Jonah Goldberg

Of course if I were gay, this might remind me of Anatole France's famous witticism, "The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread." Expecting a homosexual to marry someone from the opposite sex is a bit like telling a blind man he has the same opportunities to go to the movies as everybody else.

Conservatives send out two contradictory messages about homosexuality, especially male homosexuality. (Men, predictably, are the root of the problem. Lesbians are much more likely to seek long-term relationships. An old joke in the gay community: "What does a lesbian bring on a second date? A U-Haul.")

On the one hand, conservatives rightly criticize male promiscuity. Bill Bennett and others argue that gay men shouldn't marry, in part, because homosexual promiscuity would undermine an already fragile institution.

It's a fair point as far as it goes (though easy divorce and our self-indulgent culture are still the biggest threats to marriage). But at the same time, we tell homosexuals that the only universal institution successful at civilizing men in this regard -marriage -is forever closed to them. Talk about a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't scenario.

This is why I favor some form of civil union for same-sex couples -"marriage light," the critics call it. There are real downsides to the idea, including the possibility that heterosexual couples will flock to the institution as a "trial marriage." This is already happening in parts of Europe.

I don't have all the answers, but I think we have to stop avoiding the questions.

Still, once you accept that gays are not going anywhere, I think decency and common sense requires that society makes some room for them. And, I think decency and common sense requires that gays make some room for honest differences of opinion, too.

In any open society, the minority owes the majority just as much tolerance and respect as vice versa. I'd like to congratulate HRC for doing its part toward that end.

Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
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