“If You Allow Gay Marriage, Incest Will Be Next!”

Too often, I have seen people make this kind of argument against gay marriage:

“Next thing you know they’ll be legalizing incest.”

or

“You want gay people to be married?  What’s next, people marrying their dogs?”

I just this morning read another example.  (If you don’t want to read it, it argues that the overturning of anti-sodomy laws in Lawrence v. Texas will lead to incest, particularly referencing Scalia’s dissent in that case; not specifically an anti-gay marriage argument, but along the same lines.)   I know I’ve seen this kind of argument plenty, and I’m sure you have too, either as the crux of someone’s anti-gay marriage stance, or as a brief implication in some other discussion. 

Well here’s what’s wrong with it.

The “gay marriage slippery slope” argument is based on the idea that the only thing justifying making incest, animal marriage, polygamy, etc., illegal is a commitment to traditional or moral values, and if we throw those out to allow gay people to marry, then on what grounds will we be able to argue against incest etc.?

What anyone is making this argument is missing is there are arguments against incest, etc. that do not apply to gay marriage.

There is not a slippery slope from gay marriage to incest.  If you’ve already ascended and started heading down the hill of “gay people can marry because they’re people too, and damn the tradition” there is still another treacherous moral mountain you’d have to climb and overmount in order to start allowing incest.

It is most definitely not the case that we disallow incest just because it’s traditional to do so.  While it is true that it is not traditional to allow it, it is also true that is not allowed because: 1) sexual union between close relatives produces dangerous genetic aberration, 2) incest, like statutory rape and certain kinds of workplace sexual harassment, too often by definition involves a perpetrator who holds authority and control over a victim who doesn’t have sufficient freedom or maturity to make a decision otherwise, and thus violates the requirement of consent (admittedly this is a limited argument, but a forceful one in the cases where it applies, i.e. child-parent incest) 3) there is an observed biological imperative against incest which suggests that we are backed up by natural law in censuring it.  None of these arguments apply to gay marriage.

Similarly, it is most definitely not the case that we disallow animal marriage just because it’s traditional to do so.  While it is true that it is not traditional to allow it, it is also true that is not allowed because: 1) animals cannot give consent, and… well, really that’s all the argument you need.  But it’s also not allowed because 2) the rights, privileges and responsibilities that are the legal parcel of marriage cannot apply to animals – insurance coverage, custody, and so forth – and thus animal marriage would be legally incoherent, and 3) have I mentioned that they cannot consent, and consent is required to enter into a contract?  Scientifically and legally, even if we could somehow communicate with dolphins or monkeys enough to get a definitive “yes” or a “no” out of them, we could not prove and know that they are capable of understanding what marriage is and what they’d be “consenting” to. 

And it is most definitely not the case that we disallow polygamy just because it’s traditional to do so.  While it is true that it is not traditional to allow it, it is also true that is not allowed because: 1) many of the rights, privileges and responsibilities that are the legal parcel of marriage cannot apply to a group of people without becoming incoherent (custody, life decision rights, insurance etc.), and really that should be enough of an argument; but, also 2) polygamy is traditionally sexist and unequal and involves subjugation and forced consent.

Marriage is both a religious and a legal institution in our society.  The religious institution has nothing to do with arguments about whether it should be legal or not – separation of church and state and all that – and the government can’t force any church or religious institute to marry anyone or not marry anyone.  I’m not talking about religious-type arguments about any kind of marriage here, because these slippery slope arguments are concerned with the legality of the type of marriage or sexual relation.  When deciding what should be law, we have only to consider the legal definitions and ramifications.  In the case of marriage, that means the actual laws and the package of rights, privileges and responsibilities that go with a civil marriage contract; being a contract, other laws concerning consent and the ability of the parties to enter into the contract also apply.  In the case of sexual behavior, that means the question of whether an individual can be jailed, fined or otherwise censured for engaging in the activity in question.

Thus, any argument about gay marriage has to be concerned with one question: is there a civic or rational basis for allowing two same-sex individuals to sign a civil marriage contract giving them the set of rights etc. that the contract provides?

As stated above, there are arguments against allowing incestuous couples, human-animal couples, polygamous couples, etc. to have access to that marriage contract that do not apply to gay marriage

What arguments can you come up for denying a gay couple access to a civil marriage contract that do not rely on appealing to base tradition or the slippery slope argument?  

What arguments can you come up specifically against child marriage, slave marriage, mail-order marriage, and any other illegal sexual act or type of marriage that I didn’t directly address here that demonstrate that you can differentiate between them and gay marriage? 

The article linked to above quotes Scalia discussing “the impossibility of distinguishing homosexuality from other traditional ‘morals’ offenses,” including prostitution, obscenity, adultery and more.  I find it astounding that a Supreme Court Justice cannot identity anything but ‘morals’-based arguments for these kinds of laws.  Surely he can recognize arguments in favor of outlawing prostitution, etc. that a lawmaking body can provide and the court can thus uphold, besides just “we think it’s wrong?”  (Here’s two: anti-exploitation, public health.) Heck, you can even argue, if you are so inclined, that anti-obscenity laws can be upheld on the grounds of protecting against harassment and disturbing the peace, the same way that you can uphold laws against blaring loud music or indecent exposure.

If the only argument in support of any legal ban or restriction is “we think it’s wrong,” then it is legally indefensible.  But it really shouldn’t be that hard in reasonable cases to come up with at least one measly sensible argument in favor. 

I challenge anyone to come up with an argument against gay marriage (or gay sex) that doesn’t, when examined closely, devolve to “because we think it’s wrong.”  (No, it doesn’t inherently spread disease.  No, it doesn’t inherently lead to increased violence.  Read the actual science.)

