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October 27, 2005

What's Wrong with an Easy Perspective?

Perhaps continuing my theme of grappling with inexplicability, it took me a while to figure out what is so bothersome about Charles Bakst's seemingly plain argument for same-sex marriage:

This is a tough, tough situation. I was struck by an Oct. 3 Boston Globe report about Catholic parishioners wrestling with the issue of whether to support the referendum drive [to put a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage in Massachusetts]:

"One woman at the cathedral, who did not want to give her name, said she planned to sign the petition even though it was hard for her because her daughter is gay.

" 'It should be between a man and a woman,' she said of marriage. Of her daughter, she said, 'I pray for her every day. I respect her. I'll never stop loving her. I'll never stop praying for her.' "

I don't question the depth of this mother's love — or the sincerity of her beliefs, which are shared by some other parents of gays. But if I had a gay daughter or son, I'd want that child to have the same chance to find happiness in marriage, with the same rights and prestige, that society bestows on anyone else. If I felt otherwise, I'd be asking, "What's wrong with me?" and praying for help for myself.

The unnerving quality of these paragraphs is the ease with which Bakst shifts from declaring the issue to be a "tough, tough situation" to presenting a simplistic, untainted meaning for same-sex marriage. One gets the sense that same-sex marriage creates a "tough, tough situation" only for we who are insufficiently enlightened to realize that our beliefs are wrong.

Bakst captures the broader perspective of many same-sex marriage supporters, I think, by characterizing it from the point of view of a parent — a liberal parent, at that. What parent doesn't want his children to have an equal "chance to find happiness"? What parent doesn't wish for children's social acceptance (however differently we may define such a thing)? The toughness comes in when parents put aside illusory and ultimately selfish visions of their children's lives and weigh their responsibility not only to those children, but to the society of which those children are a part — and of which those children's children will be a part.

That parental and social responsibility ought to make for tough, tough situations doesn't necessitate a particular conclusion. It does, however, suggest that Mr. Bakst ought to be asking himself the question that he thinks incumbent only upon those who feel differently than he: "What's wrong with me?" Or, to put it more charitably and more accurately: "What am I missing?"

Posted by Justin Katz at October 27, 2005 9:43 PM
Marriage & Family
Comments

Justin, I'd like to ask a question that was recently posed by Andrew Sullivan: Since you oppose marriage rights for Gay couples, what do you support for them? Should they be deterred from settling down? Should they be encouraged to make faithful commitments? Should their households, when they include offspring, be legally protected?

Posted by: Chuck Anziulewicz at October 29, 2005 7:07 AM

Chuck,

Even me, who would be considered by most as a SSM supporter, believe your (and Sullivan’s, who I often admire) comment is unfair.

The issue is whether same-sex relationships should be normalized and celebrated – considered legally the equivalent of opposite-sex marriages. This issue is a moral one for many. The reason many people believe homosexuality is immoral is not some arbitrary judgement. It is based on specific reading of scripture in both the Old and New Testaments.

Whether and how those should be used to make social policy are legitimate questions to debate. But to ignore the moral part of the equation and frame the issue simply as an assertion of bigotry does the debate a disservice, in my view.

Your questions could apply to any relationship including incestuous or polygamous ones. Do you believe that any or all relationships that could result in offspring should be allowed to marry ? If your answer is no, then you are drawing moral lines, just like everyone else – including bloggers, lawmakers and judges.

Posted by: Mark at October 30, 2005 3:11 PM