An overly-long response to Elizabeth Marquardt regarding gay marriage

(You know, any reader who isn’t interested in the same-sex marriage debate is probably going to be driven off my blog this week. Sorry, folks.)

(Please note, as you read this post, that I am not accusing Elizabeth of being personally homophobic. For all I know, Elizabeth is gay herself and genuinely loves all gay people – but even if that were so, it wouldn’t change how harmful her preferred policies are).

Part One: A quick note about stigma.

On the Family Scholars Blog, same-sex marriage opponant Elizabeth Marquardt sums up one of Eve Tushnet’s posts like so:

Eve Tushnet wrote about the difference between the real and the ideal – that the ideal is for children to have their own, two parents, and we need to support that, but this in no way implies that we should take children away from parents who fall short of that ideal or stigmatize those families.

Two things caught my attention. First, Elizabeth is putting words into Eve’s mouth – Eve’s post didn’t say anything about not stigmatizing families.

Secondly, and more importantly, Elizabeth in fact favors stigmatizing gay and lesbian families (although she wisely avoids using the “s” word herself). Maintaining that stigma is her primary reason for opposing same-sex marriage. In Elizabeth’s view, it is essential – and worth paying a considerable price in inequality – that the symbolic difference between “the norm” and same-sex partnerships be maintained, and that same-sex families be understood to be less ideal than the norm.

To try and dodge this rather obvious aspect of her case, Elizabeth distinguishes between “good” and “bad” norms, and implies that only the “bad” norms involve stigmas. But this is nonsense. Elizabeth wants to maintain the “legal and cultural idea” that families with a biological mother and father are superior to those with two mothers or two fathers. How could that not be stigmatizing? Norms which point to a class of people and say “your families and your lives are inferior to the norm” stigmatize; that’s what a stigma is.

Part Two: What Elizabeth has to prove to justify her proposals.

Of course, just because Elizabeth favors stigmatizing gay families – and denying them equal rights under the law – doesn’t prove she’s wrong. Stigmatizing gay families might be worth it, if the result is to greatly improve the lives of American children.

To my mind, however, justifying stigma and inequality under the law would require a very substantial benefit. First of all, we already know that stigmatizing gays does tremendous harm, most especially to gay teens, who suffer from mockery, self-esteem problems and high suicide rates. Furthermore, denying same-sex families the security of legal recognition does enormous harm to those families – and especially to the children of those families (for more on that harm, read the two posts previous to this one). Anything at all that maintains that harmful stigma needs to do an awful lot of good to be justifiable.

Secondly, I assume Elizabeth would agree with me that equality between heterosexuals and homosexuals is “a legal and cultural ideal” worth striving for. To deprive a person of equal protection and rights merely because of their sex – or their sexual preference – is a terrible, immoral thing. It should never be approached lightly.

Now, that doesn’t mean that the desire for legal equality must necessarily overturn all other considerations. But to overcome the value of legal equality, Elizabeth needs to provide proof of a very large and substantial harm that would be prevented by favoring legal inequality (in this case, unequal access to marriage) instead.

Elizabeth is asking us to embrace the harms to gays – and to their families and children – of maintaining a stigma against same-sex families. She’s also asking us to oppose the enormous good of legal equality. What is she offering us in return?

Part Three: Elizabeth’s proposed solutions won’t actually solve the problems

Here’s where Elizabeth – like most opponents of same-sex marriage – gets vague. In order to justify her anti-gay stigma, and to justify opposing equal rights, Elizabeth has to prove that children will suffer some colossal harm if gays are permitted to marry. But what, exactly, is the mechanism of that harm – and, more importantly, the mechanism by which Elizabeth’s policy will solve the problem? She’s long on rhetoric but short on specifics:

When we change the norm itself in such a way we can no longer legally support the idea that children need their mother and father, an important legal and cultural idea will be lost and many children will be affected, not just the children of gays and lesbians. I write about children of divorce. I can foresee a time when someone will say to me, “Why does it matter if a kid’s parents are divorced, or never married at all? After all, same sex couples don’t have the child’s mother and father in the same home. Are you saying there’s something wrong with them?”

Yes, lesbians and gays are already raising children and they need legal protections. Civil unions are a good idea. But if the family form cannot even attempt to secure for children their mother and father, it shouldn’t be called marriage.

