Thursday, August 19, 2010

A Few Responses

Mrs. P writes:
By the way, per:

"But the issue here is that marriage, at least insofar as judges are concerned, is a legal status/institution, not a religious question/institution.

and

"preferred means of dealing with this is to get the state out of the marriage business altogether. I, for a variety of reasons including that this nation has a Protestant heritage, believe this isn't going ever to happen."

So am I gathering rightly that one of the reasons the state will never get out of marriage is because of our nation's Protestant heritage yet religion is not allowed to come into play with same-sex marriage?

The importance placed upon the family due to our Protestant heritage is no longer explicitly religious. It's more a historical fact that many of the institutions, norms, and traditions passed down to us were made by people with Protestant beliefs about the world.

She then follows up with this, which I will respond to inline:
FLG, this by a friend/reader of PP (who owns an award-winning winery if you would like to visit plus he's a lawyer in CA and religious --Episcopalian) is very good:

Politics (the art and skill of government) and religion (the practice of faith in hope of salvation) really have little to do with each other, except that their mixture is usually always combustible. Therefore, people of principle should do their utmost to refrain from mixing them.

Agreed, but the devil is in the definition of the word "mixing."

A case in point is the current dust-up over same-sex marriages. The problem is that the concept of "marriage" has a mixed heritage. As it emerged in early agrarian societies, it was a matter of contract between families or tribes, as a means of acquiring and keeping valuable land and passing it on to heirs in common. The religious element came only later, when the Church began treating the exchange of vows as a holy sacrament.

Again, just because a thing has certain origins doesn't mean that this settles the debate about it properties. We were all born babies, but we grow up. This isn't to say that marriage losing its religious character is a more "grown up" institution, but simply to say that because its origins are religious or agrarian or even imposed upon us by the aliens who built the pyramids doesn't end the debate about what marriage is today.

One pragmatic solution to the current disagreements would be to return to the original contractual basis for the relationship -- the way it is still done in some western societies. A contract is drawn up between the marrying parties; it is signed and attested to in front of a state-designated official, and the record is entered on society's official books, where it serves as a legal basis for determining questions of parentage and inheritance. And that is all that society, as such, needs to concern itself with. Religious norms or mores would have nothing to do with such civilly-sponsored unions.

As I mentioned before, George Pal has brought this up before. They do this sort of thing in France. People get married in a civil ceremony, then go to the Church for the religious ceremony. However, I want to reiterate my doubt that given our Protestant history that the state will ever stay out of marriage. Moreover, I'm not quite sure why this distinction matters. It's not like the Catholic Church or even Catholics need to recognize as legitimate a same sex marriage conducted in City Hall. So what if the state calls it marriage? This contractual basis is merely a explicit break, but has little to no practical benefits for believers opposed to same sex marriage.

Through their legislators, the people could decide what parameters applied to civil unions. They could decide, as they already effectively have in California, that such unions are open to any two persons (but not next of kin), regardless of gender; they could -- since it is all a matter of freedom to contract -- even decide to allow civil unions between three or more persons. The only constraints would be what a majority would back.

But if it's just a contract, then why limit next of kin? Once you allow same sex marriages, then you implicitly say that marriage isn't about procreation. Also, why limit it to two people? Why limit anything? Contracts can have pretty much any stipulation the parties would like. These questions are merely rhetorical, and serve simply to illustrate that this explicit separation of legal contract from religious sacrament/institution not only serves little purpose (because no religious organization will be forced to recognize a civil marriage as far as I can tell) and opens a whole new can of worms. Why are religious believers arguing this angle?

Then "marriage", per se, would become a term defined not by the State, but by the churches. Again, each denomination would be free to observe its own traditions and beliefs in performing marriages. However, there would be no State records of any such marriages, and the church's ministers would not be acting as deputies of the State in attesting to their performance. The only records would be those kept by the couples and by the churches themselves.

Thus people joined by the State could have done with the matter then and there, or they could, if they wished, become in addition "married" in a church ceremony -- in any church that will accept them under its criteria. Conversely, people could choose to marry only in a church ceremony, as long as they realized that the State would be under no obligation to regard them as each other's spouse, with all the legal rights and obligations that relationship entails. (Such a church-only marriage might be just the ticket for two elderly persons who did not want to mess up their finances and taxes, but who were also religious enough to want to solemnize their relationship before God and mortal witnesses.)

Again, I don't understand how this has any practical benefit, but I see huge risks.

The details can be worked out -- the main principle is to keep religion and politics completely separate.

Again, I agree. But the definition of "separate" is crucial, and to be honest I'm not sure religious believers want to go too far down that road to protect marriage. What they really need to do is come up with a compelling secular justification for the one man, one woman marriage.

