Dana Rudolph

A Supremely Ridiculous Argument

Filed By Dana Rudolph | August 04, 2009 9:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, The Movement
Tags: loving v. virginia, marriage, robert p. george, roe v. wade, Wall Street Journal

Sometimes I read something that is just so mind-blowingly irrational I don't know where to begin.

Robert P. George, in a Wall Street Journal opinion piece titled, "Gay Marriage, Democracy, and the Courts," begins by stating that it would be "disastrous" for the U.S. Supreme Court justices to rule on a federal lawsuit that "has been filed to invalidate traditional marriage laws." He continues, "They would repeat the error in Roe v. Wade: namely, trying to remove a morally charged policy issue from the forums of democratic deliberation and resolve it according to their personal lights."

Those of us who believe Roe v. Wade was a valid ruling made on the basis of sound legal reasoning will see the obvious error of the second statement. Let's also be clear that any federal lawsuit to invalidate the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) will not in any way, shape, or form "invalidate" traditional marriages. They will remain as legitimate and traditional as ever.

George then goes on to try and refute those who say the fight to legalize marriage for same-sex couples is similar to the fight to legalize interracial marriage. He says the two situations are not the same, however, because those who sought to permit interracial marriages did not question the concept of marriage "as a union that takes its distinctive character from being founded, unlike other friendships, on bodily unity of the kind that sometimes generates new life." He continues:

This unity is why marriage, in our legal tradition, is consummated only by acts that are generative in kind. Such acts unite husband and wife at the most fundamental level and thus legally consummate marriage whether or not they are generative in effect, and even when conception is not sought. . . . But as a comprehensive sharing of life--an emotional and biological union--marriage has value in itself and not merely as a means to procreation. This explains why our law has historically permitted annulment of marriage for non-consummation, but not for infertility; and why acts of sodomy, even between legally wed spouses, have never been recognized as consummating marriages.

He seems to be targeting those who have sarcastically suggested that if marriage and procreation are linked as a reason to ban marriage of same-sex couples, then couples who are childless after a certain number of years should be forced to divorce. He ends up trying to have his cake and eat it, too, though: claiming that a sex act with the potential for reproduction is what defines marriage, but that it still does even if conception does not occur or is not the end goal. That makes no logical sense.

He goes on:

Of course, marital intercourse often does produce babies, and marriage is the form of relationship that is uniquely apt for childrearing. . . . And only this view can explain why the state should regulate marriage (as opposed to ordinary friendships) at all--to make it more likely that, wherever possible, children are reared in the context of the bond between the parents whose sexual union gave them life.

If marriage is redefined, its connection to organic bodily union--and thus to procreation--will be undermined. It will increasingly be understood as an emotional union for the sake of adult satisfaction that is served by mutually agreeable sexual play.

Let's see. If children should be raised "in the context of the bond between the parents whose sexual union gave them life," then George must not be supportive of fostering and adoption, nor of infertile opposite-sex couples who used IVF or surrogacy to conceive. If "organic bodily union" is the determining factor for a legitimate marriage, does the fact that I donated an egg that was implanted into my partner's uterus count? That seems as organic a union as a man implanting his sperm into a woman's uterus. And what if a lesbian impregnates her partner using a turkey baster (read: medical syringe) while they're having sex? There is some evidence that the contractions of the cervix and uterus during orgasm have a salutary effect on causing sperm to reach their goal. Does that mean the women's sexual union gave their children life and their marriage should be permitted?

And can I have "organic bodily union" with that pint of Stonyfield yogurt I just bought? If so, can I marry it?

Not only that, but what on earth does the sexual union of the parents have to do with how good a "context" they provide for childrearing? I have railed before against the media focus on how lesbian parents create our families, because really, the method of their creation is much less important than the loving, teaching, and protective environment we provide over the course of our children's ascent to adulthood. The same applies to families of all types.

I know the Wall Street Journal leans to the right, but really, they should think twice before printing something that has so many inconsistencies and logical holes, and which insults so many families, LGBT and not.

I've only scratched the surface of the article's absurdity. Have at.

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I find it laughable that he both defines marriage as having a value based on a physical union that can lead to procreation and then counters his own argument by stating that the union has a value beyond the need to procreate as an emotional and biological union and sharing of life.
I want to ask him if he is with us or agin' us since he argues both sides. Or maybe he is just showing us how aware he is of the Arguments for the other side by embracing and using them.
I guess his metriculation did not include a credit or two for informal logic.

Rob, you beat me to the argument that occurred to me instantly while reading.

To go in, isn't it interesting how, between straights, "as a comprehensive sharing of life--an emotional and biological union--marriage has value in itself and not merely as a means to procreation." But if marriage includes same-sex couples, then it is imperative that the nature of marriage has been changed to "an emotional union for the sake of adult satisfaction that is served by mutually agreeable sexual play."

Straights, apparently, are capable --- or are to be allowed --- "comprehensive sharing of life" but gay and lesbian couples can only be seeking "adult satisfaction" and "sexual play".

This guy's prejudices run so deep that he apparently is unaware of how they set up circular and tautological arguments in his own thinking.

Typo, 2nd paragraph: Should be "To go on, ..."

And to go on even further:

... acts of sodomy, even between legally wed spouses, have never been recognized as consummating marriages.

This may be historically true, but it is a legal precedent that is probably on the verge of changing. It was only six years ago (2003) that sodomy laws were declared unconstitutional, and before then sodomy was potentially a crime, even between husband and wife. It would be rather odd if the legality of a marriage bond could be strengthened by an act that, in itself, is a crime in that jurisdiction.

The only reason that non-vaginal intercourse hasn't been ruled to "consummate" a marriage is possibly simply because in the years since Laurence v. Texas we have not had any same-sex marriage cases (or straight ones) that test this question.

If a husband married to a woman has a gay affair, and that affair is accepted as a valid reason for the wife to divorce him, then "sodomy" violates the fidelity of the marriage --- yet, it is argued above, that "sodomy" within the marriage does not validate it. In one case, sodomy is considered to be sex, and in the other case, it isn't. You can't argue it both ways.

I read this op-ed last night and considered how I should respond, but I finally concluded that I had better things to do than engage a Princeton professor who lacks the ability to use analytical thinking, something you would think he'd have in order to teach anyone anything about life. So thank you for being the better person than I and pointing out the flaws in this puerile article.

Another chink in the flimsy armor of this piece is the conclusion George reaches that the people should decide on this issue and not the courts OR the legislature. (Funny, the latter represents the people.)

Again, you would think a Princeton professor would know that the courts were set up to interpret the law, to keep checks and balances in place, and in essence, to restrict the tyranny of the majority. How is it then inappropriate for the courts to rule on this matter?

As the younger generation ages and become the majority, support for marriage equality will grow to the point where George's opinion will become the minority view. Don't tell me that he wouldn't want the courts on his side then.

This op-ed is nothing but the prattling of a privileged man in the waning heyday of his majority rule position, clutching at anything to keep him in his position.

Anti-Equality activists are scrambling and grasping at straws. As Dr. John Corvino says, it comes down to one thing: it grosses them out (or uncovers secret desires) and makes them uncomfortable, and they really just don't want to feel uncomfortable. They want life to be a 1957 Cocacola Ad on a picnic blanket with their beautiful Protestant, white, blonde blue-eyed family. The more they try to counter us, the more that its going to just be reduced to the fact it makes them uncomfortable. Well you can't discriminate against someone legally because they make you uncomfortable, so they'll say ANYTHING to make sure that the debate doesn't come down to this.... but ultimately it will, and we will win.