Former Speaker of the House and Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich was interviewed on Fox News recently. In part of that interview, Gingrich offered this statement regarding marriage equality.
“I think this is a very complicated human problem and Republicans need to take a deep breath and understand we need to deal with the human side of this equation — and understand that we want to defend marriage in its classic form between a man and a woman. I don’t accept that there’s an alternative. “
He goes on to acknowledge that the country, and Republican idealism in particular, faces a conundrum when trying to address legal standing of same sex couples when it’s legal in some states, recognized in others, and outright banned in others.
But it’s that particular quote that I find so absurd. Two reasons why:
First, marriage of one man and one woman is absolutely not “marriage in its classic form”. To believe so is to completely ignore thousands of years of documented history, sociological study, and cultural differences through time. There have been numerous forms of marriage that have been accepted through history.
But more interestingly, let’s take his statement of “classical form” and apply it to other human and civil rights struggles through American history. Suppose Speaker Gingrich were using this argument when other debates were held. Imagine if he had instead said:
“…we want to defend marriage in its classic form of applying to persons of the same race. I don’t accept that there’s an alternative.”
“…we want to defend voting rights in its classic form of only being extended to free, white men over the age of 21 who own property. I don’t accept that there’s an alternative.”
“…we want to defend freedom in its classic form of only applying to the white race. I don’t accept that there’s an alternative.”
Now it’s not that those statements are particularly shocking, they are part of our history. There were in fact men who made those exact arguments. However, the one thing that they all have in common is that this country would go on to prove that there was an alternative. That alternative was the exact opposite of the classic form, it upheld the ideals of freedom for all citizens, and did not cause the collapse of society. All of those classic forms were ultimately on the wrong side of history.
Steven Spielberg’s film “Lincoln” shows the House of Representatives debating the proposed 13th Amendment to the Constitution, which would abolish slavery. As I watched, I wondered how those men who opposed freedom for black men and women would feel if they could see themselves 150 years later. Would they understand how history looks upon them today for arguing to “defend freedom in its classic form”?
And that’s where Gingrich and the Republican Party have written themselves on the issue of marriage equality. The men and women who continue to defend the marriage in classic form of one man one woman will surely find themselves on the wrong side of history.