Marriage Law and the Oprahfication of Politics

Cultural elites are very excited about the announcement from U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio) that he believes the definition of marriage should be changed to include same-sex couples. His reasoning? Well, he says, his 21-year-old son is gay.

Sample headline and lede from the Columbus Dispatch:

Rob Portman reverses stance on g…

  1. Adam Koslin
    Neolibertarian

    Marriage is far older than American law. It’s probably much older than law, itself. Law never attempted to define marriage, merely to support the existing institution.

    It would be fantastic arrogance todefineit.

    Portman’s son isn’t denied any rights. He can get married anytime he wants. However, he needs to marry a female if he wants his “marriage” to be recognized. 

    No injury.

    Logic. · 17 minutes ago

    The problem is that the U.S. code has already gone to fantastic lengths to “define” marriage, and right now those definitions provide a long, long list of benefits to heterosexual couples that, as of right now, homosexual and other non-traditional family groupings do not receive.  You can claim that injury is just or necessary because the institution of heterosexual marriage is somehow special, and ought to be privileged.  But you can’t deny that there is a material asymmetry in existence.

  2. Fred Cole

    Was Portman Jr. cool with Portman outing him like that in such a public way?

  3. J Climacus
    Taliesin

     

     

     

     

    “Fantastic, mom/dad.  I knew I could count on you.  It’s just that I’m madly in love with this other person.  I want to have with them what you and dad/mom have with each other.  I need you to support me in this; I need you to help me marry them.” 

    “Son, I’d love for you to have what I have with your mother, but the only way to do it is by marrying a woman. I’d be lying to you if I pretended otherwise, and I won’t lie to you, even if I think it would make you feel good (in the short term). For starters, the most important thing your mother and I have together is you, our children, which you obviously can’t have with a man. The physical fruitfulness of our marriage is a good in itself, but it is also a sign of our deep sexual complementarity that goes well beyond the physical down into the deep recesses of our being; we have indeed become one flesh in a way two men never can, no matter how they feel about each other or what you call it. Sorry.”

  4. Adam Koslin
    J Climacus

    Taliesin

     

    “Son, I’d love for you to have what I have with your mother … [snip] … Sorry.” · 28 minutes ago

    Fair enough.  And good luck to you, if you should ever be in the position to try it.  But I highly doubt that it would actually work.

      “We have indeed become one flesh in a way two men never can, no matter how they feel about each other or what you call it…”  No matter how deeply you believe that to be true, that sentiment will never be anything but incredibly hurtful.   At its core you are telling him that what he is, what he has struggled with throughout his whole life, what he has finally come to terms with and is nervously presenting to you in good faith, is irrevocably, irreparably, irredeemably lesser and wrong. 

    I don’t say this because I think we should all be pro SSM — it’s a matter of culture and philosophy and I don’t begrudge anyone their beliefs.  But to expect a father to stand on principle while a tearful child screams “Why do you hate me?!?” I put it to the parents of Ricochet, what wins, love or principle?

  5. J Climacus

    “I don’t say this because I think we should all be pro SSM — it’s a matter of culture and philosophy and I don’t begrudge anyone their beliefs.  But to expect a father to stand on principle while a tearful child screams “Why do you hate me?!?” I put it to the parents of Ricochet, what wins, love or principle?”

    Both win, because love without principle isn’t really love at all. A true father knows that the hardest part of loving his children is telling them truths they don’t want to hear, and that are sometimes painful to hear, not just about sex but about everything. Lying to a son that he can have the same thing with a man that his mother and father have with each other is not love, it’s taking the easy way out of love.

  6. William Smith

    Fantastic arrogance to think that your personal circumstances define reality rather than the other way around. It isn’t even a matter of principle, it is a matter of denying reality, adopting a pretense (pretend marriage) that flies in the face of nature.

  7. OkieSailor

    “Should a conservative determine good policy this way?”

