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Wrapping Up the Week in Gay Marriage
06/20/2003

Noah Millman writes wisely about homosexual marriage. This is not to say that I agree with him.

First of all, I think he presumes too much in implying that homosexuals would not have pushed for complete erasure of all perceived differences between heterosexuals and homosexuals no matter the actions of social conservatives. In general, one should be suspicious of any statement that follows the formula, "If only you'd given me enough then, I wouldn't have been forced to ask for too much now." More to the point, and without rhetorical circumambulation, suggesting that conservatives have "shot themselves in the foot" on this issue rings a bit too much like the statements of those who see whites or America or men as the root of all problems in the world — as the only non-passive party in a situation.

The practical difference in which this disagreement results isn't but so great. As one who believes theologically and socially that people must choose virtue of their own volition, I am, and have been, in favor of removing explicit restraints keeping homosexual relationships from becoming as healthy as they can be, such as any prohibition to contractual agreements, visitation rights, and the like. And I am, and have been, open to the possibility of a "civil union" formulation that would combine all of those contractual agreements. However, I believe that a palpable amount of social change is required before such a policy can be instituted. Toward ensuring the possibility for that change, the development of "civil unions" must go through the process of state-by-state legislation. Homosexuals would have to make their case and make some changes among themselves in order to persuade everybody else. This, in my view, is the only way that anything resembling a parallel arrangement to marriage can now — or ever could — be created without inevitable confluence.

Noah oversimplifies the history of this issue when he suggests that conservatives, as a group, took too hard a line at first. Some semblance of a hard line is to be expected, considering that the idea of gay marriage — even the idea of acceptance of homosexuality as an open lifestyle — is relatively new. However, for the great majority of conservatives, I think it would be more true to say that they are just waking up to the reality of the situation.

I know, for my part, that every new angle of the debate that I come across solidifies my opposition. Some of the less open-minded among those who disagree with me on this (Andrew Sullivan comes to mind) would dismiss this by assuming that I've merely been collecting bits of confirmation for my preexisting prejudices. I don't believe that to be the case at all. On Wednesday, local talk radio host Dan Yorke addressed gay marriage, and the conversation literally gave me a headache because the points being made were years behind people who've been involved in the debate for a while.

To come down out of the bleachers to give the team a defeatist, pep-down talk just before the crucial moment when the tide could turn either way, as Jonah Goldberg did in the Washington Times, is premature. The same is true of Noah Millman's lamentation that the tide has passed, when in fact it has hardly begun.

Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:18 PM EST