Same Sex Marriage one day on

Having skimmed the opinions and read a good bit of commentary I'm sure I have nothing interesting to add about the Supreme Court decisions on same sex marriage yesterday.

But a trivia question: who is the most influential lay Catholic intellectual in the United States over the past fifteen years?

Lots of nominees, I'm sure. I'm wondering, though, if fifty years from now  we'll think it's  Andrew Sullivan. Sullivan made one of the first "conservative" cases for gay civil rights and ultimately gay marriage in his Virtually Normal. It's striking that he has always drawn on Catholic resources, admittedly not always orthodox  resources, including a lovely initial review in The New Republic on, of all things, the Catholic catechism.

Sullivan's interests are wide ranging and sometimes vulgar (in a cheerful way) as evidenced on his hugely influential blog. I'm struck, though, by how arguably the country's most prominent advocate for gay marriage first reacts -- he is liveblogging -- to the Kennedy majority opinion striking down DOMA.

Here's Sullivan:
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11.23 am. Some have noticed how often Anthony Kennedy used the word “dignity” in his ruling. My own impression of the text is to note how Catholic it is. I mean by Catholic the sense of concern for the dignity of human beings that still resonates among the average Catholic population and, mercifully, now with the new Pope. This is the true measure of our shared faith: not a desire to use its doctrines to control or constrain the lives of others, but seeking always to advance the common good while leaving no one behind. No one.

The Church hierarchy’s Ratzingerian turn against this minority in 1986, its subsequent callous indifference to us during the plague years, its rigid clinging to 13th Century natural law rather than what or rather who was right in front of them … these were all tragic failures from the top. But not in the pews; not among lay Catholics; not among many of our families and friends. And that humane Catholicism is embedded in paragraph after paragraph of Kennedy’s text. He is talking about us, our relationships and our children as if we were human beings made in the same image of God with inalienable dignity.

It will one day – perhaps even today – seem banal. And it is. But to get to that banality required a revolution.

John T. McGreevy is the I.A. O'Shaughnessy Dean of the College of Arts and Letters and Professor of History at the University of Notre Dame.

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