The Corner

Denouncing Lack of Denunciation

Andrew Sullivan is on a tear about the Right and gays again. He makes some legitimate points. For example, I don’t know anything about Paul Cameron except what his critics say about him but if Andrew’s right about him, conservatives shouldn’t have anything to do with Cameron.

But this sort of raises my problem with Andrew’s approach in this post:

The other insistence by those opposed to equal marriage rights is that they are not averse to private contracts that might amount to some sort of civil unions. “See?” – they say. “We don’t hate gays. We just love marriage!” Yet in Virginia, a law was just passed that explicitly denies the validity of any such contracts, voids civil unions of any kind, under any name, and may eventually be struck down by the Supreme Court for the radicalism of its attempt to prevent even private legal arrangements to protect such things as hospital visitation. This was a Republican-sponsored measure, and exposes the lie that the Republican party is tolerant of gays but draws the line at marriage. Have you heard Stanley Kurtz or Maggie Gallagher oppose this law? Have you heard a single conservative commentator worry about it? Recall that Kurtz is aware of five same-sex marriages in a remote region of Norway but is apparently unaware of what has just happened in Virginia.

Stan and Maggie can answer for themselves. But as a conservative who came out (pardon the phrase) in favor of civil unions a long time ago, I think Andrew’s missing a basic point. Most conservatives who don’t regularly write about “gay issues” refrain from doing so for a fairly simple reason: they don’t care about them very much one way or the other. Speaking solely for myself, I don’t track every event in the world of homosexually oriented public policy. The first time I hear about most of these sorts of things is from reading Andrew Sullivan’s site. I think this is a sign of my generally libertarian attitude toward gay stuff. I don’t think the silence of conservatives on such events as those in Virginia is a sign of our approval, my guess is it’s a sign of our ignorance. Besides, every day I have to pick and choose what I am going to get outraged about enough to denounce. I have a full plate.

But it seems to me that to require regular denunciations on all issues gay advocates consider outrageous is unfair and counter-productive. Unfair because it in effect is demanding that everyone be as passionate about gays as gays are and counter-productive because mau-mauing conservatives into making choices may not move them into making the choices gays would like.

As for the substance, all I know is what Andrew says about it but I think Virginia’s move sounds wrong. I think it’s crazy to deny adults the ability to choose who can visit them in the hospital or the ability to share property. However, as a supporter of federalism, which Andrew claims to be as well, I don’t know exactly what he wants conservatives at the national level to say about Virginia’s democratically decided decisions. If it’s okay for Massachusetts to be 100% in favor of gay unions up to and including marriage, and if Barney Frank is right that it’s nobody’s business but Massachussets’ what Massachussets does, why is what Virginia does so different?

Jonah Goldberg — Jonah Goldberg holds the Asness Chair in Applied Liberty at the American Enterprise Institute and is a senior editor of National Review. His new book, The Suicide of The West, is on sale now.

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