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August 14, 2007

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Frederick Hamilton

Prof Stone,
I offer congratulations to your daughter Mollie and her partner Andrea. It is true that the minister's comments were telling..... "not quite yet vested".

Daniel Moynihan used to say and correctly so that culture is more important than politics. That culture drives politics. Laws are politics. They will follow culture. When and if the majority of Americans embrace the significant cultural changes required, then same sex marriage will take the next step to political law making. It is hard to predict when or even if that cultural change will take place. As for now the minister was correct in the "not quite vested".

Congrats for your family and daughter are in order. The legal transformation based on the cultural transformation may take a little longer.

LAK

My question is, why care if they can't get married for any reason other than being denied the same legal status as hetero married couples. That is the only issue in my book. Does it really matter if the state calls it a domestic partnership? I mean it *is* fundamentally different for same sex couples to commit to each other for life that for heteros ala the church and the institution of marriage that has been around as long as religion has. Open same sex coupling is a new thing. So why not just agree to call it something different so long as all the same legal rights apply? What's in a name? What is so important about the word "marriage?" The denial of equality isn't in the label, it is in the legal rights - certainly in a legal context and arguably from a cultural one. You can still commit to each other, still make vows, it can still be beautiful and romantic and wonderful. No no, they can't take that away from you. The whole debate is bizzare to me insofar as it concentrates on titles and names and not legal substance.

loboinok

I very much want to understand why some people so strongly oppose the marriage of two people who love one another and want to spend their lives together, merely because they happen to be of the same sex.

Perhaps for the same reason we oppose counterfeit money!

Joan A. Conway

This behavior is often outgrown later in life, and that is one reason for opposing it.

Another reason for opposing same sex marriage is that under the evolution of the development of the sex roles, and sex functions in our society, such as Capitalism, Family, and Personal Life, the "Split" causes competive individuals of the opposite sex to be neutralized as partners. Thus, the same sex preference is often a consequence of competition, rather than of some inherent tendency. Just because the signs start to show early in a child's development, looking at the interaction between siblings, parents, and social pressues can reveal a struggle for recognition, food, safety, and the shortage of love for that particular child's need for it. Some children do not require as much of the above necesities of life and other children. Some identify with the father or the mother, when they are expected to identify with the same-sex parent. I suggest here that competition for the essentials of life is a primarly reason for pushing one's love to the borderline. Once crossed, the barrier is removed and much easier to cross again, and then a pattern of behavior develops. Neutralizing the mate suggests an aggressive act by the dominant individual; and it becomes a conquest, or "tea and sympathy" as it plays out.

The key to any relationship is not drawing more than one drew, and caring less about how one grows. No will-of-the-wisp can withstand the pressure to submit to the charms of someone bent on deflowering the other.

When one sees the moon and the stars, or the sunshine in someone else, it is a good time to get out of town, reevaluate yourself and find your direction, before someone else decides which direct you are going under their control. Because of manipulative behavior for profit or control, your choices will be limited to either your are for me or you are against me. And the best route for you is not to choose either.

These are very hard learned lessons with the concept of attraction to another individual. Best to known someone for many years before one settles down with that person, and to refrain for sex at the same time. This is an old fashion notion, but a conservative treatment avoid costly, emotional mistakes in relationships, especially under the capitalism system, with weak family ties, and strong personal lives competing for compensation, etc.

Mitt Romney probably is the best role model for this at the present time, although I strongly dislike the Mormon diminishment of women, and children under it faith, doctrine, and politics.

kafuffle

Perhaps I misunderstood Joan A. Conway's post. From what I gather, in summary, it states that same-sex marriage should be opposed because there's a belief that loving another of the same sex is a "behaviour" - a bad habit that one forms. Either that or it's the result of a rather unfulfilling childhood.

And unless I read the statement "No will-of-the-wisp can withstand... the charms of someone bent on deflowering the other" out of context, there seems to be a suggestion that men and women are seduced and convert to the "gay side" by other gay men and women predators who simply want to "deflower" and devour.

While I'll willing admit that I (as a woman)find other women alluring creatures, I think we can all safely agree that a one-night stand with someone charmingly divine would not rock your world to the extent of causing a switch in sexuality. And if it does, then perhaps reflection was long overdue.

I could go on and on about what I find illogical about the points Conway mentions, but I should resist.

Regardless of the reasons why one loves the person one does, that is not something the law regulates, and should never regulate. Marriage laws do not state love as a requirement, or question a person's reasons for getting married. All that is necessary is two consenting adults undertaking to make a longterm commitment. Mitt Romney and his spouse displayed such commitment, as do Mollie and Andrea.

