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Mormons and Gays…at Wheat & Tares

December 9, 2012

As you can tell from my “…@ Wheat and Tares” section of this site, I like to write on this blog about posts that I’ve written at Wheat & Tares. And — I’ve said this many times, but I’ll say it again — what I like to do with these posts is provide some sort of supplementary perspective…maybe my thought process in creating the post…or parts of the post that I couldn’t keep in the final version because I was pressed for space…or maybe even a different perspective that I didn’t feel was right for the Wheat & Tares crowd.

I want to do that here, of course. I actually wrote two articles this week at Wheat & Tares, but I’m going to cover my more recent article, All You Need to Know about Mormons and Gays, here.

Rainbow Angel Moroni

When the church released its site “Love One Another: A Discussion on Same-Sex Attraction,” I initially was not going to cover it. I was swamped with work and the internet in my apartment has been spotty, so I could barely read the site and the various articles written about it, much less think about post anything. Plus, the site came out after my regular day for posting at Wheat & Tares (Wednesday), so I realized that it would take at least a week for me to get a post out.

And with breaking news like this, it’s important to get something out within a short time, before the news gets stale.

Hawkgrrrl brought up the idea of someone doing a post, and some of the other permas raised that they didn’t want to touch the topic with a ten foot pole…and I understand that…Homosexuality is always a charged topic at the site — it was at Mormon Matters, and it probably will remain that way forever.

But even though I have steered more and more away from controversy recently, I wanted to take up the post as a personal challenge. Firstly, I was inspired by Kent Larsen’s genius super-post in response to the Randy Bott race stuff — where instead of trying to get on the scene with the first post, he attempted a chronology — which, of course, works best when you’re one of the last people to cover an issue, yet still gains a lot of traffic.

I wanted to offer an index of a lot of the blog posts that have discussed the site, providing a balance through coverage of all the different perspectives — on one end, the conservative faithful Mormons who do not even regard acceptance of gay relationships as being something to look forward to…to gay folks celibate, mixed-orientation married, or even gay married (man, these are awkward prefixes…can’t it all just be “married”?)…to former Mormons and non-Mormons.

And I wanted to problematize the narrative. Because I don’t want any point on the map to think that this is the best or worst thing that could ever happen. There are challenges, limitations, ambiguities. In some ways, it has the plausible deniability that I think allows people to draw whatever conclusion that they want.

…all that being said, I understand why there are plenty of folks (especially former Mormons and non-Mormons) who look past all the challenges/limitations/complications and are frustrated.

I mean, here’s the deal: for anyone looking for progress, the site is not that good. There is basically no change in theology, and there is little proof that there will be any institutional changes (like the two I suggested at the bottom of my post) to back up the “lofty” (but extremely and condescendingly limited) ideals the church has for family and ward members “loving” their gay brethren, friends, and children.

I raised a post that Nate Oman had written (that has attracted many responses and counterresponses) to try to frame some of the limitations and challenges to the institution shifting direction (if it indeed wants to do that — which as many commenters raised, I seriously doubt that we have leaders that are more progressive than the brunt of the church membership who are just raring to unleash a bunch of progressive changes, but who feel constricted to wait because of the conservative membership…)

…but you know, you don’t have to buy that approach. And if you don’t, then it seems sufficiently clear that the site is inadequate. Too little, too late. As some people have put it, “polishing a turd.” It is bigotry in nicer guise.

And I see that. I get that. There were several points in the site where I thought to myself: “These guys aren’t really seriously about helping to improve anything.”

Nick voiced a lot of those concerns on my post — and I was trying to point out that that wasn’t the discussion I was trying to have there, but I don’t think that’s the message that came across. Nick seems to think that I meant the discussion to be about, and I quote, “Why this website is such a glorious thing, and everyone should be happy that it makes everything all better for gay and lesbians subject to the religious and socio-political influence of Mormonism.

And I kinda feel like it’s an insurmountable challenge to introduce gray to a matter that someone else, who is not used to the dimness, can only see as pitch black in contrast to the light of the outside. (ugh, i sound like dan wotherspoon or something).

But…my intention was really something like this: if you look at the site, then you have to come to it knowing that there are no changes substantively to the church’s position, to the church’s theology. But just as well, you cannot expect there to be, given what the church has to work with. This is not a glorious message. This is not a message people should be unilaterally happy with. In the post, every time I write about “positive developments,” I wanted to capture the sense that in absolute value terms, we are at best moving from -500 to -499. This is a positive shift, but we started out so far down the hole, and there’s so much further, that if you’re living in sight or in grasp of the numbers beyond 0, you won’t be impressed.

Authenticity Issues?

So, I guess one of the things that the exchange has made me think about is how this relates to authenticity. In the post, I am trying to present a deliberately more balanced viewpoint than I might personally otherwise have (my first response on the issue was to John G-W’s guest post at Doves and Serpents, and it definitely was not charitable). Even here, I’m trying to be balanced, but also a little more candid than I was in my post.

…so am I lying? Am I lying to myself? Am I lying to my readers? I mean, Nick probably thinks I’m a horrible (at worst) or ignorant (at best) person based on the conversation at W&T, but I didn’t feel like it would be appropriate for me to divulge all of my opinions over there.

…What I think is that neither is lying. Neither is dishonest. Rather, I have different modes of thinking (probably because I’m one of those nuanced wishy washy types???) and at different places, I exercise different parts. I really was trying to have a different kind of discussion at Wheat & Tares.

55 Comments
  1. Nick Literski permalink

    The reality is, I don’t think you can point to *anything* in the website that wasn’t already stated prior. Notwithstanding some of the odd news releases, the site represents NO change in policy, doctrine, emphasis, or message. It’s purely a public relations presentation, making a pretty image of old news. I think it’s a huge mistake to present it as “progress,” and if anything, it’s regressive in the sense of things like referring to sexual orientation as “feelings about one’s own gender.”

    The closest thing you *can* say to “progress” is that the LDS church is feeling the heat enough that they think they *need* to publish a public relations driven website of this nature. It doesn’t mean they’ve progressed, though. It just means that the rest of society–AND their own membership–are starting to succeed in making them squirm.

  2. Nick,

    I think that from a theological standpoint, you’re right that there was not anything that wasn’t already stated prior. (in fact, that’s something I point out here and believe it or not, in the original article…the church is mostly just restating stuff it already has said before because it believes that people simply “misunderstand” its position. But the thing is…it’s not that people dislike the church’s position because they misunderstand it…it’s because they understand it, and they don’t like it.)

    However, maybe I just haven’t paid attention to everything that the church has said ever on the subject, but the few things that I thought were different:

    1) as far as I know, the church has NEVER explicitly said being gay should not be considered a disease or illness. (Yes, i understand that from a theological perspective, they still have the crappy belief that it’s a “mortal test” that won’t exist in the eternity, or whatever. And yes, I understand that it imminently crappy that such an explicit statement has to be made.)

