Gay marriage: Where’s the backlash?


Anybody remember that in the wake of the Lawrence v Texas decision, everybody

was talking

about the anti-gay backlash which would only intensify if gay marriage started

getting onto the agenda? Well, guess what: gay marriage is about to be made

legal in Massachussetts, it’s already happening in San Francisco, and the only

people railing against it seem to be the professional haters who were railing

against Lawrence when that happened, too.

The thing is, you really do need a heart of stone to look at photos

like the one above and not feel happy that this is happening. Now the debate

has come out of the law courts and op-ed pages and onto the streets, people

are seeing what gay marriage actually looks like in practice, and I have a feeling

that they like what they see. Elizabeth McElhinney and Siddiqi Ray are no imminent

threat to America or Americans; they’re just a very happy couple in love who

are now, I presume, enjoying a fabulous honeymoon somewhere.

Meanwhile, President Bush has said as little as possible on the subject since

the San Francisco weddings started happening, and his storm troopers, like California

governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, look increasingly silly when they assert

that these happy loving couples constitute "an imminent risk to civil order".

Even if Bush does eventually come out in favour of a constitutional amendment

banning gay marriage (and it will have taken him long enough), there’s now essentially

zero chance of it actually passing. Meanwhile, when paleoleftists like Chicago’s

Richard Daley also come out in

favour of gay marriage, it’s not hard to work out which way the wind is


But three years of being bashed by Bush has made some on the left overly cautious,

it would seem. Josh Marshall ties

himself up in knots, for instance, trying to explain why he doesn’t oppose

gay marriage, but, then again, doesn’t support it, either. In an ideal world,

he seems to be saying, we’d have gay marriage, but practically speaking, he’s

worried about the backlash. Just think what those nasty Republicans

will do once gays start getting married!

Well, I’m sick of second-guessing what Republicans will and will not want to

vote for. Michael Kinsley wrote a wonderful

article about this a couple of weeks ago, poking fun at Democrats who supported

Lieberman because they disagreed with him on everything, or fled Dean because

"he was so appealing that he scared them".

Political activity is a bit like when government intervention in the foreign

exchange market: it only really works when the momentum is with you, but if

that’s the situation, then it can work wonders. Right now, San Francisco mayor

Gavin Newsom is probably the most astute political activist in the world. He

picked his moment perfectly –Valentine’s Day! Genius! – and ran

with his issue as hard as he could, picking up support from across the country.

As Andrew Sullivan says,

Newsom is also entitled to act according to his conscience and to his own

reading of the state constitution’s guarantees of equal protection, just as

(Alabama judge Roy) Moore was. If he is found guilty of violating his oath

of office, he should face the consequences. Somehow I think one of them might

be re-election in a landslide.

Now I’m not saying that the gay marriage issue might not be bad for the Democrats,

net-net, in the presidential election. Massachussetts senator John Kerry will,

I’m sure, have a hard time selling himself to the Bible Belt if his state is

overrun at the time by gay couples from all over the world lining up to get


But it’s also clear that the US public, in general, has reacted with markedly

less horror to the marriages in San Francisco than it did to the half-second

exposure of Janet Jackson’s right nipple during the Super Bowl half-time show.

It’s slowly becoming clear, I think, that gays are not sexual deviants intent

on undermining the institution of marriage: they’re perfectly normal and ordinary

people who fall in love and want to get married. The queue outside San Francisco’s

City Hall is not made up of the characters who populate Gay Pride parades –

topless dykes on bikes, leather-and-chains bears, drag queens, that sort of

thing. Instead, Middle America looks at the lovers waiting hours and days for

the chance to get married and sees normal people, intent on fulfilling their

own American Dream.

Three thousand married gay couples in San Francisco can’t even come close to

inflicting the kind of damage on marriage as an institution that Britney Spears

managed to do in a drunken weekend. When given the opportunity of taking part

in an institution as important and solemn as marriage, the gay community has

come through with flying colours, treating it with the seriousness and joy it

deserves. In return, I have a feeling that the self-appointed arbiters of public

morality might just feel a twinge of hypocrisy if they rail too loudly about

who can and can’t get married these days.

Now, then, is not the time to pussy-foot around the issue. There’s the smell

of historical inevitability in the air, and we who care about civil rights should

have no compunction in following our noses. Don’t worry about what the Republicans

might think: go out, celebrate gay marriage wherever it occurs, and fight for

it everywhere else. Vermont might have blazed the trail with its civil unions,

but already they’re an anachronism: the institutionalisation of gay unions as

different and unequal.

Gay marriage is not an issue which you can triangulate, Clinton-style, and

end up in some wishy-washy John Kerry "civil unions good, gay marriage

bad" unhappy compromise. If you don’t believe me, look at the disaster

that is Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Gay marriage is a civil right, which means that

opposing it is, in a crucial way, un-American. It would be depressing beyond

words if the left, through natural cowardice in an election year, lost the momentum

on this one.

