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On simple utilitarian grounds it may be hard to object to incest or adultery; if both parties to such an act welcome it and if it is secret, what differences does it make?But very few people, and then only ones among the overeducated, seem to care much about mounting a utilitarian assault on the family.
In her review of it in (January 1996), Elizabeth Kristol asks us to try to answer the following question: what would life be like if we were not allowed to marry?
To most of us, the thought is unimaginable; to Sullivan, it is the daily existence of declared homosexuals. _____________ Sullivan recounts three main arguments concerning homosexual marriage, two against and one for.
As an institution, it deserves unqualified support; as a practice, we recognize that married people are as imperfect as anyone else.
Sullivan’s understanding of the prohibitionist argument suffers from his unwillingness to acknowledge this distinction.
To this assault, natural-law theorists respond much as would the average citizen—never mind “utility,” what counts is what is right.
In particular, homosexual uses of the reproductive organs violate the condition that sex serve solely as the basis of heterosexual marriage.The necessary conditions of a decent family life are the acknowledgment by its members that a man will not sleep with his daughter or a woman with her son and that neither will openly choose sex outside marriage.Now, some of these conditions are violated, but there is a penalty in each case that is supported by the moral convictions of almost all who witness the violation.The prohibitionist argument is in fact a biblical one; the heart of it was stated by Dennis Prager in an essay in the (“Homosexuality, the Bible, and Us,” Summer 1993).When the first books of the Bible were written, and for a long time thereafter, heterosexual love is what seemed at risk.In 1993 the supreme court of Hawaii ruled that, under the equal-protection clause of that state’s constitution, any law based on distinctions of sex was suspect, and thus subject to strict judicial scrutiny.Accordingly, it reversed the denial of a marriage permit to a same-sex couple, unless the state could first demonstrate a “compelling state interest” that would justify limiting marriages to men and women. But in the meantime, the executive branch of Hawaii appointed a commission to examine the question of same-sex marriages; its report, by a vote of five to two, supports them.In many cultures—not only in Egypt or among the Canaanite tribes surrounding ancient Israel but later in Greece, Rome, and the Arab world, to say nothing of large parts of China, Japan, and elsewhere—homosexual practices were common and widely tolerated or even exalted. If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.The Torah reversed this, making the family the central unit of life, the obligation to marry one of the first responsibilities of man, and the linkage of sex to procreation the highest standard by which to judge sexual relations. Sullivan acknowledges the power of Leviticus but deals with it by placing it in a relative context. Is it like killing your mother or stealing a neighbor’s bread, or is it more like refusing to eat shellfish or having sex during menstruation?But Sullivan cannot deny that Paul singled out homosexuality as deserving of special criticism.He seems to pass over this obstacle without effective retort.