    2) This is the clearest that the church has spoken for inclusion and respect (yes, I’m aware that the basics of the church position are inherently disrespectful. And yes, I’m aware that the church hasn’t done the leg work of jettisoning previous statements from leaders about exclusion.)

    3) This is the clearest the church has ever said that orientation is not chosen (every other time…EVERY other time of which I am aware…the church has only gone so far as to claim that it doesn’t *know*.)

    But I agree that beyond those few minor, minor, minor things…it isn’t saying anything new, and in fact, it’s sticking to its guns on everything old.

    But I don’t think you can say it’s REGRESSING when it frames the discussion of sexual orientation as “feelings about one’s own gender” because…as you yourself just mentioned…*that is not a change from the church’s previous views*.

    If the rest of society and the church’s own membership is making them squirm, THAT is progress. If they squirm rather than stating unequivocally that they don’t care what the rest of society thinks, THAT is progress.

    If the church is at -500 on this issue, then the worst you can say is that they are still at -500, I don’t see anything that suggests they are going to -501, but I actually think that whereas I’m saying they’re up to -499.

    Yes, I am aware there is a long way to go before they net to 0 or become positive.

  3. Seth R. permalink

    I don’t blame the bloggers for not wanting to touch it. I’ve never seen an issue in my life that gets a blogger so much pure hatred for having the wrong opinion on than this one.

  4. Tony permalink

    As a non-Mormon I can say that even for me there was nothing new about what the site said.

    I think the idea that non-Mormons don’t know the LDS stance on gay issues is not accurate, particularly with all the attention they have gotten over their participation in opposing marriage equality.

    Many of us do know, and this new site basically just says the same old thing, only in a nicer way.

    While it’s great that the church is now making it very clear that LDS families shouldn’t disown or ostracize gay family members, that they even need to say that is a bit disheartening. But more, and I admit this is my pessimistic, down on religion view, I see an ulterior motive behind it.

    Because clearly the message is still that gay people need to stop acting gay no matter their feelings, and you can’t work on people to give up that if you ostracize them and don’t have contact with them. My suspicious nature sees things like this as simply a better strategy of trying to bring the gay members of otherwise LDS families back into the fold and get them to toe the line.

    And I don’t know, perhaps there are gay people out there who can be perfectly happy being celibate and single in the Mormon church, even if that alone will make they stand out like a sore thumb and never really fully a part of everything (considering the great importance the LDS put on marriage). But I can’t imagine that would hold for most gay people.

    I can say that as a non-Mormon looking in from the outside I do not see this as being welcoming. Being told that you are welcome so that they can have the opportunity to convince you to leave your relationship, give up any future relationships, and live a celibate and lonely life in service to the church doesn’t make me feel welcome in the least.

    To truly welcome someone takes more than being nice to their face.

    So yes, a polished turd seems to be the best description. A desperate attempt to fix bad PR would be an even better one. But for anyone who has been paying any attention it is just lipstick on a pig.

  5. Tony,

    I agree. The church’s assumption is that nonmembers don’t like the church’s position because they don’t understand it, but as you point out, people pretty much do, and it’s not pretty.

    I think this is important. Because even if all that’s happening is what Nick is saying:

    The closest thing you *can* say to “progress” is that the LDS church is feeling the heat enough that they think they *need* to publish a public relations driven website of this nature. It doesn’t mean they’ve progressed, though. It just means that the rest of society–AND their own membership–are starting to succeed in making them squirm.

    That’s important. Because if the church’s position is to squirm from the rest of society (instead of ignoring the rest of the society as the evil, sinful world), then that means that this will put more pressure.

  6. Tony permalink

    Good point Andrew, and I agree. If there is a single ray of light here then that is it. That the LDS church even feels the need to improve PR is a good sign. Now they need to figure out exactly how to do it because this attempt is pretty much a fail. At least from the responses I am seeing from people here on the outside.

  7. Seth R. permalink

    No Tony, I think you are wrong. People don’t really understand the LDS position.

    Debates I’ve been in, the LDS position tends to get lumped in with the most extremist anti-gay factions. Lots of factual inaccuracies are being promulgated.

    -The LDS Church is advocating “pray away the gay”
    -The LDS Church supports kicking your gay son to the curb
    -The LDS Church officially believes that being gay is a choice
    -Gay people are not welcome in the LDS Church
    -Gay people cannot hold callings in the LDS Church

    I’ve heard all this and more on a regular basis over at the Huffington Post – so don’t try to tell me the general population “gets it.” They don’t. They get the soundbites pro gay marriage activists have been feeding them.

    I don’t see this as an attempt to impress anyone on the pro gay marriage side (my experience is that this movement seems to be pretty impervious to argument). I simply see this as an attempt to state what the LDS position really is, and if you don’t like it – tough.

  8. Nick Literski permalink

    Seth, some of the “inaccuracies” on your list are not entirely “inaccuracies.” To whit:

    -The LDS Church is advocating “pray away the gay”

    The LDS church continues to hold up opposite-sex marriage as the ideal for gays and lesbians who are “faithful enough” to endure it, with lifelong celibacy as the option for those less righteous. Yes, I know that they now deny that opposite-sex marriage is “therapy” for homosexuality, but they continue to hold it up as the example, via poster boys like Ty Mansfield. The LDS church has hosted conferences of Mormon therapist/psychiatrist organizations within church headquarters buildings, where inevitably-young “mixed orientation” married couples were paraded onstage like trained animals, in order to “prove” that their “solution” is possible for the truly faithful.

    Further, the LDS church provides an annual stipend (all the while denying any “official sponsorship”) to Evergreen, an LDS-oriented organization which very much promotes the “pray away the gay” message. Despite the repudiation of every legitimate mental health organization in the country, Evergreen continues to promote reparative therapy and religious observance as methods to “overcome” homosexuality. LDS Family Services continues to employ “therapists” who claim the ability to change sexual orientation through faith, prayer, and “therapy.” I find it difficult to accept semantic games, wherein the LDS church doesn’t “advocate” what it’s actively paying for.

    -The LDS Church officially believes that being gay is a choice.

    Notwithstanding the domain name of the new website, the LDS church continues the fraudulent use of “same sex attraction” in order to pathologize homosexuality as a disorder/syndrome/diagnosis, while simultaneously denying the existence of gay or lesbian individuals. Via websites and other venues, the LDS church attempts to differentiate between “struggling with same-sex attraction” vs. “being gay.” In this Orwellian game, “being gay” isn’t about having a homosexual orientation. Rather, “being gay,” in their parlance, means “having sex with people of your own sex.” Since they present “being gay” as a sex act, rather than a sexual orientation, they most certainly present “being gay” as a “choice.”

    -Gay people are not welcome in the LDS Church.

    See above.

    -Gay people cannot hold callings in the LDS Church.

    See above.

    I do understand where you’re coming from on these points, but I think it’s important that we don’t ignore the semantic games actually being played by LDS leaders for public relations benefit on these issues.

  9. Tony permalink

    Seth, I read the site, and nothing in it was new to me. I have spoken about the Mormon Church’s position on this to many people and for the most part they all get it too. It actually isn’t far removed from many other mainstream denominations like the Catholic Church, which believes pretty much the same thing.

    Really, most Americans are familiar with at least some of the big name denominations that take almost the identical stand, so the concepts aren’t foreign to most people, posters at Huffigton not withstanding.

    That many people don’t understand it, just as many don’t understand many things, and that many of those happen to post at a particular website, doesn’t really mean much. Sitting outside the LDS gates and mostly knowing other people out here, and having actually spoken to people I know about it, it is my experience that a lot of people do understand the LDS position. At least far more than it appears the LDS Church thinks.

    Trust me, I can easily find other websites where the majority of the posts claim that Catholics worship Mary and the Saints and the Pope bathes in blood. That wouldn’t reflect the actual understanding of Catholicism in the general population any better.

  10. Seth R. permalink

    Tony, I wasn’t talking about your opinion. I was talking about the more popular conception out there.

    Nick, I think your post is a pretty good example how the narrative of resentment has distorted the facts. No, there is no “pray away the gay” stance with the church, and asking for celibacy is not equivalent to that. No more than asking me to be celibate before marriage was asking me to “pray away the sex drive.”

    And no, there is no “gays aren’t welcome at church movement.”

    The problem is – the gay marriage movement has melted down and reduced human identity to sex.

    Which explains why they view any limit on sexual activity as a complete refutation of their human soul.

    I don’t see it that way. Neither does the church. The website is meant to point that out. And Nick, if you take that the way you do – then that’s your affair. The website is simply describing the actual LDS position – not what you infer it to be.

  11. Tony permalink

    No Seth, you are talking about YOUR opinion based on some comments on a website. My actual experience with people tells me that many get the LDS stance, they just aren’t impressed.

    And no, the gay rights movement hasn’t reduced human identity to sex. But for most humans sex is an important part of their human experience. The gay rights movement is about equality under the law and an equal place in society.

    We all have limits on our sexual activity. It’s easy to dismiss the impact of that when either they aren’t activities that you particularly care to engage in, or when the restrictions are only temporary (until marriage). When you are denied any true sexual activity for your whole life that’s a different ballgame, and to dismiss the impact of that so easily is rather callous.

    But no, it isn’t about just sex. If I had an accident tomorrow and could never have sex again, I would still want to marry my partner, to be with him for the rest of my life as spouse. It isn’t the gay marriage proponent that reduce it all to sex. Just the opposite, it is the anti marriage folks who do.

    The anti marriage equality folks look at us and only see sex. They are only concerned that if we are allowed to marry that somehow they are condoning our sex lives. They don’t see the love, commitment, life building, investment in each other, pooling of resource to form stable families, or any of that. They just see the sex, and they don’t like the sex, so they fight against us being able to marry.

    It is easy to be dismissive of the plight of others when it is a plight you will never have to face. Living a life not just celibate but without romance and the intimate love of a true spouse is not something to be ridiculed as simply an objection to having limits placed on sexual activity.

    Sorry, but you demonstrate that you clearly have no idea about the actual experience of gay people. Argue all you want for your Church’s policies and stances, but please stop trying to act like you know what we think, feel, or are attempting to actually do.

    • Seth R. permalink

      Tony, you’re right when I look at the gay movement, I don’t really see much of a commitment to marriage. Some have the commitment, of course. But as a whole it seems like marriage is something the gay movement recently discovered in the last ten years as a new fun way to flip the bird to the Christian Right (whose behavior on this subject has been unkind, bigoted, etc.). I see it more driven by resentment and an overwhelming desire to be socially accepted than out of any particular commitment to the idea of marriage.

      And historically, the gay movement has actually been rather hostile to the idea of marriage in the first place.

      In a New York Times article in 2006, gay activist Bill Dobbs basically states opposition to the idea of pairing up at all, questions whether monogamy is even normal and why gay men and lesbians are buying into an institution [marriage] they see as rooted in oppression.

      http://www.nytimes.com/2006/07/30/fashion/sundaystyles/30MARRIAGE.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

      Matt Foreman, Executive Director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force made this comment:

      We as a movement can take pride that we opened this door for young people to be much more fluid about sexuality, gender, gender roles, orientation and sexual behavior than any other generation in history. That’s what the gay movement has contributed to society, and that’s a tremendously good thing. (June 20, 2006 issue of The Advocate “Is Gay Over?”)

      http://www.thefreelibrary.com/Is+gay+over%3F+A+new+generation+of+same-sex-loving+youths+are+breaking…-a0154461621

      Note the inclusion of “sexual behavior” in Foreman’s quote. Presumably, that means he’s OK with a move away from monogamy and sexual exclusivity as well. The implication is clear enough anyway. There really is a sense that there is this wink-wink-nod-nod understanding among a lot of the gay advocacy community that everyone ought to back the gay marriage movement because it will inevitably lead to the complete dismantling of marriage as an institution.

      Lawyer activist Nan Hunter also laid out this view when she wrote “the impact of gay and lesbian marriage will be to dismantle the legal structure of gender in every marriage.” According to her, this arrangement has “the potential to expose and denaturalize the historical construction of gender at the heart of marriage.” For Hunter and those who share her views, there is really no motivation to shore up marriage as an institution. For them, discrediting of marriage is simply an interim step to its disintegration.

      Hadley A. 2006. The Family and the Laws, In Robert P. George & Jean Bethke Elshtain (ed.) The Meaning of Marriage. 129-130

      I don’t think the lack of support for monogamy in the gay community should come as much of a surprise. There really aren’t as many reasons for a same-gender couple to stay together as there are for a mixed gender couple. A trend towards promiscuity can be seen in the very nature of these relationships. There simply isn’t anything really tying gay partners to each other besides mere emotional commitment. Rotello, a gay author noted “Gay liberation was founded… on a sexual brotherhood of promiscuity of gargantuan proportions.”

      Rotello, G. (1997). Sexual Ecology: AIDS and the Destiny of Gay Men.

