December 3, 2009

The SSM Train's Lost Momentum

Justin Katz

You may have heard that same-sex marriage failed to gain approval in the New York legislature. William Duncan makes an astute observation:

That is why the marriage redefinition push has relied so strongly on the inevitability claim — to overwhelm legislators' and voters' qualms about same-sex marriage with a fear that they will be labeled bigots. The leader of the Human Rights Campaign reacted to today's vote with this inevitability talking point: "The senators who voted against marriage equality today are on the wrong side of history, but the history of marriage equality will not end with today's vote."

Again and again, the inevitability claim has been rebutted by reality, but it is a tenacious idea, at least partially because it appeals to the cult of novelty that holds sway among media elites. That's why every "setback" for gay marriage is proclaimed a "shocking" development even though each is just a repeat of something that's happened over and over again.

It isn't bigotry to believe that society should maintain a special categorization for relationships that tend to create human life. Redefining marriage to include people of the same sex would disallow our ability to acknowledge this distinction and thereby hinder cultural efforts to ensure an appropriate respect for that biological power. Advocates would do well to stop insisting that this is all post hoc rationalization extending from an unstated hatred of homosexuals and, instead, accept that it's a sincere position with obvious political force and perhaps even a point or two worth considering during efforts to radically remodel the structure of our society.

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The history of the world is not always pleasant. Gays have been accepted at any number of times in history, Greece (Greek soldiers were not allowed to marry before age 35+/-), Rome, the Weimmar Republic. These periods of acceptance have been followed by periods of repression. I am not speaking in favor of repression, simply noting the cyclic nature of things. I am reminded of a Roman emperor who was openly gay (sorry, I can't recall the name. It was in the immediate pre-Christian era). This was accepted by Romans until he sought to have himself castrated in order to be more acceptable to his lover. He was then assassinated. I hope I need not say I do not favor assassination. But, I am skeptical of inevitability.

Posted by: Warrington Faust at December 3, 2009 11:00 AM

If we just change one word of this sentence, it makes the discussion interesting:

"It isn't bigotry to believe that society should maintain a special categorization for races..."

I wonder how people would have voted to abolish slavery in the early 1800s, or to eliminate segregation a good 75 years ago.

I just don't get it.

Posted by: Patrick at December 3, 2009 11:45 AM


Your comparison is like a rhetorical card trick: it doesn't achieve what it appears to achieve. Men and women together create children. It's the fundamental biological reason that there are men and women. Nothing similar can be said of races.

Posted by: Justin Katz at December 3, 2009 12:17 PM

Justin, is procreation justification? So should hetero people be tested before marriage to find out if they are capable of having a child? Or if they don't want children, should their marriage either be not allowed or annulled?

I'm not convinced that two parents of the same biological gender is damaging to all children and that it is worse than many other "family" environments.

Posted by: Patrick at December 3, 2009 12:28 PM

I've gone through this argument countless times, so I'll offer the summary version: The intention and ultimate capability of a given couple is irrelevant to the classification. Indeed, one of the reasons we need a strong marriage culture is to ensure that people whose behavior tends to produce children conduct themselves within a stable relationship whether that is their immediate intention or not.

If I were not "married" to my wife, I'd still be striving for the ideal family construct. It's critical that children and marriage be linked for the benefit of children whose parents need prodding in that direction.

Marriage is a classification of a relationship, not of an individual or even two individuals. Male-female intimate relationships are unique in that only such they are able to produce children without direct intention.

Posted by: Justin Katz at December 3, 2009 5:42 PM

Can you give me a good reason why government should be involved in ANYONE's marriage?

Posted by: Dan at December 3, 2009 9:44 PM

The truth is that, if young people voted in the same percentage as senior
citizens, Gay marriage would have passed
in both Maine and Florida. As the anti-gay folks die-off, AND THEY WILL, gay
marriage will become the law of the land.
52% to 48% is almost a victory
Happy Holidays
Be Well All

Posted by: Matt at December 3, 2009 9:49 PM

Sorry i meant to right
Maine and California

Posted by: Matt at December 3, 2009 10:07 PM

Justin if gay people are able to marry and enjoybthe legal benefits of that process why would it bother you. What effect could it possibly have on your life and your marriage?

Posted by: Scawndog at December 4, 2009 12:11 PM


Haven't we been down this discussion before?

To begin with, I dispute the relevance of your question. Nobody's advocating to initiate government recognition of marriage. Therefore, it would be up to you to prove that it's not needed and that it wouldn't do harm to attempt to extricate it from its intricately interwoven place in the law.

Posted by: Justin Katz at December 4, 2009 8:50 PM


I've answered that question at least 100 times online over the last decade. I'm sure you can find my answer without my retyping it.

Posted by: Justin Katz at December 4, 2009 9:02 PM

Two words why this failed: Governor Patterson.
The man is a political biohazard right now, and face it, this bill was strongly linked to him. There are plenty of Dems in NY running scared from him - if you're a Dem facing a tough race next year, this was a convenient way to prove your independence from a unpopular governor.
Unfortunately, what's good sometimes gets swept up in personality issues.

Posted by: rhody at December 5, 2009 9:11 PM
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