July 25, 2012

Scots for Marriage Equality

News is out that Scotland may become the first portion of the United Kingdom to adopt marriage equality, the BBC reports. When I heard the news I did a quick Google on "Scotland marriage" and was introduced to a website with an appeal for a petition against allowing for same-sex marriage. This site (which I won't reference, but which you can find as easily as I did) provides the same tired old lies as its rationale for opposing this development.

  • Marriage is for one man and one woman  — well, that is one form of marriage, but it is clearly not the only one; to wit:
  • This will lead to polygamy — polygamy was the other most popular form of marriage; the point being, of course, that it was and is predominantly heterosexual. It only took a few generations and less than a handful of chapters to get from Adam to Lamech (Gen 4:19) If anything led to polygamy it was heterosexual marriage!
  • People will be silenced if they disagree — as long as discourse is civil, people will be free to speak. That there is protection from hateful or inflammatory speech is part of the cost of living in a civil society. All proposed laws give ample protection to religious institutions that do not wish to perform marriages of which their religion disapproves. (Is anyone forced to marry legally divorced people in church if their church does not believe in divorce?)
  • This should be a matter of popular referendum — it is a basic principle of social rule that rights are not to be legislated simply on the basis of popular opinion, but on the basis of demonstrable harm or benefit.
The good news is that the longer people keep making phoney arguments, the sooner things will change.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG


Sid said...

Hello Tobias,

Of course, you've been through this many times before; even so...

I believe what you've outlined here is also "tired" (I will refrain from calling your arguments "lies" and, thereby, impugning your character as you've done to your opponents in Scotland).

1. From a postmodern philosophical standpoint, I agree that marriage defined as exclusively between one man and one woman is nothing more than an assertion on the part of the Scots. So, too, though, is your proposition that one man-one woman is just one flavor of marriage. (From a Christian standpoint, of course, the Scots are historically correct.)

2. On polygamy, your point is taken as to the historical record, but their point is clear and one that I think you purposefully ignore. See the news just today that respected law professor Jonathan Turley has filed suit on behalf of a polygamous Utah family to overturn that state's restriction on such. Turley, correctly, cites the Supreme Court's ruling in Lawrence v. Texas. That is, the arguments that legitimate SSM - the real-life arguments made by most SSM proponents and accepted by the courts; I don't say that these are your arguments - must also permit polygamy.

3. On freedom of speech, you are being too cute by half here. There is no requirement in "civil society," at least not the American one, that discourse be "civil." In fact, the idea of such a restriction is antithetical to our traditions, even totalitarian (for who defines "civil?"). I find much political discourse to be hateful and inflammatory, but it goes on - because it's legal, protected speech. When people at my workplace of differing political views than mine go on about their candidates and positions, it offends me, but I would never think they should be jailed, fined, disciplined, or fired for it. That is far from the reality with SSM advocates.

4. You beg the question that SSM is a "right." You have simply made another assertion.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Well, Sid, you can continue the myths and misdirections as much as you like, but that is what they are.

1) The people protesting civil marriage equality are not speaking from a "Christian" standpoint. They are asserting that only OMOW is "marriage." That is plainly false, as many cultures, including our own, recognize (or have recognized) serial monogamy or even polygamy.

2) Two things:
(a) The fact that someone has made an argument does not mean the argument will be successful, which is the claim from the anti-SSM crowd. I very much doubt that such arguments in favor of polygamy will be successful. BUt if they are, it will not be because of SSM.

(b) Because the polygamy argument you reference is based on privacy issues -- which was the basis of Lawrence. Lawrence was not about marriage, but the intrusion of the state in private life. The arguments for same-sex monogamy cannot be and are not applicable to polygamy, since monogamy is not polygamy. General arguments about what the state should or should not regulate are another matter entirely. This is apples and oranges, typical of the slippery logic to which such folks resort. The fear that change in something necessitates change in everything is baseless.

3) Freedom of speech is not absolute. Even in the US here are restrictions on hate speech and inflammatory incitement to violence. There is also a well recognized definition of slander and libel. Anti-SSM marriage people claim they will be shorn of their freedom of speech; I simply note that as long as that speech is within bounds recognized by law there is no problem.

