Enlightened Elites Are Kindly Granting You A Grace Period In Which to Dissent — Merina Smith

 

What do you think of the public statement signed by a cadre of intellectuals entitled Freedom to Marry, Freedom to Dissent: Why We Must Have BothThe statement, signed by supporters of gay marriage, calls for more tolerance in the debate over the issue, pointing to recent incidents like the controversy surrounding Brendan Eich:

We support same-sex marriage; many of us have worked for it, in some cases for a large portion of our professional and personal lives. We affirm our unwavering commitment to civic and legal equality, including marriage equality. At the same time, we also affirm our unwavering commitment to the values of the open society and to vigorous public debate—the values that have brought us to the brink of victory.

It is admirable that the well-respected signatories are calling for tolerance, but I am less than impressed with their statement. First, they repeat that deceptive little slogan “marriage equality” in a celebratory way, as if it really explained or illuminated anything. Can these smart people be unaware that equality simply means treating like things alike? The question, which has never been answered satisfactorily by anyone on that side of the debate, is what is the significance of the differences, particularly for children? Might there be a good reason why sexual unions that produce children should be treated differently than those that can’t? That nasty little question-begging slogan “marriage equality” has in fact been a means of preventing discussion about the real issues at stake.

I do like their next point, that diversity is the natural consequence of liberty. They also say that this entails paying serious attention to the arguments of those they oppose. That’s good. Would that they would do so.

But since they assert unequivocally throughout the piece that they all support redefining marriage and are certain that this course is correct — without ever acknowledging that there might be some good reasons that marriage has always been limited to connecting males and females — one has to doubt that they have taken their opposition seriously, especially when they claim that “free speech created the social space for us to criticize and demolish the arguments against gay marriage and LGBT equality.” Uh, might there be some hubris going on here? The term “marriage equality” demolished no arguments, just avoided them.

Similarly, their use of judges to force their will on people who had voted against their side is not “demolishing” any sort of argument. In fact, Justice Kennedy’s shameful claim that there can be no reason besides animus against gays (read: “hate,” the queen of all delegitimizing words) is similarly a way to avoid dealing with objections and arguments. The myriad questions in this debate about social understandings and processes, fathers and mothers, family, and children and the importance of embedding them as often as possible in biological families have not been addressed. They tout the value of free speech without acknowledging their own complicity in subverting it on behalf of the cause they so self-righteously proclaim.

Then there’s this little gem:

We prefer debate that is respectful, but we cannot enforce good manners. We must have the strength to accept that some people think misguidedly and harmfully about us. But we must also acknowledge that disagreement is not, itself, harm or hate.

Nice of them to say that those of us who disagree with them are not necessarily, per se, causing them “harm or hate”, but we are lacking in manners and are obviously misguided. Yup—that’s a time-honored way to respect the opinions of others and foster debate. Having lived through the run-up to Prop 8 here in California and observed the situation since, I can tell you that the lack of manners is preponderantly on their side.

They end with an appeal for tolerance of opposing views—no one should lose their job (as Brendan Eich did) because they donated to Prop 8‚but there are limits to their patience. Their last passage reads, “we place our confidence in persuasion, not punishment. We believe it is the only truly secure path to equal rights.” In other words, they can put up with us for now, but if we aren’t eventually brought around by their wonderful patient persuasion, well… you kind of get the idea that what they’re asking for is a grace period during which the benighted ideas of their opponents can become so beyond the pale that no one will dare express them.

Don’t get me wrong. I actually do appreciate that they have released this statement, because it is much better than the desired course of the witch-hunting, take-no-prisoners wing of their coalition. But while patronizing statements are better than nothing, it would be far better to finally actually have the debate that they claim is over.

 

There are 83 comments.

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  1. civil westman Inactive

    Excellent points, especially the hubris inherent in permitting us to dissent, which conservatives understand as an inalienable right. Not long ago, permission to dissent was unnecessary.

    Recently, statists have escalated from mere moral superiority and condescension to actively attempting to suppress any and all opposition to liberal dogma. The seeds were sewn with the label “hate speech” and the weeds are spreading like PC kudzu. This is a dangerous tactic, as exemplified by an analysis of Germany’s descent into tyranny in the 1930’s.

    Freedom of speech is not only a moral value. It is a practical one. The inability to openly dissent leads only in one direction: toward violence. Leftists know this and that is why they already label the opposition they would silence, as “terrorists.” A very dangerous game. Its ends are obvious and we must resist its beginnings.

    • #1
    • April 23, 2014, at 12:42 PM PDT
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  2. Arahant Member

    Freedom to Marry, Freedom to Dissent

    There is a link button on the format bar to allow making those nifty blue links.

    • #2
    • April 23, 2014, at 12:55 PM PDT
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  3. Mendel Member

    Merina, in a strange way you and the authors of the piece you criticize are making the same overreach.
    The problem is that this discussion now encompasses two metalevels simultaneously: 1) should we make gay marriage legal, and 2) how should we carry out the debate on whether to make gay marriage legal? In other words, we’re debating not just the topic itself, we’re debating how to debate the topic.
    And both your post and the RCP screed subtly imply (whether intentional or not) that “if we could have a fair and open discussion on the topic, my/our side would win.” The corollary to this that if my side is losing, that is proof that the playing field is tilted.
    The sentiment that “I want a fair fight, but my side must win” is too contradictory for most mere mortals to implement. Shame on the signatories to the RCP declaration for pretending otherwise.
    But Merina, I would ask you in all sincerity: can you imagine a scenario in which the SSM debate is played out on a level playing field and yet your side truly loses?

    • #3
    • April 23, 2014, at 1:44 PM PDT
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  4. civil westman Inactive

    Arahant:

    Freedom to Marry, Freedom to Dissent

    There is a link button on the format bar to allow making those nifty blue links.

    Thanks. I made the link but couldn’t get it to work.
    Addendum: Now it works!

    • #4
    • April 23, 2014, at 1:51 PM PDT
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  5. Merina Smith Inactive
    Merina Smith Post author

    Hard to say, Mendel, because that side has so egregiously been the aggressors and bullies. I do not believe that marriage is just what anyone wants to say it is if that’s what you mean. But I reject your accusation that I am doing what they are doing.

    • #5
    • April 23, 2014, at 2:02 PM PDT
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  6. Roberto, Crusty Old Timer Member

    Merina Smith:

    Hard to say, Mendel, because that side has so egregiously been the aggressors and bullies. I do not believe that marriage is just what anyone wants to say it is if that’s what you mean. But I reject your accusation that I am doing what they are doing.

    Does not the history and course of Proposition 8 in fact prove exactly that? There was a debate and each side had the freedom to make arguments, those in favor of gay marriage lost and there upon proponents of gay marriage circumvented debate all together and imposed their will via judicial fiat.

    At any point previously had those proponents been persecuted or attacked for making their arguments? Had they been denied a level playing field? I do not see how that case can be made.

    • #6
    • April 23, 2014, at 2:36 PM PDT
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  7. Mendel Member

    Merina Smith:

    But I reject your accusation that I am doing what they are doing.

    My comment was not very clear (unfortunately a common occurrence for me) so I’ll try to distill it:
    When it comes to any debate, I don’t think someone can simultaneously be completely vested in a certain outcome and at the same time be an objective judge of whether the playing field is level. That notion just runs counter to human nature.
    The authors of the RCP piece are dead-set on legalizing gay marriage, yet they also deign themselves objective enough to comment on whether or not the debate is being conducted fairly. I find that claim pretentious – it sounds like the “I disagree with you, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it” BS. 
    But I also find the protestations by the anti-SSM side equally unpersuasive. Arguably, few issues have been given such a thorough hearing in America than SSM, and there have been numerous ballot initiatives on the matter, yet the anti-SSM side constantly complains of being steamrolled and stifled. The growth in organic public support for SSM over the last decade has little to do with the tactics of the extreme activists.

    • #7
    • April 23, 2014, at 2:46 PM PDT
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  8. Profile Photo Member

    Mendel:

    Arguably, few issues have been given such a thorough hearing in America than SSM, and there have been numerous ballot initiatives on the matter, yet the anti-SSM side constantly complains of being steamrolled and stifled. The growth in organic public support for SSM over the last decade has little to do with the tactics of the extreme activists.

