Why is this important, and how does it affect even those who do not live in Maryland? Isn’t it best just to let people do what they want with their lives and leave well enough alone, as long as we are left in peace to do what we want with our lives? That’s a pipedream. This law is a misnomer, and its passage signals the destruction of, not greater protection for, marriage. Let me explain why.
First, let’s step back from the rhetoric and define our terms. Fundamentally, what defines a marriage? What makes it unique and distinct from all other human relationships? It is the only relationship that naturally leads to the procreation of a child, and, through its stability and mutual commitment, provides the optimal conditions to nurture and educate that child. Same-sex unions cannot achieve this biologically. Two women cannot conceive a child, nor can two men. Therefore, they simply cannot, naturally speaking, be “married,” for their relationship lacks the essential component of fertility. Sexual difference is an essential component of marriage.
Some will claim that homosexual partners raise children just as heterosexual ones do. But again, let’s step aside from the rhetoric and look at facts. Two lesbians who bring a child into the world through artificial insemination still require the male gamete necessary for fertilization to take place. Whether aware of him or not, the child of that lesbian couple actually does have a father.
1. Jill Woodliff wrote:
The question should be the civil rights of any children raised by same-sex couples, not the civil rights of the homosexual adults. There is not a large cohort scientific study to measure what the impact will be.
February 27, 1:00 pm | [comment link]
Children in stepparent families come closer to the outcomes of children of single-parent families than to children from traditional families. I wonder if that won’t be the case for children of same-sex couples.
To quote Barbara Dafoe Whitehead writing in another context, about family disintegration: How do we begin to reconcile our long-standing belief in equality and diversity with an impressive body of evidence that suggest that not all family structures produce equal outcomes for children?
2. Br. Michael wrote:
PC will not admit of “equal outcomes”. I mean there will be, but they won’t admit it.
February 27, 1:54 pm | [comment link]
3. Jon wrote:
Melanie Baker has a thoughtful argument well worth listening to. Of particular value is the way she lays out definitions and assumptions early on with a clarity rarely found in public discourse.
One thing that struck me especially, however, is that her argument specifically entails that a heterosexual couple that is incapable of producing children should be legally barred from marriage. She describes fertility in a couple to be an “essential component” of marriage. Not desirable, but essential.
February 27, 2:27 pm | [comment link]
4. Br. Michael wrote:
3, no she does not. Her argument is that only men and women are biologically capable of having children and it’s that biological fact of life that marriage supports. The fact that some men and women are incapable of producing children is irrelevant to the argument she is making. It is the ability of men and women, not the particular couple, to produce children that justifies marriage. A union of two men or two women can never produce children.
February 27, 3:03 pm | [comment link]
5. Jon wrote:
#4—I am puzzled. She is absolutely clear, with the same severe logic of Euclid, that marriage has some number of essential features. (At this point in her argument, she has not yet deduced anything about the issue of same-sex couples, but is abstractly considering what this word “marriage” should entail.) She is absolutely clear that one of these essential features is that the couple be able to bear children. “Fertility,” she writes, is an “essential component” of marriage.
It is from this that she is able to deduce something about whether marriage could ever apply to same sex couples.
In order for a couple to be “married”, their union must be able to produce children.
A homosexual couple cannot produce children.
Therefore: A homosexual couple cannot be married.
(Or more generally, everything in the class M has a property F. X does not have F. Therefore X is not in M.)
Her entire argument, as she gives it, rests on this line of thinking. If you don’t agree with her first premise—if you were to say that it isn’t ESSENTIAL for a couple to be fertile in order to be married in a meaningful way—then she can’t draw the same conclusion
February 27, 3:36 pm | [comment link]
6. Br. Michael wrote:
Jon, you are engaged in special pleading and deliberately distorting her argument to justify gay marriage. You are not confused or puzzled.
She writes: “It is the only relationship that naturally leads to the procreation of a child, and, through its stability and mutual commitment, provides the optimal conditions to nurture and educate that child. Same-sex unions cannot achieve this biologically. Two women cannot conceive a child, nor can two men.”
Only men and women can naturally have children. It is a fact of nature and biology. Gay unions cannot do this.
February 27, 4:12 pm | [comment link]
7. Br. Michael wrote:
I would add that you say: “Fertility,” she writes, is an “essential component” of marriage.
Not so. What she writes is: “Therefore, they simply cannot, naturally speaking, be “married,” for their relationship lacks the essential component of fertility. Sexual difference is an essential component of marriage.”
