The New York Times‘ Ross Douthat today argues that if we permit same-sex marriage, “the celebration of lifelong heterosexual monogamy as a unique and indispensable estate.” Salon‘s Glenn Greenwald, the eloquent if long-winded gay American forced to move to Brazil to be with his partner, has made a sport of tearing Douthat’s arguments apart. Today is no different.
Previously taking on Douthat for claiming MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow never invites conservatives on her show, Greenwald takes to the killing fields on the Times‘ op-ed columnist’s latest. Douthat, after knocking down some of NOM’s usual arguments against same-sex marriage, asserts:
The point of this ideal is not that other relationships have no value, or that only nuclear families can rear children successfully. Rather, it’s that lifelong heterosexual monogamy at its best can offer something distinctive and remarkable — a microcosm of civilization, and an organic connection between human generations — that makes it worthy of distinctive recognition and support.
[...] If this newer order completely vanquishes the older marital ideal, then gay marriage will become not only acceptable but morally necessary. The lifelong commitment of a gay couple is more impressive than the serial monogamy of straights. And a culture in which weddings are optional celebrations of romantic love, only tangentially connected to procreation, has no business discriminating against the love of homosexuals.
But if we just accept this shift, we’re giving up on one of the great ideas of Western civilization: the celebration of lifelong heterosexual monogamy as a unique and indispensable estate. That ideal is still worth honoring, and still worth striving to preserve. And preserving it ultimately requires some public acknowledgment that heterosexual unions and gay relationships are different: similar in emotional commitment, but distinct both in their challenges and their potential fruit.
Greenwald’s argument is too lengthy to copy-paste here, but it goes like this:
But the moral, theological and spiritual questions about marriage are every bit as open and unconstrained as they were before. Just as is true with a whole host of questions on which the State takes no position, private actors are completely free to venerate some marriages and stigmatize others. Churches, synagogues and mosques are free — as they should be — to sanction only those marriages which their religious dogma recognizes. Parents are completely free to teach their children that certain marriages are superior and others immoral. And columnists like Douthat are free to argue that the relationships they want to have are not just best for themselves but are, as an objective matter, morally and theologically superior.
They just can’t misuse secular law to institutionalize those views or coerce others who don’t accept them into having their legal rights restricted based on them.
Well wasn’t that the most polite cage match you’ve ever witnessed?