Friday, November 1, 2013

Are Other Slippery Slopes Any More Slippery? Same-Sex Marriage and Polyamory

My last post aimed to systematically dismantle the argument, offered far too frequently, that allowing same-sex marriage is a slippery slope towards letting Farmer Joe marry his goat. My objective there was not merely to call this argument absurd, as is usually done by critics, but to explain why.

Several people commented in response that there are other slippery slopes that opponents of same-sex marriage are worried about, and which my last post failed to address. Some even suggested that it seems clear that the reasons for allowing same-sex marriage, if accepted, really would serve as equally good reasons for allowing various forms of group marriages (marriages involving a husband with several wives, a wife with several husbands, or more egalitarian groups which I'm tempted to call "cluster-nups").

So, I'm going to walk through here the case against there being a slippery slope from same-sex marriage to group marriage.

Again, let me begin with the following point about slippery slope arguments. They're not always unsound. It all hinges on the reasons why you would be taking a certain step. If those reasons work as well as reasons for stepping into the mess that the critic is worried about, then the critic has offered a legitimate slippery slope argument against treating those reasons as good ones for taking the initial step. I should point out, however, that a legitimate slippery slope argument is not always decisive. Sometimes the reasons for taking the first step are so compelling, so powerful, that even if we don't like what follows, we would be well-advised to bite the bullet and accept it.

But I don't think we have to even explore that follow-up question with respect to the various same-sex marriage slippery slopes that have been proposed--because they aren't legitimate slippery slopes at all.

To make this point, let me begin by reminding everyone of Michele Bachmann's bad case for the view that restricting marriage to heterosexual pairings is not discriminatory. What does Bachmann say? Here's how I summarized it in an earlier post:
A law that restricts marriage rights to heterosexual couples is not discriminatory at all, because everyone in society has the same rights with respect to marriage that everyone else in society has, namely to marry someone of the opposite sex. No one is excluded from marriage. It's just that everyone in society faces exactly the same constraint on who they can marry. It must be someone of the opposite sex. So: no discrimination, and hence no need to justify the discrimination by appealing to some consideration that could warrant differential treatment.
And here's how I responded to that argument in the same post:
...the argument is premised on the assumption that everyone has the same sexual orientation. If everyone had a homosexual orientation, then a law restricting marriage to heterosexual couples would require that everyone marry someone they have no attraction to, cannot fall in love with, cannot sustain romantic feelings with, etc. Everyone in society would be equally denied access to a deeply valued social good, namely legal recognition and support for their intimate, romantic loving partnerships. No discrimination there--although we might wonder why the state would systematically deny everyone access to this social good... 
If everyone had a heterosexual orientation, then--once again--a law restricting marriage to heterosexual couples would be unproblematic. It would preclude everyone from doing something no one had any interest in doing in any event... 
And, of course, if everyone had a bisexual orientation, then a law restricting marriage to heterosexual couples would put the same limitation on everyone...We might wonder why this constraint should be imposed, but the constraint would not be discriminatory against any individuals... 
But people don't all have the same sexual orientation. And so, legally limiting civil marriage to heterosexual couples means that heterosexuals are afforded access to a distinctive good (having their intimate romatic partnerships recognized and supported by the state) that is denied to those with a homosexual orientation.
In short, restricting marriage to heterosexual pairings discriminates against persons with a homosexual orientation. Were there nobody whose capacity for establishing and maintaining romantic intimacy were limited to members of the same sex, a law restricting marriage to heterosexual couples would not deny to any individual a social good available to others. Same-sex couples would still be denied marriage, such that if bisexuals of the same sex happened to fall in love they'd face legal discrimination as a couple. But since each member of the couple would still have access to the social good in question--just not with each other--the discrimination against the pairing would be easier to justify for reasons less weighty than would be required in order to systematically exclude a class of people from any access to an important social good available to those who aren't of this marginalized class.

The point here is this: Michele Bachmann's case that no legal discrimination is going on might actually work if there were no such thing as a homosexual orientation.

Whatever the details of our reasons for endorsing marriage equality for gays and lesbians, the wrong of legal discrimination is front and center for all of us. And that legal discrimination arises because there is such a thing as a homosexual orientation. (And there is. Really. Deny it at the peril of being the kid at the playground who doesn't want to hear the facts and so plugs up their ears and shouts "Nya nya!" to cover up what others are saying.)

