The Christianists’ Terms Of Surrender

Douthat wonders how yesterday’s rulings will impact them:

Unless something dramatic changes in the drift of public opinion, the future of religious liberty on these issues is going to depend in part on the magnanimity of gay marriage supporters — the extent to which they are content with political, legal and cultural weddingaislevictories that leave the traditional view of marriage as a minority perspective with some modest purchase in civil society, versus the extent to which they decide to use every possible lever to make traditionalism as radioactive in the America of 2025 as white supremacism or anti-Semitism are today. And I can imagine a scenario in which a more drawn-out and federalist march to “marriage equality in 50 states,” with a large number of (mostly southern) states hewing to the older definition for much longer than the five years that gay marriage advocates currently anticipate, ends up encouraging a more scorched-earth approach to this battle, with less tolerance for the shrinking population of holdouts, and a more punitive, “they’re getting what they deserve” attitude toward traditionalist religious bodies in particular.

If religious conservatives are, in effect, negotiating the terms of their surrender, it’s at least possible that those negotiations would go better if they were conducted right now, in the wake of a Roe v. Wade-style Supreme Court ruling, rather than in a future where the bloc of Americans opposed to gay marriage has shrunk from the current 44 percent to 30 percent or 25 percent, and the incentives for liberals to be magnanimous in victory have shrunk apace as well.

As Ross knows, not all marriage equality supporters are liberals. But I do want to state for the record that my own view is that we as gays will do much better if we combine our formal civil equality with maximal religious freedom for our opponents and unrelenting magnanimity for all, past and present. We have nothing to fear from religious groups who have every right to condemn our marriages if they wish to, and absolutely every right to conduct their own religious organizations as they see fit. If in doubt, give it to them. We are winning this so fast anything else would be unworthy of a civil rights movement which seeks to expand everyone’s freedom. Maybe the right-left split within the gay community will re-emerge after the unity necessary for this landmark moment. Or maybe we can exercize some patience, diversity of view, and good will.

Daniel McCarthy has related thoughts to Douthat’s:

The bigger question isn’t whether more states will recognize same-sex marriage—let alone whether there’s much possibility of rollback—but on what the terms of victory of the SSM side is going to be consolidated. Conservatives have a different battle to fight, psychologically as well as legally, to preserve religious liberty and ensure that this revolution already made doesn’t enter a more radical phase. High-strung right-wingers who say, for example, that the country might as well embrace polygamy if it’s going to have same-sex marriage are not doing themselves any favors. More seriously, this would be a good time for conservatives to take supporters of SSM at their word and insist on stronger cultural as well as legal affirmations of monogamy for everyone. Somehow, though, I suspect that rather than using this as an opportunity to build new coalitions against promiscuity or divorce, we’ll just see a redoubling of resentments.

Legal affirmations of monogamy? And how, pray, would any government enforce them? And why would any conservative want to give government that kind of power? The model, it seems to me, should be that of civil divorce. No Catholic church or Mormon authority will divorce a couple; but the civil law can. And we manage to live with that. Catholics and Mormons do not feel that their religious liberty is under threat because they live alongside divorced couples, or work with them, or employ them. All of us can live equally under the law as well as doing something else: mind our own business.

There is no way to resolve the deep cultural conflict in this kind of area; but there is a way to manage it. With civility, generosity and toleration – on both sides.