October 01
Male, Jewish, in my extremely early sixties, married with kids (well, at this point I guess that should be "kid"). Thanks to Lezlie for avatar artwork - sort of a translation of my screen name. "Salaam" is peace in Arabic, hence the peace sign. (No, my name doesn't mean "hunk of meat" and yes, the pun is intentional.)


Koshersalaami's Links
APRIL 24, 2012 12:23AM

Gay Marriage

Rate: 23 Flag

I heard recently from a friend in a PM that he/she wasn’t completely sure where he/she stood on the gay marriage issue. I decided to do my bit and lay out the issues as I see them in a reply PM. That PM was the basis for this post, though the post has more content.

I apologize for any sloppiness on my part in how interchangeably I've used "gay" and "LGBTQ."

Gay Marriage:

The first question is the extent to which we allow religious objections to decide government policy. For a variety of reasons that should be obvious, I'm not in favor of that.

Marriage is an interesting institution in this regard because it can be performed either by clergy or by a justice of the peace, and it has both religious and civil/legal ramifications. We don't currently separate these. If we did, we'd probably call the religious ceremony "marriage" and the civil ceremony "civil union." If we were to decide on civil unions for gays, the sensible thing for equity reasons would be for all marriages performed by government officials to be redefined as civil unions, but there isn't much of a constituency for that, aside from which there is a whole body of marriage law already in place that it makes no sense to rewrite.

Regardless of what the law states wherever you live, no one that I know of is contemplating forcing clergy to perform gay marriages under any circumstances. Clergy can already refuse to perform all sorts of marriages for religions reasons, such as interfaith marriages. That won't change, so legalizing gay marriage doesn’t involve taking choice away from religious institutions.

So, why else might one want to prohibit gay marriage?

1. Because of the potential effects of gay parenthood. This subdivides into two issues. The first is the worry that gay parents would produce gay offspring. (I’m afraid we have to assume that anyone opposing gay marriage thinks homosexuality is a negative outcome in some respect, though in what respect ranges from concerns over a hostile environment to active hostility toward the LGBTQ population.) There is no statistical evidence to support this at all, and we know that most gay people come from straight parents. The only difference here is that having gay parents might make it easier to come out of the closet if one is already gay, but that's about tolerance, not orientation.

The second is allegations of inferior parenting in some other way. There is no data to support this and, frankly, we don‘t screen heterosexuals before we allow them to become parents, so there‘s no standard in current use to meet even theoretically. (Even if such data existed, it would involve differences in some sort of central tendency such as median, not an absolute; in other words, the probability that all parents in one category would outperform all parents in the other is functionally zero.) In many ways this wouldn‘t be a relevant question even if we had a standard in place: What makes anyone think that most children adopted by or born to gay couples have a choice of being brought up by straight couples to begin with? Anyone who thinks that being brought up in foster care (the more realistic alternative) is superior to being brought up by gay parents would have to be either self-deluding or a complete idiot.

2. Because the purpose of marriage is reproduction. Personally, I'd say raising children is probably a more important issue here than producing them, which I've already addressed, but let's look at this. We marry heterosexual couples who choose not to have children or are infertile. We marry people who are too old to have kids. We're not following this standard now, so it makes no sense to impose it on this issue.

3. Because homosexuality is unnatural. It occurs in an awful lot of human beings, plus many other animal species. If this isn't occurring in nature, where exactly is it occurring? In a lab?

4. Because homosexuality is a choice. It may be a choice if you're bisexual, but one isn't bisexual by choice. I did not choose my orientation. I am not attracted to men at all. It's not that I chose not to be - I can't claim credit for resisting nonexistent temptation - I'm just not. If I didn't chose my orientation, I can't assume that others chose theirs. Then, of course, there's the obvious question here: Why would anyone in their right mind choose to be gay in a world so overwhelmingly hostile to homosexuality? The disadvantages so far eclipse the advantages as to be ridiculous. If you're gay, you potentially face:

Unequal rights
Rejection by your employer
Rejection by friends when you come out
Rejection by your family
Rejection by your religious institution
and, depending on your views,
Rejection by God.
Think about this one: If you're Orthodox Jewish or fundamentalist Christian and gay, you face all sorts of agony and self-loathing. Under what circumstances would such a choice be feasible to such people?

