Monday, January 11, 2010

California roundup

I'll admit that I haven't been paying too much attention to the breathless news reports emanating forth from the California gay marriage trial. Since the endgame of the participants is to get the issue of gay marriage before the United States Supreme Court, it doesn't seem worthwhile to agonize about what the California court might or might not do. Frankly, I will be astonished if the California court acts with greater restraint than, say, the Massachusetts court did. It is to be expected that the California court will magically discover some super-uber-special "right" to call one's sexual relationship with a member of one's own gender "marriage," and to further discover that anyone who disagrees is, in California's dry and precise legal jargon, a meanie-weanie poopie-head.

You think I'm exaggerating? Well, look at some of the arguments advanced in favor of gay marriage, by same-sex couples who wish to have it made legal. Here's one:

Proceedings opened on Monday with testimony from two plaintiffs in the case, Kristin Perry and Sandra Stier, who wed in California 2004 only to have their union later declared invalid.

Ms Stier said that being allowed to wed her partner would "provide me with a sense of inclusion in the social fabric of the society I live in".

"I want our children to feel proud of us," she told the court. "I don't want them to worry about us."

Kristen Perry said: "I want it to happen to me. The state isn't letting me feel happy."

And then there's this one:

San Francisco, California (CNN) -- A gay couple challenging Proposition 8 in federal court Monday said civil unions and domestic partnerships aren't the same as marriages, something they view as a stepping stone toward starting a family.

"[It's] like putting a Twinkie at the end of a treadmill and saying, 'You can only have a bite,' " testified Paul Katami, one of the plaintiffs. "And you want the whole thing. ... All I want is to be married."

Did you get all of that? Marriage is the state's permission to feel happy, to have the whole Twinkie (tm) instead of just one bite of it. Without the right to marry, people can't be happy. Who knew? Do the single people know about this--that their second-class status as "unmarried" is an act of Twinkie-stealing oppression from the evil state, which bars them from the happiness of being able to call themselves "married" just because they're perfectly content to commit to no one but themselves?

Pope Benedict XVI doesn't see marriage that way, of course. His Holiness sees marriage as something beyond a mere sugar-rush/pleasant feeling. And thus he sees gay marriage as something rather detrimental:

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Benedict on Tuesday linked the Church's opposition to gay marriage to concern about the environment, suggesting that laws undermining "the differences between the sexes" were threats to creation.

The pope made his comments in an address to diplomats in his yearly assessment of world events. The main theme of the address was the environment and the protection of creation.

"To carry our reflection further, we must remember that the problem of the environment is complex; one might compare it to a multifaceted prism," he said.

"Creatures differ from one another and can be protected, or endangered, in different ways, as we know from daily experience. One such attack comes from laws or proposals which, in the name of fighting discrimination, strike at the biological basis of the difference between the sexes," he said.

"I am thinking, for example, of certain countries in Europe or North and South America," he said. [...]

"Yet freedom cannot be absolute, since man is not God, but the image of God, God's creation. For man, the path to be taken cannot be determined by caprice or willfulness, but must rather correspond to the structure willed by the Creator," he said.

You know, that structure which the Creator willed as the means of bringing forth new human beings--that little thing called reproduction. Opposite gender couples might, through the natural forces of aging or the accident of infertility, be incapable of that reproduction--but their marriages still point to the truth that marriage is supposed to exist as the recognition of the importance of the biological family to human society. If a couple cannot have their own children, and they decide to adopt and raise children whose parents have failed them, they are still providing these children with what they most desperately crave and need: a mother and a father.

A same-gender couple might be most sincerely attached to each other, despite the objective grave sinfulness of any sexual acts they may commit together. But they cannot be a mother and a father. They cannot be a husband and a wife. They cannot in any way mirror or represent the inherent foundational unit of every successful human society. We ignore the inextricable link between the biological reality of human sexual reproduction and the social reality of what it takes to create a strong and stable society at our peril.

But as we can see in the California case, it doesn't matter to the proponents of gay marriage if society crumbles into ruin, so long as they get the official stamp of approval on their sinful relationships which, they insist, will make them happy. Except it won't--no true happiness is possible when people act so far from the Creator's plan for them. But I fear that finding themselves still miserable in a post-gay marriage world, the same-sex couples who now insist that only the blessing of the state is lacking in their lives will decide that they must still have more: they must have the coerced silence of every God-fearing Christian, and of every Church, which denies them the approval they so desperately crave.


Geoff G. said...

Meh. Ted Olson actually addresses the issue of reproduction quite well in his Newsweek article, but naturally your response to whatever arguments put forth in support of gay marriage is not to actually engage with them, but rather to whine that you're being called "a meanie-weanie poopie-head."

I suppose this is basically the social conservative default argument: a trumped up martyr complex (the same argument used against broadcasting the trial—just what precisely are you afraid of? That your political arguments will be exposed as the cowardly fear mongering they are?).

The most laughable thing about your argument is that you completely dismiss the real pain that you deliberately inflict on people and then try to portray yourself as the victim. What chutzpah!

But then, chutzpah and pseudo-martyr complexes are all you have left. There's certainly no moral high ground on your side: the Catholic Church, particularly its hierarchy, has been wallowing in moral bankruptcy for decades.

Red Cardigan said...

Oh, come now, Geoff. You know me better than that, and I know you better than to think you would dismiss the gist of what I wrote, merely because we disagree about the intrinsic connection between marriage and a stable environment in which to raise one's biological progeny (which is a bit of a redundant phrase, but we'll let it go).

But look, if you can, at the arguments the two gay couples are raising. The state makes them "feel" unhappy? The state isn't letting them have the whole Twinkie? Are these arguments, or hissy-fits?

Moreover, look at what the Judge keeps asking--he wants to know whether the state oughtn't just get out of the marriage business altogether. Plaintiffs seem to be fine with that--if they can't have marriage, then nobody can. Rather undercuts their simultaneous claim that marriage is so important to them that they're forced to wallow in misery without it, doesn't it?

Here's the thing: traditionally, marriage has been the state's way of protecting, if you'll excuse the language, human breeding pairs, but not out of some stupid misty-eyed notion that such pairs should, according to the state, be happy and have whole Twinkies; the interest was that the state wouldn't end up raising all the kids while the breeding pairs reneged on that part of their obligations.

Sure, sometimes a couple would wed and be unable to breed, and nature ends one's breeding capacity at some point or other, but a male-female couple is still a breeding pair nonetheless; it would be senseless for the state to make a couple prove their breeding ability before wedlock, as this would sort of defeat the state's whole "We don't want to raise your kids for you" purpose in having marriage in the first place.

A same-sex couple may be many things, but they are not a breeding pair. If they breed, they can only do so by making use of the services of a reproductive prostitute willing to sell his or her genetic material--which is still heterosexual reproduction, albeit a sick and perverse use of it. They can, of course, also breed heterosexually or raise someone else's heterosexually-bred children, but none of these things are an argument for the "gay breeding couple" status that would make a same-sex relationship the equivalent of marriage, are they?

Remove the state's interest in protecting the stability of the breeding pair's relationship from the definition of marriage, and you have immediately removed any compelling interest the state can possibly have in marriage--you also render the very word "marriage" absurd and meaningless. As I have no illusions about the gay agenda, I understand perfectly that this is exactly what gay rights activists want.

Geoff G. said...

Incidentally, for those who are actually concerned about the "sanctity of marriage," actual facts (rather than social con bloviating) would seem to indicate that marriage gets a heckuva lot more respect in states that have SSM.

But that's nothing new: we all know that the people who rail against gay marriage are mostly projecting their own moral failings onto others.

This actually makes a great deal of sense. Why bother to reform your own behavior when you can divert attention from yourself by picking on a minority? It's the social conservative way!

(Response to the above on the way)

Siarlys Jenkins said...

Ah, the five cornered argument continues... Greetings Geoff. We agree on so many things, and I debate Erin on so many... but she's more or less right, if not always for precisely my favorite reasons. There really aren't two sides to this debate, there are three or five.

The "gay marriage" argument comes down to "I want it, it would make me feel happy, therefore I have a right to it." The fundamental problem is that this argument leaps over the basic question of definition. In any debate, or legal controversy, or drafting legislation, or drafting any legal document, the first and vital step is to define the meaning of each and every term that anyone might possibly understand in more than one way.

So, a priori any other question, we need a definition of "marriage." As far as I can tell, the "gay marriage" argument comes down to "the mutual commitment of two human beings who plan to live together, enjoy each other's company, and engage in mutual stimulation of each other's sexual nerves and hormones."

In a discussion at Front Porch Republic, a man whined about being deprived of $1000 in tax benefits because his gay partnership doesn't qualify as a marriage. I responded, being childless deprives me of $3000 in tax credits -- am I being discriminated against? His response was "well then have a kid, I'm not stopping you." The obvious response to THAT is "well, marry a woman, I'm not stopping you."

