February 26, 2013
File under "Interesting Developments"
It is reported in the NYT this morning (here) that "Republicans Sign Brief in Support of Gay Marriage". One of those Republicans is former Utah governor--and also former, and possibly future, presidential candidate--Jon Huntsman. In an article published just last week in The American Conservative (here), Governor Huntsman wrote:
"While serving as governor of Utah, I pushed for civil unions and expanded reciprocal benefits for gay citizens. I did so not because of political pressure—indeed, at the time 70 percent of Utahns were opposed—but because as governor my role was to work for everybody, even those who didn’t have access to a powerful lobby. Civil unions, I believed, were a practical step that would bring all citizens more fully into the fabric of a state they already were—and always had been—a part of.
That was four years ago. Today we have an opportunity to do more: conservatives should start to lead again and push their states to join the nine others that allow all their citizens to marry. I’ve been married for 29 years. My marriage has been the greatest joy of my life. There is nothing conservative about denying other Americans the ability to forge that same relationship with the person they love.
All Americans should be treated equally by the law, whether they marry in a church, another religious institution, or a town hall. This does not mean that any religious group would be forced by the state to recognize relationships that run counter to their conscience. Civil equality is compatible with, and indeed promotes, freedom of conscience.
Marriage is not an issue that people rationalize through the abstract lens of the law; rather it is something understood emotionally through one’s own experience with family, neighbors, and friends. The party of Lincoln should stand with our best tradition of equality and support full civil marriage for all Americans."
Thank you for this post. I particularly like this quotation from today's New York Times: "[The brief] argues, as [Mr. Olson] does, that same-sex marriage promotes family values by allowing children of gay couples to grow up in two-parent homes. . . ." I have never understood the arguments to the contrary. It seems to me, and always has, that allowing same-sex couples to marry demonstrates profound respect for the institution of marriage and provides maximum protection and stability to the children of the relationships in question. Surely no one expects religious institutions that oppose the concept to perform such marriages. On the other hand, there is no reason that I can see to allow such institutions to prevent those who seek the emotional and legal benefits of marriage from gaining access to those benefits. Why should such institutions care, as long as no one is asking them to perform the marriages?
Posted by: Ellen Wertheimer | Feb 26, 2013 8:46:07 AM
"[The brief] argues, as [Mr. Olson] does, that same-sex marriage promotes family values by allowing children of gay couples to grow up in two-parent homes. . . ."
I do not understand why Catholics with eyes to see sould in any way support mainstream neocon-GOP-Conservative Inc. Here we have Ted Olson, part of the mainstream conservative brand, squaring the circle regarding 'family values' where the mere number of parents is a defining standard.
I cannot wait to see the Casey mystery of life passage utilized by the Kennedy majority in this decision.
Posted by: CK | Feb 26, 2013 10:22:33 AM
In a two family home that consists of two fathers or two mothers, one would in essence be discriminating against either fatherhood or motherhood. Marriage exists for the Good of the husband, the Good of the wife, and the Good of the family that is created when a man and woman are united as husband and wife.
Posted by: N.D. | Feb 26, 2013 10:37:12 AM
File under "Another Example Of The Church Being On The Wrong Side Of History"
Posted by: Observer | Feb 26, 2013 12:50:15 PM
If two "two-parent households" are good; three plus "parent-households" must be great.
Posted by: Phil Swain | Feb 26, 2013 12:53:00 PM
Actually, I have seen studies that children raised by a father, a mother, and the maternal grandmother fare better than children raised only by a mother and father. That's a three-parent family. I think the truly "natural" environment in which to raise children is the extended family, not the nuclear family.
Posted by: David Nickol | Feb 26, 2013 1:49:02 PM
I can understand conservative arguments in favor of SSM--though I disagree with them. I cannot fathom, however, how a conservative could favor the removal of this issue from the political process by way of a judicial invention of a new constitutional right. How is that in the least bit "conservative"?
Legislation affords the possibility of compromise and the accomodation of religious liberty interests. But, if the Supreme Court turns SSM into a fundamental consitutional right, I don't see how such accomodation or compromise is possible.
Posted by: CLS | Feb 26, 2013 1:51:26 PM
"I think the truly "natural" environment in which to raise children is the extended family, not the nuclear family."
Agreed. Alasdair Macintyre recently had a talk at N.D. talking about the importance of Aunts. Good stuff. But it does not follow that two daddies in a homosexual relationship is good for a child.
Posted by: CK | Feb 26, 2013 2:35:22 PM
What follows from DN's view is redefining marriage to include polyamory, and it is good of him to admit it.
Posted by: Matt Bowman | Feb 26, 2013 2:50:41 PM
Huntman's assertions are pure "you must affirm my emotions" stuff. I'm beginning to think that we've come to the end of politics. I can understand a thirteen year-old making these assertions, but a former governor?
Posted by: Phil Swain | Feb 26, 2013 3:36:36 PM
Matt Bowman said: "What follows from DN's view is redefining marriage to include polyamory, and it is good of him to admit it."
I think Matt Bowman is attempting to bait me, since there is no possible way to get from what I said about extended families to polyamory. I do think it is nonsense to claim that polygamous marriage is not marriage (as it seems to me Girgis, George, and Anderson do), but I believe the arguments for rejecting polygamy in Western culture are quite sound. I think polygamy is something that a culture outgrows, and I have no desire to see Western culture regress. The slippery-slope-to-polygamy argument against same-sex marriage is so lame that I am really rather amazed to see Matt Bowman resort to it. I don't know why it would frighten anyone even if there were truth to it. It is not as if everyone in the United States is itching to be wed into a polyamorous marriage. The success rate for two-person marriages isn't all that good.
There seems to be a fear among certain social and religious conservatives that if homosexuality is "normalized," there will be a massive increase in the number of gay people. Or if polygamy becomes more tolerated, there will suddenly be a rush to find two or more mates. And if same-sex marriage and polygamy become "normalized," a surge in pedophilia and bestiality will be next. It seems extraordinarily improbable, so I don't know why people like Matt Bowman are so frightened.
Posted by: David Nickol | Feb 26, 2013 4:23:50 PM
David Nickol is surprised that supporters of marriage as a sexually complimentary union of male and female whose union is life-transmitting, are troubled, even "frightened" at the prospect of same-sex marriage. Would that his optimism were appropriate. And, if this question were limited to civil marriage of same sex couples, he would certain have a case.
But the already existing situation regarding the status of children is the problem, the frightening problem. Children who were previously thought to have a natural right to the mother and father through whose union they were conceived except in cases of major crisis are now subjected to many and diverse distortions of their natural human rights. Children are separated from father or mother through divorce; children are produced by donor fathers and mothers who sell their life-transmitting substances; laboratory-conceived children are inserted into a woman's womb to grow and develop and then sold to the persons who have paid for them. These things are happening. So it is not so surprising that supporters of children's human rights are afraid for them.
Posted by: Linda Wolpert Smith | Feb 27, 2013 8:23:34 AM
Linda Wolpert Smith,
You say: "Children who were previously thought to have a natural right to the mother and father through whose union they were conceived except in cases of major crisis are now subjected to many and diverse distortions of their natural human rights. Children are separated from father or mother through divorce; children are produced by donor fathers and mothers who sell their life-transmitting substances; laboratory conceived children are inserted into a woman's womb to grow and develop and then sold to the persons who have paid for them. These things are happening. "
I share your concern about all of the above, but I fail to see any significant connection to same-sex marriage. Here follows my familiar litany. Approximately 41% of children born in the United States are born out of wedlock. What is the connection to same-sex marriage? Twenty-two percent of children conceived are aborted. What is the connection to same-sex marriage? I seriously doubt that any statistics at all exist for abortions by lesbian mothers, but I also am quite sure the number is close to zero. Thirty-five percent of children live in single-parent families, and one out of every two children will live in a single-parent household for some period before the age of 18. Of women with two or more children, 28% have conceived them with two or more fathers.
A reasonable estimate is that gay people make up 4% of the population. I would like to know what the plan is to guarantee children the "natural right to the mother and father through whose union they were conceived" for the 96% of the heterosexual population. Is it to make divorce more difficult for married couples with children? Is it to regulate assisted reproductive technology—ban artificial insemination and limit IVF to married couples only using their own gametes?
When "Octomom" gave birth to octuplets out of wedlock and conceived through IVF, was there a serious movement to regulate the fertility industry? What is the plan to deal with the 96% of the population that causes 99.99% of the problems? Ironically, one of the complaints of those who oppose same-sex marriage is that relatively few gay people take advantage of it. So before you cite concern for children as a reason to oppose same-sex marriage, I would like to know what your plan is for the heterosexual population that does such an execrable job of dealing with the 78% of children it chooses not to abort.
Posted by: David Nickol | Feb 27, 2013 11:05:09 AM
Reply to David Nickol: The statistics you cite are sadly true. It is also true that people of same sex orientation are not to blame in any way for these dismal truths. But is your position that yet another knife-thrust to the heart of marriage - that of removing the requirement for sexual complimentarity - will not make a terrible situation worse?
I have no grand plan to suggest but only hope to provide one voice for children's human rights and, as best I can, make a case for the life-transmitting power of male and female union as the only rational basis for government involvement in marriage.
Adults of course have a right to privacy, to non-interference in their private arrangements, and from people of good will, every respect.
