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[Dale Carpenter (guest-blogging), November 2, 2005 at 10:39pm] Trackbacks
Response to commentators -- Day 3:

I think I've written more than enough today for everybody. Again, readers are responding to each other quite a bit, relieving me of that duty. Just three quick replies to some commentary.

First, I want to highlight what one commentator said today that I think sums up what I've called the malign neglect of many conservatives toward gay families. The commentator basically said, I'm seriously paraphrasing here, that it doesn't matter whether marriage would be any good for gay families because there are so few gay families. They're trivial. They don't matter. This is what they have been told by our society almost since they were born and that is what they are being told now through the denial of marriage. I spent two days on this blog pointing to the real ways in which millions of adults and children living in the U.S. will have their families made stronger. Those things may not matter to the tens of millions of people in this land who can get married, divorce, get married again, and divorce again, at will. But it matters a great deal to gay families. And to their children. And to their families and friends. And to anyone who thinks these are human beings whose needs really do count for something in the world.

I'm all in favor of giving careful consideration to the claimed harm to opposite-sex marriages that might come from uniting these gay families in marriage. We must do that. But really, to consider only these claimed problems, without even pausing for a moment to reflect on the good that might come of marriage for gay families, is a form of single-entry book-keeping. And it is a cruel form of single-entry book-keeping at that. I think Americans are better than that.

Second, let me emphasize again that I am not making a case against polygamy. I could be wrong about all, some, or none of the claims I made about polygamous marriage. It doesn't much matter. My only real point is to note that the questions raised by polygamy are distinct from the questions raised by gay marriage. They are independent issues. Gay marriage will not take us any further down the slope toward polygamy. And no argument I've yet heard tells me clearly why it would.

Third, some commentators have suggested that I've been attacking "strawman" arguments (definitions, contagious promiscuity, slippery slopes). Others believe these arguments are devastating against gay marriage, central to the matter. All I can say is that if these are strawman arguments, they are cluttering up just about every field. They are ubiquitous in the arguments against gay marriage.

Why do these posts always end up being longer than I plan them to be?

Oh my word:
Dale, you're still knocking down strawmen, not the best counter-arguments. Also, if I am thinking about the same posts you are thinking about, it was *not* saying that gays are irrelevant, as your post suggests, but more disputing your numbers about the 1-2 million children in unmarried gay households. I kind of doubt those numbers, also (though the guy clearly messed up his recalculations), but I don't have time to do counter-research.

Also, while I'm on it, increasing acceptance of homosexuality would increase those numbers. That is one of the criticisms of the pro-gay movement--that it has already dramatically increased the numbers of kids now being raised in gay households. That is both because more lesbian relationships exist now than before, and more lesbians are having kids through artificial insemination. Also, it means that more bisexual men get out of marriages that they are unhappy in and move in with their male lovers. Gay marriage would further that trend, as several people, incl. me, have noted in previous comments.

There is also the major argument that putting the ultimate state blessing of homosexuality (SSM) would increase the number of gay/lesbian curious teens and college kids and thus foment even greater sexual confusion in this day and age than there already is. Unless one can demonstrate that homosexuality is pretty much hard-wired, the environmental issue has to be addressed. Suffice to say, even the most pro-gay studies have posited only a 30-40% causal factor from genes, and most studies posit a much lower correlation. I think I mentioned this previously--big issue, obviously.

Nevertheless, your posts have brought up many excellent arguments that deserve to be heard more in favor of gay marriage.
11.3.2005 12:03am
On Lawn (mail) (www):
Dale,

The commentator basically said, I'm seriously paraphrasing here, that it doesn't matter whether marriage would be any good for gay families because there are so few gay families. They're trivial. They don't matter.

I wonder how much that is like the argument...

The expected social benefit from polygamy (e.g., the reinforcement of the marriage by others) should also be smaller if, as I argued above, public resistance to polygamy will be large and unyielding. ...
11.3.2005 12:08am
On Lawn (mail) (www):
Dale,

All I can say is that if these are strawman arguments, they are cluttering up just about every field.

What really makes one suspicious is how you refuse to link or refer directly or directly quote these arguments. I think basic intellectual honesty would demand that if you really are wanting to reply to commenters.
11.3.2005 12:11am
Josh Jasper (mail):
We shouldn't have to make a case against polygamy. We shouldn't have to amke a case against bestiality. We shouldn't have to make a case against us being mentaly ill, perverted sex fiends, child molestors, evil, etc. All the things our oponents call us. No more than Jews need to make a case against The Protocols Of The Elders Or Zion.

