Archive for the ‘Same-sex parenting’ Category

Tick Tock

March 20, 2013

From Andrew Sullivan at The Daily Dish:

Rob Tisinai identifies one reason various conservative politicians are suddenly voicing their support for marriage equality:

Imagine you’re a conservative. And you support marriage equality. And you’ve been silent. But now you realize this may be your last chance to say you supported same-sex marriage before it becomes the law of the land. How mortifying must it be to know you sided the angels with the great civil rights struggle of our day, but that no one will ever believe you?  To know you’re on the right side of moral history, but might be seen for the rest of your life as one of its opponents? To know you believe in the American ideals of freedom and human dignity, but sat out this historic struggle to turn America into a more perfect union?

How mortifying must it be to know you are right, but your silence now could brand you forever as having been deeply and morally wrong?


Legal Precedents That SCOTUS May Consider in U.S. v. Windsor and Hollingsworth v. Perry.

March 20, 2013

SCOTUS building

As promised in my last post, here is a list of several Supreme Court decisions that may have some bearing on the two cases that the Court will begin hearing next week (March 26): U.S. v. Windsor and Hollingsworth v. Perry. This list is culled from Robert R. Reilly’s article (reviewed below) and from Paul McGuire’s response.

Griswold v. Connecticut (1965): Invalidated a law prohibiting the sale of contraceptives to married individuals.

Eisenstadt v. Baird (1972): Invalidated a law prohibiting the sale of contraceptives to unmarried individuals.

Boddie v. Connecticut (1971): Prohibited fee barriers to divorce—barriers that might seem desirable if the right to marry were tied to the state’s interest in responsible marital procreation.

Roe v. Wade (1973): The right to privacy encompasses a woman’s decision whether or not to terminate her pregnancy.

Carey v. Population Services International (1977): Held that it was unconstitutional to prohibit the sale of contraceptives to minors, the advertisements or displays of contraceptives, and the sale of contraceptives to adults except through a pharmacist. (Wikipedia)

Zablocki v. Redhail (1978): Residents will child support obligations may marry. (The right to marry is separate from procreation, childbirth, child rearing, and family relationships.)

Turner v. Safely (1987): Incarcerated prisoners, even those with no right to conjugal visits, may marry.

Lawrence v. Texas (2003): Overturned Bowers v. Hardwick (1986), which had declared Alabama’s law against sodomy constitutional.

Robert R. Reilly Not Optimistic About SCOTUS Decisions on Same-Sex Marriage

March 20, 2013
Robert R. Reilly

Robert R. Reilly

Robert R. Reilly, writing for Crisis Magazine (“The Logic of the Court and the Prospect of Homosexual Marriage”, 3/19/13), finds grievous fault with a succession of Supreme Court decisions made over the past 40 years—decisions that have separated sex from procreation in civil law and prepared the way for the ante-penultimate horror that is same-sex marriage. (Polygamy and bestiality follow.) His article is timely, as the SCOTUS will next week begin hearing two major cases testing the constitutionality of laws prohibiting such marriages. (U.S. v. Windsor, testing the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, and Hollingsworth v. Perry, testing California’s Proposition 8)

There’s an undeniable tendency among conservative Catholics to rely heavily on the authority of long-dead white Christian males when arguing everything from sex to statecraft. The more distant in time, the more the authority is respected. In their world, Thomas Aquinas’s “Summa” has never been surpassed, and should rightly form the basis of both legislation and jurisprudence in modern pluralistic democracies. Dean Hansen has put it nicely:

It’s part of the tight, intellectual box that freezes inquiry and stifles forward momentum.  Imagine where we’d be today if we rejected Einstein because he contradicted Copernicus, or rejected any medical advice that contradicted Galen of ancient Rome.

Paradoxically, I would encourage them in this tendency, because I have observed that it leaves them ill-equipped to argue their cases in courts of law, where the opinions of expert witnesses (who can be cross-examined) are greatly favored over quotations from dead savants.

Reilly quotes 18th-century English legal scholar William Blackstone to remind us that proscriptions against sodomy have a noble pedigree.


Ronald Coleman

Sodomy? Reilly has gotten it wrong right off the bat, and doubly so. First, lesbians don’t generally practice sodomy, many heterosexuals do, and many homosexual men do not. Second, and more important, same-sex marriage (the subject of his article) is not about sodomy or even necessarily about sex. It’s about love, companionship, and commitment.

If attorneys defending DOMA and Prop 8 enter the Supreme Court expecting to talk about the evils of sodomy, they will have a rude awakening: the Supreme Court decision in Lawrence v. Texas (2003) assures our freedom from government intrusion into our bedrooms, and in 1987, the Court declared that sex is not a necessary component of marriage (Turner v. Safely: incarcerated prisoners may marry, even if they have no right to conjugal visits.)

Reilly squanders hundreds of precious keystrokes telling us how abjectly wrong Lawrence v. Texas was: It “cast aside millennia of moral teaching,” it demonstrated “the intellectual poverty of the legal profession,” and it showed “no grasp of the relationship between morality and the law.”

Now, if we can just persuade the attorneys defending DOMA and Prop 8 to lecture the Supreme Court on the law and “explain” to them why legal precedents are in error, we’ll have a clear path to victory.

William Blackstone

William Blackstone

Reilly is very big on tradition, as long as it pre-dates the sexual revolution of the sixties and seventies. Roman law, the English Reformation, 18th-century legal philosophy, the Bible—all are good. But don’t mention modern science, medicine, sociological and psychological research, or secular law and jurisprudence. They are only passing fashions parading self-importantly against the millennial backdrop of Judeo-Christian history.

For many secular progressives, the word  “tradition” is value-neutral but highly suspect when it is used to justify practices that are patently unjust. People who have spent their lives steeped in theology may have a hard time understanding this. To them, a practice grounded in millennia of tradition is self-evidently moral, because it has stood the test of time. Take genocide, for example … or slavery.

Like many other contributors to Crisis Magazine, Reilly has a hard time “hearing” the word “tradition” in the way that Supreme Court justices and policy-makers do. Ironically, he is using it to assert an authority superior to theirs, while they are well-aware that it is used this way.  And here, having already accused the court of casting aside millennia of moral teaching, he gives a slight, momentary nod to Justice Kennedy’s reasoning in the Lawrence v. Texas decision:

The Court stated that, “the fact that the governing majority in a state has traditionally viewed a particular practice as immoral is not a sufficient reason for upholding a law prohibiting the practice.” That may be well and good, but at least such a tradition should invite an examination of whether the “practice” in question is, in fact, immoral. [emphasis mine]

Sodomy sculpture from Lincoln Cathedral

Sodomy sculpture from Lincoln Cathedral

Reilly himself clearly thinks the practice in question is “immoral,” because, as he said earlier, it has long been regarded as “a gravely disordered act” and has been proscribed throughout history. So Reilly’s own reasoning would have only led the Court in circles.

Reilly is right about one thing. “The Court,” he writes, “has already done much to prepare the ground work for the legalization of homosexual marriage.” Though he condemns the relevant rulings variously as “extraordinarily misconceived,” (Lawrence v. Texas) and “an act of barbarity” (Roe v. Wade), he at least does provide a useful overview of them, which is then supplemented by one of the commenters, Paul McGuire. I will list these in my next post.

Reilly makes no secret of his low opinion of the Court’s rulings on contraception, abortion, and intimate sexual practices. These rulings are indeed logically compelling, he says, but only if one accepts a premise that is “insane,” i.e., that marriage and sex can be separated from procreation.

Brethern and sistern, let us fervently pray that attorneys arguing to uphold DOMA and Proposition 8 next week will adopt arguments similar to the ones Robert R. Reilly has so eloquently presented. Amen.

Christian Looks Into the “Abyss of Nihilism” Brought to Us by Same-Sex Marriage

March 18, 2013
Typical nihilist

Typical nihilist

Carson Holloway, writing for The Witherspoon Institute’s online magazine Public Discourse (“Same-Sex Marriage and the Abyss of Nihilism,” 3/18/13), wants you to be afraid. Very afraid. (Read the article here.)

