Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The (Losing) Arguments Against Same-Sex Marriage

This November in Minnesota, there will be a constitutional amendment to permanently ban gay marriage on the ballot. I oppose this amendment for countless reasons, and for the past few months, I have been doing my best to engage and persuade family and friends to vote against it.

In my efforts to talk about this issue, I have tried to listen to and genuinely understand the objections that opponents have to extending marital rights to same-sex couples. I have discovered that there are four basic arguments against gay marriage. What follows is a discussion of each, and why in the end, none are adequate to deny martial rights to same-sex couples. 

Religion
Religion seems to make the strongest case against marriage equality for gays. Christians who oppose same-sex marriage argue that homosexuality is a sin, and have long pointed to the Bible as the primary source of their objections to same-sex relationships. It is the most difficult argument against same-sex marriage to counter, because religious beliefs can be so genuinely and deeply held.

The most obvious problem with this argument is that ours is a nation in which the separation of church and state is the law of the land. I would like to think that this alone does away with the need to address religious objections: the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment should eliminate religion from consideration in public policy on this issue. I get the sense that Christians feel that this is a cheat, though; a legal technicality that forces them to accept and/or tolerate something that they find morally wrong. And so I will set aside the First Amendment for the moment, and consider the Biblical argument against same-sex marriage more closely.

The Bible contains over thirty-one thousand verses; of those, only six mention same-sex relations. Right away, this is not exactly a clear indication of the significance of homosexuality as a sin: contrast it to lying or murder, for example: each of those sins are denounced as such in scores if not hundreds of passages. Still, these six passages seem to speak rather forcefully on the subject, and so deserve some attention.

It turns out that these verses have been carefully scrutinized, and surprisingly, they lack a straightforward, clear meaning. Current Biblical scholarship, as well as new translations of the earliest versions of these texts, has thrown traditional interpretations into question. This video, for example, is an extended explanation of these new understandings.

Over the course of his lecture, the speaker eloquently discusses the passages in which homosexuality is mentioned in the Bible, and makes a strong case that the Bible does not in fact issue a blanket condemnation of homosexuality. He actually petitions his audience to consider the possibility of Christian same-sex marriage. I challenge everyone, Christian or non-Christian, supporter or opponent of gay marriage, to watch the whole lecture and not be affected by it.

My ultimate point here is not to say that any and all Christian objections to homosexuality are invalid, nor to argue that one must endorse these more recent interpretations of the Bible. My point is to illustrate that Christians themselves do not agree on the question of homosexuality. Since among Christians there is no consensus on the morality of homosexuality, it is unreasonable to try and codify a particular sect's teachings on the subject. In short, this argument does not work because it cannot be applied as a universal, secular law.

Natural Law
The natural law argument against same-sex marriage goes something like this: the procreative efforts of human beings are fulfilled by biologically-ordained heterosexual coupling, and society is built and maintained through reproduction, and so the state must support and favor long-term, opposite-sex relationships. At first glance, it sounds secular, scientific and reasonable. Interestingly, though, the only people who invoke this argument are religious, and very often Catholic; I know of no secularist who has made this argument (in fact, I know of no secularist who opposes same-sex marriage). At any rate, by invoking this argument, church leaders seem to acknowledge that Biblical arguments will not prevail in a society in which not everyone is religious, and in which some religions actually recognize and endorse same-sex marriage.

In order for the "natural law" argument to work, however, one must first ignore the research that demonstrates the presence of same-sex attraction in hundreds of species of animals. There is a growing body of evidence that throughout the animal kingdom, same-sex preference is a naturally-occurring phenomenon that serves useful functions among social creatures. And so it is with human beings: basically, same-sex attraction is natural for a subset of humanity.

Once the naturalness of same-sex attraction is established, it is difficult to maintain a "natural law" argument against same-sex marriage. Even so, it is worth discussing the argument further, because of its central conceit: that the state should favor opposite-sex relationships, because the state in turn reaps benefits from these relationships. This logic puts the cart before the horse: couples do not marry to gain privileges from the state, nor do they marry for the benefit of society. People marry for love, for security, to build a family, to make a life together, and for a host of other reasons. In short, people marry - regardless of the state's interest in marriage.

Does society benefit from stable, lasting relationships? Absolutely. It is true that opposite-sex pair-bonding is a building block of society. But same-sex pair-bonding has the same effect. There are actually many ways in which the community, businesses, and the state could benefit by recognizing same-sex marriage. Essentially, pair-bonding immediately creates a private, familial social safety net, which is inherently stabilizing for society as a whole, regardless of the sex of the partners.

Another canard of this argument posits that marriage is intrinsically heterosexual, and thus same-sex marriage is a contradiction in terms. This is simply a tautology: marriage is a social institution, not a biological function. The fact that historically, gays and lesbians have not had access to marriage does not make marriage any less of a social institution.

The people who use this argument focus on the biology of the married couple, and the couple's ability to bear children. This leads us to the most basic problem with this argument: its premise simply does not reflect marriage as it is legally defined: the state has never had any requirements regarding children. Historically, the state's interest in marriage has been quite limited, and centered on practical matters: marriage defined the property rights between the familial clans involved, and determined the lawful heirs of the couple.

In the end, the "natural law" argument becomes a religious one, because the state has never been concerned with a couple's interest in or ability to reproduce. Religion, on the other hand, has long sought to conflate the two. Ultimately, "natural law" fails because the state does not hold opposite-sex couples to a reproductive standard, and same-sex couples would offer the same benefits to society as opposite-sex couples.

Think of the Children!
Speaking of children, we arrive at the next objection. As we go through the list of arguments against gay marriage, they become less compelling. This argument suggests, without any evidence to support it, that children will be harmed by exposure to gays and lesbians. It simply has no basis in reality. In fact, age-appropriate sex education has been repeatedly shown to be beneficial to children of all ages. My favorite response to this trope is an anecdote: a child once asked his mother, "why are Mike and Steve always together?" The mother answered, "because they are in love, just like me and your dad." To which the child replied, "Oh, okay. Can I have a cookie?"

This argument is really just a form of salacious innuendo, and deserves to be called out as such. Enough said.

Slippery Slope
The most degrading and dehumanizing of the arguments against same-sex marriage is that allowing same-sex marriage will lead the state to recognize forms of marriage that most would find repugnant. It is difficult to overstate how genuinely cruel this argument is. Anti-gay activists attempt to conjure specters of polygamous clans, parent-child and sibling incest, and even pedophilia and bestiality. They openly compare the healthy, monogamous relationships of same-sex couples to these fringe expressions of human sexuality. It takes a special contempt for gays and lesbians in order to make such an argument - one must have no respect for the basic humanity of people with same-sex attraction.

