Article Response 10 Read Both Sullivan’s “Here Comes the Groom” and Olson’s “The Conservative Case for Gay Marriage.”  Write 1 page – 275-300 words – on o

Article Response 10 Read Both Sullivan’s “Here Comes the Groom” and Olson’s “The Conservative Case for Gay Marriage.” 

Write 1 page – 275-300 words – on one of the articles. What is the argument of the article and how well does the author support and prove it? What is the most interesting part of the article and why? Here Comes The Groom
A (conservative) case for gay marriage

DAVID MCNEW/GETTY IMAGES

Andrew Sullivan / August 28, 1989

Last month in New York, a court ruled that a gay lover had the right to stay in his deceased
partner’s rent-control apartment because the lover qualified as a member of the deceased’s
family. The ruling deftly annoyed almost everybody. Conservatives saw judicial activism in
favor of gay rent control: three reasons to be appalled. Chastened liberals (such as the New
York Times editorial page), while endorsing the recognition of gay relationships, also worried
about the abuse of already stretched entitlements that the ruling threatened. What neither
side quite contemplated is that they both might be right, and that the way to tackle the issue
of unconventional relationships in conventional society is to try something both more
radical and more conservative than putting courts in the business of deciding what is and is
not a family. That alternative is the legalization of civil gay marriage.

The New York rent-control case did not go anywhere near that far, which is the problem. The
rent-control regulations merely stipulated that a “family” member had the right to remain in
the apartment. The judge ruled that to all intents and purposes a gay lover is part of his

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lover’s family, inasmuch as a “family” merely means an interwoven social life, emotional
commitment, and some level of financial interdependence.

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TIMELINE: The New Republic’s Campaign for Marriage Equality

It’s a principle now well established around the country. Several cities have “domestic
partnership” laws, which allow relationships that do not fit into the category of heterosexual
marriage to be registered with the city and qualify for benefits that up till now have been
reserved for straight married couples. San Francisco, Berkeley, Madison, and Los Angeles all
have legislation, as does the politically correct Washington, D.C. suburb, Takoma Park. In
these cities, a variety of interpersonal arrangements qualify for health insurance,
bereavement leave, insurance, annuity and pension rights, housing rights (such as rent-
control apartments), adoption and inheritance rights. Eventually, according to gay lobby
groups, the aim is to include federal income tax and veterans’ benefits as well. A recent case
even involved the right to use a family member’s accumulated frequent-flier points. Gays are
not the only beneficiaries; heterosexual “live-togethers” also qualify.

There’s an argument, of course, that the current legal advantages extended to married people
unfairly discriminate against people who’ve shaped their lives in less conventional
arrangements. But it doesn’t take a genius to see that enshrining in the law a vague principle
like “domestic partnership” is an invitation to qualify at little personal cost for a vast array of
entitlements otherwise kept crudely under control.

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To be sure, potential DPs have to prove financial interdependence, shared living
arrangements, and a commitment to mutual caring. But they don’t need to have a sexual
relationship or even closely mirror old-style marriage. In principle, an elderly woman and
her live-in nurse could qualify. A couple of uneuphemistically confirmed bachelors could be
DPs. So could two close college students, a pair of seminarians, or a couple of frat buddies.
Left as it is, the concept of domestic partnership could open a Pandora’s box of litigation and
subjective judicial decision-making about who qualifies. You either are or are not married; it’s
not a complex question. Whether you are in a “domestic partnership” is not so clear.

More important, the concept of domestic partnership chips away at the prestige of traditional
relationships and undermines the priority we give them. This priority is not necessarily a
product of heterosexism. Consider heterosexual couples. Society has good reason to extend
legal advantages to heterosexuals who choose the formal sanction of marriage over simply
living together. They make a deeper commitment to one another and to society; in exchange,
society extends certain benefits to them. Marriage provides an anchor, if an arbitrary and
weak one, in the chaos of sex and relationships to which we are all prone. It provides a
mechanism for emotional stability, economic security, and the healthy rearing of the next
generation. We rig the law in its favor not because we disparage all forms of relationship other
than the nuclear family, but because we recognize that not to promote marriage would be to
ask too much of human virtue. In the context of the weakened family’s effect upon the poor,
it might also invite social disintegration. One of the worst products of the New Right’s “family
values” campaign is that its extremism and hatred of diversity has disguised this more
measured and more convincing case for the importance of the marital bond.

The concept of domestic partnership ignores these concerns, indeed directly attacks them,
this is a pity, since one of its most important objectives—providing some civil recognition for
gay relationships—is a noble cause and one completely compatible with the defense of the
family. But the way to go about it is not to undermine straight marriage; it is to legalize old-
style marriage for gays.

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The gay movement has ducked this issue primarily out of fear of division. Much of the gay
leadership clings to notions of gay life as essentially outsider, anti-bourgeois, radical.
Marriage, for them, is co-optation into straight society. For the Stonewall generation, it is
hard to see how this vision of conflict will ever fundamentally change. But for many other
gays—my guess, a majority—while they don’t deny the importance of rebellion 20 years ago
and are grateful for what was done, there’s now the sense of a new opportunity. A need to
rebel has quietly ceded to a desire to belong. To be gay and to be bourgeois no longer seems

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such an absurd proposition. Certainly since AIDS, to be gay and to be responsible has become
a necessity.

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Gay marriage squares several circles at the heart of the domestic partnership debate. Unlike
domestic partnership, it allows for recognition of gay relationships, while casting no
aspersions on traditional marriage. It merely asks that gays be allowed to join in. Unlike
domestic partnership, it doesn’t open up avenues for heterosexuals to get benefits without
the responsibilities of marriage, or a nightmare of definitional litigation. And unlike
domestic partnership, it harnesses to an already established social convention the yearnings
for stability and acceptance among a fast-maturing gay community.

Gay marriage also places more responsibilities upon gays: It says for the first time that gay
relationships are not better or worse than straight relationships, and that the same is
expected of them. And it’s clear and dignified. There’s a legal benefit to a clear, common
symbol of commitment. There’s also a personal benefit. One of the ironies of domestic
partnership is that it’s not only more complicated than marriage, it’s more demanding,
requiring an elaborate statement of intent to qualify. It amounts to a substantial invasion of
privacy. Why, after all, should gays be required to prove commitment before they get married
in a way we would never dream of asking of straights?

Legalizing gay marriage would offer homosexuals the same deal society now offers
heterosexuals: general social approval and specific legal advantages in exchange for a deeper
and harder-to-extract-yourself from commitment to another human being. Like straight
marriage, it would foster social cohesion, emotional security, and economic prudence. Since
there’s no reason gays should not be allowed to adopt or be foster parents, it could also help
nurture children. And its introduction would not be some sort of radical break with social
custom. As it has become more acceptable for gay people to acknowledge their loves publicly,
more and more have committed themselves to one another for life in full view of their
families and their friends, A law institutionalizing gay marriage would merely reinforce a
healthy social trend. It would also, in the wake of AIDS, qualify as a genuine public health
measure. Those conservatives who deplore promiscuity among some homosexuals should be
among the first to support it. Burke could have written a powerful case for it.

The argument that gay marriage would subtly undermine the unique legitimacy of straight
marriage is based upon a fallacy. For heterosexuals, straight marriage would remain the most
significant—and only legal—social bond. Gay marriage could only delegitimize straight
marriage if it were a real alternative to it, and this is clearly not true. To put it bluntly, there’s
precious little evidence that straights could be persuaded by any law to have sex with—let
alone marry—someone of their own sex. The only possible effect of this sort would be to
persuade gay men and women who force themselves into heterosexual marriage (often at
appalling cost to themselves and their families) to find a focus for their family instincts in a
more personally positive environment. But this is clearly a plus, not a minus: Gay marriage

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could both avoid a lot of tortured families and create the possibility for many happier ones. It
is not, in short, a denial of family values. It’s an extension of them.

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Of course, some would claim that any legal recognition of homosexuality is a de facto attack
upon heterosexuality. But even the most hardened conservatives recognize that gays are a
permanent minority and aren’t likely to go away. Since persecution is not an option in a
civilized society, why not coax gays into traditional values rather than rail incoherently
against them?

There’s a less elaborate argument for gay marriage: It’s good for gays. It provides role models
for young gay people who, after the exhilaration of coming out, can easily lapse into short-
term relationships and insecurity with no tangible goal in sight. My own guess is that most
gays would embrace such a goal with as much (if not more) commitment as straights. Even in
our society as it is, many lesbian relationships are virtual textbook cases of monogamous
commitment. Legal gay marriage could also help bridge the gulf often found between gays
and their parents. It could bring the essence of gay life—a gay couple—into the heart of the
traditional straight family in a way the family can most understand and the gay offspring can
most easily acknowledge. It could do as much to heal the gay-straight rift as any amount of
gay rights legislation.

If these arguments sound socially conservative, that’s no accident. It’s one of the richest
ironies of our society’s blind spot toward gays that essentially conservative social goals
should have the appearance of being so radical. But gay marriage is not a radical step. It
avoids the mess of domestic partnership; it is humane; it is conservative in the best sense of
the word. It’s also practical. Given the fact that we already allow legal gay relationships, what
possible social goal is advanced by framing the law to encourage these relationships to be
unfaithful, undeveloped, and insecure?

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