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Given the unprecedented peace and prosperity currently enjoyed by nearly all Americans, it’s hardly surprising that a symbolic issue such as Gay Marriage has now moved to the forefront of the public debate, not least among the contributors to my own magazine.

Personally, it’s not the sort of issue that keeps me in a state of great ideological agitation, but since everyone else seems to be sharing his opinion, I might as well do the same, if only by pointing to the column I’d written on the subject back in the late 1990s. I can’t say that any of my views have much changed, unlike those of a vast number of American politicians and pundits.

For me, the more important aspect of this current controversy is the insight it provides into the nature of America’s “conservative movement” and the so-called Christian Right. Some of the top leaders of the conservative anti-Gay Marriage organizations of the 2000s have now switched sides and fully endorsed the very practice they had long denounced as a social monstrosity, which is certainly a bit odd from a theological or philosophical perspective. Have the world’s “eternal verities” suddenly been reversed in just six or seven years, or might the cause of their U-turns instead be found in the opinions of their DC cocktail-party friends or the views of the plutocrats who sign their paychecks?

Above all, the transformative power of the American media is once again revealed. Some time back I joked with a conservative friend that after a few years of relentless media pressure the very same preachers then denouncing Gay Marriage as the “sin of Satan” would probably be uniting same-sex couples in holy matrimony at their own churches, and so far the social trend lines seem to be supporting my prediction. After all, in modern American society the Word of the Almighty and His Holy Book may have a powerful influence, but they are regularly trumped by whatever our electronic media tells us to believe. Perhaps churches should just install television sets in front of their pews and cut out the middle man.


Meanwhile, the ideological libertarians who constitute such an important part of our conservative intellectual elite make the powerful argument that if two men—or perhaps five—want to marry each other, there is no reasonable ground to deny them that right. After all, their personal happiness is obviously enhanced and it is difficult to see how any reasonable individual outside that blissful union could claim to be harmed as a consequence. Some gain, no one loses, and American law should endorse practices that allow such a maximization of America’s total social utility value-function.

This argument seems irrefutable to me, at least given the framework of libertarian theory, today widely accepted by so many of our prominent thinkers on the right and even the left. But as an obvious corollary, I would suggest that once Gay Marriage has been fully allowed in all fifty states, whether by Supreme Court writ or otherwise, we would still remain very far from the full implementation of the individual freedoms originally promised by our Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights.

I refer, of course, to the burning issue of “Sidewalk Marriage.” Consider a man who wants to marry his local sidewalk. What argument could possibly be advanced against such a union? The man certainly gains, both in happiness and self-respect, while not even the most benighted naysayer could advance any plausible argument that the sidewalk is injured by the process. Certainly the nuptials would provide a financial boost to our struggling economy, especially given the number of construction workers who would necessarily be employed when man and sidewalk go off on their honeymoon. Dutiful individuals would surely spend their own money to keep their beloved spouses neat and tidy, immediately repairing any cracks the moment they appear, and thereby saving our over-burdened taxpayers all sorts of local maintenance expense. A win-win proposition all around, and even more importantly the moral position for society.


On an entirely different matter, someone I know sent me the following description of his son’s recent college admission outcome, and later authorized me to publish his note so long as I very slightly modified the text so as to maintain anonymity:

He is a National Merit Scholar, works at a major museum conducting science experiments for kids, works as a volunteer at a drop-in center for the homeless, is the editor of his school’s literary journal, acts in plays, is on the “Quiz Bowl” team, swims and dives, has a Black Belt, 1st Degree and is a good student.

Cumulative GPA: 4.38,
SAT Scores:
800 Reading
800 Math
770 Writing

AP Scores:
5 on US History
5 on European History
5 on AP English Language and Composition

He is on the wait lists at Harvard, Brown and Columbia and not likely to be admitted. So it goes…

The individual is white, lives on the East Coast, and has a very Anglo-Saxon name.

Some of my Meritocracy critics have suggested that the ridiculous skew of Ivy League enrollments exists because few of the capable students from most of our major ethnic groups bother applying. Without detailed data I obviously can neither confirm nor deny this speculative excuse, but examples such as this one leave me quite skeptical of such an explanatory cause.

