I am no fan of Ross Douthat, but this column in today's New York Times is well worth the read.
I will not quote much. He begins
IT now seems certain that before too many years elapse, the Supreme Court will be forced to acknowledge the logic of its own jurisprudence on same-sex marriage and redefine marriage to include gay couples in all 50 states.Here I would only quibble with his notion of a substantial minority, whose percentage he does not define, because what I see among my students, including those from conservative religious values, is an increasing acceptance of equality in marriage, employment and other rights for their gay friends and acquaintances (and in some cases relatives).
Once this happens, the national debate essentially will be finished, but the country will remain divided, with a substantial minority of Americans, most of them religious, still committed to the older view of marriage.
I will ignore his attacks on the media, but instead skip to his final two and a half paragraphs. Having noted that there are serious divisions among Christians on the issues of various gay rights, he opines
The conjugal, male-female view of marriage is too theologically rooted to disappear, but its remaining adherents can be marginalized, set against one other, and encouraged to conform.Let me if I might offer a few observations beneath the fold.
I am being descriptive here, rather than self-pitying. Christians had plenty of opportunities — thousands of years’ worth — to treat gay people with real charity, and far too often chose intolerance. (And still do, in many instances and places.) So being marginalized, being sued, losing tax-exempt status — this will be uncomfortable, but we should keep perspective and remember our sins, and nobody should call it persecution.
But it’s still important for the winning side to recognize its power. We are not really having an argument about same-sex marriage anymore, and on the evidence of Arizona, we’re not having a negotiation. Instead, all that’s left is the timing of the final victory — and for the defeated to find out what settlement the victors will impose.
We cannot legislate away bigoted or distorted thinking or belief. If nothing else, the election of our first President of color has demonstrated that, as will the apparent forthcoming election of our first female President.
And, yes, I see clear parallels between the bigotry of racism and the bigotries of homophobia and sexism. Merely on the question of marriage and conception, we have seen incredibly stupid and bigoted statements about women being vessels for men's sperm, previous statements about "legitimate rape," arguments that a rapist should have a right to prevent his victim from aborting a conception flowing from that violence. The arguments against marriage equality are reminiscent of those against marriage across "racial divides. And yet, it was a unanimous Supreme Court in 1967 that rejected the latter set of arguments in Loving v Virginia, and shortly before she died a few years ago Mildred Loving came out in support of marriage equality, noting that was being done to gay couples was what had been done to her and her husband Robert - support that she offered after seriously praying about it.
I do disagree with Douthat's phrasing on several levels. He is describing this in terms of a war - because it seems inconceivable to SOME religious conservatives that anything other than their particular theological view could prevail except as the result of the application of war-like force. They refuse to accept that the loving nature that SHOULD be the basis of Christian belief and practice, rather than the punitive and prescriptive approach they attempt to impose, would inevitably lead to the kinds of broader acceptance we are now seeing.
He is write about SOME "Christians" when he writes Christians had plenty of opportunities — thousands of years’ worth — to treat gay people with real charity, and far too often chose intolerance. (And still do, in many instances and places.) . Just as SOME "Christians" still espouse both racist and sexist viewpoints that are impossible to square with the statements attributed to Jesus in the Christian scriptures.
He is correct that what is happening to those who cling to such distorted interpretations is NOT persecution.
As a principle, one's religious beliefs do not allow you to discriminate against others except within your own religious practice, and the commercial activities in which you engage have never been considered protected as free exercise of religion that is protected under the First Amendment.
I give Douthat credit for recognizing the reality, but then, the noxious Antonin Scalia foresaw this at least as far back as the Laawrence decision, and his dissents on such matters make clear that the inevitable logic of the opinions by Kennedy make full recognition of marriage equality something that will happen. Given the rapid changes in American attitudes, the only question is when the broader constitutional ruling will be issued.
One additional observation - I would argue that the President having moved from accepting only civil unions to full acceptance of marriage equality has accelerated this process. I would also argue that the willingness of more people to be out of the closet has enabled increasing numbers of Americans to see the issue through eyes that realize it affects their friends and their families. That probably has had a greater impact.
Perhaps if some of those who have remained closeted because of their own religious affiliations would be willing to be honest with themselves, the change for those religious bodies and for those around them might be less traumatic.
In the mean time, for once Douthat has written a column worth reading beyond the desire to attempt to understand the distorted thinking of many conservative "intellectuals."