Amendment 1: When Apathy Is Unethical

As you probably know by now, North Carolina voters went to the polls yesterday and passed a constitutional amendment that made same-sex marriages and even civil unions invalid under the law. Amendment 1, as it is called, is unusually brutal, as it will almost certainly take away the health insurance of many individuals in long-term committed relationships who were covered by their partner’s workplace insurance, and if they have pre-existing conditions, it will be difficult and expensive finding new coverage. Even that however, is less harmful and hurtful than having their home state declare that they are a second-class citizens, which is what this and similar provisions around the country do.

The measure passed overwhelmingly, though few believe that an overwhelming number of North Carolinians are vehemently opposed to same-sex unions. The vote at the polls shows at most that the citizens who are strongly opposed to gay marriage (and probably gays as well) outnumber those, including gays, who care deeply about the availability of legal same-sex unions. To most people, it just isn’t an important  issue. They don’t care. If nobody they know is involved in a same-sex relationship, and if they don’t subscribe to a moral code that condemns homosexuals to Hell, the issue just isn’t worth getting off the couch and missing “Dancing With The Stars.”  Thus only about 35% of potential voters got off their couches to decide whether some fellow citizens should have the right to be coupled for life with someone they loved, no matter what their organs look like. This was considered an impressive turnout by some commentators.

In most elections, the uninformed and the disinterested do us a favor by not voting. These lazy and passive citizens are especially vulnerable to lies and distortions, and because half the voting public is of less than average intelligence and a healthy chunk believes in ghosts, angels, and that the Earth is less than 10,000 years old, their input into the democratic process is an impediment, not a contribution.

In the case of Amendment 1, however, the apathy of the North Carolinians who couldn’t be bothered to vote is wrong, unethical and destructive. This isn’t an issue that requires a lot of study or even intelligence; it only requires the ability to apply the Golden Rule, and a commitment to the principles of liberty articulated in the Declaration of Independence. About 65% of the North Carolina public knew that some of their fellow citizens faced losing crucial human rights, and that was not sufficient motivation to get them to the polls.

How is this any different from a bystander who watches a mugging, a beating or a robbery without lifting a finger?

I don’t think it is.

_________________________________________________

Spark: Patrick, at Popehat

Source:

Graphic: Affordable Housing Institute

Ethics Alarms attempts to give proper attribution and credit to all sources of facts, analysis and other assistance that go into its blog posts. If you are aware of one I missed, or believe your own work was used in any way without proper attribution, please contact me, Jack Marshall, at  jamproethics@verizon.net.

63 Comments

Filed under Character, Citizenship, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics

63 responses to “Amendment 1: When Apathy Is Unethical

  1. Eeyoure

    When is apathy ethical?

    • Just a shot in the dark here….but perhaps when there’s an Ethics Trainwreck, and even though everyone has their opinion, your apathy keeps you from entering the fray.

    • It’s never ethical, but is often ethically neutral. I have complete apathy over the Washington Capitals’ Stanley Cup pursuit. So what?

      • Eeyoure

        Thanks, you reminded me that “ethically neutral” exists. I had blocked out thought of that. My basics course was (I presume, for learning’s sake) simplified to either/or. At least, I don’t ever remember covering “neutral.”

  2. John Robins

    How do you arrive at the conclusion that half of the North Carolina voters are of below average intelligence? Ar you confusing average with median? If you have ten people, nine of whom have an IQ of 100 and the other one who has an IG of 60, the average IQ is 96, so nine people are above the average and only one is below. If you have ten people, one of whom has ten apples and the other who have none, the average is 1 apple, so one person is above average and nine are below. “Median,” on the other hand, is a midpoint, where half of something is one side and the other half is on the other.

    • Right now I’m trying to figure out YOUR intelligence. You will search in vain to find a reference in my post to the average intelligence of North Carolinians. I talked about elections generally in that paragraph, and hence all US voters, though according to one study of the IQ’s in state populations, NC fit right in the middle. The median intelligence in the US is about 104, the average is 98…I wouldn’t want to live on the 6 point difference, and 104 is nothing to write home about. So your example is interesting but irrelevant. About half the public (or more) is no better than average intelligence, and the US literacy rate is considerably less than that. My point stands unbowed.

      • Eeyoure

        Jack, it seems to me that John was addressing what you said here:

        “In most elections, the uninformed and the disinterested do us a favor by not voting. These lazy and passive citizens are especially vulnerable to lies and distortions, and because half the voting public is of less than average intelligence and a healthy chunk believes in ghosts, angels, and that the Earth is less than 10,000 years old, their input into the democratic process is an impediment, not a contribution.”

        I won’t get into the mathematical specifics of John’s challenge to you. But a participation rate of 35% actually seems fairly high, as polls on ballot issues go. I am hedging; maybe I’m wrong about that number. I’m recalling a polling event in Fairfax County, Virginia, sometime in the 1990s; I voted. It wasn’t a trivial issue on the ballot, as I recall; it kills me that I can’t remember what the specific issue was. But the participation rate – in Fairfax F-ing County! no less (where it would be reasonable to expect MUCH better) – was about 14%. I think I was so upset, I wrote a letter to the editor of the local paper about it (maybe I wrote it, but never sent it), expressing disgust at least, if not suggesting that…THAT’s what it was; now I’m starting to recall…perhaps a “quorum law” should exist, whereby an election with less than a certain percentage of electorate participation is invalid, a no-call – no change to anything, as if no one ever voted at all.

        So Jack, do you think the 61-to-39 percent vote against same-sex marriage and civil unions, by 35% of eligible voters, should be thrown out? Do you think it will be thrown out in court, like another version of California’s Prop 8? What participation rate would you say confirms an unspoiled-by-apathy election result? When should popular votes remain the law, and courts and judges butt out? Wouldn’t (or shouldn’t) that magical quorum rate for participation also justify some degree of ineligibility of measures enacted thereby from judicial review?

        If the non-participating, uninformed and disinterested, lazy and passive, yadda-yadda-as-you-describe (impeding the democratic process instead of contributing to it), citizens of North Carolina who did not cast a ballot about Amendment 1 had actually shown up, how much all the more overwhelming do you think the rejection of same-sex marriage and civil unions would have been? Are you alleging that the whole polling action was a fix, a sham, a fraud, a reflection of popular opinion 180 degrees opposite the actual, predominant North Carolinian voting populace’s views? Did the typically apathetic show up to vote overwhelmingly for their pet bigotries, while too many typically active and correctly thinking voters did not?

        Jack, I can’t help speculating that you are in denial about the true state of the public’s views in North Carolina, especially when you say:

        “The measure passed overwhelmingly, though few believe that an overwhelming number of North Carolinians are vehemently opposed to same-sex unions. The vote at the polls shows at most that the citizens who are strongly opposed to gay marriage (and probably gays as well) outnumber those, including gays, who care deeply about the availability of legal same-sex unions. To most people, it just isn’t an important issue. They don’t care.”

        “Elections have consequences,” or so it allegedly has been said. (As an aside: I am shocked – SHOCKED! – that President Obama supports same-sex marriage.) Be patient, Jack; hang in there a few more years. People – or, enough of the voting people – will “evolve,” just like the President. “DWTS” will have its run and go off the air; more speech leaders like Dan Savage will arise, captivate and motivate (and intimidate) enough voters; and enough Bible Belt Baby Boomers will kick the bucket, or be disqualified or otherwise thwarted from voting (or their votes discounted or invalidated in courts) soon enough. And then, all those poor, tortured souls, those dear citizens who have suffered for so long in second-class status, will get their long-missed and overdue “equality,” and things will be just like they ought to be (that is sarcasm). All will get equality, that is, EXCEPT…[DHS will have to issue another report, listing all the domestic groups that pose a threat – like maybe, voters of less than average intelligence].

        • 1. My point is that the section had nothing to do with North Carolina, but with the voting public in general.
          2. Again: my point is that 35% IS high for a typical election, but when someone’s liberty is at stake, it should be everyone’s concern. I just re-read the post. It just wasn’t that obscure.
          3. “Overwhelming”? This isn’t SOUTH Carolina. NC went for Obama in 2008….it has a lot of Democrats and Independants. 75% of Democrats support gay marriage; 57% of independents, according to recent polls. I think if the people who “don’t really care one way or the others” voted, the provision would have lost, or narrowly passed. This was a contest between extremes.

          • Eeyoure

            I didn’t make my point clear: that even if participation rates were sufficient to obliterate every instance of “a contest between extremes,” as you characterize the NC vote on Amendment 1, elections would nevertheless be decided by uninformed, and/or vulnerable (to lies and distortion) voters. It’s just too easy to fool too many of the people too much of the time, at least in these-here Murican parts. I do hope that will change.

            • What’s there to be uninformed about? Citizens are citizens, and deserve the same rights as every other citizen. A 5-ear-old is informed enough to make the call.

              • Eeyoure

                Rights, yes. Privileges, no. A right is for an individual, not a pair or group.

                • Sophistry, E. A pair is two individuals, and two individuals are being denied rights because of their gender.

                  • Eeyoure

                    Back atcha on the sophistry charge: you’re calling things equal that are not.

                    • Deluded then. Two committed human beings in a loving relationship seek the same societal recognition, benefits and respect for their relationship as any others, and are being denied same by archaic prejudices based on 5000-year-old taboos that had utility in the iron age but none whatsoever in 2012. What you regard as unequal is a distinction without a difference, no more substantively different than race or religion. It’s not a tenable or logical position, just a venerable one with the benefit of familiarity. Withholding equal treatment of citizens carries a high burden of justification by an affirmative showing of societal harm, and there is absolutely nothing to show.

