Secular Right | Reality & Reason

May/09

4

Gay marriage and unintended consequences

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The biggest social problem in the U.S. today is the crime and academic achievement gap between blacks and whites. The academic achievement gap (several grade levels and 200 SAT points (old system)) distorts our pedagogy, academic hiring and admissions, and employment standards in the public and private sectors (see the recent New Haven firefighters reverse discrimination case); it triggers huge and to date wholly ineffective government programs to try to close the gap (e.g., Head Start, No Child Left Behind). Black males commit homicide at ten times the rate of white males; in New York City, a representative locality, any violent crime is 13 times more likely to be committed by a black perp than by a white one. This crime gap results in depressed urban economies, huge incarceration costs, and the unjust demonization of the police as racist for merely going after criminals and of inner-city employers who worry about black thieves coming into their stores.

One overpowering cause of black social failure is the breakdown of marriage in the black community. Nationally, the black illegitimacy rate is 71%; in some inner city areas, it is closer to 90%. When boys grow up without any expectation that they will have to marry the mother of their children, they fail to learn the most basic lesson of personal responsibility. A community without the marriage norm is teetering on the edge of civilizational collapse, if it has not already fallen into the abyss. Fatherless black boys, who themselves experience no pressure to become marriageable mates as they grow up, end up joining gangs, dropping out of school, and embracing a “street” lifestyle in the absence of any male authority in the home.

If the black illegitimacy rate were not nearly three times the rate of whites’, I would have few qualms about gay marriage. Or if someone can guarantee that widespread gay marriage would not further erode the expectation among blacks that marriage is the proper context for raising children, I would also not worry. But no one can make that guarantee.

Why might it further depress the black marriage rate? There is a logical reason and a visceral reason. First, it sends the signal that marriage is simply about numbers: it is an institution that binds two (for the moment) people who are in love. It erases completely the significance that marriage is THE context in which the children of biological parents should be raised. And there are undoubtedly many other subtle meanings and effects of gay marriage that we cannot even imagine at the moment—which institutional shift is something that conservatives should be most attuned to.

As for the visceral reason: It is no secret that resistance to homosexuality is highest among the black population (though probably other ethnic minorities are close contenders). I fear that it will be harder than usual to persuade black men of the obligation to marry the mother of their children if the inevitable media saturation coverage associates marriage with homosexuals. Is the availability of homosexual marriage a valid reason to shun the institution? No, but that doesn’t make the reaction any less likely.

What are the chances that gay marriage would further doom marriage among blacks? I don’t know. Again, if someone can persuade me that the chances are zero, then I would be much more sanguine. But anything more than zero, I am reluctant to risk.

Is it fair to those gays who want to marry that their desires should be thwarted for the sake of black boys? Maybe not. And as has been pointed out many times before, it is exclusively heterosexuals who have eroded the institution of marriage through easy divorce, increasing rates of single-parenting, “blended” families, and co-habitation. But just because marriage is already in bad shape, for reasons wholly unrelated to gay marriage, doesn’t mean that gay marriage won’t weaken it further.

Black failure is at present a greater social problem in my view than whether gays who already have the right of civil unions have the right to marry as well. For similar reasons, I have always been appalled at the campaign by gay rights groups to shut down inner city Boy Scout organizations if they don’t toe the line on gay rights. A Scout troop may be the only hope that a black 11-year-old in Brooklyn has to learn self-discipline and deferred gratification. That black kid’s life chances are a lot bleaker than any gay white Eagle scout leader.

I agree with Andrew and David Hume that gay marriage is inevitable, given the clout of the gay lobby and the power of the modern non-discrimination principle. But that doesn’t mean that it won’t have consequences beyond what we can possibly foretell and which conservatives should be attuned to.

245 comments

  • JohnC · May 7, 2009 at 3:01 pm

    @Thrasymachus You may actually want to carefully read the discussion in question. There is such a thing as a fascist political philosophy, and the term “fascist” is not necessarily just a mindless epithet (though it is all too often used that way).

    Meanwhile, it might be useful if you tried something other than finding new ways to express your contempt for gay people. It’s not a good look.

  • D · May 7, 2009 at 3:06 pm

    Thrasymachus, the guy they’re debating affirmed that he finds Hitler had some deep and powerful insights about the human condition. They aren’t name calling.

  • Mike in Texas · May 7, 2009 at 3:50 pm

    Wow. This is quite a silly arguement. You may as well argue that because black people from the inner city don’t want to be percieved as white that white people shouldnt be allowed to get married. Or, say that because of high illigitimacy in black populations that blacks should be legally obligated to marry women that they impregnate. Frivilously denying innocent 3rd parties rights because of possible repercussions (however unlikely) is a dangerous game to play with our political system.

    Also, Asher, the point is that the arguements of the absolute nature of marriage are the vast majority of those against marriage, so using these arguements allows for the invocation of the founding documents and constitution, which culturally govern our states relation with the absolutes. Ultimately, if these documents are followed, there is little justification for descrimination based on religion.

    Having said this. Being a young gay man, I am absolutely indifferent to the terms used. I think there are much more important issues to address like employment descrimination or civil union rights in the many states (such as mine) that dont have them. Ignoring the majority of gay people who have no rights so that people in california and new york can use a different word to describe their relationship is infuriating and rediculous.

  • Are black people really that obsessed with gay marriage? « The United States of Jamerica · May 7, 2009 at 4:44 pm

    [...] 2009 May 7 tags: heather mac donald, marriage, same-sex marriage, secular right by Jamelle At Secular Right, Heather Mac Donald tries to argue in support of one of the most common objections to same-sex marriage: the fear that legitimizing same-sex [...]

  • Carlo · May 7, 2009 at 4:48 pm

    @Asher

    The fact that you cannot figure this out for yourself is astonishing. Men, whether gay or straight, especially men under 35, become invested in their society in large part to their ability to successfully pursue sex. It’s not a stretch to say that, for most men, inability to access sex makes their existence rather meaningless. Let’s take out the 3 to 4 percent of gay men, and take out 20 percent of straight alpha males. That leaves 76 percent of males which are about 38 percent of the population. This means that, barring the sexual socialism of monogamy, you have 38 percent of the population born that have no reason to exist. That’s what evolutionary biologists would call a genetic load.

    Human gestation, birth and rearing is a biologically expensive process, and wasting 38 percent of each reared offspring because of lack of sexual access is biologically expensive. Heterosexual marriage solves this problem, and that is a benefit to beta straights, gays AND alpha straights. Societies, such as in AFrica, where monogamy is not the norm tend to be nasty places to live, compared to what we are acclimated.

    I find it amusing that you accuse me of failing to understand an argument that you never actually made. You never mentioned genetic load before; your only description of the general social interest that you proposed was exactly what I quoted verbatim above. It was, quite clearly and specifically, a description of reducing the increased cost/effort that falls to non-alpha straight males due to their difficulty to find a mate.

    Now, you could make an argument as to how that affects gay men, and society in general. You could argue as to how pent-up sexual frustration leads to increased violence and crime (an argument I would find fairly convincing, actually). Or you can describe the link between decreased monogamy in Africa and the unique, complex socio-economic difficulties that they experience there (which, I suspect, is due to a great many cultural, historical, and biogeographical factors that have little to do with their predominant system of mating). Or you can argue for the existence of that link in any thousand number of ways that you might imagine. But I find it rather silly that, when confronted with the flaw in the argument that you DID make, you pretend that you had been saying something else all along, and then insinuate that it is your opponent that has been stupid.

    But even this new argument that you’ve come up with, though fairly original, contains serious flaws, and misuses the term “genetic load”. You weren’t being entirely clear, but I take it you’re applying Haldane’s and Kimura’s classic model of substitutional load. You’re arguing that, without enforced monogamy, a proportion of the male population has a decreased fitness due to inability to find mates, decreasing the average fitness of the population. If maximum average fitness = 1, then under a model of hard selection, the genetic load would result in a decrease in population size and eventual extinction. Clearly preventing that extinction would be a social benefit to everyone, thus there would be a demand for excess reproduction from alpha males to keep the population size stable. But following Haldane’s model, the alpha male allele would quickly go to fixation, and in the succeeding generations, all males would be “alpha”, that is, equally attractive to females. Average fitness would reach the maximum, and there would be no genetic load remaining. Your desired general social benefit would be achieved all on its own, and enforced monogamy would only slow down this evolution by making the alpha male allele neutral or nearly neutral.

    But what you’ve actually described departs from Haldane’s model in important ways. It can be more easily thought of as a system of haploid males, with all females acting as equally viable habitats in which the males can reproduce. What results is a frequency-dependent sexual selection model under soft selection assumptions, in which the fitness of the alpha male allele is inversely proportional to its frequency. Under such a scenario, if you assume that the alpha males gain access to all of the females, and that the number of male progeny produced is proportional to the amount of females mated, then the population size would increase/decrease at a steady rate, regardless of what proportion of the male population gets to mate (in other words, regardless of the frequency of the alpha male allele). For example, assuming a stable population size to simplify the math, if 20% of alpha males gain access to all of the females and have children with all of them, their reproductive fitness would average to 5 (five males born to each alpha male), and the fitness of non-alpha males = 0. Average fitness would therefore be (0.2)(5) + (0.4)(0) = 1. Under enforced monogamy, where all males are allowed to mate, their relative fitness is lower but the average fitness remains the same: (1)(1) + (0)(0) = 1. Average fitness is maximum in both cases, therefore there wouldn’t have even been any genetic load to begin with, even though in the former case many males had no access to mates. Again, you can argue as to how this would be detrimental to all of society (I actually agree that it probably would, but in more complex socio-economic ways than you describe), but it would have nothing to do with genetic load as population geneticists use the term. You know, there’s a reason why the load concept has been largely discredited, and is mostly absent in modern fitness models.

    Of course this line of reasoning that we’ve both indulged in is ridiculous, and in fact quite offensive, for many reasons: because people select mates for all sorts of non-genetic reasons, because the role of government extends far beyond the dictates of population genetics; because human welfare and purpose can be measured in more meaningful ways than one’s access to sex; because it falsely conflates monogamy and marriage; and because it treats women as mere sperm receptacles and baby incubators, to name a few. Based merely on a framework of limiting genetic load and increasing average population fitness, one could grant marriage rights only to individuals without specific deleterious mutations; allow public benefits (such as entry in public parks) only to adults that shun celibacy or childless lifestyles; create tax incentives for family sizes that increase the frequency of favored alleles; teach public school children what sorts of genetically inferior persons they should avoid, or provide marriage benefits to couples based on their ability to further various genetic goals: reducing pedigree inbreeding, creating favorable heterozygotes, or increasing linkage disequilibrium between desirable epistatically-interacting loci. These are all affirmative endorsements that promote general social interests, but certainly no society I would wish to participate in.

  • Danilo · May 7, 2009 at 5:49 pm

    @ Asher
    I also thought that Nietzsche and existentialism were dark and cool when I was 17 or 18. It’s a young, male phase. And yes the idea of a society “red in tooth and claw” beneath the civilized surface makes sociobiology a lot of fun (maybe we could find a sociobiological reason for young males liking sociobiology). But if your age begins with a 3 or a 4 maybe you’re getting a little old to be basing your political philosophy on it. The sad, boring fact is that if you want to get involved in a political discussion you’ll have to start talking about the polis, or the human society organized according to laws.

  • KipEsquire · May 7, 2009 at 7:25 pm

    Can you remind me where in the Constitution the words “unintended consequences” appear? I can’t remember whether it’s before or after that frivolous and best-ignored “equal protection” part.

  • JohnC · May 7, 2009 at 8:12 pm

    A couple of relevant links to this discussion:
    http://ta-nehisicoates.theatlantic.com/archives/2009/05/the_gay_marriage_debate_live_from_dc.php

    http://gregsanders.typepad.com/blog/2009/05/celebrating-same-sex-marriage-victories.html

    The short Wash-Po video in the second link is worth watching as a reminder of how scary and irrational religious folk can be on this issue.