Men and women are fundamentally different. We have pretty much resolved that sex should not be an obstacle to being a lawyer, or an engineer, or whatever one aspires to, but it is beginning to appear that, on average, there are some occupations women are more likely to aspire to and do well at, and vice versa for men. Most women, not all, but most, would prefer a female gynecologist, now that there are significant numbers of women in medicine. Further, while we long since got rid of separate bathrooms for "white" and "colored," we have never abolished separate bathrooms for "men" and "women."

There is no valid "equal protection of the laws" issue, because the marriage of a man to a woman is a unique relationship. Whatever may exist between one man and another, or one woman and another, it is not "the same thing." Some gay people have taken offense when I asked, if I have the right to marry whatever I want, why not my dog, my horse, my car, or my file cabinet? I don't imply that just because someone is willing to engage in sexual activity with a person of their own sex, a dog or a horse would be equally attractive. Likely not, although some men do seem to love their cars more than their wives. The point, once again, is that we need a clear, consistent, broadly applicable, meaningful definition. The "equal protection of the laws" argument necessarily skips over definition, in pursuit of "what I want."

eulogos said...

Well, Red Cardigan (Erin, Mrs. Manning)... you asked the folks from Crunchy Con to follow you here.

There is so little common ground of fundamental assumptions between us that it is difficult to engage Geoff G's post above.

First of all, we don't think that there is such a category as "a gay person" or "a lesbian." We believe that there are only men and women who by the proper nature of human beings are oriented towards each other. Since human nature is impaired and distored by the fall, we all have disordered inclinations imcluding in our sexual desires, involving having sex with people we have no right to have sex with, involving stimulating ourselves sexually,for some, involving in some cases fixations on certain parts of the body such as feet, or involving pain, and this includes some people who have a desire to simulate sex with someone of the same gender. We don't classify people according to their sexual temptations, so we don't consider that there is a class of "gay" people or "lesbian" people.

We believe that sex is naturally (as, in by God when He made us) ordered to the creation of nurturing of new human beings, and that marriage is the institution ordained by God for this purpose. A just society properly supports and encourages the divine and natural institution of marriage.
Marriage by its very nature and definition can only be of a man and a woman. Two men and two women simply cannot be "married" no matter what you might try to call it.

The Newsweek article assumes that marriage is something designed by human beings that can be changed. It assumes that there is a category of humans who are "gay". It assumes that the state can legitimately decide either to encourage marriage and childbearing or to discourage it.
It also fails to understand that the marital relationship between a man and a woman is the kind of thing which is procreative, even if there are some instances which are not, as Red Cardigan points out.

The Newsweek article addresses nothing very deeply or seriously, which is what one would expect.

And let me add that I don't see where Red C. is claiming victim status. It doesn't make one a victim to be called a meanie poopie head! She was just referring to "You're being hurtful" proposed as an argument.

Telling people the truth may indeed seem hurtful at times. If heeded, the pain would be salutory. But heeded or not, one oughtn't to tell them other than the truth.
Susan Peterson

Anonymous said...

Twinkies, really? That was the best comparison she could make?

Red Cardigan said...

Susan, just to be clear, I didn't actually ask the CC people to follow me here (though they are of course welcome so long as we can keep the conversations civil). Rod posted my link without telling me he was going to; I never publicized this blog over there.

Siarlys, we have many points of disagreement, but I'm glad to have your support on this issue. We can't pretend that the male/female gender difference has nothing whatsoever to do with marriage without ignoring both human history and the commonly accepted definition of marriage. I like your reminder of the fact that while we no longer have segregated restrooms, nobody is seriously arguing that the existence of male-only and female-only restrooms is an act of bigotry or oppression. Gender is not race, and reserving marriage for opposite gender couples is not aimed at making same gender couples "feel" discriminated against; it just points out that there really is an important difference between same gender and opposite gender couples.

Geoff G. said...

Sure, sometimes a couple would wed and be unable to breed, and nature ends one's breeding capacity at some point or other, but a male-female couple is still a breeding pair nonetheless;

Emphasis added.

So an infertile couple is "still a breeding pair?" So a woman past menopause is still officially breeding? On what planet?

Two people who know they are incapable of producing children are in no way, shape, or form a "breeding pair." If you can't breed then you're not a "breeding pair."

[I]t would be senseless for the state to make a couple prove their breeding ability before wedlock, as this would sort of defeat the state's whole "We don't want to raise your kids for you" purpose in having marriage in the first place.

Thank-you oh so much for making my argument for me. If the state does not have an interest in validating a couple's ability to breed then the entire reproductive argument against SSM (as a civil right) falls apart.

Either it is a state interest or it's not. You can't have it both ways.

