New York State on the verge of passing Same-Sex Marriage

06.14.2011, 11:08 PM

From The New York Times:

Three other Republican state senators, speaking on condition of anonymity because their conference had not yet formally debated the measure, said they believed the bill was almost certain to come up for a vote and that it would likely pass, making New York the sixth, and largest, state in the nation to legalize same-sex marriage.

The vote tally in the State Senate now stands at 31 of 62 members, with one more vote needed to approve the law. The Assembly has passed the measure several times before and is likely to do so again this week if the Senate moves ahead. [...]

On Tuesday afternoon, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo introduced his bill to both houses of the Legislature, a step he said earlier this year he would not take unless he were confident of a victory. His measure would allow same-sex couples from anywhere in the nation to marry in New York beginning 30 days from passage.

The governor’s language also includes provisions that exempt religious institutions from any obligation to solemnize or provide facilities for gay weddings, a sticking point for Republicans in both houses of the Legislature.

So let’s hear it, SSM opponents: What measurable, objective harms do you predict as a result of this law passing?


83 Responses to “New York State on the verge of passing Same-Sex Marriage”

  1. kisarita says:

    discussed already ad nauseum on this blog

  2. On Lawn says:

    I agree, I’ve not seen Barry address the harms that have been given to a credible degree. The past few weeks have had many people who claimed to be harmed by technologies and techniques and tenets that are fully supported by those neutering marriage.

    I’ll also add that no one can find any measurable and objective harms of recognizing same-sex relationships (homosexual or not) with a CU’s or DP’s or RB’s that target them with every relevant benefit.

    The harm of going further and neutering marriage are just not worth the bother.

  3. You know, I’d rather you not come in here and say “I don’t want to contribute to this discussion, because I think it’s already been covered.” That’s not a very constructive contribution to the discussion.

    If you have nothing to say — or prefer not to say it — then please don’t leave a comment.

  4. kisarita says:

    Not quite my complaint Barry; the complaint is that you don’t seem to have been listening. (Can you blame people for not wanting to repeat and repeat and repeat themselves when other’s aren’t listening?) Now you may not agree on whether those things are harmful, or you may not agree that they are correlated with gay marriage. Those are reasonable positions to take, but it is not reasonable to repeat the exact same question as if nothing has been said.
    Perhaps for my final post I will simply post links to what I’ve said in the past.

  5. Kisarita, I’ve been listening. I don’t always have time to respond, because I’m busy and I do have a job, but I read every comment you leave on any of my posts here. (There are comment-writers whose posts I skim or skip, because I’ve found them to be incomprehensible, insulting or mean, but you’re not one.)

    But I don’t think you have a realistic sense of how communication works if you think that you’re always going to be perfectly understood without repeating and restating your view. In practice, repetition is a routine, and expected part of discussion, especially discussion with people who disagree, and doubly so with discussion that is spread out over the course of months.

    If you’re not willing to explain your view multiple times over the course of months (or years), then you’re effectively not willing to contribute to the debate.

    I really don’t recall you having described an objective and measurable harm that I can expect in New York, or that I can currently see in Massachusetts. If you think you have, by all means, post a link. Or cut-and-paste, even.

    P.S. Did you change your name, or am I just misremembering it? I thought it was “ki sarita.”

  6. kisarita says:

    Barry,
    Does not a r ose by any other spelling smell as sweet? ;)

    You win there’s not way I can dig up the old stuff under all the posts here.
    So in shorthand, my primary concerns are:
    1. The mainstreaming of the non bio kin model and the subsequent marginalization of ALL fathers. (Which could also be extended to other familial relationships)
    This is especially important to preserve in New York, which unlike California, does not ascribe sperm donor status to a man whose identity is known, lets keep it that way.

    2. The classification of opposition to SSM as equal to bigotry, leading to unsavory consequences to persons such as myself should we dare state our opinions publicly
    3. On the plus side for me as a New York resident, the marriage tourism would surely bring the state some much needed revenue!

    Suggestions for the above bill: I’d like to see the religious exemption extend to ALL private institutions with regard to providing facilities or services to the wedding itself.
    Not everyone who believes in gendered marriage adheres to a particular religious denomination. I know I don’t.
    (Even a public official, like a mayor, would not be required to choose between officiating at same sex weddings or not officiating at weddings at all. The only people REQUIRED to perform them would be the city clerk’s office.)

    More importantly, I’d like to see some debate at least, regarding whether the bill could include an exemption for the presumption of paternity. Instead, total silence. Most people have no idea that that is included in the legalization of gay marriage. Lets at least bring it out onto the table and see what the outcome is. Surely that is only honest.
    Surely that is only honest.

  7. David Blankenhorn says:

    I don’t really have a prediction, and I certainly can’t talk about what is going to be an “objective and measurable” result of a future event any more than you or anyone else can. But I can say what my fear is, what my concern is.

    My worry is that, 20 years from now, marriage as a social institution in the U.S. will be significantly weaker than it is today, including much higher rates of unwed child bearing and non-marital cohabition, which in turn will mean that each year a lower and lower proportion of U.S. children are living in a married home being raised by the father and mother whose union created the child.

    And some of us (if we are still around!) who will be horrified by these anti-child facts will look back and ask ourselves, What went wrong? What caused this sad result? What could or should we as a society have done differently to prevent this degree of de-institutionalization of our most pro-child social institution?

    And some will say, it was the sexual revolution and the pill! And some will say, it was no-fault divorce! And some will say, it was the welfare state! And some will say, it was our changing moral values! And some will say, it was ART, cloning, sperm banks, and the commericialization of child making! And some will say (I will be one of them, if I’m around), it seems to have been at least in part all of these things, plus the legal redefintion of marriage from man woman to two persons.

    And you, Barry, I am completely confident, will be completely confident that the adoption of gay marriage in New York state in the spring of 2011 will have had absolutely NOTHING to do with anything negative. You may well decide to write about it at great length! Show me, you will taunt those of us who raise or have raised these concerns, OBJECTVE, MEASURABLE SCIENTIFIC proof that gay marriage in New York or anywhere else caused any of this to happen!

    And we — I am sure, at least, that I — won’t be able to produce any such body of objective measurable scientific proof. (Or at least, any body of proof that will strike you as convincing.) And the main reason why, is that a social change of this nature and magnitude can’t be measured for causation in this way — no matter how hard you try, you simply can’t go back with the tools of social science and empirically disentangle all the myriad possible causal factors in a complex social transformation of this sort and say with any level of confidence that “factor X caused X proportion of the social change in question.” It simply can’t be done.

    And so, therefore, we’ll never really know, either way, the degree to which gay marriage will have contributed, or not contributed, to the (some us will say) harmful deinstitutionalization of marriage in the US.

    Meanwhile, for US children, while you and I and others were droning on in these debates, things will have gotten dramatically worse, as far as their living arrangements and the likelihood that they know their parents. And I don’t think that they will be comforted or helped in the slightest by the fact that you and I and others won’t be able to tell them, or agree on, exactly why this has happened.

    To repeat: This not a prediction. Anyone who would make a “prediction” of this sort, either way, is, in my mind, not being very intellectually serious. And no, I have no measurable, objective whatever blah blah. But this is my worry, my concern, my fear.

  8. Myca says:

    I think that the impetus behind Barry’s question is not to blithely dismiss the concerns of those opposed to Same Sex Marriage, but rather to provide a basis for testing.

    It’s the whole, “I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken,” bit, and it applies equally to those of us who favor and those of us who oppose SSM. IF we admit of the possibility of our being mistaken about this, then we have to come up with a method of figuring out who’s right and who’s wrong, and because of the way evidence works, measurable, objective harms are kind of the only option.

    We can look at countries or states that offer Same Sex Marriage versus countries or states that don’t, judge their respective divorce rates, judge their child welfare (through measurable things like test scores or teen pregnancy), and hey, who knows … maybe I’m wrong! Maybe Barry is wrong! Maybe you guys are wrong! That’s the point. Let’s find out.

    What doesn’t work, though, is sort of shrugging and mumbling, “It’ll make stuff bad in an impossible-to-measure-or-observe way.” I can be convinced that I’m wrong. It’s not even all that hard. But you have to use evidence.

    —Myca

  9. fannie says:

    David,

    One of the things I admire about your advocacy is the civility you bring to this issue. I’ve read your book The Future of Marriage and, even though I think it focuses too much on same-sex marriage as opposed to the other alleged factors causing (what you refer to as) the de-institutionalization of marriage, I appreciated the concessions you made regarding the human dignity of gay men and lesbians.

    I hear your concern, which you insist isn’t a prediction, regarding the possible harms of same-sex marriage to children but I also hear you admit that it’s not something that can be proven. So when you put words in our (meaning same-sex marriage advocates’) mouths as:

    “Show me, you will taunt those of us who raise or have raised these concerns, OBJECTVE, MEASURABLE SCIENTIFIC proof”

    I think “taunt” is a poor choice of words as it seems to assume contempt or mocking on the part of those of us who would ask for proof.

