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Marriage* is dead…and we** have killed it.

May 19, 2012

In so many issues and in so many ways, I shun the extremes. My doubting personality deprives me of certainty and surety, and as a result, I vacillate, never sticking firmly in one camp or another.

However, there are some issues as well where I have a position, and my doubt isn’t…self-aware..? enough to change that. At best, it gives me a curiosity for the way the other side lives and thinks. I can’t understand them; I don’t comprehend them, but I still try to engage them. That’s why I’ve blogged all this time; that’s why I blog at Wheat & Tares and hang around sites in the Bloggernacle that would probably much prefer if I’d stay away. I don’t understand what it means to believe in God — I truly don’t — but my doubt keeps me asking to find out something that could give me a hint for why people believe.

I feel that gay marriage is another such topic. My position is that I support it…and I support it in a way that I haven’t understood why people would oppose it. But my doubt lies in that I am uncomfortable with saying that everyone who opposes gay marriage must be doing so out of bigotry, or out of uncritical reasoning. Just because I haven’t been able to understand the reason, I still have tried to see why people believe.

Recently, as the result of reading several articles, and in processing my own thoughts and reactions to these articles, I feel like I’ve come to something of a discovery. I feel like I am starting to understand about what people worry when they oppose gay marriage. And as I see it, I can’t help but sympathize with them, because I feel that they truly are losing, and that’s something frightening. I see that what they view as marriage* is dead. It remains dead. And we** have killed it.

Let me try to explain…although I doubt I can get it out in one post.

When I posted my last post at Wheat & Tares, I was looking for people to offer explanation for why they believed from a Mormon perspective that gay relationships could still be opposed. Most of the responses from people who opposed gay marriage and gay relationships were utterly unpursuasive to me…it seemed to me to be the same question-begging assumption that homosexuality is bad just because the scriptures and the prophets have said it is, so there’s nothing more to discuss. (And how dare you suggest otherwise!)

But I was deeply unsettled by a comment that Bonnie had made. I was unsettled, because from a Mormon perspective, I can’t challenge it — I lack the experience in the temple even to see if what she says can be recontextualized. Whereas I had thought that the central issue of Mormonism was companionship, relationality, and community (where celibacy, singlehood, and even monasticism don’t make sense in the tradition), she introduced the point (that I guess I should have seen coming) that what is truly important is children. From a follow-up comment:

 …I concede that all of us are different and that the superficial differences between men and women can as easily be ascribed to culture or something else transitory as to gender. Opposition, however, is a concept deeply embedded in our conversation with God, both in scripture and in the temple. Asherah and Elohim, with their offspring Jehovah, form an eternal triangle that is repeated throughout creation. We’re reminded that we participate in that triangle spiritually as child and then practice as parent. There is reason that the PotF is child-centered; the plan is child-centered. The purpose of parents, homes, and even all righteousness is *children* and everything revolves around that. It is his work and his glory to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of *his children* – we are the center of the plan. If we wish to participate in the fullness of the plan, we look forward to an eternity of child-centeredness. Because our biology is set up to require opposites to create children, our potential parenthood frames the entire debate about eternal union…

There was still (and is still) a lot to her comments that I didn’t like, or that I thought had issues. For example, I think that she overstates the “oppositeness” of male and female (something that I think paying more attention to the diversity and prevalence of intersex issues can cause us to rethink). Additionally, I think that she places too great an emphasis on the terrestrial and biological method of producing children that limits that there can certainly be other options for creating spirit children. (And investigating those other options is also a good way of addressing some major issues for Mormon women about the eternity. I think plenty of Mormon women are uneasy with the idea that spirit birth will require them to spirit gestate and spirit carry spirit children in their spirit wombs.)

But for now, there is simply the fact that children only occur as the result of the union between man and woman. There really isn’t a way to get around that.

What has marriage been and what has it been for?

(Notice that this section is written in the perfect or retrospective aspect. This is important.)

Sometimes, when I hear people oppose gay marriage, I hear them say that gay relationships simply don’t do what marriage is about. This has been curious to me, because with the understanding that marriage is about love (and the public commitment and public proclamation of such), I thought that they were arguing the preposterous — that gay couples don’t really love authentically.

When pressed about what marriage is about, I would sometimes hear something different…but their explanation of what marriage is for would either seem antiquated, or it would seem exclusionary in a way that we wouldn’t think about excluding it today. (For example, I think that when people say “marriage is about children,” we reel back, and wonder if they would say that infertile couples should not be able to marry. Or if they would say that nonprocreative sex acts and contraception are also immoral. [And to be candid, some people who take this position do believe that these things are improper...but they usually aren't trying to pass laws against contraception or the ability of the infertile to marry.])

What caused me to really think about this issue was a four-part series on marriage at Mormon Midrashim. While the entire series is very good (although I have some quibbles throughout), particularly relevant was part 3, wherein James discusses the purpose of marriage. In this part of the post, he describes marriage’s historical purpose as being about vertical relationships (inter-generational…between parents and progeny) rather than about lateral relationships (intra-generational…between lovers). He addresses the concerns about childless marriage by pointing out that widely, a childless marriage would have been considered tragic (in the same way that Mormons even today view childless marriages as such.)

Similarly, a post from 2010 that has been dug from the internet grave in recent weeks makes a similar point.

I’m going to be frank. I have massive problems with this article. I have massive problems with parts of the series at Mormon Midrashim as well. When people say “Think of the children” as if gay marriage will directly harm children, that turns me off. When people say, “This is untested” or “We can’t afford to conduct such a huge social experiment with society,” I tune out as well. When people bring up Catholic Charities as an argument that gay marriage will harm religious freedoms, I’m not really sympathetic. (Protip: the difference between public and private.) But one of my main reactions to these points struck me.

I could agree that no-fault divorce (and a number of other aspects of modern society) had changed marriage, and as a result, it has led to a lot of troubling statistics regarding families and children. But my reaction was: this is already done, and it was straight people who did it. Maybe you should tell straight folks to value marriage more, rather than raging against gay couples who clearly value and desire it!

The thought that snuck into my head that changed everything was this...my opposition to their position that gay marriage would ruin marriage was basically a concession that marriage is already at rock-bottom, so there’s no way to go but up.

But from there, I had to wonder…will gay marriage reinvigorate or revive what opponents of gay marriage feel is marriage?

No. It won’t.

What people like James (of Mormon Midrashim) and David French (who wrote the 2010 post about his change in opinion) and Seth R (who posted said article on his Facebook page and clued me in to it) decry is the shift in marriage to this lateral, lover-and-beloved emphasis on the emotional well-being of adults. Gay marriage cannot help that because gay marriage makes sense primarily because marriage has so shifted predominantly to be an institution about lateral relationships.

Marriage is dead.That is why marriage* is dead. The “*” is because the marriage that is dead is the particular kind of “pro-natal”, vertical relationship that has been eroded with modernity.

And what’s more is that because most folks don’t even notice the shift (or, if they do, they don’t care about the shift or they don’t see the shift as negative), marriage remains dead. The pro-natal/vertical view of relationship is dead not because it was a living thing whose heart and vital functions have ceased, but rather because it ceases to inspire. What I’d argue (the essence behind it remaining dead) is that we cannot go back and revive it. We cannot go back to being sincerely and unironically pro-natal. The changes that we have made to cause the shift are too attractive to us…we are too modern for traditional marriage. To move back would only be seen as exactly that, a “move back” in terms of thinking and living. Perish the thought and implication. It is now that I understand why many religions oppose modernity and especially postmodernism so…Modernism and postmodernism have not only changed the rules, but they’ve made it so that we’ll never seriously consider (barring huge catastrophic shifts) changing them back.

