by Ted on September 4, 2003

Every once in a while, you’ll see a story about some local government regulations that force an 11-year old girl to shut down her lemonade stand. Most readers (including me) come away with the feeling that the law that prevented the kid from opening a lemonade stand is ridiculous and should probably be eliminated.

But should they? Keep in mind that there are countless 11-year olds who have no intention of starting a lemonade stand. Some children who began lemonade stands would surely run them poorly. We can’t just go around lifting regulations willy-nilly until we can be sure that 11-year olds have reached a consensus. If we start lifting regulations and leaving the decision about whether to sell lemonade to individual choice, it will devalue the whole concept of commerce. What if some of them fail?

Needless to say, this is an absurd argument. Which was why I was amazed to see Jonah Goldberg trying it against gay marriage, in a column titled “Gay men not rushing to the altar”.

Jonah notices that even though gay marriage has recently been legalized in Canada, only about 600 same-sex couples have applied for a marriage license. Furthermore, there are a large contingent of Canadian gay men who don’t intend to get married. He extracts some quotes from a gay magazine in which people express their skepticism about marriage, and about monogamy in general. One of them makes a flip, unlovely remark about “something called cheating”. Jonah says:

What such cutely ironic post-modern quips reveal is that many in the gay community don’t really mean it when they say they want access to the institution of marriage.

First of all, it’s not “something called cheating,” it’s cheating, pure and simple. I have no doubt that most homosexuals understand perfectly well what cheating is and understand that the concept applies to all sorts of relationships. Pretending otherwise may seem clever or enlightened, but such word games are astoundingly stupid.

Why? Well, because marriage is an institution of rules. If pro-gay marriage activists aren’t liars, they should respect those rules and not seek to undermine them.


Jonah disapproves of the sexual morality of some gay people (and, although he doesn’t point it out, some straight people.) Fair enough. He has as much right to express that opinion as I do to express the opinion that the National Review is spending its credibility like a drunken sailor.

But I’m not sure what it has to do with gay marriage. Doesn’t it seem that some gay people might want to get married, while a completely different group doesn’t want to? And that he’s quoting the second group, people who don’t want to get married? I feel rather sure that conservatism usually has something to do with the sanctity of individual choices.

Isn’t it also possible that some people might have supported the fight for gay marriage even though they personally don’t intend to exercise it? I support same-sex marriage. If it passes, and I don’t go marry a man, am I undermining marriage, too?

Finally, I love this:

Also in his article, Goldberg devastates an analogy to interracial marriage, stating, “I’ve never thought such comparisons were sound, and this story demonstrates why. No blacks denounced the concept of monogamy in their struggle to do away with anti-miscegenation laws. When Jackie Robinson fought his way into professional baseball, he didn’t want to change the rules of the game. He wanted the rules to apply to him to.”

The final nail in the coffin of this analogy comes when Goldberg reveals the percentage of black-white marriages that occurred in the U.S. the year after Loving v. Virginia, which is, um, let’s see, where did he put that statistic…?



Doug 09.04.03 at 4:50 pm

Andrew Sullivan has been all over Goldberg, too. Rhetorically.


And effectively.


Decnavda 09.04.03 at 8:19 pm

Hey, cool! Thanks for the quote!


Jon H 09.05.03 at 3:56 am

Goldberg should try applying the same logic to military service in the US…

Gays aren’t allowed to do it. Straights are allowed, but many, including Jonah Goldberg, aren’t interested. It’s a significant commitment, but some people can’t keep up their end of the bargain.

By Goldberg’s logic, nobody would be allowed to serve in the military.


nofundy 09.05.03 at 5:08 pm

Perhaps his mommy wrote the piece for him?


Tyrone Slothrop 09.07.03 at 6:22 am

While I’m inclined to agree with the author about gay marriage, this post is about the first thing I’ve ever seen that makes the nostrum that “gay marriage is a threat to traditional marriage” resonate a little. When marriage is analogous to a 11-year-old selling lemonade, won’t we all be said? Except the whacko libertarians?

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