June 5, 2007

Advancing the SSM Conversation

Justin Katz

Matt from Unlikely Words makes an excellent point in response to my most recent post on same-sex marriage, excellent because it advances a conversation that tends toward talking past one another:

The statistics don't enter into it. Even accepting the claim (which I don't doubt) that many or even most married couples have children isn't an argument that marriage must be procreative. It's just an argument that it generally is. I accept the descriptive claim that marriages tend to involve procreation. I reject the normative claim that marriage is fundamentally procreative.

To avoid the deterioration into non-communication, I won't move on without insisting that I've never claimed that marriage must be procreative. My argument is against undermining the link between parenthood and marriage, whereby couples planning to have children get married and couples having sex understand that pregnancy comes with a unified set of responsibilities within a marital household. It is inherent in my promotion of a certain vision of marriage that I believe it to be what we make it, and since we have free will, we can make it what we want. Indeed, inasmuch as advocates for same-sex marriage insist that it is a matter of civil rights, they are the ones dictating a definition of marriage, which gets to the heart of their efforts to subvert our society and effectively disenfranchise people who disagree with them.

In the public debate over marriage, the two definitions that matter are not the "descriptive" and the "normative" (although procreative marriage is normative to the extent that it describes the norm, which it does), but the cultural and the legal, and in a democratic society, the latter ought to conform with, or at least not interfere with, the former, unless broader principles that the society prioritizes — such as equality — are thereby violated. That is why it is important to understand what marriage is in practice: because there are two ways in which we can know how to balance the various beliefs, interests, and priorities of our fellow citizens, by their actions and by their votes (with a footnote that the voice of those who profess to "speak for" our nation, such as artists in various media, decreasingly represents its people).

If actions (as interpretable through statistics) and votes confirm that marriage is procreative, then it isn't invidious discrimination (i.e., in violation of the type of discrimination that our society considers overriding of other principles) to assert that homosexual relationships do not qualify. (As individuals, of course, homosexuals are free to enter into marriage as currently defined.)

Proponents of same-sex marriage who argue anything more than a preference that our understanding of marriage ought to change are claiming a supernormative definition — a moral one — and are thereby promoting essentially a religious belief. The irony is that I have no problem with their seeking to have that belief established in the law; we ought to be able to form our government, in democratic fashion, such that it doesn't conflict with our beliefs, and theirs are free to compete in the social and legislative spheres. Contrary to progressives' affinity for insisting that laws cannot be based on citizens religious convictions, this is how religion should interact with government, and it is in that spirit that I offer my defenses of traditional marriage.

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Ultimately, I sit here comfortable in the knowledge that there are fewer and fewer of you every day (because people that hold on to your archaic opinion are DYING OFF) and more and more of me every day and eventually there will be enough of us to look around and say 'Yeah, of course gay people should be treated like people.' and gay marriage will just happen.

Posted by: Greg at June 5, 2007 12:57 PM

Thanks for the kind words. Unsurprisingly, you haven't convinced me yet, and I'll keep you in suspense for a bit longer with respect to my response.

I'll just note that, contra this -- "(although procreative marriage is normative to the extent that it describes the norm, which it does)" -- that's not what I mean by normative. (See definition 3.)

Posted by: mrh at June 5, 2007 2:31 PM

Thanks for the kind words. Unsurprisingly, you haven't convinced me yet, and I'll keep you in suspense for a bit longer with respect to my response.

I'll just note that, contra this -- "(although procreative marriage is normative to the extent that it describes the norm, which it does)" -- that's not what I mean by a href="http://www.m-w.com/cgi-bin/dictionary?sourceid=Mozilla-search&va=normative">normative.

Posted by: mrh at June 5, 2007 2:32 PM

Oh dear. Something terrible happened with my comments there.

Posted by: mrh at June 5, 2007 2:34 PM

I will never understand all the fuss about gay marriage. If two people want to get married, let them get married! If one church doesn't tolerate same sex marriage, find one that does, or start one of your own. The state should recognize the legal joining of two people as one, regardless of religious interference.

