Critics of same-sex marriage often argue that its defenders are guilty of seeking to “redefine” marriage.

It is true that the term “marriage” has traditionally been applied, for the most part, to heterosexual unions specifically (though often polygamous ones, a fact such critics persistently pretend to overlook). But it is also true that the term “marriage” has traditionally been applied exclusively to relationships in which the husband held legal authority over the wife – relationships in which the wife was not only subordinated to her husband but actually absorbed into his legal identity.

If we are going to appeal to traditional usage to deny that same-sex partnerships are genuine marriages, then by the same argument we will have to deny that relationships between legal equals can count as marriages. In the traditional meaning of “marriage,” then, there are no married couples in the United States today. 

If instead we insist that relationships among legal equals can be marriages, then we have granted that marriage is an open-textured concept whose meaning is not limited to its historically given forms; in that case, same-sex marriage can no longer be ruled out by linguistic fiat.

In an 1853 debate over “free love” (i.e., the separation of sex and state) with libertarian anarchist Stephen Pearl Andrews, communitarian Horace Greeley (of “go west, young man” fame) defended his conception of marriage as both State-sanctioned and indissoluble (or nearly so – he admitted adultery as legitimate grounds for divorce, though added that he “should oppose even that, if it did not seem to be upheld by the personal authority of Christ”). From this conception Greeley inferred, logically enough, that no relationship that is not State-sanctioned and not indissoluble (except for adultery) counts as marriage at all:

[T]his reminds me of the kindred case of two persons in Nantucket who have advertised in the newspapers that they have formed a matrimonial connection for life, or as long as they can agree; adding, that they consider this partnership exclusively their own affair, in which nobody else has any concern. I am glad they have the grace not to make the State a party to any such arrangement as this. But true Marriage – the union of one man with one woman for life, in holy obedience to the law and purpose of God, and for the rearing up of pure, virtuous, and modest sons and daughters to the State – is a union so radically different from this, that I trust the Nantucket couple will not claim, or that, at all events, their neighbors will not concede, to their selfish, shameful alliance the honorable appellation of Marriage. Let us, at least, “hold fast the form of sound words.”

In Greeley’s day, most jurisdictions within the U.S. recognized no grounds for divorce other than adultery (though that was beginning to change, hinc illæ lachrymæ). Today that is no longer true. If, by Greeley’s definition, marriage is inter alia a union that is legally indissoluble (except for adultery), and if current U.S. law recognises no such indissoluble unions, that means that, by Greeley’s definition, nobody in the U. S. today is married.

33 years after Greeley’s animadversions against this unnamed Nantucket couple, a similar event occurred: Kansas free-love activists Lillian Harman and Edwin Walker announced their marriage. Regarding marriage as a “wholly private compact” of no concern to anybody by themselves, Harman and Walker had conducted their own marriage ceremony without involving either State or clergy. For this impertinence they were imprisoned. One of the presiding judges in the case – ironically named Judge Valentine – raised the question whether the couple’s crime was a) living together as a married couple without actually being married, or b) getting married but in an illegal fashion. Valentine came down on the side of (a), but on somewhat different grounds from Greeley’s.

Judge Valentine, unlike Greeley, granted that genuine marriage did not require any ceremony of the State: under common law “the mere living together as husband and wife of a man and woman competent to marry each other, with the honest intention of being husband and wife so long as they both shall live, will constitute them husband and wife, and create a valid marriage.” (He also seemed to require, again unlike Greeley, not that the marriage be actually indissoluble but only that the partners intend that it not be dissolved.) But he rejected the legality of the marriage for a different reason:

In my opinion, the union between E. C. Walker and Lillian Harman was no marriage, and they deserve all the punishment which has been inflicted upon them. … In the present case, the parties repudiated nearly everything essential to a valid marriage, and openly avowed this repudiation at the commencement of their union.
(Quoted in Hal D. Sears, The Sex Radicals: Free Love in High Victorian America, p. 94.)

What “essentials” had the couple repudiated? In their marriage ceremony Harman had declined not only to vow obedience to her husband (such a vow being repugnant both to her feminism and to her libertarian anarchism) but also to vow love unto death: “I make no promises that it may become impossible or immoral for me to fulfill, but retain the right to act, always, as my conscience and best judgment shall dictate.” She also declined to submerge her individuality in another’s by taking her husband’s last name: “I retain, also, my full maiden name, as I am sure it is my duty to do.” Walker for his part vowed that “Lillian is and will continue to be as free to repulse any and all advances of mine as she has been heretofore. In joining with me in this love and labor union, she has not alienated a single natural right. She remains sovereign of herself, as I of myself, and we … repudiate all powers legally conferred upon husbands and wives.” In particular he repudiated any right as husband to control his wife’s property; he also acknowledged his “responsibility to her as regards the care of offspring, if any, and her paramount right to the custody thereof should any unfortunate fate dissolve this union.” Harman’s father added: “I do not ‘give away the bride,’ as I wish her to be always the owner of her person.” (Sears, p. 85.)

In Judge Valentine’s eyes, then, the “essentials” of marriage apparently included not only an intended commitment for life but also the wife’s duty to obey her husband and take his last name, and the husband’s right to rape his wife, to control her property, and to control her access to her children (rights that the husband did indeed traditionally enjoy under 19th-century American law – and which survived longer into the 20th century than you may think).

If, then, we apply Valentine’s 1887 definition of marriage to our own time, then any couples that are joined under marriage statutes that fail to require the wife’s legal subordination to her husband, or fail to require her to take her husband’s last name, or do not give the husband total control over his wife’s body, property, and children, are not married at all. If Greeley and Valentine were to timewarp their way to the present day, they would see no unions that they would recognise as marriages – not, at least, if they were to “hold fast the form of sound words.”

So my question, to those today who maintain that same-sex marriage is a contradiction in terms, is this: on what grounds is your definition, which rules out same-sex unions but allows dissoluble, non-patriarchal heterosexual unions to count as marriages, to be preferred to Horace Greeley’s or Judge Valentine’s?

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  • good_in_theory

    Nice post; interesting stuff.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Rod-Engelsman/822499328 Rod Engelsman

    Interesting take on it. Even more logic on the side of marriage equality, not that you had to convince me. I’ll be waiting eagerly to see if anyone takes your challenge.

    • martinbrock

      I tried … A counterargument is demoted out of sight below, if you really want one.

  • Damien S.

    Heh.
    Of course such “traditional” marriage is traditional only in the European Christian tradition. Cultures around the world had varying degrees of divorce right and equality.

  • Tom Hepplewhite

    I love this kind (aristotelian?) reasoning.

  • Ryan Long

    Excellent post, and brilliantly argued.

    What I’ve always wondered about is the religious argument. Why do same-sex marriage opponents think their own personal religious views trump those of the same-sex couples?

    But I think we all know that there is no rational justification for bigotry, at least I hope we do…

  • http://www.facebook.com/hidalgoj Javier Samuel Hidalgo

    Wonderful post. Really fantastic stuff.

  • Woj
  • Marcelo Teson

    Never underestimate religious nutjobs’ ability to push the debate ever further into crazytown. I wouldn’t be surprised if, upon successfully repealing same sex marriage across the US, these people target divorce as the next “traditional marriage” milestone.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000214887686 Sharon Presley

    I love this kind of historical stuff! [Lillian Harman is one of the courageous and amazing women going into my next book.]
    Not that it will make the slightest difference to the Rabid Right. Their arguments aren’t about logic at all but about projecting their own personal fears, desires and uncertainties onto others in the form of hatred and twisted arguments.

  • http://twitter.com/kjhealy Kieran Healy

    Yes—here, for example, is Maggie Gallagher running into a similar problem a few years ago: http://kieranhealy.org/blog/archives/2005/10/18/same-sex-marriage/

  • j_m_h

    A good argument and good background of various perceptions of the meaning of a marriage between man and woman. So I suspect will say what you quote is exactly what they mean, others will take more moderate views regarding the relationship between husband and wife.

    BTW, I’m pretty sure if you read the bible you’ll find plenty of support for the dissolution of a marriage for a number of causes beyond adultery. So one could reject the definitions Greeley and the courts on the basis of traditional meaning.

    Of course we might simply point to other definitions of the work and suggest they can also be applied to people and not only objects or ides.

    2 cause to meet or fit together; combine: the two halves are trimmed and married up | the show marries poetry with art.• [ no obj. ] meet or blend with something: most Chardonnays don’t marry well with salmon.• Nautical splice (ropes) end to end without increasing their girth.

  • martinbrock

    The post is full of dubious historical reasoning. It applies modern assumptions to historical circumstances in which these assumptions do not hold.

    In English tradition, a husband takes his wife “to have and to hold”, the language of property, but his wife takes him similarly. The language is completely symmetric in this regard. The tradition also makes the husband proprietor of the family’s property, but this role supposes the husband’s exclusive obligation to defend this property, in a context in which enforcing property rights was necessarily far less centralized than modern statecraft supposes.

    In this tradition, a husband is even liable for his wife’s criminal offenses, i.e. he is publicly whipped or locked in stocks or jailed for the offense, not her. In a conflict with statutory authority, a husband was presumed to defend his wife as well as himself from statutory force. After all, a criminal sanction is only the state’s enforcement of its will over the will of the person titled “criminal”.

    Within this tradition, a wife’s obligation to obey her husband was an obligation to obey the same law to which the husband was subject. Blackstone is reasonably clear on this point.

    This tradition certainly exists, but the idea that wives had no legal identity under the circumstances is thoroughly modern and revisionist. So is the idea that a man was entitled to “rape” his wife. This idea simply updates “rape” to modern usage. Marriage traditionally involved an obligation to have sex, and both parties understood this obligation before marrying. In this context, calling sex within marriage, without brutal force, “rape” is like calling income garnishment, to force me to pay past due rent, “theft”.

    I often argue against gay marriage, but Long’s argument in favor is completely orthogonal to my argument against. I have no problem with gay relationships, but I don’t see the point of a statutory institution governing the terms of these relationships. I don’t see the point of this institution governing the terms of a childless straight relationship either. I agree that a gay couple and a childless straight couple ought to have similar legal rights, but granting “marriage” to the former makes much less sense in this regard than withdrawing the rights from the latter.

    After all, granting “marriage” to gay couples doesn’t grant the same rights to cohabiting siblings. Two of my aunts (great-aunts) were domestic partners for their entire lives, and they never had rights associated with marriage. Platonic roommates can also be similar. Gay marriage doesn’t enact equality. It only grants legal privileges to a few more people while denying the same privileges to many other people.

    Traditional marriage is inextricably linked to procreation. It is primarily a procreation institution, not a genital stimulation institution or even a romantic love institution. Modern marriage often is not procreative, but does this change make the marital rights of couples without children unfair to gay couples, or does it make these rights unfair to couples, even gay couples, with children?

    In fact, within this historical tradition, “fatherhood” is not a biological relationship at all. A woman’s husband is her child’s “father”, with all of the legal obligations of fatherhood, by definition, regardless of any biological relationship. The Supreme Court of the United States upheld this standard within my lifetime, and all sorts of double standards follow from it. For example, a man’s biological child born outside of the U.S. has no citizenship rights, but a woman’s biological child born outside of the U.S. does.

    So if I’m the father of my wife’s children born within the marriage, with many very burdensome but nonetheless legitimate obligations of fatherhood, shouldn’t my wife be bound to bear my children and only my children? If she is not so bound, I lose control over both my reproductive choice and my paternal relationships (which are not legally the same) to an incredible extent.

    And if a relationship is infertile, why are the bonds of matrimony necessary at all? Why can’t gay couples craft the terms of their relationship contractually? Why do they need a one-size-fits-all (or a one-size-fits-procreative-relationships) set of terms? What public purpose does this statutory institution serve? What sense does it make? Some gay couples just want a statutory institution? We create as many statutory institutions as anyone wants? That’s “liberty” now?

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Roderick-Tracy-Long/1037941173 Roderick Tracy Long

      Within this tradition, a wife’s obligation to obey her husband was an obligation to obey the same law to which the husband was subject. Blackstone is reasonably clear on this point.

      Yes, Blackstone is clear enough:

      “By marriage, the husband and wife are one person in law: that is, the very being or legal existence of the woman is suspended during the marriage, or at least is
      incorporated and consolidated into that of the husband: under whose wing, protection, and cover, she performs every thing …. For this reason, a man cannot grant any thing to his wife, or enter into covenant with her: for the grant would be to suppose her separate existence; and to covenant with her would be only to covenant with himself: and therefore it is also generally true, that all compacts made between husband and wife, when single, are voided by the intermarriage.”

      In any case, my examples were from the u.s.

      Marriage traditionally involved an obligation to have sex, and both parties understood this obligation before marrying. In this context, calling sex within marriage, without brutal force, “rape” is like calling income garnishment, to force me to pay past due rent, “theft”.

      Contracts involving inalienable rights are not enforceable via specific performance.

      This idea simply updates “rape” to modern usage.

      Please spare me your moral relativism.

      I have no problem with gay relationships, but I don’t see the point of a statutory institution governing the terms of these relationships.

      Fine. Nothing to do with the point of my post, though.

      I agree that a gay couple and a childless straight couple ought to have similar legal rights

      What about non-childless gay couples?

      After all, granting “marriage” to gay couples doesn’t grant the same rights to cohabiting siblings.

      Some marriage equality activists think they should.

      • martinbrock

        Yes, Blackstone is clear enough:

        I referred to Blackstone on a wife’s obligation to obey her husband within the law and to his corresponding obligation to bear criminal penalties on her behalf. Your quote doesn’t address this point.

        I also agree that the husband was the proprietor of all family property. I say so explicitly. I don’t suggest that husbands should be, or ever should have been, proprietors of all marital property or that wives should be, or ever should have been, under the protection of their husbands in this way. I only note that they were as a matter of historical fact.

        Contracts involving inalienable rights are not enforceable via specific performance.

        Marriage is a legal institution rather than a contract, and we’re discussing the past. The principle you cite here did not govern sex within marriage historically, and today (or recently at least), a man may not refuse paternal obligations to a child born to his wife even if he is not the biological father, although judges do not apply this principle consistently. They don’t judge accusations of marital rape consistently either, of course.

        Please spare me your moral relativism.

        You need not spare me yours, because you cannot.

        Fine. Nothing to do with the point of my post, though.

        Then I don’t understand the point of your post. Some opponents of gay marriage are inconsistent?

        What about non-childless gay couples?

        I explicitly refer to them, but you don’t respond. If a gay couple has custody of children, it should be treated like any other couple with custody of children in my opinion, and I wouldn’t deny a couple custody of children based on sexual preference.

        Some marriage equality activists think they should.

        That’s fine, but I still don’t see the point. If I want my gay lover to have my power of attorney, to make medical decisions for me, to visit me in a hosptial and the like, then the state should respect my wishes, but this relationship does not imply marriage.

        The relationship between parents of the same children necessarily involves far stronger bonds than the relationship between romantic lovers without children, regardless of sexual orientation. The former relationship involves persons other than the lovers and relationships other than the relationship between the lovers.

        • Jackwynne

          I think you could check the point of his post by reading its title and the first sentence.

          • martinbrock

            Gay marriage is hardly the first redefinition of marriage. I get that point. I don’t get how it’s an argument for gay marriage. Maybe it isn’t supposed to be an argument for gay marriage.

          • Sergio Méndez

            Martin:

            You say “This idea simply updates “rape” to modern usage. ”

            Can you explain me how a law that forces a women to have sex with his husband because they are married is not by definition rape, without resorting to moral relativism?  

            “I don’t get how it’s an argument for gay marriage”

            Because is not an argument for gay marriage per se. It is a counter argument designed to refute an argument against gay marriage (they idea that redefinition of marriage is bad). 

          • martinbrock

            I routinely resort to moral relativism, because morality is relative to all sorts of things.

            Forcing a woman to have sex may not be “rape”, by definition, if the woman consents to the force. Words mean what people commonly mean by them, and “rape” more specifically is a legal term. Legal terms means what lawyers say they mean, whether I like it or not.

            Again, gay marriage is not the first redefinition of marriage. I understand this point. I discuss whether it’s a necessary or sensible redefinition. Redefining “marriage” so that childless couples do not benefit from the institution makes more sense to me.

        • Roderick Long

          The principle you cite here did not govern sex
          within marriage historically

           

          See my previous comment on relativism.  The applicability of a moral principle
          is not restricted to the present.

           

          Then I don’t understand the point of
          your post.

           

          To criticise a popular argument against same-sex
          marriage. I said nothing one way or the other about what its statutory status
          should be.  (As an anarchist, I obviously don’t favour state-sanctioned marriage because I don’t favour state-sanctioned anything.)

           

          I explicitly refer to them

           

          Yes, without addressing the question.

          • martinbrock

            Moral principles are not handed down by God, like laws of nature, in my way of thinking. They are human constructs serving human purposes. If you want to call that “moral relativism”, I accept the label. I am a moral relativist, and I never deny it. You are also a moral relativist, whether or not you acknowledge the fact.

            I understand your point.

            I ask, “Does this change make the marital rights of couples without children unfair to gay couples, or does it make these rights unfair to couples, even gay couples, with children?” The context makes my choice among the two alternatives crystal clear, so you are disingenuous to suggest that I don’t address the question.

          • JOR

             If we’re all moral relativists, then everything’s just a matter of clashing, arbitrarily whims. Why should anyone care to legally privilege biological parents over co-habitating non-parents? Why shouldn’t we describe 19th Century husbands forcing themselves on their wives as rapists? If everything’s relative and one standard’s as good as any other, why should we judge people by their own standards, rather than ours (or by those of the lawyers of their time rather than the lawyers of our time)? Far from securing our ability to understand the past in its own context, relativism undermines any intellectual clarity in the matter*. And far from establishing that Roderick (and by extension everyone, I guess) is a moral relativist, relativist assertions simply undercut themselves. It’s probably the case that nobody’s really a relativist, in the same way that nobody is a red herringist or non sequiturist. Relativism is a logical fallacy (or more accurately a compound of several logical fallacies – non sequitur, special pleading, self-exclusion, and occasionally a red herring or begged question), not a coherent position in its own right.

            * Perhaps that is the motive, since to understand that the ends were
            every bit as abusive and dehumanizing as the means might cause us to
            judge one’s pet generations and their institutions and legal regimes even more harshly.

          • martinbrock

            If we’re all moral relativists, then everything’s just a matter of clashing, arbitrarily whims. Why should anyone care to legally privilege biological parents over co-habitating non-parents?

            Because most of us are raised by biological parents. We aren’t all parents, but we are all children. That morality is relative does not imply that moral standards are inconsequential.

            Why shouldn’t we describe 19th Century husbands forcing themselves on their wives as rapists?

            Well, there is no custom of 19th century husbands raping their wives. They could compel their wives to some extent to have their children, because they weren’t legally entitled to procreate otherwise, and their wives accepted this exclusive role with the marriage. Calling this compulsion “rape” now is historical revisionism, not to mention moral relativism.

            If everything’s relative and one standard’s as good as any other, …

            “One standard’s as good as another” is redundant. Ethical standards define “good”. You may define “good” however you like, and your ethical conclusions are relative to this definition; however, applying one ethical standard is not consequentially equivalent to applying another standard. Which consequences do I want? Am I supposed to pray for the answer?

            Why should we judge people by their own standards, rather than ours (or by those of the lawyers of their time rather than the lawyers of our time)?

            I judge you by my standards, and you judge me by yours, because we can’t do anything else. I don’t know what your standards are, and I never can know in detail. Even if you summarize standards for me, I can’t know what’s really in your head vs. what you tell me.

            Far from securing our ability to understand the past in its own context, relativism undermines any intellectual clarity in the matter.

            Relativism is as clear as my intellect gets. Further clarity is an illusion, a self-serving illusion. I pretend that my ethics has some kind of universal legitimacy by presuming that my ethical assumptions are universal, but in reality, they’re just my ethical assumptions. My ethical conclusions follow from them, and the conclusions suit me.

