Let the states experiment with same-sex marriage, says Will
the heels of David Brooks and David Horowitz, George Will
has become the third conservative sell-out to homosexual marriage in the last week. Will’s article demonstrates how the instrumental approach adopted by some conservative opponents of homosexual marriage (that is, looking at the issue in terms of its effect on measurable social phenomena rather than in terms of fundamental moral and natural truths) can be used by proponents as well. Arguing that the sanctity of marriage has already declined as a result of widespread illegitimacy, Will says that the crucial question is: What will be the social effect of instituting or banning homosexual marriage? Perhaps, as one side argues, it will weaken marriage. Or perhaps, as the other side argues, it will strengthen the virtues connected with marriage. We don’t know the answer, says Will. Therefore we must allow the states to experiment with homosexual marriage in order to find out the answer. If it turns out that homosexual marriage doesn’t harm society any more than widespread illegitimacy has (a phenomenon with which Will has already made his peace), then there’s no reason not to accept homosexual marriage as well. He opposes the federal marriage amendment because it would stop this needed experimentation at the state level.
Lacking any principled objection to the most radical social innovation in the history of the world, this celebrated “conservative” embraces experimentation with it as the prudent course. But does Will really believe that after homosexual marriage has existed in a number of states for several decades, embedded in statutory law, in the welfare state, and in popular expectations, it will be possible to dismantle it? Will is no more serious on his “let’s give it a fair trial” idea than Sandra Day O’Connor was serious about “re-visiting” racial quotas 25 years from now. What we are witnessing here is not a thought process, but a process of accommodation and surrender to the left and its ongoing murder attempt against our society.
Oh, yes, Will does make one conservative-sounding point, criticizing the imposition of same-sex marriage via judicial fiat, as has happened in Massachusetts. His reason for opposing judicial fiat is that it creates unnecessary ill-will between the two sides and thus retards the acceptance of homosexuality.
Posted by Lawrence Auster at November 30, 2003 03:26 PM | Send
Especially chilling is Will’s assertion that the states should serve as “laboratories of social policy”—in which the citizens get to play white rats. Will appears to be uncomfortable with the prospect of the same logic that supports gay marriage being used to validate married threesomes. That sounds vaguely conservative but really isn’t, since it apparently implies that gay marriage isn’t bad in itself except insofar as it could pave the way for polygamy (not unlike saying that pornography isn’t bad in itself except insofar as it may encourage sex crimes). But frankly, I wouldn’t even be willing to bet on his continued opposition to polygamy. Possibly he just needs a little time. Five or ten years from now—after, say, a few hit TV series about loving, funny, wacky, caring threesomes (Three’s Company redux?), I would fully expect the pundit class to accomodate polygamy too. Hey, it’s just that much more parental attention for the kids….
…and in addition, in the event of marriage breakdown, we could expect that in many instances the children would remain with two out of three original “marrieds”, so that overall child poverty would go down and with it, the total number of children in welfare-supported households. That’s a cause “conservatives” can surely rally around!
More seriously, perhaps we need to popularize the term “pseudoconservative”.
Several months ago, I predicted on this Forum that “Conservatives” would soon surrender on the issue of racial preferences. We will soon see a column by Mr. Will that anti-white preferences are good for social stability, “properly understood.” Perhaps Bennett or Kristol will beat him to it.
I must say that I am mystified by the argument that homosexual “marriage” would pave the way for polygamy. This is like saying that World War I was bad because it led to Prohibition. Polygamy is not a good form of marriage, but it has been a custom of many societies, including some ancestral to our own, and whatever its faults it is infinitely more defensible than pretending that the relationship of two perverts is a marriage. I like the term “pseudoconservative” but it may be too complimentary to Will.
I can’t agree with Mr. Levine’s take on this. The current push essentially destroys ANY concept of marriage as one man and one woman. Once that God-ordained definition is disavowed in its exclusive station, practically anything is fair game. ‘Contractual’ arrangements by themselves, and regardless of their substance, are on their way to be accorded the same legal standing as marriage has traditionally held.
