Proponents of gay marriage advance two powerful arguments: Couples seeking to marry should not be discriminated against on the basis of an unchangeable factor like sexual orientation; and shifting attitudes, especially among young people, make gay marriage an inevitability.
The problem for supporters of racial preferences is that these precise arguments can be, and have been, made by conservatives challenging the use of race in university admissions in the case of Fisher v. University of Texas. Abigail Fisher, the plaintiff, says the fact that she was born white should not be used to disadvantage her in admissions; and large-scale trends over the past half century—the decline in racial discrimination coupled with growing economic inequality, a rise in racial intermarriage, and the “browning” of the U.S. population—all make affirmative action based on race look outdated.
An interesting point. If race is essentially the equivalent of sexual orientation, then this makes sense. But if sexual orientation, even if inborn, has an inalienable moral status, then it is not like race, a morally neutral category.
This is why arguments analogizing laws that banned interracial marriage to laws preventing same-sex marriage don’t work for social and religious conservatives. There is no moral quality to blackness, or whiteness, or Hispanic-ness, or Asian-ness. Because sexual acts carry moral weight, one way or another, same-sex relationships are not the same thing. To put it another way, there is not a morally right and morally wrong way to be black; there is a morally right and morally wrong way to be sexually active (which is why religious conservatives disapprove of extramarital sexual activity).
If you are going to make an argument for same-sex marriage to religious conservatives, you need to be prepared to argue for why same-sex relationships are morally good. Saying that they are morally neutral won’t cut it, any more than trying to convince a religious conservative that unmarried heterosexuals having sex is morally neutral will work.
Anyway, this Slate piece I’ve linked to is an interesting challenge to the idea that gay civil rights and black civil rights are complementary. Thoughts?