Iowa… Place of the Drowsy Ones


OWEN TOWNSHIP, WINNEBAGO COUNTY, ILLINOIS: According to one legend, the word Iowa means “Place of the Drowsy Ones” in some extinct Indian tongue. This came to mind yesterday when the Iowa Supreme Court ruled unanimously that same-sex couples have a constitutional right in that state to marry. No drowsy ones in that courtroom! (In the interests of full disclosure, I should note that I played a small part in this court case. I was called as a witness for Polk County, the defendant, and asked to provide evidence that the intact, heterosexual marriage delivered socially, politically, and personally constructive results. After I was deposed for the better part of a day by Lambda Legal Defense Fund– actually something of a gratifying experience for my questioners had apparently read EVERYTHING I had ever written–the trial judge ruled my testimony inadmissible: I was a social historian, he noted, not a number-crunching sociologist… only the latter could provide relevant truth.)

Actually, I wasn’t deeply surprised by the Court’s decision. It has become increasingly clear to me that we heterosexuals bear most of the blame for the sorry state of marriage today. Over the last 50 years, we’ve accommodated ourselves to no-fault divorce, the intentionally childless “companionate” marriage, a pervasive “contraceptive” culture, and the virtual legal equation of cohabitation with marriage. “Same sex marriage” is simply the next logical step in this deconstruction of a once-Christian institution.

My real sadness is over my native state, the Place of the Drowsy Ones. During the days of my youth, it was a different land. Politically, both houses of the state legislature were apportioned mostly by county… or land, with Des Moines, Cedar Rapids, and one or two other cities having one extra seat in the Lower House. This “undemocratic” arrangement gave a huge advantage to farmers and the small town folk who defined the distinctive culture of Iowa. Politics was radically decentralized: weak governors with two-year terms; a legislature that met briefly only every other year. And yet, vice was kept under strict controls: gambling prohibited; liquor-by-the-drink only in private clubs; the beer…3.2 %; other intoxicants only to be found in carefully hidden state liqour stores that resembled opium dens; and mandatory store closings on the Sabbath.

The U. S. Supreme Court brought democracy to Iowans in the mid 1960s through decisions mandating legislative representation by population only in both chambers. The result?: city people crafted a new Iowa, featuring casinos, race tracks, state lotteries, “liquor by the drink,” strong beer, and wide open Sunday commerce. A few years ago I half-jokingly complained to a shirt-tail relative who’s a lobbyist at the Iowa legislature that the state seemed to have formally embraced every form of vice except prostitution. He replied that a bill to legalize “the oldest profession” was in fact under consideration.

Now, like most of my colleagues on The Front Porch, I appreciate a glass of wine or two with my dinner. And having the stores open on Sunday has been a convenience, at times. Yet I wonder if the old Iowa—a place ruled by farmers and culturally defined by the intensely communitarian small town– was actually of one piece, a coherent, mostly Christian (and predominantly Protestant), agrarian society that could not survive too many changes; and that the price of living in such a world was—and is—accepting certain restraints, including legal restraints, on one’s appetites. If “same sex marriage” follows logically from the intentionally childless, companionate marriage, does it also follow logically—at least in the case of Iowa—from liquor-by-the drink?

–Allan Carlson


  1. Your point about Iowa’s “un-democratic” method of vetoing anything that rubbed its rural constituents wrong seems to be a bizarre admission; essentially what you’re saying is that a small proportion of a state had overwhelming power above and beyond its numbers, but that this was a good thing, because they controlled vice. It is bizarre because you are admitting, essentially, that the supposed traditional Iowan culture was never actually the majority culture, which seems to undermine the whole enterprise that the legislative trend toward “vice” represents a crumbling of once accepted societal mores.

    The rise of representation by sheer numbers is I imagine a distinct problem for those advocating a minority cultural and religious point of view as the dominant narrative of history. And it seems to suggest that a conservative moral order cannot win in a society based on majority rule without cheating the system or atleast tilting it in its favor. Which is terrible for those proponents of that conservative order, but something I imagine most other, maybe we can call them the majority, can live with.

  2. I am fairly liberal, but I usually enjoy the perspectives and writing at this site. Still, it baffles me when thoughtful social conservatives don’t recognize that gay marriage is one trend in their favor. These are people who want to live traditional lifestyles, even raising children by adoption or a surrogate mother or father. If it was simply about companionship, homosexual couples can do that already.

    Indeed, if the institution of marriage is to survive, gay marriage may be its only hope. Otherwise we will see many more straight couples who oppose discrimination joining a civil union or other arrangement. I certainly would take defenders of marriage more seriously if they put real conservative values above one set of religious beliefs.

    On the points about Iowa, how would the writer feel if the majority imposed itself on any minority it deemed too conservative? The Amish, for example. That would be just as distasteful as the situation he describes here.

    If the only way you can enforce rules on a society is by undemocratic fiat, then the culture underlying those rules has already collapsed. Like the example of gay marriage, this would only encourage disrespect of the institutions themselves, and perhaps convince the culture to view even more rules as illegitimate.

  3. Yes, Allen, how naive of you to presume that the nature of virtue and vice does not change with popular sentiment . . . but, of course, I’m not sure how popular opinion would clarify this issue.

    That small minority of persons with a coherent vision of what marriage and family have been historically and what they need to be in a flourishing society oppose homosexuality and homosexual “unions.” But that majority of persons without so clear a vision, nonetheless, also has shown itself to oppose such unions time and time again.

    Who, then, is the great and soundly principled majority who voted to bring “gay marriage” to Iowa? . . . Oh, yes, right, an “overwhelming majority” of justices on the Iowa Supreme Court.

    If one is a “populist,” one opposes the homosexual agenda — just, usually, for weak or inarticulate reasons. If one has reason, one still opposes it. Consequently, I’m unsure what it is Sean S. is celebrating, save perhaps the triumph of an unprincipled hedonistic tyranny.

  4. “Consequently, I’m unsure what it is Sean S. is celebrating, save perhaps the triumph of an unprincipled hedonistic tyranny.”

    I was mostly pointing out that the OP seemed to be stating that the conservative order could not hold in a governing system based on majority will unless it was tilted or somehow gerry-mandered to favor those voters who preferred said conservative order. And my response was that it is a serious impediment to one’s political success when one has to rely off, in no uncertain terms, cheating to win. What results from that majority situation or minority situation is irrelevant; but it seems to me that making the argument that a minority should be holding veto power over the majority in America seems to be going down a dead end.

    I myself have mixed feelings about pursuing marriage legalization through the court systems. But the role, rightly or wrongly, of the judiciary as an intervention into controversial issues that relate to this or that minority has been a hallmark of American jurisprudence for some 50 years. And its slightly unfair to suggest that there is no element of democracy in the judicial system; after all people seem to be voting in the people who are appointing and confirming said judges. While few worry about judicial appointments, its clear that the fervor, even with gay marriage bans, has not crossed over into a slaughtering of the same politicians and political party that keeps appointing them. Even states that enacted same-sex bans in the past 4 years have voted Democratic in the past 2 elections, which seems to suggest that most people either think its a minor point, or don’t care. That doesn’t necessarily give what is legislated a moral imprimatur, as I’m sure many on here would agree, but it is how we make policy in this country.

  5. Mr. Carlson,

    I’d be interested in your take on the repeal of anti-miscegenation laws. That happened as well in the last 50 years; most Christians thought interracial marriages immoral.

  6. Where the argument goes wrong is that both sides think they are arguing over the definition of marriage. What both sides miss is that marriage has a FUNCTION just like biological items such as hearts have a function. The function of marriage is to provide a stable, nurturing, safe environment for the raising of children. And just as diseased or malformed hearts will fail to perform their function, sadly many marriages will not provide a stable environment for the raising of children, yet that remains the function of marriage despite the inability of such marriages to perform this function. Where things have functions they also have virtues, the qualities that make the thing a good example of that kind. Thus, the function of hearts is to pump blood, good hearts possess the features that allow it to perform this function whereas diseased or malformed hearts lack them. The primary virtue of marriage, although there are many others, is love. The confusion over the issue lies in that proponents of SSM confuse the function with the virtue; love is not the function of marriage.

    Perhaps we can create an institution that has the function of indicating that two people love each other, a “love union” or something. But this will have a different function from marriage.

  7. Empedocles certainly is correct in his assertion, insofar as it goes. My thought would be that “the raising of children” is a cornerstone of marriage, is indeed the function that causes marriage to be, but that intrinsic to that is a series of other items seldom discussed in marriage debates (items Empedocles may rightly believe go without saying): the securing and stablizing of fatherhood, the complementarily of husband and wife necessary if a household is to provide for all the necessities of life, and, perhaps less obviously in our age of “nuclear family” decay, the visible manifestation of intergenerational traditions and dependencies. On this last point, my article from this last fall in First Principles might be of interest:

  8. Yes, I tried to keep this open is discussing love as the “primary” virtue of marriage. There are other virtues in addition to love that allow a marriage to perform its function: having the means to support the child, living in a safe environment, having parents who are mature and responsible, and so on. Sadly, just like in the case of diseased hearts, many marriages are bad and for a host of possible reasons lack the virtues of a marriage and thus fail to perform their function. (My discussion of it is here: )

  9. There are, broadly speaking, two big issues which can be taken away from Mr. Carlson’s typically fine contribution: the issue of same-sex marriage, and all it’s ramifications, and the issue of majority and minority control over a culture and polity. In regards to the first, I find myself rather burned out, as it has been–as any blog reader knows–excessively discussed all throughout the blogosphere, and no doubt will continue to be. As one who believes in most (though not all) of the sorts of traditional, cultural, and communal arguments made on behalf of the historical role monogamous heterosexual marriage, and as someone who dislikes the courts intervening in democratic politics in any case, I dislike what’s come down Iowa (and California before it); that being said, as one who also believes that “love” is hardly irrelevant to the “function” of marriage, and that homosexuals can love the way heterosexuals do (and should be encouraged to do so), I’d like to see some sort of strong, national, “civil” or “love” union legislation provide them a place in our society. I recognize that, thanks to our problem with “separate but equal institutions” (which is hardly a bad problem to have, I hasten to add), that will almost certainly never fly, but it’s the best I can imagine. (More here, if you’re curious.)

  10. I regards to the second issue, I think Gene and Sean S. are making good points, and I don’t think Mr. Carlson would deny them (though if he weighs in, perhaps he’ll prove me wrong). The plain history of the past half-century or more in the U.S. demonstrates that the wealth, opportunity, and individual liberation which the post-WWII world bequeathed upon our country was embraced (at least legally, but often also democratically) by a pretty large majority of the people in the country, with the sort of consequences for marriage (and much else) that Mr. Carlson alludes to. If Iowa–or other states–were able to resist such changes in part through an “undemocratic” arrangement which enabled non-majoritarian (at least insofar as the statewide population was concerned) vice laws to stay on the books, then that simply proves that those of us who believe in the preservation of certain virtues can’t be simple exponents of majoritarian democracy. Which we generally aren’t, or so it appears to me, and for a very long time, neither was the culture of the United States, at least not if we consider the privileged tax and social exceptions long allowed to churches in our communities and whatnot. It was simply assumed that, well, of course, some institutions and practices and customs are to be preserved, even if they aren’t, strictly speaking, “popular.” The perennial problem for populists like myself, then, is figuring out when empowering the people requires liberal or “majoritarian” moves (and it often does), and when it doesn’t (which is just as often the case, or so I suspect). Not an easy problem…a harder one, in fact, than same-sex marriage, I think.

  11. @ Russell Fox: If you don’t want to afford social authority to majorities and you don’t want to afford it to judges, is it out of line to wonder to whom you DO want to afford it?

    @ James Wilson and Empedocles: I agree that the function of heterosexual marriage is to “provide a stable, nurturing, safe environment for the raising of children.” But is there any reason to think that the function of homosexual marriage might not be the same thing?

    And my sense is that reasons like “Homosexual marriages don’t allow for the complementarity of husband and wife” aren’t going to work, because it’s equally the case that heterosexual marriages don’t allow for the supplementarity of husbands. Here’s my question, then: how are you going to mete out the differences between homosexual and heterosexual marriages without reverting to the welfare of children?

  12. The argument about marriage being for an environment, stable or otherwise (and more likely otherwise) for the raising of children is self-evident nonsense to anyone who knows middle-aged or elderly folks who have married. It is an argument that has wings on a block of lead and no amount of reasoning can make it fly.

  13. If you don’t want to afford social authority to majorities and you don’t want to afford it to judges, is it out of line to wonder to whom you DO want to afford it?

    Sometimes to one, sometimes to another, and sometimes to something else entirely. It really depends upon a variety of arguments and priorities which shift depending upon the context. For example, I don’t like judges taking power away from local communities, yet I for one think the federal judicial intervention into segregated schooling, Brown v. Board of Education, was both justified and necessary. I don’t have any universally applicable rules here.

  14. I find myself in disagreement with several statements from Russell, “Chuck,” and “Aaron.”

    Desire varies in three ways, according to the subject loving, according to degree, and according to its object or end. When one has an especially strong and lasting kind of desire it is called love. The only thing that determines differences between love, therefore, is the object or end loved. By definition, therefore, for a man to love a man is not identical to a man loving a woman. The end or object is decisive in the nature and propriety of the love.

    As Tocqueville observed, people living in equal social conditions tend to lose the ability to see particular differences between things — including things loved, of course — and to prefer de-individuating general ideas. In the West we see this preference for the general and this scorn of detail come to the fore in the desire to equate all kinds of human love and to deny their particularities.

    Far more “self-evident” than whatever Chuck is talking about (and I do not understand of what he speaks, so exceeding his degree of self-evidence is not hard) is the difference between a man loving a woman, vice verse, and two persons of the same sex feeling strong desire for each other. Because this is self-evident, the burden of proof would be on those equating the loves to show that such evidence is incorrect. That would require demonstrating that the particularities of a man and a woman are socially insignificant and that those differences play no role in the nature of marital love or family life.

    Advocates of homosexual love, free love, fornication, etc., grow bold in their arguments largely because the two signature conditions of modern life — the state providing for most individual human needs and technology relieving us of the appearance of being conditioned or limited creatures with a finite range of freedom to attain our telos, our flourishing — do much to limit our having to ask with any sense of moral weight, “How should we live?” and “For what do we live?” In other words, they argue for a new understanding of marriage and the family amid an environment produced by liberal states in modern western societies that have conspicuously worked to transform those institutions and to delimit or eliminate their function and distinct dignity. In such a condition, it may not be readily apparent why the family is not merely valuable but determinate of human identity. As many have begun to speculate, such conditions may actually put into question whether to speak of a “human being” is any longer a meaningful action.

    So long as we remain human beings in the human condition, we shall remain also male or female, and that distinction is not merely incidental, it is formative of almost every aspect of our social life. While our society makes it possible to deny the importance of sex difference, I think that such a fact actually testifies to the weakness and disfunction of our society.

    Again, I refer the provoked reader to my “Sarah Palin and the Death of the Family” article cited in my comment above.

  15. @ James Wilson—There’s an internal inconsistency here that your argument is going to have to flesh out at some point: If Man-Woman loving differs from Man-Man loving because the object of love is different, doesn’t Woman-Man loving differ from Man-Woman loving in the same way? And if the propriety of love (whatever that means) differs in terms of the object love, wouldn’t the propriety of Woman-Man loving differ from that of Man-Woman loving because of the EXACT same distinction in ends?

    But that aside, I didn’t write, and I don’t think, that homosexual love is equivalent to heterosexual love; in fact, they’re quite different. I wrote that, even though homosexual love lacks complementarity (in accordance with gender) as you described earlier, it’s also the case that heterosexual love lacks the supplementarity of homosexual love. The real question is how you intend to value (say) complementarity over supplementarity; or more broadly, by what criteria will you assess the relative quality of features of heterosexual love as opposed to those of homosexual love. This is the same question I asked before, and as near as I can tell, your most recent post leaves us hanging…

  16. Aaron’s response overlooks the second clause in this sentence (or first listed item): “Desire varies in three ways, according to the subject loving, according to degree, and according to its object or end.”

    It would seem evident that the propriety of a given love depends as much upon the lover as the beloved or object. I shall only offer this minimal response, but I presume it will prompt further questions.

    As to the distinction — one I have never heard before — between “supplementarity” and “complementarity,” I am left without an answer. One speaks of a complement as a thing that must be added to another thing for either to be complete. I presume “supplementarity” means an overabundance of something already present, but which does not lead to a complete whole. The criterion for distinguishing between the two, at this bare grammatical level, is clear from the definition. Complementarity bespeaks a necessary addition; supplementarity bespeaks a kind of redundancy. Such an argument is intrinsically teleological, i.e. for something to be a complement, we have to presume a proper whole of which the complement is a necessary part.

    The idea of a “supplement” (an idea that is unfamiliar to me in the context of love or marriage) seems typically modern and anti-teleological; i.e., “there’s no particular purpose to anything, so one might as well just have more.” I would accept this conclusion if only I could accept the premise. And I further observe that most people do accept this premise — most persons do not really have any coherent belief in the necessary function of family or marriage. And I agree that saying, “It’s for children,” is less than illuminating if one doesn’t grapple with the full connotations of such a statement, which extends a good deal beyond, “keeping the kids safe, etc.”

  17. @ James Williams—Actually, it doesn’t overlook the first set of sentences, given that Man-Woman loving will differ BOTH in terms of the subject loving and in terms of the object loved. You’re right, though, that this RAISES further questions (begging the question is a logical fallacy, and it doesn’t seem like you’re doing that…yet). For if the propriety of the love depends upon the objects and the subjects, how are you saying that man-woman love and woman-man love are equivalently proper, given that they differ in both object and subject?

    As to the teleology of the thing, I think you’re right: homosexuals do not fulfill their physical teleology, inosfar as they behave like homosexuals, anyway. But that point is entirely irrelevant to the question of marriage, since you would (presumably) assent to non-reproductive (for whatever reason) heterosexual marriages.

    The point about supplementarity, then, is only “anti-teleological” on evolutionary grounds (and even that’s up for debate, given that homosexual couples are far more willing to take the discarded children of successful heterosexual couplings than are other heterosexual couples). It’s not anti-teleological in terms of the loving relationship between the two men; they may not “complement” one another in the same ways that a man and a woman complement one another, but neither do a man and a woman complement one another in the ways that two men complement one another (puns not intended). So, back to my first question: if you’re not willing to say that fertility is a necessary condition for marriage, how else are you going to weigh the different KINDS of complementarity between heterosexual and homosexual relationships?

  18. @James Matthew Wilson — “Who, then, is the great and soundly principled majority who voted to bring “gay marriage” to Iowa? . . . Oh, yes, right, an “overwhelming majority” of justices on the Iowa Supreme Court.”

    The Iowa Supreme Court did not vote to bring gay marriage to Iowa. Their ruling upheld a lower court ruling that the Iowa marriage statute’s “one man and one woman” clause is unconstitutional. The only vote on marriage was a vote of the Iowa legislature in amending the statute to include that clause. The Supreme Court’s (unanimous) vote was a vote on constitutionality. They ruled on the equal protection issue, and followed the precedent that was established by the U.S. Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education.

    @Empedocles — The function of marriage in our society is far more complex than just a way to screw up your children. People may also marry for money, for security, or for access to the upper echelons of society. In some marriages, children appear to be incidental. And as Chuck notes, many older couples marry and children are not part of that equation.

  19. Sorry, I meant “may prompt further questions,” the phrase came out by habit (I’ll edit that).

    Because a man’s love for (and dependence upon) a woman complements that of a woman’s love for (and dependence upon) a man, as is evident, it had not occurred to me to emphasize or deny that these would be two different “kinds” of love insofar far as each has an opposite subject and opposite object. The nature of the propriety of love, I contend, is established by looking at the subject and asking what (or whom!) is the proper object of that kind of subject’s love . . . I think you seem to be seeing me claiming that somehow the loves of two spouses are identical, when in fact I am saying they are complementary. And, in saying this, I am saying that to distinct goods proper to two distinct individuals evidently “complete” each other and produce a whole that transcends the two individuals involved.

    I realize, further, a possible equivocation has crept into this conversation. For the complementarity of man and woman is neither limited to, nor primarily expressed, in romantic love. Indeed, one thrust of the “Sarah Palin and the Death of the Family” essay was to establish that it is precisely in viewing romantic love as the constitutive property and end of marriage that we fail to understand marriages and families. Romantic love is a good thing, and so not merely reducible to an “epiphenomenon” that sometimes follows upon the making of a marriage. However, I think such a reductive vision of romantic love is more accurate than the one you and most contemporary persons advance: where a “companionate” love indifferent to sex differences is its own end, and thus the possible exclusive end of a marriage. My understanding of romantic love is at once more humble and more determinate.

    Marriage, defined as “between husband and wife,” by its nature normally leads to the begetting of children, it normally provides a complete environment (as far as two persons can provide it) for the raising of those children, and — as importantly — the marriage itself becomes one node within a larger, intergenerational family structure. Again to refer to the “Palin” article, I think any account of marriage and the family that reduces the scope of those things to the terrain of the nuclear family will misunderstand the purpose and centrality of marriage and the family. Marriage provides a particular connection the looks backward to one’s living and dead ancestors, and forward to future generations. Its most obvious way of doing this is the begetting and rearing of children — an end that all marriage, all husbands and wives, can normally reach. If, in particular circumstances, a couple is prevented from realizing this natural end that says nothing against the marriage or the end.

    Homosexual couplings, such as they are, cannot by their nature lead to the begetting of children. They have nothing in common with the hypothetical heterosexual family who would have children but cannot only because of a defect in circumstance (sterility, for instance). Interestingly, such a heterosexual marriage would be imperfect in actualization, but not in its nature, whereas the homosexual union would be childless by its nature.

    As for adoption: please don’t think my only lament for contemporary culture is its indifference to the nature of marriage in regard to homosexuals. To the contrary, I see the present debates over homosexual couplings as an outlandish but inevitable consequence of our culture’s destruction of the family unit, its promotion of divorce and remarriage (which is just slightly less a “legal fiction” than would be homosexual unions), its willingness to destroy unborn children in the womb or in the lab — and its encouragement of a consumer-driven notion of conception. That couples can, as it were, go to a clinic and order their children via fertility treatments that actually lead to the eventual destruction of embyros is a greater evil than anything we’ve discussed here . . . I mention it, because you suggest that homosexuals might serve the social function of raising orphans heterosexuals don’t want. Rather than grappling with all the implications of such an argument here, let me just note that it seems likely there would be little difficulty finding homes for orphans or other abandoned children in heterosexual homes if so many of these homes weren’t presented with the ready option of custom-breeding their own genetic spawn in a laboratory.

  20. James,

    The right to marry carries no requirement that a couple produce offspring. So why should the privileges of marriage should be denied those people who would like to marry but cannot produce children? As a matter of fact, society makes no attempt to deny marriage to heterosexuals on the basis of whether the couple intends the relationship/contract for functional reasons or for purely selfish personal reasons (like romantic love). We do ask that couples who marry commit to remain married, believing, I suppose, that this produces stability in society which serves the common good.

    Gay and lesbian people are part of our society. They are not abstract objects and subjects. They’re human beings like you and your wife and your daughter. They are already members of large, extended families. How does denying the right of of marriage to homosexuals benefit society or the extended family? Doesn’t stability in the gay and lesbian community, and the formation of small nuclear units contribute to the stability of society as a whole? How does same sex marriage damage the extended family?

    Or is your argument against homosexuality generally?


  21. Dear Mark,

    Please note that I never said married couples must produce children to marry. Marriage, we may reasonably presume, would never have come into existence and would not have the general or particular attributes it has were the begetting and rearing of children not at its center.

    I see no point in discussing “rights.” What a meaningless term. Someone recently argued to me that the government should provide free internet access to all, because we all have a “right” to the use of the airwaves. I don’t wish to dismiss the term or concept only by setting up an extreme strawman, but I would insist that the term doesn’t provide an intelligible context in which to discuss much of anything. I’m not sure what it would mean to have a legal right to marry, in particular, since marriage, in a non-juridical sense, brings families into being and families pre-exist the state conceptually, historically, and in order of importance. The reduction of marriage to a civil category is one symptom of the confusion that has led to these recent debates.

    To speak of “objects” and “subjects” is abstract, but not reductive, and it is a typical misapprehension that leads persons to treat them otherwise. To be a subject means to be an agent in some act, and to be an object is to be the patient of some act. It says nothing against the humanity of anyone to be an object, unless one uses that term as modern materialists might (and, of course, most modern persons are de facto materialists — another cause of these “gay marriage” debates).

    You, however, do engage in a kind of reductive anthropology in referring to human people as being gay and lesbian and in speaking of a “community” of such persons. And it makes no sense to give them a separate ontological status if you at the same time are going to claim they are part of society. If they are part of human society, they are human. If they are part of human society, they must have the same telos, the same proper end to secure their happiness or flourishing as have others. And if they have that end, surely living their lives in same-sex partnerships of any kind forestalls their attaining it.

    So, yes, my argument would evidently lead beyond (what I see as) sophmoric complaints merely about “gay marriage” to an overall interpretation of the good life for man and a suggestion that homosexual acts frustrate the living of such a life. I would refer you, as I have repeatedly referred others in these comments, to the “Sarah Palin and the Death of the Family” essay.

  22. “People may also marry for money, for security, or for access to the upper echelons of society.”
    True, but these would be abNormal in the Millikan sense, that is, not how historically something has gone about successfully performing its function. These cases would be akin to using a screwdriver as a door stop.

  23. @ James Wilson (back a bit)—

    So, I take it that this is the question we should be asking: “what is the proper object of a certain subject’s love,” right? This seems to be your answer: “Two distinct goods proper to two distinct individuals evidently “complete” each other and produce a whole that transcends the two individuals involved.”

    OK, so assuming that heterosexual love accomplishes this, why–aside from reproductive factors–should we think that homosexual love cannot?

    And further, you may be right that the ‘natures’ (by which it sounds like you mean ‘bodies’) of sterile heterosexual couples and of homosexual couples are different, but you haven’t said WHY this difference is relevant to marriage. After all, if one member of the heterosexual couple knew that the other was infertile, on your account, the marriage would have to be of a perverted sort, since the marriage can’t have ever been about raising children in the first place. Or rather, it couldn’t have been about raising children UNLESS the couple intended to adopt (or, God forbid, artificially conceive), which, strangely, describes THE EXACT condition of all homosexual and post-reproductive relationships. Are we supposed to believe that these are all aberrations?

    As you can see, all of this reverts back to my first question, which your responses just seem to dance around: How are you able to say that the physical/relational complementarity of CERTAIN heterosexual couples is somehow superior the physical/relational complementarity of homosexual couples, ASIDE from the distinction in child-bearing? Or, is child bearing the uniquely (read: only) superior feature of heterosexual marriages?

  24. James,

    I read your Sarah Palin article. Clearly you are a powerful thinker. I am no match for you in a battle of words or wits.

    For your sake, I hope you do not sire a gay child.

    Lovingly and humbly,


  25. in fact, they’re quite different

    To the extent that you wouldn’t mind your spouse engaging in homosexual love in addition to the heterosexual love you share?

  26. What is the teleologic essence of a flaccid penis in the presence of a vagina?

    Does the design of the brain not matter? Is it really all about tabs and slots?

  27. A few responses to an interesting conversation:

    Regarding the nature of marriage, we might put the question a different way: Why has EVERY known human society through all of time– until the last fifteeen years or so and mainly in cold northern places– regulated and privileged the long term sexual relationship of man and woman? The answer should be obvious: it is only from such a relationship that a new child can naturally spring at any time, and every society has a profound interest is seeing that child raised by its two natural parents in a stable home.(For more on this and answers to all of the “but what about” questions that follow, see my CONJUGAL AMERICA: ON THE PUBLIC PURPOSES OF MARRIAGE, occasionally featured on the site.)

    Regarding older laws prohibiting inter-racial marriage, I would have opposed them for reasons both Christian and sociological: race has nothing to do with the first purpose of marriage…procreation; whereas “sexual orientation” clearly does.

    Turning to democracy, any viable Republic takes numerous steps to contain the tyranny of the majority. At the most basic level, that is what any Constitution worth its salt is intended to do. To this day, the structure of the Unites States Senate remains notoriously anti-democratic. In granting states such as North Dakota, Wyoming, and Kansas equal representation with crowded places like New York and California, the U.s. Senate retains the “agrarian bias” struck down by the Supreme Court during the 1960s in Iowa. (Indeed, the Founding Fathers were wise on this point: this is the only still-relevant part of the Constitution which cannot be amended.)

    In explaining the current embrace of same-sex marriage, perhaps we might turn to Tocqueville: “the ruling passion of men in [democratic] periods is the love of this equality.” Morals and freedom will both be sacrificed, the French observer noted, in the quest for a “perfect equality.”

    Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of Iowa’s turn to same-sex marriage is its frivolity. Having been witness to the overthrow of two thousand years of Western Christian teaching on marriage, how did the DES MOINES SUNDAY REGISTER respond?: “Marriage ruling may boost Iowa Economy: A study says new wedding and tourism spending could total $160 million over three years.”

    –Allan Carlson

  28. Allan, I’m not sure I would trust agrarian-weighted legislatures to save the family. We have that at the national level, where agricultural states have a disproportionate vote in presidential and senatorial elections. I absolutely oppose making changes to that system, but it has its downsides. Ag states vote for ag subsidies, without which the whole corrupt welfare-police state would fall apart. Ag subsidies were the first opening in the creation of the welfare state back in the 1930s. We wouldn’t have the financial mess we’re now in without ag subsidies . (It has to do with vote trading — I’ll vote for your corrupt subsidy if you vote for mine.)

    And I’d argue that the welfare-police state is more of a threat to the family than homosexual marriage is. I see little point in opposing homosexual marriage if we’re going to allow programs like SCHIP to destroy the parent-child relationship.

    As to the comparison between inter-racial marriage and gay marriage, I’d note that inter-racial marriage has been common over the centuries. The few societies that prohibited it are the exceptions.

    But if you look back in history at societies that were relatively tolerant of homosexuality, you didn’t see any interest in gay marriage on the part of homosexuals. AFAIK, that is. The call by homosexuals to be allowed to marry just like in the bourgeois society they traditionally have despised, is a very recent phenomenon. For that reason, I am rather skeptical that homosexuals really favor gay marriage, despite what they now say. On the other hand, when I consider the few homosexual couples I actually know outside the internet who are trying to live as much like families as the law will allow, I admit the possibility that they really do favor it and that it wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing. So I try to keep an open mind, but I still am a skeptic.

    BTW, I’ve asked in many forums as to why there was no interest in marriage by homosexuals in older homosexual-tolerant societies, and I’ve never gotten much of an answer at all, much less a good one.

  29. I’m glad I postponed responding to the last set of queries until a few other folks had an opportunity to chime in, especially Allen, since it is after all his post to which these comments should be at least secondarily responding. Thanks to those comments, I think I can offer a few useful statements, after which I would welcome further comment, but may reserve my own replies for a future post rather than this venue.

    Aaron perceives me to be “dancing around” his question, and I would argue that his perception is an understandable consequence of two matters I have tried to underscore. First, I would want to emphasize that my objections to the legal fiction of “homosexual marriage” should not be viewed in isolation from a larger vision of the structure of human life. It is indeed a symptom of our modern loss of a vision of what a good, flourishing human life and society look like that allows us to treat the question of homosexuality and homosexual marriage in a kind of ethereal isolation (a tendency encouraged by, I suspect, the modern habit of thinking like Evangelical Christians even when one is not in fact a Christian of any stripe: that is, of thinking of moral truths as ahistorical unarguable maxims always already given or revealed, rather than as the fruit of historical experience that may, as it happens, included supernatural revelation as one of its events). “Is it good or bad? And why?”, we hear, knowing that the answer expected must be an act of logic that does not bear any reference to the structure of human experience as a whole.

    Far from thinking that the question(s) of homosexual relations is of immense singular and isolated importance, I think it is a secondary matter; or rather, we discuss it with great heat and little light because we have long neglected the greater and conceptually prior questions about the nature of marriage, the family, human sexuality, social order, and the purpose of human life. At the very least, I consider the presence much less the prevalence of divorce and artificial fertilization in our culture to be more grave, antecedent, and widespread threats. Questions about homosexuality might in some sense be minor. But they take on apparent importance, because for whatever reason they have become the limit-point where contemporary westerners suddenly begin to sense the consequences of the damage done to the family in the industrial and post-industrial age and especially since the rise of managed or administered society. In sum, I understand “homosexual marriage” to be a serious problem to be combated only in the context of larger problems found in changing perceptions of the role of the family in human life, and so naturally resist the essentialist or isolating question, “What’s so wrong with Gay Marriage?” One can’t really ask that question until one has answered myriad others.

    But a second concern also may have limited the clarity of my answer. And that is the distinction I would want to maintain between the public nature of marriage and further, related, but in one sense inessential, questions about the nature of romantic love.

    Marriage is a natural consequence of the familial structure of human life. It springs into being because of, and never wholly transcends, the life process of procreation and interdependence as well as the no less natural (though less wholly biological or material) process of cultivation, culture, inheritance, and tradition. Marriage is oriented naturally in three directions: it looks backward to ancestors and provides a reference point for the carrying into the present of practices and traditions that have already come into being; it gives form to the “present” of a family, in terms of lending a certain authority to adults in their prime, who emerge from their minority to assume some authority over their own parents, of family property, and, potentially, children of their own; and it is oriented above all toward the future — an orientation founded on the possibility of begetting children but also informed by the promise of rearing, of cultivating those children in preparation for their assuming, as it were, present authority in some “future present.”

    A husband and wife, in their nature, i.e. in their essence, have the potential to join these three orientations together, which is why, again, marriage ever came into being as a fact of civilization. The couple that cannot have children, because of lack of physical ability or even perhaps desire (as is justifiably the case, perhaps, often in older couples’ marriage) nonetheless experiences in the nature of their marriage this threefold orientation. Even if they do not produce children, their marriage is founded on the natural fact that, contingent circumstances aside, they could have children; but this natural fertility (which again, may be disrupted intentionally or otherwise by any number of contingencies) serves as the basis for marriage’s broader, more general function of cementing the family unit’s past with its present, and to prepare for a future that is usually underway already because of a) children from a previous marriage, or b) because of children in the extended family. These responsibilities, these orientations, are not primarily physical, that is, they depend on but are not reducible to the procreative functions of the body, and so it would be simplistic to say in a strictly literal sense “the purpose of marriage is to have and rear children.” But in a much greater, more extensive, and consequently nebulous way, we can see how this union of past, present, and future is conditioned by, is given shape through, the procreative process. If that process is forgotten, all the other great functions of marriage begin to lose their coherence; the command metaphor of “be fruitful and multiply” gives shape to even a biologically sterile marriage.

    My argument would be that this function of the family is what makes it the unit of society — the essential unit; that the loss of this vision robs the family of its apparent importance, makes it seem less rigid than it is; that the loss of the family cannot be compensated by any new structure, such as those that contemporary bureaucratic society struggles to create; and, finally, that the biological differences between men and women, as well as the other physical, character-related, or intellectual differences proper to men and women, play a vital role in making the family unit possible and sustainable.

    When I speak of “complementarity,” therefore, I am not reducing the complementarity of men and women to their physical compatibility (their organs!). I am, rather, insisting that this biological compatibility which is normally fruitful (procreative) subtends much larger complementarities that are necessary to the family, that are only analogically organic. To offer one relevant example, while anyone can “mother,” only mothers can be fully and properly mothering. A man who “mothers” would be just one instance of a “feminine” man. That this invariably appears grotesque to us is not a prejudice we need to overcome, but a prejudice that intuits how certain real and good attributes belong only to certain real and good kinds of human beings (women) to the exclusion of others (men). No one denies the importance of maternity, but increasingly we try to deny by a very legalistic and counterintuitive kind of argumentation that paternal and maternal attributes belong properly and exclusively to men and to women. More commonly, and depressingly, we even hear these attributes and roles discounted entirely – as if it were real charity to a child in a single-mother household to tell him blithely, “Don’t worry about your Daddy. You only need a mother.” (A mother, an after school program, a guidance councilor, a social worker, a Big Brother/Big Sister, etc., etc. . . .).

    I don’t see how two men together could be complementary in a way comensurable to the union of a man and a woman. Even if one of the men were to perform a grotesque function, mascarading as the “woman” in the relationship (as, I’m told, happens), he would evidently be less than a woman in all kinds of ways that include but extend beyond his actual sex. I’ve gone on a bit, so perhaps someone can explain to me how it appears clear to others that such complementarity is possible in homosexual relationships, or why, perhaps, so many persons do not see this complementarity as absolutely essential to marriage and family life.

    I suspect that the reason I was able to “overpower” Mark rhetorically while clearly not persuading him of my point was that it has become almost impossible for most persons to think of marriage in terms other than those of individual erotic and romantic choice or freedom. Few of us understand the extended family as playing the essential role as the exclusive permanent unit of society. And so, one may argue about social structures all one likes, most persons are going to find such claims unintelligible, because they view marriage as a mere outgrowth of an individual’s free desire for erotic contact and for companionship.

    Romantic love as we know it emerged in the context of Christian marriage, but, of course, had other analogous instantiations including the erotic love found in the ancient Greek polis. There, erotic homosexual love was an extension of friendship, and had nothing to do with (did not interfere with) marriage. Rightly, we find this bizarre and unfortunate, and do so largely because we understand sexual acts as bound of necessity to the permanence of life-long, indeed life-transcending, fruitful unions in the context of a family.

    The Greeks also found it intensely troubling; that is why they wrote so much about it. They had great difficulty accepting the possibility that male erotic desire should partially determine male friendship; moreover, so troubling was this kind of desire to them, that it never seems to have occurred to them to relate the natural erotic love that a man has for his wife with the problematic and socially disruptive relations he might have with a young man in the polis. Socrates’ advice was that such erotic desire (which evidently had nothing to do with the quest for immortality expressed in the procreative love of a man for his wife) was just a poorly understood failure to direct man’s desire for eternity on things truly eternal. Hence, he tells his friends that they should love Beauty itself, not mere physical beauty. He and his fellows understood well that family, marriage, and male/female complementarity were something essentially unrelated to the desires of some male citizens for other males; hence the notion of “homosexual marriage” would have struck them as an absurdity, as a simple misunderstanding of language. Moreover, they found it deeply problematic morally, because it caused the inferior of the two men to be feminized – to diminish in or even lose the manly virtues thought proper to a person capable of participating in civil and political life.

    I expect that, in our lifetimes, the notion of a monogamous life-long and life-transcending union of marriage will become obsolete. Our culture, because of its Christian-informed concept of romantic love, refuses to separate erotic attraction from familial structures entirely. At the same time, it refuses to understand as marriage and the family as something that transcend in importance – and may even have, in certain cases, little to do with – erotic desire or romantic love. We rightly look upon, as it were, the “Greek way” as destructive because it allowed the coexistence of separate erotic desires (only one of which was truly erotic, actually) that we see damage the dignity of the spouse and the family. But we also seem incapable of recognizing a first principle of human relationships besides that of erotic desire. The institution of the family, which is every bit as much about the subordination of desires as it is about their cultivation and fulfillment, will almost inevitably be swept aside as oppressive (until such time as we realize what we have lost).

    I’ll break off my observations here – no doubt having failed to answer much which I intended – but would not fail to comment on Mark’s wishes for me never to “sire a gay child.” I’m not sure it is possible to do such a thing, since surely it is one of the great lazy misperceptions of our age to equate homosexual acts with a kind of being. Should I have a child who experiences such desires, however, I hope I shall have the good fortune to have raised that child in such a way that he’ll be able to see that in their indulgence lies not his happiness. We all wish our children a happy life, but few of us think on that phrase long enough to discover that it has a very specific, limited form. I hope my child will not feel free to live “just any way he likes,” but I also hope that he will be able to see what real happiness – the good life for man – looks like and will see that a careful respect for erotic desires rather than a willingness to be dominated by them is bound up in that vision.

  30. “Our culture, because of its Christian-informed concept of romantic love, refuses to separate erotic attraction from familial structures entirely.”
    Do you think that doing so would be the “solution”? Should we have “love unions” as well as marriage?

  31. I do not think that is by any means a solution; I think it would be a reversion to some of the worst aspects of pre-Christian society — and we have enough of those back with us already. I should not be surprised if this kind of thing will reemerge, however, since it would be yet another instance of the most base or savage aspects of male sexuality mascarading as “enlightened” liberation.

    Rick Santorum commented on this some years ago, and was immediately and deliberately misinterpreted by the media; he said that homosexual “marriage” opened the door to polygomy, consanguinity, etc.

    My argument was simply that because our culture in informed by this great Christian idea of romantic love, debates such as that over “Gay marriage” crop up; they would not in any other kind of civilization, one may speculate.

  32. Why would a country suchmas ours that had founding fathers make a constitution that strived for equal rights leave it up to a majority vote mob rules over the courts? The courts are the checks and balance that keeps us from imposing unfair rules on it’s citizens! The founding fathers new how unfair the average ignorant citizen can be. If we made all our laws based on that book of fables people think is so perfect called the bible it would be legal to stone your children for defying you! Religion clouds judgement. Did we have a majority vote on other civil rights questions? NO! Why? Because it’s unamerican! Learn how our republic works and why, please. It protects us from radical religious dogma. Unfortunatly not compleatly yet. If you don’t agree with this system then why do you hate america? Yes us liberals can use that one also! Let’s stop the witch burning of the 21st century. You sound like you would prefer the type of system in Saudi Arabia! Remember, the confederates lost the war! Let’s not start another one.

  33. James –

    The reality in which I live seems so very different than the reality you are describing. I guess I’m just a lazy misperceiver. Thanks for putting a label on it for me.


  34. @ James Wilson—Your argument (insofar as it relates to homosexual marriage, anyway) absolutely hinges on this question you’ve posed: “Can homosexual marriages be complementary in the same ways that heterosexual marriages are?” The answer is clearly no, since women are not men and men are not women. But that has absolutely no bearing on the question of whether homosexuals can fulfill the three marital orientations you mention earlier in the post: (1) looking backwards to ancestors, (2) giving form to the present, and (3) preparing the young (and the world) for a future-present to come. Obviously, homosexuals can look backward to ancestors (1), they can give form to the present in all of the ways you mention (2), and they can prepare our young for a future-present to come.

    And maybe homosexual couples don’t offer a certain biological/parental complementarity to the proper raising of children, but why should that be a reason to say that homosexual marriages can’t perform the FUNCTIONS of marriage that you’ve described? Aside from sexual reproduction, I can’t see where your trying to make the distinction.

    And just to return to the example of sterile couples, you cannot mean what your saying about their “natural suitability” for procreation. On your account, natural suitability is not simply a circumstantial condition—part of it is based upon a certain way of thinking about the function and virtues of marriage. After all, you would grant that there’s something aberrational about a couple that marries with the explicit intent NOT to have children, wouldn’t you? Well, how different is that from a couple that marries KNOWING that it’s sterile? Certainly, the former would bemoan its sorry position, but ontologically, there’s no way they could go into the marriage seeing themselves as this progenitorial link between generations that fertile couples are supposed to see themselves as.

    Here’s the key, then: the ONLY relevant different between the above couples is that the sterile couple WANTS children and the contraceptive couple DOES NOT. So, if wanting to raise children–to serve in the capacity of progenitorial link–is the difference between whether a physically suitable/psychologically unsuitable couple and a physically unsuitable/psychologically suitable couple should marry, and you want to say that psychological suitability is why the latter couple should be able to wed, how can you not support the marriage of homosexuals? For homosexual marriages–ones that wish to serve in the capacity of progenitorial link–are physically unsuitable for marriage but psychologically suitable, EXACTLY like the sterile couple.

  35. Dr. Wilson,

    Your above comments are a counterpoise to a culture that participates in the imaginative destruction of reason and reality, consequently, one expects you’ll be pilloried by the derailed and ignorant.

  36. @Aaron — You lazy misperceiver! There’s no such thing as a homosexual, so obviously there can be no such thing as homosexual marriage. James appears to prefer the Ted Haggard conceit: “heterosexual with issues.”

  37. To The Reticulator,
    I am not sure if you were being sarcastic about being a hero.
    I do somewhat agree with you on the, why gay people want to get married now thing. I suppose even gay people believe in god and think adults who want to make a permanent bond together should be married. Probably the automatic legal benefits are something that is looked at like an equal rights thing that other societies did not offer in the past,to answer part of your question. Some probably are looking for some symbol of respect as legitimate cohabitational citizens. Science shows that these people are not just making a perverted sexual choice. These people were born with this preference and should be treated with equal respect even if its difficult fur us heterosexual people to understand. I don’t think government should give any extra tax benefits to married people to start with. Tax laws like this always leads to these sort of discrimination problems.

  38. Why does everyone think that marriage is ruled by religion. I know religion makes rules about marriage but did religion invent marriage? Did religion get some copyright of marriage? Why does religion think it has the final word and rule of marriage? God change his rules on poligamy so why cant we change some of the rules. God is supposed to be perfect but obviously he realized he made a mistake with the whole poligimy thing.

  39. At last count 40% of the children being born in this country are born out of wedlock, up from 2% in the 1950s. This is a catastrophe on a vast stage. If you don’t agree that this is a societal problem of massive proportions there is no reason to discuss further (or take your position seriously). Two lessons can be drawn from this: the liberal indoctrination of condom use has failed, and the conservative insistence on abstinence has failed. I would argue that the reason both have failed is that in both approaches the responsibility is on the individuals to take steps to prevent pregnancy, and that there are few negative consequences if pregnancy occurs. Previously there was intense societal pressure to make sure that if a man got a woman pregnant, he would “do the right thing” and marry her; the responsibility was on the whole community to make sure that this happened. The force of the expectations and pressure placed by the family, neighborhood, and society at large must be restored as it is the only solution we know of as a fact that is successful in preventing out of wedlock childbirth. The demand must be that marriage is what happens when you expect to get a woman pregnant, or already have. Likewise, the community must share the responsibility to make sure that the couple can successfully raise their child. The idea that the community is going to force a couple to get married, by shotgun, by sanction, or by stigma, is alien to today’s society, but is the norm of the vast expanse of history, and is the only way we know of to prevent appalling rates of children born out of wedlock. Perhaps if the consequences of siring a child are so severe liberals will get there wish of a world where there is far more condom use.
    It is a primary function of marriage to prevent this current state of affairs. This is its raison d’etre. The loss of this understanding, and the substitution of the view that marriage ia a love union, has had the predictable result of the current situation. Marriage performs this function by possessing three obligations: first, marriage is an obligation to your spouse that you will not abandon them to raise the child alone, second, marriage is an obligation to your child that you will not abandon them, third, marriage is an obligation to the society at large that you will see to it that your child is raised right and not abandoned. Marriage is a right only insofar as you have the right to take on these three obligations. There are no rights without obligations. My right to free speech carries the obligation that I don’t deny others this right, and likewise for other rights. In the case of gay marriage, none of these obligations follow since there is no child to worry about. Without any obligation, there is no right.
    The idea that marriage is what happens when two people love each other, that love is both necessary and sufficient for marriage, is what got us into this problem. Marriage is not just a decision between two people, it is a institution in the interest of the whole community to ensure that a child is raised in a family; a large end of this is to get men to raise the child they have sired. Love is neither necessary nor sufficient, but it is a great virtue.
    What about the case where a gay couple wishes to adopt? I am in favor of gay adoption, but there is no need for marriage here because there is no problem to be avoided by such a marriage. Gay couples do not run the risk of creating a society with massive numbers of out of wedlock children. That is one of the functions of marriage, and without this function, there is no marriage.

  40. To Empedocles
    2% increace since the 50’s? That doesn’t sound like a lot. Yes being married may increase the chance that a child will grow up in a healthy environent but it doesn’t garentee this. Many shotgun weddings don’t last and if they do they may turn abusive and unloving and become an unhealthy environent. I personally have friends in this situation. How do you suppose to encourage society to put these pressures on marraige anyway? Sounds impossible. Gay marraige with adoption would probably encourage the couple to stay together at least untill the child has grown. Love conection is a better motivation. Evolution has developed this in humans because we need to nurture our young longer than most animals. Evolution isnt perfect so even homosexual people still have the love gene and should be allowed to live there life as they chose in dignity as long as no inocents are harmed. Society supporting children is a noble thing and the governent and any individual should help colectively to ensure the healthiest eviroment and education possible. This can be done in more productive ways than shotgun weddings. Child care centers, and education for the parent. Employers giving time to spend raising children especialy infants. Put yourself in someones shoes that was told because you were differient than the majority that marriage for you was illegal. I’m sure then you would see the injustice. Justice isn’t about upholding ancient traditions no matter how long they were in place. Americans enslaved black people for 400 years. Would you be sugesting that tradition be upheld by the courts?

  41. No, up FROM 2% in the 50s, up 2000%.
    “How do you suppose to encourage society to put these pressures on marraige anyway? Sounds impossible.” Anything that has been actual is not impossible.
    “Gay marraige with adoption would probably encourage the couple to stay together at least until the child has grown.” What does marriage add that adoption does not already have? Plus, since straight marriage thought of as a bond of love doesn’t have the effect of keeping couples together, there is no reason to suspect it would for gay marriage.
    “Love conection is a better motivation.” Patently false since the rates of divorce and single parent houses are astronomical.
    “Evolution isnt perfect so even homosexual people still have the love gene and should be allowed to live there life as they chose in dignity as long as no inocents are harmed.” No objection to this, but what does it have to do with marriage?
    “Put yourself in someones shoes that was told because you were differient than the majority that marriage for you was illegal.” Put yourself in someones shoes who was told that because they were immune to a disease that they didn’t need a inoculation. No reason to feel discriminated against.

  42. to Empedocles, You said 2% now it’s 2,000%? Just because something has been done doesnt mean it can be done again. You sometimes cant put the geanny back in the bottle. You cant just go back to those supposed good old days. By the way in the fifties mast states interracial marriage was illegal. Not good days for those people.
    Next you cant see what marriage can do for gay couples that adoption doesn’t already have. Isn’t this your entire argument for heterosexual marriage? You say marriage helps keep the stability and all. how is that differint for gay marriage? Wow! How did you not see that contradiction when you said it?
    Your evidence of love connection not being critical for the divorce rate? That’s no kind of evidence. Are you saying people didn’t used to get married for any other reason than child rearing? As someone said earlier, people get married for many reasons. Some good,some bad. Money, security,parental pressure, status, love,religious tradition,lust. Maybe if society didn’t pressure young adults to marry so much they wouldn’t marry for immature wrong reasons and to people that are not compatible.This seams to be the reason many get divorced.Religions argument that marriage and procreation is so important at all is a problem. Don’t think we are having any problems on this planet with producing people.Seams we are having a bigger problem with overpopulation. But then we run into a lot of other questions besides marriage, like abortion,sex ed., and abstinence only school funding. Statistics show abstinence only training doesn’t work as well as safe sex.Just ask Sara Palin’s daughter or look up stats. Safe sex is not fool proof so abortion may be other option for those unable or willing to raise children.Maybe morning after pill.
    You also cant seem to put yourself in someone else’s shoes on the dignity of marriage idea. If its illegal and you condemn people for gay marriage how can they chose to marry and be legitimate? This makes them have to live in shame, thus indignent.
    Last what was that whole, immune, disease,inoculation thing about? Sorry, didn’t get the correlation.

  43. I did not mean that love was better than marriage for a bond. I was trying to show love was the first reason for marriage not children. Children are the natural product of sex not love. Love would be better to have first as to help ensure parents to stay together to raise the product if child. Marriage would be a verbal commitment between the couple like a pledge. This is a good thing. The state recognizes this commitment. Religion also recomends it, or commands it. Marriage is not a funtion but a result. The result of love hopefully, not a shotgun. The product is the child. You guys say everything in such a riddle that I think you forgot which came first, the chicken or the egg.

  44. All your assertions about the impossibility of restoring marriage to its rightful understanding and practice are just that, assertions, you offer to argument for believing it.
    Then you bring in the straw man of interracial marriage. This argument only works if marriage is merely a contract between two adults with no other aim than their own happiness. But since I deny this your argument fails.
    Then you misinterpret my argument by claiming that my point is that marriage exists for the stability of the relationship between the couple. I do not claim this, so there is no contradiction.
    Then you wonder if I don’t see that people can get married for reasons other than raising children. It doesn’t matter what ulterior motives someone may have for getting married, people can use things for reasons other than their true purpose, but that doesn’t change what the true purpose is.
    “Maybe if society didn’t pressure young adults to marry so much they wouldn’t marry for immature wrong reasons and to people that are not compatible.” I have no problem with that, although lets say that getting married because you have a responsibility to the woman you have gotten pregnant, a responsibility to the child, and a responsibility to society, are not immature reasons, they are the most mature reasons.
    “Seams we are having a bigger problem with overpopulation.” Sure, I definitely think people should not have more children than they can support.
    “Statistics show abstinence only training doesn’t work as well as safe sex.” I agreed with this point if you read my post.

    “If its illegal and you condemn people for gay marriage how can they chose to marry and be legitimate? This makes them have to live in shame, thus indignent.” Again this point only holds if marriage is a merely a contract between two adults. I deny this, therefore there is no contradiction.
    “Last what was that whole, immune, disease,inoculation thing about? Sorry, didn’t get the correlation.” The metaphor is that marriage is a social institution whose purpose it is to produce healthy and virtuous children. Its purpose is to prevent many social ills. A vast body of research shows that children raised in single-parent homes are at far greater risk of poverty, school dropout, delinquency, teen pregnancy, adult joblessness, and other problems. Marriage is the social institution which was designed to avoid these terrible societal problems. So I compared it to an inoculation that prevents these problems. Then the metaphor is that gays are like people who are immune to the disease in the first place since homosexual relationships can’t produce children and therefore can’t cause these problems. There is therefore no reason for them to have the inoculation against the disease. It’s not a perfect metaphor since you can argue that there is no harm in giving the inoculation to people who are immune to a disease, whereas in the case of gay marriage the harm is that it reinforces the view that marriage is merely an agreement between two people, a view which has lead to the appalling problems we have with single parent families.

    “Love would be better to have first as to help ensure parents to stay together to raise the product if child.” Yes, I absolutely agree, love is a great virtue of marriage. The question is, why did marriage ever come about in the first place? If marriage is just about two people coming together, for as long as they feel like being together, there is no need for marriage, they can do that without marriage. Marriage came about to solve the problems I mentioned above–that children raised in single-parent homes are at far greater risk of poverty, school dropout, delinquency, teen pregnancy, adult joblessness, and other problems. How do we solve these problems? By making sure that the commitment you take on by having a child is stronger than mere agreement between two adults to stay together as long as love lasts. But gay marriage can only exists if that is all marriage is about, it thus destroys our understanding of the function of marriage. I will say this though, it is heterosexuals who destroyed the function of marriage by reducing it to a mere contract between two people to last only as long as love lasts. Homosexuals are absolutely right to demand the right to marriage if this is all it means. But they are both wrong, as it is not its true meaning.

  45. Yes the possibility of restoring marriage back to what it once was is a assertion that I don’t think could happen. It would be impossible to prove that it couldn’t be done. I was asking,how you suggest we could get to that point. I have not heard an answer on that.
    The interracial marriage example was to show that happiness is in the eye of the beholder and not the majorities decision to make. For some happiness may just be,being married. I’m saying you are contradicting yourself by defining marriage. Didn’t you say earlier that was wrong to do? You are defining marriage by insisting that the purpose of it is procreation and child rearing. Its been shown by many on this blog that is only your opinion not a fact. You also state that marriage must be more than a contract between two people. Your rule? I think the government of the united states looks at it like a legal contract. Religion usually looks at it like a contract with two people and god. Maybe you don’t agree that marriage should be about anything else but you don’t make the rules, you just voice your opinion. If I am wrong, please be specific on who makes the rules of marriage and where are they written?
    Getting someone pregnant before marriage changes the argument. What does that have to do with the subject of gay marriage?
    Last on your disease metaphor. I say homosexuals can produce children in a way by adoption so the inoculation of marriage may prevent some of these ills you say are caused by parents out of wedlock.
    I think to prove your points, you need to show why married verses unmarried homosexual relationships would not affect an adopted child.
    Since you agree that gays should adopt then why not the contract of marriage?
    I think that love is possibly all a couple may need to stay together but the contract of marriage helps the stability of the relationship. As you have shown, the community and family are watching and judging,so the pressure to not break the marriage commitment is stronger than your fluctuating love feelings. No people don’t judge as harshly on divorce as they used to but its not because gay people were getting married. Remember gay marriage is the subject here. Why should be made legal or not. I haven’t seen you state a reason they should not be allowed other than your narrow personal opinion that procreation is the only good purpose of marriage.

  46. I think we are making progress in the debate, hopefully I can answer your remaining objections. Suppose crime in a city was escalating dramatically because the police department no longer think that it is their function to prevent crime and enforce the law. Instead, the police department has morphed into an organization that believes its function is to produce police officers because police officers get respect, and that no responsibilities as regards fighting crime follow from becoming a police officer. I say that the reason crime is out of control is because the police no longer perform their function. You say that the police DO perform their function, which is to produce police officers. I say we need to get the police force back to enforcing the laws and catching criminals. You say that it is impossible to get the police force back to what it once was. I say that it isn’t impossible as long as we make sure that police officers are once again held to the duties, obligations, and responsibilities they once had. I definitely think it would be possible to get the police force back to performing its function. What’s more, despite that the police force currently thinks its function is to produce police officers, I think it makes sense to say that its TRUE function is to enforce the law.

    As I’ve mentioned, a vast body of research shows that children raised in single-parent homes are at far greater risk of poverty, school dropout, delinquency, teen pregnancy, adult joblessness, and other problems. I think we agree that these problems need addressing. I also think that we agree that marriage has traditionally been the means of solving these problems. I think we agree that, as in the police example, marriage has changed into a new form and that it is no longer performing its function. And I think that we agree that often (but perhaps not always) if somethng changes in such a way, it doesn’t matter what its current function is, its TRUE function remains its original one. And I hope we now both agree that it is possible to get something back to doing its original function as long as that function is made clear and people are held to their obligations.

    As to your point about my supposed contradiction about defining marriage, there is a difference between defining something and discussing its function. This gets into all sorts of semantic issues but I’ll try to keep it simple. Liberals are saying that the definition of marriage is an consensual agreement between two adults (they never specify what they are agreeing to though as there are no real obligations involved). Conservatives try to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman. Both sides think that they can declare victory based on their definition alone, and both sides convince no one who already wasn’t convinced. Functions, on the other hand, do not depend on definitions. The function of the heart is to pump blood no matter how you define it. Aristotle used to think that the function of the brain was to cool the body. He was wrong, no matter how you define brain, that is not its function. Likewise, you say that I am defining marriage by insisting that the purpose of it is procreation and child rearing. I think that this is a fact, not merely my opinion, and I think that those who think otherwise are in the position of Aristotle in being wrong about the function of the brain.

    You are correct that the rules of marriage are written in part by churches and part by the government (whether it is through the courts or the legislature of course being hotly debated right now). My argument is as attempt to point out to government and religious groups and society at large that they are looking at it in the wrong way, that they’re wrong about the function of marriage. I think that there is a fact about what the function of marriage is and that it is not a matter of mere opinion. I hope thereby to influence them into passing good laws and making correct legal decisions.

    Your last point was about since I think it is OK for homosexuals to adopt, what not let them marry. Suppose that the purpose of the army is solve the problem of how to defend the country from attack. When you join the infantry you take on certain obligations, say you need to be able to carry a certain amount of weight, run at a certain speed, and fire a gun accurately. You do have a right to try out for the infantry, but if you can’t do these things you will be unable to fulfill your obligations and so you do not get to join the infantry. There is no unjust discrimination in doing so. Suppose someone still wants to help defend the country even if they are unable to join the infantry. We should be very happy to receive their help, but still, they can’t join the infantry. Likewise, the purpose of marriage is to prevent the societal problems that result from the production of children who are born and either abandoned or raised by a single parent. It does this by making sure parents take on three obligations: it is an obligation to your spouse not to abandon them to raise your child alone, it is an obligation to your child to raise them right and not abandon them, and it is an obligation to society that the children you produce will be brought up right and not abandoned. Gay marriage does not solve the societal problems I’ve mentioned because there are no such societal problems caused by gay relationships because there are no children that result and need to be cared for. However, if homosexuals wish to help resolve the problems caused by others by adopting a child we should welcome their help. Adoption has a different function, it is to take care of children that have already been abandoned, it is like a backup plan in case the marriage was unable to perform its function. Whereas marriage is preventative, adoption is curative. Suppose a couple had a child and then the husband died. It turns out that the mother is a lesbian who wishes to raise the child with another woman. This other woman should be able to adopt the child because it will help to make sure the child is raised right (I believe that research shows that children raised in homosexual households are better off than those raised in single-parent homes, but I am not sure about this, the result would depend on the research). But again, the couple would not be able to marry because doing so does nothing to prevent the problem which is the function of marriage to solve, which is to prevent the societal problems which result from the production of children who are abandoned by one or both parents.

    I hope I have answered all your objections.

  47. The funtion is the commitment ad what that commitment does. Stabliize the relationship, keep monogamous. Yes marriage should try and fullfill these bonds and society should put pressure on them to do so. Society can’t force this.
    Something that has changed is societies idea that we must follow the old philosophy of religion or other status qoua. No, not always for the better but not always for worse.
    Your surity that marriages sole purpose is procreation could be as misspercieved as plato’s brain cooling theory. He should learn from his cave story. Perceptions can be decieving. Just I think just because it seems that children are the sole purpose of marriage the shadows may not be revieling the entire story.
    Ok the police example. Who here has been saying that there is zero purpose in marriage? Straw man.
    Infantry argument? There are many jobs in the army other than infantry. They need all sorts of specialties. Such as gum makers. Bullet makers. And backup planers and backup infantry. Maybe the gay married couples are the backups but does that mean they ahoyld not have the protection of the army team? Or marraige?
    Your 3 obligations could be fullfilled with the exchange of one word. Produce change to adopt. We need the team of society to work together with as much protections as possible to grow as a healthy commutity.

  48. I didn’t say there was zero purpose in marriage and in my police metaphor I didn’t say there was no function to the police. Re-read the post.

    In my metaphor, adoption is like the gun makers and bullet makers you describe. It’s still not infantry though.

    has marriage changed from being what I describe it as to what you describe it as? Yes.
    Are children in single-parent families more likely to suffer from the problems I mention. Yes.
    Should there be an institution whose purpose it is to prevent these problems? Yes.
    In order to prevent these problems does the institution need to be more than an agreement to stay together for only as long as you feel like it? Yes.
    Do gay relationships cause these problems? No.
    Will gay marriages prevent them? No.

  49. Police officers get respect because of their commitment to enforce law. Just as ssm could get respect for commitment to stay monogamous and such.
    You said once that love is a vertue in marriage but not the function. I will concede this point. I do think that one funtion of marriage is the commitment of your vows. It may also be a vertue but marriage is a farce without the vow commitment. Having and raising children while keeping your vows of marriage is vertuous but not absolutely nessesary to the commitment vows of marriage unless the couple decided to introduce a children obligation into the vow. Therfor I don’t see children as the funtion of marriage, but a product of the relationship. This may insult your vision of marriage and reduce it to something less than what you thought it was but that makes it no less true. You have the right to make marriage in your vision but you have no right to force others to have the same vision by law. This is the crux of this debate. Americas constitution does not make law respecting your religious vision or other personal vision unless it harms individuals or your rights. You have not shown how your rights could be infriged by ssm, or harm.
    You haven’t even tried to show how ssm with adoption could not be helpfull to raising children in a more stable comited family environent. This has been my main point but you refuse to debate this.

  50. As is becoming common, you misunderstand. The police example was to show that despite what something changes into, its true function remains its original one. What is the real function of the police in my example, to enforce the laws despite that they no longer do that, or produce police officers? Please answer this question.

