A Civil Discussion About Civil Marriage? (Yes, mostly.)

06.08.2012, 11:54 AM

I had the privilege of sitting in on the conversation between Maggie Gallagher and John Corvino last night (ably facilitated by David Blankenhorn) at the Center for Public Conversation. (There was wine! Perhaps that helps explain why the conversation was so civil?) I just want to toss a few thoughts at you — after I briefly introduce myself. (Here’s a slightly more self-aggrandizing bio.)

I’m a law professor who teaches Family Law, a writer (for law journals, but also for publications that people actually read, like Slate, and for a couple of blogs). I’m especially interested in civil unions, and am working on a book about what they might mean in the long-term. Meanwhile, I’m under contract (with co-author Carrie Stone) to write “Same-Sex Legal Kit for Dummies” (under the lash; the complete manuscript is due next month). I met Elizabeth Marquardt in April in Chicago when I was speaking about the effect of opposite-sex civil unions (they exist in Illinois!), and that led to this stint. I’m excited to be here, and await your comments over the next couple months. I will be mostly be writing about civil unions. Not today, though!

Back to the event: Corvino and I used to be site-mates (is that a word? it is now…) at the late, lamented 365gay.com. We’d even briefly discussed teaming up to do a column together just before the site shut down last year. We’ve kept in touch, so when he invited me to this event, I was excited to attend. It was nice to actually meet him in person, and it was also good to meet…Maggie Gallagher.

Gallagher and I had exchanged emails several years ago (in what I’d describe as a mostly collegial way), and we’d engaged each other across the blogosphere on her position on civil unions (you can follow the back-and-forth here, if you have too much time today), but we’d never officially met (even though we were both panelists at a marriage symposium last year). So we did. And we had a nice conversation. Really. This wasn’t the side of her that I’ve often seen on cable news shows, where I’ve often given consideration to whether I can afford the new television I’d need after hurling any handy object at the screen.

We talked a bit about the book (“Debating Same-Sex Marriage”), but quite a bit more about our families — well, OK,  mostly about mine, because her story (and, I’d venture, a not-small part of her decades-long marriage crusade) is by now well-known. (Single mother who learned, the hard way, about the fact that sex and procreation can’t be separated and about the need to provide social and legal support for marriages, so that fathers stay.)

My situation poses perhaps the hardest case for her traditionalist position. One strategy she uses in the book to defend against the argument that allowing same-sex marriages would be good for the children of those marriages is to minimize the number of children being raised in what she thinks are “qualifying” situations (not the children of remarried parents, for example). But I’m one of the “qualifiers”: my partner and I adopted twin girls from the Philadelphia dependency system, but only after fostering them from infancy until they were two years old. It’s hard to see a good argument for denying us the kind of legal and social stability that would support our children, and, really, Gallagher doesn’t try to deny that our kids might be better off were marriage available to us. But she thinks the costs (to society) greatly outweigh the benefits.

I have a couple of responses to this.

First, for someone who claims that her principal argument against marriage equality is non-consequentialist (same-sex marriages are intrinsically “a lie” and are “unjust”), her willingness to go hammer-and-tongs into this kind of utilitarian argument is striking. And hers is a peculiar kind of utilitarianism, because it weighs actual harm to existing families (like mine and many thousands of others) against the speculative, long-term harm she fears (and explains, quite well, in the book) to the institution of marriage if same-sex couples are given the keys to that kingdom.

