Marriage and the Ship of Theseus

Jason Kuznicki

Jason Kuznicki is a research fellow at the Cato Institute and contributor of Cato Unbound. He's on twitter as JasonKuznicki. His interests include political theory and history.

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22 Responses

  1. Boonton says:

    I think this is the killer point:

    What unites these two aspects of marriage would appear to be a hidden premise, one I think very carefully hidden because it is so ridiculous: the premise that only heterosexuals are fit to raise children, and that not only are homosexuals sub-optimal, but they are more sub-optimal than any heterosexual union at all.

    Although the relationship of legal marriage to ‘fit to raise children’ seems pretty loose. There are plenty of couples who can legally get married (such as your mentally impared hetrosexual herion addicts) who could never adopt children. Likewise there’s plenty of unmarried people who adopt or have their own children. Why then is the focus of arguments about gay marriage so centered on children when almost all children that a gay married couple might end up raising could just as likely be raised by the same gay couple living in a state where they can’t legally marry?Report

  2. BlaiseP says:

    Any time someone attempts to use the word “moral” or “naturally”, I feel around to make sure my wallet is still there. Furthermore, “law” is not “policy”.

    The whole George thing a big hot tranny mess. Marriage is one of two things:

    1. A religious sacrament, constrained by religious doctrine and church policy.

    2. A contract, defined by state law.

    George may proceed along one definition or the other, but not both. Adoption is a contract, hell, you need to sign a contract to adopt a pet from the animal shelter.Report

    • Mike Schilling in reply to BlaiseP says:

      Quibble: state and federal law, since same-sex marriages are not recognized by the feds regardless.Report

      • BlaiseP in reply to Mike Schilling says:

        Yeah, so stipulated. I think there’s also a marriage concluded on the high seas, in international waters, which might not be merely a state contract.Report

        • Will H. in reply to BlaiseP says:

          I had wondered about that myself.
          Why not just get a couple of cruise liners cater to the gay community and whip up a 3-day package? Throw in a bit of scuba diving in St. Thomas.
          No feds, no state.
          Everybody’s happy.Report

          • Jason Kuznicki in reply to Will H. says:

            The marriages performed there would not be recognized on most land jurisdictions. The recognition of marriage is a different question from the performance of it. Some states (like Maryland, where I live, or New York), recognize same-sex marriages from other jurisdictions but do not perform them within the jurisdiction. Others don’t recognize or perform.Report

            • BlaiseP in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

              It sorta works the other way, too. There’s an interesting case, Estate of Bir where the court divided an estate between the two widows of a polygamous marriage.Report

              • Jason Kuznicki in reply to BlaiseP says:

                Indeed. Recognition is often a more effective way of settling certain disputes, even if the state itself doesn’t want to perform marriages of a controversial type. One less exotic example is that a marriage does not cease to be valid in a state where one of the partners is too young to marry, provided that the marriage was performed in a state where the partners were both of legal age by that state’s laws.

                Still, the mini-DOMA laws and amendments passed in most states have tended to refuse recognition to same-sex marriages explicitly.Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

                I wonder, at turns, if the civil union route isn’t a more appropriate venue for some of these partnerships. Consider a pair of elderly widows who live together under the same roof, wishing only to conclude some sort of contract where the survivor will inherit. Any competent lawyer could draft a pair of wills, but a civil union would be far more direct.Report

  3. Jaybird says:

    That which is done out of love always takes place beyond good and evil.

    Marriage between two persons strikes me as something that the government has no competence to judge.

    At the end of the day, they’re stuck reading a flow chart on a laminated card. “Sorry. According to the card you two are ‘not married’. NEXT!”

    This wouldn’t be so bad if there weren’t so much government coercion with regards to marriage… including, but not limited to, inheritance, hospital visitation, spousal privilege, and so on.

