Eve Tushnet, a celibate, lesbian Catholic, points out that “there are strong indications that young adults increasingly support gay marriage, and weaker indications that they are increasingly pro-life.” She says the (slight) increase in pro-life support comes from seeing fetuses in sonograms. Similarly, gay marriage support comes from knowing gay people. Familiarly leads young adults view the issues as questions of fairness. Young adults can see themselves in the fetus or the gay person, so they don’t want to treat them differently.
But, Tushnet argues, the support for these “contradictory” positions has a weak basis. Pro-life positions are only safe when Roe v. Wade keeps abortion restrictions to things like parental notification and waiting periods. Take away Roe, and horror stories about illegal abortions win.
Gay-marriage support is shallow for a different reason. That support comes from the idea that gays are the same as straights, but
[t]he norms and culture of marriage arose to meet the needs of heterosexual couples: to minimize the damage of unregulated intercourse and maximize the great social good of childrearing within the natural family.
I have to disagree. Marriage has been many different things. Stephanie Coontz’ Marriage, a History, showed that property and power were the main rationales for marriage for most of history. It was only a couple centuries ago that love became important for marriage. Now, love has eliminated the other rationales for marriage. You can argue whether that’s good or bad—I think it’s bad or maybe neutral, Coontz thinks it’s good. But it means that today people don’t get married to regulate intercourse (Let’s just call it sex?) or to ensure childrearing within a natural family. Expanding marriage to include loving gay couples makes sense when gay love is equal to straight love. If that’s the equation, gay marriage should win. (And that’s why it is winning.)
But that doesn’t mean I think Tushnet is all wrong. To the contrary: it’s dandy for love to be such an important thing in marriage, but that means that the sex-regulation and the childrearing get shoved out to No Man’s Land. There’s no shortage of advice on sex or childrearing, but we no longer have an institution that automatically triggers new sets of obligations and responsibilities. Maybe it’s time for a new institution? But of course, new societal institutions develop organically, so you can’t just order one up on your Social Planning App.