A Few Links And Thoughts On Same-Sex Marriage

I think Richard Epstein, classically liberal/libertarian law/economics thinker, gets a lot of this right:

‘It doesn’t take a weatherman to tell which way public opinion blows. The huge uptick of support for same-sex marriage has been described as swift and broad, to which we can add, in all likelihood, lasting.

In my view, every time the defenders of the traditional view of marriage speak in public on behalf of a ban, they lose the support of neutral third parties. The problem is that they are trying to tell other people how they should lead their own lives, and are using the power of the state to do it. Their justifications are far from compelling. They talk about the need for procreation in marriage, though many straight married couples use contraceptives. They talk about the risks to parenting, when there is no evidence that suggests that gay and lesbian couples are worse parents, especially when compared to dysfunctional couples in traditional marriages or single parents of limited financial means. Their arguments against same-sex marriage thus fall flat to modern ears, so that the basic support for same-sex marriage only grows.’

Perhaps I’m more amenable than Epstein to laws stemming from the moral authority of those who remain principled actors upon religious belief (a less influential cohort in the higher rungs of American society these days).  Like Epstein, however, I find many of the reasons such folks give lacking, and falling on deaf ears.

While I may not agree with the Catholic view of homosexuality and really would prefer a live and let live attitude with more freedom for more people, I also think when it comes to how people actually behave, the importance of limiting principles regarding power and authority and having well-reasoned laws etc., the religious view of human nature can be quite accurate.

This may well stem from my own flaws, so naturally, take such paragraphs with a grain of salt.

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If I understand Michael Sandel at the end of this video as part of his online Harvard lecture series ‘Justice’ correctly,  perhaps there is no way to ultimately separate the teleological arguments (ends) from the practical ones:  Questions about justice, law, civic duty and obligation to future generations; questions about people’s beliefs examined and unexamined, reasons carefully reasoned and reasons blindly followed, all will contribute to the kinds of laws we have on the books.

Personally, I don’t know anyone who isn’t full of ‘oughts’, guiding principles, things they know that ain’t so, cherished beliefs and conflicting commitments in life.  To some extent, we’re all subject to sharing the prevailing opinions and ideas of the people we live around, even if those opinions aren’t enshrined in law nor shared by the majority.  Ideas have a logic and consequences of their own.

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Two reasons put forward in defense of traditional marriage are as follows (part of a smaller religious minority at Harvard, it seems):  For the sake of procreation and for the purpose of forming a union between man and woman.

Click through for the rest of the debate if you have the time.

As I suspect we’ve seen during the last few generations, the Catholic and more broadly Christian religious ideas woven into American culture, laws and institutions are much less woven than they have been.

Americans keep being assured of other teleological ends (progress, increasing tolerance and inclusion, ever-expanding freedom and rights etc.) but when it comes to how to live and be free, I’d rather observe what people do, not what they say, especially when they want/have power and authority.

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