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05/13/2012

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ThomasL

I am not sure what the statement that there is homosexuality among animals attempts to establish by argument.

On the face, animals are not considered moral agents by any major religion, so it is difficult to establish moral and religious conclusions from their behavior.

Similarly if taken as stated it proves too much. Most animals are not monogamous or engage in any relationship that would be recognizable as marriage, so to look to animal sexual activity as the guideline for human sexual activity would tend to undercut marriage by any definition of that term, including homosexual marriage.

Lastly, many deviations from the norm exist in all species, but that does not necessarily establish them as "natural" qualities of a species. Hyper-aggressiveness also occurs in animals, but I think few religious people would take that as a compelling argument that God had made it natural, and therefore morally permissible, for men to abuse their wives.

The situations do not have to be morally identical for persons; the problem is that the form and content of this particular "natural" argument proves a much one as the other.

John Gilroy

As Posner has pointed out many times in his own books, the disutility that some people experience from the mere knowledge that certain activity of which they disapprove is occurring is not to be removed from the welfare calculation. In other words, mental externalities are considered in welfare economics, though they are ignored entirely in libertarian thinking. However, in line with D. Friedman's anarcho-capatilist model, we have to ask ourselves whether the religious are so opposed to gay sex that they would be willing to "buy off" the utility that gays derive from having sex with their preferred partners. It's my intuition that if the evangelicals had to start writing checks, they'd find themselves adopting a "live and let live" attitude.

Jimbino

Homosexuality is fine. Homosexual marriage is not. Why?

Because up to now, the hetero marrieds have lived lives blessed by public support of their lifestyles, by way of some 1000+ benefits that are gained at the expense of gays and singles.

Now, if gays are allowed to marry, they will join the hetero married couples in living at the expense of singles, making the exploitation of singles that much worse.

Marriage needs to be totally separated from gummint. Let the religious nuts marry, whether straight or gay, and relieve us sensible singles free from the obligation to support their silly lifestyle choices.

Mitchell K.

Posner writes, "It seems that the only remaining basis for opposition to homosexual marriage, or to legal equality between homosexuals and heterosexuals in general, is religious."

Many advocates of same-sex marriage subscribe to that claim, but how does someone reconcile that belief with the reality that many non-religious people oppose same-sex marriage? Japan does not accept homosexual marriage and neither do many other countries where the Abrahamamic religions have very little influence (perhaps Posner was only referring to the United States in the aforementioned quotation). The belief that homosexuality is innate does not seem to decide the issue as decisively as Posner seems to argue.

And why should it? If evidence suggested that pedophilia and polyamory are innate characteristics for a certain segment of the population, how much would that blunt society's revulsion or the concomitant desire to regulate?

Terry Bennett

I really don't care, but here are some things to consider.

I have long advocated Becker's position, that our society has matured to the point that marriage law should be subsumed into contract law - and anybody competent to contract can make whatever bargains they care to under the well-defined contract law regime we already have. The legal aspect of marriage, like laws against selling liquor on Sunday, is a vestigial tail of our country's Christian roots. Judge Posner correctly notes that apart from this conformity the law is of no value.

Marriage has never meant homosexual union. Marriage was designed, all those years ago, for a man and a woman, and then a family. Until recently, sex and childbirth were firmly intertwined. In demanding access to marriage, homosexuals are asking for society to change to suit them. That doesn't mean we shouldn't change - in fact I would say that the conditions are now ripe for our society to consider the utility of this change - but like many people I am put off by the arrogant presumption of the homosexual community that our current thinking is somehow wrong. Rather, they should be suggesting that the time has come for us to reconsider and expand to accommodate their circumstances. Marriage does not mean and has never meant two men or two women having sex, even though that event has been occurring for millenia. Maybe various societies along the way have had names for it, but it simply isn't a marriage. Historically when people have used the word "marriage", it has been used to describe a heterosexual union. What I'm hearing from gays is, "You idiots don't know the correct definition of marriage." I am in no mood to accept such an absurd criticism. I would find it more tolerable if they were instead to say, "We would like you to recognize the social validity of homosexuals' feelings and relationships, by expanding the definition of the word 'marriage' to include us."

