The Wonders of Rigorous Logic

by Michael Potemra

Rachel Maddow just made a very valuable point, in some comments about today’s Supreme Court decisions. Looking to the future of the gay-marriage movement, she said the next step will take place when some same-sex married couple in New York gets transferred to, say, Utah, for work. They will then bring suit, asking why on earth they are denied marriage benefits in Utah when they are legally married in the State of New York. Rigorously applying the Aristotelian principle of non-contradiction, Rachel pointed out that is impossible to be married and not married at the same time. Whether you are married or not doesn’t depend on the opinions of others: You either are or you aren’t. So justice demands that you be treated as married.

I applaud Rachel’s commitment to the principles of reason here – and not just because, like her, I support gay marriage. I’m also delighted because the principle she enunciates has a much broader application, one that she, and society at large, should take to heart. A fetus in the womb is recognized as a person by people who allow it to come to birth; harming it, in circumstances outside the parameters of the “peculiar institution” of abortion, is a crime. On Rachel’s principles, that fetus cannot be both a person and not a person at the same time; the opinion, as to its personhood, of a woman carrying the child to term – or, indeed the opinions of anyone else — cannot change the underlying reality.

Rachel is contending that, say, Utah, cannot be “pro-choice” on marriage equality; it must, rather, bend to an underlying truth and the demands of logic. I thank her, again, for drawing attention to a very important general principle.

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