It can be difficult to understand creationists at times. Last week, I observed Disco. Inst. blogger Martin Cothran wondered: “If their relationships are already stable, then why do they need to be stabilized?” Cothran only applies that logic to teh gays, of course. I pointed out that the same logic applies to straight folk, and that he seemed to be arguing against marriage per se.

Apparently that wasn’t what he meant, and Cothran is now trying to rework the argument:

So maybe we could restate the question for Rosenau and see if we can break through the logical firewall he seems to have set in his mental system settings: “If the relationships of gay people are already stable then why do we need marriage to stabilize them?”

I would respond by simply asking Cothran: “If the relationships of straight people are already stable then why do we need marriage to stabilize them?” Or better yet, wondering (as I do in the title) whether he thinks straight people are capable of stable relationships. Because if so, then why do straight people need marriage? If not, what use could marriage be?

Maybe Cothran’s point is simply that stability is not a good way to justify marriage in general. If so, Cothran should take it up with James Dobson, head of Focus on the Family (bear in mind that Cothran works for the Family Foundation of Kentucky, an affiliate of Focus on the Family):

Commitment

What will you do when unexpected tornadoes blow through your home, or when the doldrums leave your sails sagging and silent? Will you pack it in and go home to Mama? Will you pout and cry and seek ways to strike back? Or will your commitment hold you steady?

These questions must be addressed now, before Satan has an opportunity to put his noose of discouragement around your neck. Set your jaw and clench your fists. Nothing short of death must ever be permitted to come between the two of you. Nothing!

This determined attitude is missing from so many marital relationships today. I read of a wedding ceremony in New York a few years ago where the bride and groom each pledged “to stay with you for as long as I shall love you.” I doubt if their marriage lasted even to this time.

The feeling of love is simply too ephemeral to hold a relationship together for very long. It comes and goes. That’s why our panel of 600 was adamant at this point. They have lived long enough to know that a weak marital commitment will inevitably end in divorce.

Clearly, Dobson thinks that marriage is a good thing because it encourages stability, and he thinks that straight relationships are inherently unstable. Love, he argues, cannot last for more than “a few years.” After that, heterosexual relationships need marriage to ensure their stability.

The fact that this stability argument, like other efforts by FotF and its allies to “strengthen the institution of marriage” In 2004, a group of sociologists wondered about “Unusual Contradictions in Marriage Promotion: How the Marriage Movement May Lead to the Acceptance of Same-Sex Marriages.” The abstract of the presentation at the American Sociological Association observes that:

In the past eight years, significant state and federal family policies have attempted to promote marriage and marital stability among straight couples, while explicitly denying the possibility of same-sex marriage. The contentious issues of promoting marriage, and prohibiting same-sex marriage are likely to be prominent topics in the upcoming Presidential election. We explore the possibility that this debate may actually foster greater acceptance of diverse family forms. The paper examines one specific family law intended to strengthen traditional heterosexual marriage ? covenant marriage. We use multiple forms of data from a 7 year longitudinal project to examine the effects of covenant marriage compared to standard marriage on the marital stability of couples and the promotion of traditional marital norms in the general population of marrying couples. We augment our empirical evidence with a review of family law journal articles about the legal relationship between same-sex unions and covenant marriage. We suggest that current efforts to expand the role of the state in matters of domestic life, including the marriage movement, may actually lead to the legal recognition of more diverse forms of intimate relationships, including same-sex marriage.

Or consider Al Janssen’s argument at Focus on the Family’s website, published in 2001, based on “Permanence of Marriage“:

Obviously millions of couples chafe under the idea of covenant [marriage, which makes divorce much harder], feeling that the permanence fences them in. But Jo and I feel secure within these boundaries. Without the possibility of divorce, Jo and I know that regardless of our problems, we will be there for each other. And when we disagree or fight, we had better figure out a way to resolve our differences, for we are going to be together for a very long time.

By Cothran’s logic, if heterosexual relationships are already stable, it shouldn’t be necessary to enact policies like covenant marriage in order to make their relationships more stable.

Of course, that sentence contains the seeds of its own destruction. That a relationship is stable doesn’t mean it couldn’t be made more stable. That applies to everyone, without regard to sexuality. Cothran makes the error of attempting to distinguish between straight relationships and gay relationships, acting as if gay people are fundamentally different than straight people. There are stable straight relationships and unstable ones, just as there are stable and unstable gay relationships. Just as straight couples (like the soldiers I cited last week, or Focus on the Family’s Al Janssen and James Dobson) can find marriage helps ensure the stability of their relationships, so do gay couples. If that’s a good argument in favor of straight marriage, it’s also a good argument for gay marriage.

And if it’s a bad argument for marriage, then he should take it up with his colleagues at Focus on the Family. People who live in glass houses?

Comments

  1. #1 Luis
    June 24, 2008

    I thought that marriage was fundamentally a civil contract of special nature that allows some mutual or shared rights and duties that no other contract does (shared property, inheritances). Maybe that’s different in Kansas but for instance in Spain you have to abide by the law re. inheritances and your legal immediate relatives (children, spouse, brothers or parents in their absence) have certain rights that cannot be ignored without a strong legal reason for disinheritance. Also legally you have the default possibility of shared property and special status when declaring taxes, or even when reciveing welfare. This had all been largely overcome by the civil unions law (that is a quasi-marriage) but certainly it’s still not the same and recently marriage became universal by law too.

    Anyhow, those fundamentalists are hilarious… or would be if they would not be so dangerous.

  2. #2 The Ridger
    June 24, 2008

    Of course, he’s just trying to pretend that “stability” is the only possible reason a gay couple could want to get married. It’s a straw man argument, pure and simple.

  3. #3 Magpie
    June 24, 2008

    I thought that marriage was fundamentally a civil contract…

    WRONG! Marriage is a way of asking god to look away when you have horrible damp squishy SEX, because sex is dusgusting and you deserve to be damned for all eternity if you do it. Marriage generally results in boring sex, rarely indulged in. Clearly this principle cannot be applied to really interesting sex, because god is a perv and own’t look away.

    Duh.

  4. #4 J-Dog
    June 24, 2008

    Beautiful post! It’s always fun to see a sound thrashing, and hoisted on their own petard makes it even sweeter. Of course it IS Focus On The Family, so we have to take points off for beating up on the mentally challenged, sort of like a Major League team taking on a Little League team. Good stuff!

  5. #5 Jason Failes
    June 24, 2008

    Clearly you forgot to check the “allow bullshit” dialog box in your logic firewall system settings. Once you do that, download the Jesus patch to your heart app, shut down your brain, and DO NOT restart.

    Then, even though Cothran won’t make one iota more sense, at least you won’t notice it anymore.

  6. #6 Ian
    June 24, 2008

    I don’t know why you seem surprised by this, JR. Isn’t this (hobby-)horse directly from the same (un)stable as “If humans evolved from apes, why are there still apes?”!

    It’s obviously one of those follies sired by moonlight and dammed by all, and it’s not hard to see where the horse’s ass is.

  7. #7 MPW
    June 25, 2008

    Weird how all these Disco Institute pundits keep complaining about queers (see also Bill Dembski’s recent rant against transgender rights), given that Intelligent Design is all about the science and has nothing to do with a right-wing religious and political agenda.

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