This is the beginning of the gay responsibility agenda and the end of the gay rights agenda. It's about people being asked to be treated as adults. The fundamental responsibility that distinguishes an adult from a child is the responsibility to care for somebody else.

Do you think gay-marriage advocates have done a good job of presenting the issue?
It's presented as a civil-rights issue and that's important. It's just not sufficient. It's also a family policy issue and it's a morality issue. I don't think gay people can fully persuade America if we say, "It's a right we have. So what if you fear it will destroy marriage?" If gay marriage would destroy marriage, then it's not a right worth having-it's a self-defeating right.

So I think it's very important for people to understand that gay marriage is not an attack on marriage. If anything, it's likely to reinvigorate marriage by reinforcing its core principle that sex, love and marriage should go together-no exclusions, no exceptions. That's a principle we've gotten way away from, thanks to heterosexual abuse of marriage in the last 30 years. It's ironic to hear gay people who want into that traditional, conservative institution being told they're the threat.

Many people say, "Yes intellectually I think so but for some reason it just bugs me." Do you get that response? Do you find people who just sort of say, "It makes me uncomfortable."
I honor that reaction. This is a multi-millennium institution, which in Western culture is always between men and women. This is our bedrock institution of society and you don't mess with it lightly. It would be way too glib to say it's a civil right, let's just do it. That's why I favor the state-by-state approach. Plant the seed in the soil that's receptive and I think it will demonstrate very quickly that it's a positive sum game. Good for gays and for straights and for marriage.

You stress love, but for you the clincher seems to be the function of marriage in society, in an almost mechanistic way.
For me, the core purpose of marriage is to create family for everybody. That is the constant of marriage in our society. You don't have to have kids. You don't have to be fertile. But as a spouse you do have to be there-that's expected. And that's where society's interest lie. At some level society says, "Well, it's nice if people in a family love each other, but even if they don't if they are there for each other that's what we care about.

How do you see this rolling out?
You let the states work it out individually. Initially, Massachusetts is court ordered, but I think there's a very good chance that in 2006 the public in Massachusetts will support it in a constitutional referendum. Within ten years it's a pretty good bet that at least one state, maybe California for instance, will adopt gay marriage the old fashioned way--not through the courts, but they'll pass a bill and the governor will sign it.

But what about people who want to be married in Oklahoma?
They'll have to wait. It's a huge compromise, telling these millions of gay couples who have waited 3,000 years or 10,000 or a million or whatever and they're going to have to wait before their marriage in Massachusetts is recognized in any other state. They're going to be magically unmarried the minute they leave Massachusetts. But I honestly don't believe there are any shortcuts.

What's the best argument against gay marriage?
Probably the argument of unintended consequences which is, it's never been tried. It's a very important institution and what if we're not as smart as we think. Once it's out there it's really hard to get it back. We know that from divorce liberalization and from a number of other changes in society. That another reason not to do it by mandate. If tons of straight couples are going to break up as a result of gay marriage, we'll know that pretty soon. But I think what will happen instead is that people will discover that it's not a win-lose, it's a win-win.

What about those who say gay marriage might make the United States a better place in terms of social order, but who believe what gay people do is wrong?
Well, I've got news for them: Gay people are doing it anyway.

That's not really a moral argument: "Well they're doing it, we might as well make it legal."
Well, gay sex is now legal throughout the whole country and I don't hear anyone proposing to change that.

You should spend some time on my website.
Well, if the real agenda is to repress and stigmatize homosexuals, then what those people are saying is, "Let's use marriage as a weapon to make gay people suffer so that there will either be fewer of them, or so they'll go away and leave us alone. If that's what they're saying I can only reject that as deeply cruel and pointless.

If what they're saying is, look, I just don't think homosexuality is as good as heterosexuality on a moral plane, it's not the equal or the equivalent, that's different.

My message isn't that homosexuality is necessarily as good as heterosexuality. It's that marriage is better than nonmarriage. In a world with gay marriage, even people who think homosexuality is inferior will grow up thinking marriage is better than nonmarriage. I think that's a very positive message to send about marriage.