Gov and Marriage

Over the years, I’ve found plenty of areas where I disagree with the libertarian view. Too much of what they propose is pure anarchy, stripping government down far beyond the minimum necessary to function. So it goes with most libertarian arguments for removing state influence from marriage or eliminating all restrictions as to who is able to participate in it.

At the core, marriage is a contract. In any other contract, the state is necessarily involved should one or more parties to the contract fail to fulfil their obligations. Proposing the elimination of government influence in marriage contracts is to say that might makes right. This law of the jungle approach is both unpalatable and impractical. This is especially so when there is no written contract in place. There must be a definition as to what defaults apply in these cases. There is a strong case that since the state will be dragged into the conflict resolution process, we must accept that government will be involved in marriages.

In the midst of this, some present the argument that marriage should be available to any two loving adults who wish to form this contract. However, if we test this law against the extreme of incest, it falls flat. In fact, you’re very unlikely to find any advocates of same-sex marriage asking that we repeal any incest laws. So we have to ask: why do we accept this restriction and do not consider it an infringement upon equal protection? I see only one of two possibilities: the overwhelming majority thinks it has a sufficient “ick” factor to be outlawed or we accept that reproductive viability is a key part of endorsing relationships. In either event, we’re likely to accept that government has the proper authority to declare some couples as unable to get married.

We must ask, then, what conditions we will set upon who can and cannot enter into a marriage contract. In order to do so, we need to look at the purpose of marriage. Modern sensibilities tell us that self-fulfillment is a primary goal of marriage. While that may be a positive effect of marriage, such selfish goals are hardly the purpose. No, the purpose of marriage is and always has been to create a stable environment for the raising of children with both a male and female parent. Any other benefit that comes from marriage is a nice side effect, but it is not the goal. Because we place very high societal value upon the successful raising of children, we provide numerous benefits to married couples to promote that end. Is it, then, unfair to not extend the same benefits to same-sex couples?

Some of these things are already available via other legal instruments. For instance, a living will can easily grant inheritance, no probate disputes and hospital visitation rights, . Tax breaks are available to anyone with dependents, so it is already a universal benefit. And what of health insurance? That’s a matter of negotiation between employer and employee. So what benefit is left that is being denied by restricted marriage to heterosexual couples outside of a certain degree of consanguinity? I’m hard-pressed to think of any.

Given this, I’ve only been able to come to one conclusion as to what the goal is: to force societal recognition of same-sex relationships as healthy and normal using the force of law. Despite protestations that such things will not occur, I have seen little evidence that once marriage is attained, the lawsuits to force churches, businesses and individuals to similarly provide this recognition aren’t far behind. It’s telling that the same group who says that it won’t happen is also unwilling to codify such protections into law. It betrays their real purpose and motivation.

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38 Responses to Gov and Marriage

  1. Paul Mero says:

    Well-said…and a part of the broad debate that the gay community does not have an answer to.

    Now, get ready to catch heck. That’s their MO.

  2. Kristi says:

    I wonder if a large enough vocal group could sue their way into making 1+1=3 using equality as an argument. That’s what I feel like is happening when I’m told it’s “normal” to be gay. Screw science and biology, we need more acceptance.

  3. Tom says:

    See the good (although at times nearing hyperbolic) DesNews article:
    http://deseretnews.com/article/1,5143,705265699,00.html?pg=1

  4. numberless says:

    Disclaimer: I am not a proponent of gay marriage or, frankly, any marriage as far as the government is concerned. I’m one of those “marriage should only be contractual” people.

    Mind you, I have a broader explanation of problems as I see them written here, however there are some things specific to your arguments that I wanted to point out. Also, given who I’m sure is going to respond on this blog, I figure making some statements that are LDS specific is appropriate.

    You make an extremely dangerous argument in your position. Here’s what you state:

    At the core, marriage is a contract. In any other contract, the state is necessarily involved should one or more parties to the contract fail to [fulfill] their obligations. Proposing the elimination of government influence in marriage contracts is to say that might makes right. This law of the jungle approach is both unpalatable and impractical. This is especially so when there is no written contract in place. There must be a definition as to what defaults apply in these cases. There is a strong case that since the state will be dragged into the conflict resolution process, we must accept that government will be involved in marriages.

    Your argument is the kind of argument that the government can stretch to involve itself in practically anything. Basically you’re saying, “Look, if there is a dispute over X that could or would end up involving government resolution, the government has a compelling interest in regulating X.” We have a right to contract. It’s one of the most basic and important rights that was maintained and carried over from English law. The government is only involved in a contract when a party has violated their obligations.

    Enforcing contracts is one of the most basic reasons for a government to exist. “We The People” have the government around for that. It does not make it a party to any of the details of the contract or a cosigner or an interested party in any way. If the possibility of government intervention was all that was necessary to meet the idea of a “compelling state interest,” what couldn’t the government involve itself in? You could make the argument that the government could license and regulate gun rights, free speech rights, press rights or religious freedom by proving only that it might have to deal with prosecuting a tort involving the use of those rights. They could say, “Sorry, you cannot distribute any written materials without paying a tax and getting a permit from the government as written materials may contain libelous statements that someone might sue for and thus we’re an interested party.” Or worse, “Your children may commit a crime or cause damage resulting in civil action being necessary, therefor…”

    If marriage were strictly contract law, as it should be, then there would be no special courts, no special rules and no special anything. You have a contract between two people who have clearly and explicitly defined the parameters of their relationship. Custody battles? They’re way simpler when you have a contract defining penalties for particular acts than leaving it up to a judge to decide. There’s no more complaining about unfair rulings by a jury since, if they follow the contract you can have a clause like, “in the event of adultery, the guilty party forfeits all custody and property rights and all joint property is transferred to the other party.” Or something similar.

    There is no long court battle. There aren’t tons of deliberations. There was a contract and the rules are clear. A marriage contract reduces the amount government intervention required in a violation of the contract when compared in the murky waters of today’s ad hoc marriages with a sort of default contract that means different things in different states. Marriage should have nothing to do with the state anymore than any other kind of contract, whether it be the terms and conditions of buying a car or lawn labor.

    One of the biggest problems with marriage in this day and age is the lack of contracts. As far as I’m concerned, until a marriage has a contract, the government should treat it like any two people living together. We no longer live in a society where cohabitation is illegal for people who are not married. How does the government deal with those people when there is a dispute over who owns what property and other such disputes? What about if they have children?

    The government has restrictions currently on who can enter into a contract. Namely, you have to be at least 18 and mentally competent to do so. Furthermore, you must be a willing party for the contract to be enforceable. These are reasonable and are nondiscriminatory. (You can argue the age thing I suppose, but that’s not the issue before us.)

    Do you really think the government ought to begin making more rules for who can and cannot choose to contract with one another based on the content of the contract? And if they can, where is the line set, who defines that line and where did they get the authority to do so? Are you telling me that, suppose I stay single my whole life and choose not to engage in a romantic relationship that I can’t confer upon my best friend who may be of the same gender all the rights as a spouse as far as being next of kin, joining property, giving hospital visitation and, more or less, contracting that person in as a family member?

    If I can’t, why not? If I can, then what does it matter if two people of the same gender do the same if they are also romantically involved?

    The problem with “gay marriage” is significantly more complicated than contract law though. In a perfect world, marriages of any kind would only concern themselves with the government when there were contractual disputes. A man and a woman, two men, two women, one man and five women, ten men and seven women or whatever.

    I find it absolutely hilarious watching Mormons attack gay marriage and reading the arguments. It reads like the rational the USA used when banning polygamy. Polygamy was even referred to as a “heathen” act by the US government. What’s wrong with polygamous relationships? I have no problem with them, but someone somewhere decided that sort of thing is “un-American” and has made it illegal.

    Modern sensibilities tell us that self-fulfillment is a primary goal of marriage. While that may be a positive effect of marriage, such selfish goals are hardly the purpose.

    Who are you to tell anyone what the terms of their marriage ought to be? Is your religion allowed to dictate the parameters of someone else’s marriage? (I mean, it is in this society, which is precisely the problem.)

    The purposes may very well be selfish or convenience or anything else. Should the government be allowed to set up a tribunal and have a review necessary before two people can get married. I’ll tell you what, 80-year-old wealthy men won’t be shacking up with 25-year-old blonds anymore! And that’s a big problem I have with the crowd that’s opposed to gay marriage–they never hold heterosexual marriages to the same standards and paint homosexuals as nothing but selfish deviants.

    Let me say, once again, that I am in no way in favor of extending “marriage rights” to homosexuals. However, I’m not in favor of “marriage rights” existing at all. They don’t belong anymore. There are no cohabitation laws and people have children outside of wedlock all the time. Marriage, in the government sense, is a lazy man’s way of paying a license fee and receiving an ambiguous set of rules and contractual agreements from the government and not writing his own.

    Some of these things are already available via other legal instruments. For instance, a living will can easily grant inheritance and hospital visitation rights. Tax breaks are available to anyone with dependents, so it is already a universal benefit. And what of health insurance? That’s a matter of negotiation between employer and employee. So what benefit is left that is being denied by restricted marriage to heterosexual couples outside of a certain degree of consanguinity? I’m hard-pressed to think of any.

    So, except for a few minor things that don’t mean anything to you but seem to mean a lot to them there’s nothing dissimilar.

    In the midst of this, some present the argument that marriage should be available to any two loving adults who wish to form this contract. However, if we test this law against the extreme of incest, it falls flat.

    No, it doesn’t. In my old ward there was a married couple that were brother and sister. Mind you, they were adopted, but the fact of the matter is that they fell in love and got married. Incest laws exist, why? Their progeny have a number of health problems that create an unreasonable burden on society. Suppose, in 10 years, we can fix these genetic problems. Would incest still be bad? Would it be a sin? Is it a law placed on us by God because it’s “evil” or is it bad in the same sense that eating pork was forbidden? Not to mention, the argument against incest falls flat when comparing it to homosexuals marrying since, technically, those two people can’t spawn anyway.

    Given this, I’ve only been able to come to one conclusion as to what the goal is: to force societal recognition of same-sex relationships as healthy and normal using the force of law. Despite protestations that such things will not occur, I have seen little evidence that once marriage is attained, the lawsuits to force churches, businesses and individuals to similarly provide this recognition aren’t far behind. It’s telling that the same group who says that it won’t happen is also unwilling to codify such protections into law. It betrays their real purpose and motivation.

    This is where you hit the nail on the head… sort of. It is about societal recognition–and let me add that this wouldn’t be an issue if all marriages were contractual since there would be no recognition to fight for. The idea that homosexuals can sue churches and religious organizations is the problem should gay marriage become accepted. Furthermore, the idea that businesses can be sued, etc. is also a problem. However, this begs the question of how and why this is even possible.

    The problem isn’t gay marriage. The problem is that marriage is licensed and, as such, for churches and religious groups to do “proper” marriages they have to get permission from the government. Funny, I didn’t know God or the church gave them that authority. However, the church capitulated under the weight of the ignorance of its own members to comply, just like they did when the church told the members to eschew socialism and avoid government schools in Utah or like the ancient Israelites did when God told them not to have a king but they wanted one anyway.

    So let’s place the blame where it belongs. Stop pointing to the gay bogeymen who wish to transform every last person on earth into a flaming queen and look at a government that’s broken from top to bottom and a throng of religious hypocrites who will march and gather signatures to stop the homosexuals all while supporting an unconstitutional foreign war and while paying their tithes to the IRS and perhaps collecting their socialist social security when they’re older.

    I could get into the history of marriages, marriage laws and marriage licenses in the USA, but the bored among you can look it up for yourselves. (Hint: marriage licenses began because of racism and trickled down to everyone so the government could turn a profit and get more involved that they used to be.)

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I really wish I lived in a country that was in such good shape that getting gay marriage was the biggest challenge facing us. Before I get to addressing a few of the comments here, I want to include a copy of the church’s official statement on the matter (all added emphasis is my own):

    Since Proposition 8 was placed on the ballot in June of this year, the citizens of California have considered the arguments for and against same-sex marriage. After extensive debate between those of different persuasions, voters have chosen to amend the California State Constitution to state that marriage should be between a man and a woman.

    The Church teaches of the importance of the sanctity of marriage between a man and a woman.

    Voters in Arizona and Florida took the same course and amended their constitutions to establish that marriage will continue to be between a man and a woman.

    Such an emotionally charged issue concerning the most personal and cherished aspects of life — family, identity, intimacy and equality — stirs fervent and deep feelings.

    Most likely, the election results for these constitutional amendments will not mean an end to the debate over same-sex marriage in this country.

    We hope that now and in the future all parties involved in this issue will be well informed and act in a spirit of mutual respect and civility toward those with a different position. No one on any side of the question should be vilified, intimidated, harassed or subject to erroneous information.

    It is important to understand that this issue for the Church has always been about the sacred and divine institution of marriage — a union between a man and a woman.

    Allegations of bigotry or persecution made against the Church were and are simply wrong. The Church’s opposition to same-sex marriage neither constitutes nor condones any kind of hostility toward gays and lesbians. Even more, the Church does not object to rights for same-sex couples regarding hospitalization and medical care, fair housing and employment rights, or probate rights, so long as these do not infringe on the integrity of the traditional family or the constitutional rights of churches.

    Some, however, have mistakenly asserted that churches should not ever be involved in politics when moral issues are involved. In fact, churches and religious organizations are well within their constitutional rights to speak out and be engaged in the many moral and ethical problems facing society. While the Church does not endorse candidates or platforms, it does reserve the right to speak out on important issues.

    Before it accepted the invitation to join broad-based coalitions for the amendments, the Church knew that some of its members would choose not to support its position. Voting choices by Latter-day Saints, like all other people, are influenced by their own unique experiences and circumstances. As we move forward from the election, Church members need to be understanding and accepting of each other and work together for a better society.

    Even though the democratic process can be demanding and difficult, Latter-day Saints are profoundly grateful for and respect the ideals of a true democracy.

    The Church expresses deep appreciation for the hard work and dedication of the many Latter-day Saints and others who supported the coalitions in efforts regarding these amendments.

    (The original can be found here.)

    As a country–and this is everyone, not just the throngs of Judy Garland lovers and Elton John impersonators–we’ve developed what I call the “Burger King mentality” when it comes to our rights, that being the “your way, right away” mentality. For instance, in Las Vegas, voters passed a law banning smoking in all eating establishments (except, of course, for the big casinos who were the ones behind passing the law).

    I heard no shortage of people say, “I have a right to eat in a smoke free environment.” And that’s true, you do. That environment is your home. As a business owner, I should be able to choose who I cater to, period. If I want to allow smokers to dine and smoke, that’s my decision. If people choose not to eat there based on that, it’s a consequence I have to deal with. Likewise, if I want to create a smoke free eatery, I can choose to and deal with the other consequences. Frankly, if I want to not allow blacks (and I’m being hypothetical here, I don’t endorse this sort of behavior) to eat at my place it should be my choice. It’s my business. But, like all business owners, I also have to deal with the financial consequences of such a decision.

    The point is that I do not have a right to tell a private business owner that he has to accommodate me. I can request it and if that business owner wants my business, he will accommodate me. People are constantly conjuring up new rights and then applying them in places they don’t belong. You don’t have a right to welfare, a smoke free eatery owned by someone else or your favorite hamburger just the way you like it from any establishment you visit.

    This mentality, however, is the norm and I gotta tell ya, the gays aren’t doing anything that everyone else isn’t. They just want their piece of the pie. That pie, however, is the problem.

    On a final note (before I get the comments), even amongst the most liberal of my religious friends, I hear this all the time, “In theory, I have no problem with gays getting married, but I know that it will end up being acceptable to teach in school and so I have to oppose it because I don’t want my kids learning that.” So, let me get this straight, you’re accepting a government (“public”) benefit but only a certain slice of the population should be portrayed as acceptable? Gays don’t pay the taxes that pay for schools?

    Oh yes, let me add if you do, shame on you for sending your children to government schools anyway. (Please read a little before branding me insane. Unless, of course, Ezra Taft Benson was also a loon.)

    Now the comments…

    @Paul Mero:

    “Well-said…and a part of the broad debate that the gay community does not have an answer to.”

    Although it is well said and the author certainly attempted to back up his position, there are plenty of answers to his points. (Not even being on the “gay side” of the issue, I did fine.)

    “Now, get ready to catch heck. That’s their MO.”

    It’s “catch hell,” okay? The word “hell” is used in pretty much every major Christian religious text there is. I promise that God will not come down and smite you or even add negative check marks to your afterlife score card for using it in the proper context. You would “catch hell” because the idea is that someone would be bringing the literal fury of the negative side of the afterlife to you. It’s not vulgar. It’s not swearing. It’s not evil to say. Furthermore, you don’t sound like a complete git when you use the proper word. (On that note, seriously, considering you mean exactly the same thing, what does it matter what word you use? Do you think if you mean something that God might find offensive that changing one word is going to sidestep anything? If idea is vulgar, don’t say it. If it is, sidestepping like that is worse than swearing because it implies that you’re trying to get away with something.)

    Also, “their” MO, is probably the same as if, say, you were LDS and read an article talking about Joseph Smith Jr. being a con man, a phony and a treasure hunter who created a religion purely as a vehicle for him and his buddies to shack up with a bunch of wives. I have some feeling you might make the person perpetrating such things that would clearly offend your sensibilities “catch heck.”

    @Kristi

    I wonder if a large enough vocal group could sue their way into making 1+1=3 using equality as an argument. That’s what I feel like is happening when I’m told it’s “normal” to be gay. Screw science and biology, we need more acceptance.

    What defines “normal”? The societal majority? In your mind that can’t be the case since you’re complaining about large groups suing. I presume, since you point to “science” and “biology” that you mean that the “natural order” defines “normal.”

    If that’s the case, it’s at least as “abnormal” to be monogamous as it is to be gay. Of course, our “natural urges” could define normalcy. So if someone is biologically predisposed to homosexual behavior and acts on it, is that abnormal? Or is it abnormal when a person quells his natural urges in light of some philosophical belief? (And guys, I’m sorry, the act of homosexuality may be a “choice” but what a person finds attractive isn’t. Some people are predisposed. That’s life. Call it a genetic abnormality or what have you, but if you’re not afflicted, you might want to get off your high horse.)

    I find this amusing because this is likely coming from someone whose religious teachings often make the argument that we should “deny the natural man” for he is “an enemy to God.” How can “science” and “biology” define normal or proper?

    It’s perfectly normal for a person with an abnormal (abnormal as in, far from the majority) genetic predisposition to act that on that predisposition, particularly if that person is not harming anyone and has no philosophical background that implies there’s anything wrong with such behavior.

    Is it normal? I don’t know. Is choosing to believe in a God who may very well have multiple wives normal? Should people accept you?

    And for the record, “science” and “biology” are really big into this quirky concept known as “evolution.” Are you signing up for that too?

  5. Reach Upward says:

    Thank you for your clear-headed post. You have articulated many things that I have long thought about.

    Same-sex couples in CA have every ‘right’ afforded heterosexual married couples except the word marriage. The argument goes that not calling a committed same-sex union marriage hearkens back to the old separate-but-equal clause that was the basis for Jim Crow and that was ultimately struck down in Brown. This argument also does not withstand scrutiny.

    Since substantially equal rights exist in CA for same-sex and opposite-sex couples, what is being sought is the redefinition of a word; albeit, a redefinition that would have far reaching impact to restrict the free exercise of conscience.

    I have long had an interest in Native American culture. I have my own regalia and have attended many powwows. However, I have zero Native American ancestry. Perhaps I could join with others, and we could under the auspices of equality get a court to order that our race be changed to Native American. This would not change reality, but it would completely destroy the meaning of the term.

    The push to change the term marriage to include same-sex unions is equally absurd.

  6. Reach Upward says:

    Numberless believes that there is no legitimate purpose in our societal incest taboo and that society has no viable interest in familial relationships. This kind of pablum plays well in libertarian circles, but any anthropologist worth the ink on their diploma can easily fend off such silly notions.

    Marriage has *always* been a contract between a man, a woman, and the community because it is recognized that all three elements are necessary to adequately transmit the skills necessary for societal continuation to the next generation. This stuff doesn’t happen by accident.

    Incest is prohibited not primarily due to reproductive outcomes, but due to societal outcomes the occur when a segment of society turns in on itself. While this creates incredibly strong family groups, those groups tend to be very autocratic. They tend to promote group identity and diminish individual identity to an unhealthy extreme. They tend to view society outside of the family group as the enemy, and they tend to act on this premise. It is no accident that most of the world’s current terrorists come from subcultures where intra-family marriage is common.

    I lean libertarian. But it is good to temper libertarian thought with doses of reality.

  7. Jeremy says:

    I tend to lean a little more libertarian than Reach…and yet I generally agree with his and Jesse’s comments here.

    I do have a couple questions though. The typical conservative argument against gay marriage includes the qualifier that civil unions are ok. Why is that so? Am I wrong in assuming that is the case for you guys?

  8. Jesse says:

    I think I see numberless’ point: if you remove all of the benefits, you remove all of the incentive. There might be some merit to this idea, though it would be hard to push that agenda. There’s also a thorny point that even in well-negotiated contracts, there are oversights and litigation. In some cases, there may be outright omissions. If we had perfect contracts, yeah, we might be able to toss out modern conventions of marriage and go from there. Unfortunately, we’ve got a lot of imperfections that have to be worked out.

    Jeremy: I tend to agree with the sentiment behind the second clause of Amendment 3 to not create any status functionally similar to marriage. To do so just provides disincentive to get married. So long as there is civil marriage, you won’t find me getting behind civil unions.

    I also strongly object to “gay rights” because there should be no such thing. If we’re going to give any unmarried person a right, it has to be applicable to all unmarried persons. I think the recently-passed bill to allow a broader segment of the population to pursue wrongful death is a Good Thing(TM) because it benefits everyone. Now creating sexual orientation as a protected class… not so much. It’s designed to confer a special protection for a small group of people and I just can’t get behind that.

  9. Reach Upward says:

    I could go for some kind of civil union, but only if it wasn’t inseparably tied to some kind of sexual relationship and didn’t violate Amendment 3.

  10. Krispy says:

    Whoa. That has to be the longest comment on a blog post EVER. Is there a Guiness category for longest comment on a blog post?

  11. numberless says:

    @Reach Upward

    I have long had an interest in Native American culture. I have my own regalia and have attended many powwows. However, I have zero Native American ancestry. Perhaps I could join with others, and we could under the auspices of equality get a court to order that our race be changed to Native American. This would not change reality, but it would completely destroy the meaning of the term.

    I was born in America. My first American ancestor lived in Jamestown at its founding. I think my blood’s been here long enough to be a “Native American.” And if I have interest in another culture is there a reason I cannot be adopted into it? I can change nationalities if the country I want to go to allows it.

    And I hope the term “Native American” loses its current meaning because by it’s actual, literal, not politically corrected, non-bastardized meaning isn’t exclusive to the primarily Asian population that later mingled heavily with Europeans that happens to live on this continent.

    (Since we’re bringing “any anthropologist worth the ink on their diploma” into this by arbitrarily citing them without no actual authority, most of them will be all too happy to point out how stupid the idea of “race” and “racial thinking” is anyway.)

    The push to change the term marriage to include same-sex unions is equally absurd.

    Majorities (and obnoxious judges) change the legal meaning of words all the time. It’s happened over and over and over again. Society changes, language changes, words change. It happens. Look at the awful evolution of the word “welfare” from 1789 to now. Again, I’m not saying it’s a good thing, but it is what occurs. It’s not “absurd.”

    Numberless believes that there is no legitimate purpose in our societal incest taboo and that society has no viable interest in familial relationships. This kind of pablum plays well in libertarian circles, but any anthropologist worth the ink on their diploma can easily fend off such silly notions.

    Now hold on there just a moment, there’s a huge difference between a societal taboo against something and legislation enforcing said societal taboo. And, while I absolutely said that the incest argument was not a proper analog to homosexual marriage, not once did I endorse it. I did nothing but ask questions.

    I didn’t denounce the societal taboo at all. I didn’t say I thought incest was healthy. I didn’t say incest was a good idea. However, I don’t think smoking is a good idea or healthy either but it’s not my place to enforce that on other people. Seriously, let’s say two elderly siblings aged beyond having children decide to marry. Can you tell me where the societal harm is? Despite the societal taboo, just because I think something is “icky” doesn’t mean I can pass a law against it. Reread the paragraph before announcing what I believe.

    And what about the example I provided concerning the adopted siblings? Is it only genetically related siblings or did the people in my ward violate social taboo? And in doing so, did they hurt anyone? Did they build a terrorist network or some weird autocratic cult society?

    Also, for the record, I’m not a libertarian–never have been, never will be.

    Marriage has *always* been a contract between a man, a woman, and the community because it is recognized that all three elements are necessary to adequately transmit the skills necessary for societal continuation to the next generation. This stuff doesn’t happen by accident.

    Really? Always? You mean like early LDS polygamists married relationships? Certainly there was a man but definitely not a woman. And no, in LDS theology it’s a contract (or a covenant) between a man, a woman and God. Society doesn’t factor into it at all. It’s that way in plenty of other theologies too.

    And while we’re on the subject, in many societies throughout history, it was often a contract between a man and a woman’s father since she didn’t have a lot of choice in the matter.

    I also disagree. A man, a woman and society are not “necessary to adequately transmit the skills necessary for societal continuation.” A man and a woman are necessary to create a child, sure. However, I know plenty of single parents that did and do all right. It’s not perfect, but I’ll take a single loving parent over the monsters my mother had for parents. Hell, I’d take a kind pair of gay parents (pick your gender) over my mother’s parents. One man and one woman are no guarantee of doing a good job when it comes to raising a child. Their genders do not bring anything particularly special to the table. Kind, loving, understanding and responsible people are what they are, just as abusive, neglectful, self-important and irresponsible people are. Qualities that make someone a good person make good parents and gay, straight, single or polygamous relationships have little to no bearing on the quality of the individuals.

    I’m sure you’ll find that many staunch atheists find that hardline religious upbringing is detrimental to children and that the reverse is also true. The fact is, outside of absolute abuse or neglect, parents–not society–make choices about their children’s upbringing, what traditions are passed down and what is right and what is wrong. That’s as it should be. If we had a society of 90% Catholics, should they be able to dictate how the child of a Buddhist family is raised?

    And another thing, other than saying that homosexuals can’t reproduce by themselves and mentioning the genetic problems of the children of incest, I didn’t mention children. While marriage and children used to go hand in hand, they don’t now whether you or me likes it or not. It’s common for people who marry not to have children and it’s common for people who don’t marry to have children. My point is that the question of marriage and the question of parenthood and children do not necessarily go hand in hand. They did, but they don’t now and as such need to be addressed separately.

    The moment we start talking about children the rules change a lot. But, this isn’t 1860. The concept of families, marriage and who can have kids together has changed and it’s changed a lot. I’m not making an argument for whether that’s good or bad. However, that’s the way it is.

    Incest is prohibited not primarily due to reproductive outcomes, but due to societal outcomes the occur when a segment of society turns in on itself. While this creates incredibly strong family groups, those groups tend to be very autocratic. They tend to promote group identity and diminish individual identity to an unhealthy extreme. They tend to view society outside of the family group as the enemy, and they tend to act on this premise. It is no accident that most of the world’s current terrorists come from subcultures where intra-family marriage is common.

    Just like society did at its foundation? (Presuming you’re a literal believer in Adam and Eve anyway.)

    And sorry, I totally disagree again. There’s a reason mammals in general will avoid incest when left to themselves: genetically and biologically we avoid it. It’s physiological. There are other societal pitfalls, historically speaking, but last time I checked I don’t have a right to tell people they can’t engage in most unhealthy relationships and social circles. Let me emphasize, once again, there is a world of difference between how I believe about something personally and philosophically, and how I feel about legislating it. If I legislated based purely on my personal preferences, soccer would be illegal in the USA.

    Your argument against what incest creates socially can just as easily be applied to religious fanaticism–another commonality amongst terrorists. So, does the religious fanaticism lead to incest or does incest lead to religious fanaticism? And which one leads to the terrorism? And do I have a right to pass laws against cults because they’re potentially unhealthy and breed unhealthy behavior? At the point “cults” become illegal, who defines what sort of religion is an “illegal cult”? Who defines what is unhealthy? There’s certainly a general societal taboo against small cults–the word “cult” itself carries major negative connotations. But can I pass legislation outlawing it?

    Can you give me an argument against incest other than the “reproductive outcomes” than can’t be applied generically to religion and social circles?

    I lean libertarian. But it is good to temper libertarian thought with doses of reality.

    “Reality.” Heh. I love appeals to “reality” and “common sense” since it’s like citing a magic authority without all the bother of having to back it up. It’s a way to instantly brand those around you as “out of touch,” “unreasonable” or “completely nuts” without having to say it outright.

    It’s pretty cool that the only point you chose to address was the raciest (and it was intentionally so). If you were going to place the weight of the anthropological community against a guy who lacks a “dose of reality” you could have at least bitten off something other than the obvious bait.

    @Jesse

    I think I see numberless’ point: if you remove all of the benefits, you remove all of the incentive. There might be some merit to this idea, though it would be hard to push that agenda. There’s also a thorny point that even in well-negotiated contracts, there are oversights and litigation. In some cases, there may be outright omissions. If we had perfect contracts, yeah, we might be able to toss out modern conventions of marriage and go from there. Unfortunately, we’ve got a lot of imperfections that have to be worked out.

    In most respects, it is my point. Another point I only touched on was that marriage != children. Marriage and children are two separate points in how they relate to law. They were more or less a given, but they aren’t now.

    Theodore Roosevelt was very opposed to the idea of putting “In God We Trust” on our currency. He said:

    My own feeling in the matter is due to my very firm conviction that to put such a motto on coins, or to use it in any kindred manner, not only does no good but does positive harm, and is in effect irreverence, which comes dangerously close to sacrilege… it seems to me eminently unwise to cheapen such a motto by use on coins, just as it would be to cheapen it by use on postage stamps, or in advertisements.

    I want you to remember this is the same guy who said that a good understanding of the Bible was more important than a college education. He opposed the idea on account of the fact that he found that putting “God” on money was near sacrilege. God is sacred, not something to be tossed on the bills in our pockets.

    Marriage, to me, is similar. It’s sacred to me. The decisions and parameters of it are defined by my personal religious and philosophical beliefs. Marriage is purely personal to me and the only place it should intersect with the government is in the contract between me and my spouse as it applies to temporal things and only if one of us should choose to violate the terms we have with one another.

    There’s a lot of imperfections in the murky, default state marriages too. And your point is dead on, contracts have a load of problems, but my argument was against your idea that a contract gave the government special interest in the union. If a couple who never marries lives together for 10 years and they split up, guess what? Same problems. No contract and no default marriage contract. There’s still going to be disputes over property and over custody if they had children.

    So, rather than needing default marriage laws, we need default custody and joint property laws. If you, as a couple (or a group, since I’m fine with polygamy) don’t like the default rules, you can choose to contract one with another (and, for you “marriage is a contract with society” types, you can include whoever you want in that contract). Whether that contract includes a religious ceremony or an exchanging of vows doesn’t matter. Whether you have a religious ceremony without the contract doesn’t matter either, since the default rules apply to you when you join property or have children.

    What I am trying to emphasize is that because society has changed, the historical reasons for marriage being such a fundamental part of law no longer apply. There are no more cohabitation laws. People can have kids outside of wedlock who don’t wear the shameful title of “bastard.” Grown women can cross state lines without a spouse. If getting married in an “official” capacity grants the government special interest in governing the parameters of your relationship, why would any free minded person bother? You can have a relationship and private contracts instead without making the government a party to your relationship. (Which, incidentally, is what I would do in the event that Colorado follows suit with a lot of other states and obliterates its provisions for a common law marriage.)

    Marriage needs to be returned to where it rightfully belongs, to the people directly and in general to religion. Where it applies to the government is handled via contract.

    And you know what, civil unions or contracted relationships or whatever… call them marriage call them zerganoids. The fact of the matter is that, despite this ridiculous idea that we need to protect the “definition of marriage,” people are going to call their union whatever they like and if a contract defines the parameters of a relationship then the government doesn’t even need a legal definition of marriage. There are only “relationships” defined either by contract or by bloodline.

    I also strongly object to “gay rights” because there should be no such thing. If we’re going to give any unmarried person a right, it has to be applicable to all unmarried persons.

    I totally agree. “Minority” rights, “gay” rights, “black” rights and “women’s” rights are all a joke. There should only be “rights.” They should be universally applicable with only a few common caveats:

    Age or mental incapacity. Minors and varying degrees of the mentally handicapped, because of their dependance are afforded different rights and protections.
    Criminal status. Violate someone else’s rights and there are penalties.
    Contractual obligations. You can contract away rights. People do it all too often.

  12. Jesse says:

    numberless: I like this idea of clearer and more solid laws regarding defaults for joint property and custody. I wonder, though, if that would encourage more private contracts or if it would provide an “easy way” to rely on the defaults and lead to more nasty legal battles.

    You’re right that we (collectively) have done such a good job at trashing marriage that we may very well have eliminated most of the reasons to have marriage as a legal status. The question is what to do: drive the final nail in the coffin or try and reverse course?

    Of course, all of this bring up the much broader issue of to what extent (or even if) we should enshrine societal norms or moral values in law. I think we could probably go back-and-forth on this one for quite some time.

  13. numberless says:

    Whether it would encourage more private contracts or not doesn’t really matter. The default rules would likely vary from state to state so it would depend on the particulars of those rules. If you’re happy with the default rules, why contract? Nasty legal battles will happen when romantic relationships deteriorate. So long as people breed together or own property together, there’s going to be trouble. The difference here isn’t that trouble will be avoided, but rather, the procedures will be uniform. (And, as an added bonus, we get rid of “family court.”) It doesn’t matter if you’re “married” or not. If two people have kids together, the rules are the rules. If two people are joining their finances and owning things together, the rules are the rules.

    And frankly, the property rules can apply just as easily to non-romantic relationships. Family members, for instance, are generally allowed as people you can put on your insurance with you. If you’re living with your best friend (same gender, non-romantic) or have chosen to have close business ties or property ties or whatever, why can’t you include anyone you’re close enough with to deem a sort of de facto sibling?

    I favor restrictive defaults designed specifically for convenience of the state in legislation that encourages people–roommates, spouses, friends, whoever–to enumerate the parameters of their relationships. (For instance, if you can’t come to a decent agreement on your own, you’re ordered to liquidate all assets and split them 50/50.) I think it’d have a net positive effect in general. People living together would be wise to make agreements ahead of time and, in theory, it’d become engrained enough in the culture that it would spawn more forward and cautious thinking.

    (As a side note, if we’re talking pure ideal theory, a lot of issues would be simpler by right of a decrease in socialist benefits and, looking ahead to your article on health care, a decrease in insurance and more average affordable prices for your everyday consumers. “Benefits” would cease to be an issue.)

    What’s important though, is that people who want something outside of the default can have it. There isn’t really much of an option for that now. (Colorado’s common law marriages are one such exception.) Nevada, for instance, is a community property state. I should be able to separate my assets from my spouse if I so choose. My only option for that now, in Nevada, is to not marry which, again, gives an advantage to unmarried couples.

    It also blows away a lot of other nonsense. Want to be a polygamist? There’s nothing stopping you in this day and age from having a romantic relationship with multiple people who consent as a group. However, because marriage is tied to government, the government gets to define what is “acceptable” and what is not. I realize lots of people want to stomp out gays shacking up, but gays are not the only people who aren’t exactly happy about the government’s current view of what’s “acceptable.”

    Polygamy and gay marriage have a lot in common in the legal sense and how the government and the people in the USA have acted toward such relationships. The government needs to butt out! If gays think it’s hard on them, when my great great grandfather became a citizen of the USA his form made him state under oath that: 1. He was not an anarchist and 2. He was not a polygamist. Really, remove “gay marriage” and insert “polygamist marriage” into all these arguments about “traditional marriage” and “traditional families” and tell me if it still holds water and is fair. (I say this because I know a lot of the people around here are of a religion that thinks polygamy is like the order of things.)

    How many “good Christian” parents would say things like, “Well, I guess I’m okay with the idea in theory, but I just don’t want polygamy taught as an acceptable lifestyle in schools”?

    You can’t be fair and have it both ways. As S.G. Tallentyre wrote, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” Who am I and who are you to tell someone who is nonreligious or, perhaps, someone who is of a religion that embraces homosexuality as acceptable that it’s not all right? Where is the quantifiable damage caused by gays? (Do you really believe in something like this? And as a warning, the language is harsh.) Do I want to see two men holding hands and kissing? Nope. I think it’s gross for whatever reason. Of course, seeing two morbidly obese people holding hands and kissing is also really gross to me. Is that sufficient reason to pass laws against being obese? (Gluttony is sinful, just as homosexuality is by Christian tradition.)

    You’re right that we (collectively) have done such a good job at trashing marriage that we may very well have eliminated most of the reasons to have marriage as a legal status. The question is what to do: drive the final nail in the coffin or try and reverse course?

    I say let it die. Do you want to return to cohabitation laws? Really? (Incidentally, cohabitation laws were written specifically for and used against early LDS polygamists who were, more or less, practicing polygamy in secret.) Do you want the government in bed with your marriage? Do you want the government telling you what “traditional family” has to mean?

    I prefer generic relationships. I want to see more and more Christian tradition removed from the legal realm, particularly at the higher levels because entities like the Federal Government should not be micromanaging my personal life.

    As to your comment, “to what extent [should we] enshrine societal norms or moral values in law?”

    Let me clarify something, lest people get the wrong idea about me. I stated clearly before that I am not a libertarian, and here’s why: I believe that communities have rights too. We have a right as individuals to assemble. Do I believe, that when the government is down to a small level, (like a county or a city) that it can make laws that deal with social norms and tradition? Yes. Can a community say, “We don’t want people cohabitating without having a Christian union?” I think so. Groups have rights to say, “Look, we built this community and we want a certain kind of lifestyle and tradition to flourish here.”

    I believe in having a community where those who put it together can say, “Look, if you don’t own a gun and don’t have some basic training with one, you can’t live here. By not owning a gun you endanger the rights of the people around me and fail in your duty to keep your government in check.”

    This needs to have a better framework at the upper levels. I believe in ideas like “exile” as a punishment. I also believe in a federal due process amendment–something like the 14th that isn’t a complete mess–to make sure restrictive communities can’t hold people that want to leave and a federal free travel amendment so that people can move easily when they don’t like the local government. That’s why we had states in the first place. I challenge everyone reading this to go to the Avalon Project and read the constitutions of the original 13 states and tell me just how much “everyone” agreed on tradition and the best form of government.

    Really, who do you personally think is more detrimental to your community:

    1. A gun toting, gay couple who believes in conservative economic values or;

    2. A “traditional” family who lobbies for stronger gun laws and universal health care?

    Likewise, you’re voting for president:

    Candidate A: Is in favor of allowing gay marriage and is pro choice, however would dismantle the IRS and the Federal Reserve.

    Candidate B: Is in favor of maintaining traditional marriage and is pro life, however is a firm believer in the IRS and the Federal Reserve.

    Which one gets your vote? In reality, which issues are truly important?

    What I mean to illustrate is that gay marriage is hardly the most important issue out there, but go from church to church and which topic actually gets people fired up? Which topic should get them fired up? While we worry about Christian traditions being removed from government, we tend to ignore the real threats and the real tyranny that’s continuing to come into our homes like a thief in the night.

  14. Dirtius Maximus says:

    find it absolutely hilarious watching Mormons attack gay marriage and reading the arguments. It reads like the rational the USA used when banning polygamy. Polygamy was even referred to as a “heathen” act by the US government. What’s wrong with polygamous relationships? I have no problem with them, but someone somewhere decided that sort of thing is “un-American” and has made it illegal.
    I’m coming to this a little late, but this is an enormous misunderstanding concerning mormons and polygamy. If polygamy were the issue here, the LDS church would be against it just as much. We believe that it is wrong unless and until God commands it.

  15. Dirtius Maximus says:

    Hmm. My quote thingies didn’t work

  16. numberless says:

    If the government of the USA hadn’t come down on polygamy like a ton of bricks? What then?

    Don’t tell me the church “believe[s] it’s wrong.” It’s not practiced in the open or in the traditional way, but if a man were to marry and his wife were to die and he married again, guess what? Eternal polygamy. If it was “wrong” he couldn’t get sealed again. The church’s reason for not practicing polygamy and why it’s currently “wrong” has nothing to do with doctrinal changes on morality and everything to do with surviving in a culture hostile that particular lifestyle.

    My parallel is perfectly valid. The government and the people of America got together, defined “traditional” and “proper” and crushed dissent. God didn’t “take it away” until after all the trouble that come from the government. John Taylor was a fugitive for crying out loud.

    Until polygamy is actually on the table, saying “the LDS church would be against it just as much” is wishful thinking from the people of a church who are generally uncomfortable with the older practices of their faith. If there is move to make plural marriage legal again, I have some feeling the church will probably stay silent on the issue and let it play out. However, unless you have a written statement from the First Presidency saying “we would oppose a bill to legalize plural marriage in the future” then using a hypothetical to make a point is pretty shaky.

  17. Dirtius Maximus says:

    It’s not hypothetical at all. It’s actually a doctrinal principle set forth early on in the Book of Mormon.

    Jacob 2:27-30
    27 Wherefore, my brethren, hear me, and hearken to the word of the Lord: For there shall not any man among you have save it be one wife; and concubines he shall have none;
    28 For I, the Lord God, delight in the chastity of women. And whoredoms are an abomination before me; thus saith the Lord of Hosts.
    29 Wherefore, this people shall keep my commandments, saith the Lord of Hosts, or cursed be the land for their sakes.
    30 For if I will, saith the Lord of Hosts, raise up seed unto me, I will command my people; otherwise they shall hearken unto these things.

  18. numberless says:

    You clearly missed the point: The church currently practices polygamy. You offered absolutely no counter or explanation to current temple practices. There is nothing morally wrong right now with having multiple wives on an eternal level which means the reason it’s not currently practiced on earth is… what? I realize the common thought in the church is that there is some ethereal divine reason for everything, but sometimes (and most of the time) the prophets hand down edicts as a matter of responding to very real things (like the idea of getting rid of polygamy practices or going to war with the USA).

    I mean, that’s fine that you pointed to Jacob, but that was then. Polygamy has been practiced since then. That scripture in Jacob doesn’t apply to a hypothetical future situation where there is a movement in this country to legalize polygamy.

    The other point that you’ve missed is that I’m completely uninterested in the church’s current position on polygamy. It’s irrelevant. What is relevant is that the “traditional family” and “traditional marriage” arguments being leveled at the gays match those that the US used against the church.

    Are you really going to try and tell my that polygamy wouldn’t currently be practiced if not for the hostility of the US government?

  19. Paul Mero says:

    Numberless…you write, and write and write…to make a point that government shouldn’t be involved in marriage? Whatever.

    There is a compelling state interest in marriage…which is a fancy way, Numberless, of saying that male/female marriage benefits society: child-bearing and child-rearing within the complementarity relationship of men and women. (And, please don’t spend another thirty web pages to explain all of the exceptions to the marriage law…I (we) get it.)

    The gays can’t explain the societal benefit of gay marriage…and you can’t see that there actually is a societal benefit from traditional marriage. A fine pair.

    Honestly, if you cannot see its benefit to society, it’s because you don’t want to. Instead, you want to argue about libertarian nonsense and feminist ideas about polygamy.

    OMGosh!! What the “heck”?

  20. Dirtius Maximus says:

    Again, numberless, you misunderstand and misrepresent LDS doctrine. I believe at this point that it is intentional.

  21. numberless says:

    @Paul Mero:

    There is a compelling state interest in marriage… which is a fancy way, Numberless, of saying that male/female marriage benefits society:

    You obviously have no idea what a compelling state interest is. Since a lot of writing seems to offend your sensibilities, I’ll leave it at that.

    (And, please don’t spend another thirty web pages to explain all of the exceptions to the marriage law…I (we) get it.)

    Obviously you don’t get it. The point which everyone but Jesse has failed to acknowledge is this: marriage and children are no longer synonymous. I agree that children create some interest by the government because minors are afforded special protections and their parents or guardians have legal responsibilities to them. Marriage by itself, does not.

    The gays can’t explain the societal benefit of gay marriage…

    I never said they could. I’m not in favor of gay marriage.

    Does a heterosexual married couple that doesn’t have children deserve any benefits? What is the “societal benefit” they provide?

    and you can’t see that there actually is a societal benefit from traditional marriage. A fine pair.

    I don’t see a societal benefit at all. I see a societal benefit to people having children and raising them–married or unmarried or polygamous or whatever.

    Honestly, if you cannot see its benefit to society, it’s because you don’t want to.

    Honestly, if you cannot see the it’s rearing children and not merely marriage that is a benefit to society, it’s because you don’t want to.

    Instead, you want to argue about libertarian nonsense and feminist ideas about polygamy.

    Instead, you want to argue about conservative nonsense and archaic ideas about polygamy.

    @Dirtius Maximus:

    Again, numberless, you misunderstand and misrepresent LDS doctrine. I believe at this point that it is intentional.

    1. Under some circumstances, can a man be sealed to multiple women in the temple today?

    2. Do you believe the US government had the legal right to outlaw polygamy?

  22. Dirtius Maximus says:

    [quote]1. Under some circumstances, can a man be sealed to multiple women in the temple today?[/quote]

    Simple answer: yes. But here is where you misunderstand a great deal. What applies in the hereafter is not the same as what applies here and now.

    [quote]2. Do you believe the US government had the legal right to outlaw polygamy?[/quote]

    Yes, absolutely.

  23. Dirtius Maximus says:

    All right, someone’s going to have to tell me how to make the quote box here.

  24. Jesse says:

    Dirt: Use the <blockquote> tags to do it. WordPress doesn’t support PHPbb-style tags. Or at least not without plugins.

    numberless:

    I agree that children create some interest by the government because minors are afforded special protections and their parents or guardians have legal responsibilities to them. Marriage by itself, does not.

    It sounds, then, like marriage as a state-recognized benefit, if it’s going to exist, should only be extended to couples with children and only to the extent that it helps provide a stable environment for their rearing. I think that’s the middle ground on this argument since I think we can all agree that the children are what matter in the entire debate. That both removes a significant amount of state involvement from marriage and provides that marriage is extended to heterosexual couples.

    As far as polygamy, it’s important to note that using it as a “LDS are hypocrites” argument isn’t entirely accurate or fair. Polygamists didn’t have marriage between “a man and a woman and a woman”, as many people like to joke. The arrangements were always between a man and a woman, period. It just so happens that men were allowed to enter into this arrangement with more than one woman at a time. The various wives, so far as I know, didn’t have any kind of contracts, arrangements or obligations one to another. (Well, other than the first wife having veto power as to the man’s choice of any additional wives.)

    It’s also funny that, given the time, polygamy might have been the most socially appropriate solution to a pressing problem: there were a lot more adult women than men in the early LDS church. Many of these women were widows and many of them were cut off from family support networks because they joined the church. Getting married would have been the best way for them to be supported, but with a shortage of available men, this wouldn’t have been an option without polygamy. Social norms of the time would have labeled it an absolute scandal for an unrelated already married man to be providing financial support to a woman that wasn’t his wife.

  25. Dirtius Maximus says:

    Marriage is the hope of family and always has been. The fact that some couples are barren does not change that. They were still married with the hope of offspring. Such unions are no threat or detriment to the institution of marriage.

    By definition, a homosexual coupling does not hold such hope.

  26. numberless says:

    Simple answer: yes. But here is where you misunderstand a great deal. What applies in the hereafter is not the same as what applies here and now.

    Just because you don’t like my take, doesn’t mean I misunderstand things. My only argument here (and in all honesty, it’s unrelated to gay marriage, but the polygamy sub-thread has taken a life of its own) is the reason polygamy is no longer openly practiced. You pointed to Jacob and I argued that particular scripture doesn’t matter. “Here and now” a man can be sealed to multiple women.

    Yes, absolutely.

    I really didn’t expect anyone to answer in that manner. Still, John Taylor disagrees with you. In reference to the Edmunds Act, he said:

    When the Constitution of the United States was framed and adopted, those high contracting parties did positively agree that they would not interfere with religious affairs. Now, if our marital relations are not religious, what is? This ordinance of marriage was a direct revelation to us, through Joseph Smith, the prophet. … This is a revelation from God and a command to his people, and therefore it is my religion. I do not believe that the Supreme Court of the United States has any right to interfere with my religious views, and in doing it they are violating their most sacred obligations.

    Just because the government does something doesn’t mean they have the right too. I do want to ask one more question though:

    Does the US government have the right to outlaw “traditional marriage”? If not, why not?

    Marriage is the hope of family and always has been. The fact that some couples are barren does not change that. They were still married with the hope of offspring. Such unions are no threat or detriment to the institution of marriage.

    I don’t know if you’re evading or if you personally believe that everyone who marries intends to have children. Some people get married and are perfectly determined not to have children (one of my aunts). They have the potential (all the equipment works) but don’t want to. Why should they receive any sort of government benefit?

    I’m not saying such unions are a threat, I’m asking you why society owes them any kind of benefit? Just because two people get dreamy eyed around one another and exchanged rings does not mean that they offer society anything special.