It is here that we have to harken back to the fact that marriage is ordained of God, according to Jewish and Christian understanding, and that the state’s role is in acknowledging, embracing, protecting and codifying this sacred preexisting institution as appropriate to a well-ordered and healthy society. Society has every prerogative to elevate this relationship above all others as best for the children and the culture of which they are a part and must one day lead.
Refering back to the ancient practice of polygamy in Old Testament times brings up some thorny questions. It is true that God permitted the practice — and at least in one case even enabled it — but the original revelation has always held: “Therefore shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” Polygamy in the ancient context needs to be understood according to the circumstances that surrounded fallen man at that time. (The same is true for the levirate marriage provisions that inhered in the Mosaic Law. A woman in that day who was unmarried faced a life without any provision.)
Although a clear condemnation of the practice is not found, the Biblical examples that we are given, (including the practice of taking a concubine,) show that in nearly every case the practice is attended with much trouble, be it internal jealousy and strife, plotting to advance one’s children against another’s, or even turning the man’s heart away from the Lord. It has altered history, and not for the better, in a way that affects us today - viz., the case of Abraham and Hagar.
By New Testaments times, monogomy is taken for granted. In no passage do we find anything but a reference to one man and one woman in marriage. No need is even perceived to clarify what is implicitly regarded by the writers, and Paul affirmed the original decree likening the institution as a picture of the relationship between Christ and the church.
This is the basis on which our Western system has been based, and on which it must remain if our Civilization is to endure.
Mr. Levine, it is because the arguments used to justify the one could as well be used to justify the other and doubtless will in the not too distant future unless people come to their senses (as Paul points out in his excellent post). The same arguments can be used to justify not only polygamy but incestuous marriages — father-daughter, son-mother, brother-sister, etc., marriages — and marriages between people on the one hand and animals, plants, and inanimate objects on the other (the wise won’t laugh — if this continues unchecked you WILL see people — men and women — “marrying” their dogs, cats, horses, trees in their garden, computers, automobiles, etc. — it’s all out there folks, just waiting for the liberals to give it society’s official sanction).
It shouldn’t be necessary to clarify that the reason I oppose homosexual “marriage” is NOT because it leads logically to other sorts of perverted “marriage.” It does that too of course, but I oppose it regardless — on religious, moral, and common-sense grounds and on grounds of a thing called truth. You cannot cobble together morality or even truth purely by tinkering with logic, Messrs. Will, Horowitz, and Brooks. It’s been tried, by some extremely clever people. It always leads sooner or later to nihilism.
Put another way, basically there is the void, and there is God. Liberals, who don’t like starkness, want to get away from the feeling that they are thus limited. They want to believe something lies between those two — they crave more choices.
So did the prophet Jonah.
Unadorned wrote that “if this continues unchecked you WILL see people — men and women — “marrying” their dogs, …”
Some people undoubtedly would laugh at this. This is nothing to laugh about. Consider the recent news account where a girl in eastern India was married to a dog in order to break an evil spell.
Now if we have immigrants from a culture like this, and we consider all cultures “equal,” what is to prevent a crazy thing like this from happening here? If we failed to accord legal recognition in respect of a practice pursuant to their religion, we would be ‘discriminating.’
Based on Will’s own reasoning that whatever is accepted by the majority is ok, I agree there’s no reason to believe that he won’t one day support multiple partner “marriages” or “marriages” with animals.
I agree with the point that it’s silly to see polygamy as _worse_ than homosexual marriage, since, obviously, polygamy is an ancient custom while homosexual marriage is this freakish innovation. However, when people speak of polygamy being the “next step,” they don’t really mean traditional polygamy in which one man has several marriages to several different women; they’re talking about a _three-way_ “marriage.”
Polygamy is a natural social institution in that many human societies will organize themselves that way without much effort. Homosexual marriage is unnatural because almost no society organizes itself that way.
Still, polygamy is quite undesirable for the West. Our entire civilization has been built on a monogamy created by Christianity. If we lose monogamy, we lose our civilization.
That goes without saying.
