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More False Responses

Given the refusal of many proponents of gay marriage even to fairly entertain reasoned argument against the innovation, it must be respected when the attempt is made. Unfortunately, I think the post by Mark Miller on Marriage Debate that I just came across misses a few central distinctions. Indeed, it seems to me to point to some shifting of logical threads that is endemic in this debate.

Mark responds to some responses by David Bianco to standard gay marriage arguments in the area of parental gender. For this post, the "standard arguments" are in bold, Bianco's response is in regular font, and Mark's response is in italics:

2. "Children need parents who love them. It doesn't matter if they are gay or straight."

I agree. I have no complaint with a lesbian who marries a man in order to raise children with him, for example. But having both a mother and a father is important. Ask yourself: If a child's parents were killed in an accident, all other things being equal, would it be better for that child to be raised by an aunt and an uncle, or by two aunts? If a little boy's mother died in childbirth, would it be better for him to be raised by his father and aunt or by his father and uncle?

Does he feel that a child with one parent who dies should be taken away and given to a two-parent (opposite-sex, of course) home. Or should the remaining parent be allowed to keep his/her child? In other words, should having two opposite-sex parents be the law in all cases?

Obviously, the damage done by tearing from one parent a child who has already experienced the loss of the other parent would dwarf any benefit that there might be to placing that child in a two-parent home. Frankly, I'm a little surprised that Mr. Miller would even think this comparable to Mr. Bianco's examples. At any rate, people whose spouses die can remarry. That is to say that being single is not an inherently permanent state, which is not presumed to be true of homosexuality.

3. "All the studies show that the children of gay parents are no more or less likely to be gay themselves."

Irrelevant, and ridiculous. Irrelevant because those studies (and there are also studies that say the opposite) focus on the sexual orientation of the parents, not the gender of the parents. And ridiculous because it just doesn't make sense. Given the number of people raised in repressive environments where coming out is less likely, doesn't it make sense that there would be some measurable difference just because gay parents aren't homophobic? Finally, my concern about same-sex parenting is not that it will make the kids gay, but that it will deny the kids a mother or a father.

I agree with David that these studies are irrelevant to this debate. Just as irrelevant as the studies that gay relationships are less stable than heterosexual relationships.

Mark's strategy, here, seems to be to cede the point, but to make a rhetorical consolation prize of one of the other side's arguments. The shift to the latter studies is mistaken because they address a separate dynamic of marriage. Bianco's comment has to do with whether children whose parents are in stable gay relationships are more likely to be gay, which is an outcome for the child that, to the extent that it is a possibility, may or may not be related to other factors of the child's well-being (all of which are relative to their probable state in different circumstances, such as an orphanage). The studies mentioned by Miller have to do with the actual stability of the parents' relationship, which is an entirely separate (and probably more important) factor.

Who would be a better bet for an adopted child: a couple that has been married for years with no significant problems, or a couple that is merely shacking up? Stability matters. (And no, this rhetorical question is not meant to characterize all gay relationships, just to illustrate a point.)

Apparently, restrictions of the Blogger software make the posts over at MarriageDebate.com a little confusing. All posts are attributed, where posts are generally attributed, to Eve; however, the comments to which I've responded above were actually by Mark Miller, as indicated at the top of his post. I have changed the text above to correct my mistake.

Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:50 PM EST


The debate on all issues surrounding gay marriage is finally starting to take place, as Eve's debate and your intellignet comments above indicates. But amongst the details albeit important, I think sometimes we forget the big picture, which this excellent article from Sam Schulmann indicates. Check it out and let us know what you think.


tito @ 11/24/2003 08:48 AM EST

Frankly, only the Catholic Church is able to give a consistent, coherent response to pro-homosexual "marriage" arguments. Any individual or group that approves of divorce and/or artificial contraception has already ceded the fundamentals to the pro-homo side: marriage by its nature really isn't supposed to be stable and fecund.

ELC @ 11/24/2003 12:14 PM EST


I agree, for the most part (although I want to clarify that I read you to be putting the "isn't" in the mouths of those with whom you disagree, or else to have meant "is").

The problem is that the Catholic response has been maneuvred outside of the debate as irrelevant in a civic discussion. That points to another front that enters into the current battle: at issue is how we determine what sort of society ours will be, which is a question that does admit beliefs, religious or not.

But as a practical matter, we're having to work around the argument from religion.

Justin Katz @ 11/24/2003 12:57 PM EST

putting the "isn't" in the mouths of those with whom you disagree? Yes. Sorry I wasn't clearer. And I was addressing the larger issue of argumentation, not merely those arguments that may/can/will be employed in the political sphere.

ELC @ 11/24/2003 02:18 PM EST

I was not the least bit surprised that the same-sex marriage decision confirms what I have said about the general direction of family policy. State legislatures and the United States Congress have made enormous investments in transforming family law to the state it is in today. Despite decades of controversy, both parties (in all branches of government) have steadfastly worked toward the legal abolition of marriage (as we knew it) and the elimination of naturally derived family rights. While meaningless threats from activist social conservatives fill the air, it is unlikely that any effective action will be taken to address the root causes of this radical change.

Same-Sex Marriage and the Marriage Movement

Roger F. Gay @ 11/25/2003 06:54 AM EST


Interesting article.

I hope the winds are changing. The circumstances of this particular issue seem to be about as conducive to stopping the momentum as we're likely to see again. I certainly plan to do all that I can to inspire people to dig in their heels and push back.

But, of course, the forces on the other side are extremely powerful... including the courts, which ought to be first on everybody's list of institutions to reclaim.

Justin Katz @ 11/29/2003 10:49 PM EST