During the Roy Moore brouhaha Moore’s liberal opponents (he had plenty of conservative ones too, including here at NRO) said that the mere sight of the 10 Commandments was offensive and oppressive to many people. I assumed they were referring to atheists, Hindus, Buddhists and folks simply looking to be ticked off, since Muslims, Jews and Christians alike really don’t have problems with the 10 Commandments — and my guess is neither do most Hindus and Buddhists either, except for the Monotheism part. Defenders of Moore often said “who does it hurt?” And the answer was usually very absract and/or hard to follow because the monument obviously didn’t actually hurt anybody except in a symbolic sense.
Fast forward. Now with same-sex marriage, Barney Frank and others insist that gay marriages don’t hurt anybody, don’t inflict damage on anybody else’s marriage etc. I think as a general proposition this is more right than wrong. Lesbians and homosexuals have been “nesting” all around me for years and my marriage, and my parents’ and friends’ marriages are withstanding the psychic impact quite nicely, thank you. And I’m sure this goes for most everybody else as well.
However, there are lots and lots of people who take just as much — indeed probably considerably more — offense to the image of same-sex couples getting married or “married” (I can’t remember if the quotation marks are required any more). They consider it a direct affront to their beliefs, to the kind of nation they’ve always believed they lived in etc.
Now, I understand from all the email I’ve gotten from gays that many of them consider the FMA oppressive to them, if only symbolically. Fair enough. But I do wish that oppressed and “oppressed” minorities could understand that under our system of law and in our culture majorities can feel oppressed too. In fact, in our society it’s much easier to take a pound of flesh out of the majority than it is from the minority. Think affirmative action or, more relevant to this discussion, the denial of their religious symbols in the public square and doing what they perceive as violence to institutions like marriage. I agree that sometimes these grievances are “merely” symbolic. But I fail to see how symbolically slighting the majority is any more or less legitimate than similarly slighting the minority.
When Andrew Sullivan et al. claim that this is a fight with only one side eligible for feeling oppressed or aggrieved they perpetuate the feelings of grievance and oppression felt by millions of Americans and they coarsen an argument that certainly doesn’t need any more coarsening.