So-Called Gay Marriage: A Dialogue

I’d been tied up with students all morning. No sooner did student number ten leave than student number eleven appeared. It was Theresa. “Hi, Professor Theophilus. This isn’t about your course. Have you got a few minutes anyway?”

“Fewer and fewer, it seems. Are there still a lot of students out there waiting?”

“The hallway’s empty.”

“I must have scared the rest away. Come on in.”

She plopped down, but instead of speaking, she grinned at me.

“What’s funny?”

“I read in the Pill about those students chanting slogans outside your classroom.” The Pill is the student newspaper. I’d given an interview the day before, opposing so-called gay marriage. You can guess the rest.

“Have you come to afflict me too, O my tormentor?”

“No, I’m on your side. In my nine o’clock class, half the students tried to shout me down for agreeing with you.”

“Your instructor didn’t keep order?”

“Are you kidding? Professor Thanatos says ‘I have one rule for class discussion: Survival of the fittest.'” She shrugged. “Mom and Dad taught me to be thick-skinned. When someone tries to keep me from being heard, I just stand up and talk a little louder.”

“How can I help you this morning?”

“I’m not satisfied with the way I presented my case, so I thought I’d go straight to the horse’s mouth. That’s you.”

I considered neighing, but thought better of it.

“Could I just lay out my argument step by step?” she asked. “As soon as you spot a problem, you can say ‘Stop’ and I’ll stop.”

I smiled. “Just what I was about to suggest.”

“Okay. Homosexual acts are morally wrong because — ”



“Yes. I agree that they’re morally wrong, but that’s not the place to start. You probably don’t need to make that case at all.”

“Why not?”

“Because the question on the table concerns enacted law — marriage law drawn up and enforced by the government — not moral law.”

“Shouldn’t they be related?”

“Certainly, but not in the way you’re thinking. It’s not a moral requirement that everything immoral should be illegal.”

“Why not?”

“One big one is that the government’s job is to care for the common good, not the individual good. For example, it’s immoral to be a glutton, but the law doesn’t keep tabs on how many rich desserts you eat. It’s immoral to get drunk, but the law doesn’t pay much attention if you do it in the privacy of your home. Now if you get drunk before flying a commercial jet, that’s a different matter. Are you with me here?”

“I guess so.”

“Another big reason is prudence. The law should encourage moral virtue, but if you try to suppress every vice all at once, you may end up making things worse. Think of what happened during Prohibition. A good rule of thumb is to concentrate on the worst vices, and proceed with caution.”

“I guess I agree with that too, but this is pretty discouraging. If I can’t go directly from ‘X is immoral’ to ‘X should be illegal,’ then how can I argue against gay marriage at all?”

“It’s easier than you think. You just have to be specific about the kind of law you’re talking about and the moral purpose behind it. So what kind of law are we talking about?”

“Marriage law, of course.”

“Then here’s your first question. Why should we have laws about marriage in the first place?”

“To strengthen marriages. Why else?”

“I’ll accept that answer. Question two. Why should lawmakers care whether or not marriages are strong?”

“I don’t see how you can have strong families without strong marriages, Prof.”

“Another good answer. Question three. Why should lawmakers care whether or not families are strong?”

“Because the family is the basic unit of society.”

“If that’s all you say, most people won’t understand what you mean. Spell it out.”

“Isn’t it obvious?” she said. “Families produce kids. They shelter and nurture them and teach them how to be good. If that goes well, then the kids grow up, take on social responsibilities, get married and form new families. If it goes badly, then either they don’t grow up, or they grow up to be irresponsible and have dysfunctional families. Either way, everyone suffers. The society might even die out.”

Ultimately, then, the reason we have marriage laws is the building up of society, generation by generation, through procreation. Children need mothers and fathers, and that’s just what husbands and wives become. Right?”


“Now homosexual unions are irrelevant to that purpose, aren’t they?” I asked. “We’re not talking about whether they’re bad or good. You may think they’re abominable, or you may think they’re the best thing since sliced bread. The point is that they have nothing to do with the purpose for giving legal recognition to marriage; they don’t keep the great wheel of the generations turning.”

“So I ought to be able to present this argument even to people who don’t see anything wrong with homosexual acts.”

“That’s right. But are you ready for the next step?”

“There’s a next step?”

“Of course. You have to anticipate possible objections to the argument. You have to be ready to respond to them.”

“Objections like what?”

“Coming up with them is your job. You’re the student whose classmates have been ganging up on you.”

“But you’re the professor who gets chanted at by campus radicals.”

“Nice try,” I laughed, “but I’m not the one who needs help! No more games. State a possible objection.”

“Well,” she said, “here’s one. “We’ve been saying that homosexual unions are irrelevant to the purposes of marriage laws because they’re sterile. Right? But sometimes the union of a man and a woman is sterile too.”

“That’s true,” I said, “but the tendency of male-female union is to produce children. It’s sterile only when something interferes with that tendency. Homosexual union can’t be anything but sterile.”

“How about this, then? In a sense, you can get around sterility — by adoption, or maybe by sperm donation. Someone might say ‘See? Homosexual unions aren’t irrelevant to the purposes of marriage laws after all. Gay couples can’t produce children, but they can raise them.’ How are you going to get out of that one? I can’t see arguing that a lesbian can’t love her child.”

“The problem with a pair of homosexuals raising children isn’t that they couldn’t love them; it’s that Moms and Dads are different, and children need one of each. Having ‘two Moms’ or ‘two Dads’ just isn’t the same. This is common sense, but a large and growing body of sociological research backs it up.”[1]

“I buy that,” Theresa ventured, “but some people don’t agree with what we’ve said about the purposes of marriage laws. They say marriage isn’t about procreation, but about love. I don’t think I’d want to argue that homosexuals can’t have genuine affection for each other.”

“You don’t have to,” I said. “The crucial point is this. Of course love is crucial to the procreative partnership of the husband and wife. But the law isn’t interested in their love per se. What it’s interested in is the procreative partnership. That’s what it’s protecting when it establishes the legal status of matrimony. If affection outside of the procreative context were enough to create eligibility for that status, then you may as well say that I should be married to my dog, my cat, and my fishing buddies.”