            Relativism is a logical fallacy …

            Well, you can define some “relativism” implying logical fallacies, but then you don’t use the word as I do.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000214887686 Sharon Presley

       martinbrock: You write “This tradition certainly exists, but the idea that wives had no legal
      identity under the circumstances is thoroughly modern and revisionist.
      So is the idea that a man was entitled to “rape” his wife. This idea
      simply updates “rape” to modern usage.”  There’s a problem with your claim. In fact the 19th c. sex radicals did bring up this issue and and did in fact consider forcible marital sex rape. In the famous Markland Letter published by Moses Harman in the anarchist feminist free love journal “Lucifer,” the author does exactly that–he makes it clear that he considers  the husband’s forcing himself on his wife (who was recovering from vaginal surgery after childbirth and nearly bled to death after he forced himself on her) rape. You can sniff and turn up your nose because it was a sex radical/anarchist but nonetheless it was written in the 19th century not the 21st.

      Your claim that the idea that women had no legal identity is a modern one doesn’t match with the facts either. Numerous women and men, including many of the First Wave suffragists of the 19th c. such as Stanton and Anthony, discussed exactly that idea and opposed it. In this case it wasn’t just the anarchists who were opposed to women’s non-identity, it was many women and some men in many kinds of journals, including women’s journals like “The Lily” and “Una,”  and freethought journals, among others.

      There was a lot of discussion of the problems of traditional marriage among many different kinds of radicals, including the suffragists, the sex radicals, the anarchists, the socialists, and other feminists. If you were unaware of this, it is because your reading of history is apparently limited to mainstream historians who didn’t bother to talk about feminists and radicals. Nonetheless these 19th c. groups not only existed but their representatives were very popular on the speaking circuits (the 19th c. equivalent of TV and blogs). The 19th century was in fact a time of great social turmoil and the activities of the various radical groups helped usher in the modern age of sexual freedom, feminism, nonconformity, and even libertarianism.

      • martinbrock

        There’s a problem with your claim. In fact the 19th c. sex radicals did bring up this issue and and did in fact consider forcible marital sex rape.

        This fact is not a problem with my claim, because I never claim otherwise. I haven’t discussed 19th century sex radicals at all. I discussed English law according to Blackstone, who wrote in the 18th century, and earlier tradition like the Anglican rites of marriage.

        In the famous Markland Letter published by Moses Harman in the anarchist feminist free love journal “Lucifer,” the author does exactly that–he makes it clear that he considers  the husband’s forcing himself on his wife (who was recovering from vaginal surgery after childbirth and nearly bled to death after he forced himself on her) rape.

        I would also consider this act rape, and even a 19th century judge might have considered it a violation of some sort under the circumstances, but this fact has no bearing on my point. We aren’t arguing the merits of rape with me on the “pro-rape” side of the debate.

        You can sniff and turn up your nose because it was a sex radical/anarchist but nonetheless it was written in the 19th century not the 21st.

        I haven’t sniffed or turned up my nose at anything, and I am not your caricature. If you want to discuss Benjamin Tucker and Virginia Woodhull or Elizabeth Cady Stanton or Mill or Wollstonecraft, we can do that too, but I haven’t discussed them one way or another.

        Your claim that the idea that women had no legal identity is a modern one doesn’t match with the facts either.

        I haven’t claimed that women had no legal identity. That was Long. A woman’s husband stood between her and the state, so the state dealt only with him when enforcing the law, even when she violated the law. That was the custom.

        Numerous women and men, including many of the First Wave suffragists of the 19th c. such as Stanton and Anthony, discussed exactly that idea and opposed it.

        I know. In the Declaration of Sentiments, Stanton essentially calls the punishment of a man for his wife’s crimes an act of discrimination against women. She was a brilliant politician, no doubt. I don’t recall her as a free love advocate though, and she was an abortion opponent.

        If you were unaware of this, it is because your reading of history is apparently limited to mainstream historians who didn’t bother to talk about feminists and radicals.

        I’m not unaware of it. You leap to conclusions here.

        • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000214887686 Sharon Presley

          You write  “A woman’s husband stood between her and the state, so the state dealt
          only with him when enforcing the law, even when she violated the law.
          That was the custom. “No legal identity” is Long’s modern summary of
          this custom, but someone concluding from this summary that wives had no
          legal rights would be mistaken. Being shielded from the state by her
          husband was a legal right.”

          This doesn’t actually answer the point I raised. It is a red herring. Many feminists, including but not limited to the suffragists, wrote frequently about the inequality and injustice of marriage in the 19th c. To imply otherwise, as your above statement does, seriously distorts the historical reality. Here’s just a smattering of the feminists discussion on the legal issues and problems of marriage:

           

          “Marriage is the slavery of woman. Marriage
          does not differ in any of its essential features, from chattel slavery. The slave’s
          earnings belong to the master, the earnings of the wife belong to the husband.
          The right of another to claim one’s earnings, constitutes one a slave.” –Francis
          Barry, “The Lily,” July 15, 1855

           

          “The majority believe that their
          wives and mothers are household chattel…” “The Una,” Jan. 1855

           

          “In no situation does a women so
          entirely yield her individuality and lose her identity, as in the marriage
          relation.” –Louisa Humphrey, “The Sibyl,” Sept 15, 1857

           

           

          From “The Political Thought of Elizabeth Cady Stanton”:

          Cady Stanton “compared the status of
          women to that of the slave once more…Cady Stanton’s by then familiar comparison
          between women and that of male slaves continue to distinguish her from those of
          the anti-slavery women who drew attention to the plight of female slaves…”

           

          And speaking of the Declaration of Sentiments
          principally written by Cady Stanton, it condemned the laws of marriage and divorce
          which you seem to think was such a swell deal for women. In marriage, she/they
          wrote, the woman “was compelled to promise obedience to her husband, he
          becoming, for all intents and purposes her master.” She and her husband Henry
          took the obedience part out their marriage vows.

           

          Therefore for you to imply that she
          was OK with it is incredibly dishonest. Of course you’ll deny that was what you
          were doing, but I doubt that you’ll fool too many people.

           

          BTW how many books on women in the
          19th century have you read? I’ve read literally dozens, both about
          women in general and about specific women and movements in the 19th c.,
          as research for the book I am writing on women resisters to authority in the 19th
          c. Unless you are a historian whose specialty is women in the 19th c.
          (which I seriously doubt), then for you to act as if you know more than I do is
          nothing more than “mansplaining.”

           

          As to Cady Stanton on abortion and free love, that’s
          another red herring. What does that have to do with the legal positions of
          women in marriage? Nothing. It has no bearing on what I’m saying.  

          But just for the record, according to the Constitutional
          Law Prof  blog:

          “Professor Tracy Thomas argues that Stanton is an unlikely – - – and inappropriate
          - – - poster woman for the contemporary anti-abortion movement in a new paper entitled Misappropriating Women’s History in the
          Law and Politics of Abortion.   According to Professor Thomas, Stanton “did not talk
          about abortion per se” and “did not respond to the public campaign
          for the criminalization of abortion led by the medical profession with attacks
          on the growing autonomy of women.”   Instead,

          Stanton
          turned this debate to her priority of women’s rights, framing the question as
          one of the “elevation of woman” through equal legal and social rights. Stanton’s theory of
          “enlightened motherhood” placed women as the “sovereign of her own person” with
          sole responsibility for deciding when and under what circumstances to bear
          children. She defended women accused of infanticide, exposing the gendered
          legal system of all-male juries, legislatures, and judges that condemned them. Stanton’s life work labored
          for radical change to the patriarchy of society seeking liberal legal reforms
          of equal rights for women. Her ideology was about the “self-sovereignty” of
          women and against the regulation of women by men or the law.”

          So not everyone
          seems to share your opinion on this.

          Susan B. Anthony is often said to be anti-abortion also. Her
          biographer Kathleen Barry told me “The issue of fetus
          as person is a late 20th century anti-woman claim.  Putting Anthony’s
          work in perspective of 150 years ago, abortion was very unsafe and likely done
          by unsavory people. Her position would have been to protect women from death
          that often resulted from practices of the time. She never wrote on this, took a
          position on it or expounded on it any way that I could find in all of her
          papers and papers about her at that time. I found one sentence from her on the
          subject saying she was against it. But this, I do not believe, as I have said,
          can be framed in today’s arguments.”

           

          I conclude that you don’t know half
          as much about 19th c. social conditions, let alone women, as you
          imagine you do. Why should we take your comments seriously? Are you going to seriously try to tell us that you know more than the scholars? Snort.

        • martinbrock

          @facebook-100000214887686:disqus 

          This doesn’t actually answer the point I raised. It is a red herring.

          It reiterates my point, the one that you misconstrued, so it is not a red herring.

          Many feminists, including but not limited to the suffragists, wrote frequently about the inequality and injustice of marriage in the 19th c. To imply otherwise, …

          I never imply otherwise. I don’t even discuss 19th century feminism at all, except to answer your suggestion that I do.

          … as your above statement does, seriously distorts the historical reality. Here’s just a smattering of the feminists discussion on the legal issues and problems of marriage:

          I’m familiar with some of this literature. It has no bearing on my point, which asserts nothing about 19th century literature.

          And speaking of the Declaration of Sentiments principally written by Cady Stanton, it condemned the laws of marriage and divorce which you seem to think was such a swell deal for women.

          I never anywhere suggest that any laws of marriage and divorce at any time are a swell deal for women. I say that under eighteenth English law, a husband shields his wife from the state, because the history says as much. If you want to say that being shielded from the state this way was a terrible deal for women, you may say so, but I haven’t address the swellness issue at all.

          “In marriage, she/they wrote, the woman “was compelled to promise obedience to her husband, he becoming, for all intents and purposes her master.”

          You omit the sentence immediately preceding this one.”

          He has made her, morally, an irresponsible being, as she can commit many crimes with impunity, provided they be done in the presence of her husband.”

          Stanton herself omits the fact that a wife could commit crimes with impunity because her husband was punished for the crime in her stead, but clearly understood the relationship

          She and her husband Henry took the obedience part out their marriage vows.

          Good for them. I’m not on the “chivalrous male dominance” side of a debate with you. My wife and I took the obedience part out of out marriage vows too, but we left this part in.

          “With this ring I the wed, with my body I thee worship, and with all my worldly goods, I thee endow.”

          In the Anglican rite of 1559, only the husband says this, but in our modern version, we both said it.

          By 1789, “with my body I thee worship” disappears from this rite, but my wife and I both love it.

