Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Brief Note on the Gay Marriage Issue

As an attorney, it did not escape the Korean's notice that today, the Supreme Court heard the oral argument for Hollingsworth v. Perry--a case that may well become the most important Supreme Court case in 60 years.

Personally, I am split right in the middle. I am so conflicted on this issue that I am abstaining; I am resigned to letting things happen. I know this is not satisfactory to either side of the debate. But the decision to abstain is not a lazy forfeit. Rather, it is a result of having undergone continuous reading and reflection, and arriving at a question that is too difficult to resolve by any knowledge that I have. I am able to articulate and deliver the best versions of the arguments from either side. But while I can appreciate the strengths from each argument, I am not completely convinced by either.

Therefore, on this issue, I do not plan to advocate for either side. Instead, given the importance of this issue, I would simply urge everyone, to please, read the best versions of both arguments, and think for yourself. Politics in the Internet age has become a series of information balkanization, in which each side refuses to step out of the echo chamber of information that never presents the best version of the opposing argument. Step out of that echo chamber and face your opponent's best shot.

On this point, the Korean must note that people who are likely to read this blog--young and diverse--are not particularly likely to encounter a very high quality argument opposing gay marriage.  If you are inclined toward supporting gay marriage (as I imagine most readers of this blog would be,) you owe to yourself to read What is Marriage? by Sherif Girgis et al. It is a thoughtful, reasoned argument in favor of keeping marriage heterosexual. Like I said, it did not totally convince me, just like the best arguments I have read in favor of homosexual marriage did not totally convince me. But I was enriched by having examined the best case against gay marriage, and I am sure you will be, too.

Got a question or a comment for the Korean? Email away at askakorean@gmail.com.

75 comments:

  1. This is not the place to debate the issue, but the slippery-slope argument rests on an historical fallacy about the stability and purpose of marriage. Procreation predates marriage, and has frequently happened outside of its "protections" or "confines" or whatever you want to call the arrangements. Marriage is a legal and social recognition of an arrangement primarily concerned with property rights (into which category women often fell, historically). The sentimentalization, simplification, and essentialization of marriage in the West in the last two centuries is an historical sport, a side effect of modernity that has developed pathological effects and needs to be rectified.

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  2. Thank you for recommending the book

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  3. I can respect (although not understand) being so conflicted on this issue that you are not sure where you ultimately stand. In reading the Amazon reviews of the book, I see that it addresses infertile couples. Can you recall if it addresses couples who are child-free by choice? And, does it address the issue that same-sex couples have existed throughout history and even in other species? Acknowledging these facts would make me more likely to read this book.

    As a side note, I am around 2 Korean exchange students who know little-to-nothing about gay and lesbian culture, and a "bi- or questioning" exchange student who is from a country where much violence could be inflicted upon him for even having such questions about who she herself is. The Korean has been helpful in my communication with the exchange students, and my GLBT family members and friends have been among the first to remind me both of how life is decent for them in the US, but how many legal loopholes they have to try to close that my husband and I do not.

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    1. I read the version available online at www.harvard-jlpp.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/GeorgeFinal.pdf through google cache - though I'm not sure if this is the same version as the book. (It seems awfully small.)

      The child-free couples aren't directly addressed, but I think the argument postulated for infertile marriages applies - a marriage has a 'characteristic structure' due to its orientation to rearing children, part of this is - er - doing 'it' and the bonds that it forms. The authors postulate only a very limited definition of, you know, arguing that the alternatives aren't traditionally recognized as consummating a marriage.

      Of course, a gay couple can raise children, but the authors then argue that since children reared by their married biological parents generally do better that step parents and single parents, we should assume this is true of a couple in a gay marriage as well.

      I feel that this book ignores the wide variety of marriage in different cultures - such as polyandry in Tibet, or looser incest controls in ancient Greece (where sometimes uncles married nieces and brothers their half-sisters). No mention of Two-Spirits or third genders at all - the existing of which I feel refutes the central argument (that it can be universally seen across religions that marriage has arisen independently as a natural expression of a human bond between exactly two individuals of different genders).

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    2. My understanding is that the book is an expanded version of the original essay.

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  4. Looks like the Supreme Court Justices may share your same sentiment in regards to abstaining from a decision. From today's NYT.

    "“I just wonder if the case was properly granted,” said Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, who probably holds the decisive vote, in a comment that showed a court torn over whether this was the right time and right case for a decision on a fast-moving social issue.

    Justice Sonia Sotomayor seemed to share that concern. “If the issue is letting the states experiment and letting the society have more time to figure out its direction,” she said, “why is taking a case now the answer?”"

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  5. Supreme court can follow - not even asking to be up front, just follow - the tide of the people on the "right" side when they hand out the decision for this case in the summer of 2013 or they can have another facepalm Plessy v. Ferguson moment and be forced to come back in a few years - it won't be that long certainly not as long as it took them to reverse Plessy v. Ferguson - to correct itself.

    And to the people who are uneasy, not sure, or whatever else, I say get used to it. And trust me, it's won't be that hard to get used to it. You won't even "feel" it once all the bruhahaha subsides.

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  6. Why read some book if you know where you stand and nothing you read/hear is going to change it?

    Gay marriages are definitely valid. No debate there. Just as valid as interracial marriages, arranged marriages, civil unions, polygamy, polyandry, divorce etc.

    All unions are valid (although only some are legally recognized)unless it is an abusive relationship or it involves a minor.

    What's to debate? If some people believe that marriage is between a man and a woman only, they should travel the world - they will find millions of cases when it is just not true.

    Of course, in Korea that would be unheard of. My understanding is that if you are gay in Korea, you can pretty much do anything you want to do, as long as nobody knows about it.

    The heck, half (if not more) of all Korean male stars (both Kpop and Kdrama) are gay. Of course, they will never admit it, but that does not change the fact that they are.

    It is not our business to discuss what people are doing in their private lives. I think that we have to support marriages/unions in whatever form they come, as long as people are happy. Being happily married with the same-sex partner is better than staying in an abusive heterosexual relationship.
    To each - their own.

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    1. You are wrong about "It is not our business to discuss what people are doing in their private lives" The marriage is not a private business. It's a very public business. Two gay people living together in a house right now in Alabama, that's a private business. But marriage is more than that. With it comes many rights/privileges that are only available to those who are married. And that there is no rational legal basis to deny to those rights/privileges to gay people is the crux of legal argument. If it was just a private business, there would be no need for the supreme court to get involved.

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    2. I agree with you. I think gay people should be given equal rights.
      What I mean is that if people are gay, nobody has the right to judge them for living with the same-sex partners, even if this choice is radically different from the rest of us. Any marriage should be legal unless it is abusive.

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  7. As someone who is also on the fence on this issue, I can't say I found What is Marriage by Gergis that persuasive; so I can certainly understand if it is dismissed as downright absurd by gay marriage advocates. He and his coauthors focus on organic bodily union but they don't provide a persuasive argument for why that should be determinative on the issue of marriage other than that it is biological natural because it could lead to conception (as opposed to male-male penetration). So the entirety of their argument really rests on this conception distinction. And while I think this is a good starting point, I was disappointed in how they chose to defend this point. They argue that children with 2 biological parents fare the best (in fact, almost the entirety of their argument rests on this premise), but where are they getting this conclusion? It could be that children of gay couples don't fare as well because of the stigma placed on gays in our society; not due to 2 biological parents being inherently better. And in such a case, perhaps redefining what marriage is may neutralize this parental superiority argument. Also, their attempt to defend sterile couples and couples who choose not to have kids is also weak. They argue that what is important is the organic bodily union that normally would lead to the possiblity of a child, not whether the union actually results in a child. But why? If the possibility of having a child is what makes conjugal marriage superior to gay marriage, how can they justify a couple who may have had a vasectomy or a hysterectomy? And would that be different from a person who has had a transsexual surgery and is now capable of a "bodily union"? And how would that be different from male-male penetration? They argue that the difficulty of checking whether a couple can conceive (because it is an invasion of privacy) would render this point impracticable, but there's no reason why they can't have a philosophical debate about this. Then they reject polygamy even though it can result in organic bodily union and children, which would fall squarely within their definition of marriage. Then they go on about how gay marriage causes "social damage" (yes, they actually use those words) but it's a conclusion that's based on their value judgment, not anything scientifically measured. Also, their attempt to refute a constructionist gay marriage argument was not very persuasive because it assumes a lot of things that are highly debatable. Maybe I was just expecting more from these intellectual giants....

