Wednesday, 26 April 2006

Civil Unions a 'waste of time'?

THE PRESS: The much-lauded civil union legislation has been labelled a "waste of time" by critics, with only about 460 couples choosing civil unions since they became law a year ago.
Political opponents of the legislation say the poor showing – which compares 458 civil unions to about 20,000 marriages – proves the move was "political symbolism". Figures released by the Department of Internal Affairs yesterday show of the civil unions, 178 were male-male unions, 199 were female-female unions and 81 were heterosexual unions.

Was the enactment of civil unions a waste of time? A lot of sound and fury signifying nothing? Well, certainly the sound and fury and scaremongering from the Tamaki wing has come to nothing -- 458 couples now living peacefully together and God hasn't yet sent down lightning bolts of retribution on the country, and nor is he (sorry, 'He') ever likely to.

But, say people like Whale Oil: "Civil Unions 458. Marriage 20,000. Not even close , it begs the question why Labour even bothered." Well, perhaps because 458 couples were able to exercise a choice that wasn't previously available to them, and by which they consider themselves better off (and at nobody else's expense). And perhaps because 377 homosexual couples are able to have formal recognition of their relationship that they weren't previously able to (and their relationship is nobody else's business but theirs).

So it's only 20,000 vs 458. So what? It's not a popularity contest. 458 couples are better off for Civil Unions. And none of those Civil Unions is anybody's business but those who entered them. Get over it.

UPDATE: Uh oh, looks like Rodney and I have agreed twice now in a week. Says Rodney: "The way I figure it that’s 20,000 couples pleased to be able to get married. And 468 couples pleased to be able to have a civil union. I don’t see how anyone getting married could be upset by others opting for a civil union. Those who had a civil union previously didn’t have that option so there must be a net gain in happiness. There’s now more choice, that must be a good thing."

LINK: Civil unions 'waste of time' - The Press
Civil unions not a winner - Whale Oil Beef Hooked
Marriage survives - RodneyHide.Com

TAGS: Politics-NZ, Politics-Labour


  1. What a surprise. Libertarianz oppose all and sundry government involvement, except when a sexual disorder needs the stamp of approval from above and civil servants to register it.

    How much has this joke cost the country? One question the libertarianz do not want to ask.

  2. Libertarianz believe marriage and civil unions should be a simple contractual matter - but in the meantime there is little wrong with extending virtually all of the legal rights under marriage to same sex relationships.

    Why is it a "disorder" Berend, and what other relationship choices are disorders? Noticed significant ill effects from people with this "disorder" except those who stick their beaks into their lives trying to interfere?

    I guess the same argument was made in the 1980s when people with such "disorders" risked imprisonment.

  3. Berend, I think the point is that the government should never have had a say in the matter in the first place.

    Oh, and when/where did you earn the qualifications to make diagnoses for disorders?

  4. libertyscott and andrew, please explain the evolutionary advantage of a sexual disorder.

  5. Um, Berend, please explain the relevance of this line of argument, except perhaps to sidestep the line of questioning?

  6. Supposedly genes want to survive. A disorder can be defined as something that lowers the survival of a certain set of genes.

    Survival of the fittest and all that.

    Can certain behaviour that leads to extinction of genes not be defined as a disorder?

    I'm talking here in evolutionary language here of course, a popular theme here to explain certain behaviour. I thought I was therefore quite justified to use the same line of reasoning.

    But my original points stands as well of course: we get preached to by pc if we're only ever so slightly swerve away from the true path. But when the government registers people and uses taxes to operate a registry, and then only of a certain kind, we don't hear a peep.

  7. Berend, are you suggesting that characteristics with no evolutionary advantage must, ipso facto, be a disorder?

    Oh, and by the way, we don't know if de Boer Syndrome has any evolutionary disadvantage. It isn't sterility, or impotence, it is homosexuality. Homosexuals are very capable of reproduction, and do.

  8. Come on andrew, don't setup a strawman. A set of genes that dies out is a failure from an evolutionary point of view, don't you agree?

    It almost looks like a self-destruct mechanism.

  9. So those capable of reproduction, but who prefer sexual behaviour with those who do not reproduce, have a disorder.

    Do those who are heterosexual but have no desire to be parents have a disorder? (I know several of those). Do those who choose to have no active sex life with others have a disorder?

    If so (assuming this non-scientific claim is true) then what should the state be doing about it? Are teenage boys who don't have unprotected sex with teenage girls the moment they are fertile disadvantaging the species because potentially strong genetically superior offspring have no chance to be procreated?

