Homosexual marriage is a logical and necessary outcome of liberalism

Maggie Gallagher writes: “Gay activists … are pushing hard for gay marriage because they understand very well that marriage is not private, it is normative.” This drives home a key point about single sex marriage that may not have been clear before. It has always seemed to many conservative critics (1) that the demand for gay marriage is excessive and unnecessary (since homosexuals are already protected in their individual rights), and (2) that therefore the attacks on critics of homosexual marriage as anti-gay bigots are absurdly overblown. But since, as Gallagher points out, the institution of marriage is not merely private but public and normative, it follows that to exclude single-sex couples from that institution is to treat them unequally with regard to a fundamental value, and constitutes horrible discrimination.

As with so many other liberal phenomena such as political correctness, it turns out that the demand for gay marriage and the demonization of its opponents are not, as they initially appear to be, an irrational excess of liberalism; they are a logical and necessary outcome of liberalism. A consistent believer in equality must support gay marriage as a fundamental right. Which further suggests that in the long run gay marriage can only be effectively opposed by those who are prepared to challenge liberalism at the most basic level.
Posted by Lawrence Auster at June 03, 2002 09:58 AM | Send


You’re absolutely right - the demand for homosexual marriage is a logical and necessary outcome of liberalism. The problem is that you cannot beat something (liberalism) with nothing (traditional metaphysics in which almost nobody believes seriously and wholeheartedly). People are generally quite comfortable with the liberal attitude to morality, law and politics - liberalism is the only version of Christianity acceptable by the secularized society. It makes life quite comfortable and makes people feel good. It offers relatively coherent and simple ideological basis for law and social life in general. What are you going to propose instead?

Posted by: Ar(t)isto on June 3, 2002 5:55 PM

The answer, obviously, is a return to traditional morality—as is still taught, by the way, by all the major religions. Such a restoration may seem impossible at the moment, but it will seem less and less impossible as the hideousness unleashed by liberalism becomes so obvious that no one can ignore it.

Posted by: Lawrence Auster on June 3, 2002 6:20 PM

A basic question is whether liberal society works in the long run or whether its internal logic puts it ultimately too much at odds with human nature to survive. It seems to me the latter is the case. The hysteria of the European ruling classes and their inability to confront issues suggests that on some level they fear that might be right. If so then the apparent tactical invincibility of liberalism at a particular moment doesn’t show that much.

Posted by: Jim Kalb on June 3, 2002 7:47 PM

Remember, a century ago it looked as if, perhaps, liberalism was simply going to be a philosophy for the intelligensia in Europe.

And also, there are no pernament political victories.

Posted by: John on June 4, 2002 5:20 AM

Whether or not liberal society is viable in the long run (I believe it is not), the fact that it does seem to function as well as it does in the short and medium term, despite all the lies it is founded on, is one of the great puzzles and demands explanation.

Posted by: Lawrence Auster on June 4, 2002 9:24 AM

It is a basic property of logic that self-contradiction implies everything (and at the same time its negation). So a self-contradictory ideology like liberalism will naturally contain lots of surprises for everyone. Chaos sets off some beautiful fireworks as it kills you.

Posted by: Matt on June 4, 2002 1:09 PM

But is it chaos, Matt? Right-wingers used to use the term “Fabian” to refer to all left-wing movement. In other words, these people will make every baby step possible toward their utopian goals. Anyone who tries to stand still or head backward is the enemy by definition.

Real British type Fabians (like George Bernard Shaw and H.G. Wells) would have loved Tony Blair and Jacques Chirac.

I don’t believe in planned conspiracies, but I don’t think modern public policy is purely a random effect either.

Posted by: Jim Carver on June 4, 2002 3:50 PM

I think that liberalism in itself is self-contradictory, yes. A random noise generator has a context in which it resides, though, and in the case of liberalism it is the very traditions that it rejects upon which it depends for its existence. You can predict what liberalism will destroy next by examining the goods upon which it depends: those are the very things that it will destroy. It will kill its father and rape its mother in the eternal pursuit of emancipation.

What astonishes me is not the extent to which the pursuit of freedom and equality as plenary goods that trump tradition has been tactically successful. What I find astonishing is the extent to which it has covered its tracks and laid the blame for at least half a millennia of its own murders at the feet of conservatism. That such an ostensibly probing and authority-questioning society worships so pervasively at the feet of the mythology, after all the overt human sacrifices made to it, is astounding. Who is like the Beast, and who can fight against him?

Posted by: Matt on June 4, 2002 4:25 PM

Enlighten me: In what sense is liberalism self-contradictory?

Posted by: Ar(t)isto on June 4, 2002 4:29 PM

And please: this time BE SPECIFIC ;o)

Posted by: Ar(t)isto on June 4, 2002 4:44 PM

Sure. There are many ways to do so.

One is to observe that liberalism is the use of coercion in order to emancipate. That is, it justifies coercion on the premise of coercion being unjustified.

Another is to observe that every possible government action restricts freedom by categorizing people and treating them unequally.
A strict anarchist might be able to claim consistency here, but anyone in favor of any sort of government cannot.

