A Moral Crossroads for Conservatives

Just read a great article here: A Moral Crossroads For Conservatives – National Journal Magazine

“Here’s the key principle,” Peter Sprigg, a gay-marriage opponent with the Family Research Council, said in an April radio interview on Southern California’s KCRW. “Society gives benefits to marriage because marriage gives benefits to society. And therefore the burden of proof has to be on the advocates of same-sex marriage to demonstrate that homosexual relationships benefit society. Not just benefit the individuals who participate but benefit society in the same way and to the same degree that heterosexual marriage does. And that’s a burden that I don’t think they can meet.”

Can’t they?

* * *

Having just been told, at 3 a.m., that his partner of three decades might die within hours, Mike Brittenback was told something else: Before rushing to Bill’s side, he needed to collect and bring with him documents proving his medical power of attorney. This indignity, unheard-of in the world of heterosexual marriage, is a commonplace of American gay life.

Couple of thoughts from the article:

National Review has a cover story this month by Maggie Gallagher, a prominent anti-gay-marriage activist, subtitled: “Why Gay Marriage Isn’t Inevitable.” She is right, in a sense. Most states explicitly ban same-sex marriage, often by constitutional amendment, and the country remains deeply divided. The national argument over marriage’s meaning will go on for years to come.

In another sense, however, she is wrong. Never again will America not have gay marriage, and never again will less than a majority favor some kind of legal and social recognition for same-sex couples. The genie that gay-marriage opponents still hope to stuff back into the bottle is out and out for good.

The story that the author, Jonathan Rauch, writes about his cousin, Bill, and partner, Mike, hits like a pallet of bricks in the abdomen. Please read the whole article and see why the genie is out of the bottle.

19 thoughts on “A Moral Crossroads for Conservatives

  1. I think it’s inevitable because while me may have local setbacks (sometimes rather horrifying ones), human civilization as a whole is slowly improving. Maybe I’m just an incurable optimist, but its better than the opposite.

  2. I sure hope this is the the case—it definitely seems to be the trend within the US, at least.

    One comment here is noteworthy. 

    If gay couples can’t be allowed to marry, what should they be able to do? Asked this question, cultural conservatives say, in the words of Tom Lehrer’s song about the German rocket scientist Wernher von Braun, “That’s not my department.” Effectively, conservatives are saying that what Mike and Bill do for each other has no significance outside their own bedroom.

    What’s interesting here is that’s actually a variation on the case that was made for years by gay rights supporters.  “What they do behind closed doors in the bedroom is nobody’s business.” 

    That libertarian principle has solidly prevailed in most quarters—but, in retrospect, that might have been the wrong tactic, because it focused (as conservatives do) on homosexuality being all about sex, and not about relationships

    And that’s where the Right is now stuck.  Sex, within broad parameters of consent, is nobody’s business, and should not be subject to condemnation or sanction by society.  Relationships, however, are part and parcel of the social fabric.  What gays and their supporters are fighting for, marriage equality, is the right to be part of society —yes, regardless of what goes on behind closed doors, but also regarding who holds whose hand walking down the sidewalk, or who gets to make medical decisions for each other. 

    And, in many ways, that’s an even more fundamental, and fundamentally right, thing.  As the anecdote in the article demonstrates.

  3. So, does that make me an incurable pessimist if I see human civilization, while in part achieving some remarkable breakthroughs in knowledge and capabilities, on the whole slowly splintering/fracturing and growing a lot more stupid? Or is it just an illusion caused by the all invasive media focusing attention on the terrible and the trite instead of the truth?

  4. I think the “frantic soundbite” world of communication (news media, Facebook, Twitter, etc, etc) can easily drown a person in cynical pessimism.  Too many people screaming any sort of nonsense to get a moment’s attention.

    In the “real world” communication of normal face-to-face conversation, I think there’s greater hope.  My wife and I just finished a wonderful road trip holiday around the southwest USA.  It’s hardly a staggeringly different culture, but as I engaged in casual chat with people, eavesdropped a little in restaurants, I was amazed how many stupid cliches and stereotypes about “cowboy rednecks” I had absorbed without realizing.  These were just folks.  Friendly, pleasant folks getting along.

    I’m sure somewhere there was a pickup truck of good ol’ boys waitin’ fer Saturday night to raise some hell. I’m also sure they’re the crazy minority that the media will focus on for being “colourful” and that people will gossip about on Twitter for the same reason.

  5. Susan, with the way news shows are focusing on “sales”, the terrible and trite attract eyeballs, which is their goal.  The truth isn’t as entertaining as some nutjob going off about govt messing with his Medicare.

    Does anyone else find issue with Sprigg’s notion that the benefit must be proved?  Seems as if he’s given up on it being detrimental.  Making something illegal should be based on if it’s detrimental to society.

  6. It still amazes me how some people can just ignore the issues the anecdote brings up. But where I live it is either ignored completely or responded to with hatred and fear, so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.

    How does any marriage benefit society? Especially when almost half end in divorce? No one really brings up that question.

  7. Well that is a point in itself, Randa. It was once much more difficult to get a divorce, especially for women, and mostly because of religious zealotry. Now divorce is completely mundane and typical, to the point that it is almost more unusual when couples don’t get divorced. I think the same will one day be true of gay marriage; I know that nothing is inevitable, but I think it is a safe bet that gay marriage, like divorce, will one day be not only legal but also rather commonplace. Progress will continue, gay marriage opponents must know that they are fighting in a hopeless cause, which is why they are desperate.

  8. I’d like to know the advantage marriage gives to society.

    If we are talking children then what about couples who cannot have kids? If they can get the benefits of marriage without the kids then why not same-sex marriages.

    It’s a weak argument.

    At least over her in the UK it’s a moot point as we have civil partnerships. Legally it’s the same, although some might have an opinion on the fact that it’s not called marriage. This seems to be less of an issue over here than in the USA.

  9. I’d like to know the advantage marriage gives to society.

    I just re-read the Constitution and can find no article which gives Congress or the Executive or Judicial Branch the power to regulate marriage, or any other social relationship, except within the District of Columbia (Art 1, Section 8). That makes the DOMA unconstitutional de facto. That also makes any article in the U.S. Tax Code that gives preference to married couples unconstitutional de facto. Someone please show me where this is not a correct interpretation of the powers granted to Congress. Please!

  10. That makes the DOMA unconstitutional de facto.

    That’s the problem.  It’s not.  If you read what DOMA says, it only says that the states do not have to recognize same-sex marriage.  It is not a prohibition; it’s permission.  That’s not strictly unconstitutional, unfortunately.  It’s basically the Feds saying “We’re not going to enforce discrimination laws in this case”  It’s going to be harder to get rid of because of that.  State laws can reference it when they get to Federal court saying that the US Constitution gives explicitly gives them permission to discriminate.  That will continue to hamstring the issue until DOMA is repealed.  Unfortunately, challenges to DOMA have not yet made it to the Supreme Court.

  11. leguru wrote: … can find no article which gives Congress or the Executive or Judicial Branch the power to regulate marriage …

    The power you’re looking for is listed under Article 1, Section 8:

    The Congress shall have Power [snip]

    To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes; …

    (emphasis mine)

    The interstate commerce clause is the ‘golden ticket’ for Congress’ meddling in local affairs.

  12. For as much as I cringe quoting him, Bill Maher really said it best when interviewing a conservative (can’t remember exactly, quote was along these lines), “You have all these issues, black rights, women rights, global warming, etc that we look back on and say, ‘You were wrong’. When are conservatives going to be on right side of the issue?”

    In other words, IMO, why do conservatives always fight these issues? Are they that oblivious to history and reality? When does it become embarrassing for them?

  13. It’s never going to become embarrassing for them.  When Huckabee can say stupid things about religion and politics with a straight face, what does “embarrassing” even mean?

    All politicians have one simple rule: Never admit you were wrong.  You can say others were wrong, and you can even say that the government is wrong as a whole, so long as you are not personally taking responsibility for anything.

    Then you don’t have to be embarrassed.

  14. They can’t be embarrassed if they belive every word of hate that comes out of their mouths.

    Swordsbane is right. Politicians never admit they are wrong. They will point out the faults of others, but will not admit to their own folly. If they can blame it on someone else, then their image isn’t tainted and their supporters will still send them money.

  15. I’m a big ol’e Lesbian who’s been with her DEVINE wife (lover,girlfriend, roomate,signifacant other…uh ?Did I leave any out?) for 15 years and I think I just fell in love w/ leguru. Keep it up ya Beautiful Bastard!

  16. Now all you have to do is get married, then travel to a state that doesn’t want to recognize that, and then challenge that the DOMA is unconstitutional by way of Article IV, Section 1 of the United States Constitution.

    From me to Congress:

    “Keep passing these stupid laws all you want to, but until you amend the Constitution, all you’re going to do is generate work for the SCOTUS to declare them unconstitutional.

    (in a lower voice) Is it just me, or is it no coincidence that the word “congress” is a synonym for what I say when I injure myself?”

  17. My favorite opponents are the ones who always cry “the sanctity of marriage” when they are the ones out cheating on their wives. I hate hypocrites. Seriously people, how does another person’s future happiness really affect you, if they get married, are you really gonna love your spouse any less? If so, maybe you need to examine your own morals.

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