“I can think of one more objection,” Theresa said. “A gay activist might argue ‘If you insist on thinking that the only reason for marriage laws is to protect the procreative partnership, go ahead. Don’t let me stop you. But be serious now. What would it hurt to let homosexuals get married? After all, it’s no skin off your nose, and it would mean so much to so many of us.”

I smiled grimly. “Both premises are false. In the first place, Theresa, it’s not true that so-called gay marriage would mean ‘so much to so many.’ Very few homosexuals really do want to be considered married. In localities where ‘civil partnerships’ have been made available, for example, only a small percentage of homosexuals have actually taken advantage of them. This suggests that the reason activists seek legal change isn’t to get married, but to get approval. In the second place—and this is much more important—it’s not true that changing the marriage laws wouldn’t take any skin off society’s nose. The law is a school. For better or for worse, it teaches. What principle would the marriage laws teach if they did offer the legal status of ‘marriage’ to homosexual unions?”

She answered, “The principle that marriage and procreation have nothing to do with each other.”

“Would that be good for families?”

“I think it would be terrible for them.”

“Then you know how to answer the objection.”

“Professor Theophilus,” Theresa asked, “these are great arguments—but do you have any ideas for getting people to listen to them?”

“That,” I replied, “is much harder.”


  1. See Bruce J. Ellis, John E. Bates, Kenneth A. Dodge, David M. Fergusson, L. John Horwood, Gregory S. Pettit, and Lianne Woodward, “Does Father Absence Place Daughters at Special Risk for Early Sexual Activity and Teenage Pregnancy?” Child Development, Vol. 74, pp. 801-821; David Popenoe, Life Without Father (Harvard, 1996); Eleanor Maccoby, The Two Sexes (Harvard, 1998); and Steven Rhoads, Taking Sex Differences Seriously (Encounter, 2004); see also Mark Regnerus, “How different are the adult children of parents who have same-sex relationships?  Findings from the New Family Structures Study,” Social Science Research 41 (2012), pp. 752-770.

This article, which is part of a series of fictionalized advice columns  for college students, was published February 19, 2004 on and is reprinted with permission of the author.

J. Budziszewski


J. Budziszewski is a professor of government and philosophy at the University of Texas at Austin who specializes in natural law. He is the author of many books, including What We Can’t Not Know: A Guide, The Revenge of Conscience, Evangelicals in the Public Square, and most recently The Line Through the Heart: Natural Law as Fact, Theory, and Sign of Contradiction (ISI Books, 2009), and On the Meaning of Sex (ISI Books, 2012). He earned his doctorate from Yale University in 1981 and converted to Catholicism from Evangelical Christianity in 2004.

  • Michael Paterson-Seymour

    An excellent article, clearly focused on the central issue raised by SSM

    From the state’s point of view, marriage establishes the juridical link between men and their children and provides the child with a filiation that is clear, certain and incontestable.

    This is central to the state’s ability to address questions of the upbringing and welfare of the child, for protecting rights and enforcing obligations between family members and to the orderly succession to property. To date, no better, simpler, less intrusive means than marriage have been found for ensuring, as far as possible, that the legal, biological and social realities of paternity coincide. And that is no small thing.

    That is why, during the current debate in France, the main argument of opponents of SSM has been: (1) Mandatory civil marriage, makes the institution a pillar of the secular Republic, standing clear of the religious sacrament (2) The institution of republican marriage is inconceivable, absent the idea of filiation – the rule that the child conceived or born in marriage has the husband for father – enshrined, not in Church dogma, but in the Civil Code (3) The sex difference is central to filiation..

  • mally el

    An important factor – crtical actually – is gender. In all respects humans are the same except when it comes to gender. These two genders that are designed in our nature divide us into two groups across all cultures and races, and have organs that beautifully complement. When two people from these two genders commit themselves to each other there is a marriage. Marriage is a phenomenon that exists becuase of our nature, and not because of legislation. Furthermore, the cells in these gender organs are designed to make reproduction possible. This, in turn, sustains the community. No other relationship, not even same-gender ones (a homorriage), has the natural potential to do this.
    Marriage is unique and solely responsible for our stability and continuity.
    Furthermore, if a politician or judge feels he/she can re-define marriage today, then the precedent is set for future leaders to do the same – as they see fit. The West would become the laughing stock of the world.

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  • Joe K

    If there is a problem with the reasoning presented here it is due to the premise that we have marriage laws to promote the strengthening of marriages. Like it or not, many of our fellow men and women do not believe that we have marriage laws for this reason. We live in a day and age where materialism (not in the philosophical sense, although that is also the case) is rampant. Due to this many people espouse the idea that marriage laws exist in order to define inheritance rights, legal protections, healthcare decision making rights and many other things of this sort. Your argument does not provide a “reason”-able objection to people that believe that those, and not the promotion of a solid family based structure, are the real reason we have marriage laws.

    • MarkRutledge

      Objective reality is not what one perceives it to be, or wants it to be. That many have a poorly developed or misinformed understanding of marriage does not change the state’s role in the marital institution.

    • Michael Paterson-Seymour

      As Archbishop of Paris, André Vingt-Trois, put it so eloquently: ”Even though it has not taken the modern form familiar in our civil legislation, there has always been a means of handing things down from generation to generation, which is the very basis of continuity and stability in a society. This transmission between generations is primarily effected by the family. It is the legal framework of family life that structures the transmission of life and shapes the future of society.”

      Call that materialism, if you will, but it is the justification of the state’s involvement in marriage.

    • Ford Oxaal

      Right — family (by family, I mean the “natural” family) precedes society. Society exists to augment the well-being of families. Society has as its first duty the augmentation of the well-being of families. Society did not need million dollar sociological studies to understand that the family is the best place to raise children unto its own augmentation. Marriage is the institution surrounding these fundamental truths of what might be termed the “natural” law. The state interest in marriage is not only obligatory, but its very raison d’etre. Society weakens marriage to its own demise. If it tries to redefine marriage as an equality issue, it necessarily waters down the institution. In fact, it trades the primacy of its obligations regarding marriage for the primacy of itself, in the moment. Society has already weakened marriage to its own peril through no-fault divorce. The further watering down and disfigurement of marriage are simply the decay of this earlier societal rebellion.

  • The issue of gay marriage will not be succesfully addressed by a judicious line of thought of arguments but by concrete and specific problems that may be proved to be inherent to the proposition. That is, unless society judges arms lenght, that there are critical situations derived from the acceptance of gay marriage and that this situation make that proposal one that is inherently unsustainable or disrupting to society, the final judgement will be that there is no obvious wrong in the proposal and it will get to the next stage, the path to force a decision. And if no problem or peril is perceived, gay marriage will just run down the road as another civil rights achievement of a group which will be a progress to society as an inclusive and respectful step towards equal justice.

    This article is an excellent demonstration of how to get nowhere from nowhere towards nowhere cementing a reasonable oposition to gay marrige. And personally I am one who opposes respectfully to gay marriage. However, with this kind of intellectual champions my take is that gay marriage is having a trip to the mall.

    The problem is not with the arguments, nor the elaboration, but with the overall lack of purpose and the absolute lack of emphaty to the issue. When Catholic leaders understand that gay marriage has come to be a so claimed rossetta stone presented as a key element of understanding to this group and as such has to be counterargumented no real progress will be made

  • Following my previous comment, some suggestions:
    1. Why not start with the fact that the use of “gay” ascribed to homosexuality exclusively is a language mistake? That in fact, gayness, correctly used is a trait that can be adscribed to anyone who exhibits a gay personality which is not a homosexual personality but a personal attitude that has no sexual connotation.

    2. Why not state and clarify that not all homosexuals in fact, are gay? That there are a lot of homosexuals that act not in a gay mood and would not do so as part of their homosexuality.

    3. Why not demonstrate that not all homosexuals want or need to get married in order to get a life? That in fact, the gay marriage proposal pertains to a group of homosexuals that act gay and want to dominate the discussion as representatives of a “gay” community that in fact is a sub group of the homosexual oriented persons?

    4. Why not discuss the true nature of homosexuality and distinguish its claims and needs as they really are? Why not contest if the “so called” homosexual community exists as an objective reality or if its a cultural creation of a particular group of homosexuals?

    • TomD

      The transition in language from homosexual to “gay” was made for many reasons, but I believe the primary reason was to aid in removing the sexual nature from homosexuality in public perception and to transition to an image of a “lifestyle” without immediate sexual connotation, like the “Will and Grace” image portrayed by modern culture. It worked.

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  • MarkRutledge

    The final two lines of Professor Budziszewski’s fine piece hit like a lightening bolt. Whenever one sees SSM discussed online or in the print media, one quickly finds that opposition arguments are seldom addressed but dismissed out-of-hand, and summarily countered with well-rehearsed talking points (or let’s call it what it is: propaganda). At the heart of this disconnect sits the vast chasm between those who use reason in pursuit of objective Truth and those who who use reason to promote their own truths, i.e. relativism. Indeed, Professor, how can we get people to listen who believe they can call the day night and the night day?

    • John200

      A few thoughts: I think of the combox as a place to write mostly for readers who may never comment. Your interlocutors are of uneven quality; some abysmally incompetent, others pretty good, still others can at least cut-and-paste advanced arguments.

      Second point: Anyone who keeps coming back to you with the same propaganda is obliged to listen, at least once in awhile. That’s just a matter of good taste. If they won’t address your points, make sure it shows up for the reader or listener. Think of it as a de facto win, because you don’t have an opponent.

      The well-rehearsed summary counterpoints are usually pretty poor — often easy to
      dismantle. Nice to meet you at CrisisMag.

  • msmischief

    I note that while homosexual couples can raise chlidren they didn’t conceive together, what they are doing in bed is utterly irrelevant. Nothing prevents a pair of roommates, or close relatives, or any other people from raising a child. Why, therefore, should the homosexual couple be able to marry when a brother and sister can’t, even if they are raising their orphaned niece together?

    • Mark

      That will be coming next. Satan is never satisfied.

      • msmischief

        Yes, but for now, until the next step is revealed, it makes a good argument.

    • J G

      Marriage is a binding contract that provides stability that is not available to roomates. We can see the effects of that in our inner cities quite easily. Already in Germany a couple who are brother and sister have taken legal action to have their “marriage” recognized. The slippery slope is slippery indeed.

      • msmischief

        Why, yes, and it will only get worse in the inner city when we add another thing to make it clear that it’s about the whims of adults, not the need of children.

    • Phil

      Nothing prevents two opposite-sex strangers from marrying, either.

      • John200

        That would be a marriage of convenience, for example, to gain US citizenship. I know a deeply messed up woman who married a recent immigrant, and is now in the process of being divorced against her will. She is learning that they were strangers all along.

        But he will be a US citizen. She is getting worse and worse.

        • Michael Paterson-Seymour

          Not necessarily. Among immigrant communities in Europe, (Algerian, Pakistani) it is quite common for someone to marry someone they have never met, usually a first or second cousin. Research has show such marriages to be remarkably stable (and fruitful), compared to the average of the host country. To seek a divorce would be a great affront to family honour.

  • TheodoreSeeber

    I am to the point where I believe the purpose is to demonize heterosexual males- and the ONLY real point.

  • Smart kid.

  • crakpot

    “Why should lawmakers care whether or not marriages are strong?”

    Why should I care what lawmakers think? They should be nothing more than mechanics using the limited powers consented to by the governed, a supermajority of them, to keep us free to do what’s right. Instead, we plead with half our lawmakers, who each managed to get 51% of the vote, from the 40% of the population that bothers to vote, not to take new powers.

    “Gay marriage” is not about marriage at all, but about making it easier to recruit our children to homosexual sin. This was clearly demonstrated in California. Right after one gay judge overturned a pro-marriage proposition the legislature mandated gay studies in schools.

    We are not commanded to be blind.

    Trying to convince the powerful what is good for the collective is the wrong route.

    • If your children are gay then gay studies will help them grow up believing that being gay is not disordered. If they are straight, no amount of gay studies courses will make them attracted to the same sex, but it might help them be more respectful to their gay classmates. Imagine for a second how difficult it would be for a young gay child to grow up in a household that constantly sends a message that his attraction to men is wrong. Things will be slightly easier if he is at least given some gay role-models in school.

      This is not about recruiting straight children to be gay but about helping gay children feel accepted and loved, something that they aren’t getting from the Catholic church.

