Ross Douthat, conservative op-ed columnist for the New York Times, was made visibly uncomfortable for a moment while onstage last night at the New School’s Tishman auditorium. Having sailed through a discussion titled “Meet the Neo-Cons: They’re Young, They’re Bright, They Tilt to the Right” alongside his friend and co-author Reihan Salam (Grand New Party: How Republicans Can Save the Working Class and Save the American Dream), moderated by Marco Roth of n+1 magazine, Mr. Douthat became suddenly fidgety when asked to respond to a question from the audience on gay marriage.
The question came from Christopher Glazek, a fact-checker at The New Yorker, who wanted to know whether Mr. Douthat and Mr. Salam believed that former RNC chairman Ken Mehlman, who has apologized on behalf of his party for the Southern Strategy, should also apologize for the Republican party’s gay politics.
At first Mr. Douthat seemed unable to get a sentence out without interrupting himself and starting over. Then he explained: “I am someone opposed to gay marriage who is deeply uncomfortable arguing the issue in public.”
Mr. Douthat indicated that he opposes gay marriage because of his religious beliefs, but that he does not like debating the issue in those terms. At one point he said that, sometimes, he feels like he should either change his mind, or simply resolve never to address the question in public.
He added that the conservative opposition to gay marriage is “a losing argument,” and asked rhetorically if committed homosexual relationships ought to be denied the legal recognition accorded without hesitation to the fleeting enthusiasms of Britney Spears and Newt Gingrich.
After the panel, Mr. Douthat told the Observer: “If I were putting money on the future of gay marriage, I would bet on it.”
He added: “The secular arguments against gay marriage, when they aren’t just based on bigotry or custom, tend to be abstract in ways that don’t find purchase in American political discourse. I say, ‘Institutional support for reproduction,’ you say, ‘I love my boyfriend and I want to marry him.’ Who wins that debate? You win that debate.”
Marco Roth, editor-at-large for n+1, interrupted. “We’re taking you to Stonewall,” he told Mr. Douthat.
Actually, the columnists and their hosts decamped to the considerably more middle-of-the road bar on Christopher Square, Kettle of Fish.