You misquoted her to make your point. Her point is that it’s the sexual difference that makes for fertility. Homosexual sex is always infertile.
February 27, 4:22 pm | [comment link]
8. c.r.seitz wrote:
#4 Thank goodness Hannah and Elkanah were married. They were unable to have children (the LORD had closed her womb) and her husband gave her a double portion in kindness. But then the LORD opened her womb. So also Abraham and Sarah. Fertility is a gift of God, who gives and who takes away. It is a gift for a man and a woman in marriage, if the Lord so ordains—even against all appearances.
February 27, 4:44 pm | [comment link]
9. Br. Michael wrote:
Indeed, the Scripture is replete with examples of the Lord bringing forth life where there was none before. Sara comes to mind as does Mary.
February 27, 4:55 pm | [comment link]
10. Skeptic wrote:
The article is all well and good (though NONE of the arguments are new). But why won’t she take it to the logical extreme? If it turns out that “equal outcomes” do not result from same-sex parental households, then why stop at “same-sex marriage” (which is just a contract endorsed by the state)? Why not go all the way and outlaw same-sex parents raising children (which is a living arrangement)? Why not identify homes where two women or two men are living together and raising children, and take their children away, and fine the parents? Maybe even lock them up?
The real “unequal outcome” we’re talking about here is not between having same-sex parents and having opposite-sex parents ... it’s between granting standard legal protections to same-sex marriages and NOT granting them. How does withholding those protections lead to a better outcome for the kids? If you can answer that one, I definitely want to hear it ... if not, it seems to me that your only principled alternative is to start busting up families or legally preventing from even forming in the first place. Good luck with that.
February 27, 5:44 pm | [comment link]
11. cseitz wrote:
I may be wrong, but I believe the argument of the author is that same-sex partnerships can have legal benefits and do. A same-sex legal partnership is not marriage, which has a specific frame of reference. I suppose if the state wants to redefine marriage and open it to same-sex couples, the church will simply have to remind its Christian members that Christian marriage is a different thing than ‘civil marriage.’ Many people believe that is a possible outcome. Unless of course the state seeks to mandate churches to undertake ‘same-sex marriages’—a matter being discussed in the Westminster Parliament, e.g., by virtue of the role of the CofE in the English legal context.
February 27, 6:17 pm | [comment link]
12. Skeptic wrote:
A suggestion: the state should no longer be involved in “marriage”, which is a deeply personal and faith-based act ... in fact, it’s a sacrament. Perhaps the state should get out of the “marriage” business altogether. Until then, or if certain quarters insist on preventing the partners in same-sex parental family units from being called “married”, it’s not clear that an “equal outcome” for children is guaranteed or even possible.
(For the record, I strongly believe that the State should not be involved in decision-making around what Churches wish to call marriage ... since, of course, marriage is an article of faith.)
February 27, 6:36 pm | [comment link]
13. Daniel Muth wrote:
I’m tempted to challenge #10 to give us a definition of “marriage” in light of this radical modification that bears the slightest resemblance to coherance. But never mind, it can’t be done. Long before anyone gets to the point of eliminating from marriage it’s vital defining characteristic, it has to be declared a thoroughly arbitrary creature of the state. And if that’s all it is, it is a fundamentally incoherent, radically undefined concept (it’s not an institution anymore, and barely even a noun). Let’s be clear: it’s not same-sex so-called “marriage” that is at issue. It’s the radical elimination of marriage as a coherent institution and even a meaningful term that took place before this silly vote was taken.
In an odd way, of course, the sheer incoherence of the same-sex “marriage” movement may be the best hope for some semblance of preservation of marriage in this society. Just because, in light of this development, there is absolutely no reason to limit marriage to two people and doing so is purely an arbitrary exercise in raw nietzchean power, the dunderheads pursuing this bit of nonsense have no reason not to. My guess is that they will. They can’t possibly explain why “marriage” (as they have un-defined it) shouldn’t be extended to groups of 3 or 10 or 500 people, but then they don’t need to - they just need to retain 50.01% of the vote. Judges have no reason to agree with them, but then no reason not to. It’s enough that the imitation has to continue to look something like the real thing. Likewise, there’s no reason whatsoever to limit “marriage” to people who feel a particular way about each other. The list goes on.
So what will come of this nonsense? Very few homosexuals are going to bother (remember, the state doesn’t extend “protections”, it grants benefits to married couples - something it used to have a reason to do) and they really don’t get much out of it so the males aren’t going to bother. The women will, in descresing but steady numbers, and will make a fair number of lawyers rich via utterly vicious divorces.
And that’s about it. Except that we have a society in which marriage is no longer a meaningfully defined term and it will be all that much easier for businesses to some day eliminate spousal benefits entirely since they don’t serve any recognizeable purpose, marriage being purely arbitrary and entirely optional. As always, it’s not the Homosexual Movement per se that is really the problem. It’s the painfully dehumanizing ideology that gave rise to it that has done and continues to do the damage.
February 27, 6:51 pm | [comment link]
14. Jon wrote:
Br Michael (#6)... I was indeed puzzled, and I remain puzzled. I’ll explain my puzzlement a bit more in just a moment.
But before I do let me mention briefly the concern that I have for the rudeness and incivility that is rampant on blogs, including Kendall’s. He’s written about it periodically (noting that it is an exceptional sin on Christian blogs) and asked for people to respond to each other with gentleness and without attacking the person you are conversing with.
So I was struck by the fact that you basically told me I was a liar (that I was lying when I said I was puzzled).
Now to explain why I was puzzled. I was puzzled (and still am) because the form of Melanie Baker’s argument seemed crystal clear to me, and I was puzzled how you and I could be reading the same thing.
It seemed (and still seems) incontrovertible to me that she is making an argument of the following form:
All automobiles use gasoline.
Horses do not use gasoline.
Therefore, horses are not automobiles.
I ask for a moment if you would just focus on the logic of her argument, on its general structure, without trying to evaluate it in terms of whether the conclusion is favorable or not to SSUs. (Much in the same way that I translated it into horses and automobiles.) It seems clear to me that the reason she is able to conclude (with inescapable logic) that two women cannot be married is because she has FIRST established that an essential component of marriage is the ability to have kids.
If one denies that fertility is essential, then her “therefore” loses its punch. Therefore… how? What is impelling this conclusion? There may be other powerful arguments against gay marriage (I can think of several), but her argument as given is rooted in the claim that an essential feature of all valid marriages are their ability to produce children.
If I understood you correctly, you think that she is not making that argument. Rather, you think that that section of her essay is written to prove to the reader merely that two men can’t of themselves make a baby. In other words, she is trying to prove something that no one, including the most aggressive gay rights activist, denies. She only wishes to prove that you need to two people of different sexes if you want to produce an egg and a sperm. That is simply so obvious, so not in dispute, that I can’t imagine why anyone would find that worthy of observing—UNLESS of course one is adding another premise which will permit you to deduce from that that gay couples cannot be married (namely: and an essential component of the definition of marriage is for the two persons to be able to bear children).
It’s also interesting that you claim that I am attempting to justify gay marriage. Interesting because I do no such thing. I say simply that her argument is powerful and worth listening to; and note that it seems to have a (possibly unintended) consequence, which is that it appears to render marriage wrong for infertile heterosexuals as well.
There are many possible views about this. One could say, for example, that her conclusion is right (gay marriage is problematic) but that her argument is equally in error and better lines of reasoning should be found. Or one could take the line that she is correct, and that there really is a problem with marriage seen purely in companionate terms—that marriage is necessarily about the ability and desire to have kids.
What seems an unfortunate response is to rudely attack the person making the observation with intimations of lying and special pleading for a view he has in no way made.
February 27, 6:56 pm | [comment link]
15. Skeptic wrote:
#13—name-calling and ad hominem attacks aren’t worth responding to. But you wrote something interesting:
Except that we have a society in which marriage is no longer a meaningfully defined term and it will be all that much easier for businesses to some day eliminate spousal benefits entirely since they don’t serve any recognizeable purpose, marriage being purely arbitrary and entirely optional.
EXCEPT it will be entirely meaningful and beautiful and just how you want it IN YOUR CHURCH. Sounds good to me. And it’s a clean solution, to boot.
February 27, 7:00 pm | [comment link]
16. c.r.seitz wrote:
#15—the State getting out of marriage. This is all well and good, but how are you proposing to stop the march to make same-sex marriage a civil reality? many on the traditional side would welcome this, but we are not the ones advocating for it in this manner.
