More On The Gay Marriage Debate

For those of you interested in the Gay Marriage debate, The Volokh Conspiracy blog, a blog of mainly law professors and academics, sponsored a discussion where one week the pro-Traditional Marriage point of view was presented, and another week the pro-Gay Marriage point of view was presented. Giving the traditional marriage defense was Maggie Gallagher, a widely respected defender of traditional marriage, and giving the pro-Gay Marriage side was Dale Carpenter, a law professor at the University of Minnesota and a prominent proponent of same-sex marriage.

The pro-traditional marriage side can be found here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here.

The pro-gay marriage side can be found here, here, here, here, here, here and here.

Here are some of the core points,

The argument is that extending marriage to include same-sex couples would not just give rights to a small subset of the population, but would radically transform what marriage is. So long as only opposite-sex couples can marry, the thinking goes, marriage is linked to procreation; if same-sex couples can marry, too, then marriage is transformed into something else entirely. Adding same-sex marriage would ruin the old institution and create a new one, and the new institution would not longer retain a focus on having and raising children. Viewed in that light, same sex marriage is a threat to society: by redefining the institution, it will kill off its most important feature.


Sex makes babies. Society needs babies. Babies need fathers as well as mothers. That’s the heart of marriage as a universal human institution.

Please note: Procreation is not the definition of marriage. It is the reason for marriage’s existence as a public (and yes legal) institution. People who don’t have children can still really be married (just as people who aren’t married can and do have babies).

But if sex between men and women did not make babies, then marriage would not be a universal human institution, or a legal status in America.

As a bonus, there is also another debate between Maggie Gallagher and Andrew Koppelman in the U. of St. Thomas Law Review, “(How)Will Same-Sex Marriage Weaken Marriage as an Institution?“.


17 Responses to “More On The Gay Marriage Debate”

  1. Mitch Wagner says:

    This notion that marriage exists for the primary purpose of having children is a fantasy concocted by anti-same-sex marriage advocates for the purpose of justifying their prejudices.

    Nowhere in the legal requirement for marriage does it say that married people should have children. Nowhere in the vows of any major world religion–not even Roman Catholicism–is children mentioned.

    Marriage can, and does, include the infertile and elderly.

    Marriage is for the purpose of creating families, which can–but are not required to–include children.

    I have a personal stake in this issue. My wife and I do not have any children, and are biologically incapable of having any. And yet we are just as married as any couple with children.

  2. No one is arguing that procreation is the definition of marriage.

  3. Mitch Wagner says:

    HP, the anti-same-sex marriage advocates argue in your own post that procreation is “the reason for marriage’s existence as a public (and yes legal) institution,” marriage’s “most important feature,” that marriage’s “focus [is] on having and raising children,” and “marriage is linked to procreation.”

    If these things were true, we’d see it reflected in law or tradition. It isn’t. This is a new idea, put forward by anti-same-sex-marriage advocates as pseudoscientific justification for their innate prejudices.

    The reason why marriage is limited to mixed-sex couples is because society views homosexuality as wrong. Period.

  4. Than why is it that the same societies that ban homosexual marriage, also ban marriage between brother and sister, and in the case of the United States, also ban marriage between first cousins?

    Could it possibly be because of the children?

    Remember, homosexual couples, sibling couples, and to some degree first cousin couples, are naturally ordered against children. Infertile heterosexual couples are not.

  5. Mitch Wagner says:

    Societies ban marriage between brother and sister and, in the case of the United States, between first cousins, because those societies deem that incest is wrong. Children have nothing to do with it–even if a brother and sister were to agree to be sterilized, their marriage will still be illegal.

    So why don’t the anti-same-sex-marriage advocates simply shed their hypocrisy and admit their real agenda: They believe homosexuality is wrong? They don’t do it because they know the American public would turn against them–reluctantly, certainly, but a narrow majority of America now, grudgingly, believes rightly that what two adults do in the privacy of their own bedroom.

  6. If incest were the issue, merely sex between brothers and sisters would be illegal, not the marriage between the two. The same with gay marriage, if this was really about gays, we’d be discussing laws against ‘what two adults do in the privacy of their own bedroom’, which we are not.

    The simple reason that there are laws against gay marriage, are the same reason why there are laws against sibling marriage, marriage between cousins, and even polygamy marriage. They have to do – not with the individual relationships – but with the unique nature of marriage.

    Which is to say, the loving commitment of a heterosexual union, by its very nature, has the potential for children. It is the core of all families, and something that is cross cultural, it is unique, makes its mark on everyone, and is the basic building block of all societies. It has something that all other unions fall short of, whether they are first cousin unions, polygamous unions, best friends, and yes, even homosexual unions.

    And any argument any other union gives to being established into law, the loving heterosexual union has that claim, and more. And therefore the heterosexual union should always be seen separate and above all other unions.

  7. Mitch Wagner says:

    Which is to say, the loving commitment of a heterosexual union, by its very nature, has the potential for children.

    Not in my marriage, it doesn’t.