    If you argue that married couples deserve it purely out of “potential” then you open a wide and ridiculous door since every sexually heterosexual active pair out there has “potential” to have children and as such, deserves benefits.

    By definition, a homosexual coupling does not hold such hope.

    Regardless, I want to point out, again, that I do not favor gay marriage. I’ve been trying to argue that there doesn’t have to be a simple “for or against gay marriage” position. The fact that they cannot have children is precisely why the government shouldn’t extend them benefits. I agree with everyone who has made that argument. However, I also feel the same way about a childless heterosexual married couple. Until you procreate, you’re just two people living together that do not benefit society anymore than any two people. It’s the children, not the marriage that entitle you to special benefits because you are also given additional legal responsibility and provide a benefit for society at large.

    If children become the focal point for benefits, and not the institution of marriage itself, are the gays going to clamor for it anymore? Nope, it offers nothing at that point. Are people who marry but don’t have children going to receive undue benefits? Nope. The latter, the undue benefits portion, is what opens the door for gays to cry “the current system is unfair and we deserve a piece of the pie.” I understand their argument, and I agree with it. However, since I oppose gay marriage, the actual problem needs to be solved–one that doesn’t create what I see as a double standard.

    @Jesse:

    … It sounds, then, like marriage as a state-recognized benefit, if it’s going to exist, should only be extended to couples with children and only to the extent that it helps provide a stable environment for their rearing. …

    Bingo. That’s a step in the right direction.

    The arrangements were always between a man and a woman, period. … (Well, other than the first wife having veto power as to the man’s choice of any additional wives.)

    Other than the power of the first wife to approve or disapprove of the contract… yeah, it isn’t the same thing. It’s not an array of traditional marriages. It’s a polygamous relationship, and regardless of who chose to enter the relationship, there is a spiderweb of shared property at that point.

    None of that matters though. What does matter is that the “traditional marriage” and “traditional families” arguments were used against polygamy. I say those arguments are totally unfair and wrong and if you want an argument that does not reflect negatively on polygamy but is still the silver bullet against gay marriage, it’s the children argument, not this ridiculous idea of legislating religious “tradition” on society as a whole.

  27. Dirtius Maximus says:

    Society, as represented by its agent the government, has the right to distinguish between different types of relationships. Society has the right to encourage what it sees as a beneficial relationship and to discourage others.

    Where government loses the right to make such distinctions is where it makes them contrary to the will of the people.

    I don’t know if you’re evading or if you personally believe that everyone who marries intends to have children. Some people get married and are perfectly determined not to have children (one of my aunts). They have the potential (all the equipment works) but don’t want to. Why should they receive any sort of government benefit?

    Neither. I merely made a positive statement regarding the historical purpose of marriage. I believe that any other reason for entering into marriage is a perversion of the institution, not just gay marriage.

  28. Dirtius Maximus says:

    “Here and now” a man can be sealed to multiple women.

    No, by definition that is not “here and now.” The sealing has no effect at all on temporal matters. Whether or not that man is actually married to multiple women is a question that only applies to the life after this one.

  29. Jesse says:

    Society has the right to encourage what it sees as a beneficial relationship and to discourage others.

    There’s no question there. The question is to what extent government power should be used as a tool for encouragement or discouragement. numberless’ point is that by allowing government to assume that role regarding marriage, it’s left open for all kinds of abuses. (I’d say it’s a lot like how the US will use Dictator A to overthrow Dictator B, then Dictator B turns on the US.) I can’t say that it’s invalid or that some of his/her prescribed remedies don’t have some merit.

  30. Paul Mero says:

    Sorry for lagging behind in the convo…

    Numberless writes:

    “Obviously you don’t get it. The point which everyone but Jesse has failed to acknowledge is this: marriage and children are no longer synonymous. I agree that children create some interest by the government because minors are afforded special protections and their parents or guardians have legal responsibilities to them. Marriage by itself, does not.”

    Marriage and children ARE synonymous in the compelling state interest…but as I said… “within the complementarity of man and woman.’ And so we encourage a man and woman to get married…and have children (tax code). That they don’t do so only means we still live in a free society…and that our civil society, that once set our social mores for us, has so weakened (by lots of “isms” leading to government crowding out) that couples marry but aren’t in any rush, nor do they feel any social pressure, to have children.

    A “sterile” couple is still “complementary” and can adopt children to the benefit of society…and so we let them legally marry. That they don’t adopt, again, is there choice in a free society.

    And the state interest in marriage isn’t in protecting children…the compelling state interest is in preserving itself. What don’t you understand about this legal doctrine? The state “protects” children only when parents don’t…why, you ask?…because the compelling state interest in children is a self-interest…the state seeks to perpetuate itself. This is why child-bearing and child-rearing, with the complementarity of a man and woman, is…IS…the state interest…because this structure does those two things best.

    The man/woman family structure is the best way, in a free society, to serve the state interest: it produces the least amount of burden on the state and the most amount of freedom, progress, and prosperity.

    Traditional marriage, by itself, IS the state interest…because it alone leads to the “benefits” to society.

    Lastly (at the ghastly thought of going down the polygamy road)…Numberless writes,

    “What does matter is that the “traditional marriage” and “traditional families” arguments were used against polygamy.”

    I say, so what? Two people can use the same terminology and mean different things…like there’s claimed bigotry and real bigotry. Most people get that.

    If you want a polygamy difference with distinction you might review how the plaintiffs responded…the LDS folks basically left the country and the “moralists” chased them down and hounded them into submission or extinction. What are today’s “moralists” doing…the Latter-day Saints? Oh yeah, using our democratic processes. For shame!!! And what do they get in return…from the gays…from the “persecuted”…more threats to submit or extinction.

    Your argument that polygamy is simply traditional marriage by the heaping spoonful is only true in that it involves a man and a woman…times N. So then, should the state recognize polygamy? No…if for no other reason than most folks, you included, would misunderstand the value proposition in the marriage equation and wreak havoc with the definition of marriage. (Yes…I know…you oppose gay marriage…I heard you.)

    My point in even engaging this argument is to say that there is a compleling state interest in marriage between a man and a woman…AND…I’m afraid folks like you, especially folks who state they oppose gay marriage, will screw up our laws because they really don’t understand the compelling state interest.

  31. numberless says:

    What don’t you understand about this legal doctrine [compelling state interest]?

    What don’t you understand about it?

    “Compelling State Interest” or “Compelling Governmental Interest” is one of the specific standards a legal question must pass to meet the requirements of a “Strict Scrutiny” test. It’s not a “legal doctrine” and it’s not proactive. It is used when the government is, more or less, deciding if it’s okay to infringe on a person’s or group’s rights.

    It also sets extremely dangerous precedent when it’s upheld. The very test you improperly apply as your “legal doctrine” is the very same concept the US Government used to justify and legalize the Japanese Internment camps created during WWII.

    So, given your utter misunderstanding of what a “compelling state interest” is I’m just gonna skip that entire bit, which would require a bunch of repetition anyway, and touch on the two things I found most interesting:

    The man/woman family structure is the best way, in a free society, to serve the state interest: it produces the least amount of burden on the state and the most amount of freedom, progress, and prosperity.

    How does one quantifiably measure entities as subjective as “best way”, “burden,” “freedom,” “progress,” and “prosperity”? I’m just curious what method you used to prove this “fact” you’ve stated in such a self-evident manner.

    What are today’s “moralists” doing…the Latter-day Saints? Oh yeah, using our democratic processes. For shame!!!

    1. Does the “democratic process” allow a majority to do anything it pleases?

    2. If the “democratic process” of a state (like, say, Massachusetts) legalizes gay marriage, is that acceptable?

    3. What part of passing the Edmunds and Edmunds-Tucker Acts were not part of the “democratic process”?

  32. Paul Mero says:

    Haha…Numberless…stay away from Wikipedia!

    And why is it that you guys (gender-neutral use word for libertarians) have a world of empirical research in front of you, but because you don’t read something in Reason, The Objectivist, or even Mother Jones (if it’s drug related) you question something no reasonable person disputes?

    Do this…start simple…The Case for Marriage by Maggie Gallagher…then…move on to The Howard Center’s database (profam.org)…and then move on from there…check back in five years when your done perusing the research.

    Q&A?

    1. answer…the CA initiative process certainly allows CA voters to vote…and whichever side gets the most votes, wins. It’s really a sweet system.

    2. answer…”acceptable,” well, not to me, but “legal”? In MA, yes.

