John Podhoretz announces that he no longer opposes gay marriage:
As it happens, like our president, I was for a long time an opponent of gay marriage. I am not any longer—indeed, I am relieved that on Tuesday night citizens of four states chose freely to allow gay marriage within their borders rather than having such a thing imposed through judicial fiat. However, I am deeply respectful of those traditionalists who stand in opposition to it for profound reasons of conscience and faith and do not deserve to have the word “bigot” hurled unjustly at them.
I’m grateful for Podhoretz’s deep respect; would that more shared it. What he misses, though, is that opposition to gay marriage has never been about what he calls “profound reasons of conscience and faith.” It is, instead, about defending the common good, as Sherif Girgis, Ryan T. Anderson, and Robert P. George explain in today’s Wall Street Journal:
Marriage law shapes behavior by promoting a vision of what marriage is and requires. Redefinition will deepen the social distortion of marriage—and consequent harms—begun by policies such as “no-fault” divorce. As marital norms make less sense, adherence to them erodes.
Conservative scaremongering? No. Same-sex marriage activist Victoria Brownworth, like other candid revisionists, says that redefinition “almost certainly will weaken the institution of marriage,” and she welcomes that result.
Yet weakening marital norms will hurt children and spouses, especially the poorest. Rewriting the parenting ideal will also undermine in our mores and practice the special value of biological mothers and fathers. By marking support for the conjugal view as bigotry, it will curb freedoms of religion and conscience. Redefinition will do all this in the name of a basic error about what marriage is.
I see no dishonor in being an opponent of a misguided proposal like gay marriage, but if Podhoretz is no longer willing to to identify as such I hope he will also refuse to be called a supporter. Not all things inevitable are desirable, nor desirable inevitable. That gay marriage seems likelier than ever does not make arguments in its favor any more persuasive. In a healthy and just society, social institutions discipline our desires rather than being remade by them. We should hope and work for a society of that kind.