David Frum: I Was Wrong To Oppose Same-Sex Marriage

A former opponent of same-sex marriage admits he was wrong.

In the wake of New York’s new same-sex marriage law, David Frum writes at CNN that he’s reconsidered his previous opposition to same-sex marriage:

I was a strong opponent of same-sex marriage. Fourteen years ago, Andrew Sullivan and I forcefully debated the issue at length online (at a time when online debate was a brand new thing).

Yet I find myself strangely untroubled by New York state’s vote to authorize same-sex marriage — a vote that probably signals that most of “blue” states will follow within the next 10 years.

I don’t think I’m alone in my reaction either. Most conservatives have reacted with calm — if not outright approval — to New York’s dramatic decision.

Why?

The short answer is that the case against same-sex marriage has been tested against reality. The case has not passed its test.

Since 1997, same-sex marriage has evolved from talk to fact.

If people like me had been right, we should have seen the American family become radically more unstable over the subsequent decade and a half.

Instead — while American family stability has continued to deteriorate — it has deteriorated much more slowly than it did in the 1970s and 1980s before same-sex marriage was ever seriously thought of.

By the numbers, in fact, the 2000s were the least bad decade for American family stability since the fabled 1950s. And when you take a closer look at the American family, the facts have become even tougher for the anti-gay marriage position.

Of course, even if the story had been different, as it apparently has been for Hispanic families as Frum points out, there’s no reason to believe that it has anything to do with the fact that homosexuals are allowed to marry in a few states, or that homosexual relationships are now generally accepted by society. Family “breakdown” occurs for many reasons. The law certainly has an influence and social scientists such as Charles Murray have well-documented the manner in which old-style welfare programs contributed to the breakdown of African-American families by creating financial incentives against stable families. Drugs and alcohol abuse are certainly factors. Women who get pregnant before they’re able to financially support a child is certainly a factor. The biggest factor, though, is the economy and financial troubles which cause tensions in the family. The idea that homosexuals contribute to this problem at all is, in a word, absurd.

Frum concludes:

By coincidence, I am writing these words on the morning of my own 23rd wedding anniversary. Of all the blessings life has to offer, none equals a happy marriage. If proportionally fewer Americans enjoy that blessing today than did 40 years ago, we’re going to have to look for the explanation somewhere other than the Legislature in Albany.

Indeed. We’ve lived with same-sex marriage, and more generally increasing acceptance of homosexuality, for long enough now to know that the gloom-and-doom preachers were wrong and that the world isn’t going to end just because two women, or two men, go down to City Hall and get a marriage license. The fact that they can now do so in one of the most populous states in the country is only likely to make the process of acceptance go faster. And that’s a good thing.

 

 

FILED UNDER: Gender Issues, ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. CourageMan says:

    The logic of social breakdown is not that the sky falls and crushes us (as that physics metaphor implies), but that we become like Frum — i.e., we wake up and decide to stop worrying and love the bomb. (Or our eyes well up with tears as we’ve learned to love Big Brother.)

  2. RTotale says:

    “Of all the blessings life has to offer, none equals a happy marriage.”

    Odd that he didn’t say children, as most people do.

  3. hey norm says:

    Frum and Bartlett are two of the few remaining thoughtful and genuine Conservative pundits – able to observe and analyze the facts in evidence and adjust their point of view based upon them. That doesn’t mean they are always correct…it simply means their views demand respect and careful consideration. It’s not enough to call yourself a Conservative. The word means something; or at least it used to.

  4. mattb says:

    @Courage, does that make it “social breakdown” or does that simply make it “change?”

    The logic of social breakdown change is not that the sky falls and crushes us (as that physics metaphor implies), but that we become like Frum — i.e., we wake up and decide to stop worrying and love the bomb.

  5. An Interested Party says:

    “The logic of social breakdown”…no doubt words similar to that were used to describe the integration of schools, the end of miscegenation laws, etc….

  6. michael reynolds says:

    I’m not buying it.

    The zeitgeist changed, the bus was pulling away from the station and it occurred to Frum that he was about to be tainted permanently by association with bigotry.

    Not that this is surprising. Conservatives stick to their social issue positions until they’ve done all the harm they can do, until they’ve extracted the last drop of political advantage, and then they have their belated come-to-Jesus moment and discover (surprise!) that black people should vote, and women should get paid to work, and gay people are actual humans.

  7. OzarkHillbilly says:

    By coincidence, I am writing these words on the morning of my own 23rd wedding anniversary. Of all the blessings life has to offer, none equals a happy marriage. If proportionally fewer Americans enjoy that blessing today than did 40 years ago, we’re going to have to look for the explanation somewhere other than the Legislature in Albany.

    Michael, I read that and all I could say was: “good for David Frum.”

    But you said:

    until they’ve extracted the last drop of political advantage, and then they have their belated come-to-Jesus moment and discover (surprise!) that black people should vote, and women should get paid to work, and gay people are actual humans.

    “Graciousness in victory…. FU let me rub your face in it!” that is how I read your post…

    Look, I understand your point, (and even agree with it to some extent) but do you know humility? Have you ever been wrong about something and then admitted it after? Can you just accept another human beings “mea culpa’?

  8. CourageMan says:

    “does that make it ‘social breakdown’ or does that simply make it ‘change’?”

    Social breakdown is certainly one form of “change,” that is true.

    But unless we accept that “I’ve learned to like X” (what Frum says, more or less) is not an indicator of “social breakdown” and/or that the sky is not falling does not make something a good idea (Frum’s essential argument), then there is no way in principle to distinguish “social breakdown” FROM “change,” mooting your point anyway.

    “‘The logic of social breakdown’ … no doubt words similar to that were used to describe the integration of schools, the end of miscegenation laws, etc”

    It’s amazing that someone can actually think that Argument X having been deployed to defend Bad Thing Y is somehow a general rebuttal against Argument X in some other context. And no doubt considers himself one of the intelligent, enlightened, non-mouth-breathing, non-knuckle-dragging folks.

    I mean, this is why proponents of gay marriage are nihilists. They don’t think “social breakdown” is possible (or to be more precise, claims that it will occur are a priori and permanently discredited). People deploying bad and stupid arguments like that (and others giving them currency) in the name of gay marriage are almost as bad as gay marriage itself.

  9. CourageMan says:

    “gay people are actual humans”

    Can you name a single conservative of note denying that? With a checkable citation.

  10. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Can you name a single conservative of note denying that? With a checkable citation.

    C-man, if they do not deny that “gay people are actual humans”, why are they so quick to deny “gay people” basic human rights????

    You know, the same rights granted the rest of us???? Like the right to marry whom ever you want?

  11. michael reynolds says:

    Have you ever been wrong about something and then admitted it after?

    Yes, but not to save face or avoid being associated with suddenly-embarrassing allies.

    I was wrong about Iraq, for example. And I’ve been admitting it in detail for some time. But I didn’t change my position when consensus changed, and my specific reasons for admitting I was wrong still leave me outside the liberal pale.

    At risk of sounding self-righteous, I don’t care about what people think of me or whether my position is popular. I care about the truth. It pains me when I’m wrong because it means something is wrong with my logic, my analysis of facts. I wear my failures like the Ancient Mariner and his albatross. In fact I obsess over my failures, I rehash them and warn myself about making similar errors in the future because I really don’t care about this side or that, or this party or that.

    That’s not what is happening with Frum.

    Frum’s admission of error is bullsh*t. He’s chalking it up to evidence in the real world, but there is no such evidence. The argument that gay marriage would harm straight marriage was always fraudulent — self-evidently fraudulent. It was something he threw out there 10 years ago just to have an excuse for instinctive bigotry, and now he pretends that a few years’ of data subsequent to a handful of states legalizing gay marriage has suddenly compelled him to change his mind? Baloney. It’s a cooked-up excuse for a walk-back.

    Redemption starts with honest contrition. I don’t think he’s honest.

  12. Wiley Stoner says:

    What purpose does gay marriage serve? Without the expectation of children and inheritance can be dealth with with wills. This is just the left destroying the moral fibre of the nation. What Frum writes or believes is what Frum writes or believes. I just wonder if multiple partner marriages should be next. By the way. How does Shiria look upon this sort of thing? How do they deal with gays in say Iran? I have a question. Since when did marriage become a basic human right? Society has always had the right and the power to deny marriage to those who were deemed unfit.

  13. James says:

    “The argument that gay marriage would harm straight marriage was always fraudulent — self-evidently fraudulent.”

    And that what makes this discussion so frustrating. David Frum didn’t write “I was wrong to deny human beings the basic joy of a legally recognized union, the same one I’ve been enjoying for 23 years.”

    He just talked about how homosexual relationships don’t actually have any bearing on heterosexual ones. As if we should be surprised at his findings.

  14. DMan says:

    How does Shiria look upon this sort of thing? How do they deal with gays in say Iran?