In almost every case, the idea is somehow that we're bad, horrible people.

Anyone who's lived under a bigoted regime knows what this is like. But one of the remarkable things about America is that most people haven't really lived under a government that treats them like second class citizens, unless you count some elderly black people, and a small number of immigrants.

So we get people who can look at all this crap being piled on us, and condescendingly tell us that, while they're on our side, they don't think we should be uppity gays.

I'm not going to scream or use invective, but I don't see Volokh on any GLBT steering commities. When he's paid his dues, and lived through some of what we live through, then he can tell us how we ought to run our strategy. Until then, it's a lot like a white man lecturing a black man on being less uppity during the early '60s.
11.3.2005 12:15am
Remus Talborn (mail):
My only real point is to note that the questions raised by polygamy are distinct from the questions raised by gay marriage. They are independent issues.

But you haven't proven that, because all of the claims you made about polygamy are false or speculative.
11.3.2005 12:16am
Oh my word:
Answering the updated point about strawmen, the biggest reason that polygamy and incest and such figure in debates on gay marriage is that the courts have intervened in state laws on homosexuality and marriage based on the idea that there is no legitimate moral disapprobation for homosexuality. The Lawrence majority stated that, and Justice Scalia pointed out what a massive encroachment onto state jurisdiction that judgment was. In addition, courts like the Mass. SC have made similar judgments, and the point is that a court cannot differentiate between these moral assessments of the legislature without basically grabbing for itself the title of ultimate arbiter of morality in these matters.

The slippery slope to polygamy argument is *chiefly* a legal one, and only secondarily a political one. In the policy realm, where you are largely situating your analysis, there are far more important arguments than the slippery slope to polygamy argument.

Fwiw, I don't think the slippery slope argument is totally trivial, because these are all interrelated philosophical issues, but I don't think it's a very good one either, so I'm pretty close to your assessment of it.
11.3.2005 12:16am
Oh my word:
Let me add for clarity (regarding the causal factors of homosexuality) that many studies posit no correlation at all of genetic variables, and there are very few, if any, reliable studies that suggest a genetic component to lesbianism. Most of the studies that suggest a genetic component do so only for gay males.

Also, all of these studies have such major methodological shortcomings, given the flaws and paucity of data, that we really have very little good scientific evidence one way or another. The reasons why I've always been skeptical of the hard-wired argument is that homosexual practices vary so greatly across cultures and circumstances, and that there is such a fluid continuum between exclusive homosexuality, bisexuality, and heterosexuality. Whatever it is, it's not just a gay gene.
11.3.2005 12:24am
On Lawn (mail) (www):
Dale,

My only real point is to note that the questions raised by polygamy are distinct from the questions raised by gay marriage. They are independent issues.

One of them, you argued was that polygamy was tried and failed. How can you be so sure that gay-marriage wasn't tried and failed? Many have pointed out that you have ignored gay-marriage like programs entirely in your commentary and research. Just what kind of scaffolding can be built by ignoring civil unions, RB's, Greek/Roman same-sex dependancy programs, etc...? I think I know.

Because in the previous article you really are distinguishing gay-marriage and polygamy on the basis that you have less of an idea what would happen in gay marriage than polygamy. Your ignorance would then in part be the scaffolding that provides the distinction.

I'm always warry of an argument that uses its unpredictability as a feature and not a flaw.

Other distinctions you provided were rather self-serving. While looking at what you imagine would be social concerns with polygamy, you sluffed relating them to social concerns people have with gay-marriage. That would be stacking the deck, would it not?
11.3.2005 12:46am
Op Ed. (mail) (www):
Remus: But you haven't proven that, because all of the claims you made about polygamy are false or speculative.

Hmmmmmm. All the claims Dale's made about neutered "marriage" are also false or speculative. Anyone else sensing a pattern here?
11.3.2005 12:46am
On Lawn (mail) (www):
Dale,

But really, to consider only these claimed problems, without even pausing for a moment to reflect on the good that might come of marriage for gay families, is a form of single-entry book-keeping. And it is a cruel form of single-entry book-keeping at that. I think Americans are better than that.

Then why are you only considering gay/lesbian relationships in your reform?
11.3.2005 1:07am
Oh my word:
I agree with On Lawn that it's also incorrect that polygamy has been tried and rejected, whereas gay marriage has not been. There have been various instantiations of formally recognized homosexual unions from medieval England and eastern Europe to ancient Rome--not sure about Greek states. These social institutions have not survived.