    It is the core of all families…

    Not in my family, it’s not. Just the two of us here, and it’s going to remain that way until one of us dies.

    is the basic building block of all societies.

    Again, this is a myth created by people looking unsuccessfully for a scientific justification for their own prejudice against homosexual marriage.

    The family is certainly one of the basic building blocks of all societies. Others include the individual, the tribe, the corporation, and the church.

    Opponents of same-sex marriage believe that same-sex marriage violates natural law. The same was once believed about interracial marrage, with the same degree of validity.

  8. Whether you have children or don’t have children does not change the fact that a man and women are inherently ordered towards producing children, incest, first cousins, and homosexual unions are not.

    But here, to explain this better, it’s easier to turn the questions towards you. Tell me than Mitch, would you also support polygamy? Would you support sibling marriages too? If not, why not? What is your limitation on marriage, and why.

  9. Mitch Wagner says:

    Whether you have children or don’t have children does not change the fact that a man and women are inherently ordered towards producing children, incest, first cousins, and homosexual unions are not.

    Nonsense. Incest and first cousins can and frequently do produce children. Someone I know very well is the product of two two grandparents who were first cousins, it was commonplace in the culture they came from.

    We forbid incestuous and first-cousin marriage because, as a society, we have deemed it to be wrong.

    Tell me than Mitch, would you also support polygamy? Would you support sibling marriages too? If not, why not? What is your limitation on marriage, and why.

    No, I do not support polygamy because every society in which it has been tried has also been terribly oppressive of women.

    I’m not aware of any society that has practiced widespread support of sibling marriages, with the exception of some royal families. However, we do know that sexual relations between siblings generally turn out badly.

    But those aren’t the real reasons I oppose sibling marriage. I oppose it because I believe it to be morally wrong.

    Now, let me ask you a question: If homosexual marriage is harmful to society, please demonstrate to me how this harm has demonstrated itself. Homosexual marriage has been legal in the state of Massachusetts for a year now; how as Massachusetts been harmed?

    Of course, you might come back and say to me that a year isn’t long enough for same-sex marriage to display its harmful effects. And that’s fair enough. How else would you go about demonstrating that homosexual marriage is harmful?

  10. Michael says:


    You keep arguing your the oppositions point. This is not a biological issue, it is a morality issue.

    For example, the biological danger for first cousins and siblings marrying is the risk of creating children with genetic disorder like cystic fybrosis, tay-sachs disease, etc. With the advances in research on the human genome,these disorders can be screened before hand and you can determine if both parents are carriers of these recessive genes. If they are not both carriers of these diseases, then no risk. Biologically, why not marry. Or a better question, if two unrelated people are both carriers of these recessive genes, by that logic why should these people be allowed to marry. Most states including the one I married in, require a blood test for couples before issuing a marriage certificate. This is done to detect these diseases. However, if both parties are discovered to be carriers, they are not banned from marriage, just simply advised about the risks of procreating.

    As far as your equation of polygamy with homosexual marriage reveals your true objection to gay marriage. A marraige between a man with multiple wives or a woman with multiple husbands can of course bear healthy children.

    Mitch has eloquantly and personally illustrated that marriages of opposite sex couples without the possibility of bearing children are legal and just as valid as marriages of couples with children.

    The problems with both incest and polygamy is that we find them immoral and deviant. Your examples clearly point out that the problem most opponents have with gay marriage is you find homosexuality immoral and something that the state should not condone. You equate homosexuality as deviant just like polygamy and incest. You feel that deviants like these should not raise children. Fine, in the case of homosexuals I disagree but respect your rights to your personal opinion, but don’t try to interject psuedo-science in this debate to justify your moral objections to same sex marriage.

    As a general note regarding modern conservatism. This is the current ploy that goes on with the right wing to get the votes of the non-religious moderates. Creationism does not fly, lets come up with a new theory, intellegent design that sounds scientific bt really at its core is the antithesis of the scientific method. The vast preponderance of scientific research shows that the increased emmissions of greenhouse gases causes increased global temparatures, trot out some dubious scientist somewhere who argues the other side and take his side as the correct interpeation. Lets have the politicans edit all of the scientists reports to take out the points that argue against the other side. Sounds like science to me. However, it is manipulations, it is taking the exception to prove the rules.

  11. Mitch, Michael,

    My true objection with gay marriage has always been that they haven’t proven their case. In other words, the heterosexual marriage has some legitimate claim to be identified under law, after all, it is where (healthy) children come from, it is where societies next generation should be reared, and it is fundamental, mother and father, are the minimum needed to produce children. Heterosexual unions that don’t produce children also benefit society, they serve as examples of relationships that do produce children, they help shape the culture in the direction where children should be raised. But why should the government care that two members of the same sex declare their love for each other? It shouldn’t, it is none of the governments business. It is really no different than members of the opposite sex declaring a lifelong friendship, if that friendship is intrinsically void of children, that union is meaningless to the governments end, and therefore, that union should not have equal benefits that come with marriage.