Posted by: Linda Wolpert Smith | Feb 27, 2013 2:27:55 PM
Linda Wolpert Smith,
You say: "But is your position that yet another knife-thrust to the heart of marriage - that of removing the requirement for sexual complimentarity - will not make a terrible situation worse?"
My position is that it will do no harm. Same-sex marriage brings with it many benefits for those who enter into it, but regarding children, there is nothing significant an unmarried same-sex couple can't do that a same-sex married couple can do. If the situation really is terrible, then people who are concerned about the alleged rights of children to be raised by their biological parents should try to make the situation better. The rapidity with which no-fault divorce spread to all 50 states, the unwillingness to attempt to regulate artificial insemination, the near silence about reasonable restrictions on fertility clinics that practice IVF all indicate to me that a great many people who oppose same-sex marriage aren't willing to do anything that puts limits on the rights and freedoms of people like themselves. Rob Vischer once made a very succinct statement in a thread about assisted reproductive technology that I think is relevant here. "If ART is the problem, isn't opposition to SSM a wildly over- and under-inclusive proxy for addressing it?" I would broaden that a bit to cover all of the issues I cited above that involve children.
Posted by: David Nickol | Feb 27, 2013 5:54:39 PM
Our unalienable Right to Life, Liberty, and The Pursuit of Happiness is grounded in respect for the inherent personal and relational Dignity of all persons, who, from the moment of conception, have been created in The Image and Likeness of God, equal in Dignity, while being complementary as male or female. Our inherent Right to be treated with Dignity and Respect, which can only be endowed to us from The True God, exists for every human individual, in public, and in private. No State or person has the right to condone or affirm any act, including any sexual act, that does not respect the inherent personal and relational Dignity of the human person.
Posted by: N.D. | Feb 27, 2013 6:49:01 PM
N.D. says: "No State or person has the right to condone or affirm any act, including any sexual act, that does not respect the inherent personal and relational Dignity of the human person."
Then, as marriage is understood by the Catholic Church, the state does not have the right to permit divorced people to remarry.
States also should not have the right to mandate insurance coverage of assisted reproductive technology, which at least 15 states do. How many of the folks out there who insist that a child has a right to be raised by his biological parents oppose ART, or at least oppose mandatory insurance coverage of it? Where was the fight when those fifteen states passed their laws?
How many who insist a child has a right to be raised by a mother and a father oppose single-parent adoption? (Not Catholic Charities.)
The right of a child to be raised by his or her biological parents, in my experience, is brought up only as an argument against same-sex marriage, and it is a feeble argument, since same-sex couples do not have to be married to raise children, nor do many same-sex couples who want to marry want to raise children.
Posted by: David Nickol | Feb 27, 2013 7:05:06 PM
At the heart of the mystery of Life, lies the self evident truth, that we exist in relationship.
Our call to Holiness, is a call to Love, according to The Word of God.
Posted by: N.D. | Feb 27, 2013 7:08:03 PM
Reply to David Nickol: When marriage between two persons of the same sex was written into law of Canada, the words "natural parent" and "blood relationship" were written out of the law. That did great harm to legal understanding of the natural family. Prof. Douglas Farrow writes that the change in marriage law transformed understanding of marriage from a natural unit with inherent rights to a legal construct of the state. So harm was done to all who are concerned for the human rights of children. You may think that this cannot happen here.
You mention the silence regarding IVF procedures. There was at one time silence regarding black slavery in the American South. I am certain that you would maintain the wrongness of that practice if no other voice but your own were raised in protest. In that spirit, I raise my voice in protest against every use of this technique except for that approved for Orthodox Jews. I have commented before that, for those who are not Catholics, the Orthodox Jewish teaching seems the right one: the reproductive materials of a married man and woman who cannot conceive a child unaided are united and the conceived child is implanted in the womb of the mother. One child only is conceived. The child at birth is then taken into the home of the biological mother and father.
You use the words "alleged rights of children to be raised by their biological parents". My position is that children have human rights; they are not "alleged".
Posted by: Linda Wolpert Smith | Feb 27, 2013 7:22:32 PM
I think it's time to read (or re-read if you already have) "What Is Marriage. Man and Woman: A Defense."
Posted by: Thales | Feb 27, 2013 9:16:41 PM
Read "Is, Ought, and Nature's Laws" by David Bentley Hart in First Things, available free on their web site.
Posted by: David Nickol | Feb 28, 2013 6:23:47 AM
Linda Wolpert Smith,
You say: You use the words "alleged rights of children to be raised by their biological parents". My position is that children have human rights; they are not "alleged".
