Monday, July 23, 2007

The awful Democratic debate

The exchange on homosexual "marriage" Monday night was about the most incoherent discussion of the issue imaginable -- and not even necessarily from the POV whence I come -- that 'tain't no such thing as "gay marriage." If I were a pro-gay Democrat, I would find it every bit as annoying. It came in response to this question:

And then this amplification from a North Carolina minister, aimed specifically at Jonathan Edwards:

Before I begin, I'd like to note that the first clip illustrates pitch-perfectly one of the trends of political discourse I like least, namely the personalization of every matter and attempts to "put a face" on social policies. "Would you allow US" is not an attempt to get an answer about a matter of the common good. It invites knee-jerking in the answerer, attempts to narrow thought beyond one's own horizon (and thus feeds this generation's narcissism), and is mostly just cheap self-righteous grandstanding by the questioner.

The responses I posted in their entirety here, from the CNN transcript.

This is not difficult. If a person has a right to marry someone of the same sex, then the lack of same-sex "marriage" under the law is government-sanctioned discrimination, truly akin to the miscegenation laws. You cannot be against homosexual "marriage," while considering that any disparate treatment of any definable group is discrimination. This discrimination narrative, "rights talk" as Christopher Lasch and Mary Ann Glendon called it, is something that all the Democrats who answered the question (plus both the questioners and Anderson Cooper) apparently accept. They believe that this is an issue about anti-gay discrimination and not about the definition and purposes of marriage.

One either believes that a person has a right to marry, in principle, anybody he wants to based upon his wanting to do so, and thus the case for gay "marriage" is airtight (as is the case for polygamy and who-knows-what-else-is-waiting-in-the-wings). Or one accepts that marriage has an inherent structure, namely the male-female procreative bond, that contrary unions violate and so are not "marriages." Therefore, privileging the male-female union does not "discriminate." Which is why it is truly incoherent to say, as all the Democrats except Mike Gravel and Dennis Kucinich apparently believe, that such privileging is "discrimination," but the solution is civil unions. Civil unions are simply another form of discrimination and one made even more incoherent and irrational if such unions have all the privileges and burdens of marriage, but not the name.

Every response was weak at least intellectually and only Kucinich even achieves surface coherence. But the spectacularly incoherent ones were from Edwards and Obama. Here are the highlights of Edwards:
whether it's right for any of our faith beliefs to be imposed on the American people when we're president of the United States. I do not believe that's right. ...
I feel enormous personal conflict about this issue. I want to end discrimination. I want to do some of the things that I just heard Bill Richardson talking about -- standing up for equal rights, substantive rights, civil unions, the thing that Chris Dodd just talked about. ...
But I personally have been on a journey on this issue. I feel enormous conflict about it. ... my wife Elizabeth ... actually supports gay marriage. I do not.
Keep in mind he's answering a question partly and undisputedly framed in the lingo: "Senator Edwards said his opposition to gay marriage is influenced by his Southern Baptist background."

Where to begin? How about with Edwards insisting that he doesn't believe in imposing religion-based morality while supporting his stance against homosexual "marriage" in terms of his religion ... excuse me ... his faith community. He reads like somebody saying something he doesn't believe -- in both directions. There is certainly no other reason -- good, bad or indifferent -- for why he does not support gay marriage.

And how disgraceful is it to hide behind your wife's skirt on such a matter? What ... is Edwards afraid that Elizabeth will keep all the hair mousse if he doesn't make some bow toward her stance. This is a classic case of someone trying to straddle the fence -- wanting to say one thing to the brights the party base, while keeping his option open with regard to the yahoos general electorate come November. He even repeated it later:
I mean, I've been asked a personal question which is, I think, what Reverend Longcrier is raising, and that personal question is, do I believe and do I personally support gay marriage?
The honest answer to that is I don't. But I think it is absolutely wrong, as president of the United States, for me to have used that faith basis as a basis for denying anybody their rights, and I will not do that when I'm president of the United States.
Does Edwards even realize that the entire claim to homosexual "marriage" made by gay activists is precisely THAT the inability of a man to marry a man is a denial of their rights? Even Uber-Homophobe Moi at least acknowledges their arguments as being what they are. You would have to have spent the last 10 years on Pago Pago not to realize that saying "I do not support gay marriage" and "I don't want to deny gays their rights" is an answer that, in the current intellectual climate, does not answer anything without you having a lotta 'splainin to do.

Which gives us a nice segue to the incoherence of Barack Obama. Here's the highlights:
COOPER: Senator Obama, the laws banning interracial marriage in the United States were ruled unconstitutional in 1967. What is the difference between a ban on interracial marriage and a ban on gay marriage?
OBAMA: Well, I think that it is important to pick up on something that was said earlier by both Dennis and by Bill, and that is that we've got to make sure that everybody is equal under the law. And the civil unions that I proposed would be equivalent in terms of making sure that all the rights that are conferred by the state are equal for same-sex couples as well as for heterosexual couples.
Now, with respect to marriage, it's my belief that it's up to the individual denominations to make a decision as to whether they want to recognize marriage or not. But in terms of, you know, the rights of people to transfer property, to have hospital visitation, all those critical civil rights that are conferred by our government, those should be
Not only does he repeat the same Edwards nonanswer about equality, apparently not realizing that the argument for gay "marriage" is precisely that denying it is a denial of equal rights, Obama even managed to commit two further intellectual crimes.

First of all, he didn't actually answer Anderson Cooper's question, which was that he distinguish the current "ban on gay marriage" from the ban on interracial marriage. The analogy between them was also the unstated starting premise of the North Carolina minister's YouTube question. It's surely worth noting in this context that the analogy between homosexuals right and black civil rights is one that much of the black community, particularly in the black church that finds misguided or offensive. Obama's silence shows exactly how the tension on this issue between the black church and the Democrat netroots is treated -- by not acknowledged as even existing. It may be slipperiness but there is method to it.

Second, the second part of Obama's answer manages to introduce a new nonsequitur. Obama says that the churches should have the right to define what marriage is for their own sacramental purposes. One would have thought that the First Amendment's Free Exercise clause would have made that a rather noncontroversial point, but ... whatever (for now)¹. But the issue of what is a marriage for the church has nothing to do with the matter of what is a marriage for the state, which also both acknowledges and performs them. Most of the time, Caesar does simply rubber-stamp what God has put together. But not always -- the county JP will suffice. To tick "married" on your 1040 forms, or any other government document (state or federal), you need a license from Caesar. Thus the definition of marriage is something on which Caesar must decide -- for his own purposes at least. That's what the whole current dispute is about: who can be considered "married" by the state.² And that's a matter that a political office-holder like Obama cannot punt to the church.
¹ Once gay marriage becomes state policy, we'll see how long it takes before gay activists try to force churches to conform. The over-under is a week, I'd guess.
² Anyone who wants to has long been able to go to the Unitarians, Metropolitans or similar sects, and have a ceremony in (what they imagine to be) the eyes of God, cut a cake, wear rings and have a hot time in bed that night. The free exercise clause does cut both ways.


Anonymous said...

I actually agree with getting the state out of sacraments completely. I would very much like to replace my marriage with a civil union because I do not recognize the state's authority to worry about what my wife and I do in the bedroom or in our church. Interestingly, New Hampshire's civil unions exclude heterosexuals so that, I imagine, they can continue to charg us higher taxes, insure our vehicles together, and who knows what else.

Bottom line: they want to be all up in our business.

Jeannine said...

I believe that this was the "solution" proposed by C. S. Lewis in Mere Christianity--one form of marriage for Christians, indissoluble, and one for everyone else (the state's version), allowing divorce. The latter sounds pretty much like a civil union. Tolkien pointed out that this isn't a workable solution. Marriage is what it is by nature. If it isn't a man and a woman, for life, then it isn't marriage at all. The family is the basis of human society, because human beings are what they are.

Anonymous said...

CourageMan, if you want to make a "coherent" argument about why not allowing gay marriage is not anti-gay then you need to discuss the definition of "marriage" from a civil standpoint, not a religious one. By using the definition of marriage put forth by the Catholic church you are missing the point about why not allowing committed gay couples to marry is discriminatory.

Said another way, committed married couples want to get married to gain tax benefits to better raise children and to secure their retirement benefits for their partner. I can go on and on with numerous reasons, but I'm sure you see my point. Marriage in a Catholic church does not guarantee these things for a heterosexual couple, having them sanctioned by our government does.