But why is that, and in what sense have we** killed it? Who is the “we” that has killed it and what did they do?

Now’s a good as time as ever to CLIFFHANGER. See my thoughts there in part II. But I’ll give you a spoiler: I don’t think gay folks had anything to do with it.

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82 Comments
  1. Seth R. permalink

    I think it’s pretty-much indisputable that marriage is dying off as an actually reliable social building block. Largely, the institution is becoming something that only rich Americans do as kind of a togetherness party. “Let’s celebrate our love!” kind of thing. But the institution is in a tailspin among the poorer demographics – which has exacerbated problems like abuse of women and children, economic instability, and lower life expectancy. If you want some recent stats on the decline of marriage, you can read here:

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/blackwhiteandgray/2012/05/marriage-and-divorce-statistics/?LLM=sdrogers24@gmail.com

    But I flat out reject the notion that simply because marriage (and by extension – family) is dying off, the appropriate response is to shrug our shoulders and say “oh well, I guess anything goes then.” If something precious and valuable is dying, isn’t the correct response to fight to preserve it? Even if that is a losing battle?

  2. Seth R. permalink

    Which gets me thinking… Really, this isn’t just about marriage being in trouble.

    Family as a social construct is at critical risk in our society. It’s something that our popular society really doesn’t care about. Increasingly, people who go out in public WITH kids are looked at as freaks. Having a baby is more a chance for a woman to “fulfill herself” and not about creating a stable future for our society. Kids are basically fashion-accessories for insufferably pampered an spoiled-rotten twenty, thirty, and even fourty-somethings (really, the mere fact that some clowns are even deliberately waiting till forty to start having kids is just proof-positive they didn’t give a damn about anyone but themselves most of their first 30 years). Excuses like “the kids would want me to be happy” that adults use to justify their divorce (news flash – your kids don’t give a damn if you’re happy. Kind of like how you don’t give a damn what they think about the divorce. Funny how that works…). The advent of helicopter parenting – which is, by the way, not a sign of parental concern for the kids, but rather a sign of parental obsession with their own self-image.

    Yeah, family is pretty much just as screwed in our society as marriage is. And for largely the same reasons.

    • I don’t know where you hang out, but in my world, people have kids and they’re not treated as ‘freaks’. (What does that even mean? Do you see people recoiling in horror?)

      You’re doing a lot of mind-reading here — you know exactly why people are having kids, you know exactly why they’re getting divorced, and you know exactly why they parent the way they do — and you’ve made it clear that you don’t approve.

      Thank goodness most people don’t listen to you and try and live their lives the best they can, as they always have. Geez.

  3. Seth,

    I disagree that most people are responding by shrugging their shoulders and saying, “Oh well, I guess anything goes then.” I think that notwithstanding the shift from veritical/children-focused relationships to lateral/adult-focused relationships, the thing that’s striking is that even unlikely parties are emphasizing monogamy and commitment among these lateral/adult-focused relationships.

    In other words, although there is certainly a contingent of gay activists and queer theorists who say, “Why should gay people fight for marriage? It is a hopelessly heterosexist institution and to participate in it is to try to fit those limited, outdated standards” but most people aren’t singing that tune. Rather, there seems to be an idea that commitment is important. That monogamy is important.

    In any event, I think that to the extent that people want to preserve the traditional ideal of marriage, then as I said on your FB page, they are going to have to change and temper their message so that they don’t seem so anti-everything else, even as they support that traditional ideal. in other words, there needs to be more sensitive about the rights of committed couples, gay and straight, even if one feels that marriage should only describe a gold standard of child-focused relationships.

    And in the meantime, given that we are so far away from the ideal, we need to have some sort of preference ranking — so, given that there are currently children in broken or abusive homes, or who aren’t even in stable homes of any sort…what would we prefer: to keep them “in the system,” or to support committed couples — straight or gay — who would like to raise those children and who, even if they aren’t the biological parents — are focused on the child’s well-being?

  4. Seth R. permalink

    Andrew, I’ll be honest – I think a lot of the reason the gay community wants marriage is primarily to flip the bird to the Christian Right.

    And I think for a lot of them, it really does boil down to that. You didn’t use to hear any of this talk about marriage about ten years ago from gay activists. It’s very much something they’ve discovered pretty recently.

  5. (I missed your second comment. I think the two go hand-in-hand, so…)

    anyway, getting to your third comment:

    I think this is on par with your level of cynicism, but I think that there are other possible explanations…and you mentioned some of them yourself on your FB status. from one of your comments: “There are complaints about inheritance and hospital visitation and the like, of course”…you say that marriage isn’t needed to resolve them…but I’d say that marriage is a really easy package to resolve them…considering that we’d have to do a lot more work to try to tease out what all the rights gay couples should have and the rights they shouldn’t have, if we try to go to something that is not marriage.

    I definitely would want to read up on it, but I think that the change in attitudes has mainly been about the coming of age of generations after AIDS. There is more a sense of one’s mortality, but also the need for discretion, commitment, etc.,

  6. Seth R. permalink

    I think it’s a fair point that we don’t live in the 1970s and 80s anymore – where some of the most flamboyant practicing gays were known to have hundreds of partners per year. Things have calmed down somewhat. And of course, it would be dumb to generalize motives to everyone on why marriage is desired.

    But I will just point out – there are definitely gays I’ve debated with who were very much concerned with and motivated by revenge. It permeates everything they write, and you’d be foolish not to notice why they want marriage. They want payback.

    Others, I think it may have been an idea they stumbled across, for whatever reason, and the more they thought about it, talked themselves into it, and psyched each other up about it, the more and more the idea looked genuinely attractive. Many of them may be seeing this as a final way to correct what they feel is deficient about their relationships.

    I don’t think it’s going to work, but that’s not a reason to doubt the sincerity of those who hope so.

    But the rhetoric initially in the gay movement was not about marriage. Marriage was seen as a barbaric throwback, and open and fluid sexuality was seen as the cure for this outmoded relic that was oppressing people. Leading gay voices were all for promiscuity and the rejection of monogamy as the wave of the future. Very few gay voices at the time wanted anything to do with marriage, except to bury it and be rid of it. Some of those voices today have tacitly agreed to the movement for gays to get marriage – precisely because they see allowing gay marriage as the next logical step in getting rid of marriage altogether. They feel the admission of same-sex relations will render the institution meaningless and usher in the day when we don’t have marriages at all.

    But one thing we absolutely should be clear on – you can grant gays all the “equality” in the world in the marriage license area.

    But they will NEVER have equal relationships to healthy heterosexual marriages. Ever.

    Gay sex produces nothing but pleasure for the participants. It’s a dead end. It results in nothing the two people involved have to claim any responsibility for. They will not have the same bond, the same commitment, the same stability. The only way they can imitate such bonds is by a lot of complex rigamarole involving donors, third-party wombs, or adoption (all – incidentally – only options for WEALTHY gay people – as always, no one considers how the poor are going to get by in these debates). It doesn’t click naturally, and as a result, gays will never have the same kind of marriage as heterosexuals. So it’s stupid to be talking about equality in this context to begin with – they’re obviously unequal and you can’t change that. Right now, gay couples have a much higher rate of promiscuity, cheating, and breakups than heterosexuals.

    I don’t think that’s because gays are inferior people morally. Not at all. It’s because lack of commitment is built-in to the entire premise of their brand of sexual union. There’s not a lot to stay for. I may be wrong – but I think it’s rather naive to think that slapping a marriage license on a gay hookup is going to magically reverse all these trends.

    It frankly reminds me of inner-city teen girls in the ghetto who think that getting pregnant with their boyfriend will make him stick around.

    Yes, this is a cynical viewpoint. And maybe people gushing about having a nice wedding cake don’t want to hear it. But we live in a country that has nothing but grim statistics about marriage at the moment. And maybe gays ought to think long and hard about what marriage is offering, whether it’s really going to solve their own brand of problems (which are not all problems being thrust upon the gays by the outside world – they cause a TON of their own problems themselves), and – to put it bluntly – whether marriage is going to survive as an institution ten years beyond when they get it legalized in their own state.

    Welcoming gays to marriage today feels a lot like welcoming people to a war zone.

    • James B permalink

      You make a lot of interesting points Seth. I appreciate that you have become educated on the topic, and have articulated your position so well. I even appreciate your cynicism.

      I’ll say up front that I’m in favor of gay marriage. In every debate I try to look past overly-emotional extremists, and find some steady-headed individuals that maintain a rational position on both sides of the fence. I believe I’ve found and listened to many people who argue both sides well. I get that gay marriage isn’t the effective solution for everyone, and that many who fight for it don’t have pure motives. However there are many homosexuals that are nice, religious folk who just want kids, but biology discriminates against them. You’re right that in many respects, a gay marriage won’t yield the same results of a straight marriage, but reminding them of that fact is not helpful.

      You mentioned that this issue wasn’t on the table 10 years ago, and that the gay community was in fact arguing against marriage. I suggest that this social evolution is the effect of the gay community collectively coming out of the closet. As gays have been suppressed and bullied by the straight, monogamous community for centuries, I think some emotional backlash is expected and even justified. Gays had a voice for the first time, and were going to make their pain known. Now that the emotional pendulum is swinging back, many of those who are still emotionally scarred feel that entering the institution of marriage would be ultimate revenge against their straight bullies. But there are those who have overcome the bitterness and hate, and still want social justice for rational reasons.

      I am not gay, but I have lost faith in the Mormon church. I know how it feels to have your voice squashed, and feelings misinterpreted and disrespected. It is not fair that I must silently submit to the preachy rhetoric that my family employs, but I am not allowed to meekly express my position without being perceived as a devil. Therefore, I can sympathize with fellow minorities, and the feelings of anger and revenge that come with being de-humanized. My initial reaction to my loss of faith was rage against religion for unfair treatment of the irreligious. After I calmed down I’ve found ways to maintain elements of a religious life without attaching to religion. There are crazy Mormons, crazy atheists, crazy gays, crazy straights, and each group sometimes uses irrational arguments yielded by hyped-up group think. I don’t think we need to use these instances to discredit an entire demographic. I guess I’m just reminding you that we ought to find the most rational people in a debate to properly synthesize our opinions.

    • jewelfox permalink

      It’s all about you, Seth, isn’t it.

      It’s not about daring to hope. It’s not about realizing what should be yours, what should have always been yours, what your parents and teachers and church leaders promised you’d have. It’s not about having the same rights and status as other persons. It’s about flipping the bird to you and what you believe. It’s about being flamboyant.

      (I.e. genuine.)

      You know what? You don’t know what it’s like to get beaten or yelled at for hugging your loved one in public, or wearing gender-appropriate clothing. You don’t know what it’s like to have everyone around you remind you that you are a thing to be “tolerated,” to be “forgiven” for existing, a creature who’s made “bad choices” and should have realized it would’ve been better to choose to be them. You don’t know what it’s like to pray and tell God that you’re going to kill yourself now, and you’re so sorry you’re such a bad person.

      And none of that stops you from believing the LGBT experience, and the postmormon experience, and the abuse survivor’s experience, and everything else is about you and your feelings.

      So I say this knowing it’s just going to validate your persecution complex, and affect your delicate sensibilities. But fuck you, scumbag. Die in a fire. And Andrew can DIAF too, for fucking allowing you to be here.

      • Seth R. permalink

        Yeah, this is basically the sort of selfless and socially responsible attitude that I was talking about earlier being exhibited in modern American “adults.”

  7. Seth R. permalink

    Another interesting article about the myth of the “amiable divorce”

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/11/04/AR2005110402304.html?referrer=facebook

    People may not see the connection between this article and the topic of gay marriage. But I very much see a connection – because it demonstrates the sort of “me-first” mentality that modern adults in America tend to have. And how they wind up ripping off their kids in the process. No one really cares these days about kids and how they’ll cope with the paradigm we adopt. We’re too busy advocating for adult rights to be bothered, honestly.

    • Great article.

  8. I suspect the direction you’re going with this is a little bit along the same lines as this earlier post I wrote about traditional marriage vs. modern marriage.

    • chanson..

      well…hmm. Yep, that post basically invalidated the need for my second post. I could basically just copy/paste your second on traditional marriage and modern marriage, and that would just about cover it.

      Although in my many conversations, I’ve also gotten quite a few great links too about how the “traditional” side of traditional marriage has had a lot of twists and turns as well…

  9. richalger permalink

    “But I flat out reject the notion that simply because marriage (and by extension – family) is dying off, the appropriate response is to shrug our shoulders and say “oh well, I guess anything goes then.” If something precious and valuable is dying, isn’t the correct response to fight to preserve it? Even if that is a losing battle?” Seth R

    The best response to the fact that marriage the traditional kind that is vertical and intergenerational is how Mormon and Moroni reacted to the degeneration of their time.

    “And now, my beloved son, notwithstanding their hardness, let us labor diligently; for if we should cease to labor, we should be brought under condemnation; for we have a labor to perform whilst in this tabernacle of clay, that we may conquer the enemy of all righteousness, and rest our souls in the kingdom of God.” Moroni 9:6

    I do not mean that same-sex marriage is a the only cause for the degeneration and redefinition of traditional marriage.

  10. richalger permalink

    “Gay sex produces nothing but pleasure for the participants. It’s a dead end. It results in nothing the two people involved have to claim any responsibility for. They will not have the same bond, the same commitment, the same stability. The only way they can imitate such bonds is by a lot of complex rigamarole involving donors, third-party wombs, or adoption (all – incidentally – only options for WEALTHY gay people – as always, no one considers how the poor are going to get by in these debates). It doesn’t click naturally, and as a result, gays will never have the same kind of marriage as heterosexuals.” Seth R

    Wow, I have never heard it said so clearly and bluntly.

  11. richalger permalink

    I have mulled this issue over and over in my head, put it on the shelf and taken it off. To be honest, I was not happy to have it become such a pervasive news topic. I havn’t yet gotten a satisfying answer as to what would be the best resolution civilally, within the church and with God.

    Your description of traditional marriage is not one that I had not crytalized into words until now.

    “marriage’s historical purpose as being about vertical relationships (inter-generational…between parents and progeny) rather than about lateral relationships (intra-generational…between lovers)”

    Bonnie’s description also struck a cord.

    “Asherah and Elohim, with their offspring Jehovah, form an eternal triangle that is repeated throughout creation. We’re reminded that we participate in that triangle spiritually as child and then practice as parent. There is reason that the PotF is child-centered; the plan is child-centered. The purpose of parents, homes, and even all righteousness is *children* and everything revolves around that. It is his work and his glory to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of *his children* – we are the center of the plan. If we wish to participate in the fullness of the plan, we look forward to an eternity of child-centeredness.”

    It is this intergenerational, parent-progeny. Sacrifice of self interest for the interest of my seed. The long lasting love committment. To raising the next generation. It is this that has been modeled by my parents and both set of grandparents, as well as my father and mother in law. In my life, marriage is not broken. It has survived and has thrived. Marraige has deteriorated in its practice and in consequence its definition generally.

    I am confident that it will survive and thrive generally again. Whether you come to that conclusion evolutionarily or Eternally.

    Thanks for the words that describe how I feel.

    • I can picture a web of all humanity united by kinship ties drawn both “horizontally and vertically”, as we’re using the terms in this thread (though I may have to invoke parallel universes to get everyone tied together without employing an Eastern theology of reincarnation). The horizontal ties of love and commitment are real, if harder because evolution hasn’t had the motivation to tie their emotional basis to direct reproductive success. But I suspect the vertical ties to parents ARE much more fundamental to the way reality works. You don’t exist if you didn’t have parents, obviously, while the matter of whom you love can depend on whether you looked to the right and saw the blonde first or looked to the left and saw the brunette first one day when you entered a classroom.

  12. richalger permalink

    What I would be comfortable with as a resolution to this issue civilly is that we allow “Civil Unions” They would be available to any set of adults who want to be a part of them. Same-sex, child and elderly parent. Or a person and an elderly person who is like a parent. Or any other combination of people. They would receive automatic hospital visitation, default heirs of property and any other set of rights that we grant civially marriages. But they are for the set of relationships that are intra-generational, or anything other than the traditional marriage meant to foster inter-generational commitments and relationships.

    We will see what agreement we will come up with.

  13. Well, you did miss linking to http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/1993/04/dan-quayle-was-right/7015/ but otherwise caught the issues. However, a big change in many of the gay marriages I have seen is that they have become about children, raising them and caring for them. There has been a sea change in a large segment of that pro-marriage group.

    Not that there are not contrary forces (I was amused by some libertarians who favored “marriage” as a non-exclusive relationship that involved invoking available benefits on a transitory basis as chosen, hour by hour. Kind of a new way to obtain universal health care).

    Still, as I’ve noted before, though no one thought it significant enough to note, this change militates for gay marriage as strengthening traditional vertical relationship marriage, and it does so on a basis consistent with the reasons for opposing it previously.

    • Stephen,

      Great, comprehensive article,

      I do think that the newfound emphasis for children in gay marriages is changing things up. On Facebook and elsewhere that I posted this article, people said, “Marriage should be about two people who are committed to raising children.”

      But what struck me is that there are plenty of gay couples who are committed to this. There are plenty of straight couples who are not committed to that. So, should the gay couples get marriage and the straight couples not?

      • Both should because vertical and horizontal ties are like the primary and secondary struts in a structure; both need strengthening.

  14. richalger permalink

    Daniel, my wife and I have felt treated like freaks because we chose to have many children. Perhaps that is what Seth R was referring to. A generation ago, having many, healthy children was seen as a great positive. The problem may be that there are those that have children and do not take care of them. They either plan on having someone else provide for their varied needs or do not plan at all.

    • Would you mind being more specific about what people did?

      If you told me you had 18 children, I might say “Wow, that’s a lot of kids!” But that wouldn’t be treating you like a freak, would it?

      • richalger permalink

        The disgusted look along with the question, “You’re done, right?!”

        Or jokingly, “you know what causes that don’t you?”

        Or, “Are all those yours?”

        There are quite a few others. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t feel persecuted or anything. No one is coming with pitchforks. It just seems like having a lot of healthy, well-balanced, productive children would be more valued than it seems generally.

        • Indeed, I think New Scientist had an article on what is now driving human evolution a few weeks ago, and a lot of elite Western populations are doomed because they just don’t produce enough kids to outcompete those who do. The TBMs shall indeed inherit the earth. :D

  15. I could not have wanted a better series of comments than Seth R.’s to illustrate the dramatic change that has occurred in the communities. If we had only not overlapped in time … I would have addressed it better in my comment.

    Seth R. captures, very much, what many who support marriage have encountered in the way of activists who promoted gay marriage. There was a strong, academic oriented, faction that opposed all marriage and who promoted gay marriage as a tool for attacking and eliminating marriage from society.

    It is counterproductive to miss the influence that some of the proponents of gay marriage have had on the discussion, because their attitudes, public statements and academic writings were (a) read and received by policy makers and leaders on the “other side” and (b) fed into the entire debate over the nature of marriage and what should be done if you wanted to save or destroy it.

    That said, that said, that entire debate is old, and it obscures what seems to be going on now, which is an evolution of people trying to establish vertical relationships with their parents above them and children they are caring for to follow them. Those people seek marriage because they seek family.

    I seriously think that those people form a strong basis for a change in position, attitudes and thinking, and a reason for more than civil unions (which exist to solve the various legal issues facing people — such as hospital access, determination of partner benefits, and the like). They are the argument for those who support marriage to support gay marriage in parallel with domestic partnerships/civil unions. Marriage is for those who want family and children, partnership/union for those who want self fulfillment, without regard to the sex or gender of those in the relationship.

    But seriously, what should I call a relationship with children and grandparents and two people who are bridging them as a family unit? It is a vertical family oriented marriage.

  16. John Gustav-Wrathall permalink

    Gay and lesbian couples have children. Stable same-sex relationships benefit society in the same way stable heterosexual relationships benefit society. These kinds of arguments deny social support to kids and families who deserve it no less than others.

    Seth, I wish you wouldn’t make blanket statements about gay relationships being a “dead end.”

    • I think that the biggest thing that is changing stuff is the extent to which gay and lesbian couples are having kids — and wanting to have kids. Whereas many straight couples don’t want to have kids, try to avoid it, don’t make it central to their relationships, etc.,

      That being said, what makes a relationship, either gay or straight, “stable.” I think there’s something to the idea that focusing the relationship on the emotional fulfillment of the adults in question inherently makes a relationship less stable than could focusing the relationship on other factors.

      Throughout it all, Seth will make extremely charged, pointed statements. That’s his thing.

      • John Gustav-Wrathall permalink

        Stability in a relationship comes from the same things it always has — communication, patience, consideration, commitment. When couples love and take care of each other (it ain’t all about nothing but pleasure, by the way… We are whole human beings with spiritual, emotional and other needs than just pleasure) it creates a context for them to love and care for others. Loving, committed relationships create possibilities for nurture and service — including caring for children.

        By the way, I do not now, nor have I ever sought marriage so I could “flip the bird” at anybody.

        • ‘What creates “commitment”?’ is the question. Loving and taking care of each other doesn’t seem to be cutting it.

          • John Gustav-Wrathall permalink

            Andrew, we’re celebrating our 19th anniversary this August. We’ve watched many hetero friends get married and divorced in that time. What counts as “commitment”?

          • You know or should know that you are not in any sense an average person. Your circumstances cannot be generalized.

            …that being said, i would think that having personal spiritual experiences with Jesus stressing to you the importance of your marriage repeatedly would count as commitment.

          • John Gustav-Wrathall permalink

            Andrew: you suggested that maybe gay couples are less likely to stay committed because they can’t naturally produce children. I’m saying that people stay committed because they choose to commit. All the hetero couples I know who’ve divorced had kids. Sometimes they get pregnant because they think it will save the marriage. (It doesn’t.)

            This goes back to thought I had about an earlier part of this conversation… I like the model of a family as a triangle. A marriage has to be BOTH about the relationship between the couple AND the parents and children. Without that strong pair bond, there’s no basis for kids. Sperm + egg does not equal a marriage… We’ve got enough single parents to prove that. Strong pair bonds — gay and straight — can provide stable, loving homes for kids.

            What makes a commitment? Desire for commitment. Gay couples are asking for commitment in the form of marriage.

            I’m far less special than you think…. Maybe the spiritual experiences I’ve had related to my relationship are unusual, but the fact of our long-term commitment is not. Come up here for a visit, and I’ll introduce you to some of our Rainbow Families friends….

          • I’m not suggesting that “maybe gay couples are less likely to stay committed because they can’t naturally produce children.” What I’ve tried to be very explicit upon is that the status quo here hasn’t been caused by gay people at all. We might say it is purely and primarily a straight concern (precisely because straight folks can accidentally produce children.)

            What I am suggesting that any couple, gay or straight, is less likely to stay committed when the thing that predicates their relationship is their emotional well-being and satisfaction. Since this has already well-infiltrated straight couples — even those with children — I wouldn’t expect much difference, if any, for the gay side. It’s as you say:

            All the hetero couples I know who’ve divorced had kids. Sometimes they get pregnant because they think it will save the marriage. (It doesn’t.)

            Why aren’t they choosing to commit? Because what they predicate the basis for their commitment is their emotional well-being. If they are out of love, or things are getting kind of dull, or there are some nagging issues that just keep nagging, then why wouldn’t they go their separate ways? Kids or no kids, if it’s about love, then when there is no love, then why not?

            That’s where your “We’ve got enough single parents to prove that” goes.

            I mean, yeah, I understand that there are a lot of unhealthy and abusive relationships and that people should not stick with those…but no-fault divorce is a considerably different issue. More and more, divorce is not because of abuse and other exploitative situations. It’s more, “We drifted apart.”

            Why aren’t people choosing to commit? That is a question.

            Or here’s another question.

            What causes desire for commitment? And is what causes that desire something that can be transitory? Is it something that self-sustains and builds itself up?

            You keep saying that you are far less special than I think…but you downplay sooooooooo much that’s unique about your experience here. It’s absolutely incredible to see from an outsider’s perspective.

            I just think that the statistics exist. The question isn’t, “What are the statistics about relationships?” but is, “What is a narrative that can explain those statistics and how they’ve come to be?”

            (BAAAAAH, nested comments are such a pain…I’ll repost my comments below)

          • Seth R. permalink

            John, I don’t want to do anything but congratulate you on your own commitment, loyalty, and other successes in your relationship.

            But I would also point out that stable committed gay couples seem to be statistical outliers. Gays simply have a higher rate of promiscuity, infidelity, breakups, and even divorce than heterosexuals do. You might point out that this is due to the hostile social climate they operate in. But the studies I’m thinking of were actually conducted in the Netherlands – one of the most pro gay marriage nations in the world – widely hailed as being very tolerant of gays and supportive of them. And you still have these trends.

            It’s also somewhat disturbing that a study in Vermont following advances in gay unions, found that 50% of surveyed gay men indicated that they did not value sexual fidelity (Robertson, E & Solomon, S. (2003). Civil Unions in the State of Vermont: A Report on the First Year. University of Vermont Department of Psychology). That’s a lot higher percentage not valuing it than you find in a similar heterosexual sample.

            It seems to me that homosexuals are favoring marriage primarily for the personal benefits it can give them. But are not valuing it from themes of social responsibility or commitment in human relations. Marriage is primarily a method for securing personal rights. Not a way of committing to other people. That’s the message I’m getting anyway – and it’s not helped by the fact that just about every online debate I get involved in on the topic – the rhetoric gays is relentlessly self-focused. It has never struck me as a socially responsible movement. And this is through their own self-description and branding of themselves. The gay marriage movement has simply marketed itself as a “me” focused movement.

            That’s not even getting into the statistics on increased incidence of abuse among homosexual couples, higher indicators for risky sexual behavior, high incidence for mental illness, and so forth which has been documented, but largely ignored. What impact does that have on the children in those households?

            Yes you can find outstanding gay couples. But that doesn’t change the fact that the numbers seem to be saying something very different about homosexual unions than they are saying about heterosexual unions. And it doesn’t change the way gay marriage proponents have (unwittingly I presume) been self-branding themselves.

          • ninelegyak permalink

            Um…the length of John and his husband’s relationship is not that odd.

          • ??? Depends on how much “taking care of each other” one actually does, doesn’t it?

    • Seth, I wish you wouldn’t make blanket statements about gay relationships being a “dead end.”

      Or pleasure as an end in itself as being bad.

      • Seth R. permalink

        When you divorce pleasure from all other social considerations – yes it does tend to be “bad.”

        Sorry, about the multiple posts. I was absent from the discussion for a few days.

  17. James B permalink

    Hey mod, what was wrong with my comment?

    • James, sorry for the delay in approving comments…the first time someone comments on this site, I have to manually approve, but future comments should, for the most part, come in alright. I was still asleep.

      • James B permalink

        Thanks, just curious. Want to be sure I’m not being unfair to the point of censorship in my comments.

  18. richalger permalink

    What if a stable, committed civil union had the same rights to adoption or becoming the legal guardian of the children of one or the other in the union. In general, same sex relationships do not produce children. It literally is a dead-end.

    • With the capability for non-biological parents to adopt and otherwise come into the legal custody of children, why shouldn’t their relationships (which are focused on the children) be recognized as marriage?

      So, you say that in general, same sex relationships do not produce children. But nevertheless, there are plenty of same-sex relationships with children. Should these couples be given the title marriage?

  19. Everyone,

    I slept in pretty late, and discovered that I had a lot of comments pending. The way things work here is that if you are a first time commenter to the site, then I have to approve your comment. After that…the rest of your comments should go through normally…

    So, I should have approved everyone.

  20. A gay couple’s marriage is just as much a “dead end” then as a couple of friends of mine who can’t have children. Or how about another couple of friends I have who prayed earnestly about it and have actually decided they shouldn’t have children? Their marriages should probably be downgraded for the good of society, because no matter how you look at it, it’s just not the same thing.

    I’m totally sure that gay people just want to get married so that they can say “fuck you” to the Christians. Actually, what seems more likely to me is that the religious folk would like to ban homosexuality altogether out of their learned emotional response to anything that is gay. Ewwww gross get away get away! And then as a response to that it turns out that trying to force your religion down other people’s throats produces negative reactions. Weird how that works.

    • Carson,

      Or how about another couple of friends I have who prayed earnestly about it and have actually decided they shouldn’t have children?

      One thing that I have read about frequently is this idea that people who marry without the openness to procreation are essentially trying to legalize fornication. If this is suspected, the usual reaction from many very traditional, conservative communities *is* to downgrade that relationship.

      Actually, what seems more likely to me is that the religious folk would like to ban homosexuality altogether out of their learned emotional response to anything that is gay.

      I think that for people to get around this, they are definitely going to have to show a lot more support for “alternatives.” In other words, if they think marriage is only about a man and woman coming together to bear and raise children, then they need to 1) recognize gay couples who commit to raise children, 2) recognize that many straight couples do try to avoid having children, and as a result, they need to provide rights and privileges for these groups as is appropriate.

      But instead, I see what you describe: I see laws that ban ANY sort of protection for any kind of gay relationship (down to things like job or housing protection). I see no one going after straight couples who don’t plan on having any kids. No one goes after no-fault divorce. Etc.,

      • Seth R. permalink

        Andrew a few social commentators who are not really in favor of “traditional marriage” have commented that gay marriage would actually foster impermissible discrimination against other forms of human cohabitation that are not “marriage.”

        For example two elderly sisters living together could actually make a pretty good argument that they are being discriminated against because the two gay guys down the street are getting a package bundle of rights and privileges that they don’t have access to.

