Jeffrey Lord already rebutted Theodore Olson’s Newsweek essay making the “conservative case for gay marriage” earlier this week while I was in the throes of Scott Brownapalooza. The only thing I’d add is that while Olson has laid out a case for same-sex marriage, there is nothing that makes it a specifically “conservative” case. He simply assumes that the claims of a minority group should be honored without regard to the larger society; he assumes that longstanding traditions could not possibly have any basis outside of tradition; he assumes away the existence of any transcendent moral order besides that which states all men are created equal; and implicit in his argument is the absurd notion that marriage has been between a man and a woman in order to discriminate against homosexuals in the same way interracial marriage was explicitly banned to discriminate against nonwhites. By this logic, the NBA discriminates when it does not admit football teams.
In Olson’s mind, the only issues at stake are a personalized definition of marriage rather than a shared social understanding; equality and egalitarianism; nondiscrimination; and generic appeals to “freedom.” But what the people calling for the “freedom to marry” ignore is that marriage is in large measure a denial of freedom: it is about the government and the broader society more or less forcing a couple to stay together. The same question that is often asked of traditional marriage’s defenders can be asked of proponents of same-sex marriage: Why are these relationships any of the government’s business?
To me, the only “conservative case for gay marriage” worth the name is this one: We live in a fallen world where our understanding of marriage is so diluted — viewing it only as a form of committed couplehood, a definition same-sex couples can satisfy — and same-sex couples are so commonplace that using the law to uphold marriage’s traditional definition now does more harm than good. In my view, we’re not there yet.