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2004-07-14

Marry, Marry, Quite Contrary

Of no consequence? The legalization of same-sex marriages across the 50 states, if permitted to stand, will have many intended and unintended consequences. Many of these potential consequences are already in the works. First, civil marriage will become completely separated from child-rearing (a consequence generally intended by advocates). Second, the courts will have no legal or principled basis for upholding prohibitions against polygamous, incestuous, and group marriages. In addition, there will be pressure to permit marriages within all age groups, including adults and children. Third, because "marriage" will become a way of accessing financial benefits, said financial benefits will eventually become too burdensome to continue and everybody will lose them (a move which will have the virtue of being both financially responsible and fair). Fourth, as a corollary, marriage as a civil institution will all but disappear and become strictly a religious institution (not an altogether bad outcome, in theory). Fifth, and this is what makes consequence #4 problematical, the gay lobby will seek to define opposition to same-sex marriage and negative comments about homosexual behavior as a hate crime. This concept will be applied with particular vigor against religious institutions, which will be challenged legally to provide for same sex marriages no matter what their interpretation of the Christian bible, Torah, or the Koran. Sixth, schools will be required to take a "balanced" view toward marriage, with equal provisions for marriage in all of its perturbations in textbooks, libraries, and student clubs. Seventh, adoption agencies will be prohibited from showing favoritism to heterosexual married couples or indeed to couples at all. Seventh, the tactic of calling whoever doesn't agree with you a "bigot" and a "[whatever]phobic," having proven itself, will be become a prized weapon in the war against faith-based communities. Email your comments.

2 comments:

Shawn Sensei said...

Mind you, I'm not a Jew. However, I don't see the U.S. Law as a religious concern. I'm approaching the discussion from the rather Libertarian perspective, "Laws should be made solely to aid the continuation or functioning of society. If a law has no significant demonstrable social benefit, it should be removed."

I see the debate here as one regarding the removal of legal prohibition against same-sex marriage (civil union, legal partnership, etc. pick your terminology) rather than the formation of a law allowing such unions. In truth, prohibitions already exist in nearly every state in the US.

In the interest of full disclosure, I should state that I am a bisexual male engaged to a bisexual female in a monogamous relationship. I was raised Catholic, left the church, and am now unafilliated with any religion. I have been active in Pagan groups and societies for over a decade, though my own spiritual leanings are more closely linked to Taoism than anything else I have encountered. I have also been asked to teach a religious tolerance course at a Baptist ministry training center currently being built.

As to your identified consequences, let's cover them individually:

1. "First, civil marriage will become completely separated from child-rearing"
For a large percentage of the population, this is already the case. How many single mothers or single fathers do you know? Single parenthood is a much larger social problem, and not likely to be impacted tremendously by allowing non-breeding couples equal rights and access to healthcare, spousal medical decisions, and spousal financial decisions.
Indeed, having more emotionally and financially secure non-breeding couples available to adopt our current surfeit of orphans could conceivably result in tremendous social benefits.

2. "Second, the courts will have no legal or principled basis for upholding prohibitions against polygamous, incestuous, and group marriages."

Let's put aside the slippery slope aspects of this argument and take it as it is.

I will omit "polygamous" from my response, since it is a subset of "group marriages" or "multiple marriages".

Multiple marriages, from a socialogical perspective, are a useful tool for population control. Disregarding the kneejerk "ick" factor, it is a fact that various male/female arrangements have different potential for producing offspring:

Over a sample 5-year period, each arrangement shown below has the potential to produce a certain maximum number of children, barring multiple births, and allowing 1 month between birth and subsequent pregnancy:

M/F: 6
M/M/F: 6
M/M/M/F: 6
M/F/F: 12
M/F/F/F: 18
M/M: 0
F/F: 0

As you can see, the limiting factor is simply the number of women in the relationship. A woman cannot get more pregnant than she already is, regardless of how many men she couples with.

For population excess situations, then, the arrangements that make the most sense are M/M, F/F, and any of the M/F combinations where F = 1, regardless of the M value.

