Here’s a rich discussion on the First Things site of the letter David Blankenhorn and his colleagues recently sent to the New York Times, protesting the irresponsible way in which Frank Rich has now three times dubbed Blankenhorn an ignorant bigot.
A few thoughts: David is not a movement conservative. He’s not a political conservative at all, in my judgment; I consider him both a dear friend and a stalwart pro-marriage liberal. This is why he cares so much about what the New York Times writes about him, and why he is appealing to its editors to do the right and fair thing. He believes in the New York Times.
Back in 2003, when the Massachusetts Supreme Court first brought gay marriage to the national stage, gay-marriage advocates scrambled to assure Americans that gay marriage would have no consequences. An effort was made to sift the sheep from the goats, the bigots from the concerned, well-meaning Americans opposed to gay marriage. At one point, support for civil unions was proposed as the great dividing line between decency and outlaw status. (Even Ramesh Ponnuru suggested once that if conservatives supported civil unions it would take the acrimony out of the debate.)
Now, David Blankenhorn — who not only supports federal civil unions but tells conservative audiences (I’ve been there and seen it) that he believes in the “equal dignity of homosexual love” — is beyond the pale in polite liberal society. (To their credit, gay conservatives Dale Carpenter and Jonathan Rauch have defended him.)
It’s sad and disturbing, and a confirmation of what I began saying seven years ago: When they say you are a bigot, comparable to those who opposed interracial marriage, if you think marriage is the union of husband and wife, believe them. They say it because they think it’s true. The movement goal is to use the power of law to help reshape the culture, as was done for race. Those who didn’t realize this in 2003 will start acting that way in 2010, because framing ideas have consequences.
If even David Blankenhorn’s reputation can be irresponsibly assaulted by allegedly respectable people without any pushback in this way, what will become of the rest of us?
At a private conference last year, I was asked why I did not begin my talks by acknowledging in some fashion the legitimacy of same-sex relationships — either through support for civil unions or some other way. “Like it or not,” I am told, “that is the currency to be taken seriously.” I wasn’t fast enough to think of this at the time, but what I should have done was whip out my birth certificate and say, “Here, here’s the currency I need to speak up in defense of marriage. I was born free. I may or may not die free. Power is a reality. But I will not volunteer to live in a world where an idea as good and reasonable as ‘to make a marriage you need a husband and wife’ gets treated a radioactive proposition that you need to ‘pay some price’ in order to express.” Marriage deserves its unique status, because these are the only unions that can make new life and connect children in love to their mother and father. On that ground, I will stand or fall.
I hope David is able to blaze a trail, to get the New York Times to respond, to win some validation that there is something really wrong with a world where a respectable writer at a respectable paper can slander him in this way, not once but three times.