The rights of gay adults end where the rights of children begin. I am against gay marriage per se because the law is set up to prefer married couples as foster and adoptive parents. I do not think a same sex couple should be given the same status as a heterosexual couple, because I expect an orphaned child is best served by placement in a home with a mother and a father. On this ground, civil union laws already go too far in pretending that same sex couples are exactly like heterosexual couples.

Obviously, the homosexual impulse is not a choice. It is not something that can be traced back to the conscious mind. However, the decision to engage in homosexual sex is indeed a choice. Christianity holds that such acts are an abomination. Not having any firsthand information, I would conclude from a cursory consideration of the available apparatus that homosexuals engage in oral and anal sex - practices certainly common to plenty of nominally Christian heterosexuals these days.

The fact that the impulse arises prior to the conscious mind does not legitimize it and defeat the Christian position. Suppose a person has an impulse to pedophilia. It is not a choice. Still, we would hope that the person chooses not to act upon that impulse.

Someday, somebody will go looking, and will isolate a physical cause for the manifestation of the homosexual impulse. I'm sure it's something fairly simply chemically, some elevated or depleted level of a protein somewhere. At that point, the interesting question will be whether these people want to be "cured". In the mean time, there's a reason we refer to genitals as "privates". The more we can remember that, the more pleasant socially for me.

Ivan

"Many devout Christians, Jews, and Muslims are strongly opposed to homosexual marriage, and to homosexuality more generally. Why they are is unclear. If as appears homosexuality is innate, and therefore natural (and indeed there is homosexuality among animals), and if homosexuals are not an antisocial segment of the population, why should they be thought to be offending against God’s will?"

You may have heard of the scriptures that these strange religious animals have?

Not to excuse their homophobia or affirm their beliefs—but come on, let's appreciate the simple fact that religious believers believe in their religions. They believe that God has revealed His will to them—and not, or at least not solely, in what we can observe about what is innate, or who is antisocial. Try to rein in the projecting just a bit, eh?

Frank

this is a test...

Leslie Green

A heterosexual marriage is not a marriage between two *heterosexuals*, but a marriage between two people of different sexes. Is it plausible to take the view that two homosexuals should be able legally to marry only if they are homosexuals of different sexes?

http://clp.oxfordjournals.org/content/64/1/1.abstract

Kevin

This article reads like something written by someone utterly out of touch trying to be a little understanding, but really just showing how deeply out of touch they are in the process. I remember many such conversations with my elderly relatives as a child, though mostly about different topics, such as whether blacks should be allowed to vote or whether women should be allowed to be politicians.

What I find most bizarre is Posner's fixation on whether or not homosexuality is genetic. It is as if the state of the homosexual is so pitiful that the only way he can understand it is to realize that it has been thrust on its unfortunate victim by nature, and that it is from this (supposedly sympathetic) point of view that the homosexual needs to be understood.

To the modern enlightened person, the idea that gays and straights should be treated equally in the eyes of the law requires no such bizarre detour through evolutionary theory. After all, let's imagine a world in which sexuality was entirely a matter of choice - to the modern enlightened thinker, this would make not an iota of difference to his view of what the law should look like; but to Posner, it would seem to change things entirely. Posner confuses sympathy with equality, but they are not the same.

J. David Velleman

If children have a right, other things equal, to know and be raised by their biological parents, as is stated in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child; and if one purpose of marriage is to create a stable environment for the raising of children; then society is justified in holding up heterosexual marriage as an ideal. This argument does not justify discrimination with respect to the legal rights and privileges of marriage; nor does it justify preventing homosexual couples from adopting children who need adoptive families (that is, children for whom "other things" aren't "equal"); but it may justify drawing a symbolic difference between homosexual and heterosexual unions.

Personally, I do not oppose same-sex marriage. But I think it's important to point out that opposition is not necessarily based on religion or bias against homosexuality per se.

