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4th Circuit Panel Strikes Down Virginia's Constitution

by Tony M.

Well, not the WHOLE constitution, just one part of it.

The part that enshrined 5,000 years of historical understanding of what marriage is. The one that says gays can marry on the exact same grounds that anyone else can: someone of the opposite sex and who is not a close relative. The one that says you won't get state approval for doing acts that make it illegal for you to donate blood.

I have a question for our pro-gay defenders: what is sexual orientation?

If a man is sexually attracted to women with blond hair, is that an orientation?
If a man is sexually attracted to women who have tattoos, is that an orientation?
If a man is attracted to girls who are 6, is that an orientation?
If a man is attracted to female canines, is that an orientation?
If a man is attracted to girls who are dead, is that an orientation?
If a man is attracted to 72 different virgins, is that an orientation?

Should we issue marriage licenses for the last 4 categories?

If a man wants to marry a man not because he is attracted to him at all, but solely to get the social advantages of marital status and no other purpose, should the state grant that marriage? What if he wants to marry a woman in a coma whose family approves? What if he wants to marry his dog, who wagged its tail when he "popped the question" - should the state grant marriage in that case? What if he wants to marry his house, or the EIffel Tower (don't laugh, there are several people convinced the Eiffel Tower is in love with them). Should the state agree to those marriages? What if all of the shareholders of GE decide to get married - and then apply for a single "family insurance plan" from Obamacare? Should the state agree to that marriage?

WHY NOT?

If marriage gets to be whatever the state wants it to be, and then "has to" grant it to anyone who wants it because anything else would constitute a reprehensible "animus" against them, then there are consequences to saying such stupid things:

There is no rational basis to deny marriage to people just because they have no intention of having sex - lots of old people stopped having sex years ago.

There is no rational basis to deny marriage to people just because they have no intention of ever living with each other - lots of people (like those in the military) live apart from their spouses.

There is no rational basis to deny marriage to two 4-year old neighbors who love each other and desperately want to get married - assuming their parents OK and provide consent on behalf of the kids.

There is no rational basis to deny marriage to a man and a 6-year old girl, if she really likes the guy and her parents give consent on her behalf - what, you aren't going to actually claim that the guy has plans to DO SOMETHING with the 6-year old, are you? What a dirty mind you have! See comment 3 paragraphs above.

There is no rational basis to deny marriage to 12 best friends, or 450, or 36,000. Who are YOU to decide that what they have isn't "what marriage is all about." Why, that's an ANIMUS, it is. Send yourself to jail and get 50 lashes for even thinking such a thing.

There is no rational basis to deny marriage to a woman who is in love with herself. Dang it, can't you see how bigoted you are?

There is no rational basis to deny marriage to a couple who just wants a 1-year marriage. Or a one-month marriage. Or a john who wants a one-hour marriage, thank you very much. (Besides, this will relieve the divorce courts from having to go through all the hassle of declaring a marriage dead - it will be automatic at the end of the term.)

Comments (110)

I just can't wait for the Dunsany com-box comedy act to show up: "Morality is subjective and boils down to a matter of will, but divine command theory is wrong because God could will certain things that I don't like. And all theistic morality is divine command theory because I lack the mental acumen to parse the differences. And it is okay to lie and cheat in order to put you stupid fundies in your place, but we can't let you stupid fundies into positions of power because you might do things that, by my own lights, I don't happen to like. And, by the way, we are the rational ones."

Take it away, captain Dunning-Kruger!


Since people are mocking me, I'll let it be known that seeing religious conservatives freak out over gay marriage never fails to put a smile on my face. Watching "parachurch" institutions be crushed by civil rights law will be even more delicious. I'm a vindictive person by nature, and nothing will please me more than the annihilation of the religious right.

You're scaring me Dunsany. Just listening to you talk makes me cringe at the thought of where you and your vindictive spirit will be hanging out in another 50 years.

Dunsany, what part of Untenured's characterization do you really object to?

The part where morality is a matter of will, but even if God is real not God's will because you don't like it? What is wrong with that characterization?

The part where you think that objections to divine command theory somehow work for all forms of theistic morality?

The part where you think fundies are stupid and shouldn't be put into positions of power?

Which part do you deny?

One of the most bizarre things about court opinions on this topic is the way that the rational basis test has been twisted out of all recognition. Over decades of jurisprudence the three-tier system for scrutiny was worked out, and the rational basis level was the lowest. It could be easily satisfied. My town has all kinds of nit-picky ordinances that could easily pass it. An ordinance, for example, about moving one's garbage bin up to within x feet of one's house except during stated times just before and just after garbage pick-up day. Considering how well-enclosed and sanitary the garbage bins in question are, there is really very little or nothing in the way of public health or safety considerations in favor of this ordinance. If the courts were to turn on it as gimlet an eye as they now turn upon marriage laws and apply what they _say_ is a rational basis test when applying it to those laws, it would never pass. Yet in terms of the actual history of the rational basis test, it would pass with ease. What they are doing, in effect, is making homosexuals into a constitutionally protected class and applying the much more difficult strict scrutiny test, but under the guise of the rational basis test. It's a truly bizarre bit of legal legerdemain.

Tony's final example was perhaps deliberately drawn from Islamic law, which allows exactly what he describes. It is called, I believe, "muta marriage," and is used by Muslim men visiting prostitutes. It can be legal for short periods of time such as an hour.

Homosexual activists are entirely arbitrary in what they admit to be rationally relevant to the issue of state recognition of civil marriage. For example, if they felt like it, they would no doubt protest that their arguments could _not_ be used to legalize prostitution by fiat throughout the U.S., because the government _does_ have a rational basis for preferring and giving recognition to long-term relationships to one-hour "relationships." But if one tries to point out that the only really strong reason for having civil marriage *at all* is the founding of the biological family and the protection of children within that family, and that therefore the heterosexual basis is at least as obvious as the preference for long-term relationships, they will reply with all sorts of nonsense, such as the response I saw to this the other day: "Homosexual couples can have children, too." Ummm, yeah. Nothing like a Humpty Dumpty definition of "having children as a couple."

I'm not a defender of same-sex activity, but purely for discussion purposes I'll try to advance a definition of "orientation" in the sense I believe it is typically understood:

"Sexual orientation" refers to that category of persons to which your sexual attraction is predominantly or wholly exclusive, i.e., you rarely or never experience spontaneous sexual attraction to anyone outside it, and can only respond sexually to intimate activity with persons outside your normal orientation under extreme and possibly artificial circumstances (sustained deprivation, extended psychological manipulation or stress, chemical psychotropics, etc.) if at all. It is also defined as a largely unalterable psychological trait: if a particular individual develops sexual responses to people outside his initial orientation it is only taken to demonstrate that his "actual" orientation was in fact broader than he believed it to be at the time, not that his "orientation" has actually changed. (This definition served as a vital element in de-legitimizing the genuinely abusive "therapies" meant to "cure" people of homosexual attraction in the '60s and '70s, but has since made it very difficult to evaluate individuals whose position on the spectrum does shift or in discovering how, when and why such shifts may occur.)

If this category of persons is so defined that sexual activity cannot be conducted without causing psychological or physical damage to one or both participants (e.g. pedophilia, ephebophilia or violently coercive sadism), or if the category of sexual attraction is defined by the presence of an object or condition rather than a general type of person (most paraphilias), then the condition is not considered a viable "orientation" but rather a disorder of varying classification.

Key in this is the shift in how "disorder" is defined for sexuality. Prior to 1973, predominant or exclusive homosexual attraction was considered a disorder because it impaired the ability of an individual to fulfill what were considered the primary natural functions of sexual activity: procreation of children and the creation and strengthening of the mutual parental bond. In order for that inability to no longer be considered a "disorder", those two functions -- procreation and emotional bonding -- had to be significantly downgraded in psychological priority, and the "primary function" of sexual activity was re-evaluated to be only sexual gratification. The procreative and unitive purposes of sex have literally been culturally, and in much of psychology, clinically, "divorced" from sex itself as essential aspects of its function and nature, because this is the only way by which the essential sterility of all same-sex activity can be held to be functionally equal with the elective or accidental sterility of much opposite-sex activity. That this functional equivalence reinforced the contraception-enabled libertine mentality among the "straight" segment of Western culture was an uncoincidental advantage, but one from which very few straight people abstained.

The whole moral argument for recognizing same-sex unions as marriages, therefore, turns fundamentally on the claim that it is effectively impossible for the majority of homosexually-attracted people to achieve a "fulfilling" marital life with a person of the opposite sex, because sexual satisfaction is now considered not only the primary defining condition of any marital relationship but the primary quality by which that relationship is to be evaluated. Thus any demand that marital privilege be limited solely to opposite-sex couples is an unjust denial of respect and position. Among the logical consequences of this position seldom noted are:
- The general tendency of sexual desire to pall on one person or with overindulgence makes marital happiness a much more fragile condition;
- The presumption that emotional investment in sexual activity is a learned choice rather than a natural response disadvantages women and privileges men;
- The presumption that children are a choice rather than an event conditions all would-be parents to see children as something to fit into their lives rather than something they change their lives to welcome and owe a duty to, the effect of which on said children can be profoundly damaging.

In short, we have all too many of us -- not just people with same-sex attractions -- redefined our idea of "marriage" around, to quote C.S. Lewis, "not... what our passion shows itself to be in experience but... what it professes to be while we are in the grip of it."

Stephen J., I know you aren't advancing this position but just sort of spinning it out as a target, but I find it interesting to note its internal tensions. So, for example:

"Sexual orientation" refers to that category of persons to which your sexual attraction is predominantly or wholly exclusive, i.e., you rarely or never experience spontaneous sexual attraction to anyone outside it, and can only respond sexually to intimate activity with persons outside your normal orientation under extreme and possibly artificial circumstances (sustained deprivation, extended psychological manipulation or stress, chemical psychotropics, etc.) if at all.

is in tension with the inclusion of "bisexual" among the orientations, because this description is rendered trivial in the case of bisexuality. "My sexual orientation is _exclusively_ for every other adult human being on the planet."

This:

In order for that inability to no longer be considered a "disorder", those two functions -- procreation and emotional bonding -- had to be significantly downgraded in psychological priority, and the "primary function" of sexual activity was re-evaluated to be only sexual gratification.

is in tension with the classification (mentioned in the previous paragraph) of a sexual orientation toward an object or a condition as a disorder. If the primary function of sexual activity is only sexual gratification, that removes the rationale for considering those to be disorders.

This

The whole moral argument for recognizing same-sex unions as marriages, therefore, turns fundamentally on the claim that it is effectively impossible for the majority of homosexually-attracted people to achieve a "fulfilling" marital life with a person of the opposite sex, because sexual satisfaction is now considered not only the primary defining condition of any marital relationship but the primary quality by which that relationship is to be evaluated.

is in tension with the exclusion of siblings from recognized civil marriages, since one might develop an exclusive sexual attraction to one's sibling (of either sex). It is also in tension with many other remaining "exclusions"--e.g., the exclusion of larger groups, since a given person might be unable to obtain sexual satisfaction except from a larger group. Indeed, anyone who is bisexual in orientation requires at least two other people over time to satisfy himself fully sexually. Moreover, any category of adultery between heterosexual people is in tension with this idea of marriage, since a given man might be able to be sexually fulfilled only with a woman who is another man's wife.

These are just a few of the considerations that, I suspect, lie behind Tony's implication that the argument for same-sex "marriage" is in effect an argument for legal anarchy vis a vis marriage and sex.

I suspect that Stephen's stab at defining sexual orientation is as fair and reasonable as any out there - it is certainly a close shot for the notion that the average person would use if they didn't spend tons of time thinking about it and drawing out distinctions and consequences.

And Lydia is quite right about inherent tensions (in some cases) and outright contradictions (in other cases).

What I was trying to pull out, mainly, was the pure arbitrariness of their hanging their hat on just a couple of the qualifying characteristics, and rejecting others "just because", you know, just because those don't fit their preferences. Totally arbitrary. And subjective, too.

Take, for example, that it is found primarily in identifying the preferred target of sexual desire, except of course with bisexuals they don't have one so then you have to expand the meaning. And then with a trans it isn't the target of desire at all it is how one relates to ones' own self. And the failure to propose any reason for SEXUAL orientation trumping other orientations for these purposes (of marriage). Why not the orientations given by "opposites attract", such as "good" girls being attracted to bad (risk-tolerant) boys? Or, say, whether you like smoking or don't.

"Sexual orientation" refers to that category of persons to which your sexual attraction is predominantly or wholly exclusive,

Of course, if Stephen's "category" descriptor were taken to be right, they would have to accept pedophiles and necrophiles and beastophiles as sexual orientations also, and pretty much the game would be up TODAY, because there is no more than one father in 1000 who is going to vote for allowing pedophiles free access to his little daughter because being a pedophile is a "protected status" just like being gay and you can't single them out for any reason.

If this category of persons is so defined that sexual activity cannot be conducted without causing psychological or physical damage to one or both participants (e.g. pedophilia, ephebophilia or violently coercive sadism), or if the category of sexual attraction is defined by the presence of an object or condition rather than a general type of person (most paraphilias), then the condition is not considered a viable "orientation" but rather a disorder of varying classification.

Ha. That's funny, given the physical damage that men do to each other all the time. Can you say "damage to the sphincter"? That's just for starters, the CDC admits there are a number of health risks. If physical damage is the criteria, gay men lost that argument ages ago. They had to shunt that issue off to the side as unimportant. And the psychological issues STILL crop up: the higher incidences of other mental health disorders (suicide attempts).

But even aside from that, it's still arbitrary to pretend to single out activity that "cannot be conducted without causing psychological damage" and then redefine psychological disorders into the categories that allow the sex between men or between women but not between a man and a young girl. All you have to do is redefine those parameters (and get rid of the social stigma of pedophilia - like they claimed for 20 years about being gay) and voila, no more psychological damage.

It is also arbitrary from the standpoint of gays saying "well, we will accept gay behavior because we no longer care about the moral standard you old fuddy-duddies keep yelling about, but we won't accept violent sadistic behavior that offends our moral standards." If gays can denigrate a standard that they don't like because it's not a moral issue (to them) but a "point of view" and they don't share it, then so can the sadists, and so on. Indeed, so can the psychopathic rapist: one man's heinous crime is another man's dessert. Where do you get off carving "coercive" behavior out of the category? That's just another social taboo, you know. There are perfectly normal, balanced individuals who just need to hurt a person once in a while.

sexual attraction is defined by the presence of an object or condition rather than a general type of person (most paraphilias)

Who are you to call my dog an "object"? She's my BABY! Dogs are people too, just ask the PETA people. (Ask the dog, while you are at it. Can't get a response out of the dog? The UN has a solution for that: see here, they can enable people in comas to vote, I am sure they can enable dogs to register their opinions the same way - dogs are just people who are speech and rationality-challenged.)

Once you divorce sex from any reason for society to care whether you are getting some, i.e. from any consideration of children, you thereby also divorce the category of marriage from any principle by which to say yea to these marriages and nay to those: it's all arbitrary. Why not grant marriage to a brother and sister who live together because they have always done so, have never had sex, and just plan on going on with the combined establishment because they take care of each other? (This was, remember one of the categories of the infamous "civil union" arguments - but now that gays are to be allowed full on 'marriage' rather than civil unions, there is no reason to deny it to the brother and sister.) There is no principled basis for saying "society only wants to recognize marriages for people keenly interested in sex with each other, but not for people who are keenly interested in chess, or painting, or making money together." And no remotely rational way to carve out people who keenly desire sex as threesomes and larger groups. By ditching the principle that underlies why society should care in the first place, you have destroyed any limiting basis. Any limiting impositions left after that are just sheer will to power, will to run people's lives for the sake of it. We'll tell you what to do merely because we CAN. And Dunsany's "we have the majority now" becomes a no longer even thinly veiled "might makes right."

I wonder what will happen to gays when non-gays finally come to realize that they have been had by "we will redefine it because we can" which is simply "might makes right". To any minority, really. Well, we don't really have to wonder, history repeats itself all the time.

If years of me explaining why all these objections fail and why adult consent as a necessary condition for intimacy that isn't inherently exploitative or harmful hasn't gotten through to you yet, I don't know what will. I've even provided a general definition to counteract this "Marriage could mean absolutely anything" nonsense. To repeat myself, marriage is 1) a committed and intimate relationship (which at minimum implies an exclusive partnership), 2) between consenting adult persons, 3) that connects their fates and fortunes together for the foreseeable future, 4) that is publicly acknowledged, 5) and may indicate a mutual signal for nesting behavior and raising children born to or adopted by the couple.

Regarding marriages of young children, you are simply misinformed about history.
http://www.faqs.org/childhood/A-Ar/Age-of-Consent.html

I'm a vindictive person by nature, and nothing will please me more than the annihilation of the religious right.

Yeah, we knew that you were a barbarian at heart. Using the term properly. But please, don't be shy about it, you needn't use such subtle euphemisms instead of saying what you really mean. Say, why don't you sign up right now for the job of chief torturer? If you get your foot in the door early, I suppose you might have a better chance at making it all the way to the bottom. Though there is plenty of competition.

To repeat myself, marriage is 1) a committed and intimate relationship (which at minimum implies an exclusive partnership), 2) between consenting adult persons, 3) that connects their fates and fortunes together for the foreseeable future, 4) that is publicly acknowledged, 5) and may indicate a mutual signal for nesting behavior and raising children born to or adopted by the couple.

Step2, without working off of principles of human nature, it is impossible to establish that society ought to care whether
(1) the relationship is "committed" (whatever that means) or exclusive;
(2) why "for the foreseeable future" is a distinguishing feature;
(3) why it this thing "marriage" needs to be publicly acknowledged; or
(4) why it matters if it is or is not a "signal for nesting behavior" if sometimes it isn't and if it is equally socially "acknowledged" that non-married couples also exhibit this nesting behavior.

And working with such principles of human nature, it is quite possible to show that the inter-related needs and goods of the human person make it so that the commitment is not just "for the foreseeable future" but lifelong, (because) the exclusivity pertains to fidelity of the heart and soul required of a mutual gift of _totality_, that both of these are intimately connected to openness to children who are the natural fruit of total COMPLEMENTARY sexual gift to each other (and who receive their first permanent commitment of love from their parents who already made a permanent commitment of love to spouse that included children as fruit is included in the blossom); and that these are all acknowledged publicly because the family is the natural (and irreducible) base unit of society which receives its permanence through that very openness to children. The unity and integrity by which all of these human goods complement each other and complete personal development in love and fulfilled self-giving should be proof to any open-minded person that marriage explained this way makes sense, and explained your way is just an arbitrary hodge-podge of features somewhat historically connected but otherwise irrelevant.

By ditching the principle that underlies why society should care in the first place, you have destroyed any limiting basis.

That is a very succinct statement of an argument that others _will not_ see. Civil marriage is a special governmental acknowledgement of the relationship. Why "we like having sex together" should be thought to constitute anything remotely like a basis for such special acknowledgement is in a sense too _rational_ a question for those who have swallowed the kool-aid of homosexual "marriage." What you'll get in return is a lot of blah blah about rights and love and exclusion, but not a good answer to that question. Occasionally you'll get a lame attempt to say that sex contributes to exclusive attachment which contributes to social stability, so therefore...But then out come the articles saying that homosexual couples, more often than heterosexual couples, _don't_ regard sex as part of an exclusive attachment and even define "monogamy" differently, so that pulls the empirical rug out of _that_ claim, which was really poor to begin with.

http://lydiaswebpage.blogspot.com/2010/08/but-of-course-there-could-be-no.html

Even in heterosexual situations, sex very often doesn't promote exclusivity and stability. Consider all the frat boys. The idea that there is a reason for government to promote sexual relationships as such is a joke. It would make more sense for the government to promote, I dunno, monasteries.

If years of me explaining why all these objections fail and why adult consent as a necessary condition for intimacy that isn't inherently exploitative or harmful hasn't gotten through to you yet,

In order to stake a claim that consent and non-exploitation and non-harmful are categorical characteristics that ought to matter to society, you have to first be willing to stake a claim as to "what sort of goods man ought to pursue." Because you have to be willing to say NO to the man who pursues pain in his fellow man as if it were a good. And if you are willing to stake (and therefore permit) a claim as to "what sort of goods man ought to pursue" you have to accept the possibility that the TRADITIONAL goods of marriage are, actually, "the sorts of goods man ought to pursue". That the permanence and fidelity and complementarity of sexual relations are, actually, good for mankind.

Classical moralists are ready and willing to debate that issue. Gays have long since shunned the argument because they hate it, they hate the very idea of it. Anthony Kennedy rejected the very possibility of allowing such an argument as pertaining to public matters in Planned Parenthood vs Casey. It is not classical morality that has swallowed the inherent contradiction of insisting that society ought to be a certain way (allowing gay 'marriage') but that there cannot be publicly held standards of what sort of goods men ought to pursue.

Tony,

It's not clear whether you're actually soliciting a response from your "pro-gay defenders" or you're just spouting off, but I don't think a response is warranted unless you can first acknowledge that you personally understand that there is a difference between a consenting adult human being and an inanimate object or an animal.

You indicate in one paragraph that the woman a lesbian night choose to marry has the same marriage rights as everyone else.

Then in the next paragraph, you get the vapors compare that same hypothetical partner to the Eiffel Tower. Or a dog! Ohhhh noooooes!

You cannot possibly be so stupid that you do not see a clear and reasonable distinction between the adult human beings, who you already said have marriage rights in the state, and animals and objects.

If I compared your wife to a dog, you would have a legitimate right to be insulted.

Now, are you willing to backpedal just a titch and acknowledge what we both know you already understand? Or are you going to double down and continue to be intellectually lazy, intentionally contributing nothing of substance to the discussion?

Phil, the point is not whether I understand the difference - of course I do. And I have made it clear that I do in a hundred ways.

The point is whether the STATE understands it.

If the notion is that the state has to be neutral about religions, not deciding between your religious beliefs and mine,

And the state extends that into being extra-neutral about all questions that have a religious component, not preferring any position over any other when the parties disagree about religion,

And the state extends THAT into being uber-neutral about all questions about personhood, the nature of man, what happiness is to consist in, whether feelings are more important than objective facts, what is the meaning of good:

THEN it will be true that the state cannot also declaim that "only human beings are persons" when there are thousands and thousands of animal rights activists who are convinced that dogs and cats are persons too. That "speciesism" is wrong. And when they are convinced that dogs and cats' feelings are just as important as humans' feelings. And when they point to the examples of animals loving their humans enough to cross 1000 miles of dangers to be re-united with their human, all for the sake of an emotional commitment that "connects their fates and fortunes together for the foreseeable future".

Then the state cannot also choose to prefer your notion of marriage being a relationship between 2 people when someone out there feels JUST AS STRONGLY that she is in love with herself and that denying her the recognition of marriage is bigoted, is the state preferring one person's notion of the good over another's capriciously.

Then the state cannot also choose to prefer your notion of marriage as being limited to 2 people when there are threesomes who are all mutually "in love" and claim the right to public recognition for a union that satisfies their feelings toward each other on an equal footing with the feelings of twosomes.

If the state cannot referee (and show preferences) between deeply held opinions on the meaning of personhood and the nature of the good of persons, then the state cannot also choose to prefer the point of view that says consent ought to be protected and promoted and coercion ought to be shunned and prevented, over the contrary view of some people that might makes right and if I am stronger I have a RIGHT to be satisfied in coercing others to my will.

It is the INCOHERENCE of the Anthony Kennedy's of the world who deny to the state a role in deciding, preferring, and choosing one person's view of the good over another's, and then goes and does EXACTLY THAT when it can trample on traditional moral views of the good over untraditional views with hob-nailed boots.

Of course I believe that consent is important to marriage, that human beings are different than animals, and so on. And I believe that the state DOES have a role in making choices between different views on those.

"It is the INCOHERENCE of the Anthony Kennedy's of the world who deny to the state a role in deciding, preferring, and choosing one person's view of the good over another's, and then goes and does EXACTLY THAT when it can trample on traditional moral views of the good over untraditional views with hob-nailed boots."

Right -- you can't coherently posit a total elasticity on the one hand, while advocating a radical inelasticity IN ONLY ONE DIRECTION on the other. A good cannot be simultaneously both inherently compromised and absolute.