          Therefore for you to imply that she was OK with it is incredibly dishonest. Of course you’ll deny that was what you were doing, but I doubt that you’ll fool too many people.

          Of course, I deny it, and your insinuation that I “imply” it is incredibly dishonest.

          BTW how many books on women in the 19th century have you read?

          Enough to know that you quote Stanton selectively.

          I’ve read literally dozens, …

          I’m sure you’ve read many more books on the subject than I have. I freely concede the point; however, since I never address the subject before you raise it, I won’t apologize for this failing.

          As to Cady Stanton on abortion and free love, that’s another red herring. What does that have to do with the legal positions of women in marriage? Nothing. It has no bearing on what I’m saying.

          You make an issue of 19th century sex radicals, though I never discuss them, and you then mention Stanton, and you insinuate that I know nothing about Stanton or other 19th century radicals, so I tell you something that I know about Stanton. I never claim that the statement bears on your point about sex radicals. I only note that Stanton wasn’t one of them as far as I know.

          Stanton turned this debate to her priority of women’s rights, framing the question as one of the “elevation of woman” through equal legal and social rights.

          She calls abortion “the murder of children” and advocates the elevation of women as a remedy, because she assumes that an empowered woman would not abort her own child.

          Since I don’t want to be wrong here, much less dead, I am not calling abortion “the murder of children” myself. I support legal abortion, for the same reasons that you do.

          Stanton’s theory of “enlightened motherhood” placed women as the “sovereign of her own person” with sole responsibility for deciding when and under what circumstances to bear children.

          This construction of Stanton’s thinking is incredibly revisionist.

          She defended women accused of infanticide, exposing the gendered legal system of all-male juries, legislatures, and judges that condemned them.

          That’s right. She believed that male domination forced infanticide and abortion and their legal consequences on women. She believed that empowerment would protect women and their children from abortion. She was wrong about that.

          So not everyone seems to share your opinion on this.

          You have only the most tenuous grasp of my opinion on this. 

          I conclude that you don’t know half as much about 19th c. social conditions, let alone women, as you imagine you do.

          Your conclusions about what I know, even what I imagine, are incredibly presumptuous as usual.

  • http://twitter.com/VelizCF CFV

    Two years ago we had that public debate here, in Argentina. Finally, our Civil Code was modified and we now have same-sex marriage.

    As for lexicographic arguments, some people then said that “matrimonio” in Spanish came from the word “mater” in Latin, which means “mother” (notice that the Latin word has the same linguistic root that the English word marriage). From that they jumped to the conclusion that the legal framework of marriage must necessarily be between a man and a woman, because they can procreate.

    I remember I pointed out that the word for marriage in German is “Ehe,” and comes from “Ewigkeit,” which means “eternity”. If lexicographic arguments had had legal validity, Germans should have banned divorce laws.

    • Roderick Long

      Sounds to me as though the etymology of “matrimonio” should mean that only women can marry.

  • Michael Carey

    You are arguing against a straw man. I personally believe that government should get out of the marriage business altogether, but I think there is a reasonable argument for restricting gay marriage based on “tradition”. We should argue against the most reasonable version of this argument. Namely, that traditional marriage was defined because marriage served a traditional purpose: something like trying encouraging men to have children and stay committed to them and their mother. The parents and siblings of a woman (as well as the woman herself) have an interest in making sure that men are committed, so they established laws to protect these interests.

    Families didn’t have as much interest in making sure gay couples stayed together because that didn’t promote the fitness of their genetic material. To a large extent this is still true.

    The best version of the argument combines the traditional definition of marriage with the traditional purpose. Maybe not everyone on the right sees the distinction between the two so they may argue as if they think it is purely a definitional thing. But there is no reason we can’t address the deeper issue.

    • RickDiMare

      “The parents and siblings of a woman (as well as the woman herself) have an interest in making sure that men are committed, so they established laws to protect these interests.”

      If that’s true, then expanding the class of people who are entitled to the legal benefits of marriage would likely dilute state resources available to couples (whether gay or straight) who are raising minors.

      • martinbrock

        I agree, Rick. An institutional framework protecting the interests of children, and the relationships between parents and children and between siblings and other family members, seems defensible to me.

        By contrast, a romantic relationship between two adults, involving no children, is strictly between the two lovers. The lovers can have any relationship they both accept, and it’s no one else’s business. That’s a contract. A contract needs no legislative approval.

        I’m amazed that gay couples want to be governed by terms crafted by a legislature. These same legislatures were crafting “Sodomy” laws only a generation ago. Now, all of a sudden, we can trust them to write the terms of gay relationships? When did that happen?

        • RickDiMare

          We’re walking in a mine field here, but your point about contracts is important because contract law issues between two people (again, whether gay or straight) are much easier for courts to deal with, and often don’t impose upon the state when only the “lovers” are involved.

          The problem with pair bonds, however, is that when they produce (or adopt) children, issues of partnership law kick in. 

          Children are a huge expense and responsibility, and often the pair bond is blindsided and fails, which means the state will likely be called upon (to collect child support, provide legal services, health care, etc.) 

          Then, partnership law principles step in and basically says something like: “The state doesn’t care which individual of the pair bond called this responsibility into being. The parents/caregivers are ‘jointly and severally’ liable for the well being of the child(ren).” 

          In other words, not only is the partnership is liable, but each individual is ‘severally’ liable. So, for example, if one spouse disappears, the spouse known by the state will be held 100% responsible for raising the minor(s).

    • martinbrock

      Traditional marriage presumes procreation, at least potentially, but “making men behave” is quite a stretch historically. If we need a simple summary, “informing men of paternity” makes more sense to me. Traditional marriage ensures that men can distinguish their progeny from other children. When males have similar certainty of parentage (similar to females), they have similar devotion to the children, and by “devotion”, I mean a preference for the welfare of some children over others.

      Females don’t need marriage similarly, because they always know who their children are; however, they want marriage for the same reason, because they want the fathers of their children to be devoted to the children.

      • http://conradcook.wordpress.com/ Conrad Cook

        If you look at what happens when welfare enters the picture, that is not in fact true.  Mothers are not interested, if we consider aggregate behavior, necessarily in having the fathers of their children devoted to the kids’ upbringing.  Mothers are interested in having the best provider devoted to providing for their kids.

        What the welfare state has done is to displace low-income fathers by out-bidding them.  Women in the projects grow up wanting to be professional, state-paid mothers, just as women in middle America grow up wanting to be June Cleaver housewives.  Men making minimum wage can’t compete with Uncle Sam, and those making more illegally are likely to serve time.

        Women bear children:  men in effect buy them.  I have no opinion on who has the better or the worse deal.  Both have benefits, both have drawbacks.

        Gay marriage is an implicitly classist question.  Modern America actively destroys poor families. 

      • Roderick Long

         If we need a simple summary, “informing men of paternity” makes more sense to me.

        So now that we have DNA testing, we should abolish marriage?

        • martinbrock

          “Abolish marriage” is presumptuous. We could redefine marriage as a relationship between biological parents with appropriate exceptions for adoption. This redefinition implies polygamy of course, but a couple could still pledge sexual exclusivity to one another to avoid dividing loyalties. This arrangement is closer to traditional marriage and is also closer to natural patterns among creatures that couple.

    • Sergio Méndez

      Michael: 

      “I personally believe that government should get out of the marriage business altogether, but I think there is a reasonable argument for restricting gay marriage based on ´tradition´.  ”

      This whole idea appears to be self contradictory. If you don´t believe goverment should get out of the marriage buisness, who (if not goverment) is going to institute the coertion you demand against gay couples who want to marry?

      • martinbrock

        “Marriage” is a statutory institution with associated obligations and benefits. Denying someone a statutory benefit is not equivalent to coercion. A statutory benefit coerces the people not receiving the benefit to provide it.

        In my way of thinking, a state should respect a gay couple’s declaration of power of attorney, wills, joint ownership of property and contracts. If the couple wants to call their relationship “marriage” without statutory implications, in a religious ceremony for example, that’s also their business and none of mine or the state’s.

        But if the couple wants the state to call their relationship “marriage” and to grant them various statutory benefits associated with this title, we’re no longer discussing liberty. We’re discussing statecraft.

    • DavidCheatham

      You are arguing against a straw man. I personally believe that government should get out of the marriage business altogether, but I think there is a reasonable argument for restricting gay marriage based on “tradition”
      Barring X from a certain activity because X is a gender A, but allowing Z to do the same activity because Z is gender B, is out-and-out sexual discrimination.

      This is true whether the activity barred to X is to buy a specific house, open a specific type of business, or marry a specific person.

      Sexual discrimination is certainly ‘traditional’, but hardly a tradition we’ve chosen to keep, and in fact we generally consider it a violation of the equal protection clause.

      And before anyone says ‘All people can marry someone of the opposite gender’, which is rather the automatic respond to this, I preemptively respond: Yeah, and all people can drink from their own race’s water fountain.

      Cleverly phrasing things doesn’t stop them from being discriminatory, and the rules are that laws that in any way care about gender require ‘exacting scrutiny’, which means they must further an important government interest in a way that is substantially related to that interest.

  • famadeo

    One of the common denominators in the anti-same-sex-marriage reasoning is the idea that marriage is tied to procreation. Of course, they can trace history farther than the 19th century and make a decent case for it, but it remains dubious: by this logic, straight couples who *canno*t have children would be left out.

    Never mind the conflation of is’s with ought’s. “It has historically been this way, therefore it must remain so”. Non-sequitur.

    • martinbrock

      Historically, infertility was not an exact science. Most infertility was uncertain at best, so refusing marriage to a couple on this basis was not possible. Also, infertility was tragic, so denying marriage based on infertility would have seemed cruel.

      Today, infertile marriage is more often a choice, and I completely agree that infertile couples should not receive benefits of marriage. Why does a wealthy man (or woman) receive a huge tax break through licensed copulation with a woman (or man)? What public purpose does this tax break serve?

      • Famadeo

        “Historically, infertility was not an exact science. Most infertility was uncertain at best…”

        This illustrates a fundamental reason why the confines of “traditional marriage” are dated. We have better epistemological tools to determine the matter of infertility. So what now?