    • I’m totally using this thread as an example of how “defenders of marriage and family” devolve into puddles of gibberish when asked to justify their ideology.

  21. Morris Thurston permalink

    Thanks for your interesting blog post. As I read it, however, the question that was raised for me is this: Assuming, for the moment, that “traditional marriage” means one father, one mother, and their biological children (something that I don’t believe is true, but most gay-rights opponents seem to believe), how exactly does permitting a gay person to marry another gay person threaten traditional marriage?

    I have a “traditional marriage” under that definition and it has lasted 45 years, so I’m expecting it will survive until one of us dies. I don’t find my marriage in the least threatened by gay marriage.

    It true, of course, that divorce and children born outside marriage are more common now than they were 50 years ago. “Traditional marriage” is less common, but it is far from dead. Is the lower incidence of such marriages the fault of gay marriage? Of course not. The trend has been developing for decades and has nothing to do with gay marriage. If anything, gay marriage strengthens traditional marriage. It means fewer gay people will find themselves trapped in a heterosexual marriage that ends in heartbreak and divorce (and there were lots of those during the years that Church leaders encouraged gay people to try to overcome their “tendencies.”)

    Bonnie says “Opposition [to gay marriage], however, is a concept deeply embedded in our conversation with God, both in scripture and in the temple. Asherah and Elohim, with their offspring Jehovah, form an eternal triangle that is repeated throughout creation.” Where, exactly, in the temple ceremony or in scripture, is there any mention of Asherah, let alone that she had a “traditional marriage” to Elohim?

    Taylor Petrey’s article in the Winter 2011 edition of Dialogue has some interesting thoughts on whether the scriptures might support a post-heterosexual Mormon theology. But this is really tangential to the main point of my comment — that denying gays and lesbians the right to marry the person they love will do nothing to strengthen traditional marriage.

    • Morris,

      I think the answer to this question comes from the context in which gay marriage has arisen. Gay marriage has arisen as a result of a shift in social attitudes that make marriage primarily about the love and emotional well-being of adults. I love you and you love me, and the way we signify our love and commitment to each other is through marriage.

      With this understanding, gay marriage is a no-brainer. Because gay folks can love each other just as much as straight folks can. Gay folks’ love for each other doesn’t challenge straight folks’ love for each other.

      …but I don’t think the love between two adults is what traditional marriage advocates are talking about when they are talking about traditional marriage. It’s not about the feelings of the two adults at all, really…it’s about being a community for the bearing and rearing of children. If everyone took this perfectly seriously, all children would be raised by their biological parents, and thus, the only folks who would be able to comply with this would be the men and women who are biological parents.

      Obviously, historically, there have been exceptions. Through most of history, mortality rates have meant that it has been likely that for some kids, one parent or both might die or otherwise be unavailable.

      But it’s only been recently that marriage has been so decoupled from children that 1) having children outside of wedlock isn’t seen as tragic, and 2) even having children isn’t enough to make biological parents try to stick together.

      So, I don’t think that gay marriage threatens traditional marriage in the sense that it will make the above factors even more likely to happen. I think, however, that it arises because we have already internalized marriage in a non-child-centric light.

      It true, of course, that divorce and children born outside marriage are more common now than they were 50 years ago. “Traditional marriage” is less common, but it is far from dead. Is the lower incidence of such marriages the fault of gay marriage? Of course not. The trend has been developing for decades and has nothing to do with gay marriage.

      I agree with most of this. Gay folks aren’t causing the decline of traditional marriage, because straight folks have already done most of the work. What I mean when I say that traditional marriage is dead is that even though we have straight folks marrying each other and having children, I would say that more and more, the talk is about love, the emotional well-being of the adults involved, etc., etc., “Traditional marriage” doesn’t inspire us. It seems kinda repugnant, in fact.

      Again, gay people haven’t had to do anything with it. Gay marriage is just a sign that we’ve already internalized a modernist way of thinking about marriage and relationships.

      It means fewer gay people will find themselves trapped in a heterosexual marriage that ends in heartbreak and divorce (and there were lots of those during the years that Church leaders encouraged gay people to try to overcome their “tendencies.”)

      I would just like to point out how this already buys into some modernist assumptions. When you say “trapped,” this has implications of emotional trauma or distress. “Heartbreak” has similar connotations. Why would they divorce? It seems related to the heartbreak and being trapped.

      But if marriage isn’t about the emotional well-being of the adults involved, then heartbreak shouldn’t lead to divorce. People should just Suck It Up and Stick It Out.

      I think that we, with our thoroughly modern sensibilities, find this horrible and tragic. But that’s why we aren’t really for traditional marriage. Traditional marriage is more about obligation. Obligation isn’t always pretty.

      Bonnie says “Opposition [to gay marriage], however, is a concept deeply embedded in our conversation with God, both in scripture and in the temple. Asherah and Elohim, with their offspring Jehovah, form an eternal triangle that is repeated throughout creation.” Where, exactly, in the temple ceremony or in scripture, is there any mention of Asherah, let alone that she had a “traditional marriage” to Elohim?

      I would love to hear you and Bonnie converse more on this. Since I don’t have experience with the most central parts of the temple, I can’t really confirm or deny much…so when Bonnie had made the comment, I was kinda stopped in my tracks, because I simply do not have the experience…

      P.S., I liked Taylor’s article. I liked the episode of Mormon Matters where Taylor, Kristine, and Dan discussed the article. I was just taken aback by some recent conversations…hence this post and all of the comments.

      I still feel strongly that gay and lesbian couples should be recognized and protected…and even with the word marriage…but I can’t help but concede that this is very much different than traditional marriage. I think I’m OK with it because I believe traditional marriage is dead, and we shouldn’t really try to revive it. But even that is a concession that modern marriage is decidedly different.

      • Morris Thurston permalink

        Thanks for your comments, Andrew. I agree there are many times that a married couple should just “suck it up,” and remain committed. Certainly a few arguments aren’t enough reason for a marriage to break up. The extension of this thinking, however, would lead to absurd results. Certain fundamentalist societies would never grant a woman a divorce, notwithstanding severe physical and emotional abuse. But that’s not Mormonism, so I don’t care much about that argument. Brigham Young was actually quite lenient in granting divorces during the days of polygamy. There are many instances where children are better off after a divorce. I have a number of friends who credit their step-father or step-mother with helping them straighten their lives out after their biological parents divorced.

        The biggest problem I have with the anti-gay-marriage folks is not that they think gay marriage is contrary to God’s plan. They’re free to think that. My problem is that they want to forcibly impose their brand of thinking on everyone by passing laws that make gay marriage impossible. Then, compounding the problem, they use scare tactics and absurd arguments (such as that permitting gays to marry “threatens traditional marriage”) to convince the general electorate to vote for those laws.

  22. hawkgrrrl permalink

    I’m late to the party again! Dang it. Obviously gay marriages are valuable in terms of the happiness they bring to the gay couple themselves. They can also be a valuable addition to society when they exist to rear children, especially when those children would otherwise go without the support of two committed parents. There are always children in a large society who require this kind of proxy parenting.

    Andrew – I think Bonnie’s point on the other discussion goes to the heart of the debate: whether people within married couples are two complementary halves of a whole or whether individuals are discretely complete, containing both male and female elements. If the former, gay relationships would be a “less than” arrangement. If the latter, even single parents with a sufficient support network would be as good as any couple (and isn’t that what polygamy was essentially – a lot of single mothers working together to raise children??).