Thing is, this contradiction has been present within the American Left since the 1960's. Read your Marcuse -- the idea is that toleration need not be extended to any idea deemed anti-progressive. This political and rhetorical idea has over time worked its way into the legal system.


I have a question for our pro-gay defenders: what is sexual orientation?

To better understand the term, let me first make a comparison. (I'll add more in a future post if there's time.) Sexual orientation in humans is similar to "handedness." Both are hard to define, yet most people fit into a particular category, innately, without thinking about it, and without necessarily trying to be one way or another.

Most people are right-handed, and this is something that is usually natural and effortless for them. (Statistics indicate that something like 70% to 90% of the world's population is right-handed.)

A smaller number of people are left-handed. This is something that they discovered about themselves as they developed; it is usually not obvious from birth.

A small number of people are ambidextrous. That term actually covers a range of handedness, since some ambidextrous people favor one hand for certain activies and the other hand for other activities.

The current thinking among contemporary, intelligent, non-bigoted people is that a person's innate handedness is morally neutral. That is, there is nothing unethical or reflective of poor character if a person feels drawn to use their left hand, or if a person is drawn to use both hands equally. Additionally, the current thinking among modern, intelligent, non-bigoted people is that the choice to act on one's handedness is morally neutral.

This was not always the case. In medieval times, left-handedness was considered a sign of evil. You probably know that the modern word "sinister" derives from the Latin word for "left" or "on the left side." As recently as the 20th century, it was common for parents to feel disappointment if they discovered that their child was left-handed. Many parents tried to "change" their left-handed children. It is now not considered medically advisable to try to force a left-handed child to use her right hand.

Here's a little Q & A about handedness:

If some people are ambidextrous, doesn't that refute the notion that handedness exists?

No. No, it doesn't. It just means that the spectrum of handedness isn't binary.


What about people who use their feet to write/paint/pick things up? Doesn't that mean that there's no such thing as handedness?

No, use of your feet to write is an interesting skill, and might be necessary for people who lack hands, but it doesn't fit in the spectrum of "handedness."

I know a guy who used to say he was left-handed, but now he uses his right hand! Doesn't that mean that handedness is bunk and all left-handed people can change if they want to?

No, one person's individual expression of handedness does not serve to refute the individual experiences of the millions of other people for whom primary use of their right hand is not a feasible option.

If the government passes a law that the only people who write and use scissors with their right hands can get a license to open a business, is that equal and fair treatment? I mean, left-handed people have the same rights as everyone else, they just have to write with their right hands and use right-handed scissors. That's equal treatment, so it's fair, right? Right?

What are you, an idiot? Why would you even say those words out loud? Seriously, are you even listening to yourself?

Dunsany: "I'm a vindictive person by nature, and nothing will please me more than the annihilation of the religious right."

One point for honesty. And self-assessed honesty is a good thing. A very good thing.

Now, you'll hear many Christians say something like, "I'm a sinner by nature." And a good number of Christians will then follow-up and say something like, "Jesus Christ, through His Work and Blood on the Cross, paid for my sins, and this repentant sinner now follows Jesus Christ as his/her Lord and Savior."

But notice that it starts off with this honest self-awareness, "I'm a sinner by nature."

Your statement of "I'm a vindictive person by nature"" is an apt parallel to "I'm a sinner by nature."

Dunsany, do you want to live and die as a vindictive person by nature? Or do you want to live as someone whose vindictiveness has been forgiven because you've repented of your sins, and confessed them to Jesus Christ whom you've embraced as Lord and Savior?

I have a question for our pro-gay defenders: what is sexual orientation?

Generally, the term "sexual orientation" is understood to refer to the trait of being primarily physically attracted to a particular sex or sexes of human beings.

Most people are "heterosexual;" that means that they are primarily and innately attracted to members of the opposite sex.

A smaller number of people are "homosexual." That means that they primarily, innately, attracted to members of the same sex.

Some people are "bisexual." That means that they are physically attracted to members of either sex.

Some research indicates that a small number of people are "asexual." That means that they aren't primarily attracted to members of either sex. Functionally, it usually means they aren't really sexually attracted to anyone.

What about people who have a preference for blond hair, for tattoos, for fake breasts, for red lipstick, or for dwarves? Are those different sexual orientations?

Those things, which may range from preferences to paraphilias, are not considered to be within the spectrum of sexual orientation. (For comparison, if someone says, "I really like to open beer bottles with my mouth!" does that mean that there's a new definition of handedness? No. No it does not.)

If a man wants to marry a man not because he is attracted to him at all, but solely to get the social advantages of marital status and no other purpose, should the state grant that marriage?

Your question deals with a legal technicality which is interesting, but it is not unique to same-sex marriage (SSM) in any way. In debate lingo, that means that this line of argument is nonunique. It applies to the policy in question, SSM, exactly as much as it applies to the status quo.

As such, this question is irrelevant. The answer to this question is already in the status quo. If men can marry men just to get the social advantages of marriage, then they are simply enjoying equal rights, because men have always been able to marry women to get the social advantages of marriage, and vice versa.

Can you see how your question is irrelevant, or do you think there is some value in pointing out an imaginary problem that could exist under current law just as much as it could under the plan you're arguing against?


There is no rational basis to deny marriage to people just because they have no intention of having sex - lots of old people stopped having sex years ago.

This is the status quo, Tony. Can you cite a state that has an "intent to have sex" test as a precondition for marriage?

There is no rational basis to deny marriage to people just because they have no intention of ever living with each other - lots of people (like those in the military) live apart from their spouses.

This is the status quo, Tony. As you pointed out.

There is no rational basis to deny marriage to two 4-year old neighbors who love each other and desperately want to get married - assuming their parents OK and provide consent on behalf of the kids.

And here's where you go off the deep end, Tony. As you point out, you understand that there is a rational basis to prevent 4-year-olds from marrying. I understand that there is a rational basis to prevent 4-year-olds from marrying. And the state understands this as well.

So what you are engaging in, as you probably know, is a fallacious slippery-slope argument. What you're saying is, "If we eliminate the gender requirement for marriage, then we must eliminate the age requirement for marriage, because if you make one change to a law, you have to make every other possible change to the law! There is no difference between gender (meaning sex) and age! They are exactly the same thing!"

You, of course, know that they aren't the same thing, as do I, and every state in the union. Yet you persist to pretend that one cannot simultaneously hold that A) there isn't a rational basis for the gender (sex) requirement for marriage but that B) there is a rational basis for the age requirement.

I can present you with a logical argument for why the gender (sex) requirement isn't necessary, but an age requirement is valid. But that seems pointless, because you already know I'm right, and you're just throwing out straw men that you don't really care about.

Do you disagree? Or else can you please explain to me why you think your questions don't indicate a fallacious "slippery slope" line of reasoning?

If we allow same-sex marriage, then we must allow bisexuals to marry two people, because they are attracted to both sexes!

That is not the case. A bisexual person may have the capacity to be attracted to people of either sex, which means they have the capacity to be attracted to more than one person. But a heterosexual man who has the capacity to be attracted to women still has the capacity to be attracted to more than one person.

The existence of bisexuals no more necessitates the creation of multiple-person marriage than does the existence of heterosexuals.

If you disagree with my contention that a heterosexual man can be married to one woman but still feel attraction to other people, I would like to cite as evidence A) most of human history and B) a huge percentage of all literature ever written.

(don't laugh, there are several people convinced the Eiffel Tower is in love with them)


The Eiffel Tower, on the other hand, maintains that it was just a freestanding iron latticework structure in his pocket.

:)

In case it wasn't clear, I feel it appropriate to point out that I was using block-quotes to respond to actual quotations from Tony's post, while I used simple italics to denote hypothetical questions from hypothetical persons (or to indicate questions that involved a mishmash of ideas.) I don't want to imply that Tony said things that he didn't.

Phil,

Those things, which may range from preferences to paraphilias, are not considered to be within the spectrum of sexual orientation.

Why should I care about this? The question is what SHOULD be considered sexual orientation and why, not what is "considered" to be within the "spectrum of sexual orientation".

As you point out, you understand that there is a rational basis to prevent 4-year-olds from marrying. I understand that there is a rational basis to prevent 4-year-olds from marrying. And the state understands this as well.

The point is that the state is being inconsistent with the logic they are using. Nobody denies that at the moment the state is being inconsistent enough to outlaw such a ridiculous notion.

This is the status quo, Tony. Can you cite a state that has an "intent to have sex" test as a precondition for marriage?

Actually, as far as I know all jurisdictions have had a basis for civil annulment on the grounds of non-consummation. Yes, that's after the fact, but it is definitely related to your question, Phil. As a matter of fact, I can give you more data: The Brits, who like legal technicalities, had to puzzle over this issue when they legalized same-sex "marriage," because the question then arose whether to *remove* the requirement for consummation in order for a marriage to be non-null or whether to redefine "consummation." The only thing I can't tell you is what they finally decided. I didn't follow the unpleasant line of thought to the bitter end. But the fact that it came up shows that marriage as understood in the status quo does involve sexual consummation, contra what I take you to be implying here.

I suppose some heterosexual couples who never consummate their marriages might mutually agree not to seek a civil annulment. But it would be available if either partner sought it.

And if you are willing to stake (and therefore permit) a claim as to "what sort of goods man ought to pursue" you have to accept the possibility that the TRADITIONAL goods of marriage are, actually, "the sorts of goods man ought to pursue".

I’m honestly curious if you imagine that I’ve ever written, anywhere, that the modern traditional goods* of marriage are bad and nobody should pursue them. I’ll also rehash the same argument I’ve made dozens of times over the years: Society allows plenty of exceptions to those traditional goods when it comes to heterosexual couples. If a heterosexual couple cannot have or simply doesn't want children, nobody in society gets to annul their marriage or treat it like it is fake.

*Since polygamy, levirate marriages, and concubinage were ancient traditional aspects.

TUAD,
It's bad enough that Dunsany is behaving like a cartoon villain twirling his mustache. Attempts to proselytize him are equally cartoonish.


Step2 wrote:

"It's bad enough that Dunsany is behaving like a cartoon villain twirling his mustache. Attempts to proselytize him are equally cartoonish."

It's worse than than that, I think, because it should have been clear by now that Dunsany is trolling.

The point is that the state is being inconsistent with the logic they are using. Nobody denies that at the moment the state is being inconsistent enough to outlaw such a ridiculous notion.

We're talking about civil marriage here, not about religious marriages, or any particular church's definition of marriage, or about the joining of souls, etc.

The state's logic is that there isn't a rational purpose to impose a gender restriction on the adult participants in legal marriages, but there is a rational purpose served by preventing minors from marrying.

Since you're calling that "inconsistent," perhaps you could explain how you find the state's logic to be inconsistent.
'
I understand that on this board, the general understanding of what a marriage is boils down to: "A marriage requires penis-in-vagina sex in order for the marriage to be real." But that's simply an assertion. When courts ask why penis-in-vagina sex is a necessary component, the response is "Something something something procreation." Then, when it is pointed out that every state in the union permits nonprocreative couples to marry, the response becomes a philosophical argument, not a legal argument.

Actually, as far as I know all jurisdictions have had a basis for civil annulment on the grounds of non-consummation. Yes, that's after the fact, but it is definitely related to your question, Phil.

That's a valid point, Lydia, and it is true that there is a societal expectation of sexual intimacy and sexual exclusivity in marriage. I'm sure we differ on what sex is, and I'm sure you have a well-reasoned philosophical argument for why the only acceptable definition of "sex" is penis-in-vagina intercourse. I'm equally sure that I have no interest in hearing it. I'm fairly certain we have a reasonable idea where the other stands on that point.

I'd say your point is well-taken if you can show any jurisdictions in the modern U.S. where people who are physically incapable of having sex are legally barred from marrying, and also if you are willing to positively assert that you personally think they ought to be barred from marrying.

A young man who loses is penis to cancer, or to a wartime injury, or to a botched circumcision. Or a woman with incurable vaginismus, or a deformed vagina. Should those people be permanently barred by the state from entering into civil marriages? (In your personal opinion.)

I didn't follow the unpleasant line of thought to the bitter end.

I find such comments to be unnecessary and a bit incivil. Virtually no one likes to visualize their own parents engaging in intercourse, but that doesn't mean that such intercourse is therefore illicit or should be prevented.

Generally, the term "sexual orientation" is understood to refer to the trait of being primarily physically attracted to a particular sex or sexes of human beings.

To follow out what Lydia says, Phil, yes, that's pretty much what the term "sexual orientation" is currently taken to mean THESE days. But what, precisely, makes "to a particular sex" a characteristic of sexual attraction that is so all-fired important? Why not note the particular color, or the particular size, or the particular N that a person is sexually attracted to. If (as facebook says) there are 58 flavors of sex / gender, and a person might be attracted to any combination thereof (so "attracted to X" is not a binary solution set), what makes it that "attracted to a sex" that is the important one and not "attracted to N" where N is any of a thousand things? Seems to me that "attracted to humans" vs "attracted to non-humans" would be far more distinguishing a feature, and should then be far more important to note and make much of.

What about people who have a preference for blond hair, for tattoos, for fake breasts, for red lipstick, or for dwarves? Are those different sexual orientations?

Those things, which may range from preferences to paraphilias, are not considered to be within the spectrum of sexual orientation.

True, by an arbitrary determination that "orientation" shall mean only the sex of the target of sexual desire, not the species, nor any other feature.

Your question deals with a legal technicality which is interesting, but it is not unique to same-sex marriage (SSM) in any way. In debate lingo, that means that this line of argument is nonunique. It applies to the policy in question, SSM, exactly as much as it applies to the status quo.

As such, this question is irrelevant. The answer to this question is already in the status quo. If men can marry men just to get the social advantages of marriage, then they are simply enjoying equal rights, because men have always been able to marry women to get the social advantages of marriage, and vice versa.

It is not just, as Lydia says, that the state has the tools for and can declare null a marriage that is not consummated, in some cases that would even be the logical and socially right response from the state. For example, if the couple made it explicit and public that they were getting the status of marriage "just for the heck of it", for absolutely no objective related to the actual reasons marriage is officially recognized, to leave them in their wrongful possession of that state recognition would be to undermine the very institution. It would be like granting a tax deduction for "business loss" when you had just given away business assets for the sole purpose of taking the deduction. Or the state giving honors and a medal for some altruistic act, and the person then declaring that "the only reason I did the act was for the public honors and the fame because I am so vain." You missed the point, Phil, that my main objection (at that point) to their act was the reason they entered into the "state" rather than their sex.

So what you are engaging in, as you probably know, is a fallacious slippery-slope argument. What you're saying is, "If we eliminate the gender requirement for marriage, then we must eliminate the age requirement for marriage, because if you make one change to a law, you have to make every other possible change to the law! There is no difference between gender (meaning sex) and age! They are exactly the same thing!"...[snip]

Do you disagree? Or else can you please explain to me why you think your questions don't indicate a fallacious "slippery slope" line of reasoning?

Wrong slope, Phil. It is not "if you eliminate the complementarity of sex requirement for marriage" that is the problem. It is the claim behind that elimination: that there is no basis for the state to prefer or favor a moral code that finds an important good in the sexual complementarity over a moral code that finds no important good in the sexual complementarity. This is where you failed to engage the ACTUAL ARGUMENT I am making, Phil: that gays can use a premise of the state not favoring one moral code over another, and then deny that very sort of premise to rapists, child molesters, and others who have a different moral code from them.

that it was just a freestanding iron latticework structure in his pocket.

:)

Touche! Good line.

I’ll also rehash the same argument I’ve made dozens of times over the years: Society allows plenty of exceptions to those traditional goods when it comes to heterosexual couples. If a heterosexual couple cannot have or simply doesn't want children, nobody in society gets to annul their marriage or treat it like it is fake.

Step2, you leave ambiguous which goods and the ways of falling away from them you are talking about. Lots of heterosexuals want the goods of sex without marital commitment, but few of us think that they should be granted the public status of marriage just because they are choosing to have sex, most of us think that rejecting such a good is fatal to the meaning of marriage. Lots of heterosexuals want the goods of sex and pseudo-marriage that can be revoked and started anew with someone else when they get tired of their first partner, but that wish would deny the goods of fidelity and all that fidelity does for the human person in terms of growth. And lots of people think that this rejection is fatal to the meaning of marriage. Lots of heterosexuals want the physical goods of sexual pleasure but want to not be touched with the goods of having children, choosing to deny these goods, nor want to deal with the good of making a total gift of self including fertility. And lots of us think that this rejection of goods is fatal to the meaning of marriage.

I’m honestly curious if you imagine that I’ve ever written, anywhere, that the modern traditional goods* of marriage are bad and nobody should pursue them.

Step2, I wasn't using the phrase "what sort of goods man ought to pursue" not to identify things in the set {goods to pursue} that a man may pursue if his fancy takes him that way. No. I was trying to identify the underlying characteristics that constrain and prescribe what things CAN fall into that class, the sortings for the goods proper to man, and (even more importantly for this discussion) the sorts of things that the state can definitely say shall not be pursued because they are fundamentally incompatible with the pursuit of the goods proper to man. If the very discussion is forbidden to the state as the *neutral* arbiter of coercive force, then there is no way to take off the table "pulling babies arms out of their sockets" as a "good" for the sort of man who likes that kind of thing. Or anything else.

I'd say your point is well-taken if you can show any jurisdictions in the modern U.S. where people who are physically incapable of having sex are legally barred from marrying, and also if you are willing to positively assert that you personally think they ought to be barred from marrying.

Well, Phil, at the moment there is no jurisdiction in the US where sodomy is illegal, but that doesn't tell us anything - given the way the courts have rammed their legislation home. For a thousand years and more, it was quite literally true that a person who was physically incapable of sexual intercourse (such as with no male sexual organs) was considered incapable of contracting marriage and therefore was legally barred from it. The view was that the law was simply recognizing a reality - that no marriage would actually take place (even if a wedding ceremony took place).

Even in a Josephite marriage (where the couple agree beforehand to not use the marital bed for sexual union), the couple were strictly enjoined with the caution that if one party changed his mind, the other party owed them in justice the "marital debt" of the conjugal union. And if this was physically impossible and was known to be physically impossible beforehand, then marriage could not be contracted - for there could not be the necessary consent to be willing to satisfy that debt.

I understand that on this board, the general understanding of what a marriage is boils down to: "A marriage requires penis-in-vagina sex in order for the marriage to be real." But that's simply an assertion. When courts ask why penis-in-vagina sex is a necessary component, the response is "Something something something procreation." Then, when it is pointed out that every state in the union permits nonprocreative couples to marry, the response becomes a philosophical argument, not a legal argument.

Wrong. Marriage is the union of two whose sexual act is of such a nature as to be capable of generating a child, (i.e. absent any impediments in the organs). (That's not complete, by the way.) It is unnecessary to ask about whether the state "permits nonprocreative couples to marry" to understand that. Couples who are INTENTIONALLY and PERMANENTLY nonprocreative, who have made themselves (or are by nature) such that their sexual act is no longer of such a nature as to be capable of generating a child are not actually marrying, whatever they think they are doing.

True, by an arbitrary determination that "orientation" shall mean only the sex of the target of sexual desire, not the species, nor any other feature.

Just like how a person using their foot to write changes the definition of "handedness?" Wait, what if a person uses their left hand to pick up a ruler and then uses the ruler as a tool! Oh no! The definition of handedness is totally arbitrary and it could change at any time! By simply acknowledging that left-handed people exist, we have opened up Pandora's box and now we must treat people who write with their bellybuttons the same as those normal, licit right-handers.

But wait-- if we can't know with certainty what a person's handedness is 100% of the time, that must mean there is simply no such thing! No one is left-handed; there are just people who deviate from the norm and act on their sinister impulses.

You asked me what sexual orientation means. I told you.

It's possible for someone to be "heterosexual" and also really into Asian women. It happens, Tony. That's already in the status quo; yet the preference for Asians is not considered to be a part of one's sexual orientation. This distinction already exists. It's not like, ohmygosh, we're going to have figure out how to make such a distinction if and when the situation ever arises!

And sure, there are some people out there who fantasize about having sex with My Little Ponies. There are also Christians out there who drown their children in the bathtub because God told them to do it. Pretending that same-sex marriage will lead to logically to My Little Pony marriages is pretty much on the same level as saying that permitting Christians to practice their religion freely will result in child sacrifice.

Do you take my point?

Further--not that it's any of my business, but I suspect that you're a heterosexual, and as such, I suspect that you believe your own sexual orientation to be innate. I could be wrong--it's possible you're so sexually fluid you could marry a guy and be perfectly happy and enjoy a mutually beneficial sexual relationship with your man. Feel free to weigh in if that's the case. But I have found that most people are able to conceptualize their own sexual orientation as a part of them, and most people are able to make a distinction between their orientation and the preferences that they may have.

And, that's the status quo: basically everyone has preferences. It's possible that you're one of those people who is capable of being sexually attracted to anyone--let's stick with adult human beings for this conversation--young women, old women, white women, black women, "little people," obese women, octogenarians, anorexic women, etc. But if you fit into the vast, vast majority of people who aren't sexually attracted to absolutely everyone, then you also have one of those dangerous, hard-to-categorize preferences that you're worried will someday be called a "sexual orientation." Anything that you're not not attracted to is your preference.

And most people--maybe you, but even if not, most people--are able to distinguish between the sex (or sexes) that they are primarily attracted to and the other characteristics that they prefer.

Wrong slope, Phil. It is not "if you eliminate the complementarity of sex requirement for marriage" that is the problem.

I'd just like to point out that I did not use the phrase "complementarity of sex" because I find that phrase to be hokey. The sex discrimination in some states' marriage laws was on the basis of one partner's sex, not both. That might be a minor distinction, but I think it gets at a difference in the way you and I view marriage. (For starters, we're talking about civil marriage, and I think I'm much more likely to make a clear distinction in my head between civil marriages that the state recognizes versus religious marriages that are performed within all of the many many different faith traditions that exist within the United States, all with their own special rules that they think are super-duper important.) But also: marriage to me involves two individuals, and both of them must be able to freely choose marriage and also be able to consent to marriage (and any kind of sex that it might entail). These two individuals choose to legally join their interests and to become family.

Your insistence on "complementarity" starts with the notion of the couple, not with the notion of two free individuals. That, plus your insistence on comparing one of the partners in marriage to an animal or an object, seems to be an offshoot of the predecessor of your "traditional" views of marriage, where one partner was basically viewed--and often treated--as the property of the other. She would be transferred from her father's guardianship to the guardianship of her husband.

I'm not accusing you of believing that women are property (consciously, at least.) I do think that the fact that you see "sexual complementarity" as the only thing standing in the way of marriages to dogs and inanimate objects is evidence that you haven't really internalized a concept of marriage involving two, separate, free, equal people who each individually choose to enter into the marriage.

If the core of marriage is two individuals freely choosing (because they are capable of consenting to the choice) to join with one person, above all others, then the slope isn't as slippery as you keep painting it to be.

It is the claim behind that elimination: that there is no basis for the state to prefer or favor a moral code that finds an important good in the sexual complementarity over a moral code that finds no important good in the sexual complementarity.

The problem with your argument, when you argue that I'm not engaging your actual argument, is that you also aren't really engaging with the arguments that are being used to overturn SSM bans. So, it's like a straw man fighting a straw man.

Courts aren't issuing judgments that say "there is no important good in sexual complementarity." They are rejecting the arguments presented by your side, and those arguments--insomuch as they deal with sexual complementarity--are about procreation.

Justice Niemeyer wrote, in Virginia, that we ought not "ignore the inextricable, biological link between marriage and procreation that the Supreme Court has always recognized."

A brief filed by the Alliance Defending Freedom in Virginia wrote of "these procreation- and child-focused purposes for marriage[...]”


The judge who struck down Kentucky's same-sex marriage ban wrote, "Even assuming the state has a legitimate interest in promoting procreation, the Court fails to see, and Defendant never explains, how the exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage has any effect whatsoever on procreation among heterosexual spouses." [emphasis added]

"Procreation" isn't a winning argument because same-sex couples are just a part of the larger subset of all couples who cannot produce children together. "Sexual complementarity" is jargon used by a few specific subsets of religious believers, and it is used precisely because "procreation" is not a requirement for marriage.

