Marriage, Schmarriage, and Blarriage

 

Earlier this year, I signed on to one of the amicus briefs arguing against judicial imposition of nationally recognized same-sex marriage and I am not changing my position here. However, I have gradually come to understand — largely thanks to the tireless efforts of SSM-supporting Ricochetti over on the SSM PIT — a pretty good argument for it. This argument deserves a fair hearing, and traditionalists like myself deserve the chance to confront it directly. Hopefully the result will be that some of us understand each other a little better, even if no one is actually convinced of anything.[1]

I say the argument is good because its premises support its conclusion and all of the premises — if not unquestionably true — at least have something going for them. Now, arguments have forms (as I explained here) and it’s probably best to not jump right into the argument itself, but its form, which is as follows:

If governmental institution X excludes group of people Y from Z for merely prejudicial reasons, it is unconstitutional under the 14th Amendment.

In the rest of this post, I will prepare the ground for the argument by considering a series of relevant scenarios, present and explain the argument itself, and explain why I reject one of the argument’s premises.

Please note that this is not — for most readers — an essay easy to fruitfully skim–still less to fruitfully skip to the end! If you’re not going to read it all, and slowly, it might be best to quit now and go read something else.

Time Mahine 1

First I’ll have to find a time machine.

Scenario 1:

I get in a time machine and travel to the future and find that white Zimbabwean immigrants are subjected to harsh discrimination in the late 21st century in New York. Then I go back to the time of the adoption of the 14th Amendment. I talk to the people who wrote it, to the people in Congress who debated it and voted on it, to the state legislatures that voted for it, to the people who voted for the Congressmen who voted for it, and to people who read about it in the newspapers. I ask them if the 14th amendment gives the federal government any authority to stop New York’s treatment of white Zimbwean immigrants.

Most people initially say no, but that’s only because they have never heard of an oppressed class of white Zimbabwean immigrants. So, I explain to them what happens in the future. I remind them that the 14th does not even mention African Americans and suggest that the 14th applies to all groups of oppressed people.

They’re not all convinced, but a good number come around; if I had more time to persuade them maybe I could convince a majority. But time is short even for people who have time machines, so back I go into my time machine and return to my own time.

The lesson of Scenario 1: You don’t have to abandon Originalism to think that the 14th Amendment applies to oppressed groups whom its authors and adopters weren’t even thinking about.

Scenario 2:

I take my time machine and travel straight back to the time of the adoption of the 14th, where I talk to all the same people as in the first scenario I ask them if the 14th amendment gives the federal government any authority to force a state to adopt a non-gendered definition of marriage.

It doesn’t take a time machine, nor any special expertise in history or law, to know that they will all say no.

Now I might try to explain that they’re prejudiced against homosexuals. Since I already have a time machine in this scenario, let’s add a machine that allows people to see their prejudices. But after using it on them, they still disagree!

After awhile, I realize that the man-woman definition of marriage is the only definition of marriage they recognize—indeed the only one most of them ever imagined. I tell them that, in my time, people often say that a man-woman definition of marriage discriminates against homosexuals.

They hear me as an ordinary man hears a lawyer who claims that the definition of life discriminates against the dead, that the definition of adult discriminates against children, or that the definition of a cat discriminates against dogs.

It’s not discrimination, they say; it’s just the definition of marriage.

The lesson of Scenario 2: If we presume Originalism, it matters a great deal that no one alive at the time of the adoption of the 14th Amendment would think that it grants the federal government the authority to strike down a state’s man-woman definition of marriage. (Note: This was the theme of one amicus brief for Obergefell.)

Delorean

This one would be best.

Scenario 3:

I travel forward in time and discover that, in the 2050s, Louisiana provides free drinking water for all citizens except practicing homosexuals. I then travel back in time to the adoption of the 14th. I tell them all about it.

At first, they tell me that this sounds totally ok. It’s actually a pretty light sentence for sodomy.[2]

But then I tell them that we actually get rid of our sodomy laws in the early 21st century. Louisiana’s law isn’t punishing homosexuals for sodomy (and any law that was wouldn’t fly politically in the 2050s).

Louisiana’s law is — plainly and simply — discriminatory. From what I saw in the 2050s a bunch of people who just thought gays were kind of icky found a way to exclude them; not to punish them for sodomy, but just to make them feel left out.

After I explain all this, a few reluctantly come to the conclusion that maybe — just maybe — the 14th gives the federal government the power to stop Louisiana and require equal treatment of all citizens regardless of sexual orientation.

