Children and SSM: An Analysis of “The Divine Institution of Marriage”

As far as I know, FPR has never had a SSM post, and I think that we are somewhat proud of that fact. Despite this record, I am so confused by the document that the Church put out today, called the Divine Institution of Marriage, that I simply must break the silence about this for the purposes of clarification. This document suggests that as a result of the court decisions in MA and CA (the legislative decisions legalizing marriage and civil unions in other states are not mentioned), “The institution of marriage will be weakened, resulting in negative consequences for both adults and children.” The text continues: “traditional marriage is essential to society as a whole, and especially to its children.” While there are a number of different arguments raised in this document explaining the church’s opposition to SSM, my question has to do with the relationship between SSM and the argument concerning the raising of children. The document explains that “if children and families are to be protected,” one must reject SSM. While I have heard this argument raised before by opponents of SSM, and church statements have alluded to this argument before, this document by far represents the most clear official statement on the subject of the threats to children. The threat to children constitutes the most prominent argument offered in this text.

This document is fascinating, and should be read in full. It contains a number of interesting points, including the pro-life statement that “abortion has taken the lives of over 45 million innocents.” There are also a number of threats to the Church outlined, including the assertion that the church’s tax exempt status is threatened by SSM. This claim deserves investigation since the church is not required by law even to perform all heterosexual marriages, it is unclear why SSM would alter that right of the church. Though the text cites the EU as an example of the infringement of religious rights, the exceptions offered the Catholic and Lutheran churches to such requirements are not mentioned. Further, though the text suggests that one must love homosexuals, but not “tolerate” their behavior, the precise form of this commanded intolerance is supposed to take is not stated. (Presumably, the church does not oppose the legal right of homosexuals to have sex.) Despite the unclarity of the injunction towards intolerance, I must say that I am relieved by this statement in the document: “The Church’s opposition to same-sex marriage neither constitutes nor condones any kind of hostility towards homosexual men and women. Protecting marriage between a man and a woman does not affect Church members’ Christian obligations of love, kindness and humanity toward all people.” Though there are also a great number of other fascinating statements concerning gender, I wish to focus my analysis on the argument concerning children.

As I read the document, the argument concerning children has two separate prongs. First, SSM should be opposed because these unions do not have the possibility of producing children. Second, SSM should be opposed because children should be raised in heterosexual homes. I see these two arguments in fundamental tension to the point of apparent incoherence. Inasmuch as the church offers these as substantive arguments, I hope that they may be safely investigated on their merits.

After an exegetical preamble explaining that God approves mixed-sex marriage (is this really in dispute?), the text presents the first secular argument against SSM: “Only a man and a woman together have the natural biological capacity to conceive children.” This argument is repeated later, stating that marriage is “legally protected because only a male and female together can create new life, and because the rearing of children requires a life-long commitment, which marriage is intended to provide.” Marriage should be restricted to heterosexuals because “marriage and family are vital instruments for rearing children and teaching them to become responsible adults.”

The exceptions are acknowledged, since heterosexual couples are still allowed to marry despite not having children “by choice or infertility,” offering an explanation of why my menopausal mother could get married but homosexuals cannot despite their identical status as non-reproductive. As the text explains, “By definition, all same-sex unions are infertile, and two individuals of the same gender, whatever their affections, can never form a marriage devoted to raising their own mutual offspring.” Though geriatric and other non-fertile marriages are still permitted by law and even performed by the church, these assertions indicate that because marriage is about having children, and because homosexuals cannot have children (I will deal with this assumption later), therefore marriage should be restricted only to those who can have children.

After this argument, the text shifts to a second argument concerning children. The text asserts: “extensive studies have shown that in general a husband and wife united in a loving, committed marriage provide the optimal environment for children to be protected, nurtured, and raised.” Heterosexual marriage, as contrasted to heterosexual couples in general, is asserted to constitute this “optimal environment.” At this point, the text makes a lengthy caveat that the church allows for single parents to have children despite their failure to measure up to the “optimal” family. In fact, though they offer two quotes from studies that condemn single parents only (it is not clear that any studies considering same-sex families are consulted), the document insists, “In an ideal society, every child would be raised by both a father and a mother.” Though the text admits of “the substantial personal resources that two parents can bring to bear on raising a child,” (emphasis mine) the reader is supposed to conclude that two parents of the same sex are worse than one parent of one sex. We are not supposed to oppose the legal rights of single parents to raise their children (despite the conclusions of the studies offered that such situations are also not “optimal”), but rather we are to oppose the legal right to two people of the same gender to raise children as a married couple (the church does not legally oppose same-sex families from raising children as unmarried couples). Because there is no reason on face why SSM would alter the obligation for heterosexual parents or for mixed-sex marriages to raise children, the text forces one to conclude that homosexual parents of children are better off raising their children as single parents than in relationships with a second person, even in a “loving, committed relationship” or a “life-long commitment” that parallels a heterosexual relationship.

At this point, the tension between these two arguments should be clear. If homosexual marriages are not going to result in children, why should they be opposed because they are not the ideal place to raise children? Either one admits that homosexual marriages will not result in children, and therefore the argument that children shouldn’t be raised in such relationships does not apply, or one admits that homosexual couples will have children, and the argument that such marriages don’t result in children does not apply.

Of course, the fact is that homosexuals are parents in a number of different ways. Many have children from previous heterosexual marriages or relationships, many adopt either as single people are as a couple, and many have children through other reproductive methods while in long-term homosexual relationships. How does this document propose that the law deal with these specific situations? As far as I can tell, there is no opposition from the church to homosexual parental rights. (Though the text erroneously asserts that Catholic Charities stopped performing adoptions in MA because of SSM, the issue of gay adoption and gay marriage are only tangentially linked. The potential legal threat against religious adoption agencies’ right to discriminate against homosexuals rests on the basis of non-discrimination laws, not whether or not same-sex coupes are allowed to marry. CC left MA because of gay adoption, not gay marriage.) Indeed, these parental rights, either to care for their own children despite the fact that there is no possibility for them to be raised in mix-sex relationships, or for single homosexuals (or heterosexuals for that matter) to adopt children, are completely independent from the question of marriage.

Why doesn’t the church support legal opposition to gay adoption, or the legal removal of children from gay parents if it’s concern is about the welfare of such children? The legal status of SSM will have no affect on the question of gay adoption or gay parents raising their own children, let alone issues of insemination, surrogacy, and other reproductive methods that may be employed by homosexual couples. The only impact that it has at all is to reduce a child’s right to be raised by their same-sex parent to whom they are not biologically related or legally protected. Though a child may be raised by a person all their lives, without the protection that same sex marriage offers to such children, they may be taken from their parent should the other parent die.

In what way will children be affected if SSM is allowed? As mentioned above, the church’s position asserts that it is worse for a child to be raised to two parents of the same gender than by a single parent. Further, it results in the argument that children should not have legal protection by homosexual parents currently raising children who are not allowed to marry, and that it is better for them to be raised in the foster system than by their non-biological parent. Even though a heterosexual step-parent may raise a step-child whose biological or adoptive parent dies, a homosexual would not have a legal right to his or her partner’s child in the case of death.

Despite the repeated assertions that homosexual marriages cannot have children, the text later acknowledges that homosexuals in homosexual relationships do in fact have children. What then should be the policy regarding these children? The text declines to answer this question directly, and refocuses the issue thus: “the all-important question of public policy must be: what environment is best for the child and for the rising generation?” What remains unanswered in this question is the status of these children of homosexuals. Should “public policy” insist that they enter or remain in heterosexual relationships? If SSM itself is opposed, won’t these children be raised by long-term same sex relationships anyway, as they are in the status quo? Inasmuch as the church argues for the status quo regarding marriage and children, they fail to account for the status quo of the children in same-sex families that lack the legal protection of marriage. The only difference between SSM and the status quo for same-sex families seems to be legal protections offered to children who are raised in these families.

So, after reading this document, I admit confusion over what I see as inconsistencies and misdirected focus given the stated goals of protecting children from being raised in same-sex families. Have I misunderstood the contradictory assertions that SSMs won’t have children and therefore do not deserve legal status, and the claim that SSMs are a bad place for children? Have I misunderstood the defense of the status quo as a defense of same sex couples to raise children without the legal protection that marriage might offer these children? Are these threats convincing in some way that outweighs the opportunity for homosexuals to create more stable family environments for their children?

[Edit: for the readers of this thread, there are many excellent comments below. One particular exchange may be useful, and can be successfully summarized in comments 66 and 67.]

  • Matt Perry

    Yes, you’ve misunderstood. You sounded like you had it at the beginning of your essay, and then you became dense.

    The church asserts that homosexual partners cannot “have” children in the sense of creation between themselves.

    That doesn’t contradict the second assertion you mention, that homosexual partners are not (according to the church) ideal parents–that is, that homosexual partners should not “have” children in the sense of being their primary caretakers.

    Several of your other contentions made sense to me (why aren’t they attacking gay adoption?), but not this one.

  • http://faithpromotingrumor.wordpress.com TT

    Matt, you may be right but allow me to try to explain the contradiction as I see it.

    The first argument may be depicted as follows:

    A. Society should support marriages that “have” children
    B. SSMs don’t have children, therefore
    C. Society should not support SSM

    The second argument is:

    A. Society should support “optimal” environments for children
    B. SSMs are not an optimal environment for children, therefore
    C. Society should not support SSM

    Both are logically “valid” arguments, but that does not make them true. The tension is that the B points contradict. If one switches them, one receives opposite conclusions:

    A. Society should support marriages that have children
    B. SSMs have children, therefore
    C. Society should support SSM

    and

    A. Society should support “optimal” environments for children
    B. SSMs don’t have children, therefore
    C. In SSM, children will not be raised in non-optimal environments.

    Have I properly analyzed these arguments?

  • Chris H.

    Wow, a gay marraige post.

    The whole child argument is interesting because it is an attempt to establish that there is a harm to some individual because of gay marriage. I will let the arguments speak for themselves.

    In a way it is an acceptance of John Stuart Mill’s harm principle: We should be free to do what we want as long as we do not cause harm to other individuals. From Mill’s perspective the harm to children would be a stretch. Yet, it is more of a direct connection than arguing the SSM is harm to the institution of Marriage. Mill would likely also reject viewing marriage as an institution beyond the individual relationships. On top of that, it is harm to individuals and not “institutions” that would matter.

  • Nitsav

    Dang. I’d hoped we’d stay completely SSM-discussion free here.

  • http://www.feastuponthewordblog.org BrianJ

    Nitsav, look on the bright side: someone would have to type “SSM” about 10,000 times for FPR to catch up to the other blogs on this topic.

    SSM, SSM, SSM, SSM, SSM, SSM…. Nah, I can’t do it.

    TT, I’ve been hearing for a long time that SSM is inferior because single-parent homes are not good for children. What I’ve never seen are any studies looking at how children of SSM homes fair (grades, crime, etc.—you know, the same studies used to show that fathers are necessary). Thanks for the thoughtful post.

  • http://bycommonconsent.com sister blah 2

    Interesting analysis, TT.
    “Though there are also a great number of other fascinating statements concerning gender.”

    I personally found that to be the most “fascinating” part.

  • http://bycommonconsent.com sister blah 2

    Kaimi brings up an interesting point in his BCC post, which is that CA already provides everything but the name “marriage” through its Domestic Partnership program. So all these issues of children and whatnot seem to not really apply in the specific case of prop 8. I assume that the church’s document was mean to be a more broadly applicable statement. Still, it would be interesting to go through and sift out which of the many arguments (that was a looong document!) apply and which don’t.

    On the other hand, to the extent that CA is trend-setting for states that don’t have such strong DP laws (I believe CA is rather uniquely strong in that dept, but I’m not an expert), all the arguments could be said to apply to prop 8 (i.e., no substantive change would happen in CA, but it would be domino-affecting substantive changes in other states).

  • http://openskyvisions.blogspot.com/ Steven B.

    I was surprised that an article which has been otherwise very carefully worded to include the revealing term “gender confusion” in reference to homosexuality. In my opinion, this phrase speaks volumes about where the church is at in terms of understanding gays and lesbians.

  • http://openskyvisions.blogspot.com/ Steven B.

    Forgive me for simply posting links, but I should have been to bed hours ago. For those who are interested, here are articles on same-sex parenting:

    “OTTAWA — Parenting by same-sex families is just as good — if not slightly advantageous — for children when compared to heterosexual families, a Justice Department study has concluded.”
    http://www.canada.com/theprovince/news/story.html?id=38cc20ce-7f14-44ea-b4d9-d4cd16d7a269&k=9378

    http://www.hrc.org/issues/parenting/professional-opinion.asp

  • Justin

    Intending to reduce misunderstanding and ill will, the Church has produced the following document, “The Divine Institution of Marriage,” and provided the accompanying links to other materials, to explain its reasons for defending marriage between a man and a woman as an issue of moral imperative.

    Who or what is “the Church”? Public affairs officials? General Authorities?

    Who wrote this document? Public affairs officials? BYU professors (e.g., Brent Barlow, David Dollahite)? General Authorities?

  • Michael

    As an active gay Latter-day Saint, I find the news release to be somewhat balanced. I can understand the desire to define the “ideal” for marriages and to urge society to uphold and sustain that ideal. We cannot allow exceptions to take the place of the “ideal” but we can allow for consideration of exceptions in the law.

    What I do find disconcerting (and somewhat upsetting) is the targeting of SSM to the exclusion of the much greater problems impacting marriage. The news release glosses over heterosexual relationships that will not produce children (by choice or infertility), divorce and single-parenthood (by far the largest cause of harm to children), and the cultural approach to marriage as an institution of self-fulfillment (think of Britney Spears and other gloried celebrity “marriages”). If we are serious about protecting the institution of marriage as an institution for the rearing of children in the most optimal way, then our efforts should be focused MUCH more on eliminating divorce, re-defining marriage as a pro-creation institution, and legislating disincentives to single parenthood. This is where the argument falls short. It is choosing to demonize SSM as the threat while not recognizing the root causes.

    If you allow for NON pro-creation heterosexual marriage based upon self-fulfillment and love, then how can you not allow the same for gays and lesbians? For that matter, how can you allow for NON pro-creation sex? Better to take the approach of the Catholics and define appropriate sexual relations as that which only has the opportunity to result in children.

    If you don’t actively speak out against easy divorce or single-parenthood, then how can you demonize a same sex couple raising children as less than ideal? It is the lack of consistency that undermines what is a very credible argument.

    The problem the Church faces in this argument is that society has deteriorated so much that they have to acknowledge compromises from the ideal in order to remain a credible and relevant voice but at the same time not offend those who consider themselves “legitimate” exceptions to the ideal (single parents or divorced members). The Saviour is very clear in Matthew 19 that divorce is not acceptable. Yet we ignore that commandment in our allowance of divorce within Church marriages.

    And I agree with Steven B. I have yet to understand why so many LDS leaders mix gender confusion with homosexuality. I have never been confused about my gender. I am a man. I just happen to be attracted to other men. I have no desire to be a woman or to have the attributes or character traits of a woman. So why do they continue to use gender confusion as a descriptive for homosexuality?

  • Nate W.

    Justin (10):

    Looks an awful lot like whoever wrote this cribbed from Monte Stewart at the Marriage Law Foundation. He in turn has borrowed a lot of his ideas from John Finnis at Notre Dame.

    This is part of what I see as the problem here. As a student, I researched pro and con arguments on same-sex marriage, and the strongest arguments came from Catholic scholars. The problem with the Church’s wholesale borrowing from Catholic argument is that the church has no natural law tradition (D&C 134 notwithstanding). This is why explicit natural law arguments such as infertile male-female couples or couples who don’t reproduce don’t violate the “marriage is for reproduction” principle don’t translate well for most Latter-day Saints.

    This letter has painted the Church in a corner to an extent. The Church was safe campaigning against SSM as long as its basis was in divine command. Once they start making empirical and temporal arguments against SSM that can be disproved, they move the foundation of their arguments to a claim that can be disproved. When it is (and given the fat that the letter plays fast and loose with the studies that they cite, their claims will likely be thoroughly disproved), their retreat back into divine command will take on the appearance of bad faith and discredit the Church.

    Finally, it is sad that this letter has such low quality scholarship, including the highly dubious claim that the Church will somehow be forced to recognize and perform same sex marriage. As TT notes, this has been thoroughly disproved. If the Church wants to make secular arguments, it should use its best and brightest rather than get some PR flack to (badly) crib someone else’s arguments.

  • http://www.bycommonconsent.com J. Nelson-Seawright

    Steven B. is right; there is a great deal of research suggesting that same-sex parenting arrangements produce the same secular outcomes for children as husband-and-wife arrangements. In fact, the children of lesbian couples have the best secular outcomes; they share the positive socioeconomic results of having two parents, but also gain the reduction in the likelihood of being beaten or sexually abused that comes from not having a man in the home…

    This, of course, doesn’t address issues of potential spiritual outcomes.

  • http://www.kingsxrocks.com/ FHL

    Michael: that was a very nice response – well-reasoned, not contentious, thought provoking. =) I like that things are different here. =)

    Since there doesn’t appear to be a shortage of children to be adopted (Individual reports notwithstanding) wouldn’t it be better in the long run to be more flexible in adoption rights rather than less? Assuming of course, they go to a better
    situation than what they’re in, of course.

  • http://openskyvisions.blogspot.com/ Steven B.

    “This, of course, doesn’t address issues of potential spiritual outcomes.”

    Yes, and as long as gays and lesbians are excluded by Christianity from full participation at the table of Christ, their children are more likely to grow up without the blessings of the Gospel.

    The article ignores the fact that a good portion of gays and lesbian couples are currently raising children and would greatly benefit from the protections marriage provides.

  • Michael

    FHL,

    Thanks.

    Steven B.,

    The most difficult thing I encounter in remaining active in the Church is the inability to reconcile my sexual orientation with the Plan of Salvation. There are many that don’t see the need to reconcile anything but I cannot deny the spiritual witnesses I have received over the years. I also cannot deny my innate orientation which is not chosen and which has become a part of my soul as I have grown older. In the immortal word of Stephen Sondheim, “There’s a place for us, somewhere a place for us….”

  • Chris H.

    FHL said “Since there doesn’t appear to be a shortage of children to be adopted (Individual reports notwithstanding) wouldn’t it be better in the long run to be more flexible in adoption rights rather than less?”

    Why wife has worked a bit in foster care and child protective services and wonders the same thing. This issue is so hard.

  • Lon Franson

    I’ve never understood the argument that since we allow couples to marry who [A] have no intention of having children or [B] cannot have children either due to age or medical condition, the argument that same gender couple should not be allowed to marry because they are inherently infertile is invalid. The first options have little bearing on the second since they are not breaking the norm or redefining the concept.

    Line up 100 hetersexual couples. Now, point out which ones choose not to have kids. Now, point out which ones married to late to have children. Now, point on which ones could not have children due to a number of medical possibilities. You can’t do it. Add a selection of homosexual couples and you most certainly can. Any attempt to limit heterosexual couples to only child bearing ones would run into a few problems. First, what kind of medical tests would be performed to conclusively exclude certain couples from being partners? Second, people can and have changed their minds on the issue of having children. Third, even if a couple cannot fulfill the primary (not sole) purpose of being married does not mean they should not be able to enjoy the secondary (and still great) benefits of marriage as long as doing so does not weaken the primary purpose/benefit. But a homosexual union can from day one be pointed to as one changing the base definition – that marriage is, at it’s core, about the couple and not about the family.

  • http://www.bycommonconsent.com J. Nelson-Seawright

    Lon, what about the emerging medical techniques that allow the creation of embryos that come from the DNA of two eggs, and potentially in the future two sperm? Such techniques would mean that it would be impossible to identify couples that cannot have children, other than perhaps by age.

  • Lon Franson

    #19 – True. And perhaps such advances might just form the basis of the Church changing its position regarding same sex couples at some point in the future. I could actually see that happening. But I’m not sure I’m comfortable arguing a change today to a centuries (probably millennial) old definition of marriage as heterosexual (whether monogamous or polygamous) based upon technology that might be available in the future and certainly only to the richest of countries for a while yet.

  • http://www.feastuponthewordblog.org BrianJ

    Steven B, thanks for posting those links (#9).

  • http://millennialstar.org John Mansfield

    J. Nelson-Seawright, is your comment that lesbians are the best possible parents just brainstorming, or is it based on some research you came across? I ask because when I looked at the American Academy of Pediatrics’ summaries of research what I mostly found has that the outcomes for children raised by lesbian couples are similar to those for children raised by single divorced mothers.

  • http://openskyvisions.blogspot.com/ Steven B.

    John, The part about lesbian parenting probably came from the Canadian study referenced above (#9):

    “A few studies suggest that children with two lesbian mothers may have marginally better social competence than children in ‘traditional nuclear’ families, even fewer studies show the opposite, and most studies fail to find any differences,” says the 74-page study.

    The study found that most of the available research on gay parents is on lesbian mothers, which fits into other studies that conclude women generally spend more time with their children than men. But the report says there is still too little research, especially about gay male parents, to reach any final conclusions.

  • NOYDMB

    Is anyone else NOT surprised that when FPR decided to discuss SSM they decided to come out against the church?
    I thought not…

  • NOYDMB

    Well, at least all of FPR can pat themselves on the back for knowing better than the brethren.
    I witness before God, I don’t clap for you, but weep.

  • http://www.feastuponthewordblog.org BrianJ

    NOYDMB: I didn’t get the feeling that TT was coming out against the church. Not at all.

  • Howard

    NOYDMB,
    TT posted on Criticism just before this post. It is worth reading; in academic circles; one is required to be “critical.” This kind of “criticism” simply means analysis and judgment concerning one’s subject.

  • Nate W.

    NOYDMB:

    Matt. 7:1-2.

    I weep as well.

  • TrevorM

    I wrote a response… which I have since deleted.

    I think that the argument for the exclusion of same-sex marriage is so steeped in church doctrine is inviable in public circles. They search and search to make the best secular arguments they can, and this is the best they can do so far.
    I am torn about this issue.

  • http://faithpromotingrumor.wordpress.com/ Mogget the Unamused

    Hello, NOYDMB,

    I’d like to get a better understanding of precisely why and how you think that FPR has come out against the church. To the best of my knowledge, this post was written by TT, acting alone. I am the participant on this blog that most strongly stands against the discussion of sexuality here. I do so because we have little expertise in the field and the bloggernacle is already well-served when it comes to groundless opinions, inane, circular arguments, and general all-around crap on the topic.

    There is, however, a sub-disciple of theology called the theology of the body. Posts such as TT’s fit nicely into that category. His is also a discerning analysis of the content of an official, public church statement that could easily be the basis of a published article in a peer-reviewed journal. In short, it is precisely what is expected of a gentleman in his position and with his training. And since he is not the only thoughtful reader in the world with an interest in these matters, you may expect that his points, and others like them, will appear all over the country and be analyzed for years in public and scholarly fora.

    As far as I can tell, this post says nothing unacceptable or uncharitable about the Church, its leaders, or their authority. It merely points out some incoherence. This is the 21st century and we are Americans. We maintain a civil society by allowing neutral discussion of things like this within certain bounds. The precise limits of acceptable discussion are NOT set solely by any religion, much less one anonymous member associated with that religion. Society also has say, in that religions that shut down this sort of discussion find themselves identified negatively, which ALWAYS has a deleterious effect on evangelical efforts. ALWAYS.

    So I think that as we watch this situation play itself out, we will find some adjustment, probably in the form of amplification or explanation. And that will be fine. We do not have an infallible church, or infallible leaders, but we do have a perfect, and perfectly understanding God. Line up on line, precept upon precept…

    And now, NYODMB, TT sent you a little message this AM. I want you to know that what he said goes double for me. I take some care to promote and sustain charitable, informed discussions but you, my friend, have crossed a line that I cannot and will not ignore. Please take his advice.

    Mogs

  • oudenos

    The ‘save the children’ argument being put forth in the press release seems to be a flanking tactic. By putting ‘the children’ first, the authors of the press release make it appear as though this is the most important issue in marriage. Although this is a strong emotional appeal (who doesn’t want children to thrive?), the church has been consistent on the fact that the most important bond is between spouses, children being secondary. The SSM issue is between spouses and would-be spouses. The ‘children first’ argument is just a rhetorical artifact.

    This isn’t to say that the church is not concerned about children. No doubt it is, deeply. But when it comes right down to the nitty gritty missionary-chart of exaltation, it is the couple which proceeds to the highest state, while the children end up wherever they may (yes, yes we all must be exalted together linking generations and family, wocka, wocka, wocka).

    So to the authors of the press release: Out with it–the issue is about couples, children are ancillary.

  • http://ethesis.blogspot.com/ Stephen M (ethesis)

    “This claim deserves investigation since the church is not required by law even to perform all heterosexual marriages, it is unclear why SSM would alter that right of the church.”

    Err, take a look at what has happened to the Boy Scouts.

  • Nate W.

    What exactly has happened to the Boy Scouts? They have a constitutional right to exclude gays, as the Supreme Court ruled in BSA v. Dale. This right to exclude applies to the church as well. The fact that the city of Philadelphia has refused to extend them the privilege of being able to lease a building for a dollar a year does not contradict that right. As I have mentioned over at the BCC thread, Tax-exempt status and other benefits are not constitutionally guaranteed, but also not likely to be revoked anytime soon (largely because they’d have to revoke the Catholic Church’s tax-exempt status as well).

  • Michael

    What happened with the Boy Scouts was that the US Supreme Court correctly affirmed the right of the BSA to exclude gays. It was the consequences of the BSA’s choice that caused supporters of the exclusion consternation. Because of its choice not to allow gays, many in society decided that the Scouting program did not deserve the priveleged benefits they had been receiving from the states and cities. They also lost a large amount of financial support of corporations and individuals. Such are the results of the BSA’s choice. It does not take away their right to exclude, it just takes away the goodwill they used to have with most of the public. I still don’t understand the BSA’s insistence on discriminating against someone’s orientation but that is their right.

    Sometimes you can’t have your cake and eat it too.

  • NOYDMB

    Yes, Mogs, it is always best to silence those you disagree with. How fitting that you stick up for your own right to call fowl on the church’s arguments that you disagree with and in the very same comment are willing to silent all dissent with those who do not interpret the situation the same as you.
    Unamused, yet unimpressive…

  • NOYDMB

    Why is it that you all think your observations, ad-hominem, and so on is acceptable but when someone disagrees with you, you have to silence them. The reasoned mind doesn’t need to crush the opposition with strong-arm tactics. They remind my of mind-control, 1984, and book burnings. Not too proud of a time for FPR.
    For the record, my initial comment was not was not directed solely or intentionally on TT. I don’t care about authors, merely in the tenor of the post. And if, in general, commentors don’t recognize that Mormons 1) recognize Revelation by church authorities as the destinctive characteristic of Mormonism, it seems like something that SHOULD be poited out. I weep because until now this blog has been free of (most) of that intellectual tyranny that supports SSM. “We thank thee, O God, that we are smart enough to be tolerant enough, to know, O God that art ever a spirit, that the LDS Church’s arguments are not wise enough, and therefore, Holy God, we worship thee through our own arrogance of being able to define right and wrong instead of the LDS Church’s priesthood.” This is only a condemnation against TT if he falls into that category, a statement which I have not written. Sometimes you learn the most from the naysayer rather than through the yes-person. Are you quite comfortable silencing those who say dissenting (and also disagreeable things). If you are, you probably aren’t very comfortable in those beliefs. If you choose to erase this, it will only stand as a testimony of your inability to deal with those that disagree with you. I personally, couldn’t care less.

  • Robert

    Justin stated:
    “This letter has painted the Church in a corner to an extent. The Church was safe campaigning against SSM as long as its basis was in divine command. Once they start making empirical and temporal arguments against SSM that can be disproved, they move the foundation of their arguments to a claim that can be disproved.”

    I think this is a brilliant observation. When I consider the reasoning of the Church, it occurs to me that “not” invoking divine command may be a method of damage control for those LDS members who might find such a command irreconcilable with their own experiences in the 21st century.

    I am somewhat surprised that no one has mentioned that the Church’s position regarding homosexuality is very clear in the letter: you may be homosexual, but do not act upon it. This implies that gay identified individuals are morally inferior to heterosexuals as there is no “church approved” method for expressing identity.

    What else do I need to know in order to understand that I do not belong in this church?

  • Steve M

    Re: #32,

    I didn’t know that the Boy Scouts performed marriages.

  • http://blakeostler.com Blake

    TT: The concerns about tax exempt status and having revoked licenses to perform counseling and perform adoptions are legitimate concerns. I believe that Matt W. is understating the danger to the Church from these issues unless the church were willing to say that gay sex is just fine within the confines of marriage. The Church’s stance on the reason for the State recognizing marriage is historically accurate. The State’s interest in protecting children has indeed been the historical justification for marriage as a State supported institution as the New York Supreme Court recognized in Hernandez v. Robles. The Church wasn’t making that up or plucking it out of thin air as TT seems to suggest. Further, marriage has traditionally and historically been the province or a Church or religion and not a secular institution. And the Church is correct that gays don’t procreate with each other — and JNS’s observations about scientific possibilities doesn’t change that fact at present. Let’s hope it never does.

