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More in Response to Stuttaford on Gay Marriage
06/15/2003

Andrew Stuttaford has done a bit of clarifying of his point regarding public policy's effect on homosexual relationships:

What I'm arguing is that the absence of any legally recognized form of homosexual union means that we cannot really compare like with like when it comes to contrasting heterosexual and homosexual (mis)behavior. Indeed, it's important to recognize that homosexuality itself was only recently (and imperfectly — check out the great sodomy debate) made legal. Fifty years ago homosexuality was outlaw conduct — that's not the most conducive environment for developing more socially responsible forms of behavior.

As I've already written (in a post that I believe Mr. Stuttaford to have read), the first sentence quoted here is simply and obviously false. The second and third sentences gave me a bit to think about. One thing that comes to mind is to question the assertion that such an environment is not conducive to the development of responsible behavior. Giving the legal prohibition the weight that Stuttaford seems to ascribe to it, is it more likely that homosexuals would engage in their illicit activities with myriad strangers or find that they have one more reason to seek close relationships? Does the average (non-junky) drug user go in search of multiple, transitory suppliers? Of course, this is only a generalization, but the majority of those whom I've known have tended to prefer regular suppliers who were more "safe" both as a matter of avoiding legal repercussions and with consideration to the dangers of a bad product.

Even granting that forcing gays into hiding may have, to some degree, been a cause of their subsequent promiscuity, Stuttaford's suggestion is again beside the point in a way that supports the arguments that John Derbyshire and myself have put forward already. In this scenario, homosexuals have merely been in a state of transition toward more "normal" relationships since their behavior became decriminalized. Beginning from this assumption, it seems only more legitimate of a question whether they have (as a group) progressed sufficiently that they would not have a promiscuitizing effect on the institution of marriage were they enabled to take that step.

Two quicker points. First, I emailed the following to Mr. Stuttaford in response to his suggestion that those "who argued that the tax system's 'marriage penalty' discouraged couples from wandering down the aisle" cannot legitimately state that economic disincentives do not hinder homosexuals:

Did anybody actually argue that the marriage penalty was discouraging would-be knot-tiers? If so, I haven't come across their writing. I think the argument is generally no more than that it is an unfair glitch in the system, particularly considering that an arrangement that we wish to encourage is what triggers the glitch.

My second quick point is in response to Stuttaford's musing that taking homosexual promiscuity to be the central objection to homosexual marriage raises "the rather intriguing question as to whether you might have fewer reservations about lesbian 'marriages'." The key word, here, is "fewer," and the answer is, "sure." (Although that still doesn't address the total objection.) But perhaps it is merely easier, given the modern social context, to suggest that one could not dismantle the same-sex barrier to marriage for one gender — that would be sexist.

Posted by Justin Katz @ 09:50 PM EST