  • Jupiter · May 8, 2009 at 7:01 am

    Someone made a post along the along the lines “every law passed can have unintended consequences..therefore we shouldn’t pass laws?”. The implication of statement was that it is silly to worry about the un- intended consequences of legalizing homosexual marriage. If you want a real word glimpse of the likely consequences of legalizing homosexual marriage look no further than what happened to five San Diego heterosexual firemen who were forced by their lesbian supervisor-under threat of being fired-to march in the San Diego Gay Pride day where they were subject to vicious sexual harrasment by homosexual males. Thier Lesbian supervisor states that the Gay Pride was a fun time for all. If Homosexual marriage is legalized, there will be very nasty consequences for heterosexuals. What happened in San Diego was a warning shot. It is the future. Homosexuals are being very dishonest when they claim “legalized homosexual marriage… nothing to worry about.” I should point out the five heterosexual San Diego firemen sued for sexual harrasment and won. And after winning their case, they and their families received death threats…from the homosexaul community no doubt.
    Some people exclaim “Oh Look gay marraige is legal all over Western Europe”. Well, when the muslims finally take over Europe, homosexaul marriage will be banned-again

  • Are Black People Really That Obsessed With Gay Marriage? « PostBourgie · May 8, 2009 at 8:30 am

    [...] At Secular Right, Heather Mac Donald tries to argue in support of one of the most common objections to same-sex marriage: the fear that legitimizing same-sex marriages would come at the cost of sullying the institution of “traditional marriage.”  Interestingly, she doesn’t focus on marriage as an institution so much as she does on the impact of same-sex marriage in the African-American community, where marriage rates are very low.  From what I can tell, Mac Donald is afraid that the unintended consequence of legitimizing same-sex marriage could be to stigmatize marriage among African-American males, who – on average – hold intensely negative views on homosexuality.  Here it is in her own words: [...]

  • Brian Westley · May 8, 2009 at 9:49 am

    OK, I’ll do it if it will help solve a knotty civil rights problem:

    Heather Mac Donald, I guarantee that widespread gay marriage will not further erode the expectation among blacks that marriage is the proper context for raising children.

    Problem solved.

  • Carlo · May 8, 2009 at 11:09 am

    @Jupiter
    Yes, you’ve figured us out. When we finally get same-sex marriage legalized, our first action will be to force-march you and all other male heterosexuals along public streets, and subject you all to sexual harassment. And there’s nothing you can do to stop us! Bwahahahaha!

  • Jupiter · May 8, 2009 at 11:49 am

    Carlo

    And don’t forget the conservative heterosexual worker at a Christian Charity in England-where homosexual marriage is legalized- who expressed his opposition to homosexaul marriage to a coworker who rated him out to the police. The police paid him a visit. Hysterical isn’t it. So were the death threats made to the five firemen and their families. A belly-full of laughs. Ha Ha!!! Like their lesbian supervisor who forced them to march in the Gay Pride parade under threat of firing exclaimed:the San Diego Gay Pride parade is a fun filled day for every one!!!! By the well, the courts did not rule on the legal issue of the free speech rights of these five heterosexual fireman. And the city of San Diego serioulsy considered challenging the court ruling. So quite possibly, if the homosexual men hadn’t exposed themselves along the parade route to these five firemen, and if the five firemen had also complained about being forced to march in the Gay Pride parade, they could have lost their court case..and the following year, if they refused their lesbian supervisors order to march in the Gay Pride parade…they could have been fired from their jobs..and it would have been legal to do so. I would say the slippery slope is about 100 percent.

    Yes, denying homosexuals ther right is discrimination. The general claim that discrimanation is always wrong is indefensible. Promotion of polygamay is grounds for denying someone the opportunity to emigrate to the US. Polygamy is illegal in the United States. There is already a legal precedent for discrimination. Discrimination is not always wrong. Every one understands this. Discrimiation can be based upon a Nation’s moral sensibility.

  • Danilo · May 8, 2009 at 12:12 pm

    @ Jupiter
    That’s right, the civil marriage laws will be 200 pages long and will contain all the necessary provisions for national domination and re-education of Christians in FEMA concentration camps. Glenn Beck knows all about the Protocols of the Elders of the Homosexualists

  • RobbieF · May 8, 2009 at 1:43 pm

    Carlo :

    Carlo

    @Asher

    Of course this line of reasoning that we’ve both indulged in is ridiculous, and in fact quite offensive, for many reasons: because people select mates for all sorts of non-genetic reasons, because the role of government extends far beyond the dictates of population genetics; because human welfare and purpose can be measured in more meaningful ways than one’s access to sex; because it falsely conflates monogamy and marriage; and because it treats women as mere sperm receptacles and baby incubators, to name a few. Based merely on a framework of limiting genetic load and increasing average population fitness, one could grant marriage rights only to individuals without specific deleterious mutations; allow public benefits (such as entry in public parks) only to adults that shun celibacy or childless lifestyles; create tax incentives for family sizes that increase the frequency of favored alleles; teach public school children what sorts of genetically inferior persons they should avoid, or provide marriage benefits to couples based on their ability to further various genetic goals: reducing pedigree inbreeding, creating favorable heterozygotes, or increasing linkage disequilibrium between desirable epistatically-interacting loci. These are all affirmative endorsements that promote general social interests, but certainly no society I would wish to participate in.

    Carlo wins.

  • enluch · May 9, 2009 at 10:51 am

    Tsk!

    I am half way through the entry and I’ve already lost the number of logical fallacies violated by the author. What pains me the most is that the author is a former lawyer from an accredited Ivy League school who worked as a Supreme Court clerk. The only thing that has gravitated me to this website is the amount of well debated polemics put forth by the readers.

