Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Who are the Coalition for Marriage? And Why I Support Marriage Equality

The Coalition For Marriage are dedicated to ensuring that two men or two women in love cannot avail of the same societal recognition of their commitment enjoyed by my wife and I. Curious about the group, I pulled the Twitter biographies of each of their followers and put them in a word cloud:

Click if you'd like a larger version. Remember, these are the words followers of Coalition for Marriage choose to describe themselves, and more frequently used words appear larger. You'll note that 'Husband' is larger than 'wife', indicating significantly more self-described husbands as wives. With that I wondered what sort of gender balance their followers had. I can estimate this with reasonable accuracy based on first names of the followers. By separating the Micks from the Marys I found the following:

Male 72% Female 28%
It seems marriage equality may be an uncomfortable dinner table subject: the preponderance of husbands and paucity of wives indicates that these men often do not enjoy the support of their partners.


Next I pulled a list of all their Twitter followers and looked at each one. I pulled a list of all accounts each follower followed. This gave me a view of which accounts are favoured most by those who oppose marriage equality.

Here's the first baker's dozen, presented in order of how many followers they share with the Coalition for Marriage:
  1. BBCBreaking
  2. CSLewisDaily
  3. Number10gov
  4. JohnSentamu
  5. JohnPiper
  6. His_Grace
  7. RickWarren
  8. christianorguk
  9. nickygumbel
  10. Queen_UK
  11. matt_redman
  12. PastorMark
  13. StephenFry
In one of my more depressing discoveries I note that Stephen Fry (thirteenth) is favoured by those that would seek to deny him recognition of a loving commitment to a partner. It seems acceptable to consider him partially human - an amuser, an entertainer, but not someone who may wish to share his life fully with another, or want his relationship to potentially hold the same status as mine. Barack Obama, a supporter of marriage equality, comes fortieth. Derren Brown also features.

Writing about marriage equality makes me feel like the elderly woman who took it upon herself to retouch a 19th century fresco - I know my talents are not equal to the task and I realise I put something valuable at risk with my amateurish efforts. In preparation, I reread "My Bondage and my Freedom" by Frederick Douglass, a fascinating writer who escaped slavery to become a leader of the abolitionist movement. 
“The marriage institution cannot exist among slaves, and one sixth of the population of democratic America is denied it's privileges by the law of the land. What is to be thought of a nation boasting of its liberty, boasting of it's humanity, boasting of its Christianity, boasting of its love of justice and purity, and yet having within its own borders three millions of persons denied by law the right of marriage?” - Frederick Douglass

The Coalition for Marriage's Twitter account counts among its followers many self-described Catholics. As an Irishman I'm aware of the discrimination they suffered in the 18th century and before. Among other injustices and in common with American slaves they were denied the right to education. The same people who removed the right to kindle learning then judged slaves and Catholics intellectually subnormal. Douglass writes with measured composure of the denial or marital rights to slaves and how those who felt it right to own their fellow humans judged their victims adulterous and without scruple, ignoring the fact that the denial of marital rights and societal recognition can damage a relationship.

I'll never know what it's like to love another man, but I do know what it's like to love and marry a woman. I know what it's like to stand with trembling fingers shaking a wedding speech and loudly declare my love and commitment in a packed room. To be congratulated and recognised for that commitment. To dance badly, to kiss to the sounds of applause, to spend a weekend gluing together invitations, to feel that exhilarating rush of starting something new with the person you love. And I would not see that denied to anyone.

28 comments:

Matthew Corbally said...

Fantastic piece Geoff! Full of sincere emotion and research as usual. I especially like that you quoted Frederick Douglas, he was an inspiring figure!

Alistair said...

I don't follow C4Mtweets or Stephen Fry, Geoff, but feel you are being perhaps a bit unfair on those who do. May it not perhaps indicate that those who do follow C4M and S.F., and who hold the view that marriage is only cross-gender, are not homophobic and appreciate Stephen Fry as a person regardless of his sexual orientation?

Giselle said...

Beautiful.
Particularly the last paragraph.
Thank you.

Jill said...

Geoff - thanks for taking the time to write this out. I appreciate you were willing to give my suggestion a go and as always appreciate your thoughts!

I agree with my friend above that there's nothing contradictory about following both accounts. I frankly have no idea who either are (other than the information presented here) but people are complex and rarely do we fit into compartmentalized boxes.

Finally, I'm not sure that presenting Mr. Douglas's words is a compelling argument although I understand where you are coming from. He was denied marriage because of something intrinsic to himself - his race. Many who currently oppose gay marriage (or as you would have it, equal marriage) do so because they believe marriage is the union of a man and woman. It is about what is intrinsic to the institution and has nothing to do with the sexual orientation or preferences of the people involved. Note that you are not asked your sexual preference when you apply for a marriage license, nor are you asked how much you love your potential spouse. Neither are considered relevant.

