Recognition of Same-Sex Marriage as Supposedly Diminishing Regard for Marriage:

Some people argue that recognizing same-sex marriages will keep some heterosexuals from marrying. The theory, as best I can tell, is that the recognition will "diminish regard for marriage" (George Dent, The Defense of Traditional Marriage, 15 J. L. & Pol. 581, 623 (1999)), partly because treating traditional marriages "no better than a gay partnership" would "to most people . . . constitute not only the denial of a deserved accolade but a calculated insult" (id. at 617).

Now I'm pretty skeptical about this: I doubt that many people are put off from straight marriage by the fact that some percentage of people marries for bad reasons (e.g., marry someone rich and old whom you don't love and wait for them to die so you can inherit), and I don't see how the fact that some 2% or so of marriages would end up being same-sex would affect the remaining 98%.

Here, though, is a way we might try to test this (I realize that the analogy here is imperfect, but I think it can still be helpful): As I understand it, Catholics believe remarriage after divorce is wrong, and is in fact a form of bigamy. My sense is that while Catholics believe that religious marriage is a sacrament, they don't believe that the married parties are also religiously obligated to enter into a civil marriage. If they oppose civil marriage as an institution, they wouldn't be sinning by entering into the religious marriage but not the civil marriage.

Are there American Catholics who are so "insulted" by the fact that the civil law treats their marriage no better than a bigamous marriage of a divorcee, and who have so lost regard for the institution of civil marriage, that they refuse to engage in civil marriages? Or do they take the view that while some other people engage in bad or even immoral marriages, this wouldn't make their own marriage (both the religious marriage and the civil marriage) any worse? If the latter, then wouldn't we likewise assume that the behavior of opposite-sex couples won't be affected by the existence of same-sex marriages of which they disapprove?

Please do correct me if I'm misunderstanding Catholic doctrine here (which I well might be).

I'm not a Catholic, but if whoever I marry allows it, I'll skip the civil part of things entirely. Marriage isn't the State's business.
8.22.2005 4:21pm
I am surprised to hear "insult" as the suggested mechanism by which heterosexual marriage would be diminished. I think the mechanism would be rather different - that many people marry and raise children because it is the way that society expects adults to behave (that is, peer pressure). Increasing acceptance of gay marriage undermines that expectation, lessening the peer pressure. Of course, it is not the only factor doing that, but it could well be the killing blow.
8.22.2005 4:27pm
Catholics believe that marriage is a sacrament, just like the Eucharist, baptism, confirmation, annointing the sick, and the other sacraments. (Oh no, I can't remember the sacraments!)

The divorce issue conflates civil divorce and the Roman Catholic process of annullment. A marriage can be annulled, that is, declared invalid from the beginning. However, if there is no annullment, the second marriage would be a form of adultery. Or maybe I'm wrong.
8.22.2005 4:29pm
aslanfan (mail):
It would be more precise to say that Catholics (and many other Christians) view divorce and remarriage as a form of adultery, rather than bigamy. But to answer your question, no, Catholics have not abandoned the practice of asking the state to recognize their marriages simply because the state recognizes other marriages Catholics view as void ab initio.
8.22.2005 4:34pm
Caliban Darklock (www):
I tend to agree with russg. Recognising alternative lifestyles as valid doesn't so much insult the status quo as much as it entices their fringe members to leave. There's a vast exodus from many religious movements these days, or so it appears to me from the vast array of atheists and agnostics and followers of the Cosmic Space Goat, and I think religious organisations are just petrified that we might finally advertise to the public that there are other ways to be happy.

It feels very much to me like religion succeeds by being the One True Way. They don't force you to follow what they teach, they simply convince you that you have no other acceptable choice, and then you make the choice they wanted you to make. The distinction is rather subtle, and I think a lot of religious groups don't quite "get" the distinction.

