Did you see the TAC essay by Jon Huntsman in which he claims that gay marriage is a conservative cause? Though I am fine with the position being stated at TAC — I support expanding the conversation on the Right, not keeping it restricted — I think that Huntsman’s view is not at all conservative, except in a limited, but important, sense: at this point, it’s probably prudent.
I presume I don’t need to tell readers of this blog, who have heard it a thousand times, why I oppose same-sex marriage, and why I think it is profoundly un-conservative. I will, however, respond to this part of Huntsman’s piece:
All Americans should be treated equally by the law, whether they marry in a church, another religious institution, or a town hall. This does not mean that any religious group would be forced by the state to recognize relationships that run counter to their conscience. Civil equality is compatible with, and indeed promotes, freedom of conscience.
The second sentence does not follow from the first, and the third sentence is cant. Gov. Huntsman should call Catholic Charities of Boston and ask if it was forced by the state to recognize relationships that run counter to its Catholic conscience, or get out of the adoption business. I have no idea what that third sentence means. If Huntsman thinks gay marriage is going to make it easier for people who dissent from the pro-SSM side to hold and state their beliefs, he might be a crackhead. Seriously, I cannot imagine why he would have said such a thing, unless he’s trying to talk himself into something.
Anyway, the only persuasive conservative argument I can think of for SSM is that it’s coming whether conservatives want it or not, and we had better make our peace with it so we don’t lose ground in other areas we care about. I think this is almost certainly true. As I’ve said in this space before, the gay marriage cause has succeeded so well precisely because it appeals to what people in this culture already believe about marriage. That is, if you believe that marriage is primarily a contractual formalization of the love two people have for each other, and that it has no purpose except expressing the love of that pair for each other, then why should it not be extended to same-sex couples? This is especially true in a culture in which people prize individualism to the extent that ours does, and in a culture that no longer holds to traditional Christian views of sex and sexuality.
Look: When less than half of self-described born-again Christian adults aged 35 and under oppose same-sex marriage, conservatives have a huge problem with this issue. We can’t even hold the most socially conservative part of our own side into the rising generation. How on earth are we supposed to hold the culture?
This is not happening to us out of nowhere. Same-sex marriage is the culmination of several historic cultural forces, and the de-Christianization of the West. (I have a piece about this in the next issue of TAC, so I won’t say more now). I wish it weren’t so, but that’s the world we live in. As a fellow gloomy social conservative said to me today:
Given what people in this civilization think marriage and family are, excluding gays makes no sense, even to ‘conservatives’ under the liberal-contractual order. Marriage is not open to homosexuals under the Christian understanding of marriage. But if we want Christian laws, we have to re-Christianize the civilization.
Is the Republican Party going to do that? Not bloody likely. Politics is the art of the possible, Bismarck said. If those who still want to man the barricades against same-sex marriage can make a case for why succeeding is still possible, I wish they would. Seriously, I’m eager to hear it. But if not, then I wish they would grant that Huntsman probably has the politics for the GOP right on this issue. I don’t like it, but I’d rather deal with the world as it is.