  • Sylvia N · May 9, 2009 at 7:00 pm

    Heather seems to be pulling together several different social concerns in ways that I’m not sure I follow. One is the lack of economic opportunity and high rate of violence in the black male community. Another is the failure of black men to marry mothers of their children. A third is the low regard of (straight) black men for gay men. So what I hear her desiring is more societal support for black men marrying the mothers of their children, and more positive role models and male imagery to undergird that goal. I am confused how two men caring enough to marry each other (and in some cases, foster and raise children in the context of that relationship) will be negative role models for black men. A fair number of lesbian, gay and bisexual people are involved in various social justice efforts. What would make more sense to me, instead of arguing against marriage equality on the premise that it would further undermine the social fabric of black communities – would be to befriend and engage the efforts of gay, lesbian and bisexual people in concretely addressing the really difficult problems that exist. Coming together to mutual benefit is potentially a much more effective use of everyone’s energies.

  • Soul Searcher · May 10, 2009 at 7:47 am

    Why is everyone being so harsh on the author? In what other forum are you going to have the chance to play Devil’s Advocate if you want to inform your views?

  • Mike in Texas · May 12, 2009 at 9:19 am

    @ Soul Searcher
    The reason is because the author’s points are absurd. If she is playing devil’s advocate, then she needs to make it be known.

  • The Agitator » Blog Archive » Morning Links · May 15, 2009 at 5:44 am

    [...] much, but she’s usually a pretty worthy adversary. She does her homework. That said, this is one of the silliest arguments against gay marriage I’ve seen to [...]

  • Nick · May 15, 2009 at 12:29 pm

    So you want to encourage more heterosexual black men to marry by not allowing gay black men to marry? You do realize that a gay black man who is not allowed to marry his boyfriend, will in fact not magically become straight and marry a black woman, right?

  • bob puharic · May 15, 2009 at 12:30 pm

    This makes absolutely no sense at all. Why should someone’s civil rights be held hostage to ANOTHER group’s ‘misbehavior’? It’s wrong to extend marriage to gays because blacks don’t generally get married before having children? Talk about a non sequitur!

    If an action is right then it’s right. And extending a right we heterosexuals already have to gays is right. PLUS it may actually SHORE UP support for marriage in the black community. If ‘everyone else’ is doing it, then, perhaps this higher social profile will support, not degrade marriage.

  • Wolfy · May 15, 2009 at 3:10 pm

    “I am half way through the entry and I’ve already lost the number of logical fallacies violated by the author. What pains me the most is that the author is a former lawyer from an accredited Ivy League school who worked as a Supreme Court clerk.”
    I agree with you. Fire her teachers. What a pathetic argument.

    “No, Heather is making the same argument as Ron Guhname did sometime ago here that hyper-masculine men (black males in the ‘hood are often hyper-masculine) may come to view marriage as a “faggy” thing if gay marriage becomes legitimized by society.” Actually, this argument clearly has racist undertones (I am caucasian btw). It assumes that African American men do not possess the intelligence (nor the values) to recognize that marriage can be a positive experience. In addition, the divorce rate overall (all races included) is around 50 percent (by year 5 of marriage) .

    “In my opinion, this is the single most legitimate argument I have heard in opposition to gay marriage.” In what way Einstein? Even if in some fantasy world this argument were valid, it would not in any way justify barring sex couples from receiving authorization to get married. In actuality, the government (along with its worker bee politicians) confirms its corrupt nature by being in opposition to same sex marriages.

    “It IS a convincing argument.” I am convinced you missed too many critical thinking classes.
    (BTW I am heterosexual)

  • Dan Hill · May 16, 2009 at 7:34 am

    Your argument boils down to the following:

    People shouldn’t have kids without getting married, therefore
    People shouldn’t get married without having kids.

    I think the Greek’s figured out that this is totally falacious, about 2,500 years ago; obviously you’re still waiting for that penny to drop. A bit ironic (you might want to check with Greeks on that concept too) on a blog with the word “reason” in the sub-title don’t you think?

    And it absolutely begs the question “what is your view on heterosexual marriages without kids?” To have any consistency at all, you must also want to invalidate my (childless) marriage of 20 years. Well who the hell are you to pass judgement on the validity of other people’s marriages and lives?

  • Chairm · May 17, 2009 at 12:22 am

    Marriage does have a core meaning that is expressed in different cultures, across time and geography, in terms of certain universals. There are variables, too, but these are what the advocates of “gay marriage” have emphasized over the universals.

    In simple terms marriage, at its core, is a combination — 1) sex integration, 2) provision for responsible procreation, and 3) a coherent whole (a social institution) that is foundational to civil society. It pre-exists government and is not reliant on government; but government, on behalf of civil society, accords marriage a preferential status based on its core meaning.

    So-called “gay marriage” is sex-segregative, non-procreative, and is not a foundational social institution. Due to this, it is fragile and utterly dependant upon Government to maintain.

    The core meaning of marriage is expressed in our legal system. The man-woman criterion stands for sex integration; the marital presumption of paternity stands for the provision of responsible procreation. These are combined as a coherent whole and around this core we have variable lines of eligibility. This core is not mere tradition but universal.

    People who support “gay marriage” (an oxymoron) deny there is a core meaning of marriage. Indeed, they generally presuppose that Government owns marriage and that it is only through state endorsement that marriage exists at all.

    But marriage is first and foremost a social institution. It has social and legal status. This is a preferential status. It is not merely tolerative nor is it merely protective.

    When, in an under-class, the message given and received is that marriage is disconnected from procreation, and from uniting the sexes, the nonmarital trends rapidly rise and stay high. In other words, if you keep telling people that marriage and babies are seperate things, then, people will act as if that was true.

    The arguments for “gay marriage” tell that false story. But “gay marriage’ attacks the core meaning of marriage. First, of course, it directly attacks the man-woman criterion in the law and the man-woman basis in the culture. Next, it deeply undercuts or seeks to abolish the sexual basis for marriage: the marital presumption of paternity which arises from the sexual type of relationship of husband and wife. This presumption (culturally and legally) is largely the reasosn that the conjugal relationshp is a public type of sexual relationship. It is two-sexed.

    Advocates of “gay marriage” emphasize sexual orientation but marriage is indifferent to that. There is no sexual orientation requirement in the law; neither to make one ineligible nor to make one eligible to marry.

