When I saw that gay marriage opponent Maggie Gallagher was going to be guest-blogging at Volokh, I thought that it would be a good opportunity to sharpen the rhetorical knives to take her argument apart. Unfortunately, life intervened, leaving me with no time, and besides, the folks at Crooked Timber do a much more entertaining evisceration.
However, her last post is really a piece of work. It becomes transparent that her argument comes from the same ideological roots as those against mixed-race marriages (miscegenenation could come back in vogue!), and that for all her attempts to put opposition to SSM (single-sex marriage — her acronym) on a firm rhetorical footing, it just comes down to a desire to put herself and those who believe the way she does on top of the socio-ethical pyramid. For all her protestations, she is deeply and ideologically homophobic.
Her basic argument is that marriage fundamentally exists to make babies and provide babies with a mother and a father. SSM is about providing a seal of approval on what is essentially an intimate and sexual contract between two people, and so confuses marriage (= making babies) with something else (= loving, intimacy). This, she disingenuously argues, is why people should be uncomfortable about SSM. She excuses gay-haters by saying that they can be perfectly ethically sound if they oppose it for her reasons, but then neatly characterizes those on the other side as arguing that the institution of marriage is obsolete. It’s a stupid argument — she wants to define the debate as being about her definitions and her issues, and so casts those on the other side as diametrically opposed to her in a sort of dialectical battle royale.
SSM, she claims, would make baby-making marriage into “as at best a private understanding and most likely a discouraged, discriminatory understanding of marriage.” Where this “most likely” comes from, who can tell? Perhaps the same place that the “yellow peril” comes from. Her next bit of grandstanding is priceless:
I have most of human history on my side. You have your personal moral conviction that only hate explains why people object.
This is my one big message for SSM advocates: don’t minimize what you are proposing. Take responsibility for it.
What a canard! Turning this around, I could make the following argument — I have the deep belief that people of different skin colors were never meant to be married. Marriage is about perpetuating society, and societies are primarily single-race. Indeed, much research has showed that the vast majority of successful societies have been single-race. To me, marriage is about making babies in single-race households, because babies need a mother and a father that are the same skin color. I have the weight of human history on my side. I don’t want to mix the races because it will “most likely lead to a discouraged, discriminated form of marriage,” according to my definition of marriage. Now those of you who think I’m a bigot, please take the time to understand how your demands for mixed-race marriage hurt me.
In this debate, her argument boils down to this — demaning SSM hurts some people’s feelings, so don’t be so strident. You’re asking her to give up the top position on the totem pole, and that’s asking a lot. Also, if you get SSM, you’re going to make all our social problems worse. If you let gay people get married, then you’re just going to make more deadbeat dads. Because those dads will suddenly think “hey, marriage isn’t about babies, so I’m out of here.” It’s not even an argument that’s very rooted in the psychology of fathers who abandon their families.
I’m not going to get into the fact that this whole argument is framed around the “marriage tames those feral sex-crazed men” meme that permeates her argument, or the “let’s go back to the golden era of the 1850’s” cast of it. She also believes that “humanity comes in two halves, male and female, who are called to join together in love, not only as a private satisfaction, but in order to make the future actually happen.” We can call this the argument from mysticism. She kind of constructs arguments like Aristotle constructs his natural history. Or Plato constructs the Republic. The first is wrong, and the second is definitely not a place where anyone would want to live.
One thought on “Gallagher’s folly”
I may have said this to you before… I’ve said it to many people at any rate.
I propose the following… let’s abolish all legal marriages. Straight, gay, mixed-race, incestuous, whatever. There’s no such thing as a legal marriage. If churches/synagogues/Vegas chapels/etc would like to keep recognizing marriage as they’d like to define it, they can go ahead. Church and state are separate anyway.
In the meantime, I’d set up legal civil unions. Any two people that want to enter into this legal union which gives them power of attorney, makes them eligible for benefits, sets them up as next of kin, etc can do so. If you want to do so in a church while also letting your god of choice recognize the union, be my guest. Just be sure to get your civil union papers signed so that the government recognizes it. If you were married under the old system, you’ll be grandfathered in under the new system with a civil union.
And now, we have no legally recognized gay marriages, so the homophobic religious right can keep their sacred unions, if their church chooses to do so. And furthermore, since there are no legal marriages at all, no one’s being discriminated against. Everyone wins.