GAY MARRIAGE REDUX
The Signifying Nothing Boys are all over the gay marriage issue. Chris Lawrence writes,
I think we could see a draconian form of the Defense of Marriage Act sooner rather than later, because the Democrats in Washington are far too spineless to oppose it, and I reckon you could round up 38 state legislatures–bodies full of people looking for ways to avoid giving voters a good reason to vote them out–to ratify the thing in a big hurry. The bottom line is that conservatives aren’t going to let Roe happen twice. . . .
Interesting. And not implausible. I haven’t done the math or looked at the state-by-state polling on this issue closely enough to know for sure, but there are certainly something pretty close to 37 states with majorities against gay marriage. Opposed enough to ratify a constitutional amendment? That I’m not sure of. We haven’t passed a School Prayer Amendment yet, and prayer is more popular than gay marriage is unpopular. He also quotes Matthew Stinson,
For what it’s worth, I would be more inclined to support gay marriage nationally (rather than locally) if I believed gays desired marriage for more than just its economic and legal benefits. Yes, one’s sense of dignity is benefited by having the right to marry, but what’s lost on many gay marriage advocates is that marriage is about fidelity as much as it is sharing resources. Andrew Sullivan, to his credit, has argued that the option of marriage will have a civilizing effect on gay men. But gay men aren’t children, and they can choose fidelity now if they want.
Nor do I really buy the “civilizing effects” argument articulated by Sullivan; I suspect the number of straight men who’ve actually said, “I’d cheat on my wife with Lulu from the temp pool, but I can’t since I’m married” is within ε of zero. They might say “I’d cheatÃ¢€¦, but I can’t since I’m in a committed monogomous relationship,” but you can have one of those without being married. It’s a function of character, not institutions.
My guess is that it’s both. Clearly, institutions help reinforce the inclination to act within the bounds of propriety. Surely, one would be more likely to cheat on a girlfriend than a woman to whom one has made a lifetime commitment.
Brock Sides weighs in with an economic analysis of the situation, arguing that because marriage creates a “bright line rule” for health benefits, probate, and other major issues, the libertarian desire for civil unions or other non-state solutions will fail. Further, he believes “homophobic bigots” will strive to pass laws limiting the benefits of homosexual couples, so we’d be right back to where we’ve started from.
I suspect that Brock is right as to the ultimate workability of a non-state solution. But the culture simply isn’t there yet on a national basis. Chris is right: If it looks like the courts are going to pull a Roe on this one, there will be a huge cultural backlash–perhaps even one strong enough to pass a constitutional amendment. The vast majority of Americans still believe, deeply, that homosexual conduct is repugnant. They’re not going to voluntarily equate that conduct with marriage, an institution they hold (in theory, if not in practice) as sacred. Incremental progress is all gay couples can realistically hope for. Aside from a Roe-type move from the courts, I predict this will be a moot issue in 20 years because society will be ready for gay marriage by then.
Update (2324): Brett Marston thinks most people are tolerant and this will all blow over.
I predict that those who want to advance an exclusionary approach here will probably stumble over the fact that Americans are basically tolerant, sensible, forward-looking people who do not need to define themselves primarily by whom they exclude from the enjoyment of official recognition of the seriousness of their love of each other. The anxieties expressed by some folks will look like private obsessions rather than grounds for the use of the legal power of the state.
Of course, one could argue that official recognition of the seriousness of love is a rather dubious use of the legal power of the state.