Wherein Quartz has a bit of an epiphany on same-sex marriage.

I’ll give this another shot. I apologize for the hijack, Quartz, but I wanted to answer some questions that were asked.

If the only difference is a word or phrase that connotes that the people are gay and not hetero, why does that equate to being second-class? Only if you think that gays are second-class would that be a problem. I don’t see it that way. “Other” does not equal “inferior”. There are boys and there are girls. I don’t see one as being inferior to the other.

Uh, read what you wrote. Notice the phrase “underfunded schools”? That is the reason the concept does not work. Now, if you are of the mind that even given equal funding, schools, teachers, etc., that blacks would still never be able to compete with whites academically, that’s a notion that you may want to float in another thread. I’d love to see the response to such an idea. You miight want to follow that with a campaign to disband black colleges.

Similarly, what inherent deficiency do you see gay unions having that would lead you to conclude that the idea of having separate terms to refer to the two different types of unions would lead to one being inferior to the other? And specifically, the gay version being inferior to the hetero version? Why mightn’t the gay version, over time, be viewed as more stable, more profound, etc.?

As luck would have it, volvelle has provided illumination: (highlighting mine)

So it seems that the rights that come with marriage is not the goal, at least not the sole or ultimate goal. As I tried to explore earlier, if you say it’s about rights and then I give you those rights, why isn’t that the end of it. And the answer is that their is an attempt to try to erase all differences between straight and gay. But newsfuckingflash: there is a difference. That is precisely the reason we have the terms “straight” and “gay”, or the prefixes “hetero” and “homo”. I find it ironic that the very group that should be unaffected by a term that defines the distinction we are talking about is so hell-bent on avoiding it. So much for gay pride, I guess.

You forgot “nefarious”: nefarious gay plot. :rolleyes:

Do you deny that “marriage” has meant, and means to the vast number of Americans, the union of a man and a woman? Do you deny that that has been the understanding of our society since the formulation of the country and before? Do you deny that marriage has been tightly associated with the procreation of children? And that while that might not be the case for all people, that the correlation is extremely strong, approaching 1:1?

Well, those are the reasons. I’m not saying that that is the end of the argument. It is not. But those seem to be pretty good “possible reason[s]” why there is a desire among many to not have gay unions be called marriage, even if they enjoy all the same legal rights.

Why is a term that would signal “different” necessarily imply “inferior”?

See above.

I apologize for continuing the hijack, Quartz, but I wanted to answer some questions that were asked.

It’s not a defiency in the relationship, it’s a deficiency in the way society perceives the relationship. And I don’t trust society to guarantee those rights in a “seperate but equal” relationship. If I’m married to my boyfriend, I don’t have to worry about, say, losing the right of next of kin, unless someone tries to strip that right from all marriages, gay and straight. (And I don’t think Jeb Bush has that kind of clout.) If gays are ghettoized into a seperate class of official relationship, then we don’t have that protection. It’s exactly like segregation. In theory, seperate but equal would have worked. But in practice, it gave bigots an opportunity to game the system to screw over people they didn’t like. The best defence against that is to put ourselves into a position where any attempt to screw us over is going to screw over everyone else, including our enemies.

And, of course, the whole idea is incredibly insulting and condescending, but I don’t expect you to recognize that.

Because one of the rights I want is the right to be married. Not civil unioned. Married. Why is this important to me? Same fucking reason marriage is important to you.

What is that difference? Is it just the plumbing? Seriously, is there any difference between a relationship between two guys and a relationship between a guy and a girl besides the plumbing of the people involved? And if not, why is that difference so important to you?

Considering that the crux of the argument is that this definition should be changed, it seems rather self-evident that the answer here is “yes.” What of it? Why is that a reason to deny marriage to gays?

So what? Gays have kids, too. If they had the protections offered by marriage, they’d probably have a lot more, but without those protections, there’s a lot of risk that the non-biological parent will lose parenting rights if their partner dies or leaves them.

And, as always, you have offered up “children” as a reason why gays shouldn’t be allowed marriage, without explaining why infertile couples should be denited it as well.

No, they aren’t good reasons. They’re the stupidest reasons imaginable. They’re so stupid I’m honestly have a hard time formulating an argument against them, because I keep getting hung up on what other terms and ideas you need explained to you, if you think these reasons make any sort of sense.

Look, we’re saying, "We want to change the definition of marriage to allow gays to participate.

You’re saying, “You can’t do that, because gays aren’t included in the definition of marriage!”

