Gay Marriage: What Do We Really Mean?

Aug 10, 10 | 7:32 AM   byMichael Wolff
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The New York Times, in its constant effort to stay ahead of the heckling of the right wing, hired the 31-year-old Ross Douthat to be its No. 2 conservative columnist, after David Brooks, a bit more than a year ago, and almost nobody has taken notice of him since.

It is not that his conservatism makes him invisible, but that he is so mealy-mouthed. The man-boy must be desperate to be liked or afraid of his own shadow or steadfast in his desire not to insult anybody and keep his job.

Possibly, no one has ever read an entire Ross Douthat column.

But I read yesterday’s about gay marriage. I hardly know why—just that the subject of gay marriage in the world’s gayest city is bound to be a an effort involving remarkable contortions. And, indeed, Douthat outlined all the Neanderthal conservative reasons against gay marriage and rejected them, so, ipso facto, he was going to come up with a more original, heretofore yet to be articulated, and, because he is eager to please, more sensitive one of his own. It was quite a drumbeat. A great phlegmy clearing of the throat for such a young man. He really worked up to it. And here it is:

“…lifelong heterosexual monogamy at its best can offer something distinctive and remarkable—a microcosm of civilization, and an organic connection between human generations—that makes it worthy of distinctive recognition and support.”

I would love it if my commenters today could try to parse what Ross Douthat could possibly be trying to say.

Lifelong heterosexual monogamy = a microcosm of civilization? Okay, team. And then…an organic connection between human generations…as opposed to an inorganic? (Or that gays might adopt children?)

I am sure this is not the dumbest sentence ever written after sophomore year, but it’s a contender.

It is also an inability to defend boy-girl marriage with any imperative other than that the great majority of us had parents who were married to members of the opposite sex—so that’s the standard.

Key Phillip Larkin: your mum and dad…

The gay marriage debate is a wedge issue on the part of professional conservative polemicists who get paid for this sort of thing, supported by the elderly and an ever-dwindling number of religious conservatives who don’t have gay family members.

It’s a lost cause, in other words.

Douthat is clearly not a supporter of gay marriage bans. This is just his effort, possibly even a sincere one, at trying to be a contrarian at the Times—doing, in other words, what he was hired to do, and representing, in however an attenuated and strangled fashion, the conservative view.

I’m sure there’s a real point here, and I’m sure it involves sex, or being queasy about sex—and I’m sure whatever that issue is makes Douthat sound like a stammering adolescent on the subject, a freshman in his college dorm room (one perhaps ready to break loose—in a gay or straight fashion).

David Brooks, his conservative cohort and sponsor at the Times, once declared in the premier newspaper of the world’s most promiscuous city: “Anybody who has several sexual partners in a year is committing spiritual suicide.”

That is no less disconnected from reality and self-awareness and adulthood than what Ross Douthat is saying now, but it is at least intelligible.

More of Newser founder Michael Wolff's articles and commentary can be found at, where he writes a regular column. He can be emailed at You can also follow him on Twitter: @MichaelWolffNYC.
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