New York Passes Gay Marriage: What Are The Consequences?

Jason and David meet to discuss the new gay marriage law.

Jason: “It finally happened! New York passed gay marriage. Now gay couples are the same as straight couples!”

David: “But they’re not, you know. One couple is comprised of two men or two women while the other is made of one man, one woman. No matter how you slice it, these are different combinations of people, which will lead to differences in behavior. And those differences in behavior must influence society.”

Jason: “You’re exaggerating, as usual. Whatever happens inside a person’s house in private has no impact outside that person’s house.”

David: “Not so. When a man has a fight with his wife, he is likely to leave his house in a different mood than if he spent a pleasant morning; further, the mood with which he leaves home often changes his behavior during the day. ”

Jason: “So what? Gay couples will fight just like straight couples.”

David: “Does this mean you agree with me that whatever happens inside a person’s house in private often, or even always, has consequences outside that person’s house and thus effects the culture as whole, however trivially? That what you claimed was false?”

Jason: “I suppose so. But then you’ll have to admit that gay couples will fight like straight couples and that there will be no real differences.”

David: “Of course I agree that fights, and pleasant evenings, and so forth will happen in both households. I differ from you only in that you assume that society will not change or will become better, while I say it is certain that society has changed and will continue to change because of this law, and that the consequences might be beneficial or they might be harmful. You dismiss the idea of harm because you view the law as progress, and that any progress is beneficial. Whereas I claim that ideas sold as ‘progressive’ have often caused harm to cultures.”

Jason: “What possible harm could there be?”

David: “If you mean to ask that question as a way to discover possible harms, then it is a good one. But if you meant it rhetorically, as in, ‘I can’t think of any harm, therefore there can be no harm’, then you make a mistake, and a common one. Just because you cannot think of harmful consequences does not mean they do not exist.”

Jason: “OK, then. Prove to me that the culture will be harmed. If you cannot, then the law will at least cause no changes and might even provide benefits, like increasing awareness of rights.”

David: “You committed the same fallacy twice, and worsened it by introducing one new one. Just because I cannot prove harm does not mean that harm cannot exist. My powers of political prognostication are no more developed than yours. I only claim to have a clearer understanding of history and the multitudinous follies of mankind.

Your second mistake was to assume that I claimed there would be no benefits. I make no such claims and acknowledge that, at the least, benefits to certain people, such as gay couples themselves, will be created. I only ask whether those benefits will be outweighed by harms—which is a question you have forbidden yourself and others to ask.

But I don’t want to appear evasive, so I will show you one direct and immediate harm; curiously, you suggested it. Proponents of the law said that gays should be allowed to marry because it was their right. I say the harm is the further loosening of reason caused by poor arguments passed off for good; and that, since it has passed for good, this style of argumentation will be more readily allowed in future questions of cultural change.”

Jason: “Gay marriage is an obvious right.”

David: “You have heard the argument that since gays have a right to marry, why should not polygamists have that same right? And why not allow adults to marry children? Or people animals?”

Jason: “Yes, I’ve heard these, and they are absurd arguments. Nobody is asking for these things. It is obvious to everybody that marriage is between two people.”

David: “There are people that ask for those things; but let that pass. Why do you say it is obvious that marriage is for two?”

Jason: “Just look at history! Marriage, except in rare situations, such as when kings and princes gathered harems, was always and everywhere for two people. Even in harems, a prince took just one wife, relegating the remaining women to concubinage.”

David: “But if history says that marriage is only for couples, then history also says that marriage is between men and women and not between man and man. History cannot be your guide only in part; you must accept it whole. You must acknowledge that gay marriage is a ‘right’ only because you desire it to be. ”

Jason: “Cultures change; history never stays constant. Marriage is now changing to mean something different. This doesn’t bother me. And you commit a fallacy yourself if you say that just because I desire this change it shouldn’t occur, because I might desire what is right.”

David: “At least you have abandoned your history argument—and opened the culture to future changes, possibly in the direction of entirely new concepts of marriage, such as I already mentioned. Plus I do not not claim what you desire what is wrong or right, just that you have no argument except for desire.”

Jason: “I do desire it; further, I say what I desire is right. It is time this culture accepted gay marriage, not just in New York, but everywhere.”

David: “You have finally arrived at the crux. Marriage is not a contract between two (or more) people. Marriage is instead a cultural contract between a couple and society as a whole, even to other societies and that couple, since traditional marriages are recognized everywhere.

With rare exceptions, any two, or even more, adult people are allowed to enter into any living arrangements they like. But those arrangements differ from marriage because mere living arrangements do not ask society to give its blessings or to elevate arrangements to the point of ceremony.

Enforcing gay marriage by fiat requires all of culture to change, and change abruptly; it requires those who would hold to tradition and who do not want to redefine marriage, to not just acquiesce in this redefinition, but to immediately and positively support and bless these unions—else face the consequences.”

Jason: “Don’t be silly. We’re not asking for universal sensitivity training. We just want what is ours and we want it right now. Besides, even if I accept everything you said, you have not convinced me the harms outweigh the benefits.”

David: “Nor can I prove that, as I have already admitted; as I have admitted there may be more benefit than harm. And anyway, it is too late: the law is passed. My wish for more gradual, cautious change has gone un-granted.”

Jason: “Be cheerful. The only difference between us is that I am willing to let a culture change at its own speed. I am willing to try new experiments in living and to pick those that work, whereas you would hold life constant. And isn’t life better now than it has been?”

David: “Better now than it ever has been? No. But, no—the real difference between you and me is that I heed the awful wisdom in the ancient aphorism, ‘Be careful what you wish for.'”

Update To all of David’s opponents, I ask that before you respond to anything else, you define “marriage.” And then support that definition in particular using history, noting that the definition David used is thousands of years old, existing across hundreds of cultures. That is, if your definition is different than David’s, why is David’s definition wrong?


  1. Briggs, this is patent bullshit. Well-moderated, argumentative language which is permissive to the potential that your straw man may ultimately be right, but bullshit none-the-less. The problem is that you (David) are entirely on the offensive, and your straw man is an idiot. The closest you get to revealing your own policy preferences is when David says “My wish for more gradual, cautious change has gone un-granted.” What is that supposed to mean? Without presenting a reasonable policy alternative, all you’ve done here is demonstrate that you’re intelligent, pompous, and unwilling to submit your own beliefs about appropriate policy to the scrutiny of anyone as intelligent as you are.

    If it’s any consolation, Plato was among the worst offenders of this sort, so you’re in good company.

  2. DAV

    Arguments in a gay marriage? Sounds contradictory.


    Not complete bullshit. He apparently got the ” … immediately and positively support and bless these unions—else face the consequences” spot on. Don’t you think? As for alternative policy what on Earth could that mean? The gist of the post (and also some previous) is: “the arguments for gay marriage are logically inconsistent.” The alternative “policy” is obvious but for those who missed it: try harder.

  3. Person of Choler

    As night follows day, gay divorce will follow gay marriage. Expect some entertaining legal drama in years to come.

    Marriage has taxation consequences, some not so favorable, as straight couples know and gays will soon learn.

  4. And next week it is my desire for the State of New York to repeal the “Law of Unintended Consequences”. Unless they are too late by then.

  5. DAV–But therein lies the weirdness of this format: if he’s interested in attacking the rigor of pro-gay marriage arguments, why doesn’t he present anyone else’s? Why not do a perfectly normal post in which he says “So Ezra Klein [or whoever] makes the argument for gay marriage…,” Link to the external post, pull some blockquotes and thereby let the supporter speak for themselves. Using this dialectic format, he has taken it upon himself to fully represent both sides of the argument.

    Of which he does a terrible job.

    I don’t disagree that the points David makes have some validity, but Jason is a moron, and without presenting Jason as someone who can hold his own with logical consistency and rigor, Briggs is matching his own wits with the unthoughtful adherents of gay marriage. Of course there are going to be logical fallacies in the less intelligent man’s argument. If Paul Krugman wipes the floor with Sarah Palin in a debate on fiscal policy, what have we learned about republican fiscal policy? Absolutely nothing.

    If you want an effective debate, make equals square off.

