Greg Hengler gives us the Larry King matchup between Townhall’s Dennis Prager and Perez Hilton from last night. In boxing terms, this intellectual debate would be akin to Joe Louis vs Manny Pacquiao’s public-relations guy. It’s no contest. My friend Dennis talks about philosophy, history, and biology, while Perez mostly whines about his feelings.  Perez’ corner should have thrown in the towel in the first minute.

And yet … does Dennis really score any points here?

Dennis brings up several analogies, but only one of them really has any relation to the issue, and that’s the e-Harmony case.  Civil litigation imposed a requirement on e-Harmony to provide services to gays, even though the owners really only wanted to serve straights.  No one imposed such solutions on gay dating services, and Dennis makes the good point that a free market serves all by promoting business that cater to market demand.  Very few would argue that the government should put such dating services out of business or force them to serve a market against their will.

But that’s not the same thing as government recognition of gay marriage, nor are the Girl Scouts/Boy Scouts or social club analogies that Dennis uses.  Those are also private associations, not government agencies, and the Scouts have a right to organize as they see fit, as long as they don’t break other laws in doing so.  American culture looks more favorably on organizing along gender lines with children than they do with adults, as the single-gender social clubs that Dennis mentions have been disappearing for decades under the pressure of gender equality.  None of these have any need for government recognition, which makes them irrelevant to the issue of whether governments should recognize same-sex relationships as marriages.

If I were Dennis, I would have used a sports analogy instead.  Title IX guarantees equal access on gender, but doesn’t require that schools eliminate gender separation for their athletic departments.  Gymnastics, golf, baseball/softball, basketball, hockey, and other sports get separate teams for men and women, but they get equal financing.  That would at least somewhat parallel the policy of recognizing marriage for heterosexual unions only while providing for civil unions for gay relationships that protect their partnership rights.  That’s actually an analogous government-treatment argument that Dennis misses in favor of an irrelevant free-market argument.

For the record, I don’t think government should be in the marriage business at all.  We’d be better off having everyone use partnership agreements that will get treated better than marriage contracts ever do these days in court, and leave the question of marriage to religious institutions.  No-fault divorce destroyed any argument that government should protect the sanctity of marriage, and unless I’ve missed a deep groundswell for eliminating that, government does more to damage marriage now than it helps.