There’s a very good Intelligence Squared debate about whether the equal protection clause protects gay marriage. The debaters are all very bright, and it’s one of the rare one of these worth listening to, because they don’t miss the point as frequently as in other debates.
I haven’t really put forth my views on gay marriage on Tumblr, and I may never. Suffice it to say that I support the legal recognition of gay marriage, but not for the reasons that virtually any other supporter of gay marriage endorses. I don’t have time to flesh this out at the moment, but I’m putting a pin in this to return to it. If there is any interest in this, let me know.
Topics I would cover include:
(1) Legality. I would discuss here whether the equal protection clause operates to guarantee gays the right to marry one another (it does not); whether we ought to delegate the question of legality to the several states (we should); and whether federalist principles of government were instantiated by the evolution of state gay marriage laws (it was perhaps a perfect case).
(2) The historicity of the conjugal view of marriage. Though not an expert here, I would discuss what I think no one denies: that the historical understanding of marriage has been the union of one man and one woman, and has existed in that form to possibilize and legitimate what we have recognized for millennia is the foundation of our social superstructure: the nuclear family. I would also discuss the come-lately notion that marriage is an institution devoted to love first, and, lastly, how the fact that some marriages that have been historically licensed but nevertheless clearly had or have nothing to do with marriage’s historical aim (infertile couples, couples who adopt, couples who choose not to have children, e.g.), nevertheless no better impugn that marriage’s fundamental purposes are conjugal than many other corner cases of institutions that I would enumerate. I would also discuss how that argument misunderstands moral, social, and legal institutions as only agglomerations of instances rather than a collection of principles we seek imperfectly to live.
(3) The misconception that gay marriage is an ‘extension’ of marriage protections, and the corollary misconception that the architects of the movement think of it that way. It baffles me that anyone believes this, but anyway, here I would quote the many intellectuals in the vanguard of the gay marriage movement who acknowledge that gay marriage contributes to the destruction of the institution of marriage as we’ve known it. I would discuss how the argument that gay marriage ‘extends’ marriage rights rests upon the discredited view [via (2)] that marriage is fundamentally about romantic love between two arbitrary persons. I would also here discuss what, I think, cannot be denied: that the important values of marriage lionized by the gay marriage movement, and by SCOTUS is several decisions, simply do not and cannot distinguish same sex marriage from plural marriage, marriage between family members, or even aromantic marriages between roommates who just really enjoy one another’s company.
(4) The pointlessness of resistance. I would here discuss how resistance to gay marriage is pointless in two respects. First, public opinion has shifted dramatically in favor of gay marriage, and the dominos were falling, state-by-state. Indeed, opponents of gay marriage ought to feel good about SCOTUS’s recent acknowledgement of gay marriage, because it is not the worst outcome for them. The worst outcome would have been passage of individual gay marriage laws in each state over the next decade or two, which would have extended the national love affair with gay marriage and would have given an even stronger appearance of public support than a national conversation cut short by SCOTUS’s political fiat. Second, the social and legal institution of marriage is already in terminal freefall, and sanctioned gay marriage does not meaningfully accelerate its demise. So worthless has the notion of ‘marriage’ become that it is almost a symbolic victory for those interested in marriage protection that gays have won it as a right.
(5) Free admission to the carnival. I subscribe to a perhaps unpopular view for cultural conservatives: cultural conservatives ought to not just support the explosion of cultural institutions, but rather–so long as we can at least preserve the corpus of the Western canon on thumb drives hidden behind brick walls–we ought to hasten our own cultural death, even if we do so at the mortal peril of our own lives. Let’s face facts: we aren’t going to change horses midstream. We’re on the high road to hell, so let’s get there already. What a cultural conservative should want is not merely gay marriage, but rather gay and polygamist groups, arm in arm, protesting the political persecution of imprisoned child molesters. We should lean way in on feminism, we should invite the Folsom Street Fair on the road, we should #blacklivesmatter cops to actual death. We should make productive, intelligent white people feel as fearful, put upon, and disgusted as possible, and we should do it as quickly as possible. We need to boil this water so that the frog jumps out of the pot; and right now, the heat is low and slow.