Why the Right Can’t Win the Gay Marriage Fight

Social conservatives lose to liberal modernity

By Daniel McCarthy | The American Conservative | April 25, 2012

(Excerpt) Read the entire article here.

If a conservative continues to endorse the pre-1960s mentality—itself a modern mentality, quite different from that of, say, the 1760s—then opposing gay marriage and banning homosexuals from serving in the military is not nearly enough. How can such people be too corrupting to be trusted in the barracks or on the battlefield yet be deemed safe for schools? Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) was guileless enough to express this logic in a 2004 election debate: “We need the folks that are teaching in schools to represent our values,” he said, agreeing that this definition did not include homosexuals. (He later added, in a spirit of fairness, that it also did not include “a single woman, who was pregnant and living with her boyfriend.”)

Consistently applied, this perspective leads to the conclusion that anti-sodomy laws are of some importance, thus Lawrence v. Texas was not merely a moot exercise in judicial activism but a substantive blow to virtue and justice, and at a minimum homosexuals should be discriminated against in public and private employment. Yet this is more than many social conservatives are willing to contemplate, and it most certainly is not something that Republican politicians more discreet than DeMint are willing to voice.

The second consistent position that conservatives can embrace, however reluctantly, would be that of providing full legal equality. This could be seen as a capitulation to liberalism; it could also be seen as an acknowledgement of reality. The trouble with this position is that it doesn’t stop where most conservatives would like it to stop: the logic of legal equality certainly demands that homosexuals be allowed to serve in government, including in the military, and prima facie it demands that they be afforded equal access to the institution of marriage. Conservatives can try to draw the line before that point, but doing so requires making an exception to the principle of legal equality, and exceptions are, by their very nature, more difficult to establish than arguments that go along with general rules.


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