Polemics & Exchanges: October 2023

Is the Marriage Fight Over?

While I am sure Tom Piatak and I share many of the same opinions on things LGBT, his editorial, “The Voice of God No More” (Chronicles, August 2023), betrays significant concessions to the LGBT ideology that have proved decisive in everything from the redefinition of marriage to Drag Queen Story Hours and the sexual mutilation of children.

Mr. Piatak wrote that “the reason that Americans generally made peace with gay marriage and have not strongly objected to ‘Pride Month,’ … is that most Americans became persuaded that sexual orientation is not chosen.”

When the Obergefell decision recognizing same-sex marriage came down, most Americans—33 states to be exact—had already voted to ban redefining marriage. At that time, only 11 states had passed legislation recognizing same-sex marriage. Americans had been persuaded to vote against redefinition (even in California!); Obergefell forced it down their throats. Do Christians and other conservatives really need to take up the tactics of Antifa and BLM, to set our cities aflame to make clear to even those on our own side that we have not “made peace” with the government redefinition of marriage?

Mr. Piatak also writes that “sexual orientation is not chosen.” It’s true that an alarmingly high percentage of young boys who are molested by older men will go on to develop a same-sex attraction in their teen years and will be far more likely to become pedophiles themselves later in life. However, despite the millions of dollars spent on a half-century of research (conducted almost entirely by same-sex attracted scientists), no one has determined a genetic predisposition for same-sex attraction. But even if genetics were found to be a contributing factor toward such behavior, as it is with promiscuity, alcoholism, and perhaps pedophilia, would we then say that promiscuity, drunkenness, pedophilia, and sodomy have been rendered morally licit because some men have a predisposition to really, really want to act on those desires? 

Mr. Piatak then writes that “greater rights for gay couples were inevitable.” What “greater rights”? Are Mr. Piatak and Chronicles now of the opinion that Obergefell was correctly decided and that same-sex attracted men and women really were denied certain rights guaranteed under the United States Constitution? What else could “greater rights” possibly mean?  

But Mr. Piatak’s main point is that the whole mess from Drag Queen Story Hour, to 37 genders, to anti-Catholicism, not to mention the sexual mutilation of children, the grooming of children in our elementary schools, and so forth all would have been avoided had an acceptance for sodomy been framed as a matter of tolerance and privacy, and had the country taken the path of civil unions over redefinition.

Because space prevents my delving into the many false presumptions here, let me at least say that civil unions were first promoted by LGBT activists as a stepping-stone to marriage redefinition. The idea was that once they got civil unions through the legislature (as they did in Illinois and Vermont), they would then attack them as bestowing a demeaning second-class status to marriage. In my experience, those men on the right who think this all could have ended with civil unions are the same men who had already been persuaded, by LGBT activists, that they were “born that way,” and that “tolerance” calls for “greater rights.” 

—J. Douglas Johnson 

Executive Editor 

Touchstone Magazine

Tom Piatak Replies:

I think Touchstone has an important role to play in the fight that exists today: to shore up the few battlements of Christendom still standing, and to begin the reconstruction of the remainder. Mr. Johnson and I are on the same side in that fight, and I thank him for the courtesy of reading my column, and then writing a thorough critique. 

In saying that a majority of Americans had made their peace with the redefinition of marriage to include what is now called “gay marriage,” I was thinking of the stark contrast between the scattered and short-lived protests against Obergefell and the March for Life protest, which drew hundreds of thousands of Americans every January to Washington, D.C., to demonstrate their absolute commitment to overturn Roe v. Wade. The Supreme Court was not allowed to forget that millions of Americans did not accept the legitimacy of their decision, and never would. (I am proud to say that I have made it to the March twice, and even prouder to say all three of my nieces attended the March several times, entirely on their own initiative).

I wish there were a protest movement comparable to the March for Life concerning gay marriage in general and Obergefell in particular, but there isn’t, and no one that I know of is trying to organize one. Nor are there many politicians  seeking office by promising to appoint Supreme Court justices who would vote to overturn Obergefell. These silences speak volumes.

Mr. Johnson misreads my article when he writes that I believe sexual orientation is not chosen. I was explaining why Americans do not march in their hundreds of thousands every year to protest Obergefell, and why so few candidates have even attempted to campaign against Obergefell. There is little doubt that at this point a majority of our fellow Americans believe sexual orientation is both involuntary and immutable.

My own views, for what they may be worth, are that a fairly large percentage of women who regard themselves as lesbians have chosen to do so and that a smaller but not insignificant percentage of men identifying as gay have made a similar choice.  

I also agree with Mr. Johnson that whether and how and to what degree sexual orientation is a matter of choice should make no difference to a constitutional analysis of a claimed right to “gay marriage.” Such a right is as fictitious as the right to abortion invented in Roe v. Wade.

However, it does matter in terms of public opinion whether or not sexual orientation is immutable, which was what I was discussing when I wrote that “greater rights for gay couples were inevitable.” The “rights” I was thinking of were rights granted by state legislators acting democratically,  not federal judges acting dictatorially.

Let me make my point a bit more concrete with a specific example. There are many people who have lived together for years and never been married. If one member of the couple becomes chronically ill and the other dedicates his life to caring for the other, I believe the caregiver is acting rightly and also benefiting society. I also believe that state legislatures can give some sort of legal recognition to the underlying union to make the caregiver’s task easier, without undermining the unique and irreplaceable status of marriage. This is true particularly if the benefits offered by the statute are available to people whose relationship was never sexual, such as a devoted daughter caring for an infirm mother.

I am not blaming social conservatives for the nonsense and nastiness that logically followed from Obergefell and its endorsement of absolute equality and unfettered personal autonomy as the ordering principles of American life. It was gay activists, not social conservatives, who insisted on framing the issue in those terms, and they bear moral responsibility for the sexual chaos and confusion that has followed Obergefell.

I do suggest that it might have been possible to limit the damage caused by the legal recognition of gay marriage, if that recognition had not also tightened the stranglehold those unattainable and deadly ideals (of absolute equality and personal liberty) already have on America. 

The point of my thought experiment was to drive home just how deadly and unattainable those ideals are. The current mania for transgenderism is beginning to backfire. People are disgusted by its excesses, bewildered by how such a small slice of the population commands so much attention, and bored or offended by the insertion of LGBT issues into every movie, TV program, and sporting event they used to enjoy, even the commercials.

A substantial number of those fed up with cross-dressers, sex changers, and all the rest, though, still distinguish the “LG” from the “BT.” It is one thing to believe that people have no choice over which sex arouses them. It is quite another to believe that certain men have no choice but to dress as women, much less to believe a man can get pregnant or that a woman can get someone pregnant.

This moment of disgust at the ever-crazier ideas advancing under the rainbow flag might also provide an opening for conservatives to re-engage on the marriage issue.

Remembering that there are alternatives to the type of “gay marriage” Obergefell forced upon all 50 states may also enable conservatives, if the battle over marriage begins again, to win this time.

—Tom Piatak

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