However, for population deficiency situations (immediately after a decimating war, for instance), the arrangements that make most sense are the M/F combinations where F > 1 AND M = 1. (This has historically been the situation in much of the Middle East, hence the Muslim allowance of M/F/F/F/F.)

However, all of the above combinations have their sociological purpose.

None of the 3 major Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) are free of plural marriage in their historical accounts.

Bible: (Gen 4:23, Gen 28:6, Gen 30:25,...)

Torah: Yakkov had 4 wives, Exodus 21:10 gives rules on how to have multiple wives.

Qur'an: Mohammed had as many as 9 wives by some accounts, and current islamic law allows from 2-4 simultaneous wives depending on sect.

Incest, however, has valid scientific reason for being disallowed. Consanguinity reinforces potentially dangerous nondominant genes and much higher risk of birth defects. Until we have a significantly deeper understanding and control of human genetics, incest will still be a very bad idea, sociologically.

As to your age comment (?), existing state laws establish age of sexual consent and marriage. What does two consenting adults getting married have to do with an adult's involvement with a child under the age of consent. I don't see your connection.

3. "Because "marriage" will become a way of accessing financial benefits, said financial benefits will eventually become too burdensome to continue..."

Please clarify -- specifically, which benefits are you speaking of?

4. "Marriage as a civil institution will all but disappear and become strictly a religious institution."

Well, yes. In truth, it is largely a religious institution. Gay couples can mimic marriage through legal contracts and paperwork, usually costing around $5,000 or so. A marriage license costs $20. Even if a gay were couple were to pay the full legal contract prices, they still don't have the legal strength in court that a marriage contract does. Why is this a problem?

I have a friend of mine, John, who lives in New Jersey. John is a successful computer programmer, his late partner Greg was a very successful lawyer. Greg and John had all of the proper paperwork filed, and had the legal equivalent of marriage. However, when Greg had a stroke in 1998, the hospital didn't recognize John's right to make medical decisions for Greg.

The hospital did recognize Greg's mother, however, as his next-of-kin. She and Greg had not spoken in over 20 years, since he had come out to her and she disowned him. Greg passed away as a result of complications from the stroke, and his mother took over as executor of his estate (since homosexuality was still in the DSM as a mental disorder, his perfectly legal will was declared invalid by a judge.) She liquidated all of Greg and John's jointly held assets (both vehicles were in both names) and managed to get custody of their 10-year-old adopted son, who was only able to see his "JohnDad" after he recently turned 17, declared himself independent, and left her.

John lost his "husband" of 15 years, his son, his home, his vehicle, and Greg's life insurance money all in one fell swoop. This is not an uncommon story.

5."The gay lobby will seek to define opposition to same-sex marriage and negative comments about homosexual behavior as a hate crime. This concept will be applied with particular vigor against religious institutions, which will be challenged legally..."

I think this is a fear-based, not reality-based, statement. While there are intolerant bigots in every community, including the GLBT community, their impact is minimal. There have been several court cases recently that have upheld the rights of religious institutions to discriminate in their hiring and firing practices, much less service practices, against those who do not agree. I don't think anyone is going to sue St. Michael's Catholic Church for not allowing a gay wedding, any more than they would sue for not allowing a Jewish wedding.

I will agree that this issue may have some validity, but I would argue that it is not, in itself, a strong enough reason to actively promote unequal justice.

6. "Sixth, schools will be required to take a "balanced" view toward marriage, with equal provisions for marriage in all of its perturbations in textbooks, libraries, and student clubs."

If the purpose of schools is to prepare students for life "out there in the real world", then how is this a bad thing? Schools don't attempt to teach morality. I learned about Hammurabi's code in World History, but that lesson didn't influence me to adopt "an eye for an eye".

7."Seventh, adoption agencies will be prohibited from showing favoritism to heterosexual married couples or indeed to couples at all."

This will apply, of course, only to secular adoption agencies without a particular religous affiliation. Catholic adoption agencies already won't place children with Jewish families. The difference is?