    Of course not Molly; we should leave that kind of un-thinking action to the liberal side where it belongs ;)

  8. Percival

    If the truth hurts, then it hurts.  This in no way diminishes it as the truth, the temporary relief of pretending otherwise notwithstanding.

    Taliesin

      “We have indeed become one flesh in a way two men never can, no matter how they feel about each other or what you call it…”  No matter how deeply you believe that to be true, that sentiment will never be anything but incredibly hurtful.   At its core you are telling him that what he is, what he has struggled with throughout his whole life, what he has finally come to terms with and is nervously presenting to you in good faith, is irrevocably, irreparably, irredeemably lesser and wrong. 

  9. Mack The Mike
    Taliesin

    The problem is that the U.S. code has already gone to fantastic lengths to “define” marriage, and right now those definitions provide a long, long list of benefits to heterosexual couples that, as of right now, homosexual and other non-traditional family groupings do not receive.  You can claim that injury is just or necessary because the institution of heterosexual marriage is somehow special, and ought to be privileged.  But you can’t deny that there is a material asymmetry in existence.

    I believe the italicized portion of the quote above is false, at least in states such as California that already had civil unions.

    And, of course, marriage is special.

  10. mask

    I agree Molly.  I also find this a little disconcerting on a different but related level:

    You can love and generally support someone without agreeing with them on big issues or changing long held – and supposedly principled – views.

    If one of my kids turns out to be a flaming liberal I admit it would be tough on me but it doesn’t require me to change my political views nor would it lessen my love for them or desire to be a big part of their life.  Same if I have a gay child.

    The notion that love involves complete capitulation is a progressive one – the left actually demands intolerance; you can’t by their definition have compassion for someone who is gay without wanting the state to license their relationships.

  11. mask
    Fred Cole: Was Portman Jr. cool with Portman outing him like that in such a public way? · 3 hours ago

    Yes.  The article says that Senator Portman got his son’s permission.

  12. mask
    Taliesin

    But to expect a father to stand on principle while a tearful child screams “Why do you hate me?!?” I put it to the parents of Ricochet, what wins, love or principle?

    This is a tough issue.  I can only speak for myself – a fiscally and socially conservative Mormon – but I would encourage a gay child to live as closely as possible the tenets of my (hopefully our) faith.  Included with that is the notion that the relationship between a man and woman is sacred and that culture and society has long recognized this even in law.  If my child decided to pursue gay relationships I certainly would not ostracize them or their partner, if they chose to get “married” then I would support them by attending the wedding, wishing them well etc.  At a certain point children are responsible for their own choices and they get to live their lives as they see fit.  I would hope that my political and religious views wouldn’t be interpreted as hate – because I wouldn’t hate them and quite to the contrary would treat them with love.

  13. dittoheadadt

    Whatever happened to the practice of recusing oneself from weighing in on issues in which one has a personal, emotional stake?

    What Portman should have done is said, “I can no longer view this issue in a dispassionate, disinterested fashion.  Therefore, I will no longer share my views on it.”

    Would that really have been so tough, Rob?

  14. Mack The Mike
    Taliesin

      “We have indeed become one flesh in a way two men never can, no matter how they feel about each other or what you call it…”  No matter how deeply you believe that to be true, that sentiment will never be anything but incredibly hurtful.   At its core you are telling him that what he is, what he has struggled with throughout his whole life, what he has finally come to terms with and is nervously presenting to you in good faith, is irrevocably, irreparably, irredeemably lesser and wrong. 

    I read this and the first question that pops into my head is whether Taliesin comes from an alternate reality where men can become pregnant.  In this universe because a man can’t become pregnant, therefore two men can’t have a baby.  I honestly don’t see how acknowledging this fact is “hurtful.”  Lots of people chose not to marry.  Those who don’t marry won’t have children within a marriage.

    I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone argue that marriage is a moral imperative, or even that it’s the best path for everyone.  Is Pope Francis “lesser” and “wrong” for never having married?

