Mark J. Koenig

Strange Bedfellows?: Prop. 8 Battle Illustrates Folly of “Conventional Wisdom.”

Posted on August 10 2010 5:00 pm
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The back story of the federal court challenge to California’s Proposition 8, set forth in this recent Hollywood Reporter article, underscores the importance of avoiding easy generalizations and narrative templates.  It is in fact a case study in how reality often defies the neat categories into which we are all sometimes tempted to place people and ideas.  Who would have thought that Ted Olson, George W. Bush’s first Solicitor General, would be arguing in federal court that banning same-sex civil marriage violates the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment?

Furthermore, how many social conservatives would have believed that no less than nine gay-rights groups, Lambda Legal and the ACLU would balk at the idea of pursuing such a challenge?  Many social conservatives are quick to invoke the term “gay agenda,” as if there is such a uniform set of shared (and subversive) goals among gay rights organizations – or even more absurd – among most gay people.  One might as well argue that the NAACP is representative of most civil-rights organizations, or speaks for the majority of American blacks.

NRB’s Managing Editor David Swindle recently invited commentary on Olson’s arguments in an interview with Fox News’ Chris Wallace this past weekend.  It’s worth watching the entire interview here in order to get the full context.  Olson makes a compelling argument that the same rationale used by SCOTUS in a unanimous decision to strike down laws against inter-racial marriage in Loving v. Virginia (1967) applies to laws banning same-sex marriage.  Chris Wallace appears incredulous that an attorney with Olson’s “impeccable conservative credentials” could make such an argument.  By displaying his astonishment, Wallace exposes his own template, or “reality tunnel,” to use Timothy Leary’s terminology.

Ayn Rand recognized the need for rigorous mental discipline when pronouncing moral judgment.  I submit that the same discipline should be observed when formulating an intellectually honest argument.  To quote from Rand’s 1964 classic The Virtue of Selfishness:

Just as a judge in a court of law may err, when the evidence is inconclusive, but may not evade the evidence available, nor accept bribes, nor allow any personal feeling, emotion, desire or fear to obstruct his mind’s judgment of the facts of reality — so every rational person must maintain an equally strict and solemn integrity in the courtroom within his own mind, where the responsibility is more awesome than in a public tribunal, because he, the judge, is the only one to know when he has been impeached.

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