Okay, this is the lowest new low that NOM has ever reached in their logic against marriage equality yet. In short, they are claiming that same-sex marriage should be illegal because not all chairs are exactly the same. That statement does not exaggerate or misrepresent, I promise you.
Cue Brian Brown:
Dear Marriage Supporter,Uhhh, what? WHAT? Are you f*****g serious? I always knew you guys were stupid, but that stupid? Really? Not all chairs have the exact same characteristics, so same-sex marriage shouldn't be legal?
Definitions are important. They are the means by which we can reason together and communicate ideas intelligibly. Without definitions, social organization becomes impossible.
The great English writer and Christian polemicist G.K. Chesterton illustrated this principle very clearly in his book Orthodoxy, by taking to task his friend, H.G. Wells, for a particular phrase that Chesterton called "not merely a misstatement, but a contradiction in terms."
Wells had said once that, "All chairs are quite different." And Chesterton, with his characteristic wit and his common-sense, pointed out the obvious problem with that assertion: "If all chairs were quite different, you could not call them 'all chairs.'"
A similar descent into meaninglessness has been the hallmark of the push to redefine marriage.
They're trying to draw parallels to the different chairs to the different marriages. But I am just blown away by their assertion that if two things are not exactly the same in every single regard, detail and characteristic, then they cannot have the same name. Let's extrapolate their logic to some other things.
A Toyota and a Hyundai have different manufacturers. Therefore, they cannot both be cars.
A Boeing and an Airbus have different manufacturers. Therefore, they cannot both be planes.
An Apple is different to a Microsoft. Therefore, they cannot both be computers.
America is a different country to Canada. Therefore, they cannot both be countries.
A red apple has a different color to a green apple. Therefore, they cannot both be apples.
And in case you haven't realized, Brian, not all straight marriages are the same as well.
Some straight couples are old, some are young. The fact that they are different in age they cannot both be married.
Some straight couples are black, some white, some interracial. The fact that their races are different means that they cannot all be married.
Some straight couples have children, some don't. The fact that their parental status is different means that they cannot both be married.
Brian, do you see how f****d up that is?
Advocates for same-sex "marriage" constantly evade the question of definitions. While they clamor ever more loudly for "marriage equality," they studiously avoid the necessary and logically prior point: What is marriage?I'll answer it right now.
This is the real question. It is also, of course, the title of the wonderful book penned by NOM co-founder Professor Robert George along with Ryan T. Anderson and Sherif Girgis. These three have been incredibly heroic and consistent in their efforts to corner the arguments of the same-sex marriage lobby and return the debate time and again to that central question—a question that still has not sufficiently been answered by the other side.
Marriage is a domestic union recognized by a government or jurisdiction between parties who are eligible for marriage, with their eligibility defined by the government with respect to the constitutional questions and rights surrounding marriage.
Lately, Anderson has been fighting that good fight again, on many fronts, and I want to highlight the work he's been doing, as it is illuminative and instructive for us.What's the big deal? All Barro is saying is that just because is bad, doesn't mean it's not a law. Laws banning same-sex marriage are bad laws, but laws nonetheless. Government can define marriage in a bad way, but that doesn't mean that their definition doesn't exist. Barro's point is not an argumentative point for or against same-sex marriage, it's just a statement of fact. The Ninth Circuit pointed out in its opinion striking down Prop 8 that when its proponents claimed that a legitimate interest in the law was to prevent students from being taught about same-sex marriage, the teaching about it wouldn't be advocacy, but just teaching them what the laws of the state are. When schools teach that "boys can marry boys", they're not advocating that. They're just pointing out what the laws of the state are. In Texas, it wouldn't be wrong to teach that "boys can't marry boys."
Last week I wrote about how New York Times columnist Josh Barro had taken to Twitter to level some cheap insults against people like you and me for supporting traditional marriage. Barro claimed our views were like those of racial segregationists of old.
But Ryan Anderson decided to engage Barro on Twitter, and the exchange was fascinating to follow. Ryan has chronicled the whole thing over at Heritage's The Daily Standard.
One part of the debate was of particular interest:Ryan then pointed out that, by this logic, "government could never define marriage wrongly."
Barro then argued that "A public policy defining marriage can be bad or undesirable but it cannot be false" [emphasis added].
