In many ways, I love this post. I love it because it is passionate and serious, and from the heart, and because I am certain that it reflects what many Americans, especially those of a certain age, feel with frustration and a little fear and anger. I also agree with much of what it concerns, the lack of respect for accumulated wisdom in many aspects of the culture, and the rush to discard old standards not because they have failed us, but just because they are old. The comment comes from a regular commentator, Eeyoure (not his real name, you’ll be relieved to learn, and yes, we both know how to spell the A.A. Milne character he honors) who is educated, decent, smart and articulate.
But regarding his lament’s applicability to the controversy at issue, gay marriage, he is absolutely, utterly, tragically wrong. The conventional wisdom is that we should just try to ignore Americans who feel similarly to Eeyoure, because demographics are relentlessly removing them from the scene. As the politically active public becomes younger, the support for equal rights for gays, trangendered and bi-sexual citizens will grow into an overwhelming majority. I think that’s a lazy and obnoxious way to win an argument, even when you are right. Smart but misguided people, like Eeyoure in this matter, should be able to evolve, learn, and realize when what they once thought was right, isn’t. Realizing that one aspect of entrenched belief was, upon knowledge and reflection, wrong does not mean the whole foundation of civilized society has to crumble—this is the classic, irrational, self-defeating fallacy of conservatism. Change in the presence of enlightenment and experience is the essence of ethics, which constantly evolves. We should be able to explain what is wrong with this post so that even the poster agrees.
Here is Eeyoure’s Comment of the Day, on the post (and comment thread t0) Ethics Hero: David Blankenhorn, Former Same-Sex Marriage Opponent:
“Blankenhorn’s “conversion” is just more evidence that we are living in an era in which emotion rules; therefore rules must be made with the aim of satisfying emotions.
“In the U.S., our faith is now predominantly in our feelings, and almost to the exclusion of faith in anything else, for better or worse. The fundamentals of this religion of feeling might be represented and reflected thoroughly enough in the following individualized ostensible plea for kindness, mercy and justice:
PLEASE!! Everybody, just love me. Everybody, just let me love and be loved. Let me love the object that I feel love for, in all the ways that I feel are loving toward that object. And please, everybody, I beg of you, please, love yourselves. Love yourselves as much as I love myself, if you can. Help me with your love to love myself increasingly, and thereby love yourselves increasingly. And, love as closely as you can, more and more as well as you can, the object of my love at least as much as you love yourselves.
“All that’s missing from our American pseudo-theocracy is a Ministry of Love. But, that is coming together too, though cobbled now from the ruins of the old, rejected faiths.(I puzzle and humor myself with the rest of my own comment. I can read it, and say in all honesty, simultaneously, “I am being serious,” and “I am being tongue-in-cheek.” I’m going to blame that on a Star Trek Effect this time – some inspiration from Mr. Spock – from a scene in the newest movie where he says something about expressing multiple attitudes at the same time…must see the movie again, and laugh again.)
“Today’s is an era of feeling over reason – but, the “reasoning” goes, our reasoning of today is so in-tune with our feelings, it is thus none other than superior reasoning by superior people with superior ideas. Previously existent people were inferior – shackled by inferior ideas, out of touch with their feelings. Equality was viewed through dirty lenses that failed to see many inequalities. The old, inferior lenses of the inferior people were dirtied by millennia of repressed and suppressed feelings – and in many cases, further dirtied by millennia of unsuppressed and unrepressed feelings.
“Inferior people, their inferior feelings, their inferior old lenses, and the resultant inferior outcomes (especially, the injustices that many of today’s superior people continue to suffer) survive today. This is a cause of great frustration of today’s superior people.
“But, the feelings of the superior people of today are cleansingly corrective. Superior people inevitably produce and distribute superior lenses and create superior results.
“Check yourself here, to verify whether or not you are one of today’s superior people; if you agree with what follows, you are superior: What you feel, you have a right to feel. You even have the right to feel that what you feel is right, no matter what anyone else feels about what you feel. Moreover: If you are truly in touch with your feelings, then you also feel – but also, know – that you deserve the right to do as you feel is right. And, you feel (and know) that no one else has the right to keep you from doing as you feel is right, no matter what or how anyone else feels. This is the “If it feels good, do it” approach to life – with the all-important “It’s my right to do it” justification.
“As history clearly shows, however, many people, who felt good about what they did, have had their doings, and their rights, and even their feelings disrespected, hindered and punished by repressed, repressive, inferior people using inferior, dirty lenses. Relationships among the inferior people of old were inferior, not just because the people of old were inferior, but also because they used inferior lenses. Relationships existed, but feelings were easily overlooked, which led to much inequality between persons in relationships. The much inequality – the many inequalities – naturally led to all manner of injustice and oppression.
