New York makes gay marriage legal. Excelsior!

By Phil Plait | June 27, 2011 6:18 am

As you no doubt heard over the weekend, New York is set to be the sixth state to legalize gay marriage: the state Senate passed a bill, and the Governor has said he’ll sign it.

My sincere and very happy congratulations to all my gay readers! I think this is terrific news, especially since NY is such a big state, the largest to make gay marriage legal. I also want to specifically point out this bill would not have passed without four Republicans signing it into law as well. I especially wish to thank Republican Senator Roy McDonald, who gave this heartfelt speech:

You get to the point where you evolve in your life where everything isn’t black and white, good and bad, and you try to do the right thing. You might not like that. You might be very cynical about that. Well, [bleep] it, I don’t care what you think. I’m trying to do the right thing. I’m tired of Republican-Democrat politics. They can take the job and shove it. I come from a blue-collar background. I’m trying to do the right thing, and that’s where I’m going with this.

Also, Republican Senator Mark Grisanti, who said:

I cannot deny a person, a human being, a taxpayer, a worker, the people of my district and across this state, the State of New York, and those people who make this the great state that it is the same rights that I have with my wife.

They are precisely correct. It is the right thing to do, and in America all Americans should have the same rights. It’s really just that simple.

Of course, not everyone agrees with this. I hear the same arguments against gay marriage every time it comes up, which is why I’ve written about this topic several times, including here, and
here, and here. I don’t need to add much to those posts; please read them if you have a few minutes.

I do want to mention one particular argument against gay marriage I’ve heard before but was brought up again this time around. It’s especially silly because it’s so clearly wrong. Here it is, from Catholic Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio:

I believe the passage of same-sex marriage is another ‘nail in the coffin’ of marriage… It is destructive because we fail to view marriage in the context of a vocation: a calling to participate in the great enterprise of forming the next generation. Marriage is reduced to an empty honor…

That statement is almost trivially easy to prove wrong. After all, would the Bishop forbid a man marrying a woman who had a hysterectomy? Or to a post-menopausal woman? Or a woman marrying a man who lost his genitals in combat? And if you argue that those couples could adopt, well then, you’ve proven my point. We can allow gay couples to adopt too. After all, children raised in such a way are just as likely to be happy and well-adjusted as with heterosexual parents.

I suspect the real problem at the heart of this issue is civil marriage versus religious marriage. Perhaps, once and for all, it’s time to separate the two. If a religion doesn’t like gays, that’s its right, and it doesn’t have to acknowledge a gay marriage. The government, however, is not allowed to discriminate, so any adults should be allowed to have a civil marriage. I know this is a difficult topic, and sounds like a "separate but equal" issue, but I’m not so sure — if the government doesn’t officially recognize religious marriage, and requires a civil marriage for the rights of partners to be bestowed, that may solve the issue. I’d be very curious to hear other people’s opinions on this, especially those familiar with the issue of civil versus religious marriage.

In the meantime, though, by passing laws as NY and five other states have, it’s sending a strong signal of which I approve. What the State is doing is recognizing the bond that ties humans together. It’s giving participants civil rights involving each other, the same spousal rights I enjoy with my wife.

And you know what? I’m all for that.

Picture credit: The Atlantic/Creative Commons


Related posts:

Being married in California/anywhere
Critical thinking about personal beliefs
Iowa lets people get married
NY State Senate votes against equality (from a previous 2009 gay marriage vote in NY)

MORE ABOUT: gay marriage, New York

Comments (198)

  1. I thought the government already didn’t just take someone saying “a priest/rabbi/minister/whatever married us so we’re husband and wife.” You still need to get a marriage license. When I was married, we first had a couple of our friends sign the civil marriage license. Then we had two different people sign our ketubah (Jewish marriage license). Without the civil marriage license, we could have gone through the ceremony a dozen times and the government still wouldn’t have recognized it.

    I agree about separating the two. Churches/temples/etc already aren’t forced to marry any couple that comes their way. If a Jewish man and a Catholic woman go to an Orthodox Jewish temple to get married, they’ll be turned away. Orthodox rabbis won’t officiate over an interfaith marriage even though it’s perfectly legal for those two to get married (as far as civil law goes).

    Gay marriage can be viewed the same way. If a religion frowns upon two men or two women getting married, they are free to refuse to officiate. The gay couple can then go to another church/temple/etc to find someone who will or can go to a Justice of the Peace.

    At one time, interracial marriage was controversial. The idea of a black man and a white woman (or vice versa) getting married shocked people. Up until 1967, there were laws in some states declaring it illegal. Nowadays, it doesn’t surprise people at all to see people from different ethnic backgrounds getting married. I predict that, in the year 2055, people will see gay marriage the same way.

  2. Civil and religious marriage are already separate. The only way in which they’re united is that, purely as a convenience, we allow clergy to solemnize marriages licensed by the state. (In some countries, such as, I believe, France, this isn’t the case; when you’re married in a church, you have to go back to the town hall and get someone there to perform a separate function.)

    I think that fiddling around with the details of civil marriage (or, more radically, getting rid of civil marriages entirely or renaming them “civil unions”) would not do any good. Opponents of same-sex marriage usually frame it as some kind of threat to opposite-sex marriage. Politically, the last thing you want to do in that situation is actually mess around with opposite-sex marriage when there’s absolutely no need to.

    In arguments over same-sex marriage, there’s always someone who pipes up that the solution is that “the government should get out of the marriage business”. It’s a fantasy-based derailing argument. In the real world, support for real live same-sex marriage is growing at an astonishing rate; according to multiple polls, a majority of Americans are now for it. I don’t see the point of shifting the argument to something far less attractive.

  3. Mike

    Hooray for sanity winning in NY.

    re: religious vs civil marriage, IANAL but I’ve been long thinking that’s exactly what is needed. A separation of judicial and religious bonds – whatever they may be called. Let the churches wed – or not – whoever they please and let the state register those that want to have extra obligations and rights for their relationship.

    Heck, if it’s all about a little word “marriage”, perhaps we should drop that from the law and let the churches keep it. Let’s call it “registered relationship” or something for everyone.

  4. Fraser

    The separation of religious and civil marriage — with only the civil marriage being recognised by the government — is how it works here in the Netherlands.

    Coincidently, same sex marriage is really no big deal here.

    (To clarify, Dutch clergy can do all the solemnising they wish, but it doesn’t count until you go to the town hall)

  5. I’m a notary public, and the State has given me by statute the right to solemnize marriages. If my state ever legalizes same-gender nuptials, I’ll do it gladly and add whatever frippery the happy couple desire (prayers, Wiccan rituals, etc.). After all, it’s their wedding, not mine.

    I’ve been married, and the notion of two men marrying or two women marrying holds no terrors for me. As long as they love each other, are committed to each other, and are determined to raise their kids in a loving household, give me the paper and I’ll sign it (with appropriate financial emolument, please).

  6. Blaise Pascal

    Cuomo signed it almost immediately — before midnight the evening it passed. Which is important since it takes effect 30 days after he signs it. Waiting until morning would have delayed implementation a day.

    NY is also important because it is the first state to get marriage equality without being forced by the courts — and it can’t be taken away by referendum.

  7. AJKamper

    I’m with Matt McIrvin. There is precious little difference between civil and religious marriage already, and separating the two–putting the government in charge of “pairbonding” or what have you–won’t destroy the connection in people’s minds.

    Indeed, Matt put the point so nicely that I barely feel the need to post, other than to say, “You know, ditto.”

  8. Well said! Regards from Greece, from an avid reader of your blog!

  9. It’s funny, in that, though I’m not religious, my wife and I actually had separate ceremonies. The person we wanted to officiate at our wedding wouldn’t have been able to do it in the state where we wanted to have the big family ceremony, so we had a ten-minute legal wedding with a justice of the peace a few days later. No worries.

    So I feel as if the situation being discussed as a solution is one that really already obtains, aside from the minor American legal quirk of church officials being among the classes of people allowed to perform civil weddings.

  10. Andy

    Gays not being able to marry reminds me of the the jim crow laws I learned about in history. Only back then they were worried more about color than sexual orientation. I’m glad we’re making an effort toward equality for all people in this country. Sad thing is though other countries are far exceeding the US when it comes to civil rights. Aren’t we supposed to be setting the example?

  11. Erp

    The Catholic church would have opposed it even if priests had no part in the civil recognition of marriage (see France).

    They probably rightly fear that they may lose state support for their adoption services if their adoption services flatly reject all same-sex potential parents (something the hierarchy may insist on but those actually working in the adoption services might be fine with [the Catholic laity according to polls is much more accepting of same-sex marriage than people of most other religious traditions or their own hierarchy]).

  12. blf

    I’m a pretty conservative guy, and I am quite happy that NY has decided to do this. The argument that gay marriage is going to destroy the institution of marriage is a joke. I’d say the 50% divorce rate in heterosexual unions has done an effective job of that.

  13. Aubri

    This is exactly the right way to do this — state by state, not trying to change all state laws by proxy through federal decree.

    In a sense, the word “marriage” is kind of like “planet”. It has several different definitions which don’t necessarily agree or apply simultaneously. I’d honestly like to see marriage as a civil institution go away entirely. No joint taxes, no automatic joint ownership of property… if you want the traditional trappings, you just write that into a prenup. If you don’t, you just… don’t!

  14. Astrobot

    #9 “Aren’t we supposed to be setting the example?”

    Lolz. As a country that still had racial segregation 50 years ago, the US has NEVER been a shining beacon of civil rights. The rest of the world is just happy you’re finally catching on to the idea that all people are equally human.

  15. Andy

    Astrobot- my apologies. I will keep my mouth shut and not get into conversations that don’t concern me.

  16. The notion of US-as-shining-beacon may be hypocrisy, but it’s historically been extremely useful in campaigns to extend civil rights. When we were ending slavery and segregation, the killer argument was always “look, it says right there in our founding documents that we’re for freedom and equality; do you want to keep that as a lie or do you want to help fulfill a little piece of the promise?”

    Even Frederick Douglass came around to this tactic, at a time when it wasn’t at all obvious that it would work or made sense, and many abolitionists were explicitly rejecting it on the basis that the words in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were obviously empty.

  17. @blf,

    I got into a gay marriage discussion with some family members over the weekend. When one of them tried the “destroy the sanctity of marriage” argument, I countered that the divorce rate and quickie, Elvis-Themed Las Vegas wedding chapels have already done that. If a person’s only argument is that marriage should remain a solemn affair that ties two people together forever then they need to wake up. That ship sailed a loooong time ago! Want to “preserve the sanctity of marriage?” Try lobbying for divorce to be outlawed and see how far you get! (Generic “you” there, not any specific person.)

  18. @Matt McIrvin #2: And there it is, ten comments after yours. And with a little bit of support for the majority voting on civil rights for the minority thrown in for flavor. Always good to see someone pushing to make life as difficult as possible for the unprivileged.

  19. Greg

    It’s funny how the argument used to be that homosexuals were promiscuous and sexually immoral, and that was supposed to destroy the fabric of the country. Now, they want to be in loving, monogomous relationships, and [i]that[/i] is supposed to destroy the fabric of the country as well as the “institution” of marriage. Err…wut?

  20. @Aubri,

    Civil marriage is too ingrained in our culture, governmental functions, etc to go away. It affects everything from health care (one “life partner” can’t get medical updates if the other is in surgery – a spouse can) to property (if a husband passes away without a will, it automatically goes to his wife. If a life partner passes away without a will, the other life partner can be SOL) and more. Removing civil marriage entirely from our legal code would be a monstrous affair that would create more problems than it solved.

    The real key here is that people need to mentally separate civil marriage from religious marriage.

  21. Mejilan

    Fantastic news. As a NYer, I’ve been following this story since word first hit that it actually stood a chance at passing. As the issue stretched into a second week, things started to look grim. But it’s awesome to see it finally pass with no chance of it being revoked/repealed. Gay pride? Sure. NY PRIDE!? Definitely! Kudos to all involved!

  22. Dave L

    Wow – no trolls, no dissenters?

    This really is pushing on an open door, isn’t it?

    Congratulations, New York.

  23. Aubri

    @14 Andy, don’t apologize. It’s a valid question. Astrobot needs to recall that the most racist government in recent history came out of Europe, not America.

    Racism came to a head in the US because the US lacked the class, religious, and national distinctions that have tended to subsume racial issues in Europe, and because continued racism was economically advantageous to some very powerful people. It’s a little silly to say “US is racist, Europe isn’t”, considering that the vast bulk of Americans came from Europe to begin with during the time period in question.

  24. Cindy

    I remember having the same argument with my mom about 10 years ago. She was claiming the sanctity of marriage and also for pro-creation. I asked her if people who were past their child-bearing years won’t be allowed to get married.

    My brother is against it as he’s more religious and said that the Bible was against it. He also claimed that it would demean marriage and that gays weren’t faithful. I pointed out that a friend of mine has been with his partner for over 20 years and that in the intervening period our sister has been married twice.

    My sister and I are for gay marriage. Congrats, NY!

  25. RobT

    You know what they say: Marriage is the leading cause of divorce.

    Why shouldn’t everyone enjoy the right of being lawfully joined in matrimony to the one they love? Even before it was legal here in Canada my company health benefits could cover my Significant Other, whether I was married or not, heterosexual or not. If my insurance company didn’t care why should the government or any other group?

    I really don’t get the big deal – probably because I am not racist nor homophobic. I dislike people for their actions, not their religion, sexual preference or skin colour.

  26. Rodrigo Valle

    I am extremely disappointed that Phil Plait has introduced such a topic into an Astronomy and Science blog.
    I come here regularly to read about stars and atoms, not society and politics.
    What’s next? Gun control? Euthanasia? Civil rights?
    All important topics, but regardless of what my opinion or other people’s opinions may be on those matters, I strongly believe that they have no place on a science blog.

  27. Aubri

    @19 TechyDad,
    I didn’t say it was likely to happen soon. :) I’m a conservative-leaning libertarian, so my touchstone is “does government need to care about this?” All the points you make are true, but somewhat irrelevant. Government doesn’t determine hospital policy, for example. They can allow “life partners” any time they want to. They are taking cues from government, though, and eliminating civil marriage would remove the crutch they’re leaning on to avoid thinking.

  28. Jim

    As a former conservative I’d like to say that this issue is one of the ones that has pushed me away from the R-party. I don’t like the D-party much better though. I recently reached a point in my life where I realized that every issue should not be seen in black and white. I decided that we need a Gray Party for all of use who see shades of gray.
    For the above reason, I liked Senator McDonald’s statement and saw it as refreshing that an R could be rational about this by not taking a black-or-white point-of-view.

  29. jennie

    I expect someone else will jump in with a better explanation of this, but I once took a course on Catholic canon law. It is actually the case that a marriage can be annulled if one or the other party to it is not capable of or interested in producing children. (The priest who taught the course told us that annullments are rarely granted on those grounds now.) From a canon law perspective, the only kind of sex that is ok is the kind that happens within marriage AND is meant to produce a child. All other kinds are right out, as it were. I’m not endorsing this view or anything, I’m just saying: that’s what’s on the books, and I think it underlies a lot of that type of rhetoric coming from archbishops and similar.

    I don’t believe that it’s the general practice of parish priests to inquire into the state of anyone’s… fertility, shall we say, or anything, but to answer your question above: theoretically, he could refuse to marry a couple that he knew couldn’t have a kid, though I suspect that’s terribly unlikely to happen in practice. Even if a priest did refuse to perform a marriage in those circumstances, a couple could nearly always find another priest somewhere else who wasn’t a complete ass, with a little bit of looking, if they still wanted a Catholic ceremony.

    All of this is in the service of saying that the Catholic church, in particular, has a very specific idea of what marriage is about, and that in part informs their objection to marriage equality. Again, not that I endorse their view. I know they also have some totally f-ed ideas about homosexuality that figure in as well, but all I know there is what I read in the papers.

  30. Josh

    I like hearing that the Dutch, and possibly the French, have their marriage systems in a way that is separate from the religious rituals. I agree that it might help with acceptance of gay marriage if that were the case here. But, really, there’s not much I can do about it except vote and try to change the minds of others. Not that I do too much trying to convince others. I only do so when the subject comes up, which is rarely, since I am happily married in a heterosexual relationship.

    In some ways, though, I wish that there was less incentive to get married. In some ways it’s cheaper because of things like health care. Also some things, like buying joint property, can be simpler for married couples. I just dislike people getting married for the fiscal benefits rather than the fact that they want to spend their life with someone.

  31. Ron1

    @25. Rodrigo Valle is disappointed …

    Personally, I like the idea that on any given day I’m going to find something unexpected on this site, and this was a great post.

  32. Thomathy

    @ #25, Rodrigo Valle,

    It’s Phil Plait’s blog and it’s entirely obvious that Phil Plait can blog about whatever he wants. He just has. He has in the past. If you do come here, to this particular blog, regularly, then you may have noticed. Do you whine every time that Phil Plait posts something unrelated to astronomy or science? If so, are you getting tired? I have the perfect solution for you! Stop reading this blog. Repeat that (in)action as frequently as required and have a lovely time elsewhere!

  33. F16 guy

    This is great news. The idea of polygamy and marrying your pet can’t be too far away! Or better yet, marrying more than one pet !

    Thank goodness that here in America, “we don’t need no stinkin’ definition” of what marriage is.

    “In The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (1776–88), Edward Gibbon famously placed the blame on a loss of civic virtue among the Roman citizens.”

    Be careful what you ask for.

  34. Andrew

    Marriage is (in Canada) a provincially regulated legal contract that, once entered into, entitles the married couple to a bundle of statutory rights. Gay marriage is legal pursuant to our Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

    Religious clergy and secular marriage commissioners are provincially licensed to formalize this legal relationship.

    How the clergy and/or marriage commissioners actually solemnize the ceremony itself is really window-dressing on the actual legal relationship.

    Clergy are allowed to refuse to perform ceremonies that are against their religious beliefs.

    But people who are simply provincially-licensed marriage commissioners (and are not clergy) *cannot* refuse to marry anybody (I think this ruling varies a bit from province to province – I could be wrong; this ability to force people to perform the ceremony is a bit controversial).

    Kudos to NY and the individuals there who had the guts to do the right thing – certainly it comes at a political price, and politicians aren’t known to enjoy paying that price.

  35. I should acknowledge that objections like Astrobot’s happen because the notion of the US as the world’s leading exemplar of human rights tends to have baleful effects on US foreign policy. So people in other countries tend to have a more jaded view of it than people in the US.

    But, domestically, it’s generally a positive force.

  36. Dave

    F16 Guy, who cares about polygamy? Let it happen. Consenting adults should do as they wish as long as they hurt no one else. As for pets, stop being ridiculous. Nice straw man. Pets can’t consent to marriage. Neither can children, so there goes your pedophilia argument.

  37. My husband and I have been married (in Canada) for 8 years (and together for 10 years before that). Presumably in all that time we’ve been damaging straight marriages right and left. The ruins of their sanctity must be strewn about like confetti. In the interest of fairness, I will happily make amends to anyone who has been harmed. Please itemize the damage and note the mechanism by which it occurred, and I will make restitution.

    Cheers.

  38. Dan B

    #25 Rodrigo Valle:
    Really Rodrigo – you come here “regularly” and are just noticing that Phil expands his range of topics beyond title?

    Really?
    And what would be wrong with discussing *any* of those other topics you suggest?

    One of the things that draws me here is that the scope of his knowledge, interests and musings far exceed the confines of the parent magazine and the ‘limitations’ the blog’s title… don’t try to disparage and discount his content – and his readers’ intelligence – by trying to pigeon-hole this or any forum to only topics that you are comfortable with.

    Hopefully, you’ll get over your disappointment and continue to reading the articles and comments presented here…

  39. OtherRob

    @F16 guy: Sigh. I guess we should be grateful that we go through about 30 posts before this old canard showed up. I could point the flaws in your argument, but if you’re making these tired arguments, I doubt you would be willing to even entertain the possibility that you could be wrong.

    @TechyDad: I’ve been married for almost 16 years and I just don’t see how “Adam and Steve” getting married could possibly be a threat to my marriage.

  40. OtherRob

    @kuhnigget: Will the restitution be in Canadian or U.S. dollars? ;)

  41. kid cool

    #25 Rodrigo,
    you’re probably right about gay marriage not belonging on an astronomy blog, but I would point out that one of the most important elements of science is freedom. You cannot have intellectual freedom without freedom of thought and action.

    As someone who has been in a hetrosexual marriage for 21+ years, I feel no threat to my marriage by gays being allowed to marry. Also, I think that the state has an interest in promoting monogomous relationships and that it is right to subsidize marriage in the tax code. The state by state is wrong, the Fed should enforce the interstate commerce clause, repeal DOMA and let married gay couples filed as married joint or married separate.

  42. @ f16 guy:

    Thank goodness that here in America, “we don’t need no stinkin’ definition” of what marriage is.

    But we do need a definition, and it needs changing. That’s what adults do: they define the rules of the society in which they live.

    And FYI, no serious historian considers Gibbons’ summary of Roman decline as even remotely accurate.

  43. @ Other Rob:

    Will the restitution be in Canadian or U.S. dollars?

    Donuts and beer, ok?

  44. Gus Snarp

    I basically think you’re right, Phil. Government’s role in marriage exists solely because marriage is a legal contract which raises specific legal issues, including property rights, custody of children (biological or adopted), taxes, insurance, visitation rights, etc. Religion’s role in marriage is purely ceremonial and meaningful only to those who believe in it. The two ought to be entirely separate, but the key is that they are both called marriage. As long as it is the only legal marriage, then it’s not a separate but equal thing. My issue is when you want to create a new and different status like “civil unions”. Not creating that is important to me because I am married in the legal sense, but had no church ceremony or religious blessing, nor would I want one. But my marriage, and the marriages of my gay friends, should be treated exactly the same as everyone else’s. So the way I envision it working is simple: if you want to be legally married you fill out the paperwork at the courthouse, have it properly witnessed and signed, and you are married. Since this legal contract is between two adults to create a familial bond and implies express rights involving property and dissolution of the contract, it can obviously only be entered into by legal adults who do not already have a close familial bond with each other and are not already married, but any such two adults may enter into it regardless of sex, gender, what have you. If you want to get married in your church, that’s your business and the state has nothing to say about it. Three things change here from the current state of affairs: 1. Any two consenting legal adults can get married, gay, straight, bi, male, female, trans, whatever, it’s none of the state’s business. 2. The church’s role is reduced and at the same time churches are given more freedom in conducting wedding ceremonies. In other words, the church’s role is completely meaningless to the state. The certificate is made official by the state only, church leaders have no role to play in officially solemnizing the marriage, so they no longer need to be officially recognized by the state to conduct marriages – they do what they want, but if you want it to be legal it has nothing to do with them. 3. I’ve written too much and forget what number 3 was, but you get the idea. I’d even reduce the level of official who is needed to certify a marriage. A notary public should do (I think in some states it does, here we had to go to a justice of the peace or a mayor, kind of absurd).

  45. MacGuffin

    The only validly legal marriage in Spain is the civil marriage. You can get married in a church, sure, but not unless you have gone before to the town hall to ask for a marrying licence and signed all the papers. And it’s that way in a lot of countries. The “problem” are our personal beliefs.

  46. @f16: The definition is easy: Marriage is a civil contract entered into by two people to create a family that is productive to society.

    What the Bible, Koran, Torah or any other sacred book says should have nothing to do with a civil contract. That is what the first Amendment means.

    What is so hard to accept that other people deserve the same basic rights that you get? You think homosexual people are immoral? I think Financial CEOs are immoral. Yet they get to marry.

    Thanks for this post, Phil!

  47. Jim

    I fail to see what the religious right is making such a fuss about. After more than 20 years of marriage, I can tell you, it’s always the same sex.

    Sorry, but someone had to say it. (GRIN)

  48. NoAstronomer

    @F16guy #33

    re: The Fall of the Roman Empire

    Except of course that homosexuality was quite legal and, mostly, accepted in the Roman Empire. It was only after the official state religion was changed to christianity and homosexuality was banned that the empire collapsed.

    Make of that what you will.

    Any attempt to hold the Roman Empire aloft as a paragon of virtue and morality is always a source of much mirth on my part. Thanks for the laugh.

    Mike.

  49. Andrew

    I’m proud to say, as a transplanted Iowan, that, by a mere eight miles, we are still the southernmost state to allow gay marriage. Nice try, Staten Island, but Keokuk has you beat!

  50. OtherRob

    @kuhnigget: Donuts and beer? Now I really wish I had some sort of claim against you. ;)

  51. Robin Byron

    #26 Rodrigo Valle
    Take the stick out brother. You wouldn’t attend a one ring circus over a three, would you? I still giggle like a school boy when the announcer says, “And now, for something completely different.”

    By the way, I’m the uncle of around 36 nieces and nephews (I’ve lost count), five of whom are LG. Four are in CA and one in NY but now they are all a little freer and that makes me very happy.

    PS – Wow! I’m soon to be a great-grandfather. Oh my! (as the good professor would say)

  52. Maria

    @39 “30 posts before this old canard showed up” Canard… pets… marriage. lol. I see what you did there.

  53. Ron1

    @37. kuhnigget Said, ” My husband and I have been married (in Canada) for 8 years (and together for 10 years before that). Presumably in all that time we’ve been damaging straight marriages right and left. The ruins of their sanctity must be strewn about like confetti. In the interest of fairness, I will happily make amends to anyone who has been harmed. Please itemize the damage and note the mechanism by which it occurred, and I will make restitution.
    Cheers.”

    ……………………………………………………

    Ok. You posted your challenge an hour ago and I’ve been trying to find a way in which you’ve damaged my 32 year marriage and, well, I can’t think of anything. If anything, your post is inspiration for my wife and me as our gay 18 year son heads out into the world.

    Given the loneliness of his teen years (he just recently came out), we’ll be very happy and pleased when he finds someone to share his life as you appear to be doing.

    Cheers

  54. CB

    I suspect the real problem at the heart of this issue is civil marriage versus religious marriage.

    Sorry Phil, but that’s not the real problem.

    Nor is it, as I once thought, just blatant (religiously-based or not) homophobia and wanting to prevent homosexuals from having nice things (“I thought we were talking about marriage,” every comedian says).

    The issue is that they think that if homosexuals are given full rights and otherwise accepted in society, this makes homosexuality acceptable, and this means that their children are more likely to become gay. Or as we know much more likely just not in-the-closet self-hating gays. Which is close enough for their purposes.

    That’s where all the “you’re damaging marriage/family values” and other nonsense is really coming from.

    Separating civil vs religious marriage doesn’t address this issue much at all.

  55. Dwight Bartholomew

    “The government, however, is not allowed to discriminate, so any adults should be allowed to have a civil marriage.”

    While it’s relatively easy for me to wrap my head around gay marriage (it’s still two people who love each other), I wonder about the implications of, say, polygamist marriage or “human-duck” marriage (to take a silly view). In other words, I understand the opposition view which believes gay marriage is a “gateway”-issue to destroying marriage.

    But, to these people I’d say “This is why it gay marriage needs to be a State-by-State issue”. Let every State decide to allow gay marriage or civil unions or neither (as we merciless Texans have done). Heck, if Utah wants to allow polygamist marriage then so be it. Don’t like it then don’t live there. Want to marry your duck? Get a proposition on the ballot.

    And, I totally agree that marriage is already two separate institutions: religious and civil. Heck, when I got married I had to sign a State certificate and a separate Church certificate. That’s why, for me, civil unions are a “no-brainer”.

  56. Gaby

    This is great news! :’)
    i hope all gay people take this chance to be happier. This just gave me hope for me and my significant other to marry asap :)

  57. Kimpatsu

    The biggest difference between religious marriage and secular “marriage” (which are still currently called civil unions) is that as a Brit, if I MARRY and American, I automatically get a green card, whereas if I enter into a CIVIL UNION with an American, I don’t.
    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/43287105/ns/us_news-life/t/gay-couples-seek-green-cards-despite-likely-denial/

  58. Worlebird

    @F16 “The idea of polygamy and marrying your pet can’t be too far away! Or better yet, marrying more than one pet !”

    Seriously? I mean SERIOUSLY? As soon as your pet becomes smart enough to sign legally binding contractual agreements, then you can go ahead and marry it. As for polygamy, so long as we are talking about all of the participants being fully consenting adults, I don’t see what the problem is there.

  59. Rodrigo Valle

    @38.Dan B
    Hi Dan,
    Yes, I have ready many previous post from Phil that are not direct science or astronomy, but usually relate to education, or geeky topics that science people relate to.
    I have never felt a post was too off-topic before, but I did with this one, hence my original comment, and I stand by it.
    As a Phil Plait fan, I am very thankful for his great voice on science and fighting disinformation, but that doesn’t mean I can’t disagree with him from time to time.
    I believe gay rights and gay marriage are a too serious subject to be taken lightheartedly in a science blog.

  60. @ Ron1:

    I wish your son all the best, and am glad to hear he has (apparently) such supportive parents. To use a recently trademarked phrase, “It gets better.”

    reference: http://www.itgetsbetter.org/

  61. Lian

    This post is a clear pro-gay manifesto.
    Wasn’t Phil married? I guess at the speed he jumped on this topic he is probably taking a few long horse rides with cattle through a mountain.

    I wonder what Discovery magazine administration has to say about taking social-political stances within their website.

  62. @ Rodrigo Valle:

    I believe gay rights and gay marriage are a too serious subject to be taken lightheartedly in a science blog.

    Who says anyone is taking this lightheartedly?

    Or, by “taken lightheartedly,” do you really mean, “taken in any way other than my own religious-based opinion demands”?

  63. Dave L

    Sorry, but this is just too funny.

    F16 said:

    “ ‘In The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (1776–88), Edward Gibbon famously placed the blame on a loss of civic virtue among the Roman citizens.’

    “Be careful what you ask for.”

    He is apparently quoting from the Wikipedia article on Gibbon. Fuller citation follows:

    “In The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (1776–88), Edward Gibbon famously placed the blame on a loss of civic virtue among the Roman citizens. They gradually entrusted the role of defending the Empire to barbarian mercenaries who eventually turned on them. Gibbon held that Christianity contributed to this shift by making the populace less interested in the worldly here-and-now because it was willing to wait for the rewards of heaven.”

    Aside from the tiresome repetition of “why Rome fell” arguments, it is absurd and mendacious to try to pull Gibbon in on the side of Christian orthodoxy.

