Adam Kolasinski, an MIT Doctoral student in financial economics, has written an article, “The Secular Case Against Gay Marriage.” (linked to robot-heart-politics, who generally has very good comments, and this guy, who generally doesn’t.)Unfortunately, Adam Kolasinski doesn’t make a very good case. (I thought his impressive academic pedigree would at least produce an insightful argument. I thought wrong.) He begins:
The debate over whether the state ought to recognize gay marriages has thus far focused on the issue as one of civil rights. Such a treatment is erroneous because state recognition of marriage is not a universal right. […] Homosexuals, therefore, are not the only people to be denied the right to marry the person of their choosing.
Talking about what is and is not a “universal right” is a bit of a red herring. Do we have a “universal right” to free speech? To bear arms? Are there any rights without exceptions? Of course not. And we could debate all day about whether certain rights are self-evident, where such rights came from, and how far they extend. And at the end of the day we wouldn’t agree on any of it. The claim that there is a “right” to same sex marriage need not be more radical than there being a right to relatively equal treatment by the law—and that any exceptions to that rule need to have a compelling government interest. Discussions of abstract rights frequently distract from the immediate and personal nature of injustice. This can be convenient—if you’re on the side pushing the injustice. When we talk about rights, make sure we don’t forget that that my friends in same-sex relationship may end up dying without the person they love most because of hospital visitation policies. And we should also keep in mind that another friend is gathering all kinds of benefits as her gay friend’s “domestic partner” because his actual domestic partner is ineligible.
So let’s not talk about “universal rights.” Instead, let’s talk about rights generally extended to most people in most circumstances that shouldn’t be denied from others without a damn good reason. And let’s talk about why there isn’t a good reason to deny marriage rights to same-sex couples.
[…] When a state recognizes a marriage, it bestows upon the couple certain benefits which are costly to both the state and other individuals. Collecting a deceased spouse’s social security, claiming an extra tax exemption for a spouse, and having the right to be covered under a spouse’s health insurance policy are just a few examples of the costly benefits associated with marriage. In a sense, a married couple receives a subsidy. Why? Because a marriage between two unrelated heterosexuals is likely to result in a family with children, and propagation of society is a compelling state interest. For this reason, states have, in varying degrees, restricted from marriage couples unlikely to produce children.
This would almost be persuasive—if it were remotely true. I suppose if you spend enough time doing financial economics you actually accept absurd statements like “the primary purpose for the state to recognize marriage is to incentivize childbirth within wedlock.” In reality, marriage predated formal state recognition of marriage—and it simply makes sense to acknowledge how people generally structure their lives. But we ought not let a bit of reality get in the way of this freight train of poor logic.
Granted, these restrictions are not absolute. A small minority of married couples are infertile. However, excluding sterile couples from marriage, in all but the most obvious cases such as those of blood relatives, would be costly. Few people who are sterile know it, and fertility tests are too expensive and burdensome to mandate. One might argue that the exclusion of blood relatives from marriage is only necessary to prevent the conception of genetically defective children, but blood relatives cannot marry even if they undergo sterilization. Some couples who marry plan not to have children, but without mind-reading technology, excluding them is impossible. Elderly couples can marry, but such cases are so rare that it is simply not worth the effort to restrict them. The marriage laws, therefore, ensure, albeit imperfectly, that the vast majority of couples who do get the benefits of marriage are those who bear children.
Right. We like marriage because we like stable families to have children. And same-sex parents with adopted children or donated sperm or eggs apparently don’t count.
Homosexual relationships do nothing to serve the state interest of propagating society, so there is no reason for the state to grant them the costly benefits of marriage, unless they serve some other state interest. The burden of proof, therefore, is on the advocates of gay marriage to show what state interest these marriages serve. Thus far, this burden has not been met.
No. Denying a right to certain people taht other enjoy is a dickish move. The burden is on opponents of same-sex marriage to explain why this dickishness is somehow okay.
Marriage in our society is not primarily about procreation. We’re not running out of people. Remember how we’re trying to restrict immigration because we think we have too many people? Recognition of marriage is about … recognition of marriage. People get married. They decide to spend their lives monogamously together. They raise families together. They want eachother close if they are hospitalized. They want their homes to pass to their spouses when they die. And, in most cases, the state recognizes these desires.
Some have compared the prohibition of homosexual marriage to the prohibition of interracial marriage. This analogy fails because fertility does not depend on race, making race irrelevant to the state’s interest in marriage. By contrast, homosexuality is highly relevant because it precludes procreation.
I just want to interject for a second and point out that this obsession with fertility is ridiculous. Has any proposal ever begun, “I find you sexually attractive and since your loins seem particularly fertile, we really should take advantage of some tax benefits”? (What’s that Mr. Kolasinski? You mean you tried it? How did it go for you? Oh. I hope it works out with her and that other guy.)
The biggest danger homosexual civil marriage presents is the enshrining into law the notion that sexual love, regardless of its fecundity, is the sole criterion for marriage. If the state must recognize a marriage of two men simply because they love one another, upon what basis can it deny marital recognition to a group of two men and three women, for example, or a sterile brother and sister who claim to love each other?
This slippery slope stuff is pretty ridiculous. Is there anything wrong with the marriage of two men and three woman? If so, that’s your basis for denying marital recognition. If not, then there’s no harm done. The same goes for the more incestuous examples.
But in all seriousness, if you think that marriage is about nothing other than sexual love and children, you either aren’t married or you probably shouldn’t be married. There’s an element of stability. Of finality. There’s a comfort in knowing that should something happen to you, somebody else will take care for you. In sickness and in health. In good times and bad. And there’s a warmth in knowing that you would do the same for somebody else. The marital bond, while voluntary, is a family bond.
Homosexual activists protest that they only want all couples treated equally. But why is sexual love between two people more worthy of state sanction than love between three, or five? When the purpose of marriage is procreation, the answer is obvious. If sexual love becomes the primary purpose, the restriction of marriage to couples loses its logical basis, leading to marital chaos.
Yes. Marital chaos. Like in Iowa. It’s that secret sort of marital chaos that only manifests itself as Midwestern practicality.