A poor argument for gay marriage

James Randi, and the rest of the psi-cops, have increasingly strayed from their original—and self-appointed—role of policing pseudoscience and the paranormal, and are instead intent on doing battle with any and all religious beliefs—as long as they are Christian.

The psi-cops, or members of the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP), have nothing else to do, the paranormal no longer being the urban blight it once was. So they have turned their energies into campaigns to remove “In God We Trust” from currency, and to sniff around The-Federally-Recognized-Holiday-of-December-25th-that-shall-remain-nameless trees on government property for whiffs of religiosity.

For example, today I received my Randi-gram, a weekly email, in which was quoted John P. Stoltenberg from Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, who gave Randi a list of suggestions he wishes us less enlightened folk would adopt.

I don’t want to argue for or against gay marriage—be very clear on this point—nor do I want my opinion on the matter to distract anybody from thinking about what is actually of interest, which is the logical status of an argument often used in this debate.

Here it is:

If you don’t believe in gay marriages, don’t have one.

If you are of the left, upon hearing it, you are required to chuckle. Not laugh out loud, mind—because that would come across as maniacal—but you should let a warm glow infuse your features as you nod and fill yourself with congratulation for being in on an unanswerable zinger.

The argument is stupid. Stoltenberg himself—and Randi as his explicit endorser—while not knowing it, must have felt a nagging tickle deep inside that would not let him leave it alone, because he included as an addendum this gem:

If you don’t believe in euthanasia or in physician-assisted death, then die your own way.

It’s the same flawed argument, and if Stoltenberg (and his many followers) would have abandoned his smugness and taken it one step further and applied it to something he did not devoutly wish, he would have seen it instantly.

Here is the same argument, the same guts of it, applied to two different subjects (Stoltenberg used the first):

If you don’t believe abortions, don’t have one.


If you don’t believe in murder, don’t comment one.

Or phrased more fully: look here, unenlightened person, let those of us who enjoy murder have our fun. If you don’t like it, just don’t kill anybody for fun or for profit.

Still don’t get it? Then how’s this?

If you don’t believe in child molestation, stay away from playgrounds.

The argument is now splayed open, its logical cancer obvious. It is the same as saying, “I want my way, let me do what I want, and if you don’t like it, don’t do what I do.” Anybody whose mind wasn’t excessively muddled by Mill would blush coming out with that naked statement; but dress it up in “rights” language (never responsibilities) and it somehow becomes beautiful. Truly, clothes make the argument. That few recognize its limitations must be because of our ever-increasing slide toward self indulgence in every aspect of public life.

For future reference, and because it’s used in other debates besides gay marriage, we’ll need a name for this line of reasoning (one might already exist, but I don’t know of it). Let’s call it the gimme argument, because it means “give me what I want because I want it, regardless of whether what I want is right or wrong.”

To gay marriage supporters: you accrue no benefit by using an argument that is not just flawed but ridiculous. The job of an argument is to convince, not to bludgeon, obfuscate, or distract, as this one does. It is doing you no favor.

But thinking about it, I understand the inclination to the gimme argument in this case. Let’s imagine this conversation to see why.

A: “I want gay marriage.”

B: “What’s marriage?”

A: “A union of two people, etc.”

B: “Why two people?”

Here, A is stumped. The only recourse A has is to history and tradition, which are in his favor (in most places in most times) in agreeing marriage is between “two people”, but utterly against him for saying “between two men” or “between two women.” You can’t invoke the authority of tradition for the first part of your argument and then claim tradition has no meaning for the second part. So A is reduced to saying “I want it.”

And that’s not necessarily a bad line of reasoning, as long as it is conjoined with supplementary statements that support it. What does not support it is to say, “And I should get it, even though you say it is wrong, because I want it.” Then it becomes the gimme argument.


  1. Alan D. McIntire

    By approving of homosexual marriage, we’d have to be arguing that
    marriage has nothing to do with raising or having children, when in
    fact it is the ONLY reason for marriage. We’re concerned about the
    future. The way to reduce the chance that children don’t grow up
    ignorant, maladjusted, and in poverty is to make sure they grow up in a stable family with two parents. Marriage is the way to designate this state of affairs. The ONLY reason for marriage is to encourage a stable arrangement for raising children. True, sterile people get married, and people past child bearing years get married, but these are wasteful quirks by people using technical loopholes, and not the intended consequences of our marriage laws.

  2. PaulH

    My favourite is, “If you don’t like the way I drive, stay off of the sidewalk.”

    (I present that only partly tongue in cheek.)

  3. George

    But that’s not the same argument – that argument is acknowledging that the thing I want to do (drive badly?) has negative consequences for others (e.g. pedestrians).

    The equivalent argument would have been, “If you don’t like the way I drive, then don’t drive like me yourself”, which is really a non-sequitur, albeit a sensible general philosophy – and, dare I say it, a Christian ethic!

  4. stan


    I’ve pulled up behind some cars at traffic lights festooned with enough logic-challenged bumper stickers to make your head explode. Wedged in between the “Free Mumia”, “Coexist”, “Be Kind to your Mother”, and “Imagine World Peace” there are usually a few that especially make you wonder where some folks get their information.

    “I’m not rich enough to be a Republican” is always a head-scratcher, and of course, the “against abortion? don’t have one” which you already noted. The clincher though has to be — “When are we going to stop killing people who kill people in order to show that killing people is wrong?”

    Crime typically involves interference with the life, liberty or property of another. And punishment involves the state interfering with the life, liberty or property of the criminal. Difficult to imagine a criminal justice system that avoided all interference with the life, liberty, or property of the convicted.

  5. Ari


    “The way to reduce the chance that children don’t grow up
    ignorant, maladjusted, and in poverty is to make sure they grow up in a stable family with two parents. ”

    So, children that grew up in the myriad other societies with family structures outside of the Western nuclear family were more likely to be ignorant, maladjusted, and in poverty? Given that the nuclear family is an incredibly recent construction (within the grand scheme of things), I’m not sure I agree with you there. The two parent model is ONE way to reduce the chance that children grow up badly.

  6. Ari

    By the way, don’t take my comment to mean that I am “against” the nuclear family. I’m not. I just don’t think it’s the only way to raise normal children, and I think history demonstrates that. I would be more inclined to believe that extended family situations will probably give children a better chance at turning out alright, but we can’t have that here. No way. Two parents living thousands of miles away from their siblings and respective parents is the ONLY way to raise a child.


    You can’t hug children with nuclear arms.


    One thing that I have never understood is why gay couples are so concerned with being what is essentially heteronormative. They WANT to be like straight people by mimicking them through marriage. This, they say, will bring them closer to “equality.”

    How so? Blacks in the early 1900s were able to marry, but I don’t know that marriage brought them any closer to “equality” than they were before.

    I’ve been told that the tax breaks are a big factor, but that is not a reason to marry (IMO). One person argued with me that the best reason was so that gays could share health benefits at work, but that’s again not a reason to marry.

    Now, this is not me being “against” gay marriage. I’m in favor of the idea to the extent that I’m in favor of plenty of other things, but I can’t quite figure out WHY it’s such a burning issue for so many people. Then again, I tend to believe that romantic love alone is not a reason to marry and have children, and that that silly notion, perpetuated by a lovesick media, has helped us to generate millions of doomed marriages.

  7. John M

    Another tact is to argue that homosexuality is something folks can’t control. A trendy part of research for a while was to find a gentic marker or biochemical indicator for the bahavior. This then led to the logic that it was a person’s “natural state”.

    The only problem is that genetic markers and biochemical indicators have been found for all kinds of things the I wouldn’t want to wish on anyone, including alcoholism.

    And then there’s the rush to try to catch animal’s being gay. Another attempt to show it as “natural” and therefore OK. Need we get into other things animals do?

  8. Luis Dias

    I don’t necessarily agree with mr Briggs. I think it is not that wrong to say that I want X to be legalized because I want it, and here’s the catch, as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else, nor impedes anyone else’s freedom.

    So, most examples brougth up by mr Briggs are entirely incorrect. “Excuse me if I want to kill, if you don’t like it just don’t do it” is not the same at all, for the act of killing someone is detrimental to the victim, lethally I might add. The same goes for pedophiles, etc. For the analogy to be correct, you would have to prove that gay marriage is destructive, and for all the arguments I’ve seen so far, I’m not impressed.

    John M, to say that homossexuality isn’t natural is ignorant of itself. Homossexuals know this for ages, it is in their own, and yes, both genetic science and nature observation does confirm this.

    Need we get into other things animals do?

    Like what, social behaviour? Nurturing? Kissing? Playing? I guess those are all bad, because hey, animals do it.

  9. Patrick Hadley

    This one issue where the British have got it right. No gay marriage, but full equivalent legal rights for gay civil partnerships. What is wrong with that for a compromise?

    Of course while you are right that the argument offered is not strong in this case – your argument against could be taken too far. There are plenty of cases when the argument does have force. For example “You don’t like adultery – then don’t do it. But don’t make it a crime like in some Muslim countries.”

    Generally speaking the burden of proof rests on those who want to ban or make illegal an activity carried out by consenting adults. The default position is surely that it should be legal unless there are very strong arguments to the contrary.

    The fact that a lot of people (perhaps the majority) do not like the homosexual lifestyle, think it is morally wrong and want to do what they can discourage it, does not mean that they should have the right to make it illegal, or to enjoy fewer rights than hetrosexual people. The majority should not be able to discriminate unreasonably against a minority.

    Therefore to rationally support the no gay marriage line there has to be a strong case made on its own merits.

