November 6, 2007

Once Again Making the Central Point, Which Supporters of Same-Sex Marriage Somehow Never Manage to Address (At Least Not Until the Debate Has Gone on Long Enough That the Average Person Has Stopped Reading)

Justin Katz

How is it possible that people who ostensibly pay attention to the news and to the public dialog still make such arguments as Charles Bakst's on behalf of same-sex marriage without addressing a response — stated in many public discussions for years, now — that is central to the opposing side's worldview? Here's Bakst:

[Bishop Tobin] admits the sky hasn’t fallen in Massachusetts. "But I don't think the sky would fall if Massachusetts legalized prostitution, polygamy or incest either."

I cringe when I see such words employed in any discussion of two men or two women who seek the joy, stability and respect offered by marriage.

The bishop asserts that "the onslaught" of gay weddings "should create more than a little anxiety for thoughtful and insightful people." The dictionary defines "onslaught" as "a fierce attack." But gay marriage is not an attack on anyone else or anyone else's marriage.

The movement to recognize same-sex relationships as marriage is an attack on the very meaning of marriage and, as such, harms anybody who benefits, or would benefit in the future, from a strong culture of marriage as it has historically been defined. Topping a list that ultimately includes every person alive and yet to be born are those whose economic, emotional, and (yes) spiritual wellbeing is threatened by their own inclinations away from stable, monogamous marital relationships and those who are born to such people. The increased strain on people who are irrevocably homosexual — and are therefore unlikely to enter into such marriages as they, in possession of full equal rights, are absolutely permitted — is regrettable, but the repercussions of the alternative would be exponentially more so.

Bakst's point of view entirely lacks sense unless "marriage" is, by definition, merely an intimate, committed relationship between adults. However much he might cringe, therefore, both incest and polygamy between consenting adults fall under his representation of equality.

Advocates for the maintenance of traditional marriage have been challenged, in recent years, to define their view of marriage in such a way as to exclude alternative definitions without relying on religious dogma or bigotry. They have done so much more thoroughly than advocates of same-sex marriage (but nothing further) possibly could. Little wonder the latter are so apt to ignore the points of the former.

Perhaps Mr. Bakst, with his expressed wish for "more people, wherever they stand, [to] speak up," will endeavor, in a future column, to prove me wrong.

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Mass. has had 17 as the age of criminal responsibility for over 50 years without "the sky falling", yet I don't see Bakst, Donnis or other leftists asking "How can Mass. chew gum and walk at the same time but not RI?"
I hope the gov. vetoes this stupid bill. Lower it to 16 like NY.

Posted by: Mike at November 6, 2007 8:15 PM

Dear Justin,

Once again, marriage has no meaning other than property distribution outside of the religous context.

The history of the world is continue to offer more freedoms to more people. I suppose, based on the way you state your point, that when Southern States banned inter-racial marriage, you would have stood for that as well.

Are you also saying that if enough gay folks get married, yours will fall apart??

It is not for you to imprint your religous beliefs on others.

Posted by: Bobby Oliveira at November 6, 2007 8:39 PM

Charlie talks about "welcoming" a "debate" on the issue of same sex marriage, but he makes it pretty clear that he thinks anyone who disagrees with him is a bigot.

And where was the "debate" in Massachusetts?

There was no debate; the entire matter was resolved by the robed dictators on the Supreme Judicial Court. Anyone who purports to care about self-government ought to be very troubled by that.

Posted by: brassband at November 6, 2007 8:45 PM

Most advocates of redefining marriage to include gay couples are supportive of judges making the ultimate decision. I imagine Charles Bakst is probably in this category. If this is their belief, why do they want to debate anyone on the subject? They clearly do not believe that the opinion of the people ( and when asked in referendums; people always reject redefining marriage ) has any role in the direction of such policy.

Posted by: Sean O at November 6, 2007 10:13 PM

It sounds like the bishop is spoiling for the fight that both sides of the same-sex marriage debate in the General Assembly are determined to avoid as long as possible. Relax, Tom. Same-sex marriage 'aint happening in Rhode Island as long as Carcieri, Murphy and Montalbano have any say.
If the bishop thinks attacking Bakst, Bob Kerr, and Phillippe and Jorge will bring that fight'll be interesting to see the results of Tom's attack-the-press gambit.

Posted by: rhody at November 6, 2007 11:51 PM

Dear Sean O,

When asked in referendums, "Jim Crow" seemed like a pretty good idea at the time as well.

Would you like to put the second Amendment up for a local referendum??

Posted by: Bobby Oliveira at November 7, 2007 10:06 AM

I just sent Marriage Equity RI a check

Posted by: John at November 7, 2007 11:25 AM

I just sent Marriage Equity RI a check

Posted by: John at November 7, 2007 11:26 AM

When will you quit being dishonest Bobby?

Posted by: smmtheory at November 7, 2007 11:54 AM

Dear Smmtheory,

Let's see, I said the following:

1.)Marriage is first and foremost about property

2.)Southern states once banned inter-racial marriage

3.)Everyone should have their own religous views.

4.)A Jim Crow referendum also would have passed in the South.

Interspersed were some questions.

Where's the dishonest part??

Posted by: Bobby Oliveira at November 7, 2007 1:06 PM

The equivocating that you do just to be able to make some of those statements.

Bad moral choice = skin color?

Even a third grader would know the difference.

Posted by: smmtheory at November 7, 2007 2:07 PM


Nice work. Within the same short post you managed to contradict the central premise of your argument. You end by stating that:

"Advocates for the maintenance of traditional marriage have been challenged, in recent years, to define their view of marriage in such a way as to exclude alternative definitions without relying on religious dogma or bigotry. They have done so much more thoroughly than advocates of same-sex marriage (but nothing further) possibly could."

I suppose that by the time you wrote that line you had forgotten about sex-same marriage as threatening the spiritual well-being of humanity.

Yeah, no religious dogma there.

Posted by: Pragmatist at November 7, 2007 3:53 PM

If you want an example of religious dogma Pragmatist, see Bobby's convoluted reasoning.

The worship of the mighty O is every bit as much a religion as Christianity.

Posted by: smmtheory at November 7, 2007 4:36 PM

Sadly, Prag., your poor reasoning (blended with smarmy condescension) is all too typical from those on your side of the public debate.

You've spotted no contradiction on my part; at no point did I disclaim the spiritual harm. I merely noted that supporters of traditional marriage have had to retrace the foundations of public recognition of marriage — articulating principles that have for centuries been entirely tacit, although no less valid for being so — that justify that definition without pure recourse to religious belief. Supporters of SSM, such as Bakst, rely on their own religiously founded definition of marriage (the romantic vision of a couple in love), as well as an ultimately religiously founded belief about homosexuality, and will not (I don't think) be able to articulate justifications outside of their definition and belief.

I'd add, for a broader view, that your apparent understanding of theology relies on the faulty premise that it is incorrect. If Christians are correct about God's intentions with respect to marriage, it follows pretty directly that the harm done by undermining His definition will manifest in the material and social realms, as well.

Posted by: Justin Katz at November 7, 2007 5:18 PM

SSM … where have I seen that?

The argument that denying same-sex people to legally marry is discriminatory based in current law lacks merit. I don’t see how one can argue that opposite-sex is implicit in the current definition of marriage. Therefore, SSM would have to be a change in the current definition, and a dramatic one at that.

Also, the ‘sky isn’t falling’ argument is a poor one. Bishop Tobin is correct in his analogy. That says that all legal rights should be based on the whether or not there is clear harm. Obviously, laws are not made nor institutions defined by that rule.

But I do believe there is a legitimate debate as to whether same-sex unions should be legally acknowledged via “marriage” or by other means. In this context I don’t necessarily agree with Justin’s assertions of the resulting harm nor God’s intentions with respect to marriage. ‘

"Marriage", as currently defined, transcends the sacred separation of Church and State. There is merit to the argument that recognizing same-sex relationships is like recognizing incestuous and polygamous ones. Actually, in my view, it is the ‘moral’ argument against SSM that is one of more persuasive ones. Others, for example, the procreation argument fail.

