The other day, Andrew Sullivan asked me to write an essay criticizing the Catholic church for harming marriage by approving annulments. Sullivan implies that while I criticize gays for harming marriage in Scandinavia, I let heterosexuals off the hook for harming marriage here in America.
I’m afraid Sullivan misunderstands my views. For some time now, I’ve sketched out what I think of as a “middle ground” position that neither calls for a return to the fifties, nor accepts the total redefinition and disappearance of marriage that I believe we face now. I sketched out such a position back in 2001 in “Middle Ground,” when I was criticized by Robert Knight for my failure to call homosexuality a sin. I laid out this middle position in detail in, “That Other War,” where I explained my differences with conservatives like William Bennett on issues like pre-marital cohabitation. This position was also behind my response last May on The Corner to a question from Sullivan on divorce. There I said that I thought a repeal of no-fault divorce was neither possible nor desirable. Yet I also said that a waiting period in divorces involving children ought to be considered.
Sullivan wrongly implies that I only object to what homosexuals want, and never to what heterosexuals want. The same “middle ground” position that leads me to oppose a repeal of no-fault divorce also led me to call for the (legislative) repeal of sodomy laws. I accept many-although not all-of the liberalizing attitudes that have come to the fore since the fifties-for both heterosexuals and homosexuals. My point is that if we make too many more trade-offs of family stability for liberalization, the family won’t be around anymore. And I apply this position to heterosexuals and homosexuals alike.
I don’t simply object to gay marriage. I have also repeatedly criticized the American Law Institute’s proposed equalization of marriage and cohabitation–something that overwhelmingly effects heterosexuals. My point about Scandinavia is that their system of parental cohabitation, their legal equalization of marriage and cohabitation, and their system of same-sex registered partnerships, are all mutually reinforcing. If we adopt all or part of the Scandinavian system here, it will be the end of marriage. So I accept much of our liberalized stance toward both divorce and homosexuality. Yet I also want to draw the line on change at gay marriage, and at the legal equalization of heterosexual marriage and cohabitation. This position hits middle ground on issues that matter to both homosexuals and heterosexuals.