4. Marriage is a right, among the most basic human rights (see the UN Declaration, for example). The issue here is who has access to exercising that right. And that should not be a matter of a referendum. It's true that is my opinion, and this is an assertion; but it is a well-recognized principle in political science concerning the nature of rights.

So I will stand by my statements that the fear-mongering by the anti-SSM lobby is based on false assumptions. Demonstrably and objectively so.

Murdoch Matthew said...

Plus the fact that we're dealing with civil marriage -- churches may go on teaching and practicing whatever they like (as with marriage after divorce).

Marriage until recently involved the exchange of property (including the bride) between families. Once it became a contract between two equal individuals, gender distinctions became irrelevant. One-man-one-woman advocates are fighting to preserve patriarchy.

Theology is all explication of texts and opinion. There are some discernible facts in biology.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Good point, MM, though as I'll post in a moment, the idea that marriage was mostly about property is not entirely true... it's just that most laws dealt with that, and the sorts of people who were most invested in marriage tended to be monarchs and so on... ;-) But as Henry VIII shows, the notion of OM6W has some longevity to it!

Sid said...


I haven't looked at the website you're keying off of here, so I'll take your word for it. Even so, I'm certain their culture recognizes, and has only recognized for more than a millennia - at least - OMOW as being "marriage." (By the way, "serial monogamy" is not a counter definition of marriage; it's a series of marriages.)

I disagree with you entirely that, "The fear that change in something necessitates change in everything is baseless." It may not be a truism, but to say it's baseless is far too strong. Change can beget change; in human affairs, it's the analogue of momentum. And it's clear that all of the various legal strategies, whatever they are, are intended to create a web of precedent that collectively, progressively, legitimates same-sex behavior in the eyes of the law, and, as a follow-on, in the culture. And, yes, this web of precedents applies directly to polygamy, as well, as honest judges - whether they like the fact that we've come to this pass or not - will have to conclude. Privacy? Check. My "marriage" doesn't affect your "marriage" and, therefore, the state has no interest in it? Check. Relationship forms are purely about the adult love of the participants (see your succeeding post) and embody no higher aim that the state should promote, such as the welfare of children? Check.

And, I would say, on the question of "rights," check, as well. There is no precedent within, certainly, Western culture, that marriage could have ever encompassed SSM (even polygamists can claim such a precedent); and so, coming back to your first point, it's absolutely fair to exclusively call a binding relationship with one person of the opposite sex "marriage." And, in that respect, if there's a right to it - which will be a surprise to 14 year olds and close relatives - you already have it. I think it's more accurate to say that what is being claimed here is the "right" to form an ad hoc adult relationship and have the state extend to its participants the same benefits of marriage. And, so, again, this also applies to polygamy. There are no arguments for "same-sex monogamy" that are even relevant to this point; the question is about marriage. That monogamy is not polygamy is lexically true, but also irrelevant, since we are in the realm of every actor creating his or her own definition of marriage. There is no place in such a world for monogamy to be demanded as a definitional part of it.

Freedom of speech, though, is what truly bothers me most. I know of no aspect of this debate which even approaches any restriction you mention. Yet, when, you write things like, "That there is protection from hateful or inflammatory speech is part of the cost of living in a civil society," or, "Freedom of speech is not absolute," it sounds as though you're telegraphing that, yes, some speech from the anti-SSM crowd may need to be forbidden. (Contra your response, there are practically no direct restrictions in the U.S. on "hate speech" - employment law is an exception - and the violence to be incited must be, literally, imminent, such as a riot.) Can you give me examples of the kinds of things you think it should be illegal for your opponents to say, or write?

