I think the Same-Sex Marriage threads have been instructive.

Just a few quibbles:

An Okie Gardener characterized my position as in favor of societal recognition of same-sex marriage. While I admit that is a reasonable inference, I would argue that it is, nevertheless, imprecise. I have, in fact, asked a series of questions exploring the logic of denying recognition of same-sex marriage.

Tocqueville wrote: "I keep hearing conservatives criticized for "trying to impose their religious dogma on the legal system." I am not sure who Tocqueville was quoting, but it followed closely (in time and proximity) my quote: "...religion should inform all your political view points, but at what point in the public debate is it necessary to differentiate between what is right for you and your church and what is fair to impose on the community as a whole?" The phrasing of which I regretted almost immediately because I used "impose," which is a word that is often used to evoke emotionally soaked accusations of "intolerance." I apologize for my poor judgment in re that particular word choice.

On the other hand, I want to make clear that my sentence can in no reasonable way be interpretted as "criticizing conservatives for trying to impose their religious dogma on the legal system."

Back to the idea of questions:

Breaking News: Conservatives are losing this debate. Last night my wife and I sat down for dinner with a very nice, well-educated, God-fearing, socially conservative couple, who are pillars of a big Baptist church in the heart of the reddest of all Red States. When the subject of educating children about homosexuality emerged in our dinner conversation, this mother of four, who spends one week out of the year doing missionary work in Guatemala, offered that homosexuality is not part of God's plan for our lives (like divorce or infidelity). Beautiful. But there was also recognition that tolerance of homosexuality is now part of our cultural landscape.

This is where we are in America today. American Christians can sit in a restaurant and affirm that homosexuality is a less-favored choice (at this point without fear of public recrimination: I cannot remember if our friend lowered her voice; I think I looked around to see who was within ear-shot).

My point: homosexual "rights" are now a part of our cultural fabric.

Exhibit B: Ms. Sommerville's article assumes equality under the law for persons of homo- or hetero-sexual orientation, and she advocates civil partnerships for same-sex couples, legally recognized and entitled to the same benefits and protection of the law.

By the way: Are all of you willing to go that far?

The Sommerville article is very good. It addresses many of the problems I have raised, although I would say that it does not answer, to my satisfaction, the central question:

Even if we agree that our primary reason for marriage is procreation, we can also agree that we make a lot of exceptions to that raison d'etre; ergo, why is same-sex marriage an unacceptable exception?

According to Sommerville, it is not for religious or moral reasons. Her argument is that same-sex marriage threatens the symbolic value of marriage as an institution designed to secure the blessings of procreation.

An aside: is procreation confusing terminology? Don't we really mean child rearing? Procreation doesn't really need much protection. Procreation is driven by one of the most powerful of all human impulses. Aren't we really concerned with what happens after conception and birth. Perhaps that is why we let adulturers and "divorcers" off the hook, and we are so hard on homosexuals. Is that a logical flaw?

Aside II: Sommerville calls procreation the PRIMARY reason for marriage. Has she confused "primary" with "only." Are there a number of reasons why marriage is good, and the protection of children standing as the foremost among them? Or does she really mean that protecting (or creating) children is the sine qua non of marriage? Sometimes the perfect is the enemy of the good.

Back to her central argument: Same-sex marriage damages the "societal-cultural paradigm" of marriage as a system to protect procreation.

I am not convinced that she makes the case.

The shortest point of her argument is the discussion of technology and procreation (and there is no discussion of same-sex adoption). Why shouldn't lesbian couples be allowed to produce children with their own bodies? And once produced, why aren't those children worthy of protection within marriage? If she sees homosexuality on a moral and ethical par with heterosexuality, why not allow same-sex couples to adopt?

I ask all these questions, frankly, in hopes that I will find satisfying answers. But, for the most part, this discussion has produced more questions.

One more branch to this discussion: many conservative social commentators have suggested that the problem with marriage is that religious people have devalued the institution through divorce and infidelity and other things over the past 50 to 100 years. If that is true (and that point has always seemed salient to me), we are arguing about the color of the wallpaper, while our house is on fire.