  10. Luis Dias

    One thing that I have never understood is why gay couples are so concerned with being what is essentially heteronormative.

    Well Ari, go and ask them. There are plenty of forums where you will surely find them. I’ve met many people with this doubt too, but I myself don’t consider it important. If homos feel that it is very important for them, that’s enough for me (why should it be otherwise?).

  11. Luis Dias

    Patrick, well said, I agree 100% with your words.

  12. Hal

    John M says:
    25 April 2009 at 2:23 pm

    Another tact is to argue that….

    I don’t want to be a grammar Nazi, but you probably aren’t aware where the turn of phrase came from: namely sailing:

    When sailing upwind, one has to change direction dramatically, across the wind vector, which is called “tacking”

    Therefore, when in speech, one takes another direction, while still trying to stay on topic (i.e. continuing up wind), the phrase of taking another “tack” is used.

    It has nothing to do with being tactful (which I was not). No offense. The English language is full of pitfalls.



  13. John M

    I think you’re being tacky. 🙂

  14. Interesting post and comments. Ari makes a valid point. Its fairer to say a nuclear family is usually the best, but not the only way, to successfully raise children. So ADMcI overstated his point, imo.

    Matt I believe the basic motivation in all this is the attempt to “prove” by dint of public opinion that “G-d is wrong”. Sort of an upset maneuver over the common dictum, in my view. And it goes hand in glove with a segment of the world’s society that for many years has been involved with flip-flopping the meaning/definition of commonly accepted words. 1984 redux, as it were. But your point concerning the shallowness of their argument is spot on.

    Since the benefits of civil agreements are so similar to that of marriages, I find it telling that many in favor of gay unions insist on using a word based on a “holy rite” for their living arrangement. Its like if they could only use that word it would finally validate their choice. Does that say anything about the state of their confidence and self-worth?


  15. Luis Dias

    Does that say anything about the state of their confidence and self-worth?

    To answer your question, yes definitely says a lot about their confidence and self-worth, which should be obvious, is usually in the gutter for all the homophobia that exists in our cultures. Imagine these people being raised in very traditional families, and wonder how many of them are pondering to kill themselves right now (I’m not even exagerating).

    So, of course their self-worth is at bottom, and of course their real intent is to be recognized by the general society as equally dignified human beings.

    Last, I didn’t understand your point about “G-d is wrong”. First, why the censorship in that word, and second, why should the skeptic part of the society be so determined to prove that something that doesn’t even exist is somehow “wrong”. Perhaps you missed entirely their point, no? Oh, and btw, you are aware that Orwell considered religion, not areligion, as an example of 1984ish, aren’t you? Well you should, before making non sequiturs like you did.

  16. Kevin Jackson

    One interesting consequence of same sex marriage is that changing the definition once opens up the possibility of changing it again. Up here in Canada, where SSM has been legal for a few years now, polygamy is headed to the courts. I’m no legal expert, and I can’t predict the outcome, but I have yet to see any arguments that are likely to hold up against it. A “slippery slope” argument is usually considered a fallacy, but when the legal system in your country is built largely on precedent, slippery slopes need to be taken seriously.

  17. murr289

    Ari said:

    So, children that grew up in the myriad other societies with family structures outside of the Western nuclear family were more likely to be ignorant, maladjusted, and in poverty? Given that the nuclear family is an incredibly recent construction (within the grand scheme of things), I’m not sure I agree with you there. The two parent model is ONE way to reduce the chance that children grow up badly.

    Maybe you have a point, but we have to consider everything relative to the society we are discussing. Since the nuclear family is traditional in our society, then children raised in such families will turn out better adjusted in context of that society.

    In societies that practice large-scale polygamy, children raised in that context would naturally adjust better… to that kind of society. Namely, heavily patriarchal, authoritarian societies.

    So, you are right that the nuclear family as we know it was not the standard way for most of history, but looking from our perspective, the children would be indeed less well-adjusted… for our society. I question the idea that, for example, children raised in the harems of ancient Persia would fit in just fine as stable, law abiding citizens in any US suburb (even compensating for other sources of culture shock, such as language differences and new technology, of course).

    Who knows what a society would look like with sex-indifferent marriage as a standard… but the question should be carefully considered.

  18. Joy

    It seems that MR Randy “I hate God” “I am clever because I can spot a trick” is at it again. That man has an agenda that runs deep, dark and cold. I don’t trust him and I find his ‘debunking’ or whatever he wants to call it, obvious if not fruitless.

