Holding My Nose

Ever since the idea of the Marriage Amendment was broached, I’ve been deeply, intensely ambivalent about it.

On the one hand, I’m a libertarian-conservative.  Indeed, I’m a libertarian-conservative before I’m a Republican.  I think government should get out of the way of peoples’ rights.

And that means gay peoples’ rights, too.  One of the fundamental tenets of all conservatism, especially libertarian conservatism, is that we are all equal before the law. Or at least we should be.

But I’ve found many of the arguments against the Marriage Amendment to be intensely disohonest.

“If you don’t support gay marriage, you are a bigot”: Nope.  Not only do I support equal rights for gays, but I guarantee you I’ve put more on the line against genuine hatred of gays than you have, pretty much whoever you are.  (No, I’m not going into details).  Anyone using this ‘argument” – it’s not an argument, it’s just browbeating – needs to shut up, go down to the courthouse, and officially renounce their right to vote; they don’t deserve it.

“It’s about rights”!:  If only it were.

I support – and have always supported – civil unions, because they equalize gay couples’ civil rights. But when you suggest civil unions – which are (or can and should be made to be) exactly the same in terms of tax, probate and other legal rights as marriage – as a compromise, the fangs come out.  “It’s a second-class institution!”, they say – which completely upends the “it’s about rights” argument.  It’s not about rights, it’s about a status.

“It’s about love!”:  Now we’re getting somewhere, sort of.

Marriage is not about “love”.  Love is a vital part of a marriage, of course.  But saying marriage is “about two people loving each other” trivializes marriage.

Of course, the institution has become more and more trivialized over the past fifty years or so.  The cultural left has tried to give marriage, the institution, the death of a thousand cultural cuts over the past generation or two.  No-fault divorce has, over time, led to such a debasement of the institution that the term “starter marriage” is tossed about with a chuckle and a wink in polite society.  “But what about all the people who used to stay in miserable marriages for fifty years?”, the well-meaning cultural lefties respond.  No argument here – a miserable marriage is a terrible thing…

…for everyone but one participant.  The children.  One of the cultural left’s most self-indulgent conceits is that children are happier with divorced, “happy” parents than married miserable ones.  It is simply not true.  The children are happier if their miserable parents put on a happy face and sack up and focus on raising them rather than indulging their own happiness (barring real, serious abuse – which, Lifetime movies notwithstanding, is a minority).  It is a fact, and it is immutable, and ignoring it destroys children and turns them into miserable dysfunctional adults.  And about half of parents today aren’t up to the job.

While cultural critics of traditional marriage point out that marriage has taken many forms in many societies, and even evolved considerably in our own society, when you strip away all the variants, it always boils down to A Guy and A Gal getting together to try to have and raise children.  Sometimes more than one guy, more often more than one gal, but usually one of each, and with a gender-count invariably stuck at two.

And the fact that society sees marriage as something other than “the best place to raise children” that is perhaps the greatest symptom of the trivialization of the institution.  When gay marriage advocates say “you don’t need to have kids to be married” – they have a point.  The Catholic Church until recently wouldn’t marry people that didn’t procreate; in some protestant parts of Western Europe until fairly recently, an engaged couple wouldn’t marry until they were expecting.

The institution has become so trivialized that in many parts of the country, it’s becoming a formality for a minority; in some major Blue-state cities, most co-habiting couples are not married.  In some parts of the country – by no means all inner cities – most babies are born out of wedlock.

And all of us – cultural conservatives and liberal alike – have allowed it to happen.

“Why shouldn’t all these wondeful, loving gay families have the same status as conventional families?”:  This one’s a little better.  Given the epidemic of single-parent homes in this country, and the social pathologies it’s producing, I’ll say this; if a child has a choice between being adopted by a single parent or a gay couple, I’d say go with the couple; if nothing else, it’s a lot easier to raise kids when you can do one-on-one or double-team defense than if you have to play zone.

