Manfred and the SSM Debate or Riddle Me This Mr Liberal

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)?

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  1. Boonton says:

    And you’ve pointed out that there is legal precedent for that when they are infertile

    There isn’t legal precedent for the infertile. Some states allow infertile first cousins to marry, others don’t.

    I haven’t said “they are identical”. I’ve said the same arguments are used…

    Here is where reasoning by analogy either works or doesn’t work. Consider drug discovery. A particular drug appears to cure a type of cancer in mice. Reasoning by analogy would say since the human body and cancer is like the one in the mice, the drug will work in humans. Of course no one really knows since humans and mice are not exactly alike so the next step is to see what happens if humans try the drug.

    If humans and mice were exactly alike, then there would be no need for additional testing. You could say the success of the drug in mice was sufficient to establish it would work in humans.

    That some ‘same arguemnts’ are used, then, doesn’t tell us anything. Of course some arguments can be used to make multiple cases. For example, most people would generally agree with the statement that people should be able to marry who they want. That one argument, in isolation, would not only apply to interracial marriage, but also SSM, incest marriage, even forced marriage (i.e. I want to marry Uma Thurmon!). Each of those types of marriage, though, are not just subject to a single argument but an array of arguments that carry different weights. So saying we should have one type of marriage does not automatically imply that we should have another type even if many of the arguments overlap just as a drug that works in mice cannot be assured to work in humans absent any other context/data.

    I disagree. If 1 does it, it’s a mental illness or aberration. If thousands (millions) do, it’s an orientation.

    Thousands build ships in bottles, is that an orientation or just a hobby? You try to answer:

    Apparently gay is a hobby now. Not something by which one identifies essentials of self.

    Would someone who builds ships assert he didn’t exist before he ever learned how to do is hobby? Sexual orientation appears to exist in humans even before we start having actual sex or get anywhere near it.

    And monkeys might fly. And polygamy not required (apparently) just not being faithful to one’s “spouse”.

    Not clear why you are so skeptical here. Lots of bisexual people end up in monogamous relationships either for their entire lives or a good portion of them. A bisexual woman, for example, who is with a man, or a woman, would not be acting against their orientation.

    I’m not sure how you can argue polygamous or polygamy would be an ‘orientation’. For example, take a woman who is married to a man and that man then marries another woman with her support and approval. Is she of ‘polygamous’ orientation? Was she acting against her orientation when her husband was married to just her? If so how do polygamous people abide by their orientation? Must they all marry multiple people at once? If the 2nd wife dies leaving the original couple just married to each other are they now acting against their orientation?

    I’m not going to say I can prove ‘polygamoy’ or ‘polygamous’ is not an orientation but I think you haven’t even begun to think about what it would take to establish they are. Barring you doing some heavy intellectual lifting, I think we are safe in taking skepticism as a default stance there.

  2. Mark says:

    I’m unclear on why the “orientation” thing enters. Seems to me, as a committed heterosexual, under your SSM guidelines I can marry Frank L Monebags the Third who is 92 and wants me to inherit his wealth as a way of bypassing inheritance laws as it is. My orientatation isn’t what permits this.

    For example, most people would generally agree with the statement that people should be able to marry who they want.

    Except you. You won’t permit my sister and I who are free unconstrained adults who wish to marry.

    Sexual orientation appears to exist in humans even before we start having actual sex or get anywhere near it.

    I see. The genetic origin of homosexuality is proven. Perhaps in your mind. But alas, it hasn’t. Nature/nuture … ? Combination is almost certainly true.

    You keep avoiding the question. By what principle(s) do you deny my sister and me marriage? State them. Then we can discuss who or if they are also arguments you’ve rejected for SSM. (for example, you’ve cited “parents would do “something unknown” to their children” if my sister and I marry, an argument you admit is a problem for SSM but state (without any logic or reason) that this would “be worse” for incest … this is a perfect example of a reason you reject for SSM but not for IIM. My question is are there reasons you reject IIM that you do not reject or even use for SSM … I haven’t seen any).