BY JONATHAN SKRMETTI
IN THIS YEAR’S PARODY, MY character sang backup in the Lambda song. The joke, I suspect, was that I’m a right-winger, and everyone knows that conservatives hate gays, or, in more even-handed circles, that conservatives frown upon homosexuality.
It’s easy to see where this thinking starts. Most of the Republican party opposes gay marriage, and the Lawrence decision appalled most Federalist Society members. Lawrence certainly disappointed me; right or wrong as a matter of policy, the holding in Lawrence had nothing to do with the Constitution and was the latest in a series of acts of judicial legislation that come at the expense of American democracy.
Regarding opposition to gay marriage, there are two important points to consider. First, a majority of Democrats also oppose gay marriage (while most Democrats oppose the Federal Marriage Amendment, a majority would also vote against allowing gay marriage in their home states). If everybody who opposed gay marriage voted Republican, we would have such an overwhelming Senate majority that we’d never need worry about our judicial nominees getting filibustered.
Second, right-wing thinkers vigorously debate the issue from both sides. Andrew Sullivan, David Brooks and a few others unflaggingly advocate the inclusion of same-sex couples in the civil institution of marriage (the scope of the religious institution of marriage remains the prerogative of the religions and is beyond the influence of the state). The not-to-be-underestimated Log Cabin Republicans work hard from inside the party to build support for gay unions. Jonah Goldberg and a number of other conservative writers, while not jumping entirely on the bandwagon, have staked out a moderate position in favor of civil unions.
I support gay marriage. I have nothing but disdain for the Supreme Judicial Court’s foray into lawmaking, and I endorse the prosecution of local leaders who lawlessly license same-sex marriages, but if the issue were on a ballot I would unabashedly vote to extend the legal institution of marriage to embrace gay couples.
This position, of course, leads to comments from more legitimate conservatives along the line of “We can’t rely on you Connecticut ‘Republicans.'” There are definite regional differences within the Republican party: Connecticut gave its support to John McCain in 2000, the only closed primary state to do so, and to the consternation of the more stereotypical Republicans we keep sending Chris Shays back to Congress. But as mentioned above, Republican support for gay marriage is more than just an idiosyncracy of my beloved home state.
The core principle of the Republican party has always been individual liberty and respect for the right of Americans to live their lives the way they want. If people want to institutionalize their love for each other, not only should they be able to, we should support it; a gay culture directed toward marriage is far more desirable than one that celebrates libidinous public acts of hedonism.
There are far more nuanced arguments on both sides, but the bottom line for me is that the state should encourage the development of positive and permanent loving relationships, and should not prevent a person from marrying someone he or she loves just because the other person is of the same sex.
On a more prudential note, several conservative commentators have pointed out that gays have a lot more at stake on this issue than us heterosexuals. They will keep fighting on this issue doggedly until they win. It will be far better to resolve this issue legislatively than to wait until the right assortment of Justices comes along to ignore the Constitution and make the policy choice. If done legislatively, not only will the decision be legitimate, we also need not worry about a slippery slope leading to constitutionally-protected incest and bestiality.
Finally, opponents of gay marriage have been unfairly demonized throughout the course of debate as ignorant bigots. While there are a few instances where this is true, for the most part opposition to gay marriage is firmly rooted in religious tradition, social inertia, and historical practice, all of which deserve substantial respect. Major social changes should take time, and the forces that resist such change are essential to the stability of our society. In this case, a change must be made, but for the change to be accepted advocates must be patient and take the time to convince the majority America that this is the right course.
Jonathan Skrmetti’s column appears bi-weekly.