And the general topic does have deep resonance. Although my article ran almost five months ago, right now it ranks #2 in current traffic on the TAC website, just below my recent “Mickey Mouse” column on copyrights.

(Republished from The American Conservative by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Ideology • Tags: Gay Marriage, Gays/Lesbians, Humor 
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  1. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    But is the son

    – A recruited athlete?
    – The child of a graduate of Harvard, Brown, et al (a “legacy”)?
    – Possess a national/international level talent in the fine arts?
    – The close relative of someone who’s donated a wheelbarrowful of money to one of the schools?

    I’ve read that upwards of half of the admissions at Ivy League schools go to applicants with such “additional” qualifications, leaving 99% of the applicants to fight it out over 50% of the slots. Leaves a lot of seemingly well-qualified candidates out in the cold.

  2. Wesley says:

    “The Sidewalk Marriage Crusade” illustrates the entire fallacy of modern libertarian thought, which is that the ultimate goal of public policy should be the maximization of individual freedom no matter the social costs and no matter how outrageous somebody’s desires or wants are.

  3. It is important to remember what kicked off the same-sex marriage debate. The Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled that banning same-sex marriage was unconstitutional. This was prior to the Bush-Kerry election and Carl Rove played the ruling successfully against the Massachusetts Senator, costing him the Catholic vote.

    What is interesting is that the swing vote in that decision was made by Judith Cowan, a conservative Republican ] whose husband was closely associated with the Bush Administration’s Andrew Card and his brother-in-law, political operative Ron Kaufman.

    Did the Bush-Cheney Administration order up same-sex marriage?

  4. nb says:

    You’re now resorting to data sets with a sample size of 1 to prove your conspiracy theory? You haven’t been able to prove your conspiracy theory that Jews are admitted to Harvard out of proportion to their academic accomplishments, as Weyl analysis performed on the *current* and *public* Harvard directory coincides with the Weyl analysis results on NMS semifinalists: both are 6-7% Jewish. Well, here’s a report of a Jewish student with similar stats who got rejected from Harvard, not even wait-listed:
    The Jewish girl had a 2340 vs the above-mentioned WASP’s 2370 on the SAT. It’s hard to compare the GPAs (would need more info about their high schools), but the Jewish student had 5s on several more AP exams and was a semifinalist in the USA Biology Olympiad. The latter is more exceptional than anything mentioned in your anecdote above.

  5. JB says:

    Wesley: did God appoint you to coerce or limit the legal rights of people whose behavior you personally find “outrageous”? Very impressive.

  6. Does the phrase, “reductio ad absurdam” have a meaning?

  7. Ampersand says:

    “What argument could possibly be advanced against such a union?”

    I know you’re being sarcastic (or I hope you are), but, it’s not a person. Over at Red State, they were comparing gay marriage to incest…I hope TAC isn’t comparing gay people to inanimate objects. Are they 3/5ths of a straight person?

    The pretty obvious, common sense approach is to say that if two or more people aren’t related, are over 18, can consent…!

  8. Dave says:

    But does this son have the writing ability of Suzy Lee Weiss?

  9. Matt says:

    I know you’re being sarcastic (or I hope you are), but, it’s not a person.

    When are you bigots going to get past your hangups?

    The pretty obvious, common sense approach…

    …changes every ten years…and that’s a good thing, remember?

  10. A. Sidewalks can’t consent.

    B. How was his essay?

  11. tz says:

    Of course it would be a way to cement the relationship and a concrete showing of affection.

    But the point is entirely missed, or as I ask my fellow Catholics, “Why do I need a government permit to engage in a sacrment?”.

    Marriage between two members of the same sex (and there are a few hermaphrodites, of what status are they?), is nonsense, just as someone who absolutely insists they are a teapot.

    The evil is in the teapot liberation movement that has a federal law passed to force everyone to recognize those who say they are teapots and treat them as teapots (except for pumping scalding water into them I would assume). They would insist teapots have a right to own guns and to vote. They can watch Disney’s Beauty and the Beast and name their son “Chip”, even if they don’t allow such to come out of the cabinet in China.

