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April 15, 2009

Unmarked marriage
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 03:39 PM * 196 comments

So let’s recap, shall we?

It appears that Amazon, the 500 pound gorilla of the online bookselling (and, increasingly, book-searching) world, had a bunch of its stock involving GLBT characters and situations1 classified in a way that made it easy to identify. It was, in other words, marked, unlike the content that related exclusively to heterosexuals.

As a result, it was possible to take a single (probably mistaken2) action that affected all of that content. Other content, marked for other reasons, was affected as well.

Of course, this was only books, and there are plenty of other places online (or, even better, in meatspace) to search for and buy books that address the entire range of human experience. It would be different, wouldn’t it, if an entity with a monopoly could remove an entire class of marked…stuff…with no alternative supplier?

Given the above, you can probably see why I prefer marriage equality to civil unions3.

(The third alternative, not letting gays in on one of the biggest, craziest and most challenging adventures of my life, not giving myself and my straight married peers the chance to learn from their struggles and their joys? Not blooming likely, thanks.)

  1. AKA books that don’t pretend everyone is straight
  2. Still the most likely explanation, based on my experience in IT
  3. However much I appreciate the latter.
Comments on Unmarked marriage:
#1 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2009, 03:46 PM:

The comment that nobody wants to be the politician who instituted gay marriage may be changing, but it's still got a lot of truth to it.

#2 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2009, 04:03 PM:

Tom @1:
nobody wants to be the politician who instituted gay marriage

That was the state of affairs in the UK in 2005. Four years later, the leader of the Tory Party said, in an interview with Total Politics magazine:

I stood up in front of a Conservative conference, my first one as leader, and said that marriage was important, and as far as I was concerned it didn't matter whether it was between a man and a woman, a man and a man or a woman and a woman.

It's changing fast.

#3 ::: Emma ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2009, 04:11 PM:

If I can go by my (politically to the right of Genghis Khan right-winger) father's opinion, the conservatives have lost this particular culture war. He tells me that if gay people want to get into the business of getting screamed at because they forgot to take out the garbage, that's their prerogative. That's a direct quote.

When I told him one of my gay friends is hoping to marry his partner (we have known this guy for a very long time, guest at my house, etc.etc), all he said was find out where he's registered.

#4 ::: Madeleine Robins ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2009, 04:22 PM:

Emma @ #3: I've never met your father, but I like him.

There's a lot you can say for and against our mayor, Gavin Newsom, but one thing is, he really stepped out in front on this one. In the long run who knows what it's going to do to his career, but I think if he's going to falter, it won't be because he felt that everyone who wanted to marry should be able to.

#5 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2009, 04:22 PM:

My partner tells me nicely to take out the garbage, all without the benefit of holy matrimony*.

However, I would sign up for marriage in a heartbeat, just to have the peace of mind that comes with the attendant rights, privileges, and appurtenances pertaining thereto.

*Should I resist until she marries me?

#6 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2009, 04:24 PM:

I got mail today from Garden State Equality urging me to call the leaders of the NJ ledge and tell them "you're not going to let New York beat us to the punch, are you? Pass that Gay Marriage bill NOW!"

Silly, but shows the tenor of the times. (As opposed to the tenor of The Times, who is a prized member of the Editorial Staff Barbershop Quartet.)

#7 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2009, 04:26 PM:

Ginger @ 5... Should I resist until she marries me?

If you don't, will she respect you, come next morning?

#8 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2009, 04:27 PM:

Abi... letting gays in on one of the biggest, craziest and most challenging adventures of my life

Getting severe burns on your legs in Spain?

#9 ::: Hilary Hertzoff ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2009, 04:33 PM:

I don't have the document here, so I can't check the wording, but earlier this week I got a notice of an amendment to my health insurance (Oxford).

The change was that spousal benefits could now be claimed by same sex married couples (possibly only those married in states which had legalised same sex marriage).

A little thing in the grand scheme of things, but it made me smile.

#10 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2009, 04:36 PM:

Reminds me of the questionnaire asking "How long have you been a heterosexual?"

#11 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2009, 04:40 PM:

Serge @8:
Getting severe burns on your legs in Spain?

Had I not set my legs on fire on that Spanish beach, it's doubtful that I would ever have married Martin. Others may take a different course to lifelong partnership, of course.

But for me? Totally worth it.

#12 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2009, 04:42 PM:

I can think of lots of those questions. "What made you turn from Baphomet and take up heterosexuality?" Oh, too Pagan. "How did you acquire your aversion to men?" "Are you SURE you're heterosexual?" (And its accompanying statement "You sure seem normal to me.")

#13 ::: shadowsong ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2009, 04:47 PM:

I maintain that it's a problem of language. Marriage is entangled with religion, and the definition varies between religions. Government may not privilege one religion over another. The solution is for government to get its fingers out of the marriage business entirely: civil unions for all! Secular decisions (health care, taxes, etc) may only be made on the basis of civil union status, not on marriage status.

#14 ::: Bill ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2009, 05:00 PM:

On the subject of quasi-monopolistic book distributors, as somebody who buys books (usually from new or used bricks&mortar stores, sometimes online or at cons, etc.), I find the American book distribution system really confusing. Some bookstores are bookstore chains, some are indies, some are big-box retail chains, and sometimes they're buying books directly from publishers but I gather there's a set of middleman distributors that most of the indies and smaller chains use, and at least N years ago the hardback and paperback distributors and processes were entirely different. Amazon's obviously an 800-pound gorilla (probably a mountain gorilla, as opposed to lowland gorillas like Borders and B&N, who have stores as well as online sales, or the invisible gorillas that are the big distributors, or whatever color of gorilla Walmart is.)

With Amazon, it was real obvious when it dropped a large set of books, and it was important because Amazon's a popular channel for finding books that don't make it to bricks&mortar bookstores, but how many of those same books weren't carried by the big distributor chains? Is there a way to tell, other than asking individual publishers?

The Web makes it easy for activities like book-selling to be handled on a much more decentralized basis (as well as making it easy for centralized services like Amazon to front-end the decentralized players.) I keep hearing people make wide-eyed marketing-fluff predictions about how e-books are going to change the publishing world, and I've heard similar things about print-on-demand hardware for people who do want paper, replacing the gorillas with packs of chimps and bonobos and baboons and occasional orangutans - will it be possible to sustain a model where money does flow toward the author, and where authors still have the sense to work with editors to improve their work and publishers try to get good authors to write more (and textbook publishers encourage authors to make gratuitous updates to interfere with the used textbook markets)?

#15 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2009, 05:06 PM:

shadowsong, that would be ideal, yes, and many countries have that (though not, as far as I know, ones that allow same-sex unions). But that's even harder to push through politically than same-sex marriage.

#16 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2009, 05:10 PM:

shadowsong @ 13:

It's all well and good to say that we should let religions have the marriage term and have government call it something else. I used to believe exactly that, but the problem is that it's not going to happen. People are too wedded to the marriage name (pun not entirely unintentional).

If the government declared that henceforth all civil marriages were to be called civil unions, a lot of people would be upset. Right or wrong, they'd see it as a step down. So instead of deciding that everyone should get to have a civil union with proper rights and privileges, why not elevate the half-baked civil unions (or the no civil unions at all) to full marriage status?

#17 ::: Raphael ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2009, 05:16 PM:

I maintain that it's a problem of language. Marriage is entangled with religion,

So is almost everything else in human life.

Bill @14, that's pretty much how book distribution works almost evewhere, and, for that matter, how distribution of most stuff works almost everywhere- it's not specific to the American book distribution system.

#18 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2009, 05:19 PM:

Xopher #12: Baphomet? You sure it isn't, say, Huitzilopochtli? I object to this Eurocentrism!

#19 ::: Jacob Davies ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2009, 05:20 PM:

The basic point about our society being one with a legacy of homophobia that is pervasive is completely valid. And I agree that it justifies gay marriage rather than civil unions. (Although I never needed to be sold on that in the first place. Love is love.)

But if we're talking metadata, the presence of a GLBT tag is a binary thing. It's either there or it's not. At present it serves to editorially identify - as far as I can tell, anyway - only sympathetic and positive material on the subject, and not "God Hates Gays Volume XVII".

You could ask that they take the tag off. Then they would be less likely to have database errors where only the GLBT material was marked as "adult". But it would be much harder to find material written from a GLBT perspective in that case, and much easier to come across hateful and upsetting material by accident when searching for "gay". It is not a cost-free decision.

Curated metadata has always and will always work like this, since the first library index was created, hell since the first person decided to shelve their books in alphabetical order. What works to find data for benign purposes, works to find it for malicious or negligent purposes too. That is how the universe works. I wish the sky was made of ice cream, but it isn't, and wishing won't make it so (and would probably be a bad idea owing to all the ice cream-related fatalities that would ensue). If you can persuade me that there is a third way, a way of having the metadata without actually having it, I am all ears, and I am sure Amazon is too.

The choice of whether to have the flag really lies in your hands. Amazon, to my knowledge, is pretty responsive to customer criticism, and if the GLBT & friends community insists they remove the GLBT tag, I bet they would do so. But you can't have both. You can't have the material be tagged on days you want to find it and untagged on days when some poor klutz pushes the wrong button on the database. That is, simply, childish.

Finally, you are assuming that the presence of the tag is a consequence of the legacy of bigotry that GLBT people have suffered. I do think there is some truth to that, but I think the main reason it needs a tag is that GLBT people - and therefore, material that is of particular interest to them rather than the majority of straight people - are and always will be a minority of the population, and not because the universe hates them, but because that's how the human genetic code for sexuality works. The problem isn't the tag. The problem is the bigotry.

#20 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2009, 05:22 PM:

Shadowsong #13: I have a bit of experience with marriage, and I've never had a religious ceremony. Neither, by the way, did my parents (who, unlike me, were religious but married in a civil ceremony because my mother's religious organisation would have raised difficulties). Marriage is a public institution, regulated by the public authorities.

#21 ::: Darth Paradox ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2009, 05:31 PM:

I'd like to get something clarified before I respond to a point you may not actually be making.

Are you saying that Amazon categorizing a certain set of books as involving and/or discussing homosexuality was itself a bad thing?

#22 ::: Jacob Davies ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2009, 05:32 PM:

NB: I definitely do not want to continue arguing about the rights and wrongs of the Amazon thing - I am really interested in this discussion of metadata it has prompted, and I agree that there are genuine dangers in the ever-increasing masses of metadata we are collecting around us.

I wouldn't say civil-union certificates are anywhere near our most dangerous aggregations of data, though. The most dangerous are those in which we are oblivious to what we reveal and to whom - the worst being search engine logs, which are innately non-anonymizable, which are currently retained in a pseudo-anonymized fashion long-term by search engines, and which are covered by no data protection laws in the US. They're filled with material that either speaks of things we would rather keep private, or could be misrepresented to smear us. (Do you know every dubious search term that guests have typed into your browser at home? I don't.)

And not to minimize the importance of applying the word "marriage" to same-sex couples in terms of normalizing them in the eyes of the rest of the population, but when it comes strictly to metadata, the M/M, F/M, and F/F entries in the gender fields in the databases of marriages are just as reliable a giveaway. I don't think forms should ask for gender anywhere near as often as they do - the only justified time being when it is medically relevant or you know, on a dating site where you want to be shown only people of a certain gender. Same-sex marriage ought to herald a new era of not bothering to ask for gender on government forms, if we are lucky.

(The nitpicking crank in me wants to point out that first names can still be used to correlate gender in databases. As I say, the chief danger is the bigotry, and not the databases.)

#23 ::: John Chu ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2009, 05:36 PM:

Xopher@15, Keith@16: In total agreement.

AS for metadata, doesn't Amazon depend on publishers to supply that? I don't think it would be feasible for them to read every book and classify it. Actually, how do libraries figure out the correct catalog number for a given book?

