I’ve been thinking about the ongoing dialog on gay marriage elsewhere in my blog. In this, as in many other things, my perception of the conservative viewpoint is that it stems from a combination of lack of empathy and failure of imagination.
A question I would put to anyone opposed to gay marriage is this:
Do you really believe the government should be able to restrict the rights and liberties of a disfavored minority based on the strong, sincerely-held beliefs of a different, vocal minority?
Every opponent of gay marriage belongs to a religion or a gender or a social class or an ethnic group potentially (or historically) subject to exactly that kind of discrimination. The very best guarantee of everyone’s rights is a strong protection of everyone’s rights. Any other road leads to madness, and oppression based on the next set of cultural and demographic shifts.
To those who would argue we aren’t taking away existing rights from our gay and lesbian fellow citizens, I would point out that female suffrage and the Civil Rights movement were subject to exactly the same argument. If you’re a woman opposed to gay marriage, would you welcome a rollback in your own rights under the law by that logic? If you’re an ethnic minority opposed to gay marriage, would you accept a revocation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 under that same argument?
Like I said, lack of empathy and a failure of imagination. Because as soon as you make it possible, even reasonable, to restrict someone else’s rights based on your preferences, you make it possible and reasonable to restrict your own rights based on someone else’s preferences.
Is that the society conservatives truly want to build?