Joi Ito's Web

Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

I got a few very thoughtful emails from Megan about the anti-gay bandwagon and American politics today. First of all, I think it's sad seeing the Pope and American politicians taking positions against gay rights and I strongly believe in gay marriages.

One interesting point is that some of the discussion here in the US right now is about polling. Lots of people get so caught up in the polling --- yet, 35 years ago when it was still illegal for inter-racial couples to marry, the polls were 70%+ against allowing it. If we stuck with polling only, we would have no civil rights legislation, we'd still have racially segregated bathrooms, women wouldn't be able to vote, etc.

The 14th Amendment is clear --- equal protection under the law. No exceptions. Churches are not required to marry people they don't want to marry -- that's a religious event/ceremony, but a marriage license issued by the state is a contract. We have seen that churches sometimes take a while to get it right --- it took a rather long time to finally pardon Galileo. : ) If some of the churches need to take their time on this one, so be it... but the 14th Amendment requires equal protection under the law.

Most of the basis for anti-gay rhetoric is religious. In terms of Christian arguments, I think it's always interesting to look at what Christ actually said in the New Testament about Homosexuality. The interesting part is that, he really said nothing directly. Although he did say things like love your neighbor as yourself, get along with each other... : ) Some information on these topics:

Thomas Jefferson
Letter to George Washington, January 4, 1786: "This...plan"

I am certainly not an advocate for frequent changes in laws and constitutions. But laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths discovered and manners and opinions change, with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors.

The quote above is from one of the four inscriptions chiseled into the inside walls of the Jefferson Memorial.
Victor Hugo
An invasion of armies can be resisted, but not an idea whose time has come.
The world is watching you America. Get it right. You've gotten it right in the past.

Thanks to Megan for the thoughts and the quotes.


In my mind this has nothing to do with religion but is about the legal protection allowed to a couple who can bear children and the benefits they are afforded in terms of taxation and inheritance.

If same sex couples are allowed to marry, why arent polygamous couples allowed to marry?

They aren't allowed because of other single monogomous couples that are jealous. It is simple as that. If a person can afford 3 wives and children, then why not?

I believe that Megan is dead on in her assessment of the evolution of Americal civil rights. The resistance to the pursuit of happiness by another still puzzles me.

Why would letting two people of the same sex get married lead to polygamy any more than letting two people of the opposite sex? Is it really that difficult to legislate a limit of two people in a marriage? Why don't we just wait until we have a big movement for polygamous marriage and deal with that then? In the meantime, we could allow for some additional happiness and stability among committed homosexuals.

Oh, yeah, last time I checked a straight couple didn't have to have children accrue any of the legal/tax benefits of marriage.

Had this conversation with my six year old yesterday:

"Daddy, can a man marry a man?"


"Can a woman marry a woman"

"Yes, again, but you can't do either in all places in the world"

"Can you in San Francisco?"

"Yes, and someday everywhere"

"Okay, thanks Daddy."

Seems simple enough.

where I live, gay relationships and marriages are considered to be quite normal thankfully. Brighton has a very large gay community and is generally accepted without question to my knowledge.

Ross' comments about his son are very important. We can debate this, fight the churches, lobby politicians and generally argue argue amonst ourselves but in the end the one thing we need to nurture is tolerance and acceptance in our children. They are the policy makers of the future. I'm proud to say that my 9 year old son doesn't draw any distinction between gay couples or straight couples when observing them on the street - this is a total non-issue for him.

In a recent church/gay row over here in the UK (in that the some sides of the church wanted to install a gay Bishop) the forward thinkers lost out to the traditionalists and the person in question decided that it was best to withdraw from the argument and turn the already-appointed post down.

I see that the propsed new Bishop in the US now has to face questions of sexual misconduct that might affect his appointment. Whatever the result of this, I hope that the US sees sense and starts to accept 'what is'. Although, with the levels of religion I see in senior politicans over there I think the fight will be a very hard one...

Tolerance of the blurring of gender boundaries is often a good indicator of cyborg tolerance (and vice-versa) which seems to have peaked in around year 2001, and then dropped again, as we enter the postcyborg age (postpostmodern age). It seems we're going back to a world of racial profiling, where gender also matters once again. When there's a spilled salt shaker, and the National Guard is called in to strip and scrub everyone who might have been exposed to the "mysterious white powder" on the table, the gender boundaries are very clearly drawn: men to one tent, women to the other. In our times of martial law, there's little room for fuzzy gender boundaries.

A few hundred dollars in attorney's fees can get you the legal equivalent of much of what comprises marriage: living wills, powers of attorney, etc. Inheritance aspects of marriage only are relevant if you are intestate, so if you leave a will, you can duplicate the default treatment that couples who don't leave a will would have. You can hold real estate as tenants in common, which essentially equals married couples who hold it as tenants by the entirety or as community property. Etc., etc. There are things you can do with insurance. Rather than push for gay marriage, how about filling in the few gaps that remain that you cannot simulate with legal and financial planning? Seems like a good compromise to me.

As for the tax benefits of marriage, rather than extending those to gay couples, let's eliminate them for everyone. ;-) Where is the public policy need for encouraging procreation?

tenants in common --> joint tenancy

chris, i like your idea, but i'd like to know from you or anyone else who might know if the following is true: let's say that enough laws were changed or relaxed or added to give gay couples legal parity with married couples. does the mere act of marriage give the straight couples to the protection of these laws, or would they need to go spend an equal amount of time and money for legal advice as the gay couples? i'm all for equal protection without the word "marriage" as long as we aren't penalizing gay couples, no matter how minor it may seem. although now that i just said that, the words "seperate but equal" are flashing through my head and i may wind up eating my words.

What are the tax benefits that married people receive? I've only heard of the marriage penalty.

I strongly agree with your position on this issue, Joi (and have blogged about it here, here, and here).

With that in mind, out of curiousity, what are Japan's laws in this regard? I Googled "gay marriage laws japan" and found this entry:

Japan Japanese psychiatrists have now declared same-sex orientation is not a mental illness.
Can you tell us more?

the bbc has some more commentary on the subject...

I've heard some politicians saying that legal marriage isn't about making a loving bond official, but in making a couple's intent to reproduce gain some legal benefits, making it easier for the species to continue on.

That's tripe. If they really felt that way, they'd say that barren women and impotent men can't get married. They're only put off by the thought of *themselves* taking part in a gay relationship, instead of thinking outside their own little box.

thank you guys. i've just spent the day beating my head against a conservative wall on another friend's blog and it's such a relief to come here and see that people can be more interested in equality than tradition.

Gay marriages are impossible in a theocracy. It's that simple. So legislative tolerance (and more precisely, acceptance) of gay marriages is more of a theocratic benchmark than of anything else (including "cyborg tolerance," as mentioned by Steve Mann, above... talk about your one-eyetap mind... sheesh!)

One would not expect sanctioning of gay marriages in Iran or Saudi Arabia, for instance. Equally, one would not expect such sanctioning in the United States, as it is indeed a Christian theocracy, as much as Iran is an Islamic theocracy. Think of it this way: If there was not a natural tendency to merge "church and state," there would be no need to explicitly separate "church and state."

As our most famous, and most insightful, Prime Minister, Pierre Trudeau once said, "The state has no place in the bedrooms of the nation." In a secular state, gay marriages are concern the equality of human beings with regard to all rights and regulations, a principle that has been upheld by Canada's courts. Such a principle, I'm willing to guess, would not be upheld in the United States; your country's experience may vary.

Personally, if I wanted to live in a theocracy, I would become a Nachmaniac...

The ultimate point is that society shouldn't endorse behavior that results in a high prevalence of disease. It's unnatural (disease-producing) to smoke and so society discourages that, and it equally disease-producing to have homosexual intercourse, and so society should discourage that, not offer benefits to those practicing it.

I will get straight to the point. This entire controversy of homosexuality exists solely because of a basic lack of understanding of Man and his basic purposes and goals. The argument that homosexuality is not a choice and that homosexuals are equal to, say, blacks (slavery) or women (suffrage) is a lie. Just because you don't remember choosing proves nothing. Do you remember every choice you ever made; particularly the ones for which you didn't want to take responsibility? I'm not trying to make you wrong. What is right about homosexuality?

Knowing that there is a road out of this mess is a good thing; you don't have to be gay. My saddest day was when I realized that I had no choice- I was gay, period. Once I discovered how to get back to my basic goals, it was the happiest day of my life. You don't have to be gay. You DO have to use a workable technology. All these confusions about Mankind have been propagated by psychiatry (a complete and provable fraud: ) so its no surprise that people are in such a mess.

Basically, the confusion is that you have been taught that you are an animal who has never been anyone before this life. If you had been going along just fine in female bodies for the last million years and suddenly you find yourself stuck in a male body, and DIDN'T REMEMBER IT, all those appropriate feelings you had as a woman would confuse you; until you had an explanation for it: GAY. I suppose if you believe that you are that slab of meat sitting in that chair then you might think, "How could I have existed before my body was made?" I am not going to argue the existence of the spirit, you can make up your own mind about that. I am simply letting you know that YOU DO NOT HAVE TO BE GAY. There is something you can do about it:
and look up the confusion formula of the ethics conditions:

Finally, the purpose of Marriage is Creation. The only thing homosexuals create are make-overs and really good broadway shows. : ) No, really, producing healthy, happy children to continue the human race is the primary creation of marriage. Incredible sex is just a bonus. Just because many fail at marriage just indicates a lack of workable technology in that area - (e.g. any church or counselor that uses psychiatry).

This message is part of my own application of the condition formulas. I am no longer gay. I choose to join the (sexual) group that promotes the survival of the Human Race the most: heterosexuals who want to create a stable family.

To Mr. Frank Blakely,
The fundamental flaw in your argument is that sex is purely functional (reproduction).

Apply this logic to every other human activity and essentially you strip away basic "enjoyment of life".

If I ate purely to sustain myself, I would never give a second thought to flavor and texture and the enjoyment of eating, say, a fantastic (insert your favorite type of cuisine) meal.

If I used my eyes purely to orientate myself, I would never appreciate (insert favorite visual artwork).


The purpose of marriage is not creation. Marriage is a legal socio-economic construct. That is not to say it is bad, but merely that current and past laws are too narrow-sighted in today's world where many people realize that being gay is not "morally bad".

I am not gay myself, but I don't want children either. According to your logic, that makes me just as "socially unacceptable" as you seem to consider homosexuals.

As for "not natural". Please. There is plenty of evidence of homosexuality in nature. Bonobo monkeys come to mind.

Homophobics are stoopid. And i have friends who tell others that they'll go to hell if they are gay. WELL YOU'LL GO TO HELL FOR TELLING OTHER PEOPLE THAT. Mind you, those are the bible thumpers who say that.

It's really sad that as the earth grows older, a lot of people in it are becoming dumber and dumber. What's difficult to understand? 2 men loving each other, nurturing each other and taking care of each others needs. So why can't they make their partnership legal and on document? It's absurd how a lot of people judge.