Unless Greg is being facetios, I think I actually agree with him here!

Posted by: Michael at June 5, 2007 3:29 PM

I'm deadly serious. This bigotry makes NO sense to me.

Posted by: Greg at June 5, 2007 3:35 PM


If your trap (as you called it in another comment section) is to point out that homosexuals have children, can (a la Ms. Cheney) work together to bring children into the world, and one day may be able to create children who meld their DNA, I've already written my response, and you might save us both some time by finding one of those posts here or on Dust in the Light

Posted by: Justin Katz at June 5, 2007 4:48 PM

I think it's illustrative of my experience with this debate that thisone thread contains both an advanced step in the usual progression and the very first one. Well, here we go again!

I don't believe the civil or cultural definitions of marriage to be encapsulated in the "the legal joining of two people as one." How about the legal joining of siblings? Or a mother and adult daughter? Why only two? What's the import of any such joinings that the state ought to recognize them?

Posted by: Justin Katz at June 5, 2007 5:13 PM

Well, Greg, I suppose the last reply I'll bother to make to you is that you are apparently not as intelligent as I'd thought. You're just a closed-minded bully.

And just so's you don't get too comfortable, I'll note that people like me are not "DYING OFF." Consider that I did not start out life, or even this debate, as a person like me. I guess we'll see whether my reasoned explanations of my position attract more converts than your insults dissuade.

Posted by: Justin Katz at June 5, 2007 5:20 PM


Nope, that's not what I have in mind, although I am morbidly interested to read your treatment of "gays with kids." Any pointers, of should I just Google my heart out?

Posted by: mrh at June 5, 2007 5:38 PM

If your interest is purely morbid, I'll decline to encourage it.

Posted by: Justin Katz at June 5, 2007 5:57 PM

Sure you are. Just like there are fewer and fewer people every day who refer to blacks as 'those damned coloreds' someday those of you who are bigoted against gays will die off and fade from memory as public sentiment evolves forward and accepts all people equally.

I won't even entertain your idiotic slippery slope argument of 'they'll be marrying their DOGS next' as it's not worth the pixels.

Posted by: Greg at June 5, 2007 6:33 PM

I don't care if you "entertain" my point, Greg, as it wasn't addressed to you. It was in response to a specific statement and wasn't meant as an argument so much as further prodding to understand what Michael's view of marriage actually is.

Moreover, I wouldn't expect you to entertain it, because you clearly are not interested in conversation and in doing the often difficult work of ironing out differences to understand how well-meaning people come to such irreconcilably different conclusions. I can only reassert that my current view is not the one with which I began considering the issue years ago, and I can only further assert that I never rule out the possibility that I will change my mind.

You are different. Your mind is closed. You don't believe that people who disagree with you can possibly be well-meaning. You give the impression that your opinion is driven more by emotion than by thought, and that you've some personal investment in this issue. (I could be misreading it, but your bombast has the feel of underlying insecurities — protecting your little brother from bruises, or something.)

If you need an outlet for your aggression, I suggest that you and Bobby O. take up the practice of sending unpublished letters to the editor back and forth.

Posted by: Justin Katz at June 5, 2007 7:34 PM

Dear Justin,

Most of my letters, even to the BIG papers, get published.

But, I do have the email list for the non-publishable stuff. If you want on, just let me know.

Posted by: Bobby Oliveira at June 5, 2007 8:21 PM

"I don't believe the civil or cultural definitions of marriage to be encapsulated in the "the legal joining of two people as one." How about the legal joining of siblings? Or a mother and adult daughter? Why only two? What's the import of any such joinings that the state ought to recognize them?"

As a heterosexual, married man my opinion and definition of marriage isn't all that important. I am allowed, by law and current social mores to choose my mate and be entitled to all of the benefits that come with the marriage certificate. Others are not so fortunate. If somebody else wants to enter into a partnership for the sake of legal simplicity in regard to estates, health care decesions, adoption and whatever else comes with the territory that is fine with me. Holding onto a religious definition of matrimony in what should be a civil matter only causes discrimination against those who do not believe what the majority believes.

