Prior to a discussion at the League of Ordinary Gentlemen blog on Friday, the last time I publicly admitted respect – not quite the same as “support,” but destined to be taken that way – for the views of marriage traditionalists was February. A popular young member of the political twitterati (@amaeryllis), while reacting to the California appeals court victory of pro-equality forces against the forces of “H8,” offered a by now common view on the underlying question:
There are many strong arguments (both legally and socially) against abortion, even though I disagree. I see none against marriage equality.
I suggested to her that presuming the lack of any serious argument on the other side actually diminished her side’s political accomplishment. In short order, she “blocked” me from her twitter feed, sweeping me up with other presumed H8’ers who she claimed were pestering her that day.
Partly with that pseudo-experience in mind, I refrained from replying when a couple of weeks later, on the occasion of Governor Chris Christie’s veto of New Jersey’s marriage equality bill, another popular young liberal – @attackerman (Spencer Ackerman) – tweeted a similar assertion:
The non-bigot explanation of why Chris Christie vetoed gay marriage. Someone please provide.
Professor-talkhost Melissa Harris-Perry uses the same terminology even more frequently and presumptively, asserting that opposition to marriage equality must be taken as inherently bigoted: “Bigotry,” she flatly states,”is the only basis for denying marriage equality.” As one rightwing critic reacting to Harris-Perry put the matter, on the day of the President’s pro-equality statement, “On Tuesday, Obama was a bigot. As of today, he isn’t.”
Though I presume @attackerman’s request was made in good faith, I am skeptical that an answer would actually be heard, not when attitudes are so hardened, and not when any dissent can be taken as aid and comfort to the enemy. The parallel reaction to the President of observers like Erik Kain, also at The League, merely dismisses traditionalism as utterly obsolete, embarrassing and contemptible, if not beneath contempt:
Why didn’t the president come out in favor of equality several years ago?
Because he plays his cards close to his chest, of course. Because he gambled and it paid off, but he gambled with the lives of vulnerable members of society and he did so for paltry reasons. At least he did come out on the side of angels, but he waited for an opportune moment to do so.
Kain seems to be asserting that there never was or could be – or perhaps that “several years ago” there ceased being – any intellectually and morally sound case for hesitation on the issue.
Yet peremptory charges of bigotry, among the harshest words in our national vocabulary, retain a further social-political meaning: of proscription. The bigot is the individual whose beliefs are so contrary to the fundamental commitments of an egalitarian culture that they are not and cannot be worthy of serious discussion, but only of scorn and ridicule – and, for those whose political sensibilities are still impaired by remnant sympathies, of mandatory confession, self-criticism, and disassociation.
Taken seriously, the charge of “inherent bigotry” means that it is not just the marriage traditionalists who are to be shamed, but anyone who refuses to condemn them, or to condemn those who would refuse to condemn, and so on…
(confession to follow)