Ben responds to the question: Is legalized gay marriage inevitable?
New York's legislature took a vote, but the question of gay marriage is far from settled. Unfortunately, reasonable debate on the subject now appears to be impossible.Though we disagree often on matters of public policy, Ben is my friend. Our partnership has endured because I believe him to argue honestly and thoughtfully in our public debates, and because of his generosity and warmth behind the scenes. But, particularly in those last two paragraphs, I believe he is guilty of hysteria.
Millions of Americans believe gays and lesbians should be free to live as they please -- a huge generational shift -- but that marriage should remain a union between a man and a woman. Marriage serves a vital social purpose of creating stable families. Raising children is perhaps the most important function of marriage (but not the only one). Not just any two parents will do.
A state law -- or a court decision -- won't change those people's minds. But to supporters of this radical concept of "marriage," none of that matters and no good faith disagreement is possible. It's just bigotry.
Fact is, marriage is already in deep trouble in this country. High rates of divorce and out-of-wedlock births have ruined countless lives and torn apart entire communities. Redefining marriage doesn't strengthen the traditional institution so much as signal its irrelevance.
Don't believe for a moment this is simply a matter of "equality." As same-sex marriage becomes routine, it won't be long before other groups demand legal recognition of their own peculiar relationships.
The argument is already well underway. A website called BeyondMarriage.org -- established in 2006 by "a diverse group of nearly 20 LGBT and queer activists" -- asserts: "Marriage is not the only worthy form of family or relationship, and it should not be legally and economically privileged above all others."
And get ready for an onslaught of indoctrination and litigation. New York's feckless Republicans say their law is more enlightened than most because churches will not be compelled to perform weddings that offend their doctrines. But the weight of our anti-discrimination laws leans strongly the other way.
In the absence of persuasion, what's left is coercion. The New York law's flimsy religious exemptions will fall within the decade. And marriage as a bedrock institution will be even weaker than it is today. Count on it.
Ben's suggestion here is that, ultimately, the U.S. Supreme Court will rule that Catholic churches—and other religious denominations—be required to perform gay weddings.
That will never, ever happen. Ever.
I'm not saying that some litigious couple with a daring lawyer won't try to make the case. But I am 100 percent certain that any judge possessing a passing acquaintance with the First Amendment would reject it on its face. And I am even more certain, if that's possible, that such a case would be eviscerated at the Supreme Court—where, after all, six of the nine justices are Catholic. And those justices, it's fair to say, have repeatedly handed down rulings indicating an expansive view of the First Amendment. I doubt they'll let corporations spend unlimited cash on elections but abandon religious freedom. Truth is: religious protections didn't need to be written into the New York law because the First Amendment already does the trick.
Not. Gonna. Happen.
Ben's argument is similar to those made among religious conservatives of late. Lacking persuasive arguments, they've come to persuade themselves that states that allow gay marriages are ... victimizing and oppressing anti-gay-marriage conservatives. They've likened the New York law to North Korean tyranny. They've decried "coercive state power" that wields a Bull Connor-like abusive authority in the service of the gay agenda.
This manages to pull of the neat trick of being both Orwellian and deeply narcissistic. Orwellian, because nobody is being coerced to do anything. As the saying goes: "If you don't like gay marriage, don't get one." No one is being forced to gay marry, or to abandon deeply held beliefs—and there are no dogs, fire hoses, guns, or forced-labor camps being deployed against heterosexuals. For most people, life won't change one iota. For the rest of us, it's changed to the extent that we've been liberated to live our lives with the same level of government recognition and respect as everybody else. The only thing that's being lost, for some folks, is the privilege of having government enforce your beliefs on other people in this particular regard.
And it's narcissistic because gay marriage isn't actually about the people who oppose gay marriage—at all. It's about people who love each other, and choose to share life's tasks with each other. That's it.
There are other parts of Ben's column I'd quibble with. He argues, again, that "not any two parents will do." Even conceding that for the sake of argument, I note that gay couples are among the most prolific and fervent adopters of kids who don't have parents, who have often been bounced around in foster care, who are often old enough or troubled enough or disabled enough that adoption agencies have an impossible time matching them to adoptive parents otherwise. Ask any social worker you know. Ben's vision, I think, condemns many of those children to eternal orphanhood. If it's the case that "not any two parents will do," I still strongly suspect that in most cases any two parents will do better than none at all. Ben lets perfect be the enemy of the good in this case, and thus seems to advocate the kind of social engineering he would otherwise disdain.
But I don't need to rehash all the arguments for and against gay marriage. That's pointless. But I do have to push back against Ben's extreme vision of Catholic priests performing gay marriages under the bootheel of homosexual tyranny. It is ... laughable.
I've told Ben this: I don't expect to persuade him of very much in this life. He'll be conservative, I'll be liberal, and somehow we'll make it work. On this one issue, though, I hope he someday changes his mind, just a little bit. The existence of gay marriage brings a little more freedom into the world. That's normally the kind of thing he'd celebrate. That's one reason why—despite our disagreements—he remains my friend.