Secular Right | Reality & Reason

May/09

3

The Gay Marriage Thing

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Goodness, John, talk about jumping into a minefield…

Anyway, FWIW, here are my two cents. To start with, it’s worth saying that if anyone had asked me for my views on gay marriage a decade or so ago, I would have been astonished. The idea had never really occurred to me. The debates of recent years have changed all that, however. Having thought it through, it’s difficult to think that the utilitarian objections to same sex unions stack up too well.

There are, of course, those who have deeply-felt moral objections to gay marriage and there are others who make a moral case for changing the law to allow it. I don’t share the former and I’m not completely persuaded by the latter, but as my general view is that morality ought, where feasible, to be a matter for individuals rather than the state, I’ll leave those controversies to others, pausing only to observe that changes in the law that bring a little happiness, resolve some painful practical injustices (from hospital visitation rights to the ability to benefit from the spousal Death Tax exemption) and help take the previously marginalized deeper into ‘regular’ society should, probably, be seen as a Good Thing.

The role of the Right should be to shape the way that this change takes place, by building in, for example, free speech and ‘conscientious objection’ protections to those who do not go along. If that’s the aim, a position of outright opposition is not the best place to begin,

The strongest potential argument against changing the law (other than the generally sound principle that there should be a presumption against tinkering with society’s more important institutions) is that it will fundamentally change the nature of marriage, an institution that, for all its flaws, undoubtedly plays a useful part in holding society together. But does that argument hold up? Theoretically, and for very obvious reasons, same sex unions represent an enormous change, even to a robust, flexible institution that has over the centuries been governed by a bewildering range of frequently inconsistent rules, but the magic word is ‘theoretically’.

Homosexuals make up a small percentage of the population and what evidence there is would suggest that only a  small percentage of that small percentage has any interest in getting married (for the most part, I suspect that they’d just like to know that they could if they wanted to). Under the circumstances the idea that giving this tiny minority the right to marry would have any impact on the behavior of the remaining 96 percent (pick a number) of the population is highly unlikely. If anything, it might actually reinforce the idea of marriage as a desirable goal.

There’s also something else to consider. Much as some might think that the grubby business of politics shouldn’t intrude into a debate like this, it does and it will. Like it or not, this issue is a political marker of far greater weight than its practical consequences (at least as I see them) would merit. Back in the day, the GOP’s leadership understood this and used it, rightly, wrongly but undeniably successfully, to the Republicans’ political advantage. The signs are that the mathematics behind that calculation is going into reverse and that the GOP’s position on this issue is, increasingly, costing it support, particularly among the younger voters who will be essential if there is to be any hope of bringing an end to the current Democratic ascendancy. For those conservatives who see opposition to gay marriage as a vital matter of principle that may not matter, but for anybody else on the right to take a stance that may help prolong Democratic misgovernment looks like an awfully high price to pay merely to stop two men or two women walking down the aisle together.

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45 comments

  • JohnC · May 3, 2009 at 1:04 pm

    Well said. One question though: what would a “conscientious objector” be, and what “protections” would they require? Perhaps I’m being a bit dim, but I just don’t understand this (though I do get the free speech bit).

  • Author comment by David Hume · May 3, 2009 at 1:23 pm

    ‘conscientious objection’ protections to those who do not go along.

    as a pragmatic matter these will be religious ones. religious conscience has a privilege which can nullify public mores so long as the violation is modest enough. e.g., anti-discrimination laws.

  • JohnC · May 3, 2009 at 1:37 pm

    Sorry, still don’t get it. On the presumption that no one is being forced into marriage, and that no pastor or church will be forced to sanctify such a union, who are these objectors and what protections would they require?

  • Carlo · May 3, 2009 at 1:58 pm

    @JohnC: Hmm. I’m not sure either. But here’s a (rather poor) stab at it:

    eHarmony had been sued before for discrimination, since its service was only for straight-couple matchmaking, and disallowed gay couples. Eventually they were forced to open a separate gay matchmaking service. Now, even as a liberal SSM advocate that opposes discriminatory practices against LGBT folk, this seemed wrong to me. There are plenty of online gay dating and matchmaking service out there, it seemed incredibly petty and unfair to force eHarmony to provide a service they didn’t want to provide (even though I can see how the law really might have favored the plaintiff in this case). Conscientious objector protections might be those that protect dating, matchmaking, and wedding services from being forced to cater to gay clients. I’ll leave it to other commenters to opine on whether such protections are a good idea, or for that matter, constitutional.

