Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Michael Gerson: Religious and Gay Rights Must Coexist

Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Michael Gerson: Religious and Gay Rights Must Coexist

Article excerpt

It is often the fate of conservatives to be concerned about the fire code and occupancy limit at someone else's party. Never more conspicuously than concerning the Supreme Court's gay marriage decision, Obergefell v. Hodges.

With many friends and relatives celebrating the outcome, judicial conservatives are generally anxious about the process.

Social conservatives are correctly upset about a process that grants enormous power to an unrepresentative clique of lawyers. But social conservatives also need to recognize that, before Obergefell, the process of self-government was moving with haste in the direction of state recognition of gay marriages. And this reflects a shift in public opinion.

Why has the gay rights movement been so dramatically successful? Certainly, the people who came out to family and friends humanized an abstract debate.

But perhaps the most significant shift in strategy came from public intellectuals such as Jonathan Rauch and Andrew Sullivan who urged gays to embrace the conventional, bourgeois practice of marriage. What had seemed to many Americans a sexual liberationist movement requested access to the institution designed to limit sexual freedom for the sake of social order and childrearing. Many gay rights advocates essentially made conservative arguments to secure their legal goal. It is a form of gay rights that Middle America could readily embrace.

As did a majority of the Supreme Court. Justice Anthony Kennedy found the "lifelong union" of marriage to be of "transcendent importance." "Far from seeking to devalue marriage," says Kennedy, "the petitioners seek it for themselves because of their respect -- and need -- for its privileges and responsibilities."

What happens to people and institutions that continue to embrace the traditional view of marriage? …

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