Monday, March 08, 2004

All for One and None for All 2

All for One and None for All asked whether single sex marriage advocacy would set up a conflict with proponents of traditional marriage. Orson Scott Card believed it would. Some thoughtful readers disagree. Reader SC writes:

I don't think same-sex marriage advocates are encouraging a more profound turnaround of their opponents' mentality then, say, desegregation and civil rights advocates of the 1950s and 1960s were advocating. If *that* didn't "burst apart the system" (close, but thankfully no cigar; at any rate it was enough of a moral good to take that risk) I don't see how this will.

Demographic information suggests that to the younger generations this is essentially a non-issue; the fundamental decency and equality of gay people is taken for granted. As the older generations slowly pass away the threat of the ssm question or related debates "bursting apart the system" will be even less dangerous than it is now, because "the system" will in the main agree with the proposition.

This is an empirical question which will be answered in the coming years.

The campaign for gay marriages has been consistently compared to the Civil Rights movement. But the cast of characters does not transpose so neatly. By the 1960s the proponents of segregation were in the distinct minority. The Armed Forces had been desegregated in the 1950s and the United States had in political theory, though not in practice, affirmed the equality of the "Negro" by the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments, which were themselves largely the outcome of the Civil War. In a very fundamental sense, the Civil Rights Movement had been won on the battlefield at Gettysburg. Segregation continued to survive by remaining in the "closet". Local customs, local sheriffs. Jim Crow was a web of laws with ostensibly different aims whose real intent was to enforce segregation by stealth.

The Civil Rights activists of the 1960s understood this and organized the Freedom Rider campaign, designed to bring the values of the majority into open conflict with those of the minority. The whole idea was to put Jim Crow in direct and unavoidable confrontation with both the Constitution and established jurisprudence; to sandwich the Arkansas National Guard between Orval Faubus and the 101st Airborne.

The primary domestic use of the U. S. Army in the late l950's and l960's was in response to the civil rights revolution that established equal legal rights for African-Americans. President Eisenhower found himself in such a position in l957. Governor Orval Faubus of Arkansas defied a federal court order directing the racial integration of Central High School in Little Rock. Faubus not only denounced the court but ordered out the Arkansas National Guard to halt integration. Eisenhower's Attorney General, Herbert Brownell, had cautioned the President that if Faubus persisted, Federal action was unavoidable. Eisenhower was already on record against using the military to enforce Supreme Court rulings on civil rights, having told a press conference in July l957 that "I can't imagine any set of circumstances that would ever induce me to send federal troops to enforce a court order. continued defiance, and his calling out and then removing the Arkansas National Guard, led to rioting in Little Rock on 23 and 24 September. Though still loathe to use troops Eisenhower had to act, especially after the mayor of Little Rock pleaded for federal assistance. Eisenhower began by federalizing the Arkansas National Guard, the first time that had been done since Reconstruction. In addition, the President dispatched twelve hundred paratroopers from the l0lst Airborne Division and these uniformed soldiers kept Central High School open until May 1958.

The proponents of gay marriage have reversed the sequence. The Massachusetts court and the San Francisco wedding ceremonies, via the full faith and credit clause are effectively busing North. The minority is coming out to challenge the majority and not vice versa. Whether this succeeds or not will be known soon enough. But reader SC's comparison of the process to the Civil Rights movement at least partially concedes Card's second point -- there will be sparks.

The ordination of a gay bishop into the American Episcopal church provides some kind of empirical sample against which to judge the SSM campaign. Robinson's appointment did not trigger massive secession from the ECUSA that his opponents warned of. What it reproduced was Card's scenario: a series of quiet departures by certain churches, a falloff in donations, a real schism with the Episcopal Churches of the Third World. It created a kind of "don't ask and don't tell" arrangement where differing Episcopal churches maintained a kind of uneasy unity while continuing to differ. What it did not bring was a new spirit of vitality to the Episcopal church, whose numbers continue to decline. Watching the events which recently passed through a liberal church replay themselves through the United States and its Constitution will be fascinating to watch, but not altogether pleasant.

But if one steps back for a moment, it will be readily apparent that the indifference of the younger generation to gay issues in the American Episcopal church is not an endorsement of Robinson, but an indifference to the church altogether. What the young are not indifferent toward is Evangelical Christianity or Islam, which are the fastest growing religions. Double ditto for Europe. By 2050 there may be Muslim majorities in some Western European countries and what future SSM marriages have there must be left for time to answer. If Samuel Huntington's article The Hispanic Challenge holds any water, there must be doubts about that proposition in America too.

Why, then, lead on. O, that a man might know
The end of this day's business ere it come!
But it sufficeth that the day will end,
And then the end is known. Come, ho! away!