     Not to channel my inner Pelosi but, seriously? Seriously?

    • #8
    • April 23, 2014, at 3:18 PM PDT
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  9. Mendel Member

    3rd angle projection:

    Mendel:

    … yet the anti-SSM side constantly complains of being steamrolled and stifled. The growth in organic public support for SSM over the last decade has little to do with the tactics of the extreme activists.

    Not to channel my inner Pelosi but, seriously? Seriously?

    Srsly.
    Note that I didn’t say the rise in legal SSM – that has certainly been a product of activism (and shamefully so) – but the turn in public opinion.
    When it comes to the acceptance of homosexuality in general, and SSM in particular, the sea change in opinion among the citizenry over the last decade is (in my opinion) much more an emergent phenomenon than an activist-driven one.
    Which isn’t to say the activists haven’t done their part to grease the wheels of change. But the way an average person forms emotional reactions to such deep-seated concepts such as homosexuality is much, much more complex than seeing a lesbian kiss on primetime TV or hearing the president give a speech.

    • #9
    • April 23, 2014, at 3:26 PM PDT
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  10. Merina Smith Inactive
    Merina Smith Post author

    Sorry, Mendel, can’t agree. This too has been an instance of bullying and shouting “bigot”. And, to be fair, a product of an incoherent public discourse. Since the 60’s everybody has jumped on the Civil Rights bandwagon, which was good for civil rights, but doesn’t really apply to anything else. Yes, this subject has been debated to death here, but most people have not debated it on a blog or anywhere else. They haven’t thought it through. They have been bullied and given in because they don’t want to be called a “bigot” or any kind of phobe, and they certainly don’t want to lose their job as they have seen others do, so they just kind of go along.

    My son is a 20 something. They are an even more interesting case. They can’t even tell you what marriage is, so you cannot expect any wisdom from them. They are just young and looking for a “cause” and somebody told them this was their cause. Their attitude is like the “wisdom” of the young people in the 60’s and their sexual revolution. It will give us a similar legacy of destruction.

    • #10
    • April 23, 2014, at 3:54 PM PDT
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  11. Merina Smith Inactive
    Merina Smith Post author

    At the very least, Mendel, they might acknowledge that this is all too new to really know anything about the impact on children, marriage and society in general. They do not even have the humility to admit that. People with less hubris would encourage the nation to go slowly and see what those effects might be. Now they seem to be genuinely puzzled that people they respect do not succumb to their “patient persuasion.” They seem unable to imagine that there are genuinely important reasons why people would have doubts about, oh, remaking the whole understanding of the foundational institution of all societies throughout all time in a nanosecond.

    • #11
    • April 23, 2014, at 4:04 PM PDT
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  12. Profile Photo Member

    @ Mendel, comment #9,

    Oh please. The normalization of homosexuality and the quest to be “married” is purely activist driven. To think it’s been an organic enlightenment is naive at best. Your last sentence, to me anyhow, is incoherent so I will leave it be.

    • #12
    • April 23, 2014, at 4:42 PM PDT
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  13. Rachel Lu Contributor

    I agree that the SSM activists are thugs. And I have to side against you too, Mendel; I think they’ve made significant progress with public opinion through aggressive arguments from emotion and ignorance. Very little fair debate there.

    But, I overall see a document like this as encouraging. Yes, it’s dripping with condescension and prejudiced language, but I’ve decided that sanctioning condescension and prejudiced language is the way of the future. Probably the closest we’re going to get to “common ground”.

    • #13
    • April 23, 2014, at 7:42 PM PDT
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  14. The Mugwump Inactive

    It’s fruitless for conservatives to argue when the opposition sets the terms of the debate. Like so much else from the left this issue is “settled” in their minds. You can bet your last dollar that the proffered olive branch will be quickly withdrawn if said debate should actually occur. The left is demanding compliance because at heart their ideology is totalitarian. Conservatives need to admit that we’re fighting a rearguard action in this issue. I’m not sure yet where we’ll be able to draw the line, but probably not before the full consequences of this folly have severely damaged our social structure. Look next for the left to use this issue to attack organized religion in the courts. It’s a logical next gambit on their part.