Alternatives threaten most religions, because they're no longer quite as able to convince people they have the One True Way.
8.22.2005 4:39pm
torrentprime (mail):
My take on things (but I am a gay Catholic, so my opinion is rather specialized):
I view civil marriage--the license, the forms, the State Departments--as government process, paperwork, legal stuff, like registering my car or paying taxes. It happens to be what I (would) do when I receive the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony, which for me is the capital-M Marriage, the thing that "matters". As a Catholic, then, I don't care what the state does in civil marriage, as it has no bearing on my sacrament. So as a dogmatic Catholic, I shouldn't care about civil marriage from a Catholic perspective, because it has nothing to do with my sacraments or religious beliefs. So, YES, Eugene, you are right: Catholics should not view gay civil marriage as a religious issue to be fought they way that many of them seem to.
Two points from here:
One: Some people view their Catholic faith as a call to influence their society for the better, and thus all the Catholics agitating to stop/ban/reverse gay marriage progress. Although they don't think that it threatens their sacrament, they do see it as a threat to society and thus needs to be stopped.
Two: after the civil marriage wars are fought and hopefully won, gay Catholics then can look forward to the decades-longer conflict to get our marriages/relationships embraced by the Church as well as the state. That fight will most likely outlive me...
8.22.2005 4:41pm
Ram's Law:
First, I am no authority, but suggest a widely read Catholic blogger who can shed some light of the subject. However, my understanding from my own marriage (to a person of the opposite sex) is that the officiant, religious or otherwise, may not perform the ceremony without a marriage license. It seems to me that it would require the various religons collectively or separately to invent a new ceremony to circumvent such a restriction, or else to challenge the restriction on first amendment grounds (another topic I'm reluctant to speak in depth about in present company), to carry out the revolt proposed in your gedanke experiment.
8.22.2005 4:49pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
What Ram's Law said, tho from my limited Lutheran perspective. It seems it would be very unusual for a RC priest to perform a marriage without the couple's being licensed, tho I'll bet the Catechism has something on unusual/in-extremis circumstances ... one thing the RCC always has going for it, they've got *everything* covered.
8.22.2005 5:00pm
Richard 2 (mail):
As far as my own understanding goes, your account is at least oversimplified. For those who follow Roman Catholic teachings, the only valid marriage is a valid relgious one. Religious marriages are only validly terminated by the death of one of the parties or by a religious annullment. In any event, a civil marriage (without a Roman Catholic priest's participation) is invalid for baptized Catholics. Thus, a civil remarriage after a civil divorce of validly married Catholics is also invalid; in such a case, the previously validly married Catholic(s) commit adultery, not bigamy. In many European countries, of course, religious and civil marriages are two separate and legally different proceedings. The situation is legally more complicated where, as in the U.S., religious marriages are ipso facto civil ones as well. I hope that this very brief description is of some help.
8.22.2005 5:07pm
A. Nonymous (mail):
There's a great many misunderstandings with respect to Roman Catholic marriage.

The best place to start would be the official Cathecism

For one thing, it is the one Sacrament a priest does note administer; the two parties administer it to one another, the priest serves as official witness for the Church in the Latin Rite.

Interestingly, in the tradition of the Eastern (Catholic) Churches, the priests' blessing is also necessary. See Cathecism of the Catholic Church 1623.

As for the "bigamy" thing, no. The Church does not recognize the second marriage. Instead, the person remarried is held to be in adultery.
See Cathecism of the Catholic Church 1650 &1651.

Today there are numerous Catholics in many countries who have recourse to civil divorce and contract new civil unions. In fidelity to the words of Jesus Christ - "Whoever divorces his wife and marries another, commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery" the Church maintains that a new union cannot be recognized as valid, if the first marriage was. If the divorced are remarried civilly, they find themselves in a situation that objectively contravenes God's law. Consequently, they cannot receive Eucharistic communion as long as this situation persists. For the same reason, they cannot exercise certain ecclesial responsibilities. Reconciliation through the sacrament of Penance can be granted only to those who have repented for having violated the sign of the covenant and of fidelity to Christ, and who are committed to living in complete continence.
8.22.2005 5:16pm
Caliban Darklock (www):
"Whoever divorces his wife and marries another"...

I've always had a gut sense that what Jesus meant there was to say it was wrong to divorce your wife for the *purpose* of marrying another. It's not my scripture, though, so I haven't delved very deeply into that passage. I just feel like this would be a perfectly sensible thing for Jesus to say, given the ease of Jewish divorce; it's essentially saying "look, this may abide by the *letter* of the Torah, but its *spirit* is something else entirely".