    Luis, your first point agrees with the line
    “and that’s not necessarily a bad line of reasoning as long as it is conjoined with supplementary statements that support it.”
    Did you read the linked page and see the origin of some of the other statement types that have similar logical flaws. Substituting Murder and paedophilia does make clear that the argument is a selfish one and nothing to do with justice.
    In order to allow gay marriage one has to redefine marriage. Marriage is a religious phenomenon, I find it amusing that those who spout incessantly about hating religion now find themselves fighting a cause that has religious history. To deny this is again, to redefine the word marriage, if not history itself, which hasn’t stopped people before. The word as defined by our laws has origin in Christianity; and was thankfully modified by Henry VIII. You argue for homosexuals to partake in a Christian ceremony! Well that is mixed up.
    If Christianity must be thrown out as you have argued so many times before, as full of stone aged myths and fairy tales, how is it that you now argue that this aspect must be kept for same sex marriage? Like so many who want laws changed, they always want them changed for selfish reasons. Briggs is right.

    John M,
    ‘Sorry to jibe’ would have been more accurate.

  19. John M


    “John M, to say that homossexuality isn’t natural is ignorant of itself. Homossexuals know this for ages, it is in their own, and yes, both genetic science and nature observation does confirm this.”

    As I pointed out, the same can be said for alcoholism. These “logical” arguments merely end up twisting on themselves, as would the animal analogies. (Do you really want to know all the things my dog does to itself? Are all animal behaviors acceptable?)

    IMO, it would be better if the arguments were made with regard to how HUMANS behave and interact with each other and society.

    That returns us to the things like the definition of marriage, how society defines it, and what rights or special rights any group has or doesn’t have. Messy, yes, but that’s life.

    Make the argument on the basis of sociatal norms and why it is in the best interest of society to adapt or change, not on some artifically contorted “scientific” observation.

  20. stan

    Can’t hug with nuclear arms is another good one. Just thought of another — “Wouldn’t it be great if our schools had all the money they needed and the military had to hold a bakesale to buy a bomber?”

  21. JH

    Different cultures have very different histories and traditions when it comes to marriage and women. I am not a fan of any arguments using “tradition” on such issues. Let me just say that I feel so fortunate that my grandparents and parents evolved beyond traditions.

    It’s no secret that Cheney is at odds with Bush on same-sex marriage. The reason? Maybe, it’s only natural to exercise his compassion toward his daughter. If you had a homosexual son or daughter, which side would you take? I know, I know, some might say that this is a fallacious appeal to compassion, which is just as bad as the appeal to tradition.

    I thought you might enjoy this site as much as I do. 🙂 (Sorry, Mr. Briggs. You are still my favorite so your blog is the best. Oops, I think I have committed some kind of fallacy.)

  22. CC

    The push for gay marriage came about due to AIDS, because without marriage a gay person’s partner had no legal say in medical care, which is particularly a problem if dementia sets in or the person is unconscious. Nevertheless, marriage per se also allows a gay couple to adopt and have children. I am afraid that it is just not ok, either fundamentally or in the eyes of society, for little johnny to have 2 daddies who sleep together and kiss each other. All of the push for it is about “rights” but this aspect is simply glossed over every time. It isn’t ok. A cure for the AIDS type problem would be a medical power of attorney or some such, not marriage.

    If you open this gate of marriage as a right, why not define marriage as between 3 people or 10? Or between a pedophile and a 12 year old? Or a man and his dog?

  23. Doug M

    The arguements Briggs presents follow the underpinnings of Libertarianism. If no one else is getting hurt, why can’t I do what I want. Guns, drugs, suicide, prostituion, pornography, seat belts, helmets, etc. Abortion, depending on your PoV regarding the status of a fetus.

    If you buy the libertarian arguement, then you see that there are no externalities. That is, if i choose to smoke crack, and my brain turns to mush, that is not your problem. If I then rob a liquor store, that is something separate from my drug use. If drug dealers and prostitutes work the street in front of my house, can my neighbor sue for loss of porperty value? This one the Libertarians might give you. Briggs application of the logic to murder doesn’t fit, asuminging the murderee is not a willing participant.

    On marriage, read your Heinlein, or other “libertaian sci-fi.”

  24. Joy

    Oh dear, not John M, I meant Hal. This will teach me to be clever.
    Is that the mysterious Hal?
    Mr Briggs promised yonks ago he would make an important statistical point about prediction of things unseen having to do with Hal. I might make it clear also, that this is NOT Halsey as he never did appear in a fig newton commercial as he was no good on the piano.
    There’s always room for an appeal for compassion but an appeal is not a good argument as some have been at pains to point out in the past. So an appeal to authority, emotion, or consensus are all ok as long as they support one’s case but not if they are being used against one?

    This critical thinking malarkey is a waste of time. Only the intellectually honest stick to the rules. That means that the dishonest get their way every time.

  25. Luis Dias


    Substituting Murder and paedophilia does make clear that the argument is a selfish one and nothing to do with justice.

    Not at all, it just dumbifies the discussion, which is William’s intent. Murder and paedophilia are activities with victims, so the substitutions are misleading.

