If you happen to live in Maine (or Washington, Maryland or Minnesota)

A little over a week ago, we went to visit the Better Half’s family.  It was one of our niece’s birthday, and all of the various cousins were assembled.  As is his wont, the Critter tore around like a madman outside and generally behaved like the rambunctious 3-year-old he is.  That is, up until the moment he dropped to his knees in the grass, started rubbing his eyes and screaming.

Trying to examine an agitated preschooler is a challenge under the best of circumstances, and can be something of a struggle even when I have medical assistants lending a hand in my office.  When it’s your own kid writhing around in your lap in his grandparents’ basement, it’s nigh unto impossible.  I was reasonably confident that he had gotten something in his eye, and had probably sustained a corneal abrasion.  But I couldn’t be sure there wasn’t a foreign body stuck under his eyelid.  And so we packed our intermittently shrieking son into the car next to his newborn sister, and drove over an hour into Portland to have him examined at Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital.  (I insist on pediatric emergency medicine specialists for my patients, and there’s no way my own kid would get any less.)

So there we were, the four of us in the emergency department.  Two dads, a baby and a preschooler, the latter confused and very unhappy.  A couple of hours later, having received the (uniformly superlative) care of a couple of doctors and several nurses plus a small dose of intranasal Versed (worked like a dream), our son’s corneal abrasion was confirmed, no foreign body was found, and he was sent home to recover.  He was fine by the next day.

Sitting there in the exam room, I was given ample time to muse in between pleasant chats with the medical staff.  The man who would be my husband and I were there to get care for our child, legally related to both of us.  But both of us having no legal relationship to each other.

Of course, we have done all we can to secure for ourselves as much legal protections as we can.  There are health care proxies and wills and advance directives.  We are registered under Maine’s domestic partner law, which offers a gossamer-thin tracery of rudimentary legal protections for inheritance and postmortem decision-making.  But nothing we can arrange comes close to the robust protections conferred by a marriage license.  Had it been my partner and not my son in the hospital, my capacity to make decisions on his behalf would have been much more tenuous.  Were I in put in the position of making life-or-death decisions in the event of some catastrophe, I could add legal challenge from his family to my list of things to worry about.  (I count it a blessing that I do not believe his family would actually mount such a challenge, but innumerable people in same-sex relationships aren’t so lucky.)  For 72 glorious days, Kim Kardashian and whomever it was she married enjoyed more legal protections than the Better Half and I have had in over nine years together.

It is not, of course, for lack of trying.  In 2009, after a lengthy process and intense lobbying from both sides, the Maine legislature passed a marriage equality law, and the governor signed it.  (I was proud to testify in favor of the law in my professional capacity at a legislative hearing.)  However, Maine has a fairly open referendum system, and the new law was immediately subject to a “people’s veto” challenge.  Sadly, our side lost and the law was overturned, never having been enacted.

I cannot express how bitter that loss tasted.  Both the Better Half and I had campaigned for the law personally and professionally.  We had given as much as we could afford, and had boarded campaign workers from out of town.  We were overjoyed when the law was passed and signed, and we were crushed when it was overturned.  I still do not understand why people would go to such effort to repeal a law that did them no harm, in so doing making their lives no better but merely making others’ worse.  It informed our decision to move to a different part of the state when we saw how heavily the area we lived had favored repeal.  (It suddenly became much harder to get out of bed at 2 AM and drive through the snow to deliver care to families that were happy to treat my own as second class.)

And so now we are trying again.  I have to admit it is somewhat galling to have to come, hat in hand, and present ourselves as worthy of equality under the law to the voters of our state.  A glancing view over American history reveals myriad injustices that would have endured had their demise relied upon majority support.  But needs must, I suppose, so here we go again.

This coming week, voters in three states will have the opportunity to make equal under the law families like mine.  They will have the beautiful opportunity to make unambiguous the validity of same-sex relationships and to render null the prejudices and injustices that have haunted our history.  In a fourth state, voters will have the chance to block those prejudices and injustices from infecting their constitution.  I am not too proud to ask you, if you live in those states, to vote for my family’s well-being.

What tokens of being “just folks” can I offer that will reassure the skittish?  Our neglected vegetables spoil in the crisper, just like everyone else’s.  We misplace each other’s car keys, negotiate which holidays are celebrated where, and take turns redirecting our son into bed when he wheedles for another song or story or drink of water.  We have weathered storms in our relationship, and will doubtless weather more.  But we are committed to never walking away from each other, and we never will.  We love each other, our children, and each other’s families.

Opponents rail against “redefining” marriage, and perhaps that is what this would be.  Fine.  But marriage has been redefined for the better many times before, so why not now?  Brides are no longer bartered as markers of dynastic succession or as proxies for the passage of property.  We no longer treat them like chattel, nor do we expect them to tolerate spousal abuse or smile through their husbands’ philandering.  (I would be naive to believe those attitudes do not endure, but at least they no longer have the strangle-hold on society they once did.)  Perhaps same-sex marriage fails biblical scrutiny, but if we’re using the Bible as our template for public policy then where have all the forced marriages and concubines gone?  If vows of wifely obedience are rightly going the way of the dodo, why not inequality for relationships like mine?

Do I care who wins the race for the White House?  You bet I do.  I’m rooting for the guy who isn’t pandering to his base by gesturing toward a constitutional amendment to keep my marriage unrecognized.  (That’s not the only reason I’m rooting for him, but it’s a big one.)  But the result that will have my guts in knots until it’s announced is the answer to Question 1.  If I lived in Maryland it would be Question 6, in Washington Referendum 74, and in Minnesota Amendment One.  While the polls are encouraging, they’re too tight to ensure an easy night’s sleep on November 6.

So here I am, virtual hat in virtual hand.  I love the man who would be my husband.  I love the life we have made together, which we hope will thrive and endure for years to come.  I love our children, and would throw myself in front of a train for them.  (If the smaller one wanted to start sleeping for longer stretches between feeds it wouldn’t break my heart.)  I want the freedom to marry the man with whom I have lived for eight years, so together we can step into the obligations and responsibilities and privileges that marriage entails.  We have earned them, and now we are asking to have that fact recognized.

Please.

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225 thoughts on “If you happen to live in Maine (or Washington, Maryland or Minnesota)

  1. I don’t live in any of the four states voting on gay marriage, but I did live in California during Prop. 8 and voted to keep gay marriage legal. Wrong outcome there but a lot has changed in the intervening four years, hopefully enough for these initiatives to pass.

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  2. Gay marriage is legal in Canada, and we welcome professionals. As a doctor, you’d have a full patient list in minutes. And if you live in Vancouver, Kelowna or Toronto, the winters aren’t nearly as bad as we like to brag they are. Also: good schools, lots of community activities for kids, great libraries and good live theatre (in Toronto, anyway).

    No pressure. Just sayin’, is all.

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  3. An awsome and heartfelt please Doc. I’m right there in it with you.
    I live in Minnesota and am volonteering for the No on One campaign. It’s gonna be tight here but we’re doing what we can.

    I’d also add that unlike the doc my Husband (married in Canada) has family that really doesn’t approve of us. I get a surge of dread every time he sniffles. All the lawyeresse stuff we’ve had drafted is a gossamer thin net against determined challenge so I’ll totally take my hat in mand and join the doc in asking.

    Please.

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    • One of the many indignities about this situation is that for a few thousand dollars and several hopefully pleasant hours with a lawyer, North and his husband can have 60%-70% of the shared rights that my wife and I got for (IIRC) about sixty bucks from the Clark County, Nevada clerk. Only we don’t have to explain anything to anyone about it afterwards.

      This is the least justifiable inequity in the law I can think of.

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  4. I love this post.

    I have said before: on almost every hotly debated issue, I can see the merits of thr arguments on both sides, even if I feel strongly one way or another. This is one where I don’t even see the merits of the arguments against legalizing gay marriage (if marriage is to be recognized by the state at all).

