Jane Galt's libertarian argument for marriage at Asymmetrical Information has been getting a lot of play in the blogosphere, and I am inclined to agree that it is merited. (Thanks to Justin Torres of The Thing Is.) She includes a gem of a quotation from Chesterton that I cannot resist including:
In the matter of reforming things, as distinct from deforming them, there is one plain and simple principle; a principle which will probably be called a paradox. There exists in such a case a certain institution or law; let us say, for the sake of simplicity, a fence or gate erected across a road. The more modern type of reformer goes gaily up to it and says, "I don't see the use of this; let us clear it away." To which the more intelligent type of reformer will do well to answer: "If you don't see the use of it, I certainly won't let you clear it away. Go away and think. Then, when you can come back and tell me that you do see the use of it, I may allow you to destroy it."
(Lewis makes a similar argument in chapter 1 of The Abolition of Man.)
Galt's claim of ambivalence on the debate is a bit incredible, but I think she has a good reason for it. As I commented on Torres's post, it is nearly impossible to get bigots even to listen to an argument whose conclusion differs from their notions. So by refraining from an explicit conclusion, a writer allows people with preconceived notions to open their minds long enough to engage reason.
Of course, as far as preconceived notions are concerned, religious people are nearly as guilty as the sodomatrimony lobby. So-called gay marriage advocates (and liberals in general) begin their considerations with "I want" instead of what is. Defending marriage starting with its "sanctity" (holiness) may in fact be correct, but is rhetorically block-headed. One cannot pluck a starting premise from the ideological ether ("the great vector-space in the sky" as a prof of mine would say), neither can one base a convincing argument on heaven (at least in these dark days).
There is no need to appeal to the sanctity of marriage. Lots of societies have tolerated fornication, sodomy, pederasty, and other things Scripture condemns as sins, while seeing as a purely practical matter that they needed one special institution to make a man responsible for his offspring. That institution existed virtually everywhere long before Christianity made it a sacrament.
The practical reason for marriage is so earthy, and the theological reasons are so controversial, that Bush should have stuck to the former. Until a child is conceived by anal intercourse, it’s absurd to talk about “homosexual marriage.” Even the Greco-Roman homosexuals of antiquity saw no need for it. I’m not too clear on how centaurs were conceived, but they didn’t have marriage between men and horses either.
I apologize for the paucity of my posts recently; work and other activities have been keeping me away from the keyboard.