If Amazon doesn't supply its own metadata, we can't really infer anything about Amazon from which books are categorized as gay and which aren't. (According to Dear Author, the reason why anti-gay books didn't get caught up in #amazonfail is because they were classified as religion books. But I suspect this says more about the publishers of those books.)

For me, the interesting question is how Amazon makes use of that metadata. One of the things I find distressing is that Amazon decided for me what books I wanted and did not want to see without telling me that's what it was doing.

#24 ::: Kelly McCullough ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2009, 05:37 PM:

Shadowsong @ 13. I don't think so. As someone who has zero interest in religion and was married in a civil ceremony (registry office), I'd rather not see marriage and religion inextricably tied together. The word marriage is powerful. In my opinion it will only be made more so as more and more places see the light and make same sex marriage legal.

#25 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2009, 05:42 PM:

Darth Paradox @21:
Are you saying that Amazon categorizing a certain set of books as involving and/or discussing homosexuality was itself a bad thing?


On the one hand, I love metadata in the abstract, and book metadata in particular. I want there to be a lot of good subject information about books in any book-searching interface. And people use it: there is a lot of demand for books discussing the experiences of gays. I can think of many reasons for this, among them that coming out in a heteronormative society can be a difficult process. Books are good reference points at times like that.

On the other hand, that which we tag as separate from the unmarked state, we can ghettoize, disregard, dismiss as "genre" or "special interest", or just plain ignore. And gays are part of society in real life; why should books that include them be in the literary ghetto?

I wasn't really thinking about the morality of categorizing books when I wrote this post; I was more thinking that what could happen to books in a competitive marketplace would really stink if it happened to people under a government.

What do you think?

#26 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2009, 05:46 PM:

Jacob Davies @22:
(The nitpicking crank in me wants to point out that first names can still be used to correlate gender in databases. As I say, the chief danger is the bigotry, and not the databases.)

Sometimes. When I was writing a proposal for couple housing in my university co-op system (Berkeley, so explicitly not heterosexual only), my exemplar couple was Pat and Chris. I never did define who was what, not even in my own head.

#27 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2009, 05:52 PM:

Abi @ 25...

Fetchez la vache!

#28 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2009, 05:55 PM:

Jacob Davies @ 22:

Lee, Sam, Vivian, Kit, Pat, Jamie, Chris, Dale, Francis, Alex, Casey, Dorian, Taylor, Robin, Jean.

Serge @ 27:

*psst* Mu, not moo.

#29 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2009, 05:56 PM:

abi 26: This is why PNH and I are Patrick and Christopher respectively.

Well, not really, but it's part of why, at least for me.

#30 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2009, 06:01 PM:

I don't know of any way that people can self-identify as part of a group that can't then be turned around and used to categorize, marginalize, or disparage them.

#31 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2009, 06:04 PM:

Jacob 19: GLBT people...are and always will be a minority of the population, and not because the universe hates them, but because that's how the human genetic code for sexuality works.

Don't tell Jacob of our Nefarious Plan. He must not be allowed to suspect for how little time that will remain true. Bwah hah, as I've said before, hah.

#32 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2009, 06:09 PM:

KeithS @28:


And my grandfather was named Lynn.

#33 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2009, 06:16 PM:

What Xopher and KeithS said in 15/16.

Also, often neglected in considering the difference between marriage and civil union, that there are centuries worth of common law and case law addressing and defining what rights married couples have with respect to each other, the state, and other parties.

Telling gay couples "Well you don't get that, but you get the consolation prize" isn't good enough in my book.

#34 ::: JennR ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2009, 06:21 PM:

@28, @32:

Kim, Kerry, Dean, Alex. (I went to high school with boys named Kim and Lyn; and a girl who went by Andy.)

#35 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2009, 06:22 PM:

Adrian. Sasha. Abbie. Clare (knew a guy named that in college). Vivian. Lou. Marty.

#36 ::: Kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2009, 06:24 PM:

Marriage is [entangled with] religion

Yes, but not consistently, even by those who insist they're necessarily connected. Take two couples for example:

* Jessie and Quinn meet in their church's youth group. They fall in love, and several years later their pastor marries them in church, with the witness and blessing of their entire congregation.

* Phoenix and Morgan meet in a library. They fall in love, and several years later a justice of the peace marries them in a redwood grove, with the witness and blessing of 10 people and 2 million years of biomass.

How many marriages are there?

#37 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2009, 06:27 PM:

I know! Four, right?

(I've always wanted to meet a guy named Quinn, by the way.)

#38 ::: Emma ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2009, 06:34 PM:

John Chu @ 23: I'm making an educated guess and saying yes, but... Some certainly seem to be in "catalog speak", i.e.:

Books > Arts & Photography > Photography > Photo Essays
Books > Arts & Photography > Photography > Equipment
Books> Arts & Photography > Photography > Reference

However, their phrase search is questionable. The book I took the coding from offers a "statistically improbable" phrase dusky blue sky which takes you to (1)the book I was looking at; (2)two westerns; and (3)something that seems to be sociology?

IMO, they have issues making the "catalog speak" and the "key phrase" search functions mesh.

#39 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2009, 06:34 PM:

KeithS @ 27...Mu, not moo

... the Lost Cowntinent?

#40 ::: lorax ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2009, 06:40 PM:

Abi @26

(wrt first names as proxies for gender)

Sometimes. When I was writing a proposal for couple housing in my university co-op system (Berkeley, so explicitly not heterosexual only), my exemplar couple was Pat and Chris. I never did define who was what, not even in my own head.

That's practically the canonical name-pair for gender-nonspecific couples -- the state of California uses it on the "info for registered domestic partners and same-sex married couples" tax form explanations, and I've seen it several other places as well.

#41 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2009, 06:43 PM:

If we're discussing ambiguous names, you can add Kevin and Michael - I've known women named both of those. (It seems to be an Irish or Irish-American thing?)

#42 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2009, 06:44 PM:

Kathryn from Sunnyvale @ 36:

It's also worth noting that people who claim to use the Bible as the basis for defining modern marriage are only picking certain bits of it. Paul thinks that marriage should be a spiritual relationship with a single husband and wife, whereas the laws given in the Torah are pretty much about bringing an already existing secular contract structure into the framework of Judaism.

Religion and marriage are entangled, sure, but marriage isn't inherently religious.

Serge @ 39:

Are you trying to milk this for all it's worth?

#43 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2009, 06:45 PM:

WW2's General Clair Chenault...

#44 ::: MD² ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2009, 06:47 PM:

Raphael @17

So is almost everything else in human life.

Of course, but just but just because the Church can offer you the experience that God "melts in your mouth, not in your hand" (aka sacramental bread) doens't mean I'd want them to fix the price of bread. I'd rather they just kept dealing with its value.

I guess I prefer civil unions equality to mariage equality (though having both would be better).

(All right, I'm being disingenious here jumping from religion to church but the "melts in your mouth..." sentence had to be made once thought.)

Damn, sacramental bread + Fragano Ledgister in the same thread and I immediately think of Hosties noires.

Almost pathologic.

#45 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2009, 06:52 PM:

Jacob, #22: The nitpicking crank in me wants to point out that first names can still be used to correlate gender in databases.

Are you sure? What gender am I? And what gender are my friends Chris, Leslie, Alex, and Kim? And that doesn't even start to get into the non-European names... and I see that KeithS got there ahead of me @28, with a much more extensive set of names.

Clifton, #33: AKA "separate-but-equal isn't".

Xopher, #37: Would he have to be Inuit?

#46 ::: Jacob Davies ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2009, 06:54 PM:

#31: about "always a majority".

I shouldn't have been so categorical. Truly, sorry. That sounded much worse and more definite than I meant it to.

It's entirely possible, even likely, that if the tools emerge to control gender identification and sexual preference, and to enable childbearing regardless of parent gender - exotic though those things still sound now - we will move to a new equilibrium where the gay/straight split is in fact about 50/50, which as far as I can tell would be a perfectly fine place to be. Now, I do think it would be boring, likely socially destructive and in some sense disrespectful of our biological heritage to go all the way to 100% gay or 100% straight (or even 100% bi), or even to go to supermajorities again as strong as the ones that biology has forced on us at present. Gender & sexuality are fun.

How's that?

#47 ::: Kelly McCullough ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2009, 07:18 PM:

Oh and on the subject of gender ambiguous names, there's always "Kelly."

#48 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2009, 07:20 PM:

MD² #44 ¡Hostía!

#49 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2009, 07:27 PM:

Serge @ 7: Assuming she respects me now...

Various: I know men and women named Kelly, Kerry, Lynn, Kevin, Morgan, and Robin. Oh, and George was a female neighbor of ours.

Back to Serge @ 39: only if you're udderly lost.

#50 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2009, 07:32 PM:

Lee 45: Not getting the reference, sorry. In my head "Quinn" is either dark-Irish or Jamaican (I'm not quite as movie-obsessed as Serge, but it does get in a little).

Jacob 46: Are you feeling picked on? Sorry. You made intelligent points that several of us felt the need to contest. I know that can feel like a pileon, but I don't think that was the intention.

More seriously than my recent posts, though, while being gay is familial, it's not clear that it's entirely genetic; in fact there's some evidence that it isn't. While identical twins are very likely to share a sexual orientation, it's not guaranteed that they will.

It's also heavily influenced by culture. The example of ancient Athens is famous; Xenophon and Plato were considered extreme cases because Xenophon was never enamored of a boy, nor Plato of a woman. One of Catullus' wedding poems (Carmen 61) makes repeated reference to the groom's love of boys, and admonishes him that as a married man he'll no longer be permitted to play with them.

There are cultures around even today where there's no such thing as the cultural identity we call "gay." And I'm not talking about cultures that execute every homosexual they find, but ones where sex between males is considered a normal part of adolescence.

So I don't know exactly why gays and Lesbians are a minority. It's not quite as clear-cut as simple genetics, not that genetics is simple!

#51 ::: sara ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2009, 07:34 PM:

Some of these ambiguous names are very definitely male in the UK (at least traditionally). I'm American.

When I was first learning about the field of history in which I have a Ph.D., classics, I hoped naively that the scholars who went by their first and middle initials were women and that Robin Lane Fox was a woman.

The other day I was reading the Washington Post wedding section (in its bastardized clade, Express, given away free on the subway) and hoping that a couple labeled as Courtney and Ray were gay men. The one on the left was a hairy, definitely male, IT-techie type, the right-hand one a skinny, gender-free person in a baseball cap. Then I realized (double take) that the person writing the caption had reversed the order of the names (or the photo): Ray was the hairy guy, Courtney a woman in a baseball cap with her hair pulled back and hidden.

Courtney can be a last name but it is now defnitely a girl's first name here in the US. The same with Lindsey, to the doubtless embarrassment of a certain Republican Congressman from South Carolina. His embarrassment, his problem.

#52 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2009, 07:37 PM:

Dana, Marion, Lindsay, Carroll, Dakota, Terry

#54 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2009, 07:48 PM:

sara #51: I read an article a few years ago by a British journalist whose first name is Laurie, who mentioned being hit on online by American lesbians who assumed that he was a woman. This might also be an issue for a Leslie of my age.

#55 ::: LWE ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2009, 07:49 PM:

Jocelyn, Evelyn, Ashley

#56 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2009, 07:54 PM:

Xopher: Lee is joshing you about Dylan's 'Quinn the Eskimo'.

#57 ::: Jacob Davies ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2009, 07:54 PM:

Oh no, not picked on, embarrassed to have made such a categorical statement about What Will Be, that's all.

#58 ::: Mycroft W ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2009, 07:54 PM:

Yeah, I do the same thing (with my real name - those of you who have read Heinlein can probably work it out). I insist on the full and correct spelling, 'cause there's just too many of us out there. And yes, I've met my (full on, not abbreviated) female equivalent.

One thing I found interesting is that the first M->F transition I knew went from using the short form of the male name to the long form of the female one (when she could have just kept it the same).

#59 ::: anaea ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2009, 08:03 PM:

Shadowsong @13 - I was with you until Fall of '03 when somebody on NPR (can't remember for the life of me who) said something along the lines of, "If we change the definition of marriage to include same-sex couples then what next, plural marriages?" Thirty seconds later I'd changed my mind because all of a sudden the conversation was about me too and I actually thought about some more.

The thing is, getting rid of civil "marriage" and giving same-sex couples equal rights are two completely unrelated issues. Answering demands for the latter with a sudden interest in the former is an evasion, and one unworthy of the discussion. Twenty years from now when gay marriage is normal and I'm still not getting a plural marriage I'll be with you on the front lines of the civil union fight. It's just not relevant now.

#60 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2009, 08:09 PM:

What Clifton said at 33.

Using metadata tags can be fraught with subtle dangers. The Amazon problem comes from the fact that a category tag always creates 2 sets: the set of items which have that tag, and the inverse set of all items which don't have the tag. The problem is that when you add new semantics to the way you use a tag, the new and old semantics may have unexpected interactions with each other or with another tag. In this case, using existing tags like GLBT as synonyms for "restricted adult material" when their original purpose was to mark items as interesting to particular customer groups resulted in very unfortunate semantics. The assumption that "LGBT" is a subset of "adult material" and that "not LGBT" is a subset of "not adult material" turns out to be false.

Using metadata well really requires more than programming knowledge; it requires a basic understanding of ontology and an appreciation for the fact that categories are artificial, not natural kinds, and that the membership of an item in a given category can sometimes be debatable, may depend on the context of a particular query, and even for the same query may change over time as the category structure changes.

#61 ::: Pfusand ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2009, 08:15 PM:

Ah, I see a reference to Leslie, of Sainted memory.

I too believe that "civil union" is a second-best title. I would suggest that the general term should be "marriage," and that religious marriages get a modifier tag, like "religio-marriage" soon abbreviated to "relig-marriage" and then to "lig-marriage" or "ig-marriage."

#62 ::: JHomes ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2009, 08:26 PM:

I am a little disappointed.

We have a subthread of first names that can be used by persons of any sex, and another that started with a question answered "Mu," and no one has mentioned "Hil(l)ary"?


I also remember working for a (male) manager named Kim, who was poking fun at two other people in the office, a male and female each named Kelly, until the company got him a new PA, named (drumroll please)....


#63 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2009, 08:35 PM:

Clifton, #56: Thank you! I did wonder, when posting it, if I was being a bit too obscure.

Mycroft, #58: I know a MTF here who is keeping hir name, just changing the spelling: Danny --> Dani.

I still think we could benefit from the example set by fanfic, which has "slash" as a gay marker, but also "het" as a marker for non-gay sexual material, and "gen" as a marker for not having significant sexual content.

#64 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2009, 08:50 PM:

Mary Aileen @ 52... Speaking of Marion... Did you ever see Time Bandits's scene where our young hero meets Robin Hood? Marion is there too, but is definitely not a Maid.

#65 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2009, 08:56 PM:

Serge (64): I've seen Time Bandits, but I only have very fuzzy memories of it.

#66 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2009, 08:56 PM:

Carmen Argenziano played Sam's father, in StarGate SG-1.

#67 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2009, 09:16 PM:

My grandmothers were Ariel and Eslie and one grandfather was Clair (the other Albert).

#68 ::: Hilary Hertzoff ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2009, 09:30 PM:

JHomes @62: I would have, if I had been around.

#69 ::: hapax ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2009, 09:40 PM:

@23 Actually, how do libraries figure out the correct catalog number for a given book?

(putting on pedantic hat) If you mean *cataloging* data (subject headings, specifically, there are others describing other aspects of the book) or *classification* number (Dewey, LC, others) -- most libraries rely on publisher-supplied info (if available) as a starting point.

But a real live person, preferably with a graduate degree in organizing information, does look at each and every book and make sure the info corresponds to the actual book in hand, in the context of the particular library's policies, needs, patron usage, etc.

Most library cataloging data uses controlled language, and is very very strict, structured, and resistant to change. This is why a natural language query for "French cooking" will not get you as good results as the LCSH-approved "Cookery, French." But it is also why you will not have a mishmash of tags applying "Gay & Lesbian", "Lesbian", "Women > Sexuality", "Homosexuality", "Erotica", "Sexuality", and [default blank] to different editions of the same title.

#70 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2009, 09:41 PM:

There is a person who goes by Quinn, "The Eskimo!". You would like to know him. On the other hand, you might not want to need his help -- he tends to work on hard problems.

#71 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2009, 09:58 PM:

When it comes to ambiguously gendered names, there's always the late Winifred P. Lehmann, a historical linguist of some note. I was not, thank God, the student in the Monday afternoon Old English seminar who referred to Lehmann as "she" throughout an entire in-class report, only to have the professor begin his follow-up commentary with the observation that Dr. Lehmann would certainly have been surprised to hear himself so called. (The OE professor in question was an excellent scholar -- there was no denying, once you'd survived one of his seminars, that you knew the material backward and forward and inside and out -- but he was also a son of a bitch.)

#72 ::: Hilary Hertzoff ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2009, 10:01 PM:

@23, @69 This has actually changed with the advent of computerised cataloging. In the days of catalog cards (just fading when I got my library science degree), there would be a limit of 2-3 topics and subheadings (see the Library of Congress and/or Sears* subject headings), because that was what would fit on the card. The computer gives catalogers more flexibility to add more subject headings and more opportunities to find the books you're looking for.

*Created by Minnie Earl Sears, no relation, as far as I know, to the department stores. This is one of the standard reference sources for small to medium size libraries.

#73 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2009, 10:10 PM:

Debra Doyle #71: I was at a job interview, years ago, when one of the people interviewing me asked about one of the professors at UC San Diego, Tracy Strong, and referred to Tracy as 'she'. I corrected her, since the bearded Tracy is very definitely a he. I didn't get the job.

#74 ::: Dekua ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2009, 10:43 PM:

I teach sixth grade boys. They talk with appreciation about similar people named Drew, Madison, Alexis, Taylor, McKenzie, Jordan, and Morgan in the girls' schools nearby.

#75 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2009, 10:59 PM:

Dominique is a name for girls and boys, in French anyway.

#76 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2009, 11:06 PM:

And yet I have a much harder time using the various computer systems. I think because the people designing them are not all on the same page.

I also miss the associational searching which happened from going through the cards manually.

But I am old, and set in my ways. I know (because I used to be one of the people who maintained) how hard it was to keep a card catalogue up to date.

#77 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2009, 11:07 PM:

Re Newsom... he did the Thoreauvian thing. He was wrong to issue those licenses (in the law), but if he hadn't there could have been no lawsuit, leading to the California Supreme Court's ruling. A mencsh.

#78 ::: Tlönista ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2009, 11:33 PM:

This is just to mention that "Cecil" is sometimes used as a female name.

Also, I was in second year at university before discovering that Hilary Putnam was not a woman.

#79 ::: affreca ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2009, 11:54 PM:

(The nitpicking crank in me wants to point out that first names can still be used to correlate gender in databases. As I say, the chief danger is the bigotry, and not the databases.)

My mother's thesis involved determining the percentage of homesteaders that were women using the original applications. There wasn't a gender block on the form, so she had to go off of first names. Jan was the one I heard her complain about the most. Which is probably fair turn around to her, as she deliberately gave me an ambiguous name, and then spelled in with the normally male way.

One of the things I appreciated when filling out my marriage application in Canada was that the blocks were Applicant 1 and Applicant 2 (I got to be 1).

#80 ::: Dragoness Eclectic ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2009, 12:03 AM:

feels pedantic

In U.S. law, marriage is a civil function, not a religious one. State law determines who can marry, not religious requirements, so it is not "entangled with religion". When a priest or minister performs a wedding, there's paperwork he has to file indicating that he's standing in for a Justice of the Peace, to make it valid legally.

The Roman Catholic Church considers marriage a religious sacrament, and may not recognize marriages conducted outside the bounds of Canon Law. Protestant denominations, on the other hand, follow the lead of Martin Luther, who felt strongly that marriage is a state matter, not a church matter--probably in reaction to the Catholic Church of the time's habit of trolling for bribe money (er, "dispensations") by throwing all kinds of ridiculous barriers in the way of considering a marriage valid.

In many pre- and non-Christian societies, marriage was (or is) a civil, contractual matter; priests were only involved in their roles as judicial bureaucrats.

#81 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2009, 12:45 AM:

You made several strong assertions in your first paragraph, some of which may be correct in some states, but not in others. Certainly in a number of states, the question of who can perform a legal marriage intersects closely with questions of religion.

I have performed a couple of marriages, as it happens. In Hawaii, my church had to be registered with the State of Hawaii Department of Health, which handles marriage registrations, but the paperwork did not indicate that I am "standing in for a Justice of the Peace." Quite the contrary, to perform a valid marriage, I had to assert that I was acting in a religious role for a recognized religious group. (The Church of the SubGenius in Paradise, in this case.)

In Nevada, I seem to recall that it was good enough that I was a registered minister in some other state, but I remember the rules there less clearly.

#82 ::: Cynthia Wood ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2009, 12:58 AM:

Jordan & Mackenzie - those being the names of my teacher's children. Could be two boys, two girls, or one of each.

#83 ::: Russell Letson ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2009, 01:37 AM:

@28: Francis/Frances. The schwa-ing of that last vowel (and willful ignorance of spelling) meant that I put up with not a little razzing about my middle name on the school bus. Of course, in the early '50s gender tags were taken more seriously by pre-adolescents.

#84 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2009, 02:04 AM:

Charlie, Lindsay.

Indeed, there is a historic drift of names from the male to the female. Many formerly male names are now either ambiguous or generally feminine now.

#85 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2009, 02:35 AM:

Has nobody mentioned Shirley Crabtree yet?

#86 ::: Hilary Hertzoff ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2009, 08:16 AM:

Terry @76 I miss the old card system too, but I am very thankful I never had to maintain one.

But while the new systems are very flawed (at least at the library where I work, the public access online catalog seems to be getting worse, not better), it does give us more ways to access the material. Think of the difference between 4-5 catalog cards that "might" correspond to the topic you're looking for vs.the opportunity to search under 10-12 subject headings, the ability to do a keyword search if you don't remember the exact title (or even a keyword search that will pick up words in a description that might not have been listed in the subject headings). While listings like the Sears subject headings may be very useful for quality control, the terms they choose are not necessarily the ones used by the general public.

#87 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2009, 08:37 AM:

Abi @ 84... a historic drift of names from the male to the female

In recent years, are TV and movies the cause or the effect? I am thinking of Jill Henessy's Jordan Cavanaugh. On the other hand, Indiana Jones hasn't started a trend in the other direction.

#88 ::: Peter Darby ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2009, 09:31 AM:

@58 Or, indeed, Marion Morrison. Either grandfather or grandson.

#89 ::: Theophylact ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2009, 09:45 AM:

Evelyn Waugh's first wife was named Evelyn Gardner. To avoid confusion, friends referred to them as "He-Evelyn" and "She-Evelyn".

#90 ::: Rebecca Ore ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2009, 10:07 AM:

Answering 21 and 60, Amazon did appear from sometime in 2008 to have decided that certain books were erotica. I'd thought that my Aqueduct Press book not being included with my Tor and Harper Collins books was a glitch, but that was the fastest thing fixed when I first complained. I'm still not seeing the Aqueduct Press book included in my personal best sellers list, but it is showing up in searches on my name and in default searches on the title and in Google searches (for a while, didn't show up in Google searches for the title).

