Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Marriage Laws: Is the Slippery Slope Argument Valid?

One of the ways that Christians argue against the legalization of 'same-sex marriage' is to use the slippery slope argument, which says, in a nutshell, "If the government recognizes gay marriages, then it opens the door for reconsidering things like polygamy, incest, and even bestiality as acceptable to civilized society." Proponents of same-sex marriage, however, have dismissed such an argument as being invalid. Do they have a point? Here is some helpful analysis from Dr. Albert Mohler, President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary:

There been recent articles indicating what many of us have seen for a long time, and that is that the legalization of same-sex marriage can’t possibly stop with the legalization of same-sex marriage. For example, writing in the New York Times an opinion piece was Professor William Baude. ... The open question raised by his opinion piece published above the fold in the New York Times: “Is Polygamy Next?”

Baude writes,
 “Now that the dust is settling from the Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, which recognized a right to same-sex marriage, there are new questions. In particular, could the decision presage a constitutional right to plural marriage? If there is no magic power in opposite sexes when it comes to marriage, is there any magic power in the number two?”
Baude then cites the fact that the Chief Justice of the United States, John G. Roberts, Jr. raised that very question, using essentially that very language in his dissent in the Obergefell case. As he writes,
“[Chief Justice Robert’s] question, intending to show how radical the majority’s decision could become. But the issue was hard to discuss candidly while same-sex marriage was still pending, because both sides knew that association with plural marriage, a more unpopular cause, could have stymied progress for gay rights.”
... In the immediate aftermath of the Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage, two things happened. In the first place, those who had denied prior to the decision that there would be threats to religious liberty and there would be an inevitable collision between religious liberty and gay-rights before the decision was announced, in many cases after the decision said ‘oh, yes, by the way we acknowledge there are going to be such collisions.’ In the second place, just as Professor Baude says here, there were those who before the Supreme Court decision said, it’s ridiculous, it’s an illegitimate slippery slope argument to go from same-sex marriage to polygamy. Some of the same people in some of the same newspapers are now saying, 'well now wait a minute, maybe it will inevitably open the polygamy question.'

In his dissenting opinion, by the way, the Chief Justice wrote this,
“Although the majority randomly inserts the adjective “two” in various places, it offers no reason at all why the two-person element of the core definition of marriage may be preserved while the man-woman element may not. Indeed, from the standpoint of history and tradition, a leap from opposite-sex marriage to same-sex marriage is much greater than one from a two-person union to plural unions, which have deep roots in some cultures around the world.”
... [T]his is an argument that has been for many years openly made by Jonathan Turley who is the Shapiro professor of public interest law at George Washington University. He was the lead attorney in a case that overturned Utah’s law against plural marriage just back in 2013. There’s something really, really important embedded in Turley’s argument. In an article he wrote back when that decision was handed down, he wrote,
“It’s true that the Utah ruling is one of the latest examples of a national trend away from laws that impose a moral code. There is a difference, however, between the demise of morality laws and the demise of morality. This distinction appears to escape social conservatives nostalgic for a time when the government dictated whom you could live with or sleep with. But the rejection of moral codes is no more a rejection of morality than the rejection of speech codes is a rejection of free speech. Our morality laws are falling, and we are a better nation for it.”
...[T]he key line from Turley’s article is one I want to remind you of, when he said that social conservatives are nostalgic “for a time when the government dictated whom you could live with or sleep with.” So does that mean that Jonathan Turley, the defender of same-sex marriage and now the defender of polygamy, is arguing that there should be no laws? ... Well, not hardly. He’s not even consistent in terms of his own argument. One of the things we need to note is that there never will be a time and then never will be a government in which the government does not state at least some laws and hold up some legal issues related to matters of sex, cohabitation, parentage, and all the rest.

After saying that it social conservatives who are nostalgic for a time when government might have some laws on the books related to sexual practices and relationships, in the same article he writes,
“Still rightly on the books are laws against bestiality, which involves an obvious lack of consent as well as manifest harm. Likewise, incest bans are based on claims of medical, not moral, harm.”
The main point to be gained from this is this: when you start to tamper with marriage, you will not stop tampering with marriage as a society. Once you unleash this kind of moral anarchy there will be no end to it. Right after stating in this very article that government should not be dictating terms when it comes to sexual relationships in sexual acts, even Jonathan Turley comes back and uses the phrase ‘still rightly on the books are laws against bestiality and incest.’

You’ll notice that he reduces everything here in terms of the laws that should remain on the books to the issue of sexual consent or to something that is related to medical (not moral) harm. Specifically, speaking thereof incest. But let’s just make the point bluntly, that is rooted in the fact that marriage would lead to procreation. But the very moral revolutionaries who’ve been arguing for same-sex marriage argue that procreation isn’t essential to marriage whatsoever. So even if there is some kind of medical argument to be used against two twenty-somethings getting married as siblings, what would the medical argument be against two 80-year-old siblings getting married? That’s just the absurdity of the moral revolution that Jonathan Turley here is championing, at least up to a point.

My point is this: you can’t champion this revolution only up to a point. That point is going to be moving. It’s going to be constantly moving. Right towards disaster.

So when the New York Times asked the question is polygamy next, the answer to that is almost assuredly yes. And then there will be a new next after the last next.

(Taken from "The Briefing," August 5, 2015. Click here to listen to/read the podcast)

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