil unions.

Back in the 60's, when towns in the South were told to integrate public facilities like swimming pools, the response was often to close the pools down.

Let's not try that with marriage, please. If you don't like the institution of marriage, there are times and places to express that dislike--but please, not in response to a call for marriage equality.

Back in the 60's, when towns in the South were told to integrate public facilities like swimming pools, the response was often to close the pools down.

Let's not try that with marriage, please. If you don't like the institution of marriage, there are times and places to express that dislike--but please, not in response to a call for marriage equality.

aimai says that: "Without state definition and control we could have no orderly way of apportioning rights over children, marital property, and marital dissolution."

Actually, "rights" over children exist or don't exist completely independent of marriage, for children are born quite frequently to couples who aren't married and the parents' rights and responsibilities to those children are quite specifically defined in the law. As to property owned by people living in a household, that can be and would best be governed by the law of contract, with certain default "partnership" assumptions being operative without a contract. Any licensing of domestic partnerships should encourage mindful and deliberate partnership agreements. The original purpose of legal marriage (which preceded statutory "divorce")

oops, got carried away... Sorry. But rea, the problem with marriage is that it is intrinsically flawed as an institution that supports human rights. The last sentence in my last post should have read: "The original purpose of legal marriage (which preceded statutory "divorce") was to regulate sexual conduct and to "legitimate" children. The first function is a violation of privacy; the second should now simply be a matter of determining parentage - something that can be done with acknowledgment and/or DNA testing.

If we're faced with a large and politically powerful segment of the population who fear that same-sex marriage will mean the end of marriage as an institution, it seems to me that's it's not the best idea to argue that we do need to end marriage as an institution in order to bring about equality.

On the other hand, if you just want to argue that civil marriage and religious marriage are two different things that should be kept separate in our thinking, you'll have plenty of religious folks on your side, including C.S. Lewis (though he likely never considered extending his argument to same-sex marriages).

As to your view that "marriage" is a recognized institution that can't be done away with: actually, marriage started out being a religious institution and only became a civil institution to provide a legal remedy for the problem of women being abducted and raped, with the perpetrator claiming the right to do so because the parties were "married".

This doesn't sound correct, the part about religious marriage predating civil marriage. Can I see some cites to that effect?

Jeff, the Salon Site Pass just means that you have to watch an ad before being directed to the site. You don't have to enter any personal information etc.

I imagine a majority of the DC council would vote for same-sex marriage except that such a vote would instantly lead to an unpleasant reaction from Congress, which has the power to overturn anything the council passes. I fear we're going to have to wait for a while, maybe until Maryland has same-sex marriage and it's not such an explosive issue.

Thanks for a great post, Sebastian.

I agree that, regardless of what legal steps are taken to secure equal civil rights for gays, the heart of the matter is for people to recognize gays as people like themselves. With that, the legal aspects fall into place fairly easily. Absent that, some folks are going to feel like something is being imposed on them.

Don't get me wrong, sometimes it's actually appropriate for folks to have certain agendas imposed on them. It's just much easier for everyone concerned if it's done through the winning of hearts and minds, rather than through fiat (whether legislative or judicial).

I think the idea of engaging people personally, on the topic in a natural and non-adversarial way -- "planting the seeds" -- is superb.

It's one thing to see someone on TV, or read about someone in a newspaper or a magazine, and adopt a hostile attitude toward them. It's much harder to do that about someone you know, or at least have met, personally and face-to-face.

Boogiemen tend to fade away in the plain light of day.

This is a politically-oriented blog, so the discussion is often in terms of the political dimension of things that are, like this, essential human and social. It's good to be reminded of the human dimension, that is so accessible to all of us.

Thanks again Seb -

With regards to how to approach people who oppose gay marriage, I think http://obsidianwings.blogs.com/obsidian_wings/2008/11/what-should-you.html#comment-138007434>OCSteve also has a good method.

To expand on my earlier story, I used both approaches (emotional and confrontational) with my parents. My mom would've felt as if I were attacking her if I said, "What's it to you?" By appealing to her emotional side, ala Seb's method, and explaining how Kory just wanted to be happy, just like anyone else getting married, she connected and empathized with him. With my dad, on the other hand, an appeal to his emotions would've worked, but asking him how would it affect him was more effective.

How you talk to people all boils down to being wise enough to understand who you're talking to. Simply by virtue of knowing someone well enough to be comfortable discussing gay marriage usually means you'll know their personality and how they think.

But, what concerns me, as a Catholic, is whether this starts us down a slippery slope to the point where churches could be forced into performing marriages that are counter to the church's doctrines. Then it does have what I consider aan unacceptable consequence. And that really causes me pause.

Given that, for years now, the Catholic Church has been able to refuse to perform marriages for divorced people, I don't see how this is a legitimate fear. Religious groups can always refuse to perform weddings on whatever grounds they like, as I understand it.

If there are religious freedom issues, surely they are on the other side. There are a fair number of liberal religious organization which perform gay marriages. By not recognizing them, and, in particular, not recognizing them on grounds that are, effectively, religious, the state is basically establishing a religion, declaring that conservative religious groups that refuse to marry gay people are more legitimate than liberal religious groups that are happy to do so.

Sapient: Jesurgislac, what makes you think that other countries of the world will recognize gay "marriage"?

You mean like Israel, Norway, Denmark, Switzerland, Sweden, Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain, France... just off the top of my head, this is. I know there are more on the list. A couple who are legally married have the strongest possible legal claim in another country to be recognised as legally married.

Jeff: But if the government lets the churches take the word "marriage" and choses, say, "hinterpix" as the definition of the civil contract, then it can write the definition of "hinterpix" to conform with international law.

I think you're a little confused. The US government cannot rewrite the legislation of other countries to require them to accept a US hinterpix as equivalent to legal marriage. A country that wants to do so, could: a country that feels it's a complete piece of nonsense need not: most countries would probably just ignore the situation until something happened, like an American dying in a foreign country and his/her hinterpix trying to convince officials that because they're registered hinterpix that really does mean the same thing as marriage: which, if that means omitting inheritance tax, is not going to happen.

Warren Terra: On a related note, Jes, unsubstantiated accusations that millions of votes were discarded seem deeply inappropriate.

Unsubstantiated claims that you're sure that - unlike in 2000 and 2004 - that just didn't happen - seem equally inappropriate.

But, what concerns me, as a Catholic, is whether this starts us down a slippery slope to the point where churches could be forced into performing marriages that are counter to the church's doctrines.

This is one of those arguments that supporters of gay marriage find absurd, but opponents believe wholeheartedly (probably because their priests and ministers tell them it's true).

Churches aren't obligated to marry anybody and can freely discriminate against heterosexual couples today - most obviously against anybody who isn't a church member, but also against anybody who doesn't live according to the laws of the church. They can refuse to marry divorced people. They can refuse to marry couples of mixed religions. They can refuse to marry ex-priests or nuns. They could even refuse to marry interracial couples.

This is a difference between the state's recognition of marriage and a church's recognition of marriage. They aren't the same thing at all, but most Americans don't see the difference.

But rea, the problem with marriage is that it is intrinsically flawed as an institution that supports human rights.

I don't care; at least, not in this context.

The flaws of marriage as an institution are not relevant when the topic under discussion is whether GLBT couples ought to be allowed to marry. If there were a rule providing that only straights are entitled to elephant manure, I'd stand up and demand that my inalienable right to elephant manure be respected.


Actually, no: claiming with certainty that the electoral rigging that went on in 2000, 2004, and 2006, just didn't happen this time, seems grossly inappropriate. Obama has a narrow window during which he can call for an investigation / electoral reform, having just won the election. Don't presume it didn't happen just because it didn't work this time.

Churches aren't obligated to marry anybody and can freely discriminate against heterosexual couples today

Heck my wife’s church wouldn’t marry us because we were living in sin at the time. We would have had to go through some bizarre cleansing process first (live apart, abstain from sex, get church counseling…). Yeah right…

But rea, the problem with marriage is that it is intrinsically flawed as an institution that supports human rights.

I don't care; at least, not in this context.

The flaws of marriage as an institution are not relevant when the topic under discussion is whether GLBT couples ought to be allowed to marry. If there were a rule providing that only straights are entitled to elephant manure, I'd stand up and demand that my inalienable right to elephant manure be respected.

By not recognizing them, and, in particular, not recognizing them on grounds that are, effectively, religious, the state is basically establishing a religion, declaring that conservative religious groups that refuse to marry gay people are more legitimate than liberal religious groups that are happy to do so.

I think John makes an interesting point here. I'm not sure how effective it would be at persuading fence-sitters. However, it could be an interesting legal argument at the federal level. Any thoughts from lawyers or other legal types?

The flaws of marriage as an institution are not relevant when the topic under discussion is whether GLBT couples ought to be allowed to marry.

I'll second that. Whether marriage is a flawed institution is irrelevant. Married couples are given distinct rights and privileges under the law. I don't care whether anybody in particular recognizes equal rights or not, but I do care that the government does.

KC in DC, I believe in equality, and I certainly don't believe in passing measures such as Prop 8 to deny people equality. I merely question why a large segment of the population wants to buy into a very flawed institution instead of taking advantage of initiatives to encourage a new kind of institution, available to all, which is nondiscriminatory and not based on religious views of how sexuality should be regulated. After all, homosexuality is one of many traditionally forbidden modes of sexual expression. Sexual regulation (through marriage, birth control and abortion laws, prostitution laws and otherwise) has caused all kinds of nasty consequences to various people. Why not look at the source?

As to cites about the history of marriage, since "marriage" is a cultural institution taking many forms throughout the world, it's hard to generalize, but in western culture, marriage was (in Rome) a private contract, then when the church became involved in governing Christian Europe, marriage was institutionalized as part of the church then made its way into statutory law from there. I did research on this subject many years ago, but important for everyone, gay and straight, to read is the work of John Boswell, particularly _Christianity, Social Tolerance and Homosexuality_ and _The Kindness of Strangers: Child Abandonment in Western Europe from Late Antiquity to the Renaissance_. These works, while not dealing exclusively with the history of marriage, certainly touch on the issues involved, and made me question how marriage evolved and why we "cling" to it as some kind of social good, when in fact it can be an isolating force in our society that protects domestic nightmares for many people. Obviously, good relationships between loving people are wonderful, but whether the institution of marriage really supports good relationships is a legitimate question and one that should be answered before extending the institution to even more potential victims.

I believe in equality under the law, as I've stated. I think when we're having a discussion about whether marriage should be extended, it's important to discuss what marriage is. Many people in our society believe that marriage is an institution between a man and a woman that regulates the natural procreative function. Certainly if that's a legitimate definition of what marriage is, it makes sense to limit it to those who can naturally procreate together. I have argued that marriage is not that, but is a religiously based institution that regulates sexual conduct in such a way as to violate the constitutional rights of all people. I do not believe that an unconstitutional state institution should be recognized or extended. As I said, I would never support legislation (or propositions) that would deny equal rights to gay people or any other people, so I certainly would not have supported Prop 8. And sure, talking to bigoted people about one's gay friends, and introducing everyone around is way cool.

There would be nothing stopping someone from finding a church (or other group) to perform a "marriage". Such a ceremony would be personal and symbolic, but wouldn't have any civil meaning.

I think this rather misses the point. Marriage is a societal symbol. It is one way (not the only way, but certainly a very important one) of signaling that you are forming a new family. The fact that marriage is recognized as such by society as a whole is part of its symbolic power.

I believe that many gay couples would like to be regarded as families in the same way that married heterosexual couples are. If we grant the full symbolic significance (as well as the legal protections) of marriage to these couples, it sends a powerful message. Otherwise, we are signaling that committed gay relationships don't have quite the same status as heterosexual relationships do. Either way, the signaling is very important. This is one reason that gay marriage is such a big deal for both its proponents and its opponents.

"But, what concerns me, as a Catholic, is whether this starts us down a slippery slope to the point where churches could be forced into performing marriages that are counter to the church's doctrines."

But Catholic marriage is a sacrament (as you know, & surely far better than I, who had to double-check). For the gov't to force Catholic churches* to perform un-doctrinal marriages would (surely) be equivalent to the gov't insisting that Catholic churches must allow anyone to take Communion, on anti-discrimination grounds - not just grossly inappropriate, but wildly unconstitutional (the whole 1st amendment thing, y'know). In the rather unlikely circumstance that there was a serious attempt to make Catholic clergy perform gay marriage, you and the Church would have the support not just of this pro-gay marriage atheist, but the ACLU, etc.

"They're going to make your church perform gay marriages" was and is an ungrounded fear that was encouraged by the Prop 8 campaign (knowingly bearing false witness or not). I hope the comments here have reassured you, and that you'll help keep others from being misled. If you're still concerned on this specific point, what is it that has you worried?

In the next weeks and months, talk to some generally good but misguided people you know about why marriage is so important.

I think the key is to understand why people voted for Prop 8 in the first place.

The "Yes on 8" forces put a lot of effort into making a winning argument. Notably their campaign didn't dwell on gay marriage, gay sex, or pictures of characters dressed like the village people. They personalized the issue to potential supporters (your children being taught about lesbians; unelected courts forcing gay marriage on you; the threat to your marriage; preservation of your "traditions"; forcing your church to violate its own doctrine, etc.)
They also explicitly argued that civil unions were entirely equivalent to marriage, they just wanted to keep the word itself.

