The Gay Marriage Acceptance Reverse-Foxhole Conversion Problem

Atheists in trenchesThe New York Times sported a front page story extolling the actions and familial love of Rev. Frank Schaefer, a United Methodist minister, whose son Tim, now 30, had been raised  in his father’s conservative church in West Germany, Pennsylvania, where sermons, policy and the congregation embodied the belief that homosexuality was a sin, and gay marriage a monstrosity.  Then, after he had contemplated suicide, Tim told his father he was gay, and later that he wanted to wed his same-sex partner. The loving father accepted his son and presided over the wedding, causing him to become a target of criticism in his church, and the defendant in a church trial. To the Times reporter, Michael Paulson, he is an unequivocal hero.

He did the right thing, no question, just as Dick Cheney and Republican Senator Rob Portman did the right thing by changing their position on gay marriage when their children showed them the human side of the issue. I also agree that it takes courage to admit you are wrong, and that being able to change one’s ethical analysis is an essential ability for all of us. Indeed, in this post, I designated as an Ethics Hero an outspoken gay marriage opponent for changing his position after he became friends with gay men and women, leading him to realize, as he put it, that Continue reading

The Portman Reversal: Why He Did It DOES Matter

reversalI feel it necessary to return to the topic of  Senator Rob Portman’s reversal of his long-held and much-publicized opposition to same sex marriage and homosexuality in general in the wake of his son’s disclosure that he is gay.

Anyone who required further evidence that current events analysis, not to mention public consciousness, is almost untouched by an understanding of ethics, need look no further than the near universal pronouncements in the editorial pages and the Sunday talk shows that “it doesn’t matter” why  Portman suddenly decided that he was in favor of gay marriage once the issue affected someone he cared about.

It is not yet 11:00 AM in Virginia, and I have already read and heard this reaction so many times that the flashing red light on my head that signals an imminent explosion is flashing bright. It doesn’t matter? It doesn’t matter that Senator Portman firmly, strongly, extensively and consistently declared in public forums, to interviewers and in op-ed pieces that the sanctity of the institution of marriage as well as the moral fiber of the nation depended on withholding the right to marry from millions of law-abiding American citizens, but that the minute one such citizen, someone he actually gave a damn about, risked being adversely affected by his supposedly heart-felt and principled position, he changed his “principles” like he was changing his socks? That doesn’t matter? Continue reading

No Hero He: Sen. Portman Demonstrates How To Make Doing The Right Thing Look Terrible


Guess Who’s A Hypocrite?

Sen. Rob Portman’s sudden reversal of his long-held and vocally expressed revulsion toward everything gay—including marriage—is being hailed by some as a virtuous, generous, open-minded and courageous act. It is nothing of the sort.

Portman’s change was precipitated by the fact that his own son….that is, a real person he  cares about…revealed that he was gay, requiring Portman to choose between following through, in ways that would, for the first time, have unpleasant personal consequences, on his supposedly deeply held, faith-based opposition to gay rights in America, or to abandon those core moral beliefs in the time it takes to throw out an ill-fitting pair of pants. What Portman has gone through is a classic “foxhole conversion,” in the manner of the atheist who suddenly finds God when death is near and it seems wise to hedge his bets.

There is nothing courageous or admirable about this at all. To the contrary, it proves that Portman’s earlier position condemning people like his son was based on political expediency, ignorance, recklessness, cold disregard for anyone not like him, or dishonesty, and I really don’t care which.

We have seen such conduct from the Right before, memorably in Dan Quayle’s admission that despite his absolute conviction, or so he had said, that abortion was morally wrong and ought to be illegal even in cases of rape or incest, he would, hypothetically, support his teen-aged daughter’s decision to have an abortion because he loved her. We have seen it from the Left, too, as in the situation memorably dramatized in the film “Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner?” Individuals who advocate political, economic, moral and policy positions that they would oppose in the jerk of a knee if they had real, personal consequences are undercover hypocrites. They have not applied the Golden Rule;  how they would feel if the were in the position of those whose lives they so cavalierly would affect has never entered their consciousness. What this flip-flop tells us about Sen. Rob Portman is that nobody should respect or take notice of what he thinks or says he thinks, and that having such a man casting one of a hundred votes in the U.S. Senate means that the body is, at best, only 99% responsible, competent or trustworthy. Continue reading