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Andrew Sullivan Is Being Smug And Naive

Andrew Sullivan, who like me works from home, and who unlike me has never worked in a newsroom or, to my knowledge, been on a college faculty for any length of time, says that I’m wrong to say that it is impossible now to make a “positive case” for orthodox Christian teaching on marriage, because (in my view) any opposition to same-sex marriage is seen as drive by bigotry. Andrew says that if orthodox Christians of goodwill want to be seen as not motivated by bigotry in their opposition to SSM, there’s something they can do about it [1]:

And the only way to distinguish yourself from these hateful factions is to make a positive case for your position. That’s always possible. From the very beginnings of our faith, Christians have made such a positive case, even as they were being thrown to the lions. And Rod won’t do it because someone might say something mean at the office! How delicate and sensitive these Christianists can be.

How smug, naive, and completely out of touch Andrew Sullivan is being here, writing from deep inside his own bubble. Ryan T. Anderson (for example) co-authored a terrific, secular book [2] laying out a natural law case against same-sex marriage. Watch what happened to him [3]when he went on Piers Morgan’s show to talk about it. HuffPo’s Jon Ward wrote about it afterward: [4]

But there is another major tension in this debate, facing another group: the growing number of Americans who favor gay marriage. The question for them is how to treat those who disagree with them.

Piers Morgan’s CNN segment [3] on Tuesday night was a vivid illustration of this tension. Morgan invited Ryan T. Anderson, a 31-year-old fellow from The Heritage Foundation, on his program to debate the issue. But Morgan did not have Anderson to sit at a table with him and Suze Orman, the 61-year-old financial guru, who is gay. Instead, Anderson was placed about 15 feet away from Morgan and Orman, among the audience, and had to debate from a distance.

The message, in both the language used by Morgan and Orman, and the physical placement of Anderson on the set, was clear: they thought him morally inferior.

That is just one high-profile example. Here’s another: remember Scott Eckern, the Mormon theater director in California who was driven out of his job [5]in 2008 because he donated money to Prop 8? From the NYT report:

Marc Shaiman, the Tony Award [6]-winning composer (“Hairspray”), called Mr. Eckern last week and said that he would not let his work be performed in the theater. “I was uncomfortable with money made off my work being used to put discrimination in the Constitution,” Mr. Shaiman said. He added, however, that the entire episode left him “deeply troubled” because of the potential for backlash against gays who protested Mr. Eckern’s donation.

“It will not help our cause because we will be branded exactly as what we were trying to fight,” said Mr. Shaiman, who is gay. “But I do believe there comes a time when you cannot sit back and accept what I think is the most dangerous form of bigotry.”

Nobody reported that Eckern had been guilty of treating people in the workplace with bigotry. When it became known that he did not support SSM, and gave money to the campaign to stop it, he was compelled to resign, or see the institution he worked for ruined. Actress Susan Egan, who started the anti-Eckern protest [7], responded to the resignation:

But she did not intend to force Eckern to resign. “I don’t think it was anybody’s goal,” she said. “I’m really sad. I think Scott is a good man. I think he genuinely cares about the theatre. I think he’s good at his job.” She added that had he not resigned, however, “I know there are people who would not have been satisfied.”

Nice career you have there, Mr. Eckern. Sure would be a shame for something to happen to it. Nice business you have there, Mormon Restaurant Manager Lady. Sure would be a shame to have it destroyed [8].

Sullivan’s complaint is disingenuous. I hear all the time from religious conservatives in various fields — in particular media and academia — who are afraid to disclose their own beliefs about same-sex marriage because most people within those fields consider opposition to SSM to be driven solely by hatred. Earlier this year, I had a conversation with a man who is probably the most accomplished and credentialed legal scholar I’ve ever met, someone who is part of this country’s law elite. The fact that I can’t identify him here, or get into specifics of what he told me, indicates something important about the climate within law circles around this issue. On this issue, he lives in the closet, so to speak, within his professional circles, and explained to me why it has become too dangerous to take a traditionalist stand in law circles, unless one is prepared to sabotage one’s career. In the near future, law degrees coming from law schools that don’t adhere full-on to the new orthodoxy on gay rights (if any exist) will be taken as seriously by the legal profession as degrees from Bob Jones University are.

He also said that religious conservatives really don’t understand the McCarthyism that’s about to come at them. Simply affirming what their faith teaches about sexuality in context of the gay rights debate really is, and will increasingly be, seen not as evidence of one’s poor thinking, but rather as evidence of one’s personal evil. I told him that I understand it, because I’ve seen the same thing play out in my profession. I mentioned someone I know who works in a New York newsroom, at a senior level, who lives in the closet as an Evangelical, out of fear of her colleagues learning the truth — this, given their openly-expressed spite for Evangelicals. I mentioned another friend, a gay-marriage supporter from another New York newsroom, who told me not long ago that there is no room there for dissent on same-sex marriage. All opposition to the new orthodoxy is taken as a confession of one’s bigotry.

Does Andrew Sullivan not know this? There have been plenty of people in the recent past willing to make arguments for the traditional Christian view of sex and sexuality, but the place these arguments are made in our culture — in the media — has been indifferent or hostile to them. I point Andrew to the Pew Center’s study from last year [9], showing that media coverage on same-sex marriage from a critical period they studied favored the pro-SSM position by five-to-one. This kind of thing happens when the media have decided that the other side has no position worth listening to.

Has Andrew ever been threatened by a potentially career-ending complaint that expressing his beliefs create a “hostile work environment”? It has happened to me (though not about gay issues); I’ve heard from others — readers of this blog and people I have met elsewhere — who have faced similar reactions when it emerged in their places of employment that their personal views don’t agree with the new race-sex-gender orthodoxy. A tenured professor who is a Christian told me recently that if his colleagues knew that he disagreed with gay marriage, he would not lose his job (tenure protects him), but he would be ostracized within his college as a bigot. It’s very, very easy for the self-employed Andrew, who is on the power-holding side of this cultural equation, to demean as “delicate and insensitive” people who face real and significant professional consequences for their religious dissent.

It may fall to them to martyr their careers to stand up for what they believe to be true. But if they are going to do that, they should at least have a reasonable hope that their arguments will be seriously considered. That’s a ridiculous thing to hope for in our media climate today.  But it is unjust of Andrew to write as if his side is not imposing a real cost on people who even he recognizes are not true bigots, simply for expressing their Christian beliefs. Christians and other traditionalists were wrong to have demonized gay people in the past, and forced them to live in the closet for fear of their careers. Team Andrew Gay rights activists did a lot of good work to end this climate of fear, and to wake the rest of us up to the humanity of our gay brothers and sisters, and to increase tolerance for them. But it is to Team Andrew’s their great discredit that they have created a climate of intolerance and, yes, hatred, that sends traditionalist Christians into professional closets of their own. It would do Andrew good to step outside of his NYC-Provincetown-DC bubble, and listen to Catholics and other Christians who are not Westboro fundamentalists, and who are afraid to stand up for what they believe in because of the consequences they believe the new McCarthyism is likely to impose.

UPDATE: Damon Linker, who supports SSM, nails it [10]. He says he’s thrilled by the progress gay rights have made.

But I’m also troubled by the equally stunning lack of charity, magnanimity, and tolerance displayed by many gay marriage advocates. This very much includes Mark Joseph Stern, Henry Farrell, and others [11] who are cheering them on.

Roughly speaking, for all of recorded human history until a couple of decades ago, virtually no one even entertained the possibility that homosexuals might seek to marry, let alone advocated it. In that brief span of time — a figurative blink of an eye in cultural terms — gay marriage has gone from being an oxymoron to a lived reality in several states and an institution accepted by majorities or pluralities [12] in most demographic categories. If that isn’t a cultural revolution, then nothing is.

Yes, it’s still underway. But at this rate, Nate Silver’s 2009 prediction [13] that gay marriage would be accepted in all 50 states by 2024 is going to prove to be too pessimistic.

And yet, that appears to be insufficient for some gay marriage proponents. They don’t just want to win the legal right to marry. They don’t just want most Americans to recognize and affirm the equal dignity of their relationships. They appear to want and expect all Americans to recognize and affirm that equal dignity, under penalty of ostracism from civilized life.

That is an unacceptable, illiberal demand.

He explains why. Read the whole thing. [10]

UPDATE.2: Listen, I’m not going to publish any more statements in the comboxes of this thread arguing whether or not Christian opposition to SSM is driven by bigotry. If you want to join that discussion, there are plenty of threads on this blog in which to do it, and there will no doubt be plenty more. This thread is about how gay rights supporters should treat those who disagree with them. I’m not trying to suppress your opinion because I disagree with it, but rather keep the discussion focused. Please don’t waste your time writing a general comment about supposed Christian bigotry, because I’m not going to post it.

237 Comments (Open | Close)

237 Comments To "Andrew Sullivan Is Being Smug And Naive"

#1 Comment By Annek On March 9, 2014 @ 12:20 am

Richard Williams:

“I can’t provide you with any statistics about gay people losing jobs for being gay, but I know of multiple instances where it has happened. Some are people I have known personally. I also have a straight friend who is an employment lawyer. She has had multiple individuals come to her with such claims.”

Thanks for recounting your knowledge of people who’ve been fired because they were gay. I’d still be interested in knowing how widespread the problem is. I’d also be curious to know that circumstances surrounding the firings of the people you mentioned. Did most result simply from prejudice or were there extenuating circumstances that made the situations less clear-cut?

#2 Comment By tomemos On March 9, 2014 @ 12:57 am

“There seem to be any number of subjects that one can be right about and yet receive vituperation and condemnation for believing.”

A woman sees on the news that someone is driving the wrong way on the freeway. She knows her husband is commuting on that same freeway, so she calls his cell phone and tells him to watch out for a driver going the wrong way. He says, “Oh, it’s worse than that! There’s hundreds of them!”

#3 Comment By tomemos On March 9, 2014 @ 1:43 am

Erin: “I admit to finding it a bit rich that I’m supposed to squelch a part of who I am to avoid offending other people who are insisting that in order to be who *they* are they have to redefine marriage and reshape society”

Were people saying that you’re “supposed” to squelch this part of yourself, or were they suggesting how you might be a better advocate for your side? You can certainly dismiss that as concern trolling, but you might also consider that these suggestions were sincerely made in the interest of fostering better conversation. A civil tone is rarely a moral imperative (or if it is it’s a pretty low-priority one), but that doesn’t make it unimportant.

As an example, the set of propositions you put to SSM supporters seems to be premised on the idea that what people are objecting to is the content of your ideas, and that if they agree with your characterization of those ideas then they must admit that you’re not being snide to say, “there will be no compromise offered to those of us who refuse to chant ‘Two men are the same as a man and a woman. Two women are the same as a man and a woman. Children do not need a mother and a father. Gay sex acts are the moral equivalent of holy matrimony…’ ad infinitum.” But doesn’t it strike you that “chant ad infinitum” in itself is exactly what people find snide? Sarcastic hyperbole is just a really sour form of expression.

#4 Comment By EliteCommInc. On March 9, 2014 @ 4:53 am

“Yeah, that really bugs me too. I’m not sure why so many of the anti-SSM crowd seem to think being gay is reduced to sexual “acts”. There’s certainly much more of my being attracted to women than “sex acts”.”

Because that is the only unique characteristic of difference.

Intimacy- among can be as deep and profound as heterosexual unions on an emotional level. Men have intimate communication with each other all the time, but are not in any manner engaged in a relational dynamic.

Intellectual communion — again men can and do have profound communion on an intellectual, but do not in any manner have physical relations or desire them.

The aspect that is unique hinges on relational intimacy and what that means. So point of fact, that’s what it boils down to.

Minus there would be issue, consequently no discussion.

