The GOP and Social Issues: Confronting the Gay Marriage Question

Moreover, the fact that marriage and the traditional family constitute the optimal societal building block does not mean other kinds of family arrangements cannot work. We damn well better hope they can. As the Center for Equal Opportunity’s Roger Clegg points out, the latest appalling data indicate that over 40 percent of all births in the United States are now out-of-wedlock. Among blacks and native Americans (American Indians and Alaskans), the figures are a mindboggling 72 and 67 percent, respectively. For Hispanics, it is 54 percent; for whites, nearly 30 percent; and for Asians/Pacific Islanders, 17 percent.

Regardless of my intellectual misgivings about gay marriage, it is not rational to obsess over a small number of people who want state validation for loving relationships that promote stability when we are in the midst of unprecedented social instability -- and all the disorder that comes with it.

What about the slippery slope to polygamy, etc. (a question made more relevant by Bryan’s valid point about never-ending surrenders)? I am not overly concerned about it as long as gay marriage is enacted politically rather than imposed by courts purporting to discover constitutional rationales.

Politics is about social tranquility. In a political process, it is permissible to compromise, to draw lines that the people want drawn for cultural and other practical reasons. Political solutions do not require today’s accommodation to lead to the next logical accommodation. In this way, politics is saliently different from jurisprudence. Courts construing legal provisions must, in the absence of guidance by the lawmakers, search for limiting principles. Unlike lawmakers, they are not limited by “the art of the possible”; they are bound to go where law and logic take them. That is a big part of why free people should limit the areas of life subject to control by politically unaccountable judges. At any rate, if gay marriage were lawfully enacted by referendum or legislation, it should be with the caveat that courts have no jurisdiction to expand it.

Furthermore, just as marriage is rooted in human nature, I also believe homosexuality is a natural human condition, albeit one that applies to an extremely small percentage of people. Of that small population, some markedly smaller percentage desires committed, monogamous relationships analogous to marriage. Their number is too negligible to threaten the institution of marriage, the family, and religious liberty. Or at least it should be if all we are talking about is according them marital status and its legal privileges (for tax, inheritance and similar purposes).

Here, we get to the crux of the matter. My reservations aside, I would be completely indifferent to gay marriage if it were just about a few gay people trying to pursue happiness. Alas, it is not. It is the leading edge of a political agenda -- a grossly intolerant agenda masquerading as the avatar of tolerance.

The Left and its gay activists do not want to “coexist.”

They won’t take tolerance or acceptance for an answer. They demand approval and endorsement. They seek to deracinate Western culture from its Judeo-Christian fundament by slandering it as hate-based discrimination. I don’t understand why we abide such arrogance. I don’t expect my views to win everyone’s approval, just their tolerance. No one has a right to more than that, and I fail to see why gay people should not be content with it.

Given the metastasis of out-of-wedlock births, responsible adoption agencies are more essential than ever. Yet Catholic Charities, which has been extraordinary in filling this need, is being forced to shutter its affiliates in various states because, consistent with Catholic doctrine, it will not arrange adoptions for same-sex couples. Similarly, providers of other services (wedding photographers, catering halls, realtors, and the like) who object to gay marriage on religious grounds are being coerced to serve same-sex couples or face the prospect of being sued and shut down.

This ought to be unacceptable. There are adoption agencies and plenty of service providers who would be not just willing but anxious to have business from gay people. Respecting the right of religious believers not to abet arrangements they sincerely believe to be sinful would no more harm gay people than reluctantly accepting a state’s decision to recognize gay marriage would harm these religious believers. Gay activists demand respect, but they will not reciprocate.

To be sure, religious believers tend to object to gay marriage (but to harbor fewer reservations about “domestic partnership” arrangements that grant same sex couples legal privileges on a par with marriage). Yet, though there are exceptions and extremes, I believe they would accept -- not approve but accept -- gay marriage if: (a) it were legitimately adopted by popular vote or the state legislative process, and (b) its enactment explicitly recognized the right of religious objectors to refrain from violating their beliefs.

In my opinion, young voters -- not all of them or perhaps even most of them, but a fair amount of them -- could be persuaded that this is a reasonable compromise. More to the point, they could be persuaded that the counter-cultural demands of gay activists are an unreasonable restriction on freedom of conscience. I’m not sure whether Roger or Bryan would agree. Nor do I know how representative my position is of what conservatives generally, or social conservatives in particular, think.