But is there such a thing as, say, a polyamorous orientation--that is, a fixed and unchosen disposition, resistant to change, such that the person is unable to develop or maintain a satisfying romantic relationship with any other single individual, but is able to develop and maintain a romantic relationship only with two or more? Put one attractive mate in the room with them and...nuthin'. Add a second, and the person's sexual interest suddenly comes alive for the pair as a pair. A desire to cultivate romantic intimacy bursts forth, complete with an interest in long conversations, personal sharing, walks on the beach, bicycle rides together on a brisk fall day...but only with the pair as a pair. Take one of them away and the interest vanishes completely.

Sure, lots of people (most? all?) have a sexuality that isn't limited to one person. But that's not the same as what I'm talking about. It's one thing to be sexually interested in both Mary and Martha. It's something else to be incapable of romantic attraction towards Mary or towards Martha unless both Mary and Martha are there with you in the bedroom. It's one thing to be able to form intimate relationships with both Mary and Martha--and to have a strong temptation to form one with Martha even though you already have one with Mary. It's something else to only be capable of forming an intimate relationship with one only on the condition that you are also forming an intimate relation with the other at the same time.

That is the kind of sexual orientation that would need to exist in order for a law restricting marriage to pairs of people (and excluding triples and quads, etc.) to be a law that discriminates against a class of people.

The fact is, while there is enormously good and compelling reason to believe in the existence of a class of people with a stable homosexual orientation, there is absolutely no good reason at all to believe that there is anything like an analogous polyamorous orientation.

Furthermore, there is good reason to suppose that polyamorous groups wouldn't be able to form the kind of relationship that civil marriage exists to cultivate and support and encourage: intimate, stable, and enduring life partnerships. It's hard enough for couples to manage the complexities of interpersonal dynamics. But--as I've pointed out before on this blog (although I can't find where at the moment)--adding a third person to a relationship multiplies those complexities enormously. When you have two people, A and B, there is one relationship to deal with. Add a third person, C, and you now have six relationships: A's relationship to B, B's relationship to C, C's relationship to A, A's relationship to the B-C pair, B's relationship to the A-C pair, and C's relationship to the A-B pair.

Of course, all of us have multiple relationships in our lives, and hence have a range of complications to face. But a life partnership--a mutual commitment to share the challenges of life together, to support one another, to be in each other's corner through the years, to divide the responsibilities of making a home, to make crucial decisions as a team--that sort of relationship involves distinctive kinds of stresses and conflicts, as well as payoffs. A three-person life-partnership faces challenges that exponentially magnify these stresses and conflicts: potential for jealousy, for playing off one partner against the other in a way that creates a kind of hierarchy and privilege, for two teaming up and browbeating the third, for alliances that disempower, etc., etc.

The kind of intimacy, of sharing oneself with a life partner, that is at the heart of the best marriages is made enormously more difficult (if not impossible given the realities of human finitude), in the face of such magnified complications and potential pitfalls.

So, not only is there no polyamorous orientation such that a class of people will be discriminated against if group marriages are disallowed; there is also good reason to wonder whether a threesome (or larger group) can even form the kind of relationship that a marriage is supposed to be, let alone sustain it in the lifelong way that is the ideal of intimate life partnership which the institution of marriage holds up.

The relationships that two people have with one another tend to be different in kind from the relationships had by groups of three or more. And it's hardly obvious that the marital kind of relationship is the sort that can be had by groups of more than two. In fact, it seems pretty obvious that it isn't--so much so that I would think the burden of proof rests with those who would argue otherwise.

If I'm right about that, then there's a second way in which it is not discriminatory for the state to preclude polyamorous marriages: Groups of more than two simply can't have the marital sort of relationship at all, so denying it to them isn't denying them anything at all.

But suppose I'm wrong about that. Suppose there is only the one reason why it is not discriminatory to rule out polyamorous marriages in the way that it is discriminatory to rule out same-sex ones--namely the first one I mentioned, having to do with sexual orientation. That would be enough by itself--but there's more to be said. Even if groups of more than two can manage to achieve the marital kind of relationship, achieving it for a larger group would be a truly monumental task given our human condition. Maybe it could be sustained for a year or two. But marriage as a life-partnership isn't realized by pulling something off for a couple of years. And failed marriages are a matter of social concern.