    Advocates talk about love but that is a relatively recent modern tradition; advocates disdain appeals to tradition despite their heavy reliance on the notion of romance and love. When an advocate talks of love or romance or commitment, he is not distinguishing marriage from non-marriage, at least not in the law. Instead he is using love and romance and commitment as euphemisms for sexual attraction and sexual behavior.

    But consider the attack on responsible procreation. Advocates will insist that there is no legal requirement that each and every marriage be forced, by the government, to procreate. Then they fold their arms and say this must mean there is no legitimate connection between marriage and babies.

    Yet the marital presumption of paternity is part and parcel of that to which each person who marries consents. It is a rebutable presumption, for sure, but even its criteria for challenge is based on the opposite-sexed basis of marriage and does not apply to the one-sexed scenario.

    In addition to these two obvious legal requirements (man-woman, presumption of paternity) this sexual basis is expressed in provisions for consumation, adultery, annulment, and so forth. but the man-woman criterion and the marital presumption are clearly definitive of marital status.

    But what of this rule of arugment that says something must be a legal requirement to be an essential of marriage?

    Well, no legal requirement for love, nor for sexual attraction, nor for romance, nor for sexual orientation. Yet advocates of “gay marriage” emphasize all of these as if these were definitive of marriage in the law.

    Obviously, their stated standards are used only when attacking the core of marriage. They throw those standards aside when asserting their own notion of “gay marriage”. This is unreasonable and reveals a profound flaw in their arugmentation.

    At root they are opposed to the arbitrary use of government authority. Yet they depend on such arbitariness. They argue for rewriting the boundaries of marriage to expand the idea and make room for people based on sexual orientation. Yet the marriage law does not test for sexual orientation nor does its boundaries depend on what advocates insist is at the center of “gay marriage”.

    Boundaries run around the core of marriage. Not all consenting adults may marry. This is true in all societies. The line-drawing is variable but the core is not.

    Due to societal concerns about sex integration and responsible procreaton, we draw lines against some related people, but not all related people; against some previously married people, but not all previously married people; against some underaged people, but not against all underaged people. And so on.

    The lines are based on the combination of uniting man and woman, according to our public moral standards and our esteem for the social institution of marriage. These lines serve to outline what for our society is preferred in family formation: integrating fatherhood and motherhood and encoding the principle that each of us, as part of a procreative duo, is responsible for the children we create and bring into this world (barring dire circumstances or tragedy).

    Ask an advocate of “gay marriage” to justify these lines and they will either abandon the lines or resort to citing the very concerns that are at the core of marriage — arising from the man-woman basis rather than “love” or “commitment” or whatever.

    Merging marriage with ‘gay marriage’ means gutting marriage of its core — of what distinguishes marriage qua marriage. It means eraising the lines — or making them unsustainable — such that the vast range of nonmarital arrangments and types of relationshps would be equated to the union of husband and wife.

    No sexual behavior requirement in “gay marriage”? Then on what possible basis would a line be drawn against more than two or against some related people or against people whose social age is higher than their chronological age? The line-drawing business of government is rendered entirely arbitrary or, worse, dysfunctional.

    The stated standards of the “gay marriage” argument, as highlighted in both the sexual orientation emphasis and the attack on the centrality of procreation, are self-defeating. That is, if you turn those standards on “gay marriage” and test its so-called essentials, you will discover that these standards destroy the claim for “gay marriage”.

    It destroys the special status — the preferential basis — for the institution that advocates claim they wish to expand. It flattens marriage to a merely protective status. It reduces marriage to government bennies. That is, instead of accorded bennies based on the core meaning that is preferred by society, the advocates reverse engineer and claim bennies are definitive of the thing being recognized.

    All of this corrupts society’s cultural and legal support for a foundational social institution.

    The most vulnerable are those within subgroups where the marriage idea has already been battered with misleading notions that seperate marriage from procreation and from sex integration.

    Where the nonmarital trends are highest, it is most clear that increased sex segregation has led to social pathologies; and the disconnect with responsible procreation has been both a cause and an effect of these pathologies. Marraige is the solution, but merging it with “gay marriage” would deny us of that solution.

    On the other hand, a simple system of designated beneficiaires — with no sexual basis — has long existed in our society. This is not marriage and is not supposed to be marriage-lite. It is an alternative to those who’d form nonmarital arrangements or who’d choose to live outside of marriage.

    The choice to form a nonmarital arrangement, such as so-called “gay marriage”, is a liberty exercised, not a right denied.

  • JohnC · May 17, 2009 at 7:09 am

    @Chairm “Marriage does have a core meaning that is expressed in different cultures, across time and geography, in terms of certain universals.”

    From this starting point you proceed to reify your “universals” into a theory of marriage that has little connection with its history, anthropology or current sociology: a classic logical fallacy. Historically, marriage has been a form of property management among men of the means of production when these where primarily in the hands of the extended family. That property, of course, included women and children. The industrial revolution and changes in the status of women have radically altered that socical context and consequently the meaning of marriage in modern society.

    But let’s put inventive social theory aside and search for a concrete argument, and we find: “Where the nonmarital trends are highest, it is most clear that increased sex segregation has led to social pathologies; and the disconnect with responsible procreation has been both a cause and an effect of these pathologies. Marraige is the solution, but merging it with “gay marriage” would deny us of that solution.”

    This is in fact identical to the proposition that Heather put forward, and falls victim to the same critique, exhaustively rehearsed by many posters above. In summary, gay marriage can hardly be held responsible for the huge increase in single parenthood, and no one has yet provided a shred of evidence that it would have the slightest effect on this long-term phenonemon, among urban blacks or anyone else.

    To which I might add that the highest divorce rates are consistently in the most socially conservative areas of the US (deep south and Appalachians) as are the highest rates of teenage pregnancy and STDs. Some analysis of these empirical trends might be a better starting point for those concerned about responsible procreation, rather than working up a lather about marriage equality which, at most, is of marginal significance to this problem.

  • Chairm · May 17, 2009 at 10:37 am

    JohnC, your view is mistaken. The anthropological record includes the marriages of landless peasants and people with little if any property to manage. The history of the extended family is based on the union of husband and wife. You have offered an inventive retelling of the historical record.