DC

I favor civil unions for homosexuals because I do not think that religious organizations should be forced to recognize homosexual marriage. I fear a government that forces groups to forsake religious views to conform to a new growing majority view. Indeed the State seems to be creating a secular religion that seeks to remove dissenting views. The State is in effect creating a state sponsored religion that seeks to replace the moral teachings of other religions.

couchloc

"If homosexuality is innate, it becomes difficult to see why it should be thought to require regulation."

I think this line of argumentation is problematic and I've never understood it. The mere fact that something is biologically determined does not mean the state gives up its right to regulate it. Witness that the state decides that blind people and children (e.g.) can't have driver's licenses. It's not a good response to this to say, "my blindness is innate therefore the state can't regulate it." The state regulates all sorts of biologically determined behaviors for legitimate reasons. So, it seems to me, the issue is really whether the state should have the authority to regulate a particular behavior (innate or not). And here the relevant issues are how does this behavior affect others? is the behavior moral? what consequences does this behavior have for the individual? etc. All of this is independent of innateness and makes homosexual marriage an issue of rights/ethics. It seems to me this is where the fight should take place, and not in the biology classroom.

Mark

"Why the powerful antipathy toward homosexuality gave ground so rapidly and, it seemed, effortlessly, in the sense that resistance seemed to melt away rather than having to be overcome by militant action, is something of a puzzle."

This sentence is a something of a head-scratcher. Of course the societal factors mentioned provided an important context, but the modern gay rights movement is often traced back to a literal battle with the police at the Stonewall Inn, and since then thousands of gay men and women have marched, been beaten and arrested, and - in the case of Harvey Milk, and many others - killed.

Power concedes nothing without a demand; it never has, and it never will. If transitions like this one look "effortless", then we're not looking hard enough.

Michael

"We would like you to recognize the social validity of homosexuals' feelings and relationships, by expanding the definition of the word 'marriage' to include us."

Wow, really?

I think herein lies the dillema. See, no human being should have to ask for permission to be accepted. We are all here together, and Id like to think that there is a reason for it. The solution presented to where homosexuals should probably ask permission to be treated like everyone else requires a great deal of arrogance and equally of delusion.
We are not asking to be recognized by religion. We are demanding to be recognized by our nation. A nation that gives us freedom of religion which includes freedom from religious tyranny. Please try to understand this: we are not asking, we are telling. This will happen, it is only a matter of time.

DC

Michael are you asking for freedom from religious tyranny (are you being forced to practice a religion) or are you demanding that the State replace the moral teachings of various faiths with a new secular religion. You are demanding that individuals accept your moral views and seek to use the power of the State to impose those views.
I think civil unions will achieve most, if not all, of the stated goals of the Gay community.

NEH

Welcome to the U.S. - creating and establishing "Rights and Privleges" since December 15, 1791. First we had the "Bill of Rights" and then various and assorted Amendments to the Constitution. First covering the General Public, then various Creeds, Races, Gender, and now Sexual Orientation (in all of it's deviant variations?). Nothing wrong with expanding "Rights and Privleges", although, I do believe, that we're starting to scrape the bottom of the barrel...

Roland

I suppose this sort of perfunctory wikipedia analysis is a good starting point, but the conclusion that there can only be religious (i.e., irrational) reasons for pursuing anti-homosexual political policies belies the very obvious truism that collectives have an array of secular interests in the regulation of innate and sexual behaviors; e.g., there seems to be a consensus that there are legitimate secular reasons for sanctioning pedophilia and consensual, non-reproductive adult incest.

There is also a tacit consensus that there are secular reasons for regulating non-heterosexuals and deviate heterosexuals to the extent that their innate sexual behaviors are accompanied by other inefficient consequences unrelated to the sexual behavior itself. Thus, for example, homosexuality is partially regulated by proxy through the government's strict policy toward the use and distribution of illicit drugs. The private sector also engages in proximate regulation of homosexuality through the insurance industry's policies toward illicit drug use and preexisting sexually-transmitted diseases, both of which have heightened profiles among homosexuals.

