The Interminable And Futile Search For a Decent Anti-SSM Argument

>> Thursday, October 22, 2009

Ross Douthat was, understandably but not admirably, unwilling to defend his opposition to same-sex marriage rights in public:

At first Mr. Douthat seemed unable to get a sentence out without interrupting himself and starting over. Then he explained: "I am someone opposed to gay marriage who is deeply uncomfortable arguing the issue in public."

Mr. Douthat indicated that he opposes gay marriage because of his religious beliefs, but that he does not like debating the issue in those terms. At one point he said that, sometimes, he feels like he should either change his mind, or simply resolve never to address the question in public.


He added: "The secular arguments against gay marriage, when they aren't just based on bigotry or custom, tend to be abstract in ways that don't find purchase in American political discourse. I say, ‘Institutional support for reproduction,' you say, ‘I love my boyfriend and I want to marry him.' Who wins that debate? You win that debate."
The problem here is that "institutional support for reproduction" isn't merely an "abstract" argument. It's a bad argument. If the policy goal is supporting the raising of children, then limiting marriage to heterosexual couples is both overinclusive (providing privileges and benefits to couples who choose not to reproduce) and underinclusive (denying privileges and benefits both to single parents and same-sex couples who do have children.) Which should serve to remind us that, at bottom, secular arguments against SSM are about bigotry and/or custom, which is probably why Douthat isn't interested in trying to defend them.


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