February 27, 7:21 pm | [comment link]
17. Daniel Muth wrote:
#15 - I did refer to the promoters of nonsense by a derisive term but I used no ad hominems. The errors involved are pretty clear and the consequences may not be dire - only if there is no consistency in how the radical re-definition of the terms involved is applied. I see absolutely nothing good in making marriage an arbitrary creature of the state. I think it a sadness. One that will likely hurt an unknowable number of people. And no, there’s nothing meaningful or beautiful in that.
February 27, 7:28 pm | [comment link]
18. The_Elves wrote:
We do indeed encourage civility and ask commenters to: stick to the thread argument; avoid taking the thread off on tangents; and avoid making comments personal - thanks - Elf
February 27, 8:07 pm | [comment link]
19. Skeptic wrote:
#16, it’s already a reality in practice. The question I posed in #10 is whether it’s better for the children of same-sex partners to be protected by their “parents” state-endorsed marriage, or to not be protected. Since many seem concerned about the erosion of the definition of “marriage”, I proposed to square the circle by reducing everyone’s marriage contract with the state to a civil union. In my view, marriage itself should be left to you and your church.
#17, you wrote:
I see absolutely nothing good in making marriage an arbitrary creature of the state.
I could be misunderstanding what your saying here (for which I apologize) but isn’t marriage already an “arbitrary creature of the state”? A state marriage holds to no particular creed, other than what is defined by the weight of tradition. What does state marriage NOT do? State marriage does not stipulate fitness for marriage as a prerequisite, nor does it require that the marriage contract be maintained in perpetuity (i.e., divorce law). Neither does the state require that marriages occur in a church. Furthermore, according to the state, you need not be married to conceive or raise children. Nor do you need to be ABLE to conceive or raise children. The state doesn’t even prevent you from having children if you have a felony record as a sex offender.
What state marriage DOES is publicly recognize the relationship you’re already in, and entrain the relationship in a social contract that you, your neighbors, and your municipality all recognize and respect. What’s more conservative than that? Right?
So what are we talking about here? We’re talking, very simply, about recognizing relationships (and families) that already exist in order to protect those unions ... unions that today, like it or not, DON’T have to be made in a church.
This is not about the definition of “marriage”—it’s about what to do, from a purely practical policy perspective, with the actual, real same-sex families that EXIST today.
As I pointed out before, if you think there is such great social harm in allowing these unions to persist, the next words out of your keyboard should be a call for legislation to make it *illegal* to raise children if you’re in a same-sex relationship ... or simply if you’re gay. Period. Are you ready to go there?
February 27, 10:09 pm | [comment link]
20. Daniel Muth wrote:
Dr. Seitz - I would worry about getting the state out of any involvement in marriage. I would certainly agree that, as currently constituted, the state is not prone to be modest in its claims or goals and certainly one could argue that the author’s desiderata could largely be met were our government to make a full retreat. After all, the state can hardly assert tyrannical authority over an institution it claims no authority over. Nevertheless, that would seem to these eyes to give away too much. State recognition of marriage has resulted in benefits being extended to families and that has generally been a boon to the common weal.
As I make clear above, in agreement, I believe, with the author (though in less harsh terms), I consider the state’s claiming hegemony over marriage and making it an essentially meaningless social convention subject entirely to the whims of judiciary and plebiscite, is a great loss. If nothing else, it is egregiously bad social policy to extend benefits intended for families to groups of people that are not, and cannot become, families. It is passing odd to see nature in the abstract defended via a form of Romanticism and yet attacked whenever and wherever it impinges on the Modernist superstition of the self-constituting self. I think the author of the piece entirely in the right in this regard.
Nevertheless, as I also aver, the heavy component of sheer arbitrariness in this entire movement, while it doesn’t preclude the possibility of the courts recognizing that their logic (if it can be called that) means that there is no reason on God’s green earth to pretend that I do not have a constitutional right to run down to the local homeless shelter, marry everyone there, and force my employer to extend them spousal benefits - it won’t necessarily follow. The same approach that turns marriage into an ad hoc enables arbitrary distinctives like the number two to remain in place essentially ad infinitum, whether a reason for its perdurance exists or no. Again, same-sex “marriage” is not the problem (and I think the author infers as much), it is the prior damage done to marriage that enabled the absurdity to bandied about in the first place.
