1) God hates it.
2) It’s against thousands of years of tradition.
3) It’ll ruin marriage for everyone else.
To which the effective ripostes are:
1) Actually, He told me in a dream that He’s all for it.
2) So was abolishing slavery, outlawing polygamy, and making women citizens, and those have worked out pretty well.
3) No, it won’t.
The last one, admittedly, is pretty weak, rhetorically speaking. But maybe that’s really all we need. I thought of Samuel Johnson’s famous riposte to Berkeley, as recounted by Boswell:
After we came out of the church, we stood talking for some time together of Bishop Berkeley’s ingenious sophistry to prove the non-existence of matter, and that every thing in the universe is merely ideal. I observed, that though we are satisfied his doctrine is not true, it is impossible to refute it. I never shall forget the alacrity with which Johnson answered, striking his foot with mighty force against a large stone, till he rebounded from it, ‘I refute it thus.”
I can refute this fear of same-sex marriage by pointing at the three same-sex couples who live on my block, raising kids, keeping up their houses, showing up at t-ball games, just like us, causing no harm and doing much good. I can refute it by pointing at the two most stable, longest-lasting, most loving couples I know, both raising children in wonderful homes: Bill and Christopher, and Malia and Margot. I can refute it by noting that even though we are practically surrounded by sodomites, my marriage is doing fine, and those marriages among our friends and neighbors that have ended… well, let’s just say if you had wanted to help them, you would have not so much worried about gay marriage, and instead banned attractive secretaries.
UPDATE: Welcome, Andrew Sullivan readers! It’s true, Andrew and I were at Harvard at the same time, and acted in plays together. When he was on our show, some years ago, I joked that I knew him before he was gay… he said, “Oh, no, Peter, I was just much more discreet.”
I’ve followed Andrew’s career closely since then (and remain an obsessive fan of his blog) and remember back in the 80s and 90s when he was a villain to the gay left… he disdained their demands for anti-discrimination laws, and their fierce insistence on cultural difference. Instead, he argued for — of all things — the right to marry. The most boring, constricting, and yes, conservative sexual choice of all.
He was right, of course, and in his impassioned Oxford-trained argumentation he helped found a civil rights movement that’s now reaching its moment of fruition. Because he saw that the essential civil right is not the right to be different — because difference, in this context, is the prerequisite assumption of bigotry — but the right to be the same.
I hope that someday, someone will erect a statue of Andrew Sullivan, gay rights pioneer. Maybe in front of a courthouse. Or at least, an impeccably charming little wedding chapel.
UPDATE2: Thanks for all the comments… always a pleasure to foster a (mostly) civil discussion. Couple of responses to some comments:
Keri takes me to task for dissing polygamy, when some of her best friends are… well, yes, I got nothing against polyamory, people should be able to live the way they want to with however many people they want to. But historically (and not so historically) polygamy has been a form of enforced legal and sexual subservience for women, and we’re all better off that it’s no longer enshrined in law. I was also making a little dig at the “pro-marriage” forces who keep saying that throughout history, the most common form of marriage is between one man and one women. Actually, if you look at world history, the most common form of marriage was between one usually powerful, wealthy man and a number of women he more or less owned.
And Ptown differs with me on Andrew Sullivan, saying he’s not the gay rights hero I say he is. I’m neither gay or an activist or a historian of gay activism, but because I knew some of the players in gay politics (Andrew, Tony Kushner) and because I was in the theater and had a lot of gay friends, I paid pretty close attention to the debates of the late 80s and early 90s. If there was anybody else out there, arguing more effectively, or earlier, or in the face of more opposition, for the right to civil marriage, then I’d be happy to be educated on the topic. I would point out that many of the arguments made in these comments — that civil marriage is different from religious marriage, that religions should and will be free to make their own determinations as to whose marriages they consecrate, and most importantly, that same sex civil marriage is at heart a conservative cause, and should be embraced by social conservatives, were first made by Andrew. Am I wrong?