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.

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  1. Profile Photo Inactive
    @TheKingPrawn

    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.

    I see this in my childrens’ schools. Diversity, tolerance, acceptance…all code words for approving of homosexual behavior regardless of the traditions or faith of the child who must be molded into society’s predetermined image.

    • #1
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    @tommeyer
    [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 ofpersons; we’re exercising our moral reason about the rightness and wrongness ofactions.

    I whole heatedly agree with the first sentence and wish that SSM proponents would drop this terrible argument (besides the reason listed above, I’m sure there’s not a gay person alive in America today who would willingly trade his position in 2012 for that of an African-American living under Jim Crow).  It’s a dishonest comparison.

    That said, it’s amazing how Reno declines to provide — at least in this selection — even a single argument for why homosexual action is immoral; it’s simply stated that it is.   Growing numbers of Americans — myself included — don’t share that assumption, so it’s no wonder the Left is able to get away with the kind of sloppy arguments that Reno (rightfully) calls out.

    • #2
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    @JosephEagar

    Oh wonderful.  Yet more political nihilists taking advantage of gay people in their never-ending war on bourgeois values.  They should be ashamed of themselves (though if they were, they wouldn’t be political nihilists).  These people won’t just increase discrimination against gay people by straight people, they’ll also increase discrimination of gay people by other, more flamboyant and “politically correct” gays.

    It makes me sick.

    • #3
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    @MichaelLukehart

    To the extent that the civil rights struggle deteriorated into an institutionalized version of special pleading and privilege, well, yes, it is turning into the “civil rights struggle” of our times.

    • #4
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    @Valiuth
    Peter Robinson: .  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.

    What exactly makes homosexuality immoral or any more immoral than other sex between adults? I mean how did any past anti-homosexuality laws and practices not resemble race laws. A lot of the basis of anti-homosexual sentiment to me does seem to stem from the idea that homosexuals are somehow innately disordered and unnatural. Despite recent attempts to divide the act from the people. I don’t see how one can say I accept gay people but not gay sex. Isn’t that like saying I accept heterosexuals but not straight sex? You can’t do it. 

    You either have to accept that gay people will have gay sex and that both are right and normal, or have to say both people and action are wrong. 

    • #5
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    @PaulARahe

    A friend recently told me that a Roman Catholic Cardinal whom he knows remarked to him a year or two agothat he expects to be the last Archbishop of the city wherein he is Archbishop to die in his bed.Chai Feldblum and those who stand with her mean business.

    It is in this context that we should consider the Hosanna-Tabor case and the HHS mandate.

    • #6
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    @MelFoil

    The difference is, the pioneers of the 1960’s Civil Rights Movement didn’t need to put any adult content warnings on the photos of their public gatherings:

    Image.jpg

    Link NOT provided.

    • #7
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    @AaronMiller
    Tom Meyer

    That said, it’s amazing how Reno declines to provide — at least in this selection — even a single argument for whyhomosexual action is immoral; it’s simply stated that it is.   Growing numbers of Americans — myself included — don’t share that assumption, so it’s no wonder the Left is able to get away with the kind of sloppy arguments that Reno (rightfully) calls out.

    That’s like calling an article on abortion sloppy because it only addresses the legal history and not the underlying moral debate. It’s a broad issue. There’s nothing remarkable about an article addressing only one aspect of it.

    There are plenty of arguments to be found which address the moral issue.

    Valiuth

    Isn’t that like saying I accept heterosexuals but not straight sex?

    No, it’s not. It’s more like acknowledging that an individual’s natural excess of testosterone can encourage self-destructive behaviors which should not be acted upon, or that a person prone to depression should resist related tendencies. Gays are not the only people who experience disordered desires based on unusual hormonal levels and brain chemistry.

    We merely refuse to pretend these are not disorders.

    • #8
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    @ScarletPimpernel

    One idea: Those who subscribe to the natural law teaching on this one should teach it to their children, and encourage them to make the argument when homosexuality comes up in sex ed classes.   Should the teacher object, defend the right to speek freely, and the importance of diversity in school.

    • #9
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    @Aodhan

    I sense a long thread coming…

    • #10
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    @MelFoil

    On issues of faith and morals, my personal Supreme Court remains the Holy See. That’s a court that Barack Obama (or some other reckless Progressive in the White House) can’t pack.

    • #11
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    @FredCole

    Same-sex marriage is the civil rights issue of our time.  The arguments against ssm are the same arguments used to support laws against miscegenation.  

    Conservatives were on the wrong side of civil rights last time too.

    • #12
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    @LadyBertrum

    The problem is in what is behavior and what is the authentic self.  Conservatives try to make the distinctions about behavior.  Gays (most) don’t believe homosexuality is a behavior; they believe it is who they are and how they were born. 

    Conservatives will lose this agrument as long as they persist in trying to seperate the sin from the sinner.