    Of course it is also correct that the church doesn’t limit marriage to only those couples that can procreate. But that is a matter of choice or particular circumstances and not an absolutely general fact that is true of all heterosexual couples as it is for gays. To that extent, the Church’s observation is valid and underlies the justification for the State to get involved in the marriage business historically. Of course, if gay couples are allowed to adopt, then the concern for those children seems to be just as real. But then the issue becomes whether gay couples ought to be allowed to adopt. Should roommates be allows to adopt? How about business partners? It seems to me that the Church’s position is consistent only if it takes the position that gays ought not be allowed to adopt. I believe it takes that position, doesn’t it?

    The experience of the BSA in being denied funding by many governmental agencies because of its stance regarding exclusion of gay leaders is a good predictor of what will happen to the Church in CA. It may well lose goodwill and possibly tax exempt status and the right to perform adoptions unless prop 22 passes. It is a real danger and not merely imagined. It is not certain; but it is real enough that the Church is justified to be concerned.

    Just what is puzzling about not wanting gays to be alone in the woods with young boys while they dress and undress? Isn’t it like not wanting a male gym teacher who watches the girls shower?

    Nate W.: I’m just confused by your statement here. The BSA was denied funding and rights to lease by Philadelphia. The BSA had the right to have th same benefits extended to all other organizations under the Equal Protection Clause and it was denied that equality because of its stance on gay leaders. That is a possible downside for the Church given its stance on SSM. You’re right that refusal of governmental entities to grant privileges to organizations is not inconsistent with the Church’s right to not perform SSM — but that rather misses the point. It is still a significant downside for the Church that it could be denied benefits from the government so that government is in the business of promoting same sex relations and discouraging those institutions that regard homosexual sexual relations as sinful or unacceptable.

  • http://newcoolthang.com Matt W.

    For the Record Blake meant Nate W., not me!

  • Chris H.

    Wow, Blake’s comment says a lot about the state of LDS intellectual thought.

  • http://blakeostler.com Blake

    Wow Chris, what the heck does that mean? Care to actually address something substantive?

  • Chris H.

    Okay, I will play.

    That someone who is supposed to be one of Mormonism’s leading public intellectuals would stoop to using anti-gay fearmongering and stereotypes in response to one of the brighest commentaries on the issue is saddening. That is what I meant. The substance of your comment is not worth further addressing.

  • Nate W.

    Blake:

    Before my response, an aside: The equation of gay men to pedophiles is something we can all do without. It doesn’t bolster your argument, it undermines your credibility and it doesn’t speak well of you. From what I’ve read that you’ve written, you’re better than that.

    As to your argument about tax exemption and other state and federal benefits, the reason that I don’t think the church should be concerned is because of who the decision makers are for the benefits that the Church claims. Unlike the BSA, the Church is not subject to a government in its capacity as a landlord, nor is it subject to city governments, which have much more of a capacity to take radical positions than larger governments. The Church also, as far as I am aware, does not take money from any governments. The two benefits that I think the church enjoys from the government are tax-exempt status, and licensing for adoption. The former, as I have said before, is not under any real danger because of the sheer number of churches that will not recognize or solemnize same-sex marriage. For an elected official (and only elected officials would revoke tax-exempt status), this would be an electoral disaster–especially since even those that are less religious still would find revoking a church’s tax-exempt status untenable. I think that will be treated much the same way as not ordaining female clergy. Unless the Church is as alone on this issue as Bob Jones University was on interracial dating, I think there’s no threat of the federal government taking away the Church’s tax-exempt status. That goes for states as well, for the same reasons plus the fact that most states just depend on the federal exemptions law to determine their own exemptions.

    Adoption is another matter, however. I personally think that LDS family services is in a better position to keep its licensing because they don’t discriminate against gays and lesbians per se; they discriminate against any couple who is not Mormon. Since it’s their policy to only place children with LDS families, and a gay couple is by the Church’s definition not an LDS family, it follows that they would not be ineligible not by their orientation but by their religion. If a state didn’t object to only placing with LDS couples before, I find it unlikely that the state would object after recognizing same-sex marriage or passing a non-discrimination law or what have you. This seems to be emperically supported by the fact that LDS family services is still operating in Massachusetts.

    Ultimately, I think there are adequate structural protections for the Church’s continued enjoyment of government privileges from state and federal governments. There’s definitely room for disagreement on the subject, but I think that the disagreement is more productive when you look at exactly what privileges we’re talking about, who could take them away, and at what it would cost them to take those privileges away.

    Regards, NATE

  • http://blakeostler.com Blake

    Nate W.: First, your opening caution is out of place and frankly quite insulting. I didn’t in the least suggest that all gays are pedophiles. I merely suggested the obvious: male gays are attracted to males the same way that heterosexuals are attracted to females. So I didn’t equate gays with pedophiles and I believe that your assertion that I did ought to be corrected. We can do without such accusations too. I’d like to believe that you just misread and didn’t intend to impute some a ridiculous position as that all gays are pedophiles to me. I don’t want male scout leaders anymore than I want heterosexual males in the girl’s locker room and for the same reasons.

    With respect to tax consequences, the problem is both legislative and judicial. Will the Church have the same legislative clout to stave off tax-exemption attacks in liberal and southern states as you seem to believe? I really doubt it. But the Church ought not have to confront such a risk at all based on its stance on same sex unions. The judiciary worries me much more. The CA court could easily find that because gay marriage is a basic state constitutional right, any institution that failed to extend that right to gays is not entitled to perform marriages, adoptions and so forth. The California court has already shown a penchant to promote its own political agenda and I believe that the Church is right not to trust it. Even if the risk is small, it is much too large of a risk for the Church to just stand by and hope it doesn’t come about.

    As you appear to admit, the danger to the Church related to adoption is real and has not yet been tested. In Mass. the state is just gearing up to take on the issue. The issue is more critical in California because it has held that same sex marriage is a basic state constitutional right. Any entity that abridges that right by refusal to grant adoptions to gays on an equal basis may well be denied a license for adoption. More serious still, the Church does occasionally place children with non-member families both in foster care and permanently. Thus, your analysis is inaccurate.

    So I believe that the Church is wise to be concerned and would be unwise to base its approach to same sex marriage on your legal surmise. I agree that the kind of analysis you have engaged is an appropriate way to approach the issues; but given that there is room for disagreement, there is too much at stake for the Church to sit this one out.

    Chris: Your accusations are beneath fair comment. I didn’t engage in the least in fear-mongering and stereotypes. The issues have I have raised are genuine and call for careful assessment. I believe that your comments simply show a willingness to call names rather than engage issues. I can see why you wouldn’t want to engage in a fair and open discussion and you cut off dialog after two insulting comments — your approach is something we can all do without.

  • http://blakeostler.com Blake

    Christ H. — to add to what I said above. I believe that we have met. You are at the UofU in polisci I believe. I expected much better from you and it is difficult to express my disappointment in your personal attack on me here. I would like to believe that at some future time we could still respect each other, but your vitriol expressed here is out of place.

  • Nate W.

    Blake–you imply that gay scout leaders will be assaulting teen boys in the woods and you act insulted when others call you out on it? That’s pretty nervy. Your statement tells me that you probably don’t have a gay friend. You see, there is a difference between a straight man with teenage girls and a gay man with teenage boys. The most obvious difference is that a gay man used to be a teenage boy, so it has a completely different cultural referent. I mean, by your logic, it is inappropriate for gay men to use the men’s restroom. I could go on about your statement and classic gay stereotypes–feminine and hyper-masculine–but I won’t. This isn’t really a question of logic as much as it is about empathy. If you don’t have that, it’s a waste of time, so I’m just going to go on.

    As far as the legal privileges question, I fully admit that I don’t work at Kirton McConkie, so the Church isn’t going to listen to my legal advice anytime soon. And I think the risk to the Church regarding this issue is something that reasonable people can disagree on. I just think that when we discuss this risk, we need to look at the actual risks, not hypothetical ones, and the actual structural barriers rather than hypothetical ones. For example, when you cite the Church’s status in the South, that would be a concern not backed up by full analysis: for a southern state to go after the Church for it’s position on SSM, they would also have to go after the SBC. They aren’t gonna do that. That’s a structural barrier we have to consider and think through. I’m convinced that when we reason through the facts of each benefit, the risks are lower than they may look at first glance. You may disagree, and that’s fine. But it’s important to not lazily assert that the sky is falling without doing the actual analysis to back it up.

  • http://blakeostler.com Blake

    Nate W.: Why do you compound your insults with non-sense? My good friend and one of the closest persons on earth to me is gay. So perhaps you’ll think twice before spouting off about matters that you obviously know nothing about — and you add insult to ignorance. Look, you seem able to be reasonable so I am at a loss as to your refusal to see the concern here. So let me be clear: I don’t assert that all gay men are pedophiles any more than heterosexuals. I do claim that more gay men are strongly attracted to males than heterosexuals. I also claim that any man who is a pedophile with males is gay or has gay tendencies. That shouldn’t be difficult to grasp.

    However, I can agree with you about empathy. If you don’t understand the concern about gay men with young boys, then I doubt that you can understand the position of the BSA. But the concern is justified in my view. In fact, my views are shaped by my discussions with my gay friend.

    I also agree that the southern states won’t go after the church because to do would require taking on the SBC. What about Maine, Mass or California? If Mass. was willing to take on the Catholics who have nearly as much clout in Mass. as Mormons in Utah, then your analysis seems to seriously downplay the risk. Your analysis about what you think the prevailing political winds may be isn’t something the Church can take for granted. So it is best not to be a Pollyanna about such issues without doing the actual analysis to back it up.

  • http://openskyvisions.blogspot.com/ Steven B.

    Just to put the record straight here, Mass. didn’t take on the Catholics. The bishops themselves pulled the plug, and probably did it as a political statement. Remember, Catholic Charities had previously placed children with same-sex couples for many years, in accordance with the non-discrimination legislation enacted a decade before SSM came to Mass. Same-sex marriage was simply the catalyst that prompted the bishops to halt adoptions in the state.

    Now in San Francisco, the Catholic Charities simply refer clients to other agencies when a potential same-sex family would be involved. The Mass bishops were not willing to seek such a compromise that would benefit the children. That is why their action has been viewed as political.

  • smallaxe

    I don’t want male scout leaders anymore than I want heterosexual males in the girl’s locker room and for the same reasons.

    Blake, the more appropriate comparison would be male girl-scout leaders. Locker rooms are by definition places were people are nude, and I neither recall ever seeing my scout master nude, or him seeing me nude. Scouting is not comparable to hanging out in a locker room. To say the least it’s an uncharitable comparison, but I’ll refrain from psychoanalyzing it anymore than that.

  • http://faithpromotingrumor.wordpress.com/ John C.

    NOYDMB,
    As far as I can tell, you are the only person to have employed ad hominem in your conversations here. We are simply asking you to be polite. Politeness does involve not accusing your opponents in an intellectual debate of being burning demons from hell or apostate. As you do not seem to be able to grasp that, all your comments will be moderated for the time being. I apologize that it has come to this.

  • http://blakeostler.com Blake

    Steven B.: Thanks for the info regarding Mass. I have a good friend who negotiated with Mass. for Catholic Charities and he tells quite a different story. Catholic Charities did not place children with same sex couples. It was only a person who may have been gay who adopted, not a couple. Catholic Charities carefully reviewed the new Mass. ruling and discovered that it could not avoid expressly recognizing same sex couples and maintain its licensing. It therefore chose under the coercive options of either not allowing adoptions or recognizing marriages of same sex couples to get out of the adoption business. It’s licensing was clearly the issue. I agree that the decision was a political issue – one forced by the legal environment in which they worked.

    I am not aware of Catholic Charities in San Francisco referring out, but I am aware that it is presently reviewing its options in California as well. The issue isn’t resolved in California because the issue is rather new. The issue of one member of a same sex couple adopting is different than the issue of same sex couples adopting.

    Smallaxe. I think that you’re right. Male girl scout leaders on a campout with girls would be a better analogy. Do we want that?

    However, I’m not convinced that the locker room analogy isn’t appropos. Perhaps you’ve never seen the scouts go skinny dipping al improviso? How about having their shorts run up the flagpole? Come on, 12-14 years old boys just aren’t the angels you seem to portray. Come to think of it, neither are the girl scouts.

  • http://faithpromotingrumor.wordpress.com TT

    “Male girl scout leaders on a campout with girls would be a better analogy. Do we want that? ”

    Don’t we require this for girls camp?

    “The issue of one member of a same sex couple adopting is different than the issue of same sex couples adopting.”

    This seems to raise an interesting point that I’d like some clarification on. In what way is an adoptive single parent who may be involved in a many same sex relationships during their life a morally superior option than adoptive parents in SSM?

  • http://faithpromotingrumor.wordpress.com TT

    I should reiterate my note above, that even though Catholic Charities performed 13 gay parent adoptions for 10 years before SSM, the legal basis for opposing adoptions to gay families seems to be irrelevant to the question of marriage. Rather, gay adoptions are performed because of anti-discrimination laws, including in many states that do not have SSM. I fail to see why SSM will change the status quo in this regard.

    Further, I would like to suggest that LDSFS is not the church, in the same way that CC is not the Catholic Church. That there may be legal implications to these organizations is not the same thing as saying that there will be legal implications to the Church itself. The Catholic Church is still allowed to deny SSM in MA, as is the LDS church. As long as both churches are able to discriminate against performing certain mixed-sex marriages, such as marriages of people from two different faiths, marriages of people who do not meet certain moral standards, etc, I am confused as to why anyone would think that we would be required to marry gay couples in our temples.

    I am curious if anyone can remember if the question of tax-exemption was brought up in opposition to the Civil Rights movement. Were LDS leaders/lawyers who opposed Civil Rights making the claim that LDS could no longer exclude black members from the priesthood if Civil Rights passed?

  • http://blakeostler.com Blake

    TT: Don’t we require this for girls camp?

    We always require that girl’s camp leaders be female. There may be males present, but never sleeping in tents in the same area. It is hardly comparable to male scout leaders on a wilderness camp out. The men never attend the wilderness overnighter with young women to my knowledge and certainly not in my stake.

    Why do you assume that a single adoptive parent would have many same sex relations? There is a screening process and evaluation to insure the stability and “moral” acceptability of the home environment in every adoption. The best interests of the child are always paramount. Even heterosexuals who are involved in many sex relationships are screened and, when known, rejected. However, I accept the observation that a stable homosexual relationship is morally superior to sleeping around and to that extent a “marriage” and committed relationship would be preferable to promiscuity. However, what does “marriage” really add to faithfulness for gays? There are literally hundreds of thousands who are in stable relationships without marriage. So marriage isn’t the sine qua non of commitment. What does it add except for the legal protections that were already in place in California before the ruling in In Re Marriage Cases?

