June 17, 2009
Jonathan Chait is the current author of the TRB column in The New Republic. In the June 17, 20090 issue he takes on “Carrie Prejean and other anti-gay marriage intellectuals”. He is referring to the former Miss California’s contention that “marriage should be between a man and a woman”. After pointing out that this contention is not an argument, he asks why this might be true. It is certainly the basis on which many religious opponents claim exemption from civil rights laws such as we are seeing in England at the moment around whether religious bodies can discriminate in matters of employment, adoption and the like. (http://www.churchtimes.co.uk/content.asp?id=76558) It is also causing some challenges for Episcopalians in states in which gay marriage is legal because our canons define marriage as between a man and a woman (“That both parties understand that Holy Matrimony is a physical and spiritual union of a man and a woman, entered into within the community of faith, by mutual consent of heart, mind, and will, and with intent that it be lifelong.”)
Chait addresses a number of things that are sometimes said in support of this proclamation are that someone gets harmed if we allow gay marriage or that the link between child rearing and marriage would be weakened if marriage was extended to GLBT people. He points out, among other things, that all such arguments are exclusively about how heterosexual people would be affected by an extension of marriage rights, including the difficulty expressed by one person that it will be harder to persuade black men of the obligation to marry the mother of their children. (That masterpiece from one Heather MacDonald of the Manhattan Institute: http://www.manhattan-institute.org/) He suggests that the statement of belief ( and presumably desire) that the term ‘marriage’ should be reserved for one man and one woman is “a body of opinion held largely by people who either don’t know why they oppose gay marriage or don’t feel comfortable explicating their case.” Later he says that the belief is “an expression of unease rather than principle” and goes on: “As people face up to the fact that opposing gay marriage means disregarding the happiness of the people most directly (or even solely) affected by it, most of us come around. Good ideas don’t always defeat bad ideas, but they usually, over time, defeat non-ideas.”
I think he has reached the heart of the matter on this one and would be interested in your thoughts.