The Soul-Crushing Scorched-Earth Battle for Gay Marriage

How much is victory worth?  And after you win, if you win, what do you have to show for it?

As these principles go with warfare, so they go with propaganda.  The Greek word polemos, “war,” led not to the English word “war,” but rather to the English word “polemics.”

The gay movement is not a random assortment of motley rebels.  It is highly organized, with major nerve centers in places like the Human Rights Coalition.  The movement has its prominent generals, such as Dan Savage and Wayne Besen.

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In other words, this is a movement equipped to pick its battlesIn 1999, history was made because Vermont’s high court legalized same-sex civil unions.  The battle plan then could have been to focus on civil unions, forging a new model of romantic commitment in a nation where the old notion of “marriage” had long suffered from stasis.

The war could have been won and over by now.  In polls that break down three choices for respondents—(1) no recognition of same-sex couples, (2) civil unions, or (3) marriage—civil unions tend to get the highest support.  By using civil unions as the framework, gays and lesbians could have redefined the concept of gay family to encompass new forms of cooperative foster care, for instance, rather than trying to erase the role of biological fatherhood and motherhood.

Most importantly, had civil unions been the focus, there would have been nowhere near as much resistance.  One thing that I learned while being raised by a lesbian mother and her female partner (more on that in a moment) is simple but important: not everyone is going to like you.  You can’t change some people’s minds.  Screw them and move on.

The war for marriage was destined to be bloodier and costlier.  I might hazard a guess that gay spokespeople like Dan Savage preferred it to be bloody and costly, since in a strange Lord of the Flies psychology, they would be able to command the most resources by making gay people feel constantly embattled, hated, and in need of take-no-prisoners leadership of the kind Savage promised.

In any case, the LGBT movement started at a solution—gay marriage equality—and then reasoned backwards, searching for arguments that would justify it.  It is always ill-advised to put forward an answer and then go fishing for questions.  The LGBT movement was forced into that position since it had to fight for gay marriage equality in two places where argumentation carries the day—first, the court system, and second, the two-party electoral process.  So gay marriage equality became a platform, a goal, a panacea, a nearly utopian mantra—for which there was no immediate or compelling emergency.

Let us not forget that the LGBT community abounds in emergencies.  Here is a snapshot of gay male life in 2010, as I wrote for an article that I ended up not publishing:

Meanwhile, gay men were not necessarily becoming happier simply because taboos crumbled and it was easier for them to have sex. Eating disorders, suicide, depression, and addiction were higher among gay and bisexual men than among other groups. In 2010, a report by the Center for Disease Control revealed that men who had sex with men were still contracting HIV at 44 times the rate of other men—despite decades of activism by a muscular and highly visible gay movement.

Are any of these real emergencies going to be solved by legalizing gay marriage?  Wait—before you take too long to deliberate about it, I’ll cut to the answer: no.

On the magical day, some time in 2015 or so, when gay marriage is legalized throughout the United States (it will happen, believe me), none of those problems will be significantly alleviated by the “right” to marry.  In fact, many of them may worsen, precisely because so much energy and money was diverted to fighting for gay marriage over civil unions, when a lot of the community’s most vulnerable members do not end up in couples.

The gay couples who got hospital visitation rights under civil unions will have the same hospital visitation rights under marriage.  The word “marriage” will be like the seventy pounds I lost in 2007.  After being fat for years, I thought I’d be happy if only I were skinny.  As it turned out, I had all the same problems, only now I was hungry.

That’s how those wedding photos and marriage certificates will feel for gay couples.  After a few weeks, like the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, the victory will be easily forgotten, and the people who weren’t helped by the “right” to marry nonexistent partners or the “right” to be stuck in the military will be quickly neglected.

Which brings me to me.  To paraphrase Thoreau, I am sorry to speak so much on the topic of me, but it’s the topic I know the most about.

Since I was a toddler, I have been stuck with all sorts of Gay Questions.  You see, I have no memories of my biological father being around my house.  My earliest memories are of my mother and her best friend, who I eventually discovered was her female romantic partner.  They raised me together through all of my childhood and adolescence.  My mother died when I was nineteen.  It may please today’s gay activists to know that then, in 1990, my mother’s partner was able to be by my mother’s bedside.

Yet there has never been peace between me and the gay community.  In the 1970s and 1980s, I was raised by two women, both of whom I credit for doing a great job in a rather intolerant era.  But it was hard on me, and I have never been hesitant to share my experience truthfully.  I suffered from not having contact with my father and lacking a male role model.  Period.

One effect of the difficulties was that I dropped out of college and sought parenting from troublesome people.

In the 1990s, I watched many gay men who had become surrogate father and surrogate mother figures to me die.  One by one, repeating the tragedy of my mother, they disappeared.  They were all alone except, in many cases, for me.  The gay community treated them with shame even as they were the only sense of family I thought I’d have left.

In my late twenties, I finally lost my virginity to the woman who would bear me a child and become my wife.  So bingo, I was suddenly “bisexual.”  (My wife knows everything, and I do not plan on hiding my past.)  I realized soon enough that bisexuals aren’t very popular among the gays.  “You’re lying,” “you’re a wacko ex-gay,” and “those pictures are going to destroy you!” were all subtle ways of gay friends telling me they weren’t going to invite me to parties anymore.

There’s more, but I’ll stop with the autobiography there.  The point is this: if gay marriage is a solution without a problem, I am the gay community’s problem without a solution.  I don’t fit any of their narratives.  Through no fault of my own, I explode every one of their myths, from the narrative of idyllic same-sex couple parenting to the supposed fabulousness of post-Stonewall New York to the insistence that gay people are born a certain way and sexual orientation can never change.

I feel like walking around with a sign on my chest saying, “Dear Gays, Please Forgive Me For Existing.”  Their instinct would be to do what they usually do, which is ignore me.  Anyway, I am conservative.  That makes me Satan.

So then, we get to August 6, the day the atomic bomb was dropped over Hiroshima in 1945, and the day, in 2012, that I published an essay entitled “Growing Up with Two Moms.”

It was a simple 2,000-word essay defending a study by Texas sociologist Mark Regnerus.

Mark Regnerus’s study found that children of gay or bisexual parents had greater difficulties than children of intact biological families with a mother and father.  The gay blogosphere had gone mad, accusing Regnerus of being an anti-gay pig and distorting sociological data.  After 59 studies, all forming a scholarly “consensus” that same-sex couples posed no disadvantages for children, Regnerus gave up consensus for the truth.

My defense expressed thoughts that undermined the legal penumbras involved in arguing for gay marriage under the 14th Amendment.  Who cares?  It was hard to be a kid growing up with gay parents—that’s all I know.  I’m not a lawyer.

Since my article came out, I have been through far worse than I ever thought would happen.  My job is at risk, and worst of all, my coworkers received an e-mail from a gay rights organization with the title “COMPLAINT AGAINST CSUN’S ROBERT LOPEZ: GAY BASHER.”  Soon I got e-mails from administrators.  People really investigate claims like this.

Gay basher?

What the heck has this movement come to?

For God’s sake, I am a bisexual raised by a lesbian couple, who helped countless people dying of AIDS.  I’ve spent my life cleaning up the messes left by gay politics.  I wrote an honest essay.  That’s bashing?

The gay marriage movement has finally crossed the line into insanity.  They must burn their own villages to save them from their phantasmal bullies.  All the real things that gays could do to improve their real problems are right before their eyes: be humane to one another, forgive others, care for their most needy, and most of all, pick their battles.  Support pro-life politicians and adopt foster kids saved from abortion.  Vote for Republicans who believe in school vouchers, get bullied gays into safer schools…  But they choose not to.  They have dedicated themselves to a scorched-earth campaign for gay marriage.  And when that war is won, they will have conquered a wasteland.  I wonder what Eliot would have to say.

This essay first appeared August 11, 2012 in and is reprinted with permission of the author.


  • Robert Oscar Lopez

    Robert Oscar Lopez is author of the Colorful Conservative: American Conversations with the Ancients from Wheatley to Whitman (University Press of America, 2011). Lopez is also the author of three fictional works about gay life. He is the editor of English Manif.

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