So, Amazon had hand-coded or keyworded from publisher supplied information ("slashy," "sexy" perhaps in my case) some books as adult. The hamhandedness was extending the adult classification to all books with publisher supplied metatags of glbt or sexuality studies or whatever other meta information the publishers had supplied to make their books easier to find by people who wanted to read them.

I can see Amazon's point in trying to make the adult books less obvious, and now that the general glbt and sexuality works aren't unranked, we can have the smaller discussion with them about why explicit erotica should not be included among an author's other work. It's their store. For most people, the problem has been fixed now, and my Aqueduct book is now more visible than it was, just not as completely visible as my other books.

I can live with this. I'm also quite amused that Tower Books classified Centuries Ago and Very Fast as a Regency Romance (off by at least a century for any story in the collection).

The whole thing, including the Tower classification, has made me more aware than I was about intersecting issues of feminism and sexual freedom (for where I started, see the essay at the back of the collection).

#91 ::: Tracie ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2009, 10:10 AM:

I'm old enough to be at the forefront of the male to female drift of Tracy, so my parents spelled it "Tracie" in hopes it would be a tip-off that I was female. Didn't always work, partialy because I have a last name as a middle name, rather than Lynn or Anne. (Actually, since I was named after someone with the last name of Tracy, I am part of the southern tradition of girls with three last names.) When we lived in base housing in Germany, we were first assigned a 2-bedroom apartment on the grounds that two boys less than 2 years apart could share a room. In high school I got an invitation to apply to the then all-male Naval Academy, and in college got a concerned letter from Selective Service reminding my of my obligation to register for the draft now that I was 18. These days the name is quite firmly entrenched as a female name, and my challenge is convincing people that I am too old to spell it "Traci", besides which it always looks (for reasons apparent to many) like it belongs to a p()rn star.

#92 ::: Pendrift ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2009, 10:34 AM:

When Belgium legalized same-sex marriage in 2003, it simply replaced three words in the Civil Code: "take each other as husband and wife" became "take each other as spouses".

A testament to the power of words, of which the Fluorosphere is well aware. It's just. that. simple*. And the world hasn't exploded, last I checked.

I used to think that civil unions for all couples was the way to go as well, but have changed my mind since. It's been argued that this is just a question of terminology ("it's the rights that matter!"). But the word marriage is so fraught with meaning that substituting civil union** for it feels like a cop-out to many.

I especially like what the then justice minister had to say about it at the time - that the law was a response to shifting mentalities that found it unacceptable for individuals to be denied marriage because of sexual orientation; that the purpose of marriage was no longer procreative but now served essentially to display and confirm an intimate relationship between two persons.

* I wish it really were that easy.
** There is also a crucial distinction between the two, at least in Belgian law. Those who opt for the status of cohabitants légaux can, among other things, file joint tax declarations, but they are not assumed to be in a quasi-conjugal relationship. One can enter into these unions with a sibling, parent, or roommate so that the visits are less painful when the taxman cometh.

#93 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2009, 11:08 AM:

Dave Bell @ 85: Or Shirley Povich?

#94 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2009, 12:10 PM:

Pendrift @ 92, anaea @ 59

As a proponent of "working within the system as long it gets somewhere", I was in favor of civil unions first, until a couple of years ago, when a conversation with Xopher here at ML convinced me that it would result in a less-than-equal situation that could be maintained far longer than the present inequality. I also think that by now we should have reached the meta-conclusion that equality should be a default, not a special situation, for any group, and we should stop the gradualism which allows bigots to hold back change, preferably, from their point of view, until they're dead and don't have to deal with the problem.

This last is why my standard reply to "How long, Oh lord, How long" is "2 generations, long enough for the old guard to start dying off and the working adult generation to be used to the new ways, at least in principle". And 2 generations is just too long, unless we're talking about computer hardware generations.

#95 ::: Liza ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2009, 12:16 PM:

On names: Until I was in my 20s, as far as I knew Jody/Jodie was a strictly female name. Then I moved to another state and the first job I got, I found myself working with three males named Jody.

#96 ::: KévinT ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2009, 12:18 PM:

My 2 cents on the importance of words: here in France we have civil marriages and the "civil" is omitted most of the time in day-to-day conversation, so the word "marriage" doesn't have the same religious undertones as in the US.

We've had civil unions since '99 (PACS, or Civil Pact of Solidarity [blegh], cf PACS) available to hetero and homosexual couples both, but the rights they grant are far from comparable to those granted by marriages (even if things have improved slightly in the past few years).
Even when marriage is NOT religious, there is significant resistance to its expansion.

And PACS is widely considered as an obstacle to equality for same-sex couples.

#97 ::: rea ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2009, 01:00 PM:

There is a person who goes by Quinn, "The Eskimo!".

Ev'rybody's building the big ships and the boats,
Some are building monuments,
Others, jotting down notes,
Ev'rybody's in despair,
Ev'ry girl and boy
But when Quinn the Eskimo gets here,
Ev'rybody's gonna jump for joy.
Come all without, come all within,
You'll not see nothing like the mighty Quinn.

#98 ::: Pendrift ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2009, 01:04 PM:


I've always wondered where the resistance to same-sex marriage (and same-sex couples in general) in France comes from, especially compared with its neighbors. I find this resistance embodied in Paris's Marais district which, despite its trendy shops and cool vibe, feels like a gay ghetto to me - I keep sensing an undercurrent in the rest of the city that says "If you must be gay, please go to the Marais to do it," which I find very troubling in a country that likes to pat itself on the back for its openmindedness.

As for the PACS, some 95% of all such contracts are concluded by straight couples now. Considering it was a sop to gay couples seeking the right to marry, I certainly hope lawmakers get the message that it is in no way an adequate substitute.

#99 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2009, 01:16 PM:

KévinT @ 96... Long time no see. As for this thread's subject, I'm curious now about the situation up in Québec. I left nearly 25 years ago, when one of the provincial govt's ministers was openly gay, but it's my understanding that things may have become a bit more conservative now - enough so that a lady friend got quite annoyed when a man started telling her about a woman's proper place.

#100 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2009, 01:28 PM:

rea 97: It was a Reggae version of that very song, and the movie I heard it in (The Mighty Quinn, 1989) that made me associate the name Quinn with Jamaica. The Irish association goes back somewhat further.

#101 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2009, 01:36 PM:

Tracie, #91: My birth name was Van D****, my father's ancestry being Dutch. This was no problem while we lived in Detroit, where there is a largish population of Dutch names -- a fair number of my high-school classmates were named Van This or Van That.

Then we moved to Tennessee, where I ran into the unfortunate interaction of 3 trends:

1) My gender-ambiguous first name was spelled the "male" way. In the South, "Lee" is generally a reference to Robert E., while "Leigh" is more likely to be an homage to Vivian Leigh of GWTW fame. (This may be less true now than it was when I was growing up.)

2) A lot of people in that culture go by some combination of their first and middle names both -- Jim Bob, Billy Joe (or Billie Jo), Mary Sue.

3) Not so much with the Dutch names in Tennessee, so people didn't associate "Van" as being part of a last name. And as a middle name, it's very definitely male (cf. C&W singer Ricky Van Shelton).

I got assigned to an all-male student orientation group in college; if I'd been living on campus my freshman year, I have no doubt that I'd have ended up in a men's dorm as well. I also had calls from every military recruiter in town, in addition to the annoyance of continually being alphabetically misfiled under D. Is it any wonder that when I got married, I changed my name and never went back?

#102 ::: KévinT ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2009, 01:42 PM:

I think French society is still very homophobic but it's changing fast.
What strikes me is that the way gays are portrayed (and seen) seems to lag behind other developped countries by 10 years at the least. "Pedale Douce" a few years ago was almost as caricatural as "La Cage aux Folles" and was still hailed as a subsersive and courageous movie.
Delanoe (mayor of Paris) came out only a few years ago and was the first national politician ever to do so.

Well, I read ML almost daily but I've been too busy to comment: new city, new job and - I'm trying to help myself from telling this to anyone and everyone, and failing... - my daughter was born yesterday! She's called Yseult and she is the cutest thing ever!


#103 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2009, 01:45 PM:

KévinT @ 102... My best wishes to Yseult, and my congratulations to her parents!

#104 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2009, 01:47 PM:

KévinT, keep her away from guys named Tristan.

#105 ::: Henry Troup ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2009, 01:52 PM:

There's a local folksinger known as Shelley Posen, part of Finest Kind. Occasionally his alter ego, Dr. Sheldon Posen, Curator, Canadian Folklife, Canadian Museum of Civilization shows up. As opposed to local folksinger Shelley Rabinovitch, who's alter ego is Dr. Shelley Rabinovitch, Department of Classics and Religious Studies, University of Ottawa and definitely female.

#106 ::: Liza ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2009, 02:02 PM:

KévinT @ 102: My French class watched "Le Placard" a few years ago. I enjoyed the movie, it was a romp, but it confused me that no one in the movie seemed to have heard of bisexuality. Of course, it would have utterly ruined the plot, but still!

#107 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2009, 02:05 PM:

KévinT #102:


#108 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2009, 02:17 PM:

Congratulations, Kévin! There's nothing better than that.

#109 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2009, 02:40 PM:

Congratulations, Kévin. May you and your daughter bring much joy to each other, and to all your family as well.

#110 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2009, 02:59 PM:

Lee @101:
the annoyance of continually being alphabetically misfiled under D

Actually, if your ancestors were Dutch rather than Flemish, they were unintentionally correct. "Van" is a tussenvoegsel in Dutch, one of a set (de, der and den are common, but there are lots.

In the Netherlands, people are alphabetized by their surname excluding the tussenvoegsel. So you would have been under "D" in my local phone book.

However, in Belgium, your surname includes the tussenvoegsel, so you would be properly placed in the V's there.

This is all, of course, entirely pointless and off-topic to the thread. But I just thought I would mention it.

KévinT @102:
Congratulations! Happy dances all round!

It's amazing how little one actually needs sleep, when you get right down to it, by the way.

#111 ::: Jacob Davies ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2009, 03:19 PM:

(Side note on gender identification by name: it doesn't have to be 100% accurate to be useful for targeted harassment. The scenario we are all afraid of is the Nazi-takeover, right? And while I don't know if they actually did it, they could well have searched census records for characteristically-Jewish last names. It wouldn't be 100% accurate, but it wouldn't have to be. Hence my comment that it's the bigotry and not the metadata we have to worry about.)

#112 ::: Jacob Davies ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2009, 03:24 PM:

Also, congratulations on the new baby! From someone who will be joining you in sleeplessness in October...

#113 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2009, 03:30 PM:

abi (110): Except that standard American usage always files by prefix regardless of the origin of the name. (To cross threads for a moment, this can cause headaches for library cataloguers.)

#114 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2009, 03:35 PM:

Mary Aileen @113:

Yes, I knew that; I was just being spuriously pedantic.

#115 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2009, 03:44 PM:

KévinT #102: Congratulations! I hope Yseult has a long and happy life.

#116 ::: Pendrift ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2009, 04:08 PM:

KévinT: Félicitations pour cet heureux évènement ! May she be healthy and happy always.

#117 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2009, 04:10 PM:

I made a silly joke about Yseult's name and somehow forgot to congratulate KévinT on her birth.


#118 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2009, 04:15 PM:

KévinT @#102: Congratulations and much joy!

#119 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2009, 04:29 PM:

Bruce #94:

How funny. Much the same happened to me, but in a phone conversation with a friend. I was pretty convinced that civil unions were the natural compromise point (giving gay couples the same legal rights as straight couples, while still giving gay-marriage opponents the chance to claim a rhetorical/moral victory). But she pointed out that while every state had laws dealing with married couples, civil unions would almost certainly wind up being treated differently in different states, and would (referencing abi's point and the Amazon thread) offer a way for legislators in different states to write laws that would apply differently to married and civil-unioned couples, and thus ultimately apply differently to gay and straight couples.

