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January 12, 2005

Male Headship

Lynn Sanders: January 12, 2005

In political discourse - as opposed to the discourse that takes place in religious contexts like churches or Christian websites - we'll hear, as Don H. shows, opposition to gay marriage defended in Biblical or religious terms, via the insistence that marriage is a sacred covenant. Even those of us who find the political invocation of religion, specifically Christianity, troubling, may find, in this reference to a covenant, an entreaty to be faithful to one's chosen partner that is appealing, for both personal and political reasons.

There's an elephant in the room, though, in political discussions about the need to restrict marriage to men and women. That elephant is male headship: the idea (stated as generously as I know) that in a marriage of two equals, one male and one female, the man must be assigned, and must take, responsibility to lead the family this pair creates. The partnership of equals that marriage is supposed to affirm is also supposed, according the idea of male headship, always to be hierarchical, and always to be a hierarchy with the man on top. Gay marriage is threatening not only because it is ungodly, but because it undermines or even mocks the "man" at the head of this hierarchy.

What's most interesting to me about male headship is the way that it seems suppressed in political, as opposed to religious, discourse today. While there is an animated and straightforward discussion of male headship in many contemporary contexts (where, for example, interlocutors take on the difficult challenge of distinguishing "male headship" from "male domination"), the whole issue seems decidely soft-pedaled in politics. Discussions in the US Congress feature vigorous defenses of "traditional marriage," yet what the tradition of marriage demands is left unstated. Or at least some of it is left unstated: the idea that, traditionally, marriage meant a sacred covenant is now openly stated in our politics. But the idea that it might demand gender hierarchy is left aside.

Mary Lyndon Shanley has studied marriage for many years; here is one of her essays containing a straightforward claim about what marriage entailed, traditionally: a convenant, and a hierarchy. Shanley's essay describes the various reforms that moved Americans away from "coverture" marriage and assigned to American woman legal and political personalities apart from their husbands. Today, traditionalists seem both to be reacting against the erosion of masculine prerogative in marriage that these reforms entailed, and yet unwilling, at least in secular, political contexts like the US Congress, openly to demand a return to legally inscribed male headship.

To be sure, there are exceptions to the generalization I've put forth, and they're interesting. Shanley cites the secular figure William Kristol's stated emphasis on "the necessity of marriage, the importance of good morals, and the necessity of inequality within marriage." Some conservative commentators, then, seem to be willing to follow openly the threads of logical implication that the call for a return to traditional marriage entails. And then, there's the fascinating way that, from the Moynihan report forward, American political commentators are willing to advance the idea of male headship for black families. That is, we discuss the hierarchical implications of traditional marriage more openly when we're discussing the "problem" of the black family.

Finally, I wonder if there's some link between the opposition to gay marriage and the possibility that David Velleman raised that 2004 might have been about the value of masculinity. The reason I wonder is because, in a conversation I recently had with a conservative Democratic Party activist about why Kerry lost, this activist insisted that Democrats lost because of two things: Teresa Heinz Kerry and gay marriage.

So, for discussion: does the suppression of the male headship question reflect an unwillingness or an inability to be honest or straightforward about what traditional marriage really entails? Or, is it possible now, post-feminism, to assert that marriage can be restricted to a man and a woman, yet also be egalitarian? Why isn't any of this spelled out - is there a hidden masculine superiority agenda in opposition to gay marriage?


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Tracked on Jan 12, 2005 2:11:58 PM


Posted by: oliver

" is there a hidden masculine superiority agenda in opposition to gay marriage?"

A few thoughts:

- in the New Yorker recently there was an engaging essay or article on marriage (possibly in the form of a book review) in which the author expressed this very thesis

- if there is such a hidden agenda, I don't expect you'll be getting any of those harboring it to perceive or admit to it

- maybe I'm just being a defensive male looking for reasonable doubt, but I think focusing at "headship" may skip a step, because one could say that people first of all consider marriage as involving is division of labor and then only in subsequent mental step decide that heavy lifting and hunting is better than gathering and caretaking and so the spouse who does the former gets the veto and loudest voice. If that's the way it goes, then I can imagine people might begin to reverse their unconscious or even conscious ranking of male and female spouses as civilization and new traditional male-specific and female-specific roles emerge. But er, maybe that's beside the point.

Posted by: oliver | Jan 12, 2005 12:44:19 PM

Posted by: Terrier

The whole opposition to gay marriage is based on traditional male roles. Listen to how they talk about it. They are not reaching out to understand or empathize: they are protecting from the harm that might be caused, they nitpick the Constitution, they say 'choice' because they they can't imagine the feelings, they cower behind statistics and studies, they cling to the abstract (the name 'marriage') more than the rights involved, they appeal to authorities, they insist on being convinced, they look for ulterior motives, they downplay the value of the institution, they flail about casting their limbs and arguments in every direction but inward and they cannot admit that they just do not feel comfortable around homosexuals. So are they trying to protect the male role in marriage? I think they are trying to protect it everywhere they can.

Posted by: Terrier | Jan 12, 2005 12:47:08 PM

Posted by: oliver

Em...make that "I don't expect you'll be getting *Many of those harboring it to perceive or admit to it"

Also let "recently" = "in the last eighteen months or so"

Posted by: oliver | Jan 12, 2005 12:48:57 PM

Posted by: Matthew Dundon

Lynn, a very thoughtful post, although I'd tend to reverse the polarity of who's supressing what in the argument.

It strikes me that supporters of gay marriage have been quite militant in dismissing the "defense" of traditional marriage as a legitimate subject of the debate. They find it easier simply to treat traditional marriage as a red herring, and reconfigure all oppositional arguments as simply a disenguous disguise for anti-gay animus.

By contrast, if you actually listen to the critics of gay marriage, they are quite open in their appeals to the value of traditional marriage as they see it. While they might not explicitly use the Promise Keepers' "headship" jargon, their assumption that some degree of benevolent husbandly leadership is quite openly implied in their evocations of the institution they wish to defend.

It's also important to note that there are really two entirely different "defensive" schools of thought, which are actually as different one from another as either is from the pro-gay-marriage movement.

One school of thought is the essentialist school -- any gay marriage would tend to erode traditional marriage.

The other school is a procedural/democratic one -- that the real threat of gay marriage to traditional marriage lies in its imposition by judges and self-appointed elites, which undermines a key bulwark of traditional marriage -- the enforcement of its mores by broader public institutions.

I think that the essentialist school is a quite small minority -- one which would never be able to move political processes were gay marriage to proceed forward by legislative enactments in communities amenable to it. However, the November 2004 initiative victories indicate that, when pressed, the procedural/democratic opposition will line up with essentialist opposition when presented with no better alternative.

