The other week we discussed the views on gay marriage of that most unprotected of unprotected classes, the academic right wing. We’re as bored and as frustrated as the next person with the rhetorically effective but in equal measure logically clueless slippery slope arguments against gay marriage. To see the latest iteration, watch this clip from The Colbert Report. But we’d like to return briefly to the discussion of the “Princeton Principles” of the conservative Witherspoon Institute.
In an otherwise shamefully incoherent document (here’s one example: in the name of limiting government’s control over people’s lives, government should vastly enlarge its control over people’s affective choices), we find the following almost unforgivable claim:
>Yet there remain even deeper concerns about the institutional consequences of same-sex marriage for marriage itself. Same-sex marriage would further undercut the idea that procreation is intrinsically connected to marriage. It would undermine the idea that children need both a mother and a father, further weakening the societal norm that men should take responsibility for the children they beget. Finally, same-sex marriage would likely corrode marital norms of sexual fidelity, since gay marriage advocates and gay couples tend to downplay the importance of sexual fidelity in their definition of marriage. Surveys of men entering same-sex civil unions in Vermont indicate that 50 percent of them do not value sexual fidelity, and rates of sexual promiscuity are high among gay men. For instance, Judith Stacey, professor of sociology at New York University and a leading advocate of gay marriage, hopes that same-sex marriage will promote a “pluralist expansion of the meaning, practice, and politics of family life in the United States” where “perhaps some might dare to question the dyadic limitations of Western marriage and seek some of the benefits of extended family life through small group marriages…” [emphasis added]
In the reflective language of the disinterested sociologist, the authors suggest that the extreme views on marriage of one one advocate of gay marriage suffice to show the apocalyptic character of a gay-friendly future. There are probably thousands (if not millions) of advocates of straight marriage whose views would cause the fellows of the Witherspoon Institute to recoil, but just because they share a goal does not mean they share a view. Insofar as all slippery slope arguments suggest extreme (but unlikely) consequences, they threaten; they play on the fears of their listener.
The respected scholars of the Witherspoon Institute ought to know better than to resort to inflammatory fear mongering.