July 02, 2008

The recent decision by the California Supreme Court overturning a ban on gay marriage has, once again, thrust this issue into the malestrom of political debate, and, simultaneously, revived the sagging fortunes of groups on both sides.

On the liberal left, the gay marriage movement is stoking up its engines for a major push to legitimize”€“so they believe”€“homosexual relationships in a social as well as a civil sense, and make the final push for gay “€œequality.”€

On the right, particularly the religious fundamentalist right, the scaremongering direct mail fundraisers are enjoying a major bonanza, frightening tens of thousands of little old ladies in Middle America to cough up $10, $20, and even $50 contributions to the Religious Right’s ongoing campaign to Save Marriage From Godless Queers.

Both sides are seriously deluded, albeit in different ways. Let’s start with the Godless Queers…

Marriage is all about children: otherwise, there is no real reason for it, and especially not in the modern world, where internet hook-ups, de facto polygamy, and rampant promiscuity are widely accepted. It is, in short, an economic institution, a financial framework for the bringing up of a new generation. Marriage is an agreement between two adults that they will, together, provide for the needs of their offspring, and, indeed, when the time comes, pass on their accumulated wealth.

This is not to say that childless marriages aren”€™t really marriages, or that all the emotional and psychological trappings of traditional marriage”€“monogamy, commitment, and, yes, love“€”are irrelevant. I am here talking about the civil institution of marriage, as it has evolved in the English-speaking world, and not the cultural phenomenon that has evolved over many millennia”€”something not created but rather co-opted by the State.

As Camille Paglia points out:

I think [gay marriage] is a flash point for antigay backlash…. That’s the problem: calling it a marriage. If you ask the working class guy on the street, “€˜Do you believe in gay marriages?”€™ it makes him absolutely have a convulsion of revulsion. Marriage was traditionally meant for male and female. It was a bond for the raising of children, so it always had a procreative meaning too, and it has a long sacred tradition behind it. I hate any time that gay causes get mixed up with seeming to profane other people’s sacred tradition. The gay activist leadership has been totally clumsy about that. Rather than treating it in a serious way and saying “€˜We respect the tradition of marriage,”€™ gay activism is associated with throwing balloons of blood at the steps of St. Patrick’s.

Pagilia is right. Marriage is not a civil institution but a religious-cultural tradition that the State has (so far) been forced to respect and recognize”€”and it is centered around procreation, which is not an issue most homosexuals have to deal with.

Which brings us to the central argument against gay marriage, which is that it is based on a heterosexual model of sexual and emotional relationships, one that just doesn”€™t fit the gay lifestyle. The whole idea of getting gays hitched is derivative of the central error of egalitarianism, the counterintuitive conception of human beings as being “€œequal”€ and, therefore, interchangeable”€”and therefore one-size-fits-all. Egalitarianism isn”€™t really a political ideology: it’s a religion, one quite capable of withstanding a sustained assault of clear evidence to the contrary.

I direct your attention to anecdotal yet telling evidence of this misconception by pointing out that, in the rush to the altar by many gay couples in California, the most prominent, and, I”€™ll bet, most numerous, were female couples. Women, of course, love the idea of marriage, and an old lesbian joke illustrates this penchant for connubial bliss:

What does a lesbian bring to a second date?  “€”A moving van

The sequel to this knee-slapper, however, illustrates that the procreative principle works both ways: What does a lesbian bring to a third date? “€”A turkey baster ….

Lesbians can, and do, get pregnant: they raise children, thousands of whom are presently alive and kicking. In San Francisco, they make up a significant”€”and growing”€”part of the public school population. Lesbians, therefore, fit into the procreative model of marriage, even though they cannot reproduce without the passive participation of men who donate sperm. Gay men, on the other hand, are … men, and no man really wants to get married.

Promiscuity and its attendant attitudes go hand-in-hand with maleness: it’s our genetic and socially constructed legacy, imprinted on our very nature and invincible to the assaults of both politically correct feminists and puritans of the Right. Monogamy and maleness are opposites in a dichotomy: the idea of sexual fidelity is distinctively feminine, linked as it is with an overwhelming (and inherent) need for security and certainty “€“ that is, the certainty that the father of her children will assist in their proper rearing. The collapse of this socio-sexual compact, which undergirds our civilization, is behind the inner city’s descent into barbarism, where roving bands of undisciplined fatherless males have been unleashed, wreaking havoc and filling the prisons.

Marriage, in the context of male homosexuality, isn”€™t just a contradiction: the very idea of two males getting “€œmarried”€ evokes such protest precisely because it parodies heterosexual unions. A parody, after all, is a take-off on the original, one that apes the form but denies or mocks its essence. This mockery is what the anti-gay marriage crowd bristles at”€”and rightly so.

Yet it isn”€™t just this threat of an antigay backlash, which Ms. Paglia rightly points to, that is the most objectionable aspect of the proposal to “€œlegalize”€ gay marriage. The worst victims of the gay marriage proposal won”€™t be straights, in spite of the ridiculous cries that marriage will be “€œdevalued,”€ and will therefore become less popular, if two queers are allowed to get hitched. The ones who will really be hurt by admission to the temple of Hera will be gay men.

With gay marriage comes the inevitable gay divorce”€”and, believe you me, it’s going to be ugly. If gay activists think that marriage is going to somehow legitimize homosexuality in the eyes of Middle America, then they have yet to imagine the new hit “€œreality tv”€ show, “€œGay Divorce Court,”€ which will make the heterosexual version seem like a Sunday School picnic. Indeed, I predict that, given the nature of the male animal, the gay male divorce rate will soon outstrip the rate of new gay male marriages. Gay marriage”€”in the gay male community, that is”€”is prone to self-abolition.

This gay male aversion to marriage is prefigured in the rate of domestic partnerships”€”intended as a precursor of gay marriage”€”in urban gay ghettos. Even fewer will sign up for that trip to the altar, especially when it dawns on them that with the right to marry comes a few responsibilities, particularly of a financial nature.

This is where the propaganda of the right-wing anti-gay marriage movement goes completely off the rails: the alleged “€œthreat”€ represented to marriage as an institution by the prospect of gay unions ranges from nil to nonexistent. The idea that gay people, given the opportunity, are going to rush to get married is a fantasy shared by both sides in this debate. But what about states where sexual infidelity is grounds for divorce? Lots of factors no one’s even considered will lead to the big fizzle of “€œgay marriage.”€

Do gay guys really want to have half their incomes claimed by their spouses? With gay marriage comes gay alimony, and that is what is going to make “€œGay Divorce Court”€ such a tawdry tale of twinks on the make and sugar daddies paying through the nose. Gay marriage is going to go out of style rather quickly as a whole series of high-profile divorce cases make their way through the courts.

The very phrase “€œgay marriage”€ is an oxymoron. Homosexuality, after all, is really all about the avoidance of marriage “€“ and the responsibility of raising a family. It is the embrace of sensuality for its own sake, as an instrument of pure pleasure rather than procreation. Do gay guys really want to give up what is most attractive “€“ to males, at any rate “€“ about their recreational activities, the tremendous sense of freedom it implies?

Today’s gay activists are embarked on what is truly a futile mission, to make homosexuality seem “€œnatural.”€ But they really ought to take their cues from their predecessors among the ancients, who took the opposite tack. In ancient Greece, philosophers debated the merits and demerits of homosexual behavior”€“although “€œgayness”€ was a concept unknown to them, thank the gods”€“and the defenders of this practice were, then as now, confronted with the argument that homosexuality is “€œunnatural.”€

Pausanias, in Plato’s Symposium, answers that homosexuality is the “€œheavenly love”€ precisely because it is divorced from earthly carnality and centered around an idealized conception of beauty. It is purely aesthetic, and not at all procreative, that is, completely unnatural and artificial. To Pausanias, and his classical Greek comrades, this made it superior to the crassness of “€œthe meaner sort of men,”€ exclusive hetereosexuals, who lacked the “€œhigher”€ capacity to appreciate beauty in all its forms, including the male form.

Far from arguing that homosexuality was the equivalent of heterosexuality, the ancient advocates of same-sex love emphasized the great gulf that separates the two. Rather than aping heterosexuals and relentlessly lobbying for the “€œright”€ to marry, Plato’s crowd sought to distance themselves from the mundane and underscore their singularity. Pausanias argues that the choice of younger men over available women is indicative of a superior moral quality, evidence of a purity that defies and transcends biology. Homosexual love, he averred, represents an improvement over nature “€“ which is, after all, the signal characteristic of human civilization.

To the gay activists of the modern era, with their dogma of biological determinism “€“ the “€œgay gene“€”and their ingrained egalitarianism, such an argument is inconceivable. For them, there is no choice involved: they fervently believe they are genetically determined to engage in homosexual acts. In this view, sexual orientation is like gender and race. In the context of the society in which we live, this means that it is”€”or ought to be”€”illegal to “€œdiscriminate”€ on the basis of sexual orientation, in the same way and for the same reasons it is now a hate crime to consider matters of race, religion, and gender in the realm of housing, employment, and socio-economic relations in general.

This orthodoxy sits atop a mountain of pseudo-science mixed with moralizing, one that asserts”€”without convincing scientific evidence”€”that sexual “€œorientation”€ is genetically determined. It is the Left-liberal version of Lysenkoism, in which ideology determines political conclusions in advance of the facts (except that Lysenko, and his Stalinist sponsors, were expressing the leftist orthodoxy of the day that men could be engineered through the power of the State.)  

The irony is that while most organizations of the Left (and Right) are allergic to the very notion of inheritable differences, the gay rights lobby sticks to a dogmatic genetic determinism that is otherwise relegated to the outer bounds of political incorrectness.  

Aside from the lack of scientific evidence, common sense weighs in against this kind of crude genetic reductionism when we”€™re talking about an area so rife with subtlety, nuance”€”and variety as human sexuality. After all, what about bisexuals “€“ are they genetic freaks, or are they just making different choices at different times in their lives?

The Kinsey Report, which was hailed by liberals at the time of its release “€“ and damned by conservatives”€”showed that the great majority of homosexual activity takes place between men who identify as primarily heterosexual: their “€œgay”€ activities are furthermore limited to certain periods in their lives. The category of exclusive homosexuals was in the low single digits”€”although, again, sexual behavior was shown to change over time “€“ another powerful argument against the theory of sexual “€œorientation,”€ which insists on rigid allegiance to certain behaviors.

And in the end, genetics is merely a ploy. The entire gay rights movement is based on the most unattractive, indeed pathetic motive imaginable”€”the need for acceptance.

A true libertarian position on gay marriage is very simple: libertarians seek to prevent the incursion of the State into private affairs. This means that any libertarian worthy of the name must oppose “€œlegalizing”€ the very real marriages that do exist in the gay community, albeit not in a form most “€œstraights”€ would find either familiar or acceptable.

The State, after all, has already made a strenuous and largely successful effort to regulate and intervene in the natural life of families, as well as the relations between women and men”€”the advent of gay marriage would mean extending the reach of the State over the private lives of individuals. Surely no libertarian could agree to such a thing, and would certainly do everything to oppose it.

Yet all sorts of alleged “€œlibertarians”€ and fellow travelers simply assume that support for gay marriage”€”and, indeed, for the homosexual lifestyle”€”is a central principle of libertarianism. It simply isn”€™t so.

Libertarianism is only a political and economic theory. It has nothing to say whatever about what “€œlifestyle”€ a person chooses or the subject of quantum physics: it isn”€™t an all-embracing moral-metaphysical system that purports to explain everything and has a prescription for living one’s life. Libertarians neither endorse nor damn homosexuals and homosexuality: we simply say that sexual activities between consenting adults are no business of the State “€“ period.

That old leftist slogan, “€œthe personal is the political,”€ expresses the supremely anti-libertarian instinct that today politicizes even the most intimate social interactions. The irony is that this serves, in turn, to de-sexualize the behavior it seeks to legitimize. As George Orwell put it: politics is merely sex gone sour. In the end, the campaign to “€œlegitimize”€ homosexuality could very well end up reducing its appeal, and, in a kind of rough justice, reducing the number of homosexuals.

It used to be that the gay world was a kind of underground club, the sort with a big brawny doorman who looked you up and down real good before he let you in the door. Nowadays, just anyone can just waltz right in, without so much as a “€œby your leave.”€ It’s all part of a general leveling trend, the tendency toward ordinariness and uniformity that characterizes modern life.

Ostensible conservatives such as Andrew Sullivan and Bruce Bawer, who jumped on the gay marriage bandwagon early on, make a point of emphasizing this ordinariness, pushing the meme that gays are just like straights “€“ only their wedding cakes have same-sex figurines atop them.

In yet another irony, it looks like the gay “€œliberation”€ movement has turned into its opposite. Instead of rebelling against the bourgeois social order, and asserting and celebrating their “€œliberation”€ from legalistic and moral norms, gay activists seek to reinforce those norms by “€œbroadening”€ them. What started out as a movement for “€œgay liberation”€ has turned into a campaign to make gay society as restrictive of sexuality (particularly male sexuality) as the straight world “€“ and even more boring.

Is nothing sacred anymore? It used to be that the American State had invaded every other aspect of American life: there was hardly a nook or a cranny left unoccupied by our army of bureaucrats, lawyers, judges, and elected politicians. The gay subculture was once largely outside of this system, and therefore homosexuals enjoyed enormous freedom and flexibility in their personal lives, a happy condition that marriage “€“ and any form of state intervention”€”invariably ends. Which is precisely why gay marriage will prove to be just as unpopular in the gay male community as it is in the heart of the Bible belt, albeit for wildly different reasons.


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