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Sunday, October 17, 2004

A civil dispute on gay marriage.

Worth noting at the Family Scholars blog: a gracious, illuminating, civil exchange between David Blankenhorn, a pro-family advocate opposed to same-sex marriage, and Jonathan Rauch, author of what I consider the best argument for same-sex marriage. Blankenhorn seems peculiarly resistant to an observation that seems pretty easy to grasp, as far as I'm concerned: Simply because a democratic majority isn't yet willing to support or defend a "human right" doesn't mean that the right isn't morally compelling or consistent with constitutional precedent. One's rights, after all, can be ignored or violated even by a democratic majority — as history amply demonstrates. Persuading people to honor the rights of a minority group takes a long time, and people are notoriously resistant to being hurried. (Liberalism would be much more successful if liberals kept this basic truth in mind.)

Blankenhorn charges that Rauch conveniently supports a federalist approach to same-sex marriage — letting different states adopt widely varying practices — only because no other approach could work in the U.S. right now. And yet the alternative Blankenhorn offers to supporters of same-sex marriage — demand a national right to marry and then concede defeat when the majority says "No" — makes no sense at all. Nevertheless, do read their exchange: Part 1; part 2; part 3; part 4; part 5; and part 6.

Copyright © 2004 by Philocrites | Posted 17 October 2004 at 10:06 AM

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Jeff Wilson:

October 17, 2004 08:03 PM | Permalink for this comment

Chris, this is kinda nitpicky, so forgive me for tweaking you over it. But when you describe Blankenhorm as a "pro-family advocate opposed to same-sex marriage," it seems to me that one of these things contradicts the other. I consider myself pro-family; in fact, commitments to family plays a measurably larger role in my life decisions than in that of many of my peers. And I support the idea of gay marriage rights, partly because it seems obviously pro-family to me. There are gay families in my family, and being married helps support these families (which include children). Blankenhorn, meanwhile, is anti-family: he opposes the families of gay adults and their children.

The right wing has made a concerted effort to capture the "pro-family" mantle, despite the fact that their economic, healthcare, etc policies are so profoundly family-unfriendly (from my point of view). I don't see why we should grant them the title of "pro-family," especially in a debate specifically predicated on their opposition to certain types of loving, stable families. So, I think your description should read "David Blankenhorn, an opponent of same-sex marriage," thus leaving out the extraneous and possibly unfactual label of "pro-family advocate." At the least, we need to describe gay marriage advocates as "pro-family" at the same time that we described heterocentric opinions as "pro-family." Because that's what this is: it's a battle to legally recognize certain family types in our nation that are currently disenfranchised.


October 17, 2004 09:57 PM | Permalink for this comment

Yes, I thought about putting "pro-family" in quotes when I wrote the post, but decided that there were two good reasons to let Blankenhorn define himself on this point: First, I couldn't find reasons to doubt that he is genuinely pro-family, even if I might find his definition of family unnecessarily narrow. I think it's worth regarding what he says as being said in good faith — even if one needed to assume the opposite from the perspective of Realpolitik. ("Be wise as the serpent and gentle as the dove.") And, second, Blankenhorn was consistently courteous enough toward Rauch for me to give him the benefit of the doubt.

But I absolutely agree: Jonathan Rauch's advocacy of gay marriage is rooted in a belief that marriage would be good for families, for couples, and for the larger society. It's an unmistakably pro-family position.

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