    Not too long ago, births, deaths, baptisms, and marriages were recorded not at the local courthouse but family bibles.

    Has putting Caesar, Nero, Obama, or Leviathan in charge improved ANYTHING?

  12. JonF says:

    Peace– yes, our wars are distant.
    But prosperity? Um, we are still miserably convalescent from the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, and there are indications that we not have a true recovery at any time in the foreseeable future.

  13. Wesley says:

    “But the point is entirely missed, or as I ask my fellow Catholics, “Why do I need a government permit to engage in a sacrament?”.

    Civil marriage and religious marriage are two related but different institutions.

  14. TomB says:

    Unz’s “sidewalk” jape, while bringing a smile, does so of course via an entirely invalid portrayal of libertarianism. It ain’t us libertarians, after all, who want the state recognizing this or that “special” status of two people. All most of us libertarians can say, given our fundamental orientation towards liberty, is that if you are gonna grant some special liberty to one class then you at least oughta grant the same to other classes.

    As to the father with an academically promising kid saddled with a white, gentile name, isn’t the answer for similarly situated parents clear? Go to court as early as possible and get the kid a different name.

    Totally disgusting, and yet totally instructive about what might just be a fatal vulnerability of truly liberal white, European societies: Stung by being rightfully called on their discrimination against this or that group it abolishes same (or perhaps even grants that group some special privileges), only in turn to see those groups turn around and ruthlessly insist on discriminating in favor of themselves.

  15. Bobby says:

    Perhaps same-sex marriage is becoming more widely accepted because its opponents have no cogent justifications for their positions but to suggest that gays are more like slabs of concrete than people.

    Besides, what’s to say that your friend’s son is capable? I grew up in a farm town in Indiana, went to a high school with no AP courses, and went on to an above-average (but not elite) undergraduate school. I was accepted into a top PhD program in chemistry, however, probably based on my having published in two refereed journals while an undergraduate. Most of my grad school classmates had gone to elite schools, so I was expecting to be behind. But I was wrong. While they had a pedigree that I didn’t, they lacked the intellectual curiosity and creativity that I possessed–an intellectual curiosity and creativity that were borne out of the fact that I didn’t spend my adolescent years building a resume. I knew how to create something from a blank slate; they didn’t.

    Success doesn’t come because you can run the marked-out course well. To the contrary, it comes from running it just well enough to make people leave you alone, and saving your energy for pursuing your own dreams.

  16. Gays should be allowed to marry; why shouldn’t they be as unhappy as the rest of us?

  17. MEH 0910 says:

    Ampersand: The pretty obvious, common sense approach is to say that if two or more people aren’t related, are over 18, can consent…!

    Is there any good reason why gays shouldn’t be given an incest exemption? It’s not like they’re going to have inbred kids.

  18. To correct my post on the Massachusetts court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage: The conservative Republican judge (now retired) who was the key vote in favor is named Judith Cowin and not “Cowen” as I reported. Her name is also sometimes mispelled as “Cowan”. She was appointed by Republican Governor Paul Cellucci, who expressed surprise at her vote.

    Cowin’s husband, Bill, ran for both attorney general and lieutenant governor as a Republican in the 1970s. He is associated with Andrew Card of Massachusetts, George W. Bush’s chief of staff.

  19. Wesley says:

    JB: I wasn’t just talking about gay marriage. I was alluding to everything that modern libertarians push for, in both the social and economic spheres. And pretty much everything that the state does is coercive to some extent. What you said to me could just as easily have been said by Barry Goldwater to civil rights activists who were pushing for federal intervention to stop segregation in the South. Instead of the legal rights of gay couples, it would be the legal rights of racist business owners and state and local politicians.

  20. Ron, im not sure what your friend’s son is supposed to prove. For every case of a wasp with top numbers rejected by Harvard, I can provide you with two jews with similar numbers who were rejected. In fact, my sister in law’s class, which is all jewish, there were 7 students who scored in the 99th percentile, not a single one of them got into Harvard or yale and only 1 got into Princeton.

  21. Rob,

    I don’t think that Unz’s research indicates that there is a methodical program to admit Jews to the elite colleges. It is, rather, a result of personal networks, favors, and connections that leave out the un-connected regardless of background. It is just increasingly likely in the 21st Century that the academically connected will be Northeast Jewish elite rather than, the old standard, Northeast WASP elite.

  22. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    I’m more or less a libertarian, but I do not support gay marriage, mainly because I see this as an invention and intrusion by the state on what has been a vital tradition for centuries. I see the state budding in on traditional marriage as the main source of this contention over gay marriage, for now all that proponents of gay marriage have to urge is for “equality.” Normally I would object to you singling out libertarians, but unfortunately many libertarians support gay marriage because of this hogwash called “equality.”

  23. M_Young says:

    “I’m more or less a libertarian, but I do not support gay marriage, mainly because I see this as an invention and intrusion by the state on what has been a vital tradition for centuries. I see the state budding in on traditional marriage as the main source of this contention over gay marriage, for now all that proponents of gay marriage have to urge is for “equality.”

    Great statement. Too often today’s Libertarians are of the ‘Reason Foundation’ variety — that is, more concerned with tearing down any social structures that limit what they see as individual ‘freedom’, even the non-governmental ones. Gay ‘marriage’ isn’t about stopping homosexuals from living together, or having ceremonies that they (and their relatives and friends) see as weddings. Nothing is preventing that. SSM is about forcing the rest of us to say 2+2=5, about changing the definition of an ancient institution.

  24. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    Aren’t we a bit too sympathetic with those pushing so militantly for state-recognized gay marriage? Most of their motivations boil down to benefits and prestige, things less honorable than equality and love. If gay Christians believe their relationships not to be unethical (as many gay and strait Christians have respectable argued), they should be content in marrying one another in a manner unrecognized by the state.

  25. It is a lot easier to plug same-sex marriage into our domestic and probate legal system, than pluralistic marriage. That’s why its exclusion is so indefensible. Also, there are no victims of same-sex marriage. Once men started bringing home second wives, a political uproar would ensue from 99% of women.

  26. Wesley says:

    Michael N Moore: But at least polygamy hasn’t been uncommon throughout human history, unlike gay marriage. Even though the Bible clearly prefers monogamy, it never totally rejects polygamy and polygamy was relatively common during the Old Testament period. And Muslims traditionally have accepted polygamy, while rejecting homosexuality.

  27. How much did the kid offer his admissions officer at his interview ? Not enough, I’d wager.

    A sufficiently large “golden handshake” at Harvard probably goes a long , long way.

    Your servant,

    Lord Karth

  28. nb says:

    And here are 3 white Christian students accepted to Harvard with SAT scores of 2340 or lower.

    Thus, it is absurd to attribute the rejection of the aforementioned WASP to his ethnic/religious background.

    Also, note that Princeton accepts 18.7% of applicants with SAT scores of 2300+:
    While this is over twice as high as Princeton’s overall acceptance rate (7.9%), 2300+ SAT scores by no means guarantee admission to HYP.

  29. Rambler88 says:

    I’ll never look at my town’s “Adopt-a-fire-hydrant” program the same way again.

  30. A 4.38 GPA implies that his school uses a non-standard GPA scale – if his school uses a 5 point GPA scale (some schools do), or uses the whole “we give extra GPA points for AP classes” thing, that 4.38 may not be that impressive. If it is a 5-point GPA scale, that would mean his high school GPA was actually 3.38 – which is okay, but not top flight school material. Some schools use these scales to make their attendees look better to recruiters… but on the other hand recruiters who are smart look at such things very skeptically. I went to a high school with a standard 0-4 point GPA scale, no bonuses for different classes, and got a 4.0, which means I had a higher GPA than this guy did, and a comparable SAT score (though on the old SAT). I got into Vanderbilt with a \$25k/year scholarship circa 2003.

    Remember also that you have to demonstrate in your application that you really want to go there. And he didn’t mention any extracurriculars – I was in FIRST robotics, for example, and there’s actually a reason that they want people with those, because it shows that they have real interests.

    So I wouldn’t point towards any of what you listed as a sign of bigotry against him.

    Regarding sidewalk marriages: They actually can’t happen because one of the partners (the sidewalk) is not a person, and a marriage is a contract between two people.