    I live in Maryland, and am both proud to vote yes on 6, and ashamed that it is subject to popular vote.

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    • I would like to add that I am so far from thinking that gay marriage destroys families that I have chosen Russell and his Better Half (so he says — I love both of them with all my heart) to raise my children in the event of the death of both my husband and me. This is ahead of my brother and his family (fwiw, my brother is straight). I can think of no one I would trust more with my children, to do right by my children.

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    • This is a position that I loathe, and so playing devils advocate feels really wrong.
      *shrugs* I guess it’s a good exercise.

      Assume they really mean it, and believe it, when they say that “gay marriage hurts my marriage.” How exactly does it do that? Well, when someone is repressed/in the closet enough, the very idea of people “getting to do fulfilling stuff”… kinda hurts. Because they don’t get to do that, and instead spend their lives in a state of perpetual self-loathing.

      We know that some of these conservatives are gay… and in relatively asexual marriages.

      For reasons of rule-worship, they think that the “rules” are against having gay-marriage, and thus want everyone to worship their rules. Because having exposure to “scary liberal ideas” makes people run headlong over to the other side. (ever met a woman who never watched Television because she didn’t want to pollute her head with ungodly ideas?)

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  5. The family that people forge themselves is the most important family in the world.

    The virulent opposition to gay marriage is one of those things that makes zero sense to me whether it comes from an unconstitutionaly Religious point of view or from a vaguely Burkean “wait and let’s see” POV.

    We already agree that two people can live together without being interfered with, two people can adopt children without being interfered with, let alone all of the little things that two people can do from going to the grocery store and bickering over this or that salad dressing to going to the millions of little things that make up a marriage… and, at this point, all that is left to oppose is the protection of assets, the protection of visitation rights, the protection of where the kids go if, god forbid, something happens.

    I hope that you will have the same shelter from meddling that I enjoy within my chosen family.

    Fingers crossed, I think it just might go through this time. Knock wood.

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    • The closest thing I came up with to explain the opposition (without resorting to the bigotry argument) is this:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XCtuZ-fDL2E

      The Satsuma rebellion didn’t need to happen. Many, MANY Samurai transferred to their new roles and more than a few prospered. But there were still those who saw their world and their ways passing and were unable to handle it. Rather than change, they led a rebellion that was almost certainly doomed from the start. When Saigo was beaten, rather than surrender, he chose to die rather than live in the new world.

      A lot of the vibe I get off of the people who fear the redefinition of marriage falls under this as well. They are living in a world where they are seeing the teachings that they grew up with diminish in importance on a daily basis. They become reactionary because they see “the old world” dying. Anything they can do to delay or prevent it becomes a life preserver that they can cling onto. It is not a rational belief or course of action but neither was charging an artillery line on horseback with swords.

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  6. As I snarked on Twitter, if Question 6 fails, I suppose I will have to start frequenting the bathhouses. No use pretending that I’m married or anything.

    A serious question is sort of hiding under all that snark, however: If marriage is put to a vote, and if it fails, how should the gay people who respect democratic governance behave? Does it then become disrespectful to hold commitment ceremonies, and to live as if one were married, and to try to duplicate the incidents of marriage?

    It seems to me like all of that would be very disrespectful of the will of the people. Isn’t it?

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          • But see here’s the problem.

            When a libertarian expresses skepticism of the moral authority of democracy, it indicates something sinister or at least badly misguided. But here, a close relative of that same skepticism is called praiseworthy. Repeatedly, I note.

            If democracy can produce a result like this (or like pre-Loving miscegenation laws), then what do we make of its moral authority?

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              • I don’t want to threadjack, but consider this negative review of Jason Brennan’s recent book The Ethics of Voting, which argues that many people have a moral duty to abstain from voting, because large numbers of them clearly vote for bad reasons — they are demonstrably irrational, ill-informed, and unwilling ever to change those aspects of themselves.

                He hasn’t exactly endeared himself with that one.

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                • This was too good to pass up (from an online news article about Gary Johnson):

                  “Wasting your vote is voting for someone you don’t believe in,” Johnson said Monday night as his acolytes demonstrated a libertarian disdain for fire-marshal rules about blocking the aisles in the college auditorium where he spoke.

                  Suddenly, libertarianism is the natural political bent of all punk rockers.
                  It started with the pot heads, and it’s gone on to festival seating.
                  Crowd surfing next, I’m thinking.

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                • I’ve never figured out in favor of what, though. Monarchy, oligarchy, and dictatorship don’t have the best of track records either. (And people who say “a republic, not a democracy” usually mean by “republic” “back when people like me had more power.)

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                  • The problem with monarchy is that it can devolve into tyranny. The problem with an aristocracy is that it can devolve into an oligarchy. The problem with a polity is that it can devolve into a democracy. (I believe this is all from Plato, right?) In the former column, there are systems of government where the leaders (one, few, all) put the interests of the state ahead of themselves. In the latter, the leaders put their own interests first.

                    The reason a democracy is the least awful of the latter possible options is that at least the self-interested behavior of the various people tends to even out into a reasonable facsimile of order and justice. On paper.

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            • I make that its connection with moral authority is not absolute, but there is a connection.

              There are unjust laws that one is justified in resisting. This was my problem with the public reason approach that Nob and Murali were taking. There are laws that one disagrees with that do not rise to the level of requiring civil disobedience.

              Democracy is far from able to deliver moral perfection – and neither is any form of government yet devised. What democracy has going for it, I think, is an unusual responsiveness to moral progress.

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              • Also: the position you’re attributing to someone (who?) in opposition to yours essentially says, “once the people have spoken, things have to be that way forever.” Because, if the will of the people is to be obeyed completely and without deviation, both in spirit and in word, then how can one claim that it is moral to think differently, much less argue differently?

                I think you’ve created another straw man to argue against.

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                • Well no.

                  I am trying to figure out how to be a good citizen in a polity that tells me I must not marry my husband. That’s all.

                  I am not attributing this concern to anyone else. I’d just like to know: If I were one of those people who tried to show respect for the will of the majority (and honestly, I’m not), how would I act?

                  My own thoughts regarding civil disobedience have been changed forever by Michael Huemer’s forthcoming book, which I’ve had the privilege of reading in advance. I’ll blog about that topic with the frequent and necessary references to the book as soon as I’m allowed.

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                  • I assume that most people who respect the will of the majority in law, respect the will of the majority to the extent a.) that it is encoded in law (in this case, nothing about these laws say you can’t be in a long-term, committed, same-sex relationship), and b.) if the will of the majority produces immoral laws, then we should try to change those laws through various means (reasoning, voting, and in extreme cases, civil disobedience).

                    I look forward to your posts on Huemer’s book.

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                    • One of the really, really weird things about civil disobedience in this case is this:

                      Let’s say that Jason *DOES* get married. He has a marriage ceremony, has a feast, does the chicken dance, the whole shebang.

                      The law doesn’t care.

                      I mean, how would one civilly disobey on this topic? There doesn’t seem to be a way!

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                    • Well, if you don’t mind going to jail for tax fraud, go with ‘married, filing jointly’ on your forms.

                      But I’d look for less risky things to start with like Rose’s suggestion, unless you have terrific lawyers and lots of money.

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                    • Thinking about this some more, I am sort of surprised some really wealthy high-profile gay person hasn’t done this. I think a lot of people who don’t care much one way or another about the question might take notice if, say, Ellen was at risk of going to prison for ‘tax fraud’ when all she did wrong was check one box on the form, but still paid all the tax she owed.

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                    • To JB’s point:

                      Much as SSM opponents bring up vague and ill-defined harms, the real argument against SSM is the religious one. Yet anywhere in the nation, no matter how stringent the law against anything that could be confused with legally recognized SSM, same-sex couples can have a religious ceremony performed by a cleric licensed to perform marriages and the authorities won’t say boo. Nor, as far as I know, would anyone else this side of Fred Phelps.