This last point is enough of an issue that there’s a business in attempting to change orientation. It’s not a very pervasive business for the simple reason that the process doesn’t work; if it did, there would be populations (like religious fundamentalists) who would partake routinely.

Choosing homosexuality might theoretically make sense once we’re a lot closer to equality, but at the moment we’re just too far from that.

 5. Because homosexuality grosses you out. Too subjective a standard for the law; we don't get to impose our tastes on everyone else.

6. Because of the slippery slope. The standard of "consenting adults" has been around for quite a while and no one, aside from maybe a few people way out on the fringes, is suggesting abandoning that standard. You can find people on the fringes to advocate anything. Legalizing gay marriage will not lead to the legal ability to marry children, pets, or your toaster.

Actually, the slippery slope argument has a flip side: In cases like the constitutional amendment about to be voted on in North Carolina, a confirmation would set a precedent of limiting the rights of a particular minority. That's one of the most dangerous slippery slopes I can think of. (Thanks to SBA for this point.)

7. Because homosexuality is pathology. Not according to the American Psychological Association.

8. Because gay marriage threatens the institution of marriage. I'd answer this objection if I understood it but I can't find anyone who can explain it to me. If gays get the ability to marry, this is supposed to affect my marriage to my wife how? This contention may be the worst of all because those advocating it feel no compulsion to explain what they mean by this - they just assert it and claim to be "protecting" marriage without specifying how gay marriage potentially threatens it.

That’s my list of the objections to gay marriage I can come up with, along with my answers. I haven’t listed advantages yet. So:

1. At a time when commitment to marriage as an institution has decreased, which most Americans would not characterize as a good thing, introducing a new population to the institution bolsters the institution. In other words, the contention that gay marriage threatens marriage as an institution is not only wrong but backward - it actually supports the institution.

2. The reasons society values the functions performed by the institution of marriage also apply to the LGBTQ population. Social stability, stable environments for children, mutual support in old age, psychological health of the population, help with medical care, limits to promiscuity that can lead to public health risks, etc. Thirty years ago we were in a lethal epidemic involving a lot of gay promiscuity, particularly among males. Gay males were condemned for that at the time and many have chosen to take such criticism to heart and to emulate their critics: settling down, getting married, raising families. That they should be condemned for being responsive and responsible is fundamentally hypocritical.

 3. It’s good for business. A lot of major corporations value their LGBTQ employees and have problems when attracting and/or relocating these employees becomes difficult as a result of oppressive state laws. It’s also, of course, good for the wedding industry.

4. Legalizing gay marriage is more in keeping with values that we traditionally think of as American. Such as tolerance, equality, freedom and justice. The reverse is also true: keeping gay marriage illegal promotes intolerance, bigotry, oppression and injustice. Legalization is better for our international image and is a better example to set for our children.

5. Legalizing gay marriage increases the number of stable families available to adopt children. 

I could probably come up with a few more but this is, I think, a decently functioning list.

Personally, I can’t come up with any valid objective nonreligious reasons to keep gay marriage illegal. I can’t play Sophist and take the other side because I don’t see another side, in spite of the fact that I am actively looking for it. Everything I’ve seen so far comes down to a desire to apply specific religious standards to the overall population - which is a particularly dangerous thing to do when those standards involve limitations applied selectively to a capable adult population - or a desire to apply blatantly subjective standards such as “it doesn’t feel right,” “it isn’t traditional” (neither was integration or, for that matter, abolitionism), or “it’s not natural” (which isn’t literally true). I would take an answer seriously. I’ve read a whole lot of letters to the editor, editorials, etc., and I have yet to see a decent argument opposed to gay marriage. If I ever do, maybe I’ll change aspects of my position, but I’m not holding my breath.

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This is so comprehensive, it is intriguing. Let us all learn from this first:

"...raising children is probably a more important issue here than producing them..."

You made the decent argument; there is no decent argument against gay marriage. Excellent article, Kosh. R
This is one heck of a well-thought and well-written post. Too bad it'll never be read by the blockheads who oppose gay marriage. If I had to guess, it's the thought of two people of the same sex, having sex, that's at the core of most people's objections. The funny thing is, that's such a small part of why people want to marry. Ridiculous it's still an issue and not legal everywhere.
I think if you look at it from the point of view of a homophobe (which I'm not), you goal is to limit the spread of homosexuality. There are two possible theories:

1) Genetics. If you think homosexuals are born that way, you should support gay marriage because it makes reproduction much more difficult. A gay person married to a member of the opposite sex is much more likely to reproduce and a gay person married to a member of the same sex. Male gay couples, in particular, face high obstacles to reproduction.

