Want to protect marriage? Ban smart phones, not gay marriage. Congrats NY.

There are some controversial issues where I understand the passion on both sides. Gay marriage is one where the “against” side of the argument completely eludes me. I believe it was Bill Maher who said “I was against gay marriage until I found out it was optional.” That pretty much sums up my position. I’m very confident I won’t participate in one myself, but I think marriage is a basic human right that all should share. In the case of race, the supreme court agreed in Loving v. Virginia:

Marriage is one of the “basic civil rights of man,” fundamental to our very existence and survival…

I have heard vague arguments about “undermining traditional marriage”. My marriage is incredibly important to me; along with my children, it is the most important thing in my life. Naturally I am very concerned about anything that might undermine it. Happily as more and more states are legalizing gay marriage, I have been unable to detect any changes in my marriage related to those laws. If anyone has seen their marriage weakened by the legalization of marriage for others, please share your story.

In the case of my marriage, the most threatening recent development has been the smart phone. I have an annoying habit of checking my email too often when I’m at home. My wife correctly says it makes me less present with the family. Forty states have passed laws banning gay marriage, and thirty four states have laws which prohibit drivers from texting. If the government were truly interested in defending marriage, there would be a federal law prohibiting folks from checking email on their smart phones at the dinner table or in bed.

The other argument is about a slippery slope. I generally am not a fan of “slippery slope” arguments: the question at issue is whether two adults in a committed relationship should be able to marry, and I say yes to that question. To say that the next step is to allow, for example, marriages between adults and children is offensive and inaccurate: offensive to equate consensual adult relationships with the exploitation of children, and inaccurate because in point of fact in 2002, sixty girls aged fourteen were married in the state of Texas alone.

My other issue with this particular slippery slope argument is that there’s a slippery slope in the other direction. Since the other side has broadened the argument, let me try: if two men or two women can’t get married, what’s to stop the government from regulating, for example, the right of post-menopausal women to marry, or regulating (again) the right of people to marry outside their ethnic group (which some states maintained laws against until 2000, despite a 1967 supreme court case invalidating those laws).

A little more history here: Mildred and Richard Loving (yes, they really were the “Loving family”) were married in 1958 in the District of Columbia, despite being of different races. After their return home to Virginia, police entered their home, found them in bed together and arrested them. They were sentenced to a year in prison, but the sentence was suspended on condition of them leaving Virginia. In the decision, judge Leon Bazile wrote:

Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.

Less than 50 years after that decision in a Virginia court, Barack Obama carried the state of Virginia in the 2008 presidential election. As a society, we no longer accept discrimination against women, blacks or jews. Its time to stop accepting discrimination against gays.

— Max

8 comments so far

  1. Greg on

    On one side you quote all the government’s wrongdoings with racial segregation; one the other side, you still believe that the government should define and sanction marriage. Taking aside this logical incongruity, I have two serious questions:
    1. Should gay couples be allow to participate in tennis mixed doubles? Why or why not?
    2. Should bisexuals be allowed to enter into triangular marriages? Why or why not?

    • Max Schireson on

      Because marriage confers certain special rights (for example, related to health care and taxes) which can’t be achieved by a bilateral contract, the government is drawn into regulating marriage to prevent the abuse of those special right, by (for example) someone marrying everyone in their town who doesn’t have health insurance or offering money to parents to marry their elementary school daughters. I’m not in favor of the government forcing anyone to marry anyone else (as a participant or an officiant), but I think given the conmection between marriage and so many other laws, it needs some regulation or wholesale changes elsewhere in our legal system.

      As far as mixed doubles and following your point about minimal government involvement, I am fine to continue allow tennis organizations to choose how they organize competitions, but I don’t personally see an issue with mens, womens, and mixed. In all seriousness, I think millions of couples who desparately want the same marriage rights as straight people would, in my opinion, be righly offended to see what they consider a basic human right equated to a tennis match.

      As far as marriage of more than two people, see my orevious comments about government benefits.

      • Greg on

        Why should marriage confer special rights? If I decided to stay single (which I’m not), wouldn’t that mean that I’m being indirectly discriminated against because I cannot take advantage of these rights with say my sibling or friend?

        I’m not equating marriage to a tennis match. I’m just pointing out that every time government gets involved in social or economic issues, it creates incongruities, paradoxes and more harm is done than good. You gave a lot of examples of that from history, too. Take prayer in school as another example. If all schools were private, you would send the kids to the school of your choosing (with prayer or not) and the matter would not even exist. Kieslowski once said: “Socialism is a system where you heroically fight problems not known is a normal system.” The US is not fully socialist yet, but we are getting there fast.

    • Sam Trenholme on

      If we follow Greg’s logic to its inevitable conclusion, government would have to eliminate all of the benefits the government gives marriage. Married couples would have to file income tax separately. For those of us married to foreigners, our spouses would have to apply for a US visa on their own terms and would not be able to live in the US on account of being married to a US citizen.

      • Greg on

        Sam, in a normal system, there would be no income tax; what is the rationale behind “the more you work, the more you have to pay?” We want to incentivize work, not penalize it.
        A normal way of raising revenue would be a constant personal tax (the government needs to protect everyone, and I’m assuming every life is worth the same), and a linear property tax (the government needs to protect property). These taxes actually make sense and can be explained.

        Again, in a normal system, the immigrants should not cost the state, since there is no welfare. In that case if you want to bring someone to the US (brother, friend or future wife), all you have to do is pay a fee for a background check, maybe in some cases vouch for that person. If it is your future wife, that you better do a due diligence beforehand 😉

        My point is we should eliminate root problems, rather than create workarounds for workarounds ad infinitum.

  2. Chris on

    In understanding the “against” side, I think Greg presents a perfect example. When a person has a negative emotional reaction to a topic, it does have a strong affect on their rational thought process. Such that they create a seemingly logical defense against the topic while feeling (or more correctly, not feeling) that the logic is biased.

    The brain is a cool, but complex thing. And my tiny phone is making it hard to type a good reply.

    • Max Schireson on

      I agree it seems to bother some people at an emotional level, I just have trouble seeing how that even close to balances what I consider to be a basic civil right.

    • Greg on

      Chris, why do you say I have negative emotional reaction to the topic? Can you make any logical points rather than projecting your own emotional bias?


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