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Raimondo vs. Rauch: The Marriage Debate You Haven’t Heard Before

With Straussian eminence Walter Berns in attendance—he asks the final question—Jonathan Rauch and Justin Raimondo debate “Is Gay Marriage Good for America?” for American University’s Janus Forum [1].

Rauch frames his pro-SSM argument as socially conservative, a “Burkean social fabric thing,” in the words of one audience member. Raimondo has a radical libertarian counterblast to that, and he notes the irony that while genetic determinism is frowned upon in discussions of race or sex, it’s invoked as a source of authority by those who argue for same-sex marriage. He calls it “pseudo-science mixed with moralism” and latter-day “Lysenkoism.” Rauch is concerned to protect religious liberties, while Raimondo, foreseeing dire consequences for Christians who refuse to accept a new definition of marriage, warns that “people who are oppressed inevitably turn into the worst bullies” once they have government power on their side.

It’s a debate unlike any other on this issue, inspired in part by Raimondo’s TAC article “The Libertarian Case Against Gay Marriage [2].”

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#1 Comment By Doug On April 24, 2013 @ 9:04 pm

The problem I have with Raimondo’s argument is that it seems too clever by half. It’s too abstract to be effective. How do you expect a gay couple awaiting marriage to react to such heavy intellectualization and abstraction of their personal lives and they’re personal well-being?

I think this argument has no hope of resonating with the general populace for the same reasons. People decide whether or not they will support same sex marriage based on whether they think gay people should be ostracized in society. I think this is the only argument that really matters in the grand scheme, and this argument has been thoroughly lost by Trads already.

#2 Comment By arrScott On April 24, 2013 @ 10:22 pm

“people who are oppressed inevitably turn into the worst bullies”

There may be countries where this is a valid argument against ceasing to oppress people. But none of those countries is called “the United States of America.” And can we really call someone “libertarian” whose chief concern is defending majoritarian imposition of state authority to oppress individuals? Surely, the English language, with its 600,000-plus words, offers us more precise terms than “libertarian” for such statist beliefs.

#3 Comment By HDowding On April 25, 2013 @ 12:50 am

I could only watch so much before bursting out in laughter. One must really contemplate what debates like this signify for the modern West? Some use the phrase of “shuffling the chairs on the deck.” If we were to apply that image to this debate it would be much more fitting to also graft in a circus with scary clowns doing backflips and balancing themselves on unicycles…… on the deck of the Titanic.

#4 Comment By EngineerScotty On April 25, 2013 @ 1:12 am

And can we really call someone “libertarian” whose chief concern is defending majoritarian imposition of state authority to oppress individuals? Surely, the English language, with its 600,000-plus words, offers us more precise terms than “libertarian” for such statist beliefs.

Conservatives posing as libertarians? Now that is a novel idea….

#5 Comment By Fran Macadam On April 25, 2013 @ 2:09 am

Justin is too clever by half, only to those who are half-wits.

That people obsessed with self-indulgence can rail against someone who has given so much to try to address real suffering in the world, by millions truly devastated by war, rather than just having their turned up noses bent slightly out of joint, shows that their motivations have no real share or empathy with real human rights abuses. Moreover, since Justin considers himself homosexual, he knows far more than the coffee and donut moments served up glibly and ignorantly that supposedly prove homosexual coupling is anything like marriage.

Making a pretense that they are married in bizarre imitation of a procreational model they are not designed for, can’t be healthy. It’s a form of self-abuse, really, and self-denial. It’s not going to make anyone content, because it just forces people to try to contort themselves into what they cannot ever be; a highly dissatisfying effort that continues to gnaw at self-esteem. What kind of “acceptance” is that, trying to pleae society through imitation?

#6 Comment By Doug On April 25, 2013 @ 8:15 am

I hope it’s pretty obvious why it is offensive to say that any gay couple in a monogamous relationship is a form of “self-abuse” and only amounts to an imitation of the real thing. This is prejudice, not an sound argument against same sex marriage.

If you think that same sex marriage should be rejected, because you think gay people are shameful and that we should ostracize our gay brothers and sisters, then say much, rather than engaging in some intellectual slight of hand where you don’t have to justify you’re own prejudice

#7 Comment By Doug On April 25, 2013 @ 8:15 am

*then say as much

#8 Comment By Consequences2 On April 25, 2013 @ 9:10 am

“What kind of “acceptance” is that, trying to pleae society through imitation?”

Is the flattery getting to you, Fran? Too much to bear?

#9 Comment By EliteCommInc. On April 25, 2013 @ 10:51 am

There’s only one problem: The homosexual oppression does not exist as part of the structural frame. They are oppresed not. Bully’s they are as a result of their own psychololigical and social arrangemnets having nothing to do with marriage.

