Elephant in the Room

While I remain nervous about the right-wing U.S. Supreme Court ultimately not concluding that gay and lesbian couples deserve equal treatment under the law, I was thrilled to see the scion of one of America’s most prominent right-wing families call for gays and lesbians to be treated as full citizens.

Sean Buckley, the grandson of far-right former U.S. Senator James Buckley (who was, of course, the brother of the late National Review founder William F. Buckley), points out that equality ought to be considered a conservative virtue, as well as a progressive one. Considering the rhetorical brutality visited upon another Buckley–WFB’s son Christopher–when he endorsed Barack Obama in 2008, one can only imagine how much courage it took to write this:

A clear majority of Americans now understand that being gay is not a choice. Gradually, this understanding is also extending among conservatives. And over 60% of millennial evangelical youth now support the freedom to marry.

Historically, marriage was primarily considered an economic and political transaction between families. As such, it was too vital of an institution to be entered into solely on the basis of something as irrational as love. It was not until the dawn of the Enlightenment in the 18th century that the idea of marrying primarily for love arrived. Those who opposed this shift saw it as an affront to social order, and rejected it as a dangerous change in the definition of marriage—similar to the arguments today.

But we’ve evolved, and learned that marriage matters for other reasons. At its core the institution of marriage hinges on two individuals committing to one another in life, for life, on a bedrock of love and self-sacrifice, which results in a better environment for raising children.

Above all else, the greatest gift our parents can give us is to teach us how to love—an emotion that gives the human experience both the purpose and meaning that is so critical to a happy and healthy life. I count this as one of the greatest gifts my parents have given me, and hope to one day give the same to my kids. Conservatives are right to argue that the best environment to raise children is within a marriage. However, it has nothing to do with the gender of their parents but instead the love they have for one another.

Unfortunately, Buckley fails to point out that it was progressives (including some progressive-minded Republicans such as former Massachusetts Governors William Weld and the late Paul Cellucci, who appointed three of the four Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court judges who recognized the right of same-sex couples to marry in the 2003 Goodridge v. Department of Public Health ruling) who paved the way for equal treatment under the law for gays and lesbians, over the fierce and hate-filled resistance of Wingnut World. However, to the extent that Sean Buckley’s position is being embraced by a new generation of Republicans, we could be on the verge of seeing the GOP effectively split into two parties–one representing the views of the James Dobson crowd, the other representing the views of Weld and current Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker.

Granted, I don’t like the idea of Republicans holding fast to equally backward ideas like denying human-caused climate change and embracing the Tax Fairy despite giving up on the gay-bashing in blue and purple states. However, it is of critical importance that homophobia be deprived of as much political and cultural oxygen as possible–and if Sean Buckley can help us all in that regard, then more power to him.

D.R. Tucker

D. R. Tucker is a Massachusetts-based journalist who has served as the weekend contributor for the Washington Monthly since May 2014. He has also written for the Huffington Post, the Washington Spectator, the Metrowest Daily News, investigative journalist Brad Friedman's Brad Blog and environmental journalist Peter Sinclair's Climate Crocks.