“In contrast, the superior people of today have relationships that are superior to the relationships that the inferior people of old had. Today’s relationships are superior, not only because many people of today are superior, but also because today’s superior people use new, superior lenses which help guarantee that today’s relationships are not so marred by inequality. The inferior people of old, with their old, inferior lenses, obviously failed to feel sufficiently about what too many fellow people long felt was right, and equal. But today’s superior people, using the new, superior lenses, are feeling what is right and equal, unlike the inferior people who were ever incapable of feeling. New rights and new equalities are thus inevitable; we stand at the threshold of rights and equalities, the likes of which the world has never seen (or felt, or done).
“The new lenses – which of course will require new laws and new enforcement to compel everyone to wear them (or at least, to act as if they are being worn) – will make it impossible to overlook a bunch of previously overlooked inequalities. So, call present times a Cognitive Dissonance Cleansing. Or maybe, a Renaissance of Equality. Or maybe, a Revolution of Rights. Doesn’t it all feel so exciting? Ready to claim and act out your rights? Don’t fail to feel! Don’t miss your equality! DO IT! It’s your right.
“So much of what was heretofore deemed and accepted as unequal, will be equal – must be equal – will be made equal. Failure to change, failure to accept the changes, just won’t feel right (if you are one of the superior people, that is) – must not feel right – will be made to feel wrong. Therefore naturally, inevitably, the new lenses also eventually will be found inadequate for seeing new inequalities – many of which will inevitably result from the enforcement of the new equalities. Thus, the “If it feels good, do it” approach, superior though it is, will remain continually embattled and besieged in perpetuity by forces of “Only if it feels good to us, may you do it.”
“Thus shall the stage be set for yet another, future era, inhabited by people even more superior to today’s superior people – to feel even more, correct even more, and enable and liberate and secure even more feelings and rights and equalities and doings than people ever imagined or felt or had or did in any previous time.”
52 thoughts on “Comment of the Day: “Ethics Hero: David Blankenhorn, Former Same-Sex Marriage Opponent””
I am not entirely sure where Eeyoure is wrong or unethical. I would change ‘feelings’ for the more acceptable current nomenclature of ‘compassion’ or ‘tolerance’. Compassion governs everything, from governmental policy to personal relationships to the workforce.
Nothing wrong with compassion, as long as it doesn’t excuse or encourage harmful behavior. Tolerance as well—the intolerable should never be tolerated. But the presumed enmity of an entirely theoretical Supreme Being is not a basis for either intolerance, lack of compassion, or disparate traetment under the law.
“Compassion” is loaded, as it suggests that being gay is something to pity. It only is if we conspire to make it so.
Good work, Eeyoure. I think even a writer of Jonathan Swift’s caliber would be impressed.
Jack, I’m just not all that thrilled about gay marriage. Civil unions to allow for equal benefits, etc., I’m okay with. And if I’m wrong or a luddite or both, I’m okay with it. I guess maybe it’s attributable to growing up in what I guess was the stonewall era and for most of my life having been an inferior, boring, unenlightened, bourgeoise, Philistine breeder who wasn’t happy-go-lucky and “gay.” My head still spins when I now see earnest, responsible homosexuals who want to be breeders and monogamous and raise kids and sue eachother for divorce, just like us morons. I guess I’m just not that nimble. I guess that trendy, horrible, passive aggresive response “my bad” applies.
If person A has a motorcycle and person B has a bicycle.
Then you told person B “you can’t have a motorcycle, but I don’t mind if you change the pedals out for an internal combustion engine. You can also get a large padded leather seat, you can also switch out those tires for larger more stable tires, also while you at it you’ll need a more motorcycle-like frame to support it all, and then you’ll need a sophisticated shiftin system. Round it all out with a gas tank and twisting handle throttle. But it’s still just a bicycle, you can’t have a motorcycle.”
When you say “they can have civil unions with the same privileges of marriage” you’ve created a distinction with no difference.
No. Because people will point to those with the bicycle, and say, “Wait, why doesn’t he get a motorcycle?” and the answer is, ” Well, because he’s not the same kind of citizen…you know. The good citizens, the nice people, they can have motorcycles. Something’s wrong with him. If there wasn’t, he’s deserve what everyone else, even that slimeball down the street, gets.”
That’s a difference.
Yes. All very neat and tidy and logical, almost algebraic. I’m just not sure this aspect of humanity is all that easily reducible. What if everybody’s wrong?
I guess all I can even expect is something along the lines of “Your objection is duly noted, counselor. Opposing counsel, you may proceed.” But I won’t hold my breath.
“What if everybody’s wrong?” Meaning what? That despite all evidence to the contrary, all the amazing, brilliant, responsible people throughout history who have been gay, despite the fact that there is no reason to believe that gays are any less law-abiding, kind, respectful or honorable than anyone else, they really are devil-spawn, lurking to corrupt our society and children? “What if they sprout wings and fly to Neptune?”
Just for one example, a very good lesbian friend’s partner has had a daughter by artificial insemination. The daughter has to deal with introducing her friends to both of her mothers. The daughter has play dates with the other kids born of their shared sperm-donor father. And maybe this will all be fine for the daughter and maybe there are numerous studies confirming that everything will not only be fine, she’ll be even better than she would be in a more conventional family.
I suppose the answer is, “the kid’s problems are too speculative.” Or maybe, “Too bad for the kid. She has to just man up. Her mother wants to be fulfilled. That kid should just shut up and be happy she’s alive and has two parents. Lots of kids don’t have any.”
I have crossed over to not opposing gay marriage based on the fact that two same sex individuals who maintain a household do live with economic and regulatory inequalities. I think it right to correct this. Socially am I not as concerned if the relationship is stigmatized. I not convinced the gay family unit isn’t bad for society. You state “That despite all evidence to the contrary, all the amazing, brilliant, responsible people throughout history who have been gay, despite the fact that there is no reason to believe that gays are any less law-abiding, kind, respectful or honorable than anyone else, they really are devil-spawn, lurking to corrupt our society and children?“ as if empirical evidence exists as to the effect of “normalizing” the gay family unit, there is no such evidence one way or the other. As one of your other pieces pointed out; science and studies are corrupted, or at a minimum have the appearance of being so, because of funding source and the political affiliation of those involved. The spectrum of results from studies trying to answer the effect to be expected range from collapse of the civilized world to entering a new Age of Enlightenment. No one can say what the 5, 50 or 500 year effect will be. It can be said that this behavior has been stigmatized throughout recorded history, maybe every other generation was wrong, but I think the point was made before that throughout that history the fight for equality for race and gender can be demonstrated. Why not for gay rights? Were all those greats before us really that unenlightened? Was it the invention of the turkey baster that changed everything? None of our ancestors knew you could take semen from man and put it into a woman without a penis? Or that you could take a child from a woman and give it to a couple of men to bring it up? If you disregard the “suspect” research as it pertains to the gay family unit the body of research prior to this movement on adopted vs biological children outcome shows there were differences. Now that the gay family unit is inherently considered in all that research there is a wide gap in conclusions, why? How has society as a whole changed that there would now be that disparity in conclusions?
Antidotal I know, but my children look to me and my wife differently, that they take on or reject traits from both of us, are your children any different? Isn’t it your hope that they take on the best traits of both of you and reject the worst? Don’t you think where your wife’s and your own traits sync are likely strongest influence? I am not saying the gay family unit will lead to society’s downfall, I don’t know what the outcome will be, I am just not going to take it on faith to just go with it, everything will work out fine. As of right now I am onboard with promoting the most effective family unit structure, which based on my own conclusions is a biological dad and mom. Secondary any stable two parent home, preferably one where the child can be influenced by both a male and female. Research and history may not be able to show that the gay family unit is better, the same or worst but it does show what has been the most effective and that is what should be promoted, if that idea hurts someone’s feelings to the degree that it is unbearable then they are likely not stable enough to be responsible for raising a child.
Jack you have been persuasive and largely responsible for changing my opinion on gay marriage, you did that with facts and ethics. However with this you are demonstrating faith that the outcome will be at best neutral. You may be proven correct, at the speed things are moving now I hope you are, but I think there is a possibility that we don’t fully comprehend how important the “traditional” family unit really is to the health of society. I think my suspicions are supported by how ill an effect the growing single mother population has on society.
The bottom line is I remain skeptical of all the daisy and rainbow predictions that this change will bring.
By the way, do you think the Supreme Court really will make a sweeping decision or do you think they will hedge and limit their decision?
Steve, wonderfully thoughtful comment, and inspiringly expressed. You said in your next-to-last sentence the essence of what I have drafted in a 1,337-word (and growing) comment I have not posted yet. And now, I might never post it…
Thanks Eeyoure! I look forward to your comment and hope you post it. Your comment of the day has captured a line of thought that I have been trying to work out myself. Fantastic job.
We don’t have any historical examples of long-running cultures that sanctioned equal staus/reapect for same-sex relationships. Other than the examples of culture that aren’t around anymore.
There weren’t any examples of successful participatory democracies, and they argued that giving women the vote and letting them work would cause the race to go extinct. And there are almost always unexpected bad consequences of doing the right thing. Fear of them in the absence of real, hard data—which never exists—just isn’t a good enough reason not to do it.
This is Davy Crockett’s rule, essentially.
My analogy points out the flaw in other bill saying “I don’t mind if they have civil unions with the same privileges as marriage”
By ascribing all the same definitions of marriage to civil unions you’ve made civil unions the same as marriage, so why are you even pretending like they are different?
It’s a marriage.
