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Nine Moons » Blog Archive : The Conservative Case For Marriage Equality » The Conservative Case For Marriage Equality

The Conservative Case For Marriage Equality

MCQ - March 6, 2012

This article is perhaps the most sensible thing anyone has said about same-sex marriage that I have ever read. Here’s the money quote:

[T]rue conservatives should welcome gay marriage. For its increasing acceptance across civilised countries represents not the making gay of marriage but the making conservative of gays. The desire of an increasing number of gay men and women to have their stable and lifelong relationships recognised equally by family, friends and society as a whole demonstrates the respect of individuals within, and towards, an important institution.

That’s exactly how I feel. It seems to me that, instead of arguing against SSM because it will somehow destroy the institution of marriage (which is perhaps the most unfounded argument against SSM), conservatives should be welcoming these people into the fold as potential saviors of the institution. After all, shouldn’t we be glad that there are people who desperately want to be in life-long committed relationships? There are certainly enough heterosexuals who seem not to want that, and show it by their behavior. If homosexuals want to marry, that says good things about them which ought to be rewarded, not dismissed.

36 Comments »

  1. I’m with you MCQ. We should be pro-committed relationship – SS or otherwise.

    Comment by CJ Douglass — March 6, 2012 @ 2:45 pm

  2. When I did my gay marriage thread years ago, this was the last of my five points. I can’t figure out why support for gay marriage shouldn’t be the conservative position, rather than the libaral one. So I fully agree with you.

    Comment by Kevin Barney — March 6, 2012 @ 3:19 pm

  3. Kevin, you are always ahead of your time, but I expect that of you.

    Comment by MCQ — March 6, 2012 @ 3:40 pm

  4. Yes, this is a good politically conservative rationale. From a religious perspective, God ordained marriage between man and women in Genesis. This has never changed.

    Comment by el oso — March 6, 2012 @ 7:35 pm

  5. el oso – I suggest you look at the OT a little closer. I always like visual aids:

    http://innertubes.files.wordpress.com/2011/07/how-the-bible-defines-marriage.jpg

    Comment by CJ Douglass — March 6, 2012 @ 7:51 pm

  6. CJ,
    I think your visual aid is reading a little extra into the original (Genesis 2) definition of marriage. Yes, there are other types of “marriage” documented in the OT. Even the corrupt forms still held to the man marries a woman basis. Obviously, some of the forms mentioned in the OT seem strange to us even those that are upheld as practiced by the righteous.

    Comment by el oso — March 6, 2012 @ 8:50 pm

  7. Marriage is a civil contract and is not a life long commitment. It terminates at the death of a spouse or through divorce, and divorces are granted on a number of grounds. Nor is there a requirement that the two people undertaking the marriage ‘love’ one another. If you want to advocate same sex marriage will you also advocate all other forms of relationships, such as plural marriages? If not, why not? Why not throw the door wide open and allow any number of consenting adults to formally enter into any relationship they desire? Or, why not get rid of marriage completely and let religions perform there own ceremonies as they see fit?

    Comment by Wondering — March 6, 2012 @ 9:17 pm

  8. One way that SSM does not jibe with conservatism is that it represents a dramatic change in a legitimate social institution, the consequences of which are not readily foreseeable. That conflicts with one of the major aspects of the conservative disposition, which distrusts social engineering and and would rather not mess with things too much.

    Granted, not all “conservatives” are of this disposition. A lot of those who are known as conservatives are pretty radical–Gingrich, for example. And this is just one of the many strands of conservatism. If you define conservatism as simply valuing stable family relationships, then I could see an argument that SSM fits into that. But that’s too narrow a view of what conservatism is.

    Comment by Tom Owens — March 6, 2012 @ 10:12 pm

  9. Most people underestimate the psychological impact of being a social pariah. Imagine the sense of disenfranchisement that monogamous gay couples feel in the face of opposition. It’s like the pebble in the shoe. Throwing people under the bus for the sake of defending an ideaology might not be strictly Christlike.

    Comment by Brad — March 6, 2012 @ 10:17 pm

  10. So, just how stable are homosexual relationships in relation to heterosexual relationships – within a “marriage/union/committed relationship” or not? Where can I get info like that?

    Comment by mondo cool — March 6, 2012 @ 10:42 pm

  11. Brad,
    That’s beside the point. The question is whether SSM jibes with conservatism. That is a different question from whether opposition is ultimately justified.