Also, the alternative of non-state recognized marriages should be addressed. Given that SSM would inevitably be so very different given the differences between the sexes from traditional marriage, there are good arguments that it's just a different ball of wax as far as the various laws that relate to marriage, from child custody to divorce to tax law. However, gays can right now have private marriage blessings in various religious institutions and are quite free to provide for their unique circumstances by private contract. It is not correct that, without state marriage, they are out in the cold.
11.3.2005 1:35am
Penta:
Dale,

What about the criticism that, as marriage licenses and the granting thereof to a pair imply the social approval of the community whose government is doing the issuance, well...

There's no real social approval of homosexual relationships (There may not be widespread contempt, but nor is there social approval. It's more ambivalent toleration these days, I think.), so how can there be homosexual marriages?
11.3.2005 2:04am
Ben-David (mail):
The number of children being raised in same-sex homes is dwarfed into insignificance by the number of children being raised by unmarried hetero partners.

By "insignificance" I mean insifnificance to public policy - which is what we are discussing here. Instead Dale interprets this as belittling - "malign neglect" - a typical dodge in gay rights debates, in which victimology-based emotional claims are deftly substituted for factual argument, and the implicit rhetorical question "how can you be such an insensitive brute" then trumps factual discussion of homosexuality's shortcomings.

The government is not being asked to create some new legal status for unmarried couples based on the welfare of their children - why should the miniscule number of kids in homosexual families drive a major change of our legal-social structure?
11.3.2005 4:09am
randal (mail):
Dale.

Thumbs up. Yours is the legitimate case for gay marriage. It's the necessary case.

Opponents of gay marriage pretend that supporters' arguments are about "love equals marriage" or "let's piss off heteros". If that were true, the case would be easy to counter. But as you've demonstrated, gay marriage benefits society as a whole. It's so obvious, no opponent has been able to retort without resorting to scare tactics.

Gays can find love and piss off heteros very easily without marriage. The question is only, should gays be accepted into society. I imagine that upon reflection, reasonable people would agree they should be.
11.3.2005 5:36am
Medis:
Ben-David,

I am intrigued by your idea of a new legal status for unmarried couples raising children. What do you have in mind? It might not be a bad idea!

In general, I don't quite understand the form of your argument. Let's assume that children being raised by unmarried straight couples is a matter of greater concern than children being raised by unmarried gay couples due to the sheer numbers involved. Why exactly does that imply we should not do anything about the latter problem? Isn't that like saying we shouldn't be building federal highways in Montana, because compared to the rest of the country the population of Montana is small, and therefore the transportation needs of the people of Montana are "insignificant"?

I think the essence of your view (and please correct me if I am wrong) may be that gay marriage is a disproportionate response to the problem of children being raised by unmarried gay couples. But there is certainly nothing obvious about that claim ... indeed, superficially at least, you couldn't ask for much more precise tailoring of a remedy to a problem.
11.3.2005 5:49am
Medis:
A general comment:

In a good way, I think Dale's posts and the ensuing discussions are lending support to the view that the public policy case for gay marriage is very strong in the absence of the premise that as a society we should be discouraging people from being gay. I also applaud the commentators who are willing to make it clear that they in fact endorse this premise, and that their views on gay marriage depend in part on this premise, even if that is not their sole concern.
11.3.2005 6:00am
Josh Jasper (mail):
I'm getting off topic here, but one issue that hasn't been raised, and was raised by both Maggie Gallhager and commentors is the red herring of accepting some sort of mythical seperate but equal 'civil union' status.


It's a simple question that leads readers into thinking that gay marriage advocates are being overly greedy, and should settle for something that is really acceptable.

Here's my question to put to Dale. Is a group of people who uses such a tactic really one you can consider honest adversaries? For me, it puts them in to the 'will lie to get what they want' camp.

Still, Maggie is the least offensive of the liars. The majority of them, Focus On The Family, the American Family Association, The Concerned Women for America, and other similar groups are the vanguard of the anti SSM movement.

There's been little to no mention of the tactics they use, and what it means to the anti-SSM movement to be represented by people like that.

Another question to put to Dale: What do you see as good tactics for getting to our end goal?
11.3.2005 7:11am
APL (mail):
For goodness' sake, Medis, I already suffer a disability as a citizen because I am gay. Now you are encouraging ignoring me further because I am from Montana!? Actually, I find the analogy very apt.

I am reminded of the cute little story about the girl on the beach throwing starfish that had been washed up by the tide back into the ocean. When an interested adult pointed out that the beach was full of starfish and she couldn't possibly throw them all back in, and asked how could what she was doing possibly matter, she held up the starfish in her hand, and said "It matters to this one." Of course that story is only about individual benefits, and Dale has argued that there are communitarian benefits to allowing gay marriage as well.

Ben-David, assuming for the sake of argument (because I repsectfully disagree with the contention) that allowing same-sex couples to marry is a major change in our legal social structure, then the whole point of the week's posts is that the change should be made because the positive results to individuals and society as a whole outweigh the negative effects, if any.
11.3.2005 7:34am
Victor Davis (mail) (www):
Dale Carpenter -- Thanks for coming here and presenting your arguments. I wonder if you could elaborate on one specific point:



My only real point is to note that the questions raised by polygamy are distinct from the questions raised by gay marriage. They are independent issues. Gay marriage will not take us any further down the slope toward polygamy. And no argument I've yet heard tells me clearly why it would.



SSM passed in legislatures based upon your pragmatic rationalizations don't intimidate me substantially. However, the movement seems instead to be oriented toward presenting marriage as a "right" defensible in court; from that beginning, it is easy to argue that the state should not deny someone's right to marry simply because they are already married elsewhere. Is it possible, politically, to draw this distinction effectively? Surely the potential slippery slope in this latter case is more obvious.

Two other quick points. The first is a reiteration of "OK"'s point in the previous thread: namely, there is already considerable pressure on Western societies to allow polygamous marriages that are recognized internationally. This can operate through the courts or eventually through political processes.

Second, even the political solution is still not without danger. Many Western religions are broadening their scope, proselytizing in Africa and other places. These religions normally have to make allowances for tradition and culture in these other venues. For the most part, the influence seems to be flowing from West to East. However, over time the influence in some cases will likely be in both directions, at least within some religions. The spillover pressures into this country then would be direct and operating through already accepted institutions. And note that it isn't the case that a religion has to embrace polygamy itself, only that it has to accept polygamous relationships as they exist and then, subsequently, observe that "it isn't as detrimental to society as it looks" and/or "well, the problem isn't polygamy, per se, its the disenfranchisement of women", or similar argument.

This could be in addition to the direct spread of polygamy-accepting religions and traditions directly through immigration and proselytizing. Further, the one international Western religion of note standing in the way of polygamy is Catholicism, and its influence could be sharply weakening, especially in the industrialized West. Predicting political realities in such an environment is dangerous.

In all honesty, I don't have a terribly well-grounded reason for opposing polygamy, and so it is hard for me to formulate mechanisms whereby pressures to allow it will be resisted. I suspect many people are like me in this respect, and this is why the argument holds some sway.

At any rate, thanks for the thoughtful and open-minded analysis. It has been influential.
11.3.2005 7:36am
Dr Bill:
There are two things that frustrate me about Dale's arguments.

1. It is largely a "facts on the ground" argument. That is, since gay "families" exist it would be cruel to deny them something that would make them better off even if one disapproves of their choice to become a family. Reality trumps ideology so to speak. Whether you like it or not, they exist, so why not come up with a policy that makes them better off without making other people worse off.

A similar argument exists with welfare. Some women bear children while unmarried and under less than ideal economic circumstances and further burden taxpayers who are basically extorted/blackmailed into subsidizing them because to do otherwise would be "cruel" to the children because, after all, it's not their fault that they were born into such dire circumstances. To ostracize, stigmatize or otherwise abandon such families would be unthinkable it is argued, although subsidizing such arrangements has clearly resulted in more of them over the last 40 years. [An argument has been made (in The Bell Curve years ago) that perhaps it may be necessary to sacrifice a generation of such families in order to restore "normalcy" to the family structure (I call this the Hiroshima strategy -- destroy a city in order to win the war). That might perhaps be feasible if it were not for the fact that a large plurality (and a majority in the black community) of babies are are now "illegitimate" (to use what is apparently an archaic term). You would have to destroy half the families in the country to save the idea of "family".]

The reason this is frustrating is that, of course, in the short run, most people would like to alleviate suffering but you do not want to do it at the cost of increasing the behavioral choices that were the ultimate cause of the suffering... this is the classic moral hazard argument. When you subsidize/reward behavior you get more of it. Therefore be careful what you subsidize/reward. Marriage is a type of reward/subsidy that will necessarily result in more gay unions and families.

Gay "families" exist because individuals CHOSE to create them... they did not just sprout out of thin air. I am now being asked to CHANGE my position on homosexuality merely because they CHOSE to create arrangements I consider to be structurally dysfunctional. That doesn't mean they don't work in some meaningful way to the parties involved, but nonetheless, they are the result of choices made by individuals WHEN ALTERNATIVE FUNCTIONAL CHOICES WERE AVAILABLE TO THEM. That is, every gay person has the legitimate option of marrying a person of the opposite gender and creating a normal family. Which brings me to my second concern:

2. It seems to me that you assume that orientation necessarily determines behavior... that is, that simply because one experiences romantic attractions to members of the same sex, that homosexual conduct is therefore inevitable. Why can't society sympathize with the "struggle" that gays experience but still insist that they express their sexuality in the context of heterosexual monogamous marriage?

Many, if not most, pathological desires are unchosen. Yet, individuals are expected to control their conduct despite those desires. An extreme example is pedophilia, which is presumably an unchosen orientation, yet we expect adults to not express sexual "love" towards children. I understand that homosexuality is different in many people's minds because it is unchosen/benign rather than unchose/malign (although there are some organizations such as NAMBLA who argue that it is healthy for men to have sex with boys). However, it is an example, among many, where society chooses not to accomodate an individual's desires but insists on conduct that requires the sublimation of those desires.

Additionally, there are many gay people who legally marry. That is, they marry someone of the opposite sex. Note that this means that gay INDIVIDUALS are not denied marriage, only gay COUPLES are denied marriage. This is a huge point. The law and society does not ask a man or woman wishing to marry if they are gay.... it only matters that they are of opposite genders. Therefore, gay individuals are not denied the right to marry... they are expected to sublimate their dysfunctional (in the sense that same gender sex has no biological function other than to satisfy the sexual desires of the parties involved) desires in favor of rational/functional ones.

Recently Cheryl Swoopes admitted she was gay. Yet she was previously married to a man and had a child?!?!? So obviously, she was capable of sex with a man... I assume she enjoyed it... I assume she loved him at some point or she wouldn't have married him. She then later CHOSE to leave that relationship and enter into a relationship with another woman despite the fact that the option existed (as it does for all gay people) to choose another man. And she is applauded for "coming out" because now she can be in public who she really is in private??? Well who was she when she was married to a man??

The entire gay marriage debate is premised on the idea that society is obligated to respect the same sex behavioral choices of individuals who call themeselves gay, when in fact opposte sex choices are legally available to them. It seems to me that it is socially irrelevant whether an individual feels sexual attraction to members of the same sex.... their obligation is to pursue sexual relationships with members of the opposite sex (preferably within the context of monogamous marriage). I understand that it is not ideal to marry someone that you are not sexually attracted to (although I suspect they can learn to like it just as I suspect I could probably learn to have sex with a man, as unenticing as it seems to me now) but, not meaning to be smug, we all have our issues. This just happens to be their "thorn in the flesh"

Sorry for the rambling nature of this post, but as you all probably understand, these things tend to be "stream of consciousness" musings.
11.3.2005 8:04am
bornyesterday (mail) (www):
I'm going to be slightly off-topic, but I think my point is valid and relevant in an out-of-left field way. The one thing that has always bothered me about the pro-gay marriage vs anti-gay marriage question is something that never gets brought up. The question of love.

Generally speaking in the heterosexual world, 2 people marry because they decide that they "love" each other. (Apparently, we've reached a point were 50% of the time they later decide that they are wrong.) Beyond historical precedent for marriage being between a man and a woman and whatever moralistic viewpoint that says it should only be that way, isn't marriage, at it's most basic, simply a lifelong agreement by 2 people who love eachother to live together in that love. Somehow, over time, marriage has morphed into an agreement by society that it is fitting and proper for two people to attempt to do so.

Regardless of genetics, or choice, or whatever, if you accept that love is the foundation of a lifelong relationship, then how can you deny two people who love eachother the ability to marry? I think that some people refuse to accept that there is such a thing as "homosexual love." The above commentator, tactfully refuses to use the word and favors the phrase "feels sexual attraction." Dr Bill's examination of marriage turns my stomach in that it is entirely devoid of the role of love. Instead, marriage is a "functional social construct." Apparently that is something they skipped over in my sex-ed classes way back in middle school. They were pretty clear that sex is what gives the world kids. Whether or not 2 people are married has nothing to do with whether or not they can have children. He is correct in pointing out that "sex choices" have absolutely nothing to do with marriage. But he misses the point. Just as he could "learn to have sex with a man," gay men and women could have sex with members of the opposite gender. But in neither case is love, necessarily, involved.

I think the Beatles had it right: "What this world needs is a little more love." And a little more respect for people who are in love.
11.3.2005 9:20am
Zubon (mail):
So Dr Bill, your point is more or less, "Couldn't you all just pretend that you're not gay?"

I don't think you are going to get far in this discussion with the premise that "their obligation is to pursue sexual relationships with members of the opposite sex." Your inevitable conclusion about SSM is pretty clear at that point. There is not any room for discussion until you discover the problem with that premise, and explaining it is beyond the project that Dale laid out at the start of the week.
11.3.2005 9:46am
Dr Bill:
In response to bornyesterday effort to be off-topic, I would say that the word "love" is one of those words commonly results in the fallacy of equivocation in an argument. That is, one person uses it in one sense and another uses it in another sense and they ending up talking past each other.

First, "love" could just refer to the romantic "chemistry" that exists between two people. This is the "in love" meaning. I think this is what you mean by "decide that they love" although most people don't normally experience being "in love" as a conscious decision.... I tend to think of it as more of a projection of one's fantasies of the perfect partner on another person that you haven't really gotten to know yet.... in other words, this is more like infatuation, although it can grow into a more mature love.

Second, it could just refer to sex and in "making love"

Third, it could just mean a form of devotion as in "I love football".

Fourth, it could refer to familial love as in "I love my parents/children/brother/sister"

Fifth, it could refer to patriotic love as in love of country.

Finally (although I am sure there are more) there is love as an unconditional action of benevolence toward another as in "loving your neighbor as yourself". This is love as a decision/choice.

Which definition were the Beatles referring to? Did they mean that we should all be "in love" with each other (or that more people need to be "in love") or were they referring to love as in "love your enemy/neighbor as yourself". I would suggest and hope, although who's to tell with music lyrics, that they were referring to the latter. But then again, soon after penning those lyrics, they broke up so maybe it didn't apply to them!!!

With respect to marriage, romantic love is a useful but not necessary condition for marriage. Marriage based solely on this kind of love is not very stable because, as you noted, 50% of marriages end, presumably because they are no longer "in love" as if love was some uncontrollable emotion that just turns on and off. I just don't see much reason to "respect" someone just because they are "in love" (in fact, I tend to become a little wary of people when they say they are "in love" :) Instead I respect people who ACT love regardless of whether they are "in love". I would have nothing but respect for a gay person who, despite struggles with romantically loving a person of the opposite sex, nonetheless CHOOSES to love them anyway. Not surprisingly, mature romantic love can grow out of a CHOICE to love. That is, feelings can follow actions. That was my point about learning to love someone. There is nothing dry or mechanical about that. I think your view of love may be overly sentimental. I don't deny the bliss of "first love" or infatuation but most people understand that it cannot be sustained and if it does not graduate into something more mature... not based on mere feeling... then the relationship will die.

When two people get married, they COMMIT to love each other. This love is INDEPENDENT of romantic attraction. The institution of marriage does not exist to ratify two people's FEELING of love... it exists to affirm their DECISION to COMMIT to love each other regardless of what the future may come... it is NOT a commitment to love until one or both no longer FEEL in love. As anyone who has been married a long time can attest, you don't always FEEL in love with your spouse, but you still should CHOOSE to ACT love towards them. The point of marriage is not to fulfill ones' desire for the feeling of "love"... it is to devote one's life to another person and become "one". In theory and experience, this is somewhat mysterious. I can certainly say that the reasons I love my wife now have little to do with the reasons I loved her when I got married. In some ways, the relationship is less romantic but in other ways it seems to have transcended all that and i "see" her completely differently.... it is almost as if I can't tell where my life ends and hers begins. I am not sure if I can even describe the experience as "love" although I do love her.

My point in all this is that way too much is made of "love" when it comes to marriage. It is far more important that you love the person you marry than that you marry the person you love. That is why I have no huge objections to those societies in which families arrange marriages. Romantic love may not exist significantly at the beginning but it can grow. Marriage is so much more than mere romantic love. It is the joining of two people (and indirectly two extended families) into a new unit (and network) of meaningful relationship.
11.3.2005 9:55am
Dr Bill:
To Zubon, I am not suggesting that people "pretend they are not gay"... I expect them to deal with their "gayness" head on, but not to cave into it. As with any other dysfunction, you have to own up to it before you can overcome (or at least manage) it. Ultimately, I am less concerned about "orientation" than behavior. When it comes to sexuality, orientation is a somewhat flued and nebulous concept because it isn't referring to something ojective... it is referring to a person's self-consciousness, almost a process of self-discovery... as if each of us as some in-built sexual identity waiting to be discovered. To be honest, that strikes me as silly.

I am not rejecting Dale's premise that homosexuality is unchosen although I do question that it is benign. He is arguing from his premise that since homosexuality is unchosen/benign and that since gay people exist and affirm the goodness of same-sex relationships, that society is obligated to likewise affirm and accomodate them.

I am arguing that his premise is ultimately irrelevant to society's decision to affirm SS relationships. I don't think I am being malicious although I can understand why some would view it as cold-hearted. It is certainly easier to swim downstream with one's sexual feelings that to swim upstream. I can somewhat understand the challenge to gay people of my expecting them to sublimate (which is not the same as denial or repression) those desires for a higher good. In some ways, it is not much different than the Catholic Church expecting priests to pledge celibacy. The expection is to transcend, not repress.
11.3.2005 10:09am
Joshua (mail):
bornyesterday: I was about to make a similar counterargument to Dr Bill's post, but you beat me to it.

So, I'll simply expand it a bit farther: What Dr Bill is arguing is that gay people should sacrifice their own happiness for the sake of some greater societal good, and (unless I'm missing something) with no apparent additional benefit to gay people to compensate for this sacrifice. Were homosexuality a malign trait like pedophilia, this would be understandable. But since (by Dr Bill's own characterization) it is a benign trait, I don't blame gay people a bit for regarding this sacrifice as "a bridge too far".
11.3.2005 11:43am
BobNelson (mail):
What is the "higher good", Dr Bill?

The false appearance of the universality of heterosexuality?

Lying for the greater good... what sort of moral argument is that?
11.3.2005 2:11pm
Dr Bill:
Joshua:

I would agree to pay a special subsidy to gay people who marry someone of the opposite gender, hereby "sacrificing their own happiness for the sake of some greater societal good" but I suspect that would not be satisfactory and largely misses the larger point, which is that what I propose seems to impose an irrational and unfair hardship on gay people.

The problem here is ultimately one of first principles it seems and is illustrated by O'Connor's famous "sweet mystery of life" (Scalia's mocking phrase) statement in Casey:

"At the heart of liberty is the right to define one's own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe and the mystery of human life"

To traditionalists, who Dale is trying to appeal to in his arguments, O'Connor's statement is laughably absurd, although it certainly taps into the spirit of the post-modern age.

From my point of view, the "pursuit of happiness" is the same as the "pursuit of righteousness". That is, virtue and happiness are inextricably linked. The post-modern view seems to be that each individual has a right to define happiness for himself and that whatever he "discovers" is due deference and respect by the rest of society. The traditional view is that happiness is tied to virtue, which is rooted in historically accepted values (typically Judeo-Christian) and that happiness comes from conforming one's behaivor to those norms, not conforming one's values to accomodate one's feelings.

Thus, from my perspective, a gay person choosing to "deny" his sexual orientation in favor of "virtuous" conduct (i.e. heterosexual marital monogamous sex) is pursing his own happiness and dignity. Happiness is not found in following what he perceives to be his "sexual identity" even if subjectively it seems to provide "happiness".

Thus, what I suggest is only a sacrifice only in the sense that an alcoholic giving up alcohol is making a sacrifice or a pedophile giving up sex with boys is making a sacrifice (I know the analogies are not perfect but hopefully you get the idea). Whatever "sacrifice" is involved pales in comparison to the personal and social benefits gained by doing the right thing.
11.3.2005 2:22pm
Dr Bill:
To BobNelson,

Hypothetically speaking, isn't it undeniable that it would be better if everyone was heterosexual? In other words, wouldn't most homosexuals prefer to be "straight". Of course, this is one of their arguments for why they didn't CHOOSE to be gay... WHO would choose to be gay?

From a biological point of view (and, I would say, a common sense point of view), heterosexuality makes sense in a way that homosexuality does not. To be crude, gay sex just doesn't "fit".... there is nothing to explain it's purpose... it has no social meaning. That is not to say that gay people do not make many meaningful contributions to society, it is just that their orientation has nothing to do with it.

Given that I think it is undeniable that it would definitely be in society's interest that everyone be "straight", what do we do with the fact that some people claim to not have "straight" attractions? In other words, I don't think anyone could plausibly argue that the world is better off with homosexuals AS HOMOSEXUALS living in it. It is far preferable that everyone be straight... diversity of sexual orientation is NOT a good thing. (Please do not miscontrue what I am saying... homosexuals are human beings created with the same dignity as anyone else... but their dignity is not rooted in the homosexuality, but their humanity. It would be better if they were not gay).