#5 Comment By EliteCommInc. On March 9, 2014 @ 4:57 am

“Nothing in the 1st Amendment protects our rights to free speech against the actions of any individual or non-governmental entity”

That is not accurate. The Constitution targets the government specifically, but it is possible for citizens to violate another’s Constitutional rights.

And should the issue rise high enough – civil suits are generally the means by which they are addressed.

#6 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On March 9, 2014 @ 9:14 am

I can agree with Ampersand that many, perhaps most, of those with a consistent sexual preference for their own sex did not CHOOSE to be that way. There may be various reasons that some people move from one preference to the other, or experience both, and some of these may be environmental, experiential, or even chosen, rather than genetic. Its not really well understood, probably rather complex, and most research is done by people with an ax to grind, one way or the other.

Let’s talk about freedom of speech. It is true that the First Amendment, per se, restrains only the acts of congress, and, since the ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment of blessed memory, the legislatures of the states. The United States Supreme Court has also ruled that in ratifying the First Amendment, it may hardly be supposed that there was intention to allow the courts or the president (or governors) to limit speech that congress could not limit.

The First Amendment does not per se prevent me from punching someone in the face for speech I disagree with, but assault and battery laws do. The First Amendment definitely does not restrain me from denouncing your speech, or you from denouncing my speech. The denunciations themselves are free speech. So, I can say that the plaintiffs in Elane Photography are being petty and petulant and narcissistic, and they can call me a petty insensitive bigot who doesn’t understand their pain. The first amendment allows neither to be suppressed.

BUT, what is really at issue here is offended individuals calling upon STATE ACTION to suppress freedom of speech. If a public accomodations law, or a hate speech law (those aren’t allowed under the First Amendment) is employed to suppress speech considered undesirable, THAT is state action.

Analogy, for illustrative purposes only, not as evidence of any fact: Before the passage of the 1968 equal housing act, individual property owners were perfectly free to refuse to sell to persons of this or that color, race, religion, etc. The Supreme Court ruled that this was not “state action” and therefore not barred by any constitutional provision or existing civil rights law. However, when a property owner chose to violate a covenant, written into the title deed, never to sell to anyone not of the Caucasian race (only Chechnyans need apply?), and neighboring propery owners tried to take them to court to enforce the convenant, the Supreme Court ruled that courts were without jurisdiction to enforce such covenants, because the enforcement would be state action.

So, whatever action may be taken against someone’s freedom of speech, it may not make any use of any state office, including the courts, and it may not violate any criminal laws. Libel and slander do exist in our civil law, but invoking them is a very high bar, and the more public one’s profile, the higher the bar. Is everyone happy now?

#7 Comment By ginger On March 9, 2014 @ 9:20 am

“It is fairly well established that one’s basic sexual orientation (i.e., one’s unconditioned sexual response to porn)”

Who agreed to this definition? From my perspective, it seems like a very male viewpoint.

I am a heterosexual female, and I can assure you that male porn does absolutely nothing for me from a sexual response aspect. I could look at it all day (not that I would want to, mind you), and it would do nothing but make me laugh.

Sexual orientation is far more than a reaction to porn–at least I hope it is, because if not, I must be completely asexual. My husband would argue otherwise, though, as we have a very healthy love life.

Orientation is about more than excited sex organs, and sex is about far more than the orgasm. I can’t speak for anybody but myself, but I can definitely say that I have spoken to other women who feel the same way, so I don’t think I am some sort of weird one-off on this subject.

Arguments like this lose me from the very beginning, as my experience doesn’t reflect orientation as “one’s unconditioned sexual response to porn.” I suspect these arguments lose a lot of other people at the same point.

#8 Comment By John On March 9, 2014 @ 11:41 am

@ Annek

How much of that increase can be attributed to bisexuals who feel they can now experiment with the love that was once forbidden? The population from which they can find a suitable partner without fear of condemnation or a jail sentence has gone up.

#9 Comment By Annek On March 9, 2014 @ 1:29 pm


“The population from which they can find a suitable partner without fear of condemnation or a jail sentence has gone up.”

That may be true, but my use of the word experiment is not something I came up with on my own – it’s the word I’ve heard other people use, and not necessarily the ones doing the “experimenting” but often friends with those “experimenting.” So, perhaps you’re right.

However, in college many students who otherwise would not be attracted to drugs experiment with drugs and probably other things as well.

#10 Comment By Sister Solana On March 9, 2014 @ 10:35 pm

“The Girgis/George book is not a bad argument, but one would need to accept most of the other political assumptions of the Whig Thomists for it to make sense. Essentially, you’d need to become a Catholic neo-conservative.”

I disagree. The issue is what defines marriage itself.

For instance, I live with a community of women, we share close friendships, legally share property etc. Have made each other our next of kin.
But, none of these obligations make us married.

Proponents of SSM, argue that marriage is whatever two people decide it is.

And, then turn around and agree that not all relationships classify legally as marriage, even if they might share things in common with a marriage.

So what is marriage is the question?

The state should not be defining marriage when nobody can make up their mind about what marriage is.

#11 Comment By Franklin Evans On March 10, 2014 @ 10:15 am

I step away from the Interwebz for a break, and y’all go hog-wild on this poor thread. 😉

Extend your time frames. Make them a gestalt view over time and note the changes… and for all the gods’ sakes, get your temporal syntax correct.

Homosexuals until relatively recently routinely suffered a variety of sanctions — ridicule, shunning, loss of jobs, physical violence and sometimes death — just for having others be aware of their sexual orientation. An actual act of sexual relations was simply unnecessary for most of that to happen. They were the targets of bullying and oppression.

And this part is the point seemingly lost in the entire suffle: That’s the way they saw it, and continue to see it with the entire “bigotry” issue.

Don’t want to suffer the consequences of someone else dicatating the rhetoric? Then do something about it, and starting with a mere acknowledgemen of the past is good and valid.