Fortunately, there are real-world examples from states and from countries that have legalized gay marriage. We can see from these examples that there aren't any movements to allow any of the types of extreme relationships described above. It turns out that "gay" marriage coexists just fine alongside "traditional" marriage, and it does not lead to the legalization of fringe or deviant behavior.

Another fundamental problem with this line of reasoning is that so-called "traditional" marriage itself offers no reasons which explain why these extreme relationships are inappropriate, deviant, and harmful. Instead, it places the burden upon same-sex marriage advocates to articulate the reasons for these taboos. This is unnecessary. The same moral standards that forbid these kinds of relations for opposite-sex couples hold true for same-sex couples.

It is also worth noting something not mentioned by gay marriage opponents when they cite polygamy as the bottom of a slippery slope: polygamy is a heterosexual form of mating, and one that can find many cognates in the natural world among higher mammals. This simple fact demonstrates that the arguments against gay marriage do not automatically support a "one man, one woman" conception of marriage.

Essentially, this argument attempts to evoke shock, horror, and revulsion, and to associate those feelings with homosexuality. The idea that gays and lesbians belong in a category with the extreme simply does not have a rational or evidentiary basis, and it unfairly demonizes an otherwise unremarkable minority group.

***

The most disheartening feature of all of these arguments against same-sex marriage is that they display a callous lack of experience with same-sex couples and with families led by same-sex parents. It is very easy to make abstract paeans to traditional marriage when same-sex couples are made invisible. These arguments represent a nullification: in a real way, they assert that actual gays and lesbians and their families do not exist, and they place a heavy mask over the everyday experience of thousands of same-sex couples.

The first response to this apparent erasure is to cry out: gay couples exist! Gay families exist! We must lay down our defenses and acknowledge the humanity of our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters. We must listen a while. When we do so, we will find that the wisdom of these couples and the wholesomeness of these families will enrich our own lives.

Vote No.

40 comments:

Sandra Cain said...

Great read Sam. The last bit seems to be the biggest challenge...how do people get on-board with any concept that they haven't experienced personally? It is bigger than same-sex marriage, and impacts us on a larger social scale. How do we create empathy and social intelligence that goes beyond just one's own personal life experience...that's the code we need to crack.

Knight of Nothing said...

Thanks, Sandra!

It's a great question. The first step is to listen, I suppose. That's hard enough to do, and I have to remind myself constantly to do it.

After that, well... I agree, that is the code to be cracked. :-)

katie said...

Thank you. This was an excellent piece!

Barbie said...

Great piece! I think the key to cracking that code is talking to others about yourself, your brother, your uncle, your mom, etc. and make it personal. Volunteer with Minnesotans United for All Families to get trained on how to initiate these conversations with people! =)

moya watson said...

Dear Knight;

Thank you - so much - for writing this. As a Prop 8 survivor in California, I join you in imploring Minnesota not to enshrine the same discrimination in your state constitution that Prop 8 has in ours. Prop 8 hurts families and communities - anyone wondering about that can see this report: http://www.marriageequality.org/uploads/REPORT%20TWO_PROP_8_HURT_MY_FAMILY_FINAL_VERSION.pdf

I, too, agree that it makes a big difference when people actually know gay people. I only wish it always made a difference; the most heartbreaking times are when - ostensibly for the reasons you outline above - friends and even family members vote against gay rights.

Sadly, as you also point out, some elevate religious doctrine above rule of law. Even in high courts, the Prop 8 proponents insist that "you don't need evidence" of their claims (see http://www.cnn.com/2010/OPINION/08/17/bloom.prop.8/).

So much of what you lay out above was thoroughly evaluated in the journey of Prop 8 through the legal system - read just some of the fine analysis here: http://nclrights.wordpress.com/2010/08/04/federal-judge-prop-8-unconstitutional/ -- and yet, in the end, when evidence doesn't matter, we have a long road ahead of us indeed.

Save yourselves part of this journey. Vote No, Minnesota.

Knight of Nothing said...

Katie, thank you so much!

Barbie, I haven't myself taken the MN United training, but I've talked to many people who have, and I incorporate a lot of those lessons into my conversations. The first two pieces I wrote are more along the lines of the personal. This piece was the result of listening to and reading about all of the objections to SSM. I felt that I needed to express a counterpoint to these arguments.

Moya, thank you so much for your words of encouragement! We are all hopeful that Prop 8 stays dead - that was a bitter struggle, but the tide really does seem to have turned. Here in Minnesota, we are working pretty hard to combat this amendment. It is going to be very close, but I feel optimistic about our chances to defeat it. If Minnesota and a few other states can turn these hurtful amendments away, I think that will help ensure that no court will restore Prop 8. Thank you for all of these links. I will spend some time with them.

wearetheandrewsfamily said...

I couldn't have written it better myself! Really...so that's why I'm glad you wrote it! (: VOTE NO WAY!

wearetheandrewsfamily said...

Shoot, I meant "Could NOT HAVE"
Not, "Couldn't have" Sheesh! I need another coffee.

Knight of Nothing said...

Andrews Family - Thanks for the kind words! Glad you stopped by. Coffee almost always helps :-)

Leila @ Little Catholic Bubble said...

Knight of Nothing, thanks for stopping by my blog and inviting me to read your post!

I read it carefully, but it does not rebut our points. In fact you have a fundamental misunderstanding of Christian teaching. For just one example, the Deposit of Faith (which includes the moral law) is not up for debate. Christianity is a revealed religion, and no Christian has the authority to change it. Heck, there are some professed Christians who teach that the resurrection of Jesus did not happen, or that Christ is not divine, or that abortion is a good. They can say it all they want, but that does not mean they have spoken with any authority to change or determine Christian teaching. More on that, here:

http://littlecatholicbubble.blogspot.com/2012/06/sorry-youre-not-allowed-to-do-that.html

"in fact, I know of no secularist who opposes same-sex marriage"

No atheist regime has "gay marriage". They are secular, and there would be no religious reason for them not to. That right there disproves your statement.