    • #14
    • April 24, 2014, at 4:25 AM PDT
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  15. Nick Stuart Inactive

    The Genie Is Out Of The Closet and the signatories of the letter have become a little uneasy about the fire they’ve helped start.

    If I were to publicly declare at work during [Company] Pride month in June that the traditional male-female exclusive view of marriage is wrong, I would be applauded. If I were to announce that same-sex marriage is wrong I would be in danger of losing my job. Because the company wants to be a “safe space” for diversity, most particularly persons of the LGBT persuasion. I wouldn’t write this post if I weren’t writing under a nom-de-cyber.

    It is gratifying, if not particularly reassuring, that the signatories wrote the letter. It will make a small ripple and be forgotten about in a few weeks except that they will be able to pull it out and say “See, I’m permissive when it comes to those people expressing their wrong views.”

    (cont’d)

    • #15
    • April 24, 2014, at 5:18 AM PDT
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  16. Nick Stuart Inactive

    It’s nice they are in the abstract in favor of my expressing what they view as the wrong view of marriage. Are they in favor of a public school teacher expressing that view in front of their class?

    Same-sex marriage has not come about democratically. Quite the opposite. California Proposition 8 was passed by a majority of voters. It was then found unconstitutional by a gay Federal judge. The state officials who were duty bound to defend it didn’t, and it ultimately was dismissed by courts on the grounds that the people who did defend it didn’t have standing. In state after state democratically enacted legislation has been overturned by Federal judges.

    It’s not the signatories of the letter that I’m concerned about, it’s the baying mob the letter gives cover to that will continue to insist that dissenters be forced into silence, and crushed if they fail to submit.

    • #16
    • April 24, 2014, at 5:32 AM PDT
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  17. KC Mulville Inactive

    Well, it’s important to remember that this letter is basically, if not entirely addressed to their own side. The assurances that “of course we’re right” are obnoxious, but only to the people who don’t already agree with them. Also, give them credit; this covers their behind from later questions about “why didn’t you speak up about your own side when they tried to become fascist?” In this letter, they did speak up. Good for them.

    What’s striking to me is that there’s a sizable segment of the population that … needs … to hear this.

    • #17
    • April 24, 2014, at 6:16 AM PDT
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  18. Profile Photo Member

    Two topics are being blended here: 1) activism that is creating legal SSM and 2) public acceptance of SSM. Yes, the speed with which public policy is changing is completely due to the aggressive tactics of pro-SSM advocates. I totally disagree, however, that public acceptance is driven by these public policy changes. Public acceptance is growing because a lot of people are just not seeing the primary argument the anti-SSM side is putting forth (the erosion of marriage as an institution and foundation of culture) as valid.

    Ask the average person, do you think SSM undermines or threatens the institution of marriage. They will immediately put it in the context of their marriage or the marriages of those in their community – not marriage in general. The answer for them will amost always be “no”, hence the “live and let live” attitude because they don’t see any threat to themselves. This is human nature and you can’t change that. And this is why SSM – for a lot of people – occupies the realm of “what’s the big deal?”. Try making the arguments often made on this site to the average, politically disengaged person on the street and you’ll get an eyeroll and a finger twirling around their ear (“cuckoo”). Accept it or not, that’s the reality of the current climate of opinion.

    • #18
    • April 24, 2014, at 6:23 AM PDT
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  19. Merina Smith Inactive
    Merina Smith Post author

    KC–I agree that they have written this for their own side, but wouldn’t they make their case more effectively if they conceded even the complexity of the issue? Perhaps the most galling line in the piece is the one that claims they have demolished the arguments of opponents! Like 20 somethings, they can’t even say what marriage is, yet claim they have demolished the arguments of not only living marriage supporters, but most of the world and pretty much everyone who has ever lived.

    As it is, their “they are idiots but let’s be nice to them” argument strikes me as more of a call for, as my title suggests, a grace period, and must be regarded that way when one thinks of civil rights, the cause they have imitated. There is no question in my mind that they want to make this issue like race, in that anyone who even hints at a belief that isn’t politically correct will be destroyed.

    Actually there is a piece by Jonathan Rauch on Real Clear Politics this morning that says the things they should have said. The comments in that piece are generally not encouraging.