  15. Lee
    Taliesin

    But to expect a father to stand on principle while a tearful child screams “Why do you hate me?!?” I put it to the parents of Ricochet, what wins, love or principle? · 2 hours ago

    Not to say it wouldn’t be a difficult situation, but if my 21 year old, Yale going (presumably intelligent and somewhat mature) son assumed the worst of me in that manner, unable to differentiate between holding to a principle and an act of hate, I’d have to consider that I’d failed him as a parent in some fundamental way.

  16. mask
    Taliesin

    The problem is that the U.S. code has already gone to fantastic lengths to “define” marriage, and right now those definitions provide a long, long list of benefits to heterosexual couples that, as of right now, homosexual and other non-traditional family groupings do not receive.  You can claim that injury is just or necessary because the institution of heterosexual marriage is somehow special, and ought to be privileged.  But you can’t deny that there is a material asymmetry in existence. · 4 hours ago

    The state has just recognized a biological, sociological and cultural reality.  Straight couplings are materially different than gay couplings and those differences touch on things one could argue the state has an interest in (e.g., protecting children).

    I think that there are several category of things that have been attached to state recognized unions which have muddled it.  One is that it involves a personal contract – disposition of property etc.  Another is a framework that tries to ensure some responsibility and protection for offspring.  And then there’s the entitlements and benefits that come with it.

    (continued)

  17. mask

    (continued)

    The libertarian within me doesn’t care if people form private contracts with each other but state marriage is more than a private contract.  I don’t think social conservatives are opposed to gay couples forming private contracts.  Whether you agree with it or not the legal framework of marriage was designed around straight couplings and the notion that a woman and children would need to be provided for if the husband died or left etc.  It also gave a woman claim on property etc.  Most of this is completely irrelevant to gay couplings.

    If the state is going to generally recognize relationships in determining tax status, disposition of property, access to benefits or entitlements then it doesn’t make sense that these relationships actually be based on love or the fact the partners are having sex.  Suppose you have two siblings, one of which is chronically ill and the they want access to all the entitlements and benefits and some of the legal framework currently found in civil unions – why are they denied “equal protection” under the law?

  18. mask
    Lee

    Not to say it wouldn’t be a difficult situation, but if my 21 year old, Yale going (presumably intelligent and somewhat mature) son assumed the worst of me in that manner, unable to differentiate between holding to a principle and an act of hate, I’d have to consider that I’d failed him as a parent in some fundamental way. · 1 minute ago

    Very well said.

    It goes along with the line of thinking that if you’re against state recognized gay marriage then you *must* be a hateful bigot.

  19. Mack The Mike
    mask

    It goes along with the line of thinking that if you’re against state recognized gay marriage then you *must* be a hateful bigot.

    Portman’s statement really seems to reenforce that notion doesn’t it?  He seems to be saying that his previous opposition to SSM had no basis in reason and was merely an expression of animus towards homosexuals.  Now that his son has come out, he can no longer maintain that animus and is therefore switching sides.

    Had Portman’s previous opposition to SSM been based on ideas and not animus, he would have refuted those ideas when he changed his position. 

  20. The Bell Ringer

    The issue of gay marriage is somewhat immaterial to this debate; it is just a vehicle of political division and a direct assault on stable family structure. What is more troubling here is Senator Portman’s concept that we are to be ruled by his personal feelings on matters. Perhaps the senator should be reminded that he is supposed to represent the interests of the state of Ohio on the national stage instead of the interest of harmony within his own household. Such a capricious and sentimental formation of policy defeats the very purpose of having an elected individual in the first place and tears at the very fibers of the republic. If an elected representative cannot set aside his personal beliefs to represent those of his state or his constituents then he is not fit to conduct his office. I am not arguing that Senator Portman should be run out on a rail, but instead that his pronouncement is a symptom of the larger pathology of irrational sentiment in government and society at large. 

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