Gay Marriage: For It or Against It?

Law professor Andrew Koppelman of Northwestern is quoted this morning in The New York Times as saying the following:

It is becoming increasingly clear to judges that if they rule against same-sex marriage their grandchildren will regard them as bigots.

The gist of The New York Times article as a whole is that the momentum in the courts and in public opinion is putting enormous pressure on the Supreme Court to rule yeah or nay on gay marriage for the whole country. Is civic gay marriage between two consenting adults who pay taxes a matter of equal protection of the laws or not? The Supremes are being put in an existential situation where they’ll have to get off the fence and declare themselves outright.

So many millenia of violence and bigotry against gays and lesbians is being broken down before our very eyes, in our generation. It gets better, and is getting better.

The best book, by the way, on the history of homosexuality–at least in my view–is by Louis Crompton. It’s titled Homosexuality and Civilization (Harvard 2003).


Crompton’s other book on homosexuality focuses on homophobia in Victorian England:


Gay equality is the civil rights movement of our time. Whose side are you on and why?

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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10 Responses to Gay Marriage: For It or Against It?

  1. Staffan says:

    It would depend on what is included in gay marriage. I’m against gays adoptiong children until proper research can show that they fare as well as other children. And by proper I mean for instance not generalizing data from wealthy lesbians living in California.

    As for religious rituals I think that should be as it is here in Sweden, every congregation decides for themselves if they want to wed gays or not (almost all allow it here).

    Although “the civil rights movement of our time” is an overstatement. More like, “yay, I found a cause.” Most of the world isn’t what anthropologists call WEIRD; they lack many of the basic human rights and they are often not that interested in them either. The gay agenda is something you WEIRD (no offence) guys have moved onto because you have given up on that basic stuff but you still want to keep up a positive self-image and the sense of momentum.

    And if you think of homosexuality as part of human nature, you may want to reconsider. Practically all forms of human social behavior is highly heritable – except homosexuality. This has a very low heritability, somewhere around 0.1-0.2. A likely explanation is that it’s caused by a virus or some other pathogen and that there will be a cure some time in the future. A negative attitude to homosexuals on the other hand has a high heritability and is likely a part of our behavioral immune system. If you look at the distribution of this trait, it matches the distribution of infectious diseases pretty well.

  2. Andrew Furst says:

    This brought to mind an interesting perspective. The quote leaves open the question – should judges be acting on how their grandchildren will view them. My first reaction was mixed. Thought 1: shouldn’t judges be focused on constitutionality. I mentioned this perspective to my wife and she only paused for a second. Yes they should consider our grandchildren. Bigotry is in fact a barrier to interpreting the constitution and the fact that it is always slowly deteriorating is a great thing.

  3. Andrew Furst says:

    Staffan, a rhetorical question for you. What research is out there demonstrating that heterosexual couples are more fit to adopt children than gay couples? There maybe some, I’m just posing the question as a lead in to a thought experiment.

    Consider how liberty would fall on this question. A small business starts offering a day care service in your community. They pride themselves in hiring only eunuchs. Say a substantial number of community members rally to pass an ordinance that bans eunuchs from providing day care services because there’s not enough research supporting their aptitude for childcare. This forces the business to shut its doors or at least fire all its eunuchs.

    Is this constitutional? Is this an appropriate local ordinance? Wouldn’t the market be a better mechanism to sort out the effectiveness of this particular arrangement? I realize this isn’t a perfect abstraction of the adoption scenario, but I think it parses out where liberty might fall on some of these issues and what the important questions are.

    You’re entitled to, and in fact should be applauded for your opinion that we should look for data to support positive outcomes for gay couple adoption. It is clearly grounded in concern for the children. Right on.

    The question that interest me is – as a community should we adopt a stance which says, unless a liberty is supported by a certain demonstrated level of competence by a class of citizen, it should be denied to that class. We clearly apply that standard to individual citizen’s when regulating driving, etc. But not to classes of citizens.

    • Staffan says:

      A fair question. Ideally, everyone should be viewed as an individual but I think in real life we need and do look at classes because of the alternatives. To illustrate this, I will provide a thought experiment of my own. Imagine we could test if someone not previously convicted of a crime was a psychopath (and this can soon be the case). Should someone who, for whatever reason, has been tested and found to be a psychopath be allowed to adopt children?

      To me, it comes down to how much the cost is. I like an open and free society, but not at any cost. So it becomes a trade-off. Which is messy but I can’t see any real alternative.

    • Peter Smith says:

      You’re entitled to, and in fact should be applauded for your opinion that we should look for data to support positive outcomes for gay couple adoption. It is clearly grounded in concern for the children.

      When it comes to adoption the interests of the children should be paramount and the interests of the couple are secondary. Children are not toys. Every adoption must be preceded by a rigorous examination of the couple’s suitability to maximise the chance that the children are placed in a good home. This is the golden rule. Given that gay partnerships are notoriously unstable it should be required that their adoptions be examined more carefully for stability. That may sound like discrimination but remember that the interests of the children are far greater than the interests of the couple. As I said before, children are not toys to be used for the pleasure and self-esteem of adults.

      • Andrew Furst says:

        Given that gay partnerships are notoriously unstable..

        I think we could take your argument if your assumption was correct. But I don’t think that it can be stated as a matter of fact.

        In Denmark, UK and the US divorce rates are lower among same sex partners than heterosexuals. In Norway and Sweden it’s the opposite. For now, it doesn’t seem like your argument can’t be proven or refuted, because your assumption is indeterminate.

  4. Peter Smith says:

    Gay equality is the civil rights movement of our time.
    To say I am gobsmacked is a pale shadow of my reaction.

    The sexual practices of a 4% minority are nothing when compared to the staggering suffering and social inequalities of our world. The real civil rights movement of our time should be to secure social and economic justice for the vaster number of the suffering. We are being run ragged as we organize soup kitchens, medical clinics, aid distribution points, renovation of derelict classrooms, help for the unemployed, support for the sick, etc, etc. Our little army of caring Christians is being overwhelmed by the avalanche of suffering.

    We treat the symptoms, we fight corruption, we fight bureaucratic incompetence and indifference, we help the victims of rampant crime but in your eyes the marital rights of a 4% minority are the defining issue. What kind of alternative world do you live in?

    Have you not seen the suffering, the desperation, and the hopelessness that defines the lives of so many people? Have you no compassion?

    • Santi Tafarella says:

      The “our” of “the civil rights movement of our time” is obviously referring to the United States.

      And it’s capitalism, democracy, freedom of speech, freedom of thought, technology, science, and secular medicine–not religion and Mother Theresa–that have been the primary engines for the reduction of poverty in the world since the Anglo-French Enlightenment. When religion dominated the planet, there was far, far greater misery and poverty in the world per capita.

      • Staffan says:

        How about the illegals of the Californian population that pick fruit and work as maids and such? They are seven percent of the population – probably more than the LGBT even in that state. They don’t have basic human rights.

        I agree that Enlightenment has brought material wealth, and initially that also meant less poverty and misery. But where are we now, feeding off half-slaves in Chinese sweatshops? They don’t seem very impressed by Enlightenment values in China, but other countries seem impressed by them,

        Also, while capitalism generates material wealth it also creates a society in which social status and competition becomes the normal way of relating to other people. If you are at the bottom of the hierarchy with no skills to climb the ladder, this translates to killing someone for a fancy jacket or a pair of high end shoes. Which happens all the time – in your country. That’s just one indication of the problem – which no level of material wealth can fix since it’s a zero sum game.

      • Peter Smith says:

        The “our” of “the civil rights movement of our time” is obviously referring to the United States.

        I am glad you have clarified that. So let’s have a look at the situation in the USA, shall we?

        Home foreclosures
        Already some 5 million homes have been lost to foreclosure; estimates of future foreclosures range widely. Zandi, who has followed the mortgage mess since the housing market began to crack in 2006, figures foreclosures will strike another three million homes in the next three or four years.“, See here

        Medical bankruptcies
        Bankruptcies resulting from unpaid medical bills will affect nearly 2 million people this year—making health care the No. 1 cause of such filings, and outpacing bankruptcies due to credit-card bills or unpaid mortgages, according to new data.

        Even outside of bankruptcy, about 56 million adults—more than 20 percent of the population between the ages of 19 and 64—will still struggle with health-care-related bills this year, according to NerdWallet Health.“. See here

        Poverty levels
        In November 2012 the U.S. Census Bureau said more than 16% of the population lived in poverty, including almost 20% of American children,[7] up from 14.3% (approximately 43.6 million) in 2009 and to its highest level since 1993. In 2008, 13.2% (39.8 million) Americans lived in poverty.[8] Starting in the 1980s, relative poverty rates have consistently exceeded those of other wealthy nations.[9] California has a poverty rate of 23.5%, the highest of any state in the country.[10]

        In 2011, child poverty reached record high levels, with 16.7 million children living in food insecure households, about 35% more than 2007 levels.[14] A 2013 UNICEF report ranked the U.S. as having the second highest relative child poverty rates in the developed world (behind Romania).[15]See here

        Do you begin to get the picture? There are serious problems with poverty, home foreclosures and medical bankruptcies that completely and utterly eclipse the sexual practices and marital needs of a tiny 4% of the population.

        To make gay equality the civil rights movement of our time is to show callous, reckless disregard for the suffering of large numbers of people.

        As I said before, the real civil rights movement of our time should be to secure social and economic justice for the vast number of the suffering. I am astonished that you cannot see something so simple and so obvious.

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