POSTED BY on 10:48 AM under
Old Glory Radio interview with Charlotte Robinson, Boston Ma., Emmy Award Winning Producer, (CBS, ABC news) about her new pro- Gay Marriage film via: OUTTAKEonline.com - 02/07/08

I'll give it a listen. I typically find it's worthwhile to hear others present their side so that our dialog can be focused more narrowly on rebutting their claims and addressing their concerns. If you aren't listening when they speak you can't reply -- you can only try to scream louder. I'm just hoping that this is presented well...but unfortunately I find that's seldom the case...

Here's the audio: Download

*HT to Charlotte Robinson (one and the same from OUTTAKEonline.com), who sent this in.

UPDATE: I listened to the roughly 20 minute interview and have a few comments.

1. When asked why the logic of "marriage is a civil right available to anyone who wants it with anyone they want" ought not apply to polygamy (polyandry, polygyny or group marriage), the rather unsatisfying response was, more or less, because that's not what we're talking about -- we're only talking about two people.

That's more or less the same as asking why should gravity not apply to oranges when it clearly applies to apples and receiving the answer, "Well, we're not talking oranges. We're talking apples." True, we may only be talking about apples, but if the logic works then it applies equally. What's good for the goose is good for the gander...unless you want to be discriminatory and un-inclusive...which is why Justice Scalia wrote what he did in his dissent in Lawrence v. Texas.

2. When asked about what rights marriage provides that civil unions don't, no specifics were given. They're available, but one would expect a proponent to be able to rattle them off. Disappointing, but not fatal to the argument -- just the credibility of the presenter (though, in fairness, it may have been a tactical decision). When you look at the differences, they mainly have to do with
(a) immigration rights,
(b) taxation, and
(c) Social Security benefits.

The proper response (I suppose) would be to ask why these ought to be granted to same-sex couples. With opposite sex couples the incentives were created to
(a) increase future generations of Americans (raised by both biological parents),
(b) to favor models where one spouse tends the children while the other spouse works, and
(c) to provide for a spouse who, having stayed at home to tend the children, does not have a gainful source of employment.
Same sex couples do not have the capacity for a fruitful union (while opposite sex couples typically do have the capacity for fecundity), and therefore normatively will not
(a) increase future generations of Americans (raised by both biological parents -- as it stands, begetting children still requires both a man AND a woman),
(b) require a spouse to stay home to raise kids they don't beget, or
(c) require a spouse to sacrifice career for kids they never begot in the first place.

To the rebuttal that we allow infertile couples to marry I would say the following: (1) to require a fertility test would likely be an invasion of privacy under the famed privacy penumbra of the Constitution justifying abortion and contraception, and (2) even "infertile" couples sometimes conceive. Additionally, even infertile heterosexual couples are still of the same kind as fertile couples, whereas same-sex couples are different in kind.

To the rebuttal that same-sex couples often bring children into the relationship, I would say the following: (1) children do best across the board (absent abuse/neglect) in households with both biological parents present (therefore, those are the types of relationships the government should incentivize) and (2) justifying marriage because there are two caretakers of an already present child would also seem to require governmental acknowledgment of tax benefits, Social Security benefits, etc. where a single mother and her child move in with the single mother's sister. Two caretakers, one child, why not marriage? Remember, what's good for the goose is good for the gander...

So, viewed through this lens, it would seem that IF civil unions were allowed (which I think they ought not be), differences in benefits would still be legitimate under a state's interest test.

3. Building off the last point, is what's being sought a governmental recognition (using your tax dollars) that two people like each other a whole, whole lot? Ought the government to dole out benefits merely on the basis of affection? Really...what is the state's interest in recognizing civil unions at all? There's a clear reason for recognizing marriage -- the good of any potential offspring which are normatively the result of such unions -- but I simply don't see the analog interest for same-sex couples.

4. Most of the non-tax related privileges of marriage can be obtained through free powers of attorney, free wills and joint bank accounts, which, even after you pay the $5 required for a notary public, are less expensive than a marriage license. Hospital visitation rights, health decisions, unlimited financial discretion -- it's all there. No additional legislation required and easy as pie. So why the push?

The answer, of course, is that the law is a teacher. It has a didactic function in society, informing us of where the moral lines are.

Don't believe it? Look at what no-fault divorce laws and mandatory integration laws have wrought, to give examples where I both disagree and agree with the pedagogy. The law deeply and significantly informs our cultural mores. What's being sought is a normalization of same-sex activity, and once legally recognized you can expect your child to have to read And Tango Makes Three before leaving the second grade, making your actual "civil right" of being able to educate your progeny in the way you see fit far more difficult.

5. The interviewee manages to interject racism several times into the argument. This is unfortunate, because it clouds the issue. That is, unless the logic for one implicates the other...and if that's the case, she'd better start addressing polygamy and categorical bans on incestuous marriages between consenting adults.

Of course, there's more...but you begin to see what it takes to rebut a short radio interview...
6 comments so far:
    Anonymous March 7, 2008 at 2:51 PM , said...

    In your second point, you're implying that in every heterosexual couple who chooses to have kids, one of the two parents will stay at home. That's a far cry from today's parent's, thee majority of whom both work, leaving the kids in daycare. To say that a homosexual couple wouldn't/couldn't have one parent stay home is rediculious just as saying every heterosexual coupe has a one parent staying home.

