Friday, May 31, 2013

Progressives are Not Contradictory in Supporting Big Government, Abortion Choice, and Same-Sex Marriage

Today's post is prompted by a comment made by David Williamson and George Yancey in There is No God, their study of American atheists.  It could, however, have come from many other standard accounts of what divides political progressives and conservatives.

In general, Williamson and Yancey note, progressives are for more government, and conservatives are for less.  Atheists, who are strongly committed to progressive politics, follow that pattern.  However, Williamson and Yancey note, the roles are reversed when it comes to abortion and same-sex marriage.  On those issues, they argue, the progressives are the ones who want government to stay out of these "personal" decisions, whereas the conservatives are the ones who want big, intrusive government.

I do not think there is a role reversal here.  The issue for progressives in abortion and same-sex marriage is not that the government has no business prohibiting either practice.  Rather, what progressives want is for the government to give ethical legitimacy to abortion and same-sex marriage by protecting the legal status of both actions.  Progressives do not argue that there should be no regulation of abortion and marriage, leaving these matters up to individual decision.  Rather, they argue for a right to abortion and to same-sex marriage, rights which the government must defend against the (very real) attacks by conservatives.

Pro-choice and marriage-equality positions do not contradict the usual pro-government position of progressives.  Progressives rely on the law to validate these actions.


Anonymous said...

It's hard to see how opposition to same sex marriage relies on intrusive government while support for it relies on limited government. There was no government interference in private same sex marriage decisions until recently because government did not address the question. It was a non issue. Not extending recognition to same sex unions was not intrusive, because such recognition was historically so anomalous as to be insignificant.

It wasn't till same sex marriage advocates seized the initiative and began using government to legitimate same sex marriage that government even entered the picture. Once that was the case, yes, same sex marriage opponents naturally fought changes in governance favorable to same sex marriage via the government. But until same sex sex marriage is, if ever, uncontroversial, SSM opponentusing government to advance their cause are acting defensively using tactics originally developed by their opponents.

Of course if, like some unscrupulous SSM advocates, you identify any opposition to SSM with aggressive homophobia, you'll say SSM opponents started the whole thing via anti sodomy laws, etc. But you have no unscrupulous readers.

gruntled said...

We are not really talking about the same thing. I am arguing that being for same-sex marriage is in line with a pro-government position.

You are arguing with someone else about whether being against same-sex marriage entails a big government position.

These are not the same issue.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I know. I am arguing with the same people you are. Think of my comment as an amicus brief on your behalf. Sorry for the confusion.