    Of course, the flaw in all this is that it has everything to do with nondiscrimination law, and nothing at all to do with same-sex marriage.

  • JohnC · May 3, 2009 at 2:17 pm

    @Carlo
    Ah yes, that makes sense, thankyou. But you’re also right that this has nothing to do with SSM as such.

    It is in fact no different to the issue of service providers (caterers, photographers, reception centres, etc) refusing to cater for, say, a black couple getting married though in practice less of a problem since gay communities seem to be well provided for in such areas :-)

  • Danilo · May 3, 2009 at 2:18 pm

    @Carlo
    I have talked enough on this issue, so I will try to leave the floor to others. But just quickly on eHarmony. I am a thin-skinned gay man and I think it was wrong to sue them, and I sense that this is the majority opinion among gays I have heard mentioning it. We create online communities to socialize with people of our choosing. Also, it is a paid, private service. We have Jewish dating sites and over 50s sites and of course gay Web sites. Dating is by definition discrimination (the point is to find like-minded people) and it is totally unacceptable for the state to tell us who we must include anymore than we can sue someone for not inviting us to their birthday party. In short if the constitution is interpreted properly such protections should already be active.

  • Ploni Almoni · May 3, 2009 at 6:55 pm

    You think homosexual marriage won’t have much affect on heterosexual marriage? I wish I lived on your planet. Oh, and conscientious objector protections? In a holy war, a total war to exterminate homophobia? Ha ha ha.

    A message to Secular Right conservatives (plural?) who do oppose homosexual marriage: the Comment sections show you can’t even persuade your own troops, much less the enemy. Mr. Stuttaford’s post shows that even your own colleagues don’t agree with you. Give it up. I mean, give up this Secular Right project. However important or unimportant the homosexual marriage issue itself is, it demonstrates the futility of defending Christian morality while attacking Christianity. Be a conservative who is atheist, not an Atheist Conservative. Conservatives accept the tragic, right?

  • Anthony · May 3, 2009 at 8:05 pm

    @Ploni Almoni

    “I wish I lived on your planet.”

    No need to change planets – where I live same-sex marriage has been legal for several years. I have been to several marriages since then – all opposite-sex marriages. The people were still getting married for the same reasons that people were getting married before the change in law.

    The institution of marriage has *already changed* – due to changing roles of women in society, no-fault divorce, the legalization of highly effective birth control, … The move towards same-sex marriage is primarily a symptom of that, not a cause.

  • Carlo · May 3, 2009 at 9:11 pm

    @Ploni Almoni:

    Setting aside your baseless assertions of a holy war against homophobia, I find it very interesting that, if I understand correctly, you’re equating conservatism and Christian morality. So I suppose you think pragmatism and an appreciation for tradition correlate well with teachings of the bible or church? I’m neither agreeing nor disagreeing, but I am wondering what the writers in this blog would have to say about that.

  • Stephen R · May 3, 2009 at 10:13 pm

    This post made a lot of sense to me.

    I think that marriage laws ought to reflect actual families, if they are to exist at all. Gay couples live as legal units, so I see no reason to keep them from marrying — heck, it would probably stabilize their relationships which could have a lot of benefits.

    Also, I’m a teen and I’ve got a lot of out gay friends. Their relationships aren’t weird to me. So, as an individualist, I err on giving them the rights I claim for myself… Until a more compelling argument besides “Jesus doesn’t like it” comes along.

    (*And giving gays “civil unions” doesn’t make sense to me either, since as an atheist, I view all marriages as civil arrangements and not covenants. It would only be throwing religious people a bone IMO.)

    @Ploni Almoni
    I agree actually.. An atheist conservative who is protecting a Christian-model* of marriage should probably avoid attacking Christianity.. But then, why protect a Christian institution as an atheist?
    *(Marriage as something different from a civil arrangement for practical purposes like passing on property, giving power of attorney, etc.)

    Sorry for the long post. :)

  • JohnC · May 3, 2009 at 10:29 pm

    @Ploni Almoni

    “Christian morality” is a bit of a slippery beast, covering as it does everything from Liberation Theology to the theocratic positions of Christian Reconstructionism, neither of which seem to be particularly congruent with the political philosophy of conservatism.

