Magazine | February 21, 2011, Issue


Marital Goods

Jason Lee Steorts misses the boat when he argues that monogamous same-sex unions and heterosexual infertile unions possess the same kind of value, and that therefore we should have no objections to some form of same-sex marriage (“Two Views of Marriage,” February 7).

I would argue that the value of a heterosexual union is its intrinsic capacity for procreation. A homosexual couple does not have this intrinsic capacity, but an infertile heterosexual couple does.

An infertile couple will admit there is something wrong with them, and it is typically quite sad for all involved. However, there is always hope for the infertile couple — either time or treatment may allow for fertility. There is no hope for a homosexual union’s fertility — it does not have the intrinsic capacity for procreation. While we should not value one marriage over another on its degree of fertility or fruitfulness, a marriage should, at a minimum, possess the basic intrinsic capacity for procreation.

It is completely sensible to me that a “maximal experiential union” with the intrinsic capacity for procreation should get special treatment in society — let’s call it a “marriage.” One man and one woman.

Joe Gustainis

Chapel Hill, N.C.

Jason Lee Steorts replies: No, fertility is not just a matter of degree. For some heterosexual couples, having children is an irremediable impossibility, and there is no sense in which such couples can be said to have an “intrinsic capacity for procreation.” Nor is it true that all married couples who have “something wrong with them” in this way are sad about it, for not all married couples wish to have children. The point is that when you take away marriage’s reproductive facet — the fact of having reproduced, the capacity to reproduce, the desire to reproduce — there remains a great good deserving of protection. Whether by necessity or by choice, it is the only good many mixed-sex couples will ever attain in their relationships, and it is a good equally available to same-sex couples. Let the law protect it, and then protect children by imposing appropriate requirements on those who actually have them.

Reed’s Theodicy

In reviewing City of Man, by Michael Gerson and Peter Wehner (“Salt of the Earth,” December 31), Ralph Reed discusses what he calls “jeremiad,” the idea that “national calamity” is to be associated with God and retribution for “collective sin.” Considering that Gerson and Wehner’s title, “City of Man,” is an allusion to St. Augustine’s City of God, I wish Reed had mentioned that Augustine’s work is partly a refutation of the ancient belief that reward and punishment (victory or defeat) in this world come to us because of our virtue or lack thereof. Augustine shows how the Hebrews (the good guys) suffered while their enemies (the bad guys) — Egyptians, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, Romans — triumphed. One would like to believe that America is uniquely blessed because of its inhabitants’ piety, but Augustine is difficult to dismiss.

Thomas Swanzey

Via e-mail

Members of the National Review editorial and operational teams are included under the umbrella “NR Staff.”

In This Issue


Politics & Policy

Arab Agony

Upheaval is shaking the Arab world. Countries there are alike in being under one-man rule, and this authoritarianism is being tested to destruction. The outcome might be political reform and ...
Politics & Policy

Palin vs. Romney

Two potential candidates for the Republican presidential nomination have been described as “frontrunners”: former governors Mitt Romney and Sarah Palin. According to pollster Scott Rasmussen, they’re the candidates with the ...
Politics & Policy

Lost in Space

Almost half a century after the first man went into orbit, and at a time when the federal government is so deeply in debt that no expenditure can be allowed ...


Books, Arts & Manners

Politics & Policy

Australian Model

Think of him as the Tea Partier from Down Under. John Howard, the second-longest-serving prime minister in Australian history and leader of the Liberal (in American terms, read Conservative) party ...
The Straggler

Morpheme Addiction

Until very recently the only thing I knew how to say in Turkish was the proverb Nerede çokluk, orada bokluk, which means (I shall bowdlerize slightly) “Where there are people, ...


Politics & Policy


Marital Goods Jason Lee Steorts misses the boat when he argues that monogamous same-sex unions and heterosexual infertile unions possess the same kind of value, and that therefore we should have ...
Politics & Policy

The Week

‐ It looks like Egypt has discovered term limits. ‐ The House vote to repeal Obamacare is being treated by the media as a political stunt, since the bill is unlikely ...
The Long View

Tweets from @youthcaptain

Tweets from @youthcaptain, the next leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea: Was supposed to have some Dad-and-me time today. He’s “too busy” watching stuff in Egypt and Jordan etc. ...
Politics & Policy


OMEGA All day long my watch has been stopping On me, every few hours, a good Omega Automatic chronometer, certified, Gold face and bezel, circa 1970, Self-winding. My father left it to me When he died, ...

Exit, Stage Left

The chairman of the NEA recently said we might have too much theater in this country. Rocco Landesman was quoted by the New York Times thus: “You can either increase ...

Most Popular

Politics & Policy

Hillary Ruins the Plan

Editor’s note: Andrew C. McCarthy’s new book is Ball of Collusion: The Plot to Rig an Election and Destroy a Presidency. This is the first in a series of excerpts.  There really was a collusion plot. It really did target our election system. It absolutely sought to usurp our capacity for ... Read More

‘Good Verse, Bad Verse, and Chaos’

I love reading Sarah Ruden, and I’ve enjoyed the attention given to Walt Whitman in these pages over the last few days. Ruden gives the poet the back of her hand for being championed by — angels and ministers of grace, defend us! — intellectuals and professors, a poet “whom ordinary Americans most ... Read More
Economy & Business

The Great Mystery

Kevin Williamson disputes my characterization of his riposte. He writes: I wrote that people can choose what kind of work they want to do, and what kind of services they want to consume, without any help from Michael. Kevin then accuses me of being a stouthearted defender of the “Real America.” If ... Read More