Same-Sex Marriage: Not Over Yet

 

shutterstock_144268093I’ve been meaning to put this up since Peter and James discussed it on the Ricochet podcast more than a week ago: I don’t think the controversy over gay marriage has been settled yet. Conservatives should not give up on it, and those who do may well find themselves apologetically backpedalling some years hence.

We need to remember that progressives are wrong when they suggest that culture always moves inexorably in one direction. Sometimes we flirt with stupid ideas for awhile, realize their folly, and then abandon them. Remember when open marriage was a thing? When getting divorced was best for your kids “because they won’t be happy if you’re not”? Remember Dan Quayle getting mocked for saying what is now completely conventional wisdom among liberals and conservatives alike — that single parenthood isn’t just a lifestyle choice? Social ideas and customs do shift back and forth over time. Sometimes we even learn things and make appropriate adjustments.

Given how quickly and non-democratically same-sex marriage has descended upon us, there’s every reason to think that some learning and adjustment could still take place. This is still a dynamic situation, with much to gain and  much more to lose. Given that fact, it’s very disheartening to me that so many conservatives now view same-sex marriage as a settled fight from which we need to find a graceful exit. Their complicity is itself a pretty sad statement about conservative priorities.

The governmental process by which same-sex marriage has been foisted on us could hardly have been less democratic; this is the epitome of a case in which the elite have strong-armed ordinary people into relinquishing their views and way of life. Isn’t that something that should have us up in arms? Meanwhile, we’re told that same-sex marriage is now socially accepted, primarily because young people tend to have no problem with it. Because allowing your most ignorant and least experienced citizens to determine the future of society’s most central institution is generally the path of wisdom, right?

As I’ve argued elsewhere, young people really don’t understand marriage, and many of them actually want more guidance on the subject. Instead of treating them like the experts, we should be making broad-spectrum efforts to shore up marriage on all fronts. I’m not suggesting that opposition to same-sex marriage needs to be the primary focus of that, but abandoning the traditional view outright will make for some pretty serious handicaps.

It seems like I’m hearing a lot of people these days saying that they have no problem with same-sex marriage, only to turn around two minutes later and start discussing how we need to return to the ideal of marriage as a more child-centered institution. Surely you at least appreciate that there is some tension here? Same-sex marriage seemed ridiculous for the great majority of history, precisely because marriage was a child-centered institution. When we moved away from seeing marriage in that light, marrying gays or lesbians to one another started to seem like a cool idea. If we enshrine this practice in American custom, doesn’t it seem reasonable to worry that this will move us still further away from seeing marriage as a permanent arrangement intended first and foremost for the good of children? Bolstering marriage as an institution is going to be much, much harder if we feel obliged to kowtow to progressive understandings of what it is.

Finally, there is the issue of religious liberty. I know many conservatives are of the opinion that we should give in on same-sex marriage but bolster support for religious liberty. Here’s my question: is there any reason at all to suppose that would work? I think the people who make such suggestions generally do so in good faith, but when you appreciate the goals of the progressive movement, and the (already well-established) ruthlessness with which they are willing to pursue them, taking refuge in religious liberty seems like the epitome of a lost cause. If the traditional understanding of marriage is branded as bigotry, it won’t be protected. People will be forced to violate their consciences in serious ways. This is already happening somewhat here, and on a more egregious scale in Europe.

I’ve yet to hear a “religious freedom” conservative define a strategy for shoring up religious freedom that seems likely to work. We’re facing a tidal wave of progressive energy and, as a social conservative, it feels like the Republican Party keeps trying to throw us umbrellas.

Marriage defenders have clearly lost the most recent battle. But, as we’ve seen with abortion, major social issues like this make for long, complicated wars. Every good general knows that even a defeat can yield certain tactical advantages. Instead of throwing up our hands, we should be eyeing the road ahead and planning our next moves.

