June 25, 2011

Atlas Revived

Hatched by Dafydd

Perversity's blowback as the savior of marriage

Now that New York State has approved same-sex marriage -- rather, now that the New York State legislature has done so, probably over the objections of a strong majority of its own citizen constituents -- we need a battleplan to hold the line against this becoming the norm.

Why? So what if the federal circus courts begin striking down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in this and that circuit, forcing states that oppose SSM nevertheless to have it de facto anyway. What's the big deal?

The "big deal" is that once same-sex marriage (SSM) has become nearly universal around the country, then we're going to see the same terrible effects on our society that we already see in Europe: diminished interest in marriage (it's no longer special), more domestic violence, even quicker divorces, a marked drop in the fertility rate, massive importation of fecund immigrants who have no loyalty whatsoever to the United States... and of course ever greater pressure to also allow polygamy and polyandry, group marriage, and so forth.

Pro-SSM people (like Patterico) are fond of making the argument that somebody else's SSM doesn't affect his own marriage; his marriage is still just as strong! Just as strong, perhaps; but not just as special as it used to be, not when any random association between two or more people of any gender can also be called a "marriage."

It's like counterfeiting money: If I print my own twenty-dollar bills, that doesn't physically change the real bills you have in your wallet at this moment; they don't magically change into newspaper, the ink doesn't turn a different color, Andy Jackson doesn't morph into George Soros. In that sense, my counterfeits don't directly affect your sawbucks... but my counterfeits indirectly devalue your real bills, creating uncertainty about which currency is real and which is fake, how much is out there, which is truly legal tender and which an ersatz copy that, if discovered, is worthless.

My counterfeit currency spreads fear, uncertainty, doubt. Private counterfeiting is as bad as rampant money-creation via the Federal Reserve; worse in the sense that at least the Fed must report on its activities from time to time.

By this analogy, traditional marriage is the currency backed by some form of specie, that which gives the institution of marriage itself the very cachet and social benefit that same-sex couples want to claim for their own. Contrariwise, any other form of union that is legally called marriage is the fiat or counterfeit currency; it piggy-backs on the real institution of marriage, hoping some of the moral, emotional, and sacred virtue rubs off.

Marriage is quite a special social institution; that's why it's the one to which we entrust child rearing. But to paraphrase Dash in the Incredibles, when everything is "special," then nothing is special.

So what to do, what to do? With the third largest state in the U.S. falling, I fear that train has left the station. Even if there is a later referendum in New York and the people reverse that decision, already hundreds of thousands of people across the nation will have flown to the Bug Apple and gotten legally married. And as we're finding out in California, you can't put the genie back in the bottle again, even if it was let out in despite of the voters.

You can't fight something with nothing; we need something positive to fight for, not just something negative to fight against; we can't allow ourselves to be put on the defensive by the Left and by libertarians who oppose legal marriage altogether. I believe there is only one answer: The Covenant marriage movement must become a popular front, just as the Tea Party movement already has.

Covenant marriage (CM) as a distinct legal institution arose comparatively recently, in response to the jump in the divorce rate in the 1980s. It differs significantly from normal legal marriage in ways that make it vastly more exclusive an institution:

  • In a CM, couples must first undergo pre-nuptial counseling before they can marry.
  • They agree to limit the grounds for divorce from the standard normal around the country -- if either party wants a divorce, that's grounds for divorce -- to a much narrower set of grounds, usually spousal or child abuse, felony conviction, or adultery. (If a state allows a CM couple to negotiate its own covenant, there can of course be more or fewer grounds for divorce.)
  • Any CM passed by citizen demand would, by its enabling legislation, be restricted to the traditional definition of marriage -- one man, one woman. Creating a new form of marriage to exclude non-traditional groups of people being married is the only reason that CM legislation is likely to be passed in most states.
  • CM is non-denominational and can be performed by civil authorities as well as religious; there's no religiosity requirement.

But how could CM become "the savior of marriage?" It's clear that the law cannot confer any greater legal status upon a couple married under CM than normal marriage confers upon the two, three, n-number of males and/or females who "marry" under that regime.

Yet that very point should make it harder for the courts to subvert CM: Same-sex couples (and later, groups of people larger than two) cannot argue that they're excluded from legal marriage, up to and including the name "marriage." They have the same legal rights and status, insofar as the secular law is concerned. Therefore, they have no legal ground to demand that Covenant marriage be forced to allow same-sex, polyamorous, group, incestuous, or under-aged marriages. The only difference between normal and Covenant marriage is that the latter has a number of restrictions not found in the former.

True, CM confers no more legal rights than normal marriage; but extra legal rights were never really the source of the specialness of marriage -- except perhaps the legal right for spouses not to testity against each other. (That last will certainly have to be revisioned when polyamorous marriages are allowed, unless we want entire Mafia families and street gangs to "marry" each other, so that nobody can squeal.)

No, the specialness of marriage has always flowed from its exclusivity and its permanence... which is why the Left has persistently attacked both those qualities by (a) twisting the definition of marriage towards making any association of any number of people a "marriage," and (b) making it easier and easier to walk away from a marriage upon the slightest pretext, provocation, or whim.

By restoring exclusivity and strengthening permanence, CM becomes the "real" marriage, and ordinary legal marriage just a trendy domestic partnership. And if that is how people begin to see it, we'll see more and more traditional couples getting married under Covenant, so they can demonstrate to the world their commitment to, and determination to work at, the union.

Ordinary legal marriage will persist, and will still confer the same legal status and rights; but it will probably fall into greater and greater disrepute among the majority: "Oh, you won't marry me with a Covenenant marriage? What, you want a back door out whenever you get bored with me? Drop dead, you creep!"

Women especially will have good reason to demand a CM or nothing: They know better than most men how vital is an intact family, with a male father and a female mother, when raising children.

A few caveats, none of which changes the basic equation:

  • It's very unlikely that Congress will pass a federal version of CM. Nor should it. We have an enviable system of federalism; let it work! Each state can decide what exact kind of Covenant marriage to allow, if any, in its enabling legislation.
  • Even if your state enacts a strong version of CM, it cannot make it illegal for one of the partners to move to another state, establish residency, and then get divorced under that state's no-fault divorce law that doesn't recognize the covenant. That's the price of liberty.
  • There will never come a time when normal marriage is abolished altogether; because if it did vanish from a state, then the Left could once again raise the spector of "unequal treatment." Specious though it is -- gays and straights alike are constrained in who they can marry; neither can marry a sibling, for example -- the judiciary has signalled that it is ready to cram SSM down our throats, and to hell with voters.

    But that's a feature, not a bug; when state citizens must actually make a choice which type of marriage to enter into, they necessarily will have to think longer and harder about it that with a normal legal marriage. (As of course we all should, and do, if we believe it to be a solemn vow.)

Just as tea parties have swept the nation in a "popular front" -- and I believe I was the first person to so desribe them, back in February, 2010 -- I see Covenant marriage doing the same (with a vast overlap, most likely). And that means those of us who support traditional marriage no longer need wage a defensive war, trying to protect every state, city, village, and farm from the contagion of the "love bug," the untenable and cockamamie meme that "love is all you need" for marriage.

That bit of wrongthinking leads directly to our present discontent, the conclusion that any two or more people who "love" each other should be allowed to marry... men, women, siblings, fathers with their daughters, forty year olds with fourteen year olds, one man with eight women.

Instead, we can revert to the traditional American strategy of opening our own offensive. Rather than try to defend the status quo ante, we fight to implement a new form of marriage that is more exclusive and more permanent, bucking the leftist trend towards inclusion and impermanence. We slap both kinds of marriage on the table, then let the people choose. I predict that after an astonishingly brief time, "normal" marriage, with its unspecial universality and unserious provisional nature, will sink into desuetude, the last step before moribundity.

Americans may be many things, but not generally a mob: When the Left forces mob-rule upon us -- or more accurately, when they gin-up mobs to force tyranny upon the rest of us, with themselves as smug, self-satisfied tyrants -- we the people have a glorious history of rising up against them. This is true whether it's the tyranny of socialism, the tyranny of "diversity," or the tyranny of perversity.

As SSM spreads and infects more and more states, CM will grow alongside and surpass it in every venue. Soon the Obamunists will be fighting the defensive war, clinging to their "inclusive" definition of marriage. We achieve victory within the culture, despite -- even because of -- the Left's victory in the courts and legislatures. As an institution that is far more societal than legal, a solid victory within the culture is of much greater moment and future value than merely winning legal and legislative battles on the ground.

As the pushback becomes a wave, then a tsunami, and more and more states enact some version of Covenant marriage, then we'll once again have an exclusive and durable form of union to offer in preference to the liberals' and leftists marriage-lite. I sense that people, most especially young adults, have grown tired of weak tea and tolerance of everything, including intolerance itself. They crave something permanent, solid, bigger than themselves.

Give us Americans the choice, and I believe we will once again lead the rest of the world out of its moral morass.

Cross-posted on Hot Air's rogues' gallery...

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 25, 2011, at the time of 10:16 PM


The following hissed in response by: Baggi


I like the way you think.

Unfortunately, this is too little, too late.

You may have noticed our recent economic decline. I do not find it to be a coincidence that our economic decline coincides with our nations moral decline. The left believes we can live in a litigious society, where those who do not behave must face the law, and therefore, people will behave.

This is the silliness that is the left. With moral decline comes the irresponsible individual. Eventually, society reaches a tipping point where there are too many people who are amoral and not enough people who are moral.

