Davis Defenders No Better at Interpreting Bible than Interpreting Constitution

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Yesterday at the Detroit Free Press I argued that supporting Kim Davis’s religious liberty doesn’t mean tolerating her refusal to do her job as county clerk. “Religious liberty does not entitle the bearer to line-item vetoes for essential job functions,” I wrote.

In passing I mentioned that she has been divorced multiple times, which shows how inconsistent she is in enforcing Biblical law. Others have made the point more sharply, noting that she became pregnant with twins from husband number three while married to husband number one, in Maury-Povich-worthy twists. Husband number two, who adopted the twins, is also her current, fourth husband.

In response to revelations about her marital history, her Liberty Counsel attorneys have rushed to her defense. According to U.S. News and World Report:

[Attorney Mat] Staver says “it’s not really relevant, it’s something that happened in her past” and that her conversion to Christianity about four years ago wiped her slate clean. “It’s something that’s not relevant to the issue at hand,” he says. “She was 180 degrees changed.”

Her colleague Casey Davis makes a similar point:

Casey County Clerk Casey Davis, who is not related to Kim Davis, tells U.S. News he believes there’s a difference between getting a divorce and then repenting and living in a same-sex relationship.

“I don’t have any problem with that whatever, how she was before. If the Lord can forgive her, surely I can,” he says. “That’s something that’s forgivable just like any other sin, but if you continue in it and live in it, there’s a grave danger in that.”

Apparently these people are no better at interpreting the Bible than they are at interpreting the Constitution. For Jesus himself says quite clearly:

“Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery” (Mark 10: 11-12).

Notice that, in Jesus’ words, divorced and remarried people are not people who did sin (past tense) and then had their slate wiped clean. They are people who are sinning, as persistent and unrepenent adulterers. Why isn’t there “grave danger in that”?

I recognize of course that divorce is sometimes the best option for those in a bad marriage. On the other hand, unlike these folks, I don’t go around trying to substitute “God’s law”–or my own self-serving interpretation of it–for the laws of the state.

Read my full Freep piece here.

Gay Rights and the Race Analogy

Tucker Nichols for The New York Times

Tucker Nichols for The New York Times

At The New York Times, I urge caution on use of the race analogy and argue that the issues are more complex than they’re typically treated:

The present debate is too often dominated by hasty generalizations and false inferences, on both sides. The left slides too easily from “similar” to “the same.” The right correctly counters “No, not the same,” but then jumps to the false conclusion “Not at all similar.” Where both sides go wrong is in treating analogies as if they were identities. If we want to apply the lessons of history to the current controversy — as we should — we need to take seriously both the similarities and the differences.

Read the full article here.

Fall Speaking Engagements

John New Student Convo

John is currently working on the details of his fall speaking calendar, with talks planned at the University of Colorado, Boulder, on October 22 and 23 and at the University of Missouri, Kansas City, on November 6. Details to follow soon at the calendar page.

If Gay Marriage, Why Not Polygamy?

In his Obergefell dissent, Chief Justice Roberts trots out a familiar slippery-slope argument:

[F]rom the standpoint of history and tradition, a leap from opposite-sex marriage to same-sex marriage is much greater than one from a two-person union to plural unions, which have deep roots in some cultures around the world. If the majority is willing to take the big leap, it is hard to see how it can say no to the shorter one.

Actually, it’s not that hard at all. For a detailed analysis of the constitutional problems with this argument, I recommend Stephen Macedo’s latest post at Slate. In terms of logic and public policy, however, we can answer Roberts with a short video, from my 2012 marriage series:

Victory at SCOTUS

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I’m still digesting Obergefell, both the decision itself and its personal and social implications. Had you told me 25 years ago, when I first started speaking and writing about LGBT rights, that the White House would be lit up rainbow to celebrate the U.S. Supreme Court’s granting the right to marry to same-sex couples in all 50 states, I might have answered “Not in my lifetime.” Even three years ago, when I published Debating Same-Sex Marriage with Maggie Gallagher, only a handful of states allowed same-sex couples to marry, and the federal government recognized none of those marriages. Never has an author been happier than I to see his book destined for the remainder bin.

I’ll post more soon. For now, savoring the moment.

Can People With Dementia Have a Sex Life?

Jeff Heinz/The Globe Gazette

Jeff Heinz/The Globe Gazette

Let’s ask John Corvino! (Ahem.) At The New York Times’ “Room for Debate,” I team up with my buddy Ron Belgau to defend, among other things, the sanctity of marriage. From the exchange:

[T]he argument in the present case is not that Mr. Rayhons physically or emotionally harmed his wife, but rather that he violated her consent merely by having sex. I don’t see how that argument wouldn’t apply equally to his brushing her hair — which would indeed be wrong, and a violation of consent, if he did it to some random dementia patient who was not his wife. The marriage matters, as do other intentions the patient expressed prior to her dementia.

Read the full exchange here.

23 years ago…

On this day 23 years ago, in Mary E. Gearing Hall at the University of Texas at Austin, I first delivered the lecture “What’s Morally Wrong with Homosexuality?” At the time, according to Gallup, 57% of Americans thought that homosexuality was not an “acceptable alternative lifestyle.” We’ve come a long way.

The Church, Natural Law, and Gay Sex

Tim Hussin for the NYT

Tim Hussin for the NYT

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Prof. Gary Gutting of Notre Dame gives me a shout-out at the Stone in The New York Times:

The problem is that, rightly developed, natural-law thinking seems to support rather than reject the morality of homosexual behavior. Consider this line of thought from John Corvino, a philosopher at Wayne State University: “A gay relationship, like a straight relationship, can be a significant avenue of meaning, growth, and fulfillment. It can realize a variety of genuine human goods; it can bear good fruit. . . . [For both straight and gay couples,] sex is a powerful and unique way of building, celebrating, and replenishing intimacy.”

Read his full article here.

Just My Opinion?

fact opinion

The Philosopher’s Magazine has finally posted my piece on the fact/opinion distinction.

Why worry about the fact/opinion distinction? One reason is that precise thinking is valuable for its own sake. But there’s another, more pragmatic reason. Despite its unclear meaning, the claim “That’s just your opinion” has a clear use: It is a conversation-stopper. It’s a way of diminishing a claim, reducing it to a mere matter of taste which lies beyond dispute.

Read the full article here.

John, the “Antidote to Screaminess”

Photo Credit: Doug Coombe

Photo Credit: Doug Coombe

There’s a nice profile of John at the Urban Innovation Exchange:

John Corvino is a refreshing antidote to the screaminess on one of the central issues of our times – marriage equality. It befits his work as a philosophy professor at Wayne State University; as such, he needs to think deeply about the very nature of morality and why we behave the way we do. It also befits his life; he’s an out gay man who has been with his partner, Mark, for 13 years.

Read the full profile here.

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