Monday, November 26, 2012

Same-Sex Marriage: Church And State

Some of my thoughts on same-sex marriage:
  1. CHURCH: I've discussed what I see as a problem for the church when it comes to same-sex marriage here: The Church And Same-Sex Unions.

  2. MARRIAGE: I regard "marry" and "marriage" to mean pairing complements, not sames. Though a few definitions or examples of "marry" are about pairing "likes" (e.g., "marry" the strands of a rope), most meanings are about combining complements to form something new that still reflects the different natures or physical properties of the two "partners" - marry French and Asian cuisine; marry two different art or musical styles; etc. In perhaps a related way, you can say that you "marry" red + blue to make purple, whereas you would never refer to red + red or blue + blue as being a "marrying" of the two colors.

    Thus, it seems to me that whatever else gay couples have in their relationships and activities that are similar to what heterosexual couples have and do, to refer to their partnerships as "marriages" may be an oxymoron.

    A commenter responded to my draft version of this post that there are other ways two persons can be complementary besides biological sex, and that a definition of marriage based on complementarity thus need not preclude same-sex couples.

  3. SEX: I'd also say, based on what "sexual reproduction" means, that two same-sex persons cannot have "sex," because one of the two types of genitals necessary to engage in the process of "sexual" reproduction is not present in same-sex erotic or physical activities or actions.

    The same commenter responded that infertile couples would, by this definition, not be considered to be "married." However, I am not discussing "marriage" in this point, only "sex." The additional comment they made that we would have to use words other than "sex" for non-coital erotic activities that cannot result in reproduction may be in line with what I am asserting here, so perhaps the word "sex" (as in "sex act") should be restricted to male-female genital congress.

    As the commenter pointed out, semantic arguments often require not only identical philosophical positions but also agreement on the definitions used in all their nuances, because if this isn't so, then as soon as people have any differences, the arguments either fail completely or leave both parties agreeing to disagree. It's thus probably impractical or non-productive to argue that "marriage" and "sex" by definition cannot apply to same-sex partnerships, because many parties to the debate would probably not accept my limited semantic definitions of "marry/marriage" and "sex."

  4. GOVERNMENT: From a civil government point of view, I think some questions that need to be asked and discussed are:
    • Does the state have an interest in benefiting or protecting marriage? If "yes," what reasons does it have for doing so? Which of those reasons would apply to same-sex partnerships, and which would not?
    • Can or should "marriage" be allowed to be between more than two persons? Why or why not? If it can or should, should the state benefit or protect such partnerships? Why or why not?
    • Can "marriage" include same-sex partnerships? If not, and if the state benefits and protects marriage, do same-sex partnerships deserve the same benefits and protections as heterosexual marriages, but under something other than the term "marriage"? Why or why not?
    I think people on both sides have operated on assumed answers to these questions without actually asking and thinking through the questions.

    It seems to me that if the state wishes to continue to benefit and protect marriage and give committed same-sex couples the rights and benefits and protections they probably deserve as voting and tax-paying and property-owning citizens of our society, then the term "marriage" should probably be extended to include such relationships. Why have two identical sets of laws, or one set of laws that repeatedly uses two different terms, for two types of relationships that legally differ in name only? Wouldn't it make more sense to define "marriage" to include both opposite-sex and same-sex couples, and then go on to list the provisions of the law by saying "in the case of a married couple..." rather than having to say each time "in the case of a married couple or a legally-established same-sex partnership..."?

    » Arguments for the state's interest in benefiting and protecting marriage, and against defining "marriage" to include same-sex couples, are presented in this book: The Meaning of Marriage: Family, State, Market, and Morals, by Robert P. George and Jean Bethke Elshtain, Editors.

  5. » This book argues against granting married partners special rights vis-a-vis non-married families, and also gives a good history and overview of marriage and gay-rights laws: Beyond (Straight and Gay) Marriage: Valuing All Families under the Law, by Nancy D. Polikoff. For an idea of Polikoff's thesis, read this article (adapted from her book) from Vol. 61 No. 3 of the Rutgers Law Review: "Equality and Justice for Lesbian and Gay Families and Relationships".

  6. BIBLE: I have not been fully persuaded by those scholars and writers who argue that the Bible is not against loving and committed same-sex sexual partnerships and/or who argue that the Bible would put same-sex sexual partnerships on par with male-female marriages. I have read a lot of those books over the years (Boswell, Countryman, etc.), though I no longer have most of them.

    I also often hear or read the claim that Jesus never said anything against homosexuals or homosexuality, but as I was reading Mark's Gospel the other day, when I came to Chapter 10 and his teachings about marriage and divorce, it seemed to me that his affirmation and endorsement of combining Genesis 1:27, Genesis 5:2, and Genesis 2:24 re: what marriage is could be seen as a rejection of male-male or female-female marriages.

    Robert Gagnon (anti same-sex unions) has written much about what he believes the Scriptures teach on this, though I have not read his book that he is best known for, The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Texts and Hermeneutics.

    However, classical philologist Jean-Fabrice Nardelli takes Gagnon to task here, and then replies to Gagnon's response.