diet coke for breakfast

Thursday, October 16, 2003

Posted by Jake
The Marriage Buffet -- When it comes to commitment, a lot of options is not a good thing.

David Frum issues this rebuttal to an earlier piece by Andrew Sullivan. I like David Frum but I don't agree with his reasoning. The thrust of his argument, indeed the thrust many arguments against gay marriage is summarized in this statement:

Let's start with a basic premise: The gay marriage debate is perceived by many as a debate about gays. It is not. It is a debate about marriage.

And he's right. Marriage as an institution is not what it was 25 or 50 years ago. To ignore that would be to ignore the research of thousands of sociologists. This change in the institution also has consequences for children, for the individuals involved, and for society as a whole. On these points I also completely agree with Mr. Frum.

I differ from him in how these observations would apply to homosexual marriage. Frum argues that because gay civil unions are unlikely to be the same in the existing political climate as straight marriages a plethora of different systems would arise in different states and municipalities. Such a process has already begun. Because different systems provide different rights and privileges and have different expectations of the individuals involved, it would further blur the "bright clear line" that separates married people from unmarried people, from people who should have children and those who should not. This blurring would not only have deleterious effects on gay unions but also on straight marriages.

I don't buy this argument for a couple of reasons:

1. The bright clear line was blurred way before we started talking about gay marriage. Straight people did that, and I don't think that gay people should have to pay for it.
2. Just because something is politically untenable, doesn't me it isn't right. I would oppose a different system for every city because Frum is right: it makes marriage a lot less of a clear commitment. But this doesn't mean I wouldn't advocate for a clear enunciation of what marriage is for both straight and gay people on a national level.
3. Frum still has not dealt with the social conservatives reluctance to incorporate gay people into society. Andrew Sullivan deals with this waffling in his piece:

The majority of social conservatives oppose gay marriage; they oppose gay citizens serving their country in the military; they oppose gay citizens raising children; they oppose protecting gay citizens from workplace discrimination; they oppose including gays in hate-crime legislation, while including every other victimized group; they oppose civil unions; they oppose domestic partnerships; they oppose . . . well, they oppose, for the most part, every single practical measure that brings gay citizens into the mainstream of American life.


It is one thing to oppose gay marriage (some, but not all, conservative arguments against it are reasonable, if to my mind unconvincing). But it is another thing to oppose any arrangement that might give greater security, responsibility and opportunity to gay couples. At times, the social conservative position is almost perversely inconsistent: Many oppose what they see as gay promiscuity; but even more strongly, they oppose any social measures that would encourage gay monogamy, such as marriage. What, one wonders, do they want?

I think that social conservatives should welcome this debate because it segues away from gay marriage and into just plain marriage. But there continued insistence on holding gay people to a perversely high standard for what would be an acceptable affiliation -- a standard not attained by most straight couples -- continues to baffle me.


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