Although the Marriage Equality Act was a sore subject in the senate of New York, statements about the pros and cons of that measure—statements about relevant principles, rights and wrong—were conspicuously scarce. Outside the chamber, however, marriage equality was a hot topic. The controversy continues. Some of it supplies fresh material for our Seeing Sophistry files.
*CATEGORY ERROR. Proponents of the Marriage Equality Act relied primarily on an equal rights pitch. The honor and the benefits of marital status, they argued, should be available to consenting same-sex adults just as they are for consenting opposite-sex couples. To that thesis, whose cogency and conclusiveness are far from being self-evident, opponents of the bill offer no direct response. Their paramount line of argument is that in passing the so-called Marriage Equality Act, the legislators performed a false, and pernicious, act of re-definition. Thus, Ruben Diaz of New York City, the only Democratic senator who voted No, stigmatized the bill as a move “to redefine our definition of marriage from [sic] one man and one woman” (press releases of 7/7 and 7/11). Similarly, here in GreeneLand, Chuck Kaiser lamented (Daily Mail, 7/ 27) that the 33 assenting senators, scorning the Biblical definition of marriage as “a holy union between one man and woman” (citation not supplied), presumptuously “took it upon themselves to redefine marriage.”
That version of events is categorically wrong-headed. Defining is not what lawmakers do. In this case, legislators performed an act not of definition but rather of legitimization. Together with a majority of State Assembly members and with Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the 33 assenting senators made it legal for same-sex couples to procure government licenses and to undergo civil ceremonies whereby they could legally call themselves, and could be called by others, married.
That action does not threaten anybody who believes, and asserts, that the same-sex couples who utilize their new legal right are not “really” married. Thus, advocates of a popular “referendum” on a “State Constitutional Amendment defining Marriage in New York as a union between one man and one woman” (Mr Kaiser’s words) miss the point.
*EXTRANEOUS ADVICE. “Marital bliss,” says Pastor Johann Christoph Arnold of Rifton NY (in letters to many newspapers), “can be attained only when God’s order—that is, marriage between one man and one woman—is adhered to.” That functional appraisal could work as a warning to same-sex couples who hope for bliss through marriage. It does not work as rational grounds for deploring a measure has no bearing on the quests of opposite-sex couples for marital bliss.
*HEALTH HAZARD. The 33 senators who passed the Marriage Equality Act, Mr Kaiser affirms, “advocated for” an “unhealthy lifestyle.” In support of that contention, Mr Kaiser testifies that “the morbidity and mortality rates of practicing homosexuals is [sic] far greater than any other segment of our population.” That line of argument could be cogent (without being conclusive) if it were backed by evidence that legalizing same-sex marriage would enlarge the population of practicing homosexuals. Meanwhile, one can speculate that new law may reduce rates of morbidity and mortality in the gay population, by prompting a decrease in rates of promiscuity.
*MIS-DESCRIPTION. In addition to mis-classifying the new Marriage Equality Act, Mr Kaiser falsified its immediate terms. He averred (I’m not making this up), that New York “took a giant leap down the slippery slope of moral degradation when it officially sanctioned sodomy under the guise of ‘marriage equality’.” But it is difficult indeed to legalize a practice (anal intercourse) that already is legal.
*EXTRAVAGANT ALARM. Because the State legislature and Governor have given legal sanction to so-called marriages of same-sex couples, says Pastor Arnold, “civilization as we know it is now doomed.” That fate looms “because what was foundational is being destroyed and”—ahem—“redefined”; we are “declaring God’s laws as irrelevant.” Since he voices those sentiments in response to one legislative act, he makes it seems as though salvation is readily attainable: repeal that one legislative blunder. Too easy.
*PHONY NOSTALGIA. “Let us return,” pleads Pastor Arnold, “to the time when our nation put its full trust in God.” Would that be the time until June 24, 2011? Anyhow, nations are not people who trust and distrust. And the proposition that this “nation” until recently did “put its full trust in God” is a bold, novel one.