Gay couples are not asking for a Priest to bless their marriages in a church, they are asking their government to recognize their marriage so as to give them access to the same opportunities and benefits that there "straight" counterparts are afforded. -Jeff

CourageMan said...

then you need to discuss the definition of "marriage" from a civil standpoint, not a religious one

Agreed. State marriage exists for state ends.

But that is not at all the same thing as saying that religious definitions cannot be consonant with secular ones. Or that, in a democracy, the people's religious character (or lack thereof) is not a relevant data point on what is appropriate public morality. Or that, in a democracy, the effects of secular policy on religion is not a thing worth considering. Or that there is such a thing as nature, prior to society/government.

they are asking their government to recognize their marriage

Watch it. You've already stolen all four bases. You're presupposing that these couple are, **in point of fact** (i.e., by nature), married and the public issue is the state "recogniz[ing]" something that exists in nature.

I would argue:
(1) There is no broad secular benefit to gay couples, only their own private pleasures and interests. Thus, society has no need to subsidize the union and its privileging of the male-female union (the institution that is, not every participating couple) is rational and just.
(2) Marriage is by nature a male-female union, quite apart from religion. So there are no gay "marriages" (and more than "male pregnancies" or "four-sided triangles") and nothing prior in nature for the state to acknowledge or protect. We have all 5,000 years of recorded human civilization on this, under all religions and no religions.

CourageMan said...

Some dolt wrote:

Or that there is such a thing as nature, prior to society/government.

That obviously should read:

Or that there is NO SUCH THING as nature, prior to society/government.

Loyolalaw98 said...


I think that the anonymous commenter on this topic is partially right.

In the United States, today, Catholic priests and the clergy of other denominations are acting as "agents of the state" when they perform weddings. This in that the state has empowered them to do so, i.e., approved church weddings as "legal."

It would be MUCH cleaner if we had a system like those in Civil Code (Code Napoleon) countries, e.g., France. There ALL persons seeking marriage must go to the city hall for a civil ceremony. If you want to also go to your church or temple, that's great - but the State has no say in it as it's a private religious ceremony.

Absent the clear Christian religious prohibitions to homosexuality, on a purely logical level, there does seem to be a Joseph Heller, Catch-22, quality to castigating homosexuals for being promiscuous, with promiscuity being defined as "sex outside of marriage," and at the same time denying them the means to legally wed.

Jeff said...


I would be hard-pressed to agree with any argument that religion is affected negatively in any way by secular policy. After all your religious views are yours, no secular policy will prevent them or change them. If I choose to believe that I was born homosexual and that civil marriage laws should equally be applied to me and my partner, then any law or constitutional amendment against that would fly in the face of my moral views. That is something I can measure.

As to your second point...

(1) I can argue that there are many gay couples that are raising children, may it be by adoption or having them naturally by aid of some artificial means... having a loving couple provide a loving and nurturing home for a child I would consider very much a benefit to society that should be recognized and supported by society and our government. Also, your argument suggests that heterosexual couples never get married with absolutely any intention of raising children, when in fact it happens all of the time. What broad secular benefit would these couples be granting society?

(2) All you have stated is what have been the societal norms; marriage is a societal construct, therefore comparing it to a natural process is irrelevant. I will agree with you that being born is natural and dying is natural... many things that we create and do in between is, well, of our own volition.


Anonymous said...

I'm a business man. I have a few business registered with the state, all of which enjoy deduction of expenses before income is recognized.

The only business whose expenses are not recognized as such buy the state are my children's baby food, clothing, and raising. The business of raising babies is completely penalized by the state.

All you gay liberals who want to be married and conservatives who are defending the state occupation of marriage don't realize the foolishness you are talking.



But I know I just sound like a libertarian nutjob to everyone when I say that.

But there is nothing fiscally conservative about letting Caesar into our bedrooms and into our sacraments.

Jeff said...

Winnipeg Catholic,

I have to agree with much of what you say. I was married once and I understand your point. I am not an advocate of gays getting married, but I am an advocate of having the right to. If most gay people truly understood some of the legalities and implications of civil marriage, many would not be interested.


Franklin said...

"Said another way, committed married couples want to get married to gain tax benefits to better raise children and to secure their retirement benefits for their partner."

Cold calculation worthy of a medieval Viscount. If nothing else, you've sucked the humanity right out of the institution.