New Website: Discussing Marriage

This morning, a new website launched at www.discussingmarriage.org.

What is marriage? Why is the topic such a contentious issue in modern day politics? What is at stake in the marriage debate? On this website, the authors attempt to respond to these questions and more. There are new and compelling arguments for why man-woman marriage is good public policy, but they are not well known. The hope is that this website will help bring these arguments to light, and provide people with the resources to understand them. The purpose of this site is also to inject humility into the conversation on both sides of the issue. Reasoned, measured, and respectful dialogue is possible with regards to marriage.

A note for M* readers: There is no reason that we, as Latter-day Saints, cannot defend traditional marriage as a pillar of our faith, and as sound, informed, reasoned public policy. There are secular, public sphere arguments for traditional marriage — perhaps dozens of them — that have nothing to do with religious doctrine or belief. This site will present them (there are two currently published, with many others on the way).

Current articles:
The Conjugal View and Revisionist View of Marriage
The Argument from Crucial Distinction
The Argument from Public Interest
The Objection from Infertility
The Objection from Bigotry

Please visit the site, and read the articles — and share them. There are YouTube videos also associated with each article.

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Join the conversation on Twitter @discussmarriage
Subscribe to the YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/discussingmarriage
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24 thoughts on “New Website: Discussing Marriage

  1. Just to take a stab at it I’d say…

    Marriage is a covenant relationship between a man and a woman that creates the foundation for the family. It’s benefit for adults is that it strengthens their commitment to each other and their children. It’s benefit for society is that it also serves to strengthen society by being the primary caregivers for the next generation.

    As an aside to this definition, if you redefine marriage to be two consenting adults, necessarily either have to change this definition of marriage or change the definition of family.

    I realize plenty of people are ok with that, and will call you nasty names if you say that we should not redefine a family to equal two moms without a dad or two dads without a mom.

    But as the definition of marriage I propose has both a generational and societal impact (aside from the benefits the two individuals receive), then society at large should have a role in determining which direction it should go.

    The debate over this question is not about what kinds of private relationships or activities individuals should be able to legally engage in, but what kind of societal building blocks we want to maintain to promote the rising and future generations.

  2. Aaron, that’s similar to the argument that the web site makes. Non-traditionalists have successfully muddied the waters so that they have changed the definition of “marriage,” which is something different than a relationship between two consenting adults. The result is, as we have seen, that now three lesbians in Massachusetts want to call themselves “married.” Personally, I could care less if three women want to live together, but their relationship is something different than “marriage.”

    If we want to argue that people living together should get benefits similar to marriage, that is a different debate and one worth considering. But it is not necessary to change the definition of marriage to have that debate.

  3. What really cracks me up is how progressives have pushed the revisionist conception of marriage for quite a few generations now which has in turn led to a dramatic increase in divorce rates and other trivializations of the institution which have set the tone for the legalization of SSM. Then, when the conservatives try to protect the sanctity of marriage, many progressives scoff and ask what sanctity is left in marriage. In other words, progressives cause a problem and then throw that problem in conservatives’ faces as if progressive policies were a proposed solution to rather than the root cause of the problem.

  4. Excellent and very professional website and videos my friends. It’s brave of you to try and find an argument against same-sex marriage that doesn’t resort to morality.

    Your case relies upon promoting what you describe as the conjugal view of marriage. Central to the conjugal view is procreation. You do a good job of arguing why procreation is central to the conjugal view and why this is good for society. But in the modern world, procreation is no longer the domain of sexual activity. 99% of modern sexual activity is non-procreative, as it is done under the influence of birth control. Additionally, much procreation in the modern world is done in the laboratory. Given how extensively birth control and science has redefined the nature of sexual activity and procreation, doesn’t this render the conjugal view obsolete in most cases?

    My other question would be, in the absence of a moral mandate, arguing purely based on a social paradigm, the conjugal view, what exactly do you hope to accomplish, and why? Since a likely majority in the US already support a revisionist view of marriage, and since that majority is rapidly increasing, what do your abstract, unoffensive theories have to add to the discussion?

    Or do you actually believe that same sex relationships are morally wrong, and you are only saying saying this to try and garner some respect among intellectuals, who would otherwise reject you as bigots for believing same sex relationships are morally wrong?

  5. “My other question would be, in the absence of a moral mandate, arguing purely based on a social paradigm, the conjugal view, what exactly do you hope to accomplish, and why? Since a likely majority in the US already support a revisionist view of marriage, and since that majority is rapidly increasing, what do your abstract, unoffensive theories have to add to the discussion?”

    Nate, in the late 1970s a majority favored abortion on demand. Over the last 35 years or so, the support for abortion on demand has decreased and now most people see big moral conundrums with the issue and nuances (abortion after a rape is morally different than abortion at five months because the woman changes her mind).

    It is not unreasonable to hope, if you are a supporter of traditional marriage, that there will be changes in the discussion of marriage over time as well. I think the true goal should be to continue to calmly point out that there is simply a difference between what marriage has always been and the current redefinitions. I cannot predict the future, but it is possible that the society will return to a more traditional view of marriage five, 10, 20 years from now. These types of web sites will help provide the intellectual arguments for such a result.

  6. Nate, I think the site’s creators are certainly trying to “garner respect” for those who believe in traditional marriage.

    But I don’t think that’s their only goal. While the articles they’ve published aren’t moralistic, they do make the claim that the traditional definition of marriage is good public policy. While the public mind, yes, has mostly come around to a revisionist view of marriage, it could be swayed back toward the conjugal view if there are sufficiently compelling public policy reasons to do so.

    As far as the conjugal view having been made obsolete, you’ve overstated your case. Nearly all individuals born in the next generation will be the children of someone who had sex for procreative purposes. And while most sex is recreational, most people on earth who have sex eventually intend to use it for procreative purposes. Furthermore, even if the technical circumstances of sex have changed, I think you’ll find that human minds, hearts and social instincts have not changed so quickly. Society is not as easily controlled as biology, and humans cannot be reinvented the way definitions can.

  7. “Furthermore, even if the technical circumstances of sex have changed, I think you’ll find that human minds, hearts and social instincts have not changed so quickly. Society is not as easily controlled as biology, and humans cannot be reinvented the way definitions can.”

    Bingo. Absolutely nailed it.

    “It’s brave of you to try and find an argument against same-sex marriage that doesn’t resort to morality.”

    Let me, however, state that any attempt to ground argument “outside” a moral framework is folly since even the absence of “morality” is itself a moral claim. It’s pretty much impossible to escape morality.

  8. Additionally, much procreation in the modern world is done in the laboratory.

    If this statement isn’t the greatest exaggeration in the entire blogosphere today, I’m not sure what would beat it. In a recent year (2010), total births worldwide were 140 million. But a 2013 article on CBS news’s website reported that total births involving Assisted Reproductive Technologies were 5 million. Not for 2013, but for all time.

    And ART includes not just in-vitro fertilization but also fertility drugs adminstered to women to make conception more likely. (I don’t have a further breakdown of the numbers, but I don’t think anyone would say that administering fertility drugs to a woman constitutes “procreation in a laboratory.”

    To suggest that that number constitutes “much” and that the reproduction of the species is somehow decoupled from sexual relations between a man and a woman is ridiculous.

    Even when the most disconnected of reproductive technologies is used (donor sperm, donor egg, third-party surrogate mother), there’s one troublesome consistency with the conjugal understanding of marriage–none of that is possible without cells from a man and a woman.

    Finally, I have known personally several people who were scientists, and I’ve been in a number of laboratories. I suppose it’s possible that some of those scientists’ children were conceived in a laboratory, but it seems unlikely–the floors are cold and hard, the tables likewise, and I’ve never seen even a couch in a lab.

  9. It says a lot about the inherent fundamentalist reality of the conjugal nature of sex that two lesbians will use toys mimicking male genitalia in order to “have sex”. I think that fact is quite revealing, in and of itself.

  10. Thanks, Tom, for your comment. You are correct.

    I think a broader way of saying it is that the site’s creators are trying to dismantle the idea that man-woman marriage policy relies on ideas about sexual morality. While many supporters of traditional marriage do believe that same-sex activity is immoral, that belief is not required to support man-woman public policy. The goal is to demonstrate that.

