“A passionate tumultuous age will overthrow everything, pull everything down,” wrote Soren Kierkegaard, “but a revolutionary age that is at the same time reflective and passionless leaves everything standing but cunningly empties it of significance.”
Something like this seems to be happening in California. In the heat of revolutionary fervor, California’s leftists once called for the abolition of marriage, which they regarded as an “outmoded” and “oppressive” tradition. But these days they praise marriage as a hallowed institution while they harness it to their original destructive purposes.
What the open radicalism of the 1960s sought to accomplish overtly its more circumspect successors achieve subtly, leaving state marriage standing but trivializing and discrediting it. The Golden state that first took a cudgel to marriage with no-fault divorce takes a final swipe with same-sex marriage.
“Many gay activists are likening the moment to the 1967 Summer of Love, when young people from across the country converged on California in what came to be regarded as the birth of the counterculture,” reports the Associated Press. That sounds about right: the 1960s counterculture has largely become the culture, and marriage as defined by the California Supreme Court has been reduced to nothing more significant than a Flower Children love ceremony in Golden Gate Park.
San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom, however, made sure to select for his 2008 Summer of Love the least representative couple possible to launch it: “a pair of octogenarian lesbians,” as Mary McNamara of the Los Angeles Times put it, allowing that she “couldn’t help thinking that they were chosen because their age made them so adorable.” “Gay and lesbian activist groups,” she added, “reviewed the tapes from four years ago and made it clear to their constituents that sometimes less is more, especially when it comes to cross-dressing.”
Having been softened up by years of widespread “domestic partnerships” and gay-rights propaganda sloshing through the public schools, Californians didn’t seem all that fazed on Tuesday. According to AP, “a recent Field Poll showed that Californians favor granting gays the right to marry 51 percent to 42 percent. It was the first time in 30 years of California polling that the scales tipped in that direction.”
But the implications of the counterculture worming its way into the heart of the state may get their attention over time. Since gay marriage now enjoys the highest level of state approval, anyone who opposes homosexual behavior becomes in effect an opponent of the state. The California justices promised that their ruling would not “impinge upon the religious freedom of any religious organization, official or any other person,” but obviously it will, as the trend of recent years, in which courts have stamped out religious liberty in the name of the state’s notion of “equality,” is sure to accelerate after gay marriage.
MEANWHILE, THE OPPOSITION to gay marriage seems depressingly wan, as a note of agnosticism about the immorality of homosexual behavior saps its drive. The case against gay marriage ultimately rests on the natural moral law, but Republicans and conservatives seem to consider that too passe or embarrassing to be useful in the debate. Yet without that philosophical basis, the case against gay marriage appears arbitrary and strained.
“Pragmatic” arguments haven’t proven very practical. Nor have “pragmatic” concessions to the homosexual movement done anything to forestall gay marriage. If anything, granting benefits, civil unions, domestic partnerships, etc. didn’t slow the gay-marriage juggernaut down but sped it up.
The California media, looking around for a visible opponent to gay marriage, had to settle on Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles. But his opposition to gay marriage isn’t very reassuring. A good chunk of his statement was devoted to extolling benefits for homosexual couples: “Some benefits currently sought by same-sex partners can already be obtained without regard to marital status….Other desired benefits such as sharing in a partner’s health insurance could be made available without the drastic step of a cultural or legal redefinition of marriage.”
Implicit in all these previous concessions was an acceptance of homosexuality that made the state’s full embrace of it in gay marriage inevitable. Negotiating with the gay-rights movement at this point is obtuse. The revolutionary path blazed by the Summer of Love has terminated in the Summer of gay marriage, and there is no turning back unless the issue is engaged at a deeper level than politics.