The foremost political theory lecture series in not just Washington, D.C. but in the country presents a civil, thought-provoking, and above all honest debate over gay marriage—between two openly gay men.
Libertarian Justin Raimondo rejects gay marriage, arguing that heterosexual marriage is an oppressive norm that gay men should reject. Marriage is not just about two people but requires an official/clergy, a government license, and witnesses. He would bypass all this and allow erotic relations to flourish. Jonathan Rauch, a leading conservative public policy scholar, would strengthen marriage by extending that essential institution to gays. This refounded notion of marriage would make both gays and heterosexuals more aware of their mutual responsibilities. He vehemently rejects Raimondo’s characterization of gay men. Thoughtful questions from philosophy professor Richard Hassing, writer Lauren Weiner, and constitutional scholar Walter Berns force the speakers to refine their arguments.
The many vital questions these debaters don’t deal with stem from their overly spiritual or gnostic view of marriage. I have heard Rauch oppose civil unions on the grounds that they promote promiscuity. Perhaps he also opposes no-fault divorce. Consider in this context the argument that easy divorce, given the “two-income trap” that bedevils couples today, leads to staggering numbers of bankruptcies among women (and might well for the “partner b”). After all, “Having a child is now the single best predictor that a woman [viz. ‘partner b’] will end up in financial collapse.” Of course unregulated banking, instead of the “stern-looking banker” of yesteryear, is the culprit, in “The Brave New (Unregulated) World”—but author (now Senator) Elizabeth Warren is the “stern-looking” public servant to deal with this, as “the Madame Defarge of our shining city on the Potomac; the preeminent tricoteuse of our regulatory state.” But I digress in this recollection of the common enemy.
If it does nothing else—and it surely performs a great service—the debate between Raimondo and Rauch crushes the conventional wisdom of typical defenders of gay marriage, who let romantic love obscure the ultimate purpose of marriage. The exchange will surely illuminate many listeners, whatever their viewpoint. My own view of marriage is closer to that of Ryan Anderson in this podcast on our website.