With apologies to Mr. Goldwater, moderation in the cause of truth is no virtue.
It worries me a bit to see that my fellow conservatives sometimes seem more worried about being considered extremists than they are about simply upholding the truth when it comes to important matters of morality and public policy.
It should go without saying that the liberal media has simply defined "extremism" to mean "whatever conservative positions we are demonizing this week," and that of course they are not actually going to use any objective statistical standard in order to apply the term even-handedly to liberal positions that are held only by a small minority of Americans. Thus we have the sorry spectacle of a country in which the adulated leftist President opposes a legal requirement for the care and treatment of born-alive infants who survive an abortion but is not considered extreme, while a Senator who states that even children conceived in violence are a gift from God is (the media tells us we must think) a dangerous extremist making war on women.
So it goes. But what else did we expect, since those who write the media script just are enemies of the truth on social issues? If I truly believed that pointing out the insanity of the left in their use of a term like "extremist" on life issues would help to fend off the day when all pro-lifers who oppose a rape exception for abortion are held in odium not only among the general public but also among mainstream conservatives and Republicans, I would be happy to trumpet the double standard from the rooftops. But will it? I don't know. Perhaps I am too cynical, but it seems to me all too likely that the only people who are listening to such complaints are fellow "extremists" and that those who think of themselves as moderate will continue to let the concrete content of their moderation be defined for them by the Manipulators and opinion-makers in the mass media.
I don't want in any way to derogate those who are doing yeomanly work pointing out, with justified righteous indignation, the double standards to the public at large, but my own inclination is to use a slightly different tactic--namely, to point out to those who are really conservatives on an issue (who aren't angling for the "moderate" label) how standards are shifting and to call them to vigilance and toughness, even at the cost of being said to be "extreme" by some spanking-new definition which is about as stable as the last of this autumn's dandelion fluff.
Which brings me to the actual subject of the rest of this post, which is not alleged extremism on life issues but alleged extremism on homosexual rights issues.
A few years ago when I did an interview with a small, conservative talk radio show based in Arizona, the host asked my opinion on the air about civil unions. I pointed to the Lisa Miller case as an excellent reason for rejecting civil unions. I said that the debate should not simply be about the word "marriage" but about special societal recognition of homosexual relationships and about giving those relationships legal status similar to that of heterosexual couples. The host apparently had some other guests on his show who were listening in to our segment, and he later told me, off the air, that his other guests (allegedly conservatives of some stripe or other) declared themselves somewhat shocked by my position. Not, mind you, that they had answers to my arguments, but simply that they considered me extreme for opposing civil unions.
That now appears to be the new normal among some self-styled conservatives. Civil unions--good. Homosexual "marriage"--bad. My attention was drawn to how far this has gone recently when an acquaintance approvingly linked this article by Doug Mainwaring. A little googling also turns up this three-part series by Mainwaring saying the same things at more length.
The series was published by the Potomac Tea Party as part of the opposition to homosexual "marriage" in Maryland, and the editor characterizes the author like this:
The author, Doug Mainwaring, is a principled conservative residing in Montgomery County, MD who is gay. He is a cofounder of National Capital Tea Party Patriots and his commentaries regarding the Tea Party movement and conservative issues have appeared in The Washington Times, The Washington Post, The Baltimore Sun, Wall Street Journal, American Thinker and others.
If one read only portions of what Mainwaring has to say, one might indeed think that he is a principled conservative, at least on the issue in question. This, from Part II, is quite good:
Statists see great value in slowly chipping away at the bedrock of American culture: Family life. The more that familial bonds are weakened and religious beliefs are undermined both in our daily experience and as a matter of legality, the more Government is able to freely insert itself into our lives in an authoritarian way.
Marriage is marriage — an immutable concept proven by society’s renewal from generation to generation. Marriage is not the same as other types of relationships. For thousands of years marriage has served as society’s building block. It is the framework for human existence that leads to human flourishing. At the outset of the 21st century we should not be so quick to redefine it.
