From a correspondent in Singapore who read my BBC column on same-sex marriage. I reprint this with his permission:
My name is Aaron. I’m 24 this year, and I’m writing from Singapore. I enjoyed the article you wrote for the BBC and hope you have a chance to read my email- hopefully it won’t get lost among the swarm of enraged, ad hominem “you’re-on-the-wrong-side-of-history” letters you will no doubt get very soon.
Unfortunately, many of the points you make are all too true. There is a war on traditional values, and we are losing. Even outside of America, in supposedly conservative cultures like Singapore, the gay advocacy movement is getting louder each day. A few years ago, our government was reviewing a portion of our penal code, section 377A, which criminalised gay sex. The debate was whether or not this portion should be repealed. Although the section is hardly ever enforced, many believed that its presence in the legislature was a symbol of our society’s commitment to traditional values. Despite strong lobbying by gay rights groups, it was decided that the section would be kept.
Since then though, the gay movement has seen two major coups in Singapore. The first was an incident that happened with a woman’s advocacy group, AWARE. Concerned that the existing exco was pushing a pro-gay agenda, especially in the sex education courses they conducted in schools, a group of conservative Christian ladies decided to force out the leadership and take control of the organisation. The backlash from the gay community was vitriolic in the extreme. At an extraordinary general meeting held by the new leadership to explain their actions, the gay community descended upon the meeting and disrupted it repeatedly. I remember watching the highlights on television, and what struck me the most was that every time one of the ladies tried to say something, she would get shouted down by the crowd and booed. You know, if there’s one thing you can say about liberals, they’re tolerant of everything and everyone, except those who disagree with them.
I was just amazed that these people had made themselves believe that so righteous was their cause and so urgent was their calling, that it allowed them to set aside the conventional rules of social etiquette and reasoned discourse. Because that was exactly what they were doing. This is especially striking in a culture like Singapore, where we rarely act directly confrontational towards a person. Long story short, the old guard was restored following the meeting. What was even more painful to watch (although to be fair I shouldn’t judge, I didn’t make the effort to go and render support) was that I knew in the audience there were many Christians who shared the views of the new leadership, but did not speak up or , if they did, received no more civil treatment than their sisters up on stage.
The second incident related to the corporate realm- a couple of Christmases ago, our largest local bank, DBS, was called out by gay rights groups over a tie up they had with Focus on the Family. Apparently, DBS was donating a certain percentage of its profits to Focus, and as you can imagine, that didn’t go down too well with them. DBS dropped the partnership shortly after.
When I watch American TV, and I see how the scriptwriters of Glee have managed to portray a gay relationship as every bit as tender and romantic as a heterosexual one, and I see Sean Penn telling the California voters that they should be ashamed of the convictions they had and voted for, and I see Obama coming out of his own closet, in a way, to announce his support for gay marriage, I cannot help but think it is only a matter of time before that starts to happen here.
But I also want to tell you that there is hope. You made the (unfair) observation that young people are the driving force behind the movement towards greater liberalism and same sex marriage. Let me tell you that us young people aren’t all the same. There are still those of us out there who believe in the values our parents taught and raised us by. We know the tide is against us, but we also know that we do not stand alone, and we will continue to stand for what we believe is right.
What is important is that you don’t give up- my generation is drawing lessons from yours. If people who think and feel the same way I do see you giving up, well, then we’re just going to become fewer and farther between. So Rod, yes, the times, they are a-changin’, but that doesn’t mean the battle is lost. I hope this will give you some encouragement.
Relatedly, just yesterday afternoon I told Frank Beckwith that back in 2003, when we moved to Dallas — I remember this because I can recall all the things still in boxes in our living room — Diane Sawyer dedicated an entire episode of “Prime Time Live” to the story of a gay male couple who arranged an adoption with an unwed mother who was a friend of theirs. When the baby was born, the men found it really difficult to take care of it. They gave the child back to its mother. It was a big, big mess, but Diane Sawyer’s take on it was along the lines of, “Bless their hearts, life sure is messy! Onwards!”
I thought at the time, “That’s why we’re going to have gay marriage one day. The network is normalizing this stuff.” I gave a talk at a conference that fall in which I cited the Diane Sawyer report as an example of how the media are engaged in advocacy journalism on this issue (TMatt noted this sort of thing in an item linking to a relevant Pew study; this TMatt post is also worth your attention — it’s about the role of entertainment media in shaping the outlook of younger Americans on this issue.)
Anyway, I mentioned that jaw-dropping (because so heavily slanted) 2003 Diane Sawyer report just yesterday to Frank. Later in the day, driving around town on an errand, I listened to a report on NPR about the fall TV season. One of the buzzy new programs is NBC’s “The New Normal.” What’s it about? Says the LA Times:
Murphy’s comedy “The New Normal” involves a gay couple, played by Andrew Rannells and Justin Bartha, and the woman who will serve as the surrogate mother for their children, played by Georgia King. The pilot was written by Murphy and “Glee” writer Ali Adler.
That didn’t take long. It’s a new world, for sure.