It's hard being the New York Times. The modern media paradigm necessitates Fairness to Both Sides and the inclusion of Conservative Voices. The Times' target audience, though, will not tolerate the level of stupidity and factual inaccuracy (remember the brief NYT-Bill Kristol marriage?) from the average right wing columnist. The paper is forced to find someone with that magical Will / Brooks / Buckley skill set that solders a layer of expensive boarding school erudition over the same old lowest common denominator conservative arguments. They need a conservative who looks and sounds like the readers expect, like someone who might be an associate professor at an expensive liberal arts college and not the usual Limbaugh-esque gas bag. They need Ross Douthat.
Ross's leather blazer and manicured facial hair ensure that he looks the part, but it's the Brooksian intellectual dishonesty inherent in trying to make right wing arguments sound palatable to smart people that make him a star. He showcases all of his skills in "Terms of Our Surrender," a rambling, mealy-mouthed defense of homophobia. Don't worry, he doesn't call it "homophobia." That would be off-putting to Times readers. Hmm, what would be a better name?
That's what we call a teaser. Buckle up!
It now seems certain that before too many years elapse, the Supreme Court will be forced to acknowledge the logic of its own jurisprudence on same-sex marriage and redefine marriage to include gay couples in all 50 states.
Here Ross uses the time-honored tactic of approaching the reader hat-in-hand, head hung low, inviting your pity from the word go. Look, he's already beaten! Shouldn't you take it easy on him? Cut him a little slack, intellectually speaking? Of course, unless you're history's greatest monster.
Once this happens, the national debate essentially will be finished, but the country will remain divided, with a substantial minority of Americans, most of them religious, still committed to the older view of marriage.
If people can get used to lady police officers and male flight attendants, we can accept anything!
So what then? One possibility is that this division will recede into the cultural background, with marriage joining the long list of topics on which Americans disagree without making a political issue out of it.
Sounds good. This has been a Ross Douthat Column. Good night and god bless. We'll see you next week with some foreign policy concern trolling about Russia!
In this scenario, religious conservatives would essentially be left to promote their view of wedlock within their own institutions, as a kind of dissenting subculture emphasizing gender differences and procreation, while the wider culture declares that love and commitment are enough to make a marriage. And where conflicts arise – in a case where, say, a Mormon caterer or a Catholic photographer objected to working at a same-sex wedding –
Find me a pair of gay dudes or lesbians anywhere – ANYWHERE – who would hire a Mormon caterer for their wedding. Unless he happens to have the only artisanal craft lilac cocktails in the city, something tells me that isn't happening. And if he does, then he's probably down with the gays.
And that Catholic photographer, does he pass moral judgment on every potential client or just the gay ones? If he's anything like most professional photographers he's probably on his knees thanking a sampling of deities every time a client makes the phone ring, signifying one more week before the photography "business" dream dies and he heads back to working the night maintenance shift at PetSmart.
gay rights supporters would heed the advice of gay marriage's intellectual progenitor, Andrew Sullivan, and let the dissenters opt out "in the name of their freedom — and ours."
Gay marriage: invented by Andrew Sullivan. Funny, I thought the Spartans invented it.
But there’s another possibility, in which the oft-invoked analogy between opposition to gay marriage and support for segregation in the 1960s South is pushed to its logical public-policy conclusion. In this scenario, the unwilling photographer or caterer would be treated like the proprietor of a segregated lunch counter, and face fines or lose his business — which is the intent of recent legal actions against a wedding photographer in New Mexico, a florist in Washington State, and a baker in Colorado.
Florists, bakers, wedding photographers – you know, gay shit.
Perhaps the reason people keep using that analogy is that it's a pretty good analogy, like how people use the term "racist" to describe people who say, believe, and do racist things.
Meanwhile, pressure would be brought to bear wherever the religious subculture brushed up against state power.
Ahh, the re-branding begins. It's not homophobia or discrimination, it's "dissent". It's not a bunch of assholes hung up on The Gays, it's a "subculture."
Until someone can show me the part of the Bible that says you don't have to serve someone in a restaurant or other place of business if you think they are a sinner, it's not a subculture. True, Jesus did say, "If someone sins, fuck 'em" but I think religious scholars have found some ambiguity over time.
These people don't need a law to protect them, they need a therapist. They need to find out exactly what it is about someone else having the gay sexes that drives them so insane.
Religious-affiliated adoption agencies would be closed if they declined to place children with same-sex couples. (This has happened in Massachusetts and Illinois.) Organizations and businesses that promoted the older definition of marriage would face constant procedural harassment, along the lines suggested by the mayors who battled with Chick-fil-A.
Well, when a company's attitudes are out of line with the beliefs of their customer base, that tends to happen. Maybe the better solution would be to avoid mixing the sale of greasy chicken sandwiches with morally indignant politicking. The president of Chipotle might be a Level IX Klansman for all I know, but he doesn't tell me about it while I'm in the middle of the only six-to-eight enjoyable minutes in my life in any given week with one of his burritos.
And, eventually, religious schools and colleges would receive the same treatment as racist holdouts like Bob Jones University, losing access to public funds and seeing their tax-exempt status revoked.
This sounds awesome! Wait, is he trying to sell this or turn us against it?
In the past, this constant-pressure scenario has seemed the less-likely one, since Americans are better at agreeing to disagree than the culture war would suggest. But it feels a little bit more likely after last week’s "debate" in Arizona, over a bill that was designed to clarify whether existing religious freedom protections can be invoked by defendants like the florist or the photographer.
Hmm. Is that what it was?
If you don’t recognize my description of the bill, then you probably followed the press coverage, which was mendacious and hysterical – evincing no familiarity with the legal issues, and endlessly parroting the line that the bill would institute “Jim Crow” for gays. (Never mind that in Arizona it’s currently legal to discriminate based on sexual orientation — and mass discrimination isn't exactly breaking out.)
So why did they need another law? And, absent either law, the status quo in Arizona is that "mass discrimination isn't exactly breaking out"? Well, it sounds like our society is about as perfect as it can be. As long as "mass discrimination" is not taking place in the streets of Arizona, we're good. Ross Douthat, you understand the concept of laws and rights.
Allegedly sensible centrists compared the bill’s supporters to segregationist politicians, liberals invoked the Bob Jones precedent to dismiss religious-liberty concerns, and Republican politicians behaved as though the law had been written by David Duke.
Hmm, when all three of those groups are opposed to a bill, is it likely that they are all wrong or that maybe the bill isn't exactly the Sistine Chapel of abortive legislation?
What makes this response particularly instructive is that such bills have been seen, in the past, as a way for religious conservatives to negotiate surrender — to accept same-sex marriage’s inevitability while carving out protections for dissent. But now, apparently, the official line is that you bigots don’t get to negotiate anymore.
No, legislating permission to discriminate (er, "dissent" – see, doesn't it sound like a noble act of disobedience? Instead of what it is, which is some gay-bashing shitwad trying to throw someone out of his restaurant?) is neither negotiating nor carving out protections. Again, show me the part of any Christian doctrine that suggests that a Christian is morally incapable of providing a professional service for someone who exhibits what he or she considers Un-Christian behavior.
See, you don't have to paint yourself up in rainbow colors and deep throat a 9-incher in the alley behind a bar called "Rumors," you just have to serve them food. You don't have to follow them home and spot them in the bedroom, you just have to hand them a cake. You don't have to play tambourine in their band, "Ophelia: A Loving Tribute to the Indigo Girls", you just have to take their money in exchange for goods or services. You don't have to condone, endorse, love, or like anything. You are not Supporting Gayness by serving them any more than you are Supporting Eating In Bed and Masturbating by serving single men in their thirties.
If you're interested in passing moral judgment on everyone who walks through the door, maybe the restaurant industry isn't for you. Maybe that man and his wholesome looking wife are on their way to a slavery-themed BDSM orgy at the Airport Radisson. Maybe that couple with the adorable kids is raising them to be atheists. Maybe my friends and I just came from a strip club and are on our way to another, raunchier strip club that won't necessarily throw us out if we try to tip with a money order. The point is, you don't know and it doesn't matter because your opinion of the decisions made by your customers is not relevant.
Which has a certain bracing logic. If your only goal is ensuring that support for traditional marriage diminishes as rapidly as possible, applying constant pressure to religious individuals and institutions will probably do the job. Already, my fellow Christians are divided over these issues, and we’ll be more divided the more pressure we face. The conjugal, male-female view of marriage is too theologically rooted to disappear, but its remaining adherents can be marginalized, set against one other, and encouraged to conform.
Ah, the Christians-as-oppressed-minority canard. Even if that were realistic – which, it is worth noting, it isn't – I guess that would be an admission that being marginalized and encouraged to conform (at "Project Exodus: Summer Camp for Troubled Christian Youth") is not pleasant.
I am being descriptive here, rather than self-pitying.
I've seen crying freshmen girls who need a C or else Dad will kill them who are less self-pitying than you were in this essay, Ross. Try reading the opening paragraph again.
Christians had plenty of opportunities – thousands of years' worth – to treat gay people with real charity, and far too often chose intolerance. (And still do, in many instances and places.) So being marginalized, being sued, losing tax-exempt status – this will be uncomfortable, but we should keep perspective and remember our sins, and nobody should call it persecution.
Just strongly imply it! Wink! Or, like most non-New York Times Christians, just go ahead and complain about it explicitly and often.
But it's still important for the winning side to recognize its power. We are not really having an argument about same-sex marriage anymore, and on the evidence of Arizona, we’re not having a negotiation. Instead, all that's left is the timing of the final victory – and for the defeated to find out what settlement the victors will impose.
Subarus for everyone! Miniature versions of everything! All formal events of state will now be in drag! Everyone apply to Wellesley but also Mount Holyoke or Agnes Scott as safety schools! Ours will be a terrible victory!
Nice try, Ross Douthat. Prettier words, same lame-ass argument.