And Ryan is the one who's supposed to be engaging in "doublespeak"?!
This kind of reductive logic is dangerous in any application, but especially when it relates to a question as important as the definition of marriage, and an institution as close to the roots of our civic order as the family!I refer NOM to my previous definition of marriage: the judgement by the citizens and legislators must be consistent with the constitutional requirements and protections afforded to all people, regardless of majority rule.
But it is also a logic that simply undoes itself. If marriage is whatever the government deems is to be, and if political will is all that makes any given definition of marriage the "true" one, then how can Barro and others support the usurpation by judges of the will of legislatures and citizenries to identify marriage as the union of one man and one woman?
No, this is the real doublespeak in the marriage debate. Barro cannot allow that there is a "right" definition of marriage outside of the fiat of the state—but then he tries to maintain (without any evident basis) that some definitions are "bad [and] undesirable."What's he's saying is quite simple: the government defines marriage. Just because they have defined it in a bad way doesn't mean that their definition is not the law. Pointing out that in Saudi Arabia, marriage is a union of one man and many women who can be legally beaten and raped isn't advocating for that type of marriage. It's just stating a fact.
Barro razes the bastions of natural law to pave the way for the state to posit whatever it will about marriage, but—as Anderson points out—now he has left no barriers in place for making any rational determination about marriage.While I don't personally have many concerns about legalizing consensual polygamous marriages (unions where one person is married to many people who are not married to each other have a consent concern, and I am less warm to their legal recognition), not allowing polygamous marriages is not a form of discrimination. There is no immutable characteristic within a person which means that they can only form polygamous relationships. Because no discrimination is occurring, I don't view banning polygamous marriages as an injustice, and it is a question that can be left to the people.
As Ryan puts it:Indeed, if the law redefines marriage to say it is about consenting adult romance and caregiving, what principle would govern the contours of marriage policy? Can't three people form such a union, so that if you sue for marriage equality for the same-sex couple, why would you deny such equality to the throuple?
Then they're not desiring marriage, are they? So what's the concern?And how about those who desire a "wedlease" instead of "wedlock."
While same-sex married couples are legally married in the states where it's legal, you are free to think of them as not married. It is not our intention to force everyone to view them as married. While that would be nice, all we are working for is for the government to think of them as married. You can say that. I disagree, but don't have any real problem with it. The only problem is when you say that because you don't personally view a gay couple as married, nor should the government. That is what we fight against. Not your thoughts, but putting them into law so that people are discriminated against.These are the sorts of consequences that result once you abandon the natural law understanding of what marriage is.This is why there is now, and really always has been, only one question of real relevance in this debate: What is marriage? To that question, only those who acknowledge the public good of marriage and the natural and conjugal complementarity of men and women have a real answer.
And because there is a "what is" to marriage—because marriage has a real definition—we can, indeed we must say that it still holds even in those states where marriage has been legally reconstructed and redefined.
In another posting at The Daily Signal from Anderson last week, there is a video of an exchange during a lecture at Stanford, between Ryan and a gay man who asked: "Why should I, as a gay man, be denied the same right to file a joint tax return with my potential husband that a straight couple has?"And yet none of us object to what you personally think what marriage is. It's not our concern. All we want is that you don't use your own opinions to deny same-sex couples the dignity and legal protections of having their unions recognized as marriages by the government.
In the clip, we see Ryan brilliantly holding the line on the fundamental question of what marriage is, which cannot be separated from the question posed to him.
Ryan explains that the reason the man cannot file a joint tax return is because, simply, he can't get married. When the questioner objects that he can get married in California, Ryan's answer cuts straight to the point: "You can be issued a marriage license in the State of California, but you can't actually get married... given what marriage is."
Ryan points out that there is no real 'discrimination' because the man has an equal right to enter into the marital relationship—a union of husband and wife— and, as he explains:I've already responded to the polygamy argument. I will address the discrimination argument as if I were a judge writing a legal opinion in favor of same-sex marriage. The customary trolling of Justice Scalia is included.