  • Big "AL" McCormick · May 4, 2009 at 1:24 am

    The Right in America should base its ideology on individual freedom. This emphasis on freedom should should include free market capitalism, defense of free speech, defense of the right to own firearms, and opposition to racial quotas. Opposing queer marriage (or abortion for that matter) doesn’t “fit” well with our freedom platform.

    People against queer marriage need to think about how much queer marriage actually affects your lives? It really doesn’t, therefore, why not give up the queer marriage fight (and abortion for that matter) in order to win the more important battles?

    The end game of the freedom platform should be to reinstate the right to freedom of association and to increase the power of State and local governments. Over time people will move to areas of the country that offer the lifestyle that they prefer and natural lifestyle nodes will form. Vermont can have an eco-socialist state while the Bible-Belt has prayer in school. There are drawbacks to this “localism” type system but its the only way a diverse America can work.

  • Secular Right » Change does not have direction…always · May 4, 2009 at 2:22 am

    […] had some discussion on this weblog about the marriage of individuals of the same sex from different vantage points. As an empirical matter I think Andrew Stuttaford is correct to predict that this is one argument […]

  • Snippet · May 4, 2009 at 5:01 am

    >>> Homosexuals make up a small percentage of the population and what evidence there is would suggest that only a small percentage of that small percentage has any interest in getting married (for the most part, I suspect that they’d just like to know that they could if they wanted to). Under the circumstances the idea that giving this tiny minority the right to marry would have any impact on the behavior of the remaining 96 percent (pick a number) of the population is highly unlikely.

    First of all, I know the gay marriage train can’t be stopped, but well, maybe I just have too much free time, or I just hate bad arguments.

    One bad argument that is being REFUTUTED far, far more often than it is being MADE, is the idea that we gay-marriage-skeptics (GMK’s), think this, that, or the other gay union will directly impact any particular marriage. (I suppose if your gay married neighbor uncovers your husbands latent homosexuality….)

    The concept of marriage itself is being – pick one:

    1) expanded to include those illigitimately excluded (yay!)

    2) redefined to placate the first of many politically embowered groups that want its legal/financial/psychological benefifits (boo!)

    I’m agnostic. For better or worse, this experiment is going to happen.

  • MadRocketScientist · May 4, 2009 at 5:44 am

    I’ve always understood that rights are not things to be granted to one group or another, but rather, they are universal things to be protected, and the role of government is to protect the rights of it’s citizens.

    Until conservatives begin to see the right of marriage (and all it’s instant and comprehensive legal protections) as a universal right between consenting adults, a right that our government has a duty to protect, they are going to have trouble with this issue.

    We can no more grant the right to marry than we can grant the right to self-defense. It either is, or it isn’t a right. All we can do is demand that government protect the right equally for all.

  • JohnC · May 4, 2009 at 7:37 am

    It would appear that the issue of religious liberty and statutory protections is indeed a big part of not only the debates but of the legislative processes that have been underway. In recompense for my previous ignorance, I share this string of highly informative posts:
    http://volokh.com/posts/chain_1240449003.shtml
    They are worth reading.

  • JohnC · May 4, 2009 at 8:45 am

    And this from the LA Times (hat-tip: Sullivan)
    http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-oe-wilson3-2009may03,0,248550.story

    I have to say, after some further thought, I still cannot see that SSM raises any new issues; what is being discussed are matters relating to nondiscrimination laws that are not affected or made any worse by extending the right to marry. Those who want to pick a fight about bias laws should do so openly, and not disingenously yoke those concerns to the SSM issue.

    However, in reality I suspect the spirit of compromise will prevail and marriage statutes will inevitably be saddled with “religious liberty” clauses that may or may not be congruent with nondiscrimination exemptions. That’s how the political process creates unnecessary legal complexity and confusion without ever dealing with the real issues at stake.

  • Carlo · May 4, 2009 at 8:59 am

    @JohnC: “I still cannot see that SSM raises any new issues; what is being discussed are matters relating to nondiscrimination laws that are not affected or made any worse by extending the right to marry.”

    Perhaps not any new issues, but certainly that conflict between religious liberty and nondiscrimination will become far more widespread if SSM were to be enacted in more states, or nationwide. I’d actually be glad to see the debate shift towards this issue, because it would represent a victory of sorts for SSM advocates. By fighting for religious freedom exemptions, conservatives will in effect be conceding that SSM is inevitable, and are merely staking out whatever ground could be left to them.

  • JohnC · May 4, 2009 at 9:26 am

    @Carlo
    “I’d actually be glad to see the debate shift towards this issue, because it would represent a victory of sorts for SSM advocates.”
    As a matter of practical politics, I agree.

  • Thrasymachus · May 4, 2009 at 10:10 am

    I remember a bit the prop comedian Gallagher did. He talked about a campaign by the Lipton Tea company, eager to increase tea sales, to encourage people to drink iced tea in the winter. Gallagher mimicked Don Meredith saying, “Iced tea in the winter? Why not?” and he responded, “Because it’s f***ing dumb that’s why!”

    Gay marriage is f***ing dumb. OK? If you think not you’ve been seriously brainwashed. As Chuck D (not exactly Pat Robertson) said, “The parts don’t fit.”

    The real question is *why*, in just a few years, the concept went from an unimaginable oddity to an absolute and non-negotiable human right. If you don’t care about gay marriage you should care about getting cudgeled into submission on some other subject. They *will* come for you next.

  • Ploni Almoni · May 4, 2009 at 10:44 am

    @JohnC
    Point taken. I should have said it’s futile to defend traditional Christian-based morality while attacking traditional Christianity.

    Re another comment, I’m not equating Christianity, or Christian morality, with conservatism. However, the morality that people like Derbyshire and Heather Mac Donald want to conserve is specifically, identifiably Christian.

  • Caledonian · May 4, 2009 at 1:16 pm

    Gay marriage is f***ing dumb. OK? If you think not you’ve been seriously brainwashed. As Chuck D (not exactly Pat Robertson) said, “The parts don’t fit.”

    Since when is marriage about sex?

    Let’s face reality for a moment, shall we? The vast majority of people see nothing wrong with sex outside of marriage, and for such people, marriage isn’t about sex.

    Furthermore, sodomy (broadly defined) is widely practiced by heterosexuals, even though the “parts don’t fit” either, and within marriage itself.

    Your objections simply don’t apply to the current social reality. If you want to argue that heterosexual society’s gone down the wrong path, do so, and offer arguments as to why.

  • Carlo · May 4, 2009 at 1:25 pm

    Caledonian :

    Caledonian

    Furthermore, sodomy (broadly defined) is widely practiced by heterosexuals, even though the “parts don’t fit” either, and within marriage itself.

    Actually, one could argue that when it comes to sodomy, for both homosexuals and heterosexuals, the parts do in fact fit. :)

  • Notes From Bradlaugh « Around The Sphere · May 4, 2009 at 2:29 pm

    […] Andrew Stuttaford […]

  • RK Wright · May 4, 2009 at 3:56 pm

    @Carlo
    The eharmony case was a state constitutional issue, just for the record. California’s Constitution says you can’t discriminate in business on the basis of sexual orientation. That is why eharmony lost, their corporate offices are in california. If their offices had been in Texas, they would not have had to alter their business practices.

    And to Danillo-

    The state of California does not allow discrimination in businesses accommodations on the basis of sexual orientation. If you allow one BUSINESS to do so, then how do you stop others? And I am surprised to hear that a large segment of our community is against the decision. I have heard and read the exact opposite. I’d be interested to know your sources for this information or if it is simply amongst your like minded circle of friends?

  • Brian · May 4, 2009 at 3:58 pm

    “As Chuck D (not exactly Pat Robertson) said, “The parts don’t fit.”. .

    As Sullivan (or someone) said once “of course they fit, if they didn’t we would just go and play golf or something…” :)

    But Caledonian is correct. This has nothing to do with sex. It has to do with love. The hard part for those that dont know any gays well enough is that they dont understand that we are all made the same in that regard. Gays really LOVE their partners.. just as straight people do. Sure, sex (that doesnt fit) is used as a manifestation of that love. Just like straight people. The sex is free. Gays already have that. Marriage costs committment. And responsibility.

    In the last few days since Derb started this I havent seen one good secular reason put forth against gay marriage. And Im looking for one. Because Im gay and I want to know why, except for religious reasons that I understand, that secular rights would care. Thrasymachus’s post is reflection of the ‘ick’ factor, and probably ignorance of how being gay is sameo sameo as being straight as far as love is concerned. I think so is Derbs original post.

