Gay Marriage Legal Impact: Van Capelle v. Louis

One of the more exciting conversational themes in Albany today is Errol Louis' column in the Daily News about gay marriage. In it, he writes that the effort to legalize gay marriage, which passed the state Assembly this week, has provided a template for efforts around the country to legalize polygamy and incest.

Gay marriage advocates have reacted furiously, with a number of them emailing and calling me to express their outrage.

Alan Van Capelle, executive director of the Empire State Pride Agenda, said, “I found it absolutely disgusting.” Capelle pointed out that the sexual deviants Louis cites in his column are actually all straight people.

“So don't drag us down with the bottom of the heterosexual group,” he said.

Louis, when told of Van Capelle’s comments, emailed me to say, “One possible response is dismissive ‘disgust.’ A more serious strategy would be to craft an argument for why stable, consensual, adult same-sex relationships should be recognized by the state but stable, consensual, adult sibling sexual relationships should not.”

Here's the full exchange:

Alan Van Capelle:

I actually found the column disgusting and I couldn't help but noting the picture in the paper of the wedding cake that had one man of color
and one Caucasian [because] the same arguments Errol seems to be making are the same arguments people made in Loving v. Virginia to ban interracial marriage.

I found it absolutely disgusting.

I'm just surprised that somebody who lives in a city as dynamic as New York can be seduced by stories of bestiality and incest And not one of the examples he mentioned are from my community. All of them happen to be straight people. So don't drag us down with the bottom of the heterosexual group. [NOTE: Bestiality was raised in Loving v. Virginia, but not Louis’ column, which discusses polygamy and incest.]

I guess Errol Louis doesn't mind standing with Dov Hikind, and I don't think that's where most people want to stand.

Errol Louis:

I'm sure many of my readers were as surprised as I was to discover that pro-polygamy and pro-incest groups and individuals are using the
hard-fought political, legal and cultural breakthroughs of the gay rights movement as a road map for how to achieve legal and cultural
recognition for their relationships.

I don't think that's a good thing, and I think it's a mistake for the architects of the gay marriage debate (including the recent Assembly
vote) to ignore it. When the issue makes it to Time magazine, it's safe to say the matter is up for debate.

One possible response is dismissive "disgust." A more serious strategy would be to craft an argument for why stable, consensual, adult same-sex relationships should be recognized by the state but stable, consensual, adult sibling sexual relationships should not. The same is true for polygamy, where some groups are arguing that their loving, consensual, adult relationships should be recognized – again, using the Loving case and the painstaking political groundwork of the gay rights movement as an argument and a roadmap.

Andrew Sullivan, interestingly, makes the case that same-sex marriages should be recognized and the legal door, frankly, should be slammed on these other relationships. That may be a tough argument to make for civil rights advocates who are normally in the habit of fighting to expand others' rights rather than limit them — although Alan van Capelle's scornful reference to "the bottom of the heterosexual group" suggests this may not be a difficult philosophical leap at all for some.

Resolving this doesn't have to be high on the agenda in New York, but it ought to be somewhere on the radar, in my opinion, since there are a lot of potential allies (including some of the pols who voted no or absent in the Assembly) who would like an answer that goes beyond name-calling.