To all of which I say, "Amen."
But then things go south:
Let’s face it, within our society committed relationships between two men or two women are a “new thing,” which we should not attempt to force into an old construct that was never meant for same sex partnerships. We should welcome the opportunity to christen a new tradition, beginning a new chapter in the history of gays and lesbians within American society. Same-sex relationships are different from heterosexual relationships and gays need to accept that and design their own tradition.
Same sex marriage is not optimal. Certainly, gay relationships need to be supported, respected and held in esteem by society.
And in our complex modern society, this involves government recognition. But to propose that gay unions are precisely equivalent to marriage by heterosexuals is beyond the pale. The two are apples and oranges. The expectation of fully equal rights with regard to Marriage stretches the limits of reason. The expectation of fully equal treatment with regard to respect, dignity, and a protection of couples rights is rational and judicious.
The nation is being trained to view “Civil Unions” as a lesser concept; a moral and philosophical back seat to marriage. The term “Civil Union” lacks the sense of history and tradition that “marriage” instantly conjures up in our minds, but this is true precisely because marriage has a long history and elaborate tradition and gay relationships don’t. This is new territory for gays and for society in general.
Instead of coveting marriage, gays need to break new ground, defining their own tradition.
A Washington Post Editorial published January 21, 2010 suggested the following:
“Justice and simple decency require that same-sex
couples be afforded the same legal protections and benefits
of marriage that are now, with a few exceptions, reserved for
heterosexual couples . . . But the group (Equality Maryland)
and its lawmaker allies are shortsighted to refuse to consider –
let alone accept — anything short of full marriage equality . . .
Lawmakers who back this provision should at least consider
whether domestic partnerships or civil unions might stand a
better chance of passage.”
Civil Unions should not be viewed either as second class treatment or as a stepping stone to marriage. Civil Unions should be the goal.
It is in everyone’s best interest to have marriages and the families they produce be the strongest they can be, and likewise, for gay and lesbian couples and the families they form to be as strong as they can be as well, more than anything, for the sake of all our children. (emphasis added)
Since when is a person a "principled conservative" when he openly advocates that homosexual relationships be "supported, respected, and held in esteem by society" and recommends express government recognition to the end of promoting such esteem for homosexual relationships? How consistent (or conservative!) is it to refer to marriage as "society's building block" while at the same time referring to homosexual "families" and to "all our children," meaning inter alia the children deemed to belong to a homosexual couple qua couple?
It wasn't all that long ago (ten years? fifteen years?) that a person who said all those things would have been considered a social liberal as a mere matter of accurate, neutral categorization. Indeed, a person who wanted society to "hold homosexual relationships in esteem" and wanted to shape public policy for that purpose would have thought of himself as a social liberal and might even have been insulted at being dubbed a conservative.
I don't have a very clear idea as to why Douglas Mainwaring wants to be known as a conservative. His articles imply that he has some libertarian leanings and realizes that homosexual "marriage" would increase the power of the state. In that case, he has quite a blind spot about the fact that a legal copycat status to marriage that just happens to have a different name (civil unions) does much the same. Pastor Miller is probably going to federal prison because of civil unions; the word "marriage" was not required for the persecution of Lisa Miller, her young daughter Isabella, and her friends. For that matter, just having homosexual relationships "esteemed" in society and having that enforced by the government in the form of non-discrimination law is sufficient for plenty of statism, including forcing a photographer to celebrate a lesbian commitment ceremony, forcing Catholic charities to give children to homosexuals for adoption, and on and on. All of this was happening before the precise word "marriage" was brought into the mix.
But frankly, I don't much care what Douglas Mainwaring is thinking. I'm more concerned about what people are thinking who call him a conservative and about what people are thinking who think of themselves as conservatives and who are compromising on the issue of civil unions.
