As we endure the oral arguments over California’s Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act in the Supreme Court this week, things are likely to get a little chippy here on Ricochet. This site often acts as a mirror of the conservative movement itself, and we’ve seen, essentially from the day we opened our virtual doors, that there are few issues that engender as much protracted debate here as gay marriage.
Now, I’ll confess up front that I favor gay marriage as a policy matter (the legal arguments before the Court are a different issue altogether). If you want to litigate that point in the comments, fine, but we’ve been down that road a million times before and I think the arguments are pretty well-rehearsed. You either think the definition of marriage is fixed as a metaphysical matter or that it’s capable of evolution. For what it’s worth, I’ve found the arguments on this site for the position contrary to mine better than what I’ve found virtually anywhere else.
There seems to be a growing recognition amongst both supporters and detractors, however, that this increasingly looks like a fait accompli. Even if the Supreme Court doesn’t advance the ball down the field, the sea change in public opinion seems to presage a day in the not-too-distant future when gay marriage will be something approaching the norm. Which is why all of us on the right would do well to heed Erick Erickson’s message over at RedState:
Once the world decides that real marriage is something other than natural or Godly, those who would point it out must be silenced and, if not, punished. The state must be used to do this. Consequently, the libertarian pipe dream of getting government out of marriage can never ever be possible.
Within a year or two we will see Christian schools attacked for refusing to admit students whose parents are gay. We will see churches suffer the loss of their tax exempt status for refusing to hold gay weddings. We will see private businesses shut down because they refuse to treat as legitimate that which perverts God’s own established plan. In some places this is already happening.
Christians should, starting yesterday, work on a new front. While we should not stop the fight to preserve marriage, and we may be willing to compromise on civil unions, we must start fighting now for protections for religious objectors to gay marriage.
Churches, businesses, and individuals who refuse to accept gay marriage as a legitimate institution must be protected as best we can. Those protections will eventually crumble as the secular world increasingly fights the world of God, but we should institute those protections now and pray they last as long as possible.
Now, I obviously don’t share Erickson’s core convictions about marriage and there are several parts of his commentary that I find overwrought (including his title, “Gay Marriage and Religious Freedom Are Not Compatible” — if that’s the case, one wonders what the point of his exhortation in those last two paragraphs above is). I also think both the time frame and some of the examples are probably excessively pessimistic. But I think he’s right about the underlying dynamic.
Just a few years ago, this may have seemed hyperbolic. But that was before HHS was requiring employers to underwrite contraception, the EEOC was seeking to classify a failure to hire ex-cons as a “disparate impact” violation, and a Christian wedding photographer in New Mexico was being accused of discrimination for refusing to shoot a gay wedding. The left never seems to be happy until they’ve forced people who disagree with them to sacrifice their rights to free association on the altar of tolerance (“tolerance” defined by the left as the capacity to shut up on command).
I want a “leave me alone” society — one where Christian schools can turn people away for rejecting their doctrine, just as gay rights groups can reject those who don’t share their beliefs. I don’t want us all to get along — not because I’m misanthropic (well, not just because I’m misanthropic), but because I know that “consensus” is usually a fancy word for muting minority viewpoints. I want us all to be free to be annoyed with each other from our separate corners. Is that too much to ask?
On the core point, Erickson is right. The coming fight is preserving what’s left of the rights of free association and conscience. That fight, in my judgment, has much more to do with the preservation of basic American liberties than the one playing out in the Supreme Court this week.