Should the State be Involved in Marriage?

In my various writings on the topic of same-sex ‘marriage’ (for a complete list, click here) I have argued that government has a duty to recognize marriage as being between a man and a woman. But perhaps the state should get out of the marriage business completely. Perhaps the state should not be involved at all in publicly recognizing certain types of relationships as being marriage. This is the position taken by radical libertarians
and it is an attractive solution to the ‘gay marriage’ debate, even among Christians. According to this line of thinking, once the state begins pronouncing that certain types of relationships are marriage, this itself shows that government has overstepped its God-appointed mark.

In a Christian Voice article , ‘Why Gay Marriage is a Public Threat Part 2‘, I addressed this position. “If it were true that the state has no business recognizing certain types of relationships as being marriage, then how far do we extend that?” I asked. For example, is it wrong for the government of a nation to recognize certain types of relationships as being marriage, but okay for the government of the state or shire or county to recognize certain types of relationships as being marriage?

Let’s try to be completely consistent with the libertarian position and say that it is wrong for government to recognize certain types of relationships as being marriage all the way
down to the level of village government. That would mean if there was a small tribe of a thousand people in the jungle of South America, that it be wrong for them to have formal or informal mechanisms in place for recognizing who was married and for then using those mechanisms to generate the presumption of paternity or to settle disputes about
inheritance or other matters. Few libertarians would want to go that far, and yet it is hard to see how that example is qualitatively different to the situation today, where the people of the community have certain formal mechanisms in place for identifying a legal marriage. Whether one does this through the large-scale community of the state or a small-scale community of the village or tribe, it is in principle the same thing, namely, formal some type of formal way to recognize the difference between being married and being not married.

Whenever you have a community that has formal or informal mechanisms in place for recognizing a marriage, then questions of what can count as marriage will arise and have to be settled by the community. Whether that community is represented by the gathering of local chiefs, or whether there is a de facto tradition of common law that is appealed to, or whether there is the apparatus of the modern state, the basic principle is the same: the civil community has mechanisms in place for recognizing what is and is not a marriage.
But let’s suppose this wasn’t the case and the radical libertarians have a point: we should abolish civil marriage completely. In their book What is Marriage?, Girgis, Anderson and George suggest some of the consequences that would arise if such a state of affairs were realized:

 

Sherif Girgis, Robert George and Ryan Anderson, authors of the book What is Marriage?

Abolishing civil marriage is practically impossible. Strike the word ‘marriage’ from the law, and the state will still license, and attach duties and benefits to, certain bonds [benefits such as the presumption of paternity]. Abolish these forward-looking forms of regulation, and they will only be replaced by messier, retroactive regulation – of disputes over property, custody, visitation, and child support. What the state once did by efficient legal presumptions, it will then do by burdensome case-by-case assignments of parental (especially paternal) responsibilities.

“The state will only discharge these tasks more or less efficiently–that is, less or more intrusively. It can’t escape them. Why not? Because the public functions of marriage–both to require and to empower parents (especially fathers) to care for their children and each other–require society-wide coordination. It is not enough if, say, a particular religion presumes a man’s paternity of his wife’s children, or recognizes his fights and duties toward their mother; or if the man and his wife contract to carry out certain tasks. For private institutions can bind only their own; private contracts bind only those who are party to them. A major function of marriage law is to bind all third parties (schools, adoption agencies, summer camps, hospitals; friends, relatives, and strangers) presumptively to treat a man as father of his wife’s children, husbands and wives as entitled to certain privileges and sexually off-limits, and so on. This only the state can do with any consistency.

But more than inevitable or necessary, it is fitting that the state should do this. Consider a comparison. Why don’t even the strictest libertarians decry traffic laws? First, the orderly traffic protects health and promotes efficiency, two great goods. Second, these goods are common in two senses; private efforts cannot adequately secure them, and yet failure to secure them has very public consequences. It is not as if we would have had the same (or even just slightly less) safety and efficiency of travel if people just did as they pleased, some stopping only at red lights and others only at green. Nor would damage from the resulting accidents (and slower shipments, etc) be limited to those responsible for causing it. To ensure safe and efficient travel at all, and to limit harm to third parties, we need legal coordination. Indeed, it is no stretch to say that the state owes its citizens to keep minimum security and order: to these we have a right. Finally, unlike private associations, the state can secure these goods, without intolerable side effects. Al this makes it appropriate for the state to set our traffic laws….