    And the OP is also correct. More and more gay people are out of the closet. Therefore more and more str8 people know a gay person. The more they know them, the more they talk to them, the more friendly they become and realize the their new gay friend’s break up sucked just like theirs did, then they realize that it IS all about love. Not sex. This is especially true in the sub 30 generation. They all have gay friends and they all talk about girlfriends, boyfriends and realize that they’re all fighting the same relationship battles. And they’re won over to equality one break up story at a time :)

    Thanx to all for a great discussion.

  • RK Wright · May 4, 2009 at 4:03 pm

    @Big “AL” McCormick
    I agree with you, and I like the fact that someone can see that if the “social issues” were given up on, as a deference to personal rights less government intrusion, then the actual battle of ideas, conservatism versus liberalism could heat up and who knows where that would lead. It’s been the social issues or wedge issues that have brought the republican party to where it sits today. As the younger poster stated above, the youth of America are not concentrating on these issues, to them it is stupid and divisive and they don’t buy it. If the republican party wishes to recover, the only way to do it is let go of these issues and then let the principles of conservatism flower.

  • Ron Lussier · May 4, 2009 at 4:03 pm

    JohnC :

    JohnC

    Well said. One question though: what would a “conscientious objector” be, and what “protections” would they require?

    I think that what they’re asking for is the freedom to discriminate, and widely. Take the often-cited case of the New Jersey church that refused to allow their beach pavilion to be used for a lesbian couple’s wedding. The church does not own the pavilion, actually… a church-affiliated group does. That group denied the lesbian couple. Problem was that the pavilion in question was paying no property taxes under a secular tax provision that allowed properties to be tax-free if they were publicly-accessible.

    Clearly, that group wants the freedom to get their tax-free cake and still be able to tell gay couples to ‘eat it’. Likewise, a doctor in California wanted to be able to work in an emergency room but refuse to treat gay patients. (Would you want a doctor like this in your emergency room?)

    Personally, I feel that the government does have a place in keeping us from becoming a Suni/Shiite Hutu/Tootsie Catholic/Protestant divided society. People are inherently xenophobic… look at any high-school lunchroom for an example. Given a choice of mixing with folks different from us or hanging with our ‘own’, we will choose the latter. One of the essential tasks of our government is to protect the minority from the discriminations of the majority. This is a long-term investment in keeping the underlying hatreds and resentments in our society to a minimum.

    Churches should be allowed to discriminate, internally. The Mormons can ban gays from the priesthood just as they did blacks. But anyone else? No, not in our country. We’re better than that, and if you want the freedom to discriminate, well, there is always Rwanda.

  • Carlo · May 4, 2009 at 4:08 pm

    @RK Wright

    Thanks for the info. I suspected something along those lines, which is why I stated that I could see how the law might have favored the plaintiff.

    It leads me to wonder though. Couldn’t the defendants have argued that they provided their service freely to gay and straight individuals alike, but that their service was simply matchmaking with members of the opposite sex? They weren’t discriminating against gay clients, they were merely providing a specific service that gay individuals wouldn’t normally wish to avail of (but are free to do so if they wish). Do you think such an argument would have held up in court?

    I’ve seen a dating/matchmaking website that is specifically marketed towards gay men seeking interracial relationships. Should they be sued for discrimination based on race, gender, AND sexual orientation? Legal arguments aside, the outcome of the eHarmony case still seems unreasonable to me.

  • Brian · May 4, 2009 at 4:13 pm

    Im gay and live in San Francisco (yeah.. wacky place). However 90% of my friends are straight. All make 6 figures. Most believe in limited government. Yet, purely because of social issues they vote Democrat. There’s no doubt in my mind that if not for the social issues a majority would vote Republican. It costs them tax money every time they vote Democrat.

  • LA Dave · May 4, 2009 at 4:19 pm

    Here’s the problem with the Gay Marriage Debate on the Secular Right: we fall into the left-wing trap and approach marriage as a legal right. Then some get twisted in knots trying to justify discriminating against homosexuals. There are 2 points to debate:

    1. Is it proper to discriminate in favor of male-female unions.
    2. Should the word “marriage” be reserved exclusively for male-female unions.

    Marriage is a contract that the state may or may not decide to enforce. The state doesn’t enforce any contract (indentured service, gambling debts, drug dealer credit lines, marriages between minors), only those that promote the social interest.

    What social interest does marriage promote that makes it worth enforcing? Most would say that the most important interest is child-rearing.

    So the issue is really this: Is it homophobic to say that there is a social interest in setting a male-female union (marriage) on a pedestal and saying that this the preferred modality for child-rearing?

    Not to say that in the real world, single parents and homosexual couples won’t also raise children and won’t necessarily do a poor job. It’s just that we want to say that the ideal is for children to be raised in a household with both a man and a woman (not necessarily heterosexuals).

    Is there a state interest in having other kinds of contracts? I say yes. The religious rightists will say no. However, secularists can advocate legislation for unions of same-sex couples who intend to raise children. The secular right can also argue that opposite-sex couples may deserve preference in certain spheres (e.g. adoptions) of life, and discrimination in the offering of contracts (e.g. insurance) may be warranted by real behavioral differences with economic relevance. Therefore, it is important to use a different name for same-sex unions to avoid the legal complications arising from equal protection requirements. Let’s call these same-sex contracts Homarriages.

    O.K. so what about marriages between 60-yr. olds who won’t be raising children. Why should they get to be married while gays cannot. Well, there’s a solution for that. Create a new category of contract for persons who don’t intend to raise children. Call them Personal Partnerships. Give them tax advantages, and other rights married couples have, but don’t have requirements like spousal support in case of divorce.

    The only way to fight the Gay Marriage Debate is to focus upon the purpose of marriage. Modern developments like birth control and female workforce participation have made certain assumptions about traditional marriage inoperative. However, the one thing that remains is the ideal of the male-female household as the premier setting for child rearing.

  • JohnC · May 4, 2009 at 4:30 pm

    @LA Dave I’m afraid your argument falls over in the first sentence. In Loving v Virginia the Supreme Court stated unequivocally:
    Marriage is one of the “basic civil rights of man”

  • Matt · May 4, 2009 at 4:39 pm

    @Big “AL” McCormick

    Amen, Al. What happened to the days when the Republican party actually ACTED like it believed in individual liberty?

    I’d like to hear from people who have actually had their marriages negatively affected by a same-gender couple being able to legally marry, but all I hear are crickets and thunderstorms instead.

  • john · May 4, 2009 at 7:48 pm

    ” but for anybody else on the right to take a stance that may help prolong Democratic misgovernment looks like an awfully high price to pay merely to stop two men or two women walking down the aisle together”. Hear, hear!

  • Pender · May 4, 2009 at 7:48 pm

    Tell you what: I’ll grant that desire for “conscientious objector” leeway is fair if you’ll agree to lobby equally hard for “conscientious objector” permission to discriminate against black people, Jewish people and atheists.

    I know you’ll think this sounds like a cheap gotcha point, but I think it’s a very fair test whether the speaker is sincere or merely taking advantage of the minority that happens to be under the jackboot of society at the moment. Tell me honestly: should an emergency room doctor have the right to refuse service to someone because she’s Jewish? Should an adoption agency be permitted to refuse, categorically, to place children with black parents? Should your landlord be permitted to boot you out of your apartment because you don’t worship a god?

    Again, I mean to apply this test fairly. If you can honestly say that you support all of the above conscientious objector rights — and are willing to advocate them in polite company — then I find your desire for religious exceptions for gay equality to be much more palatable. If not, then I think you should question whether you’re being completely even-handed.

  • Peter · May 5, 2009 at 4:36 am

    I can see a very valid place for some forms of conscientious objection, but I’m not sure how you would write laws that make it work.

    The thing is, most of what is being discussed isn’t about the individual being forced to do something against their own religion, but rather being required to allow others to live their lives.

    Nobody should be forced to get married to someone if their religion forbids it. No Jew should be forced to marry a Gentile, no Catholic should be forced to marry someone who is divorced, no (franchise of choice) should be forced to get married to someone of the same sex.

    Since nobody is making marriage mandatory, so far so good.

    Similarly, a member of the clergy, acting AS a member of the clergy, is actually doing something. Forcing them to conduct a religious service that their religion does not allow would be wrong.

    But a county clerk isn’t performing a religious marriage. They are filing some paperwork, and if their religion forbids them from filing paperwork, or checking ID’s, or printing government documents, then they are in the wrong job.

    An Orthodox Jew can perform a health inspection of a restaurant that he cannot in conscience eat at, and he would be wrong to fail a restaurant on public health grounds because it did not keep Kosher. He can feel God doesn’t want people eating there. He can refuse to eat there. He can tell his friends that based on his inspection, it is clear to him it isn’t Kosher. He cannot fail it unless it doesn’t meet the guidelines for the inspection he was hired to perform.

    Are we saying that Catholic clerks don’t have to file marriages for divorced people? Not even two non-Catholics getting remarried? Should adoption agencies getting public funds be allowed to decide which straight marriages they recognize or don’t? Can they decide that since, by their standards, only Christian (or whatever) marriages provide the “optimal environment for child-rearing” (since how can someone who is going to hell raise good kids?), that they are allowed to use public funds but deny all non-Christian parents?

    I agree with Pender – these objections need to apply to ALL, or not be allowed.

  • Chris · May 5, 2009 at 12:54 pm

    So the issue is really this: Is it homophobic to say that there is a social interest in setting a male-female union (marriage) on a pedestal and saying that this the preferred modality for child-rearing?

    Yes. Yes, it is. There is no evidence that male-female couples perform better at child-rearing than any other couples; therefore, “homophobic” is precisely what it is to arbitrarily and irrationally prefer opposite-sex couples simply because they are opposite-sex.

    As far as religious exemption goes, I agree with Pender and Peter. Religions that practice sacramental drug use, or animal sacrifice, or dancing around bonfires aren’t, and shouldn’t be, exempted from otherwise applicable laws governing drug use, animal killing, and fire safety. (I happen to disagree with a lot of our current laws on drug use, but if they apply at all they should apply equally.) If your right to swing your fist ends where my nose begins, then your right to practice the Ancient and Sacred Ceremony of Fist-Swinging *also* ends where my nose begins.

  • RK Wright · May 5, 2009 at 1:16 pm

    @Carlo
    Carlo, they in fact did argue that very point, but lost.

    As far as the gay inter-racial site, well, they could in fact be sued if their headquarters was in California, if they are based in any other state, the California Law could not apply. I would assume that the only issues they could be sued on would be the gender issue and the lack of heterosexual options, race, as far as I can tell, would not be a factor, as INTER-RACIAL does in fact include ALL races.

    You might not like the outcome, but it does follow state law (and an FYI, that state law was an amendment to the State Constitution-approved by the voters)so if one believes in the voter initiative process, one has no place to complain.

    The issue is valid because for profit public businesses are not allowed to discriminate against members of the public, (however religious organizations could). The other big case that was based on the same considerations was the case of a fertility clinic that decided they didn’t want to inseminate a lesbian couple because of their religious beliefs. They too, lost. However, they had strung her along for a while and then decided that because she was lesbian they didn’t want to help her have a baby, even though they were doing the same procedure for unmarried heterosexual women. I think that medical facilities and personnel should have no right to refuse services for any reason. It opens up that slippery slope that the right is always arguing about, in that any medical person could deny any service simply because they had moral reservations could mean that if I went to the emergency room every doctor could refuse me services because they have issue with my being gay. Hardly a safe environment for any person in need of medical care.

  • Kwilli · May 5, 2009 at 1:26 pm

    LA Dave :

    LA Dave
    the one thing that remains is the ideal of the male-female household as the premier setting for child rearing.

    As the Iowa Supreme Court has stated in their ruing on SSM, “If the marriage statute was truly focused on optimal parenting, many classifications of people would be excluded, not merely gay and lesbian people” (p. 56; http://www.judicial.state.ia.us/wfData/files/Varnum/07-1499.pdf).

    And: “The ban on same-sex civil marriage can only logically be justified as a means to ensure the asserted optimal environment for raising children if fewer children will be raised within same-sex relationships or more children will be raised in dual-gender marriages” (p. 58).

  • Danilo · May 5, 2009 at 2:47 pm

    @ RK Wright
    “…even though they were doing the same procedure for unmarried heterosexual women. ”

    Can you imagine the public relations disaster if the octomom had been a single lesbian? Thank God no gay woman has done that yet :)

  • Big "AL" McCormick · May 5, 2009 at 8:15 pm

    @Matt

    The question is how do we get the Evangelicals to understand this? These people are obsessed with queer marriage and abortion; which happen to be the two issues LEAST likely to affect their lives. This new outlook on queer marriage needs to be part of a whole new transformation of the Right in this country. New young leaders need to step up on the American Right and write and talk about the new ideology of liberty. And this doesn’t mean we have to scrap social security and medicare either(this is another redicuous Ron Paul type crazy idea).