    • #13
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    @GabyCharing

    Many of you, people of faith, believe that homosexual acts are wrong. Why should that belief of yours determine what my rights are? I don’t share your faith and I reject the idea homosexuality is abnormal and homosexual acts wrong. As I have said before on Ricochet, my sexual orientation is normal and natural for me and millions of other gay people. I defend your right to live your lives as you wish; please allow me to do the same. But I can’t live my life as I wish unless I have legal recognition of my relationship, as you do. Although for Christians (including gay Christians) marriage is a sacrament, marriage as a social and legal institution is not historically a religious but a secular institution. No church should be obliged to marry same-sex couples, but same-sex couples must have the right to marry, and those churches that wish to do so should have the right to marry them. Equality before the law is a basic human right and the fight for that equality is indeed a fight for civil rights.

    • #14
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    @LibertyDude

    I’ve never understood the biologic argument for homosexuality.  How would such a gene propagate itself?

    If there’s a genetic basis for alcoholism, does that mean the state should take steps to encourage an alcoholic’s habit?  With Lady Betrum’s point, what if the alcoholic associates his alcoholism with his “authentic self,” is judgement appropriate in that case?

    Just asking.

    • #15
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    @tommeyer
    Aaron Miller

    Tom Meyer

    That said, it’s amazing how Reno declines to provide — at least in this selection — even a single argument for whyhomosexual action is immoral; it’s simply stated that it is.   Growing numbers of Americans — myself included — don’t share that assumption, so it’s no wonder the Left is able to get away with the kind of sloppy arguments that Reno (rightfully) calls out.

    That’s like calling an article on abortion sloppy because it only addresses the legal history and not the underlying moral debate. It’s a broad issue. There’s nothing remarkable about an article addressing only one aspect of it.

    Fair point.  Let me try this again:

    Reno’s argument would be even stronger had she pointed out that one needn’t think homosexuality is inherently immoral to see how flawed the Civil Rights analogy is.

    • #16
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    @Valiuth
    Aaron Miller

    Valiuth

    Isn’t that like saying I accept heterosexuals but not straight sex?

    No, it’s not. It’s more like acknowledging that an individual’s natural excess of testosterone can encourage self-destructive behaviors which should not be acted upon, or that a person prone to depression should resist related tendencies. Gays are not the only people who experience disordered desires based on unusual hormonal levels and brain chemistry.We merely refuse to pretend these are not disorders. · 12 minutes ago

    Why would you call homosexuality a disorder? Depression leads people into clearly harmful behavior and thoughts. They become unable to function in normal society, and even commit suicide. I know several gay people and their sexuality seems to have no discernible effect on their ability to function. This is the major reason homosexuality was removed as a medical condition. 

    Does it deviate from the 90% of normal human behavior, yah…but so does being left handed. No one seems to think that a sign of anything particularly sinister or troubling. 

    • #17
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    @AaronMiller

    Gaby, every legal privilege related to marriage (hospital visitation rights, for example) can be provided without it.

    What the “gay rights” movement is about is not legal rights but validation by society, because marriage is inherently public. The goal is to change what we call marriage and to eliminate the stigma against gay sex.

    We will not be forced to normalize gay sex and gay unions.

    • #18
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    @ScarletPimpernel

    “Authentic self”?  But the idea that we are “selves” is a modern construct.  It’s not eternal and natural, or even something that will exist in every society. It has not always existed in our society.

    And why is public recognition of couples essential?  How are rights deprived in the absense of laws against sodomy?

    • #19
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    @MelFoil
    Gaby Charing: Many of you, people of faith, believe that homosexual acts are wrong. Why should that belief of yours determine what my rights are?………….

    We live in a democracy. If the US Constitution hasn’t given any special protection to homosexuals, as they have to racial or religious minorities, then your “rights” (as a homosexual) are whatever 51% of the legislature is prepared to give you. That’s how our democracy works. In years past, there were blue laws that kept businesses from opening on Sunday, but they went away because the public changed their mind. Some prohibitions are just a matter of current public opinion, and “homosexual rights” are in that category. Maybe you can turn homosexuality into a religion, and then you’d have some constitutional rights. Good luck with that.

    • #20
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    @Valiuth
    Liberty Dude: I’ve never understood the biologic argument for homosexuality.  How would such a gene propagate itself?

    If there’s a genetic basis for alcoholism, does that mean the state should take steps to encourage an alcoholic’s habit?

    Just asking. · 4 minutes ago

    Edited 1 minute 

    First of all it is not very clear to what extent genetics plays in determining homosexuality. It probably plays some part, but to what extent is impossible to pin down. The big thing to know is that there is no such thing as a gay “gene”, any more than there is a smart gene, white gene, religious gene, or any such thing. Human sexuality is highly complicated trait, with lots of genes and environmental factors involved in shaping it.

    Again alcoholism is clearly self destructive substance abuse, which is why we work hard to make sure people with this problem get treatment. Homosexuality is not the same thing at all. You can turn sex in to a problem for yourself but I don’t think that is limited to just gay sex.  

    • #21
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    @ScarletPimpernel

    Statistically speaking, there are not that many homosexuals in America. From that perspective, gay marriage is not a major issue–unless it helps to weaken the institution more.

    How about a trade-off.  Legalize marriage for any two adults who are not close relatives and who are not already married.  And, step two, make adultery actionable again.  Some advocates of gay marriage have suggested that sexual exclusivity won’t be the same as it is for heterosexual couples. I might be  willing to negotiate who may be parties to the marriage, but not the idea that the couple is exclusive. 

    • #22
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    @JamesOfEngland
    Gaby Charing: Many of you, people of faith, believe that homosexual acts are wrong. Why should that belief of yours determine what my rights are? I don’t share your faith and I reject the idea homosexuality is abnormal and homosexual acts wrong. As I have said before on Ricochet, my sexual orientation is normal and natural for me and millions of other gay people. I defend your right to live your lives as you wish; please allow me to do the same. But I can’t live my life as I wish unless I have legal recognition of my relationship, as you do.

    Equality before the law is a basic human right and the fight for that equality is indeed a fight for civil rights. ·

    In what sense can’t you live your life as you wish without legal ratification of your marriage?

    Marriage aside, it was my recollection that you were partly with Peter on this. Legislation preventing discrimination by private individuals isn’t an area where “you do your thing and I do mine” applies. The whole “your right to swing your fist ends at my nose” line of thinking creates an inevitable bilateral tension.

    • #23
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    @LibertyDude

    Valiuth,

    I agree that homosexual acts are not destructive by themselves.  However, I think the modern social concept of it is destructive.  Convince young folks that they have been predetermined to be gay/straight is highly deleterious.  If you look at the development of fetishes they take time to develop, much like drug habits, or any other habit for that matter.  It’s a culmination of many choices over time.

    Simply telling someone that they are predetermined to follow a certain path would make someone who has urges at one point in time resign themselves to a certain fate, which they may not have chosen had they known they could exercise self control.

    • #24
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    @GabyCharing
    Aaron Miller: 

    We will not be forced to normalize gay sex and gay unions. · 11 minutes ago

    “We” will not be forced. Who is this “we”? You speak as if you own the whole USA.

    • #25
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    @AaronMiller

    It’s important to note that homosexual desires can be strongly encouraged by a genetic predisposition but are not insurmountable or even immutable.

    This is similar to other psychological disorders, like depression. A person can be born with a strong genetic inclination to pessimistic and self-abusive thoughts. Some people cannot entirely eliminate such thoughts even with counseling and medication. But most depressed people can moderate their condition — sometimes  with great success — through development of psychological habits and/or chemical supplements.

    Ex-gays exist. Human beings are not defined by our genes alone. We are defined first and foremost by our choices. We each inherit certain struggles, but some must struggle more than others.

    I have Asperger’s Syndrome and depression. I have relatives with conditions from bipolar disorder to schizophrenia. While I don’t know what it’s like to struggle with homosexuality, I certainly understand what it’s like to acknowledge my own rare and natural desires as disordered and to resist them, both for myself and for others.

    • #26
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    @MelFoil

    Marriage is more (or should be) than just two people having the same private hobby. Real marriage is the foundation of human civilization, and that’s why people (most people) care about it.

    • #27
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    @AaronMiller
    Gaby Charing

    Aaron Miller: 

    We will not be forced to normalize gay sex and gay unions.

    “We” will not be forced. Who is this “we”? You speak as if you own the whole USA.

    The majority of Americans — the voters who rejected state referendums across the country (even in California!) which proposed applying the term “marriage” to gay unions.

    • #28
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    @Douglas
    Valiuth

    You either have to accept that gay people will have gay sex and that both are right and normal, or have to say both people and action are wrong.  · 1 hour ago

    The difference is that immoral conduct is fine… to a point… in one’s own home. If two guys want to do immoral things to each other, have at it. They can say it isn’t really immoral, and I can say that it is, and no harm, no foul. It’s quite different when those guys then demand the right to change social institutions in place since civilization itself, and further, demand that I endorse it or be labeled as the immoral, abnormal one. I don’t give a damn what you do in your own home. Don’t tell me I have to endorse it or give it moral value though.

    • #29
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    @JamesOfEngland
    Gaby Charing

    Aaron Miller: 

    We will not be forced to normalize gay sex and gay unions. · 11 minutes ago

    “We” will not be forced. Who is this “we”? You speak as if you own the whole USA. · 8 minutes ago

    Aaron is not every American, and does not own even a significant portion of the country (assuming he’s not a billionaire’s pseudonym), but, as the first person plural suggests, he is one of them. If Americans are not forced through discrimination law to do something, Aaron can gramatically make his claim without an obvious problem.

    If your point is that many Americans already face these kinds of discrimination laws at a state level (and, indeed, to a lesser extent, at a federal level), then I’d agree that Aaron’s statement is overbroad.  I don’t see how it implies ownership of anything but his own identity, though.

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