A Philosopher's Blog

Same Sex Marriage & the Slippery Slope

Posted in Ethics, Law, Philosophy, Politics by Michael LaBossiere on May 30, 2008

California’s Supreme Court recently decided that same sex marriage should be permitted. There are various arguments for and against same sex marriage. Some are good and some are not.

One stock argument was put forth by Justice Marvin R. Baxter: “Who can say that in 10, 15 or 20 years, an activist court might not rely on the majority’s analysis to conclude, on the basis of a perceived evolution in community values, that the laws prohibiting polygamous and incestuous marriages were no longer constitutionally justified?”(LA Times)

On one hand, this could be regarded as a reasonable argument. After all, the justice seems to be contending that a gradual process that began with same sex marriage could lead California to accept what appear to be clearly immoral marriages.

On the other hand, this could be seen as a slippery slope fallacy. After all, there does seem to be quite a distance between allowing monogamous same sex marriages and allowing polygamous and incestuous marriages. While the justice does note that it could take 10-20 years, he does not really make a solid case as to why this terrible result would inevitably arise from allowing same sex marriage. Also, his “who can say” remark could also be seen as a fallacious appeal, specifically the “who is to say” fallacy. This could also be regarded as an appeal to ignorance. In this case, the justice’s poor reasoning would be that because we don’t know that this decision won’t lead to polygamy and incestuous marriage being legalized it follows that it could happen. However, the burden of proof is on him to argue that this is a likely possibility. While it could happen it could also not happen.

A matter also worth considering is his worry that community values might change and allow things that he presumably regards as immoral. The very nature of democracy is such that the law is supposed to be based on the will of the majority. Hence, his view could be seen as undemocratic. This can be countered by the view that democracies cannot be allowed to be true democracies otherwise they would fall into injustice. After all, there have to be limits on what people can vote for and bring about. The challenge is trying to determine what these legitimate limits should be.

Having been divorced, I think that one wife is probably one too many, but a case could be made for polygamy. The main moral arguments against it tend to be based on the fact that polygamy is usually practiced in an unjust manner and typically involves the oppression of women by men. While that sort of marriage is morally unacceptable, it is not unacceptable because of the multiple spouses but because of the oppression. It seem possible, but unlikely, that a non-oppressive and morally acceptable polygamy could exist. If so, I have no moral objection against it.

Incestuous marriage is clearly unacceptable. This can be argued for on psychological grounds in terms of the harms as well as genetic grounds. However, as noted above, there seems to be a significant distance between accepting same sex marriage and the acceptance of incestuous marriage.

Although I have come to believe that the disadvantages of marriage outweigh the advantages, I believe that adults should have the right to enter into such unions. As such, I accept same sex marriage. I also support same sex divorce-the next logical step after same sex marriage.


One Response

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  1. www.valueallfamilies.com said, on May 31, 2008 at 3:58 am

    Please go to this website. It shows how James Dobson uses gays for political advantage. Karl Rove had Dobson on his speed dial. Just another way for Republicans to divide and conquer. The marriage amendment will not only make marriage illegal for gay Americans but it also states in the second sentence “all legal rights associated with marriage can not be given to gays.” In Michigan this month, 375 gay Americans in committed domestic partnerships just lost their health insurance because of the 2004 Michigan “marriage amendment.” This is not what America stands for. It is simply prejudice against gay people. We need to grow up and vote for things that matter. Bashing gay people should not be top of the list. The caveman thinking of the Republican party has got to go. Yabba “W” Doooooooo
    Extinguish the CAVEMAN in 2008. Vote Democratic!!!! We the people means ALL the people.

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