Michael Smerconish: A conservative’s case for same-sex marriage
Let’s talk through this because it’s thinking like this that strikes at the foundation of a conservative coalition. The general rule is, “As a vote and voice in the conservative movement you don’t have to agree with all of our principles. The few we can agree on are important enough to emphasize. But conservatism will not change them to accommodate you. If you prefer the conservative form of governance, if you see the damage done by our opponents in liberalism/fascism/socialism/totalitarianism/communism/radical Islam, then please feel free to support conservatism (The Once Great and Still King of American Politics)”
When Smer says:
In fact, far from abandoning the principles he has spent his life advancing, Olson recently sounded to me like a man reaffirming a central pillar of that outlook. “I think one of the great principles of conservatism is individual liberty and freedom of thought and freedom of association,” he told me.
“I think it’s important in this country that we give people liberty of behaving in ways in compliance with the law, but to have the relationships that the rest of us have,” he continued. “And to discriminate against people on the basis of their sexual orientation makes no sense with respect to marriage and their desire to live with one another in a peaceful, stable relationship. And it’s good for our society to stop discriminating on that basis.”
As a lawyer Olson lays out his case that same sex marriage is compatible with conservatism briefly in four parts:
- Principles of conservatism include individual liberty, freedom of thought and freedom of association.
- America generally affords people the liberty of behaving in ways (implied: that are not fully socially acceptable yet) in compliance with the law, and to have the relationships that the rest of us have.
- It is discrimination to distinguish people on the basis of their sexual orientation with respect to marriage and their desire to live with one another in a peaceful, stable relationship.
- Finally it’s good for our society to stop discriminating on that basis therefore conservatism supports what is good for our society and should support same sex marriage.
Let’s work backwards, the best way to take apart a fallacious argument.
- Conservatism supports what is good for our society and conservatism opposes same sex marriage because it is not discrimination to make distinctions in people based on lifestyle choices.
- Homosexuality is a lifestyle (even if some make a case for a homosexual gene) because their is no innate physical traits to distinguish, and the choice of living with one another or a stable relationship is not akin to marriage which is historically and socially defined as between one man and one woman.
- Because of an existing definition of marriage all other relationships while socially acceptable are not to be equated with marriage. At that point I could be discriminated against because I am a African-american female.
- Therefore this is not a matter where liberty is at issue but order. We must have a just and ordered society and the conservative principles guide our country on that path.
And then Olson goes on to dig himself a deeper hole, like so many who reach out of their original argument to begin generalizing with conjecture:
Olson rightly pointed out during our conversation that “society suffers no benefit” from outlawing same-sex marriage. There isn’t any “real basis,” he said, for the belief that legalizing such relationships would invite the deterioration of heterosexual marriage or encourage polygamy. Nor does his case compel Christianity – or any other religion with conflicting tenets – to recognize gay marriage.
These terms “real basis” and “suffers no benefit” are the words of a someone who is reaching – and knows better. Show me a society that benefits from greater stability and high standards of family commitment with homosexual marriage. Show me how sexual preference, homosexual serial monogamy, is able to be delineated between one view, heterosexual monogamy, and any other. At that point your definition, by definition is undefined. Ex. Marriage is a relationship between two adults? Try to defend this… in your neighborhood let alone a court of law.
The snap at Christianity is a red hearing, and I’m not taking the bait. Marriage has religious roots and any variation stretches that connection to the breaking point. Let’s be honest, marriage in all forms has become less stable. However we stand at the precipice between holding true to or giving up on marriage’s definition.
Olson’s closing argument can be turned on it’s head. If we’re talking about a civic union than formalize sexual relationships between like-gender but don’t call it marriage. The term is socio-religious by nature. Government intervention in private lives is not opposition to conservatism, liberty is not license to libertine behavior. We believe that we are a nation of laws and as such we must have standards of behavior and association in accordance with common meta-ethical and moral norms. This is why we define a certain set of relational contracts that effect community, family and children by marriage as the cornerstone of our culture.