As to what's in a name, I suppose it seems a little petty and ungrateful to still quibble over labels when the rights are similar. However words matter. They have to matter or Marketing as an industry would not matter, or (as a harsh example) being called "retarded" or "crippled" would not be as controversial. Words shape perception. Each word in every language comes loaded with its own sub-conscious history and unspoken shades of subtle differences from fellow words with similar but not the same meaning.

If "marriage" is a term reserved exclusively for religious unions, then I find it bizzare that non-religious civil marriages can use the label with impunity. If I'm wrong and words do not matter, then perhaps it should not matter to others either that we call a same-sex commitment what it is - a marriage.

FrankMCook

I've previously written that the State should not tell the Church who can marry, and the Church should not tell the State who should be recognized as a couple for civil purposes. I've since realized though that we do allow the Church to discriminate in marriage in ways we wouldn't allow elsewhere. The Catholic Church only marries Catholics. Many Rabbis only marry Jews. Would a refusal to marry an inter-racial couple be actionable? Something fundamental is going on here. What we have done is decriminalized "mixed" marriages. We have not forced churches to perform them.

We have already decriminalized the most fundamental aspect of same sex marriage: co-habitation and same sex sex. What remains are the numerous incidents of being recognized as a couple: intestate succession, consent to medical treatment, taxation, tenancy by the entireties, etc. The mixed sex couple attains these results by performing a ritual after a trip to the courthouse for a license. The same sex couple can attain most of them one at a time by signing a series of documents at a lawyer's office. Is there a reason, other than the full employment of lawyers, to justify the difference?

lav

Congratulations, Professor Stone!

You have all the reasons to be proud of Mollie and Andrea. They are bold and passionate and they just proved that all the prejudice in the world would not suffice to get in the way of their happiness. Times are already better now than they used to be and one day the Illinois legislature will recognize that allowing same-sex couples to celebrate their love into marriage is a matter of basic fairness and decency, and that it doesn’t threaten heterosexual marriage in any conceivable way. Hey, they may even have a second ceremony then with the same minister! In the meantime, it is beautiful that two loving people showed with their vows that what they want for themselves has nothing to do with slippery slopes, cats, trees, or even legal rights, but is about the love, commitment and dignity of their relationship. May they have a long and happy life together.

Bumper Run

There is something odd (dare I say queer) about the level of personal sharing that goes on when Professor Stone posts to this blog.

That aside, nice job selecting your analogy to avoid the serious arguments, Stone. Is bigamy more like marrying a cat or Mollie and Andrea getting married?

Indeed, why didn't you construct the analogy by reference to incest? You could easily have asked whether Mollie and Andrea getting married is more like a brother and a sister marrying each other than it is like an unrelated man and woman marrying each other.

But you didn't, because you are ideologically committed to the homosexual agenda. Fine. Good for you.

I'm committed (non-ideologically) to not altering thousands of years of tradition based on left-wing activism -- or a fad of the last 10-15 years.

Remember that the people of most of the States of this country have overwhelmingly rejected homosexual marriage. The people didn't reject homosexual marriage because they were worried about defending traditional marriage. They did it because they know what marriage is. And what it is not.

Roach

All of his analogies above are jacked up. Consider this one: "It wasn’t until forty years ago that we began to understand that discrimination against women is more like discrimination against African-Americans than we previously had thought, and we shifted the controlling analogy."

First of all, "we" didn't begin to understand anything 40 years ago. A law was passed. This use of the assume-the-conclusion we is pretty transparent. This doesn't take Talmudic reasoning to see, though perhaps Stone thinks the rest of us can't read between the lines because we're not as clever and cunning as him.

And if "we" began to understand this, why are race-segregated bathrooms so offensive, but not sex-segregated ones? Why aren't we all that offended by all male sports teams, an all male military draft, all female bartender staffs, etc? Why is some deference to the "weaker sex" considered an essential part of chivalry and normal manners?

PS Shouldn't "wedding" above be in quotes throughout?

PPS Can someone please cue up Last Night on Maudlin Street on the jukebox? I don't think I've heard anything as saccharine and lame and dripping with cheap emotion ploys as Stone's post, since I listened to some old Elton John records with a 'ludes chaser.