Does that mean everyone will sigh, take a deep breath and start being more civil? If anyone believes that, I’ve got this bridge for sale cheap…

But using that to claim failure in this dialogue is an excuse, and the worst kind. If my child spent 15 minutes on a sticky problem — one which, with my elder’s perspective of how long some problems take to solve — and declared failure I’d hit the childe with the very same problem some time later, and expect it to be solved.

Time is always a factor. Expecting things like culture to shift and change overnight is not only naive, it speaks to the emotional immaturity of those with that expectation.

Yes, that’s a direct criticism to my LGBT friends. I fervently hope they take it to heart, and do just one thing with me: Recognize that gloating is one of the ugliest displays of ego known to human experience.

My dear, and sometimes beloved opponents to SSM, nothing is ever changed without harm. Nothing. Ever. It’s up to you to decide where to draw this line, but I truly believe that no longer having the privilege of expecting your religion to rule culture is going to be your lot in life, in the lives of your children and their children. Start now finding your peace with it, because you’ll have one of two outcomes that I can see: Your children will become violently opposed to it, or they will abandon your faith. It’s your anger that comes out first, and children will either take it up and expand it, or flee its toxicity.

One personal note: that point I made about bullying… Often, bullies don’t see themselves in that light. That perspective is worth nothing when those who see you as bullies treat you as such. You have no grounds to complain when they obtain the position to bully you. If you believe, as I do, that bullying is an objective wrong, your efforts should be towards reconciling that, helping them find some sort of healing around it. It’s more than just complaints about the missing Christian compassion of the past. It’s about helping them find that compassion within themselves, in the Christian vernacular helping them discover forgiveness.

#12 Comment By EliteCommInc. On March 10, 2014 @ 10:16 am

“Who agreed to this definition? From my perspective, it seems like a very male viewpoint.”

I not only challenge the assumptions about pornography and maleness, I will state categorically – the assumptions that I by the virtue of maleness must succumb is false.

And the comment is not an steady state male assumption at all.

#13 Comment By Keith On March 10, 2014 @ 11:28 am

As a supporter of SSM, I actually can see where the author and Damon Linker is coming from. a lot of the new age “gender pioneers” do not want tolerance- they want submission. They want to fully stomp out any disagreement about the righteousness of their position, and as a result, sometimes their position is inherently illiberal. It does have a certain facist element to it. I strongly believe in equality under the law for all citizens but I also believe in freedom, which is why it is ok with me if people in Alabama, for example, decide they do not want SSM in their state. That is the patriotic position to take. Trying to force a position onto people via education camps, “my way or the highway” rhetoric is contrary to a liberal society. Not everyone who disagrees with SSM is a bigot- my father is not the most supportive of it and he is not an intolerant man

#14 Comment By Erin Manning On March 10, 2014 @ 2:46 pm

Sigh. So “chant ad infinitum” is snide. Is it snide to point out that you will expect people like me to mutter those things in job interviews, in the public square, in any social setting, etc. because to be silent is automatically going to be taken as homophobia? Because that IS where we are headed, and yet even to mutter those things would be, for me, a lie–a lie I won’t ever voice.

#15 Comment By Ray Harwick On March 10, 2014 @ 6:51 pm

This thread is about how gay rights supporters should treat those who disagree with them.

My Mormon congregation disagreed with me. I was married to a female who knew before we married I was gay. I had **never** acted on my sexual orientation in my life. When I confided in my ward bishop, I was removed from my job as ward secretary and publicly shunned by every single member of my congregation. I wasn’t waving the rainbow flag. I was getting the weight of a lie off my soul and trusting my congregation to be compassionate and merciful. I was asked to stand before a excommunication committee and name every single incident of my sin. That was a snap. Affection in my heart for a man I was fond of and, yes, I desired him sexually but I never touched the man.

The committee wasn’t satisfied. They thought I lied about my sins. They were wrong. One thinks that a little reciprocal compassion is in order in such a case. I never experienced any and it drove me from my church and into a divorce.

Then, the gentle Christian who was the principle of my daughter’s elementary school outed me after my second grade daughter make a valentine in class that said, “Dad loves Ted”. He mocked and shamed up in the teachers lounge and my daughter’s teacher was shocked with me we couldn’t even have a parent-teacher conference. The gentle Christian principle then called the principal of the school I was teaching at and told him: you better watch him around the children.

How am I supposed to show respect to that brand of “Christian”? After I was outed and the news spread though out my daughter’s school, in her middle school and high school years people were coming by shooting bullet holes in my house and car. They vandalized my property on two DOZEN occasions, and they spray painted the word “fa**ot” on my driveway in big block letters about six feet tall. They pulled their cars into my yard and destroyed my flower beds and dug ruts into my lawn. They would walk by my house and scream “fa**ot” at me while I was working in my yard.

God’s gentle people. We’re supposed to respect them. I was DEAF. These thing happened to me and I lay in my bed at night wondering if my family would be shot in their beds without me being able to hear the sound. Or maybe they would burn my house to the ground with us all in it.

All of that horror trickled down from a devote Christian who was a school principal. My kid was bullied and taunted the entire way through school and she was STRAIGHT. We had to pull her out of school to keep her safe.

I don’t know what kind of persecution you could ever have that would compare with what me and my little family went though for 12 year but you sound like a whiner. You don’t know persecution until you’ve shaken and shuddered in you bed at night waiting for the next bullet to destroy the people you love.

#16 Comment By Jim H On March 10, 2014 @ 6:53 pm

“But Lord, when did we persecute you, drive you underground, make you fear for your job?”

The Lord said: “When you did it to the least of my brothers, you did it to me.”

Human nature being what it is, it’s hard to see Christ in those whose views offend you.

But that is the challenge the Lord gives each of us.

