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Un/Ravelling One Thread from the Same-Sex Marriage Franchise Skein

The debate on extending the franchise of marriage to same-sex couples appears mired in a contradiction? Advocates of extending the franchise claim that doing so merely gives same-sex couples equal rights status. Advocates of maintaining the current arrangement argue that same-sex couples are seeking special rights, not merely equal rights. On this point, who is right and who is wrong?

The short answer is both parties are right and wrong. How can this be? I think that the path to this answer is well-served by a detour to the heart of American philosophy, specifically to the porch of William James:


“Some years ago, being in a camping party in the mountains, I returned from a solitary ramble to find everyone engaged in a ferocious metaphysical dispute. The corpus of the dispute was a squirrel – a live squirrel supposed to be clinging to one side of a tree-trunk; while over against the tree’s opposite side a human being was imagined to stand. The human witness tries to get sight of the squirrel by moving rapidly round the tree, but no matter how fast he goes, the squirrel moves as fast in the opposite direction, and always keeps the tree between himself and the man, so that a glimpse of him is never caught. The resultant metaphysical problem now is this: Does the man go round the squirrel or not? He goes round the tree, sure enough, and the squirrel is on the tree; but does he go round the squirrel? In the unlimited leisure of the wilderness, discussion had been worn threadbare. Everyone had taken sides, and was obstinate; and the number on both sides were even. Each side, when I had appeared therefore appealed to me to make it a majority. Mindful of the scholastic adage that whenever you meet a contradiction you must make a distinction, I immediately sought and found one, as follows: “Which party is right,” I said, “depends on what you practically mean by “going round” the squirrel. If you mean passing from the north of him to the east, then to the south, then to the west, and then to the north of him again, obviously the man does go round him. But if on the contrary you mean being first in front of him, then on the right of him, then on his left, and finally in front again, it is quite obvious that the man fails to go around him, for by the compensating movements the squirrel makes, he keeps his belly turned towards the man all the time, and his back turned away. Make the distinction and there is no occasion for any farther dispute. You are both right and both wrong according as you conceive the verb “to go around” in one practical fashion or the other.”

James’ sage advise about seeking a distinction points towards examining what is meant both by ‘equal rights’ and ‘special rights’. Prior to doing so, it will be useful to consider how rights formulations are calibrated.

In general, in considering what duties and responsibilities we can be said to hold towards each other in terms of rights, modes of conduct can be seen as things that should be celebrated, tolerated, or not tolerated. Celebrated refers to those forms of conduct that should be promoted by principles, policies, and practise. Tolerated refers to those forms of conduct that are not deemed worthy of special support, but that are also not bad enough to be sanctioned against. That which should not be tolerated is sanctioned against.

With regard to the question of same-sex marriage, the categories of celebrated, tolerated, and not tolerated serve to provide the distinction between special rights and equal rights. Advocates of extending the marriage franchise to same sex couples perceive that withholding these rights creates a second class of unequal citizens. They believe equal means celebrated. Advocates of maintaining the current arrangement, while allowing for civil unions, perceive the marriage franchise as a celebratory right/rite and same-sex coupling as something to be tolerated. They believe equal means tolerated. Advocates of maintaining the current arrangement and denying access to civil unions, on the other hand, fall into the camp of limited toleration and non-toleration.

The point to take here is that both sides in the dispute are talking past each other on the question of what counts as equal or special in the realm of rights. Because they lack the language to understand how the other’s position could be perceived as right, an extra entanglement is added to the akimbo skein. This is not to say, however, that acquiring this language is a panacea for the ill will inherent in such a debate. It is not. It’s merely one thread off the tangled skein. One thread is better than none, however, if it stops the crosstalk about who is right about the rights’ question and directs the participants to get at what is really at issue, which is the question of what types of conduct should be celebrated, tolerated, and not tolerated in the community.

PS Does this post remind you of Obama at Notre Dame? I anticipate an answer that depends upon what is meant by “remind you of Obama”. 😉

102 Responses

  1. But you seem to assume that people are talking past each other, instead of using language to either call for, or speak out against, equality.

    • dk,

      I don’t deny that differing views of what counts as equal or special are inherent in how the words are used. In fact, my argument depends upon that perspective.

      The one point I am addressing, as noted in the final sentence of my opening paragraph, is that on the issue of whether or not extending the franchise is an example of equal rights or special rights, both groups can justly claim to be right. Accordingly, crosstalk on what counts as equal sticks here.

      Recognizing that the “what counts as equal” debate stalls on crosstalk, allows people to focus on the principles that ground their sense of the meaning of the word, which places the needle back on the point of contention, which is the question of what we should celebrate, tolerate, and not tolerate in our community.