    I thought we needed to bomb Iran until they were more like us. Now instead we need to emulate their theocratic policies more? Or is this some barely coherent, confused notion that people are hypocritical for defending Muslims against anti-Muslim bigotry? Can there be any doubt that if you were born in Iran you would be one of the more radical theocratic adherents blaming the Christianist Americans for everything wrong in the world while suppressing liberalized notions of freedom in your country?

  15. MBunge says:

    “What purpose does gay marriage serve? Without the expectation of children and inheritance can be dealth with with wills.”

    1. Unless you’re going to legally forbid gay adoption, gay use of artificial insemination and pregnancy surrogates or gays just getting really, really drunk and boinking someone of the opposite sex, gay folks are going to keep having children.

    2. If you think marriage only have legal implications when it comes to inheritance and wills…well, you’re obviously not married.

    Mike

  16. An Interested Party says:

    I mean, this is why proponents of gay marriage are nihilists. They don’t think “social breakdown” is possible (or to be more precise, claims that it will occur are a priori and permanently discredited).

    No, you are incorrect yet again…of course there are many ways to cause societal breakdown, and I’m sure many proponents of gay marriage are aware of that, they just don’t s see gay marriage as something that will lead to that outcome…

    People deploying bad and stupid arguments like that (and others giving them currency) in the name of gay marriage are almost as bad as gay marriage itself.

    It seems as though you are projecting, as you are making a bad and stupid argument that gay marriage will somehow cause society to break down…

  17. Herb says:

    “How does Shiria look upon this sort of thing?”

    Who cares? There’s not one square mile in this country under Sharia law, so it’s totally irrelevant. They hang gay people in Saudia Arabia. In Africa, mobs attack them and beat them to death. In America, we let them get married and start families.

    Must be because of our poor “moral fibre.”

  18. Ebenezer Arvigenius says:

    there is no way in principle to distinguish “social breakdown” FROM “change,” mooting your point anyway.

    Since you have given no indication what you consider a “social breakdown”, every attempt at distinguishing it from something else is, by necessity, moot.

    And “it’s improving the life of some without infringing on the lives of others has been the most common definition of “it’s a good idea” for more than a hundred years. If you insist that this is an a priori assumption that needs to be discarded for us to have an open discussion, you’re rapidly drifting into crank territory.

  19. superdestroyer says:

    One of the predictions that have been made is how few homosexuals marriages will actually occcur. Homosexual men are, on average, the most promiscuous males in the U.S. They should have little interested in marriage. My guess is that most homosexual marriages will be marriages of convenience to get access to benefits such as social security, insurance, etc while maintaining their standard lifestyle.

    My guess is that Frum or a Frum-wannabe will be posting about how he was wrong to oppose quotas and set-asides for homosexuals and it is perfectly OK for the government to demand that people tell the government their sexual preference in order to maintain the proper level of diversity.

  20. sam says:

    The logic of social breakdown is not that the sky falls and crushes us (as that physics metaphor implies), but that we become like Frum — i.e., we wake up and decide to stop worrying and love the bomb. (Or our eyes well up with tears as we’ve learned to love Big Brother.)

    Nothing like a little cup of petitio principii in the morning to get system going.

  21. Ben Wolf says:

    @superdestroyer

    You’re as promiscuous as that gay man playing the skin-flute through a hole in the stall. You just don’t get nearly as many opportunities. Men love to get laid, period.

  22. superdestroyer says:

    Ben Wolf,

    The aids rate by demographic group would disagree with your analysis. Homosexual men are the most promiscuous group in the U.S. The idea that they want to get married and settle down is laughable. My guess is that in a year or two, the NY Times will be writing articles about how homosexuals have redefined marriage (read open marriage) and that the redefinition is a good thing.

  23. Ebenezer Arvigenius says:

    The idea that they want to get married and settle down is laughable.

    Marriage rates are pretty stable internationally at about 20% of all couples compared to 80% of all partnerships of heterosexuals. “Laughable” doesn’t exactly describe it.

  24. mattb says:

    @CourageMan

    this is why proponents of gay marriage are nihilists. They don’t think “social breakdown” is possible (or to be more precise, claims that it will occur are a priori and permanently discredited).

    First, as @Ebenezer points out, you fail to define social breakdown. But even more so, it seems to me the reason that you think that opponents of gay marriage are nihilists because they don’t agree with you — or rather that they think that the idea that Gay Marriage can lead to social breakdown is offensive on its face.

    Or, perhaps you could explain exactly how Gay Marriage might lead to social breakdown — as it’s difficult for many of us to see a credible argument as to why we should accept that this is an end of the US as we know it.

  25. matt says:

    The idea that they want to get married and settle down is laughable.

    Yeah no kidding around 50% of first marriages end in divorce… oh wait you mean gays not heterosexuals..

  26. mattb says:

    @MR wrote: “‘The logic of social breakdown’ … no doubt words similar to that were used to describe the integration of schools, the end of miscegenation laws, etc”

    @CourageMan responded: It’s amazing that someone can actually think that Argument X having been deployed to defend Bad Thing Y is somehow a general rebuttal against Argument X in some other context. And no doubt considers himself one of the intelligent, enlightened, non-mouth-breathing, non-knuckle-dragging folks.

    But here’s the slight of hand CourageMan, can you give me an argument for why gay marriage will lead to social breakdown that doesn’t turn on the same argument as those miscegenation?

    Given that the previous didn’t lead to a social breakdown, can you give a credible argument about what makes gay marriage different?

  27. ptfe says:

    Doug, I have to quibble with this:

    The law certainly has an influence and social scientists such as Charles Murray have well-documented the manner in which old-style welfare programs contributed to the breakdown of African-American families by creating financial incentives against stable families.

    c.f. here as an illustration of why Murray’s analysis is flawed (pp 28-30). While I know he’s a darling of the Libertarian crowd for “telling it like it is” while fighting Evil Big Government Programs like welfare, his methods are suspect and his conclusions almost equally so — in part for clear politicization of murky data. Indeed, the Bell Curve controversy was more telling for what it said about his academic rigor than anything else.

  28. michael reynolds says:

    mattB:

    Minor thing but you gave me credit for a quote from IP.

  29. mattb says:

    Thanks @MR — noted but can’t correct it 🙁

  30. CourageMan says:

    “C-man, if they do not deny that “gay people are actual humans”, why are they so quick to deny “gay people” basic human rights???? You know, the same rights granted the rest of us???? Like the right to marry whom ever you want?”

    We don’t deny “basic human rights” because there is no human right to marry the person you want, only the right to marry a person one is eligible to marry under the law. And if the law’s eligibility categories constitute a “denial of basic human rights” (and, derivatively, prove one thinks those who wants to marry ineligible persons “are not human”) then (1) that is moral-legal nihilism and (2) gay marriage MUST lead to end of eligibility categories on the basis of age, number, consanguinity, etc. — all categories in the definition of marriage that deny some people the “basic human right [sic]” of not letting them “marry whomever they want.”

  31. CourageMan says:

    Ebenezer Arvigenius says:
    “Since you have given no indication what you consider a ‘social breakdown’.”

    It has not been necessary to this point. I was simply pointing that Frum (and he’s far from the first to make this argument) has noted that life continues / the sky hasn’t fallen / I still love my wife, etc. doesn’t mean social breakdown hasn’t occurred.

    Since you ask “social breakdown” in this context is a set of nihilistic beliefs of which gay marriage is both cause and effect — sex and family are wholly private affairs with no public dimension; that sex and children have merely accidental links; that the individual is absolute and nobody has the right to impose values or shape them; that the state is the only other institution, i.e., there is no “society” or “common good”; that it ratifies the Millian “harm” principle; that there is no such thing as moral ecology or shared cultural understandings and/or that these things are oppressive.

    You see all these things whenever gay marriage is argued for. They are the eternal minor premises, stated or unstated.

    “improving the life of some without infringing on the lives of others”

    I deny that gay marriage does this. It changes everybody’s understanding of what marriage is and marginalizes (and in the long run, will oppress) contrary understandings. That Frum has learned to love it is proof of that.

    mattb says:
    “the reason that you think that opponents of gay marriage are nihilists because they don’t agree with you”

    No … my previous note and some of the analysis above explains or alludes to why the arguments are essentially nihilistic.

    Indeed, the very fact that you resort to the rhetorical trope you do, i.e., saying “nihilism” is not an actual position but a rhetorical trope, is itself confirmatory of the damage supporting gay marriage does to your brain.

    “as it’s difficult for many of us to see a credible argument as to why we should accept that this is an end of the US as we know it.”

    This is exactly the Frum position I was objecting to. You are confusing social breakdown with apocalypse. Social breakdown can be very enjoyable and persuasive, as Orwell shows.

    “can you give me an argument for why gay marriage will lead to social breakdown that doesn’t turn on the same argument as those miscegenation?”

    The whole point of what you responded to is that I don’t have to. A true argument can be misapplied.

  32. sam says:

    Anybody else think Courageman is Tangoman?

