Cathode Tan - Games, Media and Geek Stuff
logo design by man bytes blog

Sunday, January 29, 2012

[Logically Speaking] Santorum vs. Gay Marriage

I generally try to keep politics out of Cathode Tan, but sometimes politicians just say things which are simply an affront to logic itself.

And yes, I'm talking about Rick Santorum. Faithful Cathode Tanners also know that I'm a fairly staunch advocate of gay rights - though I generally just consider it advocating human rights. Anyone who has actually spent time with a loving, faithful gay couple and walks away with the thought that "we should totally ban that" ... well, I just can't see how it doesn't come from a place of fear and ignorance.

When the politicians use logic to cover up that fear and ignorance - it requires logic to set that right.

When Santorum is asked about gay marriage, he often applies the "slippery slope" argument, that for instance legalizing gay marriage would in turn open the door to legalizing polygamy.  Here's Santorum laying out his so-called argument:

Rick says that if we are going to have a conversation about one, we have to distinguish the other for him.

So let's do that.

Let's outline Rick's logic.
  1. All people have the right to be happy.
  2. Because gay marriage would make some people happy, it should be legalized.
  3. However, marrying multiple people would also make some people happy.
  4. Therefore, if we legalize gay marriage - we will need to legalize polygamy as well.
This is a classic straw man argument.  The formula here goes:
  1. You have proposed X.
  2. I can prove Y is similar to X.
  3. Y is undesirable.
  4. Therefore, X is also undesirable.
The problem is, of course, that X != Y.  It's a substitution for a real argument when you lack the facts to actually distinguish X from Y.  This is why it works for Santorum as a stump response.  The potential voter is prepared to talk about gay marriage, not polygamy - and so is placed in the same camp of not really being able to distinguish X from Y.

The first fundamental problem comes from Rick's first statement.
  1. All people have the right to be happy.
Which is a) not the original argument and b) isn't factual.  We have a constitutional imperative, as it were, to the "pursuit of happiness" - but we have laws in place because if being a serial killer makes you happy the state still has the right to track you down and place you in the electric chair (your state laws may vary).  So no,  not everyone has the right to be happy.

A more factual opening statement would be:
  1. The state should not create laws which impede a citizen's pusuit of happiness without proof of harm to the state or citizens.
At this point we don't need to worry about introducing ridiculous arguments like I can kill people because it puts a smile on my face.  It should also neatly remove equally ridiculous arguments like "legalizing gay marriage would open the door to bestiality or pedophilia" since proof of harm in such cases easily fall under sexual and/or physical abuse.   So let's continue with this as our opening statement (we'll lump citizens and state into one here as well).
  1. The state should not create laws which impede a citizen's pursuit of happiness without proof of harm to the state or other citizens.
  2. There's no evidence which shows gay marriage causes harm to to the state and therefore should not be made illegal.
  3. However, there's also no evidence that polygamy causes harm to the state and therefore should also not be made illegal.
  4. Therefore - if we legalize gay marriage, we should legalize polygamy as well.
So ... that's a more realistic framing of Santorum's argument.  And there's one problem, at least for Santorum.  In this state, it actually holds water.  Without proof that polygamy causes harm - perhaps it as well should be legalized as well.

You read it here first: logically speaking - Rick Santorum supports legalizing polygamy.  Once you remove the moral panic aspect of it, at least.  Of course, Santorum's biggest stock is moral panic.  If he's going to try to attack polygamy as well as gay marriage - he should really get some facts on both first.

The case against polygamy is rather complicated and gets very quickly wrapped into cultural specifics like child marriages.  However, existing laws in place should provide the protection of children.  Probably a more utilitarian issue also provides a segue into a core issue of the rest of the debate - legalizing polygamy could likely tear a hole in our tax and estate code that current lawbooks aren't really willing to deal with.  It's not the definition of marriage which causes an issue here, it's the fact that you've now compounded the possibilities of what was previously defined. "1 Man, 1 Woman" simply makes for an enforceable tax code - far more than "X number of men, and X number of women."

The ramifications on divorce alone would keep the lawmakers busy for years.  So we can leave whether polygamy would result in direct societal harm and state that our current legal structure isn't yet equipped to deal with it.

You know, kinda like how lawmakers are currently handling the Internet and plenty of other technological issues.

Since gay marriage is clearly a different issue than polygamy and we've laid out a case for why polygamy should not be (currently) legalized which does not effect our case for gay marriage, our argument now looks like this:
  1. The state should not create laws which impede a citizen's pursuit of happiness without proof of harm to the state or other citizens.
  2. There's no evidence which shows gay marriage causes harm to to the state and therefore should not be made illegal.
  3. Therefore we should legalize gay marriage.
We can remove polygamy completely as it has no bearing on either the original statement nor the outcome.  The only real issue at stake here is our second statement.   There are now studies which show that gay marriage raises well adjusted kids, some evidence that lesbians may be better parents than their heterosexual peers and even some that state it is good for the economy.  Also, statistically speaking - even if gay marriage were to become legal in every state ... the overall percentage of gay marriage would still be extremely small - so any impact on society (good or bad) would likely be minimal making our second statement fairly safe.

The problem Santorum has from a logical perspective is that the slippery slope began not when people began to propose gay marriage - but rather when the federal government got into the business of defining marriage in the first place.  By placing this definition on the books, it clearly opens the door for changing said definition down the road.  If Santorum and his ilk really want to "defend" the nation from gay marriage - the only logical method would be to bar the government from legalizing marriage at all.  Remove the federal definition, and you remove any chance that the government will "permit" it.  By insisting on a definition is to invite a debate on changing that definition - that's simply how our government works.  This would in fact be the most direct route to get what the far right wants - a definition of marriage organic enough to be bound by local laws and morals.

Of course - this would also remove the benefits of formalizing legal marriage.  Tax benefits, a legal framework for familial issues and a definition for estate laws all directly benefit society.  In other words,  all the reasons why legalizing polygamy would be inherently difficult (if not undesirable) are justifications for creating a legal framework for marriage.

So now our argument looks like this:

  1. A legal framework for marriage benefits society.
  2. Excluding gays from marriage benefits fewer people than inclusion.
  3. Including gay marriage into the legal framework will increase the benefits offered from the marital legal framework.
  4. Therefore, gay marriage should be legalized.
Any questions?  If you're going to respond in rebuttal, please:
  • Don't use religion as justification.  This is why we have separation of church and state.  Leviticus quotes may simply get deleted.
  • Same goes for gay bashing.  Take it elsewhere.  Or preferably, nowhere.  Insults and the like may also simply get deleted.
  • If you're going to quote studies, please link to them.
  • As a warning - beware of editorials which can't prove causation.  Yes, I've read them.