NRO Continues To Go To HellI normally consider the "Guest Comment" on National Review Online to be a rare light of intelligent and logical writing in an unfortunate publication, but even that section has crumbled.
This morning, a person named Maggie Gallagher posted a piece in which she tries to answer Andrew Sullivan's criticisms of fellow conservatives who do not share his support for legalizing same-sex unions. Like everything I've heard from strong opponents of "gay marriage," it's silly, incoherent and reveals the writer to be far more conservative and doctrinaire than is the average person who feels kinda iffy about letting The Gays get hitched.
Just as Santorum's opposition to the legalization of sodomy was part of his deeper opposition to the right to privacy -- all the way back to criminalizing contraception -- Gallagher's real fight is against treating marriage as anything other than a legal contract that forces a man and a woman to have babies and raise those children together. She opens thus:
Andrew Sullivan has a new idea. If gay-marriage opponents really cared about marriage, we would propose a constitutional amendment to ban divorce.Yet her conclusion follows a very similar theme:
Logically, of course, this is a complete non sequitur: Don't do what is possible to protect marriage, try to do what is impossible. Gee, that is a real recipe for progress.
In fact the whole push for gay marriage looks very similar to the push by legal elites for unilateral divorce. The very same arguments are used: inadequate and preliminary social-science data used to "prove" that divorce has no ill effects on children. Critics who warned that redefining divorce as a unilateral right might increase divorce were pooh-poohed. Only bad, unhappy marriages would be affected, we were reassured. After all, how can the divorce of an unhappy couple affect happily married people? Most tellingly, radical transformation of divorce laws were presented as a conservative, modest reform that would actually strengthen marriage.Well, which is it? People who want to strengthen marriage should make divorce more difficult? or they should concentrate all their efforts on banning gay marriage? If trying to rollback divorce is such a foolish idea, why are you still carping about the evils of unilateral divorce? (Insert joke about conservatives and unilateralism.)
Do not believe it. It wasn't true of divorce; it isn't true of gay marriage.
Nor does the middle of the column make any more sense than the beginning and end. Gallagher states that marriage in America is marginally healthier right now than it has been in the recent past, but that it "remains an institution obviously in profound structural and cultural crisis."
Like most conservatives, Gallagher manages to deride same-sex unions as a clear and future -- if not necessarily present -- danger to Our Children without mentioning the capacity of committed gay couples to raise children. Ban gay marriage For the Kids is the crux of most of these arguments.
With legalized gay marriage, idealized portraits of Heather and her two mommies will enter every public-school classroom in America, not to mention media and entertainment. Our sons will be told that they are not necessary in family life. Our daughters will be informed by government authority that children do not necessarily need fathers. How important, then, is it to stick to a marriage so your kids have a father? If two mommies are equally good for a child, why won't a single mom and her mother do? How can we revive a stronger commitment to the importance of fathers among both men and women if the government tells us fathers are not that important, only commitment is. If any two parents will do, why not just divorce and remarry as often as you like? Your child will have two parents in the home, and that is all that matters, right?Gallagher pretends to have proven that same-sex unions will weaken marriage as a social institution without having done any such thing, and casts aside the problems suffered by families headed by gays and lesbians with a casual, "If gays and lesbians are facing practical problems in arranging their lives, caring and responsible people will look for solutions other than destabilizing the one critical social institution which protects children from fatherlessness, poverty, pain, and suffering."
This divorce thing is a lawyer's trick, a diversion from the question at hand: Will same-sex marriage strengthen or weaken marriage as a social institution? If the answer is that it will weaken marriage at all, we should not do it: It is morally callous and indifferent, given the depth of the marriage crisis we face, the suffering it is causing.
Children dealt with all of those ills before we had unilateral divorce, when they were called orphans and foundlings. The entire welfare system began as a way to care for children who didn't have fathers -- not because they had two mommies, but because their fathers were dead or just plain gone.
Obviously, the government is no subsitute for a caring parent, but it is beyond idiotic to pretend that we were all doing beautifully until unilateral divorce showed up to wreck the party, and then gay marriage came along to finish it off.
Not many people have said that two mommies are equally good for a child as a mother and a father, all other things being equal.
But I'm willing to go out on a limb and say that two mommies who love each other and love Heather and are committed to taking care of everyone in their family, are better than a mother and father who fight constantly, who cheat on each other, who are so involved in their own misery of being stuck in an unhappy marriage that they don't even notice Heather.
Gallagher puts up a very weak strawman by saying that "if any two parents will do..."
Instability clearly is problematic for children, which is why the child welfare system is trying to orient itself toward permanency instead of putting kids through a series of foster homes. (Though one source of permanent homes is not always legally possible.)
But no one is advocating that children go through five sets of parents. Instead, they are saying that the gender of the parents a child has for his entire life is not as important as the quality of those parents.
Would Gallagher dare to argue that once interracial marriage was made legal, people would stop marrying people of the same race and a white woman's divorcing her white husband to marry a series of black men would be acceptable?
I suppose the fundamental problem I have with understanding the arguments made by opponents of same-sex unions is that I don't think gender is the most important thing about a person. I've constantly had my gender mistaken online, and it doesn't bother me because I don't think that my genitals are all that relevant in this arena.
Why are they so terrible important in marriage and parenting? I suppose that if two women are going to raise a little boy, it might be useful to have someone who could demonstrate how to pee standing up, but otherwise the gender of the parents strikes me as far less important than whether they are committed to each other and to their children.