    3. answer…the parts eventually found unconstitutional…and yet…bless the heart of the democratic process, the Act was repealed. Awesome, huh?

    But let’s come back to the “compelling state interest.” So a state passes a law…let’s say prohibiting gay marriage…and the plaintiffs take their case to court (because they can’t win when a whole bunch of people are allowed an opinion)…and the court says, ummmm? Let’s see, compelling state interest, compelling state interest…huh? Wow…we have that old “strict scrutiny” thing to get over. (Gee, I wonder why marriage is reviewed under strict scrutiny???) Damn…there is no compelling state interest because there is no benefit to society from gay marriage…not to mention that real discrimination aganst gays doesn’t exist (them gays are pretty well off, you know) and they can marry…no one is saying gays can’t marry as long as they do so with the oppositie sex…so we better go to that neat old standard “equal protection.” Yeah, that’s it…YOU folks can marry so THEM folks should be able to as well…yeah, that’s “equal protection” (this is a CA Court and they do that sort of thinking there)…because one sex act is as good as any other, or even as good as old religious belief (that’s a choice too you know?). Oh wait!! Maybe we have our “benefit” to society?? Yeah, we do!! Gays have a right to be happy and that’s a benefit to society: happy gays.

    The compelling state interest to NOT interfere (I’ll put it your terms) with tradtional marriage is obvious: child-bearing and child-rearing within the complementary relationship of a man and a woman.

    The compelling state interest to interfere with gays’ ability to legally marry? There is no benefit to society from gay marriage.

    Your quick and dirty analogy to Internment camps is ridiculous. Again, the legal doctrine isn’t at fault here, only the judges’ decisions. This is your libertarian weakness…linear thinking. Your solution for everything is simply to de-criminalize it…”hey, I have a solution…just legalize it…what the hell? That’ll stop all of the contention. Yes!! I wish normal people could think that that!!”

    Give it up, Numberless, yours is a stupid idea…and the more you talk about it the dumber it gets…worse, the more irrelevant your voice becomes. You don’t want that, now, do you? But, oh yeah, you’re a libertarian and irrelevancy is what libertarianism thrives on.

  33. numberless says:

    I was gonna respond, but the one person I cared to have intelligent discourse with has and I’ve enjoyed it. I’m tired of repeating myself and having read your last post, it’s obvious you’ve labeled me and grouped me with people you clearly have no respect for. I think that a “reasonable person” would opt to waste no further time on a conservative like yourself.

    Although you’ve been all too happy to tell me “you get it” that I don’t support gay marriage, you don’t because you keep arguing against it as it’s what I support. Incidentally, you totally failed to answer question #1 and, instead, answered your own made up question it seems.

    So, yes, my ideas are stupid (nice) and apparently I’m a libertarian (except I’m not) and thrive on irrelevancy (also nice). Are you this personable in real life, or just when you’re online?

    Heh. Your words reveal you for exactly what you are. Your ability to communicate is really a credit to whatever group you represent. Fine job Paul. Fine. You certainly make a case for the wisdom of “reasonable people.”

  34. Jeremy says:

    I agree completely with the argument that the traditional family is the best way for humans to be socialized into productive, moral, and happy people. I also agree with Paul’s argument that it is pointless to try to get government out of the business of encouraging the traditional family. We libertarians keep trying to fight the battles that have never been and that aren’t likely to ever be.

    None of this changes the fact that as long as conservatives insist on using government as a tool for enforcing their values on society they are leaving open the possibility that another morality could eventually be forced onto them. As long as they choose democratic government based on their traditions and values over government based on individual liberty they have to worry about people with traditions and values different from theirs gaining a majority. Many libertarians watch the constant fighting between militant conservatives and the militant libertines and wonder why we need so much hubris. If we just focused on a government that generally guaranteed individuals the right to do as they please as long as it doesn’t interfere with someone else we’d avoid so much of this pointless fighting.

    That said…you’re right Paul. Libertarians are irrelevant and we’re becoming more so every election. Our cynicism towards the use of government to achieve good and laudable ends is usually right on target but it isn’t something most people want to think about. I hope a few of us will keep on being vocally irrelevant (and Numberless has done a great job). A great man said, “Be right…and easy to live with…but in that order”.

  35. Paul Mero says:

    Numberless…I am repeatedly reminded that so many “bloggers” can dish it out but can’t take it. In this case, you are convinced that things like a “compelling state interest” are exactly how you describe it. When, in reality, you are only partly correct…and a simple Google search of the term would help you understand.

    All of us have an intellectual framework, but younger folks don’t seem to want to admit it, I find. (I am assuming you are young…you argue like a young person.) You might not identify yourself with libertarians, but your argument is libertarian…meaning it is very literal and very linear — not a very realistic intellectual framework for real people who live real lives. And certainly not a very good political philosophy to govern…well, anything.

    I think another thing that occurs on these blogs about gay marriage, and I am sorry for it in my case, is that some of us have been waging this debate for many, many years…and have heard just about all there is to hear as to why gay marriage should be legalized…or, in the case of libertarians, why marriage should not be a state interest. Frankly, I have gotten testy in my old age. My bad…I apologize.

    Jeremy, I think where I would say you’re missing the boat is over your insistence that conservatism is imposing a value that wouldn’t otherwise be filled by any number of other intellectual frameworks. Even libertarianism argues a value. There are no socio-political vacuums…either certain values will govern us or others will.

    In this whole gay marriage debate, not just here, I have tried to argue that there is a rational basis for “traditional” marriage and none for “gay marriage.” The fact that the LDS Church has its opinion as do other religions…but more importantly, everyone else with religion or not has an opinion…doesn’t disqualify anyone from that opinion. This still is America.

    Here is a conservative opinion: the natural family structure…along with the institutions of civil society…are the best means for lasting freedom and peace and prosperity. This equation IS the American experiment. And that equation comes with a grand heaping of personal values and virtues that must be made public to keep a free society. If these values aren’t front and center, some other values will be.

    The libertarian mirage is that there is some sort of neutral world where people go about minding their own business, where one person’s actions don’t affect any other person, and that if we just minded our own business — live and let live — then whatever problems we have would all work themselves out because people are bascially good.

    That thinking ignores human nature and human experience. Mortality is a struggle and war for the souls of men and requires constant vigilence to have us crazy humans live in a free society.

    Okay, there you go. Sorry for offending anyone.

  36. Dirtius Maximus says:

    Jeremy, what you’re missing is that our criminal law system is almost entirely based on morality. So are we forcing our values on society when we desire that theft, murder, rape, and assault be punished?

    On the contrary, those who want to use the judicial system to create law that did not exist before, without any constitutional basis, they are the ones forcing their morality on a society that disagrees. The only places where gay marriage has been written into law (MA, OR, CA) are places where the courts have mandated it.

    In California, the courts specifically overrode the voice of the citizens of the state in doing so. Now, there’s nothing particularly wrong with that if there’s a valid constitutional basis for the ruling. The majority should not be able to exploit minorities, just because they are minorities. That would be like two wolves and a sheep voting on what’s for dinner. That said, there was no constitutional basis for the ruling in California. The supposed basis (civil rights) was repudiated with enthusiasm by a number of groups who have had legitimate civil rights struggles. The comparison of gay marriage not being recognized by the state to past racial struggles is ludicrous and offensive.

    So one might ask, “Where does it stop? Does the moral basis for our laws mean that we should be trying to force everyone to pay tithing?” The answer is quite simple. It stops where society chooses it to stop. Those behaviors are illegal which society has deemed to be unconscionable. We do not believe that murder should be allowed, so it is illegal. We do not believe that theft should be allowed, so it is not. If you think, for instance, that adultery should be outlawed, you are free to try to build enough support for the idea to try to get it written into law (good luck).

    If, through actual democratic process, society chose to recognize homosexual relationships as being as valid and healthy and heterosexual ones, I would weep for society, but I would not complain about the legality of it (though I would work to convince people otherwise and try to overturn such a law). When, however, the voice of the people is directly subverted and such immorality is forced upon us by judicial fiat, I am incensed.

  37. Paul Mero says:

    And DM…well-said.

  38. Bill says:

    In Cal. we have even a worse problem than the courts and that is the legislature. Now that the vote has been taken the legislature seems to be want to vote on prop 8 not being constitutional. You got to love em since they had a whole year before the vote to express this opinion. I hope the Blacks and the Latino’s (both of which supported prop 8 by wide margins) use their voting power to express their dismay and bring this rogue legislature back to reality.

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