  11. I made this comment on New Cool Thang before I caught this
    Post: I wish the conjugal view explanation didn’t use a boyfriend/girlfriend couple who decided to get married only after girlfriend got pregnant. Maybe they were trying to leave morality out of it, but I would like to think marriage isn’t an afterthought of having slipped up and gotten pregnant. I think marriage is a mix of the two ideas. One could argue empty nesters have no reason to stay married, that once a woman’s ability to have children was over, she could have any number of relationships and still maintain connections to children and grandchildren. We do have some trend for late in life divorce, but I would attribute that to something other than “I’m done having kids so I can get a divorce now. ” Tough topic to address without some reference to morality.

  12. IDIAT, I think the issue is that they were trying to illustrate the *difference* in the relationship after pregnancy (permanence, fidelity, etc., are not obligatory as a matter of *public* norm in ways they were not before), and how that difference illustrates the precise way in which marriage is distinct from other relationships. Marriage creates that difference from the get-go (before children ever arrive).

    Have you looked at the Argument from Crucial Distinction? It explains how the norms of permanence (something you are concerned about) are directly implied by a marriage relationship.

  13. To clarify, marriage creates that difference (and enwraps the relationship in those public norms) from the get-go (before children ever arrive), and thus ought to be encouraged prior to sexual activity, as this is better for families and communities. The article itself makes that more clear.

  14. My other question would be, in the absence of a moral mandate, arguing purely based on a social paradigm, the conjugal view, what exactly do you hope to accomplish, and why? Since a likely majority in the US already support a revisionist view of marriage, and since that majority is rapidly increasing, what do your abstract, unoffensive theories have to add to the discussion?

    Perhaps a demonstration that the warning that “Further, we warn that the disintegration of the family will bring upon individuals, communities, and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets.” is not theological gas. The breakdown of the nuclear family has real-world consequences.

    One of the great PR coups of the 20th century was the way developments of family law in the 1960s and 70s (no-fault divorce, legalized elective abortion, refusal to enforce existing anti-fornication/adultery laws) were so completely “divorced” (pardon the pun) from the crime waves, single parenthood boom, STD epidemics, and moral decay in the corporate world that manifested themselves in the following decades.

  15. To put things more pithily: The argument isn’t that people who support gay marriage are going to hell. The argument is that people who support gay marriage are running a very real risk of bringing hell to all of us.

  16. Those who are in favor of getting rid of marriage of an institution (e.g., the “beyond marriage” folks) tend to want all people of whatever proclivity to be able to retain all benefits without “discrimination” because they aren’t in a typical married situation.

    I’m not sure they care about the health of the next generation. In fact, decreasing the numbers of people in the next generation might be seen by them as a beneficial outcome, given the projected population and resource pressures.

    I have a friend/acquaintance who is extremely pro-polyamory. She’s written a play that as far as I can tell is live-action porn on stage, which opened recently to rave reviews. She’s young and beautiful, so at this time she glories in the idea that she’s free to love all and any who strike her fancy. I assume she’s fitted herself with birth control methods that will prevent her from becoming burdened with undesired children.

    I’ll be interested to see how that works for her in later life. Perhaps she will live a long and satisfied life, aggressively jubilant that she has done the right thing.

    As for the increasing number of children engendered with the help of assistive technologies, I’ve been interested to read headlines from research that allegedly finds rodents become sterile after several generations of eating GMO foods. I have other friends who speculate that reduced fertility is a natural outcome of all the birth control now present in ambient water sources. I don’t know the reason, but there are many women in my congregation who have been unable to have children without assistive technology. Many being a number higher than I can count using two hands-worth of fingers.

    As for me and my house, those who are female like to be in committed relationships (e.g., temple marriage) with males, and the males like to be in committed relationships with females. A bit outside my immediate family, the vast majority prefer the historically typical heterosexual and monogamous form of committed relationship. Those who have dabbled with or immersed themselves in same-gender relationships are few. But they are part of the extended family, and our family as a whole doesn’t evict relatives for their non-traditional sexual preferences.

    There was a time when one in-law was being sexually inappropriate with all the kids in the neighborhood (lacked an appropriate sense of boundaries). I believe the matter came to light when one of my cousins attempted to commit suicide as a result of the mental distress associated with the inappropriate behavior. This was about three decades ago.

    Inasmuch as the move away from “traditional” marriage blurs the boundaries between appropriate behavior (e.g., reveling exclusively in the marital bed) and inappropriate behavior (e.g., fondling your wife’s under-age niece and her fifteen neighborhood buddies), I wonder that there isn’t more concern about the increased risk to children in our “brave new world” of anything-goes companionate shacking up, with the increased behavioral and chemical threats.

  17. Because boundaries have been obscured or outright eliminated as far as reports of Western culture are concerned, everything from marriage to child birth and child rearing become ‘choose your own adventure’ with poor models being pushed to the forefront in most popular media. However many converts to the Gospel come from those whose chaotic lives of hedonism leave them damaged and empty. When physical and psychological health reach a nadir they look for rescue and frequently that is the time missionaries come or somehow the Church attracts their notice. The Proclamation on the Family is truly a lighthouse that defines and restores much needed boundaries that attract the world wearied soul.

  18. Thank you M* for being a light in the darkened world (and not just this topic alone). That there are so many members of the Church who want to contribute to the degeneration of modernity is saddest of all. Just wanted to say that.

  19. Ho Jettboy,

    I suppose I should have specified that my pro-polyamory friend/acquaintance and my neighborhood children-fondling in-law are not members of the Church.

    Meg

  20. Meg, I didn’t read that implication. Still doesn’t mean there aren’t a lot of Mormons I know who hold modernist views contrary to the Gospel teachings. *cough*Bloggernacle*cough*

  21. Law is not a suggestion, as George Washington observed, “it is force”. An official state sanction of same-sex relationships as “marriage” would bring the full apparatus of the state against those who believe that marriage is between one man and one woman. This is outlawing traditional morality.

    Eliminating one entire sex from an institution defined as the union of the two sexes is a quantum leap from eliminating racial discrimination, which did not alter the fundamental character of marriage. Marriage reflects the natural moral and social law evidenced the world over. As the late British social anthropologist Joseph Daniel Unwin noted in his study of world civilizations, any society that devalued the nuclear family soon lost what he called “expansive energy,” which might best be summarized as society’s will to make things better for the next generation. In fact, no society that has loosened sexual morality outside of man-woman marriage has survived.

    Analyzing studies of cultures spanning several thousands of years on several continents, Chairman of Harvard University’s sociology department, Pitirim Sorokin. found that virtually all political revolutions that brought about societal collapse were preceded by a sexual revolution in which marriage and family were devalued by the culture’s acceptance of homosexuality.

    When marriage loses its unique status, women and children most frequently are the direct victims. Giving same-sex relationships or out-of-wedlock heterosexual couples the same special status and benefits as the marital bond would not be the expansion of a right but the destruction of a principle. .

    The Gospel of Philip taught that the existence of the world depends on marriage: “Great is the mystery of marriage! For without it the world would not have existed. How the existence of the world depends on man, and the existence of man on marriage.”

    If the one-man/one-woman definition of marriage is broken, there is no logical stopping point for continuing the assault on marriage.
    If feelings are the key requirement, then why not let three people marry, or two adults and a child, or consenting blood relatives of any age? . Marriage-based kinship is essential to stability and continuity in our state. Child abuse is much more prevalent when a living arrangement is not based on kinship. Kinship imparts family names, heritage, and property, secures the identity and commitment of fathers for the sake of the children, and entails mutual obligations to the community.

    The US Supreme Court declared in 1885 that states’ marriage laws must be based on “the idea of the family, as consisting in and springing from the union for life of one man and one woman in the holy estate of matrimony; the sure foundation of all that is stable and noble in our civilization, the best guaranty of that reverent morality which is the source of all beneficent progress in social and political improvement.”

  22. I imagine the US Supreme Court declaration that state marriage laws must be based on “the union for life of one man and one woman…” was directed straight at the address of the Mormon hierarchy. Just saying.

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