Lost amid the cheering as the Supreme Court finally ends the battle over gay marriage is a strange paradox. Gay marriage is a fundamentally conservative concept. Its legal basis was established and promoted by key conservatives. It exists as a ringing endorsement of traditional institutions, an expansion and strengthening of the community and family values on which conservatism has rested for centuries.
By “conservative” of course I refer to the term in its older traditional sense, the manner explained in this earlier piece. And when I refer to the conservatives who played such key roles in this process I am thinking most notably of Ted Olson, who built the constitutional case, and Andrew Sullivan, who helped form the public case for same sex marriage.
It wasn’t so long ago that same sex marriage was a deeply controversial concept in the gay community. It wasn’t so long ago that marriage itself, as an institution, was generally thought to be under sustained attack in our culture. Andrew Sullivan’s most prominent early fight, starting in the ’80’s, had less to do with getting the wider public to accept same sex marriage than with prodding the gay community to make it a cause. Promoting marriage in the gay community was seen by many as a capitulation to repressive conservative morality. In a sense it was. It still is. Why can’t people who call themselves “conservative” recognize this and celebrate a win?
One of the most frustrating consequences of Republican paranoia is way it has blinded us to opportunities. If the GOP could muster a shred of cool-headed sanity, practically every gay couple in America who wants to marry would be Republicans. Absent the bigotry that’s gripped the party, why wouldn’t they be?
The same goes for ambitious young immigrants, African-American families looking to seize new economic opportunities, young professional women, and on and on and on. There is nothing valuable – not one valuable thing at all – at risk of loss by extending the right to marry to homosexuals. Reflexive fear of change is leaving the party crippled and dangerous.
Between this ruling and the collapse of our quiet defense of Confederate values, maybe we can sober up. There is absolutely nothing left to gain from promoting public fear and loathing of gays. Perhaps this emerging cultural shift can force the party to rethink the Neo-Confederate alliances built up over the past few decades. Maybe we can remember who we are and start to build the optimistic, realistic agenda that the country deserves to hear from us.
Here are a few resources on the subject;
And from this blog’s archive: