Three Red Herrings in the Gay Marriage Debate

The dust is settling from the battle of Albany, and the smell of red herrings is in the air.  Gay-marriage is now legally recognized in the state of New York.  Out of every 9 Americans, 1 now lives in a state that legally affirms gay marriage, and with California likely to follow soon, the proportion will soon swell to 1 out of every 6.  While the air is filled with commentary on gay marriage, I wanted to address three red herrings in the debate.  The idiom comes from the notion that one could use the pungent scent of a “red herring” to throw a hound off the scent of whatever it hunted.  A red herring diverts attention from where attention properly belongs.

When I hear people say these things, I know they’re not really informed on the reasons why social conservatives oppose gay marriage.  My purpose here is not to build an argument against gay marriage.  I have a longer series (most recently here) on basic matters of homosexuality and Christianity.  The point here is to help people — whether they oppose or support same-sex marriage — better understand and discuss the arguments.

“How could same-sex marriage possibly be a threat to my marriage?”

It’s not.  If Adam and Steve wish to marry in New York or Massachusetts, this will do nothing to harm your marriage in California or Georgia — or even in New York or Massachusetts.  But here’s the thing: no one ever claimed that the legal recognition of gay marriage is going to harm your marriage.  The claim is that it will harm the institution of marriage.  And, with all due respect, the institution of marriage is more important than your marriage.  Societies are built on the institution of marriage.  But I’m sure your marriage is nice too.

“Gay Marriage Has Been Legalized in [Pick a State], and Armageddon Hardly Seems to Have Broken Out.”

This too is true, and this too is irrelevant.  No one was predicting that demons would rise up out of the earth and slaughter humankind.  Nor was anyone foretelling that the legal recognition of gay marriage would provoke a sudden rash of divorces or instant social disintegration.  The concern was — and is — that the legalization of gay marriage contributes even further to the long-term deterioration of the institution.

Here’s one very important thing to understand.  Those who oppose same-sex marriage do not see the fight for same-sex marriage as a continuation of the Civil Rights struggle.  The Civil Rights struggle does not even enter their minds when they consider same-sex marriage, because they do not believe that a person has a civil right to marry a person of the same sex with the imprimatur of the state, or that a person has a civil right to adopt one course of action (marrying a person of the same sex) and have it treated legally the same as another course of action (marrying a person of the opposite sex).  In other words, in this view, there is no civil right to marry whomever you please, and “equal protection” does not enter the equation; people in themselves deserve equal protection before the law, but different courses of action can and should be treated differently.

Most social conservatives see the same-sex marriage movement as a continuation not of the Civil Rights fight, but of the sexual revolution.  The sexual revolution of the 1960s and 1970s established a trajectory of greater freedom of sexual expression, of broadening the field of sexual behaviors that are accepted and celebrated, and of disapproving the judgment of sexual behaviors or identities.  Many social conservatives see the push for same-sex marriage as the next phase in the sexual revolution, the next phase in the deterioration of moral-sexual norms, and the next step toward the dissolution of the basic and God-ordained family structure.  The sexual revolution, they claim, has already done incalculable harm.  They see a direct connection in the past five decades between the sexual revolution and the breakdown of the family, with skyrocketing increases in divorce, out-of-wedlock births, and deadbeat dads — and all the poverty, stagnation and malaise those things bring.

It’s a slippery-slope argument made by people who believe they’re already halfway (if not further) down the slope.  Slippery slope arguments often seem exaggerated, because they invest all the importance of the whole downward path in the very next step.  Every step down a slippery slope only takes us a little way.  But it also creates momentum.  And when you look back, you realize how far you’ve fallen, how much ground you’ve lost.  Nearly 40% of American children are now born to unwed mothers.  And the disintegration of the American family has done the most harm in low-income African-American communities, where there was less stability and social capital to start with.  Over 70% of African-American children are born out of wedlock.  For all the heroic efforts of single mothers, the children of single moms are as a general rule less healthy and less educated, and more likely to enter gangs and engage in criminal activity.

The point is this: American society once built a bulwark around the traditional family structure.  Perhaps in some ways or for some people groups the removal of that bulwark has been liberating, but the conservatives who oppose gay marriage believe that the removal of the bulwark has, on the whole, been absolutely devastating.  The further and further we depart from the family structure God intended, they believe, the more damage we do to our society.

“If Christians Really Cared About Marriage, They’d Fight Against Divorce”

This is not so much untrue as uninformed.  Yes, Christians have made a mess of marriage all by themselves.  Yes, Christian churches have not stood against divorce as strongly as they should have.  But the implication — that conservative Christians are doing nothing to fight divorce — is false.

First, countless Christian ministries seek to improve marriages.  Many thousands.  And every Christian church in America is engaged in this fight.  Elders, deacons, pastors and pastoral counselors at churches spend a very significant proportion of their time training congregants in how to be good spouses and good parents and in helping couples and families stay together.  Some of the Christian ministries most well known for their opposition to gay marriage — like Focus on the Family — actually devote the greater portion of their time and resources to helping marriages and families.  Focus, for instance, funded 66,000 counseling sessions last year, many of them on marital problems, and most of their media is about building strong marriages and families.

Second, of course, this is not an either/or.  Religious conservatives can oppose gay marriage and take pains to reduce the divorce rate at the same time.  And they appear to be having success.   48% of marriages amongst non-Christians end in divorce.  Some who identify as Christians but rarely attend church actually fare worse.  But the rate for all Christians together is 41%, and the rate for all Christians who frequently attend church (once a week or more) is 32% (this according to the General Social Survey, 2000-2004).  Catholics who attend church frequently divorce at an even lower rate, at 23%.  So, many of the religious groups that oppose gay marriage also fight against divorce, and do so with some success.

Third, Christians too are influenced by culture, and the fight against gay marriage seeks to arrest a cultural movement that degrades the moral and spiritual foundations of marriage.  So the opposition to gay marriage and the fight against divorce are actually seen, by the people involved in the fight, as closely related.

Again, this was not an attempt to build an argument against gay marriage.  That would require other arguments, and deeper levels of explanation.  This was just an attempt to address some of the red herrings.  My hope is that people who find the opposition to gay marriage mystifying will understand it a little better, or at least understand why these bumper-sticker slogans are not found convincing by social conservatives.

About Timothy Dalrymple

Timothy Dalrymple was raised in non-denominational evangelical congregations in California. The son and grandson of ministers, as a young boy he spent far too many hours each night staring at the ceiling and pondering the afterlife.
 
In all his work he seeks a better understanding of why people do, and do not, come to faith, and researches and teaches in religion and science, faith and reason, theology and philosophy, the origins of atheism, Christology, and the religious transformations of suffering

  • http://www.theproblemwithkevin.com Kevin S.

    The problem those who oppose gay marriage encounter is that the concept of the “institution of marriage” is subjective at best, and seems nebulous at worst. My marriage is valuable to to me. The institution of marriage means nothing to me.

    I’m not sure I have a compelling answer to that objection. I certainly don’t care whether the government finds my marriage somehow threatening to the institution. How can I legally apply my standard to your relationship?

    To which, the answer would seem to be for government to get out of the marriage business. Whether or not Christians are sufficiently active in opposing divorce, the government isn’t, and is thereby compromising its own institution.

    • Renegade

      The fact is, Kevin, that for the purposes of identity, inheritance, citizenship, and responsibility, the government will ALWAYS have to decide what is–and is not–a marriage.

      Saying “get the government out of the marriage business” is a nice bumper-sticker slogan, but, alas, can NEVER happen.

  • John

    I think we make too much of this and there’s an obvious, easy way out – though I strongly agree with the author’s position.

    The solution? “rend unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and rend unto God what is God’s.” In other words, *Marriage* should be a church function. Civil Unions should be a State function. A Judge Practitioner, or ship’s captain, or Elvis in Vegas cannot sanctify a *marriage*.

    Divorce settlements, who gets what, etc – that’s all a State purview and I don’t care a farthing whether or not hetero and same sex partnerships are equal under the eyes of the law.

    • Timothy Dalrymple

      I actually lean toward this too, John. My purpose in this post was to clarify arguments, not to advance my own.
      -Tim

      • Grant

        But, Tim, there are problems with this dual structure of human relationships.

        First, as Renegade noted above, it’s impossible for government to totally get out of the marriage business.

        Second, as we have routinely seen, civil unions are stepping stones to redefining marriage. CA had CU’s and every single benefit of marriage within them, save the word, “marriage.” That was not enough, it has never been enough, and never will be enough. What is sought is less benefits and more forced recognition of a cultural, moral change.

        Third, by bifurcating marriage between state and church, we create parallel systems that are separate but equal. History reveals that we cannot do that and long sustain tensions, thus CU’s will not be a tenable option. See point the first.

        Fourth, by bifurcating marriage between state and church, it elevates, or at least equates, the authority of the state over the church. A la Kuyper, this is an inappropriate intrusion of the sovereign sphere of the state over the sovereign sphere of the church.

        Fifth, most of what is sought through a CU (inheritance, visitation, healthcare, etc.) can be done through a variety of legal instruments that, though not cheap, are readily available to anyone, married or not. CU’s would be redundant, albeit with the state’s imprimatur.

        Sixth, and not least importantly, CU’s create impermanence in human relations. Is the modern era the first t think of the genius of CU’s? I hotly doubt it. Marriage has been the institution set aside for privilege and status because it is the best human relationship that ties men to their progeny, protects women, and makes human relationships, in general, flourish. Admittedly, this is a strong “procreative union” argument, but it should be. The potential procreative union, appropriately expressed and best harnessed only within, marriage is a normative social good that, fundamentally, is the building block of society. CU’s are simply contracts. In some instances they are helpful, but as any first year law student will tell you, contracts are created so we know what happens when they are broken. For a government to wholeheartedly endorse CU’s is to place its sanction on responsible human breakups. This is no-fault divorce on steroids. Instead, government ought to encourage strong marriages – by defining it appropriately, limiting it to the appropriate number (CU’s could easily be constructed to permit polygamy, polyamory, etc., and many are making the case that this should happen), and making it difficult to end – for the good of the individual, children, state, and even the economy.

        No, civil unions – parallel institutions of purported equality – are not the solution; they are, in fact, yet one more acquiescence to the moral revolution that is sweeping in a wholesale redefinition of the family.

        • Timothy Dalrymple

          I hear you, Grant. I’ve sometimes made some of the same arguments. I find myself a little less convinced by them now, and aware that there is no perfect solution under these circumstances. There are problems with any of the realistic alternatives at this point. It’s one of those moments when one feels torn between ideals and prudence.
          -Tim

  • chris S.

    I just wanted to say your spam catcher sucks and despite not having any links and no explanation points or caps but a few well reasoned, non flaming paragraphs it still insists its spammy. Contrast that to this comment which is useless and just wastes space like spam and is probably going to be accepted.

    • Timothy Dalrymple

      Chris, I’m sorry about the spam catcher. It has been causing us problems lately. We’re in the process of switching to a new commenting system. But feel free to email me at EvangelicalPortal at patheos dot com and I’ll either respond or post it myself and interact with it. Thanks.
      -Tim

  • http://nathanrein.com Nathan Rein

    Any hints on getting around the spam filter? I wrote a substantive comment but it keeps getting rejected. For the time being, it’s at the link below.

    http://shorttext.com/egarbwvibp

    • Tory D.

      Nathan, one of the very common attacks on SSM opponents is that they fail to show how SSM will harm their individual marriage. You can read it on hundreds of blog posts and see it on TV all the time. The writer of this article did not mischaracterize the argument or fail to understand it. It is very plainly made all the time. Your argument that SSM doesn’t hurt the institution of marriage is a responsive to the author’s rebuttal of the initial fallacious argument. But if you think that that initial fallacious argument isn’t constantly being made then you are simply mistaken. Christians don’t fight to make all divorce illegal because that would be an extreme, and extremely ridiculous, position to take. And certainly not Biblical. Are you being obtuse here, or do you really think that a Christian has to oppose all divorce to avoid a hypocrisy charge in this debate. The sanctity of marriage still isn’t the bottom line of this issue, biology is. Show me the genetic marker for homosexual “orientation” and I’ll show you the beginnings of the case for SSM.

    • Timothy Dalrymple

      I do apologize for the spam filter. We’re in the process of changing our comments system.

      It may be the case that the advent of legal gay marriage will do nothing to harm the institution. (That’s not my position, but it may be the case.) I was working more to clarify the argument and say that the response, “How would it harm my marriage” — which really is quite frequent; you can see it right now at Bruce Reyes-Chow’s blog here at Patheos — is missing the point.

      Sorry for the grammar of that paragraph, but I’m in a rush! Thanks for responding.

      -Tim

  • Don Rubottom

    Good points. But the fact is that the institution is dead, as far as law is concerned. Maggie Gallagher convincingly argued this over 20 years ago. Child custody, paternity and support are no longer marriage based, but DNA based. Sex is completely separated from marriage and both have been completely separated from childbirth. There is no longer any social rationale for civil marriage, it means nothing and accomplishes nothing. (Its true legal incidents may be established by a couple of contractual agreements and a valid will.) Because civil marriage is meaningless, we are having a difficult time denying that it can be whatever the citizen wants it to be. But if it is whatever you want it to be it has no substance in the law.
    Protestants should look at that divorce rate among devote catholics and reconsider their doctrine. Christians should encourage one another with the Truth that Marriage is designed to image God in covenant relationship, faithfully, until death. By practicing such truths, Christians can change society. By rejecting those truths, Christians, particularly Protestants, have led us to this point of complete confusion and meaningless civil law.

  • http://FRCblog.com Chris Marlink

    Thanks for this post, Timothy. Quite thorough and helpful. FRC recently put together a website that seeks to help Christians and non-Christians alike understand the importance of marriage from a biblical, cultural and legal standpoint. If you’re interested, check out http://www.frc.org/marriage. Thanks again, and God bless.

  • RevRuthUCC

    I will concede that for many people, the arguments you address here are red herrings. I, however, lived in Massachusetts during the time leading up to the first same-gender weddings and I will tell you from personal experience that many people who were then and still are opposed to same-gender marriage do not view these arguments as red herrings. They view them as legitimate and important concerns of themselves, often alongside the broader arguments you say are beneath them.

    I now live in a very conservative part of Pennsylvania. I have heard both the “red herring” arguments and the deeper arguments fairly consistently in the 5 years I’ve been here, all argued cogently if not persuasively. I have been known to stop people short, and even change hearts and minds, by pointing out that most same-gender couples who want to get married want the privilege not solely, or even primarily, for the legal rights engendered by the institution of marriage but for the upholding of the tradition “till death do us part” of loving, cherishing, and caring for one immeasurably special person.

    Marriage is the most powerful way we as a society have of showing devotion between two people; to my mind, same-gender marriage strengthens the institution which thereby makes each individual marriage more precious.

    As to same-gender marriage being a separate course of action that does not require equal protection under the law, to my ears, that sounds suspiciously like the Roman Catholic tenet that marriage is about having and raising children (a notion not limited to the RCC but expressed best in RC doctrine). Thanks for that; I’m single, I can’t have children, and I am rapidly approaching an age at which the idea of adopting seems unfair to any child I might want to raise – if I ever commit to a man but we don’t have children, do we still get the right to call it marriage? What about same-gender couples who do raise children, biologically related or adopted? If marriage is indeed about having and raising children, then there should be no obstacle to any marriage which includes children. If marriage is more broadly defined as the creation of a family unit of two adults with or without children who are committed to mutual love and support, then there should be no obstacle to any two consenting adults who desire to commit to each other.

    As to the divorce issue, the point is valid. And it should be equally valid for any religious institution which recognizes same-gender marriage. And we should be working to alleviate the economic and social obstacles which have promoted single motherhood (sad commentary when a couple can survive better without getting married because programs like WIC are means tested…and a husband’s income, if he’s employed, makes them ineligible for the help but leaves a couple without enough to make ends meet). We should also be teaching full-spectrum sex ed to teens and provide excellent access to means of birth control and health care. All of those are necessary parts of the conversation when it comes to strengthening the institution of marriage for the future, whether it’s a man and a woman, two men, or two women who want to say “I DO!”

    • Timothy Dalrymple

      Thanks for the comment, RevRuth. I too was in Massachusetts during those years (for me, I was there 2002-2010). I never really heard the argument that any individual person’s marriage would be harmed by the establishment of same-sex marriage. I heard there would be a change to the institution that would be damaging over time. I sometimes heard it would change the value of the state recognition of marriage, but that was rare and in a minor key. In any case, there’s probably always some variation between the arguments made at the popular level and arguments made by the professionals, so to speak. If that’s the case here, then people at least should know that in addressing the silly arguments you hear from your neighbor Joe, you’re not necessarily addressing the arguments advanced by the leaders of the movement.

      The separate course of action argument doesn’t have to refer to marriage being about having and raising children. But if they’re different courses of action (and they empirically are), then the state may have a legitimate interest in granting one legal status to one course of action and another legal status to another. But the Catholic church has some pretty sophisticated arguments around this issue, around the potential of childbirth, but Christian theology generally would also point to the creative (in every sense) complementarity of the sexes in the marital bond.

      I think I agree with your last couple points, if I’m reading you correctly. Thanks for commenting!
      -Tim

  • Roan Suda

    Kevin S. has it all backwards. A wedding is not intended primarily to allow the bride and groom to experience warm, fuzzy feelings or to give everyone a good time. It is a community event intended to solemnize a personal and social commitment. Likewise, marriage is not simply for personal happiness and convenience. Marriage varies from culture to culture, but what is “nebulous” here is not definitions but rather Kevin S.’s thinking, sadly exemplifying the sort of mindless solipsism that is at the heart of America’s social malaise…The radical separation of Church and State, quite unintended by America’s founders, has left the State as a dog with a prosthetic tail, the Church. The State should be the tail in regard to marriage; instead it is becoming a tyrannical, rabid maul.

    • http://www.theproblemwithkevin.com Kevin S.

      “Marriage varies from culture to culture, but what is “nebulous” here is not definitions but rather Kevin S.’s thinking, sadly exemplifying the sort of mindless solipsism that is at the heart of America’s social malaise…”

      It usually happens that when I post my opinions about anything, I suddenly become all that is wrong with the world. I have that effect on people. But let’s set that aside.

      How do we bring the concept of “the institution of marriage” from nebulous to tangible? How do we take solipsism out of the equation? I married my wife because I wanted to make a life long commitment to her, not because I wanted to re-affirm some governmental institution.

      “The State should be the tail in regard to marriage;”

      I don’t know what this means. If the state is the tail, who should be the head? God? Sure, but then, the state has scarcely been the tail for decades. The state defines marriage, and we follow.

  • Makarios

    Here is what David Frum, that radical pinko socialist, has to say on the subject:

    Since 1997, same-sex marriage has evolved from talk to fact.

