Saturday, January 14, 2012

Logic and marriage

Rick Santorum’s recent performance in a sparring match with college students is one small moment in the evolving story of equal marriage rights. But it’s a moment that makes me mighty angry, for three reasons:

1. Santorum treats an urgent question about the dignity of human relationships as an occasion to score cheap debater’s points: “Well, what about three men?” He begins by moving right past the possibility of partnership to raise the specter of conjugal trios and quintets. Notice too his ham-fisted sarcasm: “I’m surprised I got a gay-marriage question in a college crowd. I’m really — that’s a shocker for me.” He is a tasteless, tone-deaf smarty-pants who seems to have no understanding of why same-sex partners in a loving relationship might want to marry.

2. Santorum casts marriage as “the union that causes children to be created.” But men and women marry for many reasons. And they “come together to have a union” for many reasons, not necessarily “to produce children.” (Produce?)

3. Santorum’s slippery-slope logic is specious. Santorum says that “Reason says that if you think it’s okay for two, then you have to differentiate with me as to why it’s not okay for three.” Slippery slopes though have a way of tripping up those who argue from them. If we follow Santorum’s logic, it’s the institution of heterosexual marriage that is itself the cause of problems. For when we allow a man and a woman to marry, look what happens: same-sex partners want to marry too.

That Santorum is on the wrong side of history seems pretty clear to me. It’s telling though that even he pays some sort of lip-service to the dignity of same-sex partnerships by granting that “all relationships provide some good to society.” That must mean that same-sex relationships provide some good to society. So why can’t same-sex partners marry?

Related reading
The Flag of Equal Marriage (“An evolving protest flag for equal marriage rights in the United States”)

comments: 3

Elaine said...

Santorum should stick to crowds that don't know how to think. Unfortunately, that's a big crowd...

Anonymous said...

But what about "three men?" And what about Mormon polygamy and Muslim polygamy? The question of marriage is much more complicated than the current crop of gay advocates propose, so it seems, and most folks want a sound bite as their answer. What about three men? Have you an answer for him?

Michael Leddy said...

About polygamy: let’s distinguish marriage as a civil institution from marriage as a religious institution. As for I“three men,” don’t think it’s a question that deserves serious consideration. My only answer is in what I’ve written in no. 3 above.