The Inquiring Mind left a plaintive and provocative comment on an earlier post regarding the gay marriage controversy, now once again above the fold, and it was apparently swallowed by my spam file. I haven’t see much of an uptick in Ethics Alarms comments lately (and tgt is on semi-hiatus), but the spam has gotten out of control: apparently this post was deleted, even though I try to check the spam comments (about 500 a day now) to make sure legitimate ones don’t get thrown out with the bath water. I apologize to IM, and am posting the recovered comment partially in compensation, and also because he expresses a sentiment that I have heard and read from others.
I’ll be back at the end; in the meantime, here is Inquiring Mind’s Comment of the Day regarding the tactics of gay marriage advocates:
“Jack, since the aftermath of Prop 8, I have always wondered – is the thuggery/coercion and thought control a “bug” associated with the push for gay marriage, or is it a “feature” that comes with the enactment of gay marriage?
“I just want to review the conduct of gay-marriage supporters:
- The harrassment of proponents of Prop 8, including death threats received by my best friend’s wife, enters into my thinking on this front. Then there was the treatment Carrie Prejean received at the hands of Perez Hilton and Shanna Moakler, among others. Then there is the attempts to expel Julea Ward and Jennifer Keeton from counseling programs – because their worldview was informed by the same sort of Christianity.
- The legal assault on Elane Photography and other businesses run by Christians who aren’t saying they cannot have their wedding or commitment ceremony, but are asking they not be forced to take part in it – even if it is photographing or baking a cake.
- The theft (or leaking) of the National Organization for Marriage’s tax return earlier this year. Then there is what is going on with the Boy Scouts since the 2000 decision that upheld their right to decline to allow gays to join.
- The bomb threat called in during yesterday’s Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day.
So, is it a bug, or a feature? The pattern of conduct I am seeing indicates that thuggery/coercion, and thought control are a feature of gay marriage, with religious freedom becoming a dead letter, by the admission of some proponents of gay marriage.
“If this is how the advocates act when they have relatively little power over their opponents, then how will they act with even more power? As far as I can tell, they have no problem trampling over my core freedoms. As such, it comes down to a case of “my rights or theirs” – and in that sort of case, can anyone blame people for fighting to preserve what they feel is rightfully theirs?”
I’m not sure what the difference is between a “bug” and a “feature,” but when a group believes it is being discriminated against, it is rare indeed for all components and factions of that group to react with tolerance, civility and understanding. As always, the noisiest, most uncivil, most disruptive and violent of the activists grab the attention and the headlines, undermining their own movement, however justified and virtuous, and hardening opposition. Indeed, the gay rights movement, in my observation, only began making headway when it largely abandoned the in-your-face tactics that were the hallmark of the group’s efforts in the 70’s and 80’s with the introduction of dignified, reasonable, and persuasive advocates who could make their case without attacks, theatrics and insults.
I suppose attempting to change the prevailing cultural message from one that gay relationships are sick and sinful to one that embraces such relationships as loving and valid and deserving legal equality could be called “mind-control,” as any cultural norm is. I’d prefer to call it education, wisdom, experience, and the process of building cultural consensus. It is no different from the similar process of rejecting former cultural beliefs that blacks were put on earth to be subservient to whites, that women are an inferior gender and unfit for the workplace of leadership, that mixed-race marriages are an abomination and that parents can and should beat their children. Culture is the means whereby we make ethical decisions, based on human experience, about what a society views as right and wrong. This culture is in the process of concluding that gay marriage, once regarded as wrong, isn’t. This is how it happens.
Almost all the incidents listed by Inquiring Mind are per se wrongful, and have been recognized as such. The government cannot ostracize citizens for holding opinions, as the arrogant mayors set out to do to the owner of Chic-Fil-A. Criminal acts like bombing and stealing proprietary documents are obviously unethical whatever the goal. I do think that impatience by same-sex marriage advocates has led to a lot of corner-cutting and biased rationalizing by professionals who should know better, as in the case of Judge Walker. (I don’t understand why Inquiring Mind calls that an “admission” on my part, as if I was somehow cheering from the sidelines. I deplored it at the time, and deplore it now.)
From my first commentary on this topic, long before Ethics Alarms, I cautioned gay rights advocates not to assume that every opponent was driven by bigotry. That is unfair. Many are motivated by adherence to religious beliefs that are not only long-standing but also that were never under serious question until relatively recently. The change in public and cultural attitudes has come with epic speed, and it should not be surprising, or held against those left behind in the dust wondering what happened, that the former majority is puzzled, frightened, threatened and confused. The Golden Rule suggests—you don’t have to be religious to benefit from the Golden Rule–that same-sex marriage advocates, whose victory is assured, display the tolerance, generosity, kindness and understanding toward their adversaries that they once sought themselves. My late father and mother, who were in their 80’s when this sea-change occurred and weren’t particularly religious, never understood, and probably never would have. They weren’t bigots, or stupid; they were just raised in a culture that regarded the idea of men marrying men as unimaginable, weird, and perverse, and they didn’t have time to undo decades of conditioning in a few years.
This is an ethical conflict, where two important ethical principles are in direct opposition: religious freedom, and equal rights. Resolving ethical conflicts are always wrenching, but in the U.S., we have pretty decisively established the ethical pecking order: equal rights wins. Bad conduct by the eventual winners will only postpone victory, and leave necessary societal scars.
Whether the tactics Inquiring Minds rightly condemns are a bug or a feature, they are counter-productive and wrong.
Graphic: Lehigh Valley Live