As to the "couple" preference -- multiple reputable studies have shown that couples raising children have a much higher likelihood of producing well-adjusted children than single-parent households. This holds true for homosexual as well as heterosexual couples. Therefore, the couples preference has valid reasons for existing.

What I have yet to see is a reputable study that shows children raised by homosexuals as either less well-adjusted or more often homosexual than children raised by heterosexuals. Though I have seen it noted that homosexual or bisexual children of homosexual couples do tend to "come out" a few years earlier than their counterparts raised by heterosexual couples.

I hypothesize that homosexual children of intolerant heterosexual parents are more likely to wait to go public with their orientation until their parents have less control over their lives, due to fear of their parents' reactions.

Homosexual children of homosexual parents, however, know that Mom & Mom aren't going to beat them, disown them, send them to a reorientation retreat, or lock them in the basement if they're honest about their sexual orientation.

8."Seventh [sic], the tactic of calling whoever doesn't agree with you a "bigot" and a "[whatever]phobic," having proven itself, will be become a prized weapon in the war against faith-based communities.

Bigot - One who is strongly partial to one's own group, religion, race, or politics and is intolerant of those who differ.

I think this comes down to an issue of spheres of influence.

This evening I am making a pork roast for dinner. My stepson, Adam, may decide he doesn't want pork roast. If so, then he goes to bed without dinner because that is what I have decided we will have and he didn't express his objection beforehand.

However, Ken, you keep Kosher. This evening I am making a pork roast in my home for dinner. Since Adam may choose to go to bed hungry if he doesn't want pork roast, does that mean that you must also go to bed hungry or eat pork roast? Obviously not, for it is not my place to dictate dinner in your house.

Nor is it your place to dictate dinner in mine. You cannot disallow me my pork roast because it's against kashrut law.

If, however, you attend my wedding, we will have kosher food available as a matter of respect to you.

So, I am a bigot in my own home. I am strongly partial to my own decisions in my home, and intolerant of those who differ. I am also tremendously tolerant of those who do not agree with me in other aspects of my life.

There, now. I've applied that word to myself and still have all my limbs.

I fully expect the Catholic church to be bigoted in its decisions, holding to church law. I fully expect Jews to be bigoted about marrying non-Jews, given the prohibitions against it. I fully expect police departments to be bigoted about hiring convicted felons as officers.

Of course, the practice of calling institutions bigoted is much older than the current homosexual marriage issue. Because people called southern states bigoted 50 years ago, I was able to marry my half-black former wife. Because people called southern states bigoted 50 years ago, I can decide the musicians I play with based on skill and style, not melanin concentration.

Bigotry isn't all bad, but it should at least be noted and acknowledged where it exists. At times, it's appropriate. At others, it is not.

In conclusion, I disagree that there is a war on against faith-based communities. I disagree strongly. In fact, I find more and more faith-based issues in public life, and more people around me loudly proclaiming their faith. It seems more as though many faith-based communities are using a fake "war" to justify imposing their own values on others. People fight harder when they feel persecuted.

Whether they are or not.

Shawn

Kenneth said...