Well, no fucking shit! That’s why we want to change the defintion! You aren’t giving any reasons why we shouldn’t, you’re just restating one of the starting premises of both sides of the argument!

I mean, my God, there’s no end to other terms that had a long history of meaning one thing, and that were then changed to mean something else because we recognized that the old definitions were unfair and immoral. “Citizen,” for example. “Voter.” “Person.” What makes marriage, as a word, so much different, that we can’t open it up just a crack?

Long and bitter experience. If you don’t mind giving gays every right enjoyed by straights in marriage, what’s wrong with calling it marriage? What is lost, by granting what would be, at that stage, the smallest possible consideration? It’s utterly illogical. The only explanation that makes any sense at all is that you are desperate to cling to something, some indication that what you have is better than what we have. Now, I’ll accept your word when you say that’s not why you’re opposed to it, but the reasons you give are baffling and nonsensical. So there’s a bit of a suspicion, you see, that maybe the reasons you’re giving aren’t the real reasons after all.

And, again, there’s the whole insulting and condescending thing, but like I said, I don’t expect you to be able to recognize that.

Sorry if you find other’s people’s beliefs on the subject offensive. On second thought, too fucking bad. And to those who might point to your beliefs on the subject as offensive I’d say the same thing. We each are entitled to our opinions. I understand—respect, even (although it’s waning)—your right to think the way you do. I even support your right to push things in the direction you wish to push them.

But it’s a two-fucking-way street, pal. You want to change the difintiton of marriage to include gays. You want to erase from our collective conscience one of the basic pillars of an institution that has been so important to our society? Fine. But there are a bunch of people who think we should not change the definition. So what do we do? Well, we could have a respectful discussion about it. Or we could do it your way. To which, I say, fuck off.

Then say it in the Pit. Stop getting personally hostile in Great Debates.

[ /Moderating ]

Well, the thing is, kinda hard to have a respectful discussion about wether or not I should be treated as an equal in society. The fact that we’re having the discussion at all is pretty disrespectful in and of itself. Which is why I figured you wouldn’t recognize why your position is insulting. I pretty much figured you’d just come back with some reason why I shouldn’t be insulted, and I’d thought I’d head you off at the pass. But hey, if I’m wrong, I apologize for the assumption. If you do understand precisely why your position on gay marriage is insulting to a great number of gays, and you’re going to maintain it over nothing more than a semantic quibble, well, you already used my response to that, and got slapped by a mod, so I’m not going to go there.

I do want to go back to something else you wrote, though, on the off-hand chance you’ll recover from your bought of righteous indigestion:

This is actually a gross misrepresentation, on several levels. Equal access to marriage isn’t about erasing all the differences between straight and gay. That would be silly. Straight and gay have very useful meanings in the appropriate circumstance. For example, if I’m at a party, and I see a hot guy, I might think, “Man, I’d like to go out with that guy. Or at least have wild monkey sex with him.” If my friend tells me that he’s straight, I know that dating is right out, and the wild monkey sex fairly unlikely. Straight and gay are important distinctions in that sort of situation. The terms convey useful information that will alter how I react to the person in question.

When it comes to marriage, however, differentiating between gay and straight is pointless. How does it help you to know that Cathy over there is in a Civil Union, as opposed to a Marriage? Is it going to affect how you interact with her? Does it alter how you view her relationship with her spouse? What are the assumptions you would make about her if she’s in one relationship, that you would not make about her if she were in the other? If you’re as openminded as you claim, I’ll wager that it would make no difference at all. So why is it necessary, in your view, to distinguish the two terms? What ambiguity is solved by the distinction? What social moore (other than traditional homophobia, which we both agree is bad and should be discarded) is preserved by it? What function of that relationship is communicated by one term that is not communicated by the other? In short, what difference does it make to you? Why do you, personally, magellan01, need a different term to tell the difference between a gay marriage and a straight marriage?

Insisting on a different terms for straight marriage and gay marriage is like insisting on different terms for Christian marriage and Jewish marriage. Or marriage between Finns and marriage between Cambodians. Or marriage between blondes and marriage between brunettes. The gender/religion/nationality/hair color of the participants tells you nothing about the relationship between the participants. And neither does their sexuality. Insisting on different terms serves no rational purpose.

But magellan01, nobody wants to “erase” marriage. We’re simply asking that it be more inclusive. Marriage is still marriage, only the combination of genders inhabiting it has changed. If marriage is so all important to a society, then why *wouldn’t * we want gay people to join in?

Besides which, marriage has changed as society evolved. We’ve disallowed forced or arranged marriage, we’ve upped the age of consent, we allow interracial marriage, we allow divorce, and wives are no longer considered the property of husbands, to name just a few. SSM is the next, natural step. Reactionaries fight these changes every time, and every time things change and history looks back rather poorly on those who opposed it.

To follow up on what volvelle just said, I’d disagree with calling opposite genders a “basic pillar” of marriage. It’s always been a component, I agree, but I don’t think it’s a basic pillar, in the sense that removing it will cause the whole thing to collapse. It’s a minor support structure that’s gotten too old and moldy to serve its function, so we’re replacing it with a better part.

Not necessarily so. “That’s not what I’ve been accustomed to since I was born” is very often a compelling reason to oppose a change. It feels so obvious that it’s not right, though it’s difficult to articulate exactly why… It seems like you shouldn’t have to explain it, and that probably the guy on the other side is just pretending not to understand what you mean but can’t really explain.

The elephant in the room is the codification of behavior that is deemed abnormal. There is greater support for the establishment of gay relationships than there is for legally redefining monogamous heterosexual relationships.

I agree, but his stated reason isn’t, “I fear change,” it’s “Marriage has always been between a man and a woman.” Clearly, the second one follows from the first, but it’s still not the argument he’s made against SSM.

Which is exactly what I was trying to say to LHoD, but not as succinctly. Redefining the concept of marriage to include gays does not affect heterosexual marriage at all. Redefining the concept of marriage to remove it from the government sphere altogether, and replacing it with civil unions for everyone, changes the marriage of every person in the country, and is going to be much more strongly resisted. The best way to convince people to support SSM (or at least, not oppose it) is to convince them that doing so will not affect their own marriage in any way.

Some liberals are for SSM. Some liberals, it’s been claimed, aren’t liberal enough to accept SSM. And other liberals are fine with queers, but think marriage is obsolete and a waste of time. When I started volunteering with Equality Virginia, I was looking for Virginians who would vote “no” on the anti-SSM amendment. To my dismay I realized that most of the liberals I know don’t actually live in Virginia (and asked myself “what am I doing living in this state anyway?”). Then my friend who lives on a communal farm in Virginia offered to get out lots of votes among the hippies there. But most of them are poly, and their reaction was “Marriage? Who cares?”

You speak later about wanting real-world strategies, but you’re ignoring that, as a real-world strategy, I’ve found the “remove government from marriage” idea to gain more traction among conservatives than the “government recognize SSM” idea. I think your desire for SSM is occluding your judgment about how conservatives actually respond to this idea. Have you put these two ideas before any folks opposed to SSM and asked them which they’d find preferable? I have.

Why do you want this? Do you want this in order to have implicit societal approval of your marriage? If so, are you willing to have implicit societal approval of, to harp n the cliche, Britney Spears’s marriage? I’m not: I want no part of Spears’s marriage, and frankly, I don’t want her approval of mine. The folks whose approval I wanted were invited to the wedding.

Apart from whether civil unions as I propose them are a good idea, this illustrates a common mistake advocates of SSM face: they incorrectly divide the world into a government sphere and a religious sphere, as if there’s never been a private secular marriage. Of course there has been, and of course there will continue to be, and of course the civil union proposal would allow for nongovernmental nonreligious marriages. This point is a nonstarter.

Heh. I’d say, to the extent that someone is opposed to equal legal relationships for gay and straight couples, they’re not social liberals; it really is a litmus test. I stand by what I said.

I think, again, that you’re speaking hypothetically, not having observed how real-world conservatives respond to the proposals. If you’re really interested in real-world proposals, and if you find that folks opposed to SSM are amenable to civil unions for everyone, would you be willing to support the later proposal? If not, how do you reconcile that with a commitment to real-world strategies?

I want to clarify that I am NOT asking for any sort of two-tier system; nor is my desire to do away with state marriages directly connected to the issue of SSM (the only connection is that, until the issue of SSM became prominent a couple years ago, I hadn’t thought that much about the issue). I will be ecstatic if SSM becomes legal everywhere. And while I’d prefer not having the government involved in my own love life, I suppose I can understand why other folks want that involvement. I support the civil unions for everyone because:

  1. I don’t want the government dealing with folks’ intimate matters;
  2. I believe there are other relationships, e.g., a person taking care of an ill sibling, that would benefit from the legal arrangements currently available to spouses and that would not benefit from legalization of SSM;
  3. I believe (with only anecdotal, personally-observed evidence) that more folks uncomfortable with SSM would support the civil-unions-for-all proposal, and that it’s therefore a more realistic strategy; and
  4. I believe that, by stripping away the emotional term of marriage for a bit, it enables folks to see that at its heart we’re discussing legal equality, something that the word “marriage” seems to obscure for a lot of people.

I do NOT support it out of any discomfort with the idea of two dudes getting hitched.


Well, your experience runs counter to mine. In my experience, that attitude is almost exclusive to the libertarian minority, and is widely disliked by liberals and conservatives alike. But, obviously, neither of us have conducted anything like a scientific poll on the subject. Heck, if we used the SDMB to derive our conclusions on the popularity of SSM, we’d find that SSM has broad popular support among the Republican party, and I’m pretty sure that ain’t right.

I’ve never really cared for the “Spears cliche.” The whole idea of sitting in judgement on the validity of someone else’s marriage, no matter how hastily conceived or quickly dissolved, does not sit well with me.

I don’t understand the purpose of a secular marriage that is not recognized by the government.

That’s a tough one. Like I said, I don’t want to remove government from marriage. What I want, personally, out of the SSM fight is the ability to have a government sanctioned marriage with the person of my choosing. As things currently stand, under California’s domestic partnership law, I’ve already got access to that, for most intents and purposes. On the other hand, if it were a federal law, there are a lot of gays in other parts of the country who don’t have access to that, and I feel I should support it for their sake. On the grasping hand, they could just move their asses to California or Vermont or one of the other states with similar legislation. 'Course, I could just move to Massachusetts and get married there. Or Canada. And I don’t want to do either of those. I suppose, ultimatly, I’d support such a law as a stop-gap, in the hopes that after the idea of homosexual relationships being seen as the legal equal to heterosexual relationships has had time to take solid hold in the public consciousness, we could push to restore government influence on marriage. Pretty much the same reason I’d vote yes for a national recognition of civil unions as a secondary “marriage” while retaining traditional het marriage. It’s not what I want, but it could be a stepping stone to that.

I don’t view marriage as an intimate matter, although there is obviously a great deal of intimacy involved. But the marriage itself is a public matter: it’s how the couple present themselves to the world. I think that it is proper and desirable for the government, as an agency of the public, to recognize and solemnize that relationship.

I don’t really like the idea of my marriage being legally no different than someone taking care of their sick aunt. I recognize that such relationships could use more legal protection, and I support efforts to remedy that, but I want them to be distinct from my own romatic/maritial relationship.

And I think trying to strip away the legal meaning of everyone’s marriage is only going to stir up more emotions, and further obscure the issue, even for people who would nominally have supported SSM.

It never crossed my mind that you would feel otherwise.

To be fair, that’s most of the conservatives whom I’ve spoken with about it. Have you, then, raised both ideas before other conservatives and had them say that they find the civil-unions-for-all choice equally repellent to the SSM choice?

In what sense is a government marriage a good thing, then, if not to have the government giving approval to your relationship?

Nevertheless, folks do find them valuable, and dividing the world into government functions and religious functions leaves out a big bunch of stuff.

Personally, I find it valuable because it’s a ceremony by which my friends and family recognized and solemnized my relationship with my wife. The folks I cared about–not Uncle Sam–told me that they’d support our union. It was very meaningful. The marriage certificate? That just represents to me how the government views us, and I really don’t care about the words on it.

This surprises me. Are there specific legal differences you’d want to see–legal rights that you think you ought to be able to have regarding your lover, but not regarding your sick aunt? If two sisters decide to live together and not get married, what do you think ought to be the legal rights to which you, but not they, are entitled?

If you want them to be distinct in a sense other than the legal sense, sure, I’m with you on that–but I think that the government ought to confine itself to the legal sense of things.


You’ve got some good arguments here, LHoD. They’re pretty persuasive, and I admit I can’t rebut all of them. But I think you’re making one serious error: you’re overlooking the political arena. Your proposal is fair and equitable, and in an atmosphere of respect and fairness, it might be successful. But we’re talking American politics, here. Put this forward as a legitimate political strategy, and before you can blink, folks like Jerry Falwell and James Dobson will be spinning it as, “Gays want to destroy your marriage.” Hell, they’re already doing that, with a good measure of success, when all we’re asking for is admittance to the institution. Attempt to alter the nature of marriage as radically as you’re suggesting, and you might as well gift-wrap the whole debate and hand it over to the Religious Right.