      • How are you defining “special rights?” Is that in the eye of the beholder?

        • bb,

          “Celebrated refers to those forms of conduct that should be promoted by principles, policies, and practise”

          As quoted above, those who advocate for maintaing the status quo, or less, see marriage rights as special rights. Those who advocate for same-sex marriage, like me, see them as essential to equal rights.

          Yes, it is unequivocally an eye of the beholder situation.


      • I’ll tell you about equal.

        My partner lost his job in November. Because of this, I had to put him on my employer’s health insurance. If we were not second class citizens, my and my employer’s contributions to his insurance would not be taxable. However, because we are second class citizens, those contibutions are taxable. Because of this, we are paying over $1,000 more per year than first-class citizens for the same benefits.

        Now, I understand that there are people who state that their opposition to equal rights use the language of “special rights.” But there is no objective way to explain why my having to pay the $1,000+ extra for my partner’s health insurance is about special rights. Despite your defense of the special rights rhetoric, it is only rhetoric. It is simply not objectively sustainable.

        • dk,

          I am not defending special rights rhetoric. I am explaining, apparently not very well, how the argument originates and is applied.


        • Steven, I think the problem with your post is that it does not factor in the reality that the rhetoric on both sides can, in fact, be normatively analyzed.

          Just because both sides have rhetoric does not mean that one side’s rhetoric cannot be normatively correct while the other side’s rhetoric can be normatively false. And, to boot, when advocates of equality dismiss the false rhetoric, it does not necessarily mean that they do not understand the rhetoric; it may also mean that they correctly reject the falseness of that rhetoric.

        • dk,

          Speaking to the correctness of an argument’s form is not the same as agreeing with the jist of the argument. For example,

          All dogs are cats.
          I am a dog.
          Therefore, I am a cat.

          is a good argument because the conclusion follows from the premises. That an argument is good does not make it true because the premises can be false, as in my example.

          It is this sense in which the argument I oppose can be seen as right. It does not make the argument true. Furthermore, to the extent it relies on immoral premises, being correct in form does not make it moral.

          I have not said the moral positions are equivalent. I have said that there is a sense in which their position on marriage rights being special is right, in form. I apologize for not clarifying the distinctions in the post.


        • Steven,

          But if your point is that the “special logic” argument is based upon fundamentally and normatively incorrect premises, then why even bother trying to put it on a level playing field with an argument that is normatively correct?

          The problem with doing what you are doing in the post is that you are implying that those with the normatively correct argument are failing to understand the fact that those who are incorrect are relying on an argument to cover their wrongness. I would argue that this has little, if any, to do with reality.

        • dk,

          Good points.

          Because the debate is about establishing normativity.

          Because it is possible to be logical and wrong, it is important to get at the premises to show their flaws. The whole idea behind debating issues is that people can be convinced that their view should be modified. Unless we are merely speaking of manipulating their worldview, we are left with showing the flaws in their perspective. If we are appealing to reason, then we must presuppose their reasonableness. Ergo, we should acknowledge their logicality, while showing the flaws in their premises.


        • dk, I think he was just pointing out their argument without judgment. I don’t believe he needs to point out that that judgment may be implicitly flawed to explore the argument. You’re providing an additional insight into the thought. I don’t believe he put up anything that contradicts your judgment because he just didn’t add a pejorative exploration of their rationale.

        • Well, but I think Steven is the one making a pejorative judgment on those who advocate equality, namely that they are “talking past” those who are normatively wrong, or that they “lack the language to understand” those who are wrong.

          This has nothing to do with inability to understand. It is quite the opposite. Those who believe in equality, who understand that this is an issue of equal rights, understand the normative falseness of the “special rights” position.

        • yes, dk, but isn’t understanding their frame, implicit to the notion that you can reason with them? If you can’t deal with their frame, then even when you do your level best at explaining how off base they are, they don’t get it. We need them to get it and I see that we have to change their frame by engaging that frame on multiple levels.

        • Well dakinat, I think you raise two separate issues.

          First, do we understand their frame? I think people on the side of equality (at least those who are truly engaged in the issue) tend to understand the framing of the other side quite well. This is my major problem with Steven’s post. He seems to imply we don’t understand.

          Secondly, will engaging the anti-equality folks using their frames be an effective way to try to change minds? I would say no, because, as all of us including Steven seem to agree here, it is not the frame itself that is the problem, it is underlying assumptions of their frame that are incorrect. So, it is not an issue of trying to understand their frame, or speak their language.

        • dk,

          In the example I provided, did James excoriate either view? No. He merely said that their difference in opinion was basen upon a different way of seeing the question, and that the different way of seeing had somewhat disabled their ability to see the others viewpoint.

