Ed Feser’s Thesis. On gay marriage’s advance to date, the Thomist philosopher Ed Feser writes the following: “How have we descended into such Orwellian insanity?…Part of it has to do with the fact that what is at issue here concerns sex.”
That’s comforting to believe. Horny sex-libbers don’t think clearly.
But that’s not the big reason gay marriage has gained traction. It’s not even a significant reason. Here are the really big reasons: love and history.
Big Love and Big History. Love that once dared not speak its name has asserted itself, and empathy (a form of love) is now coming from the broader community.
So that’s Big Love; a soul force (to put it in Gandhian terms).
And here’s the Big History: for millennia, gays and lesbians have been terrorized by threats of hell, silenced, humiliated, demonized, dominated, imprisoned, rendered invisible, burned at the stake, marginalized, manacled, rounded up, tortured, murdered, pathologized, closeted, isolated from organizing, fired from jobs, banned from professions, blackmailed, mocked, and shunned.
So attitudes are changing because of a recent historical move of compassion. Gays and lesbians are seen as Christ figures (despised and rejected of men), and many are aroused by empathy for them. It’s exactly the dynamic that accompanied Martin Luther King’s nonviolence–and Gandhi’s. The opponents of gay marriage ignore this dynamic, blaming a degenerate culture. But it’s actually a sign of the culture’s health and vitality.
So when traditionalists bash gays, even just rhetorically, they’re bashing Christ; they’re bashing Gandhi and King. (“When you’ve done it to the least of these…”)
Therefore, Big Love and Big History are key things that traditionalists like Feser fail to emphasize. They make it about sex, but it’s about love; about self-definition; about a redress of historic grievances–and the empathy of the larger community determined not to let longstanding wrongs persist.
So even if many people don’t have an out-of-the-closet gay or lesbian relative or friend, they see them in pop culture and say, “These are not bad people. Too much is being made of their private lives.”
Thomas Jefferson and Charles Darwin, meet Harvey Milk and Justice Anthony Kennedy. Gay marriage is also about the Anglo-French Enlightenment, science, and the Supreme Court. If you don’t like gay marriage, blame Thomas Jefferson and biologists like Alfred Kinsey, one of the first to study homosexuality and place it along a continuum of normal human sexual behaviors. Kinsey was an evolutionary entomologist and taxonomist before he was a sex researcher. He knew that evolutionary taxonomy is about studying irreducible behaviors along a continuum, not trying to match them to an ideal average or Golden Mean (as, for example, Thomistic essence/accident presumes to do, separating the “normal” from the “abnormal”). He recognized that evolutionary change is driven by the appearance of variety in a species, not conformity.
So biological research and the logic of the Anglo-French Enlightenment as epitomized in The Universal Declaration of Human Rights are now on a collision course this summer with Reagan court appointee, Justice Anthony Kennedy. It’s not some product of the cult of Mao that’s going to ring in gay marriage in all fifty states, but the cult of Reagan.