2) Recruitment. If you think homosexuality is a choice, then, presumably gays lure others into sharing their choice. If you encourage gays to make long-term commitments to each other, like a life-long marriage, they are not out there converting heterosexuals.

In short, homophobes should support gay marriage.
Well thought-out and convincingly-argued. Kudos.
The only valid reason I ever heard against gay marriage was that it would take a LOT of time, money and effort to find somebody else to hate on. It's human nature to want to feel superior towards SOMEBODY (no matter how vile or despicable your own life may be) and if you allow gays and lesbians to marry JUST LIKE YOU DO, then you have to admit that "THEY" are just like you... And "YOU" certainly don't want to be hated.
tempting to print this out and give it to my father...but I won't.
There are no words for the sense of alienation that I felt not being able to legally marry Karen when we had our marriage ceremony. Now, I care about it in a civil rights way, since we, most likely, would not get married even if the opportunity were available. Back then though, it was one more way in which I could not do right. Could not be a normal person. The combination of giving in a choosing a woman, and giving in and admitting illness and getting meds were in lockstep for me. The love and health I've had since then has been profound. My two best personal achievements both seen by family as failures. Good thing I know my family is full of shit (I can love them above all others and still acknowledge that they are a bit dippy)
liking this on FB :D
Dad, if you are bored and reading this. I love ya. Don't agree with ya, but I love ya always will.
Bravo, Kosh.
I hope you, and others so inclined, see/hear how I've framed these ideas, a little differently, in my video here this morning.
Terrificslly well done, Kosh.

The point as to religion is that religious prohibitions have no place in democratic civil LAW. They are sidelined in Law, as they ought to be.
Well done. Intelligent discussion with rational thought rather than a harangue. r
I've been in favor of same sex marriage for quite a few years kosh and you've laid out the case for very cogently. As you say re objection 2, I always cite the example of my aunt who got married in her 70s. I didn't start out being in favor, rather, I just wasn't opposed. But I talked to and heard from enough gay folks to whom it was important that before long I came around.
The opposition to gay marriage is mostly about people in the majority being allowed to bully and control the fates of people in the minority. People in power rarely willingly give up control. Also, there's a lot of "running mental scripts" in heads out there that keep recycling Puritanical views on sex. If they are "grossed out" by thinking of gay people in intimate situations, then maybe they need to start doing some research on the seriously wild fetishes that heterosexual people have. Heterosexuals who, in fact, may even attend the same (judgmental, finger-pointing, gay marriage hating) church as they do.

I'm sorry to break it to these people but my soon-to-be married gay sister has a much more functional relationship with her future spouse than I ever did with mine. Being heterosexual definitely does not grant you the automatic status of "Expert" on forming and maintaining a mature and healthy relationship.
Excellent. I plan to keep your post at hand for any naysayers who might rear their ugly heads.
I get impatient with this whole 'problem' and would be inclined to just say "What the heck business is it of YOURS." Anyway, we have gay marriage here (in Canada) and even our rightist Conservative government of the moment hasn't made any noises about touching it.

In Quebec, marriage as the legal contract must be done at city hall by a provincial official. If I understand rightly, clergy no longer have the legal-marriage thing. Their ceremonies are, well, ceremonial.

HOWEVER, I must have misunderstood because my Wiccan high priest got a one-off paper to do a legal marriage in Quebec. In all of Canada (I did some investigation when I was heading the Pagan Federation here and people were forever whining about getting the legal right to perform marriages) the government contract thing and the religious thing were separate, but churches (who jumped thru certain hoops, like having a fixed address and demonstrating some semblance of stability, that Pagans were usually unable to provide) could get an on-going arrangement to do the government thingy in conjunction with the religious ceremony AS A MATTER OF CONVENIENCE. However, people mostly didn't catch the legal nicety there and thought religious outfits conferred legality on their own. I used to explain, frequently to deaf ears, that marriages used to be religious, back when churches had some authority and community could enforce things, but then the government got involved with a legal contract so that THEY could enforce things like support and inheritance. And governments need their paperwork. (The province of Alberta used to give one-0ffs to anybody to perform a marriage for their favorite cousin or whatever, but had to quit because Regular People cannot be depended on to turn in the paperwork.) We've sort of come out the other end, where a lot of people don't care about any legal contract and just move in together.
wonderful post. I know I appreciated it!! r.r.r.r.r.r.r. :)

