Sooner or later, U.S. conservatives who are not fanatical zealots will come around on same-sex marriage. But they will do so in response to conservative arguments grounded in morality and concerns for social stability, not progressive contentions—such as those deployed in the failed campaign against California’s Prop. 8, in which political ads called rousinlgy for equal access to multitudinous government benefits. For libertarian-minded conservatives, arguments favoring freedom and recognition of natural rights (not rights to government entitlements) are most resonant.
Conservative arguments have certainly been made over the years, including by writers associated with the Independent Gay Forum, the now disbanded parent of this blog. But it’s good to see the conservative case gaining new prominence.
For example, National Review has published many attacks against same-sex marriage and legal equality for LGBT people. But this week they’ve included a supportive piece by their own managing editor, Jason Lee Steorts, An Equal Chance at Love: Why We Should Recognize Same-Sex Marriage. He writes:
Another way of saying this is that sexual counter-revolutionaries are telling a noble lie. The lie is that it is immoral to think of sex and marriage as anything other than child-directed …
The trouble with noble lies is that sooner or later people see through them. When they do, they tend to have revolutionary overreactions. And when that happens, what is needed is not a complete reversion to the old view, but a synthesis of what was right in that view with what was right in the reaction against it.
In their ideological absolutism, many traditionalists today stand in the way of such a synthesis. Their position on same-sex marriage is tragic, in that they have taken a stand against burgeoning social endorsement of commitment and sexual exclusivity as ends in themselves.
In a kind of concurring opinion, Prof. Jonathan H. Adler of the Case Western University School of Law offers A conservative case for gay marriage at the Volokh Conspiracy blog, noting:
A focus on the interests of children — the actual children who are alive today and who will be born in the years to come — supports a profoundly conservative, and quite Burkean, argument for gay marriage.
Set aside some utopian conception of what marriage is or should be about in the ideal, and instead recognize the way we live now — how and why we marry and how children are brought into this world and the homes in which they are raised. There are hundreds of thousands of children alive today who stand to benefit from being raised in more-stable, two-parent households. Every state allows gay people to raise children — and nearly all allow homosexuals to adopt or serve as foster parents. If this is acceptable (and few would argue that it’s worse for a child to be raised by gay parents than no parents at all) how can it be in the interests of these same children to ensure that they are raised in less optimal conditions?
If the Supreme Court acts as expected, these issues will be moot. But perhaps if conservatives think more about the children, they will feel a little better about the practical implications of such a result.
It won’t convince Justices Scalia, Alito and Thomas, but the well-stated moral logic in these arguments will allow future conservatives to say, with British Prime Minister David Cameron, “Conservatives believe in the ties that bind us. Society is stronger when we make vows to each other and we support each other. I don’t support gay marriage in spite of being a conservative. I support gay marriage because I am a conservative.”