Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Same-Sex Arguments Further The Case For Incestuous Marriage

A commenter at Slate who supports same-sex marriage presents some arguments against incestuous marriage:

State has legitimate interest in preventing consanguination because it can lead to and propagate genetic diseases….

Incest often involves someone who can't give consent or is coerced into consent. State has an interest in preventing that.

Not all incestuous marriages would biologically produce children or not involve consent, so he has to use qualifiers like "often". But if we can withhold state recognition of incestuous marriage based on what would often result from those marriages, why can't we also distinguish between the opposite-sex relationship and the same-sex relationship based on the opposite-sex relationship's often biologically producing children? It seems to me that the common argument used by advocates of same-sex marriage - to the effect that biologically producing children can't be used to distinguish between the opposite-sex relationship and the same-sex relationship, because not all opposite-sex couples biologically produce children - is inconsistent with the arguments those same-sex marriage advocates commonly use against incestuous marriage. If opposite-sex relationships can only be defined by what's universally true of them, then shouldn't the same standard be applied to incestuous relationships? To be consistent, same-sex marriage advocates ought to abandon these arguments they've been using against incestuous marriage. On what grounds would they oppose incestuous marriage, then?

We base laws on generalities rather than universals in many contexts (what's generally the best speed limit for an area, etc.). From a practical standpoint, allowing all opposite-sex couples to marry is the most efficient way to handle the child-bearing issue. Elderly people sometimes have children, but usually don't. Since even elderly people have the potential to produce offspring, though usually only minimal potential, an efficient way to handle the child-bearing issue is to have the state recognize the marital relationship of all opposite-sex couples. It would be impractical to have the state doing things like giving people fertility tests to determine whether their relationship will be recognized by the state as a marriage. By contrast, there's nothing impractical about making the judgment that same-sex couples can't produce children. Even though elderly opposite-sex couples only have a minimal chance of producing offspring, that's still sufficient grounds on which to distinguish their relationship from a same-sex relationship.

Besides, biologically producing children isn't the only reason we have for distinguishing between opposite-sex and same-sex relationships. Opposite-sex relationships promote the unity of the genders in a way in which same-sex relationships can't, and we have good religious grounds for opposing same-sex relationships, for example. The child-bearing issue tends to get the most attention in these discussions, but it's not the only issue involved, and even that issue can't be dismissed as easily as same-sex marriage proponents suggest.


  1. Propogating genetic diseases probably is a reasonable argument, but it cuts both ways given the well documented disease ridden nature of homosexuality.

  2. Regarding the practicality point I've made above, I just saw a good illustration in an article by Bill Vallicella:

    "But a better analogy is voting. One is allowed to vote if one satisfies quite minimal requirements of age, residency, etc. Thus the voting law countenances a situation in which the well-informed and thoughtful votes of mature, successful, and productive members of society are given the same weight as the votes of people who for various reasons have no business in a voting booth. We don't, for example, prevent the senile elderly from voting even though they are living in the past out of touch with the issues of the day and incapable of thinking coherently about them. We don't exclude them or other groups for a very good reason: it would complicate the voting law enormously and in highly contentious ways. (Picture armies of gray panthers with plenty of time on their hands roaming the corridors of Congress armed with pitchforks.) Now there is a certain unfairness in this permissiveness: it is unfair to thoughtful and competent voters that their votes be cancelled out by the votes of the thoughtless and incompetent. But we of the thoughtful and competent tribe must simply 'eat' (i.e., accept) the unfairness as an unavoidable byproduct of workable voting laws."

    I should say that although I agree with the general thrust of Vallicella's article, I don't agree with every detail. He comments that "We want as much government as we need, but no more." That's close to what I'd say, but I wouldn't go that far. I'd say something along the lines that we should be highly cautious about having more government than we need. I don't object to the government doing some things it's not needed for. I don't object to a government's involvement in building and maintaining memorials for veterans or other people or events we want to commemorate, for example, even though such activity isn't needed. On the marriage issue, I think it's good for the government to promote the major role opposite-sex marriage has in producing unity between the genders, for example, even though the government's promotion of that aspect of opposite-sex marriage isn't necessary.

  3. Well Said Jason,

    I really like that 'gender tact' that you suggested.

    It is a tact that is strongly supported by stats as I indicate here- http://vanberean.blogspot.ca/2013/06/a-novel-argument-against-homosexuality.html

    It is a tact that should be developed and promoted far more.