The opposing sides in the battle over gay rights have traditionally broken down along conservative and liberal lines. As in most battles of this sort, liberals argue from a position of equality and inclusion and conservatives argue from a position in defense of tradition. These positions have become so entrenched that simply knowing someone’s political orientation is enough to give you a person’s stance on this issue. That is why it is so
refreshing encouraging to see a staunch conservative make the case for same-sex marriage.
No one would accuse Ted Olson of being a liberal. Olson served as Assistant Attorney General in the Reagan administration and was appointed Solicitor General under George W. Bush. He was present at the first meeting of the Federalist Society and served on the board of the conservative magazine The American Spectator. His most notable legal achievement may have been his victory in Bush v Gore in 2001 where he argued successfully in front of the Supreme Court in favor of George W. Bush. As Andrew Sullivan wrote, “Olson is different – a man of impeccable establishment conservative credentials…”
What makes Olson stand out from his fellow conservatives is his stance on same-sex marriage. He joined his opponent in the Bush v Gore case, David Boies, to mount a legal challenge to Proposition 8 in California. That lawsuit is ongoing and should result in a ruling soon.
The case he is bringing before the California Supreme Court would be enough to make Olson newsworthy. However, I find the argument he makes in a recent piece in Newsweek in support of equal rights even more compelling than his legal efforts.
article opinion piece The Conservative Case for Gay Marriage – Why same-sex marriage is an American value touches on all aspects of the debate. He makes a solid conservative argument in favor of same-sex marriage. The piece is filled with insights and I highly recommend reading the whole thing.
Many of my fellow conservatives have an almost knee-jerk hostility toward gay marriage. This does not make sense, because same-sex unions promote the values conservatives prize. Marriage is one of the basic building blocks of our neighborhoods and our nation. At its best, it is a stable bond between two individuals who work to create a loving household and a social and economic partnership. We encourage couples to marry because the commitments they make to one another provide benefits not only to themselves but also to their families and communities. Marriage requires thinking beyond one’s own needs. It transforms two individuals into a union based on shared aspirations, and in doing so establishes a formal investment in the well-being of society. The fact that individuals who happen to be gay want to share in this vital social institution is evidence that conservative ideals enjoy widespread acceptance. Conservatives should celebrate this, rather than lament it.
Legalizing same-sex marriage would also be a recognition of basic American principles, and would represent the culmination of our nation’s commitment to equal rights. It is, some have said, the last major civil-rights milestone yet to be surpassed in our two-century struggle to attain the goals we set for this nation at its formation.
No matter what you think of homosexuality, it is a fact that gays and lesbians are members of our families, clubs, and workplaces. They are our doctors, our teachers, our soldiers (whether we admit it or not), and our friends. They yearn for acceptance, stable relationships, and success in their lives, just like the rest of us.
Conservatives and liberals alike need to come together on principles that surely unite us. Certainly, we can agree on the value of strong families, lasting domestic relationships, and communities populated by persons with recognized and sanctioned bonds to one another. Confining some of our neighbors and friends who share these same values to an outlaw or second-class status undermines their sense of belonging and weakens their ties with the rest of us and what should be our common aspirations. Even those whose religious convictions preclude endorsement of what they may perceive as an unacceptable “lifestyle” should recognize that disapproval should not warrant stigmatization and unequal treatment.
When we refuse to accord this status to gays and lesbians, we discourage them from forming the same relationships we encourage for others. And we are also telling them, those who love them, and society as a whole that their relationships are less worthy, less legitimate, less permanent, and less valued. We demean their relationships and we demean them as individuals. I cannot imagine how we benefit as a society by doing so.
There comes a point in every war where the final outcome becomes obvious even though there are still battles to be fought. I think we have reached that point in the war over same-sex marriage. As Andrew Sullivan is so fond of saying, know hope.