Jonah Goldberg has one of his brilliant and biting columns on finding compromise on marriage rights for homosexuals. Like myself, Mr. Goldberg doesn’t buy the argument that gay rights will destroy the fabric of the nation. If that were true, the premiere of Will and Grace would have brought the Apocalypse. Considering the lack of four horsemen, I have to conclude that the whole fabric of society has kept together just fine despite the widespread popularity of Christopher Lowell. Goldberg then makes a very good point:
What conservatives don’t understand is that Rousseau was right: Censorship is useful for sustaining morality but useless for restoring it. Once the taboos against homosexuality were broken — and in elite culture those taboos are in shards — sodomy laws were doomed. And, in my opinion, so is the prohibition against same-sex marriage unless conservatives update their arguments to the point of accepting that homosexuals are here to stay.
As much as I dislike Rousseau, he’s got a point. When most of the conservatives I know have no problem with gay marriage it’s clear that the prohibitions against gay marriage are doomed to failure. However, Goldberg makes another very astute point:
The worst thing that could happen for gays is for the Supreme Court to do for gay rights what they did for abortion rights. A top-down imposition of same-sex marriage across the country would guarantee endless fights. Anti-gay (and anti-Christian) rhetoric, would go through the roof just as anti- and pro- abortion rhetoric did, in part because both sides of the argument would be funded nationally and speak to their national bases. Gay marriage would become a permanent issue of presidential politics which, whatever the legal victories of gays, would culturally be a disaster for gays.
While the "full full faith and credit" clause of the Constitution would seem to doom the idea of a state-by-state ruling on gay marriage rights, I believe there’s room to allow such things. President Clinton signed a law that allowed for states to choose whether or not to accept civil unions made in other states. In the end, this solution is a kluge at best, but it would minimize the kind of harm Goldberg is so worried about.
In the end, social conservatives have to accept that homosexuality won’t destroy society – it’s already here and has been for all time. While religious people have the right to disapprove of homosexuality, they do not have the right to codify that prejudice into law. People can disapprove of interracial marriages, but that doesn’t mean that they should be legally prohibited either. The principle is the same for both, and the same arguments were made for banning both. Social conservatives should fight their battles in strengthening marriage in areas where their efforts will bear fruit. By struggling against gay marriage they only hurt their own credibility and engage in a battle that they will eventually lose.
UPDATE: Goldberg notes that the full faith and credit clause gives Congress some wiggle room on the issue of gay marriage. I like the idea that this should be devolved to a state issue – let community set their own standards as they see fit.