Posted by: Michael at June 5, 2007 8:44 PM

No, Michael, you are wrong on two counts:

1. As a citizen of a democratic nation — the critical offering of which is the opportunity to shape your own government and society — your definition of marriage is absolutely important. That it is not is a lie fed to the public for decades in order to get the masses to capitulate to a minority worldview.

2. You are not "allowed, by law and current social mores," to choose any mate of your preference. You could not pick a man; you could not pick your sister. Homosexuals are bound by exactly the same rules as heterosexuals.

And I would pose two more (groups of) questions:

1. Given your "legal simplicity" phrase, am I to gather that you would not object to removing consanguinity restrictions from marriage law? Mothers ought to be able to marry their daughters? That would seem to render "marriage" meaningless — to end discrimination (in your characterization) by erasing all meaning from the institution. Why not just stop recognizing marriage and create simplified legal categories? Why force the government to steamroll millennia of human tradition and leverage the government thus to trample a majority of citizens cultural convictions?

2. Did you read the post to which this thread is attached? It seems as if you're merely reasserting what I was arguing against without acknowledging that I'd said anything on the subject at all.

Posted by: Justin Katz at June 5, 2007 9:02 PM

Same-sex couples shouldn't have the right to conceive children together that is inherent to all marriages. When I say "conceive children together", I mean a lab doing whatever it takes to create a child that has only the two same-sex parents as biological parents. We need to enact a law, quick, to stop doctors from opening the door to genetic engineering of manufactured designer babies by offering same-sex conception services to same-sex couples.
Also, all marriages must continue to guarantee a right to attempt to conceive together using their own gametes, or else we could find ourselves prohibiting people with such-an-such a genetic disease from conceiving. to protect people from the pressure to use "better" gametes, we need to affirm that all marriages have a right to conceive together using their own gametes.
Eventually, we should build on this with a law against joining unmarried gametes, to prohibit people from shopping for eugenicly screened gametes. We should all be created equal, as the union of a man and a woman that chose each other as life partners because they love each other, and we should all just be the natural product.

Posted by: John Howard at June 5, 2007 9:08 PM

If your interest is purely morbid, I'll decline to encourage it.

Is the comments section here intended to be a humor-free zone? If so, my bad.

I've found the relevant category over at Dust in the Light.

Posted by: mrh at June 5, 2007 9:11 PM

I honestly wouldn't care in the least if the socially accepted traditional marraige ended tommorrow. I've seen enough "marraiges" that weren't worth the paper the certificate is printed on to last a lifetime. People staying in the "marraige" for the sake of the children, People staying "married" because their religious beliefs forbid divorce. The whole institution of marraige shouldn't be something that the rest of society needs to approve of. Civilization won't crumble if the sacred institution of marraige ends. Children will be born, people will love them, man and beast won't procreate.

However... if getting married in a church in front of God and your family and peers makes you happy, then pursue that happiness with all your heart.

2. Sometimes I have to read your posts numerous times before I get them. And even then I'm not sure that I do.

3. What the heck does "consanguinity" mean

Posted by: Michael at June 5, 2007 10:04 PM

One more thing,

By being allowed by law and current social mores to choose my mate I was implying that my choice of a female as a partner is acceptable while others are not afforded the same right.

Posted by: Michael at June 5, 2007 10:11 PM

So, Michael, you're essentially a marriage abolitionist. That's fine, but understand that the vast majority of your fellow citizens disagree with you and that you thereby create evidence contrary to Greg's attack about my "idiotic slippery slope argument." In your view, if it provides legal simplicity for people to marry their siblings, then so be it, a view which seems to have its roots, for you, in ending "discrimination" against homosexuals. Slip.

But I do think it indicates a somewhat stunning lack of community respect and surplus of recklessness to advance your vision by making the civil definition of marriage conflict with the cultural definition, rather than merely pulling the government out of marriage altogether and instituting (e.g.) civil unions for all. You're reckless, as well, in your blithe assertion that nothing substantive will change if we scuttle an institution that mankind has seen fit to perpetuate for thousands of years, an assertion that you make with no apparent consideration of the broad range of studies suggesting the importance of marriage, running the gamut of findings from married people's increased sexual satisfaction to the children of stable married couples doing better in life.

Regarding vocabulary, if you've got the Internet, you've got multiple dictionaries. Look the words up. It's easier and faster than asking me to define them for you.

Posted by: Justin Katz at June 5, 2007 10:21 PM
my choice of a female as a partner is acceptable while others are not afforded the same right.

False. Every other adult male in the country has the right to choose any female he likes (and who consents) as a partner. That's what marriage means, for reasons that I've enumerated extensively, but that you don't seem to care to address.

Posted by: Justin Katz at June 5, 2007 10:24 PM

I don't think homosexuals have a choice when it comes to choosing the gender of their prefered partner. Would you prefer a person to live a lie, not only being dishonest to himself but also to his partner, then ultimately to his family which would have to be conceived through lies than to let him live in peace? I think not. And incidentally, I don't need a dictionary, it was a joke. You really could use a little more humor around here.

Marriage is just a word. People will form loving bonds and have families with or without it. Human sacrifice was a tradition for a while too but we're doing okay without that.

As for me being a "marriage abolitionist," your need to label me is a bit unnecessary and completely irrevelant. I love being married. I threw a big wedding for my daughter. I just don't think marriage as we know and accept it is the glue that holds this society together. I'm sure somewhere in this thread or in other of your posts there is evidence and opinions stating your views that I have overlooked, this topic is obviously more important to you than it is to me. I can appreciate your passion, just don't expect the same from me.

Posted by: Michael Morse at June 5, 2007 11:57 PM
Marriage is just a word.

So is Gay. If marriage means nothing, then neither does Gay, so it shouldn't be necessary to use it as a basis for defining marriage.

Posted by: smmtheory at June 6, 2007 12:06 AM

Well put, smmtheory.

Michael, I don't mind people's not wanting to give this matter as much thought as I have, but oughtn't you be reluctant, then, to make proclamations about what marriage is or isn't and about what effect its absence will have?

As Greg made obvious above, my labeling you is neither unnecessary nor irrelevant. I was apparently correct to question whether your assertion of homosexuals' rights would extend to pairings of other sorts. As we have this discussion in the proper development of our democratic society, participants ought to understand what lies behind and ahead of the push for same-sex marriage.

That said, I've a feeling I'd much rather have you increase your apathy than your passion, on this one. (See, I have a sense of humor. Perhaps its the jokes that fall flat.)

Posted by: Justin Katz at June 6, 2007 12:28 AM

Justin, have you taken time to look into same-sex conception? Do you think it should be allowed or prohibited? Do you think that a same-sex couple could be married if it is prohibited? Do you think that marriage guarantees a right to attempt to conceive together?

The only thing we should be asking regarding the same-sex marriage debate is: is same-sex conception ethical? Should we give a person the same right to conceive with someone of their own sex that they have with someone of the other sex?

Posted by: John Howard at June 6, 2007 1:48 AM

Stepping away from the SSM arguments and into the procreation debate for a moment...does the fact that my wife and I have chosen not to procreate lessen the validity of our marriage?
Does the Mormon view of sex mainly as a means to procreate make it immoral to accept sex between a married couple as pleasure? I fear that if the procreation argument is used to justify prohibiting gays from marrying, that argument couple eventually be used against heterosexual couples who do not procreate.

Posted by: Rhody at June 6, 2007 1:51 AM

Justin has addressed the issue of marriages that don't produce children in the past.

I think his position is that it's perfectly OK for a particular marriage not to product children, but since marriage is primarily intended to encourage procreation marriages which are by definition incapable of producing offspring must be prohibited. (In other words, a few infertile heterosexual couples doesn't undermine the fundamental link between marriage a children, but an influx of homosexual couples would.)

Do I have that even slightly right, Justing?

Posted by: mrh at June 6, 2007 8:03 AM

Also, I think the argument Michael is hinting at is the sex discrimination argument:

It's currently legal for any man to marry any woman he chooses. However, it's not legal for a woman to marry any woman she chooses. One pro-SSM argument claims that this violates the equal protection clause. In other words, restricting marriage to people of the opposite sex isn't just discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation, it's also discriminating on the basis of sex.

(I'm putting this out as an explanation only; I don't want to either advance or reject this argument at this time.)

Posted by: mrh at June 6, 2007 8:10 AM

It's never been about the ability to procreate, but about the right to procreate. Marriage always gives the couple the right to procreate, using their own genes. Some couples we don't give that right to because their procreation would be unethical, even if they have the ability to procreate. So it's a question of whether we should give people the right to procreate with someone of their own sex. We can either leave it legal and let labs attempt it, or we can prohibit it, and however we answer should be our answer on marriage - it is the same question. Separating these questions would be terrible, it would strip conception rights from marriage and make us all vulnerable to eugenic screening.

Posted by: John Howard at June 6, 2007 9:29 AM


Well, that's the closest I've seen anybody who disagrees with me get to summing up that argument! The first tweak would be that I don't argue that marriage is "primarily intended to encourage procreation," but that it is primarily intended to encourage that expectation that procreation happens within its boundaries. Men and women should marry because what men and women do can create children, and children, as often as possible, ought to be raised in the stable marital homes of their biological parents.

The second, related, tweak is that it isn't really a matter of numbers, but of intellectual concept. We can balance the principle of procreative marriage with minimizing government involvement in our lives simply by saying that marriage is an opposite-sex relationship. To include homosexuals in the definition would undermine that tacit understanding.

Incidentally, I've said before that there is a route here for homosexuals to, over time, situate their relationships such that they would not as greatly have this effect on marriage, perhaps to the extent that other considerations would benefit marriage more than harm it. (One requirement would be for them to unite their cause to a traditional vision of marriage, combining, say, SSM with a demand for more restrictive divorce laws.)

Posted by: Justin Katz at June 6, 2007 10:19 AM

Awesome. Your clarifications are helping me a lot in formulating my response to your position. Trying to restate it forces me to really engage with it!

Unfortunately, now I have to delete whole paragraphs from my draft response and start over. :)

At some point, I'd love for you to expand on your last paragraph (about some kind of Missouri compromise with SSM for stricter divorce laws). I don't understand what it means for homosexuals to "situate their relationships" in the way you mean.

Posted by: mrh at June 6, 2007 10:46 AM

Check out this poll on BlueMassGroup.com, where they came out 15 to 1 in favor of allowing labs to create children for same-sex couples. What's amazing about it was the fact that they broke their silence about the subject, usually they never admit that they are demanding this technology to be made available. Articles about it are extremely rare, and are even sometimes self-censored to keep people from reading them, like this one that used to be on GayCityNews.com but now can only be found in the web.archives.org copy. In it the leading US researcher predicted we' see babies come from stem-cell derived engineered gametes for same-sex couples in just three to five years - TWO YEARS AGO.
Please talk about this issue - we are insane to stand by and let them try this, it is totally wasteful and foolish and unethical and unnecessary. We should enact an egg and sperm law like they did in Missouri last year and like the PCBE recommended Congress do in 2004.
And we should then change our argument against same-sex marriage to "same-sex conception would be unethical and should not be allowed."

Posted by: John Howard at June 6, 2007 2:52 PM

Here's a good article on same-sex conception so you know what I'm talking about.

Here's a poll on BlueMassGroup.com 15 to 1 believe that attempting same-sex conception is a right, in spite of how unethical and unnecessary it is. You never hear them demanding this right, most people don't even know the research is going on.

Posted by: John Howard at June 6, 2007 2:56 PM

oh, sorry for the repeat, i thought it had lost my post...oh well, here's another article about another researcher doing the same thing.

Posted by: John Howard at June 6, 2007 3:06 PM

What...The Hell...are you talking about?

Posted by: Greg at June 6, 2007 4:05 PM

I'm talking about this procreation argument you guys are having. Marriage is a bout the right to conceive, all marriages have the right to conceive. And now, we have to decide if we shoudl give that right to same-sex couples. I gave links to articles on the research, here's another about the fatherless mouse Kaguya and her 450 less lucky comrades. Same-sex conception should not be allowed. Conception must remain a right of marriage, as it has been consistently for 5,000 years.

This is what we should all be talking about.

Posted by: John Howard at June 6, 2007 5:17 PM

"Ultimately, I sit here comfortable in the knowledge that there are fewer and fewer of you every day (because people that hold on to your archaic opinion are DYING OFF) and more and more of me every day and eventually there will be enough of us to look around and say 'Yeah, of course gay people should be treated like people.' and gay marriage will just happen. "

I don’t think it has or will progress along these lines. The better analogy would be abortion. Even though the strident left maintains that to be pro-life is anti-women and misogynistic, few people call pro-lifers sexists and such.

Trying to ensure a social standard where children are born into married families with their own Mother & father is hardly going to go out of style.

The most they can hope for (and what they are aiming at) is for such discussions to be un-P.C. in the public square.

On that score, expressions like "everybody knows" that children are best off with their Mothers & Fathers or what marriage "really means" will continue to be heard at leasty in private conversation.

Well before that occurs however, I believe a situation will developed were our intellectual class will have to admit to the importance of family formation. Cetainly the evidence is well established as for as the fragility of marriage and the importance of marriage for children and society.

Posted by: Fitz at June 6, 2007 7:59 PM
Also, I think the argument Michael is hinting at is the sex discrimination argument:

It's currently legal for any man to marry any woman he chooses. However, it's not legal for a woman to marry any woman she chooses. One pro-SSM argument claims that this violates the equal protection clause. In other words, restricting marriage to people of the opposite sex isn't just discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation, it's also discriminating on the basis of sex.

It is not sex discrimination though since the converse is true for males. It's currently legal for any woman to marry any man she chooses. However, it's not legal for a man to marry any man he chooses. What is true for women is true for men. Sexual proclivity is not a biological classification. It also is not discrimination on the basis of orientation. What is true for people with heterosexual proclivity is true for people with homosexual proclivity. Not only that, but enacting laws ensuring that people with homosexual proclivities can pretend to be married enshrines discrimination based upon orientation because they are usually written such that people with heterosexual proclivities cannot pretend to be married to the same sex.

Posted by: smmtheory at June 7, 2007 12:07 AM

Hi Fitz and smmtheory, what do you guys think of the poll at BlueMassGroup? Some people, maybe not you, but some people, have told me that no one is demanding same-sex conception rights. Well, this poll is (more) evidence that people DO demand that same-sex conception be made available. Do you think we have to allow it, just because it might be possible?

Please help stop genetic engineering, please help preserve my right to conceive with an eligible, consenting woman. That means please don't let the discussion wander away from their insane demand, please don't let them just begin doing same-sex conception while you are distracted into arguing about, damn, I can't even follow whatever it is you guys are arguing about.

It should be so simple. Marriage says we approve of these two people conceiving together. Do we? Or is it completely unethical for someone to attempt to procreate with someone of the same sex?

Posted by: John Howard at June 7, 2007 1:38 AM

Where'd everyone go? Justin, I do remember that I've brought this issue up with you in the past, but judging by the way you respond to the procreation argument, you have not incorporated the idea of same-sex conception rights into your argument. Did you forget about it, or did I never succeed in convincing you that we should not give same-sex couples all the rights of a married man and woman?

Posted by: John Howard at June 8, 2007 8:34 PM

Neither. I guess I just haven't figured out how to work it in. On the one hand, I agree with you that we don't want to wait until practicality has made it too late to effectively make the strong moral case against such technology (including everything from children's deserving a mother and a father to the life-destructive nature that the research and procedure will no doubt have.

On the other hand --- and perhaps because the moral case is currently so obvious to most people --- raising the issue appears to be jumping the gun, and to some extent, it may take away some of the persuasive force of the traditional marriage argument. I guess what I'm saying is that my gut is telling me that my efforts are better expended focusing on the marriage issue specifically, rather than allowing the debate to become mired in technologies that, as plausible as they are, will seem far-fetched to the average American.

Posted by: Justin Katz at June 9, 2007 10:27 PM

Well, the debate doesn't have to involve the average american, Justin! We're bloggers, darn it! News travels fast, and the debate can change, and prompt action. It will change, we know, because the question of whether or not to allow same-sex conception will come up soon, probably during this next president's first term, according to Dr. Richard Scott. It will be allowed or not allowed by members of Congress we are electing now, without us asking them how they feel about human genetic engineering. Some people are for it (see that poll on BMG, you can find the link to it on my eggandsperm.blogspot site, I don't know why the links don't work above) and I don't want to be voting for any of those people.
And the way they decide this, for the whole nation, will decide the ultimate outcome of the marriage debate. LGBT groups have already claimed a right to all forms of reproductive technology, they understand it as one of the rights they mean by "all the rights of marriage". They just don't bring it up because they don't need to, it's already legal and they don't have to demand it.

And it is the traditional marriage argument: for five thousand years we have used marriage to approve of the conception of children, no other method in any culture has legalized conception in any other way. It really undermines marriage to separate the two questions. It won't be seen as a foreign concept to most people, marriages have children together. It will be easy to explain to everyone why the debate has changed to examine the issue of same-sex conception, and rational people have to agree it is unsafe now and should be banned now, even if maybe later Congress might decide to allow it.

Posted by: John Howard at June 10, 2007 1:11 PM

Hope you find this to be worth the wait.

Posted by: mrh at June 10, 2007 7:37 PM

The title of this thread was so hopeful, "Advancing the SSM Conversation"...do you still think that it has advanced, or is it right back where they keep it, away from conception rights?

You can talk about conception rights without having to bring up technologies that are "three to five years away" (Did you read those articles, btw?)

You do agree that marriage has always granted conception rights to the couple, don't you? Do you agree that all marriages should continue to grant conception rights? If so, then why not say so when Matt brings up infertile couples and couples that don't intend on conceiving children? You don't have to live in this lan of murky definitions about 'normalizing' this or that, you can cut right to the bone and say that same-sex couples shouldn't have conception rights, but an eligible man and woman should be allowed to marry and attempt to conceive together. If they want to claim that same-sex couples should also be allowed to conceive together, then we can ask them to provide the evidence that this is safe.
Please do "advance the conversation" by at least agreeing that marriage grants conception rights and always has and should always continue to. (Do you see the dangers in separating the issues, by saying that not all marriages should be allowed to conceivei together if there is a high risk of genetic problems? Maybe this is the area you need to consider.)
And please don't underestimate your influence on the debate, and the speed with which the debate can change and effect real changes in law. We could conceivably push this current Congress to enacting the needed laws that would end this decisive debate and stop genetic engineering and provide equal protections to state civil unions. There is no reason to think we need to wait to do that until...what, exactly?

Posted by: John Howard at June 12, 2007 2:31 PM

I'm sorry to say, John, that I'm not sure I agree that marriage grants conception rights. Such rights are inalienable, and I'm uncomfortable with the implication that the state can grant them or take them away. The exception being a sort of "morally heinous" clause covering incest.

