Answering Comments, part 2

Russell Husted also left a couple of comments in response to my fisking of Mitt Romney's Wall Street Journal op-ed piece about gay marriage. Russell wrote:

Ed, you say "he's right on the general point that marriage predates our constitution and our nation, but he is wrong to imply that there has been anything like a consistent conception of marriage over those millenia and across cultural lines. The definition and limitations of marriage have varied dramatically over the centuries, both within and between different cultures."

That's true, of course, just as what is considered proper food to eat, and proper child-raising techniques varies through time and space. But you are dodging the obvious here, that while "style" and approaches to marriage differ widely, as far as I know no culture anywhere in time or space has ever not had the core requirement that it ("marriage", as opposed to sex, cohabitation, etc) be between a male and a female. And that, of course, is the heart of the debate.

Yes, that's the heart of the debate. But as my article points out, no one can say what allowing gays to marry will actually change about marriage between non-gays. It won't change my future marriage. Will it change yours? Will you love your wife any less? Decide not to have children? Do you know anyone whose marriage will actually change if the gay couple down the block is also allowed to get married? We can list the good things about marriage all day long, but unless some rational argument is made for why any of those good things would go away, it's not a compelling argument for why gays should not be allowed to do it too. In fact, it's a good argument for why they should be allowed to do so. If marriage is good for you and me, why is it bad for them? Russell continues:

Surely, you well know that the heterosexual core is being attacked because it is seen as the gate to the city in the culture wars. Take it down, and the city will fall and it will be but a short time, in the logic and nature of our legal system, before marriage will morph to allow polygamy, bestiality, necrophilia (France obviously allows that, already), children of any age - that's not new, of course, but in THIS war it is leading to more beyond "arranged marriage, etc, to the ultimate goal: sex with anything and everything we can imagine (and probably can't yet imagine).

The gay agenda is a sexual agenda, but only part of the bigger war to eliminate of all values - Biblical and whatever. I wouldnt say that of many gays, but there are some, and other groups who will lead us there in time. Small wonder conservatives and religious folks (more than just Christians, Jews & Muslims) are resisting so desperately.

Not only do I not "well know" this, I think it's downright silly. I don't even know what the "heterosexual core" is, other than another vague buzzword to defend the nonsensical. What exactly is the "heterosexual core" and how will it be "taken down"? Do you think that heterosexuals are suddenly going to stop having sex with members of the opposite sex and decide to give that new fangled gay sex a try? Are you gonna do that? If not, who is? You're either gay or you're not. Regardless of whether gay couples are allowed to get married, it's not going to have any influence on whether I'm gay or not. Will it influence you?

Marriage doesn't have to "morph" to allow polygamy, polygamy is an old practice, endorsed in the bible over and over again, that was done away with only recently in the US and still goes on all over the world. But even so, if more than one woman want to marry the same man, and they're all okay with that and are all consenting adults, why should I care? Why should we bring the power of the government to bear on that choice?

As far as the other items on your scare list - beastiality, pedophilia and necrophilia - this kind of slippery slope argument might be modestly compelling if there was not an incredibly obvious distinction between the thing you oppose and the things you claim it would lead to. The difference, of course, is consent. An animal cannot consent, nor can a dead person, nor, legally, can a child. That's not going to change. Believe me, I'll be the first one to fight against that. Attitudes toward gay marriage are changing in this country because people are coming to realize that consenting adults should be allowed to live their lives as they see fit. Attitudes toward pedophilia will never change. In fact, if anything, attitudes on that have gotten stricter as our society has gotten more permissive in terms of consenting adult behavior. A century ago it was not at all unusual for someone to marry a girl of 13 or 14. Today, that is illegal everywhere and no one outside the backwoods would allow that to happen without putting a bullet hole or two in the groom. Your slippery slope argument just doesn't hold up next to reality.

As far as "eliminating biblical values" is concerned, frankly, I'm all for that in many circumstances. While I admire the ethical system of Jesus in many ways, I think that modern conceptions of morality are far advanced from some of the barbaric moral codes found in the bible. But that's a whole nuther argument.

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Ed,
I realize that I dont always make myself clear, though I thought Id done OK there, with heterosexual core. Well, Ill try another way.
Say, the common denominator of the institution of marriage in every society known to us; or denotative content of the term marriage is (1) a heterosexual union, (2) charged with procreation and primary responsibility for nurturance and child-rearing, and (3) some prescriptions and proscriptions, based in tradition and law peculiar to each society.

This is not anti other sexuality or types of pairings or social units, though there may be some of those prescriptions and proscriptions that do regard such. This is merely what marriage always is. Take that away, and you dont have marriage, but something else. Why not be consistent and call it something else?

Homosexuals are after something else, since they cannot meet the denotative content of marriage. Instead, they are after the connotative meaning of marriage, the rewards that society attaches the institution, for the institution is not without cost. The requirements, the pre and proscriptions that always attach, in every society, are burdensome, and often hard. Usually they require giving up a lot of sexual behavior, economic and social sacrifice, commitment far beyond oneself, etc. To entice couples to marry, and stay married, and to finish the job, a society must build up strong and deeply meaningful rewards. These get developed by more than just legislation. They evolve within the culture, within the whole fabric of values, traditions, roles, beliefs, attitudes they must become structurally integrated throughout the social structure, and deeply shared throughout the common mind and psyche of the society.