Since no individuals are being discriminated against (absent a polyamorous orientation), the state's burden for justifying a restriction on the number of people who can participate in a single marriage is substantially lower than would be the case were individuals being subject to discrimination by the restriction. And the fact that such a restriction promotes the stability of the marriage contracts that the state helps to create is, it seems, a sufficient reason for the state to restrict official, state-sanctioned marriage to pairs.

(I imagine that greater stability could be attainable in group marriages if there were a clear hierarchy--where, in lieu of genuine partnership, what one had was one dictator ruling it over a few subserviant helpmates. But I also take it that equitable and egalitarian relations among human beings, including between the sexes, is a good that we have a social interest in pursuing. Maybe one reason why conservatives tend to see a slippery slope to polygamy is precisely because they secretly idealize male patriarchy in which husbands lord it over their wives--and don't see a substantive difference between a husband lording it over one wife or over several. But in that case, the slippery slope exists even in the absence of the state extending marriage to same-sex couples.)

Marriage is a stabilizing force. The gay community would be stabilized by access to marriage--but far more so if same-sex marriage were restricted to pairs than if it were made available to groups. Likewise for heterosexuals. The state is in the marriage business in part for the sake of achieving that stabilizing effect, and as such has a good reason to choose that form which does the best job of promoting the stabilizing outcome. (And let me point out that I said "in part," since in the last post some people seemed not to notice this and took a passing remark about one of the state's purposes for marriage as if it were the whole thing. If you want a fuller picture of my views on why the state is in the marriage business, see here.)

If the state has good reason to promote the stabilizing outcome that marriage makes possible, the state has both a reason to make marriage available to same-sex couples (thereby extending its stabilizing effects into the gay community) and a reason to preclude group marriages. Obviously, then, this case for same-sex marriage is not a slippery slope to group marriage.

In sum: Unlike in the case of same-sex marriage, precluding group marriage does not discriminate legally against a class of individuals. Furthermore, there is good reason to suppose that, unlike in the case of same-sex marriage, precluding group marriage does not discriminate in the sense of denying marriage to sets of people who are equally capable of creating the marital kind of relationship--because sets larger than two aren't equally capable. Finally, while the state's interest in promoting social stability is served by extending marriage to same-sex couples (and harmed by precluding same-sex marriage), the reverse is true for group marriage. Thus, all the main reasons that I offered in my previous post for extending marriage to same-sex couples are reasons that just aren't reasons for extending marriage to groups.

Hence, there is no slippery slope. Not even close. Rather than a downward oil-slicked glass slide between same-sex marriage to group marriage, what we have is a series of brick walls.

Note: I haven't talked here about incestuous marriage--but I think the last two posts make the reasoning process for assessing the merits of a slippery slope argument clear enough, so that anyone can discern for themselves the absurdity of saying there is a slippery slope from same-sex marriage to parent-child or sibling marriages (or pedophelic marriages, etc.). In these cases, ask if there is a sexual orientation that makes precluding this sort of marriage discriminatory against a class of individuals. If no, then you don't have a slippery slope. And ask, furthermore, whether the kind of relationship that would (or at least could) result is the sort that legal marriage is supporting. If no, then you don't have a slippery slope. And ask, furthermore, whether there is a significant state interest by which same-sex marriage and this other kind of marriage would have to be viewed differently. If yes, then you don't have a slippery slope.


  1. In addition, surely it's only a slippery slope if you don't want to end up at the bottom of the hill--the difference between a slide (good clean fun) and a slip (accidental and unfortunate) is whether you want to do it or not. Maybe polyamory is a slide, not a slip. After all, there's plenty of Biblical precedent, and in an economic climate where people need a dual income to support a family, perhaps a dual income plus a stay-at-home parent could be ideal.

    1. Of course, if polyamorous marriages are seen as unproblematic, then it wouldn't be a problem if the reasons for accepting same-sex marriage also worked as reasons for accepting group marriages. In fact, I don't think the reasons that have served as the driving force for greater acceptance of same-sex marriage are good reasons for opening the door to group marriage. So, if there are good reasons for opening that door (and I'm happy to consider them), they'd be different than those in play with respect to relationships between consenting adults who are able to establish the same kind of pair-bond characteristic of straight couples being denied the legal standing that their straight counterparts receive.

  2. That is the kind of sexual orientation that would need to exist in order for a law restricting marriage to pairs of people (and excluding triples and quads, etc.) to be a law that discriminates against a class of people.

    Why is a distinct sexual orientation necessary to identify a class of people? The class of people in question contains the people who prefer multiple intimate, romantic, loving relationships.

    The relationship that two people have with one another tends to be different in kind from the relationship had in groups of three or more. And it's hardly obvious that the marital kind of relationship is the sort that can be had by groups of more than two. In fact, it seems pretty obvious that it isn't--so much so that I would think the burden of proof rests with those who would argue otherwise. . . . Groups of more than two simply can't have the marital sort of relationship at all, so denying it to them isn't denying them anything at all.

    That sounds like an argument a defender of traditional marriage could make regarding same-sex marriage. Traditional marriage is different in kind from same-sex marriage because it can produce children while a same-sex marriage cannot. This is obvious and the burden of proof rests with proponents of same-sex marriage. A same-sex couple can't have a marital sort of relationship and so denying them that is not denying them anything at all.

    [A]nyone can discern for themselves the absurdity of saying there is a slippery slope from same-sex marriage to parent-child or sibling marriages (or pedophelic marriages, etc.). In these cases, ask if there is a sexual orientation that makes precluding this sort of marriage discriminatory against a class of individuals. If no, then you don't have a slippery slope.

    I've seen some people push for considering pedophilia a sexual orientation.

    1. As to the last point, please note that I identified three distinct hurdles that need to be passed for a slippery slope to exist. Even if pedophelia passes the first hurdle (which I doubt), it doesn't pass the second (a life partnership between an adult and a child--who won't stay a child, and so won't remain the kind of person towards whom the supposed pedophelic orientation is directed--isn't possible in this case), and it absolutely does NOT pass the third: there are all sorts of compelling reasons for barring pedophelic marriage--harm to the children being paramount--that don't apply to consenting and mutual relationships between two adults of the same sex.

      I've dealt with the procreation issue extensively elsewhere, so I won't belabor that point here. But as to your first comment, the point is this: You aren't discriminating against someone just because you are barring them from something they'd like to have. You are discriminating if there is a meaningful social good made available to others that is denied to them. This is where a distinctive sexual orientation becomes crucial to the argument.

    2. As to the last point, please note that I identified three distinct hurdles that need to be passed for a slippery slope to exist.

      I realize that, I just wouldn't be the least bit surprised if pedophilia is, at some point, considered a sexual orientation. This hurdle is already slipping.

      You are discriminating if there is a meaningful social good made available to others that is denied to them. This is where a distinctive sexual orientation becomes crucial to the argument.

      I'm sorry, but I fail to see how a distinct sexual orientation matters on this view. The polygamist is being denied a social good. I suppose you could object that a polygamous marriage is not a social good worthy of legal recognition but the defender of traditional marriage could make a similar argument against same-sex marriage. Whether polygamy is a sexual orientation is irrelevant. What truly matters is whether the relationship(s) is a social good worthy of legal recognition.

    3. First, let's distinguish between two things: a state action that restricts liberty, and a state action that confers a benefit. With respect to polyamory, we need to distinguish between a the question of whether the state can legitimately restrict the liberty of individuals to enter into such relationships, and the question of whether the state should confer the benefits of marriage on such relationships.

      With respect to the first question, I would STRONGLY oppose any attempt to restrict the liberty of adults to pursue consensual amorous relations with other adults, not matter what the arrangement. The second question is where the issue of legal discrimination comes up, for me. The state could very well decide not to confer the cluster of rights that go with marriage on any relationships. But if they do start conferring these rights, they should do so in a way that respects the notion of equality under the law. That is, they have a duty not to practice legal favoritism. Differential treatment under the law, when it comes to the bestowal of goods and rights, has to be justified by a sufficiently compelling interest. Much will hinge here on the reason the state has for conferring the good in question in the first place.

      Now, there's a distinction between what good is being made available, and to whom it is being made available--and this distinction is sometimes less clean than it may at first appear to be. Bachmann argues as if the kind of good being made available is the opportunity to have a heterosexual pair-bond supported by legal rights and recognition, and as if this good made available to all. The problem here is the one I describe in the post: This way of hashing out the distinction between kind of good and who gets the ignores the fact that the opportunity to form a heterosexual pair bond is good only for those with a heterosexual orientation, and is good in the sense that it makes available to them the opportunity to have their intimate pair-bonds supported by the state. And so, in fact, those with a homosexual orientation are denied a good--the opportunity to have one'sintimate pair-bond supported by the state--that is made available to others. To wit: here is legal discrimination.


    4. But the same move could be made in relation to the state's decision to hand out marriage certificates only to pairs of people, and not larger groups, if there were a comparable sexual orientation that had the same kind of implication. Put another way, the state can say that it is making a certain kind of good--legal recognition and support of intimate pair-bonds--available to consenting adult pairs who come seeking it without discrimination--but that it has chosen (for reasons having to do with why they are handing out this kind of good n the first place) not to make another kind of good--legal recognition of larger intimate groups--available to anyone.

      Now this would be a misguided way of putting matters IF there were a polyamorous orientation, and if the good that is being conferred upon others by having their pair bonds legally recognized were a good of a kind that would be available to polyamorous persons ONLY through legally recognized group marriages--that is, only if there are persons incapable of enjoying the good that is bestowed through state support of monogamous marriages, but who could enjoy that good were the state to extend marriage to groups.

      If there were such persons, then limiting marriage to couples would deny them a social good made available to others. But if no one has such a polyamorous orientation, then no one is being denied a social good made available to others, since all are able to avail themselves of the social good in question through monogamous marriage, and none are allowed to avail themselves of it through polyamorous marriage. You may well want to argue that closing off the opportunity for the latter is unwarranted--but that is not the same as arguing that it is DISCRIMINATORY. Not every wrong-headed policy is wrong-headed because of discrimination, and I'm open to the notion that closing of group marriage is bad social policy. But it has to be bad because it is discriminatory (in the way that heterosexist marriage is discriminatory) for a slippery slope to exist.

      I don't know if I can be any clearer or precise than that in articulating the point.

    5. I won't belabor the point. I think I understand what you're saying but it just seems utterly unconvincing if we separate marriage from reproduction and child-rearing.

  3. The fact is, while there is enormously good and compelling reason to believe in the existence of a class of people with a stable homosexual orientation, there is absolutely no good reason at all to believe that there is anything like an analogous polyamorous orientation.

    Apart from historical precedent, and the increasing number of polyamorous relationships once the constraints are taken off, you mean?

    1. I won't deny for a moment that there are loads of human desires and impulses that lend themselves to wanting to pursue polyamorous relationships. But that isn't the same as a polyamorous orientation--that is, a stable and fixed sexual orientation to be sexually and romantically attracted to human beings only in the plural and never in the singular--that is, only if there's more than one of them. THAT is something I think there is no evidence for. And THAT is what would need to exist in order for a law against group marriage to exclude a class of people in a way analogous to the way that gays and lesbians are excluded.

    2. It might actually be worth having a good conversation with a smart polyamorist about this. Your objections sound just like special pleading, and establishing arbitrary qualifications for you to judge something as 'appropriate'.

      It is always trivial to draw boundaries around any particular issue such that other issues aren't "like that". The laws on single marriage exclude a group of people: the second partners of polyamorous people, from a range of social goods.

      Use of capital letters in your THAT's is normally a good sign of someone who's opinion is leading their understanding.

    3. Ian: See my extended comment above in response to Jayman (broken into two parts--apologies for typos, which are hard for me to see when I'm typing in the comment box). I hope it clarifies what I am and what I am not saying, and why I think it is not a merely arbitrary distinction I am drawing between same-sex marriage and group marriage on the issue of discrimination. I want to stress that my focus here is on whether restricting marriage to pairs of adults (and excluding larger groups) is legally discriminatory in the way that restricting marriage to heterosexual pairs (and excluding same-sex ones) IS discriminatory.But even if a policy isn't discriminatory in the same way, it might very well be needlessly RESTRICTIVE. Or it might cause harms that should be avoided, even if those harms are not the harm associated with legal discrimination. I think your concern about the third (or fourth) party excluded from legal standing in a group relationship where only two of the members are married legally is a good point. The state concern for promoting stability through the institution of marriage--and the concerns about the greater instability of larger groups--need to be weighed against the fact that group relationships do exist, and legal marriages are sought to the extent that they can be in such ways that disadvantage those who end up not being legally recognized as part f the relationship.

      My use of capitalization, by the way, occurs because I'm too lazy to do the whole business with carats and i's and slashes required to create italics in a comment, but I do want to put emphasis on certain words when I hear the emphasis in my head and I think it adds to clarity. I'm afraid I have a habit of overusing italics in my writing.

  4. Thanks Eric, that was very insightful. Glad I found your book God's Final Victory as it led me to find your blog here.

    I can agree that you have provided a sufficient argument against a slippery slope under certain conditions, but I'm not sure under all conditions. I guess if you were limiting the discussion to sexual orientation your argument would be pretty sound. But most people I think value the "marry whom I love" argument over the "marry whom genetics says I can love" argument. They are strongly related, but still sufficiently different I think.

    Example: I'm still not entirely clear why if there are 3/4/5/etc individuals who want to enter into a loving long-term commitment recognized by the state why they should be denied this privilege. Sure, I guess it is possible for Joe to love Jane and Jane alone. But what if he really does love Mary as well and limiting his relationship to just Jane hurts him. And let's say Jane loves Mary as well. And of course, Mary loves them both, etc. Why should the state prevent that? It's like asking whether I can really be filled with joy in heaven if my loved one is in hell. Furthermore, the state allows families of infinite size when most of the individuals haven't chosen to be part of said family, why not allow people who actually want to form a family together be together?

    Second example: If there are two brothers who love each other and want to be married, why not? What good does this hamper?

    Also, I have read countless times that intergenerational love (where else would I get that term for pedophilia) is a sexual orientation. But I think there are other factors involved in this type of relationship (age, level of development, etc) that can be invoked to stop the slippery slope.

    Another question: If marriage represents Christ's love for the church, wouldn't a marriage of multiple individuals better reflect that than just two?

    1. I agree that if one's reason for supporting same-sex marriage is a principle like "people should be free to marry whomever they love without state restriction, so long as no one is harmed" (or something like that), then that reason may be an excellent reason to support group marriage as well.

      But not only isn't this the reason that everyone has for supporting same-sex marriage; it isn't the reason that has been driving the unprecedented social changes we've been witnessing. Concern about legal discrimination has been instrumental in that respect. Furthermore, I think there are specific reasons why the state is in the marriage business at all--reasons why the state bothers to confer legal standing on intimate partnerships, as opposed to just leaving such matters entirely in the hands of non-state entities, such that all intimate partnerships remain "non-official" from a government standpoint.

      There are reasons, and those reasons need to be directly addressed when decisions about adjusting marriage policies are considered. I think there is a very powerful case for the conclusion that the reasons the state has for being in the marriage business are reasons that would be served by making marriage available to same-sex couples. I think the case for saying the same about group marriages is much weaker.

    2. Put more simply, I don't think that the state's reasons for being in the marriage business align perfectly with the principle that "people should be free to marry whomever they love, so long as no one is harmed." The state has reasons for being in the marriage business that can and do put more constraints on marriage than this principle does--although the state should not, I think, impose any such constraints on people's private love choices (so long as they are characterized by genuine consent). There's a huge difference between selectively extending marriage based on the state's reasons for making civil marriage available at all, and restricting private romantic decisions. .

    3. Thanks Eric for taking the time to respond. I guess my only real point of contention now as I see it is that I think the "love" argument is more prevalent and culture changing then the "sexual orientation" argument. But I don't live in the States so there very well could be a different thrust to the debate there. Thanks again!

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    1. JD,

      This Slate article is interesting and thought-provoking. Thanks for sharing it. If I were to be moved at all by it, it would be in the direction that M Price points to in the first comment on this post.

