The Corner

Pro-Life, Pro-Gay Marriage

About a week ago, Ramesh wrote a Corner post about how the case against abortion might be made stronger by being decoupled from the agenda of opposition to gay marriage. He asked for people to come forward who have a pro-life, pro-gay-marriage perspective, and after a lot of consideration I believe I qualify. Why am I not 100 percent sure? Let me try to explain. When gay friends, or just gay people in the general public, say that they consider themselves married, that’s good enough for me. They are making a commitment, before God, and telling me about it. They are married, as far as I am concerned. So far, so good: I am in favor of gay marriage. But now let’s look at the legislation being discussed-by actual legislatures, and by courts acting as legislatures. The proposed measures codify gay marriage as a government-approved status. What has been added by this extra step? Let’s take off the table issues such as health benefits and hospital-visitation rights, which most people admit can be taken care of without recourse to formal recognition of gay marriage. What’s left then? Public, democratic recognition of the marriage of gay couples. In short, what gays are being denied is not a definable good or benefit but merely the formal approval of their fellow citizens acting collectively. What they are being denied is a particular status in the minds of other people-in other words, exactly the sort of thing that, to be meaningful, must not be coerced or imposed undemocratically. I am willing to recognize gay marriages; but I am not gravely troubled that a majority of my fellow citizens still choose not to recognize them, as long as gays are harmed in no tangible way. So does this mean that I am covertly anti-gay marriage, willing to condone denial of a basic human right just because that right is still unpopular? Absolutely not. I find the civil-rights analogy very instructive in this regard. If I had said to a black person in 1964, “You can vote as far as I’m concerned, but you shouldn’t insist on this right because there are a lot of racists out there,” I could justly have been accused of hypocrisy-because in fact, there is no such thing as a vote “as far as I am concerned”; there’s only a real-life vote. If they don’t count your vote along with everybody else’s, your voting rights have been denied and that’s the end. The civil-rights analogy, taken logically, would protect gay people from being arrested for consensual sex; in those cases, either the police burst down the door and arrest you or they don’t. But the civil-rights analogy does not demand the recognition of gay marriage by anyone who opposes gay marriage. The day may come when large majorities favor gay marriage, and are willing to issue pieces of paper to that effect. But gays should not wait for that day; they should look to their conscience, and their partner, and make whatever commitments are prompted by their heart.


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