Here’s yet another “conservative” who opposes the federal marriage amendment. His argument is that conservatism means basing social change on proven experience. Therefore we should first have a generation or so of homosexual civil unions and see how that works out, and, if it does work out, we can then move toward instituting full-scale homosexual marriage.
Mr. Levine’s post of November 30, 2003 06:41 PM where he stated that he was “mystified by the argument that homosexual “marriage” would pave the way for polygamy” may have failed even a pre-test.
It wasn’t even necessary for homosexual marriage to take root. The Lawrence v. Texas ruling by itself is being used to argue a right to polygamy.
To be fair, that battle is only just beginning. But it’s exactly what Justice Scalia predicted.
I don’t think that Lawrence v. Texas will have anything to do with the advancement (or the stopping) of single-sex marriage or polygamy, though some, as in the linked article, will attempt (unsuccessfully I believe) to use it for that purpose. Lawrence is about the right to do what you like in private. That’s an entirely different area from marriage, which is a public institution. Lawrence is disastrous enough as it is, without our making it the cause of other things with which it has no _legal_ connection.
I wish I could relate to Mr. Auster’s hopeful take on this, but I can’t. Allow me to quote 2 relevant exerpts from Justice Scalia’s dissent:
“This reasoning leaves on pretty shaky grounds state laws limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples. Justice O’Connor seeks to preserve them by the conclusory statement that “preserving the traditional institution of marriage” is a legitimate state interest. But “preserving the traditional institution of marriage” is just a kinder way of describing the State’s moral disapproval of same-sex couples. Texas’s interest in §21.06 could be recast in similarly euphemistic terms: “preserving the traditional sexual mores of our society.” In the jurisprudence Justice O’Connor has seemingly created, judges can validate laws by characterizing them as “preserving the traditions of society” (good); or invalidate them by characterizing them as “expressing moral disapproval” (bad).”
Granted, this was only in response to Justice O’Conner’s 14th Amendment argument, which she alone advanced. But the more general assessment is no less disturbing:
“Today’s opinion dismantles the structure of constitutional law that has permitted a distinction to be made between heterosexual and homosexual unions, insofar as formal recognition in marriage is concerned. If moral disapprobation of homosexual conduct is “no legitimate state interest” for purposes of proscribing that conduct, and if, as the Court coos (casting aside all pretense of neutrality), “[w]hen sexuality finds overt expression in intimate conduct with another person, the conduct can be but one element in a personal bond that is more enduring,” what justification could there possibly be for denying the benefits of marriage to homosexual couples exercising “[t]he liberty protected by the Constitution,”? Surely not the encouragement of procreation, since the sterile and the elderly are allowed to marry. This case “does not involve” the issue of homosexual marriage only if one entertains the belief that principle and logic have nothing to do with the decisions of this Court. Many will hope that, as the Court comfortingly assures us, this is so.”
I am loathe to be the bearer of ill tidings, but it REALLY IS THAT BAD.
It may be that bigamy’s partisans will not succeed in using Lawrence v. Texas to decriminalize bigamy. If so, it will only be because progressive judges do not grant bigamy the same high moral standing that they do homosexual sodomy. Not extending Lawrence’s holding, predicated as it is on people’s purported right to indulge in any sexual variation they choose in private, to bigamous conduct would be yet another unprincipled exception to an idiotic liberal “principle.”
Whether homosexualists and others who want to destroy true marriage by perverting the definition of marriage will be able to enlist Lawrence for their cause is another question. Mr. Auster is right to note that Lawrence deals with private conduct while the homosexualist offensive is against a public institution. At bottom (pun?), however, both are about sexual license. That being so, how many of today’s mentally numbed-by-liberalism Americans are capable of grasping Mr. Auster’s distinction? A better question is whether activist federal judges will honor that distinction; that is, will restrain themselves from misapplying the Lawrence precedent to compel homosexual “marriage.” I believe the Massachusetts court cited Lawrence approvingly in its attack on marriage in that commonwealth.