And somewhere in that statement is a backhanded reason I’d almost support gay marriage in and of itself; the way the argument’s been presented so far, every gay couple is a perfect, loving pair of superparents, as opposed to us nasty, dysfunctional, human breeders.  If you were to legalize gay marriage, at least gay couples would be liberated from their image as perfect superhumans; the TV show Cops would no doubt soon feature police responding to an impeccable Warehouse District loft to drag a drunk (and impeccably-coiffed) guy in a husband-beater T-shirt and boxers down to jail after a domestic disturbance, as the bloody-nosed partner yells “I love you, Derek!  I’ll be here when you get back” through his tears.

I’ll return from facetious-land now.

But here’s one big gnarly fact of human emotional development that the left – not just the gay marriage movement, but the entire cultural left (many of whom are as homophobic as the most caricatured southern baptist) – want to kill and bury; Gender matters.  There’s a reason that the social institution we call “marriage”, throughout human society, is always a mixed-doubles sport; because whatever you believe created humanity in all of our complexity – God, biochemistry, L. Ron Hubbard or remorseless fate – created us so that as the human mind develops emotionally, all other things equal, it is best served by having a male and a female parent.   There are vast swathes of studies showing that, all other things being equal, kids develop best emotionally with two parents, one of each gender.  Female parents – mothers – provide empathy and nurturing and show boys what women are supposed to be like; Fathers teach risk-tolerance and socialized aggressiveness and show their daughters what a guy is supposed to be, ideally (and yes, that’s in functional families, and yes, any individusal person and couple may be different).  Single-parent households produce children who lack one of those sets of traits in their upbringing.

Which isn’t to say that gay parents can’t do a good job; they just bring a double-helping of one set of tools to the table.

But that’s OK – it’s a non-issue; I support gay adoption, because it’s better than many of the alternatives.

That is why the left’s argument that a vote against gay marriage is like a vote for Jim Crow, for “Separate but Equal”, for slavery, is so very wrong.  Black and white men are biologically the same species; so are black and white women.  But men and women are, in fact, very very different – and they’ve very different for a reason.

Men and women, black and white, should all have equal rights under the law.  Even if their affectional orientation is toward the same sex.


 So How About That Marriage Amendment?

Dennis Prager had an excellent article in the National Review last week:

Proponents of same-sex marriage ask: Is keeping the definition of marriage as man-woman fair to gays? Opponents of same-sex marriage ask: Is same-sex marriage good for society?

Few on either side honestly address the question of the other side. Opponents of same-sex marriage rarely acknowledge how unfair the age-old man-woman definition is to gay couples. And proponents rarely, if ever, acknowledge that this unprecedented redefinition of marriage may not be good for society.

Prager cuts to the crux of the issue; it’s really two issues:

  • Should gay couples have the same rights as straight ones?:  There’s no real moral case they shouldn’t have the same legal rights.  And in fact every single one of the rights that a couple can get by getting married – the ones that aren’t available one way or another right now – can be legislatied without needing to redefine marriage.  Every last one of them.
  • Is it in society’s best interest allow marriage to be further re-defined?”: The dilution of what marriage is supposed to be – a vehicle not for “Love” or even “Happiness”, but for raising children as functionally and effectively and with as much emotional health as possible – is behind many of this society’s current ills.  Crime, addiction, the disintegration of the school system – all of them trace, more or less directly, to the disintegration of the Western idea of family.

And answering both of those questions honestly – if you take either of them seriously, and many of the partisans on both sides of the debate do not – is difficult.

If you accept that Marriage is supposed to be about creating and raising children, that gay couples deserve equality as citizens before the law, and that thousands of years of human development, and reams of studies, are correct in showing that children develop best – all other things being equal – by being raised by mixed-gender couples (while legally allowing that gay adoption is preferable to single-parenthood), then the conclusion is…:

  • We need to socially de-trivialize marriage:  and I mean this in a radical way.  This means not only eliminating no-fault divorce, but also getting churches and secular authorities that perform weddings to more-aggressively dissuade couples from marrying when they shouldn’t, and yes, to maybe even quit marrying couples who have no intention of having kids, too.  In for a penny, in for a buck.
  • We need to recognize that “marriage” – in the “institution in which children are raised” sense of the term – is no more a “right” than childbirth.  Men and women want to have kids, but biologically, only women can (but not without a starter).   Ditto with marriage as an institution intended for raising children.  It’s something anyone can want – but for the children, in most cases, all other things being equal, it should be a man and a woman.
  • It’s time to enact civil unions, because not all couples will be mixed-gender, and they do raise kids, and absent the biological and emotional advantages of mixed-gender couples, many of them do a perfectly fine job of it.
That, or eliminate the secular idea of marriage altogether and privatize the whole thing.