  • smallaxe

    Come on, 12-14 years old boys just aren’t the angels you seem to portray.

    I’ve always thought it would take more than 4 sentences to apotheosize teenagers.

  • Chris H.

    Blake,

    I am a product of poli sci at the UofU (BA and MA) but I have not been there since 2005.

    The gays alone with boys in the woods was the stereotyping and fearmongering part. I do not have a lot of time, but there is little social science to support arguments against gay rights. So, it seems that many tap into fear (they will take away our tax status). It is not all that hard to get people rallied against gays.

    Maybe you were not doing this. It read that way to me. Sorry.

    I generally avoid the issue for employment reasons. I should continue to do so. Good luck to ya.

    Chris H.

  • http://faithpromotingrumor.wordpress.com TT

    Sorry for the multiple posts. I wanted to address a few other comments:

    Blake 39: “The Church’s stance on the reason for the State recognizing marriage is historically accurate. The State’s interest in protecting children has indeed been the historical justification for marriage as a State supported institution as the New York Supreme Court recognized in Hernandez v. Robles. The Church wasn’t making that up or plucking it out of thin air as TT seems to suggest.”

    I hope no one had the impression that I thought the Church was making up the idea that marriage is exclusively about children. Rather, I was hoping to get some clarification on this argument, since it seems manifestly not the case either legally or in church practice.

    “Further, marriage has traditionally and historically been the province or a Church or religion and not a secular institution.”

    I am confused by this argument as well. First, on the grounds that the fact that marriage has been a lot of things “traditionally and historically,” including granting men the right to beat their wives, establishing male ownership of women as legal property, as not being in conflict with male pederastic relationships, etc, does not seem to form a convincing argument in itself. Of course, depending on which “traditions and history” one is talking about, an entirely different view of marriage can be produced. Second, the fact that you point to Hernandez vs. Roble seems to contradict this point, since the state does in fact take the role of defining marriage and the purpose of marriage, and has done so for a long time. Since Reynolds, the state has denied certain kinds of marriages and accepted others. Whatever medieval ecclesiastical authority churches had in determining legal marriages does not seem to apply to US “tradition and history.” [Edit: Third, if your argument is correct that marriage traditionally and historically is in the realm of churches, why should churches be denied the right to perform SSM (or, polygamy for that matter)?]

    “And the Church is correct that gays don’t procreate with each other”

    I am not sure that you have addressed my points above regarding the seeming incoherence of this argument. My grandparents don’t procreate either, but they are allowed to marry and remarry. I think that what is at issue in marriage and the protections given to children in marriage don’t derive from the biological capabilities of parents, but from their roles as gaurdians of children. As I noted above, gay couples have children from previous heterosexual marriages/relationships, they adopt, and they have children through other reproductive methods, all of which heterosexual couples do as well. The argument is that these children should deserve the same legal rights as the adopted children, step-children, and surrogate/inseminated children of heterosexual couples. Can you explain how the argument works that asserts that the children of gay parents are less deserving of the benefits of marriage that other children?

    Blake 52: “Catholic Charities did not place children with same sex couples.”

    This seems to be factually inaccurate according to the Boston Globe story: http://www.boston.com/news/local/articles/2005/10/22/archdiocesan_agency_aids_in_adoptions_by_gays/

  • http://blakeostler.com Blake

    TT: You are quite correct that sometimes gay couples in fact have children from prior marriages or now from adoption. To that extent the rationale of limiting marriage to heterosexual unions to protect children doesn’t seem to work as strongly. However, it is not an inconsistency for the Church because it does not promote or condone gay adoptions and the adoptions have not been by gay couples but only by one of the partners in a gay relationship.

    That was also true of Catholic Charities. CC may have known that one partner was in a committed gay relationship but the placement was with one of the partners, not with the couple as such since gay couples as such previously did not have legal status to adopt. That changed with the Mass. ruling. So the newspaper article you cite is not quite accurate since it fails to distinguish between adoption by a gay couple and adoption by one person who is in a gay relationship.

    Further, I accept that the sole purpose of marriage cannot be limited to bearing children. It must also relate to protecting relationships that the State has an interest in protecting and fostering. The debate about whether gay relationships are such that the State has in interest in promoting them and protecting them has been short circuited by the various court rulings in California and Mass., but that debate is taking place in other states. To the extent gay couples have children, the rationale for protecting their children seems to be just as strong. However, New Jersey was willing to limit such protection to civil unions and Ohio and New York have found that their state constitutions don’t require the same protections for gay couples because they are not similarly situated because in principle gays must rely on someone outside the couple to produce children.

    Read the Robles decision. It recognizes that protection of children has been the historic reason in the U.S. for the state to be involved in marriage. As I’m sure you’re aware, the State did not perform marriage in many countries in Europe and the precedents for the U.S. system are religious and not secular. I believe that such precedents are relevant and so do the at least six courts that have considered same sex marriage issues that have not simply found a right to marry residing somewhere in the netherworld of their state’s constitutional language.

    My view is that gay couples can have all of the protection for their relationships and their children through civil unions and they don’t require the designation of “marriage”. In fact, the California decision added absolutely nothing to protection of gay relationships and children that didn’t already exist with the broad civil unions statute in California. So the argument is straightforward: gay marriage is superfluous in light of the already broad protections granted to gays and recognizing gay unions as a marriage promotes and condones relationships that the State doesn’t have as great an interest to promote. It is not the role of government to promote gay relationships; it is the role of government to promote fidelity rather than promiscuity and to protect children. That is best done by granting civil unions to gays and recognizing a moral distinction between heterosexual marriage and gay unions. Yes, committed gay relationships are better than promiscuous relationships; but the State doesn’t have the same interest to promote them that it has in promoting heterosexual marriages. Thus, the State ought to promote heterosexual relationships more than gay unions, and gay unions more than promiscuous gay relationships.

  • http://blakeostler.com Blake

    Chris H. Thanks for the kind reply.

  • http://faithpromotingrumor.wordpress.com TT

    “not an inconsistency for the Church because it does not promote or condone gay adoptions”

    Is there any public statement to this effect? I am not aware that the church has involved itself in opposing the legal right of gay people to adopt children. You may b right, but the church has not seemed to get politically involved in this moral issue. Inasmuch as the logic for opposition to SSM rests on the problem of gay adoption, this focus seems misplaced. Why doesn’t the church get involved in anti-gay-adoption movements which would actually accomplish the stated goals, rather than this round about way?

    “the adoptions have not been by gay couples but only by one of the partners in a gay relationship.”

    Hmm. This distinction may be true, but is there any evidence that in these 13 cases they were only adopted by one person and not two? Are there reasons why that would have been the case, such as that one cannot be adopted by two people who are not related? If you are right, yes, CC placed these children with “couples” but adopted by only one partner because gay couples aren’t/weren’t legally recognized, not as a matter of principle from opposing gay couples. Quite the opposite- there is no evidence that they placed children in with single parents who happened to be gay; but only with those who were in long-term relationships.
    But this raises the same question I offered above: if the church doesn’t legally oppose “single” gay people who happen to be in long-term relationships (but who cannot marry as a matter of law) from adopting children, why would they oppose those who married from doing so?

    “New Jersey was willing to limit such protection to civil unions and Ohio and New York have found that their state constitutions don’t require the same protections for gay couples because they are not similarly situated because in principle gays must rely on someone outside the couple to produce children.”

    I am not sure what the relevance of these decisions are to this discussion since I am attempting to understand the logic, not the legal or constitutional history. The logic here seems to be that relationships that rely on “someone outside the couple to produce children” should only be called civil unions. I would be fine with that so long as infertile couples who adopt of seek other reproductive methods have their relationships downgraded too.

    “Read the Robles decision. It recognizes that protection of children has been the historic reason in the U.S. for the state to be involved in marriage.”

    This may or may not be the case (it seems to not be with regard to polygamy cases, for instance), but I am not sure why it is relevant to this discussion either. I have already offered numerous examples, which you have conceded, that gay couples do in fact have children. If so, then by this logic they should be able to marry. Further, even if this is the “historic” reason for state involvement, it seems to be out of character with actual practice, because, as we have mentioned and as you have granted, there are numerous marriages that take place every day that have no hope for reproductive possibilities, and actually have less hope that homosexual couples who are still fertile.

    “gay marriage is superfluous in light of the already broad protections granted to gays and recognizing gay unions as a marriage promotes and condones relationships that the State doesn’t have as great an interest to promote.”

    The notion that gay marriage is “superfluous” seems flatly contradictory to all of the harms that you lay out and the reasons that you give that it should be opposed. If gay couples are already afforded all of these rights, then the status quo should experience some or all of the harms that the church lays out, such as harms to children, and harms to the church’s tax-status. If gay marriage offers no real change to the status quo as you suggest, then I am not sure that any of the arguments against it have any value unless actual, rather than hypothetical harms can be produced.
    The burden of proof of harm, then, requires that one demonstrate that if the children of gay parents are in “civil unions” rather than “marriages,” they are better off. Inasmuch as the church supports the status quo legal rights of gay couples in CA, which are equivalent to marriage as you suggest, I am completley confused as to the basis for their opposition to the use of the term “marriage.” None of the arguments offered suggest that there is something sacrosanct about this term, but rather that the legal rights offered in marriage are what should be denied. But Prop 8 doesn’t accomplish that, right?

    “it is the role of government to promote fidelity rather than promiscuity and to protect children. That is best done by granting civil unions to gays…”

    By “promote fidelity,” do you mean only “heterosexual fidelity”? The state has no interest in promoting homosexual fidelity? By “protect children” do you mean “children of heterosexual parents”? I am not sure how you see civil unions as a superior protection to children and as better promoting fidelity than the traditional values of marriages could offer homosexual couples.

    Again, I see the claim that “the State should promote” one kind of marriage as in complete contradiction with your previous claim about why you think that the State was not involved at marriage in medieval Europe as “relevant” to this discussion. I am confused as to whether you think it is the States job to promote “moral” marriages or whether you think that churches should be given the exclusive right to define legal marriage.

  • http://blakeostler.com Blake

    TT: “The notion that gay marriage is “superfluous” seems flatly contradictory to all of the harms that you lay out and the reasons that you give that it should be opposed. If gay couples are already afforded all of these rights, then the status quo should experience some or all of the harms that the church lays out, such as harms to children, and harms to the church’s tax-status.”

    This is the nub of the issue. Civil unions don’t present the same dangers to religious organizations that gay marriage does. California has recognized gay marriage as a state constitutional right that cannot be abridged even by a referendum vote. Thus it is a fundamental right that the State must protect. The Church faces the parade of horribles possibility as a result that it doesn’t face with civil unions per se. Thus, civil unions give the benefits to gays and protection of children of gays, but don’t have the same potential downside of gay marriage as a constitutional right.

    By “promoting fidelity” I mean both gay and heterosexual fidelity. The state has an interest in promoting fidelity in both kinds of relationships to promote familial stability and to avoid STDs which are rampant on both populations. However, the State has a greater interest in promoting heterosexual unions because they are not similarly situated to gay couples that cannot naturally produce children.

    “I am not sure how you see civil unions as a superior protection to children and as better promoting fidelity than the traditional values of marriages could offer homosexual couples.”

    I don’t see it that way. This gets it backwards. I see civil unions as providing the same protection for children as marriage; but not as state promotion of of the relationship. Thus, civil unions provide the same protections to children without promoting the gay relationships as the best vehicle for children. The state has an interest in promoting married heterosexual couples; it doesn’t have an interest to promoting gay relationships. The State has an interest in protecting children who are being raised by gays just as much as children being raised by heterosexuals. Civil unions are thus ideally suited because they offer protections without promoting and without the downside of the possible effects on tax exempt status and licensing for religious organizations that have every right to view homosexual sexual activity as immoral. Thus, the California decision has an incredible potential downside for religious organization (and to that extent for society) without offering gays and their children any additional protections. Thus, gay marriage is bad to that extent and going back to the way it was with civil unions before the California Supreme Court pulled a fundamental constitutional right out of thin air is preferable.

  • http://faithpromotingrumor.wordpress.com TT

    Blake 62,
    I think we are making some progress here. I appreciate your patience in helping me sort through these issues.

    “This is the nub of the issue. Civil unions don’t present the same dangers to religious organizations that gay marriage does.”

    You make this argument a number of times. I think that this helps clarify somethings, but I need some further explanation since I am not sure that you have sufficiently demonstrated this harm. What is the threat that gay marriage poses to religious organizations? If you are suggesting that religious organizations will be forced to perform such marriages or loose their tax-exempt status, can you please explain a) why you think it likely that politicians would allow the SBC, Catholic church, Orthodox churches, the LDS church others to lose this status b) any empirical claims in any of the countries or states in which gay marriage is permitted that have restricted religious financial rights. Given that I have never seen any actual evidence of b), and I don’t see a) likely in any real-world scenario, I am having trouble imagining what these “threats” actually are, as opposed to hypothetically. If the threat is to LDSFS to perform adoptions, no doubt a legal decision will come on this issue at some point, but this isn’t really a threat to the “church,” nor is this issue tied to SSM, but rather to non-discrimination laws.

    “I see civil unions as providing the same protection for children as marriage; but not as state promotion of of the relationship.”

    I think that this statement also requires some clarification. Can you explain how the state “promotes” marriage? What constitutes state promotion of marriage that is somehow separable from the legal rights that it entails?
    Further, what would you consider the state’s role with respect to the “promotion” of civil unions? (Am I correct that your definition of ‘civil unions’ is legal marriage without the title of marriage?) Doesn’t the state prmote these in the same way as it does heterosexual “marriage” by granting the same benefits? Or, do you see the state permission of civil unions as constituting a discouragement of same sex unions because it does not constitute actual ‘marriage’?

    “The state has an interest in promoting fidelity in both kinds of relationships to promote familial stability and to avoid STDs which are rampant on both populations. However, the State has a greater interest in promoting heterosexual unions because they are not similarly situated to gay couples that cannot naturally produce children.”

