Monday, July 28, 2003

Privacy Cuts Two Ways

What’s the best strategy for the country’s most powerful interest group? Does it lie low, count its blessings and tone down its demands, lest it provoke opposition or should it up the ante and demand even more , claiming that the deck is stacked against it and that its members are disadvantaged? The Gay Rights movement is by far the most powerful group around, dwarfing in influence and effectiveness the repellent National Rifle Association. Its response to the question is to kvetch even more about discrimination and to bully any who are brave enough to challenge its demands, tactics and goals. That’s sure to cow the media and silence much of the opposition. So much for the First Amendment.

As part of the unwholesome intimidatory package, the claim that the Gay Rights crusade is powerful is said to be proof of bias on the part of those who make the claim. So be it. The fact is that gays and their advocates are entrenched in the media - the Times is their newspaper – and in just about every area of American life where style and opinion are shaped, including Hollywood and Broadway, Madison Avenue and Seventh Avenue.

Any doubt about the tremendous clout of the gays should be dispelled by comparing the record of this movement with the achievements of other contemporary movements that should have strong claims for civil rights protection. Unlike gays and ethnics who routinely exaggerate their numbers and other claims – the back page of this newspaper recently had a paean to gayness that included the incredibly absurd claim that 14 million children in the U.S. are being raised by gay parents – we have absolutely reliable data that women or at least females constitute approximately 51% of the population. If a generation ago an opinion survey had asked whether Gay Rights and marriage or the Equal Rights Amendment had the better prospect for success, the question would have been regarded as absurd. ERA was moving ahead and the notion of gay marriages was nearly everywhere regarded as abhorrent. Well, the Equal Rights Amendment is dead – undeservedly so – while the notion of gay marriages is being taken very seriously. This is quite an achievement for an allegedly weak movement.

Another comparative benchmark is civil rights for Blacks, a massive group of Americans who in the aggregate remain disadvantaged and are often the victims of racism. Their movement is in the doldrums, admittedly in part because of rotten, even sleazy, leadership, but also because few people care anymore and there is only so much attention to be given to discrimination claims. The media and politicians have adopted Gay Rights as their favored crusade.

Blacks will have to wait their turn, they will have to remain at the back of the bus until the high-status, socio-economically privileged gays are satisfied. That may be a long time in coming.

Gays have been further empowered by the Supreme Court decision striking down state anti-sodomy laws. I cannot think of a more stupid legal strategy as that employed by Texas officials who enforced a law that should not be on the books, a law that had been rightly abandoned by other states. Whether embedded in the words of the Constitution or not, privacy is as fundamental a right as there is and no matter what any of us may think of certain sexual conduct, what consenting adults do in private is not the business of the state or, with few exceptions, any outsiders.

Justice Kennedy’s majority opinion made an eloquent case for striking down Texas’ law, yet errant though it was, Justice Scalia’s dissent was right in suggesting that the ruling would advance the gay agenda far beyond the reach of the immediate case. Already, great impetus has been given to the acceptance of gay marriages.

The strictures against such marriages are not at all rooted in discrimination, as was certainly true of anti-miscegenation laws. In fact, they are not rooted primarily in law but in the understanding that marriage is a sanctified act involving male and female. The barriers to homosexual marriage are biological, philosophical and ethical. If law now comes into the picture, it will be to validate that which nearly universally has been regarded as unacceptable, even abhorrent. I cannot think of a more extreme situation of judicial activism, yet we live in an era when judges feel free to impose their likes and dislikes, irrespective of tradition and common understandings.

While sexual conduct is or should be private, marriage is a public act and that alone transforms its character. A license is needed, the ceremony is conducted by someone who is authorized by government to do so and governmental records are maintained. In a legal sense, marriages can be dissolved only through governmental action. It’s fascinating to note that however much gays rely on the right to privacy when it is to their advantage to do so, they abandon the ideal of privacy when it suits their political agenda or sexual proclivities. Gay Rights marches and demonstrations are not simply exercises in rhetoric and advocacy, as nearly all other demonstrations are. They increasingly have a public character that includes overt sexual behavior, the goal being to both shock and attract, the latter being especially directed at the young and counterculturalists who, whatever their sexual orientation, gravitate towards that which rejects convention and propriety.

The breakdown between private and public behavior is the deliberate attempt by gays to impose, at least visually, what they are doing on others. A case in point is what is happening this summer in parts of the Hamptons, as public beaches have become trysting places for homosexual activity. Never mind that this is on public property, that others are being imposed on, that the rights of neighbors are being violated. Gay Rights are supreme; so says the New York Times whose slogan might be “We print all of the gay news that’s unfit to print.”

When a Hampton homeowner whose property fronts on a beach complained about what was transpiring, the response was a threat to send 1,000 gay men to harass him at his home. We now know what these uncivil libertines think of civil liberties.

What would the tolerance level be if comparable heterosexual activity occurred at a public facility? There would be an outcry and efforts to prevent such behavior would be applauded. But gays, for all of their complaining, are afforded privileged status.

American Jews overwhelmingly support Gay Rights in its most extreme forms. They have been at the head of the pack advocating gay marriages and not merely as civil ceremonies but, in their convoluted mindset, as religious rituals. It has been said that there is a greater incidence of homosexuality among Jews. I do not know whether this is the case. What seems to be true is that the abandonment of traditional beliefs has been accompanied by the embrace of attitudes and practices that are hostile to the Judaic tradition.

If gay marriages come, it’s a sure thing that Reform clergy will be lining up to perform the ceremony, much like they’ve been active in sanctioning intermarriage. There is consistency to the Reform rejection of all that ensures our survival. As for Conservatives, the leadership of the Jewish Theological Seminary and older rabbis have remained staunchly opposed to the extreme variety of Gay Rights and they have blocked the ordination of gays. However, among younger rabbis and students at JTS, the prevailing opinion is strongly in the other direction. It’s likely only a matter of time until the Conservative movement accepts all or nearly all of the gay agenda, so that there will be one less religious tradition to conserve.

While I believe that most Orthodox recognize that gays should be protected against discrimination, there is fierce opposition to gay commitment ceremonies and certainly gay marriages. If such marriages are permitted, the Orthodox will face anew the question of whether they should maintain the fiction that we are Am Echad, one people, despite intermarriage, patriliniality, quickie conversions, the wholesale abandonment of Judaism and all else that has ravaged American Jewry. As unpopular as it may be, the Orthodox should face the reality that we are no longer Am Echad.