The ‘you’ in that case is not You, Jack Marshall, but ‘you’ as in who ever says the fallacious argument “I don’t want homosexuals to be married, but I don’t mind them having all the privileges of marriage”
Clearly not! Can the partners in a civil union say, “we’re married” on an affidavit? No. Can they honestly say that anywhere? They can’t be in a marriage and not be allowed to say so. And if they can be allowed to say so, why can’t they in fact be married? It makes no sense.
Precisely the fallacy exposed in my analogy…
Huh? Your analogy doesn’t permit the rider of the tricked up bicycle motorcycle to call it a motorcycle, does it? If it does, then you can possible argue that it makes sense not to allow same sex marriages.
My analogy exposes the flaw in someone’s reasoning in saying “I don’t mind if you do X, engage in X, have the privileges and appearance of X, but I don’t want you to call it X”.
It exposes the person who holds that belief as being illogical.
The person who says “You can’t call that a motorcycle, even though I’ve allowed you to make it a motorcycle” is using flawed reasoning.
Still puzzled. If a civil union is in fact identical to a marriage, then there is no purpose in not calling it one, or having the separate designation. Calling the same thing by different names according to who uses it is like the crack/cocaine nonsense.
“If a civil union is in fact identical to a marriage, then there is no purpose in not calling it one, or having the separate designation”
But Other Bill would have it so.
Two arguments for “civil unions” as opposed to “marriage”, that I’ve seen so far:
1) “Civil Unions” are the same as “Marriage”, just Marriage is for heterosexuals. Same definition makes it illogical to have two terms. As shown in the analogy.
2) “Civil Unions” indeed have fewer privilieges than “Marriage” which is why there are two terms. However, there is an onus on the individual using this argument to demonstrate substantive differences in relation to property rights, effects on children in this family, effects on society, etc to justify why heterosexuals enjoy the benefits of “marriage” whereas homosexuals get second class status with “Civil Unions”. And when the individual does demonstrate these ‘substantive’ differences, they usually end up being quite monstrous.
Yes, and then there’s “Who are YOU to tell anyone else what rights they’re entitled to!” I hear you. I could have left that sentence out.
Ironically (perhaps), most of the time I come down to the conclusion that the entire controversy involves “gay marriage.” So, okay, going forward we’ll have “[heterosexual] marriage” and “gay marriage.” In my mind, they’ll be different. And I guess I’ll just live with it. But again, I’m skeptical and not at all thrilled.
Just for one example, a very good lesbian friend’s partner has had a daughter by artificial insemination. The daughter has to deal with introducing her friends to both of her mothers. The daughter has play dates with the other kids born of their shared sperm-donor father. And maybe this will all be fine for the daughter and maybe there are numerous studies confirming that everything will not only be fine, she’ll be even better than she would be in a more conventional family. I’m just not ready to be excited about this brave new world.
The fallacy in your reasoning is that you assume that sex differences are superficial.
If sex differences were superficial, then societies would have consistently, for the past few centuries at least, never made a distinction between men and women- let alone same-sex unions and opposite-sex unions. It would have been pointless to do so.
This does beg a very big question. If sex differences are so superficial that a single word is sufficient to encompass both same-sex and opposite-sex unions, then why bother having different words for men and women? Why bother having the words “brother” and “sister”, “husband” and “wife”, “son” or “daughter”? Why bother having any sort of custom that even acknowledges the slightest sex difference?
By that reasoning, would you be okay with a law that said that interracial couples cannot marry, but are allowed to have civil unions? Words and labels matter — anything other than calling it “marriage” suggests that gay people should have lesser status.
But I didn’t say that.
But I have asked this question:
A very good lesbian friend’s partner has had a daughter by artificial insemination. The daughter has to deal with introducing her friends to both of her mothers. The daughter has play dates with the other kids born of their shared sperm-donor father. And maybe this will all be fine for the daughter and maybe there are numerous studies confirming that everything will not only be fine, she’ll be even better than she would be in a more conventional family.
I suppose the answer is, “the kid’s problems are too speculative.” Or maybe, “Too bad for the kid. She has to just man up. Her mother wants to be fulfilled. That kid should just shut up and be happy she’s alive and has two parents. Lots of kids don’t have any.”
Maybe Jack’s already posted on the ethics of artificial insemination.
Mostly “Ick” factor, from an ethics point of view. Are the daughter’s problems any worse than the child of a single parent, or a grandmother raising her, or the child of a divorced, re-married parents? the only issue is, can she be raised safely and healthily? The social awkwardness factor is a minimal concern.
“Mostly “Ick” factor, from an ethics point of view.”
Please elaborate. Don’t the arguments for marriage equality presume artificial insemination?
“Are the daughter’s problems any worse than the child of a single parent, or a grandmother raising her, or the child of a divorced, re-married parents?”
In so far as they were self-inflicted, maybe so.
“The social awkwardness factor is a minimal concern.”
To whom? And why?