    Just becuase the Right espouses individual liberty doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be any social safety nets. For mostly biological reasons, some people can’t just “pull themselves up by the bootstraps.” It just isn’t going to happen in a post-industrial world. Two hundred years ago nature would have not “selected” for these people and they wouldn’t have burdened society. But because we don’t let people wither away today, the Right needs to think of ways of dealing with the underclass beyond just telling them to work hard. All of this needs to fit within the core idea of individual liberty.

  • Act Now · May 8, 2009 at 12:08 pm

    Ah, but the goal of gay marriage is not to allow a minority of a minority to get hitched. At least, not for the institutions and think-tanks promoting the homosexual agenda. The point of gay marriage for these groups, is to put homosexuality on equal footing with heterosexuality.
    Once level, the gay agenda will be to indoctrinate the youth of america, proferring homosexuality as a legitimate and acceptable choice. It will be taught from kindergarten on. “Today, children, we will be reading from a book called “My 2 Dads.” “Today kids, we will be discussing how Tom should break up with his boyfriend.” Every time that the concept of heterosexuality is to be taught, they will make sure homosexuality has equal billing.
    Don’t want your children to be taught this? Too bad, you’re going to be out of luck. Because as you can see by what’s happening with our current Mrs. California, you will be branded a bigot. If you work for any public institution, chances are that you will be fired or the institution sued. If you work for a private company, you will be protested. And in all likelihood, you will become the target of vicious blogs and a joke on the social networking sites that feed the media.
    It’s actually the opposite of what gays complained happened to them for so long. Now that they have the chance, they will look to attack all those that oppose them, and not through intellectual discourse but with good old smears and lawsuits.

  • Human Rights Quote (123): Same-Sex Marriage and Religious Liberty « P.A.P. Blog – Politics, Art and Philosophy · May 9, 2009 at 7:15 am

    […] The role of the Right should be to shape the way that this change takes place, by building in, for example, free speech and “conscientious objection” protections to those who do not go along. If that’s the aim, a position of outright opposition is not the best place to begin. Andrew Stuttaford (source) […]

  • LA Dave · May 12, 2009 at 11:27 am

    @Kwilli
    I’d like to relabel this debate question as, “Should the law discriminate in favor of male-female unions?”

    I wasn’t talking about banning same-sex unions. I wasn’t suggesting banning single mothers and homosexuals from raising children. I was talking about reserving the right to give preferential treatment to male-female unions as an IDEAL setting for raising children, and that there was a legitimate state interest in doing so that trumps any equal protection issues. In cases of adoption, we allow race as a legitimate consideration for matching adopting parents with children. This is an example of how we make exceptions to absolutist rules about non-discrimination for the sake of pursuing other worthwhile social goals..

  • Kwilli · May 15, 2009 at 12:25 pm

    @ LA Dave,

    Well, the short answer to your relabeled question is ‘no.’ :-)

    Look, it’s hypothetical to ask if hetero couples should be seen as the preferred ideal, since that system is already very much in place.

    But anyway, what legitimate state interest is there for promoting one type of union / child-rearing setting over the other? None that I can think of. The “ideal” setting doesn’t guarantee “ideal” results, which is the point I was trying to make earlier.

    However, the state DOES have an interest in giving ALL children the most security possible, which is why I argue that all couples, and especially those raising kids, need to have equal opportunity under the law. Too many people have had their status as a co-parent questioned by school officials, doctors’ offices, rude strangers, you name it because they cannot get married to their partner and / or cannot do a second-parent adoption for their kid(s). Wills and trusts can only offer limited protection if the biological parent dies in those situations.

    Given these very real problems, I can see how a state might prefer placing an adoptee in a heterosexual couple’s home, other factors being equal. If there were a shortage of children waiting for adoption, the state could afford to be so picky! The reality is different, and states are wise to say they have an interest in placing children with parents they feel are qualified, period. Now they need to back that up by making all couples equal in their legal statuses and protections.

    In terms of childless couples, the state has even less interest in preferring heterosexual ones. The state’s interst in sanctioning marriage and offering perks for that status is to promote stability. Stable couples become property owners and taxpayers.

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