  64. TechBear

    I spent several years as a humanist celebrant, doing non-religious weddings (among other ceremonies.)

    At its heart, a civil wedding is nothing more than a special jurat: an officiant takes an oath from two people in the presence of at least two witnesses, and all five people sign where indicated to attest to the fact that the oath took place. In Maine, North Carolina and Florida, it really is a jurat, with any notary public authorized to take that oath. All states extend a special priviledge to clergy to take this jurat, but this is strictly a matter of law: it would be perfectly legal for a state to remove that power. Personally, I would like to see that happen and make civil marriage a basic notarial act: any clergy who want to officiate at civil marriages can get licensed as a notary.

    In the United States, marriage is not and never has been a matter of religion: that would be a direct violation of the First Amendment, never mind the fact that most judges are empowered to do civil weddings and, in many jurisdictions, county clerks, mayors and other civic officials. People who make the claim that marriage = religion are being willfully ignorant.

  65. Lian (61): Yes, because there’s no way a straight person could support gay rights.

    Rodrigo Valle (59): As I made clear in this post, I have written on this topic many times in the past. I also post pictures of animals on weekends, and do a great many articles on things that have nothing to do with science or skepticism. I suggest you read this post.

    F16guy (33): Assuming you’re not a troll, as I say in this post and elsewhere, marriage is between adults. Y’know, human adults. Nice try though.

    As for everyone else: thank you for your thoughtful comments. I appreciate the conversation here, and let’s hope we can help educate and eventually change the minds of people who are all-too-willing to act out on their prejudices.

  66. Vanessa F.

    Simply disgusting. You can’t normalize the abnormal. You can make marrying your own sister legal if you want to, it doesn’t make it less repulsive.

  67. Jason

    Hmm… I have debated whether to weigh in here or not on this issue. Personally, I believe that sex outside of marriage between a man and a woman is Immoral. This does flow from my religious beliefs, and as much as I would love to expand, I do not believe that I could adequately and comprehensively lay down the foundation. However I do wish to note that there seems to be an automatic reaction that if ever a conservative states an objection to homosexuality it is immediately “homophobia” or they are secretly gay and trying to deny it.

    So what you are telling me is that because I am not open to and accepting of homosexuality, regardless of my beliefs, I am in cowering irrational fear of “catching the gay” or I am already gay and too scared to admit it?

    What if I counter with those posters who are openly hostile to religion are “Theophobes” and scared of catching the God delusion?
    Anyone who is hostile to Christianity is a “Christophobe”?

    Back on the original topic, I am not going to debate the rightness / wrongness of the law for a couple of reasons, 1) I am not going to change anyone’s mind here 2) This really is a state’s rights issue and if they pass that law then they pass that law and 3) Regardless of any argument or reasoned points I could put forth are easily refuted by saying that my homophobia will rationalize anything.

  68. Ad Hominid

    “33. F16 guy Says:

    This is great news. The idea of polygamy and marrying your pet can’t be too far away! Or better yet, marrying more than one pet !”

    A Republican senatorial candidate did suggest last year that gay marriage would lead to people marrying horses. Perhaps that is not so far fetched: They are already halfway there, since anyone who ties the knot with one of these crazed homophobes would be marrying a horse’s ass.

  69. Ron1

    @54. CB

    Good comment, but I think Phil is right – the issue is civil vs religious marriage and separating the two will address the issue, and here is why …

    To begin, let’s use the US because that is where Phil is located and let’s agree that (notwithstanding Bachmann’s belief to the contrary) the US is a secular society.

    Given the above, giving religious organizations the right to officiate at civil marriages (the legal basis of all marriage) brings into conflict religious belief of the church vs the civil rights of gay couples (accepting that there are progressive religious groups that have no quarrel with same-sex marriage). It is a legitimate charge that forcing a group (that doesn’t want to do a marriage on religious ground) violates their right to religious freedom. However, gays have the right to marry and the fair solution is to separate religion from civil marriage (I repeat, marriage).

    I submit that the solution is to remove religious groups from officiating at civil marriages. This role should fall solely to the state (government). Therefore, to become legally married, any couple MUST appear before a government official who will officiate at that marriage. Thereafter, if they want it, the couple can go have their religious or other wedding of choice but only the civil marriage is recognized before the law.

    In so doing, the state, business, and individuals cannot legally treat a same-sex marriage any different that any other marriage.

    This also frees the religious organization from any conflict — they are free to give their blessing to whom they choose, without interference from anyone. (Use of their private property (funeral), however is a whole other issue.)

    ………………..

    However, CB is right when he says the issue is simple homophobia. I argue that removing religion from, and granting same-sex couples civil marriage, puts into place a legal framework whereby any rational arguments justifying homophobia is eliminated and homophobia can then be dealt with in the clear reality of what it actually is — irrational behaviour.

    cheers

  70. In many countries, a religious marriage has no legal status. People are free to do it in addition to a civil marriage. Of course, usually in the same countries, they are free not to get married at all.

    Personally, I think it would be better to decrease the rights (especially tax breaks) given to married couples. In other words, equality should come about through reducing the benefits of marriage, not allowing more people to get these sometimes unjustified benefits. If anything, benefits should be based on children (assuming there is not an overpopulation problem, which raises other issues).

    Many people are now comfortable with long-term, monogamous homosexual relationships. However, sometimes such people approach other forms of relationship, such as the various forms of polygamy, with the same hatred and misunderstanding one finds among gay-bashers.

  71. Murff

    Gay marriage never bothered me. Gays being married in a Christian church would bother me. Although I’m not a Christian myself, there can be no argument that gay marriage is against the Bible. These people should not be forced to marry gay couples. (I know most in this blog have been talking about civil unions, but I’m referring to the couples I’ve read about wanting to be “Married” in a church, and the protesters who stand outside or go on the news and ridicule the church).

    As an atheist, I’ve never understood how a gay person could call themselves a Christian. I would think that once you grasped the concept that EVERYONE is equal, which obviously isn’t the case in the Bible, it wouldn’t be to far of a jump to becoming skeptical of religion.

    TLDR: Good Job NY!!

  72. Marina Stern

    Regarding the “man on dog” fallacy, my husband likes to say that, if you can’ prove that your dog is over 18 years old, it can sign the certificate, and say, “I do,” during the ceremony, go ahead and marry the dog. It might be more lucrative to get it into show business, though.

  73. VinceRN

    I too believe marriage should be nothing more than a civil contract in the eyes of the state. However, I’ll add that it should be necessarily a contract between two people. A contract is a legally enforceable agreement between two or more parties. The government’s only concern should be that the parties are adults that are competent to enter the contract. Gender is not considered in any other contract, nor should it be in this.

    I guess it’s easy for people to want to exclude polygamy (or polyandry) because many associate that with religion, especially with Mormons, but it is no more reasonable a prohibition than gender is. There are many people who are in such relationships that are not religious at all (we had one such in my family for a while) and their rights should no more be limited than those of gays.

    As to people saying that somehow it would harm marriage, they must not be paying attention to the world around them. I am 46, and have been married 17 years. I know more people my age that are on their third marriage than have been married as long as we have. More than half of marriages end in divorce by seven years. I don’t think that will change much with gay marriage.

    Here’s the important political question people should be asking: For two years the political left had absolute control of the entire federal government. For two years the Republican’s in congress were irrelevant. During that time they could easily have passed a federal gay marriage law of some sort, and the president would surely have signed it. Nothing could have stopped it. Why didn’t they?

    True marriage equality would be gays being able to check the same box we do on our 1040, and gay couples having to pay the same same higher taxes that we do.

    Just imagine what the marriage penalty would be for a polygamous (or polyandrous) family who all made about the same income. Ouch.

  74. Digital Atheist

    Congratulations to freedom in New York!

    With all sincerity, seriously, congratulations.

  75. @ Jason:

    3) Regardless of any argument or reasoned points I could put forth are easily refuted by saying that my homophobia will rationalize anything.

    I’m willing to bet I could easily refute your arguments or “reasoned points” without mentioning homo- nor any other kind of phobia.

    Though in point of fact, I bet they’ve already been refuted numerous times, but “nobody changed your mind.”

  76. @ VinceRN:

    Here’s the important political question people should be asking: For two years the political left had absolute control of the entire federal government. For two years the Republican’s in congress were irrelevant. During that time they could easily have passed a federal gay marriage law of some sort, and the president would surely have signed it. Nothing could have stopped it. Why didn’t they?

    Your assuming there is a fundamental difference between the two parties. :[

  77. VinceRN

    @#70 Murff – There are a lot of gays that consider themselves Christian or follow other religions. I even met a lesbian Rabi once. I think the key, as far as gays in Christianity, is they they follow the teachings of Jesus, who, as far we know, taught “Love everyone equally” and never excluded (nor even mentioned) homosexuality. All the hateful stuff comes from people that came later (or from the old testament, which many think was pretty much repealed by Jesus’ “new deal”). Not a bad teaching really.

    I can’t say much about why they, or anyone, follows the rest of any religion though. I suppose that if someone believes in the supernatural though, that homosexuality wouldn’t be a bar to being Christian, though it would certainly be a bar to many specific churches within Christianity.

  78. VinceRN

    @75 kuhnigget – or perhaps pointing out that there isn’t really?

  79. @Jason,

    There’s a difference between thinking that an act is immoral and thus not doing it yourself and thinking an act is immoral and thus trying to prevent others from doing it. If you think that homosexuality or sleeping with someone outside of marriage is immoral, you are perfectly free to refrain from participating in these acts. Nobody has proposed the “Everyone must have gay sex outside of marriage” act. It is when you force these beliefs on others that you run into problems.

    To give an (innocuous) example, I don’t eat pork and shellfish products for religious reasons. My refraining from eating bacon doesn’t mean that I wish to ban bacon from all stores and restaurants. Neither am I lobbying to make consuming lobster a crime. I just steer clear of the lobster and sausage on the menu and everything is fine. I don’t even have a problem with my wife (who is less religious than me) eating bacon at the same table as me.

  80. Rodrigo Valle

    @65.Phil Plait
    Fair enough. I can recognize when I am wrong.
    I see that there are way too many past posts on this and other non-science topics, so my claim of this being a science-only blog is wrong.

  81. VinceRN

    @Jason #66 –

    You said: “Regardless of any argument or reasoned points I could put forth are easily refuted by saying that my homophobia will rationalize anything.”

    Certainly sex outside of marriage is wrong, at least if “no sex with anyone else” was part of the marriage agreement, as it usually is. The same would be true of gay marriage. The marriage vow is the most important promise any of us make. Someone who won;t keep that promise can;t be trusted to keep any promise.

    A reasoned point in opposition to gay marriage is something I’d like to hear. I promise no blame homophobia unless you argue that homosexuality is wrong without supporting that position. I think everyone would be interested in your argument, and few would just attack you like that. Those that do you can ignore.

  82. QuietDesperation

    Coincidently, same sex marriage is really no big deal here.

    Actually, polls show overall support in Europe and the USA is not all that far apart. 53% support in the USA and rising and 57% average in the EU.

    We just have a government comprised mainly of sociopaths.

    I am uninformed as to which type of insanity generally afflicts the EU’s politicians.

    The rest of the world is just happy you’re finally catching on to the idea that all people are equally human.

    The *whole* rest of the world, huh? I hope you’re not in the EU because that loud sound would be your glass house being pulverized into dust.

  83. Patrick 2

    @66: “However I do wish to note that there seems to be an automatic reaction that if ever a conservative states an objection to homosexuality it is immediately “homophobia” or they are secretly gay and trying to deny it.

    So what you are telling me is that because I am not open to and accepting of homosexuality, regardless of my beliefs, I am in cowering irrational fear of “catching the gay” or I am already gay and too scared to admit it?”

    Homophobia doesn’t mean you’re scared of “catching the gay”. It means you don’t like gay people. But, go on. What are your objections to homosexuality? I’m sure they’re brilliant arguments we’ve never heard before and not tired unsupported nonsense.

    Also, God’s not real. I feel it’s important to reiterate that.

    @80: “The marriage vow is the most important promise any of us make.”

    laffin’ out loud over here

  84. Geri Monsen

    One of the fascinating things I learned by listening to the reanactment of the Proposition 8 trial (and yes, I listened and watched the *whole* thing) was the fascinating history of the institution of marriage and how it has evolved over time. There was a lot to it, but regarding the current discussion, it’s important to note that the institution of marriage is and has always been a *civil* governmental institution used to cover property rights, child custody rights, etc. It was only in the late middle ages that the church became more involved in the marriage with formal ceremonies, but civil marriage has existed for thousands of years in many cultures.

    So, the government doesn’t need to get out of the marriage business. The whole concept of marriage is a civil matter — a civil contract between two adult human beings. That the government allows some religious people to officiate at a wedding for ceremonial purposes is beside the point. Marriage is a civil institution. It is the state that decides who can and cannot marry and is the institution that issues marriage licenses. A church/temple can decide not to officiate at the wedding ceremony if they wish, but allowing a gay couple marry in no way changes the religious nature of marriage, because marriage is a civil matter to begin with!

  85. Michael

    I agree, i always through the best way to handle this issue would be to say that marriage is a religious issue and let religion handle it. The government just does civil unions. Then all a gay couple needs to do is find a minister that will marry them, which isn’t hard. or if they don’t care about religion they can get a civil union like everyone else.

  86. Michael

    Civil marriage and religious marriage are already separate here in France (the government doesn’t recognize religious ceremonies at all), but they still don’t let The Gays marry here :-/. We have civil unions (pacs) that guarantee almost the same rights, but it really screws up the rights of other members of the European union when France refuses to recognize a Dutch marriage, for example, because both members are of the same sex.

  87. QuietDesperation

    This is great news. The idea of polygamy and marrying your pet can’t be too far away! Or better yet, marrying more than one pet !

    Animals cannot enter into legal contracts.

    The only problem I see with ploygamy (assuming consenting adults) is will anything affected by it (such an employer’s health care plan) be forced to recognize it. That’s part of building and running one of these here civilization thingamabobs.

    Companies could limit coverage to just one spouse, I suppose, or X number of family members where “family members” could be spouses and children. See? This stuff isn’t hard.

  88. Bramblyspam

    If the social conservatives really wanted to “defend marriage”, they’d stop all this ranting and raving about gay marriage, and start focusing on banning divorce.

    I’m married, and my marriage isn’t weakened at all by the legal recognition of gay marriage. Indeed, my wife and I are both strongly in favor of gay marriage.

  89. QuietDesperation

    As soon as your pet becomes smart enough to sign legally binding contractual agreements, then you can go ahead and marry it.

    Now, now. Uplift technology may come sooner rather than later. ;-)

    Or advanced genetic engineering. Can I marry a cat girl hybrid? :-D

    Related image: catgirl (simulated)
    http://lol.oswld.net/Internet%20Memes/catgirl.jpg

  90. VinceRN

    @ #82 Patrick – Thanks. That was exactly my point. That very few people take marriage the least bit seriously. That most people that get married stand there in front of their families and friends (and church, if any), and make a highly ritualized and solemn promise, with no intention of keeping it. That to most people, including you, the promise is not binding, nor is any promise.

    I personally, would not take someone’s word on anything important if their word means so little to them.

    I fully recognize that I’m in the minority. My point is that that’s the root of the problem with marriage. Gay marriage will be no different, and will not change the problems of marriage at all.

  91. Zucchi

    Yea for New York! I wonder if this will end up with a Supreme Court decision, like the anti-miscegenation laws did? Seems to me the same 14th Amendment argument ought to work.

    (And I’ve been married. There was nothing sacred about it.)

  92. Keita Haruka

    (Note: NOT a US citizen)

    The (supposed) seperation of church and state in the USA have always been a source of amusement to me because from my perspective, it was a total fiction. Given how politicians are always using religious viewpoints to substantiate their positions, I took it as a given that the only reason gay marriage was not allowed in the USA was because of religion, something that’s clearly unconstitutional. The way I understand your constitution, it states that anyone is free to practice or not practice a religion. If the state enforces a viewpoint put forward by a group on religious grounds, then the state is effectively endorcing that religion and enforcing it on people who do not necessarily believe in it. Whether a majority of the people supports this position or not is irrelevant because this is infringement on a basic right everyone has, no matter how much of a minority they are.

    As a non-christian homosexual (not atheist or agnostic) I wouldn’t care to be married in a church by a pastor/priest anyway, so personally, I couldn’t care less if the church refused to marry my partner and me. All we want is the same rights any other couple has. No more, and no less. All we want is for the state to recognise us as a legal couple. Whether the church does or not is completely irrelevant. The church should not have the power to decide who can and cannot marry because the church does not and can never represent every single person. The state, however, is supposed to.

    My parents were legally married before a magistrate after they’d said their vows “in the presence of their god”, and it’s worked out just fine with no aggravation for anyone. It’s a much better system that clearly shows the authority of the church and state as seperate entities: church for religion and state for the legalities. That way, everyone’s rights are served.

    Of course the church is going to oppose this because it lessens their overall power. If people can just bypass them and get married without them…naturally they’ll oppose it. Less money going into their coffers. That’s ultimately why I think religious leaders go on about the “sacred sanctity of marriage” and why only THEY should be able to perform it. Money and power. It’ll b better for all concerned to let the church have less of both. :p

  93. Patrick 2

    @88: “That very few people take marriage the least bit seriously. That most people that get married stand there in front of their families and friends (and church, if any), and make a highly ritualized and solemn promise, with no intention of keeping it. That to most people, including you, the promise is not binding, nor is any promise.”

    What utter nonsense. Many people who end up divorced had every intention of sticking with their vows — when they made them. What I found laughable wasn’t the idea of sticking with a promise, but rather the suggestion that marriage was somehow the Most Important Thing Ever. Yes, if you make a promise, make every effort to keep it, I’m all for that. But when it comes to marriage, the idea that the emotional well-being of the participants must always take a back seat to some platonic essential ideal of Promise is ridiculous. If things have changed since the wedding and divorce is now the best option for everyone involved, then get a divorce.

  94. I disagree that this is a matter that should be settled by the states, for no other reason than the federal government grants married couples certain rights it does not grant to unmarried “partners.” I have an American friend whose Japanese “partner” does not have the same immigration rights he would have if “he” were a “she.” They seem fated to live out their lives in Japan. Admittedly, not such a bad fate, perhaps, but inherently unfair.

    So long as the federal government is going to discriminate in this fashion, it is a federal issue.

  95. Calli Arcale

    CB:

    The issue is that they think that if homosexuals are given full rights and otherwise accepted in society, this makes homosexuality acceptable, and this means that their children are more likely to become gay. Or as we know much more likely just not in-the-closet self-hating gays. Which is close enough for their purposes.

    QFT. You are quite right that separating civil and religious marriage does not address the root problem. You can already get a civil marriage in all 50 states; it does not have to be a religious one. (How else are atheists getting married, after all? And I don’t think anybody can call a Vegas wedding officiated by an Elvis impersonator “religious”.) So if they’re not happy with civil marriage between gays now, they’re not going to be if we tinker with the mechanics of weddings. It’s the *approval* part that bothers them, not the “it’s in a church” part.

    Since time immemorial, the purpose of a wedding has been to get the community’s approval of the union. To witness it, to keep them honest, to make it mean something. So if gay marriage is legalized, then the community is approving of those unions (via the government). That’s the core of the argument for most.

    For many, that boils down to an “ew” argument. For others, it’s either a procreation argument (which I’ve always thought was a stupid argument unless they were willing to bar their own widowed grandmother from remarrying, at which point it was no longer stupid but simply cruel to the grandmother in question) or a slippery slope argument. If we bless (in the secular sense) gay unions, what will we bless next? How can we morally oppose bestiality, pedophilia, or polygamy? Which, in my opinion, shows just how morally weak such people are, if they think that a law will prevent people doing things which are actively harmful to others.

    Bestiality — cruel to the animal, obviously. This would never be legalized.

    Child marriage — cruel to the child, obviously, who is not old enough to make such a long-lasting decision. I can’t say this will never be legalized, as it exists in many parts of the world today and was part of *our* society in the not-too-distant past, but I would hope we would continue to recognize this for the evil it is. If you want to marry the kid, wait until he/she has grown up. If you can’t wait that long, you have bigger problems.

    Polygamy — I’ve always wondered what the point of a polygamous marriage is. To me, marriage has been about committing to a single person, and streamlining the legal stuff (power of attorney, next of kin, etc). In a polygamous relationship, there isn’t quite as much of a commitment (“I commit to you, and anybody else I later decide to marry” seems a tad odd), and the legal stuff just gets *more* complicated, not less. I admit it’s easier for a mistress or other lover if they can join into the marriage as sort of a three-way, but it just seems like a big rats nest. Plus, historically, these sorts of relationships haven’t tended to be very fair to those involved. Whichever gender there is less off (typically male; polyandrous marriages are rare) will generally have considerably more bargaining power than the others — i.e. if a man and woman aren’t getting along, he can divorce her and still have a wife or two plus a home, while if she divorces him, she’s single and obviously out of a home. To me, if you can’t commit to one person, don’t get married.

    So I don’t see how gay marriage leads to these things. At present, the biggest obstacle to marriage in our country today is the divorce rate, and that’s something us straights have done all on our own. Unless, of course, one acknowledges the argument that the divorce rate is so high because people are seeing that you don’t actually have to stay married if you don’t want to, which in turn is encouraged by decoupling childrearing and marriage. There’s a case to be made there, but honestly, I’m not convinced it’s a bad thing — I’d rather a couple divorce and not subject their children to constant fights or even abuse than stay together “for the children”.

    Murff:

    Gay marriage never bothered me. Gays being married in a Christian church would bother me. Although I’m not a Christian myself, there can be no argument that gay marriage is against the Bible. These people should not be forced to marry gay couples. (I know most in this blog have been talking about civil unions, but I’m referring to the couples I’ve read about wanting to be “Married” in a church, and the protesters who stand outside or go on the news and ridicule the church).

    As an atheist, I’ve never understood how a gay person could call themselves a Christian. I would think that once you grasped the concept that EVERYONE is equal, which obviously isn’t the case in the Bible, it wouldn’t be to far of a jump to becoming skeptical of religion.

    That depends on who you talk to. I’m a Christian; I have no problem with gay people. It’s not their fault they like their own sex. I don’t think my pastor would feel comfortable marrying gays, based on things he’s said (he grew up in a very hardliner church, which very nearly drove him to atheism until he actually started reading the Bible during his time in the Navy), but knowing him, he might do it *anyway* just because he believes the test of a person’s faith comes not from doing things that are easy but things that are hard. It’s not a situation likely to come up, though, as at present, gay marriage doesn’t look likely to be legalized in my state soon, and the rate at which my congregation is shrinking, it’ll be gone before that changes. (Changing demographics; we’ve got way too many Lutheran churches in our suburb.)

    As far as everyone being equal, I get that from the Bible. Of course, I don’t believe the Bible to be inerrant. It was written by people — people who believed in God, and who knew what was true, but still people, and people are fallible. What seems very clear to me is that Jesus came for everyone — and though he wanted people to do the right thing, and tried very hard to teach them the right things, he didn’t require them to actually acheive it. Also, he said precisely bupkis about gay marriage. It’s obviously not that important, not compared to things like “love your neighbor as yourself,” along with a very clear indication that your neighbor is *everybody*.

  96. I really don’t see how the religious vs. civil side of marriage is so bad in the U.S. right now (note, I’m not talking marriage vs. civil union, but the civil definition of marriage vs. the religious definition). Sure, clergy have the authority to sign a marriage certificate. But anybody that doesn’t want a religious marriage can always go to the courthouse to get it done legally (I know quite a few people who have done that). If you don’t feel like going to the courthouse, you can always ask a friend to get ordained in the Universal Life Church to officiate.

    This isn’t just a states’ rights issue, as a few people seem to want, since you only have to get married in 1 state for it to be recognized in the other 49.

    And for the dog marriage thing, this post on craigslist is a classic.

  97. YAY! Now I can move to NY and marry a woman and get back at my eX! J/P lol But yeah Congrats New York.

  98. Ron1

    @90. Patrick 2 Said, ” … the idea that the emotional well-being of the participants must always take a back seat to some platonic essential ideal of Promise is ridiculous.”

    …………………………………………

    I’m not so sure because I think it really depends upon the couple and their circumstances. For example,

    A good friend has been married to his wife for 33 years. Like most marriages, it’s had rocky periods but they still like and care about each other. However, his emotional well-being is taking a kicking because his wife is suffering from ovarian cancer and there has been no intimacy for the past 18 months. His life is pretty much work, get home and care for his very sick wife. This individual is severely depressed (he is getting help) and yet he stays and honors his marriage vows. In every way his emotional well-being is taking a back seat to some platonic essential ideal of Promise, and I’d do the same and I’m pretty sure my wife would do the same for me.

    I absolutely agree that most of the people who end up divorced had every intention of sticking with their vows although I now know that not everyone can cope with the rigors of marriage — its generally very hard work and its always changing.

    I am not a religious person but I strongly believe in honor and duty and that applies to my marriage. While I don’t generally think my marriage is the most important thing ever, it certainly jumped to the top of the list each time it was under threat and yet we worked things out BECAUSE our marriage is very important to both of us. However, not everyone is able to cope and I strongly feel that divorce is their legal right.

    In the end, marriage is about two people pooling their resources to care for each other. My friend’s wife is the beneficiary of the hard work those two put into their marriage and her husband’s willingness to take a back seat to some platonic essential ideal of Promise.

    sincere cheers

  99. Gus Snarp

    @VinceRN – I think the problem isn’t so much keeping a promise, but unrealistic expectations going in. People who may be very honest and quite good at keeping realistic promises may not have been able to keep a foolish promise made when they were young and foolish and based on foolish societal demands. People who marry for the first time at an older age are far more likely to stay married, for example. It’s pretty unrealistic to expect the girl you married right after high school not to change. In fact, if we can people to put off marriage until they’re a bit older (which would mean not scorning them for having sex before marriage), then it’s quite possible that what we’ll find, in a society where women are empowered, and no one feels the need to pretend to be heterosexual when they’re not, is that the divorce rate will naturally decline.

  100. @ Gus Snarp:

    That sounds way too adult for the current U.S. of A. :P

  101. VinceRN

    @93 Patrick – I see the confusion. Yes, absolutely, if things get intolerable get a divorce, but up to that point keep the promise. There are a lot of reasons for divorce, even “growing apart”, and our legal system allows for getting out of a contract such as marriage for a variety of reasons.

    However, people often think, as I suspect you do, that there is nothing wrong with stepping out of the marriage vows for any reason at all. If someones partner probably won’t find out then they think it’s OK to do whatever.

    If a person is no longer in love with their partner and meets someone else then the thing to do is get divorced, not cheat. I was not saying I would not trust a divorced person, I was saying I would not trust an adulterer, or an abuser, a person that does things against their promise while still pretending to maintain it. Once the marriage goes through the legal process of divorce then both parties are released from the promise, either by mutual agreement or by court order.

    My marriage vow is sacred to me, and I would not do anything to violate it. Nor would I put any trust at all in someone who would.

  102. Paul Winkler

    Congratulations on taking the “right” stand on a controversial topic. You have guts. I also admire your clear and logical reasoning about support for gay marriage.

    You are correct about the separation of civil and religious marriage – this avoids the whole plethora of negative religious arguments, and accurately represents each couple’s opportunity to choose whichever sort of sectarian ceremony they may wish, while emphasising the need for the government registration for legal recognition.

    Great blog!

  103. The whole idea that gay marriage somehow dilutes straight marriage has always seemed bizarre to me. It’s like hipster teenagers only liking music that isn’t popular – as if when someone you don’t like enjoys the same thing as you then it somehow reflects badly on you, regardless of the fact that the actual thing in question hasn’t changed.

    “Bigots need to grow up” is a pretty good summary of every situation to do with THE HOMOSEXUAL AGENDA.

  104. @34- Andrew:

    Just to clarify, the definition of marriage here in Canada, according to the Constitution of Canada, is the exclusive responsibility of the federal government. This was upheld in by a December 9, 2004 opinion of the Supreme Court of Canada (Re Same-Sex Marriage).

    The rest of what you said is basically accurate. Religious institutions are under no obligation to marry anyone, gay or straight. However, if it your job to uphold the law, you are not allowed to refuse to marry a gay couple.

    Alberta, however, has tried many times to find legal loopholes. They tell their commissioners that yes, it is legal to marry them but if you have a personal beef with it, you can refuse it.

    Full history on here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Same-sex_marriage_in_Canada

    As for NY, congrats!

  105. Adam

    Personally, I don’t believe in homosexuality. But that is my personal belief. It ends with me. I believe very firmly in the right of people to choose their partners as they see fit. My beliefs come from my religion, but at the same time, I will NEVER support the legislating of morality where a person’s choice isn’t being taken away from them. This law does not state that people must be homosexual, or agree with it, or like it. It simply states that people who do choose to live that way should have the same rights as those who choose not to. This is one of the core differences I have seen between conservative and liberal laws over the years and is the main reason why I am liberal, despite my Christian faith. Conservative laws seek to tell people what they can and can’t do. Liberal laws tend to allow people to make their own choices and demand that all views be respected. For the religiously minded who can’t seem to make sense of this, free will is a good place to start. Those who choose to be or simply are, depending on how you view it, homosexual, are making their own choices with other people. No one is being forced into it. No one’s right to choose is infringed on. A law banning gay rights of any kind infringes on the rights, God given by the language of the Constitution, of people to choose for themselves. Morality should not be legislated unless it is a case of one persons freedom to choose being curtailed (murder, rape, etc).

    I, as a devout Christian, fully support this law and hope more states see the light of this. As a Christian, passing backwards laws to ban things is not the way to accomplish or spread your beliefs. It’s a surefire way to get labeled a nut-case and ignored. It also goes against everything Christianity stands for. When did Christianity become such a close minded, elitist, hateful, racist religion? You can have your beliefs and respect the right of others to not share in your beliefs at the same time. The two are not mutually exclusive.

  106. Hey Adam, trust me, homosexuality exists! Believe in it!

    //joking

    Yours, I suspect, probably represents the opinion of the majority of modern Christians. Unfortunately, the loudest dissenters among the flocks have usurped the role of spokesman from people such as you, and politicians and other power-addicts play to their favor.

    BTW, I’ve never understood why Christians who hold “right wing” (for lack of a better term) views are called “conservative Christians.” Aren’t conservatives concerned with keeping the status quo, holding onto the views of the past, doing things the way they’ve traditionally been done? Seems like a true “conservative” Christian would be all for living communally, giving away one’s wealth and possessions, turning his back on his parents, etc etc, all those Christly values that seem so…I dunno…liberal.

  107. Benmols

    People opposed to this are usually opposed for religious reasons. For that alone, their idiotic, ignorant and warped (disgustingly warped) opinions should have no bearing on the topic. I’m a UK citizen, but I’m pretty sure the US constitution says that no religion has a say in the running of the country, with that said there is no logical argument against same sex marriage (That I have seen).

    Now, if you’re not religious but you hate the fact that two people who are in love can get married and are of the same sex. Then you are simply homophobic. That has no place in a modern civilization.

  108. MarkW

    Just an aside: my wife and I have been a couple for just under 19 years. But we waited to get married until the UK allowed “civil partnerships” (gay marriage in all but name) out of solidarity with our LGBT friends.

  109. Pedro

    I wonder what that Bishop would have to say about the divorce rate being around 50%… but I digress.

    I’m from NY and glad to see our state government actually accomplishing things since Cuomo took office. In terms of separating the definition of marriage for religion and government, the problem began when the government chose to define marriage. The federal government defines marriage between a man and woman, but I believe the government should not have used “marriage” and, instead, used “union”.

    Marriage should be reserved for religious organizations at their discretion, while the government should recognize only civil unions for straight and gay couples equally. In this respect, religious organizations should be exempt from any discrimination law suits for refusing to marry gay couples as well. I also favor passing a federal law granting gay couples the same legal treatment as married couples, but many argue this is a state issue since it’s the state’s right to define legal treatment of marriages and civil unions.

    http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/1/7.html

    @Adam, 102 – I was brought up Catholic, but ditched the church when I entered public high school. It wasn’t until college that I was a solid agnostic due to the reasons you mentioned in those last few sentences. However, I still remain a moderate/liberal/libertarian type Republican – whatever you want to label it. There are quite a few of us out there, mostly here in the Northeast, and I’m sad that the Republican party doesn’t take on a new direction of these sorts. I have all respect for religious folks as well since I understand where they come from, even though I tend to disagree and often find their views inconsistent and hypocritical, but I would never tell them what to believe since the Constitution gives religious folks that right. However, the problem I do have with religion is when it’s used to legislate morality or forced upon someone for any reason. Same goes for New Atheists pushing their views on everyone else – it’s the same principle.

  110. Adam

    @kuhnigget Haha, very true. I’ve never gotten that either. Anymore Conservatism simply means “fearful of everything not like you.” They basically tell you what to be afraid of, who to blame for it and what to do to ban/block/outlaw that which you should fear. It’s all about fear. Nothing more. x, y or z is destroying America! You should be afraid of losing your American values! In this case gay rights. Sometimes its immigration, or NPR, the hotbed of liberal subversiveness. In the end, as a Christian, I simply could not justify being a Conservative any more. It’s why I support the freedom to choose in cases like this regardless of my personal beliefs. My beliefs are not everyone’s, nor should they be.

  111. Robert E

    I’ve always enjoyed the “Pardon My Planet” cartoon showing three women at a diner. One says the the other two “Gay marriages don’t threaten the sanctity of values of my own marriage. Beautiful straight women do.”

    I also like to point out to people that the person who authored DOMA has been married three times, and probably wouldn’t recognize the sanctity of marriage if he tripped over it.

  112. Benmols

    In reply to post 102. Adam
    June 27th, 2011 at 2:58 pm

    You said “Personally, I don’t believe in homosexuality. But that is my personal belief. ”

    Well, you can chose to not believe in it. But the hard fact is that it exists, it exists in nature and it happens within our species. You can see it, it’s provable! So closing your eyes and putting your fingers in your ears screaming “la la la” is self inflicted ignorance. Which is probably the most stupid form of ignorance.

  113. Verbatim

    Doing fine with gay marriage here in Iowa. Haven’t noticed any dents in my 41-year marriage (other than my husband being an occasional butthead). My boss is a happily married gay man with several adopted special needs children. We all regard them as the luckiest kids in the state. My views are not anything close to the educated stuff I’m reading here, pro and con. Just routine life.
    One detail I have not seen mentioned, purely economic – legalizing gay marriage is a huge boost to businesses having anything to do with weddings. Restaurants, caterers, hotels, planners, supplies, chapels, entertainment, musicians…..unexpected side effect.

  114. M Burke

    “… where everything isn’t black and white, good and bad, and you try to do the right thing…”

    Herein lies the failure of the left’s logic. They want to find things as good and bad upon the basis of a naturalistic worldview and in so doing they end up with comments like this. What’s right or wrong in a naturalistic, evolutionary worldview?

    You can claim it’s good for NY to allow for gay marriage, but you have no basis, no reasoning except your own subjective wavering morality on which to base it. Good luck with that.

  115. Adam

    112. Benmols

    I think you misunderstood me. I’m not denying that it exists at all, merely stating my opinion of the practice of homosexuality. I don’t agree with it. But that does not stop me from having several good friends who are gay and are in good, happy, loving relationships. I will, to the day I die, support their right to do so.

  116. r cox

    #29 jennie Says:
    “I expect someone else will jump in with a better explanation of this, but I once took a course on Catholic canon law. It is actually the case that a marriage can be annulled if one or the other party to it is not capable of or interested in producing children. (The priest who taught the course told us that annullments are rarely granted on those grounds now.) From a canon law perspective, the only kind of sex that is ok is the kind that happens within marriage AND is meant to produce a child. All other kinds are right out, as it were. I’m not endorsing this view or anything, I’m just saying: that’s what’s on the books, and I think it underlies a lot of that type of rhetoric coming from archbishops and similar.
    I don’t believe that it’s the general practice of parish priests to inquire into the state of anyone’s… fertility, shall we say, or anything, but to answer your question above: theoretically, he could refuse to marry a couple that he knew couldn’t have a kid, though I suspect that’s terribly unlikely to happen in practice. ….”

    The problem with this argument is that the catholic church apparently had no problem marrying Newt Gingrich. You marry a nearly 70 year old man to a woman who is almost 40, children are not out of the question but the purpose of the marriage is clearly sex for the sake of sex, not kids. Especially when the man already has a family. It would seem that the Catholic church, in defense of marriage, would refuse such a marriage as it would tend to increase the stress on his other two wives and kids. Instead the Catholic Church chooses to ignore all the traditional rules of marriage to get a new convert into the faith. Which is what all this is about. Number and donations.

    #33. F16 guy Says:
    “This is great news. The idea of polygamy and marrying your pet can’t be too far away! Or better yet, marrying more than one pet !”

    We already have polygamy. Traditional christian values say one man and one woman. Protestant and Catholic faiths are alreadly allowing one man and many women, as seen, again, with Newt Gingrich. While divorce is allowed under certain circumstances, it is not required under any circumstances in christianity. Just because a husband is sucked off in the oval office does not require a women to get a divorce. Likewise, just because the corrupt material secular state defies the will of god and says two people are no longer married, this does not mean that the church has to sanction and encourage polygamy and adultery. The church could have just said to Newt Gingrich “we don’t want your money and support, but we wil counsel you to help you fight your sinful nature that focuses on fornication instead of faith. We have this great program that help homosexuals, maybe it can help you be not longer a fornicator and go back and take care the wife and kids you abandoned, without even child support.” Evidently that conversation never happend. So, in a strict sense, we have a man running for president that has three wives, which beats Reagan by 1.

    I do not feel we have the right to tell the church not to encourage fornication between adults of differeing sexes, and I do not feel the church has the right to tell people outside of the church not to encourage fornication between adults of the same sex, or, even, for that matter, many different adults of various genders. It is ultimately fruitless. All the rules and religions cannot even stop a couple of god fearing christian kids from going on a sex camping trip.

  117. Ron1

    @114. M Burke said, ” You can claim it’s good for NY to allow for gay marriage, but you have no basis, no reasoning except your own subjective wavering morality on which to base it.”

    ………………………………………………..

    Canadian media is playing the NY legalization of same-sex marriage story as a BIG financial loss for Canada’s tourism industry as US same-sex couples abandon trips to Canada for marriage in favor of travel to NY.

    That seems a pretty tangible benefit to me, and it’s not based on subjective wavering morality.

  118. Niall

    @88. Bramblyspam spot on, Jesus was quite clear on divorce, see Mark 10:1-12,

    http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Mark%2010:1%E2%80%9312;&version=ESV;

    I expect everyone who opposes gay marriage on biblical grounds to also attempt to ban divorced people from marrying. But they won’t because they are just using religion to dress up their prejudices.

    In other news Newt is clearly going to hell.

  119. Pedro

    @114, that quote came from a Republican, not one of the lefties. I’d also like to point out that both fringe elements, left and right, see the world as black and white. Those who see the world as more gray tend to be the moderates or those who vote against their party on occasion. Politics have become very much polarized over the last decade, since 9-11 and the Iraq War, that these fringe loonies are becoming the new mainstream. They make a lot of noise and the media loves to dramatize it and push their own agendas as well – objective journalism is basically non-existent these days.

    Moderates and those with a sense of reason have been drowned out by the media and extreme hard liners that they’re often labeled RINO (Republican in name only), Uncle Tom, Sell Out, etc. Where did these labels come from? They came from those on the extremes that want to paint their party as the “right” party, while demeaning the other as the “wrong” party – trying to make things a choice between black and white, us and them. Unfortunately, most people don’t fit entirely into the extremists molds, but all this political nonsense has driven once rational people to act out of emotion (generally anger and frustration with the other side) into supporting those fringe views and candidates. Although, what’s considered logical in politics is nothing more than a qualified opinion. It’s these reasons that I believe we need third party leadership in this country more than ever, to help restore some sanity to US politics. Instead of challenging the 2 party status-quo, people need to start thinking for themselves, independently, and learn to filter out the propaganda.

  120. @ M Burke:

    Quite apart from the fact that your are disparaging “the left” with an accusation that could just as easily, if not more easily, be leveled at “the right,” you are ignoring the greater observation that ALL definitions of right and wrong are human inventions, variable over time, and subject to change according to the evolution of human ideals of fairness and acceptability.

    It matters not one whit that you attribute your current definition (presumably) to a god of one sort or another, it’s still a made-up definition that you and others have chosen. (Don’t believe me? Then choose a radically different god as your source and see what plays out.) What is considered good today has not always been so, nor is it a given that it will remain so in the future.

    You really need to deal with that.

  121. divalou

    Well, at least I think most of us can agree that Vanessa is a douchebag at least :

    “66. Vanessa F. Says:
    June 27th, 2011 at 11:31 am
    Simply disgusting. You can’t normalize the abnormal. You can make marrying your own sister legal if you want to, it doesn’t make it less repulsive ”

    Yes, because falling in love with another person of the same sex is EXACTLY like incest. *facepalm*

    I really struggle to understand what the problem is with gay marriage, surely any kind of commitment to another person is only going to be better for society. Gay marriage can only do good things for the image of gay people, finally move away from the stereotypical view that all homosexuals are rampant STI spreaders who will literally have sex with every other gay man/woman they meet! Hopefully no more “tragic” endings to gay people’s lives.

    A loving family, however unorthodox, is 100000 times better than a family that is only cobbled together because of religious or social pressure and where the members are unhappy & who don’t love one another. I really don’t get why gender, sexuality, race or religion matters.

    Well done NYC & hopefully the rest of the world, not just the US will follow.

  122. andrea

    I still like my argument when my mother started talking “sanctity of marriage” . I asked her “if my gay friend could marry the man of his dreams, was she going to love dad any less?” Last time I heard her oppose it.

  123. Holly

    Thank you Phil! You hit on the issue that has bothered me for years. The USA is suppose to have separation of church and state. Religious marriage is between the couple and their god and rightly sanctioned by the Church. But the government in requiring a marriage certificate is creating a civil contract between two adults (much like a business partnership) to ensure spousal rights and protections and to ensure legal protection of any children.

  124. CharonPDX

    Personally, I think we need a complete separation of civil marriage from religious marriage. And the easiest way to do it without torquing off various religious groups is to rename civil marriage. We already have a perfectly acceptable term for it: Civil Union.

    Just make the government-sanctioned ‘partnership between two people for the purpose of common personal benefit’ a “Civil Union”, and strike the word “marriage” from all government documents.

    Let stodgy old religions cling to “marriage” however they want. Make a Civil Union purely something you get done at the county clerk’s office, with a simple form, and the fancy Marriage Certificate something you get at your church.

  125. Worlebird

    @QuietDesperation:
    “Now, now. Uplift technology may come sooner rather than later. ;-)
    Or advanced genetic engineering. Can I marry a cat girl hybrid? :-D”

    I stand by my original statement. Some of those catgirls can be pretty hot. Plus, what about aliens? How are we ever going to get Mr. Spock if we don’t allow interspecies marriage?

    ;-)

  126. OtherRob

    @Fatboy:

    If you don’t feel like going to the courthouse, you can always ask a friend to get ordained in the Universal Life Church to officiate.

    The person who performed our wedding was “ordained” there — though he wasn’t a friend, we found him in the yellow pages. It was a lovely service and he must’ve done something right ’cause we’re still going strong. And still not threatened by gay marriage. :)

  127. Personally, I think we need a complete separation of civil marriage from religious marriage. And the easiest way to do it without torquing off various religious groups is to rename civil marriage. We already have a perfectly acceptable term for it: Civil Union.

    Why make everybody else change the word they use for marriage just because it might irritate some religious groups? I mean, it’s not as if a Catholic marriage is the same as a Baptist marriage is the same as a Jewish marriage is the same as a Hindu marriage… Marriage is already a catch all term that covers a hodge podge of traditions. So, let it include the secular state contracts, as well, just as it always has.

    Edited to add that last phrase

  128. ArcherCAP

    If you’re opposed to same-sex marriage, don’t marry a member of the same sex.

  129. Autumn

    Newsflash to everybody, there is only one type of marriage the government cares about. It is a legal contract between two people (assuming you live in one of the six sane states), witnessed and solemnized by the state government. That is all that “marriage” is in the eyes of the state. There is no such thing as “religious marriage” as a state-recognized legal entity.
    And that is a good thing. No state government gives a rip how holy your commitment is in the eyes of whatever god you worship, nor should they. The state only cares about that little, secular document you pay a hundred or so bucks for. Legally speaking, it is “religious marriage” that is a sham, which makes sense, as it is sanctified by a non-entity.

  130. Kaype

    At the end of the day, if we are free, we should not be telling people what they are allowed to do, only what they are not allowed to do. Now try to write a law that bans gay marriage but doesn’t violate civil rights. You can’t so gay marrige is just fine. Churches can keep doing whatever, it’s their opinion and not my problem.

  131. Kathy King

    I can’t wait for California’s anal cranialectomy to take place so my friends can get married in my backyard. I have it planned out for them! They are two beautiful souls with three wonderful children!

