Continuing his writing on gay marriage, Douthat rebuts Noah Millman and Glenn Greenwald. He also notes that a response to the Dish is forthcoming. The Greenwald debate is a classic liberal-Tory divide. The liberal sees the law and culture operating independently; the Tory sees the law as influencing culture. I lean toward the Tory view. And I do not believe that the desire of so many gay couples to join together in civil marriage somehow undermines the institution. If anything, it is surely a sign of the resilience of the institution that in this day and age, so many are demanding access to it, who would previously have been excluded.
Who else is celebrating civil marriage today the way gay couples are? Have not gay people actually affected the culture recently in ways that celebrate rather than demean civil marriage? And have we not also in many ways adopted tradition as opposed to radicalism in this respect? My own vows, for example, were quite specific: till death do us part. I am sure we will have bumps on the road, and we are both human and will fail. But we committed to be there for one another for ever. We meant it. We are not alone. In this, many gays are actually embracing an ideal of civil marriage that many straights do not. Why can this not fit into an understanding of the social impact of this reform?
Some forget how those of us who were early supporters of marriage rights were first attacked from the gay left. I became anathema in the early 1990s in the gay establishment for my relentless focus on the issue. One book-store reading of Virtually Normal was actually picketed by the Lesbian Avengers - with posters of my face in the cross hairs of a gun. I was a heterosexist, patriarchal neo-fascist for insisting on this. Gays were supposed to be subverting marriage not joining it, just as we were supposed to be for destroying the military, not serving honorably within it.
What maddens me about the right - what has driven me and so many into outright opposition - has been their refusal to acknowledge the conservative aspects of this movement, and the balls it took to take on the gay far left and identity politics in favor of civil integration in the polarized plague years. They saw a minority within a minority battling for responsibility and equality - and all they really saw were homos. With this minority, the GOP did first what it now does to so many. Instead of seeing many of us as allies, they pushed all of us into the enemy camp. Just as they will not concede the critical distinction between Muslims and Jihadists, or often fail in their rhetoric to acknowledge the great contributions of legal immigrants as opposed to illegal ones, so they pushed another minority away.
Their fears trumped their hopes; their bigotry trumped their humanity. With Muslims, Hispanics and gays, the GOP is about lumping us all together and demonizing and blaming us collectively for sins we did not commit and failures for which we are not responsible.
This is not conservatism, properly understood. It is fear.