| 03.18.2018

Question of identity – Two conservatives debate societal value, implications of civil unions


While few would argue the necessity to protect civil rights, some would suggest civil homosexual unions weren’t a matter of rights, but morality. Two conservative Christians will explore the impact and value of homosexual marriage Feb. 27 in a debate titled, “Is Civil Marriage for Gay Couples Good for Society?”

Andrew Sullivan, a professed conservative and Roman Catholic Christian, will debate Christ Church pastor Douglas Wilson at 7:30 p.m. in the Student Union Building ballroom.

Sullivan is the author of the book “Virtually Normal,” a discussion of the range of viewpoints on homosexuality and his proposal for a conservative politic of non-discrimination. Currently “The Dish” blog editor and former editor for news-and-culture outfit “The New Republic,” Sullivan maintains that homosexuals should possess the same rights as heterosexuals, and any impingement on such rights violates the norms of a good society.

Wilson, professed evangelical Protestant Christian, debated the late Christopher Hitchens in the documentary film “Collision.” The two also co-authored a book entitled, “Is Christianity Good for the World?” Wilson maintains that the Bible is the basis for any good society and  the question of homosexual marriage isn’t one of inclusion or civil liberty.

“Civil rights for blacks make perfect sense because (skin pigmentation is) inborn and God-given,” Wilson said. “But if you say you deserve civil rights because of a set of moral behaviors you exhibit, I think you’re confusing the categories.”

Wilson said this issue is more significant than many people claim because it involves a bedrock shift in cultural thought and value. He said he doesn’t want homosexuals to be barred from loving each other, but redefinitions of marriage tug at the foundations of society.

Peter Hitchens, Christopher Hitchens’ brother and English foreign correspondent, author and journalist, will moderate the debate.

He said civil union discussions are much more politically one-sided in the United Kingdom, and marriage is a much looser institution there than in America. He said the religious perspectives of such debates are more active in this country, as religious positions on this issue in the UK come with intellectual stigmas. The worst approach to any debate is one with convictions already settled, he said, and he will challenge people to prove their open minds.

Hitchens said debate is one of the standout elements of modern culture and the occasion of two thoroughly opposed viewpoints coming together under reasonable analysis is an excellent educational tool. He said Sullivan brings some of the best arguments from the pro-union side, and he seems to have invented the conservative angle on the question. Hitchens hopes people will leave more educated than when they came in.

“You’re not just dealing with shouting campaigners — you’re dealing with intelligent people,” Hitchens said. “Neither of these people is a fool, and they know their texts and positions very well.”

Matt Maw can be reached at arg-news@uidaho.edu

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