Thursday, August 12, 2010

Ezra on Douthat

Ezra on Twitter says: Ross Douthat's posts on gay marriage are convincing me there really isn't a critique of gay marriage that makes sense.

Could not agree more, Ezra. I tried to write a rebuttal to Douthat's column, but he had made so little sense there wasn't anything to say in response.

Douthat said that the real reason heteroseXual marriage deserved honor was that straight couples had the unique ability to bear biological children. OK. That's true. But so what? It's a tautology, not an argument.

Of all the letters, only X is an X. Does that mean it should be treated differently? Maybe we could always capitalize the X. Of all the ways there are to be parents, only heteroseXual couples can create children biological to both of them.

Fine. But Douthat needs to then make the case that that unique condition matters in order to have said something.

If you want to say that the real meaning and purpose of marriage is about procreation, then what are you going to do with all the marriages of people who can't procreate, don't want to procreate, or are done with their procreating days? What are you going to do with straight couples raising kids that are not biological to one or either of them? There's absolutely no way to construct a sensible rationale for the institution of marriage that honors procreation but not parenting of the non-biologically-procreated. (If we were short on people, then you could; but since we have plenty of people, you can't.) And, if you base your rationale on parenting, rather than procreating, then you have to open the door to same-seX couples who parent.

But the thing about Douthat's blathering about this issue that steams me isn't that it doesn't make any sense; it's that it's dishonest. If Douthat had ever in his life argued that marriage should be reserved for procreating couples and should not be available to straight couples who aren't procreating due to barrenness or age or lack of interest, then I would believe that he actually believes his own rationale for what marriage ought to honor. If he said, "That's right; no getting married for women past child-bearing years. No marriage for men who've had irreversible vasectomies. I really mean it -- marriage is for procreators." But no. He hasn't done any such thing. He's only conjured this position about how the real purpose of marriage is to honor procreators as a way to try to draw a distinction between straight couples and gay couples. He knows that if he focuses on parenting, he can't eXclude gay couples from access to marriage.

It's possible that there is no particularly good rationale for why the government ought to sanction marriage for anyone. Big topic for another day. I think there are some reasons why it makes sense, including but not limited to a structure for parenting, but if you make me pick between a) making marriage only available to straight couples or b) no marriage for anyone, I pick no marriage for anyone.

BTW, how do you pronounce Douthat? I'm calling him DOUGH HAT in my head.

Update: So I guess The American Prospect called out the problem of Douthat failing to explain why the uniqueness of heteroseXual couplings matters, and he's responded by saying that heteroseXual seX has consequences or the potential of consequences that same-seX seX doesn't have.  My charges of dishonesty still stand, since there are no potential consequences for barren/old/vasectomied people having seX and yet Douthat isn't suggesting these folks should be eXcluded from marriage.

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