Ross Douthat’s latest column, in which he presents his strongest case against gay marriage, found its strongest critics not from the left but from the right. I touched on this earlier, calling Douthat’s column disastrous, and wondering whether he’ll end up conceding entirely, based on the strength of Andrew Sullivan’s rebuttal. A second powerful critique has come from thinking conservative Noah Millman; tellingly, Douthat’s response largely avoids discussing gay marriage, and instead focuses on other issues he believes to affect marriage, such as divorce, abortion, and pornography, and pushes for a debate over potential policies to address these issues. Douthat groups the three issues together with gay marriage, arguing that they together represent an attempt to strength his ideal of lifelong heterosexual monogamy. But even as he does so, he praises David Cameron, a politician who support gay marriage, but nonetheless supports initiatives Ross believes will support his marriage ideal.
I’m left to wonder whether Ross’s intention all along was not to confront gay marriage, but rather to segue towards a push for intelligent conversation on the nature of marriage, and to discuss other policy issues entirely. If so, I’d say his first post wasn’t disastrous, but instead really sneaky. The divorce law reforms Ross links to seem like they could be pretty agreeable to liberals. The abortion debate is highly politically charged, but I see it as a much better bet for conservatives than gay marriage. And as for the whole porn thing, I’m going to hold off on any comment for now, besides saying that I’ve found Douthat’s previous work on the subject pretty interesting.