‘The orthodoxy of sexual liberation’

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Nothing like a blast of clarity in this debate.

Professor Robert George steps up again to provide that, on marriage and ideology and politics and New York.

Devotion to “sexual freedom” had been no part of the liberalism of FDR, George Meaney, Cesar Chavez, Hubert Humphrey, or the leaders and rank-and-file members of the civil-rights movement. Today, however, allegiance to the cause of sexual freedom is the nonnegotiable price of admission to the liberal (or “progressive”) club. It is worth noting that more than a few conservatives have bought into a (more limited) version of it as well, as we see in the debate over redefining marriage…

As Sherif Girgis, Ryan Anderson, and I argue in our Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy article, once one buys into the ideology of sexual liberalism, the reality that has traditionally been denominated as “marriage” loses all intelligibility. That is true whether one regards oneself politically as a liberal or a conservative. For people who have absorbed the central premises of sexual liberation (whether formally and explicitly, as liberals tend to do, or merely implicitly as those conservatives who have gone in for it tend to do), marriage simply cannot function as the central principle or standard of rectitude in sexual conduct, as it has in Western philosophy, theology, and law for centuries.

He’s really just getting started at this point.

Moreover, one will come to regard one’s allegiance to sexual liberalism as a mark of urbanity and sophistication, and will likely find oneself looking down on those “ignorant,” “intolerant,” “bigoted” people — those hicks and rubes — who refuse to get “on the right side of history.” One will perceive people who wish to engage in conduct rejected by traditional morality (especially where such conduct is sought in satisfaction of desires that can be redescribed or labeled as an “orientation,” such as “gay” or “bisexual,” or “polyamorist”) as belonging to the category of “sexual minorities” whose “civil rights” are violated by laws embodying the historic understanding of marriage and sexual ethics. One will begin congratulating oneself for one’s “open-mindedness” and “tolerance” in holding that marriage should be redefined to accommodate the interests of these minorities, and one will likely lose any real regard for the rights of, say, parents who do not wish to have their children indoctrinated into the ideology of sexual liberalism in public schools. “Why,” one will ask, “should fundamentalist parents be free to rear their children as little bigots?” Heather’s two mommies or Billy’s two mommies and three daddies are the keys to freeing children from parental “homophobia” and “polyphobia.”

No political correctness here. Politics don’t determine what’s correct.

As orthodox sexual liberals, neither the governor [Andrew Cuomo] nor the mayor [Michael Bloomberg] believes in a conception of marriage in which marriage is normative for sexual partnering; indeed, neither believes in norms of sexual morality as traditionally conceived, even apart from any question about same-sex partnerships. Both regard “civil marriage” as nothing more than the legal blessing of romantic partnerships, and neither gives any indication of ever having remotely considered an alternative view. Both have so thoroughly absorbed the premises of sexual liberal ideology that the possibility of an alternative doesn’t cross their minds. For them, it is all a matter of “us urbane, sophisticated, tolerant, open-minded, defenders of civil rights, against those ignorant, intolerant, hateful homophobes.”

Prof. George was a guest on my radio show this week. He sounds the same in person as he does in print. Certain. Determined. Resolute.

“Let the marriage matter be put to the ballot in state after state,” he said, emphatically. “Because when the people deliberate on the issue, they have always come down on the side of traditional marriage.” In 31 out of 31 times it’s been put to the vote, he reminds me.

Which brings up an interesting point he made on the show. In response to a question I asked him about the Gallup reports that from May 2010 to May 2011, poll results seem to reflect Americans are edging toward more approval of same-sex marriage, from a slight minority last year to a slight majority this year.

“The only poll that counts is the one voters take at the booth,” said Professor George. “If the Gallup poll and other polls that say a majority of Americans favor same-sex are correct, why don’t same-sex marriage backers want it on the ballot?”

He’s right. They don’t.

I asked him if they preferred to circumvent the electorate by taking the issue to the politicians in state legislatures. “What they really want is the courts,” he said. “It’s easier for the movement to work through the courts for same-sex marriage to be instituted through judicial fiat.” But he reminded me that the judges who did that in Iowa were thrown out the next time voters had the chance to express their will.

I asked Prof. George if he was surprised by the New York vote, and he said what was most surprising was that New York Republican leadership let that vote even go forward. “It was against the will of the Republican base. We asked them to exercise their legitimate authority, and they weren’t faithful to their morally conservative base. We’ll hold the Republican leadership responsible for this and will work to get them replaced in the next election.”

Especially Mark Grisanti. Who was elected with the help of some money and influence of the National Organization for Marriage, running on the principle of upholding traditional marriage laws. And then flip-flopped. “It was a grotesque betrayal of those who put him in office,” said George. “Grisanti has to be voted out, he needs to go, immediately. We need to repeal this law, but first vote out the group who betrayed us.”

Citizens have to be informed and engaged, George said sternly. And even though I say that same thing often in print and on the air, it somehow seemed to carry more gravity when he said it.

As for the cover NY Governor Andrew Cuomo promised those politicians who helped him muscle this law through, George had this to say:

“Andrew Cuomo is a powerful politician, no doubt, he’s a tough guy. But we have to be just as tough…The great thing about standing up to a bully is that it always works.”

And the interesting thing about the bully pulpit of big media, is that it sometimes works against itself. Or in spite of itself. Like this New York Times article on a San Francisco study on gay marriage relationships. Prof. George gave the Times credit for reporting that.

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