But then, I find it weird that about 60% of the christian scriptures are just letters Paul wrote. So maybe I don't really "get" the whole Jesus thing.
8.22.2005 5:24pm
Jane Galt (mail) (www):
I think the argument that anti-gay marriage folks are making is subtly different from the one you are. The thinking, as I understand it, is that changing the institution of marriage from a special relationship between a man and a woman to a special relationship between two peeople may diminish the allure of marriage for testosterone-laden young men who see marriage as part of taking a place in their society. Changes in marital law seem to me to have actually changed the institution--marriage is, for example, no longer the sacred institution that it once was among my Irish Catholic family, even though they are still forbidden by their church to divorce. The example of Catholics seems to indicate that secular changes have effects outside their realm, as the less totalitarian vision of marriage has permeated into the religious sphere.

Thus, as a test case, your question seems to me to fail for two reasons. First, marriage has changed even among very religious Catholics; the social pressure not to divorce, even among the very devout, is a tiny fraction of what it once was, which would actually seem to undercut the argument of gay-marriage advocates that one can segment off civil marriage from the social institution, and change only the civil institution. And second, the monetary and legal benefits of marriage are so great in our society that even if there were Catholics who would, ceteris paribus, prefer not to enter into the ungodly institution of secular marriage, it's hard to imagine very many whose indignation would outweigh practical questions of inheritance, social security and health benefits, joint property, and so forth.

Besides, as another commenter has pointed out, the priest won't perform the ceremony unless you have a marriage license (at least, not in any of the churches I've ever been in) so your hypothetical indignant Catholic would have to be not only outraged, but Schismatic.
8.22.2005 5:30pm
Caliban Darklock (www):
> diminish the allure of marriage for
> testosterone-laden young men

I think the primary culprit there is something called "monogamy", which every testosterone-laden man of *any* age knows is simply unnatural.
8.22.2005 5:38pm
jrp (mail):
While Catholic Doctrine has things to say about the divine order associated with marriage, but it is not the entirety of the Catholic argument against same-sex civil unions. Separating out the truths to which the Faithful ascribe (sex only within marriage, sanctity of marriage, marriage only between a man and a woman, innate disorder of certain behaviors), we can put forth a just universal ethic which is in line with Catholic doctrine without _being_ a matter of faith.

Marriage is fundamentally about children. It always has been, it always will be. If you deny that key association, then civil marriage becomes nothing more than the self-indulgent whim of a pair of adults. Which, in some circles, it has become - but that is not the way it should be, nor is it something that should be encouraged.

Fundamentally, the Catholic objection to same-sex civil unions that can be justly applied to non-Catholics is the same objection to encouraging or subsidizing single mothers- or fathers-by-choice (as opposed to under exegency, widows, etc), which is the same objection to encouraging or subsidizing 'unfit' (drug addicted, or those with mental health problems) mothers or fathers to have children - the latter two most people would, in a gut-check, agree with. It's the welfare of the child.

The welfare of the child is funamentally damaged without two coequal-but-different-as-men-and-women-are-different, competent parents. Without it, they lose a key role model, they lose perspective, they have, simply put, a diminished experience of what life is. (I can say I did, child of divorced parents with my mother having primary custody - the prototypical 'latch-key' kid of the age - I missed many things, although I was blessed by having a nearby extended family, most people were not.).

Out of easy divorce, out of the current fashions of contraception and abortion, out of single-parenthood as portrayed in the media, having a child has come to be viewed in our society as some kind of self-fulfillment exercise, when it is, in fact, entirely not. It's come to be practiced as an accessory to a self-interested and self-involved life - "I could be 'fulfilled' if I had children (and a career, and stuff, and...)" is the cry we hear: except, in almost all cases, that innate selfishness takes control again after a few years, yeilding disinterested parents at many of the crucial stages of life. The dissappation of modern teen life is a testament to that.

