The Next Step of SSM Dialog, 2: We Won’t Abide the Government in Our Bedrooms.

In my experience with the same-sex marriage debate, the second corruptive mechanism that I suggest in answer to the question of how incorporating homosexual relationships would undermine marriage is often asserted to be the weakest, but it’s also the least well understood (whether the fault is mine, a failure of the imagination, or a desire to avoid).
M. Steven elides entirely my explanation in order to find the suggestion “unfair,” writing:

It implies that arrangements that are not intimate would increase by allowing same-sex couples to marry by adding a reason to exploit the law for the purpose of mutual care. Yet the same impetus already exists for opposite-sex arrangements. To me, this is sort of a stereotypical ‘liberal’ argument in that something should not be allowed due to the possibility of exploitation for self-interest. The pro-SSMer could argue that allowing it would decrease the number of corruptive non-intimate arrangements between gay and straight opposite-sex persons.

I’m not suggesting that SSM would add a reason to exploit the law — the reasons exist already — but rather an excuse. My entire argument is that same-sex marriage, as something new, would not carry with it the same instinctive reverence, nor the same cultural connotations. Like it or not, to the average heterosexual, a same-sex marriage would not be a real marriage. It could be laughed off.
Hollywood movies to the contrary aside, there would be no continuing, and extremely minimal initial, test of intimacy. (That’s why I titled this point with reference to the government in the bedroom; once the image was used to create the specter of the prurient public spy seeking to ensure that nothing sexual was going on, but it could just as easily involve a prurient public spy verifying that something is.) A readily available prenup, a few words rendered meaningless by divorce law, and the benefits would be acquired. The cost to anybody secure in his or her own sexuality would not exist. Friends and family don’t even have to know.
Pragmatist misses the point when he argues that “most heterosexuals marry people of the opposite sex, so the number of heterosexuals eligible to do this is small to begin with.” People would not enter into legally exploitative marriages with the intention of permanence. I can easily imagine having married my friend/roommate out of high school if there’d been a gain to it; we would have joked about it with the girls whom we pursued.
But I’m not presenting the exploitation, per se, as the objectionable result. Rather, as I stressed in my extended explanation of corruptive mechanism #1, I’m offering the possible development as an outcome that would undermine the institution of marriage for all.
Heck, I’m not even presenting non-sexual marriages as exclusively exploitative. If the justification given for recognizing civil marriage at all is thinned out in order to include couples that can’t, by their nature, almost inadvertently create children, then sex is incidental to the relationship. Pragmatist offers two “non-child-centric” bases for same-sex marriage:

  • It is good for society as a whole when people are paired with someone else who has the “job” of looking out for someone else.
  • It is generally a good thing that men are coupled with partners.

And a third basis for marriage:

  • “The raising of children is one of the most important functions of marriage.”

The first and third bases clearly apply to non-sexual couples, including friends and family members. The second arguably applies, as well. One can deduce from Pragmatist’s argument that he doesn’t believe that it is women who domesticate men. Surely it isn’t sex, or even monogamy. Rather, men’s participation in partnerships, as Pragmatist writes, “promotes positive social relationships and instills responsibility.” Having some degree of declared responsibility is what makes waifish men grow up. In a world that increasingly leads men and women to be well into their adult years before doing the family thing, it would seem to be as much — or perhaps more — in the public interest to encourage heterosexual bachelors to grow up as it is to do the same with homosexuals. (I should note, though, that I believe that it is ultimately women and the procreative link that provide the real impetus in marriage for male maturation.)
Again, the reason same-sex marriage would increase the likelihood of the institution’s being treated in this way is that it inherently separates procreation from marriage, not only as a matter of the the individual relationship, but as a matter of basic principles. With marriage bound up in the nearly mystical interweaving of selves (genetically, in children), tying together lines of ancestry into the past and progeny into the future, marriages of convenience carry a natural burden of denial. With the event of SSM, that denial would be ready-made.
Marriage wouldn’t be about having babies. It would be about two (or perhaps more) adults helping each other out. Or, as friends might say, getting each other’s backs.
And that brings us to mechanism #3.

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Matt Jerzyk
13 years ago

Justin – I have a tremendous amount of respect for you and for most of your ideas. We disagree on many issues, but yet I respect the foundation of your arguments.
I say this because I am entirely befuddled by your views on same sex marriage. It seems so out of character for you.
I think 30 years down the line, you will look back at these posts, shake your head and say, “what the hell was I thinking!”

msteven
msteven
13 years ago

You know when these start … I don’t have the time to put in to this what I’d like but I do want to at least address the gist of your post. I don’t necessarily disagree with the points you’ve made here. But I do think that the points are weak in the face of the benefits legal acknowledgment would provide to same-sex couples and their dependants. For example, I agree that same-sex marriage would not carry with it the same instinctive reverence, or the same cultural connotations. But over time, that could change (which is what many fear), as it did with inter-racial couples. And more to the point, I don’t feel that the instinctive reverence or cultural connotations have much significance in the context of whether same-sex couples ‘should’ have legal acknowledgment. With regard to the potential exploitation, I see your point that adding same-sex couples would add another excuse and likely increase the number of ‘sham’ marriages and as a result, adversely affect the existing institution. Again, while these may be accurate, I feel they are irrelevant in the context of the debate. It’s sort of like denying the opportunity for great wealth because of the potential harm or exploitation great wealth often comes with. Well, sort of. My point is that, in my view, in your words, “…offering the possible development as an outcome that would undermine the institution of marriage for all” does not justify the denial of the right being sought. I also don’t agree that it is women who domesticate men, I agree with Pragmatist that it is their participation in relationships and the caring for one another. But primarily, I believe that people are domesticated by those dependent on them – primarily their children. But in the end, while I don’t agree… Read more »

Justin Katz
13 years ago

Matt.
I’m inclined to believe that, in this case, the befuddlement is the fault of the befuddled. But I’m always open to the possibility that I’m wrong, so seeing as I’ve been laying out this argument in a clear, step-by-step fashion, I’d love for you to enlighten me.

Justin Katz
13 years ago

Again, while these may be accurate, I feel they are irrelevant in the context of the debate. It’s sort of like denying the opportunity for great wealth because of the potential harm or exploitation great wealth often comes with.

So you would allow the opportunity for great wealth even if it meant, in the long run, the inability to gain wealth at all? That’s really the point, here: that SSM would undermine the utility of marriage for everybody, including the homosexuals who had acquired the right. The purported social benefit would evaporate.

I also don’t agree that it is women who domesticate men, I agree with Pragmatist that it is their participation in relationships and the caring for one another.

So then why wouldn’t interdependence between friends, or siblings, work?

msteven
msteven
13 years ago

So you would allow the opportunity for great wealth even if it meant, in the long run, the inability to gain wealth at all? That’s really the point, here: that SSM would undermine the utility of marriage for everybody, including the homosexuals who had acquired the right. The purported social benefit would evaporate.
—- I just cannot get there. Even if humans and pets including same-sex were allowed to marry, that would not affect the meaning of my marriage nor would it eliminate the purported benefits for everyone else. That does mean it would be right and just to do make the change but while I understand your line of thought, I don’t that it is a practical or realistic outcome.
So then why wouldn’t interdependence between friends, or siblings, work?
—- I don’t understand what you mean here. All I am saying is that I don’t necessarily agree that only it is the woman and only the woman that domesticates the male. I don’t know how that relates to interdependence between friends or siblings.

Justin Katz
13 years ago

… while I understand your line of thought, I don’t that it is a practical or realistic outcome.

What? Look at the divorce rate. Look at the number of children born out of wedlock. Look at a culture that finds less and less wrong with depriving children of their fathers so that single women and all-female couples can be mothers. The repercussions of which I speak are already being felt; with the codification of same-sex marriage they become irreversible.

All I am saying is that I don’t necessarily agree that only it is the woman and only the woman that domesticates the male. I don’t know how that relates to interdependence between friends or siblings.

The domestication of men was introduced into the conversation as a partial justification for same-sex marriage. I’m merely pointing out that it would be as legitimate a justification for committed friends and family members.

rhody
rhody
13 years ago

I see where this is headed: Blame same-sex marriage for our state’s $450 million deficit.
We’re all getting a little crazy with this anti-SSM jihad. If you want so badly to pick a fight over this, have your boys Montalbano or Murphy bring the constitutional amendment before the Assembly. Let The Don and Sue ride in on their moral high horses.
If y’all are so confident Rhode Islanders will reject SSM, just bring it.

Chairm
Chairm
13 years ago

Justin said, Marriage wouldn’t be about having babies. It would be about two (or perhaps more) adults helping each other out. You made many good points in this series of posts, Justin, and I want to highlight this one as clarifying the marriage debate. SSM is a replacement through merger. It is not merely an extension of marriage. Whatever the merged thing is based on, it will not bring with it the social meaning, nor the moral meaning, of marriage. Marriage will be subsumed as a subset of a wide range of adult relationship types. Marriage would lose its preferential status and would be demoted to a government bestowed ticket for protections. A protective status of that kind does nto carry the same weight as marital status. Why? Because it would no longer by a recognition of the foundational social institution which binds man and woman and their children. When SSMers point to third party procretion, they point to extramarital procreation which is, of course, outsid eof marriage. When SSMers point to mutual interdependancies, they point to the wide range of nonmarital arrangements and not to marriage. When they point to dependancies, likewise, they must include a wide range — yet they always try to narrow the focus to a certain subset of nonmarital arrangments. The core of SSM is gay identity politics. It is not about marriage in fact. It is about using marriage for nonmarriage purposes. And there are plenty of outright anti-marriage people who support SSM argumentation. Not because of a preference for the social institution but rather for its flattening impact. The SSM merger also does not appear, at least to me, to possess a coherency that would make it a worthy replacement for marriage. SSM argumentation really discounts the relatively non-coercive influence of a social… Read more »

Marty
Marty
13 years ago

Look at a culture that finds less and less wrong with depriving children of their fathers so that single women and all-female couples can be mothers. The repercussions of which I speak are already being felt; with the codification of same-sex marriage they become irreversible.
More than that even, with the codification of SSM comes a government “seal of approval” for deliberately fatherless and motherless families.
SSM will mean that more children, not less, grow up never knowing their mothers or fathers. All because Mommy doesn’t like boys.
Is this something we really want to reward and encourage?

op-ed
13 years ago

Matt: I think 30 years down the line, you will look back at these posts, shake your head and say, “what the h*** was I thinking!”
That’s what one calls wishful thinking. Worst case scenario would be a parallel with no-fault divorce. Nobody regrets opposing that 30 years ago. 30 years hasn’t made those who supported that whopper look any smarter, quite the contrary.
More likely is for neutered marriage to follow the path of Marxism, which was also hailed as a great equalizer. Where it was tried it certainly did equalize things. It brought everyone down to poverty level. Everyone, that is, except the coup leaders, of course, who turned out to be more equal than everyone else. Fortunately for those of us in the U.S., it never succeeded here.

msteven
msteven
13 years ago

Justin,
I don’t agree that SSM or anything related to the normalization of gay relationships affects divorce rate (which has remained about 50% for the last 25-30 years), the number of children born out of wedlock or other corrosive social factors in the culture. Based on polls, the US has gotten more and more religious in the same time frame. Bottom line is where I may agree with you in principle, I don’t agree with your asserted outcomes.
I see your point about domestication. I thought you were using ‘women domesticate men’ as an argument against same-sex relationships. The ‘domestication’ of one by another does not work as an argument either way. To me, it’s irrelevant to the issue.

Chairm
Chairm
13 years ago

There is a “good divorce” culture today that portrays marriage as just an intimate adultcentric relationship, rather than the most pro-child social institution we have.
This is in common with SSM argumentation. The message of SSM is not hidden.
Andrew Sullivan, for example, who takes pride in having kick-started the SSM issue in the USA, regularly points out that marriage is on the decline and that this makes SSM more plausible than if marriage was stronger.
Precisely how much stronger, he has yet to say.
On the other hand, it doesn’t take much scratching of the surface to reveal that the typical SSMers is against marriage having a preferential status. There is a good deal of harumphing that goes on: “get the government out of the marrige business!”

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