As more conservative and Republican voices come out in support of gay rights and gay marriage, the LGBT rights community–presumably populated primarily by liberals–is wrestling with just how to welcome these new advocates from the right, or in some cases, whether to at all.
When GLAAD spokesman Rich Ferraro discovered that Kimberly Guilfoyle and Jamie Colby, two Fox News hosts who are presumably supporters of the organization, showed up at GLAAD’s Media Awards event, he was far from enthused. “If Kimberly and Jamie expect to attend future GLAAD events, they will first need to sit down with us to discuss Fox News' embarrassing, biased and misinformed coverage of LGBT issues,” he said.
After a wave of negative responses to GLAAD’s decidedly exclusionary and intolerant position, Ferraro later apologized.
Fortunately, not all the responses to conservative support of gay marriage have been as absurdly parochial and impulsive as GLAAD’s. Sally Kohn in Salon, for one, makes a thoughtful and important distinction between the various conservative arguments for gay marriage, and seems to suggest that not all are valid.
While she accepts the more libertarian impulses for defending gay marriage (the government shouldn’t be involved in our private lives), the overtly conservative belief that marriage is a stabilizing and productive social construct that should be encouraged is one she rejects outright. She writes:
“In the interest of expediency and bringing as many unlikely conservative allies on board, the gay rights movement may give cover to or even amplify a set of narrow values that rank married families as better than unmarried families, two parents as better than one parent — norms that continue to divide America into good people and deserving families versus everyone else.”
Of course, it seems counter-intuitive that a group demanding marriage rights for so long would have some making the case that marriage either isn’t the end game at all or isn’t an institution they even privilege.
As a conservative who has long defended gay rights, this is where we may have a problem. While I also make the libertarian, limited government argument, I deeply believe that defending gay marriage is defending marriage itself, as an institution that creates economic stability, decreased reliance on the state, and provides a better environment for children than single parenthood. Economic data supports these beliefs.
Kohn’s assertion, that in defending gay marriage conservatives are yet again foisting their “restrictive and regressive” social norms on the rest of the country, begs the question, then why do so many gay couples want to get married? If her project is to move the country not toward inclusive marriage rights, but beyond marriage altogether, I am one gay rights advocate who is willing to say, I’m not with you.
I know Sally Kohn to be smart and thoughtful, and to that end she writes at the top of her piece that she is “genuinely thrilled that more and more Republicans are coming out to support marriage equality.” As such, I appreciate her upfront honesty about her ultimate cause. And while I believe hers is an outlier viewpoint, it’s one that Republicans should nonetheless be aware of as they decide to fight alongside her for marriage equality.