The big tent is getting uncomfortable for the social conservatives. The libertarians are pushing the envelope on the issue of gay marriage. How will that work out for the coalition (from mostly social conservative- agnostic Tea Partiers to supporters of California’s Proposition 8 to Gary Bauer’s brigade)?
The joining of a odd-tag team of Cato’s Robert Levy and progressive John Podesta at the hip to support the plaintiff in Perry v. Schwarzenegger reinforces the primary strange-bedfellow (ETP*) team of David Boies and Theodore Olson from Bush v. Gore. Gay marriage is working its way into the mainstream of American life. Levy and Podesta argue that The plaintiffs’ legal team, headed by former Bush v. Gore antagonists Theodore Olson and David Boies, has demonstrated that “no good reason exists for the denial of fundamental civil rights under Proposition 8. We support that position.”
Although we serve, respectively, as president of a progressive and chairman of a libertarian think tank, we are not joining the foundation’s advisory board to present a “bipartisan” front. Rather, we have come together in a nonpartisan fashion because the principle of equality before the law transcends the left-right divide and cuts to the core of our nation’s character. This is not about politics; it’s about an indispensable right vested in all Americans.
Over more than two centuries, minorities in America have gradually experienced greater freedom and been subjected to fewer discriminatory laws. But that process unfolded with great difficulty.
As the country evolved, the meaning of one small word – “all” – has evolved as well. Our nation’s Founders reaffirmed in the Declaration of Independence the self-evident truth that “all Men are created equal,” and our Pledge of Allegiance concludes with the simple and definitive words “liberty and justice for all.” Still, we have struggled mightily since our independence, often through our courts, to ensure that liberty and justice is truly available to all Americans.
Thanks to the genius of our Framers, who separated power among three branches of government, our courts have been able to take the lead – standing up to enforce equal protection, as demanded by the Constitution – even when the executive and legislative branches, and often the public as well, were unwilling to confront wrongful discrimination.
Is this the beginning of the conservative crack-up? In any case gay marriage opponents will have a worthy intellectual counterpart in the form of the Cato Institute, which doesn’t back down from its defense of individual rights. History may be moving its way.
Our history will soon be written by young people who are seizing the reins from the baby boomers. They seem prepared to reject laws that serve no purpose other than to deny two committed and loving individuals the right to join in a mutually reinforcing marital relationship.
What does this mean for the future of the great fusion between libertarian and traditionalists that have made up the conservative movement?
*ETP = Excuse the pun.