On April 12, 2011, it will be 150 years since the opening shots were fired on Fort Sumter, marking the beginning of the bloodiest conflict in American history—the Civil War.
Today we stand poised on the brink of an even greater disaster. For over forty years, the pro-life movement has largely defined itself in its opposition to abortion, although a host of other issues have come in its wake, issues the movement was prepared to fight: euthanasia, assisted suicide, eugenics, in vitro fertilization, fetal stem cell research. But it appears now that the knock-out punch, the key victory the “culture of death” needs to reign triumphant, is going to come from the direction we were least prepared to fight.
That issue is gay marriage.
During the Illinois mid-term election season of 1858, incumbent Stephen A. Douglas regularly charged that Abraham Lincoln and the Republicans, by championing emancipation (for the most part, they didn’t), were actually pushing for a society with mixed marriages. In one of their debates, Lincoln replied, “Because I do not wish to have a negro woman for a slave, it does not necessarily follow that I must have her for a wife. I need have her for neither the one nor the other; I can just let her alone.” This clearly sensible reply never stopped the Democrats’ accusations; while the Republicans won the Illinois legislature, they didn’t carry by enough seats to replace Douglas with Lincoln.
Something of the same weakness attends the pro-marriage argument. It can be summed up in this fashion: We can put a thief in jail for stealing, but we can’t punish a man for kleptomania.
Many of us who grew up in the 1970s and ‘80s were unaware that the American Psychiatric Association had taken homosexuality off of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders in 1973. Rather, we became adults wrapped in the comfortable fiction that homosexuality’s dysfunctionality was too obvious to be denied.
The idea that homosexuality was natural was, as Dr. Peter Kreeft said in another context, “so stupid that you have to have a Ph.D. to believe it.” “If God had meant for man to be gay, He would have created Adam and Steve,” we quipped.
However, we also grew up knowing that the homosexual orientation wasn’t a matter of choice. We didn’t necessarily buy into the argument that homosexuals were “born that way”, but we weren’t equipped to dispute it. So far as gay sex was between adults and consensual, it was a “victimless crime”; it no longer made sense to deprive gay men and women of jobs and homes, or to exclude them from fellowship and friendship. Because we didn’t want to celebrate homosexuality, it didn’t follow that we wanted to punish gay people … we could just let them alone.
However, in the years between the removal of homosexuality from the DSM and Lawrence v. Texas (2003), gay activists within the APA had successfully created and strengthened the myth that homosexuality was natural and normal, that it neither needed nor admitted of a cure. We were unaware that decades of research and case work had been jettisoned and that all research in opposition to the myth was squelched so far as possible. We were unaware that homosexuals were using the myth to create a false “protected class” out of the homosexual orientation, a class equivalent to race and sex.
Thus, it was inevitable that, when the majority decision was handed down in Lawrence, supporters of the decision such as the Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick would argue that the right to gay consensual sex gave homosexuals no basis to claim a right to marriage. And, indeed, A.J. Anthony Kennedy’s majority opinion claimed that the decision “does not involve whether the government must give formal recognition to any relationship that homosexual persons seek to enter.”
However, in invoking “substantive due process”, the majority opinion in Lawrence could not help but create a protected class out of homosexuals. Nor did A.J. Sandra Day O’Connor’s use of the “equal protection” clause avoid such a result.
The Defense of Marriage Act and Proposition 8 both depend on the ability of the pro-marriage argument to pass a “rational basis” review by the Supreme Court. That is, the Court must concede a legitimate state interest in defining marriage as an “opposite-sex only” arrangement.
This is where we have our weakest link. As Judge Vaughn Walker argued out in his ruling on Perry v. Schwarzenegger, if we allow elderly and sterile heterosexual couples to marry, then it’s inconsistent to claim that procreation is a rational basis for discriminating against same-sex couples.
The defense of DOMA and Prop 8, then, has to rest on two arguments: 1) Lawrence didn’t intend to establish homosexuals as a protected class; rather, it intended to include a particular decision—whether to engage in gay sex—as part of a class of protected actions. 2) The concept of homosexuality as a protected class rests on a bogus claim that Science has proven what individual scientists have been discouraged from even questioning: that homosexuality is innate and immutable.
This gives us little grounds for optimism. As Dr. Jeffrey Satinover explains, recent SCOTUS jurisprudence has accepted the essentialist position without question.
It’s not quite true that, as Eric Sammons has argued, we lost the gay marriage battle fifty years ago. We simply didn’t recognize that gay rights was part of the battle … until it was too late.
Like slavery a century and a half ago, the culture of lies has polarized the nation between two irreconcilable value sets. Whatever SCOTUS’ decision is on DOMA, it will likely trigger the cascade failure of democracy in the US. The civil war that will ensue then will be a war without defined physical borders, without pity, without charity, without restraint.
It may not be a war with recognizable armies. But it will be bloody nonetheless.