Vermont And Rod's Giant Sigh

I'm struck by the stunned silence on the bloggy right to Vermont's momentous decision to pass marriage equality. The reason, I suspect, is that the anti-gay right has placed a lot of eggs in the judicial activism argument. They felt safest there, on procedural grounds, even if the logic of their position brought them into a very radical originalist jurisprudence that would largely eviscerate the social and cultural landscape of modern America (on race, particularly). Ramesh Ponnuru was spluttering only yesterday that a state court's unanimous interpretation of its own constitution

has no democratic or constitutional legitimacy,

which is quite a statement when you come to think about it.

But having staked out such ground, where does Ponnuru have to go to today? He goes here:

Vermont Gets Same-Sex Marriage ... democratically.

And that is the entire sum of NRO's response so far. Telling, no? And so we are left with Rod's giant sigh, which is really a Giant Sigh that human beings ever began to ask questions of a medieval polity which resolved all of human thought and action in a totalist Thomist universe. Yes, there was perhaps a real value in a world where everything reflected the same widely accepted Truth, and all questions had answers, and all answers were a function of religious obedience, and a brilliant Catholic interpretation of Aristotle. But Rod, like all other mature Westerners, must know that that world is over. You either deal with it or you follow Alasdair Macintyre's advice and disappear into a monastery. Modernity is a fact, not a postulate. It cannot be undone as a whole, only in parts - and even they are deperately unstable. It seems to me that thinking conservatives have dealt with this, and have come to some kind of acceptance. Rod hasn't.

But his strategic mistake is not in pointing out that modernity does indeed ask rational questions about social arrangements in the face of changing mores - this is, in fact, almost a definition of a multi-cultural world - but in seeing fair and humane treatment of gay couples as the final straw. We're not. We are, in fact, the last anachronism left over from the real revolution - the widespread availability and use of contraception among straight couples, and the widespread acceptance of adoption, which severed the link between civil marriage and reproduction.

In order to recreate the Thomist world he wants to live in, Rod has to end the now near-universal American notion that sex is not just about reproduction, and that child-rearing is only legit if it is a function of the biological offspring of the married couple. Good luck. But once that is conceded, marriage equality is not only inevitable but logically necessary, and drawing the marital line at those who never can reproduce - as opposed to those who can but choose not to - can only be seen as a function of animus (or, in Rove's empty calculations, short-term political advantage). That is especially true when civil marriage no longer even makes a pretense at being connected to procreation. I mean: how many post-menopausal wedding announcements have you read lately in the NYT?

Gender roles? Do we really have to construct an entirely separate civil institution to reinforce them? Are they not resilient enough in nature and culture to survive a reform that would help bring some kind of stability and direction to the lives of 3 percent of the population? Which leaves us with the final theocon contradiction: if they really are defending eternal human nature against modern social engineering, then nature will surely win. So why are they so fearful it won't? Or have they begun to explore whether their conception of nature needs revision? You know: along the lines of the current state of human knowledge and science and experience.

You know: what Aquinas did.

2006-2011 archives for The Daily Dish, featuring Andrew Sullivan

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