The lesson of Scenario 3: A law which has the function — and only the function — of discriminating on the basis of prejudice might be considered unconstitutional under the 14th Amendment without sacrificing Originalism! And even if the law targets people whose behavior the adopters of the 14th disapproved of and even if they would have approved of harsh punishment for those same people for said behavior!

Enterprise

On second thoughts, this can do time travel by looping around the sun. This would be way better.

Scenario 4:

I go back to the time of the adoption of the 14th. I tell all those folks the following tale:

In my time we have an institution called “schmarriage.” It’s a state recognition of the special amorous relationship of two individuals. How does it work, you say? Well, it’s pretty simple; if I fall in love with a girl we agree to schmarry, and we fill out a form and give it to the local government, and we make some promises in front of a couple of witnesses, and the state gives us a special piece of paper – a schmarriage license – that recognizes that we two have very special romantic feelings for each other and promise to stay together until we don’t have those feelings anymore. What’s the point, you say? That’s all: We think our romantic feelings are so special that we like to have them recognized by the government. (Well, there might be some tax benefits; I don’t keep track of the legal stuff much.) What’s that you say? Are couples in schmarriages supposed to reproduce? Well, that’s up to them. Some do, some don’t. No one really cares what happens in a schmarriage; there’s not really any point beyond having the government recognize how important our romances are to us.

Then I explain to them that in my time we have two other interesting things going on: Some states allow schmarriages for same-sex couples, and some allow only man-woman schmarriages, but no states have any laws prohibiting homosexual behavior. As far as the states are concerned, same-sex romances and opposite-sex romances are morally equivalent.

Then I ask them whether the 14th Amendment would give the federal government the authority to strike down state laws treating homosexual couples differently from heterosexual couples by excluding them from schmarriage.

There’s some debate, but most of them come around in the end to the view that the feds could require equal schmarriage for all.

Then I tell them this: “Hey, guess what! This schmarriage thing: We call it ‘marriage’ in my time!

A few 1800s traditionalists get upset at this point. But they already gave up their case.

The lesson of Scenario 4: If a state gives schmarriage licences, it’s plausible that the 14th Amendment requires them to be given to homosexual couples on equal terms with heterosexual couples. Again, this is without sacrificing Originalism and even if the original authors and adopters of the 14th Amendment strongly disapprove of homosexual acts.

The Argument

  1. If governmental institution X excludes group of people Y from Z for merely prejudicial reasons, it is unconstitutional under the 14th Amendment.
  2. The state marriage laws considered in Obergefell exclude homosexuals from marriage for merely prejudicial reasons.
  3. Therefore, the state marriage laws considered in Obergefell are unconstitutional under the 14th Amendment.

If the premises are true, the conclusion is true.

I don’t object to the first premise.[3] The second premise, however, depends on a certain understanding of marriage: specifically that state marriage laws are really schmarriage laws. There’s something to be said for that: A lot of people really do treat marriage like schmarriage. And if the state marriage laws really are schmarriage laws, then it would be easy to affirm the second premise, as no reason — other than mere prejudice — exists to exclude homosexuals from marriage (at least, no obvious reason).

How People Think About Schmarriage and Blarriage

All the same, I don’t think that’s all there is to it. If you’ve read carefully enough you probably know where I’m going next: I don’t think that the state marriage laws were merely schmarriage laws.

In this section of the post I will introduce the concept of “blarriage,” explain how it is different than “schmarriage” and make a few observations. Then I’ll give some reasons I don’t think the state laws in question were just schmarriage laws.

There’s another way of looking at those romantic relationships that are blessed with state recognition. Ryan Anderson puts it succinctly, saying that marriage — or, “blarriage” as I’m referring to it here — is based on

[T]he truth that marriage unites a man and a woman as husband and wife so that children will have both a mother and a father. Marriage is based on the anthropological truth that men and woman are distinct and complementary, the biological fact that reproduction depends on a man and a woman, and the social reality that children deserve a mother and a father.

Observe: This blarriage thing is how a lot of people treat their own marriages and those of their friends and family and neighbors: These marriages unite two people who are sexually complementary (and perhaps, as some believe, complementary in other ways), and one of the goals of formalizing these relationships is to keep them united in order to raise any ensuing babies together.

Lots of people think marriages are blarriages, or at least accept some component of that thesis. People still think marriage has as one of its purposes providing optimal circumstances for having and raising kids; and some say it’s the only thing that has this as a purpose. People (like Kudlow) say you should marry first and then have kids. Guys think, “I got her pregnant; I’d better marry her.” Girls think, “He got me pregnant. He better marry me now.” People think, “We’d better get married before the baby is born.”

Observe also: Blarriage falls under Scenario 2, not Scenario 4. So, presuming Originalism, the federal government lacks the authority to overturn a state’s man-woman definition of blarriage–even if it has the authority to overturn a state’s man-woman definition of schmarriage.

Observe, moreover: What we call “marriage” in America today includes both relationships treated like schmarriages and relationships treated like blarriages.

They aren’t always easily distinguishable. “Marriage” is the umbrella institution for them all, and under that umbrella the relationships treated as schmarriages are mingled with those treated as blarriages.

(Parenthetically, observe that: People who think blarriage is important and who think blarriage needs a man-woman definition are, thereby, not being plainly and simply discriminatory, though whether they are correct is another matter!)

Why I Reject the Second Premise

Reason One: The state laws covered both both schmarriages and blarriages. So it’s not the case that the state marriage laws were just schmarriage laws. They were also blarriage laws.

(Now if a gendered definition of both blarriage and schmarriage is considered unacceptable, one option would be to separate the two. This is one thing the idea of gender-undefined civil unions existing alongside gender-defined marriage had going for it; of course, that ship sailed away when Obergefell came into port.)

Reason Two: To say that the state’s man-woman definitions of marriage were all definitions of schmarriage and only schmarriage is to say that the states never treated any marriages as blarriages.

But can you really say that? Not easily; for one thing, you’d have to do a ton of research on the family laws in these states before you could credibly say that.

Furthermore, look at what the states themselves do say. For example, check out, starting on page 43 of the oral arguments in Obergefell, Mr. Bursch’s remarks representing the states. He actually distinguishes schmarriage and blarriage, and explicitly says the state laws were for the reason of the latter, not the former. He doesn’t use the words “schmarriage” and “blarriage,” of course. You can thank me for providing you with those names. (And you are most welcome!)

Thus, it’s hard to say that the states were treating all marriages as schmarriages, and it’s pretty easy to make a case that they were treating marriages as blarriages: a Scenario 2 thing, not a Scenario 4 thing.

Reason Three: Historically, it seems that the schmarriage phenomenon evolved out of blarriage. Marriage understood as blarriage goes back a long, long way – as far back as Cicero (as Chief Justice Roberts noted in his Obergefell dissent), and, still earlier back to the Book of Malachi and the Pslams.

good_books

Plato, Cicero, et al

Additionally, consider Plato. Homosexuality is all over the place in his works and the Athenians even had a few customs superficially resembling same-sex schmarriage (see the Symposium). But same-sex marriage is unheard of, and, to all appearances, unthought of. Marriage ain’t schmarriage; it’s blarriage (this is especially plain from the reasons for the creepy marriage regulations in the Republic that were very much concerned with reproduction).

So how did we evolve from a common understanding of marriage as blarriage to a situation where schmarriage is about as common an idea as blarriage, if not more common? Well, I’d point to the usual suspects that weaken the connections between sex, reproduction, and permanent marriage: no-fault divorce, birth control, abortion, etc. I’m not here saying these are bad things, though I tend to think rather poorly of them–only that they are a pretty good understanding of what caused the evolution of the schmarriage phenomenon.

Anyway, since marriage was understood as blarriage a long way back — and even a short way back before those usual suspects took their effects — it’s hard to say that the state laws in question were just schmarriage laws. It’s very hard, actually: Cultural inertia alone would make it next to impossible to draw this conclusion. (See the “Scholars of History and Related Disciplines” amicus brief from the list of Obergefell briefs for more on this topic.)

To put Reason Three more concisely: These states’ marriage laws might just be schmarriage laws, but that’s a result of Obergefell, not a reason for it!

Reason Four: There are folks who think that schmarriages don’t even exist. What marriage is – what all real marriages are – is blarriage. No marriage is a schmarriage. (There are marriages that are treated like schmarriages, but that doesn’t make them schmarriages.)

These folks typically have religious reasons for this view, or metaphysical reasons, or both. If you read ThePublicDiscourse.com for a month or so, or read What Is Marriage? by Anderson, Robert George, and Sherif Girgis, you should have a pretty good idea of what these metaphysical reasons are. You’re probably already familiar with the religious reasons, but if you’re not you can probably find them by reading Genesis 1-3 and the Old Testament references above.

I happen to be among these people, but that’s not the point. Rather, the point is that such people think of the state laws as blarriage laws, which means that they think these laws are not merely prejudicial.

Accordingly, to affirm the second premise is to say that these religious or metaphysical views are incorrect. And the courts don’t have any business ruling against Anderson et al’s metaphysics, still less business saying that Catholic theology or the Baptist Faith and Message are mistaken.

(Note that Reason Four — unlike the first three reasons — is not a reason I reject Premise 2–but a reason federal Courts should not affirm it. Let saints and metaphysicians debate, and let the people decide! American courts don’t need to be like the courts on a Star Trek episode!)

Thomas

You got a problem with Originalism? Justice Thomas will stare you down!

Conclusion

Of course, this is of more interest to those who are Originalists like myself than to those who aren’t.[4] If Originalism is false, you don’t even need this argument; you can — and Justice Kennedy did — use other lines of reasoning.

So it’s safe to say that this analysis is of little or no interest to the likes of Justices Breyer, Ginsburg, Sotomayor, Kagan, and (sometimes) Kennedy.

Still, for what it’s worth, and especially for the Originalists among us, here it is: a respectable argument that Obergefell was rightly decided, and the reasons I don’t buy the argument’s Premise 2.

There are 53 comments.

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  1. Augustine Member
    Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    1 This post owes a great deal to earlier conversations in the two threads linked in the first paragraph.  Here are a few more specific links to the highlights:

    • In “I Was Insulted on Huffington Post,” comments # 656-659 overview a good bit of the conversation and introduce or link to some of the themes and thought experiments from this post.
    • Over on the SSM PIT, in comment # 755 one Ricochettus explains his interest in switching to an argument about schmarriage–that is to say, if I understand him correctly.  (If # 755 needs some context, review the pages preceding and following it.)  More of the same much later at # 1322.
    • In comment # 787, one Ricochetta directly addresses the thesis that marriage these days is schmarriage (and again at # 1324).
    • Another Ricochetta addresses the same thesis at # 1434.  (I follow up at # 1483.)
    • #1
  2. Augustine Member
    Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    2 In Scenario 3 I’m not entirely certainly what would be a common attitude toward sodomy.  What I write is a bit speculative, but at worst it’s not much of a stretch; see Richard Epstein’s remarks in Law Talk 74.

    • #2
  3. Augustine Member
    Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    3 I’m not certain this premise is true.  If, for example, someone with the right knowledge of history or law tells me that the 14th in its original meaning only protects racial classes–not religious, regional, sexual, or marital classes–I won’t be surprised.

    This would effectively kill Premise 1 as far as Originalism is concerned.

    • #3
  4. Augustine Member
    Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    4 I myself am (for now) a plain vanilla Originalist, a disciple of Michael Paulsen in matters of Constitutional law.  Eventually I hope to properly study Richard Epstein; after that, I may have to modify my views a bit.

    • #4
  5. SteveSc Member
    SteveSc
    @SteveSc

    God, enough with the fricken SSM.

    • #5
  6. Valiuth Inactive
    Valiuth
    @Valiuth

    I loved this article, and I love schmarriage and blarriage.

    I can’t speak to legal reasoning, as I am not a lawyer, but I have said many times before on this site the issue with SSM is that peoples conception of marriage has shifted while the laws have not. As you point out the writers of the 14th amendment all thought of marriage as blarriage. Overtime peoples attitudes towards marriage have come closer to being that of schmarriage, thanks to various cultural trends and attitudes. The fact that the laws were written with blarriage in mind and were interpreted as such is a testament to legal inertia. The scale have tipped and now too many people view the marriage to be schmarriage. If one views it as such then their position about the discriminatory nature of the laws is perfectly understandable because the laws are as such. Much like your 19th century subjects they have never conceived of marriage as anything other than schmarriage.

    Ultimately I think legal argument are meaningless in this debate. What drives the law isn’t constitutional theory, deep analysis, or any of that lawyer stuff. The law is driven by peoples mutual consensus on what it should be. What bothers me isn’t that we have chosen to view marriage in this way, but that we are being dishonest about this decision. I’m fine with SSM as a public institution I just wish we were honest about its radicalness ahistoricity.

    • #6
  7. Mike Rapkoch Moderator
    Mike Rapkoch
    @MikeRapkoch

    As a pre-emptive strike, please keep this thread civil. Otherwise, head over to the PIT. Thanks!

    • #7
  8. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey
    @GaryMcVey

    We should be fine, Mike. Augustine has done an extremely thoughtful piece of writing here. He isn’t swaying me personally on SSM, and that’s not his goal here, but his post establishes pretty good credentials to show that he, at least, isn’t on the other side out of animus or prejudice. There are people on my pro-SSM side, I’m sad to admit, who think prejudice is the only possible reason. Look, we already knew this about Augustine anyway, but think of this as a legal brief that others can use.

    It’s exactly the kind of opposing argument that wins respect, and support.

    • #8
  9. Augustine Member
    Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    Valiuth:I loved this article, and I love schmarriage and blarriage.

    Thanks!

    I can’t speak to legal reasoning, as I am not a lawyer, but I have said many times before on this site the issue with SSM is that peoples conception of marriage has shifted while the laws have not.

    That’s a great sentence!

    As you point out the writers of the 14th amendment all thought of marriage as blarriage. Overtime peoples attitudes towards marriage have come closer to being that of schmarriage, thanks to various cultural trends and attitudes. The fact that the laws were written with blarriage in mind and were interpreted as such is a testament to legal inertia.

    Legal inertia: a great term!

    Much like your 19th century subjects they have never conceived of marriage as anything other than schmarriage.

    Another great sentence!

    Ultimately I think legal argument are meaningless in this debate. What drives the law isn’t constitutional theory, deep analysis, or any of that lawyer stuff. The law is driven by peoples mutual consensus on what it should be.

    I can’t go with you there.  I think too much like Paulsen.  But certainly what drives culture and laws below the Constitution is what you describe.

    • #9
  10. Augustine Member
    Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    Mike Rapkoch:As a pre-emptive strike, please keep this thread civil. Otherwise, head over to the PIT. Thanks!

    Gary McVey:We should be fine, Mike. . . .

    Thank you both for those comments!

    • #10
  11. Bob W Member
    Bob W
    @WBob

    Premise 2: state marriage laws exclude homosexuals from marriage for prejudicial reasons.

    The reason premise 2 is problematic is that state marriage laws in fact never excluded homosexuals from marriage in the first place. I don’t believe there ever was a law in America which said homosexuals can’t marry. There were plenty of homosexuals that did legally marry. What state marriage laws did was to define marriage a particular way. What prohibited homosexuals from marrying was not something in the law. It was something in themselves.. Is that a distinction without a difference? Only if you take the step of classifying any group of people who are inconvenienced by a particular law as an ethnicity. Laws against nudity discriminate against nudists. Laws against insider trading discriminate against insider traders. Laws against polygamy discriminate against polygamists etc. This approach is very disingenuous and could lead to all kinds of legal mischief. Maybe this was your basic point stated in a different way.

    • #11
  12. Augustine Member
    Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    Hey, this is a good time to describe a scenario where I’d take the other side!

    I’m not sure how realistic this is, because the contours of thought experiments are always gerrymandered more than real situations.  But, anyway, . . . .

    Let’s say First Baptist Church of Anytown, TX has a policy of doing weddings for anyone who attends at least once a month.  FBCA has a statement of theology listing a handful of sins, including homosexual acts and premarital sex.

    One day five regularly attending heterosexual couples who are known by the pastor and church staff to be cohabiting sign up for weddings, and church books the events for next month–without, by the way, telling them to stop having sex in the meantime.

    On the next day five homosexual couples who are regular attenders show up to book some weddings, and they’re all turned down.

    The day after, they sue FBCA.

    In this case I would say the gays have the moral high ground. Whether they have the legal high ground is another matter.  I don’t believe the 14th gives the government any right to stop a church from discriminating, but if they appealed to some other law they might well have the legal high ground.

    (I’m not sure FBCA should do all ten weddings either.  Doing none would be perfectly equitable–and better theological practice!)

    (Note added later: I am probably mistaken here.  See comments 17 (and 22) for a powerful refutation!)

    • #12
  13. Augustine Member
    Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    Bob W:Maybe this was your basic point stated in a different way.

    Quite possibly, and thanks for the comment, Bob!

    The reason premise 2 is problematic is that state marriage laws in fact never excluded homosexuals from marriage in the first place. I don’t believe there ever was a law in America which said homosexuals can’t marry.

    Almost certainly the case!  An important point little known and almost always ignored, even by me.

    There were plenty of homosexuals that did legally marry.What state marriage laws did was to define marriage a particular way. What prohibited homosexuals from marrying was not something in the law. It was something in themselves.

    Should we say that it was rather an unwillingness to marry?

    By the way, some of the “plenty of homosexuals that did legally marry” had an amicus brief of their own.  See the brief from Same-Sex Attracted Men . . . and Their Wives.

    • #13
  14. Salvatore Padula Inactive
    Salvatore Padula
    @SalvatorePadula

    Great post.

    • #14
  15. Valiuth Inactive
    Valiuth
    @Valiuth

    Augustine:

    Ultimately I think legal argument are meaningless in this debate. What drives the law isn’t constitutional theory, deep analysis, or any of that lawyer stuff. The law is driven by peoples mutual consensus on what it should be.

    I can’t go with you there. I think too much like Paulsen. But certainly what drives culture and laws below the Constitution is what you describe.