    If people like me had been right, we should have seen the American family become radically more unstable over the subsequent decade and a half.

    Instead — while American family stability has continued to deteriorate — it has deteriorated much more slowly than it did in the 1970s and 1980s before same-sex marriage was ever seriously thought of.

    By the numbers, in fact, the 2000s were the least bad decade for American family stability since the fabled 1950s. And when you take a closer look at the American family, the facts have become even tougher for the anti-gay marriage position.

    Full story at the link: http://www.cnn.com/2011/OPINION/06/27/frum.gay.marriage/index.html?hpt=hp_c2

    Shorter version: There is NO empirical, fact-based evidence that demonstrates negative consequences of permitting people of the same sex to marry. The ONLY real objections are based on religious belief–and religious belief should not be enacted into law in a free and democratic society.

    • Timothy Dalrymple

      A couple points:

      (1) When I raised this argument in the late nineties, I certainly didn’t expect “the American family [to] become radically more unstable over the subsequent decade and a half.” Would I have expected a continued deterioration? Yes. And we have seen continued deterioration. Given all the influences on family structure stability, if you think the fact that the deterioration has been slower in the 2000s than it was in the 70s and 80s is dispositive, you’re fooling yourself. The fact that the deterioration continued at all, when previous negative factors had arguably run their course or been removed, could form the argument for the gay-marriage opponent.

      (2) People are perfectly within their rights to bring their religious beliefs into the voting booth and press for their vision of the social good. It’s called democracy. Different people groups and interest groups press for laws that reflect their values, and religious groups can do the same.
      -Tim

      • http://www.theproblemwithkevin.com Kevin S.

        This is well said. I would add that Frum, while not a pinko (there really is no such thing these days), essentially opines as a Wilsonian Democrat.

        • Makarios

          And Kevin–what does characterizing Frum as a Wilsonian Democrat prove, exactly?

          • http://www.theproblemwithkevin.com Kevin S.

            I took the premise of the “commie pinko” line to insinuate that he is a conservative. He once was, but no longer is.

      • Makarios

        Regarding your first point, can you aadduce any evidence to support the cause/effect relationship that you allege?

        Regarding your second point–no. Sorry, but no. Once rights can be given or withheld by majority vote, then they cease to become rights and become privileges.

        • http://www.theproblemwithkevin.com Kevin S.

          Marriage is a privilege by virtue of the fact that we privilege it. If government is going to protect the institution, the people have a right to define that institution, and may use their own religious beliefs in forging that decision.

        • Timothy Dalrymple

          There are limitations on what the majority can vote, yes. But you’re begging the question. Those who oppose same-sex marriage obviously don’t see it as a right. They believe a society is better and stronger if it affirms the traditional family structure, and they’re perfectly justified in voting for candidates who agree and pressing for legislation that reflects their values. If the courts decide that’s an infringement on the Constitutional rights of gays, then the legislation will be invalidated. But, even though I’m not as conservative as many are on this issue, even I think the argument that there is a Constitutional right to marry a person of the same sex and receive the same status and benefits that traditional marriages receive is a weak argument. In any case, if it were clearly a right, we wouldn’t be having this conversation, so I’m afraid your assuming what you need to prove.

          As for the causal relationship, (i) causal relationships are very hard to demonstrate when it comes to things like this — consider, for instance, how hard it is to get anyone to agree on whether raising the minimum wage actually helps the poor, and then how much more difficult it would be to show that instituting same-sex marriage, which has only been done in a couple states (and in other countries where the contexts are different), serves to weaken the family structure – and I’m certainly not going to lay out that argument in the comments thread for my blog post. Do a little research if you’re sincerely interested in hearing the other side out. And (ii), as I’ve said several times, my point here was to clarify arguments, not to support them. On some of these things, my own positions are slightly different.

  • Kubrick’s Rube

    Hey Tim.

