Saturday, July 23, 2005

Response to Bogus Gold -- Canadian legalization of same-sex marriage should not determine U.S. policy

Posted by Craig Westover | 10:15 AM |  

Doug at Bogus Gold issues a public memo to me regarding the legalization of same-sex marriage in Canada.
Now that Canada has volunteered to be a laboratory for this social experiment, I contend that the conservative position is to wait on this issue in the U. S. We should study the state of marriage in Canada in the next decade or so (I'd prefer something a bit more generational, but can live with a decade) to determine whether legalized same-sex marriage provides Canada the social benefits you have asserted it will, or the social damage I have contended it will. I see no conservative reason to rush ahead changing this institution in the United States before we can take advantage of this new information.

Do you disagree? If so I would be curious to know your reasoning.
It’s not a binary question, but to answer directly, I agree that we should not rush ahead, we should watch Canada and learn from what happens there. I do not agree that “not rush” means make no progress toward same-sex marriage while we window peek at the Canadians. The United States, especially conservatives, ought to pursue our own policy. I maintain that same-sex marriage is a "deeply conservative" issue.

Canada took the liberal approach to same-sex marriage -- let’s do it now, all at once, because it is the “right thing to do.” I’d be surprised if there aren’t problems. You’ve got a generation divided between straight people raised to believe that if homosexuality is not actually the spawn of Satan, there is certainly something wrong with it that makes “those people” not quite as close to God as the rest of us. On the other hand, you’ve got a generation of homosexual people raised with no expectations that they would ever, or more importantly should ever, form a permanent personal relationship. There is no accepted tradition of same-sex relationships as a model. And Canada jumped right to the end game. Let me revise my comment -- there’s got to be problems.

So what should the U.S. do? I think the approach of “Okay, let’s watch Canada and do nothing” is wrong. That’s not a conservative approach; it’s a reactionary one. It’s not based on political principle. Canada’s decision doesn’t change the situation in the United States. We still ought to encourage stability of the growing conservative segment of the gay population. We ought to move slowly, but we ought to be moving. We ought to be removing barriers that prohibit or make complicated the ability of same-sex couples to form the legal relationships automatically granted by marriage -- without any formal recognition through “marriage” or even “civil unions.” As that is put in place, then move some more formal recognition like civil unions. Ultimately, if the sky doesn’t fall -- in the United States, not Canada -- then we move to recognition of same sex-marriage. And this should all be done on a state-by-state basis through legislation, not at a national level and not through the courts.

That approach probably angers both sides of the issue. It angers conservatives because it makes same-sex marriage a real objective that society ought to move toward. It angers liberals that want the Canadian approach -- same-sex marriage right now. But, I still agree with Dale Carpenter, that same-sex marriage is a “deeply conservative” issue that is not only just, but an overall benefit to a stable society. The conservative approach is move prudentially in that direction.

UPDATE: The basic issue of a conservative case for same-sex marriage was dealt with in a fisk I did of a Katherine Kersten column. That post drew well over 100 comments and some great, non-contfrontational disccusion of the issue. I posted here and here posts by people that disagree with my position. It's good background -- especially the comments.

The only new issue raised by Doug's post is whether or not we should essentially maintain the status quo in the United States and see how the Canadian legislation works out. This goes beyond the same-sex marraige question to the heart of U.S. policy making. Certainly, we should look at what other countries do, but isn't the conservative contention that the U.S. should have it's own policies and objectives?

Isn't the quote attributed to Davey Crockett -- "Be sure you're right, and then go ahead" -- the American way? I don't think Crockett was referring to a double-blind study with statistically significant results. I think he was talking about a larger sense of "right" that we don't need to look north to find. That's the first issue to wrestle with. Once we've slayed that "bar," then we can look at the best way to "go ahead." The Canadian experience can only help with the latter.