Kimball Corson

Happiness is a fleeting and difficult thing. It should be protected whenever and wherever found, if not grounded in someone else's actual harm. We need to adjust to make that happen and not compromise it. Why this basic lesson is so difficult is hard to understand except it is likely born of self love or conceit -- I am truly wonderful so why can't they be like me, as happy as I think I am or I am miserable and what others to therefore be miserable. The issue is at once made complicated by those who would interfer and deny, but at its core it is simple almost to the point of being boring. The propensity to interfer in the lives of others seems boundless and based on our conceptions of what is moral or good vs. evil. But Neitzche laid those misconceptions to rest long ago. We should catch up and and give ourselves and others a rest.

jimbino

It is because I feel everyone has the right to be treated equally and fairly by the state that I oppose gay marriage. Gay marriage is not bad because it threatens traditional marriage; it is bad because it represents extension of privilege to gay couples that continues to be denied to singles and other combinations like brother-sister.

I propose that the state get out of the business of privileging marriage in any way. Let those who wish continue to marry in the Superstition of their choice and leave the rest of us alone to form whatever relationship we choose with whatever number of animate or inanimate objects we desire without state interference or privilege.

How long do the marrieds think they can continue to discriminate against us singles before we seek retribution?

Roach

Since the state has some interest in things like the division of marital property, child support, spousal neglect, and things of that nature during a marriage and in the event of a marital disolution, shouldn't it be involved in the "marriage business" simply for these prosaic reasons?

Also, shouldn't the state generally be concerned with things like discouraging illegitimate children, who create burdens for the state and the broader society not just in terms of greater welfare participation but greater social problems of all kinds? Doesn't "being in the marriage business" and giving marriages certain legal protections and rights have some impact on this?

jimbino

The state should be involved only with protection of children in the same way that it protects animals from abuse. Marital property rights and division could be handled under contract law and there is no reason that spousal neglect should be considered different from neglect of a brother or friend.

Children should be treated as sole property of the mother who could negotiate specific rights and responsibilities by contract, including requiring child support in return for visitation, etc.

I fail to see that there is any such thing as an "illegitimate" child, and there will always be unwanted, neglected and abused children regardless of the mother's civil status.

To the extent that a child becomes a burden on society, the mother needs to be punished in the same way that the owner of a vagabond or vicious dog would be. I would even grant every child a "free first bite."

Marriage comprises a bundle of things: folks marry for sex, cohabitation, friendship, love, breeding, tax favors, inheritance favors, immigration favors, etc. It would be helpful to the discussion if knee-jerk marriage supporters would consider which of those, exactly, the state should be concerned with. Should it set rules for sex, friendship and love?

No, I see no reason, apart from the need to enforce valid contracts, why the state should regulate any aspect of any relationship except to the extent that it directly impacts third-parties, which, in the case of marriage, is limited to children.

Rob

Congratulations to your family, Professor Stone.

I find it interesting that critics of gay marriage are opposed for many of the same reasons that were once used to justify opposition to interracial marriage. And by "interesting," I actually mean "appalling."

Being gay is not something that one -- as Conway suggests offensively -- learns, is coerced into, nor is it a fleeting whim. It is confusing, to be sure, but it is not a choice. I daresay that if it were a matter of choosing, most people would *not* choose to be gay, given the level of discrimination, risk, and demonization that one is subject to because of their sexuality. So, it is also offensive when one says that there is a "left-wing homosexual agenda."

Most same sex couples just want peace of mind that their partner -- someone they love deeply -- will be taken care of should something happen to them. Most same sex couples just want to know that the person they're drinking coffee with in the morning will be afforded the same rights in the hospital as any straight couple should their partner fall ill. They want to be sure they can properly make the arrangements in case of a funeral. They want to be sure their children are provided for. If this is an agenda, it is a human one. It is what most people want out of their love relationships: to know that in tough times, it will be a little easier to cope because the law of the land isn't working against them.

Although I think many same sex couples would accept civil unions/domestic partnerships because of the legal benefits, I think most would only do that as a stepping stone to equality. The reality of the situation is that those labels are things that only serve to separate the same sex couples from the married ones. It's just not as satisfying as belonging to the same club as the other 90% of the country.

Clearly, this is an issue very close to me. I don't pretend to have all the answers, but I find it incredibly shocking when someone who opposes marriage equality does so without seeing the inhumanity in it. At the most basic level, it's about love. And we all need a little more of it.

However, maybe I'm missing something. Maybe the 2 day marriage of Brittney Spears is more sacred than the loving commitment of 2 decades I've witnessed between my friends Guy and Matt. It would take some serious convincing to make me understand that disparity.

FrankMCook

Off the top of my head, here are some incidents of marriage that do not involve children:

The ability to own property with another in a way that not only has rights of survivorship but is also free from the claims of creditors of a single owner.

The ability to inherit in the absense of a will.

The ability to consent to medical treatment for another in the absense of a power of attorney.

The ability to claim a share of property held in another's name upon the dissolution of the relationship.

The ability to file a tax return together.

The ability to claim social security benefits based upon the other person's earnings.

I'm sure I'm forgetting something important - just as I forgot in my earlier post to say Mozel Tov. ... and I suppose that's the missing item, the ability to proclaim your love to your community and to accept its recognition of your joy.

jimbino

Well Rob and McCook,

All of the privileges of marriage that you enumerate or support represent theft of wealth and opportunity from single people and groups in the "unapproved" category of relationships. Allowing gays into the privileged group represents a greater threat of theft from those who are left behind, since there will be a smaller group of taxpayers to rob in order to subsidize the health, the inheritance and insurance benefits, and the social security of the privileged married class. The penalty imposed on the single mother would be especially onerous, since she would be called upon to subsidize the lifestyle of many childfree, dual-earning couples.

This situation is more properly analogous to the racism that obtained in South Africa, when Coloreds were accorded most of the privileges of Whites, leaving only the Blacks behind to be victimized.

The obvious humane solution then was to abolish the racial privilege; likewise, the only humane solution to the marriage problem is to abolish the marriage privilege.

I would hope that the liberation of singles comes about with less bloodshed, but if such be necessary, I'm here to pledge my life, my fortune and my sacred honor!

FrankMCook

Theft is an awfully strong word to use for intestate succession and health care directives. Just to be clear though I'm not really arguing for a change in the definition of "marriage." I think that word is too loaded and that its definition is best left to religion. I'm not even pounding the table for a single pervasive civil definition of coupleness although I certainly wouldn't complain if legislatures took that route. I do think, however, that a same sex couple ought to have a simple and inexpensive procedure available to declare themselves as a couple for purposes of things like health care and intestate succession and I would not call that procedure marriage although I would allow, not force, Churches to call it that.

jimbino

McCook,

Why is it that you think that singles should be denied the benefits of health care and intestate succession?

Roach

There is a fundamental question missing from this debate or it is left only answered implicitly by maudlin appeals to people's "love." Namely, what is a marriage? What is its purpose? Why, given those purposes, do most societies choose to give it recognition, privileges, and prestige, both formally and informally? Finally given all of that, what purpose, if any, is served by allowing same sex marriages?

My answer is simple. Marriage is about a stable place to raise kids. Relatedly, it's about channeling male desires for promiscuity into a socially sanctioned outlet that avoids the problem of bastardization. Male-female lifelong monogomy as the official desired end state of most people serves this function well. Since men and women are basically in a 1:1 ratio, it works reasonably well in most societies.

It's undermined, of course, by things like easy divorce which Stone and his ilk championed in the sixties under the same banner of autonomy and human rights. That all said, this goal of channeling people this way to afford a stable and socially privileged way to raise kids is not served in any useful way by letting same sex couples be married.

Stone and other gay marriage advocates have taken one of the accouterments of marriage--romantic love and partnership--and turned into the end all and be all, when in fact societies have long recognized, rewarded, and sanctioned marriage for the more prosaic reasons I list above. The fact that we allow old people and the infertile to marry is merely ancillary to this primary social end (and the ability to recognize these impediments has only come into place with modern science).

If you redefine marriage and the state's recognition of it as simply a means to giveaway health and other legal benefits then Stone's position makes sense. If you think these benefits exist primarily to make marriage a more pro-children-rearing institution, then Stone's position breaks down.

There is something else going on here; a rather naive desire to make everyone like gays. I think the problem with gays is they have forgotten they are the traditional avant garde and Bohemians. The contours of their existence has always been defined by being outsiders and different and different from their parents and generally a bit tortured. Listen to Jimmy Sommerville's "Smalltown Boy" sometime to get a flavor of this, or better yet watch the video.

From this bohemianism, we've gone to the era of today's therapeutic culture. Gays today are constantly looking for mommy and daddy's approval, both literally and figueratively. They don't know how to be rebels anymore. They just want to move out to the 'burbs, yet when disapproval comes from their lifestyles they'll bbe more alienated then ever. This natural state of rebellion has been the wellspring of so much creativity for gays in the arts and literature.

My God, everything has a price. I'd like to be married and somehow also live like Hugh Hefner. I can't do both. I have to pick a horse. Gays should just get over it and quit seeking legitimation; it makes them less interesting and pisses everyone else off.

