QOTD (2009-10-28)

For my QOTD feature, I usually post words which I like, which resonate with me. Today, I am posting words that I hate, because I think that everyone needs to know what a certain tenured professor with an endowed chair at my university thinks about my community and the rights we’re fighting for. An interviewer is asking Prof. George what the fight for same-sex marriage is about, and he responds:

It’s about sex. Those seeking to redefine marriage began by insisting that what they were fundamentally interested in was gaining needed benefits for same-sex domestic partners. Legal recognition of same-sex partnerships was necessary, they said, so that partners could visit each other in hospitals, extend employer-provided health insurance and other benefits to each other, and so forth. Some people who said this were, I’m sure, being sincere. Most, however, were not telling the truth. Their goal was to win official approbation for sodomy and other forms of sexual conduct that historically have been condemned as immoral and discouraged or even banned as a matter of law and public policy. The clear evidence for this is the refusal of most same-sex “marriage” activists to accept civil unions and domestic partnership programs under which the benefits of marriage are extended, but which do not use the label “marriage” or (and this is very important) predicate these benefits on the existence or presumption of a sexual relationship between the partners. So, it is not really about benefits. It is about sex. The idea that is antithetical to those who are seeking to redefine marriage is that there is something uniquely good and morally upright about the chaste sexual union of husband and wife—something that is absent in sodomitical acts and in other forms sexual behavior that have been traditionally—and in my view correctly—regarded as intrinsically non-marital and, as such, immoral.

I’m sure I don’t need to tell you, dear reader, about the many, many LGBT Americans who have died alone in hospital because their partners were not admitted to see them. Dear reader, if marriage rights are about anything, they’re not sex. They’re about parenting and immigration and being able to be with the person you love in his or her last moments.

Prof. George says this about the generational shift in support for marriage equality:

The support of so many young people for regarding same-sex partnerships as marriages isn’t surprising, given the cultural power of the movement for sexual liberalism; but I seriously doubt that it makes the redefinition of marriage inevitable. Young people grow up. Most will marry and have children. They will perceive the ways in which moms and dads complement each other, especially (though not exclusively) in child rearing, and the ways their children benefit from paternal and maternal complementarity. Their vision of marriage and sexuality as having everything to do with feelings and romance will fade. They will learn something about love as an act of the will, and not merely a species of affection; and their understanding of what marriage actually is and why it exists will, in many cases, be deeply enriched. I do not claim that the experience of growing up, marrying, and bringing up children will lead all young people or even most who today say they favor the redefinition of marriage to change their minds; obviously, lots of married grown-ups with children today hold liberal views about sex. But I suspect that it will have a significant impact.

Dear reader, I’m sure I don’t need to tell you about the large quantities of adults who are fighting for marriage equality, especially those who would like very much to get married themselves. Every time I go to Pride or a protest, I see people my age, but also people of all generations. Just look at Frank Kameny: the folks who built this movement may have gotten older, but they haven’t stopped fighting for the causes they believe in.

Finally, Prof. George says this about the aftermath of Prop. 8:

Anyone who contributed money to the Prop 8 effort or played any identifiable role in supporting it was targeted for intimidation. They were depicted as agents of intolerance and enemies of equality. Pressure was put on their employers to fire or discipline them. (I speak from personal experience here: the president of Princeton University, where I am a member of the faculty, was deluged with letters demanding action against me.)

Regular readers may recall that I helped to organize a dance party outside the erstwhile headquarters of the largest single donor to Yes on 8—and that while I have sent President Tilghman many emails, I have never sent her one expressing my objection to Prof. George’s political advocacy. I believe that the solution to speech I find hateful and prejudicial is to speak up in turn in favor of equality and justice, and to do so louder and stronger and in a manner which attracts good media attention.

But if I were a Californian whose state citizenship had just been reduced once more to second-class, and I’d heard that one of the individuals directly implicated in this was a tenured professor with an endowed chair at one of the best undergraduate universities in the country, then yes, I might write to the office of its president to express my disapproval. It is very hard to look at these words, written so starkly on the page, and think that they come from the mouth of someone who is a part of my university, someone whom I have seen in the library or in the dining hall or at public lectures. It is very difficult to acknowledge that there is someone who holds a profession which I particularly exalt (who, indeed, professes) who holds some of the views which I consider to be the most vile and morally indefensible of all views.

Over the years, I have tried very hard to understand Prof. George, and ardent stalwarts of the conservative movement like him. The amount of potted psychoanalysis to which I’ve mentally subjected my political theory professor’s colleague could probably fill a rather large book, possibly even in a multivolume edition. But sometimes, like now, all the objective distancing and black humor falls down around my ears, and I am simply overcome with hatred for this man.

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