      • Paul Tran

        Paul, you do talk a lot of nonsense. I am a Catholic and I am always compelled to be compassionate towards all my fellow human beings , gay or straight. If you have been brought up as a Catholic you of all the people should know that Catholics are NOT allowed to hate anyone and that we must realize we are not perfect , thus we have to be compassionate toward the sinners. But we must always oppose the sin.

        Same sex attraction is wrong and to award a homosexual (gay or lesbian) the term “role model” on the basis of his/her sexuality is to make homosexuality normal & acceptable. And this is WRONG & immoral.

        Young minds are malleable & easily influenced, I have seen too many instances where straight kids are enticed to be gay. For example, my nieces are followers of Tumblr and on one particular Tumblr associated sites a boy wrote in and clearly said he had been straight till he saw the pics on “hats & hoodies” & turned gay … all too sad really.

        • thebentangle

          Paul, so a boy somewhere reported that he had “turned gay” because of some pictures he saw on “hats and hoodies?” But you had just told Paul McGuire that he talks nonsense? Here’s a real-life experience for you: This morning, there was a crumpled piece of paper on my floor. The cat had been playing with it. It resembled the Virgin Mary. Do you think she was trying to communicate with me?

        • Phil

          And that is the X of the problem – the idea that homosexuality is normal or abnormal, whether or not it is something to be accept or something to be compassionate about.
          The thing is that if the gay child in question thinks that he is normal, then no amount of Catholic compassion or parenting will make him feel loved.

      • crakpot

        Homosexuality is behavior, not nature. Both conscience and science bear this out, but “gay studies” teach the exact opposite. The reality is that since no one is born that way, recruitment is necessary. As a parent, I have a right and a responsibility to protect my children from it, but if they want a degree from a California university, I am forced to subject them to its propaganda.

      • Ford Oxaal

        When I was an antique dealer, I lived with my business partner. Some
        parts of the homosexual community in the city where we had our business
        tacitly assumed we were closeted homosexuals. We were invited to their
        parties. Let’s just say that the psychological recruitment games I have
        witnessed firsthand would make my father, the author of the
        psychological warfare strategy for NATO, blush. They are almost as
        expert as televangelist snake oil peddlers and encyclopedia salesmen.
        Why should this be surprising or shocking to anyone? Human beings of
        all stripes, homo or hetero or anything else, figure out strategies to
        get what they want. It’s that simple. Some human beings, hetero or
        homo, are way more sexually aggressive than others. The whole sex thing
        is so ridiculously adolescent, and such an obvious money grab on the
        part of big pharma and media — I wish society would put that genie back
        in the bottle. All human relationships that carry forward into old age
        end with friendship. That should be our focus. If we keep obsessing
        over sex this and sex that, the next thing you know this country will
        start erecting little Hermae statues all over the place (which at least
        might arouse some curiosity about classical Greece :).

        • Augustus

          Now THAT is a comment worth framing. Thank you for the insight, Ford.

        • TheBentAngle

          The kinds of behaviors that you describe are tasteless and inappropriate, and you are right to point out that neither sexual orientation has a monopoly on them.

    • Ray Olson

      crakpot–You’ve chosen your monicker aptly. ‘”Gay marriage” is not about marriage at all, but about making it easier to recruit our children to homosexual sin,’ you write. The evidence you adduce for that outrageous delusion–“Right after one gay judge overturned a pro-marriage proposition, the legislature mandated gay studies in schools”–is ridiculous, an example of the post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy. No advocate of gay marriage wants to “recruit” anyone to sin, I say, and remind you that you have the burden of proof since you are making a positive statement.

      • crakpot

        The burden of proof is on those seeking to bring government’s monopoly on power to bear against an individual’s rights. What rights? Homosexual behavior is sin, and there can be no right to do any such wrong. What power? There is no criminal penalty for recruiting anyone to it. The right in jeopardy is the right of mothers and fathers to protect and guide their children. The power being sought is the power of government propaganda against it.

        • Ray Olson

          crakpot–Ok, you’re not interested in conversation, I see, just in dictatorial ranting. I won’t bother you again–ever.

          • crakpot

            I responded to your claim that I had the burden of proof. Now I’m responding again: Dictators by definition have power – I have no power to make you read this, but the left has the power to make people pass a “gay studies” class if they want to graduate, and they seek more power to propagandize by redefining marriage.

  • Paul Tran

    An excellent article !!!

  • thebentangle

    Professor Budziszewski: The structure of your dialog suggests that the professor and Theresa have started with an agreed-upon conclusion (that homosexual acts are morally wrong) and that the professor’s concern is to help Theresa develop an argument that will support this conclusion. Of course, this is not how genuine rational inquiry works, but then, I suppose your purpose was not to discover truth but to offer readers a primer on successfully arguing against same-sex marriage.

    But approaching argumentation in this way amounts to sophistry, doesn’t it? And the argument then inevitably becomes riddled with assumptions. It can’t stand, because there are too many weaknesses along the way.

    The professor’s first glaring assumption is that families are for procreation and that society is only built up through procreation. In this view, there is no value to a family that doesn’t “keep the great wheel of the generations turning.” When Theresa reminds the professor that there are many “sterile” couples, he answers her objection by claiming that the “tendency” of traditional marriage is to produce children. This extremely vague assertion is unfair to couples who choose not to have children. (It is also unkind to label them “sterile.”) Principally, however, it weakens the entire argument through its vagueness, its generality, and its resistance to substantiation.

    And then the professor throws in a little fear for seasoning: “The society might die out.” This weakens the argument even further, because (1) its purpose is transparent to any critical reader, and (2) nobody really believes that our society is in danger of dying out. No signs of it so far.

    Then the professor answers Theresa’s devil’s-advocate objection that gay couples can raise children through adoption and sperm donation. They can’t do it as well as straight couples, he objects.

    The reason that this objection further weakens the argument is that (1) it rests on weak and inconclusive evidence about same-sex parenting outcomes, and (2) it assumes that the state will limit the rights of particular couples of a given class because the average parenting outcomes for their class are below average. If the state really did this, then Mississippians might be barred from marrying.

