As many here at America’s Right may know, Proposition 8 was passed in 2008 in California with a majority of 52 percent. The proposition defined marriage as an institution that existed between one man and one woman. Naturally, this proposition was challenged in federal court, and officially overturned by U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn Walker on August 4, 2010 based on his view that banning gay marriage violated federal equal protection and due process laws.
For the first time a federal court has ruled on the issue, ruled in favor of gay marriage, and has placed the issue on the legal train for the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D. C. The defenders of Proposition 8 are attempting to appeal to a federal appeals court, but it is unclear if they will be able due to questions involving standing. We have the classic battle over whether America is a democracy or a republic before us. Forty-five states have one-man one-woman marriage statutes, but in the end the survival of these statutes will come down to the opinions of judges. Both liberals and conservatives claim to love living in a democracy, but when a vote does not go their way they are compelled to rush to a courtroom in the name of “checks and balances” and try to find a judge who will give them what they want.
From a political point of view, however, the reaction to this ruling has been tame in the conservative world. A typical article about the matter, for example is the one in the Christian Science Monitor titled “Why GOP Reaction is Muted as Judge Affirms Gay Marriage Rights.” It has become apparent that many conservatives see this issue as a loser, and one that is better ignored than challenged or affirmed. Their opinion is based on the premise that they can just let the court follow its process, and whatever happens live with it and move on. The court process is, after all, out of their hands.
The declining interest in gay rights as a political issue has been developed over the last forty years of political struggle involving the lives of millions of Americans. My first contact with the gay community was in the 1970’s when I went to college. One of the things I noticed was how well the gay community organized politically, having learned its lessons from the civil rights movement of the 1960’s and used them extremely well. Any political community that could survive the social catastrophe of AIDS is a political community of power and intelligence.
The gay community understood a fundamental fact about the civil rights movements in America that is central to its success: In order for America to embrace a civil rights movement, that movement must convince America that it is trying to fulfill the constitutional ideals of the founding fathers rather than overcome them. President Abraham Lincoln is admired so much because it is believed he fulfilled the promise of equality enshrined in the American Revolution when he governed America to victory in the American Civil War which led to the abolition of slavery. If instead Lincoln had preached that he needed to tear up the American Constitution in order to free the slaves he may not have won the hearts of the American public. In the 1960’s civil rights leader Martin Luther King preached the same philosophy. He preached that the American government should fulfill its mandate of equality and freedom by ensuring it to the racial minorities of America, which no one could deny had been refused by a stubborn white America.
However, I do not wish to portray the gay rights community as a group that did not have its own internal disputes. In 1996 I had lunch with a legal associate I worked with on a daily basis.. (I will call her Sue for the sake of this article.) Sue was an up front lesbian who was a leader in the gay rights movement in the city in which we both lived. She told me over enchiladas (and yes, even though we had no chance of dating I was enough of a gentlemen to pick up the check) that the gay community was divided at that time over what outcome it desired in its political campaign.
“One side simply wants to be left alone, and if the heterosexual community will let us live in peace that is enough,” she told me. “The other side wants to mainstream. They want gay people to live exactly the same as the heterosexual community. Same jobs. Same rights. Same neighborhoods. The whole enchilada.”
She went on to tell me she felt that mainstreaming would not work. She felt it was asking too much and that, in the end, it would fail. I have not seen her for over ten years and often wonder if she still feels that way. In retrospect, I believe mainstreaming had to happen. As Martin Luther King used to preach, a human being cannot live in exile in his own land. Separation has all the overtones of being pushed into a ghetto, and that would never be tolerated by anyone.
Conservatives have reached a crisis over this issue in 2010. Martin Luther King also stated that the way a human being tells if a law is just is whether that law follows the law of God. The conservative movement now finds itself in the middle of a religious dispute over whether homosexuality and gay marriage is scriptural. There are gay rights advocates all over America and those in the pulpit that put forth the idea that homosexuality does not violate the love of God. I attended a church service in 2009 in which the minister was a lesbian, and at one point she prayed that “God would allow everyone to become exactly what they are.”
There are conservative Christians I grew up with that would have been hysterical at such a notion. Orthodox Christianity preaches that humanity has to overcome its nature, not enhance it. (I wondered if her prayer was supposed to apply to alcoholics.) What does this mean for the American political future? Considering that the Republican Party does not seem to want to be involved in a theological dispute, and considering that much of the party is [thankfully] succumbing to many libertarian ideals, the GOP has become far more interested in secular matters and, more importantly, the Republican Party has many affluent members that are homosexual. Homosexuals have embraced the Republican Party because the spending anti-business policies of the Democrats are distasteful to them. The libertarian trend doesn’t hurt, either.
It will be interesting to see how the Republicans, who currently represent the largest number of conservatives in America, will react to this fight as it continues. There are many who believe the reaction will be far calmer than the press lets on. Many believe the Republicans have no interest in a struggle that involves the question of sin. Most people I know who claim to be conservative do not believe they can win the battle against gay marriage by insisting it is bad for society since both sides of the issue have their sociology experts who will testify on their behalf.
In conclusion, consider a quote from the final chapter of the book “Bound for Canaan, the Underground Railroad and the War for the Soul of America” by Fergus M. Bordewich. The Underground Railroad, which tried to smuggle and succeeded in smuggling slaves to freedom in America until 1860 and the beginning of the American Civil War, is considered by many the core movement of religious civil disobedience that eventually was the basis for the civil rights movement in the 1960‘s. The conclusion of the book has a sentence that is worth thinking about in relation to gay rights:
The story of the Underground Railroad thus shed light on, if it fails to answer, uneasy questions about what happens when revealed religion collides with a secular society that shares neither its politics nor its reading of the Scriptures.
May God go with us all in the journey ahead.