    Most people of our generation would be inclined toward the latter view, that gender is a social construct (it is) and that men & women both contain supposedly male and female characteristics (they do). But there may be something to the older metaphor as well of two halves that make a whole. I only say that because it is a metaphor that endured for thousands of years through various forms of marriage, even though, as a Jungian, I tend to reject it.

    • haha…yeah, the conversation kinda exploded in the morning (when I was sleeping), so I had to approve 9 or 10 comments when I woke up at the ripe hour of noon.

      …anyway, I have viewed Bonnie’s point a bit differently, but even still, it’s worrisome. Even if married couples aren’t “two complementary halves of a whole,” I can’t help but feel that there is impact to the fact that children primarily come from the biological union of male and female. For anyone else, to have children is a deliberate process…but for man and woman, it can be accidental…so I can see how there would be pressure to have some kind of institution wherein that sexual relationship can be regulated…made a duty or obligation.

      • hawkgrrrl permalink

        Well, kind of accidental! I mean, it’s not like bumping into someone on the elevator.

        • This made me think of Judth Jarvis Thomson’s “People Seeds” thought experiment…

  23. John,

    I’m not suggesting that “maybe gay couples are less likely to stay committed because they can’t naturally produce children.” What I’ve tried to be very explicit upon is that the status quo here hasn’t been caused by gay people at all. We might say it is purely and primarily a straight concern (precisely because straight folks can accidentally produce children.)

    What I am suggesting that any couple, gay or straight, is less likely to stay committed when the thing that predicates their relationship is their emotional well-being and satisfaction. Since this has already well-infiltrated straight couples — even those with children — I wouldn’t expect much difference, if any, for the gay side. It’s as you say:

    All the hetero couples I know who’ve divorced had kids. Sometimes they get pregnant because they think it will save the marriage. (It doesn’t.)

    Why aren’t they choosing to commit? Because what they predicate the basis for their commitment is their emotional well-being. If they are out of love, or things are getting kind of dull, or there are some nagging issues that just keep nagging, then why wouldn’t they go their separate ways? Kids or no kids, if it’s about love, then when there is no love, then why not?

    That’s where your “We’ve got enough single parents to prove that” goes.

    I mean, yeah, I understand that there are a lot of unhealthy and abusive relationships and that people should not stick with those…but no-fault divorce is a considerably different issue. More and more, divorce is not because of abuse and other exploitative situations. It’s more, “We drifted apart.”

    Why aren’t people choosing to commit? That is a question.

    Or here’s another question.

    What causes desire for commitment? And is what causes that desire something that can be transitory? Is it something that self-sustains and builds itself up?

    You keep saying that you are far less special than I think…but you downplay sooooooooo much that’s unique about your experience here. It’s absolutely incredible to see from an outsider’s perspective.

    I just think that the statistics exist. The question isn’t, “What are the statistics about relationships?” but is, “What is a narrative that can explain those statistics and how they’ve come to be?”

  24. ninelegyak permalink

    I can’t help but feel that there is impact to the fact that children primarily come from the biological union of male and female. For anyone else, to have children is a deliberate process…but for man and woman, it can be accidental…so I can see how there would be pressure to have some kind of institution wherein that sexual relationship can be regulated…made a duty or obligation.

    There are a lot of kids without homes due to the fact that man+woman sex can make accidental babies. If everyone were gay, the species wouldn’t go extinct — instead, there would just be very good family planning. Also, let’s not forget that the world is overpopulated, so all this concentration on baby-making needs a healthy dose of realism.

    This whole lateral/vertical thing as an argument against gay marriage is ridiculously stupid. Mommy and daddy aren’t the only important adults in a child’s life. Mormons are so used to thinking of kinship and social reproduction in terms of self-sustaining individual family units, but the truth is we live in a society where our taxes pay for other people’s kids’ educations, where we have hospitals, daycares and nursing facilities, etc. Gay people, even if they have no interest in raising kids, aren’t “dead-ends,” because they contribute to society in a myriad of ways. Let’s imagine a tongue-in-cheek apocalyptic scenario where all the heteros are busy with their families so they don’t have the time to save the world, but the gays have time on their hands, so they end up saving the day. Okay, so the gays don’t make babies, but the species needs HELL OF A LOT MORE than just baby-making to keep going, and it’s not like gay people spend all their free time having “selfish” gay sex. I, for one, have been a social worker for the last decade. My first job was homecare/respite care gig.

    Basically, here’s what’s going on. Some heteros and hetero institutions (e.g., the Mormon Church) don’t want to “share” “marriage” with gay people because they have a superiority complex about heterosexuality and an interest in maintaining a patriarchal structure. “Gay marriage” as a societal norm is a threat to their institutions of power, to their futures as institutions, so they make this about “the children.” Meanwhile, actual children are being raised by gay couples, and helped raised by gay people generally because family units are not social vacuums.

    Oh, and Seth — if you’re reading this, a lot of gay people acquire kids through foster-to-adoption, so it’s really not a wealth thing.

    • ninelegyak,

      Definitely thinking a lot about this comment…Overall, i think that all of the responses have helped to settle me back down to normal, but there is still something that nags at me. I guess my perspective was more punitive and cynical than anything. For example:

      There are a lot of kids without homes due to the fact that man+woman sex can make accidental babies. If everyone were gay, the species wouldn’t go extinct — instead, there would just be very good family planning. Also, let’s not forget that the world is overpopulated, so all this concentration on baby-making needs a healthy dose of realism.

      My concern wasn’t about the species going extinct. It was more about the fact that you point out — there are a lot of kids without homes due to the fact that man+woman sex can make accidental babies. It just seems that people (and more particularly, the straight people who cause this) on the whole don’t take this into consideration as much as they should. In that sense, I was seeing that it’s really more of a burden that straight folks have to watch out for that gay folks don’t have to. I was thinking that there must be a way to make straight folks aware of the weightiness of this issue.

      Is that naive? Is that silly? I mean, I think I understand your later point:

      “Gay marriage” as a societal norm is a threat to their institutions of power, to their futures as institutions, so they make this about “the children.” Meanwhile, actual children are being raised by gay couples, and helped raised by gay people generally because family units are not social vacuums.

      so I guess that ultimately settles things.

      Am I still thinking dumb? Is the thing that “nags” at me just irrational?

      • ninelegyak permalink

        Babies are made through male/female intercourse. Recognizing that isn’t “irrational.” But the question is what does “marriage” have to do with that? If marriage includes some aspect of “vertical” responsibility, then I’ve already demonstrated that gay couples (single people, even) can easily fulfill that requirement. You don’t have to have a child in your home to be helping future generations. Seriously, how many of these people against gay marriage, focusing on reproduction, don’t recycle?

        • Seth R. permalink

          I would dispute the “easily” part of your assertion there nine.

          I don’t think gays can “easily” fulfill that function. It usually takes a lot more arrangement to do so. And as I pointed out earlier, these solutions are typically only available to rich gays, not lower income gays.

    • Seth R. permalink

      Even if “mommy and daddy” aren’t the only adults in a child’s life, they absolutely should be the most important adults in a child’s life. And any relationship that doesn’t provide a stable and loving parent of both genders seems to be suboptimal.

      I’m aware there have been studies claiming that gay parents don’t have any more negative outcomes on children than heterosexual parents. However I think it’s rather telling that the studies claiming this all compared children of single gay parents to children of single divorced (or never-married) heterosexual parents. So you were already comparing the children of homosexuals to children who’d had their trust in human relationships severely undermined to begin with.

      A better comparison would have been to compare children with homosexual parents to children of stable heterosexual relationships.

