Elizabeth Marquardt responds to my post “Why Are Gay Interests So Easily Sacrificed?” In that post, I wrote:
I agree that reducing divorce would be a good thing. I agree that children’s welfare would improve if more heterosexual parents stayed together in healthy marriages.
But I cannot, will not agree that lesbians, gays and their families are appropriate objects for sacrifice. I cannot, will not agree that their interests should be trashed for someone else’s ends. Lesbians and gays are not pawns fit for sacrifice – and to suggest they are is an endorsement of bigotry (whether or not the speaker is personally bigoted). There are other possible approaches to saving het marriage. Let’s pursue those approaches, and allow same-sex families the equality that should be their birthright.
Besides, I don’t deny that SS couples and their children need the legal benefits and obligations of marriage, which is why I support civil unions.
Gee, remember when just a few months ago it put one comfortably on the left to say you supported civil unions?
A few points:
- Elizabeth doesn’t explain why, given that there are multiple possible approaches to trying to save heterosexual marriage, it wouldn’t be better to stop fighting gay marriage and concentrate instead on approaches that wouldn’t harm lesbian & gay people’s interests. I’m sorry Elizabeth didn’t address this, since it was the main point of the post she was responding to.
- In the context of my post, “sacrificing” same sex couples (and their children) means sacrificing their and their children’s best interests in order to provide straights with a marginal and dubious benefit. (I discuss this a bit more in this post). Elizabeth seems to deny that her policy sacrifices same-sex familiies’ interests; after all, she’s offering them civil unions.
Elizabeth is implicitly claiming that marriage won’t provide anything significant to same-sex couples that civil unions won’t also provide. This claim reduces marriage to just a piece of paper, an empty word; it is only if the word “marriage” is meaningless that civil unions and marriage are interchangeable.
If Elizabeth thinks marriage is more than a word, then she must admit that same-sex couples sacrifice quite a lot when they are denied marriage. If Elizabeth is saying that there’s no significant difference between civil unions and marriage, then she isn’t considering “marriage” to be anything significant. I don’t think she can have it both ways – not with any intellectual consistency.
- Frankly, I don’t think the “sacrifice” Elizabeth thinks straight people would be making exists at all. Nothing about same-sex marriage will prevent people from referring to “husbands” and “wives,” or from claiming that the ideal situation for kids is being raised by a biological mother and father. These ideas will still be subject to criticism, of course – but that’s true whether or not SSM is legally recognized. SSM will not be the end of free speech, as Elizabeth seems to believe it will be.
As Stentor writes in the comments, “If she feels unable to advocate a position different than what’s enshrined in law, that’s her problem, not mine — after all, I’m more than willing to say that kids can be raised just fine in a same-sex household even though the law says otherwise.”
- Elizabeth points out that same-sex couples are a tiny minority. But there are probably even fewer Jews than there are same-sexers in the USA; no one would suggest that Jews are therefore less deserving of equal rights. If anything, the fact that lesbians and gays are a small minority makes it even more essential that their rights be protected.
- I hesitate to bring this up, as I don’t want to offend Elizabeth. But so far her “support” for civil unions has rarely (if ever) gone beyond bringing up civil unions to oppose SSM. Elizabeth does not, to my knowledge, publish pro-civil union arguments, or criticize attacks on civil unions from other marriage-movement folks, with any frequency. Until she does, her support for civil unions is less than persuasive.
- Finally, both Elizabeth and Tom lament the unfairness of people linking the anti-SSM position to bigotry. No doubt some accusations are unfair; there’s a gulf between outright gay-bashing and merely opposing SSM. However, the question isn’t as clear-cut as Elizabeth and Tom think it is.
Discussing anti-Semitism, William F. Buckley once made a useful distinction between “hateful anti-Semites” and “country club anti-Semites.” A country-club anti-Semite may not hate Jews, and may even have close Jewish friends; but he’s nonetheless willing to live with and even advocate rules that discriminate against Jews (such as gentile-only country clubs). A country-club anti-Semite isn’t a Jew-hater, but he’s still an anti-Semite.
Not all SSM opponents are driven by hatred of gays and lesbians (although some are). But all SSM opponents are “country club homophobes”; regardless of their personal liking for gays, they’re willing to support a policy that discriminates against gays. It’s not unreasonable to consider this a form of bigotry (although presumably Tom and Elizabeth would disagree).
It’s understandable that Elizabeth finds being accused of bigotry uncomfortable. Nor do I believe that she has animus against lesbians and gays in her heart. Nonetheless, there’s a legitimate argument that supporting unequal laws for straights and gays is a bigoted position, and advocating this position is only acceptable in the context of a homophobic society. SSM supporters shouldn’t have to refrain from making this argument out of sensitivity to opponents’ feelings.
[Edited to improve the wording here and there, and to add in Stentor's comment, a few hours after the initial posting.]