This post is part of a series of posts which started out as a single unified whole, but was later found it to be incredibly long, thus I’ve decided to break it up into parts so that people can simply refer to the parts they are interested in. Although one must remember that they were originally intended to be read as a whole and some of the points here may have its explication in some of the earlier posts. However, one must read the first post which provides the necessary background and fundamentals for the whole discussion by explaining and justifying marriage as a social institution for uniting the attachment creating significance of sexual acts with love and care for the offspring of such acts.
You can access the subsequent posts here:
Should the State Provide the Legal Facilities to Recognise Gay Civil Partnerships?
Setting aside the institution of marriage as a definitive norm setter of sexual behaviour, there is the question of what are the social ends or purpose which such an institution are supposed to serve. As already noted previously, in any given society thousands and thousands of different promises and contracts are made on a daily basis, but the state has an interest in enforcing only a very small number of them, namely, those contracts concerning measurable and objective goods and services promised which are significant enough to justify the legal cost of submitting such cases to the legal process. As socially desirable and good as it maybe for promises and commitments to be kept, the state does not bother to recognise or enforce in law every and all such promises made within a society, only those with sufficient public effects and which would serve the public ends.
The analogy I’ve invoked again and again is that of friendship. As great a value as friendship might have, and as socially desirable as it maybe for friendships to flourish and be maintained in a society, however, the state simply has no interest in registering or recognising the formation or existence of friendships in law, nor do people believe that they should register their friendship with the state. The oddity of a civil partnership of course is that it is virtually like trying to register one’s friendship with the state, except for a couple of completely arbitrary restrictions and limitations such as bounds of incest and only one partner, etc. But, as the phrase goes, “everyone knows” what a civil partnership is supposed to mirror, i.e. marriage. But once this fact is admitted, the purpose and meaning of civil partnership simply becomes more mysterious. If a civil partnership is simply a friendship plus sex, then it is hard to see why should the state bother to spend public resources to create an entire legal system and facility just to limit the sexual partners of one person to another. What purpose does it serve for society and the state to confine the sexual activities of two people to each other? To what end this state enforced commitment? As already noted, friendships, promises, commitments and contracts are made, enforced and maintained daily in a society of which only a very small percentage is of any legal or social interest, the question is what social ends or purpose does it serve to create this obligation of sexual exclusiveness for two people? In marriage as already articulated, the purpose of creating obligatory sexual exclusiveness is clear, to unite the attachment creating significance of sexual acts with the love and care for offspring which result from such sexual attachment, but outside of this procreative context, this sexual exclusiveness obligation is downright mysterious, if not utterly baffling.
And anyway, even if for some inexplicable reason one still insists upon the existence of civil partnership or unions (no doubt based upon some attempt to mirror some of the romantic “magic” of marriage), there still remains the question as to whether a civil partnership is a real contract or contains real promises. A real promise requires objective obligations, however, there is simply no objective meaning to what does the promise of sexual fidelity mean in a homosexual relationship, because there is no objective meaning as to when is the obligation to sexual fidelity violated. As has already been noted before, same-sex civil partnerships simply have no definition of adultery or consummation, thus there is simply no objective meaning as what does it even mean to adopt a promise to sexual fidelity. If one decides to reduce the promise of martial infidelity to something subjective, that is, my partner is sexually “unfaithful” on my say so or if I feel like he/she isn’t loving me enough or if I feel like s/he is not behaving towards me in a manner which makes me happy, etc, this simply reduces to the problem which “no-fault” divorces are faced with. As already noted before, many Western nations already practice “no-fault” divorces, whereby one could simply dissolve one’s commitment or marital contract by virtue of the fact that you don’t want to be or feel like being married any more. In contract law, a contract which promises to render such and such goods and services but with the clause like “provided I want to” or “if I feel like it”, is known as an illusory promise, a promise which has no real obligation or effects, and which the legal system cannot enforce and therefore will simply ignore. All civil partnerships are agreements of essentially such a nature, whereby one can simply dissolve the marital contract or promises simply on a say-so or if I am feeling unhappy, etc, and are thereby in truth, merely illusionary agreements with no real legal obligations or effects.
The Question of Gay Marriage is a Question of Equal Rights and Homosexuals should have the same marriage benefits and privileges as Heterosexuals.
This argument is simply confused. Both gays and straights and bisexual or whatever other orientation or people group all have the right to contract a marriage with a person of the opposite sex. There is simply no discrimination here. To ask for the right to contract marriage to one of the same sex as one’s own is not to ask for the same right to marry the opposite sex, or an equal application of the right to marry a person of the opposite sex to homosexuals, but to ask for a completely new and different right altogether, a right which has been demonstrated to contradict the very meaning of marriage itself. I’ve elaborated on this at some length here.
Secondly with regards to financial and material benefits, marriage is not an institution or means to the ends of getting financial or material benefits, but has its own meaning and purpose. Whatever tax benefits or material or economic benefits or privileges are given to married couple is given to them precisely as married couples participating in the social ends of marriage, in a bid to promote or aid the institutional purpose of marriage. There is simply no point in giving these same benefits to promote the social ends of marriage to those who by definition cannot participate in the social ends of marriage.