          I said,

          “The point to take here is that both sides in the dispute are talking past each other on the question of what counts as equal or special in the realm of rights.”

          and that a lack of the language to sort through the point caused this specfic impasse

          If I have been perjorative concerning , is it not to both groups?

          From the ancients to feminist standpoint theorists and beyond, it is commonplace to acknowledge the way our individual perspectives can limit our abilities to empathize with those of others. In fact, this is why diversity is seen to enable cosmopolitanism.

          As noted elsewhere, I am a proponent of affirmative action. I agree with creating special rights as a means of working to correct historical injustices. I recognize that some equal rights activists disagree with creating special rights. You appear to claim that there is a normatively right perspective on what counts as equal rights. Whose position is normatively false when considering whether afirmative action benefits or harms the pursuit of equality?


        • But this post is not about affirmative action, it is about equal rights for gays and lesbians. It is normatively the case that gay marriage is about equal rights, not special rights (unless, of course, it is in a society that accepts the idea that some people deserve second-class citizenship). I pointed to a clear example of that in my very first comment with respect to health benefits.

          If your point is that the anti-equality folks have built an internally logical claim on a normatively incorrect foundation (the foundation being that marriage rights for gays and lesbians would be special rights, not equal rights) then that point makes sense. But it is not the case that pro-equal rights people fail to understand this.

          Why should people who understand this be spoken of pejoratively? There is no reason to do so.

        • dk,

          Inflict not every injury thou canst upon an enemy because it is possible that one day he may become thy friend. – The Gulistan of Sa’di

          Normative standards vary by group, unless you are upholding the categorical imperative, which, nonetheless, is governed by hypothetical imperatives in practise and, therefore, acknowledges that different people would do choose to do differently in a particular circumstance, regardless of which shoes they would find themselves in. This accounts for why different individuals and different groups experience the world in the ways they do.

          As someone who supports same-sex marriage, I count as an example of someone who acknowledges that the opponents hold different premises. Accordingly, I am happy to acknowledge that my lack of a qualifier about not everyone lacking a knowledge of the celebrated, tolerated, and not tolerated lens of seeing disputes, might have unfairly categorized those who hold this perspective, including me.


        • Hmm. Well, I suppose if what you are willing to concede is that:

          1) people who believe that gay marriage is a “special right” are wrong, and

          2) people who believe that gay marriage is a matter of equality, and not special rights, understand that the problem with the anti-equality folks is their fudamental belief that gay marriage is a special right, and not the logically consistent arguments they use to justify that fundamentally wrong fundemantal belief,

          then I suppose I agree with you.

        • dk,

          My point is that they see the institution of marriage as a manifestation of a special right that they do not want to confer to same-sex couples. They do not want to share this special right.

          As a single person, who lacks some of the benefits that are available to couples (who are recognized as such under the law), it is clear to me that couples have rights that single people do not. In fact, couples have a special right that I can only share by being in a legally recognized relationship. Couples receive these benefits because as a society we celebrate the value of couplehood to society.

          Affirmative action and couplehood benefits are good examples of special rights that are available to respective classes of citizens as a way of promoting the social good. Citizens who are not of these classes are considered to be equal in all other respects.

          I do not think the problem is that they see marriage as a special right. The fact that couples receive benefits that singles do not proves couplehood brings special rights. I think the problem lies in why they think same-sex couples are not worthy of sharing those rights.

          The point of my post was to clarify where the notion of special rights comes from, so that it could not be a sticking point that prevents people from addressing the premises that found the disenfranchisement perspective. That you and I continue struggle on the point of what counts as a special right is evidence that I have failed to make my point clear.

        • Ah, then I must disagree with you again.

          I believe you are mistaken that anti-equality folks see things the way you describe. And here is where the fundamental dishonesty and/or confusion comes to play with these people. They say that if gay people are allowed the civil rights and benefits that go along with marriage, that gay people will then have special rights that heterosexual people do not have. This, of course, is wrong, because heterosexual people already have access to these rights.

          So, it is not the case that they think that heterosexuals currently have special rights. Rather, they think that heterosexuals are owed these rights, and that gay people, if given these rights, would somehow have special rights (i.e. rights that heterosexual people do not already have), even though factually the rights would be equal to the rights that heterosexual people already have.

          So, your premise, unfortunately, is incorrect. I think this has to do with the question you ask. What you should be asking is why do anti-equality people try to claim that gay people would have special rights, even though in obvious, normative reality it would only mean that they would have equal rights. There, I think there are multiple answers. Some of the anti-equality peole are being dishonest. They know that gay marriage would just provide equal rights, but they employ special rights rhetoric because they hope to gain more followers to their cause by lying. Then, there are the people who are ignorant of the law. These people, of course, are susceptible to the lies told by group #1. Then, there are the people who just don’t really care. They are at least vaguely aware of the truth, but don’t really think it’s a big enough deal to create the minor social unrest that would be involved in advancing society.