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  1. C. U. Douglas Thatcher
    C. U. Douglas
    @CUDouglas

    An interesting note, legal-wise, the Supreme Court victory was won primarily because the State of California refused to act in defense of the constitutional amendment approved by the citizens of California. Several other states like Oregon have taken the same tactic; the citizens approve measures, but the states refuse to defend them.

    The state of Utah, however, has declared its intention to defend its marriage laws in court. Though the federal courts ruled against it in December, Utah is defending up the judicial ladder, so to speak. On a legal/judicial basis I think this is worth watching.

    • #1
  2. Valiuth Inactive
    Valiuth
    @Valiuth

    The first step in winning this fight is to work on putting normal marriage back on track. SSM is the consequence of a long series of past failures. The argument was lost many years ago when the meaning of marriage changed for heterosexuals. On the surface everything looked fine because superficially it all looked the same, but fundamentally heterosexuals began to think of marriage in new terms, terms that allow for the inclusion of homosexual marriages when carried to their logical end.

    Now personally speaking I am not sure if I think one view is better than the other, given certain caveats. This is why I am among the ricocheting who often comment on these threads with a slant in favor of SSM. However, I recognize that my own stance is largly driven by apathy to the subject. I can see it workout both ways and I don’t dislike either view. I do though have massive sympathies for SoCons given my upbringing and my agreement with them on other issues like abortion. Tomturn this around you need t go back to the fundamentals, that is what is working on abortion, it will work here too.

    • #2
  3. Rachel Lu Contributor
    Rachel Lu
    @RachelLu

    It’s completely outrageous that voter-approved measures are being overturned because states won’t defend them. That in itself should have the people boiling over.

    • #3
  4. user_86050 Member
    user_86050
    @KCMulville

    I remain opposed to gay marriage. Always have been, always will be. As I’ve often said, my opposition is based on what I think marriage is, not because I harbor some subconscious dislike of a class of persons. I equally oppose heterosexual people who define marriage merely as one way of “loving another” but who casually ignore the rest of what marriage is about. 

    Yet the Supreme Court has summarily decided that any opposition to gay marriage must be rooted in psychologically defective “animus,” (thank you Sigmund Kennedy, although I never knew that a law degree conferred such omniscient psychological powers of insight). It was improper for the Supreme Court to base their legal argument on that subjective kind of psychological accusation – an accusation that displayed, if anything, an “animus” in the opposite direction.

    If we believe that the “truth will out,” we have to trust that falsity will also out. 

    We’ve warned society that if they desecrate marriage, family will increasingly break down, but they ignored us and desecrated it anyway. The statistics are proving us right. The institution of family is breaking down. Unwed motherhood is increasing dramatically.

    Sadly, reality agrees with us.

    • #4
  5. Albert Arthur Podcaster
    Albert Arthur
    @AlbertArthur

    Just getting in a comment before this thing blows up!

    I agree with Rachel’s last comment.

    • #5
  6. C. U. Douglas Thatcher
    C. U. Douglas
    @CUDouglas

    Rachel Lu:

    It’s completely outrageous that voter-approved measures are being overturned because states won’t defend them. That in itself should have the people boiling over.

    The Pro-SSM activists in government have played fast and loose with rules, ethics, laws and obligations since the beginning. Much of this movement here in the west began with Gavin Newsom in California approving SSM in San Francisco without voter approval or discussion. Here in Multnomah County, Oregon, the county council worked under the table to hold same sex marriages making legal contortions. In both states the reaction has been voters demanding their rightful voice on the subject.

    Refusing to defend voter-approved measures is just more of the same tactics. The object is not to convince citizens to approve of SSM, but rather to deny the voter any voice at all, cement SSM in place and condemn any who’d take SSM away. It’s been dirty pool for a decade. 

    • #6
  7. Leigh Member
    Leigh
    @Leigh

    Rachel, I agree, but I do think conservatives should focus — hard — on the religious liberty angle.  That’s because, while this issue is proving to be the flashpoint, it’s really a separate issue.  The American understanding of religious liberty is being dangerously narrowed, and we need to repudiate that aggressively and forcefully.  