    Let me give you an example. Imagine if you will that salt is forbidden (no, I’m not talking about marijuana nor cocaine, just salt), for no other reason because it is “unnatural” to eat it. Now, a group that likes salt a lot says, listen, I’ll eat the salt, if you don’t like it, don’t eat it, just don’t forbid me to do so.

    Now imagine if you will that there’s a gene that makes people irresistible to salt. Wouldn’t such law be unethical?

    To deny this is again, to redefine the word marriage, if not history itself, which hasn’t stopped people before.

    To say that marriage is a christian invention is laughable at best. Please Joy, do a favour of yours and stop right there. Marriage is a very old rite, and while religion took over marriage, it doesn’t mean it “owns” it. It also doesn’t mean that arreligious people see no meaning on marriage, it also doesn’t mean that gay people aren’t religious, etc., etc.

    I mean, if marriage was exclusively a religious rite, then why is it that many states do have it, though they have clear separation between church and state?

    Mind, no one is asking the church to accept this kind of marriage.


    As I pointed out, the same can be said for alcoholism.

    1. Is alcohol forbidden in your country?
    2. The point is that homos feel so attracted to same-sex people as you are to girls (I presume). Think about Scarlett Johansson, see a movie with her in the screen. Now imagine that these people feel exactly the same, but with the “wrong” sex. How is that even comparable with alcoholism?

    I agree with your notions that a smarter and more intelectual discussion should be taking place. For instance, I simply dismay at these kinds of comments I always find in this particular discussion (specifically by CC this time):

    If you open this gate of marriage as a right, why not define marriage as between 3 people or 10? Or between a pedophile and a 12 year old? Or a man and his dog?

    It’s not even wrong a comment.

  26. Luis Dias


    Yes, thanks, it’s a good link. I agree wholeheartedly with the exact post (faith and reason), it’s a good reply to that idiotic small book “fides et ratio” of the late pope JP the second.

  27. Briggs

    Close, Doug M, close. But notice that the gimme doesn’t say, “after all, our marriage does you no harm.” If that addendum were implicitly there—and true—then the gimme would be the libertarian argument. But in the gimme argument as used for gay marriage, it is both missing and not implicit, since opponents claim that certain harm would be done were gay marriage to obtain.

    If you could demonstrate that no harm, if the forms claimed by the opponents, was immaterial, unlikely, or impossible, then you would have a stronger argument. Can you?


    Yonks to you, too.


    First: who are these “Cheney” and “Bush” you speak of and how are they relevant to the discussion?

    Second: your grandparents “evolved” beyond tradition? You’re going to have to explain that one.


    CC extends the tradition argument against gay marriage, and in a direction in which most of us—including supporters of gay marriage—agree. Why indeed not marriages of more than 2, as B (original post) asked? Why not, as Asmiov imagined in The Gods Themselves, 3? How many men among us would attempt a harem if allowed?

    Now, some of us must come to the realization that homosexuality is an entirely natural phenomenon. It is common in humans and in other species, especially primates, and also other mammals. It is always (statistically speaking, and necessarily) a marginal occurrence, but it is more than frequent enough to evade the term abberational.

    There is, of course, a continuum in behaviors. This is acknowledged in medicine, where male patients are not asked if they are “homosexual”, but if they engage in sexual acts with other men (it goes by the acronym MSM, for “men who have sex with men”). Women are not similarly tracked because the risk of transmitting disease is far less.

  28. John M


    “Oh dear, not John M, I meant Hal.”

    No problem. I’m used to it. In fact, sometimes, the only attention I get from women involves a misunderstanding.


    We can agree that homosexuality is a human behavior that society has to figure out how to address. We should avoid trying to force-fit analogies one way or the other.

  29. stan

    “If men could have babies, abortion would be a sacrament”

  30. Doug M

    “If you could demonstrate that no harm, if the forms claimed by the opponents, was immaterial, unlikely, or impossible, then you would have a stronger argument. Can you?”

    I am being called out.

    Libertarian belief would be that the state should have no business in the definition of marriage. However, the Libertarian would flip it on its head. Rather than give the benefits of marriage to homosexual couples, they would advocate to remove from the legal code any preferential treatment that accrue to married couples. The hard-core would advocate that the state should desist from issuing marriage licenses. After all, George and Martha Washington didn’t have a marriage license.

    I have dodged the point. Can I demonstrate no harm? Marriage is a spiritual, legal and sociological institution. My marriage should not in any way influence the way you feel about your wife. I can not chane the spritual nature of anyone elses marraige. To deny the legal advantages of marriage is discriminatory. We could create a legally equivalent institution. In which case, why not call it what it is. Society is already changing regardless of the legal definitions. Gay marriage will be taught in schools. I think the burden of proof of dammage lies with those who argue for traditional marriage.

