Monday, December 22, 2008

Religious Case for Gay Marriage - A critical response

Last week, Newsweek sported a cover story to do with “The Religious Case for Gay Marriage.” I wanted to like this story. As a libertarian, I am appalled that the State feels that one of its proper duties is to sanction and encourage one type of partnership among consenting adults while obstructing others strictly because of a moral objection. (“Gay marriage is icky!!”) And as a non-believer, “Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve,” does nothing to convince me that its utterers are capable of spelling, let alone, explaining their statement.

But anyone wanting to convince the unconvinced that the Bible does not frown on homosexuality will face a problem; the Bible DOES frown on homosexuality… in several difference passages. [] This tiny fact makes the read very awkward: like someone trying to convince me that the “Eat Whatever You Want” diet works, I want to agree with it, but my brain won’t let me.

The author’s case can be summed up like this: while the Bible may seem to condemn homosexual marriage, it should not be taken literally. It’s anti-homosexual message owes more towards the customs of the PEOPLE that wrote it, than any real truth. To use the author’s own words: “A mature view of scriptural authority requires us, as we have in the past, to move beyond literalism. The Bible was written for a world so unlike our own, it's impossible to apply its rules, at face value, to ours.”

To an atheist like myself, such a tact was predictable. In fact, I remember thinking to myself before reading the article that I hope the author would not pull the old, “The Bible doesn’t mean what it says,” line. Well, she did. What about the Apostle Paul’s condemnation of homosexuality as an “abomination?” it is “is really a critique of the worst kind of wickedness: self-delusion, violence, promiscuity and debauchery” and not homosexuality (as it says). What of the Book of Common Prayer’s mention of marriage as between “the man and the woman?” “Common practices change.”

The author "bolsters" her case by pointing out that in the Bible, "the concept of family is fundamental, but examples of what social conservatives would call "the traditional family" are scarcely to be found." True enough! Polygamy was all over the Old Testament. Jesus was (despite rough speculation to the contrary) willfully non-married. And beyond that, "[t]he Bible endorses slavery, a practice that Americans now universally consider shameful and barbaric. It recommends the death penalty for adulterers (and in Leviticus, for men who have sex with men, for that matter). It provides conceptual shelter for anti-Semites. A mature view of scriptural authority requires us, as we have in the past, to move beyond literalism. " Thus, anyone who argues that scripture condems homosexuality are taking the Bible at its word, and (as evidenced by the above moral missteps in the Bible) doing that would be taking a human-produced document as Divine Law.

Now, I am not fan of the Biblical literalist Ken Ham, but I remember something he said once that might help us here. On the PBS series " Evolution, Ham was asked why he fights so hard to prove the Creation story of the Bible contra evolution and modern physics. His answer: if the Bible gets it wrong on the origin of the universe, species, and humans, then is there any reason to believe that it gets it right about morality? (Of course, Ham and I have VERY different answers to this rhetorical question!)

His point is my point in reverse: if we believe our Newseek author, the Bible got it wrong about slavery, punishment for adultery, and homosexuality. Is there ANY reason, then, to suppose that the Bible got it right about any other moral pronouncements, let alone metaphysical statements? (If so, it must be explained how we know what sections are correct when we know that other sections are wrong.)

So, if the author is correct and the Bible is a human-made document created by human minds to give voice to their version of how things should morally be, then why should I not just get my morals from Aesop's Fables? By telling us that the Bible's moral proclomations are made by humans, rather than God, then why do we have any reason to suppose that it is correct in any moral capacity?

All of this is deeply strange because we constantly hear people claiming that the Bible is a moral guide and/or authority. When pastors give sermons that wax about the teachings of Jesus, we are told that Jesus - the authority - is telling us how we should live (rather than that a guy who lived many thousands of years ago is offering his debatable opinions). The author herself suggests that, "We cannot look to the Bible as a marriage manual, but we can read it for universal truths as we struggle toward a more just future." Read: while we should realize that the Bible has gotten quite a few ethical proclomations dead-nuts wrong, we need to realize that the Bible has much to offer us in moral wisdom. But, how can we say that the Bible gets a lot wrong ethically while claiming that the Bible can lead us towards "univeral truths" in ethics? The author does not say.

