The Obnoxious Laziness of Pro-Gay Marriage "Conservatives"

If the facts that same-sex marriage is a profoundly un-conservative cause or that embracing it would devastate the Republican base aren’t enough to make the Right’s moderates and libertarian types think twice about jumping on the redefinition bandwagon, the caliber of redefiners’ arguments should be. At PJ Media, Roger Simon argues for conservatives to concede that same-sex marriage isn’t a big deal. But rather than being particularly original or insightful, his argument perfectly demonstrates his faction’s intellectual laziness on the subject and apparent disinterest in taking it seriously.
Nowhere does he even try to refute the actual arguments against same-sex marriage — primarily, that it would completely sever procreation from marriage’s meaning, leaving future generations with a flawed conception of the institution’s societal purpose, which is to bind men and women together for the sake of whatever future citizens they create.
Instead, Simon deploys straw man after straw man: “traditional lifestyle that conservatives normally admire and advocate” (leaving “traditional lifestyle” undefined in any useful way), “those heterosexuals deserting” marriage (which nobody’s disputing), and “I know that the Bible says this and that” (theology’s not the issue — marriage’s social purpose to maintaining a society capable of self-government is).

Most significantly, the straw men go from shoddy to shameful when he talks about how much he listens to his professed good friends Dennis Prager and Hugh Hewitt arguing against same-sex marriage. Here he is claiming to have substantial familiarity with the position he disagrees with, from people he respects and takes seriously, yet he still shadow-boxes with lazy caricatures of traditional marriage talking points rather than the arguments Prager and Hewitt actually make. 

Is it plausible that Simon could be that familiar with their arguments yet still sincerely believe that he’s fairly presented them in today’s post? Do true friends treat each other’s beliefs and the effort they put into advocating them with such dishonesty and disrespect? And is this the caliber of argument that conservatives are content to do battle against the Left with?
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The Historical Malpractice of Equating Gay Marriage and Interracial Marriage

All liberal rhetoric has two basic goals: pander to some class-, sex-, or race-based voting bloc, and defame whoever disagrees with liberals. Nowhere is this more evident than in the same-sex marriage debate.

Perhaps in response to African-American pastors’ backlash against President Barack Obama’s endorsement of redefining marriage, the Left has resurrected the argument that opposing same-sex marriage is no different than forbidding interracial marriage, making today’s conservatives no better than yesterday’s racists. Today we remember with shame our ancestors who senselessly kept white and black lovers apart, the argument goes; how are those trying to prevent gay marriage any better?

It’s a powerful question—to those who don’t know anything about either the marriage debate or the history of anti-miscegenation (interracial marriage) laws. Fortunately, a little knowledge is more than enough to expose this attack for the cheap demagoguery it is.

For starters, race is a superficial characteristic having nothing to do with marriage’s meaning, while gender has everything to do with it. Men and women uniquely complement one another both as lovers and as parents, because theirs is the only pairing that naturally creates children and gives children what they need for a well-rounded upbringing. Children need role models of both genders in order to understand themselves and relate to the opposite sex. They need one parent to reinforce their sex’s strengths and another to temper its weaknesses. They need a mother’s disposition to nurture and a father’s emphasis on discipline. Numerous studies confirm this. Moms and dads come in all skin colors, but only women can be mothers, and only men fathers, which gives traditional marriage a clear rationale: binding together naturally procreative couples for the sake of their potential children.

Conversely, anti-miscegenation wasn’t motivated at all by substantive concerns about marriage’s function; it was merely one front in a much broader campaign to keep the black population oppressed and the white gene pool pure.

Marriage defenders’ motives couldn’t possibly be further from those of segregationists, and neither could the impact of their policies on the group in question. Defining marriage as a man-woman union simply means the state won’t issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. That’s it. No prohibition whatsoever on cohabitation, sex, benefits (which can be addressed without redefining marriage), contracts, or even wedding ceremonies. The central motivation of marriage redefiners isn’t to correct a tangible injustice, but to win government endorsement for gay relationships—in other words, they’re driven by the subjective value they place in marriage’s symbolism.