I’m not sure I see much daylight between your answer my proffered “the kid’s problems are too speculative.” Or maybe, “Too bad for the kid. She has to just man up. Her mother wants to be fulfilled. That kid should just shut up and be happy she’s alive and has two parents. Lots of kids don’t have any.”
But as Harold Ickes tell me, I’ll just move on. I’m getting nowhere, which is fine.
Strike question re “ick” factor. I looked it up on your definitions page. Sorry. It’s an interesting cubby hole to place concerns but I’m not sure just doing so is dispositive of the matter. But we disagree.
It would be less offensive than a law that actually sentenced people to prison terms for practicing polygamy.
I had a visit at the weekend from an old friend of mine who now lives in CA.
When faced with the tail end of her forties and still not married, she realized her chance of ever being a mother was fading fast.
She went the sperm donor route and the child is now 8; a beautiful, well-adjusted little girl.
Is it up to any of us to decide if that is ok, or right, or best for the child?
I can point out a bunch more situations that are the norm in the US that are a whole lot worse.
Why didn’t she adopt one of the kids whose situation is worse and are candidates for adoption?
I honestly don’t know.
Fair enough. My point is simply that doing so would benefit an already living human being and avoid the potential complexities presented by using technology to bring another one into being. But I’ll admit I seem to be the only person worried about this. Hah!
Why is it fair to ask that question just because she is single? We don’t ask married couples that question. Also, it is extremely difficult if not impossible for a single woman in her late forties to adopt a baby.
Jack, I’ve stayed out of the gay marriage issue because while my faith in God has absolutely convinced me that my children are better off having a father and a mother, it also dictates that I love my neighbor as myself. So I live and let live! However I’m certain that I know the difference between right and wrong in this issue, so I beg to differ with your statement to the effect that “the essence of ethics, which constantly evolves.” Just who dictates to you those circumstance when something, say an institution as old as our current civilization itself, should evolve? Do unto others, and love they neighbor as they self are not just right principles, but TRUE principles. I can adhere to these without embracing gay marriage as an institution. Secondly, and this one really bothers me, reasonable people absolutely can disagree without a presumption on the part of one or both parties accusing the other of malice or evil intent. Yet you, as we’ll as many others seem to feel so strongly regarding your version of what has apparently evolved as “right”, that you make no allowance for others to feel just as strongly over their version of what is right without attributing it to hate, malice, or evil. I admire you passion, is it possible for you to admire mine?
Good luck Kent. I salute your efforts. I’ll simply add that “stupidity or block-headedness” seem to be implied along with “hate, malice, or evil.”
“I’m just not ready to be excited about this brave new world.”
I get what you’re saying.
You might be right…this is new territory and really, none of us can be certain at this point the outcome.
“Fair enough. My point is simply that doing so would benefit an already living human being and avoid the potential complexities presented by using technology to bring another one into being. But I’ll admit I seem to be the only person worried about this. Hah!”
When she first told me about it she was 6 mos.along in the pregnancy and sort of put it to me as, ‘I wanted to be a mother and this was the way I thought it would be best for me”.
Some women seem to really want the experience of carrying and giving birth to the child.
“Some women seem to really want the experience of carrying and giving birth to the child.”
True. Some can’t do that. Others require technical help. A few – only a handful – have rare Intersex syndromes, and (with technical help – sometimes dissection of biopsied glands to find the few viable sperm cells) become biological fathers instead. Others require donated eggs as they lack functional ovaries, even if the rest of the reproductive system is functional.
All do it despite a very real risk to their lives. Some do it even if that risk is extreme.
It’s an instinct that many (though not all) women have to a greater or lesser degree. In some cases “really want” doesn’t begin to describe it. In others it’s accurate.
Why any rational human being would want to go through the ordeal, the morning sickness, the backache, the swollen ankles, the episiotomy scissors, the risk of death is beyond me. I just know that I do – but can’t. I did, however, cheat (see rare Intersex syndromes above).,
Zoe — well said. For women or men with infertility issues, one of the worst comments to hear is “why don’t you …. [adopt], [enjoy being childless — do you know how much money we spend?] .. or my personal favorite [just focus on being a great aunt]. The desire for some women to carry a child is completely inexplicable, but it’s there. We actually had started the adoption process when we found out that we were pregnant. Now, 2 babies later, I eventually would like to adopt a foster child as well (I just need to get my husband on board) — but that doesn’t change the fact that I also wanted/needed to go through the biological experience of motherhood as well.
Now, 2 babies later
We were amazingly lucky to have just the one… 13 miscarriages along the way, and we were in our early 40s when we hit the Jackpot.
Being in our middle 50’s with a gifted (and also Intersex) son just hitting his teens – we can’t cope with more, though we would have liked to.
Alert: An excellent scholarly article assessing anti-gay marriage arguments is here: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2257557
I’m reminded of a man named Max Planck (he was a noble winning physicist):
“A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.”
There is a certain truth to that.
Real magnanimity can be found if the younger generation holds no grudges or animosity, nor harbors resentment, nor seeks negative action against the older generation.
On the flip side: There is value in tenaciously holding on to ‘the old ways’. To be so ready to get rid of time-tested wisdom can lead down ugly dirty paths that result in accepting new foolishness simply because it is new.
Wow. Thanks, Jack, I am flattered and honored. I go away for a few days (well, not entirely, but just not able to read as much or comment at all), and return to this surprise. That comment was a product of insomnia, a spew of a rebellious, chaotic, anarchistic right-hand brain lobe, certainly more random and impulsive than premeditated. It’s my hopelessly afflicted body’s fault. With luck, it’ll never happen again. I am lucky like that.
I follow your blog because ever since I first visited, I have enjoyed experiencing more regularly than anywhere else where people gather on line to discuss things, a caliber of people who seem to have gobs more going for themselves than I have, in the traits you listed to describe me – and more. Again, I am flattered, but in a relative sense to so many other commenters, I may be unworthy, even this time. I appreciate tremendously your proper admonishment.
I intend to comment some more on, and related to, this marriage issue topic. But I absolutely must get more sleep, somehow.
I wondered where you were!
P.S. I especially cherish the other commenters’ comments in this thread, too.
I want to say some more about “same-sex marriage” now, before the anticipated court rulings are announced and before the next round of related legislation floods the political market. This seems like an appropriate time and place to comment further.
I already know how what follows here is going to be received, for anyone who bothers to read all of it. For those who find it agreeable, I will be merely piling-on an admonition to people with whom I disagree: “Be careful what you wish for; you may get it.” For those who find it disagreeable, I will be merely bitterly mocking, taunting, and gnashing impertinently in their general direction – behaving like a sore loser, a bad sport. If that in fact is my tone, then that is “true to form,” for me, anyway. To paraphrase General George Patton, the mere thought of losing is something that Americans hate. I suspect even many Americans who disagree with me on marriage definition might agree with me on that point.
A major change in the definition of marriage is likely coming soon – a win for some, a loss for others. I oppose the change, so in that sense, when it comes, the change will be a loss for me.
But, what I think all of us are about to lose (including the “winners”), and what many may think that only I plus perhaps a minority of others are about to lose, are a universe apart.
I will confess to “liking” the likening of my state of mind at this time to that of a baseball player (baseball! Always, baseball!), on a team that is lopsidedly losing the seventh game of the World Series, going through the motions of taking its final, presumably futile turn at bat: From the bench, or on-deck circle, I scream what reflects my undying allegiance to my teammates and our aims, plus my undiminished, irreducible suspicion – no, make that simply, my faith – that we, the losers on the scoreboard, are nonetheless in fact the better team, the team entitled to victory. With immortal hope, I am thinking: the 1986 Mets…“It ain’t over till it’s over”…There’s a Buckner over there, on the other side, and he *will* blow it and hand us victory, if only we could be sure to hit it to *him*…if only. Meanwhile, externally, I am trash-talking like the kid on the losing team at the end of the first Bad News Bears movie – not in denial, just bitter – yelling dismissively at the victorious Yankees little-leaguers: “Aww, you ain’t proved nuthin’, y’ain’t won nuthin’, so shove that trophy where the sun never shines, and wait till next year!”
On the marriage-change issue, “scoreboard” notwithstanding, I have committed to hold my position. Correction and clarification: From the perspective of the change advocates, and to stay true to my General Patton-esque fashion, I am committed to continue my offensive. To borrow from, and to push back with, something Jack – one of my very few trusted critics – has said here, of me: I would rather be absolutely, utterly, tragically wrong about many other aspects of the coming changes, than be absolutely, utterly, tragically *lacking in foresight* as part of my being wrong about the changes. Paraphrasing what I said to my wife on another matter, moments before composing this sentence, in a sort of gallows humor: I’ll just have to trust others to trust my superior judgment (implying: or else, others ignore my judgment at their peril).
Believe it or not, my concern does not stem from animus toward homosexuals, but from concern for the consequences of abusing precedent. At the end of my analysis of the issue, I really am not worried that there will be unacceptable adverse impacts to our society for which same-sex couples, who perhaps may benefit on the margin from the change in definition, will be collectively accountable – of such impacts, there likely will be none. There will be adverse impacts, though – adverse enough that a great number of people will eventually be challenged anew with doubts, regrets, and reconsideration, even so far as to commit to effecting reversal. However, the current giddy atmosphere of “Change: It’s a-comin’! It really is, at long last, a-comin’!” makes party-pooping an unforgivable sin, especially since the party has yet to begin.
Still, the slippery slope is real. With redefinition of marriage, we are jumping onto that slippery slope as if we are jumping from an airplane in flight – without parachutes on our backs. Still, we are jumping, trusting that someone will always be there who will have parachutes, and who will snag us in free fall, then carry us to a survivable, even comfortable, conclusion of our plunges in presumed, even expected, even entitled, safety and well-being. The redefinition is a leap of faith; anyone contending that it isn’t, is simply in denial. Here we have an issue where, perhaps ironically, denial by change proponents may be the purest exercise of faith (which many “changers” will deny, of course), exceeding even the exercise of faith of the “faithers” who comprise perhaps the largest subset of the total population that has been opposing the change.
I dare say that with this latest pending redefinition, we are rendering marriage redefinable ad absurdum – and, we can now expect redefinition to “progress” to such. We are rationalizing today what is prerequisite to, and what will inexorably lead to, rationalizing and enabling catastrophic absurdities of tomorrow. But of course, to the peril of our species, the people of tomorrow (in one year? Five years? Twenty?) will dependably not recognize the absurdities of their time, just as we people of today often fail en masse to recognize many perilous absurdities of our time. Or, at least, out of either denial, fear, or other, mostly self-imposed constraints, we fail to confront and fight and prevail against today’s absurdities, even when we do recognize them (Iran – with nukes? The threat of starvation – not in spite of, but because of, reliance on genetically engineered food crops?).
“Same-sex” (or, perhaps more inclusively, “gender-constrained”), it is argued, is the criterion of unjust exclusivity of marriage today. One rationalization given for obliterating that exclusivity is the precedent of obliterating the exclusivity of “dissimilar races.” Of course, consistent with my points above, from its inception the races-inclusive marriage redefinition – “radical” as it seemed to many in its time – was inadequate, yet was not recognized as such. It was inadequate because it obliterated only the unjust exclusivity of dissimilar-race couples of opposite sexes.
Our “forepersons” (“forepervs?”) thus squandered opportunity, and thereby deprived their own and succeeding generations of glorious equalities; moreover, they deprived countless undeserving persons of liberation from the injustices of second-class citizenship – shameful. My point here: From the rationalization accepted now – that excluding couples of same gender from calling their relationships marriages is a vestige of the same unjust exclusion which was applied to exclude couples of dissimilar races from calling their relationships marriages – we can rest assured of evolution of rationalizations for further changes, just as we can rest assured of evolving faith in what constitutes unjust exclusivity. It is indeed inevitable, even necessary, for such evolution to occur; as Jack has said, ethics are ever evolving.
So it is not unreasonable to project, considering the certainty of pending changes and the rapidity of their onset despite recently being viewed widely as inconceivable, that within one generation’s time we can expect to see on, say, the cover of Time magazine, a reflection of that which throughout American society and its history was near universally, utterly unthinkable, not to mention intolerable, less than a generation before. The additional changes, however, will be much like today’s redefinition: impossible for many to foresee, but eventually, impossible to be opposed by anyone who wishes to avoid suffering second-class citizenship.
(I was already hearing from beyond the horizon the approaching tsunami of voices of denial, who will insist of course that I, not they, are in denial about what I am forewarning. And once again, like in my comment which Jack noted to start this thread, I find myself puzzling and humoring myself from here to my completion of this commentary, as I am being serious and tongue-in-cheek at the same time.)
This latest pending change in acceptance of new members to the “marriage club” horrifies me, such that I cannot stop having this recurring, horrific (to me) vision of the near future: A Time magazine cover showing a grinning, bearded middle-aged man, with one arm clutching a little girl who wears a bling-ring, and his other arm around a couple of boys – all of the kids being of elementary school age, and wearing t-shirts that boldly proclaim, “I MARRIED DADDY” – and (but wait! There’s more!) the head of a live gerbil peeking out of the folds of the man’s turban; the somber headline-caption on the cover, promising thoughtful, thorough, disinterested coverage inside, of passionately debated (and resolved) issues that briefly roiled the public: “Progress to Full Equality, and Triumph – The Latest Milestones.”
And I know I am not especially imaginative or visionary. Damn me today, and tomorrow damn almost all of us today, for being so unethically discriminatory and cruel to so many others who are different from ourselves, because of some petty, ignorant, irrational “Ick Factor.”
So it is also fair to ask: Why stop here, today, with winning only same-sex inclusiveness? Why pause at such a simplistic, oversimplified, ephemeral, non-comprehensive definition? What other illogical inequalities and arbitrary, irrational exclusivities – which oppress innocent, loving people and which cruelly dismiss their joy of love and deny their right to marry, and which drive them into that intolerable, undeserved, “closeted” second-class citizen status – are in plain sight, but are being neglected, to our shame? SHAME!
Why must marriage be a couples-only club? A bloodline-relation-constrained club? A boss-and-subordinate-excluded; teacher-and-student-excluded; healer-and-patient-excluded; jailer-and-prisoner-excluded; client-and-server-excluded; athlete-and-virtual-vegetable-excluded, and pimps-and-whores-excluded club? An “adults”-only club? A human-with-human-only club? Again, damn me and damn my non-progressiveness, for likely missing many unjustifiable –excludeds, –onlys and –constraineds. And damn future conservatives (today’s progressives.)
What other intolerable marriage-inequality injustices, stemming from archaic, irrational exclusion and marginalization, are we failing to confront today, out of fear, laziness, and that ultimately selfish, narcissistic, transcendently shameful and detestable, “Well, that’s enough, for now; we got ours” attitude? Shall we tolerate an odious encore to enabling slavery’s survival of the establishment of the Bill of Rights? Why aren’t the forces who are winning the same-sex marriage inclusion battle being proactive – fully leveraging the zeitgeist, and not squandering once again the receptiveness to change which abounds among the public now – and lobbying to effect even more of the known-to-be-justifiable-by-precedent changes, now and at full tilt? Cowards! Hypocrites! Fools! Those three accusations fairly combine into one: Bigots!
Don’t we all have a LOT more loving to do? RIGHT NOW?!
You make some good points. Let’s take them one at a time.
First, marriage has indeed changed a lot. Going from the idea of “femme couvert”, where a woman had to pay a fine if she didn’t want to be married to the man her Lord had chosen for her, (or her rapist, as the Bible requires), to the relatively recent development of allowing a married woman to possess property in her own right, rather than being a legal extension of her husband. And of course, divorce, that’s the biggie.
Now as for restrictions on marriage:
“Why must marriage be a couples-only club?”
Because polygamy has been shown to lead to some very undesirable outcomes, from returning women to the status of property or cattle, to the ejection from society of young men before they can rival the patriarchs in charge.
If there was a system such as line-marriage (very few such groups would be able to carry that off though) that prevented such problems, yes, why not? But human nature being what it is, I don’t see that happening.
A bloodline-relation-constrained club?
Power relationships and for those who are fertile, genetic issues come to mind. Two siblings, separated at birth, unaware of the other who meet and fall in love should be counselled, if not compelled, not to breed with each other – but as this would be rare, it would do less damage than the currently permitted marriage of nephews, cousins etc. The main issue is that except in such rare cases, power levels are unequal, oppression almost inevitable.
A boss-and-subordinate-excluded; teacher-and-student-excluded; healer-and-patient-excluded; jailer-and-prisoner-excluded;
See remarks on power levels and oppression above. You might also insert “master and slave”.
An “adults”-only club?
Informed consent is required. Again, see power levels and oppression.
A human-with-human-only club?
Again,informed consent required. If however there is a nonhuman entity – an AI or Xeno life form – capable of informed consent – why not? Unless there’s some other criterion such as unequal power that would preclude it.
A possible model would be to presume that any couple comprised of consenting non-related adults is deemed not to be inherently abusive – no permission required, unless proven otherwise.
Any other arrangements would require review by an independent Family Court before a marriage license would be granted, with the burden of proof shifted so it’s assumed to be harmful unless proven otherwise.
I should add a disclaimer here:
My own marriage is voidable in the jurisdiction I reside in. The case law is
In the marriage of C and D (falsely called C).(1979) FLC ¶90-636 (1979) 35 FLR 340 (1979) 5 FamLR 636 (1979) 28 ALR 524
The ground of identity is in my opinion made out in that the wife was contemplating immediately prior to marriage and did in fact believe that she was marrying, a male. She did not in fact marry a male but a
combination of both male and female and notwithstanding that the husband exhibited as a male, he was in fact not and the wife was mistaken as to the identity of her husband …
I have no hesitation in saying that the definition of“marriage” as understood in Christendom is the voluntary union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all other for life. See Nachimson v. Nachimson (1930) P. 217 at p. 224.
I am satisfied on the evidence that the husband was neither man nor woman but was a combination of both,and a marriage in the true sense of the word as within the definition referred to above could not have taken
place and does not exist.
Before I married, I was presumed to be male, albeit Intersex. In 2007 the diagnosis was changed to “severe androgenisation of a non-pregnant woman”., implying that at the time of marriage, I was either female, or “a combination of both male and female …notwithstanding that the husband exhibited as a male,
I am the biological father of my child (that took technical help of course, I never had all the usual male bits), but that’s irrelevant.
Eeyoure – perhaps you can give a rational argument to my son as to why his parents shouldn’t be allowed to be married? Or, as he’s (mildly) Intersex too, why marriage to anyone should be unattainable to him?
Here we go.
Once the same-sex couples get marriage re-defined to include themselves, the dirty inclusiveness snowball will be rolling and unstoppable.
Why, indeed, should marriage be unattainable by ANYONE? Let us cease to discriminate against individuals, too: If someone wants to say they are married, and have no obvious partner, what business is that of anyone else?
Hope everyone is feeling good, and ever better. It’s what you feel that counts. Don’t anyone dare get in the way of anyone else’s feeling good.