It’s soon to become official: No matter whether the Supreme Court decides to look back at Obergefell v. Hodges, the landmark decision that made same-sex marriage the law of the land, it’ll still almost certainly remain the law of the land.
Thanks to the help of 12 Republican senators, the Senate passed the Respect for Marriage Act on Wednesday. Under the legislation, any “person acting under color of State law” must recognize a same-sex marriage performed in another state.
The bill repeals 1996’s Defense of Marriage Act, which foresaw states legalizing same-sex unions and preserved states’ rights to not recognize same-sex marriages.
Given that the legislation cleared the filibuster hurdle in the Senate on a 62-37 vote, it will proceed to the House, which aims to pass it before the GOP majority takes over next year.
The Republicans who voted for the bill gave a variety of reasons for doing so. Most seem to say, as North Carolina Sen. Tom Thills did, that they cast the vote because “this legislation fully respects and protects Americans’ religious liberties and diverse beliefs.” (It doesn’t, but we’ll get to the dangers it poses later.)
You get the feeling, however, that so many GOP members simply folded because the horse is long since out of the barn. Why stand up for conservative values, after all, when there’s nothing left to conserve?
How did it get that way, though? Remember, the reason the Defense of Marriage Act was passed was that several fringe-left states were considering the unthinkable: legalizing same-sex unions.
The Defense of Marriage Act was so uncontroversial that even arch-liberals such as Democratic Sens. Chris Dodd of Connecticut, Patrick Leahy of Vermont, Patty Murray of Washington, Harry Reid of Nevada and Paul Wellstone of Minnesota voted for it in the Senate.
In the House, two future members of the Democratic Senate leadership — then-Reps. Charles Schumer of New York, now Senate majority leader, and Dick Durbin of Illinois, currently the Senate majority whip — also voted for it.
And, if you had to even ask, then-Sen. Joe Biden voted for it, too. Then-President Bill Clinton, while calling the legislation “unnecessary and divisive,” still signed it into law, because apparently his love for triangulation beat out his loathing of the institution of marriage.
When did things all change, you may ask? The tipping point came fast and furious, after all. As it so happened, the tipping point also occurred during the presidency of the guy whose administration was responsible for the “Fast and Furious” gun-walking scandal: Barack Obama.
Which is funny, because Obama claimed he wasn’t for same-sex marriage when he first ran for the White House. He wasn’t ardently opposed to it, however — and, when it became clear his party had shifted hard to the left, he was happy to follow.
Now that the damage is complete, however, a clip featuring Obama and gay marriage is making its way around social media yet again.
However, Obama isn’t the one doing the talking. He’s just making a sad face. The guy speaking is Alan Keyes, a former U.N. ambassador under Ronald Reagan and a political commentator.
Keyes is also the only Republican opponent Obama ever faced at the ballot box in his sole run for the Senate in 2004. (Although it’s worth noting Keyes was drafted as the nominee after the initial nominee, Jack Ryan, was forced to withdraw due to a sex scandal.)
Keyes never really had a chance, considering the media was all in the bag for Obama as the Next Big Thing™ after his keynote speech during the Democratic National Convention. However, the GOP candidate was one of the few who would call out “gay marriage” for what it is — a contradiction in terms.
The noteworthy exchange came after Keyes was questioned about his remark that “where procreation is, in principle, impossible, marriage is irrelevant.” The debate moderator used the usual canard against him: So, what about infertile couples and women past child-bearing age? Is marriage for them irrelevant, too?
“That’s simply a misunderstanding,” Keyes said. “The word ‘in principle’ means ‘relating to the definition of,’ not relating to particular circumstances.”
He used a metaphor that one wishes other conservatives would adopt when asked this sort of thing.
“So if an apple has a worm in it, the worm is not part of the definition of the apple,” Keyes said. “It doesn’t change what the apple is, in principle.”
“Human beings reason by means of concepts and definitions. We also make laws by means of definitions,” he continued. “And if you don’t know how to operate with respect for those definitions, you can’t make the law.
“An individual who is impotent or another who is infertile does not change the definition of marriage in principle — because between a man and a woman, in principle, procreation is always possible. And it is that possibility which gave rise to the institution of marriage in the first place.”
“But when it is impossible — as between two males or two females — you’re talking about something that’s not just incidentally impossible, it’s impossible in principle,” Keyes continued.
“And that means that if you say that that’s a marriage, you are saying marriage can be understood, in principle, apart from procreation. You have changed its definition in such a way as, in fact, to destroy the necessity for the institution.”
Look at Barack Obama’s face at the end of the clip. I can’t see inside his brain at that moment, but that’s clearly the hangdog face of a politician who knows he’s been beaten and doesn’t want to continue the discussion any further.
Why did we lose on the issue of marriage? Because so many Christian and conservative leaders were unwilling or afraid to speak with the clarity of Alan Keyes. We were content to ask for religious liberty rather than demand moral order. pic.twitter.com/LJsbRQBNh8
— Megan Basham (@megbasham) November 17, 2022
But that’s back when conservatives and liberals talked about these things rationally. In the intervening years, leftists realized that any progressive cultural argument that can’t be won by logic can often be won by emotion. And boy, did they slather it on like emotion was makeup and they were a contestant on “RuPaul’s Drag Race.”
Remember the empty sloganeering? Love is love! #ItGetsBetter! And you didn’t even need words: Just wave the rainbow flag, they’ll get the idea!
Meanwhile, Obama “evolved” on the issue.
As PolitiFact noted, this was him in 2008: “I believe marriage is between a man and a woman. I am not in favor of gay marriage.”
Then, in 2012: “I’ve just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married.”
However, it’s worth pointing out this was the second time he’d flip-flopped. In 1996, when answering a questionnaire during his run for Illinois state Senate, he said, “I favor legalizing same-sex marriages, and would fight efforts to prohibit such marriages.”
Two years later, he was undecided when asked by the same questionnaire. Then, during his 2004 run for Senate, he said this: “I am a fierce supporter of domestic-partnership and civil-union laws. I am not a supporter of gay marriage as it has been thrown about, primarily just as a strategic issue. I think that marriage, in the minds of a lot of voters, has a religious connotation.”
You don’t say.
He couched this as a utilitarian move. “What I’m saying is that strategically, I think we can get civil unions passed,” Obama said. “I think that to the extent that we can get the rights, I’m less concerned about the name. … Republicans are going to use a particular language that has all sorts of connotations in the broader culture as a wedge issue, to prevent us moving forward, in securing those rights, then I don’t want to play their game.”
Ah, right, he’s not going to play the “wedge issue” game. Until he was absolutely willing to play it during the 2012 election.
By then, the sloganeering had won out over coherent discussion. Those who didn’t go along with the hashtag carrots got the cultural stick.
When former Pennsylvania Republican Sen. Rick Santorum objected to gay marriage by citing a slippery slope that might lead to polygamous and incestuous marriages, Dan Savage — the sex advice columnist behind the “It Gets Better” LGBT anti-bullying initiative — decided to engage in some bullying of his own by using his influence to associate the name “Santorum” with a fictitious sexual-scatological term and then ensure that term showed up at the top of his Google results.
As for the GOP, it’s folded like a cheap suit.
Sure, Alan Keyes was always more outspoken than most, and he was able to talk like a man who knew he was going to lose his campaign. That said, name me one — one — Republican in the Senate willing to take his kind of stand, even with softer language, in 2022.
No disrespect for Utah Sen. Mike Lee, one of my favorite members of the upper chamber, but his statement after the passage of the Respect for Marriage Act encapsulates just how pusillanimous the Republicans have gotten on the matter:
— Mike Lee (@SenMikeLee) November 16, 2022
So, if we’d just have added more religious protections to the bill, he’d have been more than happy to pass it. But no one was willing to, so he had to vote against codifying same-sex marriage just in case the Supreme Court strikes down Obergefell v. Hodges.
Not to say that this bill couldn’t have used more religious protections, mind you. Greg Baylor of the Alliance Defending Freedom told The Daily Wire that “the original version of the bill created serious threats to religious liberty. The changes to the bill did virtually nothing to address those threats. The amendments to the bill that purport to protect religious liberty are mere window dressing.”
Baylor went on to say the legislation “gives the IRS one more building block in its case to take away the taxes and status of nonprofits that hold traditional views on marriage,” it “creates a threat to religious social service agencies that work with the government” and it might “affect how religious freedom cases are analyzed more broadly.”
More importantly, the protections apply only to faith-based organizations, meaning many businesses or employees could be targeted for exercising their religious convictions. If you’re not convinced this is an issue, consider the number of times Masterpiece Cakeshop owner Jack Phillips has been targeted by LGBT litigation trolls for adhering to his Christian beliefs when it comes to the confections he’ll bake.
But can one blame conservatives? If they gained little in helping pass the Respect for Marriage Act, it’s because they felt as if they had nothing to lose in the process. In a sense, they’re right.
The days of Alan Keyes schooling Barack Obama on a debate stage with facts and reason are long gone.
The clip may go viral, but it’s two minutes long. For the TikTok generation, that’s an eternity. It can’t be hashtagged. It can’t be memed. Why make an argument when you can just simply put a rainbow flag emoji in a tweet? If you’re feeling especially loquacious, include a transgender flag, too.
And yet, the facts remain. The late American physicist Richard Feynman probably wouldn’t find himself in agreement with too many conservatives. However, his famous summation of the failures of the Space Shuttle program after the Challenger disaster is apropos: “For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for Nature cannot be fooled.”
Take out the word “nature” and substitute “society.” For thousands of years, marriage and the family have been the building blocks of any successful civilization. Not only have those on the left tried to tear those down, they’ve tried to redefine the whole raison d’être of those institutions.
Nature — and He who is behind it — remains unfooled, no matter how much Barack Obama and the Democrats have “evolved.”
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