The effects of the anti-miscegenation laws that once plagued interracial couples, on the other hand, were all too tangible. While some states simply denied their relationships formal recognition but otherwise left them alone, many criminalized—and punished—cohabitation, sex, and the performing of wedding ceremonies between whites and non-whites. Indeed, consider the incident that sparked Loving v. Virginia, the 1967 Supreme Court decision that struck down anti-miscegenation. Richard and Mildred Loving married in the District of Columbia, moved to Virginia, and were indicted. The judge gave them a choice: spend a year in prison, or get out of Virginia.

Jail time? Forced eviction from a state? Where in any of the thirty-eight states that reject same-sex marriage do gay couples face anything of the kind?
The comparison between same-sex and interracial marriage is historical malpractice of the worst order, a malicious lie that not only derails an important cultural conversation but also insults those who faced true bigotry in this country. This superficially clever smear might be a hit among clueless college kids receptive to whatever boosts their own sense of superiority, but liberals may see it backfire among voters with longer memories.

Hillsdale’s Wenzel vs. Schlueter on Conservatism: My 2 Cents

Whenever two Hillsdale College professors get into an argument, everybody wins. At the Public Discourse, economics professor Nikolai Wenzel makes the case that “conservatism is misguided, arbitrary, inconsistent, and ultimately inimical to liberty and human flourishing; in response, philosophy professor Nathan Schlueter argues that Wenzel mischaracterizes conservatism and misunderstands its conception of liberty.

I didn’t have much interaction with Dr. Schlueter during my time at Hillsdale, but by all accounts he’s a marvelous professor. I did take Dr. Wenzel’s introductory course on Political Economy, and can personally attest that it was equal parts informative and intellectually challenging. Were I to undertake the difficult task of ranking Hillsdale’s professors, Dr. Wenzel would unquestionably make my top five.

I say this to make clear that the libertarian-conservative debate couldn’t ask for more formidable combatants, and there is precious little I could possibly add to the philosophical side of the exchange. However, in defending conservative philosophy, Dr. Schlueter’s response didn’t cover my main objection to Dr. Wenzel’s argument: whether his characterization of conservatism matches what we see in practice.

His chief objection seems to be that, rather than being truly committed to liberty, conservatism is all too comfortable with the “enlightened few” using government to impose “private preferences” on the individual. But Dr. Wenzel doesn’t elaborate on how that translates to anti-liberty policies. I’d like to explore just how illiberal conservatism’s non-libertarian causes actually are.

Abortion—It never ceases to amaze me that libertarians and pro-lifers quarrel as much as they do. The rationale for legally protecting unborn life is exactly the same as the rationale for protecting adult life: that life is one of the individual rights that justice demands government protect. Both groups have the exact same conception of liberty; it is a separate question—are the unborn people?—which leads conservatives to look at the evidence and conclude that fetuses deserve to be grouped with the individuals government already protects. Libertarians should either concede that abortion is a liberty issue and join forces with us, or explain why the unborn don’t have the same individual rights as everyone else.

Marriage—As Jennifer Roback Morse argues, civil marriage is “society’s institutional structure for protecting these legitimate rights and interests of children.” Through incentives and obligations, it binds couples together to give their offspring a stable home with a mother and a father. The rationale for limiting this union to man-woman couples is that men and women bring unique sets of characteristics to parenthood, and children need both sets for an ideal upbringing.  Further, there’s nothing coercive about it—obligations are only placed on those who voluntarily agree to them by marrying, and no gay Americans are denied their rights to form relationships, live together, have sex, hold marriage ceremonies, consider themselves married, share property, visit one another in hospitals, make medical decisions for one another, or receive domestic partner benefits from employers who wish to offer them. Current law could easily be revised to extend the incidents of marriage (hospital visitation, bereavement leave, etc.) to gay couples without redefining marriage.

Religion—In controversies over religion in public, conservatives are almost exclusively on defense, warding off legal assaults on benign religious expression in public schools and benign religious monuments on public property. They are pushing against coercion, not trying to impose it. Granted, conservatives also take pains to remind people of America’s Judeo-Christian heritage, but they do so out of Washington’s belief that liberty cannot survive without the “indispensable support” of religion. Further, this doesn’t translate into coercive policies, either; merely affirmation of America’s religious roots through symbolism, ceremony, and discussion.

Drugs—While some conservatives may base their opposition to drug legalization in health concerns or antipathy for drug culture, the more overriding rationale is that drugs warp one’s mind and dull one’s senses to the point where he becomes a threat to the rights of others. If government is essentially the collective exercise of the individual right to self-defense, then people are well within their rights to protect themselves from drug-related crimes and accidents via drug prohibition. It’s worth remembering that John Locke himself believed man’s power over his own body was not absolute, that liberty didn’t cover the right to enslave or destroy one’s self:
[…] a man, not having the power of his own life, cannot, by compact, or his own consent, enslave himself to any one, nor put himself under the absolute, arbitrary power of another, to take away his life, when he pleases […] though man in that state have an uncontroulable liberty to dispose of his person or possessions, yet he has not liberty to destroy himself […]
Other—Dr. Schlueter’s reply notes that there are individual-harm components to pornography and prostitution, as well. Here, though, let’s ask a different question: how many conservatives—even devout social conservatives—rank these among their chief concerns? How many are really politically active because of porn or prostitution? To judge conservatism based on a few conservatives’ fixation on these issues is just as silly as judging libertarianism based on a few libertarians’ fixation on copyright laws.

Surely there are some conservatives out there to whom Dr. Wenzel’s critique applies, but are they really numerous enough to warrant the attention he’s given them? There’s no conservative push to turn the reins of government and society over to an “enlightened few” dispensing virtue edicts.

By and large, conservatives are every bit as live-and-let-live as libertarians, their understanding of the cutoff between private preference and public concern every bit as healthy. In standing for life, marriage, and traditional culture, conservatives can be trusted to leave liberty every bit as secure—indeed, even more so—than they found it.

GOP Negligence Largely to Blame for Gay Marriage’s Rising Public Support

Note: the following article was originally written in early June for another venue, but I’ve reprinted it here because I think its point is still relevant.
What a difference a couple of election cycles make. In 2004, with solid majorities opposing gay marriage, Republicans aggressively campaigned on the issue, contributing significantly to the reelection of President George W. Bush and the passage of marriage protection laws in over 40 states. Congressional Republicans introduced the Federal Marriage Amendment repeatedly between 2002 and 2006.
Fast-forward to 2011. Support for gay marriage has been steadily rising since 2006, finally reaching a 53% majority in a March 18 ABC News/Washington Post poll. On May 6, Gallup found that just 15% of Republicans consider social issues their top priority.
Granted, most of the current GOP presidential field rejects Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels’ call for an ill-defined “truce” on social issues, and there are no serious Giuliani-style liberals in the race this time around, but overall the Republican Party and conservative punditry have put the issue on the backburner, allegedly to focus on wasteful spending. And in this observer’s opinion, this trend of Republicans taking their eye off the ball is the biggest factor to blame for public opinion’s leftward shift on marriage.
You see, liberals long ago figured out how to multitask with their economic and social agendas. As they fight for ObamaCare and cap & trade on Capitol Hill, they know they can leave their cultural causes to the courts, where judicial activists strike down traditional marriage definitions as discriminatory, to the schools, where radical sexual morals are increasingly embraced, and—most importantly—to the natural consequences of the Right’s comparative silence on the issue.
The arguments for gay marriage are intuitively appealing, since they tug just the right emotional heartstrings. It’s easy to recognize the deceptively simple appeal of the common rebuttal, “How does my marriage threaten yours?” Simple: it doesn’t. By contrast, the conservative argument that marriage’s man-woman definition serves a vital social purpose, and that dismantling it will have devastating indirect consequences, is less intuitively obvious to apolitical Americans. It needs sustained public explanation and debate.
The American people aren’t interested in telling gay people how to live, or keeping them from sharing property or visiting one another in the hospital, and as long as liberals frame the narrative as a choice between redefining marriage and treating gays like second-class citizens—and as long as conservatives aren’t loudly, visibly exposing it as a false choice and explaining the true point of marriage—it’s only natural that a significant portion of the populace will accept the Left’s scare-mongering and oversimplifications at face value. Lies don’t correct themselves.
And wouldn’t you know it, even with its schedule free of those distracting social issues, our Tea Party-charged Republican House has been somewhat less than effective at unshackling the economy or solving the debt crisis. We shouldn’t be surprised by the correlation between indifference on social issues and ineptness on economic ones—the link between conservatism’s social and fiscal aspects runs far deeper than many want to admit.
Our Founding Fathers understood that self-governing societies cannot endure if the virtues necessary for an independent citizenry—responsibility, independence, morality, work ethic—aren’t instilled in each generation, which marriage does by binding husband and wife to each other for the sake of their children’s upbringing, so future citizens can take care of themselves without Uncle Sam’s aid. And with scores of social ills, from poverty and academic failure to teen pregnancy and crime, linked to the breakdown of the traditional nuclear family, the verdict is in: children need both a mother and a father.
For years, society’s conception of marriage has been drifting away from the needs of children and toward the wishes of adults. By erasing procreation from marriage’s definition entirely, same-sex marriage would hammer the final nail in the traditional family’s coffin. Conservatives who are serious about reforming our paternalistic government can’t afford to sit this fight out. As marriage goes, so goes the nation.

