Yeah, it's a copy of that.

Jan 30, 2010 NN commented on Gay Men, Monogamy and Joy Behar.
That was a very interesting link. I was especially intrigued to see Martha Nussbaum's comments; she is something of a hero of mine.

That said, I do worry about disarming the power of shame. To be sure, there is a lot of shame that appears misapplied to me and so alters behavior for the sake of mere conformity. But there is also another problem in contemporary culture; a kind of shamelessness seems to have taken hold and I would argue this makes us much worse off. The kind of thing I am reacting to can be found in, say, the comments on Savage's latest column. He advises a kind of deception to a bi-curious young man interested in a threesome. He is then rightly taken to task for advising a deception. But what is interesting is the response to his critics. Many people seemed to be saying 'get over it you're just a puritan'. It seems to me that some people got a taste of how to respond to shame in circumstances where there was no culpability and are now unwilling to feel shame about anything at all. If this persists it will be a great loss.

Ultimately, I suspect, I won't end up agreeing with the radical thesis Warner offers. I do think relationship's with children are special because there are unique and very vulnerable individuals involved. To protect them I see nothing wrong with setting up a cultural norm that values stability and commitment and distributing benefits in a way that supports that. This is a way of saying some relationships are more important than others, I know, but it seems defensible. They are more important because of the number of people that depend on them and their particular vulnerability. I also think the lifelong aspect of the institution does a good job of securing a dignified and secure life for the elderly. Too often people discount the importance of the future and I think the value of normalizing lifelong relationships comes in part from providing for a certain kind of future for the elderly who, lets face it, just have few options and less open minds when it comes to alternative strategies for living.

At the end of the day I would support the gay-marriage movement more if it recognized the norms of the institution and sought to participate in it on that basis. Perhaps that is not the best institution for people to live in but the radical transformation that erases societal expectation and just demands a package of rights looks like a way of mugging society that I can't endorse. So while I agree with efforts to reform the institution to make gender irrelevant; I can't endorse goals that run beyond that and seek to legitimize marriages of convenience, temporary unions or non-monogamous ones, and that goes for gays and straights.
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Jan 29, 2010 NN commented on Gay Men, Monogamy and Joy Behar.
So I think you are right about the obligation to define social stability. And while I can point to general indicators I don't think I'm up to the task of laying out an explicit definition. But as I see it this shouldn't block the progress of the argument and it shouldn't be taken as a decisive blow against the position I laid out. After all, those who hold such positions, I would wager, surely can lay out such a definition because they have very particular views about what the society they would like to see includes. Still, I bet that everything I have listed would be included as part of their list and then some. I also want to point out that my claim was not that all of these categories would be served by promoting marriage. It is clear that marriage may be irrelevant to some, indirectly relevant to others and directly relevant to only a few. I list them all because, as I understand my conservative friends, they see marriage as one part of a much broader social agenda and so the promotion of the marriage issue is just one part of their overall social outlook. I think it is fair to say that is true on both sides of the debate.

Now you claim to see a lot of holes in the argument. But I will point out, again, that you are wielding a machete when it comes to the standards of evidence you demand. Indeed I would go so far as to point out that none of our current social policies could survive the scrutiny you demand. First, I know of no statistical aggregate data that can be used to unarguably demonstrate causation. So your demand here, for instance: "any group making this legal argument would in addition need to prove that marriage is the cause of these statistical differences and not merely show that the numbers correlate" looks off base. In fact I take it that most courts ask of the legislature that they had mere 'reasonable expectation' that the policies they put forth would serve the goods they aim at. On this test, it does seem reasonable to look at aggregate data for clues about how to distribute benefits. Consider, for instance, that no politician has to prove that it is graduation rates that confer economic benefits to the community and not, say, the passing of English 101or x number of meals eaten in the cafeteria, to justify his plan to recognize and award honors to those who graduate at the top of the class - he can just assume it.

In fact if we really used your standards of evidence in an unbiased way I wonder if gay-marriage supporters wouldn't face a more difficult challenge than they do now. Would they have to prove that the lack of marriage caused their second class status? If it turned out that we noticed that married gays got divorced at a much higher rates and were, say, poorer as a result, I don't imagine you would take that to be an argument that their ability to be married should be revoked.

