Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Gay Marriage and the Future of America

Steve Dillard writes at Southern Appeal that the push to legalize same-sex marriage

is no longer about tolerance, it is about forcing everyone to agree that homosexuality is perfectly normal. And if your religion tells you otherwise, well, the government will just have to pummel that “bigotry” out of you.

Dillard links to an article at Catholic News Agency, which summarizes a piece by Maggie Gallagher (president of the Institute for Marriage and Public Policy, or IMAPP) in the May 15 issue of The Weekly Standard. According to the CNA article,

[t]he recent conflict over gay adoptions in Boston and the decision of Catholic Charities in that city to withdraw from the adoption business is only one sign of the huge cultural battle to come between religious liberty and sexual liberty, Gallagher suggests. Gay marriage has already been legalized in Massachusetts.

People who favor gay rights face no penalty for speaking their views, but can inflict a risk of litigation, investigation, and formal and informal career penalties on others whose views they dislike,” Gallagher writes. . . .

“Precisely because support for marriage is public policy,” she writes, “once marriage includes gay couples, groups who oppose gay marriage arel ikely to be judged in violation of public policy, triggering a host of negative consequences, including the loss of tax-exempt status.” . . .

Among a number of legal experts, Gallagher interviews Marc Stern, general counsel for the American Jewish Congress. . . .

He says same-sex marriage will affect religious educational institutions in at least four ways: admissions, employment, housing, and regulation of clubs.

In addition, he foresees future conflict with the law in regard to licensing, as well as psychological clinics, social workers, marital counselors, etc.

He also warns that the expression of opposition to gay marriage in the corporate world will not be suppressed by gay advocates but by corporate lawyers,“who will draw the lines least likely to entangle the company inlitigation,” Gallagher writes. . . .

Gallagher also interviewed Robin Wilson, an expert in family and health care law, who . . . believes that public-support arguments may be advanced to compel churches to participate in same-sex marriage or risk losing their tax-exempt status.

Wilson also points out that the First Amendment did not prevent religious hospitals from being punished for refusing to perform abortions, once abortion became a constitutional right. . . .

Gallagher also interviewed Georgetown law professor Chai Feldblum. . . .

Most of the time, the need to protect the dignity of gay people will justify burdening religious belief, Feldblum argues. But that does not make it right to pretend these burdens do not exist or do not matter.

While the burdens must be considered each time a law is passed, she said she believes sexual liberty should win out in most cases “because that's the only way that the dignity of gay people can be affirmed in any realistic manner.”

Feldblum's view, I fear, is likely to prevail. The establishment of "gay rights" -- especially same-sex marriage -- is being used and will be used as an excuse to further diminish religious freedom, freedom of association, and freedom of speech. It will diminish the great good done by religious insitutions in this country, by undermining their charitable works and civilizing influence.

And it will diminish the great good that is done by the institution of heterosexual marriage (in spite of its imperfections). When I faced the reality that the state will regulate marriage (as opposed to the cop-out position that the state ought not to regulate marriage), I concluded that

the kind of marriage a free society needs is heterosexual marriage, which . . . is a primary civilizing force. I now therefore reject the unrealistic . . . position that the state ought to keep its mitts off marriage. I embrace, instead, the realistic, consequentialist position that society -- acting through the state -- ought to uphold the special status of heterosexual marriage by refusing legal recognition to other forms of marriage. That is, the state should refuse to treat marriage as if it were mainly (or nothing but) an arrangement to acquire certain economic advantages or to legitimate relationships that society, in the main, finds illegitimate.

The alternative is to advance further down the slippery slope toward societal disintegration and into the morass of ills which accompany that disintegration. (We've seen enough societal disintegration and costly consequences since the advent of the welfare state to know that the two go hand in hand.) The recognition of homosexual marriage by the state -- though innocuous to many, and an article of faith among most libertarians and liberals -- is another step down that slope. When the state, through its power to recognize marriage, bestows equal benefits on homosexual marriage, it will next bestow equal benefits on other domestic arrangements that fall short of traditional, heterosexual marriage. And that surely will weaken heterosexual marriage, which is the axis around which the family revolves. The state will be saying, in effect, "Anything goes. Do your thing. The courts, the welfare system, and the taxpayer -- above all -- will pick up the pieces." And so it will go.

Moreover, the undermining of heterosexual marriage will cause the fertility rate (number of births per woman per year) to decline, given the high correlation between marriage and reproduction. (In spite of the 1960s and women's "liberation," two-thirds of births in the U.S. are to married women.) Replenishment of the population requires a fertility rate (births per woman in a lifetime) of 2.1. The projected rate for the U.S. in 2010 is just 2.1, with this breakdown by race and ethnicity: white -- 2.1; black -- 2.1; American Indian, Eskimo, Aleut -- 2.5; Asian and Pacific Islanders -- 2.3; Hispanic (all races) -- 2.8. (Sources: Statistical Abstract of the United States, 2006, Section 2; Tables 77 and 78 for definition of fertility rate and projected fertility rates, Tables 80 and 82 for births to unmarried women.) The bit of good news is that official statistics show that the abortion rate in the U.S. declined from 1990 through 2002 (see Table 93, Stat. Abs., 2006, Section 2), and the decline seems to be continuing. (Thanks to my son for that last link.)

Why is the fertility rate so important? When a population does not replace itself -- especially the more able components of a population -- economic growth slows. (It is a falsehood perpetrated by the Left that population equals poverty. In an technologically advanced country with generally free markets -- such as the United States -- the opposite is true. Go here, and read point 6. Also see this.) Slower economic growth makes it harder to support the growing propotion of the population that is elderly, especially when the elderly rely heavily on transfer payments from workers, as is the case in the U.S.

And there's more. As the European interviewee in this Zenit News Agency article says,

[t]he work force diminishes and the active population ages with consequences on the capacity of innovation and competitiveness [my point, above: ED]. This is the background of the problem that Europe is already paying for, in relation, for example, to the United States, where instead the rate of fertility is greater.

There is also a cultural and social problem that has to do with immigration: Though the latter is necessary to replace the labor force in decline, the rate of immigrants tends to increase rapidly, especially among young people, making more difficult the integration and transmission of the culture of the host country. Often, xenophobia arises as an angry reaction to this situation [or as a rational reaction to the likely political and economic consequences of indiscriminately admitting aliens: ED].

Let's not forget moreover the consequences on security: A nation without children is a nation that does not even have a desire to fight for its own values and freedom -- so much so that it believes it is not worthwhile to transmit them. And, because of this, it prepares to be a land of conquest for emerging civilizations.

(Thanks to my daughter-in law for the link to the Zenit story.)

The prospect of a "European" America should be frightening to every American outside academia, Hollywood, Manhattan, and other Leftist enclaves. The U.S. has to go a bit further (but not far) down the slippery slope to Europeanism. The proponents of "gay rights" -- and especially of gay marriage -- will push us down that slope if we let them. What lies down that slope? Here's Mark Steyn to explain:

To those on the American left who find Europe more “sophisticated”, you’re right: it’s sophisticated in the sense that a belle époque Parisian boulevardier is sophisticated – outwardly dapper and worldly, inwardly eaten away by syphilis and gonorrhea. It’s only a question of how many others the clapped-out bon vivant infects before his final collapse.

That’s a harsh judgment but not an overstated one. There are many agreeable aspects of old Europe – old buildings, good food, foxy looking women who dress to show themselves off. But underneath the surface everything is collapsing. The differences between America and Europe in the 21st century are nothing to do with insensitive swaggering Texas cowboys. Indeed, they’re nothing to do with Iraq, Kyoto, the International Criminal Court, or any other particular issue. They’re not tactical differences, they’re conceptual. They’re about how each side of the Atlantic views the world. Most nations in Europe can never again be American allies – not because of anything America’s done, but because of a huge number of profound changes, voluntary and not so, upon which the Continent is embarked:

1) It’s changing in its formal structure, as its elites merge their countries into one pan-European political entity.

2) It’s changing economically, as its people decline and age and its cradle-to-grave welfare systems become unsustainable.

3) It’s changing demographically, with the importation of large unassimilated Muslim populations that make it all but impossible for political leaders to be seen supporting America or Israel.

4) It’s changing in its political tempo, as populations hostile to European integration look for neo-nationalist parties to express their discontent.

Where will this end? Some European commentators got very irritated in 2003 when Denis Boyles of America’s National Review appeared to dismiss the Continentals as “cockroaches”. They were right to be ticked. The Europeans are not cockroaches. The cockroach is the one creature you can rely on to come crawling out of the rubble of the nuclear holocaust. Whereas the one thing that can be said with absolute confidence is that the Europeans will not emerge from under their own rubble.

A harsh characterization and prognosis? Perhaps a bit, but not by much. Given the present state of Europe, my money's on Steyn.

Frédéric Bastiat wrote about "what is seen and what is not seen." The "seen" side of "gay rights" is less overt discrimination against homosexuals and the enjoyment by homosexuals of privileges (not rights) formerly withheld from them. The "not seen" side of "gay rights" is the general diminution of most Americans' freedoms and prosperity. But that diminution soon will become quite visible at the rate things are going.