My post at Commentary’s Contentions blog on Wednesday, calling upon Republicans to “drop their opposition to same-sex marriage,” occasioned a lot of commentary, much of it quite angry. For the record, I have publicly supported gay marriage for three years now, and privately for longer than that.
The post was not written out of political expedience or disingenuousness. Over at the Daily Beast, Megan McArdle explains what the GOP would look like if it simply threw in the towel:
In proposing this line of argument, I realize that I am setting myself against the late James Q. Wilson, who offered perhaps the most powerful case “Against Homosexual Marriage”:
The best account of traditional marriage is Denis de Rougemont’s classic L'Amour et l'Occident, first published in French in 1940 and translated into English in 1956 as Love in the Western World. A history of the literary idea of romantic passion, the book is especially good for my purposes because it ends, as George Woodcock noticed in reviewing it for the Sewanee Review, by coming down “in favor of Catholic orthodoxy.” No more conservative a case for marriage, in short, has ever been made. (Full disclosure: I am an Orthodox Jew.)
De Rougemont argues that much of the confusion in our emotional lives comes about as a result of having inherited two different moral systems—one that values sexual passion, the Stendhalian experience of being swept away against one’s interests, and the other that demands a plighting of a troth, in the wonderful old-fashioned phrase—a promise to stay. “Passion and marriage,” de Rougemont writes, “are essentially irreconcilable.” The one wants “irresistible love,” the heady sensation of losing all control and surrendering to ecstasy; the other prefers being in a state of happiness, which requires self-mastery and the ability to give to someone else what everyone expects in his day-to-day life, what even the passionate man hopes to return to after a bout of rapture—a “sense of constancy.” Too often, though, the desire for romance becomes the basis of marriage. The mistake is tragic. De Rougemont explains:
Tell me, because I do not understand, why gays are excluded from this beautiful and moving account—unless you think that gays are disqualified, simply by virtue of loving someone of the same and not the other sex, from the experience of self-mastery and keeping faith. The moral acceptance of another human being is not dependent upon his or her gender. If you agree with James Q. Wilson that “we are having enough trouble maintaining the institution,” I would think you’d want the help of anyone who also seeks to maintain it. Conservatives who believe in traditional marriage have no reason not to bring gay marriage under their belief.