      Prior to the AIDS epidemic, one study noted that 28% of homosexual men had shockingly high numbers of “lifetime partners.” (Bell, A.P. & Weinberg, M.S. (1978) Homosexualities: A Study of Diversity Among Men and Women) Subsequent to the AIDS epidemic a 1985 study found that homosexual men averaged four partners per month rather than six. (McKusick, L. (1985) Reported Changes in Sexual Behavior of Men at Risk for AIDS, San Francisco, 1982-84 – The AIDS Research Project. Public Health Reports, 100, 6, 622-629) The Center for Disease Control reported that between 1994 and 1997, the percentage of gay men reporting multiple partners increased from 23.6 percent to 33.3 percent with the largest increase in men under 25 years of age. (Center for Disease Control (1999) Resurgent Bacterial Sexually Transmitted Disease Among Men Who Have Sex With Men – King County, Washington, 1997-1999. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 48 (35), 773-777, September 10) In another CDC report 30 percent of all gay black men were HIV positive. (Sternberg, S. (2003) 1 in 3 Young Gay Black Men are HIV Positive, USA Today, February 6)

      While promiscuity among lesbians is less extreme, and Australian study in 1996 showed lesbians were 4.5 times more likely to have had more than 50 lifetime male partners than heterosexual women. (Price, J. et al. (1996) Perceptions of Cervical Cancer and Pap Smear Screening Behavior by Women’s Sexual Orientation. Journal of Community Health, 2(2), 89-105)

      Another 1994 study concluded that homosexuals are much less monogamous that heterosexuals, with the vast majority of heterosexuals being monogamous while the marriage was intact. (Michael, R.; Gagnon, J.H.; Laumann, E.O. & Kolata, G. (1994) Sex in America: A Definitive Survey) A 1984 study, by contrast, studied 156 couples who had been in homosexual relationships from 1 to 37 years. Of these couples, only sevn had been able to maintain sexual fidelity, and of these seven couples, none had been together for more than 5 years. The authors suggest a different standard for homosexual couples: fidelity without monogamy. (McWhirter, D.P. & Mattison, A.M. (1984) The Male Couple: How Relationships Develop).

      A more recent 2003 study published in the journal AIDS found that gay “marital” relationships in the Netherlands lasted 1 and 1/2 years on the average and had a mean of eight partners per year outside those relationships. (Xirdou, M. et al (2003) The Contribution of STeady and Casual Partnerships to the Incidence of HIV Infection Among Homosexual Men in Amsterdam. AIDS, 17(7), 1029-1038). While another researcher notes “Gay men will always have many more sex partners than straight people do. Those who are attached will be less sexually monogamous. Although some gay male relationships will be for life, these will be fewer than among heterosexual couples.” The article further notes “Gay men who are promiscuous are expressing an essentially masculine trait. They are doing what most heterosexual men would do if they could. They are in this way just like heterosexual men, except they don’t have women to constrain them.” (Bailey, J.M. (2003) unfortunately my source on this appears to have made a mistake in the footnotes which made it hard for me to determine the year and title of the article).

      In light of such trends, it’s not really surprising that same-sex advocates typically downplay the importance of fidelity in their definition of marriage. Nor is it surprising that surveys conducted on men who entered same-sex unions in Vermont indicated that 50 percent of them do not value sexual fidelity. (Rothblum, E. & Solomon, S. (2003) Civil Unions in the State of Vermont: A Report of the First Year. University of Vermont Department of Psychology). Judith Stacey, a leading advocate of gay marriage suggested that “perhaps some might dare to question the dyadic limitations of Western marriages and seek some of the benefits of extended family life through small group marriages.” (Stacey, J. (1998) Gay and Lesbian Families: Queer Like Us. In All Our Families: New Policies for a New Century, edited by M.A. Mason, A. Skolnck, and S.D. Sugarman. pp 117, 128-129).

      Tony, I’m not questioning your commitment to marriage. And Mormonism has it’s own dynamic of valuing the family that may influence the attitudes of homosexuals with Mormon backgrounds. But whatever the commitment of some gays to this idea of marriage, it’s not really widely shared in the homosexual community. It would also appear that the push for “marriage” for gays is more of a status symbol for many gays rather than an indication of commitment to anything marriage is actually about.

      And with the epidemic of cohabitation of consenting adults with no marriage commitment – it seems a bit of a moot point for gays to be asking in on the party. The party is pretty much over or on the tail end anyway. Gay marriage is nothing more than an acknowledgment that the concept of marriage no longer really means anything you can’t just get with cohabitation anyway.

      Material in this post cites extensively to chapter 1 of the book “What’s the Harm?” ed. Lynn Wardel – chapter by A. Dean Byrd (Univ. of Utah) “Conjugal Marriage Fosters Healthy Human and Societal Development.” The book itself is a collection of essays both for and against gay marriage.

      • Tony permalink

        Seriously Seth, those individuals you quote don’t speak for all gay people. We aren’t a church with leaders who speak for everyone.

        Gay people run the spectrum of wants and relationship styles. That some, or even many, have no interest in marriage is not justification for denying it to the thousands who do.

        But no, I have never encountered in any serious way the collusion among gay people that same sex marriage is about dismantling the institution, and frankly that is a very insulting comment. The desire for the right to marry is genuine, and despite the occasional crank even those who aren’t interested genuinely believe that those who are should have the right.

        Not all gay people are alike. Among my circle monogamous long term relationships are the norm and I know hundreds of gay people in serious long term relationships. My 17th anniversary is this week, and I’m far from the longest relationship in my circle. 30 years together is not uncommon. My cousin has been with his partner 42 years.

        It makes no difference how many gay people don’t care to marry or be monogamous. Dignity isn’t a numbers game. Those if us who do want it take it seriously.

        The party isn’t over as you so dismissively put it. Many people take marriage seriously. It is still the norm in my family and will be for a very long time. If you think so little of it then why even fight it?

        Your arguments always seem to boil down to the idea that ay people shouldn’t get marriage equality because it just isn’t important. Well we can decide what is important to us thank you very much. That you don’t see the importance just supports what I already said. You don’t understand us and you should stop acting like you do or even care to. You don’t listen but instead try to tell us what our experiences should be. But you don’t get to do that, sorry.

        • Seth R. permalink

          Actually, my argument boils down to –

          The relationships should not be treated the same for the simple fact that they are fundamentally different. And marriage simply isn’t needed in the case of homosexual relations. The findings I quoted above were not meant to stand for the proposition that “all gays think X.”

          It was meant to illustrate that homosexuality simply is fundamentally different, and means something completely different for society than heterosexuality does. Whether you share pro-gay activist Nan Hunter’s sentiments or not, I believe she is correct. This social development will go toward re-defining marriage out of existence. Which is the openly stated goal of SOME gay activists who’ve seen the writing on the wall. I agree with them. This will ultimately eradicate any stable definition of marriage in favor of a more fluid identity solely devoted to catering to adult needs, with little reference to the needs of community, society, or children.. Whatever decent folk like you, Tony, think about it won’t change what this movement means for society at large.

          It means is the eradication of society as a place for the nurture of children. Instead, it will be solely about adult needs, adult rights, adult desires, and adult feelings.

          I can’t condone this movement Tony – no matter how much it hurts a group’s feelings.

          • Tony permalink

            That’s just paranoia, seriously.

            And you seem to neglect that many same sex couples have children and that same sex marriage is as important to them as to straight people (of course many straight people marry without any intent of having children).

            The simple fact is that allowing same sex marriage simply lets more people in to an existing institution. It doesn’t fundamentally change that institution at all. Right now there are straight people who marry and have kids, and others who marry and don’t. When same sex marriage is allowed you will just have more people getting married, some with the intent of having kids and other without.

            The idea that society will be hurt by this has no valid support, just hyperbolic protests. Same sex marriage has been around in some countries for quite a while with no ill effects. It has been in Mass for years and they have one of the highest rates of marriage over all and the lowest divorce rate in the whole country.

            You are falling prey to fear mongering.

          • Seth R. permalink

            I’m aware of the “childless couple” argument Tony, and it’s completely irrelevant.

            The existence of childless couples does not change the fundamental nature of heterosexual unions as being likely to naturally and easily produce children. Which gives society a natural interest in the regulation of those relationships.

            The same factor does not apply to homosexual unions.

            The exception does not invalidate the rule.

          • Tony permalink

            Except that many gay couples are raising children as well.

            But you are being intentionally narrow in your rational for why society has an interest in regulating relationships. It doesn’t have only to do with children.

            Marriage encourages stable, monogamous relationships. That has a benefit to society even without children involved. Less STDS, and more financial stability, which both benefit society.

            Married people have better health, and when members of society have generally better health they are less of a financial burden on the rest of society.

            No matter how you slice it encouraging stable, long term relationships is beneficial for society regardless of the genders of the people involved. Gay people have had obstacles placed in our way to forming and maintaining long term relationships, and then vilified for not being able to maintain relationships and being promiscuous.

            When almost 50% of heterosexual marriages fail despite the support and encouragement of society is it any wonder that gay couples don’t have any better luck with not only lack of support but out and out opposition to any of the benefits straight couples have to maintaining relationships?

            Children aside, the less people running around and screwing themselves to death the better, and while marriage may not be an out and out solution to that (since it doesn’t keep many straight people from doing the same) it is an aid and anything that helps prevent rampant promiscuity and promotes stable long term relationships in general has a benefit to society even when children are not involved.

            Add children to the mix, which more and more gay couples are doing, and the benefits to society become even stronger.

          • Seth R. permalink

            Tony, it’s nice that gays are raising children. I know of adult siblings raising a child too.

            No one calls them married.

            The simple truth is that gays do not naturally and readily produce children. The only way gays become parents is through rather involved processes like surrogate wombs, adoption, and so forth. All complicated, all expensive. It doesn’t naturally happen without a lot of arrangement of things.

            That’s why government has less interest in the relationship of gay partners. They aren’t naturally and in a statistically significant manner producing vulnerable parties like children invoking the government’s interest.

            If you want to have kids and be with your loved ones, fine. But that doesn’t make you part of a class that the government has a compelling interest in regulating the same as heterosexual unions.

            The exception does not govern the rule. The existence of childless couples adopting or using other methods does not mean they aren’t still part of a CLASS that does produce.

            You will never, ever, be a part of a CLASS that produces the same as heterosexuals Tony.

            And that’s just the plain brutal biological reality.

            You’re different. And the government is fully justified in treating you different. Just like non-students cannot claim the American Opportunity credit on their tax returns, no one is required to grant a marriage license to a same sex couple.

          • Seth R. permalink

            Also, the notion that gays will benefit from the health finance and other social benefits of “marriage” is something I often hear asserted, but almost never verified or backed up with any real data.

            The argument seems to go – “Oh look! It’s working for them. That automatically means it will work the same for us!”

  12. Nick Literski permalink

    Seth, I think your post is a pretty good example of how cognitive dissonance on the part of certain religionists requires that you demonize those whom your faith has repeatedly victimized.

    You’re welcome to read the semantics of “gay” differently, even if you must ignore your own faith’s culture and history in order to do so. You’ve utterly failed, however, to address how PAYING FOR “pray away the gay” nonsense is different from ADVOCATING the same. Your church openly admits to budgeting annual stipends to support Evergreen. Evergreen openly admits to its agenda, which includes “overcoming” one’s sexual orientation through prayer and other religious observances (oh—and playing basketball in order to “butch up”).

    All you’ve managed to do is create a ridiculous strawman, desperately scraped from your imagination of what you wish to THINK is my opinion. Nobody has said anything remotely resembling your silly theory about “any limit on sexual activity” being declared “a complete refutation of their human soul.” You’re inventing that out of whole cloth, in order to settle the mental anguish which naturally attends your attempt to demonize those who choose not to sublimate their entire existence to Mr. Monson’s minions.

    • Seth R. permalink

      Nick, don’t talk to me about demonization when most of it is actually coming from you.

    • Seth R. permalink

      And rhetoric like “Monson’s minions” doesn’t exactly make you look all that objective Nick. All it does is make you look emotionally compromised.

      • Nick Literski permalink

        Sounds like you missed that whole “mote vs. beam” thing, Seth. Once you grasp what everyone else seems to see I. Your rhetoric, maybe you’ll have some credibility in your personal attacks toward others.

        • Seth R. permalink

          Let me know when you actually have a rational point to make Nick.

  13. Nick Literski permalink

    Further, Seth, it’s outrageously humorous that you would accuse advocates of civil marriage equality of “reducing human identity to sex.” Your comments make it ABUNDANTLY clear that YOU are the one “reducing” the human identity of gay and lesbian individuals to what they do in bed. You’re getting all confused in your efforts to uphold Monson & Co. at all costs.

  14. Nick Literski permalink

    Seth, congratulations on your predigious “cut and paste” skills. Are you familiar with the men whom you’ve trusted in supplying your opinions? I can somewhat understand you trusting Lynn Wardle, since he’s the Mormon “go-to guy” when news media wants to talk to a lawyer who believes gays should be denied basic civil rights. A. Dean Byrd, on the other hand was (he recently died) a very different character. As president of the National Association of Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH), Mr. Byrd promoted highly-discredited “reparative therapy” until the day he died. This is the same “therapy” which even Dallin Oaks has dismissed publicly, since literally every legitimate professoinal organization in the field of psychology has classified it as both ineffective and potentially damaging.

    I’m assuming you’ve not read any of the studies these men point to, but instead simply accepted their characterizations at face value. Let’s pick one of them, just for a nice sample. You quoted:

    A more recent 2003 study published in the journal AIDS found that gay “marital” relationships in the Netherlands lasted 1 and 1/2 years on the average and had a mean of eight partners per year outside those relationships. (Xirdou, M. et al (2003) The Contribution of STeady and Casual Partnerships to the Incidence of HIV Infection Among Homosexual Men in Amsterdam. AIDS, 17(7), 1029-1038).

    This is the famed “Dutch Study,” often trotted out by anti-gay activists in order to characterize gay relationships as unstable and fleeting. Wardle & Byrd, unfortunately, fail to provide you with some of the details of that study. For example, the researchers specifically excluded monogamous gay couples from their study—if a couple was monogamous, they didn’t count. If you exclude every gay man who had zero or one sexual partners per year, don’t you think that might affect the averages you come up with in the end? What would be the “average number of sexual partners” among heterosexuals, if you refused to include heterosexuals with zero or one sexual partners per year?

    The researchers also specifically excluded anyone over the age of 30—-not only limiting their sample pool to younger, less mature individuals, who we could expect to have shorter relationships, but also effectively eliminating many long-term relationships. After all, if a couple got together when they were 20, and were now 31 years old, this study refused to count them in their statistics. By choosing only men 30 and under, all the subject relationships were constrained by limited “adult lifespan” time.

    Not only this, but the study defined “relationship” as “dating for at least one month.” With that that sort of definition, you’re going to have a vast number of ultra-short relationships included, aren’t you? How many people did you date for a month in your younger years? Did you consider them “relationships” you’ve been in? What would be the “average relationship length” of heterosexuals, if you (a) excluded monogamous couples, (b) excluded 30+ year olds, and (c) defined couples who had been dating for one month as “relationships?”

    Finally, Seth, the Dutch Study recruited all of its participants from visitors to STD clinics in and around Amsterdam. Could it be that gay men who had to obtain treatment for STDs were more promiscuous than the “average gay man?”

    Now, Seth, will you dismiss all of this by claiming that these facts are “irrational?” You’ve already waived off the words of Jesus, whom you claim to worship, as “irrational,” so just where are your standards?

    • Seth R. permalink

      Thank you for the extra information on ONE of the studies and sources mentioned in the article.

  15. Delois Byrd permalink

    I don’t have much to say about the Mormon church. I’m just that creepy person who’s here simply because this site was linked to your Metafilter account, and you mentioned in a comment that you’re from good ole L-town, like me. It’s just rare to find intelligent folks from my hometown, so I thought I’d say hello. (Ike ’01 and currently a disillusioned public school elementary teacher in OKC’s southside, FWIW.)

  16. Delois,

    Thanks for commenting! So I guess now I know that people actually see and read my MeFi comments. I’m Ike ’07, now an accountant in Houston.

  17. Seth R. permalink

    Oh and Nick – marriage is not a “basic civil right” and it never has been.

    • Nick Literski permalink

      Seth, your personal opinion on whether marriage is a basic civil right is entirely irrelevant. In the United States of America, that determination is delegated to the Supreme Court of our nation. The Supreme Court has repeatedly affirmed that marriage is a FUNDAMENTAL (in other words, “basic”) civil right.

      • Seth R. permalink

        Yes, when you’re ready to provide a case name and relevant quote from that case, let me know Nick.

        Or you can continue explaining to everyone WHY I’m wrong. That might play well with the people who already agree with you – which perhaps is all you’re really shooting for here.

        • Nick Literski permalink

          ABBOTT: 2 + 2. = 743
          COSTELLO: No, 2. + 2. = 4
          ABBOTT: WHAAAAA!!!! YOU’RE NOT TELLING ME I’M WRONG! YOU’RE JUST TELLING ME *WHY* I’M WRONG! I MUST BE RIGHT! I THINK 4 IS BAD!!! YOU NEED TO TELL ME WHAT *PART* OF 2. +. 2 =. 4 MEANS I’M WRONG!

          The only thing you’ve been able to actually demonstrate, Seth, is your utter and complete disdain for gay men and lesbians. We get it—you think your deity disapproves. We also get that your faith tradition never trotted this “reproduction” argument out until they needed to give their own followers an excuse to carry out Monson’s Prop 8 crusade. You’ve failed to demonstrate any legitimate reason why your faith’s disapproval of gays and lesbians should require discriminatory treatment of them by civil government.

          So far, you haven’t even managed to produce decent comedy, let alone reason.

          • Seth R. permalink

            So Nick you are saying that “marriage is a fundamental right” is just as obvious as :2+2=4?”

            Well then, you should be easily able to produce a quote from the Supreme Court saying so. Or, barring that, you should be able to make a convincing argument that it is indeed so.

            I’ll wait for you to get around to doing that.

  18. Seth R. permalink

    Loving vs. Virginia?

    “Marriage is one of the “basic civil rights of man,” fundamental to our very existence and survival….”

    Sounds like they’re talking about the kind of marriage that naturally procreates Nick.

  19. Seth R. permalink

    Also, the concept of “inalienable right” is a right that government can neither give nor take away.

    Government gives marriage licenses. Just like it gives education tax credits.

    Neither are inalienable rights.

    • Nick Literski permalink

      Seth, you really need to quit trying to play lawyer. Your attempts to twist and personally trump the SCOTUS just make you look silly to those of us with legal educations.

      • Seth R. permalink

        Nick how about you quit playing the game of telling us all WHY Seth is wrong and start focusing more on demonstrating that he actually IS wrong.

        The term “bulverism” comes to mind (wikipedia it).

        • Nick Literski permalink

          I’ve already told you precisely why you’re wrong, Seth. You simply can’t accept that your personal opinion doesn’t overrule the SCOTUS in terms of U.S. law. The SCOTUS has declared the law. You’ve claimed the law says something different. Ergo, you’re wrong.

          I do find it humorous, of course, that you’d accuse others of bulverism. It seems to me that you’re taking precisely that approach in your above comments.

          • Seth R. permalink

            Yes, that’s the problem – you are focusing on WHY I’m wrong.

            But you haven’t established for the readership that I AM wrong yet. You’ve merely asserted “well the Supreme Court says so.”

            And we’re all just supposed to believe you, right Nick?

            Right.

  20. Seth R. permalink

    The idea of “fundamental right” also doesn’t really explain anything anyway.

    I know a woman who is in her late 30s, would like to be married, but can’t find anyone to make it work with. No one is outraged that she is being denied her fundamental right of marriage. In my own family Sister-in-law #1 had a divorce and a demanding job that required sister-in-law #2 to do a lot of work in raising #1’s child. No one is talking about #2’s fundamental right to be married to #1.

    Even if you get to the point of establishing that marriage is a fundamental right – which I’m still waiting in anticipation for Nick to do – this doesn’t automatically get us to the point of redefining what marriage actually IS.

    I have a supposed right to bear arms under the constitution. That doesn’t mean I can park a dump truck in front of my house blocking the street on the theory that the dump truck could be used as a weapon and I have a right to have it.