Yet at the end of the day, this is all about where to draw legal lines in social policy. I can see why some clergy have struggled with this issue. And I can see why some have not.

I guess that puts me in between those who see any dissent to SSM as clear bigotry and those who rely solely on religious dogma for legal and social policy.

May the Lord provide me with lots of room to roam.

Posted by: msteven at November 7, 2007 8:11 PM


I may be smarmy, but in public discourse I refrain from passing judgment on the souls of those with whom I disagree. When the state uses its power to coerce or to endorse, the foundations of those decisions should be based in something other than a religious text.

Go ahead and believe whatever you wish. Indeed, cast your votes based on those beliefs. Just don't use those beliefs to argue for one course or another for civil authorities to act. When you do so, you cut off all debate because there is no possible basis for me to debate you on a matter of your religious belief. It is unprovable and unmeasurable. Hence, we make distinctions between theocracies and modern liberal democracies.

Enough of your Jonathan Edwards-esque fire and brimstone condemnations.

Posted by: Pragmatist at November 7, 2007 11:19 PM


The point that Justin made in his original blogpost was that the nonregligious argument continues to be ignored by SSMers.

Yet SSMers cling with a religious-like fervor to certain axiomatic beliefs.

The first axiom of SSM argumentation is that to disagree is an act of bigotry. Read through the pro-SSM remarks in this thread for obvious examples of that.

The second axiom is that the only good religious arugment is the one that favors SSM arugmentation. Failing that, the only valid argument is purely secular. Yet, as you have just demonstrated in your own words, you'd rather kick religion than engage in the non-religious argument against SSM.

Justin, I share your skepticism and would appreciate it if SSMers like Bakst would explain why it is morally necessary for society to treat all unions of husband and wife as if they lacked either husbands or wifes.

SSM argumentation is indeed an attack on the nature of marriage. There is no such thing as "gay marriage" except to those who aren't prepared to recognize the core, the essence, the nature of the social institution that society recognizes and shows preference for.

The nature of marriage is, to put it in terms that Bobby Oliveira might grasped given his dependence on the analogy with interracial marriage, as follows:

The combination of 1) integration of the sexes and 2) contingency for responsible procreation.

There is one human race and its nature is two-sexed. The nature of human generativity is both-sexed. The nature of human community is both-sexed. Marriage provides for integration of the sexes on the most intimate level but also in terms of the first community, the family, and in terms of the broader community, society. It is the foundational social institution that exists in civil society as a buffer between the individual and the power of the state. It is from the nature of marriage, its core, that self-governance springs and is best protected and promoted.

The SSM campaign has been an attack on self-governance, as well. Just look to Massachusetts to see how the so-called debate has undermined the principles of self-governance.

The legislature failed to legislate on SSM. Still hasn't done so. SSM stands on the thin reed offered by the Goodridge opinion. And the judicial record across the country has repudiated Justice Marshall on her own terms.

Yes, Bobby Oliveira, the interracial analogy as well.

So if the SSM campaign in Massachusetts is not an example of SSMers losing the plot, nothing is.

The core of SSM is outside of marriage. It is gay identity politics. This supposedly trumps all other criteria for making social policy. Including freedoms of expression and conscience and, yes, religion.

Provision for designated beneficiaries has long-existed and is well-used. It entails no new relationship status, at law. It is nonmarital and open to a much wider range of nonmarital arrangments than SSM.

The pro-SSM side like to say they are for equality and that they have the high moral ground; yet they corrupt public discourse, corrupt self-governance, attack the nature of marriage, discount the significance of pluralism, and recite a litany of false equivalencies. All the while they poison the well with their accusations of bigotry and their pose of just wanting a civil debate on the merits of their pet project.

Chairm Ohn

Posted by: Chairm at November 8, 2007 3:06 AM


You're arguing against a caricature of me. As I said, I'm not relying solely — even significantly — on my religious beliefs for my civil argument. The fact that I have religious beliefs in accord with my socio-political conclusions doesn't mean you get to ignore my arguments for the latter.