The case for oppression has yet to be made. Economically . . . seems not. Socially, marginally. Spiritually, no churches have not engaged in homosexual hunts. Legally, even sodomy laws, applicable to the population as a whole have gone . . .

Bully may be the result of oppression even if that oppression is one of their own making, doing and imagination. So much complaint about homosexuality discrimination have been adopted without any evidence of the claim. Feeling oppressed and actual oppression are not the same.

It is akin to that liberal female argument: “If you feel it it must be true/real.” Wrong and false.

#10 Comment By Evan McLaren On April 25, 2013 @ 11:45 am

Entertaining stuff. Thanks!

#11 Comment By cka2nd On April 25, 2013 @ 12:12 pm

Look, as I’ve said here before, Queer conservatives and establishment types may have been pushing gay marriage on assimilationist grounds for decades, but the liberals and progressives who dominated the LGBT movement were not particularly interested, on the grounds of one or more of the following:

Principal – opposition to marriage as an institution.

Strategy – AIDS, queer youth and non-discrimination in employment, housing, etc. were or are more pressing issues.

Tactics – domestic partnership provides many of the same benefits of marriage without waving as big a red flag in front of social conservatives and also wins us allies not focused on sexuality.

It was pressure from the grassroots of the gay community, especially from folks not previously active in the movement, that forced gay marriage onto the agenda of the movement. I may appreciate Raimondo’s arguments on a theoretical level, but the genie is very much out of the bottle and what is happening is democracy and republican governance in action.

#12 Comment By cka2nd On April 25, 2013 @ 12:29 pm

There might be an argument to be made as to differences between the way straights and gays – or lesbians! – “do” marriage or long-term relationships but someone with Mr. or Ms. Macadam’s assumptions and half-baked ideas won’t be contributing to it.

And Fran, as someone who lived on the periphery of the Queer movement at the height of the AIDS epidemic and who knows queer folk who’ve been organizing against war and imperialism for decades, I find your comment about “self-indulgence” to be ignorant and offensive in the extreme.

Whether people like you like it or not, it is “Salt of the Earth” queer folk who are driving this issue far more than the D.C. establishment, the Hollywood “gay mafia” or the movement progressives and radicals of the post-Stonewall or AIDS eras.

#13 Comment By Besomyka On April 25, 2013 @ 5:58 pm

There’s a faulty assumption in this debate. Namely, that gender is binary. That we can somehow successfully list a set of attributes that define what a ‘man’ is and what a ‘woman’ is. You need that in order to determine if a marriage is even same sex or opposite sex.

I encourage you all to look into it, I’m confident that you’ll find that the venn diagram of ‘men’ and ‘woman’ has more overlap than you are expecting.

And if we can’t determine gender in a definitive sense, how can we then restrict marriage?

For example:
Does an XY androgen insensitive female-identifying masculine-presenting person have the right to marry a ‘man’?

#14 Comment By OldRight On April 26, 2013 @ 2:40 pm

Seriously, why has Justin Raimondo ever called himself “conservative” or “conservative leaning” as a libertarian? Is he proud that he’s a hedonist and has “screwed” all the men he claims? Is he proud of narcissism, which he claims to be part of the homosexual life?

Conservatism when grounded in traditional natural law is objectively, rationally against homosexual activity as immoral. (See, e.g., chapter four in “The Last Superstition” by Edward Feser.) As just a typical anti-conservative libertarian, Mr. Raimondo sees everything in individualistic and relativistic terms. There is no such thing as final causes or essences built into the structure of reality. Everything is left-open and subjective. Nothing really is moral or immoral as following from natural law. I guess that’s the libertarian paradise which Mr. Raimondo wants.

#15 Comment By TomB On April 28, 2013 @ 7:12 am

OldRight alleged that in Raimondo’s libertarian view:

“There is no such thing as final causes or essences built into the structure of reality. Everything is left-open and subjective. Nothing really is moral or immoral as following from natural law. I guess that’s the libertarian paradise which Mr. Raimondo wants.”

I would have thought that after 40+ years now from the Sixties, if not from the 1930’s, conservatives like OldRight would have gotten tired of being beaten about the head and shoulders with their own premises like borrowed mules.

After all if the Left has succeeded on anything it’s succeeded on its arguments of morality: E.g., inequality not only of opportunity but result is immoral, and etc. and so forth.

So is that what it comes down to OldRight? Foreswear the libertarian argument protecting your individual rights … in order to continue to wage your losing battle with the Left over the additional right to tell others how to live?

#16 Comment By OldRight On April 30, 2013 @ 5:47 pm

TomB, actually I do tend to be a libertarian politically. Please don’t assume you know what I actually think or specifically advocate. At any rate, your point, such as it appears, is only that moral conservatives should surrender; that is, cease being moral conservatives! People will always be told how to live best, if it is based on liberal principles, natural law principles, or something else. Only a fool believes in relativism or that which is bad should not be avoided.