I have an idea on that, though. I believe that the very fact that we can say, "The Bible got it wrong here," MEANS that our sense of morality is indepenent of what is said in the Bible. The author is correct in suggesting that "we struggle towards a more just future," but is wrong to suggst that we do, or should, read the Bible in our quest. Instead of reading the Bible to help us progress morally, what we more likely do is progress morally and then read the Bible and cherry-pick those quotes that can "justify" our new moral positions. (A great instance of this is that during the Civil War, both the abolitionists and the pro-slavery forces quoted the Bible and held that theirs was the Biblically-endorsed position. In reality, no one got their moral views on slavery from the Bible; rather, they only used the Bible to justify their already-held opinions.)

Lastly, the author points out that Jesus's overriding message was that of acceptance and inclusion. "The practice of inclusion, even in defiance of social convention, the reaching out to outcasts, the emphasis on togetherness and community over and against chaos, depravity, indifference—all these biblical values argue for gay marriage."

I think this is simplistic. While it is commonplace today to suggest that Jesus's love is unconditional, it does not take much to see through this. Jesus's love WAS conditional; conditional on acceptance of him as the son of God. And I have heard many a anti-homosexual Christian argue, Jesus may be accepting towards those who love him, but one could not be gay and love Jesus at the same time (as these folks believe that loving Jesus means repenting for sin, and repenting for sin means renouncing one's gayness). I disagree with these folks passionately, but it is hard to see the flaw in their logic.

To close, it seems to me that the Newsweek author is pushing the same "pick and choose" Christianity that most Christians today practice. (It would be awfully hard not to, considering the idiocy of the alternative of literalism). The problem is that she will not do much convincing with this,. Biblical literalists have heard the "Bible is a document written by fallible humans" before, and they don't seem to be buying it. The only people, then, who will be receptive to her arguments are those who are likely ALREADY non-literalists who do not need convincing.


  1. This topic continues to be very timely, and I appreciate (as I always do) Kevin’s perspective on the matter. I do believe, however (as I often do), that Kevin’s approach to homosexual marriage is defective. But first, a few fundamental assumptions and preliminary remarks.

    First, I take no moral position on homosexual behavior in general, but do believe that it is immoral to deny homosexuals and homosexual relationships due concern and respect. To that end, I believe homosexuals should have access to enter into relationships with one another in many ways that resemble those heterosexuals enjoy as a matter of morality. But the reason I emphasize morality in these preliminary remarks is to distinguish morality from constitutionality, for what is moral is not necessarily constitutional, and vice versa.

    This point is critical for understanding that the moral issue of whether one ought to support the notion of “homosexual marriage” or not has nothing to do with the constitution. And if one disagrees with me on this simple point, it is because one accepts a fundamentally wrong view of the meaning of the constitution and how it was meant to function. Of course, there are plenty of not just ordinary folks but constitutional scholars who wish the constitution was a document that does nothing but mirror the changing mores of America, and who have argued extensively that one ought to interpret the constitution in precisely this way. And I think many of these arguments ingenious, and some even persuasive. But none of these arguments lead to the conclusion that the constitution really is the mysterious, “living” document they wish it to be. Such a view is pure mythology, albeit noble mythology. The reality is that the Constitution of the United States is very much dead, and not only that, it was in many ways quite immoral at one point in time (e.g., the implicit sanction of slavery, to be the best example). And so is The Bible, as Kevin aptly shows.

    Hence, people obviously can and do reasonably disagree about whether this or that practice ought to be constitutional or not, which typically matches up to whether or not one views the practice immoral or not. Whether any given practice is moral, however, has nothing to do with constitutionality. And, therefore, the debate about homosexual marriage has nothing to do with constitutionality either.

    Or so it was, for everyone knows that this serious issue is being waged in the courts and debated in constitutional law classrooms. And the reason for this is simple: politically unpopular groups that have no serious prospects of achieving constitutional amendments (the only way to constitutionally amend the constitution) seek to change – not the minds of the citizenry – but the minds of supreme court justices. Abortion is the perfect example, as no serious constitutional scholar believes that Roe v. Wade was decided on constitutional grounds - Roe's grounds were purely political. It is only by subscribing to the noble mythology of a “living constitution” do some maintain the illusion of amending the constitution constitutionally by way of “judicial review" (the constitutional pedigree of which is itself dubious) rather than by the only constitutionally way of doing so: constitutional amendment.

    I preface my remarks only to encourage people to understand the reality underlying this particular debate. No matter how one feels about the concept of marriage, no serious, substantive discussion of the topic can occur if one engaging in it entertains the fiction that in any meaningful sense the federal (or any state) constitution prohibits a state from denying marriage to homosexual couples. Stated differently, it is a brute and plan matter of legal fact that people constitutionally may, via their state legislators, create laws that limit the concept of marriage to heterosexuals only.

    But what if that practice is immoral?, one might ask. It doesn’t matter because constitutionality has no necessary correlation to morality. And, even if it did, there would be no serious dispute that every constitution in the United States – including the federal one – presupposes that it is not immoral to limit the concept of marriage to heterosexuals.

    Again, I take no position on the normative issue of whether homosexuals ought to be allowed to marry. If my state, the State of Iowa, wishes to put the matter to a vote I will happy devote more time to this subject and then vote. Where I take a position is whether it is moral for any group of individuals to influence any given state (or federal) judiciary to decide this issue for me, permanently and unconstitutionally, by reading some meaning into any given state (or federal) constitution that in no reasonable sense is what that constitution actually means. And any interpretation from which it follows that the people of any given state (or nation) cannot decide this serious issue for themselves is false as a matter of legal fact. Therefore, as a libertarian, I am appalled by anyone who feels that I should be stripped of my constitutional right to vote on this – and every – moral issue on which the constitution remains silent.

    And this, I believe, may be where Kevin and I part company. For example, Kevin disparages the moral view that the concept of homosexual behavior is repugnant for religious reasons. I actually agree with this view, for I do not believe that homosexual behavior is repugnant for any reason. (I do not myself find it appealing, but that is just because I’m not a homosexual.) At the same time, however, while I may have less respect for a person because they believe homosexual behavior is immoral for religious reasons, I would never be so elitist as to say that such a person should be disqualified voting on the issue. Democracy presupposes stupidity.

    As I state in a post on my own blog, libertarianism is the view that individual humans are the ontological and normative starting points to any just society. Therefore, each American should be free to vote on these issues, and any governmental coercion to the contrary not only offends libertarianism, but the very structure of our American Democracy. As such, any view or opinion that purports to sanction a court deciding moral issues by way of “constitutionalizing” them is tyrannical.

    In any event, given the ontological primacy of the individual, it is proper to consider the ontology of marriage. And to do so one need not look any further than a dictionary (I like “the state of being united to a person of the opposite sex as husband and wife in a consensual and contractual relationship recognized by law” or (and this is new) “the state of being united to a person of the same sex in a relationship like that of a traditional marriage.” Marriage, then, (or at the least “traditional marriage”) is the union of a man and woman. By contrast, the union of two members of the same sex is “like,” but not identical to, traditional marriage. Thus, we can all agree that we’re talking about two ontologically distinct relations. The question therefore becomes whether this distinction carries with it any significant meaning.

    In my experience, this is the focal point in debate surrounding the propriety of granting homosexual unions the title of “marriage.” For example, my close homosexual friends are often reluctant to admit, even if they will concede the fundamental ontological distinction, that the distinction itself carries with it any significant meaning.

    Without taking a moral position on whether it matters, I personally believe that the distinction between the two unions is significant, perhaps even profound. And my belief turns on the fact that one union is capable, in principle, of generating humans, while the other is not. It sounds almost funny to state all of this because it is so obvious, but I find that some people place absolutely no relevance whatsoever on this simple fact. (I take these people to be either disingenuous or obtuse.)

    Hence the question becomes whether it is constitutionally permissible to allow people, through the democratic process, to reflect the policy judgment that the law treat heterosexual relationships as “special” in the sense that the law grants individuals in these relationships special rights tailored to achieve certain ends, be it to strengthen he bonds holding those individuals together (i.e., discouraging divorce) or to provide financial incentives (e.g., taxation benefits) for producing more humans. I think it that allowing people, through the democratic process, to treat heterosexual relationships as “special” as a means to certain ends (such as those just mentioned) is not only constitutionally permissible, but wise policy aimed at maintaining society itself.

    All of which leads to the question: should we deny this “specialness” homosexual couples? In one sense, I think the answer is “no.” There should be a vehicle by which homosexual couples should benefit from an institution of some sort that resembles traditional marriage. This can be done in two ways: by simply expanding the concept of marriage to encompass homosexual couples, or by creating a new institution that resembles, but isn’t, a marriage (e.g., a “civil union”). But let me be clear: either avenue is for the people to choose, not any courts, because no constitution covers this issue.

    If everything I’ve said so far is true, then Kevin’s criticism of what he (or Newsweek) caricatures as the “religious point of view” on the matter, while perhaps accurate, misses the mark (if the mark is to show that homosexual marriage should be permitted as a matter of law or morality).

  2. As usual, while Ben and I disagree on details, I have to admire the job he does outlining his position and the caveat to it.

    I could not agree more with my friend that constitutionality and morality are seperate issues, and that too many people mistake the two as one. Also, too many individuals wish that arguing for x's morality was sufficient to arguing for x's constitutionality - as if the latter was the mysterious "livng" document that Ben and I agree it is not.

    I also agree - as a libertarian and a believer in democracy - that people have the right to put certain issues up for a democratic vote. In this case of homosexuality, the issue would be the domain of the states under Amendement 10. States, if they choose, can decide for themselves (under a republican system, as provided to the states by the Constitution) on the issue.

    I recognize that while I hold certain moral positions, I am one of many citizens and, should I be in the minority in thinking that homosexual marriage is civilly acceptable, I must nevertheless accept that the "majority is against me."

    But as Ben so rightly said, "democracy presupposes stupidity." On the issue of gay marriage, I have no problem "disparag[ing] the moral view that the concept of homosexual behavior is repugnant." The only reasons I can fathom (besides appeals to tradition which we will get to) are religious reasons. As I believe religion to be silly, I believe that arguments appealling to religion are no better than arguments appealling to Aesop's Fables or Horton Hears a Who (except for the fact that many people believe that Jonah survived in a whale, but see any belief in Horton to be unjustifiable.)

    But let's talk about Ben's appeal to tradition. I can see how many people would take appeals to tradition very seriously. Ben is correct to note that keeping institutions the same or similar is "wise policy aimed at maintaining society itself." Stabililty is a key piece of holding society together.

    But stability in our definition of marriage? First, it has never been a stable concept! WE allow blacks to marry, when we did not before (legally). We allow those of different 'races' to marry eachother, where we did not before. Marriage used to be purely a religious domain, with no "tax benefits" or civil goodies attached. Now it is more civil than religious. (I wonder how Ben's arguments from stability are any different than the same arguments used to argue against inter-racial marriage?)

    Ben also points out what he thinks is the crux of the issue. "And my belief turns on the fact that one union is capable, in principle, of generating humans, while the other is not. It sounds almost funny to state all of this because it is so obvious, but I find that some people place absolutely no relevance whatsoever on this simple fact."

    The ability to generate humans, though, is neither a necessary or sufficient condition of marriage, though. It is not a necessary condition becuase my aunt and uncle are married and cannot have children. It is not a sufficient condition because having a baby can just as easily, and is often, done out of wedlock. Thus, I am not sure how a condition that is neither necessary or sufficient for x can somehow provide an essential demarcation for x.

    Ben ththen goes on to say something that he and I very much agree on: it is the people's right to choose what happens to marriage. We can either continue to disallow gay marriage, change the definition of marriage, or create something similar to marriage for gays.

    I agree that it is the people's right to decide; I never said that it was not. But it is people's responsibility in a democratic system to try and persuade their fellow people that they should vote this way rather than that. I feel very strongly that gay marriage is discrimination based solely on sexual orientation of a type as repugnant as the discrimination of defining a person as "someone who is white." I also feel like creating a 'similar institution' for gays that resembles, but is not, marriage is like creating a back of the bus for black people that is similar to, but not the same as, the front of the bus.

    So, Ben and I very much agree that this is an issue delegated to the democratic proceses in each state. If Mississippi chooses to disallow gay marriage, we should abide (while doing all we can to PASS A LAW, not a legal judgment, to the contrary.)

    Where we disagree is on the viability of appeals to tradition, and the arguments to disbar homosexual marriage by its ability to be a vehicle for intercourse.

  3. As one can see, Kevin and I are close to agreement on this issue. But where we differ, I think, is in our understanding of what – if anything – justifies (or purports to justify) distinguishing between heterosexual marriage and homosexual marriage.

    First off, then, let’s continue unpacking the attempt to ground treating the two different relations differently by appealing to “tradition.” I think Kevin and I agree that “tradition,” in and of itself, cannot justify the rightness of whatever traditional practice we’re talking about. In other words, if someone says “Why is x right?”, answering “it’s tradition” (or “that’s just the way it is,” as the great thinker Bruce Hornsby presciently wrote), begs the question. So we must examine the given tradition to see if we can identify any reason why the tradition exists at all.

    If I understand Kevin’s view correctly, he believes that the sole basis of the tradition of marriage itself is a result of religious doctrine alone. Being a more conservative minded person (i.e., I tend to grant tradition the benefit of the doubt in political and moral discussion), I am not quite as quick to dismiss the notion of heterosexual marriage as the fundamental human relation as the product of dogma alone. Stated differently, I wonder if something other than “the sanctity of marriage” can justify treating heterosexual marriage as deserving of a special kind of respect and, therefore, protection. I think that if one follows the following premises, then the conclusion that heterosexual marriage does deserve a special kind of respect is inescapable.

    (I’m not going to engage (beyond what follows briefly) Kevin on the issue of whether the institution of marriage is a “society stabilizer” or not, for I think that assertion beyond reasonable disagreement. First, exactly who can marry under law has fluctuated, but not in any sense related to the concept of homosexual marriage, that is, that the marriage would be a heterosexual one was taken for granted in all such debates over the ages. Therefore, I do not believe that showing that the concept of marriage has evolved in a way to allow certain heterosexual relationships that were once considered taboo impacts the debate about homosexual marriage. Second, what I mean by “society stabilizer” is the sociological and economical advantages that flow from state or religiously recognized monogamous relations between heterosexuals – and would add that homosexual marriage would carry with it the same sorts of societal goods.)

    The first premise is that heterosexual couples and homosexual couples differ in a fundamental way, in principle, regarding procreation. As I suggested above, this is a brute fact, so the debate surrounds whether this is a distinction that matters. If I understand him correctly, Kevin dismisses this the procreative capacity, in principle, as irrelevant because it is neither a sufficient or necessary condition of marriage. I disagree because Kevin’s example ignores my careful use of the phrase “in principle,” which I include in my premise exactly because I’ve encountered this objection before, namely, that my view bars heterosexuals who cannot have children for whatever reason from marrying.

    So we’ll have to get clear about what the difference is between necessary and sufficient conditions. A necessary condition is one that any concept requires for that concept to obtain. For example, consider squares vs. rectangles. As we know, “that all squares are also rectangles” is true, but that “all rectangles are squares” is false. And the reason is that a rectangle is a quadrilateral where all four of its angles are right angels, while a square is a quadrilateral where all four of its angles are right angles and all four of its sides are equal in length. Therefore, having four right angles is a necessary condition of both squares and rectangles, but being rectangle is not sufficient to being square.