The problem is that some people claim to be gay and since they claim to be unable to change their feelings, then they feel compelled to pursue relationships based on those feelings even though society would be better off if they didn't have those feelings and didn't act on them. So we are stuck with dealing with people as the are (or at least as the claim to be) rather than how we would wish them to be. And the issue Dale is addressing is whether it makes sense to accept people as they are and make the best of things (as suboptimal as it may be) or does such an accomodation actually end up making things even worse than they already are?
11.3.2005 2:39pm
Bob (mail):
Dr. Bill:

From a biological point of view, that we do not know why homosexuality exists does not mean that there is no reason for its existence.

You never say how or why society would be better off without homosexuals. Please explain.
11.3.2005 4:19pm
LittleJ (mail):
One problem I have with Dale's arguments is that he calls the "contagious promiscuity" argument a strawman (I would agree), yet attempts to build a case for "contagious fidelity". If SSM "will generate role models that gay youth, in particular, have simply not had up to now," how does one explain the greater monogamy and fidelity seen and measured among lesbians, who also presumably haven't had role models up to now? Dale has admitted that lesbian relationships "will probably be among the most monogamous of all married couples on average," then later attempts to dispel the notion that it is the presence of a woman in a marriage that domesticates the man. How can both sides of this issue be argued at the same time?

This is my opinion/speculation (as is most of Dale's argument), but I think heterosexuals have fewer problems with lesbian relationships because they have, in practice, been shown to be more stable and monogamous, and therefore less disruptive and more constructive to society, than gay male relationships. (I am male, so perhaps I shouldn't speak for heterosexual females.) Stability is the key to building society and is achieved (at least in modern times) through monogamy and fidelity; marriage is a way of recognizing this. The reason for marriage (romantic love, family arrangement, whatever) doesn't matter as much as the performance. That is why marriage is considered to be an institution in crisis; if stability in the marital relationship didn't matter, no one would care about divorce rates...or marriage rates, for that matter.

Dale says lesbian relationships "may well end up being at least half of all gay married couples" - more like 2/3 if initial trends hold. Lesbians make up a minority of gay relationships, but a supermajority of gay marriages, so I think the suspicion of "guy marriage" has some validity. Blaming past discrimination for destructive behaviors, and hoping to build a sunnier tomorrow on the back of a troubled traditional institution, is not a winning point. Gays want all the rights and privileges of "marriage" so that only a few will enjoy them. Rather than alter a traditional institution that has religious roots and has been co-opted by civil law, perhaps gays should prove they desire long-term, monogamous relationships through civil legal contracts and build their "role models" that way. I just suspect that the gay marriage movement isn't so much about monogamy, role models, and benefitting society so much as it is an "in your face" to proponents of a traditional definition of marriage. Even non-monogamous gays have an interest in promoting that.

By the way, federal highways weren't built to serve every person in Montana; they were built to move goods (and our armed forces) more efficiently from Seattle to Chicago, or Missoula to Billings. Serving the nearby locals is just a side effect. The vast majority of Montanans are indebted to state and local governments for their ability to drive their car off their own property.
11.3.2005 8:40pm
randal (mail):
When I arrived at college, the sophomores put on a series of skits and testimonials for all us freshmen as a way to start us out on the right foot. One girl told a horrifying story of waking up hungover in bed with a strange guy, and she could never remember whether they had sex or used a condom or not and was too afraid to ever ask. (The point being, know your boozing.)

One freshman guy raised his hand and asked, in all seriousness in front of the entire freshman class: "Why would anyone want to have sex except to have kids?" (The 1000-person awkward silence afterward was simply awesome.)

Dr. Bill, was that you?
11.4.2005 5:56am
randal (mail):
But actually, Dr. Bill, your argument is missing an extremely important step.

1. Premise: Society would be better off without gays.
2. Fact: It's possible for gays to not behave gay.
3. ?
4. Conclusion: Gays should not behave gay.

You're missing step three. Somehow you need to equate "society without gays" to "society with gays behaving straight". Those are totally different. Gay people acting straight doesn't produce a gayless society.

I think your premise is dubious anyway. It's pretty unlikely that god/nature decided that 4% of the population should be gay without there being a good reason for it. One in 25 is way too high to discount as being some sort of developmental error, like conjoined twins.
11.4.2005 6:12am
randal (mail):
In fact, the benefit of having gays around must be so good that it outweighs the obvious downside to the species of their lacking the instinct to reproduce.
11.4.2005 6:24am