Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Hank and John Green on Gay Marriage

So Hank and John Green have a popular video blog, and are known collectively as vlogbrothers. Recently the two rode the trending train and each decided to publish a video giving their full support for gay marriage. Their arguments are all over the place and basically boil down to there are lots of religions and lots of people have lots of different ideas therefore we cannot say anything about morality. Actually this is the argument used by most nonbelievers on most subjects.

I'm mostly going to focus on John's video right now.

John says marriage has meant many things in history. He says the white dress and the priest at the wedding are all relatively new things, therefore gay marriage is okay. Lot of flaws in the argument here. Christian marriage has always been between a man and a woman. The same understanding has been attached to it also. I'm only speaking of Catholicism here. Marriage is a sacrament given to the spouses by the spouses. The priest simply acts as a witness. The concept though is the same.

But John also uses as evidence that Christian marriage has changed because Solomon had MANY wives. Newsflash: Soloman was not Christian, so this point is irrelevant.

John says that many religions have different ideas of marriage, BUT what he forgets like most people is the commonality all these ideas shared. It has ALWAYS been between a man and a woman. Now, some religions say a man could enter into another marriage contract with another woman. But that's also a marriage with a man and a woman. The man just does this many times. This is not a Christian concept though. But no culture has ever recognized two men or two women as married to each other.

Where does marriage come from? It has been noted that if it weren't for children proceeding from the union of a man and a woman, the whole idea of marriage would never have come about. What people like John want to do is to say that marriage is all about feelings of affection between two persons. Well if that's the definition, then anything would be allowed.

In Ancient Greece, gay relationships were common, but they were never recognized as marriage. The idea would seem totally absurd.

John goes on to say basically who are we to limit legal contracts between two individuals. Well, that's not the issue. Civil partnerships have given gays the ability to enact a legal contract, but that has never been enough. No gay rights group has ever said okay we have civil unions, we're done now. They demand to have their relationship labeled a marriage.

The next thing is if gay marriage is allowed, why isn't polygamy? How can we discriminate against three people who want to enter a union (or two women who decide to marry the same man). This is also discrimination. And if any grouping of people can be called a marriage then it completely loses any real meaning. What interest would the state have in protecting this??

The state is not recognizing love or a relationship or giving approval for a certain sexual union. The state recognizes marriage because they are good for society and children are best raised by their own parents.

If the state recognizes gay marriage, then it should probably just abandon the whole area and just let the churches and other religious institutions recognize who they want.


  1. I would assert that there are no compelling non-religious reasons to prohibit same sex marriages. If this is true, it is a violation of the Constitution to do so. Any argument against gay marriage would have to demonstrate a "compelling state interest" in order to create an exception to the first and fourteenth amendments. If you have any such proposals, I'll be happy to discuss them with you.

  2. You first have to grant that marriage is something other than the union of a man and a woman. So you are already proposing changing the definition. So what's your definition? Whatever it is, it is probably discriminatory to someone and according to your logic, it should be expanded to include whatever anyone wants it to be. Once marriage can be anything at all, why does the state have any interest in having any role in marriage whatsoever?

  3. The definition of marriage has changed over time from both religious and secular viewpoints. Even within Christianity. But this really doesn't matter because you have to use religious ideas to define it in the way you would propose. For most most modern people, marriage has to do with taking on the rights and responsibilities of family. Whether this is between two married people alone or with their natural, step, or adopted children. The state has an interest in fostering this because family is beneficial to society. And the above scenarios describing family fit both hetero and homosexual marriages. The only rationale for excluding same sex couples is a religious one. As such exclusion is a violation of the equal protection clause of the Constitution, and of the first amendment's restriction of endorsement of strictly religious ideas, and the constitution does not define marriage in gender specific terms, opposition to same sex marriage does not have a legal leg to stand on.

  4. But your definition is discriminatory to polygamists who believe their way of life is just as good as any other. Why should they be denied the right to marry also? Are you opposed to polygamy because of your religious beliefs? And who is to judge whether a "marriage" is a good one or not. Christians give their opinion as to what constitutes a good marriage, but you say Christians have no right to impose their beliefs on others. So then no one should have any right to tell anyone else what marriage really is. And if there is no definition and anyone can decide what marriage is or isn't, what exactly is the state protecting? My bottom line is, if anything can be marriage, then nothing is marriage.

