May 2009

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Gay Marriage: A Reply to Peter Bearse

by Jonathan Wallace

The top page of the Spectacle states that "Articles on any ethical, political or legal topic will be considered, whether or not I agree with the opinions expressed." The guidelines for would-be contributors state as follows:

One of the key features of the Spectacle is that it is intended to illuminate ethical issues, not to represent a particular viewpoint, so I routinely publish articles espousing positions with which I radically disagree.

Over the years, I have published a lot of opinions to which I take strong exception, including articles by Bruce Clark and others supporting a near or absolute Second Amendment right to own guns; numerous essays by Pete Wilson, ridiculing and lampooning liberals, me included; and much of the work of Sy Schechtman, who was a Reagan Republican when he started writing for me, though he has mellowed somewhat since. I have rarely felt the need to add a note like this one to a particular piece. Someone can say guns are vital to liberty, or that abortion is wrong, or call Barack Obama (or me) an idiot, without it disturbing me on a personal level the way Peter's piece did.

This piece sails as close as anything I have ever published to a line I set in the guidelines quoted above:

However, the Spectacle is a private publication and my own "property", and accordingly I reject some content. Here is a non-exhaustive list of reasons why I may not choose to publish something: It advocates hatred, racism, or violence (as opposed to discussing them)...

Peter Bearse has been a contributor here for many years, and I personally know him to be a scholar and something of a philosopher. However, I believe that within fifty years and probably much sooner, the position he takes here, against the recognition of gay marriage, will be definitively rejected by society. In that case, essays like this one will be regarded in the same light as thoughtful essays by otherwise liberal individuals, written fifty years ago, opposing the legalization of intermarriage between people of different races.

I have been married for twenty years, and I believe that marriage is one of the grand institutions of our society, allowing people to express their love for one another in an ultimate and definitive way, and granting a reward for such expressions by smoothing out the kinds of legal irritations and tangles that may occur without it. We have simply had too many occurrences of bereaved gay partners being refused pensions and death benefits, or denied custody and even visitation of children, to allow any more that someone who loves someone, and spends an entire life with them, can be refused recognition simply because they are of the same gender as the person they loved. I have said a few times in these pages, that I love being married so much, that I want everyone to have access to the same rewards I've received. If so-called "civil unions" or whatever other terminology you use would not be acceptable as a marriage substitute when a black man loves a white woman, we should not relegate gay people to that ghetto either.

I do not believe that Peter is personally prejudiced, but I don't think he is seeing clearly on this issue. And I think the form of reasoning he uses will have become indistinguishable from bias, through the telescope of fifty years from now.