BTW, these responses aren't really directed specifically to Mrs. P. It's more toward an entire class of people I hear out there and to whom I sympathetic to, those whose religious beliefs render the idea of same sex marriage an apparently self-evident contradiction. Lacking a secular argument they've been turning to religiously-based ones, which is problematic given the separation of church and state in this country, and even, as evidenced above, argued a somewhat paradoxical case for further separation. The only compelling secular argument that I've seen is that the expressed will of the people is pretty much universally against it. This glances over the secular argument and relies upon intuitive and religious understanding of the issue.

While I'm sympathetic to their plight, I'm not in agreement with their conclusion. I do have serious issues with overturning the will of the people as a matter of democratic process, but as Noah Millman pointed out "the only precedent being set is that a state can void an initiative they don’t like if the District court also thinks it’s unconstitutional." And "If the people of California don’t like the decisions that the Attorney General and Governor make, they can elect people who think differently and will make different decisions."

16 comments:

George Pal said...

I see my name’s been bandied about.

”What they really need to do is come up with a compelling secular justification for the one man, one woman marriage.”

The compelling arguments already exists but it only compels those who would take ‘marriage’ seriously, as a commitment, lifelong, between two people (more limits the commitment) who comply to nature’s design.

Those whom this argument does not compel are those who see themselves as individuals and cannot see themselves as part of a couple, a family, or a community. Individualism has gone viral; it first corrupts institutions (marriage for example) with it’s own unique whims/desires then destroys social life in general. A fireman has to pass what test? “Well that’s just bullshit discrimination” says the head-shrinking tri-sexual midget paraplegic Trobriander – I have rights!

Andrew Stevens said...

I'll move my response to Mrs. P. up here. Mrs. P said:

I understand this. My issue was both of you were asking for a rational justification as to why gay sex is *sinful*. To me, who is thick as a plank most days - you were asking the impossible. You want an argument without religious reasoning to say why something isn't sinful. That is not fair and since same-sex marriage is all about fairness, let's make it a two-way street, alright?

The belief in Natural Law is a long Catholic tradition, dating from St. Paul, even if the concept is Stoic in origin. It so happens to be a tradition which I (largely) agree with. I may disagree with the religious on the source of moral law, but I am in full accordance with them that it exists and can be discovered through a process of reason.

I do not need to believe in the divine provenance of the Ten Commandments to agree with those Commandments that say "thou shalt not murder," "thou shall not steal," and "thou shalt not commit adultery." All of these are available to me, through clear moral intuitions and/or a process of reasoning relying on clear moral intuitions in light of my status as a rational creature, whether or not I am a believer. I believe most Catholic theologians, at least, would agree with this. (Thus the concept of a "virtuous pagan," which is how I often define my aspirations to my Christian friends or the concept of "righteous among the Gentiles," which is how I define my aspirations to my religious friends who are Jewish.)

If I'm reading you right, you're saying that the wrongness of homosexuality is not available through this rational process. It is more analagous to "thou shalt remember the Sabbath and keep it holy," only available through a special revelation. This is also perfectly consistent with Catholic theology. Aquinas taught that human reason could not fully comprehend Natural Law and it needed to be supplemented with revealed divine law.

But this is the basis on which I ask for rational arguments that gay sex is wrong ("sinful" was Withywindle's word which I adopted for convenience). If I asked you for a rational argument against murder or theft or adultery, you could provide one with no recourse to revelation. I am asking if there is a similar argument against homosexual behavior, if it occurs within a lifelong monogamous commitment, and the answer appears to be "no."

I still haven't addressed the issue of the recognition of gay marriage since I think there are in fact some rational arguments against calling a lifelong monogamous commitment between two homosexuals "marriage." I think they all rely on a rather tenuous chain of reasoning, but I certainly agree that they are reasonable and might be true.

Anonymous said...

Per:

The compelling arguments already exists but it only compels those who would take ‘marriage’ seriously, as a commitment, lifelong, between two people (more limits the commitment) who comply to nature’s design.

hahahahahahahahhahahahaha

Per:

"But this is the basis on which I ask for rational arguments that gay sex is wrong ("sinful" was Withywindle's word which I adopted for convenience)."

It was merely the use of the word sinful. And I am going to try hard to not use the word wrong.

Per:

"I am asking if there is a similar argument against homosexual behavior, if it occurs within a lifelong monogamous commitment, and the answer appears to be "no."

As I've said, I'm no lawyer - I went to finishing school and art school and do not even possess a Bachelor's degree so please be kind to this next bit but I am a catholic convert so I may make a little sense. Also, i'm trying to be as sensitive as possible here as I'm not trying to hurt anyone just articulate a response.

The Natural Law argument is one of biology and as well as the concept of what is good and evil is written in the hearts of man. (This is why I've always been quit keen on Pagan revelation.) The biological argument for man and woman partnerships does not negate the fact same sex partnerships enjoy real love. Real love as in both agape (selfless love) and eros (erotic).

Now I am going to mention an Episcopal priest here but what she told me (about 17 years ago) was not religious -I had asked her why the Episcopal Church was moving so fast on bringing something into the Christian life - active homosexuality- that had never before been considered part of it?

Sh responded that the Episcopal Church is in agreement with the psychology world that there is nothing wrong with homosexuals or homosexuality but that the feelings of inferiority they have stem from people like you who object to their lifestyle so we by integrating them fully into the life of the Church are trying to fix that.

con'td

Anonymous said...

(This was during bible study and using the words of my late grandmother - that was a fine howdyado. But this was also the same priest who instructed when feet is mentioned in the bible it means genitals. That class I asked her to explain how that applied to "How beautiful are the feet who preach the good news?" She ended class abruptly but am digressing.)

Let's go back to her point, homosexuals are suffering inferiority issues from not being fully accepted into society and so now society is moving towards full integration to fix that.

Well, issues of inferiority are complex. You should see mine. But let's just talk broadest stokes possible --could the issue of inferiority stem not from outside sources but from interior sources?

Could it stem -no matter how much profound love they are experiencing from their partner- from not being in accordance to natural law in their personal life?

It could.

And if it does, then if the state grants same-sex marriage, it will not correct this. All this will do is make it legal and give them fuller integration into society. But the state does not possess the kind of power to override the realities of Natural Law.

The California case is interesting in this point as California has civil partnerships. But that was not enough, was it? Why wasn't it enough? To take this case to federal court must have meant that civil unions on some level did not provide the kind of full integration. Marriage must be the key to full integration.

But honestly what can the title of marriage infer/give to a same-sex union that civil union already does not?


Now I'm really going to jump here and offer up an article on why John Hopkins dropped sex changes years ago - and it has to do with the reality of the full integration into society. It's well worth a read.

http://www.catholiceducation.org/articles/homosexuality/ho0093.html

I hate the idea of wrong or sinful being used in connection with homosexuality. My reaction to it is almost always knee-jerk as I think it causes more pain to people who care very deeply about this and may be suffering greatly.

Mrs. P

Anonymous said...

(This was during bible study and using the words of my late grandmother - that was a fine howdyado. But this was also the same priest who instructed when feet is mentioned in the bible it means genitals. That class I asked her to explain how that applied to "How beautiful are the feet who preach the good news?" She ended class abruptly but am digressing.)

Let's go back to her point, homosexuals are suffering inferiority issues from not being fully accepted into society and so now society is moving towards full integration to fix that.

Well, issues of inferiority are complex. You should see mine. But let's just talk broadest stokes possible --could the issue of inferiority stem not from outside sources but from interior sources?

Could it stem -no matter how much profound love they are experiencing from their partner- from not being in accordance to natural law in their personal life?

It could.

And if it does, then if the state grants same-sex marriage, it will not correct this. All this will do is make it legal and give them fuller integration into society. But the state does not possess the kind of power to override the realities of Natural Law.

The California case is interesting in this point as California has civil partnerships. But that was not enough, was it? Why wasn't it enough? To take this case to federal court must have meant that civil unions on some level did not provide the kind of full integration. Marriage must be the key to full integration.

But honestly what can the title of marriage infer/give to a same-sex union that civil union already does not?


Now I'm really going to jump here and offer up an article on why John Hopkins dropped sex changes years ago - and it has to do with the reality of the full integration into society. It's well worth a read.

http://www.catholiceducation.org/articles/homosexuality/ho0093.html

I hate the idea of wrong or sinful being used in connection with homosexuality. My reaction to it is almost always knee-jerk as I think it causes more pain to people who care very deeply about this and may be suffering greatly.

Mrs. P

Andrew Stevens said...

Okay, your case is that there is a moral intuition available that homosexuality is wrong (or not in accord with Natural Law) and that I just don't possess that intuition for some reason or am suppressing it in some way. This is plausible, but doesn't get us past our impasse, since I don't see how I can be persuaded if I don't have the intuition (or how you could be persuaded if you do).

I am, frankly, of the opinion that civil unions is a perfectly acceptable compromise which, for some reason, most of the gay community refuses to accept, insisting on the use of the word "marriage." This opinion too seems to be based on some intuition or emotional response which eludes me.