  5. First I must say that civilized discussion (read any comment thread on any Internet source) is so rare that it warrants acknowledgement that I really appreciate the thoughtful discussion herein, which I think is instructional to viewpoints across the board. Thank you. Now, as for your last point, I don't agree that allowing gay marriage necessitates allowing any marriage. There are indeed compelling legal concerns that should lead us to deny polygamy. But, as we agree on this, I see little point of pursuing the issue. There are religious arguments, too, but my argument is a legal one. I also disagree that Christians have no right to impose their view on others. They do. It just can't be legally done solely on religious grounds. The thing you, or any legal claimant seeking to deny marriage of same sex couples, must first do is define marriage in a way that appeals to the interest of the state. Obviously, "between a man and a woman" is the starting point for most on your side. But this is an incomplete definition, open to the kind of invalid slippery-slope argument you propose regarding polygamy above. What you must do is fill in the rest of what marriage means and demonstrate that there is a compelling, secular reason to delineate between sexes on the matter.

  6. Yes you're right, and I appreciate your civility. Can you explain how, from a legal standpoint, gay marriage can be allowed but polygamy is prohibited, assuming we are dealing with voluntary parties. Gay marriage, in the grand scheme of things is a novelty, it has little or no history, especially in our Western culture. In fact, it could be argued that polygamy has a longer track-record than gay marriage and has been accepted in some quarters. Plus, arguments could be made as to how polygamy is closer to heterosexual marriage than gay marriage. But beyond a moral or religious argument, how can you justify what some would say it bigotry toward polygamists. How can you impose your moral code on them? Why do they not have the legal right to enter into a voluntary union?

  7. Once again, as we agree on the issue of polygamy, I don't see the point of pursuing it. A: It's not the issue before us, and B: it's a slippery slope argument. These kinds of arguments are incredibly easy to forward and assume that any movement in a given direction leads to any and all points in that direction. I could say that heterosexual marriage leads to polygamy in the same way. Or that it leads to gay marriage. Or that prohibitions against gay marriage lead to prohibitions against interracial or interfaith marriages. These are not sound arguments. Also, your appeal to tradition is problematic, for much the same reason. It is connected to my above criticism in that at various points in history, tradition would prevent interracial marriage, or support polygamy. But I'd like to move on to my previous question about your definition of marriage.

  8. Definition of marriage... what definition of marriage? I'm coming here a bit late (understatement) but my primary concern is that it is not actually possible to define marriage as you would like, at least not with respect to modern laws.

    Marriage, in medieval times, was never regulated by royalty. In the earliest times it wasn't regulated by a church either. Social regulation of marriage came about through the church as a way to regulate adultery. It was only when regulation of marriage was used in civic institutions to establish lineage, inheritance rights and status as nobility that marriage became capable of becoming a secular "right." America has long since given up on both the divine right of secular kings (for good reason) and the harmful nature of adultery (for dubious reasons), so marriage in the most traditional sense has lost most every ounce of its strictest traditional meaning.

    The only other argument in favor of maintaining the establishment of marriage as a civic institution at all is the "personal" argument, that marriage maintains familial ties and protects the rights of children to be raised by parents.

    Before I delve into this proper, I want to note that homosexual partners empirically cannot procreate together (yet). Any supposed right of children to be raised by *their own* parents can only be harmed by the "biodad" or "biomom" system. Sperm and egg donorship are really just politically correct terms for the premeditated orphaning of a child by one of that child's biological parents, admittedly with the understanding that the child will be adopted immediately by the other parent and their partner. This is true of both homo- and hetero- sexual marriages. In strict biological terms, a vast portion of our bodies and minds are genetically pre-determined; which is why it has always seemed to me like a terrible idea to deliberately separate a child from the personal insights of the person who grew up with half that child's genetic code.

    Returning to the personal argument itself, it seems extremely obvious that if the familial bond were important to our society, we would not have passed stringent anti-marriage legislation back when women's rights were first getting off the ground. How can we harbor the familial bond argument at all when pro-divorce politics left the intended beneficiaries, women in abusive relationships, open to men who were abusive in abandonment, rather than in physical violence. I think that shatters the coherence of the familial bond argument far more effectively than any pro- or anti- homosexual legislation could mend.

    So what is marriage in modern terms? I'd like to think that it's not a sex license... is it a license more generally to love someone? Then sure, let homosexuals love who they will. But if marriage is just a license to love, then why is the government even regulating love in the first place when love outside of marriage is not criminal? Is the only "compelling state interest" to give people a chance to make the institution mean what they want it to mean? Does that even make any sense?

    On second thought maybe it makes sense in the context of tax breaks. Except that it does not make sense to say that the married couples need the tax breaks more than the struggling single parents who ended up on the wrong end of the divorce laws.

    In sum: pro-divorce laws have destroyed the ability of marriage to make parents stay together who would not have anyway; the abuse where a man abandons children with multiple partners has been decriminalized; and the establishment of lineage is no longer a social construct necessary to determine one's status in the world. All this says that marriage is meaningless as anything other than a regulation of love.

  9. I would like to point out that many Native American religions not only allowed their gays to marry, but also honored them as they were special two-spirit people. Though these religions are not modern, worldwide religions, they are/were religions nonetheless as the current standard is that 3 people must follow the religion to be considered on.