Perhaps had one of our perennial critics not be in such a rush to slander conservatives and had he paid more attention to the ideas I express in my posts, he might have realized how one of his points on gay marriage quite closely resembled my own. While suggesting that those he deems “the guardians of the hallowed institution of marriage” were not sincere in their support of monogamy, darkly hinting of their hypocrisy, this critic contended they “could learn a few things from their married gay counterparts.”
Now, one reason I have long encouraged gay marriage advocates to make the case for including same-sex unions in the protections the various states (and the federal government) grant to different-sex couples who elect traditional marriage is that I believe that very advocacy will remind straight people what marriage is all about. Indeed, Jonathan Rauch said as much in 2004 when he promoted his then-just released book, Gay Marriage: Why It Is Good for Gays, Good for Straights, and Good for America (a study I have long recommended, in large part due to the chapter on What Marriage is For) at a Los Angeles bookstore. That gay marriage advocate told his audience how when he was talking about his book in another city, a straight person thanked him for reminding him what the institution was all about.
In promoting gay marriage, if sincere in its promotion, advocates make the case not just for state recognition of same-sex marriage, but also for strengthening “traditional marriages.”
Now, while my critic has somehow gained the notion that I wish to curry favor with social conservatives, I wonder how many of them would accept my contention that a sincere argument for state recognition of same-sex marriage would be a social conservative one. Indeed, when Andrew Sullivan was making a sensible case for gay marriage (as opposed to the silly and selfish one he is making today), he all but admitted as much.
Simply put, marriage as an institution, as it has long been defined, promotes social stability and discourages promiscuity. It forces us to consider the welfare of others, making us look outward and helps us become less selfish. At the same time, it has profoundly selfish aspects, if we could but see mutual selfishness as a good thing.
And it helps integrate the new partner into his (or her) spouse’s family. Recently, I learned how a left-of-center lesbian blogress found greater welcome in her wife’s socially conservative family when she looked out for her when her beloved was ill. Another friend of mine helped his beloved’s blue-blooded family see the depth of his love and the genuineness of his concern for his schweetie when he cared for that fine young man when he was hospitalized.
Now, I don’t know how Pam Spaulding would react when I told her that her example helps make the social conservative case for gay marriage, so I’ll send her the link and see how she replies. (When we met, I did ask for (and receive) permission to relate the anecdote above.)
In some sense, my college classmate Philip Holmes made the social conservative case for gay marriage better with five words, “my 15 years of monogamy“, than I could with a well-crafted argument. (Well, perhaps a few (but not many) more than five words as he had to explain what it took to be faithful.) Those who make the case for gay marriage should integrate the experiences of the three couples (and others like them) into their arguments.
Now, I know I’ve been misunderstood on this before (and will, should I have a moment, find those comments which reveal such misunderstandings), but do believe that many gay couples, by the very example of their relationships, make a better case for gay marriage than do the professional advocates (i.e., those who are paid to promote the cause). Indeed, it was seeing just such a couple that convinced me to vote against Proposition 8–even though I had been wavering given the hatred expressed in the campaign appeals of many of the proposition’s opponents.
This is not exactly the post on marriage I had intended to write nor perhaps expressed as was the essay that came to me on the elliptical trainer, but it is at least a start.