That may be true. I’m not sure that it is–the related problem is that I’ve not seen any politician put it forward as a proposal, and I’m of course not as savvy at politics as the pros are, so there’s gotta be a reason for that.

I do wonder what the religious right would say about such a proposal.


And I don’t believe your experience is representative, although I couldn’t say for certain. I agree with you that it’s preferable to have government completely separate from the sphere of the sacred (which, incidentally, would be a GREAT name for a crappy fantasy novel). From a strictly ideological viewpoint, I think that’s the ideal answer to this problem. And it makes arguments as to who would have to recognize gay marriage complete nonsense - they are that already, of course, but it’s been argued that legalizing gay marriage would somehow magically obligate churches, in the eyes of the public, to recognize it. This idea would make it clear that this has no bearing on Grandma Slokowski’s church marriage. And bottom line, I agree that government should be out of the marriage business.

But it’s far from clear to me that most people who oppose gay marriage feel that way; Miller’s point is quite valid - it’s a far greater alteration to marriage for government to stop recognizing it altogether (even if the actual-factual government and contractual end of it remained the same.) There are lots of Theocratic Christians who would feel very put out at the government no longer recognizing their marriages with exactly that wording. Which group is larger - the small government conservatives or the Theocratic Right? How much overlap is there? I can’t answer that, and I don’t think you can accurately do so either.

There’s a big difference between “conservatives” like the SDMB’s numerous resident libertarians and libertarian-leaning Republicans and “conservatives” who wish to gradually impose the Mosaic Law upon the United States. Plus there’s also actual old-fashioned conservatives, who both favor “traditional” social constructs and small government - and which way that crowd would lean is far from clear to me. Looking on the SDMB you get a rather skewed view of things; there are very few members of the Theocratic Right around here but lots of libertarians - and such is, frankly, true of the kinds of intellectual circles I’m guessing you hang out in. I’m just not sure how much of a role the small-government crowd has in this argument, since arguably they’ve had approximately the same effect on politics in recent years as the Democrats.

Bottom line, I’m not sure you have your finger on the pulse of the Right, and I’m not sure I do either. But I don’t think it’s at all safe to make this argument without actual poll numbers in front of us to evaluate it.

We’ll leave that for after we win our legal rights. Hearts and minds are important, but so is the actual battle.

I fear you assume far too much in your own ability to gauge the feelings of the populace.

Just my opinion, but I agree wholeheartedly with Miller - and again, what you’re proposing here would in fact have the effect of substantially altering marriage (or rather, under its new name, civil unions). At this point, I think there really is something to be said about “altering the meaning of marriage” - especially since any marriage I enter into would be a strictly civil one. It doesn’t sit well with me at all to imagine my relationship being exactly the same, legally, as a simple matter of convenience. I guess I do believe there is a real societal role for recognizing the particular and unique relationship of two people in love. Also, from a legal point of view, it’s unclear to me that it even makes sense to extend exactly the same group of rights to people in non-marriage relationships, or that a single one-marriage-fits-all scheme would be appropriate for all of those people in the first place.

There’s a further problem, in that when imagining “civil unions” put to such uses, it becomes harder and harder to justify limiting them to two people, which raises the immensely complex matter of how to come up with a schme to civilly bond groups of people. Since it’s nothing but a particular bundle of legal rights, in your view, it is simply difficult to justify modeling it upon the pattern of monogamous union. And while I support the right of people to engage in polygamous marriage, it’s a huge fucking mess of a legal issue that, frankly, will take a lot longer to solve than is right to keep gay couples waiting.

I know lots of poly people, but have never heard any of them wishing they could get married just like normos. They just want to cast aside marriage altogether and be free of the whole concept. They think I’m wasting my time working in favor of a form of marriage.

Here, now you know a poly person who is extremely invested in her marriage and who is distressed on occasion by her inability to offer a similar level of recognised legal commitment to her other partner.

A goodly fraction of the polyfolks I know are married, some legally, others not. I also knew of a triad where there is one legal marriage and one established without government support, the three of them wore identical wedding rings, and nobody other than people who looked at the paperwork knew which one was the legally established one. (Past tense because IIRC one of the men is deceased.)

Yeah, chiming in here with Lilairen. I’m poly, though my marriage is not considered valid by the state because it is to another man. I think equal marriage access for both LGBT and straight folks is incredibly important, obviously.