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            • When a libertarian expresses skepticism of the moral authority of democracy, it indicates something sinister or at least badly misguided.

              Liberals have always felt that the will of the majority is the fount of all morality. It’s why we only jumped on that Civil Rights thing after very careful polling.

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                • WillH, of course The Triangulation President was a whore to polls. You say that like it’s a bad thing.

                  Some said of Reagan—disparagingly—his model of leadership was to find a parade and stand in front of it. Even if so, when the parade starts passing you by, you either get back in front of it ala Clinton [re-elected ’96] or become irrelevant [also Clinton, Monicagate notwithstanding].

                  As for Romney, his opponents seem a lot more upset with his “flip-flopping” toward the center than his supporters.

                  http://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/news/265291-poll-plurality-believe-romney-best-to-break-partisan-gridlock

                  Nearly half of likely voters — 47 percent — say Romney would be the best candidate to foster bipartisan cooperation, versus just 37 percent who say the same of President Obama.

                  Romney has placed a strong emphasis on that idea during recent stops on the campaign trail. During an appearance in Florida, Romney said he and running mate Paul Ryan “are going to have to do what we’ve done before, which is reach across the aisle.”

                  “We have to build bridges to people in the other party,” Romney continued. “We have to recognize this is not a time in America for us to pull back, and to divide and to demonize. It’s a time in America for us to come together, to look for common ground, for places where we have agreement.”

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                  • Well of course Romney is the best bet to break partisan gridlock. It’s unlikely that the Democratic party would have the discipline or the crazy to decide on day one they’re going to oppose everything Romney proposes regardless of what it is as a strategy to ruin his presidency.

                    The bigger question is, is it wise to reward the party that’s indulged in that kind of cynical destructive behavior with the presidency? You get more of what you reward for, you get less of what you punish for. Electing Romney seems to send the message that American politics should be pushed more in a partisan cutthroat parlimentary style. I expect that eventually politicians on both side would adapt.

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                    • I have seen no evidence in Romney that there is anything for which he would fight against a majority in congress of whatever party. Unless doing so would significantly boost his re-election chances. I mean, absolutely nothing.

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  7. Russell,

    I say with completely sincerity that my friends here at the League…you, Jason, North and others… are a big part of the reason why I now count myself as a supporter of gay marriage. Unfortunately, short of a Supreme Court ruling it will probably be a decade or more before gay marriage is legal in my state. I love my fellow Kentuckians but we are stubborn.

    All the best with this. I will be crossing my fingers for you on election day.

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  8. I’m a big fan of most folks doing their own thang. I really see no need for the state to be involved in this issue. Yes it’s easier to “ride on what’s been done before”, but I approach this argument from a different perspective. Since the state doesn’t / shouldn’t be involved in telling you who you can marry, there is no need for “allowing” you to marry. Remove the state’s involvement from the start. Yes, it’s more work, but the benefit is to a greater number of people, otherwise, we’ll be having this conversation when the next group wants rights to legally recognized marriage.

    On a more snarky note, I find it curious that on several pages on this site people have talked about how the “community” or “society” requires certain things from its citizens when I have pushed back (taxes, and the like) and have suggested that I have to pay this because, in essence, “the majority voted for it”, but posters now come here on this thread and talk about they are ashamed this is being put to popular vote? So democracy is only ok when it gets your desired outcome not when it doesn’t?

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    • Damon,

      Your answer – just wait for the state to remove itself from marriage – is ludicrous, because it damns gay citizens to second class status until your preferred outcome is achieved (an outcome that will almost certainly NEVER be achieved).

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      • Yes, this is the argument I get. And 10 years from now, we’ll be having this conversation about the “poly community” or whatever. What I’m saying is that narrowing the argument to “gays” and taking this approach, you exclude folks that would be on your side, like me, if the argument was slightly different. That’s your call. I’d much prefer to end the whole problem in one fell swoop. Your position is to continually add folks onto the “preferred” inclusion list. I reject that.

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        • Yes, that is my position, because that’s how policy change works. It doesn’t just happen that a state decides, “Let’s fundamentally alter how we’ve been doing things for literally decades!” I’m not willing to damn gay couples to exclusion in the interim that I wait to get everything I want all at once.

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          • I’m not willing to damn gay couples to exclusion in the interim that I wait to get everything I want all at once.

            Indeed, such a position seems profoundly unethical. Just imagine it applied other ways:

            ‘Yes, the police are racially biased against blacks WRT drug laws, but instead of agreeing that we need to figure out how to stop that, I think instead I’ll demand nothing change until drugs are legalized.’

            ‘Yes, it’s bad that the police are harassing people who walk around with perfectly legal firearms, but the place we need to focus is on on making all weapons, including automatic weapons, legal so they can’t harass anyone ever again.’

            Somehow the people making the argument ‘We should just get rid of marriage’ tend to be the people who _aren’t_ affected by the current actual problem. And, I must point out, gay people what to get married usually _have no problem with marriage_. Saying ‘We agree that society is unjustly harming you, and we will allow that to continue until you agree with our position about marriage.’ is a little, uh, extortiony.

            Sometimes I have this fantasy: ‘Yes, the fact that people annoyed at your idiotic stance knocked down your door and burst into your house is wrong, and the fact that they are currently beating you with tire irons is horrible. So I will not rest until I have mandated that tire irons are properly regulated…oh come on, you’re not even looking at me while I’m talking to you. And stop moaning like that, and asking for help…I _am_ helping you! Surely you see that. What do you mean you don’t have an moral objection to tire irons, you just want them to stop hitting you with them? No, I don’t know how we’d change tires without them, why are you asking all these stupid questions…don’t you _want_ them to stop hitting you? For the good of everyone, we must get rid of tire irons…oh, great, now he’s gone to sleep, the lazy bastard.’

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        • I’d much prefer to end the whole problem in one fell swoop.

          Yes, I’d prefer that, too. But it’s not wise to reject incremental improvement that has big benefits for some folks and no substantial cost to any others while hoping for an outcome that’s not even on the nation’s institutional agenda yet.

          Additionally, if we really want to get to the point of getting government out of marriage, SSM is more likely to be a step toward that, instead of a step away, because the more we break down those barriers the less reason our opponents have to fight for preservation of government’s role. Government involvement has given them what they want in marriage policy, so when it no longer gives them what they want they’ll lose a substantial amount of interest in it.

          (Some will anyway; others are just stupid. I knew a pastor who was more comfortable with a couple living together if they signed the legal marriage document and skipped the religious ceremony than if they had a religious ceremony and skipped the legal document. Apparently, for him, it’s government rather than God that sacralizes a marriage. There’s not much you can do with that kind of stupidity.)

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          • Is there a government in recorded human history (or, if it helps, the last hundred years or so) that has “gotten out of marriage”? It may be ignorance talking on my part, but the libertarian fantasy of having government completely uninvolved in marriage strikes me as some of the most serious pie-in-the-sky stuff.

            Which is not to say that I don’t support (some of) the broader aims of that argument; I just think it’s really fantastical.

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            • Ryan,

              I’d say it’s no pie-in-the-sky in a policy sense. That is, the arguments in favor of it aren’t ridiculous.

              But as to expecting it to happen in the foreseeable future? That’s probably pie-in-the-sky.

              And making it one of one’s most important policy issues (not that Damon’s necessarily doing that) would be silly, both because it’s not likely to happen soon and because it’s just not as important on its own as a whole lot of other things.

              But in direct response to your question, no, it hasn’t happened that I know of, because governments really like to have good records of their citizens. Bureaucratically it makes a whole hell of a lot of things much easier for them. But plausibly contracts would accomplish the same end, or at least nearly enough.