Here is one of my favorite political speeches given about gay marriage by Ian Hunter in Australia:

Just throwing it out there for those who want to read a little more....
To clarify something in my comment: The provinces, on their own conditions, convey on-going legal-marriage privileges to organizations, not to individuals. Those organizations have traditionally been churches, all very organized and all, as organizations tend to be. Unless they're Pagan organizations. Which tend to be fleeting or non-existent. Can't (quite rightly!) be trusted to turn in the damned paperwork. And it is the organization that gives its officials the handed-down right to perform the legal marriage (which consists, as far as I can tell, in witnessing the signing of the government paper).
I think it is more the religious conservatives not wanting to lose "moral" ground. The more tolerant society is of any group exercising their civil rights, the more the shift to the left; think abortion and reproductive issues. So, they keep pounding at each of these types of personal freedoms to remain in control politically, and to remain in power. How else will they ever win an election with a base of maybe 10%...?
Another well presented, fact based post from you!
Why shouldn't gay people be as unhappy as heterosexuals?
I guess it's time for me to start answering. I finally have a few minutes at a laptop.

Thoth and Seer,
I like to pull cases apart and dissect them. If I ever did this with animals they'd lock me up.

I agree. I don't think opposition to gay marriage that isn't religiously based has to do with anything other than revulsion at a series of images. Frankly, I think most people who express opposition on relgious grounds are really more concerned with those images than with actual religious prohibitions but that those prohibitions mean they aren't accountable for that. There are many whose opposition actually is religious, but I question their right to impose that prohibition in the civil sphere. It's not that I'm opposed to religious views influencing policy, it's that I think those that influence policy should be those concerned with protecting people from demonstrable harm and helping those in need, neither of which is addressed by this opposition.

That's a pretty ingenious point.

Joisey Shore and Amy,
Thanks. Particularly Amy (SBA) for assistance with one point.

I hope this helps somehow with your father. That would at least make this post useful.

I'll get over to your blog and listen. As has happened before, we're on very similar pages at the same time.

Thank you and I don't do harangues, not because I'm not tempted, but because they don't work. Harangues are for energizing the troops or preaching to the choir but they're completely counterproductive with the opposition. My stuff is usually written for the opposition to read. If the opposition doesn't read it here, someone who reads this will end up presenting some of this to someone opposed to gay marriage and that's where it will do some good.

Thank you

I'm glad you had that experience and thank you

Amy P,
I agree completely

Glad you intend to put it to good use

Thanks for clueing us in on what goes on in Canada

Pensive Person,
I'll check the speech out

Though what you're saying makes sense from a tactical standpoint, I have my doubts as to whether opposition to this involves this much thought. It also doesn't address the question of Log Cabin Republicans - conservative gays who would be more valuable to the movement accepted than rejected.

You're not the first person to ask that.

ONL is the last commenter as of when I started this series of answers.
Great job, Kosh, as usual. If I'm ever in trouble with the law unjustly, I will be wanting you to defend me in court. And, no, I don't care that you are not an attorney! You covered even more points than I've ever thought of, and I've given this topic a lot of thought. And, that, I think is what separates those who support gay marriage from those who don't -- THOUGHT.

I have to agree--you have injected a logical argument into a pathetic one, though the emotional one is not an argument at all but a patently absurd claim to be superior to those who are different. Wish I had time to comment further, but I can say this: GD hearts KS's brain.
Thank you both.

You're right: Thought is not what's behind opposition to gay marriage; visceral reaction is followed by justification after the fact.
The biggest problem continues to be "Semantic". "Marriage" has a religious connotation that "Civil Union" does not. Since the State cannot confer a "Blessing" ALL Unions for civil purposes should simply be "Incorporated"

But, that's a Qwerty problem, ie- like the Qwerty keyboard, there are always better ways of doing something, but you have to wait for those who know how to do it one way, to die off, cause you'll never get them to change.

