Following the discussion here, this thread will be for a debate between Des Quirell and scolairebocht on the issue of same-sex marriage. Once the debate has concluded, a thread will be opened in the marriage referendum forum where comments will be open to everyone.
Des Quirell - Opening Statement
As an opening statement I wish first – in the absence of a statement to respond to – to briefly critique some of the standard arguments made against SSM.
Please note that I'm not ascribing these arguments to scolairebocht, who may approach the subject from an entirely different angle. I just need to address some of the more frequent arguments raised by the “No” side. In doing so I hope not merely to be in a defensive mode but to also turn those arguments on their head and to make in my rebuttals a positive case for SSM
I should also state my position on this. I'm an Irish emigré who will have no vote in the referendum, but I have family and friends back home and I plan at some stage to split my time between Ireland and France. I have an interest in seeing a better society in Ireland. I'm married in what, for want of a better phrase, would be probably considered a “conventional” marriage and have two kids here.
Anyway, to these claims:
SSM Involves a Redefinition of Marriage.
The problem with this argument is finding a consistent definition for the word “marriage”. On the face of it this should be a simple matter, but in effect it is not simple. Additionally, I will show that the definition of “marriage” has been fluid in the past, so there is precedent for re-evaluating its meaning.
For example, in several states of the US up until 1967 marriage was in reality something that could only be entered into by a man and woman of the same race. Ditto for South Africa during the apartheid period.
I will risk a brief flirt with Godwin by also citing the Nuremburg Laws, which prevented Jews marrying outside their faith.
Nuremberg Laws - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
That is only at the legislative level and I attract the accusation that it is in the past.
It also continues to this day, though, in certain places, and for example an Egyptian marrying an Israeli faces loss of citizenship unless first satisfying the authorities that there is no risk of espionage involved.
At the religious level there are a myriad of further circumstances where marriage to a person outside the faith attracts conditions and even outright prohibitions. In certain countries, a Muslim woman may not marry a non-Muslim, while Muslim men aren't under the same prohibition.
Indeed the Catholic Church's definition of marriage is sufficiently fluid as to allow them to pretend that a duly witnessed marriage conducted by its own clerics between two willing participants and recognised by the State can be deemed never to have happened – even against the will of one of the participants. Even a retrospective redefinition is allowable, as Sheila Rauch Kennedy will aver.
Marriage is and has been subject to such constraints of differing hues as to make it practically impossible to settle on a universally applicable definition.
We have also seen that when placed in the bailiwick of legislators or clerics the institution of marriage becomes restrictive and the outcomes are not generally beneficial. That is why I am happy that the people are being asked to refine the constitutional definition and is why I would urge a less restrictive interpretation of the term.
In short: when legislators control the definition the results are generally negative, and the religious institutions have generally used it also in a proscriptive sense.
Redefinition of marriage in light of these abuses by legislator and cleric suddenly becomes a good thing and one that is best left in the hands of the people.
SSM Undermines Marriage.
This is a very fluffy and ill-defined claim. What does it mean in effect? Is my own marriage effected if SSM is approved? In what way? It has zero impact on my level of conjugal comfort if homosexuals are queueing up at the local registry office to get married – hell, except if I chose that day to renew my driving licence.
I've read the claim that the sanctity of marriage is undermined by SSM, but sanctity is hardly a concept to be applied to a status which is granted by the State when once some conditions are met – and arbitrary ones at that. Sanctity is a religious concept, and really can only be used in the context of the sacrament of Matrimony – something which the State has no role in. Indeed the situation exists where I could be in a marriage recognised by the State while the RCC deems it never to have happened as a result of annulment.
However, there is an interesting wrinkle in this:
The conventional wisdom is that introduction of SSM somehow damages the institution of marriage in general. Not according to studies:
The Hitch—A Commentary by William Eskridge, Jr. '78 | Yale Law SchoolHowever, there is no evidence that allowing same-sex couples to marry weakens the institution. If anything, the numbers indicate the opposite. A decade after Denmark, Norway and Sweden passed their respective partnership laws, heterosexual marriage rates had risen 10.7% in Denmark; 12.7% in Norway; and a whopping 28.8% in Sweden. In Denmark over the last few years, marriage rates are the highest they've been since the early 1970s. Divorce rates among heterosexual couples, on the other hand, have fallen. A decade after each country passed its partnership law, divorce rates had dropped 13.9% in Denmark; 6% in Norway; and 13.7% in Sweden. On average, divorce rates among heterosexuals remain lower now than in the years before same-sex partnerships were legalized.
Similar findings have been made in the US in those states which have SSM.
I'm not going to claim a causative link between the introduction of SSM and a strengthening of the more traditional form of marriage, but at the very least it is indicative that in places where it has been introduced it doesn't appear to have caused any problems in respect of heterosexual marriage.
Gays Already Have Access to Civil Partnerships.
OK. Words are important. The words “marriage” and “family” carry great weight with those involved as marital partners and with those (kids included) who are involved.
But the differences are significant in another sense. It is far easier for a couple in a civil partnership to dissolve it than it is for a couple who are married. On the face of it that may look like a benefit, but the significance is that there is an implication that the former is of sufficiently less value that it cane be undone more quickly.
There are a host of other issues relating to next-of-kin, insurance, inheritance etc which I can explore in more detail if needed, but the essential point is that while these are all amenable to resolution via legislation, a simple change of the status of same-sex partners would cover these rather than waiting for hard cases to occur and legislators being forced into on-going fire-fights.
This gets back to adoption. As things stand, adoption by a gay couple is vested in only one of the putative adoptees. With SSM in place, both potential adoptees would be assessed (as is the case with married couples at the moment). This is because in the event of the death of one, the other remains a parent. This is not the case at the moment for couples in a civil partnership. SSM would allow the adoption agencies to ensure that the continued suitability and continuity of the parental function remains even after a tragedy involving one partner. A child wouldn't have to suffer the loss of two parents instead of one. The child would have security.
SSM would actually protect the child in this event.
I urge a Yes vote on the day if this is an issue for you.
Finally, and in summary, I have really attempted only a very high level view in this post. Hence there are few links as yet. As gritty gets down to nitty in terms of detail I will be posting more, but at this stage of the debate I want to neither flood data into it nor be seen to seize the opportunity to attempt to completely direct the direction of the debate.
At the same time, in opening it I couldn't ignore some of the direct and some of the more nebulous claims being made by the “No” side. They may not chime directly with those of scolairebocht but I am happy to see what points are raised in his reply along with whether he chooses to address those I have made.