New York has become the largest state to approve so-called same-sex “marriage.” Supporters, obviously, were delighted at the news: Parades, street parties and countless other demonstrations of their feelings of moral superiority.
One of the most outlandish such demonstrations was found at Slate.com. There, a headline spoke of the “dead hand” keeping other states from approving same-sex “marriage.”
Now, in normal usage, “dead hand” refers to events in the distant past that disproportionately affect the present. But in Slate’s usage, the term was referring to recent popular votes, many less than five years ago, to prohibit same-sex marriage. It’s difficult to imagine a better example of the failure of elite opinion to understand how most Americans think and even to understand how democracy really works.
What’s behind this failure? My friend Princeton professor Robbie George laid it out in National Review online. According to George, who is co-author of the Manhattan Declaration, the New York vote was about more than marriage; it advanced “the cause of loosening norms of sexual ethics.”
It was part of larger trend wherein “forms of sexual conduct” that were traditionally regarded as “beneath the dignity of human beings as free and rational creatures” are promoted as “innocent” and “even liberating.”
This trend goes farther back than Hugh Hefner and the “sexual revolution” of the 1960s. It goes all to Sigmund Freud himself and later to people like Margaret Sanger and Alfred Kinsey. Although an objective reading of the historical record justifies using words like “racist,” “fraud,” and “buffoon” to describe people like Sanger and Kinsey, the liberal elite regard them as “visionaries.”
And, as George aptly put it, “the liberationist view they had championed eventually hardened into something very close to a matter of orthodoxy in elite circles.”
For them, adherence to what Robbie calls “sexual liberalism” is “a mark of urbanity and sophistication.” That same sexual liberalism dismisses those who reject it as “ignorant,” “intolerant,” and even “bigoted.”
From this perspective, you don’t try to understand “ignorance,” “intolerance,” and “bigotry” - you sweep them aside. Thus, votes taken as recently as 2006 and no earlier than ten years ago are treated as the equivalent of a colonial-era statute limiting the number of sheep grazing in Harvard Square.
In this philosophical and cultural atmosphere, it’s no surprise that arguments about the nature and purpose of marriage fall on clogged ears. The same sexual liberalism that rejects all meaningful restraints on sexual conduct is incapable of seeing marriage as “one-flesh union of sexually complementary spouses naturally ordered to the good of procreation.”
Since they don’t “get it” anyone who does must be “off” in some way and thus unworthy of any credence.
This is what we’re up against. We can win this fight, but it won’t be easy. It’s not just elites: many of our neighbors have bought into sexual liberalism, as well.
Saving marriage requires making a case, in words and deeds, against the sexual liberalism that is the real “dead hand” threatening future generations.