    Well it seems to me that if peoples consensus about marriage was that it was blarriage the court would never have ruled the way it did. Everything, in my opinion, is down stream of culture, and as a democracy our culture will be reflected in our laws one way or another. Whether we choose to read old laws in new ways or pass new laws. I just think that doing the latter is more honest and healthy than doing the former.

    • #15
  16. Instugator Thatcher
    Instugator
    @Instugator

    How about Premise 0 – The Federal Government does not have, within its enumerated powers, the right define marriage of any sort and thus is restrained by the 10 amendment from taking any position either for or against the States (which includes having  power to decide this issue). Think of it as akin to the enumerated powers of the House of Representatives and Senate to decide their own rules without interference from the other house or even from the other branches of government.

    • #16
  17. Sabrdance Member
    Sabrdance
    @Sabrdance

    I have nothing to add to this.  Very informative.

    Augustine:In this case I would say the gays have the moral high ground. Whether they have the legal high ground is another matter. I don’t believe the 14th gives the government any right to stop a church from discriminating, but if they appealed to some other law they might well have the legal high ground.

    (I’m not sure FBCA should do all ten weddings either. Doing none would be perfectly equitable–and better theological practice!)

    We had this fight in a previous church (which I left for geographic reasons).  I do not concur.  The two situations are not morally congruent.  All ten couples are currently engaging in sin (fornication).  The 5 heterosexual couples intend to remedy that sin.  The 5 homosexual couples do not.

    I, in fact, side with those who say that those cohabiting should marry immediately.  One of the purposes of marriage is to suppress fornication -I see no reason to demand a feat of willpower before invoking one of it’s primary uses.  I invoke 1 Corinthians 7:9 in support.  And remind those cohabiting that the chapter continues to verse 10 and 11.

    Now, if we were to use the marriage to retroactively bless the previous cohabitation, call the prior sin not-sin; then I think you would have the stronger argument.

    It is a longstanding gripe of mine that churches have tried to grapple with this, and get no credit for it.

    • #17
  18. Bob W Member
    Bob W
    @WBob

    Augustine thanks for the link to that brief. It reminds one of the fact that same sex relationships were hardly unknown throughout history and were much more accepted in antiquity in certain places than today, and yet it never seemed to occur to anyone back then that same sex marriage was an option… Not even to gay emporers who probably had the power to implement it.

    • #18
  19. Augustine Member
    Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    Valiuth:

    Augustine:

    Ultimately I think legal argument are meaningless in this debate. What drives the law isn’t constitutional theory, deep analysis, or any of that lawyer stuff. The law is driven by peoples mutual consensus on what it should be.

    I can’t go with you there. I think too much like Paulsen. But certainly what drives culture and laws below the Constitution is what you describe.

    Well it seems to me that if peoples consensus about marriage was that it was blarriage the court would never have ruled the way it did. Everything, in my opinion, is down stream of culture, and as a democracy our culture will be reflected in our laws one way or another. Whether we choose to read old laws in new ways or pass new laws. I just think that doing the latter is more honest and healthy than doing the former.

    I agree with most of this.  I just don’t think reading old laws in new ways–at least not the way we do it–is even legal.

    • #19
  20. Augustine Member
    Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    Instugator:How about Premise 0 – The Federal Government does not have, within its enumerated powers, the right define marriage of any sort and thus is restrained by the 10 amendment from taking any position either for or against the States (which includes having power to decide this issue). Think of it as akin to the enumerated powers of the House of Representatives and Senate to decide their own rules without interference from the other house or even from the other branches of government.

    I certainly agree.

    Well, it’s safe to say that the 14th Amendment enumerates another power.  I just don’t think it applies to marriage in the current situation–or perhaps in any situation (see comment # 3 above).

    • #20
  21. Augustine Member
    Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    Bob W:Augustine thanks for the link to that brief. It reminds one of the fact that same sex relationships were hardly unknown throughout history and were much more accepted in antiquity in certain places than today, and yet it never seemed to occur to anyone back then that same sex marriage was an option… Not even to gay emporers who probably had the power to implement it.

    Indeed!  You’re welcome.

    Well, to be fair, it seems that the idea occurred to a few people.  (I have a pretty clear memory of an amicus brief that established this point, referring to newspaper accounts of attempts by men to marry each other and so on.  But I can no longer find it.)  But this idea doesn’t seem to have been implemented in law until 20 or so years ago.

    (Please correct me on the number of years.  Maybe it’s 15, maybe it’s 30 or 35.  I don’t even remember where it was first–Holland, perhaps?)