Posted by: Matthew Dundon | Jan 12, 2005 1:01:39 PM

Posted by: Klug

Uh, I think that Democratic activist is reaching pretty far if Teresa Heinz Kerry is a reason why he lost. I'm not quite sure what your activist's reasoning was, but I could guess that it was "if a man has a wife like THK who acts the way she does, then he's not much of a man for not disciplining her." I hope I'm not setting up a straw man there, but there you are.

I think you could say (much more safely) that THK was a reason Kerry didn't *win*, in that she didn't really help him. She served as a distraction in more than one occasion (media-generated or not) and she was easily contrasted negatively with both Elizabeth Edwards and Laura Bush.

As far as your discussion questions, I'm not convinced that 'male headship' is a central tenet of the marriages of the 'anti-gay marriage' crowd. Given that the Promise Keepers were founded partly on the concept that men needed to reclaim their 'headship', that tends to indicate that 'headship' isn't as important or traditional.

Posted by: Klug | Jan 12, 2005 1:10:53 PM

Posted by: Nick

Ditto what Matthew said. Good first post Lynn, very interesting topic.

Another reason I would add to Matthew's about why the supporters of gay marriage don't talk egalitarian as much as rights is because they recognize the difficulty in overcoming many of the barriers to an egalitarian marrige as noted in Ms. Shanely's article - "Those impediments are legion, especially among the poor. Removing them thus confronts us with a formidable agenda—reforms of the workplace, of welfare, and of caregiving." You'd have to rework the fabric of society in order to remove headship from the concept of marriage.

Why enter a quagmire of topics (gay marriage, workplace reform, living wage, welfare, etc.) when it may be better in the short term to focus on just one (gay marriage)? That seems to have backfired/not worked as well as was hoped, as Matthew noted.

- Nick

Posted by: Nick | Jan 12, 2005 1:23:29 PM

Posted by: Jeff Licquia

People interested in traditional marriage issues should read this post by Donald Sensing. Basically, the problem with "traditional marriage" these days is that it's all but gone, and gay marriage is just one more step in its dissolution.

I think part of the problem we traditionalists have is that (many of us) woke up too late, and are now trying to stop a trend with a lot of momentum. Thus, a lot of the arguments being used look disingenuous because they apply equally well to a lot of traditional facets of marriage that have quietly passed into the night.

Some traditions were good to get rid of, to be sure. But I don't think nearly all of the losses have been beneficial.

(As an aside, the "tradition" arguments against gay marriage are ineffectual. A consistent legal defense of traditional marriage would, I think, focus much more on divorce procedures and penalties for "shacking up" than homosexuality, which seems almost peripheral to the question.)

As for gender bias: I'm not convinced that male dominance was one of those core traditions that held traditional marriage together. There may be a case for realism, in that pregnancy does disadvantage women in many of their choices, and that family structures may alter as a result of that. But certainly I don't see why such disadvantages must be codified in law to preserve marriage.

Posted by: Jeff Licquia | Jan 12, 2005 1:25:13 PM

Posted by: Steve

It would be interesting to discuss your point if you had bothered to provide any evidence whatsoever in support of it. Your thesis seems to be: appeals to traditional marriage are surreptitiously (perhaps even unconsciously) also arguing for traditional male dominance. Any evidence of this? Any reason to accept your thesis? Any reason to not think you have just made it up? You argue that it is suppressed in political discourse today. Give us some evidence that it even exists, then we can determine whether it is suppressed.
What is looks like from here is that you have invented this 'elephant in the room' (traditional marriage proponents are actually closet sexists) in order to accuse them of sexism and therefore advance gay marriage because it is more gender friendly. Or something. It kind of reminds me of an earlier pro-abortion post that argued that fetuses are actually blood sucking parasites-another whacky argument to run up the flagpole to see if it has legs rather than an argument to be discussed seriously.


Posted by: Steve | Jan 12, 2005 1:32:20 PM

Posted by: JS

An earlier post by D. Velleman titled “the H word” is apt here: it is unproductive to substitute psychology for argument, to diagnose the arguers rather than respond to their claims. This post, for example, uncovers patriarchal motives in the opposition to gay marriage. Although, to be honest, I can find no legitimate reasons of my own to oppose such a union, I think the Christian opposition might be more fruitfully challenged at face value.

And besides, as long as we’re inappropriately psychoanalyzing: why this persistent need to find additional biases at play in the opposition to gay rights, usually with anti-feminist undertones? It's hard to ignore. In the 90s it was fashionable to regard anti-gay sentiment as the product of misogynists who objectify women and, consequently, do not want to be objectified by people like themselves (not entirely implausible!). Why is this even relevant? Misogyny itself never had to be laced with darker purposes, so why anti-gay sentiment? Could it be that in a post-identity politics age, progressive causes can be sold only by linking them to the empowerment of whichever group they are being sold to? I really hope not.

Posted by: JS | Jan 12, 2005 2:02:54 PM

Posted by: Terrier

Can we hear from some women out there that support traditional marriage (whatever they think that is) and also oppose gay marriage? These guys that are posting here seem to be oblivious to the entire history of civilization. They remind me of the stereotype of an alcoholic jibbering in a gutter that he is not a drunk.

Posted by: Terrier | Jan 12, 2005 2:22:02 PM

Posted by: Lynn Sanders

Fine, let's keep deep psychological motives, whatever they are, off the table.

I'd like to focus on the contrast between political realms (like the US Congress) and other realms (like Christian websites). Why is it that one can be open about debating male headship and the other not? What does this tell us about the contours of political discussions of gay marriage?

I hope this can be a discussion about political discourse, not about the motives of actors. I think I tried very clearly to invite the former, not the latter. And if I wasn't clear enough before, I hope I am now.

Posted by: Lynn Sanders | Jan 12, 2005 2:24:52 PM

Posted by: Stuart

To some extent I think we need to keep separate concepts separate, because "marriage" stands for a lot of things. Perhaps historically they were conflated, but there is no reason that the different aspects necessary must be kept together in light of new developments. Traditionalists may well be right that traditional marriage serves a function that is tinkered with at society's peril, but it is desirable to try to isolate which function that is. It's not especially useful to impugn the argument by ascribing noncharitable motives to those who are making it. I'm less than certain that a traditional marriage necessarily implies male headship, and I'm also less than certain that there are no societal costs to gay marriages vis-a-vis marriage as an institution.

I can identify a number of different functions to marriage that have historically been true. One is to create an economic unit that fosters pooling of resources and division of labor for the benefit of all the members (call this the "householding" function). One is a solemnization of emotional connection between two people (call this the "romantic" function). One is to facilitate the joinder of different zygotes for purposes of enriching the gene pool through reproduction and raising children(call this the "reproductive" function).

Traditional marriage combines all of these functions. Not every marriage will perform all of these functions - some couples will choose not to have children or will marry too late in life for it, others will have "commuter" marriages or marriages of convenience - but the institution is set up to fill all the functions.

If you unpack these functions, you can see that each of them is to some extent theoretically able to stand on its own. A household can consist of persons not married to each other, and be perfectly stable. It's possible to have a romantic relationship with another without marrying - gay people do it all the time, though solemnization is not possible. It's possible for a man and woman to reproduce without marriage, though not possible for gay couples to reproduce at all without going outside the couple for the missing zygote.

The latter point may be the telling one. It's simply not possible for gay couples as a category to operate in a way that could fulfill all the traditional attributes of marriage without going outside the marriage to get the needed genetic material. I stress "as a category" because it's certainly true that some traditional couples do go outside to get sperm donors, for example, just as some couples have "open" marriages, some live apart from one another, some adopt children, etc etc etc. But these don't affect the overall categorical definition. Similarly, there may be something to the concept that children are best raised when they have both male and female parents; I'm no social scientist, so I don't know precisely what the literature shows on this, though I have a recollection of reading some material to that effect. But if that is right, then as a definitional matter gay couples don't have the possibility of offering that to children - which is not to say that gay people can't be good parents (to the contrary, I know for a fact, from personal experience, that gay people ARE good parents) - but it does mean that the optimum situation can never be offered by a gay couple, which at least in theory starts their children at some kind of disadvantage.

What happens when the institution is expanded so that a new category is imported that by definition cannot possibly fill all the traditional attributes of marriage? We really don't know. What we do know, though, is that there is no reason to withhold from gay couples a recognition of the householding and romantic aspects - in other words, some formalized relationship called something other than marriage, that would accord formal dignity and legal protection to the relationship.

So far as I can tell, this is not merely a wishy-washy middle ground, but rather an attempt to preserve "traditional marriage" by looking at what makes it unique, while at the same time "opening up" the recognition of nontraditional families based on the realities of modern life and people's real needs, without losing sight of biological realities.

None of this necessarily implies male headship, either. If the primary distinction between traditional marriage and gay marriage is in the possibility of having children with genetic heritage from both parents, then nothing about that requires that the male be the superintendent of the householding function, or that the romantic function be spearheaded by the male. In other words, a defense of traditional marriage does not require that there be an elephant in the room.

It's different question as to WHY male-headed families were the norm, and whether that is likely to continue even within traditional families at the same level of predominance. But I see nothing about traditional marriage that necessarily requires male headship of the household.

Posted by: Stuart | Jan 12, 2005 2:41:04 PM

Posted by: julie

Among many (most?) conservative evangelicals who are pushing for 'traditional marriage,' the male headship question isn't hidden at all. The conservative churches I've attended use resources from the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, which is quite explicit about viewing male leadership as essential to both church and family functioning. These churches haven't used Doug Giles, but his work follows the same lines and is acceptable in the same crowd.

In fact, I've sermons preached that related directly to this point- claiming that homosexual people can marry denies the essential differences between men and women, changing marriage from a covenant relationship with a male at the helm and a woman as his helpmate to a state sanctification of two people liking each other.

So sure, the agenda is there, but it's not in hiding.

Posted by: julie | Jan 12, 2005 2:54:50 PM

Posted by: AlanC9

Stuart, wouldn't that middle position degenerate in time? Right now, gay people can get married in the U.S.; they just can't have marriages that are recognized by most governments. Once civil unions are commonplace, you're going to have married couples with most (if not all) of the rights of heterosexual married couples, just without formal recognition by the federal government. Besides moral and logical incoherence, isn't this just asking for a Free Exercise challenge?

Actually, I'll bet that's how things are going to play out.

Posted by: AlanC9 | Jan 12, 2005 2:55:20 PM

Posted by: jacob

No doubt many men are emotionally invested in the notion of being the "heads" of their families, and will resist anything that appears to threaten that identity. How does SSM do that? I see a somewhat different elephant in the room.

There are clearly several dissonant forces at work in American society around this issue. It's undeniable that in the US and other western countries, homosexual behavior and gay identity are less stigmatized than they used to be. On the other hand, a large portion of the population appears determined to resist SSM by might and main, despite all the signs of increasing tolerance in society at large. Some liberal-minded people are puzzled. Is American society not really as tolerant as it appears? Are people clinging irrationally to antiquated religious concepts? What's going on here?

The real issue doesn't seem to be the possibility that people might one day marry pets or houseplants once you permit SSM. Even if such absurd things did somehow happen, it's a safe bet that not enough people will ever want to do that to make any real social difference. I would posit speculatively that the real underlying fear is that accepting SSM might open the door to plural marriage--polygamy, polyandry, and group marriage a la some 19th century utopian communities like the Oneida Colony. Note that the recently passed measures to amend state constitutions take good care to define marriage as between ONE man and ONE woman. Unlike the bizarre scenarios sometimes adduced, this could actually happen--there are in fact polygamous and polyandrous societies, but none in which people marry cats or rocks.

Of the various alternatives to monogamy, whether serial or permanent, polygamy is by far the most likely to become widespread. In history and in today's world, polygamy is common, while polyandry has always been rare, appearing only under very specific ecological circumstances, and the various experiments with group marriage have all collapsed. The possibility of plural marriage is of special concern to men--it's a sexual, emotional, and social-status threat. The problem with polygamy is that rich and powerful men take multiple wives, reducing the number of potential marital partners available to less rich and powerful men, and closing off for many of them the possibility of forming lasting pair bonds, reproducing, and establishing families of their own. This is not an altogether unrealistic worry in a society in which capitalist values predominate, that glorifies market competition, and that tolerates vast inequalities of wealth. Indeed, given the sex ratio and age distribution of the population, the dynamics of supply and demand for heterosexual pair bonds approach the condition of a zero-sum game. Although accepting SSM would not immediately open the door to plural marriage, I think people sense that the arguments used to justify SSM might have that effect somewhere down the road, "marketizing" marriage in unacceptable ways. As is often the case, when Americans decide that something is _really_ important, they take steps to insulate it from market forces, whatever shards of official ideology they may mouth.

Although I am entirely in favor of permitting SSM, I agree with those conservatives who argue that marriage is not the same as any old contract, as though it were like some real estate deal or hiring an accountant. It carries an emotional and moral weight that other contracts do not. Throughout this debate, I have been most sympathetic to the arguments for SSM advanced by gay conservatives, Putting it another way, I have some sympathy for the "communitarian" side of the conservative mind. The problem for conservatives is the one elucidated so long ago by Daniel Bell--the "cultural contradictions of capitalism." Having accepted in full the libertarian moral justification for capitalism, it becomes difficult both in theory and in practice to draw lines between those parts of life where shark tank values are supposed to prevail and those parts of life where they should not. The problem for liberals is that, having advanced a private, contractual vision of marriage in order to justify SSM, they have slim grounds on which to oppose plural marriage. As a socialist, this is less of a problem for me.

Is there "common ground" here? Perhaps not with those conservatives whose opposition to SSM is justified on purely religious grounds. Maybe, though, the stated religious grounds both mask and express deeper worries. If liberals wish to establish SSM, they will have to forthrightly address the public's anxieties about it, whatever those anxieties might be. If I am more or less right about the nature of their underlying fear, this will entail drawing a clear line against plural marriage, and accepting at least some aspects of the communitarian conservative position. Given increasing tolerance of the gay minority in American society, the majority might be willing to accept SSM if it were seen as less threatening in other ways. Senator Santorum's "man on dog" is a red herring; the specter of plural marriage is not. Liberals might find at least some of the grounds they need by adopting a more deeply critical attitude toward capitalism and its libertarian justification, and its tendency to draw even the most intimate and personal aspects of life into the maelstrom of class struggle.

Posted by: jacob | Jan 12, 2005 3:01:58 PM

Posted by: D.A. Ridgely

Ms Sanders:

Well, it may be because it is relevant within one sort of realm (some Christian websites, I suppose) and not in others (Congress).

For the sake of the argument, “traditional” marriage certainly does carry a long history of patriarchy with it. It may be that among many or at least some social conservatives there is some latent or not so latent desire to re-establish or re-infuse certain sorts of patriarchy into heterosexual marriage. I don’t know. I’m not a social conservative and I don’t pretend to speak for or understand the social conservative position.

I do think, however, that we might approach the same issue a bit more obliquely. In my parents’ generation (and I’m willing to guess since time immemorial), notwithstanding whatever the stereotypical gender role expectations of society might have been, it wasn’t at all uncommon to know female dominated marriages. Yes, if they were overt in certain sorts of ways they were subject to ridicule (the husband was “hen-pecked” or the wife was said “to wear the pants in the family,” etc.) and certain even now uncommon ‘role reversals’ (e.g., househusband / employed wife) were unheard of. But there is no reason to believe that those were therefore unhappy or unsuccessful marriages. The point is that people, including couples, appear to divide into hierarchal (dominant / submissive relationships, what have you) in all sorts of ways for all sorts of reasons beyond and despite gender and have been doing so for a very long time.

Similarly, I am reliably informed that many gay and lesbian couples establish complementary roles which are similar to the stereotypical husband / wife dichotomy. I have no idea nor do I wish to discuss whether (or why or how or if) male = masculine = dominant for this theory or that of human nature. I merely observe and report that the patriarchal baggage I mentioned earlier is only one of the factors involved in how couples sort out their lives behind closed doors.

So if the question is, is some of that baggage involved, consciously or not, in the question of gay marriage or absentee fathers among the urban poor or pathetic excuses from party hacks as to why their candidate lost? I’m inclined to answer “sure, why ever would we suspect it wouldn’t be?” And if we were all to agree that it was, the next question would be “so what?”

Posted by: D.A. Ridgely | Jan 12, 2005 3:04:27 PM

Posted by: Stuart

Alan, I'm not sure that's correct. What you're raising is a legal issue, and it's one that can be remedied by legislation. Once civil unions are commonplace, it's likely that the federal govt will have to recognize them as a simple matter of dealing with real life. They already have "head of household" categories on tax forms, so I'm not sure it's that big of a leap.

I don't see how any of this would result in a free exercise challenge even if it doesn't happen. The premise of your question is flawed: your question only makes sense if the sole possible objection to gay marriage is a religious one. It isn't. By your reasoning, the fact that religions prohibit murder would mean a criminal statute outlawing murder would be subject to a free exercise challenge. No it wouldn't, because the reasons to outlaw murder might include, but are not limited to, religious ones.

Posted by: Stuart | Jan 12, 2005 3:08:30 PM

Posted by: rtr

I think Jacob was on to something but got it exactly backwards: "Liberals might find at least some of the grounds they need by adopting a more deeply critical attitude toward capitalism and its libertarian justification, and its tendency to draw even the most intimate and personal aspects of life into the maelstrom of class struggle."

The maelstrom of class struggle is a fiction promulgated upon society by socialists. Jacob is right though that it does strike at divisions between liberals and conservatives on the one hand and libertarians on the other hand. That's why as a libertarian I find it funny that conservatives and liberals are talking past each other when they are speaking the same language and employing the same philosophy. This is the mess that results from the logical employment of their philosophy, and shows the indefensible arbitrariness of them both coerced by the State. Here the liberals are basically arguing for a free market in marriage and the conservatives are arguing for "fair" government intervention, affirmative traditonal marriage action. Opening up control of individual life by the State will necessarily bring about a theocratic nation. These are only the first steps as has been enabled by the "progressive" victories.

In a libertarian society same sex marriage would not even be an issue. Heterosexual only and gay inclusive churches would both be free to recognize their non-universal status and arrangements.

Posted by: rtr | Jan 12, 2005 3:30:59 PM

Posted by: Terrier

Stuart, does the "reproductive" function and its rights and responsibilities towards the child only apply to those couples that reproduce naturally? Are adoptive parents not married and not co-equally responsible for their children? It seems to me you made a great argument for recognizing gay marriage if it includes children. And in passing, what happens to heterosexual civil unions that sprout children?

jacob, Is there anything right now to stop our current robber barons from domiciling multiple women and depriving someone of a chance at a mate? They don't have to actually marry, especially if money is available to simulate it thru legal maneuvers. I would doubt very much whether many more would ever engage in polygamy than do now. Of course, as I have said before, an adult man marrying teenage girls is not polygamy; it is child-abuse and thus is no argument against gay marriage.

Posted by: Terrier | Jan 12, 2005 3:37:40 PM

Posted by: oliver

"I'd like to focus on the contrast between political realms (like the US Congress) and other realms (like Christian websites). Why is it that one can be open about debating male headship and the other not?"

In political debate, obviously one doesn't have to be sincere or utterly frank, and often a better political strategy is to be insincere or less than frank. How much of the debate in opposition to voting rights for African Americans that took place in the senate involved the same arguments that would have been offered by the same southern senators back in their rural village-hall meetings among constituents? Politicians often have private fundraisers that don't permit the press and particularly the Republicans have small local rallies that strictly control who can attend. We all know this isn't just because other consituencies are liable to be bored by what the candidate will argue. They will give speeches in which they appeal to certain sentiments and rationales among some people and others among other people and in the mainstream message they will strip away as much as they can that will alienate anybody.

