William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

Same-Sex Marriage For And Against: Part I

Our rights are your wrongs.

Sylvain Allard, a history student at the Université de Montréal specializing in US history and individuals rights and freedoms, graciously took up the challenge of constructing an argument in favor of same-sex marriage. It is structured in answer to each of my original five Questions. For his response, each Question will form the top part of a separate post. I’ll use the bottom part to show why he is wrong.

Allard

A few months ago, Mr. Briggs proposed a four part, five question series of arguments against same sex marriage. In this short essay I will demonstrate that many of Mr. Briggs arguments can be seen either as wrong or as belief which are different from being fact.

First, a few comment about his intro:

It is somewhat presumptuous from your part to say that people who support gay marriage haven’t considered their belief seriously. It is not because someone reaches a different conclusion that they did not think hard before reaching that conclusion.

Gay marriage is an example of civil rights, because this is about the freedom and liberty of an individual. On one hand, rights that belong to each individual are universal. To prove my point, I will use the Canadian Charts of Rights and Freedoms:

Fundamental Freedoms

2. Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms:

   *(a) freedom of conscience and religion;

   *(b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication;

   *(c) freedom of peaceful assembly; and

   *(d) freedom of association.

On the other hand, collective rights are not universal and they apply only to certain group of people. In Canada, there are very few examples of collective rights other than collective bargaining and laws about first nations. In the US, affirmative action, the GI bill is another example.

The UN declaration of human rights was the answer to the horror of the Second World War where the Nazis killed people based on religion/races (Jews and Slaves), sexual orientation, handicaps, disabilities and retardation.

There are no natural rights; rights are the result of evolution of thought and society. The right to freedom and liberty are very recent and started in part with the English and US Bill of Rights in the 1700s, closely followed by the French revolution. Until the mid-19th century slavery was a worldwide phenomenon. A phenomenon that is still present today though not as much as it once was and not as much in the open as it once was. Women have only recently obtained the right to be included as a person by the law. Before the middle of the 1800s, women were not considered like people by the law, and if a woman was raped, it was either the father or the husband that received compensation for the loss of value of their daughter or wives. It is only in the last 300 years that mankind has been able to evolve and recognize people as individual, instead of disposable commodities to the powerful.

Question 1:

The main argument of Mr. Briggs in the first question is that male-female mating is so natural that the institution of marriage preceded the institution of the state, thus the state cannot change the meaning of marriage.

There are several mistakes with this interpretation. First, mating does not equal marriage. There is no reason to believe that the first human mated in an exclusive manner which would imply marriage. Homosexual mating is observed in many species so this is not as unnatural as some might believe. Another main problem is that there is no reason or need to get married if there is no state.

Second, the definition of states used by Mr. Briggs is the modern one. It doesn’t take into account that anytime a group of people unite together, would it be to form a tribe, there is some form of state that will be created. Tribe have social order. They create rule that will be adopted by the governing body and are followed by the member of the tribe. Even though the state developed by those people doesn’t correspond to our recent definition, it doesn’t mean it was not there. To belong to a tribe required the member to abide by a code of conduct. In short, any form of society becomes a state, even militias.

Also, marriage has long been used as an economic and politic tool to create alliances between tribes and later kingdoms. Marriage was rarely used for the stricter role to procreate (the first ones were the Jewish people). Anyways someone could try to present it; marriage was never present before some basic kind of state was formed. Marriage is the creation of a basic state.

If marriage was as natural and as respected an institution, then there would be no need to have a specific commandment to protect it. What this means is that at some point the Jewish state decided to condemn something that was common practices. It means that the Jewish State define what marriage was. Any State can define marriage as it wants since it created the institution of marriage.

Briggs

O! Canada! Why hast thou persecuted those who wouldst not submit to the new enlightenment! Why have your Human “Rights” Commissions sought for their prey amongst the religious? Poor Stephen Boissoin! Cast from the city for quoting the Bible on the subject of homosexuality. Pity Bill Whatcott! Made to grovel before judges for using the words “detestation” and “vilification”. Speaking opinions can now be a crime of “hate” in the semi-frozen North.

History is our subject today, and our guide. What has happened in Canada is likely to happen here (and is). Yet Allard is correct to suggest that because no culture has ever before labeled (say) two, three, four, even five or more men “married” that therefore this act is immoral. Whether or not any culture performs a certain act or ritual, or neglects another, is never absolute proof that these acts or rituals are immoral or moral.

