Speaking of Gay Marriage...

The State of Arizona has filed a brief in a court case challenging its man-and-woman definition of marriage, detailing why it thinks this definition is necessary.  I won't go into the whole thing, but I want to address two points made by the state.  Here is the first:

The state regulates marriage for the primary purpose of protecting relationships that would produce children and let those children grow up with a biological mother and father.

Dalton said marriage laws are meant to ensure a stable environment exists for children and aren't based on any sort of ill will toward gay people.

They can pretend this all they want, but it is not true.  Marriage is deeply intertwined into state law, everything from taxation to patient rights in hospitals to inheritance to real estate law.  In all, I found hundreds of different references to marriage in the state code, only a minority of which had anything to do with children

I searched the Arizona Revised Statutes for mentions of the words "spouse" or "spouses".  These words are used 1133 times in 373 different statutes!  The Our America team told me they counted over a thousand references in Federal code.  In other words, our law codes give -- in thousands of instances -- specific rights, responsibilities, and privileges to married couples who have access to a state-granted marriage license.  Those left out of the current unequal definition of marriage face any number of challenges imposed on them by these specifics of spousal rights and privileges embedded in our law code.  I call this the non-marriage penalty.

The other argument I want to address is this one:

In earlier documents, lawyers offered evidence they say suggests redefining marriage would lead to fewer men and women marrying each other and greater instability in existing marriages.

Included were statistics showing that in five states where same-sex marriage had become legal, overall marriage rates had dropped from 2010 to 2011 and the divorce rate in one state, Massachusetts, had risen sharply.

Perhaps the Arizona Republic is portraying this "evidence" incorrectly, but what is described is pathetic.  A one-year change in marriage rates (or about anything else) is just noise, and is even more useless when one cherry-picks just a few states that have the data you want and fail to provide any controls or sense for how this compare to long-term trends.  Further, is is just crazy to think that societal trends work this way.  People don't change fundamental behaviors like marriage in mass after such a change -- for example divorce rates took decades to rise after liberalizations in divorce laws.  Besides, no one can demonstrate any mechanism by which this occurs.  I am not big on anecdotal evidence but no one can even come up with an anecdote:  "Mabel and I were going to get married in June, had the church all picked out, but then they let those gays marry and we decided marriage was not for us."  Seriously?  This is some Conservative fantasy.  Like anecdotes, I don't like polling data, but where is the polling data that says "I am less likely to marry my girlfriend if gays can marry too."

By the way, as I have written before, if Arizona is really concerned about protecting the institution and seriousness of marriage, they should ban Kardashian marriage instead.



  1. TD:

    The state undercuts its argument by claiming marriage (historically heterosexual marriage) is regulated "for the children." What it should have said is that most societies create incentives for heterosexual marriage to encourage procreation. Societies need children to continue.

    Just because each of the incentives for marriage doesn't say "so people will have children" doesn't mean that the incentive schemes that societies develop to foster marriage aren't still intended to foster procreation and raising children with their parents, and therefore rationally limited to heterosexual marriage.

    Personally, since we are talking about 1.5% or so of the population affected by this particular issue, I don't really care whether gay marriage is legal or not. However, I'm not going to pretend society gets the same value out of incentivizing that kind of marriage.

  2. Onlooker from Troy:

    Yep, they've gotta have that next generation of tax cows to support the bloated leach called government.

  3. marque2:

    Speaking of Gay marriage - why not sing about it? Gay Marriage the musical!

  4. obloodyhell:

    I have supported gay rights in the past. Never again. If they want a term -- aka "civil union" which grants them many of the legal rights you discuss, I have very few problems with that.

    But when an adoption agency cannot specify if a gay couple can be excluded.... When a PARENT cannot specify if their child can or cannot be raised by gays... When a church finds it cannot deny a gay couple the option to have their marriage on church grounds... When the owner of a B&B cannot choose to not entertain gays in their household on religious grounds... gays can kiss my fucking ass. Not on the left side, not on the right side... right in the middle.

    Sick and tired of gay people acting as though the religious rights of others mean nothing whatsoever in contrast to their right to be gay. In some, if not many, cases, yes, they do trump religious rights. But not in all cases... And the first time I see a case where gays openly support the right to someone to believe differently than they do, it'll be the first fucking time.

  5. FelineCannonball:

    Is procreation really something that must be encouraged? Like we wouldn't do it without government slipping in there to assist.

    I think these things exist because a lot of voters are married and they, like most people, like paying less taxes. There are rationales for every tax loophole and every government subsidy. Fundamentally it's about votes and campaign donations though.

  6. HenryBowman419:

    I've long been an advocate of the position that marriage is exactly none of the state's business. However, the reality is that the state has imposed its will on marriage, first to prevent inter-racial marriages, and later to (mostly) diddle with the tax code.

    I was impressed with Penn Jillette's observation: he and his woman did not want to actually get married, they simply wanted to sign some sort of legal contract. After consulting with a number of attorneys, they concluded that they faced one potentially serious obstacle: if they had children (they have a couple, btw) , and if one of them died, say, in a car accident, the other would not be guaranteed of getting custody of the children! They concluded that such a situation was simply too dangerous and they went to downtown Las Vegas (they live in Las Vegas), and got married in 20 minutes. Their kids are thus protected from weird relatives who might demand custody, and all it took was 20 minutes. And, I'm sure the "pastor" was cheaper than a lawyer!

    The laws are a bit bizarre.

  7. Harry:

    I take exception to your Conservative fantasy remark, Coyote, though I appreciate your throwing a bone to libertarians who do not wish to be labeled with that uncool adjective.

    With the world being afire and the economy going to Hell in the grip of collectivists, it is difficult to worry about inheritance taxes on gay couples, even if I as a conservative support certain changes in the federal and state tax code that would treat married human couples the same. This controversy is a big straw man set up to appeal to the liberal idea of a conservative, a la Norman Lear's Archie Bunker. It is a diversion from deialing with the big questions, like who owns what and will World War III happen before or just after the next presidential election.

    Yes, I am one who would deny Sandra Fluck a federal subsidy for her birth control pills. I think we should reinstall missles in Poland and The Czech Republic, and get rid of the EPA and the Departments of Agriculture and Education. What's the downside of THAT?

  8. Lorenzo from Oz:

    Marriage is about ... whatever a society decides marriage is about. The Bible tells us that Solomon had many wives, so clearly marriage is not "by definition" between a man and a woman. The principle here is equal protection of the law. A favourite political & religious entrepreneur activity is picking on some vulnerable group and declaring them an offence against God/Divine/Social order. It is not a habit to encourage.

    And once you allow adoption, a same-sex marriage (which has a much older history, particularly in the Americas, than folk typically realise) can be as much "about" children as any opposite-sex marriage. The point being that a publicly-made commitment expressed in ongoing behaviour is a signal of being suitable to raise children. Conceiving children does not magically create commitment.

  9. mesocyclone:

    I was in favor of civil unions before it was cool and still am now that it is a "homophobic" view. Civil union law would allow gays access to those benefits which are not tied to child raising. Instead, we have gay "marriage" - a horrible distortion of the term marriage. Not only is it illogical and completely ahistoric, but it is already being used as a club to bludgeon peoples' rights of association and of free exercise of religion.

    I remember when "libertarians" were in favor of the right to deww association. Now, by favoring gay marriage, they are also favoring all organizations being forced to alter their behavior to avoid offending the mentally ill 1.5% who call themselves gay. Compassion, yes. Contortions of society, no.

    Isn't it ironic that libertarians favor policies that are destroying the ability of the Catholic Church and others to perform their good works?

    Libertarian, my ass! Libertine progressives is a lot better term.

    As an aside, Coyote's invocation of polygamy addresses a straw-man. It was still heterosexual, as has been marriage in all cultures, for reasons so obvious that it amazes me that people can even mouth the oxymoronic term "gay marriage." While the argument that gay "marriage" may destroy true marriage is a bit over-wrought, the argument that gay marriage is an oxymoron and against all of human history stands.