  2. What is the definition of marriage?
    Is it a religious ceremony or a state sanctioned living arrangement meant to ensure the orderly transfer of wealth, title and social position from one generation to the next?
    If a religious ceremony then government has no right to interfere.
    If it’s a civil contract to govern inheritance and next of kin rights then not offering it to same sex couples is denying them civil rights.

    • MM,

      Your points are well-taken.

      In fact, given that religions and cultures differ on the forms of marriage that are acceptable, on what basis can one religion or community deny members of other faiths the right to practise their doctrine?

      My answer to that question is alluded to in my post. For example, how many of us think that it is unacceptable to marry a five year-old girl or boy to a 50 year old man or women, in either combination? I imagine that most of us think that this should not be tolerated. What if the younger parties were 13, 15 or 17 years old?


      • But in some parts of the world that is an accepted definition of marriage. Young girls are married to old men. The name of the ceremony is marriage. It’s clear that the cultural perception of gays is rapidly changing and that may solve the problem in the long run. But rights shouldn’t depend on public acceptance. A right is a right period.

        • bb,

          I used James because he is from a school of philosophy known as Pragmatism. One thing common to pragmatists is their belief that how we behave in life informs us what we must believe about the world. Accordingly, I’m interested in how a right becomes a right in practise, because if a right is not a right in practise, there is a strong way in which it is not a right at all.

          Did the Declaration of Independence eliminate slavery or extend the voting franchise to women? No, it only created the potential for these actions. How many Americans would have rejected these notions in 1776? The community had to begin to see the problems with slavery and disallowing women the vote before the right became a right, in any meaningful sense.

          This point is why I wrote this post. It is only through examining what we think is important to and for our society that actions on rights enfranhcisement are undertaken. My sense is that clarifying the point on equal and special rights eliminates one point of confusion.


        • Thanks Steven. You don’t have to explicate William James for me though. I’ve been studying psychology for so long that I’m due to get my Ph.D. in a few days (if I pass my orals tomorrow). I understand the point you are making.

          In the situation we are in now, we not only have certain rights enumerated in the Constitution, but very rapidly changing public perceptions. As often happens, the public is ahead of the politicians on this issue. The evidence for that is that state after state has been legalizing gay marriage recently.

          The point I was trying to make is that marriage is perceived differently in different cultures. In our culture, we don’t favor forcing young girls into marriage, because we have an idea of individual rights and freedom. Right now we also have rapidly changing attitudes toward homosexuality. Some people will never come around on this issue, just as some have never come around on school integration. And I agree there is an analogy with the abortion debate. But in this country, historically we have eventually ended up coming down on the side of equal rights. Sometimes the law or court decision has to come first before the acceptance/celebration happens.

          Right now we have a situation in our government where minority positions on many issues (e.g., wars) are winning because our legislators are corrupted by money and influenced by fear of attacks from vocal minorities.

          At some point, if Obama doesn’t manage to turn this country into a fascist dictatorship, the laws will change. One of the principles our country is based upon is the rule of law. As I said, I believe there has already been a shift in the population toward acceptance of gay marriage.

        • bb,

          I’ve only finished my coursework, and I’m anticipating the long slog that you’re almost through. Congrats, or should I say flip a neuron/break a leg about the defense?

          I agree with your sense of the shift.

          I also agree with your concern about a pendulum swing. The axiom “Rights realization costs resources”, which I mentioned in an earlier post, points to a swing as one outcome of environmental overshoot.

          My adherence to the axiom as a tool of analysis, however, means that I see rights franchises are somewhat plastic and, therefore, not practically unalienable.


          I, further, agree with your perspective on the Plutocratic corruption that is plaguing our democratic institutions.

      • I’m sorry but this argument sounds very much like my former Senator’s, Rick Santorum, man-dog argument.
        We are not talking about pedophilia or beastiality here but living arrangement between consenting adults.

        • MM,

          How did the sense that consenting adults should be able to choose how to live their lives come about?

          Is not my point about 5, 13, 15, or 17, a comment about what constitutes being a consenting adult? Does it change?

          Was there not a time that people, such as slaves, were forced to do innumerable things against their consent?

          Is not the Declaration of Independence, a codification of the concept of the rights enfranchisement of consenting adults? Where did the idea and the practise come from? It came from the people, informed by their sense of how the world should be and how they should treat each other. It did not magically appear. Ultimately, a revolution in thinking was required.


