Is Same Sex Marriage Just Like the 1960s Civil Rights Movement? Well, No.

Rob Tisinai

February 8th, 2013

Self-described Catholic blogger Brandon Vogt recently published Rebuttals to arguments for same-sex marriageHe tries to disprove 10 common same-sex-marriage arguments, but merely highlights the most common mistakes of his own camp. I’m addressing each of his 10 points in separate posts as a kind of back-to-basics review of our opposition.

I’d planned to write on Vogt’s point 8 (about bigotry and homophobia) but I’ll leave that for last. Instead, let’s look at Vogt’s #9, his rebuttal of:

9. The struggle for same-sex marriage is just like the civil rights movement of the 1960s.

He’s stacking the language by saying “just like.” Nothing is “just like” anything else. India’s independence movement, the suffragette movement, black civil rights, women’s equality, gay equality — all of these are civil rights movements, all of them part of a greater, international, cross-generational civil rights movement, but none of them are “just like” each other.

Phrasing it this way, though, makes it easy for him to focus on their differences rather than their commonality:

The suggestion here is that sex is similar to race, and therefore denying marriage for either reason is wrong. The problem, however, is that interracial marriage and same-sex marriage are significantly different.

For instance, nothing prevents interracial couples from fulfilling the basic essence of marriage — a public, lifelong relationship ordered toward procreation. Because of this, the anti-miscegenation laws of the 1960s were wrong to discriminate against interracial couples. Yet same-sex couples are not biologically ordered toward procreation and, therefore, cannot fulfill the basic requirements of marriage.

Too — many — mistakes! Let’s sort this out.

First, Vogt has never established that the “basic essence of marriage” is procreation. He keeps saying it, but never proves it. Marriage vows rarely mention it, focusing instead on the commitment between two adults to build a life together. This commitment is clearly a better candidate for marriage’s “basic essence” than procreation. A marriage without that commitment is a broken marriage. A marriage without children? Still a marriage.

Then there’s this bit of nonsense:

Yet same-sex couples are not biologically ordered toward procreation and, therefore, cannot fulfill the basic requirements of marriage.

Surely he’s not saying that if you cannot procreate then you cannot fulfill the basic requirement of marriage (again: whose basic requirement?). But then that leaves him  trying to convince us that procreation is not a requirement, but having the parts to procreate is — even if those parts don’t work anymore, or never did. Why? Because…because…because…the parts!

Then again, this is the same man who said we let infertile and elderly couples marry because “it’s not worth the effort to restrict them,” so who knows what kind of nonsense he’s saying.

Vogt opposes discriminating against interracial couples: they can procreate, and procreation is the purpose of marriage. But he’s only a few generations from judges who believed that purebred procreation was the purpose of marriage. Read this from the trial judge in Loving v Virginia, the court case that (eventually) declared banning interracial marriage unconstitutional:

Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.

Wow — epiphany! The judge justified banning interracial marriage by invoking society’s interest in responsible procreation — just like Vogt and his allies who want to ban same-sex marriage.

That might be worth repeating.

The judge justified banning interracial marriage by invoking society’s interest in responsible procreation — just like Vogt and his allies who want to ban same-sex marriage.

Vogt would surely disagree with the judge over what “responsible” means, but they’re both working from the same error: that society’s stake in marriage is entirely about procreation and not at all about what it brings to the adults getting married — a theory so strange even our opponents don’t really believe it.

Maybe Vogt knows his case is weak, because he suddenly veers in a new direction:

It’s important to note that African-Americans, who have the most poignant memories of marital discrimination, generally disagree that preventing interracial marriage is like banning same-sex marriage. For example, when Californians voted on Proposition 8, a state amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman, some 70 percent of African-Americans voted in favor.

Once again, so many things wrong here.

First, the 70% figure is likely wrong. It was based on one exit poll (remember those, President Kerry?). Subsequent analysis showed it’s almost certainly wrong. But Vogt presents it as fact.