        “Also, infertility was tragic, so denying marriage based on infertility would have seemed cruel.”

        So it was permissable even though it wouldn’t have served it’s intended purpose?

        It’s pretty clear that the conception of traditional marriage was extremely context-sensitive. This reiterates why it’s rediculous to defend it as such at this day and age.

        • martinbrock

          What now? If it were up to me, marriage would be an indissoluble, cooperative relationship between biological parents of the same children, with appropriate exceptions. Voluntary procreation, evidenced by the biological relationship, would imply the relationship, not a ceremony or a license. If DNA tests had existed in the past, marriage would already be this institution.

          Yes, customs permit all sorts of things unrelated to their primary purpose, but I don’t defend traditional marriage here. The traditions exist for a reason. Maybe these reasons are still compelling, and maybe they aren’t, but the absence of a traditional rationale for straight marriage is not an argument for gay marriage.

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000214887686 Sharon Presley

             You say “If it were up to me, marriage would be an indissoluble, cooperative
            relationship between biological parents of the same children, with
            appropriate exceptions.” Wow, how generous of you. Does those “exceptions”  include domestic violence, adultery, mental cruelty, hating your spouse, having a spouse who is unwilling to do their share of the housework and childcare, child abuse and/or neglect on the part of one parent, and just plain realizing you made a big mistake marrying that  person?  Would you force the spouses to remain married even if they hated each other? Why are you on a libertarian discussion board?  Your stand is quite antithetical to libertarianism as I and many others understand it. The idea of an “indissoluble” relationship is a conservative and/or religious notion, not libertarian in any sense. 

          • martinbrock

            Wow, how generous of you. Does those “exceptions” include domestic violence, adultery, mental cruelty, hating your spouse, having a spouse who is unwilling to do their share of the housework and childcare, child abuse and/or neglect on the part of one parent, and just plain realizing you made a big mistake marrying that person?

            That’s a very long question, so I’ll answer “yes and no”. If you want to narrow the scope a bit, I’ll be more specific.

            Would you force the spouses to remain married even if they hated each other?

            Yes. I would encourage a child’s two natural parents (the spouses) to support their children cooperatively and to respect one another’s constructive relationship with the children, subjecting their emotions to this purpose.

            Marriage does not imply cohabitation. No law requires a married couple to live under one roof.

            Why are you on a libertarian discussion board?

            Because I’m a libertarian. Why are you here?

            Your stand is quite antithetical to libertarianism as I and many others understand it.

            I don’t pretend to speak for you and others.

            The idea of an “indissoluble” relationship is a conservative and/or religious notion, not libertarian in any sense.

            No. It is a natural notion. The relationship between biological parents of the same children is natural, not political or religious.

          • Sergio Méndez

            What is natural about a relationship between biological parents when they do not love each other? Under what libertarian grounds can you support such idea? Since when the fact they share a child compromises them into a forced relatiosnship? This is unbelievable for somebody who claims to be a “libertarian”, serously. 

          • martinbrock

            The biological relationship between each parent of a child is natural. Each parent’s interest in the welfare of this child is natural. These statements are biological rather than libertarian. Everything is not political.

            If the procreation was voluntary, the relationship is not forced. Actions have consequences. When a child is a consequence of your actions, your relationship with the child is also a consequence, and the child’s relationship with another natural parent is a consequence, and your relationship with the other parent is a consequence.

            A thoughtful libertarian considers these consequences before acting, because liberty does not absolve him (or her) of responsibility for the consequences.

            Liberty is not the freedom to act without any constraint. It is the freedom to act within the bounds of propriety.

          • Sergio Méndez

            Martin:

            1. Not all biological parents actually love their children, there is plenty of evidence of that.

            2. The love of biological parents for the welfare of the chidlren does not imply in anyay that they want or most be forced to be in a relationship (call it marriage or any other). Therfore your implied conclusion “and your relationship with the other parent is the consequence” is not justified. 

          • martinbrock

            1. Life can be tough, and parents can be pathological, but no love is stronger than the natural affection of a parent for a child. Institutions don’t exist for the pathological cases.

            2. Each biological parent loves the same child. The parents must respect one another’s love for the same child, and they must cooperate in the child’s interests. This cooperative relationship is what I would call “marriage”.

            The alternative is an adversarial contest for the child, so that parents may go their separate ways, with only one retaining the parent-child relationship. I reject this adversarial approach categorically, but even if it’s the law, it’s not the absence of a relationship. You don’t escape a relationship with the other biological parent of your child this way.

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000214887686 Sharon Presley

            Others,including Sergio, have commented on some aspects of the above . I’ll simply address this one:

            I asked “Why are you on a libertarian discussion board?”  Others seem to be wondering that too.

            You answered: “Because I’m a libertarian. Why are you here?”  You probably think that’s a cute remark.  If you are implying slyly that I am not a libertarian, which of course you will deny doing, guess what? My libertarian credentials are impeccable and have been for 48 years. Co-founder of Laissez Faire Books. founding member of several others including the Association of Libertarian Feminists, co-editor of “Exquisite Rebel: The Essays of Voltairine de Cleyre” etc etc etc.  I’m here because I am professionally interested in this topic, and certainly what Roderick Long has to say on it. You seem to be here to disagree with everyone else, as far as I can tell. Sort of a higher-level troll.

          • martinbrock

            @facebook-100000214887686:disqus 

            You probably think that’s a cute remark.

            I think it’s a straightforward answer to your question followed by the same question directed at you.

            If you are implying slyly that I am not a libertarian, …

            That’s for you to say. I can deny doing it, because I haven’t done it.

            My libertarian credentials are impeccable and have been for 48 years. Co-founder of Laissez Faire Books. founding member of several others including the Association of Libertarian Feminists, co-editor of “Exquisite Rebel: The Essays of Voltairine de Cleyre” etc etc etc.

            That’s all very laudable.

            You seem to be here to disagree with everyone else, as far as I can tell. Sort of a higher-level troll.

            You’re obviously here to call me a “higher-level troll” and the like, while endlessly suggesting that I “imply” all sorts of things that you wish to rebut and claiming to be more libertarian than thou.

          • Famadeo

            Never mind that the senario would be disturbing if it were up to you (“indisoluble” regardless of people’s will? Biology as sufficient ground? No matter what the relationship?), since the rationale for traditional marriage -at least as a norrowly-concieved and exclusive model- is dubious -insofar as I’ve been arguing and you have not really adressed-, on what grounds do you justify that picture of marriage you painted? 

            “but the absence of a traditional rationale for straight marriage is not an argument for gay marriage.” Not in and of itself, but it is a reason to discard tradition as a criterion to determine what passes for marriage.

          • martinbrock

            Being the father of children with a particular mother is an indissoluble relationship that I have with the mother. This relationship exists regardless of any law. Law recognizing the reality does not disturb me.

            If the mother and I agree with others that the others may replace us in the parental role, the legal relationship between the mother and I might be dissolved, but the interests of our children supersede our wishes in this regard. Don’t you agree?

            I don’t know what you’ve been arguing that I haven’t addressed.

            Tradition is not my criteria for determining any legal institution.

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/Rod-Engelsman/822499328 Rod Engelsman

             By your reasoning it seems we should force the victims of rape to marry their rapists as happens in many Muslim societies.

          • martinbrock

            My reasoning suggests nothing of the sort. I don’t define “appropriate exceptions”, but rape (which also requires a careful definition these days) is certainly one of them.

            Abortion most often follows pregnancy following rape. When it does, the coparent relationship doesn’t exist.

          • famadeo

            “but the interests of our children supersede other considerations in this regard. Don’t you agree?” Yes. This is prescicely why I don’t consider biology the main standard. Your first paragraph is a purely descriptive claim.
            “I don’t know what you’ve been arguing that I haven’t addressed.” Seems to me the point  here is the legitimacy of traditional marriage as an exclusionary concept. So far we’ve basically agreed that neither tradition nor it’s original intend credit it.

          • martinbrock

            Yes. This is prescicely why I don’t consider biology the main standard.

            Parent-child relationships are overwhelmingly biological relationships for obvious, biological reasons. Heterosexual intercourse can be procreative. Homosexual intercourse cannot be. Ignoring this distinction is incredible. That gay couples can adopt is irrelevant. Every adoption is carefully planned. Most pregnancies are not, even within marriage.

            Your first paragraph is a purely descriptive claim.

            I describe an indissoluble relationship. I claim nothing else.

            Seems to me the point here is the legitimacy of traditional marriage as an exclusionary concept.

            Any statutory relationship is exclusionary. If marriage excludes no one, it means nothing.

            So far we’ve basically agreed that neither tradition nor it’s original intent credit it.

            Traditions develop for many reasons, and the reasons often have little to do with a ruler’s intention.

            No ruler intends a penguin to mate exclusively with another penguin during a season, and this coupling is not traditional either. It is natural. It is natural, because it serves a natural purpose, i.e. it increases the likelihood of a successfully procreative coupling in the penguins’ environment.

            The point of an institutionalized relationship, as opposed to a contractual relationship, between two people necessarily involves interests other than the interests of the two people. The children and other kin are these people.

          • famadeo

            “Ignoring this distinction is incredible.” Nobody is ignorring it. There’s simply no reason to grant it any relevance if the child’s welfare is the main perrogative.
            “I describe an indissoluble relationship. I claim nothing else.” As a relationship, it is not indesoluble. You’re pacakge-dealing the relationship with it’s biology.

            “If marriage excludes no one, it means nothing.” My point all along has been that *the extent to which* it is exclusionary, since it’s extreme context-sensitivity, is bogus.

            Naturalistic fallacy: “it is, therefore it cannot be otherwise”. Non-sequitur.

            “The children and other kin are these people.” If adoption is legitimate, adoptive children of gay or straight couples *are*, for all intents and purposes, their children.

          • martinbrock

            Nobody is ignoring it. There’s simply no reason to grant it any relevance if the child’s welfare is the main prerogative.

            The child’s welfare is the highest priority but not the only priority, so “no reason to grant it any relevance” is presumptuous.

            Thankfully, states don’t take every child from its natural parents at birth and hand it to the adoptive parents at the front of some statutory queue.

            In reality, for obvious reasons, procreation overwhelmingly creates the relationship between children and their legal parents, so the procreative relationship is extremely relevant to the welfare of children.

            As a relationship, it is not indesoluble. You’re pacakge-dealing the relationship with it’s biology.

            The biological relationship is the indissoluble relationship. “Relationship” describes more than how you feel about your friends.

            My parents weren’t all that friendly, a la Monica and Chandler, when I was growing up, and they never thought they had to be. They always thought they had to be careful guardians of my welfare.

            My parents didn’t socialize much with my teachers and surrogate parents either. What does the one have to do with the other?

            Naturalistic fallacy: “it is, therefore it cannot be otherwise”. Non-sequitur.

            I never suggest this fallacy. Gay marriage could exist. I just don’t see the point.

            If adoption is legitimate, adoptive children of gay or straight couples *are*, for all intents and purposes, their children.

            I never suggest otherwise, and the fact is irrelevant to my point.

            If marriage were a relationship between parents of the same children, it would primarily be a relationship between biological parents, but it would also be a relationship between adoptive parents of the same children.

            I have no fundamental problem with gay adoption, so a gay couple could be married in this context, but they wouldn’t be married because they’re gay or because they love each other or because they’re best friends. They’d be married because they’re adoptive parents of the same children.

          • Famadeo

            “procreation overwhelmingly creates the relationship between children and their legal parents, so the procreative relationship is extremely relevant to the welfare of children.” So long as the parents in question have honest intentions in putting the child’s welfare first. Technically speaking (and we can certainly find concrete examples to support this) it is not necesarily the case.

            “‘Relationship’ describes more than how you feel about your friends.” If you’re describing something that persists beyond the acutal intercorse (in the broad sense) between two people you’re playing with semantics. If there’s technically speaking still a relationship after terminating a living agreement, or even personal contact of any sort, I don’t see the relevance of this.

            “My parents didn’t socialize much with my teachers and other surrogate parents either. What does the one have to do with the other?” I don’t believe I ever said enything to invoke this. I don’t get your point here.

            “I never suggest otherwise, and the fact is irrelevant to my point.” Then I honestly don’t see your point. If you concede that a non-biological family (hetero or homosexual) can constitute a marriage, what exactly are you arguing?

          • martinbrock

            @Famadeo

            Technically speaking (and we can certainly find concrete examples to support this) it is not necesarily the case.

            Parental affection is naturally there, pathological cases notwithstanding, and at least one natural parent is proximally there at birth, and natural parents have parental rights as a matter of longstanding law and custom.

            Are you suggesting that some statutory authority, charged with putting a child’s welfare first, examine the circumstances of each child at birth to determine statutorily appropriate parentage? If not, what are you suggesting? I only suggest that, given the reality of procreation, an institutional bond between natural parents of the same children is reasonable. Extending this bond to adoptive parents is also reasonable, and I have always explicitly said so.

            If you’re describing something that persists beyond the acutal intercorse (in the broad sense) between two people you’re playing with semantics.

            If the thing persising beyond actual intercourse is a child, I’m not playing with semantics.

            If there’s technically speaking still a relationship after terminating a living agreement, or even personal contact of any sort, I don’t see the relevance of this.

            The relationship of each natural parent to the child is a consequence of the intercourse. Even if no explicit contract exists, the interest of each parent in the child, and the child’s interests in each parent, require institutional protection. That’s the theory behind traditional marriage anyway. It’s also the theory behind child support. I don’t know what you propose as an alternative.

            I don’t get your point here.

            You wrote, “You’re package-dealing the relationship with it’s biology.” I took “relationship” to mean the romantic relationship between a child’s biological parents leading to intercourse.

            My point is that sharing parental rights and obligations and cooperating in the interests of a child has nothing obviously to do with a persisting romantic relationship, and since I associate the cooperative relationship primarily with “marriage”, I don’t see the point of obsessing over the romantic relationship. People can be married this way without being in love with one another. It happens all the time.

            If you stop loving the mother of your children romantically, you may find this emotion drifing in another direction. So what? Marriage need not preclude another romantic relationship, but this relationship necessarily takes a back seat to your existing obligation to the support the children and also to support their relationship with their mother. Her jealousy or yours, if any, also takes a back seat.

            If you concede that a non-biological family (hetero or homosexual) can constitute a marriage, what exactly are you arguing?

            Natural parents do not ordinarly place their children for adoption. I’ve said repeatedly, from the outset, that I have no problem with gay adoption, but adoption generally is not relevant to my point, because parent-child relationships are overwhelmingly natural and not adoptive, and adoption occurs legally only when natural parents die, waive legal rights or have these rights legally terminated for abuse or neglect.

          • Famadeo

            See my response at the bottom. This space is getting absurd.

      • RickDiMare

        “Today, childless marriage is more often a choice, and I completely agree that childless couples should not receive benefits of marriage.”

        If we can agree that marriage was really invented by the state to assist caregivers (gay or straight) in the raising of (biological or adopted) children, to kind of incentivize couples to raise their children to the age of majority, then any childless couple seeking economic and tax benefits from the state is actually stealing candy from babies, and in my view, it’s a subtle form of child abuse and neglect.

        • martinbrock

          Marriage was not invented by the state. Other animals couple exclusively to mate.

          • RickDiMare

            My understanding is that there are two things going on when people want to have sex with each other, and usually the participants are unaware of both. 

            One involves the archetype of union, which psychologist C. G. Jung called “coniunctio,” i.e., “unity consciousness” or the desire to be “at one,” or “in love,” etc.  

            And, unfortunately for heterosexual couples, the other thing involves procreation. (Surprisingly, I’ve even heard that there are Catholic clergy out there who are starting to realize that there are two aspects or impulses to marry, “unitive and procreative.”)

            But since the vast majority of heterosexual unions are unable to separate the two drives or impluses, children are often produced in relationships without being planned or wanted, or with needs the parents did not plan for. 

            Therefore, in that sense, the state invented something called “legal marriage” so it could establish a kind of access right to the relationship (often authorized by the “parens patriae doctrine”), whereby the state acquires a right to step in (when the pair bond fails or falls short) and help innocent children who are brought into the world by unconscious or unprepared “lovers.” 

            But of course, there is religion-based marriage also. But, usually that kind of marriage is solely designed to celebrate the archetype, not to deal with the day-to-day realities of raising unplanned children, or raising children with special or extraordinary needs, or runaway caregivers, etc.

          • martinbrock

            Maybe I’m just not clever enough to appreciate Jung’s insights, but I’ll stick with natural selection. Love is an emotion. Emotions are hormonal. Hormones are proteins. My genome is a protein recipe book. I love my children because my make me who I am, and I love women for similar reasons. Other sorts of love exist for other reasons.

            Being a natural creature doesn’t bother me. I’ve learned to love being a product of natural selection, and my kinship with other natural creatures also pleases me. I’m a mortal beast from beginning to end, differing from other primates largely by a greater facility with language, and I thank God for it.

            Procreation is not unfortunate. This sentiment is sacrilege. Sexual reproduction is precisely the unifying bond between men and women. Homosexual attraction is a variation on this theme. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but the theme would not exist at all without procreation.

            Planned? How many lion cubs are planned? What are you talking about? I don’t care that I wasn’t planned. I’m happy to be alive.

            The state invented legal marriage for its own purposes, but helping innocent children is hardly this purpose. Parents nurture children naturally. They are programmed at birth for this purpose. States are not. States love nothing and nurture only themselves.

            Religions also nurture religions, and they fill their fairy tales with allusions to natural relationships to parasitize these relationships. It’s no accident that the “God” of conventional theology is my “father in heaven”. Bullshit. I know who my father is, and I like it that way.

          • RickDiMare

            I wasn’t trying to be clever, but trying to show why I believe both legal marriage and religious marriage are deemed necessary by most people.

            “Procreation is not unfortunate. This sentiment is sacrilege.”

            Procreation is only sacrilege when children are brought into the world without a proper support system awaiting the child, which happens far too often. 

            Also, the divorce rate is somewhere around 50%, which automatically invokes state coercion and various state support services.

          • martinbrock

            I want off on an anarcho-agnostic rant there, but I understand your point.

            In my way of thinking, procreation without the support system is tragic rather than a sacrilege. The question is: how to restore the support system? A non-adversarial relationship between parents seems a decent start, counselor. [Sorry about that. I couldn't control myself.]

            Divorce, the dissolution of a cooperative bond between a child’s parents, will always exist, but the state need not encourage it, and I believe the state does encourage it these day.

          • http://profiles.google.com/entelechy77 Kurt Horner

            Humans, however, do not couple exclusively. The parental certainty argument does not make sense in the context of hunter gatherer societies which humans lived in for the vast majority of their existence. Children in such societies are raised communally rather than by nuclear families. Food is shared among all members of the band, so there are no paternal resources to “waste.” In fact, many still existing hunter gatherer societies do not even grasp that babies have individual fathers.

            Your whole conception of marriage as “biological” is a just-so story. Rather, it came about once there was significant inherited property, which requires agriculture, which means that it emerged in tandem with the state.

          • Martin Brock

            Humans, however, do not couple exclusively. The parental certainty argument does not make sense in the context of hunter gatherer societies which humans lived in for the vast majority of their existence.

            The parental certainty argument still makes sense in a small tribe, as it does in pride of lions with more than one dominant male (often brothers), because a few of the males in the tribe father most of the children, and these males share a cooperative bond, much like the bond between fathers and mothers.

            But you describe a prehistoric social organization here. Historical social organization does not fit this description. Historically, humanity is polygamous and then monogamous, so we evolved, memetically, to be less like chimpanzees and more like birds.

            Children in such societies are raised communally rather than by nuclear families. Food is shared among all members of the band, so there are no paternal resources to “waste.”

            This description of tribal organization is idealistic. If every male’s progeny is equally likely to survive, and if no male could increase the likelihood of his progeny’s survival otherwise, then no paternal resources are “wasted”, but if these hypotheses are false, some males will break ranks to improve their reproductive fitness.

            In fact, many still existing hunter gatherer societies do not even grasp that babies have individual fathers.

            Grasping that babies have fathers is irrelevant. Male lions presumably do not grasp that cubs have fathers, but they work to exclude reproductively competitive males from a territory anyway.

            Your whole conception of marriage as “biological” is a just-so story.

            Tell it to Darwin.

            Rather, marriage came about once there was significant inherited property, which requires agriculture, which means that it emerged in tandem with the state.

            Exclusive coupling to procreate, for a season and even for a lifetime, is not unique to humans, so I can’t take this assertion seriously. It sounds like something Engels would say.

          • http://profiles.google.com/entelechy77 Kurt Horner

            My description is not “idealistic” it’s what we actually observe. There is no nuclear family in a hunter-gatherer society. Given that, male parental investment makes no sense as a driver of evolution among the chimp-hominid line. 

            Yes, Darwin posed your theory, but that’s because he thought humans were more like gorillas. But we are not like gorillas. Gorilla males are built to fight, not to fuck. They are much larger than the females, the have internal testes, tiny penises, and low sex drive. By contrast, chimps, bonobos and hominids all have males not much larger females, external testes, large penises and high sex drive. Also, the females have much higher sex drive as well. 

            Exclusive coupling is found in nature. But is it found in primates? By and large, no. The closest species to humans that is actually monogamous is the gibbon (which we branched off from 25 million years ago). Gorillas and orangutans are polygamous (10-20 million years) and chimps and bonobos are promiscuous (<10 million years). You're trying to force human mating strategies into a mold inconsistent with the evidence.

      • Sergio Méndez

        Why should they recieve a tax break just for having a child , to start?

        • BallsAndStrikes

          Are you asking for a policy reason (they are numerous and obvious) or for a libertarian ideological reason?

          • Sergio Méndez

            BallsAndStrikes:

            I am asking for a libertarian justification, of course.

        • martinbrock

          I don’t favor tax breaks for having children. I rather favor a reciprocal obligation, an obligation of children to support elderly parents who formerly supported them. I would replace both child tax credits and Social Security with this obligation.

      • ethel

        Fertility may not have been an exact science, but it was pretty damn clear that if a man of any age married a woman of, say, fifty or more, it wasn’t to have babies (ditto with staying married after the kids had grown up). Living as a married couple was considered valuable in itself, as adding stability to society, not just because of potential babies.

      • Guest

        They should get tax breaks, because it’s their money, stolen from them by the government. Anybody should receive tax breaks. If they give out tax breaks for people who have ginger hair, I will be in favor.

        • martinbrock

          Maybe no one should ever pay a tax, but this assumption does not justify giving a tax break to wealthy licensed sexual partners and giving no similar break to unlicensed sexual partners and persons without a sexual partner.

    • Alexander Flyax

      They should get tax breaks, because it’s their money, stolen from them by the government. Anybody should receive tax breaks. If they give out tax breaks for people who have ginger hair, I will be in favor.

  • Curiousgemini25@hotmail.com

    “traditional” marriage died Centuries ago

    • martinbrock

      I agree. Traditions exist for reasons that moderns often misunderstand, but tradition alone justifies nothing.

      Gay marriage makes no sense to me, because, for example, giving a wealthy man a tax break for having a full-time sex partner makes no sense to me. If we’re giving out tax breaks, how about one for people who don’t get laid regularly?

      The same reasoning applies to a straight man or woman, of course, but giving a gay man this tax break out of “fairness”, because straight people get it, is incredible. If equality is the goal, withdrawing the tax break from straight people addresses the problem more sensibly.

      • Sergio Méndez

        Martin:


        The same reasoning applies to a straight man or woman, of course, but giving a gay man this tax break out of “fairness”, because straight people get it, is incredible. ”

        What is incredible is that you believe that just for being married straight people deserve a tax break and not the gay man? Sure, the ideal is withdrwaing the tax break for all (but I am not sure you traditionalists will really suport that idea, since you pretend that heteresoxuality and heterosexuals relationships are priviledged).

        • martinbrock

          I never anywhere suggest that straight people deserve a tax break just for being married. I explicitly advocate the opposite.

          I am not a traditionalist. I don’t pretend that heterosexual relationships are privileged. Procreative relationships differ meaningfully from non-procreative relationships. Ignoring the distinction is incredible.

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/Rod-Engelsman/822499328 Rod Engelsman

            “Procreative relationships differ meaningfully from non-procreative relationships.”

            How? I have two brothers and two sisters. My wife has one of each. One of my brothers and one sister, as well as my wife’s sister, were unable — in their respective marriages — to conceive. Each couple then adopted two children.

            So… out of a total of 13 nieces and nephews, almost 1/2 are adopted and not biologically related to me. By your reasoning those marriages are somehow less meaningful than the other half (as well as my own).

            That’s insane.

            The societal interest and purpose lies in the formation of stable families that form the basis for civilization. The family is the “welfare” system of first resort. That purpose was fulfilled just as well — perhaps even better — by the adoption of orphans than by “brand new” procreation.

            And would it really matter if one or another of those families were headed by a gay couple rather than straight? How?

          • martinbrock

            How?

            Procreative relationships are procreactive, and non-procreative relationships are not.

            Each couple then adopted two children.

            The two children also have natural parents with legal rights involving the children, unless they’re dead or their parental rights have been legally terminated. The natural parents waived these rights; otherwise, these adoptions are not legal.

            I explicitly address adoption above. No one is denying the complexity of these relationships.

            By your reasoning those marriages are somehow less meaningful than the other half (as well as my own).

            I never suggest that adoptive relationships are less meaningful than natural relationships. The insane reasoning is yours, not mine.

            And would it really matter if one or another of those families were headed by a gay couple rather than straight? How?

            I never suggest that the sexual preference of the parents matters. Earlier, I explicitly state otherwise.

            You need not attribute insane opinions to me in order to state  your opinions.

          • Sergio Méndez

            Martin:

            Tell us…why two homosexual personns can associate, live togheter, share their money, inherit pensions and cannot adopt and raise children? You may claim you are not a traditionalist, but you act like one. You may define marriage in any way you want (statutory institution, contract bla bla bla), but the fact is you want somebody (goverment or equivalent) to deny homosexuals the right to perform such unions and have such benefits, based on what? I don´t know. 

          • martinbrock

            I never anywhere suggest that two homosexual persons cannot adopt children. I have already repeatedly stated that I don’t object to gay adoption.

  • billwald

    In this century why should ancient history define the function of government?  In this century the dispute is about two groups who hate each other and each group wants to own a word.

    So remove every reference to the word from every bit of legislation and replace them with the proper form of “personal contract.” Remove every reference to preachers and priests acting as agents of the state.  Define “personal contract” as a contract between people who wish to combine their households and share all personal assets, liabilities,  obligations, and privileges.”  Specify that this contract must be filed with their county clerk to have legal standing.

    The churches could then “marry” whom they chose without any legal significance. The biggest complication for the government would be in the IRS code.

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  • picomanning

    Who gives a ship about Greeley or Valentine. As far as I know they were gay. What did they understand about today. Why not quote Pope John Paul and Hitler to compare their ideas on the topic. It would be stupid. And your question framed as it is is stupid.What is an individual’s epistemological premise with regards to marriage or sex? How do they relate? And Should they relate? Should we debate whether of not to do aways with the anciet term ‘marriage’ and start over? With what? Is there something new under the sun to work with here?Do you have children? Would you permit your neighbor’s dog to lick the genitals of your 5 year old daughter? Maybe you’d let your dog lick the genitals of your neighbor’s five year old daughter. If they enjoyed this natural act why should the practice be condemned?  From what smoke did our cultural bias evolve? Religion? From religions, more than any other smoke, yes I’d say so. What preceded society’s desire for the kind of moral standard of religions and what does the individual responsibility of spiritual connection have to do with any of this?

    Orgasm is addictive. That practiced behavior which people and animals understand which leads to orgasm impresses the amygdala. Let me hypnotize you and through suggestion play with your amygdala. I think I can have you licking fido’s dick (in the privacy of your own home of course). I can do this because of the pleasure of orgasm which you will identify with as you lick fido’s throbbing dick. The power of social rejection will be the only concept which separates your sex act with fido from being socially accepted.  Then it will be also possible to ‘teach’ the public that dog lovers who enjoy stroking and licking fido and fifi are merely expressing another way to enjoy a wonderful and fulfilling friendship with their ‘best friends’.Just the thought of animal sex is a great turn on for more people than you can imagine. Let’s be adults and let this benefit to man and animal evolve.
    There will be broader (less meaningful) standards for individuals, or more narrow standards.
    A better point of discussion would be whether we should broaden or narrow the sexual experience to the social (it usually takes at least two) standard of intense and meaningful sexual relationship.
    Can we grasp the generational consequences of broadening these experiences and social tolerance of expanded forms of sexual experimenting? I say no. I say a man pounding his throbbing dick into another mans corn hole is a fithy shitty thing. But there are others of course who would disagree and would welcome the opportunity to lick the shit off of that filthy throbing dick. How open minded are you?
     

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Rod-Engelsman/822499328 Rod Engelsman

       Wow. Bigot much?

    • BallsAndStrikes

      Just FYI, large numbers of heterosexuals have engaged in heterosexual anal sex. 

    • http://twitter.com/cheesechoker Angus MacAskill

      what

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000214887686 Sharon Presley

    Is it just me or do others think the conversation has rapidly gone downhill? 

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Rod-Engelsman/822499328 Rod Engelsman

       Just that last post really. Isn’t this thing moderated?

  • Famadeo

    “Parental affection is naturally there, pathological cases notwithstanding”
    This opens up a new sphere of debate regarding what constitutes “natural” and based on what epistemological justification. Standards of normal behavior of parent’s towards their children vary diachronically and syncronically. Even if it is the honest intention of parents to do well by their children, there’s still reason to question their idea of the good. Not everything that parents deem to be good is necesarily in the intrest of the child. Here (and again), biology guarrantees nothing.

    “Are you suggesting that some statutory authority, charged with putting a child’s welfare first, examine the circumstances of each child at birth to determine statutorily appropriate parentage?”

    I’m suggesting that if there’s reason to believe that a child’s welfare is at risk at a significant level, since it’s the main concern, one is justified in denouncing the parents and intervening in a proportional way.

    “Even if no explicit contract exists, the interest of each parent in the child, and the child’s interests in each parent, require institutional protection. That’s the theory behind traditional marriage anyway. It’s also the theory behind child support. I don’t know what you propose as an alternative.”
    I’m not really questioning this aspect in particular. I was just thrown off by your use of the word “relationship” in this context.