    • #19
    • April 24, 2014, at 8:38 AM PDT
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  20. Percival Thatcher

    I will dissent what I choose, when I choose, where I choose, for as long as I choose, and if that gives the “enlightened elites” (or anybody else) grief, then they can all line up and kiss an unspecified yet substantial portion of my anatomy.

    It’s nice that some of them have come to terms with that.

    • #20
    • April 24, 2014, at 8:39 AM PDT
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  21. Merina Smith Inactive
    Merina Smith Post author

    Gary, I’ll have to think about what you said. Like Millennials, most people haven’t thought the issue through. They might have if a real public debate–not just the type of internet debate that most people don’t follow–had been allowed. I will admit that even I, a ferocious defender of marriage, have been reluctant to bring the subject up among my friends when I don’t know their position on the issue because it is so acrimonious. And I have a no-politics-on-facebook rule. But yes, it is no doubt true that the assaults already made on marriage have weakened respect for the institution to the degree that many people throw up their hands and just go along with the bullies.

    We are all seeing the ugly secondary effects and they will only get worse. Check out this article on legislative bullying that is on RCP today. It’s about school anti-bullying legislation that is pending in Minnesota. The gay lobby has hijacked the bullying issue to push their agenda.

    http://www.firstthings.com/article/2014/05/legislative-bullying

    This would never happen in a state that had not redefined marriage.

    • #21
    • April 24, 2014, at 8:48 AM PDT
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  22. Merina Smith Inactive
    Merina Smith Post author

    Percival:

    I will dissent what I choose, when I choose, where I choose, for as long as I choose, and if that gives the “enlightened elites” (or anybody else) grief, then they can all line up and kiss an unspecified yet substantial portion of my anatomy.

    It’s nice that some of them have come to terms with that.

    I’m glad to hear it Percival, but realistically for most of the population, if you want to be able to make a living, you will have to submit. My husband, a law professor, has spent his career writing about first amendment issues. He can (for now) safely express his views, and in fact is often included at conferences as a token conservative. (He is rethinking that, now, however, because he is beginning to believe that being their pet conservative on the other side only facilitates and legitimates them, since they don’t really listen to what he has to say.) If he were a young professor, he would be granted no such leeway. He would be drummed out of the academy. It would not surprise me if in a few years even he will be marginalized and pushed out.

    • #22
    • April 24, 2014, at 8:55 AM PDT
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  23. Profile Photo Member

    Merina Smith:

    Gary, I’ll have to think about what you said. Like Millennials, most people haven’t thought the issue through. They might have if a real public debate–not just the type of internet debate that most people don’t follow–had been allowed. I will admit that even I, a ferocious defendant of marriage, have been reluctant to bring the subject up among my friends because when I don’t know their position on the issue because it is so acrimonious. And I have a no-politics-on-facebook rule. But yes, it is no doubt true that the assaults already made on marriage have weakened respect for the institution to the degree that many people just throw up their hands and just go along with the bullies.

    We are all seeing the ugly secondary effects and they will only get worse. Check out this article on legislative bullying that is on RCP today. It’s about school anti-bullying legislation that is pending in Minnesota. The gay lobby has hijacked the bullying issue to push their agenda.

    http://www.firstthings.com/article/2014/05/legislative-bullying

    This would never happen in a state that had not redefined marriage.

     *********************************
    One of the problems with this issue is that a lot of people don’t even want to discuss the potential sociological impact of this kind of change because it goes to the heart of what they preceive as an issue of denying someone the right to be “happy”. It’s like “oh, we as a society have been so mean to homosexuals in the past why not give them this since it’s not hurting anybody?” But when you cut right to it, what they mean it’s not hurting me, so why should you have a problem with it?

    It’s veeerrrry difficult to persuade someone to change their feelings (notice I didn’t say “mind”) about this once they’ve taken that leap. If you have any chance it has to be on a micro level. Politically, it’s become a non-starter.

    • #23
    • April 24, 2014, at 9:21 AM PDT
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  24. tabula rasa Member

    The thing I find troubling about the public statement is that it had to be issued at all.

    I grew up thinking the right to dissent and to hold one’s own view on a subject (without fear of reprisal) was baked into the cake of the American republic.

    Apparently no longer.

