Response to Commentators — Day 1:

Today’s posts have obviously spawned a lot of commentary, though I think Maggie wins in sheer volume. Many of the commentators are responding effectively to each other, and some of the questions raised (especially related to various slippery slopes, and possible harms to marriage) will be addressed in coming days, so I won’t add much now.

First, as one commentator reminded me, and as I wrote in an essay on National Review Online last week (available at http://www.nationalreview.com/comment/carpenter200510250830.asp), I think gay-marriage advocates have the burden of proof in this debate. But I think the burden can be met.

Second, I have been struck by how quickly the debate among commentators has centered on gay male promiscuity. I’ll address the promiscuity question tomorrow, as I think it goes mostly to the magnitude of the benefits I’m outlining, and again when I get to the prominent arguments against gay marriage. But for now, I’ll just note that it shows the debate about gay marriage is often conducted as if it’s only really a debate about guy marriage.

Third, one commentator asked why anything at all must be done about gay families. Why not just do nothing? That has been the default position of most traditionalist conservatives for some time now, while familial tectonic plates are shifting under their feet. It’s what I’d call malign neglect. If there’s one thing the past 40 years or so should have shown us, it’s that we ignore the health of families and family structure at our peril. I hope I’ve shown so far that doing nothing, pretending that the welfare of millions of people in gay families is of no concern to public policy, is not an attractive option for a traditionalist who cares about families and marriage.

Finally, I want to thank Anna for noting one benefit to gay marriage that I hadn’t thought about directly: when couples get married it improves the lives of the people who love them by reassuring them that their loved one is being cared for, and are less likely to live, as Anna put it, “lonely and depressed” lives.

My mother, who is 61, recently married a man who is 77 and with whom she’d lived for 18 years. Their sex will not make babies, yet everyone in both families was thick with happiness for them. Why did she marry? Did it change anything in a relationship that was already a marriage in just about every way except the name and the license? When I asked her this, she responded, “Now we’re more one.” I don’t fully understand the magic of that moment, but I didn’t have to understand it in order to know that I was more at peace about her future.

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