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Should Gay Marriage Be Treated Like Heterosexual Marriage?

Bound_Up          27 September 2015 07:40 AM


The government either recognizes marriage or it doesn't (a la some Libertarians).

What is meant by "recognize?" Well, the government grants certain benefits uniquely to those who enter into a marriage.
http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/marriage-rights-benefits-30190.html

Later, I'll refer to these varied benefits as "incentives."

The government could very well not discriminate based on marriage, that is, have no governmental recognition of the social arrangement. This is the stance of many Libertarians.
"Why does the government afford some people more benefits than others based on their getting married?"
Which, naturally, is a fair question.
The government very well could do that, and I might put that stance as my 2nd favorite policy.
But naturally, the question does have an answer.


Why should the government recognize any marriage? Well, marriage is reliably correlated with some things the government values, happiness of citizens, success of children and so forth.
There are those who think this is false. If it is, I think the libertarian policy would be right. What other reason would the government have to pay attention to marriage?

But supposing we grant the assertion, and I do think the evidence is good for it, we might conclude that marriage on average does more good than bad.
So the government incentivizes it as an instrumental means to a terminal end.

Then, the salient question (though recently less so) is to what precise social arrangements to apply these incentives to.
Mostly we reserve them for people of certain ages, and require that they have the arrangement with only a single other person. In other words, no pedophilia or polygamy. We use to include racial similarity as a requirement, but that's since been eliminated.

Then some want to include that the two people involved must be of different genders, while other are willing to leave it with just the requirements mentioned above.

These are the typical conservative and typical liberal positions. For or against extending governmental incentives to gay as well as straight couples.


Let me tell you straight up what kind of policy takes my number one slot (libertarian in second).

I would support the government analyzing any social relationships which appear salient in affecting society, measuring as best they can their social utility, and incentivizing them proportionally to the degree those effects are positive.
Arrangements of equal utility are equally incentivized. Let me note that I wouldn't take this so far as to allow the government to disincentivize relationships it deems negative. So maybe a government finds that a 13-year old couple provides negative social utility, but they'll still just ignore them.


You might wonder why we'd bother having different degrees of incentives and so forth. Well, this we already do, really.
Married couples have a set of incentives associated with them. Siblings have a different set, but are still provided with some incentives. Parent/child relationships are incentivized differently, etcetera.
All this I see as good and proper, it being more efficient to incentivize in proportion to social utility.
Note: obviously incentivizing siblings (in the hopes of promoting social utility) can't cause people to become siblings, and this incentive might be eliminated unless there are ways that singling out siblings for incentives provides more utility than not doing so.


So how does this apply to the typical conservative vs typical liberal position on the issue?
Well, it depends. If gay and straight marriage provide the same social utility, they should receive the same incentives. If they are sufficiently different in utility, then they would be treated proportionally different.

Some might take offense at the implication that the two might not be equal in every way.
I think we might go far in calming such offense if we can show the potential truth of the position. After all, governments implicitly recognize (or would implicitly recognize, under this system) differences between the parent/child relationship and marriage, since they incentivize them differently.
But, one might object, homosexual couples are obviously more like heterosexual couples than they are like a parent/child relationship.
Really?
I mean, obviously they're more alike in some ways. Both share romantic love and have sex together. I'll certainly grant those points.

But the only relevant measure for the government is social utility. Are we sure that romantic love and sex are the causes of the social utility of heterosexual marriage?
If these are the causes of marriage's social utility, then by all means, let any relationship which has them be treated equal, and I really do mean that.

Include any other social relationship which can do the same; we can use all the social utility we can get.

But though I think the relationship between marriage and social utility is more complicated than I fully understand, I do get a nagging sense of doubt about the idea that all the utility is caused by the sex and the romantic love that a couple shares.
It might well come down to other things: Factors A-Z; things which might not be universal to romantic, sex-having couples, and which therefore might not be present in homosexual marriage. And if that's the case, gay marriage wouldn't provide equal utility, and wouldn't be equally incentivized.

And if Factors A-Z are actually more prominent in gay marriage, or any other relationship, then by all means incentivize it more strongly than straight marriage.

This is the basic idea. Governmental recognition, or incentives, provided in proportion to a predicted pay-off for society.

Not all marriages, or all siblings, or all parent/child relationships are equal to each other, but we tend to treat them equally within their specific class of relationship. To whatever degree it's economical to distinguish more precisely between kinds of relationships within the same class, i.e., which kind of sibling relationships provide the most utility, let it be done, but for efficiency's sake we'll have a generalized policy.


End result: heterosexual and homosexual marriage may or may not be treated equally.


Which is why I'm presenting this for opinion and critic. I think it's right; it seems obvious that once you figure that the government's only reason for having a marriage policy at all is for predicted social utility, that you should treat relationships proportional to their social utility.
Maybe this is the premise that's throwing me off.

Or if that's not why the government does it, just don't have any policy at all, there's no reason left to. But these two policies are, respectively, never talked about, and hugely unpopular. Because no one has thought of my idea? Or because it's wrong somehow?

Or, the next crucial step is saying that some relationships have different social utility, and that gay and straight marriage might not provide the same utility.
Maybe that's the part that's throwing me off?


Or, maybe what's happening is that one side says (more or less):
1. Gays aren't as good as straights, or what they do isn't as good as what straights do, and they shouldn't be treated equally.

then,

2. That's awful and needs to be defeated. And then they jump to the conclusion that the two relationships must be equal in every way, as a reaction to a dangerous idea, rather than to evidence.
But, you know, reversed stupidity is not genius.
So maybe I could be right after all. Let me know what you think.