If something would serve an important good, if people ha a right to it, if private groups cannot secure it well, everyone suffers if it is lost, and the state can secure it without undue cost, then the state may step in–and should.

 

Pro-Choice Inconsistencies

During one part of the trial for mass murderer Kermit Gosnell, the defence attorney thought he had scored a decisive point when one witness acknowledged that he could not say with “medical certainty” that a certain baby had not been killed while still in the womb. However, in a penetrating USA Today column, Kirsten Powers noted that “whether Gosnell was killing the infants one second after they left the womb instead of partially inside or completely inside the womb — as in a routine late-term abortion — is merely a matter of geography. That one is murder and the other is a legal procedure is morally irreconcilable.”

Also, whether the baby was partially inside or completely outside the womb makes absolutely no difference in the amount of pain the child would have experienced. This may be obvious, but it is worth pointing out because during Gosnell’s trial one of the points brought up by the prosecution was the excruciating pain the babies went through as their necks were severed. It is hard to see how the issue of pain is even relevant outside a pro-life framework, for the babies would have died just as painfully inside the womb if they had been subject to conventional, and legally acceptable, forms of abortion.

Last week I wrote a couple articles for Christian Voice where I pointed out similar inconsistencies in the public discussion serounding the Gosnell trial. They can be read at the following links:

Say It, Evan Sayet: A Comic Gets Serious on The Modern Liberal

A Review of The KinderGarden of Eden: How the Modern Liberal Thinks, by Evan Sayet

Evan Sayet

Evan Sayet

In March, 2007, Evan Sayet delivered a speech to the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C. called “How Modern Liberals Think.” It became a YouTube sensation. Andrew Breitbart called it “one of the five most important speeches ever given.”

He started off his talk by saying, “I’ve got to imagine that just about every one of us in this room recognizes that the Democrats are wrong on just about every issue. Well, I’m here to propose to you that it’s not just ‘just about’ every issue; it’s quite literally every issue. And it’s not just wrong; it’s as wrong as wrong can be.” A comic at heart, but deadly serious about the threat Modern Liberalism and its kissing cousin, Progressivism, pose to decent people everywhere, Sayet says that the Modern Liberal will at every turn side with:

  • The evil over the good
  • The wrong over the right
  • The lesser over the better
  • The ugly over the beautiful
  • The vulgar over the refined, and
  • The behaviors that lead to failure over those that lead to success.

How can he make such sweeping predictions? Sayet grew up a liberal, New York Jew, but now calls himself a 9-13 Republican. In The KinderGarden of Eden, How the Modern Liberal Thinks, the extrapolated book version of that speech, he demonstrates quite cogently (and a bit wonkishly, but it’s a delightful kind of wonkish) how the Modern Liberal’s actions invariably follow what he calls The Four Laws of the Unified Field Theory of Liberalism:

  1. Indiscriminateness – the total rejection of the intellectual process – is an absolute moral imperative.
  2. Indiscriminateness of thought does not lead to indiscriminateness of policies. It leads to siding only and always with the lesser over the better, the wrong over the right, and the evil over the good.
  3. Modern Liberal policies occur in tandem. Each effort on behalf of the lesser is met with an equal and opposite campaign against the better.
  4. The Modern Liberal will ascribe to the better the negative qualities associated with the lesser while concurrently ascribing to the lesser the positive qualities found in the better.

Sayet likens the intellectual development of the Modern Liberal to that of a kindergartner, and the credo driving him to the catchy title of Robert Fulghum’s 1988 bestseller, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. While Fulghum’s musings are sweet, and they do capture some of the basics of good character – share things, play fair, don’t hit people … in short, Be nice – as a comprehensive ideology, they are woefully insufficient for the demands of adult self-government in a dangerous world.

Think about it: kindergarten only works if there is at least one grownup in the room capable of taking charge and handling the big problems. Picture a day in the life of a kindergarten class if the teacher never showed up. Similarly, turning America and her hard-won liberties over to Modern Liberals would be akin to turning the entire schoolhouse over to the five-year-olds.

KinderGardenofEden_THUMBNAIL_IMAGE“So long as there were a sufficient number of people of God and science [the grownups] doing things and making things, the Modern Liberals could remain forever like Adam and Eve in Eden or the child on the kindergarten playground,” Sayet concludes. But that era is passing. “Today, we are at a tipping point where the people of God and science will soon be overwhelmed by the demands of taking care of the permanently infantalized. It is unsustainable. If the system collapses under the weight, the future is not merely a slightly less wonderful existence, it is … ” in the words of Thomas Hobbes from Leviathan, “nasty, brutish and short.”

“We’re not there yet,” Sayet warns, “but we’re close.”

I think he’s right. Sure, it would be nice to stay five and let someone else be responsible for the big problems of liberty and provisions. But we’re fast approaching the point where that is no longer feasible. The five-year-olds outnumber the grownups and the brutes are closing in.

Related:

Equality Police Want to Stop Princess Kate from Becoming Queen

MPs are trying to ensure that Princess Kate will never become queen, but will occupy the sanitized and politically correct title of “princess consort.”

The move to bring equality to the laws of succession governing the British throne, has taken a strange twist as a member of Parliament has proposed legislation that would prevent Princess Kate from ever becoming Queen.

John Hemming, MP, is attempting to add a clause to the Succession to the Crown Bill that would mean Princess Kate would be called “Princess consort” rather than Queen when Prince William ascends to the throne.

The proposed amendment is based on allegations that the current system is ‘sexist’ since it allows the wife of a King to be called Queen but it does not allow the husband of a queen to be called King. Mr Hemming said: “It’s not right that a Queen Regnant is treated as less important than a King Regnant.”

If the House of Commons agrees to add Mr Hemming’s amendment it to the Succession Bill, then the royal family could become the first victims of the British government’s attempt to ‘modernize’ the monarchy.

Further Reading

 

Girls and Guys, Getting [It] Together; Some Observations on Double Standards

(Surprise, surprise, Intern 2 has a bone to pick with cultural attitudes on sexuality and the sexes)

Recently my friend Barnabas mentioned that another (male) acquaintance of ours had once written a story whose implausible content “revealed his virginity.” The tone was not complimentary.

Due to the setting we were in, I chose not to mention that I too was wrestling with a scene in my own work-in-progress, one key to the characters’ emotional trajectory, that suffered from my lack of firsthand experience. But if I had, I know my friend would have vocally distinguished my situation from our classmate’s. There were other reasons (my actual presence, for one) that my lack of experience could be denoted the more respectable, but I’ve long suspected that chief among them would be the fact that I was a girl.

Say what we will about the pervasively decadent quality of popular and academic culture, but the secular world is still remarkably kind to female virgins. We have our detractors, (Jessica Valenti comes first to my mind), but they are generally not disdainers. It is frequently argued that women are harmed or restricted by abstinence, but not that there’s something innately wrong with a woman who abstains. The prevailing mindset does not suggest that a woman who has not engaged in sexual conduct is any less of a woman for it. (If your evidence or experience says otherwise, by all means post a link/tell us your story, and join the conversation.)

This is not the case for abstinent men, and men and women alike bear the responsibility to face the injustice.

Surely it is a point of agreement for all reasonable people that men’s promiscuity ought not to be excused and even praised while the same behavior is denigrated in women. I do not believe that this, which many feminists hold as the capital-D-S Double Standard (see also; “Stud/Slut Dichotomy”), is nearly so prevalent now as it was many decades ago, but this new double standard that excuses women’s virginity while denigrating men’s (we can call it the “Nice Girl/Nice Guy Dichotomy”) seems to have sprouted from the same root. The difference might have come with the shift of mainstream sexual mores. As pre-marital abstinence, rather than sexual activity, becomes the frowned-upon behavior, so do men, rather than women, become the chiefly frowned-upon participants.

