Monday, May 17, 2004
John Fund of The Wall Street Journal joins the call for civility in our political discourse. See here. In my opinion, Bush hatred is far more intense and widespread than Clinton hatred. Remember: I voted for Bill Clinton in 1992, so I would have noticed. (Thanks to James Taranto of Best of the Web Today for the link.) Sullivan’s Misfortune I feel sorry for Andrew Sullivan. I really do. He thinks a law that allows homosexuals to “marry” will validate their relationships, enhance their self-esteem (which he admits is “low”), and integrate them into society. No law can do these things. All law can do--tautologously--is change people’s legal status. It can force agents of the state to do this or that; it can confer legal rights and responsibilities; it can redistribute tangible burdens and benefits. It cannot alter morality, sensibility, religious practice, or custom. Sullivan writes in today’s New York Times (see here) that, as of today in Massachusetts, homosexual couples’ “love and commitment and responsibility” will be “fully cherished for the first time by the society they belong to.” How does legal marriage accomplish that? Is Sullivan suggesting that love without marriage is impossible? That will come as a surprise to the thousands of heterosexual couples who love each other but are not married. And if one’s commitment to and responsibility for another are affected by legal status, then, with all due respect, something was wrong with the relationship to begin with. Law constrains action. It is external. It cannot control how people think or feel. It cannot make A love B or destroy A’s love for B. It can neither generate nor undermine commitment. These things are internal (and extralegal). Sullivan must be incredibly insecure if he needs the imprimatur of the state on his relationship. Is love not love without legal recognition? Is a commitment that is not enforced by the state through law not really commitment? Is legal responsibility the only sort of responsibility? Sullivan invests entirely too much in law. He may be rudely surprised when he finds that altered legal status changes nothing about his love, commitment, or responsibility. Allowing homosexuals to “marry” is not equality, as Sullivan says. It is injustice. Justice requires that likes be treated alike and unlikes differently. Sullivan has never made the case that heterosexuals and homosexuals are similarly situated with respect to marriage, so insisting that extending marriage rights to homosexuals constitutes “equality” begs the question. It is irresponsible, grandstanding rhetoric. Does equality require that humans be able to marry their dogs, cats, birds, or horses? Does equality require that groups of humans be able to marry? Does equality require marriage for children? Sullivan cheapens the concept of equality by applying it so mindlessly and promiscuously. He seems not to have read Aristotle. Law cannot change attitudes. Law cannot mandate respect, esteem, or admiration. Law can enforce tolerance, but it cannot mandate acceptance. Does Sullivan really think that someone who believes that homosexual “marriage” is an abomination will change his or her mind about it simply because the law has changed? Sullivan says the “marriages” about to be effected in Massachusetts are not “gay marriages.” They are, he says, “marriages.” But that’s not something that can be legislated or decreed from the bench. Imagine saying that Joe and Bob are not male nurses; they’re nurses. You can’t make people think and speak a certain way. Joe and Bob had best get used to being called male nurses. The adjective “male” indicates deviation from the norm. But at least they’re really nurses. Homosexual “marriages” will never be marriages. They won’t even be homosexual marriages. They will be homosexual “marriages.” Sullivan had best get used to it.