    “If you stop loving the mother of your children romantically, you may find this emotion drifing in another direction. So what? Marriage need not preclude another romantic relationship, but this relationship necessarily takes a back seat to your existing obligation to the support the children and also to support their relationship with their mother.”

    This is granted even in the context of a divorce anyway. 

    “because parent-child relationships are overwhelmingly natural and not adoptive”

    “Overwhelmingly” in what sense? Seems to me like something you can find out by checking a statistic and I don’t see the trascendence of this either way.

    I’m still having trouble with understanding your point. From what I cant tell you concede all of this: 1) marriage need not be tied to procreation; 2) marriage need not be tied to natural child-bearing; 3) you don’t have a problem with gay marriage and 4) tradition as a standard doesn’t legitimize marriage.

    As far as I’m concerned, *this* is the crux of the issue. And yet you insist that is has nothing to do with what you’re arguing. I beg you, just state your point clearly and simply because this discussion has become long and pointless.

  • Martin Brock

    @google-4347f3485eff98c75277d5f7bc6c6b49:disqus 

    This opens up a new sphere of debate regarding what constitutes “natural” and based on what epistemological justification.

    The relationship between genetics and emotion is well understood, and genes are a product of natural selection. That parents naturally love their children requires more epistemological justification? Everything I understand about biology suggests that parental love is inevitable. Pathological casese are exceptions proving the rule.

    Standards of normal behavior of parent’s towards their children vary diachronically and syncronically.

    Natural instinct is not deterministic, but a direct relationship between DNA and affection certainly exists. A hormone injection can make you feel affectionate, for a while at least, and a child’s face can release the hormone.

    Even if it is the honest intention of parents to do well by their children, there’s still reason to question their idea of the good.

    I suppose so, but who is doing the questioning here, some employee of the Department of Health and Human Services? This employee’s pituitary gland didn’t flood her neurons with oxytocin minutes before seeing the child’s face for the first time. The employee never had this epistemological experience. Is an academic degree an appropriate substitute?I’ve personally known a woman to shatter the window of a car with her bare hands, safety glass mind you, when her son was locked inside. What sort of formal education prepares a person to behave this way?

    I’m suggesting that if there’s reason to believe that a child’s welfare is at risk at a significant level, since it’s the main concern, one is justified in denouncing the parents and intervening in a proportional way.

    I’ll go along with you in the abstract, but you open a huge can of worms here.

    This is granted even in the context of a divorce anyway.

    Whether we call the relationship “marriage” or “divorce” matters less than the terms governing it.

    “Overwhelmingly” in what sense?

    Numerically.

    Seems to me like something you can find out by checking a statistic and I don’t see the trascendence of this either way.

    I’m not making a transcendental point here.1) marriage need not be tied to procreation;The marriage I imagine is a cooperative bond between parents of the same children, whether or the not parents are biological, but parents are biological by default. The default case is foremost in my mind. Endless exceptions are conceivable.2) marriage need not be tied to natural child-bearingThe bond between persons agreeing to be adoptive parents is not a consequence of their procreation. This relationship differs from the natural relationship. A child need not have two adoptive parents for example. The parents need not be of opposite genders. They need not be romantic lovers. They could be siblings or unrelated platonic partners.This relationship is not indissoluble in the same sense, but two adoptive parents could bind themselves legally to the same relationship. Calling the relationship “marriage” in this case doesn’t bother me, but it substitutes for a natural relationship that doesn’t exist for some reason.3) you don’t have a problem with gay marriage andI don’t have a problem with adoptive parents being gay, siblings, two nuns or whatever. I wouldn’t call the relationship “gay marriage” or “sibling marriage” or “nun marriage”. We needn’t call it “marriage” at all. We could call it “parental partnership”. The title is not important to me, so I don’t object to calling it “marriage”, but sexual orientation is irrelevant in this context. We might as well call a pair of golfers adopting a child “golfer marriage”.4) tradition as a standard doesn’t legitimize marriage.Tradition alone doesn’t legitimize anything, but ignoring tradition is foolish. Our ancestors were not idiots, and they were not evil conspirators. We should consider their standards carefully when crafting our own.I beg you, just state your point clearly and simply because this discussion has become long and pointless.I’m done if you are.

    • Famadeo

      (I accidently “liked when I meant to reply)

      Here’s the problem with epistemological naturalism: it doesn’t account for everything. In this case, it doesn’t account for anything relevant. The biological phenomenae you described does not account for parents’ values and views regarding upbringing. To illustrate, DNA may discribe affection, but not whether or not that affection translates to responsability. I don’t suggest having beaurocrats or academics on the backs of parents to make sure they follow though some imaginary standard. I’m not proposing anything radical, I’m just pointing out the problems inherent in sustaining the priviledge of biological families vs. any other family arrangement.

      “I’m not making a transcendental point here.” Then why are you bringing it up? In other words: “parent-child relationships are overwhelmingly natural and not adoptive”. A-ha… so?

      “Calling the relationship ‘marriage’ doesn’t bother me, but it substitutes for a natural relationship that doesn’t exist for some reason.” Yeah, I can anticipate you invoking tradition here again. Following you down this trail has only lead us to a dead end. Ok, let’s not overlook it, let’s examine the rationale… now, where’s the beef? The point of tradition as such not justifying anything is that we can simply examine the rationale behind it and judge it on it’s own. I’m pretty sure we’ve already done plenty of this in this discussion to shrug it off.

      I’m done now.

      • Famadeo

        Adendum: I missundertood the last quote I responded to, however, my point regarding tradition still stands.

      • Martin Brock

        I explicitly acknowledge that natural marriage doesn’t account for everything, but leaping to the extreme opposite conclusion, asserting that it accounts for nothing, is the fallacy of the excluded middle, and the fallacy is a whopper in this context.

        DNA does account for responsibility as well as affection, pathological cases notwithstanding. Chimpanzees behave responsibly toward their progeny. The emotion they presumably experience is only a means to this end.

        Then why are you bringing it up?

        Because I’m not a transcendentalist?

        A-ha… so?

        In my way of thinking, law governs what is, rather than determining what is.

        Yeah, I can anticipate you invoking tradition here again.

        I can’t avoid invoking tradition. Tradition precedes me. It was already here when I arrived. I don’t worship it. I take it into account.

        • Famadeo

          Here’s a problem with your first point: we’re not chimpanzees. We have history and culture as unique spheres of human existence that play a role in determining our views and values which in turn determine how our love manifests itself in concrete relationships. We don’t follow our biological impulses willy-nilly. This is why I see little importance in your naturalistic reductionism.

          “If we must have a state, I prefer law governing what is, rather than determining what is.” This particular “is” is a contingency, therefore superfluous. Unless you want to stress some sort of naturalistic link, in which case you’d be making a different point altogether.

          “I can’t avoid invoking tradition. Tradition precedes me. It was already here when I arrived. I don’t worship it. I take it into account. ” I’ve already adressed this.

  • Joseph Stromberg

    Well, which traditions shall we be allowed to have?   It will save time if someone draws up a list.

    • Martin Brock

      A tradition of gay marriage, apart from any institutionalized, statutory rights and obligations, doesn’t concern me. The MCC already has this tradition, regardless of any law.

      I married a woman under law once, and we had three children. Later, we “divorced”, but we never went our separate ways somehow. We continued to interact frequently. Our lives were inextricably bound together for years thereafter. We continued to labor under all sorts of statutory rights and obligations governing our relationship, and now that our children are legally liberated and these statutory regulations no longer bind us, we still interact frequently, and our lives are still bound together somehow.

      The divorce is the legal fiction here.

      • Sergio Méndez

        Your personal experience is very interesting Mr Brock, but I faill to see how it can be generalized in the light of millions of couples who divorce and never see, talk or interact again in their lifes. So your point is what exactly?

        • Martin Brock

          Millions of the couples who “divorce” and never see, talk or interact again in their lives never had children, i.e. they were never “married” as I was at all. I don’t have statistics in front of me, but I suppose this scenario is most frequent, where the divorced couple fits your description.

          Others had no minor children at the time of the “divorce”, i.e. their “marriage” was already over, and they simply changed their statutory registration. They separate completely, and this complete separation has minimal effect on their children, because the children are largely independently of both of them. I guess this happens a lot too.

          A few others have relationships with their minor children divorced from any relationship with their children’s other parent, and the children experience a corresponding tension in their own relationships with the parents. It’s hard to imagine no relationship whatsoever under the circumstances, but some couples try very hard.

          A few of these couples completely divorce one parent or the other from the children as well, and this divorce may be defensible in some of cases. Children in these cases have already suffered. The divorce can end one sort of suffering while another sort of suffering persists.

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  • Sergio Méndez

    “Millions of the couples who “divorce” and never see, talk or interact again in their lives never had children”
    What the? 

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  • barryclinton

    What’s so great about this column? As a supporter only of normal, heterosexual marriage, I am not bound by what some people said historically that was overly legalistic or silly. I’m not. I am quite free to say same sex “marriage” is not marriage without tacitly agreeing to any ancient documents–good or bad.

    • http://twitter.com/radgeek radgeek

      As a supporter only of normal [sic], heterosexual marriage, I am not bound by
      what some people said historically that was overly legalistic or silly.

      As you please. But I think that Roderick made his point fairly clear. If you want to defend only monogamous heterosexual marriages between legal equals, then you can’t with full knowledge and good faith defend that on the basis of an appeal to what was historically or traditionally “normal” for marriage. (Because in fact marriages between legal equals represent a massive change from what was historically the “normal” form of marriage.) Now if you do not want to be bound by what people have said historically about marriage, then of course you have every right not to be bound by that. But you can’t then expect gay marriage advocates to be bound by that, either. If you have conceptual room to introduce the radical conceptual innovation of marriage between legal and social equals, then gay marriage advocates must also have room to introduce the radical conceptual innovation of marriage between members of the same sex. There may be other arguments you have for limiting marriage to straight couples, which dispense with, and go beyond bare-assed appeals to historical normality or tradition. But if so, you will have to make those arguments. Because the bare-assed appeal to historical normality or tradition isn’t going to support the position you say you want to support.

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