    SSM is one problem.  The arrogant idea that you can tar as a bigoted outcast anyone who holds a belief everyone held three seconds ago is another problem.

    • #7
  8. Rachel Lu Contributor
    Rachel Lu
    @RachelLu

    Leigh:

    Rachel, I agree, but I do think conservatives should focus — hard — on the religious liberty angle. That’s because, while this issue is proving to be the flashpoint, it’s really a separate issue. The American understanding of religious liberty is being dangerously narrowed, and we need to repudiate that aggressively and forcefully.

    SSM is one problem. The arrogant idea that you can tar as a bigoted outcast anyone who holds a belief everyone held three seconds ago is another problem.

     I’m not by any means trying to silence religious liberty arguments. Apologies if I seemed to imply that.

    I just think it’s a huge mistake to suppose that that will ever be adequate protection if we yield the marriage fight.

    • #8
  9. user_517406 Member
    user_517406
    @MerinaSmith

    The GOP will lose its base if it abandons us on this, it’s that simple.  No one wins an argument by not having the argument and pretending they did, especially when you are talking about the most basic of all social units. Did anyone see the article in Salon last week admitting that the right was right about gender neutral marriage proponents’ assault on fidelity in marriage? They want to change that too lo and behold. Who knew? Only all of us. But that will be fine, opined the author, who, BTW, did not even mention children. No, this conversation, far from being over, has not even begun.

    • #9
  10. Mike H Coolidge
    Mike H
    @MikeH

    Rachel Lu:

    Sometimes we flirt with stupid ideas for awhile, realize their folly, and then abandon them. Remember when open marriage was a thing? When getting divorced was best for your kids “because they won’t be happy if you’re not”? Remember Dan Quayle getting mocked for saying what is now completely conventional wisdom among liberals and conservatives alike — that single parenthood isn’t just a lifestyle choice? Social ideas and customs do shift back and forth over time. Sometimes we even learn things and make appropriate adjustments.

     The difference in these cases is that the changes were not bore out by science. Open marriage is bad for most people’s psyche. Getting divorced make you poor, and kids can’t tell if you’re faking it. Same with single parenthood, it’s inherently impoverishing. Abortion kills living humans.

    Gay marriage isn’t like these things. Gay marriage is demonstrably good for gays, and it doesn’t suggest straight people change their lifestyle or shut their eyes to the facts, like all the examples above.

    I know SoCons have tried to make a scientific case, but it’s based on theory of secondary effects, which is a hard sell.

    • #10
  11. Leigh Member
    Leigh
    @Leigh

    Rachel Lu:

    Leigh:

    I’m not by any means trying to silence religious liberty arguments. Apologies if I seemed to imply that.

    I just think it’s a huge mistake to suppose that that will ever be adequate protection if we yield the marriage fight.

     I think the religious liberty angle is the most important side of this fight.  With regards to marriage itself, it’s just one more step downwards.  The way it is used as a club against those who disagree is the newest and most dangerous aspect of it.

    But I agree, I think we are unlikely to reach the libertarian ideal compromise where gay marriage is sanctioned by the State and society, but those who disagree are left in peace.  Still, we need to defend not only our views, but also our right to hold those views.

    • #11
  12. Gary The Ex-Donk Member
    Gary The Ex-Donk
    @

    Rachel Lu:

    It’s completely outrageous that voter-approved measures are being overturned because states won’t defend them. That in itself should have the people boiling over.

     Rachel, if the people were boiling over in reaction to these court decisions I’d say you have a valid reason for not giving up hope that the tide could be turned.  As they don’t appear to be even simmering at this point the idea that this isn’t over yet is difficult to argue.  I do agree, however, that the issues surrounding religious liberty would be where time and energy are most efficiently spent.