    One the point of the commitment, if you are allowed to break the commitment as soon as you no longer feel like being committed, it is no real commitment. In your view of marriage you are only “committed” for as long as you feel like it, and can end the marriage whenever you feel like it. That is no commitment. Suppose I made a commitment not to steal from you for as long as I don’t feel like taking your property, have I made a commitment at all?

    In any case, we agree that marriage has become a mere commitment without real commitment. The question is, is that its true function. The police example shows that whatever marriages current function, it is not its real function.

  51. It’s not that I don’t understand your example or get your point. I just think they are flawed. I don’t think you are trying to answer my question without example because you can’t.This blog is not about divorce. But I will play along for a moment if you think it’s part of the situation. Marriage is a man made institution. No animals in nature get married. Human life would not become extinct without marriage.Children would still be borne and raised without marriage. Humans, with their large brains and all,learned that maybe if we made up an institution that two people agreed to try and keep, that just maybe there would be a higher chance that parents might stay together as a team and raise the children more successfully. You are absolutely correct that marriage is simply a promise with no penalties of imprisonment or fines. Are you suggesting this free country called America impose a penalty for divorce? What does this have to do with same sex marriage? Was there a penalty before the first state recently allowed ssm? I think there are some social penalties for divorce. You will probably loose respect from your piers and family. There are religious penalties depending on your interpretation of your gods. The main question of this site is should SSM be legal in the eyes of Americas constitution.
    My real or main question to you still is; How is SSM any different than HSM in securing two people together as a team to raise a child?
    That’s my question that I have not ever seen an answer.

  52. I agree with much of what you said in your post. To answer your question again, gay relationships can not produce a child and hetero relationships can. Thus there are problems that needs to be prevented in the case of a hetero relationship that are absent in a gay relationship. Thus an institution needs to exist in the case of hetero relationships whose purpose is the prevention of these problems. This institution does not need to exist in the case of gay relationships. This institution is marriage. Gays should be able to adopt children as a solution to the problem of what to do when marriages fail, but this is a different problem than the one marriage is designed to solve, and thus is a different institution.
    Marriage is not and should not be an institution where there are no penalties and fines. For example, fathers have to pay child support if they abandon their child. I think that there should be additional penalties for divorce if there are children involved. Besides child support, fathers should have to pay for the expenses of a child’s education even if they no longer live in the school district where the child is raised, among other penalties.

  53. If you don’t disagree with Gay couples adopting, then the prevention problem is not absent. Show how Gay marriage would not help prevent the same or similar problems in an adoption scenario. I acknowledge that gay marriage doesn’t produce children but as you acknowledge with other failed marriages or death of parents, gays do have similar family child raising situations. Adoption. The produce part of your scenario is only one method of the placement of child in a couples life. We as a civilized society should attempt to put in place protections for many scenarios of multiple situations for a more peaceful and prosperous society. The detail of the production of children is only the very beginning of many possible problems and protection laws we should address as a country dedicated to equally protecting all citizens from harm no matter where or how they were born. Immigrants, war refugees, even test tube babies,all should have equal protections. Lets not put any special protections just for the, maybe ideal case of married hetero couple children.Taxes for schools are paid by all taxpaying citizens even without child.
    The main question is, does gay marriage protect adopted children as does Hetero marriage?

  54. I’ll say it again, gay relationships are different in that that are not liable to produce children who need taking care of. Marriage has a different purpose than adoption. The type of institution you are defending has the following features:
    1. There is no commitment to stay longer than than you want.
    2. You enter into it in order to make yourself happy.
    3. It’s purpose is to celebrate the love of the couple.
    4. It is only the business of the couple involved, society has no interest is seeing it succeed or fail.

    Marriage on the other hand:
    1. Lasts until your obligation to your children ends.
    2. You enter into it for the benefit of the children you will have.
    4. Its purpose is to make sure the children who will result are supported and raised successfully.
    5. Society has an interest in making sure marriages succeed of the negative consequences of having many troubled children.

    These differences are significant enough to be describing totally separate things.

    Now, for every institution there are ways things happen in order for the institution to successfully perform its function. Lets call these “activation conditions”. In order for a heart to perform its function of pumping blood there are many activation conditions: the heart must be healthy, there must be blood to pump, the lungs must be working, and so on. In the case of manufactured things like computers there are many activation conditions as well. Much must go right in order for a computer to succeed in performing its function. Likewise, in order for the US Congress to perform its function of making laws there are many activation conditions as well: bills must be introduced, committees must consider them, and so on. If a thing with a function has different activation conditions from another functional item, it is a different thing. Now, a main difference between adoption and marriage is that there are different activation conditions. In marriage an activation condition is that a couple produces a child. In adoption an activation condition is that a couple abandon a child, there would be no adoptions without abandoned children (counting the death of the parents as a kind of abandonment). The two institutions have completely different origins, and thus different activation conditions, and are thus different in kind.

  55. Before I get into the activation aspect of your debate I would like to clarify a few of your features of marriage you have defined.
    First,with your second list. #1 Hetero marriage does not have to last as long as child obligation last. I know this may not be the ideal think but that makes it no less true.
    #2 Entering for benefit of children you will have. Again this may be ideal but is not accurate reflection of what marriage really is. Many couple choose not to or cannot procreate.
    #4 purpose. Agree with helping raising children successfully. Not with purpose but result.
    #5 I agree
    Now your first list.
    #1 All marriage is a commitment to stay together usually agreed on until death. No, most don’t stay committed as they vowed. Again I say in any true, free country, this commitment is allowed to be broken. That does not mean the couple did not make an attempt to stay committed. Even Christian belief allows males to divorse unfaithfull wives. Yes that’s plural, wives.Yes only men. But obviously modern society has progressed since the bronze age barbaric superstitious laws.
    # 2. Yes people enter marriage for happiness. They usually declare this in there vows. There are many reasons people do get married and I would hope this is at least very high on the list if not the highest.
    #4. Only the business of the couple involved. Obviously this is not the case in this country. The government recognizes marriage and gives tax benefits and other legal rights like making health decisions when spouse is incompacitated. Most religious societies recognize marriage and may even excommunicate for breaking the vows. Does society have a working need to have married couples without child? Maybe in prevention of promiscuity that may spread disease. This could be very important because the Aids virus is a large epidemic killer. What if humans became extinct due to something like this? Maybe society should be taking a vested interest! What if a gay couple adopted a child and then separated? Who then bears responsibility for the child? Does one then not have to even pay child support? I would think that should be good enough but I’m sure there may be other reasons I have failed to think of yet.
    I will agree on one point of your activation definition of marriage.
    There is ‘one’ difference in same sex marriage. The non-production of children. Does this mean we should have a different institution for every different ‘activation’ as you or anyone may see? Sounds like that could be very confusing. How would we make such determinations? Who would make them? Who would recognize them as legitimate? Do individuals that don’t want or can’t produce children need a different institution? What if they just changed what they called it? Does each religious sect need a separate institution? Do couples who adopt get to or have to, change the institution they they commited to earlier? How many years could pass before there activation condition must show up? You know, the baby, as you define it. Some may resort to lieing about their ability to activate. Seams like the government would be having to make so many new rules and laws that there activation purpose would be put on hold for an unreasonable amount of time. Should we start a new tax for activation police? I’m sure it would cost at least a trillion per year to operate.Maybe we could test all applicants and put some sort of mark on them to know if they were able to activate. If someone decides that love is a necessary activation condition for successfull marriage how do we test for that? Sure, you may not agree that’s an activation condition but unless you are the president your say so may not matter very much.
    I have an idea. Why don’t we just call all of these committed unions the same name but just allow citizens to decide how they wish to respect the terms, as long as they don’t break any civil rights or hurt anyone.
    Sure the institution of marriage has not and never will be perfected and upheld by all who join and recognize it. That does not mean that we should put such limits on it’s members.
    If anyone else is out there reading this I would love to hear an opinion. Any other reasons society would have a vested interest in gay marriage? I’m not gay so I have probably not thought about all the wonderfull benefits that may be good for societies interest in gay marriage. Not that society must have a vested interest in all the details to make marriage recognized by the government in the first place, but evidently some think that’s the only thing that makes the world continue to spin.

  56. The idea of people entering marriage without the aim of procreation is a new phenomena that arises from the recent advent of cheap and effective contraceptives. This is the main reason marriage has changed from an institution to prevent problems in children into the voluntary union designed for the benefit of the couple instead of the children as it is today. Historically, there would be no question that when a couple gets married children would be the result. But since this change has occurred I do think there should be an institution of civil unions to reflect this change. It still isn’t marriage.
    The activation conditions I described are relative to function. Every item with a different function has different activation conditions. It isn’t that every activation condition needs a different institution, it is that every function requires a different institution and every function has its particular activation conditions. Your argument is becoming why can’t the police put out fires? Why do we need different institutions for police and fire? The answer is that police and fire departments have different functions, just as marriage and adoption do. There are different things that need to happen in order for fire departments and police departments to succeed in performing their functions (different activation conditions). Just as marriage and adoption have different conditions. The rest of your questions all follow from this misunderstanding.

  57. Sounds like you are saying that there should be civil unions for heterosexual couples who use contraception.Since the change has occured with technology.Is this the case? The historical aspects may have changed so does the institution of marriage change, or does the idea of marriage change?

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