As the national marriage debate advances, history can teach us a lesson about our circumstances. Consider alcohol prohibition. In his excellent book, Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition, Daniel Okrent charts the rise of the movement that led to the Eighteenth Amendment and its later repeal.
Prohibitionism began a century before the law changed, born of real concerns about the tragedies alcoholism inflicted on countless American families. But as Okrent argues, what started as an effort to reform men so that they would choose their family and work responsibilities over inebriation ended as “an imposition of teetotalism on the unwilling.” The very good goal of temperance gave way to tyranny.
As our Supreme Court considers the constitutionality of California’s Proposition 8 and Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), we face similar prospects: Will the Court usurp the people’s authority to define marriage, in order to dilute it and render it meaningless? Will it bend and twist an immutable concept to accommodate an implausible dogma of political correctness?
Prohibitionism succeeded because its leaders won public opinion to their cause. But the Eighteenth Amendment was repealed because that same cause fell from popularity. I predict the same trajectory for the same-sex marriage movement.
Proponents of same-sex marriage, especially the mainstream media, have conjured up a very impressive perception of near-universal consent to their agenda since last November’s ballot victories. It suddenly seems as if acceptance of same-sex marriage is an unstoppable tsunami, sweeping across the nation, knocking down principled opposition (and gathering up the gullible), i.e., everyone, in its path.
But tsunamis always recede. Or, as Okrent puts it, fevers always fade. Hurricanes always die down.
That’s why this issue is so urgent right now: Proponents know that the aura of fairness and equity associated with the same-sex marriage movement will soon dissipate.
At National Review Online, Rich Lowry observes:
It is a sign of how far supporters of gay marriage have advanced that the term “opposite-sex marriage”—an infelicitous phrase that once would have been a confounding tautology—is now in common usage.
They have all the momentum. The polls are swinging their way. They had victories in state-level referenda for the first time in 2012. The entire Democratic party is converting to their cause, and conservatives are increasingly split.
This would all seem reason to conclude that their campaign of persuasion is working, and to keep at it. Instead, supporters of same-sex marriage are asking the Supreme Court to declare the traditional definition of marriage—and by extension everyone who adheres to it—irrational and bigoted. They want to short-circuit democratic deliberation via court ruling as great cultural ukase.
There’s a reason for this. Proponents of same-sex marriage must derail public discourse and demand quick action via judicial, executive, and/or legislative fiat; otherwise their mission is doomed.
Consider how “the conservative case” for same-sex marriage emerged and grabbed national headlines in recent weeks. Was this spontaneous? No. It was engineered very carefully. The steady, daily drumbeat of conservatives “coming to their senses” has overwhelmed many news consumers and their non-tuned-in friends whose opinions they help to form, driving polls up. But the fact is that there really wasn’t much news to begin with.
Over 100 Republican leaders signed an amicus brief in support of same-sex marriage. So what? Only two are currently elected officials.
Some NFL players submitted a similar amicus brief. Again, what’s the big deal? With 32 NFL teams, each with 53 players on the active roster (totaling 1,696), they amount to less than one-fourth of 1 percent of all NFL players.
What about Jon Huntsman? Senator Rob Portman? Media made it sound like the entire Republican Caucus in the U.S. Senate and the NFL had become friends of Dorothy.
Chris Cillizza from the Washington Post, for example, made the wild unsubstantiated claim that “The political debate over gay marriage is over,” and Republican strategist Ana Navarro said, “This is now undeniable. The shift is here. We’re not going back.” It’s hard to tell whether media and politicians are being strategic or whether their reason and intellects have also been swept away in a tsunami of their own making.
We also need to notice what has actually happened in the LGBT community since marriage was redefined in nine states and the District of Columbia. The media would have us think there is a huge pent-up demand by gays to marry. But if that were true, there should have been massive stampedes to the licensing departments in those states that instituted same-sex marriage immediately after its legalization. On the contrary, the mad dash to the altar by couples dressed in matching tuxedos or wedding dresses has never really materialized.
To give one example: Before Sunday, July 24, 2011, the first day that same-sex couples could legally wed in New York City, officials devised a lottery system to handle the expected onslaught of thousands of marriage applications for genderless marriage. They projected they could handle a total of 2,500 marriages on that auspicious day.
Yet, by the time the 48-hour lottery had closed on the preceding Thursday, only 823 couples had signed up—less than one third of the anticipated demand! And remember, not all of those couples were from New York. A shoe sale at Macy’s would’ve produced a bigger stampede.
As it turns out, the pent-up demand for same-sex marriage was never all that pent-up, and the demand in general for marriage among gays and lesbians appears quite anemic.
Put all this together and it’s evident that there’s no real urgent need for same-sex marriage to be instituted, no great demand for it, and no sea change of conservative support. In fact, the degree of popular support has been fabricated, woven from thin strands of sophistry and fragile threads of emotion.
Proponents are well aware of just how weak and vulnerable their grandiose narrative is, so they desperately need the Supreme Court to rule in their favor. June, when their ruling will be announced, can’t come fast enough as far as they’re concerned; otherwise the push for sweeping transformational change is lost.
Just as the Prohibition movement advanced too far, leading to repeal, so too will the same-sex marriage cabal’s efforts be recognized as a tyrannical assault on freedom and a rejection of natural law and reason.
Some may ask, “Prohibition was repealed because it limited the rights of Americans; isn't same sex marriage about expanding—not limiting—our rights?” Absolutely not. Extending the term “marriage” to male/male and female/female couples will have exactly the opposite effect, because it will collapse all differences between marriage and any other close relationship between two people. And if marriage is rendered indistinct from other forms of companionship, we will have destroyed the greatest intermediary structure standing between the individual and the power of the state.
Marriages and the families they produce are the only things that prevent all of us from becoming “Julia,” the hypothetical woman featured on the 2012 Obama campaign's website. The campaign created “The Life of Julia” to display the bountiful range of services our magnanimous government can provide to a single woman.
Yet Julia's life, impoverished by the absence of a family, other than a child she miraculously conceives without a husband, is a cautionary tale for all who prefer liberty to government intrusion and dependency. With fractured, undefined families, all of which are nothing more than government-sanctioned social units, there will be no barrier between each of us and the eventual tyranny of the state. We will need big government to fill the void in our lives.
Our recent juridical and legislative history is rife with assaults on the rights and needs of children, always trumped in favor of selfish adults. No more. I am confident that the naked overreach of the media and progressive activists on this issue will invite a voter backlash that will either meet or exceed the same-sex marriage movement’s achievements, leading to a thorough rethinking of Roe v. Wade, no-fault divorce, and our debilitating, anti-family, anti-father welfare state.
Doug Mainwaring is co-founder of the National Capital Tea Party Patriots.