The New York Times has generally not made its pages a safe space for climate-change deniers or young-Earth creationists. However, the Times has given one of its precious few full-time op-ed gigs to Ross Douthat, who is determined to find evidence in social science literature that gay marriage actually does harms straight people -- a notion that even the lawyer charged with defending California's Proposition 8 at the Supreme Court couldn't defend.
Here's Douthat today, insisting that gays getting married (and approval of this societal change by useful idiots like you and me and, possibly, your mom) is actually responsible for the fact that non-wealthy straight people have stopped straight-marrying and procreating properly:
Yet for an argument that has persuaded so few, the conservative view has actually had decent predictive power. As the cause of gay marriage has pressed forward, the social link between marriage and childbearing has indeed weakened faster than before. As the public's shift on the issue has accelerated, so has marriage's overall decline.Wow! And the major cause of this was that we let the gays marry?
Since [1997, when David] Frum [now a gay marriage supporter] warned that gay marriage could advance only at traditional wedlock's expense, the marriage rate has been falling faster, the out-of-wedlock birthrate has been rising faster, and the substitution of cohabitation for marriage has markedly increased. Underlying these trends is a steady shift in values: Americans are less likely to see children as important to marriage and less likely to see marriage as important to childbearing (the generation gap on gay marriage shows up on unwed parenting as well) than even in the very recent past.
Correlations do not, of course, establish causation. The economy is obviously playing a leading role in the retreat from marriage -- the shocks of recession, the stagnation of wages, the bleak prospects of blue-collar men.Oh. So a massive deterioration in the value of pursuing marriage/3.2 kids/white picket fence caused by the complete betrayal of the middle class by the capitalist order could possibly have a wee bit to do with this skepticism about straight marriage among heartlanders as well?
Oh, no. Young Ross is having none of that argument. Sure, you clever sophisticates with all your gay-married friends can talk all you want about the complete hollowing-out of the middle class in America, but, dammit, you're letting the gays off the hook!
But there is also a certain willed naivete to the idea that the advance of gay marriage is unrelated to any other marital trend. For 10 years, America's only major public debate about marriage and family has featured one side -- judges and journalists, celebrities and now finally politicians -- pressing the case that modern marriage has nothing to do with the way human beings reproduce themselves, that the procreative understanding of the institution was founded entirely on prejudice, and that the shift away from a male-female marital ideal is analogous to the end of segregation.Yes, Ross, it's completely plausible. We straight people didn't all watch a gay pride march one day and suddenly smack our foreheads and say, "Dammit, I'm going to buy some condoms and have some sex with my spouse that won't lead to procreation! Or with a person I'm not even married to!" Many of us had actually already imagined doing those very things! Some of us actually did them!
Now that this argument seems on its way to victory, is it really plausible that it has changed how Americans view gay relationships while leaving all other ideas about matrimony untouched?
The modern gay rights movement didn't pre-date Updikean suburban adultery or Sex and the Single Girl. The movement for gay marriage didn't pre-date the normalization of out-of-wedlock births or 1970s key parties or Plato's Retreat as a place you might go with your wife, not to mention the commitment in many communities to the long-term incarceration of any young African-American male caught with a joint, which has helped deplete at least one segment of the pool of marriageable males in this society.
And gay marriage has nothing to do with the complete breakdown of the social contract that once made "normal" economically worth pursuing for a lot of straight people (even if it was a sexually restless sort of normal, with lots of lies "for the sake of the children").
It's a free country, so Douthat ought to be at liberty to keep trying to pin all this on the gays. But it's a disgrace that he's doing it the Times. What's next -- a new hire who thinks the moon landings were faked?