But pretending that "sexual complementarity" matters with or without procreation--which is basically what you imply when you use the term--is a form of magical thinking. You have a right to engage in magical thinking, but that is not the stuff of legal arguments.

If you feel like disagreeing with my assertion that "sexual complementarity" is religious jargon, here are the first ten web sites that come up when I do a Google search for that phrase:

1. The Associated Baptist Press News
2-3. "Women in Theology" .org
4. Biblicaltraining.org
5. DesiringGod.org
6. An article from The Federalist written about religious liberty, by a Catholic university professor
7. The blog of Father Peter West, a Catholic priest
8. The Minnesota Catholic Conference
9. A "blog about religion, politics, philosophy, and other ephemera" called the Thinking Reed.
10. A YouTube video of Pastor John Piper preaching.

So, while I suspect that to you, "sexual complementarity" is a phrase that comes from Natural Law and is not necessarily considered to be obscure religious jargon, perhaps you will take my point that, in the material world that we both inhabit, that phrase is used overwhelmingly and almost exclusively by adherents to a few particular religious sects and religious faith traditions within Christianity.

Well, Phil, at the moment there is no jurisdiction in the US where sodomy is illegal, but that doesn't tell us anything - given the way the courts have rammed their legislation home.

Pun intended?

For a thousand years and more, it was quite literally true that a person who was physically incapable of sexual intercourse (such as with no male sexual organs) was considered incapable of contracting marriage and therefore was legally barred from it.

I don't know what you want me to do with an argument that beings, "For a thousand years or more."

You can probably imagine how I would respond to that, so there's no need for me to write anything, is there?

Wrong. Marriage is the union of two whose sexual act is of such a nature as to be capable of generating a child

I was wrong when I said that your argument boils down to "A marriage requires penis-in-vagina sex in order for the marriage to be real"?

Please explain to me what you mean when you say "a union of two whose sexual act is of such a nature as to be capable of generating a child," and explain how this sexual act doesn't involve penis-in-vagina sex.

If you don't like to use plain English words for body parts, just say so. There's no need to say I'm wrong when I am clearly correct.

Couples who are INTENTIONALLY and PERMANENTLY nonprocreative, who have made themselves (or are by nature) such that their sexual act is no longer of such a nature as to be capable of generating a child are not actually marrying, whatever they think they are doing.

Oh, so a woman who has had a hysterectomy, say, because of cancer, should be legally barred from ever marrying? And any man who chooses to become her partner for life must either remain unmarried for the rest of his life or abandon her and find someone else?

I think I know what your response is: their sexual act is of "such a nature" as to be capable of generating a child, even if it cannot, in fact, generate a child.

And that is where--as I already pointed out--your argument goes from being a legal argument to being a philosophical argument.

Ha. That's funny, given the physical damage that men do to each other all the time. Can you say "damage to the sphincter"?

In sheer numbers, far more heterosexuals have anal sex than do gay men. You knew that, right?

"Pretending that same-sex marriage will lead to logically to My Little Pony marriages is pretty much on the same level as saying that permitting Christians to practice their religion freely will result in child sacrifice. Do you take my point?"

Again, as Tony said, wrong slope.

