Two articles on gay marriage have appeared recently that you need to take note of if you haven’t already. Both of them are written by men who believe in traditional marriage in the same way that I do. Yet both of them are suggesting that social conservatives can no longer stand against gay marriage as a matter of public policy. They are not saying that social conservatives shouldn’t stand their ground. The are saying that social conservatives can’t stand their ground. There simply isn’t a viable political coalition to make it happen. Legal gay marriage in all 50 states is inevitable at this point, and so social conservatives need to reconsider how to move forward.
Rod Dreher’s article is extremely insightful as to where we are as a culture. Even if you don’t agree with him about “retreating” from the issue, his cultural analysis is dead-on right. Dreher argues that social and religious conservatives have lost the argument over same-sex marriage and that they “would be smarter to retreat behind defensible borders.” By that he means three things:
1) We should understand that this was not an argument we were going to win, in part because the elites, especially in the media, were dead-set against us, but mostly because SSM makes sense given how most people today, especially younger Americans, think about marriage and sexuality…
2) The Republican Party is not going to do anything significant to protect traditional marriage…
3) SSM opponents would do well to abandon the fight against SSM, and instead focus on the threat SSM poses to religious liberty — this, while there is still the prospect of energizing a majority of people to protect religious liberty.
The latter part of Dreher’s piece is going to frustrate a lot of social conservatives, but they need to read it anyway. I think there are too many good conservative folks who are unaware how far-gone our culture is on this issue. On that much, Dreher is right, and that must inform what we do moving forward.
Ross Douthat penned a short piece yesterday that basically agrees with Dreher. He writes:
I think the post-Romney G.O.P. could improve its position by changing in ways that don’t necessarily dovetail with my own preconceptions and beliefs. The first, perhaps over-obviously, is the issue of gay marriage, where my side of the argument has lost enough ground with voters to render the Republican Party’s official position on the issue — and particularly the call for a never-gonna-happen constitutional amendment — an empty gesture to a now-collapsed consensus, which is likely to soon alienate more voters than it mobilizes. It’s probably no longer a question of “if” but “when” the party beats a strategic retreat on the issue…, and it makes a certain raw political sense to pre-emptively declare a big tent on the question, and make the party’s litmus tests support for federalism rather than a Supreme Court settlement and… support for the broadest possible protections for religious liberty. I’m not sure how such a shift would affect the rate at which evangelicals and conservative Catholics turn out for Republicans — that would be the big strategic risk, obviously. But my sense is that the party would just be formally acknowledging what many religious conservatives already accept — that a political platform can’t hold back a cultural tide, and that if the American understanding of what marriage is and ought to be someday turns back in a direction that cultural conservatives find congenial, the details of the Republican platform will be largely incidental to that shift.
As a Christian and as a pastor, I will never retreat on the issue of marriage. It’s just too important. I will continue to teach and preach what the scripture says on whatever platform the Lord allows me to stand on. As a citizen, I will continue to support policies that protect marriage, and I will speak in favor of them publicly.
That doesn’t mean, however, that those arguments will have any traction in the current culture. Nor does it mean there will be a viable political coalition to carry them forward into actual policy. In fact, I’m pretty certain there won’t be. The ground has shifted beneath our feet, and how to move forward in terms of public policy is going to be the question that social conservatives have to come to terms with very soon.