The campaign to overturn California’s Proposition 8 in the courts is a perfect example of one of my most deeply held findings. Check that. Two of my most deeply held findings.
The first is that liberals always go too far. They often start out with a good value and drive it right off the cliff. For instance, they start with peace or justice or tolerance, and they go off the rails, usually getting the opposite. The second finding is that conservatives embrace greater diversity than liberals. They are not ideologues but rather creatures of a philosophy that allows them more latitude than liberals, who really are ideologues.
Let us dilate on the last matter first, as it shines a light on conservatism that is rarely noted. Two major legal minds of the conservative movement are on either side of the case over Proposition 8. One is Charles J. Cooper. He is a star in the conservative legal firmament, and he considers marriage to be a matter between a man and a woman. The other is Ted Olson. He considers it to be a matter of man and woman, woman and woman, and man and man. As he told The Washington Post the other day, discrimination on the basis of sex “is wrong and it’s hurtful, and I have never understood it.”
Both are friends of mine, and I respect both men’s views, though I side with Mr. Cooper. Moreover, I wonder about the liberals who hold these values today. Where were they in, say, 1960 or 1950, or any time back when homosexual rights were unthinkable? But here we are in 2010, and the whole liberal movement is with Ted. OK, I am with them, to a point.
When I got to think about it, I thought it was wrong to deny a stable couple, whether woman and woman or man and man, certain rights. For instance, the right to visit a partner in a hospital.I am told that right is often denied homosexuals. Or the right to enter into a health policy, the right to insurance or to inheritance.There are all sorts of rights and obligations that a couple wants to share and cannot. But with the simple expedient of a civil contract, they can have them, so why bar people from this? They can live together. Why not help them live stably?
But this is not what the organized gays want. They want to claim that a union that cannot possibly produce babies can. They even could raise babies they have adopted, but they want to claim the usufructs for marriage. It is on the face of it a nonsense, but it is a nonsense that is claimed by homosexuals. Why?
Is it just another example of the left going too far? Is it an example of the extremism of the left that we have seen so many times before, of the left taking a perfectly good institution and destroying it? Or is there a method to this madness?
Some believe that those wanting marriage extended to homosexuals want it because it is the first step in the effort to deny tax-exempt status to churches and synagogues. First, marriage is extended to homosexuals. Then religious organizations deny homosexuals the right to marry. Then those organizations have their tax-exempt status denied them for denying a right to homosexuals, namely the right to marry.
Thus, while the organized homosexuals are proceeding to demand the “right” to marry pursuant to a larger issue, perhaps we should short-circuit this tricky business. We should privatize marriage. The state merely enforces contracts between two people, a man and a woman, a woman and woman, a man and a man. Meanwhile, the churches and synagogues extend the sacrament for those who want it. Get the state out of the love and sacrament business. Everyone is happy, no?
That, come to think of it, introduces another of my deeply held findings. Conservatives have more peaceful solutions for social problems, some of which the liberals just make up.
R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr. is the founder and editor-in-chief of the American Spectator and an adjunct scholar at the Hudson Institute. His new book is “After the Hangover: The Conservatives’ Road to Recovery” (Thomas Nelson, 2010).