  10. Harry:

    "I personally think" to ask the question about whether [we] should encourage procreation? What an arrogant statement, Feline Cannonball. Whatever rolls off your head, paleobiologically. This is a question fit for philosopher kings and tyrants. You go on with glib commentary about current hipster politics, as if procreation is but another fashion, like wearing brown shoes with argyle socks and a white fedora from Corfu. This is similar to Peter Singer's idea that rocks have rights, just another arbitrary choice.

    My apologies to Coyote if I have started a food fight, and my apologies to FC if I have treated you unfairly, but Feline Cannonball, in my opinion, needs a big dose of intellectual humility pills before writing the next troll essay.

  11. FelineCannonball:

    Stating that my comment is "what I think" is a way of acknowledging your opinion on tax breaks and loopholes may differ and be less cynical. You very well believe that tax breaks for X, whether or not X may benefit you, has a specific and reasonable rationale. And I give you every respect to make your case and acknowledge that I may be wrong.

    I am a proponent of incentives. I just don't think (is "I just don't think" OK to say or is it too pompous?) there is clear legislative intent that all rights and benefits conferred upon married people result from the desire to see them have sex, conceive, and raise children.

  12. Roy:

    When playing the "Solomon had many wives" card, show the rest of the deck. The Bible describes how polygamy led to all sorts of disasters. Hint.

  13. Zachriel:

    The easiest solution is to separate church and state; civil unions under the equal protection of the law, marriage ceremonies performed by churches for those who want them.

  14. Matthew Slyfield:

    Really, what disasters? Polygamy is common throughout the old testament, and in fact, prior to the fall of the Roman empire, was practiced in nearly all human civilizations.

    If it actually led to such disasters, you would think people would have given it up much sooner.

  15. Daublin:

    It is aggravating how bad the arguments are around marriage. I'm actually slightly in favor of gay marriage, but the two arguments here are never going to convince anyone who doesn't already agree.

    On the first argument, what does it matter if the state benefits for married couples are specifically about children? Consider the married-filing-jointly tax status. This is a subsidy for marriage that has nothing directly to do with children. How do you know what the goal of this subsidy is?

    That leads to the second issue, the "mechanism" you ask for. I won't defend the numbers you quote, but in general, there are two troubling mechanisms with a common theme. For one, the public will be less enthusiastic to subsidize marriage, the more inclusive it becomes. Correspondingly, people will be less likely to get married, the less well it is subsidized. The common theme here is that if "being married" is only worth special treatment to the degree it is substantially more important than "having a pulse".

    These questions are answerable, and I wish I encountered more people really taking up the challenge. Marriage is an old and well established part of our culture, and if you want to change what marriage means, it is worth an attempt to understand how it works and why it is beneficial.

  16. HenryBowman419:

    I suspect that it was likely a disaster for the women involved. But, they were not writing the histories.

  17. Roy:

    Matthew and Henry, I gather that you do not wish to take the time to read the text. It speaks to both Matthew's explicit question and Henry's implied question. You probably would not think thru a detailed treatise with all of the implications, but perhaps an overview will provide the drift. For example, while reading today's news ponder the millenia old continual outworking of Abraham's liason (at his wife's instigation) with Hagar. This had already started in the history recorded in the Bible, with Hagar/Ishmael's descendents waging war against Sarah/Isaac's descendents. Readers paying attention to the text recognize what the author is saying. They hear the hint. For example, regarding Solomons's multiple marriages which included those done to cement political alliances. Turned out that those women led Solomon astray. Might mean nothing to you, but the reader caring what the text suggests hears the hint.

    True, Matthew, polygamy is not unknown in history. Unlike other histories, however, that in the Bible not only documents the moral failure of its major characters, letting the reader know they are but people. It also describes what happens when one scorns counsel. As recorded in the Bible, polygamy happens, but polygamy brings hurt on all parties involved, male and female. And children. And society. Rather blunt hint.

  18. Lorenzo from Oz:

    I am not advocating polygyny, just pointing out that it means that marriage is not "by definition" between a man and a woman.

  19. Roy:

    That someone calls dog a horse does not mean "saddle up" won't end in disaster.