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              • I don’t say the argument in favor of it is crazy or anything. As I said, I even (to some extent) support the conceptual framework of the argument. I’m just saying that it seems so baldly contradictory not just to the way the US does things and has always done things, but to the way the rest of the world does things and has always done things.

                There are plenty of things that one could make a sensible argument for – legalization of all drugs, banning all firearms, etc – that are just obviously pretty crazy places to draw a line in the sand because they have zero chance of happening (although, in the second case, at least you’d have some international models to draw on).

                Again, I’m not rejecting the argument. I’m just noting that I think it’s totally bizarre the frequency with which it comes up as a form of changing the subject about an actually achievable policy goal. It is somewhat akin to me shouting, every time you bring up marijuana legalization, “WE HAVE TO LEGALIZE ALL DRUGS!!” That may be the case, but it’s almost 1,000,000% beside the point.

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                • Heh, I made my comment above, with nearly the same analogy, before I read yours.

                  But, in this case, it’s more like, when people bring up the racial and idiotic disparity in crack vs. cocaine sentencing, it’s someone claiming the solution is to ‘legalize all drugs’. I.e, we’re not talking about a ‘bad’ law, we’re talking about a _discriminatory_ law. That they refuse to fix.

                  It’s clearly completely nonsense. And, as I pointed out, extortion: ‘We admit that unjust things are being done to you under the color of law, but instead of fixing the law to where it is just (Which is our responsibly as members of society who ultimately make laws), we will continue to allow society to harm you until you change your position on the laws about that topic in general to get the political outcome we want.’

                  That…is not ethical. At all. People who think a law is unjustly applied have a duty to make it just as quickly as possible, regardless of whether they like the law as a whole.(1) They cannot stand there pretending to be moral entities while stating they will only consider removing the law completely.

                  1) Why the hell I, a progressive, am having to point this out to so many supposed ‘libertarians’, is beyond me. I actually get a little flexible in how ‘just’ a law is, and am willing to slightly harm people for a better outcome in general. Libertarians are supposed to be the people demanding an absolute line on anything close to civil rights, and often, even on things that really aren’t.

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                • Ryan,

                  Agreed. I think it comes up a lot for libertarians because they’re eager to roll back government involvement in a whole lot of areas. Anything you mention, they’re probably skeptical about government involvement. So whatever the subject, that’s one of their responses.

                  And I think it’s fine that they bring it up. I’d like to see it become a more normal part of our conversations on these things, at least eventually. But I’m wholly in agreement that jumping past the issue of the current inequality to focus almost wholly/solely on the ideal-type solution is, if not bizarre, pretty pointless.

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            • Some of the more nutty Kibbutzim may qualify… but, to answer the larger question, I think that narrowing it down to the last 100 (or maybe 200) years marks a vaguely significant change in how marriage was dealt with for commoners.

              I know that, within living memory, people would just pair off into life partnerships in the Appalachians and traveling ministers would make it official after the fact and there was no hard judgment that stuff was done in the “wrong order”.

              I’m thinking that that goes back a LOOOOOOONG ways.

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              • Actually, I’m thinking that’s mostly a sign of the communitarian and anti-governmental nature of folks in the Appalachians (whether by community history or physical environment). Lotta people in those parts, back when, came to this country because they wanted to get away from the oppression of one or another intolerant authority – it changes how they see things (the part of Canada where I grew up, at its best, holds similar values). Valuing local consensus over traveling/external authority is a thing that comes and goes, and there are certainly plenty of instances of 100-or-more-year-old cultures where doing stuff “in the right order” was not only required (for everybody), but harsh punishments were carried out for deviation. History is not All One Thing, eh?

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            • At Ryan,
              “It may be ignorance talking on my part, but the libertarian fantasy of having government completely uninvolved in marriage strikes me as some of the most serious pie-in-the-sky stuff.”

              Guess my libertarian desire to have the gov’t out of public schools, firearm regulation, food regulation, “illegal” drugs, etc. is even MORE of a fantasy! :)

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              • Erm, actually, you’ll note that I explicitly called out banning firearms as the appropriate parallel. There is plenty of historical precedent for the state refusing to regulate firearms; to the extent that there is any precedent for the opposite, it’s in an international context that is almost totally inapplicable in the US.

                I think getting the state out of education is probably a better example, though. There is literally a 0% chance of that ever happening under any circumstance short of something like nuclear war or vampires eradicating most of the US population. It’s an utterly useless approach to policymaking.

                Which is not to say that you shouldn’t, in principle, take that position. But when someone says, “Hey, let’s have vouchers”, the appropriate response from you is, “Yes, let’s!” – not “NOOOOOOO THE STATE MUST WITHER COMPLETELY ALL AT ONCE”. I’m not sure why this is controversial, except that this is the internet.

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          • “Additionally, if we really want to get to the point of getting government out of marriage, SSM is more likely to be a step toward that, instead of a step away, because the more we break down those barriers the less reason our opponents have to fight for preservation of government’s role. Government involvement has given them what they want in marriage policy, so when it no longer gives them what they want they’ll lose a substantial amount of interest in it.”

            You sir, get +1. Good point.

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        • I am in favor of incremental change in principle as well as in practice.

          But I’ve been thinking a bit about Damon’s point and, God help me, Santorum’s point about the poly community. What are my main arguments against polyamory? I think it’s a bad idea psychologically — which is another way of saying it’s unnatural. (For most people – I’m sure some people can make it work out fine and I’m glad they are happy in their 3+edness). But really. My argument that allowing gay marriage does not mean against legalizing polyamory sounds awfully like the spluttering anti-gay marriage folks. I mean, I think I’m right, but I haven’t actually researched it. And even if it isn’t psychologically healthy, so what? Should I deny a marriage license to the co-dependent marrying the abusive alcoholic?

          It comes down to how much we can ask government to regulate that kind of relationship. A relationship of two is complicated enough – witness many divorces and deaths. Three, four, five? Dividing property and children? Testimony and medical decisions? It brings an order of magnitude of complications in for each partner introduced. I think there could be a perfectly principled opposition to allowing civil polyamorous unions because society need not bear that kinds of regulatory burden. Asking for the regulation of gay marriages is asking the government to do no more than it does for straight. If anything, it is asking less, since there will be fewer ad hoc legal arrangements.

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          • given that you can write nearly anything bloomin’ else into a contract
            (Including “thou shall never ever play one of my games again, foul playtester!”)…
            I don’t think that terribly well flies. However, I would understand “here, use the two person forms, and we’ll deal with it as a platoon of two people unions.”

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          • Complications be damned, the Poly have RIGHTS THAT ARE BEING IGNORED.

            You may rest assured that I will take every argument to the logical absurity. :) But really, where does it end?

            Frarnkly, I the particulars of gay marriage do not interest me. I don’t see this as an improvment in society in terms of freedom. (I also don’t see it as a negative, so am generally neutral). I’m just waiting for the collapse. Then we can fix all this when we start over.

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            • Once society has collapsed though, you will have gotten your way. There won’t be a state involvement in marriage (there won’t be a state) so you’ll have seen your dreams become reality. There’s then no fixing after the fact, since you’ll already have what your heart desired.

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                  • That’s ok, Sam. I’ve long stopped expecting liberals ever to disabuse themselves of the fantasy that libertarians actually long for total social breakdown and don’t want to rebuild anything after that. Just keep running with that meme if it’s comforting to you.

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                    • James, here’s what Damon wrote: “I’m just waiting for the collapse. Then we can fix all this when we start over.”

                      Are you conceding to Sam the “societal collapse” part of the fantasy and merely pointing out it’s followed by the “rebuild it better, faster and stronger” fantasy? Or are you denying him the whole thing?

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                    • I’m objecting to Sam’s implication that societal collapse is the libertarian dream become reality, and that there’s no fixing anything after that.

                      Damon never mentioned societal collapse–that’s just straight out of Sam’s fevered liberal anti-libertarian fantasies. And Damon never hinted that he wants any kind of collapse, as opposed to just expecting it. And need I mention the the assumption that after a societal collapse libertarians won’t want to rebuild anything?

                      I don’t care that Sam’s a liberal, but you know how the standard League liberal misrepresentation of libertarians–grates on me. I see these pretty smart people turn into the equivalent of Glenn Becks and Sean Hannities as soon as libertarians appear, making shit up and misconstruing everything that’s said for maximum negative effect.

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                    • What collapse did you think Damon was referring to? I know you get upset when people misrepresent the team you play for, but Sam was responding to a thing Damon actually said. Whether Damon wants a collapse or not is sort of beside the point. He predicted one would happen, at which point Sam pointed out that there’s no more work to do on this issue. Once society collapses, it seems likely the state won’t be in the marriage business any more.

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                    • Damon clearly advocated the collapse of society.

                      There, that’s a perfect example of what I was talking about. A guy says he expects something, and suddenly it turns into advocating it. Jesus, I expect Obama to win the election, Alabama to win the BCS, and some shitty movie to win Best Picture. Doesn’t mean I’m advocating those things.

                      Makes me sad as hell when the liberals I like and respect here are so quick to interpret libertarians in the worst way.

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                    • Fuck it, Ryan, that “no more work to do” line is bullshit. What happens after a collapse (and by the way, you said he advocated it, so it really does matter whether he did or not–it matters in terms of whether you’re engaging honestly or not) is not simply that things stay collapsed. You don’t think people will try to rebuild? The question is what gets rebuilt, so there’s still a hell of a lot of work to be done even then. It just changes the playing field, and the available options.

                      I don’t think a person has to be in agreement with Damon’s position on expecting a collapse to understand that, and to see that you and Sam both jumped to conclusions that more plausibly came out of your own anti-libertarian fantasies than anything Damon actually said.

                      Jesus, put yourself in his shoes and think about how you respond when one of the idjit conservatives here totally misrepresents liberals. You all consistently fail the golden rule.

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                    • This seems like a silly thing to get into it about, but here’s what Damon wrote: “Frarnkly, I the particulars of gay marriage do not interest me. I don’t see this as an improvment in society in terms of freedom. (I also don’t see it as a negative, so am generally neutral). I’m just waiting for the collapse. Then we can fix all this when we start over.

                      Paraphrase: He doesn’t think the particulars of gay marriage aren’t an improvement in society wrt freedom, he’s waiting for the collapse so that he can rebuild it with … a different kind of freedom than the freedom of gays to marry.

                      So, clearly, he’s not opposed to society’s collapse. Presumably, given the word “improvement”, he’s in favor of society’s collapse because then, and only then, can freedom (by his understanding of that word) be increased. (Given that increasing freedom via SSM legislation doesn’t constitute an improvement.)

                      I dunno. It seems like Sam was pretty much in the middle of the ball field on this one.

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                    • Professor, politically-speaking I am generally on yr side, and lord knows I feel your pain (the fever swamps of mischaracterization and exaggeration that I see at other sites whenever the topic of libertarianism comes up – oy vey).

                      But I think you may be being a tad oversensitive here. Sam was taking a gentle jab, no doubt, but his jab seems more within the parameters of what Damon actually wrote, than was your STFU response to Sam.

                      Just my 2 cents…hey, it’s Friday, it’s almost quittin’ time; let’s all go get a beer, whaddya say?

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                    • Stil, those comments crossed in writing. What really pissed me off is the idea that when society collapses libertarians work is done.

                      Whatever Sam may think, I just never got the memo that as soon as society collapses we libertarians are all going to raise our glasses in a toast, smile, and say, “Our work here is done.”

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                • I have watched this conversation play out. I want to say the following things:

                  1. I don’t think it is unreasonable of me to have assumed from Damon’s post that he welcomes the collapse. I recognize that you disagree, but the comment I was responding to described the collapse as presenting the opportunity necessary to “fix all this.”

                  2. Along the same lines, I don’t think it was unreasonable of me to see that by virtue of Damon’s position being one wherein the state is not involved in marriage – he wrote in Comment 70 that, “I really see no need for the state to be involved in this issue.” – then the collapse itself is all that would be necessary. Whatever fixes come after the collapse won’t include state involvement in marriage (assuming Damon gets his way).

                  3. I wasn’t responding to libertarianism, libertarians, Libertarianism, or Libertarians. I was responding to Damon’s belief that the state shouldn’t have a role in marriage.

                  4. All of that said, I do not wish to create (any) more enmity than is (generally) necessary. If I offended you, I apologize. If I offended other L(l)ibertarians here, I apologize for that too. That certainly wasn’t my intent. My intent was to respond to Damon’s comment.

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                  • This seems a good location and time for me to clarify my comments, given so much has been said about what I said (wow) and various interpretations…

                    I expect the American Empire WILL collapse. It’s a matter of time. All things come to an end and the current fiscal / debt / economic path leads to that end. I have no faith that politics will “fix” this, because politicians are only focused on the short term (re-election) and kicking the can of difficult problems down the road. At some point, that will not be possible. I do not know when this collapse will happen but I’m more convinced that it will come sooner rather than later, if only because of the existing trajectory. Side note: this thinking is no way religious.

                    I do NOT look forward to this. Assuming I’m still alive when it starts, I doubt I’d live through it. I’ve got a comfortable life and I enjoy it. As to my comment about “we’ll fix it after the collapse”, well, I think most people, and what institutions that are left ,or are re-built, will have way more important things to worry about than who’s “married” to who or not.

                    Final comment: My politics and general outlook are usually very different from most folks, certainly, on this site. However, I’d like to commend all participants here for raising excellent arguments, points, and the over positive tone. Having a dialogue and getting people to think about their positions and other peoples’ is much more enjoyable than reading diatribes and screeds full of insults like is so common on other sites. Kudos.

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                    • My sense is that while Damon and I disagree on a great deal, this is an important comment. No one really looks forward to the collapse of civilization, although some conservatives and libertarians (and even some progressives) seem to think it’s imminent.

                      Me, I’m a modestly optimistic kind of guy. The predictors of doom have just been wrong way too often.

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            • I’m just waiting for the collapse. Then we can fix all this when we start over.

              “We”? If “you guys have the power to fix things after the collapse, which is a helluva lot of power, why aren’t you actually fixing things right now when it ought be easier?

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            • Where does it end? It ends at equal rights.

              Sure, we can talk about the rights of people in a polygamous community, but it is highly unlikely that polygamy in practice would yield equal rights for women or for low-status men. Both those groups would almost certainly suffer — all for the sake of a few rich and powerful patriarchs. Polygamy is the theory, but patriarchy is the practice.

              That’s why the line is drawn at “you may marry one person, gender of your choice, and that’s it.” Equality.

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    • I think just about everyone has their limit with democracy, but its fair to say that some people have tighter limits than others. I really do think most liberals have a broader range of acceptable democratic outcomes than you or I do, but clearly their tolerance for democracy is not unlimited, which I can only see as a good thing.

      The problem I have with leaving things at “the State should get out of this” is that it fails to deal with the existing options in play. I would actually prefer government marriage to no longer exist too, but given the choices currently being debated I can see no reason why the government should offer government recognition of their relationships to one class of people and not another.

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      • There’s an interesting analogy to be made here with voting for Gary Johnson even if you have a preference for Obama over Romney (not that I’m saying that you personally have such a preference, but it’s a subject that’s come up before).

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        • I don’t think its quite the same thing though. I’m talking more about the completeness of Damon’s preference hierarchy. I can understand preferring no marriage to gay marriage or straight marriage only, but that still leaves the question of whether one prefers gay marriage to straight marriage only, or the other way around, or indifference between these options. Focusing only your preferred option when its not really on the table is kind of a cop out.