    Going off on a tangent here just for the sake of discussion: I am less bothered by the idea of gay marriage as I am bothered by their use of surrogates to have biological children. I shouldn't say "bothered" really since I don't really care about this issue but it is a matter I find philosophically (or I should say evolutionarily) disconcerting. Evolutionarily, the gay gene should become extinct as more gays come out and reject heterosexual relationships (Note: with the exception of some random mutations that may occur occasionally, which would also become extinct if manifested in gay relationships). But gays perpetuate the gay gene by using surrogates to have biological children. This seems unnatural.

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    1. So disclosure: I haven't read the book/essay. I might eventually since it comes recommended by the Korean but it's not one of my priorities right now.

      Including transsexual/transgender people in the discussion pretty much messes up any attempt to make a clear delineation based on gender. Like let's say you are a transgender woman in a state that recognizes your gender (maybe regardless of surgery as is becoming increasingly common), but doesn't allow gay marriage. So you can now marry men but you can't marry woman. Or let's say you live in a state that -doesn't- recognize it, now you can marry a woman but not a man, which can lead to a situation where someone who looks/acts/appears like any other woman can now have what she considers a gay marriage but the state considers heterosexual. And in some countries once your gender legally changes your marriage actually becomes annulled, even if it's you've been happily married 25 years and have raised a family together, so that opens up possibility for destroying a healthy and successful marriage.

      Another thing I wonder is if the essay really addresses humanities tribal roots. All modern groups seem to have grown out of tribal groups where marriage was defined definitely. You would "share" your brothers wifes and vice versa. You would call your nephews "son" and they would call you "father." Some indigenous groups that no longer practice this kind of marriage still use this kind of language because they are closer to that tradition.

      Regarding surrogates it's not clear that there even is a "gay gene" so getting upset about it is probably premature. If it was going to go extinct it probably would have already some time in the history of humanity and anyway the "selfish gene" view is a pretty simplified version inheritance. It partly comes from a past desire from the US to distance themselves from the Soviet government, which for political reasons supported scientists who emphasized changes that occurred during an organisms life but could still be inherited. The actual truth is that genes, "epigentics," and cultural information can all be inherited and they all interact with each other and even with other means of inheritance in the same category. Or to put it another way, being gay is likely More Complicated Than That.

      Just to consider one possibility, for instance some people say being gay is related to in utero hormone levels. That would mean some straight people are "carriers" (for genetic or other reasons) and even if gay people do not procreate the straight carriers would still pass it on. Even the idea that a gay person would in an ideal world never date an opposite sex person is probably a simplification since many gay people explain it as a strong preference rather than cleanly delineated thing.

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    2. Interesting comment. However, if your assumptions were correct, we would not have a whole array of gay behavior in animals.
      For more information , see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homosexual_behavior_in_animals
      If we have gay zebras, penguins, etc. etc. etc. after millions and millions years of evolution... this so-called "gay gene" is definitely needed for one purpose or another.
      There were definitely gay people in hunter/gatherer tribes, just like in any other society.
      My personal view on this issue: yes, somehow it is related to in utero brain development. It may or may not have something to do with mother's nutrition. The fact that younger siblings have a higher probability to turn out gay can be attributed to nutritional deficiencies. Anyway, further research is needed.

      Meanwhile we need to support gay rights. People should have the same rights (and the right to marry is one of them) whether they are male or female, handicapped, gay, people from different ethnic and social backgrounds. We are all equal under the law. At least we should be. Peace.

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    3. I think it can be argued that gay genes didn't die out because most gays were in the closet throughout history and got married and had children. If the entire world approved of gay relationships (so less hiding in the closet) and surrogacy was not allowed, this gene (or in utero hormonal production, you argue, which must have some basis in the genes unless you are arguing that it is entirely environmental) would die out absent occasional mutations.

      Personally, I don't know why anyone would care how others want to define marriage. Marriage is a concept created by men and so men are free to change its meaning (there is a great article about this issue in The American Conservative by McCarthy). But surrogacy is a different issue because it seems to me to be inconsistent.

      Perhaps there are more gay younger kids bc there's less parental expectations of them so they are more likely to come out of the closet. Older kids generally are closer to parents and less carefree bc of their role in the family. Nutrition makes no sense - most moms don't switch their diet for their younger children in utero,

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    4. What about gay giraffes or gay penguins though? Were they hiding in the closet for millions of years as well?

      Nutrition makes perfect sense - moms who did not eat right their whole life prior to conception would have less nutrients to provide for their child's brain development. For more, read the book "Deep Nutrition" by Dr. Cate. Lee Min Ho's mom ate tons of beef with pepper while being pregnant with him, by the way.

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    5. "I think it can be argued that gay genes didn't die out because most gays were in the closet throughout history and got married and had children."

      This -really- remains to be demonstrated. "Most gays were in the closet throughout history" requires A LOT more evidence than has been presented. That every society in human history from hunter gatherer (most of humanity's past) to tribal to more typically modern kinds of organization in every society in every part of the world has been hostile to gay people... that's a HUGE claim with absolutely no evidence and plenty of counter evidence given cultures were types of homosexuality were tolerated or encouraged.

      "(or in utero hormonal production, you argue, which must have some basis in the genes unless you are arguing that it is entirely environmental) would die out absent occasional mutations."

      No, it really wouldn't. Let's say I'm a "gay gene carrier" and so is my husband. I give birth to 4 children. 1 will be gay, 2 will be non-gay carriers, 1 will be nongay non carrier. If my husband is a non carrier than I would have 1 carrier and 3 noncarriers. This is basic genetics and many inheritable diseases work this way. There is absolutely no evidence that being gay works this way or that there is generally a "gay gene" but there's no particular reason that this gene would "die out" in the case that there was.

      Also, if there were BOTH environmental and genetic factors (like say dormant genes that have been methylated but can be reactived in times of stress) me and my extended family could be spreading gay genes all over the place that are just waiting for the right circumstance to start giving people the gay. There's no need for surrogates. Your concern only makes sense (in the sense of being internally consistent) in specific circumstances that are not more likely than countless other explanations.

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    6. VB, what exactly is your argument regarding giraffes and penguins? Do gay giraffes and penguins resist the urge to procreate with non-gay giraffes and penguins? If so, yes, then gay gene would decrease. Gay gene can exist due to spontaneous mutation. That doesn't mean that it won't decrease in the overall population if they don't reproduce. As for nutrition, again, your argument is not clear. You brought up the point about more younger kids being gay than older kids. My point is that most moms don't change their nutrition between their first child and their younger child so it has nothing to do with nutrition. If you explain your argument more fully, I can respond better.

      Pancho, please do the math. If the gay person marries another gay person, absent surrogacy, they won't have children. When they die, that's 2 less gays as well as the gay gene they are carrying dying off. Yes, there are 2 gay-gene carriers remaining in the family, but when they have children of their own and their gay children end up having a gay relationship without procreation, there's 2 less gays and their gay genes. So the 1/4 of the offspring that happens to be gay (in the Punnett square) will keep dying off (as well as their gay genes, so long as they fail to reproduce). So evolutionarily, you will see a shift in the number of gays.

      As for your point that I need to back up my statement that "Most gays were in the closet throughout history" -- I don't know what to say. Read the history of every civilization and tribe and you'll see that no civilization has promoted homosexuality as the end goal (while certain tribes have allowed homosexual acts as a rite of passage into manhood, they were then expected to get married and have children). Do you know why no society has ever promoted homosexuality as the end goal for all of its people? Because then they would die off. Yes, homosexuality = end of its civilization. This is Basic Logic 101 so I don't think I need to explain this further.

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    7. Helen,

      Explaining my point more fully:

      Imagine a mother carrying a baby to term. All her life she was not eating enough meat, egg yolks, bone broth and organ meats (liver, etc.). Only rice and kimchi. Maybe due to war / occupation / poverty - who knows. This mother will lack essential nutrients (notice, I did not say vitamins, because it is not only about vitamins) for proper brain development for her future unborn baby. If she gets pregnant and carries her baby to term, her newborn is bound to have a narrow jaw (will need braces), a less rounded head, hormonal imbalance and other various health defects. If this mother has another baby within the next two years after having the first one, this second baby will have even more health problems than the first one since the mother won't have enough time to replenish her nutritional stores.

      In order to give birth to a "perfect" baby (I know, sounds like eugenics) with no health defects, the mother should be eating nutritionally dense foods since.... her own conception. Physical degeneration affects every descendant, making every subsequent generation more and more vulnerable, failing to produce healthy offspring. In the end, they become infertile, thus they are unable to conceive a child.

      If the mother does not eat enough animal fat and protein, her breast milk will be of poor quality and the baby will have various nutritional deficiencies. Her baby's gut flora will be affected and the child will experience numeral neurological disorders, including autism.

      I am not saying that being gay equals being autistic or having a neurological disorder. But what I am saying is if being a younger sibling increases your chance of being gay, it very well could be related to "the second sibling syndrome" which is caused by nutritional deficiencies.

      Now for giraffes and other gay-behaving animals. Perhaps, gay mammals are not the best example - unless they establish a pair bond. However, in birds where pair bonding is quite strong and obvious, homosexual pairs are bound to cease genetically, failing to produce eggs. Yet, it has not happened yet.

      If you are interested in WHY WE NEED GAY PEOPLE, I suggest you listen to Robert Sapolsky's lecture on homosexuality on Youtube. Having homosexual people brings certain evolutionary advantages to your favorite tribes. That's why the number of gay members is the same.

      As for no civilization has promoted homosexuality - yes, you are right. But most civilizations either allowed or approved or tolerated homosexuality - definitely. Take ancient Greeks, for example. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homosexuality_in_ancient_Greece

      I am glad Lee Min Ho was not born in ancient Greece. Although I am sure even now some chaebols look at him with desire.

      Helen, there is no such thing as a gay gene.

      http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/668167
      http://www.cosmosmagazine.com/news/epigenetic-basis-homosexuality-uncovered/


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    8. VB,

      So you're saying that younger children are always nutritionally more deficient than older children? That's something I never heard of. Regardless, I googled homosexuality and nutrition. The fact that I did not see a single study or a reliable scientific theory supporting this nutrition idea lead me to believe that this is all just your speculation.

      Regarding animals: According to geneticist Simon Levay in 1996, "Although homosexual behavior is very common in the animal world, it seems to be very uncommon that individual animals have a long-lasting predisposition to engage in such behavior to the exclusion of heterosexual activities. Thus, a homosexual orientation, if one can speak of such thing in animals, seems to be a rarity." The only exception to this is 10% of the domesticated sheep population. So with the exception of sheep, homosexual animals still procreate with the opposite sex thereby carrying on the gay gene.

      This brings me to your historical cultural "tolerance" point. Again, no civilization has promoted homosexual marriages. Even Greeks, older men had sex with younger boys only for a brief period as a rite of passage (i.e. older men mentoring the young). And moreoever, these older men were actually married and procreating with women. Adult gay couples were actually stigmatized. So this argument doesn't negate my point. If you can show me a civilization where they encouraged homosexuality to the exclusion of heterosexual relationship, then we'll have something to talk about.

      When I say gay gene, I am using that term loosely - meaning, anything that is hereditary and hence subject to natural/sexual selection that would have the effect of decreasing the gay population; not that there is actually one gene that is responsible for gayness. Anyway, I decided to look this up to see whether gayness would indeed decrease if more gays stopped breeding. Interestingly, scientists have wondered the same thing -- why gayness hasn't become extinct when sexual selection dictates that it should. This is called sexual antagonistic selection. One scientist who studied this reached the following conclusion: It turns out that gayness is epigenetic so it is inheritable. However, they found that the mothers/maternal aunts of gays were more fecund so they actually had more children. So what seemed to be happening was that while gay relationships would normally lead to the extinction of gay genes, the mothers/aunts of gays were having more children (and thus have a greater likelihood of gay children) so the number would balance out. In fact, they found that the very fecundity in these females were what may have been causing the homosexuality in certain offsprings (dealing with hereditary hormone levels). Anyway, I answered the very question I posed. Although one now has to wonder whether MORE gays coming out of the closet (and assuming so surrogacy) and not breeding would somehow upset the balance that has historically been shown.

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    9. Clarification #2 (and I hope the last one).

      1. Yes, the younger siblings COULD be nutritionally more deficient if there was no sufficient time for a mother to replete her nutritional resources (usually, four years of eating nutrient dense foods). In nature (tribes) a mother would have at least four years before getting pregnant with her second child. Google "the second sibling syndrome nutrition". The second sibling may be lucky though if the flow of blood to his mother's uterus is better the second time around, which can counteract the negative side effects, but he or she is still affected by nutritional deficiencies.


      2. Yes, it is my speculation that homosexuality is related to a certain type of nutritional intake. Can I patent it somehow? When ten years later they will discover it (and they will) could you be my witness when I say "I told you so back in 2013"? I will deliberately not erase this post?

      Speaking of inventions, if anybody from LG or Samsung is reading this - this is what you guys can invent (I am giving you these ideas for free). A hand-held scanner (the same size as a USB). Or a printer, sized as a long pen (A4 length) so all you have to do is just to put a paper trough it.

      I know, I know, I am just that talented (and incredibly humble).

      3. Animals. Here is an article on homosexual behavior in birds. Please note that most birds are subjected to pair bonding - it means they don't sleep around and don't cheat - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_birds_displaying_homosexual_behavior

      With the exception of sheep? If swans can be gay, it means it cannot be inherited. Simon Levay was a little... hmmm... what's the word... biased towards gay behavior in animals.

      4. Changes in gene expressions (epigenetics) can be heritable but they can also be reversed.

      5. You wrote, "Adult gay couples were actually stigmatized." which means that they had adult gay couples. Whether or not they were frown upon, there were enough of them to be around to be stigmatized, right?
      Here is a book you should read:

      http://www.amazon.com/Origins-Same-Sex-Relations-Human-Societies/dp/0786469269

      Helen, when you make your final judgement about epigenetic changes or mammal behavior, make sure to look up more than just one specific author or study. If homosexual people are gay by nature, it means... nature needs it. Once again, listen to Robert Sapolsky.

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    10. From what I read of scholarly research, gayness is a mutational side effect of the female sexual evolution. If you google sexual antagonistic selection, you'll see what I mean. And it's not just me pondering why gays don't become extinct (it is a question that is raised in the scientific circle) because they should... or at the very least, decrease substantially once they are encouraged to be homosexual and not breed.

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    11. From what I read of scholarly research, gayness is NOT a mutational side effect of the female sexual evolution. Nobody really knows why there is homosexual behavior in EVERY SINGLE SOCIETY and in ALL living species.

      According to Robert Sapolsky, gay people are there to help and support other parents.

      Nobody knows why the number of gay people in every society remains constant no matter what political or social system is in place. You could either have homosexuals in the closet, denied all rights, or you can give them the opportunity to be out in the open (something that would not go down well in Utah). But no matter what the jury decides, the number of homosexuals is not going to decline or increase - it is going to be the same.

      As for why some people are born gay, I would love to know if there is a mechanism that determines the baby's gender. In other words, what can be done to conceive a girl (or a boy)? I know that some researches suggest eating certain foods. Not sure how credible this advice really is, but if indeed gender is determined by a number of factors, not by pure luck, then it can be the same with gay people.

      People in the future will know what to do to conceive a boy or a girl (without any selective abortions) and who knows, maybe they will be able to choose whether to have a gay child or not? Who knows...




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    12. Helen,

      Firstly, your quote about totally exclusive homosexuality being rare in animals applies to humans too. As I mentioned earlier most gay people aren't "strictly gay," it is rather simply a strong preference or an inner need to be happy.

      Moving on, the greeks aren't necessarily the best example.

      Let's frame this another way (I know I'm quoting wikipedia):
      "Anatomically modern humans arose in Africa about 200,000 years ago, and reached behavioral modernity about 50,000 years ago... The Neolithic Revolution, beginning about 8,000 BCE, saw the development of agriculture, which drastically changed the human lifestyle. Farming permitted far denser populations, which in time organised into states."
      -http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_world

      Athens was founded in I believe around 4,000 BCE. But basically if we talk about neolithic civilizations we are talking somewhere from around 4-16% percent of history of humanity. The bulk of evolution occurred prior to this. The last thousand years is .5%-2% of the history of humanity. The next thousand will be a similar proportion. Given that homosexuality has been present throughout all of recorded history, whatever the "cause" must have most likely been set in motion prior to the rise of largescale civilizations.