In summation: you can only argue “the slippery slope will lead to incest, animal marriage, polygamy and so forth!” against gay marriage if you are unable to come up with any arguments against incest, etc. that are unique.  And something is probably wrong with you if you can’t come up with one single, supportable and standing argument against, say, animal marriage that applies specifically to it and not to gay marriage.

Thank you for reading.

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25 comments

  1. […] relevant to me.)  Do I need to employ tricks to try to get people to read and re-post, like using controversial post titles that may not accurately represent the content?  Or writing posts that […]

  2. 1) sexual union between close relatives produces dangerous genetic aberration : So, can I assume that you’re not against brother-brother or sister-sister relationships, which, by definition, cannot produce dangerous genetic aberrations? And that you’re not against brother-sister relationships as long as they do not result in offspring? And that you are against numerous incest-free marriages as well if they’re likely to result in aberrations?

    2) incest, like statutory rape and certain kinds of workplace sexual harassment, too often by definition involves a perpetrator who holds authority and control over a victim who doesn’t have sufficient freedom or maturity to make a decision otherwise, and thus violates the requirement of consent : Child-parent incest can, of course, result in harming the child involved, just like any other sexual relationship involving children. But obviously you do not have to be against incest to condemn sexual relationships of this nature, any more than you have to be against homosexuality to condemn a male pedophile raping a boy. Sexually violating a little boy is immoral, whether the boy is your son or a Congolese child soldier.

    3) there is an observed biological imperative against incest which suggests that we are backed up by natural law in censuring it : There are lots of people who believe that “natural law” is diametrically opposed to homosexuality. Is your version of natural law superior to that of the Pope? Why? In what ways?

    1. Those are excellent and valid counterarguments. I wondered, when I orginally posted, whether anyone would bring them up. There are clearer reasons beyond tradition which we can use to justify outlawing animal marriage or multiple marriage, but the arguments separating incest from gay marriage are the diciest.

      I think 3) is the strongest – the “natural law” in this case is scientific. There is objective evidence for the Westermarck effect, while, by contrast, there is actually considerable objective evidence that homosexuality is, in fact, quite natural and prevalent in the animal kingdom. So this would actually be an argument from science moreso from ‘nature.’

      I just realized there’s an additional argument about allowing incestuous marriage (if not necessarily an argument specifically against outlawing incestuous sex) – marriage, and the rights that come with it, reproduce and confer the rights which our society automatically gives to family members. You do not need to marry your sibling or parent to share insurance, inheritance, visitation rights, etc. with them because we already assign those rights to close family members. I haven’t looked at it closely, but I’d be willing to bet the boundaries of family-member rights end just about at the same place as incest, as we currently define it, does. So, like one of the arguments against polygamy, this is argument that incestuous marriage is legally incoherent.

      Sexually violating anyone who can’t fully consent is certainly wrong, and you point out that it’s not necessary to outlaw incest because, essentially, we already have laws against rape and sexual violation of a minor. But the existence of laws against statuatory rape and quid pro quo sexual harassment shows us that, as society, we are willing to outlaw a whole class of relationships even if not every incidence thereof is necessarily wrong, and even if the violation is already covered by existing laws. It is possible to have a relationship between, say, a 40 year old and a 15 year old that is, in fact, fully consensual and healthy, given a 15 year old that is unusually mature. We have, perhaps wisely, deemed as a society that the likelihood of this is so low, and the difficulty of determining whether this is the case is so high, that is better for the protection of all young people to designate all relationships with people under a certain age (which varies from state to state) as legally rape. You can make the same argument with incest, at least with incest involving at least one underage participant. That isn’t a fully conclusive argument by itself, of course, but it shows there is a kind of precedent that still stands and most people would not argue against.

      I am curious as to whether you are pro- or anti-gay marriage; I suspect by the way you questioned my arguments that you are actually seeking to challenge my logic from the perspective of someone who is pro-gay marriage overall.

  3. Thank you for your thoughtful response, Babelwright.

    Now, I do lean toward pro-gay marriage, and I agree with you that it is absurd to link gay marriage to animal marriage, or homosexuality to bestiality. But about incest I’m not so sure. The most common argument for homosexuality is that there’s nothing wrong with consensual relationship between two adults. And this obviously supports incest as well as homosexuality, provided that it is consensual relationship between two adults. Lots of people actually justify incest precisely on this ground, and I can understand if some people are concerned about this supposed slippery slope.

    Now, you’re certainly right in saying that society sometimes has to forbid a whole class of relationships, even if not all of them are objectionable. But I still do not agree that incest belongs to such cases. If a mother sexually violates her son, she should be punished, just like any other woman that sexually violates an underage boy. Such behavior should be condemned and penalized. But there can be no justification for extending this to incest as a whole. The fact is that incest, like homosexuality, can take many forms. If a schoolboy “experiments” with his twin brother, it is incestuous. If a woman comes to have love with her handsome cousin, it is incestuous. If I unwittingly marry my long-lost sister, it is incestuous. The only thing incestuous relationships share is their incestuousness, and if we condemn incestuous relationships as a whole, it should be because of the illegality of their incestuousness, not because of this vague fear about the dangers of incest.

    Your argument about legal confusion that would result is, I’m afraid, problematic. It is irrelevant when it comes to mere incestuous sex ; even against incestuous marriage it is a circular argument. Incestuous marriage may be legally incoherent within our current system. But surely the reason for this is that we did not bother to take incest into account when we made our laws? It is unlikely that there is something inherently incoherent about incestuous marriage, or polygamy for that matter, since many societies have adopted them without experiencing chaos. Isn’t it unfair to maintain our refusal to legalize incest because of the implied legal incoherence, when this very legal incoherence exists precisely because of our refusal to legalize incest?

