It is often said that marriage must be made available to homosexuals since homosexuality is an inherent biological trait. Well-meaning straight people – or, “the 97 percent,” in current parlance — are suckers for this approach but it is less than sound. Truly, the “gay gene” people on the left, as well as those on the right who look to deficient parenting and/or recruitment to explain same-sex attraction, are guilty of breathtaking overconfidence. What imponderable combination of nature, environment, and choice makes me or anyone else homosexual is something that at this point only God knows.
Equating homosexuality with race and ethnicity is dubious, too. Not permitting marriage between blacks and whites is unlike not permitting same-sex marriage. The miscegenation laws pulled apart generative pairs. Those laws stood in nature’s way, whereas same-sex marriage — especially, but not only, if children are involved — is a work-around to evade nature’s iron realities. So there is a right to interracial marriage but not to matrimony between two individuals who are “not even potentially partners in reproduction,” in the words of Susan M. Shell.
The Boston College political theorist wrote an article called “The Liberal Case Against Gay Marriage.” That was in 2004 – a startling reminder that there was a liberal case against gay marriage not too long ago. It almost sounds strange in today’s political environment. Professor Shell based her position on eternal verities and the secular underpinnings of the American constitutional experiment, which is why I see merit in that position regardless of the political environment.
What is sought by gay rights activists often boils down to financial benefits, inheritance rights, and other such family matters. It behooves them to acknowledge how successful they have been in gaining accommodation on many of these issues. Employers across the United States are starting to extend benefits to same-sex couples — it happened for me and my partner recently, even though the institution that extended the benefits is Catholic-run.
The liberal stance laid out by Shell embraced civil unions for same-sex couples that would enable them to adopt children and receive a partner’s health and other benefits. It had the contours, to my eye, of the sort of “sweet spot” that legislatures seek when drafting a bill that politically clashing members can approve despite their differences. Because it looks like a natural harbor for a plurality of Americans, Shellian liberalism ought to be where we are headed as a country.
If, however, same-sex marriage wins in Maryland as many expect, I will be living in a place where what I am designating the National Liberal Position is condemned as right-wing extremism by the moral authoritarians of the left. The Baltimore Sun’s Susan Reimer is a good example. Reimer had real trouble restraining herself in her weekly column, warning those who disfavor same-sex marriage: Think of the judgment of future generations and try not to give your children “reason to be ashamed of your bigotry.”
The live-and-let-live social space created by the liberal polity is a great cultural and moral accomplishment. Those who call themselves liberal today show very little of the care needed to guard and preserve this accomplishment.
Related at PJ Lifestyle on gay marriage: