Saturday, November 22, 2003

Lagniappe: The Conservative Case for Gay Marriage - As a liberal who supports gay marriages for all the right reasons, I must say that David Brooks' op-ed in the New York Times on the subject is quite impressive. His argument in support of gay marriage reiterates what I have said in other places about my willingness to accept civil unions that provide equal benefits under the law to gay couples which marriage does for heterosexual couples as the lesser of two good options. Though I can live with civil unions, I still think that gay marriage is the preferred and better course of action between the two.

For example, on a recent blog comment board I wrote:

Civil unions are fine, and ... I can accept them as satisfactory from the purely legal perspective of providing the same access for monogamous gay couples to equal and non-discriminatory rights and benefits that accrue to heterosexuals trough marriage. The good is not the enemy of the better. But this solution is still an incomplete and partial one in my mind. Why? ... Because I don't think monogamous gay couples should be denied the special grace that I believe comes with marriage. Civil unions are less than marriage, and there is simply no good reason in my mind to deny monogamous gay couples this grace - especially when there is absolutely not one shred of concrete evidence that allowing gay couples to marry would in any way harm the world and the people in it.
After making this post, I recevied a follow-up question: "Why do you think civil unions are worse than marriage?"

I responded:
For two reasons: first, those who oppose gay marriage but support civil unions are differentiating the value of one relative to the other - with marriage being somehow more valuable than civil unions. Otherwise, why wouldn't people just have civil unions instead of marriage, or why even make this distinction? This leads me to the next reason, which is the more important of the two: marriage brings with it a special and privileged psychological and emotional relational element to the parties involved and with the larger society that civil unions wouldn't. People of faith might call this special element "grace." If given the option for a civil union or a marriage, each affording the same legal benefits, what would you think couples are more likely to choose? I think marriage. Why? Because there is an added societal value to marriage as an institution that provides more than just legal benefits. This is what the whole fight is really about, is it not? And I can't see setting up a "separate but equal" (which, as we know, is certainly separate but never really equal) societal institution that condemns gay couples to what would essentially be the second-class institution of the two.
This is essentially what Brooks is saying when he talks about marriage as "contingency," and he should be applauded for it. [Hat tip to Andrew Sullivan for alerting me to Brooks' column.]

No comments: