Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Same-sex Marriage

The 14th amendment states:
"No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."

Some people will argue that the current laws on same-sex marriages do protect people equally since heterosexual persons cannot marry people of the same sex either. This was a popular argument when interracial marriages were not legal. People argued that white people cannot marry people of a different race either; thus, the laws are not discriminatory. However, in the court case Loving v. Virginia they declared that the Equal Protection Clause of the constitution does not refer to the mere equal application of a law—they stated that a law that is discriminatory, even if it discriminates equally, violates the Equal Protection Clause of our constitution.

Therefore, if I can show that our current laws discriminate against homosexual couples then it should be agreed that those laws are unconstutional. Here is a short list of benefits that heterosexual couples are given by the state that are denied to homosexual couples:

-Spouses are allowed to make medical decisions in the case that their husband or wife is incompetent or disabled and they are allowed to visit their partner in the hospital.

-Married persons are allowed to make unlimited transfers and gifts to each other without paying taxes.

-Spouses are given the automatic right to inherit without a will; the inheritance is also non-taxable.

-Married people receive Social Security and veteran benefit payments upon the death of a spouse.

-Criminal penalties are imposed on spouses who abandon a child or a spouse.

By not offering the same benefits to homosexual couples that are offered to same-sex couples-- the laws are obviously discriminatory. Our government, through its laws, is saying that heterosexual relationships are the preferred type of relationship-- it is not the job of our government to decide what type of lifestyles are preferred and then to discriminate against the ones that are not preferred.

Even if you think that homosexuality is "wrong" you cannot deny them equal protection of the law.

Why do you still think that same-sex marriage should be banned?


Anonymous chas said...

well it seems like it doesn't violate the 14th amendment if it is banned on a federal level. it is only talking about the rights of states there, as far as i can see (not going to look it up - super lazy).
also what if the lifestyle that i prefer is one of a slave to some dude. i want to enter a union with him that lets him do whatever the fuck he wants, chop off my arms, feast on my kidney, you name it. should the govt. discriminate against me? i am not saying this to compare it to homosexuality, but to show why i think your statement, that it isn't the government's job to discriminate against lifestyle choice, is wrong.

that being said i am all for homosexual marriage. i think the country was built on the prinicple of fairness and equality, and the law is designed to defend people from harm (not just physical harm either). i feel that a ban on homosexual marriage does not defend anyone from any harm, so it is a useless law, from a societal standpoint.
more useful: a ban on rosie o'donnell

2:25 PM  
Anonymous natie pie said...

if we really want to be forward minded, we must draw lines in the sand.

we are all interested in attaining points in state space -- all we really want to do is say which states should not be allowed in the actualization region.

optimally, we would like to only restrict ourselves to superpositions of state space in which every member is in some sense optimally satiated (this produces a problem involving our own assumption of another individual's status preference).

this is not an option in our world via the inherent automatic exclusion of states -- use the game 'king of the hill' as an example. not everyone can be king unless the rules are changed. if two people apply for the same position, then only one may obtain it.

let us instead restrict ourselves to the space in which we cannot intentionally (or perhaps by negligence [thorny]) inflict bodily harm upon each other.

if you willingly offer up your freedom from harm, should you be allowed to do so? certainly not in ignorance. should a full understanding of the consequences entitle you to a redefinition of your own allowable states? examples: people smoke cigarettes, they get tattoos, indulge in sadomasochistic sexual urges. if a person willingly gives up their freedom from harm (albeit after they have reached some reasonable level of governance of impulses -- usually we decide by age, but i think there should be a more rigorous definition of the restriction) when they have a complete understanding of the consequences, then i do not see why any governing body should step in to block their activities.

of course, we need a method of gauging the ability of a person to decide their own fate. a standard comes from a compatible system of principles -- but we work with the knowledge that the intersection of our principles (those principles which we all adhere to) may be empty.

until a better system comes along, we may use age to determine the rough guidelines of when individuals are ready to take responsibility for their own actions. and i think this is a reasonable system to use until someone determines a better one. at least we are familiar with some of its advantages and flaws.

so, if we are going to really and truly uphold 'pursuit of happiness' as a founding principle of our nation, then we cannot restrict people from states that are devoid of non-consensual bodily harm.

what about emotional damage? this is thorny -- i want to say that you can't forcibly rewrite a person's opinions or belief system. nonetheless, this occurs during each individual's formative years -- and we don't really have an alternative.

which leads us to determine a set of principles of maximal utility (the tyranny of living in a world with cause and effect), which in turn requires a preference of attainable states, but no preference is preferred.

this universe's nature supports the principle of survival. the preference of any government's restrictions upon mutually attainable states will always be determined by the dominant power. as a republic, there is a better distribution of dominance -- but we will always be sujected to the needs of the dominant culture.

so, i wonder what is the set of existential states that i have to restrict myself to in order to minimize my interference with your (and with every subset of the population) optimal status acquisition?

12:24 AM  
Anonymous tim said...

Wow. Never before have i seen so many quantum and mathematical terms thrown around with respect to societal demands and the problems of determining which laws (or state space) should be enacted. You state (and I agree) that about all the government should do is restrict a person's actions that cause non-consensual harm to others. The focus seems to be on physical harm, but I suggest that it could be expanded to include harm to status (such as work-place discrimination) or emotions (sexual harassment, racist comments). I'm not sure where forcibly rewriting a person's opinions or worldview comes in, unless that's the only emotional harm you suggest we restrict. I don't agree with that, as there are other serious forms of emotional harm that should probably be restricted. And I would say that we write, not rewrite, during a child's formative years. To rewrite requires prior existence of a set of beliefs within every child, something difficult to prove. If a parent allows children to form their views without parental input, then it is simply society instead of the parents that do the writing.

You've already briefly discussed what to avoid to allow optimal status acquisition by every conceivable subset of the population: avoiding non-consensual harm in physical and emotional forms. Optimal status acquisition is actually ill-defined, as it is impossible to allow everyone to acquire optimal status when one subset desires some status that interferes with another subset's status. For simplicity let us instead try to maximize the function defined as the sum of each individual's status. No single person will achieve optimum, but the ratio of status to optimal status will be maximized across the population.

The biggest problem with your final question is that while you may be asking how to restrict yourself for the benefit of others, it doesn't work nearly so well when other subsets of the population are not asking the same question. When there is no compromise the subset of a population exercising self-restriction will become marginalized as they attempt to appease another subset of the population whose set of existential states is constant.

That has to be one of the more obtuse definitions of Utilitarianism I have come across.

10:27 AM  
Anonymous chas said...

what about the importance of individualism? what is the benefit of a life lived only to minimize interference with other paths to temporal states? there seems to be something in me that fundamentally assumes that there is importance in individuals and being unique. that isn't to say that an avoidance of other paths doesn't end up making one an individual, but if individuality is defined by avoiding the interference of others, then is it really individuality at all?
i realize you may disagree with me fundamentally about individuality, but can any of you really say that you do not think your existence is something more than avoiding social interference? and if you do not think so, do you think that it could be changed to be something different?

on another note, it seems like if everyone was optimally satiated then we would have no drive, no goals. if that were the case then what's the point of doing anything? if any of you have read Brave New World, it has huxley's conception of what society would be like under similar circumstances.

2:39 PM  
Anonymous Tim said...

Natie pie says that the optimum state of the system being that in which each individual is optimally satiated, but that this is impossible. It makes perfect sense, and is even represented in Brave New World, such that not everyone has the same desires. Moreover, chas is misreading the intent of natie pie's discourse; she does not state anywhere that the sole purpose of one's life is to minimize social interference, but instead states her beliefs about what basic restrictions we should place on ourselves to allow everyone to achieve their own happiness. She ends up asking what actions (or existential states) she should restrict to allow everyone else to best succeed in their individual pursuit of happiness (or optimize status acquisition). She mimics the question of the original post indirectly, and it is implied that preventing same-sex marriages imposes one group's beliefs on the whole population and thus should be avoided.

And what about individualism? If someone else existed in this world that looked similar to you, held the same beliefs, cracked the same jokes, and smoked the same pot, would that reduce your inherent value? To the extent that individualism is the desire to be unique, it seems pointless. When your goal is to be unique you are excluding yourself from a large range of possibilities based on people around you. Doesn't seem very individual to me.

So, no one ever claimed that their existence is no more than avoiding social interference. No one even mentioned individuality. Natie pie hints at the possibility that there is a universal set of restrictions, but that finding it seems difficult given different sets of preferences that belong to different subsets of the population. I will take it one step further and say that there are some preferences that are preferable, and discovering and teaching these preferable preferences should be a prime focus of the current and future generations. As the set of all preferences shrinks the number of sets of restrictions required to satisfy each subset of preferences will also shrink, eventually converging to one. This is not to say that there will be only one morality, just that no moral set will interfere with any other moral set. This seems preferable.