                    • Two committed human beings in a loving relationship seek the same societal recognition, benefits and respect for their relationship as any others

                      They do not deserve the same social recognition, benefits, and respect because their unions are different. The different sexual composition necessarily means that the dynamics of the relationship are different. After all, the dynamics for dating is different for men and women. Race is superficial; sex is fundamental.

                      Same-sex couples want to be called “married” because it would somehow give them the same social meaning, social status, and social understanding as married couples. The underlying fallacies are the implicit assumptions that the shared social meaning of marriage that the social recognition and social value, and social status of marriage is independent of the male-female dynamic, and that heterosexual relationships are valued because they are called marriages. But this is far from the case. People observed unique qualities about male-female couples, and marriage is a word used to describe such couplings.

                    • Two committed human beings in a loving relationship seek the same societal recognition, benefits and respect for their relationship as any others, and are being denied same by archaic prejudices based on 5000-year-old taboos that had utility in the iron age but none whatsoever in 2012

                      This argument could apply to a trio of sisters (presumably in a non-sexual relationship) communally raising orphaned children.

                      No doubt we would admire such a course of choices and conduct. And yet, we deny them the same “same societal recognition, benefits and respect for their relationship” as we do for a marriage. They can not even file a joint tax return,due to the Defense of Marriage Act, and they can only claim each other as dependents under limited circumstances. This plainly is not because of hostility towards homosexuals, or due to moral beliefs about sodomy.

                    • It’s not an argument, it’s a fact.

                      Your analogy is invalid—if the US, the states, the tax system and the culture recognized any 3-way union as legitimate, then you might have a point. This is just Rick Santorum’s offensive “Why not a man and a sheep?” slippery slope argument, and it’s desperate and intellectually untenable. Once gender roles were equalized under the law, the arguments for subordinating committed stable couple relationships, the admitted building blocks of civilization, on the basis of gender evaporated for all time. Three way relationships are NOT stable, and the state has a legitimate pragmatic justification for not encouraging them or giving them special status

                    • Michael Ejercito

                      Your analogy is invalid—if the US, the states, the tax system and the culture recognized any 3-way union as legitimate, then you might have a point.

                      Reasonable arguments could be made that certain tax benefits should be reserved to 2-way unions.

                      But how is it justified to reserve the “special status” of marriage to 2-way, but not 3-way, unions?

  3. zoebrain

    I live in Australia. Turning up to vote is compulsory, you get fined if you don’t.

    It’s a fiercely protected civil right not to vote when you get there, but you have to take a ballot sheet, and use it in some way. Tear it up, for example.

    We’ve found that this means few are apathetic about politics. While it doesn’t inspire the religious fervour of, say, cricket, or the partisanship-only-just-short-of-civil-war with backyard signs proclaiming tribal allegiance as you have in the US. everyone takes it seriously. At least as seriously as voting for someone on “dancing with the stars”, where it’s a common topic for social discussion.

    We have preferential voting too. Even if you can’t think of anyone to vote for, you can at least vote against.

    • Eeyoure

      I like that Australian system as you describe it. Got room for one more?

      • A horrible, horrible idea. Let’s MAKE all the fools and idiots vote.

        • Eeyoure

          She just said, they don’t have to cast the ballots. They just have to show up.

          • And you think that’s a GOOD system?

            • Eeyoure

              I’ll hedge on “good,” but I think it’s better than what the U.S. has. Next, I want to look more into how Australians regulate campaigns & financing of them.

              • It’s better to force citizens to go where the government orders them and increase the likelihood that elections will be skewed by the apathetic, uninformed, and dim than to leave voting to the citizens who make it a high enough priority to go to vote on their own initiative. Crikey.

                • Eeyoure

                  Yes, and Crikey indeed: it’s better to be as you obviously describe it disapprovingly, than for citizens to be forced to go where ordered by governments that are established by “differently initiatived” citizens. I want the apathetic, uninformed, and dim to take their share of responsibility for the society that their apathy, ignorance, and dimness make possible (and impossible).

        • zoebrain

          With optional preferential voting, casting a valid ballot is not something an idiot can do successfully.

          In theory, this should be a disaster, because as you say, the hoi palloi will vote, not just the politically committed.

          In fact, it gets the plebs involved in politics. And you know what? The great unwashed seem to do at least as good a job, if not better, than the meritocratic elite (of which I’m part).

          We don’t get 14% of the voting populace, no matter how fanatic, voting away human rights of others, anyway.

  4. Karl Penny

    Jack, I agree with you when you point out that, most of the time, the apathetic and uninformed do us a favor when they stay home on election days. I don’t relish the prospect of having my vote cancelled by someone who has not bothered to inform themselves on the issues involved. But, it can’t work both ways. If someone can’t be bothered with finding out the differences between Candidate A and Candidate B, then equally, they’re not likely to have educated themselves on the reasons to be for, or against, same-sex marriages. Goods are a frequently accompanied by a bad or two, and the NC vote was no different than any other, in that regard.

  5. Michael Ejercito

    Amendment 1, as it is called, is unusually brutal, as it will almost certainly take away the health insurance of many individuals in long-term committed relationships who were covered by their partner’s workplace insurance, and if they have pre-existing conditions, it will be difficult and expensive finding new coverage.

    Any proof of this? As it stands, nothing in the amendment’s plain text forbids health insurance companies from offering coverage to a client’s same-sex partner.

    Even that however, is less harmful and hurtful than having their home state declare that they are a second-class citizens, which is what this and similar provisions around the country do.

    the same way Utah’s provision about polygamy declares Mormons to be second class citizens?

    About 65% of the North Carolina public knew that some of their fellow citizens faced losing crucial human rights, and that was not sufficient motivation to get them to the polls.

    “Marrying” someone of the same sex is not a human right. Not in 1776, not in 1868, not today, not tomorrow, and not for all time.

    • zoebrain

      ““Marrying” someone of a different race is not a human right. Not in 1776, not in 1868, not today, not tomorrow, and not for all time.

      Please show the difference here.

      • Michael Ejercito

        Please show the difference here.

        Interracial marriage was legal at common law, from which the colonies inherited their legal traditions. Same-sex “marriage” was not. Now, the below statement

        ““Marrying” someone who is already married is not a human right. Not in 1776, not in 1868, not today, not tomorrow, and not for all time.

        is true because polygamy was not recognized as a right under common law.

        Thus, the accurate comparison is not between interracial marriage and same-sex “marriage”, but same-sex “marriage” and polygamy.

        • zoebrain

          But NC has just legalised multiple-partner marriages by this legislation..

          Consider: a woman marries another woman in Mass. She then marries a man in NC – as NC doesn’t recognise her marriage.

          Then there’s the question of what sex someone is. Can a human being be neither male nor female, so unable to marry anyone (contrary to the 14th amendment and supreme court rulings on marriage being a human right)?

          Conversely, can they be both male and female, so entitled to marry anyone of either sex (assuming no other impediment)?

    • No, the rights in question are liberty, fairness, the pursuit of happiness, and equal justice under the law.

      • Michael Ejercito

        No, the rights in question are liberty, fairness, the pursuit of happiness, and equal justice under the law.

        You are assuming that the traditional definition of marriage violates that.

        And yet, none of our secular moral authorities ever hinted that. Not Voltaire. Not John Locke. Not Thomas Paine. Not Benjamin Franklin. Not Thomas Jefferson. Not Abraham Lincoln. Not Frederick Douglass. No published material dating from the Protestant Reformation, the Enlightenment, the American Revolution, or the American Civil War ever implied, let alone argued, that the traditional definition of marriage was immoral. Indeed, if it were otherwise, SSM proponents would be citing such things every chance they get.

        • So what? They never considered the question. They were relatively ignorant of homosexuality, just as they were ignorant of the co-equal status of women. You’re really citing 19th and 18th century minds to justify treating an entire class of Americans as second class? Weak, weak, oh so weak. They were wrong. Aristotle was wrong about things’ so was Plato. So was Lincoln. So is everybody, but over time, we learn.

          Unless we are determined to stay ignorant.

          • So what? They never considered the question. They were relatively ignorant of homosexuality, just as they were ignorant of the co-equal status of women. You’re really citing 19th and 18th century minds to justify treating an entire class of Americans as second class? Weak, weak, oh so weak. They were wrong. Aristotle was wrong about things’ so was Plato. So was Lincoln. So is everybody, but over time, we learn.

            What makes them wrong? In the 17th century, the traditional definition of marriage, inherited from English common law, applied to everyone equally. No person, gay or straight, Jew or Christian, white or black, could any more marry someone of the same sex than marry a boat or a rock. It just was not possible by the very nature, definition, and understanding of marriage itself.

            • zoebrain

              Reference for that? Same-sex common law marriages existed in the UK, at least until the Council of Trent.1545.

              A law in the Theodosian Code (C. Th. 9.7.3) was issued in 342 AD by the Christian emperors Constantius II and Constans. This law prohibited same-sex marriage in ancient Rome and ordered that those who were so married were to be executed

              However, English Common Law also includes law from the Danish (pre-Christian) period. Artorious and other Romano-British lost. remember?

              The Church may have forbidden it, but it happened anyway.

          • Eeyoure

            Oh Jack, I do believe they DID consider the question. And answered it. CORRECTLY. Why such determination to stay ignorant of those who were not?

            • “Why such determination to stay ignorant of those who were not?”
              This sentence leaves me completely confused. What are you trying to say?

              • This sentence leaves me completely confused. What are you trying to say?

                He was saying that the moral philosophers, from which we inherit our secular moral traditions, considered the question of whether it is immoral to define marriage as between one man and one woman, and considered the definition to not be immoral.

                • Eeyoure

                  Yes, what Michael said just above.

                • I couldn’t care less about morality. Morality depends on who’s making the rules. It’s unethical.

