Culture,  Politics

Gay marriage as litmus test for acceptance in elite society

a4e5a225fa9a44553e47303a8d059333[1]R. R. Reno offers some insight on why gay marriage has become the litmus test for acceptance in elite society. He writes:

Same sex marriage has become the issue of our time… How did this come to pass? There’s no easy answer, which is not surprising. Same sex marriage is the issue because lots of different interests, concerns, and trends converge on it.

The first thing to say is that the gay rights movement has been largely an upper middle class project. Thurgood Marshall attended Lincoln University, an all-black college in southeastern Pennsylvania, and then Howard University Law School. Gay activist Larry Kramer went to Yale. Judge Vaughn Walker went to Stanford Law School. I have little doubt that the first gay Supreme Court Justice will be a graduate of either Yale or Harvard Law Schools.

There are many reasons why the gay rights movement is so upscale. When I was active in the national politics of the Episcopal Church, I came to see that homosexuality in general plays an important symbolic role in upper middle class culture. It’s an image of transgression, and to affirm it relieves moral pressure, giving room for our own transgressive desires. If two men can have sex, then surely there are no traditional limits on what men and women can do.

Against this background of transgression same-sex marriage reassures. It provides a bourgeois context, domesticating homosexuality and folding it back into ordinary patterns of bourgeois discipline. As so, for the typical bourgeois Episcopalian, supporting gay rights was a way of reinforcing his conviction that expanded sexual freedom can be made entirely consistent with the modes of social control that predominate among successful Americans…

Same-sex marriage, gay adoption, sexual freedom? We’re under tremendous pressure to affirm these goals because the top level of society is turning in on itself. As is always the case when society isn’t facing external threats or internal chaos, the powerful seek greater freedom, because they’re the ones in the best position to take advantage of it…

Thus sexual freedom fits nicely with economic freedom…

Same sex marriage is the issue today because our culture is now dominated by people for whom freedom is (conveniently for them) the solution to most problems. People don’t have jobs? Answer: more freedom. Terrorists want to kill us? Answer: more freedom. People are unhappy in their intimate lives? Answer: more freedom.

Read the rest here.


  • Ian Shaw

    Well said. You could ultimately sum it all up by saying that as fallen humans, we are all enemies of God and we don’t want to have an authority over us. That’s why the world (or in this case, America) claims to give you freedoms to do what you desire. Placing no responsibility on oneself. Only through accepting His son Jesus can we change our eternal status with a righteous and holy God.

    Ironic though. I didn’t know in order to be an elite society, you have to affirm same-sex relationships/marriages, affirm the right of a mother to murder a child in her womb and hurl inflammatory attacks/rhetoric toward any group of people that rationally, civilly disagree with the pop-culture/opinion of the month.

  • Ian Shaw

    Or, in the words of a great lyricist,

    In America it’s wonderful, all you have to do is fake it.
    Own anything you want, all you have to do is take it.
    Live for today, don’t think about tomorrow,
    Have a good time in America-Gomorrah

  • Lynn Burgess

    I thought Dr. Ben Carson was the best thing since sliced bread, but I am very sad if this is true, “He supports civil unions that would include all or almost all of the legal rights of marriage.”

      • James Bradshaw

        Lynn, why stop at opposing “civil unions”? Why not make it illegal for gay men to utilize powers-of-attorney or wills for each other? We could have a group of black-robed clerics interrogate every person who seeks to form any legal partnership with any other person for any reason whatsoever.

        Civil unions are just that …. civil partnerships that entail a number of legal obligations and benefits. Why should there be a religious litmus test for those who seek to form legal partnerships?

        This story is a bit odd, though. It makes sweeping generalizations about some “elite” that, in fact, doesn’t even exist. Who are these elite? The intellectuals? Robert P George is from Princeton, I believe, and has been an outspoken opponent of gay marriage. Look up the Heritage Foundation, Commonweal magazine, Touchstone, First Things, etc. They’re all think tanks or organizations ran by well-educated middle-aged men. Is it the wealthy? Most of NOM’s financiers were affluent Mormons and Catholics, and they’ve spent millions fighting gay marriage. So maybe these “elite” are people of “influence”. Maybe so (even if it’s a very vague umbrella). If that’s the case, then perhaps the question is why those who oppose gay marriage are quickly losing their ability to sway public opinion. Is it their message or their tactics?

        • James Stanton

          James, most social conservatives opposed civil unions when that was the thing gays and their supporters demanded as a right. Many don’t think gays are entitled to anything from society other than the right to exist.

          The former President of Iran once said, when asked about homosexuals in Iran, that were no such people present in his country. Obviously that is not the case but the environment is such that any homosexual will keep his or her identity secret and not dare to demand any change in public treatment of homosexuals. Let’s just say that some wish they could say the same thing about homosexuals in the US.

          As for the question you posed… message or tactics. Congress passed DOMA and many states passed marriage bans well before there was a mass cultural trend for gay rights. Thus today’s activists grew up thinking the status quo was something evil and fighting it is equivalent to the Civil Rights Movement. No message or set of tactics is going to work in the face of that.

          I think you can understand why many will never give an inch to something that threatens their identity and sense of how society should reflect their values.

  • Lauren Bertrand

    James Stanton: “Obviously that is not the case but the environment is such that any homosexual will keep his or her identity secret and not dare to demand any change in public treatment of homosexuals. Let’s just say that some wish they could say the same thing about homosexuals in the US.” And quite a few feel the same way about Evangelicals, and are quite vocal about it. I’m not one of them. I think the US is always stronger than Iran–always strong than Canada and every country in Europe too–because it allows the marketplace of ideas to remain as free as possible. Americans, in general, value individual freedom over social stability that might come with repressing the extremists….good for Americans.

    That said, the same can’t be said about R. R. Reno, if this article is any indication. This is all the more ironic since social conservatives have usually still at least paid lip service to individual freedoms, with the awareness that–if they oppose them–the same tactics could be used against them to repress religious freedom. But I guess people like Reno are already having religious freedom repressed, so they feel just as entitled to push back by railing against libertarianism in general?

  • Chris Ryan

    There are 2 different elites in this country: Liberal elites & conservative elites.

    Teddy Kennedy was a good example of the former; Ronald Reagan a good example of the latter. When you’ve got billionaires like the Koch brothers and Sheldon Adelson opposing gay rights its foolish to speak of elites favoring homosexuals. Fact is some elites favor gay rights and other elites don’t. George W. Bush is a perfect case in point. A president who had a Yale undergrad & a Harvard MBA, whose father was also a president & “Yalie” and whose grandfather was a Senator. That’s as elite as elite gets but to this day he has yet to support gay marriage…Or take John McCain, the son and grandson of Admirals, whose grandfather witnessed the Japanese surrender. He was so elite that the N. Vietnamese offered to return him to the US after they shot him down. (He kindly refused.) Now, that’s elite!

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