In short, the instrument you use to find my argument 'riddled' with holes might prove sharp enough to impale yours as well.

Lets take your final point. I agree that if marriage "is a right whose primary purpose is to contribute interpersonal stability to and bestow various legal conveniences upon those involved" then the rest of your claim follows. I just deny that it is. After all, the way you have that worded seems to meet the definition of civil unions precisely and I think that, in general, society is not really trying to do anything but make certain living arrangements easier for couples by granting civil partnerships.

If that is all you want, then your fight is already won.

I do deny that this is what society is trying to do with marriage. Marriage has a special moral status that unions lack precisely because society is trying to recognize the specialness of this particular institution. In part that it because it wants to promote loving relationships between people and to ensure a certain kind of stability by making monogamy and lifelong coupling an expectation. Your definition rides roughshod over this effort and so of course you end up treating it as a mere granting of rights rather than a recognition of two people striving to live according to standards drawn from outside of themselves. In much the same way, I would argue, we ought not treat a veteran and a former mercenary in the same way. One did something to gain a certain good; money. The other fought because he saw, presumably, something worth dying for. And that distinction holds even though the soldier got paid too.

I think your opponents would argue that just because marriage has lost much of its ability to bind people to those expectations since adultery laws are no longer enforced and divorce is now easy and no-fault, those expectations persist and have a defining role in the institution. It is not a granting of rights for convenience that brother and sister could avail themselves of. It is instead, a covenant with the state to strive to live in a certain way and so only open to those able to do so.

As a final note I apologize for my tortured use of equivocation. I meant to point out that you seemed to be equivocating on the word 'stability' in taking it to mean something like 'valuable'.

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Jan 28, 2010 NN commented on Gay Men, Monogamy and Joy Behar.
@137

I don't know why I am still defending this; playing devil's advocate I suppose

I don't think defining social stability is tough to define and I don't think anyone should equivocate and stability and value. Social stability just means that society is doing as well as practically possible. The following are all strong indicators of the kind of thing that most people have in mind, but this list is not exhaustive: low crime rates, esp. low or non-existent rates of crimes that highlight serious power imbalances (rape, exploitation, domestic violence, theft of basic services), high graduation rates, low incidence of preventable disease and malnutrition, high rates of home ownership in mortgages people can afford, low rates of drug addiction, low incidences of child neglect and out of wedlock birth. Now it does turn out that as a matter of aggregate data married couples do better on many of these categories than others. This doesn't mean anyone is less valuable, but just as aggregate data shows the elderly are less competent behind the wheel and so places greater obstacles in the path of their being licensed, there is reason to see this data as a reason to promote marriage.

Actually it turns out that the analogy with licensing may be more apt than you think. If you accuse the right of setting the terms of the debate by requiring that the change be justified by societal good, then you must also acknowledge that their opposition used their influence to cast this as an issue of 'rights'.

In fact the issue looks to be closer to that of licensing. Rights usually attach to individuals, not groups. Further rights are conferred by one's status as a human being, but marriage is not. Traditionally the state has had a recognized role in being able to prevent cousins and siblings, those under a certain age, those with transmissible diseases, those who fail to consent, those already married, and polygamists (to name a few) from joining in marriage. It would be very odd for you to assert that a 'right' exists here which attaches only to gays and straights but not to all of these groups that may be similarly disadvantaged. If you aren't willing to revoke this ability from the state then it seems that you must acknowledge that the state is trying to do something when it hands out marriage benefits and if its goals are not being served it can limit the benefits on that basis. Now it may be that you can show that stability will be enhanced by pushing for this change, but if this case were well made there is reason to think more elections would be won.

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Jan 28, 2010 NN commented on Gay Men, Monogamy and Joy Behar.
@128
Three points and then I will stop defending an argument I don't endorse.

First the social stability assumption is shared by both sides. In fact that is the very basis for any claim for a married couple to have unique rights as a result of their status. If there were no benefits at all any claim to rights would be groundless.