    Yet, I’m not sure that sort of animus accurately reflects where many on my side are coming from in requesting proof for all of the alleged harms of the legalization of same-sex marriage. Gay Americans believe we have legitimate, important reasons for wanting the state to recognize our marriages. And so, when alleged harm is put forth as a reason to deny this recognition, I think it is reasonable to ask that this harm be verified in a measurable way.

    Too often in this debate, those opposed to same-sex marriage put forth these really fantastical scenarios wherein Society Will Be Destroyed because of same-sex marriage. I see variations of that theme, not necessarily from you or the folks at FSB, in comment threads elsewhere and among some of the more extreme public voices against marriage equality.

    So, I think it’s important to separate the realistic possible outcomes from the absurd. Because, well, my concern is that your concerns might be unfounded and, as such, same-sex couples might be harmed for no reason at all.

  10. La Lubu says:

    David, I agree that there are a multitude of reasons for the deinstitutionalization of marriage. However, I think of these reasons as having far more *good* results than bad—-some reasons, like “greater emancipation for women” are *all* to the good, none to the bad. (In fact, I’d say women’s emancipation is the primary reason there are fewer marriages than in the past)

    So. The question I see is: is this inherent to marriage? Or is it only a patriarchal model of marriage that is incompatible to most folks’ lives? I think marriage can survive as an institution *only* if it follows an egalitarian model. And I can’t think of any way in which same-sex marriage is harmful to an egalitarian model of marriage.

  11. Chris says:

    David, what about personal responsibility? We can blame the welfare state, no-fault divorce, and donor conception all we want, but ultimately you’re talking about the choices of individuals. Most kids from fragmented families don’t immediately blame the state for their woes; if they have a negative view of their family arrangement their gut reaction is to blame the parents who gave them up. I highly doubt there will be kids in 2050 who think to themselves, “If only gay marriage hadn’t been legalized, I’d still know my mommy and daddy.” I think even a child can see why that would be ridiculous and irrational.

    Meanwhile, you seem unconcerned about the harm done to children of gay parents who would like to get married, or gay children themselves, in our current system. I don’t have stats on me right now, but I’d guess that harm IS objective and measurable in a way that you admit your fears are not.

  12. Marty says:

    “What measurable, objective harms do you predict as a result of this law passing?”

    More children — not fewer — will be intentionally deprived of either their mother or their father, for no better reason than the gender bias of one parent.

  13. Since Myca and Fannie and La Lubu have already responded very ably to David, and since my time is limited, I’m going to respond to Kisarita first, and then respond to David either later tonight or tomorrow. Sorry for the lack of promptness, David.

    Kisarita, after talking to the moderator and to Elizabeth, they’ve lifted the three-comments restriction for you on this thread, so you can respond to me if you want.

    1. The mainstreaming of the non bio kin model and the subsequent marginalization of ALL fathers. (Which could also be extended to other familial relationships)
    This is especially important to preserve in New York, which unlike California, does not ascribe sperm donor status to a man whose identity is known, lets keep it that way.

    That’s not measurable.

    If you said “children’s average weekly contact with fathers, measured in the National Youth Survey, is going to go down much faster in New York than in neighboring, similar states without SSM, such as New Jersey,” then that would have been an answer to my question.

    2. The classification of opposition to SSM as equal to bigotry, leading to unsavory consequences to persons such as myself should we dare state our opinions publicly

    How can this be observed and measured? What, specifically, are the “unsavory consequences” that will happen to you in New York, but not in New Jersey? Do you mean that you’ll be criticized and (by some people) disliked for your views, or do you mean something more substantial than that?

    There are still a quarter or so of Massachusetts residents (iirc, I didn’t go look it up) who oppose same-sex marriage. They have not been arrested, as far as I know. They are not unemployable.

    They are criticized, and disagreed with. But that’s life in a democracy, and no one has a right not to be criticized.

    There are, of course, isolated incidents where one side or the other of this debate has crossed a line. But if anything, those sort of incidents happen more often in states without SSM (think California) than they do in Massachusetts, where SSM has become largely a non-issue.

    So tell me: What horrible thing has happened to anti-SSM people in MA, that hasn’t happened to them in NY, but will now start happening to them in NY if this bill passes? And how can it be measured?

    Suggestions for the above bill: I’d like to see the religious exemption extend to ALL private institutions with regard to providing facilities or services to the wedding itself.

    For me, it depends on the nature and the size of the business. I think that individually-owned businesses (i.e., a florist) should be free to discriminate among their clients on any basis at all, however wrongheaded.

    But lets take the non-profit, non-religious historic site I worked at for 14 years. We gladly hosted both LGBT and straight weddings, but suppose we decided to refuse LGBT weddings — should we be able to? We’re not an individual, we’re a corporation — and a corporation that benefits from special tax status. LGBT people pay taxes like anyone else. Shouldn’t non-discrimination laws apply to a corporation like that?

    Gotta go! But as for presumption of paternity, I have to admit, I don’t know enough about the issue to comment. Can you recommend any links regarding how that has been worked in the states that have legal SSM?

  14. David Blankenhorn says:

    Fannie:

    Thanks for your comments. You make a good point. The word “taunt” was a poor choice of wording on my part, for the reasons you suggest.

    Myca:

    I never meant to say that there is no evidence on this issue. I wrote a whole book on this subject, and the book contains lots and lots of evidence — including evidence, by the way, of the good that would be likely to come from same-sex marriage.

    What I said in response to Barry is that what he seems to want PROOF of, there simply can be no proof of, either way. And I stick by that. Not because I don’t like evidence, or social science findings, or the use of reason — quite the contrary! — but rather because, it’s simply the truth that definitive proof, either way, is not possible in this case, insofar as we are talking about social causation.

    Let me give you a (pardon me, imperfect) analogy. Was slavery the main cause of the American civil war? Now, I have studied the civil war for many years, and a major focus of my work in college was slavery, and I do, very sincerely, believe that American slavery was the main cause of our civil war. But: a) many people, including credentialed professional historians, disagree on that point; and b) the issue simply cannot be “proven” empirically either way, at least not in the way that I think Barry is calling for. It just can’t be done! I wish it could — wouldn’t it be nice, just to KNOW, by virtue of accessing objective data? — but it can’t. I don’t know of a single serious scholar, and certainly not any serious student of epistemology, who would dispute this point.

    By the way, this is not the main point we are discussing here, but here is an interesting (to me) sidelight: —

    In the law there is the quite important concept of the “burden of proof.” Cases can be, often are, won or lost on this issue of burden of proof.

    That is, which side in the dispute is more responsible — which side is held to a higher standard — when it comes to proving its case empirically? And in our and English history the usual answer to that question is, the party that wants to make a change has a higher, and the main, burden of proof.

    So, for example, if I want to uproot all the trees on earth, and you don’t want me to, and we go to court on the matter, our legal tradition suggests that the main burden of proof is on ME, since I am the one seeking the change. I need to convince the court that pulling up all the trees on earth won’t do much harm, and that proof needs to be pretty clear and overwhelming. Whereas you, who just want to keep the trees the way they’ve been all along, are not expected to produce absolute proof that pulling up all the trees (something, after all, that has never happened before) would produce an unmitigated disaster. For you, the burden of proof is less. You just have to show the court that there is a reasonable likelihood that pulling up all the trees could cause serious problems. You don’t have to show them studies that prove you case beyond any doubt.

    Whereas Barry, in his post, seems to have flipped the entire thing around. Instead of assuming the burden of proof himself, he is challenging the people who want to maintain the status quo to prove with hard scientific data that X bad thing will absolutely happen if and when something that hasn’t happened yet, were to happen. (Which, see above, can’t be done anyway.)

    That is, he has self-interestedly flipped the burden of proof, away from the people who want the change and onto the people who don’t want the change.

  15. Jeffrey says:

    That is, he has self-interestedly flipped the burden of proof, away from the people who want the change and onto the people who don’t want the change. That’s a good trick, if you can get away with it!

    Under the law, a government wanting to uphold a discriminatory policy has the burden of proof once those alleging discrimination have shown that discrimination is taking place. So burden-shifting takes place and it is then up to those who want to maintain the discriminatory policy to prove why the discrimination is acceptable.

    When the government is the actor, our approach to who has the burden is different, especially when a constitutionally-protected right (like equal protection) is at stake. So, the burden was on the states–for instance–to show why maintaining discrimination was in the state’s interest. That burden may be low–rational basis–or high.

  16. fannie says:

    …Marty claims:

    “More children — not fewer — will be intentionally deprived of either their mother or their father, for no better reason than the gender bias of one parent.”

    Well, I’ll just turn my cheek to the loaded way that statement is framed. :-)

    Marty’s statement would be bolstered if he would have (a) provided evidence that same-sex couples raise children more when same-sex marriage is legal than when it is not, (b) argued, rather than assumed it was a self-evident truth requiring no explanation, that being raised by same-sex parents was a negative, and then (c) provided evidence that children raised by same-sex couples are harmed or, at least, fare worse than children raised by their married biological parents.

