In the last twenty-five years, the Republican Party has only won the popular vote twice – in 1988 and 2004, and both of them were won by a guy named Bush. Demographics and political views are changing rapidly, and unless the GOP realizes that, they will become more and more out of touch with voters. One issue they need to ‘catch up with the times’ on is that of gay rights.
No political party should give up its principles solely for the sake of winning elections. However, there is a way for Republicans to embrace gay marriage, while still holding true to conservative values.
The Republican Party platform should be support for individual rights, limited government, free markets, small ‘r’ republicanism, states’ rights, constitutionalism, and, in a nutshell – life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
There is nothing conservative about government telling gays whether they can or cannot get married; whether they can or can’t be put on each other’s health insurance plan, or whether they can or can’t bequeath their estate as an inheritance to their partner.
Allowing big government to intrude into our bedrooms, and say which unions are proper and which are not, is not the makings of a small government with respect for individual rights. That is closer to totalitarianism than anything else. By having such stubborn positions against gay marriage, largely due to pressure from the religious-right, Republicans are taking up views on gay marriage that does, in fact, go against true conservatism.
Gays should have the same rights as everyone else. That means tax filing status, inheritance rights, health insurance plans, and, importantly, military service. President Obama’s repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, which prohibited gays from serving openly in the military, was one of the best, most necessary reforms under his administration; something the President definitely got right. Gays should not fight and die for freedoms they themselves cannot enjoy. There are rules governing military conduct – not dishonoring the uniform by lewd behavior or vulgar language, and so long as gay soldiers uphold these standards, they should absolutely be allowed to serve openly in the military.
The argument that gays would disrupt “unit cohesion” is an odious doctrine that was also used to oppose desegregation in the military. If someone is willing to fight and die for his country, but is unable to serve alongside another soldier who happens to be gay, that first soldier does not deserve to wear the uniform. He is the problem; not the gay soldier.
In the 2012 debates, when the crowd booed a gay soldier, Republicans reached a new low and they should’ve been ashamed of themselves. One of the candidates on stage should’ve had the courage to step out and say that soldier should be applauded for his service, not booed because he happens to be gay. The fact that every candidate remained silent was one of the greatest embarrassments for the GOP in the campaign for 2012. Republicans are supposed to honor military service – male, female, black, white, immigrant, citizen, gay, straight. They are all supposed to be honored for their service, not booed for their orientation.
Some people argue that gay marriage should be illegal because gays cannot procreate, and that inability destroys the purpose of marriage. However, many straight people are married, who are also unable to procreate. They might be infertile, have too low sperm count, the woman may’ve been fixed so she can’t conceive, the man might’ve been snipped, or any other circumstance which prohibits conception. If “ability to procreate” is to be the requirement for marriage, then every man and woman who has one of these conditions should be barred from marriage. Ability to conceive is not the purpose of marriage though. To devote your life to another person in love and partnership – that is the purpose of marriage.
This leads into the next issue, which is adoption. The argument that gay parents would ‘turn’ a kid gay is a foolish argument on the face of it. Should Christian parents be banned from adoption, out of fear that they might ‘turn’ a child Christian? Many Christian parents might adopt simply for that reason! However, gay parents are less likely to proselytize and ‘turn their child gay’, and more likely to teach them about tolerance, respecting others for their differences, being perseverant, being proud of who they are, and not giving in to peer pressure. More than that, many ‘straight’ parents mistreat their kids. It takes only a few minutes in any Wal-Mart to see evidence of it. Gay parents are far more likely to appreciate their children, simply because they’ve waited longer to have them. Better to have a child raised by a loving gay couple than a verbally abusive straight couple that only had the child due to one night of drinking and partying. The primary question for a couple interested in adoption is whether they would provide a safe, loving home for the child – and many gays would make great parents based on that qualification. So they should be able to adopt.
Now, the critically important question of “HOW” we make gay marriage a law. There’s a way to do it within the Constitution, and a way to do it without the Constitution. The wrong way is to allow five life-appointed Supreme Court judges to write their own political or ethical views into our Constitution. The Supreme Court is not the place to make ‘good policy decisions’ to ‘move our country forward’; it is to interpret the Constitution as written and as intended. The Constitution is silent about marriage rights – it’s not part of speech, it’s not assembly, it’s not religion, it’s not press. Powers not delegated to the federal government are reserved to the states.
That’s the first solution – leave the issue of marriage to the states. California can grant gay marriage, Idaho could only have civil unions, Alabama could have only traditional marriage. That is all in line with the Constitution. The only thing a state cannot do is ban interracial marriage, or marriage to one race. That is covered by the equal protection clause in the 14th amendment. You can make a law saying gays cannot get married, you can even make a law saying straights cannot get married if you wanted to (since marriage isn’t a constitutional right), but you cannot single out people based on color or race due to equal protection and the 14th amendment.
This leads to the second solution, and that is an amendment to the Constitution. From here, pretty much anything is permissible. If you want a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, polygamy, incest, whatever, you can do it. If you want a constitutional amendment specifying that marriage is only between one woman and one man (traditional marriage), or between two unrelated consenting adults (gay marriage), or two consenting adults (incest), or just consenting adults (polygamy and bigamy), anything that you can pass with the required number of states is constitutional. You can create essentially any marriage law you want through the amendment process, except interracial marriage or race-specific laws, because that is already covered by the 14th amendment. In other words you can pass gay marriage, but you can’t say black gays cannot get married – equal protection. You can allow incest, but you can’t say white siblings cannot get married – equal protection. You can ban polygamy – but you can’t allow it just for Asians – equal protection. If you say only a man and a woman can get married, that covers all men and women, black, white, Hispanic, Asian, everything. If you say gays can get married, that covers all gays. Race-specific laws are prohibited.
There is one more issue though, and that is litigation for discrimination against gay unions. Namely, that is suing ministers for not performing a ceremony for a gay couple, suing cake decorators, wedding planners, florists, churches, bed and breakfast inns, etc. Discrimination in this case should be allowed, though. Again, sexual orientation is not covered by equal protection; race is. If a cake decorator doesn’t want to bake a cake for a gay couple, they shouldn’t have to. There should be no penalty for their refusal to do so. However, this works both ways. If a minister only wants to perform gay marriages, he should be allowed to. If a wedding photographer only wants to photograph gay weddings, that’s fair. This falls more into free markets than it does individual rights. Unless it is based on color or race, your rights are not violated if a minister simply refuses to marry you to your partner. In that case, find another minister. Hire another cake decorator. This would in fact encourage competition. If a cake decorator is adamantly against gay unions, then someone will likely create their own business specifically for baking cakes for gay couples. That is a wonderful expression of American democracy and free enterprise.
The TEA Party has a slogan – “Don’t Tread On Me”. How can conservatives have that slogan, though, if they are simultaneously supporting government trampling on gay rights? When you are that hypocritical, you might as well adopt the slogan, “Don’t tread on me, but gays are fair game.” Don’t give up the slogan, though, fellow Republicans – “Don’t Tread On Me” is a great rallying call for conservatives. They just need to evolve on gay rights to ensure that they are true to it.
Republicans, as defenders of small government and individual rights, should not be on the losing side in history; they should be championing the issue and leading the march for gay rights. It is within conservative principles to stand up for our gay brothers and sisters. They are Americans, and have as much a right to their life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness as anyone else. If the Republican Party is unable to make this necessary shift on gay rights, and soon, then maybe the party is beyond redemption.