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Saturday, May 22, 2004

Battle Gay Marriage - Iron Blogger Democrat - Closing Argument

Before I wrap up here, I would like to thank the Chairman for his time, effort, and other blood/ sweat/ tears work for setting up this forum and keeping it smooth. I have no idea what comments he deleted earlier this week, but I feel that he more than adequately protected my fragile ego.

I would also like to thank the judges for taking the time to evaluate this debate. I know I have brevity issues; I especially thank you for your patience in reading my First Rebuttal. (In fairness, the IB First Rebuttal always has twice the content to respond to as any other rebuttal . . .)

Thanks to Iron Blogger Republican Rosemary Esmay, as well, for blazing the trail with her victory last week.

I must also thank the commenters, the "peanut gallery." I say this not because I was influenced by them (if I made an argument one of them made, it is coincidental), but because of their exceptional participation, and the way they raised and considered nuances that did not cross over into the debate between me and the Challenger. I know that Haloscan's limits contributed to the high number of comments on some posts, but that auxiliary debate was lively and thorough nonetheless.

Finally, a thanks to Jimmie Bise, Jr., the wily and admirable Challenger in my inaugural debate as Iron Blogger Democrat. The Suburban Sundries Shack earns a well deserved place in the sidebar to your right--a place my own meagre blog does not even have. Well done, sir.


In a fit of glibness, I began my Opening Argument with one-word answers to the Chairman's four questions that opened this debate. I stand by those answers.

I think it's important to restate one of those four questions now, as it's really the only one the Challenger has taken on: Is marriage a sacred institution to be protected by Constitutional means if necessary?

I asserted in my Opening Argument that the Constitution does not now, nor should it ever, protect "institutions." The Challenger's response? Nothing.

I asserted in my First Rebuttal that case law shows marriage to be a fundamental right that should be protected, even for gays and lesbians, on constitutional grounds. The Challenger's response? Nothing.

I challenged in my First Rebuttal the Challenger's equal protection argument--"everyone is prohibited from marrying someone of the same sex, so it's equal!"--as just poor phrasing of the question. The Challenger's response? To repeat his earlier statement.

I asserted in my First Rebuttal, even beyond the challenge above, that the Supreme Court would find a gay marriage ban a violation of equal protection; there is no clearer case in my mind of the kind of discrimination rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court in Romer v. Evans. The "rational basis-plus" reasoning that was applied not only in that case but in last year's Lawrence v. Texas makes it clear that prohibiting same-sex marriage is "a law [that] exhibits [. . ] a desire to harm a politically unpopular group," in the words of Justice O'Connor. The Challenger's response? Nothing.

I asserted in my Opening Argument that no evidence exists to show that children in gay and lesbian households do any worse than other children. The Challenger's response? He cast aspersions on the American Psychological Association.

I demonstrated in my First Rebuttal, and further clarified in my Second Rebuttal, that Stanley Kurtz's claims about Scandinavia (leaving aside even what I said about his politics) did not project well onto the United States, as we are a very different country. The Challenger's response? To quote more of the same study.

[An aside: Thursday this week, M. V. Lee Badgett in Slate went above and beyond what I was able to do to directly challenge Kurtz, though he makes some of the points I did. I hate to bring this in now, but I did not find it until Friday afternoon. I'll just give a small slice:
Kurtz's interpretation of the statistics is incorrect. Parenthood within marriage is still the norm--most cohabitating couples marry after they start having children. In Sweden, for instance, 70 percent of cohabiters wed after their first child is born. Indeed, in Scandinavia the majority of families with children are headed by married parents. In Denmark and Norway, roughly four out of five couples with children were married in 2003. In the Netherlands, a bit south of Scandinavia, 90 percent of heterosexual couples with kids are married.

Kurtz is also mistaken in maintaining that gay unions are to blame for changes in heterosexual marriage patterns. In truth, the shift occurred in the opposite direction: Changes in heterosexual marriage made the recognition of gay couples more likely. In my own recent study conducted in the Netherlands, I found that the nine countries with partnership laws had higher rates of unmarried cohabitation than other European and North American countries before passage of the partner-registration laws. In other words, high cohabitation rates came first, gay partnership laws followed. [. . .]

No matter how you slice the demographic data, rates of nonmarital births and cohabitation do not increase as a result of the passage of laws that give same-sex partners the right to registered partnership. To put it simply: Giving gay couples rights does not inexplicably cause heterosexuals to flee marriage, as Kurtz would have us believe. Looking at the long-term statistical trends, it seems clear that the changes in heterosexuals' marriage and parenting decisions would have occurred anyway, even in the absence of gay marriage.

And all the conservative hand-wringing seems especially unnecessary when you consider the various incentives that encourage American heterosexual couples to marry. By marrying, U.S. couples obtain health-insurance coverage, pensions, and Social Security survivor benefits. Plus, in the United States we are required by law to be financially responsible for our spouses in bad times, since we don't have Scandinavian-style welfare programs to fall back on.]
I asserted in my First Rebuttal that the Heritage Foundation charts showed merely a correlative relationship, not a causative one, and that solutions to those problems might lie outside of banning gay marriage. The Challenger's response? To say, in essence, "But there's a lot of them!"

I asked, in my First Rebuttal, for evidence that gay marriage has produced, in Scandinavia or Canada or elsewhere, a flood of "slippery slope" bigamy, pedophilia, bestiality, and incest. The Challenger's response? He showed none--any slippery slope argument is purely hypothetical because there is no evidence that these things will happen.

I buried near the bottom of my First Rebuttal (I admit it) a handful of assertions about benefits gay marriage could bring, including an increase in the number of married parents and a greater level of tolerance and understanding of gays and lesbians. The Challenger's response? Nothing.

The Challenger began his Opening Argument by setting himself up as the persecuted (the Cruella DeVille line, e.g.), and built much of his First Rebuttal and Second Rebuttal around me: "I'm too cool to be having this debate"; "My First Pop-Up Book of . . ."; I "did not take this debate seriously"; and so on. I have tried to keep this debate on the quality of his evidence and the constitutional arguments; the Challenger has tried to make me look stupid.

I believe I have shown that the Challenger has not proven, as the Chairman asked, that marriage must be protected by a constitutional amendment. I believe I, on the other hand, have proven it should not.

The Challenger began his First Rebuttal with a serious question: "Is denying gays the ability to marry segregation or bigotry?" I ask you, if the answer is in the affirmative, should we pass this constitutional amendment? If the answer is yes, shouldn't we be doing everything we can to uphold and defend the rights of gays and lesbians to marry?

Four courts have answered that question, and all four courts have said yes (Alaska, Hawaii, Vermont, and Massachusetts). The Supreme Court has not weighed in, but I have shown that its past decisions indicate that it, too, would answer yes. Even Eugene Volokh, in the very post the Challenger uses to bolster his case in the First Rebuttal, says yes. Tens of millions of other Americans also answer yes and, while not a majority (depending on the poll), their voices should not be silenced by a tyrannical majority.

Most importantly, though, this is about people, about individuals and their rights to live and love, not as second-class citizens, but as full and equal partners in the experiment we call the United States. In my research, I found much more information than I could have possibly included, but one passage stands out to me as perhaps the most salient summative argument to be made in favor of allowing same-sex marriage. Ellen Lewin writes, from a perspective I can't share,
Last summer, my spouse and I went to Toronto to get legally married, 11 years after our extra-legal Jewish wedding. Our decision to do so was largely political. We wanted to be among those pioneering couples who would have a part in future legal challenges to marriage codes in the US. But nothing prepared us for the emotional impact of having government officials routinely process our paperwork or of having a functionary licensed by the province perform our brief City Hall ceremony. No family or close friends could attend, and virtually all routine wedding insignia were absent. But we were moved far more deeply than either of us expected; we came home feeling convinced that we really were "married," and that feeling has persisted even as we've had to confront our inability to officially claim any of the privileges that accompany marriage in our own country. [. . .]

Even for lesbian and gay couples who have not felt it necessary to enter into elaborate forms of concealment, the notion that one's union is not quite legitimate, not exactly "the real thing" casts a pervasive shadow over our lives. Marriage may seem like a small step, but it is what other people--other citizens--have access to, and it is what many lesbian and gay people, as participants in the wider culture, use as a standard of legitimacy. For many of the couples I studied, the issue was having access to some form of authority that they saw as attesting to the authenticity of their relationship: in some cases, the endorsement came from God, in other cases from the presence of family and non-gay friends; in still other instances, receiving gifts, wearing clothes associated with weddings, having a certificate of some sort, like a Jewish ketubah, or drawing on ethnic traditions in constructing the ceremony authenticated the event. For many couples, even an ambiguous mark of legitimacy opened the door to making other claims to equal marital rights, even if such claims involved nothing more than declaring their existence for the first time. Marriage certificates issued by the state or religious institutions clearly offer another example as they constitute evidence that the relationship is just what the couple claims it to be--a marriage.
When the courts say we must, when so many other Americans say we should, and when gays and lesbians say it's all they ask, how can we not offer them the legitimacy that they crave? Have we not learned any lessons at all from the last time we wrote second-class citizenship into our Constitution?

Respectfully submitted,
Jay Bullock, Iron Blogger Democrat

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