Slate, an interesting web magazine circa 1999, is now so unfailingly tedious that I never read it unless it gets featured on Google News. (One suspects that I am not alone here.) Unfortunately, Slate did show up in today’s Editors’ Picks line-up, and among the other pieces that I could not stop myself from reading was an, ahem, effort from someone called Mark Joseph Stern under the typically bitchy headline “Yes, Opposing Gay Marriage Does Make You a Homophobe”:
On Friday, Brandon Ambrosino penned a thoughtful essay in the Atlantic contending that opposition to gay marriage doesn’t necessarily signify homophobia. Ambrosino’s argument runs in a few different directions, but it’s essentially a riff on the old saw “love the sinner, hate the sin.” Ambrosino claims that “gayness is not the most fundamental aspect of my identity” and that opponents of gay marriage can still make a good-hearted “distinction between Brandon and Gay Brandon,” loving the former while disapproving of the latter. This is an interesting point. It is also incorrect.
The primary problem with this kind of argument is that as easily as it can be trussed up in calls for tolerance, patience, and humanism, it can also be ripped to shreds by one simple question: Can a person oppose equal rights for gay people and not be, in some fundamental way, a homophobe? [bold mine—MW]
Asinine prose (can a “point” be “incorrect”?) aside, the reasoning here is, well, not really reasoning. Stern, whose own logical standards are anything but, essentially begs the question with the bit in bold. Of course “oppos[ing]equal rights for gay people” makes one, if not frightened of gay people, certainly anti-gay. But this is not an issue of “equal rights.” There is no “right” to marriage, an association that involves numerous legal and financial responsibilities. Besides, marriage between, for example, first cousins is prohibited in many jurisdictions in this country. And marriage between aunts and nephews, uncles and nieces, brothers and sisters, parents and children, is forbidden everywhere in the United States. If marriage is a “right” rather than a complicated form of voluntary association, surely contemporary laws regulating consanguinity are denying this “right” to those with incestuous designs and those of us who support such statutes (a group that, one assumes, includes Stern) are syngenesophobic. Fortunately, of course, it isn’t, they aren’t, and, uh, they aren’t.
The rest of Stern’s argument rests, of course, on his assumption that opposition to gay marriage is tantamount to denying gays “equal rights,” so there’s really no reason for me to report further.