  31. M_Young says:


    Here is the ‘decision’ from the first of your links.

    “Where else were you accepted/waitlisted/rejected: Accepted: Johns Hopkins, UVA, Univ of MD; Waitlisted: WUSTL; Rejected: Yale, Princeton; No decision yet: Notre Dame.

    The other two did get accepted to an Ivy. Both are females. One is definitely Christian of some sort, the other attended a Catholic school, but that means little these days (Diane Feinstein attended a Catholic school). One applicant was very heavy on Okinawa related activities–perhaps the admission people thought her to be of that ethnicity.

  32. M_Young says:

    And nb, here is a ‘Chinese’ female with decidedly ‘unstellar’ SATs (by today’s standards) who got into Harvard.

    All these are, of course, anecdotes and probably unrepresentative.

  33. Wesley said:

    “Michael N Moore: But at least polygamy hasn’t been uncommon throughout human history, unlike gay marriage.”

    Our legal system is not based on human history it is based on Anglo-American common law. Even Henry VIII did not have a harem. There is no way I can see to plug multiple marriage into our system of divorce or probate law. This was, I suspect, one of the reasons that the LDS church had to change before Utah could be admitted to the Union.

  34. Lord Karth said: “How much did the kid offer his admissions officer at his interview ? Not enough, I’d wager.”

    This seems a little tacky, especially coming from a Lord of the Realm. I do know that Harvard has permanent “prospectors” who search for likely people to be hit up for contributions. It would seem to be very tempting to vet the names of prospective students for their parents’ wealth and institutional contribution history.

    The only question is whether you contact the parents before the admission of their offspring (too obvious?) or just after the admission (more tasteful). Of course they could be shrewd and wait to contact them in March and April, when the tax deduction fishing season is in full swing.

  35. Ron Unz, as wrong about homosexuality as he was 20 years ago, but now more insulting.

  36. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    “There is no way I can see to plug multiple marriage into our system of divorce or probate law.”
    Well in the mid-1800s we managed to plug divorce or probate law into a system that lacked it completely so I think we’ll manage expanding it further.

  37. M_Young says:

    Michael Moore, it would be no more difficult to make legal arrangement to acommodate plural marriage than it is to divide an estate between heirs. You’re just looking for excuses.

    “Once men started bringing home second wives, a political uproar would ensue from 99% of women.”

    First, there is really a modern ‘polyamory’ movement out there, and its members would no doubt see your characterization as outdated and insulting. Second, there might be groups for whom even traditional polygamy would be a boon. I am thinking here of African-Americans. The difficulty of black women in finding a husband and a stable homoe is well known. Yet certainly there are ‘big men’ in the African American community who would take on more than one wife if legally allowed to do so. Society would benefit because male children would have a role model. It’s a win-win-win.

  38. nb says:

    M_Young, the white male student that attended a Catholic school is indeed Catholic, and his father even stated that it was obvious from his application that his son is Catholic:

    I’m not sure why you mention that the other two are female – do you think Harvard has lower admissions standards for females?

    As for the white Christian student with an interest in Okinawa, that in no way indicates the student is not white (which is probably obvious from her name). Many of Harvard’s own faculty in East Asian studies are white:

    Finally, your example of the Asian-American with unimpressive SAT scores who was admitted to Harvard proves my point – one can’t use a few anecdotes to prove anything about discrimination in Harvard’s admissions. In fact, her post mentions an important aspect of the Harvard admissions process that Unz elides: the significance of the essay.

  39. nb says:

    Anonymous, how do you propose handling Social Security benefits for the plural spouses of a decedent? yet another roadblock to the legalization of plural marriage that can be easily accommodated for gay marriage…

  40. Anonymous said: “Well in the mid-1800s we managed to plug divorce or probate law into a system that lacked it completely so I think we’ll manage expanding it further.”

    According to “The History of Divorce”, divorce began in Europe with the rise of Protestantism. I believe that there was a bit of blow up about divorce between Henry VII and the Pope. Divorce arrived with the English colonist to America circa 1620. I don’t know what you mean about the mid-1800s.