And society descends into chaos. There was a time when debt was so important, if you didn't pay it, you'd wind up in prison. Now people consider it a virtue if you're able to screw others (like evil bankers) out of the money you owe them.

It's time to start thinking on a larger scale, Dafydd.

What the hell do we all do when these United States cease to exist?

I think that's coming sooner, rather than later.

The above hissed in response by: Baggi [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 25, 2011 10:51 PM

The following hissed in response by: White Fang

This would certainly be wonderful, but I'm not so optimistic.

First of all, I don't understand what would stop the left from trying to horn in on covenant marriage. Isn't all of their rhetoric aimed at establishing "marriage equality" as opposed to tradition? Why wouldn't they argue that creating a new and more restrictive form of marriage which only applies to monogomous heterosexual couples is unequal and therefore unconstitutional? If we could even get it passed, wouldn't it just be another barrier; something else for them to redefine or somehow infiltrate?

For that matter, I fear that this country is trending further and further away from the traditional conception of marriage (and for that matter, ethical monotheism). There are already many self righteous proponents of "marriage equality" as opposed to the "h8" we are accused of promoting. Recognizing and championing the value of the nuclear family is already associated with racism and the old fashioned, closed minded bad guys of the civil rights movement. Religion (not exactly the same thing, of course) is more frequently thought of as antiquated, stupid and oppressive. Do you honestly not see more and more younger people jumping on that bandwagon? Can we get covenant marriage passed in that environment? Can we sustain it?

I'm very eager to hear your thoughts; I hope you can convince me to be more optimistic. A popular front of ethical monotheism/broad Judeo-Christian values is exactly what this country needs, if we could only get one.

The above hissed in response by: White Fang [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 26, 2011 1:39 AM

The following hissed in response by: Stephen Macklin

I think the courts discarding the DOMA is inevitable. What I'm looking forward to is the first lawsuit against a church for refusing to marry a gay couple. Then we will see how far the left is willing to go in trashing the First Amendment.

The above hissed in response by: Stephen Macklin [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 26, 2011 5:26 AM

The following hissed in response by: DKDwyer

Error discovered during fact checking:*
In The Incredibles it wasn't Dash but Syndrome (the bad guy) who said, "Oh, I'm real. Real enough to defeat you! And I did it without your precious gifts, your oh-so-special powers. I'll give them heroics. I'll give them the most spectacular heroics the world has ever seen! And when I'm old and I've had my fun, I'll sell my inventions so that *everyone* can have powers. *Everyone* can be super! And when everyone's super...[chuckles evilly]- no one will be." Which last bit is what you're paraphrasing.

*Maybe I can get a job as a fact checker for Obama's speechwriters, they seem to need one desperately. ;)

The above hissed in response by: DKDwyer [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 26, 2011 7:46 AM

The following hissed in response by: Sachi


I think Dafydd is referring to the conversation between Dash and his mother, Helen.

Helen: Dash, this is the third time this year you've been sent to the office. We need to find a better outlet. A more constructive outlet.

Dash: [slyly] Maybe I could, if you'd let me go out for sports.

Helen: Honey, you know why we can't do that.

Dash: But I promise I'll slow up! I'll only be the best by a tiny bit!

Helen: Dashell Robert Parr, you are an incredibly competitive boy. And a bit of a showoff. The last thing you need is temptations.

Dash: You always say, "Do your best," but you don't really mean it. Why can't I do the best that I can do?

Helen: Right now, honey, the world just wants us to fit in, and to fit in, we just gotta be like everybody else.

Dash: Dad always said our powers were nothing to be ashamed of. Our powers made us special.

Helen: Everyone's special, Dash.

Dash: [sullenly] Which is another way of saying no one is.

The above hissed in response by: Sachi [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 26, 2011 4:02 PM

The following hissed in response by: Mr. Michael

I'm a bigger fan of getting the Gov't out of marriage altogether... 'Holy Matrimony' should be Holy, and the State should have no say in that arena. But I'm intrigued by your idea of Covenant Marriage.

One thing I would like you to address would be existing marriages. Could they be grandfathered in, or would you require a new ceremony and/or contract to qualify?

The above hissed in response by: Mr. Michael [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 26, 2011 11:57 PM

The following hissed in response by: DCM

The real issue with gay marriages is the economic issues which almost no one talks about. With gay marriage, all of the former "partners" will become "spouses" and entitled to their former "partners" health insurance and survivors' pension rights. This will result in hundreds of billions of dollars in newly created liabilities, particularly to the numerous federal, state and local governments which have ridiculously medical coverage and pensions payments.

The above hissed in response by: DCM [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 27, 2011 7:26 AM

The following hissed in response by: BigLeeH


I don't have time for my usual novella-length comment so I will try to limit myself to brief quibblets which I will post from time to time as they occur to me. I'll start with a few as a down payment:

Quibblet: I am not yet ready to yield the unmodified word "marriage" to the opposition. I admit that their sappers have undermined the wall and it has been breached but it is not yet overrun. The damage done by the New York legislature is currently limited to the legal and economic realms. As long as same-sex "marriage" and gay "marriage" remain generally understood as synonyms for "civil unions" or "domestic partnerships" (albeit with new legal cachet) then the important part of marriage -- its cultural and societal understanding -- remains viable.

Quibblet: Your counterfeit money analogy is flawed. A counterfeiter wants to be the only one in the business. He has a vested interest in preserving the value of money. Those seeking same sex "marriages" have very little interest in the institution as traditionally understood -- it wasn't made for them. They will cheerfully throw out the baby with the bubble-bathwater as long as they get the foam.

Quibblet: "Marriage is quite a special social institution; that's why it's the one to which we entrust child rearing." Marriage is a framework that society has built around the reproductive potential of heterosexual couples. It provides incentives and assistance for creating stable environments in which children can be raised. Your statement is like saying "Banks are such secure institutions that people keep their money in them."

Quibblet: If the common cultural sense of the word marriage becomes lost, and we need to find a modifier to fish it out of the morass, I am not sure that "Covenant" is the best choice. Personally, I respond well to it but I worry that it has too many religious connotations and that the term "Covenant Marriage" would be easy to dismiss as a creation of the evangelical fringes. Something like "Generative Marriage" might work better.

The above hissed in response by: BigLeeH [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 27, 2011 12:34 PM

The following hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh


It's time to start thinking on a larger scale, Dafydd.

What the hell do we all do when these United States cease to exist?

I think that's coming sooner, rather than later.

I'm a natural optimist, and generally my optimism is proven correct.

White Fang:

First of all, I don't understand what would stop the left from trying to horn in on covenant marriage. Isn't all of their rhetoric aimed at establishing "marriage equality" as opposed to tradition? Why wouldn't they argue that creating a new and more restrictive form of marriage which only applies to monogomous heterosexual couples is unequal and therefore unconstitutional?

There would be no legal rights in CM that would not also be present in normal marriage. The two differences are:

  • CM has some limitations not found in normal marriage, such as a restriction on grounds for divorce and the requirement of counseling before marrying.
  • CM will imply to third parties a deeper marital commitment than normal marriage and will likely seem more subjectively worthwhile, both to those within and outside the marriage -- just as getting married in a religious ceremony does, vice a civil ceremony, to most Americans.

But the legal argument that gays are being discriminated against because they're not allowed to have fewer marital rights is a hundred times more absurd than any argument the Left has successfully made to date.

And as far as subjective feelings and cachet, I don't believe those have ever been defined as "rights." It would be like arguing that you have the constitutional right to drive an impressive car, even if you can't afford it.

Mr. Michael:

One thing I would like you to address would be existing marriages. Could they be grandfathered in, or would you require a new ceremony and/or contract to qualify?

The latter, of course: The spice agreed to a very different contract than CM; you can't just add clauses willy-nilly to a legal contract without getting both parties' agreement to modify it.


The above hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 28, 2011 11:45 AM

The following hissed in response by: Karl

I've mentioned the notion of Covenant Marriage in discussions elsewhere. Unfortunately, I'm not sure they would save marriage.

I heard in passing, and haven't taken the time to verify, that one of the reasons why same-sex marriage was instituted in California by judicial fiat (leading to Prop 8) was that same-sex couples already had most of the rights and privileges of marriage thanks to domestic partnerships, and so therefore why not go the rest of the way and grant them the whole package?

This same reasoning could then be applied to Covenant Marriages.

One of the virtues I see with the institution of the civil marriage is that it has been an acceptable compromise for most of the religions in this country, and indeed, in Western Europe. A civil marriage might not be as good as a Catholic / Jewish / Episcopal / Baptist / Mormon wedding, but it was "close enough". People who were married in a civil ceremony were not "living in sin" and were not to be regarded as such by any given church. Once marriage is redefined to include same-sex couples, I have a feeling churches will withdraw their collective consent to the institution, and there will be two types of marriage -- legal and religious. The legal marriage will be less "special" than a religious marriage. It will be a benefits sharing arrangement only, or something entered into by people who can't find a church willing to marry them.
And indeed, churches will probably not recognize each other's marriages. Some churches will have fairly lax standards, others will be more stringent. Will we see a hierarchy of different marriages, some seen as more "valid" than others? Perhaps. Certainly, among the stricter religions, each church will see its marriage as being the "truest" marriage, with others allowed as acceptable substitutes. And the free-wheeling churches that will marry anybody to anybody else will be seen as no better than the (fake) civil marriages.

Maybe a society with marriage balkanized in this fashion would make a good backdrop for a science fiction story...

The above hissed in response by: Karl [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 1, 2011 12:11 PM

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