It is very convenient to find that someone else has said, and said better, what one has been thinking of saying, thus saving one a certain amount of trouble. Ever since I posted these comments on the homosexual marriage debate, I’ve been mulling over further remarks. One thing that has particularly struck me about the argument in favor of homosexual marriage is that it is largely couched in the language of rights and entitlement. It is mostly about the financial and legal benefits attendant upon marriage, and hardly at all about the sacrifices entailed. A recent letter to the editor in the local paper was a perfect exemplar of this, consisting of a list of social and financial benefits which normally accompany marriage and making an emotional plea against the exclusion from all these good things of people who happen to be attracted to members of their own sex. If anything was said of responsibilities it was brief and in passing.
When a man and a woman marry they know that they are sacrificing themselves for something larger—at least, they know this if they have any real respect for and understanding of what they are doing, which of course many nowadays do not. That something, of course, is the family of which they are now the founders; even at this fairly late stage of our attempt to separate marriage and child-bearing, it is still a general expectation that when one becomes a husband or wife it is more likely than not that one will sooner or later become a father or mother. The couple generally have at least some inkling that this new state may bring some extraordinarily serious responsibilities. This sacrificial spirit, which is central for real marriage, is not to be found in the arguments for same-sex marriage.
This review —by Kay S. Hymowitz, in Commentary—of Jonathan Rauch’s new book advocating homosexual marriage describes the terms in which the case is generally put: “a civil right, a public celebration of love, or a delivery system for government benefits.” That last phrase sums up the inexpressible dreariness of a great deal of what one reads on this subject. The review says most of what I have wanted to say, and says it very well. Rauch is, from what I have seen in periodicals, the most reasonable spokesman for homosexual marriage. And Ms. Hymowitz is respectful, and goes as far as she can in sympathizing with Rauch’s arguments, but in the end she cannot agree. I think she is one of a number of women who, as I have asserted before, recognize instinctively that the redefinition of marriage would not be good for women in general.
I particularly like her observation about the line of argument which which takes the high divorce rate and other symptoms of pathology in the institution of marriage as justification for further loosening its structure:
Defining marriage in terms of how "it is practiced today," as Rauch would have it, is like determining normal by taking the temperature of someone who has a fever.