A vote cannot make an act moral. If it could, we cannot complain about the acts Germany in the 1930s-40s, or those of China in the 20th Century, or those of North Carolina today (that state adopted a constitutional amendment defining marriage man-woman; if you are an SSM advocate you must show why this is wrong; if you ignore the question, we will be right in assuming you cannot). Therefore we must look outside mere opinion and beyond history to discover whether any act or ritual is right or wrong. In short, we must argue philosophically.

But we can augment our arguments with history. It is clear that marriage, on the whole and, with small and rare exceptions, everywhere at all times, was man-woman. It was never man-man, nor man-man-man, nor man-goat-man, etc. (And don’t let’s complain of a straw man: plenty of folks out there who want to “marry” animals, just as there are currently countries where bestiality is legal.)

SSM advocates say marriage should be a pair. On what basis? History? But history says no same-sex unions, so history is no guide and no grounds for argument. If SSM supporters want to prove pairings, they must use evidence outside history. Biology? Because, for instance, those unions which produce and care for children are pairings? Surely not: biology (science) adamantly argues against “gene-killing” SSM (yes, there are rare exceptions in, say, medically augmented woman-woman unions, but the notion is largely true). There never has been a coherent argument for non-man-woman pairings except “I want it!”

It used to be said (more history), and all evidence suggested, that children raised jointly by their married biological parents were better off (in any dimension) than those raised otherwise. Recent history shows us this fact will no longer be allowed to be held. Children, it will be insisted, will thrive just as well—better, even—were they to be raised by the gentleman I saw at yesterday’s “Pride” parade, who was wearing naught but a thong and a small sign which read “HIV positive”.

As an aside, I wonder if I should strip off and march down Times Square with a placard reading “Gallstone bearer.” Would the press write of me supportively? Would Anthony Kennedy “friend” me on Facebook?

How about the kids raised by those who mainly have physical pleasure on their minds, as is evidently the case in “Pride” attendees? Think they don’t? Then why must float-riders prance about nearly or even wholly naked while simulating (that’s an assumption) sex acts? How often have you seen heterosexual “pride” parades similarly accoutered?

But never mind. Let’s accept that the people in these parades are an aberration or a small minority. Accept, even, for the sake of argument that kids would prosper under their care. Does that prove that SSM is right? Of course not. It doesn’t prove it wrong, either. But we have four more Questions in front of us.

Whoever does not act like a lady or gentleman in responding will be banned.

Read Part II


26 Comments

  1. The arguments are pointless until the definition of marriage is settled. I don’t accept the idea that the social group is the definer or that it’s merely a contractual association, as Allard seems to believe but Briggs doesn’t. Is it possible to agree on a definition? If not, then we’ll get nothing but older and grumpier.

  2. Sander van der Wal

    1 July 2013 at 9:08 am

    Biology doesn’t argue against gene-killing SSM. Biology would argue that Same-Sex Unions should be at least not detrimental enough for the population that allow them, for the population to become extinct. Whether it is good for a population to allow SSU’s, or to promote SSU, is debatable, but SSU’s do not kill a population outright.

    Regarding the Marriage bit in a State, or Society for the people less inclined to follow Hobbes, the State provides certain benefits for married people. It taxes them less. Married couples might get housing sooner. Marriage is seen as responsible behaviour by a society. Being married has all kinds of advantages. Now, if a State is big-mouthed on equal rights for homosexuals, then there is no reasonable argument from the State against same-sex marriages. Either the state treats all people the same, married, or not, or it allows people to get married.

    And for a biological argument, heterosexuals who liked being in a union were probably more likely to produce offspring. So, if there is a genetic component in people wanting to be in a union, then it is not unreasonable to assume that homosexuals have the same genetic liking for being in a union. Only if homosexuality is genetically encoded in such a way that it excludes liking to be in a union, then same-sex marriages have no basis in biology. Fortunately, this argument is testable.

    Same for SS couples wanting to have children. If not wanting to have kids is genetically determined, that tendency would leave the gene pool very quickly indeed. Again, there is no reason to assume that the genetic base for wanting to have kids is genetically incompatible with being homosexual. And again, this is a testable argument.

    Now for the “think of the children” argument. If a State disallows same sex couples to care for children because it is bad for the children, you are giving that same State a reason to forbid certain heterosexuals to care for kids. Most heterosexuals can still have children, but whether they can keep them depends on the whims of other people. There are plenty of heterosexual couples who like having lots and lots of good times too, while not being dressed properly for public appearance, but nobody wants to take their kids from them, I believe.

    Regarding the goat-argument, this is strictly about consenting adults.

  3. First: Neither affirmative action nor the GI bill are rights. US law does not recognize any collective rights.

    Second: He is wrong on the point of marriage flowing from the state. Even accepting the tribe as a form of state, marriage necessarily comes first.

    Even before there were tribes it would have been advantageous for a female to unite in a long term relationship with a male for the protection of herself and her offspring. This is true because humans take so long to reach physical maturity.

    It is this union for the mutual raising of children that created the family as a group. Then several related families joined forces to form the clan and several clans united to form the tribe.

  4. What do we do when an argument about history contains flat out untruths about history?

    “Women have only recently obtained the right to be included as a person by the law. Before the middle of the 1800s, women were not considered like people by the law”

    Is utter nonsense.

    As is:

    “It is only in the last 300 years that mankind has been able to evolve and recognize people as individual, instead of disposable commodities to the powerful.”

    How can we take seriously a historical argument, about the evolution (note that evolution, given an absence of telos, does not tend towards better ends, thus there is not guarantee whatsoever that any “evolution” undergone by the human race is positive) of human mores and tolerance when there is a such rank historical incompetence on display?

    Also, if rights are simply “There are no natural rights; rights are the result of evolution of thought and society” then how can they escape being “disposable commodities to the powerful”? Essentially, your position is that we have rights because those in power have granted them to us. If they are merely the product of society, than the forces that wield power over society may impose them over society.

    Also how can we have “fundamental” freedoms, which are we only have the right to as a result of cultural/historical context? What exactly makes these freedoms fundamental? Blargh.

  5. apologies for typo in final sentence, omit the “are” in “…which are we only…”

  6. In a free state, freedom necessarily includes the right to “sin” — and every anti-gay marriage argument includes the inherent argument of immorality (if not couched so overtly as such). Arguably the USA is a “free State” with a guaranteed right to freedom of religion…ergo…its citizens should have the right to sin in this form.

    Historically a free State legislates & regulates those activities having “externalities” — impacts with the rights of others (no “right” is absolute in all circumstances). What’s interesting about the anti-gay/pro-gay arguments is that those on the anti-gay side invariably resort to moral values–as if legislating values that are ultimately religiously based would make a difference.

    The [in]famous Regenerus study suggests that gay parents raise children into adults with greater frequency of emotional issues than intact heterosexual families. That would be a sound basis for restricting gay adoptions, for example. Other studies, however, have found the gay community in general to be a bit more successful as entrepreneurs — economically contributing proportionally more than the corresponding hetero population.

    Every so often, however, someone slips up a bit and the presence of one particular fear is revealed: What if future statistics reveal gay marriages to be more stable/longer-lasting than their hetero-counterparts? There’s something to fear, huh?!

  7. “Homosexual mating is observed in many species so this is not as unnatural as some might believe.”

    Not at all! Your history lessons appear to be devoid of that large part of history we call classical philosophy. This should sadden you and anyone helping to pay for your education.

    You seem to confuse the term “nature”, which means many things. It is common knowledge that homosexuality occurs in non-humans, and to use the term “nature” to refer to the non-human living world is also common.

    But “nature” has other meanings. For instance, it is natural for a species to reproduce, for that is the end to which reproductive organs exist. It is unnatural, even in the non-human (natural) world, for a species to use reproductive organs for counter-reproductive purposes. This violates the final cause for those organs, and for the creatures themselves, which live and grow and develop in large part simply to reproduce.

    I’m reminded of Feser’s example of toothpaste-eating squirrels (a far less emotional topic for some). It is unnatural for squirrels to crave toothpaste as their primary food source, because it is contrary to the nature of eating; that is, it doesn’t provide sustenance. We would call that behavior unnatural, even though squirrels live “in nature”.

    “Marriage is the creation of a basic state.”

    I suspect most people would still consider their marriages intact if the state no longer existed.

  8. @Ken:

    “What if future statistics reveal gay marriages to be more stable/longer-lasting than their hetero-counterparts? There’s something to fear, huh?!”

    What if they show the opposite in the future? What if they show the opposite now? Would that change your mind? Should it change the minds of others?

  9. It used to be said (more history), and all evidence suggested, that children raised jointly by their married biological parents were better off (in any dimension) than those raised otherwise. Recent history shows us this fact will no longer be allowed to be held. Children, it will be insisted, will thrive just as well—better, even—were they to be raised by the gentleman I saw at yesterday’s “Pride” parade, who was wearing naught but a thong and a small sign which read “HIV positive”.

    This is the kind of snark sophistry that really puts me into blatant pro-gay-marriage thought process. My mind goes like this, if the guy who is railing against SSM feels the need to be this gross, then clearly the other side has majorly won the argument.

    Now mr Briggs, tell me how that above comment of yours isn’t bigoted to the extreme. Or just ignorant to the extreme on what is like to be gay.

  10. Ye Olde Statistician

    1 July 2013 at 10:53 am

    the State provides certain benefits for married people. It taxes them less.

    Actually, when the husband’s income and the wife’s are reported jointly, it typically places them in a higher tax bracket and their taxes increase over what either would have paid separately.

    Married couples might get housing sooner.

    The State provides housing only for a restricted class of people. Otherwise, people “get” housing sooner if they can afford it sooner. This generally means that they have been prudent in their lives. Since such prudence often includes marriage, there is a correlation. But it is not a causation.

    Marriage is seen as responsible behaviour by a society.

    But this does not mean that people behaving irresponsibly simply by name-magic. Calling them “married” will not change the physical reality.
    + + +
    It would be well to distinguish the physical reality that conjured up the term “marriage” to describe it (from L. maritas, a man who has been provided with a young woman, from PIE *mari, a young woman) from the civil licensing associated with it since only the late 1800s. The talk is all about State “benefits,” never about the reality of marriage itself.

  11. Luis:
    So if reporting of the reality associated with a behaviour is “being gross”, perhaps you should reconsider your support for the behaviour.

    General comments:
    I will still maintain that the reason for demanding SSM is not for equal rights, but to prove that SSM is moral. There is a belief that “legal” and “moral” are the same. It’s why “civil unions” with equal rights under the law was rejected. The argument that this is about “rights” is simply not true. It’s about making a behaviour “moral”.

    Also, the limiting of marriage to two people is just a uncivilized and unkind as limiting it to man-woman. There is no justification for excluding marriage groups, to animals, to children (“consent” is not part of marriage with adults in many countries–arranged marriages are common so consent is not a requirement for marriage in all cultures). Other countries allow marriage to children as young as eight or nine. Perhaps they are more evolved than the US and Canada. You can bet that polygamy will be legalized because there is no justification to exclude it. None. Why limit marriage in any way if this is about “we can’t control who we love” and “it’s about our right to be happy” and “it’s wrong to discriminate in any way”?

  12. Briggs

    1 July 2013 at 1:17 pm

    Oh very well, Luis, tell us how an observation of a man putting himself on public display “bigoted.”

  13. @ Josh 10:46 am: RE the possibility that gay marriage may be more stable than hetero marriages Josh rants:

    “What if they show the opposite in the future? What if they show the opposite now? Would that change your mind? Should it change the minds of others?”

    –Re stats now: Divorce in states that first endorsed gay marriage are significantly lower (though that appears to be an overall figure, not for gay marriages): http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/27/gay-marriage_n_3513028.html To the extent that’s true, it really undermines the emotional, and philosophical, assertions that gay marriage undermines the institution of marriage.

    – RE Josh’s query “Would that change your mind?” — the obvious question is, ‘Change it about what?’ Ditto for ‘Should it change the minds of others?’ I can only infer Josh here has articulated incompletely a presumption that objective facts, most still pending, ought to change someone’s moral values. I’m guessing. If so, that’s entirely divorced from anything I’ve stated.

    MY WHOLE POINT is simple: IF a free society includes the State’s guarantees to the freedom to practice one’s religion, then one is also free, as far as the State is concerned, to “sin” relative to one’s religion. The State’s ban on gay marriage is inherently based on religious values and amounted to the imposition of particular religious values on all citizens — the S. Court was right to declare that unconstitutional (though if it was right to even hear the case is another matter).

    I wholly disagree with a basic premise by the author: “…if you are an SSM advocate you must show why this is wrong; if you ignore the question, we will be right in assuming you cannot). Therefore we must look outside mere opinion and beyond history to discover whether any act or ritual is right or wrong. In short, we must argue philosophically.”

    “Wrongness” or “rightness” reflect values of what is “good” or “bad”, values typically ultimately derive from religion.

    In a State where freedom of religion is guaranteed the State cannot apply religiously-based values without contradicting guarantees of other freedoms. This is the dilemma the USA now finds itself–a situation unimaginable (gay marriage) at the founding is now seen as nearly reasonable by a majority. Any basis for denying it encroaches on or violates other Constitutional guarantees.

    What the state can do without pretending philosophy’s inherent circular reasoning isn’t an issue is to apply objective analysis–identify the effects of behaviors, statutes (such as gay marriage) on the population. If the effects are detrimental, then it would be rational to regulate, deny, etc. as appropriate — based on the actual effects.

    For that, reference: Luke 6:44 or Matt 7:16 — ‘judge a tree by its fruits.’

    The gay-marriage debate is noteworthy for the almost absolute absence of any references to actual tangible adverse impacts from the allowance for gay marriage. There’s little data to work with to be sure, some indicates adverse effects in some ways (e.g. Regnerus’ study) but that’s hardly all that different from traditional marriages. Other data suggests, for now, gays may be doing some things in their relationships better than hetero — like staying together after making the commitment. Other data indicates they, as a group, are more entrepreneurial & successful in that regard than their hetero counterparts.

    Applying Luke 6:44 or Matt 7:16 core lesson indicates, so far, that gays impact on society, their “fruits,” are generally neutral or a bit better than average, regardless of what one thinks about their lifestyle or behaviors conducted in private.

  14. Nullius in Verba

    1 July 2013 at 2:40 pm

    I don’t think it’s true to say that there are no examples of same-sex unions from history.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_same-sex_unions

    There are few things that people want to do that have not at some point in history been socially approved. Polygamy and polyandry have been common. Paedophilia (in the modern sense) has been accepted. And many forms of slavery have involved rights to sex. Other aspects of marriage, such as shared property, cohabitation, tax breaks, inheritance, and so on all apply to many other relationships and institutions as well.

    Marriage is a human convention/ritual/tradition, particular to each specific time and civilisation. There are no absolutes, besides the ones we jointly create. However, such conventions are joint agreements – they cannot be redefined on a whim by anyone, any more than the government can legislate the meaning of words in common usage. It means what it means in a particular society.

    The human rights issue is not over the right of a couple to describe themselves as married, it is over their right to impose this interpretation on everyone else: to insist that other people recognise it as a marriage. As a matter of personal freedom, my neighbour can declare himself to be married to his electric toaster, and I have no right to interfere, or to stop him saying so. But he has no right to insist that I recognise his marriage as valid. My saying that it is invalid does him no direct harm. It is simply speech, and opinion, which is supposed to be free. The government cannot tell the church that it must recognise man-toaster marriages as valid, any more than it can insist they recognise the marriages made in other religions. Freedom of belief requires it.

    And when it comes to more material rights and consequences, the government can decide what relationships it will recognise as ‘marriage’, but it has no rights to impose that interpretation on anyone else – to say either yes or no. If I belong to a community that recognises man-toaster weddings (or less trivially, adult-child weddings) then the government cannot prevent it. However, it does not thereby have to recognise them itself.

    (Incidentally, for those who say adult-child marriages cannot be legal because the child cannot give informed consent, the generally accepted rule is that parents can give consent on their behalf. We follow that rule for many other things requiring consent, like medical treatment. It’s the same principle, and is applied that way in societies that allow such weddings, like Islam.)

    The argument about one practice being more natural falls on the many human institutions that are “unnatural”. The argument about same-sex relationships being bad for children falls on the many grossly dysfunctional opposite-sex families that nobody does anything about. There is currently no right to interfere in another family’s style of parenting except in case of the most extreme abuse. There are plenty of heterosexual men I wouldn’t trust alone with a gerbil, let alone a child, and yet there is no law to stop them having sex and raising children. No training, no qualifications or licences. And we’d raise an outcry if anyone proposed one.

    DOMA, which I assume is what this is about, rules only on whether the government can decide what relationships to recognise at state or federal level. As it’s simply about what the government chooses to do, it is a legitimate matter for government to decide. That doesn’t mean that churches, private organisations, or private individuals have to recognise it. By all means, assert your right not to. But you can no more stop others doing so than you can stop Muslims saying it was OK for Mohammed to marry a six-year old. Or tell English teachers that they must concede it is wrong to admire Shakespeare’s play Romeo and Juliet because the girl was 13 years old.

    Times and traditions differ.

  15. @Ken:

    Regnerus did a comprehensive, long-term, enormous study that was vindicated by statisticians. Why do you refer to it as “some studies that indicate some adverse effects”? The whole purpose of his study was to compare same-sex marriages with heterosexual marriages. That was the premise and the entire content of the study. How did you miss that?

    The study shows that homosexual parents are miserable (by magnitudes) in every category compared with heterosexual parents.


    “I wholly disagree with a basic premise by the author: “…if you are an SSM advocate you must show why this is wrong; if you ignore the question, we will be right in assuming you cannot). Therefore we must look outside mere opinion and beyond history to discover whether any act or ritual is right or wrong. In short, we must argue philosophically.””

    Reject all you want, but you can’t reject it in good faith. He provided reasons for his statement; you have basically stated a tautology (that religion (or philosophy or worldview) determines our concepts of morality and right/wrong). Reject his -reasons-, or accept his conclusion; you have no other reasonable choice.

    What I want to know is why you think SSM should be the default worldview, and why other should be expected to defend another viewpoint. It reminds me of the aggressive modern pop atheist who assumes atheism is the most basic philosophy, and so expects to never defend his position.


    Also, I would hardly call a two-line response to your comment a “rant”. Perhaps we have different definitions.

  16. Sylvain Allard

    1 July 2013 at 2:45 pm

    Briggs,

    The Canadian Supreme Court decision can be found here with scans at the bottom of the pamphlet starting page 109 of the pdf.

    http://scc.lexum.org/decisia-scc-csc/scc-csc/scc-csc/en/12876/1/document.do

    What mister Whatcott said was beyond simply quoting a bible passage. In fact the bible passage are not held as hate speech by the court (p.101).

    The last 2 Flyers are dismissed has non-hatred, while the first 2 constitute hate speech.

    The court says:

    ” [192] In the instant case, Flyers D and E expressly call for discriminatory treatment of those of same-sex orientation. Flyer D urges that the rights of homosexuals and lesbians should be reduced by stating: “We also believe that for sodomites and lesbians who want to remain in their lifestyle and proselytize vulnerable young people that civil law should discriminate against them” (emphasisadded). Flyer E urges: “Our acceptance of homosexuality and our toleration of its promotion in our school system will lead to the early death and morbidity of many children” (emphasis added). Mr. Whatcott therefore combined expression exposing homosexuals to hatred with expression promoting their discriminatory treatment. In my view, it was not unreasonable for the Tribunal to conclude that this expression was more likely than not to expose homosexuals to hatred.”

    Anyhow you can start at paragraph 186.

    The judgment of the court as nothing to do with a war on christianity. They admit the use of the bible passage is not hateful.

  17. Ye Olde Statistician

    1 July 2013 at 2:47 pm

    To the extent that’s true, it really undermines the emotional, and philosophical, assertions that gay marriage undermines the institution of marriage.

    Actually, that’s backward. First, the institution of marriage must be undermined. Then gay “marriage” becomes a meme. Andrew Sullivan once wrote that gay marriage would help benefit “straight” marriage, because the greater openness of gay relationships would help straights get over their sexual hangups about faithfulness and the like.
    There is some commentary here from a decade ago:
    http://old.nationalreview.com/03june02/kurtz060302.asp
    It was thought back in the 70s that since a celibate homosexual is indistinguishable from a celibate heterosexual, admitting gays to the priesthood would do no harm. It took a while, but it did.
    + + +
    As for supposed correlations between divorce rates and whether a State government endorsed gay “marriage”, why that sort of thing is meat and potatoes to a statistical debunking site.
    + + +
    In what way is it particular to any religion when one observes that no culture has ever had an institution resembling marriage for homosexuals? While they generally approved of men getting off in any way they wanted, they severely disapproved of grown men taking the submissive role in such a relationship (the “bottom” or “catcher” in today’s parlance) and had no civil institution to solemnize this sort of activity. The arguments of Plato and Aristotle were not based on religion at all.

  18. @Nullius in Verba:

    See YeOldeStatistician on the origin of Marriage, as distinct from any other union you could form (of which there are myriads across all of history).

    Interestingly, polygamy still assumes a male-female relationship; it just accepts multiple instances of these relationships per person.

  19. Ye Olde Statistician

    1 July 2013 at 3:15 pm

    The Wikipedia “article” that Nullus links to performs a bit of sleight of hand thanks to our friend “equivocation.” At issue is something called “gay marriage,” not something called “yes, there have been homosexuals in various times and places.” So it does not advance the case to cite the existence of specific gay couples here and there. Especially when it must be admitted en passant that they were not considered “married” by their contemporaries. Boswell’s discredited and tendentious mistranslation of an Orthodox Greek document is also a slim reed upon which to lean. As hard as it is for a Late Modern to imagine, it used to be possible for two men to form a deep friendship and not have sex with each other! (Gasp!)
    That Nero and Elagabulus “married” taking the role of “bride” is not exactly a stirring argument that this sort of thing was a normal institution. Both emperors were famously dissolute and perverted six ways from Saturday, and were not remembered by the Romans with any sort of approval. Inter alia, Nero had himself awarded the laurels for poetry and chariot racing at the Olympic Games. That doesn’t mean he was a champion poet or race cart driver. Neither does his claim that the mock ceremony made him “married.”
    Republican Rome had a law outlawing homosexuality among men, and it was ruthlessly mocked by satirists like Martial and Juvenal. So it is unlikely that the culture featured anything like homosexual “marriage.”

  20. Sander van der Wal

    1 July 2013 at 4:03 pm

    @YOS

    Over here married people have a number of options to minimize their tax payment. Unmarried people living together do not, although they can apply for a registered partnership, which makes them “married” for tax. Not for all other aspects of government-regulated law. Like inheritance, the thimgbthat gotbje DOMA rulimg started in the fitst place. Getting married is the cheapest way to get the benefits, other ways might incur expenses like lawyers.

    Hollamd had a serious housing shortage after the second world war, and married people got lusimg quicker.

    Of course the talk is about the State. The State is the party allowing people to marry, and reap the State-provided benefits of being married. If the State was minding its own business and treated everybody equally, married or not, this discussion would not have happened.

  21. Nullius in Verba

    1 July 2013 at 4:37 pm

    “At issue is something called “gay marriage,” not something called “yes, there have been homosexuals in various times and places.””

    Then you had might as well say that since “marriage” is an English word, there cannot have been any marriages before the English language existed.

    Or if you want to tie the definition to a specific tradition and practice, then there could not have been any marriages prior to the most recent change in that tradition.

    Yes there have been homosexuals, in recognised permanent relationships with ritual elements not held to be illegal by society at large. Opposite-sex marriage has not always been a formally defined, legal institution, either. You can call it something else if you like. But it’s a rose by any other name.

  22. If male and female are not essential for marriage, why then in same sex couplings(?), does one partner feign acting as the male and the other female?

  23. Ye Olde Statistician

    1 July 2013 at 5:18 pm

    The State is the party allowing people to marry

    That’s a very European attitude. In fact, a marriage is a commitment by two people to the State that they will rear any children that might result from their cohabitation. States only started doing that in the 1860s/70s, but a brief examination of the Code of Khamurapi shows that the only relevant laws had to do with the provision for inheritance by the children. (Plus a few addressing joint and separate liability for debts and criminal acts.)

  24. Ye Olde Statistician

    1 July 2013 at 7:26 pm

    Then you had might as well say that since “marriage” is an English word, there cannot have been any marriages before the English language existed.

    And other languages deriving their terminology from Latin. There are equivalent terms with similar meanings in German and Russian. Beyond that someone else may have done the requisite etymology. German makes a nice distinction between the ceremony and the state of marriage itself. In English Common Law, a common law marriage was not accompanied by a ceremony at all. The Romans defined three classes of marriage in manu: confarreatio, coemptio and usus, in decreasing order of formality. The whole institution was called “matrimonium” from “mater” (mother).

  25. Sander van der Wal

    2 July 2013 at 5:07 am

    @YOS

    Apparently, but that doesn’t invalidate arguments based on an European attitude. It does show that people have all kinds of opinions on marriage.

    Regarding this Code of Khamurapi, is there a link that points to it? Google only finds discussions that mention it, not the code itself.

  26. If polygamists were not allowed to redefine marriage to suit themselves, why should homosexuals be allowed to?

    – Thomas Sowell

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