    Anyway, I produce the following quote as evidence to counter Marty’s statement:

    “The entrenched conviction that children need both a mother and a father inflames culture wars over single motherhood, divorce, gay marriage, and gay parenting. Research to date, however, does not support this claim. Contrary to popular belief, studies have not shown that ‘compared to all other family forms, families headed by married, biological parents are best for children’ (Popenoe, quoted in Center for Marriage and Family, p. 1)….

    In fact, based strictly on the published science, one could argue that two women parent better on average than a woman and a man, or at least than a woman and man with a traditional division of family labor. Lesbian coparents seem to outperform comparable married heterosexual, biological parents on several measures, even while being denied the substantial privileges of marriage. This seems to be attributable partly to selection effects and partly to women on average exceeding men in parenting investment and skills. Family structure modifies these differences in parenting. Married heterosexual fathers typically score lowest on parental involvement and skills, but as with Dustin Hoffman’s character in the 1979 film Kramer v. Kramer, they improve notably when faced with single or primary parenthood. If parenting without women induces fathers to behave more like mothers, the reverse may be partly true as well. Women who parent without men seem to assume some conventional paternal practices and to reap emotional benefits and costs. Single-sex parenting seems to foster more androgynous parenting practices in women and men alike.”

    -Biblarz, T. J. and Stacey, J. (2010), How Does the Gender of Parents Matter?. Journal of Marriage and Family

  17. Marty says:

    Fannie, your fault lies in your very premise:

    The entrenched conviction that children need both a mother and a father inflames culture wars

    It’s not an “entrenched conviction” that every human on the planet HAS both a mother and a father, as we are all created of one man and one woman. The question is, why would anyone deprive a child of the blessing of growing up with both?

    Most folks look for darn good reasons to remove a father from a child’s life, but I’m not sure your disdain for men is a good one. Anyway there’s no law against it, so whatever… but shall we as a society actually encourage and reward it? I think not.

  18. On Lawn says:

    Fannie: > Marty’s statement would be bolstered if he would have (a) provided evidence that same-sex couples raise children more when same-sex marriage is legal than when it is not,

    Fannie, allow me to point out again the bar that Barry set…

    What measurable, objective harms do you predict as a result of this law passing?

    The emphasis given was Barry’s.

    Given Barry’s complaints about Kisarita’s predictions it is clear his emphasis on measurable and objective. “That’s not measurable” and “How can this be observed and measured?”

    Marty gave something measurable and observable.

    More children — not fewer — will be intentionally deprived of either their mother or their father, for no better reason than the gender bias of one parent.

    More is measurable by number. It is observable by surveying the a quality of the situation they are in, namely why is the father absent? Did the father die? Did the father abandon the child? Did they divorce? Or did the woman find she was unable to love, honor, and cherish someone in any meaningful marital way just because of his gender (in other words he is alive, and able to be a good father)?

    Fannie: > I produce the following quote as evidence to counter Marty’s statement

    If you meant to produce evidence against what Marty said, I think you backfired. You quoted someone who is claiming that fathers are not important to the quality of childhood.

    What you provided is the direct link that shows how neutering the definition of marriage from its expectation of both a man and a woman facilitates the beliefs that cause the measurable and observable effect Marty mentioned.

    I understand that your argument is that Marty’s prediction is a perfectly good outcome, but you should understand that only shows the direct tie that produces the outcome. It is, as it were, a self-fulfilling prophecy at that point. Since fewer people see Fathers as important, the impact that Father’s have with their children will be less important.

    And no, that isn’t a good thing as Kisarita notes, “The mainstreaming of the non bio kin model and the subsequent marginalization of ALL fathers. (Which could also be extended to other familial relationships) This is especially important to preserve in New York, which unlike California, does not ascribe sperm donor status to a man whose identity is known, lets keep it that way.”

    One only need look at societies where men as fathers are marginalized to see the effects we can reasonably predict will occur as a result.

    I’ve grouped the following because they follow a similar path…

    Myca: > We can look at countries or states that offer Same Sex Marriage versus countries or states that don’t

    Barry: > hat, specifically, are the “unsavory consequences” that will happen to you in New York, but not in New Jersey?

    That would only be of marginal use, unfortunately. Altering the definition of marriage doesn’t just affect the people in one state. The understanding of the purpose and value of marriage (the very thing that influences the kind of responsibility that they show in marriage) isn’t like cigarettes or alcohol that you can try to regulate at the border.

    Anthropologists track cultural changes like this across avenues of communication (which don’t stop at borders). They track across trade routes, information routes, etc…

    Jeffrey: > Under the law, a government wanting to uphold a discriminatory policy has the burden of proof once those alleging discrimination have shown that discrimination is taking place.

    I don’t find something that has a definition that includes both men and women (hence all adult humans) as discriminating against a race of people.

    But I don’t necessarily disagree that there isn’t a burden of proof involved. There is discrimination towards a particular relationship, so that relationship should be unique and its unique in a way that is intrinsic to government and humanity.

    1) As noted already, it is unique in reproduction.

    2) It is unique in its completion of human gender complements.

    3) It is unique in recognizing to distinctly human traits if identity and identification.

    As this relates to government…
    1) It is unique in establishing the responsibility and care by lines of kinship — in other words you make it you should take responsibility for it.

    2) It is unique in establishing the equality of integration for men and women in how children are created.

    3) It is unique in establishing the rights of children to know and (where possible) be raised by the two people who combined their identity to make the identity of the child.

    In cherishing identity, responsibility, and family, it is promoting the ideals of self-government that were espoused by the founders of the USA. It also follows the principles of child development as seen in the research about children and parents, following what is known as the best environment for children.

    Those are reasons to recognize it as unique, as unique in value, and to continue to recognize it as unique.

    La Lubu: > some reasons, like “greater emancipation for women” are *all* to the good, none to the bad. (In fact, I’d say women’s emancipation is the primary reason there are fewer marriages than in the past)

    Again, you are re-enforcing the harms that people see in marriage. Cheering for it only shows you want that result by neutering the definition of marriage.

    When I mourn making marriage an expression of sexual freedom, rather than reproductive responsibility, it is because sexual freedom has always been so incompatible with the entitlements of (especially) women and children.

    As one person recently noted at Opine:

    A woman who works on a loading dock can do that whether or not she can enter a legally recognized marriage with a woman.

    If the woman marries a man, nature demands that she be the one to become pregnant and give birth to the couple’s children, no matter where she works or how physically strong she is.

    Part of recognizing marriage equality — true marriage equality — is to recognize that women and children are entitled to the support of the man who helped created the child. And that support is in more terms than money.

    True marriage equality — the one with the most value to society — is the equal recognition of the rights and responsibilities of the man, woman and child they potentially have together.

    And undermining that is no good in my book.

  19. kisarita says:

    Barry I’ve used up my comments but see Julie Shapiro’s blog for many examples.
    This proves my point; How can we as a nation have a real open debate on the subject, how can we say we “are ready to vote” when even knowledgeable and involved advocates such as Barry admit to know little about how one of the central laws at the core of marriage will be affected?
    We haven’t even had the debate yet let alone being ready to vote.

    Sorry for my fourth comment.

  20. Peter Hoh says:

    David, your list of things that have had a role in the decline of marriage omits the economic changes that have left few opportunities for working class men to earn breadwinner wages, and have changed middle class expectations about the necessity of mothers working outside the home.

    You raise many good points. None of us know what will happen to the rates of marriage and unwed childbirth 20 years out, whether or not we extend marriage to same-sex couples. And 20 years out, it’s doubtful that anyone will be able to determine the cause of any changes in those rates.

    We also won’t know what would have happened had we embraced civil unions for same-sex couples. Nor will we know if civil unions for same-sex couples would have led to civil unions for opposite-sex couples, as has happened in France.

    I particularly like your analogy to arguments about the cause(s) of the Civil War.

    While I am sympathetic to most of your response to Barry, I want to address this bit, in which you wrote that all sorts of factors play a role, “plus the legal redefintion of marriage from man woman to two persons.”

    If we are to look back to the time before the pill and the sexual revolution and no-fault divorce, then we need to look back to the time when marriage was understood as the union of one man and one woman, for life.

    The “for life” part matters. It’s what made marriage the thing that bound mothers and fathers and children together. Without the “for life” part, marriage is something else.

    Marriage has already been redefined.

  21. anonymously says:

    Good point that “marriage has already been redefined,” Peter. I believe you are correct.

    But let’s leave the effect on children aside for a moment.

    As I see it, the chief danger in “unsexing” marriage (turning it gender-neutral) is what it will do to the status of women in marriage. In order to accomodate gays, the special character of marriage as an institution that protects and privileges women will have to be changed, in ways that will be difficult to predict.