Plaintiffs seem to be fine with that--if they can't have marriage, then nobody can. Rather undercuts their simultaneous claim that marriage is so important to them that they're forced to wallow in misery without it, doesn't it?

Nope, not at all. They didn't say that the entire institution of marriage should go away, quite the contrary, merely that government's control over it might. Presumably Catholics would go to their priest to get married and same-sex couples could go to a Unitarian Church or whatever.


On the topic of the issue of marriage being about "breeding couples" (and only that), you know as well as anyone that that is far from the only purpose of marriage, even the sine qua non of marriage.

Church law itself teaches (inter alia) that a mere non-existence of offspring, even the inability to produce offspring, does not invalidate a marriage. Only the lack of sexual relations or willful deception on the topic of reproduction does that. Obviously, there can be no such deception in a same sex relationship.

So your own canons undercut your argument.

Historically, marriages have served a variety of functions, including serving as the consummation of romantic love, but also cementing alliances between states, serving to align families together for economic or political reasons, increasing the social status of an individual or family, etc.

In fact, the very existence of such "political" reasons for marriage speaks to the long history (especially in Catholic countries) of permitting the existence of sexual relationships outside of the bonds of marriage (i.e. mistresses).

Contrary to Red's statement, marriage is not now and never has been nothing more or less than a factory for popping out babies.

Geoff G. said...

Finally, if you sincerely wish to approach the subject of human sexuality as a Pauline Christian, you cannot escape the fact that Paul himself took such a dim view of marriage altogether that he endorsed it only if you were completely incapable of refraining from sex altogether (I Corinthians 7).

This has some interesting consequences. First of all, it shows that modern Catholics and Christians who do marry are pretty much admitting that chastity is impossible for that vast majority of people (given the numbers of married Christians compared with those who embrace chastity as a vocation). Otherwise, they themselves would refrain both from sex and from marriage, as Paul calls on them to do.

Secondly, by denying the possibility of marriage to a certain group of people, having admitted that chastity is impossible for at least a subset of that group (both based on the point above and on Paul's own admission), it shows that Christianity is not, as they claim, a universal religion, but one for heterosexuals only and (perhaps) homosexuals who are able to refrain from sex.

Thirdly, it also invalidates your "baby factory" argument. According to Paul, the only justification for marriage is if you cannot bring yourself to refrain from sexual activity. It's not to make babies.

Red Cardigan said...

Geoff, take a breath. Really.

The state's compelling interest in marriage has always been linked to the ability of a man and a woman to make babies. Otherwise, the state would care about male/female partnerships exactly as much as it does about, say, BFFs, cousins, or siblings--which is to say, not at all. It is only this overwhelming propensity of male/female couples to produce new citizens for the state which gives the state any interest in marriage at all.

This does not equate to marriage being a baby factory or even to some silly notion of compelling the state to revoke the marriage licenses of people who seem unable to breed (and people who were thought to be barren/sterile have suddenly found themselves pregnant, you know). It just means that marriage, at a state, secular level, involves a male/female pairing for a reason--and that if marriage can be a man and a man, a woman and a woman, three men and two women, etc. ad infinitum, then the state's interest in such a ridiculously meaningless word rapidly evaporates.

Now, you are right in that the Church sees the purpose of marriage as going far beyond this ability of male/female couples to procreate--yet even the Church stresses the primacy of this duty of marriage, such that a stated intention on the part of bride and groom that they do not plan to have children is grounds for an annulment--because this expressed intention actually invalidates the marriage. The other thing you point out, the inability of the couple to engage in sexual intercourse, does also invalidate a Church marriage; the Church will therefore never permit same-sex attracted people to marry each other, because they are physically incapable of performing together that sole and specific act which used to be referred to as "the marriage act," e.g., sexual intercourse. No sex act a man can have with another man or a woman with another woman is the equivalent of this act from a physical, creative-potential, or philosophical standpoint.

In point of fact, even many state laws regarding marriage will invalidate a non-consummated marriage between heterosexuals. But since every so-called "marriage" between homosexuals is necessarily "non-consummated" as regards sexual intercourse (masturbatory acts, sodomy, etc. are not intercourse), what does this say about such laws? It says, in effect, that married heterosexuals are being held to an entirely different standard, and that their marriages can be declared null based on the non-performance of an act which is not even physically possible for "married" homosexuals. How is that just?

I know we will never see eye to eye on this issue, sadly. But how do you define marriage? Can you define it in such a way that it does not, eventually, come to mean "Two spinster cousins who do not have sex with each other but live together and want tax breaks," at which point it is beyond absurd? I don't think you, or any gay-rights activist, can--but I also know you really don't care about the societal wreckage the effective abolition of marriage will cause.

Anonymous said...

Chastity is a fruit of the Holy Spirit and should be practiced by everyone, not excluding married couples. It is also a virtue, habit you practice
"AS A VIRTUE.—Chastity is the virtue which excludes or moderates the indulgence of the sexual appetite. It is a form of the virtue of temperance, which controls according to right reason the desire for and use of those things which afford the greatest sensual pleasures."
Celibacy is a state of life for some, either chosen or by birth.
"Celibacy of the Clergy is the renunciation of marriage implicitly or explicitly made, for the more perfect observance of chastity, by all those who receive the Sacrament of Orders in any of the higher grades."

John Thayer Jensen said...

Geoff G. - I think you fail to distinguish between what a thing is by nature and what it is in actualisation.

A male and a female are, by nature, a breeding pair - at least a potential breeding pair. That they are currently too young, or too old, for actual breeding, does not make them any the less a breeding pair, any more than my car's present state - perhaps with flat tyres - makes it something other than a car. If I crash it, it is still a car, albeit a crashed one.

Two males are not, by nature, a breeding pair, nor are two females. Even if by some scientific means a woman's genome is combined with that of another woman to produce a child, they are not by nature a breeding pair. My office chair has wheels and I might even add a little motor to it, but it is not a car; it is a chair.

This business of 'same-sex marriage' is, in fact, a kind of anti-nature movement - but it cannot succeed. Horace understood it: Naturam expellas furca, tamen usque recurret. - you may toss nature out with your pitchfork, but it will keep coming back.


Red Cardigan said...

John, thank you for your comment; I think it gets to the heart of this debate.

Siarlys Jenkins said...

I could leave out the matter of breeding, and still maintain my position on the matter. I could also take Eulogos position, which is a pretty coherent one, and leave out all spiritual or Biblical references. For the record, I believe that the union of a male and a female does reunite the complete image of God, and that any problem God has with homosexual unions is not so much that the people involved are depraved, or even that they may not get into heaven, so much as that it is a variation from the original intent, a blind alley. It could still mean a great deal to the individuals involved.

But, leave all that out too. Every person who accepts the description "gay" is either a man, or a woman. The concept "homosexual" would have no meaning if this were not so. There is a natural complementarity, sexually, between the male and female bodies. This does not exist between two male bodies, or two female bodies. There is, in short, a rational basis to considering the union of a man and a woman special, unique, a basis for specific recognition, unlike that given to ANY other human relationship, however benign or malign, however loving or destructive.

With all the compassion in the world, in its clinical sense, not in a patronizing sense, homosexuality is a deviation from an objective biological norm for the human species, a sideshow, and however deeply some individuals find comfort and fulfillment in it, there is simply no obligation that the entire community should take notice. I don't much care that you are homosexual, and I wouldn't put much effort into stopping my state legislature from offering homosexual couples a marriage license, but there is not constitutional right to it.

Edward said...

Brother and sister may be granted the right to marry before gays and lesbians. We have man mating with woman with plenty of traditional precedent in royal houses. First cousins can marry right now. The chance of genetic defects can't be determined with any more certainty than it can with older people, and that wouldn't be of any concern anyway. All children are equal, and any children would be human beings to be loved the same as any other. Period. Any once any problem genes weeded themselves out naturally they wouldn't exist any more. There might be prohibitions within religions, but that would be irrelevant outside of religions in a civil marriage. It would just be a matter of minor law. Very minor law if man and woman were the primary considerations. And the state is clearly the primary one to sanction and recognize marriage, otherwise any mail order preacher could settle divorces as well as marry people. So how does the state, the final arbitor of marriage, weigh the difference in the "ick" factor, the only real barrier left, between brother-sister incest marriage and May-December marriage? It can't, really. The only barrier left is inertia. There aren't any reasons.

Siarlys Jenkins said...

Edward, you are so late with that lame argument I could accuse you of plagiary, but perhaps you haven't read the same argument already in print, under copyright. I responded to National Review and Charles Colson making the same point years ago. The way it came up, I think Geoff G. would fully agree with me. Read all about it:

Now it is true that Frankish kings, like the Pharaohs of Egypt, had a taste for incest, even Charlemagne. Since the feeble Popes trembling before Lombard invasion (not pagan, just Arian) depended on the Franks for military protection, the kings generally ignored the thundering denunciations of the bishops. But, bishops can be right sometimes, and the Reformation did not disturb the taboo on incest.