Question: Whether Gmarriage is Objectionable on Rational Grounds – Part 1

The ‘g’ stands for ‘government’ and is silent. h/t to William Briggs for bringing this handy time and scare-quote saving device to our attention. Ultimately, the question is whether marriage is the sort of thing governments get to define, so gmarriage seems like the appropriate term.

Folks, what I want to do here is assemble the rational arguments in a nice orderly format – and the most nice and orderly format known to man it the quaestio developed in the medieval universities (whose most prominent child is the Scientific Method). As the Oracle Wikipedia puts it:

The quaestio method of reasoning was initially used especially when two authoritative texts seemed to contradict one another. Two contradictory propositions would be considered in the form of an either/or question, and each part of the question would have to be approved (sic) or denied (non). Arguments for the position taken would be presented in turn, followed by arguments against the position, and finally the arguments against would be refuted. This method forced scholars to consider opposing viewpoints and defend their own arguments against them.

See? What could be more reasonable? The rules of the game require that the positions with which one disagrees be stated as strongly as possible and in a form with which a reasonable person who held that position would agree. In other words, no straw men allowed, and no unstructured emoting in the place of reasoned argument.

So, the first step: identify and formulate the arguments for gmarriage in as strong and reasonable form as possible. Here’s where I need help: Please suggest either other reasons, or suggest ways to tighten up the given reasons. As we move through the process, we’ll add counter-arguments and other fun stuff.

Also note that I’m trying to keep this non-technical (in the philosophical sense) as much as possible, but I am following the practice of reducing arguments that depend on the same principle to one argument – for example, Thomas was right in that there are only 2 rational arguments against the existence of God, yet people will propose dozens of ‘arguments’, many of which are mere name-calling or otherwise irrational, the remainder of which fall under one or the other of the two reasons Thomas identified (either God is not needed, or is inconsistent with evil in the word, in case you’re wondering). So, with that said:


It would seem that gmarriage is not objectionable on rational grounds. For

1. Marriage is nothing more than a voluntary union between adults. It is nothing more than an accident of history, specifically religious history, that it has been restricted previously to one man and one woman. The ubiquity of “No-Fault” divorce proves this.

2. Modern science has proven that homosexuality is a completely normal, natural and healthy state. It is not reasonable to place any restrictions on homosexuals that are not placed on straights, nor is it reasonable to grant rights to straights not granted to homosexuals. Marriage has been just such a right up until now, so that acknowledging the right of any two adults to marry if they wish is reasonable.

3. Society is built on consensual arrangements between sovereign individuals, as Rousseau asserts and as the Founders of the United States enshrined in the Constitution (“We, the people…” establish the laws of the land). Law has no other basis than the will of the governed. Marriage is also a contract within this system of law; therefore, marriage is whatever the people say it is (through their representatives in the legislature and courts). It is reasonable for the people, through the courts, to define marriage to include homosexual unions if the people wish.


What I’m shooting for is 1) the redefinition of marriage as something temporarily entered into by two adults at their pleasure is a done deal. Any social objections have been crushed by the reality of no-fault divorce; 2) There can be no rational discrimination (in the basic, non-name-calling sense of the word) against homosexuals; 3) Under the principles under which the laws of this nation are established, the courts get to redefine any terms they feel inclined to redefine. As O. W. Holmes Jr says: the law is whatever the judges say it is.

Well? Does that capture it?  Any other arguments? I suppose we could break this up into two questions: whether gmarriage is reasonable and whether the courts have the power to establish it…

My wife’s comment from hearing arguments in the wild is that proponents always frames this up as a question of fairness. I went back and forth on this, but fairness is such a squishy claim that I can see a whole series of arguments around what is fair/just – see the last post. In the end, I left fair out. Thinking we’ll need that set of arguments in the end anyway. What do you think?


Author: Joseph Moore

Enough with the smarty-pants Dante quote. Just some opinionated blogger dude.

5 thoughts on “Question: Whether Gmarriage is Objectionable on Rational Grounds – Part 1”

  1. I’m a little confused as to what the thing is, gmarriage, that you’re trying to produce arguments for. Is it the right of government to define marriage in general, or is it only the rational and moral legitimacy of the specific form of government-defined marriage that the USA currently upholds? I take it that you intend the former, but the arguments seem directed toward the latter.

    For the general case, I suppose it could be argued that marriages are contracts like any other, and that government in general has the right to regulate and enforce contracts. But this power necessarily involves (it could be said) the right to define what is and is not a marriage contract.

    One might even take this argument a step further and argue that, given the importance of marriage as an institution in society, government has not merely the right but the duty to define it, since there is (it would be said) no other institution which has the authority to do so, and confusion in such an important matter would be intolerable.

    An argument that tried to claim that gays have some kind of right to marriage equality as a basis for justifying governmental involvement in the redefinition of marriage seems very strange and almost self-contradictory; apparently the government would be within its rights in making one choice, but not in making the opposite choice? Really, this would not be an argument for the government’s right to define marriage, but for the moral importance of government approving gay marriage.

    A law that has no other basis than the will of the governed is inherently antirational, since the will of the governed need not necessarily have any connection to reality. (It is also a contradiction in terms: the governed are governed by themselves? Then they are not governed.)

    Of course the courts have the power to establish nearly anything they want. If they do not have the power to do so *morally*, so much the worse for morality.

  2. It seems to me that the question is covertible to, “Are there rational objections to gmarriage?” Of course, this question would be answered in the affirmative as soon as objections were provided. Then again the objections, in order to contradict the thesis, would be attempting to prove a negative: that there are no rational objections. (The objections you raise are really saying, “No, there aren’t rational objections, because here are arguments in favor of gmarriage.”)

    The question “Whether there are rational objections to gmarriage” doesn’t really work (IMHO) because gmarriage is a concept and not a proposition. Can you raise rational objections to a concept? It seems like you need to state it in the form of a proposition and then ask whether there are rational objections to the proposition; which, of course, is a part of the quaestio itself.

    I’m not sure what the proposition should be. It may need to be a series of them; say, “Gmarriage undermines traditional marriage”; “Gmarriage is an occasion of sin”; “We need to treat heterosexual marriages in a special way in order to encourage procreation for the long-term survival of our society”, etc. And then, once you have raised objections to these propositions and answered them, you will have shown that there are rational objections to gmarriage.

  3. You know what, I just realized that I was thinking of “gmarriage” as “gay marriage”, forgetting that it’s supposed to stand for “government marriage”. But hopefully you still get my point.

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