    There’s a simple reason these alleged red herrings come up, and it’s not because we’re uninformed about the reasons social conservatives oppose marriage equality.

    As much as I appreciate the civil, nuanced, internally consistent and intellectually honest (though still utterly wrong) opposition to marriage equality that you and Tim Muldoon and others at Patheos present, this is not representative of what we hear out in the real world, across the internet, or from the most politically active defenders of “traditional marriage.”

    Admittedly, the claim that same-sex marriages adversely affect individual straight marriages doesn’t come up as much as it used to, but Robert George did declare (to Kathryn Jean “Do not be so quick to dismiss the North Korea comparison” Lopez) that the marriage license my wife and I got from the state of New York is now “counterfeit” and that “the legal recognition of marriage,” which I’ve been enjoying for the last three and a half years has been “take[n] away.” More common is the claim that gay marriage is a threat to my children, because whatever will I tell them when schoolteachers are mandated to indoctrinate them into believing that gay people are normal and mommy and daddy are bigots.

    As to Armageddon breaking out, are you familiar with NOM’s “The Gathering Storm” ad? “My freedom will be taken away… I will have no choice. The storm is coming.” Or this (factually wrong in so many ways) charmer from Protect Marriage Washington? “In May of 2004, gay marriage was legalized in Scandinavia…That year alone suicide rates doubled. The illegal drug rate increased 19 times.”

    The divorce argument is a separate issue, and your assertion there is something of a red herring itself. The point is not that Christians fail to live up to their own ideals; it is that for divorce they don’t engage a legal battle to enshrine those ideals into law. Divorce is as much a “course of action” as marriage, but where are the ballot initiatives to outlaw it? And as to marriage being a course of action, but not voting, getting a job, renting an apartment, or any of the other things “equal protection” applies to, well, we’ll have to wait and see if Justice Kennedy is as convinced by David Boise’s and Ted Olsen’s arguments as Reagan and Bush nominee Judge Walker was in California.

    I would love it if we didn’t have to engage the well-funded, powerful, mendacious, bigoted opponents that dominate the discussion, and could instead focus on why your civil, nuanced, internally consistent and intellectually honest opposition is still utterly, misguidedly, counterproductively wrong. ;-)
    By the way, there’s a mostly civil discussion going on in the comment section for Tim Muldoon’s current column if you’re interested in some (but by no means all) of our non-red herring arguments for marriage equality not harming the institution of marriage:

    http://www.patheos.com/Resources/Additional-Resources/Gay-Marriage-Rights-and-Consequences-Tim-Muldoon-06-28-2011.html

    • Timothy Dalrymple

      KR, I know there are non red-herring arguments. Those simply weren’t the point of the post.

      A few quick points, because it’s getting late: (1) The bumper sticker argument — you can find it at Bruce Reyes-Chow’s blog right now, for instance — is what will same-sex marriage do to “my” marriage. It won’t really do anything. It could change the institution, and in changing the institution change the significance of your marriage certificate, but this is not one of the main arguments and the emphasis is again on the institution. (2) Even the “gathering storm” ad refers to a more long-term concern. (3) When divorce is raised, I haven’t seen it raised specifically with regard to effecting legal change. It’s more that Christians have made a mess of marriage by themselves, they have a high divorce rate, etc., and they should focus on making their own marriages right before they worry about the marriages of others. This is a common enough argument, you must have seen it. Besides, no one, not even Christian conservatives want to “outlaw” divorce. Everyone accepts that divorce is acceptable in certain circumstances; they just differ on what those circumstances are. In any case, I do think that Christians could have done more to oppose no-fault divorce on the legal level, but the notion that Christians have not mobilized to improve their own marriages and reduce the divorce rate is off-base.

      We had a pretty good conversation on gay marriage, involving Muldoon and others, in our symposium on the future of social conservatism.
      -Tim

      • Kubrick’s Rube

        I checked out Bruce Reyes-Chow’s blog: guilty as charged.