If the logic of Lawrence spreads from the realm of private conduct into the regulation of publicly acknowledged relationships, something many federal judges would happily abet, then Mr. LeFevre’s (and Justice Scalia’s) fears are well-founded. HRS
Perhaps I am being dim here, but I do not follow Scalia’s reasoning. His first paragraph relates to the general problem of judges overturning what laws they please in the name of evolving social morality. That is a general issue going through all these judicial usurpations of legislative power, and is not peculiar to Lawrence per se.
His second paragraph relates to breaking down the distinction between homo and hetero. But the real basis of Lawrence as I understand it was not homo rights per se, but a protection of a general sphere of privacy.
Please understand that my intention in making this point was not to be “hopeful” about stopping the cause of homosexual marriage; I was only saying that the Lawrence decision by itself does not seem to me the crux of the advancement of that cause. The Massachsetts decision did not rely on Lawrence; and the Massachusetts decision, combined with an overturning of the Defense of Marriage Act, would be enough to nationalize homosexual marriage.
You’re being dim. Just kidding.
What Scalia is saying, I think, is that once one has accepted the logic of Lawrence, that the state has no compelling interest in distinguishing between homosexual and normal sexual behavior (in the context of prosecuting sodomy), activist courts will apply that logic in other areas of life. Having used the right of privacy that Justice Douglas invented and others have embellished to eliminate a state’s ability to discriminate between homosexual and normal conduct, activist judges will expand that newly invented “constitutional” principle of non-descrimination between homosexual and normal conduct beyond the sphere of private consensual conduct into other areas.
Once that leap of logic is made, the way is open to undermine marriage through decisions such as that of the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts. Looking at the makeup of the current U.S. Supreme Court, and betting that GW Bush wouldn’t dare appoint and fight for the confirmation of a true judicial conservative, I suspect any foreseeable U.S. Supremes would come to much the same conclusion as the Massachusetts Supremes.
Once the definition of marriage has been judicially undermined, expect activists to demand state ratification of all sorts of “alternative lifestyles.” Expect them also to demand a place at the public trough. I’ll ask again a question I have asked here before: what, if anything, will make Americans finally say they have had enough of this libertine social engineering? If there have been mass popular protests against the Lawrence or the Massachusetts decisions, I haven’t heard about them. HRS
Mr. Auster wrote: “His second paragraph relates to breaking down the distinction between homo and hetero. But the real basis of Lawrence as I understand it was not homo rights per se, but a protection of a general sphere of privacy.”
Mr. Sutherland addressed that question well. I would add that the Court’s perennial “privacy” concern seems to be more of an ‘anchor’ in this case. Consider this opening wording:
” Liberty protects the person from unwarranted government intrusions into a dwelling or other private places. In our tradition the State is not omnipresent in the home. AND there are other spheres of our lives and existence, OUTSIDE THE HOME, where the State should not be a dominant presence. Freedom extends BEYOND SPATIAL BOUNDS. Liberty presumes an autonomy of self that includes freedom of thought, belief, expression, and certain intimate conduct. The instant case involves liberty of the person both in its spatial AND MORE TRANSCENDENTAL DIMENSIONS.”
And just what does THAT mean? I perceive some gratuitous dicta there, that wasn’t necessary to a privacy-based ruling and is leaves itself open to wide interpretation. There is an almost eerie feeling reading this decision — and maybe I’m just being too pessimistic — but the wording at times almost seems oddly calculated to serve as a stepping-stone, as though someone pushed the author’s pen.
The disclaimer that the ruling “does not involve whether the government must give formal recognition to any relationship that homosexual persons seek to enter” is not reassuring at all. Essentially, it infers that the ruling _need not_ lead further, but this is a world apart from _cannot_ or _will not_, which J. Scalia picked up on, noting that “More illuminating than this bald, unreasoned disclaimer is the progression of thought displayed by an earlier passage in the Court’s opinion, which notes the constitutional protections afforded to “personal decisions relating to MARRIAGE, procreation, contraception, family relationships, child rearing, and education,” and then declares that “[p]ersons in a homosexual relationship may seek autonomy for these purposes, just as heterosexual persons do.”“
Scalia again: “One of the most revealing statements in today’s opinion is the Court’s grim warning that the criminalization of homosexual conduct is “an invitation to subject homosexual persons to discrimination both in the public and in the private spheres.”
