Arguing against gay marriage

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Arguing against gay marriage


Opponents of gay marriage claim to have found a good argument. They haven't (Photo credit: loewyn)

What Is Marriage? Man and Woman: A Defence
By Sherif Girgis, Ryan T Anderson and Robert P George (Encounter Books, £10.99)

Opponents of gay marriage have, for many years now, lacked intellectually credible arguments. What Is Marriage is an attempt to remedy this. Its authors—Sherif Girgis, Ryan T Anderson, and Princeton Professor Robert P George—are three academics with an impressive array of credentials. The book is measured and non-confrontational, written in a tone somewhere between legal scholarship and philosophy. Stylistically, at least, it is the antithesis of the ravings of the religious right. Although the authors are conservative Christians, they purport to make a secular case against gay marriage.

Unsurprisingly, the anti-gay marriage movement has embraced this work as a godsend, characterising it as the long-awaited heavyweight, intellectually formidable defence of their view. The authors have presented their argument in serious forums such as the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy and the Wall Street Journal. Even some people on the other side of the debate have taken the book seriously, with Kenji Yoshino of NYU law school calling it “the best argument against gay marriage.” Behind its intellectual veneer, though, the arguments of What Is Marriage are no less flimsy than those of other anti-gay marriage crusaders.

The central question in the gay marriage debate, the authors tell us, is not about homosexuality, but rather about marriage. As such, the battle over gay marriage is, in the view of the authors, a battle to save marriage. Once we understand what marriage—the real thing—is, we will see that it is inherent in its very nature that there cannot be a marriage between two people of the same sex.

It’s an audacious line of reasoning. In response to demands for legal rights for gay people, it says something like: “I’m sorry—it’s nothing against you, it’s just that the demand you’ve made doesn’t make sense.” Asking for a gay marriage is, for these authors, rather like asking for a liquid car, or for a manicure for your knees—a demand for something conceptually impossible. As such, the rights-demand doesn’t even have to be engaged. You can’t engage something that doesn’t make conceptual sense.

The common-sense reply, of course, is that gay marriages happen every day, in a range of jurisdictions across the world where they are legal. For these authors, however, such events are charades: they cannot be real marriages. Why not?

Marriage, they claim, has a kind of inherent nature, essence or function, which is to forge a “comprehensive union” between persons. Aside from some ill-supported assumptions that homosexual relationships cannot be permanent or a positive environment for bringing up children, the key reason why homosexual unions are said not to amount to “comprehensive unions” is that they do not involve procreation. Thus, they are not— and cannot be—marriages, properly speaking. (Conveniently, heterosexual marriages between people who are infertile, or do not wish to have children, are OK, since they are still “aimed” at procreation, in some mysterious and undefined sense.) Calling this view the “conjugal view,” they depict their opponents as arguing for a “revisionist view” of the “nature” of marriage, whereby its central function is to express a loving bond.

The book’s central failing, however, is that its authors never justify why we should think of marriage as even having a central function or nature. This general approach—familiar from the natural law tradition within Christian thought, which takes its cues from Aristotle’s teleological metaphysics—makes sense in a religious context where marriage is an ordinance of God. But remember that the argument of this book is meant to be secular. In a disenchanted, scientific view of the world, it is unclear why we should think of even natural objects such as trees and rivers—let alone a social institution like marriage, which, contrary to the religious view, was invented by humans—as having permanent and unchangeable functions or essences.

This isn’t to embrace a kind of radical social constructivism where all of reality is just a matter of how we think of it. But if there’s anything which is socially constructed—and, correspondingly, based on the features of the societies that construct it—surely an institution like marriage is a prime candidate. And if that’s true, there is no intrinsic reason to respect the existing “function” of marriage. Whereas these authors start with the question of what marriage’s function is, and proceed to draw conclusions about what is socially desirable, a more enlightened view would invert this order of explanation, beginning with what is socially desirable and moving to what we want marriage’s function to be.

Even if the authors were somehow right that marriage has a natural “function,” and that this function lines up with the “conjugal view,” what would this really tell us? What would we be wrong, or bad, about our social practices failing to match this natural function? If marriage really did by its nature exclude homosexuals, then the right response could still be to reject marriage strictly speaking in favour of something extremely similar, but which allows for sexual equality. The fact that an institution has an essential nature cannot close the question of whether it should be reformed, unless we are given some reason to care about preserving the essential nature of the institution. It’s essential to the nature of, say, the institution of slavery that it involves subjugation—otherwise it doesn’t count as slavery. Obviously, this does not entail that subjugation is a good thing.

Of course, marriage as it exists is not akin to slavery and the proposal is not to abolish it but to, in certain respects, reform it. What harm do we cause in doing so? The answers of the authors fall into two categories. The first appeals to the claim that if we reform marriage, people will lose the chance to have a real marriage, which is a move of astonishing circularity, since it assumes that the existing, heterosexual-only institution of marriage is of greater value than a more inclusive version.

Second, the authors, without argument, claim that defenders of gay marriage must believe that marriage should be impermanent and based on emotional whims, and then argue that if marriage evolves this way, it will have various social harms. On the same kind of basis, the authors charge that defenders of gay marriage must also defend polygamy and pretty well all other potential marital arrangements, if they are to be consistent.

But there’s a sleight of hand here. The claim which the gay marriage advocate needs to make is that marriage can be revised—there’s nothing inherently inviolable about existing conceptions of marriage and its function. That doesn’t mean, however, that any revision is a good one, or one that we should support. And it’s just not true that the only way to resist other revisions of marriage is to revert to the authors’ conjugal view, thus excluding gay people in the process. Nor need one even offer a competing view of marriage’s function—the kind that might commit one to the more comprehensive revisions these authors try to saddle their opponents with (though it’s far from obvious that there is no possible such view which would include gay marriage but exclude polygamy). Rather, one can reject the notion that marriage has an inherent function and consider proposed revisions one-by-one on their individual tangible merits.

(For what it’s worth, polygamy seems to me a difficult case, one where we have to balance the rights of clear-eyed and uncoerced individuals who genuinely want to enter such an arrangement, against those of the individuals—primarily women—who likely do not enter such arrangements uncoerced and lose out from them. One crucial thing to determine is how many people fall into each category, which is a complex question requiring detailed empirical investigation. Certainly, however, someone who reaches the reasonable enough conclusion that polygamy is too often based on coercion and inequality to be worth sanctioning, but nevertheless supports gay marriage, is in no way being “inconsistent,” as the authors charge.)

I have not had space to address all the bad arguments in this book, such as the claim that allowing gay marriage constitutes an expansion of government or a violation of religious liberty. But here is one final question for the authors. They say that their argument is not in any way an argument against homosexuality. But if we were to accept their argument, why wouldn’t it also extend to a case against the legality of gay sex? After all, sex—perhaps more clearly than marriage—has at least one obvious biological “function”: producing children. Gay sex cannot share this function. So, if that’s good enough grounds to ban gay marriage, why not also gay sex? What is wrong in the latter argument that is not wrong in the former?

Maybe there is no difference. Maybe some would deny the right to gay sex, again stressing it’s not homosexuality at issue here, but rather, sex. This book is not the first attempt to deny the rights of gay people while at the same time saying it’s “nothing against them.” Indeed, as I’ve suggested, the reasoning of this book could be applied to a range of other gay rights. Each time, on a “case-by-case” basis, gay people would be told: “Sorry: it’s just in the nature of this institution to exclude you. I’m afraid I can’t do anything about the inherent nature of the institution!”

This kind of argument is nonsense. We can do something about our social institutions; they are not timeless entities beyond our control. And when we do, it won’t be the “end” of marriage; for millions of marginalised and excluded people across the world, it will be the start.

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  1. January 30, 2013

    Daniel MM

    Awful review of a great book. Your arguments are terribly weak.

    • January 30, 2013


      So weak that you don’t even need to explain where they’re going wrong, eh Daniel?

    • January 31, 2013


      WHICH arguments are weak? Why not try to explain WHY are they weak? Have you really read & understood this review properly?

  2. January 30, 2013


    Great review of an awful book. Their arguments are terribly weak.

  3. January 30, 2013

    Ben Kelly

    What an atrocious book… And a well written article. It strikes me that this argument, whilst calling itself secular, essentially relies on the assumption that marriage is a strictly religious thing. It’s a common argument, “My particular flavour of mad-book invented this marriage malarkey first and thus I have the exclusive rights to deny anyone”. Of course, non-Christian marriage has existed in various forms for millennia.

  4. January 30, 2013


    Excellent review of a terrible book. Their arguments are awful

  5. January 30, 2013

    Craig Young

    I’ve read the treatise in question. Exactly why should public policy be based on these premodern prescientific if logically coherent axioms, given that they are devoid of substantive medical and scientific reasons against marriage equality or same-sex parenting? To accept them would mean giving credence to abstract propositions over hard empirical proof that these propositions are inaccurate at best, mendacious at worst.

  6. January 31, 2013

    Joseph Shaw

    Aristotelianism isn’t based on the notion of a creator. Aristotle didn’t believe in one.

    More to the point, even if you reject ‘purposes’ for natural institutions, you have to accept them for legal institutions. The argument of the book is that the natural institution has been adopted as a legal institution for certain purposes. I’d like to see a response to that.

    • January 31, 2013

      Duncan Fallowell

      There’s no such thing as a natural institution

  7. January 31, 2013


    What the procreation argument quite bizarrely ignores is that homosexuals do have children all the time – in fact, in my current country of residence (Germany) a good third of lesbians in civil partnerships are raising children together, which tend to be born to one of the women involved. Presumably these women do enter a civil partnership precisely because they do want a firm, respected framework for their family. Making a distinction between “people who procreate” on the one hand and “homosexuals” on the other is creating a false dichotomy, whether one approves of gay marriage or not.

    • February 13, 2013


      Yes, but the fact that they are bringing up the fact that a lesbian or gay couple cannot procreate does not have anything to do with the fact you stated. If a woman and a man were married, and the woman was pregnant with another man’s baby, wouldn’t that be seen as wrong? Because of this, they put forth the fact that a homosexual couple cannot procreate, because that’s exactly true. They can’t, unless one of them fathers or mothers a child from another women, or goes out of their own relationship to become pregnant.

      • February 15, 2013

        John Colgan

        ” If a woman and a man were married, and the woman was pregnant with another man’s baby, wouldn’t that be seen as wrong?”

        No, that would be a woman, who got pregnant through artificial or in-vitro fertilization!

        • February 16, 2013

          John Howard

          That’s not a right of marriage. Marriages have a right to conceive offspring together, using their own genes. We shouldn’t allow same-sex couples to do that, it would be expensive and unethical and there is no need for it or right to do it.

  8. January 31, 2013

    Ian Borsuk

    What bugs me about anti-gay marriage arguments when they talk about the “essence” of marriage or what have you, is that they completely ignore that their form of marriage (most of the time) is revisionist itself. Was your marriage an economic arrangement where both the husband and wife/just the wife had no say? Yeah, you’re a marriage revisionist.

  9. January 31, 2013

    Ross Williams

    What gay marriage advocates want is legal recognition of their marriage. What does an abstract discussion about the essence of marriage have to do with that? The answer is nothing.

    We are supposed to suspend disbelief and pretend the authors conclusions are a result of reasoned consideration. After all, they are Intellectuals! But we all know this is just a dressed up religious screed.

    • April 16, 2013


      Unfortunately, Ross, if marriage does have a metaphysical “essence” or “function,” it will have EVERYTHING to do with the legal recognition of gay marriage.

      Without assuming such an essence DOES exist, we must realize that IF there is such a thing it would mean that a certain type of union IS a marriage and other types of unions are NOT. Law must conform to physical and even metaphysical reality; lawmakers cannot simply legislate whatever they want if it contradicts understood reality or law would be ontologically senseless and practically useless.

