Okie Gardener and I have been having a pretty interesting discussion in re his post, "Sex, Marriage and Same-Sex Marriage" in the comments section. So much so, I decided to extract the comments section and feature it as a free-standing post. I encourage you to read the original post in its entirety, and the acompanying article in its entirety; the discussion below begins with the premise that the institiution of marriage rests on three goods: procreation, fidelity and permanence.

A Waco Farmer wrote:
In re the "three goods:"
I understand that your central argument for marriage is protecting children, but we still believe in, as you note, marriage for heterosexual couples who do not/cannot procreate. Those barren unions are still allowed and seen as a positive good. How is that different from letting homosexual couples who will not procreate marry one another and enjoy the benefits available to opposite-sex couples without children?

an okie gardener wrote:
The short answer it that I encourage you to read the entire paper. The brief answer is that what is at issue is the definition of marriage. When one defines marriage as between a man and a woman, then procreation is the natural result of their union. The exceptions, barren couples, do not change the definition, but are simply an unfullfillment of the general case. Same sex unions are by definition barren, not by accident.

A Waco Farmer wrote:
I will read the paper, but my question is this: why cannot homosexual marriages be another exception? Again, staying with barren couples. Even if we know a man and a woman will not have children before they marry, we still see plenty of good reasons to encourage them to marry and offer them the same protections as a fruitful couple.

What makes the case of same-sex couples different?

A Waco Farmer wrote[continued]:
Okay. I'm back. I read the paper. I will probably go back and read it again.

Here is my summary:

1. In answer to my above question: the RCA does not recognize same-sex marriage because a rational reading of scripture, nature and tradition testifies against it.

Okay. I can accept that. In fact, from my own extremely inerudite theological perspective, I agree. Although I think there is a fundamental inconsistency in the position that places procreation as the sine qua non of marriage, and then favors birth control or allows barren marriages--but "foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds."

2. Redefining marriage: the RCA argument completely satisfies me in terms of why the RCA is not going to participate or condone same-sex marriages. It rests, as I said, on a rational interpretation of scripture, nature and church tradtion.

On the other hand, the argument against the civil recognition of same-sex marriages falls a bit flat for me. I will need to read it again, but so much of that section seems to admit how little influence the church has on the definition of marriage. Why is same-sex marriage different?

an okie gardener wrote:
Definitions try to express the essence of something; looking to that which is unique about something is the heart of definition. The paper identifies 3 unique goods for marriage, of which procreation is one. To say that a same-sex marriage is essentially (that is, by its very nature) barren, is to say that it does not have this good. A marriage between a man and a woman is not essentially barren; by its nature it is procreative. Definitions are made in the abstract; one can have exceptional particular cases that still
fit. For example, particular animals are defined by genotype and its expression in phenotype. A dog with a genetic abnormality still can be a dog; an animal with the feline genotype cannot be a dog.

A Waco Farmer wrote:

I take your point. Certainly, in the abstract a definition can be (should be?) fairly circumsribed. But definitions also absorb nuance over time. For example, the barren couple example is a nuance that developed over time. No one at this point in time would argue that same-sex married couples incapable of bearing children are any less married.

Our fork in the road at this point in time, culturally, is whether we will embrace the exceptional same-sex relationship, which, arguably, might promote fidelity and permanence and, in some cases, provide homes for children without parents.

My thesis: taking the question from a religiously oriented point of view, the same-sex option seems manifestly unacceptable. However, if you take the religious component out of the discussion, which we do in our culture for most of our public issues, denying same-sex marriage becomes much more problematic.

Is it possible to exclude same-sex marriages without leaning on religious traditions? If not, how is a same-sex marriage different from civil laws that allow divorce and adultery?

an okie gardener wrote:
A lot of issues here in your last post. And not much time right now. To take the first: definition. While definition and description cannot be completely separated, they are not exactly the same thing. To offer some thoughts on the last point: removal of the religious component. First, tradition--I can't think of a human culture that has privilaged same-sex relationships in the same way as marriage. I may be unaware of some, but, I think the point stands that the general voice of tradition is against it, and not just the limited tradition of one culture. I want an overwhelming argument in favor of recognizing same-sex relationships as marriage, given the human tradition. Next, let's talk evolutionary biology. In this context same sex sex is an aberration; it offers no evolutionary advantage and indeed is a liability since it "dead-ends" the genetics of one so oriented. Do we want a social institution so at odds with our genetics? Finally, is it legitimate to remove religion from public discussion in the US. You know that is a recent phenomenon. The slavery debates were vary religious. Can you define slavery out of our society without some sort of appeal to religion?

A Waco Farmer wrote:
Your points in reverse order (and this will be way too quick, but hopefully somewhat coherent):

1. No. I do not think religious tradition should be ignored in American politics. But, again, you also know that we are very selective on what traditions we transfer to social and cultural canon. Again: the examples of how lax we have become on adultery and divorce as of late.

2. In terms of evolutionary biology: are you arguing that we are at risk as a species if we privelege homosexual unions? If so, I disagree.

3. Granted, there is little historical foundation for same-sex marriages, but we are a nation predicated on experiments in liberty. Saying that something is out of the norm has never been the end of the argument in the American political tradition.

Okie Gardener has a fairly serious Sunday gig, and I don't expect him to weigh back in for a while. How about some help from the rest of the Bosque Boys community? What say you? Tocqueville, are you out there? Gossenius? Portia? I am interested in knowing what a lot of you think on this one. Bueller? Anybody?