Keith Ablow’s Homophobia

I had never heard of Dr. Keith Ablow before following a link from Yahoo News to this piece at the Huffington Post. I still don’t know very much about him and I am not really that curious. It may be that he has a whole history of saying controversial or even insane remarks in public, but I am only interested in the statements that the Huffington Post considered to be extremely homophobic.

When discussing gay rights on Fox News, who better to consult than the network’sreliable source Dr. Keith Ablow?

“Fox & Friends” asked Ablow on Wednesday for his thoughts on a new California lawthat replaces the words “husband” and “wife” with “spouse” under state laws. The new law has been described as a “milestone in the journey towards full equality” and an end to the last barrier to same-sex marriage in California.

“Nuts,” Ablow said of the new law. “There’s no way that the state of California can deny a marriage license to four spouses now. Eight spouses, or I would say three human spouses and the canine they absolutely love because if love is the foundation of marriage, they can love their dog, too.”

That’s right, folks. You heard it here first. A step forward for marriage equality will only lead to polygamy and marrying your dog.

Most of the comments that followed this piece were of a similar nature, mocking Dr Ablow for his ignorance and bigotry. Yet I want you to observe two things in the article I quoted in its entirety. First, notice that homophobia consists not in making hateful or derogatory comments towards or about homosexuals but in not embracing an entire agenda with sufficient enthusiasm or in raising an obvious, logical point against same-sex marriage.

Second, notice that neither in the article or on the comments are there any arguments presented that show that Dr. Ablow is wrong. If we are going to make a fundamental alteration in the nature of marriage by changing from a particular, and theoretically lifelong, relationship between a man and a woman for the purpose of creating and maintaining families into a generic relationship between two individuals, of whatever gender, who feel a mutual sexual attraction, then what is there to stop any further alterations? Why not polygamy? There have been many cultures throughout history that have permitted polygamous marriages. Polygamy is a far less drastic alternation in the essential nature of marriage than same-sex marriage. Why not permit close relatives to marry? If they agree to not have children, there is no possibility of birth defects from inbreeding. Why not marry your dog or cat? There may be some question of consent here, but if that were  resolved, why not? For that matter, since we are separating sexuality from reproduction, why bother with marriage or families at all? Why not go for a Brave New World society in which babies are grown in test tubes?

I don’t believe that the person who wrote this or any of the commenters are in favor of either bestiality, incest or polygamy. They are in favor of  “marriage equality”. This is another example of feeling good without going through the trouble of thinking things through. There is no particular, logical reason why any of the innovations I listed above should not be adopted, once the logic that supports same-sex marriage is accepted, except that these innovations made people uneasy. They seem to forget that not two decades ago the idea of same-sex marriage was considered to be just as insane as anything I listed and even ten years ago, the idea made people uneasy. If such progress in changing people’s minds about same-sex marriage could be made through incessant propagandizing and not a little bullying, why couldn’t similar progress be made in anything I mentioned?

Thinking such matters through is hard work, however. Trying to think for yourself is even harder, and may even take some moral courage. It is much easier simply to insult the person who brings them up and repeat the same slogans and talking points everyone else is saying. If the good people are for  marriage equality, then it is best to fall into line and not think too much on where it is leading.



13 thoughts on “Keith Ablow’s Homophobia”

  1. A phobia is an irrational fear. A preference for heterosexuality is heterosexism. What we are looking at here does, in fact, appear to be one of the rare cases where the term phobia correctly applies. Marriage definitions change all the time: sometimes it is restricted, as with relatively recent increases in minimum ages or forbidding first cousins from marrying (still allowed in most of Europe). Sometimes the restrictions are loosened, as with allowing people of different religions or races to marry.

    None of these things means that any other policies must be changed regarding marriage. We make laws that are in the best interests of society – maximizing well-being for our citizens. Same-sex marriages are now allowed based on a substantial amount of evidence (with which you are free to disagree) that it does not harm and an many ways helps the population. Any new laws will continue to have to meet these requirements. The only note here has been that men and women must be treated equally – if a man can marry one woman, so can a woman. End story. Unless we already have a law that says a man can marry 3 women we don’t get a law that says a woman can marry three men or three women.

    And as for your bestiality claim, not only does that generalize beyond the limits of the discussion (why not marry a shoe?) you can’t just throw out casually the question of consent. That is, and will continue to be, a key issue.


    1. Homophobia is a word coined to shut down debate. If you are opposed to something that favors the homosexual, you are a homophobe and we need not listen to your reasoning.
      The one thing in common with all of the marriage definitions up till now is that they have universally been a relationship between two genders, either a man and a woman, a man and several women, or, rarely, a woman with several men. The idea is that each gender brings something to the relationship that the other lacks, most obviously the role each plays in reproduction. A marriage between two people of the same gender is not mere minor change in definition, such as age of consent or acceptable degrees of consanguinity, but a fundamental change in the nature of the relationship. Such a relationship cannot, in fact, be a marriage in the same sense as marriage has been understood historically.
      Remember that historically, marriage has not usually been a relationship in which two people, of whatever gender, who are in love should begin and which should last only as long as they feel in love. Marriage has, historically, been an institution for the creation and maintenance of families. This understanding has begun to change in modern times,and with the acceptance of same-sex marriage, it has been abandoned entirely. What we have left then, is not really marriage, as such, but a sort of hook up. (I going slightly off subject here and speaking primarily of divorce, etc, but not really since same-sex marriage is really part of a greater issue).
      Men and women are equal as persons under the law and have the same rights,but that does not mean that men and women are equal physiologically or psychologically. The two sexes are not indistinguishable. As a man, I cannot bear children. A woman cannot beget children. There are other differences. It is because of these physical and emotional differences than men and women come together in marriage. If it was intended that the sexes should be indistinguishable, than we would be hermaphrodites like earthworms.
      I was not the one to bring up bestiality, Dr Ablow was. Still the point remains that if it were possible to obtain a dog’s consent for marriage, what argument could there be against it?


      1. Homophobia is certainly often misused in this way which is why your post caught my attention. The word is not generally used in academic circles unless a true phobia (irrational fear) exists. Many years ago there were quite a few people who believed without basis that homosexuals were out to get or convert them, but that is no longer very common, and most who promote a heterosexual privilege are better described as heterosexist (not inherently pejorative, as such terms, including Marxist and Buddhist are frequently used by in-members.

        This case is unique as it does appear to represent true phobia. The idea that a small change alters this institution to having no limits is outside any reasonable evidence.

        The divorce rate went sky-high long before same sex marriage which has only been around about a decade.

        The fact that two people are physically different does not normally in our society mean that their rights are substantially different. Can you imagine the implications?

        I notice you use the word “intended” which brings us into the realm of religion. Since I apparently do not share your religious views on biological “intent” there’s not much to discuss here. I would ask however what the being doing the “intending” is hoping for when he/she/it creates persons whose outside biology does not match their genetic sex or who have characteristics of both sexes?

        If it were possible to obtain a dog’s consent for marriage a dog would no longer be what we think of as a dog. Presumably it would have a very different consciousness and I would need to have presented exactly what you mean. Are you asking if your spouses consciousness (let’s say brain) were magically or medically transmitted into a dog’s body should you still be allowed to be considered married to that dog that now has your spouses mind? If you answer that, so will I.


      2. I did not mean to imply that the divorce rate is caused by same-sex marriage. I meant that there has been a long term trend towards changing the nature of marriage of which acceptance of same-sex marriage is only the latest manifestation. I actually believe that the wide spread acceptance of no-fault divorce, and some other social trends have caused far more damage than same-sex marriage is ever likely to do.

        The simple fact is that people are different from one another and are treated differently even though they have the same legal rights. If I were blind, I could not be a surgeon or pilot even if I had a perfect right to be one. The nature of my disability would preclude such a possibility. I cannot be an astronaut, no matter how much I might wish to be one or what rights I might claim. I simply lack the physical qualifications to be an astronaut. If I may borrow an example from Monty Python, I cannot have a baby, even if I claim the right to have a baby.

        For me, the question is not one of rights but of nature. Two people of the same gender cannot be married to one another. Whatever the nature of their relationship, it is not a marriage because by definition a marriage is a relationship between the different genders. To change the definition of marriage to include same-sex couples is to change the fundamental nature of marriage. If we can make that change, there isn’t really any reason not to make the other changes, except that, for now, custom and public opinion is against such changes.

        Perhaps we should drop the bestiality issue since we are veering into science fiction. I would say that the dog would still have the body of a dog, and presuming that the only change was the implantation of vocal cords, it would still have the brain and consciousness of a dog. I am not sure how to answer the next question. One might suppose that since the mind of my spouse were in the dog we would still be married, but then again, a sexual relationship would hardly be desirable. If we are going to go into science fiction territory,a better question might be if marriage were possible between a human and an intelligent alien, who had a body quite unlike a human body.


      3. I would not want to say that two people have to be able to have sex to get married. That would imply to me that the disabled and very elderly should not be married. An alien with a near identical consciousness (who also evolved toward pair bonding) to me would be no different.

        Marriage between people of the opposite sex is most traditional, but it not the only form of marriage historically to exist. There are records of such marriages taking place in China, native American and early European and middle Eastern cultures. Words generally evolve, but do not make radical breaks. In some cultures multiple wives, multiple husbands or same sex partnerships have been common. A few centuries ago no one would have used the word doctor to describe someone who didn’t engage in blood letting, yet today we commonly do. Would you ask that the language be constrained never to change?


      4. I think we are looking at the subject from two very different perspectives. You seem to view the matter from the standpoint of rights. Two men should have the right to marry one another if they so desire. I look at it from the standpoint of an institution created for a particular purpose. Two men very be very much in love and may desire to marry, but may not because the nature of the institution prohibits it. It is not so much that I am against same-sex marriage as that I am for a particular ideal of marriage. I doubt we are going to convince each other or come to a compromise so we’ll just have to agree to disagree and see how things turn out.

        I wouldn’t want the language never to change, but I would prefer that words be used for what they mean and not be misused in order to trick people or to confuse thought, the way it is in George Orwell’s 1984, and in so much of politics.

        There is a story about Abraham Lincoln. One day, he asked his cabinet how many legs would a dog have, if you call its tail a leg. Everyone in his cabinet answered, “five”. “Wrong”, replied the president, “The dog still has four legs. Calling its tail a leg does not make it a leg”. He was referring, of course, to the habit of many southerners of referring to their slaves as “servants”, as though they had any choice in their employment, and to their tendency to claim the Civil War was about state’s rights and not about slavery. I think there are quite a few people nowadays who insist on calling tails, legs.


      5. I am only considering rights insofar as they further the greater welfare of society. I do not believe that there is such a thing as a natural right and refer only to legal rights. Rights are not an end in themselves but a means to that end in the form of a legal institution. The nature of the institution clearly does not prohibit it in places where same-sex marriage is legal. That is the institution.

        I agree that words shouldn’t be used to trick people, but the reality is that language evolves or we would all be speaking proto-Indo-European, and I very much doubt the words would sufficiently describe our current environment. I am currently wearing glasses that are made of plastic. Is this a major problem?

        On the other hand, referring to your dog story, a dog with 3 legs is still a dog. And a person with 6 fingers, or which there are many, is still a human. If we evolve as a species so that we all have six fingers I don’t think there would be a huge problem with still using much of our vocabulary, including words like “person” to describe our new six fingered selves. (Yes, it would be unlikely for humans to evolve faster than the language…just an example).


      6. A dog with 3 or 5 legs is still a dog, but a tail is not a leg. A dog and a cat are both animals but a cat is not a dog.The whole purpose of language is for communication. Changing the meanings of words, not through the natural evolution of language, but in order to mislead, impairs that purpose.

        If rights only exist insofar as they further the greater welfare of society, can they be taken away if they do not further the welfare of society? Is the right to free speech contingent on that speech being somehow beneficial to society?


      7. We disagree then on the purpose of broadening the use of the word marriage. What do you think the deception is? We have a word that applied to a legal institution bonding a man and a woman and we are broadening it so that in now (as it has in some other historical cases) applies to paired men and women. There is nothing misleading or deceptive. The goal is to provide certain legal rights and protections to a slightly larger group of people.

        It is no different than broadening the term “citizen” to apply to all humans. This is not manipulation, but a conscious choice of how to define a legal institution.

        Yes, rights are taken away all the time. 16 year old’s can no longer smoke, 14 year old’s can no longer marry.

        The right to free speech is a right because we thought that was good for society. If it was generally seen as harmful, it would never have been made into a right.


      8. The problem is changing the definition of marriage by legal fiat. A marriage is a relationship between a man and a woman. Changing the definition does not alter that. Trying to broaden the definition is trying to say that something that is not a marriage is in fact a marriage. We might as well say that dog’s tail is really a leg and that all dogs have five legs. You can say that. You can even have courts and public opinion decree that all dogs have five legs, but that does not change the facts.

        Two people of the same sex cannot be married. The nature of the institution of marriage precludes that. If same-sex marriage is legal, that dies not alter the facts.

        If free speech were now believed to be harmful, should it be ended?


      9. Language is created by humans. Marriage refers to what we say it does. It is not a natural class. But even in the case of the word dog, if we wanted to expand it we could…even now the definition varies by context. In some contexts “dog” refers only to the male. In others it refers to both sexes. In some contexts it refers to wolves as well. If for some reason it was better for science or discussion to stretch it all the way out to other relatives like bears we could do it.

        “We might as well say that dog’s tail is really a leg and that all dogs have five legs.”

        No, because this would serve no useful purpose. It would neither benefit us nor the dog.

        “If free speech were now believed to be harmful, should it be ended?”

        If it were believed with good evidence, yet. We already limit it with libel and safety laws.

        Gotta go – it’s been fun chatting.


      10. You believe that institutions such as marriage are man made and can be altered by man. I do not believe this. You seem to believe that human rights are given to us by men and can be taken away by men. I do not. In both cases I believe that such things have been given to us by someone higher than man and may not be lawfully changed. We may not change the nature of marriage to go against the intent of the institution. If a person’s speech is not beneficial to society, he still has a right to speak, provided he does not defame or endanger others. If his religion seems anti-social, he still has the right to practice it, provided he does not harm others. The homosexual has the right to privacy and not to be harassed. The right to be free is one given to us and may not be taken away unless we harm others.
        Minors do not have their full rights yet because they are not mature. Once that 16 year old is an adult, he may smoke as much as he wants, even though he may be ruining his body, provided he does not harm others through second hand smoke, etc.


      11. If you are going to reduce your entire argument to “because God said so” you should lead witht that and save everyone time.

        I also, btw, believe an individual should have the right to speak even when that instance may be harmful. I was adressing your hypothetical regarding a change in status for free speech in general.


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