Pignatello emphasizes this is a civil rights question. It’s fine if you want to look at it from a rights point of view, but admit there are competing rights in question – the rights of adults to form relationships however they please, and the rights of children to have what they need. Children of straights and gays have a right to live in a society that firmly recognizes their fundamental need for their mother and father. I’m trying to consider both groups.

It all sounds great – but trying to parse some sense out of it is like trying to knit mittens out of water. Elizabeth writes that “many children will be affected, not just the children of gays and lesbians. I write about children of divorce.”

Okay, let’s bring this down to Earth: In what concrete way are children of divorce helped by denying gays equal rights? Does banning gay marriage prevent divorce, for instance? No, it doesn’t. Will gays who enter opposite-sex marriages and find it makes them so miserable they seek divorce, be inexplicably made less miserable (or more heterosexual) if we prevent equal rights for gays? No.

In short, Elizabeth brings up a problem – “divorce harms children.” But her proposed solution to the problem – stigmatizing same-sex families and opposing equal rights – does not solve the problem in any way. But why should we embrace stigma and inequality, if they won’t actually solve the problems she’s talking about?

Elizabeth worries about a time when she could be asked “Why does it matter if a kid’s parents are divorced, or never married at all? After all, same sex couples don’t have the child’s mother and father in the same home. Are you saying there’s something wrong with them?” But she can be asked that exact question right now - nothing about the question presupposes legal gay marriage. We already live in the time Elizabeth fears (and is it really so terrible?) And opposing equal rights for gays will not magically transport us to a world in which Elizabeth couldn’t be asked that question. Once again, Elizabeth’s proposed solution does not solve the problem she brings up.

(To digress a moment, may we consider how unimportant the problem Elizabeth brings up here really is? Elizabeth wants us to oppose equal rights because she doesn’t want to live in a world in which her belief that marriage is important can be questioned. I can sympathize with Elizabeth’s distress – it sometimes distresses me that I live in a world in which my own fundamental values [such as the right of all humans to decent food and shelter - or, for that matter, the rights of gays to full legal equality] are often questioned. Like Elizabeth, I’d prefer to live in a world in which my fundamental values were so widely acknowledged as to be beyond question.

(Nevertheless, if we compare Elizabeth’s understandable anxiety with real-life problems same-sex families face – problems like needing false I.D. just to take care of your helpless child in the hospital – it becomes obvious that the harm Elizabeth discusses here is not remotely as serious as the harms caused same-sex families by their extra-legal status.)

Finally, Elizabeth calls on us to “admit there are competing rights in question – the rights of adults to form relationships however they please, and the rights of children to have what they need.”

But what about the rights of children of same-sex families to have secure, legally acknowledged families? What about the rights of lesbian and gay children of straight marriages, who would be better off growing up in a world in which they could look forward to equal legal rights?

(Please don’t talk to me about civil unions. Civil unions aren’t equality, any more than separate water fountains are equality.)

Returning to my main theme, Elizabeth claims that “children of straights and gays have a right to live in a society that firmly recognizes their fundamental need for their mother and father.” But how will denying gays equal rights give children that right? The fact is, children don’t have that right in today’s society (if they did, adoption, sperm banks, and divorce wouldn’t exist). Whether or not gay marriage is legalized, children will not have that right, because the problems Elizabeth refers to are much larger than the question of gay marriage. Once again, Elizabeth’s proposed solution won’t solve the problem she brings up.

(Another digression, regarding Elizabeth’s claim that children of gays would be harmed by equality: Please recall that virtually no peer-reviewed study of children raised by same-sex parents supports Elizabeth’s claim.)

Part Four: I speculate wildly on Elizabeth’s possible replies

Of course, Elizabeth might reply to all this (and here I’m putting hypothetical words into her mouth), I admit that banning gay marriage won’t solve all these problems in and of itself. Equal rights for gays is only a small part of the problem, so banning gay marriage will only have a small, incremental beneficial effect. But just because it doesn’t solve the problems completely doesn’t mean that it doesn’t address the problems at all. Maybe opposing equality will only do a little bit of good, but isn’t that better than nothing?

But if she did say that – or something along those lines – I’d have to remind her that her plan causes substantial harms. Maintaining a stigma against same-sex families hurts lesbians and gays everywhere, and hurts their children as well. Opposing equality not only harms gays and their families, it’s positively un-American.

Balanced against those harms, doing a little bit of good isn’t nearly good enough. Elizabeth must offer enough good to more than cancel out the harm her proposals will cause. If the best Elizabeth can offer is a vague, unsubstantial, small good done – rather than really solving the problems she’s talking about – then Elizabeth’s policy does far more harm than good, and doesn’t deserve any support.