    As I understand this, you are saying that the state should promote homosexual fidelity by granting legal rights equivalent to those of marriage, but promote heterosexual fidelity even more because [some portion] of these couples can “naturally” produce children. I have four questions about this:
    1). Inasmuch as civil unions and marriage offer identical legal protection, in what way does the state promote more greatly heterosexaul relationships by reserving the term ‘marriage’ for one and not the other?
    2) Do you see the promotion of homosexual and heterosexual fidelity in some sort of a zero-sum game? When you say that the state has a ‘greater interest’ in these latter relationships, I am not sure why such interest means that it should not also support other kinds of marriages, including non-reproductive ones. You seem to be suggesting that if the state supports gay fidelity through marriage, that this somehow decreases the state promotion of heterosexual relationships. Why can’t the state do both? These seem to be non-competitive options.
    3) I still don’t think that you have answered my previous question about why the children of gay parents are not better off in “marriages” rather than civil unions. If you are right that the state establishes a hierarchy of relationships between homosexual unions and heterosexual unions through its restriction of the term marriage to one and not the other, in what way does this constitute a better situation for the children in such relationships? I see this tension arising in this statement: “civil unions provide the same protections to children without promoting the gay relationships as the best vehicle for children.” How do you think such a view affects the children who grow up in this environment, being told that their home life is inferior in quality to that of their peers? If the interest is in the quality of these childrens’ lives, I am confused about how such an institutionalized sense inferiority is supposed to benefit them.
    4) I think that I have raised this issue a number of times, but I am still not sure how you account for the fact that the state seems to equally promote heterosexual marriages that “naturally” produce children, “unnaturally” produce children, and produce not children at all. If the state’s only interest is in promoting “natural” child bearing, how do you account for the status quo? (A unrelated issue is what you mean by “natural” here. Are those heterosexuals who do in vitro fertilization or surrogacy participating in an activity in which the state has no interest in promoting?)

  • http://faithpromotingrumor.wordpress.com TT

    Blake, one other point of clarification. Have you conceded that there is no “harm” to children in the world in which SSM exists that differs in any way as compared to the status quo?

  • Jordan

    Just what is puzzling about not wanting gays to be alone in the woods with young boys while they dress and undress? Isn’t it like not wanting a male gym teacher who watches the girls shower?

    Blake, you realise that the BSA also excludes gay scouts, not just leaders?

    Truthfully, given your subsequent comments, I am not fully sure what you meant by this statement. What I can tease out of it is that you present this as a matter of protecting young boys from something; whether this is bona fide sexual predation remains opaque, and you may wish to clarify. But current BSA policy already inflicts real harm upon an extremely vulnerable group of youngsters: namely, gay teenagers. These kids already have plenty of problems—bullying, antagonistic parents, loneliness, depression—contributing to a significantly greater-than-average suicide rate. Forcing them to be secretive, and separating them from their peers if they are insufficiently so, strikes me as shockingly and dangerously callous. It seems reasonable to ask, therefore, what interest could be so important that it overrides this rational concern for the mental well-being (indeed, the lives) of gay scouts? And is there a less damaging compromise than “don’t ask, don’t tell”?

  • http://blakeostler.com Blake

    Jordan: I am not a big supporter of the BSA. I’m not an eagle scout or anything approaching it! However, my guess is that the reason is rather straightforward. Boys and leaders tend to be alone a lot. They are in various states of undress at times and there is easy access to scout tents. My primary concern is that gay males are attracted to males — and boy scouts (ages 12-18) are at a vulnerable age. The analogy to having male leaders in the woods with a group of girl scouts is a good approximation. I can only guess at why gay boys are excluded — if that is true (I honestly don’t know).

    TT: Your questions are good ones and they give me yet another much needed opportunity to clarify. Civil unions are extended as a matter of discretion by the State. They are not mandated by a constitution or as a matter of right. Thus, the State has power to customize and particularize the protections granted to such unions. However, same sex marriage, at least as California has parsed it, is a basic constitutional right. The State must grant such a right even in the face of a referendum vote of a majority of citizens tot he contrary. The State does not have discretion whether the right is granted. It cannot be overridden by a statute. It clearly has much greater weight as not merely the policy of a State, but as the the established bedrock to which all other laws must conform.

    Further, civil unions have a particular history as a state created right and there is no suggestion that it is something that religions must provide in order to comply with equal protection concerns. Because civil unions are a privilege extended by a civil government, a religion has no obligation to extend similar rights if licensed to perform marriages, adoptions and so forth. A constitutional right, on the other hand, is so basic that a denial of that right may very well require denial of licenses and tax exempt status to those who refuse to grant such rights on an equal protection basis with whatever else the State licenses the entity to do.

    Further, historically civil unions are aimed at “civil” protections (as opposed to historical marriage or religious interests) and protecting particular interests such as children and fidelity to avoid promiscuity but not to foster the relationship as one that the State has a primary interest in insuring will occur. It seems rather clear to me that the State has an interest in fostering heterosexual relations as the fundamental and necessary unit of our social order and government. If such relationships ended, so would all social order and even human existence. Not so with same sex unions.

    The real likelihood of these threats can be assessed from the Bob Jones University case where denial of interracial marriage by the university legally required denial of tax exempt status to it. The Catholic Charities case hits home because a religious organization may be forced to choose between licensing to perform adoptions and providing adoptions to gay couples as such. Whether these results follow is uncertain like everything else in the law, but there are precedents to give any religious organization cause to worry. Since O. J. Simpson is a free man, anything is possible in the law — but the likelihood of these bad things occurring as a consequence of same sex marriage as a basic civil right in California is sufficiently high that it is very rational to consider.

    So let’s take your questions one at a time:

    1). Inasmuch as civil unions and marriage offer identical legal protection, in what way does the state promote more greatly heterosexaul relationships by reserving the term ‘marriage’ for one and not the other?

    A: Identical protections doesn’t entail identical discretion for the State. A basic civil right is much more foundational legally than civil unions. Basic rights cannot be circumscribed or curtailed or fashioned to address a particular state interest whereas civil unions can. Thus, even if a civil union statute extends identical rights, they are not legally equivalent to marriage. Further, the term “civil” shows that it is a privilege extended by the state, and “marriage” means that it is a basic civil right having a religious history.

    2) Do you see the promotion of homosexual and heterosexual fidelity in some sort of a zero-sum game? When you say that the state has a ‘greater interest’ in these latter relationships, I am not sure why such interest means that it should not also support other kinds of marriages, including non-reproductive ones. You seem to be suggesting that if the state supports gay fidelity through marriage, that this somehow decreases the state promotion of heterosexual relationships. Why can’t the state do both? These seem to be non-competitive options.

    A: Protecting gay relationships as marriages is a commitment by the state to foster and promote such relationships. Civil unions merely extend privileges to same sex couples to protect children and fidelity without promoting such a relationship as basic to society. The State cannot distinguish between fertile and infertile relationships among heterosexuals easily. Who knows who is infertile at the time of marriage? If older couples who cannot have children want to marry that is fine with me, but the state doesn’t have as great an interest in promoting such relationships to preserve the social order and to protect children. I suspect that marriage is extended by the State to older couples that are of such an age that they are infertile just because it is impossible to say where the fertility cut-off line is.

    “You seem to be suggesting that if the state supports gay fidelity through marriage, that this somehow decreases the state promotion of heterosexual relationships.”

    It doesn’t decrease the dignity of heterosexual relations directly. It brings homosexual relations to be on par and thus to be granted status as a relation the State fosters and promotes. It thus has the consequence of spreading the health care resources of companies and State welfare systems further and thinner with less resources directed to heterosexual relations. It also sends the strong message that homosexual relationships are just as foundational and just as essential as heterosexual relations. I don’t believe that is true and neither do the six courts that decided their state constitutions don’t require extension of marriage to same sex couples. I believe that they have the stronger and more sound argument.

    3) I still don’t think that you have answered my previous question about why the children of gay parents are not better off in “marriages” rather than civil unions. If you are right that the state establishes a hierarchy of relationships between homosexual unions and heterosexual unions through its restriction of the term marriage to one and not the other, in what way does this constitute a better situation for the children in such relationships? I see this tension arising in this statement: “civil unions provide the same protections to children without promoting the gay relationships as the best vehicle for children.” How do you think such a view affects the children who grow up in this environment, being told that their home life is inferior in quality to that of their peers? If the interest is in the quality of these childrens’ lives, I am confused about how such an institutionalized sense inferiority is supposed to benefit them.

    A: The issue is what the State has a duty to promote as opposed to what it has an interest to protect. I think that you may be right that it could have some effect on children of gay couples. Gay couples who adopt don’t presently seem to mind that not having a mommy around will have such a social stigma — which it presently does. The State cannot protect against all stigmas. Being Mormon in Reno Nevada is a stigma (trust me on that one), but not one that the State has a duty or can protect against. I believe that the State has an overriding interest in teaching that heterosexual relationships are the ideal and preferred relationship and if that message is sent, then that purpose is furthered. It is a message worth sending in my view.

    4) I think that I have raised this issue a number of times, but I am still not sure how you account for the fact that the state seems to equally promote heterosexual marriages that “naturally” produce children, “unnaturally” produce children, and produce not children at all. If the state’s only interest is in promoting “natural” child bearing, how do you account for the status quo? (A unrelated issue is what you mean by “natural” here. Are those heterosexuals who do in vitro fertilization or surrogacy participating in an activity in which the state has no interest in promoting?)

    A: By natural I mean male and female gametes produced by male and female parents that are joined reproductively in whatever manner. The state has an interest in promoting healthy families (gay or straight). It has an interest in perpetuating society. That doesn’t entail that all relationships must be protected or promoted equally. For example, the State makes provision for divorce and has an interest in making divorces available. It however also has an interest to make divorce difficult and something not lightly done. The State has an interest in promoting marriage and discouraging divorce while still protecting those who divorce. The state has an interest in protecting children of gay couples, but it doesn’t have an interest to foster or promote new gay relationships both for moral and for child-bearing and child-rearing reasons. Gays are not equally situated with respect to heterosexuals because off-spring don’t result from the carelessness in gay sexual relationships. Nor do they result as unwanted results of sexual activity in such relationships. Adopted children result only when affirmative action is taken to provide for children in such relationships. So there are a number of differences that make gay sexual relations different than heterosexual relations. The State has an interest in fostering such heterosexual relationships but also in discouraging and protecting against the irresponsible use of sex.

    5) Have you conceded that there is no “harm” to children in the world in which SSM exists that differs in any way as compared to the status quo?

    A: I don’t understand the question, but I think you’re asking if there is any difference between a world where gay couples who have children are married as opposed to gay couples who have children are merely in civil unions. Is that correct? Yes, there is a difference — gay couples in civil unions are not in relationships fostered and promoted by the State and those in marriages are. Both are equally protected.

    Now to my main point: the Church has an interest in overriding gay marriage in California because the court decision added nothing to the protections of gay children but added a host of possible harms to religious organizations that view gay sexual relations immoral. They have a basic constitutional right to define what is moral and immoral and a special role in society to foster awareness of morality. Morality is essential to our order of government. The only real effect of the California court decision in In Re Marriage Cases is to grant social acceptance and state promotion to gay sexual relations where the civil unions already in place granted all of the protections necessary to protect children and partners in such relationships. However, it also has the unwanted result of jeopardizing the moral authority and status of various religions. I don’t see it as a valid governmental interest to promote gay marriage; but it is a valid governmental interest to protect children who are adopted by gays and to protect against the rampant promiscuity in the gay community and the resulting STDs.

  • http://faithpromotingrumor.wordpress.com TT

    Blake,
    I want to thank you again for this excellent discussion. I have not really entered into SSM debates before and have rarely seen someone who is able to understand and articulate the church’s position as best as possible. Thank you for helping me to understand this position and see where the church is coming from in its stated reasons for its political involvement on this issue.
    This thread has become very long and involved, including the present comment. At this point, allow me to try to characterize and summarize our discussion as much as possible so that we can stay focused on the main issues. While I initially intended to discuss the question of the argument for children as an opposition to SSM, I have found the discussion of the legal purpose of marriage and the potential “dangers” for religious institutions to be very fruitful. I have broken down our discussion into a few different categories. Please correct anything that you see wrong here.

    A. Important concessions and agreements:

    1. In the status quo, gay couples have children. Prohibiting same sex marriage will do nothing to change this.
    2. Inasmuch as SS couples have children, through whatever methods, they deserve legal protection for themselves and their children.
    3. The question of gay adoption is not tied in any way to SSM. In many states, gay couples adopted prior to SSM and independently of it.
    4. In the numerous states and countries where it is legal either by legislative decree or court decision, there are presently no examples where churches have been forced to perform SSM or have had their tax status compromised.
    5. The state presently “promotes” and “protects” to an equal degree heterosexual marriages that result in children, those with children from previous relationships, and those with no possibility to procreate under any circumstances. In current practice then, neither the possibility to have children nor the nor the actual outcome of children in heterosexual marriages functions as a principle that determines whether or not such marriages should be allowed or “promoted.”

    B. Arguments that seem to contradict to me:
    1. Marriage should be defined by religious groups seems to contradict the claim that lies at the heart of your argument that the State should protect and promote heterosexual marriages. Can you explain to me how these two positions can be advanced at the same time?

    2. I suggested in the original post the reasons that I see the argument that marriage is about producing and raising children to actually constitute an argument in favor of SSM for couples who have children. While you have admitted that gay people have children in many of the same ways that heterosexual people have children, you have continued to argue that the fact that gay people don’t have children is the reason that they shouldn’t be married. I laid out why I see these arguments as contradictory in comment 2 above. But, your argument has taken a new turn. You have argued that SSM should be prohibited because: “Gays are not equally situated with respect to heterosexuals because off-spring don’t result from the carelessness in gay sexual relationships. Nor do they result as unwanted results of sexual activity in such relationships.”

    So, if I understand your argument, heterosexual marriages are permitted because of the possibility for unwanted children. So, gay people who want children shouldn’t be able to marry, and heterosexuals who don’t want children, should be able to. Further, though both heterosexuals and homosexuals may not want children, only heterosexuals should marry because they may get children that they don’t want. Is this your argument? Leaving aside the fact that gay people have children already, it seems that the intentionality with which they might choose to have children as a gay couple should not constitute a reason for them not to be able to be married.

    3. State Promotion of Marriage: I am still not sure how exactly you think that the State “fosters and promotes heterosexual marriage” while civil unions do not foster and promote gay couples. Perhaps my question has been unclear, but I am interested in what you see as the mechanisms at work here, specifically what you see as the difference. What is at stake in this question is what I see to be a contradiction between your claim that civil unions are “equally protected” as marriages, but that marriages are “promoted” as somehow superior. I am not seeing how you can claim on one hand that they are equal, but on the other hand that marriage is better. The risk of them not being “equally protected” in fact seem to constitute your primary argument for why they should not be called “marriages.” You say, “Thus, the State has power to customize and particularize the protections granted to such unions.” If the state can change the rights and protections granted under civil unions at any time, and this is somehow the advantage that is stated for such unions, it is not clear at all to me that they are equally protected since the very potential for the violation of such rights and relationships is built into their legal status.

