LOPEZ: Could marriage’s Roe be a legislative endeavor, given the organizational pressure surrounding the issue of gay marriage?
GEORGE: In that sense, perhaps we’ve already had marriage’s Roe: It is known as “no-fault” or “unilateral” divorce. That was a major advance in the sexual revolution and paved the way for what came afterward. Many people have observed that the movement to redefine marriage is a symptom rather than a cause of the fundamental loss of understanding of the meaning of marriage, especially among elites. They are right. The divorce culture, though itself in some ways a symptom, is also a major cause of our problems. As we fight in other states and at the national level to prevent the redefinition and legal abolition of marriage, it is important to remember that this is merely the first step in a much larger struggle to renew and rebuild a healthy marriage culture.
It is worth noting that what has happened in New York will have at least one significant good effect for the pro-marriage cause. It will re-nationalize the marriage issue and propel it into the 2012 presidential primaries and general election. Republican candidates will be judged on how sincerely and forcefully they intend to fight to preserve marriage against redefinition, and the issue is likely to play a positive role for the eventual Republican nominee in critical swing states such as Ohio and Missouri, and possibly Pennsylvania, Michigan, and New Mexico. Advocates of redefining marriage (with a few savvy exceptions) are making the predictable error of overreading the significance of their victory in New York. They believe it will demoralize their opponents and finally make effective the argument that they have long waved around as if it were a magic wand: “Same-sex marriage is inevitable; you might as well surrender and get on the right side of history.” Although the loss for marriage in New York has damaged the morale of pro-marriage people in some places, especially in more liberal states where pro-marriage forces have long felt beleaguered, it seems to be reenergizing pro-marriage forces in more conservative states, including Ohio, Missouri, and Pennsylvania. They are determined to act now
to make sure that what happened in New York does not happen to them. This is why you will see virtually all the Republican presidential aspirants pledge fidelity to marriage as the union of one man and one woman, and vow to protect marriage by vigorously defending the Defense of Marriage Act and supporting a Federal Marriage Amendment. It is also why we could see Barack Obama, who is no fool and whose chief political advisers are certainly not fools, suddenly hit the “pause” button on his “evolution” towards explicit support for redefining marriage.
LOPEZ: Can this be undone in New York?
GEORGE: Sure. Let’s not be under any illusions, though. The people who will lead the fight to preserve their victory in New York and use it as a springboard to victory in other states are formidable. They have enormous political and financial resources and, as they have proven, they know how to deploy them to win political battles. They are sincerely dedicated to their cause and filled with moral passion to advance what they deeply (albeit, in my view, mistakenly) believe is a civil-rights agenda. If I could choose opponents, I would choose different ones. Moreover, among them are people for whom I personally have great respect and even affection. They are good, patriotic people with whom I am proud to be allied in other very important struggles, and sad to be in political conflict with in this battle. I know how deeply they believe in their cause, and how determined they are to prevail. For some it is an intensely personal matter. So, those of us who seek to restore marriage in New York have our work cut out for us. If we are to succeed, it will take remarkable dedication, an enormous amount of hard work, some fervent prayers, and a bit of luck. Successful populist revolts against powerful, well-entrenched elites are not easy to pull off. But they are not impossible.
LOPEZ: Was there anything that specifically surprised you about the debate in New York?
GEORGE: Well, I was hoping that the Republican leadership would be more faithful to its base, but I can’t say that I was expecting it. Leaders in the Democratic party tend to be very faithful to their base. Just look at what they did for the unions in Wisconsin, with legislators even fleeing the state to stop legislation the unions didn’t like from going forward. Leaders in the Republican party tend to be faithful to . . . . well, I’m not quite sure what Republican leaders are faithful to. It used to be sound money, but they don’t even seem to be faithful to that any more.