Again, what are we to make of the Court’s concern over discrimination in the _public_ as well as private sphere by sodomy being illegal? As noted before, legalizing the formerly proscribed conduct entailed in homo relationships removed an obvious impediment toward ‘marriage.’
I don’t mean to be the Grinch here, but this decision, along with the almost certain eventual doom of the Federal Defense of Marriage Act, makes homosexual marriage a near certainty barring Divine intervention.
Joel’s quotations from the decision are well chosen, and I’m seeing his point.
Kennedy wrote for the majority:
“Freedom extends BEYOND SPATIAL BOUNDS. Liberty presumes an autonomy of self that includes freedom of thought, belief, expression, and certain intimate conduct. The instant case involves liberty of the person both in its spatial AND MORE TRANSCENDENTAL DIMENSIONS.”
Isn’t it just amazing that dried-up little secularists like Anthony Kennedy and David Brooks, who have never had a poetic or higher thought in their lives, suddenly, when trying to legitimize homosexuality, start waxing transcendental and spiritual? This demonstrates how the expansion of personal rights—epitomized by homosexual rights—is the true religion of our age.
A new poll by Toronto’s National Post “suggests Canadians’ views on same-sex marriage have shifted markedly in recent months, with a solid majority now opposed to the notion”…earlier, 56% of those polled supported same-sex marriage; now it’s down to 31%. But hold the champagne: another 37% now say that “the definition of marriage should stay intact but a new category that includes same-sex unions should be created”. So those who support same-sex marriage or “marriage lite” total nearly 70%. A few months ago, incoming prime minister Paul Martin, who describes himself as a “practising Catholic”, said “he would endorse gay marriage because his duty as a member of Parliament outweighs his personal beliefs on the issue”, today’s Post notes.
Yet another poll, in August, showed an even split between pro and contra factions.
Any bets on whether Paul Martin’s bishop will criticize his stand on “gay marriage”? I wouldn’t bet on it. HRS
I wouldn’t bet on it either. Certainly the PM will hear no criticism from the neocon Post’s columnist Barbara Kay, who admonished readers today that “Absent the genuine acceptance of family and friends, public boosterism for gays is a hollow victory…Hearth and home are where the real battle for gay acceptance is joined, a fight to the finish between atavistic instinct and today’s ethical imperatives…We must prepare for our gay children…a place for them and their partners at the table. If pretending to be happy is what it takes until our better nature becomes second nature, so be it”.
These people keep misidentifying the crux of the controversy. Thus, Barbara Kay says,
“Absent the genuine acceptance of family and friends, public boosterism for gays is a hollow victory.”
But the voicing of grave misgivings in regard to society’s officially sanctioning homosexual “marriage” is not AT ALL the same as denying to homosexuals “genuine acceptance by family and friends.” Those are light-years away from each other. In societies that officially recognize only opposite-sex marriages homosexuals can continue to enjoy acceptance by family and friends that is as genuine as ever. All she’s doing is setting up a straw man, then knocking it down
She says, “Hearth and home are where the real battle for gay acceptance is joined, a fight to the finish between atavistic instinct and today’s ethical imperative.”
Sorry Miss Kay, but I fail to see why “acceptance” of homosexuals (whatever that means) necessarily hinges on society’s giving official approval to homosexual “marriage.” To me, “acceptance of homosexuals” means treating them as I would treat anyone else and as I would wish to be treated myself. First, that’s already how I treat them. Second, why does “acceptance of homosexuals” according to that definition entail official state recognition of them “marrying” each other?
“We must prepare for our gay children…a place for them and their partners at the table.”
This is brainlessness and moral nonsense. What it sounds like is a woman who simply can’t STAND the thought of her children, whether hetero or homo, not marrying, as some parents with adult children simply cannot BEAR the thought of never becoming grandparents. For this woman, happiness is inconceivable unless her children MARRY, no matter which sex they marry. And for THAT — for her own selfish, shallow ends — she’s going to support the most drastic alteration of society’s moral center in the ten thousand years since the first city dawned, in Jericho.
There’s a saying in French for people like her — Ils ne voient pas plus loin que le bout de leur nez — they can’t see any further than the tip of their own nose.
By contrast, one of the grand old men of neoconservatism, Norman Podhoretz, got it exactly right in his 1996 essay “How the Gay Rights Movement Won”:
“George Orwell said that we live in a time when the obvious needs constantly to be restated, and so, to restate what was once self-evident to everyone, including most homosexuals themselves: men using one another as women constitutes a perversion. To my unreconstructed mind, this is as true as ever; and so far as I am concerned, it would still be true even if gay sex no longer entailed the danger of infection and even if everything about it were legalized by all 50 states and ratified by all nine Justices of the Supreme Court.
If that should ever happen, and if I am still around when it does, I hope I will still have the strength to hold on to my own sense of the fundamental realities of life against the terrible distortions that have been introduced into the general understanding of those realities by the gay-rights movement and its supporters. For it is this that is mainly at stake here, and it is this that explains why the issue of homosexuality is of such great moment not just to the proportionately small number of practicing homosexuals, but to all the rest of us as well.”
Then there’s the topper—Kay’s line about pretending to be happy about the acceptance of married gays around our dinner table until our better nature becomes our second nature. That is the classic voice of liberal self-brainwashing, using Christian or moral sounding language to accommodate oneself to evil.
What a wonderful, wonderful quote from Norman Podhoretz! It’s him at his best!
Not only is he of course completely correct there about the basic wrongness of homosexuality, and not only does he, in effect, absolutely, positively refuse to kow-tow to the U.S. psychiatric establishment’s removal of homosexuality from the category of sexual perversions, but in so doing, and in voicing his determination to never lose sight of the plain truth no matter how crazy things may become around him, he uses words very reminiscent of Mr. Auster’s, where the latter writes:
” … [T]he most important course of action for traditionalist conservatives … is, knowing the truth, refusing to yield to the lies that surround us, refusing to yield to the prevailing mentality of our society, no matter how victorious it may seem. … [T]he indispensable condition of any conservative or traditionalist movement, as well as of our personal spiritual survival, is that we say NO to the prevailing values of the liberal order and that we keep saying no, that we never accept them inwardly … “
( http://www.amnation.com/vfr/archives/000424.html )
I don’t know anything about Straussian thought, but I know it is said the neocons count many Straussians among their ranks. Here we see a very prominent neocon coming out foursquare in favor of sanity in regard to homosexuality, and yesterday Mr. Auster pointed out that Harry Jaffa, also a fount of truth where homosexuality is concerned, came from a Straussian point of view. Is there something about Strauss’s views that immmunize people against society’s present insanity on homosexuality?
Part of it may be that Straussians believe in nature, nature as the basis of rights, as in classical liberalism and the Declaration of Independence, which leads to nature as the basis of right human order. But whether they really believe this is open to question. The Straussian Alan Bloom half way though The Closing of the American Mind came out and said that the philosopher does not really believe in the “gods of the city,” which in an American context would be “the laws of nature and nature’s God,” but pretends to believe in them in order to secure a safe place for himself in the regime.
“Men using one another as women”; that phrase captures all the perversion of homosexuality in six words. How should one characterize female homosexuality, which I suspect is far less prevalent than the male strain? Do lesbians use women as men? HRS
I recall reading that Podhoretz essay some years ago, when I was still in college, with a sort of wide-eyed incredulity. So clear and unsparing; it’s narrative style so felicitous. He wrote a similarly comprehensive and cogent condemnation of pornography around the same time: inspired, if memory serves, by the film _The People Vs. Larry Flynt_. Neoconservatives like Podhoretz are valuable allies where they have not taken leave of sense and sanity. If he were to just apply that mind to the issue of immigration with the same rigor.
I might add, this is where the more vehement paleoconservatives are so damaging. The venom of their attacks against the neocons is pointless and petty, and it irretrievably alienations important allies in other battles. (This is not to say, of course, that the neocons are blameless when it comes to controversial venom.)