    That leaves us with scientific observations of nature. Now, I admit that I’m not a biology buff, but I fail to see how natural law can be for or against incest/inbreeding, or anything else for that matter. Laws that govern nature are very different from laws that govern humans. They are not decrees about what should happen, but statements about what does happen. There is no sense in saying that natural law tells us that incest/inbreeding should not happen. How can nature be against incest, when nature, by definition, includes incest? How can laws of nature be against incest, when laws of nature are what produced incest? If anything is against natural law, it would be things that actually are unnatural, things that cannot exist ; such as an army of undead soldiers. Nature simply is ; it is humans that derive, often unjustifiably, oughts and shoulds from her.

    Westermarck effect, for example, simply describes ; it just tells us what happens. Science does not, in any way, tell us what to do about people who nonetheless end up getting attracted to their siblings. Science can also tell us that what we call bullying is quite widespread in the animal kingdom. It does not tell us what to do about bullies and their victims. If we prevent people from committing incest, then we’re not acting according to Westermarck effect, let alone natural law. Perhaps the error of your position will be obvious if we make it clear what this “biological imperative” against incest is really about ; natural selection. I do not think that we want our laws to be grounded in natural selection, which is notorious for issuing imperatives against entire species on grounds that are utterly amoral.

    1. I completely understand your points, Johnny, and I, actually, generally agree with them.

      My goal in this post was to take something like a devil’s advocate position. I believe gay marriage should be legal; I have seen the slippery-slope-it’ll-lead-to-incest argument from gay marriage opponents; so I have attempted here to make a purely legalistic counterargument to those folks, in order to place gay marriage on a defensible plane separate from incest. I think if we cannot legally distinguish gay marriage from incest, than that just gives fuel to the gay marriage opponents, because, although “homosexuality is inherently bad” is a perspective that’s been losing ground in society, “incest is inherently bad” is pretty broadly accepted. Thus, a gay marriage opponent can easily dismiss the legalization of gay marriage by asking a proponent, “well, if you legalize it, by what right can you keep incest illegal?”

      The danger for a gay marriage proponent, when faced with that question, is to dither and say, “well, I don’t know, maybe there isn’t anything wrong with incest between two fully consenting adults.” To even waver in that direction would be essentially to concede the debate – for emotional if not legal reasons, the gay marriage opponent will find such a statement of tolerance for incest to be perfect evidence of moral degradation. To restate my goal, what I was trying to do here was to find a solid, non-emotional answer to such a challenge that clearly separates gay marriage from incest, robbing the opponent of that equivalency.

      And, clearly, it’s difficult to make such an answer. It’s difficult to distinguish between any relationship between a pair of fully consenting adults in a strictly legal context. I was aware from the beginning that some of my arguments here were specious, but I was 1) curious to see who would respond or notice, 2) unable to come up with anything better without being challenged on it as I am being now, and 3) considering the notion that such counterarguments, while not logically sound at their base, might still work against an emotional and less thoughtful challenger than yourself – thus useful for fighting dirty with, in a sense.

      To further attempt to refine my arguments and seek some sort of differentiation, here’s my response to your latest points (in the next comment):

      1. I still think the “incestuous relationships as a class to be banned because of the danger inherent in some of them” is a worthy argument, because it’s not a strictly legal one – it’s partially based on emotional appeal. Perhaps this argument makes more sense if it’s limited to certain kinds of incest – incest between parent and child of any age, or between siblings who are underage. A more focused version, if you will. It may be that it’s legally unnecessary and overreaching to ban adult sibling or cousin incest in order to prevent dangerous parent-child incest, meaning this argument isn’t one that fully separates incest from homosexuality; but it still is defensible, at least, when it comes to separating those certain kinds of incest. Perhaps that’s enough, because I think even a gay marriage-and-incest opponent would have a hard time arguing against adult consensual same-sex sibling incest on any grounds except “It’s gross!” So this argument still helps, in concert with the other arguments, in trying to get an opponent to recognize incest and homosexuality as morally and perhaps legally differentiable.

        I don’t think the legal coherence argument is circular. The legal, contractual portions of marriage – what we might call the “civil union” part of marriage – is essentially taking rights and responsibilities which our society and common law have always recognized as belonging to family members and conferring those to a non-family member. It’s not a matter of “we define marriage this way,” it’s more a particular matter of “we define a family member as having certain rights.” As long as we confer such rights to a family member, it’s natural that there be a legal function that allows those rights to be given to a non-family member. And, when focusing strictly on this civil union aspect of a marriage – or even on those rights separately, if we allowed them to be conferred singly by contract – it’s clear that it is at least completely unnecessary, if not incoherent and legally confusing, to allow family members access to them. Again, this is a limited argument; but it can contribute to the sense of differentiating, at the least, the concept of incestuous marriage from homosexual marriage.

        I mostly concede the natural argument, as it’s definitely the weakest and the argument with the most awkward or questionable side effects if taken to its logical conclusion, as you pointed out. I’ll still say that it’s an argument with some emotional value, especially if one is particular to focus on strictly human nature as observed; while homosexuality and incest have persisted in human society throughout history, only incest has been observed, in humans, to receive near-universal biological pressure against it via the Westermarck effect. There’s nothing observed to suggest that revulsion to homosexuality is inherent, but only a matter of shifting social mores; while it seems that, no matter when or where you grew up, you’re naturally disposed to sexual avoidance of the people you grew up with (who are highly likely to be closely related to you). Again again, a limited argument, but still, I think, one with some emotional force, at least.