     
    Catholic Audio March 7, 2008 at 3:09 PM , said...

    Anon,

    I appreciate your point, and I agree that I was unclear. Please allow me to elaborate.

    The tax structure is such that it incentivizes one parent to stay home. This is the source of the so-called "marriage penalty". Mine is not intended as a normative description of what actually happens, but rather a prescriptive description of what the government is seeking to incentivize through taxation. The government wants two biological parents to raise their children with one primarily tending to them, not two folks pawning kids off on a daycare. That's the reason the tax code is structured the way it is.

    As for whether a same-sex couple would have one "parent" stay home...I'm sure it happens. I'm not so naive as to think it's impossible.

    The fact remains, one "parent" in that scenario is not related to the child, and therefore this is different than the sociologically demonstrable optimal condition of a child being raised by both biological parents (absent abuse/neglect). The optimal conditions are what are being incentivized, not a laissez faire blanket giving of government funds to any two adults near a child.

    Please let me know what other deficiencies you see in the argument.

    God Bless,

     
    Old Glory Radio March 8, 2008 at 10:28 AM , said...

    Interesting well presented commentary. I would be very pleased to offer equal time to someone from this site to place side by side with the interview of Charlotte.

    Tom Fredriksen
    old Glory Radio
    oldgloryradio.gmail.com

     
    Jos76 March 9, 2008 at 9:24 PM , said...

    It is not quit clear to me why so many right-wing conservatives are completely against gay marriage. They are essentially trying to convince people that mutually respectful relationships are not beneficial to the couple or the society around them. In addition, Democrats that favor civil unions over marriage rights are opening the door to straight couples entering into civil unions so that they can get the benefits alloted, without actually getting married. Civil unions, then , will actually lower the overall marriage rate. Who is to stop two straight “friends” from filing for a civil union in order to get work-related benefits in a state. Legalizing gay marriage would raise the overall marriage rates and civil unions would lower it. This is perhaps the goal of both political parties. Civil unions means no access to Social Security, whereas marriage does give access.

    I’m a legally married gay man in Massachusetts, and because there is no federal recognition of our marriage, we will not contribute to the bankruptcy of Social Security because we will not have access to the money that we pay for legally married straight couples who tap into the Social Security Benefits of his/her spouse. Civil Unions may have nothing to do with gay rights, but rather may be a way of keeping money available in Social Security.
    Jos76
    http://www.jos76.wordpress.com

     
    Chris March 8, 2009 at 8:19 PM , said...

    1. While this slippery slope argument raises a common fear among same-sex marriage opponents, I have to agree with Robinson; legalizing same-sex marriage does not automatically legalize polygamous relationships. If polygamists would like to have their relationships recognized under the law, they will have to argue it on it's own merits. Insinuating that polygamy will be legalized because of legalized same-sex marriage is a red herring. It merely distracts from the topic at hand, which is whether same-sex relationships should be recognized by the state. Polygamy is not the same thing.
    2. Even people who are known to be infertile would never be discouraged from marrying. It's fallacious to suggest that our society is actually that intent on having every marriage produce children.
    Furthermore, your claim that the government only recognizes marriage in order to provide incentive for creating the types of families they want misses the point entirely. The fact is, same-sex couples have families already. They have kids and/or other dependents, and it's in the state's interest to help those families be as stable and healthy as possible by providing legal recognition for their relationships and even tax breaks to ease the raising of children.
    And if a single mother and her sister are working together to provide the best possible environment for her child, why shouldn't they have a civil marriage? Having their relationship is recognized by the law doesn't require that they have sex. If the legal aspects of their lives are no different than those of a heterosexual couple, why shouldn't they gain the same legal status and benefits?
    3. Once again, same-sex couples already have children, and so it's in the state's interest to provide them with the same benefits that are provided to families headed by opposite-sex couples.
    Also, same-sex couples can adopt, and more and more scientific studies are showing that children raised by homosexual couples are just as well off as their heterosexually-raised counterparts. By providing legal recognition to same-sex couples, the state would be providing more opportunities to find loving and supportive families for the state's orphans.
    4. One of the biggest problems facing couples with civil unions is that their relationship is often not recognized for what it is. It takes merely a Google search to find stories of loving partners turned away at the hospital because they didn't have their official documents, while their partner lapses into a coma. Or couples harassed at airport security for proof of their relationship with their adopted kids. Civil unions don't cut it; "marriage" is the only term most people understand.
    And I do think you make a valid point: the law does normalize our lives. Just as Loving vs. Virginia helped to normalize multi-ethnic marriages, and Laurence v. Texas helped to normalize gay sex, legal same-sex marriage will help to show people that LGBT people can partake in unions that are just as loving and healthy as those of their heterosexual counterparts.
    -Chris

    PS Schools these days teach kids that marriages of different ethnic backgrounds or different religious backgrounds are ok. Books like "And Tango Makes Three" do the same thing, only for homosexual marriages. Of course, that doesn't prevent you from teaching your kids that homosexual marriages are immoral anymore than it would prevent you from teaching them that Muslim, Jewish, Buddist, or Civil marriages are immoral. The schools teach kids to accept everyone for who they are, but you can still teach them to look down on different types of relationships when they get home.

     
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