    • It is a legal contract between two people which makes them responsible for and too each other. A next generation may or may not come in to the picture.
      It is only religious if you chose it to be and see it that way and decide to have the person officiating be a member of some clergy.

  3. Exactly. To me this is about civil rights or the lack of them – nothing “round” abut it

    • My bullied son’s last day on Earth (Jaheem Herrera)

      CNN Interviews Mother of Child ‘Bullied To Death’

      Carl walker-hoover & Jaheem Herrera bullied to death, because others ‘assumed’ they were gay. When hate is allowed to grow against gays, it also has other victims, because hate has no logic and is simply destructive! The bullies are a reflection of their parents and their hate.

      Anderson Cooper 360 Bullying Suicide Carl Joseph Walker Hoover Jaheem Herrera

      I agree with edgeofforever! This from a heterosexual that says, everyone should have the opportunity and benefits of marriage, everyone is deserving of Civil Rights and Human Rights. My closing argument is that children of same sex couples deserve all the benefits and protection as those children of heterosexual couples, and to receive all the love and acceptance from the community that all children deserve. When we fail to see the latter all children suffer, all…

      • wv,

        I agree with what you have to say about what is wrong.

        I disagree with edgeofforevers notion that what counts as rights is plain and clear because, if it was, we would all agree and the things that are wrong would not exist.


        • we can’t all agree because some people are bigot and have been brainwashed by society and/or their church.
          That doesn’t make for a good, correct or even rational argument. Not all arguments are equal or deserve respect just because the people who make them believe them.

        • As TeresainPa noted – the mere fact that there is a disagreement doesn’t make the issue murky. Homophobia has been used by the GOP and churches for many years as a wedge issue. People are being indoctrinated. It doesn’t weaken the position that getting married is a civil right. One doesn’t balance the truth with a lie. And truth isn’t democratic either. The number of people disagreeing with it is irrelevant.

        • eof,

          If we were truly equal, then what on Earth would we not equally share? If reasonable unbrainwashed people can disagree on this, with respect to property or person, for example, then what counts as the truth about equality is open to some degree of interpretation.


    • I see it more an issue of equal treatment under the law. I don’t think marriage should be seen as a civil right anyway since it’s basically a completely fabricated institution. That’s totally different than say the right to free speech, the right to privacy, those are civil liberties or rights. Marriage is just a social contract. You want the social contract to be accessible to all equally and fairly. That’s a better approach imho.

      • dakinikat,



      • Dolores Huerta on Equality in Marriage, Human Rights and Choice

        Banning Same-Sex Marriages Is A Form Of Gay Bashing — Coretta Scott King

        I am with Dolores Huerta in that Gay Rights are Civil Rights and that it is a Human Rights issue. The woman has been in the Civil Rights movement most of her life and at her age she is still speaking out about the injustices in the world. The late Coretta Scott King also had it right in my humble opinion too.

      • That’s my point. Sometimes what happened in these issues is that people just go ahead and do what they believe is right. For example, when I was in my early 20s, it was considered sinful for men and women to live together without being married. You could be arrested for it or rejected for housing. Now it’s old hat. The people are usually ahead of the laws, and when they aren’t, sometimes the courts or legislatures have to step in.

  4. I always ask this: What defintion of Marriage?

    You won’t find it in the Constitution.or any holy book.

    • M,

      Your point is well-taken, as was Mr.Mike’s, though it is worthy of note that notions of what constitutes proper forms of marriage are recorded in holy texts.


    • Imho, Any one who takes the definition of marriage in the religious sense should then also argue that it doesn’t belong in the civil arena period.

      I say let the religious define it whatever way the want to in their establishments, but let the state only recognize civil unions period and that is more connected to property transfers, etc.

      Is a civil union/marriage license like a driver’s license or fishing license? Is the state really sanctioning anything or is it just registering something and collecting a fee?

      • I guess my argument is that in a civil sense, there is nothing special about the marriage arrangement other than certain property, inheritance, and tax rights it defers. If some one wants to see more into than that, then can go find some institution to specialize the meaning. Frankly, I think it’s ridiculous to have see the state as ‘sanctioning’ marriages. It’s more of a register. But then, I also think the entire institution of marriage has outlived its usefulness and really only serves now to divide people because every one projects what they want to on to it. For me, it’s a form of legalized indentured servitude and a way for some one else to get their hands on your assets and income. I didn’t realize that when i got married at the ripe old age of 20, it took me a few years to realize that I’d been had.

        • Polygamous marriage is flourishing as the Government admits for the first time that nearly a thousand men are living legally with multiple wives in Britain.

          Although the families are entitled to claim social security for each wife, no one has counted how many of them are on benefits.