        That all said, it seems my quest for a rock-solid and purely legal argument that homosexual sex/marriage is differentiable, legally and even morally, from incestuous sex/marriage, continues. Perhaps there isn’t one; perhaps it is impossible to truly separate the two, and perhaps one day, after homosexual sex and marriage is recognized as a human right – completely acceptable and not dangerous or harmful in and of itself – prohibitions of certain kinds of incestuous relations will also fall as a consequence. Maybe that’s true; maybe that’s a good thing, or bad thing. But that certainly isn’t something that will help the gay marriage legalization movement now, alas. As long as a gay marriage opponent can make the incest-homosexuality equivalency, the campaign of us gay marriage proponents will be shakier and less effective.

        Thank you so much for your responses here. I do so enjoy a rigorous debate – even if I’m wrong. :)

  4. Kiff Egle · · Reply

    Foget all the slippery slope arguments. It’s not the “legal” point. The core issue is whether a local or state government has the right to define marriage in any way it chooses. For starters, marriage is not defined under the U.S. Constitution and under the 10th amendment, those rights are reserved for the states. The equal protection clause does not apply. Legally, the rights of a same sex coupling can be acheived under powers of attorney and trust and estate laws. In fact, those legal arrangements are better than marriage since the rights of the individual can be clearly defined and executed in a dissolution as oppose to a divorce which is often subject to litigation and the whims of a judge who usually favors the woman. Hence, because there is access to comparable rights in the eyes of the law there exists no legal inequality. I believe the push for gay marriage has more to do with benefits such as taxes and health insurance. Federal law on taxation and health insurance are not permanently bound to marriage or the definition thereof. The federal government need not redefine marriage to change these laws to apply to trusts and estates. For example, under insurance law a group of individuals cannot form a group for purposes of buying a group health insurance policy unless the group has a common business association like a labor union or a group of small independently owned banks forming a insurable group for their combined employees. The federal and state governments can define grouping for specific purposes and may choose to allow a legal domestic partnership formation to qualify for group insurance between two same-sex individuals via domestic partnership agreement. Again, that would not involve over-riding states rights to define marriage. Suppose a state does decide to allow same-sex marriage. It may or may not choose to allow incest or polygamy. By upholding the 10th Amendment, the state can exclude these absurdities without the Supreme Court reversing it. If, however, the Supreme Court declares federal authority on the decision, then the states lose the ability to stop incest and polygamy. Thus the slippery slope comes into play because the Supreme Court rulings are made on abstract legal concepts whereas state law can narrowly define marriage to exclude incest without running afoul of the equal protection clause. The issue of morality or tradition should be decided by to the individuals of the state in an election. They should be allowed to fashion marriage according to local custom. They should be allowed to make their own laws. The federal government has no Constitutional authority to approve or diapprove gay marriage. It is purely a 10th amendment issue. On a side note, I am opposed to gay marraige because I see it as an absudity on par with incest. However, I do not oppose the right of a gay community to make its own laws to recognize gay marraige. I oppose a gay community forcing my non-gay community to recognize gay marraige. It’s a local issue, not a federal issue.

    1. Highly delayed response!

      I think your points range pretty widely and in some ways you are not in disagreement with me, and in some ways you are.

      You are correct that my slippery slope arguments are not the “legal” point – they’re not intended to be. An important distinction to make is this:
      1) What are the moral arguments a person can make for or against gay marriage?
      2) What are the legal arguments a jurisdiction (local, state or federal) can make for having the authority to allow or ban gay marriage (for any particular community within or without its jurisdiction)?

      In my point, I was mainly discussing the moral arguments that individuals can make. You can think of these slippery slope arguments that I’m addressing as what a legislator might bring up on the floor when trying to convince her fellow legislators to go along with a gay marriage prohibition. Your legal points are a separate issue from that, and essentially presume already that a particular legislature or community has decided it wants to pass a law on gay marriage. In other words, I’m addressing here the “why” of the gay marriage question – why should or shouldn’t it be allowed? – and you are primarily addressing the “what then” – what should be done to achieve a certain setup of legal rights once the original question is decided upon.

      Personally, although I did not address it in the article, I believe that government should have nothing to do with marriage or “marriage” at all. Government should only have anything to do with the various legal functions which you yourself discussed. I think government should be blind to the gender of the couple who wants to have a civil union, and provide these legal functions as, well, legal functions of a contract. “Marriage” is a religious term and who can or can’t get married is a matter for any particular church, temple, denomination etc to decide. It’s a gay couple’s right, if their religion approves, to call themselves married; and it’s, say, a Catholic person’s right to say that in their eyes, that couple is not married. As far as the government is concerned, it should only be a matter of whether or not they have certain rights and responsibilities on paper.

      To put it all another other way, I readily allow that a legislature and community may choose to regulate any moral behavior it chooses so long as the protections and freedoms of the Constitution and the higher-order authority aren’t violated (e.g. a county can’t override state law, generally speaking). What I was addressing in the original post is the question of whether slippery-slope arguments – that a legislator or campaigner or pundit might make against gay marriage – hold water. (Obviously, I argued they don’t.)

      There’s a couple points in your post I didn’t address, but as you see, I think we’re in very broad agreement about the best legal way to administer civil unions for all – you seem to feel that “marriage” should stand in legal language for heterosexual marriage while I think it’s unnecessary and a vaguely extralegal crossing of the state/religion barrier – even though you are against and I am in support of homosexual union in and of itself.

      Thank you for your thoughtful comment! Against, sorry for the delayed response.

    2. On the issue of gay marriage: I agree with Kiff in my reasons for opposing it and appreciate his well-written arguments. I don’t know if this is the place to bring this up, but I would like to add a few things: While civil unions are available to gays, many seem to be unsatisfied and will stop at nothing but marriage, equal in every way to traditional marriage, for gays in this country. It is not about benefits anymore; it is primarily about acceptance. But they are the only ones allowed to define what acceptance means. I am not saying this of gays as a group, mind you: I mean proponents of gay marriage, many of whom are straight.

      Marriage does confer a certain indefinable status on a couple which these people covet. However, there are many other statuses that also confer status, such as wealth, beauty, athletic ability, being a doctor, etc. So marriage as traditionally defined does not exclude people from this status based on their sexual orientation. It may exclude certain pairs of people—notably pairs of women, pairs of siblings, etc.–but no individual is excluded and even if one were, it can not prevent a person from gaining social status of equally valuable magnitude in some other way.

      I used to be rather lukewarmly against gay marriage. Based simply on the merits I was opposed to it, but only moderately. I wouldn’t pick a candidate just on this issue. As the years have gone by, my quite reasonable, not homo-phobic, position has been maligned as one of a bigot by the very people who are trying to persuade me to confer this status on them. I am sure gay marriage will become the law of the land, because we are mostly a nice group, us Americans. And this is being used against a great many that don’t particularly support gay marriage but fear being labeled as a mean and nasty bigot if they respectfully disagree to confer this SOCIAL status on gays. Lately I have become (privately, mind you) very anti gay- marriage in the sense that I realize the whole campaign is just that: a campaign. It is less about a reasoned, compassionate, respectful decision we as a SOCIETY, by definition, need to make to confer SOCIETAL status and more about a campaign to control others by fear. As a member of society I am repulsed by this campaign, not so much on the sexual aspect as the relentless attempts to shove it down my throat. Why would I want to confer more status on such people who don’t respect my considered opinion to deny it to them? I feel sorry for the parts of the gay community for whom the vocal gay marriage proponents do not speak, for I am sure there are many of them.

      1. Thank you for responding, and it’s a good place as any to bring it up; I’m happy for open discussion on my blog.

        To address your points out of order, I don’t think that the other things you identify that confer social status like wealth, beauty etc are the same as marriage. Marriage is about more than social status. I’m straight myself, and I know if I get married it won’t be just to gain social status. Civil union is a legal recognition of certain rights and responsibilities, but marriage is a social recognition of the couple’s love, commitment and togetherness. (Two people signing a civil union contract don’t have to speak one word about love, commitment or “til death do us part.” It’s not part of civil unions.)

        Wealth, beauty etc only confer status to the individual, but marriage confers status – validation – meaning – on a couple, on a relationship, on a pair of people who are presumably in love. It’s a pact before a community that means much, much more than just legal strictures or social status. I think, because of that, it only makes sense that gay people who are in love would want that recognition. They don’t want to feel like their love is ‘less’ than a straight couple’s, and if their personal church or local community is willing to recognize it they don’t want the law to say “sorry, you aren’t allowed to recognize them.”

        So even if you think gay relationships are unnatural, I don’t think you can deny that *for them* it’s very real, that love. And, since I assume you know what being deeply, madly in love feels like, why would you expect for two people in love to not want that love to be recognized as just as real as anyone else’s? Unless you think that every gay person is a social climber with no interest in anything but status, then it only makes sense.

        As far as who gets to define acceptance, of course the people who aren’t getting accepted are going to want to be accepted. That also only makes sense. If you and whoever else is opposed to gay relationships continue not to accept them, then they’re just going to continue to want to win your acceptance. Gay people want acceptance, and straight people like myself with gay friends want our friends to be accepted.

        One way of looking at it is this: there are a lot of straight people who have decided they accept gay marriage. If there’s a bunch of straight people who are against it, and a bunch who are for it, which group gets to decide if it’s accepted or not? If the people who are against it decide, then everyone who is for it is being told what they can accept. No matter what, someone is not seeing things go their way.

        So I always think, if one or the other group is going to be unhappy, then why not go with the choice that brings more love and togetherness? After all, gay marriage being accepted doesn’t stop straight people from getting married, loving, and being together with the full approval of society.

        I think the reason a lot of people yell at opponents of gay marriage like yourself and call you prejudiced is because they don’t hear any arguments from you that don’t boil down to “you don’t like the idea of gay marriage.” You haven’t given any arguments in your short post here of why you originally felt that gay marriage was wrong (lukewarmly) before the years went by. What originally made you feel against it? Because it doesn’t seem fair if the ONLY reason you’re against it is because you’re annoyed that the proponents want you to accept it and have called you a bigot for not accepting it. You said yourself that there are parts of the gay community that the loud proponents do not represent – so why make your position one that disapproves of all of them just because some of the representatives are annoying?

        In other words, I presume you have a reason besides being upset at the gay marriage campaign that you are against it. What is that reason (or reasons)?

        Lastly, can I ask you – if you accept that of course the gay community is going to want their love recognized, as I described above – what do you think the best way would be for them to try to gain that recognition, since the way they have been going about it has only made you feel more against it?

        Thank you again for writing! It’s so nice to have an open debate. Obviously we quite widely disagree, but I hope you will debate back with me. Even if I can’t change your mind, I hope to understand your position better.