A commenter on Rod Dreher's blog summed it up nicely this way:

~~~According to the LEGAL ARGUMENTS trying to establish that gay couples have a constitutional right to a marriage license, and the states have no standing to refuse one, one could EASILY extend those arguments to cover pedophilia, polygamy, bestiality, and perhaps even incest.

That’s the problem with making facile legal arguments for “I want what I want and I have a right to have it right now and if you don’t let me have it you are a bigot and an enemy of liberty.” A legislative debate and a change in the statutes is not a slippery slope, it is an exercise of discretion. But a constitutional mandate that reduces any definition whatsoever to unacceptable repression is infinitely elastic.~~~

Note those last two sentences. Therein lies one vital aspect of the Kennedy incoherence.

Also, the fact that population segments do not currently exist that are large and/or vocal enough to make a claim for polygamy, incestuous marriage, etc., is immaterial. The legal framework will be solidly in place for them to do so should they choose to pursue such a claim in the future. Remember that a mere 20 years ago hardly anyone was "pro" gay marriage. Who's to say what the demographic will look like in another 20 years, with the Sexual Revolution continuing at full tilt, and now established in law? We're decidedly NOT talking about 'My Little Pony' here.

I notice that in all of Phil's many words he has never yet given us a single reason why the state should care tuppence about relationships in virtue per se of their their having *only* the characteristics homosexual relationships are able to have and why the state should, therefore, give those relationships special state recognition. That is to say, in all his equivalences and his getting offended and his bluster, he has yet to tell us a good reason why homosexual "marriage" should be given state recognition *as opposed to* simply abolishing civil marriage altogether.

That’s the problem with making facile legal arguments for “I want what I want and I have a right to have it right now and if you don’t let me have it you are a bigot and an enemy of liberty.”

In that case, can you please cite the specific legal decisions in which the judge cited that argument as the reason for striking down a ban?

Because I've already pointed out, with quotations, that judges are saying the arguments (specifically about procreation) against gay marriage aren't rational .

I submit that you are confusing the poetic language that people use to talk about marriage decisions with the actual legal arguments being made.

Step2: "TUAD,
It's bad enough that Dunsany is behaving like a cartoon villain twirling his mustache. Attempts to proselytize him are equally cartoonish."

Throat Warbler Mangrove: "It's worse than than that, I think, because it should have been clear by now that Dunsany is trolling."

No apologies whatsoever for the Gospel outreach to Dunsany. Vindictive troll or not, the Gospel and Jesus is for folks like Dunsany too.

Blog Theme: "What's Wrong with the World."

One thing wrong is to call Gospel witnessing "cartoonish," even and especially to seemingly hardened hearts.

"In that case, can you please cite the specific legal decisions in which the judge cited that argument as the reason for striking down a ban?"

Please read that statement in the context of the paragraph in which it appears. The problem is that you can't have the judges saying that it's wrong to define marriage within traditionally understood limits because such definition is inherently repressive, but at the same time argue that that definition is NOT repressive when applied elsewhere, say to number, age, species or family status.

Basically, what they're saying is, "The traditional definition of marriage is fundamentally repressive, except when it's not." And that's incoherent.

But ok, so let's go with that. WHY is the selfsame traditional definition repressive when it comes to sexual orientation as currently understood, but not repressive when applied to number? What makes "2" more special/sacred/privileged than "M+F" when defining marriage?


"In sheer numbers, far more heterosexuals have anal sex than do gay men. You knew that, right?"

It's a meaningless statistic, considering that gay men make up only 1 - 1 1/2% of the population. It's like saying that in sheer numbers, far more regular guys chew tobacco than MLB players. As we used to say in highschool, NSS.

Run the numbers by percentages and I have a feeling it'll come out somewhat differently.

The problem is that you can't have the judges saying that it's wrong to define marriage within traditionally understood limits because such definition is inherently repressive

Again, this is a straw man. Where are the judges saying this? Quote them. If their arguments, and their decisions, are what you have a problem with, then provide actual evidence of that problem in their arguments and decisions.

I notice that in all of Phil's many words he has never yet given us a single reason why the state should care tuppence about relationships in virtue per se of their their having *only* the characteristics homosexual relationships are able to have and why the state should, therefore, give those relationships special state recognition.

And also, in all of her many words in this thread, Lydia has not mentioned once that Jews should be allowed to own property. Therefore, we should conclude that Lydia opposes the legal rights of Jews to own property?

Obviously, that logic is flawed, Lydia, but...why is your tone so snide all the time? If you had a question, why not just ask it, instead of using your keyboard to roll your eyes like that?

To reply to the substance of what you've written, let's be clear: we're talking about civil marriage, right? Because the courts are making legal decisions about civil marriage, and that was the subject of the original post. We're not talking about religious marriages, or any of the many different religious sects that have a private, personal, religious definitions of what marriage is and/or ought to be.

I ask because I don't think there's an answer I can give you that is really what you're looking for. (Well, to be honest, what you're looking for is some flawed logic so you can respond with an "a-ha! you're wrong and I'm right" kind of statement. But I can't throw stones; it's not like I haven't been guilty of that from time to time.)

The problem is that my answer will be based on my own worldview, and I don't want to argue about your religious faith. I don't find it interesting or productive to argue about your religious faith. I consider "natural law" arguments to be religious arguments, but I don't think you share that view.

If I say, for example the gist of my response is: First, I do not make a distinction between "homosexual marriage" and "marriage." Same-sex couples are not actually seeking the right to gay-marry; they've been seeking the right to marry. Adult same-sex couples fit into the larger category of adult couples who cannot conceive a child together. From a civil standpoint, they are absolutely equal and no different from all of the adult heterosexual couples who cannot conceive children together.

...you might reply that it's not just marriage it's totally different, because of XYZ, where I see "XYZ" as your personal religious faith and you'll see it as just simple truth that doesn't require religious faith.

However, if we accept that there is any benefit to having civil marriage for adult couples who cannot conceive children together, then it follows that there is benefit to having civil marriage for adult couples who cannot conceive children together. Since that category includes same-sex couples, and because same-sex couples are no different in any meaningful way from other couples in the class, then it follows that we already understand what those benefits are.

We might list such benefits as: marriage provides an immediate and easily-understood answer to the question: which one person is qualified to make legal decisions in your stead? And to the question, which one person should inherit your belongings or custody of your children if you die?

Civil marriage also provides economic stability for communities, and it provides economic stability for families. It reduces intrafamilial strife in communities because it joins unrelated persons together into the same family, and has the effect of created "extended families" who then also have some form of social connection.

Marriage also provides an excellent framework in which to raise children, no matter how those children are conceived. Peer-reviewed research shows that having two parents is better for children than having one. (Research also shows that being raised by stable same-sex couples is better for children than being raised in unstable family environments.)

I submit that the core of marriage is actually "commitment, not "sexual complementarity." Marriage doesn't begin with couples, it begins with two individuals, each freely choosing to commit to the other one.

Obviously, now that I have pointed out A) the benefits of civil marriage that include benefits stemming from same-sex marriage, and B) a perfectly reasonable explanation of the "core" of marriage that actually precludes child-rape, bestiality, and marriage to objects, you will of course see that I am right, apologize for ever disagreeing with me, and approach the world with fresh eyes, inspired that clear thinkers like me exist to help you see important issues from a different viewpoint.

Because that's how Internet discussions work, right? It's not just a scattered bunch of perpetually angry people talking past each other, right?

It's a meaningless statistic, considering that gay men make up only 1 - 1 1/2% of the population. It's like saying that in sheer numbers, far more regular guys chew tobacco than MLB players. As we used to say in highschool, NSS.

Why does that make it meaningless? If someone said, "Chewing tobacco is harmful, and therefore we should ban Major League Baseball," you would see the problem with that logic, right?

In the comment to which I responded, anal sex was used as a kind of synecdoche to represent gay male couples. That's not accurate. Most anal sex occurs among heterosexuals. (I also take issue with the conception that anal sex equals damaging. Anal sex can be damaging, and vaginal sex can be damaging. By the numbers, more people are injured during vaginal sex than during anal sex. Driving to work every day also represents a statistically significant health risk. An argument lacks credibility when you are using the argument as a pretext to support a conclusion that you already believe to be true.)

If you had a question, why not just ask it, instead of using your keyboard to roll your eyes like that?

I did ask it, earlier. I just didn't happen to name you that time.

However, if we accept that there is any benefit to having civil marriage for adult couples who cannot conceive children together, then it follows that there is benefit to having civil marriage for adult couples who cannot conceive children together.

Presumably you meant "heterosexual" in the first clause and "homosexual" in the second clause.

Wrong. The benefits that arise from that state, for the community, from heterosexual marriage for infertile couples are tied up with heterosexuality.

Marriage also provides an excellent framework in which to raise children, no matter how those children are conceived.

I completely disagree that this "excellent" adjective applies to homosexual couples. Nor, even by your own lights, does the research you cite support this highly positive conclusion for same-sex couples.

Civil marriage also provides economic stability for communities, and it provides economic stability for families. It reduces intrafamilial strife in communities because it joins unrelated persons together into the same family, and has the effect of created "extended families" who then also have some form of social connection.

Why should this by itself apply only to pairings of two people rather than more? Moreover, there are multiple reasons, including the redefinition of "monogamy" to doubt that these benefits apply to homosexual couples as they do to heterosexual couples. For one thing, biological children *of the couple* are part of the way in which these benefits arise for heterosexual couples.

marriage provides an immediate and easily-understood answer to the question: which one person is qualified to make legal decisions in your stead? And to the question, which one person should inherit your belongings or custody of your children if you die?

For the former two items in this list, we already have intestacy rules and other familial relationships to decide these questions in a case where a person is not civilly married and has made no testamentary disposition. If you want to designate someone to whom you aren't civilly married for this function, you can do so with paperwork. In fact, it's usually a very good idea to do so rather than relying on common law or intestacy rules in any event. I have an adult child who has filled out relevant paperwork allowing me to make decisions in the event of being incapacitated. My husband and I have done so for one another. HIPPAA rules being what they are, this is a virtual necessity for everybody, not some special burden on homosexuals. For the latter, naturally I am going to point out that, since the children cannot be biologically the children _of_ the couple, and since they should not be able to be adopted by the couple, it is dubiously just or advantageous for them simply to be turned over to the other member of a homosexual couple simply because that's a convenient thing to do when someone dies. In fact, the presumption that the other member of the homosexual couple is the parent of the children (for example, in lesbian couples where one woman is the biological mother and the other isn't) causes plenty of problems in its own right.

~~If someone said, "Chewing tobacco is harmful, and therefore we should ban Major League Baseball," you would see the problem with that logic, right?~~

Of course, but no one is talking about "banning" homosexuality. Your twist on the analogy isn't remotely pertinent.

"Anal sex can be damaging, and vaginal sex can be damaging. By the numbers, more people are injured during vaginal sex than during anal sex."

Really, if you can't see a difference between the complementarity of the penis and the vagina and the decided non-complementarity of the penis and rectum, there's not much hope for you, and this discussion is pretty much a waste of time.

I'd still like an answer to my question above: What makes "2" more special/sacred/privileged than "M+F" when defining marriage? Why is insisting on the latter "repressive" but insisting on the former not?

Because I've already pointed out, with quotations, that judges are saying the arguments (specifically about procreation) against gay marriage aren't rational.

I submit that you are confusing the poetic language that people use to talk about marriage decisions with the actual legal arguments being made.

Hey Phil,

Do you think anyone who takes the traditional view of marriage thinks these judges know what they are talking about? Or to put it another way, do you think we find their legal reasoning persuasive? Of course not. That's because their arguments are junk:

The judge who struck down Kentucky's same-sex marriage ban wrote, "Even assuming the state has a legitimate interest in promoting procreation, the Court fails to see, and Defendant never explains, how the exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage has any effect whatsoever on procreation among heterosexual spouses." [emphasis added]

"Procreation" isn't a winning argument because same-sex couples are just a part of the larger subset of all couples who cannot produce children together. "Sexual complementarity" is jargon used by a few specific subsets of religious believers, and it is used precisely because "procreation" is not a requirement for marriage.

But pretending that "sexual complementarity" matters with or without procreation--which is basically what you imply when you use the term--is a form of magical thinking. You have a right to engage in magical thinking, but that is not the stuff of legal arguments.

I agree that this particular judge doesn't understand why sexual complementarity matters and I agree that you don't understand why it matters, but that doesn't mean it shouldn't matter.

Presumably you meant "heterosexual" in the first clause and "homosexual" in the second clause.

No, I didn't. Homosexual couples who cannot conceive children together are exactly equal to heterosexual couples who cannot conceive children together.

The only difference is the genital configuration of one of the partners. In terms of civil marriage, that doesn't matter, at all. People who claim that the sex/gender of one of the partners in a nonprocreative couple has some kind of bearing on their marriage have the burden of proof to explain what quality makes them different, and they haven't been able to do that without resorting to non sequiturs or magical thinking.

I am not interested in your non sequiturs or magical thinking.

For the former two items in this list, we already have intestacy rules and other familial relationships to decide these questions in a case where a person is not civilly married and has made no testamentary disposition.

Why are you rebutting me? You asked me why same-sex marriage should be given state recognition instead of abolishing civil marriage altogether. I answered you.

The reasons I gave stem from the fact that same-sex couples are simply a part of the larger group of couples who cannot procreate together.

I rejected your logic that same-sex couples are different in some meaningful way from nonprocreative opposite-sex couples. I said I don't want to argue about your personal religious beliefs, and I also pointed out that I view natural law arguments to be religious. You have not provided a non-religious, logical reason that same-sex couples are different from the larger category of all adult couples who cannot procreate together.

As such, you must either first establish what the meaningful difference is, or you must argue that civil marriage has no benefits for any nonprocreative couples. It does not make sense for you to pick apart my specific examples when you haven't dealt with the premise on which they're based.

I have alread pre-emptively rejected your rejection of my premise as one that stems from your religious faith, and I've helpfully added that natural law arguments, to me, are religious jargon that stems from religious faith.

Since I don't want to argue with you about your religion, these are the only options that make sense: 1) You can agree with me that, yes, your arguments about the importance of sexual complementarity stem from your private, personal religious views. In that case, we could just agree to disagree. Or 2) You could make arguments about how same-sex couples are meaningfully different from all of the other nonprocreative couples that are not religious in nature.

If you're going to do that as a response to me, I ask that you make it very clear and assert it affirmatively. Begin with a statement like, "Even if we assume that there is no such thing as God, and that Natural Law arguments are just hooey"--and that way I'll know that you're not just trying to bait me into arguing with you about your personal religious faith.

Please note that typing "Even if we assume that there is no such thing" does not mean that you're implying that you personally don't believe in the things you're excluding from the discussion. It just means that you'd be dealing with my arguments as I presented them, instead of reframing them into your personal worldview.


Do you think anyone who takes the traditional view of marriage thinks these judges know what they are talking about? Or to put it another way, do you think we find their legal reasoning persuasive? Of course not.

Jeffrey, the point that you are making is a non sequitur. Yes, it's pretty likely that marriage equality opponents disagree with the judges. But when you say that the judges are wrong because of some made-up argument that they didn't make, that's a straw man.

It's possible that the judges didn't understand "sexual complementarity." They also didn't talk about it or write about it--not in the way that you understand it. So to say, for example, "The judges in these lawsuits are rejecting sexual complementarity and therefore adults will be able to legally molest children soon!" is a straw-man argument.

The judges didn't reject sexual complementarity. The concept didn't figure into their legal reasoning. They found bans on civil same-sex marriage to be unconstitutional for other reasons. So it is nonsensical to say "Their reasoning will lead to X, Y and Z" when you are not dealing with their actual reasoning.

Does that make sense? I'm not trying to argue with you about whether the concept of sexual complementarity is hooey. I understand that you and many of the folks here think it's not hooey. I'm just pointing out that it is not logical to say "This legal reasoning will lead to X" when you are blatantly mischaractering what the legal reasoning actually was.

You're acting like liberals who responded to the Hobby Lobby case by crying, "The Supreme Court just said that women can't have access to birth control!" That is not, in fact, what the Supreme Court actually reasoned. They reasoned that closely held corporations cannot be compelled to pay for insurance that includes birth control if it is against the religious beliefs of the owners.


I just want to add, since I feel my last post sounded rude, that the phrase

If you're going to do that as a response to me

was meant to be a meaningful qualifier. Obviously, you have every right to ignore me and talk about whatever you want. It is not my place to tell you what you can and can't do on a blog that you're a major part of. I was just pointing out the only options available if you wanted to make a logical argument in response to me.

Phil: "Why are you rebutting me?"

Is there a punny joke that can be made out of this question?

;-)

No. I was trying to identify the underlying characteristics that constrain and prescribe what things CAN fall into that class, the sortings for the goods proper to man, and (even more importantly for this discussion) the sorts of things that the state can definitely say shall not be pursued because they are fundamentally incompatible with the pursuit of the goods proper to man.

Well, I already provided one constraint which you dismissed as if it couldn't possibly be relevant, namely adult consent. Here's the thing, you think consent is only "meaningful" as a constraint within a certain narrow context and intrinsically linked to other particular goods. I don't, it can stand alone as a principled constraint on romantic pursuits "fundamentally incompatible" to the proper goods of men. Frankly, it flows as a pragmatic consequence from the Golden Rule/reciprocity so I'm unsure why it wouldn't carry moral weight all by itself. One thing that makes no sense at all is for you to say you believe consent is a valid limiting principle and then treat my support for the same principle as incoherent.

One thing wrong is to call Gospel witnessing "cartoonish," even and especially to seemingly hardened hearts.

It is when you are trying to witness to a cartoon. "Hey Daffy Duck, Jesus died for your despicable sins, won't you repent and follow him?"

Shorter Phil: Any argument that makes use of the idea that the manifest biological complementarity of the sexes matters to any civil policy is "a matter of religious faith." Not to mention "magical thinking." And this is scientific thought?

Lydia,

Your wonderful 8:35 PM comment saved me some time :-)

Phil,

I see now that I conflated your thoughts and the judge in Kentucky -- sorry about that. The judge in Kentucky is even worse than you:

"Even assuming the state has a legitimate interest in promoting procreation, the Court fails to see, and Defendant never explains, how the exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage has any effect whatsoever on procreation among heterosexual spouses."

Let's try legal reasoning the Kentucky way:

Plaintiff: Your honor, I'm hear because I think it is unfair that all these people with kids get to claim a child tax-credit on their state taxes -- I want a tax credit too!

Judge: But you don't have kids.

Plaintiff: Your honor, why should I be excluded from the credit just because I don't have kids -- that's discrimination! Plus, I gave my niece $25 for her birthday this year, so it's like I have a kid.

Judge: You are right -- the state has a legitimate interest in promoting child-rearing, but it is unclear to me why excluding you from the tax credit meant for adults raising children would have any effect on the state's goal. Therefore, you can have the credit.


You see Phil, there is an old concept in Western philosophy and law -- treat like as like. Two men or two women pretending to be a married couple is not the same thing as a married couple no matter how many times you stomp your feet or how many judges say otherwise. Those of us who believe in traditional marriage believe there is a good reason to recognize that marriage is something that exists as a reality independent of what we want it to be. Here is Robbie George in a debate last week discussing this issue:

The judgment that marriage is the committed sexual union of man and woman, sealed in coitus and inherently oriented to procreation and domestic life, is shared by the common and civil law traditions as well as the Jewish and Christian faiths (among other religious and philosophical traditions). Its core is found in the teaching of philosophers ranging from Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Xenophanes, Musonius Rufus, and Plutarch in antiquity to Kant, Anscombe, and Gandhi in the modern period. That does not prove that the post-sexual revolution, revisionist view of marriage as a form of romantic-domestic companionship is certainly wrong, but it does show that the historic (“conjugal”) view did not originate in the book of Genesis, and is not rooted in animus. Indeed, the idea of marriage as a conjugal union (and of marital consummation) arose centuries before the concept of homosexual identity, when the only other sexual acts being considered (and rejected) as capable of consummating were ones between a lawfully wed man and woman. Even cultures favorable to homoerotic relationships have enshrined something like the conjugal view and never entertained the idea of same-sex marriage.

In What Is Marriage? my coauthors and I try to present these traditions’ central insight in the thesis that what makes a marriage (and provides the intelligible grounds of its structuring norms) is comprehensive union. We begin by noting that any voluntary bond is created by common action—by cooperative activity, defined by common goods, in the context of commitment. The activities and goods build up the bond and determine the commitment it requires. Then we argue that the kind of union created by marriage is comprehensive in just these ways: in (a) how it unites persons, (b) what it unites them with respect to, and (c) how extensive a commitment it demands. That is, it unites two people (a) in their most basic dimensions, in mind and body; (b) with respect to procreation, family life, and its broad domestic sharing; and (c) permanently and exclusively.

You contend that same-sex partners could be united in just these ways. But clarifying each will show that they cannot be—unless we so stretch the criteria as to erase any principled difference between marriage and companionship.

Examining the Criteria for Marriage

As to (a), the union of mind and body: What bodily (biologically) unites two people is much like what unites the parts of an individual. One’s organs form a unity by coordinating for the biological good of the whole (one’s bodily life). Likewise, a male and female form a biological unity by mating—that is, by coordinated activity of the type that causes reproduction when its nonbehavioral conditions obtain. This understanding accounts for the historic legal norm of consummation of marriage by coition—a norm developed entirely apart from any questions regarding same-sex or multiple partner bonds. (Of course, it presupposes—rightly in my view—that our bodies are part of our personal reality as human beings, not subpersonal extrinsic instruments at the service of the conscious and desiring aspect of the self—a point that I suspect is at the foundation of our disagreement.)

While other sexual acts may be regarded by those desiring them as fostering emotional attachment, so can many non-sexual activities, which clearly involve nothing like the sort of bodily union integral to marriage (not only in my personal view, but across time and diverse cultures). So if—contrary to the historic understanding—sex acts of any type can seal a marriage, there is no reason of principle that marriage should be a sexual relationship at all.

As to (b), marriage’s inherent orientation to procreation, family life, and thus a comprehensive range of goods: what explains this is the fact that the act that makes marital love is also the kind of act that makes new life. So marriage, the bond so embodied, would be fulfilled by family life, and is always fulfilled by the all-around domestic sharing uniquely apt for it.

If it is rather the choice to adopt that makes a bond oriented to family life, and hence marital, then any group of individuals can form one—romantic partners, to be sure, but also two sisters in a platonic partnership which no one considers inherently oriented to procreation, as marriage is.

As to (c), the fact that marriage calls for total commitment: because marriage is comprehensive in senses (a) and (b), it inherently calls for a commitment that is comprehensive, through time (permanent) and at each time (exclusive).

In other bonds, there is no basis for such norms, apart from partners’ subjective preferences. Of course, two men or two women can choose sexual exclusivity, but if emotional intimacy is what makes a marriage, there is no reason of principle that they should not practice sexual openness (if they happen to prefer that) or forgo a pledge of permanence.

Finally, if emotional bonding is what makes a marriage, why can’t three people form a marriage, as poly activists argue? And why, if marriage is fundamentally about intimacy, should the state recognize and regulate marriages at all?

Thus, the “comprehensive union” view of marriage can—but the “emotional union” view cannot—explain at the level of principle these critical features of marriage:


(1) Marriage is inherently a sexual partnership.

(2) Marriage inherently calls for a pledge of sexual exclusivity.

(3) Marriage calls for a pledge of permanence, not a term of years or “as long as love lasts.”

(4) Marriage can unite only two persons, not multiple-partner groups (of whatever combination of sexes).

(5) Marriage should be legally recognized and regulated (unlike other friendships).

This reductio of the revisionist view—that it eliminates any principled difference between marriage and simple companionship—is not just of academic interest. If the law promotes and our culture absorbs a view of marriage that undermines the principled basis for its stabilizing norms, those norms will decline (even more) in practice.


Here's the thing, you think consent is only "meaningful" as a constraint within a certain narrow context and intrinsically linked to other particular goods. I don't, it can stand alone as a principled constraint on romantic pursuits "fundamentally incompatible" to the proper goods of men. Frankly, it flows as a pragmatic consequence from the Golden Rule/reciprocity so I'm unsure why it wouldn't carry moral weight all by itself. One thing that makes no sense at all is for you to say you believe consent is a valid limiting principle and then treat my support for the same principle as incoherent.

Step2, you are missing the crux of my thesis. I AM NOT here arguing principally that I think there are valid social constraints, such as consent. Of course I think there are, and I argue for them in all sorts of ways in other places. My main thesis here is a compare and contrast picture: Judges who say

At the heart of liberty is the right to define one's own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.

are saying that the STATE cannot make declarations about the concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life. They are denying to the state the right to privilege one person's concept of existence, meaning, and mystery over another's. The right to make those decisions are at the individual level, so the state cannot do them.

And yet, by imposing regimes that privilege "adult consent", for example, they are privileging a concept of SOME people's on life & meaning over the opposed view of OTHER people who reject that value of "adult consent." Step2, you seem to hold that somehow the Golden Rule and mutual consensual relations are somehow not only true, but true in such a way that the state can impose those values even though there are some people who disagree with it and as a result for those people the state is denying to them the right to "define one's own concept" of existence, meaning, and the universe. So, which is it - the state has to allow people to define these for themselves, or the state gets to impose the Golden Rule even on people who disagree with it - because they are mutually incompatible. It is incoherent to claim both at the same time.

You see Phil, there is an old concept in Western philosophy and law -- treat like as like. Two men or two women pretending to be a married couple is not the same thing as a married couple no matter how many times you stomp your feet or how many judges say otherwise.

Kind of like how a woman can't be a priest? No matter how much she stomps her feet and pretends to be a priest?

So, which is it - the state has to allow people to define these for themselves, or the state gets to impose the Golden Rule even on people who disagree with it - because they are mutually incompatible. It is incoherent to claim both at the same time.

Since when did the Golden Rule become an imposition of state tyranny instead of a basic building block of justice? Answer: Never.
Is every law ever written or overturned decried as "privileging one person's concept of existence over the other"? Answer: Sure, but people still seem to intuitively understand rape and murder ought to be punished. Oh well, I guess people are just inconsistent in not desiring total anarchy.

In sheer numbers, far more heterosexuals have anal sex than do gay men. You knew that, right?

Did you know that this doesn't invalidate anything I said? If men and women do something that's wrong, that doesn't make having men and men doing it something that's less wrong.

I'd just like to point out that I did not use the phrase "complementarity of sex" because I find that phrase to be hokey. The sex discrimination in some states' marriage laws was on the basis of one partner's sex, not both. That might be a minor distinction, but I think it gets at a difference in the way you and I view marriage....[snip]
I'm not accusing you of believing that women are property (consciously, at least.) I do think that the fact that you see "sexual complementarity" as the only thing standing in the way of marriages to dogs and inanimate objects is evidence that you haven't really internalized a concept of marriage involving two, separate, free, equal people who each individually choose to enter into the marriage.

If the core of marriage is two individuals freely choosing (because they are capable of consenting to the choice) to join with one person, above all others, then the slope isn't as slippery as you keep painting it to be.

Phil, I have no idea what you mean by "the sex discrimination was...on the basis of one partner's sex, not both." You mean they were objecting to Person A's sex, simply, rather than Person A's sex as compared to Person B's sex? That's what it sounds like, and I gotta say, that sounds a HELL of a lot goofier than complementarity. "Yeah, we are perfectly fine if Person A marries Person C, or if Person B marries Person C, but we object to Person A's sex WITHOUT REFERENCE to B or C."? Treating a union of gays as different has to be on account of the sexes of both parties, not just one.

And you cannot separate out the NATURE OF THE UNION to which you are consenting as part of the act of marriage, part of what it means to give consent. Bill person cannot consent to a business partnership with Sue, and wake up to find that instead it was sex and marriage that he was consenting to. He has to be cognizant of what kind of union he is consenting to, what are its basic parameters in order to actually consent to that. And once you allow for that, it seems impossible to say that there is no significant difference between the nature of a consent that Person A and Person B give when they consent to grant to each other their effective fertility, so that A and B together (without any outside help) can generate a child, versus that of C and D's (whether they are homosexual or heterosexual matters not) consent who do NOT consent to give to each other the right or capacity to generate a child with each other without outside agency. Thus, if two heterosexuals consent to a romantic partnership in which one (or both) says "there is no way I am ever having a child with you and I do not grant you any rights toward same", that is just as clear a difference in consent compared to A and B above as if two homosexuals deny to give their fertility to the other.

In that case, can you please cite the specific legal decisions in which the judge cited that argument ["I want what I want"] as the reason for striking down a ban?

Anthony Kennedy, in Planned Parenthood vs Casey, paraphrased this thesis as the basis of his striking down a ban.

The state's logic is that there isn't a rational purpose to impose a gender restriction on the adult participants in legal marriages, but there is a rational purpose served by preventing minors from marrying.

This "rational purpose" stuff is constructed out of the state having - and imposing - views on human goods that SOME PEOPLE DON'T SHARE. So, you are utilizing the fact that the state does have the right to prefer one view of human good over another view.

In some people's view (and not just religious people, it includes plenty of non-religious views) human good is served by specifically heterosexual lifelong sexual unions recognized in society as special. That you DON'T AGREE with that view of human good doesn't mean that "there is no rational purpose." That's just out and out intolerant bigotry. There IS a rational purpose under a certain class of ideas about human good.

In terms of civil marriage, that doesn't matter, at all. People who claim that the sex/gender of one of the partners in a nonprocreative couple has some kind of bearing on their marriage have the burden of proof to explain what quality makes them different, and they haven't been able to do that without resorting to non sequiturs or magical thinking.

That proof has been made and you just don't like it.

I rejected your logic that same-sex couples are different in some meaningful way from nonprocreative opposite-sex couples.

Go back to the kind of consent given. If a heterosexual couple give the kind of consent that entails a complete gift of self, including mutual gift of fertility, then that's a different sort of consent than if they have an interior withholding of fertility from the consent. Thus, even if a particular heterosexual couple happens to be infertile they can still have a marriage because they can still have that KIND of consent - which fact is borne out when their fertility happens (either through mere accident, medicine, or miracle) to be resolved and they become fertile - they don't have to choose a new kind of consent to deal with the fertility, because their consent all along included their fertility as *conceptually* possible even if not actually present. I know of a couple who had a child when the woman (age 52) felt sure she was long past her fertile years - she had gone 10 years in marriage without conceiving. And of course there are Abraham and Sarah and Zachariah and Elisabeth. These couples had manifestly gifted to each other and consented to the inherent possibility of generating a child, even though infertility seemed to be their condition (or it really was at the time).

Bound up in this is a basic understanding of what man is. Man is the kind of thing that is capable of reproducing sexually (i.e. in binary complementary relationship, for that's what biology means by "reproducing sexually). He is not the kind of thing that is capable of reproducing, and sometimes he can do it sexually. He is not the kind of thing where some perfectly normal and healthy instances of the species just happen to exhibit reproductive capacity and other ones do not, like blond hair - nature intends the capable, healthy, mature, complete individual, not the unhealthy, immature, deformed individual. Being INcapable of reproducing except sexually isn't just another version of being "differently abled." Man is of such a nature that not just any pair of humans can reproduce sexually, the "complementary" part of the binary sexual relationship that is sexual reproduction is part of his nature. Thus a specific couple giving consent to the theoretically possible fulfillment of that human capacity for generation is an unfolding of an inherent human capacity, a basic human fulfillment, that a non-complementary sexual relationship cannot provide to each other.

As a result, the nature of consent between two gays cannot be the SAME consent toward the possibility of fertility and reproduction, it cannot be a mutual gift of mutual fertility to each other, it is not equal in all important human senses and kinds of the good.

And it is nonsense on stilts to claim that there is "no rational basis" for this kind of consent and this kind of union to be viewed as a good under SOME versions and concepts of "existence, of meaning, of the universe."

I am not interested in your non sequiturs or magical thinking.

Are you aware how offensive that is to people who hold the traditional view of sex in marriage without holding any religious views at all?

But I have found that most people are able to conceptualize their own sexual orientation as a part of them, and most people are able to make a distinction between their orientation and the preferences that they may have.

That their sexual orientation (such as it is: like a person who is quite attracted to Cis male, somewhat attracted to Cis man, a little bit attracted to Cisgender man, and just a tiny bit attracted to Neutrois Two-Spirit) feels to them a "part of them" and they are able to conceptualize their orientation as constituting a central meaning of what they are, doesn't make it true. People with mental disorders have all sorts of WRONG ideas about who and what they are, even though they can conceptualize their persona that way as constituting a central meaning of what they are - a bird, a jackhammer, whatever. That they HAVE so conceptualized is useful to understand, that they are RIGHT does not follow from it. It is logically possible that they are right or that they are wrong.

When courts ask why penis-in-vagina sex is a necessary component, the response is "Something something something procreation."

I cannot speak to ALL of the actual arguments in the court briefs on the topic, but I know for a fact that the arguments are one hell of a lot more coherent than "something something procreation." Just my own amateur examples are more coherent than "anybody who loves should be able to get married, except not if it is more than 2 (or 3, or 6, depending)" Such as I have given lots of elements of the argument over time, try here and there and this. That you don't like the arguments doesn't make them "magical" any more than that I take the quantum physicists Copenhagen interpretation with a grain of salt makes it a mere reliance on magic. The argument coherently relates the human goods of love, children, and intimacy in such a way that the Christian traditional understanding of marriage is rationally plausible.

I consider "natural law" arguments to be religious arguments, but I don't think you share that view.

Yeah, I get it. Your view of natural law is that since you don't agree with it, it isn't rational, and therefore it is more mystical religious mumbo jumbo. But of course, that would be a LOT LIKE a conservative person saying to a liberal "I don't agree with your politics, I don't even think it is rationally based, it is thus basically nothing more than mystical religious magic nonsense." Your admission that you think NATURAL law is religious reveals that you are truly unserious in your thinking. Natural lawyers might be wrong, but given that there are natural law adherents who were neither raised in a religion nor hold any religion, it is rather idiotic to call their adherence religious.

Please explain to me what you mean when you say "a union of two whose sexual act is of such a nature as to be capable of generating a child," and explain how this sexual act doesn't involve penis-in-vagina sex.

If you don't like to use plain English words for body parts, just say so

I feel like I am trying to teach a 4-year old...how many times do I have to repeat it: it isn't JUST a matter of the right body parts in the right places. It is a totality of self-giving, which includes, at least in principle, the gift of mutual fertility. So, although you can ACTUALLY have a marriage where nobody plans on having sex, you cannot have a marriage where one (or both) parties have explicitly and specifically ruled out having sex. Or intentionally ruled out reproduction no matter what the other party wanted. Or any of the other ways of establishing a relationship that precludes any even conceptual possibility of mutually reproductive sex.

Really, if you can't see a difference between the complementarity of the penis and the vagina and the decided non-complementarity of the penis and rectum, there's not much hope for you, and this discussion is pretty much a waste of time.

I agree with Nice Marmot, but I will make just one single comment: the effects of intercourse (i.e. penile / vaginal) include a serotonin increase in the wife from vaginal absorption of semen. There are numerous other effects. The differences (even aside from reproduction) are there, no question.

Anal sex can be damaging, and vaginal sex can be damaging. By the numbers, more people are injured during vaginal sex than during anal sex.

And you accuse me of hysteria in making certain arguments? This is plain beyond belief. If you think this remotely even begins to undermine the understanding that man is by nature the sort of being who generates a child through sexual reproduction (yes, via normal intercourse), that this process is a good not only in the order of sheer reproduction but on the spiritual, psychological, affective, and sensory planes, in an integrated way so that the lower goods serve the higher, then there really is no point in discussing anything further - you're just hopelessly blinded.

I love the way Phil whines that it is "incivil" of me to remark mildly that I found the question of how a homosexual couple would be legally deemed to have consummated their union to be unpleasant, how he whines about my "snide" tone, and then how he keeps on banging the drum with the phrase "magical thinking." Phil, your mask is slipping. Perhaps the reason I don't treat you with kid gloves is because I find your Mr. Nice Guy shtick a fairly transparent pose. You just don't go around waving tentacles and yelling for blood like Dunsany does. But you do let the mask slip from time to time.

Oh, by the way: I don't recall who it was up above (possibly Step2) who said that people aren't "allowed," or some such word, to deem heterosexuals non-married and treat their marriages as unreal if they have no intention of living as a married couple. I for one hereby endorse the right of any baker to refuse to bake a cake for the "wedding" of a man and woman who cheerfully announce to him that they are getting a civil marriage but don't intend to live together, ever to have sex (or, necessarily, ever to have children together), and are merely getting "married" because they have discovered, say, a way in which having that civil state is going to be helpful for profit in their business partnership. Anybody at all who wants to "treat their marriage as unreal" will get nothing but a hearty cheer from me, and should certainly be _allowed_ to do so.

And once you allow for that, it seems impossible to say that there is no significant difference between the nature of a consent that Person A and Person B give when they consent to grant to each other their effective fertility, so that A and B together (without any outside help) can generate a child, versus that of C and D's (whether they are homosexual or heterosexual matters not) consent who do NOT consent to give to each other the right or capacity to generate a child with each other without outside agency.


"Effective" means "successful in producing a desired or intended result."

So, it sounds like what you're saying is that a woman who has had a hysterectomy ought to be legally barred from ever marrying. Or, if you think for some reason the state should never know whether a woman has had a hysterectomy, then a moral woman who has had a hysterectomy must choose to remain single for life and never marry.

Or was there some other meaning of "effective fertility?"

So, you are utilizing the fact that the state does have the right to prefer one view of human good over another view.

Can you please give an example of any legal decision, ever, that didn't utilize the fact that the state has the right to prefer one view of human good over another view? I'm not seeing what's unique about this particular decision.

Are you aware how offensive that is to people who hold the traditional view of sex in marriage without holding any religious views at all?

Tony, if there are people who hold nonreligious views that only heterosexual sex is licit within their own marriages, then more power to them. They have every right to hold those beliefs, and to act on those beliefs within the context of their own marriages.

But if you're talking about people who hold the belief that their view of heterosexual sex within marriage should be mandatory for everyone, even those who don't share their beliefs, then I assure you, the beliefs these hypothetical people are espousing are wayyyyyyyyyyyyyyy more offensive to me than anything I'm saying could be to them.

But if you really, honestly, know some actual people who believe that there is no god, there is no creator, and we are all just interesting accidents of evolution, but at the same time, we must only engage in heterosexual sex just like the Bible says, I invite you to give them my contact information. They sound like fascinating people.

In some people's view (and not just religious people, it includes plenty of non-religious views) human good is served by specifically heterosexual lifelong sexual unions recognized in society as special.

Fortunately, those people can still enter into civil marriages in every state in the union.

The thing that makes this view irrational is the divorcing of the "heterosexual" component from procreation and children. If marriage were genuinely a legal status that was only conferred by the state onto people who had children--even if it were limited to people who had the capacity to have children--there might be a rational argument.

But we're talking about civil marriage. And no state in the union, in the modern era, actually required that heterosexual couples actually use their heterosexuality. That's why it's not rational.

If you were arguing that "people who have children should be recognized as special," you'd have a rational case. But you're not. You're arguing, "People who superficially resemble the people who have children should be recognized as special." In other words, "Heterosexuals are special, simply by virtue of being heterosexual, while homosexuals are not special."

That's where the notion of intolerance, animus, and bigotry enter into the equation.

So, although you can ACTUALLY have a marriage where nobody plans on having sex, you cannot have a marriage where one (or both) parties have [...] intentionally ruled out reproduction no matter what the other party wanted.

You remember that part where I said we were talking about civil marriage? You absolutely can have a marriage where one party unilaterally rules out reproduction, in all fifty states. There is no state in the union where a couple walking into get a marriage license will be legally denied the license if the wife says, "I am never planning on having kids, no matter what this big lug wants."

So, yeah. You said, "you cannot have a marriage where..." but the reality is that you can.

Yeah, I get it. Your view of natural law is that since you don't agree with it, it isn't rational, and therefore it is more mystical religious mumbo jumbo.

It's not because I don't agree with natural law that I consider it to be religious in nature. It's because Natural Law theory, as used by the people who participate on this board, involves supernaturalist beliefs.

If you'd like to refute what I just said, here is how you may do that. First type, affirmatively, "Even if there is no god and no creator, and we are all just interesting accidents of evolution, all of the tenets of natural law that I believe in would still be valid because ......"

Can you do that?

Here's the explanation of Natural Law from the web site "Philosophy of Religion:"

"In its Thomist form, it characterises morality as a function of the rational human nature that God has given us, stressing God’s purposes in Creation as defining our purpose as human beings"

This is from New Advent's explanation of Natural Law:

"the use of reason, which is intended by God to be the guide and dictator of conduct..."
Here's a quote from Answers in Genesis' web page about Natural Law:
"These laws describe the way God normally accomplishes His will in the universe."

Here's a quotation from the Veritas Forum:

Robert George articulates how he believes God has provided humanity with an underlying rationality, a natural law, from which we can derive several truths

Here's the Acton Institute:


The natural law is given in creation, the written law in the Scriptures, and the spiritual law in Christ himself, who is the Logos of God incarnate.

Here's the Free Dictionary:

"Divine natural law represents the system of principles believed to have been revealed or inspired by God or some other supreme and supernatural being. "

Finally, here is a quotation from the publication "Homiletic and Pastoral Review." This is the opening paragraph of the article "Same Sex Marriage and the Natural Law:"

Unless you can profess with the author of this article the following creed, which was composed by the Fathers of the Council of Nicea in 325 A.D., and which is professed by Catholics around the globe every Sunday at Mass, please do not read further into this article; it will make no sense to you at all:

Maybe we just have a different notion of what it means for a belief or an argument to be "religious." I feel like what y'all are saying is, "Natural law isn't religious in nature; God made it so that it wasn't religious!"


Lydia writes:

how he whines about my "snide" tone, and then how he keeps on banging the drum with the phrase "magical thinking."

I like how you take issue with my description of your tone as "snide" by saying that I whined. It's like an ouroboros of snarkiness. (Personally, I don't think of myself as a mask-wearer, except that I try to be less coarse on a web site like this. I try to be honest and direct in my writing. So, when I wrote "I like how you...." I really mean that. I think it's a neat flourish.)

But--are you offended by the term "magical thinking?" If so, why? Do you have a preferred term that you use to describe the category of beliefs that you think are hooey by dint of being supernaturalist in nature? Would you prefer "superstitious?" That feels more offensive, to me.

Step2, if you're still there, in your comment here - http://www.whatswrongwiththeworld.net/2014/07/4th_circuit_panel_strikes_down.html#comment-293862 - I'm having trouble seeing how your 5 principles could not be applied to, say, a brother and sister.

I submit that the core of marriage is actually "commitment, not "sexual complementarity."

Probably both. But the sexual complementarity has to come first. Then comes the love, then the commitment, and finally the children. Two men can say they love each other, and consequently try to find a name for that love, but since it cannot possibly be the same as the love between man and woman, the one name they cannot land on is 'marriage.' How about 'good buddies forever,' or 'friends for life,' or 'blood brothers to the end,' or...

Homosexual couples who cannot conceive children together are exactly equal to heterosexual couples who cannot conceive children together. The only difference is the genital configuration of one of the partners...

Yes, it seems such a small difference, that genital configuration, if we overlook the fact that, when functioning properly in a heterosexual couple, such configuration might conceive and give birth to, oh, a homosexual, whereas the homosexual in 'union' with another of his kind will conceive and give birth to...nothing.

You have not provided a non-religious, logical reason that same-sex couples are different from the larger category of all adult couples who cannot procreate together.

Even if infertile heterosexual unions are different from the fertile kind, they are yet far more different from the grotesque mimicry offered by male anal intercourse, an entirely different kind of act than what heteros do whether fertile or not. In claiming this moral parity between two categories of sexual relationships afflicted by sterility, Phil mistakes an accident for an essence, a defect for a norm. For him the sterility of a heterosexual act is its substance, when in fact it is an accident, a defect of nature, and probably a very painful one once discovered by its victims. (In saying 'victims', I do not at all have in mind those couples who intentionally sterilize their intercourse via contraception or any other means.) On the other hand, homosexual acts are sterile by definition. Some fertility problems in heterosexuals are treatable by medication or surgery, while it is a universal quality of all homosexual acts of this kind, from the beginning of time to the end of the world, that they will be afflicted by an uncorrectable absence of fertility. There will be no exceptions.

Certainly a homosexual man might desire a son or daughter, and a lesbian likewise, but with one enormous difference: he cannot desire it by the person with whom he is locked in a simulacrum of carnal embrace. He will have to go outside the relationship for that.

Still waiting for an answer on the difference between "M+F" and "2".

~~Is every law ever written or overturned decried as "privileging one person's concept of existence over the other"? Answer: Sure, but people still seem to intuitively understand rape and murder ought to be punished. Oh well, I guess people are just inconsistent in not desiring total anarchy.~~

And a lot of people intuitively understand that sexual complementarity is a necessary condition of marriage. So the law, as a feature of its implicit acceptance of the Golden Rule, but without any recourse to anything higher than itself, is able to distinguish between valid and invalid intuitions?

(Of course this begs the question as to why the Golden Rule itself is thus privileged. But we can bracket that for the time being.)

The number two obviously arises from sexual complementarity. In terms of emotional bonding, even if one says that heavy emotional bonds among large numbers are implausible for human beings or something, this doesn't rule out three or four. And, being just a statistical fact about human beings, it "discriminates" against those unusual humans who say that they are capable of having emotional bonds among fifty-five. The reason marriage was _ever_ thought to be between two people was because of male-female pairing. Absent that pairing, the restriction to two is quite arbitrary.

The thing that makes this view irrational is the divorcing of the "heterosexual" component from procreation and children. If marriage were genuinely a legal status that was only conferred by the state onto people who had children--even if it were limited to people who had the capacity to have children--there might be a rational argument.

Unserious, unthoughtful, unreflective, and (especially) unresponsive to the arguments made. The integration of the different goods served by marriage makes it so that the consent to marriage is in form a consent to the whole panoply of the goods. The unitive aspect of marriage (in nuptial friendship) is, itself, connected to the procreative, not just "another feature." The desire to give one's self is not an arbitrary add-on to the desire for sexual pleasure. The permanence is not just an ad-hoc decision by "the council". They all tie together and serve an integrated whole. Thus the kind of consent that embraces the WHOLE ARRANGEMENT is a different kind of thing than the consent to just (for example) sexual pleasure and a relatively long term commitment. The psychological and emotional effects of a sexual gift of self that could in principle result in conception are different from the effects of a sexual gift of self that cannot in principle result in conception, because the former is (or at least can be) a total gift whereas the latter simply cannot.

Therefore, the kind of consent present when a couple embraces the whole arrangement including fertility in principle, (even if (a) they don't know if they are actually fertile, or (b) even if they know that in current conditions they are infertile but they don't know if future changes can correct that, and (c) even if they have no explicit expectation that future changes can correct any infertility but they are open to it if such a change occurs), is of a different nature than consent to a union that explicitly rejects mutual fertility as such. Thus heterosexual couples who are infertile and know they are infertile can, in fact, give the kind of consent that embraces the entirety of that whole arrangement of inter-related and mutually connected goods, if they retain the intent that, should their infertility be resolved, they would be open to producing new life.

You remember that part where I said we were talking about civil marriage? You absolutely can have a marriage where one party unilaterally rules out reproduction, in all fifty states. There is no state in the union where a couple walking into get a marriage license will be legally denied the license if the wife says, "I am never planning on having kids, no matter what this big lug wants."

So, yeah. You said, "you cannot have a marriage where..." but the reality is that you can.

You apparently are so ignorant of the context of the traditional sense of marriage as to be incapable of noticing the difference between "not legally barred" and "metaphysically possible". If marriage is a something that has its own nature and meaning before the state gets around to recognizing it, then the state may or may not get it right when it recognizes A or B events as marriage. If a state were to decide to call all legal partnerships "marriage" from here on out, that wouldn't ACTUALLY mean that forming a business partnership would ACTUALLY be a marriage. The state's naming it so doesn't make it so. For you to respond to me as if I were talking about the legally declared status instead of the underlying reality is vacuous.

It's not because I don't agree with natural law that I consider it to be religious in nature. It's because Natural Law theory, as used by the people who participate on this board, involves supernaturalist beliefs.

If you'd like to refute what I just said, here is how you may do that. First type, affirmatively, "Even if there is no god and no creator, and we are all just interesting accidents of evolution, all of the tenets of natural law that I believe in would still be valid because ......"

Because, as explained by serious thinkers like Aristotle, Cicero etc, the nature of man can be observed and understood even without adverting to the question of where man came from, and thus the nature of what is good for man can be understood without being constructed from an assumption of man's relationship to a Creator. As Aristotle explicitly does in his Nicomachean Ethics. Which I have referred to before in these pages.

I suppose that there are some people who cannot understand the difference between "religion" and "natural theology". Both involve reference to a God, true. But that doesn't make them the same thing. Religions have acceptance of truths not determinable simply by the use of reason and universally available data, whereas natural theology is the study of truths about the divine that can be determined by the use of reason and universally available data from the natural world. A thinker asking the question and pursuing the possible answers to Does the nature of the world inherently imply a God? is engaging in natural theology, not in religion. Whether his answer is in the positive or negative, it is STILL natural theology he is doing. If he comes to a positive answer, and he asks further questions about what can be known about this God from the nature of the world, he is STILL engaging in natural theology, not religion. That OTHER people think that the correct rational answer is in the negative STILL doesn't make his investigation "religion."

As a result, a person who studies Aristotle's Ethics after having studied natural theology and come to a positive answer to whether there is a God can, using only conclusions drawn from nature and things that can be grasped from nature by reason alone, approach the questions about what kind of thing man is and what kind of things will make him happy with the prior position to that investigation that there is the kind of God implied by natural theology. Such an investigation does not become religion merely because it adverts to the position that there is a God.

So, Phil, all your detestation of natural law concepts that explicitly advert to a God as constituting "religious" sentiment is just plain nonsense. It is possible that there are some natural law adherents who forget that the natural law perspective on God comes from natural theology, but by no means is that generically true of all natural lawyers and it is not true of the field itself.

"Absent that pairing, the restriction to two is quite arbitrary."

Yep. And polygamy doesn't change that. If a man had five wives each marriage was between himself and that one wife; the wives weren't considered married to each other by extension.

Wonder if Phil will agree?

To repeat myself, marriage is 1) a committed and intimate relationship (which at minimum implies an exclusive partnership), 2) between consenting adult persons, 3) that connects their fates and fortunes together for the foreseeable future, 4) that is publicly acknowledged, 5) and may indicate a mutual signal for nesting behavior and raising children born to or adopted by the couple.

A mix of starry eyed romance and "patchwork" for all corners. How cute.

Still waiting for an answer on the difference between "M+F" and "2".

Please see above, where I wrote:


If the core of marriage is two individuals freely choosing (because they are capable of consenting to the choice) to join with one person, above all others, then the slope isn't as slippery as you keep painting it to be.

far more different from the grotesque mimicry offered by male anal intercourse, an entirely different kind of act than what heteros do whether fertile or not. In

"Than what heteros do?" No, lots of heterosexual couples engage in anal intercourse. More heteros engage in anal intercourse than do gay men.

Anal intercourse is not the end-all be-all of homosexual sex. If you're genuinely curious, I could refer you to lots of different web sites. But gay relationships, even gay male relationships, are not equal to "anal sex." You're using one particular--though perfectly licit--sex act as a synecdoche for the whole couple. That is dehumanizing, in exactly the same way that calling a person in a coma a "vegetable" is dehumanizing. Can you see that, and can you see why you should stop reducing couples to sex acts, even rhetorically?

But it's also worth noting that anal sexual intercourse, and oral sexual intercourse between men and between women, is perfectly morally neutral. Vaginas and penises don't have a "telos," that is a made-up concept by people trying to justify why their private, personal religious beliefs should apply to people who don't share those beliefs. In reality, adults exploring each others' bodies in the context of a consenting, intimate relationship is a pretty normal, healthy thing.

Phil mistakes an accident for an essence, a defect for a norm. For him the sterility of a heterosexual act is its substance, when in fact it is an accident, a defect of nature

I asked for a logical, nonreligious argument. You aren't providing that. There is no difference between a defect of nature and an existing reality which is absent meaning or purpose. There is nothing that we are "supposed" to do with our penises, vaginas, uteruses, etc. "Suppose" is a verb, and "supposed" is a past-tense verb. There is no higher power to do the supposing. Our penises, vaginas, and uteri simply exist. One woman has a uterus. Another woman does not.

Both women are accidents of evolution. It isn't the case that one has the parts that nature intended and one lacks them. Nature can't "intend." Things just happen.

If you would like to respond to this, please don't regurgitate "natural law" talking points that you learned from deeply religious academics. Either acknowledge that you are, in fact, speaking about your own personal religious worldview, or begin the sentence with "Even if there is no God..."

If you can't begin a sentence, at least hypothetically, by acknowledging that your arguments would be valid even if there is no God and we are all just interesting accidents of evolution, then you are making a religious argument.

You have every right to make a religious argument. Just please--all of you--stop pretending that you're doing something else.

(In saying 'victims', I do not at all have in mind those couples who intentionally sterilize their intercourse via contraception or any other means.)


There's nothing wrong with contraception if both partners aren't ready or aren't willing to have a child.

I understand you disagree, based on your personal religious beliefs. Please don't pretend otherwise.


Yes, it seems such a small difference, that genital configuration, if we overlook the fact that, when functioning properly in a heterosexual couple, such configuration might conceive and give birth to, oh, a homosexual, whereas the homosexual in 'union' with another of his kind will conceive and give birth to...nothing.

William, this is a non sequitur. You are merely spouting Natural Law talking points. I never said there wasn't a difference between homosexual couples and heterosexual couples who can conceive children together.

I pointed out that the difference between homosexual couples and heterosexual couples who cannot procreate together is superficial. The nonprocreative heterosexual only superficially resembles the procreative heterosexual couple. Mathematically, the are exactly identical to the homosexual couple. Zero children equals zero children.

You imply that a woman who has had a hysterectomy, or a man who has intercourse with her, can still be "open" to the possibility of procreation. That is great. It is also magical thinking. A lesbian and her partner can be exactly as open to procreation as the women with a hysterectomy.

William Luse further writes:

Certainly a homosexual man might desire a son or daughter, and a lesbian likewise, but with one enormous difference: he cannot desire it by the person with whom he is locked in a simulacrum of carnal embrace. He will have to go outside the relationship for that.

But, if you subtract the illogic from the statement, it would read:

Certainly a man might desire a son or daughter, and a woman likewise, but with one enormous difference: he or she cannot desire it by the person with whom s/he is locked in any carnal embrace that doesn't involve both a functioning uterus and functioning testicles. They will have to go outside the relationship for that.

Fixed that for ya, William. You're welcome.


The reason marriage was _ever_ thought to be between two people was because of male-female pairing.

I actually agree with you, to a point. Human beings evolved to have a biological urge to pair with another human being, and this seems to be true across vast geographic regions. (We also evolved to have brains that let us create complex cultures, so it obviously is not going to be true for every single culture in human history.) It is likely that early human predecessors who were genetically inclined to pair-bond had an evolutionary advantage over the early human predecessors who didn't.

We also happen to be animals who evolved via two-sexed sexual reproduction, so it is true that the evolutionary trait of pair-bonding is probably linked to the male-female nature of our reproduction.

But I don't engage in the is/ought fallacy. The fact that humans, as a species, generally evolved to be heterosexual doesn't imply that there is some moral imperative to be heterosexual. The trait of pair-bonding and the trait of being attracted to a different sex than one's own are two separate traits.

Unserious, unthoughtful, unreflective, and (especially) unresponsive to the arguments made.

Tony, I said if you're going to respond to me, please begin by affirmatively stating, "Even if there is no god, and no creator, and we are all just interesting accidents of evolution..." --before you type the rest of your sentence.

You apparently are so ignorant of the context of the traditional sense of marriage as to be incapable of noticing the difference between "not legally barred" and "metaphysically possible".

Well, that is an unserious, unthoughtful, non sequitur response to the arguments I made. I stated repeatedly--that we were talking about civil marriage.

You clearly have ignored that and merely pretended to talk about civil marriage while you were actually talking about some concept of marriage that exists in the metaphysical realm outside of the laws of civil marriage.

So, were you lying this whole time? What's the deal?

Phil,

You need to spend more time on Feser's blog, otherwise you wouldn't say stupid stuff like this:

I asked for a logical, nonreligious argument. You aren't providing that. There is no difference between a defect of nature and an existing reality which is absent meaning or purpose. There is nothing that we are "supposed" to do with our penises, vaginas, uteruses, etc. "Suppose" is a verb, and "supposed" is a past-tense verb. There is no higher power to do the supposing. Our penises, vaginas, and uteri simply exist. One woman has a uterus. Another woman does not.

Both women are accidents of evolution. It isn't the case that one has the parts that nature intended and one lacks them. Nature can't "intend." Things just happen.

If you would like to respond to this, please don't regurgitate "natural law" talking points that you learned from deeply religious academics. Either acknowledge that you are, in fact, speaking about your own personal religious worldview, or begin the sentence with "Even if there is no God..."

If you can't begin a sentence, at least hypothetically, by acknowledging that your arguments would be valid even if there is no God and we are all just interesting accidents of evolution, then you are making a religious argument.

You have every right to make a religious argument. Just please--all of you--stop pretending that you're doing something else.

Thomas Nagel, for one, is an atheist philosopher who believe there is telos in nature and that is implies ought. He also thinks that scientific accounts of evolution are seriously lacking from a metaphysical standpoint. Here is Feser's roundup of the many posts he spent discussing the book Mind and Cosmos:

http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2013/06/mind-and-cosmos-roundup.html

However, I'm not particularly interested in discussing anything with you given that you rely on sloppy secular judges for your legal "reasoning", you reject natural law thinking (without explaining what you find objectionable or that you even understand how such reasoning works) and you make demands of us as if you ran this blog and you weren't a guest here trying to convince us of your insane liberal ideas.

No thanks. Come back after you've read some Nagel. Better yet, some Aquinas!

The trait of pair-bonding and the trait of being attracted to a different sex than one's own are two separate traits.

Considering the homosexual redefinition of "monogamy" to mean something vastly different from "only having sex with one other person," and considering the rising popularity of polyamory, you appear to be largely wrong here as a sheerly empirical matter. In any event, my point was that if you don't relate civil marriage to male-female pair bonding you have no _rationale_ for linking civil marriage to two-person groups or for limiting it to two-person groups. All the less so given the heavy reliance in homosexual "marriage" arguments upon emotional ties, which can occur among larger groups. We were talking about an alleged "rational basis" for "excluding" some people from civil marriage with those they wish to be deemed to be married to, right? And note my point above about bisexuals. They are presumably not going to be oriented towards lifelong, exclusive pair-bonding with a single person if we assume that pair-bonding is generally co-extensive with a desire for sexual acts with the other person.

Thomas Nagel, for one, is an atheist philosopher who believe there is telos in nature and that is implies ought.

He's an interesting one to read, I'll grant you that. My take on Nagel is that while he doesn't espouse a specific religion or god, he does believe in the supernatural (or at least, considers it to be in the same ballpark as the material.)

But--are you saying that when you, Jeffrey S., make natural law arguments that you are personally making nonsupernatural arguments? You didn't clarify. It sounds like what you are saying is "I personally make natural law arguments that involve natural philosophy as intended by a creator God, but there is this one example of a dude who does something else."

Can you see the distinction there?

However, I'm not particularly interested in discussing anything with you given that you rely on sloppy secular judges for your legal "reasoning"

How dare those judges be secular in their legal reasoning! Theocracy for all! Crush the nonbelievers!

you make demands of us as if you ran this blog and you weren't a guest here trying to convince us of your insane liberal ideas.

I posted on this blog as requested in the Original Post: "I have a question for our pro-gay defenders..."

I also disclaimed "Obviously, you have every right to ignore me and talk about whatever you want. It is not my place to tell you what you can and can't do on a blog that you're a major part of." I apologize if you feel I've been rude. Where I'm from, there is a certain deference given to invited guests, especially when they are vastly outnumbered by the home team.


you reject natural law thinking (without explaining what you find objectionable or that you even understand how such reasoning works)

I also reject arguments that stem from Methodism, Hinduism, paganism, Christian Science, scientology, Islam, astrology, Judaism, Sikhism, Zoroastrianism, Voodoo, and Wiccanism. (As, I suspect, do you.)

I am totally open to arguments that stem from Bokononism, however.

It is possible that, in the course of having an argument about the civil laws of a nation-state, when someone approaches you with an argument stemming from Scientology or an African Diasporic religion, you say, "Excuse me, I must first go read a thousand pages about the philosophy of your worldview before I can make a response." If that is the case, please feel free to affirmatively say so.

Science is not the opposite of religion. And secularism is not the opposite of religion. Secularism deals with the material world that we all share, and your personal religious/supernaturalist/superstitious/magical-thinking beliefs deal with your personal, private view of the world--as they do for Methodists, Hindus, pagans, Christian Scientists, Scientologists, Muslims, etc.

I am not saying that you need to reject your personal religious worldview and accept a materialist worldview to be a decent person. But if you're trying to have a discussion with me about the world that we share, then it behooves you to make arguments that stem logically from the material world we share. You don't have to reject your personal beliefs; you just have to focus on the common ground. Where there isn't common ground, then the best solution is that we each get to decide for ourselves what the best path is.

Phil,

Apparently you are one of those atheists with a case of the clever sillies. Let me help you out.

The civil laws of this nation-state, and all nation-states, including so-called atheistic communist states are informed by philosophical ideas. Those ideas do not, indeed they cannot, simply come from the "material world." Oh I agree that the material world informs our philosophy, but it does not constrain it.

Here is what I'm saying -- your materialist worldview, if it constrains your thinking about politics or law or philosophy -- is nonsense:

http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2011/03/scientism-roundup.html

And when it comes to the United States, a place that was founded by folks who took God seriously ("they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights") and thought religion was important enough to protect with a special amendment, well now you are telling me you aren't interested in the history and tradition of your own country (I think you are a citizen).

Anyway, if someone came to me with an argument "stemming from Scientology" I'd want to know what the argument was! Of course I reject Scientology, but that's because I've read about it and learned what it was about. So obviously I'd be skeptical of this Scientology argument, but I'd want to understand what the argument is so I could respond. It is fine when you tell us you don't believe that we can figure out the telos of marriage or the human body. We all think we can...and we think it is logical and reasonable to believe in the concept of telos. Furthermore, as Tony and I said on a previous thread, we believe morality is something that can be argued and discussed and people can be convinced of the rightness or wrongness of a particular position. If you don't want to listen to what we have to say, that's fine. But we'll keep arguing that marriage has a particular meaning and the law should reflect that meaning.

How dare those judges be secular in their legal reasoning! Theocracy for all! Crush the nonbelievers!
I also reject arguments that stem from Methodism, Hinduism, paganism, Christian Science, scientology, Islam, astrology, Judaism, Sikhism, Zoroastrianism, Voodoo, and Wiccanism. (As, I suspect, do you.)

Phil, you STILL seem to be completely, 100% oblivious to the basic issue here. You still seem to be 100% convinced that it is OK for the courts to employ secular-based arguments, secular assumptions, and secular preferences in deciding these cases. The question is, how is it that the rulers can presume to use secular bases for their decisions, when that constitutes a preference of one point of view of existence, of meaning, of the universe over the many different NON-secular views of same. When the courts have told us that every person has the right to define THEIR OWN meaning.

Phil, for the issue here in this thread, it matters not in the least whether you do or don't accept natural law, or philistinism, or paganism, or Scientology, or germ theory, or relativity, or whatever. You can rightly reject every one of these, and have thoroughly satisfactory reasons for doing so, and that still wouldn't settle the issue. It doesn't matter whether those who are Scientologists are bamboozled knucklheads - given only that they sincerely think Scientology is right. The issue is whether society has the right to reject any one of these and then go around spouting that a person has the right to define their own meaning of existence. Why is it not hypocritical for those making laws and court decisions to elevate secular value choices over Islamic ones, Christian ones, Zoroastrian ones, or natural law ones (atheistic or not)? For that question, it SIMPLY DOESN'T MATTER whether natural law is, or is not, "secretly" religious or is totally non-religious - it is still a system of judgment of human values that is opposed to modernist secular ones. It simply doesn't matter whether Christians are anti-scientific or some of the greatest scientists on the planet (or some of both), it only matters that there are Christians who hold a system of judgment of human goods that opposes the modernist secular ones that the rulers are trying to impose. Your whole attitude in this "religious" commentary here seems to be on the assumption, (admittedly, made by almost all other liberal secularists), that a secular POV has a privileged place in deciding law.

Secularism deals with the material world that we all share, and your personal religious/supernaturalist/superstitious/magical-thinking beliefs deal with your personal, private view of the world--as they do for Methodists, Hindus, pagans, Christian Scientists, Scientologists, Muslims, etc.

That, in itself, is an example of a secular POV of the issue. Your description of the two is nothing like what others hold to be true of the two. It is your own personal, superstitious, magical-thinking, POV-based, it isn't simply part of the physical world. Your attempt to impose that secularist POV of what secularism means on everyone else is just as intolerant and bigoted as the Arabs in Saudi Arabia are about women's rights.

Well, that is an unserious, unthoughtful, non sequitur response to the arguments I made. I stated repeatedly--that we were talking about civil marriage.

Wow, that's brazen even for you. Throughout this thread, which is initiated by MY discussion and MY questions, we have been debating issues surrounding marriage BOTH as it exists distinctly from civil recognition AND as it is recognized by society and by law. Sometimes it is one. Sometimes it is the other. Anybody with even HALF a brain could have realized that if I comment that heterosexuals who have made themselves permanently sterile and have explicitly determined never to give themselves in fertility to another "cannot marry", I must have been talking about the reality as it exists distinctly from civil recognition. So, you appear to be brain-challenged. I didn't realize that clearly before, I will have to accommodate that in the future.

You know (well, you probably don't, so I am going to tell you), you really should work a little harder at actually understanding not just the superficial stance that your opponents have, but the underlying grain and structure of their thought. But to do that, you have to acquire a capacity to "step outside yourself" to be able to see things from a very different mental structure. Then you would be able to make ever so much more sense in discussing the issues that surround their ideas, rather than just assume that YOUR definitions of things are just like their definitions. But, since it appears that you are only a half-wit, I can see that we need to cut you some slack - maybe your mental space isn't BIG enough to try on other's POV for size. Especially if that other person's mental space is extraordinarily large and filled and, you know, if they are full of wisdom. That's when a DIFFERENT approach comes into play: humility.

Fixed that for ya, William.

No you didn't. You turned a true statement into a falsehood, since infertile heteros can indeed desire children, while homosexuals cannot.

But it's okay. I understand where you're coming from now: The default playing ground is nihilism. There is nothing we are "supposed" to do with any of our body parts, including our brains, which renders all your efforts here a random exercise in verbal gas-passing. There is nothing "wrong" with anything in your universe. And don't tell me there is lest you invoke a telos.

Tony,

I think this is important:

The issue is whether society has the right to reject any one of these and then go around spouting that a person has the right to define their own meaning of existence. Why is it not hypocritical for those making laws and court decisions to elevate secular value choices over Islamic ones, Christian ones, Zoroastrian ones, or natural law ones (atheistic or not)?

Phil seems to think his secular views are somehow special because they are based on a material world we all share ("But if you're trying to have a discussion with me about the world that we share, then it behooves you to make arguments that stem logically from the material world we share.")

But here is my challenge to Phil, and I've challenged other atheists with this question and found they rarely have a good answer: how do you justify laws against murder? Or to put it another way, why is innocent life precious from a secular world-view?

I suspect we'll end up with an answer that resembles "might equals right" which is what most atheist philosophy winds up being (which is why liberalism is so terrifying).

It's interesting to note that the entire practice of medicine necessarily involves teleology, which I suppose would be derided as "deriving an ought from an is." Why should a doctor consider an eye that can't see to be diseased and try to cure it, while not also regarding it as a disorder that the human being cannot hear all the same sounds that bats can hear? Because it is natural for human eyes to be able to see but not a natural and proper function of the human ear to be able to hear ultrasonically. Just to give a couple of the indefinite number of examples that could be given.

Bill,
I don't think anyone has a great argument against adult sibling marriage other than it distorts and corrupts familial love with lover's jealousy. Even the standard argument to limit genetic defects in offspring is problematic since there are no laws prohibiting people with genetic abnormalities from marriage and reproduction nor are there any legal upper limits on reproductive age which also increases the chances for genetic defects.

Look at the 5 principle offered by Robbie George in Jeffrey's comment above:
(1) Marriage is inherently a sexual partnership. (2) Marriage inherently calls for a pledge of sexual exclusivity. (3) Marriage calls for a pledge of permanence, not a term of years or “as long as love lasts.” (4) Marriage can unite only two persons, not multiple-partner groups (of whatever combination of sexes). (5) Marriage should be legally recognized and regulated (unlike other friendships).
There isn't anything in those principles that prohibits sibling marriages either.

How about 'good buddies forever,' or 'friends for life,' or 'blood brothers to the end,' or...
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sacred_Band_of_Thebes

NM
And a lot of people intuitively understand that sexual complementarity is a necessary condition of marriage. So the law, as a feature of its implicit acceptance of the Golden Rule, but without any recourse to anything higher than itself, is able to distinguish between valid and invalid intuitions?

My comment was made to dispel this weird notion that SSM is somehow equivalent to anarchy - I suppose because anything that doesn't "resemble" sexual fertility, whether or not that resemblance actually could or intends to be fertile, is too much for the conservative mind to process so the world must be ending.

Somewhat off-topic, I wrote a comment about the Hobby Lobby decision over at Feser's blog you specifically might enjoy:
For those who wish to participate in open and frequent business activity there are many risks that can hinder a promising venture. In order to experience the many benefits of business activity while minimizing potential liabilities, it is often very useful to implement a legal barrier or protection in the form of contra…um, incorporation. This way, exposure to the full consequences of unrestrained business activity is maintained at a safe distance from the private affairs of the owner. In fact, to be prohibited from the benefits of incorporation and to become fully exposed to the unfiltered results of business activity is a severe detriment to the well-being and health of the owner.

I don't think anyone has a great argument against adult sibling marriage other than it distorts and corrupts familial love with lover's jealousy.

I don't know that that's true, Step2. Here is my argument for it: Marriage requires a kind of equality of position between the husband and wife, before the marriage. The consent is a completely free mutual consent, the willingness to give yourself to the other is made specifically in the context of receiving from them a like kind of gift. But "a like kind of gift" means that the other person is of like position, their very person is coordinate with yours. This is why marriage is capable of, even oriented to, an ideal of friendship, because friendship obtains between two who are, to each other, "another self". Which only obtains when they are of like kind.

Now although there is indeed friendship in marriage, there is also an ordination of distinct roles. And this ordering carries through with the children, for the children are subordinate to their parents. Children are by nature subject to the authority of their parents, they are obliged to honor them and submit to them. This implies, then, that children are NOT equal in position to the parent. Therefore, it is impossible for a son to consent to marriage with his mother on a completely free and equal basis, for he is ALREADY subject to his mother. The completely equal mutual gift cannot take place, because the son already owes honor and obedience to his mother.

Even if it were somehow theoretically possible for the giving of self could be completely free and mutual, there would still be a problem: intra-family, there would ALWAYS be the worry that there had been undue influence pushing the event, causing the consent to not be free. That is, out of prudence society would be virtually forced to assume that the likelihood of imperfect consent it so high that such marriages should just be not allowed. The appearance of a conflict of interests or consents is too strong.

Well, OK, it is St. Thomas's argument too, but he can share, right?

Bill,
I don't think anyone has a great argument against adult sibling marriage other than it distorts and corrupts familial love...
Full stop.

The reason I brought it up, Step2, is that you offered the definition to demonstrate that "consent as a necessary condition for intimacy..isn't inherently exploitative or harmful" and to "counteract this 'Marriage could mean absolutely anything' nonsense." But your definition doesn't do that. My concern was that you were making consent the sole the foundation; on re-reading I'm not sure you were. Obviously, we all believe that consent is a necessary condition, but not the only condition. Your definition fails because in number two you intentionally (slyly?) elide any reference to the sex of the parties involved, and to their number. This may not mean that "absolutely anything" goes, but it sure sounds like something close to an open door policy.

You are correct that the best argument against sibling marriage will be a moral one (as you started to make), rendering self-evident the fact that any definition of marriage will have to include more than consent or the subjective happiness quotient of the parties to it. But those very moral arguments have been ruled out-of-bounds not only by our friend Phil, but by many apologists for "marriage equality," and by the courts themselves. So when a brother and sister do try to make their case, it'll be interesting to see on what basis the courts reject it. If they do.

Re George's principles, taken at face value you are probably right, though I'm sure he's made a lengthy case for each of them in his writing. Numbers 2, 3, 4, and 5 would all require moral arguments to justify but, as I said, those are off the table now.

"If the core of marriage is two individuals freely choosing (because they are capable of consenting to the choice) to join with one person, above all others, then the slope isn't as slippery as you keep painting it to be."

This speaks absolutely nothing to the "M+F" vs. "2" discrepancy. WHY is the "core of marriage" TWO individuals? What makes the number "2" special/sacrosanct/privileged?

C'mon, Phil -- should be an easy question for you, considering how loquacious you are on everything else.

Why should a doctor consider an eye that can't see to be diseased and try to cure it, while not also regarding it as a disorder that the human being cannot hear all the same sounds that bats can hear?

But if a person's eye happens to be able to see better than 20/20, the doctor does not see it as a disease that must be cured so the eye can't see better than the median.

I think you're stretching the meaning of "teleology."

Hands can be used to write, to clap, to prepare food, to engage in boxing, to pet an animal, and for some people, to walk. We are human animals, and we evolved to be clever, and we have figured out lots of stuff to do with our hands.

People who learn to write with their feet are no more violating the "telos" of their feet than people who learn to perform fellatio are violating the "telos" of their mouths/and or partner's genitals.

I understand that you might disagree. Is there a point in arguing about it?

Anyway, if someone came to me with an argument "stemming from Scientology" I'd want to know what the argument was! Of course I reject Scientology, but that's because I've read about it and learned what it was about.

That's a nice thing to say, and it's not in any way a negative to be open-minded about the thought processes and the beliefs of other people. (I mean that sincerely.)

The argument from scientology was meant to be a hypothetical, but let's say, perhaps, that you're arguing about public policy and the person with whom you're arguing keeps making arguments that rely on the assumption that "body thetans." Perhaps they are arguing that U.S. citizens should be forced to undergo auditing to rid themselves of these body thetans. (It's a hypothetical argument.)

Now, you've done some reading, and, if I'm guessing correctly, you reject the notion that body thetans exist. So you say so.

If this happened not twice, not thrice, but dozens and dozens of times, and every time you told a Scientologist that you don't believe in body thetans, they responded: "Oh, that is an ignorant answer! Clearly, you do not UNDERSTAND body thetans! Here, here is a book you can read to understand them better. Here's a link to a web site so you can read more about them!"

Is there a point, Jeffrey, where you believe it would be reasonable to say, "I don't want to read more about thetans. I am comfortable in my assessment that they aren't real."

And, if so, is there a point where you think it would be reasonable to say, "I am not interested in re-hashing the body thetan debate over and over. That matter is settled for me."


The question is, how is it that the rulers can presume to use secular bases for their decisions, when that constitutes a preference of one point of view of existence, of meaning, of the universe over the many different NON-secular views of same. When the courts have told us that every person has the right to define THEIR OWN meaning.

Tony, I submit that you are confusing the word "secular" with the word "atheist." They are not synonyms.

That, in itself, is an example of a secular POV of the issue. Your description of the two is nothing like what others hold to be true of the two. It is your own personal, superstitious, magical-thinking, POV-based, it isn't simply part of the physical world. Your attempt to impose that secularist POV of what secularism means on everyone else is just as intolerant and bigoted as the Arabs in Saudi Arabia are about women's rights. synonyms.

Tony, don't be silly. If we're debating about the definition of a word, then the issue is merely vocabulary. If you want to use some _other_ word for the concept that public policy discussions should be conducted in the common ground that we share instead of via our personal religious views, then you can provide me with a different word for it. No problem.

What word would you like to use?


So, you appear to be brain-challenged.

it appears that you are only a half-wit,
maybe your mental space isn't BIG enough to try on other's POV for size

Keepin' it classy there, are we, Tony?

Phil, my understanding is that you reject teleology generally as magical thinking and what-not. You can't have it both ways. Airily saying that one is "stretching the meaning of teleology" when I've just given fairly manifest examples of its importance to medicine, and then simply _asserting_ your own position on what is or isn't a maltreatment or misuse of one's body, hardly amounts to a convincing extension of your previous entire disdain for teleology and natural law. If a person could see like an eagle at great distances but was unable to see anything at normal human distances, that _would_ be a malfunction, because humans need to be able to see in a human scale more than they need to see with super-precision at great distances. I understand that you _believe_ that the homosexual use of the human body is not a misuse, but you can't get there while acting like teleology in regards to the human body is a lot of superstitious nonsense, because at some point, you need teleology. Let's remember, too, that when it comes to doing severe damage to the human body, the trans movement is right up there, taking the entire disdain of teleology to a "logical" conclusion: Don't feel like you identify with this or that functioning, healthy part of your body? Cut it off. In this regard, they are very similar to the people who now (yes, this is a real thing) demand that doctors cut off their healthy arms and legs because their "body image" is such that they "see themselves" as an amputee. I've heard such a person say that, verbatim. So, yes, the total rejection of teleology has real consequences in medicine, and they aren't pretty. If someone believes that he is a one-eyed person trapped in the body of a two-eyed person, if that is his self-image, if he's going to "suffer" if he goes on having two working eyes, why shouldn't a doctor put him under anesthesia and gouge out his eye? Why not treat having two working eyes as the disorder rather than the contrary?

Once you start mocking and rejecting body teleology en toto, you have to think about such questions. In our society, the reductio has become a reality, and all your verbal shrugs, Phil, about the harmlessness of writing with one's feet can't remove that knowledge from an informed person.

Tony, I submit that you are confusing the word "secular" with the word "atheist." They are not synonyms....

Tony, don't be silly. If we're debating about the definition of a word, then the issue is merely vocabulary. If you want to use some _other_ word for the concept that public policy discussions should be conducted in the common ground that we share instead of via our personal religious views, then you can provide me with a different word for it. No problem.

Gee, let's see the definitions:

sec·u·lar ˈsekyələr/Submit adjective 1. denoting attitudes, activities, or other things that have no religious or spiritual basis.

not spiritual : of or relating to the physical world and not the spiritual world

of or pertaining to worldly things or to things that are not regarded as religious, spiritual, or sacred; temporal:

Those are the first three definitions Google kicks up, with Merriam Webster & Dictionary.com.

And that's how I was using it.

Phil, you want "secular" in addition to meaning "worldly, not spiritual, not religious" to also mean "the concept that public policy discussions should be conducted in the common ground that we share instead of via our personal religious views. That "instead of our personal religious views" kind of slipped your watch, didn't it? Because it gives the game away. That slip there is EXACTLY what I am talking about - your ever-so-easy damned ideological assumption that what we hold in common is non-religious concerns, and also that these matters of necessity consist in material reality and nothing but. That, my boy, is your secularist ideology rearing its ugly head. That is just so narrow, simplistic, and presumptuous. Take Stoics, who believed in nature and this universe alone, living for this life only (no afterlife) and still pursued the virtues as the critical "meaning" of life. No extrinsic "god" out there to appease or anything. And they sure as heck weren't secularists - they believed in REASON as the highest good, which is certainly not a material thing.

I got news for you: "secular" DOES NOT MEAN conducting public policy in the the common ground that we all share. It doesn't even mean just "the common ground that we all share." If you had a society made up 100% of Orthodox Jews, they would all share their religion together, but that wouldn't be secular.

Here's the answer to your search for "common ground". We all share humanity in common with each other. We all share experience of living as humans. Which means that we all experience matters of the senses and emotions, and matters of reason and the will. Human nature, and things that flow from human nature, and the experiences we share as humans, can readily be the primary context of discussions of public policy.

Which, by the way, is just what natural law is: discussion of what is true of human nature, and flowing from that, what is good for humans.

Keepin' it classy there, are we, Tony?

You may have noticed, Phil, that I get just a wee bit testy when people come onto my thread and tell me "no, that's not what you and I were discussing, we were discussing what I want to focus on." Especially when you are flat out wrong, (rather stupidly) reading into my comment something different from what I was saying. I can be awfully, stupendously patient with someone who is conversing politely, especially if he is also making good points and pursuing the ideas with intelligent objections and real puzzlers, or even just funny bon mots. See, for example, my appreciation for your "freestanding iron latticework structure in his pocket" zinger, at my July 30, 11:42 comment. But I tend to lose some of that famous patience when a person makes all sorts of peripheral (and mostly irrelevant) responses but refuses to attempt to tackle the primary thesis at all, and even more so when he actually rejects that THAT IS the primary topic of my discussion.

There are liberals and non-Christians around here who don't get me making jabs at their intelligence. They abide by the rules of good conversation, rules that we all hold in common.

Lydia, it sounds like what you're saying is: even if there is no god, and we are all just accidents of evolution, it would still be wrong to cut off a healthy person's functioning arm.

Is that an accurate assessment of what you've said?

Is that an accurate assessment of what you've said?

Actually she said a lot more. You've chosen to ignore most of it.

Bill,
My concern was that you were making consent the sole the foundation; on re-reading I'm not sure you were.

Your re-reading was correct, it isn't the only condition but it is a necessary one.

This may not mean that "absolutely anything" goes, but it sure sounds like something close to an open door policy.

It is understood that my definition is going to have broader categories than yours, right? If we already agreed on all the limitations upon marriage we wouldn't be in a dispute about it. On the other hand, in Tony's list of horribles a lack of adult consent does necessarily rule out the marriages of pedophiles, zoophiliacs, necrophiliacs, and that saucy Eiffel Tower. My general definition also implies multiple partners should be prohibited but doesn’t require it (although in the case of corporate shareholders a lack of intimacy would be sufficient to prohibit it). There are probably enough pragmatic and conditional reasons multiple marriage partners is harmful as official policy without relying on unconditional principles.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lost_boys_%28Mormon_fundamentalism%29

My argument against sibling marriage is also conditional, since in the majority of cases I’ve read about involving sibling couples they were not raised in the same household, and in one unusual case didn’t even know they were siblings until months after the relationship began. If there is little or no familial bond to be distorted and corrupted it negates the force of my argument. But you see how odd it looks to say that siblings should be prohibited from marriage unless they were raised in different households. So as I wrote previously I don’t think there are any great arguments against sibling marriage, just partially effective arguments.

If years of me explaining why all these objections fail and why adult consent as a necessary condition for intimacy that isn't inherently exploitative or harmful hasn't gotten through to you yet, I don't know what will. I've even provided a general definition to counteract this "Marriage could mean absolutely anything" nonsense. To repeat myself, marriage is 1) a committed and intimate relationship (which at minimum implies an exclusive partnership), 2) between consenting adult persons, 3) that connects their fates and fortunes together for the foreseeable future, 4) that is publicly acknowledged, 5) and may indicate a mutual signal for nesting behavior and raising children born to or adopted by the couple.
Well, I already provided one constraint which you dismissed as if it couldn't possibly be relevant, namely adult consent. Here's the thing, you think consent is only "meaningful" as a constraint within a certain narrow context and intrinsically linked to other particular goods. I don't, it can stand alone as a principled constraint on romantic pursuits "fundamentally incompatible" to the proper goods of men. Frankly, it flows as a pragmatic consequence from the Golden Rule/reciprocity so I'm unsure why it wouldn't carry moral weight all by itself.
Since when did the Golden Rule become an imposition of state tyranny instead of a basic building block of justice? Answer: Never. Is every law ever written or overturned decried as "privileging one person's concept of existence over the other"? Answer: Sure, but people still seem to intuitively understand rape and murder ought to be punished. Oh well, I guess people are just inconsistent in not desiring total anarchy.
On the other hand, in Tony's list of horribles a lack of adult consent does necessarily rule out the marriages of pedophiles, zoophiliacs, necrophiliacs, and that saucy Eiffel Tower. My general definition also implies multiple partners should be prohibited but doesn’t require it (although in the case of corporate shareholders a lack of intimacy would be sufficient to prohibit it). There are probably enough pragmatic and conditional reasons multiple marriage partners is harmful as official policy without relying on unconditional principles.

I think you are making assumptions that I am asking us NOT to just assume. Let's start a small and slow and not make assumptions. First of all, is marriage "an agreement" between separate parties? It has always been so in the past, but that fact is taken to be a bigoted, outlandish reason to deny someone marriage, so we either have to come up with a better reason than that or we have to concede the possibility of allowing a single person to "be married". Sure, allowing that would mean changing what we mean by marriage - that's what this whole debate is about, changing it to include gays, etc. Is there a reason to reject a woman "marrying herself"? Is there, for example, some basis for arguing as a principled matter that she is incapable of having those feelings of love, affection, and intimacy toward herself that couples have toward each other? Maybe there is, but my guess is that practically all such arguments will by subterfuge pull in something of moral or religious perspectives that the courts have said we cannot use to settle this matter. So, without simply assuming it, an argument has to be made, and it may be problematic without forbidden grounds.

