The New York Times’ conservative columnist Ross Douthat wrote this weekend that he still believes there is a connection between same-sex marriage and how Americans are valuing marriage less, particularly how couples are more likely to cohabitate and have children outside of wedlock. Of course, what the numbers actually show is that this shift in norms has been slowest in the states with same-sex marriage. Though Douthat admits that correlation does not establish causation, he just wishes liberals would admit that he’s right and that marriage equality has consequences for straight people:
A more honest, less triumphalist case for gay marriage would be willing to concede that, yes, there might be some social costs to redefining marriage. It would simply argue that those costs are too diffuse and hard to quantify to outweigh the immediate benefits of recognizing gay couples’ love and commitment.
Such honesty would make social liberals more magnanimous in what looks increasingly like victory, and less likely to hound and harass religious institutions that still want to elevate and defend the older marital ideal.
Douthat can’t seem to articulate any real consequences himself, so he’s just trying to guilt supporters of same-sex marriage to concede they exist. It’s like the old joke that adults ask kids what they want to be when they grow up because they’re looking for ideas. Douthat doesn’t want to admit that he can’t explain how letting more people marry will harm marriage, so he’s simply eschewing responsibility for defending his shallow arguments.
Worse, he paints equality advocates as bullies with an accusation that they “hound and harass” religious institutions for continuing to oppose gay rights. He wants liberals to be nicer about winning and admit that they’re wrong about some things, but he clearly has no such expectations of himself or his fellow conservatives.