I hope to write more in the very near future on the whole same-sex marriage and fedaralism issue being debated all over town. I also hope soon to write about Jonathan Rauch's new book, Gay Marriage: Why It Is Good for Gays, Good for Straights, and Good for America, which I'm in the midst of reading (and enjoying) now. I could not hold back, though, from commenting on David Blankenhorn's response to an article Rauch wrote in the Atlantic Monthly on the subject. [The article is "drawn" from the book, but not a direct excerpt] The article concludes:
If conservatives genuinely oppose same-sex marriage because they fear it would harm straight marriage, they should be willing to let states that want to try gay marriage do so. If, on the other hand, conservatives oppose same-sex marriage because they believe that it is immoral and wrong by definition, fine—but let them have the honesty to acknowledge that they are not fighting for the good of marriage so much as they are using marriage as a weapon in their fight against gays.
To which Blankenhorn responds:
Let me see if I understand. If I "genuinely" oppose SSM for legitimate reasons, having to do with children and marriage, then I may say so, provided that I confine my activities and comments to the state in which I live, and remain neutral or passive or accepting of "experimentation" regarding anything that happens in any of the courts or legislatures of any of the other states. But if I decline this piece of political-stratetic advice from Jonathan Rauch -- who, by the way, doesn't at all seem to be following it himself -- then that proves that I am "using" marriage as a weapon against gays.
Wow. Let me see if I can translate this argument into one sentence: If my opponents refuse to fight me on terms that I dictate, they are bigots. I'll give Jonathan Rauch this: it takes a lot of brass to make that argument.
I don't believe Blankenhorn does understand. First of all, Rauch never said that anyone had to restrict their comments to a particular state. (How would one do that anyway?) As Blankenhorn noted, Rauch himself has written a book--the publication of which was not confined to DC--arguing why all states should allow gay couples to marry. Rauch is merely stating that any state which decides to follow this course, should be allowed to do so if the concerns are policy concerns as opposed to moral concerns. That is one who opposes SSM strictly on policy grounds should also oppose the Federal (anti-) Marriage Amendment. [UPDATE: I should emphasize that Rauch also firmly opposes a federal imposition of same-sex marriage. He specifically tells the Supreme Court to "butt out"]. Nor does Rauch call anyone a bigot for believing same-sex marriage is immoral or wrong by definition. On the contrary he called such a view "fine". It was Blankenhorn who referred to such people as bigots.
Why does Rauch refer to the distinciton between policy concerns and moral concerns? As he explains well in the article, Rauch, like many people, believes that issues of policy are best left to the individual states. Different states can experiment with different policies and we can see their effects. For example, some people oppose school vouchers because they believe it will have a detrimental effect on children and their education. They are free to--and should be encouraged to--explain their concerns and the detrimental effects they believe vouchers will have. Still if some state wants to institute vouchers, this belief says they should be allowed to do so without calls for federal intervention. Opponents might be concerned about how the children in that state will fare, but ultimately the decision belongs to that state. On the bright side at least we will have more concrete evidence about the effects of vouchers. (Although how that evidence should be interpreted would surely be debated). If, on the other hand, one believes allowing same-sex marriage is morally wrong, one should strive to prevent it and/or abolish it everywhere it exists (including other countries). For example, I don't believe any state should be allowed to "experiment with the policy" of slavery. My concern, though, is not a policy one. Likwise while I believe the policy reasons to support SSM are strong, I also believe people are being denied their civil rights and hence I personally would like to see recognized--and believe there already exists--a Constitutional right to marry a person of the same sex. Do supporters of the FMA similarly believe there should be a Constitutional right to prevent a state from recognizing such marriages?