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December 27, 2004

Barton Answers His Own Question

Both sides of the same-sex marriage debate surely believe that large segments of the other side are beyond persuasion. In many cases, perhaps they are correct, although I'd obviously suggest that those firmly against the innovation stand on better, more-relevant ground. I, for one, can only assert that I am not unpersuadable, but that I've read and written about the topic so much over the past few years that I can fairly state that arguments several degrees of obviousness deep have not been adequate to change my mind.

What those who complain about intransigence are usually reacting to is the impression of fruitless debate. From the perspective of advocates for same-sex marriage, the other side is merely covering up their bigotry or "homophobia" (a term that still sounds to me as if it ought to mean "fear of things that are the same," such as twins). From the perspective of advocates against it, the other side often seems simply not to take their arguments seriously; they are, after all, merely indulging bigots in order to fend off popular action before court action can render it prohibitively difficult. Consequently, supporters' arguments come to feel merely like debate rhetoric and linguistic manipulation.

Consider Mark Barton's conclusion at the end of a post spent insisting that homophobia underlies every argument against same-sex marriage:

I couldn't care less how big a transformation it seems to Maggie [Gallagher] or people of like mind, nor am I under the slightest obligation to care. All I care about is whether there are any valid arguments that on balance people will be worse off as a result of the transformation.

Well then, if those are the rules, then I couldn't care less how obvious a right it seems to Mark or people of like mind. Ought I be cowed by accusations of "homophobia"? Ha! Not if I am not under the slightest obligation to care what homosexuals and their supporters think or feel.

Now that we've reached this impasse, all that remains to our struggle is power, and indeed, SSM supporters are counting on the power of the courts. In opposition, supporters of traditional marriage are counting on the power of the people. And here we've gone and tangled up a discrete cultural debate with dangerous issues of the balance of power in our government. To co-opt a commonplace, the judiciary that grants a right to redefined marriage is one that can take that "right" — and many more, and more critical, rights — away.

Personally, I'd prefer to avoid the further deterioration of our representative democracy, so it is fortunate that Barton's rhetoric leaves discussion open. Even by his own terms, there are "valid arguments" against same-sex marriage. In a previous post in this thread, he states the following:

I suggest that any view that tacitly or otherwise presumes that gay (i.e., same-sex attracted) people should be in opposite-sex relationships or not in relationships at all is quintessentially homophobic.

Some people do hold this view, but it is not an essential component of the logic that dictates against same-sex marriage. In the first post quoted here, Mark declares it "a complete non-sequitur" from the idea that all opposite-sex couples should be married to "the idea that gay couples should not be able to get married." Curiously, he doesn't make as big a deal about the non-sequitur from the belief that all sexually active straight couples should be married to the belief that homosexuals should "not [be] in relationships at all."

Again, some people do hold the latter belief. (And they'd surely contest the assertion that their view is invalid.) The relevant point to the marriage debate, however, is that encouraging marriage among a group whose sexual activity can produce children need say nothing about a group whose sexual activity cannot — except inasmuch as the latter group wishes to diminish the importance of that difference.

Such a wish would certainly be consistent with Barton's lack of care for the concerns of his opposition. For marriage to serve any social purpose, however, what Maggie, like-minded people, and all people believe its purpose to be is absolutely paramount. A central concern of we who advocate against same-sex marriage is that its purpose will shift to what has heretofore been merely a means — affirmation, normalization — to a larger (more selfless) end.

It is not "homophobic" to point to differences between heterosexual and homosexual couples when those differences amount to something as crucial as the creation — often all too casual — of new human life. And it would be foolhardy to attempt to include homosexuals by redefining marriage as an institution into which all couples who are sexually active should enter. That standard slipped long ago, and to be honest, I've never heard a single supporter of same-sex marriage speak out against non-marital sex. When conversation approaches that necessity, the rhetoric compounds.

Posted by Justin Katz at December 27, 2004 1:59 AM
Marriage & Family

To argue this issue as if it were about rights bespeaks as fatuous a misconception as I can imagine.

In arguing the matter, I prefer a sideways approach: Smith, a 98-pound weakling, wants to play left offensive tackle for the Chicago Bears, and so approaches their general manager with an offer: he'll take $20 million for a five-year contract. The Bears' general manager politely declines Smith's generous offer, on the grounds that Smith is not qualified for the position. Smith stalks away furious, muttering that his rights have been trampled.

Jones, a 450-pound lesbian who refuses to shave her legs, wants to strip-dance in a topless bar, and so approaches the owner with an offer to do that at a modest salary, provided the owner can guarantee that the clientele won't look at her or touch her. The owner declines, pointing out that Jones's somatotype and sexual inclinations are incompatible with the work. Jones stalks away furious, muttering about "discrimination against her orientation."

Davis, a homosexual with a history of pederasty, wants to become a Catholic priest, and so approaches St. Benedict's, forgive me, but I can't go on with that one. Some ideas are simply too ridiculous.

A marriage is a contract of a specific type, with specific provisions instantiated in American contract and family law. Those provisions require that the contractees be of opposite sexes. Same-sex couples do not qualify. If the definition of the contract were changed to accept same-sex couples, it would be at the expense of all the desiderata current marital law was written to advance.

One could argue with some plausibility that marriage ought not to be within the State's demesne, but to assert that the State has a warrant to destroy the meaning of the oldest social institution known to man -- much older than any form of government -- should be grounds for commitment.

Posted by: Francis W. Porretto at December 27, 2004 9:21 AM