    The exhaustive rehearsals upthread do not address the substantive point. Marriage integrates the sexes and provides for responsible procreation. Gutting marriage of this core meaning removes the solution to the social pathologies that stem from increased sex segregation and decreased procreation of the responsible kind.

    If the solution is not marriage, then, please point to the plausible solution you feel is in the offing.

    Where marriage participation is high, the rates of divorce may also be higher. No marriage is an island and the marriage culture has certainly taken a beating these past few decades. Pointing to premarital sexual behavior (strongly associated with higher rates of STDs) underlines the point I made earlier about the core meaning of marriage being the solution rather than the problem.

    Your bumpersticker, “marraige equality”, does not substitute for an actual argument in favor of imposing “gay marriage” on all of society.

    Within a one-sexed arrangement, sexualized or not, there is no sex equality. Excluding one sex does not integrate the sexes. Segregating fatherhood and motherhood does not provide for responsible procreation.

    Now, sure, you can argue in favor of abandoning the societal concerns for this core of marriage. And many who advocate for SSM do so insistently.

    But what is the core of “gay marriage”? Plainly state its meaning.

    If you emphasize sexual orientation, then, please point to the legal requirement for homosexuality where people show-up for a license for their one-sex relationship. There is none, of course.

    If you emphasize love, then, point to the love requirement. There is none. Point to the sexual attraction requiremnt. None there either.

    When stripped of its reliance on gay identity politics, the argument for “gay marriage” is neither about gay nor marriage. It becomes a more conservative and straightforward call for protections based on certain vulnerabilities experienced by nonmarital families.

    And these families are not defined by sexual orientation nor by sexual attraction nor by sexual behavior. Protections should not be limited by criteria that are irrelevant.

    It is important to distinguish marriage from nonmarriage. We do this by idenitifying the core of the social institution of marriage. Then we draw lines around that core which are sustainable and justifiable.

    Since “gay marriage” is advocated without a core meaning (apart from the assertion of gay identity politics) it is not distinguishable from the rest of the nonmarriage category for that reason alone. But the need for protections do provide a core meaning for a subset of the nonmarriage category.

    So protections, or even a formal protective relationship status, might be justifiable and sustainable but not on the sole basis of gayness.

    On the other hand, marital status is a preferential status because of the core meaning of marriage. And both the man-woman criterion nor the marital presumption of paternity are indifferent, or neutral, in terms of sexual orientation. Indeed, most of those who have formed same-sex households (the Census term for households presumed to be headed by homosexual couples) have been previously married (i.e. in unions of husband and wife). And where there are children in such households, most, by far, migrated from those previously procreative relationshps of either mom or dad. So they demonstrate that the man-woman criterion is not a barrier to the gay person and the marital presumption of paternity protects the gay parents and their children.

    Now, if your radical proposition can be justified, without resort to an assertion of the supremacy of gay identity politics, go ahead and make your case — in principle and also with empirical evidence.

    The societal concerns for responsible procreation and sex integration are to be muted, for the sake of “gay marriage”, but the huge emphasis on identity politics is to be amplified at the same time, right?

    Distinguish the relationship type you have in mind from the rest of the nonmarraige category, if you ca. And point to the legal requirements that define what distinguishes. Further, justify the boundaries around those essentials, if there are any, without pointing back to the core of marriage, as I have described it.

    And if you can find any exmaples from the historical or the anthropological record for “gay marriage”, go ahead, supply all that you can pull from your vault. Afterall, you must justify your certitude.

  • Chairm · May 17, 2009 at 10:44 am

    Also, regarding the divorce rates, these are inflated, unfortunately, by the minority who marry-divorce-remarry serially. Denying the core of marriage does not provide a solution for higher divorce rates. But the radical reform of unilateral divorce does provide lessons for those who seek yet anoher radical reform of marriage — both in the law and in the culture. Where divorce becomes very common, their children become more prone to divorce even though they may hold marriage up as an ideal for romantic emphasis. This is the emphasis of those who advocate for “gay marriage”. Likewise, those advocates will point to examples of extramarital procreation such as the use of “donors” by lone individuals. That’s another example of segregating fatherhood from motherhood. Indeed, this is extramarital procreation even when married people partake of the practice. It requires the pre-emptive relinquishment of parental status. This is the inverse of the marital presumption of paternity. Also, in practice, statistically, it is the inverse of the core of marriage.

  • Chairm · May 17, 2009 at 10:47 am

    Typo correction: “And both the man-woman criterion *and* the marital presumption of paternity are indifferent, or neutral, in terms of sexual orientation.

  • JohnC · May 17, 2009 at 5:02 pm

    @Chairm Fortunately, I am not marking a term paper, so forgive me if I leave your sociological theories to one side and cut to the chase.

    Any fool can see that the profound social changes which culminated in no-fault divorce have had a sweeping effect on the institution of marriage for all participants. What no one has shown is that extending the juridical definition to include same-sex couples will have any effect on male-female couples, including their propensity to get married; their propensity to divorce; or their varied understandings of the rights and obligations of a marriage contract.

    You assert it will, but without a shred of evidence, which is hardly surprising since there isn’t any.

    The meaning of marriage is not the property of legislators or social theorists; it belongs to the participants and varies across a spectrum of romantic, companionate, economic, social compliance, child rearing, or simply convenience. This plethora of motivations by heterosexual couples is not going to be altered through being shared and lived by a proportionately small number of same-sex couples enjoying the same rights and status.

  • Chairm · May 17, 2009 at 10:02 pm

    These are not sociological theories.

    The marital presumption of paternity is both about rights and obligations of marriage to which those who enter the social institution give their consent. That is not based on whatever an all-male or an all-female arrangment might do romantically or sexually.

    If this vigorously enforced legal presumption is not evidence, in your view, then this explains your anemica account of the historical and anthropologocial record.

    I asked for the core meaning of “gay marriage” and you offered none. That comes as no surprise, frankly, because advocates generally run away from the very notion of a core meaning by which this type of relationship can be distinguished from other types of relationships and living arrangements. The lack of a distinction means you do not recognize marriage; you recognize something else for which you seek to appropriate the label (and the social esteem) of marriage.