    • #12
  13. Rachel Lu Contributor
    Rachel Lu
    @RachelLu

    Mike, what kind of sociological evidence would you accept? If homosexuals are less likely to adhere to conjugal ideals of fidelity and permanence (they are), less likely to want kids (they are) and less successful at raising the ones they do have (they are) would that count for anything? The evidence for the folly of SSM is going to be just as damning as any of these other “if I really really want to it can’t be wrong” movements. Adult preferences over kids’ welfare… we’ve seen this movie before.

    • #13
  14. Rachel Lu Contributor
    Rachel Lu
    @RachelLu

    Culture wars are the slow-burn kind. Roe didn’t provoke massive nation-wide riots; nevertheless the widespread perception of its illegitimacy has fueled the pro-lifers for decades. But to some extent it’s really up to us. Support for SSM is mostly based in ignorance and lack of reflection (another similarity with pro-life arguments at the time of Roe) and those can be rectified. But we have to be willing to do it.

    • #14
  15. Mike H Coolidge
    Mike H
    @MikeH

    Rachel Lu:

    Mike, what kind of sociological evidence would you accept? If homosexuals are less likely to adhere to conjugal ideals of fidelity and permanence (they are), less likely to want kids (they are) and less successful at raising the ones they do have (they are) would that count for anything?

     I don’t know what kind of evidence would be required to overcome the presumption of freedom and equality. The effects would have to be quite large as to be overwhelming, not just proportionally less. You can’t take away rights from good people because there are less good people who identify the same way.

    Birth control had all kinds of negative side effects as well as positive, but just because some people abuse it or it leads to worse outcomes in many cases, it does not mean we can take it away from everyone including the people who use it responsibly.

    People are still free to make destructive decisions against the best scientific advice. Even if the science says it’s a net negative, raising children is still up to individual adults, and statistics are not prophecy. 

    • #15
  16. user_1938 Member
    user_1938
    @AaronMiller

    Just this past week, some fellow conservatives and I were discussing whether or not an old bachelor we know would ever marry. He wouldn’t marry unless he and his theoretical wife would have children, I pointed out. That was a “silly” idea, these conservatives told me. Marriage is about “love” and not kids, they said.

    That is why SSM is a done deal. Like you say, Rachel, perhaps the repercussions will change minds in future decades. For now, even most conservatives believe marriage begins and ends with feelings. Children might be the heart of one’s family, but not the heart of one’s marriage, typically. Like the introduction of adolescence, modern marriage expectations rise and fall with affluence. So long as marriage founded in affection is regularly available, it will remain the cultural norm.

    Whether or not divorce is becoming less popular, no-fault divorce will remain an option for the foreseeable future. Same-sex arrangements might similarly lose popular approval over time, but those options are unlikely to be revoked once formally established and normalized. 

    Normalization is the key… and the Yay Gay crowd knows it. They seek approval, not just tolerance. The best right-thinking traditionalists can do after these laws are established is to continue testifying to the harsh truth regardless of legal or cultural restrictions. Refuse to be silent.

    • #16
  17. Rachel Lu Contributor
    Rachel Lu
    @RachelLu

    So what you’re saying, Mike, is that SSM might actually be just like the other trends I mentioned, but you don’t care, because adult relationship preferences matter more to you. Pretty much exactly like those other developments.

    • #17
  18. virgil15marlow@yahoo.com Member
    virgil15marlow@yahoo.com
    @Manny

    From your keyboard to God’s ears.  But I have to say it looks like a done deal to me.  SCOTUS is on board with it and the Liberal passion for it is strong.  On our side there are a significant number who don’t care, and a growing number who support it.  From what I can see, the cards have been dealt and it’s a matter of playing them out.  But I hope you’re right.  There might be some states where it won’t pass, but I can see the federal government mandating it at some point as a civil right.  However, I’m willing to fight on.  No way I can support an absurdity.