If you don't have the material sufficiency necessary to raise a child as well as he or she can possibly be raised - that is, a mother, a father, a committed union, sufficient material assets to meet at least the basic needs of the unit, sufficient exterior social structures (family, supportive friends), etc, then one shouldn't even be contemplating bringing a child into the world - and you certainly shouldn't be _encouraged_ and _subsidized_ into doing so, which is what the Civil Marriage does.
8.22.2005 5:38pm
Goober (mail):
Russ and Caliban:

I'm confused; wouldn't allowing marriage among homosexuals make marriage even more mainstream, rather than less? Currently there's a segment of the population for whom marriage is not a viable relationship option and who cannot normalize marriage by their own example.

If I take your argument correctly, it's that by allowing homosexual marriage, you're somehow encouraging homosexuality, which in turn discourages marriage. But it seems that if homosexuality does in fact discourage marriage, it only does so because marriage is unavailable to homosexuals---an antecedent that wouldn't hold true in the contemplated hypothetical. I'm sorry, but it just seems like you're conflating all deviancies (using "deviancy" rather technically).
8.22.2005 5:41pm
A. Nonymous (mail):
Just a quick and rather perfunctory stab at the "gay marriage ruins marriage" concept as I understand it (mind you I am not saying I agree with it).

Marriage has been defined as man &woman for various moral reasons. Strip that away, make marriage "merely" a contract between parties, regardless of who the parties are, and you've made marriage little more than a limited liability partnership that has to be registered like any other partnership with the county and/or state. You also have to therefore let bigamy in the door shortly thereafter because if marriage is merely a contract, then why can't you have multiple parties to the new

Put another way...

Any argument for revising our law to treat homosexual relations as marital will implicitly do what clearheaded and honest proponents of "same-sex marriage" explicitly acknowledge: It will deny that there are such moral reasons. Any such argument would have to treat marriage as a purely private matter designed solely to satisfy the desires of the "married" parties. If that is the case, there is no principled reason marriage need imply exclusivity, fidelity, permanence, or even a limit of two people.

Therefore if marriage is treated like a business partnership (i.e. a contract entered into to obtain certain benefits, goods or services) then it 1) lessens marriage to a mere company and 2) suggests that marriage can be terminated with the ease of any business closing or partnership ending.

It also suggests that if marriage is a "mere contract" or just "paperwork" as someone suggested, then divorces will be handled as contract law. Woohoo! There may be something to this after all....
8.22.2005 5:42pm
Goober (mail):
A. Nonymous---

Doesn't your summation of the argument imply that only the heterosexual norm is actually a moral norm of marriage? That is, doesn't it deny the moral basis for the norm of monogamy? If monogamy were still a moral norm even accepting homosexual marriage (not a hard theory to accept), then marriage wouldn't become merely a contract if made open to homosexuals, and this reason would be completely specious, rather than merely suspect.

Sorry to put it on you, as you don't necessarily subscribe to the argument you (quite good-naturedly) defend.
8.22.2005 5:57pm
A. Nonymous (mail):

I don't know. Not my theory. Not defending it either. Simply laying it out as I've seen it presented and in the best light I've seen it presented.
8.22.2005 6:00pm
phillymikec73e (mail) (www):
It's not enough to just say that you and people you know would value marriage the same in either case. You probably would. What's important is whether the marginal person - who could be quite different would value it differently.
8.22.2005 6:03pm
"I'm confused; wouldn't allowing marriage among homosexuals make marriage even more mainstream, rather than less?"

No, it would make *something* more mainstream. But calling two different things by the same name doesn't make people view them the same - and if people do come to view them as the same thing, then all it means that it people would come to see heterosexual marriage and all that it implies as nothing special; so why do it unless you really want to?

It comes to the question of the people "on the fringe" that Caliban mentioned. People who, if they felt social pressure, would marry opposite sex partners and have children, but would not do so otherwise. There is little social pressure to do a particular thing when there are alternatives seen as equally valid.

It has nothing to do with encouraging homosexuality. It only has to do with making homosexuality an equally acceptable alternative. If it is seen an abbheration, it does not affect societal expectations. If it is seen as normal, it does.
8.22.2005 6:04pm
Daryl Herbert (www):
I don't think anyone reasonable is saying that the introduction of gay marriage will have a large effect on any straight people. But it could have a small effect.