    • Seth R. permalink

      My wife says I could have used a better example than a “dump truck” and she is most certainly correct. I didn’t mean to be derogatory in using the example.

      • Nick Literski permalink

        Seth, your “dump truck” analogy is the least of the insults you’ve levelled in this thread. After all, you’ve already claimed that gay and lesbian couples are sexually out of control, unable to honor their commitments to one another, lacking “anything tying them together,” intent on dismantling marriage as an institution, seeking marriage only as a “status symbol,” and hoping to roast small children over hot coals (okay, so I threw that last one in just to see if you bothered reading anything).

  21. Nick Literski permalink

    First of all, Seth, I’ve cited you to the appropriate case. That’s what any court of law would require, and have no reason to believe that you’re illiterate. Whether you like it or not, the SCOTUS has found that marriage is a fundamental right——not “marriages that the LDS church approves of,” but marriage. I don’t need to establish that fact. It’s not my job. In fact, I have no right whatsoever to declare it such under U.S. law. The SCOTUS did so, and that effectively ends the issue, as pertaining to civil law in the United States of America. So rant on all you like, Seth. Refuse to believe in the Constitution, which specifically assigns the interpretation of laws to the Court, rather than to Tommy Monson. Nobody really cares what you think, because your opinion isn’t the law of the land.

    It’s entirely clear that your opinion on this matter is based not on any legal understanding whatsoever, but rather on your faith tradition and your personal disdain for gay men and lesbians. Your “cut and paste” calumny against same-sex relationships, together with your silly “babysitting arrangement” arguments, make that more than evident. As such, your “prove it” tantrum is pointless—the only “proof” you’d accept is the word of Tommy Monson. Even then, your personal prejudices could well influence you to strike out in the same way that certain LDS members did after Spencer Kimball’s priesthood revelation—by declaring him a “fallen prophet” and rejecting the idea that deity may not actually agree with their wicked disdain.

    • Seth R. permalink

      Nick I scanned the discussion, and I apologize, but I don’t see any Supreme Court citations up there. The only court citation I see in this entire thread is mine – where I mentioned Loving vs. Virginia.

  22. Nick Literski permalink

    Actually, Seth, you’re correct on that point. I said that the SCOTUS had affirmed the holding numerous times, and you rightly went to Loving v. Virginia as the most commonly cited of such cases. Just to demonstrate that my “copy and paste” skills are at least as advanced as your own, here’s a handy list of case citations, in which the SCOTUS disagreed with your personal theory that “only those approved by Tommy Monson have the right to marry.”

    Maynard v. Hill, 125 U.S. 190, 205, 211 (1888): Marriage is “the most important relation in life” and “the foundation of the family and society, without which there would be neither civilization nor progress.”

    Meyer v. Nebraska, 262 U.S. 390, 399 (1923): The right “to marry, establish a home and bring up children” is a central part of liberty protected by the Due Process Clause.

    Skinner v. Oklahoma ex rel. Williamson, 316 U.S. 535, 541 (1942): Marriage “one of the basic civil rights of man,” “fundamental to the very existence and survival of the race.”

    Griswold v. Connecticut, 381 U.S. 479, 486 (1965): “We deal with a right of privacy older than the Bill of Rights—older than our political parties, older than our school system. Marriage is a coming together for better or for worse, hopefully enduring, and intimate to the degree of being sacred. It is an association that promotes a way of life, not causes; a harmony in living, not political faiths; a bilateral loyalty, not commercial or social projects. Yet it is an association for as noble a purpose as any involved in our prior decisions.”

    Loving v. Virginia, 388 U.S. 1, 12 (1967): “The freedom to marry has long been recognized as one of the vital personal rights essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men.”

    Boddie v. Connecticut, 401 U.S. 371, 376, 383 (1971): “[M]arriage involves interests of basic importance to our society” and is “a fundamental human relationship.”

    Cleveland Board of Education v. LaFleur, 414 U.S. 632, 639-40 (1974): “This Court has long recognized that freedom of personal choice in matters of marriage and family life is one of the liberties protected by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.”

    Carey v. Population Services International, 431 U.S. 678, 684-85 (1977): “[I]t is clear that among the decisions that an individual may make without unjustified government interference are personal decisions relating to marriage, procreation, contraception, family relationships, and child rearing and education.”

    Zablocki v. Redhail, 434 U.S. 374, 384 (1978): “[T]he right to marry is of fundamental importance for all individuals.”

    Turner v. Safley, 482 U.S. 78, 95 (1987): “[T]he decision to marry is a fundamental right” and an “expression[ ] of emotional support and public commitment.”

    M.L.B. v. S.L.J., 519 U.S. 102, 116 (1996): “Choices about marriage, family life, and the upbringing of children are among associational rights this Court has ranked as ‘of basic importance in our society,’ rights sheltered by the Fourteenth Amendment against the State’s unwarranted usurpation, disregard, or disrespect.”

    • Seth R. permalink

      Thank you Nick. I will look through those and revise my argument appropriately if needed.

  23. Nick, Seth, Tony,

    I’m going to respond in detail later (where “later” could probably be like, “Sometime next week”) to many of the points here, but I will just say…

    Seth,

    while it seems that you have several “prongs” to your argument, it seems that one of the prongs is something like, “gay people don’t really want marriage, and they haven’t historically, so I think it’s more likely that they want to subvert marriage and/or make marriage something different/less than/irrelevant”. And some of your argument seems to be descriptive (e.g., marriage only “works” for straight folks because it takes advantage of the difference in sexes — that is, men are horn-dogs but women moderate them. Gay marriage will distort marriage because there is no moderating force in a relationship between two men (and lesbians are somehow more promiscuous together than any straight woman would be?)

    While I definitely do think that there’s something to be said against homonormativity (e.g., taking the heteronormative ideal of wife, husband, 2.5 kids or whatever and then just exporting it to gay folks) — and you have so strongly latched on to any sentiment by any gay activist or queer theorist you could find to raise the impression that this backlash is something universal or intrinsic to gay sentiment everywhere.

    Anyway, what I was going to say about that is the thing that strikes me is that I think that people should just have the option and choice to pick whichever they want — caveating that as long as it doesn’t pose any problems on individual or social level (and I know that you’re going to have different views on what are problems).

    But what you seem to be doing is foreclosing the option of those gays and lesbians who do want a bourgeois, neoliberal existence rather than anything else. Based on *description* (where you derive your thoughts on the whole based on a snapshot of a part), you make *prescription* — “well, gays are like this, so they can’t really derive anything from marriage. And they don’t really want to, based on these statements made by gay activitists.”