It is no more discrimination for the government to give the financial and material benefits only to married couples in aid of the social ends of marriage than it is discrimination for the government to give financial or material aid only to those below a certain level of income or those with disability in aid of charity or easing the burden of the poor. It makes no sense for the rich to argue that it is unfair that they don’t receive these financial benefits when those benefits are given for ends and purposes for which the rich do not meet, e.g. being poor and in need of aid, likewise it makes no sense for homosexual couples to say that it is discriminatory for married couples to receive financial benefits when those benefits are given to married couples for ends and purpose which gay couples precisely do not participate.
Gay Couples Should Have the Right to Adopt and therefore should have their status as a family recognised by being allowed to Marry.
Actually no one has the right to adopt children. The needs of the children always takes precedence over the needs, desires or “rights” of the adopter. No one may demand to adopt a child by virtue of some right, but the adopter necessary needs to met certain criteria to be legible for adoption.
Also, marriage does not exist simply to allow adopters to become a “family”. It is simply a matter of indifference to marriage that a couple of people are raising a child, or at least, it is not the purpose of marriage to go round instituting unions for the purpose of creating a family just for the raising of adopted children. The ends of marriage, to repeat again, is to unite the sexual act with its procreative significance, and the mere fact that two or three or more celibate people are rising a child together does not in the least serve as a reason for creating a social union binding all of them together than does the mere fact that two sexually active same-sex couple cooperate in rising a child together serve as a reason for instituting a social union for them.
If anything there are strong presumptive reasons that only heterosexual married couples should have priority for adoption, those being that the such a family is by definition directed and geared towards the integration of the significance of sexual eros and child raising, and although given the tragedy of the absence and death of the adopted children’s own parents deprives them of the context of their parent’s eros for each other which creates a natural home and validation of the value of their particular physical being, yet it is important that they are raised in precisely in such a home whereby this social truth and value continues to be maintained and upheld.
Is there any grounds for the “slippery slope” claim that gay marriage will lead to polygamy, incest, pederasty, etc?
I think we have to distinguish two types of arguments with regards such “slippery slope” arguments concerning the legalisation of gay marriage. One is simply an empirical question. Do societies who adopt gay marriage as a matter of empirical fact lead to the legalisation of polygamy. This is an empirical question, which we can only determine by looking at how as a matter of fact has such societies turn out. (It is interesting to note that even as the US Supreme Court debates the gay marriage question, a prominent liberal paper has come right out to argue precisely for polygamy. Also, some local Singaporeans have started seriously considering and advocating the practice.)
The other type of “slippery slope” argument is not a technically a slippery slope argument but a “biting the bullet” entailment, that is, the question is not whether as a matter of fact societies adopting gay marriage will adopt polygamy, but whether there is any principled reason or justification for not adopting polygamy.
To be perfectly honest, I actually don’t think there is any principled reason to not adopt polygamy, even upon the conception posed here about integrating the ends of sexual attachment with child bearing. It is hard to see how polygamy actually contradict such ends for though a man (let’s just presume the traditional polygamy system for now), has many wives, yet as long as he builds a relationship with all of them, and cares for all the children born out of these relationships, it is hard to see how the social ends of marriage are contradicted. At most one can make a quantitative argument as how a person “divided” between so many partners cannot invest as much energy or resources in the caring of a single wife or child, but this then simply becomes a question of pragmatics, that is, poorer man should have fewer or just one wife and polygamy should be engaged in responsibly by ensuring you have the financial resources to support them all, since historically anyway only the rich and powerful could afford multiple wives.
Here we simply have to recognise the role in which Christianity has played in enforcing the Western ideals of monogamy and sexual exclusiveness to marriage (contra the taking on of concubines) with its fundamental belief in Christ and the New Testament teaching about God making Adam and Eve who are two into “one flesh”, etc.
(Singaporean Context) Is there any reason for the government to continue to uphold 377A and criminalise homosexual acts?
As with adultery and premarital sex, it is simply not practically possible for the government to in fact enforce 377A, nor would there be much social gains to be had in this enforcement. If there is any justification for 377A, it has to be external to the text of the law itself.
Because of the centralisation of much civic institutions and social functions into the government hands, 377A sets standards and norms for governing how these other institutions should function, one of the most important ones being that of education. 377A would mean that public schools cannot promote homosexuality nor frame their sex education towards those ends for they cannot promote what is technically illegal.
Should the Singapore government begin to decentralise the management of civic institutions and take a lesser role in defining social norms, then 377A would become redundant which abolition would be justified. But until then, as long as the state continues to police many civic institutions, and as long as it upholds the norm of the institution of marriage, 377A exists precisely to discourage the use of sexuality outside of the marital ends of uniting the relationship building significance of sexual acts with that of procreation and care for the offspring of such relationship.
While I have been interested to far as to discuss the legal and public social aspects of marriage, but I have so far treated the “private” meanings and experiences of homosexuality and sexuality in general as a “black box”. Although I think the existential and subjective significance of homosexuality and sexual orientation should be keep distinct from their social, public meaning, however, I think it would go a long way to provide a proper philosophical engagement of precisely the existential and personal meaning of such sexual experiences and to point towards its reconciliation with heterosexual marriage.
Here are some stuff about the compatibility of “homosexual orientation” and being in a heterosexual relationship.
This is actually a much more general discussion about the nature of sexual desires, romantic desires and the importance of gender difference.
I found this intriguing news article about gays marrying lesbians to be particularly interesting and very helpful to the discussion.
And finally, although these links were written with a Christian audience in mind, I think they are particularly helpful in understanding what place desires have in a marriage, particularly romantic and sexual desires.
For my more or less complete collection of writings on these issues, I refer you to: