Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Gay Marriage - Full Speed Ahead?

Should I do it or not. We had a nice happy wine post yesterday. Nice and peaceful. No one got hurt. And yet…

Today Army of Mom linked to an article I wrote a few days ago regarding the gay marriage debate, in a successful attempt to stir up some discussion on the topic. I tried to add my comment to her post earlier, but when the comment started getting out of control length-wise, I decided that blogging etiquette required me to post it to my own blog, or shut the heck up. I’m still undecided as to which path I should take.

Incidentally, I’m probably less personally bothered by gay marriage issue than anyone would guess if they heard me explain WHY I’m opposed. Honestly it just doesn’t terribly bother me... personally. Like most other people my age, I already know real live gay people. They’re not some mysterious “other” to me. Homophobia? I can’t possibly entertain it. Makes no sense to me. I’ve known wonderful people who are gay, and *ssholes who are as well. Their gayness doesn’t frighten me, or bother me in the least. I get annoyed if they start getting sexually explicit in my company – but I feel the same around heterosexuals exhibiting the same behavior, and honestly I’ve encountered more of the latter than the former.

So I’m not personally bothered by the idea of a gay couple getting married. That means I should just ignore it? Whatever changes make them happy, right? Won’t affect my personal happiness, so none of my business?

That’s a really shallow and irresponsible way to think about this issue – or any other societal issue for that matter. Set aside the fact that something being right or wrong has nothing to do with my emotional state regarding the matter. When did we conclude that a wise basis for creating public policy is to check whether we’d personally be emotionally affected by it, and if not full speed ahead?

This isn't just about whether it will affect someone's mood. There are very real ramifications of gay marriage having monetary and social costs. And beyond the known costs, there is a staggering amount of unknown territory we can call “risk.” What happens two or three generations down the road when children have grown up with the societal affirmation that gay-marriages are just as legitimate as those of traditional marriage? I can’t possibly know. And neither can anyone advocating the change.

People keep mocking the anti side by stating “I can’t possibly see how a gay couple getting married will affect MY marriage.” A smaller number make that observation as an honest admission, instead of sneering dismissal. Regardless, that’s about as egocentric and short-sighted as one could imagine. My own marriage has been fine for over twelve years now. No divorce here. Does this allow me to conclude that no-fault divorce laws did not have a deleterious effect on the institution of marriage? Ignorance of social implications beyond your own life is a terrible basis for making social decisions. If you admit you don’t know something, isn’t the rational response to find out before jumping ahead?

Stanley Kurtz is one of the only writers on the topic I know who has been consistently doing this. In his article: “The End of Marriage in Scandinavia,” written for the Weekly Standard last February, he looked at marriage in Scandinavia, which has had something close to fully sanctioned gay marriage for about a decade now. What does he observe?

“…The Nordic family pattern--including gay marriage--is spreading across Europe. And by looking closely at it we can answer the key empirical question underlying the gay marriage debate. Will same-sex marriage undermine the institution of marriage? It already has.

More precisely, it has further undermined the institution. The separation of marriage from parenthood was increasing; gay marriage has widened the separation. Out-of-wedlock birthrates were rising; gay marriage has added to the factors pushing those rates higher. Instead of encouraging a society-wide return to marriage, Scandinavian gay marriage has driven home the message that marriage itself is outdated, and that virtually any family form, including out-of-wedlock parenthood, is acceptable.”

True, there is simply not enough data to be certain that gay marriage is the cause of this. The best known gay marriage advocate – Andrew Sullivan – immediately dismissed Kurtz’s observations because they didn’t prove causation (for a perfect illustration of how intellectually dishonest Sullivan has been regarding his gay marriage advocacy, as well as further examination of the demographics, read Kurtz’s response).

But of course, as is the case with most social trends, it will be impossible to be certain of what will result before actually experiencing the results afer a generation or two. We must do our best with what less-than-certain evidence we can gather, and try to make a wise decision. What evidence we do have regarding this is troubling at best. And the expectation of perfect evidence to completely seal the argument beforehand is unrealistic in the extreme.

Here are a few questions a reasonable person ought to be able to answer (at very least to their own satisfaction) before advocating the gay-marriage plunge: Are there any examples of societies in recorded history which sanctioned the kind of gay marriage we’re proposing? If so, what happened when they did? If not, can you explain why they didn’t in any terms that aren’t ego-centric (i.e. we’re more enlightened these days)? Considering the demographic time-bomb awaiting Western Civilization’s welfare states inherent in their declining birth rates, is it wise social policy for the state to endorse inherently non-procreative couples at this precise moment in history?

Elaborating on that last question, societies do die out, you know. Making policy for the sake that it “feels good” at the moment is a pretty good recipe for eventual societal ruin. I have yet to see an argument for gay marriage that adequately balances long-term societal welfare, admits and addresses the potential risks of making this change, and shows respect for societal consensus. Instead I see an atomistic view which wants to consider only the individual, and damn society to roll with whatever the results turn out to be. We’ve been down that road for the past couple of decades, and the results are not turning out so great when measured against the assumption that we see the long-term survival of Western Civilization as a good thing. Gay marriage is certainly not the cause of social decay. But it might very well be a sufficient kick at a teetering institution to do serious long-term damage to society we would otherwise avoid.


Blogger Army of Mom said...

You are absolutely welcome to post novel-length comments on my blog any day. I started that whole topic after your original post. You made some great arguments here. Thanks.

9:20 PM  

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