I know that makes life easier for you, in your own beliefs, but it makes you no better than the caricature of me.

Posted by: Justin Katz at November 8, 2007 6:20 AM


If you are prepared to make the anti-SSM case without resort to medeival Christian theology, I welcome it.

Let's start here: why shouldn't the state encourgae monogomous homosexual relationships? Unless you are prepared to take the position of the president of Iran that homosexuals don't exist, then aren't strong, stable, monogomous homosexual relationships better for society than the opposite?

Chairm Ohn,

Take a look at Article III of the federal constitution, for just one example. You will notice there a provision for a judiciary. Decisions by the judiciary in the American system of government are no less legitimate than decisions made by the executive and legislative branches. When our independent judiciary resolves an issue, it is no more an attack on "self-governance" than a decision made by one of the other branches.

Having said that, I would prefer SSM to be decided through state legislatures. However, the popular elements of the Massachusetts state government have decided to let stand the judicial decision. The legislative failure to back a constitutional amendment was decisive. The vote was not close.

Posted by: Pragmatist at November 8, 2007 9:03 AM

Dear Smmtheory,

The fact that you would type:

Bad moral choice = skin color?

Shows us you are not ready to handle the issue.

Being gay is an issue of biology, not morals. As such, it is protected. Tell the guy in the robes who gave you this silly information that he needs to catch up with the science.

Let's face a simple fact: The only reason you do not like gay marriage is someone told you not to in a religous context. Otherwise, you wouldn't care.


Dred Scott was also the law of the land for a little while. You lost that one too.


The definition of marriage is made up of whole cloth in local ordinances. It can always be changed. It was a "definition" at one time that in order to be a voter, you had to be "male, white and a land owner". That changed.

Posted by: Bobby Oliveira at November 8, 2007 10:14 AM

Bobby O.

The slavery comparison is tired and intellectually does not apply. Any gay person is free to marry a person of the opposite gender unless they are related to or are already married. It is you who lost that one.

‘Bad moral choice = skin color?’ – I don’t agree that it is simply a poor moral choice but even so, individuals may be protected but that is very different from the legal acknowledgment of their relationships.

Your analogies are absurd. The definition of a voter is someone who can qualify to vote. The qualifications have changed often over time but the definition of “voter” has always remained the same. The definition of marriage has never changed and is universal across cultures, religions and eras. The end of the interracial ban did not change the definition. At least acknowledge that gay marriage is a significant change to the definition and not a ban within the current definition.

Posted by: msteven at November 8, 2007 11:11 AM

If you're not interested in accomplishing anything else in next year's General Assembly session regarding the budget, policy, etc., let's go right ahead and debate gay marriage bills, pro or con. The emotion this issue generates will suck the energy for anything else right out of the session the way casinos did last year.
It will also alter political alliances. The House Democratic leadership team will be torn asunder by a gay marriage debate, and God save the Republicans who support same-sex marriage (and are strong enough to endure the cries of "traitor!").
Let's all try to impose our own personal morality on the rest of Rhode Island while the state burns - sounds like a plan.

Posted by: rhody at November 8, 2007 11:44 AM


You might save us both some time by performing a couple keyword searches here and at Dust in the Light; this is ground that I've been over again and again.

In the meantime, you ask a specific question:

why shouldn't the state encourgae monogomous homosexual relationships?

I'm not opposed to states' seeking to do so, as long as they structure the new institution of same-sex unions from the ground up, without reference to marriage. (When constitutional amendments have been proposed, I've always backed versions that would leave that possibility open.) My reasoning (on the secular/civil side) is that modifying the definition of marriage in order to encompass same-sex relationships will undermine the institution as it exists, thus diminishing the states' encouragement of stable, monogamous relationships between heterosexual couples (which, after all, have the added consideration that they can produce children with minimal intention).

I've long said, by the way, that my calculation might change if the pro-SSM movement took up the cause of tighter divorce laws. No takers from your side, yet.

Your turn.

Posted by: Justin Katz at November 8, 2007 12:20 PM


I agree. The folks seeking to push their SSM equivalizing moral regime on top of existing marriage law ought to cease so that we can all focus on saving our sinking state.

Of course, in the left-wing mind, the matter somehow gets twisted around such that people seeking to defend the existing, millennia-long definition of an institution against an effort to redefine it through the judiciary are the ones seeking to "impose [their] own personal morality on the rest of Rhode Island."

Posted by: Justin Katz at November 8, 2007 12:27 PM


Yes, I have heard this argument many times. But I have never heard a convincing unbundling of this amorphous concern: "modifying the definition of marriage in order to encompass same-sex relationships will undermine the institution as it exists." How? How does encouraging MORE stable relationships undermine the institution? Perhaps the struggle of homosexuals to establish this right despite overwhelming odds should reinforce the importance of the institution for heterosexuals? Maybe heterosexuals should be inspired by the struggle and value what they have already even more?

Posted by: Pragmatist at November 8, 2007 1:15 PM

Justin, I'm squarely on the opposite side of this debate, but I think we both see the mutual annihilation this debate will create in the Assembly as well as in religious communities - Rhode Island Catholics are not a monolith on this issue, much to Bishop Tobin's dismay. The GOP isn't a monolith, either, and we know the Democratic good 'ol boys (the West Warwick and North Providence crews, etc.) will want to purge the progressives over gay marriage before it's all over.
Can both sides avoid the bloodletting forever, though?

Posted by: rhody at November 8, 2007 1:17 PM


The SJC opinion did not change the marriage statutes in Massachusetts. It kicked the can to the Legislative branch, specifically.

The Legislature did not change the marriage statutes. The marriage statutes remain unchanged to this date.

The Executive branch made administrative accomodations but did not change the marriage statutes on behalf of the Legislative branch. It was not asked to act by the Judicial branch.

Maybe you can square this with your previous comment?

The republican form of government entails the seperation of powers.

In Massachusetts you might take the position that in the absence of legislation enacted by the Legislature, the Judicary legislated instead, or that the Executive legislated instead, but in so doing you cannot take the position that this was in accord with the framework of self-governance in the Constitution.

Perhaps you can try to reconcile this with your previous comment.

* * *

As for the "legislative failure to back a constitutional amendment", you are aware that the Massachusetts state constitution does not empower the legislators to ratify amendments nor to reject amendments.

Procedurally, sure, obstructionism is part of the political gamesmanship on amendments of all kinds. But here we are talking of a citizen-initiated amendment where the principle of self-governance is quite clear: the People have a government, not the other way around.

The basic idea is that when the legislature fails to act -- for example, fails to legislate for a referendum on a state amendment -- the People are empowered to petition and to have their proposal vetted. Not decided. But vetted.

No state convention ratifies a state amendment. It takes the direct vote to do so. What makes SSMers think that the opposite is ratification of the lack of SSM legislation?

In Massachusetts, the legislators, each of them, sit not as legislators when vetting constitutional amendments but as conventioneers. This is a role that requires greater restraint than that shown by the obstructionists. They are not the deciders; the People are the deciders on state amendments. The vettors vet and work to ensure that the proposed amendment says what the proposers intended for it to say. It is a procedural check and balance and not a replacement for a direct vote.

Yet again, this is the framework by which there is seperation of powers. The People are the source of government. The only way to change the state constitution, is by recourse to that source.

Yet Justice Marshall's opinion obscured this, as did the obstructionism and the do-nothingism of the state legislature.

See, self-governance includes the principle of restraint on the part of the judiciary, which the SJC tossed aside, and on the part of the state constitutional convention, which the SSMers tossed aside, and, ironically perhaps, on the part of the Executive, which made accomodation where none was asked of it by the judiciary nor by the legislative branch.

Corruptive. That's the SSM campaign. And Massachusetts provides an example that democrats (small d) and republcans (small r) should reject.

You came part way by saying "I would prefer SSM to be decided through state legislatures" and yet when it comes to your pet project, SSM, principles are abandoned.

What happened to the constitutional amendment before, during, and after Goodridge is in no way an affirmation of Justice Marshall's opinion.

But SSMers will continue to say, as you have, that inaction due to obstrucitonism is affirmation.

