Civil unions are the path to same-sex marriage. Period.

I’ve been saying for years that civil unions are an unacceptable “moderate” alternative to homosexual “marriage,” because once civil unions are instituted, they will inevitably be attacked as being “unequal” to real marriage, as a form of “second-class” marriage, which will lead to the legalization of homosexual marriage itself.

Now a government commission in the uber-liberal state of New Jersey has proven my point. The New York Times writes in an editorial:

In 2006, New Jersey’s Supreme Court declared that same-sex couples must be guaranteed all the rights and benefits that come with marriage, but left it to the State Legislature to figure out how. Instead of simply granting gay people the right to marry, the Legislature joined Vermont and Connecticut in creating a lesser category, civil unions. Predictably, civil unions are proving to be an inadequate remedy.

A report issued last week by the 12-member state commission charged with monitoring the new law’s effectiveness found that it has created “a second-class status” for same-sex couples and is not fulfilling the court’s mandate of equality….

The Times concludes by urging New Jersey Gov. Corzine to sign a bill “ending gay couples’ exclusion from marriage.”

The above makes clear that conservatives who support homosexual civil unions while opposing homosexual marriage are clueless, since the first will lead inevitably to the second. There is only one sure way to stop America from proceeding down the path to homosexual marriage, and that is a Federal Constitutional amendment that defines marriage in the United States as the union of one man and one woman and prohibits the granting any of the rights pertaining to marriage to any non-married couple. Such language would bar not only homosexual marriage but homosexual civil unions.

Unthinking paleoconservatives have resisted such an amendment, arguing that it would be an infringement on federalism. Even the neocon Mark Steyn, who had never expressed a concern about federalism before in his life, used that argument against the amendment in 2003, as discussed at VFR. The federalism argument is wrong-headed. Why does the U.S. Constitution exist? It exists for the purpose of upholding basic principles that pertain to the entire country and that cannot be effectively handled at the state level. When the the end of the Civil War came to the determination that slavery was incompatible with our social order, slavery was outlawed in the United States by Constitutional amendment. Homosexual marriage is also incompatible with our social order, and therefore, since a movement is now afoot to impose homosexual marriage on America, it is both appropriate and vitally necessary that homosexual marriage be outlawed in the United States by Constitutional amendment.

- end of initial entry -

Christopher C. writes:

As much as it goes against my default position regarding federalism—the paleoconservative subsidiarity don’t trust the feds to get it right position, I think I have to agree with your post on the need for a Constitutional amendment.

Here, I offer another example of how it, same-sex marriage, is being legalized.

This decision is several months old already.

“The issue raised herein is whether the Westchester County Executive’s executive order requiring county agencies to recognize same-sex marriages where validly contracted out of state, is lawful. I hold that it is.”

The most important quote, in my quick reading:

“Absent legislation or appellate court ruling that declares same-sex marriages out of state void here, though valid there, there is no positive law to interdict recognition of the marriage.”

Paul G. writes:

I don’t know if an amendment defining marriage as one man-one woman is the only traditionalist option. I think an amendment specifically exempting marriage from the Full Faith and Credit clause of the Constitution would accomplish much of what the marriage-definition amendment would while addressing any federalism-related concerns. This way, states which ban gay marriage don’t have to recognize gay marriages—democracy and federalism both prevail. Most people (invariably liberals, even if they’re self-described “conservatives”) claim to oppose such an amendment on the grounds of states’ rights or federalism. This betrays either calculated mendacity or (much more likely) genuine ignorance, since federalism concerns don’t stand much chance against activist or revisionist federal judges—unless those judges are constitutionally barred from imposing their policy preferences. A Full Faith and Credit amendment would accomplish that. True, it wouldn’t guarantee the traditional concept of marriage everywhere, but it would guarantee it where people want it to be guaranteed. Just a thought.

LA replies:

The problem I see with this idea is that states that allow same-sex “marriage” and states that don’t allow same-sex “marriage” will run into irreconcilable conflicts with each other. I again refer to slavery as an example. If a man takes his slave into a state that prohibits slavery, does the slave become free? Chief Justice Taney said no; nothing can take away a man’s right to his property. Others said this meant in effect legalizing slavery for the whole country, and thus taking away the right of the free states to prohibit slavery. The conflict was so profound that it led to Civil War. Homosexual marriage presents the same kind of issue of irreconcilable moral conflict. Even if the Full Faith and Credit clause were abrogated for this issue as you propose, the conflicts of states with each other would be unending. Writers on this subject have presented various scenarios that would arise, having to do with divorce, child custody, and so on, though I can’t give any specific examples at the moment. In any case, even if SSM states did not have the ability via the FF&C clause to force non-SSM states to respect their laws, interests within the non-SSM states would inevitably create pressure over the supposed inequity that was involved, pushing more and more states to conform to SSM.

The deeper point is, why should the proponents of SSM be given even that much leeway? It’s a question of fundamental right. Just as polygamy is contrary to our civilization and does not belong in the United States, period, same-sex marriage is contrary to our civilization and does not belong in the United States, period. It is staggeringly perverse of paleoconservatives, in this age when the walls of federalism have been illegitimately breached again and again and nothing is being done about it, suddenly to cry federalism in this one area where a national solution is constitutionally right (because it is being proposed through amendment, not through a violation of the Constitution); morally right; and urgently necessary.

Buck O. writes:

No one is going to stop this train. If it’s in the vernacular (“same-sex marriage”) it will be law. Ideas that leftist talked about decades ago—ideas that conservatives dismissed and laughed about—are now the law of the land (no smoking, no fatty food, women or gays in the military, etc). How long has the term “same-sex marriage” been used—not the arguments for or against, just the term? It can’t be stopped. The courts are mostly controlled by leftist judges that legislate from the bench. The Congress is filled with liars, thieves and cowards that gave up power to the courts and the executive. The executive is nothing more than a string of single interest politicans vested in special interest money. The U.S. Constitution has been mangled and distorted beyond recognition. The text that had one meaning when written, now means something else. How can this be? The Equal Protection Clause was clearly understood NOT to prohibit a state from restricting marriage to persons of the opposite sex. How can it now be “read” to have that restriction? Because any collection of agreeable leftists can distort any text written long ago by some dead white guys not around to argue the point, or they can simply assert that it has evolved!

Why a Constitutional amendment—if no one can read it?

Mr. Auster. I love you fighting spirit. Please buck me up here.

LA replies:

You are being too gloomy. In recent years a large number of states have passed laws or constitutional amendments barring same-sex “marriage.” Yes, the Republicans in Congress have failed to get the Marriage Amendment passed, and George W. Busherino only gave coldly pro-forma support to the amendment, even allowing his vice president publicly to oppose it, an unprecedented event in American history and a perfect illustration of the treason and contempt for conservatives that resides in the heart of Busherino, and far too many Republicans support civil unions, which is the major weakness on our side, the opening it is allowing to the liberals to get their nose in the tent. But this issue is still very much alive. The other side is very very far from the kind of victory you say is inevitable. To give up on this fight when there’s so much going for our side is just wrong.

Kilroy M. writes from Australia:

I agree with the gist of this post intuitively. However, perhaps you could explain just how, precisely, the recognition of homosexual marriage will adversely impact on Western civilisation. I hear that it is an attack on the traditional family, but how does recognising homosexual marriage throw a spanner into the works of traditional family formation? If one is traditionally inclined to marry, then one will, irrespective of some invented right to institutionalise sodomy.

LA replies:

You’re assuming that same-sex marriage is simply another option that is being allowed, that it would have no effect on the institution of marriage itself. In fact, legalizing homosexual marriage would alter the very definition and meaning of marriage. Consider the use of the words “husband” and “wife.” Since those words do not apply to same-sex couples, terminology that applies equally to same sex couples must be adopted, namely, calling call married couples “partners.” This has already happened, I think, in Britain. (Don’t hold to me to that.) And some members of the liberal elite, anticipating the change in law, have already stopped using the words husband and wife and call themselves partners instead.

I hope that the Orwellian elimination of the words “husband” and “wife” tells you that something more is involved here than just providing people with another choice that has no larger social significance.

The same thing happens to the words “mother” and “father,” as Maggie Gallagher has explained:

The transformation of mother and father into “Parent A” and “Parent B” is the model of the paradigm shift now underway in Massachusetts. The distinctive features of the union of male and female are going to have to be removed from our notions of marriage and family. The experience of same-sex couples will become the new norm for family life, because the “unisex” idea that gender has no public significance is the only model that can be construed as “inclusive” of both opposite-sex and same-sex unions. The result is not neutrality but the active promotion of a new unisex ideal, in which the distinctive features of opposite-sex relations will be submerged, marginalized, cast to one side, and redefined as discrimination…

And that’s just a start. There are many other ways that homosexual marriage would alter the meaning of marriage.

See the notes of my talk on homosexual marriage. And here is a google page listing VFR entries on this issue. Also, you could look up Maggie Gallagher’s website. She has many articles on this and she is probably the best writer on our side of the issue.

Kilroy M. writes:

So what you’re saying is that, where heterosexual marriage represented a traditional norm, shifting towards a non-gendered paradigm of marriage will define traditional marriage out of existence?

I can see how this works “on paper,” where progressive attitudes about marriage will preclude “heterosexist” ideas, but how does that create a counter incentive for people like us from marrying in the manner and form we desire?

Consider Muslims living in the West: many still practice polygamy and practice ideas that are either illegal or just plain ridiculed by mainstream (i.e. liberal) society—yet they boast the biggest demographic growth-rate.

Don’t get me wrong—I agree with you, but I’m trying to find a reasoning that can be used against both the pink lobby and the right-liberal rationalists.

LA replies:

Well, it has the effect of devaluing marriage. Men often don’t want to get married, the social incentives, the prestige of marriage, need to be there if marriage is to happen. If you turn marriage in a soulless union of two “partners,” no longer focused on the forming of a family and the raising of children, but on the convenience of the two “partners,” you’ve stripped marriage of its specialness, the sense of joining something larger than yourself. Also, you’ve turned marriage into something which is based on a homosexual paradigm, which is not exactly going to increase its attraction to heterosexual men. So in that sense it would tend to make marriage less appealing.

No one ever said that homosexual marriage would stop heterosexuals from marrying, but it obviously has the effect of downgrading marriage. If you know that at your wedding, the pastor, excuse me, the facilitator, is going to pronounce the words, “I now join you together as partner and partner,” rather than as “husband and wife,” how can that do other than reduce the mystique of marriage which it requires as the central institution of human society?

Muslims are not relevant here. They’re in their own enclosed world, they don’t give a damn about what we’re doing.

Laura W. writes:

We are so used to thinking of marriage in terms of how it meets the psychological needs of adults that many people, like Kilroy, honestly wonder how same-sex marriage would alter anything for couples in traditional marriages.

Obviously, it does alter the entire conception of marriage for the traditional couple. It further etherealizes marriage, making it all psychological and not at all about physical essences. The proponents of same sex marriage do have one thing right: marriage in its physical dimension is not all about procreation. But, it is about the essential physical union of male and female. In the institution of marriage, we formally recognize that male and female are both physical and spiritual realities. I highly recommend this article by Robert P. George at First Things which discusses at length this idea of “one flesh unity.” It’s a philosophical notion that used to be commonly understood in Western culture, but now has been lost largely because we have become so used to thinking of sex and marriage purely in terms of psychological fulfillment and pleasure.

So how, Kilroy might ask, does any change in this philosophical notion truly affect the traditional couple? It has already profoundly affected the traditional couple and will cause further damage the more the idea of male/female union is eroded. It leads the traditional couple to mistakenly believe that the mere fact of their physical coexistence is not all that important. If their marriage does not feel particularly fulfilling at any given moment then it is worth nothing. The divorce rate shows the effects of this etherealized view of marriage.

Also, in response to Kilroy, it’s important to remember that every child wants a mother and father. More importantly, every child, except in fantastically rare cases of severe abuse, craves his or her biological parents and wants to live with them. State-approved same sex marriage is the state’s way of willfully ignoring the universal needs of children. Any government that approves it will most certainly be despised by posterity. It will take many years for the voices of children in same-sex homes to be heard, but they will certainly be filled with resentment. Child custody issues are the most important reason why a Constitutional amendment is essential. The ugly custody disputes of today will seem like nothing when we live in a country where one state recognizes same-sex marriage and the other doesn’t.

Sage McLaughlin writes:

The question that Kilroy M. poses is a serious one, and not easy to answer. That’s not because there is no answer, but rather because it requires a certain degree of abstraction. What we’re doing in large part is taking about words and the importance of the meaning attached to them. What I say below is as much about homosexual marriage proper as it is about civil unions, in part because I do not accept the distinction.

I think the answer boils down to this: Marriage is fundamentally what academics these days like to call a “social construct.” What each and every marriage is, is a matter of precisely how society has chosen to define it. That’s why, after all, there is so much debate about it in the first place—we’re arguing over how society chooses to privilege certain relationships, not how each individual couple chooses to think of their relationship. Merely to ask the question, “But how does this affect my marriage?”, is to give the game away, because it assumes that marriage is whatever any two people say it is. To say that marriage shall be construed to mean X is to say that every marriage shall henceforth be defined by society at large as X. So if we say that marriage is merely a contractual union of any two consenting people with certain rights and privileges, then that’s what every marriage is—mine, yours, everybody’s. It is risible in the extreme for people to claim that they can redefine marriage without changing what my particular marriage is, and worse yet to say that I have no personal stake in how marriage is defined. One may say that I can choose to go on privately defining my relationship to my wife differently, but marriage simply is not a matter of individual conceptions—it’s a social institution designed to privilege certain kinds of relationships. And besides, why should the great mass of people—that is, married men and women—have to go on dissenting from society’s definition of marriage (“Well, our particular marriage is a covenant between man and woman for the purpose of defining the contours of our family, no matter what the courts say.”), while homosexuals get to live with the warm certainty that their marriage is exactly what society says it is, no more and no less?

Still, there is the practical question, rather than the theoretical one. Will marriage as an institution be affected by how we choose to define it? I find it hard to conclude otherwise. Let’s choose some other thing, say, the nation-state. We can conclude that the nation-state would not be long for this world, as we know it, if key defining elements of it were proclaimed irrelevant. You cannot eliminate the territorial element, for example, and then ask that those nations who choose to define their nation-state differently simply do so in private. Your point is exactly on target, too, that people choose to participate in marriage because of the esteem in which it is held. How will anybody hold marriage in any esteem if it is defined as an entirely malleable and formless contract between two (or three?) people. My parenthetical there really adds to the difficulty—“civil unions” will almost certainly become the normative view of what marriage is in general, and if that’s true, then by what principle is marriage limited to a congress of two people, rather than three? We intuit that marriage is limited to two persons because there are two sexes and we think this has something to do with what marriage is all about. Remove that aspect altogether, and it becomes unclear just why marriage ought to be limited to two people at a time—the same people pushing for civil unions are the people who believe there are five human genders. When asked about this problem, gays will either become indignant and dismiss the objection entirely without ever answering it, or squirm and say with all the irony and hypocrisy they can muster that, “Well, I just don’t approve of polygamy.” [LA replies: Brilliant. The argument that same-sex marriage opens the door to threesomes or foursomes has, of course, been made many times. But I’ve never seen the logic behind it as Sage has explained it here. If the reason that marriage involves two and only two persons is that there are two sexes, then, if there are three, four, or five sexes, there ought to be marriages that involve three, or, or five partners.]

In the end, Kilroy’s question might not be as relevant as it first appears, because the right to decide which relationships shall be privileged and for what purposes is the right of the people’s alone. And the people have manifestly not decided to change their view of what a marriage is or why it is important. The most pernicious aspect of the entire movement to redefine marriage is that it is fundamentally totalitarian, in the purest sense imaginable. It is founded on the principle that a specially enlightened elite can literally tell us what we mean by what we say, and also on that most evil Orwellian concept that words themselves can have no generally understood meaning which is not under the direct conscious governance of our betters. This philosophy, when put into action, cannot but be repressive, because it makes self-government impossible. When we can be told that something so fundamental to human social relations as marriage can be defined away at the stroke of a pen, then there is nothing that can be taken for granted between reasonable people and no rational basis for any social discourse beyond that which is imposed upon us by the expert class. Marriage is pre-technocratic, and that is why our elites despise it. That is why the implications of this debate transcend the question of whether my individual marriage will literally fall apart if civil unions are passed. I mean after all, if I can be told what my marriage is, then I can be told that it never existed in the first place, can’t I? How am I not to regard this as a threat, even if I find it difficult to articulate?

H. Brobeck writes:

I know you don’t like libertarianism, but isn’t this one of the cases where a libertarian solution would work? Just cut the state out of the business of marriage entirely and let churches marry whom they please. As far as I understand, the legal rights of marriage can almost all be obtained through contracts anyway. If your Anglican church wants to marry two dudes, let them—no one has to recognize or even respect it. And the government wouldn’t require violent and unpopular changes to the language. As Sage McLaughlin says, ‘The right to decide which relationships shall be privileged and for what purposes is the right of the people’s alone.’ Wouldn’t a libertarian solution most preserve these rights?

