Gay Marriage: Recriminations Edition

April 10, 2013

You know a movement thinks it has achieved total victory when it moves on to the recriminations phase of operations against dissenters and enemies. Here’s the American Prospect’s the Atlantic’s Garance Franke-Ruta wondering what should be done with those once appeared on The List as a result of deviationist thinking:

And so the question arises: How does America address its homophobic past as it moves forward into a more tolerant future? If American views on gays have changed — and they have, with shocking rapidity — that means there are a lot of people in this country who used to hold more deeply anti-gay views than they do today, and who may be ashamed of what they once thought and said in what now seems a distant and unenlightened era. . . .

Most such people have had the privilege of a private life, where their participation in an ugly ideology that diminished and damaged gay people is something they speak of only in conversation with friends, or recall within the inmost sanctuary of their own thoughts.

But some people have been living public lives a long time, and have left a very public paper trail of their expressions of discomfort and distaste. What is the proper response to the discovery of such information?

My reading of Franke-Ruta’s piece–and I may be wrong here–is that she magnanimously thinks we ought to forgive the sins of those who once expressed doubt about the perfect wisdom and goodness of same-sex marriage. Which is a relief. I suspect that before the week is out, someone on the left will respond to her taking the hardline view.

In a way, this is just further confirmation of Chris Caldwell’s insightful Claremont Review piece on gay marriage–which I really cannot recommend highly enough. It’s one of the best pieces on the subject. I’ll tease just a bit:

When elites rally unanimously to a cause, it can become a kind of common sense. The upwardly mobile parts of democratic publics emulate their “betters.” They quell their natural misgivings. Those who do not quell their misgivings, therefore, look like losers. There is a first-they-came-for-the-Communists element to this shift—a lot of people worried about saying something un-chic assume that there will always be someone more conservative, more heedless of his social position, ready to come out of the “woodwork” to take the heat in front of public opinion. But Rush Limbaugh now supports civil unions and Glenn Beck opines that gay marriage “isn’t hurting anybody.”

The elite view thus becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. The referendum victories that gay marriage won in Maine, Maryland, and Washington state in November may be its first three victories, yet they seem to count more than its three dozen defeats. The push for gay marriage in the U.S. resembles the European Union’s attempts to spread its influence through referenda. “Yes” and “No” are taken to mean “Yes Forever” and “No for Now.” The debate is sown with taboos the instant the slightest formal assent is granted. In real life, the heroic endurance of a democratic opposition does not last long. When they discover their consistently expressed votes to be unavailing, people lose interest in casting them. Sometimes they turn against democracy. More often they tune out of the political system altogether.

Where this assent to elite views on gay marriage does not arise spontaneously, it can be imposed. The state of California now bans therapies that seek to reorient homosexuals towards heterosexual behavior, on the grounds that doing so is psychologically damaging. The more likely objection is that the therapies challenge the conception that there are only two sexual orientations, “homosexual” and “heterosexual,” and that they are of absolutely unwavering constancy. This conception is false. In fact, the gay-rights movement itself used to stress the polymorphousness of human sexuality, back when the movement was focused more on liberation. But it has different rhetorical needs now, chief among them to convince parents that there is no danger of their children being proselytized about homosexuality in school.

The most troubling aspect of the gay-marriage movement is that, more than any social movement in living memory, more than feminism at its bra-burning peak in the 1970s, it aims not to engage in lively debate but to shut it down. Scurrility has become a norm. In April 2009, Miss California, Carrie Prejean, told a Miss America judge she thought marriage should be between a man and a woman and got called a “dumb bitch” for it on the judge’s website. If it is now easier to call people dumb bitches, then it makes no sense at all to extol the gay marriage movement as a moral advance.

Shutting down debate can be more effectively done now that the internet has solved the organizing problem of mobs. Anyone who expresses the slightest misgivings about gay marriage can become the object of boycotts, blacklists, and attempts to get him fired. Restaurant chain Chick fil-A was boycotted when its chief operating officer speculated that gay marriage might be “inviting God’s wrath.” A theater director in Sacramento resigned his post after having been shown to be a donor to Proposition 8. The law firm King & Spalding refused to allow Paul Clement permission to defend the federal Defense of Marriage Act on behalf of the House of Representatives. Defending O.J. Simpson will not get you booted from your firm, but defending a federal law will. Most companies are probably brave enough to defend their employees’ freedom of opinion, but cowardice of King & Spalding’s sort risks becoming the norm.

There’s a lot more. Read it all.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

AKB1 April 10, 2013 at 4:56 pm

I read in the most recent American Medical News (a publication of the American Medical Association) that the AMA and the American Academy of Pediatrics, both organizations to which I belong, submitted testimony in the recent Supreme Court cases. I have no strong objection to this action. However, I wish the AAP would make its case, without proclaiming that it is scientifically proven that children benefit from being raised by two parents in stable “relationships” regardless of the parents’ gender. As I have previously noted, the troubling implication of this statement is that children receive no advantage from being raised by their biological parents. But if that is the case, then how can we argue that biological fathers have a responsibility toward their children? Why should a man marry the woman he has impregnated, if it makes no difference to the welfare of his child?
I remember a man who told me, by way of explanation as to why he was participating in the care of his newborn child, which participation was somewhat unusual in the socioeconomic and cultural milieu in which he lived, “I’m just trying to do the right thing, to be a good father.” But according to the AAP, that man was mistaken, because his baby didn’t need him around: children don’t need fathers.

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ben h April 11, 2013 at 5:33 pm

We’re still deep in the ‘its different now’ phase of mandatory un-cynicism towards homosexual behavior and relationships. I still see a lot of time before the ‘why didn’t anyone warn us’ phase begins. Maybe a decade or so.

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