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07/17/2005

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Ben

"I believe, although there is little evidence yet, that the effects on children raised by gay couples will usually be quite negative, in part because fathers and mothers have distinct but important roles, in part because their family structures will differ so greatly from that of their classmates and other peers."

What about the children of homosexual couples in comparison to children raised by a single parent? A same-sex couple at least has a chance of fulfilling the need for two distinct but important roles. A single parent has no chance.

I would be more interested to see the outcome of two gay parents raising a heterosexual child. I don't doubt the capacity of the parent's love to be blind to such distinctions, but they nevertheless could lead to some awkward and inadequate parent/child dynamics.

Corey

"although the data that demonstrate this is mainly from gay couples without children."

Well now see that is really important, because gay couples who decide to get married are, via that committment, proving their increased suitability for rasing children by your own criteria. (stability, multiple parent)

I was in Boston during the debate on this issue, and was overjoyed to see gay couples lining up at the courthouse. Every discussion I have seen on gay marriage has come down to, "look to the children"

Conservatives are in need of a rational "harm" to point to in order to make their opposition to gay rights look like anything other than a bare desire to discriminate. Children are the easy target, because no one wants to hurt kids, and they are reportedly fragile.

I grew up in Jesus-land, around conservatives who were pretty ignorant about gays. The funny thing was, when it came to alcoholic, chain-smoking, promiscious, straight single-parent neighbors, no one was standing up to say "look to the children". In fact, many of these people would rail against the guv'ment messin' wit their rights whenever child services would show up at someone's door to look into bruises.

Gay couples have a right to raise children to the best of their ability. The fact that the median income for gays is $20,000 higher than for straights in this country might help them in that endeavor. Conservatives who are also opposed to abortion might think of the increased market for adoption as more gay couples found stable homes and want to raise kids.

Perseus

1. Many conservatives oppose same-sex marriage (SSM) because they regard homosexual relationships as intrinsically unnatural (in the natural right/natural law tradition of Aristotle/Aquinas) or sinful. For them, it is one thing for the state to tolerate homosexual behavior (just as it tolerates many other bad behaviors), quite another to put its imprimatur to the practice.


Others argue that SSM would contribute to the further decline of marriage by decoupling sex from procreation and marriage from the family (e.g., Stanley Kurtz), causing the US to look more like "Old Europe."


SSM could also make it easier for gay couples to rear children (thus increasing its incidence), which, despite the studies produced by academics (who are overwhelmingly leftist and pro-SSM), is not in the best interests of children unless one believes that men and women are interchangeable (one wonders how they square this idea with their mantra for gender diversity). And as Becker notes, we know from the Dutch experience that gay couples divorce at a much higher rate than straight couples, which does not bode well for creating stable families for children.


2. Conversely, gay-rights activists insist on "marriage" even if the legal benefits of civil unions are similar because they seek equal recognition ("isothumia" as Fukuyama terms it). It's as much about "dignity" as it is about the actual legal benefits that the marriage contract bestows (only devotees of abstract egalitarianism would find this rationale convincing).


And as Eugene Volokh suggests, SSM might also pave the way for an activist judiciary to extend protection for gays against discrimination in employment, housing, etc. if the theory is that sexual orientation discrimination is a form of sex (or gender) discrimnation.

Briant

"I grew up in Jesus-land, around conservatives who were pretty ignorant about gays. The funny thing was, when it came to alcoholic, chain-smoking, promiscious, straight single-parent neighbors, no one was standing up to say 'look to the children'. In fact, many of these people would rail against the guv'ment messin' wit their rights whenever child services would show up at someone's door to look into bruises."

I don't know where Jesus-land is, but it sounds like a place that has the same problems as every state in the country. Moreover, there was someone standing up to say, "look to the children." Child services, AKA the government (who was acting in behalf of the people through elected representatives), utilized the power given to them through statutes. This is the center of the debate for SSM, and the argument that government should consider the affects that SSM has on children is germane and necessary.

scott cunningham

Many conservatives (like Kurtz) say legalization will have a contagion effect and/or it will harm heterosexual marriage. I don't understand theoretically how legalization will undermine heterosexual marriage, and am hoping commets may address this, but given how small the gay population is to the rest of the population (1-3% according to the NHSLS), and given the lower rates of cohabitation among gay men, I cannot imagine the effect would be large if it did exist at all.