    C. Arguments that require further investigation:

    1. On the threats to the church: You have offered Catholic Charities and Bob Jones as evidence that SSM may curtail the rights of religious institutions. However, neither of these are religious institutions and as such do not constitute analogies. One is a social services group and the other is a college. Also, CC left on its own accord, thus avoiding a possible(?) legal battle that would have determined their right to discriminate. Yes, they were backed by religious institutions, but neither is a church, nor were the churches which backed them in either case subject to any legal consequences. Are there no actual examples of churches who have been threatened by such laws? IIRC, churches have historically been granted exceptions to equal protection laws and I am unclear as to why this would cease to be the case. If our church could legal deny black participation in the priesthood and retain our legal status, why would we be forced to perform gay marriages.

    I have conceded that LDSFS *may* have to endure a legal battle to determine whether or not it can continue to discriminate against gays. As far as I know, churches do not have a legal right to perform adoptions in the same way that they have a legal right to perform marriages. An ordained minister cannot perform an adoption, though s/he may be able to perform a marriage. While the former right is granted to those who meet certain secular standards, the latter is granted to those who meet religious standards such as ordination.

    The outcome of such a legal battle does not seem forgone to me and I can easily imagine that the protection offered to independent church organizations that do not accept state or federal funding to discriminate as they are currently allowed to under the law, though I admit that there is a risk here that it may lose the right to perform adoptions. This, however, does not strike me as a threat to the Church itself. I see no fundamental right for the church to perform adoptions as intrinsic to its religious freedom, but simply a nice side benefit. Do you see adoptions as an element of free exercise? While an unfortunate loss, perhaps, I don’t think it outweighs the right for marriage of another group. But, as we have already established, the issue of adoption is not affected by SSM.

    Further, you have yet to explain how exactly SSM constitutes a threat to churches, rather than equal protection which already exists. Why is the church currently allowed to discriminate against homosexuals when selecting leaders, hiring workers, etc, but somehow if they are married that would change? I am not sure how I see SSM changing the legal standing of gays with respect to the church in some way that isn’t already possible under current equal protection laws.

    (As I sidenote, I am utterly confused by this statement: “Adopted children result only when affirmative action is taken to provide for children in such relationships.” By “affirmative action” are you referring to private and government attempts at creating diversity for employment, or simply action which is undertaken proactively? If the former, can you please provide some evidence that AA is at work, rather than equal protection?)

    2. Fostering and Promoting: I think that the issue of geriatric couples is important to this. You have suggested: “If older couples who cannot have children want to marry that is fine with me, but the state doesn’t have as great an interest in promoting such relationships to preserve the social order and to protect children.” But, in what way does the state exhibit this decreased interest? I see no implicit or explicit differences in the status quo with regard to marriages of opposite sex couples that have no chance at having children. Why are these relationships granted equal marriages, but SSM are denied even though they are identical with respect to the question of children?

    I am also not sure exactly how the state “fosters and promotes” heterosexuals to have children exclusively within marriage. Is this done simply through tax advantages? Aren’t these tax advantages actually offered to unmarried persons with children as well?

    At the end of the day, I am simply not sure what, if anything, the state actually does to “foster and promote” heterosexual marriage. It seems to me that you are suggested that this is done by granting certain incentives to such couples, like tax breaks, and other rights. But, you have admitted that these are the same things given to homosexual couples in civil unions, the only difference being that civil unions are subject to arbitrary changes. If the only way that the state promotes heterosexual marriages over civil unions is that the former is more legally stable and the latter less so, I am not convinced that this truly functions as an incentive enough for someone to enter into a heterosexual relationship.

    3. Equal protection and marriage: You suggest that “civil unions have a particular history as a state created right and there is no suggestion that it is something that religions must provide in order to comply with equal protection concerns.” Again, while I see this argument that civil unions will not require equal protection to be in contradiction with your explicit claim that “Both are equally protected,” I would like to focus in on an issue that I have raised before, but is yet unresolved for me. The issue is that I do not see the state requiring that religious institutions perform any marriages of any kind in the status quo, nor do they interfere in the standards that religious institutions have for which marriages they perform. Catholics are not forced to marry Mormons, nor are Orthodox forced to marry pregnant women, nor are Scientologists forced to marry psychologists, nor are Mormons forced to allow women to perform marriages. While all of these categories are given equal protection under the law, religious institutions have yet to be required to solemnize such marriages as a condition of their tax-exemption. I am confused as to why SSM would constitute a unique kind of equal protection that would overturn religious autonomy to perform only certain kinds of heterosexual marriages.

    Further, I think that we see the likelihood of such a case in which religious institutions such as the Southern Baptists, Catholics, Mormons, etc, are deprived of their tax exempt status to be somewhere in the realm of .0001%. You have suggested that this is actually a real concern, but the examples that you have offered do not seem to be on point, and ignore the fact that religious institutions are given wide latitude under the law.

    I should mention a final note on this issue that I am not sure that my personal tax status should really be a consideration in matters of fairness and justice. If I accept the premise that my ultimate concern should be for the welfare of the children of gay parents, and it can be established that such children are better off in marriages rather than the protections granted by the whims of the state in civil unions, I would be willing to pay the extra taxes.

    When I suggested that civil unions may have a negative impact on the social and psychological welfare of the children of such relationships, you conceded this possibility, but then suggested that “The State cannot protect against all stigmas.” However, it seems that in this case they can, at least to a certain extent. The state is not required to institutionally create a hierarchy between homosexual and heterosexual relationships, and it seems that there must be a very strong reason to do so given the potentially negative impact this has not only on the children, but on the parents as well. You seem to suggest that the potential negative social consequence of gay marriage on straight marriage justify the state-production of a stigma where one need not exist. I think that we need to revisit the decision calculus here, since we began by suggesting that the interests of the children outweighed all other considerations.

    3. What is marriage about?
    I am confused that you have continued to insist that marriage is exclusively about children, particularly in your suggestion that older couples are only allowed to marry “just because it is impossible to say where the fertility cut-off line is.” First, it is not “impossible” at all. Actually it is relatively easy to determine with a doctor’s note. If this is really the only reason, I suspect that we can find ways for the state to demote such relationships in order not to “promote” them as unproductive. Second, I really really doubt that the only reason why we can possibly think to allow such marriages is because we simply aren’t sure if they might actually be fertile or not. I think that this argument starts from the assumption that marriage is exclusively about children, and fits the circumstances of reality to that assumption without any basis. I think that it is manifest that we consider marriage to be primarily about the legal and social union of two people, and that children are not in actual practice the only reason for such marriages. I think that it is even more manifest that there is no requirement to be able to have children, want to, or to adopt in order to marry. According to this logic, we should make all unions, heterosexual and homosexual into “civil unions,” and upgrade them to marriages if and when they have children enter into that relationship.

    4. In what way does SSM impact heterosexual marriage? You have suggested that the state cannot possibly promote both at the same time, and that it must prioritize one over the other in order for the state’s interests to be met. You have offered two examples: a) SSM will stretch health care resources. So, are you suggesting that same-sex couples not be granted parallel heath care options as their heterosexual counterparts? Should same-sex couples with children be required to pay greater amounts for health care? If so, this seems to be a significant disadvantage to civil unions/domestic partnerships, and so I am again confused about how you can claim that SSM adds nothing to the status quo with regard to rights afforded to domestic partnerships. b) “It also sends the strong message that homosexual relationships are just as foundational and just as essential as heterosexual relations.” Foundational and essential with respect to what? To procreation? To providing long-term commitments as a tenant to good society? I am not sure of the referent here. Further, can you explain the mechanisms of this “sending a message”? It seems to me to confuse law and morality to a significant degree. After all, alcohol and tobacco are legal, but I don’t see the legal status of these substances to constitute their promotion, nor do I see it as constituting a moral equality with not consuming such substances. Even if it did to some degree, it is clear that significant numbers of people are able to make moral judgments about the goodness of something regardless of its legality.
    A second assumption that I see operating here is that somehow state approval of SSM is going to increase same sex relations. While earlier you have conceded that increasing stable same sex relations is in fact in the state’s interest, here you have argued that SSM will increase stable relationships and that this is now not in the state’s interest. Which one are you arguing for, that the state should promote stable same sex relations or the state should discourage stable same sex relations? Correct me if I am wrong, but perhaps you are suggesting that if the state allows for gay marriages, then people who might otherwise be straight might choose to enter into gay marriage? This seems to be the only explanation that I can think of for how you are seeing the promotion of gay marriage as in competition with the promotion of heterosexual marriage, that they are competing of numbers of people. That you offer the threat of extinction as a result of SSM seems to me that you think it a possibility that in a world of SSM, all people might decide to exclusively practice homosexual sex. Is that your assumption?

  • Stephen

    In the “The Divine Institution of Marriage” a number of societal arguments are made against Same-Sex Marriage. I will agree that most of them are weak. The major “harm to children” specific is that children will be taught in public schools that homosexual and heterosexual relationships are equivalent, and “morally neutral”. There are many who would argue that this is not harm at all, but a positive good.

    Some space is dedicated to outlining how the Church’s position, influence and comfort might be reduced by certain subsequent rulings or legislation. Some space has been devoted to the same subject here. It is possible that is mere proallognostication; there may be no subsequent judicial rulings or legislaton which will adversely affect the Church. Or, even with the passage of a constitutional amendment eliminating SSM, there might still continue to be discrimination issues raised against the Church.

    However, I believe that these arguments are secondary, and are intended as an apology, or an attempt at clarification, of the Church’s position to those who do not share our beliefs.

    I believe in the end, these societal arguments do not matter. It seems to me that the fundamental basis of the Church’s support of Proposition 8, is presented in a few statements near the beginning of the document:

    “The Church has a single, undeviating standard of sexual morality: intimate relations are proper only between a
    husband and a wife united in the bonds of matrimony.”

    “Marriage is sacred, ordained of God from before the foundation of the world.”
    (Scriptural Reverences follow)

    “governments did not invent marriage”

    An attempt to re-define marriage is seen by the Church as tantamount to a government attempting to re-define the Law of Gravity, or to re-write Maxwell’s equations into a more politically correct form– but with a moral dimension.

    Also telling is the following statement: “married couples in almost every culture have been granted special privileges”. Taking issue with the California Supreme Court, the Church does view marriage as a right, but asserts that society grants special privileges to those who do marry.

    The California State Supreme Court, by the way, in its majority opinion, allows that what it has done is change the traditional definition of marriage: “history alone is not invariably an appropriate guide for determining the meaning and scope of this fundamental constitutional guarantee… we cannot find that retention of the traditional definition of marriage constitutes a compelling state interest.”

    http://www.courtinfo.ca.gov/opinions/documents/S147999.PDF

  • Pingback: The dissolution of the corporate LDS Church via “gay marriage” « LDS Anarchy

  • Jordan

    Blake,

    To conclude this side issue, I will concisely explain who the BSA excludes and why. They bar anyone acknowledged to be homosexually-oriented from participation in any capacity, and they do this because they believe that those with a homosexual orientation do not meet their requirements that scouts should be “morally straight” and “clean,” and that homosexual individuals are “not an appropriate role model[.]” Not only is this a cruel, damaging policy, it is actually insulting.

    Given your clarification, it seems that you are concerned about sexual predation. (As reassurance, I recognise that you aren’t equating gay men to paedophiles.) However, as TT rightly points out, gay men have been showering and changing all their lives with other males, and know how to show respect to those going about their ablutions—regardless of age. One simply learns (or realises in advance) that gawking at naked boys in the showers is impolite, and thus take little pleasure from the situation. This is where your analogy breaks down: male scout-masters do not shower with girls throughout puberty and adulthood, and thus will find the situation more difficult to cope with.

    Couple this socialisation with the fact that scout-masters are long-standing members of the BSA itself, which aims to instil respect and trustworthiness in its members, and we see that gay scout-masters who will infrequently be around “[b]oys[…] in various states of undress” can be expected to behave themselves just as well as their straight counterparts.

    Personally, I don’t feel there’s much more I can add to this particular tangent, so when I next have an opportunity to post I’d like to join the discussion about MFA. I’m impressed by the respectful tone of this dialogue, and am interested to see how it will conclude.

  • David Clark

    If gay marriage becomes legal and the church is forced to marry gays to avoid discrimination can’t the church just basically say that marriage is a civil institution and that we as Mormons are only in the business of sealing people? That position is already forced on the church for just about every country south of the border. They all marry first civilly and then get sealed shortly after. To be honest I think this is a better system because it doesn’t put converts in the awkward position of telling their parents that they can’t come to their children’s wedding, thereby confirming in the parents minds that their children have joined a wacky cult.

    I concede that this would not ameliorate the adoption situation, but as has been pointed out before, the church actually does no adoptions; it’s all handled through LDSFS or whatever it is called these days.

  • NODYMB1

    If you can’t tell that Chris H’s comments have been ad hominem, and unfair, you need to reread. I’ve condemned no one to burning, and have simply stated how ironic it is that you are willing to silence people who disagree with you, yet get mad at others, when you perceive they are trying to silence you.

  • Jordan

    NODYMB1, your first two comments about this entry were ad hominem, and quite unfair. In fact, your entire contribution to this discussion consists of accusations about the faithfulness, motivations, integrity and validity of other individuals, and this blog in particular. You have now graduated to hypocrisy.

    Your contention that dissenting voices are silenced is belied by the civil, intelligent conversation between TT and Blake. I am sure Mog would have no problem with your continued participation if it were conducted along these lines, but as it is, you are insulting someone on their doorstep and expecting them not to shut the door. If missionaries conducted themselves in this manner, the LDS church would be lucky to baptise anyone at all. My sincere advice to you, and I genuinely hope that you accept it, is to approach this as though you are a missionary in someone else’s house: with an attitude of respect, civility and prayerfulness, yet remaining firm and steadfast in your belief. You will be much better received, and I doubt anyone will seek to silence you.

  • http://faithpromotingrumor.wordpress.com TT

    NOYDYMB1,
    Your attempts to get around moderation by changing your identity only underline your unwillingness to have a proper discussion. What seems to escape you is that there are many people who disagree with others who post and comment on this blog and none of them have ever been “silenced.” In fact, you are the very first person we have ever banned. You are henceforth being banned not because you disagree, but precisely the opposite. You are being banned because you don’t know how to disagree. There is no irony here, except that you perceive one of the most productive SSM conversations I have ever personally witnessed as somehow an attempt to silence dissent. Nothing could be further from the truth here.

    I should add that I don’t think that I have actually stated an opinion with which one could either agree or disagree in this post. I have attempted to investigate the principled logic and the legal likelihood of the worst-case scenarios that form opposition to SSM, but this does not constitute in and of itself advocacy of any particular position. I hope that my intent has been clear to our readers.

  • http://faithpromotingrumor.wordpress.com TT

    Thanks Jordan! I think we posted at the same time.

  • http://faithpromotingrumor.wordpress.com Mogget

    My dear NOY[Doggone]MB,

    You would have been banned after your comments yesterday except for my intervention. I wished one more chance to interact with you. Yours is a most ironical position indeed. It is precisely your unfounded and illogical accusations that represent the ONLY attempt on this thread to silence discussion.