The key here is to look for marginal case. Devoutly religious heterosexual couples are already heavily pre-disposed to marry. Ignore them for the purposes of this analysis.

We're looking for couples who are on the fence about marrying, but decide to do so anyway. For instance, couples who have been living together without kids for five or more years, and sort of intend to get married, maybe. It's possible to imagine that with gay marriage legalized, some of those people would see marriage as less special, and then be less likely to get married. (They might also be more likely to get married, who knows.)

(by the way, this wasn't my original insight, Jane Galt wrote a great essay on this a while back

(phillymikec73e also made this point before me)
8.22.2005 6:15pm
Caliban Darklock (www):
Goober, my position is simply this.

If you offer a child a chocolate cookie, he will take the chocolate cookie. But if you offer him a chocolate cookie OR a vanilla cookie, *some* children would take the vanilla cookie.

There are the same number of people with cookies, but fewer with *chocolate* cookies. Those who believe a chocolate cookie is the only "acceptable" cookie rightly perceive that fewer people will have chocolate cookies.

So their problem is not so much with the people who would refuse a chocolate cookie as it is with those who would take either - but, given a choice, prefer vanilla. It's an erosion effect, which they fear will slowly eat away at the edges of the community until it dissolves completely.
8.22.2005 6:21pm
JonDJ (mail):
I've always thought that the same-sex-unions-will-weaken-marriage argument was actually about allowing civil unions *in addition to* marriage. If there are two separate marriage options, civil unions and marriage, there will inevitibly be some pull for heterosexuals to enter into a civil union rather than full marriage, turning civil unions into a sort of half way house between living together and getting married, where the stigma of ending a civil union will be far less than that of ending marriage. In some sense, that would surely undermine marriage. And that argument is much more plausible, it seems to me, than the one discussed in this post. (But, of course, it could easily be contrued as an argument for full marriage rights for homosexuals, rather than against it.)
8.22.2005 6:26pm
Catholic Guy (mail):
Eugene's question does not have a simple answer, as Catholic Church doctrine can get pretty complicated when it comes to how that doctrine interplays with public policy. For example, on the divorce end, it's pretty simple: the Church treats it as a zero, a non-event. You can get the State to say you're not married, but in our book (Book? :-) ), you're still married. You can try for a Church-granted annulment -- which is conceptually quie distinct, as it says that the marriage was never valid, not that it was-valid-and-is-now-invalidated -- but the civil divorce means squat.

Based on this parallel, it might seem that the Church could someday develop a system of ignoring civil marriage, and keeping church marriage fully separate. That's not current teaching, for, as commenter said, the Church asks for the marriage license as processes the Church/civil marriage jointly ("by the power vested in me by the State of ___"). But it seems that, as a matter of discipline (as opposed toof faith), the Church could consider going that way. But I doubt it, because . . .

First, as another commenter said, the Church distinguishes between issues that we want to teach the faithful to follow, but don't want/need/encourage civil authorities to enforce (e.g., receive the Sacraments, go to Mass every Sunday), and issues that we do want the civil state to enforce (e.g., don't abort). The Church opposes same-sex marriage in the public arena, not just as something to exhort Catholics to avoid. So it would be odd for the Church to encourage a civil-marriage boycott, unless it first moved marriage from the public-policy category to the private-following category.

Second, even if the Church stopped requiring civil marriage as an adjunct to church marriage, I doubt it would actually support a boycott, as opposed to being neutral on it, as it would recognize that there remain purely secular benefits to state-processed marriage, and it would likely not want to cut Catholics off from obtaining those.

Third, the civil-marriage requirement lets the Church piggyback on civil requirements without having to do extra work grilling the candidates, e.g., are you old enough, not siblings, etc.

So I doubt that the Church would want to "divorce" (pun intended) civil marriage fully from Church marriage, at least as to initiating a first marriage, even though they've always partly done so in some aspects, e.g., not recognizing civil divorce as meaning anything.