This is not progressive thinking. This merely inverts our old thinking. The new double standard operates from the same false premises as the old. It still presupposes that men are passive victims to their all-consuming sexual desires (so, if a man has not had sex by a certain age, he must be either completely undesirable to women or otherwise suspect in his manliness). It still presupposes that women do not struggle with sexual desire at all, or only to a degree that is easily controlled (so, if a woman has not had sex by a certain age, that is an understandable decision on her part.) Just like the old double standard, this discredits both men’s and women’s capacity for strength in virtue.

It may be easier in this cultural climate for me, as a woman, to openly discuss my moral choices than it is for my male friends and counterparts. But I propose that even so, in such contexts that are appropriate and in such terms that are constructive, we all put these choices into open discussion. We, men and women together, bolstering the required courage, should calmly explain ourselves and defend each other.

Had it come to that, I could have reminded Barnabas, who does know better, that being male or female was not really a relevant factor in the conversation about twenty-something virgins trying to write what they don’t know. He would have listened. So would many others.

As we strive together toward the same fixed and unchanging standards, let us be confident, assured, and transparent* in our striving. Let us strive together so that others may see and understand, and may begin to strive alongside us.

I remain, sincerely yours,
Intern 2

*But tactful, and not obnoxious or boastful. Discretion, valor, better part, etc.

‘Choice’ Writ Large

The Genocide Awareness Project

The Center for Bio-Ethical Reform
On a couple of sunny fall days last September, in the very week hundreds of pseudo-courageous ‘occupiers’ were gearing up to protest a mishmash of ill-defined quasi-injustices having something to do with banking, a small cadre of genuinely courageous young people placed their convictions and reputations on the line to expose a real injustice having to do with life and death. The Students Choosing Life (SCL) of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga (UTC) hosted the Genocide Awareness Project (GAP). By the end of the week, according to Larissa R. Hofstra, president of SCL, “the entire campus was talking about abortion,”

That was the intention. GAP is the college campus outreach of the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform (CBR), a California based ministry dedicated to establishing “prenatal justice and the right to life for the unborn.” CBR pursues that mission primarily through displays of arresting photos showing the grim reality of abortion – blood, body parts, and all. According to its website, “CBR operates on the principle that abortion represents an evil so inexpressible that words fail us when attempting to describe its horror. Until abortion is seen, it will never be understood.”

Principles of Successful Reform
CBR was founded in 1990 by Gregg Cunningham. A decorated Vietnam War veteran and a former member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives and political appointee of Ronald Reagan, Gregg was at that time a Special Attorney with the U.S. Federal Courts in Los Angeles. He had been active in the pro-life movement, both as a legislator and as a volunteer, but he had begun to sense a need for another strategy. As he studied social reform movements of the past, he discerned common principles that successful reformers had put into practice and that he believed could be more effectively put to work for the pro-life cause.

Specifically, public attention had to be focused on “the humanity of the victim and the inhumanity of the injustice.” Furthermore, given the human propensity to avoid all things difficult, these two realities had to be presented in a way that would be impossible to ignore. Dr. Martin Luther King, for example, had forced the nation to look at racism in the South through staged activities such as lunch counter sit-ins and freedom bus rides. The subsequent media coverage of white-on-black violence shamed decent Americans who had been either unaware of, or content to remain comfortably ignorant about, race-based segregation. The publicity became a catalyst for an eventual sea change in attitudes toward legislated civil rights protection for blacks.

If segregated lunch counters were unacceptable to decent Americans, how much more intolerable would be the wholesale bloodshed of abortion, once it was brought out into the open? Gregg knew that many people would not look favorably upon abortion imagery in public, but he wasn’t concerned with what they thought about him. He cared what they thought about abortion. So he resigned from his post as U.S. Attorney and started the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform with himself, an idea, and a notepad.

