When talking about so-called “social issues” in politics, the subjects of same-sex marriage and abortion are very frequently mentioned in the same breath. The assumption goes like this – if someone is on the conservative side, that person will both favor banning gay marriage and banning abortion; if that person is on the liberal side, he will support gay marriage and abortion rights. However, in reality there is no fundamental reason that the subjects need to be linked. It is entirely possible, and in fact quite common, for someone to be okay with gays marrying but find abortion to be objectionable.
And in fact, the polls show this to be the exact direction that Americans are moving. Most people now favor gay marriage rights, and the amount of Americans calling themselves “pro-choice” has shrunk while “pro-life” has gained share. This fact should not be the least bit surprising to anyone who understands the issues at hand. Gay marriage will naturally become more popular because it is a message of inclusion; the arguments against it are weak and becoming weaker as more people realize it will not hurt them in any way. And as for abortion, improved medical imaging, the survival of fetuses at increasingly earlier stages, and wider acceptance of contraception has rendered abortion less necessary and more morally questionable.
Yet it seems that in our mainstream politics, we are still largely defined by the idea that you must take a certain position on each issue based on your political side. It’s part of our idiotic political culture that demands absolute fealty to one party’s positions and spits upon those who find themselves in between. If a Republican finds himself supporting gay rights or anything other than the extreme, terrifying pro-life stance of Santorum and Bachmann, he is excoriated and called a “RINO”. If a Democrat favors anything but totally unrestricted abortion, he is called anti-woman. As a country we suffer from the ridiculous idea that people fit nicely into one of two camps, and those that don’t like either camp that much are thrown to the wild.
Instead, what we need to adopt are reasonable stances on both abortion and gay marriage. Republicans and conservatives need to understand two things, lest they be thrown to the dustbin of history.
First, that abortion is going to be legal to some degree, likely for a very long time. I realize that this is hard to accept, but it’s reality. However, the pro-life argument is very strong and gaining ground. Conservatives should not shy away from this. The argument that unborn life is worth something is compelling and rational. The huge mistake to make is to push too hard, and go too far, to such an extent that regular folks are repulsed. Mandatory ultrasound laws (including those requiring invasive probes) are a disgrace, as are vague, poorly realized “personhood” laws. The goal posts are moving – but they need to be moved slowly.
Second, that gay marriage is inevitable, and that arguments against it are becoming increasingly weak. It was already incredibly hard to convince someone that their hetero marriage was “threatened” by Bob and Steve down the street being married. So anti gay marriage rhetoric has increasingly become reduced to playing on people being uncomfortable with homosexuality and disgusting fear mongering about people being able to marry their dogs. Ideally, the state should get out of marriage totally; but if it is in the business, it must treat all parties equally. One’s personal discomfort with gay sex has literally NOTHING to do with what public policy should be.
This is the direction that most Americans are moving. It makes sense as the younger generations become more at ease with gay people and abortion becomes more seen as something to be avoided. A smart leader understands these trends and steps ahead of them instead of lagging behind and playing to the worst of us. The American public is increasingly growing tired of the games being played. It’s time for us to act like adults and make the case for our positions.