  6. Briggs


    The unarticulated, but in any case patently obvious, “policy alternatives” are to (a) do nothing or even (b) slowly increase the number of civil union allowances, or possibly (c) allow the matter the gain acceptance at a broader level among the citizens. That you required these to be spelled out shows a distinct lack of imagination or an ear deaf to contrary views.

    You language also shows a decided preference for having the state decide matters of culture: “policy alternative”, forsooth! Marriage existed long before “policies” codified it. Many other cultural practices are similar in being free of government interference. I say governments are not necessary, and not wanted, in all matters of personal business. You say that if a mere majority of legislators decide a fundamental cultural change, than the culture must change.

    Now, if you need links to other arguments in order to be convinced of mine, send me an personal email and I’ll describe to you how to use Google.

    Re: The sin of Plato. Every great philosopher, and also ever minor one like yours truly, has, somewhere in their writings, a disparagement of the method of Socratic dialog. “Terrible literary device; quite beneath us.” Even perhaps the greatest philosopher, David Hume, did so in his dialog on religion. But he did so as an apology, because he forthwith employed the very method! As do all philosophers.

    I tell you where we do agree: the silliness of a debate between Krugman and Palin. Who would want to hear a rigid ideologue and a fresh student of economics argue?

    Incidentally, I have let your language stand, though ordinarily I do not allow this sort of thing.

  7. GoneWithTheWind

    I understand that some of New Yorks Legislators were promised some nice perks for their vote. Isn’t it nice to know we passed this law so a small handfull of legislators could benefit?

  8. mt

    “Many other cultural practices are similar in being free of government interference. I say governments are not necessary, and not wanted, in all matters of personal business.”

    And yet you’re advocating for governments to enforce religious doctrine (or cultural norms if you’d prefer to think of it that way) rather than adhering to the equal protection clause of the 14th amendment.

    And out of curiosity, can you define or give examples of the “positive support” that is now required of all New Yorkers?

  9. @ mt: Since the Supremes have yet to grant devotees of the NY law special status under the equal protection clause it seems a little disingenuous to offer convoluted assumptions of anyone’s mindset merely because they hold a different opinion. It is as if you are riding a cardboard horse into battle, and offers little to further the conversation.

  10. Briggs


    I can. Read the three letters to Cisco from Mike Adams (top links; which somebody pointed out to me). I imagine I am putting myself in the same boat at the gentleman Adams wrote about.

    I am not advocating for governments to enforce religious doctrine. I am curious why you say I am. I am certain I mentioned religion nowhere, and marriage, while sometimes having a religious component, runs far deeper than Christianity. I say matters as fundamental to a culture as marriage are none of the governments business—at least in terms of defining what it means.

    At a stroke, at an instant, a government has overthrown thousands of years of history and culture. History is on my side when I say that when things like this happen, the consequences, however well intentioned, often turn out horrible.

    And ponder this: the government—by which I mean a small handful of legislators—did interfere with religion to pass the law. They had to include all sorts of provisos (as yet untested, and probably of little protection) to allow those with “religious” views to extract themselves from “gay marriage” duties. This means the government must now test what religion is, and the extent that beliefs in a religion are allowed—allowed!—to influence a person’s behavior. The entire situation is exasperating.

  11. mt

    In a stroke, governments also allowed women to vote and ended slavery, overthrowing thousands of years of history and culture.

    I bring up religion since I see no other grounds with which to deny two people from professing their love for each other, and entering into marriage. You talk of history and culture, and those are excellent reasons to celebrate marriage. But I don’t see that as sufficient to deny same sex couples the same legal protections that heterosexual couples have.

    For the state of NY, here’s the rules about who can perform marriages:
    It’s fairly easy to separate those classes of people into religious figures and government employees. I haven’t looked at the NY law, but I would hope that government employees have to apply the law equally to everyone, regardless of their religious/cultural beliefs.

    As for the Cicso letters, you’re now bringing in a separate issue, political correctness. You mentioned before that the right of freedom of speech comes with it the responsibility of allowing said speech. Political correctness is eroding both of those. I don’t think the guy should have been fired for writing a book arguing against same sex marriage. At the same time, Cisco is a private enterprise, and should be able to hire/fire as they see fit (even though that isn’t true either). But apparently, freedom of thought isn’t protected by the EEOC. To me, this new culture of retaliation against unpopular or “incorrect” ideas is the real problem.