    I mean, this part of one of your comments I find interesting:

    Tony, I’m not questioning your commitment to marriage. And Mormonism has it’s own dynamic of valuing the family that may influence the attitudes of homosexuals with Mormon backgrounds. But whatever the commitment of some gays to this idea of marriage, it’s not really widely shared in the homosexual community.

    Because it points out something (although you don’t really follow this through) — that being that values, rather than being intrinsic or fundamental to an individual (e.g., if you’re gay, then your values are x) are shaped, molded and socialized. That is how you can recognize that Mormonism “may influence the attitudes of homosexuals with Mormon backgrounds.”

    You say, however, that this value isn’t widely shared. (This is a descriptive point, and possibly one based on faulty data, but I’ll have to get through your studies later.)

    My issue would be: prescriptively, would it be better to say, “Lost cause. This is how gays are and they aren’t going to change.” OR to say “clearly, socialization has an impact on what people value. Regardless of what the status quo appears to be [or perhaps because of what the status quo appears to be], I would rather have more people in committed monogamous relationships who value children [even if they have to go through expensive means to have them] than fewer.”

    To bounce off of that last point — do you ever think about how generations of folks socialized to think that they would always be excluded from the neoliberal marriage and monogamy ideal would affect their behaviors, ideals, etc.,? So, when you see “promiscuity,” this represents not a biological or genetic or intrinsic or whatever constant, but rather a result of socialization.

    I’ll expound upon this and some of the other prongs of your argument later on, but this is the main thing I saw and wanted to comment on.

  24. I realize I’m probably pretty late to that game here. But I just stumbled across this blog and there was one comment that really bothered me. I realize also that I may be over-reading this particular statement which is why I;m seeking clarification.
    Seth, one of your biggest arguments against gay marriage seems to be that same sex couples cannot reproduce naturally and that this has a negative impact on the society (I’m still not sure how you make that argument since most experts I’ve read agree that overpopulation not underpopulation is an issue right now). You claim-
    “The simple truth is that gays do not naturally and readily produce children. The only way gays become parents is through rather involved processes like surrogate wombs, adoption, and so forth. All complicated, all expensive. It doesn’t naturally happen without a lot of arrangement of things.”
    I’m sorry but are you trying to argue that because of the effort involved in creating a family, they are somehow less of a family? I can name 3 couples from ONE ward that have adopted children because they are not able to conceive naturally. These couples are temple worthy members of the church who appear to be doing everything “right”. Are their family less real than the one my parents created? Because your argument is coming dangerously close to condemning those who adopted or use some form of technology to create their families.

  25. Erin,

    You’re not late, haha.

    Even though I’m not Seth, I’ll venture that his response will be something like this:

    gay couples cannot reproduce naturally. This in itself isn’t good or bad; it’s just an intrinsic difference. This is not because of some accident to their union (as infertility would be) — this is a basic fact about their union.

    In this sense, a straight couple who can’t have children is a tragedy, because it’s counter to how things would be if everything were working appropriately…but for a gay couples, it’s just a basic fact of biology.

    I don’t know how Seth would respond after that point, so yeah, I’ll stop here. it would probably be that the basic facts about the different relationships give rise for justifications for valuing them differently.

  26. Nick Literski permalink

    Yes, that’s probably what Seth would say (as he already has), but there is nothing to support the idea that “they can’t reproduce naturally” is a justification to deny marriage.

    In fact, marriage has never been conditional on the ability to reproduce. To the contrary, marriage has often been denied specifically because the resulting couple could reproduce, with potentially negative effects (i.e. close relatives inbreeding).

  27. Nick,

    Your example points out something…and I’ll try to channel Seth here — marriage throughout the ages has been about reproduction — and more appropriately, regulating who reproduces with whom. No marriage for close relatives BECAUSE marriage is a regulation an appropriate reproduction, and society deemed that is not appropriate.

    Similarly, for all of the racism in it, the opposition to interracial marriage had similar obsessions of appropriate reproduction.

    With gay marriage, you don’t have it. it’s categorically not the same thing.

    I mean, it comes about from a different philosophy of what marriage is to begin with (one that I think many people, straights leading the way, have adopted) — is it about regulating the raising of the next generation, or primarily about the well-being and security of this generation. Is marriage about the adults or about the children?

    That being said, Seth is doing some MAJOR channeling of natural law arguments (which is how he salvages the “infertile straight couple” example each time it comes up.)

  28. Nick Literski permalink

    I mean, it comes about from a different philosophy of what marriage is to begin with (one that I think many people, straights leading the way, have adopted) — is it about regulating the raising of the next generation, or primarily about the well-being and security of this generation. Is marriage about the adults or about the children?

    I disagree, George. This “natural reproduction” argument wasn’t thrown at gay and lesbian couples until Catholic and LDS leaders conspired to produce and promote Proposition 8. Frank Schubert, the public relations expert they hired to manage the campaign, openly stated afterward that their polling showed a majority wanted to offer marriage equality on the basis of simple fairness. In order to win, they needed to come up with arguments about how allowing same-sex couples to marry legally would cause others to lose something. Suddenly the arguments about supposedly “losing religious freedom” and “marriage is all about the children” were born.

    In short, none of this “stems from” the “marriage is about children” argument. Rather, that argument is used as an excuse, because most rational people are turned off by the sort of rank vitriol that Seth “cut and pasted” above. It’s not about reproduction, it’s about animus, as both state and federal courts are beginning to boldly recognize.

  29. Nick,

    While I agree that the arguments about the loss of religious freedoms were mostly opportunistic for the campaign, I don’t think “marriage is all about the children” shows how anyone loses anything, so I don’t see how your narrative shows that that an excuse.

    I think what you’re getting at (esp. with Frank Schubert) is the argument that children are best raised by a mother and father, so if gay people raise children, then that harms society and the children. That argument would fit in your category of “arguments causing others to lose something”.

    …But that’s a considerably different argument than is being discussed here.

    In other words, regardless of the empirical question about who best raises children, the issue is: one class of relationships has reproduction as a possibility, and the other does not. If you think marriage is a regulation on the class of relationships that have reproduction as a possibility, then you really can’t mesh that with gay couples.

    …but if you don’t think marriage is solely or even primarily about that, then you don’t have the same issue.

  30. Nick Literski permalink

    George, a handful of rogue courts (most recently a Mormon judge in Nevada) have ruled that marriage should be denied to same-sex couples on the basis of their inability to “naturally reproduce” together. The majority of courts have wisely noted that we have never made the possibility of reproduction a requirement for marriage. Reproduction certainly doesn’t depend upon marriage, as unwed parents reproduce daily. Likewise, many opposite-sex couples specifically intend to never have children, yet we don’t restrict their ability to marry.

    As I said, this “natural reproduction” argument is simply an excuse to cover animus. The only way reproduction has figured into legal marriage restrictions has been the attempt to prevent allegedly-undesireable reproduction, i.e eugenics.

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