Thanks to David Sessions, the editor of Patrol Magazine for bringing this all to our attention.
Now, I have remained in the closet for much of this discussion (forgive the pun), though I have spoken of this in-person with others, with varying reactions. For a myriad of reasons, it’s generally wiser to controvert into a half-empty coffee cup or beer pint than it is to do so on the web. But nevertheless, this is a charged issue that demands response, both public and private, from those that have (hopefully) given it deep and communal thought, allowing both time and others to help refine and nuance one’s opinions. I hope I may be so bold as to include myself in those numbers.
For now, I’m still figuring it out, and discussions like the one I want to bring to your attention today both clarify and confuse the issue for me. I find myself agreeing with each article you will find below; a similar reaction Sessions has eloquently articulated in his Patrol article. I appreciate his public candor and can easily relate.
Anyway, this all started about a week-and-a-half ago at The New York Times, when columnist Ross Douthat wrote what is widely being heralded as the most nuanced, fair, and intellectually sound reasoning against gay marriage. This started a firestorm of replies, mostly unproductive and reactive, but there have been a couple of equally profound responses from a couple of the greatest columnists alive today (and two of my favorites), Andrew Sullivan at The Atlantic and Glenn Greenwald of Salon. The following is a timeline of the articles accompanied by some money quotes:
- Aug.8- First there was Douthat’s original article, “The Marriage Ideal“.
- Aug. 9- Glenn Greenwald forcefully responded with what I consider to be the slightly more convincing argument (and closest to where I’m at right now) in “Marriage and the role of the State“.
- Aug. 10- Andrew Sullivan (a gay Catholic) weighed in with this beautiful and heartfelt response in “The Unique Quality Of ‘Lifelong Heterosexual Monogamy‘”.
- Aug. 10- On the same day, Douthat responded quite powerfully to Greenwald in “Law, Culture, and Same-Sex Marriage“.
- Aug. 12- Douthat, in “Marriage in Thick and Thin“, gives a general response to the major broad criticisms he has received form the original article.
- [Douthat spent much of last week responding to other individual writers that had addressed him specifically, including Noah Millman of The American Scene, Ezra Klein of The Washington Post, and Matthew Lee Anderson of First Things.]
- Aug. 19- Yesterday, Douthat offered his first part (of two, presumably) in his response to Andrew Sullivan.
Best Douthat quote:
The point of this [marriage] ideal is not that other relationships have no value, or that only nuclear families can rear children successfully. Rather, it’s that lifelong heterosexual monogamy at its best can offer something distinctive and remarkable — a microcosm of civilization, and an organic connection between human generations — that makes it worthy of distinctive recognition and support…. The lifelong commitment of a gay couple is more impressive than the serial monogamy of straights. And a culture in which weddings are optional celebrations of romantic love, only tangentially connected to procreation, has no business discriminating against the love of homosexuals…. [But] that [heterosexual marriage] ideal is still worth honoring, and still worth striving to preserve. And preserving it ultimately requires some public acknowledgment that heterosexual unions and gay relationships are different: similar in emotional commitment, but distinct both in their challenges and their potential fruit.
Best Glenn Greenwald quote:
There are all sorts of things secular law permits which society nonetheless condemns… [Gay marriage opponents are] every bit as free today as they were last week to herald all the “unique fruit” which such [heterosexual] relationships can alone generate, in order to persuade others to follow that course. They just can’t have the State take their side by officially embracing that view or using the force of law to compel it…The court ruled opposite-sex-marriage-only laws unconstitutional not because it concluded that heterosexual and homosexual marriages are morally equal, but rather, because it’s not the place of the State (or of courts) to make such moral determinations. Moral and theological debates are to be resolved in the private square — through the kinds of discussions Douthat claims he wants to have — not by recruiting the State to officially sanction one moral view or the other by using law to restrict moral choices… But if they’re as right as they claim they are, they shouldn’t need to coerce others into acceptance through legal discrimination. Their arguments should prevail on their own.
Best Andrew Sullivan quote:
[T]he question is whether this ideal should rest on its own laurels or needs to be elevated by law and doctrine to the highest level of human relationship, and also, in order to achieve this ideal, actively exclude others – both in the religious and the secular sphere?… So in the religious sphere, the Church breaks its own ideal [of marriage as a life-long institution with procreation at the center] with regularity, and the other churches have long since given almost all of it up. And yet the Catholic church still insists that its ideal be enforced as an act of civil exclusion in the secular sphere, even on people who are atheist…
[A]re we [gay couples] here solely to act as a drop-shadow to the ideal heterosexual relationship? If so, what form would that drop-shadow take? What morsels from the “microcosm of civilization” are we permitted to have as citizens? And at what point does conceding the substance of gay needs in a civil union actually intensify the deliberate social stigma of exclusion from marriage, rather than mitigate it?
I hope this helps your thinking on this. What do you think of this situation? Leave your opinion in the comments below. I’ll update this post as more posts arrive.
- The Unreasonableness of the Reasonable Arguments Against Gay Marriage [Dispatches from the Culture Wars] (scienceblogs.com)