“Conservative” assimilationists

Our recent attempts at dialogue with local anti-gay blogger Barbara Curtis resulted only in deleted comments from her blog and a snarky aside purporting to explain why she’s not interested in an honest and open discussion about a subject she can’t seem to stop talking about. This helps to explain why.

The same-sex marriage debate has now come full circle. It has drilled through the core arguments and is now expressing itself as the polar opposite of conventional wisdom: Conservatives are arguing for same-sex marriage – why not? It’s a conservative institution – and liberals, against. David Blankenhorn, self-described “liberal family scholar” and president of the Institute for American Values (IAV), authored “The Future of Marriage”, a future that he argues should not include same-sex marriage. Dale Carpenter, conservative Harvard Law Professor and Cato Institute scholar, rebuts Blankenhorn and conservative social scientist Howard Kurtz, who studies the “deinstitutionalization of marriage.” Carpenter presents a pretty solid case. See the concerns at the bottom of the post. In his latest, he exposes the “flaw of ommission” in Blankenhorn’s (and others) “Dueling radicals” argument. After discussing how anti-marriage equality activists love to quote those who see same-sex marriage as a tool to undermine marriage as a conservative institution “because what they say frightens people,” he concludes with this:

SINCE THEN, MANY other activists and intellectuals have written a stream of books, articles and essays expressing similar assimilation anxiety and other concerns about gay marriage.

Such anti-gay marriage radicals, as we might loosely call them (some don’t actually oppose gay marriage), are worried that gay marriage will enhance the primacy of marriage, cut off support for alternatives like domestic partnerships and civil unions, de-radicalize gay culture, gut the movement for sexual liberation, and reinforce recent conservative trends in family law.

If those things happened, conservatives would cheer. But these radicals aren’t useful to conservatives, so what they say is ignored.

Apparently, assimilationists aren’t very useful either. IAV scholar Elizabeth Marquardt Stanley Kurtz (see correction below) even questions the non-scariness of their existence:

“Conservative” advocates of same-sex marriage have downplayed the influence of pro-triple-parenting radicals

That’s not true. Carpenter didn’t downplay. More importantly, he explains same-sex marriage conservativism.

In fact, supporting gay marriage does not require one to be anti-marriage. One could both support gay marriage and believe that 1. marriage is not an outdated institution, 2. it is generally better for a committed couple to get married than to stay unmarried, 3. adultery should be discouraged, 4. it is better for children to be raised within marriage than without, 5. divorce should be harder to obtain, and so on.

By those measures, my David and I are very pro-marriage. We represent the demographic that Blankenhorn “agonized” over.

Blankenhorn says he believes homosexuality “is closer to being a given than a choice,” that he “disagrees” with the parts of the Bible that are commonly interpreted to condemn homosexuality, and that Jesus’ teachings are inconsistent with the condemnation of gay people. (P. 210) I’m told that in a recent debate with Jon Rauch, Blankenhorn actually affirmed “the equal dignity of homosexual love.” He also said that he “agonized” over the real harm done to gay couples by prohibiting them from marrying.

Marquardt and Blankenhorn approach marriage conservativism differently. Blankenhorn is genuinely interested in reducing the harm to our community. He agonizes because he understands that regardless of legal status, same-sex marriage will continue to be practiced in idyllic Ozzie and Harriet Loudoun and suburbias beyond. Marquardt on the other hand questions the authenticity of marriage “Conservatives”. If The IAV wants to engage the marriage conservatives, it may want to reign in Marquardt’s cynicism. Scare-quotes or not, we will continue to assimilate and someday we won’t be “scary”. We’ll be ignored for the right reasons.

I received a polite note from Elizabeth Marquardt correcting the attribution of a quote to her. It was actually a Stanley Kurtz quote. My mistake. I apologize.