#17 Comment By theod On March 10, 2014 @ 7:01 pm

The golden era of Christianity is most likely before 313AD, when Constantine legalized the cult and made it the state religion. It has become less spiritual and more secular, or earthbound, ever since. It’s very funny that professional Christian scolds are finding it hard in this so-called new era of less bigotry to find his moorings and so expects to feel persecuted. Why are they so reluctant to be more like Jesus—on the outs with society, wearing the hair shirt, being penitent, being humble, identifying with the downtrodden? Why is it so hard for him and others to be, well, more Christian, like the good old days?

#18 Comment By Ron Lussier On March 10, 2014 @ 8:33 pm

Gay rights supporters should absolutely treat opponents of equal rights with the distain due to bigots everywhere. Bigotry should never be tolerated, no matter whether that bigotry is against religion, sexual orientation, race, or gender.

I’ve never heard a gay person say “you should not be free to worship your god”, but I’ve heard many a religious person say “you should not be free to marry the one you love.” And note that those who say this are usually very willing to tell other religions that they CANNOT practice how they would like and marry gay couples.

[NFR: You say that no one should be bigoted (“bigoted”) toward someone of another religion, but aren’t you promoting bigotry, if bigotry is understood as irrational prejudice? You can’t say you’re tolerant if you only tolerate those who agree with you. — RD]

#19 Comment By Homer On March 10, 2014 @ 8:56 pm

Back in 1990 I was hired for a temp position. Two weeks later I got a letter saying I was “un-hired.” I called my friend who worked at the company and learned that someone at the company had learned I was gay and another temp worker was a lesbian, and he immediately “un-hired” us. That was the sole reason. Lucky for me, my friend went to his boss and told him what had happened, and since the individual got himself hired (they were already looking for a reason).

I now live in Arizona. In almost the entire state it is legal to fire someone for being LGBT. No other reason is needed. In contrast, right there on the Attorney General’s website it states you cannot discriminate based on religion.

This column by Dreher- hypothetical whining. There is no campaign to fire conservative Christians. I know many gay people who have been discriminated against at work and elsewhere.

I could care less whether someone goes to church. I don’t check up on people’s religious beliefs when I hire them or socialize with them. On the other hand, try to force me to live by your Biblical standards- I will fight you in any way I can.

#20 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On March 11, 2014 @ 12:02 am

Ron, if bigotry is not to be tolerated, there must be a precise and universally accepted definition of bigotry, so that all persons subject to intoleration will have reasonable notice of the behavior expected of them, and of the behavior(s) to be prescribed by ostracism, banishment, or summary execution.

The problem is, for all your facile use of the word, there is no such definition. Note that not one civil rights law uses the word “bigotry.” Laws require precision, and even in the 1960s, bigotry had no common definition so precise as to make good law.

Ray Harwick’s story is entirely credible, and no doubt there is a circle in hell reserved for those who subjected him and his daughter to the treatment he describes.

That doesn’t translate instantly into a prima facie case for SSM, nor does it mean that anyone who questions SSM is equally cruel. It is a case for everyone to take a deep breath, recognize that life is complicated, and stop taking themselves (in this case, the teachers, principals, and Mormon officials) so seriously.

#21 Comment By Ray Harwick On March 11, 2014 @ 7:56 am

It’s very, very easy for the self-employed Andrew, who is on the power-holding side of this cultural equation, to demean as “delicate and insensitive” people who face real and significant professional consequences for their religious dissent.

Ah, but if religious descent was all we ever had to deal with, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

One reason Andrew Sullivan and countless other gays are “self-employed” is that we learned after getting our heads knocked around in the world of employment, we really didn’t like “dissent” in the form of being fired or having a glass ceiling surrounding us.

I have no such talent as the intellectuals in this argument but before I became a school teacher I spent eight years in the U.S. Air Force with my mouth shut and ears open to the most vile, filthy horrendous charges about gays and I knew if I made one peep about about being gay, I would have been THROWN to the unemployment gutter. No. There would have been no opportunity for polite disagreement with my work colleagues. That wasn’t allowed by the UCMJ. I was a case where I would have been told to leave in absolute disgrace even while I had a mortgage to pay and **PERFECT** performance reports and had won the highest honor my technical speciality bestowed to enlisted administrators. I competed again nearly 10,000 people for that honor and it wouldn’t have done me one bit of good if I had had a lapse in judgement and casually mention I was gay. I’d have gone the way of Technical Sergeant Leonard Matlovich who, you may recall, now has a headstone in a grave yard that says, “They gave me a medal for killing a man and a discharge for loving one.”

When I decided to become a teacher I was determined that I would not be in the closet because I did not want to re-live the experience I had for eight years in the Air Force where I virtually suffocated myself to keep my homosexuality a secret. I came out in college and I did it so I would know for certain that if I were hired to teach, my employer would know what he was getting. I didn’t want to go into a job and wonder if I would have to stifle details of my personal life. I wanted the discussion to begin and end at my job interview.

It didn’t. I never got hired. I worked in 54 elementary schools as a substitute teacher right after graduation and in the second year of that experience I got my first interview. I told readers in a previous comment that my daughter’s school principal outed me. He did more than that. He somehow managed to flag my application for employment. So after two years as a sub, when my **first* ever job interview came up, I was not prepared for what would happen.

I had excellent recommendations from my substitute work, and this was after graduating in the top ten percent of my class. I received an “Excellent” rating in my first student teaching experience and an “Outstanding” rating in the second one.

In my first interview, you would have thought I had shown up stark naked from the reaction of the principal who interviewed me. He literally screamed at me. He wanted to know why I had only received an “Excellent” in my first student teaching experience. That experience was the one I mentioned that my daughter’s school principal had called my supervising principal and had warmed him to watch me around the children I was in charge of. That Christian principal from my daughter’s school did that and it became immediately clear in my first interview he’d done something more than that.

I’m GLAD I made the decision to be out of the closet. Short being my own boss, like Andrew, being out was the only thing I had to protect me from getting fired if I got a job while closeted. Nobody could say I didn’t tell them and at the least I could have the dignity of appealing a dismissal on the grounds of anti-gay discrimination.

When I was eleven years old and living on a farm with my family, I learned something about having to keep my mouth shut – in the very same way that is at the heart of your complaint today. On a beautiful day when my family had worked in our fields together and then sat under a shade tree to shell black-eyed peas, my parents were in an lighthearted mood and my father ask his five children a playful question that I took very seriously. He asked: When you grow up, who do you want to marry?

When it was my turn to answer I made the mistake of being honest. I told my father I wanted to marry the man we rented our farm from. But replying like that, I leaned how much respect a devout Pentecostal Holiness father will show. My father took off his leather belt and bloodied my back and legs with it. I was so terrified I ran off into the woods and cried for hours. I’m certain my father thought he’d beaten that impulse out of me because I never, ever shared my personal inner life with him for the rest of his life. Well into my adulthood, I could not sleep with my back to a bedroom door because I feared I might have to run for my life from my father’s anger with me.

And you think it’s uncomfortable to have to nuance your language around other people? Try sealing your entire life from age eleven to age 30, Rob. You don’t have any problems. Nobody is going beat you bloody or throw you to the gutter of unemployment. Once you’ve lived a life in which you can’t say ONE f-ing word about yourself honestly, then you’ll understand something about the nature of persecution in the real world.

#22 Comment By Basil On March 11, 2014 @ 10:27 am

The case I am most familiar with is that of Scott Eckern, and I fail to see how it is “persecution” for religious beliefs. He was being held accountable for doing material harm to LGBT people around, by donating to a ballot initiative that made them legally unequal (for 5 years, until it was struck down by the courts). Marc Shaiman had it right – he did not want his work funding injustice. If Eckern had donated to a ballot initiative to ban interracial marriage, no one would question why there would consequences. Your failure to recognize or acknowledge that harm is evidence is simply willful blindness, and smacks of intellectual dishonesty.

#23 Comment By Bill On March 11, 2014 @ 12:09 pm

“Nice career you have there, Mr. Eckern. Sure would be a shame for something to happen to it. Nice business you have there, Mormon Restaurant Manager Lady. Sure would be a shame to have it destroyed.”

This is how you have been treating LGBT human beings for CENTURIES.

It hurts, doesn’t it.

It messes up your life, doesn’t it.

It stifles your freedom and liberty, doesn’t it?

It harms your family, doesn’t it?

It damages your soul and your spirit, doesn’t it.

Yes, it does all of these things and many, many more.

The religious now find the tables turned.

Will they have the courage of their LGBT neighbors?

#24 Comment By Brendan On March 11, 2014 @ 2:12 pm

Rod, without engaging in what has already been an ongoing and vibrant argument, I’m curious how you square religious freedom with the argument that civil marriage should not be recognized for members of the same gender. You are an Orthodox Christian, and as a member of the Orthodox Church, you are under absolutely no obligation to recognize a same-sex marriage, a divorce, or a remarriage following a divorce. These are theological and philosophical views motivated by religion, and anyone, particularly backers of marriage equality, who tries to take that right away from you is simply wrong-headed.

But what, I am curious, of religions, specifically Christian denominations, that affirm the right of same-sex couples to marry or be partnered? What of UCCs, Episcopalians, (some) Presbyterians, (some) Lutherans, and even Unitarian Christians? Are they not entitled to their religious beliefs as well?

Obviously, that question is rhetorical, because I have been reading you for a long time (though this is my first comment!), and I know you believe your right to practice your religion as you choose to be one of those fundamental inalienable rights. But being that that’s the case, how can you advocate that the government recognize one religion’s definition of marriage over another’s? That is, why are Episcopalians like me wrong, but Orthodox Christians like you right?

I feel that it would be far more consistent, from that viewpoint, to get the government out of the marriage business altogether, and instead allow religions to sort it out themselves, as they’ve done for centuries. But that would also be a much more radical reinterpretation of marriage than simply allowing for civil marriage between two individuals.

I also think it’s rather odd that you play this form of victimology from a social, rather than governmental, perspective. You worry about having to be “in the closet,” as it were, as someone opposed to marriage equality. But that’s often the case at workplaces — we don’t show our true faces, because our true faces would get our butts fired. In a previous job, for example, I worked for a cancer charity. While I support efforts to curb cancer, I have an intrinsic problem when people’s rights are curtailed dramatically. I ran into this exact problem when my workplace started advocating for banning smoking in private cars. But where I to say something, were I to raise an objection to this, I would have been shamed and castigated by my coworkers. I didn’t feel it necessary to “come out” to them, so I instead kept my mouth shut.

That’s what society is, Rod. And for millennia, gays were told to do the same thing: sit down, shut up, keep it to yourself, be “normal.” Thing is, society has changed in that regard. In modern society, being gay is not problematic. And so, you are left with a choice: continue to fight this sociological change, or accept it and move on. But you cannot simultaneously find it acceptable that for thousands of years of history society kept gays in the closet, but unacceptable that a sociological change is now making that type of animus obsolete.

I want to be clear that holding a religious tenet dear and holding that government should enforce what you believe religiously are two different things. If I’m not mistaken, the Orthodox Church also vehemently condemns divorce. That being the case, would you advocate for an end to civil divorce?

#25 Comment By Austen On March 11, 2014 @ 2:28 pm

It would behoove you to remember that LGBT people have experienced real – and oftentimes direct – harm that has been couched in anti-gay bais. I’m not going to argue about your personal animus, or potential animus driving the movement. However, I rarely meet another gay person who doesn’t have at least one story about their “hateful Christian mom/dad/aunt/uncle” who refuses to talk to them since they came out. In the transgender community the faith-based nature of this hurt is even stronger – many of us lose our families the moment we come out of the closet and start living authentic lives, and that cutoff is often rooted in a family’s “biblical disagreement” with the unfortunate lot we’ve been dealt in gender identity.

I know it sucks to have your opinions misconstrued as hateful or bigoted. (I’ve had my opinions marked as “perverted” for years by Christians.) However, you might get more sympathy if you consider that the people you’re trying to convince have complex relationships with faith, and have suffered personal, professional, and familial harm due to beliefs you say aren’t rooted in hate.

Hate or no hate, those wounds still sting and they still ring of thumping bibles. You cannot come _close_ to changing the dialogue if you’re not willing to recognize that history. For gay people this is a personal fight – not just an abstract debate. The more you recognize that, the more you’ll prosper in finding common ground.

Hell, you might even want to try listening to the hurt that’s been caused by your school of thought regarding traditional families and gender roles. I think it’d be an eye-opener – at the very least it’d explain the mean streak you’re seeing from gays who are finally – finally! – getting a leg up on their oppressors.

#26 Comment By Bart Aaron On March 11, 2014 @ 2:29 pm


But then you get the argument by Christians et al. that you are just perpetuating bigotry by suggesting they should not follow their beliefs as fervently as they wish, with no social consequences.

Look, I am fully within my 1st Amendment rights to say that I enjoy “crush” films (as determined by the SCOTUS). That does not mean that I am free from people around my telling me that that is a really demented thing to enjoy.

I believe people are confusing their freedom to say something and have whatever beliefs they wish with the freedom to not be criticized for it. Their is no freedom of acceptance, as those who have historically been discriminated against know full well.

So here’s a question for folks from a real life example: My wife and I chose to not take our son to an orthodontist who had, financially and publicly, supported Prop 8. Is the argument presented here that finding a different orthodontist because of that criteria was a form of bigotry?

#27 Comment By EliteCommInc. On March 11, 2014 @ 2:51 pm

“My Mormon congregation disagreed with me. I was married to a female who knew before we married I was gay. I had **never** acted on my sexual orientation in my life. When I confided in my ward bishop, I was removed from my job as ward secretary and publicly shunned by every single member of my congregation.”

Well, I cannot challenge what the church did. A violation of the faith is a violation of the faith and it would be odd that they support something they believe God does not. So a church secretary in such an organization is going to be held by that standard. It’s a shame the method perhaps, but it does make sense and appropriate.

As for the narrative about you, if this is a public school, I would find it highly inappropriate. And perhaps even breaching an ethical code. That is unfortunate.

I have read these personal narratives as personal stories of hurt. And while I might empathize they only highlight my principle charge, legalized same sex marriage for tax purposes is not going to resolve those issues.

There are no Christians parading the streets demanding that homosexual practitioners be rounded up and imprisoned. When someone who practices this means of expression is assaulted or any other manner harmed by another. There is no evidence that they investigations are shrifted. There are arrests and prosecutions. Those instances have no bearing on marriage. Those who engage in heterosexual expression get beaten get beaten up as well.

The evidence of unique discrimination besides personal remarks is pretty thin.

#28 Comment By EliteCommInc. On March 11, 2014 @ 2:55 pm

“I didn’t want to go into a job and wonder if I would have to stifle details of my personal life. I wanted the discussion to begin and end at my job interview.”

Ohh come now, everyone stifles details of their personal lives. For most of my life the only people who knew I was celibate was me and any women who was interested or those close to me. Try being celibate around men in the military —- laughing. And if they made fun of me — what’s to do? And so what?

Unless there is a “hostile” environment created and that is a high threshold for me. L’est, several institutions would now be parking lots as I would own them outright and make them money breeders.

#29 Comment By Harry Huntington On March 11, 2014 @ 5:38 pm

Of course for folks who believe in limited government same sex marriage is a non-issue. Why? Because government should not be involved in marriage at all. The same sex marriage advocates do not make a doctrinal argument (generally) why some denomination should embrace same sex marriage (e.g I have never seen Mr. Sullivan explain why Islam should embrace same sex marriage). Same sex marriage advocates have explained why government should embrace same sex marriage, the whole way begging the question why government need be involved at all. Fact is, government regulation of marriage is “big state” nannyism. Genuine advocates of smaller government want government out of the marriage game entirely. When foes of big state government take the time to OPPOSE same sex marriage they get sucked into FAVORING big state oppressive government. The correct answer on same sex marriage is always get government out of the marriage business entirely. Leave marriage to the church.

#30 Comment By Bart On March 11, 2014 @ 7:34 pm

The comments on here that are most useful are the ones exhorting Rod to identify his enemies properly. It’s not the small subset of gays and pro-SSM advocates who would sue a baker or florist or scream bigot at anyone opposed to SSM. It’s also not the entire media world (and now the legal profession, I guess), both political parties, magazines, etc. If you keep pretending that those who support SSM are mindless “followers” of media outlets or legal scholars, you’ll keep losing. Try assuming they have come to their position thoughtfully.

Your “enemies” (how sad that you’ve made them thus) are the neighbors, parents, friends, coworkers, siblings and cousins of happy gay couples. This group is growing rapidly, whether SSM is legal or not. They are not turning to Fox or MSNBC to figure out how to feel about SSM. They don’t care what Andrew thinks. They live everywhere and work in every profession. And they reject out of hand everything Erin claims they believe if they support SSM. They do not believe men and women are the same, children don’t need moms and dads, or that someone else’s SSM changes their own “definition” of marriage nor fundamentally reorders society.

“We can’t support civil SSM because it doesn’t fit with what we think is the best way for people to marry” might work, though it’s a little weak. “We can’t support civil SSM because it would mean men are the same as women, babies don’t need mommies, and it completely reorders all of the foundations of society” definitely won’t work.

Andrew has some influence and he’s used it to repeatedly call for compassion and tolerance for the religious viewpoint. But he also thinks your evidence for widespread persecution is flimsy. Citing an event from 6 years ago, when opponents were actively trying to REPEAL SSM where it was legal, doesn’t help your case.

