Yesterday, during a wide-ranging debate at George Washington University with former Vermont Governor Howard Dean, Newt Gingrich reiterated his opposition to expanding marriage to gay and lesbian people, insisting that he came “out of a tradition that is several thousands of years old that says marriage is between a man and a woman.”
Dean took the opposite position, arguing that marriage provided gay and lesbian Americans with equal protections. “For those people who are willing to stand up for themselves, I root for them because I want them to express the idea of America that everybody deserves equal rights under the law” Dean said. This irked Gingrich, who jumped in to say that the real victims of discrimination in today’s society were Christians whose “freedom of religion” is “rapidly being subordinated”:
GINGRICH: Let me just suggest one conundrum to this…In Massachusetts today, there are no Catholic adoption services because it is illegal to run an adoption service following Catholic doctrine. …So it’s very important to weigh this balance because it goes very rapidly from what we want is tolerance, what we want is openness…we are in a real complex balancing point where freedom of religion in America is rapidly being subordinated to other values where people in America are being told no you can’t say this, no you can’t believe this, no you can’t practice this, and no your institution can’t exist. And I just think if you’re going to talk about tolerance, then there ought to be a heck of a lot of toleration based on genuine religious liberty based on thousands of years of tradition and deeply held beliefs that are equally as valid as those of some other people.
In 1989, Massachusetts enacted a comprehensive anti-discrimination law which prohibited discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation “in the areas of employment, housing, public accommodations, credit and services.” And while some Catholic adoption services have pulled out of the state, a basic Google search of “Catholic adoptions Massachusetts” reveals at least three operational agencies that are presumably in compliance with the anti-discrimination provisions.
But what’s telling in Gingrich’s response, beyond its inaccuracy, is that despite the recent gay suicides across the nation and Dean’s rather eloquent argument that people who fight for America should benefit from the equal protections of her laws, Gingrich is arguing that the real victims of inequality are Christians who have to recognize the rights and humanity of other minority groups.