Also, to echo what others have said, someone who purports to remarry is, in Catholic eyes, committing adultery, not bigamy. But in a sense, the civil world is the same, and perhaps all bigamy ought to be called "attempted bigamy," since no State allows a second marriage, the second ones are always invalid, no? Or do they have some residual meaning, even though they open someone up to criminal charges, e.g., spousal testimonial privilege, intestate succession, etc.?

If I have time, I'll add some cites tonight to Vatican docs to firm up some of what I or others have said.
8.22.2005 6:30pm
Goober (mail):
A. Nonymous---Thanks!

Russ G---I'm afraid I still don't understand. The hypothetical object of your concern sounds remarkably hostile to the notion of marriage already; most people I know, if not in fact all of them, want to get married because they want to fall in love, &c. And I really doubt that the decision to allow gay marriage is going to legitimize the lifestyle any more than popular culture will do anyway, or already has done. But oh well; thanks for the response.

Caliban---Now I'm really confused. Because whether you offer me the two cookies or just the one, if the vanilla one is sex with a dude, I'm not taking the vanilla cookie. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but I doubt your prediction.
8.22.2005 6:42pm
Here is an example of what Professor Volokh may be looking for:

Under Orthodox Jewish law, polygamy is permitted under certain rare circumstances. One of them is when the wife is completely incapacitated (e.g. in a coma). The husband is permitted (after a lot of procedure) to take on a second wife, but is required to care for — and hence is not permitted to divorce — the first wife. (Jews have religious divorce (not just annulment) as well as religious marriage).

However, this procedure doesn't exist in the secular world. What happens is the husband gives the first wife a secular divorce, but not a religious divorce. From the state's point of view the first wife is an ex who'se mysteriously getting generous, life-time alimony and is likely still living in the same house, but from the religion's point of view what happened with the state was just paperwork, not to be taken seriously, not the way things really and truly are.

It's an awkward and somewhat rare example, but here we have a real live example of a relationship which a religious community regards as a marriage, but the state does not.

There are other communities who practice polygamy more routinely, but I don't know how they reconcile their practices with the state.

Note: The ban on polygamy was enacted in 950 as a brief temporary emergency measure, to last a thousand years. The ban was formally renewed in 1950, again as a temporary measure, for a similar period, and was extended in scope (it previously hadn't applied to Sephardic Jews, from the Arab world). It remains to be seen if monogamy will prove to be just a passing fad, or if it will last.
8.22.2005 6:56pm
Nobody (mail):
I'm Jewish, not Catholic, but I suggested a similar ploy (getting married in the synagogue but not getting a civil license) to avoid having to file taxes jointly and pay the "marriage penalty." My wife didn't go for it.
8.22.2005 8:05pm
Carol Anne:
Might we tease apart the issues of religion from law?

We have in this country (and some states) the following legal problem: Certain benefits accrue to people wo register their relationship with the state (i.e., "marriage" "license"). At the same time, the law forbids certain people to avail themselves of those benefits. Isn't that discrimination?

I even question whether the law has any place in addressing the issue of polygamy. How is in the state's legitimate interest to have any say on which is, essentially, a matter of belief? (Imagine a world with only a few men and an abundance of womem...say, after some holocaust of war: Would prohibitions against polygamy still be in the state's interest?)

There needs to be, in my view, a much heavier "bright line" between church and state. I don't like to say "...under God..." in the Pledge (because it excludes legitimate citizens who are atheists), nor do I approve of "In God We Trust."

We are, in my view, " nation, under a Constitution, with liberty and justice for all (emphasis mine).
8.22.2005 10:35pm
Harold (mail):
I know lots of Catholics who won't attend a second marriage cermony if the first marriage was not annulled. And Priests will not perform the ceremony.

But, as someone else pointed out, marriage, ultimately, is about children, not adults. Every reasonably successful society in history, whether atheist or religious, across all racial and ethnic and religious boundaries, in every corner of the world, has established marriage in one of two forms- between a man and a women, or one man and multiple women. The monogamous societies, based on available evidence, seem to do much better. Before throwing away all of human experience to establish homosexual marrriage, a better argument should exist then, "IT'S NOT FAIR!" My thought is that a male homosexual has the same right to marry as an ugly poor man- to any woman who will have him.

