Tuesday, January 23, 2007

McEnroe Starts the Great Debate

A threatened veto – no matter the bill – is always an invitation to the opposition to strut their views, which will have no live consequences because a veto is, among other things, a prophylactic that prevents the germination of consequences.

Therefore, a pre-announced veto by Rell on bills to legalize the marriage of gays is a most welcomed opportunity for the opposition to ventilate their views and snag a few votes from gays and their supporters. Though the veto makes winning on the issue unlikely rather than impossible– the Democrats do, after all, have a veto proof margin in the legislature -- the supporters of the vetoed measure have everything to win and nothing to loose.

The likelihood of another bill legalizing marriage for gays has re-opened the debate on gay marriage. Talk show host and columnist Colin McEnroe was first out of the gate in support of gay marriage. A Yale graduate and an Illuminati, McEnroe advances a compelling argument that might serve to open a reasonable debate on the issue. McEnroe’s remarks are in italics.

Connecticut is poised to consider, again, the idea of same sex marriage. It came up on the show today, and I have been hearing, ever since, this type of argument:

Why for instance can't an adult daughter marry
her mother? If they are consenting adults? If it's a matter of law – change the law. You have no problem doing that with gay marriage proper.

If you redefine marriage there is simply no logical or legal end as to what can eventually be defined as marriage. Then marriage becomes meaningless...

1. First of all, the slippery slope argument is basically an argument made by people who don't want to argue the point itself. It's as if I said: if I let you ban abortions, how do I know you won't ban vasectomies next? And then heart bypasses! And soon, I won't be able to have any surgery at all! Obviously, that's a foolish argument.


It sure is. But then McEnroe is a master at constructing foolish arguments and placing them in the mouths of his debating opponents.

The right way to discuss it is to discuss whether or not we should ban abortions or, perhaps, whether we can come to an accommodation on the topic.

But then, of course, there are different kinds of abortion, some more offensive than others. Here in the United States, the Supreme Court ruled in Roe v Wade that abortion is to be unrestricted up to the third month, when the fetus becomes viable, after which the states may regulate abortion. But China permits the state to regulate births through contraception, abortion and other means. This may be offensive to certain women’s groups here in the United States which have successfully argued that the decision to have an abortion should be made by the pregnant woman in consultation with her doctor. The state should bug off. State forced abortions, practiced here in the United States, certainly would make McEnroe and other pro-abortion advocates uncomfortable, and yet, applying the McEnroe rule – ancillary concerns should play no part in the discussion of abortion; we may only discuss whether abortion should be banned – would make it impossible to prohibit the hateful practice. Actually, the “what comes next” people do have a point when they argue that partial birth abortion – it came next after the US Supreme Court decreed that states statutes prohibiting abortion from the moment of conception were unconstitutional – might reasonably be opposed even by people who think some forms of abortion should be allowed. However, none of this would figure in a debate on abortion monitored by McEnroe. He would not allow such incidental concerns to bear on the debate.

1a. Similarly, if we debate gay marriage, let's debate that, and not the blizzard of other things that might happen later. If Incest Makes a Family wants to introduce its own bill later, we'll debate that separately ... on its separate merits. I, personally, will not support the legalization of incest.

The question before the court is not: What is pleasing to McEnroe? Upon what ground can the legalization of incest, and other practices McEnroe might find repulsive, be opposed: That is the more important question.

I do support gay marriage. I can tell the difference between the two. Hooray for me!

1b. Ah, you say, but if you act as though marriage laws are fungible, you've opened the floodgates. Nonsense. There were anti-miscegenation laws in this country until 1967! They were eventually repealed. I assume you think that's a good thing. But it didn't make other marriage laws change.

2.The above is by far the more important argument, but let's not pretend that the two conditions are equivalent.

Imagine that, in your neighborhood, you have on one side of your house Mel and Mike, a gay couple in a long term relationship. On the other side of your house live Marty and Mildred, a father and daughter who also have a long term relationship. Marty has sex with his daughter Mildred.

Guess what? Those two households are not currently equivalent in the eyes of the law or of society. Mel and Mike are tolerated by both. Marty and Mildred are reviled and subject to criminal prosecution.


This is true for the moment, but moments pass into history. The laws having been modified for gays, why should they not be modified for incestuous couples? It is not enough to point out that McEnroe sees a distinction between the two cases, finding one tolerable and the other repugnant. These are private feelings, always subject to change. The fact that some gay bashing McEnroe, in pre-enlightenment days, long ago found homosexuality repulsive did not prevent the advent of new and more acceptable feelings about gays. Why should an enlightened freedom loving society not follow the same course in the case of incest, which need not result in the production of children, since birth preventatives are available? Why shouldn’t polygamy be allowed? Considered as a social arrangement, polygamy has decided advantages. For instance, children would be attended by more mothers, and a family that contains 1000 wives would be, purely from an economic perspective, more stable than two party households. The important question is not who prefers what; in a democracy, people should be free, up to a certain point, to be their potty old selves. The important question is: Upon what grounds may society say to individual arrangements, “This shall not stand.”

Another way to look at it is this. Imagine yourself at lunch with Dick Cheney and his pregnant daughter Mary. Would you be telling them that Mary's relationship with Heather Poe has no better moral or legal status, to you, than if Dick Cheney left his wife and decided to marry his daughter and make her pregnant?

Explain to me how you would make that case to Dick and Mary. I personally don't think it should be legal for Dick Cheney to have sex with his daughter and make her pregnant.

I do believe Heather and Mary should be allowed to marry, if they want to. I can tell the difference between those two ideas. Hooray for me!


But, getting on the far side of feeling, mere personal preferences, how will McEnroe make incest illegal, and keep it so? Here are some passages on adult incest from Wikipedia:

“Incestuous relations between adults, such as between an adult brother and sister, are illegal in most parts of the industrialized world. These laws are sometimes questioned on the grounds that such relations do not harm other people (provided the couple have no children) and so should not be criminalized. Proposals have been made from time to time to repeal these laws — for example, the proposal by the Australian Model Criminal Code Officer's Committee discussion paper "Sexual Offenses against the Person" released in November 1996. (This particular proposal was later withdrawn by the committee due to a large public outcry. Defenders of the proposal argue that the outcry was mostly based on the mistaken belief that the committee was intending to legalize sexual relations between parents and their minor children.)

"In the wake of the Lawrence v. Texas (539 U.S. 558 2003) decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, striking down laws criminalizing homosexual sodomy as unconstitutional, some have argued that by the same logic laws against consensual adult incest should be unconstitutional. Some civil libertarians argue that all private sexual activity between consenting adults should be legal, and its criminalization is a violation of human rights — thus, they argue that the criminalization of consensual adult incest is a violation of human rights. In Muth v. Frank (412 F.3d 808), the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals interpreted the case applying to homosexual activity, and refused to draw this conclusion from Lawrence, however — a decision that attracted mixed opinions.

In France, incest isn't a crime in itself. Incestuous relations between an adult and a minor are prohibited and punished by law, but not between two minors or two adults.”


It would be interesting to know if McEnroe is repulsed by the French (forgive the pun) position. If he is offended to the point of proposing a law forbidding the practice, how would he construct the law in such a way as to preseve it from attacks from a possible future opposition made up of pro-incest groups and their sympathizers? How would McEnroe handle the argument that adults ought to be able to express their first amendment rights under the privacy provisions of the US Constitution, as interpreted by libertarian judges, provided no children are involved and the activity is mutually agreed upon?
Post a Comment