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I’m a little late to the party on this piece by Sam Schulman, but after seeing it all over I couldn’t resist:

There is a new consensus on gay marriage: not on whether it should be legalized but about the motives of those of us who oppose it. All agree that any and all opposition to gay marriage is explained either by biblical literalism or anti-homosexual bigotry. This consensus is brilliantly constructed to be so unflattering to those of us who will vote against gay marriage—if we are allowed to do so—that even biblical literalists and bigots are scrambling out of the trenches and throwing down their weapons.

And we have our first “um, what?” moment right in the first paragraph. People are fleeing the labels “anti-gay” and “Biblical literalist”? Um, what?

But I think that the fundamental objection to gay marriage among most who oppose it has very little to do with one’s feelings about the nature of homosexuality or what the Bible has to say about sodomy. The obstacle to wanting gay marriage is instead how we use and depend on marriage itself—and how little marriage, understood completely, affects or is relevant to gay people in love. Gay marriage is not so much wrong as unnecessary. But if it comes about, it will not be gay marriage that causes the harm I fear, as what will succeed its inevitable failure.

I’d love to see some sources for this. Just because Schulman wants to find a more enlightened-sounding reason for his bigotry doesn’t mean that’s a trend, even the way The New York Times uses the word. There are, of course, those whose oppositian to SSM is indeed based on “how little marriage, understood completely, affects or is relevant to gay people in love”—just, they’re queer.

The embrace of homosexuality in Western culture has come about with unbelievable speed—far more rapidly than the feminist revolution or racial equality. Less than 50 years ago same-sex sexual intercourse was criminal. Now we are arguing about the term used to describe a committed relationship. Is the right to marry merely lagging behind the pace with which gays have attained the right to hold jobs—even as teachers

Not teachers! Don’t they know homosexual=child molester? (Actually, the theorem, I have long postulated, is homosexual=no self-control, or else he wouldn’t fuck men either, and no self-control=molestor. This says disturbing things about those who believe it.)

and members of the clergy; to become elected officials, secret agents, and adoptive parents; and to live together in public, long-term relationships? And is the public, having accepted so rapidly all these rights that have made gays not just “free” but our neighbors, simply withholding this final right thanks to a stubborn residue of bigotry? I don’t think so.

Again, um, what? I wager there are very few openly homosexual clergy across all religions world- or even nationwide. Further, considering the uphill struggle that was required even to bring about de facto freedom for homosexuals only in a relative handful of cities, I hardly think we can rule out bigotry.

When a gay man becomes a professor or a gay woman becomes a police officer, he or she performs the same job as a heterosexual. But there is a difference between a married couple and a same-sex couple in a long-term relationship. The difference is not in the nature of their relationship, not in the fact that lovemaking between men and women is, as the Catholics say, open to life. The difference is between the duties that marriage imposes on married people—not rights, but rather onerous obligations—which do not apply to same-sex love.

This is where it gets weird. Um, weirder. After explicitly denying that the problem is that it takes a man and a woman to form babby, he asserts that the objection is that it takes a man and a woman to raise a child. I think. Which makes even less sense.

I mean, spouses are obligated to be faithful, to be partners, to engage, as it were, with each other (though if you find those “onerous,” you probably shouldn’t get married, now that the police won’t come and drag you to the altar anymore), but I’m not sure how those “don’t apply to same-sex love.”

The entity known as “gay marriage” only aspires to replicate a very limited, very modern, and very culture-bound version of marriage. Gay advocates have chosen wisely in this. They are replicating what we might call the “romantic marriage,” a kind of marriage that is chosen, determined, and defined by the couple that enters into it.

Well, yes, that being what most Westerners nowadays are familiar with. “Chosen wisely” sounds like those sneaky gay advocates created some whole new relationship paradigm that they’re (“we’re”? No, I just sit here making snarky comments) somehow using to try and bolster their case for same-sex marriage. “That’s just a marriage like most married people are familiar with, not the super-secret True Meaning of marriage.” There’s something very Humpty-Dumpty about that.

The role that marriage plays in kinship encompasses far more than arranging a happy home in which two hearts may beat as one—in fact marriage is actually pretty indifferent to that particular aim. Nor has marriage historically concerned itself with compelling the particular male and female who have created a child to live together and care for that child. It is not the “right to marry” that creates an enduring relationship between heterosexual lovers or a stable home for a child, but the more far-reaching kinship system that assigns every one of the vast array of marriage rules a set of duties and obligations to enforce. These duties and obligations impinge even on romantic marriage, and not always to its advantage. The obligations of kinship imposed on traditional marriage have nothing to do with the romantic ideals expressed in gay marriage.