The history of the United States, BTW, is replete with small communities that have established small experiments in alternate marital/living arrangements. The Oneida Communities, the Koresh Commune, and the Shakers come immediately to mind. There are others. They have been uniformly unsuccessful past the death of a charismatic leader. Until some small experimental homosexual community establishes a success record that spans past a single generation, I remain skeptical about allowing homosexual marriage. Especially since- homosexuals cannot reproduce with each other. They would have to commit adultery in one form or another to breed...

There has been one, to my limited knowledge, fictional treatment of a possibly stable homosexual community- "Ethan of Athos", by Lois McMaster-Bujold. Still, only one half of a couple has genetic material invested in any one child...
8.22.2005 11:33pm
PhilaMark (mail):
Catholic Guy's reference to "purely secular benefits to state-processed marriage" ties in nicely to Harold's point that marriage is ultimately about children. If the point to the secular benefits arising out of civil marriage is to encourage and reward heterosexual couples for raising children within a marriage (as opposed to having "illegitimate" children and/or children raised by a single mother), then for same-sex couples to demand those "rewards" without the corresponding social benefit of providing for the next generation is simply illogical. I will quickly grant you that within the last forty years or so the institution of marriage hasn't been a particularly strong encouragement, and that plenty of people on the fringes have abused the concept by marrying without having children. etc. Still, if the secular benefits associated with marriage (call them "X") have historically been provided in return for a larger social benefit of rasing the next generation (call those benefits to society "Y"), shouldn't a group demanding, in the name of fairness, secular benefits equivalent to X (regardless of the name associated with that level of benefits) be expected to show that they are, in return for X, going to provide benefits to society equivalent to Y?
8.23.2005 12:06am
This hasn't been the main subject of anybody's post, but a few people have mentioned it in passing, and it makes me curious: it is often said, as an answer to the problem of gay marriage, that marriage is a religious institution, and none of the state's business, so the state should just butt out. But is that historically true? I mean, as I understand it, marriage has been around a long time, in a lot of societies, and in most of the earliest ones, there wasn't the sort of clear distinction between church and state that we're used to. So what makes it a religious, any more than a legal, institution? Do we even know anything about the origins of marriage, whether it was first instituted by kings or priests? I doubt it, aside from what we may get from religious traditions or the guesses of anthropologists. Can anyone give me a real reason why religion, and not the state, should really be in charge of marriage? I'd be very interested to hear the explanation.
8.23.2005 12:26am
Not a family law specialist:
You think that Family Law in the US is complicated and fraught with political overtones? Heck, the Anglican church only exists because of a famous Roman Catholic divorce case.

From Canon Law:

Can. 1071 ß1 Except in a case of necessity, no one is to assist without the permission of the local Ordinary at ... (2) a marriage which cannot be recognized by the civil law or celebrated in accordance with it...

Can. 1130 For a grave and urgent reason, the local Ordinary may permit that a marriage be celebrated in secret.

Can. 1133 A marriage celebrated in secret is to be recorded only in a special register which is to be kept in the secret archive of the curia.

An Ordinary may be read as a local bishop for most purposes.

So, if our beloved Cardinal Archbishop in Boston felt strongly enough, he could well offer the option of a Church-only marriage. Note also that the spouses would not generally be entitled to file a joint tax return, as that is determined by reference to state law.
8.23.2005 12:32am
Carol Anne:
Contrary to popular misconception, marriage is not "about children." It's about two parties who choose to live together within an external contract. In the Middle Ages, arranged marriages for the sake of family fortunes were commonplace...and children were often (if any) an accidental byproduct of the union.

Parenting is about children, and parenting is inherently orthogonal to marriage (or civil union)...religious teachings and ell-conceived laws notwithstanding.
8.23.2005 12:53am
Goober (mail):
Well put, Carol Anne. I wonder, for those who insist that marriage is about children, whether there would be any objection to a law forbidding sterile heterosexual couples from marrying?
8.23.2005 1:17pm
Caliban Darklock (www):
Goober: the point is not that YOU will take the vanilla cookie, but that SOMEONE will take it. If you offer the vanilla cookie to a thousand people, theoretically somewhere from twenty to a hundred people will take it. (It depends on which statistics you read.) However, if you DON'T offer these people the vanilla cookie, how many will actively go out searching for a vanilla cookie? Certainly not *all* of them.

