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May 07, 2004

Andrew Sullivan: Radical

If you're not following it, there's a dust-up between Andrew "The Sage" Sullivan and NRO's Jonah Goldberg. Andrew "The Sage" Sullivan shrieks about that a Virginia law stating that contracts entered into which purport to "to bestow the privileges and obligations of marriage" between two people of the same sex are null and void. He claims that such a law would actually outlaw most private agreements between gays, stripping them of even the most basic capacity to make private contracts.

This is, of course, utter nonsense.

If you are in a contract to rent an apartment, you are forbidden to enter into contracts of your own in which you purport to own the apartment; you are forbidden, in other words, to enter into contracts under the color of ownership. That doesn't mean you can't freely enter legal contracts to sub-let your apartment and the like. It means what it means: some contracts are forbidden, because you just don't have the right -- here, actual ownership -- to enter into them.

Gays can enter into all the private contracts they like, except that sort of contract which is forbidden: a marriage contract, or a contract purporting to bestow the incidents and obligations of marriage.

Obviously, we think.

Updated... on the jump.


This has been The Sage's tactic for some time. He claims that most versions of the FMA, for example, prohibit civil unions. They do no such thing. They prohibit actual marriage.

But he is forever claiming that pro-gay-marriage proposals will have minimal legal effect -- they will never operate outside a state's borders, they never call into operation the Full Faith & Credit Clause, etc. -- while claiming utterly ridiculous maximalist effect of any anti-gay-marriage proposal. In The Sage's reading, the Virginia law would, apparently, void a purely business-related partnership contract entered into by two gay men. He doesn't believe the law will do any such thing, but he claims it will in order to mau-mau liberal-leaning Republicans into opposing it.

It's not the "unstated, implied effects" (as he'd term them) of these laws he is actually objecting to, although he pretends that therin lies the kernel of his opposition. He objects to the stated, express effects of these laws, that is, to ban gay marriage, and attempts to convince people that they should oppose such laws because of alleged unstated, implied effects which exist chiefly in his own imagination.

It's like someone saying you can't oppose racial-quotas because doing so would have the "unstated, implied effect" of repealing the 14th Amendment.

Did we mention that The Sage has absolutely no legal education or training whatsoever, and has indeed not even been an interested amateur on the topic of law in the past? One can comb through The Sage's oevure for days at a time without finding a single reference to jurisprudence, but suddenly he's a self-declared expert on Virginia contracts and the legal construction of Virgina laws.

He's not a legal expert, on the law regarding gay marriage or any other sort of law, and it's past time people like Jonah stopped treating him as if he were. Just because you're gay doesn't mean you're an expert on "gay law." You don't lay down with a man and then rise with a degree from Columbia Law.

There's a simple reason to shrug at The Sage's myriad ludicrous charges: 1) he doesn't know what the fuck he's talking about and 2) he misrepresents these laws and proposals at every turn in full awareness that he doesn't know what the fuck he's talking about and 3) to the extent he knows what the fuck he's talking about, he knows he's wrong.

He is a committed advocate on the issue, and an advocate utterly ignorant of the law, and yet Jonah Goldberg repeatedly accepts The Sage's premises as if they were considered legal opinions.

At least Goldberg has the backbone to now state what Sullivan clearly is: a radical, and a rather nasty ad hominem one at that. Here's his surrebuttal to The Sage's rebuttal:

He says he's no radical because his position hasn't changed. Maybe so, but his rhetorical tactics have. It seems to me Andrew used to condemn the gay left for its totalizing attitude toward politics. Andrew's position now is that conservatives are immoral for fighting laws he disagrees with and for not-fighting laws he disagrees with. The only safe harbor appears to be agreeing with Andrew with the same amount of passion as Andrew, otherwise you're a "theocon" or some such....

[A]ndrew increasingly seems to have the same contempt for my lack of passion about gay rights as a Bolshevik had for a Social Democrat. I just don't think that's a good or smart approach for his side of the debate.

Link here.

Update, as an Open Letter to Jonah Goldberg: We take it, Jonah, that when Jesse Jackson makes claims regarding the effect of proposed legislation he opposes, you greet his interpretations with a fair amount of skepticism.

We take it you don't immediately assume the facts are as he claims them to be, simply because he is either A) Jesse Jackson or B) black, and therefore wise and learned on the topic of civil-rights legislation.

And, it should be noted, in all fairness to Mr. Jackson, he probably does actually have a working knowlege, at least of a fragmentary kind, about civil rights law, having been an interested advocate on the issue for 40 or 50 years.
But that working knowlege comes from his actual experience, not from his status as an interested minority.

What, praytell, leads you assume that Andrew Sullivan is a legal expert? Can you site his previous analysis of legal cases as evidence of at least an amateur-level interest in the subject?

If you can't, could you please explain to us why you greet his claims with very little skepticism at all? Surely you can't imagine that homosexuals have an inborn expertise on legal analysis and precedent regarding gay issues.

Has he provided any legal citations for his claims? We haven't seen them. We stronlgy suspect there are no actual legal citations for any of these claims. We suspect his "source" for these claims is not anything to be found in the law at all; we think he just takes the HRC newsletter, adds some of his trademark ad hominem, and then prints it up as a legal analysis.

Here's a dandy little example of why you shouldn't blindly trust ignorant, dedicated advocates on questions involving the law. Seems some people claim and/or believe that failing to renew the Voting Rights Act of 1965 would result in blacks no longer having the right to vote.

Not true, of course. But the idea of it generates a lot of angry passion from concerned, but ignorant, citizens.

It's just too precious: The Shrill Sage accuses his enemies -- "theoconservatives," in his preferred cutesy name-calling fashion -- of having become "emotive."

Right, Sully. We wouldn't want any hysterical feminine emotion intruding into this rational back-and-forth we're having.

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posted by Ace at 03:03 PM

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