Threat rating: High. The Bush administration is
concerned that it may not get a second term.
Therefore, we are going to change the rules so
that each Democrat vote only counts as 0.2
votes because Democrat is a shorter word than

threat to the Bush administration are you?

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posted by ByWord 7/18/2003 09:09:00 PM



Eugene Volokh rebuts an argument that gay people shouldn't be allowed to marry because gay people couldn't possibly reproduce. His correspondent argues that heterosexual infertility is 'accidental' while homosexual infertility is fundamental.

Given this, it seems to me that society is not giving up the principle that marriage is an institution designed to protect the family by allowing infertile heterosexual couples to marry. Everyone sees the differences between the infertile and fertile as small or shallow. On the other hand, allowing the fundamentally infertile to marry damages the principle precisely because everyone sees the difference between a fertile heterosexual couple and a homosexual couple as deep. Making exceptions for deep differences throws out the principle. . . .

Eugene replies that he doesn't see how there is intrinsic moral content to 'fundamental' infertility versus 'accidental':

From a biological perspective, labels such as "accidentally" or "essentially" infertile don't really work here: The incapacity to conceive and bear children is just as "essential" an aspect of women who aren't menstruating, or who have had certain surgeries, as it is of men.

So if there is a moral distinction between a heterosexual couple in which the parties are biologically incapable of producing children together, and a homosexual couple in which the parties are biologically incapable of producing children together, it can't just be shown by labeling one cause of incapability "accidental" and the other "essential." One has to explain just why one cause of infertility is morally different from the other.

Eugene has it right, but he went after the wrong part of the argument. It's fine to get into a detailed debate about the precise nature of infertility. But it's important not to lose sight of the bigger picture. The important question to ask when someone tells you that homosexual couples are infertile is not 'but what about infertile straights?' Rather, it is 'so what?'

Is marriage really about fertility? If so, why should it be about fertility? What intrinsic value does that have? Why not make it about, oh, I don't know, love?

How will allowing infertile couples, even 'essentially' infertile ones, harm marriage? Is marriage really that frail an institution? I'm curious about this logic. What does the correspondent imagine happening?

"Two men can't have a baby, so the government should be able to tell me who I can and can't marry."
"Two men can't have a baby, but they can get married, so I'm getting a divorce."
"I do love you honey, but I don't want to marry you, because two women got married, but they can't have a baby."

Yes, we need to defend good traditions (like marriage). But we don't need to defend them arbitrarily. We need to defend those of our traditions we judge helpful against threats.

We don't need to defend marriage from, say, tigers. Because tigers aren't a threat to marriage. Nor do we need to defend marriage against, well, more marriage. Because more marriage isn't a threat to marriage.

Plus, as a heterosexual, I'm frankly insulted that someone would suggest that I might be less committed to a future wife, or less likely to commit to a woman I loved, because of anything anyone else did. Let alone because two people who love each other got married.

It's important to stay on track in these arguments. Opponents of gay marriage need to show that it is demonstrably harmful to society, and that that harm outweighs the harm caused by giving the state a right to deny equal treatment to a group of its citizens, and outweighs the harm caused by giving the state a veto right over all our marriages.
posted by ByWord 7/14/2003 10:07:00 PM



In the Washington Post, Kerry opines:

I have a belief that marriage is for the purpose of procreation and it's between men and women.

In the linked piece, TNR's &c. does a fine job of quickly finishing off the logic of that bit of foolishness. I have bigger fish to fry.

Five years ago, I supported gay marriage. But I thought then that it was an issue about which reasonable people could disagree. Protect our heritage, and whatnot.

I've come further since then. I've stepped up. I will no longer brook opposition to gay marriage. I can't accept it.

There is a simple fact of the current state of marriage in the United States:

The government of the United States denies equal treatment to an arbitrary group of its citizens.

It's really that simple. If I want to marry a woman, I am allowed. If I want to marry a man, I am not allowed. There need be no other differance between two people for them to receive totally different treatment from their government.

As a matter of fact, the person who wants to marry across sexes could be far worse. A convicted male felon can marry a woman, but an honest and successful male taxpayer cannot marry a man. A female traitor can marry a man, a female patriot cannot marry a woman. Two firemen cannot marry, two firebombers of opposite sex can. The government appears to believe that homosexuality is so awful, so hideous, that homosexuals should be denied a right that is extended to criminals, the mentally ill, even wifebeaters, if you can believe it. That's right. People who have proven empirically to be harmful in marriage - people repeatedly convicted of spousal abuse - are allowed to remarry*, while two gay parents wanting to raise a kid together - a set of people for whom marriage is clearly beneficial - cannot.

This is not a policy issue. It's not a morality issue, even - you could oppose homosexuality, and still believe that the government ought not tell people who they can and can't marry. You could still believe that homosexuality was not so much worse than spousal abuse that convicted wifebeaters are allowed to marry while lesbians aren't. It's a human rights issue, it's a just role of government issue. The state has no business - none - denying equal treatment to its citizens. It has no right defining love to its citizens. It has no right telling its citizens that some of them love more deeply than others. Gay marriage is not negotiable, it's not a place to waver, it's not a place where tradition can outweigh justice. It's just plain right.

Dean? Edwards?

*and should be

posted by ByWord 7/11/2003 06:42:00 PM



Orin Kerr:

Who would have guessed on 9/11/01 that almost two years later, there would have been no successful terrorists attacks on U.S. soil since then?


I suppose it would be convenient for Republicans, though, if everyone were as forgetful as Orin.
posted by ByWord 7/03/2003 10:27:00 PM



Regular cannabis users 'at greater risk of mental illness'.

Or, alternately, Those with mental illness at greater risk of cannabis usage.
posted by ByWord 7/02/2003 08:28:00 PM

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Wisdom praises herself, and tells of her glory... "Those who eat of me will hunger for more, and those who drink of me will thirst for more. Whoever obeys me will not be put to shame, and those who work with me will not sin." (Sirach 24:21-22)

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ByWord First Rule of Political Discourse
If the best reason you can come up with for why people disagree with you is that you're smarter or more moral than they are, you're probably wrong.

Corollary to The First Rule
If the best reason you can come up with for why people disagree with you is that they, unlike you, have been indoctrinated by an ideological media conspiracy, you're probably wrong.


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