By Paul Gottfried
Steve Chapman, in a recent column (May 13, syndicated Chicago Tribune), praises President Obama for coming out in support of gay marriage. Although Chapman sees "cynical" political maneuvering in the timing of Obama's announcement, while he was raising funds from his fervently liberal Hollywood constituents, Chapman believes this action was comparable to Lincoln's liberation of American slaves during the Civil War. Lincoln, too, was motivated by strategic considerations when he freed slaves in areas that were "in rebellion against the Union," but not in border states. But what he did, according to Chapman, was so admirable that it would be mean-spirited to complain about motives. In the same way Obama, who has endorsed gay marriage for strategic reasons, should be applauded as an emancipator: "Years from now, it's what Obama did that will be remembered."
This comparison tops anything I've seen in a lifetime of reading editorial nonsense. By what poetic license is Chapman, who seems to be a socially radical economic libertarian, comparing generally well-to-do and politically influential members of the gay lobby to impoverished bondsmen in the middle of the 19th century? No one is forcing gays to labor as slaves or denying to them civil liberties as individuals. In fact gay partners can collect spousal benefits in most states, even if gay marital relations are not officially recognized. It underscores the power of the gay lobby that journalists can make careers for themselves by drawing such historically nonsensical comparisons.
Advertisement - story continues below
But looking at the context in which gay marriage is being forced on us mostly by judges and by a frenzied media, one may be allowed to raise other relevant questions. Does gay marriage really promote liberty? Certainly not for that sizable part of the population that doggedly resists it; nor does it do so for those who are too sheepish to say what they really believe and who spit out politically correct responses to leading poll questions. (For example: Do you think gays should have the same right as other Americans to marry?)
There is absolutely no reason for me to believe that in the last 10 years, according to Pew polls, Americans have gone from opposing gay marriage and questioning the morality of gay relations by substantial majorities to being in favor of this innovation by a slight majority. In almost every state in which there has been a referendum, as there was three weeks ago in North Carolina, the legalization of gay marriage has failed to pass. The left-of-center states in the Northeast have been the exception here. Hispanics and blacks, who are the backbone of the Democratic, pro-Obama coalition, have voted consistently against gay marriage; and clearly a majority of neither group recognizes it as expressing their own moral convictions. Why should these minorities care about what obviously seems to them the bizarre lifestyles of the rich and the famous?
Even more significantly, gay marriage is not an extension of anything. It is a break from a pattern of human pairing that has existed since recognizable humans first emerged in Africa. Even then, according to fossil records, humans were already heterosexually paired. Moreover, although homosexual behavior did exist in the past, it was never before given the institutional recognition that was conferred on heterosexual relations intended for procreation. A statement I've heard from members of the religious right, that homosexual marriage may lead to polygamy, shows an appalling ignorance of the human and even biblical experience. Polygamy is a variation on monogamy that has been practiced throughout history, until it was prohibited by the early church and by European Jews about a thousand years later. In my view polygamy is less desirable than what replaced it, but it certainly is not unprecedented nor, from either a social evolutionary or Judeo-Christian standpoint, a deviant relation.
Homosexual marriage is a startling novum (freeing slaves was certainly not) that at least half of our society continues to oppose. The government will handle this opposition by enforcing anti-discrimination laws against those who oppose this arrangement, as administrators and courts are already doing in New York and in other states that voted to legalize gay marriage or had it imposed by judicial philosopher kings. Those who express conscientious objections by not renting rooms or providing accommodations to gay couples or who treat their unions with insufficient respect will be legally prosecuted, a fate that has befallen such dissenters in other Western "liberal democracies."
Advertisement - story continues below
In EU countries and in Canada, Chapman's supposed second emancipation has gone so far that I would be dragged before a human rights court on criminal charges for publishing this column. The expressive freedom of a movie producer or of some eccentric academic is being put ahead of other people's right of conscience. Mind you, this is not scare propaganda; it is what is happening in those places in which gay marriage has been enacted.
Paul Gottfried is the Raffensperger professor of humanities emeritus at Elizabethtown College, in Elizabethtown, Pa. He has written numerous articles on such topics as European intellectual history, Greek historiography and American political movements, taught Classical Greek, and just published his 10th book, "Leo Strauss and the American Conservative Movement" (Cambridge University Press, 2012).