As Stanley mentioned, my friend Andrew Sullivan is quite perturbed by my syndicated column on gay marriage, which is kind of cool because I get so much angry email from folks who say I’m in his thrall. Anyway, Andrew plays a bit of sleight of hand in describing what I wrote in order to rebut me.
In my column, I make what I think is a fairly reasonable point: If the goal is to undermine and/or rewrite the rules of marriage – a goal not shared by all gays to be sure — then maybe marriage isn’t the right institution for same-sex couples (I favor civil unions of some kind). Indeed, what is usually so compelling about Andrew’s arguments for gay marriage is his deep understanding of the conservative and “conservatizing” power of the institution. If that aspect of marriage – in shorthand, monogamy – has to hit the cutting room floor for marriage to be “inclusive” for homosexuals, then why even bother calling it marriage anymore at all?
What so disturbed me about that article wasn’t that I “discovered” there are homosexual radicals out there, as Andrew suggests. No, what I found so disturbing about the prominent front page story in the paper of record was how clearly it signaled that many advocates of gay marriage simply cannot be trusted – Andrew not included. The Times has been waxing eloquent about how gays are just like everybody else and therefore it is a matter of basic decency to treat them thus. This argument is very compelling, obviously. But if the Times – never mind Hollywood, the professoriate, and cultural libertarians and libertines everywhere – is willing to sell out their avowed principles and arguments on the issue of gay marriage for the momentary frisson of siding with gays who want to challenge the bourgeois and boring notion that monogamy is the bedrock of marriage, then folks like Andrew are going to have to do a far better job persuading average Americans that the liberal side of the culture war can be believed when they say they want the same rules for gays as for everybody else. The issue is not that some “straights” oppose monogamy and some gays surely support it. No doubt that’s true. It’s that many pro-gay marriage advocates either want to redefine the institution twice over – marriage can be same-sex and it’s perfectly okay to introduce your husband to your date – or that they are liars saying they want the same rules for everybody, but really don’t mean it.