        1. Sorry if I didn’t make myself clear: I completely agreed with what Kiff posted earlier in my reasons for being against gay marriage and didn’t see the need to retype the whole thing. (See his Dec. 8 post above). There are other reasons such as I think it is important that, wherever possible, children be raised by their biological parents. Yes, people adopt, and yes, some married straights never have children. But the vast majority do and every child produced has one male and one female parent. Part of gay marriage then will include the rearing of children, which will necessarily not belong to both biologically. Again, I am not interested in the exceptions but the rule: for me, marriage is primarily about supporting the fundamental biological family unit. It has far less to do with the preferences of the people in the marriage than what they contribute to the society. It is for this reason that society has been willing to confer “benefits” to married people, to support what only they can do for society: produce AND rear children. Gay couples don’t do that. You may not like it, but it is not a negligible fact that 2 men don’t create a baby. When the day comes that 2 females can create their own biological child that is 50% hers and 50% hers, I would probably recognize such a union as a marriage. But that isn’t the case today and it is not my fault. Society gains very little by conferring marriage on a group of people that do not profit society in the unique way that a man and woman do by producing and raising their own offspring. I would be far more open to group marriage, where two gay women married their gay men sperm donors and reared all their children together. I rather like that idea, actually. It is less about sex and love than commitment and keeping children with their biological parents.

          I know you will be tempted to point out all my flaws and I am not interested in going down this road with you. Could you possibly, please, concede that I may have a point? You may not think I am right, but to dismiss my view out of hand as anti-gay is deeply disrespectful.
          I am not accusing you of this; I am just so tired of it.

          1. I do not think you are anti-gay. You do have a point, but I do also have objections to it, and this is a discussion blog on the Internet, so I don’t think I’d be doing you any favors, or living up to my intent, by keeping them to myself. I will not take it personally – and I will certainly not take it as a concession or ‘giving up’ or anything like that – if you don’t respond to my response here, but I am going to respond all the same in the interest of open discourse.

            I’ll talk about Kiff’s objections, which you claimed as your own as well, in a second comment.

            The main thing I want to talk about here is the reason you gave for opposing gay marriage: biological parenthood. This is, in my opinion, a non-bigoted and easily discussed opposition. You feel marriage is a child/family-supporting institution – a common, and subjective, opinion – and yes, a gay couple cannot naturally procreate. Clearly I personally feel that marriage is more about recognizing a couple’s love and commitment; so this seems to be just a matter of what we feel marriage is meant for in society. I therefore won’t argue from the “marriage for love” perspective anymore, but will rather try and argue that coming from your “marriage for biological children” perspective, it still doesn’t make sense to ban gay marriage.

            First, I want to make sure I have read you correctly and have the right conception on what you think should go into a marriage:

            You seem to take the approach that marriage is a set of rights and privileges – social status included – given to the couple in order to reward and support them in their biological child-rearing. To make sure I understand you correctly, you seem to feel that as long as the people getting married are biological parents of the children who come out of the marriage, then they deserve that marriage. So that group marriage is okay in your book because all the people involved are biological parents of the children that they raise; but presumably you would not be okay if there was a fifth member also married in who was not a parent of any of the children, or if only one of the two gay men contributed sperm but married the other three anyway – no non-biological-parents get ‘in’ even if the biological parents are ‘there.’ Is that correct?

            Is it also correct that you feel adoptive and infertile heterosexual couples are acceptable exceptions because if we were to restrict marriage to only heterosexual couples who will have biological children, that would have a sort of chilling effect? Letting heterosexual couples get married before they have biological children, even if they don’t expect on childrearing, increases the likelihood that they may change their minds or find a fertility treatment that works? Therefore we’re making the sacrifice of allowing a few non-child-conceiving marriages in order to encourage a greater number of child-conceiving ones? Since, after all, a man and a woman can almost always theoretically have children. In other words, I get the impression you see marriage as primarily a social tool for encouraging biological parenthood.

            Now, my objections:

            1) I’ll point out that some biological parents will always exist who abandon or orphan their children, and those children will need to be adopted to have the best life possible. You might consider viewing gay marriage, at least in part, as a way of encouraging the creation of more couples who are likely to adopt since they can’t conceive, giving the stablest possible upbringing for those needy children. But that isn’t an argument against the fact that gay couples may still be encouraged, through marriage, to have new children conceived for them through donors, etc, which goes against your preference for biological parenthood.

            2) I am curious also – are you strongly against childbearing out of wedlock? Or is it okay, as long as the biological parents raise the child?
            And are you against single mothers having anonymous sperm donors to create and raise children? Or unmarried lesbian couples doing essentially the same? In both cases only one biological parent is raising the child, and no marriage is involved.

            3) What is your opinion on transgender marriage? A person born a woman but transitioned into a man could theoretically marry a man (a gay marriage, two men) and yet still have a biological child with that other man. Do you either refuse to recognize that transgender person as a man (even if the state government does), since they are reproductively still female, or do you feel that this would be an acceptable gay marriage in and of itself? (Whether or not you think it would still be okay for gay marriage as a whole to be allowed just for the sake of this kind of exception.)

            4) It’s not the case today, no, but it may be the case very soon:
            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reproductive_technology#Same-sex_procreation

            I have a couple other points I might make, but this post is quite long already. Thanks again.

          2. In reference to Kiff’s objections that you said you share (sorry for overlooking that), the question of locality always comes down to how much democracy you think is good. It’s not as if all the gay marriage opponents live in the same place and all the proponents in another with no overlap; anywhere gay marriage is either legalized OR banned, at least some people will have their non-preferred opinion forced on them. The question is therefore what size jurisdiction you want democracy to operate in: obviously, the more local you get, the more the law can be the one that matches that community.

            (Say there’s 1000 people in Omega County, 400 people in Alphaville all against, 300 people in Betaville all in support, and another 300 in Deltaville of which 290 are all in support and 10 are against. Having three separate laws – one for each town – makes the most individuals happy, since all but those 10 folks in Deltaville get what they want, but also makes things complicated. Those 10 Deltaville folks might wish that the vote was at a neighborhood level instead of village-wide. By contrast, having one county-wide law is democratic at the county level, and more administratively feasible, but makes all the 410 people against, who lost the vote, quite unhappy.)

            At the moment, the states have been making the decisions. If that’s the best way to do it, then what the federal government should do is stay out of it and let the states decide. But it’s a matter of opinion whether the state level is too broad or not broad enough. If whatever state you live in decides to legalize gay marriage, would you be happy with that? I’m sure Texas would outlaw gay marriage if there were a vote, but I’m also sure the city of Austin would rather they got their own vote, and would legalize it.

            To sum all that up: the decision on what level a law is made has good and bad effects no matter what, and it’s somewhat arbitrary. So your and Kiff’s complaint isn’t about gay marriage specifically – it’s about Big Government vs. Federalism.

            As for seeing gay marriage “as an absurdity on par with incest,” it’s not clear what exactly that means, and I’m not sure what you mean by agreeing with that, or whether you do agree with that statement as it reads or not. (Is it specifically gay MARRIAGE that is seen as an absurdity, or gay relations period? Is absurdity a legal judgment or a moral judgment?)

  5. “That all said, it seems my quest for a rock-solid and purely legal argument that homosexual sex/marriage is differentiable, legally and even morally, from incestuous sex/marriage, continues. Perhaps there isn’t one; perhaps it is impossible to truly separate the two, and perhaps one day, after homosexual sex and marriage is recognized as a human right – completely acceptable and not dangerous or harmful in and of itself – prohibitions of certain kinds of incestuous relations will also fall as a consequence. Maybe that’s true; maybe that’s a good thing, or bad thing. But that certainly isn’t something that will help the gay marriage legalization movement now, alas. As long as a gay marriage opponent can make the incest-homosexuality equivalency, the campaign of us gay marriage proponents will be shakier and less effective.”

    I just don’t think what you are saying here makes any sense. Are you saying that you would support incest only if it is acceptable and can benefit gay rights? I am pro-gay and pro-incest because they both promote fundamental human rights on a global scale. You can’t support one and not the other if you can’t support your argument… To do so would be to be illogical and thus weaken your argument.

    1. “Are you saying that you would support incest only if it is acceptable and can benefit gay rights?”

      I assume you are asking if I would support incest if, and only if, it were BOTH acceptable AND beneficial to gay rights? In other words, would I surrender support for incest if it were acceptable BUT NOT beneficial? As you point out, that would be illogical and weaken my argument. And that seems to be your reading of the quote you excerpted from me – that I seem like I am against incest, even though it seems acceptable, just because I think it doesn’t help gay rights.

      That’s not what I am saying. I am saying that I am *still looking* for a way to differentiate the two legally/morally, such that I (or any gay marriage proponent) can have a solid argument for why I find incest to be unacceptable even while I support gay rights. If, in my investigations, I can’t turn up any good reason to consider them separate, I’ll have to conclude that I must support incest and gay marriage both. I wouldn’t somehow pretend not to find it acceptable strictly to shore up the gay rights argument. Again, as you said, that would be unsupportable.

      Currently, I do think there is a solid argument, as discussed in my previous comments, why incestuous marriage is differentiable from gay marriage, and I do not think incestuous marriage is necessary or supportable. (Or “civil union”, I should say.) Consensual, adult incestuous sex – that’s where I’m still looking for a good argument. I personally feel strongly against it, but I’m not sure if that’s inherited prejudice or not. My personal jury is out on the matter.

      In the meantime, I recognize that my gay rights argument is weak to certain emotional-appeal attacks from opponents; that is motivation for me to continue seeking a way to separate the two. Even if I come to the position that both consensual gay and incestuous sex are acceptable, then recognizing arguments that others can use whereby they can logically support gay rights and oppose incestuous ones will be helpful for the gay rights movement.

  6. Challenge: IF I were to “personally feel strongly against” gay rights how would you convince me otherwise?

    It seems to me that your argument against incestuous marriage boils down to inherited prejudice. Now, do you understand why so many people are against gay rights? So, ‘If You Allow Gay Marriage, Incest Will Be Next!’ means that if you allow gay marriage, then there is no reason why incestuous marriage would not be okay. The only way to argue for one and not the other is through that which underlies reason (which you have manipulated in order to support your argument)– that of religious beliefs (religion not necessarily involving god(s), but religion as in your strong values).

    1. “Challenge: IF I were to “personally feel strongly against” gay rights how would you convince me otherwise?”

      Well, I’d hope you’d be able and willing to investigate your personal strong feelings against it, to try and seek the reason underlying them. As I said, that’s what I’m doing – I’m not taking a *strong* position on the legal matter of consensual, adult incestuous sex, simply identifying where I’m emotionally inclined to stand. I’ll either end up finding a solid reason for that position, or abandon it, in time. It’s an evolving thing.

      Of course I understand that many people are against gay rights because of emotional prejudices. The idea behind discussions like this – in public relations and campaigning in general – is to get people to examine those prejudices, and engage their reason, in the hope that when they look at the matter dispassionately and rationally, they’ll see things clearly (thus supporting gay rights). This whole essay and discussion is about cleaving the emotional prejudices people have against bestiality, incest etc from their emotional prejudices against gay relations. The idea is that it’s easier to try to peel away a smaller amount of prejudice at one time.