One may even suggest abstract-conceptual secular reasons for regulating homosexuality. If it is permissible to engage in speculative evolutionary psychology with respect to the benefits and persistence of homosexuality among humans, then it must also be permissible to engage in speculative psychology with respect to the negative consequences of homosexuality. For example, while homosexuals now have a far greater ability to reproduce or procure offspring, this was not the case for the vast majority of human history. Consequently, it is just as reasonable to assume that homosexual psychology evolved with a shortened time horizon because there was no reason to orient behavior toward goals that superseded the individual homosexual's lifespan. Moreover, if such a psychology did exist among homosexuals, one would expect to see fatalistic and shortened time-horizons punctuated by risky behavior among homosexuals (drug use and anonymous, unprotected sex) as well as increased focus on immediate gratification and expenditures(self-definition in terms of sexual preference, drug-use, risky sex practices) etc. Obviously a state would have an interest in regulating these tertiary effects of homosexuality, if not the actual sex act itself.

Finally, the conclusion that homosexuality is innate cannot be the end of the question of whether homosexuality can or should be regulated. Narcolepsy, for example, is both innate and caused by a pathogen, therefore it is an innate trait that can be prevented or regulated. Greg Cochran, author of the _10,000 Year Explosion_ has actually posited a pathogen theory of homosexuality on his blog(http://westhunt.wordpress.com/2012/02/16/depths-of-madness/) and elsewhere.

Terry Bennett

Michael, you are embodying my point. You are telling, and I am refusing to be told. You are claiming a right to acceptance, and I assert that any conceivable right you may have to acceptance however defined is already being honored, by the government and by me personally.

I expect you are right that gay marriage will become the norm. To the extent that it concerns only you, I don't object to that in the least. As a non Judeo-Christian, I further put no stock in the Bible's proscriptions against you. I do however object to your criticism of society's current and longstanding use of the word 'marriage'. If you want to say it no longer serves us well and needs to be rethought and adjusted, fine, let's have that discussion. (As I said, I'm for stripping all legal significance from the word.) That's not the rhetoric I'm hearing, and I am unmoved by the victim card that the word was designed just to cause you grief.

Igor Faynshteyn

"Republican leaders cautioned their followers not to be distracted by this issue from the problems of the U.S. economy. This was tacit acknowledgment that homosexual marriage, and homosexual rights in general, have no economic significance."

The above statement by Posner is puzzling. The much more likely reasons for the GOP to not focus on this issue, is because it is a political loser, rather than it not being economically significant.

Hank

Ok, Terry Bennett, I'll have a discussion with you...

"The rights of gay adults end where the rights of children begin. I am against gay marriage per se because the law is set up to prefer married couples as foster and adoptive parents. I do not think a same sex couple should be given the same status as a heterosexual couple, because I expect an orphaned child is best served by placement in a home with a mother and a father. On this ground, civil union laws already go too far in pretending that same sex couples are exactly like heterosexual couples."

--I agree, society has a vested interest in protecting children. I am not sure how you get from that to prohibiting gay adoption. 30 years of studying homosexual parenting (yes, gay people have been raising kids for that long) has uniformly shown that children are no worse off with 2 daddies, and in fact statistically turn out marginally better. These children are also no more likely to be gay. So I don't quite see why you "expect" a heterosexual couple to be better, but I assure you it has no factual basis.

"Obviously, the homosexual impulse is not a choice. It is not something that can be traced back to the conscious mind. However, the decision to engage in homosexual sex is indeed a choice. Christianity holds that such acts are an abomination. Not having any firsthand information, I would conclude from a cursory consideration of the available apparatus that homosexuals engage in oral and anal sex - practices certainly common to plenty of nominally Christian heterosexuals these days.

The fact that the impulse arises prior to the conscious mind does not legitimize it and defeat the Christian position. Suppose a person has an impulse to pedophilia. It is not a choice. Still, we would hope that the person chooses not to act upon that impulse."

--Well, aside from the fact that you're telling an entire group of people that they can't or shouldn't build a life with the person they love, and should just make do with a partner they feel no attraction to, I'm not really sure why it matters that anyone engages in these activities. Why shouldn't people have sex in whatever kinky way they want, as long as they're not hurting anyone?