Artificially restricting people's options is a major tool of religious argument, as Pascal's wager famously demonstrates. If you give people a choice, sometimes they will make the wrong one, so you must be sure to only give them the *right* choice - or make it clear that the other choice is wrong if you have half a brain in your head. You're not offered a choice of believing or not believing, you're offered a choice of heaven or hell. It looks like a choice, and it *feels* like a choice if you make it, but it really isn't. It's the same forced edict as saying "you will believe THIS"; you just feel better about it because you think you got a choice.

Which is why if the religious right fails to keep gay marriage illegal, they will try like hell to make it significantly less attractive than heterosexual marriage. They've actually already tried this with the "civil union" proposal.
8.23.2005 2:14pm
Carol Anne, arranged marriages are a contradiction to your "two parties who choose to live together" as the choice may not be bilateral or even be their own.

Though I'm not a historian, I'd like to suggest that historically marriage was about inheritance. "Parenting" in the genetic sense was not orthogonal, it was central, more so even than love. This offspring is your heir, that offspring is next in line, the bastard child is out of luck. Thus for millenia was assured the stability of society, for better or worse.

Goober wrote, "If monogamy were still a moral norm even accepting homosexual marriage (not a hard theory to accept)..." Does anyone have any statistics on homosexual preference for monogamy? Even granting that for heterosexuals it may be only in the 50% range (at a guess), my limited experience of homosexual society suggests it is significantly less.
8.23.2005 5:01pm
TJM (mail):
Part of the question didn't make any sense (last sentence 3rd paragraph), but from my own Catholic viewpoint what the civil authority wants is irrelevant and so a civil law regarding marriage (same-sex or otherwise) makes not a whit of difference. Neither does it diminish the sacrament of marriage. It just doesn't matter.
8.23.2005 7:18pm
PhilaMark (mail):
Interestingly, in many states, the impotence of either party historically has been grounds for annulling a marriage, in part precisely because procreation was perceived to be an essential aspect of marriage. However, until fairly recently knowledge of what caused impotence or infertility was rudimentary at best (see Henry VIII's efforts to blame his wives), and so sterility tended to be proven "after the fact." Similarly, as recently as 1945 the New York Court of Appeals held that intending to have no children (as evidenced by the use of contraceptives) was grounds for an annullment.
8.23.2005 10:15pm
Wow, this thread has been surprisingly educational.
8.23.2005 11:02pm
Harold (mail):
Anonymous www wrote/asked:

"This hasn't been the main subject of anybody's post, but a few people have mentioned it in passing, and it makes me curious: it is often said, as an answer to the problem of gay marriage, that marriage is a religious institution, and none of the state's business, so the state should just butt out. But is that historically true?"

If I remember history correctly, immediately following the French revolution, marriage was taken out of the hands of the clergy, and placed in the hands of the state. I believe there was an actual attempt to do away with marriage, but it failed. In atheistic states, such as the Soviet Union, marriage was/is a state function. In Cuba today, marriage is a civil institution, and gays are jailed for being gay. BTW, Cuba is not a theocracy, and homosexuals are jailed!! Getting rid of religion doesn't rid a society of intolerance. Quite the opposite, or so it seems. I would have to do more research, but I believe in Chinese society, the state has always regulated and controlled marriage, and continues to do so today as an officially atheistic state.

I suspect that in the pre-Christian era in Europe, that the state, and not any of the various religions, governed marriage. Someone reading this undoubtedly knows more than I about ancient Roman and Greek marital practices. And then there are marital practices in clan and tribal societies. (Including American Indian tribal societies.) Religious? Civil? Or some combination?

But, the one thing they all have in common- marriage between a male and one (or more) females. Not a society, religious, civil, atheistic, tribal, or clannish in the bunch that recognized homosexual marriage. Again, radical changes to long standing practices that cut across that many boundaries need to be very carefully considered. When a practice is that widespread, there is probably a good reason for it.
8.25.2005 12:55am