The Gay Moralist
October 25, 2012 2:25 AM   Subscribe

You are likely already familiar with many of the arguments for and against marriage equality but here are cogent arguments for precisely why it is needed, unthreatening, and beneficial; patiently explained by a gay philosopher who recently spent quite a bit of time hanging out with NOM’s co-founder, Maggie Gallagher.

Corvino, also known as “The Gay Moralist (for his longtime column of the same name), is chair of the Philosophy Department at Wayne State University in Detroit. He has spoken at over 200 university campuses on ethics, sexuality, and marriage. “My goal is to promote a more thoughtful conversation on these issues,” he says. “Moral concerns should be conversation-starters, not conversation-stoppers.”

The Definition of Marriage
If Gay Marriage, Why Not Polygamy?
Do Children Need a Mother and Father?
Debunking the Regnerus Study
Is Gay Marriage a Threat to Traditional Marriage?
Is Gay Marriage a Threat to Religious Freedom?
Why Marriage? (Why not Civil Unions?)
Are People Who Oppose Gay Marriage Bigots?
Is Homosexuality Unnatural?
posted by Blasdelb (31 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite

 
Cool...but that's not the best argument against the "marriage is, by definition, between one man and one woman" premise.

The the important response involves pointing out that the premise is false. Marriage is simply *not* defined in that way. If it were, then any claims that violated the definition would be unintelligible if taken literally. Given the definition of 'square,' "five-sided square" is (roughly) unintelligible, and anyone who said that those folks across the river have five-sided squares would be saying something necessarily false. OTOH, if someone says that those folks across the river have polygamous marriage, then, while we might gasp a few well-I-nevers, we would know very well what was meant.

"Same-sex marriage" is not unintelligible--even conservatives understand what it is. That's why they're against it. But if it were false by definition then it would be (roughly) unintelligible. (Though there are details in the philosophy of logic one could disagree about here...). Rather than saying "it's wrong," they'd be honestly saying "I have no idea what you are talking about."

Anyway: arguments against SSM that rely on the definition claim are unsound.
posted by Fists O'Fury at 3:30 AM on October 25, 2012 [8 favorites]


Corvino presents these concepts well, and does it in a non-threatening manner which can be, sometimes, the best way to engage someone with another view in a dialogue.

I will, however, never again be able to enjoy guacamole.
posted by HuronBob at 4:03 AM on October 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


I've mentioned this a few times before, but the context of the phrase "one man and one woman" is actually "Marriage as understood in Christendom is the voluntary union for life of one man and one woman, to the exclusion of all others." It's a statement about polygamous marriages, not homosexual ones; it was never actually law (it's just the headnote of Hyde v Hyde and Woodmansee); and if it has any modern application, which I doubt, it would be to cast doubt on every marriage that takes place in a jurisdiction where polygamy is legal including, not incidentally, the marriages of Mitt Romney's ancestors.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:26 AM on October 25, 2012


There are those who dislike gay marriage precisely because it isn't threatening to traditional marriage.
posted by Segundus at 4:48 AM on October 25, 2012


[A couple of comments deleted; sorry guys, it's a bit early in the thread for zany joke derailing.]
posted by taz at 5:43 AM on October 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


You know how I see it, what the complex philosophical argument is that I use to guide my positions on this? It's like this: on one side, I see inclusion, equality, and love. On the other side, I see exclusion, inequality, and fear. The right side to be on seems obvious to me.
posted by Scientist at 5:51 AM on October 25, 2012 [9 favorites]


The "well the dictionary says marriage is between one man and one woman" strawman has been burned so many times that stirring the ashes reveals nothing new. It is not a matter of dispute that the definition of marriage has changed over the centuries (most significantly in the 1970s with no-fault divorce) and it is anyway a weak argument to say that any free person is bound by what the dictionary says.

It's a statement about polygamous marriages, not homosexual ones;

Speaking of which, I was disappointed to not see the philosophical argument for bisexual marriage. Such a union would have to be polygamous (by definition so to speak). I don't see too many advocates of "LGT" marriage putting "B" on equal footing. Indeed, in the link "If gay marrige, why not polygamy?" the gay moralist calls polygamy a "slippery slope" argument and takes effort to distance gay marriage from it.
posted by three blind mice at 5:55 AM on October 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Fists O' Fury - while I take your point, I think there's a weakness in your argument. "Definition," by its very nature, is not an unchangeable fact, but a set of evolving concepts. Definition does not exist in the universe, but in the human mind. Your example of a five-sided square is therefore a little misleading, since that's a very old and established definition.

"Nice" used to mean stupid. "Awful" used to mean wonderful. "Artificial" used to mean made with technical skill. And, what's more, such words often go through a transition period where both meanings are used. If you want to look at "real" things - the meanings of nouns rather than adjectives - the definition of a "planet" is currently in flux, with the result that objects are being discovered by astronomers that are provoking serious arguments over whether they fit the definition of "planet".

I think, actually, the better argument is just about the opposite of what you've proposed. It's not that saying gay marriage could not exist as a concept if it did not fit the definition of marriage. It's that a definition is, by its very nature, WHATEVER WE AGREE THAT IT IS. If your argument against gay marriage is a "definition", you have no argument. You have built your house on sand, sophistry, a quirk of language rather than anything real.

I believe that the so-called "moral" arguments against gay marriage are deeply misguided and suffer from both logical and ethical flaws. I believe that the so-called "scientific" arguments against gay marriage are based on dubious research that is unsound and biased at best and often deliberately faked. But those are, at least, attempts at arguments. The statement that gay marriage does not fit a "definition" is fundamentally meaningless. It is acting like a result is a cause. It's a tautology. It goes away as soon as we decide we no longer wish it to be the case.

It's a, um, "nice" argument, I guess is what I'm saying.
posted by kyrademon at 6:06 AM on October 25, 2012 [4 favorites]


I clicked through to the "If gay marriage, why not polygamy" video because that's a question I've often asked myself, but from the opposite perspective: as a supporter of gay marriage, are there any rational arguments why polygamy should be illegal? I have been unable to come up with any satisfying arguments, at least for one form of polygamy (see below). I was hoping to find a better argument in that video, but came away disappointed. While I find polygamy vaguely distasteful, I also realize that's not a reason to outlaw polygamous marriages: lots of people find homosexuality vaguely (or not-so-vaguely) distasteful, but we shouldn't consider that a valid reason to oppose gay marriage.

Despite the title "If gay marriage, why not polygamy?" Corvino rapidly turns it in to "If gay marriage, why not polygamy, bestiality, marrying inanimate objects, etc.?" which I was very disappointed to see used: animals and inanimate objects are not consenting adults, and there are valid, non-religious reasons to limit marriage to consenting adults. I imagine polyamorists are more than a little insulted to be lumped in the same category with farm implements.

I should perhaps make a distinction at this point. Traditional polygamy—polygamy as it has been practiced in many cultures—often involves one person of one gender (A) and two or more people of the other gender (B1, B2, ...). In these cases it's seen as being viewed as multiple marriages: A is in a marriage with B1; A is also in a marriage with B2; but B1 and B2 are not considered married to each other. I will contrast this with what I will call group marriage, which is a single marriage involving three or more people. In a group marriage involving A, B1, and B2, A is married to B1 and B2; B1 is married to A and B2; B2 is married to A and B1. And this is considered a single marriage, not three pairwise marriages.

Both traditional polygamy and group marriage can reasonably be called polygamy, but Corvino's arguments against polygamy (at least the remotely serious ones, not "bestiality lol") are arguments against traditional polygamy only, not against group marriage. And it seems to me that all the arguments generally presented in support of gay marriage support group marriage just as well. Perhaps Corvino only intended to argue against "If gay marriage, why not traditional polygamy?" but if so that leaves open the question of "If gay marriage, why not group marriage?"

Intellectually, the only answer I have been able to come up with so far to "If gay marriage, why not group marriage?" is "Yes indeed, why not?" even though I may find the concept of group marriage vaguely unsettling.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 6:06 AM on October 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


> "Corvino rapidly turns it in to 'If gay marriage, why not polygamy, bestiality, marrying inanimate objects, etc.?'"

As a supporter of both gay marriage and ethical group marriage I cannot tell you how ANGRY this argument makes me. I stopped contributing to a pro gay marriage organization when they made this argument (I give to other such organizations instead.)

If someone fails to acknowledge the difference between consensual and nonconsensual sex in their own arguments by morally equating all forms of polygamy with bestiality, how are they any different from those on the other side of the argument who morally equate homosexuality with pedophilia?
posted by kyrademon at 6:14 AM on October 25, 2012 [8 favorites]


Some arguments you can use in this debate:

1. If someone wants to define marriage as the union between a man and a woman, then ask them to define "man" and "woman". It's not as obvious as it seems. There are all kinds of corner cases, such as hermaphrodites, people who have change gender before or after marriage, and people with Klinefelter's syndrome, to name a few. Who would these people be permitted to marry? If someone changes gender during marriage should they be forced to divorce?

