Open Letter to Mr. Ross Douthat, NY Times columnist:

Mr. Douthat,

I am an occasional reader of your column, in no way weekly, but by all means receptive to your logic and views, divergent from my own as they frequently are. The point of my writing today, then, is this: your penultimate paragraph in today’s piece absolutely flummoxes me. You laid out a perfectly reasoned denial of the logic of many arguments against equal marriage rights for homosexual couples, based as they are on erroneous generalization of culture- and period-specific ideals (i.e., that marriage has always been the practice of one man and one woman hitching their individual horses to the same carriage, so to speak). However, in the end, after deconstructing those generalizations, you ultimately wrap your argument in the very same brand of illogic.

“But if we just accept this shift,” you say, speaking of an acknowledgement of the equal sanctity of monogamy between two men or between two women as between heterosexual couples, “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.” The trouble, of course, is that despite your own reluctance to “just accept” that with which you do not agree, you would have your detractors (critics of separate-but-equal-rights arrangements for gays and straights, that is) “just accept” that the institution of one-man-one-woman-til-death is, in fact, “indispensable.”

What evidence for this descriptor? What evidence that, more than “striving to preserve” marriage as a heterosexual paradigm, doing so “ultimately requires some public acknowledgment that heterosexual unions and gay relationships are different”? What matter to Dick and Jane that Dick and Rick can marry? What matter that Jane gives birth and Rick must adopt? Are they not both, both partners in both couples, responsible for bringing to complete “fruition” the children they have brought into their homes, regardless of genetic parentage? You know full well – you must – that the “procreation” argument is facile and potentially horrendously insulting to homosexuals, as well as to heterosexuals. Are we to just accept, then, that there is a minimum child-bearing quota for each marriage? Are we to just accept that properly adjusted citizens arise out of the nirvana that is the nuclear unit, and in no other way?

You are right about this, though: the challenges are vastly different for homosexual couples as against those for heterosexual couples. Heterosexuals needn’t fear loss of mutual savings or insurance; loss of right to see their partners in a hospital emergency; loss of the financial and emotional security these two former examples impart. Most of all, though, heterosexual couples needn’t wonder, as homosexual couples still do and as mixed-race couples had in the not-so-distant past, how much longer they must endure the characterization of their love as unnatural or evil, as something to be avoided at best, and to be tolerated only when, at last, the unavoidable, enlightened recognition of the folly of such denial comes to pass.

To climb behind and make a bulwark of such reprehensible legal prohibitions as Proposition 8 in California is to point out the clear and obvious limits and failures of the purest definition of democracy as “the people’s voice.” There is a reason, after all, that the fundamental legal structure of our American system is based on a living, amendable, document such as the Constitution: people are, by and large, crazed and easily frothed, and likewise unable to foresee the future and what is best for the present, for as many individuals as possible and not just the philosophical ravings of the loud and angry crowd. The basis of our individual liberty is irrevocable: that we each have inalienable rights. The longevity of our liberty is precisely that we recognize the shifts and regressions of time and the collective consciousness, and are open to revising the makeup of our expectations, both in the sense of what we want for ourselves and in what we demand from others.

To read the article of Douthat’s to which I am (in the most local sense) responding, follow this link.

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