    Another fundamental assumption follows, i.e., that “the law is interested in [marriage as a] procreative partnership.” That may be one of the state’s interests, but it is not the only one, and the state definitely does not treat procreation as essential to marriage.

    The slippery-slope argumentative tactic applied to marriage with dogs and cats just cheapens the whole dialog irredeemably.

    From there it’s still downhill, however, as we are told “very few homosexuals really do want to be considered married.” The obvious problems here are (1) that you don’t know this to be true, and (2) that it doesn’t matter how many homosexuals want to be married, as long as some of them do.

    To top it off, we’re told that acceptance of same-sex marriage teaches the principle that marriage and procreation have nothing to do with each other. This is facially absurd, because marriage usually DOES have a great deal to do with procreation, and it will continue to do so. It is also facially mean-spirited to suggest that married couples without children are somehow remiss or derelict in their duties and that their marriages are not authentic.

    Sorry, professor, but I would have to give this piece a failing grade. Come see me in my office.

    • Bob

      Read my response to you on the piece “Same-Sex” Marriage Legislation: What’s at Stake?”, bentangle. The Holy Spirit is pursuing you right now, listen to what he has to say!!!

      • thebentangle

        Bob, I’m listening. I don’t hear anything yet. Is there a time frame on this?

    • N

      You wrote: “Then Theresa reminds the professor that there are many
      “sterile” couples, he answers her objection by claiming that the “tendency” of
      traditional marriage is to produce children. This extremely vague assertion is
      unfair to couples who choose not to have children. (It is also unkind to label
      them “sterile.”)”

      There is nothing at all ‘vague’ in claiming a ‘tendency’ of marriage to produce children. It is a carefully chosen word, which allows for marriages that do not produce children to still be called ‘marriages.’

      Why would it be ‘unkind’ to ‘label’ couples who do not reproduce as ‘sterile’ if we don’t first acknowledge that the tendency of traditional marriage is to produce children? This is manifestly obvious to anyone who has lived in any society. A couple marries; time passes; no children are produced. The couple are usually asked
      to explain this situation by other members of society. They have to SAY, ‘We have a problem with reproduction’ or ‘we choose not to have children’ or ‘we’re waiting.’

      If the tendency of traditional marriage were NOT to reproduce, then it would be the
      people who have children who are questioned – ‘What’s the idea, getting married
      and having kids?’ And if the tendency of marriage were to reproduce or not – either possibility being equal – no questions would be asked of any married couple as to why children have not or have appeared. Clearly, since all of society EXPECTS children to come from marriage; and since all of society wonders why no children have appeared when a couple has been married for awhile; and since it’s assumed that a married couple is having sexual relations; and since everyone knows that sex between a man and a woman has a tendency to result in pregnancy, it is by no means a ‘vague assertion’ that ‘the tendency of traditional marriage
      is to produce children.’ It is manifestly obvious and has been obvious throughout history. It’s as obvious as the mating of two animals of opposite sex having the ‘tendency’ to produce offspring. If this would not be the case, labeling a
      marriage as ‘sterile’ – i.e., not fruitful – would not be ‘unkind.’ It wouldn’t even be done.

      You are misunderstanding ‘tendency’ – a carefully chosen word –
      for ‘sole legitimate purpose.’ That is not what it means.

      You wrote: “The reason that this objection further weakens the argument is
      that (1) it rests on weak and inconclusive evidence about same-sex parenting
      outcomes, and (2) it assumes that the state will limit the rights of particular
      couples of a given class because the average parenting outcomes for their class
      are below average. If the state really did this, then Mississippians might be
      barred from marrying.”

      Evidence about same-sex parenting outcomes has to be ‘weak and
      inconclusive’ if by that you mean that little research has been done. It’s only been about a generation since it’s even been possible for same-sex couples to rear children. The research that does exist (which I have read) and the personal accounts of those who’ve grown up in that environment is hair-raising enough for a prudent government to say, ‘Best not to go there if anyone could be damaged by it.’

      First you say that evidence is ‘weak and inconclusive, but then in your second point, you suggest that the state will somehow know the ‘average parenting outcomes’ of a ‘particular class’ and restrict that class’s rights somehow. Do you imagine ‘strong and conclusive’ evidence about ‘below-average’ parenting outcomes (whatever THAT means) in the state of Mississippi?

      When you talk about ‘parenting outcomes being below average’ you are ignoring what the ‘parenting outcome’ of same-sex parents actually is – and must be (which indicates you haven’t read the research). Quite simply, and quite obviously, two men cannot behave in a relationship like a man and a woman do; two women cannot behave in a relationship like a man and a woman can. A female parent cannot BE
      male and relate in a male way to a child; a male parent cannot BE female and related in a female way to a child. A child who witnesses only intimate relations at close quarters between a man and a man or a woman and a woman cannot know – from day-to-day, situation-by-situation experience – what it is like to have an intimate, committed relationship (good, bad or indifferent) with a member of the other sex: he cannot learn what to do and what to avoid in a heterosexual marriage, because he wasn’t brought up in one. Common sense tells me that I can’t know how to behave in another culture if I’ve had no exposure to it.

      A child who has never been ‘mothered’ by a woman will have a less complete view of what that is like than someone who was mothered by a woman. If she has been ‘mothered’ by a man, she will have a distorted and incomplete idea of what a woman does when she mothers a child. If she only ever has had father-figures (for example, because her mother died and no female replaced her), we have plenty of evidence that the child grows up sensing a very definite lack in her development – she lacks a sense of confidence in being a mother, lacks a role-model for being a mother, lacks an experienced older woman to advise and support her in being a mother. The same results are apparent in people who grew up without a father – for whatever reason. We don’t need kids brought up by gay couples to know that the lack of one or both parents of the other sex diminishes a child’s ability to thrive in various ways.

      Even animals who are orphaned in the wild and trained for re-release are somehow ‘trained’ by human beings to behave like their own species. Still more necessary
      in the highly complex human person, who will have to go about making a
      long-term (lifetime) relationship with a person of the other sex and who will
      spend around 20 years trying to raise a child in the role of ‘mother’ or ‘father’ to that child – and those are gender-specific roles that will have to be redefined to something else (already it’s called ‘parenting’ as though a mother and a father are interchangeable units and relate to children in exactly the same ways). It helps a LOT to have some kind of role-model in marriage and child-rearing, to have a solid experience of what marriage and child-rearing involve and how to do that as a man or as a woman in relation to a person of the other sex, before you try it on your own (children of divorce also have problems keeping married, for example).

