It took forty years for elites to bring us the normalization of homosexuality and acceptance for same-sex marriage. They are using the same techniques now to achieve transgender rights, and success may be on the horizon. A country in which such serious erosions of fundamentally important institutions happen so swiftly may be a country celebrating equality, but it is neither a free nor a self-governing country. Darel Paul’s meticulous, courageous account of how the elites brought same-sex marriage to America deserves to be read by all who would understand where we are and whither our democracy is tending.
Darel Paul’s meticulous, courageous account of how the elites brought same-sex marriage to America deserves to be read by all who would understand where we are and where we’re going.
Though it was now almost three years ago, the Supreme Court’s Obergefell decision provides us with an opportunity to ask some important questions about our culture. How did same-sex marriage come to America? Where is an America with same-sex marriage headed next? What does it imply about us that it did?
Darel E. Paul’s From Tolerance to Equality: How Elites Brought America to Same-Sex Marriage provides a revealing, well-documented set of answers to these questions. Everyone concerned about the future of marriage and the culture wars should be familiar with this indispensable book. Same-sex marriage sits at the confluence of the sexual and managerial revolutions, affecting and reflecting profound changes in family life and the workplace.
Dispensing with the Liberal Narrative
In so arguing, Paul opposes the simple, self-congratulatory liberal narrative of the triumph of same-sex marriage through moral progress. This narrative, present in scores of books and articles, pits the ascending Children of Light against the persistent, bigoted Forces of Darkness.
The Children of Light normalize homosexuality and accept same-sex marriage because of their personal experiences with diversity and homosexuality. When a friend or relative comes out of the closet, Children of Light empathize with their plight and admire their courage. They come to see that homosexual persons are normal and quite admirable through this contact. The normalization of homosexuality and the acceptance of same-sex marriage are thus, for liberals, acts of enlightened imagination akin to a personal conversion. Our former disgust with homosexuality turns to an affirmative humanity, as Martha Nussbaum argues. This liberal morality tale applied to race relations and immigration yesterday; homosexuality today; tomorrow it will explain the acceptance of transgenderism.
Paul contradicts this liberal narrative. Personal acquaintance with homosexuals, for instance, is more an effect of political opinions than a cause: people have contact with homosexuals because they first admire them. Furthermore, liberals do not consistently tolerate or affirm all of those they come into contact with. Those who come to have favorable views of homosexuality and same-sex marriage continue to have unshakable and deep prejudices against poor whites and Christian fundamentalists, even after they come into contact with them. Such “liberals” are, Paul shows through survey data, among society’s biggest haters, in fact.
Liberal elites seek to avoid or dehumanize those with whom they disagree on these matters, even if they have contact with such dissenters. This suggests that other factors—one’s opinions about family, public justice, and the workplace most prominently—mediate the relationship with homosexuals or Christians and one’s opinions about them. Opinions shape experiences (not the other way around), so Paul points his analysis to the opinions.
Same-Sex Marriage and the Sexual Revolution
Public acceptance of same-sex marriage presupposed the normalization of homosexuality, and the normalization of homosexuality presupposed the sexual revolution. The sexual revolution—a combination of sexual liberty and second-wave feminism—remade opinions about family life that had long governed the American family. The ideology of the sexual revolution rejected the idea that sex, marriage, and procreation were connected at the heart of family life. It conceived of a family centered on the equality of adult partners ordered toward companionship instead. Individual autonomy would guide sexual behavior, aided by contraception and abortion. Careers would be a locus of meaning within a relationship, as children were soon seen as less important to family life.