2. The Declaration of Independence states that the pursuit of happiness is an inalienable right. Not even the constitution can take away an inalienable right. What is more fundamental to happiness than who you love, who you kiss, and who you marry? This one appeals to conservatives.
posted by BentFranklin at 6:18 AM on October 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


Do not read the YouTube comments, as you value your will to live.
posted by Sing Or Swim at 6:19 AM on October 25, 2012


While I respect Corvino's argument about not treating everyone against gay marriage as a bigot because that doesn't encourage dialogue, I can't say I agree entirely.

First, yes they're bigots, by definition. But bigotry isn't a permanent condition and it's not something that should make us dismiss a person, it should make us want to confront and deflate those bigotries. Second, bigoted views whose aim is to deny people rights based solely on their demographic characteristics are offensive and repugnant and making them aware that those views aren't acceptable is a perfectly legitimate strategy for combating bigotry. Finally, because expecting LGBTQ folks to sympathize with their oppressors means expecting a heck of a lot of work and effort on their part. It's probably less of a burden if you're a white male professor who doesn't face a lot of the same struggles that, say, being a gay woman of color in poverty might have to deal with on a daily basis. So I guess what I'm saying is that it's up to those of us who have the capacity for dialogue to make dialogue with bigots, but it's not a thing we should expect from people who are on the receiving end of that bigotry.
posted by Jon_Evil at 6:24 AM on October 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


I knew someone who ran for office as a socialist back in the day (90s). When he went to speak to church groups, he cut to the quick right off the bat:

"Listen, I don't like the idea of Jim and Tammy Faye Baker getting married and having sex. But I'm not going to pass a law against it."

Apparently he was able to say this from a genuine, very funny place--and the conversation moved on.
posted by vitabellosi at 6:32 AM on October 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


I was disappointed to not see the philosophical argument for bisexual marriage. Such a union would have to be polygamous (by definition so to speak).

I don't think you understand the idea of bisexuality in the same way that most people do. It doesn't mean that one must have a partner of each sex, merely that one may desire a partner of either sex. Marriage equality for same-sex couples would include those bisexual people who have a partner of the same sex, while bisexual people who happen to choose a partner of the opposite sex are already covered.
posted by Mars Saxman at 6:38 AM on October 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


as a supporter of gay marriage, are there any rational arguments why polygamy should be illegal?

I didn't watch the videos, but it always seemed that when people demanded the right to gay marriage, they were demanding an equal right afforded to everyone, which was monogamy, and all the legal benefits of inheritance, insurance, child custody, etc. To veer from this simple demand would be a colossal mistake. Even to casually entertain it with polygamy (which is a train wreck for parental rights and requires government benefit support in family form) it quickly falls into a right-wing slippery slope, basically having proponents defending other is-nots as opponents poison the well by association with them.
posted by Brian B. at 7:09 AM on October 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


First, yes they're bigots, by definition.

No they're not. Something is an "X by definition" when you can offer a complete definition. A "4-sided regular polygon with all sides equal and all internal angles 90°" is a square by definition.

A bigot can be (OED) 2. a. A person considered to adhere unreasonably or obstinately to a particular religious belief, practice, etc"

or "b. In extended use: a fanatical adherent or believer; a person characterized by obstinate, intolerant, or strongly partisan beliefs."

But this will require judgment about whether their beliefs are "unreasonable" or "fanatical" in a way that the square example doesn't.

Contrast to racism:

"An advocate or supporter of racism... [i.e. "The belief that all members of each race possess characteristics, abilities, or qualities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races"]"

Against such a person you could deploy a "you're racist by definition" argument, but bigotry by definition, not so much.
posted by Jahaza at 7:13 AM on October 25, 2012


(The problems with declaring in more than the simplist cases "the words mean x therefore you are or are not an x" is of course why "but that's not what marriage is defined as" arguments don't fly.)
posted by Jahaza at 7:15 AM on October 25, 2012


Marriage as a legal concept is mostly about building in a whole bunch of little contracts into one easy paper signing -- it automatically establishes a bunch of rules about inheritance, power of attorney, financial entanglements, taxation, parental rights, blah, blah, blah.

Extending all of those rights to any two people instead of any couple comprised of a man and a woman is legislatively trivial.

Extending all of those rights to any group of people is legislatively non-trivial. If you have a group marriage and one of the members is in a coma, which other member has the right to decide to pull the plug? Who gets a share of whose pension in old age? When they die, who gets how much of the estate? If they have kids and split up, who has a right to petition for custody and who is obligated to pay child support? Who gets to claim the children on their taxes?