The insistence on such a clause actually leads to my second concern: For the general population, homosexual acts no longer qualify as heinous (at least not from a third-party perspective), and to the degree that one emphasizes the possibility of such couples' being procreative, I think you increase the difficulty in making the case for traditional marriage. Our society is increasingly reckless about experimenting with such technologies, and it could very well be a disaster to put the faces of folks' homosexual relatives on such radical experiments as non-gametic conception by making the emphasis of those opposed the results for gay couples rather than the process of experimentation (social and scientific).

Posted by: Justin Katz at June 13, 2007 6:11 AM

Individuals all have a basic civil right to marry and procreate (Skinner). The state can prevent certain types of relationships from marrying, if there is a supportable basis, like all the ineligible couples listed in most state's laws (Loving). Marriage grants the right to sexual intercourse (Lawrence) and therefore procreation (Zablocki). All marriages grant procreation rights and always have, that's been the basic definition of marriage from day one. You are the one making it possible for the state to take conception rights away from a marriage, not me. We don't allow a brother and sister to marry but forbid their procreation, we forbid their marriage, because marriage is permission to procreate, in every case, around the globe universally.

The worry you have, that if we connect gay rights with same-sex procreation, then it will be harder to stop same-sex procreation, is already a moot point, it's unavoidable. Thought they try to keep it under wraps, they have jumped the gun a little bit a few times and made it clear that they will connect gay equal rights, complete with faces on it, to reproductive technology. Did you read the Causes In Common statement? LGBT groups already claim a right to unlimited reproductive technology. They already are unanimously in favor of allowing scientists to try to create children for same-sex couples. Do you think they are going to forget about this issue and forget that it has something to do with gay rights if we do?

They didn't oppose the 2004 Missouri Egg and Sperm law because they didn't want the attention it would bring, but they would oppose a national egg and sperm law whether we bring up the fact that it would prevent same-sex conception or not. And if they have marriages, they will claim their marriage gives them a basic civil right to conceive together, it will be that much harder to prevent same-sex conception. If we do manage to prohibit same-sex conception but still have same-sex marriages, it will be disatrous to marriage rights, in that suddenly we will have the scenario you worry about where marriages can be told they cannot procreate together due to arbitrary risks. The only way to prevent that is only let couples marry that don't publicly require genetic engineering to procreate together.
I have done lots of thinking on this, and I can't see how it will be any easier to stop genetic engineering if we do it separately from the gay marriage debate. Yes, there are lots of liberals who reflexively support same-sex conception when it is presented as something that gays shouldn't be allowed to do, but they will reach that conclusion anyhow. The best strategy is to clobber the same-sex marriage debate with the overwhelming evidence that same-sex conception is unethical and shouldn't be allowed, and people should only have a right to conceive naturally. Plus, this way we also have the best chance of stopping genetic engineering, which if we wait too long will be harder to stop.

They don't bring it up. That should be a clue that they don't want us to bring it up either. Did you see Matt's response to my points on his blog? If there were more people making that argument, the debate would shift and they'd suddenly be the ones demanding insane frankenstein rights to do something that repulses 95% of the public, including the 2% of actual smart people that usually don't agree with the 90% of americans. They want ignorance, we should shed light on what their ultimate goal is.

Posted by: John Howard at June 13, 2007 9:05 AM

Err, that was the 2006 Missouri Stem Cell Initiative, which forbade implanting embryos that were not the result of joining a man's sperm and a woman's egg.

Posted by: John Howard at June 13, 2007 1:59 PM

I hope each day that goes by is filled with you thinking about how conception rights are related to marriage.

Are you or are you not in favor of an egg and sperm law that would stop genetic engineering and same-sex conception? Are you against the work that Dr. Richard Scott is doing in New Jersey, or do you think we should allow him to try to create children for same-sex couples?

These are important issues to be clear about. If you think same-sex conception should remain legal, then you aren't against same-sex marriage, you are against same-sex parenting, or same-sex coupling in general.

Posted by: John Howard at June 16, 2007 2:31 PM
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