      However, I think there is some subtle equivocation going on here, when the polyamorous impulse is likened to heterosexual orientation. Let me stress that I believe that most people have had the experience of feeling an romantic attraction to more than one person at a time, many have felt themselves falling someone other than their spouse while still in love with their spouse, and some find it very hard to resist the impulse to act on multiple attractions, and a few experience the social norm against acting on it a personally stifling. But none of this translates into the polyamorous equivalent of a homosexual orientation...or heterosexual orientation, for that matter.

      I'm one of those people who, when it comes to potato chips, can't eat just one. But when I say that, what I mean is that I have a strong impulse to eat multiple potato chips (especially when I get the taste of one in my mouth). I decidedly do not mean that if you put only one potato chip in front of me, I won't be able it eat it and won't have any desire to eat or or any pleasure in eating it, because I can only manage to consume potato chips if there is more than one in front of me.

      Now suppose my son had several friends over and I decided to give every child ONE potato chip. If there is a child in the group who "can't eat just one" in the way that I can't eat just one, this trait in no way impedes that child from eating and enjoying the potato chip that I put in front of him...although he may feel a subsequent frustration that the other kids don't feel. But since he can avail himself of the good that is set before him (the one potato chip), I am not discriminating against him by making a good available to the other kids that isn't made available to him.

      THAT would happen only if the child had the--admittedly strange--SECOND kind of potato-chip-orientation described above. If the child were such that he could not consume a solitary potato chip AT ALL, because the child is only capable of eating potato chips when there is more than one, putting just one in front of the child excludes the child from access to a good that is being made available to the others when I put a potato chip in front of them.

      I make this analogy with some trepidation, because I already anticipate various ways that someone who is willfully intent on misunderstanding the point of the analogy might leap on irrelevant differences as if they mattered...and I really don't want to take the time to plod through these various responses I anticipate to show why they miss the point of the analogy and so don't work. But I think the analogy will prove helpful to those who are genuinely trying to get the distinction I've been trying to make but haven't seen it yet. So I include it here and encourage you to read with charity.

  6. The error you make is your distortion of what marriage is. Stabilization is a faulty argument and certainly a slippery slope of its own, which I won't get into here.

    what you do not understand is the concept of obedience. heterosexual marriage is obeying God's command while same-sex marriage is disobedience. God blessed heterosexual marriage, no such blessing can be found for same-sex unions.
    God condemned same-sex activity but did no such thing for heterosexual marriage (he did condemn heterosexual activity before marriage and in adulterious affairs and similar non-marriage sexual activity)

    If you are going to talk about same-sex participation then you need to talk about what is or isn't sin and the definition of sin is left to God not man. You also have to talk about being obedient to God and those who want same-sex marriage are not obeying God but shoving a giant middle finger in his face.

    1. First of all, you (rather hubristically) identify you *view* of what God's will is with God's will, and argue accordingly--as if advocates of same-sex marriage were challenging *God* as opposed to challenging *your belief* (and the belief of other religious conservatives) that God prohibits same-sex marriage. I happen to think that a God of love would not systematically exclude some people from access to participation in one of the basic social institutions. Therefore, I believe that your view is at odds with God. But I don't thereby accuse you of being disobedient to God--because even though I think you are endorsing what God opposes, I recognize that you *believe* that you are endorsing what God endorses. I just think you are mistaken in your belief. I would appreciate it if you would return the favor, and recognize that the dispute is not between one who is trying to obey God and another who is willfully giving God the finger, but between two people who are trying to be bobedient to God but have very different ways of trying to discern God's will...and very different ideas of what God's will is.

      Second, the discussion here is about civil marriage offered by the state--not religious marriage offered by the church. Do you think it is appropriate to impose your contestable sectarian religious belief about what God's will happens to be on all citizens of the United States, regardless of whether they share that view? Are you so confident you are right in your beliefs ABOUT God's will that you are prepared to risk the kind of conflict and oppression that separation of church and state was created (in part) to prevent? Do you really think it is appropriate to let public policy decisions be dictated by one sectarian religious theory about God's nature, the manner of divine revelation, and the content of divine revelation--in a society in which many people and communities have different ideas about these things? If so, we don't have much to discuss, because the starting assumptions from which you are arguing are ones that I think are both false and frighteningly dangerous.