An interesting twist to this whole issue, to me, is that it's simultaneously about:

a. Recognizing (or not recognizing) equal rights before the law to gay and straight couples.

b. Using the law to make a statement about right and wrong--either one about gays being accepted members of the society, or not.

While it's possible to treat these separately (I've seen some older libertarians and liberals do this; combining discomfort with homosexuality and an unwillingness to deprive gay couples of the same rights as everyone else.), for most people, the two move together.

#120 ::: Liza ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2009, 04:30 PM:

Coming back to this page midafternoon, I noticed that in my post at 106 I forgot something I'd meant to include: Congratulations and good wishes, KévinT and family!

#121 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2009, 04:32 PM:

Lee #101:

My birth name was Van D****

I'll admit I read that as "Van Damn" the first time through....

#122 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2009, 04:35 PM:

Congratulations, Kévin et famille!

#123 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2009, 04:36 PM:

<Gilbert & Sullivan>
But to seek your captain's child in marriage...
Van Damme, it's too bad!
</Gilbert & Sullivan>

#124 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2009, 04:39 PM:

Congratulations, Kévin!

#125 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2009, 04:51 PM:

abi (114): Oh. Okay. My pedanticism failed to recognize that your pedanticism was joking. Oops. :)

#126 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2009, 05:11 PM:

abi, #110: Interesting! You do realize that this is the sort of factoid which can now be delivered by the Fannish Fount of Trivia, when something to which it is relevant comes up in another conversation...

Mary Aileen, #113: The problem with my last name was that it had two words. A lot of alphabetizing systems handle names by the simple expedient of taking the last word (apart from easily-checked suffixes such as Jr. or Ph.D.) as the last name. LibraryThing does the same thing -- I've had to manually correct every book I've entered by A. E. Van Vogt.

albatross, #121: *giggle* I did that out of reflex paranoia. It's a fairly unusual last name in America (so much so, in fact, that anyone here who has it is probably related to me by birth or marriage) and I've always been a little edgy about putting such a strong identifier online.

#127 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2009, 05:27 PM:

Lee @ 126:

I once, for various and sundry reasons that aren't important any more, wrote a small program that turned a list of names into surname, given name(s) format. At an international school. I like to flatter myself that I got it mostly right, and I know it would have put your name under V for sure.

Also, congratulations to KévinT and family.

#128 ::: Zelda ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2009, 05:52 PM:

Me, I'm not about to sign any contract whose terms can be changed by third parties, *without* my consent. Sign it who will, but caveat emptor. We write our own, thankyouverymuch.

Meanwhile, I'm trying to pick up a habit of using marked terms for majority traits. Where relevant and/or useful, anyway, but I'm trying not to let is slide that *of course* the Nineteenth-Century Pioneer Chemist was male and Western European-- because sometimes, she wasn't.

#129 ::: lorax ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2009, 06:15 PM:

Lee @126, this is very much a side issue, but LibraryThing just accepts the name from the source without doing additional parsing; doing a cursory check on my library with a book I just noticed today I haven't fixed, it looks like the Library of Congress includes the prefix (de Lint, Charles) while Amazon doesn't (Lint, Charles de).

#130 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2009, 06:31 PM:

Lee @ 126... If your birth name in this Reality is Lee van Damme, does it mean that, in the original Reality, you were called Lee von Doom?

#131 ::: Emma ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2009, 06:37 PM:

I don't actually get the underlying urge to register one's important relationships with the state and/or church. It amuses me that even the most rabid libertarians seem to think it is a good idea. I've spent 29 of the last 30 years in important relationships (n=2) but I haven't felt it necessary to register either of them. In fact, I've greatly resented the fact that I've had to note them on tax returns in order to get family allowance from the government. Of course, sexual orientation should not be a basis of discrimination in any field, but I agree with Zelda that signing up to some state or church written contract seems unnecessary. And counterproductive.

There are (or should be) ways to divide property in dispute, protect children, organise inheritance, nominate next of kin, etc without forced registration of relationships. This would help interdependent groups who are not sexually involved, such as siblings, old friends, and so on. Then everyone can have the parties and say the vows they like. Works for me.

Emma (a dfferent one)

#132 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2009, 06:42 PM:

My initial thought on seeing the "Van D****" was more along the lines of:

My birth name is L___ Van D____, my father's ancestry being Dutch, of a proud family whose name I am not at liberty to disclose. The curious events I am about to relate took place near my humble abode on the Rue des S_____ in the city of M____, in the month of October, 18__...

#133 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2009, 07:11 PM:

Emma (a different one) @ 131:

The thing is, there is a very large bundle of existing laws that cover division of property in dispute, protecting children, organizing inheritance, and so on. They revolve around marriage. There are also wills, powers of attorney, and so on, but they're not the focus of this thread. Being pragmatic about the issue means that it's a lot easier to extend marriage to same-sex partners than it is to throw the entire enterprise out and start from scratch for everyone.

If we decide there should something special for siblings or friends, then we have to decide whether the various rights and privileges should be the same as for marriage, kind of the same, different in fundamental ways, or only bear a vague resemblance.

Because of its long history, state-sanctioned marriage grants a lot of rights that you may not remember to put in your private contract/vows/what have you. As well, it offers legal protection for certain things that a private contract or vows would not. Good luck convincing the hospital to let you see your spouse if they don't feel like it if there's no force of law behind it.

#134 ::: Darth Paradox ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2009, 07:45 PM:

abi @25:

I'm a bit late coming back here; yesterday got busy.

I asked because I've seen others explicitly saying that Amazon's classification of "Gay and Lesbian" books as such was itself bad. I admit - as others have said - that categorization leads to an opportunity for marginalization, like in the hypothetical situation you mention. And in this case it also allows people to specifically avoid books with gay or lesbian characters if they've been tagged as such.

But more information about a book - more metadata - is never inherently a bad thing, in my opinion. It's all about what you use the data for. For example, if I'm a person struggling with a new identity as a homosexual - or a friend or relative of such - I'll want to be able to find a book specifically written about someone addressing those sorts of issues. And if another person wants to use that tag to avoid having to read about those goddamned homos, then that's their prerogative whether I agree with his reading preferences or not.

But arguing that the metadata shouldn't be there because it makes it easier to blacklist Gay and Lesbian books is like arguing that you shouldn't shelve all the science fiction books in one part of the store because it makes it easier for the storeowner to put up curtains and deny access to the genre to anyone under 18. If the storeowner really wants to do that, he'll do it anyway.

#135 ::: Emma ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2009, 07:51 PM:

KeithS @ 133

Well, yes, I know. However, in New South Wales, where I live, the family law, inheritance, support of children and etc were extended to cover 'de facto' heterosexual couples decades ago, without huge fuss. To qualify, you have to have been living together in a bona fide domestic relationship for 2 years. This will soon be extended to gay couples. This seems to me to recognise the reality rather than whatever variant of ceremonial procedure you've chosen to undertake. Might knock out the drunk-in-Vegas marriages too.

(I keep getting mental Monty Python echoes: 'Strange men hanging around in churches is no basis for a system of family law! Supreme relationship power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony....'

Australia is a different case and I anticipate that the law will be equalised here, before it is in the US, because of the relative weakness of religious nutjobs. The huge emphasis on marriage, though, works actively against those of us, gay and straight, who choose not to marry. I want my special person to visit me in the hospital too. Why not just make it possible for everyone? Chosen family is not that unusual these days, whether you are married or single.


#136 ::: lorax ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2009, 07:56 PM:


There are (or should be) ways to divide property in dispute, protect children, organise inheritance, nominate next of kin, etc without forced registration of relationships. This would help interdependent groups who are not sexually involved, such as siblings, old friends, and so on. Then everyone can have the parties and say the vows they like. Works for me.

Yes, there are.

And to line up the 1000+ such benefits that marriage carries, you can spend a thousand bucks or so and lots of time getting all the separate legal contracts drawn up and inked and make sure everyone knows where they are, and hope that the hospital you wind up at will honor your out-of-state visitation and medical power of attorney papers. (Some states don't even allow those sorts of measures. Virginia, in what appears to be a flagrantly unconstitutional measure, doesn't allow such contracts between same-sex couples.)

Or, if you're in a suitable relationship, you can get married, and get all of those benefits guaranteed in an instantly-recognizable form for about $50 and an afternoon. It's very easy for straight couples to dismiss the importance of the "piece of paper", when they don't know the stories of people barred from their spouse's deathbed for the lack of said paper.

#137 ::: Emma ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2009, 08:16 PM:

lorax @ 136
Yes, I understand it is a tactic. I was trying to indicate that I don't think it is the best tactic. Especially where I live, in Australia, where as I indicated, no such contracts are necessary, in general. Of course, activists of all kinds are entirely free to choose the tactics they themselves prefer for their own struggle.

For my part, though I could easily partake of the privileges of marriage, as you point out, I do not, because I don't agree with those privileges. Partly because my lesbian sister cannot easily partake of them, and partly because many of them issue from the long and inglorious history of marriage itself as an instrument of the oppression of women and children, among other things. YMMV, of course.

If I were designing a sane system of family creation, I wouldn't start with what we have now. A small point, but my own.


#138 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2009, 08:27 PM:

Emma @ 135:

That sounds a lot like common-law marriage, which is still something the government has a say in. That said, why not just go ahead, pay the small fee, sign the paper at the registrar's office and be done? (Assuming you're allowed to for various anatomically- or numerically-related reasons.)

To go with the hospital theme again, they don't want to let just anyone in. It could be an invasion of privacy, for one. If there is an official record that says that this person is your spouse, the problem of who this person who just showed up is in relationship to you goes away.

I'm not trying to pick on you. I honestly would like to know how what you're proposing is in any way different from the way things already are.

#139 ::: Emma ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2009, 08:43 PM:

KeithS @138
I think I've answered the first question, why I don't go and sign the paper, @137. Why should I have to register with the state? If there is a dispute over children or property or inheritance that needs court arbitration, then I'm covered retrospectively under Australian law. If my ex and I can negotiate successfully like adults should, then the state has no part in it. I have done this and it should be an option for anyone else who wants to try, gay or straight.

As for the hospital thing, how about a system where adults starting at 18, can indicate a next-of-kin of their choice? This could be each person's own responsibility to keep up to date. The state would have no part in determining what kind of person (other than adulthood) can be your NOK. You don't have to be sleeping with them, or a blood relation. Would that be more rational?

I do realise this is highly unlikely ever to happen. I'm a historian by trade. Sometimes it's fun to speculate however.


#140 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2009, 08:59 PM:

Emma @ 139:

Thanks for responding. That clears up the questions I had.

As for hospitals, really, I was pulling that out of a hat as one of the more common issues when marriage comes up. I don't know that much about the minor, fiddly details, so I'm going to punt on the question.

#141 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2009, 10:36 PM:

Hilary: One of the things which bothers me is the need for precision. If I didn't have the exact spelling of an author's name, the card catalog would let me find it. Not so much the newer systems. I know there have been several cases where I know the system I was in had the book (even if the specific library didn't) and no amount of trying to fiddle the search terms would make it manifest.

#142 ::: Zelda ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2009, 10:39 PM:

Lorax@136: "And to line up the 1000+ such benefits that marriage carries..."

KeithS@140: "I was pulling that out of a hat as one of the more common issues when marriage comes up. I don't know that much about the minor, fiddly details"

This is some of my point-- marriage in the US is a huge, complex package deal, and almost nobody knows what it is, even when getting into it themselves. Plus it can change, without consent or notification, years after you've entered into it. Equally, or even more, true of common-law, with which I have a problem. It shouldn't be possible to create such a contract almost by accident.