I say "alleged" because there is a fatal logical flaw in opposing same-sex marriage based on the alleged right of children to be raised by their biological parents. This alleged right is being asserted only for *unconceived* children, and it is a logical absurdity to assert rights for unconceived, nonexistent children. Suppose we have a married lesbian couple, and one spouse decides to conceive by artificial insemination. You would like to prevent this from happening based on the right of their child, as yet unconceived, to be raised by its biological parents. You apparently believe it would be a violation of the unconceived child's rights for the child to be conceived. So in the name of the unconceived child's rights, you want it not to be conceived. Consequently, you seem to be saying it is better for a child never to be conceived than to be conceived in a situation where the child will not be raised by its biological parents. So in the name of this unconceived child's rights, you would prevent it from existing! It is apparently better not to exist than to be raised by anyone other than the man and woman whose gametes joined at conception.
So to oppose same-sex marriage on the grounds that children have a right to be raised by their biological parents is to hold that the rights of unconceived, nonexistent children not to exist are more important than the rights of *all* same-sex couples to marry, including those same-sex couples who will never have children.
Posted by: David Nickol | Feb 28, 2013 7:18:35 AM
Reply to David Nickol: Your argument (if I understand it correctly) is that while you are opposed to practices denying children's human rights and their dignity as ends in themselves, any opposition at this time has no value. Because voices were not raised against these practices until laws permitting them were enacted, there is no point in objecting now. It is too late.
Your point is well-taken. When proponents of one change or another are intelligent, dedicated, active, and persevering, they can and do accomplish their goals. One time-honored technique is clothing the desired end in language such as "fairness," "choice," "freedom," "civil rights". Most ordinary citizens are not prepared, philosophically or theologically, to withstand or counter very sophisticated arguments that, in the end, deprive them of the things they thought were on offer.
Your point, again if I understand you correctly, is that we are now at or past the point of defeat. Marriage as defined by the life-transmitting nature of the union of one man and one woman is no longer a viable proposition. Perhaps you are tragically correct. Perhaps not. Time will tell. If so the option left to those of us who believe in this proposition can only live it faithfully, living scribes of the principle, so to speak.
Your point that Catholic Charities will allow adoption of a child by one woman or one man seems irrelevant. Crisis cases do not make good law.
Posted by: Linda Wolpert Smith | Feb 28, 2013 7:21:36 AM
Linda Wolpert Smith,
You say, "Your point, again if I understand you correctly, is that we are now at or past the point of defeat."
Not at all. That would seem to me to be the point of those who claim that they must hold out against same-sex marriage as the last straw, but opposing surrogacy, artificial insemination, and in vitro fertilization would be too unpopular. I hear this argument from pro-life advocates—as if the pro-life movement's fight against abortion was popular!
You say, When marriage between two persons of the same sex was written into law of Canada, the words "natural parent" and "blood relationship" were written out of the law.
How many people, contemplating marriage, read the laws of the government under whose authority their marriage will be legally binding? The civil understanding of marriage is quite different from the Catholic understanding. People looking to get married look to their own traditions. It does not worry me what the law says.
Posted by: David Nickol | Feb 28, 2013 9:38:10 AM
On a completely different note for a moment, in my opinion to tell an infertile couple that they cannot have access to the means by which they can conceive a child is, quite simply, an act of cruelty. No one who has been through the suffering of infertility (or who has watched others suffer from this condition) could possibly take such an inhumane position. Moreover, taking such a position is anti-life. The couple wants a child. The medical means to achieve that goal are available (at least the process that allows them to try, no success guaranteed). How can it be pro-life to deny them access to that process? As if it were not bad enough to try to keep a child from coming into being by preventing access to IVF, life as an infertile couple deprived of hope is soul-destroying to the would-be parents in itself.
The point about same-sex marriage is different, however. Same-sex couples can and will have children. That is a fact. The children are here. Allowing their parents to marry provides maximum legal protection for these children. If one's focus is on the child's rights, it seems to me that one has to support same-sex marriage if only for this reason alone. The choice is between a child with rights as against both parents, and a child with no such rights against at least one of the parents. The answer should be clear. At least in my opinion.
Posted by: Ellen Wertheimer | Feb 28, 2013 12:39:00 PM
It seems to me that if you drill down into the Catholic arguments against same-sex marriage (or at least homosexual relationships) and the Catholic arguments against in vitro fertilization, you will find somewhere along the line that they spring from the same principles—all sex must be open to procreation, and all procreation must involve sex. Many things that are logical consequences of those principles are cruel.
Posted by: David Nickol | Feb 28, 2013 1:21:25 PM
David Nichol, how can same-sex sexual acts serve the Good of those who engage in same sex sexual acts when same-sex sexual acts do not respect the inherent Dignity of the human person?
Posted by: N.D. | Feb 28, 2013 8:56:20 PM
I have attempted three times to respectfully reply to comments posted by Ellen Wertheimer and David Nickol. An error has interfered with the transmission. I will withdraw from the discussion because of this technical failure but look forward to future opportunities to engage these questions.
Posted by: Linda Wolpert Smith | Mar 1, 2013 6:31:09 AM