Enforcing Orthodoxy Hurts Everyone

A public statement, “Freedom to Marry, Freedom to Dissent: Why We Must Have Both” has been posted at Real Clear Politics, with a number of prominent signatories. The statement is premised on the following declaration:

“We support same-sex marriage; many of us have worked for it, in some cases for a large portion of our professional and personal lives. We affirm our unwavering commitment to civic and legal equality, including marriage equality. At the same time, we also affirm our unwavering commitment to the values of the open society and to vigorous public debate—the values that have brought us to the brink of victory.”

For me, this is the heart of the matter and our central disagreement with the self-appointed enforcers of orthodoxy:

“We should criticize opposing views, not punish or suppress them.”

It won’t convince the heresy hunters who believe you win when you silence your opponents by threatening their livelihood, but they’re a lost cause and an embarrassment to the enlightenment values of classical liberalism. For those who support gay legal equality but might be misled by “progressives” into thinking that shouting down your opposition wins the debate, we hope it will provide some intellectual clarity.

More. Rick Sincere links to a variety of blog posts referencing the statement.

And this, from Conor Friedersdorf.

37 Comments for “Enforcing Orthodoxy Hurts Everyone”

  1. posted by Mike in Houston on

    Another of Stephen’s posts about the alleged orthodoxy of progressives who (according to him) should never say anything factual back to the anti-LGBT crowd lest conservatives get all hurted feelings and such…

    In Stephen’s world (and those signatories on RCP), “vigorous public debate” = conservatives can pretty much say anything, boycott pro-LGBT businesses, call for the resignation or firing of pro-LGBT CEO’s, managers and directors — and LGBT people and their allies need to just shut up, because… freedom.

  2. posted by Mark on

    I assume all the signatories also believe that a corporation must retain a CEO who supports stripping away the right of interracial company employees to marry.

    After all, this would reflect a commitment to open discourse. I didn’t see any reference to interracial marriage in the statement. But this would be an interesting society, in which corporations would be forced to keep as their public face a CEO who took direct action to strip rights away from the company’s employees.

  3. posted by AG on

    This is a very important public statement. This is exactly how the “(pro-)gay” McCarthyism should be denounced.

    • posted by AG on

      The lack of progressives among the signatories is duly noticed.

      • posted by Tom Scharbach on

        The lack of progressives among the signatories is duly noticed.

        Noticed, but without much thought given to the conclusion, apparently.

        It is a statement by like-minded, libertarian-leaning conservatives. I very much doubt that any progressives were asked to join the statement.

        But, in the interest of fairness, you should be given the opportunity to defend your conclusion. Please give us a list of progressives who were asked to sign the statement, and declined.

  4. posted by AG on

    It’s not to late for them to endorse the message. For example, what does Dan “I wish [Republicans] were all f–king dead” Savage have to say about it? He’s probably more influential than any of the national gay organizations.

    • posted by Houndentenor on

      He’s on Twitter. Why don’t you ask him yourself?

      • posted by Jorge on

        Oi. That would be blindside trolling. Better to ask a friend of a friend of his. Or let one of the signatories ask him.

        • posted by Houndentenor on

          Mine was a real answer, not a sarcastic one. Dan has never been shy about saying what he thinks. He’d probably respond in his column and/or podcast. Obviously you’d want to word it carefully to come off as a reader with a question and not a troll trying to be an asshole, but that can be done. I’ve interacted with quite a few well-known people this way on twitter sometimes including some back and forth. It’s one of the best things about twitter imho. Some of my comments even got re-tweeted.

          • posted by Jorge on

            *Shrug.* Obviously I changed my mind on this. I forgot about how informal Twitter is by reputation.

            Obviously you’d want to word it carefully to come off as a reader with a question and not a troll trying to be an asshole, but that can be done.

            Yes. Obviously.

      • posted by Tom Scharbach on

        And why don’t you ask Stephen, who is a signatory to the document, whether any progressives were invited to sign the statement, and if not, why not?

        While you are at it, why don’t you get his views on how rhetoric like “they have no shame, just hatred and smug self-righteousness used to cloak their totalitarian mindset”, name-calling like “heresy-hunting zealots”, and overblown historical comparisons (“the liberalism of Robespierre”) fits in with “We prefer debate that is respectful …“?