    Please note that I did not ask about private motivations.

    Marital status is both a social and a legal status — indeed a preferential status — based on a type of public relationship.

    It is a type of relationship that is public. And it due to the sexual aspect that is two-sexed and which is indeed expressed in legal requirements of which two are 1) the man-woman criterion (integration of the sexes) and 2) the marital presumption of paternity (provision for responsible procreation). The third factor at the core of marriage is that it is a foundational social institution of civil society. The first factor is not a standalone, as advocates of SSM pretend. It is combined with the second factor to form a coherent whole, i.e. a social institution.

    Both the first and the second factors arise from sex differentation. If you see “gay marriage” through the lense of sexual orientation, as does the SSM camaign and its argumentation, then, you would not deny the significance of sex differentation in the emphasis on sexual orientation. So this fact of differentiation is not a mere quibble.

    It certainly is highly relevant and of utmost importance when it comes to the marital presumption of paternity. This clearly makes of marriage a sexual type of public relationship. This is found in the law and in the culture. It is not a mere quibble. And it is not arbitrary. The presumption is vigorously enforced. It is a rebutable presumption, in most places, but that is based on the opposite-sexed nature of human procreation.

    None of that is merely a theory — sociologically or otherwise. I am stating the plain facts of the matter.

    The social institution of marriage is not defined by private contracts nor is it defined by private motivations. It has a shared public meaning and its core is directly expressed in legal requirements that you seem too ready to push aside.

    The nature of humankind is two-sexed; the nature of human procreation is opposite-sexed; and the nature of human community is both-sexed. From this, the foundations of civilization arise. Marriage is foundational precisely because it is a universal human institution with universal features.

    You might wish to emphasize variable features and deny that there are any universals. That’s okay. It is done everyday by advocates of “gay marriage”. But then by doing so you owe society a core meaning of “gay marriage” by which it can be distinguished from the rest of the nonmarital category of relationship types and kinds of living arrangements.

    If you cannot do this, then, you have no business talking of marriage, much less “gay marriage”, as an authority on what is and is not supported by the available evidence. Instead you’d rely on an arbitrariness that is supposedly denounced by SSM argumentation itself.

    The task is quite simple, given your certitude: plainly state the core meaning of “gay marriage”, that is its essentials without which it would be neither gay nor marriage. Then, draw the lines around that such that this relationship, by type, will be distinguishable from others. If these lines are sustainable, provide the basics of how the lines arise from the core or the essentials around which these lines are drawn.

    This can be done for marriage, as I’ve described, but it appears to be an insurmountable obstacle for those who insist that “gay marriage” is about enjoying equal rights and status with marriage.

    “Gay marriage” is not foundational and is not evident in the anthropological and historical record, except perhaps rarely and very recently. Yet even at that — in places like Canada or Holland — the nonmarital trends have risen while partcipation in “gay marriage” has declined.

    Your comment did hint that participation rates are highly relevant, one way or the other. You said, “a proportionaly small number”, when you should have said that “gay marriage” — even in the more expansive form of “same-sex householding” — is a marginal practice within the adult homosexual population anyplace it has been enacted or imposed in the law. It is not normative even among that segment of the population.

    I don’t know what kind of empirical evidence you expect, but you offer precious little yourself — and nothing of significance in terms of a principled basis for the proposed reform in the law and in the culture.

  • Gotchaye · May 17, 2009 at 11:04 pm

    Well there you go, JohnC. You can tell that he’s not just engaging in armchair sociological theorizing – he says so twice, after all.

  • Op Ed. · May 18, 2009 at 6:59 am

    Gotchaye: Well there you go, JohnC. You can tell that he’s not just engaging in armchair sociological theorizing

    You mean like where he says without a shred of evidence that “This plethora of motivations by heterosexual couples is not going to be altered through …”

    Double standard, much?

  • barry · May 18, 2009 at 7:17 am

    Is there any evidence to support the contention that “[t]his crime gap results in depressed urban economies”? Doesn’t it seem at least equally likely that poverty leads to crime?

    Overall, this screed is patronizing, illogical, and embarrassing. I can’t believe that someone would publish something so poorly-constructed.

  • christine · May 18, 2009 at 1:13 pm

    I totally agree with Heather Mac Donald. If we let gays have the same rights as the rest of us, the poor foolish darkies wouldn’t know how to behave. Really astute point, Heather. You are a very smart person, with great values.

  • Buffy · May 18, 2009 at 1:20 pm

    How about you try tackling the misdeeds of straight people at their root instead of penalizing LGBT people in a misguided attempt to keep straight people on track? Banning same-sex marriage is not going to stop heterosexual divorce nor is it going to make black men marry their baby mamas. All it’s going to do is continue harming gay people.

  • Philip H. · May 18, 2009 at 1:38 pm

    Sviluppo :

    Sviluppo
    These class-based arguments against gay marriage are getting insulting. Is there no concept of individual responsibility? It appears as though the position of “Secular Right” is that the following groups:
    1) lower economic classes2) people in the fourth quartile of IQ3) the entire black population of the US
    are incapable of leading productive lives without proper direction and moral finger wagging from the upper class. And apparently they’re all poised to completely destroy society as we know it, and the spark that will ignite that conflagration is… GAY MARRIAGE.
    Please, please go on a nationwide tour promoting this concept. Let me know how well it goes in LA, Detroit, Chicago, etc.

    So here’s an interesting ironic twist – this sounds alot to me like the charge often leveld against LIBERALS by CONSERVATIVES. It’s especially shrilly run out whenever anyone looking like a liberal suggests a new social or educational program to overcome gaps like this. I’d laugh if I weren’t crying so hard.

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  • Carlo · May 18, 2009 at 4:23 pm

    @Chairm

    The task is quite simple, given your certitude: plainly state the core meaning of “gay marriage”, that is its essentials without which it would be neither gay nor marriage. Then, draw the lines around that such that this relationship, by type, will be distinguishable from others. If these lines are sustainable, provide the basics of how the lines arise from the core or the essentials around which these lines are drawn.