My own opinion of the inferiority complexes of gay people is that they likely stem from the same sources and are probably roughly the same severity as they are for straight people, but their homosexuality is a convenient scapegoat and allows them to be more outspoken about their issues than straight folks, who are usually ashamed of their inferiority complexes and don't talk about them as much. But I could very easily be wrong.

While the article was interesting and it accords well with my own observations and conclusions, it doesn't actually have anything to say about homosexuality.

FLG said...

Andrew:

Can you not see a sort of intuition that says that male and female parts are physically compatible means that nature intended heterosexual sex and that heterosexual sex is, baring medical procedures, required for the continuance of the species renders it superior morally to homosexual sex?

George Pal said...

FLG

You addressed this to Andrew, nevertheless here is my take.

Men and women were made for each other by nature’s design. They are complementary not only in the physical parts but also complementary in bringing together disparate strengths of spirit, mind, and perspective, overcoming disparate weaknesses of same in the other; the joining together of those begets a more perfect union, if you will - ‘one flesh’.

And speaking of begets, that union and only that union continues the species. And that union is of utmost importance to the institutions immediately above it - the extended family, tribe, neighborhood - all of which make up the community. None of this is possible with same sex unions - so why call it a marriage when it isn’t? It’s a domestic living arrangement, agreed to by people based on sexual proclivities who desperately want the State to legitimize what nature, by however many random tosses of the die, ended up not accomplishing. This is all still in the way of a secular argument for the traditional exclusivity, of marriage.

The most compelling argument to be made against the State having an interest in ‘marriage’ is to observe what is has done to traditional marriage and the role it plays in that tradition.

George Pal said...

Cont’d

Marriage according to the State.

The State: issuer of worthless paper certificates (worthless paper? A troubling trend!) of marriage; marriages that don’t mean shit to them; they think so little of it they’ve come up with one way to join the couple together and more than fifty ways to leave your lover – all of which fall under the umbrella ‘no fault’ divorce. One might be led to think the State had a not only a great interest in the dissolution of marriages but even a greater interest in the destruction of ‘marriage’.

The conductor of ceremonies: a clock-watching bureaucrat performs the ceremony – neither the ceremony nor the people gathered together mean shit to him.

The dearly beloved: adolescent brats – no matter the age - with a hankering for all the superficial parts of marriage; will jump at the first chance to opt out of their commitment when they get bored, restless or... whatever. The family? The children? Don’t go layin’ any guilt trip on them – now where’s their shit – their community property?

This is what Liberalism, nee Individualism, has done to marriage under the auspices of the State. If anyone has trouble imagining why the State’s power and even more so, its interests, should be limited, just look what the’ve done to the institution of marriage – and now - the coup de grĂ¢ce.

Andrew Stevens said...

FLG - A) I'm not sure I buy it. B) Even if I did, that's not the issue.

As to A, nature doesn't actually intend anything. If nature does intend things, then it surely intends us to die of polio. Is it morally superior therefore to die of polio rather than take a vaccine? It seems fairly clear to me that there are at least some men who are born with little to no attraction to women, but strong attraction to other men. If nature intends them to do anything, it is surely to have sex with other men.

As to B, the question isn't whether heterosexuality is superior to homosexuality (and your argument, if accepted, would only entail it for procreative heterosexual sex, so you and I both would have had this superior form of sex only once in our lives). The question rather is "is homosexuality wrong?" The argument that homosexuality is wrong because it is "unnatural" is just an appeal to nature fallacy. It would lead one to some very strange conclusions like heterosexual rape is superior to consensual homosexual relations and similar absurdities.

FLG said...

Andrew:

"your argument, if accepted, would only entail it for procreative heterosexual sex, so you and I both would have had this superior form of sex only once in our lives"

Well, one could argue that the potential for procreation renders it superior.

Also, I'm not quite sure that it leads to the heterosexual rape is superior to homosexual consensual sex conclusion. Well, I guess if you think that the only thing that matters in those cases is sexual compatibility, but other issues, such as consent, would obviously also enter into it.

All told, I'm not very convinced by the intuitive argument, but I think there might be more there than either of us is giving credit to.

George Pal:

You're argument, that the State ruined marriage, seems part of the larger State ruins everything it touches narrative. Out of curiosity, do you hold a similar position vis-a-vis school vouchers?

I'm more inclined to believe that the State was simply the mechanism and the real cause is that the polity takes marriage less seriously.

Andrew Stevens said...

I might have gone a bit far with the heterosexual rape conclusion; it may not entail that. It does seem to entail the wrongness of heterosexual sodomy (including oral sex), masturbation, etc. In other words, we're back to only the devout Catholic conclusion making any sense. Everybody else is just picking and choosing according to their own tastes.

George Pal said...

FLG

“You're argument, that the State ruined marriage, seems part of the larger State ruins everything it touches narrative. Out of curiosity, do you hold a similar position vis-a-vis school vouchers?”

I do now and will so more adamantly in the near future - when the State resorts to cracking down on vouchers for a whole host of reason, not least of which – they can.

"with government funding came government control. Today, the Dutch government defines teacher accreditation requirements, fixes salary scales, curtails the firing of teachers, sets the core curriculum, says how much will be spent, makes it illegal to charge tuition over the voucher amount, and prohibits profit-making in voucher schools. In other words, Dutch "independent" voucher schools have lost their independence."
- Andrew J. Coulson CATO Institute

It’s only a matter of time


“I'm more inclined to believe that the State was simply the mechanism and the real cause is that the polity takes marriage less seriously.”

Which came first, the mechanism or diminishing worth?

Lord Bryce, in The American Commonwealth (1888) (I think) made mention of the rapid growth of divorce on the US that was the result of Northern secularist progressive attitudes towards marriage (and which were exported to the South through the Reconstruction). Marriage has always been a target and continues so to this day.

The State is a mechanism; it also motivates, stimulates, incentivizes, stimulates, induces, incites, and on and on and...

Anonymous said...

Ok guys, I've been off the blogosphere for a few days but I'm back now. First about states marriage and children, an important point. A (fertile) male female lifelong marriage is the only situation in which children can be brought into this world and reared without the State's involvement - as in some form of superintending. All other child bearing/rearing arrangements involve the state's involvement in some form.

This is one of the very valid reasons the state has always sought to encourage traditional one man one woman marriage.


Per:

"Okay, your case is that there is a moral intuition available that homosexuality is wrong (or not in accord with Natural Law) and that I just don't possess that intuition for some reason or am suppressing it in some way. This is plausible, but doesn't get us past our impasse, since I don't see how I can be persuaded if I don't have the intuition (or how you could be persuaded if you do)."

I wasn't really talking/trying to persuade you. I was just rising to the bait set by you and FLG earlier about folks against same sex marriage not having the courage of their convictions to articulate them - my convictions aren't actually mine but the Faith I profess (Catholicism) and in Natural Law which makes me in some minds a mind numbed robot but oh well. I'm a mind numbed robot that can occasionally articulate but back to you.

Are you persuadable to this? I believe so. Why? Because of this next sentence:

"I am, frankly, of the opinion that civil unions is a perfectly acceptable compromise"

The fact you are able to say a civil union is a perfectly acceptable compromise indicates you do see a difference between same sex and opposite sex relationships. Otherwise you would be holding out for marriage and not compromising. And this next line gives an indication of this some more:

cont'd

Anonymous said...

cont'd...

I think one of the true injustices that has been done to gays is to focus on their "problems" as if they are the only ones with "problems". Look at any family that has a gay member and you see ift full of people with all sorts of problems. It's just those problems are usually more socially acceptable.

"but their homosexuality is a convenient scapegoat and allows them to be more outspoken about their issues than straight folks, who are usually ashamed of their inferiority complexes and don't talk about them as much."

That may just be the crowd you run with. Try regularly attending a coffee hour at an Episcopal Church -- you'll hear all sorts of stuff. Trust me.

"While the article was interesting and it accords well with my own observations and conclusions, it doesn't actually have anything to say about homosexuality."

I haven't read the article in years but it was my understanding that John Hopkins decided -based on 25 years of case studies-- giving the patients what they wanted -what they felt was holding them back in the full and healthy integration into society - a sex change operation- that the operation did not bring about the full integration into society in any patient and in a lot if not most, made matters worse.I think it's about making peace with oneself. Everyone has to do this - not just gays. John Hopkins did not find the sex change to be the path to peace.As a result they decided it was not ethical for them to continue doing sex changes.


Mrs. P

Anonymous said...

Darn. Part of my answer went a missing. I'll try to recall it:

And this next line gives an indication of this some more:

"which, for some reason, most of the gay community refuses to accept, insisting on the use of the word "marriage." This opinion too seems to be based on some intuition or emotional response which eludes me."

It may elude you, but you recognize there something is there. As any good interior decorator would say, live with it a while and see if you change your mind.

Per:

My own opinion of the inferiority complexes of gay people is that they likely stem from the same sources and are probably roughly the same severity as they are for straight people"

Now go down to my last comment and you'll find the rest Thanks and Sorry!

Mrs. P

 
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