Civil Rights, Gay Rights, and a New Phase in the Culture War
In the May edition of First Things, R. R. Reno presents an editorial that strikes me as entirely correct--and thoroughly ominous. Excerpts:
Last summer, New York's mayor Michael Bloomberg gave a speech in advance of the close vote in the New York state legislature that decided that men have a right to marry men and women women. He described the fight for same-sex marriage as "the great civil-rights issue of our times...."
[But the]...belief that homosexual acts are immoral is not the same kind of claim as the belief that black people are inferior because they are black. When we deem homosexual acts immoral, we are not stigmatizing a class of persons; we're exercising our moral reason about the rightness and wrongness of actions. Unlike racism, principled opposition to homosexual rights has a firm basis. It's normal to judge behavior, including...sexual behavior. That's why describing homosexual acts as immoral is not at all like calling black men and women inferior.
To merge sexual liberation into the civil-rights movement dramatically raises the stakes in public debate. The Selma analogy [that is, comparing the gay rights movement with the civil rights marches from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama] makes traditional views of sexual morality as noxious as racism, and in so doing encourages progressives to adopt something like a total-war doctrine. The implication is that people who hold such views should have no voice in American society and that homosexuality should be aggressively affirmed in our public and private institutions, while dissent is punished.
Chai Feldblum [pictured here] is an Obama appointee to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission....She sees the future this way: "Positive changes in the moral values of our country--such as moral values that honor the love between two people, regardless of their gender--will inherently and necessarily pose a challenge to those who believe, for religious or other reasons, that such love is sinful...." [W]hen asked her opinion on the conflict between homosexual rights and the moral commitments of religious institutions she insisted that "in almost all cases sexual liberty should win, because that's the only way that the dignity of gay people can be affirmed in any realistic manner." It's a frank statement that clarifies how few restraints progressives feel once they are convinced that they are fighting for "the great civil-rights issue of our times...."
I fear that we are entering into a new phase of the culture war...The Selma analogy gives [progressives]...a rationale for deploying the vast coercive power of the civil-rights apparatus to serve their moral vision of sexual liberation. It's a prospect that will give an even more literal meaning to the dictatorship of relativism.