    In other words - what sort of eugenics based nonsense is this? Why the hell does anyone care about what homosexuals do as long as they don't make anyone else do it?

  10. libertyscott, it's you who care and brings in the government. Not me. Why o why do the libertarianz want to bring in the government to advance the causes of fornication and sodomy? I just don't get it. I do not want to bring in the government and I don't applaud it when they get involved. But you guys do.

    And I took my reasoning from the point of view of the selfish genes, so yes to your first two paragraphs.

  11. Berend, saying that "the Libertarianz want to bring in government to advance the causes of fornication and sodomy" is ludicrous. We supported the Civil Unions legislation because it extended the legal rights and protections of marriage to people previously denied them. Ever consider "one law for all" as a guiding principle? That's a hell of an improvement on "improving the genetic strength of the volk" as a basis for government.

    Civil unions are a halfway house solution - ideally the state would get out of personal relationships altogether.


    The genetics question is interesting. There are lots of reasons why genes build bodies that don't reproduce. As long as copies of the same gene are present in other bodies that do reproduce that gene can spread.

    Take, for example, social insects. The vast majority of ants are infertile. Ant genes produce hordes of infertile ant bodies and yet are wildly successful because the hordes of infertile worker ants contribute to the spectacular reproductive success of the queen ant who carries the same genes.

    Take also genes that have positive effects in small doses but fatal affects in large doses. Sickle cell anaemia is such a case. A single copy of the gene protects the holder against malaria; a double dose kills the holder before he can reproduce and so the gene is present in a large fraction of black Africans in the malaria belt (and, notably, is reducing amongst American blacks who no longer need protection from malaria but where death from SCA still occurs).

    If homosexuality is genetic, and it appears that it partially is, genetics can give us some clues. If homosexuality had no positive effect on reproductive success we should expect to see homosexuality at similar levels to fatal diseases, e.g. around 1 in 100,000. The fact that its incidence is more like 1 in 100 or 1 in 50 suggests something else is going on.

    There is some research that shows that female relatives of homosexual men have slightly higher fertility rates than normal. This could be a kin selection effect - perhaps homosexual men make better uncles - or it could be a small dose effect - the genes that cause homosexuality in men increase fertility in women. It could be that genes that in multiple doses cause homosexuality, in smaller does make better fathers. Nobody knows why, but the effect is there.

    There are several competing theories about how genes for homosexuality could contribute to reproductive success. The phrase "selfish gene", while basically accurate, hides some very complex systems.

  12. Berend, your view of the world appears to be rather simplistic. I think a little more intellectual effort on your part is required if this discussion is going to go anywhere.

    Your argument of the selfish gene does not apply. The gay gene isn't dying out. As I said before, and will say again, gay men/women can and do reproduce.

    Have a long hard read of Bernard's very insightful comments. Those should give you more food for thought.

  13. Bernard, supporting something because "it extended the legal rights and protections of marriage to people previously denied them" is meaningless.

    For starters, no one knew what legal rights and protections were included with civil unions because there were two bills, remember? One bill was about the civil union registration, the other was supposedly about rights, but there were no details.

    Secondly, no one was denied marriage. But government sanctioned marriage was only available for two people of different sex, but no individual was denied marriage.

    Thirdly, what argument is "extending legal rights"? You can use that argument to argue for extending it to anyone and everything (pedophiles, children, polygamy). That's just not an argument, but a feel good phrase. Who can possibly be opposed to "extending legal rights"?

    PS: your discussion on this whole selfish gene thing makes it pretty clear that this theory isn't science, but handwaving and "it could be so". Feel good science.

  14. Berend, as I said at the outset, your questioning on genetics and an 'evolutionary advantage' is a red herring. An irrelevance. Not to say silly.

    But first, you said, "Libertarianz oppose all and sundry government involvement, except when a sexual disorder needs the stamp of approval from above and civil servants to register it."

    One of the government's proper jobs is to register contracts between consenting adults. Civil Unions allows consenting adults to register their relationship should they wish to, in a similar manner to which mariage partners may register their marriage contract or house builders their building contract. That's a good thing.

    Your idea of homosexuality being a sexual disorder is simply wrong (and makes about as much sense as saying that being born Dutch is a disorder -- which of course it might be :-) ), but in any case it is utterly irrelevant to the argument of Civil Unions. Even if it were a disorder -- which it isn't -- if two consenting adults wish to register their partnership as a formal contract, then the government should register that just as they register all other contracts. By doing so they affect no one else in the slightest -- not you, not their neighbours, not Brian Tamaki.

    And if partners do wish to register their relationships it is nobody's business but theirs, just as your decision to purchase a house or sign any other form of contract is nobody's business but yours and that of any other signatories.

    If you really do want to oppose government involvement in marriage contracts as you say you do, then oppose the recent law that effectively married -- against their will -- all de-facto partners who have lived together for two years or more. Now that really is government intrusion where it's not wanted by the parties concerned.

  15. PC has covered the governments role in registering contracts so I'm going to risk annoying him :-) and follow the tangential discussion further.

    You say that "this theory isn't science" but that it's just "hand-waving and 'it could be so'". I think this shows a fundamental misunderstanding of what science is. Science is not a list of facts. Science is a method of discovering the truth.

    In essence, science consists of observing, hypothesizing, and experimenting, which leads back to observing. Each time round the cycle incorrect hypotheses are discarded, the surviving hypotheses are refined and new experiments are done to distinguish between the new variants of the theory.

    Saying "it could be so" is an important part of the process. Remember that along with a few "it could be so"s are a huge raft of "it couldn't be so"s that have been eliminated by previous experiments. This is how ignorance is reduced.

    Once you have a bunch of "it could be so"s the correct response is to design an experiment to sort the accurate from the inaccurate. The incorrect response would be to claim that our ignorance is impenetrable and to go off and make up some story about evil spirits.

    Genetics is a reasonably young science and so it's reasonable to expect less certainty (more "it could be so"s) from it than from, say, physics, which has been going for centuries and where most of the questions now being asked are seriously esoteric. However, results from genetics are already coming thick and fast.

    The question to be answered in the context of this discussion is "How is it that the genes that cause (or enable) homosexuality contribute to reproductive success?" We don't know the answer but we do know that the precursor questions, "Does homosexuality have a genetic component?" and "Do the genes for homosexuality contribute to reproductive success?" have been answered in the affirmative.

    And, most importantly, we also know that we have the tools to answer the question at hand.

  16. PC, for the record, I indeed oppose defacto marriage/civil unions. I suppose this is done to get some extra tax.

    Please explain why the government needs to be involved in registration of all contracts. It is not.

    I can make any legally binding contract without having to involve the government.

    You really believe the government keeps a register of employer/employee contracts??

  17. Bernard, I disagree one hundred percent with you about what science is. Your science is story telling that cannot be experimentally validated (it cannot be falsified if you wish). And your theoretical definition does not describe what actual scientists do. But that's another discussion for another time perhaps.

    And AFAIK, identical twins studies have shown that homosexuality is not necessarily genetic.

    And perhaps to be clear: I've defined disorder here as behaviour that leads to loss of a set of genes. Other people here have read all kinds of moral issues in my post, but I've expressly tried to tie the definition to a "scientific" theory that is accepted on this site.

  18. "Why o why do the libertarianz want to bring in the government to advance the causes of fornication and sodomy?"

    Besides being complete nonsense: Libertarianz is entirely neutral on how consenting adults have sex or don't have sex, we don't bloody care, I've learnt to suspect anyone using the word "fornication" laden with its imagery of filthy disgusting degrading behaviour that nobody in their right mind would undertake - nobody except the vast majority of humanity who find sex before marriage often quite pleasurable and life fulfilling.

    I also am wary of anyone who when anything related to homosexuals comes up, raises sodomy. Lesbian couples tend not to undertake this, and quite a few gay men don't either - like I said, I don't care, but it comes out of your keyboard like the vituperative hatred of "burn then at the stake" fundamentalists.

    I presume if imprisonment for consensual adult sex between men remained, you'd be cheering the cops on in hunting down the disordered fornicating sodomites?

  19. Come on libertyscott, you really believe I'm all for improsonment and the death penalty and all such for anyone who doesn't do what I like?

    If that is how the libertarianz tend to view anyone not libertarian, it explains a bit why they are so unable to convince others to vote for them.

    When the government has a census, i.e. registry of adults, libertarianz get all upset, but when the government makes a registry of a certain set of the population who engage in a particular form of sex it gets applauded all the way.

    I'm sure the libertarianz are against any registration, aren't they? Aren't they against driving licenses, etc.? And you can continue the list.

    I just want to know when libertarianz are for government control and registries and when they aren't. They're just not that different from other parties in that regard. They just like different registries, but they like registries nonetheless.

  20. Bernard - Your description of science sounds rather inductivist. Scientists do not induce theories from observations; rather they begin with a problem. The experimenters role is to falsify theories that have been advanced to solve the problem. So observation follows theory. Indeed, without a theory, you have no way of knowing what to look for (there's a certain book that goes into all this called "The Fabric of Reality" that I can recommend ;) )

    Berend - How we should conduct our lives should be determined by moral arguments, not by evolutionary arguments. As PC says, your line of argument here is a red herring.

    Liberty Scott - You say that "marriage and civil unions should be a simple contractual matter - but in the meantime there is little wrong with extending virtually all of the legal rights under marriage to same sex relationships". As Berend notes, why not therefore press for the extension of legal rights to, for example, polygamous relationships? Shouldn't the correct postion be just to oppose government involvment in marriage contracts?

  21. Brian S, I think your theory-before-observation vs observation-before-theory argument is just chicken-and-egg. You say that Scientists do not induce theories from observations; rather they begin with a problem. Surely the problem has to be observed.

    You also say As Berend notes, why not therefore press for the extension of legal rights to, for example, polygamous relationships?

    Well, why not? I think both sides of this debate could be pro-polygamy - in theory anyway. Berend's selfish gene would thrive, and individual freedom will also be served. There is nothing inherently better about monogamy. Don't get me wrong, polygamy (not including serial monogamy) isn't for me, but that doesn't mean it is wrong.

  22. Andrew - I did not mean to imply that I think the state should outlaw polygamous marriages. How people choose to conduct their lives is none of my business. The point that I - and I think Berend - was making is that if you applaud state involvement in same-sex civil unions then, basically, there is no reason you should not also applaud state involvement in polygamous marriages contracts and also in any other arrangement that might be feasible. This is to *increase* rather than to decrease State involvement in people's lives, something that libertarians surely oppose. Simply, it is not the government's role to sanction marriage contracts.

    I think your theory-before-observation vs observation-before-theory argument is just chicken-and-egg. You say that Scientists do not induce theories from observations; rather they begin with a problem. Surely the problem has to be observed.

    Theories cannot be derived from observation because there are always an infinite number of theories compatible with a given set of observations. Observations allow us to distinguish rival theories, but no observation allows us to confirm a theory as true. Good theories solve problems better than their rivals, and it is from these good theories that new problems arise. Without the theory, you would not have known what to observe or that the observation was not compatible with the theory.

  23. Brian, with reference to the civil unions, I think the libertarian point is that if we must have state-sanctioned marriage contracts, why then should they discriminate. The discrimination actually increases state involvement. Making state-sanctioned marriage contracts available to all possible relationship flavours, actually reduces state involvement. Maybe keeping the state right out of it is the way to go!!

    I agree that the Civil Unions we have today increase state involvement, but this is because across the board marriage contracts are just not going to be accepted so easily. Small steps.

    I think the conservative position has used the thin-end-of-the-wedge argument. I think they are right! This is the thin end of the wedge, and it is the only way to do this, softly softly...

    As for science, again, I think that is just chicken and egg, but we may well be talking at cross-purposes.

  24. Andrew - It is a good point that discrimination in state sanctioned marriage contracts actually increases state involvement and that we may as well applaud any small steps in the direction of freedom. I concede the argument!

  25. Berend - I don't know whether you supported the legalisation of adult consensual homosexual acts or not - but the language you used put it in doubt. I didn't say the death penalty and the view I am expressing could be from the Labour Party or the Greens as much as Libertarianz. You've jumped from the issue to driving licences etc - my view is that driving licences would remain but issued by private road companies.

    Besides Berend, you're dodging the issue - the point is simple and has been made. Civil Unions are a contract that albeit state defined, gives same sex couples certain legal rights- this is not an initiation of force and hurts nobody - the only people upset about it do not like homosexuals in one form or another. In an ideal libertarian world the state wouldn't be involved except in being able to enforce the marriage/civil union contract.

    Brian S - Yes polygamous marriages should have the same rights - if 3 or more adults want to sign a contract of their relationship, then so be it. Yes the sole reason for the state to be involved is judicial, not statutory.

  26. andrew: There is nothing inherently better about monogamy.

    All the proof is on the other side. Care to backup your statement with FACTS?

    libertyscott: civil unions were not just about a contract, how often do I have to repeat it? The contract was empty, because no one knew its terms (that was a separate bill, remember?). And anyone was already free to go into a contract. No, the whole point of this exercise was to get government sanction for certain behaviour. That's why it was all about the celebrants and not about the contents of the contract.


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