There are any number of good reasons to read Jonathan Rauch's "Red Families, Blue Families, Gay Families and the Search for a New Normal," not the least of them being the lack of drama, insult or animus toward our opponents. Whatever can be said of Jon, he makes a reasoned, moderate and fully-examined case for equal marriage.
Maggie Gallagher knows Jon, has spent time debating him and talking with him, and is fully aware of his views, as well as his demeanor. Yet in listening to her public pronouncements now, you would never know she was aware of non-hateful, nonviolent, rational or empathetic homosexuals. Her current rhetoric focuses solely on lesbians and gay men who hold her and her supporters in contempt. To be fair, there are plenty of those.
But what is frustrating is how Maggie - and, in fact, nearly all
of the anti same-sex marriage crowd - fail to show us the respect
and humanity that Jon displays so generously.
Jon does not shy away from directly confronting the best arguments against his own position. This piece, like most everything else I've read of his, lays out a fair and clear articulation of the opposition, and tries to understand it, the better to answer it.
Here is the test of good faith in political debate: Each side should be able to convey the other side's position to the other side's satisfaction. Jon, I think, meets this standard. Some opponents of same-sex marriage are very concerned about homosexuality in general, and feel that same-sex marriage would normalize homosexuality. That, in their view, is a socially dangerous thing to do. Others, and Maggie is in this camp, are less concerned with the normalization of homosexuality than with what they view as the abnormalization of the conventionally defined family. While there is certainly some compression and simplification here - Jon is, after all, not making their argument, just hoping to describe it fairly - I think it is hard for same-sex marriage opponents to disagree with his summation, though they would certainly want to elaborate.
Compare that with the way Maggie approaches the political debate. The very heart of our argument is equality; the law treats heterosexuals differently than homosexuals, and, in the vast majority of states, virtually ignores the existence of same-sex couples as families. While I have heard Maggie refer respectfully to lesbians and gay men of her acquaintance, she does not try to engage our argument and respond to it; she simply avoids it. She doesn't care about what happens to same-sex couples under the law. Her entire focus is on the rights of heterosexuals, and their role in society.
That is consistent with her concern about heterosexual families, but her inability or unwillingness to engage our best arguments shows that she is not interested in having a debate; she is content to continue a monologue. But heterosexuals are not the only people in the country, and the failure to even try to understand the world from the point of view of homosexuals is very strong evidence of a blithe ill will, at best, and intent to discriminate against a minority at worst.
Compare Maggie with David Blankenhorn. He, too, knows Jon, and has spent time in debate over same-sex marriage. But he is not afraid to acknowledge that we do, in fact, have an argument that merits response. This has harmed his case (to the extent he wants to preserve exclusively opposite-sex marriage) because it necessarily concedes same-sex couples are, in fact, being treated unfairly. His testimony in the Prop. 8 trial was extremely damaging to our opponents only because it was candid and humane. Every trial lawyer knows these can be fatal qualities in a witness, however valuable they are in a human being.
Aside from Blankenhorn, there are virtually no opponents of same-sex marriage who seem willing to treat us with the courtesy and dignity that Jon regularly displays, to actually articulate our side and then explain why we are wrong. I won't claim that Jon is representative of the kind of argumentation I prefer, but there is far more of it in support of same-sex marriage than there is in opposition.
That asymmetry is the source of the annoyance and peevishness among our supporters that Maggie exploits so well. She continues to win the imaginary debate she is having with herself, but she does her cause no honor by ignoring the very real arguments that could prove her wrong. She'd have done well to learn something from Jon while she had the chance.
NOTE: In the Comments, Jorge correctly points out that I'd inadvertently included the wrong link to Maggie's current rhetoric. I've fixed it to link to the correct video of Maggie calling us out for being hateful because we disagree with her.