As for the Natural Law: You are misunderstanding the meaning. Natural Law does not mean "laws of nature." Natural Law = the universal moral law that is accessible to all men by reason. So, it doesn't matter what animals do "naturally" (some naturally kill and eat others of their kind, for example). And some humans "naturally" have obsessive disorders, or alcoholic tendencies or overwhelming urges to steal. But it's irrelevant. None of that touches upon the question of the moral law (i.e., what is rightly ordered). Here's a reference to a book which discusses Natural Law:

http://littlecatholicbubble.blogspot.com/2011/06/if-you-read-only-one-book-this-year.html

Also, regarding a slippery slope, you may want to join the discussion here (and many of the links in that post should be of interest to you as well):

http://littlecatholicbubble.blogspot.com/2012/08/progressives-when-do-you-arrive-at-your.html

So, it's hard for me to agree that you have rebutted our arguments, as I am not sure you were arguing the correct points to begin with.

I know this is a difficult and emotional issue. Thanks for being charitable; it's refreshing!

Blessings to you!

Knight of Nothing said...

Leila: first, thank you for the response, and welcome to my blog. I didn't expect that you would reply here! I appreciate that you clicked through and put time and effort into your reply.

1) You wrote: "Christianity is a revealed religion, and no Christian has the authority to change it."

This is kind of a non sequitur; plenty of Christians believe that revelation is still taking place. If Catholic Christians don't subscribe to this belief, that doesn't necessarily refute the point I made that Christians can and do reflect upon and change their positions. Without going too far down this path, I'd add that the Catholic Church has changed its teachings over the centuries - marriage wasn't even a sacrament until the 12th century, for example - and that the debate about what has been revealed has been going on for a very long time, and will likely continue long after we are gone.

2) You wrote: "No atheist regime has "gay marriage". They are secular, and there would be no religious reason for them not to. That right there disproves your statement. "

I'm not sure what you're getting at here. For one thing, "secular" does not equal "atheist." What do you mean by "atheist regime"? If you mean that no nation recognizes gay marriage, I think we both know this is wrong. There are almost a dozen, and here in the U.S., there are quite a few states that allow for SSM as well. My only point here was that non-religious people do not make "natural law" arguments against same-sex marriage, only religious folks do. I don't think your comment disproves that. After all, you are making a "natural law" argument, and the name of your blog is "Little Catholic Bubble"! :-)

Knight of Nothing said...

3) You wrote: "You are misunderstanding the meaning. Natural Law does not mean "laws of nature." Natural Law = the universal moral law that is accessible to all men by reason."

I understand exactly what Catholics mean by Natural Law. What perhaps I did not make clear is this: the "natural law" argument against marriage equality studiously avoids an important consideration that was never in history understood until recently: that homosexuality is perfectly natural. Instead, the argument clings to a primitive understanding of homosexuality - that it is "disordered." What the argument essentially says is this: because only heterosexual sex is capable of reproduction, it must be nature's intention for every single human being to be coitally paired with a member of the opposite sex, or, failing that, be alone.

If homosexuality is part of nature's design, then what principle of "universal moral law" applies to the question of the role in society for gays and lesbians? The "Natural Law" argument against marriage equality fails to address this fundamental question. Telling a gay man, "sorry, buddy, lifelong bachelorhood and celibacy for you," respects neither his higher being nor his bodily person. Ask any priest or monk, and they will tell you: one must feel called to a life of celibacy. But according to your reasoning, it is neither a calling nor a choice: it is merely his burden - and one without equal anywhere else among humanity.

And if you believe that homosexuality is "disordered" or liken it to a disability or a burden, well, that is not a precept of natural law by any measure. Do you see how already the discussion has moved from "universal moral laws" to Catholic teachings about sexual coupling and the nature of homosexuality? The so-called natural law argument makes a pretty big assumption about homosexuality, and one that doesn't have any basis in the "laws of nature." And that is my basis for talking about the laws of nature: without the application of empirical knowledge, reason becomes pretty meaningless.

4) Your post about progressives asks: "progressives, when is your progress complete?" The question is clever, but I don't think progressives are striving for anything so different as anyone else. And in the post, you linked to a pretty grotesque article. I wrote that I don't understand the comparison with these extreme relationships, and honestly, I do not think you would either if you had dinner with my neighbors and their family, or my uncle and his husband, my cousin, or any number of living, breathing people. Basically, to make such a comparison is a cruelty; and I think that it is a cruelty which is more difficult to inflict when one actually interacts with real, flesh-and-blood people for whom same-sex attraction is part of their essential makeup.

Here is a wonderful quote by which one can contemplate marriage of any kind: "by their fruits you will know them... every good tree bears good fruit, and a rotten tree bears bad fruit. a good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a rotten tree bear good fruit."

What fruits do the unions of same-sex couples bear? I have observed kindness, charity, self-sacrifice, and joy. And in contrast, what fruit does singling out homosexuals as unworthy of equal treatment bear? I have observed fear, hatred, isolation, despair.

Again, I appreciate your reply. Feel free to respond if you are so inclined. Best wishes.

-Sam

Michael Kauper said...

Wow. Good discussion. I have always (50+ years) exposed myself, for reasons I do not entirely understand, to gay and lesbian couples that I liked and enjoyed, so I am strongly committed to their happiness and equality. I do not care one bit what the bible says, or "Natural Law". In fact I personally see natural law arguments to be pretty much as subject to childish thinking as religious arguments. What I wonder about is how many people are there in the electorate whose minds can be changed. How many of us could or might be affected by discussion, evidence, or persuasion. No one i know personally. My lifelong experience makes me really love and enjoy my gay and lesbian friends. I am way beyond persuasion.
I suspect nearly all of us have already decided.
My best hope is that people who agree with me will turn out on election day. I am donating hard earned money, and trying to show my PUBLIC support, in case that helps others to reveal their support for gay freedoms.

Anonymous said...

Vines' biblical argument is unimpressive. Romans 1:26-30 is pretty straight-forward. Vines' strained intellectual gymnastics are unnecessary, given the plain language of Romans.

Also, I think your natural law critique is specious. Something is not natural simply because it occurs in nature. Some children are born with their brains outside of their skulls; would you say that is natural? Dogs eat their own feces, would it be natural for humans to do the same? Clearly, no. A human hand is supposed to have 5 fingers; that is what nature intended. People are born with 4 fingers, and it is called a deformity for a reason.

"Same-sex, pair-bonding" does not have the same effect on society as heterosexual relationships because it is impossible for them to naturally have children. In other words, heterosexual relationships are the most conducive to provide future generations to maintain a civilization or society. Community, economic, and state benefits will be short-lived without children.

Knight of Nothing said...

Anonymous - thank you for reading and commenting on my essay, even though you disagree. While you may be unimpressed by Vines' "intellectual gymnastics," as you call them, I don't think your skepticism at all impugns the point I made about the problems with a Biblical approach to forbidding SSM. No less an authority than the Archbishop of Cantebury, worldwide leader of the Anglican Church, clearly states that the passage which you cite has nothing to do with homosexuality. Again, my point was only that Christians themselves do not agree on what the Bible says (and does not say) about homosexuality, and you've helped me make that point stronger.

As for your comment regarding natural law, I wondered whether someone would try to make this criticism of my post. Your critique makes sense if and only if you start with the premise that homosexuality is a mental disease, or liken it to a severe birth defect. But biology and psychology have rendered that assumption invalid. Think about what you are saying: that mammalian sex organs have but a single purpose - reproduction - and that it is akin to having exencephaly or eating shit if they are used for any other purpose. This statement is demonstrably false (and pretty ridiculous) throughout the animal kingdom. Do your hands have a single purpose? Of course not. Morally speaking, you may think homosexual acts intrinsically wrong, but one cannot make that assessment simply by observing nature.

Knight of Nothing said...

Michael - thank you for visiting my blog! I agree - persuasion is extremely difficult and rare. That said, it must be possible, because we as human beings devote so much time and energy to the enterprise. Ending slavery, granting suffrage to women, the civil rights movement, democracy itself: none were possible without persuasion and compromise.

I agree: making support public for same-sex marriage is a great way to demystify something that has long been seen as shameful and abnormal.

Thanks for your comment.

Knight of Nothing said...

Leila - I'm not sure if you are still following this thread or intend to reply, but I have a couple more thoughts. Looking over your comment again, you seem to feel that I missed something. Apart from your concern that I misunderstood the meaning of natural law, which I did my best to address, I wonder, what is it that you feel I missed in my rebuttal to arguments against SSM?

Regarding the definition of natural law, there is something I could have made more clear in my reply to you. You said that "...it doesn't matter what animals do 'naturally.'" Except that it does. As I said to Anonymous above, the "natural law" argument depends heavily upon observations about the laws of nature (i.e., the purpose of sex organs in human beings) in order to derive a universal moral lesson. You cannot come to the same conclusions about homosexual sex than, say, compulsive or coersive sex, simply by observation.

Thank you again for taking the time to comment.

Knight of Nothing said...

Anonymous - I neglected to comment upon your last point, that "heterosexual relationships are the most conducive to provide future generations to maintain a civilization or society..."

This seems to say three things: that couples without children have no societal purpose (false in both human and animal populations), that reproduction trumps all other potential societal benefits (a stretch) and that SSM somehow hinders/prevents heterosexual couples from reproducing (false).

If your goal is to define marriage such that only couples who have mated and produced offspring would be given the designation of "married," then I accept this criticism. But most opponents of SSM do not overtly state this as their goal.

Anonymous said...

Wow! Great discussion going! it is impossible to change the mind of someone who has decided their opinions already, but for those who are not sure where they stand, you make some legit points. People need to be aware, however, that voting NO does not change anything. It will not allow SSM in MN, it will not allow civil unions or legal rights... all it will allow is for this conversation to continue to happen! It allows me to continue to talk to those who are not sure where they stand, it allows me to continue to plan with my best friend his wedding, that he wants to have in his home church, in his home state with his boyfriend of 15 years.

There are no legitimate reasons to vote yes.

Knight of Nothing said...

Anonymous (#2): Thank you for reading the post and following the discussion. I agree: I don't think there is any compelling reason vote yes on this amendment, since as you say, defeating this amendment will not legalize SSM.

I don't agree that it is impossible to change minds, however; just very difficult and highly unlikely. Experiences do change people, though, and while discussing and reading about this issue is a minor one, it is still an experience. My goal here is to create space for a respectful exchange of ideas. That, I hope, will lead to new understanding.

Aneas said...

I am anonymous #1, responding to your comments. I appreciate your courteous response.

Romans 1:26-27: "For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. Their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural, and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in their own persons the due penalty for their error." Pretty clear to me. These are the words of the Bible- the Archbishop can call a square a circle, but it's still a square.

As for your argument about sex organs, here is my answer. I think you are equivocating function with purpose. Purpose looks to the design of the organ. I would say the hand’s purpose is grasping, but the hand can function in several different ways. I can use my hand as a weapon or a hot-pad for a pot of boiling water. Clearly, the hand has many functions, but it is designed to do one thing, grasp. Same with the sex organs, you could use them in different ways, but not all those ways are in accord with the purpose & design of the sex organ. If you look to the design and purpose of the sex organs, homosexuality is not in accord with their purpose or design.

I will assume you are unconvinced by this argument, so let me offer another reason why homosexuality is unnatural. I assume you are an atheist/agnostic. Given this, you likely put a lot of credence in Darwinism, evolution, and the like. What would Darwin think of homosexuality? Clearly, it is not conducive to carrying on the species, natural selection, or making sure the species adapts to the environment. Homosexuality is contrary to evolution and preservation of the species. The species carries on in spite of homosexuality. Not to go categorical imperative on you, but is the entire species became homosexual; the human race would quickly end- no more evolution and no natural selection. On the contrary; if the entire species were heterosexual, evolution would continue and natural selection would continue to improve the species. It seems to me that Darwinism offers a powerful argument against homosexuality.

Knight of Nothing said...

Hello, Aneas - I'm sorry: I just can't make the disagreement that you have with other Christians about what the Bible says about homosexuality go away. The truth is, Christians disagree on many, many subjects, not just homosexuality. A big part of what gives Christianity its vitality is mystery, and the tension that that mystery creates. Many historians and theologians consider the dialog among the faithful to be at the heart of what religion is. Again, my only point is that these theological discussions do not make a good foundation for public policy.

Switching gears, from the sacred to the corporeal: I have used the flesh that makes me biologically male exactly three times for reproduction. I have used it to give and receive pleasure many times. And I use it daily to eliminate bodily waste. It was "designed" (your word, not mine) to do all three. Assigning a moral judgment to any of these actions without regard for context seems a little silly, just as assigning a moral judgment to grasping seems silly.

I don't need to wonder what evolutionary biologists say about homosexuality; they have been studying it and theorizing about it for some time. Unfortunately for both of us, there is no easy answer. But from what I've read, they aren't really leaning toward your simplistic explanation. In the words of one scientist, "if natural selection is homophobic, it's not particularly good at it." And in fact, I don't even think you have the question right. The question is, why does there exist in almost every species studied, a non-trivial population of individuals that possess same-sex attraction? And how and why does this population reappear in every generation? One answer is that there is an adaptive advantage for a kin group to possess a small set of non-reproducing individuals among its members.