    For instance, women receive a certain amount of deference in marriage law because of their special character as home-makers and child-bearers and rearers. The vestiges of the old legal principle of “coverture” remain in such things as a woman’s taking the man’s name and in the idea that the woman is entitled to half of the marriage’s assets. These things really only make sense for men and women in marriage because of women’s difficulty in achieving full economic and professional equality because of their function as child-bearers and rearers. Marriage privileges women (I know that feminists will be upset by this idea, since they see marriage as doing the opposite for women) by giving them a stake in what the man has earned. Marriage, in a sense, equalizes the sexes, one of which is still in an inferior position.

    But in a marriage where both partners are of the same sex, will this idea still make sense? And in order to create a one-size-fits-all marriage law, won’t there have to be a more practical and equitable distribution of marital assets in the case of divorce?

    Why should one man have to give another man half of the money that he alone earned? It makes no sense.

    This could be one consequence of “unsexing” marriage and treating the spouses as absolutely equal, as “the same.” The end of community property.

    Marriage law as it stands now is unfair to men, who earn most of the money in marriages. When there is a divorce, wives receive half the assets, even when they have made no contribution through work outside the home. Is this unfair? Yes. But it is accepted because of women’s inequality in the work force. it is therefore a type of special privilege for women.

    I don’t think that this particular privilege will survive the “unsexing” of marriage.

    And I’m not saying this will happen tomorrow. No, the sky will not fall tomorrow. It will take some time. But I think this will happen eventually as marriage is reconceptualized as gender-neutral.

  22. anonymously says:

    Indeed, there may be other privileges we associate with marriage which may disappear as marriage is reconceptualized, as underlying assumptions and old traditions are questioned.

    Health insurance for spouses, for instance. Why should a company pay for health insurance for your spouse when he is perfectly capable of getting his own in this modern world? Health insurance for the spouse could also be seen as rooted in the old coverture idea — the wife at home, the dependent, the ‘other half” who must be provided for. Under coverture, the wife was actually absorbed into the husband and that is the basis for many of the “incidents” of marriage that still remain as vestiges rooted in the old ideas. Like community property.

    Eventually, marriage may look very different because of the entry of same-sex couples into the mix.

  23. La Lubu says:

    anonymous, I thank you for your comment because it deftly explains how work inside the home—homemaking, child-raising, etc.—is considered utterly worthless; of no financial value (“when there is a divorce, wives receive half the assets, even when they have made no contribution through work outside the home”). The common conservative line is that feminists caused this devaluing; in reality the devaluing of this work pre-dated feminism by decades. As soon as the gates of education and opportunity were opened to women, women voted with their feet and chose to make the most of those opportunities formerly denied to us. We like respect, too.

    And that’s what I was talking about when I used the phrase “greater emancipation for women”—jobs, education, political power—not sexual freedom. Greater sexual freedom for women came about via effective, reversible birth control (sexual freedom for men has always existed—it was understood that brides would be virgins at the altar, but grooms would not. it was also understood that husbands had the option of taking a mistress—sometimes to the point of having a second family—or just “getting a little on the side”).

    Institutions either adapt to changing conditions, or they disappear. We still have an economic system even though feudalism has fallen away, and we will still have committed pair-bonding, even if it doesn’t follow the model of patriarchal marriage. Look around you—people are voting with feet. When the model no longer serves, people abandon it.

    The more “marriage” is narrowly defined as being (a) patriarchal (husband-rule), (b) religious (or more accurately—as something people from authoritarian religions do), (c) something people who intend to have children with one another do, or (d) something only heterosexual couples do….it’s going to fall into the dustbin of history.

    The parameters of our lives have changed. The sexual revolution was a good thing—better sex lives and better communication about sex was an improvement over the ignorance and lack of communication that reigned before. Effective, reversible means of birth control was one of the great advancements of humanity—fewer children means healthier children and mothers. The welfare state is merely the formalized extension in an industrial urban state of the informal assistance that was given throughout history in small villages; we no longer have small villages and the informal networks (usually based on bloodlines) to provide a safety net (and societies that have a safety net advance—those that don’t collapse. societies that willfully abandon their people in need simply don’t survive). No-fault divorce is a better system than the “fault” based system that existed previously; especially for women like myself who were physically abused, but not to the extent of being able to “prove” it (I maintain one shouldn’t have to remain married to an abusive spouse, even if the abuse doesn’t rise to the level of permanent physical damage; and since abuse happens in private—no witnesses—no-fault provides a great escape hatch. Mind you, abuse isn’t rare; this blog quoted an Oklahoma survey on marriages that ended in divorce where 40% of the women surveyed claimed domestic violence as a factor in their divorce. No-fault is also a great solution for a cheating spouse—dump him/her!)

    As for the changing moral values, I’d say moral values haven’t changed at all in practice—women’s emancipation provides a checks-and-balances to the “moral values” set. When the platitude says “be faithful”, but the practice remains “be discreet about the mistress”, the ability for a woman to leave a marriage in which her husband disrespects her keeps the system honest—gets rid of the hypocrisy. When two people are standing on equal ground, “moral values” has to mean “moral values”, and not the abuse of power by those who hold the reins.

    In other words, like everything else, whether marriage survives is a question of power. If power is shared, as in an egalitarian marriage, it will survive. If it isn’t, it won’t. Other human institutions throughout history have been moving toward power-sharing (witness: the fall of monarchies, the rise of representative democracy). Marriage will follow suit, or it will disappear—and be replaced by the informal means of pair-bonding that existed prior to formal marriage (recognized by the church and state).

  24. kisarita says:

    I strongly oppose the “protectorate” model of marriage and yet I oppose gay marriage for unrelated reasons. I would agree with La Lubu that marriage must be an egalitarian institution or it will not survive. S
    till there remains one gender role that is not passee, and that is reproduction. Nor it is a hierarchal model. That is why I see women’s rights and gay marriage as two totally separate issues.

  25. anonymously says:

    LaLubu, I agree. Marriage is being redefined out of existence. The reasons for it (ensuring paternity, protecting vulnerable women) are increasingly irrelevant. But not totally irrelevant. Many women still need the support, financial and otherwise, that marriage provides. And having access to male resources raises their standard of living.

    As Peter said, the redefinition of marriage took a leap forward with the advent of no-fault divorce (though there were changes before that as well). Making marriage gender-neutral may redefine marriage out of existence altogether, though. That is, marriage as we know it.

    The interesting paradox here is that, if my predictions come true, many of those “incidents” of marriage so desired by same-sex couples (community property, health insurance, presumption of fatherhood so there is no need to adopt a spouse’s biological child if it is conceived through donor gametes during the marriage) will, by virtue of same-sex couples’ inclusion in marriage, disappear altogether, as the underlying reasons for them will no longer make sense. (“Presumption of fatherhood” is incomprehensible when the other spouse is same sex). Marriage will change as it is redesigned to fit gay couples and straight couples, so that only the common denominators will remain. And I think that will result in a very different picture.

    So if Barry is looking for “demonstrable” harms as a consequence of the redefinition of marriage, these are some to consider as possibilities. That is, if one considers that such radical change in marriage is a bad thing. If one’s goal is not the preservation of marriage but the equalization of status between gay and straight couples, the price of that may be marriage as we know it.

  26. fannie says:

    I’m going to respectfully request the moderators here to check Marty’s accusations. He crossed a line with this comment directed at me and it was, quite frankly, really mean:

    “Most folks look for darn good reasons to remove a father from a child’s life, but I’m not sure your disdain for men is a good one.”

    I am in a same-sex relationship because I love my partner who happens to be a woman, not because I disdain men.

    It’s comments like Marty’s that remind me why I generally avoid participating in comment sections with the folks from Opine Editorials.

  27. David Blankenhorn says:

    Peter Hoh:

    I agree very much with what you say, about both the economic roots of marital decline and (especially) about “for life.” Thanks for the good comments.

  28. Marty says:

    I apologize for any offense Fannie, and of course I meant “your” in the general sense of anyone who deprives a child of a father for no better reason than that their partner “just happens to be another woman”, not you specifically. Obviously I know nothing about your family, and wouldn’t presume to.

    My comments are often of the “if the shoe fits” variety. If they don’t apply to you, they are not directed at you. Forgive me for any confusion.

  29. La Lubu says:

    Anonymously, I think its very important to remember that marriage is waning because it *doesn’t* provide the financial advantages you speak of for many people–it offers instead another financial challenge. Marriage isn’t on the wane for educated, professional, two-income couples—they continue to marry and stay married (and that’s a good example as any to why “the sexual revolution”, “birth control”, “women’s lib” is unlikely as meaningful factors in the demise of marriage—the stats reveal the proverbial “liberals” as being textbook examples of long, healthy marriages; further proof that egalitarian marriage is the only viable model moving forward).