If you're not interested in entering into that sort of a union, you're not being discriminated against. What you're asking us to do is to redefine marriage to include the adult relationship of your choice, and the adult relationship of your choice happens to be a same-sex couple. There are other adults who want to have marriage redefined to include the relationship of their choice, which may be the same-sex 'throuple' or the opposite-sex 'quartet.' And so what I'm asking you in response is, what principle are you appealing to, when you say this is discrimination, to vindicate your rights and not their rights?
Defendants claim that the State’s marriage laws do not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, as gays and lesbians in the state are still able to marry. Defendants claim that they, like heterosexuals, may marry a person of the opposite sex.Back to NOM:
The Court rejects this argument due to the fact that the State’s marriage laws still classify the only type of deep, meaningful and enduring relationship that homosexual persons can form as inferior to those of heterosexual persons. This is discrimination against homosexual persons. Merely technically allowing both homosexual and heterosexual persons to marry is not enough; the state must treat with equal respect the only type of deep, meaningful and enduring relationship that both groups can form.
If one group is unable to have the only type of deep, meaningful and enduring relationship that it can form recognized as a marriage, but the other is not, then the people in the former group are discriminated against. In Lawrence, the Supreme Court held that the sexual conduct of a homosexual couple is constitutionally protected because it is “but one element of a personal bond that is more enduring.” The Lawrence ruling “dismantles the structure of constitutional law that has permitted a distinction to be made between heterosexual and homosexual unions.” Lawrence v. Texas, 539 U.S. 558 (Scalia, J., dissenting).
It is therefore not sufficient justification to claim that the laws still allow homosexual persons to marry. The State must also treat with equal respect the deep, meaningful and enduring relationships of homosexual and heterosexual persons. While the State’s marriage laws technically allow for both homosexual and heterosexual persons to marry, they do not allow homosexual persons to have their deep, meaningful and enduring relationships, a critical element of liberty recognized by the Supreme Court in Lawrence, recognized as marriages. However, the laws do allow for this recognition for heterosexual persons. “This differentiation demeans the couple, whose moral and sexual choices the Constitution protects.” United States v. Windsor, 570 U.S. _ (2013). A deep, meaningful and enduring relationship must be respected by the State for both heterosexual and homosexual persons, and allowing heterosexual, but not homosexual, couples to marry falls short of this.
This is the kind of logical thoroughness this debate needs. You can see in the Stanford exchange the same logical errors Barro made on Twitter: by evading the question of the definition of what marriage is, they logically weaken any rationale for setting aside any kind of relationship as 'marriage'.My response:
Clear-sighted people can see the wisdom and common sense of Ryan's logic here. One such clear-sighted person is Federal Judge Paul Niemeyer, from the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals.
Niemeyer was on the three-judge panel of the 4th Circuit that heard the appeal of the case regarding Virginia's marriage amendment, which a lower court had deemed unconstitutional. Unfortunately, in its decision on Monday the panel split 2-1 and upheld the lower court's ruling.
But Niemeyer was the dissenting voice, and his dissent rings with such clarity and wisdom precisely because it acknowledges the real question: what is marriage?This analysis is fundamentally flawed because it fails to take into account that the "marriage" that has long been recognized by the Supreme Court as a fundamental right is distinct from the newly proposed relationship of a "same-sex marriage." And this failure is even more pronounced by the majority's acknowledgment that same-sex marriage is a new notion that has not been recognized "for most of our country's history." Moreover, the majority fails to explain how this new notion became incorporated into the traditional definition of marriage except by linguistic manipulation. Thus, the majority never asks the question necessary to finding a fundamental right—whether same-sex marriage is a right that is "deeply rooted in this Nation's history and tradition" and "implicit in the concept of ordered liberty, such that neither liberty nor justice would exist if [it was] sacrificed."
Defendants argue that the right to marriage as recognized by the Supreme Court has implicit inherent limitations regarding it, those being that the Court intended to limit the right to marriage to opposite-sex couples. Defendants misunderstand the precedent entirely.Back to NOM:
The Supreme Court has held that “[t]he freedom to marry has long been recognized as one of the vital personal rights essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men.” Loving v. Virginia, 388 U.S. 1 (1967). There are no mentions of exceptions to it nor of legitimate limitations of it. With this in mind, this Court must conclude that there are none.
It is possible that the Supreme Court intended these limitations, and this Court respects their authority to clarify its interpretation of the right to marriage, and state that the limitations proposed by Defendants do exist. Therefore, this Court also respects the Supreme Court’s authority to overturn a century-year old precedent holding that there are no legitimate exceptions to or limitations of the right to marriage. However, in light of the conclusion that Baker is no longer binding, the Supreme Court has not explicitly held this, and this Court cannot hold itself to the uncertain, speculative interpretations proposed by Defendants as to what the Supreme Court meant.
Thus, the Court finds that the right to same-sex marriage is inseparable from the right to marriage as recognized by the Supreme Court. As the fundamental right to marriage is impinged upon by the State’s marriage laws, the State’s marriage laws trigger strict scrutiny.
It is refreshing to read in Niemeyer's acknowledgement that "when the Supreme Court has recognized, through the years, that the right to marry is a fundamental right, it has emphasized the procreative and social ordering aspects of traditional marriage," ...Bulls**t. I repeat:
"The freedom to marry has long been recognized as one of the vital personal rights essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men."
Where is procreation mentioned?
which is why "the marriage of a man and a woman... rationally promotes a correlation between biological order and political order" [emphasis added].Notice how Judge Niemeyer omits the word "only" from "the marriage of a man and a woman". Allowing opposite-sex couples to marry may encourage procreation (I don't know), but it is not necessary to prohibit same-sex couples from marrying to do so.
And Niemeyer also drives home the same point observed above: he says that if the majority opinion is correct—if there is a fundamental right to marry for any consenting adult relationship—there is no principled legal way to prevent plural marriage or a host of other imagined unions.As I said before, banning polygamy, incest and pedophilia doesn't discriminate against people, and so therefore, doing so is not an injustice. There are also many compelling interests in doing so: protecting women (polygamy), preventing children from being born with genetic disorders (incest), and preventing child abuse (pedophilia).
Let's hope more judges begin to see with the clarity of this the importance of the fundamental question of what marriage is!
Back to NOM:
I'd like to recall again Chesterton's reply to Wells about "all chairs being different." Suppose you took a table and a chair and together referred to them both as chairs. In that instance, the two things really would be different—and by calling them the same thing, you would have made the term "chair" meaningless.Okay, three things:
The point is this: the word "marriage" either means something or it does not. Isn't it only fair and just to ask first what it does mean before trying to decide to apply the term to something new?
1. If someone wants to call a table a chair, I would not try to pass a law or amend the state constitution to ban them from doing so.
2. If same-sex marriage is like calling a table a chair, then calling a table a chair has a chilling effect on religious liberty, results in the traditional family and fabric of society collapsing, and sends the message that all who disagree are bigots.
3. Most importantly: Not allowing same-sex marriage is not like calling a chair a chair because saying that a chair is only a chair does not relegate an entire group of people to second-class citizenship status, deny them the status and dignity of their heterosexual counterparts, deprive them of over a thousand rights and responsibilities to protect their relationships and cause them to have more mental disorders.
This talk about gay marriage being bad because chairs have differences is a new level of absurd logic that I have not seen before in this debate by anyone. If this is what they know must resort to, then they really must be scraping the bottom of the barrel. I don't know if they've realized that no one is buying their other arguments, which has prompted them to move on, but it must be possible.
I think opponents of marriage equality can be divided into two groups: those who are uncomfortable with it but require some justification to oppose it, and those who always will. Both groups are expressing some bigotry, as they want their opinions about marriage to be used to justify inequality and discrimination. But I think that the former group is slowly being whittled away, as more of them come to accept that there is no problem with it. The latter group is worse. It's homophobic. But as the former group, seeing no compelling logic to retain their opposition, gradually moves to our side, I think NOM realizes that there's no point trying to persuade them back. The only thing they can do is retain the support they already have. This requires providing talking points that will be rote learnt and recited word for word in debates, even if the people doing so don't know what they mean.
This isn't about a genuine argument against marriage equality. It's about trying to keep on opposing it and being able to have something to say to defend it and make themselves not look completely stupid, even if it's just fluff.
Fluff's all they have left.
3:15 PM PT: While discussing that I think they have the right to personally believe what a marriage is, I should have made it more clear in explicitly saying that their personal beliefs don't grant them a right to discriminate. They absolutely don't. I'd like to thank Cali Scribe for pointing that out.