          “The Government has no grip on the situation,” said Humphrey Malins, the former Shadow Home Affairs Minister and founder of the Immigration Advisory Service. “This is quite clearly exploitation of women.”

          With the idea of ‘Civil Unions’ women suffer, because they find that one is the ‘Civil Union Wife’, while another is the ‘Religious Wife’. With some pushing for Sharia Law to be accepted here, we could find ourselves in the same problem as Britain with men having several wives and expecting the system to pay for the wives and children.

          Here in the US, I have spoken to women who find themselves hoping that they will be married (some times with several children already) and later begin to hear that maybe they will settle for the ‘spiritual marriage’.

          I learned that one woman was a ‘spiritual wife’ when someone else pressed them for a clear answer on a form and was shocked as I had always thought she was a widow and that she had a poor husband…it turned out she was left poor as a ‘spiritual wife’. Women are always getting the short end of the stick in these arrangements.

        • we have several ‘types’ of marriages here in Louisiana. One is called a covenant marriage. It basically makes it harder for a couple to divorce and tends to be the ones that the Catholics and Baptists push. The other is the more normal Civil type marriage.

          72. Covenant marriage; intent; conditions to create

          A. A covenant marriage is a marriage entered into by one male and one female who understand and agree that the marriage between them is a lifelong relationship. Parties to a covenant marriage have received counseling emphasizing the nature and purposes of marriage and the responsibilities thereto. Only when there has been a complete and total breach of the marital covenant commitment may the non-breaching party seek a declaration that the marriage is no longer legally recognized.

          B. A man and woman may contract a covenant marriage by declaring their intent to do so on their application for a marriage license, as provided in R.S. 9:224(C), and executing a declaration of intent to contract a covenant marriage, as provided in R.S. 9:273. The application for a marriage license and the declaration of intent shall be filed with the official who issues the marriage license.

          C. A covenant marriage terminates only for one of the causes enumerated in Civil Code Article 101. A covenant marriage may be terminated by divorce only upon one of the exclusive grounds enumerated in R.S. 9:307. A covenant marriage agreement may not be dissolved, rescinded, or otherwise terminated by the mutual consent of the spouses.

          Acts 1997, No. 1380, §3; Acts 2006, No. 249, §1.

        • This is precisely why marriage should be abolished.

        • Yeah, me too. Never again!! Not that I have any proposals coming in….

      • all marriages are civil unions. The state doesn’t recognize the religious aspects of marriage, only the legal and that legality is given by the state. But people still want to call it marriage and should be able to do so. Marriage is a legal contract.

      • I agree! Let churches discriminate all they want as to whom they will marry. The law is something different. The closed minded churches will lose members.

  5. This sounds a lot like a bully claiming you want special rights because you don’t want to be hit with his fist.

    See also:
    – Those damn tree-huggers who want special rights not to have their air and water poisoned.
    – Those shiftless working people who demand to be paid for all the time they work.
    – Etc. etc. etc.

    Sorry, because people may or may not be talking past one another doesn’t eliminate right and wrong.

    • what you’re talking about is something that has a social cost or benefit and can be transferred onto a third party who can either free ride, or suffers the result of the consumption or production of the good in a private sense.

      I don’t see marriage as having any externalities and therefore, this argument seems a non sequitor. Externalities have quantifiable costs or benefits. I don’t see how that applies to marriage that seems to not have any external impact on any one, there’s no free riding possible, there’s no external social cost, therefore, it’s not really in the same category at all.

      Better to argue for equal treatment in the eyes of the law.

      • oh, and I would argue equal treatment in the eyes of the law is a right as such

      • Not being allowed to get married has a social cost in terms of tax situation, health insurance, rights to visit in hospitals…

        • I don’t know if you call that a social cost or a private cost born by the folks discriminated against… actually giving people marriage status has the social cost because they get special treatment for that. Not being married doesn’t have that social cost. Every one who doesn’t have health care insurance winds up becoming a social cost, so I’m thinking that falls more under the line of unavailability of health care generally. Rights to visit hospitals are private costs, not social costs.

          Those are more private costs. but then I see that topic as an economist, externalities are a clearly defined economic theory, so it may be your discipline and mine deviate on that.

    • Seems like it’s heterosexuals who want special rights. As racists do. And as ordinary sexists and woman abusers do. The special rights charge is a cynical shuck, an outright lie, and as such needs to be frontally attacked.

      I’m sick of this. Around 1971 I had some friends who, when they couldn’t think of anything else to do that day, would go to City Hall and politely initiate the steps toward getting a marriage license. That’s almost forty years folks.

      I’m sick and tired of the religions of the planet dominating all discourse. I’m sick and tired of the so called holy books being cited as authorities About anything.

