Sunday, June 04, 2006

Nationalising marriage, centralising power

President Bush has thrown recently given a speech asking for a federal amendment to nationalize marriage and strip the states of the centuries long right to set their own laws. Destroying this constitutional tradition, he says, is necessary to preserve tradition. We comment on this law in our main web site here.

Our good friends at the Cato Institute sponsored a debate recently on gay marriage between Professor William Eskridge, Jr. and Maggie Gallagher, an anti-gay marriage activist. It was interesting to see Eskridge demolish the debate that gay marriage, or its equivalent, in Europe harmed marriage as an institution. Eskridge got off base when he wasted valuable time talking about "overpopulation" which apparently, he contrary to all statistical evidence, thinks is a problem. He also miscalculated his audience on that.

But still he came out ahead. Gallagher often seemed on the verge of making a point and then didn't, at least not in relation to gay marriage. She threw out information which no one really disputes but then showed no coherent link between that and her opposition to gay marriage. For instance she speaks about how important marriage is for children. No disputes there. Eskridge agreed as well. And she'll spend 5 minutes on this topic as if that somehow proves that gay marriage harms those children. And when it comes to children in gay households her reply is that there is absolutely no studies showing that these children have been harmed by having unmarried parents. I presume that she thinks these children are somehow substantially different from children in all other studies where there is evidence that unmarried parents increases problems for the child.

At several points she completely misstates the case that Eskridge had made or attributes to him positions which he had just said he doesn't take. It is hard to follow her logic since she is not very linear in her thinking and jumps around. But as I understand she is saying that marriage is needed to keep straights in control. They are apt to go out, screw, and make babies and marriage is way of forcing them to take responsiblity for their inability to control their passions. It is desperately needed because if we don't breed awful things will happen. So it's not necessarily bad straights are so unrestrained but once they make a baby we have to corral them into marriage to make sure they take care of those kids and this is necessary for human survival. Gays don't make babies so there is no need.

Of course there are many ways by which people have children and those children still need parents. But somehow children in gay households don't need married parents but children in straight households do. If she explained why these cases differ I missed it.

Her most bizarre argument came when she asserted that gay marriage weakens marriage because it associated with other forms of relationship other than marriage. Considering that Gallagher and others like have been making that association for years that is rather cheeky of her. It is the old problem of throwing mud and them complaining you opponent is dirty. But you can judge for yourself. The debate is now on the website of Cato here.

Finally, Professor Dale Carpenter has published a paper on the Bush marriage amendment, also for Cato. His paper The Federal Marriage Amendment: Unnecessary, Anti-Federalist, and Anti-Democrate is available in pdf format here.