Friday, May 21, 2004

Gay Marriage: Preliminary Remarks

It looks like the gay marriage issue has begun heating up again. Eugene Volokh has made some trenchant comments on the slippery slope to polygamy

So the Court has been willing to depart from the very core of Griswold's argument (the limitation to marriage) and from the express assurances by the concurrence that the decision in no way affects homosexuality. Why should we have any confidence that the Court — or lower courts or other influential bodies — will feel limited by Griswold's supposed stress on the inherent "binar[iness]" of "intimacy," something that is much less expressly dwelt on by the Griswold opinions? (To the extent the opinions suggest anything about the binariness of intimacy, that comes from their focus on the married couple — a focus that the Court has long abandoned, see Eisenstadt.)
and why he doesn't think it is politically likely.

Andrew Sullivan cites some statistics demolishing the notion that legalization of gay marriage in Northern Europe has led to the decline of hetero marriage:
Stanley Kurtz's argument that marriage rights for gays in Scandinavia somehow led to a decline in marriage rates for heterosexuals or an increase in children born out of wedlock is thoroughly rebutted by M. V. Lee Badget in the current Slate. The evidence, to put it mildly, simply doesn't exist. In fact, heterosexual marriage rates have stabilized and even increased after gays were allowed to marry.

I will respond to all of this in greater detail as soon as I get time to get my thoughts organized (God willing, this weekend). But in the meantime, the formidable Cal Thomas may have saved me some trouble by neatly summarizing my general take on the matter:
"Pro family" groups have given it their best shot, but this debate is over. They would do better to spend their energy and resources building up their side of the cultural divide and demonstrating how their own precepts are supposed to work. Divorce remains a great threat to family stability, and there are far more heterosexuals divorcing and cohabiting than homosexuals wishing to "marry." If conservative religious people wish to exert maximum influence on culture, they will redirect their attention to repairing their own cracked foundation. An improved heterosexual family structure will do more for those families and the greater good than attempts to halt the inevitable. A topical solution does not cure a skin disease whose source is far deeper.

I think the conservative arguments deserve more detailed treatment, but this is the bottom line. We have already lost significant ground on this front and we need to pick our battles more carefully than we have done so far. Otherwise, in the words of my friend Pastorius, we will be only left with a choice of which hill we want to die on.

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