A Secular Argument Against Same-Sex Marriage

A Secular Argument Against Same-Sex Marriage by Gil Sanders

A good, brief argument.

13 thoughts on “A Secular Argument Against Same-Sex Marriage

  1. Here’s just one place where that “good, brief argument” fails:

    If marriage is defined subjectively by mere social whim, then every state is free to define marriage however it pleases (including the federal government).

    The USA has a Constitution, and any law that violates any part of the Constitution, or abridges or denies to anyone any right set forth in the Constitution, is invalid. So no, we in the USA can’t just define marriage “however we please” — our definition must comply with the Constitution, and grant equal access to whatever legal services or benefits we create for the people, and equal protection of the laws.

    Also:

    If marriage has an objective nature…then nature tells us that it is between a man and a woman.

    Non-sequitur. At the very least, you have to describe exactly what the “objective nature” of marriage is before you can jump to any further conclusions.

    Also, the claim that marriage is either totally subjective and subject to whim, or an objective THING that can be examined, is simply false, as it excludes what marriage actually is: a set of privileges and duties defined by society, not based on any whims, but tailored to protect certain people’s legitimate interests in a consistent and orderly fashion. And so, as with every other policy or law crafted to solve problems or protect people, the US and state governments must work within the bounds of the US Constitution.

    So how’s that for a good, brief rebuttal?

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  2. Raging Bee, both the U.S. Constitution and U.S. laws can be changed so it is not even true at the legal level that Americans can’t define marriage however we please.

    Mr. Sanders is quite clear as to the objective nature of marriage, namely the ability of a man and a woman to procreate and rear children.

    You say marriage is “defined by society” but that just is to provide a subjective definition. This is apparent when society A has a different definition than society B or society A changes its definition of marriage over time. Mr. Sanders appeals to something that is not up to human vote, the law of nature.

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  3. Sanders isn’t “appealing to” the “law of nature,” he’s making it up to reinforce his prejudices.

    Also, as I already said, marriage is not an objective thing; it’s a set of principles, rules, and mutual privileges and obligations, defined by society to achieve certain objectives — as you just admitted when you admit that different societies have different rules for marriage.

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  4. You say marriage is “defined by society” but that just is to provide a subjective definition.

    Not really. First, if it’s defined by society, that is, at least, a collective consensus agreeing to the same subjective belief; and when such consensus is articulated and enshrined in policy and law, then the policies and laws — and their consequences, and the question of fairness or appropriateness — become an objective fact.

    And second, when society defines marriage based on real-world needs, circumstances and objectives, then the definition becomes all the more “objective” for having such an objective/factual basis.

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  5. Raging Bee:

    I’m not sure how the fact that only a heterosexual couple can reproduce is not a law of nature. If it is not a law of nature you should be able to point to a homosexual couple procreating. You need to explain how he is “making up” this fact.

    An objective fact is something discovered, not something arrived at by human consensus. We discover that, say, water is H2O; we don’t take a vote on it. Your position seems to entail that in 2000 America it was an objective fact that marriage was between one man and one woman but in 2021 America it is an objective fact that marriage is between any two humans.

    Suppose society A defines marriage as between one man and one woman and society B defines marriage as between two humans regardless of biological sex. Given your presuppositions, is it even possible for one society to be right and the other to be wrong? If so, how?

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  6. I’m not sure how the fact that only a heterosexual couple can reproduce is not a law of nature.

    Reproduction is not necessary for marriage. Can you point to even one country, Christian or not, where couples can’t marry, or stay married, if they don’t have kids? If we allow infertile straight couples to marry, or stay married after one party loses the ability to make babies, then we have no justification for preventing same-sex couples from marrying.

    Also, have you ever heard of this thing called “adoption?” Both gay and straight couples can do it. It happens all the time. And since marriage facilitates the RAISING of children, not the MAKING of children, it therefore makes perfect sense to allow same-sex couples to adopt, just like opposite-sex couples.

    Your position seems to entail that in 2000 America it was an objective fact that marriage was between one man and one woman but in 2021 America it is an objective fact that marriage is between any two humans.

    You seem to have misunderstood my position.

    Suppose society A defines marriage as between one man and one woman and society B defines marriage as between two humans regardless of biological sex. Given your presuppositions, is it even possible for one society to be right and the other to be wrong? If so, how?

    In that example, A would be wrong because they are denying same-sex couples a right given to opposite-sex couples, with, as I’ve explained several times, no rational basis.

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  7. Raging Bee:

    Sanders already addressed the sterile couples and adoption objections. Regarding the adoption objection, I will also point out that single persons can adopt children. Being able to adopt does not mean you’re married or re-define what marriage is.

    You claim traditional marriage has no rational basis but you can’t rebut the objective fact that only heterosexual couples can procreate. It is rational to distinguish a couple that can procreate from one that can’t.

    Traditional marriage can also explain why marriage is limited to two people: it takes only two people to procreate. It would appear society B in the example is wrong in its definition of marriage too since it cannot provide a rational basis for why marriage is limited to a couple.

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  8. You claim traditional marriage has no rational basis but you can’t rebut the objective fact that only heterosexual couples can procreate.

    This is a non-sequitur. Just because only straight couples can MAKE babies, is not, in itself, sufficient reason to forbid gay marriage.

    It is rational to distinguish a couple that can procreate from one that can’t.

    “Distinguish” how, exactly? And to what specific end? In what way is it NECESSARY to “distinguish” couples? It may be rational to note the difference, but that doesn’t necessarily justify any form of discrimination against either couple. It’s perfectly “rational” to note some differences between white and black people, but does that justify treating them differently?

    It would appear society B in the example is wrong in its definition of marriage too since it cannot provide a rational basis for why marriage is limited to a couple.

    Actually, there are plenty of valid reasons, most involving the increased complexity of the privileges and obligations of plural marriages. This is why people who support mixed-race or same-sex marriages don’t also tend to support plural marriage.

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  9. Raging Bee:

    “Distinguish” how, exactly?

    I’m not sure what this question is trying to get at. To distinguish two things from each other is simply to point out a difference. How we distinguish a heterosexual couple from a homosexual couple is rather straightforward, is it not?

    And to what specific end?

    To the end of identifying a reproductive unit.

    In what way is it NECESSARY to “distinguish” couples?

    It is necessary to know how the species can continue on into future generations.

    It may be rational to note the difference, but that doesn’t necessarily justify any form of discrimination against either couple.

    To claim that traditional marriage is discriminatory is to beg the question. To treat A and B differently is only discriminatory if A and B are alike in the relevant respects. But a heterosexual couple and a homosexual couple are not alike with respect to reproductive ability.

    It’s perfectly “rational” to note some differences between white and black people, but does that justify treating them differently?

    That would depend on the circumstances. Here’s an article on health disparities affecting black Americans:

    https://www.webmd.com/hypertension-high-blood-pressure/features/why-7-deadly-diseases-strike-blacks-most

    Perhaps high blood pressure treatment should differ somewhat based on race:

    Clinical trials show blacks and whites respond differently to treatments for high blood pressure. Indeed, treatment guidelines suggest that doctors should consider different drugs based on a patient’s race.

    But Yancey says that a closer look at the data shows that race tends to be a marker for more complicated high blood pressure treatment.

    “Data suggests that all therapies do equally well — but patients at higher risk need more intensive therapy,” he says.

    A similar situation exists for heart failure. A promising treatment for heart failure didn’t seem to be working — until researchers noticed that it worked much better for black patients than for white patients. A study of black patients confirmed this finding — and provided tantalizing evidence that the drug will help patients of all races with certain disease characteristics.

    Regarding diabetes it states: “But more and more there is thinking it is something that makes blacks genetically more susceptible. It is hard to tell how much of it is what.” Perhaps in the future we will make recommendations to black people that differ from recommendations to white people as it relates to preventing diabetes.

    One could argue it’s more important to screen blacks for sickle cell anemia than to screen other races (although you could obviously screen everyone if you have the resources).

    Actually, there are plenty of valid reasons, most involving the increased complexity of the privileges and obligations of plural marriages.

    Surely we could rewrite the laws. It would also give us the opportunity to simplify the law code. Forms of plural marriage have existed in many civilizations and we could refer to their laws for inspiration.

    Here’s Renuka Santhanagopalan taking the reasoning from Obergefell v. Hodges and arguing for a right to plural marriage.

    https://scholarship.law.wm.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?&article=1474&context=wmjowl

    The argument is that our laws, such as family and property laws, are based on a premise of a monogamous union. But this is a flawed argument. If a fundamental right is at play, mere inconvenience to legislatures in changing the law or dealing with new administrative work, does not outweigh the gravity of depriving a basic right to one’s existence. Certainly there were plenty of laws created when slavery was still the norm in our country, but no one today would argue that the complicated web of laws created on the premise of slavery is a reason to deny people their basic liberties.

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  10. Here’s how Sanders “addresses” the matter of infertile couples:

    Infertile couples have defective sexual organs, but they still satisfy the kind of union that is essential for the survival and flourishing of society. On the other hand, a homosexual couple’s inability to procreate is not a defect, but is inherent in the nature of their relationship.

    And here’s why his response fails: First, there’s far more than one “kind of union” that’s “essential for the survival and flourishing of society” — and the mere ability to MAKE babies isn’t what makes any interpersonal bond “essential for the survival and flourishing of society.”

    Second, if a man marries a woman he knows is infertile, or stays married to her after her menopause, then their inability to procreate is, by definition, “inherent in the nature of their relationship.” Sanders is banging on about a distinction with no meaningful or relevant difference. I refuted all that rubbish the last time you wrote about it, remember?

    And third, ability to procreate is not the same thing as “essential for the survival and flourishing of society.” Just because two men can’t make babies, doesn’t mean a bond between them does nothing for society. Just for starters, they can still adopt, as Sanders admits, in which case their marriage will facilitate child REARING, no less than a straight marriage. And just because a man and a woman CAN make babies, doesn’t necessarily make their relationship “essential for the survival and flourishing of society.”

