In a thoughtful piece yesterday in the New York Times, Ross Douthat contended that the view Andrew Sullivan offered on gay marriage in the 1990s “has carried the day almost completely.”
That argument, much different from the one the one-time New Republic editor has offered in the current century, held that “far from being radical, gay marriage was more likely to be stabilizing, ‘sending a message about matrimonial responsibility and mutual caring’ to gays and straights alike.”
Let us hope that message emerges from the current debates on state recognition of same-sex marriage. Indeed, many same-sex couples who have elected marriage (and even many who have not) have lived that message, forsaking all others looking after their spouses in sickness and in health. They provide examples of mature relationships between adults of the same sex and evidence that gay man and women are capable of the same kind of commitment our straight counterparts have shown.
Douthat, however, laments that as gay marriage advocates seem to be winning the argument, they aren’t conceding any points to defenders of traditional marriage:
A more honest, less triumphalist case for gay marriage would be willing to concede that, yes, there might be some social costs to redefining marriage. It would simply argue that those costs are too diffuse and hard to quantify to outweigh the immediate benefits of recognizing gay couples’ love and commitment.
Such honesty would make social liberals more magnanimous in what looks increasingly like victory, and less likely to hound and harass religious institutions that still want to elevate and defend the older marital ideal.
But whether people think they’re on the side of God or of History, magnanimity has rarely been a feature of the culture war.
Read the whole thing. The debate on gay marriage is not entirely pathetic.
Would be nice if partisans on both sides of the debate could acknowledge the points their adversaries make.