David Frum

02.22.13

What's Marriage's Future?

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Jon Huntsman made waves yesterday by publishing an op-ed at The American Conservative calling for conservatives to back gay marriage. It's an opinion I share, but his grounding of the argument in conservative principles was quite curious.

Rod Dreher, as he is wont to do, tore apart Huntsman's argument in short order.

Dreher's follow up today is painful to read:

Young Americans have been formed by a culture that informed them that marriage was about romantic love (and, it should be said, that authenticity demanded the all but unlimited freedom to express one’s desires). Traditionalist arguments make no sense to them, from their first principles.

This is why an ancient tradition — marriage as one man and one woman binding themselves together — endured for centuries, even millennia, but collapsed within 20 years. We, as a people, quit believing the things that supported the older definition of marriage. A couple of years ago, I was at a party at which I heard a young woman in her early 20s talking about planning her upcoming wedding.

She said she’s looking for a church in which to get married. Neither she nor her fiancé were churchgoers, and were trying to figure out how to approach a pastor and rent the church for their wedding. It didn’t occur to her that church was anything other than a stage for her dream wedding. From what I could tell, that didn’t occur to any of her young friends, either.

I'm glad Huntsman is advocating for marriage equality. It's our future, no matter how poignant the arguments from conservatives about the foundations of marriage. Traditional marriage simply is not a thing to my generation. And how could we reasonably expect it to be?

We are wholly of a society with no fault divorce, mixed families, single parenting, and childless couples. Adding gay and lesbian couples to the mix can't possibly undermine marriage in the traditional sense - it's long gone.

And while that may have horrible ramifications for our society, it means the prudent choice is to move on to the next battle. Gay marriage is happening. What's important for religious conservatives is to accomodate this change while maximally protecting religious freedom.

Huntsman's failure to note that is a shocking omission. Shocking.