Same-Sex Marriage Dissidents

This piece has been doing the rounds. It’s really rather wonderfully provocative.

DissidentOK, let’s step back. What does any of this have to do with views on marriage? Well, I know that we’ve had years of criminally one-sided media coverage, cowardly political leaders and elite cultural views that have conveyed to you that the only reason anyone might think sexual complementarity is key to marriage is bigotry. You may have even internalized this message. You may need to hold on to this belief for reasons of tribalism or pride. But in the spirit of Jon Stewart’s poster shown up at the top, which reads, “I may disagree with you but I’m pretty sure you’re not Hitler,” let’s go on an open-minded journey where we seek to understand the views of others without characterizing them as Hitler-like. It’s difficult in these times, but we can do it.

OK. We probably already understand relationships have value, right? Assuming we’re not sociopaths, we do. So what is the difference between marriage and other relationships? There’s no question marriage has been treated dramatically differently than other relationships by governments and society. Why? Is it that it features a more vibrant or emotional connection? Or is there some feature that is a difference in kind – that marks it out as something that ought to be socially structured? We usually don’t want government in our other relationships, right? So why is marriage singled out throughout all time and human history as a different type of recognized relationship?

Well, what singled it out was that sex was involved. Sex. Knocking boots. The bump and grind. Dancing in the sheets. Making the beast with two backs. Doing the cha-cha. And so on and so forth. And why does that matter? Well, there’s precisely one bodily system for which each of us only has half of the system. It’s the one that involves sex between one man and one woman. It’s with respect to that system that the unit is the mated pair. In that system, it’s not just a relationship that is the union of minds, wills or important friendships. It’s the literal union of bodies. In sexual congress, in intercourse between a man and a woman, you are literally coordinated to a single bodily end.

In every other respect we as humans act as individual organisms except when it comes to intercourse between men and women — then we work together as one flesh. Coordination toward that end — even when procreation is not achieved — makes the unity here. This is what marriage law was about. Not two friends building a house together. Or two people doing other sexual activities together. It was about the sexual union of men and women and a refusal to lie about what that union and that union alone produces: the propagation of humanity. This is the only way to make sense of marriage laws throughout all time and human history. Believing in this truth is not something that is wrong, and should be a firing offense. It’s not something that’s wrong, but should be protected speech. It’s actually something that’s right. It’s right regardless of how many people say otherwise. If you doubt the truth of this reality, consider your own existence, which we know is due to one man and one woman getting together. Consider the significance of what this means for all of humanity, that we all share this.

Now if one wants to change marriage laws to reflect something else, that’s obviously something that one can aim to do. We’ve seen the rapid, frequently unthinking embrace of that change in recent years, described one year ago in the humanist and libertarian magazine Spiked as “a case study in conformism” that should terrify “anyone who values diversity of thought and tolerance of dissent.” Perhaps there should have been a bit of a burden of proof on those who wanted to change the institution — something beyond crying “Bigot!” in a crowded theater. Perhaps advocates of the change should have explained at some point, I don’t know, what singles out marriage as unique from other relationships under this new definition. What is marriage? That’s a good question to answer, particularly if you want to radically alter the one limiting factor that is present throughout all history. Once we get an answer for what this new marriage definition is, perhaps our media and other elites could spend some time thinking about the consequences of that change. Does it in any way affect the right of children to be raised by their own mother and father? Have we forgotten why that’s an important norm? Either way, does it change the likelihood that children will be raised by their own mother and father? Does it by definition make that an impossibility for whatever children are raised by same-sex couples? Do we no longer believe that children should be raised by their own mother and father? Did we forget to think about children in this debate, pretending that it’s only about adults? In any case, is this something that doesn’t matter if males and females are interchangeable? Is it really true that there are no significant differences between mothers and fathers? Really? Are we sure we need to accept that lie? Are we sure we want to?

Go and read it all. The piece refers to a great essay by Vaclav Havel which you can read here.

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  • C. Quinn-Jones

    Yes – let’s step back
    :) Good comments and I especially like the questions at the end esp.the one about children.I know unborn babies are disenfranchised anyway and we none of us get a choice about which parents we have but I often wonder how children in general might feel about having two ‘Mums’ or two ‘Dads’ (I have not broached this subject with my own grandchildren, tho!) Having said this, I do know of one little boy who was adopted by a same-sex couple and who seems to be having a much better life than he ever had with his birth family.

    • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

      I think you can always find examples where a child will do better with same-sex adoptive parents than birth parent(s). The danger though is to lose sight of the general picture. “On average” do children do better with two biological parents compared to same-sex parents? That’s a valid question which, let’s be honest, studies like Regenerus (2012) don’t answer, but the more recent work done on Canadian census returns might help us with.

      • C. Quinn-Jones

        Yes it is important to consider children in general – I feel so sad that children get no say in this and wonder what children of same-sex couples might have to say about it in about 20yrs time. In about 20yrs time I will probably be ‘pushing up the daises’ (as my Mum used to say!) but I do care about the future of mankind…..so I still wonder :)

        • Charlie Angel

          When and if you are here in 20 years time to ask those children – and please God, ad multos annos!! – you’ll probably find the same mixed bag of responses that have always been the case when trying to measure the quality of upbringing. Nobody has a monopoly on crap parenting!

          For every child who says that they had a wonderful childhood with their two dads, there will be another who will say it was awful and miserable. And maybe the latter will blame the fact that they had same sex parents. And who knows whether that will be fair or not?

          I was at a Passover dinner on Monday and the host has tales of a childhood of being put into a cupboard by her mother and then taken out for a beating and put back in…

          Now if I was of that prejudice, I could I suppose have sat there and thought, well clearly that’s because she’s Jewish. Or American. Or from New York….or some other reason that I might have arbitrarily plucked from the air. But of course that’s not the case. Rather, she was a terrible mother for all sorts of reasons that will have come from a whole myriad of factors.

          And trying to put that into any sensible form of data analysis is the sort of mammoth task that as Peter points out here and elsewhere, does not come easily to say the least!

          Which is why in the end people understandably will latch onto all sorts of anecdotes that seem to support either side of the argument. And that’s not to say those stories aren’t valid or true. Or for that matter powerful. As for example this famous example showed….

          • C. Quinn-Jones

            Yes… more questions than answers. God knows every detail of our lives (Psalm 139) and knows our needs far better than we know them ourselves and by the Spirit of Jesus within us we can all be comforted, guided, encouraged and strengthened. God also works all things for good in those who love him and that gives me great hope.I pray daily for my family, friends ,the world, the unborn and also for myself …and I will remember you in my prayers, Charlie Angel.

  • James Byron

    Warning: “but …” to follow.

    Driving Eich from his job was counterproductive and wrong. Free speech must include offensive speech, political freedom offensive acts.

    But being a “dissident” isn’t inherently noble. Depends on their message. White supremacists are “dissidents,” likely to be fired and ostracized, but their beliefs are so repugnant that few think they deserve sympathy. Even those who defend their right to hate speech make it clear that they’re defending the right, not the content or person.

    Eich contributed to a campaign to deny gay people their civil rights. He shouldn’t have been forced out. But he’s not merely dissenting from a popular view: by contributing to Prop 8, he tried to impose his values on others. Where was Eich’s respect for dissidents?

    • Eaglet2

      You accuse Eich of imposing his values on others, but isn’t that true of the other side as well?

      When I got married a few years ago I was (I admit) rather chuffed to become a husband, married to my wife. Since last week, legally speaking, I am simply a spouse (gender unspecified), married to a spouse (gender unspecified). What’s happened to my gender identity with respect to marriage? Where does the idea of a mother and father raising their own biological children now fit into the new marital framework ?

      Surely there’s no value-neutral position in this debate.

      • James Byron

        Where has the law stipulated this change to “spouse”? If it has, and excludes “husband” and “wife,” I’ll happily sign a petition to get them reinstated.

        • http://u-church.blogspot.com/ David Shepherd

          Typically, the consequential same-sex marriage legislation largely affects entitlements that don’t impinge directly on the rights of opposite-sex couples. So terms in legislation like, ‘as husband and wife’ are replaced with ‘as a married couple’.

          In legislation relating to the registration of deaths, the change replaces ‘ wife of..,’ with the broader phrasing: ‘spouse of …’.

          Reg. 42: (b)where the deceased was a married woman or widow, the registrar shall, after her occupation enter the words “Wife [or Widow] of … … … …”, inserting the name, surname and occupation of her husband or deceased husband.

          ‘(4) In regulation 42 (registration within twelve months from date of death where no report to coroner)—
          (a)in paragraph (3)(b), for “husband” in both places it occurs, substitute “spouse”, and

          (b)in paragraph (3)(ba), for “wife” in both places it occurs, substitute “spouse”.’

          While there is a need for some sort of official recognition for same-sex couples, this should not be at the expense of the traditional recognition of the husband’s last official relationship to his wife. This dilutes the meaning of marriage for the majority, who are opposite-sex couples.

          The law could have maintained this distinction, using ‘spouse of’ for the deceased of a same-sex marriage. Instead, gender-neutral conformity undermines marriage for the rest of us.

          • James Byron

            That’s not a wholesale ban on the words “husband” and “wife,” is it?

            • http://u-church.blogspot.com/ David Shepherd

              No, James. Just a careless cut-and-paste substitution trundling over disparities.

    • Wolf Paul

      James Byron, what “civil rights” was Eich denying anyone by “imposing his values” (or more accurately, by participating in California’s democratic process)?

      The only thing Prop. 8 would have denied same-sex couples is the word “marriage” — and the demand to be allowed to redefine and use this word is not about rights, but about coercing moral affirmation and approval. And that, coercing moral affirmation, looks much more like “imposing your values on others” than participating in a legitimate democratic process.

      And when those opposed to Prop. 8, having lost the democratic vote then petitioned the court to overturn that vote of a majority of Californian citizens, that was not “imposing their values” on these citizens? Where was their respect for the majority and the democratic process?

      • James Byron

        In addition to its symbolic power, marriage has substantive benefits (federal & international recognition) that civil unions lack. Affirmation is on behalf of society: individuals are free to dissent.

        The tyranny of the majority can’t overcome civil rights. Should the conscience of racists be pandered to with anti-miscegenation laws? I gladly say no, it shouldn’t, and the same goes for equal marriage.

        • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

          James,

          Give us one example of a country that recognises foreign same-sex marriages but doesn’t recognise foreign civil unions.

          • James Byron
            • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

              Right, so in order to immigrate you need to be married in one of the US States that recognises same-sex marriage. Go on then, go ahead. Nothing in English Law is stopping you.

              I’m sorry, but immigration into the USA doesn’t stack up as a basic civil right.

        • Wolf Paul

          But Prop. 8 was not at all about preventing California extending all the same legal benefits of marriage to civil unions, nor was it about stopping the federal government recognizing civil unions on a federal level. It was simply about defining “marriage”; it is not legitimate to burden its proponents and supporters with the failures of the California and federal legislatures and authorities with regard to properly defining and/or recognizing civil unions.

          Yes, affirmation is on behalf of society; how is that to be determined other than by a majority vote? Yet you dismiss that as “the tyranny of the majority” — a strange attitude towards democratic process.

          And affirmation on behalf of society does bind the conscience of individuals: it makes it illegal to consider a “married” same-sex couple unmarried.

          Lumping sexual orientation in with ethnicity ignores fundamental differences between these categories; comparing opposition to same-sex marriage to anti-miscegnation laws ignores the fundamental difference in the way both are argued.

          But I do not expect to change your views.

          • Guglielmo Marinaro

            ‘And affirmation on behalf of society does bind the conscience of individuals: it makes it illegal to consider a “married” same-sex couple unmarried.’

            Is that a fact? According to strict Roman Catholic teaching, if a person has been validly married to someone else – which means validly by RC doctrinal criteria – and then divorced, but the marriage has not been annulled by a RC ecclesiastical court, their subsequent marriage to anyone else, while the former spouse is still alive, is invalid and is not therefore a genuine marriage. This teaching applies not only to Roman Catholics but to all baptised Christians who, having contracted “valid, sacramental” marriages, are then divorced and remarried.

            Couples where either of the parties is in this position are, of course, just as married as other couples as far as civil law is concerned. Does this bind the consciences of strict Roman Catholics? Does it make it ILLEGAL for them to consider such couples unmarried? No, it does no such thing.

            • Wolf Paul

              We have already seen this, for example when a photographer specializing in wedding pictures is forced to do pictures for a same-sex wedding or face prosecution for discrimination.

          • James Byron

            The justifications for segregating ethnicity and sexuality are similar: short version, it’s God’s will. Regardless, if democracy trumps all, was Loving v. Virginia decided wrong?

            You’re free to consider a married gay couple unmarried, just as a Catholic is free to consider a remarried divorcee an adulterer. Secular law isn’t obliged to acknowledge either view.

            • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

              Straw man. No-one’s proposing segregation.

              • James Byron

                Question of definition: I’d consider civil unions & marriage to be segregation, just like bans on “miscegenation.”

                • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

                  Er no. When I see “straights only” signs in windows you might have a case.

                  • James Byron

                    So a jurisdiction without those signs, but with anti-miscengenation laws, isn’t segregated in your book?

                    Sure is in mine.

                    • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

                      You’re getting mixed up now. If you say that a certain group of people can’t do a certain thing you are discriminating. Creating a new right for everyone is not removing discrimination. Giving the same rights a different name is not removing discrimination.

                      Before gay marriage homosexuals weren’t segregated in this country. And if you think they were, give me one example. And please don’t say marriage. Plenty of LGB people did get married. Case in point actually.

                    • http://gentlemind.blogspot.co.uk/ gentlemind

                      By virtue of having already been a human right, marriage was previously something each person could do in the same way as every other person. Since the new right is not the old right, we have in fact lost legal recognition of the old right. It is true that creating a new right is not the same as removing discrimination. It is also true that denying legal recognition of the old right is the same as imposing discrimination

                    • Hamlet

                      The “old right” was for opposite sex couples to marry. As far as I am aware, they are still within their rights to do so – so how does that constitute a loss of legal recognition?

                    • http://gentlemind.blogspot.co.uk/ gentlemind

                      How to hide an apple in an apple bowl:
                      If Apple means “thing with appleness”, then Apple Bowl is where apples can have their appleness recognised. If Apple instead means “thing with appleness or orangeness”, then “things with appleness” can still be called Apple and can still be placed into the bowl (which is still called Apple Bowl). But the bowl no longer recognises the specific physical reality of appleness.
                      Men and women can actually marry. They used to be able to legally register their actual marriage. But marriage is now legally defined as being between two adults. It is true to say that “one man and one woman” are “two adults”, but it is not true to say that “two adults” are “one man and one woman”. Therefore the new legal definition no longer recognises the specific physical reality of a sexual union of a man and a woman.

                    • Hamlet

                      Why is this a problem?

                    • http://gentlemind.blogspot.co.uk/ gentlemind

                      Because if/when “one man and one woman” have children, they will legally be understood to be “two parents” – and “two parents” are not “one father and one mother”. Therefore the law will longer recognises the specific physical reality of their relationship with their children.

                    • http://u-church.blogspot.com/ David Shepherd

                      Whup-pax! :-)

  • Drew Mac

    OK, so I do get it that traditional, heterosexual marriage is about making babies. Same-sex marriage clearly isn’t. Does that mean that one is somehow better than the other, or more worthy of being called a marriage? Does it really matter if there are different sorts of ‘marriage’ equally recognised in law? As for getting your knickers in a twist over whether you call a spouse a husband or a wife, well really who cares other than the married couple? If same-sex couples aspire to exclusive and committed love then I think that should be encouraged, even if it means sharing marriage with them.

    • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

      So let’s look at this reasonably. If traditionally marriage has been geared around procreation and rearing of children, what are the consequences of removing that presumption?

      As an exercise of walking a mile in another’s shoes Drew, have a go at answering that. If we’ve changed our philosophy of marriage to just make it about the two people who get married and not their offspring, what possible outcomes flow from that? I can think of a number.

      • Drew Mac

        I don’t believe society or the church has fundamentally changed its philosophy of marriage (I imagine it never had a single one anyway) nor do I think anything has been removed, rather something has been added. It’s as if traditionally we’ve only allowed apples into the fruit bowl (to adapt someone else’s metaphor), even though oranges and pears have now been widely accepted as fruit as well. Now we’ve decided to allow other fruit and although, of course, we can see that a minority of people might want to have kumquats, and even durian allowed into the official fruit bowl as well it’s unlikely that the majority will be so persuaded.

        So apples are still apples and oranges are still oranges, but both are now allowed in the fruit bowl.

        Although procreation may still be the preserve of only certain types of marriage that hasn’t been changed merely by our recent allowing of same-sex marriage. Yet for couples who still fit those particular shoes I don’t see that there are any consequences. Traditional marriage still exists for all who see their relationship that way, and that includes my own. I think the Church might have even been able to hold that line if it had roundly endorsed CPs in the first place – but that suggestion is revisionism at its worst.

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