The Corner

Responding to Sullivan

Today, in “Slipping Toward Scandinavia” I show that, contradicting his current position, Andrew Sullivan has drawn lessons for gay marriage from registered partnerships and civil unions. Here’s another example, from Sullivan’s August 5, 2001 piece in London’s Sunday Times: “…with legal civil unions in Vermont and registered partnerships in European countries, we have the beginning of an answer to the question of whether such marriages will lead to a breakdown of the social order.” Sullivan then cites the Danish marriage statistics I debunk in “The End of Marriage in Scandinavia.” As a regular reader of the Daily Dish, I’m fairly certain that Sullivan has many a time drawn lessons for the gay marriage debate from Vermont’s civil unions and/or from Scandinavian registered partnerships. I also seem to remember a period when Sullivan was simply calling Vermont civil unions “gay marriage.” But I know that in several cases of longer articles he has done this, and I’ve given two such examples today.

Another passage from Andrew Sullivan’s August 5, 2001 piece in London’s Sunday Times is worth quoting: “Is this [i.e. the adoption of European registered gay partnerships and Vermont’s civil unions] some sort of revolution? Will it lead, or has it led, to the dissolution of the family as we have historically known it? Many conservatives seem to think so and their worries should not be dismissed as bigotry or fustiness.” That passage shows Andrew Sullivan at his fairest and best. It also shows Andrew Sullivan when he thinks he’s got data that disprove conservative fears. Unfortunately, in response to my critique of his empirical case, Sullivan disregards his own advice and dismisses the concerns of gay marriage opponents as “homophobia,” and “fear and loathing of gays.”

Count me among the Andrew Sullivan fans. He’s taken some unfair swipes at me in the past, and I’ve called him on it. But I wouldn’t for a second pretend that Andrew is not a thoughtful and (often) respectful advocate for his cause. It’s almost as though there were “two Andrews.” The first is a brilliant, passionate, advocate of the highest integrity. But when Sullivan is eager to discredit something, or someone, whose arguments he cannot otherwise defeat, he will say whatever he feels he needs to say to accomplish his ends. Regular fans and readers of the Daily Dish can decide for themselves whether I am right. But that is the way I see it. At any rate, I think the record will show that in my own replies to Sullivan, I have treated him fairly, and with respect.


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