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Slow and Steady




Imposing one answer on everybody is the opposite of pluralism and tolerance. Thoughts on the gay-wedding-cake case and social change from Ronald Dworkin:

After marriage equality passed nationally, some gay rights organizations shrewdly disbanded, having achieved their goal. There would be no “permanent revolution,” as some theoreticians call for. For many gays and lesbians it was time to go from being a new and exciting bud on society’s tree to blending in with all the other boring branches that give the tree its vital structure. In other words, it was time to assimilate, as Jews and other minorities had prudently done in their day after achieving their goals.

But the gay wedding cake issue in Masterpiece has thrown a monkey wrench into the plan. It signifies the ascent of theory over prudence.

Richard Thompson Ford, in a recent [The American Interest] essay titled, “Anti-Discrimination Eats Itself,” captures one aspect of that change. He notes that the theory behind anti-discrimination law has greatly expanded over the years, on behalf of both religious people and oppressed minorities, such that what was once a workable idea—for example, don’t discriminate against someone because of their race, religion, or sexual orientation—has expanded to include the illegality of discriminating against anyone for any kind of behavior. This is what led to the impasse in Masterpiece, notes Ford, as we now face an unresolvable conflict of absolutes: the freedom to behave in accordance with one’s religious belief and the right to have one’s culture accommodated in all situations. He suggests cutting back on the applicability of anti-discrimination law to religious people, and muses on the spinelessness of a liberal culture that hesitates to “outlaw discrimination against the discriminators.” This moves Ford closer to the LGBT position in the wedding cake debate. Yet even he admits that the culture itself must work these issues out, and that theories of rights get us nowhere.

This is precisely Burke’s point. Theory is an insufficient guide. Societies differ, their cultures differ, because the conditions in each society differ, growing out as they do from different histories. This is why universal theory can only take reformers so far. The question then becomes what to do. In the case of the French Revolution, rather than seek a workable solution unique to France, the idealists dealt with the inevitable pushback by imposing their theory of justice on everyone, violently and bloodily, inspired by Rousseau’s dictum that sometimes people must be “forced to be free.” In the name of freedom the idealists abolished freedom. The alternative approach to social reform, Burke observed, is prudence.

[Ronald Dworkin, “Slow and Steady,” Hudson Institute, July 4]


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  1. There is no marriage equality right, Kennedy lied and fabricated one. He also redefined marriage, in this country it has ALWAYS been one man & one woman. Everyone of age had a right to marry a member of the opposite sex. No one has to choose a same-sex partner. And no one is born a homosexual, that myth has been debunked many times. Homosexuals are made not born.
    For years homos claimed genetics forced them to be homosexual, a total lie, they should apologize to the country for deceiving people. Genes never control behavior.