Here, though, is the central problem: my essay is an attempt to demonstrate that the arguments against SSM do not make sense, and apparently, it has failed to convince you. Is there some piece of evidence that would change your mind? What might that look like?

Perhaps I should ask you a different, more important question: what does marriage mean to you? My marriage is rewarding, but it is also hard work: it calls for love, patience, communication, understanding, and a sense of humor. Just like the relationship that my uncle has had with his partner of 25 years. Or the relationship that a friend of mine and his partner have had for 19 years. Or any number of same-sex couples out there. Do their relationships sound familiar? If they were allowed to marry, would their marriages have a negative impact on your life?

I appreciate your conviction. Thanks for stopping back and keeping the conversation going.

Aneas said...

We are starting down the slippery slope: http://www.citypages.com/2012-10-10/news/polyamory-in-the-twin-cities/

Knight of Nothing said...

Aneas - you'll have to do better than posting a link to an article in the sensationalist City Pages to make the case that we are on a "slippery slope," or that the "slippery slope" argument has any merit.

Reading the article, the relationships portrayed are better characterized as a rotating cast of characters than a permanent arrangement. At any rate, nowhere in that piece does anyone advocate for legal recognition of polygamy or polyandry.

The most basic problem with polygamy is that marriage as defined in the U.S. resolves legal ambiguities between two equal parties; introducing a third party adds additional ambiguities.

Knight of Nothing said...

Aneas - if you are still there, I forgot to ask: have you given any thought to the questions I posed to you earlier?

Knight of Nothing said...

Anonymous #3: I decided to remove our conversation from this thread. You raised some interesting points, but I think that your topic is a tangent to what I am trying to do with my post, and our exchange became far more about your particular (and unique) issue than about the issues I want to address with my essay and this thread.

If you would like a transcript of our conversation as a basis for an essay of your own, contact me via my blog's email and I will provide it. In any case, I wish you and your friend the best of luck.

Aneas said...

"At any rate, nowhere in that piece does anyone advocate for legal recognition of polygamy or polyandry."

Did you read the whole article?

"I remember once in the gay-marriage movement several years ago there was an opinion piece written in another local publication. The right-wing groups and talking heads were all saying things like, 'We can't support gay marriage because the next thing will be polyamorous marriages.' I thought that was interesting because I had never heard polyamory mentioned in the media before," she recalls. "So anyways, this publication wrote an op-ed piece where they said, 'You don't have to worry about polyamorous marriage because polyamory doesn't exist.' That really upset a lot of us because we felt like we were being marginalized."

"I think that we are the next equal rights movement, and that poly is going to continue to become increasingly accepted in the future."

Sounds like they are seeking legal recognition, or at the very least will be seeking it in the future as the "next equal rights movement."

Knight of Nothing said...

Hello again, Aneas - I missed that paragraph. Still, I don't think it means anything. The article is meant to be provocative, which is typical of City Pages. In order to validate the slippery slope argument, you mush show evidence, not anecdotes, which demonstrates that the effort to legalize polygamy draws substantial support from the people working to legalize same-sex marriage. You cannot, because such evidence does not exist.

The reality is that in most cases, polygamy involves child brides and the subjugation of women, and has long been outlawed for these and other reasons. Apart from the libertines in the article, there are very few who are making such statements, and fewer still who are actually doing anything about it.

To be sure, there have been efforts to legalize polygamy for a long time - almost since it was outlawed back in the 19th century. But our legal system and our cultural values have established that marriage is between two (and only two) unrelated people, and it has given the participants in this contract equal standing. So the slippery slope argument proves to be spurious - legalizing same-sex marriage would have no impact on the laws which criminalize polygamy.

I've answered your criticisms of my post, but you have not answered the questions I posed to you. So..?

Aneas said...

I don't think I have the skill to explain what marriage is. I can tell you it encompasses God, nature, Christ, and many other fundamental principals that we probably don't agree on.

Of course, two gay men getting married is not going to directly impact my family personally. But if they should choose to have a child, then it will probably affect the child negatively.

Aneas said...

I think it's ironic you dismiss the article in the same way same-sex marriage was casually dismissed years ago when it was first mentioned. Do you think the push to legalize SSM was not preceded by discussions of the topic? Obviously movements are preceded by other movements, and so goes the progression.

At any rate, you are wrong that there is no legal movement to recognize polygamy. "Gov. Jerry Brown recently vetoed a bill that would have permitted a court to recognize more than two parents for a child."
http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2012/oct/10/two-parents-of-child-could-become-3-under-bill/

These people do not want to redefine marriage. They want to destroy the entire concept.

If the gender and duration of the marriage does not matter, why should the number of parties? Can you articulate any kind of limiting principal that would logically prevent polygamy? Obviously cultural and legal standards change, so why wouldn't the status of polygamous couples? You cannot simply say it won't happen because there is no evidence of it (which there clearly is). That's like saying it will never rain because right now it's sunny. It takes time before a theory become a legal reality- the legal process is just the fruitation of earlier debates.

There is no logical reason why it shouldn't, and it is clearly heading that way in California. Again cultural and legal standards change, so if the cultural/legal environment changes 3 people attempt to adopt a child and form a "family," I am sure you will be the first to defend polygamy. transfarn

Knight of Nothing said...

Aneas - first, I want to thank you again for continuing our discussion, and for challenging me to defend my essay in a respectful way. You've been a reasonable and thoughtful participant in this debate, and I appreciate it. I hope you are getting something out of our conversation.

I'm going to address your second comment first. You seem to overlook or ignore the single most important fact about polygamy: it was perfectly legal and widely practiced for thousands of years. Many (most? all?) of us certainly have polygamous ancestors somewhere in our distant past. We have observed polygamy for a long time, and collectively, we have made a decision about it: our laws and our customs provide for two in a marriage, and not three or more.

So when you ask me, "can you articulate any kind of limiting principal that would logically prevent polygamy?" I want to reply, why? Why is it incumbent upon advocates of same-sex marriage to do so? What is the "logical limiting principle" that prevents polygamy among opposite sex partners? How does allowing same-sex partners to marry in pairs erode the the arguments against polygamy in a way that allowing opposite sex partners to marry in pairs does not? Same-sex couples are seeking the right to marry in pairs, nothing more. The applicable "limiting principles" are unchanged by same-sex marriage.