      Personally, if it wasn’t clear, I am fully convinced that gay rights are, well, right. As for consensual, adult incest, I am not fully convinced either way. I’m learning, listening, examining. You’ve made some good arguments here in favor of supporting – or at least not opposing – consensual, adult incest on logical grounds.

      However, my argument against incestuous marriage, specifically, is not inherited prejudice. It boils down to legal coherence and the purpose of civil marriage (or civil union). As I said in my previous comment, I think incestuous marriage (and we haven’t defined what degree of consanguinity we consider “incestuous” here) is a legal tangle, at best. You have to consider my position within the whole scope of how I think marriage/civil union should be administered by the state.

      I am not sure what the last sentence in your comment is saying, but I think you’re suggesting that my arguments against incestuous marriage are made with “manipulated reason” and come from “religious beliefs.” First of all, “manipulating reason” doesn’t make sense – if the logic is twisted, it’s not reason; if the logic is sound, it’s not ‘manipulated,’ just simply ‘applied.’ And calling someone’s beliefs “religion” as a way to dismiss them is both tacky and wrong. A religion is a system of beliefs held in faith; what I have is an emotional or inherited disinclination towards supporting incestuous sex and a logic-based opposition to incestuous marriage, both of which I am examining and not holding as my personal gospel by any means. That hardly a religion makes.

      So are you actually an incest-legalization supporter? Or are you playing devil’s advocate? If you are actually one, I’m curious to hear more about your position. What is your stance on incestuous marriage – to what degree should it be legal, do you feel? Between any consenting adults, even parent/child or sibling/sibling? What is your stance on consensual, adult sex along the same lines? Do you come to your position from a libertarian “victimless-crimes-should-be-legal” standpoint, or what?

  7. […] Much Shakespeare Is Produced in DC 4) Why I’m Glad Romney Is Going To Be The GOP Candidate 5) “If You Allow Gay Marriage, Incest Will Be Next!” 6) The Seven Deadly Sins of the Internet Age 7) There is Too Much Theatre in D.C. 8) What I Want 9) […]

  8. Slev Jacobson · · Reply

    How can you sit here and tell us gay marriage is ok, but not for two biological brothers, two biological sisters, a father and his 25 year-old biological son. None can produce offspring.

    If you support gay marriage you have no right to deny marriage to incest couples. To do so would be hypocritical and bigotted as gay supporters frequently say.

    1. As I’ve said, the arguments against consensual incest that separate it from gay relationships are the trickiest here. Most arguments are pretty well responded to here: http://marriage-equality.blogspot.com/p/discredited-invalid-arguments.html

      The strongest one, in my view, is the legal incoherence argument. There’s no need for legalistic/contractural marriage between any of the pairs you mention, because, as family, they already have the rights that a married couple is seeking to obtain from the government (or would, if government would just separate civil union from religious marriage already). If such a couple wants a religious marriage, that can be between them and their religious organization, but the government has no compelling reason or need to grant a civil union.

      Bear in mind, the purpose of this particular post was to examine the anti-gay-marriage argument in the title, which gay marriage opponents use as with the explicit assumption that Incest Is Bad; so it can seem that trying to argue that consensual incestuous marriage would be fine would be, in fact, to concede the argument immediately to such an opponent, putting the cart before the horse.

      The purpose here was to attempt to challenge gay marriage opponents to find even one argument against incest that doesn’t apply to gay marriage – even, potentially, if that argument is wrong – for the sake of reducing their overall level of bigotry. This requires them finding some pro-gay marriage argument that neither accepts incest (because gay marriage opponents will probably reject that, instantly) nor disincludes incest based on ‘tradition’ or ‘disgust’ grounds (because, well, gay marriage opponents apply that to gay marriage).

      To put it another way, I’m not here to make any argument directly about incest; I’m trying to convince tradition-minded conservatives who reject gay marriage to see them as separate things, since the incest disgust reaction (wrong though it may be) is so strong in many people. It’s a throwing-under-the-bus situation, which is completely fair to call out. It’s a tactic seeking a moral end through potentially immoral means. I imagine many gay marriage proponents who may personally feel that consensual incestuous marriage is okay are loathe to admit that publicly, because they want to win the gay marriage fight (which is going well) before losing so many possible converts to the cause who will turn away if incest is accepted under the umbrella.

      To restate – I think some people would see this as a don’t-let-the-perfect-be-the-enemy-of-the-good situation, wherein they see including pro-incest progress as ‘the perfect’ and pro-gay-marriage progress as ‘the good;’ and they feel fighting for incest is adversarial to fighting for gay marriage.

      So, in conclusion, it’s not strictly accurate if you’re calling me hypocritical and bigoted; my opinion on incestuous marriage doesn’t actually appear here. To be accurate, you’re calling the Devil’s Advocate who appears here a bigoted hypocrite. Which, again, fair enough, and the words came from the same keyboard.

      It is curious; I never expected that so many of the comments would come from (actual or devil’s advocate) pro-incest positions; I thought if anything, I’d be arguing against gay marriage opponents (and many of them do look at this blog, judging by the search results that lead people here).

  9. Stupid article.
    Safe sef exists now in case you did not get out of your house for the last 30 years.

    SAFE sex between siblings is not “dangerous”. If you defend gay marriage you msust defend incestuous relations.

    If you don’t then you’re nothing but a hypocrite.

  10. […] to distract gay marriage debate from a civil right perspective towards moral dimension – see here fore more elaborate […]

  11. Wait 50 years!

  12. Anonymous · · Reply

    What if gay incest, is it right?

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