Ken Mehlman is either deluded or disingenuous. The former chairman of the Republican National Committee is among those now trying to bring the Republican Party around to the cause of gay marriage. In today’s Wall Street Journal he made his case.
Here is the most egregious paragraph.
Some misperceive the issue of marriage equality as exclusively progressive. Yet what could be more conservative than support for more freedom and less government? And what freedom is more basic than the right to marry the person you love? Smaller, less intrusive government surely includes an individual deciding whom to marry. Allowing civil marriage for same-sex couples will cultivate community stability, encourage fidelity and commitment, and foster family values.
Same-sex marriage will encourage fidelity and commitment, and foster family values? We can’t predict the future of culture, and I suppose Mehlman is entitled to his dreams. But a sober-minded observer sees that same-sex marriage puts an exclamation mark on the transformation of marriage and parenting from the basic norm for adult life into one life-style choice among many, one that we can enter and exit as our choices change. There’s nothing about same-sex marriage other than the now redefined word “marriage” that remotely suggests “family values.”
Even more ridiculous is the notion that redefining marriage makes government less intrusive. The notion of civil rights that fuels the push for “marriage equality” requires pumping up the power of the state to bulldoze older traditions and attitudes that stand in the way of the full acceptance and affirmation of homosexuality. It’s going to lead to litigation, regulation, mandated school programs and “inclusivity” seminars, and lots of other legislation. For good and for ill, the civil rights revolution of the 1960s created entire government bureaucracies, which in turn led to corporate diversity consultants and many other positions, all keyed to compliance.
Mehlman needs to either open his eyes or be honest: the gay rights movement can’t succeed unless and until the apparatus of the state is brought to bear on traditional institutions that don’t treat homosexuality and heterosexuality equally. It’s not just religious institutions. Basic cultural practices such as sex-segregated bathrooms and locker rooms will be revisedand always under pressure from the courts and government bureaucracies tasked to ensure LGBT rights.
This is in the nature of all progressive projects. The push toward redefining marriage involves creating a new possibility that would not otherwise come to pass if traditional institutions and attitudes were left alone. How will this change be effected. What will have sufficient power to overcome the always substantial solidity of the status quo? Government, of course. That’s why the progressive project is always essentially political.
Case in point: by Mehlman’s way of thinking, the most basic institution of civil life, marriage itself, is a creation of the modern state to be redefined as the political will sees fit. If we can redefine marriage at such a fundamental level, then what is there in society other than individual choices and the power of the state?
Moreover, were I to design a cultural agenda to guarantee a fresh and widespread expansion of the modern welfare state, it would be the sexual revolution. Divorce, co-habitation, single-parenting, the general decline of marriage among working and middle class peopleall these social phenomena atomize us, tending as they do toward lives organized around individual needs and choices. This makes us more vulnerable to our own stupidity, our disordered desires and lack of self-discipline.
That’s why, without the oldest and most effective social safety netthe familywe’re bound to need expanded government-funded programs. Put differently, without a transcendent order in ordered liberty, we’ll get politically generated order, which is another way of saying more government.
Final Thought: Mehlman’s delusion or disingenuousness exposes the latent, revolutionary character of the free market ideologues who play a very important role in the Republican Party. For them, the solution to all social problems is “more freedom and less government.” That’s obviously absurd. Only self-discipline and a robust sense of personal responsibility allow us to live with less government. Given original sin and the disordered character of our desires, more licensethe freedom to do as we pleasecalls for more government. It’s a deep truth about society that Thomas Hobbes saw with great clarity.