Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Religious Right Lowers Its Goals

Interesting article in this morning’s San Francisco Chronicle titled Culture war being reshaped; Conservatives lower expectations. It points out that in the debate over gay marriage, the religious right seems to have pretty much given up on stopping the trend toward civil unions for homosexual couples:

Conservative activist William Donohue, the president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, says he believes Bush’s proposal for a constitutional amendment is a “cultural tipping point” that will restore a “culture of restraint and decency.”

The ban will not prevent the acceptance of gay culture, he acknowledges, nor will it prevent same-sex civil unions, which he now supports. What it will do, he says, is prevent those couples from actually saying they are married, even if they enjoy virtually the same rights…

Jim Backlin, director of legislative affairs for the Christian Coalition, one of the staunchest conservative combatants, insisted he was not willing to wave the white flag. He said he was cheered by Bush’s proposed constitutional amendment and by the recent outcry over Janet Jackson’s baring her pierced breast during the halftime show at the Super Bowl.

Still, he too was measured about his goals.

“We reject both gay marriages and civil unions,” said Backlin. “They are wrong. But, realistically, we gave up on civil unions. We know that we would lose that. It’s not worth fighting over. But there are major battles going on.”

I’m not so sure, and here’s why. While Bush and many of his conservative supporters keep saying that they’re willing to accept civil unions but not gay marriage, they are still pushing a constitutional amendment that would prohibit all state civil unions as well. Unless there is another amendment on the way to replace the Federal Marriage Amendment, the only amendment out there that has been proposed is squarely against their “we’re okay with civil unions” rhetoric. Is this a bait and switch? Stay tuned to find out.

But the article makes several other points on the broader culture war issue:

Perhaps the strongest rallying cry from the right came in 1992, when Patrick Buchanan addressed the Republican National Convention in Houston and declared, “There is a religious war going on in our country for the soul of America. It is a cultural war, as critical to the kind of nation we will one day be as was the Cold War itself.”

Things did not turn out that way. In some respects, the trend toward greater tolerance has turned into a floodtide.

Just last year, the Supreme Court ruled 6-3 that a Texas law banning consensual sex in private between same-sex couples was unconstitutional.

The article goes on to point out such realities as the failure of the V-chip, the failure of the movement to censor lyrics and musical content, the acceptance of gay characters on mainstream television with such shows as Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, and the fact that most of the elements of the Equal Rights Amendment that the religious right opposed so fiercely have subsequently been turned into legislation at all levels. The culture war isn’t going well for the religious right. Another victory for true decency.