8 thoughts on “NYS Senator Diane Savino speaks on the Marriage Equality bill, 2 December

  1. I note that Savino says that this is not a political issue, but one of fairness. I would think this is not true in a broad sense of politics. Different ideas about how marriage laws relate to the good of the polis clearly impact the analysis of whether they are fair or not.

    She also refers to marriage as a privilege, then later as a right. I wonder if she’s done any of the thinking necessary to reconcile these positions. If so, it’s certainly not evident from her speech.

  2. Nemo, I basically took her to be a politician rather than a careful philosopher, and for that reason I wasn’t much bothered by those. (Esp. since ‘political’ does sometimes have a restricted semi-pejorative meaning in ordinary use.) I did like her points about the nature of many straight marriages.

  3. Jender, you make a very good point there. Still, I think the right/privilege question is so fundamental to this issue (and not hard to grasp in principle), that we ought to expect our politicians to think and speak clearly about it, and moreover that they probably should do so before endorsing a particular position on removing any gender component from civil marriage laws.

    When you mention her points about the nature of many straight marriages, are you referring to her allusions to the fact that the “relationships” of many married couples are of questionable maturity, dignity, seriousness, etc.?

    Savino is right about that of course, as she is when she points out that the government does not make a determination of “quality and validity” (there’s some question as to what she means there) of relationships between married couples (or couples who propose to marry). There’s probably a de minimis sense in which the government does so, of course, but Savino’s point is well taken.

    However, she appears to infer from this that the government must not deny marriage licenses to same-sex couples. There’s an additional implied premise here, which I believe is something to the effect that when the government denies a marriage license to a same-sex couple involves a determination of the quality and commitment of the relationship of the couple. I think that premise is false.

    As I suggested, it’s true that the government does not make a determination of the commitment of the couple (it sometimes does to some extent, for example when attempting to police fraudulent “green card marriages”, but that’s a separate case). Indeed, when one bears in mind that civil marriage laws have evolved in large part to regulate the conflict between private incentives (often linked to procreative biology) and social incentives.

    Viewed from this standpoint, the state arguably has less incentive (though still some) to marry a committed heterosexual couple than it does to marry a heterosexual couple of dubious commitment. Marriage laws raise the costs associated with certain socially undesirable behavior (most classically, but not exclusively, abandonment of a spouse, particularly with children or upon an unplanned pregnancy), and therefore provides some disincentive to engage in that behavior, and some wealth reallocation to mitigate the social costs of such behavior. “Committed” couples in a “quality” relationship are less likely to engage in such behavior regardless of whether they are married.

    At any rate, I think Savino was barking up the wrong tree with her anecdote about the man who stuck his head inside her car to ask her about her vote on the marriage bill. To a great degree, the question from the state’s perspective is not whether a couple is “ready for that kind of commitment”; it’s whether the state is better off allowing them to willingly undertake legal commitments so that the commitments are in place if and when what economists call “incentive problems” manifest themselves in the relationship. I suspect from listening to her speech that Savino has internalized a common misunderstanding of how and why civil marriage laws developed, and what the state’s chief interests in marriage are.

  4. it’s difficult. try this: try giving a convincing argument that the sun is bright. sometimes things are just too bloody obvious.

  5. Vishal, I would be only modestly exaggerating if I replied that if anyone actually knew the answer to that, such bills would prosper far more often than is currently the case.

  6. @Nemo: I have to confess your reply was an anticlimax of sorts. I was looking for something more edifying.

    To draw you out just a bit, do you at least think/believe that the answer to my question exists (somewhere out there, perhaps)?

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