LA replies:

You’re missing the whole point. Marriage is a social institution, it is of central importance to human society. It’s not a purely private concern. You libertarians are like 13 year olds who don’t understand the most basic things about human life, but have discovered one big idea that excites you, “freedom,” and you think that one idea is a sufficient explanation for things and a sufficient basis for organizing all of society. And that’s why your libertarian ideology is so off base and destructive.

And when Sage spoke of the right of the people, he wasn’t speaking of democratic rights and individual choice; he was speaking of the defense of natural human society against leftist social engineers and libertarian social experimenters who seek to destroy it.

Laura W. writes:

When more people latch onto Sage’s line of reasoning—that marriage is not just being redefined for homosexuals, but marriage is being redefined for all of us—there will be an enormous groundswell of resistance. Suddenly, people will say, “Hey, wait a minute. Homosexuals are not just talking about their marriages. They’re talking about our marriages.” The general public simply hasn’t gotten to that point yet.

Laura W. writes:

And where do children fit into this scheme of marriage according to private definitions?

Let’s be honest. This is a power struggle. It’s the interests of adults against those of children. In what other society have children been so spoiled and yet so deprived?

Jon W. writes:

This comment was typed following your response to Kilroy as of 11:35 a.m. Friday 2/29/08.

Though logicians will object, the slippery slope arguments win the debate for me. May they and better arguments win an amendment of the U.S. Constitution to protect traditional marriage soon. I speculate that the the advance of the homosexuals’ agenda has been a factor in individual teen suicides and other debilitating personality disorders.

I have not noticed it being argued that forced-draft popular culture will accelerate diffusion of homosexuality and compound identity confusion among children, if not among adults. Disapproving how much Disney teeny bopper programs my 8-year old granddaughter is allowed to watch—smart aleck talk, gyrating dancing, hog-ringed flesh, street-walker dress, expensive toys—the evidence of imprinting is apparent in her “cute” behavior. Of course all that is reinforced in school yard and classroom re-enactments by peers.

As Gladwell’s “Tipping Point” reported, even teen suicides (along with some beneficial phenomena too) are copied upon diffusion of the underlying stimuli to culturally impaired receptors. An economist’s (?) book “The Butterfly Effect” reinforces Gladwell’s points; it includes a report of surprising crowd behavior among foraging and communicating ants which is mirrored in human choices of what is “in” or “now.” Why are billions spent on advertising? Suggestion.

The disproportionate Disney representations of non-white child actors foreshadow ubiquitous portrayals of the moral superiority of all things homosexual, especially the sanctification of those who fawn over the “societaly afflicted.” With that victory in hand, where must the chic, transgression-driven herd go next? There’s little left to exploit. If I recall correctly, the state of Oregon legalized on-stage live sex (whether hetero- or homo-sexual or both?) sometime after the year 2000. I believe implementation may have been blocked and I am not sure of any of the facts. But what’s next? Legitimization of bestiality? Coprophagy? Indeed, how did we get from “Gunsmoke” and the Jackie Gleason Show to where we are?

U.S.C. film school professors and actors (abetted by the ACLU) disingenuously maintain that parents can shield their children by controlling TV or movie watching. True, parents can exercise some control and provide weak immunizations, but the flood of sewage is unavoidable, having permeated American popular and commercial culture. Art scattered a little more crabgrass seed each transgressive season; it sprouted and multiplied because we did not uproot it early.

We already have NEA driven sex education and gender blending by law, with words (like mom, dad, boy, and girl) being removed from school vocabulary. If I can find it I’ll send you a link to a troubling video showing public school educator teams designing and children participating in homosexual indoctrination. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed into law, effective 1/1/2008, changes in the Education Code bringing Hate Crime law to bear against those in any part of public education who may be thought to have spoken disparagingly about homosexuality or about (adopted) gender identity—“no matter what stereotypical assignment of sex was made at birth” (paraphrasing). The effect is that if I had a confused son in school, he could decide to be a boy in the morning and a girl in the afternoon—choose whichever lavatory or locker room “fits” his identity of the moment. Nearby schools are finding it necessary to provide unisex restrooms—without foot baths I hope.

The longer the drive to amend the Constitution to protect traditional marriage, the less support it will have as psychic ground is being ceded to homosexuality every day.

Gintas writes:

Your retort to the libertarian is excellent. I imagine some stoned 14-year-old boys discussing philosophy at 2 am in the basement. Someone comes up with basic libertarianism, and the response is “Whoa, dude, that is, like, so awesome!”

“Albert Nock” writes:

You have fallen fully for the State’s claim on all social institutions. Religion is not a purely private concern but a social one. It is also outside the state. The lack of a government-established Church leading to a relatively free-market in religion is one of the reasons religion is much healthier in the United States than Europe. See this.

Social institutions outside the State serve as rivals to its power. Thus, the State will constantly seek to undermine them. The Kings of old crushed the aristocracy (the temporary victory of the latter gave us the Magna Carta) just as in the modern day the centralized national government seeks to subvert state and local government and international governmental bodies seek to undermine national governments. The family is smaller than a church or local government, but it is still a rival power center that the State must seek to undermine. It created mandatory public education to ensure that parents do not teach their children the “wrong” things, it creates divorce laws that undermine the ability of a man and woman to create mutually desirable marriage contracts, it creates a social security system for the elderly that decreases their reliance on their children and welfare for single-mothers to decrease their reliance on their husbands. It is simply the nature of the State to do this when capable (which it would not be if other rival power centers were still in the way) and to expect otherwise is folly. The only hope to maintain a traditionalism despised by the State is to remove the authority of the State. And power you give to the State in the hopes that it will use it to preserve traditionalism will inevitably be twisted around to subvert traditionalism, just as laws created to prohibit racial quotas were subverted to enforce racial quotas.