Let it be understood: Civil unions are and always have been bad news in themselves, aside from the evident fact (pace Mr. Mainwaring) that they have been merely softening up society for applying the word "marriage" to homosexual couples. Civil unions are by design identical to marriage in legal respects. They convey the legal prerogatives of marriage as regards intestacy, employer benefits, and the like, in any state in which they are recognized. If you want to get out of one you go through a divorce process. If there are children, custody decisions (i.e., joint custody awards) are made as they are in a divorce, even when one partner is the child's biological mother and the other partner utterly unrelated to the child. Homosexual relationships are raised in civil unions to the level of a specially state-recognized type of relationship with a prestige very similar to that of marriage. With civil unions the state also recognizes implicitly the notion of a "homosexual family," in which a couple which in the very nature of the case cannot produce children nonetheless is deemed to be capable of forming a family with children, whether adopted or conceived by one of a lesbian pair. If one thinks that homosexual acts are intrinsically wrong, that homosexual desires are intrinsically disordered, and that there should not be such a concept as a "homosexual family," one should oppose a special governmental category carved out for homosexual couples with the express purpose of giving them a simulacrum of marriage. One should oppose this regardless of the name used. This all ought to be basic conservative understanding. It ought to go without saying, but evidently it doesn't for everybody, not even for all who think of themselves as conservative.
What I have gathered from some private conversations is that some people believe they can blunt the impact of these points by inventing a status which is not actually what civil unions are in the real world, dubbing what they have in mind "civil unions," and then saying that that is what they advocate for homosexual couples. It is possible that none of my readers here actually takes this position, so I apologize if I'm about to argue against a position that no one reading this holds, but it seems worth taking a bit of time to knock it out of the ballpark in case someone comes upon it and is unsure what to say.
The idea here seems to be that these highly unusual "civil unions" would not involve children. Evidently some who deem themselves conservative think that we can say we advocate "civil unions" and then add, upon questioning, that the "civil unions" in question would come along with a clear indication that the union had no relationship to children or child custody and conveyed no parental rights. Perhaps even, so runs the thought, we could combine the recognition of these "civil unions" with laws (as if any such would be upheld by the courts!) outlawing both artificial insemination and IVF, while maintaining or reinstating bans on homosexual couples' adopting. In that case, wouldn't these by-definition-childless "civil unions" be all right, maybe even useful in some way?
The answer is no, no, and again, no. First of all, it is pernicious folly tending unto deception to say that one supports civil unions while actually supporting something that bears no resemblance to any civil union regime that has been seriously advocated anywhere in the world. Why, if one truly opposes "gay parenting," would one say something that undeniably will be taken to be an endorsement of marriage-like set-ups, with all that that entails in terms of "homosexual families," while privately really intending a far more unusual and truncated legal union that is not permitted to be tied to parental rights or custody assumptions?
But there is more: It pains me to say this, but some conservatives, and I'm afraid especially Catholics (in my admittedly limited blogospheric experience), have a kind of nearly pathetic concern for the highly unusual and often purely hypothetical "chaste homosexual couple." Indeed, there is a similar over-eager excitement over the open "chaste homosexual" individual--a person who, under his own name, goes about telling everyone about his "orientation" and even taking it to be part of his identity, while at the same time at least allegedly living chastely. That situation is, at a minimum, a rather dangerous one to be in, but I'll try to restrain myself from a digression on that subject. The point for my argument here is that this emotional desire by conservatives to do everything possible to accommodate homosexuals who are or even might be chaste appears to have led to a desire on the part of some to give marriage-like rights to homosexually oriented partners. This is on the (in many cases, undoubtedly fictional) assumption that two openly homosexual partners living together are merely doing so because they are just so, so, so personally committed to one another and their lives so intertwined that they think it would be wrong to break up their menage. And that this has nothing to do with sex. Y'know, maybe they did get together in a wrong relationship originally, but now we should assume they are chaste, and they just love one another now and just need to stick together and help one another, etc., etc.
But even in the extremely rare cases where such a thing is actually true and can somehow be carried out without being a grave cause of scandal, why, in the name of all that is good, ought the state to give quasi-marital status, by any name, to such a couple?
