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Posting on yahoogroups.com  (GLIL listserver) about same-sex marriage, in response to a question about "good" arguments against same-sex marriage and previous articles in National Review by a particular contributor.

Jan 21, 2004 7:12 PM EST

I couldn't find the (Roback) Morse piece either at National Review. It doesn't show up (for me) now. As far as a well-reasoned conservative article against gay marriage, that sounds like an oxymoron, which is why it is hard to find. The closest I could come: The Weekly Standard,  Aug. 4, 2003: �What Marriage Is For: Children need mothers and fathers,� by Maggie Gallagher, with this quote." �[Evan] Wolfson is right that in the course of the sexual revolution the Supreme Court struck down many legal features designed to reinforce the connection between marriage and babies.�  But it's also important to lay this down beside a great "pro" piece:Katha Pollitt, �Adam and Steve�Together at Last,� The Nation, Dec. 15, 2003--that makes the main points as simple as they can get (about keeping the role of government as simple as possible). The other great commentary comes back in 1996, Beyond Queer, with the closing chapter by Jonathan Rauch, who wrote that marriage for gays should not only be allowed, it should be expected.

It's hard to write a simple argument here that covers all the bases and doesn't seem to be simply sideswiping the issues.

One point is that of cultural outlook: there is a basic cultural divide here about the right of the individual to choose his own course in life--an important point back in the 1970's with the writings of Paul Rosenfels (visit http://www.ninthstreetcenter.org).  Some people believe, for religious reasons or not, that there is a moral obligation to dedicate part of one's being to procreating and parenting for the next generation. Others--the cultural libertarians and sometimes classical liberals--believe that  making this choice for oneself is the whole point of freedom. But individual choices away from the family can at least set examples that, in combination, make it harder in an individually competitive society for "families with children" or dependent elders to compete (resulting in people being left out in the cold). That, in practice, seems what the debate is largely about.  Family and parenting means tremendous and unkown responsibility--the typical family is not blessed with a Clark Kent or Ephram Brown to raise.  But then (Rauch is right here as far as I am concerned), offering and expecting committed marriage from gays brings gays (especially the men) back into interacting with the framework of the family. So "social conservatives" turn around and say that they don't trust homosexuality (especially among men) because it seems to invoke a kind of juvenile narcissism. I say, a little narcissism isn't such a bad thing.

The other thing is that, for the "average Joe" type of guy (as on reality TV, maybe), any cultural change that "changes the rules" away from certain perks for traditional courtship and marriage threatens the whole meaning of "masculinity" as he understands it; it threatens psychological emasculation.

There are quirky specifics in my own life that I could elaborate, but those may fit later into my own paying article. 

Jan, 29, 2004, 9:35 AM EST

I don't know how I missed it before, but I found the Morse article this morning on Google:

http://www.nationalreview.com/comment/morse200312170905.asp.  It is called "Love and Marriage and the Meaning of Sex,." from the Dec 18 2003 National Review Online The second part, ("Fruitful Love: Marriage and Infertility") is at http://www.nationalreview.com/comment/morse200312180914.asp and is dated Dec 28 2003.

To me, this sounds a lot like Maggie Gallagher's argument.

To some extent, it draws a line in the sand. The practical effect of her argument is that she wants people who marry heteroseuxally, remain monogamous for life, and raise children to have advantages given to them that others who do not make this "choice" must subsidize and sometimes self-sacrifice for. (I give an extreme example: at the end of the movie Deep Impact legal spouses can go to the shelter to survive the cataclysm.)

There is another part of this: in a free society, you have to have some notion of "merit." But some people want to make sure that "merit" is defined according to their rules, the way they got there. For a lot of people, that is the whole set of social rules and gender roles around marriage.

Jennifer Morse also wrote the book "Love and Economics: Why the Laissez-Faire Family Doesn't Work" (Spence Publishing, 2001).

Of course, it is possible to pose theories about the importance of marriage in socialization. The second phase of this is whether gay unions can fit into this socialization. I think they can, but it is easy to see why many people are reluctant to "devalue" the process of heterosexual courtship itself. It is not so much a question of life experience itself as it of the meaning of experience.

Ultimately, though, Katha Pollitt in The Nation has it right: what matters is what the law is going to recognize, permit, and how the law will affect people differentially. Religion and culture have to stay within bounds when we develop and apply the law, because we do have equal protection.

My  Jennifer Roback Morris review is at http://www.doaskdotell.com/books is at http://www.doaskdotell.com/books/bfam3.htm

My main blog on the same-sex marriage debate is at http://www.doaskdotell.com/gaymarr.htm  See the editorial at http://www.doaskdotell.com/controv/gaymarry.htm

Bill Boushka