While I wouldn’t call myself an advocate of gay marriage,* at least not at the present time, I believe the debate on gay marriage is one of the most important of our time. And not merely for gay people. Scholars increasingly recognize the importance of marriage in promoting emotional and financial** well-being.
If traditional marriage promotes good qualities among straight people, then it should also foster similar qualities in gay people. Too few advocates of gay marriage discuss the non-governmental benefits of this ancient and honorable institution.
Indeed, it seems that most of the advocates of gay marriage (with the prominent exception of Jonathan Rauch–though I’m sure he’s not the only one) are those least likely to discuss its social (as opposed to its political) benefits. In many cases, these people hold worldviews similar to those who, in the and 1960s and 1970s, questioned the value of marriage as a social institution.
Despite the importance of this issue, it seems that whenever I read a piece of gay marriage, on either side of the debate, the advocates and adversaries merely repeat talking points, misrepresenting the other side’s points and relying on cliches (and/or slogans) rather than arguments. To be sure, there have been a number of thoughtful pieces on both sides of the debate — and (at least) one really, really, really long post about gay marriage that does not, in the end, support one side or the other.
But, on the whole the debate has been particularly lame. Just take a gander at some of the comments to my posts on gay marriage. I’ll suggest how (I believe) advocates of marriage should talk about the issue and people will respond by attacking Bush, talking about “rights” or suggesting that those who opposed gay marriage are merely standing in the path of a foreordained outcome. That history will judge them all as narrow-minded troglodytes.