Romney Hits a Home Run on Marriage

Here’s one of the highlights of the most recent GOP debate, where Mitt Romney made a surprisingly strong case for the Federal Marriage Amendment. I don’t think I’ve ever heard it explained so clearly in so few words:  
I believe that the issue of marriage should be decided at the federal level. You might wonder, why is that? Why wouldn’t you just let each state make their own decision? And the reason is because people move from state to state, of course, in a society like ours, they have children, as they go to different states, if one state recognizes a marriage and another does not, what’s the right of that child? What kind of divorce proceeding potential would there be in a state that didn’t recognize the marriage in the first place? There are – marriage is a status, it’s not an activity that goes on within the walls of a state, and as a result, marriage status relationships should be constant across the country.

Allahpundit Doesn’t Get It

And by “it,” I’m referring to Rick Perry’s answer on why he (now) backs a Federal Marriage Amendment.
Perry:
It’s part of the fabric of America to support traditional marriage and that being between one man and one woman. I led the charge back in the mid 2000′s in Texas when we passed a constitutional amendment that defines marriage as being between one man and one woman, passed by 75%, that’s rather overwhelming. But I do respect a state’s right to have a different opinion and take a different tact if you will, California did that. I respect that right, but our founding fathers also said, ‘listen, if you all in the future think things are so important that you need to change the constitution here’s the way you do it’. It takes three quarters of the states deciding that this is important, it goes forward and it becomes an amendment to the United States Constitution. I support that for issues that are so important, I think, to the soul of this country and to the traditional values which our founding fathers, on the issue of traditional marriage I support the federal marriage amendment.
Allah:
Why would you want an amendment in a case where you respect a state’s right to have a different opinion? The touchstone for an amendment, I would think, is when you don’t respect that right because a particular state’s legislative preference would lead to grievous harm. Slavery is the paradigm example; abortion, arguably, is another. If you can look at your opponent’s position and say, “I see your point but I think you’re wrong,” that should take the amendment option off the table and put you back in Tenth Amendment territory. Federalism is “part of the fabric of America” too, after all; as a wise man once said, “It is one of the happy incidents of the federal system that a single courageous State may, if its citizens choose, serve as a laboratory; and try novel social and economic experiments without risk to the rest of the country.” Perry’s arguing, I guess, that this experiment is simply too dangerous to conduct — except, actually, he never does say that it’s dangerous. He just says it’s contrary to “traditional values,” a standard that would prohibit “novel social experiments” altogether. And the kicker is that he’s couching his argument in terms of Article V, which is the most “non-traditional” part of the Constitution insofar as it lets future generations change the law as opinions change. Well, opinions are changing. Why use Article V to stop it if you can’t articulate some sort of overweening harm?
That’s fair enough as a critique of Perry’s case for the FMA, but Allah talks as if that’s the only pro-FMA argument he’s familiar with. He’s been manning one of the blogosphere’s top center-right blogs for years, and yet he’s this ignorant about the pro-side?
To summarize, the case for a Federal Marriage Amendment is simple: first, it’s the only thing that will truly insulate marriage from judicial activism, and second, marriage is so vital to the continuance of a free society that the United States must insist on a uniform definition. For further edification, I prescribe the following articles:

Some Inconvenient Truths About GOProud

With some high profile center-right bloggers outraged by the American Conservative Union’s decision not to continue gay Republican group GOProud’s sponsorship of the annual Conservative Political Action Conference, it’s worth listing a few points about GOProud and CPAC the finger wavers should think about:
  1. GOProud’s position on marriage: “Opposing any anti-gay federal marriage amendment.  Marriage should be a question for the states.  A federal constitutional amendment on marriage would be an unprecedented federal power grab from the states.” Deferring marriage policy to the states is a respectable (albeit mistaken, in my view) conservative position; referring to the marriage amendment as “anti-gay” is not.
  2. GOProud’s stated support for marriage federalism is highly misleading. The organization wants to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, falsely suggesting the law interferes with the right of the states to set marriage policy. DOMA is not a federal same-sex marriage ban, but merely a federal guarantee that individual states won’t be forced to recognize or adopt the marriage definitions of other states. What good is it for GOProud to say they support states’ rights on the issue if they want to leave the states defenseless against activist judges?
  3. GOProud doesn’t merely ignore social issues; they also actively demand that the rest of the conservative coalition abandons social issues too. In doing so they misrepresent how many Tea Partiers they speak for and denigrate the movement’s most conservative, loyal and long-standing members as “Washington insiders and special interest groups.”
  4. GOProud supported the repeal of the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy. But as those following the issue know, policymakers ignored the concerns of many servicemen and military officers in deciding what to do about DADT. Can any organization that doesn’t take seriously the military’s judgment in such matters truly call itself conservative?
  5. GOProud supports ending taxpayer funding for abortion, but punts on the main issue. It turns out GOProud president Chris Barron worked for Planned Parenthood as director of pro-choice outreach to Republicans. Barron says his time with PP was the “worst 2 months of my life,” yet it apparently wasn’t significant enough to change his position all that much: “he stopped supporting the Roe v Wade decision in early 2006, after this experience, ‘but beyond that don’t have strong feelings on abortion – not really involved in the process.’”
  6. Barron has also smeared longtime conservative activists Tony Perkins (Family Research Council president) and Cleta Mitchell (ACU board member) as “bigots,” and ridiculed those boycotting CPAC over GOProud’s involvement, including Sen. Jim DeMint and Concerned Women for America, as living on “the Island of Political Misfit Toys.” Barron did apologize to Mitchell, but not to the others. Not only has Barron shown his capacity for demonization, but he lacks the common sense and the humility to recognize that a newcomer to the Right, especially one with all the baggage listed above, doesn’t quite have the standing to pass judgment on the political relevance of the movement’s veterans.
  7. Barron isn’t the only GOProud bigwig with behavioral problems. In response to the National Organization for Marriage’s perfectly reasonable press release stating, “We welcome everyone’s right to participate in the democratic process, but we have a message for GOProud on marriage: If you try to elect pro-gay-marriage Republicans, we will Dede Scozzafava them,” LaSalvia threw a temper tantrum: “I just have a question for them: Who’s the pansy at CPAC? What wusses. Just come over. Don’t play nice if you’re not going to be nice.”
  8. Some critics have asked why the ACU is throwing out GOProud, but not Grover Norquist and Suhail Khan, both of whom are disturbingly cozy with radical Islamists. That’s an excellent question, and the ACU should be confronted on it. Y’know what else is an excellent question? Why the people raising the question don’t notice that Norquist is also on GOProud’s advisory board. Are we to believe Norquist impairs the ACU’s reliability on national security and foreign policy, but not GOProud’s?
Everyone makes mistakes now and then, and prudent allies should be able to forgive one or two transgressions for the sake of their shared priorities. But with no less than eight serious marks against GOProud, it’s entirely reasonable to doubt the organization’s intentions and conservative credibility. CPAC made the right decision.

This article is cross-posted at RedState.com.