The Corner

Barney Frank Is Right

If you left the gay-marriage debate up to regular Americans — gay or straight — it would look very different. Americans are remarkably kind in real life, by and large. People try to treat each other well and they work hard to find a way that everyone can be okay, even if they disagree on deeply held moral issues.

But large public movements aren’t run by normal Americans (on either side). Jeff Jacoby’s column in the Boston Globe, “Wedded to Vitriol, Backers of Gay Marriage Stumble,” points out that most public gay-marriage supporters do not even try to understand the people who disagree with them. And in so failing, they make moral monsters out of more than half the American people:  

“‘Bigotry trumps compassion,’ wrote commentator Michael Stone, calling the vote ‘a shameful display of ignorance, bigotry, and hate.’ . . . When will it occur to supporters of same-sex marriage that they do their cause no good by characterizing those who disagree with them as haters, bigots, and ignorant homophobes? It may be emotionally satisfying to despise as moral cripples the majorities who oppose gay marriage. But after going 0 for 31 . . .Wouldn’t it make more sense to concede that thoughtful voters can have reasonable concerns about gay marriage, concerns that will not be allayed by describing those voters as contemptible troglodytes? . . .

I don’t regard the redefinition of marriage as a civil rights issue. . .  But I recognize that many people – sincere and decent people – do. By my lights they are mistaken, not evil.

Why do so many same-sex marriage advocates find it so hard to see marriage traditionalists in the same light? In a recent paper for the Heritage Foundation, Thomas Messner surveys the “naked animus’’ that was directed against supporters of Proposition 8, the California marriage amendment that voters approved last year. His meticulously footnoted study makes chilling reading, with example after example of the blacklisting, vandalism, intimidation, loss of employment, anti-religious hostility, and even death threats to which backers of Prop. 8 were subjected.

After 31 losses in 31 states, it’s time for same-sex marriage activists to seriously consider a piece of advice Barney Frank offered a few years ago. “There’s something to be said for cultural respect,’’ the nation’s most prominent gay political figure said in 2004. “Showing a bit of respect for cultural values with which you disagree is not a bad thing. Don’t call people bigots and fools just because you disagree with them.’’

If you feel the same way (whether you are pro or con on gay marriage), you can thank Jeff Jacoby for his courage and decency here.