You say equal marriage rather than "gay marriage" because you point out no one says they are "straight" married. That merely underscores the point. Marriage has traditionally been between a man and a woman. Even saying equal marriage admits you are now trying to redefine it as something other than gender specific. The sexual compatibility between the male and female of the species is a fact of biology - it is not offensive or discriminating in and of itself. Ironically in fact, if gay marriage becomes a part of society, then we will be asked at some point to clarify whether we are gay married or straight married.

If we change the definition of marriage to be merely about love or commitment (which is a tough sell in nations that have no fault divorce), I can find no compelling reason the state should be involved in marriage at all anymore. It only makes sense to me as an effort to keep potential biological parents together. As a single person I understand more acutely than most the desire for a loving partner and companion. I have no desire to prevent anyone from finding that and in fact desperately hope everyone who desires a partner to find one! Yet I see nothing about redefining marriage to be gender neutral to work towards that end.

Two tangentially related posts on this subject from the other side for anyone interested:

http://thickerthantalk.blogspot.com/2012/07/same-sex-marriage-neither-compassionate.html

http://www.joshweed.com/2012/06/club-unicorn-in-which-i-come-out-of.html

anand said...

“ wife and husband, being the equal halves of one substance, are equal in every respect; therefore both should join and take equal parts in all work, religious and secular."[Rig Veda]-This is the conception of marriage in India since many 1000s of years.

Geoff said...

Anand, your argument also supports child brides, arranged marriages and adding wives to their husband's funeral pyre.
It is therefore stupid.

failedatheist said...

A few points, one why should it be sad that Stephen Fry is number 13?It actually demonstrates the opposite point. A well known gay man, who clearly has equal human dignity is followed by a number of people who don't support marriage revisionists. This isn't about homosexuals its about what marriage is and isn't.

Two, Every single definition of marriage excludes certain people or groups, having certain requirements will always restrict some. What you call equally marriage isn't equal at all. Unless your happy to follow the line of a number of marriage revisionists and argue that the case for same-sex marriage are the same as for polygamous relationships and other potential pairings. Why should marriage between just two people if it isn't for the ends of producing children in principle and forming a life-long bond and safe environment for those children? The sociological research demonstrates in every social marker that children do better within marriage.

Thirdly, if you have read much of the revisionist literature you will notice that once the value of marital complementarity is removed so will the need for marital permanence and exclusivity. If male>female complementarity isn't vital to a marriage why ought it to be ideally either permanent or exclusive? These are serious questions being asked.

Some quotes and thoughts to ponder from marriage revisionists to see the potential effects for the family and society.

Dan Savage in the New York Times - 'Anti-equality right wingers have long insisted that allowing gays to marry will destroy the sanctity of "traditional marriage" and, of course, the logical, liberal party line response has long been "No, it won't." But what if for once the sanctimonious crazies are right? Could the gay male tradition of open relationships actually alter marriage as we know it? And would that be such a bad thing?'

Andrew Sullivan, Virtually Normal - ...among gay male relationships, the openness of the contract makes it more likely to survive than many heterosexual bonds....There is more likely to be greater understanding of the need for extramarital outlets between two men than between a man and a women... Something of the gay relationships necessary honesty, its flexibility, and its equality could undoubtedly help strengthen and inform many heterosexual bonds.'

Michelangelo Signorile - "demand the right to marry not as a way of adhering to society's moral codes but rather to debunk a myth and radically alter an archaic institution...[They should] fight for same-sex marriage and its benefits and then, once granted, *redefine* the institution of marriage *completely*, because the most subversive action lesbians and gay men can undertake...is to transform the notion of 'family' entirely.'

As I said above all definitions of marriage are restrictive, you must meet certain requirements, just as you must for any number of things. The case with Douglas does not support marriage revisionism. The ban on slaves marrying goes against the definition of marriage and the overthrowing of those laws only served to confirm the value of marriage as it is today. The ban hadn't redefined marriage but it had stopped millions of persons that met the requirements from being able create a stable and loving family environment.

droid said...

Once again we see the same arguments trotted out, that gay marriage is against 'tradition', that gay marriage would fundamentally change the nature of marriage and that it is exclusively intended for procreation.

I advise anyone interested in the 'tradition' of marriage to read Boswell: http://www.amazon.com/Same-Sex-Unions-Premodern-Europe-Boswell/dp/0679751645/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1308665129&sr=1-1 He points out that same sex unions have been around for millennia, gay marriage ceremonies were performed by the church, and that this practice was only abandoned relatively recently.

Alistair said...

Jill and failed atheist put it so much better than me - thank you :-)

Geoff said...