Those are things in marriage related laws that can't be easily and obviously extended to group marriage or traditional polygamy (somewhat more easily to traditional polygamy, though, since it's still pairwise marriage and there's usually a designated primary wife), so the two issues really are different.

I have no moral objection to group marriage or ethical polygamy, but there are substantial issues with traditional polygamy that I wouldn't easily overlook if the gay marriage debate was about plural marriage instead. I wish gay marriage proponents who need to deal with the polygamy question would do so from a more practical less "Eww, gross!" standpoint, but I don't really think the issues are that closely related that support for one implies you should support the other or you're a hypocrite.

All of that said, I don't think his intention was to equate polygamy with incest and bestiality, so much as deal with the group of things that often come up together as objections to gay marriage.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:32 AM on October 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


These are really good: the right length, the right balance of humor and seriousness, perfect for dropping in Facebook comments to hostile friends and family.
posted by Apropos of Something at 7:33 AM on October 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


What I'd add to jacquilynne's statement is that while people can certainly write up documents that answer these questions, two problems still remain.

One is that if every plural marriage has to write up a complicated set of legal documents for their own special-snowflake circumstances, the default provided by legal plural marriage might be simply not very useful.

The other is that some of the relationships described by such documents might be less than marriage, even if they're part of a plural "marriage." If you don't want me to make decisions for you when you're sick, and/or you don't want my financial decisions to bind you as well, in what sense am I really married to you? If you don't want me to have the rights that a spouse has, aren't I something else?

Also, traditional polygyny is universally part of a larger system for the oppression of women and can be condemned with the rest of that system, unless and until there's a good reason to suspect otherwise.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:41 AM on October 25, 2012


were demanding an equal right afforded to everyone, which was monogamy

That argument may be made sometimes, but much more often I hear that the right being fought for is the right to marry whomever one loves as long as they are a consenting adult.

all the legal benefits of inheritance, insurance, child custody, etc.

These are currently benefits of monogamous marriage only because the laws have been set up with the assumption of monogamous marriage. You might as well argue that same-sex marriage isn't possible because the marriage license application has one line for "husband" and one for "wife."

(OK, granted that adapting existing laws to group marriages is more difficult than changing a few lines on a form. But the point is that just because a change involves additional effort doesn't mean that change should be avoided.)

which is a train wreck for parental rights

It's somewhat problematic in that if x>y, a situation with x parents may be more difficult than a situation with y parents, but that doesn't mean it's an insoluble one, nor one that we shouldn't try to address to the best of our ability. For that matter, parental rights when only two parents are involved can be a "train wreck," but you don't hear anyone proposing to outlaw monogamous marriage on those grounds.

and requires government benefit support in family form

The argument is sometimes made against gay marriage that it would require government benefit support for those not currently eligible for it. Should we avoid equality because inequality is cheaper?

it quickly falls into a right-wing slippery slope,

Oh, I agree as a political argument it's a poor one, because there's still far too much opposition to group marriage. One step at a time and all that.

But if, as you note, it's a right-wing slippery slope, they'll bring it up whether we do or not.

If a gay marriage opponent argues "If gay marriage, why not group marriage?" what is your response? "Yes indeed, group marriage too!" is, I believe, the intellectually consistent but (for the moment) politically losing one. If your response is "Gay marriage but not group marriage because ________," what fills in the blank?

----------

Extending all of those rights to any group of people is legislatively non-trivial.

Agreed, but "non-trivial" is not the same as "insoluble."

If you have a group marriage and one of the members is in a coma, which other member has the right to decide to pull the plug?

If you have an unmarried adult in a coma where more than one relative has an equal claim as next of kin (both parents still alive, both parents dead but multiple siblings, etc.) who has the right to decide to pull the plug, if the patient has not left an advance directive?

A non-trivial question, but not an insoluble one.

Who gets a share of whose pension in old age? When they die, who gets how much of the estate?

These two actually do seem trivial. Pensions split equally among surviving spouses. And I would propose that, barring divorce, the marriage would still be valid as long as at least two members survive, so if A, B, and C are married and A dies intestate, B and C are still married so the estate goes to them jointly.

If they have kids and split up, who has a right to petition for custody and who is obligated to pay child support? Who gets to claim the children on their taxes?

These are non-trivial—but not insoluble—even when only two parents are involved. Do you propose to outlaw two-party marriages because they raise non-trivial questions?

