Yesterday, I was made aware of a talk by Ryan T. Anderson in which he argues against same-sex marriage. After a short discussion on Facebook, I’ve decided to comment at length on Anderson’s talk and subsequent Q & A.
The facebook discussion: here (note: this post is only viewable to friends of the poster. However, my comments on the talk can be understood without the context of the conversation.)
The talk: here
The Q & A: here
These thoughts were written down live, as I watched Ryan Anderson’s talk. Time stamps are approximate. Statements in quotation marks are mostly paraphrases.
4:53 – “We may disagree about what sort of relationship is a marriage.”
As I mentioned earlier, there are many same-sex couples that *are* married as far as the government is concerned, in that they’ve obtained marriage licenses from a county clerk or other official.
7:21 – “If you want to redefine marriage, why would that relationship need to be permanent, monogamous, and exclusive?”
It doesn’t need to be those things now. While adultery is sometimes grounds for divorce, nothing in marriage code says that a married couple is required to be exclusive. If Jack and Jill are married, they can already agree that being intimate with others outside of the marriage is allowed. There’s also pre-nuptial agreements and no-fault divorce. Now, some people might think that these things should be changed – but even if that is so, excluding same-sex couples does nothing to further that goal.
7:39 – He mentions that the ‘redefinition of marriage’ entails that marriage doesn’t need to be between only two people.
I actually agree with him on that, but I don’t take it as a critique – polyamorous couples should indeed also be allowed to marry. While doing this will admittedly require more legal legwork than allowing same-sex couples to marry, this is something to work at, not something that should dissuade. However, marriage as far as the state is concerned isn’t an ‘intense emotional bond’, and never has been. Emotions aren’t a requirement to obtain a marriage license.
8:26 – “Why would the government even be in the marriage business if this is what marriage is?”
Well, because the government’s citizens want it, and it doesn’t violate any human rights. It benefits people. The government serves us, not the other way around.
9:39 – “We take our bearings from Aristotle“.
This is a tangent, so don’t take it too seriously, but I find it very curious that so many Christians and
conservatives so often look to Aristotle on so many different issues. It’s almost as if Aristotle is Diet Jesus
14:19 – Now he’s talking about procreation.
But procreation isn’t a requirement to obtain a marriage license. Couples can procreate outside of marriage, or not procreate within marriage. When you apply for a marriage license, you’re not even asked whether you intend to procreate, and you’d still be granted one even if you told the clerk that you’re both infertile and despise children. Not even sex is required – eunuchs can obtain marriage licenses.
19:19 – Regarding sexual exclusivity, as I mentioned earlier, this is not a requirement to obtain a marriage license.
20:18 – “If you have a way out, then you’re not really uniting comprehensively“.
Maybe so, but couples with a ‘way out’ are still routinely granted marriage licenses. I really can’t stress strongly enough that this is a debate about who should be allowed to obtain marriage licenses. And again, perhaps some people think there shouldn’t be a ‘way out’, but excluding same-sex couples from obtaining marriage licenses does nothing to further that goal.
24:51 – His statements about parenting are a red herring. In Turner v. Safley (1987), the Supreme Court decided that even prison inmates can obtain marriage licenses. Surely, prison inmates are among the *worst*
parents – almost by definition.
31:00 – more stuff about parenting, including stuff about children born out of wedlock. I agree that the government should enact policies to look out for the interests of children. However, laws excluding same-sex
couples from obtaining marriage licenses aren’t (to use a legal term) narrowly tailored toward that goal.
36:31 – again, if he doesn’t like no-fault divorce laws, he should argue against no-fault divorce laws, not same-sex marriage laws.
40:27 – ‘Thruples’ (the preferred term is actually ‘triad’) should also be able to obtain marriage licenses.
41:37 – ‘Monogamish’ – as has already been mentioned, this is already allowed under current marriage law.
43:40 – ‘Wedlease’ – cf. my comments at 36:31 and 7:21
48:20 – comments on religious liberty. Those catholic adoption agencies didn’t *have* to shut down. They had a choice between shutting down, or following the law. They chose the former. As Ryan even mentioned, these adoption agencies would be violating the state’s non-discrimination statute. But again, adoption law is a separate issue from who can obtain marriage licenses, so I’m not sure why he’s even bringing this up.
52:46 – comments about wedding cake bakers. If you run a public business that serves the public, you’re not allowed to discriminate. Sorry if you don’t like that. But again (I’m saying that a lot!), business law and anti-discrimination statues are a separate issue from who can obtain a marriage license.
(And now, we move on to the Q & A session)
1:55 – “marriage tries to maximize the likelihood that a child will be raised by a mom and dad“.
If that’s the case, then it’s doing a really poor job of it already. If this was the state’s interest in marriage, why not require couples who have children to marry, just as we often require child support to be paid?
13:13 – ah, the Regnerus study. The study which was lambasted in DeBoer v. Snyder for being completely irrelevant to the issue of who can obtain marriage licenses. From the decision: “The Court finds Regnerus’s testimony entirely unbelievable and not worthy of serious consideration.” and “Whatever Regnerus may have found in this “study,” he certainly cannot purport to have undertaken a scholarly research effort to compare the outcomes of children raised by same-sex couples with those of children raised by heterosexual couples.” (For more, see: http://www.freedomtomarry.org/page/-/files/pdfs/MichiganRuling.pdf )
17:37 – so, regarding the ability of same-sex couples to raise children. his reasoning here seems to be “statistically, same-sex couples don’t perform as well in raising children, so they shouldn’t be able to obtain marriage licenses” (or something like that). But what about other groups that also don’t statistically perform as well in raising children? For example, poor couples statistically don’t perform as well as middle class or rich couples. Should they also not be allowed to obtain marriage licenses? Of course not, because how well a group can raise children isn’t a consideration in deciding who can obtain marriage licenses. As mentioned earlier, even prison inmates can marry.
27:03 – “You can be issued a marriage license in the state of California, but you can’t actually get married.” I think this is, ultimately, what Ryan Anderson is misunderstanding. Proponents of same-sex marriage, for the most part, aren’t really interested in whether they can “actually get married” in the ontological sense. Rather, they’re interested in the marriage licenses. And no one disagrees that same-sex couples can actually get marriage licenses. The laws on the books excluding same-sex couples are not about the ontology of marriage – they’re about who can obtain marriage licenses; a point I’ve stressed strongly throughout these comments. And those laws have been consistently ruled unconstitutional on equal protection and (sometimes) due process grounds. Ryan Anderson didn’t really address the reasons for that at all in this talk.