Another is to observe that the meaning of political language depends upon tradition, so rejection of tradition as an authority at least coequal with freedom and equality constitutes a rejection of meaning in general.

Another is to observe that a right creates a distinction between people and a requirement to treat them unequally (e.g. owner/trespasser), so a requirement for equal rights is a requirement for equal inequalities.

This might not be a problem if there were an authoritative tradition that said what distinctions and coercions are OK and what are not; or alternatively some literally comprehensive list of OK distinctions and coercions. Liberalism does not provide this, and in fact expressly disclaims it.

Things that are self-contradictory are difficult to characterize precisely *because* they imply everything and everything’s negation at the same time. So liberalism equivocates wherever you find it, both depending upon and rejecting the authority of tradition, and fragments into myriad parties using liberal principles to justify the use of coercion to carry out their own desires — which anyone at all can do, because liberal principles are self-contradictory.

Posted by: Matt on June 4, 2002 4:51 PM

Liberalism is not the same as neo-socialism and to
equate the two is damaging to the conservative cause. The collapse of the world wide organized
socialist movement does not mean that socialism is gone. Only that the Marxist-Hegalist model is replaced by a cultural academic ideology driven
by socialist bias. We are in a Gordian knot. We have elevated “Higher education” to a religion.
universal culture equilivency,political correctness,normalization of homosexuality,are
belief systems,not philosophical or even logical.
Because academia has become the gate keeper to American society,the more we protest the tighter the knot.

Posted by: DON VAN on February 18, 2004 10:35 AM

Liberalism CAN work. Gay marriage makes perfect sense, and otherwise it’s discrimination. Love between people is love between people, whatever sex they are, and gays should have the legal rights heterosexuals enjoy. And conservatism ideals on this sort of issue seem to be that everyone should be inhibited and not protest. It is the continuation of the thousands of years of repression the Church subjected Europe to.

Posted by: Becky on May 18, 2004 4:28 PM

I’m not even sure Becky that love between people is as unspecific as you suggest. Marital love is, I think, a highly “gendered” thing (to use liberal terms). It has at least something to do with a calling together of manhood and womanhood, which is presumably why homosexuals feel the need to adopt masculine and feminine roles within their relationships. The homosexual partnership, though, has an element of pretence that the heterosexual one doesn’t.

Parental love is also something specific. Didn’t you experience mother love as something unique and special in your life? Again, this is something that can’t be adequately reproduced within a homosexual relationship. A child brought up within such a setting will be deprived either of mother love or of the similarly unique emotional relationship existing between fathers and sons and fathers and daughters.

Posted by: Mark Richardson on May 18, 2004 6:03 PM

Humans can’t exist without discriminating. One loves his family and not other families. This does not make family members evil, nor does it mean families want to do something TO nonfamily members. In addition, laws that prohibit a person from discriminating discriminate against that person.

There are more particular reasons to discriminate against homosexuals. There is strong evidence homosexuality is a medical condition that can be largely cured in many cases. Moreover, homosexuality is inherently evil to Catholics, to many other Christians, to Islamics, and to just about every religion. Homosexuality can be learned, and people don’t want their children to learn something evil any more than they want their children to learn how to take drugs. If children see that homosexuality is just another option, they will be prone to try it. The extreme promiscuity among homosexuals is something that will never change. Parents don’t want this for their children.

My solution is to give homosexuals a choice between remaining in the closet or segregating themselves into their own homeland but prohibit them from having and raising children, which the homosexuals would certainly victimize.

Posted by: P Murgos on May 18, 2004 10:36 PM

Another example of internal leftist contradiction is the left’s use of inequality to promote equality. Since human equality doesn’t occur in nature, any attempt to bring it about requires the exercise of power. Yet, by exercising power, leftists place themselves in a superior position to those they are attempting to equalize. So you have a federal judge, in a superior position, ordering other people to submit to affirmative action programs designed to bring about (alleged) equality.

The way I see it, if liberalism/leftism worked over the long haul, then liberals/leftists would be conservatives. There would exist great civilizations that rose to prominence via the implementation of leftist ideals, and leftists would be fighting to conserve those societies. But no great civilization could arise based on wealth redistribution, pacifism in the face of aggression, gender equality, gay marriage, rampant sexual immorality, and secularism.

This forces liberals to adopt the tactic of declaring themselves to be “progressives”. Since they’ve failed utterly to create and sustain civilizations, they must declare those civilizations which exist to be flawed, while claiming that they (the leftists/liberals) have arrived to “improve” them.

Posted by: Tim on June 9, 2004 5:37 PM

Good summation by Tim. That liberals must take the superior, powerful position in order to bring about equality is one of the central liberal contradictions. The ultimate example is the Marxist withering away of the state which is in fact a party dictatorship. Since liberals are against unequal power relationships, they must deny that they exercise power themselves. They always present themselves as the “progressives” come to end inequality, rather than as the power wielders. The result is that liberal power is invisible and unaccountable, and is thus more unequal, undemocratic, and corrupting than the traditional power relations it is replacing, which, unlike liberalism, do not deny their own hierarchical component.

See my article, “‘Transparency’ revealed,”

Posted by: Lawrence Auster on June 9, 2004 5:49 PM
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