    Comment by Tom Owens — March 7, 2012 @ 12:11 am

  12. mondo cool, homosexual relationships wouldn’t have to be very stable at all to beat the track record of heterosexual marriages, so it’s hardly an important comparison. The point is, if people want a stable commitment that they intend to be lifelong, why would conservatives ever want to discourage that?

    Wondering, most marriages are, in the beginning, intended to be lifelong. I don’t know how you can argue that they are not when most marriage ceremonies contain the language “as long as you both shall live” or “until death.” Just because the state grants divorce on a no-fault basis now, that is no reason to ignore the original intent of the commitment.

    If you want to advocate same sex marriage will you also advocate all other forms of relationships, such as plural marriages?

    I have no legal or philosophical problem with plural marriage as long as the parties are all consenting adults and there is no abuse or fraud. I sincerely doubt that the vast majority of people will ever want to enter into into those relationships, but for the few that truly want that, I see no reason to place legal barriers in their way.

    Or, why not get rid of marriage completely and let religions perform there own ceremonies as they see fit?

    Religions already do perform their own ceremonies as they see fit, and they always should. All we’re talking about here is civil marriage. I see no reason to get rid of marriage completely because non-religious people are always going to want a ceremony called “marriage.” It is an important commitment that people desire and they are right to desire it.

    The state has an interest in allowing people to undertake such commitments publicly and in administering the rights and obligations of those commitments and the dissolution of those commitments. There should always be civil marriage. There is no reason whatsoever to do away with it.

    Comment by MCQ — March 7, 2012 @ 12:14 am

  13. Tom, there are, of course, many conservatives who may never accept the idea of SSM for precisely the reason you say: it’s just too big of a change from what we’ve been doing. But for conservatives who have a brain, and who reject “we’ve never done it that way” as a logical reason for anything, the article I linked to provides a legitimate conservative reason for supporting SSM.

    el oso, did you read the article? The part that is applicable to your argument begins here:

    Of course the argument most commonly made against gay marriage is the worst of all: the religious argument. Ignoring for a moment whether anyone really wishes to reinstate the practice of consulting ‘holy books’ for the specifics of law-making, the lack of consistency is extraordinary.

    Comment by MCQ — March 7, 2012 @ 12:35 am

  14. My point is that it’s overly simplistic to argue the following: Conservatives value stable family relationships. SSM will lead to stable family relationships. Therefore, conservatives should support SSM. It’s an argument that carries some weight, but it’s far from a no-brainer that conservatism dictates support for SSM. Conservatives have competing values like a disinclination to make dramatic changes to the social order, belief in the supremacy of Leave It to Beaver nuclear families, and surely others that I don’t want to take the time to think up. Promoting stable family relationships in the abstract isn’t the be-all and end-all of conservatism. You can call the people who hold those values brainless all you want, but that doesn’t change the fact that there are competing values within conservatism, just like there are in any complex, ill-defined ideology.

    Another point: another of the premises of the article’s argument—that SSM will promote the legitimacy of marriage—is debatable. I don’t think you can have much confidence in predicting the outcomes of most social experiments. Anyways, I think marriage is already a lost cause. It has lost much of its power to broadly promote social welfare. It no longer serves as the license to legitimate sexual behavior–sex outside of marriage is pretty much cool with most people. And it isn’t doing much to promote stable family relationships among the poor and working classes. It seems to be having some success among some middle and upper class groups, and I’m sure it has had some success stories among the poor, but it’s suffering from a lack of buy-in among vast swaths of the public. I’m skeptical that SSM will turn the tide. (I’m also skeptical that it will do much on the negative side.)

    Comment by Tom Owens — March 7, 2012 @ 1:50 am

  15. Tom makes a point. Language used in marriage ceremonies don’t have any meaning, so marriages are not really until ‘death do you part.’ Marriage used to have social significance, but once illegitimate children’s property rights were recognized and fornication was decriminalized, marriage has become irrelevant.

    Comment by Wondering — March 7, 2012 @ 5:03 am

  16. This is really a great topic. Next I would like to see you introduce a conservative case for conservation. Up to now, it seems to me all conservatives really want to conserve is power.

    Comment by don — March 7, 2012 @ 6:08 am

  17. Andrew Sullivan has been making this case for decades.

    (These post bring out some interesting perspectives)

    Comment by Chris H. — March 7, 2012 @ 6:44 am

  18. posts

    Comment by Chris H. — March 7, 2012 @ 6:44 am

  19. My personal opinion is that proponents of same sex marriage have a much larger agenda than a simplistic public recognition that two people are “committed” to one another. Why not advocate another term altogether when referring to SS coupling? Why the insistence on “marriage?” At the end of the day it appears the real agenda is social acceptance of the relationship. Two committed people don’t need state recognition of their committment to one another. Based on the number of divorces involving hetersexual couples, there’s no reason to equate marriage with social stability at all.

    Comment by Wondering — March 7, 2012 @ 7:22 am

  20. #19 – The reason there is insistence on the word “marriage” by SSM proponents is not just social acceptance. There have been many documented cases of gays and lesbians in “civil partnerships” who have been denied rights and privileges including hospital visitation, power of attorney, and parental custody. The people and institutions refusing to acknowledge these rights stated that they were doing so because there was no “marriage” relationship, even where a legal civil partnership existed. Marriage is a powerful relationship in law and society, and substitutes for it, even in name only, can easily lead to discriminatory treatment.

    Personally, I’m just troubled by the idea of offering that sounds like marriage but isn’t. My parents were in an interracial marriage in the 70s. 10 years before they were married, many states prohibited such unions. I can’t imagine how my parents would have felt if a particular state had said, “We don’t approve of your kind of marriage, so we’ll let you have something else instead with a different name. Why are you complaining? We’re letting you be sort of married! Here’s your certificate of ‘Substandard Interracial Partnership With Some Legal Recognition.’”

    Comment by Bro. Jones — March 7, 2012 @ 7:56 am

  21. “Based on the number of divorces involving hetersexual couples, there’s no reason to equate marriage with social stability at all.”

    Unless you are familiar with the social science on the benefits of marriage to society and children. Marriage is much more social and communal that terms like “state recognition” seem to allude.

    Comment by Chris H. — March 7, 2012 @ 8:16 am

  22. I wouldn’t go so far as to use rhetoric such as “potential saviors of the institution”, but I otherwise tend to agree with you here and the sentiments expressed in that quote. I especially agree with this: “If homosexuals want to marry, that says good things about them which ought to be rewarded, not dismissed”.

    Comment by Clean Cut — March 7, 2012 @ 9:39 am

  23. Why the insistence on “marriage?” At the end of the day it appears the real agenda is social acceptance of the relationship. Two committed people don’t need state recognition of their committment to one another.

    Says who?

    Who are you to say what other people need? Isn’t the idea of equality enough of a reason? It’s extremely condescending of you to tell same-sex couples what they need and what they don’t need. If the shoe was on the other foot, and you were being told that you can’t be married while other couples can be, you would be talking out of the other side of your mouth, and marriage would be your fundamental right.

    Comment by MCQ — March 7, 2012 @ 11:12 am

  24. This is what I meant when I said there’s more to the agenda than simple public recognition of life long committment. It’s not really about a public display of committment. It’s gaining access to the privileges and rights historically associated with marriage. As an attorney, I’m not aware of anyone being able to avoid the rights and privileges afforded by a reasonably well drafted Power of Attorney. Want to leave property to a partner? Put it in a will. Want to have visitation and make health care decisions with respect to your partner? Put it in a Power of Attorney. Any one or any institution that won’t recognize a valid POA opens itself up to a lawsuit. I’m sure we can all quote anecedotal stories about how rights or privileges were denied, but I’m not aware of any court case that has thrown out out a POA because it existed between two same sex partners. As domestic partnership laws steadily gain acceptance, coupled with law that’s already on the books, I believe those stories will disappear. If heterosexual marriages are considered a privileged class, why not do away with state civil marriage altogether, thus completely doing away with any benefits, real or imagined, that heterosexual couples enjoy? Make everything, whether it’s two people or plural people, all domestic partnerships.

    Comment by Wondering — March 7, 2012 @ 11:18 am

  25. And MCQ – don’t worry. As an attorney, I’m trained to talk out of both sides of my mouth. I can just as easily argue in favor of your position. But you should be able to support your position with out getting personal.

    Comment by Wondering — March 7, 2012 @ 11:23 am

  26. Wondering, you’re just dead wrong. Sorry if telling you that and calling you condescending sounds personal to you, but sometimes the truth hurts. The rights afforded as a matter of course to married couples are not easily or lightly duplicated by other legal means. Your other points have already been answered.

    Comment by MCQ — March 7, 2012 @ 1:45 pm

  27. MCQ, #13, The article states that the religious argument is the worst of all, but this is not a narrow point of doctrine accepted by a bare majority only in the US and a few other nations. The ancient holy books define marriage in the same way as most stable societies have through thousands of years of history.
    The religious argument also includes the weight of the world’s history. For some this is of little value. For conservatives, this is a large and substantial matter.

    Comment by el oso — March 7, 2012 @ 4:15 pm

  28. The reason that the religious argument is a poor one is not because of the weight of history, but because scripture is a poor guide for law and because there are serious inconsistencies in relying on the Bible to make your argument, as pointed out in the article and by CJ Douglas, above.

    You are now trying to tie the religious argument to a historical one, which is pretty much the same thing Tom Owens was saying. That argument has some merit, and it’s true that conservatives are generally reluctant to discard long traditions in favor of new approaches, but as I said before, history by itself is not a very good reason for doing anything.

    Justice trumps history. If we are being unfair to one part of society and our reason for doing so is only “that’s the way we’ve always done it” then history loses every time.

    Comment by MCQ — March 7, 2012 @ 4:57 pm

  29. The ancient holy books define marriage in the same way as most stable societies have through thousands of years of history.
    The religious argument also includes the weight of the world’s history.

    This kind of argument could have been (and was) used in the defense of slavery, which both the Old and New Testaments presuppose as acceptable. Longstanding precedent is no indicator of moral or ethical validity––it wasn’t before 1 January 1863 (in the US), and it isn’t today.

    Comment by L-dG — March 8, 2012 @ 8:32 am

  30. And the liberal case against gay marriage would be: It’ll make conservatives outta them! Forget it!

    Comment by Jack — March 8, 2012 @ 8:38 pm

  31. If one’s interpretation of scripture has been a poor guide in the past for some laws, does that mean, therefore, that scripture is a poor guide for all law?
    (Do Latter-day Saints just have to keep there mouths shut about SSM in the public arena because we rely on more than just the Bible?)
    Justice should trump history. But, history doesn’t become a foolish tradition simply because it’s been around for a long time. Calling something “old” does not make it foolish. Wisdom comes from experience. Where in the history of moral & ethical thought do you find thinkers, teachers, leaders who have advocated SSM? I believe longstanding precedent is an indicator of moral & ethical validity – not a foolproof guarantee – but an indicator.

    Comment by mondo cool — March 8, 2012 @ 11:40 pm

  32. their mouths

    Comment by mondo cool — March 8, 2012 @ 11:42 pm

  33. If one’s interpretation of scripture has been a poor guide in the past for some laws, does that mean, therefore, that scripture is a poor guide for all law?

    That’s not the reason, but scripture is a poor guide for laws now, just because that’s not the purpose of scripture. It’s not intended to be a guide for modern lawmaking, but a guide for religious faith and worship. Let scripture guide you spiritually and keep it out of the secular governmental arena where it’s not intended to be and is not really welcome.

    (Do Latter-day Saints just have to keep there mouths shut about SSM in the public arena because we rely on more than just the Bible?)

    No. Why would they?

    No one said old things are automatically foolish, but neither are they automatically ethical or virtuaous. Slavery is a good example, as is the example of women as chattel. A long-standing tradition may be either good or evil. the fact that it is old is evidence of nothing. You and others keep wanting to make long-standing tradition count for some automatic virtue: e.g.; you say:

    longstanding precedent is an indicator of moral & ethical validity – not a foolproof guarantee – but an indicator.

    But it’s not. It’s an indicator of nothing except that it’s been around a long time.

    For thinkers who advocated same-sex relationships, you might want to look at Plato and Plutarch, among others.

    Comment by MCQ — March 9, 2012 @ 4:28 am

  34. Plato? Really? The same Plato who said in “The Laws (Book VIII): “Will not all men censure as womanly him who imitates the woman? And who would ever think of establishing such a practice by law? certainly no one who had in his mind the image of true law.”
    I agree that the Greeks spoke for & against homosexuality, but where do they speak in favor of same sex marriage?

    Comment by mondo cool — March 9, 2012 @ 7:15 am

  35. I didn’t say anything about marriage. Plato argued for a military unit composed entirely of homosexuals. Greece did actually form such a unit and it was highly successful.

    Comment by MCQ — March 9, 2012 @ 10:28 am

  36. interesting blog post – the comments are quite thought-provoking as well. thanks for posting.

    Comment by D — March 15, 2012 @ 6:46 am

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