Last Sunday, Katherine Kersten offered, by my count, her 25th column in the Star Tribune denigrating same-sex couples and railing against marriage equality (that doesn’t include many blog posts she has done over the years at the Star Tribune in opposition to same-sex marriage and LGBT rights in general). For old time’s sake, I thought I’d do something I haven’t done in years: do fact-check and response to her arguments, something I used to do for the old blog 11th Avenue South.
My responses to her arguments are in brackets.
One of the clearest things about Minnesota’s new gay-marriage law is that it requires Minnesotans to “play pretend” — to embrace obvious fictions as reality.[What may be “obvious fictions” to Kersten is actually an important legal reality for many Minnesotans. And it doesn’t “require” anyone to do anything, except for government officials who are charged with enforcing the law.]
For example, the law states that citizens must view the union of two people of the same sex — who can’t produce a child — as identical to that of a man and woman, whose sexual complementarity is the only thing that can.[The law doesn’t actually say that “citizens must view” anything. It states that marriages between two people of the same-sex are on the same legal level as marriages between two people of the opposite-sex. In the non-legal realm, people can view the two as identical or not. I choose not to. I think that in some respects same-sex marriages can be more powerful, meaningful and fulfilling simply because gay people have to fight so hard to get that legal protection and recognition. The struggle from coming out as a gay, lesbian, bisexual or trans person to finding someone to spend one’s life with is a profound journey that creates a heightened sense for the importance of the institution, and its a journey that many straight people never have to endure. That makes same-sex marriages different from straight ones, much as procreation within a straight marriage makes it different than a same-sex marriage. They are both different in ways that should be celebrated, but under the law they are, and should remain, equal.]
The law also declares that, henceforth, “when necessary to implement the rights and responsibilities of spouses or parents in a civil marriage between persons of the same sex,” words like “mother” and “father” “must be construed in a neutral manner to refer to a person of either gender” under Minnesota law. But a woman can’t be a father, and a man can’t be a mother. It’s a biological fact Minnesota lawmakers can’t repeal, no matter how much they wish to.[Kersten sets up a bit of s straw man here. No one has argued that a woman can be a father or a man can be a mother. The section of the law she is referring to is intended to ensure that same-sex couples raising children are able to retain their parental rights.]
Our lawmakers seem utterly untroubled by their vote to impose a regime of “let’s pretend.” What explains this?
The legislators and their supporters who celebrated the bill’s passage on the State Capitol lawn made clear that what they crave is to be in the vanguard of a brave new world. “By your political courage you join that pantheon of exceptional leaders who did something extraordinary,” Gov. Mark Dayton proclaimed as he signed the law. “You changed the course of history for our state and our nation.” President Obama received similar accolades when he announced his support for gay marriage. Apparently, for some folks, there’s nothing headier than to be on the Right Side of History.[Which, of course, begs the question: Who would want to be on the wrong side of history?]
But here’s a dirty little secret.[Kersten exercises some skill in the use of language. “A dirty little secret” could be viewed as an illusion to homosexuality, especially the closet.]
No one has the remotest idea where our state officials’ decision to turn our fundamental social institution upside down will take our society in coming decades. We know the experiment is starting out badly, because it’s based on pretending that demonstrable falsehoods are true.
[Much like this column, from what I’ve read so far]
We have no idea what ripple effects it will have, how its redefinition of parenthood will affect children, or whether we’ll next see a push for marriage as the union of three or more loving people: the logical next step.[I don’t think marriages involving three or more people is necessarily the most logical step in much the same way I don’t think that wanting to make gay marriage illegal leads to wanting to imprison and then execute gay people. It’s called a slippery slope and its a poor way to argue.]
You would expect our legislators to wrestle with weighty questions like these before deciding to end marriage as we — and all other people on Earth — have always known it. They did not. That’s because they (at least the true believers among them) were motivated by a quasi-religious faith that “marriage equality” will inevitably lead our state to the secular equivalent of the Promised Land.[Did Kersten miss the last 40 years? She’s been writing about his very issue in public for at least 10 years. Legislators have wrestled with these very questions for at least 40 years. The Legislature first tackled the issue in the 1970s after a gay couple sued the state for a marriage license in 1970. In 1997, the legislature engaged in a lengthy debate before approving the state’s Defense of Marriage Act. Then-state Sen. Michele Bachmann announced she was introducing a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage in the fall of 2003. The issue has been debated relentlessly at the Capitol for 10 years. And in 2012, the entire state voted on the issue. To say legislators didn’t wrestle with weighty questions of the effects of same-sex marriage is to push the definition of hyperbole to its limits.]
Gay marriage is a crusade, and the driving force behind it is the secular religion of progressivism. This faith’s adherents put their hope, not in salvation after death, but in a hazy and glorious future here on Earth.[I couldn’t find a single reputable source that likens progressivism to religion anymore than conservativism is a religion. Certainly the latter is much more tied to religion. Nevertheless, one has to wonder why Kersten is concerned that people are working toward a glorious future here on Earth, instead of simply focusing on getting into Heaven. I know plenty of religious traditions that stress making the world a better place as an important tenet of the faith. For example, Kersten, a devout Catholic, should know that the Catechism of the Catholic Church says that “good works are done to glorify God and are done in honor of him.” Kersten presents it as an either or proposition. But good works and faith are what get you into Heaven or, in Kersten’s words, “salvation after death.”]
The journalist Christopher Caldwell has put it succinctly: “The argument for gay marriage is always made in the name of history — not the history we have lived, but the history we are yet to live.”
Will that future turn out as planned? Progressive dogma leaves no doubt that it must. Those who dare to question this — like gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer or Chick-fil-A president Dan Cathy — are branded heretics, and figuratively burned at the stake by the media, Hollywood and fervent wavers of the Rainbow Flag.[Emmer and Cathy both supported organizations and espoused positions that went well beyond gay marriage to include legal discrimination against people based on their sexual orientation, equating gays and lesbians with pedophiles and murderers, and associating with anti-gay hate groups as designated by the Southern Poverty Law Center.]
Social commentator George Weigel sees the roots of the progressive faith in an “intense revival” of an ancient religious movement called Gnosticism. This movement has taken many forms throughout history. But it is always an elite phenomenon, and always holds that the key to human flourishing is possession of a special knowledge that allows man to transcend the material world, so he can build paradise for himself on his own terms.
Modern man — at least many intellectuals — chafes under the constraints of reality. He longs to be “as a god,” to pretend that there are no givens, that “everything in the human condition is plastic and malleable.” In short, says Weigel, he craves to believe that “everything can … be bent to human willfulness, which is to say, human desire.”
Today, Gnosticism is most “powerfully embodied” in the Sexual Revolution and its ideology of gender, writes Weigel. That ideology holds that maleness and femaleness — two elements of the human condition that have always been understood as the essence of “givenness” — are now to be viewed as mere cultural constructs.
Weigel points to Spain’s Zapatero government, which passed a law in 2007 permitting men to change themselves into women, and vice versa, by a declaration at a government office — absent any surgery — after which a new national identity card, with the new gender, is issued. “It is hard to imagine a more explicit expression of personal willfulness overpowering natural givenness,” he concludes.[Others have debated and refuted Weigel’s work before. I’ll let those stand for themselves.]
The gay marriage crusade is just the latest manifestation of the secular religion of America’s intellectual elites. Who knows what new game of “let’s pretend” our chattering classes will impose on us next?[This is probably most most entertaining bit of Kersten’s column. She, as a think tank employee and conservative columnist, is in the “chattering class.” And, “intellectual elites”? Isn’t higher learning and intellect something to be valued? And does that mean that people who oppose same-sex marriage are somehow not as intelligent or “elite” as those who do? Seems like a pretty condescending way to characterize her side of the debate.]