LA replies:

I’m not going to get into a discussion which says the state as such is the problem. You’re so distorting my position. I’m not urging that the state take special steps to preserve tradition. I’m saying that the state must properly do certain minimal functions which it was doing for centuries before the modern gigantic state, functions it has always done, among them defining marriage, marital rights, divorce, child custody, and so on.

With all respect, your position is so far removed from VFR’s concerns that your posting here with these radical libertarian ideas doesn’t serve any purpose.

Laura W. writes:

Does he propose to abolish the court system as well? How about prisons? And police?

Can you imagine people working out custody disputes on their own?

“Albert Nock” replies:

Yet again, you have bought the State’s lies. Marriage does not originate with the State. It used to be separate. The State has seized marriage from the Church and society. In opposing this modernist development I am in fact a traditionalist. You can read about some of the history from here: My thoughts on gay marriage more specifically are pretty much those expressed here.

The State must always push for what you call “liberalism,” what Mencius calls “Universalism” and what Fabian Tassanno calls “mediocracy.” Though conservatives may look nostalgically back to the past when “progress” had not gone as far, people who lived back then were still bemoaning the erosion of their traditions at the hands of the State. In the future “conservatives” will look back on our time as one devoid of liberalism, or perhaps reactionary. Any Republican or conservative “revolution” will not stop the process, much less reverse it. You cannot put “the right people” in charge and reform the State so that it works toward your goals. The State has incentives of its own that will resist being changed. The capability of the State can be restricted though (as with the Magna Carta by the nobility). The State will not obey its own restrictions (see the Constitution) but most have other power centers imposing restrictions on it and resisting its encroachments. These power centers may be governmental bodies themselves (as with state and local governments versus national), the separate powers at the same level of government or occasionally opposition political parties. They may also be non-governmental Churches, clubs, unions, corporations, militias or families, all of which the State will seek to co-opt and subvert.

LA replies:

First, my position is that the laws governing marriage are set by the state, that marriage is recognized and validated by the state, and that this has always been the case in America. I imagine that in medieval England, it was the Church that performed this function. But the Church then exercised state-like powers, forming much of the public basis of society. We don’t have a Church like that in the United States. So the government must perform that basic function, and has through our whole history. I did not mean to suggest that the institution of marriage was originally created by governments.

Second, speaking in the American context, of course there must be powers distinct from the central state to contain the central state’s natural tendency to expand its power. As John Taylor of Caroline understood, as soon as the federal government (or the federal government through the federal courts) becomes the decider about the extent of its own power, i.e., the sole decider about the meaning of the Constitution, there will be no holding back the steady aggrandizement of power by the state. Further, in our original system, the federal government was not only balanced by other powers, namely the states and the people; the federal government was understood as the creature of the states and the people, deriving its powers from the consent of the people and the states, which delegated certain demarcated powers to it. Thus the powers exercised by the federal government did not belong to the federal government; they were delegated through a process of mutual consent among the states. Which, by the way, is not to say that the federal government is to be seen as nothing but an agent of the states. Once the federal government has come into existence, if it is to serve the purposes for which it came into existence, it must have the power to act. Otherwise it becomes an ineffectual pathetic entity such as the United States was under the Articles of Confederation.

In any case, the federal government, you and I agree, must be balanced by other entities that have real power to keep it from exceeding its limits. These other entities are, pre-eminently, the states. But now notice an odd thing that you left out of your comment. The several states of the United States are also what you demonize as … the State. So, underneath your radical libertarian, anti-state rhetoric, which would delegitimize and strip all functions from the state, your argument in reality is not against the state as such, it is against the federal government acting without restriction. But your radical anti-state rhetoric says otherwise. You act as though the state, as such, is the problem. Which logically would lead to the elimination of the state. Which would reduce man to the state of nature.

So your argument is a false argument. You make it seem as though the state as such is the problem, and therefore all functions including the recognition and validation of marriage must be removed from the state, leaving society without a state. Yet contained within your argument is another argument, that the state must be restrained by other state entities. You write:

“The State will not obey its own restrictions (see the Constitution) but most have other power centers imposing restrictions on it and resisting its encroachments. These power centers may be governmental bodies themselves (as with state and local governments versus national) …”

So you’re not against the state governments, and you’re not even against the federal government. To the contrary you see state governments as necessary bulwarks against encroachments by the federal government. If you’re against illegitimate encroachments by the federal government, then you are not against the federal government, you are against its illegitimate encroachments. As for the state governments, you don’t seem to have a problem with them at all, notwithstanding your rhetorical demonization of “the State.”

Now, when in the history of the United States was the fact that the state governments—the state governments, not the federal government—issued marriage licenses and determined the basic rules of marriage, divorce, child custody and so on, seen as an illegitimate state encroachment? To my knowledge, it was not, even by that most radical anti-state thinker John Taylor. So your argument is false. On one hand, you acknowledge (indirectly, underneath the cover of the main thrust of your rhetoric) the legitimacy of the state and its traditional functions, which would include the marriage laws and the licensing of marriages. On the other hand, in your main rhetoric, you equate the state’s basic responsibility for marriage laws and the licensing of marriages with the monstrous growth of the central state, and you call for marriage to be made into a private institution, thus destroying the central institution of human society, which is marriage. Just as there can be no human society without a state empowered to represent and act on behalf of the society, there can be no human society without a publicly and commonly recognized institution of marriage. A privately-defined institution of marriage, with numerous private entities making their own definition of marriage, is a contradiction in terms, since the very essence of marriage is that it is a publicly recognized and publicly enforced bond. Yet your irresponsible, radical libertarian rhetoric has the effect of delegitimizing both the state and marriage.