      Of course the school of legal positivism suggests laws are legal and binding solely because they come from a legal authority and not for any other reason, but even legal positivists must base their laws in their understanding of reality. We could make laws declaring “heat” to be a food, but you still won’t be able to survive just by standing in the sun. We could legally define “mother” to include a woman’s relationship to anyone she has hugged as well as anyone to whom she has given birth, but does that make it so?

      So the “abstract discussion about the essence of marriage” is not only important but critical to any legal discussion of marriage. If marriage indeed has no “essence” or “function,” by all means, our laws can recognize any type of union they want as marriage. But if marriage has such an “essence,” any legal recognition of marriage needs to conform. If that “essence” is simply a mutual attraction and commitment to another person, regardless of gender, laws must reflect that. If that “essence” is a “comprehensive union” that requires both a man and a woman, then laws must conform.

      The “abstract discussion” is necessary if our laws are to reflect reality. And one need not be religious to understand that laws have their basis in physical and metaphysical reality.

  10. January 31, 2013

    Ross Williams

    I can just imagine the post office refusing to deliver mail to someone living with their partner because that does not meet someone’s idea of the essence of a “permanent address”.

  11. January 31, 2013


    Most arguments, whether pro- or con- gay marriage take current LEGALLY SANCTIONED marriage for granted. But surely in this day and age what two consenting adults want to do together is nothing to do with the law. Why should there be a LEGAL status for this? Why should taxes be constructed to benefit these two people who want to live and love together?
    In my view, the answer is to abolish the current legally sanctioned ‘marriage’. It is simply of no interest to the state. This need not impact in any way ‘marriage’ as seen by religious groups, etc. One can still take religious vows, have white weddings, or shaman weddings or whatever.
    Where the state, that is, the public interest lies is precisely when children are the outcome. Children are our future and hence of intense public interest. The state should therefore step in when a child is in the offing and declare that two adults are necessary to commit to the rearing of those children. These two adults, normally of course the mother and father, but there is no reason why gay couples should not also take parental responsibility, would then be declared to be in a state of Parentage with regard to their children. Such responsibility and such a state would subsist whatever the personal arrangements of the parents. They can part etc. but the state would continue to take a most lively interest in the well-being of the children being parented. In the case of under-age parents, then the first set of adult who would be declared in the state of parentage would be the youngsters own parents, i.e. the grandparents. The young couple would become registered as being in the state of parentage as soon as they were both of age.
    I believe that this approach would concentrate the minds powerfully, as it puts the welfare of the children centre stage at all times, rather than the love lives of the parents.

  12. January 31, 2013

    Jess Lookin

    Neither side of this debate can escape the fundamental principle of reality – the only reason marriage is defined as man/woman is the belief that it is ONLY for procreation. So, if you want a simplistic concept of marriage, there you are. All other explanations for man/woman never seem to cover the other fact that human complexity.

  13. January 31, 2013

    E. Buki

    You all want criticism of the article? Here it goes. First, sex is an act. Humans participate in sex, and society now conrtolsl sex, mostly in the area of predatory sex. We have agreed that reaching majority and then consent is required but that sex is a personal act. We have no real business in the sexual proclivities between consenting adults. Some couples ask that society recognize their relationship and we have agreed to call this marriage. While sex is a private act, marriage is a public recognition and this is why the public aught have little say over the private while society has all the say over public.

    The polygamy discussion is absurdly lacking in reflection. As many would have it, history shows that nearly all marriages were a product of coercion. Women married when too young to know better and under conditions that left no other option. Her rights were stewarded by her husband. Today this is not the case. So, the same argument made to alter the basis for the marriage institution, that societies change and their institutions with them, can work just as we’ll for polygamy. Put in proper oversight and polygamy will not so often be a product of coercion.

    Marriage clearly has been an institution based on reproduction. We know this for various reasons but the most striking is in royal records of various dynasties. We suspect that many rulers were gay and yet, when they married, it was to women. There are cases where dynasties maintained their position by marrying son to sister. One never saw the marriage of son to brother, even as the reality of dynastic oblivion was faced. The people in the best position to change the law, the very people who flaunted the social restrictions against incest, did not do the same for gay-marriage.

    The author points only to Western philosophy but in looking the whole world round, there is no major civilization which has touched gay-marriage with Bea Arthure’s d!@k. It is so because of the very argument made by the writers of the book being reviewed, gay-marriage is an oxymoron. Reproduction and relationships to the progeny (next if kin, inheritance, who cares for orphaned members of the family) are key components that society cares about. It is why marriage is reinforced by rituals and made legally binding. It’s for the children. Why should society care about the life-long love between a gay couple to the degree that we certify and sanctify it as we do a reproductive unit.

    As for infertile couples or couples who do not want children. A) people change their mind. and B) sometimes miracles happen (not uncommon. I know of a number of previously infertile couples who naturally defied their doctor’s proclamations). There is no homosexual couple that can possibly produce children together. On the other hand, if a gay couple adopts or together manage to produce a child in the way some gay couples do, I think marriage should be an option for them. They are engaged in the purpose of marriage, child rearing. It is simply unreasonable to expect society to change the clear, current, and frankly the obvious purpose of marriage to include a population who are incapable of fulfilling that purpose.

    • February 16, 2013

      John Howard

      Civil Unions defined as “marriage minus conception rights” would help same-sex couples that are raising children (and those that are not raising children too) without equating their right to conceive more children to a married man and woman.

    • March 16, 2013

      Lisa S

      What an incredibly obtuse set of arguments. The reason same sex couples are seeking equality has more to do with their legal rights as committed unions. For example, the right of inheritance and death benefits, the right of being allowed to visit one’s partner in the hospital and other privileges afforded heterosexual couples. If, as you argue, marriage is only for heterosexual couples since only they can produce children or have the potentiality to do so, then let’s change the laws to exclude those heterosexual couples who will never be able to produce children due to infertility, age, or disability, have their marriages dissolved and given the same rights or lack thereof as same sex couples.

      • March 18, 2013

        P. Ami

        Lisa, what is obtuse is forming an opinion when one hasn’t bothered to learn the fact. Same-sex couples have the right of inheritance. They have the right to visit their partner in the hospital, to be buried together, etc… Just as with marriage, one goes through any number of rituals and apply for license, there are legal documents that any couple, same-sex or otherwise, can sign which afford them the protection of these rights. If going through the trouble of a marriage ceremony is something a couple is willing to undergo, how much more convenient that without a judge, captain or religious authority, without witnesses, or any other legal trappings of a marriage, a same sex couple can assign these rights to each other at the simple cost of a lawyer drawing up the papers and watching them be signed.

      • March 19, 2013

        P. Ami

        You ask why the HRC holds a survey and present this survey as facts? If the same survey asked if I like hot cocoa served by a Martian, should I assume there are waiters from a neighboring planet? Of course not. You want me to come up with a reason a lobby group asks questions regarding the subject they lobby for, raise money for, employ themselves in, etc? Not gonna do that. Since you brought this survey to bare, lets be clear over what the survey is asking and what it is not.

        The survey is interested in knowing if state benefits are passed on to the significant other. I listed issues such as hospital visitation, inheritance and burial. These are all rights that remain a signature away for same-sex couples. Sign a contract that says (so and so) is permitted to visit me in the hospital as any next-of-kin. Problem solved. Same with their inheriting property or burial. State benefits are a different story. One can resolve that issue without mismanaging the marriage institution. Make any such state benefits assignable to a single, cohabitating individual. Problem solved and one did not need to twist the meaning of marriage to achieve this goal.

  14. February 1, 2013

    Gareth Williams

    “In a disenchanted, scientific view of the world, it is unclear why we should think of even natural objects such as trees and rivers—let alone a social institution like marriage, which, contrary to the religious view, was invented by humans—as having permanent and unchangeable functions or essences.”

    Well, you may not believe that that heart has the function of pumping blood, or the eye of seeing, but surely human institutions quite explicitly have purposes. If we don’t think marriage – for example – has a purpose we should just abolish it. Problem solved.