But you could also imagine that legalizing gay marriage could improve heterosexual marriages. If gay men marry women, occasionally, to acquire some portion of the benefits to marriage (or perhaps to conceal their status as gay), then legalization would result in gay men selecting out of the heterosexual marriage pool, resulting in a kind of separating equilibrium. Anecdotally, you sometimes get the sense that the current situation is more like a pooling equilibrium. I have heard countless stories of wives whose husbands come out of the closet fairly far down the road of marriage, causing significant damage to both the wife, as well as the children. Legalization would take many gay men out of the heterosexual marriage market, which would allow heterosexual females to search through a "purer" pool of potential mates (ie, ones who are of a single sexual orientation type).

Also, I wonder if there might be epidemiological benefits for legalizing gay marriage - or at the least, allowing the contract approach Posner and Becker argue for. Legalizing gay marriage would, I'm guessing, decrease the number of sexual partners either partner was having - if only because of the divorce threat point, in the event of sexual unfaithfulness, and how divorce imposes financial costs on the offending party. Approximately three-quarters of all AIDS-infected white gay males were infected through male-to-male intercourse, and if gay marriage did lower both the average number of sexual partners, as well as the variance in the distribution of partners, it could alter the spread of AIDS, not only throughout the gay population, but possibly even throughout heterosexual populations (given, that is, a certain amount of sexual connectedness between the two populations).

Corey

"the argument that government should consider the affects that SSM has on children is germane and necessary."

Perhaps, but this is a blog full of libertarians and de-regulationists who would normally be on the other side of the question "should the government consider/legislate ______." It is interesting to see where such people actually argue FOR intervention.

"It's as much about "dignity" as it is about the actual legal benefits that the marriage contract bestows"

yes, Its about both at the same time.

"(only devotees of abstract egalitarianism would find this rationale convincing)."

Well, and also perhaps people who have read Brown v. Board of Education, or who are old enough to remember segregation and the curse of "separate but equal." Anyway, you might be suprised how many "devotees of abstract egalitarianism" there are among the American people. It is common for neo-liberals to distill the "American dream" mythology down to just Horatio Alger and the Magic Meritocracy, but that leaves out a great of the flavor.

michael persoon

Becker's opening paragraph solves the issue for me. People are willing to accept that gays and straights can both live in unions with another person--one is marriage and one is a civil union.


My only question is what is the state's interest in or power to create a distinction between a civil union and a "marriage?" Is marriage a non-civil union? It seems clear to me that the salient difference is that "marriage" has relgiogious/spiritual content distinct from "civil union." If that is the case, then the government can have no interest in the distinction and everything should legally be a "civil union" while "marriage" remains a sacrament.

Corey

"If that is the case, then the government can have no interest in the distinction and everything should legally be a "civil union" while "marriage" remains a sacrament."

Except that practically, "civil union" is an abstract concept that has been proposed while "marriage" is a predefined subset of rights, privileges, and obligations. I say everything should be a marriage, with churches left free to add sacramental norms to the concept for their own members if they wish.

The simplest and most administrable option is also the egalitarian one, allow gay couples equal access to marriage licenses and all that comes with it. American history is full of examples of why creating separate legal categories leads to injustice. (see Birmingham and the segregated south) Civil Unions would be AT BEST exactly the same as Marriage from a legal standpoint, but even then would waste money in the administrative overhead of enacting and maintaining a parallel set of laws.

And for what? So traditionalists can define words for us? Tradition is not an end in itself. It is only valuable if it is still relevant to today's situation and understanding.

Churches are left to define the "sacrament" of marriage however they want. The church I used to attend in central Boston was over 200 years old,
had been attended by some of our founding fathers (Sam Adams for one), but had evolved to include gays in all aspects of religious life, including gay marriage ceremonies in the church.

Some traditionalists may find that discouraging, to them I would say, "Praise Jesus, as you do unto the least of these my brothers, you do unto God."

Dennis J. Tuchler

Assuming, as has been asserted, that gay unions tend to dissolve more frequently than do marriages, it might be interesting to see if that statistic applies to all informal unions of that sort -- homosexual and heterosexual. I suspect that there is a kind of cultural "magic" in the ceremony of marriage that produces a new status of special worth in the community, which adds reason not to break up in case of serious tensions in the union.

If I am right about the magic, then I can see why homosexuals find it important that they have access to this culturally important and potent event.

sam

"I believe, although there is little evidence yet, that the effects on children raised by gay couples will usually be quite negative, in part because fathers and mothers have distinct but important roles, in part because their family structures will differ so greatly from that of their classmates and other peers."

Re-iteration: as this analysis applies to adoption, Becker seems to assume that we live in a better world than this one. The germane questions is: What is the difference for a child between being raised by a gay couple and growing up in, for instance, a foster home, or with an abusive parent, etc.?

"Another reason is that gay couples tend to have much less stable relations than heterosexual couples, although the data that demonstrate this is mainly from gay couples without children. To the extent the greater turnover extends to gay couples with children, which I believe it will, then greater turnover adds a further complication and difficulty for the children raised by gay couples."

This is . . . pure speculation. At present, to my knowledge, we have NO reliable data on the seperation rate of gay couples that are either in civil unions or are married AND have a child or children. (If this data exists, please provide it.) I would SPECULATE that the combination of a formally sanctioned relationship (such as marriage or civil union) and a child or children would tend to strengthen that relationship.

Even if the seperation rate is higher for gay couples, where does that get us? Can adoption policy be shaped on such a generalization as "gay couples are, say, 25% more likely to seperate than heterosexual couples"?

Corey

"I believe, although there is little evidence yet, that the effects on children raised by gay couples will usually be quite negative, . . ., in part because their family structures will differ so greatly from that of their classmates and other peers."

This exact argument was used to defend bans on interracial marriage prior to Loving v. Virginia.
It was supposed that mixed-race children would be disadvantaged because of discrimination. Even if that were true, it is an argument for fighting discrimination, not an argument against inter-racial (or gay) marriage.

Modern social and educational systems are accustomed to dealing with the different cultural, economic, and social backgrounds of children. In fact, much competent educational research has been dedicated to proving how diversity in the classroom benefits ALL students.

Ian

People should beware of assuming that their idea of marriage is the 'traditional' one when it is really only the currently conventional one.

The ideas that marriage applies only to men marrying women, and that love is more important than contract are historically relatively recent. Many forms of marriage were accepted before this convention was violenty enforced by Christians.

For an inormed historical perspective on the history of marriage, one that might shake the religious right out of the belief that they have copyright on the concept and use of the term 'marriage', take a look at Alan Bray's 'The Friend'. It was brilliantly reviewed in London Review of Books. The review can be seen here:

http://www.lrb.co.uk/v27/n11/davi02_.html

Ian

Perseus

1. The analogy between bans on inter-racial marriage and SSM is utterly inapt. Mixed-raced couples, unlike same-sex couples, are fully capable of fulfilling the teleological ends of marriage. Also, we create all sorts of legal categories that allow people to collect goodies from the state (e.g., the disabled, the old, the poor, farmers, etc.) as well as categories that prevent people from exercising certain rights (e.g., convicted felons in many states lose the right to vote).

2. The idea that "love is more important than contract" is indeed "historically relatively recent." But most supporters of SSM invoke a groundless right to love whom they please as the basis for demanding the right to marry. But the state's interest in creating the legal institution of marriage is not to facilitate love between couples. Rather, it is to channel erotic desire in such a manner as to produce stable family structures. True lovers don't need the law (convention). As any reader of Romeo & Juliet is aware, law (convention) has a habit of getting in the way of love.

SallyOligne

It is rather loose talk to equate segregation, which was a descendant of slavery, with social discrimination that gays may face. Blacks could not own property, marry into families who owned property, vote, participate in politics, serve in government, serve on juries, form contracts, or gain employment in any professional fields requiring higher education or professional licenses. They were consigned to poverty as a social caste. Being totally blocked off from the political system, the free market, and access to education is not equivalent to the mild social discomfort gays confront. I don't think not being invited to a party because someone finds out that you like it in the rear truly compares to being lynched because you decided to start up your own business or run for city council. And the continual attempt to cement the false comparison is quite absurd and offensive to a great many black persons alive to experience segregation. The loose talk really must end.

Jane Thornburgh

Why do gay marriage opponents completely dismiss or trivialize the argument that marriage is an important fundamental institution that a democratic society has a right to preserve in its present form through legislative acts? It matters. It matters a lot. And most people like it the way it is. Do you really believe that marriage is not important or that it serves no purpose or that it has no meaning? If not, then you agree it is important.

If it's an important interest, I don't see why the State can't protect it. The State can protect oranges from rotting: aren't a couple thousand rotting oranges less important than a couple thousand marriages?

It seems the burden should be on gay activists to explain why other people should change how they feel about an important societal institution just to realize the gay agenda. Why should everyone else have to change just to accomodate gay activists?

Corey

"I don't think not being invited to a party because someone finds out that you like it in the rear truly compares to being lynched"

OK, how about beaten, tied to a fencepost and left to die in the cold winter of Montana. (Matthew Shepard, killed for being gay in 1998)

How about being beaten with an ax handle, having your throat cut, and your body set on fire. (Billy Jack Gaither, killed for being gay in 1999)

What about Brandon Teena, subject of the film "Boys Don't Cry", who was beaten, raped, and ultimately murdered in 1993 after the local newspaper reported she was transgendered.

"The loose talk really must end."

No, the hate crimes and discrimination must end. No one is trying to trivialize the struggle of African Americans, but they do not have a monopoly on being abused and discriminated against in America, as the above examples show.

If Becker and comment writers here are going to use arguments from the bad side of the inter-racial marriage debate, they are open to having that pointed out.

Corey

"It seems the burden should be on gay activists to explain why other people should change how they feel about an important societal institution just to realize the gay agenda."

No, when you are talking about discriminatory laws, or exceptions to legal protections based on status, the group that wants to discriminate has to prove the need for it.

Its similar to "innocent until proven guilty". Freedom and equality are better preserved if we err on the side of NOT discriminating.

"Why should everyone else have to change just to accomodate gay activists?"

Why did everyone have to change in order to accomodate blacks who wanted to marry whites?
Well, because their opposition to it was debunked, and shown to rest on a bare desire to discriminate, and nothing legitimate.

But what change are you referring to? What possible effect on your marriage can arise from Jill and Liz getting married in Boston? "Well, we've gotta separate, because now that them gays is getting married, I just don't know what our relationship means anymore"

All of you who are so on about the changing of the definition of marriage... Did you get this upset when they added the phrase "Bling Bling" or "Hoochie" to the Oxford English Dictionary? I mean, what more important societal institution is there than the Language! How dare they change it!

Milk for Free

It is clear from Becker's and others' comments that not all parties here accept the immutability of homosexual attraction. The argument that allowing same-sex marriage would harm children by depriving them of a two sex-role household overlooks that self-aware homosexuals, the people whose children society seems to be concerned with, have no interest in entering heterosexual relationships for childbearing or any other purposes. Children are not distributed by stork to state-sanctioned married households and, as such, gay marriage will not suddenly open the gates to gay couplesí having children. Gay couples and gay single parents have been having children out of wedlock since the invention of artificial insemination.

Restricting marriage to heterosexuals is not preventing any significant number of children from being raised in gay instead of straight households. What it is doing is keeping the children of gay parents subject to conflict over custody and hospital visitation rights, insurance and death benefits, and inheritance, instead of a household existing under the same customs and presumptions straight married couples enjoy.

Oh, and I will take seriously the argument that gay marriage can be contractually simulated, when such contractual simulation can be done for less than a thousand dollars, in less than an hour, in a civil setting, and when the federal government recognizes such a contract for tax and entitlement purposes.

nate


What do you think of the stuff like the "No Video Games For Kids" activity in the state of Illinois?

http://yro.slashdot.org/yro/04/12/16/1545227.shtml?tid=17&tid=10

Mac

The most salient feature about this entire dialogue going on nationally is that it, in large part, seems to be motivated primarily by emotion, ie, in this situation, by fear, indignation and resentment. As with any political issue so charged it obscures what logically presents itself as the best solution.

Gays feel that they are being discriminated against (thus feeling resentment and indignation), and opponents of SSM are basing their opposition primarily off of the fear of the harms they feel would inevitably surface with the acceptance of gay marriage. These are natural human emotions, but unfortunately, they are presenting themselves as impediments to a rational dialogue on the issue.

Were the state to remove itself from the marriage business altogether, many supporters of SSM would still be unsatisified. In so doing, the state would isolate itself from the opponents of SSM.

And when futher considering the concept of the 'protection' of marriage, it would be best to confront the specter of divorce. With the divorce rate claiming half of the heterosexual couples in America, it has a far more damaging effect to marriage then two men or women wishing to marry.

In so saying, the state should indeed remove themselves from the marriage business altogether, and leave that term for churches and individuals to work out, entitling gay and straight couples alike to identical property rights.

Politically, that's probably not going to happen on a national level. The blue states are far more likely to see it before the red states. However, even in many of them, it is still a distant prospect that we probably will not witness until, sad to say, the majority of the baby boom generation has passed on, and those individuals who were born in the late 1970s and early 1980s are firmly ensconced in middle age.

Those young adults that are now coming into their own are far more receptive to the concept of equal rights for gay couples, and their generation is characterized by an overall higher degree of tolerance for gays. There will be opponents, yes, but nothing near the level we see today. And that imagined 'emotional' damage caused to opponents will reach nowhere near the level it does today, that it will in the future.

TRC

To All Bloggers:

In a very odd sense, gay marriage is already permissible: A gay man and a lesbian can marry in any of the 50 states. (I know, I know: This seems odd and improbable - but read on.)

My chief concern about gay marriage is not GAY marriage per se; my chief concern is SAME SEX marriage. Gay marriage will never be legalized, because, as practical matter, the cost of verifying that two adults are gay is extremely high. Compared to gay marriage, same-sex marriage has been legalized - and could be legalized in other states - in part because there is no verification cost. (Obviously, if opposite-sex heterosexual marriage and same-sex heterosexual marriage are permissible, the only cost is verifying that the two individuals are consenting adults.)

In this context, my chief concern - and one that I believe has not been expressed in this blog (there are close to 60 entries on the subject!) - is that if same-sex marriage were legalized, over time SAME-SEX HETEROSEXUAL couples who were primarily interested in securing the benefits of marriage, would begin to avail themselves of those benefits by marrying. As a practical matter, it would be impossible for the law to discriminate between same-sex heterosexual couples and same-sex gay couples. Consequently, the definition of marriage would be expanded to include not only gay adult couples but also same-sex heterosexual couples.

Pragmatists might say, ?So what if this happened?? Or, ?This might even good thing.? I wonder, however, whether broadening the definition of marriage would increase marriage rates or decrease marriage rates. (Marriage may attain some of its status because of its exclusiveness; some people don?t want to join a club that everyone can belong to.) Furthermore, if broadening the definition of marriage rates decreased marriage rates, this could have adverse effects on children, who, if the experiment in Scandinavia is any indication, would probably not benefit from such an expansion. See, e.g., Kurtz?s article in the Weekly Standard:

http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/003/660zypwj.asp

Not Corey

"No one is trying to trivialize the struggle of African Americans, but they do not have a monopoly on being abused and discriminated against in America, as the above examples show."

Did you actually compare slavery to three assaults? Corey, that's like comparing the Holocaust to stealing a cookie from the cookie jar.

Jane Thornburgh

"Why did everyone have to change in order to accomodate blacks who wanted to marry whites?
Well, because their opposition to it was debunked, and shown to rest on a bare desire to discriminate, and nothing legitimate."

No, it is because slavery was outlawed by the 13th Amendment, the 14th Amendment gave blacks citizenship, and the 15th Amendment gave them the right to vote. This was after a bloody war.

There has been no such historical record of tumultuous change involving gay people. Your inability to see the difference, perhaps, is due to your ignorance of history, or hatred of the text of the Constitution.

I also find odd that you and people like you, Corey, always retort with comments that suggest you hate black people. If you respect black people so much, why do you always bring them up as rhetorical strawmen in your arguments as objects of contempt? Why do you trivialize their history? And why do you suggest that interracial marriage is repugnant or nasty in the way that most people view sodomy? There are plenty of interracial couples that view sodomy as morally repugnant, as a behavior. Much of the dislike of gays comes not from the denial of their common humanity -- as was done with blacks, who were considered property -- but from the fact that gay men put their pee-pees in the assholes of other men and then they suck each other off. I don't see how that act is worthy of constitutional protection. By contrast, I do see why blacks should be considered citizens instead of equivalent to rocks on my land. Please explain again how treating black people like human beings is as wortwhile as awarding gay people the Bronze Star for putting hamsters in each others' butts.

Corey

"Did you actually compare slavery to three assaults? Corey, that's like comparing the Holocaust to stealing a cookie from the cookie jar."

You know full well that I didn't just compare slavery to three assaults. Someone posted, "stop whining over minor inconveniences you gays" to which I cited three of the many examples of the extreme recent consequences of being gay in America. I also have separately pointed out the similarities in arguments against civil rights for both gays and african-americans.

What's the matter, aren't there enough good people to go around? If I come across a gay man being beaten to death, should I say, "well, I would love to help him, but I am late for an appointment at the Southern Poverty Law Center".
I think it is downright ugly when two worthy causes start competing over who was most victimized.

We're talking about gay rights today, and I'm trying to help by pointing out that discrimination is the same evil no matter who it falls on. A hate crime is a hate crime. What still needs to be done with regard to slavery or the holocaust is an issue for another day.

Jack Talbot

"It seems the burden should be on gay activists to explain why other people should change how they feel about an important societal institution just to realize the gay agenda."

"No, when you are talking about discriminatory laws, or exceptions to legal protections based on status, the group that wants to discriminate has to prove the need for it."

Not really. Since gays get rational-basis, the burden is on gays. You are a warped barrel brimming with falsehoods.

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