Wednesday, April 30, 2003

Gay Marriage

In today's Daily Dish entry Andrew Sullivan takes James Taranto to task for his views on Gay Marriage. Taranto makes the error of proposing a compromise over an issue dear to gays, and of course no compromise is acceptable where gays are concerned, to Mr. Sullivan. I wrote him a letter in reply but, seeing as how I expect to get no play on Andrew's blog, I print my reply here. Read his entry first, then my reply....


In today's blog entry on Taranto's column on gay marriage, and in previous writings, you seem to blur the distinction between conservatives and social conservatives or the religious right. There are, as you well know, all sorts of people and views that self-describe as conservatives and conservative. Clearly libertarian-leaning conservatives and neocons tend toward a more inclusive view on this and other issues. After all, you yourself are a self-described conservative.

The problem that I and others, coming from a libertarian point of view, have with same-sex marriage is that marriage is a religious, not a state function. Giving gays the civil, legal, benefits of marriage is not a problem for me/us. Calling it marriage in a legal sense crosses the border between state and religion. This is not a rhetorical difference. Why do you persist in denouncing those to whom the difference is an important one?

In your article, "Why Civil Unions Aren't Enough," linked in your post, you claim that compromise is not an option, and further claim that the difference is merely rhetorical, but then go on to make the rhetoric a deal breaker. You say, "Marriage, under any interpretation of American constitutional law, is among the most basic civil rights," but marriage is and never was a "right," it is a "rite!" Forcing the state to recognise a religious distinction when the religions themselves object is overly coercive. The state should have little power over the church.

You say that "Separate but equal" was a failed and pernicious policy with regard to race, but the truth is that this is mere racist drivel. Why is separate but equal fine for any other group, but is pernicious and evil when applied to blacks, and now gays. Separate but equal is fine for the Italians, the Jews, the Japanese, and almost any other group, but to the rascist mind, the blacks are a specially handicapped group, needing special protection. And now the gays need such special protection....

What we need is a constriction of the laws surrounding civil marriage, not a liberalization of them. You say "Many citizens adhere to no church at all. Should they be required to adhere to a religious teaching in order to be legally married?" I answer: Yes! There are religions that require no particular belief, and others that embrace any different or even bizarre beliefs you can imagine. Why shouldn't marriage be a rite granted solely by a religious institution? Civil law can then do what it does everywhere else: regulate things and ban unacceptable practices, such as polygamy and incest, and grant, in civil union status, the rights you hold dear for purposes such as inheritance, health care benefits, leaseholder rights, etc. You could join the Church of the Sincerely Gay and get married in the church. Why can't you, who self-describes as a conservative, see a solution that needs less government intrusion, rather than more?

Andrew, I've written you before and blogged this several times. Why is it that some gays, and you may be their most visible proponent, need to wear your sexuality on your sleeves. Why must I/we recognise your personal needs? If the state is willing to grant you all of the civil benefits of marriage excluding the word marriage itself, I suggest you grab it. This may be the most you could, or should, get.