The Corner

The Amazing Power of The Culture (Part 5)

Here’s another way that gay marriage and no-fault divorce are similar: Elites coalesced in favor of this legal change — and firmly downplayed the very idea it could have any cultural effects at all. Unilateral-divorce laws were passed by insider experts, “the best and brightest,” who firmly swore that the objections and reservations of religious people and of the masses were uninformed, ignorant, and unlikely. 

Because, after all, how could letting Anna and Evan disrupt their horrible, violent marriage more easily possibly affect your marriage?

Being Americans, even the smartest among us find institutional effects easy to deny and hard to take into account.

And so the experts banded together to downplay that changing the law of divorce would affect marriage at all. (Read Herbert Jacobs’s The Silent Revolution for the best account of how we got to unilateral no-fault divorce in just a decade).

This, perhaps, is another example of the anti-intellectualism of the intellectuals.

But here’s one big way that unilateral divorce is not like gay marriage: Nobody passed unilteral-divorce laws on the grounds that failing to do so would constitute discrimination, a violation of equal protection.

Unilateral divorce was promoted as some kind of cross between an individual-liberty right, a public-policy good, and a minor administrative change of little consequence to any broad public theme.

The heart of the same-sex marriage argument, by contrast, is this: There is no rational, relevant difference between same-sex and opposite-sex couples — and anyone who disagrees is engaging in illegitimate discrimination, similar to people who opposed interracial marriage.

I know gay-marriage advocates honestly believe this to be true. That’s not in question. My question is: How can an intellectual both say this and also say that same-sex marriage is not going to affect anyone besides gay couples? (e.g.: How exactly do we treat people and institutions that oppose interracial marriage these days? In law? In culture?)

Is this really a position that is ”smart, civil, and honest” — the standard that Lara Schwartz layed out at the panel at Brookings to discuss the Rauch/Blankenhorn civil-unions proposal? (To be continued. . .)

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