    I’ve said before and I’ll say again: It shocks me that so-called “family values” types have not yet gotten sick of denying hospital visitation to people. That they have not yet gotten sick of overturning last wills and testaments leaving goods for a house/bedmate in favor of a family that refused to talk to the deceased for decades. I can’t comprehend it.Report

    • North in reply to Jaybird says:

      I don’t understand it either Jay, but one thing I do know. I’ve never in my sparse thirty one years of life seen more cold loathing and distaste in the eyes of another human being than I have looking into the eyes of the Mother of one of my gay friends and her Pastor when they were looking at his Husband.Report

    • ThatPirateGuy in reply to Jaybird says:

      Sadly, I think I understand it. They are not actually pro-family. They are pro-patriarchy and anyone who doesn’t follow their script of gender normalcy is a threat. Heck anyone who doesn’t subscribe to their view of the social order.

      It is like when hippies see people driving a hummer.Report

    • Boonton in reply to Jaybird says:

      I think it’s not so hard to understand, but you have to look past the words they use. The fact is they don’t like gays. They don’t like the idea that people are gay and they don’t like the idea that’s it has become more accepted and tolerated. Hence they will oppose policies that sound relatively harmless and fair (such as allowing visitation) because they represent the few sources of pseudo-stigma still left in society.

      What’s problematic is that honesty has been booted out of the debate. Instead of just coming out and saying this is why gay marriage is opposed, we get convoluted word games that purport to demonstrate their motivation is anything (concern for children, concern for the divorce rate among straight marriages, monogamy, a deep respect for tradition, etc.) other than what it really is.Report

  4. Steve S. says:

    One of my more memorable college experiences was an Anthropology course on marriage and kinship systems. Our instructor had gone to some pains to aggregate a few pages of marriage definitions which he had seemingly extracted from every anthropological tome ever written. The goal of the writers was to, after pouring through the ethnographic record, devise a universal definition that reasonably fit all cultures. It became apparent after reading only a few entries what the problems were; a hundred exceptions could be found in the ethnographic record to the succinct definitions, and the definitions that attempted to account for this problem were so expansive as to be virtually meaningless.

    The upshot was that “marriage” (in quotes now because there isn’t a truly universal definition) was a cultural construct and can’t be properly understood outside its cultural context. If you want to understand Nuer marriage, for instance, you need to get a grasp of the panoply of formal relationships in their culture, and if one of them more closely resembles our notion of marriage and you want to call it marriage, so be it.

    The larger point I’m driving at is that if a culture wants to recognize gay marriage as marriage just say it is and it is. No need to talk about penises or vaginas or any other naughty bits, which don’t have any cosmic significance that I am aware of. If society says it is, it is.Report

  5. Matty says:

    That reminds me Jason do you still have a copy of your “Marriage as Mutual Nurturing” piece from a few years back? It would be nice to see that back on the web.Report

  6. Burt Likko says:

    “Dynamism toward reproduction” is just a rephrased form of the shopworn and easily-refuted Argument From Reproduction, it seems. So too with the recital of the “unfaithful Andrew Sullivan” and “Stanley Kurtz confuses correlation with causation” claims — these are old canards, readily rebutted.

    It isn’t all that difficult to imagine a future in which the genetic coding within a human egg could be eliminated and replaced with the genetic content of an “X-chromosome” sperm from one of two males, and then fertilized in vitro with sperm from a different male. Genetically, the resulting embryo would be the offspring of the two men.

    It might be a bigger technical challenge to replace the genetic coding of a sperm with a female DNA donor (seems to me such a process would necessarily eliminate the possibility of a male offspring) but that misses the point. We’re not talking about how realistic particular kinds of science fiction scenarios might be, but rather the relationship between reproduction and marriage. What would that scenario do with Dr. George’s argument about “dynamism toward reproduction”?

    (The answer is probably “It would do nothing,” because as Jason demonstrates, “dynamism toward reproduction” is nothing but code for George’s preference that penises interact only with vaginas and vice versa.)Report