Friday, October 17, 2008

My Wedding Ring

Ian Ayres

Crosspost from Freakonomics:
With great joy, I decided to put my wedding ring back on my finger this past weekend.

I had stopped wearing my ring because I was slightly embarrassed to live in a state where people like my sister couldn’t marry the people they love.

But I have no reason now to be embarrassed on this score, because on Friday the Connecticut Supreme Court struck down the statutory exclusion.

You can read Justice Palmer’s opinion here. (Disclosure: An amicus brief was filed in the case on behalf of me and other Connecticut law professors, and my spouse, Jennifer Gerarda Brown, was the co-author of another amicus brief.)

I view the legal exclusion of gay people from marriage as morally wrong; a form of invidious discrimination. Many people hold different substantive views about marriage equality.

But in this post, I want to focus on a different question: How should people respond to the legal option of taking a benefit that is invidiously denied others? It’s a question that transcends the specific issue of same-sex marriage. You can also ask, for example, whether it would ever have been appropriate for whites to drink from a “whites only” water fountain.

When I ask my students the water fountain question, very few whites say they would drink. But at the same time, heterosexual students who strongly oppose the marriage exclusion nonetheless, like me, choose to take the benefits of marriage that are, to our minds, denied others.

Jennifer Brown and I devote an entire chapter to this question in our book Straightforward: How to Mobilize Heterosexual Support for Gay Rights.

One of our central conclusions is that people ignore intermediate responses and mistakenly focus on all-or-nothing responses. Instead of refusing to marry, it’s possible to renounce (for consequential or non-consequential reasons) some of the trappings of marriage.

I not only took off my wedding ring, but until Friday, I’ve tended to refer to Jennifer as my partner instead of my spouse.

But there is also another under-appreciative alternative; the simple algebraic logic of what Jennifer and I call pro-rata sharing:

Here’s a simple monetary (and therefore quantifiable) example. If a person takes a $100,000 college scholarship that is invidiously denied to 20 percent of qualified beneficiaries, we believe that, at a minimum, the person should give up 20 percent of the scholarship. In this example, there are four beneficiaries for every victim. If the four beneficiaries each surrender $20,000, then both the beneficiaries and the victim end up with a nondiscriminatory allocation of $80,000. (Straightforward, P. 165)

Pro-rata sharing is an attractive moral response because it makes the moral duty literally proportional to the magnitude of the harm:

It would be bizarre to require people to give up all the benefits of a scholarship, regardless of whether 1 percent or 90 percent of the qualified beneficiaries were unfairly excluded …

In many contexts, it’s not feasible to identify and effect a direct transfer to the victims of the discrimination. But it is useful to keep in mind when we are the beneficiaries of invidious discrimination, and then to “disgorge” a portion of those benefits by devoting some of our time or making a cash contribution to remedy the situation.

By the way, lest you think my scholarship hypothetical is unrealistic, I received thousands of dollars of support for both college and law school from the Victor Wilson Scholarship, which to this day invidiously excludes women. (Again, my sister was shut out, but this time solely because of her gender.) I took the money, but now feel honor bound to engage in pro-rata sharing.


Ennobling. Well done.

"Good start." I think Jesus would say. Can't fathom how a fundy could disagree. Probably why I'm not one.

Interesting post! I think there are many ways that pro-rata sharing could be effective. Although, I would suggest that taxes are a form of the same.

The thing that needs to be investigated more relates to organization of the people doing the sharing. As the example implies, a certain threshold of people must share their benefits in order for the excluded party to benefit (by say, getting enough money to go to school).

To me, the most fascinating question, then, is how to find methods of organization that would encourage people to become sharers.

The final paragraph of the author's post is should be quite striking to many people. Although, that particular scholarship might be somewhat more blatant in its exclusionary nature, it doesn't take too much work to think of any multitude of more subtle ways materially important benefits, granted by public and private institutions, are unfairly distributed.

Great post!

I think there is another aspect to this, which is not wanting to be taken advantage of. For example, if I believe marriage gives me tangible advantages, then denying myself them on behalf of gays creates a disadvantage between me and other married people, and I don't want to "reward" them with that.

This sounds very childish but I think we tend to play games like this. Consider for example taxes. Presumably many of us agree with higher taxes -- even on our own income -- to fund programs we believe in or at least cover the deficit. Yet, we don't donate money to the government, because (I think) we think that allows others to take advantage of us.

My father used to refer to "the revolutionary chained to the wall in the Czar's dungeon who's worried that he's getting more than his fair share of sun".

The relevant question is whether your status in some way functions to support the injustice towards others. Given a choice between a water fountain designated for whites or blacks I would make the choice that reflected my solidarity with the excluded. But on the other hand if I was thirsty and the only water fountain around was designated whites only, I'd still take a drink. Politics is a social activity.

Of secondary interest is the question of whether the fact of injustice in the world makes it obligatory that you become a saint. But in that case one would assume a vow of poverty would follow making questions about 100,000 dollars this way or that irrelevant.

Central to all the above is the question of narcissism. Politics is a social activity and a means to an end. The mannered poetics of the moral actor as moral ideal is asocial even anti-social and narcissistic.

If one views marriage primarily through the prism of politics, the appeal to a utilitarian calculus appears to be unavoidable. Such a cold and sterile view of love. Such wasted passion.

Identifying with a logical calculus is identifying with a machine.
A cultural trope specific to our age, and more determined by it than by reason.

Really a nice post to read. It has quite good content regarding its topic. Don't forget to visit to see a very good collection of Christian Wedding Invitations and Scroll Wedding Invitations.

HD kaliteli porno izle ve boşal.
Bayan porno izleme sitesi.
Bedava ve ücretsiz porno izle size gelsin.
Liseli kızların ve Türbanlı ateşli hatunların sikiş filmlerini izle.
Siyah karanlık odada porno yapan evli çift.
harika Duvar Kağıtları bunlar
tamamen ithal duvar kağıdı olanlar var

This venue had everything we needed for our wedding. The cocktail hour was delicious and food was of high quality! I loved everything; it was just as good as my mom's.
Seattle Wedding venues

article that you created and you have, very nice, charming and perfect to be listened to and used as a reference of quality.
thank you for sharing a remarkable job, hopefully more successful and we wait for the next post
visit | Pengobatan Alami Infeksi Tulang

It’s the friends you can call up at 4 a.m. that matter.
Agen Judi Online Terpercaya

Post a Comment

Older Posts
Newer Posts