Thursday, July 5, 2007

Religion Columnist Disses Gay Marriage

Religion Columnist Disses Gay Marriage

The New York Times religion columnist, Peter Steinfels, celebrated LGBT Pride Day one day early with a column titled, "A Liberal Explains His Rejection of Same-Sex Marriage."


In the column, Steinfels was essentially pimping for "The Future of Marriage," a new book by David Blankenhorn of the Center for Marriage and Families at his Institute for American Values.

Nowhere in Steinfels' piece was a gay or even pro-gay religious leader quoted, though Reverend Elder Troy Perry was in New York that weekend as one of the grand marshals of the New York Pride March, and is one of the plaintiffs in the California same-sex marriage case and has been performing gay wedding ceremonies since he founded the Metropolitan Community Church in 1968. Perry even performed a marriage of a same-sex couple on Tom Snyder's "Tomorrow Show" on NBC in the early 1970s - the first gay people I ever saw on, television.

Steinfels' column starts out promisingly enough: "Could legalizing same-sex marriage actually strengthen marriage as a social institution?" But instead of exploring that question, Steinfels dismisses it in the very next sentence: "'If I could believe this,' writes David Blankenhorn, 'I would support gay marriage without reservation.'"

Steinfels tries to bolster the credibility of Blankenhorn by calling him "a self-described liberal," but offers no substantiation of that liberalism. Indeed, one of Blankenhorn's colleagues at the Center for Marriage and Families is Maggie Gallagher, a former New York Post columnist and right-wing crusader against same-sex marriage.

She was one of the driving forces behind President George W. Bush's politically demagogic, but nonetheless unsuccessful, Federal Marriage Amendment that would have enshrined a nationwide ban on same-sex marriages in the U.S. Constitution.

Steinfels quotes Blankenhorn as writing, "The real conflict is between one good and another; the equal dignity of all persons and the worth of homosexual love, versus the flourishing of children. On each side, the threat to something important is real." Yet nowhere in the column is there any mention of the fact that gay and lesbian couples have children in ever-increasing numbers and need the protections of civil marriage to protect and stabilize their families in exactly the same way that heterosexual couples do.

Nor is there mention of the fact that many heterosexual couples do not have children and that the state regularly issues marriage licenses to old couples who have neither the potential nor any desire whatsoever to procreate.

Steinfels cites one same-sex marriage supporter, conservative gay writer Jonathan Rauch, author of "Gay Marriage: Why It is Good for Gays, Good for Straights and Good for America," but then talks about how Blankenhorn "contrasts Mr. Rauch's views with those of numerous social scientists and legal theorists who have long been critics of marriage and now suddenly support same-sex marriage precisely because they believe it will destabilize and 'deconstruct' what they consider an oppressive institution."

After raising this sinister specter, Steinfels cites precisely none of these critics, leaving them out there as the marriage-hating and, presumably, child-hating hordes that he and Blankenhorn are rushing to beat back.

Steinfels writes that "the movement for same-sex marriage takes place largely in the courts rather than the legislatures," citing only New York as a possible "significant exception" after the Assembly here passed a marriage equality bill. He ignores or is not aware of the fact that both houses of California's Legislature voted to open marriage to gay couples in 2005 and are in the process of doing so again, only to face the veto of Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

It is true that it was the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts that opened marriage to same-sex couples there three years ago, but an attempt to overturn that decision was just rebuffed by more than three quarters of the state Legislature. And it was the parliaments of the Netherlands, Belgium, South Africa, and even Catholic Spain that gave gay couples equal marriage rights, albeit under a court order in South Africa but one that was based on first-in-the-world constitutional protections for sexual orientation.

Finally, Steinfels quotes Blankenhorn's bleating that "being opposed to gay marriage is not necessarily the expression of bigotry." Tony Kushner and his partner Mark Harris answered that in a published letter to the Times: "The solution to our disenfranchisement is not a more amiable conversation with those who seek to perpetuate it, whatever their self-justifying pieties." They also wrote, "If there's anything liberal in David Blankenhorn's arguments against same-sex marriage, it went right by us." And since Blankenhorn did not extend those arguments to childless heterosexuals, the "basis of the discrimination he advocates, in other words, is homosexuality," the couple wrote.

Tom Moulton and Brendan Fay, gay Catholic activists who married in Canada and live in Astoria, were outraged by the column from Steinfels, who is also Catholic. "There is no data which say that same-sex families do worse than their heterosexual counterparts," wrote Moulton in an e-mail.

"This narrow view is only Steinfels' gut feeling or, more honestly, his bias."

Fay called the column "a painful read" on LGBT Pride weekend.

"His narrow view contrasts with more recent Catholic theologies of marriage highlighting the relational and unitive aspects of marriage," wrote Fay, who offered Steinfels the opportunity to "sit down with our children, families, and married couples." That is more than Steinfels offered them in constructing what can only be described as his bigoted column, unworthy of a serious academic (he is co-director with his wife, Margaret, of the Fordham University Center on Religion and Culture), and also unworthy of the Gray Lady of record.

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