    But for high-school educated couples, the picture is different. The jobs currently available to them don’t provide a family-supporting wage, opportunities for job advancement, benefits (such as pension or health care), job stability—or even full-time hours. None of the pragmatic, foundational benefits that are still considered “key” to marriage. At the same time, the culture outside those couples has not altered in a way to accommodate those couples—parents remain more willing to support *single* adult children (and their children), but not their child’s spouse. The federal poverty rate doesn’t take housing, child care, or transportation into account—leaving all but mothers on TANF with access to helpful benefits. Colleges don’t have many services geared toward married students with children; which makes it harder for struggling couples to work towards a way out of that struggle.

    Our changing global economy made the greatest impact on marriage, but it’s really funny how that gets left out (probably because people really got accustomed to things like “indoor plumbing”, “electricity”, “hospitals” and other benefits of industrialization and aren’t willing to give them up).

    Don’t mistake my words—I’m not in favor of abandoning marriage. I’m in favor of its evolution into an egalitarian model. That doesn’t seem to be the vision of marriage seen by most of the contributors to this blog—bloggers and commentors. When I read the outlook on what marriage is or should be by some here, it makes marriage sound like a coercive, odious, thankless, joyless endeavor that one undertakes as a social form of castor oil—bitter, but in some inexplicable way is supposed to be “good for you”. I think marriage can be something much better than that, and those long-married egalitarian liberals provide us with a model—a model that is just as applicable to same-sex couples as to opposite sex couples.

    (I think I’ve reached my comment limit. Be excellent to one another!)

  30. anonymously says:

    LaLubu, I am over my limit here, but I just want clarification.

    Correct me if I am wrong, but what I understood from your post was that you are saying that the redefinition of marriage to include same sex couples, turning marriage gender-neutral and therefore no longer including special privileges for women because of the imbalance between men and women, will result in a more egalitarian form of marriage and that therefore the changes that come with same sex marriage will be for the good of women. So that if “special protections” for women are eliminated, that will be a good thing.

    Is that what you meant?

  31. Marilynn Huff says:

    Marty I applaud you for saying mother’s should not deprive children of their fathers “for no better reason than that their partner ‘just happens to be another woman’.”

    I’d like to add to that by saying

    Mother’s should not deprive children children of their fathers for no better reason than that their partner just happens to be sterile and incapable of reproduction.

    Mother’s should not deprive children of their fathers for no better reason than that their partner just happens not to exist.

    Father’s should not deprive children of their mother’s for no better reason than that their partner just happens to be another male or just happens to be a female barren and incapable of reproduction or just happens not to exist.

    People should not deprive children of their mother’s and father’s for no better reason than being sterile or infertile or post menopausal.

    Parent’s should not sign agreements to abandon their parental responsibilities upon the birth of their children.

    State’s should not allow parents to abandon children conceived with clinical assistance.

  32. La Lubu says:

    Anonymous, I am also over my comment limit, but with the indulgence of our moderators I will respond.

    Marriage currently contains no “special protections” for women. The fact that some states (such as my own, Illinois) have laws that provide for equal distribution of assets that were earned during marriage (exempting inherited property, which belongs to the individual heritor, or assets belonging to an individual prior to marriage) is reflective of an egalitarian outlook toward marriage—that both spouses are contributing to and benefiting from their marriage, and if their arrangement is unsatisfactory to them and/or they are unwilling to come to a reasonable compromise, both are free to divorce without penalty.

    Whether we want to admit it or not, financial power is real power. Spouses who do not have financial authority in their marriage essentially have *no* authority other than at the literal whim of their partner. This leaves them with no bargaining power in their relationship—a very one-sided situation. It’s really curious how power-sharing is regarded as improving every other realm of human relations (government, education, economics, law, industry, the media, etc.), but as *destroying* marriage—that democracy improves every form of human relations except for marriage (as evidenced by sayings like “someone has to be The Boss” from proponents of authoritarian marriage.

    Clearly, some people on this blog have a vision of marriage as consisting of one partner being a breadwinner and another a homemaker. That represents a small fraction of marriages—the standard is the two-income marriage. So, that ship has sailed. People are already choosing dual-income marriages because it provides the optimum benefits for their family. Women’s (gainful) employment made marriages more egalitarian. This carries over into other practices as well; fathers in dual-income marriages are more involved parents and spend more time with their children. Fathers in dual-income marriages perform more household chores. Fathers in dual-income marriages are less likely to hold sexist beliefs—an important asset to consider when one is raising daughters!

    Our lives have already abolished the “separate spheres”. But still, economically privileged, politically powerful people want to emphasize those de-facto nonexistant separate spheres—witness the strong resistance to universal daycare despite its huge payback to the economy in the form of increased employment, or the resistance to healthcare that is decoupled from both marital and employment status.

    YES, women will be much better off on several measurable levels the more marriage evolves to a standard that assumes equal partnership and equal duties. It already has–egalitarian marriages are measurably, verifiably longer-lasting, happier marriages. Non-egalitarian, “traditional” marriages have a 300 percent higher incidence of spousal abuse. More equality means more fathers participating in their childrens’ lives—not being a little-known, vague entity on the sidelines.

    Equality improves everything—including marriage.

  33. Marilynn Huff says:

    Well I believe parents should be completely responsible for their children’s welfare whether they are married to each other or to other people – I even think they should remain completely responsible for their children if they never met before and have an off line agreement that one of them will abandon their child outside of court approved adoption. The one really scary thing about having my marriage break up is if I am injured and cannot care full time for my child, my husband, a good man and a good father will gladly take care of her full time at his house in a city 45 miles away from me. I’d have to let her go for her own good because there is nobody to care for me and for her. I would drown in a sea of tears if my time with her were reduced to visitation. But I cannot make him love me enough to stay even if he stayed he would not be nice to me or be faithful. Its just like that sometimes. So that is the one thing marriage does for the kid and the parent – that is concrete that can’t be done in two separate homes.

    Barry its absurd that civil marriage between two people of the same sex is not legally recognized. According to California code its a relational contract the object of which is to merge the assets and liabilities of two previously unrelated individuals there is nothing in the terms of this civil contract that requires people to reproduce with eachother or even to be biologically capable of reproduction with one another or even further out on a limb they do not need to be able to fool the state into thinking they are capable of reproduction together in order to merge their assets and liabilities. All of the other emotions and sacred covenant stuff that people feel about what it means to be married the cake topper the dress and the tux its all lovely and meaningful, the two parent opposite sexed picket fence got-each other’s-backs, having sex only with each other….great stuff but its not required in order to get married. If people want to hold themselves to a higher standard of care in their marriages than does the state, it is a free country and they should do it. In fact, most people do and most people don’t most people will then again most people won’t. The government should be concerning itself only with the object of the contract which is to treat income and assets of two people as if it were the income and assets of only one person for the duration of the marriage.

    The thing that many conservatives appear to be threatened by is that a woman’s name could appear on the birth certificate of her step child just because she’s married to the mother. Yes, I know stupid right? Who would put the name of a person who was not the father on the line where the father’s name is suppose to go? Straight people that’s who! Straight people that want to deny children the right to know their father’s because their mother’s are selfish and care more about their new husband’s than they do about their children’s feelings or the feelings of the childs actual father. To me its outright fraud, against the child first and foremost and against the state and federal government who use that incorrect information for health research and its very often fraud against the step father, when he is not a willing participant in the trick, he’s being lied to and forced to support another man’s child – oh and its fraud against the father and his family if they would have wanted to support the child and incorporate the child into their family as is the child’s birth right. So straight people abuse the State’s presumption that a woman’s husband is the father and sometimes when its discovered that the presumption is wrong, the state has allowed the error to go uncorrected. So those uncorrected errors are the crux of the whole legal argument that the presumption is not necessarily contingent upon biological relatedness, if the State allows unrelated husbands to remain named as father when they are not the fathers, then why not an equally unrelated woman? It is unfair. Its a helluva good argument. Instead of blocking same sex couples from getting married we should be blocking opposite sex couples from making a mockery of fatherhood. For Pete sake. Close the loophole for straights and gays and lesbians won’t’ be able to use it either. So simple. And it does not discriminate against anyone.

  34. David wrote:

    I don’t really have a prediction, and I certainly can’t talk about what is going to be an “objective and measurable” result of a future event any more than you or anyone else can.

    No one can objectively say what the future holds. But that’s not what I asked.

    Instead, I asked for your prediction. What do you expect will happen? And, more importantly, what would have to happen for you to say you were mistaken?

    My worry is that, 20 years from now, marriage as a social institution in the U.S. will be significantly weaker than it is today, including much higher rates of unwed child bearing and non-marital cohabition, which in turn will mean that each year a lower and lower proportion of U.S. children are living in a married home being raised by the father and mother whose union created the child.

    But why won’t you put your worry in the form of a testable prediction?

    As you know, Massachusetts has had legal same-sex marriage since May 2004. Do you predict that by May of 2024, the rates of unwed child bearing and non-marital cohabition in Massachusetts will have risen significantly faster than in demographically similar states without SSM?

    (For the record, I predict that in 2024, Massachusetts’ rate of unwed childbearing and non-marital cohabitation will not have risen significantly faster than demographically similar states).

    For better social science, of course, we’d want a larger sample size than just one state — but fortunately, we have a larger sample size. We can add Connecticut, Iowa, New Hampshire, Vermont, and probably soon New York and California to the mix.

    no matter how hard you try, you simply can’t go back with the tools of social science and empirically disentangle all the myriad possible causal factors in a complex social transformation of this sort and say with any level of confidence that “factor X caused X proportion of the social change in question.” It simply can’t be done.

    Is it possible to prove 100% causality? Of course not. But that doesn’t mean that it’s not possible to make falsifiable predictions.

    And we can rule out some things with a high degree of certainty.

    For instance, if I said proximity to skyscrapers increases the divorce rate, you couldn’t prove I’m wrong. Maybe proximity to skyscrapers does increase divorce, but the effects are small and impossible to measure because of the statistical noise of the hundred other factors that effect divorce.

    But what if I said that proximity to skyscrapers is so enormously damaging to marriage culture that skyscrapers should be outlawed altogether, and existing skyscrapers torn down? You could prove that I’m wrong pretty easily. The lack of any statistical correlation between skyscrapers and divorce (Illinois and NY have more skyscrapers and less divorce than most states) doesn’t prove that there’s no connection, but it does prove that any connection that exists is small enough to be drowned out by statistical noise.

    * * *

    David, having read your book, I know you believe that legal equality for LGBT is a good thing, and that the only reason you oppose marriage equality is that you believe it has harmful side effects.

    Which means that if you’re mistaken about the harmful effects of same-sex marriage, then banning SSM is a dreadful injustice to LGBT people, for no good reason at all.

    Since you’re intellectually serious, you must acknowledge the possibility that you’re mistaken.

    So how will you know if you are mistaken?

    That’s not a rhetorical question.

    If you’re not willing to make any testable predictions of your views, then you’ll never know if you’re mistaken. And then you’re taking a big chance that you’re doing something dreadful to LGBT for no good reason. Is taking that chance the morally serious thing to do? Is that something that a liberal advocate of gay rights should do?

    If, 15 years from now, rates of divorce and of unwed childbearing have shot up much faster in the states with SSM than in other states, I will know I’m mistaken about the effects of SSM.

    Even if I continue favoring SSM, I will be forced to move to different (and weaker) arguments.

    What would have to happen for you to conclude that you’re mistaken about the effects of SSM?

  35. Marilynn Huff says:

    WOAH! Breaks on! Barry, I’m a proponent of same sex marriage and all but I’m going to have to hop the fence and sit on the other side if there was not a radical shift in the way births are recorded and tabulated because we can’t count children born to married lesbians as children born in wedlock I mean the child is not a child of the marriage REALLY the child is born of a (non)relationship outside the marriage.

    I mean its just to blatent an error in the collecting and recording of information to gloss over on a legal technicality. The mother may be married but its not like the kid is her spouses kid.

    Oh we really must do something to stop the inaccuracies in recording children conceived outside of heterosexual marriages too. Those married women and men that buy gametes should not be counted as children born in wedlock either. This is too confusing it hurts my head.

  36. Responding to David’s second comment:

    “The Civil War was caused by slavery” is not a testable claim (although I also think that slavery was a primary cause of the Civil War). You can’t prove it or disprove it.

    “If New York legally recognizes same-sex marriage, then in 20 years New York’s unwed childbirth rate will have risen significantly faster than in states without SSM” is a testable claim. It can be proven, or disproven. And it says a lot about the anti-SSM position that almost no one on your side is willing to stand behind testable claims.

    * * *

    Regarding the “burden of proof,” there’s an interesting contradiction in your views, David.

    First, you say it’s not possible to really prove anything, when it comes to big social changes.

    Second, you say that “the party that wants to make a change has a higher… burden of proof. [...] I need to convince the court that pulling up all the trees on earth won’t do much harm, and that proof needs to be pretty clear and overwhelming.”

    So nothing can be proven. But changes shouldn’t be made unless the party wanting change can provides “clear and overwhelming” proof that their proposed change “won’t do much harm.”

    If we take your arguments seriously, we’d have to conclude that no large change, ever, should have been made.

    No “burden of proof” theory that leads to the conclusion that all change is wrong can possibly be acceptable.

    * * *

    I think that our default, in a case like this, should be equal protection of the law. If straight people get to have legally recognized marriages, then LGBT should have that, too. And to overcome that default should require a pretty high level of proof.

    (Incidentally, David, my conception of burden of proof is well-established in American legal traditions.)

    That said, one of the traits of the American political system is that change generally happens very slowly at first. So, for example, the Supreme Court’s decision in Loving v Virginia wasn’t a bolt out of the blue; by 1967, interracial marriage was legal in most states. If it had turned out that interracial marriage had visible, terrible side effects, that would have been well known by 1967, and Virginia would have been able to successfully argue that it had a compelling interest in forbidding interracial marriage.

    In effect, SSM proponents — contrary to what David is suggesting — have met a very high burden of proof before making SSM happen nationwide. We’ve tried it out. In practice. There is no higher level of proof available.

    And the prediction we’ve made — which is, that negative side effects (divorce, unwed childbirth, etc) either don’t exist or are too small to be detected by any reasonable measure — has come true.

    I think it’ll be ten or twenty years, maybe more, before SSM goes nationwide. There will have been plenty of time for detectable harmful side-effects to appear. If they do appear, then SSM opponents will be able to successfully argue in court that the government has a compelling reason to not recognize SSM. If they don’t appear, then I expect y’all will lose a lot.

    I don’t see why that’s an unreasonable burden of proof. You’re asking to do a lot of harm to other people’s families (while taking on no comparable sacrifice yourself), to make them forever unequal citizens, to institutionalize inequality in our legal system forever. You’re asking for all lesbian and gay kids, forever, to grow up without being able to think of themselves as fully equal, without being able to dream of forming a legally recognized family of their own someday.

    Why shouldn’t you have to prove that doing all that harm will do some good?

  37. Marilynn, yes, statistically adjusting so that the comparison makes sense is certainly reasonable.

    That said, I doubt enough babies are or will be born into same-sex marriages to make more than a trifling difference to the overall statistics. There are just so many more heterosexuals.

    EDITED TO ADD:

    By the way, I don’t want birth certificates fictionalized — in EITHER direction.

    If a child is born to two married women who are legally the babies guardians at the time of birth, then the birth certificate should say that. AND it should say who the father is, if known, and who the biological mother is.

    If a child is born, and its legal guardians are two adopted parents — a mother and a father — then it should say that on the birth certificate. And it should also say who the biological parents are on the birth certificate.

    That’s all true. And it all belongs on the birth certificate. I don’t agree with people who say the biological information should be omitted or lied about. And I don’t agree with people who say the legal information should be omitted or lied about, either.

    All of these things are relevant to the circumstances of the birth. And the child born, years from now, should be able to look at her own birth certificate and be confident she’s looking at a complete and honest record of the circumstances of her birth.

  38. David Blankenhorn says:

    Barry:

    Yes, if 15 or 20 years from now, a reasonable assessment of the evidence shows (it can never “prove”) that SSM has had little or no impact on the the current (2011) trends driving the deinstitutionalization of marriage, then I will know that my concerns circa 2011 were misplaced, and I like to think that I will have the courage at that time to say so, at that time. The fact that I am an advocate (as I see myself) of equality for gay/lesbian persons, and the fact that I’ve never been possessed of absolute certainty, might make it easier for me to say this, if the evidence justifies it, but I like to think (about myself) that I would do it anyway.

  39. David,

    Thanks for saying that. I think that’s a very reasonable position.

  40. R.K. says:

    Barry,

    I, too, think David’s position is a reasonable one, and it’s basically mine as well, though I’d put it at about 20 to 25 years from now, to be on the cautious side, in the Netherlands.

    Of course, it would also be reasonable for you to agree that if in somewhere in the vicinity of 15 to 30 years, if a reasonable assessment of the evidence shows (again, it can likely never “prove” in any Euclidean sense) that SSM has had a negative impact on marriage, or the broader culture, then you will agree that my concerns and the concerns of others circa 2011 were not misplaced.

    The first thing I’d be looking for is if or when the cultural perception of marriage moves from the first stage—one of marriage being an opposite-sex union for the majority, and a same-sex union for the gay minority—to the next stage, a perception of marriage just being a union between two of either gender for the whole population. It is more specifically the latter perception which I think will have radical and likely negative effects on marriage and culture. Now, maybe that is not so easily measurable but I think it can still be detectable if the shift to the second perception does take place.

