What slippery slope?
Above, you’ll find a short video composed of the floor speeches some top Democrats made about SSM. At the time, Republicans wanted to block gay marriage in Massachusetts by amending the constitution with an official marriage definition. Democrats argued against that, but they didn’t argue in favor of gay marriage. They argued that DOMA made such an amendment unneccessary. They assured people like Rick Santorum that the slippery slope case for gay marriage was bogus.
The new Democratic advocates for SSM fall into two camps. The first consists of people who always liked the idea of this but worried about losing national elections. In his memoir, Democratic consultant Bob Shrum remembers John Kerry fretting that the Massachusetts Supreme Court had forced Democrats to talk about gay marriage before they were ready to. “Why couldn’t they just wait a year?” he asked Shrum, mournfully. The second camp consists of people who really do oppose the idea of gay people getting married. Republicans argued that this second camp was tiny, and that liberals were hiding behind it. They were right!
Yes, Republicans were right. But that and a dime will get them almost nothing these days.
Other Republicans are saying we’ve not heard the end of this issue even if SSM becomes the law of the land:
Any Christian who refuses to recognize that man wants to upend God’s order [through same sex marriage] will have to be driven from the national conversation. They will be labeled bigots and ultimately criminals.
Already we have seen florists, bakers, and photographers suffer because they have refused to go along with the cultural shift toward gay marriage. There will be more.
Once the world decides that real marriage is something other than natural or Godly, those who would point it out must be silenced and, if not, punished. The state must be used to do this. Consequently, the libertarian pipe dream of getting government out of marriage can never ever be possible.
My understanding of the underpinnings of the religious attitude towards marriage (that it should be limited to one man and one woman—an attitude that used to include all the major religions in this country except the Church of Latter Day Saints, and they came on board quite some time ago too) was the idea that the sexual impulse was sacred when channeled towards an institution that favored procreative sex. Whether or not some marriages (the elderly, the infertile) did not yield children was considered irrelevant; it was the institution of marriage with that particular structure that was sacred, favored, and also protected by law because it encouraged reproduction and a stable environment in which to raise children.
Religion, society, and law had an interest in furthering all of that. And religion, society, and law (which were more unified back then, despite the official separation of church and state in terms of forbidding state-established religions) also had an interest in discouraging types of sex that channeled the all-powerful and easily-distracted sexual impulse into avenues that could never lead to procreation, or that potentially wreaked some sort of havoc with the stability of marriage and the raising of children. To further support those ends, society passed laws (which I’m old enough to remember) that forbid not only homosexual acts, but also laws that banned the sale of contraception even to married couples, or that forbid sodomy even to heterosexuals (see this for a relevant chart of how recently many of these laws were repealed). The forbidden practices continued, of course—under the table, as it were—but they were not sanctioned and celebrated.
So it wasn’t just an anti-gay vendetta. It was a fairly seamless religious/societal/legal consensus on what was approved and what was disapproved, and why. Remember Sodom and Gomorrah? The people of yesteryear did.
I’m not personally a follower of a religion or religious subdivision that still subscribes to such beliefs in the literal sense. But I respect religious people and think I understand the reasons for their objections to same sex marriage. I believe that Eric Erickson’s cautions that I quoted above are extremely valid, and that SSM is merely one step in a long “progressive” march towards the eradication of religion and/or its demonization (a word that has an ironic twist in this context, does it not?).
And I see the story of Sodom and Gomorrah as expressing a cultural truth about anything-goes societies, which is that unbridled sexual license is part and parcel of a spiraling multifaceted decline in that society as a whole into more general chaos and amorality, especially as regards the rearing of the next generation. Which comes first—the specifically sexual license or the more generalized decline—is unclear, although I happen to think it’s the latter, and that each feeds into and amplifies the other.
And that, if one looks at the family today in the US, it’s fairly obvious that we’ve been sliding down that slippery slope for quite some time now.
[NOTE: As for the specific question of what effect same sex marriage has on all this, my honest answer is that I don’t know and I don’t think anyone knows. That’s one of the many reasons—federalism being another—that I think it should be left to the states. There’s even an argument to be made that, once homosexual behavior and homosexual couples are accepted in a society (something that’s already occurred), the institution of gay marriage helps to stabilize their behavior and to create less promiscuity and sexual license, not more. But being pretty much of a libertarian and federalist on this issue does not stop me from recognizing the potential dangers to religious freedom, which concern me very much.]