Monday, June 01, 2009

One More Thing...

I find this arguemnt by anti-gay nut Maggie Gallagher kind of interesting:

Marriage is said to be primarily about love and commitment.

The Argument
Same-sex marriage should be allowed because marriage is about love, and homosexuals love each other as much as heterosexuals. Marriage is how society affirms a decision lovers make to care for each other through good times and bad.

Same-sex partners love each other as deeply and sincerely as heterosexual partners. Love defines marriage because marriages run on love, and allowing same-sex lovers to marry is more consistent with what marriage is for than restricting marriage to heterosexuals.

Furthermore, if marriage is about love, then being able to have children is not essential to marriage. The only reason that could ever justify denying marriage to homosexuals is their inability to procreate. But not being able to have children has never kept infertile heterosexuals from getting married.

The Response: This argument confuses a valued (but not a necessary) motive for mate selection with what qualifies marriage to be recognized as a social institution. Love should characterize how married partners treat each other, but love is not what structures marriage and is not what warrants public interest in affirming marriage. The public interest in marriage relates to how it moves toward bridging the male-female divide, toward favoring procreation, and toward parents setting aside individual satisfaction to cooperate in raising children.

Denying the procreational form of marriage is like denying cars are designed to drive. Cars can be cars without being driven, but denying cars are designed for driving changes a “car” into something else. In the same way marriages can exist without children, but severing procreation from the marital structure turns marriage into something else. The argument above confuses the “form” (i.e., those aspects of marriage that are necessary to make marriage, marriage) of marriage as a social institution with an “accident” (i.e., an aspect of marriage that can change without changing what marriage is) in how some couples perform. In this argument, the “form” of marriage is inherently procreational, and procreation can only naturally occur with a man and a woman. Infertility in this context does not change the nature of what marriage is, since (1) the couple are paired in a way that was designed to lead to children (i.e., a man and a woman), and (2) their infertility does not change what marriage is for other married couples.

In other words, this argument uses accidental similarity (infertility) to justify formal equality (that same-sex and opposite-sex couples are no different), and wrongly rejects a formal difference (procreational and non-procreational forms are not the same) as just an accident (i.e., it would make no formal difference).

Proponents of same-sex marriage are thus actually trying to change marriage into non-marriage by denying a fundamental and unchanging aspect of the nature of marriage. While they may still call this union “marriage,” it is in fact something else entirely.

(If that's too dry for you, the extra-crazy version of the same argument is here.) I find it interesting, because this argument is based on an idea that most people probably agree with: that if you're raising a child, that should be your number one priority in life (whether you're male or female). But that's not the actual arguement, it's just something that sounds close enough that people can conflate the two ideas. The actual argument is that the reason two people get married is so that they can raise children. A very different concept, but it sounds reasonable, and if you argue against it, it sounds like you're arguing that people should be selfish and not THINK OF THE CHILDRENS! or whatever. But ask any random person on the street what marriage is about, without prompting, and I'm pretty sure the answer would be that the two people involved love each other. That's why people get married. People don't choose a mate based on how good a mother or father they would be, they base it on love. Everyone believes this. Even people like Maggie Gallagher must have believed this before they had to come up with a reason to be against extending the right to gay people.

People get married because they love each other. Period. That love is what creates a stable household, and a nurturing environment for children, but it doesn't exist for that purpose. Love doesn't need a purpose. This is the heart of every sonnett and pop song ever written. It's just a basic idea that everyone knows to be true.


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