  33. mattb says:

    @CourageMan, Here’s the short version (the long dissection follows) of the fundamental flaw of your argument (which is crystallized in the following exchange):

    “improving the life of some without infringing on the lives of others”

    CM responds: I deny that gay marriage does this. It changes everybody’s understanding of what marriage is and marginalizes (and in the long run, will oppress) contrary understandings.

    Belief v. Argument

    Without providing any real historically or well thought out philosophical foundation for this, your denial constitutes a “belief” not an “argument.”

    In other words you’re attempting to make a cultural argument which you based upon the faulty assumption of a pan- and pre- cultural (as in preceding all human activity) and a historical (true across all time) set of fixed understandings and values (i.e. the dominant ones of this particular moment).

    This is fundamentally a statement of belief which is made against all historical evidence. It’s great from a theological perspective but, from a philosophical viewpoint, is very hard to support. Further, when one takes history into account, the argument all but completely falls apart.

    Where we end up, is your statement of belief that that any attempt to change these supposed pre-cultural and a historic values represents an existential threat. Given that cultures have been surviving these changes since time and memorial, then it seems that the existential threat we’re dealing with is one that you feel threatens you (as opposed to our shared and constantly evolving “culture”).

    I realize you could make a “fall of Rome” argument (i.e. perversion led to the fall of the empire). This is a fundamentally moralistic and tautological viewpoint which subsumes all aspects of culture under the blanket of morality. While ok for Hegel, it’s not a particularly accepted way of reading history (which granted could just be a further sign of social breakdown — of course, in that case it’s tragic you were not born in late 18th century Germany during the time when folks really got things right — oh wait, that’s post reformation and enlightenment which both set us on the path to people marrying animals).

    BTW, I see you enjoy using Orwell, the problem with your use of him is that he’s basing his theory and findings on historical fact as opposed to appealing to belief. Thus there is a sea of difference between what he wrote and the way you are trying to use it.

    The grasp on the concept of “social breakdown” and the philosophy of nihilism expressed in your posts rivals a former poster’s understanding importance of certain mid-century activists on political science.

    For a deeper engagement with you “logic” or rather beliefs-as-argument, see the next post.

  34. James says:

    Matt,

    Thanks for writing such a comprehensive post.

  35. mattb says:

    Ok, here’s the promised, and more in-depth pulling apart of your “augment”…

    You are confusing social breakdown with apocalypse. Social breakdown can be very enjoyable and persuasive, as Orwell shows.

    Two points — you are attempting to differentiate “social breakdown” from “the apocalypse” but you still fail to give us a definition of the former. All you do here is argue against a slippery slope definition. Yet, as we will see below, your defiing through example is fundamentally based in a slippery slope argument that can only be read as a cultural apocalypse..

    At this point you are simply playing word games as “social breakdown” remains impossible to disambiguate from “social change.” Of course such a reduction fails to account for the fact that typically “breakdown” English has a pejorative connotation. If you were using it in a phenomenological sense (i.e. Heidigger) then one could argue that that connotation is avoided. However, there’s an implicit moral stance in your writing that doesn’t allow for that move.

    BTW — the way we know that there’s a moral component here is thanks to this sweet little ditty:

    the very fact that you resort to the rhetorical trope you do … is itself confirmatory of the damage supporting gay marriage does to your brain.

    Either way, at this point in your “argument,” it seems to me that “social breakdown” can cover everything from the repeal of misogyny laws to the end of slavery to the granting of the vote to women and 18 year-olds to larger historical transformations like the Reformation and the Enlightenment (more on that in a moment).

    The problem with calling these breakdowns is, if we’re playing rhetorical games, the changes that have flowed from those transformative decisions and culutral/social/political/legal actions are seen as positive — hence we typically do not refer to them as moments of morally loaded moments of “social breakdown.,” Or, perhaps invoking Nietzsche, that if these were breakdowns, the resulted in a stronger culture (as, for example, both the Reformation and the Enlightenment are seen to this day as the “special sauce” that helped us escape the dark ages. Further, it is argued in many circles that the failure of Islamic reformations and the lack of an “Arab Enlightenment” are what make Islam a fundamentally flawed culture).

