Jeremy David! How are you? You have to congratulate me!
David Jeremy, well I’ll be. I haven’t seen you in ages. Congratulations! What am I congratulating you for?
Jeremy I got married!
David That is worthy of celebration. Fantastic news! Who’s the lucky lady?
Jeremy La— No, oh no. Oh, I thought you knew! No, it’s not a lady. It’s my husband. Jim! He’s a designer.
David Ah. You’re right. I didn’t know.
Jeremy Yes! It was…but what’s wrong? Are you okay?
David No, I’m fine. I was worrying about you.
Jeremy Me? Whatever for?
David I can’t congratulate you, Jeremy.
Jeremy Why ever not? You’re not…oh. I remember. But I didn’t think you took religion that seriously. I’m worried about you, David. Surely you wouldn’t want to deny me my happiness?
David I’m not denying you anything. Except my assent. Be happy if you like, but I can’t agree with you.
Jeremy But it’s my right to be married! You have to agree with that.
David I don’t. Nobody has the right to go against human nature. You can rebel against that nature, all right—until the inevitable consequences stop you. But I can’t say what is wrong is right just to make you happy.
Jeremy But it’s the law!
David The law doesn’t say I have to assent to your behavior.
Jeremy It does. You have to! The government says I’m married, and you have to say it, too.
David Well, you’ll know more about the law than I, but if the law says that I have to say black is white, then, as the saying goes, the law is an ass. I refuse.
Jeremy David, we used to be friends. I can’t believe you’re taking this position. People will say you are a bigot.
David Mindless name calling? I can handle it; I don’t wound easily. Listen, Jeremy, I’m not withdrawing my friendship. I’m sorry to hear that you think you have to. Plus I don’t think you understand how deep the mistake you’re making is. Wait…just listen. I’m not talking about your love for another human being. I’m talking about pretending to be what you are not—but more about you’re asking me to pretend, too. It is against human nature for any but a man and a woman to be married.
Jeremy Come on. People used to say that it was against human nature for a black man to marry a white woman.
David So? Is your argument that because some people made a mistake about what human nature was that there is no human nature? Or if there is a human nature, how can you say your supposed marriage accords with that nature?
Jeremy That’s not the point. Jim and I are in love. It’s love between two people that makes a marriage.
David Why two people?
Jeremy It’s always been two people, David. You know that.
David It’s always been between a man and a woman, Jeremy. You know that. Besides, love is not what makes a marriage. If it were, then you could fall in love with a one-year old and marry him. Or could plight your troth to your dog, since I have heard you say many times that you love it.
Jeremy Now you’re being ridiculous. A child or a dog can’t give consent to a marriage. Marriage must have consent.
David How do you know?
Jeremy How do I know what?
David How do you know a child cannot give consent? I ask in earnestness.
Jeremy Everybody knows—
David —No, stop right there. No hiding in empty phrases like “Everybody knows.” Tell me how you know that a child cannot give consent.
Jeremy It’s obvious.
David You mean it’s obvious that it’s in the nature of human children that they cannot understand the consequences of their decisions? Or you agree that a child cannot itself produce children, and that the nature of marriage is reproduction? Either way, you agree with me that human nature exists.
Jeremy I suppose so. It does. But that doesn’t mean you’re right.
David Since you agree there is such a thing as human nature, we now have to figure out what that nature is. You have a brother, I remember. Robert, right? Okay, you love your brother, and I presume he loves you, and since he’s older than you, he can certainly give consent and understand that consent. So why should you not, by your definition, be able to marry your brother?
Jeremy Don’t be absurd!
David Is that your answer?
Jeremy Nobody wants to marry his brother, David. This conversation is stupid.
David No, it’s revealing. You don’t want to marry your brother. Fine. But what if two adult, consent-wielding, loving brothers somewhere else wanted to marry? What’s to stop them? After all, there is no incest involved. Two brothers won’t produce any children.
Jeremy I refuse to answer such a stupid question.
David A retreat into petulance is not an answer. What you refuse to say, and what is anyway obvious, is that it is completely contrary to human nature for two brothers to be married. Although by your definition of what a marriage is, it is just as valid as your marriage is. Consider also that a father can marry his adult son under your definition. And that is not the end of bizarre examples.
That you cannot discover a reason why a marriage of two brothers is no marriage at all is because you know the answer leads you down a path you’d rather not take. Any consideration of human nature must inevitably lead to the conclusion that only a man and woman does a marriage make, and that the nature of marriage is oriented towards procreation and the rearing of children.
Before you reply with the obvious, that not all couples produce or rear children, consider that it is in the nature of a car to drive people about. Now some cars are broken, but a malfunctioning car does not obviate the nature of cars, and neither does an infertile or familyless couple obviate the nature of marriage.
Jeremy All this talk of human nature is nonsense. The government says two adults—of whatever gender—can be married. That makes me married.
David The government decides what is right and wrong? And who can be married and who not?
Jeremy It has to.
David So because the government now says that two men may be married, that definition is true?
Jeremy Of course.
David Then that means it was also true that when the government said, as it did before two weeks ago, that only a man and woman made a marriage, that that definition was true, and therefore that two-man marriage was false. Isn’t that right?
Jeremy No, you’re twisting things around.
David I’m not. If government decides what is true, then whatever position the government takes is true. At one time the government held to man-woman marriage, and so man-man marriage must have been false. Now it holds to man-man marriage, and so it is true. What if next year the government says that father-adult-son marriage is the law? Would that make it true? Aren’t you concerned that ceding the authority to define truth to government must lead to madness?
Jeremy Frankly, I have no idea what you’re talking about. I’m married and you have to accept it.
David No, you’re not. And, no, I don’t.
Jeremy Your what’s wrong with this country, David. And to think we used to be friends! If I had any idea what a closet bigot you were, I never would have had anything to do with you. I’m going to make sure that people like you can’t spread your hateful lies. People like you shouldn’t be able to force your prejudiced opinions on the rest of us.
David If only you could hear yourself. I’ll pray for you, Jeremy.
Originally published at the author’s website. Reprinted with permission.
William M. Briggs is author of Uncertainty. Previously a Professor at the Cornell Medical School, a Statistician at DoubleClick in its infancy, a Meteorologist with the National Weather Service, and a sort of Cryptologist with the US Air Force. He obtained his PhD is in Mathematical Statistics, and now works as a Data Philosopher, Epistemologist, Unmasker of Over-Certainty, and (self-awarded) Bioethicist. He also holds an MS is in Atmospheric Physics, and a Bachelors in Meteorology. Briggs has authored or co-authored 75+ papers and two books in the fields of statistics, medicine, philosophy, meteorology and climatology, solar physics, and energy use. He blogs at wmbriggs.com.