By John Zmirak
(The Stream) — President Obama, and each of the Clintons, has made a public statement parallel to my own on this volatile topic, so I stand in illustrious company as I say it: I wish to reverse my previous public statements on same-sex marriage. The progress of law, the statements and actions of gay advocates, and the movement of public opinion have rendered my old views repugnant to me, and I now I offer a full and public retraction. Thanks to the hard work of Apple, Walmart, and the national media, I have changed my mind on same sex marriage.
I now oppose it.
Less than two years ago, I wrote that conservatives and Christians probably ought to chalk up the legal battle for natural marriage as lost, and offer a “grand compromise.” Instead of relying on valid, truthful, but unpopular arguments from nature, tradition and the well-being of children to stop the progress of same-sex marriage, I thought that we should switch to arguments from freedom of association. We should agree to allow same-sex couples in each of the 50 states the benefits of the tenuous, temporary sex contract that “marriage” had become in the wake of no-fault divorce — but only if we received two important concessions in return:
1. Laws permitting “covenant marriages” in each of those states, granting couples who wished it access to the protections that covered marriage and the family circa 1940 — when divorce was hard to obtain in most American states, and only for provable cause such as physical abuse, abandonment or adultery. The same arguments from individual liberty that would permit same-sex couples to obtain flimsy, secular marriages must allow couples to contract more durable bonds, if they chose to. The state that would enforce the gay contract (a) should be willing to likewise enforce “covenant” contract (b).
2. Repeal of laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation — which otherwise would impose a crushing burden on religious believers in particular, violating their freedom of association.
I thought that such a compromise might end the legal battle, and even strengthen marriage, provided that:
3. Christian churches rallied to defend marriage within their own denominations. As a Catholic, I thought that my church could light the way by tightening up its own treatment of marriage — demanding extensive religious instruction for couples who wanted to marry in church; insisting that wherever “covenant marriages” were available they must contract them; and making annulments (Catholic declarations that a marriage had never existed) much, much harder to get.
Well, wasn’t I a prophet?
As things turned out, the Supreme Court instead of the voters will dictate same-sex marriage, as it dictates everything else of importance in our democracy. The only question remaining is how many Republican appointees will vote like Democrats. So Christians and conservatives have no horse to trade.
Nor do many libertarians — with honorable exceptions such as John Stossel — really seem to give a hoot about freedom of association. At least when it comes to Christians trying to run religious schools or make a living in peace, rather than pot dealers grooving with their clients.
Nor does my own church seem likely to tighten up the sacrament of marriage — not when powerful cardinals such as the head of the German bishops’ conference are threatening schism if they don’t get approval for de facto Catholic divorce.
So I was wrong about everything. Let’s pause to analyze why. I think the central reason is that Americans are not nearly as concerned about real liberty as they pretend to be. People are not switching their opinions on same sex marriage because they have suddenly realized that freedom of contract is implied by a view of human freedom that they consider sacred.
Far from it. Instead, they have been convinced by a two-decades-long barrage of TV programs and Facebook status updates that gay couples aren’t “gross” and “weird,” but “charming,” and “sometimes really funny.” Meanwhile, Christians and others who object to such sexual practices are no longer normal and sensible, but “bigoted” and “mean.” So Americans want the government to promote, using its full coercive power, the presumed interests of the charming funny people at the expense of the scowling killjoys.
Once the moral status of homosexual behavior has been surrendered, it’s easy, if you don’t think too hard, to smoosh together the moral objections to that behavior with the old-time visceral loathing that racists felt toward “race-mixing.” And how concerned should we be with the rights of bigots, anyway? They should be reluctantly, barely tolerated, so long as they don’t frighten the horses. And the state really should protect their kids from imbibing their hateful views.
To abandon the argument on the moral merits of homosexual relationships, as I foolishly advocated, is to freely accept the position of disenfranchised crank in today’s America. And given Americans’ very tenuous grasp on the meaning of freedom, such a position isn’t safe.
So I think we should support “religious freedom” bills as a last-ditch firewall against gay totalitarianism, though this issue is not just about religion; but it’s much more important for those who value marriage to rally their forces and try again to convince the public of the meaning of natural marriage. Our opponents started selling their argument three decades ago, and they’ve largely succeeded. That’s proof that effecting a fundamental change of mind on core issues is possible. So is the growing acceptance of pro-life views among college students. It’s past time that we launched a counter-offensive of real truth and real love. We have the advantage of nature and reason on our side, and every day, we have fresh evidence of what same-sex “marriage” does to children and to a free society.
We will probably need to launch a campaign for a constitutional amendment to ratify the truth about marriage, at least as a focal point. That might seem quixotic, but remember how quickly things change: Ten years ago, Democratic candidates didn’t feel safe advocating same-sex marriage. Now Indiana pizza makers cannot feel safe opposing it. To assume that this change is irreversible “progress” is simply to surrender, and hope for toleration inside a poorly-defended ghetto.
To put it briefly and starkly: In the fight against gay totalitarianism, we need to get back to critiquing the “gay” part. It’s an easier sell. Too many Americans have a soft spot for totalitarianism.
John Zmirak is a Senior Editor of The Stream. He received his B.A. from Yale University in 1986, then his M.F.A. in screenwriting and fiction and his Ph.D. in English in 1996 from Louisiana State University. His focus was the English Renaissance, and the novels of Walker Percy. He taught composition at LSU and screenwriting at Tulane University, and has written screenplays for and with director Ronald Maxwell (Gods & Generals and Gettysburg). He was elected alternate delegate to the 1996 Republican Convention, representing Pat Buchanan.
First published at The Stream
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