    Continuing on with your “argument” – and moving into the “fact” you muster — all one can find is the very classic slippery slope that as not part of “social breakdown”

    First you offer us a closed hermeneutic loop:

    Since you ask “social breakdown” in this context is a set of nihilistic beliefs of which gay marriage is both cause and effect

    That these beliefs both create and are created by the breakdown. This is a nice reflexive loop that closes in on itself, ultimately leaving no room to breath and dogs and cats living together and in threesome marriages with people. In other words “Mass Hysteria” :

    sex and family are [seen as] wholly private affairs with no public dimension; that sex and children have merely accidental links; that the individual is absolute and nobody has the right to impose values or shape them; that the state is the only other institution, i.e., there is no “society” or “common good”; that it ratifies the Millian “harm” principle;

    First, you’ve nicely walked down the tautological slippery slope where positing “a” must necessarily lead to “z.” At no point does this open any space for getting off the rails. That is a tautology (like that of Marx and other “predicting” philosophers) that tend to not come true. Of course, let’s set that aside for he moment.

    Ok, so the “argument” in the above quote is again little more than a statement of belief. You are attempting to argue cultural effect without touching on facts. You fail to quote activists or other modern philosophers who make this sort of argument for gay rights.

    Instead you create a strawman position and engage in a Nihilistic reading of it. You have done nothing yet to produce evidence and thus we remain firmly in your head (aka. the area of belief).

    Worse, this position fails to note the all to real and immediate historical/cultural/legal evidence that contradicts your argument. For example the relationship between sex and children is something that has been enshrined across all these institutions – one need look no further than modern paternity laws as an example (or from a different point of view, the move from seeing bastard children as outside the family and a social pariah to a higher degree of acceptance). Further, one can argue that the relationship between sex and children and “family” has always been understood in dialog with longstanding institutions like adoption and fostering — yet the families still exit).

    As I said above this appears an a historic and pre cultural argument — arguing for an essential and “true” or “natural” form of culture from which we deviate in the moment of “social breakdown.” It is thus at once, from a historical, cultural, or philosophical sense, at once vulgar and naive.

    Perhaps this is best seen in this sweet little bundle of slippery slope hysteria:

    “that there is no such thing as moral ecology or shared cultural understandings and/or that these things are oppressive.”

    This implicitly and anachronistically imagines a level of social stability and fixity that NEVER existed in any historical sense outside of a particular moment. Again you have confused a statement of theological or moral beliefs with a philosophical argument about culture

    Shared understandings have never precluded fluctuation or relativistic understandings. And they have always been in flux (though the degree of flux has varied throughout time and across cultures). Thus, you are retreating to a naive and vulgar relativism argument where any shift represents the destruction of the current (and assumed natural) order.
    Which gets me to:

    And if the law’s eligibility categories constitute a “denial of basic human rights” (and, derivatively, prove one thinks those who wants to marry ineligible persons “are not human”) then (1) that is moral-legal nihilism and (2) gay marriage MUST lead to end of eligibility categories on the basis of age, number, consanguinity, etc. — all categories in the definition of marriage that deny some people the “basic human right [sic]” of not letting them “marry whomever they want.”

    This claptrap represents the sloppiest of slippery slope arguments as it fails to look a the broader “ecology/ecosystem” that this is taking place in. Such a reading fails to account for the FACT (not belief — social/historical/ political/cultura FACT) that Marriage (now including Gay Marriage in some states) is suspended in a larger system of philosophical, social, and legal concepts including the idea of “consent.” As Jay Tea points out above, the notion of consent (which has shifted over the years) is exactly the sort of check that invalidates the position you seem to be claiming is at play — i.e. that Gay Marriage must tautologically lead to “social breakdown.”

    You are arguing thus arguing the strawman nihlistic point that the acceptance of Gay Marriage MUST necessarily trump all of those other dynamics rather than interact with them (it is this relation/interaction that leads to the notion of “ecosystem” — another term by the way that you really don’t seem to use correctly).

    So, in closing — if we take this argument at face value (i.e. seriously), all of those moments from above (abolition, enlightenment, civil rights, etc) all represent exactly this form of “social breakdown” and can be interpreted with the exact same sort of Nihilistic reading. Just because it’s possible doesn’t make it correct.

    Further, one could easily apply these ideas to any classical liberal (as opposed to Hobbsian) concept of values.

    Thus we might as well argue that the founders of the US were Nihilists in that they were attempting to negate much of the British political order and replace it with enlightenment values – an act of social breakdown! Thus, taken to the extreme YOU advocate above the very founding of the US – and it’s enshrinement of many classically liberal values – must necessarily lead to a constant state of societal breakdown and ultimately what can only be taken as the very cultural Apocalypse (in other words the negation/eradication of a specific mode of culture) that you seem to be trying to say you are not arguing for.

    Thus it seems to me that you are in fact the on arguing a fundamentally existential and nihilistic point of view — In the extreme to imagine that the shift (or negation) of one concept fundamentally negates the whole system — and then projecting onto the people you seem to disagree with.

