Yesterday, I posted to these pages a blog note of 619 words on the subject of the politics of Obama’s flip-flop-flip on gay marriage. Of these, four words were “as we should be” which I used in reference to the nation’s getting more comfortable with homosexual relationships.
To be perfectly clear, I am neither gay nor willing to learn. But not being gay doesn’t cause me to automatically dislike gays anymore than not being black causes me to automatically dislike blacks. Of course, I’m perfectly willing to dislike any individual based on his or her own merits.
When I wrote those four words, I knew they would generate some controversy on the blog pages, but I did not expect that of the large number of comments to the note nearly 90 percent would be in reference to four words rather than to the other 615 words (in which I argued that Barack Obama’s rapid “evolution” on gay marriage was not turning into political success, though it was bolstering his Manhattan and Hollywood fundraising).
Since you, esteemed readers, were so interested in those four words, I thought it only fair to respond.
A few specific replies. I won’t mention commenters’ names. You know who you are, or you know if you agree with those who made the initial points:
Now, one thing I could have made clearer: I did and do mean that I believe we should be getting more comfortable with those in same-sex relationships…with those people as individual human beings or as couples. I did not say and did not mean we should necessarily be more comfortable with “gay marriage” per se (and not with particular sexual acts, though that is no more your business than your sexual acts are anyone else’s business).
Even Barack Obama, in 2004, noted that marriage has a specific meaning with thousands of years of history behind it. I am among those who think that part of the problem with this debate is the use of the word marriage. My wife asks rhetorically: if the majority of us have to suffer through marriage, why should gays be exempt? I concur except for the use of the word marriage.
I understand that civil unions and domestic partnerships may be perceived, and may be intended by some, as the camel’s nose under the tent — a giant step toward gay marriage. But having spoken to a few gays about this, I know that a substantial percentage of them don’t care about the word marriage as much as they care about equal treatment under the law. And in that a least they have a reasonable argument.
I maintain my view that we should get government out of marriage, allow any two people to make any contract they want to (which does not infringe on the natural rights of others), allow any house of worship to decide whom they will or won’t marry, and only have government involved insofar as contract enforcement.
Lest my conservative friends and readers on these pages think I am a full-fledged apologist for “gay rights,” allow me a couple more points:
Some gays wildly exaggerate the “rights” that they don’t have. But more importantly, “gay rights” crusaders, just as many other crusaders for other “victim groups” that the left likes to create in their permanent divide-and-conquer strategy, misunderstand and misuse the word “rights.”
Our rights are inherent in our being human beings. Our Founders said that our rights come from God. It is in that sense of us being equally human — no matter your view of God — that we have equal rights. But we are a nation of negative rights, which is to say that our fundamental law, the Constitution, is a code which says what government may NOT do to us. Neither the Constitution nor any politician gives us rights. (In fact, this was part of the original argument about the Bill of Rights: James Madison, among others, initially opposed the idea of a Bill of Rights as potentially implying that rights not spelled out were rights not retained by citizens; thus the inclusion of the 9th and 10th Amendments.)
No group has a claim to special “rights” that others don’t have. (One example of the government violating this precept is the existence of “hate crime” laws. There should not be a bigger penalty for beating up a gay or black than for beating up a straight white guy.) Furthermore, I believe that private businesses and private citizens have a First Amendment right NOT to associate with people just as much as we have our rights of association as normally considered. Thus, those who dislike gays or blacks or Jews or left-handed people or people who enjoy the sport of curling should have the right to exclude them, or anyone else they don’t like for any reason whatever, from their private property.
The other side of the coin, however, is that the government should not be able to discriminate at all. Government’s picking winners and losers in no more appropriate in society or culture than in business; I say this in complete realization that today’s government does all of the above. Because, I repeat, government is force. This means that government must not treat gays, blacks or any others worse than they treat members of society’s (then current) majority; but it means just as importantly that government must not treat them better than they treat others.
One commenter got something right yesterday: When I deleted those four words – not because I was backing away from my position, but because I wanted people to focus on the other 615 words – someone suggested I should have left them. I probably should have. After all, the virulent reaction of several commenters, both against gays and against me, says at least as much about them as my words said about me.
In any case, I am appreciative, as always, of the conversation and of those who engage in a civil discussion on issues, regardless of whether we agree or disagree.