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Sid, I think for much or this we are simply in the realm of battling assertions. I'll give it one last host, though:

serial monogamy -- judged as "digamy" by the early conciliar church, such that even the unions of widowers were not considered "marriages" of the same order as the first marriage, and did not receive the full nuptial blessing

necessitates change -- you focus on "change" but my point is on the "necessity." It is the causal relationship I am challenging -- the notion that a change in the law on SSM will "lead to" or "cause" a change in the law on polygamy. There is a fundamental difference between polygamy and monogamy. You are correct, as I noted, that arguments simply based on lessening restrictive laws (such as the Lawrence case's end to sodomy laws) can lead to a removal of restrictive laws forbidding polygamy -- but right there you have the difference. Until recently there were no laws "forbidding" SSM -- it was simply not provided for. Unlike the laws forbidding polygamy, and criminalizing it. If anything, I can point to the causal connection between the press for SSM and the creation of laws to forbid it!

state promotion -- the state has other interests in marriage apart from the welfare of children; the civilizing influence of marriage is an important factor; and the state does not require childbearing to legitimate marriage

past legitimization of same-sex relationships -- although likely not intended as such, there were and have been such phenomena in Western (and other) cultures

You also dismiss as merely lexical the only real difference between monogamy and polygamy -- the number of spouses. It is that, and only that, that makes polygamy illegal.

And of course there are limits on the right to marry -- just as there are on the rights of speech and bearing arms. Age and relationship are two of the principal ones.

On hate speech, the "exceptions" you cite are what I was referring to. I'm glad you recognize that these restrictions exist. Many other Western countries have stricter rules. You neglect to mention libel and slander -- false harmful speech is also not protected.

As to explicit examples of the sort of speech I think should not be permitted, I'd have to apply the rule the Supreme Court applied to pornography, "I'll know it when i see it." Would you object if protestors were to stand outside your home with signs saying, "Sid will burn in hell" and "You are an abomination and should be killed." I would think that is not the sort of speech that should be protected, as it is not reasonable discourse, but is only intended to hurt or harm.

Sid said...

Hi, Tobias, I appreciate the engagement. I just want to say that on this: "If anything, I can point to the causal connection between the press for SSM and the creation of laws to forbid it!" - good point.

I'll just have to go wishy-washy on your speech example. I would object, personally, in the case you cite; and, I would hope that, if the protestors were making noise or making direct threats (as opposed to indirect statements about how I *should* be killed), they would be, respectively, cited for disturbing the peace and arrested. But, here's the thing: when I was a kid, we had an economic situation that prompted protesters - including clergy - to picket and harass corporate executives both at their homes and churches. Sometimes, this resulted in violence and vandalism. We saw smaller-scale examples during the height of the Occupy craze. That is intrinsically wrong, and I can tell you that those people lost me to their point of view from the time I was a kid - before I probably could have even engaged either side of the argument. So it was counterproductive, and the same would be true of your hypothetical. You and I can take heart that the Fred Phelps of the world are, similarly, doing nothing more than decreasing their already feeble number in the future (hopefully, to zero).

The punch line of the story, though, is that nobody ever stopped those protests. They were legal; so would be the protests in your hypothetical. As I said, I'll be spineless in saying whether I like that situation or not, but we have a First Amendment, and that's where I'll leave it.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

You're welcome, Sid. I am in much the same place you are on the value of protest. Frankly I am not inclined to be swayed by picketers unless the case they stand for is good in and of itself. I have to say I was a bit bemused by the whole Occupy movement, as I wasn't clear about the objections, and for that reason the protests themselves seemed to be the point.

I'm content with the First Amendment too, which the courts down the years has put some limits on, as I noted. I do not believe in absolute freedom of speech, for the reasons cited above. It is often the case that rights have to be balanced: one of the legal definitions of a "right" (I'm not sure it is the best definition, but that's another matter) includes the notion that a "right" establishes a reciprocal responsibility in others, either the society or government, or just other people. So alongside a right to freedom of speech I think there is a right to the quiet enjoyment of life, or freedom from disturbance and riot. Hence speech that leads to public disturbance or riot is curtailed by appeal to another -- and higher -- right. It relates to the right to be "secure in ones own person" which does not just mean from physical violence, but also from the threat of violence. This is why the law recognizes a difference between assault and battery.

Nuff said...