One thing that is not difficult, in our litigious society, foreseeing what’ll happen if gay marriage is legalized; any refusal to recognize it will be stomped flat in court.  Because Marriage is not the only institution that’s been trivialized; so has the right to free association.

Are you a baker that doesn’t want to bake a cake for a gay wedding?  A photographer that won’t photograph ’em?   And eventually and inevitably,, a church that refuses to perform ’em?  Bend over and grab your legal ankles; the ACLU and, likely as not, city/county/state “Human Rights” bureaucracy will no doubt come calling.

“But the First Amendment won’t allow that!” is a cop-out, not an answer.  The First Amendment will prevent these absues exactly as the Second Amendment protected the gun owners of New Orleans from gun confiscation, or the First Amendment protected Eugene Debs’ freedom of speech, or the Fourth Amendment prevents property forfeiture on accusation of a drug crime, or the Tenth prevents abuses of the Commerce Clause; only with hard work and costly legal action.

Let’s be honest; the Constitution only protects those that make it protect them, and have or create the power to make it protect them.


So I’m probably going to vote for the Marriage Amendment.  Not because I don’t support equal rights for gays – Civil Unions do, in fact, confer equal rights, and I support them.  And not because I don’t think same-sex couples can’t raise kids – they can, although not as well as a mixed-gender couple, all other things being equal.

No, I’m going to vote for the Amendment because it’s one of many things our society needs to do to de-trivialize the notion of what marriage and family really are.  I believe society needs to get serious about the idea of what family is, and should be – and at the same timegive gay couples the rights they need to function in raising their own families (however they get them), and while protecting the First Amendment rights of free association of those who disagree with the idea of gay marriage from the inevitable depredations of the grievance industry.

So to some extent I’m going to hold my nose when I do it – but I’m voting for the Marriage Amendment.

Feel like discussing it?  Go for it.

Feel like calling me a bigot?  Do it to my face, or shut up;  I flushed something more important than your cowardly opinion this morning.

24 thoughts on “Holding My Nose

  1. Actually, that’s much my position, too.

    Marriage has been trivialized and distorted to the extent that I wouldn’t recommend it to my son, although I would to my daughter. Family law discriminates heavily against men now with “no-fault” divorce. The whole legal system of marriage was trivialized and distorted by drive-by marriage and divorce. There needs to be serious consequences for leaving to encourage folks to work things out and we don’t have those now. Yes, you need to be able to leave, but absent an absolutely compelling reason you need to have serious penalties if there are children involved simply because we know all too well the consequences of divorce on children. Divorce is more damaging to children than the death of one of their parents.

    Civil unions would be nice to recognize gay unions. As I’ve pointed out previously, there’s virtually nothing other than federal tax treatments that you can’t get with various legal documents but there’s no rush by gays to get those protections. That alone tells you that the fight is more about social status than practical considerations.

    But I’m over the river now and not voting on this. On the other hand my vote (already cast) for President actually counts this election cycle. Go me!

  2. This is why I read Shot in the Dark. Puts the Star Tribune editorial-opinion pages to shame. Thanks, Mitt.

  3. Mitch:

    Thank you for allowing it to be expressed. You didn’t like President Obama decide to vote “present” One thing about your Cops comment Mitch years ago the television series Quantum Leap did an interesting episode. After you get around the concept that the main character leaps into a person’s identity to right something that went wrong this episode had the twist he might have been late. He had leaped into a cornor who was suppose to be burring a dead young woman who was poor and likely to be forgotten. The hero noticed that the woman had a mysterious head wound that made him think she was murdered. After seriously checking out the son of the town’s richest person who turned out to have been madly in love with her and the man’s father who didn’t like the woman he finally figured out not only who the murderer was, but what was the weapon. The murderer was a woman who was in love with woman and that was mad that the woman had chose the rich son to want to marry and live with.

