This month’s Dialogue prominently features a discussion of gay marriage. Surprise number one: The lead article, by Randolph Mulhestein, is one of the best articles against gay marriage that I’ve read. This is not because the author offers pathbreaking new conclusions, but because he gathers evidence from a variety of sources and presents others’ evidence and argument in a reasonable and measured way, stripped of the usual anti-gay stereotypes. He qualifies (most of) his conclusions and assumptions, connects his points with analytic throughness, and doesn’t often overreach. As a result, he does a good job of presenting anti-SSM arguments on their merits, without the usual baggage of anti-gay hysteria.
One might still disagree with those arguments, of course. The author draws on some assumptions that I disagree with, and goes too far in some conclusions, I thought. But as a whole, the article was very solidly written and argued.
Muhlestein’s article is followed by a reply that exemplifies some of the criticisms of Dialogue that have been leveled in this forum (and elsewhere). Wayne Schow’s reply article is personal, subjective, and emotional; anecdotal evidence and counterfactual speculation are drawn on freely. This is a shame, because Schow does notice and point out many of the weaknesses in Muhlestein’s argument. But as a whole, Schow’s reply is unsatisfying — it seemed unorganized and scattered, content to make fun of Muhlestein’s copious endnotes rather than drawing on sources of its own.
(I was surprised to see that Muhlestein had no reply of his own. This is probably due to the exigencies of publication timing.)
I’ve stated here and elsewhere that I support same-sex marriage. This month’s Dialogue hasn’t changed my views. But I am happy to see arguments being made against SSM in a thoughtful way. Out of these two articles, I thought that Muhlestein’s did a much better job of presenting his argument — even though I disagree with the substance of Muhlestein’s conclusion, and even though Schow got in the last word.
Well done, Dialogue.