Recently at Symphony I was privileged to hear Tchaikovsky’s Manfred Symphony, which is loosely based on a Lord Byron poem of the same name. And while I am unfamiliar with the poem, I did in fact read the program notes. And what I read there spurred a question to which I have no answer with respect to the modern liberal position vis a vis marriage and who is allowed to partner in such arrangements.
The liberal position with respect to homosexual partnerships is that they should be allowed to marry even though the relative numbers of such partnerships is very small and the there is no possibility to have children. These are not dis-qualifiers for the state to sanction marriage in their view.
So here’s my problem. Manfred by Lord Byron is (we are told) is an expression of his forbidden sexual desire for his sister though the eponymous hero as proxy. So to put a point on it, in the context of reasons the liberal arguments why can two men or women may marry but a man cannot marry his sister? Or let’s put it concretely. In a state where gay marriage is allowed, what argument could you muster for me not to marry my sister? What reasons for gay marriage are there that do not apply equally well to my marriage with my sister (or for that matter, my brother, my mother, my father, or grandmother/father …. if they are currently not married to anyone else)? It might be added that I have had a vasectomy, so no progeny are possible so the “genetically damaged offspring” argument does not apply and cannot be used. Also, the numbers of people desiring such relationships are not relevant (apparently). (side note: I have no sister so no siblings have been harmed by the this test case).
The non-religious conservative case, that marriage should privilege heterosexual marriage because children are both hard to raise and required to continue society forbids all these newfangled relationships. The exclusion of religious arguments depends both on the insistence that the Declaration of Independence separates law from morals/ethics and that the Habermas/Ratzinger debate is a clear Habermas win. I’ll concede the first half of this “both/and” but not the second, but note that most American’s although they should concede the first half, typically don’t.
So. Riddle me this Mr Liberal? What reasons for two men to marry don’t apply to me and my sisters’ desired nuptials? Or should we be planning seating charts and ordering a cake from a Islamic bakery (and will you condemn and attack said bakery for bigotry because they won’t deliver said cake because they object to our being wed in admittedly not-holy matrimony)?