To hear Andrew Sullivan tell it, the quest for homosexual marriage is a bid for virtue and restraint on the part of a group not known for either.
Sullivan, the thoughtful former editor of the New Republic and a conservative on many political matters, has become the most important polemicist making the case for gay marriage. If every other voice from the homosexual camp were as modulated as his, the argument would carry more weight (though it would remain unpersuasive).
"There is surely no group in society," he wrote in the New Republic, "more in need of marriage rights than gay men. They are the group that most needs incentives for responsible behavior, monogamy, fidelity and the like."
Sullivan thus presents the pro-gay marriage crusade as an essentially conservative impulse. He wants the state and the society at large to help homosexuals to become less promiscuous and more virtuous.
But carefully crafted arguments designed to persuade the majority are not the style of most homosexual activists. Three years ago, thousands marched on Washington in what was billed as the greatest civil rights event since Martin Luther King's in 1963.
Some of the marchers were ordinary-looking types, but many were not. Some of the male marchers sported masks and pierced nipples. "Dykes on Bikes" roared through the crowd, and some of the lesbians stripped off their shirts while kissing. Others wore outlandish dominatrix costumes. The entertainment was raunchy and vulgar - and the more shocking the words and music, the better the crowd liked it.
Though it was billed as a gay march, the event attracted bisexuals, transvestites, spankers, foot fetishists and sadomasochists among many others. All are members of the sexual underground, united by disdain for the bourgeois. The question can reasonably be asked, if we grant recognition to homosexual marriages, by what principle can we deny it to polygamists or those who engage in bestiality, incest or necrophilia?
Homosexuals are on shaky ground when they push the "nearly normal" argument. Having flouted a major taboo themselves, they can hardly turn aside similar requests for recognition by other …