    • #24
    • April 24, 2014, at 9:31 AM PDT
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  25. Tim Kowal Inactive

    The Mugwump: …. Conservatives need to admit that we’re fighting a rearguard action in this issue. I’m not sure yet where we’ll be able to draw the line, but probably not before the full consequences of this folly have severely damaged our social structure. ….

    I’ve been musing the same. Where to redraw the line? I take the Thomist/Aristotelian position — SSM has no telos. But if the people feel differently, at least that’s the process. But the rhetorical nastiness and resort to the courts, and the court employing the “sweet mystery” doctrine (whispers of the Griswold-Roe/Doe leap) leave the debate more unsettled than ever. Remember the assurances that SSM advocacy would never suggest support for polygamy? I will not await any outpouring of shock and dismay from them over this: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2611020/Meet-worlds-married-lesbian-threesome-baby-make-four-July.html.

    The principle is the same: gender and biology are irrelevant or they are not. Thus, as much as I’d like to, I cannot logically acquiesce in SSM. When it comes to principles, we can only change the volume, not the station. 

    • #25
    • April 24, 2014, at 9:35 AM PDT
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  26. Merina Smith Inactive
    Merina Smith Post author

    I always say that the conservative case is harder to make, embedded as our beliefs are in an understanding of history, human nature, culture, incentives and motivations. Lefties just take refuge in demonizing Republicans along with superficial sound-bites that get them elected but don’t deal with the real issues at all. Depth of thinking tends to only happen after things have gotten really bad, or when a lefty program doesn’t work, like Obamacare. That it couldn’t possible work was the most obvious thing in the world to conservatives. And to be fair, a lot of the country knew that, hence its unpopularity. But in general, yes, absolutely, the left plays on feelings like a fiddle.

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    • April 24, 2014, at 9:36 AM PDT
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  27. KC Mulville Inactive

    Merina Smith:

    Perhaps the most galling line in the piece is the one that claims they have demolished the arguments of opponents! Like 20 somethings, they can’t even say what marriage is, yet claim they have demolished the arguments of not only living marriage supporters, but most of the world and pretty much everyone who has ever lived.

    Don’t get me wrong, Merina – I agree with you. 

    I should point out that we’re living in a very special and revealing moment, in our culture. As one of the commenters (from the Rauch article you referenced) put it – “how much should we tolerate intolerance?” Fifteen years ago, when the DOMA passed, no one on the traditional marriage side advocated retaliation against individuals who were on the other side. No traditionalists demanded that anyone be fired for their beliefs. But now that the tide has turned, they’re not asking if they should retaliate, but when. 

    What’s revealing is that instead of people merely changing opinions, many of these fools try to prove their loyalty to the new regime by angrily and zealously persecuting the opposition … you know, the same people they allied with, just years before.

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    • April 24, 2014, at 10:04 AM PDT
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  28. Umbra Fractus Inactive

    tabula rasa: I grew up thinking the right to dissent and to hold one’s own view on a subject (without fear of reprisal) was baked into the cake of the American republic.

     I see what you did there. :-)

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    • April 24, 2014, at 10:18 AM PDT
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  29. Merina Smith Inactive
    Merina Smith Post author

    Oh, I know you agree with me KC. One other interesting point–I think the signatories, good people to the extent I know them, make their argument the way they do because they too are afraid of the extreme wing of gender-neutral marriage supporters. Many commenters on Rauch’s piece went after him. If the signatories showed more sympathy than they do for our side, they too might face the firing squad, if not now, sometime in the near future.

    As long as this issue was allowed to percolate along on its own without court interference, we could have avoided this kind of civil war. Now, especially since Kennedy so stupidly framed it as a “hate” thing, it is going from ugly to uglier. I actually think we win in the end because you can’t ignore biology and survive, but there will be a lot of sad casualties along the way.

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    • April 24, 2014, at 10:22 AM PDT
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  30. JimGoneWild Coolidge

    Mendel: But Merina, I would ask you in all sincerity: can you imagine a scenario in which the SSM debate is played out on a level playing field and yet your side truly loses?

     No. Because emotions would rule the day–Curses, Name-Calling would begin, Jobs lost.

    • #30
    • April 24, 2014, at 11:30 AM PDT
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