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Behind Closed Doors

My Gracious Host posted a comment about the same-sex marriage controversy in which he hoped to be Simplifying one part of the same-sex marriage debate. He breaks down the arguments against same-sex marriage, and points out that in every case, they rely on an assumption, often an unspoken assumption, that it is bad to be gay, and that it would be better if there weren’t so many gay people. If you don’t mind that people are gay, and particularly if you celebrate the differences in sexual preferences and romantic partnership, person to person, which is all part of what makes the world interesting and fun, then not only are you likely to support same-sex marriage, but the arguments against it make no sense to you.

Another occasional GR of this Tohu Bohu is award-winning journalist David S. Bernstein, who in his blog post Gays Head For The Supreme Court tells an interesting story about “ a conversation I had with a leader of a religious anti-gay organization in the South, right after the Goodrich ruling in Massachusetts in November 2004. […] [H]e said that this was inevitable after the Lawrence v Texas Supreme Court ruling overturned anti-sodomy laws the previous year. […] [U]nless homosexual relationships could be defined as outside the boundaries of legal conduct, there was really no justification for denying marriage certificates to same-sex couples.” (I’ve snipped quite a bit, and there’s more to the note about the current situation; Mr. Bernstein does stellar reporting and writing about the conservative money machine, and quite likely knows more about the various groups in the background of the Republican Party than any liberal blogger in the country.)

Anyway, those two made a connection in my mind with something I wrote ever so long ago, between Lawrence and Goodrich, which was that It seems obvious to me that if same-sex marriage becomes legal, that there will be in the future more and better same-sex sex. Jed and I were at the time talking past each other a bit, and may still be doing so. His point (I think) is that there are lots of people who are unwilling to say that they think that it is bad to be gay, and are even really unwilling to think that they think that it is bad to be gay, but are still working from that assumption in being persuaded that the state should only license marriages with two people and one penis. To some extent, the note in Mr. Bernstein’s blog speaks to that idea: if the state has no reason or right to deprecate gay sex, then the arguments against gay marriage collapse. This fellow is in total agreement with Jed’s post, only of course disagreeing with him entirely.

But then, I stopped to wonder: is that really what Jed’s post says? Because Jed does not define being gay in terms of sodomy. In fact, he doesn’t define it at all, other than to explicitly state that he is including “ lesbian, or bi, or whatever”. That’s an excellent choice on his part, and I certainly don’t intend to define it here in this Tohu Bohu. But it’s worth wondering whether the idea of being gay and the idea of same-sex sex are, in fact, the same idea. Or, rather, to what extent they are the same idea, because clearly they are not. Nobody, for instance, questions whether Dr. Jeffrey John is gay. He is gay. He does not have same-sex sex, or any sex at all, evidently. Similarly, there are Modern Orthodox Jews who refrain from sodomy, specifically, because of the halachah, but who are in same-sex romantic relationships and consider themselves, and are considered by others who know them, to be gay. On the other edge, there are plenty of people who have had same-sex sex but who do not consider themselves to be gay; it’s a bit of a joke, but it’s a good joke because it is so recognizable.

So. Where am I going with this. Nowhere, really. I just find the distinction interesting.

And I wonder if the distinction means anything to the various categories of people who oppose same-sex marriage… for the people who think that being gay is bad or that it would be better if there weren’t so many gay people, is it the sex they object to or is the rest of the gayness enough? I know that lots of men find sex between two men to be disgusting—lots of people find two men french-kissing to be disgusting, which wasn’t technically sodomy by the law before Lawrence, was it? And I should probably point out that something doesn’t have to be morally wrong to be disgusting. For instance, people eat green peppers in restaurants—right there in restaurants where normal people are trying to have dinner without throwing up—and while of course it would be better and purer country if this were legally deprecated and so on, it isn’t a moral failing on the part of pepper-eaters, technically. They can do what they want in the privacy of their own diningrooms, as long as I don’t have to see it. Or hear about it. Or, particularly, smell it. I’m just saying: a social norm where the eating of peppers (though legally decriminalized) simply never came to my attention, due to people constantly watching their every statement and action and implication, in order to give a false but pleasing impression.

OK, got off on a tangent there. What I’m wondering about, really, though, is whether there are a fair number of people who would not admit that they think gay sex is morally wrong, but would admit to thinking that it is gross, and that the more of it there is, the worse, from their point of view. And I still maintain (Jeffrey John notwithstanding) that legal gay marriage will lead to more and better gay sex, but maybe, maybe, it isn’t all about the sex.

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,


Those who oppose homosexuality are different, one to another, which doesn't really contribute that much to making the world interesting and fun, but I guess it's something. Some hold that it's both possible and desirable to convert homosexuals to heterosexuality; if you asked them, presumably they'd say that it's gayness as such that they mind, although of course the sex makes everything worse. Others, in the "hate the sinner but love the sin" camp, generally hold that same-sex desire is sinful and to suppressed as far as possible, but profess to be content if gays will merely refrain from the sex. If you asked them, they might say that they object to gayness as such, but they'd surely focus more on the sex (to which, as you say, marriage will likely conduce).

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