William Saletan of Slate approves of “lifestyle conservatism,” but when it comes to defining that term, your mileage may vary, given that for Saletan it includes support for same-sex marriage. In a Thursday piece, Saletan asserted that conservatives ought to accept that two-person marriages, whether hetero- or homosexual, fit into the “tradition” and “enduring institution” of matrimony.
“Republicans are right to worry about redefining marriage,” wrote Saletan. “But their decision to draw the line at sexual orientation was a profound mistake. They thought homosexuality was a lifestyle. In reality, the only lifestyle at stake is marriage itself. By locking gay people out of that institution, Republicans disserved their party’s mission: a well-ordered society.” The real enemy, he claimed, is a “lifestyle liberalism” that condones “polygamy,” “infidelity,” “promiscuity,” and “cohabitation.”
Saletan added that “the magnitude of the shift [in public opinion] on gay marriage mirrors the magnitude of the shift on interracial marriage, perhaps because Americans are coming to believe that sexual orientation is more like the color of your skin than like the content of your character.”
From Saletan’s article (bolding added):
[Republicans should] go back to being the party of lifestyle conservatism: marriage, parenthood, community, faith, commitment, self-discipline, and social order. Recognize same-sex marriage as part of that tradition. Now that the fight for “marriage equality” has been won, the next fight is about what that victory means. Are we welcoming same-sex couples, like different-race couples, to an enduring institution? Or are we rethinking the rules of marriage and its place in society? That’s a debate to which social conservatives should contribute. And it’s a fight the GOP can win.
Republicans are right to worry about redefining marriage. But their decision to draw the line at sexual orientation was a profound mistake. They thought homosexuality was a lifestyle. In reality, the only lifestyle at stake is marriage itself. By locking gay people out of that institution, Republicans disserved their party’s mission: a well-ordered society. And by asserting that there was no logical stopping point between homosexuality, polygamy, and infidelity, the right helped the left…Some social liberals are claiming that if you support marriage equality for same-sex couples, you have to support it for multiple partners as well. Some right-wing groups agree. Both sides want to make Americans choose between lifestyle liberalism and rolling back gay marriage.
That’s where a younger, wiser generation of Republicans needs to step in. They must break the link between same-sex marriage and lifestyle liberalism. Not all family structures are equal. Divorce, single parenthood, and promiscuity are real problems. So is the replacement of marriage by cohabitation or domestic partnership. To be heard on those issues, Republicans have to build a middle ground in which Obergefell is welcomed and understood, not as a gateway to equal recognition and benefits regardless of how you live, but as an affirmation of marriage.
In the short term, this will be hard. Republicans will have to admit that they were wrong. But in exchange, they’ll be freed to fight for their values. And whatever support they lose on the right will be offset by a fresh appeal to the center…
…[M]any Americans have decided that homosexuality is an immutable trait, and they have adjusted their views accordingly. If homosexuality isn’t a choice, it can’t be a sin. We can’t make gay people straight, but we can let them marry.
…To find a question on which the public has moved as dramatically as it has on same-sex marriage, you have to scroll down the page to this one: “Do you approve or disapprove of marriage between blacks and whites?” On that question, public support has risen by 22 points since 2002. The magnitude of the shift on gay marriage mirrors the magnitude of the shift on interracial marriage, perhaps because Americans are coming to believe that sexual orientation is more like the color of your skin than like the content of your character.