Tuesday, February 12, 2013

A Libertarian Conversation on Same Sex Marriage, Part 1: Framing the discussion

I am often frustrated by some of the more illogical arguments that I see employed in the debate over same sex marriage. Frankly, I find them a little embarrassing, coming as they do from Evangelical Christianity, which is where I place myself as well. Sometimes I want to ask- How do people who believe same sex marriage is evil think they'll ever win their point when their arguments go down in a logical fireball at the slightest test? Why choose shoddy arguments to prove a point that can be addressed with much more reasonable hypotheses, perhaps with similar results? I'd like to propose a few arguments that I think should really never be used in such a policy discussion:

1. It's always been this way

By this logic, the world is flat and women do not contribute DNA to their children. Also, science is evil and germs are not a thing.

2. It was this way in the bible

(as opposed to endorsed specifically by scripture-the normative/prescriptive
 distinction is important here)
By that logic, marriage does not require consent, monogamy, or female agency. Scary.

3. The Greek Philosophers were for/against this

Plato, Socrates, and Aristotle are fun to read. They have a great many very smart things to say, particularly about law and government. Are they, however, infallible, or even universally reliable? Not a chance, as per their draconian views on gender, women, and the origins of the human race. Are they worthy of citation and consideration and thought? Yes! Does their opinion prove anything? No! It is their opinion, nothing more. The most intelligent and forward-thinking opinion, without substantiation, is still just an opinion. And some of their warped views of gender issues (yes, I'm going to get into that in more detail later) have shaped society, even christian society, and its views of the subject from their day to this one. That is not, in my opinion, a good thing.

4. Things we like will magically disappear if this happens

If we were legislating homosexual marriage instead of heterosexual marriage, this would be true. I do not think, however, that anyone wants to do that. All of the heterosexual people that would have gotten married will still, you know, get married. And allowing gay marriage does not automatically remove the commitment aspect of christian marriage, nor does it affect in any way the manner in which I or any other heterosexual christian lives out our marriages. This point is debated sometimes, in that some people say that allowing same sex marriage must completely redefine the institution in a way that damages and cheapens all marriages. I disagree; more on that later.

There are variations of these arguments which I will explore in more detail as time goes on, but the four above are the basis for those arguments which, in my opinion, it would behoove us to dismiss entirely.

So- what questions do I think we should be asking? What arguments should we be making

Assuming, for the purposes of this discussion, that American judicial, legislative, an political policy is and should be based upon protecting its citizens' rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness so long as they do not cause harm or infringe upon others' said rights:

Does same sex marriage infringe on the rights of others?
Does same sex marriage harm any one outside that marriage, specifically those who cannot advocate for themselves? (and yes, this includes hypothetical children raised in such a household)
Does same sex marriage remove/replace other, more expedient institutions?
What would same sex marriage cost, in resources, the state or community?
Does same sex marriage cause quantifiable harm to any person or institution which is not themselves causing harm?
Does same sex marriage carry any benefits to the state, community, or individuals?
Does the fact that many people believe something to be a moral sin mean that it should be legislated as such, purely for that reason?

Three things I think it's important to remember in discussions like these, particularly as we attempt to define harm and wrestle with what same sex marriage is and what are its implications for society-

 Correlation does not equal causation, 

 Genetic does not equal hereditary, and 

 Statistically likely does not equal universal, superior, or prescriptive.

In framing the discussion about possible harms from same sex marriage, too, I think that it is important to distinguish between data that may indicate a connection between harm (familial instability, for instance) and same sex marriage, and data that demonstrates in a reputable, scientific way a causality between harm of some sort and some aspect of same sex marriage: for example the gender of one's parents. To demonstrate this alleged harm, it would be important that the control parents be equitable in everything but gender. E.G. it would be illogical to cite two bisexual romantic partners who do not cohabit as a same sex couple for the purposes of comparison and statistics. We should try to approach data collecting and interpretation here with the same objectivity that we would any other question, in my opinion.

It should be noted that I have no intention of arguing whether or not homosexuality and same sex marriage are sin or inappropriate for christian practice. Nor do I feel that this series of posts is the appropriate venue to delve into my own opinions on that topic and my interpretations of the scriptures pertaining to it. Most christians believe that the bible clearly vilifies homosexual behavior, so for my purposes here I will equate that with the majority christian view. 

This series of posts is simply about legislating for or against same sex marriage- should we allow it, shouldn't we, or how do we decide?


  1. I'ght sis. This post was just painful. It felt like you had tied a retard up and were beating him with an algebra book. 1) there is no way you have actually met someone who made THOSE arguments and 2) when someone makes that stupid of an argument we should help them find the more intelligent corollary.

    Now, I have NEVER heard anyone make the arguments you listed in your post. However, they did remind me of deformed mutations of legitimate arguments. Here. i think, are their more relevant counterparts.

    1. I have heard people argue (correctly, I think) that tradition deserves prejudice (burden of proof lies on the innovator), but I don't think anyone has ever argued that tradition = right.

    2. NO ONE argues that "it was this way in the bible." The argument would be that God (in scripture) endorsed ___ definition of marriage (and a description of how, implicitly or explicitly, would follow).

    3. I have been around a lot of argumentation regarding same sex marriage and I have never heard anyone make an argument from authority based on Socrates or Sophocles or Aristotle defining marriage one way or the other. A couple of quotation from Socrates come to mind about loving boys . . . Most people would appeal to these good fellows in support of a particular syllogism regarding man's telos . . .

    4. OK, this one, I have no idea what someone would be arguing here, unless they were arguing that the COVENANT of marriage based on the endorsement of God would be finally and ultimately stricken from the civil construct.

    aaaaaanyhow, IF (and it is a big "if"), someone actually decimated reason they way you are suggesting they do, I think the intellectually charitable thing to do when people mutilate arguments is suggest to them what they are actually arguing . . .

    just some thoughts from your angsty brother

  2. I love your analogy about the algebra book, Daniel. Personally, I think that if you translate a logical argument to an algebraic equation and you end up with fuzzy math, you might want to rethink your argument. :)

    Tradition does deserve prejudice......sometimes. If tradition, as in the case of marriage, encompasses throughout history undesirable things that we are fighting to change while retaining the good of the institution, then I think that to give prejudice to precedent we must first categorize the precedents that we are willing to entertain and which do not violate the deeper principles of Christ-likeness, freedom, human equality, etc.

    Unfortunately, I have heard argument based on biblical precedent alone. One would think that narrative/prescriptive as a hermaneutical distinction would be intuitive, but apparently that is not universally so. As a friend pointed out today- people still say things like "Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve."

    I, too, would assume that the greek philosophers will probably need to be recused from any gender/sexual/relational discussion, or at lest used in conjunction with many, many proverbial grains of salt.

    The argument I've heard for number 4 is that allowing homosexual marriage would necessitate the complete redefinition of it and that under a redefined non-gender-based marriage that the institution itself would be nothing more than a civilly recognized temporary emotional attachment.Yes, false dichotomies abound. :)

  3. I think it is also important to point out that the platonic view of marriage hardly qualifies as tradition, let alone tradition deserving of prejudice, as it 1. is not the commonly held and practiced version of marriage, currently, in this country, and 2. the platonic version is far, far removed from the nuclear christian version of marriage. Farther, perhaps, than a non-gender-based view would be, in my opinion.

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