Tuesday, 18 November 2003

Gay marriage's latest

I won’t try to round up all of the posts on Massachussetts’ decision today (a sampler: Glenn Reynolds, Andrew Sullivan, Virginia Postrel, One Fine Jay, and James Joyner), but I think Brett Cashman’s post is about the most sensible I’ve seen, in terms of the whole “what happens next” question. However, I can’t see conservatives’ innate desire to use the state as a vehicle for social engineering waning as Cashman (rightly) suggests it should.

Instead, realistically I think we could see a draconian form of the Defense of Marriage Act Federal Marriage Amendment sooner rather than later, because the Democrats in Washington are far too spineless to oppose it, and I reckon you could round up 38 state legislatures—bodies full of people looking for ways to avoid giving voters a good reason to vote them out—to ratify the thing in a big hurry. The bottom line is that conservatives aren’t going to let Roe happen twice, because exactly what Matt Stinson predicted here is just around the corner.

Matthew Stinson has a must-read new post on the topic as well. I think many social moderates would share his viewpoint, expressed here:

For what it's worth, I would be more inclined to support gay marriage nationally (rather than locally) if I believed gays desired marriage for more than just its economic and legal benefits. Yes, one's sense of dignity is benefited by having the right to marry, but what's lost on many gay marriage advocates is that marriage is about fidelity as much as it is sharing resources. Andrew Sullivan, to his credit, has argued that the option of marriage will have a civilizing effect on gay men. But gay men aren't children, and they can choose fidelity now if they want. That the vast majority do not do so suggests to me that gay male marriages, but not necessarily lesbian marriages, will be open marriages.

I’m personally not a big fan of outcome-based arguments for (or against) gay marriage, but this is an argument that will resonate with many fence-sitters. The more it sounds like gay people want marriage for the “free stuff,” like lower taxes* and cheaper healthcare, the more people are going to be turned off by it.

(Nor do I really buy the “civilizing effects” argument articulated by Sullivan; I suspect the number of straight men who’ve actually said, “I’d cheat on my wife with Lulu from the temp pool, but I can’t since I’m married” is within ε of zero. They might say “I’d cheat…, but I can’t since I’m in a committed monogomous relationship,” but you can have one of those without being married. It’s a function of character, not institutions.)

Also, you may enjoy this non-work safe post by Mr. Green, which refers to perennial SN foil Ricky Santorum. (Link via the Wizbang! post trackbacked below.)

* (In response to Brock, above.) The so-called “marriage penalty” only applies in certain financial situations, mostly when both partners have similar, and relatively high, incomes (which, in fairness, may characterize gay couples more often than heterosexual ones). In most cirumstances, married-filing jointly is a benefit over filing single. Besides, I’m pretty sure the marriage penalty has been substantially reduced or eliminated over the past few years as part of the Bush tax cuts. (A Google search turned up this factoid about the penalty, based on 1999 data.)