In another twenty years ( if we manage to get past the Mayan "Deadline"), people will be amazed that this was ever a problem.

Meanwhile, I see more potential to gain gay right to union by letting the "Religious" have the "Sacrament" of "marriage" and making sure that the rights granted by the state to "Civil Union" are identical to "Marriage", eventually replacing the term "marriage" with "Civil Union" in all statutes.

I'm willing to bet that anyone who wants to marry their partner/soul mate/ significant other/ prayer group/ dog/ car can find a religious group that will "sanctify" the union with a "blessing"

What is needed is equality of standing of couples of any persuasion before the state. The definition of "Marriage" is just empty "Fighting words".
The reason I don't think that outcome is feasible, even though it's the easiest formula, is that there isn't enough of a constituency to push it. You'd need a lot of the heterosexual population willing to redefine future civil ceremonies as Civil Unions and not as marriages any more; I don't think enough of them would go for it because they aren't willing to change the rules for them.

The religious issue isn't literally an issue now because churches pick and choose which marriages they recognize now, even among the legally married. Both Catholic and Jewish congregations have some issues with intermarriage and that's before you get into divorce and remarriage issues. Legalizing gay marriage throughout the United States on a civil basis won't change that. In that respect, this doesn't represent a net loss of power to churches over their own congregants, and there's no reason for churches to exercise power over people who aren't their own congregants, which is the only issue here.

For those reasons, I think legalizing gay marriage is the only sensible way to go: It provides equality without actually interfering with the perogatives of clergy, and it the only solution to current inequalities that has a viable chance of eventual passage.

That is why this is a "Qwerty" problem- the answer is obvious, but everyone is so entrenched in a certain way of doing things, that you have to wait for those so trained to die off in order to change it.

I'm "Moreorlessa" Methodist, and even my "rural" congregation accepts gays as members of the church- (some more accepting than others) But the UMC "officially" states that homosexuality is incompatible with christian teaching.

And that's fine with just about everyone, hate the sin, love the sinner is the way we work- and we don't most of us cast stones. As far as gay rights are concerned, it's viewed as a civil matter, not religious- and I have no trouble gaining agreement that gays deserve the same civil advantages as straights, including "Civil unions" of equal standing.

Most of the "T" Party are, if anything, eager to get the state out of sanctioning "marriage" of any sort- the state needs to recognize the separation of church and state by not presuming to grant a "Blessing"(Sacrament) to ANYONE

The problem boils right down to the very term "Marriage" - which is a "Sacred" term- call it "Civil Union", and it's no big deal- call it "Marriage"and you utter blasphemy and throw disrepute upon the relationship they have with their spouses. Reasonable? Probably not. Understandable?- Sure, people have always been "Like That"- It is the problem of unrestrained "intuition" that "law" is meant to break to harness. But you can't just do a "take it or leave it" bit of "logic" (like pass a law) and expect it to be respected.

There is a "gay" kid in my youth group. When all us old farts die off, the kids are going to laugh about this issue in wonder, the same as most people now "laugh' in disbelief at the philosophy of segregation.
I was reading the Iowa Supreme Court decision that legalised gay marriage in the state, for a class of mine, and it listed the arguments of both sides. One of the arguments for the Iowa government (the people against gay marriage) was that it threatened "stability in an opposite-sex relationship to raise and nurture children" which basically means they were saying that allowing homosexuals to marry the person of their choice made pre-existing opposite-sex relationships less stable for child-rearing. I found this rather absurd, to say the least.
Completely absurd. I'm trying to imagine how allowing gay marriages would give me trouble in raising my daughter. Whatever problems I run into certainly can't be attributed to that.
I think you make an excellent point about settling down and getting married as being the proper response by the gay community to the AIDs virus. So now we are telling them that they can’t get married to go and die? What are we republicans? I am not so sold about the adoption issue, only because I know how cruel kids can be to other kids.
Thanks about the AIDS observation. In terms of adoption, it depends compared to what. Compared to being a foster kid, it's probably easier under almost all circumstances just because of stability.
You have a good POV and you obviously have a gay gene somewhere inside you I can tell, you posted this.
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I'm not sure a gay gene would be necessary. I doubt I need a Black gene to write stuff about racism.