    Beyond this, however, it strikes me that you are in pain. I think I have seen this kind of pain before. Although it is NO[MyDoggone]MB, I think that you’ve recently been confronted by homosexuality in a very personal way, perhaps by a friend who has ‘come out of the closet.’ You are grieving deeply, and that grief is being displayed in self-defeating anger.

    You cannot prosper and grow as God wishes you to do when you are eating yourself from the inside out. You might try your local church leaders if you have reason to think they have some expertise with this particular situation. I think you are a college student, however, and so I recommend you have a chat with the campus counselors, who do have a great deal of experience with precisely this sort of thing. Young men in your age group and education level are a particularly vulnerable group.

    In the end, railing at us will do no good. It will not change the situation and it will make you look increasingly immature and uncivil. You need to take responsibility for your actions and the ideas and emotions that drive them. We have banned you for your own good, that is,until you learn this lesson and cannot do more harm to yourself on our site.

    Finally, NOY[Doggone]MB, you cannot escape the love of God although I think you are trying to. It is the greatest “leveler” in all of creation. He reaches toward all of us, gay or straight, angry or at peace. Just surrender and get it all over with because the universe is not set up to allow you win this contest.

    Mogs

    You ought not to upset yourself or be anxious about your temptations. When they happen to you, abandon yourself to God as to your good Father. Convinced that you cannot do it yourself, ask Him to help you… Firm courage and a little generosity will enable you to overcome all your difficulties.
    –St. John Baptist de La Salle

  • TrevorM

    Blake and TT, thanks!

    great discussion and fairly civil. I grateful to read what you are saying.

    A post at FAIR dealt with a piece of this discussion. I will post a relevant portion. It is not a perfect post, but may add some info to the subject. It is about why the inability of some couples to procreate does not diminish the government’s right to discriminate in marriage:

    “The most obvious benefit is that heterosexual marriages provide the state with a steady supply of new citizens. This may sound odd, but it is not. In fact, recently commentators have noted that several European countries are now facing severe societal problems due to the fact that their citizens simply aren’t reproducing at sustainable rates. (See Robert Samuelson, “The End of Europe,” The Washington Post, Wednesday, June 15, 2005; Page A25.)

    This fact alone would justify the state in favoring heterosexual marriages over same-sex marriages. Not because same sex marriages are inherently “bad” or “evil” but simply because same sex marriages do not provide the same benefit to society and the community that heterosexual marriages do.

    The obvious objection is that some heterosexuals who cannot reproduce are still allowed to marry (young couples who chose not to have children, infertile couples, post-menopausal women, etc)[...]

    The “exceptions” to the general procreational rule cited above represent what in legal parlance is termed an “argument from the margins.” Such an argument occurs when a general rule is stated (the state sanctions marriage because it wants people to procreate). Those who oppose this view then seek to find any “exceptions” to this general rule (infertile couples, post-menopausal women, etc.) and then claim that since such people are also allowed to “marry” the general rule is invalid. However, this “argument from the margins” assumes a sort of argumentational purity and consistency which are simply foreign to public policy arguments and which are not required by Equal Protection jurisprudence. In short, the “exceptions” do not swallow the rule.”

    I will acknowledge that there are problems with Mr. Starr’s post, but this portion seems relevant and rational enough to be discussed

    http://www.fairblog.org/2008/06/27/same-sex-marriage-equality-and-california-mormons-a-response-to-jeffrey-s-nielsen/

  • http://faithpromotingrumor.wordpress.com TT

    TrevorM,
    Thanks for sharing this. I think that it repeats some of Blake’s arguments above, and that my questions more or less apply here. “This fact alone would justify the state in favoring heterosexual marriages over same-sex marriages.” In particular, it is still unclear to me in what way the promotion of a stable homosexual relationship constitutes a competitive disadvantage to heterosexual relationships. Why can’t we do both? My point in 67, C4 addresses this issue.
    But, there is something different in this analysis. This argument says: “However, this “argument from the margins” assumes a sort of argumentational purity and consistency which are simply foreign to public policy arguments and which are not required by Equal Protection jurisprudence. In short, the “exceptions” do not swallow the rule.”
    This point seems to absolutely contradict the previous one. If the exceptions do not swallow the rule, why then would the exception of SSM swallow the rule of heterosexual marriage? While the argument above suggested that the “promotion” of homosexual marriage somehow constitutes a disincentive for heterosexual marriage, this argument suggests that exceptional kinds of marriages do not in fact invalidate the general rule of the majority. Finally, it seems that the question of the “exceptions” is extremely relevant to the issue of SSM inasmuch as SSM constitutes an analogous exception. Why is one exception permitted and not the other? There needs to be some rationale for allowing one group to violate the “general rule” of marriage and disallowing another group to violate the same rule in the same way.

    Further, I am still confused as to the reality of the assertion of this “general rule” that “the state sanctions marriage because it wants people to procreate.” I still see no evidence that this is the case at all. It still seems like a warrantless assumption to me which is meant to exclude certain kinds of marriages. In what way does the state encourage married couples to procreate? Is the incentive to procreation that the state offers simply the tax incentives that it gives to parents with children? Don’t these same tax incentives apply to unmarried parents?

  • TrevorM

    TT.

    I think you make a good point about the assumption of marriage being promoted to promote the birth of children. I think such reasonings (which in my mind are purely legal) represent a retroactive attempt to assert the value and necessity of traditional morality and heterosexual marriage. i think it represents a legal and secular response to a perceived growing irrelevance of marriage in society. That is to say that the need to sustain birth rates and subsidize marriages was not the orignal rationale behind government regulation of marriages. More likely, It was to reinforce traditional western judeo-christian values in society. (these assertions can be corrected if I am wrong) Which have grown less and less relevant as they have decreased in prominence among people. It seems to me that years ago(Whenever the government began to claim the right to subsidize and solemnize marriages) cohabitation was much more frowned on and was societally unacceptable, so the government, attempting to promote marriage, subsidized it, solemnized it and regulated it. This is certainly the case at certain points in time in the US, where many states had laws that banned cohabitation and adultery etc.

    As societal expectations have shifted so has the necessity of government sponsored traditional heterosexual marriage. Thus we are left with marriage that has a different meaning and context than it did before. Marriage is no longer a institution anchored in traditional values, it is about property rights, and public legitimization of a sexual union.

    This is where marriage for procreation etc comes into the argument. It represents a new attempt to maintain the legitimacy of marriage based on traditional moral concepts thru legal means. Arguing in effect that it is in the government’s best interest to subsidize marriage because it is the *best* way to provide a sustainable population. Thus the government has a right to discriminate, and ought to to promote these desirable outcomes. The core of this argument would be that Homosexual marriage does not provide desirable outcomes, or not enough desirable outcomes to merit government involvement. or alternatively (and perhaps less tenable, if at all) the argument would be that “you get more of what you subisidize”. This argument would suggest that permission of homosexual marriage would decrease the number of heterosexual marriages that would be solemnized working against the government’s attempt to create stable procreative unions. This argument sits on the idea that there are people who are married or will marry heterosexually but, if given incentive would instead marry homosexually.

    The weakness of this argument is that other reasons to subsidize monogamy along other lines bear other valuable outcomes that the government should (arguably) subsidize, this includes the prevention of the spread of STDs and single parenthood.

    The whole argument behind SSM is extremely troubling to me. I support the right of my neighbors to do as they please and not to be discriminated against based on their sexual preference. I also believe the doctrines of my church.

    I am deeply troubled that the SSM argument reduces marriage to a merely sexual/finacial relationship, it becomes about rights and entitlement and whether or not sex is socially acceptable enough between 2 people. Such an a reduction in marriages’ meaning,is far away from God’s intent for the union, to my mind at least. If marriage is defined this way, who really cares if x marries y or y marries y.

    I think we would almost be better removing government from marriage and extending civil unions to everyone, thus providing the desired rights to everyone who wants them. Then making marriage a religious thing all its own.

  • http://blakeostler.com Blake

    I have literally very little time to add to this discussion at present. However, for those who believe that the Church is somehow making up the view that marriage was and is protected and promoted by the State primarily to protect children, I invite you to read the court decisions in Ohio and New York that say precisely that. The New York decision is here: http://www.courts.state.ny.us/ctapps/decisions/jul06/86-89opn06.pdf

    The Ohio decision is here: http://www.sconet.state.oh.us/rod/docs/pdf/0/2007/2007-ohio-3723.pdf

    Yesterday, a California court held that medical doctors cannot refrain from inseminating lesbians based on religious beliefs because of their licensing by the State. See here: http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/new.php?n=13573

    New York held in February that New York must recognize same sex marriages from other states based on that state’s marriage recognition statute (which almost all states have) and the force of the full faith and credit clause of the United States Constitution. See here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2008/02/02/new-york-court-recognizes_n_84618.html

    I suggest that the real purpose behind the California ruling has nothing to do with rights and equality extended to those seeking government recognition of gay unions. They had all of those protections already. It has to do with government promotion of gay sexual relations as morally equivalent to heterosexual sexual relations. That is an abuse of government authority in my view and not a legitimate role for either courts or government to engage in.

    I agree with Trevor that we would be far better off if government limited the extent of what the State can license to civil unions — since governments have only civil power in any event and marriage connotes historically and now in this debate something done by religions as a sacrament or sacred rite. Government ought to stay out of performing ceremonies that either adopt such religious practices or that profane religious rites by making them equivalent.

  • http://blakeostler.com Blake

    Jordan: The fact that gay men shower with other boys is hardly a basis for comfort based on “politeness” and past restraint. The fact is that gay men are attracted to males and having them alone in the woods with males is both unwise and opens the BSA to massive liability if anything happens. I am no fan of the BSA as I said, but I wouldn’t want my boy to be in such a situation anymore than I want men alone in the woods with girl scouts. You assume the superior restraint of gays in comparison to heterosexuals. I don’t buy and I don’t believe you have an iota of evidence to suggest such superior restraint by gays.

  • http://faithpromotingrumor.wordpress.com TT

    Blake 80,
    I agree that this discussion has become too time consuming and we all have other commitments to attend to, so perhaps we could bring an end to our discussion. I think that we may risk simply repeating previous positions (I think 67 and 68 are the best framing of the issues) and ignoring the need to offer the same kind of analysis which we previously were able to enjoy.
    I will offer my final assessment of the key issues, to which you are free to reply or not, and then we can both move on.

    1. Is marriage “primarily” about children? Despite what these two courts have said (obviously other courts disagree), I am not inclined to take this assertion on the authority of any court. Rather, I am looking for actual evidence that this is the case in present practice and I have offered numerous as yet unresolved reasons why this doesn’t seem to be the case at all. (Even if the courts are right about the “historical” reasons for marriage, I have suggested reasons why the ‘history’ of marriage does not provide a suitable basis for determining right and wrong, and one need not think too hard to realize that the past by itself is not a sufficient guide for present behavior). Further, I am still confused as to how the argument that marriage is about children functions as an argument against SSM, rather than for it. Given that SS couples have children, it seems that they should be able to enjoy the benefits that marriage offers those children.

    2. Does marriage belong exclusively in the realm of religion? Well, this seems to contradict the very strong assertions that the government should actively promote heterosexual marriages that result in children, so I am still confused as to how both positions can be put forth simultaneously. To be honest, I am still not sure of the basis for such an assertion at all, the desirability of such a radical change, nor if it were adopted in practice whether it would be an effective means of excluding SSM. It seems that rather than a single legal understanding of marriage, we would have a proliferation of options as defined by each religion (consider FLDS, Hindu, Unitarian Universalist, and a variety of different Islamic jurisprudential, political, and theological notions of marriage). This strikes me as profoundly unfeasible as a public policy option, but it also doesn’t accomplish the goal of preventing SSM because many of those marriages will be performed by churches. At the end of the day the counterproposals, such as getting government out of marriage, making all unions civil unions, or other such radical options, are only distractions to the issues at hand rather than clearing up the question that faces us. Inasmuch as the church offers the status quo as the only other option to SSM, I think that our discussions are most productive when we limit ourselves to the two options that the church is considering, rather than departing from the parameters of the debate as the church has set it up by making up other options which are not being considered and are extremely unlikely to be considered anytime soon.

    3. Will SSM affect churches? Though you have introduced new evidence that doctors cannot discriminate against homosexuals even if they think their religion requires them to discriminate for your claim that SSM will affect churches, I still don’t think you have addressed the fact that a) none of the examples you have offered are the result of SSM (they are all on the basis of existing non-discrimination laws), therefore I don’t see any evidence that SSM will offer a change to the liability of churches that differs from the status quo; and b) none of the examples provided apply to churches, but rather to other organizations that perform public services or receive public funds; and c) in the states and countries in which SSM is legal, the evidence uniformly suggests that religions are not affected at all.

    4. Will the legalization of SSM affect heterosexual marriage? You seem to think that the “promotion” (again, I am completely confused as to what you see as the mechanisms of “promotion” here) of SSM as in competition with heterosexual marriage, such that the “promotion” of one implies a loss to the other. You assert: “It has to do with government promotion of gay sexual relations as morally equivalent to heterosexual sexual relations.” Even if this were true (and as I have said I have no idea why legalization implies “moral equivalency” since it seems that we are able to perform moral evaluations entirely apart from what the government does or says is legal), it is unclear to me what the assumption of the impact of such a situation might be. That more people will become homosexuals? That people who might otherwise enter heterosexual marriages will choose a homosexual marriage? I simply cannot unlock this logic any other way than by assuming that there is some sort of notion of ‘homosexual conversion’ at work in order for a SSM to be seen as a competitive option to heterosexual marriage. If this is the case, I have a feeling that the church’s official statements about same-sex attraction do not support a view of either homosexual or heterosexual conversion. If there is any truth to the claim that the legalization of SSM entails a “moral equivalency,” I do not think that it implies a moral evaluation of any particular sexual behavior (all of which are legal without SSM- yet we are still able to make moral distinctions in spite of this legalization), but rather the moral equivalency of homosexuals as human beings, rather than second class citizens who are less worthy of legal protection.

    5. Is SSM superfluous because all of the same rights are granted in the status quo? I think that this argument just plain contradicts all of the other arguments offered above. If there is no change from the status quo, then there are no disadvantages to the change because any potential harm should already exist in the current framework. If there is no change with SSM, then this seems to eliminate any argument against it if the only two options are SSM and the status quo. Yet, you have suggested that there is in fact a great different between the status quo and SSM because in the status quo the legal protections granted in civil unions can be changed on the whim of the legislature and marriages can’t (as a side note, I am confused by the assertion that marriages have some innate protections under the law that civil unions don’t, as legislative decisions have actually been the chief sources of changes to the legal protections of marriage, such as those concerning divorce, tax laws, etc). If your assertion is correct that civil unions enjoy far less legal protection than marriages, this strikes me as a huge change to the status quo, and also as an argument in its favor in order to protect the children in such relationships.

    Anyway, thanks to all for the great discussion. Sorry that I wasn’t able to address all of the great comments and issues raised. Now it is time to get back to work!

  • Jordan

    Blake:

    The fact that gay men shower with other boys is hardly a basis for comfort based on “politeness” and past restraint.

    You have missed my point. I am arguing that straight men do not customarily shower with girls, while gay men do; therefore, the latter are better equipped to deal with the situation. As a simple thought experiment: if you found yourself in a country where mixed-sex nudity was considered normal, would you be comfortable showering and changing with a room full of girls? Would you know how to behave yourself? Could you really feel at-ease in such an environment? I suspect this would be a new and disconcerting experience for you, and for most men. In contrast, gay men shower and change all the time with other men, and generally learn to take it in their stride. I’m not arguing that they have “superior restraint,” I’m arguing that it’s a routine, non-sexual experience.

    The fact is that gay men are attracted to males and having them alone in the woods with males is both unwise and opens the BSA to massive liability if anything happens. I am no fan of the BSA as I said, but I wouldn’t want my boy to be in such a situation anymore than I want men alone in the woods with girl scouts.

    First: it is a bad idea to have young boys alone with any adult you don’t know and trust very well, regardless of sexuality. If you want to protect children, it makes much more sense to arrange for there to always be at least two adults present at all times; similarly justified rules apply to LDS missionaries with regards to the opposite sex, as I am sure you are aware. This would be a far better protection for young boys than a blanket ban on homosexuals.

    Second: as I have explained, this is not why the BSA choose to disqualify homosexuals. Their objection is largely on the basis that gay men are not “morally straight” and are not good role models. As a gay older brother to four and uncle to three, myself having a gay uncle (indeed, who was for a time my scout-master) who was an important male role-model, I cannot easily or politely express how graceless, how mendacious, and how insulting such a statement is. The scouts are more vocally concerned with protecting boys from some innate corruption—supposedly implicit in homosexuality as a constitutional state—than sexual abuse. Again, if sexual abuse was really their concern, there are far surer, less invasive means to protect children.

    Third: my strongest objection is not to their policies governing homosexual leaders, but homosexual youth. I do not see how hurting vulnerable young boys a morally straight, clean or respectable occupation, nor how it protects more than it harms; this is my main concern and I think it is a rational one.

    You assume the superior restraint of gays in comparison to heterosexuals.

    No, I do not. Refer to my explanation above.

    I don’t buy and I don’t believe you have an iota of evidence to suggest such superior restraint by gays.

    With regards to evidence: neither of us has presented any substantiation beyond “common sense” and personal experience—though I will note that generally, as the California Supreme Court held in the case of Proposition 8, the burden of proof rests more heavily on those who support an invidious policy than those who oppose it. I have seen no evidence that excluding gays from the BSA reduces the rate of sexual abuse; if I did, and it was strong, I would seriously rethink my position on the adult leadership. (And I hope you would rethink yours if there was strong evidence that it did not.) One possible recourse might be to take a look at the incidence of sexual abuse in scouting organisations which permit homosexual leaders, comparing this with an identical indicator from those which exclude them. (Controlling, of course, for national trends.)

    Finally, I am sad that you and TT are close to concluding your discussion, and as a reader I would like to thank both of you for taking the time to grapple with the issues at such length.

  • Jordan

    Blake, I’d just like to quickly throw a link your way, to this article about same-sex child abuse. In particular, I’d like to draw your attention to a couple of quotes presented therein:

    In over 12 years of clinical experience working with child molesters, we have yet to see any example of a regression from an adult homosexual orientation. The child offender who is also attracted to and engaged in adult relationships is heterosexual.

    The research to date all points to there being no significant relationship between a homosexual lifestyle and child molestation. There appears to be practically no reportage of sexual molestation of girls by lesbian adults, and the adult male who sexually molests young boys is not likely to be a homosexual.

    Now, Blake, I am not—and will not!—argue that homosexuals never molest children. Rather, I simply want to posit that in light of this analysis:

    a given homosexual is no more likely than a given heterosexual to wish to abuse male children; and
    the greatest danger to male children appears to be from adults who identify as heterosexual—not because heterosexuals are more likely to abuse children, but because there are more child abusers who identify as heterosexual.

    Hopefully, the above came out as a numbered list; blogs can be funny about what markup they accept!

    For these reasons, I cannot see how disqualifying gay men in particular will have any effect in reducing sexual abuse of male children. If the scouts really want to reduce the prevalence of sexual abuse, they should be looking at ways to protect children from all scout leaders, regardless of claimed orientation. In fact, my guess is that, in the current climate (in which your opinion represents the most reasonable point on a scale of suspicion), anyone who really harbours a sexual attraction to young males is unlikely to publicly identify as homosexual.

    Before I finish, I’d like to observe that this already sensitive issue is apparently one to which both of us feel a personal connection. I’m glad that we’re able to discuss it civilly and without harbouring ill-will. :)

  • TrevorM

    TT, from your point 4 above the leagal assertion that homosexual marriage could feasibly reduce the number of heterosexual marriages is more than likely best connected to bisexuality, where a person could go either way and is swayed to homosexual marriage by the incentives being offered in both places, instead of only in heterosexual marriage, not to “gay-conversion” (really long sentence there). I don’t know that I believe it, but it is certainly a feasible arguement.

  • Stephen

    I would argue the following position:

    If it were to be shown incontrovertibly that children thrived more in an environment where both parents were of the same sex; that the availability of same-sex marriage reduced the divorce rate generally and strengthened home and family bonds in traditional marriages in particular; that child and spousal abuse was everywhere reduced; and furthermore, guaranteed the Church’s tax-free status, and right to preach the gospel forever in every nation on the planet… the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints would still oppose same-sex marriage.

    Marriage is a sacred relationship between a man and a woman, ordained by God before the foundation of the world, and has profound relevance in the eternities. That is a position so completely underlying all the doctrines of the Church that I cannot see the General Authorities ever recognizing same-sex marriage as a viable concept. Not in the 21st century, not in the 31st century, not in the 41st century.

  • Michelle Llewellyn

    LDS single adults can also sympathize with gays and lesbians. Every Sunday we single unmarrieds are continually reminded that while this family centered church is true, we eternal companionless, lacking in children and eternal families of our own, have no place in it. LDS singles can also argue the unfairness of being deprived of marriage through no fault other than God did not create us to be mothers and fathers, companions and helpmeets in this life and who denies us the opportunity to ever become like Him and we sympathize with your frustration.

    I think your questions can be best answered in Matthew 19:1-12; for the argument of who should marry and who should be allowed to divorce so they could re-marry is certainly not a new one, it’s been going on since the meridian of time!

    Jesus said God made us all male and female, (I see NO valid argument here for homosexuality being an OK thing in God’s eyes, end of discussion) that a man should marry a woman and together they would be “one flesh” (marriage between a man and a woman is IT, there can be no other way, end of discussion) he went on to say God, through Moses, only allowed divorce in old testament times to appease the selfish desires of dissatisfied married men (and women too, probably).
    I myself am a child of divorce. I’m a natural, heterosexual woman who cares very much about the welfare of children and who desires nothing more than to raise up a family and children and do it RIGHT. I’m now in my 30′s and still unmarried with no children. I see it in the best intrest of the children to continue to wait. These future children deserve to be born into a home with TWO loving parents both male and female, but I know I’ll probably have to wait until the next life, before I’ll ever be blessed with that opportunity of temple marriage and family and children. Hurts like hell but that’s my lot in life I guess just like it’s the lot of homosexuals who also desire marriage, guess we all just have to wait until the next life!

    You ask how the SSM affect heterosexuals well here’s a question for you…
    How can I ever hope to marry a man, any man, seeing as how all the men are more intersting in marrying EACH OTHER???!!!

  • http://faithpromotingrumor.wordpress.com TT

    Michelle,
    Thanks for your comment. It is clear that you take this issue personally and I can sympathize with your pain. I think the issue for me is in interpreting the Matt 19 passage is why we choose to ignore it both in church pratice and legal practice with respect to what it is actually talking about, namely, divorce, but we insist on interpreting it to strictly apply to something that it is not talking about, namely, SSM.

  • Dexter Francis

    I believe something has been lost in the woods of words here. Marriage and the word marriage have a very long history. While there have been cultural variations in it’s meaning, Latter-Day Saints have a very specific context and definition for it (which is at variance with the rest of the world by the way) namely, an eternal pairing of a man and a woman, following the pattern set by a literal,real God with regard to a literal and real Adam and Eve. This pairing then forms the basis of an eternal family unit from which children may be created. Any other paring, men with men, women with women, adults with children, humans with other species, simply fails to meet the definition held by Latter-Day Saints and many other faiths.

    Roommates live with but don’t have sex with someone they aren’t married to. Adulterers have sex with married persons who they aren’t married to. Fornicators have sex with unmarried persons that they aren’t married to. Pedophiles have sex with children that they aren’t married to, etc… Married persons have sex with the person they are married to. Latter-Day Saints covenant to not have sexual relations with any one but their own husband or wife to whom they are legally and lawfully married. For them, that’s the standard. Go ahead and change the definition of marriage, next you’ll be changing the definition of husband and wife, then male and female. How far does it go?

    Notice the common element here? SEX

    What is being attempted here is a re-definition of an ancient idea – a man and a woman choosing to commit to each other, at least for the term of their mortal lives, complete fidelity, emotional and physical support, and extending that to any children which may result. Anything else has a different word for it, most of which carry a negative connotation. (Adultery, fornication, incest, beastality, etc.)

    Once you take the immediate and present opinion of God out of the picture, allowing man to shrink or grow the definition as suits his circumstances, you open the way for all sorts of variations, or perversions, depending on your point of view.

    Marriage already has a meaning. Changing that so individuals or groups who do not conform to it, so that they may have the benefits of those who do, is confusing at best and dishonest and deceitful at worst. It would be comparable to changing the definition of “smoker” in order to get the lower insurance premiums, in spite of the higher health risks associated with smoking. That has a name too; fraud.

    Same sex marriage is not marriage. It lacks the elements that historically defined what a marriage is, beginning with the most fundamental level of the X and Y chromosomes that define gender. Further, the existence of variances or exceptions from that,(eg; hermaphroditism)or human’s ability to sugically alter their physiological expression of sex does not overturn the fundamental biological issue.

    It takes a fertile sperm, egg and a uterus to successfully create new human life. Take any of those three away and there is no basis for a family. This is so obvious as to not need explanation.

    -df

  • http://faithpromotingrumor.wordpress.com TT

    Dexter, my brother, I invite you to lose yourself for a moment in the “woods of words” in this thread and engage some of the questions raised here that apply to your assertions, logic, and history. I hope that such an exercise will help to strengthen and refine your arguments.

  • Mark IV

    It takes a fertile sperm, egg and a uterus to successfully create human life. Take any of those three away and there is no basis for a family.

    That would certainly come as news to the members of my extended family who are unable to have children, and to my father-in-law, who is in his 70s and who recently married a woman who is also in her 70s. It would also come as news to the church, which solemnized all those marriages in the temple.

  • http://faithprorumors.wordpress.com Mogget

    I am single and yet there are instances in which I am referred to as a family by church leaders.

    Mogs

  • http://www.bycommonconsent.com Steve Evans

    hint: Dexter is nuts.

  • http://www.feastuponthewordblog.org BrianJ

    Little known fact: “It takes a fertile sperm, egg and a uterus” was the original title of Hillary Clinton’s 1996 book.

  • Jordan

    It lacks the elements that historically defined what a marriage is, beginning with the most fundamental level of the X and Y chromosomes that define gender. [Emphasis mine.]

    Nature itself refutes this simplistic definition of sex. I invite you to take a look at androgen insensitivity syndrome and ask yourself, are such individuals male or female? To help you reach a decision, take a look at some stories and pictures of individuals with this condition; remember that they look this way naturally, not because of surgical intervention.

    Note that my use of the word “individuals” is purely to avoid colouring your judgement; I am of the firm belief that these are definitely, undeniably women, and that society should tolerate no deviation from this in any material sense.

  • http://faithpromotingrumor.wordpress.com TT

    Just a quick follow up to this. On the recently launched website http://www.preservingmarrige.com, it states:

    Failure to pass Proposition 8 will hurt children.
    If gay marriage remains legal, public schools will put it on equal footing with traditional marriage. Children will likely receive “age appropriate” information about sexual relations within heterosexual and homosexual marriages.

    Is the last sentence with the quotes around “age appropriate” meant to suggest that it isn’t really? I am also confused about this claim. Children will be hurt because they will be taught in school about how homosexual people have sex when they are married?

  • http://stuporofthought.wordpress.com mmiles

    TT-
    I don’t think they mean the material isn’t age appropriate, but that from kindergarten on childen will be introduced to the idea of SSM as normal. See this video:
    http://link.brightcove.com/services/link/bcpid1815820715/bctid1822459319

    Also, the church views homosexual activity as inherently harmful. So yah, it’s not helpful to teach teenagers the nuts and bolts in great detail about gay sex along side with how sex happens between heterosexuals and reproduction.
    I agree, that hurts kids.

  • SinisterMatt

    Nate (12):

    “including the highly dubious claim that the Church will somehow be forced to recognize and perform same sex marriage. As TT notes, this has been thoroughly disproved.”

    The argument of the Church being forced to perform same-sex marriage makes me think that whoever originally posited it used “could” instead of “will,” so that it originally read:

    The Church (or churches, I’ve seen it elsewhere, too) could be forced to perform same-sex marriage.

    Since “will” is far more rhetorically powerful than “could,” I wonder if somewhere it got transmogrified. I don’t know for sure, though, but those are my musings.

    Since the whole thing is couched in the 14th Amendment, I could see how it could be used that way, especially with the right lawyer and judge, though it would probably be pretty tenuous at best.

    Just a thought.

    Cheers!

  • Bob W

    mmiles keep in mind this guy in the video was arrested not because he was against SSM but because he was unruly and out of line. No cop would arrest him if was cooperative and just trying to make a point. The book doesn’t show anything that schools with diversity programs haven’t shown for years way before the marriages started. The goal of the schools is to provide a safe atmosphere to teach math and reading. There are a few exeptions but teachers are usually not gay rights activists and if they do you really think this bill will change that?

  • http://faithpromotingrumor.wordpress.com TT

    For those interested, Blake and I continue this discussion here:

    http://www.newcoolthang.com/index.php/2008/10/prop-8-comment-they-would-not-print/569/

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