Second, I must say, in fairness, that one of the three core arguments she makes against marriage equality is the best one I’ve seen. Not successful from my point of view, but at least coherent and worthy of serious discussion. I’m going to do a fuller book review soon, so this is just a taste of that review. Here, as I see them, are her three central points:

  • Marriage “means” the union of a man and a woman, in much the same way that “mother” means “the person who bears the child with her body.” So when we try to change these kinds of definitions, we’re paltering with language. There’s so much wrong with this argument that my brain is frozen, paralyzed by too many devastating rejoinders. Stay tuned for the book review to read in amazement as they unfold.
  • If marriage equality comes to town, then opponents will have to get out by sundown, or be shot (throught) by the accusation of bigotry. For about sixty-eight reasons, I find this argument both offensive and weak. It should never again appear in print, be spoken, or be the subject of interpretative dance (although the issue of how to accommodate religious and other conscience beliefs is a real one, as I discussed in a series of posts you can find here).
  • By restricting marriage to the union of a man and a woman, society sends a number of mutually reinforcing messages — all of which are important to the maintenance of civil society: Sex makes babies; sex and procreation can’t be reliably separated; mothers and fathers matter. She fears that allowing same-sex couples to marry will have a long-term, slow-drip effect on these messages, and that the cost is just too high to bear.

This last argument is the only one that has any traction with me, even if I ultimately found it unpersuasive . You’ll have to read the upcoming review to find out why, but for now let me say that I think society is capable of more complex messaging than Gallagher allows, that people understand that different factual situations call for different solutions, and that expanding the definition of marriage to accommodate same-sex couples is in fact more consonant with our contemporary understanding of the institution anyway (and that the broader understanding is an advance).

Am I usually this wordy? Unfortunately, yes. But typically I do a better job of reining myself in. Let’s see how well I manage myself here!

23 Responses to “A Civil Discussion About Civil Marriage? (Yes, mostly.)”

  1. Greg Popcak says:

    I would agree that society is capable of very complex messaging. In fact, society is capable of complexly messaging itself into just about anything. That begs the question of whether the message is good or bears healthy fruit for society.

    As one who has, on more than one occasion, been called a bigot, not for any lack of love for homosexual persons, but simply because I oppose same-sex marriage (because it is inconsistent, in my view, with the history and purpose of the institution), I disagree that the second argument is weak. That’s simply an ignorant statment. Most recently, a court decision stating that a photographer who did not wish to photograph a same-sex wedding ceremony was told by a judge that the Ku Klux Klan is not a protected class while sexual minorities were. The implication of course, was that the photographer was a bigot and did not have a right to participate in society. If you think same sex marriage opponents will not be persecuted, respectfully, you have your head in the sand.

    Finally, that same sex marriage is more consistent with the contemporary view of marriage is exactly the problem. The push to protect traditional marriage is not at all limited to same-sex marriage. The push to re-educate the public of the nature of marriage is all about the fact that the contemporary view of marriage is completely wrongheaded–long before the gay marriage debate raised its head. if marriage really is just a civil validation of a private commitment, then to hell with it. We don’t need it at all. Marriage, exists, not to validate the individual couple, but to secure certain promises from the couple for the benefit of society. Even in the hapless state of current affairs, traditional marriage continues to provide those benefits. Gay marriage cannot. Therefore, gay marriage isn’t marriage in any meaningful, historical sense. It’s only marriage in a post-modern, individualistic, symbolic sense. And if that’s all it is, then to hell with the whole institution because it doesn’t have any meaning at all.

  2. John Culhane says:

    Greg Popcak: The New Mexico photography case you refer to unfolded in a state that does not recognize same-sex marriages.So they’re not the problem, the anti-discrimination law is.
    On the other issue: I think you set up a false dichotomy between the traditionalist view and a post-modern one. The latter isn’t “just” individualistic, and about rights/symbols (although it’s often seen that way, largely as an artifact of litigation and the politics involved). It’s about the importance of (ideally) permanent, sexually intimate relations not only for the couple, but also for their children (as pointed out, not only straight people are raising kids) and for the broader society.

  3. Luis Garcia says:

    I echo Greg’s sentiment regarding the dismissal of the “2nd Argument”. I took some time to peruse the author’s article wherein he purports to put that issue to bed and, unfortunately, could not find the relevant passage. That being said, I did notice that said article was written in 2009 and predated the more recent events to come out of the Obamacare legislation wherein Religious Liberty has been assaulted.