Tim Brock responds:

The title of Holloway’s article reminds me of “Pilgrim’s Progress,” except that the “Abyss of Nihilism” sounds so much more frightening than the “Slough of Despond”  or the “City of Destruction.”

Holloway tells us that even the foreboding of conservatives “does not go far enough.” They must peer into the abyss, “… a realm in which there are no longer any solid or reliable public standards of judgment…” This is scary stuff.

But same-sex couples have been living together and raising children for a very long time. In nine states, they can marry. In many of the others, they have absolutely every right (under state law) that heterosexual couples have, including the right to adopt. And the sky has not fallen. There is no sign of impending civilizational collapse.

Holloway sees SSM as a thumb in the nose toward tradition, but of course progressives see it as an honoring and an opening-up of a great tradition.

As the years go on, and as more and more same-sex couples marry and raise children, it is going to become harder and harder to claim that we are all “leaping into the abyss.” Like most false prophecies, this one will just embarrass those who propagated it.

The World Can’t Hear You on Marriage

March 18, 2013
Peter Leithart

Peter Leithart

Peter J. Leithart, writing for First Things (“The World Can’t Hear Us on Marriage,” 3/15/13), concedes that “virtually all the cultural and political momentum” is in the direction of same-sex marriage legalization. This is an impressive concession, but even more impressive is his admission that “arguments against gay marriage are theologically fraught.”

Christians and Jews who try to mount biblically or theologically based arguments will find themselves ignored or denounced by secular gatekeepers precisely because they offer biblically and theologically based arguments.

In Leithart’s view, the cause of this sad state of affairs is that the secularized public is “dull of hearing,”  and “foolish and senseless;” they “have ears but do not hear.” The Biblically literate may recall that these grim assessments are delivered by the prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah, apparently frustrated that no one listens to them.

Our cultural drift toward marriage equality can only be reversed, Leithart believes, by a “cultural revolution.” However, he offers no suggestions as to how such a revolution might be launched and does not appear to think one is imminent.

Instead, Leithart urges his readers to continue fighting the good fight using all the usual arguments, but, he adds, “…we shouldn’t fool ourselves into thinking any of this readily touches the experience or intellectual habits of a majority.” He is spot-on, but then one has to ask why anyone should bother deploying the same old theological arguments, invoking tradition, natural law, sexual complementarity, sin, the creational order, and sexual dimorphism, when it has become so abundantly obvious that they don’t work, even among Catholics, 62% of whom support same-sex marriage in this country? The answer, I suppose, is that the prophet is one “crying in the wilderness;” though no one listens to him, he must nevertheless prophesy, because God has called him to do so.

Leithart believes the Spirit will eventually win people’s hearts. In the meantime, good Catholics should “aspire to form marriages and families that are living parables of the gospel.” As consolation for their failure to win over the larger public, they must remember that they are “in the good company of Isaiah and Jeremiah, of Jesus and Paul.”

I actually appreciated Mr. Leithart’s light-hearted attitude about this issue. (Why do people so often live up to their names?) He seemed to be saying, “Don’t change anything you’re doing, but don’t get discouraged if you don’t reverse the direction that things are moving. People are not listening, but you are a prophet, and people never seem to listen to prophets. It just comes with the territory. So consider yourself in good company, and meanwhile, enjoy your marriage.”

I completely agree, even with his advice to change nothing one is currently doing (I agree because what one is currently doing is not working).

I wrote him the following:

Mr. Leithart, the trouble with prophecies is that so many of them are wrong. If we turn a deaf ear to them, it is often because they are annoying, intrusive, irrelevant, incoherent, and improbable.

There is no shortage of prophets in this world, and there is no shortage of listeners. The reason that you may not recognize this is that their prophetic discourse is secular in nature. It does not use the metaphors of religion, and so it goes under your radar.

Here are three of my favorite prophets: George Monbiot (global warming), Maude Barlow (global water resources), and Paul Krugman (economics).

Opposition to same-sex marriage has so far been almost entirely based in theological notions that most people neither understand nor care about. These notions don’t stand up very well to critical scrutiny in the places that matter—the courts, the legislatures, the media, the universities. What is more, Americans are a pragmatic lot who may pay lip service to improbable theological arguments on Sunday morning, but during the rest of the week they live in a world where love, happiness, and equality are generally valued and encouraged. And nothing can trump theological arguments as decisively as one cherished family member coming out of the closet or one dear friend marrying his partner. At such times, invoking Thomas Aquinas or natural law seems harshly discordant, inappropriate, even mean-spirited. Who wants to be the evil fairy arriving at the wedding party with a curse for the lovers?

Peter Leithart wrote an earlier article (also for First Things) about this very subject, entitled, “Gay Marriage and Christian Imagination” (2/27/13). It is well worth the read, and to fully understand it, one must view the recent debate between Douglas Wilson and Andrew Sullivan around the question, “Is Civil Marriage for Gay Couples Good for Society?”

An excerpt from Leithart’s article of 2/27/13:

Wilson closed the debate with a lovely sketch of the marital shape of redemptive history, from the garden to the rescue of the Bride by the divine Husband to the revelation of a bride from heaven. In order for that to carry any weight, though, people have to be convinced that social institutions should participate in and reflect some sort of cosmic order. Who believes that these days? Wilson tells a cute story, many will say, but what does it have to do with public policy?

If that’s a hard case to make, it’s even harder to make the case that homosexuals are in any way a threat to our civilization. Paul says that homosexual desire is unnatural and, more than that, that the approval of homosexuality is a symptom of advanced cultural decay. Sullivan had no time for this kind of argument: Show me data, he kept saying; show me the specific ways that gay marriage has harmed society or heterosexual marriage in particular. Given his assumptions about what might count as evidence, it’s a hard case to make. To believe Paul, we have to believe that God has standards of sexual behavior, that those standards can be known, and that He judges humans for their conformity to the standards. Who believes that these days?

BREAKING: American Sociological Association Files Amicus Brief Opposing Both Prop 8 and DOMA

March 5, 2013

This is really exciting news. The American Sociological Association had not joined the early amicus brief filed jointly by major medical and social welfare associations in the Hollingsorth v. Perry case (Prop 8), to be considered by the U.S. Supreme Court later this month. Now, they have filed one of their own for both the Prop 8 case and U.S. v. Windsor, which concerns the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). It puts the nail in the coffin of the Mark Regnerus study.

The argument, as outlined in the brief’s table of contents, is unequivocal:

Scholarly consensus is clear: Children of same-sex parents fare just as well as children of opposite-sex parents.

The research claimed to undermine the consensus either does not address same-sex parents and their children or is mischaracterized.

The Regnerus study does not support conclusions regarding the impact of being raised by same-sex parents.

The studies cited by BLAG, the Proposition 8 proponents, and their amici do not address same-sex parents and therefore do not undermine the consensus.

The Ultimate Anti-Gay-Marriage Ad

March 5, 2013

Austin Ruse and Robert P. George Get Bogged Down in Anti-SSM Arguments (Again)

February 18, 2013
Austin Ruse

Austin Ruse

Austin Ruse, writing for Crisis Magazine, explains why the U.S. Supreme Court should uphold both the Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Proposition 8:

In a Harvard Law Review article, … [Robert] George, [Ryan] Anderson, and [Sherif] Girgis answer the question “what is marriage?” They describe two competing views; one they call “conjugal”, and the other “revisionist.” Allowing for the revisionist view “can cause corresponding social harms. It weakens the rational foundation (and hence social practice) of stabilizing marital norms on which social order depends: norms such as permanence, exclusivity, monogamy.”

George and his colleagues argue that marriage can only be “conjugal”, that is, a “comprehensive union joining spouses in body as well as in mind, it is begun by commitment and sealed by sexual intercourse. So completed in the acts by which new life is made, it is especially apt for and deepened by procreation and calls for that broad sharing uniquely fit for family life.” Such a comprehensive view of marriage is still available to sterile couples but not for homosexuals.

So here’s what Mr. Ruse would have us believe: Opposite-sex marriage (OSM), in its current incarnation in many parts of the world, is conjugal, not revisionist. And same-sex marriage (SSM), wherever it is practiced, is revisionist and not conjugal. Let’s unpack that a bit.

Here’s Merriam-Webster’s definition of “conjugal:” of or relating to the married state or to married persons and their relations. From Latin conjungere, to join, unite in marriage.

Robert P. George

Robert P. George

Ironically, it appears that Mr. George and his associates would like us to buy a revisionist definition of “conjugal,” one that appropriates the term for opposite-sex couples while denying it to same-sex ones. Do we have to remind Mr. George and Mr. Ruse that marriage between homosexual couples is a fait accompli in about a dozen countries and in as many U.S. states? In those jurisdictions, the definition of “marriage” has expanded, and with it the definition of “conjugal.” The horses are out of the barn. The gin has already gone into the tonic. Canada, France, the U.K., Argentina, Spain, and the Netherlands, New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Washington State are highly unlikely to reverse course on this issue.

And since when is the term “revision” so negatively loaded? Editors “revise” documents with the aim of improving them, not compromising them. George claims that the revisionist view “weakens the rational foundation of stabilizing marital norms on which social order depends: norms such as permanence, exclusivity, monogamy.” Weakens? Why not “strengthens?” Do we detect a bias here? What is his basis for claiming that same-sex unions are not just as “permanent, exclusive, and monogamous” as opposite-sex ones? With divorce rates at around 50% in the U.S., heterosexuals have not set the bar very high. And what if SSMs proved to be more permanent, exclusive, and monogamous than OSMs? Would either Mr. Ruse or Mr. George renounce OSM as an institution?

But even assuming that the word has purely negative connotations, is anyone trying to “revise” or downgrade the meaning of Mr. Ruse’s marriage or Mr. George’s? An even more pertinent question is whether the marriage template that they consider normative is not itself also a revision of earlier ones. And a quick scan of the history of marriage tells us that it is. That history is so well-known by now that it doesn’t bear repeating here.

If Messrs Ruse and George are trying to lay a sturdy foundation for their argument, bubble-wrap and jello are not good choices for a material. But let’s go on.

Assuming that SSM is indeed revisionist and that revisionism is “bad” in a world resistant to change of any kind, is it fair to describe the “revisionist” understanding of marriage as “essentially an emotional union, accompanied by any consensual activity?” Reducing all the variety and richness of marriage to a single one of its elements is a gratuitous insult to same-sex married couples the world over. And the characterization is patently false, all the more so because it appends the phrase, “accompanied by any consensual activity.” “Any??” Is George suggesting that “revisionist” ideas of marriage allow ANY consensual activity whatsoever? This is the old slippery-slope scare coded into the phrase with a single three-letter word. But the U.S. Supreme Court is deliberating on SSM, not on incestuous marriage or polyandry or marriage with one’s most cherished farm animal. Hopefully, the Supremes will recognize this for the red herring that it is.

George’s panegyric to marriage (the second paragraph I cited above) would describe an SSM very well except for the part about “making new life,” which is pivotal to the Catholic concept. However, he stops short of asserting that marriage should be unavailable to those who cannot or choose not to procreate, though the Church itself requires that there be some “openness” to the possibility of procreation. George’s slight but significant pull-back from Catholic teaching on this point may be a sign of realism on his part: he knows that any argument based explicitly and overtly on Catholic doctrine will be shot down in the SCOTUS. The problem for his modified position (i.e., allowing for the possibility of non-procreative marriage) may open the door to non-procreative marriage between homosexuals, at least from the Court’s point of view. Only by keeping procreation in the equation can George argue against SSM, but in doing so, he limits his audience to fellow conservative Catholics. In other words, he is in a no-win situation.

Ruse acts as though he hasn’t understood what George just said, for he adds: “Such a comprehensive view of marriage is still available to sterile couples but not for homosexuals.” Or maybe he thought he needed to firm it up a bit. George’s reasoning doesn’t justify such a conclusion, and Ruse doesn’t explain what he means. SCOTUS would certainly want to know. Pro-SSM attorneys could drive a semi into such a gaping hole in the argument.

The rest of Ruse’s article is plagued by the same sorts of circular reasoning, red herrings, false premises, semantic slights of hand, and non sequiturs. If either Mr. Ruse or Mr. George imagines they have something to contribute to the defense of DOMA or Proposition 8, would somebody kindly inform them that they’re nowhere ready for prime time. If the SCOTUS judges are half as astute as Judge Roy Walker (whose court overturned Proposition 8), gays and lesbians have nothing to fear.

Finally, I cannot resist calling out Mr. Ruse’s operatic hyperbole at the very end of his article: “[SCOTUS] could declare  homosexual marriage the law of the land. … This would signal the end of any kind of marriage culture in the United States.” Here the beautiful but beleaguered heroine jumps off the castle wall / dies in the arms of her protector (the Church?) / swallows the poison / impales herself upon a sword / is impaled upon a sword by a gang of rampaging homosexuals hell bent on destroying not only the traditional family but Civilization As We Know It. Following the heroine’s death, opposite-sex marriage is outlawed and only homosexuals may marry. Children may only be raised by same-sex parents, who instruct them about the joys of gay sex night and day. Oh weh! What have we come to?

The World as Seen From New York City

February 11, 2013

I remember seeing this drawing by artist Saul Steinberg when it appeared on the cover of The New Yorker in March 1976. I’ve thought back to it many times over the years because it seemed such an apt and brilliant metaphor for the way we view the scope and relative importance of unfamiliar places, institutions, and world views. Over the past decade, I’ve been reaching out to conservative Catholics on their web- and blogsites, trying to break into discussions that are usually happening in echo chambers, as happens when New Yorkers are talking about New York. Most of my blogging on these sites has been about homosexuality and same-sex marriage, and my hope has been to direct the bloggers’ attention to a point of view that differs from their own—in other words, to have a conversation with them and maybe to expand their horizons. In the process, of course, I’ve had my own horizons expanded, and that is all to the good. What never ceases to amaze me is how oblivious each of us can be to world views that are fundamentally different from our own. It is as though these views were just sketched out in the most general terms, as caricatures or place-holders or mere labels lacking any meaningful referent, as in Steinberg’s drawing.

SaulSteinberg in New Yorker

A Response to George Wiegel on Same-Sex Marriage

February 8, 2013

My response to George Wiegel’s “The Marriage Debate: The Nature of Things,” in Catholic Exchange, 2/1/13:

George Wiegel

George Wiegel

Mr. Wiegel, if you hadn’t explained that Cardinal Francis George is an intellectual superstar, I would have thought his remarks about same-sex marriage were just blather. Here’s why:

  1. Dr. Professor George sets up a straw man so that he can knock it down. No one is claiming that same-sex relations are identical to different-sex ones. If that were the claim, then gays would not be attempting to marry other gays.
  2. It is not self-evident why same-sex marriage is analogous to a repeal of the law of gravity. The Cardinal is using a rhetorical trick to legitimate his views.
  3. To say that same-sex marriage is “physically impossible” flies in the face of observable reality.

Then you create your own straw man: SSM advocates believe everything is “fungible, plastic, malleable: anything can be changed by an act of will.” This characterization is extreme. While there are few remaining Platonists in our modern world, neither does anyone any longer believe that copper can be transformed into gold. We do recognize, however, that institutions such as marriage and the family are, and always have been, somewhat malleable. In 10 states and 14 countries, they have recently become more inclusive as well.

The rest of your article consists of threadbare talking points and outright misrepresentations. Your framing of homosexuality as a chosen and willful contravention of “human nature” reflects a profound and willful ignorance of human nature as it is now understood throughout the natural and social sciences. You information about adoption rights in France is simply false. There is not and never has been a “right to adopt” there.