Posted by: oliver | Jan 12, 2005 3:38:06 PM

Posted by: noah

Perhaps my intellectual betters here can help me:

1) Multiculturalism has come to seemingly dominate the thinking of left liberals.

2) The US does not have a culture worthy of respect. No traditions are to be repected if no "rational" reasons can be offered in their defense. Religious defenses are not to be allowed except where they are applied to the practices of other cultures. Arguments that unknown social consequences may entail from social tinkering are dismissed because the cause is "just".

This may be a crude caricature of liberal thought but could somebody explain how 1) and 2) mesh into a coherent view?

Posted by: noah | Jan 12, 2005 3:51:10 PM

Posted by: boldface

Terrier, your question was "does the "reproductive" function and its rights and responsibilities towards the child only apply to those couples that reproduce naturally?"

The one-word answer is "no," but the fact you asked the question tells me I dind't explain myself well. I was saying that traditional marriage, defined as one man + one woman provides for the possibility of all the separate functions being served. Not any one particular man and any particular woman, but the generic man plus the generic woman. Once you get into particular cases there will be variations in how the institution is observed. But paradigmatically, the expectation of a generic married couple is that they will mingle their own genes to produce children. If they take in children from outside their own shared gene pool, then they have taken upon themselves the responsibility of raising them and loving them, and I certainly would never advocate treating adoptive children any differently from natural children. But that doesn't go to the definition of marriage or to the functions that the traditional definition of marriage is supposed to serve.

Posted by: boldface | Jan 12, 2005 3:52:13 PM

Posted by: Stuart

Terrier, that last post by "boldface" was from me. I mistakenly put in my email address name.

Posted by: Stuart | Jan 12, 2005 3:53:53 PM

Posted by: Terrier

Stuart, but that is exactly my point! Is the important function (for the definition of marriage) "the responsibility of raising them and loving them" or "mingle their own genes to produce children"? I think some gay couples want the first and note that many straight couples get by fine without the second. Likewise, if you support civil unions (as you imply) then what happens when gay couples in civil unions adopt or produce with outside help? Is it ridiculous for a male sperm donor to have more rights related to a child than the non-birth lesbian who is denied the possibility of accepting "the responsibility of raising them and loving them"?

An incident happened at work recently that touched on this whole post. A woman supervisor was overruled behind her back by some higher men. When she discovered this she cried. The guys I work with said "What's wrong with her?" And I said "It is not hard to figure out; she just wants what everybody wants - to be treated with a little respect."

Posted by: Terrier | Jan 12, 2005 4:10:28 PM

Posted by: Jeremy Pierce

I'm not going to get into the ethical or political issues at the moment, but there are a number of distinctions that I don't think people are making here. As I see it, there are three views on marriage roles among those who are more conservative in what people often call family values. I'll call them traditional fundamentalism, evangelical complentarianism, and evangelical egalitarianism. These are really differences of degree, and so there will be positions in between them.

Evangelical egalitarianism is the most friendly to the political orthodoxy today. There are no morally significant differences between men and women. Men and women are equal partners in marriage, and each should be open to and willing to do every task that the other does, short of those such as pregnancy, childbirth, and any other roles based on clear biological differences.

On the other end, traditional fundamentalism sees men and women as existing in a moral hierarchy. Women aren't as good at certain tasks and thus shouldn't do them. Men, similarly, aren't as good at certain tasks and shouldn't do them. This means women should stay at home and raise their children. Only men should go to work for pay. Men should make all the decisions for a household, and women should do everything their husbands tell them.

Evangelical complementarianism takes a middle position, that men and women are morally equal and yet given different role differences in marriage and in the church, but no others. It's not based on essential differences so much as on God's ordering of things to illustrate the unity and diversity of the persons of the Trinity, in which Christ obviously submits to the Father but not at the sacrifice of being fully one with the Father and fully equal with him.

Something of this part accords well with the grounds of Carol Gilligan's style of feminism (though I'm sure she'd be horrified at the results). It starts from observing that men and women are in fact different and tend have different strengths and weaknesses, insisting that men and women be affirmed for what they are, however it may be caused (whether biological, cultural, or most likely a complex combination of the two). Gilligan's followers use this to argue for an ethical theory that accounts for the ways women tend to make moral choices. This view uses it to insist that different does not mean better or worse.

The one thing I would add to this to head off one possible misunderstanding is that this view sees leadership and authority as primarily a responsibility to serve and not a position to use. Since most people in our culture have the opposite view, they naturally recoil at this. The insistence of the most careful people developing this position is one you find in Paul's letters. A husband's responsibility is like the responsibility of a pastor, to sacrifice for those he is serving. Paul compares it to Christ's sacrifice. For that reason, you might even think of it as a lowerarchy more than a hierarchy (yes, I know that's etymologically insensitive, but it makes the point I'm after). I want to note that this also is not men in general for women in general but husbands in relation to wives and all members of the church, male and female, in relation to their elders (i.e. pastors in our nomenclature). It doesn't involve women not working, women not having secular positions of authority over men, or husbands having rights for their wives to do anything they don't want to do. Some people will still insist that it's wrong, but I wanted to make sure they really understood the view before they began to do that.

This doesn't really get into the essentialist vs. mere divine command basis of these role distinctions, which is a debate within evangelical complementarianism. Some think God commanded it because of differences in nature. Some think God commanded it merely to illustrate the relation between Father and Son in the Trinity and the relationship between Christ and the church. Some even take an in-between view that God intended the ordered relationships and then therefore worked differences into creation. These issues might make a difference in a number of different ways, and whether it has a bearing on gay marriage might depend on what people say about these.

Posted by: Jeremy Pierce | Jan 12, 2005 4:30:13 PM

Posted by: Stuart

Terrier, you are importing an issue that I wasn't speaking to. I specifically said that gay parents are good parents to the same extent as straight parents. Similarly, I said that parents should treat adoptive kids the same as biological kids (otherwise they shouldn't be adopting). But those are different questions from what I was getting at.

I was trying to say that when you look at the functions that traditional marriage was created to serve - as a matter of setting up the institution, not as an issue of what happens within the instituion once people enter it - one of those functions was to provide for the possibility of the members creating children with their own genes. Any particular participants in the institution of marriage may choose not to do that, but that's not what I'm getting at. What I'm getting at is that as a paradigm, one of the purposes of the institution is to provide a vehicle for that to happen.

