I can’t decide if Ampersand at Alas, A Blog is a saint for the time and patience he devotes to refuting bad anti-SSM arguments put forth in various quarters of the blogosphere I have no inclination to visit, or a sucker for being drawn into these parlor games. Like Matthew Yglesias, I think it’s almost certainly the case that the vast majority of anti-SSM sentiment is theological and/or prejudicial in origin, and the attempts to construct serious public reason-style arguments are secondary and strategic for anti-SSM folks.
On the other hand, it’s hardly my place to claim to know such arguments are being made in bad faith; many people pride themselves on having good, serious reasons for their policy preferences, that aren’t faith or prejudice-based. If we (and by we, I mean Ampersand; I’ve got too many blogs I actually want to read to spend my time at the family scholars blog) can decisively show that these alleged public reasons don’t stand up to scrutiny, anti-SSM folks who hold want to consider themselves reasonable, serious, non-bigoted participants in public discourse may be forced to confront the more ugly side of their support for discrimination. Maybe.
Anyway, here’s the argument Ampersand managed to decipher:
1)If SSM is allowed, society will be less able to affirm the importance of being raised by bio-parents.
2)This will likely result in more heterosexual parents either never marrying, or marrying and then divorcing. (This is what Elizabeth means by “more [children] will grow up lacking that key security”).
3)Therefore, we should not allow SSM.
Ampersand correctly identifies an unstated and necessary premise:
2.5)Whatever leads to more bio-parents not marrying, or getting divorced, should not be legal.
He then goes on to show that even radical clerics like James Dobson probably don’t support every possible implication that premise 2.5 leads to, and even atheist pinkos like me don’t have a problem with, and banning SSM looks a lot more like the items on the former list than the latter. Read the whole thing, it’s very good.
Following Ampersand, I’m going to identify another unstated premise, which I’ll call premise .5:
.5) There is sufficient evidence to demonstrate that being raised by married bio-parents has advantages for the children in question over all plausible alternative arrangements.
But this severely understates the burden associated with this premise. We need some more:
.5.1)This evidence demonstrates not merely correlation between indicators of children’s welfare and married bio-parent families, but causation through the holding constant of other potentially correlative variables such as (for example) income level.
.5.2)This research shouldn’t be done by those with an ax to grind, or if it is it should be subject to peer review.
.5.3)The statistical relationship shows significant amounts of harm to children outside of non-married bio-parents families.
I add .53 on the assumption that when we discriminate, we’d better be damn sure we’ve got good reason to do it. (And we do discriminate in marriage, and rightly so. Parents shouldn’t be allowed to marry their children, 30 year olds shouldn’t be allowed to marry 12 year olds, and so on. In these cases, the reasons for the discrimination are a fair bit easier to demonstrate.) Elizabeth, to whom Ampersand is responding, appears to grasp this, as she claims to have sympathy for those gay couples she simply can’t allow to marry. Even if this harm is demonstrated, it hardly makes the case, as Ampersand demonstrates–there are other more serious flaws to be dealt with later on in the argument.
Still, until she’s satisfactorily made the case for premise 1, there’s no reason to allow things to proceed that far. They’ve got a lot of work to do before we should even consider accepting the first premise in that argument.
Elizabeth obviously wants to see herself not as a bigot but as a compassionate person. She’s replaced the conventional and most common starting premise for opposing SSM (gay people are bad/immoral/sinful/evil/icky/whatever), and replaced it with something that sounds much nicer (children are better off with their own ‘real’ parents) to support the same bigoted policy. There’s simply no reason to let her get away with this sleight of hand, no matter how much more psychologically satisfying it may be than the alternative.