Somehow that was not the case when, pre-Goodridge, marriage was known far and wide as the union of a man and a woman.

And SSMers are only too happy to say, as your comment suggests, that judicial activism and legislative abdication on this particular issue is in some manner the expression of the will of the People.

Yet the SSM campaign was terrified that the People would hold a campaign, discuss the merits and demerits of the constitutional amendment, and favor it with a majority vote.

If the SSMers were so confident of their argumentation, and so keen for democratic expression of support for their project, then, they might have welcomed the opportunity to win a majority and to build a consensus on their issue. They chose to run from that. They chose to undermine self-governance in their state.

* * *

Dred Scott Decision is very like Justice Marshall's Goodrige opinion: judicial activism based on identity politics. In both cases the judge posed as someone breaking a logjam but viewed the law through the filter of identity. Taney looked through a racist filter. Marshall peered through a gaycentric filter. Neither served justice.

The SSM argumentation would press identity politics into marriage recognition; that's very like how the anti-miscegenation laws selectively segregated the sexes, via a racist filter, and undermined responsible procreation.

The nature of marriage is the combination of responsible procreaton and integration of the sexes. What's the counter claim? What is the nature of the type of relationship status that SSMers want to impose on all of society?

Why treat all unions of husband and wife as if they lacked either husbands or wives?

Posted by: Chairm at November 8, 2007 1:42 PM

Dear MSteven,

This is where you run into a problem. Starting in anchient Greece and moving to other civilizations, marriage is not always meant the same thing. (By the way, should we go back to arranging them??) It should also be noted that while "voter" has stayed the same, what the voter could vote for has continually changed. (Again, always moving towards more Liberty, not less)


If you are suggesting in creating laws that make divorce more difficult ithout unfairly "capturing" women, that's something I'd agree to.


Other than when the marriage breaks up, children do not matter in marriage law. Otherwise, folks outside of child bearing age couldn't get married. Obviously, they can. Marriage law is made of two components: health and contract. The man/woman thing is a leftover vestige of discrimination that suggest gay activity is unhealthy. Elton John seems to be living very well as does Ms. Cheney.


Not yet. We need the Speaker in waiting first. Then there will be a filure. Then there will be some of the bloodiest Primaries ever. Then we can work on the issue, say circa 2017.

Posted by: Bobby Oliveira at November 8, 2007 7:36 PM

"Elton John seems to be living very well as does Ms. Cheney."

Neither of whom is married.

Whether "gay activity" is healthy or not, it is NOT the basis for marriage.

But it is good of you to acknowledge that the core of SSM is gay identity politics, and not conjugal relations.

"Other than when the marriage breaks up, children do not matter in marriage law."

The marriage presumption of paternity matters very much to the children, their moms and dads, and to the social institution that you've disparaged with your comments here.

Note that you have again resorted to the first axiomic belief of SSM argumentation, and apparently of gay identity politics: to disagree with you is an act of bigotry.

You know, rather than an actual disagreement on the substance, or lack of it, in your proposed reforms.

Posted by: Chairm at November 8, 2007 8:00 PM

For anybody who's following this thread, I've offered my reply as a post unto itself.

Posted by: Justin Katz at November 9, 2007 12:12 PM

Bobby Oliveira at November 6, 2007 8:39 PM wrote:

"Once again, marriage has no meaning other than property distribution outside of the religous context."

Then why is the symbolism of marriage so important to gays?

Posted by: Lee at November 12, 2007 12:10 AM

Pragmatist at November 8, 2007 9:03 AM wrote:

"Let's start here: why shouldn't the state encourgae monogomous homosexual relationships? Unless you are prepared to take the position of the president of Iran that homosexuals don't exist, then aren't strong, stable, monogomous homosexual relationships better for society than the opposite?"

To the first part: because it is pointless. The government has no business meddling in the private affairs of its citizens.

To the second part: it is neither better nor worse. Homosexual relationships have a neutral effect on society. They have the same effect as friendships. This is no business of government.

Posted by: Lee at November 12, 2007 12:26 AM
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