That doesn't exclude others from raising children, nor does it exclude the possibility of adoption. All I'm saying is that the paradigm of the institution is set up to provide for that as one of several functions. And what follows is that introducing into the institution a category of those who by definition never can (a category, not individuals - I'm talking paradigms here, not individuals) may or may not alter it in ways we can't predict becuase it alters one of the fundamental assumptions of the way it is set up. I am not saying that letting gay people marry is a threat to traditional marriages. I am saying that the institution has more to it than simply solemnizing a couple's relationship, and that it shouldn't be tinkered with until we really understand it. If gay couples want solemnization, I say they should have solemnization. Whether we call it "marriage" is a very different question. (and that goes beyond mere semantics - as a lawyer, I can tell you that the "foot in the door" is a very powerful tool for a lot more change, including, for example, outlawing on civil rights grounds any refusal by any institution to bless gay marriages. Try to imagine a church refusing to marry an interracial couple, and you'll see what is down the road once there is "marriage" for gays.)

Posted by: Stuart | Jan 12, 2005 5:19:17 PM

Posted by: Rahel

I am reliably informed that many gay and lesbian couples establish complementary roles which are similar to the stereotypical husband / wife dichotomy.

I am a lesbian and I feel like there is external pressure to establish masculine and feminine roles in gay relationships. I have been asked which one of us ie "the girl" or "the butch one" or whatever. Some couples fall into roles, but many couples don't feel like one of them is naturally "the man." This is just my limited experience, but my girlfriends and I have been somewhat offended by the expected roles, and self-conscious about NOT wanting to be "the man" because it's a threat to our identity as women, and because it seems to automatically involve inequality. One person might feel more feminine, or prefer to take on certain roles, but for me it's important to have flexibility and

This might be an extension of male dominance, in that people seem to want masculinity to dominate even in same-sex relationships. Straight people seem almost comforted, or more able to make sense of gay relationships if they can place people in masculine and feminine roles.

Of course, for the groups who oppose gay marriage, simply having two men or two women is a threat -- partly to male headship, I would agree -- but the people who openly advocate equality aren't necessarily viewing gay relationships as devoid of gender roles.

And, my aunt voted for Bush because, quote, "I just couldn't see Teresa as the first lady."

Posted by: Rahel | Jan 12, 2005 5:44:27 PM

Posted by: Terrier

Stuart, OK, so your position is to allow a "civil union" because you're unsure what allowing a "marriage" would cause. So, answer the question I asked, please. What happens when a "civil union" takes the function of "child-rearing"? What do we call that? Does a "civil union" address issues of "paternity-maternity" or does it defer to biology even when adoption doesn't? I suspect that if we adopt the "civil union" policy you advocate there will certainly be more work for lawyers! ;-)

Posted by: Terrier | Jan 12, 2005 7:01:24 PM

Posted by: Stuart

You know what, Terrier? That's exactly the right question to ask. The answer would be, I suppose, that if we allow single people to adopt (which we do), there is no reason not to allow gay couples to adopt. That doesn't mean the situation is optimal if I am correct in remembering that the single best situation for kids is having a mother and father raising them (if my memory of the literature on this is faulty, please tell me). But that's an issue of how to have the reproductive function carried out optimally - and the reproductive was just one of the functions of marriage. It may (or may not) go to the issue of what happens to marriage as an institution if it is opened to same sex couples - we just don't know.

Posted by: Stuart | Jan 12, 2005 7:16:49 PM

Posted by: Mona

Lynn Sanders offers interesting speculation: The partnership of equals that marriage is supposed to affirm is also supposed, according the idea of male headship, always to be hierarchical, and always to be a hierarchy with the man on top. Gay marriage is threatening not only because it is ungodly, but because it undermines or even mocks the "man" at the head of this hierarchy.

Few of us I would imagine are unfamiliar w/ the theology you invoke. But where is the evidence that "male headship" drives most opposition to gay marriage? I favor gay marriage, but cannot say the many I encounter who disagree with me remotely think women should be subservient to their husbands.

Methinks you are mistaking that because all X are Y, all Y are X. (Where X = male headship advocates and Y = opposition to gay marriage.) My own speculation is that not even most Y are X.

Posted by: Mona | Jan 12, 2005 11:34:10 PM

Posted by: Terry J

Ms Sanders:

Is it possible that words have meaning and that Occams' Razor applies?

Marriage, A union between a man and a woman, commonly producing children. Feel free to put your own definition here, but specify what it is.

Assume the above definition to reasonably represent "marriage." Some people currently want to change the definition to eliminate the mix of two genders, and to eliminate the production of children. Whats left? A union.

Some years ago my neighbors were "gay", had fabulous parties they were judicious enogh not to invite us to, and were highly regarded socially and politcally. They were charming and well regarded in the neighborhood. Both were male. So what. They were still highly regarded. And we thought they were both quite nice gentlemen.

The basic issue appears to be some package of legal rights, not some issue of maleness. The opposition appeas to be focused on the re-definition of the term rather than the granting of the legal rights to 'domestic partners.'

On the other hand, I have distinct recollections of being hit on in downtown LA at age 16 by "gentlemen" who were "having a party" in "Hollywood." No, I was not a derelict, I had a job in downtown for several summers. Long bus ride. Self defense. Draw your own clnclusions. Mine was limited to avoiding invitations to Hollywood parties.

My father, Jack W., frequently confessed that his wife Dorothy was much smarter. Jack was a civil engineer and Dorothy was a nurse. Jack was quite submissive on many issues to Dorothy. Dorothy was clearly dominant, as was her father in her earlier family. Dominance was less clear in Jack's parents, and seemed to vary with the situation. We are talking about people born before 1920, their parents pre-dating the year 1900.

In the current work environment many people consider me an overbearing ashhat, but I clamly inform them that everything I know I learned from women. My mother was a nurse. In the '50's a lady brought in her daughter, suffering with poison ivy. The most correct lady said her daughter could not possibly have poison ivy as the daughter had never been outside unless under supervision. Dorothy asked if they had a dog. The lady said yes, but it was a hairless chihohuoa (sp?). Dorothy calmy infomed the lady "A dog is a dog." She had a keen perception of the obvious. She also lacked tact.

Gay Rights? Fine. Give them everything they want. Just don't call it marriage. Words have meaning. Ideas have consequences. Grant them every right snd privilege granted 'normal' couples, and give 'em a few more for spite. Can't be too PC, can we?

Anyone want to debate Cleopatra as a Dominent or Submissive?

Posted by: Terry J | Jan 13, 2005 3:01:27 AM

Posted by: Terrier

Stuart, know what? You still didn't answer my question. How is disallowing marriage for gay couples going to protect the rights (and ensure the reponsibilities) of those who become parents? If we add those rights and responsibilities to a "civil union" then isn't a "civil union" a "marriage," and, if it is, what difference does a name make?

