So what are gay marriage’s opponents really defending, if not some universal, biologically inevitable institution? It’s a particular vision of marriage, rooted in a particular tradition, that establishes a particular sexual ideal.
This ideal holds up the commitment to lifelong fidelity and support by two sexually different human beings — a commitment that involves the mutual surrender, arguably, of their reproductive self-interest — as a uniquely admirable kind of relationship. It holds up the domestic life that can be created only by such unions, in which children grow up in intimate contact with both of their biological parents, as a uniquely admirable approach to child-rearing. And recognizing the difficulty of achieving these goals, it surrounds wedlock with a distinctive set of rituals, sanctions and taboos.
The point of this ideal is not that other relationships have no value, or that only nuclear families can rear children successfully. Rather, it’s that lifelong heterosexual monogamy at its best can offer something distinctive and remarkable — a microcosm of civilization, and an organic connection between human generations — that makes it worthy of distinctive recognition and support.
[W]hen Levi reveals himself to be a jerk again, every People magazine reader in the country fully sympathizes with Bristol chucking him out, again. Get married for the sake of the children? Unwed motherhood as a disgrace? What is this, the Middle Ages?
Walker’s decision was a twist in a complex legal story that stretches back to the 1990s. Many more twists lie ahead. The judge’s decision will almost certainly be reversed on appeal. (Walker seems to know it, too: He suspended his own decision from going into effect until after the appellate court had its say.)
But we don’t have to wait for the courts to finish their work to know the answer to the big question.
The harm feared from same-sex marriage has already arrived: Whether same-sex marriage is accepted or not, opposite-sex marriage as a norm and expectation has already collapsed.
Sanchez went on to say that there are no legitimate arguments against gay marriage. That they’re all stupid or bigoted.
Bigotry is, of course, the “stubborn and complete intolerance of any creed, belief, or opinion that differs from one’s own.” I’ll leave it to others to decide who best matches that description.
Perhaps proponents of same-sex marriage, emboldened by Judge Walker’s assertions, might think that they no longer need to persuade those with whom they disagree. Voters have routinely shunned arguments in favor of same-sex marriage while judges have forced it on some states. But it is telling that so many proponents of same-sex marriage are unable or unwilling to respond fairly to the arguments in favor of traditional marriage law.
Let me be clear: Had I been a Californian, I would have voted against Proposition 8, which banned gay marriage. I would like all 50 states and the federal government to grant same-sex couples access to marriage. But it would be far better for that change to come from elected institutions than from the courts.
U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker struck down Proposition 8 because it “fails to advance any rational basis for singling out gay men and lesbians for denial of a marriage license.” But it’s silly to believe only nut jobs and bigots could rationally oppose same-sex marriage, or that millions of Californians who accept other laws protecting gays were acting irrationally…
Thanks to Judge Walker, the debate is no longer about whether gays deserve protection from the law, a debate they were steadily winning. It is more about whether democratic processes should be trusted to resolve the question. That’s a debate they are likely to lose.
I think it’s a little naive to assume that it will have no impact at all — that legal changes don’t beget cultural changes, and that public definitions don’t influence private conduct. Maybe the potential consequences are so vanishingly minimal that they’re easily outweighed by the benefits to gay couples; that’s certainly a reasonable position. But looking out across America’ landscape of heterosexual dysfunction, it’s still a little hard for me to accept that what this moment demands of us is the legal formalization — indeed, the constitutionalization, if Judge Walker has his way — of the ideological conceit that marriage has no necessary connection to gender difference, procreation or childrearing.