    • #18
  19. C. U. Douglas Thatcher
    C. U. Douglas
    @CUDouglas

    It’s important to stand up for what is right, even when it isn’t popular. When we abandon support for natural marriage because it’s presently on the losing side, we tell our opponents that it wasn’t that important after all. Worse, we give the impression that they may have been right about us all along. In a sense, by abandoning our principles for fear of being called bigots, we color ourselves as bigoted.

    • #19
  20. Mike H Coolidge
    Mike H
    @MikeH

    Rachel Lu:

    So what you’re saying, Mike, is that SSM might actually be just like the other trends I mentioned, but you don’t care, because adult relationship preferences matter more to you. Pretty much exactly like those other developments.

    I care, I just believe it’s morally wrong to attempt to impose my outcome preferences by restricting options. Even still,  it’s theoretically possible that SSM will be as bad as some of the other things you listed, but it appears incredibly unlikely, which makes the comparison fall flat.

    • #20
  21. Rachel Lu Contributor
    Rachel Lu
    @RachelLu

    So right CU! That’s one of many reasons why “just focus on religious liberty” is a losing strategy. It seems like we’re conceding that the position itself is basically irrational/bigoted, and we actually end up undermining respect for religion even as we fail to win any substantial protections for traditional marriage supporters.

    • #21
  22. Rachel Lu Contributor
    Rachel Lu
    @RachelLu

    Aaron, I would counter your point by saying: even a lot of liberals are starting to realize that marriage needs to be more child-oriented than it is. It’s just become so abundantly obvious that the collapse of traditional norms concerning marriage is hurting children and the poor enormously. I hear liberals say, like it’s something they just discovered, “you should think of your marriage as more for your children than for you.” And I say, “cool, but too bad we’ve been putting all our energies into promoting the idea that marriage is supposed to be a personally fulfilling intimate relationship above all.” Some of them acknowledge the point.

    • #22
  23. Mike H Coolidge
    Mike H
    @MikeH

    Rachel, pure hypothetical.

    If religious liberty was perfectly protected, and gays had a well overlapping, but perhaps somewhat worse, bell curve of outcomes, would you tolerate (while still signaling disapproval of) SSM?

    • #23
  24. Sabrdance Member
    Sabrdance
    @Sabrdance

    I agree.  Though I’m not as optimistic.  Once, long ago, we could rely on Federalism and procedure to slow things down until the drawbacks became obvious and the public would correct.  That’s what killed the ERA, that’s what killed the 1989 Catastrophic Care plan.  Those days are over -and even in 1989 I don’t know that the same rules applied to marriage and divorce, which problems have been obvious for 3 generations, but no one wants to do anything about it.  I don’t believe any of those rules apply today.

    • #24
  25. user_19374 Member
    user_19374
    @MarkWoodworth

    I have been playing with a hypothetical in my head:

    Imagine a father that owns a hardware store, is getting on in years, and wants to leave the store to his son undiminished by estate taxes.  Could he marry his son and thus avoid estate taxes, passing the store to his `spouse’ upon his death?

    I don’t think that many actually are contemplating such a move, but which of the principled arguments of the pro-SSM side exclude this as a possibility?  The father and son have a long, committed relationship based on love.  Isn’t that marriage?

    And if our modern understanding of marriage does not exclude this, what societal or governmental preference towards marriage (such as common property, shielding from estate taxes, protection from being compelled to testify against, etc) will survive?

    I think the extension of marriage to same-sex couples is based on a fundamentally flawed understanding of marriage, one that has no limiting principle, and will end up with every human relationship `a marriage’.  Saying everyone is married is like saying everyone is special, and is just another way of saying that no one is.

    • #25
  26. Nick Stuart Member
    Nick Stuart
    @NickStuart

    It’s not over the way the debate over abortion isn’t over. But the practice of abortion is virtually unrepealably enshrined in law.

    A big difference is that the SSM advocates have successfully made opposition to SSM tantamount to racism, a charge that does not roll off as easily as sexism or patriarchal.