5:17 PM  
Anonymous chas said...

i know nobody mentioned individuality, thats why i brought it up. since, as you said, an optimally satiated populace is impossible to achieve, then wouldn't it make sense to make something achievable as our goal?
bringing up individuality was to point out that there seems to something important about things other than the advancement of society. as another example, aesthetics and art have their value in something other than function.

if someone was the exact same as me, just living next door or something, then it seems like any contribution i make would be made by me prime anyways, so to society, my existence is pointless. individuality, then, is important to the advancement of society - a critical catalyst of innovation and change. maybe the way to realize a goal of meshed moral sets is in working to develop the individual set to be what the individual wants it to be, rather than what the rest of society wants it to be.

9:54 PM  
Anonymous tim said...

I did advocate something achievable. Maximize the function defined as the sum of each individual's happiness. That's the fairest way to do it. Given the impossibility of this in a practical sense, instead I'd advocate something very close to what natie pie originally suggested; restrict actions that would cause non-consensual harm to others. That way people aren't actively trying to hurt each other, and they're mostly let alone to try and get theirs. Personally I'd be more for defining some broad goals of civilization and then having individuals base their morality on these broad goals of humanity, but given the difficulty in defining these goals to the general satisfaction of all it's not for practical consideration. It does apply in a number of situations, though, as many people integrate themselves into something beyond themselves, and then use this overarching system to derive morality. There's just no compatibility between the different encompassing systems.

If we're talking about being identical, we're talking about a lot more than just morality, musical taste, general disposition, etc. Identical is actually impossible, because as soon as you spoke to each other there'd be two different people, just with eerily similar thoughts. But what's to say you wouldn't be able to cooperate with your clone and achieve more than either could alone? It is certainly useful to have variety among the population, but this can be taken to extremes. Individuality for its own sake seems pointless. And yes, I'm arguing for the hell of it, because I don't even find this relevant to the initial topic of discussion: the set of restrictions necessary for everyone to enjoy themselves.

What if my individual set dictates me killing you and yours? It's cool, cause it's what I want it to be, and not what society wants it to be. Sorry to be facetious, but it seems that any rational person would admit the need for common agreement on some restrictions.

12:09 AM  
Anonymous natie pie said...

sweet moses. my pace will have to be a little different.

Wow. Never before have i seen so many quantum and mathematical terms thrown around with respect to societal demands and the problems of determining which laws (or state space) should be enacted.

"learn chinese and you will think in chinese." - ancient chinese proverb

And I would say that we write, not rewrite, during a child's formative years.

this is more accurate.

i agree that we need to pin down the definition of optimal status in order to have discourse. two schools of thought that can coexist -- either we begin with basic principles and derive everything else from those, or we figure out how we would like things to work and choose supporting principles.

your definition of optimal status may have a better place if we apply economic theory. this leaves me on unfamiliar territory, but the attempt will be made nonetheless.

let us assume that there is a variable amount of status units in our system, but further restrict ourselves to a finite number of status units at all times. by status unit, i mean a quantum of well being, or happiness -- this may be measured through neurochemistry at some future point. also, without loss of generality, let us allow negative status units (pain) to exist.

let us examine two situations:

1. 100 people at status 0

2. 99 people at status -1 and one individual at status +100

your definition leads to a preference of 2 over 1. i'm not really sure which i prefer.

if, however, we assume that pain does not exist (negative status is not attainable), then your definition works very well.

The biggest problem with your final question is that while you may be asking how to restrict yourself for the benefit of others, it doesn't work nearly so well when other subsets of the population are not asking the same question. When there is no compromise the subset of a population exercising self-restriction will become marginalized as they attempt to appease another subset of the population whose set of existential states is constant.

the utility of the mindset behind a question is of no concern when you are just interested in the answer. let me rephrase the question to reflect both of our concerns:

given that we both respect each other's desires to obtain states, what is the set of mutual status states that minimizes our mutual interference with each other's desired states?

in the other case, we may have to figure out another question. but its too late for me to think of this -- i am sleepy headed.

That has to be one of the more obtuse definitions of Utilitarianism I have come across.

lets fix it until we find something that is acute.

4:00 AM  

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