Thursday, December 3, 2009

Andrew Sullivan on the New York Senate Discussion: No Reason, Just No

I’ve just noticed two postings at Andrew Sullivan’s Daily Dish blog that make points I sought to make in my posting earlier today about yesterday’s New York Senate discussion of gay marriage. In an initial posting about yesterday’s events, Andrew Sullivan notes,

What strikes me is how many of the nay votes didn't speak at all. And how many who had privately pledged support voted no anyway.

And in a subsequent posting, he links to insightful commentary by David Link at Independent Gay Forum. David Link states,

While there is no shortage of anger about the result of yesterday’s vote in the New York State Senate on gay marriage, there is ample praise for the civil and respectful floor debate. I would agree, except for one thing.

What debate?

A debate requires at least two sides, some exchange and (in a perfect world) maybe even a bit of ground-shifting. But what happened yesterday shows that our opponents have nothing but politics and prejudice on their side, and don’t even feel the need to defend them anymore.

As Andrew Sullivan notes, it’s remarkable that almost every single one of those hearing the impassioned, cogent arguments of their colleagues for extending the right of marriage to gay citizens offered no reason at all for their opposition. All they offered was their no.

As if saying no, when one has the power to block necessary change by doing so, is reason enough. As if one’s moral authority is exhibited ipso facto in one’s ability to say no, in the face of all compelling reasons for one to act otherwise.

This is where we have ended up as a culture with this “debate,” and it is not a good place in which to find ourselves. If nothing else, it permits religious authority figures of the emptiest sort, with severely compromised records as moral and pastoral leaders, to continue posturing as moral exemplars—when it is their own compromised authority and empty claims to moral rectitude that ought to be under discussion. I am, of course, alluding to the Catholic bishops here, with their almost uniformly shoddy record of covering up clerical sexual abuse, and of the obvious strategy of the American Catholic bishops to go on the offense now, particularly vis-a-vis the gay community, at the precise moment in which their claim to moral authority is damaged almost beyond repair.

Permitting religious authority figures to posture in this way undermines religious institutions when they seek to do authentically constructive things in a society. It’s ironic in the extreme that those who are now colluding to undermine the pastoral and moral authenticity of religious institutions in this way by refusing to foster open discussion of the moral values at stake in the gay rights debate are right-leaning politicians who never cease to remind us that a healthy society is one that values and respects faith-based groups.