Blogs > Liberty and Power > IT'S GETTING HOT IN HERE!

Feb 2, 2004 8:40 am


Wow, things are heating up in this little corner of cyberspace! Mark is trying to out-libertarian David Bernstein (I caught the same point in David's op-ed) and Arthur is calling W treasonous for trying to enshrine heterosexual marriage in the Constitution. Hard to argue with either of those positions! For those interested in the same-sex marriage issue, there was quite an intense debate over on the Hayek-L list the week before last that might be worth looking at. The thread headers should be obvious. I will just add, about my own participation in that debate, that my position is identical to Arthur's: ideally the state should be out of marriage, but in the world in which we live where the state is involved, as should be the case with all such involvements, it may not discriminate in its actions.

The conservative animus toward same-sex marriage never ceases to amaze me. It cannot be explained, in my view, by any rational objection. The good news is that I see much less of this animus among my students, including those who are otherwise pretty conservative. In the end, the conservative objection often amounts to philosophically tortured attempts to justify the "naturalness" or "genital compatibility" of heterosexual marriage/procreation, ignoring when such marriages involve infertile persons or placing genitals where they, supposedly, don't belong. If not that, it becomes a really weak attempt to construct evidence and argument where none exists, e.g. Stanley Kurtz. Kurtz's argument has been ably destroyed by Andrew Sullivan, and it's worth repeating that if one of my first-year students tried to make an argument that failed to distinguish causation and correlation and so blatantly over-looked or discounted a dozen intervening variables, I'd make her rewrite the paper.

At the end of the day, the only reasonable objection is one that attempts to address Mill's harm principle: somehow same-sex marriage harms third parties. Kurtz's argument that it undermines the institution of marriage might qualify if there was any evidence, or if it weren't the case that heterosexuals are doing such a good job at undermining it themselves. If someone could make the argument that same-sex marriage meant same-sex couples parenting more frequently and could provide evidence that children raised in such homes are somehow harmed, that would be more persuasive. Unfortunately, the evidence I'm aware of suggests there are no major differences in psychological outcomes for children of same-sex parents as compared to children of opposite sex parents. And we certainly know that the evidence does suggest that, ceteris paribus, two parents are better than one (not to mention the fate of so many children languishing in foster care and orphanages). That those who claim to support "family values" are so eager to prevent people who wish to form familes from doing so, and to thereby reduce the number of families available to take in children who have none, is the height of hypocrisy and makes me sad and angry. In that order.

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