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Degrees of Honor
Whom colleges reward, says a lot


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Roger Kimball

EDITOR’S NOTE: This piece appears in the June 6, 2005, issue of National Review.

Most colleges that grant honorary degrees would endorse the sentiment, expressed by a Cambridge University spokesman, that “an honorary degree is the highest accolade the University can give.” So what does it mean that Hamilton College decided to bestow this garland of official commendation on Mary Bonauto, the activist lawyer and former director of the Boston-based Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD)? Ms. Bonauto, who graduated from Hamilton in 1983, was in the public eye most recently when she successfully argued the case for same-sex “marriage” before the Massachusetts supreme court in 2003. It was for this act of benevolence that a friend of mine described Bonauto as “one of the foremost legal threats to the institution of marriage as we know it in the Western tradition.”

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Bonauto’s great rhetorical feat in the case in question, Goodridge v. Department of Public Health, was to get the court to believe that same-sex “marriage” was a civil-rights issue. Here’s the reasoning: Marriage brings a wide variety of social benefits to the married couple, ergo if Mary Jo is not allowed to marry Mary Grace, they have been discriminated against. Just like the blacks when there was slavery.

Yes, yes, I know: As an argument it is pitiful. But it populates the world with illusory rights and pushes all the buttons liberals thrill to push. “Oh my God, have we really been discriminating against an entire subpopulation for all of recorded history? Mea culpa, mea maxima culpa. Let’s change the law. Right now.”

The technical term for Ms. Bonauto’s argument is hornswoggle. . .

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