      You don’t need a hundred years of case-studies to know that children raised by homosexuals will not easily be able to slip naturally into heterosexual marriages and heterosexual role-modelling, because we already have the witness of all of human history that tells us plainly: the better a man and woman are at creating a healthy male-female relationship, the more solid and enduring that commitment is, the more likely it is that the children of that relationship will end up well-adjusted and able to have their own healthy, long-lasting marriages and raise well-balanced children. We don’t need to experiment with something utterly unknown in human nature, and then study it to see how it works (the children involved being guinea pigs) before we can affirm that what has worked for all of human history actually does work.

      The idea that evidence of problems in children raised in same-sex households is ‘inconclusive’ is like saying that evidence of the problems of radiation fallout were inconclusive in 1939, so there’s no reason why we shouldn’t just explode a bunch of bombs and see what happens. We already know what would happen if we didn’t explode the bomb; no need to explode a bomb and then analyze the fallout to see if any damage was done.

      When you talk about people from Mississippi not being able to marry, because
      they might have ‘below-average outcomes,’ I submit that you are being at least
      as ‘unkind’ as someone who calls a childless marriage sterile. It’s a cheap shot, which undermines your entire argument. Clearly you are not a serious person. But let’s take it seriously, since you’re setting yourself up as being teacher to the professor. Do you really think that comparing the ‘parenting outcomes’ (whatever that means or however you propose to measure it) of people from different geographic regions is on a par with comparing the ‘parenting outcomes’ of households with one parent or two ‘parents’ of the same sex? You really imagine those two things are comparable? So you take a child from Mississippi raised by… by… by whom? the state of Mississippi? or a gay couple from Mississippi? Who, exactly? , and a child from… nowhere, I guess, who has been brought up by gays, and you assume that all things are equal and you can do some research that will not be ‘weak and inconclusive’? Sheesh… Not a serious person, not a serious mind here.

      ‘Another fundamental assumption follows, i.e., that “the law is interested in [marriage as a] procreative partnership.” That may be one of the state’s interests, but it is not the only one, and the state definitely does not treat procreation as essential to marriage.’

      So what? Is it UNTRUE that the ‘law is interested in marriage as a procreative partnership’? Of course it is not. If the law was NOT interested in marriage as a procreative partnership, there would be no laws about legitimacy and illegitimacy, about inheritance, about adoption, etc. A person would not be allowed to divorce if, for example, they married a person who said s/he could have children and wanted to have children, only to find out later that the person was incapable or unwilling to procreate. If the law assumed that marriage is NOT procreative, there would be no laws about the offspring of marriage.

      It doesn’t matter if the law considers marriage in other lights; it most certainly does treat marriage as a procreative partnership.

      No one said that procreation is essential to marriage – it’s stupid – a straw man argument – to propose that that is what is being said. If procreation were ‘essential to marriage,’ the law would have to require people to reproduce as a condition of being allowed to marry.

      You’re obscuring the issue by deliberately misrepresenting the argument. The point of that section of the argument was NOT to say that procreation is essential to marriage; it was to say that the law didn’t care about whether two people love each other when they get married; that laws about marriage (and this professor knows about law) came into existence because of the procreative tendency in marriage.

      “To top it off, we’re told that acceptance of same-sex marriage teaches the principle that marriage and procreation have nothing to do with each other. This is facially absurd, because marriage usually DOES have a great deal to do with procreation, and it will continue to do so. It is also facially mean-spirited to suggest that married couples without children are somehow remiss or derelict in their duties and that their marriages are not authentic.”

      Here you contradict yourself. A moment ago, you said that the law does not treat procreation as essential to marriage, as though that somehow argues that childless couples are ‘less married’ than other people – or that someone is trying to suggest that they are ‘less married’ than other people. Now you say that marriage DOES have a great deal to do with procreation. If that’s the case, then clearly if marriage
      has a ‘great deal’ to do with procreation, then a ‘great deal’ of marriage law
      would have to do with procreation.

      No one is being ‘mean-spirited’ and suggesting that couples without children in
      inauthentic marriages. You seem to have some personal sensitivity on this point, since you raise it as a straw-man argument twice.

      By you own admission, marriage has a ‘great deal to do with procreation.’ A ‘great deal.’ If two men ‘marry’ that ‘marriage’ has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with procreation – zip, zero, nada. Now, let’s look at the situation we would have with same-sex marriage: Those two men are married; it has nothing at all to do with procreation. Those two women are married; it has nothing at all to do with procreation. That man and woman are married, it has a GREAT DEAL to do with procreation.

      What do we gather from this? Either we redefine marriage to having MUCH
      LESS to do with procreation than normal, traditional marriage has; or we have a
      schizophrenic situation in which ‘gay marriage’ has nothing to do with
      procreation, but ‘straight marriage’ has a GREAT DEAL to do with procreation. This makes ‘gay marriage’ as sterile and unproductive socially as the professor’s arguments suggested. It also makes ‘gay marriage’ the red-headed stepchild of marriage, still not the natural, historical norm, because something is clearly LACKING in gay marriage: heterosexual marriages can and generally do produce children; gay marriages cannot. Since they are lacking this capacity, they would be considered ‘lesser’ not ‘as much’ as heterosexual marriage – in a word, inferior.

      Like it or not, society always feels sorry for couples who would like to have children and cannot; and society always feels at least puzzled if not a bit saddened by couples who choose not to have any children: society ‘feels’ that such couples are rejecting something positive, something good, something that naturally tends to be the ‘fruit’ of marriage. You may not like it that all human societies assume that when a man and a woman come together in a committed sexual relationship, children will result; you may not like it that when children don’t result, society tends to feel sorry for those couples. But what every society has exhibited for all of human history tends to tell us something about humanity: human society always expects marriage to be fulfilled through children. Since gay marriage has no possibility of naturally fulfilling the function of coming together sexually, it will ALWAYS either be the ‘lesser’ type of marriage or marriage itself will have to be redefined so that in order not to be ‘unkind’ to these ‘sterile’ people by calling them ‘sterile,’ we have to redefine marriage: call these naturally sterile sexual relationships ‘marriage’ so as not to hurt their little feelings by confronting them with reality.