    In other words, the heterosexual union has everything all other unions have, and more. Hence they should be held at a higher recognition, because they are scientifically, at a higher status than all other relationships. I do not look at this on a moral objection basis. Personally, I can careless what people do, as long as their actions don’t harm me, they can sleep with their brothers or sisters, with members of the same sex, and even with multiple partners, and I don’t care. But when they ask for equal status to something else, well, I expect them to give at least equal benefits.

    Those who advocate incest marriage and first cousin marriage could make the same claims as those that advocate homosexual marriage do, but they don’t produce the same benefits that heterosexual marriages do, after all they intrinsically can’t produce healthy children. Hence, they shouldn’t be allowed the ‘marriage status’ (however, if what you say is true, we can pre-screen, than I would have no problem giving those who pass the screen the ‘marriage’ status). Those who advocate polygamous marriage could also make the same claims as those that advocate homosexual marriage do, but they don’t produce the same benefits that heterosexual marriages do either, after all they, while able to produce children, they add extra factors in that reduce the benefits to society (polygamous marriages cause more jealousy, less stable, etc) and therefore they should also not receive equal status (however, I do think that the polygamous marriage claim is stronger than the homosexual marriage claim).

    In addition, for clarity, allow me to throw in another hypothetical, one also mentioned above. Lets say that I wanted to create a ‘best friend’ union between members of the opposite sex. Say that me and a female friend of mine wanted to declare our eternal friendship to each other, to be there for one another through thick and thin, and to always be friends. However, what this union does not include is sexual contact; in other words, we are friends in the traditional meaning of the word. Now suppose that we got enough political clout to try and force the government to recognize us, and call this union a marriage. How would you react to such a proposal? I would react the same way, I may be willing to give them hospital visitation rights, and maybe some other benefits here and there, but clearly a non-sexual union between a male and female is none of the governments business, it is unimportant whether two people of the opposite sex declare lifelong friendship or not. In addition, this union can not be given equal status as a traditional marriage because, after all, they do not produce the same benefits to society as a traditional marriage.

    So my objection to gay marriage is not based on the morality of the act. In fact, as a healthy young heterosexual male, I find polygamy very appealing :-), but I still can’t justify it as a government recognized union on equal status as a heterosexual union. My objection to gay marriage is and always has been that a gay union, much like many other unions, is not equal to a heterosexual union in one or more important attributes, and therefore should not receive the same benefits (the primary benefit being called the same thing, marriage).

    Furthermore, in addition to lacking in the same benefits, gay unions also have an added cost to society, which is to say that if we redefine marriage to include gay unions, we have now dramatically changed the meaning of marriage to have absolutely no connection to procreation. Now, you may say that marriage has already been at most loosely tied to procreation, but allowing gay marriage breaks that link like nothing in the past. What effect will this have on society? What message does a marriage that has no link to procreation send to the next generation of children, specifically those growing up with this new definition of marriage? Will it lead to more out of wedlock births? Harvard Social Anthropologist Stanley Kurtz sure thinks so.

    So in conclusion, it is not the morality of gay marriage, and for that matter, the morality of incest, or polygamy, that I base my objections on, it is based on the simple fact that they are not equal in fundamental areas; hence they should not be given equal status.

  12. Observer says:

    Let the homos marry, damn it! 🙂

  13. Mitch Wagner says:

    Sorry to take so long responding on this – was out of town, busy busy busy, now I’m back.

    The case for gay marriage is a simple one: Marriage benefits society in many ways, not just raising children. Married people are more likely to own real estate, hold down jobs, less likely to committ crimes, more likely to be monogamous (and therefore less likely to spread STDs). They are more likely to be involved in the community.

    There’s also the fair’s-fair argument: Heterosexuals are allowed to marry and homosexual should be allowed to marry, too. People who love each other should be allowed to marry, unless there’s some compelling reason why they shouldn’t.

  14. Like I said before Mitch, I am against Polygamy and Gay Marriage, for the simple reason that they are at a fundamental level or another, not equal to heterosexual marriage, however, with that said, I would be willing to give some type of civil union benefits to them, precisely for the reasons you mentioned above. 🙂

  15. Mitch Wagner says:

    If byu “some type of civil union benefits” you mean “all the benefits available to married couples,” then I can live with that. My philosophy is that, if I ask for $1,000, and somebody gives me $995, I don’t argue over the missing five bucks.

    And you’re actually willing to go further than I am, because I’m not willing to sanction polygamy, simply because I see no evidence that it’s a good arrangement, and every bit of evidence that it’s harmful. Same goes for polyamory–if a group of adults want to consider themselves part of a group marriage, that’s their business, but I’m not inclined to give it the sanction of the state by calling it a marriage. Or a civil union.

  16. Can I borrow $1,000 Mitch? 🙂

  17. Mitch Wagner says:

    Sorry, I’m all tapped out.

    Ask Oso. I’ve been told he’s one a them “limousine liberals.” 🙂

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