David Frum posted an opinion piece on cnn.com regarding NY’s triumphant ratification of marriage equality in which the Heritage Institute cast-off and current “sane” conservative voice revisits his former opposition.
I was a strong opponent of same-sex marriage. Fourteen years ago, Andrew Sullivan and I forcefully debated the issue at length online (at a time when online debate was a brand new thing).
Yet I find myself strangely untroubled by New York state’s vote to authorize same-sex marriage — a vote that probably signals that most of “blue” states will follow within the next 10 years.
I don’t think I’m alone in my reaction either. Most conservatives have reacted with calm — if not outright approval — to New York’s dramatic decision.
The short answer is that the case against same-sex marriage has been tested against reality. The case has not passed its test.
Since 1997, same-sex marriage has evolved from talk to fact.
If people like me had been right, we should have seen the American family become radically more unstable over the subsequent decade and a half.
Instead — while American family stability has continued to deteriorate — it has deteriorated much more slowly than it did in the 1970s and 1980s before same-sex marriage was ever seriously thought of.
By the numbers, in fact, the 2000s were the least bad decade for American family stability since the fabled 1950s. And when you take a closer look at the American family, the facts have become even tougher for the anti-gay marriage position.
Given Frum’s emerging stance as an intellectually honest truth teller, we should hardly be surprised. And yet, even this supposedly bold concession lacks explicit recognition of the central fact of this debate. He concedes that he was wrong, but not why.
My heterosexual marriage, ritualized according to rabbinic law, couldn’t be more “Judeo-Christian” if the religious right wanted it to be. Yet it is no weaker than it was before the NY vote. When my 4- and 7-year-old kids saw the West Village parade celebrating the decision on TV, they asked me what it was all about. I simply explained that while most boys fall in love with girls and vice versa, some girls fall in love with girls and some boys with boys and that NY decided that these people should be able to get married just like their Abba and Ima. They weren’t freaked out. They weren’t confused. They didn’t ask any questions that were too advanced about sex. My son asked: “Like B & K?” referring to our neighbors next door. “Exactly,” I answered. “Seems more fair, doesn’t it?” I asked. And they both nodded. Then they started talking about some of the costumes they liked.
I am 99.999999% certain that this will not affect the future development of their sexualities one iota. I care one way or another only insofar as I am less than eager for them to face what I hope is the receding discrimination and violence that non-heterosexual face. I concede this parental moral cowardice. Chalk it up to primal protectiveness.
But Frum’s inability to admit the canard behind conservative xenophobia belies how even he cannot achieve total intellectual honest. Yes. He was wrong that same sex marriage would affect heterosexual marriage. But he doesn’t begin to address why he thought this was so in the first place.
There has never been any data or rationale for preventing adults of the same sex to wed. Just paranoia and bigotry. Just “belief.” Some people used to believe that left-handedness indicated satanic possession. Some still might. Some have believed that Jewish men menstruate and that the stench of their emissions can only be neutralized with Christian blood. Some have believed that people of African descent are incapable of emotional stability and higher rational function. And many still believe that homosexuality threatens heterosexuality so that if same sex couples marry our families will disintegrate and our children will become perverts and criminals. But this position has been, in David Frum’s characterization, “tested against reality.” It has been found to be baseless. It judged the effects of same sex marriage a priori, prior to evidence. As such, it is nothing but prejudice. Literally.
Don’t tell us you were wrong, David. Tell your fellow conservatives. But if you want to be a bold, independent, intellectually honest conservative truth teller, tell them why you were wrong.
Tell them that you argued to restrict the rights of your fellow Americans simply to protect the paranoid sensibilities of bigots.
Tell them you are no longer a bigot.
Tell them that just as Catholic marriages do not make you more likely to become a Catholic, and that just as marriages between white and black people will not make you black, same sex marriages will neither affect your sexuality or the health of your own marriage.
Tell them they needn’t approve of homosexuals privately, but that the only basis to discriminate against it legally and publicly has only and always been rooted in ignorance and bigotry.
Tell them they have every right to remain bigots, but that they should keep it behind their own doors.
Tell them to take their bigotry and shove it in the closet.