Truthfully, I happen to think that George W. Bush was an underrated president. I still believe Mitt Romney would have made a superb leader. I am a Republican who feels that, at its best, my party is a vessel for the aspirations of all Americans, and a manifestation of loving commitment to the principles that anchor our nation.
The debate over marriage equality has reached a fever pitch in past weeks. Now, as the Supreme Court considers the subject, and bipartisan leaders like Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Sen. ClaireMcCaskill (D-Mo.) announce their support for marriage rights for all committed couples, I find that the question of gay marriage is one germane to the identity of the GOP.
I believe that marriage is a right to be enjoyed by couples regardless of their sexual orientations. In my view, Republicans should be less squeamish with the notion than many are currently. Already, our generation finds itself overwhelmingly supportive of marriage equality. Within my party, a libertarian dogma has taken hold, convincing many that marriage equality should be upheld because governments should have no role in administering marriages.
I agree with their conclusion but strongly disagree with their thought process. I am a “family values” conservative who supports marriage equality because of, and not in spite of, those values. My libertarian friends err when they say that government should be a minimalist, dispassionate entity; history demonstrates that American government is at its finest when it is animated by a righteous moral compass. Government should be a custodian of virtue in a republic and should exercise the instruments of power so as to foster the flourishing of the values its citizens’ prize.
The concept of “family values” has been perverted in our modern political discourse; proponents manipulate the term to mean a divisive cudgel to prosecute a culture war, while opponents sneeringly dismiss it as Norman Rockwell fluff. To me, advocacy of family values is recognition of the unique power of the family unit at its best: a showcase of unconditional love, devoted commitment and mutual support that yield a whole vastly greater than the sum of its parts. I am blessed to have been raised in such a family and want to see an America where every child can enjoy a similar upbringing.
Ultimately, government should be in the business of incentivizing two-parent households, where children can grow up with the attention and affection not only given to them by their parents but also shown to them as an example in the way their parents treat one another. That type of wholesome upbringing gives inexpressible support to a growing child and should be the gold standard of American culture to which we aspire.
Therefore, from my “family values” perspective, I am left with no choice but to conclude that gay marriage is more than a right. It is an obligation. True conservatives should demand gay marriage as a testament to the loving commitment that should define all families. Some argue that marriage equality will degrade the institution of marriage for heterosexual couples. The opposite is true. Making marriage into an instrument of exclusion — rather than an instrument of love — is what erodes the integrity of the institution for gay and straight couples alike. As a guy who is prone to falling in love with a girl approximately every six seconds, I dream of being married and raising kids someday. For me, it just won’t feel right until my gay friends can harbor those same dreams for themselves.
Now is a time for choosing. Politicians and courts are poised to make consequential decisions on the future of marriage in this country. We should insist unwaveringly on marriage equality. The Supreme Court meets under the words “Equal Justice Under Law.” I pray that the justices are inspired by that tenet. I believe there is a silent mass of citizens, especially Republicans, who support marriage equality. Now is the time to stand up and speak out. Ultimately, this debate occupies a dizzying amount of our policymaking bandwidth, which otherwise should be devoted to questions of fiscal and foreign policies. Let’s settle it once and for all: Let our government state in no uncertain terms that love and commitment are good and inviolable for every single American citizen.
Sam Dulik is a senior in the School of Foreign Service.