Thursday, October 20, 2005

Over at Crooked Timber, Kieran Healy heroically tries to engage the arguments of a same-sex marriage opponent. Personally, I find that taking on these arguments is a complete waste of time since they are offered in obvious bad faith. Opponents of same sex marriage talk a lot about family and procreation, but offer solutions which are aimed entirely exclusively at behavior the bible frowns upon. Obviously, they have a not-so-hidden agenda. They love to say that marriage is about procreation (which I suspect will come as a surprise to most of the people getting married today), but they make no effort to prevent infertile couples or asexuals from getting married. Nor do they seek to forbid marriage among couples who do not plan on raising children.

It is sometimes tempting to respond to gay marriage opponents because their arguments are so obviously ridiculous - anyone who maintains that marriage is about procreation must not have seen a romantic comedy at the movies for 40 or 50 years. While I am glad that someone is trying to make these people see the error of their ways, I think its safe to say by now that the matter is settled on an intellectual level: there simply aren't any intellectually respectable arguments for the anti-gay marriage policies pursued by conservatives today.

12 Comments:

At 1:39 PM, Blogger angela said...

over at crooked timber, the detached observer isnt working on his graduate studies

 
At 1:41 PM, Blogger angela said...

"anyone who maintains that marriage is about procreation must not have seen a romantic comedy at the movies for 40 or 50 years."

romantic comedies suck, man. im sure the people who think spongebob is evil (and piglet is a figurehead in the fight against "islamofascism") dont go to any movies that dont involve crucifixion or rapture scenes.

 
At 6:26 PM, Blogger Kate Marie said...

I'm reluctant to jump in here, since it seems I will be accused of commenting in bad faith, but what the heck . . . you seem to be a reasonable fellow, Alex.

Let me establish where I stand on the issue of same-sex marriage. I dislike the idea of having a court decide that marriage rights for homosexuals are constitutionally protected because I don't think same-sex marriage *is* constitutionally protected. If the issue came up for a vote in my state, I would tentatively support it -- and the reason for my tentativeness, I suppose, is a Burkean/Hayekian respect for tradition. In any event, while my respect for tradition might give me pause, I would support (that is, vote for) same-sex marriage if it were a matter of a popular referendum.

That said, I do respect some of the arguments of those who oppose same-sex marriage, and I don't treat them with the rather peremptory scorn that you and Angela heap on them (complete with the broad brush swipe at religious people).

Is marriage merely about procreation in our current culture? No. I wonder, though, whether you could explain its original purpose, and tell me why the state *originally* chose to recognize marriage. Then perhaps you could explain its current purpose and explain why the state should continue to recognize marriage under its current purpose/definition.

I guess I'm trying to get a handle on your position. Do you think marriage is a civil rights issue? If so, why should polygamous unions be excluded from state recognition? If not, what *is* marriage, exactly, and why should the state be involved?

P.S. Angela, what do you have against Piglet?

 
At 8:21 PM, Blogger alex said...

Dear Kate Marie,

Thanks for commenting. Here are my attempts to respond.

"Is marriage merely about procreation in our current culture? No. I wonder, though, whether you could explain its original purpose, and tell me why the state *originally* chose to recognize marriage. Then perhaps you could explain its current purpose..."

I think these questions are fundamentally unanswerable. Marriage was not instituted by a single person, or a single society, so how can we say what its original purpose was? The same goes for why the state got involved with it. Marriage did not even evolve along the same lines in different cultures. Some allow men to take many wives, some allow women to take many husbands, some allow heirs to inherit wives and so on. Some treat marriage as relevant to taxpaying and others ignore it when it comes to the state entirely. In short, I'm not sure you can divine anything like original intent.

The most one can do is offer evolutionary reasons for why social structures like marriage seem to evolve (e.g societies with established rules of who-gets-to-screw-who do better in the long run than societies without such rules, since men who are involved with the same woman have the unfortunate tendency to kill each other). Similarly, one can offer organizational-theory reasons for why the state ended up involved in marriage more often than not (e.g. the state tends to get involved in everything. OK, seriously, more state involvement = more jobs = larger beaurocracy, and beaurocracies generally have a tendency to expand).

"...and explain why the state should continue to recognize marriage under its current purpose/definition."

I don't think it should. On this issue, and an most other social issues, I am a libertarian. I can't find any unambiguous evidence that state intervention in marriage had any good results.

As far as this issue goes I'm mainly opposed to discrimination (gay vs. straight). If the state decided to ignore marriages, it would be ideal by me. If it decided to support them - as it currently does - I can't think of a good reason why, but whatever - I could not rouse myself to care. However, I do object to treating some unions differently from others based on sexual orientation. I can detect no justifiable reason for this discrimination.

"why should polygamous unions be excluded from state recognition?"

I think both polygamy and polyandry should be included.

"I do respect some of the arguments of those who oppose same-sex marriage, and I don't treat them with the rather peremptory scorn that you and Angela heap on them..."

I don't think my dismissal is at all peremptory. After all, I point out how the arguments are inconsistently applied. Surely, this is enough to show that they are offered in bad faith.

 
At 9:05 PM, Blogger angela said...

i dont have anything against any childrens' cartoon character, regardless of species or orientation. scroll down to the pictures.

also, youre stretching it a bit when you assume that it was a "broad brush swipe at religious people" - im sorry, but i like to make distinctions between the faithful and fanatics, which is kind of like the difference between a conservative and a gop party hack. hacks and fanatics are shrill, the faithful and conservatives are principled. im not even talking "fundamentalists" or whatever word has become a slur these days. im talking about actual crazy people of all faiths who get worked up over childrens' cartoons (spongebob is gay, piglet violates the koran, etc - i cant believe im sitting here explaining an old meme). a bible can do a lot, but one thing it doesnt do is grant readers immunity against irrationality or insanity.

also, wtf. i cant make fun of people who hate on pop culture to get the troops fired up, and alex is allowed to parade his intimate knowledge of romantic comedies all over the internets without anyone else laughing at him? come on. marriage isnt for having kids but its about cutesy gaffes and snowball fights and dramatic public declarations and crooner music blaring in the background? ill have you know my relationship is nothing like that, alex. i know yours isnt either, because your girlfriend is a crazy ass bitch.

marriage is an equality issue. why do non-breeding, married, hetero adult couples receive benefits that non-breeding, gay adult couples do not?

i do not want to discuss polygamy. i am ignorant regarding the issue because i dont know anyone who practices it and all the stuff ive heard about it has been from the monogamous majority. moreover, i just dont care at this point. polygamy only comes up when people are discussing mormons or trying to make strange analogies in same-sex marriage debates.

as in every human rights campaign, nobody expects the entire population to be on board, asap or ever - i dont think people who dont accept gay rights are terrible people. you say burke and hayek, i say voltaire and mill.

why dont we talk about something more timely, like hurricanes and links to climate change? alex loves bjorn!

 
At 9:07 PM, Blogger angela said...

ps wheres my "thanks for commenting" ...

 
At 9:44 AM, Blogger Kate Marie said...

Alex,

Thanks for the reply. Your position is logically consistent --but I would expect nothing less. I might disagree with you at a few junctures (on polygamy, for instance), but to be honest, I don't think I've quite figured out how libertarian I am about marriage. Some people have argued that the privatization of marriage would result in greater state intrusion and an increase in bureaucracy (because of child support, paternity, and welfare issues). I suppose the assumption there is that, without state recognition of marriage and the benefits provided for married people, fewer people will marry and people will have weaker commitments to each other in general. But I'm not sure whether I completely buy that argument.

Angela,

Your "They Came for Bert And Ernie" thing was very funny. My only quibble would be that, to my knowledge (though I don't follow these things very closely), Dobson and the others have never called for those shows to be banned. As for the Piglet thing -- a meme I was well aware of, by the way -- was it any more an excuse for the "wingnuts" to "stick it to the Muslims" than your parody was an excuse to "stick it to the Christians?"

"you say burke and hayek, i say voltaire and mill."

-- That sounds like the basis for a romantic comedy. Boy reading "Reflections on the Revolution in France" bumps into girl reading "On Liberty." Comedy, romance, and snowball fights ensue.

By the way, while I agree with your assessment of most contemporary romantic comedy, I do love the old Hollywood screwball comedies of the Thirties and early Forties. Have you ever given those a try?

 
At 1:53 PM, Blogger angela said...

hey, i generally dont give a toss what cerberus posts on his site - he isnt even on my blogroll. you can make these assumptions that i have some kind of anti-christian agenda. im not going to defend myself because i dont need to - i said im opposed to crazy people of all kinds and ive got nothing against the faithful, unless theyre batshit nuts.

you should rent salo by pasolini.

 
At 3:14 PM, Blogger Kate Marie said...

Angela,

Why so touchy?

I had stupidly assumed the Bert and Ernie thing was yours.

Sheesh.

As for crazy people, just remember ... first they came for the crazy people, and I did nothing ...

 
At 3:54 PM, Blogger angela said...

im touchy because im working for satan and like i get all nervous when im outed for dissing christians. clearly.

 
At 8:11 AM, Blogger Cerberus said...

"he isnt even on my blogroll."

We (group blog) should be though. We should be on everyone's blogroll. Thoughtful. Intelligent. Topical. Humourous. Respectful of believers but not fanatics. Self-deprecating. And good at cutting and pasting animated characters and funny pictures of politicos. We should be a daily mandatory read. If I only had the power of the legislature, it would be.

"hey, i generally dont give a toss what cerberus posts on his site"

Does that mean that sometimes you do give a toss? ;-)

TB
Cerberus

 
At 9:10 AM, Blogger angela said...

oh, i give many a toss. you dont want to be on my blogroll. most people on my blogroll are there because

a) reciprocity is polite
b) they emailed me and were all like "waah put me on"
c) if i dont put them there, ill forget to read them.

 

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