    If you look objectively at marriage customs throughout history it is clear that the common themes (e.g. taboos against sex outside marriage, fidelity within marriage, life-long commitment, the assumption that a child born to a woman during a marriage is the child of her husband, customs concerning inheritance and family wealth, and ahem, the marriage being between a man and a woman) are related to reproductive objectives (establishing paternity and the support of children by both parents, making sure parents stay together long enough to raise children, making sure reproduction is delayed until the economic means to support a family are available, etc).

    I would like to see an ethological explanation of marriage that does not involve these factors. Until I see one, I regard the rejection of the idea that the primary purpose of marriage is reproduction as simple “denialism”.

    Of course that does not mean the purpose of marriage can not change. But if you want it to change it then you must make a case for a new purpose. You can’t just deny that it has a purpose. And if you so radically change the purpose that little of the original remains than you can be rightly accused of seeking to abolish the original institution and replace it with something else.

    It is quite obvious that instituting “marriage” between two people who could never under any circumstances produce a child is such a radical redefinition. And the arguments for it have never been made, they have been avoided by making spurious appeals to “equality”.

    That is why I (an atheist and a rationalist) have no problem with civil partnerships (a new institution with a new purpose), but resist the institution of “same sex marriage” as a product of wooly thinking.

    Thanks for the book review, I have not read it, next stop Amazon!

  15. February 2, 2013


    What grown adults do behind closed doors is their own concern! I do not need to know about it.
    I have heard ‘personalities’ introduced on TV as ‘Gay’ what b****y concern is it of ours what their sexual orientation is – they would not introduce a ‘non- gay’ person as ‘this heterosexual person’ so there is NO need for any definition of a persons sexuality!

    However, my main point is to say that a ‘Marriage Certificate’ is the property of a married Woman. This comes from a time when a Woman needed to have the protection of a man to survive safely – otherwise she could be arrested for vagrancy, prostitution etc. and could not travel alone safely. Therefore the certificate gave her some sort of safety and security. Ok, the down side of that is that she was viewed as some man’s ‘property’ but what man needs this protection?? If the need for protection is not an issue then this negates the need for the certificate, ergo the marriage itself.
    If heterosexuals can live without a marriage certificate, as so many do these days, why can homosexuals not do the same – as I am sure all the legal issue can be dealt with just as well.

    I am totally and utterly against homosexual marriage, for the simple reason that neither the male nor female body was created by nature to have sex with a same sex partner – if we had been created to do so – we would all be hermaphrodites!

  16. February 2, 2013

    Craig Young

    There’s no need to subsidise the treatise’s manufacturers, as it is quite possible to read it online for free. Simply link to:

    It’s still as unconvincing, though. Incidentally, why is straight marriage confgured as ‘inevitably’ procreative given the existence of reliable contraception and permanent, given the widespread existence of divorce?

  17. February 12, 2013


    This article certainly does sound like a PhD student: 1 part argument to 9 parts bluster.

    • February 16, 2013


      You should read Gergis’ rebuttal. ALL bluster.

  18. February 12, 2013

    From France

    From France, in a large majority, the population accepts gay marriage, but rejects the “right” for people to have children.
    Why that rejection ? Because all children have the right to have a mother and a father.
    Gays are viewed to be able to procreate only with the help of science or of the market (!). And people are reluctant with the idea.

  19. February 15, 2013


    I was looking for a reasoned and well-formed critique of the book. This is not it.

    I have read the book carefully and I have read this review and criticism carefully. I encourage others to read the book as well. Then you will see just how this article elides the core of the book.

      • February 18, 2013

        John Howard

        Regarding married heterosexual couples that are not trying to procreate or are infertile: they are ALLOWED to try to procreate.

        Same-sex couples, like siblings and other couples that may not marry, should not be allowed to try to procreate. Same-sex procreation by any method should be prohibited because it would be expensive and unethical and unnecessary, and there is no right to attempt it.

