The past few weeks haven’t been good ones for religious bigots. First Iowa and Vermont legalized same-sex marriage in rapid succession; soon afterwards, the state legislatures of New Hampshire and Maine passed marriage-equality bills. (If you live in either state, contact your governor and tell him to sign them!) And now, this stunning poll result from Nate Silver’s fivethirtyeight.com, Two National Polls, for First Time, Show Plurality Support for Gay Marriage:
…a new poll from ABC News and the Washington Post gives gay marriage an outright plurality, with 49 percent of adults supporting gay marriage and 46 percent opposed.
…a CBS/NYT poll put support for full marriage rights at 42 percent, versus 25 percent for civil unions and 28 percent for no legal recognition. This represents a significant increase from an identical CBS/NYT poll in March, where the numbers were 33 percent for marriage, 27 percent for civil unions, and 35 percent for no recognition.
Read that last paragraph again: support for marriage equality has advanced almost ten points in just a month, such that it now commands a decisive plurality. Combined with the civil-unions position, there’s a two-to-one majority nationwide in favor of granting benefits to same-sex couples. It can now very plausibly be argued that the judges who’ve ruled in favor of equality are upholding the will of the people, not denying it.
We’re on the verge of a sea change in American civic life, thanks to a gay-rights movement that’s made far more progress than seemed imaginable even just a few years ago. And as history leaves them in the dust, the religious right is increasingly going into full meltdown mode. They’ve used absurdly overheated and hysterical rhetoric in the past, but this time they’ve truly outdone themselves.
Witness Orson Scott Card, a Mormon and board member of the “National Organization for Marriage” who’s previously proclaimed atheists unfit to be president. But even that idiocy is nothing compared to the full-tilt frothing lunacy on display in an anti-gay-marriage screed he recently published in the Mormon Times (HT: Americablog). In it, he calls same-sex marriage “the end of democracy in America” and urges citizens to revolt against any government that permits it:
Why should married people feel the slightest loyalty to a government or society that are conspiring to encourage reproductive and/or marital dysfunction in their children?
…What these dictator-judges do not seem to understand is that their authority extends only as far as people choose to obey them.
How long before married people answer the dictators thus: Regardless of law, marriage has only one definition, and any government that attempts to change it is my mortal enemy. I will act to destroy that government and bring it down, so it can be replaced with a government that will respect and support marriage, and help me raise my children in a society where they will expect to marry in their turn.
Card isn’t the most prominent member of the religious right to call for armed rebellion because the government won’t cater to his wishes. He’s not even the first. (Rick Perry may have that honor, along with a substantial portion of the Texas Republican Party.) But it is frightening that, as society moves away from accepting their views, these calls for revolution become more and more common among them.
What this shows, I think, is that the religious right is unwilling to participate in the social contract: the understanding that we all have a voice in directing the course of the state, but the price of that freedom is not always having one’s own way. The religious right has no interest in that bargain. If they don’t get to win, they don’t want to participate. And as soon as events are not going their way, they immediately begin calling for armed revolt and insurrection, determined to achieve their goals by violence if they can’t achieve them by democracy. The most insane aspect of this is that no one is taking away any of their rights – their clamoring for rebellion is purely because they can no longer control the lives of others.
This is anti-Americanism in its purest sense: the refusal to accept the democratic bargain that is the very essence of our nation. And as the fringe members of their movement are increasingly tipped over the edge into real violence by their leaders’ reckless words, the people who speak those words increasingly bear moral responsibility for the bloodshed they create.
The one bright side to all this is that, the more extreme and overheated anti-gay rhetoric becomes, the more moderate Americans will become repelled and will flock to the progressive side. We’ve already seen this in polls that show a continuing exodus from the Republican party. There may come a point where sensible Republicans realize how this issue is destroying them, cut ties with the religious right, and become a real opposition party worthy of being taken seriously again. Or they may continue to ramp up their rhetoric as they dwindle into permanent irrelevance. Either option suits me fine.