#31 Comment By Joseph R On March 12, 2014 @ 3:17 am

There is one big difference between conservative Christians and GLBT and their supporters. While many of us do have disdain for conservative Christians and their beliefs – I will freely admit that I do, and that I would prefer to not have to work with or associate with them — nobody is trying to prevent Christians from practicing their religion or from being able to marry who they want to. And I’m sorry; having to live with the fact that a lot of people disagree with you and think you are backwards is not being persecuted. When Christians are enslaved or put into concentration camps and gassed by the millions, then you can start talking to me about how you are persecuted. For what it’s worth, I can accept that Christians may hold their beliefs sincerely, and can be opposed to same-sex marriage out of more than simple bigotry; but that does not exempt those beliefs from scrutiny or criticism.

[NFR: I’ll restate that for you: 1) I can’t stand the likes of you and wish I never had to deal with you; 2) “practicing your religion” is what I say it is; 3) what are you complaining about, we’re not killing you en masse? If this is supposed to make us less worried about the fate of religious liberty, it’s not working. — RD]

#32 Comment By Mike On March 13, 2014 @ 11:05 am

So why not 3 person marriages? Say 2 men, the one biological father of the child and the child’s mother?

What about 4 person marriages? The above plus the mother’s lesbian wife or her husband?

There is no rational basis for re-defining marriage that excludes the 2 examples above.

#33 Comment By C. L. H. Daniels On March 14, 2014 @ 12:23 pm

I think Andrew Sullivan has a point, even if he did pose it somewhat gracelessly. How can you and other same-sex marriage opponents expect the disastrous course of events that you foresee to be averted if you are unwilling to make a positive argument in favor of your beliefs? If your position is that your beliefs do not amount to bigotry, you presumably have positive arguments for your position that cannot be easily characterized as such. If so, then you should not be afraid to engage with critics; certainly some people are unreasonable about their own beliefs and will not accept your positive arguments, but that is true of virtually any polarizing issue. On the other hand, for every one of those types, there should be others who are at least willing to hear you out and entertain your arguments without immediately assuming you are merely a bigot, even if they continue to disagree with you.

As I said, every polarizing issue is bound to produce a range of reactions in people. There will always be people whose first and often only reaction is to demonize those who don’t agree with them. Personally, I don’t hold with such responses when observed in others, but I can’t deny that even I tend toward such a reaction over an issue that I am sufficiently emotionally invested in. Being aware of this tendency, I make a conscious effort to step on my emotional reactions and try to understand the other person’s point of view even if I don’t always succeed at doing so, but not everyone is so self-aware.

The problem though, is that if you and other same-sex marriage opponents don’t even try to advocate your point of view, you have no chance of altering public perceptions. Elsewhere you have decried the efforts of SSM advocates to shout down those who oppose SSM, but what you don’t seem to realize is that they have little choice but to loudly and publicly oppose efforts to protect what they see as anti-gay discrimination. If they don’t do so, they risk allowing a public perception to settle in that such efforts are acceptable, even normal.

Well, this paradigm holds for you and other SSM opponents as well. If you do not want to be marginalized and you feel that you are becoming a persecuted minority, then it is no less than your duty to stand up and make your argument as loudly and publicly as possible. I’m sure it will be difficult. It’s been no less difficult for gay rights advocates in years past. However, if you aren’t a bigot, then you presumably have reasonable arguments to make beyond “Homosexuality is immoral because God said so.” So make them. And if some people are willing to assume the worst about you in spite of your reasoning, well then they probably aren’t people whose respect you really want or need.

#34 Comment By Lukas On March 14, 2014 @ 4:40 pm

I have respect for Andrew Sullivan. He was one of the earliest proponents of gay marriage during the HIV/AIDs crisis. Gay marriage and its long term monogomous relationships was the solution for an incurable multi-generational plague.

But this was before the gay radicals labelled any opposition to gay marriage as hate and bigotry.

But this was before the gay radicals started forcing gay marriage and gay rights to normalize the exact same nihilistic, transient, self centered, fetishist subculture in the public sphere. If you watch modern family, the gay parents are just as normal and as ordinary a family unit as every other family and that was what Andrew Sullivan advocated for 30 years ago.

Fast forward to today and the fight for gay marriage and gay rights isnt about fighting HIV/AIDs and public health, its not about mental/emotional wellness of gay men and lesbians either. Its now about letting pedophile men use transgender rights to use female restrooms, gym lockers and appear naked in front of pre-adolescent children in local health clubs. Its about defending SanFrancisco rights to public nudity and public sex…in other words normalizing a fetishist subculture into the main stream. Thats the real opposition and the real fight and there is no hate or bigotry involved at all. ZERO.

The public deserves the right to decide public exposure to sexuality and frankly so do parents.

I can see why even Pope Francis is willing to open a discussion on Civil Unions.

As a gay man, I support civil unions but I also respect my christian faith and others of christian faith even if they do not accept homosexuality.

I am far more repulsed by the West Coast politicization of sex and gender politics than I am by what should be a mundane equal access law for 2 people to share resources, to be caretakers for each other, to be companions for each other. Its how the left fights their wars…by taking 2 separate issues apples and oranges and then calling them the same thing.

#35 Comment By Sam On March 15, 2014 @ 2:56 am

There’s a pity war going on in the comments: gays and Christians both trying to prove that they’re the more marginalized group. It’s not clear to me that the issue of discrimination against gays is relevant to whether opponents of SSM are or should be marginalized.
But I don’t see the problem with the marginalization of SSM opponents. Surely SSM supporters can choose whether to patronize establishments run by SSM opponents. If they don’t want to go into business with a SSM opponent, that’s their right. Sure, it’s frustrating when people don’t like you for their views, but that’s the price of holding an increasingly unpopular opinion.

#36 Comment By Annek On March 15, 2014 @ 11:15 pm


“But I don’t see the problem with the marginalization of SSM opponents….Sure, it’s frustrating when people don’t like you for their views, but that’s the price of holding an increasingly unpopular opinion.

So are you saying that it was fine to marginalize gay people when gay rights were unpopular?

#37 Comment By Biff On March 21, 2014 @ 10:34 am

Is baking a cake for a divorcee’s second marriage condoning adultery?