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Was I Wrong To Support Gay Marriage?

religious liberty

I’ve supported same-sex marriage ever since I first heard the idea. And when I became a political columnist in the early 2000s—despite being the “conservative” at a good-sized newspaper—I was the only one at the paper (as far as I can recall) who unequivocally backed gay marriage publicly. Though I wasn’t gullible enough to believe I’d be persuading many readers, I was gullible enough to believe that my allies in the cause were merely concerned with “equality.”

As we dig out from the avalanche of half-baked platitudes about “love being love” and watch alleged news organizations and the White House adorn themselves in cheerful rainbows, we can look forward to the self-righteous mobs that will be defaming anyone who is reluctant to embrace the state’s new definition of marriage. Love is love, except when a person loves their God and follows the principles of their faith, evidently.

Do a majority of Americans who support gay marriage believe these traditionalists deserve to be treated like unrepentant Klan boosters? Of course, there will always be the obnoxious Puritan, as the quote goes, who loves God with all his soul, but hates his neighbor with all his heart. But, as any honest observer would tell you, there are also many profoundly decent religious people who aren’t filled with enmity, aren’t bigoted, aren’t hateful, but do still hold long-established notions about what marriage should look like.

Yet, here’s how Ben Smith put it when asked about his site’s politicizing:

For Ben Smith, the editor-in-chief of BuzzFeed, same-sex marriage is an issue which does not have sides. On Friday, he told the On Media blog that BuzzFeed’s Twitter avatar was in keeping with its standards guide: “We firmly believe that for a number of issues, including civil rights, women’s rights, anti-racism, and LGBT equality, there are not two sides.”

Tell that to the numerous denominations of Protestantism, or the Orthodox Jews, the Catholic Church, the Mormons, the Muslims, to name just a few, whose religious conception of marriage is antithetical to this secular iteration of marriage. I imagine they have a “side.” The question is, do a majority of Americans who support gay marriage believe likening these people to racists and misogynists is reasonable? Do they believe that all people must surrender their convictions and endorse the state’s definition?

Take the aggressively confused Amanda Marcotte, who argues that “Rand Paul Would Rather End Marriage Than Share It With Gay People.” Marcotte is referring to Paul’s idea, one that’s common among libertarians—also, famously advocated for by Michael Kinsley—that marriage should no longer be a concern of the state.  People would be able to form their own relationships and marry (or not) in whatever church (or not) they desired. They would be able to call their relationships whatever they wanted. They would sign contracts to define the legal parameters of their association.

This solution is probably impractical when we consider the legal complexities of civil marriage. For pundits like Marcotte, though, taking the state out of marriage makes it indistinguishable from eliminating it. Love is only love after a person takes a blood test and is issued a license by a bureaucrat.

Do a majority of Americans support gay marriage because they have a desire to see civil society overtaken by the administrative state? Because it only took a few hours after the Obergefell v. Hodges decision for Time to publish a piece by New York Times columnist Mark Oppenheimer suggesting government shouldn’t be “subsidizing” religion or non-profits at all. The point, of course, is to punish churches for being a bunch of intolerant nits who are holding up progress. The word “subsidize” suggests that parishioners are receiving checks from taxpayers when, of course, what Oppenheimer really means to say is that these silly people are handing money to reactionary institutions rather than the most progressive church of all:

The money would be better used for the collective needs most important church of all. We’d have fewer church soup kitchens — but countries that truly care about poverty don’t rely on churches to run soup kitchens.

And did a majority of people support gay marriage because they wanted to coerce others to participate in the ceremony against their beliefs?  Some of the justices warned about the threat to religious freedom that many in the media are now pooh poohing. Within hours of the decision, the ACLU, one of initial advocates of Religious Freedom Restoration Act, were backing away from the law. The group wants RFRA to be limited “so that it cannot be used as a defense for discrimination.” What does this discrimination look like? Here is Jeffrey Toobin of The New Yorker to explain:

We should be clear about the “liberty” interest being asserted here. Abbott, Jindal, and their allies are positing a right to discriminate—for local officials to refuse to conduct same-sex weddings, for photographers and bakers to refuse to do business with gay people, for wedding planners to advertise that no gay couples need apply. Their actions are the linear descendants of the Virginia officials who claimed divine guidance for their prohibition on interracial marriage. The First Amendment allows individuals to believe anything they want, but it does not allow them to use their beliefs as a license to discriminate in ways that would otherwise be limited by law. No one, at this late date, would claim a religious inspiration for a florist to refuse to sell flowers to an interracial wedding or for a magistrate to perform one; they should not have the right to refuse to do business for a same-sex wedding, either.

Toobin’s entire framing is dishonest, but it will be endlessly repeated by those attempting to coerce everyone into compliance. The evangelical florist is discriminating against the gay couple in the same way Jeffery Toobin is discriminating against the Catholic who asks him to write a column defending the unborn. The liberty interest being asserted by the florist is choosing not to participate in an event because of a religious consideration. The florist is not turning anyone away because they are gay. On the other hand, government will be forcing the florist to surrender his faith or his business.

How many backers of theoretical gay marriage will regret the reality of gay marriage? As a matter of policy, it doesn’t matter much anymore. And I have no moral qualms about same-sex marriage itself. I don’t believe it destabilizes the institution or ruins the lives of children. Then again, it doesn’t exist in a vacuum, either. If same-sex marriage isn’t just a pathway to happiness, freedom, and equality for gay citizens, but a way to pummel religious Americans into submission, it will be a disaster.