  132. Keita Haruka

    Morality is always subjective. Anything that isn’t directly or indirectly measurable is. How do you measure morality, and therefore how can you tell whether it’s beneficial or not? One obvious way would be to look toward countries where gay marriage is legal and see whether the societies there are falling apart. I don’t see Sweden or Denmark or the Netherlands suffering any. In fact, according to this http://www.forbes.com/2010/07/14/world-happiest-countries-lifestyle-realestate-gallup-table.html they’re among the happiest of nations. Could there possibly be a correlation between sexual liberation and happiness? Some would say that’s a no brainer. Morality is something that’s always changing, year to year, culture by culture, time period to time period. The thing with morality is that it IS wavering, with no solid basis outside of “this works, let’s preserve this”. If you want a universal moral that works for everyone, it’ll probably sound like this: “If it doesn’t harm anyone else, feel free to do what you want.” Gay marriage doesn’t harm anyone. Does that count as enough reasoning to base it on, Burke?

  133. Jeffersonian

    Apaprently, many on the xtian right think that shinto Japanese-Americans (or anyone else from a non-Euro-xtian background) aren’t legally married, given their assumption that xtian tradition dictates marriage law.

    Didn’t read all the comments but it’s apparent that a lot of people don’t understand that it’s up to the state to define what marriage literally “is” in its contract law. There are more than 50 different marriage laws (granted many states are similar but in some states it even varies by county). For example, in Colorado you are legally married upon cohabitation. In California you are married only when you sign the legal document, etc. Others can’t apparently understand the difference between a wedding ceremony and a marriage license (given that some people are using the term “religious marriage” interchangeably).

    It’s really so simple. Marriage law always HAS been civil marriage; there’s NEVER been a religious test – they’ve always BEEN separate. It’s just that many church officials are in the business; allowed to witness and notarize*. So, Phil, are you then arguing that they shouldn’t be allowed to? If, so, agreed. In many jurisdictions this is already the case (it’s not legal until a government official issues documentation). It’s just certain members of the public that doesn’t have a clue that the two are separate. This post muddles it, too, imo.

    *This is true in many legal matters where the government has a proxy.

  134. QuietDesperation

    The (supposed) seperation of church and state in the USA have always been a source of amusement to me because from my perspective, it was a total fiction.

    Then your perspective is woefully uninformed. The founding fathers, surrounded on all sides by colonial constitutions that read like Bible passages, still came up with a document that places a firm wall of separation between church and state. The wall has been validated and held up to many blows for more than 200 years.

    If the separation was a total fiction, the court would not have ruled as it did.You are mistaking a religious dimension of our political culture with something built into the system. Some politicians sometimes play to a very religious constituency.

    The separation clause does not deny participants in the political realm a religious perspective. In fact, to deny it would be government meddling in religion. This nuance seems lost on a lot of people outside the USA for some reason.

    When the politician tries to get a purely religious viewpoint into law, then the line is crossed, and when challenged in court, the wall of separation nearly always wins out.

  135. QuietDesperation

    I can’t wait for California’s anal cranialectomy to take place…

    Yeah, those darn Republicans! Wait, what? Obama brought out a lot of voting blocks who supported Proposition 8? From 64% to over 70% according to exit polls? It passed strongly in many Democratic strongholds? Oops.

    Just sayin’. ;-) Things are never as simple as some here want to make it. But, yeah, let’s keep it R versus D because that’s working *SO* bloody well, isn’t it?

    Anyway, don’t worry. Prop 8 will get overturned. The last one was. Prop 8 is already staggering.

    At the very least it serves as an excellent lesson in having a republic form of government and not a simple democracy- the majority cannot take away the rights of the minority.

  136. QuietDesperation

    Thank you Phil! You hit on the issue that has bothered me for years. The USA is suppose to have separation of church and state. Religious marriage is between the couple and their god and rightly sanctioned by the Church. But the government in requiring a marriage certificate is creating a civil contract between two adults (much like a business partnership) to ensure spousal rights and protections and to ensure legal protection of any children.

    You’re looking at it backward. Marriage has been secularized in Western civilization for a long time. In the USA, all marriages are ultimately civil. You *can* have a religious ceremony if you want, but it is not necessary. Many chapels popular for weddings offer a non-denominational service. My sister had one at this place: http://www.wayfarerschapel.org/

    There’s an entire history of marriage, and the eventual recognition of its advantages and adoption by secular society, you are ignoring here. Whether those advantages still exist is a different topic.

  137. Dave

    Objection to same-sex marriage based on fear that it will damage opposite-sex marriage may be unfounded. BUT it is not as irrational as some of you seem to think. First of all, let’s get this straight. Nobody opposed to same sex-marriage worries that it will damage their own personal marriage. That would be dumb. So you can lay that straw man to rest, please. (And they don’t think that if drugs are legalized, it will cause they themselves to become a user.) They are worried about the effects ON SOCIETY, of course. Duh.

    I am sure that when people first proposed making divorce easier to obtain, some people objected that this would damage marriage. Not THEIR marriage, the institution. It is not unreasonable to argue that making divorce easier has been bad for society. It may not be true, I’m just saying it is not a crazy idea to hold.

    Some people (my parents come to mind) think that marriage between one man and one woman is part of the foundation of our society. They think it is what is best for children. They say that not everyone has to live their lives that way, but we have traditionally held it up as the gold standard. Other lifestyle choices are second best. This sucks for individuals that don’t fit into traditional roles. But it may be best for society as a whole. When we change this arrangement, they fear for their society, not for their own marriage.

    Personally, I don’t find this argument sufficiently compelling. But I don’t see it as some crazy right-wing closed-minded homophobic position.

    A number of people on this thread have argued that marriage has already been damaged by easy divorce, so why worry about the effect of same-sex marriages. What? It is bad, so why worry about it getting worse? Is that really a good argument?

    Come on. We are making a big change here by allowing same-sex marriage. Please don’t demonize everyone that has some reservations.

  138. Messier Tidy Upper

    As you no doubt heard over the weekend, New York is set to be the sixth state to legalize gay marriage: the state Senate passed a bill, and the Governor has said he’ll sign it.

    Yes I heard indeed – and my reaction was simple :

    YAY! Well done New York – and about time! :-)

    Let’s hope it sparks a cascade of other states and nations following suit. :-)

    This is one issue where I think the homophobes have already lost totally and permanently. I think future generations (this curent generation Y pretty much even! ;-) ) will look back on the anti-gay marriage mob with much the same mix of contempt, disgust and pity that we regard anti-interracial marriage individuals. The tides and times have turned, we’re not worried in the slightest now at what was held as utterly unthinkable once. Our civilisation and culture has grown and improved and we are continuing to do so.

    Gay marriage is here to stay – and so it should be. Love is what matters – not skin colour, not sexual orientation, not politics.

  139. @ QD:

    You are right regarding California and the Prop 8 issue. It really startled a lot of people when that initiative passed. I think, ultimately, what pushed it to victory (on the back of a lot of money spent by its proponents) was the fear that somehow not passing it would lead to the rights of the majority being taken away. And if there’s one thing Californians can’t stand, it’s having something taken away from them.

    Of course, if someone else gets something taken away, that’s a different story. I, too, am confident the ruling against Prop 8 will ultimately be upheld, but it’s such a shame that so much time and money must be spent on the issue. It’s not like the state has money to spare.

  140. Brian137

    Good for New York!! People just want to be fulfilled. They want a little bit of elbow room to pursue what they think will make them happy. Andrew Cuomo reportedly stated the case beautifully in a pivotal meeting with Republicans. Here is a snippet from an article in the June 26 issue of the New York Times:

    Mr. Cuomo invited the Republicans to visit him at the governor’s residence, a 40-room Victorian mansion overlooking the Hudson River, just a few blocks from the Capitol.

    There, in a speech the public would never hear, he offered his most direct and impassioned case for allowing gays to wed. Gay couples, he said, wanted recognition from the state that they were no different from the lawmakers in the room.Their love is worth the same as your love,” Mr. Cuomo said, according to someone who heard him. “Their partnership is worth the same as your partnership. And they are equal in your eyes to you. That is the driving issue.”

    (my bold)

  141. Messier Tidy Upper

    Oh & I think the news calls for a musical tribute or three :

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=76RrdwElnTU – Hallelujah (chorus) :-D

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P_NpxTWbovE – Hallujah – K.D. Lang :-D

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x0sr_-IoxMQ – for New York! (U2) :-D

    Please enjoy!

  142. Dwatney

    The government should get out of the business of marriage. Any legal, consenting adults should be able to form any contractual union they want.

  143. Messier Tidy Upper

    Oh and for those viciously against gay marriage I have this musical message :

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IpZm1TstpjQ

    WARNING : NOT SAFE FOR WORK :-P

    Via Lily Allen.

  144. Mike

    Wow, a lot of things to comment on… I have to preface that I definitely don’t have the intellect of most of the posters here but I’ll do my best to say what’s on my mind.

    First, I have to say I’m a New Yorker and, as I said on Twitter when it passed (or not long thereafter anyway), I couldn’t be prouder to be one for the possibly the first time in my life.

    Re: Religion: Whoever said it’s not black-and-white first is exactly right. At least with the religion I’m most familiar with – Roman Catholicism. There seems to be a similar disconnect between the churchgoers and the rulesmakers (for lack of a better term) as there is between citizens and the government. In some ways, I totally understand why it’s this way. Those who make the upper echelons of the church’s structure have been hardliners on the bible because it supports the very detailed beliefs of the people who came up with it (and hence it’s reason for existence) while the common churchgoer doesn’t have to necessarily believe in every tenet in the belief system to be accepted into the religion. It’s probably the same way in other “strict” religions. I can’t attest to that though not having experience or enough knowledge to support it. But until the “hardliners” of the church “soften” things don’t change. I honestly don’t see that happening in the way of gay marriage in my lifetime but it’s possible I suppose.

    Re: Marriage as a whole – gay AND straight: The things I’ve learned about the reason why religious marriage exists (and hence my assumptions) seem to be clearly wrong based on what I’m reading. But, in a modern religious marriage, I see the actual ceremony as nothing more than a profession of two people of their love in front of the people they hold dear enough to send an invite to and the Minister/Rabbit/Pastor/etc. as a proxy for God. This is for a plethora of reasons as said before (since, in practice, marriage as a blessing to have sex to create children is outdated and impractical). I see this as no reason to deny gay people marriage (for obvious reasons that follow from this arguement). I can clearly see why churches who believe God condemned gays won’t marry them but that’s no belief system I would want to be a part of, personally. It’s their right, of course, but it does make me feel MORE comfortable being an atheist.

    @139: Who then would uphold said contract if it’s broken?

    Edit: Morality: I’d like think that part of the reason many humans believe in equal rights for all humans (and I emphasis, HUMANS) is the Golden Rule (to paraphrase, “Do unto others as you would like others to do unto you.”). Morality of that sort just seems like common sense rather than actual morality tho. So there’s that for all of you that don’t like what happened in NY.

  145. Kelly

    It’s really sad that civil marriage and religious marriage aren’t understood in the hearts and minds of so many as separate entities. I know many non-religious heterosexual couples that get married without the influence of the church. For my own wedding, I wanted a friend to “marry us” as it just meant more to the both of us than a Pastor we didn’t know as we aren’t actively involved in a church. We are excited to not have to travel to Connecticut this September but to get married in our state, New York! The issue needs to be separate from religion.

  146. Autumn

    @ Dwatney,
    Consenting adults can form almost “any contractural union they want.”
    The thing is, there is a particular type of contract that couples want to form, due to many different traditions and practices, that the government sees as so common as to deserve a commonality of recognition.
    Allowing the government to normalize and automatically recognize a type of contract enables that contract to grow and adapt to changes in other legislation much more easily.
    Imagine if, every time a person wanted to borrow money to purchase a house, that person and the lender had to sit down and draw up a couple of hundred pages of document in their best effort to protect their respective rights and property–it would be just about the only way I can imagine that securing a mortgage would suck more than it does now.
    Instead, the parties, one of which is implicitly the State, work from standardized forms.
    There is such a large number of rights and privileges (I believe that a judge found over 1100 examples) in the case of a marriage, that direct state recognition is the way to go.

  147. LW

    @Rodrigo Valle

    Regardless of *why* you read this blog, our ability to learn about stars and planets, hell, do any science *at all* is shaped (and funded) by society and politics. Scientists are a part of society and are subject to every law that non-scientists are. They pay taxes. They can vote. If you were ever a part of research or know anyone who is, politics unfortunately can come up even more than the science. Unless a scientist has enough of her or his own money to carry out research, it’s impossible to do science without society/politics.

  148. Vanessa is a douchebag. You cant normalize the abnormal? how do we know you arent normal. Thats like saying medicine cant exceptionally normalize a bi-polar person. You need watch what you say, cause what you said comes from a narrowminded person. That comment was seriously black and white. Your rude.

    I am in total support of Carpet munching! LMAO

  149. Bradford Croy

    Hi. My Brothers and Sisters that are gay & other. I’m happy to here that things are starting to change now for some states like (NY)..Maybe next will be (CA.) next..I thinkif (NY0 People did it. (NY) can combind with (CA.) and help us to get it done here now. We all need to pull together as 1 big familey..
    Good Luck.

  150. gravespinner

    @F16 guy. Marrying your pet is a great idea.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EXPcBI4CJc8

    Garfunkel and Oates are great.

  151. Andrew

    @104 Julia (Jules) – fair enough! You’re referring to the “same sex” act which reinforces the (correct) Charter position re. non-discrimination that I think most of the provinces had already taken (albeit through their courts!). As to the marriage licensing itself, the feds have essentially delegated it to the provinces (your province will have a “Marriage Act” to regulate it). Thank goodness for our courts up here: as they’re (relatively) non-political, they have the ability to lead the proper way on these issues. Excelsior, indeed! Cheers Phil (and Jules/Julia)

  152. Beastiality is just flat out F*C*ED up. Now THAT is nasty. Period. And whoever has done it you should be ashamed of yourself LMAO ew.

  153. You can claim it’s good for NY to allow for gay marriage, but you have no basis, no reasoning except your own subjective wavering morality on which to base it. Good luck with that.

    I have direct observation. I observe married gay and lesbian couples together, and what they’ve got is obviously good and does me and my marriage no harm whatsoever. You can imagine all sorts of things if we’re talking about a hypothetical, but this is not hypothetical.

    People told me several years ago that not enough time had passed since the legalization of same-sex marriage in Massachusetts for me to claim that it’s had no negative effects on society. It’s been seven years now. I think I can safely say that no boogeyman has popped up. Massachusetts still has the lowest divorce rate in the nation and lower-than-average rates for most social pathologies, with the possible exception of rotten driving.

    Vermont’s civil union law was eleven years ago. I remember when it happened; people were going on like it was the apocalypse. Nothing bad has happened. They liked it so much, they upgraded to full same-sex marriage in 2009.

  154. Messier Tidy Upper

    150. gravespinner : “Garfunkel and Oates are great.”

    They sure are! Classic. ROTFLMAO. :-D

  155. Nigel Depledge

    Kuhnigget (37) said:

    My husband and I have been married (in Canada) for 8 years (and together for 10 years before that). Presumably in all that time we’ve been damaging straight marriages right and left. The ruins of their sanctity must be strewn about like confetti. In the interest of fairness, I will happily make amends to anyone who has been harmed. Please itemize the damage and note the mechanism by which it occurred, and I will make restitution.

    I would never have guessed you were Canadian.

    ;-)

  156. Brian137

    Vanessa F. (66),
    Have you ever loved anyone?