I'd much rather Oscar Wilde and the Pet Shop Boys jerk a few tears in their spare time (among other things), if it means they break out a decent poem or song every so often. But instead of that, we've got this friggin' psychodrama of gays looking for social sanction and then acting like the rest of us are wrong-headed for withholding it.

They can't have civil unions, that would be different. They can't not have kids, that would be stigmatizing. Well, guess what, many people will always find you disgusting and weak and weird and psychopathological and aberrant. That's life. People think that about lots of things, including addicts, Catholics, and lawyers. That's life. Instead of trying to change society when that society has some pretty basic and inherited expectations, why not accept a role on the margins.

Gays went from the reasonable demand of tolerance to the more aggressive demand for approval. They'll never get it from many people, and they are risking a backlash and major friction at every step of the way. Plus, as with any great social change, the effect of their campaign is unknown as to how it will change heterosexual mores and practices and therefore society in general. Widespread atheism and contraception are leading to the death of Europe and its being overrun with Muslims. What will this change to America yield? We can't know, but neither can the whiny advocates who are so terribly uninteresting.

PS, I found this quote funny, "Being gay is not something that one -- as Conway suggests offensively -- learns, is coerced into, nor is it a fleeting whim." This clearly spoken from someone who has never watched Girls Gone Wild.

jimbino

I like to invite gays to join us singles and non-breeders. We are in the majority in this country, and it is about time that we use our majority status to deny married couples and breeders the privileges they have so long enjoyed.

Indeed, it would be proper to force them to carry divorce insurance and to pay a pollution tax to cover the externalities involved in their filling the world with kiddies that we don't need.

john

Roach, you write: "My answer is simple. Marriage is about a stable place to raise kids." You assume the premise, and then write a diatribe. To me, the premise is faulty, and so the rest of your diatribe is irrelevant. At least explain the premise, and why it is so. What authority/evidence leads you to conclude that marriage is about a stable place to raise kids. Just as you reject "maudlin appeals" to love, I reject your "maudlin appeals" to family values. Exercise your mind. And recognize your own premise and then ask if the premise is necessarily so. Explain the premise; we know the ideology that follows from the premise. You then might actually be worth your U of C education.

David

So what is marriage about then? Your premise seems to be that it is about "love". Roach assumes that the benefits to society brought through stable family life are an integral component.

Why is your premise any more logical or "less faulty" than his?

The main difference between your two premises seems to be the centuries of tradition, theology, and philosophy behind Roach's versus the current trendiness of yours.

Catapult

I have a question: suppose a state legalizes civil unions (or domestic partnerships) as the "gay" equivalent of marriage. Would the statute that authorizes that legal status necessarily contain a provision that made a civil union and a "straight" marriage mutually exclusive? Or would such a provision be inherently problematic for equal protection purposes? The reason I ask is, if the two are not, as a matter of law, mutually exclusive, then couldn't someone be married and also have a civil union concurrently? Otherwise, marriage would seem to be different from civil unions only with respect to gender. That is, the singular difference between the two, legally, would be the genders of the individuals entering the relationship, which seems kinda dumb.

Frederick Hamilton

Again, culture is more inportant than politics and drives politics. Per Daniel Moynihan. Pretty bright Dem. Until the culture is comfortable with same sex marriage it won't be law. Irrespective of any court including the Supremes. A quantum leap by the Supremes to pull out of the penumbra legalization of same sex marriage by fiat would cause the Congress to take the issue of same sex marriage out of the purview of the Supremes.

Of all the Dems running for Pres, only Kuccinich and Gravely are for same sex marriage. Clinton, Obama, and the rest are not. Enough said. Moynihan is right. Culture trumps politics. If you want to simply call it tradition that's OK. But it is culture. American culture has not embraced same sex marriage. Tolerance of homosexuality and belief in non-discrimination based on sexual preference? Sure. Same sex marriage. Not yet. Don't think it will come in my lifetime and I hope I have at least four decades left.

Roach

Evidence marriage is about child-rearing:

Kids and sex would happen without marriage.

In addition to being pro marriage, traditional societies were particularly harsh on unwed mothers and bastards, to the point of giving the latter legal disabilities.

Traditionally marriages in the western world could be annulled if a partner did not "consumate" the marriage or otherwise frustrated its child-rearing purposes.

Until the 1930s all Christian Churches opposed artificial birth control.

Men clearly are more naturally promiscuous than women; marriage gives incentives to settle down that would not otherwise exist. This leads to stability for the economics of child-rearing.

Finally, this premise is proved by its effects: religious marriages set up to have and raise children are more happy and stable on the whole than cohabitating relationships and other recent innovations. Read the U of C's Ed Lauman's study on this one.

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