Second, any figure from 2008 is surely outdated. A recent poll from ABC News shows that African-American opposition to same-sex marriage is down to 51%. If it was at 70% in 2008, then that position is crumbling fast. This is partly due to the many African-American civil rights leaders coming out in support of marriage equality — including Coretta Scott King, Julian Bond, and John Lewis.

Vogt really ought to know these things.

Then there’s this: I’m not African-American and I can’t present myself as an authority on the black civil rights struggle. Everything I know about what it means to be African-American is second-hand at best. Likewise, no straight person (of any race) can speak first-hand of what it means to be gay in America. When they try, we often end up empty rhymes like, “They’re equating their sin with my skin.” It difficult to say whether one struggle is “just like” another when you’ve only lived one of them.

I can say that some civil rights activists who are both gay and African American do see the parallels. For example, Vogt might want to learn a bit more about Bayard Rustin, the gay man who introduced Ghandi’s philosophy of non-violence to Martin Luther King and who organized the great 1963 civil rights March on Washington.

But I can’t say even that matters, because the most basic problem with Vogt’s 70% argument is that it’s not an argument at all, just an appeal to authority — in this case, public opinion, a fallacy known as argumentum ad populum. That’s odd coming from a self-defined Catholic writer, a man who doesn’t think matters of right and wrong are determined by popular vote. If a moral proposition is true, it’s true whether everyone agrees with it or none of us do. Tossing out a 70% figure is just a lazy substitute for creating a moral argument.

Ultimately, it comes down to this: Vogt has to realize we do the civil rights struggle an injustice if we think of it only in terms of race — or gender, or caste, or romantic orientation. Its victories inspire us precisely because they transcend those categories and reveal a human struggle — we see oppressed and falsely-maligned group stand up with courage and demand full recognition of their humanity, both in the culture and in the law. The civil rights movement of the 1960s can inspire all of humanity, and that humanity includes us.

Next: “Same-sex marriage is inevitable, so we should stand on the right side of history.”

Timothy Kincaid

February 8th, 2013

“…including Coretta Scott King, Julian Bond, and John Lewis.” And, most importantly for this argument, Mildred Loving.

Timothy Kincaid

February 8th, 2013

And as for the essence of Vogt’s argument, it reminded me of

paul canning

February 8th, 2013

“India’s independence movement” was not a “civil rights movement” because – doh – it was for independence, from colonialism.

The reason for your confusion is Ghandi’s stance on violence and linkage with MLK, otherwise it’s totally different. Ghandi wasn’t looking for ‘civil rights’!!

What would be an interesting examination of history is exactly when did ‘civil rights’ become 100% conflated with African Americans? Why, for example, is the struggle for women’s rights not labeled ‘civil rights’?

Any literal interpretation of ‘civil rights’ must confess that LGBT rights are that, civil rights.

Same goes for people with disabilities, et al. A whole lot of people have every reason to call their struggles ‘civil rights’ movements.

IMO, it is vv interesting how words (look at ‘homophobic’, which is basically a psychiatric term, the better term is actually ‘heterosexist’) become ‘owned’ and meanings changed and fought over.

Precisely why do we have the ‘civil rights movement’ and we also have the, not ‘civil’, ‘women’s rights movement’? It really makes no sense. No one ever says the ‘black rights movement’. Or any version which identifies the oppression being fought against.

Strikes me as about oppression hierarchies — i.e, we get to call this THE ‘civil rights movement’, everyone else, let alone the f****g gays, shut TFU. Everything which emanates from that argument says this.

Rob Tisinai

February 8th, 2013

I think that an independence movement to secure freedom from domination by a foreign power counts as a fight for civil rights — though, to be fair, I am conflating India’s independence movement with Gandhi’s fight against the caste system, but they’re not entirely separate.


February 8th, 2013

Nailed it, as always. I am really enjoying this series of posts. Would love to see all the anti-LGBT rhetoric out there get this systematic, thoughtful approach.


February 8th, 2013

“It difficult to say whether one struggle is “just like” another when you’ve only lived one of them.”

And even MORE difficult when you haven’t lived either of them…


February 8th, 2013

Of course, they’d hate to see their good Christian, hypermasculine African American image tainted by the rich white faggots they imagine us to be if they allowed us the courtesy of calling our movement a civil rights movement.

They are pure and strong, and we are weak and sinful.


February 9th, 2013

Is there another unspoken logical underpinning to the “procreation” argument as well? If I understand the logic, it is, “we need to extend marriage only to couples who have the biological capability to procreate, because procreation is so important to the future of society.” Well yes of course people need to keep on having children so the human race does not die out, that’s for sure. However, it isn’t like people can’t do that unless they’re married, is it? If you did away with marriage tomorrow for everybody, the human race would not die out, because people would keep on having babies, correct? It’s certainly true that many people do prefer to have their babies when married, and for many reasons this is probably an excellent preference. However, reserving marriage to opposite sex couples, just so they’ll be able to keep on having babies, seems like a pretty weak argument to me.


February 9th, 2013

There is another reason the procreation argument is so stupid. Even if you granted that marriage were about children (which it isn’t), raising children isn’t just about conceiving them. If you grant the argument, then marriage is about raising them to adulthood. Which entails a lot more than just having sex once. Governments often try to support families in that with various programs like tax credits or subsidized health insurance. Those are equally important to same-sex couples with children.

Brandon Vogt

February 9th, 2013

Thanks, Rob, for this reply! Unfortunately it contains several crucial mistakes and is couched in a smug, condescending tone that makes fruitful dialogue more difficult.

Your main problem is that you clearly misunderstand my main argument. You say:

“Vogt would surely disagree with the judge over what “responsible” means, but they’re both working from the same error: that society’s stake in marriage is *entirely* about procreation and not at all about what it brings to the adults getting married.”

That’s demonstrably false. I’ve never said such a thing, nor suggested it. You’re basically accusing me of a false argument and then tearing that argument down. It’s what’s known as a “straw man” fallacy.

Procreation is a *primary* end of marriage, but not the only one. Marriage has unitive benefits and is in fact a good in itself. Yet one of its fundamental features is sexual complimentarity, or to say it another way, an orientation toward procreation. That’s what differentiates marriage from strong friendships, whether sexual or not.

Thanks again for replying! I really appreciate the engagement.

Rob Tisinai

February 9th, 2013

Hi Brandon, I appreciate the reply. I stand by my characterization of your argument, based on statements like:

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. a public, lifelong partnership between one man and one woman for the sake of generating and raising children.

Period. Full stop.

Then there’s your strange view that we don’t ban infertile and elderly couples from marrying because “it’s not worth the effort to restrict them.”

But most of all there’s this:

To put it simply, in the eyes of the state, marriage is not about adults; it’s about children.

I can’t see how that flat, blanket statement differs from my description of your view: that society’s stake in marriage is *entirely* about procreation and not at all about what it brings to the adults getting married.  But I can see why you wouldn’t want to be associated with it (though you’ve said it!).

Such a view is far, far outside the mainstream conception of marriage. But your entire argument falls apart without this view. Once you admit that procreation is not the only sufficient reason for marrying, and is not at all a necessary reason for marrying (just ask infertile couples and elderly adults, and also the first cousins in those states that require proof of inability to procreate!) then your argument falls apart.

You also say this: “Yet one of [marriage’s ] fundamental features is sexual complimentarity, or to say it another way, an orientation toward procreation.”

Much is wrong here. Why is one of the fundamental features of marriage sexual complementarity? For instance, if a soldier came back from Afghanistan with tragic injuries (you know what I mean), would you declare his marriage invalid? Exactly how do apply this vague principle?

But here’s a bigger thing: why do you jump from “sexual complementarity” to “an orientation to procreation”? You’re quick to make that leap but you don’t give us reason to jump with you. I have sexual complementarity with my same-sex partner, and if you’re going to explain why I don’t, then you need to explain why I don’t rather than offering an arbitrary criterion.

You might start with your phrase, “an orientation to procreation.” What does that mean? It strikes me a deliberately vague phrase, perhaps used because you know you’ll lose all support if you insist “an ability to procreate.” So what, then, does your orientation to procreation consist of?

Timothy Kincaid

February 9th, 2013

Well I will note that Vogt is more honest in his reply. To Vogt, it truly is nothing more than a matter of sexual orientation.

Gay people are to be discriminated against for having the wrong orientation. And the reason that it is wrong is because it isn’t heterosexual. And the reason heterosexual marriage should be the only marriage allowed is because their orientation is towards procreation. It’s not the procreative intent or even the procreative ability, no, it’s tied to the procreative orientation.

Basically, at its heart, his argument is that gays should suffer discrimination because they are gay. It’s a self-explaining rule.

Of course he can’t just come out and say, “we oppose marriage equality because we believe gay people should be discriminated against”, but all the argument is nothing greater than an effort to find socially acceptable words for saying the same thing.


February 9th, 2013

It does seem like Tim’s point is getting to the heart of it. In a marriage between a man and a woman, whether or not those specific people currently have the ability to procreate, their bodies can fit together in a specific way when they are having intercourse, such that, assuming the male produced sperm, the female produced eggs, and the female also had a working uterus and the hormonal functionality … a baby could result. As pointed out, there isn’t a pre-marriage test for whether any of the above actually is true, but the man/woman situation is the only one where those specific biological facts are potentially true. (That a man and a woman, having intercourse, could contribute their “own” eggs and sperm and produce a baby that would be carried by the original woman.)

The procreation argument, then, seems to rest on the idea that the above scenario is the one that should be preferenced, by only permitting marriage to those people where those biological facts could be true (even if they’re not). It would then also seem that there is a giant problem with “obtaining” babies in any other way, whether that involves taking the component “materials” from someone else (sperm/egg donation), having someone else carry the baby (surrogacy) or any other option that doesn’t involve the biological man/woman template – including, of course, same-sex couples who by definition can’t fulfill the template.

My issue is that there doesn’t seem to be any reason why such a preference should exist. It’s certainly true that most babies throughout history have been conceived in this way, but many aren’t any more, and I don’t know of any social or scientific reason why it should be important to extend this preference. The only thing I can think of is that “non-standard” procreation is disfavored, by and large, by the Catholic church for doctrinal reasons. Perhaps that is the “real” reason?


February 9th, 2013

At the end it always comes down to “because the Bible says so” (especially the complementarian nonsense) or “because my church says so” or “because I think my god says so”. And of course “Ewwwww! Ick!”. Everything else is just after the fact rationalizations.

Brandon Vogt

February 9th, 2013

Rob, thanks for your reply! Unfortunately, it contains several new misunderstandings, including new claims unrelated to my original comment, and I simply don’t have time to respond to all of them. To better understand key points such as the centrality of procreation to marriage, the meaning of sexual complimentarity (which two people of the same-sex cannot, by definition, have since their organs do not combine with and depend on each to achieve a specific sexual end, namely children), and the reasons why infertile and elderly couples can still form real marriages, I suggest you check out the book “What Is Marriage?” by Robert George, Sherif Gergis, and Ryan Anderson. Each of the objections you’ve mentioned so far are handled in length in that book. If you are seriously interested in the countering position you’d read it.

(It should be noted that you’re not alone in your confusions. A quick scan o the above combox reveals several confusions among other commenters, including Timothy. In reply to his comment:

By orientation I was of course not referring to “same-sex orientation.” I was using the word in its philosophical context which refers to something directed toward an end. In the case of sex between an opposite-sex couple, that end is naturally procreation unless outside forces disrupt it’s natural aim. Conjugal relations, therefore, as opposed to sex between people of the same gender, is oriented toward procreation.)

But to our original point, your response was fair. I could see how my statement could have been misinterpreted. I should have aimed or clarity instead of pithiness.

Perhaps this will clarify: to be *about* something is to be primarily concerned with it, not *exclusively* concerned with it. When I say, “I’m all about basketball” it doesn’t mean every second of my day is devoted to basketball. It means that’s my primary focus.

What I meant to infer was that, in the eyes of the state, marriage is *primarily* about the creation and rearing of future citizens (i.e. children), not primarily about the emotional happiness of adults.

Ben in Oakland

February 9th, 2013

I may try to write more on this later, but my back went out.

First, Timothy. You nailed it exactly, or almost. In this view, you don’t even need to be heterosexual. You must need to be a man and a woman, and in possession of only a theoretical penis and theoretical vagina.

and that’s where this whole idea falls -apart. It’s entirely theoretical. Andcomplementarity? what exactly is that? All men are not alike, nor are all women alike. even when it comes to having or not having penises and vaginas. If complementarity were real, why is there divorce, and why do you allow it? It is a mystical quality, not defined but boiled Down To its essence, means merely a man and a woman. you could be a gay man and a gay woman and get married. How far away are the Paulks from complementarity?

’cause seriously, you’re not REALLY saying that this complementarity meme is just a penis and a vagina, are you? Most of the heterosexuals I know would find that laughable.

But funny about it. It doesn’t exist even legally. there is no complementarity mentioned in any law, or requirement for marriage, no psychological complementarity test or definition or measure, nor found in religious services of marriage, no definition of it anywhere in the legal contract and social construct of marriage. The only place it exists is in your argument.

It sounds like you’re saying something, but it’s just mystical claptrap that means nothing at all. Well. It does mean something– just what Timothy said. For marriage to exist in your world, it must be only a man and a woman.

it it’s here where you give away the basic bigotry of what you are saying– keeping in mind that not all bigotry is hate, ignorance, stupidity, or fear; you obviously don’t hate us, you re, intelligent, and you’re not afraid of us. a good deal of bigotry is your completely unwarranted, accepted without question, always present faith in your own wholly imaginary superiority– as a Catholic, as a heterosexual, as a moral person, and as a human being.

In short. As Timothy notes, all of your argument boils Down to this: in each ofthose conditions, you are simpLY better than us, and therefore, deserving of privilege. We’re not as good as you, and therefore, not deserving of privilege, and possibly, worthy of disadvantagement.

This statement is the proof of what you have tosay: “That’s what differentiates marriage from strong friendships, whether sexual or not.” I’m not exactly aware that anyone appointed you the Universal Arbiter of Relationships. thank you so much for dismissing my 10 years with my husband as a mere friendship, or my numerous friends that are far more married for far more years than all three of adulterous, fornicating Newties’ marriages, Or Limbaughs 4 deliberately childless marriages. Or Larry King’s eight marriages. Nine?

Marriage as you seem to imagine it simply does not exist, or rather, is merely one of many realities of marriage. And As always, you apply standards to us that you would never dream of applying to heterosexuals. 40% of these sacred marriages end in divorce, but you don’t ban divorce. (Nor will you, as that would actually inconvenience heterosexuals, and would be tossed faster than a kardashian’s husband). 40% of the babies born are illegitimate, rising to70% in the African American community– multiple children fathered by multiple men on multiple women. And yet you have no plans to force parents of these children to get married. And ifthey did, would their fornication suddenly become this mystical complementarity that entitles them to marriage?

Somehow, I don’t think so. Because marriage is far more than what you say it is. And marriage as you imagine it is simply not reflected in the real world. And you don’t really care so much about marriage as you do about making sure that gay people don’t get married. You don’t care about the children as much as you care about heterosexual children, and the children of heterosexuals.

Here is a fact for you. Marriage serves a great many purposes. Any sociologist or anthropologist could tell you all about it. Marriage serves a great many purposes– NOT JUST YOURS. And Not just the church’s.

and of the the things that LEGAL marriage is intended to do, whether you like it or not, is the LEGAL creation of family and next of kinship– with a host of legal benefits, obligations, rights, and responsibilities. And that’s why you denigrate romantic relationships of 40+ years as mere friendships. Because if they are mere friendships, they’re certainly not entitled to what the sacred family is entitled to.

Or rather, heterosexual based family. In California alone, there are 70,000 children with same sex parents. What have those children done to you for you to deny them the legal protections that having legally married parents will give them. Their families are vulnerable because they are not legally kin. these gay parents have accepted the obligations and responsibility of marriage and children? Why are they not entitled to the rights and benefits? why aren’t their children? And how does providing and of those rights and responsibilities impact one heterosexual family, or benefit society in any way? how do unstable families benefit society? Do you really think they’re going to suddenly get themselves hetero-married and take the kids with them?

If marriage has unitive benefits, and is in fact a good in itself, why should it be denied to gay people AND our children? Is there only so much marriage to go around, so that my getting married prevents YOU from getting married? How is more people getting married and adding to that good turned into somehow subtracting from that good if it’s gay people and our children? are you truly stating that hetero lives, families, children, faith, assets and place in society are the only ones that have value?

And Why is complementarity required for that social good to occur, when heterosexuals themselves don’t believe that?

People get married for lots of reasons, NOT JUST YOURS. People also don’t get married for lots of reasons, whether they have children or not, AND YOU DONT CARE ONE BIT As long as they are nominatively heterosexual. Children may or may not be a part of the picture for lots of people, REGARDLESS OF WHETHER YOU THINK THEY DO OR THEY SHOULD. why are only some people’s children valuable?

Again, you’re creating an image of marriage that simply is not representative of the majority, or even a plurality, of heterosexual marriages and why they got married. And it still doesn’t explain how preventing gay people from marrying somehow furthers the whole-cloth goals of that imaginary image.

Ben in Oakland

February 9th, 2013

In ” the eyes of the state, marriage is *primarily* about the creation and rearing of future citizens (i.e. children), not primarily about the emotional happiness of adults”

This is simply NOT true. By claiming that it is, you’re merely stating that you have no valid argument to make.

If we look deep into the eyes of the state, we see a set of laws which define the legal contract known as marriage. To the best of my knowledge, there is no law in any state which requires procreation, or even penis and vagina sex, or even a penis and a vagina, for a Marriage to be valid. Nor, for that matter, does the state require anyone to be happy, or even like each other, to get married. And as an added bonus, the state does not require marriage for procreation.

This statement is the classic straw man argument.
You’ve already indicated that you know what that is.


February 9th, 2013

Complementarianism is a religious doctrine. Nothing else. It’s just a softer version of good old patriarchy that comes down to female submission:

You have to realize that this thing is *huge* in American evangelical Christianity. They are publishing book after book on it and their entire worldview is colored by it. There isn’t a prominent evangelical preacher that doesn’t preach complementarianism.


February 9th, 2013

The meaning of sexual complimentarity:

Something two people of the same-sex cannot, by definition, have since their organs do not combine with and depend on each to achieve a specific sexual end, namely children.

It’s about the parts, man. Cue stoner dialogue about men and women living on sex segregated planets.

Ben in Oakland

February 9th, 2013

Neil. That pretty much nails it.

So exactly who is it that’s trying to redefine marriage, Mr. Vogt? the people who says that it is all about a penis and a vagina, and that that pretty much determines marriage?

I don’t think you’ll find all that many straight people who would agree.

Richard Rush

February 9th, 2013

Brandon, one of the long-standing traditional and entirely legal definitions of marriage is where a thoroughly homosexual man marries a thoroughly homosexual woman. As far as I know, every church would perform the ceremony, and every governmental entity would accept it as legal. Please tell us about the complementarity of these marriages. Do you agree that they are desirable? If so, why? And if not, why not?

This is not just a hypothetical situation. It’s been traditional for eons as a way for homosexuals to survive in a virulently bigoted world. More typically it’s been a homosexual man marrying a heterosexual woman, or vice versa.

Rob Tisinai

February 9th, 2013

Brandon, I’ve dealt with Robert George’s article “What is Marriage?” in great detail — and by that I mean a series of 14 lengthy blog posts. I did not find it consistent, convincing, or coherent. You can see more here.

If you don’t want to tackle all 14 posts, you can go here to see my rebuttal of George’s work on “comprehensive union” and “organic bodily union,” which appears to be what you’re getting at with “sexual complementarity.” Briefly, though, when I read something like, “In the case of sex between an opposite-sex couple, that end [toward which sex is oriented] is naturally procreation unless outside forces disrupt it’s natural aim,” as if there is only one valid and important end, it makes me wonder if the writer has ever experienced the impact of having sex with a partner they love. But check the link for a fuller analysis.

As for when you say: “in the eyes of the state, marriage is *primarily* about the creation and rearing of future citizens (i.e. children), not primarily about the emotional happiness of adults,” I need to point out two things.

First, that you keep asserting this but never prove it.

Secondly, even if you did prove that marriage is primarily about creating and rearing of future children, that would not be enough to make your case, and not just because same-sex parents are perfectly capable of rearing children (by the way, if you think Regnerus gave us information about the outcomes of same-sex parenting, you need to look at his study more closely; he does nothing of the sort).

But even if marriage is primarily about creating future children, as long as there are other sufficient reasons for government to promote marriage, even childless marriage (as NOM founder Maggie Gallagher explained here), then your argument flounders.

No, you’re in a quandary. Either you believe:

  1. Procreation is a necessary condition, and the only sufficient condition for marriage(which no one, including, actually believes), or
  2. Procreation is not a necessary and the only sufficient condition for marriage, in which case there are no grounds for excluding a couple from marriage simply because they cannot procreate (a policy which our government has never followed, by the way — at times even insisting that couples prove they CANNOT procreate before they’re allowed to marry).

Rob Tisinai

February 9th, 2013

By the way, everybody, just to confirm Brandon’s description of me as smug and condescending:

It’s “complementarity,” not “complimentarity.”

Complimentarity would have something to do with the art of saying nice things to people. (Which is I laugh every time I read an online profile saying, “I’m looking for someone to compliment me.”)


February 9th, 2013

First of all, in 2013, when the pressures of peasant and feudal societies to produce heirs and offspring is not present (and in fact, with consumption of resources being as it is, we perhaps should rethink reproduction) this whole argument that procreation is or should be the basis of marriage is silly.

I understand that Vogt is operating out of a Roman Church theology that refuses to leave medieval ideas in the medieval period, it is incumbent on us to show that their positions are outdated and attuned for authoritarian, patriarchal societies–as Steve points out.

The gender metaphysics that people like Vogt rely on are highly abstract and have little to do with how people actually live–as Tisinai’s more philosophical arguments point out. This is why their side has a hard time with empiricism (science). They insist that their gender metaphysics is a substitute for empiricism. In a democracy, it is not.

Richard Rush

February 9th, 2013

Brandon, perhaps you might want to comment on some other entirely legal (if not traditional) marriages: At least three of the infamous Manson Family members/murderers became married while they spend the remainder of their lives in prison. Leslie Van Houten was married and quickly divorced. Susan Atkins married her attorney (Susan died in 2009). And then there is Charles “Tex” Watson who not only married while in prison (and became a born again Christian), but fathered four children thanks to conjugal visits. But, hey, let’s look at the bright side, at least those children have a mom and a dad, and that’s just about everything.

As I understand, conjugal visits are now banned in California for first degree murderers – thanks largely to Doris Tate (Sharon’s mother). But I don’t believe you (Brandon), Robert George, Maggie, Brian, or any other members of the marriage police had any involvement – because you were so busy working yourselves into a frenzied obsession with denying marriage to people like me and my same-sex partner of 31 years. To the exclusion of everything else, the coveted combination of penis and vagina means everything, doesn’t it?


February 9th, 2013

There is another aspect to the “complementarity” argument that is missing from this discussion, although Ben in Oakland touches on it – humans do not only come in male and female varieties. In a relationship between a “standard-issue” man and a woman with Complete Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome (CAIS), there are indeed both a penis and a vagina present, yet couple still fails to have all the organs to meet Vogt’s definition. That is because women with CAIS do not have ovaries, fallopian tubes or uteri and in fact are genetically male. These women are still allowed to enter into marriages and I doubt Vogt would want to stop them. And CAIS is only one version of intersex conditions or Differences in Sexual Development. Other people with such conditions may have ambiguous organs or organs of both genders, but are nearly always unable to reproduce. So exactly how do we define gender or sexual complementarity when humanity comes in such variety. As Rob noted same-sex couples, like couples with at least one intersex member, still have sexual complementarity outside of simple reproductive ability.

The truth is, the government cares about marriage because the contract creates a new family structure that supercedes relationships based on blood or adoption. That structure exists regardless of any children the couple may have, by whatever means. By denying that contract to same-sex couples the government prevents us from superceding our “natural” families, leaving only same-sex couples vulnerable.


February 10th, 2013

There is actually a Supreme Court case that dealt with prison marriages:

Note how they don’t reduce marriage to shoving a penis into a vagina or the production of children:

“First, inmate marriages, like others, are expressions of emotional support and public commitment. These elements are an important and significant aspect of the marital relationship. In addition, many religions recognize marriage as having spiritual significance; for some inmates and their spouses, therefore, the commitment of marriage may be an exercise of religious faith as well as an expression of personal dedication. […] Finally, marital status often is a precondition to the receipt of government benefits (e. g., Social Security benefits), property rights (e. g., tenancy by the entirety, inheritance rights), and other, less tangible benefits (e. g., legitimation of children born out of wedlock). These incidents of marriage, like the religious and personal aspects of the marriage commitment, are unaffected by the fact of confinement or the pursuit of legitimate corrections goals. Taken together, we conclude that these remaining elements are sufficient to form a constitutionally protected marital relationship in the prison context.”

Priya Lynn

February 10th, 2013

Rob said “First, the 70% figure is likely wrong…Second, any figure from 2008 is surely outdated. A recent poll from ABC News shows that African-American opposition to same-sex marriage is down to 51%. If it was at 70% in 2008, then that position is crumbling fast. This is partly due to the many African-American civil rights leaders coming out in support of marriage equality — including Coretta Scott King, Julian Bond, and John Lewis.

Vogt really ought to know these things.”.

He does know these things, but they are inconvenient to his argument so he ignores them and pretends something else is true.

Eric in Oakland

February 10th, 2013

Brandon Vogt said in his first reply to Rob, “Procreation is a *primary* end of marriage, but not the only one. Marriage has unitive benefits and is in fact a good in itself. Yet one of its fundamental features is sexual complimentarity, or to say it another way, an orientation toward procreation. That’s what differentiates marriage from strong friendships, whether sexual or not.”

How can something that is not necessary for marriage,and which is quite common to relationships other than marriage, be a “fundamental feature” of marriage? One might as well claim that a ring or a bouquet is a fundamental feature. Furthermore, it is quite silly to claim that this is what differentiates marriage from a strong friendship. Such a claim ignores the fact that persons of the opposite sex can have strong (even sexual) friendships with one another without being married in any sense. There are plenty of people who have procreative sex without desiring the commitment of marriage, and plenty of people who want the commitment of marriage without procreation.

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