Monday, July 4, 2011

Same Sex Marriage - it just isn't dangerous

I'm still enjoying life at Camp Coleman, which means that I'm pretty unplugged from the outside world. I get the basic news and such, but I don't have any feel for what's really making the rounds. So, I don't know if many people noticed, or cared, that David Frum happily gave up the fight against same-sex marriage.

Frum was, for a long time, one of the more vocal mainstream opponents to same-sex marriage. His opposition was based mainly on the danger that he believed it posed to marriage as a wider institution, and to families, in general. Well, he says, that's just not a tenable position, any more:

...the case against same-sex marriage has been tested against reality. The case has not passed its test.

Since 1997, same-sex marriage has evolved from talk to fact.

If people like me had been right, we should have seen the American family become radically more unstable over the subsequent decade and a half.

Instead -- while American family stability has continued to deteriorate -- it has deteriorated much more slowly than it did in the 1970s and 1980s before same-sex marriage was ever seriously thought of.

There seem to be two basic arguments against allowing men and women to marry someone of the same gender. One is that it's just wrong. That one is most often phrased in religious terms - God doesn't approve, and so on. The other is Frum's former argument, that it's somehow dangerous.

Well, I suppose that you can still hold the former view, if you'd like. People's certainty about what God does and doesn't like continues to amaze me, as does their often arbitrary fidelity to some parts of the Bible. But, it's not an argument which can ultimately be logically refuted, I suppose.

But, that other argument? The one which posits that somehow society will be destroyed if men are allowed to marry men, and women to marry women? Sorry, but I think that one is dead. Besides the fact that it never made much sense*, it's now been proven, in the laboratory of the world, to be wrong. Gays and Lesbians get married - all of the time. And, sorry to say, there are no side-effects.

* you know, it's been on overused joke for some time, now. "No one has ever seen two men walking down the street, holding hands and thought, 'Hey - that looks great! I think I'll leave my wife and give that a try!'" But, the fact that it's a joke shouldn't take away from the fact that it contains a very important truth. The idea that same-sex marriage is somehow dangerous to other institutions may sound compelling, but it doesn't hold up to any serious scrutiny. I think that the burden of proof would be on those who make that argument - how, exactly, do you see this as dangerous? Draw me that line, from one to the other, would you? From what I've seen, the attempts to do so are fairly pathetic.

By the way, can someone who opposes same-sex marriage tell me why it's the marriage part that is the problem? I mean, even if we do ban it, men and women are living together, as married couples, without any official sanction. And (I'm shocked - shocked! - to see that) they've been doing this for a very long time. How, exactly, will giving them civil rights have an impact that simply letting them live as if they were married won't? I mean, I'll see Frum's retraction and raise it - same-sex marriage hasn't been tested since 1997. It's been tested ever since two men, or two women, decided not to lie about living together and sharing their lives.

So, I guess that what I'm trying to say is that if you oppose same-sex marriage - well, you have every right to do so, I guess. But, please stop pretending that you are holding that view in the name of some larger, more noble value. The only reason left, it seems, is hate.


Lisa Robbins said...

Well-said and well-written, Rabbi Rosenberg.

jonz23 said...


I want to be careful with my wording before I ask you this question, as the way I perceive your statement (and I could be 100%wrong here) I find offensive.

If you're not using the "bible argument" to voice opposition to redefining marriage (and that is not my reason for my opposition), are you saying that all opposition is motivated by hate and bigotry?

I'm not sure how familiar you are w/ Dennis Prager, a fellow Jew and talk show host/author/columnist, but he is opposed to redefining the definition of marriage. Here's a clip of him on CNN from the other day. Is Mr. Prager a bigot, or motivated by hatred and bigotry?

I look forward to your response. Thank you.

Rabbi Jason Rosenberg said...

Jonz23 - your link isn't working for me, so I can't respond directly to Prager. I'll try again later, but can you summarize his arguments for me?

What I'll say for now is that I may have been a bit strident, or maybe just a bit sure of myself. Are there arguments out there that don't boil down to either 1) it's bad for society, or 2) it's just wrong/evil/immoral? If there are, then I haven't heard them.

When I've heard Prager talk about this in the past, he's always used a combination of these two arguments - our society has lost its moral compass, and that's why things are so bad. This is just one more step down that slippery slope. If he's saying something else here, then I'm open to hearing it!

jonz23 said...

I believe you have to cut and paste the link into your browser. For some reason, it won't just provide a direct link.

Prager makes a few points in debating w/ an advocate of redefining marriage to include members of the same sex. Such as, if someone is opposed to the redefining of marriage, you are akin to a racist. Prager also noted the role that "gender doesn't matter" anymore, according to advocates of redifining marriage.

I know of a girl who was raised by two lesbians for parents. She is angry at her parents for deliberately raising her w/out a father. I like to think that both sexes matter equally as parents.

Notice that the redefining of marriage has always been done by politicians or judges. In other words, any time a state of the US has voted on same sex marriage, it's been voted down. Including California and Oregon. The latter especially known for its progressive, liberal politics. Were all those people who voted against it a bunch of bible thumping, intolerant bigots?

I'd be ok w/ some type of "civil union". But to radically redefine the defition of one of society's oldest institutions is not necessary, and will cause more harm than good.

What really irks me is that the left generally accuses conservatives of bigotry and hatred. Are you against race based affirmative action? Must be due to racism of blacks. As a US Congressman said a few years ago, "They don't say n-word anymore, they say 'let's cut taxes'". I'm sick of my positions being labeled as bigotry, racism and intolerance.

Rabbi Jason Rosenberg said...

jonz23 - first of all, I don't know you, so I certainly have no reason to think that you are a bigot, bible-thumping or otherwise. I'm talking about one view which you hold, with which I strongly disagree.

If you want to claim that it's not due to some bigotry or intolerance, than I ask you, in all sincerity, to make your case. But, in your latest response you:

1) attack liberals as a group, which may or may not be valid, but doesn't really seem applicable to this argument. It's really just ad hominem.

2) cite one example of a girl raised by lesbians, who is angry about it. Of course, studies show that, on average, kids raised by same-sex parents are not resentful of it. In fact, they show a significantly lower rate of many social ills - they are better adjusted, on average, than kids raised by both genders. So, while I'm not claiming that it's better to be raised by a same-sex couple, it's hard to show that it's worse.

3) Claim that "it will do more harm than good." Back to our starting point. There's no evidence that it will do any harm, whatsoever.

Like I said before, my first post was probably a bit crude, in using the word "hatred." I know that there are some people who, for religious reasons, are against same-sex marriage, but feel honestly terrible about it - they wish they could do something to change it, but feel that they can't. Fine - not everyone who opposes same-sex marriage is a bigot, on whole. But, I still maintain that it's a view which is inherently bigoted. It discriminates against a large, innocent group of people, and does so without logical reason or benefit.

Once again, if you can provide a reason, other than "it's inherently bad," to oppose same-sex marriage, please do so. As far as I can tell, you still haven't.

jonz23 said...


Thank you for your clarification and not lumping all people against the redefinition of marriage as bigots.

You say I attack liberals as a group---if I gave that impression, my apologies. There is definitely a segment of liberals, however, that do attack anyone that is opposed to redefining marriage as a hateful bigot. All liberals? Of course not. Generalizations are generally wrong (as you alluded to in your previous statement of all “non re-definers of marriage” as bigots). But in California, for example, opponents of “Prop 8” were labeled “Prop Hate”. Websites were started w/ names of people who donated money opposed to Prop 8, for the purpose of blacklisting their business, or ruining their Hollywood/movie career. Look this up if you doubt the veracity. This is possibly the most emotionally charged issue out there, and feelings run high.
You claim that my view doesn’t make me a bigot, but the view itself is inherently bigoted and discriminates against a group of people. But this is a “new” issue, relatively speaking, in our history. What leaders, secular or religious, spoke about this important need for two members of the same sex to marry? Jesus? Moses? Buddha? Socrates? Redefining marriage has only really circulated maybe 30-40 years ago. It’s a fairly new cause de celebre.

I’m always skeptical of the phrase “studies show…” What studies? Studies w/ people w/ no "gay agenda"? University of Chicago professor Don Browning has said essentially we know next to nothing about how same sex couples would raise children, because there simply aren’t large scale studies done on this issue. So with all due respect, I don’t buy your faulty premise on that statement. Sanctioning the redefinition of marriage delegitimizes and makes gender irrelevant (which impacts children). And while I’m not an alarmist that thinks this will open the door for someone to marry a goat or a cat, it does open the door for something along the lines of a polygamous, three way type of marriage. Cries of discrimination would shriek out for these oppressed people. Who is the government to tell someone not to marry a man AND a woman?
Marriage has been defined for thousands of years. While many well intentioned people want to feel good about themselves and their gay friends, it’s an opinion based on emotion and feeling.

Let’s have marriage stay the way it has been defined, and not changed by activist politicians.

Jerry said...

Two issues for me: no one has proven any harm to children, society, the institution of marriage, or religious institutions through the legalization of same-sex marriage. Any attempt to prove harm has been a singular case (e.g. jonz23's bitter daughter-raised-by-lesbians) or pure speculation.

Second, Biblical law, no matter how strongly you believe in it, has no place defining secular law in the US. Any argument citing ANY passage of the Bible, for or against any legal position, is immediately void therefor.

I think this comes down to people's "ick factor" more than any rational argument against gay marriage. Unfortunately, a lot of people's "ick factor" turns into a "hate factor" when confronted with the reality of two people wanting to create a life together and enjoy the same privileges and responsibilities every other American enjoys in such a union.

Rabbi Jason Rosenberg said...

Jerry - I purposefully left that part out, but I couldn't agree more. Without a "harm" argument, all we're ledt with are "religion" arguments (implicit or explicit). Even if you hold to these, they simply have no place in public policy discourse!

Jerry said...

There a couple other arguments of jonz23 that need to be addressed.

First is the "slippery slope" argument. While he leaves out animals, he brings marriages of three or more people into this argument. Simply done...leave the definition at two PEOPLE, then.

And while he says that marriage has been defined for thousands of years, he apparently ignores that the definition of marriage over that those thousands of years has changed substantially. It has included multiple partners, marriage between siblings, marriage sanctioned by a church, marriage as a civil contract, marriage as a declaration between two people, common law marriage, bans on marrying outside one's own race, religion or nationality, and other definitions. Marriage is not the static ideal that some believe. It is not even the ideal state for many people. For those who would choose it, it has advantages that are part of civil law in the US. To deny access to those advantages is deny the civil rights of millions of Americans. To me, the matter is that simple.