The Corner

It’s Not Selma

Shelby Steele has a very interesting piece on gay marriage and how the fight for gay equality is not directly analogous to the fight for black equality. Obviously, I agree with him. But I find Steele’s owenrship of an argument largely owned by the far gay left to be a very interesting new development in the Right’s opposition to gay marriage. In the past — and still — most conservatives have decried homosexual relationships because they were temporary or polyamorous or simply alien to the traditional norm. Here Steele is essentially arguing these alien or unconventional relationships deserve social approval, acceptance or even celebration. I think it’s an interesting perspective, with considerable merit, even if I’m not ready to buy it entirely. Here’s the relevant part:

The true problem with gay marriage is that it consigns gays to a life of mimicry and pathos. It shoehorns them into an institution that does not reflect the best possibilities of their own sexual orientation. Gay love is freed from the procreative burden. It has no natural function beyond adult fulfillment in love. If this is a disadvantage when children are desired, it is likely an advantage when they are not — which is more often the case. In any case, gays can never be more than pretenders to an institution so utterly grounded in procreation. And dressing gay marriage in a suit of civil rights only consigns gays to yet another kind of mimicry. Stigma, not segregation, is the problem gays face. But insisting on a civil rights framework only leads gays into protest. But will protest affect stigma? Is “gay lovers as niggers” convincing? Protest is trying to hit the baseball with the glove.

The problem with so much mimicry is that it keeps gays from evolving institutions and rituals that reflect the true nature of homosexuality. Assuming, as I do, that gays should have the option of civil unions that afford them the legal prerogatives of marriage, isn’t it more important after that to allow quiet self-acceptance to lead the way to authentic institutions?

The stigmatization of homosexuals is wrong and makes no contribution to the moral health of our society. I was never worried for my children because they grew up knowing a gay couple that lived across the street, or because several family friends were gay. They learned early what we all know: that homosexuality is as permanent a feature of the human condition as heterosexuality. Nothing is gained in denying this. But neither should we deny that the two are inherently different. The gay marriage movement denies this difference in order to borrow “normalcy” from marriage. Thus, it is a movement born more of self-denial than self-acceptance, as if on some level it agrees with those who see gays as abnormal


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