So how should conservatives think about homosexual marriage? Lest it be thought that this is a no brainer, bear in mind that part of the problem has to do with what we actually mean by “conservative”. There are of course two main streams: libertarians, and cultural or social conservatives.
The latter are usually religious while the former are often not. While both groups favour smaller government, the conservatives are also quite concerned about moral and cultural issues, and believe that there is a role (even if a limited one) for some government involvement in them.
Thus they argue for things like restricting the availability of porn, or keeping illicit drugs illegal, etc. But this is not the place to get into that particular debate. Indeed, I have done it elsewhere, eg.:
And I have also written more extensively on libertarianism and marriage:
But here I want to focus more on traditional conservatism, and how it should be engaging the battle over marriage. To do that I enlist the aid of two great thinkers who have recently penned pieces on this very topic. The first is Christian commentator Nancy Pearcey.
She has just written an important article on how conservatives (and even libertarians) should be very concerned about the attempts to legalise homosexual marriage, since this will simply mean more and bigger government. She begins by noting how US Republicans are fragmenting over this issue.
She argues that social conservatives should hang in there, and says this is the sort of approach that needs to be taken: “They should take this opportunity to argue that the practice of homosexuality has a negative impact not just on the family but also on individuals – that it expresses a profound disrespect for a person’s biological identity.
“Biologically, physiologically, males and females are clearly counterparts to one another. The male sexual and reproductive anatomy is obviously designed for a relationship with a female, and vice versa. Homosexual practice thus requires individuals to contradict their own biology. It disconnects a person’s sexuality from his or her biological identity as male or female – which exerts a self-alienating and fragmenting effect on the human personality.
“And the logic of alienation will not stop there. Already the acceptance of same-sex relationships is metastasizing into a postmodern notion of sexuality as fluid and changing over time. For example, an article in the Utne Reader highlights individuals who came out of the closet as homosexual, but were later attracted to heterosexual relationships again. The article quotes psychotherapist Bret Johnson explaining that people today ‘don’t want to fit into any boxes – not gay, straight, lesbian, or bisexual ones.’ Instead ‘they want to be free to change their minds’.”
She concludes: “Every social practice is the expression of fundamental assumptions about what it means to be human. When a society accepts and approves the practice, it implicitly commits itself to the worldview that supports it – all the more so if the practice is enshrined in law.
“If America accepts practices such as same-sex ‘marriage,’ in the process it will absorb the accompanying worldview — the redefinition of human personhood as a purely social construction – which opens the door to unlimited statism, because there is no human nature that an oppressive state could possibly offend.
“Those who resist will be compelled by the state to go along, or face penalties for ‘discrimination.’ Margaret Thatcher used to say, ‘First you win the argument, then you win the vote.’ Instead of caving on this issue, the leaders of CPAC should be vigorously advancing the core arguments of conservatism. Not just to win the vote but to preserve the foundation of the American republic.”
Mark Steyn also weighs into this debate in “Real ‘modern family’ not so funny”. He talks about rights and fairness and then writes, “Underneath all this apparent ‘fairness’ is a lot of unfairness. Entire new categories of crime have arisen in the wake of familial collapse, like the legions of adolescent daughters abused by mom’s latest live-in boyfriend. Millions of children are now raised in transient households that make not just economic opportunity but even elementary character formation all but impossible. In the absence of an agreed moral language to address this brave new world, Americans retreat to comforting euphemisms like ‘blended families,’ notwithstanding that the familial Cuisinart seems to atomize at least as often as it blends.
“Meanwhile, social mobility declines: doctors who once married their nurses now marry their fellow doctors; lawyers who once married their secretaries now contract with fellow super-lawyers, like dynastic unions in medieval Europe. Underneath the self-insulating elite, millions of Americans are downwardly mobile: The family farmers and mill workers, the pioneers who hacked their way into the wilderness and built a township, could afford marriage and children; indeed, it was an economic benefit. For their descendants doing minimum-wage service jobs about to be rendered obsolete by technology, functioning families are a tougher act, and children an economic burden. The gays looked at contemporary marriage and called the traditionalists’ bluff.
“‘Modern Family’ works well on TV, less so in the rusting double-wides of decrepit mill towns where, very quickly, the accumulated social capital of two centuries is drained, and too much is too wrecked. In Europe, where dependency, decadence and demographic decline are extinguishing some of the oldest nations on Earth, a successor population is already in place in the restive Muslim housing projects. With their vibrant multicultural attitudes to feminism and homosexuality, there might even be a great sitcom in it: ‘Pre-Modern Family’ – and, ultimately, post-‘Modern.’
“‘Fiscal conservatives’ recoil from this kind of talk like homophobes at a bathhouse: The sooner some judge somewhere takes gay marriage off the table, the sooner the Right can go back to talking about debt and Obamacare without being dismissed as uptight theocratic bigots. But it doesn’t work like that. Most of the social liberalism comes with quite a price tag. The most reliable constituency for Big Government is single women, for whom the state is a girl’s best friend, the sugar daddy whose checks never bounce. A society in which a majority of births are out of wedlock cannot be other than a Big Government welfare society. Ruining a nation’s finances is one thing; debauching its human capital is far harder to fix.”
Exactly so. Libertarians think they can ignore all the moral, cultural, and even spiritual issues, and just concentrate on economics and the size of the state. What they don’t realise is that if we don’t deal with the former, we will not be able to properly deal with the latter.
Homosexual marriage will impact every single one of us – big time. We better learn that lesson, and learn it soon.