Thursday, February 18, 2010


This video was recorded yesterday at the libertarian Cato Institute. It's of a speech and debate on the topic "Is There a Place for Gay People in Conservatism and Conservative Politics?" It is fantastic.

The headline speech is from Nick Herbert, an openly gay, civilly partnered MP from the UK. I love the part of his speech where he shows his ring :-)

The following debate is between Andrew Sullivan and Maggie Gallagher. Andrew speaks passionately about his libertarian, non-Republican convictions and quite emotionally about his own marriage to his husband. (For the non-Catholics out there, yesterday was ash Wednesday. Sullivan is a practicing Catholic, which explains the ashes on his forehead.) Maggie Gallagher... well, I'll let her speak for herself.

Some of my own thoughts:
  1. I disagree with Herbert's statement that heterosexual couples as parents are superior to gay couples. In fact, many studies have investigated this area and have found that on virtually every metric studied, children of gay parents fare as well or better than children of heterosexual parents.

  2. Gallagher stated "if gay rights are understood as liberty interests and rights they are extremely compatible with American conservatism. But equality rights and arguments lead to the expansion of government power to repress, stigmatize, and marginalize those who advocate for and institutionalize around ideas that are contrary to basic democratic norms of equality." I think there is a nuance here that I don't quite understand, and I hope someone can explain it to me. I'm trying to substitute any other equality issue (e.g. race, gender, national origin) into her second sentence and make it make sense, but I can't.

  3. Gallagher lamented her perspective that the view that heterosexual marriage is superior to gay marriage is considered bigotry or a modern equivalent of racism. I don't think this is actually the case (yet) in the majority of the country, but I do think this public attitude is on it's way. And I actually think such a public attitude is acceptable--in the public sector. By the same token, I will happily fight alongside Gallagher (just as the ACLU would and indeed now does) for her to teach such things to her children in her home or teach other like-minded people in her personal club or faith community.

  4. Herbert bombed responding to a statement from the audience that implied hate crimes legislation was contrary to conservative values because they "give a different penalty for the same crime if it aimed at a gay person or a straight person." The correct response to this question is to identify that the claim is based on popular misconceptions of hate crimes law. Most people have not read the actual law, which makes it clear that American hate crimes legislation assign equivalent punishment intensifiers to crimes committed against straight people and gay people, provided the motivation for the crime is shown to be based on the victim's orientation--regardless of whether victim's orientation is gay or straight. So a gay criminal can be charged with a hate crime against a straight victim provided a jury is convinced beyond reasonable doubt that the crime was motivated by the criminal's opposition to the victim's heterosexual orientation.
I haven't quite finished the video, so I may have some more thoughts to follow. This is really good stuff. It was especially good for me to hear Maggie Gallagher articulate her opinion on the matter. I wish for more open debate like this instead of the slanderous soundbytes that have dominated the "culture war" on this issue.

1 comment:

Julia said...

1) An example might be the Catholic Church confining its priesthood to men. If a student at a Catholic college gets a student loan--which loans Obama has federalized--and chooses to go to a Catholic college,it will be argued that public money is being used to support gender discrimination. 2)Suppose a Jewish adoption agency wishes to place Jewish babies (defined as biological offspring of a Jewish mother) with only Jewish couples. Even if they took no state money they would likely be denied a license in Massachusetts on grounds of religious discrimination. 3)Gallagher pointed out that this has already happened w/ the Massachusetts Catholic adoption agency (which took no state money) for refusal to adopt to gay couples. [Full disclosure: I was raised Roman Catholic and converted to Judaism in my 30's. I happen to agree w/ Catholics on a male priesthood (for sociological reasons) and with Jews on defining a baby as Jewish--or not..(also for sociological and historic reasons. In neither case 1) nor 2) do I think that God, as I understand "Him," has a preference either way.) I disagree w/ Catholics (on Catholic grounds!)on gay marriage because I believe Catholic natural law, properly applied, would see marriage between two gay people as (usually) more natural than marriage between a gay person and a straight one. It requires a definition of sexual nature that goes beyond "which-body-parts-fit-together-where" and looks at the persons' emotional and psychological nature. There is some support in Catholic history for that broader view of nature/sex/marriage. Nevertheless I would defend Catholics' legal right to preach and enforce (in their institutions) their current, blinkered view of sexual nature.