Your Wednesday Debate

As one of your editors, I take it as my responsibility to occasionally throw a grenade in the middle of the room and run away as fast as I can. So, for you all to debate, here’s former RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman, writing in the pages of the Wall Street Journal:

Some misperceive the issue of marriage equality as exclusively progressive. Yet what could be more conservative than support for more freedom and less government? And what freedom is more basic than the right to marry the person you love? Smaller, less intrusive government surely includes an individual deciding whom to marry. Allowing civil marriage for same-sex couples will cultivate community stability, encourage fidelity and commitment, and foster family values.


  1. Matthew K. Tabor

    Troy, if the Ricochet community actually discusses the Ghostbuster stream-crossing of individual freedom vs. deciding exactly how others should live, we might come dangerously close to realizing how the American public processes the GOP and Conservatives.

  2. Misthiocracy
    Troy Senik, Ed.:

    Smaller, less intrusive government surely includes an individual deciding whom to marry. 

    Excellent, then surely Mehlman also supports eliminating the licensing of marriages by the state completely, and also eliminating the requirement to register marriages with the state.

  3. Retail Lawyer

    His first sentence is, “They say demography is destiny, and in American politics destiny has belonged to those who best aligned their core beliefs with the rapidly changing and ever-improving citizenry.”  Ever improving?  Really?  OK, I got ready for the usual self esteem enhancing puffery.

    His argument does not deal with the arguments made on the traditional marriage defense.  What he says is true, so far as it goes, especially his point that gay marriage advocates consider the issue very important while it is not so important to those opposed.

  4. BrentB67

    As much as it pains to admit there may be something intersting coming from the GOP past or present, I think he is on to something.

    I believe marriage is the union of a man and a woman before God.

    That said there are majorities in certain states who think it is appropriate for people of the same sex to ‘marry’ or at least memorialize some kind of civil partnership.

    I believe liberty and federalism are the path forward for conservatives like me and that means taking some bad with the good. If I want the federal government out of my wallet, schools, power plants, doctor’s office, etc. I have to be equally accepting that the federal government needs to stay out of telling individual states how to define marriage.

    I think there is merit to the federal government not telling states how  to define marriage and at the same time guaranteeing that states do not have to recognize other states definition of marriage.

  5. DocJay

    I don’t care about this issue.    If pressed, I feel like Brent but of course the federal government is in my office daily, in spirit at least.

  6. Jim  Ixtian

    Dear oh dear. Another post on gay marriage.

    If Ricochet can’t offer content that doesn’t obsess about gay marriage, then I really wonder what is the point of Ricochet? And no, gay marriage isn’t marriage no matter how much the pro-SSM crowd calls it such. I’ll go one step further and call the SSM movement for what it is-a dishonest, cynical backdoor attempt to normalize homosexuality and force acceptance of it upon American society. I also think it nothing more than a mental illness or abuse of power.

    I also think Republicans & Conservatives are complete cowards when it comes to defending heterosexual marriage-something I’ve pointed out many times before. Look at the numbers.

    In 2009 there were about 150,000 gay married people. All of them. That’s it.

    In 2010 there were 872,000 divorces in the US among heterosexuals. Per year. That number excludes data from several states including California.

    So why exactly are we spending so much time on a issue that affects so few people when there is an issue that does effect far more people?

    Conservatives need to focus or else they’ll become a joke.

  7. TucsonSean

    What could be more conservative than following the will of God?  What could be more progressive than sanctioning of libertinism and immorality?

  8. Douglas

    Mehlman can dress it up however he likes, but there’s absolutely nothing conservative about redefining marriage. Nothing, nada, zip. He’d be more honest labeling this a libertarian issue. This is yet another example of how some people are putting the “conservative” label in some very un-conservative things. 

  9. iDad

    Under Mr. Mehlman’s formulation, wouldn’t “smaller, less intrusive government” justify the abandonment of any number of conservative principles?

  10. BrentB67
    iDad: Under Mr. Mehlman’s formulation, wouldn’t “smaller, less intrusive government” justify the abandonment of any number of conservative principles? · 1 minute ago

    His formulation does exactly that. One of the challenges is defining conservative principles. The question becomes is smaller less intrusive government a conservative value. I think so, but my opinion isn’t more valid than any other.

    If smaller less intrusive federal government is a conservative value I think we have to be ready to take some bad with the good and be prepared to fight for some conservative principles at the state rather than federal level. Long term I think that is a good thing.

  11. Nick Stuart

    Is this the same Ken Mehlman who was RNC Chairman in 2006? That was a real winning year for Republicans.

  12. Full Size Tabby

    OK. So, would those who deal with “married” people and “marriages” (employers providing benefits to employees, marriage counselors, caterers, photographers, etc.) also have the freedom to choose which “marriages” to recognize?

  13. Rachel Lu

    The rebuttal basically requires just two points.

    First, the marriage debate isn’t about who should be permitted to marry whom. It’s about *what marriage is*. Secondarily, it concerns the question of whether government should be permitted to dictate what it is even to groups who have believed otherwise for centuries, for good and serious reasons that they could articulate if anyone would listen.

    Homosexual marriage will not promote stability unless homosexual marriages are themselves stable. Sociological evidence to date has suggested that they tend not to be.

  14. Chris O.

    My thoughts on the matter are here, something I put on the member feed. Simply put: government should not be involved in defining any religious institution (marriage), particularly one that preceded country’s existence by a couple of millenia. They should only define the legal construct (civil union).

  15. Roberto
    Troy Senik, Ed.: As one of your editors, I take it as my responsibility to occasionally throw a grenade in the middle of the room and run away as fast as I can. · 1 hour ago


  16. Scott Wilmot

    We must transform the wreckage that is modern culture in charity and truth – this must be the guiding principle. Freedom consists not in doing what we like, but in having the right to do what we ought.

    There is nothing just whatsoever in the redefinition of marriage. Arguing for this with a motivation of niceness or fairness fails in both charity and truth.

  17. flownover

    I would say to Mr Mehlman, if you haven’t been brought up to assume and adhere to certain values, then how will the state be responsible for teaching them to you.

    Like hopscotching thousands of years of culture is going to help and the state should be the one to pull you through the obstacle course of history, which takes a bit longer than you’d like ?

    His whole premise is a copout. But they keep throwing their mud on the wall and waiting for it to stick, too bad we all get splattered and worry that our kids will be confused by these messages and what we attempt to do in our own homes . 

  18. iDad

    I have never understood that “smaller, less intrusive government” is the  conservative value that trumps all others.  If it is, what is the conservative position on abortion?  National defense?  

  19. Trace

    1. Agree with those that contend this is a tiresome, lazy editorial trope Troy that is beneath you. Find a better grenade. 

    2. I agree with Mehlman. Here in San Francisco, the lunatic fringe, gay families behave in all those boring but terrific community affirming ways that strengthen the culture. I have argued this extensively many, many times on Ricochet.

    3. I also agree with those that note that if social conservatives want to fight a culture war they should fight about what really matters and that is the disintegration of the family, the state’s sponsorship of single parenthood, the absolute nonsense that “slut shaming” is a bad thing, the casual nature of marriage and (thus) divorce. These things matter. Gay people marrying does not. It is happening and will continue to happen with greater frequency whether the state endorses it or not. 

  20. BrentB67

    In discussing smaller less intrusive government as a conservative value I think we need to define what government we are talking about.

    I want Texas to have a Constitutionatl Amendment defining marriage as a union of a man and woman. I also want Texas to restrict abortion, allow concealed handguns on campus, have 85mph speed limits, and enforce the death penalty. I want the federal governmet to stay out of Texan’s rights to enact and enforce all these things and many others.

    Is it conservative to want a small non intrusive federal government, but to have a larger and potentially more intrusive state government?

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