Hi Alistair,

Thanks for commenting. I'm always impressed by your willingness to give views different from your own a fair hearing.

You say:

"May it not perhaps indicate that those who do follow C4M and S.F., and who hold the view that marriage is only cross-gender, are not homophobic and appreciate Stephen Fry as a person regardless of his sexual orientation?"

Here I think you may have committed an unintentional strawman. I said the following:

"I note that Stephen Fry (thirteenth) is favoured by those that would seek to deny him recognition of a loving commitment to a partner. It seems acceptable to consider him partially human - an amuser, an entertainer, but not someone who may wish to share his life fully with another, or want his relationship to potentially hold the same status as mine."

There are three criticisms I level - that they would deny him recognition of a loving commitment to a partner, that they do not acknowledge him as someone who could want to share his life fully with another, and that they do not feel his relationship should have the same status as enjoyed by Mrs Shorts and I. In all cases the criticisms are exclusively around their opposition to marriage equality, and not an assumption of general dislike of the LGBTQ community.

Geoff said...

Hi Jill,

Thanks for the nudge to write this, and taking the time to comment.

"I agree with my friend above that there's nothing contradictory about following both accounts. I frankly have no idea who either are..."

Stephen Fry is an author, actor, comedian and outspoken person for marriage equality. Give him a Google. It would be the equivalent of being strongly opposed to civilians owning handguns yet following Charlton Heston on Twitter.

"[Douglass] was denied marriage because of something intrinsic to himself - his race."

How is one's sexual orientation not intrinsic? Believe me, my naked lady fetish has been intrinsic to me since about age 11. Your point rather hangs on this and it needs to be justified before I address.

" Marriage has traditionally been between a man and a woman. Even saying equal marriage admits you are now trying to redefine it as something other than gender specific."

Marriage has traditionally been between one man and his property, which could include many wives. It has also been traditionally between one woman and many husbands. And we've historical evidence of same sex marriages stretching back quite some time. Marriage has been and is a transaction between parents, a method of cementing tribal ties and a way of ensuring purity of bloodlines. The myth of an unbroken tradition of one willing man and one willing woman is not a strong foundation for your argument.

"The sexual compatibility between the male and female of the species is a fact of biology"

As is the sexual compatibility of two males, or two females. Homosexual behaviour has been observed in 260ish species, including male on male blowhole sex in dolphins which strikes me as very adventurous if not a little risky. And if nothing else, I'm sure any honest man will say that the dawning of their sexual experience was an entirely solo affair. Mastrubation falls foul of the same criticism you offer.

"... if gay marriage becomes a part of society, then we will be asked at some point to clarify whether we are gay married or straight married."

You're concerned some day someone might ask me if I'm married to a man or a woman? Already happens. And I am willing to take that hit. I already answer questions about my spouse's relative age, county of origin, race, profession, 5k running time and taste in music. Gender isn't a problem.

Why state involvement? In no particular order: inheritance rights, shared tax credits, adoption, hospital visitation, nondiscrimination law - I'm sure there's a thorough list out there.

" It only makes sense to me as an effort to keep potential biological parents together."

Know any same gender couples? Serious question.

" I have no desire to prevent anyone from finding that and in fact desperately hope everyone who desires a partner to find one! Yet I see nothing about redefining marriage to be gender neutral to work towards that end. "

I'd love my wife no matter what. But I have to admit that having society's recognition of the commitment we've made has made our relationship even stronger. And I want my LGBTQ friends (hell, even my enemies) to have access to that too.

Geoff said...

@FailedAtheist, we meet again >:)

"...why should it be sad that Stephen Fry is number 13? It actually demonstrates the opposite point. A well known gay man, who clearly has equal human dignity is followed by a number of people who don't support marriage revisionists."

Fry wants the societal recognition of marriage to be a possibility for him. @C4MTweets does not. The situation is analogous to appreciating the cooking of a suffragette you would not trust to vote.

"Why should marriage [be] between just two people if it isn't for the ends of producing children in principle and forming a life-long bond and safe environment for those children?"

As in why not three, or 27? I think that's a category error. If my wife and I try to get into a taxi and the driver declines because he doesn't like breeders, that's discrimination. If I hail a four seater taxi with a dozen of my closest friends and service is declined, that's a capacity problem.

Two men getting married does not affect the terms of my marriage in the slightest. Mrs Shorts is still very much stuck with me. Three people getting married does - what if my wife wants to add a third party to what I see as our sworn monogamous relationship? Such a change would have actual impact on married couples today in a way that two women exchanging rings would not.

"The sociological research demonstrates in every social marker that children do better within marriage."