  31. john

    When I am president (save us all), marriage will be up the the religion of the people who seek it ,yet will have ZERO legal standing. All LEGAL bindings for tax purposes, insurance, alimony, custody, next of kin etc will be bound by the court system as civil unions.

    The mindset that government shouldn’t oversee/control anything… oh except for what I believe in. Whatever. Marriage is a religion issue, so everyone’s religion should have its own say in who does and who does not qualify. Getting all high and mighty on definitions of “Family” and “Best for the children” is subjective and easily discriminative.

  32. Hilfy

    Exactly! I’ve often wondered why they insist on calling it gay “marriage” when the use that word immediately invokes the religious definition of marriage. It should be a civil union, not a marriage. And this lack of sensitivity coming from those groups who decry lack of sensitivity in others. I would support your plan for it. Nice, logical and flexible.

    I had to give up browsing Randi’s page a while ago when the Global Warming subject came up there and his response was (to paraphrase) – Al Gore said it, I believe it, That settles it…

  33. JH

    Mr. Briggs,

    “…“evolved” beyond tradition”

    In Chinese, “time has changed, but you have not evolved” is often quoted to a person with outdated thinking. So what I meant is that they had open-mindedly gone through gradual and progressive changes in their traditional views; instead of sticking with what they had learned as traditions of marriage, women’s role in marriage and women’s education. The key point is that an appeal to tradition is somewhat common fallacy.

    “Who are these “Cheney” and “Bush” you speak of and how are they relevant to the discussion?

    Uh… they are my dear uncles. Uncle Cheney disagreed with Uncle Bush’s calling for ban on same-sex marriages (ssm). It is obvious to the family the main reason Uncle Cheney supports ssm is that Cousin Mary, his daughter, is in a same sex union. I thought of using Aunt Cher as an example, but I couldn’t think of another Aunt of the same status, but with an opposite view.

    No matter whom I use as my example, they would not be directly relevant to the discussion. However, my point was that if one had a homosexual child, one might be more inclined to show understanding and compassion and less prejudice. If I were in Uncle Cheney’s shoes, I would have supported ssm. This is an argument for ssm. Do you not think this is relevant to the discussion? I am actually a bit puzzled by your question. Am I missing something?

    I know I am missing Summer. ^_^

  34. cep

    The issue with gay “marriage” is really that the word marriage has a definition that has been well understood throughout the history of this country and we have relied on that definition to create a set of laws governing the rights, privileges and responsibilitites of marriage. To change that definition to include same sex couples assumes that the entire body of law is equally applicable to a situation which the writers of those laws never even imagined. This would be the equivalent of trying to extend the definition of the word dog to include grizzly bears so that it would be permissible to keep bears as pets in the suburbs.

    If gay couples want to have a ceremony that celebrates their love and is recognized by their friends and family, no problem. But if they want to have a legal marriage then it needs to be done by reconsidering, individually, every law governing marriage and adapting it to include this new situation. You can’t make good laws by changing the definitions of the words that the laws rely on.

    Or to get back on the point of this post: “If you don’t like a country that defines marriage as between one man and one woman, don’t live here.” *

    * for the humor impaired, that’s another demonstration of the logical fallacy under discussion.

  35. Joy

    In Western countries, or let’s talk about the US, England and Europe, Marriage as recognised by the law has it’s roots in the church and in religion. So your argument that because your favourite bronze aged cavemen cut palms and rubbed them together calling it a wedding is not relevant to the discussion, as such palm cutting was never recognised by the laws of the land. The laws of the land, at least in England, go back to the Magna Carta.
    Your own nation is Catholic isn’t it? Most of Europe, in fact, is steeped in Catholicism or High Christian churches of some flavour.

    As mentioned bypatrick and others, in this country marriage is not recognised by the church between two men. Those men who wish to and do have civil partnerships now have the recognition of the law in matters of finance, but it’s not recognised as marriage. In an English church Wedding, there are two parts to the ceremony. The church service and the legal signing of the register. In a registry office, they cut to the chase and just sign the book! How dull.
    Anyway, normally there’s usually a helpful friend willing to play acoustic guitar or chopsticks to pad out proceedings.

    “Now imagine if you will that there’s a gene that makes people irresistible to salt. Wouldn’t such law be unethical?”
    Excellent question. I’d love to witness the tribunal.
    Anyway, Luis, Salt is irresistible to Elephants. They creep about in the caves in the dark to scrape the sides with their tusks to get the stuff. If you do develop a proper craving for salt, have a blood test. (you could be turning into an elephant).

    I’ve never seen a giraffe with it’s prehensile tongue, or an ape with it’s characteristic pout use their skills in the kissing department. what a waste.
    QI church humour

  36. Alan D. McYntire,
    I have no children. I’ve been married for 26 years. Children is not the only reason for marriage. Not only are civil laws structured to recognize other purposes of marriage, some religions recognize marriage has purposes other than children. (In fact, the Roman Catholic Church not only recognizes other reasons for marriage but considers children secondary. )


    But if they want to have a legal marriage then it needs to be done by reconsidering, individually, every law governing marriage and adapting it to include this new situation.

