The Corner

Andrew Sullivan, Decency Cop

I know this little exchange is probably getting tiresome to everyone, but part of me is enjoying Andrew’s name-calling and frothing—all in response to a post saying he is prone to both on this issue. By the way, if you want to see even more name-calling and frothing, check out his post about the GOP appeal to rural voters on gay marriage being all about hate. Andrew’s constant assumption of bad faith is poisonous, and is particularly graceless from someone who is always shifting his own arguments about marriage for the political convenience of the moment (not to mention disappointing from someone who has, when not in agitprop mode, been known for his powerful and well-reasoned polemics). One other thing before addressing the substance: that NR pursues a “no enemies to the right” policy will certainly be news to all our enemies to our right, who fulminate against us almost daily. Anyway, rolling through Andrew’s points:

1) Let’s go back a step. Sullivan often says that people who oppose abortion, same-sex marriage, and other things are theocrats who wants to use the state to impose religious law on unbelievers. They consitute a “Santorum wing” of the party–the current swear word. Now it is true that many people who oppose abortion, same-sex marriage do so for religious reasons. (Other people support them for religious reasons, too.) But it is also true that many people believe there are sound non-religious reasons to take these positions. Sullivan is free to say that these reasons are bad reasons. But it’s hardly the same as, say, supporting the stoning of adulterers because it’s in the Old Testament.

I’m not a Catholic, so anyone out there is free to correct me if I’m wrong. But the Vatican doesn’t insist that all sins should be crimes. For Andrew, merely following it in making this distinction is now not enough: He demands to know when Santorum has dissented from Catholic teaching about civil law–as though the standard is that all Catholics should be dissenters. For what it’s worth, I get the impression that Santorum does disagree with the Vatican on the death penalty. Is that enough? Or is it only supporting gay marriage that saves someone from being a “theocrat”? In other words, only agreeing with Andrew?

2) Ramesh tells me that Robert George has never said that the (admittedly confusing) legal incidents language barred legislatively enacted civil unions. Most supporters of the amendment do not believe that it stops legislatures from enacting civil unions.

3) Do the stated intentions of conservatives matters? Andrew answers yes–and no. The “anti-gay rhetoric” of sponsors of the Virginia law tells you what it means. But their explicit and specific insistence that the law does not bar same-sex couples from making most contracts should, for some reason, be ignored.

4) Years of saying that we’re in a “war” with fundamentalism requires a better response than this. And most of his post here is just more question-begging–which brings us to…

5) Sure, it’s true that most opponents of real civil rights have claimed not to be opponents of civil rights. It’s also true that using this argument, you would be justified in saying that Andrew is an enemy of civil rights because he is a critic of affirmative action. I think that same-sex marriage is not analogous to interracial marriage, for reasons that people on my side of the debate have explored (at length, ad nauseum even). Calling me an enemy of civil rights for that reason doesn’t advance the debate; it’s just name calling. Which brings us full circle rather nicely doesn’t it?

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