Marquardt’s post was odd in its lack of originality and it is not unreasonable to assume she agrees with Kurtz’s message. Typically, bloggers don’t just cut and past other peoples work. In this case, Ms Marquardt’s entire post was a Stanley Kurtz quote. If Marquardt had disagreed with Kurtz, would she have said so? Please take a look at Marquardt’s bastardization of Jonathan Rauch’s review of “The Future of Marriage”. She quotes the gracious congratulatory paragraphs like this:

In The Future of Marriage, he emerges as an articulate, humane, and fair-minded opponent of same-sex marriage, which he regards as nothing less than part of an effort to steal children’s patrimony. “It would require us, legally and formally, to withdraw marriage’s greatest promise to the child”“the promise that, insofar as society can make it possible, I will be loved and raised by the mother and father who made me.” He takes jabs at me, among other gay-marriage advocates, but in my case he plays fair. And Blankenhorn is ambitious. He wants to lift the gay-marriage debate from its isolation in the mud-pit of the partisan culture wars and place it within a larger theory of marriage. He also wants to put an end to the days when gay-marriage advocates can say that there is no serious case against gay marriage. In both respects, he succeeds. “¦

and omits cogent points of criticism such as:

In plainer English, Blankenhorn is saying that marriage is designed to discriminate in favor of conjugal families and must continue to do so. Egalitarians may hate that idea, but it isn’t stupid or bigoted. Blankenhorn is correct to think society has a strong interest in keeping fathers, mothers, and children together; many of today’s problems of crime, poverty, and inequality flow directly from the breakdown of families. But there Blankenhorn and I part ways. He says he is all for maintaining the dignity and equality of gay people, but he believes that changing marriage’s most venerable boundary is the wrong way to do so. I am all for maintaining the strength of marriage and family, but I think that telling homosexuals (and their kids) they can’t form legal families is the wrong way to do so.

One Purpose, or Many?

Having written a whole book on the subject, I won’t rehearse here why I think gay marriage is good family policy. Suffice it to say that, in a society riddled with divorce and fatherlessness, family policy’s essential task is to shore up marriage’s status as a norm. In a world where gay couples look married, act married, talk married, raise kids together, and are increasingly accepted as married, the best way to preserve marriage’s normative status is to bring gay couples inside the tent. Failing to do so, over time, will tar marriage as discriminatory, legitimize co-habitation and other kinds of non-marriage, and turn every successful gay couple into a cultural advertisement for the expendability of matrimony.

Her cherry picking is deserving of an entire post in its own right.

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3 Responses to “Conservative” assimilationists

  1. Jonathan says:

    I attempted to post this perfectly reasonable comment to Barbara’s Blog:

    Hi Barbara,

    If I were suspicious, I’d think that you were referring to David and I in an “anti-this and anti-that” kind of way, but I know that can’t be true since we met face to face and you assured me that it’s not possible to make somebody into a monster after you’ve met them up close and personal.

    So, as I promised, I’ve finally published my “Conservative” assimilationists blog entry and would appreciate your feedback. Building a family and assimilating into the community is a positive goal, wouldn’t you agree?

    In response to this post which contains these quotes:

    I’ve also been dealing with the slings and arrows of people who hate me for what I believe. I’ve decided not to give that much energy. When I think about them, I feel only compassion and sadness. Their lives seem so limited as they seem to have little else to live for than the defense of their sexuality. I remember a time when I had no idea how much more there was to life!


    Psalm 127 says,

    Like arrows in the hands of a mighty warrior are sons born in one’s youth.

    Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them.

    They will not be put to shame when they contend with their enemies in the gate.

    So it doesn’t really matter to me at all whether those stuck in their defense of a relatively fruitless lifestyle pronounce judgments on my authenticity or call me names or rail against me. I’ll let my life speak for itself – and speak for the power of God to heal one woman’s crippled life to produce something healthy and wholesome and enduring.


    Let me assure you that I don’t “hate you for what you believe” nor do I hate you at all. I don’t condone your behavior; your unscrupulous writing and your willful disregard for facts and for the feelings of your neighbors who you choose to make into “monsters”. You’re a big girl and a Christian, so you understand that Jesus takes sin very seriously.

  2. David says:

    When I read her blog, I was puzzled by the “fruitless lifestyle” remark. How is putting so much energy into making our community better a fruitless lifestyle? Then I realized she was focused entirely on sex. Sex, sex, sex, sex, sex. What a narrow, limited way of seeing the world and other people. Sad.

  3. Russell says:

    It is funny how the anti-gay movement seems to think more about gay sex than I do. How deviant. I am puzzled.

    Gay sex is so low on my gay agenda that it is on page two. It looks as though it is on the top of their page one.