    Plymouth County Massachusetts Probate and Family Court says it was founded in 1685.

    “At least nine divorces were granted in Plymouth prior to 1691, when Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay were united into a single colony”

  41. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    The missing statistic at the bottom of this article is class rank. I had a 2380 SAT Score, half-decent hooks (cookie cutter state level awards for music and writing and some leadership activities), but was only ranked 8 in my class.

    However, I was ultimately rejected from Yale, Harvard, Princeton, Columbia and Stanford, the other similar quality schools I applied to. Thankfully I got into another similar school with tons of smart people and I love it here. When I visit my friends in Harvard and Yale, virtually everyone I talk to was amongst one of the top 5 kids GPA wise in their high school.

    If the kid was ranked #1 or #2 in a graduating class of 500+ students, I would be extremely puzzled as to why he got waitlisted at so many places.

  42. Tucker says:


    A. Sidewalks can’t consent.

    This doesn’t matter. If we can revise the idea that marriage is a heterosexual union, we can likewise revise the idea that “consent” is important.

    @Michael N Moore

    Also, there are no victims of same-sex marriage.

    Stop saying this; it hasn’t been defensible for years now. Here’s only the latest outrage.

  43. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    Yeah, the marrying a sidewalk argument is, dare I say, ignorant and obnoxious. It’s not a person. It’s not the same situation at all.
    Polygamy arguments however draw many similar parallels to gay marriage and if there is ever a significant push for polygamy in the next 30 to 40 future I think there might be a decent population of people who want it allowed. The prospect of polygamy is a totally valid comparison with the current push for gay marriage IMO.
    Inanimate object arguments against gay marriage however are silly, ignorant and without real bearing. One of the biggest reasons for the acceptance of gay marriage is the fact that homosexuals began to permeate culture, people began to develop relationships with people who were members of homosexual couples and those couples were seen to raise children quite successfully in some instances.
    I can’t imagine many people rationalizing a vote for “Inanimate Marriage” based on the logic that “Hey, 5th avenue seems responsible, seems like it really cares, has a good 9-5 job. I think Frank and 5th avenue could raise a happy family together.”
    It might be comforting to comparing homosexual couplings to individuals who believe themselves to be ‘in love’ with inanimate objects. But if you look at the arguments for gay marriage that go beyond ‘it doesn’t hurt anyone’, and those arguments exist, you will find it hard to draw such comparisons between gay human beings and concrete.

  44. M_Young said:

    “Michael Moore, it would be no more difficult to make legal arrangement to acommodate plural marriage than it is to divide an estate between heirs. You’re just looking for excuses.”

    Hey if you can show me a way to reconcile plural marriage with the Anglo-American legal system and then get it legalized I will marry a second wife.

    Unfortunately for me my wife would probably exercise her second amendment rights before I could get to the alter for the second time.

    I understand that a lot of the LDS plural marriages in the past were part of a religious social support system. I do not sit in judgment on them.

  45. If you want to see how legally complicated plural marriage can be read this:

    “In Scholastica Benedict v. Martin Benedict (Court of Appeal of Tanzania, 1993), the decision by the Court of Appeal of Tanzania was the culmination of seventeen years of litigation between two widows over the right to the house and property of their deceased husband. This case is an example of the harmful effects of polygamous marriages on discriminatory laws.”

    “The second (junior) wife, who had one daughter by the deceased, had appealed the decision of the lower court upholding the application of customary law in favor of the inheritance rights of a male heir, who was the eldest son of nine children by the first (senior) wife, over the second wife’s matrimonial rights to reside with her unmarried daughter in the home in which they had lived with the deceased for over fifteen years. ”

    “The Court held that any marital right the second wife had to reside in the house in which she had lived with the deceased was contingent on whether her daughter had a right to the property that was superior to the male heir’s right.”

    “Since the male heir’s right took precedence, even though he, the first wife, and eight other children resided in another house, the lower court decision and order evicting the second wife and her daughter from the home was upheld. ”


  46. Brian says:

    The “Sidewalk Marriage” is a foolish argument. Inanimate objects can neither legally consent, nor can they enter into a legal contract. It is a rather pathetic straw man fallacy.

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