    • #21
  22. Augustine Member
    Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    Sabrdance:

    Augustine:In this case I would say the gays have the moral high ground. Whether they have the legal high ground is another matter. I don’t believe the 14th gives the government any right to stop a church from discriminating, but if they appealed to some other law they might well have the legal high ground.

    (I’m not sure FBCA should do all ten weddings either. Doing none would be perfectly equitable–and better theological practice!)

    We had this fight in a previous church (which I left for geographic reasons). I do not concur. The two situations are not morally congruent. All ten couples are currently engaging in sin (fornication). The 5 heterosexual couples intend to remedy that sin. The 5 homosexual couples do not.

    Hey, great point!  Maybe I was wrong!

    I, in fact, side with those who say that those cohabiting should marry immediately. One of the purposes of marriage is to suppress fornication -I see no reason to demand a feat of willpower before invoking one of it’s primary uses. I invoke 1 Corinthians 7:9 in support. And remind those cohabiting that the chapter continues to verse 10 and 11.

    Excellent.

    It is a longstanding gripe of mine that churches have tried to grapple with this, and get no credit for it.

    Yeah.  The popular view that traditional Christians are hypocrites is not entirely without warrant.  But it’s a long, long way from being entirely right.

    • #22
  23. Valiuth Inactive
    Valiuth
    @Valiuth

    Augustine:

    Valiuth:

    Augustine:

    Ultimately I think legal argument are meaningless in this debate. What drives the law isn’t constitutional theory, deep analysis, or any of that lawyer stuff. The law is driven by peoples mutual consensus on what it should be.

    I can’t go with you there. I think too much like Paulsen. But certainly what drives culture and laws below the Constitution is what you describe.

    Well it seems to me that if peoples consensus about marriage was that it was blarriage the court would never have ruled the way it did. Everything, in my opinion, is down stream of culture, and as a democracy our culture will be reflected in our laws one way or another. Whether we choose to read old laws in new ways or pass new laws. I just think that doing the latter is more honest and healthy than doing the former.

    I agree with most of this. I just don’t think reading old laws in new ways–at least not the way we do it–is even legal.

    Well I can’t speak to the legality. Certainly reading old laws in new ways does seem to be the goal of the whole Living Constitution movement.

    • #23
  24. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor
    Midget Faded Rattlesnake
    @Midge

    Augustine:

    Sabrdance:

    I, in fact, side with those who say that those cohabiting should marry immediately. One of the purposes of marriage is to suppress fornication -I see no reason to demand a feat of willpower before invoking one of it’s primary uses. I invoke 1 Corinthians 7:9 in support. And remind those cohabiting that the chapter continues to verse 10 and 11.

    Excellent.

    I’m a bit more wary about this excellence. There’s reason to believe that people are less choosy about who they cohabit with than who they marry, and that this lack of choosiness results in poorer matches. Therefore pressuring cohabiting couples into immediate marriage, rather than presenting separation as an option they should also strongly consider before it is too late, may encourage poorly-matched marriages.

    The inertia of cohabiting (like the inertia of sex) can keep breakups from happening when they really should, causing people to drift into marriage with incompatible spouses.

    • #24
  25. Augustine Member
    Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake:

    Augustine:

    Sabrdance:

    I, in fact, side with those who say that those cohabiting should marry immediately. One of the purposes of marriage is to suppress fornication -I see no reason to demand a feat of willpower before invoking one of it’s primary uses. I invoke 1 Corinthians 7:9 in support. And remind those cohabiting that the chapter continues to verse 10 and 11.

    Excellent.

    I’m a bit more wary about this excellence. There’s reason to believe that people are less choosy about who they cohabit with than who they marry, and that this lack of choosiness results in poorer matches. Therefore pressuring cohabiting couples into immediate marriage, rather than presenting separation as an option they should also strongly consider before it is too late, may encourage poorly-matched marriages.

    The inertia of cohabiting (like the inertia of sex) can keep breakups from happening when they really should, causing people to drift into marriage with incompatible spouses.

    Shall we say, then, that the proper advice for a church/pastor/fellow believer to give depends on whom it is given to?  For a cohabiting couple engaged to marry next year, the advice would be “Marry tomorrow!”  For another cohabiting couple that may or may not marry, the advice would be “Stop cohabiting!”

    • #25
  26. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor
    Midget Faded Rattlesnake
    @Midge

    Augustine:

    Shall we say, then, that the proper advice for a church/pastor/fellow believer to give depends on whom it is given to?

    It does, but I think it makes sense to let any cohabiting couple know that there are two ways to get right with the church: marry immediately or split.

