Ross Douthat is a strange dude:

IT now seems certain that before too many years elapse, the Supreme Court will be forced to acknowledge the logic of its own jurisprudence on same-sex marriage and redefine marriage to include gay couples in all 50 states.

Once this happens, the national debate essentially will be finished, but the country will remain divided, with a substantial minority of Americans, most of them religious, still committed to the older view of marriage.

So what then? One possibility is that this division will recede into the cultural background, with marriage joining the long list of topics on which Americans disagree without making a political issue out of it.

In this scenario, religious conservatives would essentially be left to promote their view of wedlock within their own institutions, as a kind of dissenting subculture emphasizing gender differences and procreation, while the wider culture declares that love and commitment are enough to make a marriage.

I wonder if Mr. Douthat understands how he comes across to women. It sounds like he thinks women are only worth marrying so that they can have men’s children. Loving them is not necessary. Being committed to them is not necessary.

Throughout his column he refers to the “older definition of marriage,” but he doesn’t mean by that what you would think. For me, the older definition of marriage was that it is necessarily between a man and a woman, not that it was all about procreation. I’ve known too many childless couples or exclusively adoptive parents for me to ever have had Douthat’s view of marriage. For me, marriage is primarily about commitment. Two people take a vow involving certain promises. If they then procreate, that’s their choice.

When Douthat discusses “traditional marriage,” he’s talking about something else. He actually thinks that people like me who support gay equality and marriage want to destroy traditional marriage.

If your only goal is ensuring that support for traditional marriage diminishes as rapidly as possible, applying constant pressure to religious individuals and institutions will probably do the job.

Maybe that is just sloppy english, but it appears to say that there is a movement to undermine traditional marriage. But why would I, or anyone else, want to keep people from getting married? It seems that we’re talking past each other until you realize that Douthat is talking about more than just men and women making lifelong commitments to each other. He’s talking about a view of marriage. It’s a view that places little importance on love and commitment, and sees the whole endeavor as a way to propagate the species. It’s a view more consonant with cultures that have arranged marriages than it is with American or European culture.

The thing is, even in cultures that arrange marriages, it’s not so much about procreation as it is about money, power, and prestige. Families and their fortunes are joined for the purpose of mutual advancement. In these cases, the families take precedence even over procreation.

In other words, I don’t think Douthat’s kind of marriage actually exists anywhere in the real world, except in his imagination.

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Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly. See all his writing at