    By using “in principle,” I avoid the objection regarding heterosexual couples who cannot have children naturally, because these folks, in principle, have the capacity to procreate even if they can’t literally “do it” be it due a defect in either sexual organ or age. By contrast, homosexuals do not, in principle, have the capacity to procreate in any circumstances. Therefore, the capacity, in principle, is a necessary condition of marriage (because every heterosexual marriage, in principle, is capable of procreation), but it is not sufficient because (as we know) heterosexual couples have children naturally all the time, and homosexuals can obtain children scientifically, but nether of these acts make the couple “married.”

    Based on the foregoing, then, the thoughtful marriage “traditionalist” would insist that the capacity to procreate, in principle, is a necessary condition of marriage, and that that fact is what makes the relation special and worthy of special concern and respect. In other words, the “capacity to procreate, in principle,” is contained in the concept of marriage itself, and therefore “marriage” cannot be understood without it.

    The question, therefore, is whether this view is rational the purpose of, for example, satisfying the constitutional requirement that state laws regarding marriage pass the “rational basis” test of judicial review, which means that laws must be premised on some reason to be constitutional, and the “reason” cannot be something like “because we as the majority don’t like homosexuals,” or “that’s just the way it is,” etc.

    One reason I believe sufficient for this purpose is simply to repeat the argument above, that is, the concept of marriage encompasses the includes of procreation as a matter of logic, and therefore this logical fact is self-evident such that it alone suffices as a reason to satisfy review. Kevin, I have no doubt, would object to this because, if I understand him correctly, there is no such thing as self-evident “first principles” or relations between certain concepts that need no “external justification.” If so, then I think a traditionalist can fall back on the vast sociological data regarding children who grow up in single-parent vs. traditional mother/father families, as well as the data regarding children who grow up in same-sex families vs. traditional mother/father families, sets of data, if I understand it, show that the children are more likely to develop without sociological and/or psychological issues if they raised in the traditional mother/father family.

    Let me be clear, here. I am NOT saying that single-parents or same sex couples cannot raise children “just as well” as the traditional mother/father family, or that plenty of them raise children far better than traditional mother/father family. In this age obsessed with diversity, however, I think it another brute fact of life that a child exposed to both sexes and genders will, in principle, turn out to be the most “well rounded” individual because s/he has been exposed to the nuances, the ways that make men and women different, in the exact same way diversity advocates claim (as a matter of objective fact, ironically) that being exposed to diversity is a good, or at least better than not being so exposed. In other words, if being exposed to diversity during a child’s upbringing is best, then being exposed to the diversity of both sexes is best in the exact same sense. Therefore, there is a clear-cut empirical argument that children raised in the traditional mother/father family is best, and because it is so, treating that relation as special has an empirical basis as well.

    Based on the foregoing, then, there are two very reasonable, non-theologically based reasons a traditionalist may hang his or her hat on as the basis why he or she believes marriage to be a special relation warranting special legal rights designed to foster it, and in a way that does not in any rational way demean homosexual relationships or equate denying them the institution of marriage as treating them similarly to the disgraceful way African Americans have been treated by whites in the history of the United States. Moreover, if it is the rights homosexuals are after, then states may grant those rights to the homosexual relation if the citizens of that state wish to do so. I understand that Kevin (and plenty of folks I’ve discussed this with) believe this no different than the disgraceful “separate but equal” chapter of American History. But this objection only makes sense if one refuses to recognize the capacity to procreate as the fundamental concept underlying the institution of marriage, which is, of course, the tack deployed by those who wish to expand the concept of marriage to include homosexual relation. The irony of this tack, however, within the context of the current discussion, is that the refusal to recognize the capacity to procreate, in principle, as the fundamental concept underlying the institution of marriage itself is, in my view, irrational. And in this respect it is only those who refuse to recognize reality in this regard who resemble religious zealots.

  4. It is always refreshing to engage in a debate on such a sticky and emotionalistic subject with one who can clearly articulate reasons and arguments for their position. Even though Ben and I might disagree on specifis, I must regard it as a treat to mull this issue over with one who forces me to reexamine my own reasons as he articulates his.

    I don't think Ben and I are in disagreement over 'giving tradition the benefit of the doubt.' I can sympathize with the conservative strain of thought of those like Burke who do not so much argue 'tradition for tradition's sake' so much as "look carefully before you leap; what you had may be better than your 'new' solution.'

    I do agree. If heterosexual marriage is what was, then it must be treated as the default until there is some compelling reason to revise it.

    And this is where Ben and I, perhaps, disagree.

    Ben's argument, I think, is that heterosexual marriage "does deserve a special kind of respect," because of what he sees as a necessary condition of marriage: the capacity, at least in principle, to procreate and generate offsrping.

    Let me be the first - possibly to Ben's shock and awe! - to admit that his argument here is compelling. Even though I do not believe a lick in first principles, that does not bar me from seeing the weight of this demarcation.

    His argument, particularly as it poitns to the socioloy of single parent v. married parent studies - are just as easily seen on pragmatic grounds. As procreation is the bedrock of civilization (quite literally, as without it, civilization would not continue), one can certainly argue that the ability to procreate in the confines of a loving relationship should be worthy of special recognition by the state. Whether is a first principle, or pragmatically useful idea is immaterial towards the appreciation of the argument's weight.

    But here are two questions that I am sure Ben and I answer differently: (a) is 'ability to procreate' the only possible, let alone best, demarcator for what shall count as marriage; and (b) are the discriminatory implications of this distinction politically worth it?

    My answer to (a) is that while 'abilty to procreate' is certainly an interesting demarcator for what shall and shall not constitute marriage, I do not see it as either the only or the best demarcator.

    It is certainy not the only possible demarcator. while it is certainly a fact that in the present day, no ocuple who can not in principle procreate cannot be married, the primary motive for marriage is not childre, but romantic love. Maybe THAT should be the primary demarcator! (After all, just because two people can in principle procreate does not mean they should get married. They must love each other as a precondition.)

    So, let's pretend we have a choice. We can marry two people that do not love eachother but can procreate, or we can marry two people who cannot procreate but love eachother deeply. If we have to choose who should be married, I am not sure many people would choose the former two, rather than the latter two. To my mind, this shows us that romantic love seems to be a stronger demarcator than ability to procreate.

    It is certainly true that the literature demonstrates that two parent households raise better children and are happier than one parent households (and that the married have happier lives than the single.)

    Even though Ben does not rest his argument on this, I must suggest that such statistics do not a thing to argue against giving homosexuals the ability to marry. In fact, it may do the OPPOSITE. If the married are happer than the single, do we not want gays to be happy? (And to borrow the idea of gay rights activist Andrew Sullivant, why, if conservatives abhor the alleged hedonism of homosexuality, do they refuse to let gays enter into the stability that marriage can provide?)

    ON to the second question. I would be all for Ben's idea of creating an institution that is like marriage and offers the civil benefits of marriage if I did not think that such a creation would be a very discriminatory undertaking.

    From Brown v Board, we have heard 'seperate is not equal,' overturning a philosophy that said it was. Now, I do think that while seperate CAN be equal, I don't think it generally works out that way. I have heard many political proposals for civil unions, but have not heard any where the heterosexuals were granted much more favor than homosexuals.

    If it could be done in such a way that homosexuals had all the same rights and priveliges as heterosexuals via different 'types' of marriage, I would fail to see much problem there. But I still fear that the very act of seperating the types of unions by whether it is 'straight' or 'gay' is not, in itself, the type of discriminatory act that leads to 'seperate but not equal.'

    Thus, I prefer to see marriage as something based not on the ability to procreate, but on romantic love. The contract of marriage is not based on the former (one does not promise to do what they can to procreate as a condition to get married), but is based on the latter (one DOES pledge to love the other). Thus, I see nothing wrong with avoiding the entire problem of negative discrimination and simply letting gays into the fold of marriage as based on the ability to form a partnership based on deep romantic love. If Ben is worrid that the homosexual union is different from the heterosexual union only in their lack of ability to have biological offspring, it is a distinction they would also share with many heterosexual couples already.