Monday, October 24, 2005

Redefining Marriage

One of the conservative buzzphrases that gets thrown around in the culture war is the idea that gay rights activists are trying to "redefine" marriage. See for example this Op-Ed in yesterday's Fort Worth Star-Telegram, where the writer argues, "Homosexuals are free to have the adult relationship they desire, but they do not have the right to redefine marriage."

What kind of nonsense is that? I'm free to have the relationship I want, as long as it's not a relationship that he doesn't want me to have? Boy, that's some freedom. Let's hear it for America! (This editorial aspires to intellectualism but doesn't quite get there; for example, the writer cites "studies" which show "that children who grow up in a fatherless household are many times more likely to commit suicide, end up in prison or do drugs." But what about children who grow up with two fathers, not none? Lovely of him to cite the risks of unstable heterosexual relationships as a reason to deny full civil equality to same-sex couples. Also he writes, "the only three good things that came out of the '60s are my daughters." Yeah, too bad about that pesky civil rights movement.)

The justifications these social conservatives throw up never make any sense. Some of them actually try to claim in court that same-sex marriage should be banned because the state has a compelling interest in promoting heterosexuality for the sake of the survival of the species. Um...? How paranoid do you have to be to think that heterosexuality is on the wane?

They love to argue that we need to ban same-sex marriage in order to protect children, arguing that heterosexual marriage is primarily about procreation. But if that were the case, why would my marriage to a man be any more threatening to a stable society than any of Rush Limbaugh's three marriages, all of which ended in divorce and none of which resulted in any children? If gay people should be denied marriage privileges on the basis that they can't procreate, then shouldn't we ban the marriage of infertile heterosexuals?

While we're on the subject, let's talk parenting: gay couples have to really want to become parents. It's something they have to plan, and frequently have to jump many hurdles to accomplish, whereas any heterosexual too stupid to use a condom can become a parent.

"It's always been that way" is not a defense. If we could really make that argument, we'd still have the slave trade and women wouldn't be working outside of the home.

Besides, gay marriage is not a new, radical assault on thousands of years of tradition; first of all, today's heterosexual marriages in no way resemble "marriages" of the past millennia, where in almost every culture around the world women have been regarded as man's property, where prepubescent girls were bartered to cement financial and political contracts. Secondly, gay folk have always been around, and presumably thousands of years ago the heterosexuals in control were just as unlikely to acknowledge that we form lasting, committed stable relationships as they are now. It's not that gay marriage is new; it's that for centuries the straight world has chosen not to see what was hidden in plain sight.

So that brings me back to "redefining marriage."

Let's say that you open Webster's Dictionary and look up "zebra," where it says that "The zebra is a large, rainbow-colored mammal related to horses found in the jungles of Nevada and Wyoming."

Well, we know that definition is wrong. Changing the definition in the dictionary to make it reflect what a zebra actually is is not the same thing as proposing radical changes to the zebra itself.

If your definition of marriage doesn't reflect reality, don't blame me for changing it.


little-cicero said...
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little-cicero said...

"It's something they have to plan, and frequently have to jump many hurdles to accomplish, whereas any heterosexual too stupid to use a condom can become a parent."

The reason this is so is that marriage was not created for the was created for the children. By creating this institution, involving special divorce proceeding that protect the unspoken interests of the children, adultery definitions that denounce unfaithful behavior on the part of either individual, and considerations for parenting and adoption rights, the law is meant to protect children concerning the marriage of their parents. The latter argument of adoption rights misrepresents your opponents viewpoints. Of course a two father household is better than a no-parent household, but a fatherless household can supplement the father for other male role models and "parenting participants" whereas a same sex parenthood omits the much-needed parenting role of one of the sexes. The sexes carry out different roles that contribute to a stable and healthy childhood and developement. Moreso, their must be an early-life deep relationship with both the opposite sex and the same sex, in order to develop the child's abilities in communicating and living with both sexes. To say that the opposite sex parenthood is, pragmatically speaking, prefferable to the conventional or supplemental parenthood is ignoring reality. I'm not a psychologist, but ask anyone who is one, and they'll tell you the same.

Andy said...

But that's a moot argument. If I were to get married, I would have zero interest in raising a family. Many heterosexuals can say the same, and the government puts no restrictions on their ability to marry.

little-cicero said...
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little-cicero said...

This is only the philisophical reasoning for having the institution of marriage. There will be exceptions, but basically, marriage is for the raising of a family, and it is best that same sex couples do not raise families for the said reasons. Therefore, if same-sex marriage is not compatible with family-building, why should the family building/protecting institution of marriage be applied to same sex couples. Homosexual relationships do not naturally yield babies for a reason: It may be God's will that a mother and father raise a child.

Paragraphs two and five bring up the discussion of marriage as it pertains to parenthood, so my arguments are not moot, their in direct response to your argument that same-sex couples are better candidates for adoption than conventional couples. The fact that they are more deliberate, in many cases, than heterosexual couples in parenting ignores the inherent insufficiency of having two parents of the same sex raising a child. Do you aggree that man-woman parents are preferable in the child's interest to same sex parents?

Trickish Knave said...

I guess little cicero gave up. In any event I don't care if gay people want to get married and I am all for it- why should heterosexuals be the only ones that are miserable?

I think that people just don't want to have to explian this gay marriage sight to thier kids so they use them as an excuse to not let gay marriage fall into the institution of marriage at all.

These are the same people that don't talk to thier kids about pregnancy, drugs, etc. Now they would have to come up with some way tell their kids that two men or two women have a child of their own.

I know you are just defending your argument against the thousands of "Aww shit, my rubber broke" or "Eh, I'll just pull out" pregancies. You make it sound, Andy, like gay couples would be the perfect parents or that they will stay together forever. I don't see any relationship, gay or straight, that has that kind of reliability. Alhtough gay couples would have to plan and want to have kids that is no guarantee that they will not fall into the same sinkholes that straight parents succomb to.

Hey, anyone that wants to change shitty diapers for 2-3 years should be given that opportunity!

Andy said...

No, I'm certainly not arguing that same-sex parents make better parents than heterosexual parents. But there is no evidence to the contrary, and certainly nothing sufficient to merit legislation depriving tax-paying, voting Americans of a certain unalienable right known as the pursuit of happiness.

As far as parenting goes, however, I do think there is something to be said for a devoted, committed couple which makes a conscious choice to start a family. And I don't think it's for me or you or some suited-up jerk in Washington or a priest in Rome to tell any of us who can be in our family.

But all of this talk of parenting is actually a red-herring, and that was a point I made in the original post, so, yes, Little Cicero, your arguments are still moot because you would deny me my civil rights ostensibly to protect children I don't intend to have. You're raising utterly irrelevant objections, objections which could be raised about millions of heterosexual marriages.

Steve said...

WOW, and I thought having George Bush in the White House was bad. I must say that I am glad little-cicero is not there.

I take exception to this comment by L.C. "Of course a two father household is better than a no-parent household, but a fatherless household can supplement the father for other male role models and "parenting participants" whereas a same sex parenthood omits the much-needed parenting role of one of the sexes."

Andy did not say a no-parent household. Andy said a "fatherless" household. There is a difference. L.C. you comment that fatherless households can find a surrogate. Can't motherless households? What about fathers who are raising their children alone because of death or divorce? Are you saying that they are not a "real family"? I would beg to differ.

Andy is right, the issue is inequality. You have provided something to one party without providing it to another. Is there something special about heterosexuals that I am missing? Give me a break!

Jeff said...

Little-cicero, the bulk of your argument against same-sex marriage is that it's somehow bad for children. Where's your proof? Not only do you cite unknown "psychologists" - you even state that any psychologist would agree with you. But there are plenty of studies to show that children are not harmed by being raised by same-sex parents.

Your main argument is purely theoretical - that children need early interaction with both sexes in order to "develop living and communicating with both sexes."


1) You don't provide any proof for this.

2) You assume that a failure to "develop living and communicating with both sexes" is damaging, but you don't give any reasons why.

3) Even if your conjecture is true (which I don't concede), you're forgetting about aunts and uncles and siblings and grandparents and possibly godparents or neighbors.

Furthermore, you state that marrriage is "for" the raising of a family. But marriage is not "for" anything. Society is not bound by the past; marriage is "for" whatever we say it's for.

Jeff said...

And furthermore, same-sex couples have been raising children for years, and preventing same-sex couples from marrying will not change that, so it's not clear what a ban on same-sex marriage is trying to achieve.

Andy said...

Actually Jeff, I believe there is only one broadly accepted academic study which shows that children raised by same-sex parents do not display characteristics or problems significantly different from children raised in heterosexual families. However, that is one study more than the literature available to the contrary.

little-cicero said...

Someone asked for experts who conclude that marriages with mother and father are preferable.

"H.B. Biller & J.L. Kimpton, "The Father and the School-Aged Child, in The Role of The Father in Child Development," 143 (3d ed.1997); H.B. Biller, "Fathers and Families: Paternal Factors in Child Development," 1-3 (1993); Lynne Marie Kohm, "The Homosexual "Union": Should Gay and Lesbian Partnerships be Granted the Same Status as Marriage?, 22 J. Contemp. L. 51, 61 & nn.53, 54 (1996) These studies show that the most stable family for children to grow up in is that led by a father and a mother."

little-cicero said...

To Steve: Of course they are a "family" but not all families are good for children.

It is not a profound idea that a father has a unique role seperate from that of a mother in parenting. You may ignore this fact if you have presuppositions in favor of gay parenting.

Let me clarify, when a child is exposed intimately to both sexes during development, it becomes aquainted and connected with both sexes rather than just one. Of course, this is part of why the product of a same-sex parenthood is likely to gravitate toward homosexuality whether he/she is or is not gay. There is also a basic need for that developmental connection for future relationships, because if you've never intimately been exposed to a sex, life can be a scary thing, like being in a world half-populated by aliens, not having experience in communicating or understanding them. The mother is the first female relationship a man will have, and we know that if you have a strong mother you will have a less abusive attitude toward women, and the daughter a less abuse-prone attitude toward herself. The father is the first male relationship you will have, and having a decent father makes the son decent as well, and the daughter more demanding of decency from her male relations in the future.

Andy and others may not plan to have children, but the point is that personally couples want marriage in order to attain rights to "family building" They may be good intentioned and put a great deal more effort than other parents, but there exists an inherent risk to the success of same-sex parenthood, because you DO ommit the possibility of external intimate parental participants when there are two parents, one presumably adopting the roles attributed to specific genders. Aunts and uncles could assume these roles were they not ommitted by the rule of "three's a crowd" in parenthood.

To Jeff, marriage IS for parenthood traditionally which is why civil unions should be sufficient for all other options. Since you are not engaging in marriage in the religious sense, the civil aspect of the union is all you would be seeking anyway. The only other aspect to the distinction between the two is parenthood rights and related issues, which is why to ANDY, I believe that parenthood is the MAIN REASON that your side is arguing for same sex marriage.

Marriage is not a civil right, it is a unique form of civil union distinguished for its religious, traditional and family-building ties. If you don't want the religion, and denounce the traditions as bigoted, much less you don't want the children...get a civil union!!!

Matthew said...

Excellent post, Andy.


The most ironic thing about the "redefining marriage" argument is that it isn't homosexuals who are attempting to redefine it, but heterosexuals who already have.

As you so astutely pointed out in the post, today's standard of marriage does not resemble that of a millenia ago, nor of a millenia before that, and so on and so forth. In fact, if folks would do a little research, they'd find that the definition of marriage has changed and morphed throughout the centuries.

It is heterosexual society that has pretty much turned marriage into a legal announcement of love between two people. Yes, a lot of times children come into the mix at some point, but not always. It is love which defines marriage in this day and age, and it is heterosexuals who have morphed it into that. Nothing wrong with it, I say.

The fact that some would now try and scramble to redefine it yet again, into a strictly child-rearing venture, with the beautiful aspect of two people simply falling in love and wanting legal protection for their partnership, is very telling indeed.

Did I say this was an excellent post, Andy?

Andy said...

Thanks, Matthew -- and it was an outstanding comment, as well.

To those (ahem) who might wonder why marriage is necessary, I suggest they take a glance here.

Steve said...