    • posted by Tom Scharbach on

      For example, what does Dan “I wish [Republicans] were all f–king dead” Savage have to say about it? He’s probably more influential than any of the national gay organizations.

      You can listen to his Podcast, I suppose, if you want to, but the bottom line is that Savage called the Eich affair “a setback for the LGBT rights movement.”

      • posted by Houndentenor on

        Now, Tom, you wouldn’t want to let facts interfere with a self-righteous personal attack? Would you?

        Yes, Dan agreed with Stephen and company more than with me on the Eich affair, but please keep demonizing him. He’s a liberal after all so he must be evil incarnate.

    • posted by Tom Scharbach on

      It’s not to late for [progressives] to endorse the message.

      As Stephen puts it, “Enforcing Orthodoxy Hurts Everyone”.

      If the statement had been a pledge — “I believe that … and I will …” — I’d probably be willing to sign it, despite the statement’s misuse of the Eich affair, because I believe in the principle and I try to practice it in what I write and do.

      But the statement is not a pledge. It is an attempt to shame people who disagree with us into compliance with the new orthodoxy by denouncing them.

      It is not a statement that is consistent with the principle that “enforcing orthodocy hurts everyone”. I don’t think that trying to shame “progressives” into signing the statement is consistent with the principle, either.

  5. posted by Houndentenor on

    Is there anyone on the right who isn’t a pathetic crybaby these days?

    The right is constantly attacking liberals, calling for boycotts and resignations/firings. But if anyone does the exact same thing to them they turn into shrieking toddlers. Enough already.

  6. posted by Doug on

    So was this mayor silenced and essentially forced to resign or should he still be mayor?


  7. posted by Jorge on

    Tom Scharbach points to a clear weakness–the fact that the statement’s signatory list ends. I think even the infamous 9/11 Truther statement had more signatures.

    I probably would not sign it. It’s too progressive, too strongly stated, too certain on the marriage issue. “Unwavering commitment?” Same-sex marriage is simply the right thing to do and recognize.

    Well, I suppose part of it is that for me it’s a religious issue. Certain things are necessary for reasons that include America’s values, and that also go beyond them. I cannot read things any other way.

    But God plays tricks on people. He tells different people to do different things, and in so doing they set themselves against each other. For all my certainty about the sacrament of marriage being available for gays, and for all my belief in marriage as right and proper, I fear that I am but a pawn for another finality. That the price of my conviction is my own annihilation, that a positive difference can be made in no other way. It is out of respect for that possibility, and the understanding that God speaks through many religions yet to me only through one, that I would not think it right for me to sign such a statement. It speaks for me, but I cannot follow it to where it is going.

    • posted by J. Bruce Wilcox on

      But God plays tricks on people.

      Really? Don’t you think that if god exists at all he/she/it is a tad bit too busy with the unfolding of the entire multiverse to bother playing tricks on individual humans? Besides- I thought that was the realm of satan. So really- nobody else even commented on your statement and it is beyond ridiculous.

      If god exists- your inability to hear god through any but your own self-defined christian path is actually YOUR limitation- not gods. People like dead fred believe god tells them to believe and do what they do. It is the realm of humans who have decided the individual knows whats good and right for all- that tell us all what to do- in some god’s name- when nobody has the answer to that. But they all like to call it MORALS.

      You’re a pawn of nothing but your own limitation- based in ignorance by choice- your choice not to do the actual personal work that might bring you into the reality of having a DIRECT EXPERIENCE.

      Too progressive? My mormon upbringing made sure being too progressive would be the highest of compliments. Too bad for you.

  8. posted by JohnInCA on

    I like how it implicitly argues that Prop 8 did no harm.

    And also implicitly argues that gay people are obligated to support people that sought to (and succeeded to) do them harm.

    Whatever happened to “your right to swing your fist ends when it hits my face”? ’cause gay people have pretty well argued how marriage-bans “hit my face”. No one can convincingly argue that gay marriages “hit my face”.

    • posted by Tom Scharbach on

      A lot of things aren’t said in the statement. A glaring omission is any indication that the signatories will apply the standards of the statement to themselves or anyone else on the conservative side of the issue.

    • posted by Jorge on

      Whatever happened to “your right to swing your fist ends when it hits my face”? ’cause gay people have pretty well argued how marriage-bans “hit my face”.

      “Pretty well” argued?

      If you’re going to be so unsure of your case that you’re going to concede that it’s only “pretty well” argued that Prop 8 punched people in the face, then you are going to have to give leeway to the argument that it did no harm. You are going to have to support people who supported Prop 8. The chance that you are wrong is simply too great.

      I do acknowledge after much time reading that there is a pretty good argument that marriage bans hit gay people in the face. It may even prevail in the court of law. But it is wrong and wrongheaded.

      • posted by JohnInCa on

        You literally just told me I have to support a political cause. Sir, that is absurd.

        No political cause is entitled to support from anyone. They have to earn it by hook or by crook. But no person is obligated to support any political cause.

        If you believe otherwise then you really don’t believe that everyone has a freedom of speech. Because implicit in the freedom of speech is the freedom to choose who you speak for. Which you just said I don’t get.

        • posted by Jorge on

          (He called me ‘sir!’ I’m like totally charmed!)

          I’m just telling you should support the right for other people to swing their fists, as long as they don’t hit their face.

          If you can’t demonstrate that someone has hit your face, the consequence of that is,”I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

          Indeed, I remember reading a very touching quote by someone whom the Department of Defense surveyed about the possibility of repealing the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy…, ah here it is: “I love America for its tolerance. I am willing to be a KIA [Killed in Action] because I think America values equality and civil liberties. It would be great if the institution I served mirrored exactly those ideals.”

          • posted by JohnInCA on

            Yeah, see, here’s the thing. Even if Prop 8 caused absolutely no harm. If it made puppies and rainbows pour of people’s ears and happiness rule the land. Even if it was an unequivocal societal GOOD.

            Then the proponents would *still* not be entitled to mine, or anyone else’s, support. They get their free speech. Everyone gets that. But they aren’t entitled to the support of the people.

            And the fact that I’m not a fanatic doesn’t change that one whit.

          • posted by Jorge on


  9. posted by Lori Heine on

    There is a basic disconnect between the assumptions of gay conservatives and the reality of what anti-gay conservatives are trying to do. IGF’s bloggers seem to believe they are proving to those on the Right who dislike gays that there are good gays, as well as bad ones.

    But the game-plan, of anti-gay conservatives, is to demonize ALL gays, and to deny the very existence of gay conservatives. They have shown this time and time again. Gay conservatives are trying to appease liars and frauds.

    By now, all straight conservatives of goodwill and moral integrity know that gay conservatives exist. They don’t need to be convinced over and over again. Those who have not — by this time — been convinced resist convincing because they do not want to be convinced. They lack goodwill or moral integrity, and mean LGBT Americans nothing but harm.

    Their backs to the wall, they will fight their nasty little fight as long as there is breath in them. Yet gay conservatives will still clamor, “But love us! We’re good! We really, really, really are the good gays!”

    It’s pathetic. Once I came to the realization that Right-Wing “moralists” were dealing with us in bad faith, I refused to have anything more to do with them. They hate any sign of self-respect or solidarity from us. They couldn’t do that unless they hated us.

    • posted by Tom Scharbach on

      Yet gay conservatives will still clamor, “But love us! We’re good! We really, really, really are the good gays!”

      The lengths to which libertarian-leaning conservatives will go to maintain that stance amazes me. Peter Berkowitz of the Hoover Institute posted a commentary at RealClearPolitics (cited in the Rick Sincere link) in which he implicitly argues the social conservative argument that same-sex marriage is not real marriage:

      On April 4, one day after Eich stepped down, New Yorker staff writer James Surowiecki defended the outcome, arguing that one must take into account the political sensitivities of the denizens of Silicon Valley. “At this point,” Surowiecki writes, “a tech company having a CEO who opposes gay marriage is not all that different from a company in 1973 having a CEO who donated money to fight interracial marriage: Even if there were plenty of Americans who felt the same way at the time, the CEO would still have been on the wrong side of history.”

