Huckabee needs help on marriage question

It seems Mike Huckabee is looking for a way to explain exactly what marriage means and why it should not be given to same-sex couples. Same-sex marriage wouldn't necessarily "redefine" marriage, unless the question of conception rights for same-sex couples was decided separately, and then only if same-sex conception was prohibited. Same-sex marriage would give all the rights of marriage, including the right to have or attempt to have biological offspring, to same-sex couples. As long as same-sex conception is allowed (and it is, in every state except Missouri), then it changes marriage's meaning more to deny marriage to same-sex couples than it does to allow it. And it would change marriage's meaning just as much to deny a married same-sex couple the right to attempt to create biologically related children together, which we would do if we were to enact a law against human genetic engineering while still allowing same-sex marriage.

We need to preserve marriage's conception rights, by affirming that every marriage has the right to conceive offspring using the couple's own gametes. And we need to prevent genetic engineering, by prohibiting all methods of creating a person except joining two people's (unengineered) gametes, which means fertilizing a woman's egg with a man's sperm. Same-sex conception requires genetic engineering.

Marriage equals conception rights. The question is, should we allow same-sex conception or not? Does a person have the same right to conceive with someone of either sex, or only with someone - publicly, legally - of the opposite public, legal sex? That is what we need to ask before allowing same-sex marriage, or else we are changing marriage's meaning by stripping it of the guaranteed right to conceive children with the couples own genes.


What exactly does "strengthening marriage for a new generation" mean?

That's the slogan of Maggie Gallagher's Institute for Marriage and Public Policy, aka MarriageDebate.com. It occurs to me that their "new generation" is the generation that will have to deal with genetic engineering and same-sex conception. Maggie and her mutually-credentializing network of academics are, I truly believe, tasked with figuring out how to keep marriage meaningful after babies are no longer the union of the spouses. It's as if the geneticists realized back in the 80's how incompatible their eugenic engineering program was with marriage, and so they connived to have a "marriage debate" where they would manipulate both side's messages so that marriage winds up redefined away from the historical meaning of conception rights and to a "parenting" or "relationship" model that is compatible with genetic engineered children, and also to use gay people to justify developing same-sex conception and open the door for actually creating children.

Yes, it seems like paranoia, but why else would Maggie and her friends at other blogs stifle the argument that same-sex couples should not have conception rights, and that all marriages should have conception rights? It really must be because they don't actually believe those things. They must believe that same-sex couples should have conception rights (Leon Kass said it would have to be settled in court, which explains the murky "two progenitors" language in his PCBE recommendations). I hope Maggie embarrasses me by coming out in favor of a ban on conceiving children that are not the union of a man and a woman's own natural genes, but I really think she's contractually bound and ideologically committed and she will never do that.

It would also be good for Leon Kass to explain why the PCBE didn't say "sperm of a human male" and "egg of a human female" like the Missouri Egg and Sperm law said. They did not want to prohibit using egg and sperm cells derived from adult stem cells, or say more than that children should have "two genetic parents." Why? He's on this task force with Maggie, that's why. And Wesley Smith, too. And Opine (they closed comments on my guest post). And heck, Bush and Romney too - all manipulating us into a "new generation". Until these people say they are for natural sexual reproduction rights and opposed to all genetic engineering of people, I'll stick with my paranoia that this debate is seriously rigged.


Banned again

So, after allowing me three diaries, Pam banned me from Pam's House Blend when I asked her in an Open Thread what her priorities were, equal protections or same-sex conception? Again, like Blue Mass Group and Daily Kos, I've been banned for bringing up the subject of same-sex conception, not for any rules infraction. Pam never addressed the issue, and actually deleted my comments from the open thread. My diaries are still there though. Ironically, even Dan Kennedy ignores me when I suggest that this story should win one of his "Muzzle Awards" for stories that are kept out of the media by the media. Currently, I have a guest post up at the anti-SSM blog Opine Editorials, after having had all my comments deleted form their other threads because they too don't like the subject. I can understand LGBT blogs like Pam's considering the issue too upsetting to deal with, but it's hard to fathom why Opine (and MarriageDebate, AnchorRising, SecondhandSmoke, and all of the "Family" organizations I've contacted) wants to suppress this subject also. Thanks to KnowThyNeighbor for not banning me there yet.


Transgenderism = Postgenderism?

The Wikipedia entry on "postgenderism" has been merged with the entry on "Transgenderism", because according to the wiki entry:
More recently, the term has also been used as a synonym for postgenderism, a social philosophy which seeks the voluntary elimination of gender in the human species through the application of advanced biotechnology and assisted reproductive technologies.
It is good to see that people are recognizing the shared beliefs of transhumanists and LGBT activists finally, and stating the goals out loud:
According to futurist George Dvorsky, postgenderism is a diverse social, political and cultural movement whose adherents affirm the voluntary elimination of gender in the human species through the application of advanced biotechnology and assisted reproductive technologies. Advocates of postgenderism argue that the presence of gender roles, social stratification, and sexual dimorphisms are generally to the detriment of individuals and society. Given the radical potential for advanced assistive reproductive options, postgenderists believe that sex for reproductive purposes will either eventually become a thing of the past or that all human beings will have the ability, if they so choose, to both carry a pregnancy to term and father a child, placing the entire need for gender and gender differences into question.
And it's been a theme of feminism for a while now too. In 1991 socialist feminist Donna Haraway published an essay, "A Cyborg Manifesto", in which
Haraway argued that women would only be freed from their biological restraints when their reproductive obligations were dispensed with. In other words, Haraway believes that women will only achieve true liberation once they become postbiological organisms, or postgendered.
This entry does not mention any of the risks or costs involved, it just lays out the psychological demand for same-sex conception and artificial wombs. And it doesn't get into whether the people being created would also be genetically engineered, but it's clear they would support that as well, because transhumanists are postgenderists are transgenderists are LGBT activists are transhumanists. They are all unsatisfied with natural man-woman conception and oppose an Egg and Sperm law.

Btw, the wiki on Transhumanism has a section called "controversy" that presents some common arguments against transhumanism that is worth a read.


Trans rights and the Egg and Sperm law

The recent focus on trans inclusion in ENDA led me to bring up the issue of conception rights and marriage for trans people over at Pams House Blend. The conversation was predictable, with extremists claiming a right to attempt to conceive as whichever sex they want to, but it was also a good conversation that brought up lots of issues. I eventually came to a satisfying (to me) conclusion about how trans people, including intersexed people, would have their rights be affected by an Egg and Sperm law.

First of all, the Egg and Sperm law would have no effect or impact on how people live or as what gender they present. It would not effect laws about changing gender, or the rights of people who have changed gender, nor would it force intersexed people to live as or legally be their most viable sex. But it would limit conception rights to unmodified gametes and therefore prohibit a lab from attempting to reverse the person's genetic methylation to create opposite sex gametes for someone. Same-sex conception doesn't become a right just because a person changes their legal, public sex.

People should only have a right to conceive as the sex which they are most likely to be able to supply a viable unmodified gamete as. The Egg and Sperm law will have to clarify the words "man" and "woman" and "egg" and "sperm" by defining egg and sperm as being "the gamete of a woman" and "the gamete of a man" respectively, and then define "man" as someone who, if healthy, would be most likely to conceive by joining their unmodified gamete with a generic healthy random woman.

So when couple comes to a fertility lab to make a baby together, the lab would have to make an assessment about which sex each person would have their best shot at conceiving as with their unmodified gamete. If those turn out to be the same, then the lab would be prevented by the egg and sperm law, even if the couple is a legally married man and a woman (if the couple were legally of the same sex, they would be publicly banned and the lab would have to refuse them even before looking at their genes).

At first I was worried that this would create marriages that did not have conception rights, but realized that their loss of conception rights is private, because legally, to the public, the couple is a man and a woman and has conception rights. Only the lab would know that they were prohibited from conceiving. So their marriage would not strip conception rights from marriage like a same-sex marriage would (if we had an Egg and Sperm law), because a same-sex marriage is publicly prohibited, it is a legal public fact that a same-sex couple is prohibited.

So that is good news, trans people have nothing to fear from an Egg and Sperm law, they would still have every right they have today.


Revealing discussion

Check out how strongly in favor of same-sex conception some people are over at the KnowThyNeighbor blog. Not only does old friend "musclehippy" want it legal, he apparently thinks all births should be genetically engineered, artificially incubated, same-sex conceived births, because apparently "heteros" don't have the gene for "world peace".

It is shocking how they value conception rights over achieving equal protections, they actually say that they "do not care" about how their position is hurting same-sex couples nationwide. "No compromise!" they say.

Another shocking thing is learning that anti-SSM Opine Editorials contributer ("Genghis Cohen" at KTN, "Christian" at Opine), does not support the Compromise because he believes it would be ethical to genetically engineer children to avoid genetic diseases, and does not believe that all marriages should have a right to have natural children, and apparently that children should be allowed to sue their parents if they did not use available genetic engineering to avoid a known genetic defect. He doesn't even seem to oppose same-sex conception, so it is hard to understand why he opposes same-sex marriage. Well, please read the discussion to see what I said to him...


How long did Kaguya live?

Most lab mice live two years, if they are not killed in an experiment. Kaguya would be almost three and a half now (she was born in early 2004) so Kaguya, the first animal with two parents of the same sex, has probably died by now. There were no follow up stories on her lifespan, we only know that she survived to adulthood and had a litter, which usually happens at about 50 days. Did she make it two years? How are her children doing? Did anyone ever repeat the experiment, in mice or other animals?


Missouri group trying to revoke nation's only Egg and Sperm law

A group calling itself "Cures Without Cloning" is trying to change the law in Missouri, supposedly strengthening it to prevent creation of cloned embryos, but what they are actually trying to do is make genetic engineering and same-sex conception legal in Missouri again. Their proposed new law would remove the language that prohibits implanting a human embryo that was not created by joining the sperm of a human male to the egg of a human female, even though there is no reason to remove that language in order to prohibit the creation of cloned embryos. And since all a scientist would have to do to get around the new law is make one change to the genome so it is no longer "virtually identical" to an existing person, it would not even prevent scientists from creating and destroying human embryos to their hearts content. Surely they are aware of these issues, so the only conclusion one can make is that they are intentionally trying to revoke the nations first anti-genetic engineering natural conception law and open the door to designer babies and same-sex conception, cynically trying to use people's opposition to cloning to re-legalize genetic engineering.

So make no mistake, Missourians, this is a con job. If you want to make it illegal to create embryos for destruction in stem cell research, then change the law so it prohibits creation, rather than only implantation, of human embryos that are "anything other than the product of fertilization of an egg of a human female by a sperm of a human male".


DailyKos poll shows right priorities

I raised the issue of same-sex conception over at DailyKos, and in spite of the objections of a few commenters (about ten commenters who strenuously objected to the whole subject banded together and "troll rated" enough of my comments to get me "autobanned"), my simple poll suggests that a majority of readers there agree with the priorities of the "egg and sperm civil union compromise." I asked "Which is more important for same-sex couples?", and as of today there are 23 votes for "Marriage and the right to create genetic offspring together" and 28 votes for "Federal recognition of CUs and recognition by more states." That's close, and it is still quite shocking that 45% feel that conception rights and the word marriage are more important than giving same-sex couples federal recognition right now, but it should be encouraging for the candidates that have taken a civil unions position.

Here are my three diaries on the subject. Unfortunately most of my responses to their comments have been hidden, though I think you can see them by looking at my "comments" tab. It should be noted that, as on BlueMassGroup, it was raising the issue of conception rights for same-sex couples that people objected to, not any rules infraction.


Focus on the Federal!

Great news! My prediction that the marriage amendment would be put before Massachusetts voters in order to divert the issue away from the national elections turned out to be overly cynical, as it was defeated soundly. I dreaded wasting a year and a half on an amendment that wouldn't even annul existing marriages and wouldn't prevent same-sex conception, but now we can change the debate and turn our focus to the federal issue exclusively now. Knowing that we will still have same-sex marriages here in 2009 forces the candidates for President to explain their Civil Union positions a little bit more clearly. Here's hoping the issue of same-sex conception quickly finds its way to the top of the discussion.


"Mr. Worthton"

Here's a little personal "baby blogging", except my baby is 25 years old and is a song I made with my friend Phil. We recorded it in 1982 on his reel to reel multitrack when I was 16 and Phil was 17 or 18. I think I played drums and overdubbed bass, and Phil played guitar and sang the vocal, and I wrote the words. The words are why I am posting it, because I want to people to know that I have been worried about people being replaced by artificial conception for a long time. And this song is a humorous story about a man who is replaced by a computer, in the mold of "Smithers-Jones" by The Jam and "Mr. Webster" by The Monkees. And I guess I want to commemorate it being 25 years old this year (one of our first songs and still probably my best work). Ah, well. Sorry about the hiss, it's copied from an old cassette mix I have. Enjoy.


The secret demand for same-sex conception

Though you'd never learn it from reading their posts, the readers at BlueMassGroup.com blog overwhelmingly demand a right for same-sex couples to have children by genetic engineering, voting 15 to 1 that it should remain legal. And my poll was clear that it was about using genetic engineering, not using IVF and donor gametes, and about attempting it today, not at some point in the future if it is declared safe. This is the necessary position that follows from their dogmatic equal marriage rights position, they are forced to be advocates for genetic engineering because the right to conceive together is a right of marriage.


ConCon report

The VoteOnMarriage folks seemed to outnumber the MassEquality side this time, and I handed out about a hundred more flyers to them, including one to Kris Mineau, who seemed interested to learn about same-sex conception (thanks to the people manning the phones at VOM, who seem to have kept their leader ignorant of the most important issue). I was also surprised that Mark Solomon of MassEquality had never heard of EggAndSperm, he took a few minutes to talk to me. He wondered why I thought gay people shouldn't be allowed to have children, and I explained that it wasn't about sperm donation but about actual conception, and he still wondered why that would be genetic engineering, so I explained about genetic imprinting and how genetic engineering is required to get a viable embryo from same-sex parents. He seemed skeptical of any ethical or scientific reasons to prevent same-sex conception. It is notable that he didn't bother to say "what does it have to do with marriage", he immediately moved on to the "why shouldn't it be allowed?" question. I think he might have really heard me when I said that same-sex couples would rather have federal equal protections than a right to be exploited by big biotech into attempting these experiments.


Judiciary Committee alerted

I just delivered hard copy letters to all 15 members of the Judiciary Committee regarding Senate 918, along with print outs of the Independent and GayCityNews articles on same-sex conception. I told the aides I was hoping to get a response, we'll see how that works out. Here's what the letters said:

Dear Representative Webster [no, they didn't all say that],

I have some questions regarding Senate 918, the bill that would amend the laws regarding marriage by adding "any person who otherwise meets the eligibility requirements of this chapter may marry any other eligible person regardless of gender."

Chapter 207 sections 1 and 2 contain very gender specific relations that a man and a woman may not marry. Is the intent of the law to prohibit the opposite gender equivalent, or to allow a man to marry his brother's son, for example? The two sections are not exactly parallel, for a man can marry his son's wife, but a woman may not marry her daughter's husband, so this may result in a conflict within the law.

And a much more important question: Does marriage convey an implied right to conceive children together, or can the state prohibit a marriage from conceiving offspring? In other words, would same-sex marriage allow same-sex couples to attempt to conceive children together, using new genetic engineering techniques that are being developed? Would it be possible to prohibit same-sex conception if there are same-sex marriages, according to the constitutional understanding of marriage rights? Could the SJC be queried if this effect of the law is unclear?

Because it requires unethical experiments with genetic engineering, same-sex conception should be not be allowed. Many ethicists agree that all attempts at conception that do not combine a man's sperm and a woman's egg should be banned, indeed an amendment was just passed in Missouri that prohibits implanting embryos created any other way.

I also think that all marriages should be allowed to conceive their own children; no marriage should be prohibited from combining their gametes. I therefore have been proposing that Civil Unions be created that would be exactly like marriage in every way, except they would not give the couple the right to conceive children together, using their own gametes. This would be consistent with a ban on implanting genetically engineered embryos, while preserving the "basic civil right of man to marry and procreate."

Please consider this issue carefully, as same-sex conception is possible today, and could be tried in humans in only one or two years, and our decisions now about legalizing same-sex marriage might tie our hands when it comes to deciding if same-sex conception should be allowed. Please visit www.eggandsperm.org for links to news reports on same-sex conception experiments.

Looking forward to hearing back from you regarding my questions.

Thank you
John Howard


Definition of Marriage

Jennifer Roback Morse reviews David Blankenhorn's "Future of Marriage" here. They each take a stab at a definition of marriage:
Morse: "Marriage is society’s preferred context for both sexual activity and child-rearing."
Blankenhorn: "Marriage is socially approved sexual intercourse between a man and a woman conceived both as a personal relationship and as an institution, primarily such that any children resulting from the union are– and are understood by society to be– emotionally, morally, practically, and legally affiliated with both of the parents."
Neither of these is strong enough, and not true in all cases. Many marriages are not socially approved, such as when a female school teacher marries her student as soon as he turns 18, etc. Instead of "socially approved", how about "legal", "permitted", "allowed", etc? Those would be true of all marriages. And both authors act mystified about the connection between sex and children.
Here is what I would offer as the definition of marriage:
"Marriage is the right to conceive children together."
The one constant in Stephanie Coontz's "Marriage, a History" is that every marriage was allowed to conceive children together. And that definition fits both Blankenhorn's and Morse's definitions also.
And "conception rights" are very relevent today, since we now need to ask if we should allow same-sex couples to conceive children together. We shouldn't use a definition of marriage that implies that this is a seperate question, or that society can only "prefer" or "approve" but cannot actually go so far as to prohibit or allow. We need to prohibit same-sex conception, and preserve marriage as guaranteeing the right to conceive children together.


Jacoby misses another chance

Jeff Jacoby apparently doesn't read this blog. All marriages are allowed to try to conceive children together - not required to, allowed to. But same-sex couples should not be allowed to conceive children together, because it requires unsafe experiments in genetic engineering to make their genes combine. It is hard to believe, but there are scientists working on this. A mouse was created in 2004 from two female parents, but the success rate was under one percent. In spite of the risks, there are people that insist that same-sex couples should be allowed to try it, right now. Congress should act immediately to enact a law prohibiting this with human beings, to protect children. Only a man and a woman should be allowed to conceive children together.

This is a slightly edited version of a letter to the Globe that won't get printed.


No on HB 1710

Wow, it looks like there will be another chance to convince the Massachusetts legislature not to extend marriage rights - conception rights - to same-sex couples. MassResistance reports that Byron Rushing has filed a bill:
House Bill 1710:
An Act to Protect Massachusetts Families Through Equal Access to Marriage
SECTION 1. Chapter 207 is hereby amended by adding the following new section:—
Section 37A. Any person who otherwise meets the eligibility requirements of this chapter may marry any other eligible person regardless of gender.

Another opportunity to visit the statehouse and make sure all the legislators understand they are voting on allowing same-sex conception. Same-sex couples should not have the right to conceive chhildren together, due to the extreme health risks of the child and the extreme irresponsibility and wastefullness of attempting it. Every couple that is eligible for marriage has the right to conceive children together (guaranteed for as long as they are married), and no couples that are not eligble for marriage have the right to conceive children together.


Silly Washington Amendment

so, this group out in Washington state has drafted an amendment that lots of bloggers are discussing. The amendment would require a marriage to procreate within three years to be a valid marriage, and their intent is to point out that traditional marriage defenders are wrong when they claim that marriage requires procreation. Which of course no one has ever claimed. Marriage grants the right to conceive, it doesn't require it. This right to conceive, or really the right to do things that might result in conception, lasts the duration of the marriage, whether they use it or not. The couple cannot be prohibited from conceiving. Same-sex couples should not be granted the right to conceive. Silly proposals like this expend lots of energy, and these silly arguments would go away if traditional marriage defenders used this argument.


The Corner on Eugenics

John Derbyshire reveals that he is an unabashed eugenicist over at the Corner. (hat tip Secondhand Smoke). I always wondered why he didn't respond to my emails about same-sex conception, and worried it might be because he felt it was a free-market issue. Looks like I was right. But doesn't he see the coming collision? Wesley suggested I email him my question myself, and I posted it here also:

I thought John Derbyshire was opposed to gay marriage, so it is strange that he is pro-eugenics and feels the marketplace should dictate conception practices.

Perhaps he is unaware that the marketplace is working on ways for same-sex couples to conceive children together, by genetically engineering "sperm" for women and "eggs" for men. If Derb is for allowing labs to try whatever they want, then he must be for allowing people to try to conceive with someone of their same sex. But he thinks that these same people should not be allowed to marry the person they intend on conceiving children with?

What sort of message is that to send about marriage? "You can conceive children together, but you can't marry?" That officially says that we don't care if you are married or not if you have kids, which isn't the usual conservative opinion. Maybe that is Derb's eccentric position? I hope not.

My hope is that he will reconcile this by looking into same-sex conception and agreeing that it is unethical and should be prohibited. We just need a simple law that sets harsh penalties for all the parties involved in the attempt, no matter where in the world they actually carry out the procedure.

The only thing with a right to conceive children is a marriage, using the genes of that marriage.