Monday, May 16, 2005

It has been a year now since the Goodridge decision legalized gay marriage in Massachusetts, and the sky has yet to fall. The aftermath of the SJC ruling has not been particularly newsworthy, if you want to know the truth. What’s followed in its wake is the very boring business of gay couples going about their married lives much as straight couples do. In fact, legalization has benefited the zealots on the right who’ve used it to reenergize their unholy jihad much more than it has the relatively modest number of gays and lesbians who have taken advantage of the opportunity to marry.

Lest we forget, the latest round of hysterical cries of “judicial activism!” began with the SJC’s decision, growing steadily more shrill through the Terri Shialvo fiasco, and culminating in the scorched-earth move on the part of Republicans to ban filibusters, which comes to a vote this week. Make no mistake, these issues are all connected, part of an agenda infinitely more insidious and damaging to democracy than anything gays could dream up. After all, the so-called gay agenda amounts to a bid to claim modest rights, and an obvious desire to take on the middle class responsibilities that come with them. It is not remotely radical. It is, in fact, downright old-fashioned and conservative. The religious radicals may be right that we live in an increasingly decadent society, but they, and not gays, are living proof of it.

For the Republicans going along with the radical wing of their party, the “nuclear option” is power politics at its boldest. You may not be gay, but it would be a mistake to assume that your personal freedoms are guaranteed because you’re not. Sure, the right believes in individual freedom: its own. Furthermore, this freedom seems to be the kind that necessitates the repeal of everyone else’s. Rest assured, you’re next.

That Democrats can’t seem to find their focus fighting such a truly un-American foe is just plain pathetic, but our cultural moment is one of rabid radicals versus milquetoast moderates. Since their 2004 defeat, the Democrats have whined, cringed, and cowered, many arguing that pandering to the right is the only way to prevail in the next election. Do this, and the terrorists win. Another brilliant strategy: wait for the right to implode. It will, but how many lives will be ruined by then?

The Democrats could learn a thing or two from the gay agenda: stick to your guns, and have faith in the strength of an open society. Sure, you’ll win some and lose some, but if the future is a free and open one, history will vindicate you. This is the real dilemma of the left: the goal of greater freedom for all is actually very moderate, requiring patience, tolerance, and trust, not vitriol, suspicion and scapegoating. It’s radical to the right precisely because the right is radical.


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