All of this aside, legalizing gay marriage might have provided a different kind of social utility in that it expressed a general acceptance of the people of the LGBT community as individuals, accelerating the ethical treatment of them as equals. Insofar as it achieves this, I'm glad for it.



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melian 27 September 2015 07:02 PM
70%

legalizing gay marriage might have provided a different kind of social utility in that it expressed a general acceptance of the people of the LGBT community as individuals, accelerating the ethical treatment of them as equals.

Are you sure that legalizing gay marriage would accelerate public acceptance of the LGBT? There are many examples of government trying to force certain values upon the population with negative long term results.


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VoiceOfRa 27 September 2015 12:19 PM
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But though I think the relationship between marriage and social utility is more complicated than I fully understand, I do get a nagging sense of doubt about the idea that all the utility is caused by the sex and the romantic love that a couple shares.


Um, I you ask just about anybody before the 20th century about the social utility of marriage, they'd answer that to provide an environment for raising children. The sex is relevant because that's how children are produced. As for love, in many places the question of whether it was good to love your spouse was a hotly debated controversy.


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gbear605 30 October 2015 12:31 PM
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Then why did childless marriages happen?

A major benefit of marriages, ignoring child rearing, is that, in many cases, working together is more efficient than working independently, and so I hypothesize that childless marriages have benefits than two bachelors living independently, and since homosexuals are very unlikely to get in a heterosexual relationship, the only question is whether those benefits to efficiency because of working together are greater than the detriments to the nation because of the cost of the marital benefits.

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VoiceOfRa 30 October 2015 05:59 PM
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in many cases, working together is more efficient than working independently


There is a different term for the arrangement designed to take advantage of that fact, that term is "firm".



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Silent Cal 1 October 2015 04:33 PM
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On the object level, I don't know the relative social value of same- and opposite-sex marriages. The only cause of disparity I might expect would be through differing propensity to raise children; but if so, this could be more directly addressed by offering different recognition to childless and child-bearing couples, rather than using sexual orientation as a proxy.

But there's a broader issue this touches on, which is a general injunction against profiling. We've largely embraced an ideal that your demographic traits should not be held against you by the law.

If you wanted to reject this principle and be consistent about it, you'd have to also advocate that the government consider the expected social utility of marriages based on all available demographic factors: age, race, religion, wealth, etc.

If you bite this bullet and want to contest the non-profiling principle, that's its own discussion. If you think sexual orientation isn't like those other categories I named, that's also its own debate.


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melian 1 October 2015 09:14 PM
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We've largely embraced an ideal that your demographic traits should not be held against you by the law.

This is a nice ideal, but I don't think we are anywhere close to it. There are still plenty of laws that take demographic factors into account. For example, your age determines whether you can vote or drive a car, your race may be taken into account in public university admissions, your gender determines whether you can be drafted into the army etc.


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VoiceOfRa 1 October 2015 07:31 PM
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The only cause of disparity I might expect would be through differing propensity to raise children; but if so, this could be more directly addressed by offering different recognition to childless and child-bearing couples,


Um, the idea of marriage is to create a stable environment before having children.


We've largely embraced an ideal that your demographic traits should not be held against you by the law.


The problem is that there is a trend to use an ever increasing definition of what constitutes a "demographic trait". Taken to it's conclusion would make it illegal to make decisions based on evidence.


If you think sexual orientation isn't like those other categories I named, that's also its own debate.


Yes, for one thing it affects the social value of marriage much more then the others.


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Silent Cal 2 October 2015 10:41 AM
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Yes, for one thing it affects the social value of marriage much more then the others.

This is a valid reason for treating it differently, if true. Maybe I should amend our ideal to "that your demographic traits should not be held against you by the law without a damn good reason", and so our debate is over how damn good the reason is in this case.

Um, the idea of marriage is to create a stable environment before having children.

Should I be reading this with emphasis on 'before' (i.e., the marriage incentive has to precede the children), or emphasis on 'stable' (i.e., same-sex couples are less stable and therefore less fit to raise children)? If the latter my answer is 'citation needed', but I think you meant the former.

Would increased child-raising benefits contingent on some preceding time period of stable marriage do the trick?

And if you'll humor me ... read more


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Fwiffo 27 September 2015 01:40 PM
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I was expecting the read something that would have some import or light on the issue but this seems just equivalent to calling it "social value" and saying that it is mysterious.

Also skipping over polyamory like a taboo but then contemplating hetero and homo monoamoric relationships as viable candidates seemed kind of arbitrary. Why is it clear that polyamory doesn't provide the same level of social value?


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Bound_Up 27 September 2015 05:40 PM
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I didn't think it was necessary.

Isn't it more or less obvious how polyamory or polygamy or any "other social relationship" would be treated under the proposed system? The same as all the others, predicted utility correlated to incentives.

And that's the point. I'm proposing this principle of involving the government in marriage and other social relationships without knowing which relationships provide the most utility.

I don't claim any insight on that, I'm just saying in advance what I think ought to be done with that knowledge to the degree it's had.

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Fwiffo 28 September 2015 05:01 AM
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I don't understand what the proposed system is trying to change. As in we are usually trying to tune our systems to be better and not worse, right? In arguments that homosexual relationships should not be recognised it is usually implicit if not explicit that it would not produce social value or it would produce social anti-value. In those that favour they try to argue how it produces recognised sources of social value.

If the current way of governing is not the proposed way of governing could you make more explicit what you think the current procedure is and how it differs from the proposed?

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