On Sowing the Wind on Behalf of the Same Sex Marriage Movement

My unamended comment at Ordinary Times, under a post with the perfectly ironic title “Bigots Come Out Of the Closet”:

As for me, what more can I do but offer an open ear to their explanations.

Someone who italicizes, boldfaces, capitalizes, and exclaims the word “bigots,” then speculates about employing a larger font-size, as you do at the beginning of your post, is not credibly “offer[-ing] an open ear,” or cannot do so until he has retracted.

Whatever possible doubt as to your position and to the extent it is prejudiced rather than “open” is removed when you sign on to the common assertion, now heard and approved repeatedly on this thread, that opposition to marriage equality invariably and necessarily originates in such “bigotry,” or, if you prefer


: not in error, not in an alternative concept, mistaken or not, of the purpose of marriage as institution or of the state’s or society’s interest in the institution, but solely, exclusively, inherently, and culpably in irrational disrespect or indecent prejudice or, now using your words, “animus” or “monstrous” “hatred.” You sum up your stance as follows:

[T]hose opposed to gay marriage are bigots motivated by their hatred of gays. Principled opposition to gay marriage is always revealed to be nothing more than an expression of the individual’s discomfort with gay people…

According to you, apparently even “principled” opposition must “always” originate in culpable, morally intolerable bias.

So, there are two questions here. One concerns the underlying issue, about which anyone with an open mind – a condition that obviously does not include you and that may exclude the majority of discussants here – has had plentiful opportunity to read and reflect. If so inclined, as you obviously are not and as most here also may not be, you can find arguments against re-definition of marriage, or, alternatively, arguments against re-definition of marriage in a particular way or on a particular legal or conceptual basis, that do not rely on any position or attitude regarding homosexuals or homosexuality at all, or (my own preference) would not even exclude admission of gay and lesbian couples to an otherwise conceptually and essentially unchanged institution.

Much more typically, of course, wherever these views are encountered, such as in right-wing websites or Supreme Court dissents or deep down in the unread threads, partisans on the other side immediately set to attacking their authors and sensationalizing content, rather than engaging arguments on their own terms as arguments.

At this point, we turn naturally to the second issue: your rhetoric, which even those who generally agree with your positions, even including your assumptions about the simple irrationality and immorality of any anti-SSM position, find excessive and counterproductive. I would put my own disapproval of it in stronger terms, but I doubt it would make an impression on you or on the majority of users at this site, among other things because they are biased in your favor. They would be, I suspect, rather less forgiving of someone who posted here arguing the counter-position while offering some mirror-image tirade on the inherent and necessary depravity of SSM proponents, and claiming a license to engage in name-calling.

In this connection, you or your allies might even wish to consider that an actually convincing show of compassion and of honest interest in the views of others would serve other purposes. For me, simple intellectual humility and an interest in the truth rather than in winning a political fight (that has minimal personal meaning to me) is already sufficient to justify interest in all sides on this issue. If you need a practical justification, you may wish to consider the possibility that gays and pro-SSM activitists may be disproportionately and very unfairly blamed in the future, as problems with the institution and related norms continue to worsen or are seen to do so, or reach some new critical stage, perhaps some years from now. In short, the self-righteous pitilessness of today’s winners in their moment of triumph may be recalled during a backlash cycle – which latter some may view as inevitable, and which a reading of history and a realistic appreciation of human nature at least suggests is a strong possibility.

In my view, the way in which this issue has been argued, decided, and exploited increases that danger, an observation that I will attempt to develop further in connection with the (allegedly unjust) “reasons” for what you call “punishment” that you present.

Now, it’s hard for me to understand what you think you’re saying with your numbers 3 and 2 above, or who you imagine is making what specific arguments relating to commitment and religion. I think on number 1 you did not mean to include the word “gay,” but here at least seem to be making an argument that’s understandable, in reference to a widely heard argument, rather a cliche in marriage equality discussions.

That accepting “non-procreative” marriages into the institution somehow invalidates the state’s interest as an interest in procreation has been, in my view completely unnecessarily, conceded even by the likes of Justice Scalia. Yet since ancient times and the origins of political philosophy, this matter of the actual physical constitution of the state in its citizens or subjects has been taken to be a primary and initial, indeed obviously primary and initial consideration for any theory of the state.

If we presume, contra Scalia and many of his colleagues, and against the insistence of numerous SSM proponents, that the valid state and societal interest in the institution of marriage inherently begins and ends with reproduction (sexual and social) of society itself – i.e., the people who make society up along with their lives, liberty and pursuit of happiness – then the question is simply what set of laws and other measures best serve that end. If state and society establish and ordain the cultivation and protection of stable monogamous marriages with a high likelihood of producing children who will grow up to become contributing citizens, then, under different prevailing conditions, differing rules governing the resultant institution might be adopted, including more or less strict “eligibility requirements.”

I have long believed that an argument in favor of same sex marriages could have been made along these lines, as in fact it has been at times by some SSM proponents. I think that we may even have backed into this solution, but have not recognized it yet, and are instead somewhat trapped by justifications based on an unsustainable and undesirable, actually quite radical pure transactionalization of the marriage bond – as typified by elements of the Kennedy opinion, for example, and as leading to the typical confusion and unrealism of the polyamorists on this thread.

Social conservatives have, in general, not been able to articulate their marriage concept very well in my opinion, but it will be among them, mostly, that you would find the remnant basis for a more durable and coherent marriage solution – if, indeed, we wanted one or knew we should. Instead we have committed to a principle of the further devaluation and erosion of the institution – which, given the central (or “nuclear”) role of the institution in society must have very broad effects. We have done so, it seems, not because it was the only way to address the needs and aspirations of gay citizens, but because our dysfunctional public discourse left us no other option.

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