    I imagine that having to ask oneself the question, “Is the fact that I’m only cohabiting with, rather than already married to, this person a sign that I already doubt our compatibility, and are those doubts justified?” is quite uncomfortable. Scary, even, and many cohabiting couples would hate a counselor for even bringing such a question up. Still, a salutary question – how we have already behaved toward another person is a revealed preference, and revealed preference tells us truths about ourselves that may be easily overlooked in the happy talk of projected intentions.

    Similarly, I think pressure on an unwed mother to marry the father or place the baby for adoption is better than simply pressure to marry the father.

    • #26
  27. Augustine Member
    Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake:

    Augustine:

    Shall we say, then, that the proper advice for a church/pastor/fellow believer to give depends on whom it is given to?

    It does, but I think it makes sense to let any cohabiting couple know that there are two ways to get right with the church: marry immediately or split.

    I imagine that having to ask oneself the question, “Is the fact that I’m only cohabiting with, rather than already married to, this person a sign that I already doubt our compatibility, and are those doubts justified?” is quite uncomfortable. Scary, even, and many cohabiting couples would hate a counselor for even bringing such a question up. Still, a salutary question – how we have already behaved toward another person is a revealed preference, and revealed preference tells us truths about ourselves that may be easily overlooked in the happy talk of projected intentions.

    Similarly, I think pressure on an unwed mother to marry the father or place the baby for adoption is better than simply pressure to marry the father.

    This seems exactly right to me.  If there’s anything wrong with it, I plead jetlag and my own natural stupidity as excuses for missing it.

    • #27
  28. Tom Meyer, Ed. Contributor
    Tom Meyer, Ed.
    @tommeyer

    One point I think deserves some exploration: many marriages shift back and forth between being schmarriages and blarriages over the course of their lives.

    A young couple, for instance, who do not plan to have kids for a few years and who are careful and serious about contraception could easily be said to be living a schmarriage. However, once they have kids, that switches to being a blarriage. After the kids are grown, it’s somewhat hard to argue that their relationship doesn’t return to schmarriagehood.

    • #28
  29. Tom Meyer, Ed. Contributor
    Tom Meyer, Ed.
    @tommeyer

    I also loved this piece — though I think it may have broken a Rico-record for length — but I had some issues with this:

    Well, it’s pretty simple; if I fall in love with a girl we agree to schmarry, and we fill out a form and give it to the local government, and we make some promises in front of a couple of witnesses, and the state gives us a special piece of paper – a schmarriage license – that recognizes that we two have very special romantic feelings for each other and promise to stay together until we don’t have those feelings anymore. What’s the point, you say? That’s all: We think our romantic feelings are so special that we like to have them recognized by the government. (Well, there might be some tax benefits; I don’t keep track of the legal stuff much.) What’s that you say? Are couples in schmarriages supposed to reproduce? Well, that’s up to them. Some do, some don’t. No one really cares what happens in a schmarriage; there’s not really any point beyond having the government recognize how important our romances are to us.

    Obviously, the desire to have the romance recognized is part of the equation, but I think you’re overstating things. First, there are a lot of additional benefits besides taxes, including spousal privilege in court, a number of assumptions involving inheritance, onerous rules concerning the dissolution of the schmarriage, and — obviously — all those that concern children born to it.

    Basically, there’s a whole important-if-rarely-needed series of legal privileges that revolve around “Dammit, I’m her husband!” as well as a corresponding series of obligations. These have little to do with either romantic feelings or child-rearing.

    • #29
  30. Miffed White Male Member
    Miffed White Male
    @MiffedWhiteMale

    How about Premise 0 – The Federal Government does not have, within its enumerated powers, the right define marriage of any sort and thus is restrained by the 10 amendment from taking any position either for or against the States (which includes having power to decide this issue).

    I remember having this discussion at the time that DOMA was overturned.  I would argue that for some purposes, the Federal government must have an implicit power to define marriage at least for its own administrative purposes.  (Let’s skip any arguments about income tax and Social Security and just take them as a given, ok?).

    Example:  If the Federal government doesn’t have it’s own definition of marriage, then it must accept the state definition for determining one’s federal tax liability.

    Ok, that’s do-able.  But, if we accept that premise, let’s move on to Social Security survivorship.  By Law, surviving minors receive an ongoing death benefit from SSI when a parent dies.  Constitutionally, the Federal Government has no explicit power to define “minor”.

    So if a state changes it’s definition of “minor” to be anyone up to 50 years old (for example), does the Federal government have to pay death benefits to all those orphaned 18-49 year-old’s in that state?  ‘cuz that’s going to make a mark on the budget, and the Congress would have no ability to repair it.

    • #30

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