30 November, 2011


The following is a discussion that I had with one of my favorite intellectual sparring partners. We got to talking about whether or not gay marriage ought to be allowed, and it became a discussion of not only that issue, but also of the virtue of having the government involved in the marriage business at all. If nothing else, I think that it was an interesting conversation. I would love to hear each of your thoughts on the matter!

So, without further ado:

ME: I cannot understand why the government feels the need to be involved in marriages...

THEM: The family is the fundamental unit of society. The traditional family unit (father, mother, child) is the BEST environment (I understand there are GOOD environments, too many to be listed here). Strong/healthy "best" family environments equals an educated, responsible, socially confident/competent, et al, person. For a philosophy of government envisioned by our founders (one of self government) there is no better family endorsement to make. That being said, I don't think restrictions should be placed on other associations among adults (co-habitating). Government endorsement (marriage licenses) of the traditional marriage is practical and essential for the "best" society.
Let me clarify, best family environments are the MOST COMMON place to find the "educated, responsible...". I understand bad people can come from "best" environments. The validity of my point still holds. Government should endorse specific family relationships for best society and government.

ME: I think that the issue of whether or not marriages (in the traditional sense) foster healthy children is irrelevant to this issue. The government ought not endorse any form of marriage; at least, not at the federal level. There is no valid reason for it to do so.
To take your argument to its logical conclusion, one would have to also crack down on single-parents (divorcees or widows/widowers alike), since they also don't fit the 'one-man-one-woman' definition of marriage.
The government has no business issuing marriage licenses any more than they do issuing pregnancy licenses or faux-hawk-hairstyle-wearing licenses. A marriage is, quite simply, a religious ceremony symbolizing a union between to individuals. Legally, it is a civil union between to adults, wherein the formalize their relationship with one another and become, for some purposes, a single legal entity. The federal government has no business interfering with religion or the free exercise of property rights (which is in essence what such a legal union breaks down to), so I can't see how it has business interfering with a marriage, either through endorsement or denial.

THEM: Healthy children/adults are not irrelevant. Good government (federal or state) requries good citizens. We have already clarified that government endorsement and not punishment of freedoms is best government. That government had original support of its citizenry and continues to have mine.

ME: My problem is not quotidian, it is from first principles. The concept of limited government ought to be extended into this realm; the government should not get involved in marriage one way or the other.
And then there's the edge-of-the-wedge side of things... if we permit the government to micromanage our personal lives in this regard in the name of 'healthy families,' then what is next? The abolishemnt of any form of non-traditional family- get a divorce and your children become wards of the state? Become widowed and have 180 days to remarry so that 'the children can have a father?' Where does it end?
And even you will admit that a traditional family doesn't always produce good results, and non-traditional families don't always produce poor ones (in fact, from as far as I have been able to research, the rates of success in children is statistically independent of whether they were raised by heterosexual parents or homosexual parents, but I digress...). So how can you presume to legislate accordingly?

THEM: Good government (We the People) saw the benefits of a best marriage relationship (from religious ceremonies or not) for society and government as a whole and [we] want those to continue. If government endorses all relationhips or none, the same [result then] follows. I know, currently, [the] government does not endorse all relationships but it has divided and marginalized its support for the traditional family since at least the 60s. What has happened? Bigger government and an unwise, unhealhty, citizenry growing ever more dependant on government for its sustanance and survival. If government fail to endorse the best [family format] we will naturally get whatever else comes.

ME: It seems that you're making the argument that a shift in government policy toward alternative lifestyles has led to the nanny-welfare-state that we have now, and I must say that I emphatically disagree.
The modern quasisocialist state that we have today traces its roots to the Progressive movement around 1890, culminating in the election of our second-worst President ever, Woodrow Wilson. It was Progessivist ideas that seeded the soil; it was FDR who watered the fields and sowed the crop of increasing government with the tractor of War.
I would contend that our reliance on the Federal Government for basic necessities comes more from the actions of those Presidents, and later on in Johnson's 'Great Society,' than from any cultural shift toward tolerance. To claim that giving homosexuals basic civil rights would lead to a more invasive federal government is a leap that no amount of argument or evidence could bridge.
The government should neither endorse nor condemn any particular form of 'family.' We should treat marriage as a legal matter similar to incorporation, since that is what it really is. Any added context to marriage is supplied on a personal (or community/religious level) and ought to stay personal.

THEM: Of course the welfare state was started by someone, I think we agree on the historical context. You won't disagree that the disintegration of the traditional family unit (nurturing mother, protective providing father) adds to the welfare state? I don't argue tolerance or alt lifestyle, let them do what they want. The question was (if I'm not mistaken) does government have a purpose in supporting/endorsing the institution (incorporation) of marriage? Since our government (when its healthy) relies almost exclusively on the product of traditional families I say the answer is yes it does and can endorse that incorporation. Based on your last statement our society (which is essentially the government) has endorsed that in the past. Asking "why?" seems imply more that it's silly. I don't think so.

ME: You are correct in ascertaining that my purpose was to call into question whether or not government has a purpose in supporting/endorsing (or, for that matter, denying/preventing) matrimonial incorporation. I don't think that it does; I can't foresee a breakdown in society simply because children are not exclusively raised in the type of family you described above.
As a microcosm, I offer myself up as an example. My parents are divorced, and each has remarried and redivorced (and in the case of my mother, married thrice). One of my brothers lives in OK, one in ID. My father doesn't fit into the protective stereotype described above, and my mother doesn't fit the nurturing one. Yet I would say that I am a productive member of society; certainly, I am not a detriment to it.
I know that what I just described is anecdotal evidence, but my point is this: the government, on principle, should not interfere with what is essentially a business decision, and a religious decision. As long as that decision is agreed upon by two consenting adults, I honestly don't see the problem. And honestly, a homosexual couple with a child is overwhelmingly likely to have adopted that child, and I submit that child who is adopted by parents in a stable, loving relationship who are committed to raising that child is going to do better than they would have in the situation they were adopted out of, regardless of whether those parents are black or white; straight or gay. There are good parents in each category; there are bad parents in each.

THEM: I allow exceptions in all cases as long as it's accepted that there is a best situation for a child to be reared into a productive member of society. It's the traditional family which has served well in that position for ages, and it that situation I think our government (society) has the right and repsonsibility to endorse and protect. Luckily most of us are okay despite what our parents (in any situation) have done to us. However there are common denominators (family background included) among those on social assistance, and those who are incarcerated. Strong healthy traditional family is not THE answer, but part of the answer. I come from almost exactly the same background as you. My mother, too. Being a father now, I hate to admit or accept my weaknesses as a father, but they are painfully obvious to me. I used to think it was better my father wasn't around because I would be more like him (not what I wanted). Now that I am a father I am not so sure. That's always what we argue from, our own perspective.

ME: At the end of the day, I don't see any reason whatsoever why a homosexual couple who desire to get married ought to be treated any differently than a heterosexual couple who wishes to do so. The sociological evidence is quite clear- there is no appreciable distinction between a child raised by the latter and a child raised by the former. Any time there is resistance to giving homosexuals their right to legal unions it almost always comes from the religious right. They couch their arguments in sociological terms, be we all know what the real deal is: they're inspired by a religious bigotry, and nothing more.

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