April 21, 2015


The shunning of Ryan T. Anderson: When support for gay marriage gets ugly (Damon Linker, April 21, 2015, The Week)

It's important to be clear about what's at stake here. This isn't about politics or the law. Unlike the recent RFRA disputes in Indiana and Arkansas, it has nothing to do with religious freedom or state power. Anderson has no right to be celebrated on the website of his alma mater. The Friends School of Baltimore can likewise link to or remove a link to anyone it wants for whatever reason.

The controversy is nonetheless important because of what it tells us about the cultural endgame of the gay-rights movement. The reaction of those who raised objections to the link as well as the decision of the head of school to remove the link and offer an abject apology for posting it -- both of these are depressing signs that liberal public opinion is evolving in the direction of theological certainties and illiberal forms of intolerance. These so-called liberals want Anderson to be shunned. Expelled from the community. Excommunicated from civilized life. Ostracized from the ranks of the decent.

That is something that should trouble all fair-minded Americans.

Just in case you were wondering, I don't agree with Anderson on most issues, and certainly not on gay marriage, which I have supported for years. I laid out some of my disagreements with him in a column written over two years ago, and I've since tussled with him on Twitter on more than one occasion.

But so what? I disagree with lots of public figures, writers, advocates, and intellectuals on a wide range of issues. (Don't we all?) And as the Post profile noted, Anderson is unfailingly civil in public debates. Although he's the target of constant insults and ad hominem abuse online, he invariably responds with patience and respect -- certainly more than I could muster. Why should this person, who's so patently devoted to the reasonable exchange of arguments, be considered beyond the bounds of civilized discourse?

Because, we are told over and over and over again, opposing gay marriage is rank bigotry, morally equivalent to arguing that African Americans deserve to be treated as second-class citizens, and certainly no different than denying their right to marry members of other races. Treating Anderson and others on his side of the issue with civility is just as morally outrageous as seriously entertaining the arguments of an educated and polite champion of anti-miscegenation laws in the Jim Crow South. The gay rights movement and many liberals increasingly want this to become the default, accepted, commonsense view.

They must not be allowed to succeed.

One reason why is that many millions of people still hold contrary views. Another is that their arguments are not frivolous -- and certainly not as frivolous as rationales that were once used to justify racial inequality. Arguments in favor of traditional marriage -- rooted in claims about the natural sexual complementarity of men and women -- are also far more deeply rooted in human civilization the world over, and Western civilization specifically, than arguments against miscegenation.

Anderson himself provides an accurate summary in a quote contained in the Post profile:

Every great thinker who has ever written about marriage, you never see a discussion of race... Whether it's Plato, Aristotle, or Cicero, whether it's the Jews, Christians, and Muslims, whether it's Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, Calvin, John Locke, Immanuel Kant, Muhammad, Gandhi -- none of them talk about skin color; each and every one of them talk about sexual complementarity. [The Washington Post]

Versions of these traditionalist arguments were accepted by nearly every human being who's ever lived until a couple of decades ago -- and (supposedly) Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton until just a few years ago. Like them, I've come to reject those arguments. But saying they now seem wrong is one thing. Relegating them to the category of the foulest prejudice is something else entirely. It's reckless to break so quickly with the past and jump so easily to moral condemnation.

...when opposing abortion was, likewise, considered to be beyond the Pale. One of the nice things about being conservative is that the consensus always returns to you.

Posted by at April 21, 2015 1:55 PM

blog comments powered by Disqus