Second, does marriage include a kind of consent that is inherently an adult consent? What do I mean? Well, a child can enter into an agreement with his friend: "I'll give you my apple for your orange." Further, a child can enter into legally binding contracts under certain conditions, such as labor and advertising contracts. A child of 6 can act in a commercial or a movie for a contractually agreed upon compensation. Admittedly, most such contracts require the consent of his parent to be legally binding, but the contract is real for all that. So, do we insist that marital contracts are inherently off limits to children? Again, we need to have a better reason than "because historically we have done that", both because that rationale has been cast into the sea, and because Step2 reminds us that in history there are examples of societies that do allow marriage of children.

In order to settle this question, we would have to get into more of the nitty-gritty of what sort of agreement this marriage stuff involves, or we could never find that in THIS kind of contract, children cannot be the subject of consent even when their parents approve the contract. In the US alone, marriage is considered legal for children at age 15 with parental consent, (and in a couple states, as early as 13 for girls), which reflects a lot of ancient usage on the topic to one degree or another. The fact that virtually ALL states allow either 15 or 16-year-olds to marry WITH parental approval indicates that the consent can be present in the necessary sense even where parental consent is necessary, so the mere fact that "children" need parental consent to enter into contracts suggests that the marrying couple's OWN ADULT consent is not needed for a marriage. Which suggests that Step2's thesis about adult consent is overly broad. Maybe just wrong? Well, probably not completely wrong, but why?

Let's (for the moment) assume that we are legally allowed to descend into the particulars to designate that what we (meaning society as a whole) mean by marriage does essentially consist of a consent to the mutual right to the other person's body that is implicit in sexual acts. That is to say, marriage gives a person a rightful expectation to that physical intimacy involved in sex. Now, everybody knows how horrible I think imposing this on a child would be, but there are some people who don't think this is a horrible thing. Further, there are some children who have been so warped as to think it is OK too. Thus, someone like this would argue that even if we agree to limit marriage to the sort of consent in which people are mutually granting the right to the physical intimacy of sex, this does not create the limitation mentioned for ADULT consent.

But even so much an assumption as I made, that marriage means a mutual right of the physical intimacy of sex, is potentially at risk as well - for according to the new theories, the fact that "we don't ask them if they are going to have children" and "we don't deny marriage if they explicitly say they don't plan on having children" are held to be 2 deal-killers for the notion that marriage is for children, then it would also be the case that "we don't ask them if they are going to have sex" and "we don't deny marriage if they explicitly say they don't plan on having sex" would also be deal-killers for the notion that marriage is about having sex. Now, I suspect also that there are also good answers to these problems, but (again) I suspect also that these good reasons would tend to import perspectives drawn from natural law or religious sentiment, which have been ruled out of bounds.

Well, let's assume (for the moment, in order to move forward to consider the other parts of the definition) that we have established something that looks like a reason to limit marriage to relationships between different people, and has to do with the physical intimacy of sex. Should we also assume, or must we argue for, the position that marriage regards a relationship of the emotional or affective order? I don't see how we could just assume it, given all of the history of arranged marriages. And given that friends (just friends) have always had strong emotional ties without getting married. And given that our society seems to think that having laws that forbids to emotionally attached friends the pleasure of sexual activity unless they are married would be bad law. What, precisely, would be the argument that marriage in law should regard such an emotional bond, when people can have sex in such emotional relationships without marriage just fine under the law? Well, once again, I have no doubt that there are arguments to be made here, but practically ALL such arguments are going to either run afoul of giving a complete legal OK to extra-marital sex, or are at least going to import natural moral and religious perspectives that have been ruled out of bounds.

And then we have Step2's requirement that it be "committed". Of course the definition of "committed" is going to be a major problem, since there is not only no way of measuring it, there isn't really a good language for communicating it in detail (one man's committed is another man's one-night stand) - other than, say, contractually agreeing to specifics like "in sickness and in health, for richer and for poorer" and so on. If that's what you mean, Step2, then are you against all of the marriage vows concocted by the couples themselves (or by otherwise illiterate persons) that have narry a word about these kinds of specifics? Should those be ruled not marital vows? In any case, the fact of the matter seems to be that "committed" also seems to have fallen victim to the argument "but we don't enforce these at law, what with no-fault divorce, and basically approving any divorce if one party isn't committed any more". That is, we seem to have accepted that it doesn't have to be committed. So how do we substantiate that the state can enforce a meaning of "committed" for marriage by an argument that doesn't draw on content we derive from our (not always shared) points of view on what man is? I have no clue.

And what about "exclusive?" Of course we have old-fashioned theories about the exclusivity, but the fact that society used to have this expectation is no longer considered a good reason to retain it now. What would be the argument that the relationship is to be exclusive between 2 people? Imagine a threesome of women who go to a judge and insist that they are all 3 in love with each other and "need" to be married. What possible good of the state could the judge use to tell them their right to marriage falls down to the state's need for X? Or, what if a couple want marriage, but each party wouldn't DREAM of telling the other "hey, you cannot wander into another person's bed if you feel like it." I think this exclusivity is just sneaking the old-fashioned good of fidelity into the picture, without admitting it. Once you allow that children are not a core defining concept around which commitment and exclusivity are drawn in, and allow that marriage can be ended when a couple just plain feels like it, then just plain feeling like fooling around outside of the marriage (as long as both parties agree) cannot violate the meaning of marriage.

Which brings us to the criterion Step2 mentioned "for the foreseeable future." This, of course, is a watered down version of the traditional vow "until death do us part." And there is the really severe difficulty that lots of people can foresee years and years and years down the road in some sense, while others can only foresee a few months, if that. (Actually, almost everyone can foresee decades down the road, if they only try: making contributions to retirement plans and IRAs, buying burial plots and long-term care insurance policies are things that people do for decades down the road.) Well, let's assume that this expression can be given determinate meaning. There is effectively NO reason that I can think of that makes this "for the foreseeable future" something that the state ought to require if it is not going to listen to certain POVs over others on what sort of life is a good life for man. People seem to be quite comfortable, these days, with the presumption that their marriage will not last for a very long time, there are lots of young people raised in failed families with a mother or father having multiple serial partners, who are simply convince that any relationship they have will peter out after a modestly short period (3 or 5 years, maybe) and have no conception of what it would look like to commit to "for the foreseeable future" meaning (just for example), until the kids are grown. And for my money, any notion of marriage being "for the foreseeable future" that doesn't include at least until the kids are grown is basically a washed out bit of nonsense words amounting to mere smoke. For, we are absolutely positive that ending marriages during kids' formative years is damaging to society.

So you see, it is not that I actually disagree with the notion that marriage is a committed relationship, or that it entails intimacy or exclusivity. It is that I charge the liberals making these new laws and court decisions with incoherency in their thinking: once they ditch traditional natural moral principles, and (Christian) religious values that uphold marriage as being permanent and binary and exclusive, and having children as a center of gravity around which these other things revolve, you lose the BASIS on which to argue that the state may and indeed should require of couples that their marriages be between exactly 2 people, with long-term commitment, with exclusivity, etc. They are ("impermissibly") borrowing off old-fashioned notions of right behavior for their remaining limitations without realizing it.

in Tony's list of horribles a lack of adult consent does necessarily rule out the marriages of pedophiles, etc...

Not necessarily. You do realize that consent is (you're going to hate this) a slippery slope, that people are writing scholarly articles advocating its malleability, and that, therefore, more is needed, e.g., an argument that there is something wrong with adults viewing children as objects of sexual interest.

There are probably enough pragmatic and conditional reasons multiple marriage partners is harmful as official policy without relying on unconditional principles.

Probably? Can you not think of even one morally cogent reason to oppose it based on an understanding of the human person and its inherent dignity? Pragmatic reasons come and go; unconditional principles are forever.

Re the bro-sis arrangement: I’ve read about..sibling couples...not raised in the same household... If there is little or no familial bond to be distorted and corrupted it negates the force of my argument.. So, even though these siblings raised apart are in fact brother and sister, you see no moral argument to be made against this union? How about a father who doesn't meet his daughter until she is grown, the two of whom upon reunion become convinced that they are in love, romantically, that is? Any problem with that?

I love this line: My general definition also implies multiple partners should be prohibited but doesn’t require it

Well, if the definition becomes law, you can bet your house and everyone living in it that it won't be. Required, that is.

Phil,

I just got back from a mini-vacation, which is why I didn't respond to you sooner. You say,

People who learn to write with their feet are no more violating the "telos" of their feet than people who learn to perform fellatio are violating the "telos" of their mouths/and or partner's genitals.

I understand that you might disagree. Is there a point in arguing about it?

First of all, it is obvious to anyone with a functioning brain that the telos of the foot is to help human being walk. Can the foot be used for other purposes? Of course it can, and natural law theory never denies that it might be right and proper at times to use your abilities to improvise when it comes to the human body (e.g. use your feet to kick an attacker). The question for any particular use is whether or not it is an abuse or rather whether the use serves a good or moral end.

Now, you ask whether or not there is a point in "arguing about it". Yes, of course there is a point -- just as there was a point in me asking why you thought laws against murder were justified (and you never answered). The point is that we need a foundation for our laws -- a reason to enact law X over law Y. Most of the bloggers on this site (if not all) argue that there are objective moral reasons for our laws and that we can reason together to learn these morals and our laws should therefore reflect the moral law. The fact that you continue to reject our reasoning or seem to think the U.S. Constitution somehow forbids our attempt at reasoning, is frankly strange and crazy.

But if you have an answer to my question and/or a sane reason for rejecting our morality, then bring it on.

Why is the "core of marriage" TWO individuals? What makes the number "2" special/sacrosanct/privileged? Still waiting, Phil!

Tony,
First of all, is marriage "an agreement" between separate parties? It has always been so in the past...

No it hasn't. As you point out, there were and are arranged marriages between parents of children where the parents make the most important choices, there were and still are bride kidnappings and forced marriages for a multitude of cultural reasons. Btw, shotgun marriages are considered a form of forced marriage for those who miss the traditional "good old days".

Is there, for example, some basis for arguing as a principled matter that she is incapable of having those feelings of love, affection, and intimacy toward herself that couples have toward each other?

If you'll wait while I chat with this amazing person in the mirror...um, perhaps because there isn't any way to objectively distinguish this marriage from being a narcissistic single person.

Second, does marriage include a kind of consent that is inherently an adult consent?

Marriage is attempting to forge a life together often with the possibility of having or adopting children, so of course it is an adult decision. Society doesn't let children drive on their own until a certain age, we don't let children drink or smoke until a certain age, we don't let them vote until a certain age. It doesn't miraculously become a moral and religious argument to place a minimum age restriction on marriage simply because society already recognizes certain age-related milestones.

But even so much an assumption as I made, that marriage means a mutual right of the physical intimacy of sex, is potentially at risk as well...

Since you have already supported the idea of Josephite marriages, the notion that marriage isn't all about physical intimacy cannot be totally outlandish.

So how do we substantiate that the state can enforce a meaning of "committed" for marriage by an argument that doesn't draw on content we derive from our (not always shared) points of view on what man is?

Most states recognize voluntary abandonment (i.e. not military service, etc.) for an extended period as a true sign of lack of commitment. So we can typically identify its absence even if we disagree about its meaning.

There is effectively NO reason that I can think of that makes this "for the foreseeable future" something that the state ought to require if it is not going to listen to certain POVs over others on what sort of life is a good life for man.

The alternative phrasing is "for the unforeseeable future" which is a commitment to irrationality. Yes, it's expected and therefore foreseeable that partners will change as they mature and careers and life will sometimes go sideways, and "in sickness" can include heartbreaking setbacks and trials. What is unforeseeable is that your partner will suffer an aneurysm or psychotic break and undergo a personality shift hostile to everything you ever found desirable in them. That is what I mean by unforeseeable, something that if it had happened before the marriage would absolutely, justifiably have prevented the marriage.

Bill,
Not necessarily.

Yes necessarily.

Any problem with that?

Yes, but don't let that distract you from your non-argument against sibling marriage.

I guess that's the dismissive, combox equivalent of the middle finger. I won't bother you anymore.

Me: First of all, is marriage "an agreement" between separate parties? It has always been so in the past...

No it hasn't. As you point out, there were and are arranged marriages between parents of children where the parents make the most important choices, there were and still are bride kidnappings and forced marriages for a multitude of cultural reasons. Btw, shotgun marriages are considered a form of forced marriage for those who miss the traditional "good old days".

Step2, you might have taken the time to notice that my point was on the "between separate parties." My whole follow-up would have been just as valid if I had used "relationship", regardless of how the relationship came about. Arranged marriages are, still, arranged FOR the 2 (or more) persons. The contrast class is not "arrangements where the parties marrying agree to it on their own steam without outside push", it is "arrangements where there is ONLY ONE PARTY."

Not to mention the fact that "bride kidnappings" and "forced marriages" are nothing short of simple rape unless there is something of a kind of consent on the part of the person kidnapped and/or forced. I will admit that in some places this might have been called "marriage" but I don't think that I have to defend it as if it really was marriage. Not after 2000 years of Christian reflection on and development of social doctrine, including on marriage. The fact that somebody out there wants to pretend that kidnapping and raping is "marriage" is not something I need to resolve by capturing it within the orbit of marriage properly understood, any more than anyone needs to explain away a sociopath's murders as "self-defense" from the people trying to stop him.

um, perhaps because there isn't any way to objectively distinguish this marriage from being a narcissistic single person.

Why need you? Or rather, on what principled basis that doesn't import important concepts from traditional mores, natural law, or religion into the equation? (Since all three of those sources of standards of social order have been ruled out of bounds.) Why shouldn't a narcissistic single person be considered "married" if that's what he or she wants?

Most states recognize voluntary abandonment (i.e. not military service, etc.) for an extended period as a true sign of lack of commitment. So we can typically identify its absence even if we disagree about its meaning.

Well, we can identify its absence after the fact by its gross and excessive denial. But that doesn't help us identify what kind of commitment there ought to be there up front to know whether the couple or foursome really is committing themselves to what society wants to designate as a special status of "marriage". Anyway, most divorces don't get judged and approved on the basis of abandonment, so we are left with this strange notion that in marriage, the state's meaning of making an agreement that you intend to stick to is, in this case, an intention to stick to it until you no longer intend to stick to it. I would love to be able make all my other contracts mean that. No, if we are going to make "what we do these days" a measuring rod of marriage, we will be forced to abandon "commitment" as one of the basic (meaningful) criteria of marriage. It is only by trying to insist on something better than current practice that we can justify it. (Which I am perfectly fine with, but it's justification requires delving into the "forbidden principles.")

And, by the way, looking at the form of your argument as based on "Most states recognize," to the extent that ANY of our current practices of marriage are reflective of earlier norms of behavior, for this discussion they must be assumed (until proven otherwise) to be based on those rejected sources of traditional mores, natural law, and religious ideas. So such an argument like "most states recognize" is really out of bounds here.

The alternative phrasing is "for the unforeseeable future" which is a commitment to irrationality. Yes, it's expected and therefore foreseeable that partners will change as they mature and careers and life will sometimes go sideways, and "in sickness" can include heartbreaking setbacks and trials. What is unforeseeable is that your partner will suffer an aneurysm or psychotic break and undergo a personality shift hostile to everything you ever found desirable in them. That is what I mean by unforeseeable, something that if it had happened before the marriage would absolutely, justifiably have prevented the marriage.

Oh come now, you aren't as stupid as you are pretending to be here. The contrast class for "the foreseeable future" is "for life", a commitment that literally BILLIONS of people made before the 20th century - and meant it. And virtually everyone over the age of 30 has seen at least 5 movies that used similar phrasings in reference to marriage vows, so it is wholly unlikely that you haven't heard of it. Even now, it is possible for people to commit to marriage for life even if their spouse were to suffer an aneurysm or psychotic break and undergo a personality shift hostile to everything you ever found desirable in them. Why, I know of people who live out those vows even though their spouse has changed horribly WITHOUT an aneurysm and has become hostile to everything they found desirable in them. That's pretty much the ACTUAL meaning of "for better or for worse." You know, that the words actually mean what the words seem to mean.

You may have noticed, Phil, that I get just a wee bit testy when people come onto my thread and tell me "no, that's not what you and I were discussing, we were discussing what I want to focus on." Especially when you are flat out wrong, (rather stupidly) reading into my comment something different from what I was saying. I can be awful

Tony,
I'm sorry you feel put upon. It wasn't my intention to make you feel bad. I think I'd characterize the discussion a little differently than you did, though.

The thread began with the original post, where you posed a question to "our pro gay defenders." I don't always comment in WWWtW, in part because--as I've mentioned--I don't like to argue about other people's religious beliefs, but I figure it's worth contributing when a poster seems to be looking for a different perspective. And the original post dealt with a legal decision by a court, and then some slippery-slope arguments that have been rehashed a thousand times.

I then wrote in my 7/31 post at 5:23pm "let's be clear: we're talking about civil marriage, right? Because the courts are making legal decisions about civil marriage, and that was the subject of the original post. We're not talking about religious marriages[...]" And I also wrote "I don't want to argue about your religious faith. [...] I consider "natural law" arguments to be religious arguments, but I don't think you share that view."

I also pointed out, in my 7/31 7:24pm post, "Obviously, you have every right to ignore me and talk about whatever you want. It is not my place to tell you what you can and can't do on a blog that you're a major part of. I was just pointing out the only options available if you wanted to make a logical argument in response to me."

I felt I was making it reasonably clear that I wasn't trying to dictate what you can talk about in your own blog; I was just limiting the scope of the discussion in which I was participating, by asking, in essence, if you're going to respond to me, let's not talk about your religion.

I assumed it went without saying that there was no obligation to respond to me.

But you did respond to what I'd written. I am basing this interpretation on the fact that you block-quoted text that I wrote, and even included my name in your 8/1 12:49am post: "Phil, "...

But then, later, you blew a gasket after I stated that we were discussing civil marriage. You said it should have been obvious to anyone with half a brain that we were discussing more than that, and you wrote, "You may have noticed, Phil, that I get just a wee bit testy when people come onto my thread and tell me "no, that's not what you and I were discussing, we were discussing what I want to focus on."

Well, gosh, Tony, why one earth would someone who said "We're discussing civil marriage, right?" think that--when you responded--the discussion was about civil marriage?

Your emotions are your own, and it's not my place to tell you whether you have a right to be angry. I think your anger (testiness) was misplaced, though. You also have the same right to be rude as everyone else, but if somebody playfully points out that you're being rude, ya might as well own it.

Phil, my understanding is that you reject teleology generally as magical thinking and what-not. You can't have it both ways.

I don't think that's a logical statement, Lydia. I reject Wiccanism as magical thinking, generally, but if a Wiccan document were to say, "The earth can provide nutrients to nourish plants" I wouldn't say I have to reject that out-of-hand. The notion that a healthy eye can see 20/20 is pretty much a wholly separate notion from the idea that the purpose of the eye is looking at wholesome things, no?

The notion that a healthy eye can see 20/20 is pretty much a wholly separate notion from the idea that the purpose of the eye is looking at wholesome things, no?

It isn't wholly separate from the idea that the *proper function* of the eye is seeing. Leave out the "looking at wholesome things" part; I'm talking about medicine and treating one's eyes in a way that is consonant with the recognition of human health. So the statement, "A healthy eye can see 20/20" isn't wholly separate from various other propositions, such as that it would be wrong to damage someone else's healthy eye just because he asked you to (e.g., because he didn't "identify" with his eye or some such nonsense), that a doctor's relationship qua doctor to the human eye should be that of trying to maintain or restore vision rather than harm it. Etc., etc. The very term "healthy" is an evaluative term. It is descriptive, but it is descriptive in an evaluative way. It ascribes a positive evaluation to a human eye that is able to see 20/20.

What I'm saying is that you cannot get to a positive evaluation of homosexual behavior by the *route* of rejecting the entire idea of proper functions, proper teleology of bodily parts, and so forth, because those general ideas are integral to other important human goods, such as the proper practice of medicine, which you will presumably want to maintain.

We're talking about civil marriage here, not about religious marriages, or any particular church's definition of marriage, or about the joining of souls, etc.
That might be a minor distinction, but I think it gets at a difference in the way you and I view marriage. (For starters, we're talking about civil marriage, and I think I'm much more likely to make a clear distinction in my head between civil marriages that the state recognizes versus religious marriages that are performed within all of the many many different faith traditions that exist within the United States, all with their own special rules that they think are super-duper important.)
To reply to the substance of what you've written, let's be clear: we're talking about civil marriage, right? Because the courts are making legal decisions about civil marriage, and that was the subject of the original post.

Phil, you seem to be laboring under two misunderstandings. Let me see if I can lay them out in easy, simple, direct terms, for you. First of all, you seem to have this notion that there are two THINGS out there that go under the name "marriage". There is "civil marriage", and this thing exists under some conditions, and then there is "religious marriage", and this thing exists under its own set of conditions. Let's call them Thing A, and Thing B. And, you imagine, this discussion is about Thing A.

Well, that's wrong. Here's the right way to characterize the discussion: there is this thing out there, which has the name "marriage." In some cases, a marriage will occur under such circumstances as to meet the criteria the state has set forth for official recognition, and when this happens, the state gives it civil recognition as a marriage. When the marriage happens under conditions that do not happen to meet the criteria the state has set forth for official recognition, then the marriage does not receive civil recognition of marriage.

Similarly, when the marriage occurs in such circumstances as to meet the criteria the religious body has for official recognition, then the religious body recognizes the marriage.

If a marriage takes place (as often happens) in such a way that it satisfies BOTH sets of criteria for recognition, then the same marriage is BOTH recognized civilly as being a marriage, AND is recognized religiously as being a marriage. There is JUST ONE MARRIAGE, and it claims to be marriage in both civil venues and religious venues. There is no Thing A and Thing B, there is only one marriage.

This discussion is about marriages, including when they exist (even without regard to official recognition), and also about when they receive (or don't receive, or should receive, or should not receive) recognition civilly or religiously. The event of a so-called 'marriage' that doesn't fulfill the conditions of marriage would be, properly, "not-marriage." So, if a thing is a marriage but doesn't fulfill the state's conditions for recognition, then it would be "marriage without civil recognition." If a thing is NOT a marriage but fulfills the state's criteria for being called a marriage by the state, then that recognition would not make it a marriage, that recognition would make it a thing "civilly called a marriage." To call an actual marriage that has civil recognition "civil marriage" and then to call a non-marriage that is civilly called 'marriage' also by the term "civil marriage" without distinction is, IN THIS DISCUSSION, hopeless obfuscation. To call both by the same name here when we are precisely engaged in dissecting the difference would make the whole discussion impossible and pointless.

This discussion is not about civil marriage in the sense of Thing A.

Now, in some of the comments above, you will find remarks that refer to "civil marriage". This is not, generally, a reference to Thing A. It is, generally (except in your own thought), a reference to marriage with respect to being recognized civilly - unless the context clearly indicates otherwise. And, at least initially it was not clear in your own comments that you DIDN'T mean to be referring to "marriage, with respect to being recognized civilly." In addition, since this discussion is about marriage both recognized civilly and not, it is true that it is "about civil marriage". That's not all it's about, but it is about that too.

In order for you to speak fruitfully here, you must at the minimum allow for the logical possibility that marriage could be something that exists whether the state recognizes it or not, and the logical possibility that the state could apply the name of civilly recognized marriage to what is not actually a marriage. If you wish to propose, (just for example,) that state recognition of an event as marriage constitutes that thing to be marriage (full stop), or even constitutes it to be "civil marriage" as Thing A, this is something you have to argue to, not simply declare that this is the topic of your comments.

Now, as to your second error. You seem to be laboring under the mistaken impression that I (or anybody else) has to respond to you on exactly your terms, and also to each and every point of yours, to be engaged in polite discussion here.

Phil:

I assumed it went without saying that there was no obligation to respond to me.

But you did respond to what I'd written. I am basing this interpretation on the fact that you block-quoted text that I wrote, and even included my name in your 8/1 12:49am post: "Phil, "...

Phil:

If you'd like to refute what I just said, here is how you may do that. First type, affirmatively, "Even if there is no god and no creator, and we are all just interesting accidents of evolution, all of the tenets of natural law that I believe in would still be valid because ......"

Me:

If you'd like to refute what I just said, here is how you may do that. First type, affirmatively, "Even if there is no god and no creator, and we are all just interesting accidents of evolution, all of the tenets of natural law that I believe in would still be valid because ......"

Because, as explained by serious thinkers like Aristotle, Cicero etc, the nature of man can be observed and understood even without adverting to the question of where man came from, and thus the nature of what is good for man can be understood without being constructed from an assumption of man's relationship to a Creator. As Aristotle explicitly does in his Nicomachean Ethics. Which I have referred to before in these pages.

Phil:

Tony, I said if you're going to respond to me, please begin by affirmatively stating, "Even if there is no god, and no creator, and we are all just interesting accidents of evolution..." --before you type the rest of your sentence.

See, I did exactly what you asked, Phil, I typed your entire sentence word for word, and even set it off in a quote box to be clear, and then FINISHED your own sentence starter using your own conjunctive word "because..." with my own "because" to make it clear I was using your own sentence beginning. And I followed your explicit request by referring to an argument that does NOT USE any relationship of man to God (or vice versa) and speaks only of man as he exists in his own nature. And still I don't satisfy you that I followed your (hyper-ridiculous) rules for how to speak to you.

Blogging 101(a): we make lots of individual points in a blog comment. It is permissible to answer one point without answering ALL of them. It is permissible to take one point more seriously than another. It is permissible to relegate responding to some points to a later discussion (if you ever get around to it). It is permissible to limit the size of a reply comment by more factors than "did I respond to every point he made?" The fact that I didn't seem to think it necessary to explicitly agree with your comment that "this is about civil marriage", when this thread is about marriage civilly recognized and other things, doesn't mean that I agreed with you completely, nor that I disagreed with you. I means that I didn't respond to that particular remark. No response is not an answer, so it is not an affirmative answer.

Blogging 101(b): it is more the obligation of the newer folks to learn the nuances of word usage of the old-timers, than the other way around. The possibility that the terms "marriage" and "civil recognition of marriage" carrying distinct connotations around here is so overwhelmingly strong, given past commentary, that it should have been possible for even a relative newcomer to realize that he needed not to make naive assumptions about the term "civil marriage" before diving in head first without checking the water.

There were 14 different comments made here before you entered the discussion, in addition to thousands of prior comments in other threads, that touched on these distinctions. You might have noticed, for example, that I in the OP I posed a (rather sarcastic) hypothetical "If marriage gets to be whatever the state wants it to be, suggesting the alternative possibility that marriage IS NOT whatever the state wants (or defines) it to be. Which creates the possibility that something the state calls "marriage" isn't, really, marriage. Which means that it is necessary to use the terms with clarity, rather than confusedly. Which means that even had I realized you meant "as opposed to all the other aspects of marriage that are under discussion", and had I wanted to respond, I could not actually answer your question "is this about civil marriage" with a simple answer yes or no. And often questions that take complicated answers don't get a response.

Blogging 101(c): You do not create in us a responsibility to respond to you in exactly the terms you would like when you impose such terms as a condition of discussion. This has several several flaws of conversation, including forcing the conversation to be on your terms. Even if you pretend by saying things like "please" and "may".

When you imposed a wholly objectionable limitation on what I may say to respond to you, "If you'd like to refute what I just said, here is how you may do that. First type, affirmatively," instead of merely laying out what assumptions YOU THINK we might share in common, or that YOU THINK I might be willing to go along with as a hypothetical, and letting me tell you, you are trying to control my response. You are being manipulative.

My forbearance from correcting your manipulation, and then my meekness in actually responding to the content of your request just as requested even in the face of your manipulation, was not intended to approve of the technique or your rightness to use it.