      • AM,

        I agree that a denial of a right is a de facto claim for a special right. I think it is best frontally attacked by noting that the grounds for the claim are comparatively weak, in the sense that the moral cost of legitimating the special right is greater than the moral cost of extending the franchise.

        As noted elsewhere, I am a proponent of special rights, (e.g. affirmative action) to overcome historical injustice, therefore, I do not think advocating for special rights, per se, is wrong.


      • Agreed. See that’s what i think, giving a limited group access to the benefits of the social contract (ie health insurance breaks, easy transfer of property rights,) is actually granting special privileges and inherently grants unequal status under the law.

  6. soe,

    Please show me where my effort to clarify the question of equal and special rights eliminates the distinction between right and wrong. What is a discussion concering what our society should celebrate, tolerate, and not tolerate other than a discussion of right and wrong?

    I understand feeling bullied by the special rights argument. I am not that bully.

    I support same-sex marriage. I think “equal, but different”, in this sense, creates second class citizenship. That does not make me incapable of seeing what the opposition means when it claims the marriage franchise is a special right. From this point, I work to show them how extending the franchise is fundamental to equality.


    • Marriage is not a right for anyone. Nobody has any more right to get married than anyone else. It’s a human invention turned conventional tradition. But, to call it a right skews the argument for people who wish to withhold the opportunity to engage in it from others.

  7. CA Sup Court upholds Prop 8 – but existing gay marriages prior to vote may stand.



    California Supreme Court upholds ban on new same-sex marriages, but lets existing marriages stand.

  9. (sorry, meant to say court of last resort)

  10. Let’s cut through the knot, shall we?

    If it’s “special,” it’s not a right.

    If it’s a right, it’s not “special.”

    • os,

      Good cut.

      Notwithstanding, as a supporter of affirmative action, I advocate for special rights as a way to overcome historical injustices. Am I wrong to think this imperative to correct historical injustice is an instance of a special right?


  11. OT:

    But Joseph Cannon needs your help.

    Do what you can.

  12. I know I’m in the minority but I think both sides are wrong. Marriage is not a right. It is a burden. If there were equality then marriage would not exist. I say abolish the institution and let’s start working on true equality.

    As for religious ceremonies, let the churches conduct marriage rituals outside of the legal realm. Let’s keep church and state separate and not fudge the rules for a property exchange ritual that is firmly founded in repression and inequity.

    • gxm17,

      Well noted.

      I agree with your perspective on the separation of church and state.


  13. I said this earlier on [another blog]* *(edited by dkat). Blow this shit out and take it to SCOTUS. March on Washington. Fuck California and the state by state thing. We should not interpret what a marriage is at all. I am for gay marriage, bigamy, polygamy-all of it becaus eit is not the government’s business to say what a marriage is. It is a privacy issue.

  14. I am in moderation for saying a bad word.

    • afrocity,

      Your release is pending, or so it says.


      • You have to release it. Hi Steven I am Afrocity.

        • afrocity,


          I did what I noted below, so, until someone shows up who can release you, we’ll have to be content with a post within a post.


    • afrocity,

      My release powers are not enabled. Should I post yoiur comment within a post I make?


  15. umm, so, if the 18,000 same sex marriages can stand, does that mean the decision is unfair to same sex couples who now can’t get married? Class action suit? And/or, does the existence of valid same sex marriages make Prop 8 moot?

    • Yeah, I would think there would be some basis to challenge something on that, but not being a lawyer, you got me. I always thought that singling out folks for exclusions from things was based on some precedent.. But since there are so many of these laws (including one in my state), it’s going to take a while to find and challenge the right one.

  16. ACLU Responds to Prop 8 Loss

    Message from ACLU’s LGBT project Matt Cole on today’s California Supreme Court’s ruling.

  17. afrocity said:
    We should not interpret what a marriage is at all. I am for gay marriage, bigamy, polygamy-all of it becaus eit is not the government’s business to say what a marriage is. It is a privacy issue.”

    I do not agree. You will end up giving men, and I do mean men, carte blanche to the detriment of women. Next it will be ok for men to have many wives under the age of 12.

    • ITA. A civil union should be the only legally recognized contract between a couple, either same or mixed gender. There is absolutely no reason that the state should be required to endorse religious “traditions” that treat women as chattel.

  18. Historically, and stll in most cultures, “Marriage” is a ritual in which one male cedes chattel rights to another male. The chattel ceded, of course, is a woman. I believe the dyspeptic confusion generated by the idea of same sex marriage is born of not knowing who owns whom in the resulting union.

    If the only role played by the state were to maintain a register of domestic partnerships, regardless of the sex/es if the partners, then marriage becomes just another word in the lexicon. Anyone (or two) could choose to add a religious/spiritual component, or not. The “marriage” designation would not convey any rights to anyone; only the registration of the domestic partnership would.

  19. “We read about cuts and more cuts. But what we don’t see is any sustained attempt to cut out the politics.” — Gavin Newsom
    Support Marriage Equality

    California at its best is a beacon of equal rights and equal opportunities. If we want to prosper together, we must respect each other. That’s why we must resolve to restore marriage equality for all Californians. Let this work start today. Sign our petition for marriage equality.

    Oops forgot the link!

    And DFA ( https://secure.couragecampaign.org/page/contribute/DFA ) is on the move and will launch an ad campaign within the next 48 hours. The video is good and they should get it up on youtube.

  20. Inflict not every injury thou canst upon an enemy because it is possible that one day he may become thy friend. – The Gulistan of Sa’di

    I thought it was a Chinese (Sun Tzu?) proverb:

    “Always leave room for your enemy to become your friend”

    That’s why I object to the scorched-earth tactics of going after opponents of gay marriage.

    • OK, OK, I will leave Miss Russia out of it…oops Miss California and spokesperson for NOM (who directly opposes Marriage Equality and is a political organization). 😯

      BTW: I have never played with matches!

    • myiq,

      It could well be a paraphrase of Sun Tzu’s wisdom, but perhaps it emerged like calculus.

      While I was seeking the quote, I was thinking of the primaries and the term “scorched-earth” was front and center.

      This said, the topic involves a judgment of who counts as a person and to what extent, so it’s normal for people to express their concerns vigorously.


  21. Pelosi promises efforts to restore marriage equality for Californians
    1:46 PM | May 26, 2009

    House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) deemed the California Supreme Court’s decision today to uphold Proposition 8 as “deeply disappointing” in its stripping of marriage rights from same-sex couples.

    “I have long fought for equality for all of California’s families and will strongly support efforts to restore marriage equality in California, so it can join the ranks of states such as Iowa and Vermont,” said the California Democrat.

    NOW, she is for marriage equality?!? Didn’t she advocate, that congress (thus meaning her) stay out of it? Where was she during the election? Have the recent attacks on her, made her see the misogyny she claimed she couldn’t during the primaries and the general?

    Pelosi: Congress should stay out of gay marriage debate
    TAGS: Nancy Pelosi, Gay Marriage
    By ALEX ISENSTADT | 5/6/09

    Read more: “Pelosi: Congress should stay out of gay marriage debate – Alex Isenstadt – POLITICO.com” – http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0509/22178.html#ixzz0GefzuxJC&A


    Nancy Pelosi says it’s not the right time for Congress to decide federal benefits issues of gay marriage.
    Photo: AP

    House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says Congress should stay out of the gay marriage debate, adding that it isn’t the right time for Congress to decide whether married gay couples should have the right to federal benefits.

    Her cool approach to the federal role comes as several states, plus the District of Columbia, have moved to recognize gay marriages.

    “I don’t think the Congress should intervene [in the legalized states] in terms of their recognition of marriages, just as they shouldn’t intervene in New York and their recognition of marriages,” Pelosi told reporters Wednesday.

    Read more: “Pelosi: Congress should stay out of gay marriage debate – Alex Isenstadt – POLITICO.com” – http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0509/22178.html#ixzz0GefkETSQ&A

    She thinks we can’t remember what she said on May 6th, 2009. 😯

    • Help, I am in moderation. 😦

    • Gnarls Barkley – Crazy

      Dedicated to Pelosi, who says one thing on May 6th, 2009 and another on May 26th, 2009! WOOO HOOO, testing the wind conditions or is it those marchers headed towards her congressional office?

      • Gees, that video has a kitty gone postal (oops, linked to the wrong video). Sorry, for kitty in it…I just wanted to point out that it is rather nutty to say one thing and then another within 20 days time.

  22. Why after looking at this do I have the notion that is is veering into a “How many angles can dance on the head of a pin” discussion?

  23. MM,

    As quoted from Peirce,

    “The resultant metaphysical problem now is this..”

    I imagine the answer to the question of how many Angles, Saxons, or Jutes could dance on the head of a standard pin used by tailors is zero, but the answer to the question when it applies to angels is an infinite number, because they are incorporeal.

    Does this result mean you have predicted accurately?


  24. The way I see it: whoever pays taxes is entitled to the same benefits and rights as any other citizen. This is not a religious state based on moral qualifiers. It’s unconstitutional–period.

    • I’d go even further – as we have youngsters, seniors and low income people who don’t pay taxes.
      All citizens should have equal treatment under the law. Period. Not something you purchase by your tax money, but something inherently yours – a human right.

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