Your metaphor about the sun and the rain doesn't represent what I'm trying to say. A better way to put what I contend is to say that neither the rain nor the sun causes earthquakes. Sure, an earthquake is still possible, but you can't blame it on the rain.

The California bill you cite troubles me for reasons I will get to in a moment, but I first I need to point out three things: 1) this bill does not legalize polygamy, it extends parental rights to additional persons; 2) Governor Brown, a staunch supporter of same-sex marriage, vetoed the bill, so it can't be claimed that every advocate of same-sex marriage is in favor of laws like this; and 3) the problem the bill attempts to address exists independently of the question of same-sex marriage, so it is hyperbolic to say that "they want to destroy the entire concept [of marriage]."

I read a little bit about this bill from a more mainstream publication. The bill seeks to remedy a situation in which one parent was jailed and the other was hospitalized, and a third party, the biological father, sought to claim parental custody in order to care for the child. Under existing California law, he was unable to do so because the child already had two legal guardians, and so the child became a ward of the state. I have no idea how frequently a problem like this surfaces or what the ultimate implications of such a law would be, but I think we can agree that existing law did not do right by the child.

Now to what troubles me: I have seen the adversarial system of justice work in family court. There is no sugarcoating it: while it is effective, the way in which it mechanically strips and reduces parents and children can be raw and brutal. How anyone could think that adding an additional party to this process would be a good thing escapes me. The cynic in me suspects that lawyers love this idea because it will further complicate and draw out the process. But that is a tangent. Again, the problem that SB 1476 attempts to address exists independently of legalized same-sex marriage. It is an unfortunate but almost inevitable consequence of adoption and martial freedom.

Knight of Nothing said...

On to your first comment and your definition of marriage. First, you concede that gay marriage would not affect your family. Thank you for that. It doesn't seem like many on your side of the issue are willing to make that concession. You go on to express concern for the well-being of children. I don't know if you heard, but you might be surprised to learn that the Minnesota Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics disagrees with you on the effect of gay marriage on children; they voted unaniously to oppose the marriage amendment on the grounds that it will harm children, and have joined the coalition against it.

In general, while you use religion in your definition of marriage, I've noticed that over the course of our conversation, you've moved away from using a religious argument against same-sex marriage. I hope we agree that while one may use religion to define marriage for himself or herself, it is not a sound way to define marriage in a pluralistic society.

Actually, I am fine with your outline of what marriage means to you: I think it's a thoughtful start to answering what is a difficult and intimate question. My only critique is to point out that for Jews and Muslims, Christ has no place in marriage, that the Judeo-Christian God has no place in marriage for Buddhists, Hindus, and non-believers, and so on. Moreover, I find it interesting that Christians on both sides of the debate over same-sex marriage could use your outline to define marriage.

I also notice that you didn't use the words family, commitment, and love in your outline. I am curious about that. I speculate that you are speaking theoretically. But perhaps you really don't consider them important concepts in defining your own marriage. I don't know. But I think that talking about one's own marriage without speaking of family, commitment, and love is unsual.

That's all I have time for right now. Thanks again for considering my thoughts.

Anonymous said...

I just came across your post here. I will limit my response to one issue for now (this alone will take 3-4 "comments"). I would like to address your statement that “the state has never been concerned with a couple’s interest in or ability to reproduce…the state does not hold opposite-sex couples to a reproductive standard, and same-sex couples would offer the same benefits to society as opposite-sex couples.” I disagree and here is why:
First of all, it is inaccurate to say that the state is not concerned with reproduction in regards to marriage. According to MN state law, if a couple fails to consummate their marriage, they can obtain a civil annulment, meaning the marriage was never valid due to lack of consummation. This means that the state does not legally recognize as marriage a relationship between a man and woman who are not in a sexual relationship. So if an asexual man and woman decided they loved each other and wanted to get married for companionship and support but without the sex, this “marriage” would technically be invalid by state law standards. (Asexuals make up about 1% of the population, in case you’re curious.) Why does the state mandate sex in marriage? It is because only sexual relationships – specifically heterosexual - are the type that lead to children, who will in turn benefit from the marriage of their parents.
You seem to think that amendment supporters are making the argument that “Marriage is about couples having children.” What we are really saying is, “Marriage is about the children.” There is a distinction here. Think about it: where do ALL children come from? One man and one woman. Yes, not all heterosexual couples produce children, but all children are produced FROM heterosexual couples.
This is why we recognize marriage between one man and one woman as a unique relationship in society that is not identical to any other type of relationship. We are not trying to say that same-sex relationships are bad or incapable of raising children. Certainly there are many, many types of families and all are deserving of support. A single mother may move in with her widowed father so they can raise her children together – that’s a family. Two sisters, having no desire to get married, may decide to adopt and raise a child together – that’s a family. The different varieties of families are too countless to number; all are based on love and commitment; all serve an important role in society, but not all can be called “marriage.”

Anonymous said...

The counter-argument I get here is usually that this would mean infertile couples our couples who don’t want children would then not have valid marriages. Society as a whole benefits from encouraging love, commitment and monogamy in any heterosexual union. For one, infertile couples and couples who do not want children still have a chance at ending up with children. I have known couples who tried to get pregnant for over 10 years and were suddenly surprised by a pregnancy in their 40s. Also, half of all pregnancies in America are unplanned and slightly over half of these were using contraceptives when they conceived – sometimes babies come whether they are intended to or not.
You are right that the government isn’t concerned with a couple’s ability to reproduce, but they are concerned with their “potential” ability to reproduce. Even couples who are too old to have children serve a role in upholding the standard that heterosexual couples remain in committed, loving relationships for the betterment of society.
Look at it this way: the purpose of an army is to protect and defend a country. Many veterans who enlist during peaceful times never have the opportunity to actively defend our country. But because the role of the military in general benefits society, all who enlist are entitled to veterans benefits. Even veterans who enlisted for purely selfish reasons or did a poor job as a soldier are entitled to benefits. The same is true for the role that marriage plays. In general, marriage benefits society by uniting children to their biological parents through a supportive and committed union in a way that no other union can.
This is not to say that same-sex couples do not play a role in society or are unworthy of love and respect. It just means that these two types of relationships are not identical and it is dishonest to call them the same thing. If they were the same thing, there would be no need to “redefine” marriage. If you are redefining something, you must, by definition, be talking about something different.
You stated that “same-sex couples would offer the same benefits to society as opposite-sex couples.” I’m not saying that same-sex couples are not capable of love, but the effects of same-sex love on society are overall not the same. In extending benefits to married couples, the government is attempting to encourage and support such relationships so society can enjoy the benefits.
Imagine the benefits that society would have if this “ideal of marriage” were perfectly met: If all heterosexuals first entered into a genuinely loving, committed and monogamous marriage before they entered into a sexual relationship, we would see drastic changes. More children would grow up with the support and foundation they need to be successful adults; single motherhood would drop drastically; along with it poverty levels would decline (single motherhood is the number one indicator of poverty, coming before education, location, race, etc); the HUGE multitude of risk factors that come along with poverty would also decline (I won’t waste any more space by listing them all here); STDs would become almost non-existent causing health care costs to drop; everyone’s health premiums would go down (yay!) with all the money saved from not needing to prevent, screen for and treat the millions of people who have STDs and other illnesses resulting from their STDs. The children who are the result of unexpected pregnancies would perhaps benefit the most. This list could go on and on.

Anonymous said...

I know that we are far from meeting the full extent of societal benefits that could be met through marriage, with half of marriages ending in divorce and 40% of children being born out-of-wedlock. The point is, there are many benefits to society that legalizing marriage attempts to accomplish in society and we have can at least enjoy a partial profit from the current marriages out there.
It is simply not true that same-sex relationships offer all of the same benefits to society as heterosexual ones. Certainly, we would require their monogamy to completely obliterate STDs, but their committed relationships could never come close to having the same impact on society as the commitment of opposite-sex couples. Same-sex affairs do not risk bringing a child into a broken relationship the way opposite-sex affairs do. The millions of babies unexpectedly conceived and the host of issues that they could potentially face in life as a result can only be helped by a strengthening of traditional marriage since same-sex couples cannot unintentionally get pregnant. I’m not trying to make same-sex couples seem worthless; I’m just pointing out the fact the effects of their relationships on society cannot be called identical to opposite-sex relationships.
On the flip side, imagine if there were no such thing as marriage, if everyone just had sex with whomever they pleased with no commitments ever being made. I’ll leave it to you to imagine the mess we would have on our hands. If you were to list all the damaging effects, much more societal damage would be caused by a lack of opposite-sex marriage than by the lack of same-sex marriage.
Marriage is about safe-guarding the unique type of relationship from which all children come; that is why it is male-female. All adults have a “right” to marriage (opposite-sex), but many will choose not to enter into it for various reasons. Some never find the right person; some fall in love, but the person they love is already married to someone else; some have mental disorders that prevent them from being able to make a commitment; and some have homosexual attraction that prevents them from desiring union with someone of the opposite sex. They are not being denied a right, they are simply in a position that prevents them from being able to take advantage of one.
If same-sex couples want access to state benefits that are appropriate to their relationship, I suggest they work towards getting civil unions and leave “marriage” alone.

Knight of Nothing said...

Anonymous #4 - thank you for considering my essay and for taking the time to write such a long and detailed response. My first thought in reading your comments is that what you are saying sounds very familiar and very Catholic. The other reaction I had is that I feel like I've actually covered a lot of what you're saying in my essay and in the comments section, and especially in the three other posts I have written on the subject (which I encourage you to read, particularly the two on Catholics and same-sex marriage). Still, you've put a lot of work into your reply, and it deserves its own response.

You place a lot of stock in a particular Minnesota statute, and you want to extrapolate a lot of meaning from it. But you have plainly misread that statue. You said, "if a couple fails to consummate their marriage, they can obtain a civil annulment," but the statue reads, "annulments are considered only under certain circumstances such as if either spouse lacked the physical capacity to consummate the marriage and the other was unaware of such an incapacity." The key is not consummation or lack thereof, but the lack of foreknowledge. So your entire point is based on a faulty understanding of the law.

You wrote: "[the government is] concerned with [couples'] 'potential' ability to reproduce." This is just argument by assertion. All of the anecdotes in the world about seemingly infertile couples conceiving do not make your case: the state's recognition of marriage simply is not predicated upon fertility or infertility. Marriage is not suddenly made valid by virtue of conception, however likely or unlikely: it is valid the moment the state issues the license. Full stop. Religious definitions aside, marriage is simply a legal contract that affords the participating couple a set of legal rights and responsibilities. Moreover, if you attempted to pass an amendment making marriage predicated on a couple's fecundity, you would get absolutely no traction. The backlash would be swift and decisive.

The hypothetical old couple you write about doesn't marry to "uphold the standard" of heterosexual unions, they marry because they are in love and want to be together, and they wish to celebrate and share their commitment in their community. The state does not allow them to marry because of their heterosexuality or potential to reproduce (or for the "support" they lend to heterosexual relationships), the state allows them to marry because of their inherent freedom as individuals. And if there is a standard to uphold, couldn't that standard be loving, committed, monogamy? As I wrote in my essay, this line of reasoning is dependent upon assigning beneficial properties to childless opposite-sex couples that are in fact equally valid for same-sex couples.

Knight of Nothing said...

(continued) As I said, marriage is fundamentally a social institution, not a biological function. If your argument is simply, marriage is a social institution that promotes a biological function, well, okay. There isn't really much more to say. Except that there is: you've already conceded that childless couples benefit society. And as a social institution, marriage is much more than a support system for reproduction. Marriage has a long and varied history, and its definition has evolved and changed quite dramatically over the centuries, and even in the last fifty years it has undergone major changes. Today, it is a loving commitment between equals. Your definition may include reproduction, but the state's definition does not, nor does your definition represent every church's and synagogue's definition.

Your metaphor about military service isn't very compelling, and it actually has a touch of (unintentional?) irony: gays and lesbians may now openly serve in the armed forces. And serve they do, many with distinction, and the military is better for their service. To me, this sounds like an argument in favor of marriage equality.

You describe a society in which marriage is perfectly realized as an institution of monogamy and fidelity. But nowhere in your description is it apparent why this ideal picture must exclude same-sex couples. Again: children are not always the result of marriage, and you've conceded that childless couples have a benefit to society. And while philosophers and theologians may debate what we could do to bring about an ideal world, the law is far more occupied by practical matters. So this line of reasoning amounts to just another diversion.

You talk a lot about premarital sex, extramarital relations, and STDs. You seem to hold marriage in high regard as an institution that mediates and focuses sexual energy in a morally and socially acceptable way. Well, here is a group of people that want to enter into this normative institution for that purpose.

