Here’s a fascinating Twitter exchange in which Ryan T. Anderson and Ross Douthat quietly make Josh Barro look like a jerk over how to treat those with whom he disagrees about same-sex marriage. For example:
@RyanT_Anderson obviously some policy views render people unworthy of respect. you just don’t like where I’m drawing the line.
— Josh Barro (@jbarro) July 26, 2014
Which one of these guys is more exemplary of the virtues necessary for life in a pluralistic democracy? Which one of these guys would you rather have as your mayor? Their exchange was actually about an important philosophical point at the core of the marriage equality debate. Read the whole thing. Barro says that “marriage is whatever the government says it is.” Anderson says that the government doesn’t define marriage, but recognizes it, “based on human nature.” Douthat jumps into the debate to explain that Anderson and his allies say that a definition of marriage expanded to include same-sex couples is “incoherent.” This makes no sense to Barro, who says:
@DouthatNYT is that incoherence? NYC suspends alternate side parking rules on holidays not clearly distinguished from others when it doesn’t
— Josh Barro (@jbarro) July 26, 2014
To which Douthat replies:
@jbarro It is possible that coherence matters more for a central institution of civil society than it does for parking-meter policies.
— Ross Douthat (@DouthatNYT) July 26, 2014
However unintentionally, Douthat’s point is made in this Buzzfeed discussion with three gay writers on a topic charmingly introduced by the headline, “How We F**k Now.” Excerpt:
DT: The marriage thing is interesting, too, because of the presumption that married couples will be monogamous. I’ve heard straight people say that they’ve come to support same-sex marriage because they know loving, monogamous gay couples. And I thought, Whoa, how do you know they’re monogamous? It seemed like a pretty big assumption, although maybe that’s what they told him, and maybe it was true. But I think that’s a widespread assumption among heterosexual people — that men in same-sex marriages will adopt monogamy as a lifestyle value. And I think that’s probably a very questionable assumption. I’m curious if young gay men coming of age these days have adopted that perspective or not, and if they have, how long they will adhere to it.
ST: One of the most explosive findings from the Gay Couples Study I mentioned earlier has been that half of all gay couples are openly non-monogamous. I wrote about that last year, and I got a fair number of negative reactions from gay activists I know for focusing “too much” on the sex lives of gay male couples. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with a couple choosing to be non-monogamous, but I do think it’s dangerous to assume they are. In fact, a lot of sexualitiy academics I know find this to be a leading area of HIV prevention research. Because we’ve been taught that couplehood equals monogamy in heterosexual marriages (even when that’s not true), a lot of gay men in partnerships have bareback sex more with their partners than single guys do with other single guys. Two single dudes are more likely to use condoms than two partnered dudes. And if half of all gay couples are not monogamous, this makes them more susceptible to STIs than single guys. Biden kind of falsely advanced the idea that couples are more safe and more deserving because they are monogamous. Levels of monogamy could change over the coming generation, as legal recognition of gay union happens. Truvada could alter how susceptible couples are to HIV. But as of today, gay couples shouldn’t be assumed to be monogamous, and their risks for HIV transmission ought to be considered seriously.
SJ: I can’t speak for young gay men everywhere, but I think a committed open relationship is both practical and ideal. This shouldn’t be (and hopefully isn’t) regarded to my investment in marriage equality. It’s just — like, isn’t the entire point of being LGBT people that we don’t have to live the way straight people choose to live? In a way, it goes back to the idea of the “joy” of gay sex, which I really believe in. I want equal rights, but that’s not the same thing as wanting someone else’s way of life. But hey, that’s just me.
Incoherent, totally. And yet, if Barro is right, and all marriage law is positive law (meaning we can make it up as we go along, to suit our needs and desires), as opposed to deriving from natural law (meaning that we must define marriage according to our natures), then whatever we choose to call marriage is marriage, and there need be no coherence to it. And anybody who points that out is a big old bigot who doesn’t deserve anybody’s respect. It’s as if one stands there and scream “You HATE me! You HATE me!” often enough, 2 + 2 will cease to equal 4.