Monday, December 01, 2003

No to Same-Sex Marriages

There are plenty of reasons why not to write about the Massachusetts ruling mandating same-sex marriages in that state. Why stand in the path of the Gay tidal wave which targets and smears opponents of such marriages as bigots and worse? This is the most powerful and relentless interest group that the country has seen in a long while and its recent track record is extraordinary. The Gay Rights movement enjoys the unconditional support of key cultural elites and other centers of influence. While surveys show that by a considerable margin Americans continue to oppose Gay marriage, we are enveloped in a public relations apparatus that is likely to convince many who now feel that marriage is between a man and a woman and to think otherwise is to pervert and destroy the institution of marriage that same-sex marriage is, in fact, a civil right.

So why write once more against a development that now seems inevitable, even though not long ago it was regarded as a good deal less than a long shot? Yesterday’s foolish thought has become today’s nightmare. I write because it is necessary to stand up against those who seek to intimidate and to silence opposition to Gay marriages. While we may not be able to prevent them from happening, we may be able to limit the damage to our society.

It is false to history and a distortion of the truth to charge that those who insist that marriage is between a woman and a man are prejudiced and hostile to civil rights. No democratic society has legally sanctioned same-sex unions, at least not until recently, and the billions of people in these societies and their governments who looked at marriage in terms of heterosexual unions were not bigoted. It is remarkable that in a torrent of judicial activism, four judges out of seven on Massachusetts’ highest court have discovered a new constitutional right that is based on nothing more than their personal attitudes. There is nothing in any legal literature to support their radical imposition of a misguided view of privacy and civil rights.

It is of note that the four judges did not rely on provisions of the U.S. constitution, including the 14th Amendment, and they did not order Massachusetts officials to immediately give marriage licenses to same-sex couples. If Gay marriage is a fundamental human right, presumably the judges in the majority should have invoked the Bill of Rights and they should have directed that marriage licenses be issued to Gay couples. Why did they ask the state legislature to act?

In addition to the direct damage resulting from the decision, there is much collateral damage and the toll will continue to rise. When the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Texas’ anti-sodomy law – a decision that I support on privacy grounds – Justice Scalia charged that the majority had involved the High Court in America’s cultural wars. Sadly, this assessment now seems to be on target.

The United States is mired in contentious social conflict with the middle ground disappearing in front of us. Each side seeks to prevail on the issues and in the forum or political territory that is most favorable to its prospects. The heck with people on the other side and there is scarce concern about the erosion of what holds us together. Thus, the right wing is triumphant in Congress and at the White House, while the ultra-left prevails in courtrooms and in much of the media. As the fighting intensifies, moderate views are disappearing.

The Gay marriage decision has further polarized this country. Instead of settling for legal status for homosexual partnerships which would have been a compromise position, Gays have forced a confrontation with Americans who look at marriage in traditional terms and they have been able to do so because this segment of Americans is high status, wealthy and influential. If one looks at the New York Times and other media powerhouses, it appears that we are left with but one civil right that counts. Blacks and other minorities, as well as the poor, must settle for occasional lip service.

There is much to abhor in the policies of the Bush administration, including the traducing of civil liberties and the rights of accused persons by Ashcroft’s Justice Department, reckless economic actions, even greater recklessness regarding the environment and a cluster of policies that make the rich richer and the have-nots even more desperate. There will be a day of reckoning for the sins that are being committed by those who in the name of compassionate conservatism are mostly compassionate about conserving the privileges of the privileged.

And yet, the Gay marriage issue and the collateral juridical hostility to religion have presented me with a dilemma. As much as I am repelled by the hyper-reactionary acts of the Bush administration and the unctuous excesses of right-wing talk radio, I am probably more upset by the invalidation of the Pledge of Allegiance and now the Massachusetts ruling. If I have to choose between unqualified judges who distort Federalism and judges with credentials who reject a neutral and very limited role for religion in the public square, I would prefer the latter over the former.

I suspect that this dilemma is shared by others of a liberal inclination and that several Democratic presidential nominees are beset by internal conflict, even as they remain silent about Massachusetts’ validation of same-sex marriages. I believe that they have been cowed into silence because they have been convinced that to oppose the Gay rights movement on any issue is tantamount to political suicide. In my view, they are misjudging the American electorate, although not the left-leaning segment of the Democratic party that has once more gained control of the primary process.

This leaves Mr. Bush in a strong position. He has invested little political capital in opposition to Gay marriages, probably because it is not necessary to say much since the opponents of such marriages have no where else to go.

As the cultural wars intensify, the prospects for the Democratic Party become bleaker. Powerful conservative forces believe that they must engage in total political warfare in order to protect their values. Much can happen between now and Election Day 2004, especially regarding Iraq. By the present look of things, the Massachusetts high court has made things much easier for President Bush.