                  • Eeyoure

                    Whoa! I’ll have to go back to my textbook. I have been learning ethics as practical implementation of morality. And while I agree with you that, at least in the minds of the rule-makers, “morality depends on who’s making the rules,” I most definitely do not agree that all rule-making is moral. I do not relegate “morality,” but rather exalt it, as the high standard for distinguishing right and wrong, where ethics are employed like a written alphabet is employed to represent and express thought. It’s our ethics that rub with our imperfections, whether our ethics enable us to fully attain what our morals obligate us to strive for, or not. The morals stand, and are “the pure” – timeless, unchanging, immune to shifts in thought and practices of ethics.

                    • Your textbook may be wrong. Morality is based on absolutism, and assumes unevolving, unchanging laws of right and wrong that are not susceptible to reason, experience or changed circumstances…it also assumes a perfect arbiter of morality, for which there is no evidence whatsoever. Morality, in theory, doesn’t change, and that is what makes it unethical. Morality held that a husband raping his wife was “moral”—it isn’t. Morality held that divorce was immoral: it isn’t. Morality held that worshiping any God but Jehovah was immoral, or that working ion Sundays, or having sex out of wedlock, or oral sex, or letting whites marry blacks…dumb, dumber, dumbest. Ethical standards evolve with changing conditions, knowledge and experience. Ethics cares about finding out what is really right, not blindly relying on someone else’s authority.

                      The treatment of gays is a “textbook” example of how morality warps progress, common sense and justice if people are stubborn about it.

    • “Any proof of this? As it stands, nothing in the amendment’s plain text forbids health insurance companies from offering coverage to a client’s same-sex partner.”

      Sure, and it’s obvious. The law prohibits legal couple status to any-same sex couple, not just marriage. No insurance company will extend coverage that far, because it would mean any two room mates could get shared coverage, same sex or opposite sex.

  6. Michael Ejercito

    How is this any different from a bystander who watches a mugging, a beating or a robbery without lifting a finger?

    Ah, so defining marriage as between one man and one woman is akin to robbery.

    But Jeff Jacoby makes an important point

    As slavery was wrong — the Vermont court actually cites Dred Scott — so is it wrong to limit marriage to couples of the opposite sex.

    Just one question: Says who?

    If something is morally wrong, it is morally wrong always. That a society may tolerate — or embrace — an indecent practice does not make it less indecent. Chattel slavery was and is an abomination, no matter how many 19th-century Americans (or 20th-century Sudanese) thought otherwise. Suttee — the Hindu custom of cremating a deceased man together with his living widow — was evil, no matter how many Hindus believed it honorable. Apartheid was immoral, no matter how many South Africans approved of it.

    Similarly, if barring men from marrying men is an affront to “our common humanity,” as the Vermont justices write — if it is an ugly “moral anomaly,” as The New Republic says — than it has always been so.

    But where in the long record of human moral instruction do we find anyone saying such a thing?

    All through the centuries of American slavery, there were men and women who cried out against it. There were always voices raised against suttee. Apartheid was condemned the world over.

    And likewise every other wrongful societal practice. Europeans abused Indians in the New World? Bartolome de Las Casas, who sailed with Columbus, spent his last 50 years denouncing “the robbery, evil, and injustice” done by European colonists. Women were denied political rights? In 1777, Abigail Adams begged, “Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of husbands.” From child sacrifice to anti-Semitism, from selling indulgences to selling women, there have always been moral teachers and people of conscience who refused to keep silent.

    But where are the humanitarians and the great souls who said that limiting marriage to a man and a woman is wrong? Did Francis of Assisi plead for same-sex unions? Did the Buddha? Did Sojourner Truth? Did the Prophet Micah, who yearned for justice and kindness, yearn also for male-male and female-female weddings? Did Martin Luther King, who devoted his life to “our common humanity?” Did Raoul Wallenberg, who risked all to thwart evil? Is there anyone — any foe of intolerance, any living saint — who decried even once the laws that kept homosexuals from marrying each other?

    • zoebrain

      Yes. You live amongst them.

      • Michael Ejercito

        Funny how it took millenia for people to figure that out; that it somehow elided the philosophers who lived during the Protestant Reformation, the Enlightenment, the American Revolution, or the American Civil War.

        • Eeyoure

          I am with you on this, Michael. I am convinced that what is going on – the trend toward instituting same-sex marriage, and the maneuvering to make it legally, economically and culturally a “new norm” of “equality” – is a kind of minoritarian hijacking, and a bullying-of-some-who-are-and-will-be-different,-justified-by-past-bullying-of-some-others-who-were-different, and not a reasoned rectification of long-practiced “civil wrongs.”

          • zoebrain

            And how does this argument differ from the one in favour of slavery?
            It too was labelled a “hijacking of the majority’s property rights by a minority”. The Bible said nothing about slavery being wrong, it even gave instructions on how to implement it in accordance with God’s will.

            I agree it is a change. Just like equality for women was a change. Just like abolition was a change. The question is, leaving aside the Theocratic arguments of sub-cults of a faith I don’t adhere to, so have no obligation to recognise, what is right?

            One of the reasons anti-miscegenation laws were dumped is because of their absurdities. A person 1/32 black would be white on one state – so prohibited from marrying a black on “moral grounds” – and black in another – so prohibited from marrying a white on the same “moral grounds.”

            We face the same situation regarding laws against same-marriage today. From Littleton vs Prange:

            “Taking this situation to its logical conclusion, Mrs. Littleton, while in San Antonio, Tex., is a male and has a void marriage; as she travels to Houston, Tex., and enters federal property, she is female and a widow; upon traveling to Kentucky she is female and a widow; but, upon entering Ohio, she is once again male and prohibited from marriage; entering Connecticut, she is again female and may marry; if her travel takes her north to Vermont, she is male and may marry a female; if instead she travels south to New Jersey, she may marry a male.”

            This makes a mockery of such absolutist “moral grounds”. Someone’s sex can differ from state to state, just as their race could.

            • Eeyoure

              Zoe, what is your reference for: “It too was labelled a ‘hijacking of the majority’s property rights by a minority’ ?”

              Never mind. You’re equating the obligation to tolerate certain of all individual persons’ unalterable qualities and inviolable liberties with an obligation to bestow new, exalted privileges to certain relationships – contracts – involving more than one person. No matter what the individuals of the “sexual minorities” think or desire for relationships between and among themselves to be called, the issue is “fair game” for the rest of the society of which they are a part to decide whether to approve or disapprove. Definitions are not fundamental human rights, nor are contracts.

              Approval is not a fundamental human right of whoever happens to claim entitlement to approval. Many in America have equated disapproval of marriage re-definition with relegating appellant minorities to “second-class citizenship.” But that is ridiculous hyperbole – a lie – like quadriplegics suing over not being awarded Olympic gold medals in 100-meter dash events, claiming a “right” to “equality” as “Olympic 100-meter dash athletes,” and claiming that the society’s “failure” to recognize that “right” therefore and thereby “enslaves” them. I’ll concede that the minorities in this marriage issue have a right to feel under-regarded, disrespected, even perhaps “hated” as a result of certain contracts inherent to their personal relationships not being considered equal in status to certain contracts inherent to members of opposite-sex couples. But “enslaved,” no. Not even “oppressed.” “Discriminated ‘against’?” Definitely (when the definition is “against” the desired inclusion). Of course, discrimination on basis of marital definition is not a license to the married to oppress and enslave the non-married.

              I, too, have no obligation to recognize any “pseudo-theocratic arguments of sub-cults of a faith I don’t adhere to.” I don’t have a problem with the state-by-state discrimination (which you obviously mean to allude to as an illustration of absurdity), in the flawed, conveniently twisted “conclusive logic” in Littleton v. Prange as you shared. The real absurdity – the real oppression – would be in the imposition of uniformity on all of those states named (talk about relegation of citizens to second-class status). How good is Australia at preventing judicial tyranny?

              • zoebrain

                You’re equating the obligation to tolerate certain of all individual persons’ unalterable qualities and inviolable liberties with an obligation to bestow new, exalted privileges to certain relationships – contracts – involving more than one person.

                The SCOTUS disagrees with you about marriage being a privilege – it’s a right. So does the ICHR, to which the US is a signatory.

                Now you may believe, as the Church did from about 300-900 CE, that marriage is undesirable, to be discouraged as “mere fornication”. It was only made a lesser sacrament as a damage-limitation exercise around 1000 (after the world didn’t end as expected), and not a full sacrament equal to baptism until the council of Trent in 1542 IIRC. Before 900, the Church forbade pagan and secular rituals such as “marriage” from being conducted on Church property.

                One thing’s for sure though – people should be treated equally. They’re not being, on the basis of unalterable qualities.

                It was the 14th amendment that gave whole swathes of people “new, exalted privileges” they didn’t have before. Not everyone though – women still couldn’t vote. It wasn’t until the mid-70’s that the old doctrine of “coverture”, that the wife was a mere appendage of the husband, a chatel, was overturned completely in every state. The definition of marriage has changed radically, and since 1930, always towards greater equality. I think Ohio in 1930 was the last state to enact an anti-miscegenation law, was it not?

                Have a look at http://skepticlawyer.com.au/2012/05/10/humanising-law/

                You may find it educational.

                • The SCOTUS disagrees with you about marriage being a privilege – it’s a right.

                  It has never held that right to encompass the right to “marry” someone of the same sex. To the contrary, in Baker v. Nelson, the
                  Supreme Court dismissed a claim that the Constitution provides a right to same-sex marriage for lack of a “substantial federal question.” 409 U.S. 810, 93 S. Ct. 37, 34 L.Ed.2d 65 (1972) (Mem).
                  In Baker, the Minnesota Supreme Court had rejected the contention that a State statute limiting marriage to one man and one woman violated federal due process and equal protection principles.
                  The court found no “fundamental right” to same-sex marriage, 191 N.W.2d at 186-87, and concluded
                  that the traditional definition of marriage effects no “invidious discrimination,” and that the definition easily withstood rational-basis review. Id. at 187.
                  Invoking the Supreme Court’s then-mandatory appellate jurisdiction, see 28 U.S.C. § 1257(2) (repealed 1988), a same-sex couple sought review of those rulings. See Jurisdictional Statement,
                  Baker v. Nelson, No. 71-1027, at 3 (questions presented include whether denial of same-sex marriage “deprives appellants of their liberty to marry . . . without due process of
                  law under the Fourteenth Amendment” and “violates their rights under the equal protection clause
                  . . .”).10 Upon review, the Supreme Court dismissed the appeal “for want of a substantial federal
                  question.” 409 U.S. at 810. Such dismissals are decisions on the merits. Hicks v. Miranda , 422 U.S. 332 at 343-344 (1975) The Court further explained the significance of summary dismissals in Mandel v. Bradley , 432 U.S. 173 (1977) (per curiam)

                  Summary affirmances and dismissals for want of a substantial federal
                  question without doubt reject the specific challenges presented in the
                  statement of jurisdiction and do leave undisturbed the judgment
                  appealed from. They do prevent lower courts from coming to opposite
                  conclusions on the precise issues presented and necessarily decided
                  by those actions.

                  id. at 176

                  The statement of jurisdiction in the Baker appeal thus contains the issues that were presented to the Supreme Court. The appellants argued that the denial of a marriage license on the basis of their sex “deprive[d] appellants of their liberty to marry and of their property without due process of law under the Fourteenth Amendment . . .[and] violate[d] their rights under the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment . . . [and] deprive[d] appellants of their right to privacy under the Ninth and Fourteenth Amendments.
                  Appellants’ Jurisdictional Statement at 3, Baker v. Nelson, 409 U.S. 810 (1972)
                  (No. 71-1027) Thus, by dismissing the appeal, the Supreme Court necessarily rejected these arguments that the denial of the marriage license impermissibly denied the appellants their liberty, property, privacy, and equal protection.

                  • zoebrain

                    Baker vs Nelson was essentially overturned by Lawrence though. Not the first time the SCOTUS has changed its mind.

                    • Michael Ejercito

                      Baker vs Nelson was essentially overturned by Lawrence though. Not the first time the SCOTUS has changed its mind.

                      And yet, the law upheld in Lawrence did not touch upon the subject of marriage at all.

                      But the Supreme Court had held in Davis v. Beason,

                      [C]ertainly no legislation can be supposed more wholesome and necessary in the founding of a free, self-governing commonwealth, fit to take rank as one of the coordinate States of the Union, than that which seeks to establish it on the basis of the idea of the family, as consisting in and springing from the union for life of one man and one woman in the holy estate of matrimony; the sure foundation of all that is stable and noble in our civilization; the best guaranty of that reverent morality which is the source of all beneficent progress in social and political improvement.

                      Davis, 133 U.S. at 344-45 (1890), quoting Murphy v. Ramsey, 114 U.S. 15 at 45 (1885)

                      The very same institution that declared marriage to be a right described what this right is. Essentially, Davis dealt with a writ of habeas corpus filed by a person convicted of registering to vote despite being a member of the Mormon Church. The writ had alleged several legal and constitutional objections, including an equal protection challenge. See for Brief for Appellant in Davis v. Beason, O. T. 1889, No. 1261, p. 41. The law at issue, and its application to the appellant, was at least rationally related to the compelling government interest quoted above.

  7. The reason I oppose redefining marriage is because I have not been presented with a good-enough reason to do so.

    Could it be that the prevailing legal definition is at odds with the social understanding? While that could be the case in certain times and places, it was not the case in North Carolina. The people of North Carolina understand marriage to be an opposite-sex union. In over thirty states the people voted to define marriage, and that vote is a clear indicator of the social understanding of marriage.

    Is it immoral to define marriage as between one man and one woman? If something is morally wrong, it is morally wrong always. And yet, our secular moral traditions lends no support to the idea that it is immoral to define marriage as between one man and one woman. No writing or publication dating from the Reformation, Enlightenment, American Revolution, or American Civil War even hints so.

    Does the definition of marriage oppress homosexuals? Is it the only possible reason for such a definition? The very first dictionary I read, the 1981 World Book Dictionary, defines marriage as “the act or fact of living together as husband and wife; relations between husband and wife; married life; wedlock. Perhaps this line of argument would have some force if the word marriage was invented in 1981 by heterosexuals to oppress homosexuals. But this definition clearly predates 1981. John Locke, one of the Enlightenment philosophers, wrote that marriage was “made by a voluntary compact between man and woman.” Locke, Second Treatise of Civil Government § 78 (1690) One hundred seventy-eight years alter, a leading law dictionary was published affirming this definition. John Bouvier, A Law
    Dictionary Adapted to the Constitution and Laws of the United States
    105 (1868) Indeed, the concept of sexual orientation itself did not exist until the late 19th century. See J. Katz, The Invention of Heterosexuality 10 (1995); J.
    D’Emilio & E. Freedman, Intimate Matters: A History of Sexuality in America 121 (2d ed. 1997) (“The modern terms homosexuality and
    heterosexuality do not apply to an era that had not yet articulated these distinctions“), cited in Lawrence v. Texas, 539 U.S. 558 at
    568-569 (2003) Clearly, the purpose of marriage was not to oppress homosexuals, any more than its purpose was to oppress airline pilots. Furthermore, the nomenclature used to describe same-sex unions is distinct from the issue of how to treat people in same-sex unions.

    Is there any difference between same-sex and opposite-sex unions? The answer is yes. There are basic biological differences between men and women. It is because of these differences that we have different words for men and women. In addition, several dating blogs highlighted the different dynamics in human pair bonding between men and women. Therefore, the dynamics of same-sex unions and opposite-sex unions are different. This is sufficient reason to use different names for same-sex unions and opposite-sex unions. Using different names to describe different things is not oppression.

    Can gay couples raise children? To the same extent that pairs of brothers and trios of sisters can raise children. Society has recognized alternate arrangements of raising children. Monasteries in medieval Europe would often raise orphans. No doubt what the monks and nuns did were admirable. Most people at the time were certain the monks and nuns in those monasteries would give all for each other, and for the orphans they raised. And yet, they were not considered the same as married couples. While society admired what they did, they still distinguished them from married couples.

    • Eeyoure

      “Using different names to describe different things is not oppression. ”

      Thank you, Michael. I would only add that it is possible, however, for oppressors to use the same names for different things as a means of exerting their oppression.

  8. Michael, you said “The people of North Carolina understand marriage to be an opposite-sex union.”

    So, why would such understanding people enact a law that says:

    “Marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this State.”

    They went beyond defining marriage into territory of, what I would call in business and a free market society, an Anti-trust issue. They created a monopoly in the “domestic partnership” sector and made Marriage the only game in town.

    By that logic, let me try another tactic. Here’s a law someone can propose:

    “Baseball played with bats and gloves is the only sport that shall be valid or recognized in this State.”

    There goes Basketball as a recognized sport. Football, cricket, soccer….

  9. Eeyoure

    Jack, I am picking up from where you commented in reply to me:

    “Your textbook may be wrong. Morality is based on absolutism, and assumes unevolving, unchanging laws of right and wrong that are not susceptible to reason, experience or changed circumstances…it also assumes a perfect arbiter of morality, for which there is no evidence whatsoever. Morality, in theory, doesn’t change, and that is what makes it unethical…”

    I didn’t see a “Reply” link for clicking after that comment; I could not reply further to your comment at that point. I guess there is an indent limit or something like that, inherent to the “Reply” structure of dialogue in this blog. I hope that’s all it is. If you mean for the discussion to stop there, I can honor that, no problem. But, assuming you did not mean that…

    I won’t be able to review my textbook until later. For now, in reply to you, I can only say: The notion of absolute non-absolutism is troubling to me, as is the notion that some assumptions can be assumed invalid (for example, how to make sure an assumption of non-validity is itself a valid assumption?). From there, dealing with reality gets yet more troubling – for example, the notion that a specific behavior that was ethical yesterday is unethical today, or vice-versa. That tends to play havoc with ethics alarms, at least for me and mine. “Evolution,” I am comfortable with – at least, much moreso than with “non-evolution;” my discomfort there, when it’s there, is about the risk of mistaking “change” for evolution, and with assuming the two are linked. Never mind the value judgment that the change is “good” or “for the better.”

    Sorry to stay so abstract (above), but I do mean to be on topic for this thread. Re-definition of anything ought to be a matter of most grave concern to all whom the definition (and re-definition) impacts. When you say that morality is theoretically unchanging, therefore it is inherently unethical, I am troubled, because I think of morality and ethics as two fundamental “elements” in the “chemistry” of civilization – two elements that are highly active, each in their own ways; are extremely active in combinations with each other, and are most essential and influential to the establishment, integrity – and evolution, and sustainment – of a civilization.
    I am not comfortable with a society struggling with the definition of “marriage” under the presumption that morality and ethics are, or ought to be, or need to be, “divorced.”

  10. I’m in on this late, so I’ll merely say this. The people of North Carolina were given a referendum on whether or not to recognize homosexual relationships as being on par with traditional marriage and family. The issue was heavily debated and, when the vote was tallied, Carolinians heavy favored the rejection of “gay marriage”. In doing so, they followed in the footsteps of 31 other states who have done likewise and none who have voted the other way. That’s a pretty telling score.

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