People demonstrate outside the Supreme Court building in Washington March 26, 2013. (CNS photo)
Claims that something is inevitable
are generally of two kinds. Sometimes the claim is simply a statement
of fact ("Inevitably, the sun will rise tomorrow"). Other
times it expresses a wish or perhaps a fear ("So-and-so is sure
to be next president of the United States").
The claim that same-sex marriage is
inevitable in the entire U.S. is of the second kind--a rhetorical
ploy by advocates who hope frequent repetition of the claim will
bully opponents into a defeatist state of mind. For them at least,
this makes perfectly good sense.
But it doesn't make any sense at all
for the opponents. In meekly accepting the claims of the other side
as gospel truth, they put a damper on resistance and help make the
inevitability of gay marriage a fact.
An instance of what I'm talking about
was the dismaying reaction of a prominent prolife activist to the
Supreme Court marriage decisions last month. One overturned a key
provision of the federal Defense of Marriage Act while the other let
stand, on procedural grounds rather than substantive ones, a lower
court ruling against California's Proposition 8 banning gay marriage
in that state.
These were indeed victories for the
same-sex marriage people but by no means final and definitive ones.
Yet the person of whom I speak chose to call them the "rejection
of marriage in America" while likening them to the Supreme
Court's action in the 1973 abortion decision Roe v. Wade.
This reaction was, to say the
least, a bad idea. In Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court asserted
a constitutional basis for nationwide abortion on demand. This,
however, is precisely what the justices did not do with same-sex
marriage. Instead, they left the question--so far at least--up to the
states. That's the point opponents of gay marriage need to be
There was something of the same
troubling tendency to concede too much in Justice Antonin Scalia's
otherwise admirable dissent from Justice Anthony Kennedy's obnoxious
majority opinion in the DOMA case. Next time the question comes
before the court, Justice Scalia declared, the majority can be
counted on to ratchet up its approval of same-sex marriage to the
level of national policy.
Maybe so. But then again--maybe not.
And saying it's inevitable doesn't help.
One need not be Little Mary Sunshine
in order to believe that this fight will go on. Thirty states have
amended their constitutions to ban gay marriage, and the resistance
in many of these will be fierce.
Significantly, too, public opinion on
the issue varies vastly on a regional basis, ranging from over 60%
support in New England--where all of the states recognize gay
marriage--to over 50% opposition in the eight
South Central states. For the most part, despite the strenuous
efforts of the media, gay marriage, while enjoying predictably strong
backing in culturally liberal areas, has yet to make significant
inroads in the American heartland.
By religion, support ranges from over
80% among Jews and people with no religious affiliation to only about
30% among white evangelical Protestants. About 60% of Catholics are
said to support gay marriage--but this figure obviously is skewed
upward by the support of non-practicing Catholics.
People looking for motivation to
resist need look no further than Justice Kennedy's DOMA opinion. In
effect, Kennedy told the world that opponents of same-sex marriage
are hateful bigots. Of this one can only say that Supreme Court
justices demean their office in stooping to name-calling to support