Gay Marriage? A Debate


The Elizabeth
Anscombe Society


Gay Marriage? A Debate

Join us this Wednesday, November 5th in McCosh 50 to hear Professor Stephen Macedo debate Sherif Girgis ’08 on this topic:

Resolved: The case for same-sex marriage has a rational limiting principle, and changing marriage law accordingly would strengthen the institution of marriage.

Doors open at 7:10pm. Latecomers will be admitted at the back of the room at suitable intervals. Books to be sold following the debate.

See the Facebook event here.

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Sponsored by the Princeton Anscombe Society with the support of the Love and Fidelity Network, the Leadership Institute, the Alliance Defending Freedom, Christian Union, the Program in Gender and Sexuality Studies, the Office of Religious Life, and the USG Projects Board

Letter to the Editor

Our president Ben Koons and vice president Christian Say had their letter to the editor about the Daily Princetonian’s print edition headline of Ryan Anderson’s talk published today.

Here’s the Prince’s headline:

Anscombe Supports (Media) Equality! This headline is absurdly biased.
Anscombe Supports (Media) Equality! This headline is absurdly biased.

Here’s Koons and Say’s letter in its entirety:

Letter to the Editor: Anscombe supports (media) equality

Regarding “PEP supports equality at marriage talk” (Thursday, Oct. 17, 2013)

The Anscombe Society would like to thank Regina Wang for her well-balanced piece covering our event last Thursday with Ryan T. Anderson ’04 speaking about marriage. We believe, however, that the editors of The Daily Princetonian did a poor job of respecting Wang’s balanced news coverage in the framing of her story.

Unfortunately, the print edition’s headline following Anderson’s lecture misleadingly read, “PEP Supports Equality at Marriage Talk.” Had the editors paid any attention to the event itself, they would have known that Anderson observed up front that both sides of the marriage debate are in favor of marriage equality — contingent upon what marriage itself is defined to be. The headline pushed through by the editors of the ‘Prince’ was the mark of a biased editorial staff.

Further proof of this lies in the discrepancy between the headlines of the online and print editions. Online, the Anderson article has the much more balanced title, “With demonstrators in the audience, Heritage Foundation fellow Anderson ’04 urges traditional understanding of marriage.” This headline was released soon after Anderson’s lecture, and the discrepancy between this balanced title and the biased print version reveals a conscious editorial decision to manipulate the coverage.

This poor framing of an otherwise generally well-written story should come as an embarrassment to the ‘Prince.’ We hope to see better editorial decisions in the future.

Ben Koons ’15 and Christian Say ’16

President and Vice President of the Anscombe Society

News Coverage: Anderson Talk

Our school’s main daily paper the Prince has written a news story about Ryan’s great talk last night. Click here for the full article.

Our event last night was today's headline!

Our event last night was today’s headline! But what an awfully biased headline.

Here’s the meat of the article:

In a philosophical vein, Anderson used an Aristotelian analysis involving the terms of action, goods and commitment to arrive at a definition of marriage. He also said that the definition of marriage between a man and a woman is found in many different cultures at many different periods.

“There’s something about this understanding of marriage that resonates with human nature,” he said.

Moving on to the realm of public policy, Anderson argued that the government should regulate marriage and noted the benefits for children who grow up in households with mothers and fathers.

The article also mentions the protesters at last night’s event:

Before the event, members of the Princeton Equality Project gathered at the building entrance handing out pins and posters to arriving audience members. A number of students came draped in rainbow flags.

One of the event’s goals was to keep the marriage issue live, and a quote from the article indicates we may have been successful at that:

PEP [Princeton Equality Project] member Kelsey Dyer ’17 said many members of the LGBT community had come to respectfully hear what Anderson had to say while also making their presence known in hopes that the event could be part of an ongoing dialogue about the meaning of marriage.


Milton and Chastity

This past week, I spent
some time reading Milton’s A Masque at Ludlow, often referred to as Milton’s
Comus. The Masque, or short play, was written for John Egerton, and largely
focuses on the virtues of chastity. Some background–Comus is about the Lady
and her two brothers who lose their way in the woods. The Lady becomes quite
tired and her brothers seek food, leaving her alone. While the Lady is alone,
she meets a being disguised as a villager who promises to reunite her with her
brothers, and she willfully follows him. But this being, Comus, captures her
and uses methods of persuasion to entice her to drink from his magical
cup–urging her to cease being coy and to embrace sexual pleasure. The Lady
consistently rebukes Comus’ advances, and argues for the virtues of temperance
and chastity. The Masque continues when her brothers return with the Attendant
Spirit, an almost angelic figure, who saves the Lady from Comus.

What are we to take away
from Comus? First, I want to make a concession: thinking about the role of
chastity in Milton’s Comus seems to be an issue of much debate amongst scholars
far more learned than I. But, Milton does seem to hit on something that’s true
to my experience. When people talk about chastity, they often see it as
limiting one’s ability to make choices (which people often conceive of as
freedom). Aside from reasons to doubt that this is a useful definition of
freedom, Milton shows us just the opposite: the Lady’s temperance and chastity
are liberating, as we’re reminded with the final lines of the piece:


Love Virtue, she alone is

She can teach ye how to

Higher than the sphery

Or, if Virtue feeble were,

Heaven itself would stoop to her. 

What Sitcoms Tells Us About the Family

David Brooks, in an art-reflects-life take on sitcoms,
suggests that recent trends favor comedies about groups of friends rather than
about families. He suggests, 

“the change also reflects something deeper
about the patterns of friendship in society. With people delaying marriage
and childbearing into their 30s, young people now spend long periods of their
lives outside of traditional families, living among diverse friendship

 He even worries that these sorts of living situations suggest
people are trading “flexibility and convenience for true commitment.”
 There was a recent response in the Atlantic suggesting that we
could make a similar point by looking at work-related sitcoms, that
overwhelmingly out-number the friendship sitcoms Brooks mentions. Though it’s important to note that lots of these work sitcoms show at least “intermittent unease” with
characters who substitute work lives for family lives (think Michael from The Office).

I Know You Less Than I Did Before

A recent article in the Journal of Consumer Psychology presents evidence for a counterintuitive aspect of human relationships:
couples who had been together longer – on average 40 years longer – knew less about each other’s preferences (favorite foods, movies, etc.) than younger couples.
The article is entitled “Older but not wiser–Predicting a partner’s preferences gets worse with age.” You can read the original here and a writeup at here.

On reflection, this phenomenon is not completely unexpected.
When you first get to know a person, be it in friendship or dating, there are countless undiscovered things you have to learn about each other.
Each new experience is an exciting revelation, and each new fact adds to your understanding of the other person.
But after a time, you start to feel as though you know each other pretty well, and you stop digging for surprises.
Or you might think that the other person’s preferences and beliefs are fairly constant, and don’t bother investigating whether they have changed in the time that you have been together.
An interesting idea would be for a couple to try to maintain a simple, healthy tension in their relationship – the tension of being aware that there are still countless things they don’t know about the other person, and to treat those unknowns as a treasure of surprises to be discovered.
To give a somewhat silly example, do you know whether your significant other prefers flip-flops or sports sandals?
If it’s the former, are they a Rainbows fan or a Rainbows skeptic?
If it’s the latter, do they favor the tricked-out ones with massage footbeds and gel cushions?
The conclusion of this exercise:
if you don’t know, try finding out!
You might be surprised at what else you learn about the other person.

This idea of re-discovering the person by engaging with him/her on different ideas and in different situations relates to another phenomenon – couples who have been married longer often find themselves doing the same things for “date nights” that they have been doing throughout their relationship.
However, the spouses report feeling much closer to each other when they do something new or adventurous instead, such as going rollerblading at night and getting ice cream instead of going through the hum-drum “dinner and a movie” routine for the nth time.

This paper raises several other fascinating issues (for example, the role of “white lies” in long-term relationships), and I will be discussing it more in the weeks to come. Stay tuned!

Marriage and the State’s Interest

 Federal Judge Vaughn Walker ruled on Wednesday that
Proposition 8, the rejection of same-sex marriage, a proposition voted for by
California voters earlier in the year, unreasonably discriminates against gay
men and women.  Let’s look at some
of Walker’s claims and discuss what the future may bring.

 Given that the trial is based on the Equal Protection
Clause, it’s interesting to note that Judge Walker used the lowest standard of
scrutiny he could: rational basis scrutiny. Choosing this lower level of scrutiny
is considered a safe move, given that higher courts may be unlikely to apply
intermediate or strict scrutiny to the legislation in question.

 The rational basis test, in practice, is seldom lethal to a
piece of legislation. When applying the rational basis test, the burden is on
the plaintiffs to show that the law in question (in this case, Proposition 8)
is not rationally related to a legitimate state interest. Now, that’s a pretty
large burden–if the defendants could show some legitimate state interest that
Proposition 8 intended to preserve, and could further show that Proposition 8
was in some way rationally related to this interest, Proposition 8 would be
upheld. Knowing this, the fact that Judge Walker found that Proposition 8
failed the rational basis test is pretty surprising.

Judge Walker wrote in his opinion, “Proposition 8 cannot
withstand any level of scrutiny under the Equal Protection Clause. Excluding
same-sex couples from marriage is simply not rationally related to a legitimate
state interest.” But Judge Walker went wrong in failing to acknowledge what
proponents of Prop 8 argue is the legitimate state interest at stake: the
rearing of the next generation of citizens. 

As to what this means for the legality and constitutionality
of same-sex marriage, most agree that this decision won’t be the final word.