This reminds me, I must say, of the feminists and the way that, away back a hundred years ago or so, the rare, frustrated, "woman as good as a man" was used as a wedge to change all of society to treat all women as being as good as men at all important tasks. With disastrous results. If there ever were a case for the adage, "Hard cases make bad law," surely this is it.
After all, let's think about it: If two homosexuals who are now just living as friends (or two who aren't, for that matter) have such "intertwined lives," what precisely do they have to do in order to put down that "intertwining" in black and white? Well, they need to make wills. Don't most people need to make wills, ideally? Shouldn't even married normal couples make wills? Well, yes. It might also be a good idea to hold their stocks as "joint tenants with rights of survivorship" and to own their house in both their names. Well, once again, isn't this a good idea for legally married couples as well, in order to minimize probate? Yup. How about those "medical visits" we hear so much about? Well, there are these wonderful little forms you can get at the doctor's office and fill out designating any other adult, related or unrelated, to have the right to know your medical facts. And everyone should make a durable power of attorney for healthcare designating a DPA/patient advocate in the event of severe illness.
Need I go on? Surely the picture is clear enough. In our complex society, it behooves all kinds of people to get their houses in order, and there is no reason whatsoever why homosexual couples should think that they don't have to bother worrying about things like intestacy, medical privacy, and medical advocacy, and filling out (gasp) individual legal forms, because they have a civil union.
Also: Consider the fact that once your child turns eighteen, if he is in an accident, you, the parent, may be locked out of knowing about his medical condition because of HIPAA regulations. Yet your life is very much "intertwined" with a child who is merely away at college (paid for by you) and happens to have just had an eighteenth birthday. It would be a kind of reductio to suggest that these "harmless" civil unions could or should exist between, say, a mother, on the one hand, and each of her five children, on the other. No, parents and young adult, unmarried children are among those most vulnerable when it comes to issues of intestacy or medical privacy and advocacy, and they need to be alert and fill out that-there paperwork. It would be stupid, not to mention perverse, to try to set up "civil unions" that would cover the relationship of a parent to several different adult children. But then the question arises: Why should two people who set up their couplehood on the basis of perverted sexual activities be able to make some kind of claim on justice for a specially state-recognized relationship (because their lives are just so darned "intertwined") to ease their paperwork load, when perfectly normal people have to do the paperwork so that they can take care of their own natural family members in an emergency? There is no good reason at all.
There are also questions of justice concerning a homosexual person who already has children from a previous marriage. Is it really just that his biological children should be disinherited in a case of intestacy in favor of the homosexual lover for whom he left them and their mother? It doesn't seem so to me, and it shouldn't seem so to any conservative.
Then we have all the issues of conscience concerning employers forced to treat a homosexual partner as a "family member." How does any conservative get around that if he advocates any form of civil unions whatsoever, with or without children?
We might as well face it: Civil unions always have been intended to serve the purpose Mainwaring describes. They were intended as a means of gaining social acceptance and affirmation for, specifically, sexually active homosexual couples. There was never any grassroots demand or social need for civil unions for sexually chaste couples, for parent-child pairs needing to be able to support each other, for Platonic friends, or anything of the kind.
This is about sex, and it's about transforming society. Let's not be fools.
That, of course, is why Douglas Mainwaring is not going to succeed in convincing his fellow homosexuals to stop at demanding civil unions. Since this was always about societal transformation for purposes of getting homosexual sex approved of and celebrated, the demand for the talismanic name "marriage" will continue, because it will be such a coup for the social manipulators. It doesn't matter how few homosexual couples actually apply for marriage licenses, because that isn't what it's about. It's about symbolism and thought control. And, whether he realizes it or not, Douglas Mainwaring is part of the cadre of transformational social engineers.
On these issues, as on all others, let's uphold the truth and not worry about how we are labeled. Let's just go ahead and be extremists.