Homosexuals were preceded by others, in recent years, trying to get the rewards, to experience all the good and warm-fuzzy feelings, the economic advantages (like insurance, welfare, AFDC, etc.), other rights and privileges, without the cost. They cannot, or will not, do the things most people have done to get the rewards society gives. Shacking up, mere living together, is similar. It was very popular for a while, and lots of folks tried to use it, qualify it just as homosexuals want their way to be accepted as different but equal. Well, shacking up had little success, and nowadays most couples eventually realize that and get married. Homosexuals have managed to persuade you, obviously, though I think it is more your ignorance and insensitivity that let you be persuaded. Ignorance of the meaning and cultural context and sociological function of marriage. Insensitive to the heartfelt beliefs and feelings and wants of the rest (or 71 %, by the polls of yesterday) of society.

You can look at your own experience and how you feel (It wont change MY marriage or how I feel etc.); you can sympathize with the real desires and longings of homosexuals, and every other group who wants to reap the rewards; but you ought realize and care also about the feelings of the larger majority (which would be larger if they understood the final cost of trashing the denotative meaning of marriage) who have paid the price, or hope to someday, for the rewards they also want. You may not care, but the vast majority of people, in all societies, will lose a lot, have cheapened or erased, all the value of their sacrifice, of their dreams, of their buy in to the historic meaning of marriage. I think you need to expand the range of your sympathy and sensitivity. And study the institution of marriage more, both within our own society, and cross culturally.

I do think we CAN say what allowing gays to marry will change about marriage between non-gays. But dont feel bad, you are in good company. A lot of people share your naiveté.

Now, about scare lists and slippery slopes

Ed, I am an anthropologist by training. Lived in San Francisco for a decade, taught at UC Santa Cruz. I am very familiar with homosexuals, homosexual culture, and politics. Also, having been in politics in civil rights and the Vietnam war, I know about political organizations and agendas. I also supervised students in the field studying homosexual culture, and a few other sexual subcultures you likely dont know much about. Try visiting some of the porn sites, youll see some of them. And they are part of what you called my scare list, and where I think our slippery slope is going.

I have talked to leaders in these other deviant (I think thats a fair cultural/legal term) subcultures, and they are trying to go where I said they are. You dont even have to go beyond the net, and cable news to see the agendas and learn that they all think that once the marriage definition is cracked, the law and the courts really have no way to stop the slip down that slope.

For example, bestiality is real, and admittedly, the worst case scenario. But real people really want to be rid of that prohibition (just like sodomy was in Texas, recently) and some will want to go further. Marriage? Why not? Look, there are people, plain middle-class people even, who love their pets, see their animals as part of their family, and will want expanded rights. Ive seen them on network news, havent you? The consent issue you think is a firewall, is not. Not for animals (argue with PETA or a good lawyer on this one). Not for children. Look at the age of consent, down to 14 in many states, and sliding. If we can try 10 or 12 year-olds for murder, and other cultures can use 8 year-olds as soldiers, how can we keep up that firewall for children? You must not pay much attention to the news if you think children are better protected now than 10 or 20 years ago! Oh, there is a counter movement. But it is far from successful holding the line. Britain gave in to the gay lobby, lowered their access to children to 12 years old, I think. And suffered a riot and attempts to burn Parliament because that wasnt young enough.

Im sorry, but I understand cultural change, and studied cultural drift. I understand the good cop, bad cop approach to politics. And how it works. I went to Mississippi, in 1965, as part of a radical (CORE & SNCC) group who knew, and worked with the tacit consent of Martin Luther King, to be the bad cop to his good cop, helping people get off the fence and see Dr. Kings position as preferable to more extremes. And what I (we) threatened, then, is where we are now!

Culture, history, politics. They all suggest I am right, you are not. At least embrace your favorite paradigm, evolution, and see the flow of political selection, and legal drift, going on here. You seem to be about 20 years behind the times.

Pedophilia is almost legit, now. Pictures, movies, internet, everything private goes. And the age of consent, once raised, now slips away. Michael Jackson may or may not be guilty, or win or lose, but his example both enlarges the envelope and wins his fans to approve his behavior, even if

France, that cultural leader, allows marrying the dead if you prove it was intended before the death of the partner. How long before we recognize the survivors rights to do with their spouse as they wish?

Ed, I could go on, but why bother. You either will see it, or brush me off. Doesnt
really matter that much to me. Ive other things to do.

OK, Ed:
I promise to go away and leave you alone after this. I was looking at OpinionJournal and lead to this item. Since I hadn't closed the browser window to here, yet, I thought I ought bring it to you. It is a timely example of just what I'm arguing:
The source is the Boston Globe, URL:http://www.boston.com/news/odd/articles/2004/02/13/danish_government_ba…

Excerpt:
Christian Graugaard, a doctor and the leader of the Danish Family Planning Association, regretted the government's decision.

"When ninth graders encounter terms like animal sex and think that sounds weird, we would prefer that the person didn't go on the Internet and find 300,000 suspect porn sites but had sober information on a CD-ROMs instead," he said.

While the news story was actually that the Danish Government took the CD - which theyd bought for their sex ed classes - out of play (this time) the more revealing point, I think, is that heres that slippery slope again. (You know, the one you don't think is there) Note, however, the professional (hence "authoritative") attitude. How long before it does win the day?

Boy, for someone who wrote

Ed, I could go on, but why bother. You either will see it, or brush me off. Doesnt really matter that much to me. Ive other things to do.

You sure do write a lot. Of course it's true that you have not convinced me, but for good reason. You don't seem to have a clear position on this. You said:

This is not anti other sexuality or types of pairings or social units, though there may be some of those prescriptions and proscriptions that do regard such. This is merely what marriage always is. Take that away, and you dont have marriage, but something else. Why not be consistent and call it something else?

Does this mean you would accept "civil unions" but not gay marriages? If not, what was the point of the sentence above? If so, why would that make any difference at all in terms of whether all those horrible things you think lie at the bottom of the slippery slope come true or not?