Posted by: Terrier | Jan 13, 2005 8:27:22 AM

Posted by: Terrier

Terry J, quite frankly, I don't see your attachment to that word. I think it is childish, but so be it. Note my question to Stuart, I think at least some homosexuals want marriage rights to protect and ensure their relationships with children that may be non-biological, and I would be willing to bet that most of them don't really care what you call it. If all you're hung up about is the name then why even argue about it? Why tell me us were propositioned? Is their anyone alive that hasn't had some kind of invitation that was awkward or even insulting? So what? Get over that!

I don't know the exact text of the laws but several of the anti-gay marriage ballot initiatives that passed in the recent election apparently also outlawed civil unions. I suspect that pretty much every legal facet of marriage can be entered into through some kind of civil contract but of course the cost and the need for a lawyer to chart the course necessary to achieve that result is prohibitive to most. For those of you, like Stuart and Terry J that support civil unions, would you want the courts to find the provisions of these laws that outlaw civil unions unconstitutional?

Posted by: Terrier | Jan 13, 2005 8:48:06 AM

Posted by: nofundy

Male Headship reminds me of some jokes. here they are:

Know what happened when Dubya took Viagra?

He grew taller.

Know why Dubya wears a necktie?

To hold the foreskin down.

Thank you, thank you. I'll be here all week.

Posted by: nofundy | Jan 13, 2005 11:23:50 AM

Posted by: AlanC9

Stuart: "I don't see how any of this would result in a free exercise challenge even if it doesn't happen. The premise of your question is flawed: your question only makes sense if the sole possible objection to gay marriage is a religious one. It isn't."

True, but you won't be able to mount an effective defense if both civil unions and marriages involve the same bundle of rights. You'll have already surrendered the policy question.

So the question turns on whether you're prepared to treat children of two gay parents in a civil union differently from non-genetically related children of married heterosexuals. Are you?

Posted by: AlanC9 | Jan 13, 2005 12:46:52 PM

Posted by: Dallas

Gay marriage is threatening not only because it is ungodly, but because it undermines or even mocks the "man" at the head of this hierarchy.

I'm amused by the attempt to read the minds of others (not to mention the effort to paint everyone with the same brush).

I, for example, am a male who has lived with a highly educated woman for over eight years without the "benefit" of marriage. She's smart and she earns more money than I do. I have no desire to dominate her and she has, so far as I can tell, no desire to dominate me. Yet, still, I consider homogamy just about the most ridiculous notion that has ever come to the forefront of American politics.

Posted by: Dallas | Jan 13, 2005 2:55:08 PM

Posted by: james

The advancement of gay marriage in not solely about equal rights. As others have alluded to, advancement of gay marriage is also about establishing an official societal acceptance of homosexuality. While many Americans are fine with an individual lifestyle choice, they do not see homosexuality as normal. The gay marriage issue is seen as a step to socially establish the homosexual lifestyle as ‘equal to’ or ‘same as’ a heterosexual lifestyle. Especially in light of the rejection of the alternate option: civil unions. There is no reason to look for extra ordinary reasoning when the simplest answer is also the most likely. American society is not ready or willing to take a step that equates homosexual and heterosexual as the same.

Posted by: james | Jan 13, 2005 4:20:17 PM

Posted by: Dallas

As others have alluded to, advancement of gay marriage is also about establishing an official societal acceptance of homosexuality.

That's what bothers me about it. The law shouldn't be used for therapeutic purposes. Enough of this "I'm okay 'cause the law says I'm okay."

Posted by: Dallas | Jan 13, 2005 5:37:00 PM

Posted by: Don Herzog

We've been around the block on this one before, but I'll try saying it again. The demand that the state stop official segregation of blacks, stop requiring separate dining facilities, train cars, water fountains, &c, is not a demand to use the state to do therapy for blacks or make them feel better. It is the demand that the state stop stamping some of its members second-class, which is worth insisting on regardless of how it makes them feel.

And to repeat myself more, gay marriage would not put an end to controversies over homosexuality or for that matter contempt for gays and lesbians.

Posted by: Don Herzog | Jan 13, 2005 7:30:51 PM

Posted by: Dallas

The demand that the state stop official segregation of blacks, stop requiring separate dining facilities, train cars, water fountains, &c, is not a demand to use the state to do therapy for blacks or make them feel better. It is the demand that the state stop stamping some of its members second-class, which is worth insisting on regardless of how it makes them feel.

We aren't discussing racial discrimination, DH. The topic is homogamy. There is no more a constitutional right to marry a person of the same sex than there is a constitutional right to marry a tree. Because there is no such constitutional right, this is an issue to be decided by majority vote, and reasonable minds can differ on the appropriateness of homogamy.

And, you'll have to explain how denying a person the right to marry a person of the same sex amounts to marking that person as "second class." That point is not self-evident. Does denying all persons under some minimum age the right to marry mark them as "second class"?

Posted by: Dallas | Jan 13, 2005 7:53:44 PM

Posted by: Don Herzog

Let's leave the constitution out of it.

As a matter of logic, any pair of things (straight and gay marriage, squirrels and oysters, Coltrane and Bartok, &c &c) are alike in indefinitely many ways and unalike in indefinitely many ways. The demand that the pair be treated equally is just the claim that the ways in which they are alike are pressing and should be controlling. So my view is that children are not relevantly like adults when it comes to marriage, but gays are relevantly like straights. Why? They love one another, their relations are consensual, they can live monogamously, they want the same legal privileges and obligations that straight couples get routinely.

You can disagree, of course. I am the last one to pretend there is no room for controversy here. But let me also point out that there's something odd, even mysterious, in being told that the left doesn't understand the state/society distinction and being told that the demand for gay marriage is tantamount to the demand for social approval of gays.

There are lots of legally permissible marriages people disapprove of. They disapprove of the paunch-bellied middle-aged businessman who divorces his wife for a young bombshell trophy bride. They disapprove of marriages of convenience. They disapprove of marrying for money. And on and on. The state doesn't refuse to marry people on any of these bases. People would be perfectly free to disapprove of gays and lesbians getting married. That battle can be fought by private parties in lots of settings -- churches, public debate, and so on.

Posted by: Don Herzog | Jan 13, 2005 8:03:43 PM

Posted by: Dallas

Why? They love one another, their relations are consensual, they can live monogamously, they want the same legal privileges and obligations that straight couples get routinely.

The same could be said of two siblings who have rendered themselves infertile.

What's really at stake, here, is that homosexuals seek to attain, via the law, what they are unable to achieve outside the law. Social acceptance of their sexual orientation.

After all, if they had social acceptance, there would be no political issue - they would be able to enact their desired legislation through majority vote.

Posted by: Dallas | Jan 13, 2005 8:23:05 PM

Posted by: Dallas

Another question:

If homogamy became legal, should we then prohibit two siblings of the same sex from marrying each other?

There would seem to then be no logical basis for discriminating against such marriages, since the risk of offspring from an incestuous coupling would be nil.

What about fathers marrying sons, or mothers marrying daughters?

Posted by: Dallas | Jan 13, 2005 8:46:35 PM

Posted by: AlanC9

The sons and daughters would be past the age of consent, right?

Posted by: AlanC9 | Jan 13, 2005 9:05:32 PM

Posted by: Untenured Republican

This is a useless comment (and repetitive to boot, since I said this elsewhere) but I frankly have no idea what motivates opposition to gay marriage. In another (conservative) forum I argued vigorously for it, for all variety of reasons. But the opponents of it never said *anything* that gave me the impression that this had something to do with patriarchal anxiety. At least none of the straight black women did. I think that most thought that it was not possible to take gay marriage *seriously*, and that once gays could marry, then straight marriage would not be taken seriously either, and that therefore there would be less of it. I don't think that religion had much if anything to do with it in the minds of the voters--the activists, sure. But not the electorate. In my state, which went Kerry, BTW, somehow enough votes were mustered to pass a state constitutional amendment banning gay marriage regardless.

So? Well, marriage is *useful* to women (sorry Lynn) because it provides them with an extra layer of commitment reassurance (and some legal backing, which can translate into cash down the line if things go badly) in the event that they have children that they can't economically support alone. I know it's hard to imagine for an academic with nothing but time on your hands, but it's actually stupefyingly hard work to be a single mom.

Anyway, the question to address, if that is correct, is: why on earth would straights think that gays are not *really* as committed in their partnerships as straights? Could it conceivably have something to do with thirty years of argument in favor of sexual libertarianism?

Posted by: Untenured Republican | Jan 13, 2005 9:10:47 PM

Posted by: Dallas

The sons and daughters would be past the age of consent, right?


Posted by: Dallas | Jan 13, 2005 9:42:04 PM

Posted by: D.A. Ridgely

...there's something odd, even mysterious, in being told that the left doesn't understand the state/society distinction and being told that the demand for gay marriage is tantamount to the demand for social approval of gays.

Well said! Of course, the left doesn't understand the distinction, even though it happens to get it right on this particular point. Alas, this is why folks like me have to spend so much time arguing with both the left and the social conservatives.

Posted by: D.A. Ridgely | Jan 13, 2005 10:04:32 PM

Posted by: rtr

This thread desperately needs some provocation, so here goes:

Isn't the recognition of even heterosexual marriage a combination of church and state? "By the powers vested in me I pronounce you man and wife." Could we have some legal history on when the State first began marrying individuals? Is it expressly reserved in the Constitution? Are there hired chaplains with tax payer money in the congress?

“Man” “and wife”. Not just “man”. Not just “woman”. Not “individual”. Not “person”. Not “man” “and man”. Not “wife” “and wife”.

Why should the Chief Supreme Court Justice swear in the President? Why not the last President? Why not the Speaker of the House? Why not the President’s pet? Why not you?

Why do the Justices and judges wear robes?

All these are indicative of the non-separation of Church and State. How is not the Left arguing for a further union of Church and State by advocating same sex marriage?

Laws on Adultery?

I think that “woman” changes to “wife” shows that indeed male headship is perhaps by definition assumed in marriage. “Man” doesn’t change to anything else from “man”. On the other hand, “wife” is an elevation of title from “woman” that “man” does not receive.

Let’s be real and learn the lesson of the Trojan War. Even today violence and lawlessness among males emanate in disputes over unmarried women. You can read about it daily everywhere, in the night clubs, the campus fraternity parties, the high school halls. I’m sure there’s plenty of psychological literature linking bullying in all its forms as animalistic mating ritual, seeking higher status while at the same time lowering status of the competition.

“Wife” denotes property status of “man”, which means don‘t trespass. What percentage of murders of passion are because of “cheating”? Probably a significantly high percentage. Conservatives may be very well saying if recognition of “wife” does not exist, it’s an invitation to personal Trojan Wars everywhere. I personally think that view is demeaning to women, demeaning to contract and the right to change one’s mind, demeaning to the inviolable absolute property conception of person in both man and woman which does not allow contract to enslave.

State interference with marriage changes it from a covenant, a sacrament, to a contract. The State should be involved only as far as Divorce is necessary to protect human rights of non-slavery. As such it is incumbent of same sex couples to seek recognition from the Church, at least first. I fully support getting the State out of the marriage business. Where access to hospitals and adoption is concerned, heterosexual couples should be regarded as civil unions. However, I also see the point of not allowing college boyfriends to make life and death decisions in regards to their college girlfriends. This is why civil union is a formal contract recognizing certain rights (and perhaps *cough* responsibilities) which should be and perhaps is open to any two individuals. It is every individual‘s “in case of emergency contact number“. “Marriage” is a status granted by the Church, and thus should not be granted by the State to same sex couples nor it should it be granted to heterosexual couples.

Thus heterosexual couples and all private entities should reserve the right to deride and discriminate against all versions of marriage in whatever manner they so choose. Unless the left is going to make the case that Christian churches must make equal accommodations for Islamic worship this is the proper settlement of the issue. Forcing business to provide “family” benefits to same sex married couples if they provide “family” benefits to heterosexual married couples violates the fundamental right of free association. This is now what is currently at stake. The right to freely associate and freely discriminate are basic human rights. The State and its leftist backers are operating under the guise of tolerance and equality to violate the rights of individuals to discriminate, effect status, freely associate, freely discriminate, and freely exchange their own persons and property in the manner they would so choose.

Posted by: rtr | Jan 13, 2005 10:25:32 PM

Posted by: rtr

"“Man” doesn’t change to anything else from “man”. On the other hand, “wife” is an elevation of title from “woman” that “man” does not receive."

Actually I take that back. "Man" receives an elevation in title to "husband" as well. This also makes "husband" property of "wife", which means don't trespass. The same violent mating rituals of men also apply to women, it's just that historically male violence has overshadowed female violence.

Posted by: rtr | Jan 13, 2005 11:34:42 PM

Posted by: Don Herzog

D.A. Ridgely: surely "the left" is not a monolith. Surely we can find plenty of people on the left who do understand the state/society distinction. Surely we can find plenty on the right who don't. Surely nothing much hangs on the question, yes, but in which sprawling and diverse camp is the mistake more statistically common?

I confess that your "Of course" gave me the appropriate giggle, which I assume you were aiming at. Still....

Posted by: Don Herzog | Jan 13, 2005 11:41:24 PM

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