It could happen here

In connection with the British judges’ decision barring as foster parents people who disapprove of homosexuality, I posited that making gay marriage a Constitutionally protected civil right could expose conservative faiths to lawsuits.  Many had a hard time envisioning this, but legal expert Richard Epstein had exactly the same thought:

To this day there are thoughtful people in religious groups that continue to hold fast against gay marriage, and their rights to determine what happens to their membership are necessarily impacted by this decision, for there is nothing in the curt statement from the Obama administration which explains why the Constitution should not be read to require the President of the Congress to impose obligations on these organizations to accept gay couples into their ranks. Orthodox Jews and Roman Catholics beware!

It’s entirely possible that, when it comes to gay marriage and the First Amendment, pluralism won’t work.

Rodney King got his 15 minutes of fame for (a) getting beaten up while resisting arrest; (b) having his name attached to some horrific riots; and (c) plaintively asking “Can we get along?”  The last is a great thought.  I’d like to get along with people better myself.  “Getting along,” though, presupposes that people have the same goals and values.  In our pluralist society, even when we have differences, we mostly limp along all right.  Elections shuttle different value systems in and out of power and (at least when the unions aren’t rioting) Americans expect a peaceful transition.

Still, even pluralist societies have bottom line values, things as to which we’re not willing to bend (although, lately, it’s getting harder to pinpoint just what those values are).  Up until recently, one of those values was that “marriage qua marriage” was a one man, one woman deal.  In recent years, we were willing to contemplate “civil unions,” but “marriage” remained sacrosanct.

Also, because of the First Amendment, another American bottom-line is that the government cannot meddle in religious doctrine.  Some confused people think the First Amendment outlaws religion, or outlaws religious people from participating in politics, but most understand that — unless they’re calling for human or animal sacrifice, or polygamy — the American government leaves religion alone.

I have said all along that the main problem with the gay marriage debate is that, by creating an entirely new bottom line (gay marriage) we’re going to see two bottom lines crash into each other.  You see, traditional male/female marriage meshed nicely with the vast majority of traditional religious norms.  Gay marriage, however, does not mesh with traditional religion.  While Progressive churches and synagogues have opened their doors to gay marriages, more traditional ones, especially the Orthodox Jewish faith and the Catholic Church, have not done so.

When I’ve raised this concern to people, they scoffed.  One liberal told me that, even though abortions are legal, the government has never gone toe-to-toe with the Catholic Church.  He looked a bit taken aback, and had no response, when I pointed out that the Catholic Church doesn’t provide, or withhold, abortions; it simply speaks against them doctrinally.  The Church does, however, marry people, and that leaves open the possibility that a gay couple will sue the church for refusing to perform a marriage service.

Others, while acknowledging that my point has a certain intellectual validity, say that it will never happen.  I’m not so sure, especially after reading a story out of England involving a Pentecostal couple who were told that, as long as their religion held that homosexuality is not acceptable behavior, they could not foster needy children:

A Christian couple morally opposed to homosexuality today lost a High Court battle over the right to become foster carers.

Eunice and Owen Johns, aged 62 and 65, from Oakwood, Derby, went to court after a social worker expressed concerns when they said they could not tell a child a ‘homosexual lifestyle’ was acceptable.

The Pentecostal Christian couple had applied to Derby City Council to be respite carers but withdrew their application believing it was ‘doomed to failure’ because of the social worker’s attitude to their religious beliefs.

The couple deny that they are homophobic and said they would love any child they were given. However, what they were ‘not willing to do was to tell a small child that the practice of homosexuality was a good thing’.

What’s relevant to this post is that the judges explicitly held that homosexual rights trump religious rights:

Lord Justice Munby and Mr Justice Beatson ruled that laws protecting people from discrimination because of their sexual orientation ‘should take precedence’ over the right not to be discriminated against on religious grounds.

Admitted, Britain does not have a First Amendment.  However, as I noted above, First Amendment or not, our government bars, and (when Mormons are involved) actively prosecutes, polygamy.  It does so despite the fact that polygamy was official doctrine for the Mormons and is official doctrine for the Muslims.  Likewise, although Voodoo is recognized as a religion, we don’t let practitioners engage in animal sacrifice.  In other words, First Amendment or not, the government will interfere in religious doctrine if it runs completely afoul of a bottom-line American value.

If gay marriage is deemed Constitutional, we suddenly have two conflicting bottom-line values — gay marriage and religious freedom.  I’m not predicting how this will turn out.  I’m just saying that, if I was the Catholic Church or an Orthodox synagogue, I’d start having my lawyers look at this one now.

Cross-posted at Right Wing News

Obama is no Harry Truman

In an earlier post, I said that Obama’s decision to turn his back on DOMA, despite his professed support for traditional marriage, does not make him a Harry Truman.  Rich Lowry explains much better than I could why Obama’s current position is not a principled stand but is, instead, another step towards a pre-planned goal.  The whole pattern also reminds me of the way in which Obama lies, which is incrementally.

The imperial presidency

David Limbaugh does as good a job as any I’ve seen of explaining precisely what’s wrong with the President’s announcement that, because he disagrees with the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act, he’s removing it from judicial purview.

Did Obama pull a Harry Truman? (No.)

I’ve always admired Harry Truman for his ability to go forward with moral acts despite the fact that these acts were at odds with his personal prejudices.  Although he was a good old fashioned Southern anti-Semite, in 1948, at the UN, he voted for the State of Israel, because it was the right thing to do.  Likewise, even though he was a good old fashioned Southern racist, he authorized the military’s integration, because it was the right thing to do.

Obama is a self-avowed proponent of traditional marriage, yet he has just announced that a federal law upholding traditional marriage is unconstitutional.  Is this a Harry Truman moment?  Is he putting aside his own prejudices to do the right thing?

Sorry, but no, it’s not a Harry Truman moment.  You see, Harry Truman didn’t flim-flam voters by promising never to support a Jewish state or an integrated military, and then changing his mind.  These were issues that arose out of the blue, so to speak, that were not part of a national debate, and that had never required Truman to sell his position — any position — to the American public.  They were deeply personal decisions for him:  do the right thing at that moment, or do the prejudiced thing at that moment.  He chose the former course both times, marking him as an ethically brave man.

Obama, however, sold the public a bill of goods.  He campaigned as a proponent of traditional marriage.  Jeffrey Anderson summarizes nicely:

President Obama has now decided that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman, is unconstitutional. Thus, the Obama administration says that it will no longer defend that federal law in court. On the campaign trail, President Obama repeatedly asserted that marriage is a union between a man and a woman. Now, the president has apparently decided that his own view, at least when codified as federal law, is unconstitutional.

Rather than appearing Truman-esque, Obama simply increases the perception that he is a con man.  At the very least, if he’s had this kind of change of heart, he should be explaining to the public the reasoning behind the change.  He’s not making any such noises, though, because there are no such noises to make.

Is it hate?

The Indiana legislature is working on a bill to ban gay marriage.  On my “real me” facebook, several of my friends characterized this as an act motivated by hate:  “Stop the hate!”  “Boy, they really hate us.”  “Could they be more hateful?”  I found this formulation interesting, perhaps because semantics has been such a big issue lately, what with the liberals  trying to redefine Reagan so that they can redefine Obama.  (For two excellent articles on the politics of semantics, check out this and this.)

Saying that people are motivated by hate is a very powerful and demeaning argument.  Most everyone at whom such an argument is aimed reacts instinctively to deny that he or she is hate-filled.  Often, to prove that there is no hate, the person will back of from the allegedly hate-filled position.

I’m wondering, though, if there is any merit to the “hate” argument when it comes to gay marriage.  I don’t like gay marriage because I’ve increasingly come to believe (here come the semantics again) that it would be better if “marriage” was kept to religious institutions, with civil unions belonging to the state.  The state can then decide how best to advance the goal of stable two parent families, which are the backbone of every growing, healthy society.

To allow state gay marriages as a civil right raises the horrible specter looms of a gay couple being denied a Catholic marriage, only to sue, alleging that the couple is being discriminated against under the Constitution.  The Church, of course, reasonably responds that, under the same Constitution, the government has to stay out of its doctrinal practices, and where are you then?  In other words, I don’t hate gays; I just hate the idea of gay marriage.

Those who oppose gay marriage for other reasons also don’t seem motivated by “hatred” for gays.  They may believe that marriage should be between a man and a woman; they may believe gay marriage is a slippery slope to polygamy; they may believe these matters should be put to the popular vote, not the courts or even the legislatures; they may believe that their religion prohibits gay marriage; or they may believe something else entirely.  But what one hasn’t heard from the majority in the gay marriage debate is personal animus towards gays.  Ignoring the fringes, one hasn’t heard “hate.”

Or am I misdefining hate?  Is it hatred if you place obstacles in the path of a specific group, without explicitly demeaning, deriding, insulting or attacking that group?  What if you justify those obstacles on grounds unrelated, or reasonably unrelated to the group?

I actually don’t have answers, just questions.  Nor am I seeking to open a debate about gay marriage.  I’m simply wondering about politics, semantics, and identity groups.

The blessings of gay conservatives

Yesterday I mentioned John Hawkin’s post explaining why he is sponsoring HomoCon.  I thought a nice companion piece would be Nick Gillespie’s post reprinting the HomoCon platform, a platform I think that all conservatives will find agreeable.

Remember (as if you, my dear readers, ever forget):  Unlike the statists/regressives/so-called liberals, we are not the party of identity politics.  We are the party of small government and big security.  We welcome those who agree with us on those issues, regardless of their race, color, creed, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, or country of national origin.  We also acknowledge that there will inevitably be disagreements on the ideological periphery.  We know, though, that under America’s two party system, we cannot win federal elections if we allow our attention to wander too far from the core issues that currently threaten to destroy the country entirely.

My sense is that, aside from the belief many hold that homosexual activity is sinful, I believe that gay marriage is the single most divisive political issue right now between conservative gays (at least, those conservative gays who support gay marriage) and other conservatives (at least, those other conservatives who don’t support gay marriage).  It shouldn’t be.

As I’ve said before, I am not a fan of gay marriage, since I think marriage is, at its core, a religious issue.    The smartest way to resolve it would be for the state to get out of the marriage business entirely and, instead, limit itself to allowing those “domestic partnerships” that it deems are in the state’s interest.

Right now, we probably all agree that heterosexual partnerships fall in that “state interest” category.  A slight majority of Americans would add homosexual partnerships to that category, something that should be worked at through societal consensus, not judicial fiat.  And if the specter of “dogs and cats, living together” comes up, we’ll deal with that too.  And then let those various partners find the churches that will unite them before their God(s).  End of story.

That’s my view, for what it’s worth.  But my question for those opposed to gay conservatives who support conservatism on the most important political issue of the day is this:  Can you afford to get into a divisive fight over what is, temporarily at least, a less significant issue than saving our entire country from frighteningly potential internal economic collapse and external terrorist and military attack?