          To extend this logic to your model, my preference for Johnson over either Obama or Romney is legitimate, but I should at least point out my preference for either of the main candidates, which is Obama, but mostly because I think he’ll have more trouble getting anything done.

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      • “The problem I have with leaving things at “the State should get out of this” is that it fails to deal with the existing options in play. ” You are correct. I’m coming from a position “outside the box”.

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  9. “It seems to me like all of that would be very disrespectful of the will of the people. Isn’t it?”

    Could be. Just like the Underground Railroad. There are times when the “the people” can go fish themselves.

    Russell, best wishes, on the vote and with your family. I don’t have kids, but if I did I’d want someone like you to be their god-parents.

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  10. It is a redefinition of marriage, unless you and your better half have something in common with Newt and his current staffer/future wife [1] that escapes me.

    1. I’m assuming the pattern holds true.

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  11. Oh, Russell. *hugs*

    This is really a heartbreaking post. You shouldn’t have to justify your right to have a family to anyone.

    I’ve moved from the “civil unions” side of this issue to supporting marriage between the time when I was in high school and now, and the more things like this I read the less sense my former opinions make to me.

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  12. This was just outstanding, my friend. Beautifully said.

    I have noted when we discuss SSM here, those on the other side are fairly insistent that we talk only about society at large and not the effects on individual people. This post is an excellent example of why they insist on those floor rules. Like any current or historical argument for social inequality against any arbitrary group of people, it crumples and folds when you stop focusing on the Big Ideas and take note of the human cost of having a second class citizenry.

    Everyone who reads Russell’s post that has a blog, Google+, twitter or Facebook account should link, tweet, like, or whatever to this post.

    Now.

    No, seriously, do it now. We’ll wait.

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  13. You know my father has been a Republican since Reagan, a Mainer for the last decade and a half, and voted in support of same sex marriage the last time and will again this time. It might be because his neighbors are lesbians, but he’s often said he thinks it’s “stupid” that gay marriages aren’t recognized in certain states. He was never fond of the religious wing of the party.

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  14. I live in MD and will, of course, vote yes for Question 6. I, too, feel that the State should never be involved with marriage but only grant ‘civil’ unions. Only civil unions would be viewed as a legally binding relationship; marriage, on the otherhand, would be reserved for purely religious reasons (like all religious ceremonies) and not be recognized by the State in any manner. Separation of church and State is a good thing. For instance, when someone dies, is it the State or the church that handles all the legal aspects of the estate? Should be Ditto for marriage.

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    • Your and Damon’s libertarian positions on marriage (the Gov shouldn’t be in it for anyone) are perfectly coherent philosophically but are also utterly and toweringly impossible to enact politically. I respect the position but because of the sheer impossibility of implementation it doesn’t really strike me as having a place on the slate of solutions to the SSM question.

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      • I don’t often respect the position, as it requires NO personal sacrifice. It doesn’t say, “I don’t believe the state should have a say in marriage, so I’m leaving my own.” It doesn’t say, “I won’t be getting married until the state gets out of marriage.” It says, “I’m willing to sacrifice legal recognition for gay couples on the altar of my own philosophical needs.” I find that abhorrent.

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        • I respect the position as internally coherent on an intellectual level. As an actual practical answer to the question of SSM I’ve literally dismissed it as a non-answer so I feel I’m giving it its necessary due. Though i’ll admit I’ve been known to snarkily refer to it as “the libertarian cop-out”.

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          • North, to your and Sam’s points, it’s only a “cop-out” or “abhorrent” if it leads libertarians to vote against SSM (which I would be mightily surprised to find, but maybe there are hardcore libertarians who’d vote against ANY new laws, or changes to existing laws, on principle).

            Otherwise, I take this position (which is basically mine as well, I don’t see marriage is the state’s business) as a statement of philosophy not policy, a philosophy which in my mind is likely to lead to your preferred policy simply because I would be surprised if most libertarian-leaning people who hold this position did not support (or at least decline to oppose) SSM recognition.

            I am trying to think of an analogy, so forgive me this particular one (and Jaybird, forgive me for dragging you in here) – Jaybird mentioned recently elsewhere that he is against the idea of prisons. If I were proposing that a new second prison be built in my town, to house the excess population and relieve the overcrowding and inhumane conditions at the old prison, and Jaybird said “well, I don’t believe in prisons at all”, his mere statement couldn’t be a cop-out or abhorrent *unless* his philosophy led him to actively oppose the building of the new prison (voting against it, protesting in front of the construction site, or whatever) – that is, unless he acted upon his philosophy in such a way that made it more difficult to get that new, more humane prison built.

            My guess is he’d just make his statement of philosophy/general principle on the internet; while tacitly conceding that if we must, as a political reality, have prisons, then it’s better that we have those that can hold all prisoners relatively comfortably and humanely.

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            • Glyph,

              Seems to me there are three options:

              1. Get the state out of marriage. (The most liberty is created, maybe.)
              2. Keep the state in marriage, but allow gays to marry. (The second most liberty is created, as consenting adults are allowed to enter into legal partnerships, regardless of gender.)
              3. Keep the state in marriage, but refuse to allow gays to marry, because eww, gays are icky (or whatever).

              If your priority is creating liberty, I have no objection to advocating for 1. I have a problem though without people who want 1, and so they’re unwilling to accept 2, preferring that we simply stay at 3 instead. Those people are making it clear that liberty isn’t their cause; getting their own way is.

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            • Fair enough Glyph. Personally I’ve been arguing SSM on the internet for the better part of a decade any generally libertarians who support SSM are pretty up front about saying so. It’s the ones who’re opposed who generally say “I just think government should be out of the marriage business entirely” and the implication if that is the entirety of their response is that at best they will simply not push or vote either way on the issue (and the less charitable reading being that absent their preferred (politically impossible) alternative they would prefer the status quos.

              When talking to libertarians who assert “I just think government should be out of the marriage business entirely” with the corollary being “therefore I support, either actively or by default, the status quos” I call it a libertarian cop out when I’m in an intemperate mood.

              But it bears noting that DBrown actually supports SSM while preferring that the gov be out of marriage entirely which strikes me as being a more internally coherent libertarian position.

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              • If it wasn’t clear, that’s mine also – I don’t think the state should be involved at all, but since they are, they should let any consenting adults do it (and I go farther than just gay marriage – I don’t have any philosophical problem with multi-partner marriages either, just some practical concerns when it comes to legal rights and benefits and such).

                You do get into an interesting question though…going back to my prison example – if hypothetical Jaybird votes ‘no’ (or, declines to vote ‘yes’) on the new prison, because he thinks that all prisons are immoral, and he can’t in good conscience fund one more – then he has, in effect, voted “for” overcrowding in the old prison (which he is not really “for” in any real sense).

                So, would a libertarian who declines to vote ‘yes’ on SSM be supporting the status quo? In one sense, obviously yes (especially if he actively votes ‘no’, rather than just casting no vote at all); in another sense, he may be voting against continued building on what he sees as a flawed premise/foundation, which I think is at least theoretically morally/philosophically defensible.

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                • To your last part that’s why I’m respectful of it even as I call it a cop-out. It is ideologically consistant with libertarianism; just about as likely to occur as me flapping my arms and flying to the moon.

                  I struggle drawing a parallel between your prison example and SSM primarily because the construction of new prisons arguably does measurable harm to people (the prisoners) just a different (and debatably lesser) harm than overcrowding them in the one prison. SSM lacks the same group of people who would be measurably harmed by its passage.

                  The question is if you decline to support an interim solution to a problem instead holding out for a more blanket but highly unlikely solution are you then part of the problem. If you refuse to support rebuilding a bridge out to an island because “I want flying car technology which would render the bridge unnecessary” are you part of the problem? I think this is a more appropriate parallel to SSM because frankly I’d say flying car tech is far more likely than straight couples ever countenancing the idea of “the government is taking away marriage” or any politician being insane or courageous enough to seriously push it with a prospect of success.

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                  • SSM lacks the same group of people who would be measurably harmed by its passage.

                    Just wait until you are married; ‘prison’ may start to look pretty good.

                    Thanks, I’ll be here all week!

                    More seriously, let’s assume no new prisoners – we are going to build the new prison, and split the current population between the old and new to relieve the overcrowding. So all prisoners will be better off , even though they are still in prison. But I could still decline to support the new prison’s building, on the theory that any resources directed towards ‘prisons’ (an immoral end) are resources diverted from ‘rehabilitation/treatment’ (a moral end).

                    Some people could definitely point at me and say “he’s for overcrowded prisons!”; but, I could instead be “for rehabilitation/treatment, and not for prisons, of any population level.”

                    Similarly, it strikes me as at least possible that one could see the fight for state-sanctioned SSM as a waste of energy/resources that should be better spent getting the state out of the marriage business entirely (but I agree that’s more principled than realistic; and, if they are not actively working toward getting the state out entirely, I can see how the rhetoric would ring hollow for those with the most skin in the game).

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  15. The institution of legal marriage is designed to offer some protection in an inherently unequal relationship – a relationship where one of the people is more likely to stay at home and raise children, at the cost of developing an employment record and an income stream. That’s not to say that every marriage will produce children, or that every child will be a product of a marriage. But it is an acknowledgement of the most common and stable environment in which children are produced. At a minimum, it’s safe to say that there are very few accidental children produced in homosexual relationships.

    Does that mean that every woman has to stay at home and raise children? Of course not. But a reasonable first pass at the question of child-rearing would say that male/female relationships are most likely to have children, and that those relationships, if they are valued by society, need some legal protection. A male/male relationship or a female/female relationship doesn’t carry the same assumptions about paternity, custody, or inheritance.

    I could make a religiously-conservative argument against same-sex marriage quite easily, but note that I didn’t. The argument above is largely politically-conservative. But there’s also an ideologically conservative argument to be made: that is, the natural inclination against change. Civil unions have been around for only a few years. They provide most of the same legal protections as marriage. It’s prudent to wait and see their consequences. We’ve seen dramatic changes in the understanding and law of marriage in Europe and in the US, with a lot of bad consequences. I’ll admit that gay marriage is likely to have a smaller ripple than the liberalization of divorce law, but that’s not an argument in favor of making more changes.

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    • ” A male/male relationship or a female/female relationship doesn’t carry the same assumptions about paternity, custody, or inheritance.”

      So… the argument against Russell being married is that you don’t assume the same responsibilities about gay couples because they haven’t been allowed to marry before because you cant’t assume the same responsibilities because they haven’t been allowed to marry before because…

      Is there a point where we’re allowed to stop and get off the circular argument?

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    • Your views of what marriage is meant to safeguard are quite outmoded, Pinky. They are currently meant to be a legally-recognized union of equals, as is evidenced by the large number of two-income households.

      Civil unions have existed in the United States for over a decade, with absolutely no resulting demonstrable harm. One wonders how long same-sex partners must wait before you are willing to jettison a “separate but equal” mindset.

      I would actually place the onus on you, in that yours is the side that thinks my relationship deserves to be kept legally “other.” What harms can you demonstrate that would validate this preference?

      It is good that you chose to eschew a religiously-conservative argument against same-sex marriage, as the religious frame of what a marriage should look like has long been out of vogue in the developed world.

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    • I’ll admit that gay marriage is likely to have a smaller ripple than the liberalization of divorce law, but that’s not an argument in favor of making more changes.

      Divorce law. You’re argument here is that divorce law had a ripple effect that was unpredictable? Unknowable?

      But why should it’s unpredictable-ness matter when we’re talking about a basic right (if there are such things!) of people to express themselves? If I want a divorce – because I hate that lying sack of hot crossed buns of a wife! – how can it be a good thing to prevent me from dissolving the contract?

      I take it that the ripple effects wrt divorce are that lots of marriages that would have otherwise maintained would no longer be, with deleterious effects on “society”. But again, how is granting people the right to break the contract a bad thing? How could it be bad for society?

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      • If it’s easier to do something, people are more likely to do it.

        If divorce is made easier, people are more likely to split up over resolvable problems rather than go to the hard work of working through them. They’re also less likely to think hard about who they’re going to marry, since they know it will be simple enough to get a divorce if they change their minds later. The result is more cavalier and less committed social attitudes towards marriage.

        You can argue that that’s outweighed by the ability of people to leave marriages they don’t like, but there are definite trade-offs.

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              • Okay, but simply not forcing people who hate each other to stay together isn’t the same thing as taking a more cavalier or less committed attitude towards marriage, which was what I think KatherineMW is talking about- people divorcing hastily over resolvable problems. I’ve certainly known a few who did that.

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                  • It seems like we’re going in circles though. If two people enter into a marriage with a cavalier attitude towards it, have kids, and then split up over fairly resolvable problems or for fairly trite reasons, the downside could be that divorce is sometimes traumatic for children.

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                    • But how would a more “stringent” view of marriage 0 one the requires people to stay together even if they don’t want to – change all that. The idea that people get involved in those types of arrangements – commit to another person, have kids, deal with all that – on the assumption that they can just bail if it doesn’t work out seems like a crazy outlier to me. People would engage in those behaviors anyway, it seems to me. The only outcome of restricting divorce is to create a permeating bitterness on the part of the parents, that they feel locked in, and that dynamic can’t be good for the kids. I mean, if the parents want to honor their obligations to each other and the kids, they will. If they don’t, then they won’t. But preventing them from divorcing seems like it places the horse directly behind the cart.

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                    • Stillwater and Rufus,
                      Yes, yes, splitting up is “sometimes” traumatic for the children.
                      If you don’t split up, there’s fair to middling odds that the kids will be raped/abused by the dissatisfied partner in the relationship. (Partially because the folks that decide to stay together “for the kids” are more inclined towards this in the firstplace)
                      I grew up with my parents in a loveless relationship.
                      It’s a fairly horrid place to be in — and I was one of the lucky ones!

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                    • Pyre, I’m not entirely sure what you think I’m arguing for or against here. The three of you *seem* to think I’m saying that families in hellish dysfunctional relationships should be forced to stay together for the good of “marriage” or their kids, which is not at all what I’m saying. I’m also not really making the argument that divorces should be made harder to come by. I thought we were all starting from the understanding that divorce laws were liberalized decades ago and that we’re not going to push back the ocean. Besides, I figured we were really talking about cultural norms more than the laws anyway.

                      Stillwater, I do take your point, but I live in a fairly low income area where that’s not at all an outlier. Many, many of my friends were raised in single parent households where a parent (Dad in pretty much every case) took off at the first sign the relationship might require effort, and they tend to, as adults, replicate what they saw in their family relationship in their own romantic relationships and, at the least, have some serious trust/trauma issues. My friend “Elkie”, whose Dad took off when she was three and whose Mom put her in foster care so she wouldn’t be a hassle to the new boyfriend, used to say of her future husband, “I do hope he’s nice, but it’s only going to last a few years anyway, so I’m not going to stress about it.” That attitude is common among my social circle. I think they see me and my wife as outliers for being together for nearly a decade.

                      Now, I do take your point about not putting the cart before the horse and frankly I don’t know what the answer is at this late date. The genie was out of the bottle a long time ago. However, I often find people arguing that the liberalizing of marriage and divorce norms (really more than laws) was a sort of boon for society that allowed people to be happy and fulfilled and so forth. So, I was under the impression that the question we were asking here was: What would be the down side of society taking a casual attitude towards marriage and divorce? All I’m saying is I know plenty of children of parents who took a fairly casual attitude towards marriage and divorce and it was not without a down side. Now, if you want to argue that the alternative would have been worse, maybe that’s true, but I do think there was a down side.

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                    • Ruf, I don’t think it’s worth going any deeper than that. If you concede that there’s a cart/horse problem inherent in the case against liberalizing divorce, I’m willing to grant you the rest of your case.

                      It seems to me it’s one of those intractable problems where folks are emotionally attached to their conceptions of what the word “marriage” means.

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        • Kat,
          A different tradeoff:
          If someone wants out of the relationship bad enough to cheat (or send a videotape of fucking an entire barfull of people)… Aren’t you doing their partner some harm by requiring the person who wants out to violate trust like that?
          It’s one thing to hear “I want a divorce”…

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          • I’m not requiring anyone to do anything. It would be that person’s choice, and one which I would regard as highly immoral.

            Stronger marriage laws ought to make people actually think about whether the person they’re considering marrying is really someone they want to spend the rest of their life with (and possibly raise children with). Whether it’s someone for whom they’re willing to make sacrifices, and who’s willing to make sacrifices for them. If it’s not – then don’t get married.

            I believe in “til death do us part”. It’s a more serious attitude towards commitment until “til we both don’t really feel like it any more”. There are events that supersede it – such as domestic violence or chronic infidelity – but it divorce shouldn’t be a substitute for a regular couple working out their problems, and I agree with Rufus that it’s become that to an extent.

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            • Before I married the current Mr. Woodhouse, there was a former Mr. Woodhouse. I absolutely saw it as a commitment for life. He did not abuse me nor was there chronic infidelity. But without going into much detail, I will say I was very unhappy and but also tried over a period of years to make it work. We did not have kids. I availed myself of a no-fault divorce and have literally never once regretted it.

              This sounds strange, but I feel as if I have conservative views on marriage. Marriage is serious business. It is because it is so serious that there needs to be an out. I have wondered how it would have been if I had had my disabled kid with my ex instead of my current. Long story short: a nightmare. Life throws you curveballs. If you’re not with an actual partner, but with something of a burden or adversary, life becomes really, really difficult.

              I feel like I do take marriage very seriously. How can I say I would never leave the current Mr. Woodhouse if I left the former? I don’t know, but I do know it. I’m older. We have kids. We have a happy marriage. It is so essential to my happiness that I shudder to think what would have happened had I stayed with the ex. My life would have gone substantially less well.

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          • Things that strongly correlate with pro-SSM opinion: being 18-34, being a college graduate, not being a Republican, not having a religious identification. I haven’t seen a lot of good crosstabs, but I’d assume “being a libertarian” is pretty far up there too.

            Given that this blog exists in a sort of youngish, educated, left-libertarian, atheist/agnostic nexus – not to mention, of course, that it’s a blog community featuring at least four five gay members in excellent standing – it would be more surprising to me if we tolerated a substantial amount of anti-gay sentiment.

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            • Noonan,

              I’ll give you one more possible explanation: the argument against gay marriage is so unbelievable weak. If there’s one thing I’ve learned since becoming one of the League’s lesser contributors is that you’d better bring your “A” game if you want to make arguments around here. The entire strategy for those who oppose gay marriage is glide effortlessly from one objection to the next (“It’s about kids!” to “It’s about God!” to “It’s about tradition!” to “It’s about commitment!” and then back to “It’s about kids!” for a repeat of the entire cycle…) because they know that none of them hold up under any measure of scrutiny. At least part of that is the plain fact that those objections are themselves nothing more than a smokescreen for “Ewwww!”

              Needless to say, those two mindsets simply don’t jive.

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                • I think Tim’s made pretty much the same arguments against rushing to normalize same sex marriage. He might have even posted on it a few times. I don’t imagine he changed his opinions because people disagreed with him. There are a few others here who I remember making basically the same arguments as Pinky against SSM. It’s sort of irrelevant though; the rightness or wrongness of an argument is not really measured by how many people agree or disagree with it.

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              • I think every internet debate shifts constantly between different objections. You get five people making a point, they’re going to make it differently. You get five people arguing against a point, they’re going to raise different objections. That’s part of the reason that I specified that I was making a politically-conservative argument – although I guess I couldn’t help myself, and I made a philosophically-conservative one too. At least I tried to label them.

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  16. As I already live in a jurisdiction with legal same-sex marriage, I am not much help in the voting sense. But I’ll continue to argue passionately for your equality and dignity, as if my marriage to a woman gives me the authority to speak meaningfully on your behalf. And I’ll wish nothing but the best for you and your family next Tuesday (and forever, to be fair).

    One of the things that constantly amazes me about my own marriage is the way that the phrase “my wife” (or “my husband” when the other member of this thing is speaking) completely transfigures almost any conversation. Heaven and earth do seem to move a little bit, and the most preposterous things become not just possible but mundane. If her family ever disagreed with me about a medical decision on her behalf, I could say, “But she’s my wife”, and make them all disapparate like a bunch of Harry Potter characters. I sincerely hope you get to know what that’s like, and soon.

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  17. Fistbump to this entire post. As someone who’s had to take care of of parent’s estate who ws in a hypertraditional marriage (stay at home mom and all that), I can’t imagine how much a pain in the rear it is for situations that the law doesn’t automatically recogize as ‘the default’ (with the law as is being a royal pain in the rear as it is)

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  18. Wonderful post, Doc.

    Living in Georgia, I can’t do much today except lend support from afar, but my family and I are pulling for all of you in Maine (and Maryland and Minnesota).

    My birth mother still lives in Wisconsin and she and her partner went through the a similar gut punch from their fellow citizens a few years ago. I know they continually think about moving to a place where they can get at least get better legal protection, if not outright married and that gets more and more important as they get older. But it’s grueling to have to consider leaving your friends and family over something like this, as I’m sure you know.

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  19. Sadly, at least WRT the cousin-humping bible-thumping groups from the Deep South, your pleas will fall on deaf ears.

    But I hope the people in your state come to their senses. Good luck!

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  20. Eloquent and moving post, Russell. Thank you for sharing this beautiful family portrait. I am so sorry that our collective record on deciding this legal issue leads your portrait to need to be interwoven with a plea. Would that I were able to add my vote to yours in Maine or any of the states currently contemplating this long-overdue recognition and extension of legal rights.

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  21. I was thinking of you, my friend, among several others (and, god forbid anything happen to Jay, my own possible future self), as I sent money earlier this fall to all the pro-marriage-equality campaigns you mention in this post.

    If I ever bring myself to either lie to the government or forswear Canadian citizenship, in order to become an American citizen, it will be an issue like this that pushes me past the tipping point. Until then, I’ll just keep wishing as hard and as loud as I can, that those I love can marry those they love, wherever they live.

    *adds a big hug to Katherine’s hug upthread*

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      • It has an anti-any-other-country citizenship requirement for citizenship.

        The Oath of Allegiance for Naturalization:
        “I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the armed forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God.”

        You can get waivers for the bearing arms bit, or for the God bit, but not for the “absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure” bit. (Fun but irrelevant addendum: You also have to renounce “any hereditary titles or positions of nobility.”)

        Now, the last time I checked, Canada considers this requirement to be an oath made under duress, and insists that the only way to stop being a Canadian citizen is to inform them, DIRECTLY, that you don’t want to be. (Canada is also very comfortable with multiple citizenships.) However, I can’t quite wrap my head around starting out my citizenship of a country by lying under oath in the ceremony to do so.

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  22. What would it mean for the state to be out of marriage? Would it mean for instance that if you married someone from another country they would have no more right to immigrate than any other foreigner since the state does not recognise your private marriage*?

    I am all in favour of minimising government involvement. They have no business telling consenting adults who they can and cannot marry and rules about having to go to a certain office and recite certain words before a certain person are just absurd but I don’t see how removing legal recognition from marriage helps secure the things people marry (as opposed to c0habiting) for.

    *Yes in Libertopia there will be no immigration restrictions but come on, how far do we have to jump in one go before we are allowed to move forward at all?

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