    From here you are sure to ask: so what, even if that does take place, what will be the harm? First I just want to note that I think the “ballgame” will really start when this perception change occurs, most likely when the first generation of children raised under this perception grows to adulthood. After this point we can see what harms do or do not occur, be they (or be they caused in turn by) a decline in the marriage rate, a rise in the out-of-wedlock birth rate, a precipitous decline in the birthrate itself, a precipitous rise in the percentage identifying as homosexual, a rise in bisexual experimentation among the young, a devaluation of friendship, a devaluation of the importance of mothers or fathers, a loss of respect between the two genders, a “frontline” developing between heterosexuals and homosexuals, a paradoxical increase in hostility toward homosexuals, a frontline developing between the culture initiating SSM and related changes and newer immigrant cultures not so ingrained in it or its corollaries, an excess obsession with matters of sex, a disconnect with history and past generations due to the ultimate devaluation of tradition, a loss of motivation, even (yes) an increase in divorce at a later point (though this is not so far up the list as is supposed), and the list of possible effects is not exhaustive.

    Note, I am not saying that I am predicting that all or even most of these effects will occur. I would not be at all surprised if many occur, and would highly bet that some will occur. Are they measurable and objective? To varying degrees, I think so, although perhaps not in the Euclidean sense that many are demanding. Can the link between SSM as a cause and these possible effects be proven afterward? Perhaps far more so with the benefit of hindsight than with prescience, but even then, certainly not in a Euclidean sense. Should we hold cultural and social cause and effect analysis to a Euclidean standard of proof? Absolutely not, for reasons that David has explained, this is absurd.

    Now, if SSM proponents have ideas how it could be legally recognized but not have the effect of changing the cultural perception of marriage from the first stage above to the second, I’d be all too happy to try to find common ground with them.

    Many—even many who oppose SSM—find the idea that it might lead to cultural collapse too extreme and beyond serious discussion. But is this more due to a belief that Western culture is so firmly established that the idea of cultural collapse for any reason is beyond serious discussion? For my part I will not categorically dismiss the idea that any action—or, for that matter, inaction—within a culture could conceivably have ripple effects which could contribute either partly or greatly to the collapse of the culture. It’s just a matter of sensing that no culture is going to be eternal.

  41. marilynn says:

    RK
    I am absolutely alone here in my ultra conservative belief in total and absolute disclosure of biological parents identies and do not believe that mothers and fathers are ever replaced by anyone under any circumstances, coupled with being supportive of same sex marriage because I don’t give a damn what other people do for fun really so long as it does not interfere with my fun. I think naming step parents on birth certificates is fraud and if the step parent is also the same gender as the parent its no longer fraud its a slap in the face to all that is good and logical. So I’m on the fence, there are lots of people I care about banging the drum against same sex marriage and I really respect those people but I’m not hearing them give me that reason that would make it ok for me to be against it.

    Can you expand upon some of this ripple effect you mention
    like”
    1. You said that there would be a decline in the marriage rate and I want to understand what you mean by that and why. If all of the States got together and said legally recognized marriage must be between a male and a female and any current same sex marriages would cease to have legal recognition do you think the marriage rate would remain fairly unchanged over the next thirty years or would it increase or would it decline? Recognizing marriages between same sex couples would necessarily increase the marriage rate because lots more people would be getting married. How could it decrease if lots more people are getting married. Do you think an increase in the marriage rate is good or bad?

    2. You said there would be a rise in the out-of-wedlock birth rate. I agree with you on this one but its tricky because there would be more people getting married but women in those marriages having babies would be doing so out of wedlock if that is the right term, the same way straigt women who conceive with anonymous men from fertility clinics do. The rate of out of wedlock births would increase but so would the number of inaccurately recorded statistics on this topic.

    3. a precipitous rise in the percentage identifying as homosexual. Well people who are on the fence about their gayness will always err on staying in the closet. If they really are gay, yes it will be a safer environment to be themselves when its more widely accepted. That is good thing in my mind. It won’t turn people gay.

    4. a rise in bisexual experimentation among the young. Why would I want to stop people from having a good time?

    5. You said a devaluation of friendship – this one I do not get at all you’ll have to explain this one slowly so I can read your lips. Also a loss of respect between the two genders. I don’t get that one either.

    6. a devaluation of the importance of mothers or fathers, This I get totally and it increases the number of parents who will seek to step on their children’s mother’s and fathers with their same sex partners. But there is an erosion of the importance of mothers and fathers that is rampant with heterosexuals now its pervasive with adoption, especially international adoption and with the foster system broken taking children away from their families that want them that should be helped to become better parents if anything. With the way we say being unmarried and pregnant is throwing your life away or that poor women staying home to take care of their children have failed themselves, their communities and their race. The way people are expected to delay parenthood until marriage but people are expected to delay marriage till they are done with school. Women start trying to have a baby in their thirties when they are at the tale end of their reproductive lives, if they miss that window they clamor for babies anyone’s babies and they say biology is irrelevant. Mother’s and Fathers are worthless in our culture now the only thing that seems to count is the people who pay to manufacture. Oh its the whole culture that has devalued parents, its not just gays and lesbians.

    Just hit every point again and explain it. I’m interested in what you have to say.

  42. fannie says:

    This is my fourth comment, but it seems like maybe the 3 comment rule is enforced sporadically?

    If I may, I’d like to put forth that what is considered a “harm” is hardly a universal. Marliynn kind of touches on this too but, for instance, RK lists some possible harms (I’ve bolded where he calls them harms), but it’s pretty debatable whether some of them would be harms at all (I’ve also bolded the ones that are debatable):

    “After this point we can see what harms do or do not occur, be they (or be they caused in turn by) a decline in the marriage rate, a rise in the out-of-wedlock birth rate, a precipitous decline in the birthrate itself, a precipitous rise in the percentage identifying as homosexual, a rise in bisexual experimentation among the young, a devaluation of friendship, a devaluation of the importance of mothers or fathers, a loss of respect between the two genders, a “frontline” developing between heterosexuals and homosexuals, a paradoxical increase in hostility toward homosexuals, a frontline developing between the culture initiating SSM and related changes and newer immigrant cultures not so ingrained in it or its corollaries, an excess obsession with matters of sex, a disconnect with history and past generations due to the ultimate devaluation of tradition, a loss of motivation, even (yes) an increase in divorce at a later point (though this is not so far up the list as is supposed), and the list of possible effects is not exhaustive.”

    I appreciate that RK and David take the reasonable position of being willing to change their minds on this issue if the harms they believe might happen do not ultimately come to pass. I too would be willing to change my mind on the issue if I were convinced that the legalization of same-sex marriage were, say, dividing men and women or heterosexuals and homosexuals gay people.

    But I certainly don’t see it as a negative that more people might identify with being gay, lesbian, or bisexual or that homophobia in immigrant cultures might be challenged.

    My point is that given that we’re unlikely to come to agreement about what is harmful and what is not… well, I question whether many of us would actually change our minds in the end.

    Anyway, personally, I’d be content with civil unions if my partner and I could receive the federal benefits of marriage. It seems like a fair compromise.

  43. admin says:

    Barry has asked — and I have agreed — to allow more than 3 comments per person on this post. I like to be nice every now and then. ;)

  44. fannie says:

    LOL. Thanks admin :-)

  45. ki sarita says:

    david and barry;
    on measureability of social issues whatever they may be,
    I think the trail of court decisions serve as a quantifiable, measureable tracker of the non-quantifiable non-measureable aspects of social change.

  46. ki sarita says:

    I might add that most laws are passed with far less “measurable,evidence” than that which you propose, even in issues where quantitative data is much more relevant than in the qualitative field of social change. Last year’s mandatory flu vaccination for New York health care worker’s come to mind.

  47. R.K. says:

    Thank you for responding, Marilynn and Fannie, and sorry I was unable to get back to you sooner.

    In response to Marilynn:

    1. A rate is, of course, not the same thing as an absolute number. In looking at whether the marriage rate has declined we’d be looking at the number of marriages per:
    a. the total population
    b. the number of persons of marrying age
    c. in comparison to the number of couples living together total, married or not, and that being:
    d. among heterosexuals
    e. among homosexuals
    f. a total of both
    or
    g. the number of households with children.

    So far, the rate of marriage among gays once SSM is passed has not been very large, so if we were to look at rate f. it is not at all clear that that will increase and, if current trends continue, it will even decrease. The other really important rates to look at, though, will be rates d. and g., as they most relate to children. It is these rates going down that I am particularly talking about. Why might they go down? Well, for just one it is possible that once marriage has lost its gender specificity (and with it its heterosexual symbolism) it will become a mere legal thing and lose much of its attraction to enough heterosexuals to lower the rate.

    2. I’m actually talking about the out-of-wedlock rate among heterosexuals, which relates to point #1, but you are right in pointing out the addition of an entirely different category of out-of-wedlock births, if so counted.

    3. Oh, I know I’ll get an argument that this is not a bad thing, if the percentage of homosexuals in the population were to go up. To a degree, that’s true. Beyond a certain degree, however, let’s all get real here. If homosexuality were to increase to some level vastly higher than it is it would start to indeed affect the birth rate enough to thus affect the population replacement rate. If we achieved a homosexuality rate of 50 percent, for instance, this would likely mean that for the population not to decrease heterosexual women would have to have a lot more children, which in turn would affect career choices among those women.

