Rebutting the Rebutters
January 28th, 2013
I’ve been quiet the last month or two, feeling burned out and needing a break. Lately, though, I’ve been looking for a good entry point to get started again, a way of warming up and stretching those unused muscles. Fortunately, NOM recently pointed its readers to an article called, Rebuttals to arguments for same-sex marriage: Examining the most common arguments for redefining marital unions …and understanding why they are flawed.
Perfect! In this piece, author Brandon Vogt tries to disprove 10 common arguments for same-sex marriage, and in doing so manages to highlight the most common mistakes of his own camp. Rebutting him is a kind of back-to-the-basics exercise, certainly useful for me, and hopefully for some of you, too. I’ll hit each of his 10 points in a separate post, starting with this first entry in his list of “our” arguments:
1. Marriage has evolved throughout history, so it can change again.
Different cultures have treated marriage differently. Some promoted arranged marriages. Others tied marriage to dowries. Still others saw marriage as a political relationship through which they could forge family alliances. But all these variations still embraced the fundamental, unchanging essence of marriage. They still saw it, in general, as a public, lifelong partnership between one man and one woman for the sake of generating and raising children.
Hmm. “…the fundamental unchanging essence of marriage.” According to whom? Under the guise of proving that one-man-one-woman is an essential part of marriage, Vogt ends up merely assuming it to be so. In a reasoned debate, you can’ t just assume your conclusion is true as a means of proving your conclusion is true. It’s true because it’s true, and we know that it’s true because it’s true. That a nice little circular fail.
Here’s another failure: “They still saw it, in general, as a…” Emphasis added. In general is shorthand for, “People didn’t always see it this way in every instance, but I’m going to evade saying so because I don’t want to explain why my iron-clad rule isn’t actually iron-clad.”
This understanding predates any government or religion. It’s a pre-political, pre-religious institution evident even in cultures that had no law or faith to promote it.
This is one of our opponents’ silliest contradictions. On the one hand, they say marriage a pre-political, pre-religious institution that exists fully and completely in the absence of laws. Yet our opponents deride opposite-sex couples who don’t marry under those laws as shacking up, or living in sin. They draw a firm line between civil marriage and mere cohabitation, and they give us data showing that civil marriage is better. Obviously, then, when they speak of marriage as pre-political and pre-religious, independent of laws, they don’t really believe it. Or perhaps they’re blind to the contradiction, happily holding conflicting views without ever realizing it, changing back and forth depending on whether gays are the topic of conversation. (You know, if only we had a word for an aversion to homosexuality so powerful that it interfered with one’s ability to reason.)
The other problem is that Vogt’s camp likes to say the government cannot define marriage; it can only recognize it. In that case, though, it makes perfect sense to say gays and lesbians started marrying long before the laws or churches permitted it, that we’ve been marrying as long as we’ve been pairing up in committed relationships. By this reasoning, we have gay marriage in every state and country right now, so our opponents should really be agitating for the government to catch up and recognize it!
Vogt finishes up with an irrelevancy.
Yet, even supposing the essence of marriage could change, would that mean it should? We know from other areas of life such as medical research and nuclear physics that just because you can do something doesn’t mean you ought. After all, such action may not be ethical or serve the common good. Even if this argument had historical basis, it would not necessarily be a good reason to change the meaning of marriage.
That’s right, actually. But then, this argument isn’t mean to explain why we should allow same-sex marriage, and if he’s pretending otherwise he’s setting up a straw man. When we talk about the evolution of marriage, we’re simply pointing out how ridiculous our opponent are when they claim marriage cannot change because it never has. Which truly is ridiculous, not just on historical grounds but on logical grounds as well.
Tomorrow: Vogt takes on “Same-sex marriage is primarily about equality.”