I have frequently recommended the chapter “What is Marriage for,” in Jonathan Rauch’s book, Gay Marriage : Why It Is Good for Gays, Good for Straights, and Good for America as one of the few pieces which actually takes seriously the meaning of gay marriage. Today, I was delighted (and surprised) to discover another such piece while checking out National Review Online.
On their front page, that conservative journal offers a piece by law professor (and GPW acquaintance) Dale Carpenter listing the ten areas of agreement on gay marriage. Articulating anew an idea that Andrew Sullivan introduced in his Conservative Case for Gay Marriage, Dale contends:
This “conservative case” has rested on the idea that marriage would benefit gays, generally by encouraging long-term commitment among gays and particularly by settling gay men. It would therefore benefit our whole society.
Hmm. . . . doesn’t seem much different from ideas addressed in Plato’s Symposium.
These ten areas of agreement include the societal and institutional benefits of the institution and allowing “churches and religious authorities” the freedom “to refuse to recognize such marriages if they wish to do so.” Dale recognizes that we need to consider the “social effects” involved in changing “an important social institution like marriage.” Thus, perhaps the most important of his areas of agreement is that the change should be gradual:
If any significant change to an important social institution like marriage is undertaken at all it should occur slowly and incrementally, state-by-state, rather than in one fell swoop (as by court-ordered, nationwide gay marriage), so that we can assess the impact of the change and adjust the direction of reform or completely halt the reform.
I have one minor quibble with his piece in that he does not include monogamy in his list of the ten areas of agreement, waiting only until his conclusion to bring it up.
That said, it’s a great piece and a must-read for those committed to the debate on gay marriage. I frequently fault advocates of gay marriage for not addressing the real issues of the debate. Dale’s article is a reminder that there are a few who understand what’s at stake, who recognize the impact of this significant social change and who have considered the meaning of gay marriage. It’s a great credit to the National Review that this conservative publication would post such a serious piece.
Now, as Glenn Reynolds would say, just read the whole thing!
-Dan (AKA GayPatriotWest): GayPatriotWest@aol.com