  20. February 16, 2013


    Gergis’ “rebuttal” “Human good….blah blah blah…human good…yada yada yada…human good…blah blah blah…”

  21. February 16, 2013

    John Howard

    Girgis has a blindspot too: he ignores the very real possibility of same-sex conception, using stem cells to make sperm from a woman and eggs from a man. And he also is blind to the fact that marriage is about the right to conceive offspring, not the ability. So their argument implies that a brother and sister should be allowed to marry, because they are a man and a woman, and also, alarmingly, that if a same-sex couple is able to procreate using stem cells, that they should be allowed to marry. They fail to argue that people should not be allowed to procreate with siblings or with someone of the same sex. Huge blind spot!

  22. February 17, 2013


    Yes! This is my all time favorite book on Amazon to heckle. Hahahaha

    Whats really scary is that I am clearly no fancy schmancy scholar but my heckles seem to be right on the money.

    This reviews is much better, though.

  23. February 20, 2013


    ‘Even some people on the other side of the debate have taken the book seriously, with Kenji Yoshino of NYU law school calling it “the best argument against gay marriage.” ‘

    If one reads the article by Mr Yoshino the word ‘seriously’ is not one that fits that article.

  24. February 20, 2013


    Girgis, Anderson, and George are simply homophobes and Catholic apologists who try to cloak their religious argument in secular garb. Their mental masturbation is not very interesting. I am grateful to Alex Worsnip for his patience in pointing out their absurdities.

  25. March 9, 2013


    quite good, but for my opinion it was a little long.

    • April 4, 2013

      Non Sequitur II

      I understand thinking highly of oneself, but you entire arguments assumes what you are trying to prove. You know that is a bad thing, right? Your premise

      First, you are starting with your own definitions of marriage and parenthood in a “natural” sense. (Of course, your natural definition of “marriage” excludes same-sex couples.) You obliquely assert that “The purpose of this natural relationship [of marriage] is to bind procreation to parenthood.” It appears that you are defining “parenthood” as a subset of marriages, but your definition of parenthood automatically occurs when a child is born. You then claim that, “[T]he parameters of a marriage are identical to the parameters of the parenthood”. Of course, this definition of parenthood/marriage does not exclude polygamy.

      Second, you make unsupported assertions about the legal meaning of marriage–the only thing at issue. “The legal institution came into existence solely to allow for the legal recognition (protection), regulation and reward of natural marriages.” Where is this coming from? You assume that the legal definition is co-extensive with your definition. This is clearly false under your own logic that, “This can be illustrated quite clearly by observing the fact that, were the State to abolish the legal institution, men and women would continue to marry (form the relationship).” This means that the definition of “natural marriage” doesn’t depend on the definition of “legal marriage”, which means that any relationship between the two is man-made. Regardless of how “legal marriage” is defined, your definition of “natural marriage” would continue to exist..

      Lastly, you assert that, “The debate wrongly focuses on the question of whether marriage is necessarily heterosexual” but then assert false analogies to plural marriages and one-night stands. Asserting that some “redefinitions” are bad doesn’t mean that ALL redefinitions are bad. The only “redefinition” is whether marriage is necessarily heterosexual”

      Setting aside your words, and getting to what I believe is your point, you haven’t proven your premise. Your premise appears to be that, the common understanding of “marriage” = legal definition of “marriage” = natural definition of “marriage” = natural definition of parenthood. Your premise that the legal definition tracks the natural definition is false hasn’t been established or proven by you.

      Perhaps you could elaborate on “The purpose of the legal institution of marriage is to protect the natural rights inherent to natural marriage” and explain precisely why the legal institution can only do this through exclusivity without bad analogies.

      • April 7, 2013

        Daniel Moody

        Hello Non Sequitur II, and thanks for stress-testing what i have written. Firstly, a clarification: i am not arguing, or proving, or assuming. I am explaining the truth. It is not my truth. The great thing about the truth is that it exists in and of itself. When people try to defeat it, they simply magnify it. With that in mind, i will use some of your own words:

        1.”your definition of parenthood automatically occurs when a child is born.”
        Exactly. “My” definition automatically occurs, because “my definition” is simply the recognition of a physical reality. Parenthood physically exists.

        2.”Regardless of how “legal marriage” is defined, your definition of “natural marriage” would continue to exist..”
        Exactly again. “natural marriage”, like natural parenthood, physically exists.

        I ordered my explanation like this: natural marriage, natural parenthood, legal institution. If i have understood you correctly, you are objecting that i have “chosen” a definition of natural marriage that matches natural parenthood. In other words, i “chose” a definition that matched my conclusion. Other people have raised the same objection, and you are mistaken for the same reason as they were. What if i had ordered my explanation like this?: natural parenthood, natural marriage, legal institution. Or this?: legal institution, natural parenthood, natural marriage. I showed that the definition of the legal institution accords with something physically real – parenthood. My starting point was irrelevant, because my conclusion would have been correct regardless: the legal definition of the relationship know as “marriage” is exactly the same as the legal definition of the relationship known as “parenthood”.

        3.”This means that the definition of “natural marriage” doesn’t depend on the definition of “legal marriage”, which means that any relationship between the two is man-made.”
        Exactly once more. The definition of the legal institution can be changed. You yourself have recognised that both natural marriage and natural parenthood will continue to exist, regardless of how we define the legal institution. You have not mentioned the key insight i have revealed: that changing the legal definition of marriage changes the legal definition of parenthood. If we were to change the legal definition and say “from now on, legal marriage is going to have nothing to do with families, just a relationship between two adults” there would not be too much of a problem. But that is not going to happen. The legal institution is going to continue to be the legal mechanism through which parenthood is legally recognised, regulated and rewarded. Except…the legal definition of parenthood will no longer be the same as the definition of the physical reality of parenthood. We will have a man-written definition of parenthood that is wrong according to the definition written by nature itself.

        It is all to do with creating a schism between physical reality and legal reality. When we take a legal definition of something physically real and change the definition, the physical reality continues to exist but – by virtue of being the legal definition – the legal definition becomes legally superior to physical reality haha! If we change the definition of marriage but retain the old context (founding a family), we will have an artificial definition of parenthood. This logical conclusion is supported by international law itself (something i had no part in writing).

        “Perhaps you could elaborate on “The purpose of the legal institution of marriage is to protect the natural rights inherent to natural marriage” and explain precisely why the legal institution can only do this through exclusivity without bad analogies.”

        A bad analogy is an analogy that does not illustrate the limited point it was intended to illustrate. I use very simple analogies. Protection, exclusivity and natural rights are all key aspects of the issue. If we do not understand the concepts, how can we expect to understand the effects of changing a legal definition? If you are genuinely interested in discussing marriage, then i am more than happy to elaborate, either here (if people do not mind) or via email. I am not interested in point-scoring or whatever. If you want to learn the truth, i am happy to help. Like i said, it is not my truth. It is yours as well.

  26. March 11, 2013


    Wasnt “natural law” the same legal argument for slavery and segregation? By Jove, it was!

    • March 11, 2013

      P. Ami

      Natural Law a concept used to discuss many issues during the Enlightenment, such as the overthrow of tyrants, the natural state of Liberty, and innumerable other notions.

      Let me suggest a couple of things. Look up the term Logical Fallacy. There you will find the term, Poisoning the Well. Poisoning the Well is a rhetorical trick by which one finds a term associated with one subject (natural law, slavery) an in so doing poisoning any use of the term, with that association, even when it does not logically follow. I am sure that once you read up on that term up you may find plenty of other terms, ad hominum attack, straw-man argument, guilt by association, non-sequitur, appeal to emotion, and a dozen of other rhetorical methods that might feel good when you use it during an argument, but don’t actual address the argument.

  27. January 10, 2014

    Barbie girl

    TBH i think that people should do what they want but at the same time people were created as man and woman god didnt create man and man or woman and woman but im in the middle

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Alex Worsnip
Alex Worsnip is a doctoral student and Teaching Fellow in philosophy at Yale University. Follow him on twitter @AWorsnip 

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