Friday, September 17, 2010

Some final Douthat on Gay Marriage

So, Ross Douthat after a weeklong vacation finally gets around to finishing the second of his two part posts in response to Andrew Sullivan's response to the gay marriage issue: Part 1 and Part 2. I thought his part 2 post was the stronger of the two.

In part 1, he condemns pretty harshly the conservative response to the emerging gay scene in the early 1980's:

" There’s no question that conservatives had an opportunity, amid the end of the closet and the crisis of the AIDS epidemic, to think constructively about what kind of public accommodations should be made for gay relationships, both to avoid the cruelties that the disease cast into sharp relief (longtime lovers denied access to their dying partners’ bedsides, etc.) and to recognize that committed gay relationships, too, have value for society. Instead, conservatives tended to interpret the spread of HIV as a case of an inherently self-destructive culture reaping what it had sowed. And that “inherently” assumption led them to ignore or downplay the conservative turn in gay culture that the disease inspired — a turn that led, eventually, to the arguments for gay marriage as the most stable and plausible alternative to the closet."

The alternative solution he proposes is pretty weak in my humble opinion:

"So what should conservatives have done instead? Basically, they should have pushed (in, let’s say, the early 1980s) for what Ryan Anderson and Sherif Girgis have urged as a contemporary compromise: A domestic partnership law designed to accommodate gay couples without being sexuality-specific. "

Its a weak solution because, well, I heard this before. But its true, if this would have been offered in the early 1980's, it would have been a radical proposal. But that bridge has been crossed a long time ago, as Douthat readily admits.

But Part 2 is stronger because he gets off the subject of solutions (we are heading toward gay marriage) and back on the subject of lifelong monogamy.

" The benefits of gay marriage, to the couples involved and to their families, are front-loaded and obvious, whereas any harm to the overall culture of marriage and childrearing in America will be diffuse and difficult to measure. I suspect that the formal shift away from any legal association between marriage and fertility will eventually lead to further declines in the marriage rate and a further rise in the out-of-wedlock birth rate (though not necessarily the divorce rate, because if few enough people are getting married to begin with, the resulting unions will presumably be somewhat more stable). But these shifts will probably happen anyway, to some extent, because of what straights have already made of marriage. Or maybe the institution’s long decline is already basically complete, and the formal recognition of gay unions may just ratify a new reality, rather than pushing us further toward a post-marital society. Either way, there won’t come a moment when the conservative argument, with all its talk about institutional definitions and marginal effects and the mysteries of culture, will be able to claim vindication against those who read it (as I know many of my readers do) as a last-ditch defense of bigotry."

Actually Douthat links to an article that deserves its own post - for another time.

Anyway, I am now off the Ross Douthat bandwagon.

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