Do Not Want package deal. Want a la carte. Yes, that's more work upfront-- but how much work is a nasty divorce? How about if everyone is clear about what they want, what they are getting, and what they are promising? How about if we start from a presumption of all adults being responsible for themselves, and then those who want to give or receive lifetime dependence sort that out the right way to suit them?

Emma's suggestion @139 for a chosen next-of-kin, which might confer helpful privileges but not controlling rights over other adults and their property, sounds delightful to me.

#143 ::: Emma ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2009, 11:00 PM:

Zelda @ 142 "How about if we start from a presumption of all adults being responsible for themselves, and then those who want to give or receive lifetime dependence sort that out the right way to suit them?"

Yes, she said, Yes, yes....

Exactly. Watching several friends and relatives go through nasty divorces, it always seems to me that the relationships premised on some sort of dependence, be it financial, emotional or other, are the ones to create the most bitterness, vindictiveness and general horror for all involved. Breaking up is painful enough. Mind you, it also helps when you have very little in the way of assets to fight over.

Maybe if we started with the presumption Zelda outlines, those same adults could start acting more responsibly towards the people (mostly children) who actually depend on them ...


#144 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2009, 11:53 PM:

I'm not sure how new this is, but I know a 7-month-old girl named Julian.

Emma@131ff (and Zelda): I sympathize with your wish to define relationships yourself, piece by piece, in ways others must recognize. However, many people prefer to buy wholesale, on the assumption that they will work out the rough edges in time while being recognized as having a major center in common. This can have its hazards -- my separated mother was astounded to find that DC wouldn't let her buy property without her husband's signature (and according to her, the converse did not apply) -- but many of those hazards are so visibly discriminatory that they are being torn down. (Not as fast as we'd like, thanks to certain dogs-in-the-manger over the ERA, but they are getting moved.)

#145 ::: Hilary Hertzoff ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2009, 12:07 AM:

Terry: We know that's an issue. It's better in our staff catalog access than our public access, because we can browse through authors if we've got the name almost right. The public catalog defaults to keyword (not always the right choice, though it has it's uses) and I've never been able to get it to browse properly. I can't count the number of times I've used google to check the spelling of an author's name (or in the case of certain sf, the title of a book).

It's also not an unusual case for a librarian to check Amazon or B&N for a title, especially if it's not coming up in the library catalog - because they have a different description/set of keywords, it can provide access that we might not have, or it might be a title that nobody in the system owns, or the patron might have got both the author and title wrong.

So I agree with you that it's frustrating. I tend to minimise it, because this is what I do all day, so I know the tricks and the workarounds to get it to give me what I need, but computerised library cataloging is still very much a work in progress. When it works, it works very well indeed, but there are still plenty of flaws that need to be fixed.

#146 ::: Zelda ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2009, 12:16 AM:

CHip @ 144 Oh, sure, there can and should be boilerplate contracts in the Office Depot for those who don't want to write their own from scratch. It's the "any color you want, as long as it's black" that bugs me.

And the unquestioned assumptions that go with it bug me-- that "a marriage" is just one thing, and you are doing it right or not doing it right, and therefore making it work or not-- not that your problems may stem from stuffing yourself into a Procrustean bed. The nasty surprise your mother had-- were all the laws laid out for her to read over in the county clerk's office before she signed? Other contracts are, even if one is so foolish as to skip ahead to the signature page-- has analogs in the heart as well.

And the *existence* of the a la carte approach, and maybe three or four boilerplate packages in the Office Depot, might make more people sit down beforehand and think, now which one do we want? Conservatives upset about the divorce rate make noises about making divorce harder, when it's marriage that should be harder. Or at least better examined.

#147 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2009, 12:27 AM:

On names: I knew a father and daughter who were both named Leslie.

On hospitals, visiting privileges (and rights?): Back when I had three partners, I went in for some surgery and was filling out the forms, and ran up against the place on the form where there was only one blank for "partner." I politely asked the nurse what I should put there, since I had three partners.

She blinked for a moment, and then she said, "Well, put one down."

I said, earnestly, "If that's what you think I should do, I can do that. But it won't be accurate."

That turned out to be a phrase of power. She stopped, paused, pulled the form toward her, drew two additional lines, and handed it back to me. I filled in Juan's, Mike's, and Pamela's names, and handed it back. And all of them were permitted to visit me at any of the times that spouses were permitted in that hospital.

I have treasured the phrase "But it won't be accurate" ever since.

Back on the Amazon thing for a moment, it is interesting to me to see that there is generally little mention made of the books on disability and sexuality that were also affected.

#148 ::: Emma ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2009, 01:00 AM:

elise @ 147:
Nice story, and I'm mentally filing the phrase. I think my Nominated Next of Kin scheme should have a (largish) number of lines. After all, there are lots of kinds of special people.

#149 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2009, 01:18 AM:

Emma @ 148 ...
I think you might want to consider the general effect of doing anything by committee there...

#150 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2009, 03:17 AM:

Serge, #130: Sadly, none of my classmates in junior high or high school were geeky enough to think of that as a nickname. Nor was I; while I did read comics, it wasn't until 10 or 15 years later that I got interested in anything by Marvel.

Terry, #141: One of the things I adore about Google is its ability to suggest alternative spellings. Even if I haven't mistyped it, the idea that I could, and still be able to find what I'm looking for, is heartening.

Zelda, #146: Conservatives upset about the divorce rate make noises about making divorce harder, when it's marriage that should be harder. Or at least better examined.

I don't agree with everything you're arguing here, but I sure as hell agree with that!

#151 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2009, 03:50 AM:

Terry @141, Hilary @145:

I'd love to hear, privately or publicly, some of the examples of that kind of problem.

The software I work with has a lot of fuzzy match algorithms, some "did you mean" suggestion functionality, and a browse function that takes account of similar-sounding words. I'd love to try your real-world cases and see how we'd do (and how, perhaps, we could do better).

#152 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2009, 04:57 AM:

Chip @ 144: I'm not sure how new this is, but I know a 7-month-old girl named Julian.

Not very new at all.

I have met a woman named Dorian. No Mixolydian yet.

#153 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2009, 05:07 AM:

Jacob Davies @ 19: "Curated metadata has always and will always work like this, since the first library index was created, hell since the first person decided to shelve their books in alphabetical order. What works to find data for benign purposes, works to find it for malicious or negligent purposes too. That is how the universe works."

It sounds like you're arguing that it's impossible to alleviate the negative side effects of technological advances, and so we have to either accept the tech's consequences both good and bad, or go back to subsistence agriculture.

But that's not how the universe works. Figuring out how to get the benefits of tech without suffering the harmful effects is one of the fundamental human endeavors: car accidents lead to large numbers of deaths, and so people invent seatbelts and airbags. Power generation causes environmental pollution, and so people invent wind and water turbines. People do this sort of thing all the time. Arguing that we can't have the good without the bad, that we can't improve and refine, is counter to the entire premise of technological advance.

"If you can persuade me that there is a third way, a way of having the metadata without actually having it, I am all ears, and I am sure Amazon is too."

How about, I don't know, informing the consumers know that it exists, and letting them choose how to use it? If that gay teen wants to search for gay porn and books about coming out to your family, he can do so, and the homophobic parent can set their browsing options to disappear all that stuff. Others can ignore the tag entirely if they choose. (A substantially closer approximation of 'everyone') is happy!

Steve C @ 30: "I don't know of any way that people can self-identify as part of a group that can't then be turned around and used to categorize, marginalize, or disparage them."

Step one: be rich and powerful.
Step two: self-identify with other rich, powerful people.

Xopher @ 104: "KévinT, keep her away from guys named Tristan."

Oh, like that will work! Push her towards guys named Tristan. That'll bollox the whole thing.

#154 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2009, 05:29 AM:

Lee@150: You might be unaware of Serge@130's allusion. A few years back, Marvel started up alternate-reality versions of their core titles, called the "Ultimate" line -- Ultimate Spider-Man, Ultimate X-Men, and so on. In Ultimate Fantastic Four, the archenemy's name was "Victor Van Damme".

#155 ::: KévinT ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2009, 05:39 AM:

Thank you all!

And "Le Placard" is one of the most thoughtful and nuanced exploration of gay issues you can find in French popular cinema...Admittedly you can find much more interesting fare in the cinéma d'auteur.

We decided on the name with only hazy memories of the legend, remembering only everlasting romantic love. And then we re-read it...Ouch! It is so tragic and bleak, it's a good thing I'm not superstitious.
By the way, it's funny how the white/black sail bit is the same as in the Theseus myth.
Recommended reading!

#156 ::: Michael I ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2009, 09:35 AM:


No, no. It's guys named MARK that they need to beware of.

And love potions. Those things always get drunk by the wrong person.

#157 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2009, 10:53 AM:

Zelda @ 146:

If marriage were just one or two interconnected things, that might work. I'm not against what you have to say in theory, since a certain amount of personal customization of just about anything is often good. Unfortunately, marriage is something that has grown organically over time and has a lot of subtle nuances that most of us don't know about, but I'm sure would be happy to discover under certain circumstances.

I do want to discuss one thing in particular you said, though. You say, "Conservatives upset about the divorce rate make noises about making divorce harder, when it's marriage that should be harder." I agree with you that marriage is not something that should be entered into lightly, however, I fear that one side or the other would slip something in that would make divorce harder. Would the standard Fundamentalist Christian marriage contract drawn up by their church or more or less set by their community values allow for alimony, child support, or even divorce at all? You could argue that it's supposed to be a personal contract that outsiders don't get involved in, but I'm not sure that would be how things would work out in the real world.

In an ideal world perhaps we'd be able to have your à la carte approach—I'm not really against it if we were starting over from scratch. However, as a matter of practicality, it's easier to work with what we already have.

The system we have has already been tested; it's had a lot of bugs worked out and grown features over time. Yes, we're still working some of the bugs out. If you throw it all away and start from scratch, you have to work a lot of bugs out all over again, many of which were already fixed in the old version. This is not to say that we shouldn't try for improvement, or that it's never acceptable to throw things away and start over. Sometimes the expedient solution isn't the right one. In this case, when the system is already in fairly good shape, I think it's easier to work with and more amenable to tweaking.

elise @ 147:

Good on you, and good on the nurse for doing that.

#158 ::: ls ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2009, 11:03 AM:

Sorry, I know I’m coming late to the discussion…couldn’t post from work yesterday and got distracted by some truly thrilling NCAA gymnastics last evening. Also, I’ve been hesitating because I know this is a subject where I have a tendency to get screechy and that’s hardly necessary in this particular conversation in this particular venue.

But the whole state vs church argument, when applied to same-gender marriage, sets me right off because I. Was. Married. By. A. Church. To another woman, by a faith that already accorded us full admittance to the same rites/rights as hetero couples. It is not the only faith in this country to do so. If churches get to decide, then that had better apply to all churches equally, and I expect my govt to pony up recognition of my marital status ASAP.

(Well, yeah, not really…since I am also legally wed in the eyes of my state, and just had the annual fun of learning, to the penny, exactly how much the feds benefit from being able to tax as a single folks despite MA allowing us to be a family.)

#159 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2009, 11:05 AM:

KévinT 155: Then you'll probably like the version I learned from a Celticist (who was attempting to teach me Irish at the time): Instead of King Mark killing them, they all agree to let King Arthur arbitrate the dispute.

Arthur rules that Tristan should have Isolde/Iseult/Yseult when there are leaves on the trees, and Mark can have her when the trees are bare (thus setting up the classic Celtic Winter King/Summer King rotation).

Yseult then proclaims "The holly, the ivy, and the mistletoe* have leaves all year,** so goodbye, King Mark!" and walks out with Tristan. Happy ending for everyone but Mark (but the Winter King is supposed to be sad, so that still works).
*the three sacred plants in Celtic mysticism
**And that's why—part of it, anyway.

#160 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2009, 11:07 AM:

heresiarch @ 153... Push her towards guys named Tristan

I doubt KévinT Isolde on the idea.

#161 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2009, 12:24 PM:

David, #154: Ah. No, I wasn't aware of that -- I haven't been in a comics-reading phase for some time.

KeithS, #157: AKA "covenant marriage". The problem I have with that, as a general thing, is that the people who promote it are precisely those who are less inclined to allow people (especially women) to decline to enter it. Which sort of negates the "free choice" aspect.

#162 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2009, 12:49 PM:

Lee @ 161:

Thank you for mentioning that. I didn't know it had a name and, in some places, legal standing. Ick. I think I was kind of taking aim at that line of thinking in my post as well, but it obviously got lost somewhere.

As far as I'm aware, a contract signed under duress is not binding. In a situation like that, though, we get into thorny discussions about whether the woman involved believed that way at the time and so wasn't forced, whether she had any choice, whether she had any choice even though she believed, and so on.

#163 ::: lorax ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2009, 04:41 PM:


I wasn't suggesting you go and sign any paper; I was saying why I very much want to be able to.

#164 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2009, 04:53 PM:

re 145: UMCP's old online catalog had a feature that allowed you to simply scan forward/backward through the catalog from the results of a search, as if it were a card catalog. Unfortunately that feature is now gone.

#165 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2009, 05:16 PM:

Lee: My husband and I had our handfasting in Louisiana, where covenant marriage is an option. (We are also there at this moment, btw. Hi everyone at the French Quarter Fest!) It was very easy to decline it: we simply didn't check that box on the form. But I'm sure it helped that we were a couple willing to talk it over and jointly decide, rather than a couple one of whom would make all the decisions and the other of whom would sign on without question.

KeithS: I'd like to add to your cogent explanation of why a la carte marriage contracts could be problematic. Thing is, the reason I can't tell you every single right and responsibility my legal marriage contract covers is, I'm not a legal scholar. I do not know every single law that marriages interact with in Louisiana, in Colorado, in the United States. I shudder to think how I'd screw up, through not knowing every legal ramification of *other* laws whose effect a marriage affects or can affect, if I were to attempt to jettison all precedent and write such a contract myself.

In the argument for a la carte marriage, I hear a sentiment similar to the scolding people get who protest some unforeseen outcome of a contract. "Well, then, why didn't they read it more carefully before they signed it?" As if every person who signs any contract could be expected to be a lawyer specializing in that sort of contract. It's not a fair expectation, any more than expecting every patient to defend themselves from medical malpractice by knowing as much about their condition and its treatment as their doctor does.

Sure, it's uncomfortable, depending on people I don't even know to have cobbled together this pre-determined marriage contract. But I am obliged to depend on them. I'd have screwed us over by the things I'd unknowingly left out, had I tried to write the thing myself.

Xopher @37: I know! Four, right?

No. Just one. Everyone else was going away from Saint Yves.

*runs away*

#166 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2009, 06:53 PM:

Nicole, #165: Hear, hear! My father thought that he and a will-writing software package could do a better job than a lawyer who writes wills for a living. He was setting up multiple trusts, timed lump-sum distributions, cascading final distributions, odd bits and pieces of personal property going to this or that person, and I don't remember what all else. It was a nightmare for his executors to sort out.

#167 ::: Jacob Davies ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2009, 07:04 PM:

#153: "It sounds like you're arguing that it's impossible to alleviate the negative side effects of technological advances, and so we have to either accept the tech's consequences both good and bad, or go back to subsistence agriculture."

No. That is ridiculous. I said nothing about it being impossible to "alleviate" the impact of technology.

I was very specifically saying that it is impossible to both have a metadata tag attached to a piece of data and yet not have it attached to that piece of data. This is a question of ontology, not technology.

We can talk about methods for avoiding the abuse or accidental misuse of metadata. What we can't do, yet what a lot of people seem to be insisting Amazon ought to have done, is both make it easy and reliable to search for positive GLBT material, and yet have the metadata that makes that possible unavailable for any other use. The processes that produce search results and category indices and the tools to manage metadata both require access to that tag if it exists, and if they have access, there are ways to screw up.

You could implement an ad-hoc rule that says that a particular set of tags are invisible to the processes used to mark books as inappropriate to show (by default) in search results, and maybe Amazon should do so. But that doesn't rule out any number of other ways of screwing up using the tag and causing offense.

#168 ::: Jacob Davies ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2009, 07:21 PM:

(Sorry for the aside. Needed to correct a mischaracterization.)

Standard contracts have lots of advantages over ad-hoc contracts, one being that you can form a body of common law about particular kinds of contracts if they are standardized, which means not only can you settle questions in court more quickly and consistently, but you can avoid going to court in the first place once commonplace scenarios have been adjudicated.

Having to specify the specific lengthy set of legal rights and responsibilities one is talking about might make the process of proposing marriage quite tricky. "Will you marry me? And by 'marry' I mean for life and with only one partner and sharing community property and with joint parenting rights of any children we may have and with the option of divorce and exclusive of all others and on Tuesdays you will make me pancakes for breakfast and on Sundays I will rub your feet for no less than 12 minutes and..."

Although, the bit about pancakes sounds okay.

#169 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2009, 08:13 PM:

KeithS and Lee:

I guess I'm not clear why you both seem hostile to covenant marriage. I get why you would say "no, thanks," but not the opposition to it. It seems like this is just another choice that some people will make, but that you wouldn't. Kinda like gay marriage, in fact.

Now, it's possible to argue that some or all of the people deciding to get this kind of marriage are deluded or don't know what they're getting themselves into. But the same could be said for standard marriage. Some people would even make that argument about premarital sex, or deciding to be gay[1].

It seems to me that the same desire to both maximize freedom and accept that we're all different should lead to support for both gay marriage and covenant marriage.

[1] Some, but not all, of the folks who are most hostile to gays claim that being gay is a choice. I'll admit it's hard for me to figure out how that's supposed to work.

#170 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2009, 08:28 PM:

ls #158: Yes. It's striking how churches that are inclusive and affirming seem to be invisible.

The marriage debate is not about religious values vs. the state. It is about intolerant religions trying to use state power to impose their values on all the other religions.

#171 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2009, 08:33 PM:

Chris as a full given name and not a short form of something else is probably male, in the United States at least -- 86% of the time according to statistics I summarized from Popular Baby Names at the Social Security Administration. Make them Kris and Kerry for much more equal chances. The most ambiguous names are Jammie, Kerry, Kris, Peyton, Devyn, Reilly, Justice, Lavern, Unknown, Shea, Jessie, Kendall, Avery, Kenyatta, Reese, Jaime, Carey, Germaine, Carrol, Jackie, Riley, Blair, Infant, Dominique, Pat, Ollie, Amari, Casey, Payton. All of these are 60/40 or closer. I got these by adding up the male and female counts for the top 1000 most popular names going back to the 1920s.

Clearly some parents apply for SSNs before choosing a name for their offspring (Unkown and Infant). The tax exemption must be more pressing than the offspring's sense of identity.

#172 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2009, 08:43 PM:

albatross @ 169:

I don't think that divorce is wonderful. I think that people should make sure they're serious about marrying before they enter into marriage, and that they should try to work things out before going the route of divorce. I think that people marrying and divorcing after a few months cheapens the idea of marriage. And yet I think that divorce should be as absolutely easy and painless to get as possible.

If what Wikipedia says about covenant marriage is accurate (yes, Wikipedia, I know), it means that there are restrictions on reasons for getting a divorce. People do fall out of love. It happens. Maybe there's another reason that the marriage doesn't work any more. I don't know.

I understand very well that covenant marriage is something you don't have to choose when you marry.

Mostly what I don't like about it is that it seems to be a stealth legal way for the variety of Christianity that doesn't particularly care for women's rights to lock in marriages. It's all well and good to say that you can get a divorce in the case of abuse or if your spouse has been convicted of a felony, but that particular subculture already does its best to dissuade divorce in the case of abusive husbands.

If someone truly, honestly believes that they shouldn't get divorced, the fact that it's easy and available shouldn't matter. If, on the other hand, something happened to make the person consider divorce but there are roadblocks in the way, it can make a bad situation worse.

Gay marriage extends rights to people who didn't have them before. Covenant marriage takes rights away.

#173 ::: Zelda ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2009, 09:47 PM:

Nicole @ 165: In the argument for a la carte marriage, I hear a sentiment similar to the scolding people get who protest some unforeseen outcome of a contract. "Well, then, why didn't they read it more carefully before they signed it?" As if every person who signs any contract could be expected to be a lawyer specializing in that sort of contract. It's not a fair expectation

If you mean me, the point I've been trying to make is that it's not possible to read the whole thing before signing it. The laws aren't laid out in the county clerk's office when you go in for the license, nor can you know whether you will move to another state or whether the legislature of your current state will change the rules on you. It is possible to wind up with grave legal obligations that you never meant to take on.

Now, if certain things do not go wrong, you will never care about this. If there is a divorce but it is amicable and adult, you will not care about this. My divorce was not so much amicable; rather, my ex was not crafty enough to realize that he could have taken me to the cleaners by asserting things that I never agreed to.

I have made my decision for myself-- I am well and truly Done with letting the government define anything at all about my personal life. I am bummed that we cannot get privileged communication status without taking on all the other interference. But that wills and powers of attorney and so on are more hassle than one-stop-shopping with a marriage certificate does not trouble me-- that is the trade-off for the level of control I want.

#174 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2009, 10:08 PM:

Jacob Davies @ 167: "I was very specifically saying that it is impossible to both have a metadata tag attached to a piece of data and yet not have it attached to that piece of data."

No, you weren't. You were making a series of arguments of which that was one of the basic assumptions. In those arguments, you created a remarkably absolute either-or: EITHER you get rid of the tags altogether OR you accept that this sort of situation will happen. "You can't have the material be tagged on days you want to find it and untagged on days when some poor klutz pushes the wrong button on the database. That is, simply, childish." You were using a real binary (have tags or not) to buttress a false binary (accept the snafus or not). I think there are more options--creating a system harder to klutz up, for one. I don't think that makes me childish.

"What we can't do, yet what a lot of people seem to be insisting Amazon ought to have done, is both make it easy and reliable to search for positive GLBT material, and yet have the metadata that makes that possible unavailable for any other use."

"A lot of people?" I'm not ruling out the possibility that someone has said that somewhere (and if you have a particular comment in mind please share), but mostly what I've heard is people saying that Amazon's minority-specific tagging system is a text-book example of how naming the Other, even when entirely devoid of malicious intent, nevertheless lays the groundwork for discrimination. (On this thread abi put it well @25, and on the previous thread WildlyParenthetical made the same point @281.) The leap from that observation to arguing that the answer to this ought to be getting rid of the GBLT tag is something I've only heard from you, actually.

"You could implement an ad-hoc rule that says that a particular set of tags are invisible to the processes used to mark books as inappropriate to show (by default) in search results, and maybe Amazon should do so. But that doesn't rule out any number of other ways of screwing up using the tag and causing offense."

You're setting up the perfect as the enemy of the good. The relevant question is, "Will this change make the system less prone to failure?," not "Is this perfect with a pony on top?" No one is asking Amazon to sprout wings and a halo, just to fail better next time.

#175 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2009, 10:12 PM:

KeithS @ 172: "Covenant marriage takes rights away."

This gets to the crux of it. People aren't allowed to sell themselves into slavery, no matter how willing they are. Covenant marriage seems to me to be just a particularly intimate form of slavery.

#176 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2009, 11:24 PM:

Tim@152: an occasional visitor to this list has a two-year-old boy named Dorian; she had the grace to smile when I suggested the next child should be a girl named Aeolian.

