Michigan’s Weak, Incoherent Marriage Equality Argument

I‘ve written before about a case here in Michigan involving a lesbian couple with three children, two of them adopted by one of the partners and one by the other. Now they want to jointly adopt all three by adding both partners names to the adoption and are challenging the state’s ban on same-sex marriage to achieve that goal. The state’s latest brief offers up arguments that are incoherent at best.

One of the paramount purposes of marriage in Michigan — and at least 37 other states that define marriage as a union between a man and a woman — is, and has always been, to regulate sexual relationships between men and women so that the unique procreative capacity of such relationships benefits rather than harms society. The understanding of marriage as a union of man and woman, uniquely involving the rearing of children born of their union, is age-old, universal, and enduring. As illustrated by a plethora of research, social scientists have consistently recognized the essential connection between marriage and responsible procreation and childrearing.

Before 2004, when the Massachusetts courts decided to redefine marriage to include same-sex relationships, it was commonly understood that the institution of marriage owed its very existence to society’s vital interest in responsible procreation and childrearing. Undoubtedly, that is why the Supreme Court has long recognized marriage as “fundamental to our very existence and survival.”

It’s the same old argument. I’ll put it into syllogism form:

P: Marriage is very important for family stability and raising children, both of which are good for society.

P: Nothing

C: Therefore same-sex marriage can’t be allowed.

It’s that second premise that is completely absent. Yes, marriage is important for family stability and raising children. So why isn’t that also true of families where the parents are gay? Why don’t these three adopted children deserve the same protections offered by marriage, where both parents share lifetime responsibility for their well-being?

As for the argument that marriage law are intended to “regulate sexual relationships,” that’s just nonsense. People can have sex, have children and raise children without getting married, and people can get married without having sex or children. The law does not regulate sexual relationships, it provides legal and financial benefits and protections for those who choose to get married, whether they are parents or not. And there is no coherent argument for why a gay couple or their children should be denied those benefits and protections.

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  • tubi

    Putting it in syllogism form is helpful. I wish more people understood how they work. Clearly the state of Michigan, and at least 37 other states*, do not.

    *Not mine. Yeah Minnesota!

  • http://drx.typepad.com Dr X

    I wonder what percentage of the general population simply can’t distinguish between a valid and an invalid argument. I’m pretty sure that the percentage is fairly high, easily 30% and perhaps as high as 60%. When that capacity is absent or unreliable, people have nothing to go on except their pre-existing beliefs. Then consider the deleterious effects emotionally charged beliefs exert on reasoning, even among those who are otherwise capable of correctly distinguishing between valid and invalid arguments. What we’re left with is the need to change pre-existing opinions through non-rational means.

    So… while it’s interesting to rationally break down the underlying argument(s), what is most important is to continue to push for non-rational means of shifting opinion, including relentless and sympathetic familiarization with the lives of gays and lesbians, and efforts to make non-acceptance uncool and generally incompatible with positive self-regard. This is why s-s marriage opponenets hate being called bigots and why they insist that they aren’t bigots. It isn’t necessary to convince them that they are bigots, it’s just necessary to convince a majority plus some number far less than 100% of the general population that antii-same-sex-marriage = bigotry. Make those on or nearest to the fence feel that opposing s-s marriage is bigoted. Feel is the operative word. Feel first, then consolidation of belief follows.

  • http://www.gregory-gadow.net Gregory in Seattle

    When I ran Washington’s I-957 campaign to make procreation a requirement for marriage (in response to the state’s Supreme Court upholding our Denial of Marriage Act for exactly that reason), people on the right kept screeching that procreation had nothing to do with marriage.

    I rather wish other people would try a similar argument in their states: it puts the idiocy of the procreation argument on fine display.

  • John Pieret

    While not explicitly stated, here’s how the syllogism actually goes:

    P: Marriage is very important for family stability and raising children, both of which are good for society.

    P: A lot of people don’t like icky gays and don’t want then to have a right to anything “fundamental to our very existence and survival.” Therefore, we will ignore P1.

    C: Therefore same-sex marriage can’t be allowed.

  • http://drx.typepad.com Dr X

    I should have added to number 2, that I haven’t missed the fact that Ed does more than his share to stigmatize anti-gay attitudes and positions.

  • whheydt

    “— and at least 37 other states that define marriage as a union between a man and a woman —”

    That would mean that at least 38 states bar same-sex marriage. However, there are at least 13 (14, isn’t it now, or perhaps 15?) states have legal SSM, so the first statement of the quote is factually wrong. If they cant get basic facts right, why expect anything better from their supposed argument?

  • gshelley

    and has always been, to regulate sexual relationships between men and women so that the unique procreative capacity of such relationships benefits rather than harms society.

    Are there any benefits that married couples with children get in Michigan that unmarried couples with children do not get?

  • raven

    …marriage…to regulate sexual relationships between men and women so that the unique procreative capacity of such relationships benefits rather than harms society.

    If this is so, it has been a near total failure.

    1. 40% of all births in the USA are to single mothers.*

    2. We really need them badly. The current US total fertility rate is 1.9 births per female, while replacement is 2.1. Without those single mothers, our population would be dropping like a rock.

    *If the female slavers/forced birthers get their way, it will be a lot higher. Ask them how mandatory single motherhood benefits the individual and society but don’t expect a coherent answer.

  • raven

    The understanding of marriage as a union of man and woman, uniquely involving the rearing of children born of their union, is age-old, universal, and enduring.

    Just about every sentence of that state brief is obviously wrong or a lie.

    Biblical marriage is between a man and as many wives as he can round up and as many sex slaves as he can afford. Solomon, one of the heroes of tthe OT had 300 wives and 700 sex slaves.

    And BTW, if you need a few bucks, according to Exodus, you can sell your kids as sex slaves, a practice that continues today among ancient middle eastern religions that haven’t had an update.

  • zero6ix

    I like the legitimate argument for procreation, in that they wish to force us all to breed future Americans. Personally, my wife and I have no interest in having children, which leads to an interesting question. Is my marriage legit because we’re straight? Or does the fact that we like boning without having kids de-legitimize or wedded status? Because if procreation and child-rearing are the only reasons to get married, then our marriage should be null and void. Are we talking about the potential to eventually conceive children? Then what about people who sterilize themselves? Are those marriages crap too?

    What I’m trying to say is, arguments such as “procreation and childrearing” need to be applied equally, especially if they want to be taken seriously. Of course, they won’t, simply because they don’t want gays to have any fun. Straights are allowed to get busy for whatever reasons they wish, without giving a damn about the “intended purpose” of sex. We got married because we were in love, and wanted to seal that deal for as long as we live. When arguments are made stating that marriage is supposed to produce children, a huge blind spot comes into play for straights who said eff that, and continued to live their lives happy and child free. To exclude gays from that union, and to come up with a cock and bull story about making babies, is severely disingenuous.

  • zmidponk

    One of the paramount purposes of marriage in Michigan — and at least 37 other states that define marriage as a union between a man and a woman — is, and has always been, to regulate sexual relationships between men and women so that the unique procreative capacity of such relationships benefits rather than harms society. The understanding of marriage as a union of man and woman, uniquely involving the rearing of children born of their union, is age-old, universal, and enduring.

    If that’s the case, care to point me in the direction of particular statute is it that bars those incapable of conceiving from getting married? Also care to point me in the direction of the statute that requires those getting married to also avow and affirm their intention of actually having children, or even actually enter into a binding contract to do so? As far as I know, such statutes don’t exist, so, unless I’m wrong on that, this would be at best irrelevant and at worst just utter horseshit.

  • http://en.uncyclopedia.co/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    “The law does not regulate sexual relationships, it provides legal and financial benefits and protections for those who choose to get married, whether they are parents or not.”

    Sure, until Bloomberg’s Nanny State is in charge. Then it’ll be knocking down our bedroom doors and nosing in to our business, rather than just the bedrooms and businesses of gayhomos. Think it can’t happen? Did you know that he banned Two Girls, One Cup? Now in New York City it’s Two Girls, Two Smaller Cups! Disgusting.

  • Abby Normal

    As illustrated by a plethora of research, social scientists have consistently recognized the essential connection between marriage and responsible procreation and childrearing.

    Like the American Anthropological Association for example.

    The results of more than a century of anthropological research on households, kinship relationships, and families, across cultures and through time, provide no support whatsoever for the view that either civilization or viable social orders depend upon marriage as an exclusively heterosexual institution. Rather, anthropological research supports the conclusion that a vast array of family types, including families built upon same-sex partnerships, can contribute to stable and humane societies.

    The Executive Board of the American Anthropological Association strongly opposes a constitutional amendment limiting marriage to heterosexual couples.

    Oops, maybe that was a bad example. Perhaps we should ask the American Sociological Association, American Medical Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Psychological Association, or the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Hmmm… Nope, they’ve all issued similar statements indicating research supports the conclusion that same-sex marriage is beneficial. How strange, it’s almost like the state’s brief is complete bullshit.

  • Michael Heath

    gshelley writes:

    Are there any benefits that married couples with children get in Michigan that unmarried couples with children do not get?

    If one of the adults is an employee of the state of MI, in most cases their partner or the children of their partner won’t get health insurance. This has harmed our state when the state of MI seeks to employ people who want their family insured; it’s especially harmful to our state when those prospective employees aren’t current MI resident and would be moving here.

  • http://artk.typepad.com ArtK

    You have to look at the syllogism in the way that fundies do. You start with the conclusion and work your way back to the premise(s). In the case of this one, the implied second premise is “Same sex ‘marriages’ are inherently unstable, because they’re all about the buttsecks.” Of course, that premise has absolutely no evidence whatsoever, so they try not to say it out loud.

  • eric

    One of the paramount purposes of marriage in Michigan…is, and has always been, to regulate sexual relationships between men and women so that the unique procreative capacity of such relationships benefits rather than harms society

    None of which has anything to do with adoption. Even if a judge were to buy this argument, exactly how is letting two people jointly adopt children going to change whether procreation benefits society or not? The deed is done; the procreation happened. Adoption is about what to do afterwards.

    If the law’s aim is making sure procreation benefits society, it should regulate the conduct of the procreators. Regulating the conduct of the non-procreators is a non-sequitur.

  • ccogan

    Obviously, if the bigots are right, we shouldn’t allow any couple (of any kind) to get married if they can’t have children, since a man-woman marriage where one parent cannot contribute his/her genes to children would violate the “The understanding of marriage as a union of man and woman, uniquely involving the rearing of children born of their union.” By this “reasoning,” if you can’t biologically have a child of your own, there is, no point in getting married at all.

    It’s interesting how many people who talk a lot about “spiritual” matters want to reduce the point of marriage to the physical process of spawning children.

    And, what will the bigots say when genetic technology allows same-sex couples to have children that combine the genes from both parents?

    Finally, the words “uniquely involving” the rearing of children id sheer idiocy. Do we really need to point out that NON-married men and women have often had and reared “children born of their own union”? There is nothing whatever unique about this aspect of marriage, since non-married people do it all the time, and have done so since before marriage was ever invented.