Excellent. Present the research you've reviewed that has studied the children of married, same gender couples. Explain how they controlled for societal discrimination, unless you propose that we deny marriage equality to avoid dealing with discrimination against gay couples. And take your point to its logical conclusion by proposing we prevent low earners, the disabled, and those without third level education from marrying.

"Thirdly, if you have read much of the revisionist literature you will notice that once the value of marital complementarity is removed so will the need for marital permanence and exclusivity"

Congratulations on finding quotes from three men who want to sleep around. How long do you think it would take me to replicate that feat using straight men?

Your point rests on the assumption that married same sex couples are significantly more promiscuous than mixed gender couples. Three quotes, exclusively from men, is not the way to prove such a sweeping statement. You to crunch some data. As was done here, showing a one percentage point in promiscuity between gay and straight users of OKCupid.com. It found two per cent of gay users having quite a lot of sex. It sounds exhausting. Assuming 10% of marriages are same gender, and making the rather unnwarranted assumption that the 2% in question would want to exchange vows, should we really be concerned at a 0.2% rate? Can't say I lose much sleep over swingers; they've been sleeping around in the institution of marriage since the 70's.

"The ban on slaves marrying goes against the definition of marriage and the overthrowing of those laws only served to confirm the value of marriage as it is today."

You haven't given a good reason why it was wrong to deny slaves marriage, or deny interracial marriage, yet right to deny same sex marriage.

David Hughes said...

The quote Failed Atheist - perhaps he or she should try harder ;-) - , attributes to Dan Savage actually comes from a piece in a magazine named The Advocate. The article is entitled Monogamish and is written by Ari Karpel. It can be found here The full paragraph reads

Anti-equality right-wingers have long insisted that allowing gays to marry will destroy the sanctity of “traditional marriage,” and, of course, the logical, liberal party-line response has long been “No, it won’t.” But what if—for once—the sanctimonious crazies are right? Could the gay male tradition of open relationships actually alter marriage as we know it? And would that be such a bad thing? With divorce rates at an all-time high and news reports full of famous marriages crumbling at the hand of flagrant infidelities (see: Schwarzenegger, Arnold), perhaps now is the perfect time for the gays to conduct a little marriage makeover.

The article postulates that perhaps permitting a small number of judicious infidelities may actually strengthen long-term (hetero and homosexual) relationships. I rather suspect that the quote has been taken out of context, though not necessarily by Failed Atheist, as the Dan Savage attribution appears on a number of marriage-traditionalist (is that the correct term? I'm new to this) websites. I do note that the article perhaps playfully suggests that the "gay... marriage makeover" could reduce the number of divorces. I thought marriage-traditionalists were not in favour of divorce and would be happy to see initiatives that would reduce their numbers, no matter what their source.

Alistair said...

Geoff,
As always you are gracious in your response to criticism.

You illustrated your point about Stephen Fry in your responses to Jill and failedAtheist by the following analogies:

"It would be the equivalent of being strongly opposed to civilians owning handguns yet following Charlton Heston on Twitter."

"The situation is analogous to appreciating the cooking of a suffragette you would not trust to vote."

Would these situations be wrong if the views held were matters of principle rather than a spiteful and personal denial of the individuals wishes?

For example, if my wife were banned by law from wearing fur, and she campaigned for the right to wear it, while I was opposed to the fur trade and lobbied for the ban to be maintained - would it then be 'depressing' if I still enjoyed her company and appreciated her many excellent quantities? Should she divorce me? Should she tell me I don't love her because if I really respected her and appreciated her as a person I would support her in her desire to wear dead animals?

Perhaps you think I'm trivialising the matter. I don't intend to. If you were as Stephen Fry is would you block Jill or FailedAtheist or me from following you on Twitter?

Jill said...

Geoff:

As far as I can tell, Anand did not present an argument at all. He merely quoted something and stated a fact.

With regards to your comments to Alistair, I think you have no reason to presume those who follow CM4 would deny Mr. Fry "recognition of a loving commitment to a partner" nor that they "do not acknowledge him as someone who could want to share his life fully with another" and actually not even that they "do not feel his relationship should have the same status" as yours. You simply do not have the evidence to support any of those claims and frankly making them concerns me you dismiss those who disagree merely based on assumptions of what they actually think.

How is one's sexual orientation not intrinsic?
I never said that it was not, nor do I think that.

The myth of an unbroken tradition of one willing man and one willing woman is not a strong foundation for your argument.
It's certainly not worse than arguing for gay marriage merely because you want it to be so. I have no doubt that there is historical evidence of same sex unions, but there is also no doubt that in modern Western society they did not make the legal definition of marriage that was decided upon.

As is the sexual compatibility of two males, or two females.
My apologies for not being more clear here. I do not mean sexually compatibility in terms of the ability to provide physical pleasure to one another. I mean it as the ability to reproduce together. You are quite correct that there is homosexual behavior noted in many species - I'm not sure why anyone would be shocked about this. In fact, I think there is a species of jellyfish? that can reproduce in a homosexual union. However, that is not the case with humans and will never be without significant genetic engineering. Whether that is good or bad is another debate altogether.

You're concerned some day someone might ask me if I'm married to a man or a woman?
I'm not concerned about this at all. I'm just pointing out that for someone who insists upon saying equal marriage, you are still qualifying the word for a very clear reason.

In no particular order: inheritance rights, shared tax credits, adoption, hospital visitation, nondiscrimination law - I'm sure there's a thorough list out there.
You will note that all of the above can be arranged legally without marriage - in fact this has to be the case because of people like me who are single. We chose powers of attorneys and next of kin benefits and sometimes adopt, etc. (Other than tax credits of course, which are hardly essential.) The legal structure for all of these things exists without marriage and can then be employed by everyone in any way they want. I have certainly seen married patients who have legally made their POA someone other than their spouse (for various reasons).

Know any same gender couples? Serious question.
Serious answer: I know a lot of same sex couples, and consider a great many to be close personal friends of mine. I really don't like what you seem to be implying with this question.

I think it's great you feel that social recognition or your commitment to your wife enhanced your relationship. There is no reason that social recognition has to come from the state though. Ironically, the majority of my heterosexual friends who support gay marriage actually think that for themselves the institution is archaic and restrictive.

failedatheist said...

David Hughes - Thanks for pointing that out, the book I took it out of had accurately referenced it, I however had looked at the reference above it. The other reference's are correct.

Geoff - Thanks for these good points, but alas I must respond ;)

The analogy you present is false, however it is helpful for my point. To vote means meeting certain acquirements, age, competency and being human are the minimal ones. These are limits, if you don't meet them you can't vote. Marriage likewise has requirements (although some different ones) and a different purpose or end that serves the common good. Stephen Fry has the same right as anyone else to marry someone of the opposite sex but his type of relationship is not one in which serves the same ends as heterosexual marriage (complementarity, exclusivity and permanence) for the 'principle' of childbearing. Marriage has societal value because it creates a bond and stable environment between a husband a wife for childbearing and rearing. This is not a controversial statement.

I agree that changes to marriages right now would unlikely be dramatically affected. However my point is that it is ignorant to think that these potential changes will not affect the mentality and practice of future marriages. That's how culture works, generally what is lawful becomes normal. We have already seen group 'marriages' occurring around the world so this is not an impotent claim.

We're talking of ideals. The best environment for a child is with their married heterosexual and biological parents. This recent study has been attacked ad nauseum [http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0049089X12000610] but I think it has been sufficiently defended by its author. I have access to a number of other studies but I'm moving house so my books are packed up right now. One major problem with studies of homosexual parents are that they tend to be not representative of the population (White, middle-class etc) and very small simply because there aren't that many of them. Also I'm not saying homosexual couples shouldn't be able to adopt! I'm from a single parent family and those families do worse as well in nearly every study on most social markers, but I can still acknowledge the ideal.

Your point is mute regarding my examples, marriage revisionists are asking whether marriage needs to be exclusive (not just those who want to sleep around, they argue it can strengthen the union), when there may be benefits to having extra-marital outlets. It is well known that within the gay community that monogamy does not equate with exclusivity.

Around 58% of traditional marriages last longer than 20 years (National Center for Health Statistics, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 2001.)

Around 5% of same-sex unions last longer than 20 years (2003-2004 Gay/Lesbian Consumer Online Census)

85% of married women and 75.5% of married men report being faithful to their spouses. For homosexual males, the number is 4.5%(Laumann, The Social Organization of Sexuality, 216; McWhirter and Mattison, The Male Couple: How Relationships Develop (1984): 252-253; Wiederman, “Extramarital Sex,” 170.)

These things have implications for the family dynamic especially when we factor in children and the long-term affects on society.

Denying marriage to slave is wrong because it was based on prejudice towards people that meet the requirements of marriage and can in principle fulfil its ends. Homosexual couples cannot do this nor do all of them even want the right to marry because they realise their relationships are different in type.

In a bit of a rush, must pack, I await your thoughts ;)

Keats18 said...

Hi Geoff,
Interesting piece and thanks for your invitation on twitter to respond to comments.

However I prefer to leave a comment as I see the practice of talking to people who won't listen equal to banging my head off a brick wall. Neither will I defend the concept of marriage for two people in a relationship who want to stay in that relationship for all their lives, it just seems ridiculous to even have to.

I will say , however, that the part played by groups and individuals that oppose equal marriage rights, such as the one mentioned, astounds and saddens me. Do they realise that this is other people's lives their affecting? Do they realise that theirs won't change, not in ANY meaningful way?

Catholics are being told by the pope to oppose marriage for gay people despite it being none of his, or his congregation's concern. Yet on the other hand the Catholic Bishops in the UK say they are fearful of persecution of the crime of bigotry. Why can't we make this a two-way street and each stay out of each other's business? Does anyone understand the meaning of the word peace anymore?

Jill said...

failedatheist - Not all homosexuals subscribe to the Dan Savage viewpoint on monogamy and the point of sex. It's detrimental to this discussion to pretend they do. To say things like "It is well known that within the gay community that monogamy does not equate with exclusivity." is to me a gross misrepresentation of people who, like all people, span the spectrum of moral values. One might also point out that it is well known in the heterosexual community that monogamy doesn't equate with exclusivity anymore either.

Keats18 - I know nothing of C4M and in general find groups that focus on one thing so adamantly to suffer from a profound lack of perspective. But as a Catholic, I want to point out that our faith does take great concern over anything and everything that affects humanity precisely because it some way it has an effect. I understand and agree that two gay people getting married will in no way change the relationship of the heterosexual married neighbors. If you think that is the Catholic reasoning for being against gay marriage you have either spoken to poorly educated borderline homophobic Catholics or misread whatever you were reading.

As for crimes of bigotry - where will you draw the line? Churches wouldn't have to be a part of this, but what about people who own private businesses? What would be your thoughts there?

Fogey said...

There are so many sources of confusion in this debate that it seems to me brave for anyone to stick his neck above the parapet. So well done Geoff.

I'm 62, heterosexual, twice married, and with three children and two grandchildren. I wasn't married to the mother of my oldest child, nor, thankfully, to the mother of the younger two. My second wife and I married after the death my first wife, but her first husband is still alive, so we are not married in the eyes of the catholic church in which she was raised. We married with no expectation of having children together and at an age where such a possibility was unlikely though not impossible. Although we don't live together now, we still regard ourselves as married.

I suspect that there are millions of people in the UK with stories like mine. There are many different kinds of marriage, and while churches may seek to control definitions of marriage their failure to do so has been spectacular. Their only sanction against forms of heterosexual marriage they don't like is to take their ball home and refuse to celebrate them. This causes a great deal of distress, for example, to divorced believers seeking to form new relationships, and leave unbelievers such as myself bemused. It looks like "allowing the best to be the enemy of the good" and has no doubt contributed to falling attendances.

Meanwhile secular society has redefined marriage anyway, as it is perfectly entitled to do.

Attitudes to homosexuals and homosexuality have changed greatly for the better in my lifetime. We have moved from illegality, persecution, ridicule, blackmail, violence, abuse and entrapment to widespread tolerance. Police now generally prosecute gaybashers instead of arresting their victims and raiding known gay meeting places. Young policemen no longer hang around public lavatories in an effort to trap gay men into making approaches.

(More later - it's time for tea)

Fogey said...

Because of the persecution perpetrated on homosexual people we have little experience of how stable homosexual relationships might develop if such persecution was permanently removed. Some of the stereotypical behaviour which has emerged under persecution might, possibly, completely disappear. I think we can support this process by supporting marriage equality. Some religious groups already want to be involved in this, and no doubt others will never want to do so.

Young people brought up in a less persecuting society increasingly seem to find the church's attitudes hard to fathom.

"But it's worth noting that many young people are alienated from christianity just because of the traditional stand on homosexuality. 91% of young non-Christians and 80% of young churchgoers say this phrase describes Christianity." http://www.barna.org/barna-update/article/16-teensnext-gen/94-a-new-generation-expresses-its-skepticism-and-frustration-with-christianity

I think we should value stable loving homosexual relationships in the same way that we value such heterosexual ones.

Jill said...

""The sociological research demonstrates in every social marker that children do better within marriage."

Excellent. Present the research you've reviewed that has studied the children of married, same gender couples. Explain how they controlled for societal discrimination, unless you propose that we deny marriage equality to avoid dealing with discrimination against gay couples. And take your point to its logical conclusion by proposing we prevent low earners, the disabled, and those without third level education from marrying."

The above is failedatheist's comment with Geoff's response.

The two recent studies to read for yourself are: The New Family Structures Study (NFSS) by Mark Regnerus from the University of Texas in Austin and an analysis of 59 major same-sex parenting studies by Loren Marks of Louisiana State University. Both recently appeared in the Social Science Research journal and made headlines because they were at odds with the 2005 statement of the American Psychological Association brief on same-sex parenting that said there was "no evidence" that lesbians or gays are "unfit to be parents or that psychosocial development among children... is compromised relative to that among offspring of heterosexual parents."

The first study concludes simply that children are most likely to be successful if their entire childhood is spent with their married biological parents. He makes no comment on the fitness of same-sex parents, or claims that good outcomes can't occur in these families, or single parent homes, or where the grandparents have stepped in, or in adoptions. The second study showed that none of the studies cited by the APA in the 2005 brief meet the standard to prove the "null hypothesis" - that there is no difference.

I'll cite the studies below so if anyone is interested they can read them and decide if they pass muster.
But just because it is true that there is no evidence that gays or lesbians are bad parents (they are emphatically not) it does not necessarily then follow that children raised in same-sex parent families are on par as successful as children raised in homes with their married biological parents (which was the claim of the APA). Whether this should matter in a legal sense I have no idea.

I don't know what you mean about not allowing gay marriage because of social discrimination, but that's impossible to control for. Discrimination might have a very big impact; it might impact kids of interracial families or single moms too and is a good thing to keep in mind.

As to it following that there is a case against poor, undereducated, disabled parents - I simply don't see that as following at all so I'm can't respond to that at all.

Mark Regnerus, "How Different Are the Adult Children of Parents Who Have Same-Sex Relationships? Findings from the New Family Structures Study," Social Science Research 41 (2012): 752-770

Loren Marks, "Same-Sex Parenting and Children's Outcomes: A closer Examination of the American Psychological Association Brief's on Lesbian and Gay Parenting," Social Science Research 41 (2012): 735-751.

Jill said...

Wanted to add other than the studies, my other source for the above is the article Same-Sex Parenting and Sound Science: Benefits of Traditional Family Structure by John A. DiCamillo, BeL in the October 2012 Ethics & Medics (vol 37, #10). E&M is a commentary newsletter of The National Catholic Bioethics Center on Health Care and the Life Sciences. (Unlike many other Catholic organizations these guys know their science.)

pennygetslucky said...

I am not prepared to take on other commenters point-by-point here; rather, I just wanted to wander by and add my two cents.

The arguments against marriage equality, from what I've seen, seem to boil down to three different flavors at their root:
1) It's bad because God says so.
2) It's bad because it's not how we've always done things.
3) It's bad because someone who believes point 1 or 2 did a study to support their beliefs, and now that study backs up that belief.

Every argument I've ever seen against marriage equality forgets one fundamental thing: love is a basic human right. If we are going to bestow societal benefits (inheritance rights, shared tax credits, adoption, hospital visitation, nondiscrimination law) based on societal recognition of a relationship between two consenting adults, then those benefits become part and parcel of that basic human right.

Denying those rights to any group of people based on an arbitrary and/or protected characteristic (race, ethnicity, disability, gender, sexual orientation) is a violation of human rights.

Dress it up in whatever rhetoric you like, but at its heart this is a human rights issue.

Geoff said...

Hi Alistair,

"...if my wife were banned by law from wearing fur, and she campaigned for the right to wear it, while I was opposed to the fur trade and lobbied for the ban to be maintained - would it then be 'depressing' if I still enjoyed her company and appreciated her many excellent quantities?"

I think it's important to remember that I have not accused C4MTweets' followers of homophobia or generalised dislike of those who don't share my fetish for naked members of the opposite sex. (Nor do I necessarily absolve them of this.) I've only said that C4MTweets do not feel LGBTQ folk are deserving of societal recognition of loving, committed, monogamous relationships they wish to form. This does not mean they do not appreciate Derren Brown and Stephen Fry as entertainers; they just do not feel their future should include what I'm sure you'll agree are the undoubted joys of marriage.

"Should she tell me I don't love her because if I really respected her and appreciated her as a person I would support her in her desire to wear dead animals?"

I think you'll agree it's hard to find a suitable analogy for marriage. I think it's good that you've tried to find one, but I'm not quite sure if banning fur will work. Fur fashion causes unnecessary suffering to sentient animals, same sex marriage does not. I don't have a better analogy I'm afraid!

"If you were as Stephen Fry is would you block Jill or FailedAtheist or me from following you on Twitter?"

Blocking not quite my style :) I'd doubtless find it a harder subject to discuss, but I'd like to think I'd try to keep communication open.

Geoff said...

Hi Jill,

"Anand did not present an argument at all. He merely quoted something and stated a fact."

I agree that Anand did not present anything I would dignify with the term argument.

"I think you have no reason to presume those who follow CM4 would deny Mr. Fry "recognition of a loving commitment to a partner" nor that they "do not acknowledge him as someone who could want to share his life fully with another" and actually not even that they "do not feel his relationship should have the same status" as yours. You simply do not have the evidence to support any of those claims and frankly making them concerns me you dismiss those who disagree merely based on assumptions of what they actually think."

They think he should not be allowed marry someone he loves. How have I erred?

Geoff: How is one's sexual orientation not intrinsic?
Jill: I never said that it was not, nor do I think that.

You said " I'm not sure that presenting Mr. Douglas's words is a compelling argument... He was denied marriage because of something intrinsic to himself - his race"

That is why I ask why you feel one's orientation is not intrinsic. If you feel one's sexuality is intrinsic, perhaps you need to rethink why you feel Douglass's words do not apply.

Geoff: The myth of an unbroken tradition of one willing man and one willing woman is not a strong foundation for your argument.
Jill: It's certainly not worse than arguing for gay marriage merely because you want it to be so.

Your argument was factually incorrect. Mine is not. I'm afraid in these scenarios, the argument that is not factually incorrect is considered the stronger.

"I'm not concerned about [being asked the gender of one's spouse] at all. I'm just pointing out that for someone who insists upon saying equal marriage, you are still qualifying the word for a very clear reason. "

It's just not a concern. We may as well introduce May Demeber marriage for couples where there is a significant age gap, or international marriages for those who marry across borders. I don't see why it's necessary to stamp the information.

"You will note that all of the above can be arranged legally without marriage...The legal structure for all of these things exists without marriage and can then be employed by everyone in any way they want."

If interracial marriage was still illegal, would you consider that a valid counterargument to those who feel marriage should be allowed cross lines of race? True, if you have the money, organisational skills and access to legal advice you can spend significant time building structures, and find them prone to challenge in some juristictions. But would you consider this a suitable alternative to offer a couple of differing racial heritage? And if not, why not?

"(Other than tax credits of course, which are hardly essential.)"

It's a financially crippling limitation if one partner is unemployed, a carer, or full time parent. If I lost my job tomorrow my wife would be able to use my tax credits to significantly reduce her tax bill. This would not be the case for a same sex couple.

Geoff said...

Hi failedatheist,

"Marriage has societal value because it creates a bond and stable environment between a husband a wife for childbearing and rearing."

Should marriages be dissolved when the prodgeny have reached, say, the age 30? Or when the wife has reached menopause for childless couples?

If you think this ridiculous then you acknowledge that marriage's benefits extend beyond the admittedly important contribution it makes to parents (regardless of gender combination) raising children.

"That's how culture works, generally what is lawful becomes normal. We have already seen group 'marriages' occurring around the world so this is not an impotent claim."

Arguments that were used by anti miscegenation protesters are hard for me to take seriously I'm afraid. And polygamy has been around since the Old Testament, that it still exists is no argument against marriage equality.

"The best environment for a child is with their married heterosexual and biological parents."

Here's a study that's a little more recent, and more pertinent to the country under discussion. It's based on a sample of 8,568 nine year olds. It shows that by far and away the highest predictor of wellbeing of a child is the education level of their mother. Nothing else comes close.

You might also enjoy this newspaper summary of the findings.

Again I ask, will you take your argument to its logical conclusion and oppose marriage licences to women who haven't completed third level education? Please answer this time.

"Your point is mute [sic] regarding my examples, marriage revisionists are asking whether marriage needs to be exclusive (not just those who want to sleep around, they argue it can strengthen the union), when there may be benefits to having extra-marital outlets."

You've found three quotes from three men who want to sleep around. This is not solid research.

"It is well known that within the gay community that monogamy does not equate with exclusivity."

You'll pardon me if I don't leap to take your word for it, based on the work you've been reading.

"Around 58% of traditional marriages last longer than 20 years (National Center for Health Statistics, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 2001.)

Around 5% of same-sex unions last longer than 20 years (2003-2004 Gay/Lesbian Consumer Online Census)"


In other news, 100% of apples are apple flavoured, but 0% of oranges are. Shocking stuff, eh? If you compare unmarried straight couples to married straight couples you'll see a similar disparity. Likely greater. You don't make any effort to correct for this, which is so sloppy as to be almost insulting. It's not even all that hard to find relevant data. Denmark has had marriage equality since 1989, same sex couples having a divorce rate of 17%. (Mixed gender couples scored 46%.) Read more in psychology today.

"Homosexual couples cannot do this..."

I presume by 'this' you mean have children?

I've never had my sperm count checked. If I discover I'm infertile, would you recommend I institute divorce proceedings to protect the sanctity of the institution of marriage? If not, why not?

Jill said...

No more responses from me here. I fear it's a pointless endeavor. If anyone wants to question sometime I wrote you can email me at jill.haltigan@gmail.com! I'll keep reading though because I'm interested in Paula's comments whenever she get's a chance to weigh in! Cheers all!

aislinnleondale said...

i must thank you for the efforts you've put in penning this blog. excellent blog post .

www.n8fan.net