    Now, I know most will say that a 50 per cent (or even 25, 30, or 40 per cent) homosexuality rate just is not possible. With 50 per cent, I’d tend to agree, it’s not likely for the population as a whole, but there would still be a lower percentage which would be enough to seriously affect the replacement rate.

    There is a second aspect to this which I think is much more immediate. This is that the rate of homosexuality will increase so much in certain fields that it will indeed achieve actual or apparent majority status in those fields, as it already has or is in the process of doing so in certain fields such as (among males) ballet, fashion design, figure skating, choreography, theater (particularly stage), and (among females) folk singing, softball, etc. Why is this a concern? Well, because what happens is that if a particular field achieves such a high rate of homosexuality that it is perceived (rightly or wrongly) to be “mostly gay” by the public heterosexuals start to avoid the field altogether. The particular areas which I think are of concern are in arts and academics. I do not think it would be a good thing at all if heterosexuals simply phased out of the areas related to arts and academics. This will only exasperate the effect of a “frontline” forming between gays and straights.

    4. Well, this is related to the question of whether or not a lot of premarital sex in and of itself is good for marriage or society. On this, the evidence is anything but closed in favor of those who contend that it’s harmless to marriage or society. As for a huge increase in bisexual experimentation among the young, yes, this also relates to point #5.

    5. What I’m saying is that the value of friendship as a comfortably non-sexual relationship may be damaged by the sense that it even may become a sexual one. In a parallel way to how familial relationships are damaged by the sense that they might become sexual ones. Note what I am not saying, this is entirely different from saying that SSM causes incestuous marriages via a slippery slope, or that SSM supporters secretly want that.

    To quote Gabriel Rosenberg, who strongly supports SSM:

    “The problem remains, though, one of role conflict. If sexual relations were permitted with close kin that would sexualize such relations. Siblings, for example, could no longer be as close with the knowledge that it was legally permissible for a sexual relation to develop whether or not such a relation actually develops. Similarly the knowledge that a spouse is legally permitted to develop a sexual relation with another inhibits the development of a close relationship between the married couple. I should note these harms occur for all, even those opposed to such relations. Permitting homosexuality does similarly affect the relationships between men (and those between women). The effect is not so significant, though, because unlike adultery and incest it’s not interfering with the more important family relationships. It only affects general social relationships like business contacts.”

    However, substitute “business contracts” for “friendships” and it’s more clear what I’m getting at—and what Rosenberg is missing in his otherwise excellent point.

    6. In regard to this, I’d just point out you don’t refute a concern about a future bad effect by in effect asking “it’s already bad enough so so what if we make it worse?”

    To Fannie, in regards to the areas you highlight which I have not covered in my response to Marilynn:

    1. A precipitous lowering of the birthrate at the same time that we are increasing life expectancy to a significant degree indeed has troubling economic implications, unless we also extend the minimum retirement age for Social Security significantly. And this is not the only concern with low birthrates. Let me put it this way, this may well be the number one reason why the Netherlands will likely not only no longer allow same-sex marriage within a few decades but why it may be far different in many other ways as well. Relates to #2.

    2. You question whether “a frontline developing between the culture initiating SSM and related changes and newer immigrant cultures not so ingrained in it or its corollaries” would be such a bad thing because you “don’t see it as a negative….that homophobia in immigrant cultures might be challenged.” But you’re just assuming a couple things. One being that in such a cultural clash, the “Western” culture is always going to prevail. Also, that other cultures should just roll over and adopt our values because we ask them to. What I was getting at as the particular harm here was not that immigrant cultures might adopt the ideas of the “Western” culture, but that their resistance to doing so and the resulting cultural clash in and of itself is a major concern. True, there are cultural practices in regard to the treatment of women and gays that I’d very much like to see changed in immigrant cultures. But I think we are asking way too much if we expect them to go all the way to every new “norm” that has developed among Western societies in only the last couple of decades. They will likely resist if we try to change them so much that it shakes their whole cultural identity, and the clash itself is the harm I’m getting at in this.

    Thank you again for your considerate and respectful responses.

  48. I’m headed to Montreal for a week (mix of business and vacation), and so I suspect that I won’t be able to participate in this thread again, unless it’s still going when I get back. Stay well, everyone, and have a nice week!

  49. R.K. says:

    Have a nice and safe trip, Barry, and take care.

  50. marilynn says:

    RK thanks for answering my questions you really did a good job of extrapolating on your original statement. I’m working on actually listening to what people have to say when they have different views than mine. Its hard for me to really listen, but its valuable. I want to understand why there is such opposition to recognizing the legal component of marriage when the spouses are not two different genders.

    I think in a nut shell your saying that too much homosexuality will lead to the human race just sort of puttering out. There is something in that fear that resonates with me because I also fear that the human race will just sort of putter out, only I fear that the problem lies in the attitudes and behaviors of heterosexuals and homosexuals equally by embracing this idea that genetic kinship is irrellevant and encouraging mass reproduction of a single person, multitudes of brothers and sisters isolated from each other as well as from their paternal relatives and or maternal relatives. I think its a little easier for me to put forth the argument that those reproductive practices can be measured, but it does not make my opinion any more popular than yours.

    So I feel your concern that the world is going to hell in a hand basket. While I still believe that fair and equitable treatment under the law should be extended to same sex couples wishing to marry, I’m glad you took the time to answer and I’m glad I listened thank you.

  51. marilynn says:

    Oh and RK I do now understand that your saying marriage will basically be less special to straight people making it just a legal thing and so they’ll not bother to get married and then they’ll still be having sex and getting pregnant er go the spike in births to unmarried mothers.

    Did I get that right? If I did get that right, then the legal thing that it will become is pretty much all thats on the books as far as the object of the agreement. The deeper meaning which I agree marriage has to most people including myself stuff like being faithful and all that, its not actually officially part of what the state puts its nose in. I mean its there as a spiritual thing but its not something the state gets involved in legislating I don’t know that they would be successful if they tried. My beef with leaving the gender requirement on the books in my state is that it does not operate within the context of the agreement as defined by the state, so what is the point and can the state really justify maintaining that requirement if the purpose it serves is an unwritten tradition that is not currently mandated as part of civil marriage. Again I’m not saying this traditional formula does not exist and that people won’t find breaking with tradition offensive but its kind of like saying A guy has the right to only hire hot secretaries even though there is no reason why the same job could not be done a dowdy woman or a man for that matter. Maybe a man is a better analogy I don’t want to imply that gay people are to straight people what dowdy old women are to hot chicks. So lets just say a guy wants a sexy secretary and and he turns down a well qualified guy for a marginally qualified chick with killer legs. They don’t let that happen anymore. I mean employers have to discriminate fairly based upon the requirements of the job even if traditionally a guy likes to have beautiful women working for him. So you see? Its just hard to justify when the requirement to be met falls outside of what the law actually covers.

    Anyway tell me if I got the unwed birth rate thing right. The birth thing is what I am mostly interested on this blog for anyway.

  52. ki sarita says:

    RK since I believe that most of us have the innate capacity for bisexuality, and only become one way or the other through early social conditioning (at the same time as we learn gender), I take your idea very seriously that homosexual behavior could eventually proliferate to the extent that it would compete with reproductive sex.

  53. ki sarita says:

    I also believe the marriage rate will decrease among heterosexuals, at it will become less meaningful to them.
    Marriage will become more of a beaureaucratic procedure that is all about particular legal and financial arrangements, and less of a lifecycle event.
    People will decide to marry based on whether the financial aspects fit their particular economic situations. And many will decide that it doesn’t.
    Religious ceremonies that retain the gendered concept of marriage and the inherent reproductive implications, can offset this to a certain extent but that doesn’t do anything for people like me who don’t adhere to a particular religion.

  54. Chris says:

    There is a second aspect to this which I think is much more immediate. This is that the rate of homosexuality will increase so much in certain fields that it will indeed achieve actual or apparent majority status in those fields, as it already has or is in the process of doing so in certain fields such as (among males) ballet, fashion design, figure skating, choreography, theater (particularly stage), and (among females) folk singing, softball, etc. Why is this a concern? Well, because what happens is that if a particular field achieves such a high rate of homosexuality that it is perceived (rightly or wrongly) to be “mostly gay” by the public heterosexuals start to avoid the field altogether. The particular areas which I think are of concern are in arts and academics. I do not think it would be a good thing at all if heterosexuals simply phased out of the areas related to arts and academics. This will only exasperate the effect of a “frontline” forming between gays and straights.

    R.K., you can’t possibly be mistaking such a juvenile attitude for a serious concern. As you said, there are already fields that certain people (mostly insecure high school boys) avoid because they are considered “too gay.” The solution to that is for those people to get over their own immaturity and do what makes them happy; the solution is not to say, “Yeah, you’re right, there are too many gay people up in this mix.”

    It also makes no sense that further acceptance of gays would make people more likely to avoid certain fields out of homophobia. Further acceptance would make people less likely to care about the dominant orientation of their field, not more likely.