Friday, December 21, 2012

Drew Johnson's support of gay marriage

Drew Johnson is the editor of the Free Press opinion page at the Chattanooga Times Free Press. He was formerly a resident of Nashville and was founder of the Tennessee Center for Policy Research, now the Beacon  Center, an influential Tennessee conservative think tank.

Writing in the Free Press yesterday Drew wrote an article supporting gay marriage, and laying out the argument why conservatives should support it. Here is an excerpt:

  As conservatives, we often advocate for government recognition of marriage between one man and one woman on the basis that it is an institution that benefits the public good. Yet, in the same breath, we fight other attempts by government intended to benefit the public good -- such as mandatory exercise schemes, occupational licensing requirements and bans on sodas and fatty foods -- with every fiber of our being. This intellectual inconsistency not only concedes marital power to government without a constitutional basis, but weakens our arguments when government tries to gasp control of other aspects of our lives -- from what we can eat to how we should teach our children.
 Our other conservative arguments against gay marriage are even more flawed and even less compelling.  Religious beliefs, while the best reason to oppose gay marriage personally, are perhaps the worst reason to encourage government prevention of gay marriage universally.

For many of us as conservatives, religious dictates determine how we and our family choose to operate in our personal lives -- and we don't want government in the way of that. It is contradictory to argue to keep government out of religion while attempting to use government to mandate our religious beliefs on others who may not share out values.(read more)
While I understand the logic of his argument, I am not persuaded. I am not homophobic and don't care what any two or more people do in the privacy of their bedroom. I do think homosexuals should be treated with dignity and I am not uncomfortable around gay people. I would not discriminate against them. However I am not ready to endorse gay marriage.

Every since written history, for as long as we have had knowledge of the institution of marriage, it has been between a men and women. Marriage is older than formal government. If two men or two women want to shack up (or two men and two women), I don't care, but don't call it marriage. Institutions, culture, values, customs, traditions, and truths should not be changed lightly . Conserving is also part of what it is to be a conservative. Respect for inherited wisdom is as much of what it means to be a conservative as is limited government.

I understand some of the practical benefits of marriage and why a gay couple would want them.  However many of those benefits can be conferred by contract. If a gay man wants to be with his dying partner in the hospital, that can be arranged by contract. Two gay people can deed a house as tenants in common with right of survivorship.

I also understand that two gay people may want to solemnize there relationship. They can do that now as a private matter.  They can get married in a gay or gay-friendly church and have as big of a "wedding" as they can afford. Do it. I don't care.

What I don't want, is to corrupt what has been the institution of marriage since the dawn of history.  I don't want government to become a morality police agency enforcing standards or moral conduct and imposing conformity but neither do I want government to sanction a union of two people of the same sex and call it marriage. 

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