By the way, the fact that I’ve replied to Mr. Nock should not be taken as an invitation to libertarians to start sending comments to VFR (though of course Mr. Nock himself is free to reply). Once in a while it’s a good thing to reply to the libertarian position to show how half-baked it is. But I do not wish to get into an extended discussion with libertarians. The proper and useful way to frame the debate about the state is not: “Should the state exist” (which is the debate many libertarians, though perhaps not Mr. Nock, want to have), but, “How is the state, which is fundamental to human society and the human good, to be restricted so as to resist the state’s natural tendency to keep expanding its power”? That is the traditional American way, the Constitutional way, of framing the issue. But the libertarians bypass the Constitutional approach to the question of the size and power of the state and instead make war on the state itself. Their ideology is false, harmful to useful political discussion, and undeserving of any respect. What the libertarians ought to do is drop their libertarianism and become Constitutionalists. That would enable them to discuss the size-of-government issue from the point of view of a grounded, American framework, instead of from the point of view of an off-the-planet ideology.

Tim W. writes:

The discussion on same-sex “marriage” has been excellent. Laura W. is correct that this issue affects children enormously, and in a negative fashion. Sage McLaughlin’s comments were outstanding. Here are a couple of notes I would add.

First, it’s amazing how liberals can push our society leftward merely by announcing a new crusade. The left had barely gotten started in its drive to legitimize same-sex “marriage” when so-called moderate voice stepped forward and proposed civil unions as a supposed compromise. Of course, it was never explained why the majority of the population should have to compromise with a minority which is demanding the forced redefinition of a multi-thousand year old institution. Not to mention that the alleged compromise is nothing more than the same same-sex “marriage” proposal under a different name.

Second, it’s equally amazing how voters can repeatedly reject liberalism on referenda, yet the majority somehow manages always to end up on the defensive. Voters can reject same-sex “marriage” in state after state, often by margins of four-to-one via referendum, yet somehow the side with 80% support is considered to be “extreme,” while the side that lost in a landslide gets treated as if it’s the political mainstream. Look at how readily the Democrats scheduled a special debate for homosexuals while John McCain sticks his head in the sand and avoids associating with social conservatives. It’s as if politicians and the media sense that public opinion has long since ceased to matter on issues such as this, and that liberal elites will find some way to force same-sex “marriage” on us by any undemocratic means necessary.

LA replies:

“The left had barely gotten started in its drive to legitimize same-sex “marriage” when so-called moderate voice stepped forward and proposed civil unions as a supposed compromise.”

Including any number of “conservatives.”

Clark Coleman writes:

Many of the destructive changes in our society over the last century or so have been cultural, not legal. However, when a society begins writing laws that reflect those cultural shifts, then the shifts become official and permanent and probably impossible to reverse. Homosexual marriage laws will permanently establish several destructive ideas:

1) Nominalism. There are no permanent truths; everything is whatever we decide to call it or however we want to define it, including marriage, family, spouse, etc.

2) Marriage is for adults, not for perpetuating our civilization. This trend has been going on for quite a while culturally, but it was never codified into law until the no-fault divorce revolution that began in about 1961.

3) Marriage is about love, legal benefits, tax benefits, inheritance rights, etc. See #2.

4) Equality trumps all other concerns, even concerns about preserving and perpetuating our civilization. We must treat homosexuals, polygamists, etc. the same as everyone else, because equality is the highest good in life.

Preventing the setting in stone of principles such as these should be reason enough to oppose homosexual “marriage” even if I cannot think of ANY immediate effect on anyone’s heterosexual marriage.

LA replies:

In May 2004, four days before Massachusetts instituted homosexual “marriage,” I saw this event as a fateful turning point in our history, and wrote a prayer for our country. Well, we’re not immediately aware of that turning point having occurred, maybe because it’s only happened in one state. But, in a sense, the irreversible thing Mr. Coleman speaks of has already occurred.

LA writes:

“Albert Nock” sent me a further comment, but it was the length of two op-ed articles, around 1,600 words, and I told him it was too long. So he’s posted it at his own website.

N. writes:

I’m surprised that you have not referenced Stanley Kurtz’s articles from NRO.

Here are two articles on the very low rate of “gay marriage” in Northern Europe, despite legalization some years back:

“Why so few” part 1 (June, 2006) =

“Why so few” part 2 (June, 2006) =

Along the way he pretty much demolishes the so-called “conservative case for gay marriage.”

Here is an article on what is going on in Canada from 2006, with the title “Dissolving marriage.” IMO at least part of the support for “gay marriage” comes from those who actively wish to destroy the institution. (Feb. 2006).

Kurtz has also written some articles showing that there is a strong correlation between homosexual “marriage-lite” unions and declining numbers of normal marriages in the Netherlands and some Scandanavian countries, but I have not yet found them via the NRO search. Basically, it seems to boil down to what he wrote in the Canadian article; “if everything is marriage, then nothing is” and why bother …

The debate over homosexual “marriage” reminds me of the debate over divorce in the 1960s and 70’s. The argument then included statements such as “Why should you care if your neighbors are divorcing, it won’t affect your marriage, will it?” And of course, at the retail level, the fact that the attorney next door and his wife divorced when I was about 12 or 13, had no direct effect on my family.

But fast forward a few decades, and the effects are now obvious, and ubiquitous. Children of divorced parents, of single parent families, are more likely to use drugs including alcohol in their teen years, more likely to have sex in their teens, less likely to finish high school … more likely to suffer from any number of problems. I read recently somewhere this statement: “If there were a communicable disease that did to children what single-parent families do, we’d be pushing for a vaccine very hard” and that’s true.

Some of the social effects of divorce were predicted. Many were not. All of them took years to manifest, so in the 70’s it could still be claimed, “Look, divorce is not causing problems.” It is likely the same will turn out to be true of homosexual “marriage.”