----------

One is that if every plural marriage has to write up a complicated set of legal documents for their own special-snowflake circumstances, the default provided by legal plural marriage might be simply not very useful.

Many two-party marriages involve complicated legal documents (prenuptial agreements, power of attorney, end-of-life directives) which override the default assumptions made by law for two-party marriages in cases where no such documents exist. I'm not saying we shouldn't give careful thought to what the defaults should be in group marriages, but that doesn't mean they're not useful—either for those who are satisfied with the defaults, or for those who through neglect or oversight don't set up any such documents.

The other is that some of the relationships described by such documents might be less than marriage, even if they're part of a plural "marriage." If you don't want me to make decisions for you when you're sick, and/or you don't want my financial decisions to bind you as well, in what sense am I really married to you? If you don't want me to have the rights that a spouse has, aren't I something else?

You've just described a good number of two-party marriages, but we don't go around saying that A and B aren't legally married just because they keep separate finances and have pre-nuptial agreements overriding default laws regarding property in divorces and they've each delegated end-of-life decisions to persons other than their spouse. You (and maybe even I) might argue that they're not really married in any moral sense, but we wouldn't dispute that they're legally married, which is the issue at hand. Just as, where same-sex marriage is legal, there are still people who say such spouses are not "really" married, but that doesn't prevent them from being legally married.

Also, traditional polygyny is universally part of a larger system for the oppression of women and can be condemned with the rest of that system, unless and until there's a good reason to suspect otherwise.

In full agreement with you on that point.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 8:09 AM on October 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'm not saying that plural marriage can't possibly be legislated. I'm saying that plural marriage is neither the ethical nor the legislative slam dunk that gay marriage is, and that it's not wildly unreasonable to support one and not the other.

If someone had a package of legislative changes that would allow ethical polygamy/group marriage, disallow or mitigate the harm of traditional polygamy and address the complex legal issues that result from polygamy in a fair and widely acceptable way, I would support that.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:29 AM on October 25, 2012


I only listened to the "Is Gay Marriage a Threat to Traditional Marriage?" one and thought it was lame. "I don't understand people who say letting same sex couples marriage would be a threat to traditional marriage. I mean do they think...?" and then instead of asking them what they think, he just rattles off a bunch of silly straw man stuff.

Now I can see people saying that the idea is ridiculous on it's face and only deserves ridicule rather than serious rebuttal. But that doesn't seem to be the conceit of these videos.

The serious argument is that traditionally, marriage is not a contract between two people for their own mutual satisfaction. Traditionally marriage is a contract between two people and the rest of the community (or the Church, or God). It's very much other people's business who you marry. That traditional idea of marriage is already endangered in our society. Our conception of marriage is that it's all about romantic love and mutual satisfaction and we let people get divorced for pretty much any reason they want. Having same-sex couples come along and say, "It's nobody's business but ours if we get married" is kind of the final nail in the coffin for that traditional view of marriage.

There are lots of good rebuttals to that, of course: that people in our society don't really want traditional marriage, that traditional marriage is unjust, that it was already mostly dead before same sex marriage was ever seriously on the table, that even if you like the idea of traditional marriage, that the benefits of allowing same-sex marriage are greater than the harms it might do to the ideal of traditional marriage, etc. But "The Gay Moralist" doesn't seem very interested in any serious moral engagement.
posted by straight at 8:57 AM on October 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


I think it's possibly to argue for an important distinction between group marriage and gay marriage. Rauch's argument against polygamy/group marriage is the best one I've read. In brief, he says that group marriage would have adverse social consequences: since cross-culturally group marriage situations end up with more women married than men, you have more unmarried males, who as "bare branches" tend to be more violent. Rauch closes by underscoring the difference between the two marriages:

"By this point it should be obvious that polygamy is, structurally and socially, the opposite of same-sex marriage, not its equivalent. Same-sex marriage stabilizes individuals, couples, communities, and society by extending marriage to many who now lack it. Polygamy destabilizes individuals, couples, communities, and society by withdrawing marriage from many who now have it."
posted by dd42 at 1:04 PM on October 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Speaking of which, I was disappointed to not see the philosophical argument for bisexual marriage. Such a union would have to be polygamous (by definition so to speak).

What?
posted by rtha at 2:18 PM on October 25, 2012


Fists O'Fury, that precise argument was made in favor of the existence of God, and I hardly think you'd agree with the conclusion of that argument.
posted by American Christmas Devil at 3:09 PM on October 25, 2012


"Gay marriage but not group marriage because ________," what fills in the blank?