  157. Nigel Depledge

    Dave (137) said:

    Objection to same-sex marriage based on fear that it will damage opposite-sex marriage may be unfounded. BUT it is not as irrational as some of you seem to think. First of all, let’s get this straight. Nobody opposed to same sex-marriage worries that it will damage their own personal marriage. That would be dumb. So you can lay that straw man to rest, please. (And they don’t think that if drugs are legalized, it will cause they themselves to become a user.) They are worried about the effects ON SOCIETY, of course. Duh.

    But what is society, if not the gestalt of individuals within it?

    How can an alleged threat not be a threat to any specific person’s marriage, but be a threat to marriage in some vague way? I really cannot see the distinction you are trying to draw.

    I am sure that when people first proposed making divorce easier to obtain, some people objected that this would damage marriage. Not THEIR marriage, the institution. It is not unreasonable to argue that making divorce easier has been bad for society. It may not be true, I’m just saying it is not a crazy idea to hold.

    Again, why is the institution of marriage something different from the sum total of marriages within the nation?

    I disagree about the divorce argument. Surely unhappy marriages are what damage the institution (or concept, if you will) of marriage. Divorce allows unhappy marriages to be ended, which ought to support the institution of marriage. I am assuming here that the “institution” of marriage is essentially the sum of all marriages within a nation.

    Some people (my parents come to mind) think that marriage between one man and one woman is part of the foundation of our society.

    Well, it kind of is, because we are still throwing off the mediaevel concepts of our patriarchal society. In a patriarchal society (i.e. one in which men own the property and inheritance passes only through the male line), marriage is necessary to ensure that a father passes his possessions on to his son and not that of some other man. In a matriarchal society, by way of contrast, women always know that their child is theirs (duh!) so there would be no need for marriage.

    IIUC, matriarchal societies have not existed in Europe for over 2000 years.

    They think it is what is best for children.

    Actually, it seems that tribal living is best for children (i.e. the situation in which any particular child is cared for by several individuals in rotation rather than just by one or two). Aunts and grandmothers have been crucial to the development of human society. Having said that, it is better by far for a child to be reared in a caring family environment than by one or two absentee parent(s). And having said that, children are actually pretty robust and good at coping (not that they should ever have to cope with neglect or abuse, but that can and do cope with sub-optimal environments).

    They say that not everyone has to live their lives that way, but we have traditionally held it up as the gold standard.

    Not for any intrinsic value, though, but because it has been imposed on us (and I’m not saying that marriage does not have intrinsic value, it is just that this is not the reason why marriage is held up as the gold standard for settling dwn and raising a family).

    Other lifestyle choices are second best. This sucks for individuals that don’t fit into traditional roles. But it may be best for society as a whole. When we change this arrangement, they fear for their society, not for their own marriage.

    This suggests to me that it is the societal structure that should be examined and perhaps rearranged, not the status of specific couples who don’t fit the traditional concept of marriage.

    Personally, I don’t find this argument sufficiently compelling.

    It is not at all compelling.

    But I don’t see it as some crazy right-wing closed-minded homophobic position.

    We have all been conditioned to accept it.

    A number of people on this thread have argued that marriage has already been damaged by easy divorce, so why worry about the effect of same-sex marriages. What? It is bad, so why worry about it getting worse? Is that really a good argument?

    I’ve seen worse, but also better.

    I think the broader point is that the state of marriage does not seem to deserve its special status, so why fight to preserve that special status.

    Come on. We are making a big change here by allowing same-sex marriage. Please don’t demonize everyone that has some reservations.

    The fact that you see it as a big change serves to illustrate how deeply ingrained homophobia is in our western societies. If we truly accorded equal status to gay people, then same-sex marriages would be a natural outcome of that status.

  158. Nigel Depledge

    Vanessa F (66) said:

    Simply disgusting. You can’t normalize the abnormal.

    And who decides what “normal” is?

    You could say “well, it’s the biological imperative to produce offspring, so non-productive sex is abnormal”, but this is a poor definition at best (it would, after all, label as abnormal sex undertaken outside the “fertile window”).

    Without a clear definition of what should count as “normal”, your comment serves merely as a rather sad attempt to polarise the issue.

    You can make marrying your own sister legal if you want to,

    This is an example of the “slippery slope” logical fallacy. No-one is suggesting that such things should be done, so why do you bring it up at all, if not to quash rational debate with polarising soundbites?

    it doesn’t make it less repulsive.

    I agree that siblings should not marry one another (well, specifically, they should not hvae offspring, because of the issues of inbreeding), but you are applying a value judgement here that reflects only your opinion (and a rather narrow one it is). What qualifies you to pass judgement in this way? What makes you think that your opinion should matter in this situation?

  159. Gus Snarp

    @ Cynthia Moreno – What’s so nasty about bestiality? I mean, it’s not for me, but who am I to say what someone else finds pleasurable? Now the consent issue bothers me, I don’t think anyone has the right to force themselves on a goat, and it’s a pretty big stretch to say that an ungulate ever consented to anything, so I oppose it on ethical grounds with regard to the general treatment of animals. But, hypothetically speaking, if you’re hanging around with a bunch of bonobos, and the matriarch comes on to you, is it really wrong if you show each other a good time?

  160. Dustin

    @ Rodrigo Valle – I disagree. Plait’s blog isn’t just a stars and atoms blog–it’s a blog that promotes skepticism and critical thinking. And I think social and political issues are fair game. For some reason, people have this idea that science and skepticism should stay out of politics. And then we wonder why politicians pander to science-denying extremists.

  161. John W

    Re: polygamy (more appropriately, polyamory)

    Since this is a science blog — while agreeing in principle that polyamory should be recognized just as same-sex marriage is coming to be — I should point out that enacting legal provisions covering numbers of marital partners greater than two is akin to solving the n-body problem in celestial mechanics.

    It’s easy enough to set the legal parameters for couples, but once you go beyond two, it can become prodigiously difficult.

    One example: If there were three partners, who would get a say in end-of-life decisions regarding one of the partners? What if there’s a disagreement, and there’s no instructions to physician in place? Who breaks the tie?

    The body of laws already exists that governs couples, which is why it’s a trivial matter to merely open the laws already in place to same-sex couples.

    But for polyamorists, no such body of laws exists (with a few exceptions revolving mostly around children).

    The scaremongering about the slippery slope to polyamory is raised with virtually no attention to the profound difficulties involved in establishing a legal regime to cover all possible permutations of such groupings.

  162. Dave

    Nigel

    Thanks for your thoughtful responses.

    You said “How can an alleged threat not be a threat to any specific person’s marriage, but be a threat to marriage in some vague way? I really cannot see the distinction you are trying to draw.”

    I was thinking along these lines: When I was a boy, it was understood that if all went well, someday I would marry a woman. Or perhaps, I would never get married. But I was aware that the latter was less common and less desirable, second best. I was not aware of any other options. Opposite-sex marriage was the gold standard.

    My kids are growing up with the societal message that there are many equally good options: opposite sex marriage, same sex marriage, having kids as a single parent, not getting married, having kids as a couple but not committing to marriage, …

    So although, an individual hetero couple’s marriage is not threatened by same-sex marriage, the institution of marriage is changed for future generations.

    Of course, if you disagree that male-female marriage is an essential part of the foundation of our society, and think that it is not particularly better for a child than a variety of other situations, then this would not worry you.

    Easy divorce, in the same way does not threaten a given marriage, per se, but the next generation learns that marriage is something that can easily be dissolved, that it is not something to be taken SO seriously. That changes the institution of marriage.

    You said “I think the broader point is that the state of marriage does not seem to deserve its special status, so why fight to preserve that special status.”

    But traditional marriage has stood the test of time as a positive, stabilizing part of our society, whatever its medieval origins. I think that the story of Moses and the Ten Commandments is a fairytale. But the set of rules themselves has stood the test of time as a positive, stabilizing influence on a number of societies. So perhaps there is value demonstrated there, even if there is not really a God.

    I think you could make the case that traditional marriage has earned special status because it has demonstrated that it works well, even if it has dubious origins.

    (Okay, in re-reading the above, I am not even convincing MYSELF, but I think a decent argument could be made.)

    You said: “If we truly accorded equal status to gay people, then same-sex marriages would be a natural outcome of that status.”

    Not necessarily. Only if you don’t think that there is something special about being raised by a male and a female parent. If instead you think that males and females are fundamentally different, and that the ideal situation for a child is to be raised by one of each, together, then it is not homophobic to say that as a society we should maintain opposite-sex marriage as the gold standard. It might be wrong. But it is not patently homophobic, irrational, what-have-you.

  163. @GusSnarp Ok your right but I just cannot picture the whole animal thing. I love animals and I just think its wrong. I mean come on. I can understand the whole GAY thing but not humans with animals. I just CANNOT picture it. Seriously.

  164. Messier Tidy Upper

    @ ^ Cynthia Moreno : Ever owned (or been owned *by* more like! ;-) ) – a dog or cat or other faunal companion (pet) of your own? ;-)

    Humans and animals are together and love each other immensely an awful lot – it just ain’t sexual. Well, not in my case anyhow & not usually far as I know.

    Whatever floats folks boats – provided it is mutually consensual and no-one gets hurt (who doesn’t specifically *want* to be) it’s fine by me! 8)

  165. Messier Tidy Upper

    Theres an ethical philospher, Peter Singer, who has seriously argued in favour of beastiality (kinda) too – see :

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Singer#Zoophilia

    BTW. Cynthia don’t suppose you’re any relation of this :

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roberto_Moreno

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f3HFh4lFFpA

    Former F1 and other motor racing driver by any chance are you? :-)

  166. Phyllis

    This is awesome news!! And to those who would recomend changing the term to “civil unions” or “legal partnerships”, I would encourage to you look at the thinly vield bigotry that would imply. To say that one couple has a “marriage”, but the next couple has a “civil union” would be to imply that one has a higher status than the other, that one is second-rate to the other. When I got married, we had a court house ceremony before a justice of the peace, but no-one implied that my husband and I had something other than an actual, real “marriage”. This is a matter of civil rights and we need to, as a nation, collectively decide to take away the ability of the government to legislate whatever brand of morality the lawmakers at the time deem acceptable. The US government should be in the business of upholding the constitutional rights of all of her citizens and to say that I, as a hetrosexual individual, can marry whomever I want, whenever I want, wherever I want, but my homosexual friends cannot do likewise is basic discrimination, plain an simple. And, honestly, what my neighbors (hetero- or homosexual alike) do in the privacy of their bedroom has no bearing whatsoever on me, my family, or my relations with my sweetheart in our bedroom.

  167. PeteC

    There are some problems with polyamory, unfortunately. While I have no theoretical objections to the idea – if three women and four men want to form a stable family group and raise their children together, it seems reasonable, and a nice environment to grow up in. Unfortunately there are a lot of mechanical problems.

    The first has already been pointed out – the problems of multiple participants makes the marriage contract complex. What are the tie-breaker rules, is there some form of seniority, and so on.

    The second is a historical problem. Polyamory, in the past, has mostly defaulted to a male with a harem of abused or at least restricted women. This needs to be avoided.

    The third is social and part of the nature of people. It’s hard enough for a couple to remain a stable pair – the divorce rate shows that. For three, four, five or more to remain a stable family group is massively harder. Very few of the 60’s hippie communes are still together. Growing up with a parent drifting from group to group or in a group where most of the members change every other year is not the best environment. The relationships between people become horrendously complex. If A loves B and gets on fairly well with C and D but D hates B but puts up with him for the sake of C who loves A but is also having an affair outside of the group… trying to formalise all this in a marriage contract is very, very hard. Some other sort of contract might be appropriate for this sort of thing, but I doubt that marriage would be it.

    @163 Cynthia
    I completely agree – it’s just that the definition of “animal” becomes a little complicated if one postulates sentient, intelligent non-humans. One could claim that sex with a hot sexy alien is bestiality, but is it wrong? Should Mr Spock be regarded as an abomination caused by the bestiality of two species mating, or Elrond Half-Elven from the Lord of the Rings? As long as it’s a “beast”, then sure, it’s a horrible idea. The moment it’s a “person”, on the other hand, I think it’s different.

    EDIT – Oh, and some animals have a different opinion, as anyone whose ever had a dog vigorously attach themselves to their leg will attest :)

  168. mjs28c

    The argument on this forum and others has been: Intelligent Design attempts to re-define science.
    That is a no-no.
    I agree.

    But re-defining marriage?
    No problem!!!

    That isn’t a ‘same-sex’ resolution, it’s an ‘Anyone can now marry anyone else!’ resolution.

    The argument for ‘same-sex’ marriage boils down to: 2 adult human beings are in love and want to get married and shouldn’t be discriminated against.

    That same argument can now be applied to any legal-age adults: 2 brothers…..2 sisters….a mother and her son….a father and his daughter….or his son…..or his nephew……and on and on.

    And why does it default to the gay side of the argument?
    Why is there no consideration for those who want to maintain a standard?

    Offend gays? That’s bigoted and mean-spirited!!!!!
    Offend the rest of society? Welllll……who cares? They’re backwards and bigoted anyway!

    How silly for us – or any nation – to have defined standards….

    sarc/off

  169. QuietDesperation

    One example: If there were three partners, who would get a say in end-of-life decisions regarding one of the partners? What if there’s a disagreement, and there’s no instructions to physician in place? Who breaks the tie?

    Yeah! Gosh, what’s really needed is some sort of, say, civil system where all sides of a contractual disputes can be given a hearing and someone can, oh, I dunno, make a legally binding judgment of some sort.

    But seriously, preferably you work this stuff out in the original agreement, but, well, humans gonna be humans, adn we *do* have a system in place for this stuff. There’s contractual disputes in the courts every day that involve a multitude of involved parties. Your 3-body example is part time work for a junior law partner somewhere.

  170. QuietDesperation

    Offend gays? That’s bigoted and mean-spirited!!!!!
    Offend the rest of society? Welllll……who cares?

    Preventing gay marriage does not merely offend gays, it restricts their rights. This is a rights issue. It’s not redefining marriage any more than allowing women to vote redefined voting. You can have any “standard” you like, but when it restricts the rights of others, well, you lose (eventually).

    And, yeah, it that offends you, tough luck. You have no right *not* to be offended.

    Go start a theocracy somewhere so you won’t get your feelings hurt. Have fun when the first major schism hits (probably within the first week).

  171. QuietDesperation

    The second is a historical problem. Polyamory, in the past, has mostly defaulted to a male with a harem of abused or at least restricted women. This needs to be avoided.

    That’s actually an argument for legalizing it within a constitutional framework like ours. It gives legal recourse to anyone being abused by contractual violations.

  172. Digital Atheist

    Go start a theocracy somewhere so you won’t get your feelings hurt. Have fun when the first major schism hits (probably within the first week).

    heh… if it is a baptist church the schism will happen within less than one hour or so. ;-)

    1000 baptists = 1001 differing opinions.

  173. @ Messier Tidy Upper No Im not any relation to him, my fathers side of the family is all from Michoacan Mexico. But I guess I could see where you think I could have relation :P
    And LMAO @ Pete C

  174. @ mjs28c:

    That same argument can now be applied to any legal-age adults: 2 brothers…..2 sisters….a mother and her son….a father and his daughter….or his son…..or his nephew……and on and on.

    So? Your point is? Society is our own creation, we get to define it any way we choose. Some people choose a broadening approach to fairness and equality. What’s your choice?

    And why does it default to the gay side of the argument? Why is there no consideration for those who want to maintain a standard?

    Seven out of 50 states allow same sex marriage. 43 out of 50 do not. Seems to me the default goes the other way. Typical spoiled brat argument. Other people aren’t kowtowing to MY point of view, therefore…wah! wah! waaaaaaaah!

    You want heterosexual marriage alone to remain the standard? Then come up with reasonable arguments for why it should and convince people why they are better than arguments for why it shouldn’t.

  175. Dave

    Congratulations. It’s not for me, but other people’s good fortune is a blessing too. I still don’t understand gays, and don’t care if they marry or not – but am happy to see they’re afforded equality under the law.

  176. AlexL

    As others have spoken, there’s already a legal distinction between civil and religious marriages, so maybe this issue is more about syntax than we think. I try to say “civil marriage” whenever I speak about same-sex marriage to make it more explicit that I am not infringing upon religious marriage. There is a crazy notion in many religious quarters that we’re trying to force their churches to perform these weddings or else, hence the last minute language changes to the NY bill make it even more explicit that they’re not trying to do anything to churches. It’s preposterous to think that all this opposition will magically go away if we just use clearer language, but I think it would help win converts (pun intended) if we were more articulate about these ideas.

    And Phil, I think it’s is a congratulations to ALL who believe in civil rights since New York is no longer insulting our intelligence. While I’m very happy about New York and I am gay, my friends seem way more ecstatic and most of them are straight.

  177. sydney

    This is why I tell everyone about your blog. No, not just because I can tell by your posts that you are open and sane but because you are above all things honest. Whenever someone is panicking about the latest impending doom, I refer them to your Bad Astronomy blog for an honest answer. Sure, no one knows everything but your delivery about issues that would normally make me scream the sky is falling, actually calms me down, which says something. Thank you for supporting gay marriage, for talking about the anti-vax people, and for being as honest as your facts and figures allow – you are indeed a calm voice above the insanity.

  178. Istas

    I would be fine with removing the word “marriage” from the legal proceedings altogether. Government can issue a civil union to any two consenting adults, granting the (equal) rights thereof, and the ‘marriage’ can be in whatever denomination of religion you want, respecting the traditions you desire. There was a civil union introduced in France to give homosexuals the same rights of marriage… and now 95% of the civil unions there are actually being performed for heterosexual couples who appreciate the lack of moral stigmas attached and who simply want to enjoy the same rights with a person they are devoted to.

    In my mind this brings up another question: why only two people? I can’t think of any logical reasons that a grouping of, say, three people who share the same feelings for each other shouldn’t be allowed the same rights. (Or four, or five, but given how difficult it can be to find just one person to share your life with, I imagine the increasing numbers will have exponentially decreasing instances.)
    One argument I heard, from my father, was that people would abuse it for tax purposes, but surely marriage as it is is already abused that way by some. There would be details to work out but the reason the system is being changed in the first place is that is unsatisfactory, and I think improvement is worth a little thought and effort.

  179. Nigel Depledge

    Dave (162) said:

    So although, an individual hetero couple’s marriage is not threatened by same-sex marriage, the institution of marriage is changed for future generations.

    I think I see what you are saying. That the idea of what marriage means changes would be seen by some as some kind of threat.

  180. Daniel I.

    Why not do away with recognition of all marriages? Can’t the government deal with people on an individual basis?

  181. *ahem* EQUAL marriage or SAME SEX marriage. Gay does not equal lesbian does not equal bisexual does not equal transgender

    Don’t disappear the rest of us for ease of terminology. Equal marriage and same-sex marriage aren’t that hard to remember surely.

  182. Nigel Depledge

    DAve (162) said:

    I think you could make the case that traditional marriage has earned special status because it has demonstrated that it works well, even if it has dubious origins.

    (Okay, in re-reading the above, I am not even convincing MYSELF, but I think a decent argument could be made.)

    I agree that your formulation of the argument is not convincing, but I’m not sure that a convincing formulation could be produced.

    It seems to me more that society has (up until, say, the 1950s or thereabouts) been shaped to fit the “gold standard” of marriage rather than marriage proving itself to be effective independently. Having a child raised mostly by its parents does not fit our evolutionary history (in which child care was typically shared between the mother, one or more aunts and a grandmother), so child care isn’t a point in favour of marriage.

    Certainly in Britain, marriage used to be one tool whereby women’s participation in society was suppressed (by which I mean that a woman’s status was determined solely by her husband’s or father’s, and that married women automatically had higher status than unmarried women of comparable social rank).

  183. Nigel Depledge

    Dave (162) said:

    Not necessarily. Only if you don’t think that there is something special about being raised by a male and a female parent. If instead you think that males and females are fundamentally different, and that the ideal situation for a child is to be raised by one of each, together, then it is not homophobic to say that as a society we should maintain opposite-sex marriage as the gold standard. It might be wrong. But it is not patently homophobic, irrational, what-have-you.

    But is it not intrinsically homophobic to suppose without evidence that a child cannot be raised equally well by a gay couple as a hetero couple?

  184. Nigel Depledge

    Mjs28c (168) said:

    The argument on this forum and others has been: Intelligent Design attempts to re-define science.
    That is a no-no.
    I agree.

    Redefining science would not be a problem if ID did not demand magic as part of it. ID has no factual or logical basis, and sought to redefine science simply to allow itself to be included as science.

    So the problem wasn’t that ID required a redefinition of science per se, it was the why and the how of that demand that were the problem.

    But re-defining marriage?
    No problem!!!

    And where is the relevance of this to ID?

    Are you at some point going to show that ID’s attempt to redefine science is in some way analogous to a redefinition of marriage? Or not?

    That isn’t a ‘same-sex’ resolution, it’s an ‘Anyone can now marry anyone else!’ resolution.

    Well, and so?

    Although I suspect (IANAL, BTW) that it would still be illegal for a brother and sister to marry one another for the same reasons that this was made illegal in the first place.

    The argument for ‘same-sex’ marriage boils down to: 2 adult human beings are in love and want to get married and shouldn’t be discriminated against.

    Absolutely.

    That same argument can now be applied to any legal-age adults: 2 brothers…..2 sisters….a mother and her son….a father and his daughter….or his son…..or his nephew……and on and on.

    Perhaps in principle, but in reality any marriage that leads to close inbreeding would and should still be illegal.

    And why does it default to the gay side of the argument?
    Why is there no consideration for those who want to maintain a standard?

    It doesn’t default to any side of the argument. That’s the whole point. Gay people should be granted the same rights and opportunities as anyone else.

    As for maintaining a standard, that is what this law will establish. Equal treatment for all consenting adults. Forbidding gay people to marry is setting a double-standard, for no reason.

    Offend gays? That’s bigoted and mean-spirited!!!!!

    No, offending gay people is OK. Treating them differently from everyone else is discrimination born of bigotry.

    Offend the rest of society? Welllll……who cares? They’re backwards and bigoted anyway!

    How does gay marriage offend anyone who isn’t a bigot?

    Will you next be claiming that red-headed people should not be allowed to marry? Or that people who eat Marmite should not?

    How silly for us – or any nation – to have defined standards….

    Well, you don’t, actually. New York state now does have a standard. That standard is that people should be given equal rights and opportunities, not limited by traits or circumstances over which they have no control.

    What is silly is for a nation to enshrine a double-standard in law.

    sarc/off

    Sarc off yourself.

  185. Nigel Depledge

    AlexL (176) said:

    There is a crazy notion in many religious quarters that we’re trying to force their churches to perform these weddings or else . . .

    The thought struck me while reading your comment – well, why not?

    Why do we allow religions to discriminate in a society that is supposed to support freedom and justice for all?

  186. @ Nigel:

    Why do we allow religions to discriminate in a society that is supposed to support freedom and justice for all?

    Especially since we grant them tax-exempt status.

  187. QuietDesperation

    The thought struck me while reading your comment – well, why not?

    Because people’s rights still end where others begin. Let’s not celebrate the affirmation of one group’s rights by violating the rights of another group, mmmkay?

    The right of a church to operate as it sees fit is strongly protected by the Constitution. Catholic churches, for example, generally will not perform marriages involving divorced and/or unbaptized people.

  188. QuietDesperation

    1000 baptists = 1001 differing opinions.

    That’s just humanity.

    “If there are three humans in a room, there will be six opinions.” -Samara from Mass Effect 2

  189. Unaspammer

    @Nigel (185):

    That same argument can now be applied to any legal-age adults: 2 brothers…..2 sisters….a mother and her son….a father and his daughter….or his son…..or his nephew……and on and on.

    Perhaps in principle, but in reality any marriage that leads to close inbreeding would and should still be illegal.

    I agree with most of what you wrote, but the apparent inconsistency of this comment made me curious. A marriage of 2 brothers or 2 sisters or a father and son obviously would not lead to close inbreeding. Do you say that those should be illegal?

    I’m a bit wavering on the topic myself, but I’m more of a mind to say “screw it, two consenting adults, just make it legal across the board.” Two people don’t need to be closely related to share common recessive deleterious alleles. If we’re going to fret over inbreeding, then why not make all potential couples submit to genetic testing before approving the marriage? Or is it maybe more a matter of basic human squeamishness?

    This is all rather hypothetical of course, as there is not currently a significant minority clamoring that their rights are being violated because they’re not permitted to marry their sisters.

  190. Makoto

    To those claiming this can lead to polygamy, pedophilia, zoophilia, etc – civil marriage should be between consenting adults. If the government is providing kickbacks (stability) for being married, then it should accept that not all married couples are male/female. Of course, not all have sex, either. So if a male/female pair is together, but doesn’t sleep together, is that very different from a male/male pair that doesn’t sleep together, or female/female? Because I know many, many couples that aren’t having sex, and it doesn’t seem to depend on their genders at all. And many couples that are having sex, and it doesn’t seem to depend on if they’re married or not.

    We have age of consent laws for a variety of things, for a very good reason. Two kids can’t get married. An older one sex person can’t get married to an underage person of the other sex, or of the same sex. There is a good reason for this, and it has nothing to do with same sex marriage laws. And, of course, animals can’t give consent, same with people in comas, go figure. So don’t go knocking someone out and trying to “get married”, whether they’re of the opposite sex or not, because that’s about at the same level as trying to get married to a duck (or whatever the current argument animal is).

    If we’re aiming for laws that deal with – inheritance, visitation rights, insurance, etc., etc., so long as the two people are consenting adults, what, exactly, is the problem? Perhaps I don’t want to get married, but I’ve got a best friend that I trust to make decisions for me. Does it matter if that best friend is related, of the same sex, or just someone I’ve met randomly? These are the kinds of rights that I hope “unions” will have, along with taxes, etc, etc, etc.

  191. Nigel Depledge

    Unaspammer (190) said:

    I agree with most of what you wrote, but the apparent inconsistency of this comment made me curious. A marriage of 2 brothers or 2 sisters or a father and son obviously would not lead to close inbreeding. Do you say that those should be illegal?

    Well, I see no reason why they should be illegal. But there’s no way I’d want to marry my brother!

    I’m a bit wavering on the topic myself, but I’m more of a mind to say “screw it, two consenting adults, just make it legal across the board.” Two people don’t need to be closely related to share common recessive deleterious alleles. If we’re going to fret over inbreeding, then why not make all potential couples submit to genetic testing before approving the marriage?

    The point about inbreeding is that it massively increases the chance of recessive deleterious alleles being passed on homozygously (and therefore being expressed). You share exactly 50% of your genes with each of your parents, and you share at least some of your genes with each of your siblings (I can’t remember the exact details here, but I think it is possible – although remotely unlikely – that you share only a very few genes with any specific sibling, depending on exactly which alleles each of you inherited from your parents).

    Or is it maybe more a matter of basic human squeamishness?

    Well, we actually have an instinct that usually makes our parents, offspring and siblings unattractive to us in that way. AFAICT, all mammals have this instinct (and probably reptiles and birds have it too).

    This is all rather hypothetical of course, as there is not currently a significant minority clamoring that their rights are being violated because they’re not permitted to marry their sisters.

    Uh, yeah. I’m kinda hoping it stays hypothetical.

  192. Juan

    “Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together… mass hysteria! ”

    Congratulations, Newyorkers. Here in Argentina same-sex couples have been allowed to get married for a year or so and the sky has not fallen yet (in spite of priests and conservatives’ predictions).

    I do believe, though, that given that there’s no such thing as “black freedom”, “gay marriage” should be called, you know, “marriage”… maybe?

    Viva Perón, Carajo.

  193. Messier Tidy Upper

    @ ^ Juan : Well, you’re ahead of us. here in Oz, same sex marriage* is still a hot political issue. Despite at least one of the ministers in the Gillard govt being openly lesbian. Our PM Julia Gillard is an athiest and a modern woman in a de facto (hetero) relationship but is refusing to consider legalising same-sex marriages probably to play to conserbvative voters who she stands no chance of winning over at all. :-(

    @173. Cynthia Moreno : Thanks. :-)

  194. Messier Tidy Upper

    @ ^ Link here on Australian history relating to same-sex marriage :

    http://www.abc.net.au/unleashed/2778326.html

    & here :

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M83T_URahOI

    Recent political and comical discussion on the topic & Gillard’s position.

    Notably, Opposition leader and probable next PM conservative Liberal party leader Tony Abbott has previously said he feels “threatened” by gay people. :-(

    This opinion piece :

    http://www.abc.net.au/unleashed/2775426.html

    Noting :

    New York now joins Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Iowa, Connecticut, Vermont and Washington DC in having legalised gay marriage. Internationally, the club also includes Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Iceland, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, and Sweden. So we should not pretend the decision of the New York legislature is ground-breaking. Once implemented in a jurisdiction, gay marriage fades into the background. While its introduction is controversial, its existence is mundane. Yet there’s still a lot to learn from the New York decision for supporters of same-sex marriage reform. [Bold added.]

    is interesting too. :-)

    Pretty sure that polling indicates most Australians support same-sex marriage and homophobia is finally, thankfully, dying world-wide – well in the civilised parts of the world anyhow – Africa and the Islamic world being the exceptions.

  195. Messier Tidy Upper

    @182. Rebecca :

    *ahem* EQUAL marriage or SAME SEX marriage. Gay does not equal lesbian does not equal bisexual does not equal transgender. Don’t disappear the rest of us for ease of terminology. Equal marriage and same-sex marriage aren’t that hard to remember surely.

    Really? I must admit I’ve always thought that “gay” was a blanket term covering lesbians and male homosexuals alike – so to speak. ;-)

    I didn’t think there was any problem with calling all same-sex lovers “gay” & didn’t think that was considered as “disappearing lesbians” at all.

    However, if you say so and really feel it’s bad then I will respect that and call it ‘same sex marriage’ in future. :-)

  196. Messier Tidy Upper

    In one other vaguely related news item that may or may not be of interest to some folks here :

    http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2011/05/14/3216987.htm

    A small group of homophobic douchebags claiming to be “christian” attacked a same sex & trans folks rights rally in my hometown of Adelaide, South Oz, a month or two ago. One person was dragged from her wheelchair.

    This person there :

    ***

    Lesbian and church minister, Reverend Sue Wickham, says it was an awful end to a peaceful demonstration. “… Anyone who carries a banner that begins with the two words ‘God Hates’ is to my mind is not representing the Christ that Christians believe in.”

    ***

    Summed it up perfectly in my view. That’s true regardless of whether or not you believe Rabbi Jesus was literally a divine figure or not, methinks.

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