Second, I'm not sure your premise 3 is true or if the same stability couldn't be gained via civil partnership. If, as the right fears, a new definition of marriage emerges that looks something more like a mere business partnership this would seem to result in less monogamy. If that happens I think it would be reasonable to expect that we see more breakups, more drama, more unhappiness and more single parent families. I don't know how we can predict in advance how many committed non-monogamous gays will be drawn to marriage and what their overall effect on cultural norms will be. I do know that, as far as cultural influence goes, they seem to be punching above their weight.

Finally, I think your standards of evidence are too high. Demanding 'proof' that benefits promote stability demands too much. Nothing could be offered which would meet this standard in any sociological study.
The real question is whether it is reasonable to expect that stability could be promoted in this way, and I think the answer to that is 'yes'.
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Jan 28, 2010 NN commented on Gay Men, Monogamy and Joy Behar.
A more reasonable argument. (I don't endorse this but it does seem to be the best one gay-marriage opponents have available)

1. If society is going to hand out rights and benefits, it has a right to demand certain concessions in return.

2. It is reasonable for society to believe that monogamy in general, but especially within the intuition of marriage, will promote many forms of social stability.

3. The current push to redefine marriage includes, in addition to changing the old gender requirements, a push to make the definition of the institution a matter of individual preference.

4. Many of the groups pushing for the change in marriage have been traditionally associated with a non-monogamous lifestyle. If they change the institution in the way they want the threat is that monogamy will no longer be seen as a central goal the institution tries to promote.

5. If that happens, society will have been suckered into handing out rights and benefits without getting the promotion of social stability that they desired in return.

6. Less social stability is a bad thing and so these efforts should be resisted.

Now if this is the argument prop 8 opponents want to make it doesn't seem to touch, for instance, civil unions. In fact given the harms caused to people in relationships that don't enjoy legal recognition it makes the promotion of civil unions all the more pressing.

This argument also seems to allow the state to set conditions on traditional marriage such an enforceable vow to be monogamous and, perhaps, justifies a repeal of no-fault divorce law.

The most interesting consequence is that it doesn't say anything about the gender requirements in marriage. If gays made vows of monogamy, and whatever other stability promoters the society demands (and these could be enforced), there should be no bar to entry into the institution.

Now can we debate this argument rather than the absurd caricatures of one another's positions as we have been doing?
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Jan 28, 2010 NN commented on Savage Love.
#98 You got one thing right. I don't ever lie or manipulate other people. No 700 club for me though thank you!

Why is that inconsistent with reading about kinky sex?
Jan 27, 2010 NN commented on Savage Love.
Why is it that every time a person writes in with a kink they want to indulge, but which their partner is uncomfortable with, Dan advises cheating? It seems to me that there are two competing goods here, a person’s desire to stay faithful and a person’s desire to indulge the kink. But it is like Dan is totally blind to the goods and benefits associated with being faithful and chooses to focus solely on sexual satisfaction at the expense of a person’s integrity. I have nothing against indulging a kink but if your partner isn’t game you don’t get to just ignore that person’s desires and boundaries by cheating. Having respect for another person means being honest and if that is making achieving your more fundamental desires impossible then having respect for another person means breaking up with them. A person who purports to give advise about love but can’t see the value of respect and integrity is a terrible source for advice!
Jan 27, 2010 NN joined My Stranger Face
Jan 27, 2010 NN commented on Savage Love.
Why is it that every time a person writes in with a kink they want to indulge, but which their partner is uncomfortable with, Dan advises cheating? It seems to me that there are two competing goods here, a person’s desire to stay faithful and a person’s desire to indulge the kink. But it is like Dan is totally blind to the goods and benefits associated with being faithful and chooses to focus solely on sexual satisfaction at the expense of a person’s integrity. I have nothing against indulging a kink but if your partner isn’t game you don’t get to just ignore that person’s desires and boundaries by cheating. Having respect for another person means being honest and if that is making achieving your more fundamental desires impossible then having respect for another person means breaking up with them. A person who purports to give advise about love but can’t see the value of respect and integrity is a terrible source for advice!
 

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