    And Sanders’ arguments about IVF and adoption fail for the same reasons.

    And excuse me while I belabor the obvious (again): People marry for many reasons, not just procreation. So there’s absolutely no rational basis to make the legal benefits of marriage available to straight couples, and not gay ones.

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  11. Raging Bee:

    First, there’s far more than one “kind of union” that’s “essential for the survival and flourishing of society” — and the mere ability to MAKE babies isn’t what makes any interpersonal bond “essential for the survival and flourishing of society.”

    The other unions you refer to are not marriages. And the making of babies clearly is essential for the survival of society for if no one made babies the human race would die out in about 120 years. We may also note that societies that do not recognize same-sex unions still survive and flourish.

    Second, if a man marries a woman he knows is infertile, or stays married to her after her menopause, then their inability to procreate is, by definition, “inherent in the nature of their relationship.”

    Not in the relevant sense. In the case of the infertile heterosexual couple it is due to defect or age whereas in the case of the homosexual couple it is due to both members of the couple being of the same biological sex, which by their nature as male-male or female-female cannot reproduce. It isn’t that I don’t remember you writing similar things in the past, it’s that your line of argument doesn’t address the argument.

    Just because two men can’t make babies, doesn’t mean a bond between them does nothing for society.

    Nor does it mean they’re married. The bond between parent and child, brother and sister, co-workers, friends, etc. all do something for society. None of them are marriages.

    Just for starters, they can still adopt, as Sanders admits, in which case their marriage will facilitate child REARING, no less than a straight marriage

    As noted above single people can adopt children too but that doesn’t mean they’re married to themselves.

    And excuse me while I belabor the obvious (again): People marry for many reasons, not just procreation.

    When the nature of marriage is based on biological reality the reasons in the minds of the marriage participants is irrelevant. On the one hand, you appear to want a rational basis for defining marriage. On the other hand, here you appeal to the subjective mental states of the participants.

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  12. And the making of babies clearly is essential for the survival of society for if no one made babies the human race would die out in about 120 years.

    Just because making babies is essential, doesn’t mean that allowing non-procreative unions would interfere with that essential activity; nor does it mean that banning such unions is in any way necessary for the survival of society or species. Do you really think that people would stop having babies if gay marriage were legalized? It’s been legal in the US since about 2005 — has anyone seen a noticeable drop in birth rates as a result?

    Not in the relevant sense…

    Yes, that IS the relevant sense: two people choosing to get married, or stay married, knowing they won’t be able to make any babies. Gay or just infertile, the result is the same, and predictable in advance; so there’s no good reason to LEGALLY PROHIBIT one and not the other. In fact, there is absolutely no rational basis for any legal or policy discrimination in marriage benefits: in case you haven’t noticed, there’s PLENTY of humans making PLENTY of babies, and any threat of extinction most likely comes from overpopulation, not from gay marriage.

    When the nature of marriage is based on biological reality the reasons in the minds of the marriage participants is irrelevant.

    They’re relevant to the people getting married — and the Constitution of the USA agrees with their rights, not your lack of respect for their autonomy. If they’re irrelevant TO YOU, that’s probably because you don’t really care about them as people with human rights. And such uncaring authoritarianism should NEVER be the basis for any public law or policy.

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  13. Raging Bee:

    Just because making babies is essential, doesn’t mean that allowing non-procreative unions would interfere with that essential activity

    Non-procreative unions could still be allowed; they just wouldn’t be marriages. Nor did Sanders or myself state that non-procreative unions would interfere with reproduction. We are making a clear distinction on the basis of biology. Once two men or two women can procreate then we’ll accept they can be married.

    nor does it mean that banning such unions is in any way necessary for the survival of society or species

    Saying such unions are not marriages is not banning them. The government doesn’t give out friendship certificates; that doesn’t mean friendship is banned.

    Do you really think that people would stop having babies if gay marriage were legalized?

    Where did I say that?

    Yes, that IS the relevant sense

    I think Sanders and myself know better what sense we were talking about than you do.

    Gay or just infertile, the result is the same

    You’re making a consequentialist style argument while we’re not. This is where there’s a disconnect between what Sanders says and what you understand him to be saying.

    They’re relevant to the people getting married

    Suppose a young woman marries a rich, old man in order to inherit his wealth when he dies in the near future. That’s the reason she’s getting married but that does not tell us we should define marriage as an arrangement for gold diggers. If you’re going to define marriage based on the countless reasons people get married then you’ve made the term marriage meaningless. It means whatever an individual decides it means. That’s subjectivism.

    If they’re irrelevant TO YOU, that’s probably because you don’t really care about them as people with human rights.

    I believe human rights are rooted in human nature. Human nature dictates that only a heterosexual couple can procreate.

    And such uncaring authoritarianism should NEVER be the basis for any public law or policy.

    I would say laws that don’t pay attention to biological reality are bad laws.

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