    Needless to say the Gay community went bonkers! They threatened boycotts (and this was several years before chickfillet took place). They talked the producers of Quantum Leap to do an episode to show that being gay was good (and as a fan of the series that had about 100 episodes it would be in the upper 25 of their episode history in terms of a quality story). But the point is that since this particular plot line (a gay killing a gay because of jilted love) to the best of my knowledge hadn’t been done the pressure had it’s affect. Have you seen that used in a plotline for a movie or television show? Did you see companies bend over backwards to show they were against the amendment (especially after what started happening to people and businesses that helped Prop 8 get passed). The episode generated so much anger for Quantum Leap from gays that years before comicbooks were pressured to show one comicbook writer talked the company that did the Quantum Leap comic when it had one to do a guest appearance. He wrote a one page comment that this was to right what went wrong and then did a story where he used the woman who the hero figured out was the murderer getting out of jail to be in the right place at a horrible time for gays (some incident where the police beat up a lot of gays) to help document it (the woman had been a photographer and a film she shot of her victim was what helped make the hero make the connection).

    If Gays truly want equality then they have to drop their pretense of trying to show what somebody will say is a bad comment that they want to be supperior then straight people. After all as the episdoe of Quantum Leap shows they don’t want to admit that a gay will murder another gay over love. They have gay pride parades. They demanded California use precious school time and resources to teach about great gays.

    Maybe first before they ask for the right to marry with popular support they clean up this act of saying they are supperior.

    Walter Hanson
    Minneapolis, MN

  4. Mitch, did you catch the marriage amendment debate on MPR a few days ago? I found it fascinating to listen to a bunch of generally left leaning folks splinter over gay marriage. Gene Robinson (lefty openly gay Episcopal bishop) was eviscerated on biblical principals of marriage by a black civil rights activist minister Jerry McAfee (to say that Jerry has a chip on his shoulder against whites and their treatment of blacks is an understatement).

    And to hear black leftist Sarah Walker whine to Jerry about his lack of support on gay marriage and absolutely fail to make any argument in favor of gay marriage was laughable. Brian Brown was there and did a creditable job, but honestly I thought Jerry McAfee dominated the debate in a thoughtful, understated way. While I disagree with Jerry on many things, I respect his ability to argue respectfully, logically and I wouldn’t want to be on the other side arguing against him.

  5. I have decided to vote for the amendment, because I think the issue is something that needs to be decided by either the legislative or democratic process, not by the judicial process. Sometimes we as a society have to wrestle things out. And while the process can be messy, the outcome is generally better than when it is imposed by one side or the other, without the process.

  6. Mitch, excellent article. I could not agree more. And I believe it was also Dennis Prager who posited ( I am paraphrasing) that to assume we should allow love to define to whom one can marry, then there is no valid argument against allowing marrige for polygamists or those in incestuous relationships.

    I have used the same pretense for people who have scoffed and replied that that is the extreme. Perhaps, but it none the less negates the argument against allowing marriage for those two groups.

    Then again, as you pointed out, I have also maintained that defining marriage as a right afforded to all regardless of affectional orientation opens the door to litigation against those that may choose not to perform a service for this protected class.

    We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone…ha!! I’ll keep that one in mind and a lawyer on call next time I’m three sheets to the wind and the bartender has the gall to cut me off.

  7. One of my first votes was in 1994 during the GOP primary for Arne Carlson over Alan Quist. The deciding factor was an advertisement I heard on AM1500 (back when it was THE conservative talk radio station) warning that gay marriage was illegal in the State of Minnesota and if Carlson was reelected governor, it would be become the law of the land.

    Being someone who always identified myself as a small l libertarian and votes 90 percent on fiscal issues and saw things through a liberty prism, I reluctantly voted for Carlson in the primary because I didnt like the tone of the ad and was worried that it would drag the rest of the ticket (particularly Rod Grams) down.

    Eighteen year later Im voting for the Marriage Amendment.

    Whats changed is my realization about a few things:

    1) This was never a liberty issue. Despite attempts to frame this as making gay marriage illegal there is NOTHING in this amendment that would make anything illegal. Making something illegal means that if you do it or attempt to do it, you will be punished by being sent to jail or fined. If the amendment wants to and youre so inclined, you can call anything you want as a marriage and no one will show up at your door and cart you away. What you wont receive are the benefits which we as a society grant to people who get married.

    2) The benefits are mostly conveniences like being able to file a joint tax return, having a default person to leave your property to if you die without a will or make medical decisions for you if you become incapacitated and dont have an advanced directive (e.g. living will). You can pretty much do all of those things (except for a joint tax return) without getting married. There are survivor benefits for certain government programs that go to spouses (programs which I generally think should be scaled back rather than expanded) and certain employment benefits for spouses like health insurance (which I generally favor getting the government out of as much as possible). Bottom line: at the end of the day, changing the definition of marriage is more about getting goodies from the government and NOT about protecting individual rights.

    3) Just as with abortion, there are no clear-cut sides that someone who votes on liberty should take with this. Its a public policy decision that focuses on benefits of which the granting or not has ZERO liberty implications (which is probably why you see so many people who favor doing away with them altogether arguing that they should be expanded). If you could (as I agree you COULD but not that you SHOULD) decide tomorrow not to grant any special benefits to married people and treat them the same under the law as two single adults without infringing on any individual rights, then there is certainly no infringement on not granting these benefits only to people who do not meet the definition of being married as defined under statute.

    4) Ive long realized that identity politics are toxic to our society but identity politics around sexual orientation has been positively totalitarian in its practice. I tend to favor keeping some of the benefits for married people because I believe that there is a positive externality to strong, stable marriages between a man and a woman in that it generally creates the most optimal means of raising children (yes there are exceptions no one disputes that). Ive seen zero evidence that the same is true for two men or two women getting married which is why the proponents of SSM have tried to make this about love and hate. As Ive gotten older, Ive realized how much I prefer a higher level of political discourse in my country and pandering to this sort of juvenile tactics is not going to help bring this about.

    5) Ben Franklin famously said a republic if you can keep in response to an inquiry about the type of government our Founders were forming. Our Constitution guarantees that every state will have a republican form of government. What weve seen happen in other States is that this public policy issue (much like abortion) has been high-jacked by the courts rather than the legislature who I believe (as imperfect as they are) are better equipped to handle this crafting and balancing of benefits and competing interest than the courts which are a rather blunt instrument when it comes to public policy. Eighteen years ago, it never would have occurred to me that State courts would be imposing this on people who did not vote for it and that they would suddenly discover that constitutions adopted hundreds of years ago suddenly demand the redefinition of an institution that has been around for thousands of years ago. Thats not a republican form of government and its not compatible with any notion of self-government.

    Im voting yes on the Marriage Amendment and I encourage anyone else who values self-government, a higher level of political discourse, and individual liberty to do the same.

  8. The timing of my reading of this article, is almost scary!

    I just got off of the phone from a cell phone registered in Texas, asking me to vote no on this amendment. After I told her that I would be voting yes, she paused and then asked why? After I made my first statement that almost everything that they were arguing could be handled without changing the constitution, she started to get belligerent. Then I interrupted her to ask her why she was sticking her nose into a MN election issue when she’s from TX. She called me a nasty name, then hung up. So much for respectful dialog. I called her right back and stated, that’s another reason that I’m voting yes-the hypocrisy of your side!

    On another note, although for the most part, I respect John Kriesel and definitely appreciate his service to and sacrifice for our country, I lost some respect for him for allowing the Vote No side to politicize the death of a comrade. This was beyond reprehensible in my book, because he doesn’t know how Cpl. Wilfahrt would have viewed this. He may very well have had the view that many members of the GLBT community that are ticked off at the radical contingent for making this an issue.

  9. It is possible to believe in marriage as being between on man and one woman without engaging in discrimination…and hopefully without being labeled as a bigot.

  10. Adrain raises an interesting perspective. Are there any arguements in defense of homosexual marriage that would not apply to a marriage involving more than two persons? If opposite-gender marriage is just a social construct, isn’t limiting marriage by number just as arbitrary? While I don’t foresee a great rush by large groups of people to test the theory, it will be interesting (and amusing) to see what happens along these lines if homosexual marriage is made legal.

  11. I’m voting yes, though the decision wasn’t automatic. What crystallized it for me was the other day someone wrote “I’m a Christian and I’m voting ‘no’.” I wanted to ask what reasoning – biblically, not culturally – the person used to reach that decision. For me, God isn’t a quaint and archaic notion; my experience more and more shows that God is real and the complex problems of today are mainly the result of getting away from biblical principles (and the departure is mainly the result of “religion” more than the culture, but that is several more essays).

    Still, the libertarian “get government out of everything you can” sense had me leaning toward a “no” vote. Of course, looking at it properly you see that voting yes is really the only way to get government out of the equation; you remove it from legislative whims (but not necessarily from judicial). Ultimately for me, though, my faith is more important than my politics. The “Christian” thing to do is to vote yes. Now, those who want to say that that isn’t a very “Christian” attitude are welcome to do so, as long as they’re willing to bring their own Christian behavior and consistency into the discussion.

  12. I noticed that the Vote No side has printed some signs that I have seen around Bloomington, primarily on the DemocRAT leaning east side, stating Another Catholic Voting No, right alongside about seven signs for Ann Lenczewski. I continue to contend that real Catholics that actually practice their faith, are hypocrites if they are Dems or supporting the Vote No side.

    I can’t help noticing how much money the Dems have spent on mailings and signs! I have seen yards with multiple small signs that state “Ann” (Lenczewski) and “I’m voting for Melissa” (Halvorson-Wiklund). Further, I get at least five mailings from the left wing every day, in addition to the crap I find in my door. What a waste of money!

  13. Bosshoss, i saw one of those in Saint Paul yesterday and thought that after Catholic, it should have INO. And I am not even Catholic.

  14. “The deceit, the lie of the devil consists of this, that he wishes to make man believe that he can live without God’s Word. Thus he dangles before man’s fantasy a kingdom of faith, of power, and of peace, into which only he can enter who consents to the temptations; and he conceals from men that he, as the devil, is the most unfortunate and unhappy of beings, since he is finally and eternally rejected by God.” — Dietrich Bonhoeffer

  15. Prager’s piece was excellent. So is Mr. Berg’s. Actual votes will be even but non-votes will defeat this amendment.

  16. Along the lines of Loren, I’m voting yes. Gay marriage isn’t THAT big of a deal to me (I think gay marriage is miniscule in importance compared to voter photo ID). However, I do not want what happened in California with Prop 8 to happen here. The state of CA by a fairly indisputable margin, voted to make marriage between one man and one woman, and ONE activist judge negated the wishes of a clear majority of the state.

    THAT’S my reasoning, and if you stop to think about it, the liberty argument applies as well. Are we really going to have a single judge deciding our laws for us? I would rather the population at large decide to favor something I am against than a single judge enforce something I support.

  17. You put way too much thought into this. The whole notion of “gay marriage” is ridiculous on it’s face; but don’t take my well reasoned word for it, just listen to the mindless dreck that the sand-is-food crew has been forced to dish up in place of logic.

    “Not nice”

    Neither is prison, but some people earn it.

    “Not fair”

    Life isn’t fair.

    “They’re just like you and me”

    Oh, there goes that vein on the side of my head.

    “Gays have been around forever”

    So has the flu, but we’re not considering changing the definition of healthy to accomodate illness.

    “Even animals do it”

    Yeah, animals also eat shit…anything else you’d like to join them in?

    “You’re a homophobe”


    Just use your head, you don’t have to explain simple common sense to dim wits and you can’t to nut cases that confuse the digestive tract for a sexual organ.

  18. While I still have a little less than 24hrs to decide, I’ve been steadily moving towards a “Yes” vote. My only problem is that I think my motivations are being driven out of spite. I’m sick and tired of being called a bigot for considering voting yes, and it’s very tempting to do it simply as a middle finger to the uncivil vote no crowd.
    I’ve spent the last several months feeling that neither side is properly articulating the arguments for their position, while the ambivalent middle like Mitch are doing a better job making the case. Thanks for the post Mitch.

  19. Pingback: This Guy Would Have Made A Good Saint Paul Republican | Shot in the Dark

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