Andy...thanks for raising the issue. There are many individuals who look at things with myopia. Thanks for reminding us about the long haul. Equal access to marriage is an important step for homosexuals.

The whole slippery slope argument that is often used to fight the request holds no water.

Either the "state" decides that homosexuals should be extended the same rights granted to heterosexuals (Civil unions do not extend the tax benefits) or they need to get out of the marriage business.

Andy said...

LC, there you go again with this argument that marriage is about raising children. I think everyone agrees that a stable home is the best environment to raise a child. What "stable" means is more controversial. However you're operating under the presumption that heterosexual parents are always better. There are plenty of heterosexual single-parent families out there, and you don't see anyone pushing legislation to protect those families. What about married heterosexual families where one or both parents are emotionally, physically or sexually abusive? I mean, the BTK killer was married with children, for goodness sakes! Being heterosexual is no guarantee of being able to provide a "stable" home for children, anymore than being homosexual means an inability to do the same. Your arguments are utterly without merit.

little-cicero said...

I'm not convinced people! I want a straightforward answer. What is wrong with civil unions. Andy has neglected to offer a distinction other than that it is "second class treatment" If it is second class, there must exist some deficiency that makes it a less desirable form of marriage. John Kerry agrees with me, so don't go thinking I'm an ultraconservative here.

Andy said...

First, John Kerry is a dufus.

Second, clearly there MUST be a significant distinction between marriage and civil unions, otherwise you wouldn't object to marriage equality. And yet you're trying to push on us the idea that the difference is so negligble that we shouldn't push for full equality.

Separate status for gay Americans is absolutely unconstitutional. As someone who claims to have a solid literal understanding of the document, I fail to see where you find legal support for your arguments. Instead you can only cite unsubstantiated, bigoted, agenda-driven platitudes.

Jeff said...

LC, you've failed to address most of the points I made in my comments.

Linking to some studies doesn't negate the fact that there's at least one major study (as Andy mentions) that says same-sex marriages aren't harmful to children.

Next, you go into these elaborate, groundless suppositions about the effect a father or a mother has on a child. Suppositions are nice, but again, you provide no empirical evidence.

You say, "the product of a same-sex parenthood is likely to gravitate toward homosexuality whether he/she is or is not gay"? One, what does that even mean? Two, I doubt that's true. And three, even if it were, what's wrong with homosexuality anyway?

You say "marriage IS for parenthood traditionally," completely ignoring my comment that society is not bound by the past. Tradition is not an argument.

Finally, as I said, same-sex couples have been raising children for years. They're ALREADY families. Do you want to deny the parents in those relationships the protections of marriage?

little-cicero said...

Evidence is hard to come by concerning such a recent phenomena. There is no capacity for a scientific study on the long-term effects on children. I can only put forward suppositions and hope that they make sense to you.
A same-sex parenthood normalizes homosexuality to a child. I wouldn't say that it's a sin, but it is not normal because well over 90% of people are homosexual. If a child grows up seeing homosexuality as a norm, you know very well that it will gravitate toward same-sex relationships more freely than will other children, whether they're gay or not.
I would not rip apart families if they are same-sex, but I would discourage that same-sex parents be allowed equal adoption priority to conventional couples. Marriage is a traditional institution. My argument is, if you are willing to move heaven and earth to break with tradition, why pursue a traditional institution if what you're after is a civil institution. This is the point you have failed to address!
This is one rousing debate, isn't it

Jeff said...

This is, to put it bluntly, bunk.

I wouldn't say that it's a sin, but it is not normal because well over 90% of people are homosexual.

Homosexuality is normal. It normally occurs in a small percentage of the population. I think you mean to say that it's not typical, which I agree with.

If a child grows up seeing homosexuality as a norm, you know very well that it will gravitate toward same-sex relationships more freely than will other children, whether they're gay or not.

I know very well? No, I do not. Yet again you're making a supposition without providing any evidence.

Whether or not that child gravitates toward same-sex relationships is irrelevant. That kid will eventually decide whether he/she is sexually attracted to males or females (or both). It's not that difficult to know what gender(s) you're attracted to. Unless you have a different perspective based on personal experience or something I don't know about.