      Either way, the data is in its infancy on this subject. We don’t really know the full implications of gay parenting today any more than we knew the full implications of no-fault divorce in the 1960s. All we do know is that much of the scientific data on childrearing emphasizes that children benefit a great deal cognitively and socially by having stable examples of both genders firmly and unshakeably involved in their lives. The removal of the assumption that children need role models for both genders in their home is a troubling societal development.

    • Mommy and daddy may not be the only important adults in a child’s life, but they are the only important adults in a child’s genetic endowment. If Mommy had had a headache that month you were conceived, I’d be addressing this comment to somebody else entirely. Genes (and therefore linage) matter; we aren’t blank slates to be molded solely by our environment.

  25. richalger permalink

    “What causes desire for commitment?” Andrew S.

    Love, agape love, “divine, unconditional, self-sacrificing, active, volitional, and thoughtful love”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agape

    The kind of love that says that I stick with you when it is hard, really hard. Because I trust that things will work out. The Universe or Karma or the law of the harvest says that if I am Good to you, and stick with you, things will turn out for the best.

    There are exceptions to this such as abusive relationships. It is these kinds of relationships that I want for myself and everyone else.

  26. Rich,

    Fair answer, but I guess I feel that anyone can have agape.

  27. richalger permalink

    Yes, anyone can have agape. In any relationship.

  28. Honestly Catholic permalink

    I came to this post from the “I can’t think straight” posting. I still haven’t read that one. You put into words what I’ve been struggling with a bit, though I covered a bit of my thoughts on it here: http://embersofincense.wordpress.com/2012/05/13/the-definition-of-marriage/

    • Thanks for commenting! I think your post was spot on.

  29. Seth said: The removal of the assumption that children need role models for both genders in their home is a troubling societal development.

    My years as a divorce lawyer in Utah demonstrated to me that often those that believe the strongest in traditional families will callously disregard the need for strong male influence in child rearing in divorce situations. There are a lot of moving parts in marriage and child rearing, other than simply who is allowed to participate as a parent, or whether we put traditional roles on a pedestal.

    It may be troubling that less people are staying married, but it is hard to say that society is worse than it was when marriage was stronger, it is different, but worse? Marriage has been re-defined in the developed world because of all kinds of liberty interests and policy concerns that only a small minority would dispute. Marriage is the way it is now because most people want it that way. Most people don’t want to remain in a crappy, loveless, unfulfilled marriage, and because of shifts in policy based on those desires, they don’t have to. There are reasonable alternatives to remaining in marriages that aren’t good for people. From my perspective is that the majority has abandoned traditional “strong” marriage as a means of providing stable child rearing conditions, without providing reasonable alternatives or resources for “broken” families. It is clear that societies can provide strong child-rearing conditions without marriage as the religious know it. (see Scandinavia).

    Your arguments fail to distinguish good policy from aspiration. The ideal marriage you speak of has next to nothing to do with this discussion. Liberty, at root, is about being able to divert from the ideal. Your arguments seem to be akin to anti-contraception arguments. If the divorce statistics are grim, the extra-marital sex statistics are far more “grim”. It’s probably better to reserve regular sex for a stable relationship, but the problems with extra-marital sex decline rapidly when contraception and child-care are more available. Just like the problems with divorce decline when society makes efforts to provide more resources for divorced and single parent families. America is simply not going to go back to the days where pre-marital sex, homosexuality and divorce was shameful and unspoken, the vast majority does not want that. So, as a democracy, policy should be focused on how to improve conditions created by the will of the majority.

    Any past ideal of marriage, or ideal of marriage limited to a particular minority is not really relevant to the gay marriage debate. Because marriage is defined as it is now, which seems to be a irreversible trend, it is simply unfair to deny gay couples the same opportunity.

    • Seth R. permalink

      Jared, pointing to hypocrisy and hangups among heterosexuals is no answer to this at all.

      So what? We allow gays in on the rationale that “they can’t screw this up worse than others have already”? I addressed the fallacy of this response in my first comment of this thread.

      The solution is to fix heterosexual marriage – not make it a free-for-all.

      And the trend of unmarried co-habitation is not a positive social trend. It has been an unmitigated social disaster – especially among the lower income brackets of the population. A family wasteland of neglected children, impoverished single parents, and violently abusive live-in boyfriends. No-fault divorce has been just as much of a social disaster. The stats are coming back on the kids who’ve lived through these so-called “amiable” divorces, and the verdict is in – it permanently damages the kids. Parents who say the kids would be happier “if I followed my heart” are just selfishly lying to themselves. It’s a convenient excuse that favors the parent’s interest and doesn’t really give a damn about the kid’s.

      You also commit a basic fallacy in saying that gay marriage is even about liberty to begin with. It isn’t. It’s about securing government endorsement of and official encouragement of a certain class of personal relationships. There is no inherent liberty interest there. No more than there is an inherent liberty interest at stake in the government handing out “Lifetime Learning” credits on your tax form if you happen to be an adult student.

      Finally, your assertion that democracy is merely about enacting the will of the majority is also rather reductionistic.

      The majority can be completely wrong – especially if they are uninformed. The majority of the United States population supported the idea of rounding up Japanese Americans during World War II and shipping them off to Topaz Mountain in the Utah desert.

      Gay marriage is one of those areas where people are not informed. They are not aware of the consequences. They have not been educated any further than offered a few misleading platitudes about liberty and such.

      And in any case, you are wrong. The majority of Americans, while favoring civil unions, oppose gay marriage. So you’re a bit premature there as well.

  30. Seth,

    Ultimately my point is that the problems with marriage are not relevant to the gay marriage question. Marriage is the way it is, no-fault divorce and all. It may suck, but that is the way people want it. There may be all kinds of ways to make things better, but going back to “the good old days” is not one of them. We have to solve the problems caused by no-fault divorce by implementing other social policies that accommodate the right to divorce that most everybody wants.

    The liberty interest I am talking about is the liberty to divorce and get out of a marriage for those who have that right. The liberty to get out of a bad marriage is the issue that causes the problems you bring up. If we allow people more freedom to be selfish, they probably will be.
    Are you advocating going back to criminal sanctions for adultery?

    My argument is that given marriage is what it is, there is no basis to deny that benefit/liberty/civil right to Gay couples, even if there are some consequences. Why? because it is fair.

    Gay marriage is one of those areas where people are not informed. They are not aware of the consequences. They have not been educated any further than offered a few misleading platitudes about liberty and such.

    Hmm. . . I don’t know if you are including me in that group, but I don’t think you have a credible argument to deny fairness here simply because there could be some negative social consequences.

  31. Seth R. permalink

    Well then Jared, if these trends are irrelevant to the issue, you can’t have it both ways.

    You cannot turn around and say – “marriage has all these problems – so what’s the harm of allowing gay marriages.”

    You can’t use that argument, because now YOU are acting like the social trends ARE relevant and constitute evidence if favor of gay marriage.

    Pick which way you are going to go on this and stick with it.

  32. Seth R. permalink

    And Jared, I would also note that the only way the gay marriage argument has any persuasive force is if you ASSUME that gay marriage ought to happen and shift the burden of proof onto those who oppose it.

    But if you flip it around, and assume that marriage ought to stay heterosexual and put the burden of proof on gay marriage advocates to prove why gays ought to have marriage, the entire argument collapses in short order.

    This is an argument entirely founded on unfounded assumptions.

    Let’s play mad doctor with the most important institution in our society!

    Why?

    Well – YOU tell me why we shouldn’t!

    Color me unimpressed with this position Jared.

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