Of course, Elizabeth might claim the opposite – that maintaining the stigma and opposing equality will in fact do a huge amount of good, more than enough to justify the harms caused by her policies. But if that’s the case – if gay marriage alone makes a large difference – then she should put her money where her mouth is. If she or any other opponent of equal rights claims that gay marriage alone will cause tragic results, then let them answer this question: in what specific, measurable ways will Canada and Massachusetts have gone downhill a few years from now?

If gay marriage alone is such a destructive thing that it’s worth the stigma and inequality to block it, then it must have an effect large enough to be measurable. In a few years time, we should see civilization collapse – or at least, a huge, measurable increase in the rates of divorce and one-parent families – in both Canada and Massachusetts. Is Elizabeth willing to make a prediction on paper – a prediction of real, measurable harm to children in Massachusetts that we won’t see in (say) New York or Connecticut? And if it fails to come true in the time period she specifies, will she then admit she was wrong to oppose gay marriage?

Part Five: How Elizabeth’s solution could make things worse, even from Elizabeth’s point of view

It’s obvious, of course, that maintaining a stigma against same-sex families is a bad thing. And opposing equality is bad, too.

But those are my measures – what about Elizabeth’s? Well, even by Elizabeth’s preferred measures, Elizabeth’s solutions may make things worse.

First of all, Elizabeth’s proposals could increase divorce. Why? Because the longer the stigma against gays and lesbians is maintained, the more likely it is that young queers will grow up “closeted,” and the more of them will therefore wind up in heterosexual marriages that they will come to regret.

The more our society accepts same-sex couples and families, on the other hand, the fewer people will ever be closeted in the first place. If we want to reduce divorce caused by lesbians and gays “coming out,” then we should do everything possible to decrease stigma and increase equality and acceptance.

Secondly, because Elizabeth – to her credit – is too nice a person to offer same-sex couples nothing at all, she favors civil unions. Personally, I oppose civil unions, except as a transitory step on the way to marriage; like separate water fountains, they’re about maintaining stigma, not about equal rights.

But even by Elizabeth’s standards, civil unions are a bad idea. Why? Because once they’re established in law, civil unions will sooner or later become available to straights. And once heterosexuals have that option, many young couples will choose to be civil-unionized rather than married. After all, it’s the perfect chance to get most (albeit not all) of the legal benefits of marriage – but without accepting a connection to the cultural traditions that Elizabeth so badly wants to uphold.

Personally, I’m not convinced that would be entirely bad (the harm of reduced traditionalism might be outweighed by the good of increased options for individual couples). But, given Elizabeth’s concerns, I don’t understand how supporting civil unions can be justified, since they will harm the institution she wants to protect.

Part Six: I summarize like a mad thing

Elizabeth is correct when she says that the goods and bads of both sides need to be weighed against each other. She’s mistaken, however, to imagine that doing so supports her case.

Elizabeth wants us to oppose equal legal rights for gays, in order to maintain a society in which same-sex families are understood to be inferior to “the norm.” Both of these things – opposing equality and maintaining an anti-gay stigma – are very harmful, and also opposed to bedrock American ideals of equality and fairness. They would be particularly harmful, in my opinion, to gay children and to children of same-sex families.

Elizabeth must demonstrate that her policies would do so much good that they’d completely outweigh those harms. To date, she hasn’t even come close to doing so (and nor have the other equality opponents I’ve read). Instead, she brings up a lot of problems – divorce, lack of commitment to kids – that, while serious, will in no way be solved by her proposed solution of opposing equal legal rights for gays and maintaining a stigma against same-sex families.

Alternatively, if her proposal actually would do an enormous amount of good, then she should be able to prove it by pointing to measurable ways equality in Massachusetts will make life worse in Massachusetts, compared to relatively unequal places like Connecticut. That she and other opponents of equality have been unwilling to back up their opinions by making concrete, measurable predictions suggests that they don’t really expect gay marriage to cause substantial, measurable harm.

Given the weakness of her arguments so far, the irrelevance of the problems she cites to the solutions she proposes, and the substantial harms her policies would bring about, I see no reason for any logical person to support Elizabeth’s views on gay marriage.

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28 Responses to An overly-long response to Elizabeth Marquardt regarding gay marriage

  1. 1
    Joe M. says:

    Amp — you repeatedly say things like this: “Instead, she brings up a lot of problems – divorce, lack of commitment to kids – that, while serious, will in no way be solved by her proposed solution of opposing equal rights and maintaining stigma.”

    I don’t think that addresses her point. No one thinks that banning gay marriage will SOLVE the problems of divorce, etc. No one could possibly think that, because the problems of divorce, etc., have arisen precisely during the past few decades while gay marriage has been disallowed. You’re really responding to a straw man argument here.

    What Marquardt would say, I think, is that our society has gone too far in the direction of thinking that parents — real mothers and fathers — are essentially fungible and easily replaceable entities. And how our society thinks affects how people act. If public norms treat fathers as filling an unnecessary role, all too many fathers will take advantage of the ideological cover as an excuse to abandon their responsibilities.

    The argument as to gay “marriage” is that here is yet another instance where people are trying to instigate a social development that is based on the idea that neither mothers nor fathers are really necessary. If two men or two women want to “have a child” — well, they obviously can’t do it amongst themselves. They have to somehow involve a member of the opposite sex. To describe this model of family as legitimate, as worthy of state protection and encouragement, is to say that the child’s real mother or real father is unnecessary.

    And that is what Marquardt is worried about. She doesn’t say that banning gay “marriage” will somehow “solve” problems of divorce and irresponsibility. Her point is that the arguments for gay “marriage” necessarily rest on _ideas_ that in themselves provide support for a culture of divorce and irresponsibility.

    Take the moving story about the lesbian couple that you reprinted below. I’m sure the children were loved and were better off in that situation. But you’re not just saying that these two women should have gotten better treatment for estate tax purposes. You don’t even want civil unions. You want the government to pronounce, as official policy, that all same-sex couples are “married.” This means that the government would stamp its approval on the idea that any two women can do just a good a job raising children as could the actual mother and father. And this necessarily implies the same old “fathers are generally expendable” argument that has caused such problems in other areas.

    I don’t think you’re really grappling with that point.

  2. 2
    Joe M. says:

    You keep citing a variety of studies. Here’s what Marquardt said in mid-November on that issue:

    QUOTE
    1) Do we really know what children of gays and lesbians say about their experiences?

    We don’t know very well how children of gays and lesbians talk about their experience. The early studies are small and contradictory. Permit me a comparison. Many advocates of SSM compare it to the interracial marriage issue. That’s a false comparison, because interracial marriage did not require that a child grow up from birth in a home automatically lacking his mother and father, and it did not weaken our legal or cultural understanding that children need their mother and father. It strengthened marriage.

    I think the more apt comparison with the budding SSM revolution is the divorce revolution. In the early years of the divorce revolution adults claimed it was an important step for adult freedom and rights. When children were mentioned at all advocates said they’d be “fine,” that all that matters is a loving household. Early studies, conducted mostly by advocates, interviewed little kids about their experience and, surprise surprise, the kids said they loved their parents. The adults said this proves that divorce is fine.

    Then years pass, children grow up, longer, better studies are done, and we know a lot more now about the downsides of divorce.

    The problem is that children are dependent on their parents and they are not verbally articulate like adults. I have no doubt whatsoever that children of gays and lesbians love their parents, but I just can’t imagine that homosexuality sprinkled on a household makes these children magically different from children in every other alternative family structure, who tell us that they love their parents but that the absence of a biological parent causes them pain. When this first generation of the SSM revolution grows up and tells us, then we’ll know. I would really like to be wrong. ENDQUOTE

  3. 3
    Eli says:

    Joe: the divorce analogy was awfully weak to begin with, but you push it over the brink of ludicrousness with your reference to “children in every other alternative family structure, who tell us that they love their parents but that the absence of a biological parent causes them pain.” First, divorce is not “every alternative family structure” – that’s a ridiculous overstatement. Second, even if your incredibly vague summary of research on divorce were a fair representation of what “children tell us” in general, it would be totally irrelevant to children who have been raised by two same-sex parents since birth. Such children never lost a parent… unless you think their DNA magically causes them pain at the absence of a biological relative. In which case we’d better stamp out adoption, too.

  4. 4
    Eli says:

    Oh, never mind, I just saw Joe’s non-responses to the same question on the other thread. Shouldn’t have bothered.

  5. 5
    Ampersand says:

    You’re really responding to a straw man argument here.

    Elizabeth justifies her policies by bringing up problems. In essense, what I’ve done in this post is suggest that the problems she brings up to justify her policies, should in fact be solved by her policies. If they are not, then the problems she brings up – and thus, her justification for opposing gay marriage – are irrelevant.

    A similar logic applies to what you say here. For instance, you write:

    …our society has gone too far in the direction of thinking that parents — real mothers and fathers — are essentially fungible and easily replaceable entities. And how our society thinks affects how people act. If public norms treat fathers as filling an unnecessary role, all too many fathers will take advantage of the ideological cover as an excuse to abandon their responsibilities.

    Let me ask you: do you imagine that ANY of these problems (accepting for the sake of argument that they exist) will be solved by banning gay marriage? If not, then how can you claim that these problems justify denying gays equal rights?

    To describe this model of family as legitimate, as worthy of state protection and encouragement, is to say that the child’s real mother or real father is unnecessary.

    First of all, the word “real” is inappropriate, because it implies that adoptive parents are never “real” parents. A more accurate term would be “biological.”

    And I do say that biological parents are unnecessary, in the sense of being necessarily better than other kinds of parents. (Of course, that doesn’t mean that particular bio-parents are unnecessary). There is no evidence that a child raised by lesbian parents from birth does any worse than a child raised by two biological parents from birth; nor is there any evidence that such a child would be better off being raised instead by her biological mother and the anonymous sperm donor.

    However, let’s go back to this: “I do say that biological parents are unnecessary.” To prevent me from being able to say that, do you think it’s justifiable to deny me basic human rights? And if your answer is “no,” then why is it justifiable to deny gays the right to marry in order to prevent a message being sent that bio-parents are unnecessary?

    Her point is that the arguments for gay “marriage” necessarily rest on _ideas_ that in themselves provide support for a culture of divorce and irresponsibility.

    Even if this were so – and I don’t know that it is – again, I must ask: Will opposing equal rights for gays somehow prevent a culture of divorce and irresponsibility? And if it won’t prevent it, then why does this problem you’re worrying about justify unequal rights?

    Once again, the problem you cite to justify the policy, won’t actually be solved by your policy.

  6. 6
    Ampersand says:

    A question for you, Joe.

    In your opinion, will legalizing gay marriage cause A) no harm at all, B) add small, incremental increases to already-existing harms and/or harmful trends, or C) cause large, independant harms on its own?

  7. 7
    Joe M. says:

    B.

  8. 8
    Ampersand says:

    Okay, then, here’s my question: How can you oppose equal legal rights for gays based on only incremental harms? Substantial, large harms, I could see a case – but it seems awfully cavalier to say “I’m against legal equality because in theory it might cause an incrimental increase to already-existing problems.”

    We know (as a statistical fact) that interracial couples are among the most likely to get divorced. Why, then, could we not oppose inter-racial marriage, on the grounds that legalizing inter-racial marriage causes an incremental increase in the divorce rate?

  9. 9
    Hestia says:

    Some responses to the content of Joe’s post:

    To describe this model of family as legitimate, as worthy of state protection and encouragement, is to say that the child’s real mother or real father is unnecessary.

    Of course children can only be created using an egg and a sperm (currently, in any case). In that sense they’re necessary. But it clearly isn’t necessary for the biological parent to fulfill the role of parent for the child.

    If public norms treat fathers as filling an unnecessary role, all too many fathers will take advantage of the ideological cover as an excuse to abandon their responsibilities.

    Public norms will never treat fathers as “unnecessary” in the way you mean it, i.e., not valuable. Fathers–and mothers–will always be considered valuable, regardless of who makes up the family unit. While grandparents are technically “unnecessary,” we still think they play important roles in a child’s life, don’t we?

    And I don’t understand why you believe that fathers (or mothers, unless you think that mothers are less expendable than fathers, somehow) will run if society says it’s OK to do so, or that a child would be best served by a family in which one of her parents wants nothing to do with her.

  10. 10
    Joe M. says:

    Again, Amp, I don’t think you’re getting it.

    Me: …our society has gone too far in the direction of thinking that parents — real mothers and fathers — are essentially fungible and easily replaceable entities. And how our society thinks affects how people act. If public norms treat fathers as filling an unnecessary role, all too many fathers will take advantage of the ideological cover as an excuse to abandon their responsibilities.

    You: Let me ask you: do you imagine that ANY of these problems (accepting for the sake of argument that they exist) will be solved by banning gay marriage?

    My response: No. They won’t be solved. Not at all. But giving societal approval to gay marriage might make them worse. That’s the point.

    You say: There is no evidence that a child raised by lesbian parents from birth does any worse than a child raised by two biological parents from birth; nor is there any evidence that such a child would be better off being raised instead by her biological mother and the anonymous sperm donor.

    How do you know this? How do you know that there is any evidence that children don’t need their biological mothers and fathers? Is this just an article of faith? Shouldn’t there be some really impressive evidence before we dismiss hundreds of thousands of years of human evolution, all of which shows that people tend to expend the most effort taking care of those who carry their genes?

  11. 11
    Joe M. says:

    Amp: Okay, then, here’s my question: How can you oppose equal legal rights for gays based on only incremental harms? Substantial, large harms, I could see a case – but it seems awfully cavalier to say “I’m against legal equality because in theory it might cause an incrimental increase to already-existing problems.”

    We know (as a statistical fact) that interracial couples are among the most likely to get divorced. Why, then, could we not oppose inter-racial marriage, on the grounds that legalizing inter-racial marriage causes an incremental increase in the divorce rate?

    Marriage isn’t a “right” like free speech or freedom of religion. It is a privilege that the state grants to a certain type of relationship, and that need not be granted to anyone at all. I’m not persuaded by all the talk of “equal rights,” any more than I would be persuaded if someone said, “I’m an animal lover, so why doesn’t the state grant me privileges based on the fact that I love my cat so much?” Not that gay marriage is equivalent to owning a pet — not at all. But my response would be the same: As a member of society, I don’t care whether you love your pet or whether you have a pet at all. Therefore, I don’t care to grant privileges to that type of relationship. And as a member of society, I don’t care whether two gay men or two gay women live together, and hence I don’t care to have society grant all such relationships special privileges, any more than I care to have society grant a special certificate to “roommates.”

    Whereas I do care whether a male-female couple live together as a couple, because they at least have the potential to produce children as a couple, in which case they should have every incentive to act responsibly towards their children.

  12. 12
    Hestia says:

    How do you know this?

    There’s no evidence. If there were evidence, then we’d know otherwise. Do you have some evidence of which we are not aware? Or are you really saying “There’s no evidence that there’s no evidence, and so we must do what I think is best, even though there’s no evidence that it is”?

    And like I said in response to another one of your posts, just because “people tend to expend the most effort taking care of those who carry their genes” (which I’m not convinced is true) does not mean that people who care for non-biological children are harming those children or anyone else.

  13. 13
    Jake Squid says:

    I must admit to being blown away by the obtusity & nonsensicalness of the arguments of JoeM. If you believe that there is justification in the denial of equal rights if said rights MIGHT further exacerbate some problem, you are as un-American as you can get. (WARNING, WARNING – potentially bad analogy ahead). By that same logic I can advocate removing your voting rights because by your being allowed to vote you MIGHT harm the rights of others. Bologna!

    Not to mention that it doesn’t do anything a’tall to address the problem itself. In order to address the problem that you cite, we would need to not only make divorce illegal – we would also need to mandate that spouses MUST live in the same home 98% of the time (98 days of 100 – as a number I’ve pulled out of somebody’s ass). Then you would have no families effected by the symptoms of modern-day divorce and seperation.

    But maybe I’m just cranky.

  14. 14
    --k. says:

    Shorter Joe M.–

    The very idea of legitimizing a gay or lesbian relationship threatens my limited and ossified conception of a societal construct, and so I am wholly justified in calling for the destruction of their families.

    Newsflash, Joe: gay men and lesbians in committed relationships are producing kids all over the place, in all manner of ways, from turkey basters to calculated one-night stands. Decide you can open your mind if not your heart, or proudly proclaim you just don’t give a fuck about the destructive financial hardships and profoundly petty idignities your policies will put them through, parents and children alike, all to no more good than the salving of your cultural insecurities. It’s reality, and you’re going to have to deal with it, one way or another.

  15. 15
    Raznor says:

    Shorter Joe M:

    My ass is grass.

    Shorter kip:

    I’m the mower, bitch!

    good takedown

  16. 16
    Simon says:

    If “children in every other alternative family structure tell us that the absence of a biological parent causes them pain,” as Elizabeth and Joe keep repeating, and if this pain is so monstrous a thing that we must prohibit gay marriage, several things follow:

    1) A tremendous stigma must be placed on civil unions to prevent gays from raising their children that way. After all, if the harm consists of the child not living with biological parents, it doesn’t help matters if gay parents decide to live together in a civil union instead of a marriage. Elizabeth supports civil unions, but surely she can’t want anyone to take advantage of the opportunity.

    2) We should essentially outlaw divorce. After all, if nothing is a substitute for biological parents, then no alternate arrangement be it ever so serene is better than bickering or abusive parents.

    3) We should essentially outlaw second marriages for people, even widowed ones, with minor children. If Heather’s second mommy is no substitute for her daddy, not because she’s not a man but because she’s not her biological father, then a stepfather is no substitute either. Biological parents uber alles!

    4) Actually, what we’d really need to do is make it illegal for parents of minor children to die. Universal health care would be a start.

    5) Get the troops out of Iraq! Some of them might get killed! Then their children will be deprived of a biological parent! Quel horreur!

    6) Toss out all those child-protection laws that remove children from abusive homes. That takes them away from their all-important biological parents.

    7) Remember how the anti-choice people say “Adoption, not abortion”? Well, toss that too. Adoption takes children away from their biological parents. Reinstitute shotgun weddings for any teen who gets herself knocked up, even if it’s by her brother. Cleopatra married her brother, and she turned out OK. [this is sarcasm, btw]

    Alternatively, we can avoid these absurd arguments by just dropping the notion that the biological parents are the best possible rearing parents in all possible circumstances, since it’s clearly just a figleaf for opposing gay marriage, from bigots too chicken to come out with the good old “God decreed Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve” argument, which is what they really think – since they’re not in fact opposing stepparents, adoption, and other commonplaces which would be equally bad by this argument.

  17. 17
    yvelle says:

    great post, amp. really appreciate the time you put into your writing.

  18. 18
    Joe M. says:

    –k: You have a remarkable facility for producing elegant posts that consist of little more than self-righteous condescension. Oh, and you’re helping me out when you refer to “turkey basters” and “calculated one-night stands.” That’s exactly the type of irresponsible and self-centered behavior that the state shouldn’t be rewarding with special privileges.

    Jake: Do you support “equal rights” for best friends? Equal rights for roommates? Equal rights for polygamists? Equal rights for incest?

    Simon: Your bombastic post is arguing against a straw man. Typical around here, I guess. Neither I nor anyone ever said that biological parents are better in every single situation. Just that they’re better on average, and that policies shouldn’t be based on a philosophy that undermines social support for the role of parents.

  19. 19
    --k. says:

    So, Joe: you’re against artificial insemination and surrogate motherhood?

  20. 20
    Dan J says:

    There’s mothing irresponsible about wanting and producing children, and then sticking around to raise them. There is also nothing inherently irresponsible about divorce, kids or no kids. What the State must endorse is the view that all of the people in those diverse situations are, nonetheless equal.

    People aren’t roommates, best friends, polygamous, or incestuous by birth, or by natural development. Try not to confuse the issue by making the “homosexuality is a choice” argument. It’s nonsense.

    First of all, how do you know what’s better on average. When did you become a spokesperson for all children everywhere? And when are you going to get around to demonstrating specifically how allowing equal rights to homosexuals undermines support for the role of parents? It seems to me that it only reinforces it.

  21. 21
    Joe M. says:

    Actually, yes I am. Those means of reproducing are often used in ways that automatically deprive children of their real mother and/or father. Does that mean I’d throw people in jail for it? No, but I’d probably regulate more heavily, as in Europe.

  22. 22
    Dan J says:

    Joe, you keep talking about taking children away from their biological parents as if that, in and of itself, hurts them or is an inherently irresponsible thing to do. There is no factual information that bears this out. You have said that it is an ideal. Whose ideal is it? Society’s? A society is a thing; it can’t have an ideal. So whose? And is it really still anyone’s ideal if we are on an apparent downhill slide away from it? Or is it a dominant ideal? Who’s to say… it sounds more like one person’s opinion of what the ideal is to me…

    Are we to make social policies based on people’s opinions of the ideals of someone they can’t name, when there are real, living people, including children, whose actual, demostrable needs should be addressed?

  23. 23
    Joe M. says:

    Dan: There is also nothing inherently irresponsible about divorce, kids or no kids. What the State must endorse is the view that all of the people in those diverse situations are, nonetheless equal.

    Divorce is, in most situations, irresponsible. By definition, it is abandoning one of the most serious commitments a person can make. Where children are involved, it is utterly shameful (except in cases of serious abuse by one of the spouses).

    People aren’t roommates, best friends, polygamous, or incestuous by birth, or by natural development. Try not to confuse the issue by making the “homosexuality is a choice” argument. It’s nonsense.

    You are the only person confusing the issue. I never said anything about homosexuality being a choice. That’s completely irrelevant. The question is why the state should single out ONE type of human relationship for special treatment.

  24. 24
    Hestia says:

    That’s exactly the type of irresponsible and self-centered behavior that the state shouldn’t be rewarding with special privileges.

    “Rewarding”? “Special privileges”? Come on, Joe. Any married individual can have one night stands etc. without automatically losing those “special privileges.”

    Do you support “equal rights” for best friends?

    Compared to what are best-friend relationships being discriminated? Correct me if I’m wrong, but we don’t fight discrimination based on the relationship, but rather on race, gender, and sexual orientation.

    Your bombastic post is arguing against a straw man. Typical around here, I guess.

    Pot. Kettle. Black.

    Just that they’re better on average, and that policies shouldn’t be based on a philosophy that undermines social support for the role of parents.

    But you’ve been challenged numerous times to prove your point, and you have yet to come up with one coherent reason why this is true, except that you think it is, and in no universe is “Because I said so” a valid argument.

    I can’t discuss anything with someone who continues to return to points that have already been shown to be wrong.

    The question is why the state should single out ONE type of human relationship for special treatment.

    Using this argument, we should eliminate marriage entirely. Are you sure that’s what you mean?

  25. 25
    --k. says:

    Okay, Joe: I’ll give you points for consistency, and will attempt to modulate my elegant contempt.

    That said, I’m dinging you for an appalling ignorance of people–who they are, what they want, how they work, and the things they do to each other in this world. You have what is to you a beautifully ordered idea of how the world works, with your evolutionary psychology and your ideal averages, but you are distressed to find that the world isn’t working that way; rather than adjust your idea, you demand the world remake itself–no matter the cost to people who aren’t you. Your policies would cause far more harm than good, and are unspeakably contemptuous of people I know and love–it’s hard for me not to take that personally. When we extend it to include anyone who’s used surrogacy or artificial insemination or adoption, we include enough of the world around us that I feel confident the world will never, ever even attempt to conform itself to your ideals. The granting of civil rights and full equality to committed same-sex relationships is inevitable (always barring some sort of collapse into depression and terror-fueled fascist state, but it’s early and I’m leaving my tinfoil hat off for the moment); the wheels of justice are grinding much to slowly, perhaps, for my taste, but they are unmistakably grinding. That you will never actually succeed in cementing your world view means I ought, perhaps, to tone down my contempt.

    But that just leaves pity, and I don’t think you’d like that much, either.

  26. 26
    lucia says:

    I find Joe’s response to Amp puzzling. Joe is “my” and Amp is “you”.

  27. 27
    Julio Sueco says:

    I actually don’t give a fuck about who marries who, this debate seems to be impregnated with christian ideology, while I respect the fact that you are fighting, like David against Goliath, this thing is really about the christian right meddling in the public affairs of society, like always, the worst dictator ends up being God and their stupid manifest destiny believers, I say kick the motherf…ers out of the public light and back to their confessionary dark ages cublicles, right?

  28. 28
    Harry says:

    It’s amazing how justice (and freedom) for all is constantly compromised for bigots and religious right-wingers! Separation of church and state is abundantly clear: NO religion shall be recognized above others and NO religious values shall be imposed on the populace. So let people who love each other get married and receive the same benefits (that are unearned) by heterosexuals. If you want fairness, only the employee should be covered and no options offered for spouse and children OR benefits to ANY non-employees could be offered to Gays & Straights alike. I’m a single person and I don’t benefit by my group health plan covering another employee’s spouse and children. CONVERSELY, the costs for maintaining unearned benefits and payouts for claims for non-employees (spouse & children) dilutes my benefits by raising the cost of our group health plan. Tax deductions based on the number of children on a “married person’s” tax filing generate unfair tax breaks which the taxes paid by a single person are unfairly increased to compensate. The list goes on and on. Unequal status of gay “unions”, especially with children are not given the same generous benefits. As a single person, I believe that the children of gay couples should be given equal treatment to that of hetero marriages. Without EQUALITY, gay “union” children have their lives compromised due to the discriminatory stigma imposed by bigots. Is this representative of what the founders of the United States of America wanted? I think not.