Ok. I think he’s saying that marriage—that is, not the decadent Western “relationship” that you and I think of when we hear the word “marriage,” but whatever the hell it is he thinks “marriage” is supposed to mean; let’s call it “murriage,” so we can be clear—murriage is simply a business arrangement, a deal between clans.

[M]urriage is concerned above all with female sexuality. The very existence of kinship depends on the protection of females from rape, degradation, and concubinage. This is why murriage between men and women has been necessary in virtually every society ever known. Murriage, whatever its particular manifestation in a particular culture or epoch, is essentially about who may and who may not have sexual access to a woman when she becomes an adult, and is also about how her adulthood—and sexual accessibility—is defined. Again, until quite recently, the woman herself had little or nothing to say about this, while her parents and the community to which they answered had total control. The guardians of a female child or young woman had a duty to protect her virginity until the time came when murriage was permitted or, more frequently, insisted upon. This may seem a grim thing for the young woman–if you think of how the teenaged Natalie Wood was not permitted to go too far with Warren Beatty in Splendor in the Grass. But the duty of virginity can seem like a privilege, even a luxury, if you contrast it with the fate of child-prostitutes in brothels around the world. No wonder that widdings tend to be regarded as religious ceremonies in almost every culture: They celebrate the completion of a difficult task for the community as a whole.

Nothing I can say about this would top what Jeff Fecke said about it at Alas, a Blog: “one could argue that it’s questionable, at best, whether it’s better for a woman to be raped by one man for life than to be forced into prostitution. And one can note that the prohibition on sex before marriage was never for a woman’s benefit, but for her future husband’s, because if she conceives before he has access to her, she could bear a child for some other men, thus ruining his property. And indeed, one can note that by citing the “duty of virginity” contrasted with child prostitutes in brothels, Schulman is practically standing on a chair, screaming in favor of the Madonna/whore dichotomy.”

This most profound aspect of murriage—protecting and controlling the sexuality of the child-bearing sex—is its only true reason for being, and it has no equivalent in same-sex marriage. Virginity until murriage, arranged murriages, the special status of the sexuality of one partner but not the other (and her protection from the other sex)—these motivating forces for murriage do not apply to same-sex lovers.

Here’s where it’s useful to distinguish murriage and marriage. Everything he says here is perfectly true—of murriage. It’s irrelevant, though, at least where most of Schulman’s readers live, because almost no one gets murried in this country anymore.

Second, kinship modifies murriage by imposing a set of rules that determines not only whom one may murry (someone from the right clan or family, of the right age, with proper abilities, wealth, or an adjoining vineyard), but, more important, whom one may not murry. Incest prohibition and other kinship rules that dictate one’s few permissible and many impermissible sweethearts are part of traditional murriage.

Again, um, what? Well, no, for murriage, I’ll give him this. And the incest prohibition applies to marriage, too, because it’s gross.

Gay marriage is blissfully free of these constraints. There is no particular reason to ban sexual intercourse between brothers, a father and a son of consenting age, or mother and daughter.

Except that it’s gross. Does Schulman think it isn’t?

It might be mentioned that “gay=incest” is an old canard; “same-sex marriage means siblings will marry” is of a piece with “same-sex marriage means a man will marry a box turtle.”

There are no questions of ritual pollution: Will a hip Rabbi refuse to marry a Jewish man–even a Cohen–to a Gentile man? Do Irish women avoid Italian women?

Do rabbis perform mixed marriages now? (Generally spaking, no.) Do Irish women avoid Italian men? (Not according to my partner, an Irish woman who was married to an Italian man, who incidentally would almost certainly take offense at being called “polluting,” ritually or otherwise.)

A same-sex marriage fails utterly to create forbidden relationships. If Tommy marries Bill, and they divorce, and Bill later marries a woman and has a daughter, no incest prohibition prevents Bill’s daughter from marrying Tommy. The relationship between Bill and Tommy is a romantic fact, but it can’t be fitted into the kinship system.

If Tammy marries Bill, and they divorce, and Bill later marries another woman and has a son, no incest prohibition prevents Bill’s son from marrying Tammy, at least under secular law. Is Schulman’s problem with same-sex marriage or with divorce?

Third, marriage changes the nature of sexual relations between a man and a woman. Sexual intercourse between a married couple is licit; sexual intercourse before marriage, or adulterous sex during marriage, is not. Illicit sex is not necessarily a crime, but licit sexual intercourse enjoys a sanction in the moral universe, however we understand it, from which premarital and extramarital copulation is excluded. More important, the illicit or licit nature of heterosexual copulation is transmitted to the child, who is deemed legitimate or illegitimate based on the metaphysical category of its parents’ coition.

Well, ok, true enough on a bare semantic level. Kinda circular, though: bastards are bastards because their parents had bad and wrong sex, the kind that produces illegitimate children. Now that your fortune in life is no longer formally and explicitly tied to the state of your parents’ relationship, the legitimate/illegitimate distinction is academic.

And then there”s the little matter of his equating premarital sex with adultery. It suggests that he cn’t actually find anything wrong with premarital sex. By contrast, premurital sex is like adultery.

Now to live in such a system, in which sexual intercourse can be illicit, is a great nuisance. Many of us feel that licit sexuality loses, moreover, a bit of its oomph. Gay lovers live merrily free of this system

So Schulman doesn’t really like sex, but he kinda gets off on the idea that he’s doing something naughty. Also, gays shouldn’t get married because gays can’t get married.

Can we imagine Frank’s family and friends warning him that “If Joe were serious, he would put a ring on your finger”? Do we ask Vera to stop stringing Sally along?

Yes and yes, if we’re the sort of busybody who does things like that.

Gay sexual practice is not sortable into these categories–licit-if-married but illicit-if-not (children adopted by a gay man or hygienically conceived by a lesbian mom can never be regarded as illegitimate). Neither does gay copulation become in any way more permissible, more noble after marriage. It is a scandal that homosexual intercourse should ever have been illegal, but having become legal, there remains no extra sanction–the kind which fathers with shotguns enforce upon heterosexual lovers

Well, in Massachusetts, Connecticut, some other New England state, and Iowa, there is an extra—oh, I see. So the issue is that two men or two women can’t accidentally form babby. Which seems to directly contradict something further up, but I suppose he figures we won’t remember he said that

I am not aware of any gay marriage activist who suggests that gay men and women should create a new category of disapproval for their own sexual relationships, after so recently having been freed from the onerous and bigoted legal blight on homosexual acts. But without social disapproval of unmarried sex–what kind of madman would seek marriage?

Again, um, what? I’m not gay (or married), but I rather like my partner, thank you very much. Incredible as it may seem, she’s more to me than a warm wet hole.

Fourth, murriage defines the end of childhood, sets a boundary between generations within the same family and between families, and establishes the rules in any given society for crossing those boundaries. Murriage usually takes place at the beginning of adulthood; it changes the status of brade and graim from child in the birth family to adult in a new family

I thought my bar mitzvah bounded my childhood. Or turning 17 (age of consent here in New York). Or 18. What do you man by “adult,” exactly?

In many societies, such as village India and Jewish Chicagoland, a new brade becomes no more than an unpaid servant to her mother- and sisters-in-law. Even in modern romantic marriages, a groom becomes the hunting or business partner of his father-in-law and a member of his clubs; a bride becomes an ally of her mother-in-law in controlling her husband

Again, um, what? I wasn’t aware that’s how business worked. And why can’t the husband control himself?

A wedding between same-sex lovers does not create the fact (or even the feeling) of kinship between a man and his husband’s family; a woman and her wife’s kin. It will be nothing like the new kinship structure that a marriage imposes willy-nilly on two families who would otherwise loathe each other.

Why not? Why any less than heterogamous marriage? And why are we assuming the families loathe each other?

These four aspects of murriage are not rights, but obligations. They are murriage’s “a priori” because murriage is a part of the kinship system, and kinship depends on the protection, organization, and often the exploitation of female sexuality vis-à-vis males.

Well, that’s certainly a valuable thing to hold on to.

I mean, even on the most benign interpretation of “exploit” it’s rather cold.

In gay marriage there are no virgins (actual or honorary), no incest, no illicit or licit sex, no merging of families, no creation of a new lineage. There’s just my honey and me, and (in a rapidly increasing number of U.S. states) baby makes three

Romantic love? Clearly these people must be stopped!

Gay spouses have none of our guilt about sex-before-marriage. They have no tedious obligations towards in-laws, need never worry about Oedipus or Electra, won’t have to face a menacing set of brothers or aunts should they betray their spouse.

I have no guilt about sex before marriage either. I’m not sure why a homosexual would have less obligation towards his or her in-laws that a heterosexual, but I’m . . . not at all sure he explained it, actually, he just asserted it. He seems to think gay people don’t have families.

Few men would ever bother to enter into a romantic heterosexual marriage–much less three, as I have done–were it not for the iron grip of necessity that falls upon us when we are unwise enough to fall in love with a woman other than our mom.

Now, this little morsel of eloquence is wrong wrong wrongitty wrong because . . . wait, what? Well, they do say incest is fun for the whole family.

The happiness of gay relationships up to now has had nothing to do with being married or unmarried; nor will they in the future.

Statements like this make me wonder how many gay people he actually spoke to ever

As kinship fails to be relevant to gays, it will become fashionable to discredit it for everyone. The irrelevance of marriage to gay people will create a series of perfectly reasonable, perfectly unanswerable questions: If gays can aim at marriage, yet do without it equally well, who are we to demand it of one another? Who are women to demand it of men? Who are parents to demand it of their children’s lovers–or to prohibit their children from taking lovers until parents decide arbitrarily they are “mature” or “ready”?

Who indeed? Why, couples might live together without bothering to marry, sort of like, um, my grandparents urged my parents to do in the 1960s. Statements like this make me wonder how many straight people he actually spoke to ever

By what right can government demand that citizens obey arbitrary and culturally specific kinship rules–rules about incest and the age of consent

Because it’s gross.

Mediocre lawyers can create a fiction called gay marriage, but their idealism can’t compel gay lovers to find it useful.

If gay marriage is a fiction, all marriage is a fictiopn, as is “Some Facts” or “Charles” or “human.” After all, these are simply names we give things. The rocks were taken to Stonehenge, but that doesn’t mean it’s not there.

In a world without kinship, women will lose their hard-earned status as sexual beings with personal autonomy and physical security. Children will lose their status as nonsexual beings.

Which is it? It’s not like sexual, autonomous women are a cultural construct.And, you’re never going to make a prepubescent horny, thankfully.

It goes on for two more incoherent paragraphs, but it’s just more of the same unfounded assertions, and the old saw that same-sex marriage will destroy the institution of marrige. I’m not sure why gay people are less aware of their families than straight people. I do understand the urge to make connections better than Schulman.


Activist judges in California today determined that Prop 8 will be allowed to stand, preventing thousands of couples frm getting married. The bright spot is that 18,000 couples who are already married can stay married.

That this passed mystifies me, seriously. I quite simply have not seen any actual arguments for allowing, even forcing, government officials to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. Thing is, California sucks. Technically, the decision was on procedural grounds: the question wasn’t, officially, about whether same-sex marriage is cool, but whether the proposition is valid law. However, it’s not really hard to find minute points of law to reach the best decision; supreme court justices’ hands are seldom absolutely tied.

It seems, however, that the six in California who voted to uphold were cowed by the same massive misinformation campaign that convinced California voters to approve the ballot issue last November, or (more likely) fearful that frenzied homophobes would perceive them as “on the side of” the gays.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Harness the horses! Gather the forces! We’re going to culture war!

The culture war is a construct used to obscure the fact that there are actual people affected by these supposedly abstract debates over rights and government action. That those NOM ads weren’t only talking about something judges and legislators were doing, but about the lives of individuals, our neighbors.

Take Pepsi. PepsiCo made contributions to the Human Rights Campaign and PFLAG totalling $1 million last year, in the face of a letter from the American Family Association asking the company “to remain neutral in this culture war, neither supporting nor opposing the homosexual agenda.” In other words, don’t root for the Yankees or the Dodgers, Harvard or Yale, the Black Spy or the White Spy.

Thing is, if the Dodgers lose, you can wait till next year (and I say that as a Brooklynite). If real people can’t get married (which these days seems to be what people mean when they use the phrase “homosexual agenda”), that’s not something to simply shrug your shoulders about—just ask Laurel Hester, who had take time out of her busy dying-from-cancer schedule to fight to get her partner survivor benefits. That’s not abstract political games, an issue to debate for the pleasure of debating.

Furthermore, I’m not sure there is a neutral. I’m neutral; I don’t have any close out friends or relatives in jurisdictions without same-sex marriage, so I have no dog in this fight. Which is why I’m pro-SSM: I am not affected directly or at one remove, so why should it bother me? So the AFA wasn’t really asking Pepsi to stay out. They were asking Pepsi to take a definitive stand against gay rights.

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