Michael@156: back when it was still run by people who knew and like the field, the local classical station was giving out bumper stickers that said "Isolde drank too much." (And others that said "Haydn for the masses!")

various: it occurs to me that a general problem with custom contracts is that marital privileges (get your minds \out/ of the gutter) are by and large part of ]freestanding[ law, specifically as a way of having a way to know what to do without consulting the specific contract. (Yes, this is one of its weaknesses -- but it seems to me much of the battle will be not to establish custom procedures but to get everyone willing to deal with the massively greater complications they entail.) cf Zelda@173: the personal example I cited was part of DC's definition (or possibly Virginia's -- I've forgotten which of serial properties my mother was steamed about) rather than the rules of the jurisdiction where the ceremony was held.

albatross@169: wrt hostility to "covenant marriage", have you ever heard the great lie "staying together for the sake of the children"? Do you really think it's reasonable to bind yourselves in advance to do something that may be so destructive?

#177 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2009, 02:06 AM:

albatross, #169: KeithS and heresiarch between them have pretty much said what I would have said. Perhaps it will resonate more with you if you reframe "covenant marriage" as "signing away rights that ALL citizens are supposed to be guaranteed by the Constitution". That's more or less how I see it. Employers aren't supposed to require that, and I don't think marriages should either.

#178 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2009, 02:19 AM:

I'm not opposed to covenant marriage in theory, not that I'm interested in it myself, but it's not my position to judge what works for others. But they should have a safe word to stop it in case it doesn't work out for them.

#179 ::: Kelly McCullough ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2009, 08:50 AM:

@178 TomB, I am so glad I wasn't drinking something when I read that. The ensuing deluge would have destroyed my sinuses. *applause*

#180 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2009, 10:33 AM:

Lee @177: Perhaps it will resonate more with you if you reframe "covenant marriage" as "signing away rights that ALL citizens are supposed to be guaranteed by the Constitution". That's more or less how I see it. Employers aren't supposed to require that, and I don't think marriages should either.

Joel Garreau, in Edge City: Life on the New Frontier, seemed to have been fascinated and appalled by the "covenant residence" agreements people were willing to sign (the various 'homeowners association' contracts and the like), in which they abrogated their rights in order to live in a particular community. Similarly, he described the shopping malls as a restricted rights zone — you are not moving in a public space, but within a commercial enterprise subject to the laws of the landlord.

Unfortunately, the link I gave does not discuss these themes; but it does provide a brief introduction to the book.

#181 ::: Jacob Davies ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2009, 11:10 AM:

#174, heresiarch, I don't disagree at all with the idea that imperfect measures are better than nothing, and I feel I've made whatever point I might have on the binary nature of metadata to excessive length already, so perhaps we can leave it at that.

#182 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2009, 12:59 PM:

Jacob Davies @ 181: Seems reasonable.

#183 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2009, 06:28 PM:

I also have three partners, and if I was worried that they would disagree in important ways about what to do in an emergency, I would need to talk to them about it.

Because that would mean that I thought at least one of them wouldn't understand what I would want done. (If I thought they would deliberately override my wishes, they wouldn't be my partners.)

That's potentially an issue for someone with one partner as well, or a single person whose next of kin is a parent, child, or sibling. (In particular, consider a widow or widower with two or three or more children who don't get along well.) There should be better ways of designating who decides/in what order among people who have equal status as next of kin according to current conventional rules. And those ways should be well-known, so people in that situation can make those decisions ahead of time.

#184 ::: Juliet E McKenna ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2009, 06:45 PM:

Coming late to this - Kevin* re Yseult, congratulations to one and all - and don't fret about nomenclature determinism. I'm a Juliet who'll be celebrating her 20th wedding anniversary this year. It don't necessarily follow!

*It's late and for the life of me, I cannot work out how to do the accent thingy...

#185 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2009, 07:41 PM:

the accent things are bits off code. they start with a &, and end with a ;, and have stuff in between.

For a table of many of them, go here. From there are a bunch of other tables.

#186 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2009, 08:45 PM:

#184-185: When the accented text is already on a page I'm viewing (i.e. someone's name here), I find it easier to use the clipboard -- that is, use the mouse to select what you want, ^C to copy to the clipboard, ^V to paste it to the comment box.

Yeah, it's a special case, but a common one. ;-)

#187 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2009, 11:26 PM:

Lee #177:

Well, I'll agree that if someone wants to sign away all their rights, I don't want courts enforcing that kind of contract. Similarly, heresiarch's comment about not allowing people to sell themselves into slavery is surely right. But those seem like strawmen to me, since nobody is remotely discussing either kind of thing.

As I understand it, what we're discussing is giving people the option to make both getting married and getting divorced harder. (Not making divorce impossible, as there are accepted grounds for divorce, and as people can file for divorce in other states. But making it harder to get.) It looks to me like you think this is an unwise decision. So do I[1]. But:

a. It doesn't look so unwise that I think it is an option that should be taken away from people who want it.

b. I'm not certain that it's unwise in all cases, though I suspect it is.

Now, I'm open to evidence on these things. Is there evidence that, for example, a large fraction of these covenant marriages have domestic abuse going on? Or that the families of the couples with these marriages turn out badly, overall, relative to comparable families without it?

This gets back to this big problem we have, as a society. We don't all agree on values. In fact, even in a medium-sized town, there is likely to be massive disagreement on values in various places--a preacher telling his flock that homosexuality is evil a few miles away from a gay bar, for example. We are not ever going to all agree on our values, on how everything should work. So we need to work out how to keep a basically free and decent society, in which there are people with enormously different ideas.

The best way I can see to adapt to that fact is to allow as much flexibility as possible for people to live their lives, make the choices they want to make, etc. That means accepting a lot of choices that you wouldn't like to make, or that I wouldn't like to make. That means letting people go to churches that spout patent nonsense about the literal truth of Genesis and the great atheistic conspiracy of Darwinism, write and read books postulating various silly conspiracy theories to explain the world, plan their lives according to horoscopes and similar nuttiness. It means letting people make decisions you'd never make, unless those decisions are causing some huge social problems[2].

[1] Once a marriage is dead, ISTM it's dead, and making it harder to get the government to recognize that fact seems like a lose, to me.

[2] It's too easy for this to become a loophole to allow banning anything that annoys you, but I don't quite know how to phrase the idea better. I think we ought to be willing to accept a certain amount of social cost in order to support individual freedom, especially when most of the costs are borne by the people making the decisions directly. Promiscuity often leads to STDs and unwed motherhood, but I still don't want laws to forbid it, or a nationwide "war on promiscuity," or some such thing. Similar comments apply to a great many other things with visible social costs.

#188 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2009, 12:33 AM:

albatross @ 187:

I agree with just about everything you say, but I reject the notion that covenant marriage has any place in law.

I'll repeat what I said before: if you don't have a covenant marriage and you don't think that divorce is a good option, you won't take it. If you do have a covenant marriage and you later change your mind (e.g. he's turned into an emotional abuser; you've become soured on Fundamentalist Christianity but your partner has gone in even deeper) but you're in a covenant marriage, now you don't have an out. Perhaps you truly believed in signing away your freedom to divorce at the time. Perhaps you were pressured into it because of your culture. Either way, the result is not something that I would wish on anyone.

I agree wholeheartedly that we shouldn't make choices for everyone based on things that we, personally, don't like. However, flexibility comes from having choices and freedom. Covenant marriage takes freedom away at the wrong level of the system. In fact, I reject covenant marriage for exactly the same reason that I approve of gay marriage: freedom.

#189 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2009, 01:23 AM:

I wonder how the murder/suicide rate for covenant marriages compares with regular marriage or civil unions. Has anyone done studies on this yet?

#190 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2009, 01:59 AM:

albatross, #187: I don't think we're as far apart on this as you seem to think. I get what you're saying, including the idea that being able to correct a mistaken action (in this case, a marriage) should not be made harder.

I don't buy the argument made by supporters that making it harder to get a divorce will force people to "work harder" on marriages that are failing, instead of taking divorce as the "easy way out". This is effectively the same argument used by supporters of abstinence-only sex ed -- that if people know about something, they'll do it -- and I don't buy it there either.

I do have a strong emotional conviction that "covenant marriage" is more often than not being used as a Go Directly To Jail card by precisely the sort of people whose spouses need the ability to escape, and a Get Out Of Jail Free card for abusers. But my emotional conviction isn't proof, and I'm not arguing (yet) that it shouldn't be allowed. Given data to back up my gut feelings, this is subject to change.

#191 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2009, 01:21 AM:


Fair enough. Given the right kind of evidence (say, a much higher rate of murdered or hospitalized spouses in the covenant marriage families), I'd also oppose it.

#192 ::: MD² ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2009, 03:54 AM:

@KévinT: First, congratulations ! May Yseult have a nice life. (mmmhh anthroponomastic sense tingling... from Kévin to Yseult... may be worth investigating. Seems like the name had a surge in 2007 too).

Second: I second the comments on gay perception in France.

#193 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2009, 11:02 PM:

re: "covenant marriage" Seems to me it's a construct that reflects the will of a certain sub-set of conservative religious thought, which, unable to get state or federal law enforcing it upon the whole land, contents itself with getting the law to help enforce it on those who sign on for it. Which seems silly to me. Roman Catholics don't expect state law to forbid red-meat-eating on Fridays during Lent; why should this other sub-set of religious communities expect to have their religious requirements governed by state law?

re: a la carte marriage - No, Zelda, I wasn't responding specifically to you. I was responding to the tenor of an argument that several posters (including you) were making. Given the issue of deciding between the evils of signing onto a batch of law the whole of which I may not know, and writing a contract affecting how myself and my beloved will be affected by a batch of law the whole of which I may not know, I choose the former. I distrust the current body of marital law informing the state contract much less than I distrust my ability to write a contract of my own. The scolding sentiment I referenced--I hear that in the argument that all right-thinking people ought to prefer the a la carte contract, which presumably leads to the conclusion that all right-thinking people ought to know enough about the law that they could be expected to do this; thus, if they inadvertently leave out something devastating, it's their own fault for not being a lawyer, I guess.

Which in the end reveals a contradiction in the argument, I think. Unless I misunderstand? Here's what I'm hearing:

1) So many of us aren't lawyers, so

2) we can hardly begin to know the ramifications of that state marriage contract we're signing,

3) so it would be irresponsible of us to sign that state contract; thus

4a) all right-thinking people should prefer writing their own marriage contract, and just ignore the fact that premises 1) and 2) disqualify us from doing that; or else

4b) no right-thinking person should sign any sort of marriage contract, state or homemade, and it sucks to be you when your partner is the hospital and no one will let you visit them.

Personally, I see so many married couples benefiting in so many unforeseen ways from that contract, which has evolved over years of legal study and case history to include more and more important and hard-to-foresee ramifications, that I tend to trust all that work which has gone before to protect me and mine. And I thoroughly support efforts to extend the option to same-sex couples. And to those who say, or seem to be saying, that no right-thinking person would sign such a contract, I can only shrug helplessly and suggest that "well, you don't have to sign it."

#194 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2009, 11:07 PM:

The other thing (to expand on Nicole's comment) is that when a change is made in the case law on marriage, it applies to everyone who has a generic one.

It may not apply to an a la carte/private contract.

#195 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2009, 01:57 PM:

Via John Scalzi: In Massachusetts, a husband's death shows how important marriage is -- and how absolutely ordinary and accepted same-sex marriage has become.

More fuel to address the lie that gay marriage will result in dogs and cats living together, and mass hysteria.

#196 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2009, 02:05 PM:

KeithS @ 195... dogs and cats living together

That explains why we have 3 dogs and 2 cats living together and sharing our bed.

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