The day TIME called me back

No, this is not some esoteric riff on metaphysics or overwrought romantic sci-fi concepts. I mean literally, I got a call back from TIME--as in, the magazine.

Specifically, I came back from my honeymoon to find a voicemail from the Caitlin Flanagan of my recent post on how marriage is doing, and how much it matters to the state of our nation. Ms. Flanagan is the author of the piece titled, "Why Marriage Matters."

Now, I need to say something right off the bat. Two somethings, actually. The first is a basic assumption that the woman who left the voicemail actually is Caitlin Flanagan. The second is that, agree/disagree/miss the point entirely, Flanagan deserves credit and respect for making a call to a fairly insignificant voice in the blogosphere and responding both subtantively and convivially. She could have gotten a wild hair up her ass like my anonymous commenter did on the first post, but she didn't. And I respect her for having the integrity to interact with me on a higher road.

However, she misses my point entirely.

"You're exactly right that marriage is really in excellent health," she says. I agree that the institution of marriage is not teetering on the brink, but my point was not so much that marriage is alive and well but that it's not the culture-crushing causation of "hardship and human misery" that Flanagan thinks it is.

She pins the bleakness of her statistics on "repeat divorcers" skewing the curve. Okay. That might be true. You know what can't hurt, then? Standing up and saying that every American couple should have the right to establish a legally-recognized union. But Flanagan didn't mention the affect gay marriage would have on her assessment of the State of Our Unions, and she didn't mention it in her message to me.

To bemoan this perceived "ambivalence" toward marriage and not discuss the scores of gay couples in the United States wishing they could have a recognized relationship is like wishing more people visited your house while you have a barbed wire fence around the perimeter of your yard.

And I'd be fine, by the way, in legally divorcing the term "marriage" from whatever federal name someone wants to apply to the legal act of coupledom. Marriage is for the churches to handle, and if they want to have a No Coloreds/No Jews/No Queers policy, then go right ahead.

I can't recall where I read this recently, but there's a bon mot from Napoleon that goes, "Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake." If the churches want to be bigoted and closed-minded, let them make that bed and lie in it. Meanwhile, churches like the United Church of Christ can stand up and announce that all are welcome, and look very intelligent and compassionate for doing so.

I'm happy to see, by the way, that TIME's readers got the same itchy feeling I did when they read Flanagan's article. While the unfortunately-named Mandi Mangler "applaud[s] TIME and Caitlin Flanagan for highlighting the strong case for marriage" (another one who doesn't get it), five the other seven letters express different facets of the same argument I made.

George Kalmar, Pacific Palisades, CA: "Flanagan grossly understates the complexity of the causes of infidelity and divorce in the U.S." Irene Burkhard in Becket, MA, and Shannon Sawicki of San Francisco were insulted that Flanagan would be so dismissive of childless marriages. Clifton Snider from Long Beach and Karen Baker from Cottage Grove, WI (yeah, home state!) brought up the glaring omission of gay marriage. Clifton says it pretty succinctly: "Once again, I notice a major story that reads as if I, a gay man, do not exist. Today such an omission is inexcusable."

So thanks, Caitlin, for the call, the politeness, and the well-wishes for the future health of my new marriage. But please read my posts again, and understand that pinning the health of marriage in America on just us staights stickin' it out and makin' babies is becoming more and more antiquated every day.


ADDED: And hey, look at that. Today, news has reached The Advocate that Jerry Nadler (D-NY8), Jared Polis (D-CO2), and our gal Tammy Baldwin (D-WI2) will be introducing a bill aimed at repealing the "Defense of Marriage" Act. One of the more disappointing aspects of the Clinton presidency, DOMA looks to be opposed by 50 or more congresspeople when it is officially circulated for co-sponsorship.