    As a Protestant Christian I find it hard to engage with those who share my ultimate view on same-sex marriage but argue from the position of the philosophy of language and/or historic precedent, or tradition. I also don’t understand the strategy of making utilitarian arguments against it. While I firmly believe that same-sex marriage will have negative utilitarian effects I don’t see how restricting it will generate positive utilitarian effects when, as Greg points out, marriage in general is in such poor condition. I think these approaches are made to try to sway those who do not share the convictions of our Faith and I think, in the end we make a weaker argument. I would like to see my Faith brethren come clean about the real motives of our resistance: that according to the biblical record acts of homosexuality are immoral. The real challenge is not finding a way to hide this truth but rather, finding a way to speak this truth in love. The same we would when dealing with those who struggle with lying, stealing, or committing adultery.

  4. John Culhane says:

    Your argument, whatever its religious merit, has no place in a secular society. You need properly public, non-religious reasons to oppose marriage equality. Otherwise the question becomes: “Whose religion governs?”

  5. Luis Garcia says:

    Hi John,

    I can appreciate the practical merits of your decision to dismiss my post in such a terse manner but, fortunately for me, your declaration lacks authority. I understand that you may not be swayed by a biblical argument but there are many people who believe the Bible has something to say about this issue and that, in and of itself, makes the argument “public”. Furthermore, who says that I need a “non-religious” argument to participate in this conversation? Secularists have been duping Christians into thinking that they are limited to secular language for too long. The irony is that we’re already in a debate about “whose religion governs”. I’m just advocating that we stop trying to hide that fact and start having an honest discussion about it.

  6. Amy Ziettlow says:

    Welcome John! Love your voice and content. As a classical ballet afficionado I must say that interpretative dance should be outlawed as general rule, especially if the chasse’s, step-touch to grape vine followed by enthusiastic jazz hands (although I will redeem jazz hands as a fun gesture outside of dance) are bigoted! All dance joking aside, I look forward to reading more from you.

  7. nobody.really says:

    Welcome, John Culhane! I look forward to reading his stuff.

    For what it’s worth, I share Culhane’s assessment of Gallagher’s three arguments. I characterize her third argument as the Brand Name argument: “Marriage” is a brand name for an institution that provides important social benefits, and we should be careful in tampering with the public’s perception of the brand. People who say that marriage and family are immutable institutions are simply wrong – and that’s PRECISELY why we need to tread carefully when we tamper with these institutions. These institutions have mutated tremendously over the years … often badly. In particular, consider the decay of black households, and low-income households, and low-income black households, and…. Because rand names operate in a world of fuzzy associational thinking, not rational cause-and-effect logic, I strive to maintain a measure of humility in my discussions.

    For what it’s worth, I value consequentialist reasoning. While on balance I favor state recognition of same-sex marriage, I strive to take seriously concerns over unanticipated consequences. The needs of homosexuals – even virtuous, worthy homosexuals – cannot trump the needs of social stability. After all, a homosexual couple that lacks state recognition in today’s America will be better off than a married homosexual couple in an America that is crumbling for lack of social cohesion. Fairness is a value, but not the only value.

    I sense Garcia and Culhane are speaking past each other. I understand Culhane to observe that Garcia’s argument is unlikely to persuade anyone who is not already persuaded. As such, the argument doesn’t function as an argument.

    Let me add that, I don’t find Garcia’s argument persuasive even if I share Garcia’s stated concerns:

    [A]cts of homosexuality are immoral. The real challenge is not finding a way to hide this truth but rather, finding a way to speak this truth in love. The same we would when dealing with those who struggle with lying, stealing, or committing adultery.

    And the way we deal with those who struggle with lying, stealing, or committing adultery is by withholding state recognition of their marriages? No. No, we don’t.

    Face it: Homosexuals have sex whether we like it or not. If you could control homosexual sex by withholding marriage rights, then the Bible would have had no need to discuss homosexuality at all, right?