Yes, that's the dividing line: does it hurt anyone? So long as the sex is consensual, there is no problem. Which is exactly why pedophilia and bestiality are idiotic non sequiturs: children and animals cannot give consent, the law does not allow it, so there is no way to have sex with them consensually.

Assuming pedophilia is an innate orientation, we should not allow them to hurt children, but we also shouldn't demonize them. The best way to get them to not hurt children is to work with them, and provide a support system to keep them on the straight and narrow; incarceration should be a last resort.

Telling gay people they do not get to legally partner with the person of their choosing is abrogating their legal rights. The onus is on opponents of same-sex marriage to provide a legal justification for doing so, to provide a sound argument that it impedes the rights of others. Gay people don't have to justify wanting equal rights under the law, nor should anyone.

Rustywheeler

Hank: well said.

I would add the observation that Terry Bennett's entire first post is effectively simple tone-trolling: "I would find it more tolerable if they were instead to say, 'We would like you to recognize the social validity of homosexuals' feelings and relationships, by expanding the definition of the word 'marriage' to include us.'"

In other words, Terry understands full well what is being asked for, and actually approves, but will simply not acquiesce until we ask properly, on bended knee or some such. In other words, until we behave NOT as equals, but as children requesting something from their betters. Say "pretty please."

And something about the predictably offensive comparison to pedophilia suggests to me that it's not really about asking properly.

Jim

Kinsey never claimed that 10% of the population was homosexual. In his 1948 survey of American males, he reported that 37% of his subjects had at least one homosexual experience leading to orgasm, 10% had exclusively homosexual experiences for at least three years between the ages of 16 and 55, and about 4% had exclusively homosexual experiences for their lifetimes. Kinsey did not classify people as innately homosexual or heterosexual; instead he surveyed sexual experiences and recorded their frequency and variety. How nice it would be if some 64 years after Kinsey reported his findings that people could finally figure out what he was talking about.

Homer

You wonder why conservative religious people hate homosexuals. Prior to 1989, fundamentalists hated Communists with a fervor. And then Communism largely ended. The fundamentalists then directed their energy towards stirring up hatred against gays and lesbians. For some reason, fundamentalists always have to have a group to focus their energies on.

Percy

"Why the powerful antipathy toward homosexuality gave ground so rapidly and, it seemed, effortlessly, in the sense that resistance seemed to melt away rather than having to be overcome by militant action, is something of a puzzle."

First, it was far from effortless. How quickly people forget the 1980s, and the stigma of being gay during the first decade of the AIDS pandemic. Fierce acts of public witness and policy agitation at all levels were waged. Oh, and a lot of Americans died; see the link for a visual (deaths are tracked on a quarterly basis; in 1995, roughly the same number of Americans died from AIDS-related complications as died during the entire Vietnam War)

http://hivinsite.ucsf.edu/InSite-KB-ref.jsp?page=kb-01-03&ref=kb-01-03-fg-01&no=1

It was this experience that was the crucible of the marriage equality movement: because, as people found that their relationships lacked any protection or even recognition at law, hospitals and blood kin could deny visitation rights and refuse to honor treatment decisions - worse still, blood kin could get courts even to overturn wills and other supposedly legal arrangements (even here in Boston it happened in the late 1980s). And, of course, there was no recognition of relationship for the all-important necessity of health insurance (when legally single people get sick and lose their jobs, they couldn't get insurance on their own unless they had a personal mint, even then it was a very limited market). Then, when attempts to get domestic partnership benefits were foiled at many levels, activists did a Hail Mary pass to the court systems in Hawaii, Vermont and Massachusetts - because they had nothing else to lose. It's always a dangerous thing to corner a minority into such a corner when that minority will no longer accept being so marginalized.

The advent of gay marriage is the reaping of what was sowed by the kind of stigma and opposition gay people faced.

Percy

Btw, it should be noted that homosexuals can STILL be fired for being gay under a law of a majority of American states, and some states (like Virginia, for example) have not only enacted constitutional bans against gay marriage and civil unions, but have gone so far as to nullify private contracts between gay people that attempt to secure the legal benefits thereof.

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