Barbara Kay on gay marriage: Beware the sitcom sociologist
National Post - Wednesday May 16th, 2012
Nobody doubts the sincerity of Barack Obama’s recent gay-marriage endorsement. But this usually cautious politician’s definitive self-outing is politically puzzling. After all, ordinary American blacks, Obama’s most loyal constituency, are just as opposed to gay marriage as white religious conservatives. Why take the chance of losing votes?
Gay marriage’s principal backers are white, educated, upper-middle-class urban liberals (WEUMCULs). Something to know about WEUMCULs: They finish school, get jobs and marry, only then have kids, and tend not to divorce. For example, marriage is flourishing in Toronto’s family-dense enclave of WEUMCUL Riverdale. But it is furiously eroding amongst American blacks, the least likely of identifiable minorities to marry (and the most likely to produce fatherless children).
WEUMCULs also dominate Canada’s punditariat. Too often they observe their own WEUMCUL social circle, or watch TV sitcoms anchored in WEUMCUL values, and from these experiences extrapolate erroneous conclusions about society as a whole.
One such WEUMCUL, Jonathan Kay, wrote a column in these pages on Saturday, hailing Obama’s statement as proof of a salutary shift in social attitudes. Like so many of his colleagues, Kay sees gay inclusion situated on a spectrum flagged at one end by overt homophobia, and at the other by gay marriage, anything short of which — even civil unions conferring equal benefits — he considers inequality.
Kay argues that marriage has been an “accelerant for further integration” of formerly promiscuous and rudderless gays, and furthermore that it is in social conservatives’ interest to approve gay marriage, since “it is the prospect and the possibility of marriage that makes us a society of homebodies, which is a wonderful thing to be.” As an example, he adduces the gay couple Mitchell and Cameron, of the ABC sitcom, Modern Family, avatars of a new breed: “neurotic homebodies first, gay men second.” Kay nicknames them “homebos.”
Beware the sitcom sociologue and his twin muses: superficiality and wishful thinking. Contra Kay, there is no indication that homebos Cameron and Mitchell led bathhouse-culture lives before settling down, or that it is marriage that has turned “lust into devotion.” In fact, this being a U.S. sitcom, they are likely not married, only cohabitating. I can’t tell. Unlike slavery or repressed speech, it’s an odd “inequality” that is indistinguishable from equality, producing no discernible sign to observers of the alleged injustice.
Anyway, what has made these particular chaps, and the vast majority of young heterosexuals, homebos isn’t even cohabitation; it is parenthood. Cameron and Mitchell’s daughter is the linchpin of their plotlines and domestic activities. But since only about 9% of gays choose to parent, the couple can hardly be called representative.
The other 91%? Many WEUMCULs, including me, have childless, homebo-type gay friends who are contentedly ensconced in monogamous, pipe-and-slipper lives. Some older ones were homebos before gay marriage was a gleam in ideologues’ eyes. Unpoliticized, they wanted social acceptance, which they got, but they had, and have, no desire for marriage, an institution they regard with complete equanimity as the natural preserve of heterosexuals.
And again, contra Kay, it is not “marriage” per se that preoccupies social conservatives, butfamilies. Social conservatives believe children’s physical security and psychological needs are best served by a stable union of father and mother to whom they are biologically connected, as nature intended. Historical marriage happens to best facilitate that outcome, a view supported both by empirical observation and credible research.
Kay’s determination to find expansive common ground with both gays and conservatives is touching, but self-serving. For gay marriage does not add a single substantive element to cohabiting gays’ lived experience, since those 9% of gays (and 25% of lesbians) who parent are already high-functioning WEUMCULs, Kay would sacrifice society’s best hedge against cultural atrophy for the less socially advantaged on the altar of feel-goodiness — a common WEUMCUL temptation.
Crime and divorce rates are falling both in countries that offer gay marriage and in those that offer civil unions, so there is no causal link between them, as Kay implies. Whatever its symbolic benefits to individual gays, the normalization of gay marriage has been an accelerant to already-muddled public discourse that blurs the line between authentic, fundamental human rights and ideologically constructed “rights.” It has also been an accelerant to the trivialization of real marriage amongst constituencies, such as blacks and lower-class whites, who need it the most.
If empowering lower-echelon blacks were Obama’s real concern, he would use his enormous political capital to shore up traditional marriage amongst them. But it’s not. As his privileging of gay entitlement over ailing black culture demonstrates, inside Obama is a WEUMCUL through and through.