Gay marriage but not group marriage because gay marriage is an equal rights issue regarding legally recognized monogamy, where some have it and others don't because they pair as same gender. To say that something is similar just because it shares the quality of being banned only serves as a bluff strategy by opponents, or is the case of polygamists wanting to take advantage of the issue at the expense of the gay marriage movement.
posted by Brian B. at 6:34 PM on October 25, 2012


"Same-sex marriage" is not unintelligible--even conservatives understand what it is. That's why they're against it. But if it were false by definition then it would be (roughly) unintelligible. (Though there are details in the philosophy of logic one could disagree about here...). Rather than saying "it's wrong," they'd be honestly saying "I have no idea what you are talking about."

Pluto is not a planet. By definition. But the questions "Is Pluto a planet?" and "Should Pluto be considered a planet?" are not unintelligible. Astronomers would not respond to those questions with, "I have no idea what you're talking about."

Fists O'Fury, that precise argument was made in favor of the existence of God, and I hardly think you'd agree with the conclusion of that argument.

Huh? There's an argument that God, by definition, does not exist? And Fists O'Fury's argument was made as an attempt to rebutt that claim?
posted by straight at 6:52 PM on October 25, 2012


I personally am not, in particular, arguing that if you support gay marriage you must support group marriage or be ethically inconsistent. Nor would I ever deny that patriarchal polygyny is a serious problem in communities where it is practiced, and that ending the practice is a significant and important feminist goal.

And I also am not angered by the arguments against group marriage that have been presented in this thread. I disagree with many of them, but that's all right, you know?

My real problem is that there is a tendency, when the social conservatives say, "Gay marriage will lead to other horrible, immoral things like group marriage and child marriage and pet marriage!", a very common response from the other side - which I have seen many times - is to say, "No, gay marriage is not only NOT horrible and immoral itself, but it will also NOT lead to horrible, immoral things like group marriage and child marriage and pet marriage!"

It isn't the "not" in there that's the problem. It's the blanket acceptance of the framing that's been handed out except on the one issue of gay marriage. I get that this isn't the political time to campaign for group marriage on any significant level. I even get that nuance isn't always possible in a poliical response. But it's a bit enraging to get thrown under the bus all the time.

If some conservative speaker - as some conservative speakers have at various points - said, "Women should not work outside the home because it will lead to terrible things like feminism and child abuse," I doubt many people here would be happy with the response, "No, it will NOT lead to terrible things like feminism and child abuse." Accepting the frame that way is a real concern on this and many other issues.
posted by kyrademon at 7:03 PM on October 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


There's two different questions at stake here: the first, whether gay people should be allowed to get married, the second, whether marriage as an institution has some element worthy of public intervention and concern. There's people in all four quadrants of that matrix.

We've heard a lot from those who think marriage is a purely private act, and has no consequences for anyone outside of it. In this case, it would seem that supporting gay marriage is pretty straightforward (I think most people, in fact, who feel this way do support gay marriage). One thing I've learned from calling on this issue: there's a bunch of people who think the state should have no role in marriage whatsoever, and can't be convinced that they should vote in support of expanding the state's ability to marry, even if it means solving for a discriminatory system. These people are, as you might imagine, pretty frustrating.

We also hear a lot from people against gay marriage who believe in marriage's public role: they are the social conservatives. Who we don't here much from are those who believe same sex marriage should be legal *and* believe that marriage is a public affair (indeed, because it's a public affair). I count myself in this group and, I suspect, so does Corvino.

Society has a ton to gain, empirically and politically, from ensuring that two people in a long-term commitment to one another can publicly affirm and protect that love and commitment: married couples tend to be happier and healthier, live longer, demand less social resources, care for children, volunteer, and all the rest. There are, additionally, tons of private social benefits: the spousal legal privilege, protection for children, divorce as an opportunity to justly decide how a relationship's assets are divided in the dissolution of a relationship. When people get married, it's (on average) good for them; it's also good for everybody else. Conversely, when certain people can't get married, they lose and so do we. When we know, empirically, that a certain percentage of the population is or only can be in love with a person of the same sex, then it's not in our best interests as a culture to legislate those people out of marriage, especially over a qualification that is as fluid and incidental to the social purposes of marriage as gender is.

That's, admittedly, a hard case to make. It took me a paragraph. But I think it's a legitimate one, one that probably separates some of the coalition for gay marriage on something like polygamy.
posted by Apropos of Something at 9:10 PM on October 25, 2012


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