This week’s National Review editorial argues against same-sex marriage.
…Few social goods will come from recognizing same-sex couples as married. Some practical benefits may accrue to the couples, but most of them could easily be realized without changing marriage laws. Same-sex couples will also receive the symbolic affirmation of being treated by the state as equivalent to a traditional married couple — but this spurious equality is a cost of the new laws, not a benefit. …Andrew Sullivan disagrees:
Both as a social institution and as a public policy, marriage exists to foster connections between heterosexual sex and the rearing of children within stable households. It is a non-coercive way to channel (heterosexual) desire into civilized patterns of living. …
National Review's new editorial comes out firmly against even civil unions for gay couples, and continues to insist that society's exclusive support for straight couples is designed
"to foster connections between heterosexual sex and the rearing of children within stable households."
This is an honest and revealing point, and, in a strange way, it confirms my own analysis of the theocon position. It reaffirms, for example, that infertile couples who want to marry in order to adopt children have no place within existing marriage laws, as NR sees them. Such infertile and adoptive "marriages" rest on a decoupling of actual sex and the rearing of children. The same, of course, applies much more extensively to any straight married couple that uses contraception: they too are undermining what National Review believes to be the core reason for civil marriage. Now, you could argue - and I suspect NR's editors would - that society nonetheless has a role in providing moral, social and legal support for couples with children, however those children came about, and to provide "a non-coercive way to channel (heterosexual) desire into civilized patterns of living." I agree with this, actually, which is why I do not want to alter or weaken traditional marriage in any way, and regard it as a vital social institution that deserves our support.
But what of "channeling homosexual desire into civilized patterns of living?" Ah, there's the rub.
National Review clearly believes that gays exist beyond the boundaries of civilized life, or even social life, let alone the purview of social policy. But, of course, a total absence of social policy is still a social policy. And such a social policy - leaving gay people outside of existing social institutions, while tolerating their existence - has led to some rather predictable consequences. We have, for example, lived through a period in which around 300,000 young Americans died of a terrible disease that was undoubtedly compounded by the total lack of any social incentives for stable relationships. Imagine what would happen to STD rates or legitimacy rates if heterosexual marriage were somehow not in existence. Do you think that straight men would be more or less socially responsible without the institution of civil marriage?
… The fact that gay Americans may feel equal because of inclusion within their own families and societies is now a cost to society, not a benefit. Encouraging commitment, fewer partners, and greater responsibility are important governmental goals with respect to heterosexuals but not with respect to homosexuals. As far as National Review is concerned, homosexuals can go to hell. Their interests and views cannot even be accorded respect. They are non-persons to National Review: means, not ends.
Flip this around and you see what the theocon right actually believes: that society has no interest in the welfare of its gay citizens, and an abiding interest in ensuring that they remain unequal, feel unequal and suffer the consequences of a culture where family and commitment and fidelity are non-existent. And they write this within living memory of an appalling and devastating plague. This is how the social right is responding to our times, and to put it personally, my life and the lives and deaths of countless others. One day, they will understand the callousness and bitterness and willful ignorance they currently represent. As civilized society leaves them increasingly behind.