I am a social liberal. I support gay marriage, am an advocate of a more sensible drug policy, and, as a general rule, believe that abortion should be remain safe and legal for those who seek to obtain them. I hold these views because I am driven by a conviction that human beings are entitled to seek out and define their own conception of “the good” within the reasonable constraints of a functioning body politic.
Unfortunately, some of my fellow social liberals have turned the pursuit of social justice and equality into a form of fascism which seeks, for lack of a better word, to force society in a particular direction. Take for example, the case of Catholic charities in Massachusetts. Up until 2006, these charities had provided adoption services for over 100 years. Yet, when told by the state that they would be required to allow gay couples to adopt using their services, the charitable group decided to abandon its core mission rather than be compelled to compromise their religious conviction.
Paradoxically, such liberal activism has actually proven to be a hindrance, rather than a help to the cause of social justice. The case of Catholic charities in Boston has been held up as an example of what can/will happen if gay marriage is legalized. I don’t blame my more conservative friends for being concerned.
Liberalism is about freedom. This includes the freedom to believe that homosexuality is a sin and that homosexual relations are wrong. Certainly, I don’t agree with this position and, through constructive dialogue, would work to convince others of my particular point of view. However, seeking to compel others to believe or act in a particular way — and thus violate their freedom to believe and act as they prefer — is fascism. Fascism and liberal thought should not, and do not mix.
Consider also the actions of some activists in California who posted the home addresses of Prop 8 supporters in a punitive effort to intimidate these citizens after-the-fact. These actions may be perfectly legal but they are unquestionably immoral. They are also incredibly counter-productive as they (inaccurately, in my view) paint supporters of gay marriage as vicious fascists, willing to intimidate our opponents by frightening them to either support our cause, or shut up.
Freedom is a two-way street. As liberals, we should seek to maximize freedom for all — including those with whom we disagree. To do anything less makes us more akin to Mussolini than to MLK.
NOTE:It has been brought to my attention that Catholic Charities is still operating in Mass. I need to make it very clear that the State withdrew funding from Catholic Charities based on their anti-homosexual adoption position. By accepting state funding, Catholic Charities became a pseudo-agent of the state and as such, became subject to anti-discrimination laws in Mass. LDS Social Services, for example, has never accepted state funding and is, therefore, completely private. As such, they are free to to deny adoption services to anyone they wish.
My mom is not a bigot. She is not a homophobe. She does not hate gays and lesbians. My mom is a deeply religious person, raised with a worldview, which tells her that homosexuality is a sin in the sight of God. To my mother, this is an indisputable fact. It is as plain to her as the yellow on a NYC taxi. When the Apostle Paul says that homosexuality is sinful – this simply makes it so. Of course, my mother is a devout Mormon and so when her Church leaders teach her that homosexuality is sinful, and that homosexual marriage is a step down the path of social decline and decay – she understands these things as literal truths. In my mother’s world, God intends man and wife to live together, raise children, and live decent, honest, and clean lives.
I have had conversations about homosexual marriage with my mother on several occasions and it is clear that her view on the matter is informed, not from a purely logical analysis, but rather from a deep-rooted and very real sense of what is right and what is wrong. The mere idea of homosexuality simply goes beyond the bounds of my mother’s worldview.
Asking my mother to accept homosexuality as “normal” and moral is like trying to convince me that I really would like to eat escargot. You could explain to me quite logically that snails are very nutritious, that they are in fact very delicious and that French people eat them up all the time. The fact remains however, that deep-down, within a portion of my psyche unreachable by reason and logic – I have a very real, and quite powerful, aversion to eating snails.
Now some, who hold up reason and logic and near-deities may criticize both my mother and me for retaining aversions which are untouchable by reason and logic; for exhibiting behavior which we neither feel the need, nor the desire to defend. Our aversions are patently obvious to us. Why can’t those who are trying to force upon us new paradigms simply be content with the fact that we like our current paradigm? It’s comfortable. I don’t like snails and my mom can’t conceive of two men or two women as being married.
It is both fundamentally unfair and unwise for those of us who support gay-marriage (and gay rights generally) to believe that we can snap our fingers and suddenly convince the mass of deeply religious believers that our position is the correct one. Any attempt to do so, is in essence, asking them to discard deeply held, and powerful beliefs. We must remember that religious opposition to gay marriage does not exist in a vacuum. It is part of a much larger religious cosmology. Thus, asking a devout believer to accept homosexual marriage is asking them to discard, not only a singular moral view, but rather an entire set of moral standards based on a literal or semi-literal view of the Bible, a belief in modern Prophets who speak to God, and centuries of marriage tradition (mostly religious) that centered on the male-female relationship. Devout religious opponents of gay marriage do not hate gays. They love their faith.
We must stop using words such as bigot and homophobe to describe those who oppose our view of gay rights. These words are divisive, inflammatory, and simply do not accurately describe the opposing viewpoint. (Fred Phelps of course, is a very clear exception. He is a bigot, a homophobe, and a douche.)
The fact is, our opponents will likely never adjust their worldview or faith in a way that will allow for homosexual marriage – nor should they be expected to. The fight for gay marriage is fight about freedom and equality. A key component of this freedom and equality is allowing others the ability to form, maintain, and express their faith without being harassed, mislabeled, and mistreated.
Serious social change takes time. In my view, a little patience would serve us well.
My mom is not a bigot. She is not a homophobe. She loves God and is doing what she believes is His will. This is her right and obligation. It is my right and obligation to share with my convictions and feelings. It is quite unlikely that we will convince one another of our differing opinions – but at the very least we will better understand each other. We, as advocates of gay-rights don’t properly understand our religious neighbors and its time that we drop the acrimony and start a substantive dialogue.
P.S. My mom loves my friend Devan, who incidentally, is about as gay as you can get. When she attended my graduation last year, she and Devan got on like life-long friends.