      Which leads to another question. If we have a situation in which everyone can see for him- or herself that ‘gay marriage’ has nothing to do with procreation, while ‘straight marriage’ has a GREAT DEAL to do with procreation, in order to make things equal, we must either change ‘straight marriage’ so it has much less to do with
      procreation, or we must change gay marriage so it has at least as much to do
      (i.e. a ‘great deal’ to do) with procreation. Which means we must guarantee the ‘right’ of people in gay marriages to ‘procreate’ even though naturally they can’t do
      that. Which means SOMEBODY is going to have to make sure that their ‘right’ to have a marriage which has a ‘great deal’ to do with procreation is respected. Somebody, somewhere, is going to have to give them a child or children; somebody, somewhere, is going to have to pay for their artificial means of reproduction (through insurance or through taxes) and somebody is going to have to be that child. Children will be experimented on by placing them in these situations that all of human history tells us is not the ‘natural’ or normative way to bring children into the world or raise them so that they can in turn raise the next generation.

      No point in calling the professor into your office – on certain points, you don’t seem to have heard what he was saying very clearly.

      • thebentangle

        Professor, you may have chosen the word “tendency” carefully, but your use of it was nevertheless vague. Or to be more precise, there is a tension between the ordinary descriptive use of this word and your more normative use of it. The evidence is in the fact that you attach the word “sterile” to any instance of marriage that does not “tend” toward reproduction. “Sterile” (a mostly medical term in this context) does not properly describe couples who opt against child-bearing. They would be justified in taking offense, just as I take offense when the Catholic catechism describes me as “disordered.”

        Additionally, you conveniently ignore the fact that gay marriages already exist and that they cannot by nature have any “tendency” to produce offspring.

        We live in different worlds. You write, “A couple marries; time passes; no children are produced. The couple are usually asked to explain this situation by other members of society.”

        No, absolutely not. In my world, requests for explanations about people’s private affairs are off-limits. I haven’t even asked my brother and his wife to “explain” why they didn’t have children. It’s none of my business. My next-door neighbors–an older man and his wife–have never had children. I wouldn’t presume to ask them for an 
“explanation.” It would be extremely rude of me.

        You write, “And if the tendency of marriage were to reproduce or not–either possibility being equal–no questions would be asked of any married couple as to why children have or have not appeared.”

        By your own reasoning, then, there is no “tendency” to have children, because in fact people are NOT usually asked why children have or have not appeared–at least not in my world.

        Maybe it would be best to acknowledge that this tendency exists in certain traditional societies where people do indeed ask each other such intrusive personal questions, but that this tendency does not exist in societies where individual privacy is valued.

        Again, you write that “all of society EXPECTS children to come from marriage.” This is patently false, both of straight marriages and gay ones. So it is untrue of marriage in general.

        I’ll address your other points shortly.

        • Crisiseditor

          Just for the record and to avoid any confusion, “N” is NOT Professor Budziszewski. However, “N” if free to debate the issues at hand with “TheBentAngle” if he so chooses.

        • Pelagian

          When one has sworn his cabbalistic allegiance to the foulest practice known to man, from our time back to time immemorial, one will say or do anything.

      • thebentangle

        Professor, this is part II of my response to your initial response to me:

        Your likening of human mating to animal mating (para. 4) misses the important point that humans who mate can decide whether or not they want offspring. Animals who do not produce offspring might be assumed to be “sterile,” but that assumption should not be made about human couples. And, for the reasons I gave earlier, it is unkind to assume that.

        Regarding your point in (your) paragraph 7: I was totally wrong in saying that arguments against same-sex parenting rest on weak and inconclusive outcomes. How could I have forgotten about the amicus briefs supporting Judge Walker’s ruling in the Proposition 8 case! Here’s the scoop:

        First, you have to view the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals update on case 10-16696 (“Proposition 8”). It is at Then take a look at the hundreds of organizations that have filed or joined amicus briefs for and against Judge Walker’s ruling. You will notice that every major health and social care association in this country has joined the brief supporting California’s same-sex marriage law and urging the court to uphold Judge Walker’s decision. (See my list below.)

        The only health care organization appealing on behalf of Prop 8 is a right-wing splinter organization called the American College of Pediatricians, with an estimated membership of 60 to 200. It broke away from the American Academy of Pediatrics, which has a membership of 60,000. The ACP has a purely ideological agenda and screens its members for their views on reproductive choice and same-sex parenting.

        Here is the statement on the amicus brief joined by the health and social care organizations that I will list below:

        “There is no scientific basis for concluding that gay and lesbian parents are any less fit or capable than heterosexual parents, or that their children are any less psychologically healthy and well adjusted. The children of same-sex couples will benefit if their parents are allowed to marry.”

        Here is the list:
        American Psychological Association
        California Psychological Association
        American Medical Association
        American Psychiatric Association
        National Association of Social Workers
        National Association of Social Workers, CA Chapter
        American Sociological Association
        American Academy of Pediatrics, CA
        American Academy of Pediatrics
        American Psychoanalytic Association
        American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy
        American Anthropological Association

        There appears to be a pretty strong consensus about this.

      • thebentangle

        Professor, this is Part III of my response to your initial response to me:

        In your paragraph 8, I think you mis-read what I wrote. My example about Mississippi was hypothetical. Let me rephrase it for you.

        What if data showed that a particular group of parents–as defined by e.g., religion, ethnicity, nationality, state of residence, or hair color–had poorer child outcomes than other groups. And here we are talking about the aggregate, not the individual couples. Theoretically, you could rank all these groups, just as we rank states for their divorce rates, out-of-wedlock birth, teen-age pregnancies, and so on. I mentioned Mississippi because that state does have relatively high rates of teen-age pregnancies.

        Once we determine that, say, people with dark hair make the best parents, are we to ban marriages and parenting between people with light hair? Obviously not, because any number of individual couples in that group may do a superior job of parenting compared to the couples in the dark-haired group.

        Our Constitution does not allow discrimination against individuals on the basis of aggregate attributes of the groups to which they belong.

        Your concerns about children who grow up without parenting by both a mother and a father are way overblown. I have no doubt that you have read case studies that seem to justify your concerns, but I have also read case studies indicating that single-parent and same-sex-parent families can do a spendid job. I’m prepared to offer you some testimonials if you want them. So I think it is unfair to assume that same-sex couples are unfit for parenting or that the outcomes will always be bad. In fact, as I showed you in Part II of my response, the overwhelming consensus in the professional associations that deal with parenting and child welfare is that same-sex couples can do the job at least as well as anyone else.

        Your point in paragraph 12 (that children raised by homosexuals will not easily be able to slip naturally into heterosexual marriages and role-modelling) is, as you yourself admit, unsupported by evidence. My own son is 25 years old and he appears to be doing just fine on that score. So I know it is at least possible.

        (To be continued.)

      • thebentangle

        Professor, this is Part IV of my response to your initial response to me:

        Your paragraph 16 presents a straw-man argument. You could have saved yourself about 600 keystrokes. I never claimed that the law was “uninterested in marriage as a procreative partnership.” That would have been absurd. But the state also has an interest in marriages where there is no procreation, especially in cases where there is divorce and distribution of property.

        In your paragraph 19, you point out that laws about marriage came into existence because of the procreative tendency in marriage. That may be, but it is irrelevant.

        In your paragraph 21, you say I contradict myself in saying “marriage usually DOES have a great deal to do with procreation” because I had earlier said that the law does not treat procreation as essential to marriage. Do you really see a contradiction there? I certainly don’t. You do know the difference between “a great deal” and “everything,” don’t you?

        To be clear, and to reiterate, there are now two kinds of marriage–SSM and traditional marriage. Most marriages are traditional ones, and those marriages may have “a great deal” to do with procreation if only because so much procreation results from them. SSM marriages have little or nothing to do with procreation, and yet they are marriages. So we can say without contradiction that the entire aggregate of all marriages has, on average, a great deal to do with procreation, but that procreation is not the sine qua non of marriage. Otherwise, there would be no SSM.

        I think this communication problem may have resulted from your denial that SSM is marriage and my acceptance of the reality that it is. It does actually exist. Merriam-Websters has the two definitions now. It’s a fait accompli in many places.

        “Inferior”? Did you use the word “inferior” to describe my upcoming marriage? (paragraph 24). I think that throughout your response your preference for disparaging terms over civil ones says a great deal about your personal animus against homosexuals. How can one be objective or even clear-minded with so much negativity constantly roiling up to the surface?

        To be continued.

      • thebentangle

        Professor, this is Part V of my response to your initial response to me:

        Your over-arching claim in paragraph 25 is simply false, and I know this from my own experience. And it is the kind of claim that can easily be falsified from experience.

        The claim is that “human society always expects marriage to be fulfilled through children.” This claim may be true in some places and at certain times, but it is not always true, and it wouldn’t matter if it were. Am I to forego marriage because people in Houston, TX expect me to have children? How so? I live in Seattle, where our state’s marriage equality law was overwhelmingly approved. My marriage is not “inferior” or “lesser than” anyone else’s. We do not see things that way here. Before using totalizing words like “always,” “all,” “every,” and “everyone,” you might want to consider where you are standing and what your particular view of the world is.

        Your final paragraph, like many of the others, assumes that gay marriage does not yet exist, which frees you to speculate to your heart’s delight about all the sad and tragic things that are going to result from it. But these speculations are not grounded in the real world of observable reality. Your denial about the fact of same-sex marriage—and the Church’s denial about it (Cardinal George says “it doesn’t exist; it’s an impossibility”)—can only lead towards delusion.

        It does no good to equip young people with arguments against marriage equality if those arguments are riddled with assumptions based on denial. The people to whom these young people talk may not be able to consciously identify those assumptions, as I have, but they will sense them.


        • Bob

          Sorry Tangle, but Mr. N’s reasoning and logic is far superior to your arguments. Reading your postings tangle, they are very confusing with little depth of argument. And Mr. N is right, because of the impossibility of procreation gay “marriage” will always be considered a lesser or inferior marriage, if a marriage at all.

          • thebentangle

            Bob, you haven’t said anything substantive. If Mr. N’s reasoning is “far superior to mine, then explain why. If my postings are “confusing,” then please elaborate. If you claim that gay marriage will always be considered inferior, then tell us why this is not just an idle speculation based on your particular prejudice.

    • Crisiseditor

      To avoid CONFUSION and MISTAKEN IDENTITIES–as I indicated below–“N” who responded to “TheBentAngle” is NOT Dr. Budziszewski. “N” may or may not be a “professor” but he is definitely NOT the author of the above column. Carry on…

  • John200

    @ Ben Tangle

    Mr. Tangle, Happy New Year, I am glad you came back. On the surface, malheureusement, you miss J Budge’s point at length. That’s resistance. Your tangled responses amount to ‘tasteless and inappropriate’ trolling; that runs true alongside the tasteless inappropriateness of homo”sex”ual activity. Each is unnatural, although in different ways.

    But do stick around, you are being told the truth. Your tangled thinking can be straightened out. Pretend you don’t like truth, and do so at great length, but I think you DO like it; and that you will soon leave behind the Marquis de Sade as philosophical muse; and that this happy result is in plain sight, not far away. The process is natural, tasteful, and appropriate.

    Best wishes to you and yours. Carry on.

  • Very good! Thank you!

  • Pelagian

    “What would it hurt to let homosexuals get married? After all, it’s no skin off your nose, and it would mean so much to so many of us.”

    ^ another way that it would hurt us would be that judges and juries would have to spend their valuable time hearing gay divorces. Which would be a fool’s errand to begin with because, whatever could be the standard for what is an irretrievably broken bond that had no purpose or definition in the first place? And judges hearing evidence of whether homosexual partners were servicing each other properly would necessarily involve a State condonement of their practices.

    PS I can’t believe we even have to argue about this. Talk about wasted time! It’s like we are living Alice in Wonderland and we are arguing with the Mad Hatter.

    • Pelagian, is that the best “harm” argument that you can come up with—that judges will have to decide gay divorce cases? If you feel that this discussion is a waste of time, then don’t waste your time with it.