Surely there is reason to hope that thoughtful and strong opposition can slow up the movement sufficiently that only a select few, very odd, states such as mine (I am a Maryland resident) will enact this stuff before the inevitable depredations of the Law of Unintended Consequences show up this particular fad for the foolishness that it rather obviously is. Arguments such as the one presented herein are not all that fun to make. The shallow and well-intentioned will insist on misunderstanding and of course the notion of Natural meaning anything other then Involuntary will always read, in this benighted age, like it was written in Venusian. Every empty-headed ideology wants to claim for itself the mantle of progressive inevitability. Why should this one be different? And yet, why should it be victorious? The state’s support of marriage (the real thing) is doing some good. It should be encouraged to continue.
February 27, 10:30 pm | [comment link]
21. jkc1945 wrote:
“Have you not heard that, from the beginning, GOD made them male and female? Therefore, a man shall leave his mother, and cling to his wife; and the two shall become one flesh.” Jesus of Nazareth
February 27, 10:53 pm | [comment link]
22. Br. Michael wrote:
14, but you did. All she said was that men and women naturally made babies. Same sex couples do not. It is the ability of men and women to procreate that is the basis of marriage. Why is this so difficult for you to understand? As it is not difficult, I can only conclude that it is deliberate.
February 27, 11:15 pm | [comment link]
23. c.r.seitz wrote:
#19—I don’t have a clear view on the matter. In some ways it seems inevitable in the West that the State will redefine the term marriage. Then it would be up to the churches to clarify their refusal to extend the rites of Holy Matrimony beyond their God-given bounds. The situation in England is more tricky, given the role of Parliament vis-a-vis the Church of England.
February 28, 10:10 am | [comment link]
24. c.r.seitz wrote:
“I proposed to square the circle by reducing everyone’s marriage contract with the state to a civil union”
February 28, 1:28 pm | [comment link]
Propose away! The problem is that advocates for change want a civil marriage, not a civil union. If they were prepared to accept a civil union we wouldn’t be having this conversation.
25. Daniel Muth wrote:
“Skeptic” #19 - The state has heretofore been content to accept marriage as an essentially undefined entity, part of a host of societal structures that pre-exist this government and, in a vague way, transcend it. For the state to declare in favor of same-sex “marriage” is to declare itself the owner of the definition of marriage, something, again, that it has never actually done. As the author of this article is at pains to point out, marriage has never been an arbitrary institution, but one grounded in an admittedly premodern (and I would say much more wholistic) understanding of nature and nature’s claims on human persons. This understanding is not widely held at the moment, because most people, I suspect, are, as the state has generally been, content to accept what the institution is without thinking about it all that much.
Our situation now is that a well-intentioned but, as far as I can tell, painfully poorly thought-out, effort to accommodate less that 2% of the population has resulted in a misunderstanding being promulgated by judges and legislators such that “marriage” will from this point be specifically whatever 50.001% of the population says it is, unless the courts insist on doing the defining themselves. And the definition is radically incoherent.
Again, what is to prevent me fom marrying the population of the nearest homeless shelter as I noted above? Nothing in the definition being proffered by the homosexual movement, since they’re really not holding forth any sort of definition. Nothing in the thinking of the California Judge who struck down Prop 8. Nothing but the lack of a 50.001% vote or a court order and the courts have no particular reason for finding one way or the other.
As far as not allowing same-sex couples from adopting, why limit it to couples? Why not entire congregations? Where does the number two come from? Why should it hold any sway? Isn’t it entirely arbitrary? My inclination would be to limit such adoptions to individuals who may or may not be in some sort of living arrangement, including a committed same-sex relationship. It prevents a change in that living arrangement from potentially adversely affecting the child. The reasons multiply.
Heretofore, again, the state has assumed rather than expressed any particular understanding of what marriage is and hence has treated married couples as if they were or could become families. This has carried over into the realm of adoption law - which has generally worked to the advantage of the children adopted by married couples. Radically changing the definition of marriage, particularly since it follows on the heels of declaring marriage an arbitrary social construct, threatens to undo whatever goods were extended via the previous arrangement.
Sheer intellectual laziness will likely leave marriage largely intact, whatever is decided with respect to the status of same-sex couples. But intellectual laziness in is not a particularly robust barrier against further damage to children whose lives are already rendered precarious by a society radically committed to adult narcissism and creeping incoherence. Again, there really is no reason to change the current situation. Calling same-sex living arrangements “marriages” does little for those it is intended to help and, as noted in the article, damages any possibility of society continuing to provide such benefits to families as it has. I would as lief not give businesses any more reason to withdraw benefits from married couples than they already have.
February 28, 2:45 pm | [comment link]