    I hope that the burden of proof is on denying equal protection for any given issue rather than on granting it.

  12. Briggs


    So you equate legalizing gay marriage with female suffrage and the ending of your actual slavery? Interesting.

    Who’s denying love? My dear, I ask you: what is marriage and how do you know? If you say it is the union of two, and only two, people in love, then why do you say this? And what constitutes “people”?

    We agree that Cisco has the right to do what they did. What I would not want is to have the government disallow this right by threatening civil or criminal penalty. Showing Cisco the error of their ways should be left to culture—much like marriage should.

  13. GoneWithTheWind

    MT: Do you see no other grounds with which to deny three people from professing their love for each other? How about four or five? Why anoint one alternative lifestyle and not all alternative lifestyles?

  14. @ mt. said:

    “I hope that the burden of proof is on denying equal protection for any given issue rather than on granting it.”

    I understand your hope but from my thin comprehension of the constitutional issues involved [it’s been too many years since I stayed in a Holiday Inn Express] there are many, many varied sorts of “groups” of citizens wishing they were included amongst the favored folk officially deemed covered by the 14th per action of the SC. But until that coverage is formalized some day, those “groups” are probably doomed to disappointment. Whether this is fair or just or “American” or equitable or anything else I leave to others. It’s simply how I believe the amendment comes into play on societal matters on this particular day in history. I am prepared to be proven wrong, on this, however, should that occur.

  15. WMB–Sorry about the language. I’ll keep it PG from now on.

  16. mt

    I can’t say that marriage is two and only two people. I have no argument against polygamy. If you want to bring up incestuous marriages, give the folks a primer on recessive traits, but otherwise I can’t construct an argument against that either. As for defining “people”, I can only rely on the age of majority as a mechanism for preventing child/adult marriages. And yes, I’m fully aware that this age limit is arbitrary. However, it seems that NY already has a bit of a looser standard: “Any marriage in which either party is under the age of fourteen years is hereby prohibited.”

    I’m not talking about “protected groups” per the civil rights act. I’m saying that when a law affects everyone, it should be applied the same way to everyone. The law (in NY) defines marriage as: “Marriage, so far as its validity in law is concerned, continues to be a civil contract, to which the consent of parties capable in law of making a contract is essential.”

    I see the three issues as cases where some people have rights and privileges under the law, and some don’t. But in the end, I think people aren’t arguing over the legal ramifications of marriage, they’re arguing over control of the definition of the word itself. Essentially trying to wrestle it back from the government takeover, which only now has become a real issue since (cultural) change is happening.

    The conversation between David and Jason explored the nebulous effects on society (have we arrived at the definition of society yet?) I’d like to see David talking to Michael and Christopher or Michelle and Christine, and have David explain to the gay (homosexual and happy) couple why they can’t get married.

  17. Adam H

    Michael and Christopher: “Why can’t we get married!?”
    David: “Hmmm? You guys can get married if you want to.”
    Michael and Christopher: “No we can’t!”
    David: “Oh, you mean to each other. Well that’s against the law.”
    Michael and Christoper: “but we’re in looooooove!!!”
    David: “I love a lot of things too, and I can’t marry them either… so what? Why do you want to get married anyway?!”

    (My interpretation of the character David is a grouchy thrice-divorced bachelor.)

  18. Bob Ludwick

    Well, the fact that we are discussing whether two persons of the same sex should be allowed to ‘marry’ provides further confirmation, as if any were needed, that if the US were an individual it would be locked up for its own protection.

    We have also established that the legislature of a state can completely change the legal definition of a word that has had a common meaning throughout human history and across all cultures and systems of government. And force others, regardless of race, creed, or national origin, to accept their redefinition. Or else.

  19. Peregrine John

    A straw man? If so, why are his arguments very nearly quotes from published and widely-applauded views? And if Jason Straw is an idiot, why are his compatriots (who called him an idiot) neither bettering his argument nor answering the post-scripted question?

  20. mt

    What is David’s definition of marriage? The only thing I see that’s approaching a definition is “Marriage is instead a cultural contract between a couple and society as a whole, even to other societies and that couple, since traditional marriages are recognized everywhere.”

  21. My only difference with Davis is that I am willing to prognosticate the reality, that gay marriage will in fact cause far more harm than good for society. There has yet to be a society that has not degraded faster after accepting gay relationships than they were before doing so. Greeks did it, Romans did it, Sodom and Gamorrah did it, The entire middle east did it, parts of Europe are already in the process of it, and the United States of America has been slowly moving in that direction, and I would proffer that our society is much worse off for it and this is only the beginning baby, as the societal shifts these degenerate activities are only just starting to work their way through a society that has many people ages 40 and over. It is not just simply gay marriage, it is the entire PC tolerance ideology, of which gay marriage is another part of. It typically is in the dying throes of a society that it begins to grant waivers to degenerate behaviors and then degenerate lifestyles. Our society will fare no better than all those destroyed over tens of thousands of years of history.

  22. Roman

    Among many different kinds of law (civil, criminal, tort, contract, etc) one irrelevant now is a religious law. Irrelevant at least in formerly christian countries. Since all except the latter are dynamic creation of the society, everything is possible. It depends entirely on us what will become law. Thus the concept of marriage among people regardless of their sex, polygamy, even marriage to pets was mentioned. Logic indeed dictates that not only same sex unions should be legal, but multiple other types should be allowed. And, since we do not discriminate, all should find legal protection. So, for example, narcissists or people with multiple personality should be allowed to marry themselves as well. After all there is an act forbidding discrimination of disabled.
    Next logical step….. Expression of love. I propose to fully recognize, bring to mainstream, emancipate and integrate the sexuality of thanathophiliacs. Remember: anything is possible, it is only a matter of a worked-out social concord and consent. It may get some traction if it becomes known that some natives of ancient Peru fully accepted it. Oh, and there is no problem with consent.

    Sounds like absurd? It is ! For how long?

    Another good Irish whiskey is called ” Redbreast”.

  23. mt

    I don’t know if any further definition is forthcoming from David, but I’ll assume it closely mirrors this. Namely that marriage is between one man and one woman, as thousands of years of tradition shows. Polygamy is not a significant part of David’s culture, and so isn’t consistent with marriage. Please correct me if I’m wrong, but otherwise this is the viewpoint I’ll respond to later.

    There are laws against defiling corpses, however if you can get people to leave their bodies to you in their will, have at it. To be clear, so long as you’re amongst consenting adults, there’s nothing you’ll come up with, no matter how disgusting or abhorrent I think it is, where I’ll have standing to prevent you from doing that thing. And I don’t think “society” should have that standing either. It’s your happiness, no one should stand in your way.

    “if the US were an individual it would be locked up for its own protection”

    Thank you for providing a perfect example of thinking that I truly despise. I hope no one ever finds your behavior deserving of such protection.

  24. Leg

    A potential problem is that gay couples do not procreate (ignoring artificial insemination). History shows that societies that drop below a birth rate of 2.0/couple have huge problems and become most susceptible to being overtaken by societies that produce lots of children. There are presently a number of European countries and Japan that are negatively feeling the effects of having low birth rates. I am not saying that allowing gays to marry will drop the US below a 2.0 birthrate, however a childless couple has a huge economic advantage over a couple with children. Quite possibly the response to this disadvantage is to have fewer children, which could lead to a low birth rate.

    On the other hand, economic disparity may not be a problem. I know when the bride and I started having children, I pushed my boundries and found ways to bring in more dollars. But will everyone respond this way? I have my doubts.

    Additionally, gay couples should think about their old age. The way our society is set up with social security (insecurity in a few years?), we need a growing population to keep the social security system properly working. Without getting into how the politicians keep screwing up the social security system, the system was originally designed with a relatively high birthrate in mind (baby boomer rate), which has dropped considerably from those days. This has exasperated the problems we are having with the system now.

    The sociological problems involved with a low birth rate are complex but generally not good for a society.

  25. Roman

    @ mt

    Laws can and should be changed. Everything is relative ! I once lived in the country where 2 + 2 was 8. And there was even a law about it. Nothing will surprise me.

    @ Leg

    I think you are missing a point. If you keep marriage among homosexuals illegal you will not change/increase the birth rate.

  26. Tom M

    Legalizing gay marriage could lower the birthrate. If you believe 100% of gay people are born gay, then legalization of marriage will probably have no effect. If sexual orientation is determined through nurture rather than nature (or some combination), then the increasing tolerance and viability of gay lifestyles might lead to more people “becoming” gay, thus potentially decreasing the birthrate.

  27. mt

    First, I’d like to thank Briggs for bringing up the cultural viewpoint. As my posts above show, my extreme individualism means I generally don’t look toward culture when evaluating things. Or, my individualism is a cultural choice and my thinking is dominated by culture. Regardless, it’s been interesting evaluating at this from a different point of view.

    My definition of marriage is that it’s a contract between two people. With the emotional/spiritual/physical/intellectual/whatever bond between the two people as the important component. That bond is what causes them want to adhere to the responsibilities of a marriage for the remainder of their lives. The secondary component is the ceremony of marriage, which serves to promote the bond to something recognized by society. This definition is also found throughout history and across cultures. However, there are certainly marriages that cultures accept that don’t fit my definition (arraigned marriages, marriages for money or power, drunken marriages in Las Vegas), which, in my opinion, do more to undermine the institution of marriage than can a marriage that fits my definition but is between two people of the same gender.

    The “social contract” definition is interesting. The use of the word contract would infer both sides receiving consideration. The married get legal benefits from society, but what does society receive? So far, I’ve come up with the expectation of a stable family unit for child birth and raising, and the expectation of everyone respecting the marriage, and not attempting to woo someone who is married. But with adoption, artificial insemination, and surrogate mothers, anyone can start a family. (more on this later) While on the topic of society, “positive support or face the consequences”. Where are those consequences coming from? I’ll admit to not reading the actual law (which qualifies me for public office), but I’m guessing there’s nothing forcing private citizens to do anything. The consequences are coming from current culture, the misguided, harmful culture of political correctness, but current culture nonetheless.

    I also find the historical definition argument to be less than convincing. Taking a look at my prior examples in a cultural perspective (women voting and slavery), culture is littered with actions and limitations that span thousands of years and cross multiple cultures, and are no longer viewed as correct or right or just. What’s being advocated here is not to discard marriage as a failed idea or an unjust practice, but to expand it to allow additional people to join in the fun.

    The primary arguments seem to be resistance to change and the precautionary principle. Tom’s post is a great example (BTW, affluence is known to lower the birth rate). And since homosexuals haven’t been treated as equals for a long time, there’s essentially no data to argue for or against anything. So I would ask the following question. What do you think is more important for raising a child successfully, having a mother and a father, or the amount of love and effort put into raising the child?

    But what makes this really difficult for me is the rather squishy concept of culture. Is America one culture? Are members of different states or different religions or different political parties different cultures? Do you have the same culture as your next door neighbor? Is a vote of 50% + 1 on some topic enough to change culture? Does legally allowing or denying an action means all cultures in that jurisdiction have been changed? If a gay couple walks up to David and says “We’re married.” and David says “No you’re not.”, who’s right? I don’t have good answers for these questions.

    I guess in the end, my position is that if you’re going to deny somebody the ability to do something, there needs to be a good reason, and it should be applied equally to everybody. And the reason is generally causing unwanted harm to another person. Which then reduces to weighing the right to do something vs. the rights guaranteed and the harm inflicted.

  28. Outlier

    briggs: “I say governments are not necessary, and not wanted, in all matters of personal business.”

    This is the key. “Marriage” is a religious or cultural concept, usually having something to do with sex. The reasonable thing would be for the government to do would be to leave “marriage” entirely to the churches or cultures, however they want to define it.

    Instead government should only recognize civil contracts when it comes to the business-like aspects of “marriage”. These say nothing about sex or love. Governments would give no special benefits for “marriage”, just for civil contracts. No doubt there would be knock-on effects that would have to be worked out, but this would be done much quicker than getting agreement at all the necessary levels to solve the gay marriage problem any other way.

  29. Briggs


    Amen, brother.

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