That's the question Maggie Gallagher, founder of the rabidly anti-gay National Organization for Marriage, and philosopher John Corvino—chair of the philosophy department at Wayne State University—will attempt to answer over the next hour. The discussion is hosted by David Blankenhorn, President of the anti-gay-but-smiley-faced-about-it Institute for American Values. Maggie and John will also discuss their new book, Debating Same-Sex Marriage, and the state of the marriage debate more generally. The livestream is here.

UPDATE: Wow, I get a mention in the opening remarks: "This may be the only book in the history of publishing that was favorably blurbed by both Rick Santorum and Dan Savage."

UPDATE 2: You know, this "can't we be civil, can't we discuss, must we shout" stuff is deeply annoying. Attack people, heap legal and financial burdens on their families, work to make the lives of children more vulnerable... and those people are going to get upset. Justifiably upset. And people who're are being attacked tend to get a bit shouty. Haters who complain about gay people screaming at them should taken about as seriously as subway gropers who complain about female commuters slapping them or muggers who complain about victims who yell, "Help! Police!"

UPDATE 3: "What happens when you take the woman out of the wedding?" asks Maggie. She worries that same-sex marriage sows confusion about gender. Because... um... because it does. Somehow. And this does harm. Somehow. Or other.

UPDATE 4: Maggie is asked if her position would be different if she had a gay child. "I would not want my child, if he came to me and said he was gay, to enter a gay marriage," says Maggie. She has a son—born out of wedlock—who lives in New York City and works is pursuing a career in the musical theater. Maggie says she's thought "very hard" about the possibility of having a gay son. I bet.

UPDATE 5: "That train has left the station," John says—we've long since decoupled marriage from procreation. We don't have to have kids to be married or be married to have kids. Maggie argues that marriage is about kids, that marriage is about making sure kids are raised by their biological mothers and fathers, and her experience as a single mom informs her opposition to same-sex marriage. But marriage was an exclusively hetero arrangement when Maggie got knocked up with her first child and her child's father abandoned her anyway.


UPDATE 6: Blankenhorn asks if John is troubled by the framing of marriage as a "right." But it is a right—another train that long ago left the station. Loving v. Virginia:

Marriage is one of the "basic civil rights of man," fundamental to our very existence and survival.... To deny this fundamental freedom on so unsupportable a basis as the racial classifications embodied in these statutes, classifications so directly subversive of the principle of equality at the heart of the Fourteenth Amendment, is surely to deprive all the State's citizens of liberty without due process of law. The Fourteenth Amendment requires that the freedom of choice to marry not be restricted by invidious racial discrimination. Under our Constitution, the freedom to marry, or not marry, a person of another race resides with the individual and cannot be infringed by the State.

UPDATE 7: Maggie cites Genesis to justify opposition to same-sex relationships. We are created male and female and called to "the work" of creating new life. But she says that people who oppose same-sex marriage because they find gay sex revolting can be "turned." Those people are not really committed to the cause of blocking equal rights under the law for gays and lesbians. Only those who sense that "the order is being violated, that something sacred is being turned on its head" when two men marry are committed to the cause. Is there really a distinction between being revolted by gay sex and believing that gay sex turns something sacred on its head? One person is saying "yuck!" and the other person is saying essentially the same thing... just drawing it out and tossing in some $10 words.

UPDATE 8: John: "One of the reasons coming out is so difficult for so man people is that you grow up with this notion that homosexuality is this inversion of nature, that god wants to vomit when he thinks of it, and you hear that message you internalize it. Then you find yourself being attracted to people of the same sex and you think, 'Oh, my god—this is a scary.'" For Maggie to argue that she and other heterosexuals who oppose same-sex marriage are somehow immune to homophobia that gay people have to struggle to overcome in order to come out is simply disingenuous. I'd call it a fucking lie but—I'm shouty like that.

UPDATE 9: A man who marries must, "edits his sexuality in a way that is pleasing to a woman," says Maggie. "That what it means to be a husband."

UPDATE 10: Our moderator got his ass handed to him in the Prop 8 trial.

UPDATE 11: "What is sexual desire for?" asks Maggie. "What I know as a woman, and you know as a gay man, if we ever had time to talk about it, would fascinate us both."

UPDATE 12: Blankenhorn: "This debate is basically about—fill in the blank." John: "Human relationships." Maggie: "The relationship between sex and babies."

Sigh: You don't have to be married to have babies or have babies to be married. (You don't have to be married to have sex, for that matter.) We're only told that marriage is defined by the having and raising of children when same-sex couples wish to marry. Children aren't even mentioned in traditional marriage vows: "I, (name), take you (name), to be my (wife/husband), to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish; from this day forward until death do us part."

And millions of same-sex couples—ahem—have children. I wish John would bring it up.

UPDATE 13: Audience member asks if society shouldn't favor heterosexual relationships because straight people have babies and gay people gay people have "opted-out" of parenting by insisting on being gay people. Sigh.

UPDATE 14: Government should be involved in marriage for "the core task" of bringing together mothers and fathers, says Maggie. And polygamy counts: "Marriage does something essential in bringing males and females together in public sexual unions," says Maggie, "and that would apply to polygamy. Polygamy is bad, but it's a marriage system."

UPDATE 15: Maggie: "I don't know what kind of scientific evidence would convince me that sex doesn't make babies." Sex, sex, sex, sex.

Okay, I gotta go—some woman is giving a speech in the guise of asking a question. The debate continues here. But I have cake to eat.


Sorry, one more:

UPDATE 16: The "presence in the marriage pool" of childless opposite-sex couples doesn't change anything about how marriage is understood, says Maggie, but adding two married dudes to the marriage pool somehow would. Because when straight couples marry their marriages are essentially about children and their marriages reaffirm the whole procreative thang even if a couple doesn't have children, can't have children, doesn't want to have children. But when a same-sex couple marries it weakens the link between marriage and the whole procreative thang even if that couple has children. See how that works?

Maggie: "The number of children being raised by same-sex households is incredibly much smaller than you would guess based on the media." So how many kids do same-sex couples need to have before we reach a Maggie-give-a-shit-about-our-kids critical mass?