    Gay marriage must cause social breakdown in this because you believe it must cause social breakdown.

    In other words #argument fail, thanks for playing.

    I am happy to predict (with a high degree of certainty, based on history versus belief) that in 50 years time, you will find yourself on the same side as those who argued that slavery, women’s rights, civil rights, and the founding of America are all social breakdowns that threatened the “right culture.” Further, I’m willing to bet that – based on history — at 50 and even 100 years after this decision, the taking of child brides and cross species marriage will still not be legally or culturally sanctioned.

  36. Ebenezer Arvigenius says:

    It has not been necessary to this point. I was simply pointing that Frum (and he’s far from the first to make this argument) has noted that life continues / the sky hasn’t fallen / I still love my wife, etc. doesn’t mean social breakdown hasn’t occurred.

    While this is nominally true, it’s also a misrepresentation of Frums position. He clearly states, what his basic assumptions were (“gay marriage will negatively affect the stability and quality of family life”) and that he considers them disproved. You are, of course, free to use a different set of negative projections (and this is implicitly what you do when you state that social breakdown has occurred despite the fact that “the family” was socially unaffected), but that would be a new argument that would require substantiation.

    Since you ask “social breakdown” in this context is a set of nihilistic beliefs of which gay marriage is both cause and effect…

    The problem here is that this does not follow. The positions you mention (at least those who today are not simply observations – i.e. “that sex and children have merely accidental links”) are not necessarily nihilistic as your recourse to Millian principles makes clear. While you may object to the principles used, they are still principles and therefore eo ipso not nihilistic. The simple fact that your opposite number considers them correct disproves that claim. You could make a claim of moral relativism but even that would only apply to those who are judging the propositions used, not to those who hold them.

    So far you have mostly added weight to @mattb’s accusation of simply labelling opposing philosophical positions as unfounded without providing evidence.

    No … my previous note and some of the analysis above explains or alludes to why the arguments are essentially nihilistic.

    I would be thankful for clarification since I have apparently missed that part. Especially considering that “[you have] only the right to marry a person one is eligible to marry under the law”, is itself a basic legal positivistic statement. It’s fundamentally “nihilistic” since the right in question is conferred by the law without recourse to moral authority or philosophical principle.

    It changes everybody’s understanding of what marriage is and marginalizes (and in the long run, will oppress) contrary understandings. That Frum has learned to love it is proof of that.

    The problematic point with that is that you still have brought no arguments to differentiate between simple “change” and “negative change” (= “social breakdown”). So far you have stated that (in this case) you consider a simple, unforced change of opinion a negative. However, you have not argued why either the method or the content of the change must be considered negative. This is so far simply assumed. As such the position only makes sense to those already convinced of the assumption (@sams’s petitio principii accusation).

    Considering this, the proposition that a specific change of mind must be considered an (infringing) “harm” against whose possibility certain values should be imposed is not only simply not consistent with the US idea of the “marketplace of ideas” as laid down by the 1st amendment, it is also highly ironic considering that you accuse your opponents of loving “Big Brother”. The natural implication of this position would be a “thought police” that ensures that specific values are protected against the possibility of being changed by open discourse.

    This could only be countered by proving that the psychological change has actual negative externalities in the society at large. Something that Frum (to close the circle) considers disproved on the evidence.

    E_A

  37. Ebenezer Arvigenius says:

    Obviously this took too long to write. I didn’t realize I was that slow a typer :D.

  38. An Interested Party says:

    Anybody else think Courageman is Tangoman?

    We might know that’s the case if he starts throwing out the question of what’s wrong with a man marrying his adult daughter (as long as they can’t procreate) as that was an argument Tangoman liked to use in regards to gay marriage…

  39. ” the right to marry whom ever you want”, quoth an earlier commenter.

    Wait! You mean I have an actual right to marry whomever I want? Oh, boy! I’ll take Miss February! And Miss April and Miss September, too!

    I have that right!

    Since straights don’t have the right to “marry whomever they want,” seeing as how so many of us settle for someone who simply agrees, I find it ridiculous that SSM advocates say they only want to marry whomever they want. I do not believe that gays should have superior rights than straights, but I suppose that is what they are demanding.

    Or did you mean something else? And if so, what?

  40. michael reynolds says:

    Donald:

    That was parody, right?

  41. mantis says:

    That was parody, right?

    He’s not that clever. In fact, he’s not clever at all. That was just his stupidity.

  42. Michael Reynolds – I will be glad to discuss with you because you did not stoop to insult and derision, unlike “mantis,” who evidences the all-too-typical response of American liberals: no thought required, just cast ad hominems and call names. I wonder that he didn’t curse while he was at it.

    But to return to your question of whether my comment was parody, which is a more penetrating question than you may have thought. The answer is yes, on the face of it, but no, quite serious if we think a little deeper.

    For what the act of the NY government shows is that (in NY, at least) the government surrenders its powers – and more importantly, it rationale – for regulating marriage. The move toward same-sex marriage (SSM henceforth) didn’t start this. I think that deregulation of marriage began with the steady adoption of no-fault divorce. Despite the arguments for and against NFD, and there were good arguments on both sides, it’s pretty much inarguable that the divorce rate rose sharply once NFD was adopted by more and more states. Yes, there are many other reasons the rate went up, too, but legally easier divorce certainly was one of them.

    It is this sorry state of hetero- marriage that weakens arguments against SSM . The WSJ’s James Taranto wrote about this just two days ago, but the WSJ was kind enough to publish my own op-ed, “Save Marriage? It’s Too Late,” way back in 2004, in which I observed,

    Opponents of legalized same-sex marriage say they’re trying to protect a beleaguered institution, but they’re a little late. The walls of traditional marriage were breached 40 years ago; what we are witnessing now is the storming of the last bastion.

    What happened 40 (now 40-plus) years ago? The Pill with its nearly 100-percent effectiveness rate. Thus,

    When society decided–and we have decided, this fight is over–that society would no longer decide the legitimacy of sexual relations between particular men and women, weddings became basically symbolic rather than substantive, and have come for most couples the shortcut way to make the legal compact regarding property rights, inheritance and certain other regulatory benefits. But what weddings do not do any longer is give to a man and a woman society’s permission to have sex and procreate.

    Sex, childbearing and marriage now have no necessary connection to one another, because the biological connection between sex and childbearing is controllable. The fundamental basis for marriage has thus been technologically obviated. Pair that development with rampant, easy divorce without social stigma, and talk in 2004 of “saving marriage” is pretty specious. There’s little there left to save. Men and women today who have successful, enduring marriages till death do them part do so in spite of society, not because of it.

    If society has abandoned regulating heterosexual conduct of men and women, what right does it have to regulate homosexual conduct, including the regulation of their legal and property relationship with one another to mirror exactly that of hetero, married couples?

    But now with the uniqueness of New York’s action – entirely legislative, not judicial, which Glenn Reynolds said is a first for SSM, the question before us is clear: Shall society, through law, have the authority to regulate marriage at all?

    And now the tougher answer to defend is “yes,” not “no.” And so my comment above, however parodically stated, actually is serious: I am married now, but if I can convince Miss February (or Luann down the street for that matter) to become my wife in addition to my present wife, on what basis can it be denied?

    Now I don’t know where you personally come down on this question, but do you believe that a coherent and legally sustainable argument can now be made to deny marriages that result in polygamy? Myself, I don’t think so, and I don’t think that’s a good thing.

    In my view, regardless of the actions of NY and potentially other state governments, no matter what license the state issues to same-sex couples, they inherently cannot be “married.” As Lincoln said on another context, “A cow doesn’t have five legs just because you call its tail a leg.” My explanation of why I believe that is here: “What Makes Marriage, Marriage?

    Finally, as further evidence of the sorry state of straight marriage today, Gerard Vanderleun (who helped found SDS at UC Berkeley) has this piece online today.

  43. Ebenezer Arvigenius says:

    [quote]Finally, as further evidence of the sorry state of straight marriage today, Gerard Vanderleun (who helped found SDS at UC Berkeley) has this piece online today.[/quote]

    Now that’s an ugly bit of writing. A wistful combination of absurd fantasy (“[The birth of children to single mothers is] fine by many progressives since the more bastards there are, the more “wards of the state” can remain in servitude to Big Daddy in DC”) and borderline racism (“Doesn’t seem to be working out that way for African-Americans, but it must be one of those “black things” that I can’t understand. “).

    He then finishes with the strange notion that a song by Noel Coward about how drug-taking and the hunt for perpetual youth are bad for the children of those doing it, is in reality about how “having two daddies (or “two mommies”) will [not] make up for having no father”.

    That’s the worst written and thought-out article I have read in a long while.

  44. matt says:

    Clearly the slippery slope of allowing heterosexuals to marry has resulted in gay marriage. So we must immediately outlaw all marriages to save families and society from the scurrge of marriage and it’s expansive tendencies.