Shawn,

On point #1: You're agreeing with me, except to point out that the trend toward a separation of civil marriage and child-rearing pre-existed the push for same-sex marriage. I agree. It's being reinforced.
On point #2: Again, you're not disagreeing with my description of the trend, only suggesting that it is a good thing, excepting for incestuous marriage, for which you say there is a scientific basis for prohibiting. However, as marriage becomes separated from child-bearing, this too becomes moot. And I'm predicting that there will be pressure to legalize and approve of incestuous marriages (consenting adults, after all), especially but probably not ultimately limited to couples (or moresomes) who don't plan to have children. You are correct, of course, that the Jewish bible permitted polygamy. I find it interesting that the trend in the current culture is to legalize male homosexual unions (prohibited in the Jewish and Christian bibles) and to prohibit--and even put in jail--willing participants (or at least the man) in polygamous marriages.
On point #3: I'm thinking specifically of insurance benefits, though there are others. If companies agree to expand their coverage of medical insurance from married couples to previously uncovered combinations, their benefit expenses go up and the pressure to reduce those benefits to others or across the board goes down. The same dynamic would apply to other benefits. So opposite sex married couples might logically oppose the trend out of self interest. (Pressures on benefit expenses are already reducing benefits to everyone. This is just another straw on the pile, and I expect the medical insurance pressure will be resolved by providing insurance only to the principal worker and allowing them to pay the premium for the partner (of any persuasion) or dependents. I think this is already happening and makes sense from a business point of view.
On point #4: Married (heterosexual couples) are somewhat of a privileged category. I say "somewhat" because the concept of "license" has an element of "right" about it but also an element of "responsibility" about it. So you get the license (to drive, to practice medicine, to marry) and you take a certain burden on yourself. This is usually forgotten in the argument to extend the license to others. However, it is there on the strength of it being (or having been) the main unit in which children are raised. Absent children or the intent to have such, the purpose of the "license" seems a little mysterious to me. I am not terribly moved by the claim that it takes $5,000 to do the legal work to form a custom domestic partnership. For married couples, the license is only the beginning of customized legal arrangements that might include a pre-nup, a will, a living trust, and so on. Also, I'm betting that attorneys (or Nolo Press) could gin up the necessary "domestic partnership" papers and sell them online for $25.00. Just a thought, which makes me think that the gay marriage issue is less than a practical necessity than a fundraising opportunity for the right and the left. However, I am not opposed to the concept of a legal "domestic partnership" that would simplify such things as common ownership of propery, powers of attorney, and probate. However, I think this needs to be thought through. I do not particularly like the idea of extending it only to gays and lesbians (as this seems to engage the state in endorsing homosexual behavior, which seems an odd thing for the state to be doing. The apparent endorsement of heterosexual marriage at least had a logic to it--the bearing and rearing of children.) Besides, others with no sexual designs on each other might have reason to form domestic partnerships. My barber (male) has made what is in effect a domestic partnership with his twin (female) both out of economic necessity and their twin bond, you might say. Also, I can image individuals wanting to form an economic commune or kibbutz using a domestic partnership to split their assets, though this might be accomplished in other ways. Getting out of these domestic partnerships might be more tangled than getting into them, but that would mirror the way marriage works. So caveat emptor at best.
On point #5: In Canada and Europe, there are moves to declare statements opposed to homosexual behavior as "hate speech." I'm not sure of the status of these laws, moves, or actions, but they are ominous for anyone valuing free speech.
On point #6: Of course, schools teach "morality," even when they insist they don't on the argument that to do so is to impose a moral opinion on someone else. That is, a moral point of view. You can't get it away from it. To me, it's a question of what morality you are willing to teach and whether you are willing to tolerate others in the system who disagree.
On point #7: We're not going to agree on this. Studies and statements about who produces good children vary with agendas, so it is hard to know where the truth is. I believe--and this is belief and may or may not be fact--that everybody needs a balance between male and female energy. By and large, men have more male energy and women have more female energy. I expect there are exceptions. But a child being raised by one woman needs to get some male influence somewhere--and a child being raised by two men needs to get some female influence somewhere. Of course, there are workarounds. (And to be honest, because I see more children being raised by one parent families, the problem seems more obvious to me there. But it is somewhat the same problem. It is not altogether a good thing.) Re. adoption, male-female balance is a criteria (criterium?) that I would put at the top or near the top of the list, but it is not the only one and does not outweigh everything else. An opposite-sex couple with criminal tendencies would surely not be better adoptive-parent candidates than a psychologically healthy and ethical ethical gay couple.
Eighth, I agree that everyone is a "bigot" in some sense and it is healthy to realize that it is so and where it is healthy to be "bigoted" and where it is not. I just find the term rather loaded and not generally used in a useful or refreshing manner.
Whew! How did you write so long?