Alternative Forms of Mass Media
The first order of business was the acquisition of high-quality pictures, both the marvelous prenatal imagery of babies in the womb and the damnable pictures of babies killed by abortion. But Gregg and his colaborers faced one hurdle that the civil rights activists didn’t – an unsympathetic, if not hostile, media. To draw public attention to the humanity of the victims and the inhumanity of abortion, they would have to take the pictures to the public themselves. Toward that end, CBR constructed a variety of portable, photo-mural exhibits.

  • GAP, launched in 1998, sets large pictures of historically recognized forms of genocide, such as lynchings and Nazi death camps, beside pictures of the unrecognized genocide of abortion.
  • The Reproductive Choice Campaign (RCC), also called the Highway and Byway Project, superimposes the abortion euphemism ‘CHOICE’ over supersized images showing the bloody remains of the tiny victims of ‘CHOICE.’ It began with billboards, signs, and billboard trucks in 2001. A year later, planes towing 50’x100’ aerial signs were added.
  • The Obama Awareness Campaign (OAC) juxtaposes pictures of Barack Obama and some of his otherwise laudable quotations with pictures of the grotesque products of his relentless abortion policy. It was officially launched in May, 2009, when CBR trucks and planes swarmed South Bend, IN, home to the University of Notre Dame, where the president delivered the 2009 commencement address and received an honorary law degree.
  • The Corporate Accountability Project (CAP) began in May 2011 when letters were mailed to fifty companies that sponsor Planned Parenthood. The letters informed company executives about the work of the abortion giant and notified them that unless they redirected their “philanthropic” giving, they risked becoming the object of a picket. “If businesses support abortion, they get us, and they don’t want us,” said Fletcher Armstrong of CBR. The stately St. Regis Monarch Beach Hotel in Dana Point, CA, became CAP’s inaugural target in August, 2011.
  • The School Choice Project attempts to educate high schoolers about abortion through volunteers who distribute literature as trucks circle campus near dismissal time.

CBR also conducts a Church Outreach, called the Matthew 28:20 Project, and publishes educational literature and conducts seminars to establish the humanity of the unborn and the inhumanity of abortion. Today CBR possesses the largest storehouse of broadcast quality video and high quality print photos of abortion in the world and shares it freely with any individual or organization observing its one requirement – to explicitly condemn all abortion-related violence as CBR does.

Precipitating the Crisis: A Necessary Mercy
CBR does not engage in civil disobedience. All projects are scrupulously legal. Staffers and volunteers do, however, get a wide variety of reactions, as the photos are so disturbing, coming to terms with them is extremely difficult. But this is a necessary mercy, as Gregg explains. “Difficult change seldom occurs in the absence of a crisis which compels that change. Abortion photos, displayed strategically, create such a crisis for many viewers. That crisis can be moral, spiritual, political, or commercial. Abortions photos are disruptive and without disrupting business as usual, abortion will remain forever off the nation’s agenda, hidden under a rug of ignorance and indifference.”

CBR aims to throw off that rug – not to inflict pain, but to effect change. “It is human nature to evade responsibility for ending dysfunctional behavior until a crisis makes that responsibility unavoidable. But many people resort to every imaginable stratagem for defusing the crisis instead of facing the problem from which the crisis derives. This flaw in human nature is killing today’s children.”

Stopping the Killing
Stopping the killing is the goal. “Who’s really suffering and being harmed, and who we should really be praying for and thinking about is these children,” said Don Cooper, who left his job as an electrical engineer in 2004 to become CBR’s Operations Manager. “At CBR, we’re being used by God, we hope, [to make the public] more aware of the children that are dying, that we could be saving.”

It was effective at UTC. “These pictures are changing the way I look at this,” a professor said after visiting the GAP exhibit.

“It’s crazy,” a female student said. “This should never be.”

Exactly. This should never be.

Related Links: