Nearly every effort to extend equal and civil rights protections to gay and lesbian Americans is met with a familiar criticism from the religious right: “They’ll want to get married next!” That’s what we heard when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down sodomy laws. We’ve heard it about legislation ending employment discrimination against gay men and lesbians. Now we’re told that ending the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy against openly gay servicemembers will open the door to gay marriage. Apparently, religious-right groups think throwing the spectre “gay marriage” into just about any debate is a winning strategy. Case in point:
“Congress’ haste and disregard for the (Department of Defense) is their attempt to push through the change irrespective of the impact on the military and is an attempt to lay the groundwork for protection of same-sex marriage in the future.”
That’s from an e-mail alert sent out on Thursday by Liberty Institute (formerly Free Market Foundation), the Plano-based Texas affiliate of Focus on the Family. Like its parent organization, Liberty Institute is rabidly anti-gay, supporting government control over the private lives of gay and lesbian Americans.
Polls show an overwhelming majority of Americans support ending “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” So we suppose Liberty Institute thinks tying the repeal of that unpopular policy to gay marriage — an issue over which the public is more evenly split — will help keep official discrimination against gay and lesbian servicemembers legal.
Of course, none of this is new. Even today we hear arguments that advances in civil rights, such as ending employment discrimination and segregation, ultimately led to interracial marriage:
“(T)he founders of America passed laws forbidding White-Black marriage. This was the real motivation behind the segregation laws which existed in the pre civil rights era South. They did not want their civilization to decay and fall due to interbreeding with inferior racial stock! . . . The interracial breeding of the races was not promoted as an issue until Roosevelt became President with Communist Party support. Roosevelt issued the first ‘civil rights law’ on June 25, 1941 in the form of Executive Order No. 8802. This established the Fair Employment Practice Committee (FEPC). It banned discrimination based on ‘race, color or creed’ among all private businesses receiving defense contracts.”
That passage comes from an essay about interracial marriage on the white-supremacist website Stormfront. Of course, the people at Liberty Institute are not white supremacists. We’re certain that they would strongly condemn the repulsive rhetoric common among racists on websites such as Stormfront. But it’s troubling that they are comfortable using essentially the same argument to defend discrimination against gay and lesbian Americans.