    I don’t have to like or approve of drug use to recognize the benefits of methadone clinics. I don’t have to like or approve of insolvency to recognize the need for laws governing bankruptcy. I don’t have to like or approve of marriage dissolutions to recognize the need for laws governing divorce. I don’t have to like or approve of murder to recognize the need for laws governing crime. I don’t have to like or approve of armed conflict to recognize the need for laws governing war. All I have to do is recognize that we need laws to deal with the world as it is – not as I might like it to be.

    (Heck, St. Paul didn’t like or approve of HETEROSEXUAL sex. But he recognized the need for institutions for dealing with people who were hooked on it.)

    People form couples. They acquire property. They raise kids. They borrow. They pay taxes. They get sick. They break up. They die. For better or worse. Over the millennia we’ve developed a lot of institutions for dealing with these facts. Most of these institutions have NOTHING to do with sex. And most of these institutions would seem to apply equally well to a homosexual couple as to a heterosexual couple — if only we would let them.

    Don’t like homosexual acts? Feel free to decry them – as you might decry drug use, bankruptcy, divorce, crime, war, or even heterosexual acts. But the question of whether we need laws governing a circumstance is entirely distinct from whether we like the circumstance, or whether God approves of the circumstance. They’re simply unrelated issues.

  8. fannie says:


    “I’m just advocating that we stop trying to hide that fact and start having an honest discussion about it.”

    As a lesbian in support of marriage equality, I would be thrilled if more people on the anti-SSM side just outright, openly, and honestly acknowledged those often-unspoken religiously-motivated sentiments that “acts of homosexuality are immoral” and that gay people must be “dealt with” in the way that those who “struggle with lying, stealing, or committing adultery” are dealt with.

    It only confirms what many of us already know.

    Anti-LGBT/anti-homosexuality religiously-based animus does still exist, and it does exist as a basis for many people’s opposition to same-sex marriage.

    I contend that many opponents of SSM have publicly abandoned such religiously-motivated arguments at least in part because much of the general public find such arguments hostile, uncivil, and rather repugnant.

    I further contend that many people- people that opponents of SSM are trying to convince, and convince that they aren’t at all bigots- view such statements about the “immorality” of homosexuality and its “parallels” to other “sins” as existing along the same spectrum as the likes of Fred Phelps.

    That many SSM opponents, especially those who oppose it for a living, now publicly make secular arguments against SSM seems to be a conscious political strategy.

    Would others, especially those of you who oppose SSM, agree?

  9. Chris says:

    I don’t think nobody.really was agreeing with Luis Garcia’s bigoted position on gay individuals. In fact, NR used the words “even if,” so I think he or she (sorry I can’t remember) was saying that the conclusions don’t follow even if the premises are accepted.

    I’d go further and say that Biblically speaking, it is not clear that God views a loving, monogamous same-sex relationship as a sin.

    But as John Culhane and others have correctly pointed out, the great thing about America is that we don’t base our laws based on ancient scripture. We are a pluralistic society, and we have to respect religious differences. It’s…kind of in the Constitution.

    Luis Garcia, if you want to convince people who do not share your particular religious beliefs (and I’m not even talking about just non-Christians, as a growing number of Christians do not agree that homosexuality is a sin), you are going to have to make secular arguments.

  10. Matthew: Your comments are consistently violating our civility policy. You may not use this site to attack or bully or belittle other people. You have to be nice. Attacking our civility policy, or attacking the people who seek to administer it, is also a violation of our civility policy. You are already way over the line. If you continue along these lines, you will be banned.

  11. Hi, Fannie. You contend:

    That many SSM opponents, especially those who oppose it for a living, now publicly make secular arguments against SSM seems to be a conscious political strategy.

    Would others, especially those of you who oppose SSM, agree?

    Well, I think it’s clear that many Americans, including many who opose ssm, and including many people who are religious, believe at least on some level that homosexual conduct is morally wrong. I used to be such a person. I no longer am. I do not believe that anyone who believes this is a morally bad person.

    You may be right that some or all people who “for a living” oppose ssm on secular grounds are doing so only as a “political strategy,” but I ask you to recognize that you are here making a direct accusation of bad faith. (They say one thing, but what they REALLY believe is something quite different. They do this sneaky thing because that’s how they make their living).

    I’ve become a fan and regular reader of your blog (Fannie’s Room) and on that basis I venture to suggest that, if someone at Fannie’s Room were to accuse YOU in such a direct way of acting in bad faith for base reasons, you would not take it lightly. You might even, apropos of your most recent post, seek an apology!

  12. fannie says:


    I’m glad you read my blog and like it. You are certainly welcome to comment anytime :-)

    Regarding my previous comment. I will repeat:

    “That many SSM opponents, especially those who oppose it for a living, now publicly make secular arguments against SSM seems to be a conscious political strategy.”

    I choose my words here very carefully.

    I emphasized “seems to be” to note that I was not making an accusation of bad faith, I was making a suggestion- a conjecture, an argument about what the strategy might be for some people- and asking others, specifically those who oppose SSM, whether or not they agreed.

    If I was 100% sure about the matter and wanted to outright accuse people of anything, I would have just directly said something like, “It’s obvious that SSM opponents use secular arguments as a concerted political strategy.”

    I’m not looking for “gotchas.” I’m just trying to have an honest conversation and to hear where other people are coming from, particularly those who oppose SSM.

    I can and have apologized when I’ve been out of line on Internet, but I don’t believe an apology from me within this conversation would be appropriate here.

  13. JeffreyRO5 says:

    Oh boy, I’m sure I’ll get in trouble, but here goes. There is ample evidence that the motivation behind denying gays and lesbians equal legal rights for marriage are less than virtuous. The evidence I know of includes:

    1. Recently revealed documents from NOM explaining their strategy of pitting blacks and gays against each other, drawing on a cultivated rivalry over whose struggle is the “real” civil rights struggle, and hoping to coax gay people into a verbal onslaught against unsupportive blacks.
    2. Taped evidence, per the transcript, from the Prop 8 trial where several witnesses acknowledged they don’t like or approve of gay people.
    3. Religious groups and practitioners brazenly and shamelessly advocating for fewer parenting opportunities for gay and lesbian people, because they are likely to be pedophiles.
    4. Comments across the internet, accompanying any article about same-sex marriage, where someone decries same-sex marriage because of some negative characteristic about gay people, and often with a recommended course of action, including killing them.
    5. Specific strategies aimed at “prettifying” what same-sex marriage advocates must be admitting is an ugly motivation. For example, NOM’s website advises same-sex marriage opponents not to say they oppose same-sex marriage but rather, to say they support traditional marriage. The website explains that, in words, “we don’t want to appear that we’re against gays.” And why don’t you want to appear that you’re against gays, if in fact, you are?

    It would be enormously useful if opponents of same-sex marriage could come up with rational explanations for why the government must not give marriage licenses to same-sex couples. That would go a long way toward eliminating the need to second-guess what the motivations of same-sex marriage opponents are, and whether those motivations are virtuous or vicious.

  14. Chris says:

    I think it is clear that not just some, but many opponents of SSM oppose it out of animosity toward gays, yet use more acceptable arguments in certain contexts. A glance at the comment thread on any article posted by NOM can confirm this. (Heck, NOM’s entire campaign confirms this.)

    That said, I think it is also clear that David Blankenhorn is not one of these people. And I feel that way because Blankenhorn has stressed, many times and in no uncertain times, that he does not believe that “homosexual conduct is morally wrong.” He is one of the only vocal opponents of SSM that I have ever seen make this proclamation, and I commend him for it.

    Another thing that is clear is that Blankenhorn’s position is rare among SSM opponents. Even though many others do not assert directly that homosexuality is immoral, I do not think it is irrational to assume that unless they directly state otherwise, they probably do believe that homosexuality is inherently immoral, and that this belief strongly informs their opposition to SSM. I think this is a warranted assumption given the impossible-to-miss bigotry that pervades much of the debate. If someone vocally opposes SSM, and does not believe that gay people are intrinsically immoral, I believe they have a moral responsibility to make that clear. If they don’t, then they are contributing to the hostile climate against LGBT people that exists today.

  15. JeffreyRO5 says:

    Given the obvious and widespread animosity towards gays and lesbians, and how this animosity influences public opinion about equal legal rights for gays and lesbians, I’d like to see familyscholars.org devote more attention to discussing animosity towards gay and lesbian people. What’s the basis of the animosity? Is it fair? Does society have any basis for denying legal rights to groups it doesn’t like or doesn’t approve of? What is the legal basis for denying legal rights to groups that a majority doesn’t like? Why are gays and lesbians singled out for legal discrimination on marriage, when others (say, murderers, or serial divorced persons, like Newt Gingrich and Rush Limbaugh) are not?

  16. I want to remind everyone again that attacking this site’s civility policy is a violation of that policy and is not acceptable.

  17. Phil says:

    I’m wondering if it’s possible to request that the person who commented about–and I’m paraphrasing because I read the comment on my phone briefly–animosity in form vs. substance (or something like that) could rephrase their thoughts in a way that doesn’t include a reference to the civility policy? I thought, in briefly reading it, that they had an interesting point, and I’m sad that I can’t remember exactly what was said.

    With regard to both civility and motivation, John Culhane makes an interesting and subtle point:

    First, for someone who claims that her principal argument against marriage equality is non-consequentialist (same-sex marriages are intrinsically “a lie” and are “unjust”), her willingness to go hammer-and-tongs into this kind of utilitarian argument is striking.

    In other words, if a person says that same-sex marriage is intrinsically wrong, they may undermine that position by engaging in arguments about consequences, effects, etc. If they aren’t acknowledging that their core argument/belief is undermined by their engaging in arguments about consequences and effects, then they are being intellectually dishonest.

    Here’s an example:
    Let’s say I am a member of a committee looking to hire a new employee for an important job at my firm. A seemingly qualified candidate is up for the job, and I tell the other committee members that I have serious reservations about her qualifications because I do not believe the college at which she earned her degree is accredited.

    Another committee member, taking me at my word, finds irrefutable evidence that the college she attended is, in fact, accredited and is equal in every relevant way to colleges that our firm finds acceptable. At this point, I reveal to the rest of the committee that we still should not hire this applicant, because I have previously had a sexual relationship with her and I do not think that I can work alongside her.

    In this example, it may or may not be that I genuinely, honestly thought her education was insufficient. The reality is that the previous sexual relationship trumps the educational concerns, and thus it renders the educational concerns irrelevant. I knew when I was making that argument that it was irrelevant, and this is proven by the fact that, once that argument has been successfully refuted, I still do not change my position.

    By making an argument that I personally knew to be irrelevant to my own position, I was being intellectually dishonest to the other members of the committee.

    I think that this happens all the time in the “marriage debate,” though it strikes me that it is far more common among opponents of SSM. If, as Culhane writes, Maggie Gallagher’s principal argument against marriage is non-consequentialist, then when she engages in an argument about consequences, we must either interpret this as acknowledgement that her non-consequentialist argument is flawed, or as an act of intellectual dishonesty.

    I would contend the following: if you knowingly make an argument that you personally know to be irrelevant, you are being intellectually dishonest. For example, if you bring up a type of evidence, and you know (even if no other human being can know) that you would not change your position no matter what the evidence shows, then you are lying to your opponent and your audience.

    So, for example, if you believe that God has banned same-sex marriages and you are duty-bound to oppose their legalization because of God’s will, then it is dishonest for you to write a column where you claim that same-sex marriage should be opposed because children raised by same-sex couples fare worse than other children. If you were presented with irrefutable statistical evidence to counter your claims, that would not change God’s will.

    I hasten to add that it’s not just anti-SSMers who engage in this type of dishonesty. The pro-SSM crowd often bring up the trope, “The correct interpretation of the bible does not condemn gay relationships!” While many pro-SSMers may find that relevant, for many of us, it is a red herring. There is no “correct” interpretation of the bible, or the Quran, or any other sacred text–and if there were a correct interpretation, that would matter not one whit to me with regard to my position on same-sex marriage. All sacred texts, and all religious beliefs, are irrelevant to whether SSM should be legal, and–in my view–it is intellectually dishonest to pick and choose as a way to placate opponents.

    This is one reason that I find charges of “hypocrisy” to be irrelevant time-wasters. It may be fun, in a gossipy sort of way, to point out that an SSM opponent has been divorced 5 times, or that an anti-SSM advocate never travels with her husband and doesn’t use his last name. But even if the individuals in question had never been divorced, or had a more typical spousal relationship, they would still be wrong.

  18. JeffreyRO5 says:

    Phil, I posted the comment about incivility being composed of two kinds of transgressions, those of form and those of substance. I don’t know why it’s missing.

    I think the former are name-calling and ad hominems; the latter are knowingly spreading falsehoods or discredited generalizations about a topic, such as when same-sex marriage supporters claim that children need a mother and a father, knowing full well that denying marriage licenses to same-sex couples does nothing to ensure that children have a mother and father. Whether same-sex marriage is legal or illegal, single parenting remains a viable choice for some, as does same-sex parenting. But it sounds appealing and who can argue against children having mothers and fathers?

    I also think the call to civility is a debating tactic in itself: accuse the opposition of being uncivil, and by association, their argument must be deficient.

  19. Luis Garcia says:

    Hi Folks,

    I really like Phil’s post above. I think he has communicated very clearly what I was trying to communicate in my first post, though seemingly from the other side of the fence.

    I have read all of the subsequent responses to my first post with great interest, including some of those that have been deleted and I would like to make one observation regarding civility. A fair amount of these posts contained the terms “bigot” and “animosity”. While I wasn’t surprised to see terms like these employed I was still disappointed. None of the responders on this board know me and yet many felt very comfortable arriving at the conclusion that I was a bigot who is actively hostile towards homosexuals. Again, the irony is that the term bigot requires me to be “obstinately or intolerantly” devoted to my view and yet, my view has been the least tolerated so far.

    As it happens, I don’t hate any of you who have a different view than me, including those living a homosexual lifestyle. I love you. I live with you. I eat with you. I share life with you. I understand that must be hard for many to believe but it’s true. My participation on this forum was aimed at broadening the discussion. I believe I have an intelligent, rational worldview and I would love to discuss it with any who are interested, though this is my third post which I think is the limit.

  20. nobody.really says:

    Let’s try that again:

    A review of the form, rather than the substance, of arguments:

    I don’t think nobody.really was agreeing with Luis Garcia’s bigoted position on gay individuals. In fact, NR used the words “even if,” so I think he … was saying that the conclusions don’t follow even if the premises are accepted.

    That’s accurate. I don’t think Luis Garcia needs to reconsider his views on homosexuality in order to reconsider his views on the merit of states recognizing same-sex marriages. He has a viewpoint that homosexual acts are immoral. I argue — I think cogently — that the relationship between homosexual acts and marriage is pretty tenuous. By your late 40s you may find that the relationship between heterosexual acts and marriage have grown tenuous, too, but that’s another topic. 

    Yet I feel sympathy for the subtext of Luis Garcia’s comments: Approval of same-sex marriage will be perceived as governmental approval of homosexual acts. Now, we each may have our own opinions about homosexual acts — but that’s not the issue here. The issue is, should government be in the business of pronouncing a viewpoint on this issue?

    I believe in the 1st Amendment’s Establishment Clause: to the greatest extent practicable, government should stay out of the religion business. Thus, I have the general opinion that government should strive to stay out of the business of telling people what is good or bad, what should be valued and what should be shunned (unless government has a bona fide governmental interest in doing so). Let me be blunt: I think people have a constitutionally-protected right to dislike homosexuals and blacks and Jews and Catholics and foreigners and women and whathaveyou. I want government to defend my rights. But I do not have any right to the approval of my neighbors, and generally it’s not the role of government to secure such approval on my behalf.

    I feel conflicted about Phil’s comments above. In his Rhetoric, Aristotle wrote about various forms of persuasion, including ethos (credibility of the speaker), pathos (compassion for the subject), and legos (reason). If someone argues from ethos – asking you to rely on his judgment as a basis for making your judgment – then withholding the basis for his judgment reflects bad faith. But if someone makes an argument based on compassion or reason, then the fact that the speaker has ulterior motives should not be relevant. The speaker is not the issue; the issue is the issue.

    Thus, Luis Garcia may have a religious motive for opposing same-sex marriage. But that should not stop him from trying to find some common ground with me as a basis for encouraging me to oppose same-sex marriage. And if he can identify reasons why MY values would prompt me to oppose same-sex marriage, why should I care that he does not share my values? He is not the issue.

    And here’s the irony: Many of the arguments supporting same-sex marriage involve appeals to compassion. If I later learn that the people making these appeals were being paid to do so, so what? The compassion is warranted, regardless of the merits of the speaker.

    That said, I also feel uneasy grounding arguments for same-sex marriage merely on compassion for virtuous, long-suffering same-sex couples. Truth is, I’m sure there are plenty of lousy same-sex couples, too. Just as there are lousy heterosexual couples. The merit of the people involved is really not relevant to my understanding of the issue, and I feel that arguments emphasizing those merits are kind of manipulative.

  21. Chris says:

    As it happens, I don’t hate any of you who have a different view than me, including those living a homosexual lifestyle. I love you. I live with you. I eat with you. I share life with you. I understand that must be hard for many to believe but it’s true.

    Luis, if you had opened by stating that “sexual acts between two people of different races is immoral,” would you expect the above quote to satisfy those who feel targeted by such a position? Would you expect people in interracial relationships, or those who support such relationships, to see you as any less bigoted?

  22. JeffreyRO5 says:

    “Thus, I have the general opinion that government should strive to stay out of the business of telling people what is good or bad, what should be valued and what should be shunned (unless government has a bona fide governmental interest in doing so).”

    Exactly. By denying marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples, the government is taking a position that gay and lesbian committed relationships are unworthy of legal recognition, which is telling people what is good or bad. And there is no rational purpose for the government to have a negative opinion about same-sex relationships. There are definitely rational government purposes to treat same-sex relationships in the same manner as it treats different-sex relationships, legally: well established equal treatment under the law doctrine, furthering the “normalization” of gay and lesbian people and their relationships, and thereby reducing discrimination and even violence against gays and lesbians, and creating a normalized family situation for children being raised by gays and lesbians.

    “Yet I feel sympathy for the subtext of Luis Garcia’s comments: Approval of same-sex marriage will be perceived as governmental approval of homosexual acts.”

    Exactly. Homosexual acts are normal, and therefore should not be disapproved of by the government. If by “not disapproving” you want to take that as “approving,” so be it. The government certainly doesn’t approve or encourage divorce by making it legal and providing the rules and regulations for how you can do it.

    There is little genuine merit in demanding that the government official support your personal prejudice against a minority. Fortunately, our government has shown little interest in helping to institutionalize personal prejudices, especially with regard to fundamental rights.

    People of faith are free to hate gay people, teach their children to hate gay people, preach sermons on how society should hate gay people, even when gay people are allowed to marry. Certainly, the Westboro Baptist Church has taken advantage of this religious freedom, haven’t they?

    It is an odd notion, and quite troubling, that it is permissible to withhold legal rights from minorities we don’t like. There is no biblical basis for altering the law to conform to perceived biblical demands, and there is no constitutional support for it. So why are we doing it?

  23. [...] over at the Family Scholars blog, where I’m guest-blogging for the next few months. My first entry, posted this past Friday, drew a nice crowd of commentators. (Although the overly fussy civility [...]