Tuesday, April 20, 2004


If you don't have James Lileks on your daily reading, you are missing out. He can say things so well, certainly far better than I:
Which brings us to gay marriage. Earlier that day I’d heard an interesting debate on the Dennis Prager show. He had two anthropologists as guests, both tenured professors who favore of elastic definitions of marriage. One of them said the most extraordinary thing, which prompted me to finally say something about it here. I’ve avoided the topic because A) I really don’t have any observations not covered elsewhere by other fine commentators, and B) expression of opposition to gay marriage often leads to a distortion of one’s views. After the constitutional amendment issue was floated, I caught a couple examples of TV commentators calling it “a ban on gay unions,” which is an utter mischaracterization of the issue. As if the government was going to find gay couples, crowbar them apart and make them live alone in dismal one-room apartments. And I’ve heard callers to radio hosts insist that in the end it’s all about homophobia, or religious intolerance, no matter what arguments the host might put forward.

Well, I have no religious opposition to homosexuality. I think civilized society recognizes that a small percentage of its citizens are drawn to the same sex, and that’s no reason to gather up the pitchforks and flaming torches, okay? Live and let live. Consenting adults, etc. And it's not one of those "you repulse me, and you should be glad I tolerate your presence" things. It's just no big deal for me. Not on the radar. I have no problem with civil unions; I have no problem with gay adoption, either. We had a piece in the paper a few months ago about a gay couple who’d adopted six HIV-positive children from other countries. Six! And I’m supposed to stand in judgment of them?

But what perked up my ears was one of the anthropologist’s assertions that there is no difference between a two-parent / two-sex family and a two-parent / same-sex family. None. He said: Any preference for a traditional mom/dad family was based in a “superstition.” His word: “Superstition.” Because, you see, there was no evidence that two moms were different in any important way than a mom and a dad. Belief in werewolves, belief in the evil eye, belief in the walking undead or the superiority of a mom-dad household: superstition.

In his zeal for a brave new world, this fellow managed to insult and demean everyone. And I mean everyone. Moms? Any guy can do your job. Dads? Your son or daughter doesn’t need to grow up with a male role model in his or her daily life. It’s the sort of pernicious nonsense that thinks gender is an arbitrary social construct. It’s not enough, apparently, to say that gay couples can be great parents. You have to insist that heterosexual couples have no inherent advantages. It’s not enough to say that kids raised by gay couples can grow up well-adjusted. You have to deny the advantages of growing up in a family where the child is exposed to both male and female role models on a molecular level. It’s not enough to support the rights of a lesbian couple to bring life into this world; you have to stifle your own suspicions that having a dad in the house is better than not having one. Otherwise you’re one of those curious old things who lives in a world dominated by superstitions. Quaint, amusing superstitions.

This is what dismays me: no matter how much I may support gay rights, in the final analysis my belief that my daughter needs a dad brands me as a reactionary.

Well, at the risk of making it worse: A mom cannot be a dad. And a friend or uncle who comes around for trips to the ice cream store might be that vaunted “male role model” but he’s not going to magically impart values just by showing up for an hour or two every fortnight. Just because gay couples can’t be excellent parents doesn’t mean that the inherent nature of the relationship is equal to the inherent nature of heterosexual parenting. But nowadays we cannot make value judgments about these things. If you say that heterosexual parenting arrangements have a built-in advantage you're somehow delegitimizing the very notion of homosexual parenting.

I think this is obvious, and I am mystified why this should somehow become a referendum on homosexuality. But alas. I’m sure this makes me, in the eyes of some, a hopeless bigot. It would be different if the advocates admitted the difference and insisted that it doesn’t matter in the long run. No: they refuse to admit that there’s a difference at all. Moms? Dads? Play-acting roles, Mere inventions, lead aprons we drape on manikins.

I don’t mean to suggest this is the opinion of all advocates of gay marriage; for all I know most regard this a self-refuting drivel. Of course kids need dads and moms! But it’s not the first time I’ve heard it, and it seems to be a favored argument by those who are approaching the same-sex marriage issue not as a civil rights issue, but as a means of enshrining gender-studies grad school nonsense in public policy. Rather than explore the fascinating differences between men and women, they shake the Etch-A-Sketch and insist there were never any differences anyway.

To paraphrase Prager, it takes a Master’s degree to believe something as stupid as this.

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