The authors of Prop 8 undoubtedly believe that gays are an abomination, but many of those who voted "Yes" don't. Those are your persuadable voters. Convince them that the above arguments are false, personalize those who are the targets of Prop 8 and you'll find a winning coalition to reverse it.

You don't have to convince people to like gay marriage, just to hate bigotry.

I merely question why a large segment of the population wants to buy into a very flawed institution instead of taking advantage of initiatives to encourage a new kind of institution, available to all, which is nondiscriminatory and not based on religious views of how sexuality should be regulated.

Because they're practical. Marriage as a legal institution in the United States is going precisely nowhere. The notion that there will be a political consensus for replacing marriage with some sort of universal civil union is ridiculous. People are irrational. They are especially irrational when it comes to things relating to their most intimate affairs, like, oh, societal recognition of their life long marital vows. Right now, many many people have all sorts of intense emotional associations with the word marriage, and they're not going to give that word up no matter how wonderful a bundle of legal rights you construct under the term civil union.

Right now, there is no consensus for building a totally new institution which is not based on religious views at all. And while the institution of marriage may seem deeply and fundamentally flawed to you, most married people don't see it that way, or at least don't see lots of problems that could be easily rectified with a different legal definition.

Politically, there is a lot more support for the notion of expanding this institution, however flawed it might be, that many people consider to be absolutely central to their lives than there is for abolishing it and creating some new strange institution just to help the gays out. Do you see the distinction?

After all, homosexuality is one of many traditionally forbidden modes of sexual expression.

Homosexuality is not legally forbidden in the US.

Sexual regulation (through marriage, birth control and abortion laws, prostitution laws and otherwise) has caused all kinds of nasty consequences to various people. Why not look at the source?

Because there is no political consensus for radical changes in all those areas of law. If there was, we should have no difficulty getting any single aspect of those laws changed.

Many people in our society believe that marriage is an institution between a man and a woman that regulates the natural procreative function. Certainly if that's a legitimate definition of what marriage is, it makes sense to limit it to those who can naturally procreate together.

Yes, and those same people who argue that marriage "regulates the natural procreative function" and is banned to all those who cannot procreate together, get all pissy when you point out that in that case, no man with a vasectomy and no woman with her tubes tied/who is past the menopause can legally get married in the US. Nor do they explain why in their view adopted children and foster children are better off with unmarried parents.

I have argued that marriage is not that, but is a religiously based institution that regulates sexual conduct in such a way as to violate the constitutional rights of all people.

You are as wrong as the homophobes who claim that their justification for banning same-sex marriage is that same-sex couples aren't interfertile. Civil marriage is not a religiously-based institution, and makes no attempt to regulate sexual conduct.

All the "why don't we just let the churches take the word 'marriage', and make up a different secular thing" arguments, and the similar-but-different "why do you want to buy into such a flawed institution" thing, remind me of a certain type of engineer.

This type of engineer, if asked a question like "How do I get MIDI synthesizer X to work properly with Computer Y, so I can play my music on it?", will give one of the following answers:

"Get rid of that synthesizer and get brand Z. No serious techie would use that kind of synthesizer."

"Get rid of that computer. No serious musician would use that kind of computer."

"Get two other computers and hook them all up together in the following way. You won't be able to play music, but it'll be great for analyzing radio signals from space."

"Why do you want to play music? I don't like your music."

Turbulence and others, Sebastion tells me that (if I support gay rights): "In the next weeks and months, talk to some generally good but misguided people you know about why marriage is so important." No. Marriage is not important. Marriage is a crock. And Turbulence, just because people have irrational emotional attachments to the concept of marriage does not mean that it's a good thing or that I need to support it. By the way, Turbulence, I didn't say that homosexuality is currently forbidden in the U.S. I said that it's a "traditionally" forbidden form of sexual conduct. In very recent history (most of my lifetime), it has been taboo and illegal. I'm not condoning that "tradition".

Also (and pardon me if I'm repeating myself - I can't remember which blog I said this on before)... the argument that "churches got involved in marriage at an early date, so that word is inextricably tied to religion now" could also produce the following conclusion:

- People have always disposed of dead bodies in various ways.
- From the dawn of history, religious traditions have had their own preferred methods of disposing of dead bodies, and rituals around same.
- To be a truly secular society, we must either avoid burial and cremation and come up with some all-new method, or stop using the words "burial" and "cremation" and make up new words.

Jesurgilsac, apparently you've never practiced domestic relations law in Virginia where adultery is grounds for divorce.

Sapient: What makes you think there aren't gay people who totally agree with your view of marriage, and would like to have the option of explicitly choosing not to partake?

I know at least one person who was really happy that he could finally just be a single guy with a steady boyfriend, and not have people assume that he would naturally get married if only he could.

Also: I have trouble believing that you would have applied the same principled stand to interracial couples 50 years ago, and told the Lovings that marriage was a crock and that they had to be more radical to deserve your support. I don't know, maybe you would have. I know it's not uncommon for queer radicals to express something along the lines of: stupid social constructs are fine for straights, but we must be better than that, we are the vanguard... I say phooey. No one's making you "support" anything, but I think it's neither respectful nor humane to simply dismiss some people's basic desire for some good version of the kind of life they understand, just because you think it's not cool.

Sapient, couples divorcing in many states can use "adultery" as official grounds for quick divorce.

They are not, however, compelled to do so.

You would have a case that the government uses marriage to regulate sexual behavior if the government forced divorce on any married couple when one had committing adultery. Since it's entirely up to the couple concerned if they divorce, or if they even cite adultery as the grounds for divorce, clearly it's not the government regulating sexual behavior...

I lost a few comments I was going to make, but they're largely over-shadowed by this:

The notion that there will be a political consensus for replacing marriage with some sort of universal civil union is ridiculous. People are irrational. They are especially irrational when it comes to things relating to their most intimate affairs, like, oh, societal recognition of their life long marital vows.

I have to agree with this. For all the logical reasons that separating "marriage" (as a Church function) and "civil union" (as a State function), they don't over-ride the fact that a heck of a lot of people are invested in "marriage" as a hybrid Church-State function.

Oh, and Turbulence, adultery is also a crime in Virginia (and probably elsewhere).

People who argue that marriage should be supported because "society is invested in it" should not be offended by the idea that slavery should be supported because "society is invested in it". The idea of progressive society and, at least, intellectual inquiry is to question whether society should be invested in it. I'm not anxious to persuade anyone not to get married, just as I'm not anxious to persuade anyone to get an abortion. But to try to persuade people to expand the institution of marriage because lots of people, for irrational reasons, support it seems kind of absurd. Again, I decline to do what Sebastian asks, although I'm happy to commune with gay folks and introduce them to bigoted folks if it helps everyone get along.

Why not do what we have control over, like get the government out of the marriage business?

You got it all backwards: get the churches out of the marriage business.

They discriminate against people on a large scale and they always want to have it both ways: operate as a business, but claim tax exemptions, get their share of the adoption market, but not be bound by the requisite laws, have catholic priests molest little children, but solve the problem "internally". These gray areas have to be cleaned up by the state and the hypocrisy has to stop.

Because it seems to me that what will keep driving our culture in the direction of being more accepting is the sheer boring ordinariness of increasingly large numbers of gay people – friends, neighbors, coworkers and other associates, who for ever larger numbers of Americans are simply no longer a novelty or even particularly noteworthy, they are just one of us.

Yeah, that's an interesting point along with the touching personal stories. The truth about how we've won our rights so far is that we have to come out and be really dull. Typical. Boring.

And the good news is, for those in my generation this is easy.

The hard news is, it seems that those who are only slightly older have a hard time taking the emotional risks that accompany living a happy, healthy, well adjusted openly gay life.

I guess now that we have a Congressman who was elected while gay, and a state treasurer, the argument that I'm limiting how far I can go in life because everyone who's ever met me knows I'm gay...might begin to die out.

That would be nice.

In answer to your underlying question, you don't need to do a lot more, though your help is appreciated; we need to live our lives with patient and fearless love.

Jesurgislac, "couples" don't use adultery as a quick way to get a divorce. One party uses "adultery" as grounds for divorce in order to humiliate and coerce the other into agreements that the "guilty" spouse might not otherwise make. Again, you obviously don't have experience in places where this is an issue. Or perhaps (like lots of people who refuse to look at progressive arguments for change) the issue just hasn't affected YOU in a negative way.

Actually, Hob, I assume that there are gay people who agree with me. I am a citizen. I pay taxes to support a very expensive system where courts are clogged with nasty divorce cases with people fighting over responsibilities they didn't even understand or knowingly agree to. If it's "sacred" go to church and get married, for God's sake. If you want certain, defined rights, sign a contract.

Marriage is not important. Marriage is a crock.

OK...I don't think this is the majority viewpoint in the US. I think many many people believe that marriage is very important to them. If you disagree, then by all means, ignore Seb's request. I think that Seb (quite reasonably IMHO) assumed that most people believe that marriage is important and not a crock. The fact that most people think marriage very important does not necessarily mean that those people are right, but it does mean that any political campaign predicated on the opposing belief will be extremely unlikely to succeed.

But perhaps I'm wrong. Do you think that people who think marriage is important and not a crock will be interested in supporting major political and social change geared to eliminating marriage as we know it? And do you think that a large fraction of the electorate share your belief that marriage is not important and a total crock?

Turbulence, I don't propose to "eliminate marriage as we know it". I'm suggesting that people who post on this blog (who seem to be people who like to think about things rather than merely accepting them as being what "most people want") might consider that gay and straight people who support equal rights might consider joining together to support a nonsexist celebration of their union through domestic partnership laws, which would require mindful, knowing assent to certain contractual terms between parties who are committed to sharing their lives (permanently or not). I don't see what's wrong with encouraging people to think about what all of this actually means. Over half of the voters in California, a "progressive" state, didn't accept the concept of gay marriage. Maybe it's not because they don't accept "gay" - maybe it's that they (that majority of society whose unthinking support of marriage you respect) see marriage as the limiting and undesirable institution that I believe it is.

"Actually, "rights" over children exist or don't exist completely independent of marriage, for children are born quite frequently to couples who aren't married and the parents' rights and responsibilities to those children are quite specifically defined in the law."

This is not entirely true and where it is partially true is the result of changes, fairly recent changes, in the laws to permit illegitimate children to have legal claims on their fathers regardless of the marital status of the parents. Until fairly recently such children did not have rights of inheritance or support from their fathers. And absent marriage such children don't have full rights now although they may have some rights. Child support and court ordered visitation rights are all ways in which the state steps in where marriage doesn't exist or has dissolved but the position of the children of married couples is substantially different from the position of illegitimate children.

aimai

Over half of the voters in California, a "progressive" state, didn't accept the concept of gay marriage. Maybe it's not because they don't accept "gay" - maybe it's that they (that majority of society whose unthinking support of marriage you respect) see marriage as the limiting and undesirable institution that I believe it is.

I think this is a highly dubious proposition.

I grew up in the San Joaquin Valley -- one of the areas of California that voted for Prop 8. It's quite conservative. I certainly didn't see much evidence there of the kind of thinking you suggest.

Remember Occam's Razor. In this case, the simple and obvious explanation is probably the right one.

I believe that many gay couples would like to be regarded as families in the same way that married heterosexual couples are.

I think this is the heart of it.

And the reason they would like to be regarded in that way is because they *are* families in the same way that married heterosexual couples are.

I hope the gay folks here will forgive me if I speak for them, but from what I can see the "gay agenda" consists of wanting to be treated like everyone else. No more and no less.

Marriage is not important. Marriage is a crock.

That's an interesting perspective, but I think you'll find that it's a non-starter as a basis for public policy.

Thanks -

aimai,
In what way do "illegitimate" (no longer a term widely used in the law) children have fewer rights than children of married couples?

Sapient: Jesurgislac, "couples" don't use adultery as a quick way to get a divorce.

In any jurisdiction where it's much faster to get a divorce if you claim adultery happened than it is to go the "no fault" route, yes, indeed they do.

One party uses "adultery" as grounds for divorce in order to humiliate and coerce the other into agreements that the "guilty" spouse might not otherwise make.

Ah: the bad divorce syndrome. Yes, people often are mean to each other when breaking up. Sorry, you're still not making your case that this is the government using marriage to regulate sexual behavior.

Over half of the voters in California, a "progressive" state, didn't accept the concept of gay marriage. Maybe it's not because they don't accept "gay" - maybe it's that they (that majority of society whose unthinking support of marriage you respect) see marriage as the limiting and undesirable institution that I believe it is.

Good God. If you actually believe this, you are stupider than I thought. Do you?

Marriage is not important. Marriage is a crock.

It doesn't matter if you feel this way. What matters is whether people who want to get married can get married.

Like it or not, it's an legally recognized option that the majority of us can take or leave as we wish. Our objection is that people are passing laws to explicitly prohibit others from doing the same.

russell, others,

If gay people desperately want to get married, keep fighting by all means! If gay people need the imprimatur of society on their sexual unions, go for it, by all means! If straight people never want to examine social institutions (no matter how expensive and fruitless, and in many cases destructive) because they are political "nonstarters", please go ahead and ignore! Don't ask questions, keep supporting idiocy! There's not one substantive comment here that argues why "marriage" is desirable, why people should support it over domestic partnerships, why gay people (who represent at least 10% of the population) shouldn't take their straight friends in the direction of something better... No. Instead, on this progressive, smart people's blog, all I'm seeing are remarks equivalent to "ooo - that's weird". Does it ever occur to anyone that Muslims might feel discrimination because they're allowed four wives? Or that the Supreme Court decision against polygamy was discriminatory against Mormons? What does marriage mean to you guys exactly? If it's just a celebration of love, why not have a party? Do you (progressive?) people really believe that two sexually faithful people should have superior legal rights to people who can't make that commitment? Why?

Jesurgislac: You obviously don't know anything about domestic relations law. But that's okay with me - I'm convinced that the people who comment here aren't interested in the substance behind the marriage issue. Yes, I'm stupid as hell, Jusergislac. If I had a line item veto over my tax expenditures, I'd cross out any support for the subsidies I spend on other people's domestic arrangements: marriage and divorce. Party all day long about your love affair - but when it dies, don't tax me. And I'm NOT a libertarian. (P.S. Why should I care whether you want to get married?) Although I would have voted "No" on Prop 8, after this discussion and the mindless support of marriage by the people commenting, I think I'd vote yes now.

There's not one substantive comment here that argues why "marriage" is desirable, why people should support it over domestic partnerships, why gay people (who represent at least 10% of the population) shouldn't take their straight friends in the direction of something better...

Marriage is desirable because I like it and I have a one or two hundred million friends that agree with me. I could go into detail about why I like it, but given that I have hundreds of millions of people who agree, I don't feel the need. We might be stupid, but that's OK. If you want to make the case that we're all wrong and that life would be so much better if we replaced marriage with...what?...then go right ahead. But until you do, I'm not going to just assume that marriage should be replaced by some unspecified institution simply because you insist.

Does it ever occur to anyone that Muslims might feel discrimination because they're allowed four wives?

Not particularly. The reason Islam allows men to have multiple wives was so that widows and orphans might have an option besides death by starvation 1300 years ago. Since then, our society has changed dramatically and woman and children can now survive perfectly well without a husband/father. One might examine the rate of multiple wife households in various Islamic countries to see how relevant this aspect of Islam has proven to be in the modern world.

Or that the Supreme Court decision against polygamy was discriminatory against Mormons?

Again, not particularly. The last time I looked, all the break away Mormon fundamentalist communities that embraced polygamy looked to me like hell on earth. I would rather die than live in one of the FLDS communities.

If it's just a celebration of love, why not have a party?

Marriage is not just a celebration of love, it is also a structure of interlocking legal obligations. There does not appear to be a large enough movement of polygamous people seeking legal recognition to justify changing family law. If you have some statistics indicating otherwise, I'd love to see them.

Well, Turbulence, aren't you just a "majority rules" type of person? Fine - sad about that Bill o' Rights though. Since the majority (in CA, and overwhelmingly in the US for that matter) just told me that they hate gay people and they'd like to tell them to fuck off, you should, by your own logic, be in favor of that too! By your formula, that's A-OK! Since I'm following your logic, I'll be against gay people - after all, what is a "large enough" movement anyway? Is it a small or fairly small or kind o' big group of people who actually think about what it is they're supporting?

BTW, I wasn't really championing polygamy, although how many polygamists do I need to start a legitimate movement?

Oh, and Turbulence: as to the "structure of interlocking legal obligations": what are they exactly? And if you can't name them all, don't you wish you could know what your obligations are before you enter the commitment? Like a contract? I mean a domestic contract? I mean ... a domestic partnership contract? I mean what I said before?

There's not one substantive comment here that argues why "marriage" is desirable

It appears to be something humans like to do. Some other species, too, although certainly not all. It appears to be a social expression of an adaptive strategy that humans find useful. It works about as well as any other human institution does, and better than lots.

why people should support it over domestic partnerships

I don't think anyone does. Whatever floats your boat.

why gay people (who represent at least 10% of the population) shouldn't take their straight friends in the direction of something better...

As above, whatever floats your boat. If you want to go somewhere better, have at it.

Gay folks are just asking that they be allowed to float the same set of boats as the rest of us.

No. Instead, on this progressive, smart people's blog, all I'm seeing are remarks equivalent to "ooo - that's weird".

No, I think what you're seeing is "ooo - but lots of folks want to get married, regardless of your opinion of marriage".

We're not all at your level of consciousness, apparently.

Does it ever occur to anyone that Muslims might feel discrimination because they're allowed four wives?

Yes.