    Like JohnC, I believe that the meaning of marriage is ultimately owned and defined by its participants in myriad ways for different reasons, so I reject the assumption that some social institution or policy has to be defined by some bullet-pointed list of “core” sociological principles or desired effects in order to be justified. However, I do think the question is interesting enough that I’d like to attempt an answer. I don’t think it’s the sort of answer you’re looking for, but in my opinion it strikes at the heart of the matter under discussion.

    I think that, at it’s core, same-sex marriage is the attainment of equality for same-sex couples. That is, its full meaning cannot be derived independently, or only from universal features of human nature, but instead stems from three things: 1) the historically established existence and nature of opposite-sex marriage (including the privileged status and benefits that this institution confers), 2) the discrimination and inequality experienced by gays and lesbians throughout practically all of human history, and 3) the presumption that citizens in a democracy should enjoy freedom and equality under the law.

    In the same way that, as you said, the nature of humankind is two-sexed, and the nature of human procreation is opposite-sexed, it is also the nature of humankind to have a minority of members that are attracted to those of the same sex. That minority, due perhaps in part to an orientation that was not conducive to procreation, but due also to ignorance, bigotry, and religious dogma, has suffered a vastly inferior social status throughout nearly all of human civilization. Its sexual behavior was considered obscene (and often criminal), its relationships unspeakable, its members invisible.

    But with the advent of concepts such as “democracy”, “human rights”, and “equality”, there finally arrived a time when members of that minority sought to gain a status fully equal to their peers. This sought-after status comes in different forms, such as legal protections (i.e. employment nondiscrimination) and social acceptance (i.e. being “out” to friends and family). But a large part of what defines this minority is their relationships, and for this minority to be fully equal, their relationships have to be equal as well. Hence same-sex marriage.

    You’re correct: at its core, same-sex marriage is not about love, sexual orientation, or attraction. It’s not unique or independent; in the absence of opposite-sex marriage, there would probably be no push or desire at all for same-sex marriage. And it’s definitely not foundational, since it relies on certain civilizational developments that occurred only recently in human history. It is, at its core, about equality. The true meaning of same-sex marriage is that it corrects a historical injustice by granting to its participants a status that is equal to that enjoyed by their heterosexual peers. Gaining that status, however, requires that it meaningfully resemble its counterpart in every possible way. Thus, it seeks to adopt the values and traditions that have become part of opposite-sex marriage: love, sexual attraction, weddings, monogamy; for the same reason it also seeks the same legal benefits and responsibilities. The only difference, as far as its advocates are concerned, is that its participants are couples of the same sex. And thus, as you requested, it becomes both “gay” and “marriage”, distinguishable from other relationships.

  • Gotchaye · May 18, 2009 at 5:27 pm

    Come on, Op Ed. Yes, JohnC made some sociological claims. But he didn’t loudly insist (twice!) that his sociological claims were not, in fact, sociological claims, and that they were instead just (?) the plainly obvious facts of the matter. Also worth noting that John’s earlier claim was pretty short and simple, whereas Chairm’s ‘plain facts’ are multi-page interpretations of the purpose and meaning of marriage. I also don’t think I commented on the amount of evidence being offered – I wasn’t doing much more than pointing out the unintentional humor in Chairm’s post.

  • Jon H · May 18, 2009 at 5:57 pm

    “What are the chances that gay marriage would further doom marriage among blacks? I don’t know. Again, if someone can persuade me that the chances are zero, then I would be much more sanguine. But anything more than zero, I am reluctant to risk.”

    Uh, if black people were so strongly motivated to NOT emulate gay people, wouldn’t they have been rushing to get married for years now, in order to avoid looking like those heretofore-unmarried gays?

  • Julia · May 18, 2009 at 6:39 pm

    OK. Here’s the thing you’re missing… Gay couples don’t make babies accidently, so they will help decrease the very problem your insane little rant outlines.

  • Op Ed. · May 18, 2009 at 6:54 pm

    Gotchaye: Yes, JohnC made some sociological claims.

    Irrelevant. The point is evidence, and JohnC simultaneously derides what he considers insufficient evidence in others’ positions while not providing any evidence whatsoever for his own. It’s a double standard.

    Also worth noting that John’s earlier claim was pretty short and simple, whereas Chairm’s ‘plain facts’ are multi-page

    “Worth noting” because…?

    I wasn’t doing much more than pointing out the unintentional humor in Chairm’s post.

    Ah yes, one can always count on the ol’ “sociological claims” joke to bring down the house! (Hint: Don’t quit your day job.)

    For those keeping score, here is where we stand on “plain facts.” Let me know if this gets too wordy:

    1) Society has a purpose in recognizing marriage. This is Chairm’s point. This is the point of the main article.

    2) Society has no purpose in recognizing marriage once it is neutered. This is JohnC’s point and he is then backed up by Carlo.

    Since nobody on either side of the debate disputes point 2, JohnC and Carlo are left to argue against point 1, that society has no purpose in recognizing marriage – which is why it does.

  • Pat · May 18, 2009 at 7:00 pm

    @Kayla

    The really sad thing is that NY State Assemblywoman Barbara M Clark gave a similar argument last week when she voted ‘no’ on the gay marriage bill. “…very important facts that people here on this floor still don’t realize as they make the analogy between civil rights for black people and other people who are underprivileged, and people and gay marriage. Sixty-some percent of black women right now are not married. Now, why are they not married? We in this House should wonder about that. And it’s most likely for, I don’t have the facts, but I live with this all the time, it’s that the black men, who could be eligible for husbands for them, they’re not choosing to marry another man, they’re choosing to not marry because they can’t. They’re either in jail, don’t get an education, don’t have enough income and enough revenue to support a wife and a family.”

    What does this have to do with granting gays the right to get married? The constituency that Barbara Clark is defending already *has* the right to jobs, education…oh, and MARRIAGE. This is a weak and bigoted argument if ever I saw one. It shames me to be a New Yorker with people like this representing my state.

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