    We are also 40 years further down the cultural abyss, and the calls of the Left to silence and sentence dissenters to a literal gulag are a lot stronger and bolder than they were.

    • #26
  27. rico Member
    rico
    @rico

    Nick Stuart: …SSM advocates have successfully made opposition to SSM tantamount to racism, a charge that does not roll off as easily as sexism or patriarchal.

    We are also 40 years further down the cultural abyss, and the calls of the Left to silence and sentence dissenters to a literal gulag are a lot stronger and bolder than they were.

    While true, the question remains as to what our response should be. The following point (1:21 pm) must not be forgotten:

    C. U. Douglas: It’s important to stand up for what is right, even when it isn’t popular. When we abandon support for natural marriage because it’s presently on the losing side, we tell our opponents that it wasn’t that important after all. Worse, we give the impression that they may have been right about us all along. In a sense, by abandoning our principles for fear of being called bigots, we color ourselves as bigoted.

    • #27
  28. Rachel Lu Contributor
    Rachel Lu
    @RachelLu

    Mike H:

    Rachel, pure hypothetical.

    If religious liberty was perfectly protected, and gays had a well overlapping, but perhaps somewhat worse, bell curve of outcomes, would you tolerate (while still signaling disapproval of) SSM?

     Mike, it’s hard to answer because my concerns are not only about homosexuals and the children they raise, but also about the confusion SSM perpetuates among others. It’s no accident that the most SSM-tolerant generation in history is also the most totally confused about what marriage is, why we have it, and what responsibilities it entails. (And marrying in lower numbers than any previous documented generation, while having more children out of wedlock.) The fact that homosexuals don’t conform to conjugal ideals with much success is, I believe, revealing of ways in which same-sex relationships just aren’t like opposite-sex ones. But even if they were to conform more nearly than they do now, I would still be concerned that morally equating homosexual and heterosexual relationships strips marriage of what has for most of history been understood to be its central purpose (which in turn jeopardizes the health and integrity of the institution).

    But as for tolerating it… what does that mean, exactly? What are my options here?

    • #28
  29. Mike H Coolidge
    Mike H
    @MikeH

    Rachel Lu: But as for tolerating it… what does that mean, exactly? What are my options here?

     I guess I mean, would you acknowledge the obvious? Would you acknowledge that gay marriage was not as damaging as you feared if the data bore it out, even as you advocate it not being the right form of family formation?

    • #29
  30. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    Rachel Lu:

    Mike, what kind of sociological evidence would you accept? If homosexuals are less likely to adhere to conjugal ideals of fidelity and permanence (they are), less likely to want kids (they are) and less successful at raising the ones they do have (they are) would that count for anything?  

    Rachel, wrt the last claim you really need to be comparing apples and apples. 

    Some sample questions (using a standard set of measures) to separate out the wheat from the chaff:

    1  Do the children of undivorced parents do better than the children of divorced parents?
    2  Do the children of divorced (at least one of them) gay parents do better than the children of divorced straight parents?
    3  Do the children of divorced (at least one of them) gay parents do better if the gay parent has custody or if the straight parent has custody?  If that parent remains single or remarries?
    4  Do the children of happily married couples do better than the children of unhappily married couples?
    5  Do the children of unhappily married couples do better than the children of divorced straight couples?
    6  Do the children of unhappily married couples do better than the children of divorced gay couples?

    With a reasonable sample size these questions might quantify the relative impact on children of their parents being happily married, unhappily married, divorced, remarried, single, gay or straight.  By separating out the variable you are asseessing as far as possible.  Though you might want to further break the data down by religion, ethnicity, geographic location, level of education, gender (of child and of gay parent) and wealth.

    And all of this kind of assumes that marriage today is only validated by children.  An assumption that remains unproved, though strongly felt by many (and that’s absolutely fine for them, I hasten to add).

    • #30

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