      This is a common analogy with a superficial logic, but it obscures more than it illuminates.

      The legal prohibition in America on interracial marriage did not stem from marriage’s inner logic, and thus the struggle against it did not depend on changing marriage’s meaning. Rather, the prohibition reflected discrimination based on skin color, a practice that though originally protected by the Constitution was always antithetical to its most fundamental promise. Abolishing the prohibition was a function of understanding better and implementing more effectively the implications of the Constitution’s foundational promise of individual freedom and equality under law.

      In contrast, marriage’s meaning in America was essentially bound up with long-held social norms—and the religious tenets of Christianity and Judaism—sanctioning a lifetime union between a man and woman culminating in conceiving, bearing, giving birth to, and raising children. Marriage, traditionally understood, rests on the premise of the complementarity of the sexes and the social imperative to care for the children one brings into the world.

      Over the last 50 years, however, the social meaning of marriage has undergone a profound shift. The impact of the cultural upheavals of the 1960s—fueled in no small measure by the introduction of a cheap and effective birth control pill—has been nothing short of revolutionary. Whereas traditional marriage placed children and family at the core, today individuals very often seek marriage in the first place to achieve a combination of love, sex, and companionship, and only secondarily give thought to children. As non-reproductive sex has become the norm, the justifications—practical and constitutional — for excluding gays from participating in the institution of marriage have weakened.

      In other words, civil marriage can be constitutionally extended to gays and lesbians only because marriage has lost its meaning. That is precisely the point, in reverse, made by social conservatives, who argue that civil marriage must not be extended to gays and lesbians because to do so ends all hope that marriage will ever mean anything again.

      Berkowitz might as well have put “marriage” in quotes, just like the social conservatives he is trying to convince.

      I don’t pretend to know what is going on with the gay conservative crowd.

      First this flap, in which gay conservatives act is if they are fighting off the barbarian hoards, when there is scant evidence that anyone is engaging in “heresy hunting”, and then that odd little bitch slapping episode centered around the insta-history puff piece, in which gay conservatives are trying to make the case that they invented the idea of marriage equality, years after the first lawsuit for marriage equality was instituted. All this after years and years of apologetics for social conservatives.

      It gets curiouser and curiouser.

    • posted by Jorge on

      By now, all straight conservatives of goodwill and moral integrity know that gay conservatives exist.


      Lori, let me suggest to you the possibility that the battle the gay right is waging is over not what the right thinks of gay conservatives, but what the right thinks of gays.

      And thus, the outcomes of the gay rights movement itself.

      This is not taking into consideration the extent to which the battle is purely ideological.

      Let me suggest also that your statement which I quoted is false. There remains considerable ignorance in this country. Else we would not still have to worry such a great deal about hate crimes.

      (While I do believe you can point to a causal arrow between hateful rhetoric and hate crimes, the studies I’m familiar with tend to show that the people who actually perpetrate hate crimes are often to usually rather ordinary. I mean to make the point that we still have the power to convince potential criminals, and let me add some of the “mood” that feeds them.)

      • posted by Lori Heine on

        Jorge, my comment stands as is. Unless they’ve spent their lives in cellophane wrap, straight conservatives now already know enough gay people to know that the religious right is lying about who we are.

        A meme is being crafted, and it is a lie. I call bulls**t.

        And as far as my “statement as quoted above being false,” for Heaven’s sake use your head. What part of “goodwill and moral integrity” would permit people to commit hate crimes? Your last comment is nonsensical.

        We have given these people more than enough patience, leeway and consideration as it is. They are content to drain it to the dregs, and then demand more.

        Enough already.

    • posted by Carl on

      Beautifully said. Over a decade of reading this site and it really does boil down to backflips to prove how much gay conservatives aren’t like those “other” gays.

      Just because you aren’t like those “other” gays doesn’t mean the people you work tirelessly for won’t take away your rights too.

  10. posted by Mike in Houston on

    Still waiting to see Stephen’s commentary about this real silencing effort:
    “Despite such hyperbolic rhetoric on the menace of gay “censorship,” Barber himself is now embarking on a campaign to stop a publishing house with evangelical ties from printing a book on Christianity and homosexuality by Matthew Vines, a young United Methodist whose 2012 lecture on Christianity and same-sex relationships went viral.”

    – See more at: http://www.rightwingwatch.org/content/matt-barbers-anti-gay-campaign-hypocrisy-there-should-be-no-debate-homosexuality-and-faith#sthash.8Jw1jJzX.dpuf

    • posted by Jorge on

      That seems more like a gotcha story than one that presents any sort of broader pattern. However, we should certainly affirm that the world is better off without such hypocrites. We allegedly have Dan Savage saying the Eich affair was a “setback for the LGBT rights movement”. The standard he affirms should be matched.

  11. posted by Tom Scharbach on

    For me, this is the heart of the matter and our central disagreement with the self-appointed enforcers of orthodoxy: “We should criticize opposing views, not punish or suppress them.”

    The disconnect in this statement, for me anyway, is that the anti-equality right can be counted on to trump up vigorous criticism into accusations of “punishment” and “suppression”, which then get amplified as the accusations bounce around the conservative echo chamber, until the accusations have little or nothing to do with what actually happened.

    Will the virulent opinions of men like Tony Perkins, Bryan Fischer and Brian Brown go the way of the virulent opinions of men like George Wallace, Lester Maddox and David Duke? Yes, in time.

    Will Tony Perkins, Bryan Fischer and Brian Brown find themselves tossed on the trash bin of history? Yes, in time.

    Will they be considered ineligible for future leadership positions in organizations outside the far-right because they are “radioactive”, despite their obvious organizational leadership skills? Most likely.

    As Houndentenor pointed out in an earlier thread:

    History is unkind to people who take the wrong side. … I can still remember people on TV holding segregationist viewpoints. No one would do that now, even if they held them. It would make you a pariah even among people who more or less agreed with you. We are heading toward a time when the same will be true of people who oppose gay rights. They will not be remembered kindly even by their own descendants. That is not my doing. It is how things work.

    Tony Perkins, Bryan Fischer and Brian Brown will never head up a mainstream organization. Instead, organizations that will consider them for a leadership position will be confined to the backwater cesspool of the extreme right. Is that a direct result of the work they’ve done in the past and continue to do? Yes. It is how things work.

    Much has been made of the Eich affair, most of it trumped up and inaccurate. It has become a conservative cause celebre, yet another vehicle for conservatives to damn “progressive LGBT’s”, even though LGBT’s played no significant role in the affair.

    Now we are treated to the spectre of widespread “heresy hunting”, although there is little evidence of widespread heresy hunting, and criticized for not jumping on the bandwagon. We are called to “respectful debate” by a man who does not practice what he preaches. We are told that we must “denounce” gays and lesbians who disagree with us about the validity of holding social conservatives accountable for their words and actions. Round and round we go.

    It is a sideshow. We need to keep our eye on the ball. We have court cases to support and win, we have a long mopping-up operation in front of us, and we look down the barrel of “massive resistance” efforts that will consume the next few years. We have more than enough on our plate.

    • posted by Mike in Houston on

      Meanwhile, back at the conservative ranch…

      The Southern Baptists are comparing their fight against marriage equality with the abolitionist movement (no shortage of irony there)…

      Ted Cruz’ father Rafael is spouting nonsense and lying about pastors being fined in San Antonio for preaching Romans 1 — and warning “that lesbian mayor in Houston is getting ready to do the same”…

      Matt Barber (echoing Tony Perkins, et al) continues the gays = Nazis theme… http://barbwire.com/2014/04/07/mozilla-ceo-latest-victim-gay-stapo-targeted-hundreds-prop-8/

      Teabagger Pat Sajak tries to be cute by coming out as straight on twitter…

      But let’s be respectul.

      • posted by Houndentenor on

        And of course we can’t expect gay conservatives to criticize any of the above. No, their focus is clearly on attacking anyone trying to advance equal rights for gay people.

  12. posted by Doug on

    So where are all the gay conservatives coming to the defense of Donald Sterling for his free speech rights? You were defending Brendan Eich’s free speech. . . where are you now?

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