      For kinds of organization closer to humanities pre-neolithic roots, we could perhaps look at the First Nation populations in the US. It is hard by definition to find written records of the so called "pre history," but some First Nation people will tell you that it was accepted. In terms of recorders, Europeans clearly were very concerned about stamping out homosexuality as part of the christianization of indigenous peoples, which shows at the very least they perceived homosexuality to be present.

      Your surrogacy concerns still do not seem particular reasonable to me, nor do I agree that gay people "should" decrease in numbers. The fact that gay people are as present as they are throughout history suggests that being gay does not work in that manner. But even if we take the surrogacy concerns to the logical extreme and imagine a population where the majority of the population is strictly homosexual and using surrogates I fail to see the negative ramifications of this. This is very silly speculation but it would be a relatively small change compared to all the changes that came before it.

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    13. Oh, Helen, I do appreciate you clarifying that you do not believe in a literal gay gene. I would however discourage you from using that kind of language, both because many people and because some kinds of inheritance are far from being genetic. I've even read about things like mice inheriting food preferences based on what their mother ate while pregnant, presumably so they don't have to learn from scratch what is safe to eat.

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    14. Other people have said it before, but even if the "gay gene" becomes more common because of surrogates why would this necessarily be a bad thing? What's wrong with being gay, if social stigma surrounding it lessens? Is society going to collapse if there are more gay people?

      There might be genetic advantages to being gay. There's theories that gay people play important roles in the lives of their straight family members. There's also something to be said for same-sex pairings and population control. I believe that you see more same-sex attraction in densely-populated areas where there's a lot of competition for resources. Anyway, you should probably think about why it is that you are concerned about "the gay gene" continuing to the next generation. Surrogacy is quite expensive compared to natural methods, anyway...

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  8. Thank you for writing this article. It may sound a little over the top, but I teared up finally reading that someone, somewhere is willing to say that they've researched and contemplated and concluded that this issue is beyond them. For my part, I try very hard to listen to everyone while remaining true to those ideals that I value. I can see that a lot of people have a lot to say even about discussing this issue. Honestly, the whole thing is just exhausting. Anyway, thank you for your post.

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  9. OK. I'm your typical, skeptical pro-equality reader. And I think the entire argument laid out in this book appears to be based on flawed assumptions.

    "Pair bonds make little sense, and uniquely answer to no human need?" Then why have marriage at all? It is also incompatible with modern society in that pair bonds for the sole purpose of bringing more children into this world are no longer a good idea for society to support/encourage (especially in third-world countries, but that part is irrelevant for this argument - we don't want starving children outside of our borders, but even Republicans would agree that we don't want more kids of welfare inside our borders). The world is already overpopulated. More pair bonds that DO NOT produce children, therefore, are a net positive to society. Marriage is a commitment to support your spouse and children. In my view, any law that inhibits that commitment is unjust.

    The way adoption is brushed aside is sad; people believe an argument that it's better to have more orphans, rather than children adopted to same-sex couples? Do they really care about these children, or are they simply fearful about a subculture they do not understand?

    The book uses the term "revisionist" to describe those who who would like marriage to be redefined. If there were a better term to describe a life-long commitment between two people, I'm sure the "revisionists" would use it, because redefining marriage is definitely an uphill battle.

    I hope that The Korean move his hands away from his lips so that others may hear his words on this issue. As someone sitting on the fence, he may be in a unique position of influence. Will The Korean also suggest pro-gay-marriage reading material to those he believes to be holding the opposite viewpoint?

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  10. I support gay marriage and that's all I know. It just doesn't seem right that two people who love each other shouldn't be allowed to have legal recognition as all heterosexual couples have. My heart is telling me its right and so is my head. There has never been any other answer in my brain and I don't think I can even try to change it. It's the liberal in me. It's the person who wants to see more equality in this world for all minorities. I can't fight it and I hope one day we won't need to have this conversation anymore because gay marriage will be legal and we'd have move on to something else.

    I definitely understand your decision to be right in the middle, but I'm leaning all the way left on this. It's just the way I feel.

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  11. The Supreme Court is there to decide law, not philosophy or social customs.

    Marriage was a social institution before there were laws. Marriage would still exist without laws.

    The proper place of law as it relates to marriage is to govern contract and property issues, and protect minors. A marriage is a contract which automatically includes default inheritance rules, some medical decision making, and obligations when the partnership dissolves.

    Denying legally competent consenting adults the chance to enter a contract is quite an exception to Anglo-American legal principles, generally done only when the contract is to perform an illegal act.

    BTW, compliments: the ability to say "I don't know" is a rare and commendable feat of intellectual discipline, particularly so on issues with an emotional charge.

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  12. Dear The Korean,

    I also admire your honesty in wrestling with a difficult question.

    Same sex marriage as a human right isn't just about getting married. It's about growing up knowing that you have all the same opportunities that other kids have. It's about knowing that you're one of the people in the world. It's about other kids knowing that you're one of the people in the world, and treating you accordingly. It's about not having to engage in an exhausting, psychologically-crippling daily act of deception about your basic identity in front of other students, teachers, and your parents.

    I would like to respectfully request that you lend your voice to the cause of equality. Your blog has been mentioned by the Korea Times, the New York Times, and CNN. You have a high profile voice. Somewhere, in Korea or the U.S., right now, a teen-ager is dying inside. Your support would create ripples, of some size, large or small, that might mean the difference between hope and despair in a young person's life.

    Won't you please lend a hand?

    Sincerely,
    Charming Korea

    (I apologize for invoking, "Think of the children!", but unfortunately, this very much happens to be case here, and support from opinion leaders such as yourself could influence the adults around whom a gay or lesbian child grows up.)

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  13. I have to admit I am a bit surprised at your position given your other posts on the gay community. What about the pro-equality case gives you pause?

    As a gay man who is also a churchgoer (albeit, an Episcopalian which is a church which tends to be pro-marriage equality, tho' with a small but vocal opposition), I have been exposed to many anti-marriage equality arguments, but I have never encountered someone who seems to have such an awareness of gay issues, exhibits as much support for the gay community as you have, that doesn't see this as a civil right.

    I understand and respect your desire not to go further, but as someone for whom this is an important issue, am disappointed. I suppose I will have to agree to disagree, but do feel a bit hurt.

    I am not

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    1. I just wrote a post that recommended a book that presents a serious, reasoned defense of heterosexual marriage. And you come in here asking "What about the pro-equality case gives you pause?"? Shouldn't you read the book first before asking that question?

      The near-total inability of the pro-gay marriage to seriously address the other side's argument is one of the reasons why I have difficulty dealing with this issue. Just in this thread, we have seen such reasoned logic of "This is just how I feel," "There is nothing to debate" and "People die because of haters like you." This has become a witch hunt. I explicitly stated that I abstain, even that stance is enough to draw fire. Seriously? This is how we want to fight for tolerance? How are these pro-gay marriage folks any different from the people they call bigots?

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    2. I never understood why a compromise could not be made.

      Rather than redefining "marriage" (which is certain to ignite a conservative firestorm) why not change *every law* that mentions marriage such that it mentions "marriage or domestic partnership" instead?

      Oh, and do it in every equality-supporting state as well as the federal level. I admit, that's an uphill battle, too. =) But then the issue becomes strictly an "equal rights" problem and not a "purity of traditional marriage" problem.

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    3. I never understood why a compromise could not be made. Rather than redefining "marriage" (which is certain to ignite a conservative firestorm) why not change *every law* that mentions marriage such that it mentions "marriage or domestic partnership" instead?

      Gay rights activists are unwilling to accept that compromise, actually. They believe (reasonably) that the inability to use the word "marriage" to define their relation is in and of itself discriminatory.

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    4. I'm not sure why I have to a book that undoubtedly presents similar arguments that I, as a gay man, have heard thousands of times over my lifetime. I've literally read thousands of articles, blogs and clippings on this issue. What is so different in this book? And why can't you just articulate it?

      From my perspective the argument have been listened to AND addressed by the pro-gay side. Perhaps you haven't read it all either. So again what, specifically, is still lacking? Yes, I can read (yet another) book but what I asked for what was is missing in YOUR mind.

      Secondly, the compromise doesn't make any sense. We have thousands of laws and hundreds of years of jurisprudence surrounding the so-called "institution" of marriage in place already. Why reinvent the wheel to protect a word? It's far simpler to open up marriage to those of either gender than comb back through it all and figure out whether each court case and each law applies to same sex couples in "civil partnerships" as it does to opposite sex couples in "marriages". It's a fight over a word.

      Finally I can't recall where I said "This is just how I feel," "There is nothing to debate" and "People die because of haters like you." Can you point that out in any of my posts, or is this just a matter of painting all pro-gay marriage advocates with the same brush? I think I am owed the respect of having my comments addressed without having to be responsible for what those I have no control over say. It seems a bit ironic that a blog writer that is dedicated to addressing stereotyping and "brush-painting" is doing that here.

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    5. why can't you just articulate it?

      Because I am trying to make a point here. The point is this: please read and address the best version of the argument that you are facing. You say you are missing my mind--but I just expressly told everyone who read this post that my own reservation is expressed in the book. If you want to get what is in my head, you just have to read that book. Why is that hard?

      I can't recall where I said "This is just how I feel," "There is nothing to debate" and "People die because of haters like you."

      I can't recall where I said you said such things either. Those points are clearly directed at the general thread, and not you personally.

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    6. It sounds like a cop out to me honestly. Why do any thinking or discuss this at all? You can refer me to a book. I can refer to a book and let others do the thinking for us.

      But whatever.

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    7. Right. Why read anything from the people who spent a lot more time and effort concentrating on this issue? Why read anything at all? We can all think on our own without referring to anybody else's perspective, right?

      Come on.

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    8. I am a gay man. I have spent 30 years of my adult life in this issue. I have read thousands of books, articles, blogs, etc. on this issue - both pro- and con-.

      Being objectified as "issue" to be debated, instead of being regarded of as a person who wants the same things everyone else wants and for whom this issue impacts me in a way that it doesn't impact you, is a part of my life that will never go away. Never.

      All I asked is that you tell me what you think. Referring me to a book (which I have downloaded out of respect for you) but not telling me how it influences your thinking - is just more of the same objectification. It turns this back into a abstract debate about issues rather than the conversion between two people and what WE think. I get it. That's where you want to stay. I won't bother you anymore.

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    9. Being objectified as "issue" to be debated, instead of being regarded of as a person who wants the same things everyone else wants and for whom this issue impacts me in a way that it doesn't impact you, is a part of my life that will never go away. Never.

      I am a racial minority. I doubt that I can completely empathize, but I can sympathize, as we go through similar things.

      All I asked is that you tell me what you think. Referring me to a book (which I have downloaded out of respect for you) but not telling me how it influences your thinking - is just more of the same objectification.

      It absolutely is not an objectification. To reiterate, I only ask that people read the best versions of other people's arguments, and I pointed to a book that represents well my reservation for gay marriage. I just want people to expose themselves to the strong counter argument and think for themselves. As you can see from this thread, a lot of people completely refuse to do so. And if I simply described my reservation, people will latch onto that instead of making themselves face the best counter-argument.

      But I recognize that you are in a different boat, because you are a directly involved party. And I respect the fact that you downloaded the book. Tell you what--just shoot me an email whenever you have time, and we can have this discussion in a long form, without going through the back-and-forth in this tiny comment box. How does that sound?

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    10. I can do that, and I appreciate your willingness to dialogue.

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  14. I confess I didn't read the book. Could anyone outline what are these awesome arguments against gay marriage? I'd love to hear that.

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  15. Which comment said, "People die because of haters like you"?

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    1. It was an exaggeration of your comment. My mistake--I let my frustration boil over. I apologize for the misrepresentation.

      But my point remains the same. While your plea was sincere and emotional, from my perspective, it completely missed the mark. I have real reservations against the pro-gay marriage argument. (Just as much as I have real reservations against the anti-gay marriage argument.) I recommended a book that did a good job describing my reservations. The right way to respond to that was to read the book and address the points there, not to come back with "Think of the children!" (as you put it.)

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  16. No worries! I should have prefaced my comment by describing my rather lengthy personal exposure to traditional views on same sex marriage and sexuality.

    I have no time to read Girgis' book, but I just skimmed his essay. I'll read it more thoroughly and leave a comment about it, since you recommend him (most likely this weekend).

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  17. I didn't read the book (I'm not going to buy it) but I did read a summary of the authors' arguments that they themselves published. It was nothing but tautologies and appeals to some metaphysical "essences." Nothing about why marriage equality is bad public policy or at all harmful to society. If those are the best arguments against marriage equality then I can't believe people are still debating this issue, and I don't understand how the Korean is able to perceive any kind of moral equivalence between the advocates for and against marriage equality. In a diverse, pluraristic society, we shouldn't tolerate intolerance.

    The Korean seems to indicate he feels some sympathy for the pro-equality side, but is reluctant to accept equal marriage for same-sex couples. I think it is a useful exercise to ask people who express such opinions, if you're not certain you are for marriage equality,than what exactly are you for when it comes to the rights of same-sex couples and their families? The answers are often very revealing.

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    1. Nothing about why marriage equality is bad public policy or at all harmful to society.

      Then you did not read carefully at all. The book has a chapter titled "WHAT'S THE HARM?", and spends 20 pages talking about the social harm.

      I think it is a useful exercise to ask people who express such opinions, if you're not certain you are for marriage equality,than what exactly are you for when it comes to the rights of same-sex couples and their families? The answers are often very revealing.

      I grew up in a family of leftist democratization activists in a country ruled by far-right fascist dictatorship. At school, whenever I critiqued South Korea's fascism, the listeners would often challenge: "So whose side are you on? Are you a communist? Say 'Kim Il-sung is a motherfucking son of a bitch.' If you can't say that, you are a communist."

      Forgive me for being nostalgic, but your comment reminds me of my school years.

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    2. Ikj22: If it is anything like the thousands of other articles I've read over my 46 years on this Earth, the social harm is rarely about gay marriage itself, but an assertion that either gay relationships as a whole (though negative effects on children; taking part of a population away from procreating; adding social instability from an alternative and visible class of recognized relationships) cause social harm, or that legalizing gay marriage leads to slippery-slope scenarios (polygamy, incest, bestiality, sex with trees). These aren't arguments specifically about gay marriage but about gay relationships. You certainly aren't going to protect society from these ills by passing "separate but legal" legislation like domestic partnerships or civil unions. (Many gay people who want to get married already have children and would continue to do so even without gay marriage - albeit with fewer protections for those children, or they wouldn't procreate anyway; and the rest are red-herrings.)

      The other argument I frequently encounter is the contradictory assertion that marriage is fundamental to social stability as well as personal and familial happiness, but if it gets somehow "watered down" by same sex couples, heterosexuals won't find marriage (even with all those benefits) attractive. I think this a bit of pretzel logic that is completely out of touch with reality. Heterosexuals are certainly getting married at lower rates than in the 1950s but this is due to mostly economic reasons and certain social factors (mainly, gender egalitarianism) that have nothing to do with same sex marriage.

      In my view same sex marriage enhances heterosexual marriage in that there is only one class of relationships for everyone. As someone who grew up in Montréal, Québec which had gender-neutral civil partnerships (l'union civile) long before same sex marriage was instituted, most people who took advantage of them were heterosexual and often found themselves in trouble when the relationship ended and the property, alimony and child custody protections of marriage weren't available. In France where there have been "pactes civil de solidarité" (PACS) for many decades, they too are mostly contracted by heterosexual couples who also find themselves in trouble because they protections of marriage aren't available when they need them.

      All too often when civil unions have been instituted by U.S. states (CO, NJ, CA) gay couples find that they aren't protected. It's not enough for a state to say that civil unions are equal to marriage if there is no requirement that a gym, or insurance company, or medical plan must recognize them as such. In order to do so one would have to revisit all the laws and jurisprudence surrounding those laws and determine whether persons in civil unions are protected. (And one would go through all this simply to protect a word.) In my view it is simpler to make marriage gender neutral.

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  18. I am confused. As I confessed in my post, I didn’t read the book, just a summary the authors published separately. Do you find their harm to society argument at all compelling? Is it too complex to summarize in a few sentences or does one simply have to read the book? Do the authors present evidence equal marriage has harmed Argentina, Canada, Spain, the Netherlands, or any of the U.S. states or Indian tribes that recognize it? As for the question in my initial post, it is meant as a serious and helpful intellectual exercise. Ask yourself, if you are not yet able to support equal marriage rights for same-sex couples, are you for any rights at all for such couples? If so, is there some subset of rights you would like to see extended to such couples and others you would withhold? Which ones and why?
    In my experience it is hard to take seriously the arguments of opponents as they so often tend to be just dressed up versions of these three:
    1) The aesthetic: I think gay people are gross, so I don’t want them to have equal rights
    2) The religious: I oppose equal rights because that’s what my religion teaches (appeal to authority)
    3) If equal marriage becomes law people who continue to oppose it will be denounced as bigots and become as socially isolated as openly racist people are today
    Very often the 2nd is a cloaked version of the 1st. Most people recognize that the religious argument has no place in a secular pluralistic society, and mature people realize that aesthetic dislike of homosexuality is not a reasonable justification for depriving individuals of their rights. As for the 3rd argument, I actually think they’re right. Support for marriage equality is growing throughout America and the western world, and even some Asian countries are starting to come around too. The moderate Supreme Court Justices might lose their nerve and give us an unsatisfactory Plessy v Ferguson type decision, but even that will eventually be overturned. It is hard to imagine that future generations of Americans will see today’s unequal treatment of same-sex couples as anything but a historical embarrassment akin to witch trials, slavery, or Jim Crow.

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    1. As I confessed in my post, I didn’t read the book, just a summary the authors published separately.

      Like I said earlier, I am abstaining from this issue, after having considered the best arguments from both sides. And that's all I asked from my readers: please, consider the best arguments from both sides. You are positively refusing to do so. By doing that, you are literally refusing to engage with the counter-argument. How do you expect to convince anyone with that type of attitude? The Girgis book is a tiny, 110-page book with footnotes. It only costs $9, and you can download it instantly via Kindle app (which you can download for free on any computer.) It takes less than 2 hours to read the entire thing. Why is it so hard to read it? Why are you asking me what the book says, when you are not lacking in the ability to read it yourself?

      As for the question in my initial post, it is meant as a serious and helpful intellectual exercise.

      It sure as hell does not read that way from the reader's perspective. It sounds awfully like a litmus test to suss out the "traitors" to be persecuted and destroyed. (Especially coupled with something like "we shouldn't tolerate intolerance.") I grew up in a fascist country; I am quite familiar with fascist language. And right now the way you sound is, unfortunately, very familiar.

      In my experience it is hard to take seriously the arguments of opponents as they so often tend to be just dressed up versions of these three:

      Good news! The Girgis book does not resort to 1) and 2) at all (they explicitly disclaim them,) and only fleetingly touches upon the 3). You would have known that if, you know, you read the book.

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    2. And if I may add one more thing--I am not confident that even if you did read it, you would understand what it says. There are people who read things with their nose, instead of their heads. Instead of engaging with the ideas in the text, they sniff around to find petty issues to find fault with, because they are fundamentally uninterested in what the other party has to say.

      Now, I sincerely hope that I am wrong, and we can pick up our discussion after getting on the same page.

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  19. I'm not buying the book out of principal, but I might read it if it becomes available at the library. I agree that people should engage serious arguments (although I disagree with the notion that there is moral equivalence between both sides in this debate), but it is just hard to imagine that any arguments presented in the book would be better than the ones the authors and their allies presented in the Prop 8 and DOMA cases when they would have and should have presented their best arguments (the authors filed amicus briefs). There was a very telling moment in the California Prop 8 trial when one of the expert witnesses was asked to testify to the tangible harms of equal marriage and replied with "I don't know." And I think Justice Kagan did a good job of exposing the animus behind DOMA and similar laws in the recent Supreme Court case. As for my question being a litmus test, I guess that is sort of the point. Trying to articulate what exactly you are for helps people identify the source of their own discomfort with marriage equality. Obviously, you don't have to tell us, but the answers are revealing. I know this frustrates you, but based on the emotional language in your replies to some of the comments, I really think you are reading some things into the comments that just aren't there.

    I think your note on the marriage cases is something that a lot of your readers will find odd--as I myseslf did. In a sense, it was sort of like announcing on the eve of the presidential election that you've followed the candidates closely, watched all the debates, read all the editorials, but still haven't decided how or whether to vote.

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    1. I think your note on the marriage cases is something that a lot of your readers will find odd--as I myseslf did. In a sense, it was sort of like announcing on the eve of the presidential election that you've followed the candidates closely, watched all the debates, read all the editorials, but still haven't decided how or whether to vote.

      That's odd? Why? Why is it odd to think that some issues are so important and so difficult that they are beyond your capacity to judge, even after going through as much deliberation as possible?

      As for me, what I really find odd is how so many people can so easily form and clutch onto their opinions without bothering to seriously engage in any meaningful debate.

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  20. It is odd partly because most people don't feel that way, as evidenced by recent opinion polls. I think it also is hard for many to continue to see this as a difficult issue. Girgis, et al and their allies had their day(s) in court and the arguments they advanced were spectacularly demolished by the marriage equality side. The courtroom transcripts are available on the internet in a number of places, and unlike the Girgis book, they're free. I suppose it is possible the book has better arguments than the canards its authors advance elsewhere, but I doubt it. Girgis himself constantly references morality in his other works, with the implicit assumption that homosexual acts are immoral, and then goes on to claim that marriage has an essential meaning independent of what meaning humans give it (a convoluted version of the religious argument). Co-author Ryan T. Anderson devotes much of his online writings to complaining that acceptance of same-sex marriage will lead to the marginalization of people with "traditional" views. Incidentally, he also got taken apart by Suze Orman in a recent television appearance devoted to the marriage equality issue, which can be viewed on YouTube. The upswelling in support for marriage equality in America and elsewhere is not due to its advocates shutting themselves off in an echo chamber, it is the result of constant engagement and the fact that the opponents' arguments fall apart like a house of cards when subjected to critical scrutiny. Meanwhile, it is hard to find fault with the pro-equality cause. People are insisting on their civil and human right to have their marriages treated equally, and the denial of this right has real and terrible consequences for these individuals and their families (just look at what happened to DOMA plaintiff Edie Windsor--how could anyone say that is how things should be?). Equal marriage makes intuitive sense, it is consistent with pluralist democratic values, and the existing social science research indicates it is good for same-sex couples, their families, and society. People are starting to wake up to this, and this is why marriage equality is prevailing in so many places: England, France, New Zealand, Uruguay and others (when will it come to the Koreas?).

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  21. I usually find the writings of The Korean logical, wise and extremely on point. So, the fact that he had written in his blog that there was actually a good argument against gay marriage puzzled and excited me. Married and with kids, I usually side myself with conservative values. On this issue however, I do believe that gay people are born that way and that it's NOT A CHOICE.

    And, logic follows. Being convinced that it is not a choice, it's hard for me not to be pro equality. To me, and as lkj22 very eloquently explains, every argument against gay marriage appears to be a variant of "I think gay people are gross and I don't want them to have the same rights".

    However, as I said before, I respect The Korean's opinions so I decided to find out what this excellent argument against gay marriage was. I've found an excerpt of the book in question and decided to give it a try.

    Well, my free time is extremely limited and I confess English is far from being my first language. Plus, I've found the language in the book unnecessarily complicated and it was hard for me to keep my concentration. It seems to me that the authors define marriage as an union between a man and a woman, with the objective of having and rearing children.

    Nothing I read really goes too far from the old "I think gay people are not natural" speech, because if you're going to stick to such definition of marriage, it is really hard to accept gay marriage. I sensed so much preaching in the words of these authors that I wouldn't be surprised if they were members of a very conservative ultra-right Christian religious sect. I wonder if they have also spent time researching and writing about other subjects related to marriage like divorce, children out of wedlock or adultery (all legal, by the way).

    Of course, my limitations with the English language may be the cause of me not understanding the point of it all. If so, I apologize.

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    1. To me, . . . every argument against gay marriage appears to be a variant of "I think gay people are gross and I don't want them to have the same rights".

      One of the reasons why I recommended the book was that it was a clear example of argument that does not rely on such aesthetic concern.

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  22. I think this is part of it for me too. I normally find the Korean’s writings to be logical and I know he has a legal background, so it’s hard to understand what he might find appealing in the Girgis et al arguments or what elements of the anti-equality side he might sympathize with. More and more, the intellectual hollowness of that side of the issue is being exposed, and the motivations of that side are being revealed for what they are: an ugly aversion to people who are different.

    On a related note, I was also puzzled by his comparison of my rhetoric to that of South Korea’s fascists. It is of course a common and tired tactic to associate one’s debaters with the evil regime du jour (“you are just like the hated fascists, communists, etc”), but what surprised me was that he seized on the Ayaan Hirsi Ali quote I used about how we should refuse to tolerate intolerance. I always considered that to be one of the fundamental values of secular pluralist democracies, and one I would expect a democratic activist to share.

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    1. it’s hard to understand what he might find appealing in the Girgis et al arguments or what elements of the anti-equality side he might sympathize with.

      How would you know if you categorically refuse to engage the other side of the debate? You claimed earlier that all arguments against gay marriage are reducible to three variations, and I told you that the book expressly disclaims two of the variations and only lightly touches upon the third one. So here you have a new argument, and yet you still refuse to entertain it. Why? How does deliberate ignorance help your case?

      I was also puzzled by his comparison of my rhetoric to that of South Korea’s fascists.

      I was reminded of the fascist rhetoric because instead of addressing the issue at hand, you continue to demand that I take a litmus test.

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    2. If anything, I find your zealotry even more puzzling. All I asked people to do is to read a book, which in my opinion presents the best argument against their commonly held position, and think for themselves. I made it amply clear that I abstain on this issue otherwise. So what is so objectionable to you? Are you against people learning more? Are you against people thinking for themselves? Why all this arm-waving?

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  23. here you have a new argument, and yet you still refuse to entertain it.

    I'm not buying the book out of principle, but based on what the authors have put in the public domain, they appear to advance no arguments that those of us on the pro-equality side haven't heard and dealt with thousands of times before. At this point, several commenters have attempted to summarize the book's key points here, and the arguments appear to be nothing more than cloaked versions of the religious and aesthetic objections (even if the authors explicitly disclaim such views).

    If anything, I find your zealotry even more puzzling.

    My zealotry is puzzling? This issue directly affects more people than I think you realize. Even if you are not affected by it, the chances are that someone very close to you is. At this point, I think it's just hard for many of us to imagine being confronted with the issue, and being able to look at that person in our lives and say "should you have equal rights? I'm conflicted. I just don't know."

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    1. At this point, several commenters have attempted to summarize the book's key points here, and the arguments appear to be nothing more than cloaked versions of the religious and aesthetic objections (even if the authors explicitly disclaim such views).

      But then again, you would have no way of really knowing what the authors said, because you refuse to read what they say. You would have no way of knowing whether the commenters here summarized the book correctly. Your obstinate refusal to just read the book makes no sense to me. What is this principle of yours that stops you from buying the book? That you have to maintain ignorance? Again, why is it so objectionable to learn more?

      This issue directly affects more people than I think you realize. Even if you are not affected by it, the chances are that someone very close to you is. At this point, I think it's just hard for many of us to imagine being confronted with the issue, and being able to look at that person in our lives and say "should you have equal rights? I'm conflicted. I just don't know."

      I attended Berkeley and am married to a classical musician. Do you seriously think I do not have a close gay friend or a dozen? Again, it is this utter inability to consider the other person in the conversation that is so off-putting about gay rights activists. If you are so persistent on hounding someone who does not have a position, I would hate to see how you treat people who disagree with you.

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  24. why is it so objectionable to learn more?

    There is nothing objectionable about learning more. It's just that you seem to keep promoting this book as if it contains awesome arguments its authors haven't advanced elsewhere, and suggesting it is willful ignorance and a failure to engage the issue to not want to buy the book given its authors' unsavory reputations. But as I said before, I find it implausible that the book would contain arguments not present in the transcripts, the amicus briefs, or the authors' numerous public domain works, especially given the high profile nature of this issue. If I'm mistaken, please enlighten me.

    You would have no way of knowing whether the commenters here summarized the book correctly


    Well did they?

    Do you seriously think I do not have a close gay friend or a dozen?

    If you do, that makes your abstention all the more strange to me.

    it is this utter inability to consider the other person in the conversation that is so off-putting about gay rights activists.

    Which of the gay rights activists do you think are not addressing the other side properly, and what is it you think they should address?

    If you are so persistent on hounding someone who does not have a position

    I'm sorry if you feel hounded. In a way, not taking a position on this issue still feels like taking a position. As you said, a post like this was bound frustrate many of your readers and no doubt generate a great deal of debate. Otherwise, why mention the issue at all?

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    1. If I'm mistaken, please enlighten me.

      How am I supposed to do that when you categorically refuse to do just one easy thing I ask people to do?

      Which of the gay rights activists do you think are not addressing the other side properly, and what is it you think they should address?

      For one, you are. And I think you should address the arguments in the Girgis book.

      In a way, not taking a position on this issue still feels like taking a position.

      This is EXACTLY the same fascist mindset with which I am so familiar--the closed-mindedness that cannot even tolerate ambivalence, let alone the opposition.

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    2. This is EXACTLY the same fascist mindset with which I am so familiar--the closed-mindedness that cannot even tolerate ambivalence, let alone the opposition

      If it were YOUR right to marry that was being taken away you wouldn't see it as anything other than infuriating. You'd have little sympathy for the opposition, and I doubt you'd have lots of warm fuzzies for ambivalence either. But I get it. I need to BUY the book.

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  25. TK:

    Could you perhaps give me some reason to believe that the adversarial legal system either (i) failed in the original trial, or (ii) is inherently inferior to reading a book from either side, if our goal is to distinguish reason from unreason?

    Perhaps it's the extreme extrovert speaking, but I've read the entire transcript of that trial, and it seems as if the proponents of Prop. 8 had ample opportunity to procure expert witnesses and make a wide variety of arguments against marriage equality -- and they repeatedly embarrassed themselves in the face of even the most basic logical critique. I say this wearing not my marriage equality hat, but rather my debater and philosopher hat: I don't believe I've ever witnessed such a thorough collapse of a set of arguments, when faced with the requirement of using reason in the face of a prepared opponent.

    Again, is immersing oneself in the totality of this book -- without an opposing counsel to question it line-by-line -- superior to a trial in which that side had every opportunity to present and defend any arguments that might be found therein?

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    1. Speaking as someone who spends his entire working day in the adversarial legal system, I can say this with confidence: a litigation is a good device for truth-seeking for an issue that may be isolated from others. (E.g. "Did the defendant murder a person?") It is not a very good device for settling political issues that affect the broader society. (E.g. "Should there be a constitutional right to receive abortion?") (This is not to say that litigation is useless. It is only to say that litigation is not the be-all and end-all.)

      I, too, read the same transcript, and I disagree with the idea that arguments against gay marriage "fell apart" or their proponents were "embarrassed." It is more the case that, at this point, the argument about gay marriage has become a battle of competing aesthetics rather than logic. Without the ability to step into the other person's aesthetics, nothing the other person says can be seen as logical. It is like playing tribal drums to an audience who only knows how to listen to Gregorian chants. No matter how good a drummer you may be, your drumming makes no sense to the people who only know to listen for the Gregorian chants.

      That is what I am trying to head off here: make this about reason, not aesthetics.

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    2. I asked you in the way that I did precisely because of your profession, and I appreciate your response.

      I suppose I'd tend to believe the opposite about criminal findings of fact versus broad constitutional issues: the former are almost always ill-served by the adversarial process and the jury system, on account of the huge differences between proper Bayesian reasoning about evidence and probabilities on the one hand, and normal human processing of verbal argument on the other. The frequency of very basic statistical fallacies in the criminal justice system is staggering.

      While I agree that litigation is far from ideal in the case of broad constitutional questions (and the ethical/historical/political issues they raise), I tend to be far more skeptical of the method of reading one complete partisan tract and then an opposing one. This is because a skilled rhetorician can so easily slip logical leaps and dubious empirical claims into a chain of reasoning, so that a reader, carried away by the skillful prose, is unlikely to catch the illegitimate moves on the way to the conclusion. The adversarial process, which allows a dubious but rhetorically powerful chain of reasoning to be interrupted by, "Objection. Witness is not qualified to give expert judgment on matter-of-fact X" or, even more importantly, "document Y was not properly reported to opposing counsel" (in order to prepare a counterargument and/or possible objections) seems much safer than giving one's eyes over to a single author's words for an entire 300 pages.

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    3. This is because a skilled rhetorician can so easily slip logical leaps and dubious empirical claims into a chain of reasoning, so that a reader, carried away by the skillful prose, is unlikely to catch the illegitimate moves on the way to the conclusion.

      That may be true for "a" reader, but not for thousands of readers. And never underestimate the ability of a critical reader (who may be motivated by a strong desire to destroy the other side's argument) to expose those leaps and claims.

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  26. My response, as promised. Sorry it's so long, but it's not like web pages or threads are a scarce resource:

    There were many arguments in the essay that indeed I hadn't heard before, but the authors'central claim, that marriage is a moral and biological reality unto itself, I did hear before, though in a kind reductionist neocon form. The first time through, I was intimidated by the academic language. The second time, not so much. Stripped of their academic writing style and structure, their arguments are a lot less impressive. I'm glad that I read it, however, and I appreciate that you introduced it to me.

    The weight of my personal experiences makes the distinction between homophobia and principled opposition feel like clinging to an absurdly impractical idea, to the point of personal harm, but it is a distinction that is important and one I still believe in. After all,I live in the world with other people. There's something anti-social in refusing to acknowledge the differing nature of the opposition one meets. I found the essay to be largely one of principled opposition.

    They were at their best when they argued that human relationships and human psychology are inherently structured around the ultimate goal of having children, and are only meaningful when understood in reference to that. They were at their worst, and this is where I thought that their argument reached its tautological fullness, when they argued against constructionism, because marriage is what it is.

    The baseball analogy as an answer to same sex marriage advocates' infertility argument undermined own their main point. They describe infertility as a team that always loses games, but by virtue of that fact, is no less a baseball team. But the infertility doesn't suggest a team with a low chance of winning. It suggests a team functionally unable to score runs (putting aside for a moment, gradations of infertility). Certainly, fertility is part of the complete game, as is courtship, mutual support, consummation, and so on, but remove one or more of the elements, and the game is still undeniably baseball. When we were kids, my siblings and I often played with three people,two bases, a wiffle bat, a tennis ball, unlimited strikes (on a snowy day in March with patches of unmelted snow here and there!) and so on.
    What were we playing, if not baseball?

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  27. (continued)

    The problem for the authors is, just as baseball can be played without most of its usual elements, heterosexual reproduction and union aren't fixed biological realities in so much as they are a set of overlapping likelihoods, with probable outcomes. Is romance, from a gene-level view less an attempt at replicating itself if it happens between members of the same sex? Same sex relationships aren't hobbies we've taken up removed from our biological roots, a human intention of the conscious mind, to impose a separate reality contrary to our own biology. Same sex desires emerge from the same wellspring of reproductive behavior as heterosexual desires.

    Another problem, moreover, is that though we might acknowledge that something like romance has a basis in gene replication, that isn't the plane on which we live. We live on the plane of romance, not the plane of genes. We've inverted reality. Romance may be the byproduct of genes, but we live on the understanding that it's reproduction that's incidental to romance, not romance that's incidental to reproduction. To say otherwise is to contradict millenia of literature, song, and art. Romance is in fact one of humanity's highest and most longstanding aspirations, hardly the "thin Maginot line of sentiment", as the authors put it. Is it any coincidence that once societies achieve wealth, one of the first things they dispose of are the social constraints on choice of spouse? (I offer America and Korea as examples.) This feature of human nature, which the authors so deeply underrate, also belies their claim that at some uknown time in the future, there will be a sincere and serious effort to reconstruct traditional heterosexual marriage, to undo the damage done by no-fault divorce.

    This naturalness of homosexuality, which the authors concede but deem irrelevant, undermines their claim that heterosexual marriage should be accorded unique status because of its roots in nature. If you're going to privilege one and not the other, then you have to say why--which the authors do--but it's the "why" that counts, not the "common
    human nature", as the authors put it.

    But, even if we accept that heterosexual marriage has some kind of special moral, natural reality to it that other relationships don't have, I would argue that same sex marriages, by extension, have the highest claim for inclusion in the definition of marriage, through their parallels to heterosexual marriages. For example, same sex marriages between brothers would also be infertile, but we aren't opposed to incest merely because of genetic problems. We're opposed to incest also because it would introduce a corrupting element into a nonsexual relationship that is inherently valuable on its pre-existing terms. Siblinghood is good. Siblinghood would be destroyed by sex, regardless of fertility. Same sex marriages between unrelated partners, on the other hand, mirror their heterosexual counterparts in this regard.

    One also presumes that there's no such thing as a polygamous or incestuous orientation. Bars on incestuous marriages and polygamous marriages permit the marriage-seeker to choose from the three and a half billion eligible people in world to whom the marriage seeker is sexually attracted, just not your sister, and just not more than one person. This is a difference of manner, not of kind, in the name of avoiding the immediate psychological harm that comes from incest or through the distorted power relationships of polygamy. Bars on homosexual marriages, on the other hand, offer no one whom the marriage-seeker finds sexually attractive. This is a difference of kind, not of manner, in the name of avoiding, if we take the authors' prediction to be true, at worst, a rarefied erosion of marital concepts in a society that's too crude to live with the lack of universality that nature offers up.

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    1. Good comment, thanks. I think you described my own reservation with the Girgis book rather well--at the end of the day, their attempt to deal with the infertility objection is a bit too hand-wavy.

      In your rejoinder, however, this is the part I cannot sign onto: "For example, same sex marriages between brothers would also be infertile, but we aren't opposed to incest merely because of genetic problems. We're opposed to incest also because it would introduce a corrupting element into a nonsexual relationship that is inherently valuable on its pre-existing terms. Siblinghood is good. Siblinghood would be destroyed by sex, regardless of fertility."

      By this, you turn the argument in favor of gay marriage (without allowing for incest) as a matter of aesthetics versus aesthetics. (And aesthetics, by definition, cannot be rational or logical.) I do not think that is a valid path, because if one took that path, one is left vulnerable to the other aesthetics versus aesthetics claim--i.e., homosexuality is a sin, it is gross, etc.

      But if we are to reject the aesthetics versus aesthetics argument, what truly distinguishes homosexual marriage and other "non-traditional" marriages (e.g. incest, polygamy) that we find repulsive? You might say homosexuality is genetically compelled, but incest and polygamy are not. But pedophilia is also genetically compelled, yet one would hardly consider that to be a valid reason to allow marriage between a 40 year old man and a 9 year old girl.

      On this front, I do not have a good answer, and that's one of my reservations against the pro-gay marriage argument.

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  28. Hello, Mr. (The?) Korean!

    I applaud your attempts at improving the nature of debate on the Internet. I hope that the response to this post doesn't discourage from recommending equally divisive things in the future. Unfortunately, I can't read the book just now, as this is the first time I've checked your blog in a while and it's currently finals season at my university. I look forward to reading it over the summer. I have the feeling I'm going to disagree with most of it, but striving to be well-informed is never a bad thing.

    As a ardent supporter of gay marriage, I want to apologize for the hate you must be getting for recommending this book. Anyone who's spent time reading your blog would know that, baring some drastic change in your opinions as you've expressed them on this blog, the idea that you must be anti-gay or homophobic is ridiculous. The internet desperately needs more people willing to create spaces for rational debate on important topics. After all, even as much I support gay marriage, I acknowledge the gay marriage debate is not entirely clean-cut. There are questions, such as the legal status of non-biological parents in gay and lesbian families, legal protections of transsexuals, and whether other non-traditional unions like polyamory should be recognized, in which there is no consensus even among the gay community (Dan Savage, the infamous yet influential gay columnist, has made remarks amounting to "I've never been to a poly one-year anniversary" and "there are no such things as bisexuals"). As important as the question of gay marriage is to me, it's not the be-all and end-all of debate concerning the rights and well-being of the LBGT community and genderqueer people in this country. But between this political climate and the nature of the Internet, it's hard to see how we as a nation can work toward finding a solution to these questions in any kind of reasonable manner.

    In short, you're awesome, please keep doing what you're doing.

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  29. This article clears all the doubts and confusions that will have issues while pretending & not getting there where they want to. Excellent Article!!!
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  30. Gay marriage: I gotta ask, why not? If gays get married, absolutely nothing in the lives of straight people will change. It completely doesn't affect you. Do you get all frowny when your neighbours cook food you don't like or paint their house a colour you don't like or work at a job you think sucks? Do you judge your neighbours for having children or not having children? For the brand of car their drive? No, because that's their freedom to chose, and it's not your decision. How is marriage any different?

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