Legal gay marriage may be right. But if reform involves cutting the tie between church and state, changing the constitution, and further undermining the (admittedly almost redundant) idea of marriage as a social institution that connects family, church and state, why should we pretend it is conservative?
I’ve emailed Sullivan with this quote and hope he’ll address it on The Dish later. For me, the critique has a level of force it really shouldn’t have, but which seems somewhat inevitable when you defend reform in this way. In America, Gray’s points don’t apply. So it’s much easier to invoke conservatism to say you are expanding an institution which fosters stability and commitment between individuals. But what to do when that consideration has to be balanced against the concerns inherent to the British situation? Do conservatives wholeheartedly embrace American reform, but pursue the identical rights of gay people in Britain with more caution because ‘abstract’ arguments from dignity and equality must never be allowed to trump everything, and sustaining illiberal institutions is more important? Defend marriage reform on liberal grounds and you can simply say to hell with that.