    Which laws need to be adapted beyond using the word spouse? (Many already do.) Social security coverage treats male spouses of females identically to female spouses of males. In most states, inheritance laws, divisions under divorce treat male or female spouses identically. Child custody laws are supposed to treat males and females equally. (Whether they do in practice is disputed by some.)

    Enacting plural marriage would require reconsidering all these other laws. But extending marriage to partners of the same sex doesn’t.

    But even if extending marriage to same sex couple did require modyfing other laws, modifying statues including marriage statutes is hardly unprecendented in the US. Current marriage and divorce laws were not cast in stone during the 18th century. We are perpetually modifying statutes governing marriage, divorce, child custody and child support; I doubt if we are going to stop. The fact that 18th century Americans might have found our current marriage laws which assume both spouses are fairly equal under the law unimaginable did not stop us from modifying laws as they stood in the 18th century. So their lack of imagination on this score is a relatively weak argument why we can’t continue to change marriage laws today.


    alling it gay “marriage” when the use that word immediately invokes the religious definition of marriage. It should be a civil union,

    Does the word “marriage” invoke a religious definition?

    In the US, two people can be married by a justice of the peace, and their marriage is called marriage, not civil union. In Illinois (and probably most states), if two people don’t obtain a valid license, a religious ceremony cannot confer the state of marriage on the two.

    Currently, in Illinois, no member of the clergy can bestow legal recognition on marriage of a same sex couple even if their religion were to believe in a holy sacrament binding of same sex marriage. No member of the clergy can grant legal recogntion on plural marriage even if their religion permits it.

    The legal recognition of the marriage has almost nothing to do with religion. The most that can be said is that, in the US, the state has decided to permit either a civil authority or a member of the clergy to officiate the ceremony where two parties seal the contractual commitment itself- – provided the two parties obtain a valid license first. After this, the state recognizes the status of the two people. But this is not particularly different from how we deal with real estate transactions or most transactions. We don’t require people to have a judge, justice of the peace, notary public or any civil authority present when we sign real estate contracts or other contracts. We let doctors fill out birth certificates. (When I was born in El Salvador, parents had to go to a civil authority to fill out the official birth certificate. Doctors couldn’t just do this and file.)

    We tend to be fairly flexible and practical about these things.

    Civil cerenomies in the US can be pretty nice. My older sister’s second marriage was by a judge at the courthouse in Waukegan. The judge did a nice little speech about marriage, pulled my nephew into the ceremony, read the vows, sis and brother in law said their “I do’s” and they were married in 15 minutes. The judged posed for photos with the bride groom and Hank. My younger sister and her brother hired a judge and had the civil wedding in a small room at a hotel, then we went upstairs to a big hall for a sit down dinner as the reception. (Later, when my older sister’s annulment came through, they had a consecration in the church. It was also brief.)

    It’s a shame if England doesn’t have similar options.

  37. Patrick Hadley

    Lucia I agree with you totally.

    If there is a good argument against allowing gay couples the same civil rights as heterosexual couples then I have not yet seen it.

    In England you can do exactly the same to celebrate a civil partnership as a civil marriage; (did you see the photos of Elton John’s reception?), and you get exactly the same rights. So why is that not enough for the gay lobby in the USA?

    Why cannot this whole silly issue just go away by the compromise of civil partnerships?

  38. Joy

    I pretty well agree with what you said but am interested, Given your first comment, what is a good reason?
    John M,

    I didn’t know that about Randy, but it doesn’t surprise me.

    Chopsticks isn’t obligatory. There is some flexibility there.

  39. Greg Cavanagh

    I think this post has demonstrated that emotion gets in the way of critical thinking. I feel that if the subject wasn’t “gay marriage” it might have gone differently.

  40. Patrick

    Why cannot this whole silly issue just go away by the compromise of civil partnerships?

    That hasn’t been granted either.

    Whether or not granting something like marriage-lite with different rights and responsibilities as marriage , or “marriage-called-something-else but with all the same rights and responsibilities” would make the issue go away in the US can only be discovered by granting such a thing. Some people don’t want to grant that either and in most states, it doesn’t exist.

    In the US, this sort of thing generally either state by state or through a Supreme Court ruling. The feds get involve through control of federal taxes and things like social security. (Legally recognized marital status affects federal tax options.) This issue will be with use for a while. But Iowa granted same sex marriage. (They granted same sex divorce several years ago! 🙂 )

  41. kuhnkat

    I noticed a few arguments that claim the Gay couples should have parity in legal and Tax rights. I agree, both married couples and Gay couples should have ZERO, BUTKISS, NO rights granted by Gubmint.

    What don’t people understand about the dangers of SOCIAL ENGINEERING?!?!?!?!?!?!?! Especially by criminal POLITICIANS!!

    Marriage is a RELIGIOUS custom in the US. Go to your Church or Social Organisation if you want to get married. Stay the heck away from Gubmint!!!!

    As mentioned, one of the reasons that Gays want marriage is so they have visiting rights for partners in hospitals… Tell me why a hospital would deny someone the right to visit??? Did anyone guess Gubmint or Bureaucracy??

    Basically, there is Contract Law. This is accessible to everyone and should be used by everyone for all of these needs. Marriage should not be used to replace Contract issues. Contracts CANNOT be used to replace Religious marriage.

    If you want to argue that marriage exists in other cultures that are NOT religious, or have different customs, I would agree. I would also point out that few of the customs are recognised here unless they match our Judaeo/Christian values. Civil Ceremonies have been used for these people. Again, it is a good example of how MARRIAGE should NOT be a Gubmint issue. Contracts between people MUST be.

  42. harold

    If there is a separation of Church and State, government (and courts) should not interfere in the matrimonial bonds made by religious groups. Earlier this month the European Union has voted for a bunch of “anti-discrimination” laws. Daniel Hannan on EU anti-discrimination laws:


  43. Hilfy

    lucia: Calling it a marriage brings in the religious definition of marriage due to the history of the custom of marriage, regardless of how marriages are treated in the US today. Our current marriage laws are much too muddled and mix the religious idea of marriage with the logical legal idea of civil unions. Because there is no clear division here, anytime you talk of a marriage outside the prevailing religious boundaries for said marriage, there will be strife. Some religions have clearly defined marriage precepts. We should be changing the system in a way the causes a compromise that will please both, not just in a way that pleases one group at the cost of another group.

    Really there should be a division between a marriage and a civil union so we can stop all this silly fussing. The civil union could be the one for anyone and everyone which would be legal for all things like health insurance and hospital visits etc. Then you could have a marriage which would be legal within the bounds of your particular religion. You would be required to have the civil union, but the religious one would not be necessary and would carry no true legal meaning, just a religious one.

  44. Patrick Hadley

    khunkat, what on earth makes you think that marriage is a religious custom in the United States?

    You appear to making a logical error:

    Some marriages in the United States are religious.

    Therefore all marriage in the United States is religious.

    That is not a valid argument.

    Presumably you know that:
    Marriage existed long before any current religion.
    There were civil marriage laws in Ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome which had nothing to do with any religion.
    For the first centuries after Christ there was no religious ceremony at all for Christians who made civil marriages.
    There have always been civil, non-religious, marriages in the United States.
    The need for the state to regulate civil marriage exists and has long existed for the 95% of the world’s population that does not live in the US.
    Even in the least religious countries there is marriage law: first and foremost as a way of determining property rights.

  45. Hilfy–
    If you want US to adopt the French practice for marriage, ok. But that doesn’t change permit you to narrow the definition of the word marriage. But, the French still call what happens in the civil ceremony marriage. In the US, whether your marriage ceremony is performed in a church, temple, open field, hotel or a court house, the legal aspects are identical. The religious precepts of the participants or clergy do not affect the legal aspects.

    Many religions do include sacraments, ceremonies and have doctrines about marriage. But that can’t narrow the word marriage to have only religious meaning. The word has had a broader meaning for as long as English has existed!

  46. Hilfy

    Although you deem that the needs of religions should not narrow the definition of marriage, I aver that those religions DO narrow the definition for the ranks of their devout. That is why using the word marriage brings in the religious aspect. It has nothing to do with textbook languages or civil legalities about marriage.

    Being that this conflict seems largely to be a matter of semantics, I’m having a hard time understanding why they (meaning the lawmakers) keep using a word that just stirs up religious objections.

    Also since I’m neither gay nor religiously devout, I see no reason to stomp on one social group to provide something another social group wants when there are compromises that would work for both. Neither group has more right to the world they want than the other. For the life of me I can’t remember anyone attacking the issue from a “let’s figure out what will work for both” tack, maybe you know of someone.

  47. DAV

    Briggs: “If you don’t believe in murder, don’t comment one”

    A tad OT: I should only comment [on?] one if I believe in it? Surely, you meant “commit”! There are numerous instances like this in “Breaking the Law of Averages.” I like your outlooks but your editing sucks. 😉

  48. Briggs


    That’s the truest thing anybody has said yet.

  49. L Nettles

    CSI formerly CSICOP finally lost me with their abandonment of skeptical principles in their embrace of Human Induced Global Warming. I remain a skeptic, CSI no so much.

  50. Call it whatever you like, but as far as I am concerned no State that allows sex change operations should prohibit same-sex marriage. Civil rights cannot be based on surgery.

    Imagine a world where if you wanted to marry your partner, the only way were to become an amputee?

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