        On divorce, fair enough. I’ve certainly heard the “worry about your own marriages” line plenty of times. I’m surprised you haven’t seen the “why not outlaw divorce” argument though. The idea is to rhetorically remind the opponent that religious reasons aren’t sufficient for legal questions.

        You’re wrong about “The Gathering Storm” though. The ad does not present long-term concerns; its assertions are nearly all claims that marriage equality with directly and immediately impact everyone- doctors, teachers, parents, churches- caught in its wake. “Those advocates want to change the way I live,” is neither long-term nor institutional.

        The social conservatism symposium was a good read- that’s what turned me into a more than occasional commenter. (My intro to Patheos was Fred Clark’s Slacktivist blog moving here.)

        Anyway, enjoy your Independence Day weekend.

  • Spenser

    The US is not an island. Canada and several European countries — the northern countries, even Spain — have legalised gay marriage. What have been the consequences for the institution of marriage? Let’s have some facts here, rather than mere fearful surmise. And almost all European countries have legalised civil partnerships, a rose by another name. The results? Let’s get out of our provincial groove, eh what? Let’s us look to other societies as well.

    • Timothy Dalrymple

      I do know that the statistics for out-of-wedlock births are even higher in many of the countries that have legalized gay marriage — such as Scandinavian countries. The consequences for children of being born out-of-wedlock are not as severe in those countries, since there is a lot more effective redistribution of wealth through social welfare systems. But it does seem as though marriage is just about an afterthought for a lot of folks in those countries now, or just a silly old institution that constrains people’s freedom and is better avoided.

      To go further, though, would require more information than I have to hand at the moment. There are people who specialize in these sorts of things, but I am not one of them. My intent, in any case, was not so much to defend the arguments in this post as to clarify what they were. If anyone else has further data, feel free to post it.

      Thanks for the comment,
      -Tim

  • http://www.ecstasytoybox.com/ Caroll Gabert

    Wrong. Marriage is really a “religeous” institution recognized by the state. I am a supporter of “civil unions” but not redefining marriage. Nevertheless, that is not good enough for the GLB groups.

  • Bill

    The only two words I am able to come up with for this piece, Timothy, are as follows:

    Flatly stupid.

    • Timothy Dalrymple

      You know you just make your own side look foolish when you say things like that, right? Like you can’t put forward an actual argument?
      -Tim

  • http://TDS Nancy Dalrymple

    Some statistics on the global American side. BY the way i am not for gay marriage if they want to do this they can but i do not recognize and i know God does not recognise this action. They are only legal as far as the State they married in, not in Gods eyes. I can give you more scriptures against this and no facts on biblical evidence for it.
    I tried to post a map but it did not work to show the States that do not allow this and their are more who do not then do.Southern States are the ones who really do not allow this, from Georgia down. I agree. If you have to fight for this right then what is the laws saying?Where is right and where is wrong? Why have people taken things out of context and fit them to suit what they want because they have itchy ears and monkey see monkey do.Being a believer is not compromising in any why, for if you are lukewarm God will spew you out of his mouth! NO gay marriage will not hurt mine in fact people are more to stay together because of this because they do not know what is male or what is female any more. It pollutes the system i do not want my country changed to suit what i know is sinful. Even most cold blooded murders are manslaughter in most courts because of all the changes in law and rights. If i had gone to jail i would have been anything i wanted on the state from taxes that good honest hard working people put into the system.I don’t believe in pacifying people with good honest people’s money i give that to the people in need first.Keep changing this country laws and you will very much become a democratic socialistic government. Marriage is a union between man and woman,Jesus gave us the marriage laws not Uncle Sam, this country was very United and under God when it first started but i can see God being taken out of everything and deleted by most youths who think he is a fable because their parents did not teach them about the wolf at the door so everything is excepted as the norm but it is in reality a lie!


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