I have to ask a non-American American question. It needs a sort of run-up though.
“I assume that Senator [Hillary] Clinton — who has spoken out strongly against military discrimination, who stands for civil unions and respect for same-sex couples — understands that gay Americans are not immoral, and she ought to say so clearly,” said Evan Wolfson, executive director of Freedom to Marry, a group that advocates same-sex marriage.
Why is it important that a public figure declare homosexuality moral or immoral? The military man who made the original incendiary statement about homosexuality being immoral and not-to-be-allowed is an ass, and a dangerous one, I grant this. And politically, I understand that we live in a society where Hillary Clinton has to respond as the liberal candidate (God help!) and say something ambiguously cheery to the queer folk, which is precisely what she did.
But why does she have to? Why is it important that she believe it is moral? Why is it disturbing that she might not?
One issue is of course that a person is driven by her beliefs, especially in such a (theoretically) ideologically driven profession and arena. Fine, in as far as that goes. But it doesn’t go all that far. The same instinct that wants to silence homosexuality from public discourse wants to censure Hillary Clinton for not being queer-friendly enough – it’s the instinct for moral leadership, Our Kind of Moral Leadership. Why is that okay, for anyone?
Does the argument need to be hammered home societally? Of course it does. Homosexuality is not immoral and if your moral code insists that it is, keep it to yourself. But that’s exactly the point: keep it to yourself. Public policy in America is about allowing freedoms, right? Why does it become about making statements, flying banners, being an example to the rest of the world? Why did Roe v. Wade ever become about the definition of life?
I think there’s a danger in looking to “leaders” to do too much leading. They’re public servants, right? They need to set up a system. I don’t think they should be put in charge of defining the moral discourse, one way or the other, let alone held accountable for the crap they spew in the process of getting elected. Does her policy look good? If not, ditch her. What she says when the heat is on? Nah. I’d rather watch her walking away, you know?
Moral “leadership” should be in the hands of other sorts of people. Us, for example. Religious institutions, especially in a secular society, because they can only influence policy, they can’t make it themselves. Organizations like Freedom to Marry. Planned Parenthood. Civil Society, basically. The government should just pass cheques around.
But maybe I’m wrong.