Human Life 101(d): It is a form of passive aggressive behavior to use the above sorts of techniques to attempt to control and manipulate the terms of the discussion by a pretence of merely "asking" for it, and then to come back with critiques of the other person's strong reaction and "incivil" behavior when they don't take being manipulated equably. It isn't any better in blogging than it is in real life. "What! What did I do? All I said was..." is almost always the obnoxious retort of someone who was being a jerk verbally to begin with.

I was just limiting the scope of the discussion in which I was participating, by asking, in essence, if you're going to respond to me, let's not talk about your religion.

Blogging 101(e): You cannot (at least not politely) come onto someone else's running blog thread that touches on religion and enter the fray and then say "I just want to limit the scope of the discussion I am participating in because I don't want to talk about your religion". The discussion already exists, either you want to enter that discussion or you don't. If you don't have anything to say about someone else's religion, then don't say it. Then when someone else makes a religion-based comment, it won't be in response to your religious comment.

Either marriage in itself can be spoken of with regard to man's nature not looking to God and religion, or it cannot. If it can, then almost all of the comments here about it from the standpoint of nature alone were not in reference to religion and it was *unnecessary* for you to engage in that limiting request (and totally gratuitous to issue the complaint of natural law being religious as essential to this discussion). If it CANNOT, then you chose to come into an inherently religious debate asking people not to debate religion with you. Either one was inappropriate.

Your emotions are your own, and it's not my place to tell you whether you have a right to be angry. I think your anger (testiness) was misplaced, though. You also have the same right to be rude as everyone else, but if somebody playfully points out that you're being rude, ya might as well own it.

Sugar wouldn't melt in your mouth, now would it? "Mom, he belted me, when all I said was..."

Good job, Tony. As long as you realize that, since there is no God and we are all just accidents of evolution, and that there is consequently nothing we're "supposed" to do with our various body parts, including our brains, everything coming out of Phil's mouth is an accident of nature, and that until and unless he experiences another accident of evolution, as in further evolves (by accident, of course), prospects for a meaningful exchange remain dim, if not impossible, since beneficial mutations are mathematically rare and, in any case, accidental.

If I understood correctly, Step2 is fine with sibling marriages and Phil is all for multiple sexual partners in a given relationship - dating or married. Am I in the Twilight Zone here?

Am I in the Twilight Zone here?

No, you're at What's Wrong with the World, a fortified castle of faith and reason. I don't know where those other guys live.

Wow. Tony's Blogging 101(a) to 101(e) and Human Life 101(d) comments to Phil was pretty good.

Why shouldn't a narcissistic single person be considered "married" if that's what he or she wants?

What would a divorce look like? Suicide?

That's pretty much the ACTUAL meaning of "for better or for worse."

There is worse and then there's living hell on earth.

If I understood correctly, Step2 is fine with sibling marriages...

I do so enjoy watching these appeals to nada, zilch, and bupkus while my principled reason for restricting it in most cases is treated as a horrifying lack of judgement. Again, I'm the only person on this thread who has made any argument against sibling marriage so it is your understanding that is clearly in the Twilight Zone.

There is worse and then there's living hell on earth.

Step2, there is nothing in the principle "marriage is for life" that of necessity implies that "separation is never permitted". If a person has become the antithesis of whom you married, is abusive and so on, a civilly recognized separation is well in order.

But a recognition that they have made themselves no longer able to be lived with is not a claim that you are free to stop loving them. It is possible to love someone even while they are a jerk. Even while they are an abusive jerk. Even while they are doing their best to make your life miserable. Even while they are persecuting you. As did St. Stephen. Or Jesus Christ. Which is, actually, just what the marriage vows actually mean - for better OR FOR WORSE. These are not some sort of secret code for "well, really it's only for better or for mildly worse, up to a point."

If you think a human being trying to make your life miserable here on earth is ACTUALLY as bad as hell, you have a very limited imagination.

I'm the only person on this thread who has made any argument against sibling marriage so it is your understanding that is clearly in the Twilight Zone.

What you did in reality was to begin with a principled argument - I don't think anyone has a great argument against adult sibling marriage other than it distorts and corrupts familial love with lover's jealousy - and then completely eviscerate it with My argument against sibling marriage is also conditional... I don’t think there are any great arguments against sibling marriage, just partially effective arguments.

How about this? If sibling marriage is permissible (based on outlier cases, which you present as exceptions disproving the rule: they were raised in different households! Oh my!), if marriage has no innate teleology pointing outside one's immediate family, then society should have no trouble with the following scenario: John and Kathy (unrelated) give birth to John Jr. and Kathy-O. John Jr. and Kathy-O get married and give birth to John III and Katy. John III and Katy give birth to Caligula and Drusilla (JIII and Katy have a sense of humor corresponding to their depleted genetic endowment). Cal and Dru likewise marry and on it goes from one generation to the next until finally one of the sister-wives gives birth to a scrofulous and, thankfully, sterile golem named Speagol, which doesn't matter anyway because he can't remember his name. If sibling marriage is permissible, every family in the country should be allowed to pursue this completely insular, inward-looking manner of expanding, without extending, itself.

Love, by definition, looks outside of itself. Married lovers, by definition, desire children so as to share the blessings of their love with something outside themselves, so that their love amounts to more than a mutual admiration society. Children marry outside the family so that that family's love ripples outward to benefit a larger society. Gosh, it's almost like, oh, a Mystical Body. It's almost as though, in certain cases, biology has a moral content.

Blogging 101(a)[...]Blogging 101(e)

Tony, you misunderstand. I'm not saying you don't have the right to write whatever it is that you want. You are absolutely free to do that, without regard to the ways I've tried to limit my involvement in the conversation.

Just to be clear: I wasn't criticizing you for not doing what I said, or for ignoring me when I stipulated that I thought we were talking about civil marriage. You weren't under any obligation to oblige me, and I understand that.

You are also free to call me a brain-challenged half-wit with limited mental space.

And when I call you out on that, you are also free to reply that it's my fault because I wasn't willing to accept the premises you already believe to be true.

You're also free to call me rude. I understand that you probably felt very hurt. That often happens when people argue about personal, private religious beliefs with someone who disagrees very strongly with them.

And so it goes.


First of all, you seem to have this notion that there are two THINGS out there that go under the name "marriage".

This is incorrect. There are thousands and thousands of "THINGS" called marriage. There is civil marriage as it exists in the United States, which differs from state to state, though federal recognition and federal case law can impact what states can and can't (or do and don't) do. There is civil marriage as it exists in countries and jurisdictions around the world, and the laws and specifics change from country to country, and from tribe to tribe.

There are also cultural and religious forms of marriage that exist within the United States and all over the world, and throughout history. In every state except Utah, for example, religious/cultural multi-partner marriages are legal--as long as they aren't civil marriages. In many societies, and throughout much of history, marriage is a contract in which the ownership (basically) of a woman is transferred from her father to her husband.

From a reasonable definition of the word "traditional," the phrase "traditional marriage" could be taken to mean the enslavement of women by men. (I'd say this understanding would be fitting for any culture where women did not have a realistic ability to decide who (and who not) to marry, and didn't have a realistic ability to end a marriage.

In some cultures, slaves could be married to each other, but whether these marriages had any legal weight differed from culture to culture. "Biblical" marriage, for goodness' sake, included polygamy and slavery. Some cultures believed that a wife's life was over if her husband died; thus, wives were expected to immolate themselves on the burning corpse of their husbands.

And so forth.

We disagree on what it means to say that marriage exists metaphysically. But we both have an understanding of what it means to say that marriage laws exist in the United States, even if we disagree on the notion of whether calling something marriage therefore necessitates that it must reflect some "metaphysical" notion of marriage that we disagree about.

I did exactly what you asked, Phil, I typed your entire sentence word for word, and even set it off in a quote box to be clear

Ah, I see. Well, in case there's any confusion, when I was setting off your words in quote boxes, I was definitely not "affirmatively stating" the things that I was quoting. Different commenting styles, I guess.

Lydia:

I'm talking about medicine and treating one's eyes in a way that is consonant with the recognition of human health.

This is interesting, but I don't think it's really accurate to say that if we agree that a body part can be healthy or unhealthy, we therefore agree that the body part has a "telos" in the way that it's typically used here. (Obviously, if we redefine "telos" to mean "functioning in a healthy way" and only that, then we might be getting somewhere.)

But I think it's more accurate to say the concept of "health" as applied to individual body parts resembles the idea that body parts have an innate function, but that there is not, in fact, a 1:1 correlation between "healthy" and "teleologically _______."

For example, it could be said that men who masturbate have healthier penises than men who don't, because of the importance of exercise to keep the pelvic floor muscle and the corpus cavernosum functioning properly and because of the importance of ejaculating.

Somehow, I suspect you'd disagree with the notion that men who masturbate regularly are tending to the "telos" of their penis, and I submit that this is because you already know, on some level that "telos" and "health" are two different things.

Does this mean I'd have to come up with some other reason why it might be unethical to amputate a healthy person's eye, since I can't refer to metaphysics? Yeah, that'd be an accurate analysis.

Does this mean I'd have to come up with some other reason why it might be unethical to amputate a healthy person's eye, since I can't refer to metaphysics?

I'd say you will have trouble giving meaning to "healthy" without _some_ kind of metaphysics. Just not sure what kind you're going to use.

I'm not saying you don't have the right to write whatever it is that you want. You are absolutely free to do that, without regard to the ways I've tried to limit my involvement in the conversation.
If you'd like to refute what I just said, here is how you may do that. First type, affirmatively,
Tony, I said if you're going to respond to me, please begin by affirmatively stating...

Phil, I don't have to read between the lines. All I have to to is read the words you wrote: you were trying to create a condition so that if I wanted to respond to you, there was only one right way to do that, your stated way. You were bothered when (you thought) that I didn't, and expressed that bother because you couldn't take the argument at face value, you had to critique it for its (imagined) defective format rather than its content. That wasn't limiting your own involvement in the conversation. That was trying to control my side of the conversation.

I understand that you probably felt very hurt.

I get a wee bit testy...

You are wrong about my feelings. In fact, you are so wrong it is quite laughable. I wasn't "very hurt" at all, you seem to be right out there in left field in interpreting my emotions from my commentary. But this gets me the perfect opportunity to introduce

Blogging 101(f): Be cautious about reading other's emotions from their comments. That's tricky waters.

I wasn't criticizing you for not doing what I said,
but if somebody playfully points out that you're being rude, ya might as well own it.
I find such comments to be unnecessary and a bit incivil. [To Lydia]

Yes, you have been criticizing people here. And pretending that your critical comments are not criticizing? So, let me get this right: you are representing that you are not only passive-aggressive, but also an insufferable prig? Well, it doesn't get any better than that.

Me: First of all, you seem to have this notion that there are two THINGS out there that go under the name "marriage".

This is incorrect. There are thousands and thousands of "THINGS" called marriage.

Manifestly, to think there are thousands of things is to think there are (at least) two things. The contrast class was "what was present was only one thing."

We disagree on what it means to say that marriage exists metaphysically. But we both have an understanding of what it means to say that marriage laws exist in the United States, even if we disagree on the notion of whether calling something marriage therefore necessitates that it must reflect some "metaphysical" notion of marriage that we disagree about.

Whether we disagree completely on the metaphysical question or not has not been determined, because you have avoided it so assiduously. You refuse to descend into that question, even though THAT has been the real meat of the matter from the beginning of this thread. So let me state it point blank: according to my view of nature (not religion), and human beings (not God), there is something right about certain marriage laws, and something wrong about some other marriage laws. That is to say, some marriage laws appropriately recognize something that is true and would be true even if the recognition isn't given, and it is at least possible that some marriage laws inappropriately give credence to the presence of something when the something isn't there. There is something real behind marriage law, for which marriage law is a law regulating this something, not merely creating a civil status out of sheer will to name a status. I don't think it necessary to state and agree on just exactly the nature of this real thing whose nature doesn't come about through civil law in order to agree that there is some reality there.

If changing marriage laws to accommodate gays who want to marry is good law, this would be (at least according to some people arguing it) because such a law appropriately recognizes something that is there that civil society ought to recognize as marriage. Something that is logically prior to the recognition.

The alternative is that there is nothing there for society to recognize, and changing the law is based on a sheer will to alter the meaning of the social status for no determinate reason. If there is nothing THERE for marriage law to regulate, nothing that is logically prior to society regulating it, then the RIGHT answer to the injustice of unequal marriage law is either (a) abolish it altogether, or (b) grant it to absolutely everyone without exception. Choosing to continue to regulate it and restrict society's grant of status is tantamount to saying that some things are more true about marriage than others, and this implies that marriage isn't simply a name created ex nihilo by the government but a name about something that is there even without the government naming it. Mentioning hundreds or even thousands of different marriage practices doesn't do one bit to undermine the point.

Bill,
Thank you for making an argument against sibling marriage.

As to your interpretation of my argument, I didn't completely eviscerate it; all I did was recognize that the principle has limits and doesn’t always apply to the rare sibling couples who wish to get married. I suppose part of that is my own fault for saying it was "not great...just partially effective", when I do think it is a good argument that covers an overwhelming percentage of real-life situations.

In your argument you are making two different claims. The first is purely consequential in terms of decreasing genetic defects. I’ve already explained why this is problematic - because society is not willing to apply that principle to laws forbidding procreation with people who already have highly heritable genetic defects or to older women where the chances are much greater for defects. You and I both know that is considered a eugenics project. Nevertheless, two of the 24 states that allow first cousin marriages do so only on the condition one or both partners are infertile and another state requires genetic counseling so the consequentialist argument may have some legal force despite being inconsistently applied.

In addition, from the ancient Pharaohs to Queen Victoria to the Du Ponts, many family dynasties have relied on cousin marriages to keep their alliances and inheritances closely held instead of rippling outward into the larger society. While much less common, sibling marriages were also used for this dynastic effect; including the biblical dynasty of Abraham and Sarah who were half-siblings. As far as I’m aware there have never been laws against marriages to second cousins, but if we take your “generation after generation” argument to its extreme conclusion those would also eventually produce a Speagol as the combination chances of lethal recessive genes builds up over time.

The second claim is much better, but there are many ways to share the blessings of their love that is more than a "mutual admiration society" and doesn't involve having or adopting children. Furthermore any attempt to connect civil marriage essentially to procreation is going to have difficulties in court; we’ve been over the examples that challenge it hundreds of times.

the principle has limits and doesn’t always apply to the rare sibling couples who wish to get married

I disagree. Even if you're just meeting your sister for the first time in adulthood, you should deny yourself fulfillment of any romantic impulse and try to reorient that love in its proper direction.

you are making two different claims. The first is purely consequential in terms of decreasing genetic defects

Not purely. If one knows that his behavior is likely to deny another a fair shot at flourishing as a fully healthy human, one has a moral obligation not to engage in that behavior. Obviously, any intertwining of the chromosomes bears some risk. We are under no obligation to intentionally increase it.

because society is not willing to apply that principle to laws...

I don't know how intrusive the law ought to be in this area; I'm concerned only that people try to do the right thing. It's not eugenics to tell a brother and sister they can't marry. It's not eugenics if a couple decides, knowing they bear a very high chance of passing a crippling infirmity along to their children, not to marry after all. It is eugenics if they decide to abort the child upon discovering that it's defective. It is eugenics to forcibly sterilize people so that they can't reproduce their own kind - Negroes, homosexuals, radical leftists, Richard Dawkins, etc. What about two retarded people who want to marry, but whose mental ages are both stuck at ten years old? Sterilizing them would be immoral, but forbidding them marriage would not be eugenics for a couple who have not achieved the age of consent, a married couple who will need supervision by other adults for the rest of their lives. Consideration of these biological problems is fraught with ethical implications. The line can be, and is, hard to draw, but that doesn't mean we can't draw it in certain situations.

from the ancient Pharaohs to Queen Victoria to the Du Ponts, many family dynasties have relied on cousin marriages to keep their alliances and inheritances closely held instead of rippling outward into the larger society

I know nothing about the DuPonts and probably don't want to. I've heard that cousin marriage in the Middle East has had a salutary effect on the status of women and a lowering of the inclination to settle disputes with violence.

The second claim is much better, but there are many ways to share the blessings of their love that is more than a "mutual admiration society" and doesn't involve having or adopting children.

Well, yeah, maybe, if they're saints or something, but surely you're not going to require this of most marriages; surely you're not going to deny that historically civil society has taken cognizance of any marriage because children will be its likely issue; and surely you're not going to claim that this absence of children has any relevance to my objection to forming families within the family.

Furthermore any attempt to connect civil marriage essentially to procreation is going to have difficulties in court

Which states the obvious. But it's important to admit that this is a very recent and perverse development.

I am very surprised, Step2, that you haven't pulled out the old question "what about Adam and Eve's children", or, what is effectively analogous "what if there was a calamity and you and your sister were the only 2 people left in the world?"

At least in the case of Adam and Eve's children, we Bible-believers must accede to sibling marriage as being permissible in principle.

Which leaves us with this: either (a) God suspended natural law somehow during the first generations, or (b) God changed human nature somehow after the first generations, or (c) sibling marriage is not, taken by itself, directly contrary to the nature of man.

I don't think that (b) is tenable. If man's nature is not the same as his nature as received from Adam, then the transmission of original sin from Adam is broken and we would have to take it that God RE-INSTITUTED the condition of sin in later man even though there was no reason for it (i.e. God made later man wrong in his nature.)

I suspect that there are really strong arguments against (a) as well, and that there are existing arguments from the Fathers and the Doctors and later theologians against it, though I have not attempted to locate them. There is, so far as I can see, nothing in the Biblical record that even suggests the possibility that God suspended the natural law. Since natural law (in the sense of the law prescribing right, moral behavior due to the nature of man as determined by God's eternal, divine decree) is wholly a matter of the expression of man's nature, suspending natural law would be tantamount to changing man's nature for a time - and would get you into problem (b). (Suspending the physical laws of nature is not the same thing. That is merely adding to the agency of natural beings additional agency that they cannot achieve unaided.)

So we are left with (c). Notice, please, that it is expressed as "taken by itself". Bill's perfectly good point that marriage is intended to effusive and then diffusing so that society is extended plays into this: where there is no larger society, it is unnecessary (and impossible) for the diffusing to take place. Rather, in the case of Adam and Eve's children, the very existence of that larger society depended on siblings marrying. So the better thing, the good of that extended society, actually called for sibling marriage in that case.

But once society is changed and has become large enough, the very same principle (of diffusing the goods - the ties of friendship - throughout larger fields of persons) would seek to limit marriage "too close" to the family. So the principle is real and present and accounts both for sibling marriage in Adam and Eve's children and the resistance to sibling marriage in later generations.

But in my opinion there are 2 consequences of this: first, the principle is of its very nature subject to degree. It is BETTER to spread the goods of friendship "far" and not just "near", and it is WORSE to have ties of friendship spread "closely" only and not "widely". These expressions are fundamentally incapable of definitive bright-line boundary conditions that are valid always and everywhere - it's a matter of degree. In some cases, (especially where extended families are tightly knit multi-generational conclaves), allowing marriage of first cousins is generally worse off for the good of society than not allowing it. In other cases (especially where extended families are virtually unknown to each other and never live together) allowing marriage of first cousins seems to be hardly at all contrary to the principle, indeed it might even HELP re-formulate a more healthy sense of extended family which is itself a good of society. There is no firm, certain, universal rule that controls what is "too close" and what is "far enough."

The 2nd consequence may be somewhat more controversial to Catholics, perhaps, but I think it follows just as surely. Let me step back a moment and recall a couple of other principles. (1) Fatherhood is not found solely - or even primarily - in the physical act of sex generating a child. Animals do that just fine, and we might refer to a horse as the sire of a colt, but it is only by a remote analogy that we would say that a horse is the FATHER of a colt. For true fatherhood is an act of anticipatory love, permanently committed and self-less, to bring into being another person like in nature to yourself. (2) A husband and wife, when they get married, form a family even before they have children, because the nature of their union is itself open to new life. (3) Nature intends not merely the start of a being, but his completion as a mature person. It is because of (2) and (3) taken together with the fact that in (1) fatherhood (and motherhood, not distinguishing here) is found more in the permanent love than in the physical transmission, that an adopting couple receiving a child not generated by them into their family extends their family really, and that the child becomes THEIR child really. Thus the mother and father of the adopted child, through their love, are REALLY and TRULY mother and father to the child. The child is really part of their family, not merely "counted" as belonging to their family in a ledger at city hall. The relationship is real, the fatherhood and motherhood are real.

But this has the consequence that if a (biological) brother and sister are separated at birth and sent into 2 different adoptive families (unrelated families), then they are REALLY AND TRULY not brother and sister to each other, the boy is brother to the other siblings in his adoptive family, and the girl is sister to the other siblings in her (completely different) adoptive family. In the perfectly proper sense of the terms, they are not brother and sister. If they later meet as adults, fall in love and decide to marry, the principle above regarding the diffusion of the good, the extension of the ties of friendship more widely in society, IS IN FACT SATISFIED by their marriage: the two families that had never had any dealings with each other become inter-related, the two completely independent groups of friends of the boy and of the girl acquire a new connection, just like what happens in other typical marriages of unrelated parties.

(In my opinion, a case where the Church insisted on separating a couple like the above, she probably made a mistake.)

But notice (crafty and clever, here) this still does not permit sibling marriage. The two are not siblings. Not in the relevant sense.

Notice, also, that there is gray area possible here: there are foster kids who are raised together for a time. There are kids who are adopted later in life, after having lived with biological siblings for a time. There are half-siblings by blood, both those raised together and those not raised together. There are even kids raised together in "mixed" families where they don't share any biological parents. There are some societies where they sent out their children to be fostered in other families for *extended* periods (nobles sending their kids to be pages and squires with another noble - which itself achieves much of the goods of that principle of diffusing the ties of friendship). Society at large has a general capacity to restrict the right of marriage to be more cautious about these things than might be strictly necessary, (in effect) to interpret the general principle of seeking to extend the good of family ties "far" in a stronger way, rather than in a weaker way, but at the same time another society might legitimately decide to regulate for that good in a weaker way instead, choosing not to be that cautious about gray-area cases. In such a society, especially if it were one where families regularly sent off their 8 or 10-year olds for long-term fostering, one could imagine that there could be room for child A who left home at 10, marrying half-sibling child B who was born to the same father but a different mother and raised after A left home, as being not wholly contrary to the principles required. One might even argue that because A's mother died and his father re-married, B was the child of a different family (i.e. a different social entity formed by a different consensual union of 2 parties). And then (oops, did it again) IN RELEVANT SENSE A and B would not even be siblings.

So, as far as the principle Bill stated goes (and not discussing the genetic issue), sibling marriage is not absolutely contrary to natural law, but it is very, very difficult to find conditions where nature would permit the marriage of true siblings, possibly so difficult as to be limited to only the start of the human race.

Yes, you have been criticizing people here. And pretending that your critical comments are not criticizing?

I think criticism is valuable and useful. The sentence you quoted was "I was not criticizing you for not doing what I said." In other words, I was criticizing you for something else. "Not doing what I said" is not a big deal.

I am sorry, though, I didn't discuss things with you in the manner in which you'd prefer.

Interesting: William Luse seems to think sterilizing "homosexuals" can prevent them from reproducing their own kind..? Am I misreading that, William?

Phil,

You are tiresome.

I'll let Bill respond to you as he sees fit, but come on man, do you really think including "radical leftists" in his list along with homosexuals means that Bill wasn't trying to be purposely provocative and sarcastic?

Speaking of provocative, everyone knows that the best theory we have about how people become homosexual is the germ theory:

http://westhunt.wordpress.com/2013/04/18/not-final/

AND

http://westhunt.wordpress.com/2013/04/21/biological-determinism/

Well, Jeff, you know how it is with some people. When surrounded by a forest, they've got to find just the right tree to pee on.

Regarding your links, a fair number of people think homosexuality to be genetically determined. Many of my acquaintance have told me, "I was born this way." Other people, who don't particularly like homosexuals, think that if we sterilized enough of them, we could winnow their numbers below their already puny percentage of the population; these people actually hope that we eventually put our finger on the guilty gene, because then we could go after the heterosexual parents who carry it. Of course, as I said above, I'm agin all that.

Humorless Phil seems to be under the impression that homosexuals don't try to reproduce, even though I'm personally acquainted with a lesbian couple who have a daughter. Okay, they didn't actually have it in the usual sense. They tried an end run around the telos of human reproduction by convincing a public spirited and morally progressive young man to donate his sperm so that one of the women could be inseminated with it. Nine months later and, voila!, a little girl who has two mommies. Okay, one mommy. I guess the other mommy gets to play daddy. The child was procured to fulfill the maternal longings of two women, with the direct intention that it should never have a father, and in the belief that the real father's absence is of no consequence. And it is a fact that that father has no role in the child's life, and never will have (it's all legal). Sterilization of both women would have prevented this particular scenario. (But, to repeat, I'm agin it). There is always adoption, of course, if it's legal where they live, and one of this child's mommies can be called that only by adoption. I will not be surprised if this child, in time, develops a longing to know who that missing father is, or feels cheated of something in life that she had a right to, that a part of herself is missing. But since sexual complementarity is no longer the foundation of marriage, since the sexual behavior the parties to these marriages might indulge can no longer be categorized as right or wrong, and since such behavior has no reproductive telos (a deprivation thus extended to marriage itself) - well, this child and all like her should just suck it up and get with the program if she wants to be a fully functioning member of the brave new world, in which a child's status is that of preferential adjunct to someone else's lifestyle.

Regarding your links, a fair number of people think homosexuality to be genetically determined. Many of my acquaintance have told me, "I was born this way."

Many, many people claimed that homosexuality was genetic, back in the late nineties to about mid to late oughts. The ones who care a shred about being scientifically non-laughable mostly stopped claiming it before now. The ones who DON'T care, well, some of them still think the world is flat.

But not being genetic STILL doesn't imply that "I was born this way" is untrue - some birth defects are due to either diseases acquired in utero, others are due to trauma of birth.

Of the ones who claim "I was born this way", none of them could possibly distinguish from actual personal knowledge whether they were that way at birth or from 2 years old - almost nobody has actual specific memories from before 2, and of the few who do, they are generally unreliable and/or they are merely of an image, not of a complex thing like "I felt like I was drawn to X". Therefore, a person saying "I was born this way" generally cannot mean any more than "I don't remember being any different from my earliest memories." So that still leaves years for whatever happened to have caused the homosexuality.

Even so, most children are very ambiguous about their proclivity / interest in the opposite sex, so that their specific feelings of sexual interest are somewhat imprecise, indistinct, ambiguous, or otherwise difficult to pin down. So for many people who claim "I was born that way", what they tend to mean is that "I don't have clear and specific recollection of feeling any different than being drawn this way". Which at least potentially leaves even MORE years for homosexuality to have been caused.

But the real crux of the matter is that the people who claim that they were born this way, what they are actually insisting on is, rather, that "This is what I am at deepest root, it is not a mere added feature that is changeable, because it is in the core of who / what I am. But this claim, of course, is a claim of how they feel about it - which is all they can access by direct experience - it is not an objectively measured, objectively ascertained fact of their own nature. To infer that what they feel about it constitutes the definitive view of the matter is an ideological one, a view that cannot be determined by science. In order for people to claim that science supports the view, one must decide to throw out the "outliers" of people who thought for a time that they might be gay, but eventually settled out that they were not, or the people who felt attractions to the same sex for a while (without any specific ideation of "being gay") but eventually stopped having such feelings - one must decide that these cases don't speak to whether being gay is changeable, but of course that decision cannot be made based on EVIDENCE rather than an ideological choice that changeable cases are not (and never were) gay cases. It is a choice to define changeability out of the word, not to find it so or prove it so.

Sexual orientation in humans is similar to "handedness."

Well, no, it's not. Hands are for grasping things, and a left handed person can acomplish that task with the left hand as well as a right-handed person can do with the right. The purpose of the hand is not compromised vis-a-vis left or right-handedness.

Sex, on the other hand, is for procreation, which requires complementarity. Homosexual orientation cannot accomplish that end.

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