Or that the Supreme Court decision against polygamy was discriminatory against Mormons?

Yes.

What does marriage mean to you guys exactly?

Marriage means I get to begin and end each and every one of my days by my wife's side. That does it for me.

If it's just a celebration of love, why not have a party?

We did.

Do you (progressive?) people really believe that two sexually faithful people should have superior legal rights to people who can't make that commitment?

That's actually a very reasonable question.

Why?

It appears to result in some benefits to society at large. Stability, mostly, and a structure for raising children, and a structure around which communities seem to organize themselves.

Probably not the only possible one, just a very common and, historically, popular one.

Dude, if you don't want to get married, nobody will make you. But lots of other folks do. Call us deluded if you wish, but there it is.

Pretty much anyone that wants to, can, if they so choose, except (in most parts of the country) gay folks.

They'd just like the same deal as the rest of us.

That is all.

Thanks -

Sapient, did you go through a messy divorce? As in, the kind of divorce where you discover that you're on the hook for all sorts of obligations, obligations that you would have avoided by writing a prenuptial agreement if you had known they exist.

Well, Turbulence, aren't you just a "majority rules" type of person?

When it comes to evaluating feasibility of political change, then yes, yes I am a majority rules kind of person. I'm open to the possibility of change where most of the population currently doesn't agree with you, but I think that can only work when you can credibly argue that the public will agree with you after you explain things to them. Your proposal fails that test. So far, all you've done is convince me that its advocates are really bad at convincing anyone of anything.

Since I'm following your logic, I'll be against gay people - after all, what is a "large enough" movement anyway? Is it a small or fairly small or kind o' big group of people who actually think about what it is they're supporting?

Well, 48% of CA voters were against prop 8. Show me that even half that number of people agree with you that marriage is not important and that marriage is a total crock and then we can talk.

as to the "structure of interlocking legal obligations": what are they exactly?

I'm not your wikipedia. If you want to learn about legal obligations associated with marriage in your jurisdiction, I suggest you check your state goverment's website or better yet, consult with legal counsel.

And if you can't name them all, don't you wish you could know what your obligations are before you enter the commitment?

I find your speculation as to what I might or might not wish to be...boring. I know my legal obligations well enough, thank you very much.

russell,

First of all, thanks for your answers, which are thoughtful. But...

Do you really think that communities organize themselves around people who are "married" in the legal sense? I know of communities which organize themselves around work, around single people, around friends, etc. It's kind of creepy that many feel that they have to find a "forever" sexual partner in order to be part of a community. I think that ancient cultures did have certain marriage and family customs, mostly as an economic necessity. But now, single or alternative lifestyle people feel left out or discriminated against. Do we really think that single parenthood is less "legitimate" than married parenthood these days? I mean, my first reaction to the Palin pregnant child and her marriage plans was "Is this really your idea, and is it well-considered?" But, of course, the fundies would say: Oh, procreation is so great, but you must get married!!!! (And this is totally skipping the abortion issue.) I just think it's incumbent upon thinking people to question whether a state sanctioned "marriage" is a good idea. A Catholic sacrament? Sure. A Baptist celebration of fidelity? Sure. A Mormon whatever? Whatever. But a City Hall "you gotta have sex with him and not him" ? Nope - what's the point except to regulate sexuality? How can that be good?

Turbulence, No, I did not go through a messy divorce. I have, however, been counsel in many messy divorces. I know full well what my own rights are, and am glad that you know (or claim to know) what yours are. I have met many people who had no idea what they were doing (legally) when they got married. I won't bore you further by asking you to consider through this discussion what exactly marriage means.

Interesting: http://www.iht.com/articles/2006/10/15/america/web.1015wed.php

Not hundreds of millions, Turbulence. At least not in the U.S.

Sapient, you are correct, I should have said tens of millions.

The thing that kills me is that the government has no role to play in marriage. Marriage is a religious thing, and it should be left there. The government's job is to sanction civil unions to allow people to come together and enjoy rights as partners. They should leave it at that.

The thing that kills me is that the government has no role to play in marriage. Marriage is a religious thing, and it should be left there. The government's job is to sanction civil unions to allow people to come together and enjoy rights as partners. They should leave it at that.

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Well, okay, Turbulence. Let me propose a definition of marriage as it was (and is in many cases) traditionally perceived: A contract between a man and a woman whereby any child conceived by the woman would be considered to have been fathered by the man.

Divorce, property rights, etc. - those all came with divorce law - something that wasn't invented until much, much later. Okay, gay people! Tell me why you want to buy into that - OWN THAT UTERUS!

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