LA replies:

I don’t know what the relevance to this discussion is of a low rate of homosexual marriage where it’s legal. More relevant is the correlation Kurtz found between homosexual marriage and declining rates of normal marriage. As I remember, though, he didn’t really demonstrate why this correlation existed and I felt he pushed it way too hard, as though he thought that he had hit paydirt and that this was going to be the decisive argument against homosexual marriage.

Ed writes:

You say that civil unions will inevitably lead to full-blown gay marriage. This is a common type of argumentation, which almost always loses sight of a crucial distinction, namely: (1) do you personally believe, as a purely philosophical matter, that acceptance of A logically requires acceptance of B, or (2) are you primarily worried that some judge will reason along those lines, seizing upon evidence of incipient public acceptance of A as a pretext for imposing B on society by fiat?

A similar example is domestic wiretap surveillance. Democrats ostensibly fear that even the mildest surveillance measures might give conservative-minded judges legal ammunition to allow introduction of a broad host of more intrusive measures, which arguably would add up to a significant infringement of civil liberties. As a result of such conjectural forethought, they have become averse to any discussion of domestic surveillance, even if that forces them to be unreasonable.

I am open to accepting civil unions, but stipulating and acknowledging full well that no, they’re not the real thing and that they would indeed treat gays as second-class citizens (which I think is better than treating them as third-class citizens). That is essentially my own position on civil unions, irrespective of whether it would pass constitutional muster. If my position seems logically expedient, so be it; I’m not willing to lose sleep over it. In this sense, I disagree with your contention that the question of civil unions must be approached on an all-or-nothing basis.

On the other hand, I do believe that there is a rational basis for concern that as a legal matter, civil unions would give way to full-blown gay marriage. There is already the precedent for that in Massachusetts. As a general matter, I think the courts have far to much power and that it’s a serious weakness in the basic constitutional balance of powers among the branches, but that’s another story.

Concern about gay marriage being mandated through judicial fiat is a serious reasonable concern, but talk about 3- or 4-person unions is not. Is anybody in real life seriously agitating for such arrangements, or is it purely a rhetorical wise crack? One reader, I think, mention replacing the customary “husband and wife” with “partner and partner”. Are any gay rights advocates explicitly calling for any such material changes to the legal or ceremonial aspects of heterosexual marriage to be decreed by law? If they have any sense, they would be taking pains to ensure that new rights for homosexuals would in no way trample of existing heterosexual institutions and prerogatives. If that is the case (maybe it is or it isn’t, I haven’t paid attention), why can’t heterosexuals simply ignore gays and continue to live comfortably separate lives? Why should

LA replies:

I am not talking about a slippery slope, about something that might tend to happen. I am talking about the inevitable results of civil unions, based on the existing, established reasoning of the liberal system under which we live.

You write:

“why can’t heterosexuals simply ignore gays and continue to live comfortably separate lives? Why should there necessarily be any zero-sum interaction effect?”

But that’s what this whole discussion has been about. I don’t mind your disagreeing. But when you give no indication of having read the numerous arguments that have already been made in this discussion, that’s a problem.

You write:

“One reader, I think, mention replacing the customary ‘husband and wife’ with ‘partner and partner’. Are any gay rights advocates explicitly calling for any such material changes to the legal or ceremonial aspects of heterosexual marriage to be decreed by law?”

Whether or not they explicitly call for it prior to homosexual marriage being institutionalized, once it’s institutionalized, it inevitably happens, and it has ALREADY happened. Do you think homo marriages would use one form of words, and hetero marriages another? Of course not. We’re living under liberalism. Everyone must be treated the same.

Below is a VFR article from 2005 on the statutory changes in legal marital terms in Ontario:

Ontario to eliminate the words “husband” and “wife”

I and other critics of homosexual marriage, such as Maggie Gallagher, have been saying for some time that if homosexual marriage goes through, the words “husband” and “wife” will be eliminated. Now it’s already happened. In Ontario a law is being passed that removes the words “husband and wife,” “man and woman” from marital law, family law, and many other laws as well. According to a story at (also discussed by David Frum here) the bill mandates substitutions for previously used spousal terms in numerous places throughout 73 Ontario Statutes as follows:

“Widows”, widowers” replaced by “surviving spouses”
“A person of the opposite sex” replaced by “a person”
“Wives, husbands” replaced by “spouses”
“Two persons of the opposite sex” replaced by “two persons”
“The wife or husband” replaced by “spouse”
“A husband or wife” replaced by “spouse”
“The husband and wife” replaced by “the spouses”
“A man and a woman” replaced by “two persons”
“Husband and wife” replaced by “spouses”
“Cohabited as man and wife” replaced by “cohabited as a married couple”
“Same-sex partner” replaced by “spouse”

Let us understand that there is nothing shocking or surprising about this. Once Ontario instituted homosexual marriage, they obviously had to change all references to married couples so as to erase the concept of male and female partners, since, now that there were male-male couples and female-female couples, the traditional description of a male-female couple would no longer describe all married couples. Homosexual marriage has its own internal logic leading to certain inevitable consequences, regardless of what its various “moderate” advocates may say about it. And one of those consequences is that any legal recognition of the sexual differentiation of married couples must be dismantled. People who thought that society could accommodate homosexual marriage without radically redefining the institution of marriage itself—along with parenthood, sexual relations, the very existence of the sexes, and the very meaning of human life—have been proven decisively wrong.

Now that this has happened, perhaps those self-described “conservatives” who support homosexual marriage or who fail to oppose it can understand why conservatives like me have said that no compromise in this area is possible, that it’s going to be either the victory of homosexual marriage over normal marriage, or the rejection of homosexual marriage.

If the aim of the supposedly “moderate” or “conservative” supporters of homosexual rights is not the destruction of society, then they must not ask too much. They need to recognize the inherent radicalism of what they are seeking and moderate their demands and expectations accordingly.

And let’s be clear about another thing. “Civil unions” are not the answer. The moment civil unions are passed, courts will overturn them and replace them by full-scale legal homosexual marriage, on the grounds that civil unions create a two-tier system of rights, with homosexual relationships being relegated to second-class status. Therefore the only way not to end up with homosexual marriage, along with the legal defining-out-of-existence of “husband and wife,” “male and female,” and “father and mother,” is not to create any legal recognition for homosexual relationships, period. To repeat, no compromise in this area is possible.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at March 02, 2005 10:54 AM | Comment | Send

Ed replies:
I didn’t know about the Ontario law; that does come as new information to me. Needless to say (at least at VFR), it’s an excremental abomination. It’s hard to imagine how any live human beings could ever have been involved in whatever legislative process produced such a monstrous piece of 1984-like dictat. Don’t thinking human beings have any say in matters any more? As far as I’m concerned, this kind of thing tends to make a mockery of the very notion of the “rule of law”; I read it as an indictment of the whole manner in which law inexorably tends to take on a life of its own, to the point where we forget that the marital laws are supposed to be about the creation of new human beings to carry forward the human race.

To support civil unions, I would of course insist on separate forms. If that violates sacrosanct principles of equality and sameness, so be it. Absent such provisions, I would oppose it. But unlike you, I’m not willing to conclude that the only way to fight the Ontario law is to be adamantly and categorically opposed to any accommodation to gay rights.

Laura W. writes:

There is an ancient marital tradition called polygamy into which the three- or four-person unions Ed views as impossible would comfortably fit.

Perhaps Ed might explain in what sense homosexuals are treated as “third-class citizens.” Homosexuals currently possess the exact same benefits of citizenship as heterosexuals. One of those benefits is to engage in a heterosexual marriage. Even a homosexual can do that.

N. writes:

You write:

“I don’t know what the relevance to this discussion is of a low rate of homosexual marriage where it’s legal.”

I’m sorry I did not make that clear. If few homosexuals are taking advantage of these laws, two questions ought to be asked immediately:

1. Why so few? What is it about the homosexual subculture that leads to demands for benefits that are not used? 2. Was there some other, non obvious reason for these laws?

IMO Kurtz points out the real goal of these proposals in the article “Dissolving marriage.” It isn’t that homosexual and feminist activists really want to be married, it is that they want to destroy marriage as a social institution. This offers another line of attack on these proposals. Our side should say: “Since only a tiny handful of homosexuals actually take advantage of civil unions and other versions of homosexual “marriage,” and since some homosexual activists are on record as desiring the abolition of marriage as a cultural institution, can you explain why you support this proposal?.” Most liberals won’t be able to respond to this, because it undercuts at least some of their fundamental premises. The argument in favor of homosexual “marriage” is couched in terms of “fairness,” but turning the discussion to the actual effects of real laws brings a new focus into play.

Also you wrote: “More relevant is the correlation Kurtz found between homosexual marriage and declining rates of normal marriage. As I remember, though, he didn’t really demonstrate why this correlation existed and I felt he pushed it way too hard, as though he thought that he had hit paydirt and that this was going to be the decisive argument against homosexual marriage.”

The correlation seems to exist in Denmark and Netherlands, and while causation cannot readily be shown, it seems to be obvious that such a correlation ought to be a significant issue of discussion in any honest debate on this topic. IMO the causation has already been expounded upon in this thread: “if everything is marriage, then nothing is marriage.” But even if the causation cannot be determined, the mere presence of the correlation is enough to enable one to ask this question: “Do you desire the abolition of marriage?” which is something most liberals are not prepared to reply to.

Finally, in response to Ed, there are already “poly” groups pushing for polygamy, polyandry and group marriage. Kurtz covered some of the Canadians pushing for poly-marriage in the articles I referenced previously. There are Moslem groups that wish to legitimize Islamic polygamy. There are also some groups in the U.S., in Massachusetts and some other States, that wish to legalize group/poly marriage, although I do not have URL’s referencing them to hand. I frankly do not see any logical, legal way to declare that “one man and one woman” is arbitrary without also making “two persons” equally arbitrary …

Alan Roebuck writes:

Some brief comments on the same-sex “marriage” discussion at VFR

Regarding the libertarianism of “Albert Nock” and others: What traditionalists are urging would not be the state overstepping its proper bounds. It would be the state exercising its most basic function, that is, protecting the people against a threat to their well-being and way of life.

And indeed, every nation must have some sort of publicly-enforced understanding of the basic nature of the most important things. Thus it is unavoidable that there be some sort of publicly-enforced understanding of the nature of marriage, and for conservatives to refuse to do the only thing that can protect the correct understanding of marriage, via a constitutional amendment, would be to tacitly support a false understanding.

Finally, the most basic damage done by the full legitimization of same sex “marriage” would be for the state to officially endorse and defend a lie about one of the most basic elements of human life. When obvious lies are enshrined as officially protected truth, people draw the conclusion that life is absurd, and they behave accordingly.

Ed writes:

What I meant and should have said was that we forget that laws ought to make sense and serve us well. The Ontario law monstrously fails in that regard, owing to the maddeningly rigid logic that apparently motivated it. The Canadian Attorney General Michael Bryant, who introduced the bill, reportedly said: “Currently, the [pre-existing] statutes offend the Charter of Rights and Freedoms”. At some point, you have to say “So what?”, “Who gives a damn?”

A similar example that comes to mind is the legal controversy over the don’t-call list, which the telemarketing industry opposes because it supposedly violates free speech. I say “Thank God for that!”

LA replies:

I think Ed sees the Ontario law as shocking but atypical, rather than as a logical and predictable consequence of SSM.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at February 24, 2008 12:55 PM | Send

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