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8 Responses to Gay marriage: Where’s the backlash?

  1. Michelle says:

    Yea! I love the photo! Go gay marriage!

    Hello, world, here’s a song that we’re singin’,

    c’mon get happy

    A whole lotta lovin’ is what we’ll be bringin’,

    we’ll make you happy

    We had a dream we’d go trav’lin’ together

    We’d spread a little lovin’ then we’d keep movin’ on

    Somethin’ always happens whenever we’re together

    We get a happy feelin’ when we’re singin’ a song

    Trav’lin’ along there’s a song that we’re singin’,

    c’mon get happy

    A whole lotta lovin’ is what we’ll be bringin’,

    we’ll make you happy

    We’ll make you happy,

    we’ll make you happy

  2. Thank you for your forthright commentary.

    This year is the year where it all comes out – simply because there is a growing sense of civil disobedience – by office holders – over stopping it.

  3. Brian says:

    I live in San Francisco, and volunteered all of last week to work in the county recorder-assessor’s office. I was the last person the newlyweds saw when I handed them their certified copy of their marriage license and sent them on their way.

    Having lived in SF for a decade, I’ve seen some interesting things. I never saw anything like the outpouring of joy at City Hall that week.

    The mayor was very smart to do this. It put a human face on the issue and changed the terms of the debate. Instead of debating what might happen if we allow gays to get married, the decision is whether to strip thousands of people of something everyone else takes for granted.

    And if the haters win, hundreds of couples had their marriages solemnized by clergy, and you can be sure they will file a lawsuit challenging this on First Amendment grounds. The first sentence of the First Amendment says something about the state not being allowed to interfere with freedom of religion. Apparently, the right wingers didn’t think about this complication.

  4. MemeFirst says:

    Where’s the FMA debate?

    The blogosphere is a conversation, right? That’s what separates it from Old Media. You can get just about any view on any subject on some blog somewhere. But I’ve been cruising around most of the main blogs today, and I…

  5. Hater #803 says:

    I have read again, with disappointment, the stereotype of anyone opposed to “gay rights” as “haters”. This title has bothered me for a while, but upon giving it thought, I have concluded that perhaps it is true: I suppose I am a hater. There are many things that I hate; many things about this issue that really bother me…

    I hate the awkwardness I feel around gays, and the readiness of my mind to stereotype them rather than get to know them as individuals with strengths and weaknesses, just like me.

    I hate the fact that so many fathers out there are more interested in having fun than in investing time in their sons, showing them what it takes to be a man.

    I hate the fact that there are millions of boys in this country who have no idea of what a healthy male role model is.

    I hate the fact that Hollywood is so eager to stereotype men as such faulty and misdirected fools.

    I hate the fact that this culture teaches us to please ourselves, instead of helping others: and all the children who have been left behind as a consequence.

    I hate the fact that so many girls out are not uplifted by their fathers, and actually believe they are cheap chattel, to be given so cheaply to the first drooling fool who comes along.

    I hate how easy it is in this country to break a lifetime vow and destroy a family in the process.

    I hate that so many children have to come home to empty houses, whose parents cannot afford to get by on one income, because they both need brand-new SUVs√∑

    I hate the way so many parents turn their backs on their children, disowning them when the children choose different paths.

    I hate the mistakes I have made in my own life, and the many times I have failed my own children.

    I hate the fact that my parents were wrong: there really are monsters in this world: horrible, monsters that seek out children, lure them in, and abuse them in ways that utterly destroy their sexual identity…

    I hate these things…and on Sunday morning, I will go and worship a God, who I believe, also hates these things, and his heart breaks even more than mine to see a people gone astray. A Father who was not willing to lose them, who would pay any price to get them back, even the price of His only son.

    So yes, I am a hater. And I wish to God that I could learn to be more of a lover, one who loves with all his heart, with all his mind, and with all his strength. Because only then do I believe I can make my little corner a better place.

  6. Jes says:

    Thanks to Hater and everyone else who has commented here. I personally feel very strongly that this is a right that has been denied too long. Even though I myself am straight, it completely mystifies me as to how anyone could view the love between two people as something sinful, shameful, or dirty. It’s very much like the stigma on sex: we fail to realize that the evils come not from the use of it, but from the abuse of it.

    As for civil unions… didn’t we try the “separate but equal” idea already, a few decades ago? And didn’t we discover that separate meant, inherently, not equal?

    I always like to think of our Pledge of Allegiance. Mostly because what it says is not “liberty and justice for some,” or “liberty and justice for most”…. children across the nation are taught that the United States upholds as sacred “liberty and justice for ALL.”

    We must remember what freedom is truly about.

  7. Collin says:

    i hate S.U.V.s they are unwanted unneeded bohemoys

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