Everything you've said presupposes that gays and lesbians are "they," "them," "those people." This is our fundamental difference: in my view, "they" are actually "us:" people with same-sex attraction are a worthy part of our state, our country, and of humanity. Does it make sense to put minority rights to a majority vote? That alone should be a major red flag to every Minnesotan. Your last sentence strikes me as particularly tribal and patronizing: "I suggest they work towards getting civil unions and leave 'marriage' alone." I wonder how you would feel if it was your daughter, your uncle, your cousin, your friend, your neighbor who was on the other side of this issue and faced with such transparent discrimination. And your suggestion is misguided: did you know that civil unions are not portable from state to state? The reason we're talking about marriage is that it universally confers over 1100 rights to the couples who enter it. Should there be thousands of laws enacted nationwide in order that each state grants equal rights to this minority? Should national companies have to open HR departments to deal with this myriad of states' laws piecemeal? Or should we just incorporate same-sex unions into existing, secular laws governing marriage? The answer is readily apparent.

Most basically, though, marriage does not belong to one faith or one tradition. No one is defining it for you or for your faith. As a society, we have transformed marriage into a more intimate, more egalitarian, and more satisfying union than it has been at any time in history. If your only roadblock to comprehensive spousal rights for same sex couples is the word "marriage," well, that is unfortunate. Modern civil marriage is a fulfilling institution freely entered by loving, committed couples, and people with same-sex attraction should be granted the right to participate in such an institution.

Anonymous said...

Our beliefs concerning marriage and its role in society are clearly different. My arguments were not convincing to you and yours were not convincing to me. The statute concerning consummation still pertains as far as I can see in that it presupposes marriage to be a sexual union. The fact that the MN statutes also specify that unions should be opposite-sex shows that at least at one point the government considered opposite sex sexual unions to have a unique and specific role in society and that is because they are the type that creates children.
The presupposition of sex as a part of the relationship can also be seen in the fact that adultery is illegal and that any children born to a married woman are presumed to be her husband's.
The brunt of my argument was simply that sex between opposite genders, in general, affects society much more drastically than same-sex couples. The two relationships therefore should not be considered identical and no one should be forced to say they are.
I fail to see any irony in the army analogy - I have no problem with homosexuals being allowed to serve, I have always thought they should be allowed to. That is completely besides the point that I was making.
It's true that society's view of marriage has changed drastically over the last 50 years. Here is where I think our views are fundamentally different and I don't think any amount of talking or discussing will change either of our minds. I don't think that the change in society's view of marriage has been positive. While certain aspects many individual marriages themselves may be better, overall, we are suffering as a society in this department. If the changes have been so great, why is marriage suffering so much? Half of marriages end in divorce. Almost half of babies are born to unwed mothers. You may think that legalizing same-sex marriage will help this - I don't see it, but we're all entitled to our opinions.
Also, I will say that I am Catholic, but I don't agree with you pulling the "religion" card with everyone you disagree with. If I were making a "catholic" argument, I would say that homosexual acts are morally wrong - I did not argue that. I just said they are not the same thing and do not have the same effect on society. You may not know any secularists who do not support same-sex marriage, but I know at least one. My uncle is an agnostic who does not care for religion at all and he holds the same views on this point that I do. Would you also call his beliefs "catholic"?
Also, you assume I have no actively homosexual friends or family. I do actually and I care about them very much. I have no problem welcoming them into my home and we get along just fine. They are free to live as they choose and they deserve love and respect. I just am not willing to go against what I believe is true and say that the nature of their relationship is identical to that of heterosexual ones.
As I said before, I don't ever see us coming to an agreement here and I didn't expect to. Feel free to respond, but I think I've spent enough time writing on this so you probably won't hear back from me.

Anonymous said...

I forgot to point out one other thing. It's misleading to say that the amendment would "permanently ban gay marriage." If the amendment passes, it could be repealed in the future by a voter majority. If amendments were permanent in the sense you imply, then it would still be illegal to drink alcohol in the US.

Knight of Nothing said...

First, allow me to apologize - I did not mean to disparage your religion or offend you by pointing out that I have heard your arguments from other Catholics. I myself come from a very large Catholic family, and I have been talking about and reading about this issue for more than a year. I've seen literally dozens, if not hundreds of essays and comments like yours on Catholic websites. So when 99 out of 100 Catholics who oppose to same-sex marriage use similar or the same arguments, it's hard not to generalize. But you're right, that does not necessarily make it a Catholic argument. To me, your agnostic uncle notwithstanding, what makes it a Catholic argument is the insistence upon conflating Catholic teachings about coupling, human sexuality, and child bearing with marriage. The Catholic teachings on marriage are comprehensive, but these teachings are by no means universal. They are not even universal among Christians.

To put it another way, your argument boils down to: "this is what marriage is; therefore same-sex couples are excluded." The problem with this line of reasoning is that there are many people who do not agree with your definition of marriage, and your definition seems to be drawn more from the Catechism of the Catholic Church than from civil law.

It is true that marriage is more volatile and more optional than ever before. And many theologians and social conservatives lament these developments. But as I said, and this point really isn't debatable, successful modern marriages really are better than the marriages of the past. Historians and sociologists agree on this point. Contrary to what you may think, people did not work harder at their marriages back in the "good old days." They simply had fewer choices. Do we really want to return to a time with fewer choices and its attendant bland, expedient, inequitable, and loveless marriages? I hope we agree on the answer to this question. The question that we should be asking is, "how can we improve marriage in this new age of freedom and equality?" One way would be to open it up to people who are ready, willing, and able to make the kind of commitment required, rather than exclude them.

I did not mean to suggest that you don't have openly gay family members and friends. I only meant to ask that you put yourself in their shoes and imagine their feelings. If you have gay family members and friends, you do not need to imagine their feelings - you can ask them directly how they feel about the effort to amend Minnesota's constitution. If your family is anything like mine, chances are very good that they are aware of your feelings on this issue, and while this awareness might make them hesitant to talk to you about it, they probably have some interesting things to say.

As for your last point about the permanence of the amendment, my reply is, then why do it? I'm sure you know very well that same-sex marriage is already illegal by statute. According to the architect of the marriage amendment, it was very explicitly an attempt to polarize the electorate and get social conservatives to the polls - a pretty cynical rationale, and it certainly has accomplished that. Regardless of its original intent, Catholics have made it their cause and are using it to try and create a firewall against same-sex marriage. Prohibition isn't a great example: it took years to repeal and cost the federal government a total of $11 billion in lost tax revenue and over $300 million to enforce. So it is a little glib to suggest that amending the constitution and then changing it later is no great matter and has no consequences.

Best wishes. Thank you again for considering my essay.