McCain presidential campaign strategist Steve Schmidt spoke to the Log Cabin Republicans today and made a very strong Republican case for gay marriage. I don't agree with him entirely. For example, I think he underestimates the potential backlash among social conservatives if the GOP were to abandon its stance on marriage, and overlooks other electoral challenges -- for instance, gay marriage is one of the issues where Republicans appeal to Hispanic voters who may otherwise not agree with the party's economic stances. But the strength of his argument, I think, lies in the fact that he drops the sanctimonious tone employed by many advocates of gay marriage and shows respect and understanding to those who firmly believe that marriage should remain between a man and a woman. I think the whole speech is worth a read, but here's a taste:
Social conservatives remain an indispensable part of the Republican coalition. I don’t subscribe to the notion that social conservatives are a monolithic bloc of close minded people who would tread on the rights of Americans who disagree with them. Nor do I think conservatism will or should abandon its reluctance to change or abandon social conventions that are important to the strength and stability of our society.
The institution of marriage is the foundation of society and alterations to its definitions shouldn’t be lightly undertaken. It has always been defined as the legal union of a man and a woman, and it’s understandable that many Americans are apprehensive about making a definitional change to so profoundly an important institution. But it is a tradition, not a creed, or, at least, not a national creed. It is not how we define ourselves as Americans. And while we shouldn’t carelessly dismiss the importance of enduring traditions, we should understand that traditions do change over time in every society. And as long as those changes do not conflict with the tenets of our national creed then they can, and inevitably will, be modified by a society that has come to view them as inequitable….
The argument of the pro-life community acquires its moral force because it holds that the life of the unborn is not distinct in its dignity from the life of the born, and, thus, possesses a God-given right to be protected. The same protection cannot be argued to extend to the institutional definition of marriage as exclusively the union of persons of the opposite sex.
It can be argued, although I disagree, that marriage should remain the legal union of a man and a woman because changing it to admit same sex unions would undermine the most basic institution of a well ordered society. It can be argued according to the creeds and convictions of religious belief, which I respect. But it cannot be argued that marriage between people of the same sex is un-American or threatens the rights of others. On the contrary, it seems to me that denying two consenting adults of the same sex the right to form a lawful union that is protected and respected by the state denies them two of the most basic natural rights affirmed in the preamble of our Declaration of Independence – liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That, I believe, gives the argument of same sex marriage proponents its moral force.
This is more or less where I stand. My political beliefs are always rooted in the basic idea that people should have the freedom to do what they want as long as they do not harm others in the process, and I don't see how allowing two people of the same sex to marry harms a third party. In my ideal world, government's role would be limited to granting something akin to civil unions for everybody and the concept of marriage would be preserved for religious institutions, who would have the right to marry or not marry whoever they choose. But as long as government is in the marriage business, I just don't see the harm in extending marriage rights to same sex couples.
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