Free Marketers Forget Freedom
A propaganda piece disguised as news reporting is something one expects from, say, the front page of The New York Times or The Washington Post. It’s beyond disappointing to see it in the Yankee Institute’s new journalistic endeavor, Inside Investigator.
The Yankee Institute is the free market group in Connecticut. There’s one in every state, just as each state has its version of the Family Institute. They’re broadly conservative and allies on most issues. I have always praised them and never criticized them. Until now.
The group describes itself as “the nation’s largest Republican organization dedicated to representing LGBT conservatives and allies.” (It might be the only group.) The one issue it mentions on its homepage is “the fight for equality.” It might be more accurate to say its main purpose isn’t to promote conservatism in the country but to promote LGBT causes among conservatives.
Here’s what I mean about the propaganda: The reporter says the gay marriage “debate was over” in Connecticut seven years before the Supreme Court imposed it in Obergefell. In 2008, our state supreme court invented gay marriage by judicial fiat in Kerrigan v. Commissioner of Public Health. The Court even named the date by which town clerks should begin issuing same-sex marriage licenses, six months before the legislature codified the ruling.
The debate wasn’t over. The state was divided on the matter. What happened is that a court decided it didn’t want people to keep debating until they came to an answer. They decided they’d tell the state what to do.
There has never been a purer instance of legislating from the bench. Remember that, legislating from the bench? It’s something conservatives supposedly oppose. Conservatives claim to believe that such matters must be decided by legislatures (especially state legislatures). The courts should stay out. They’re referees. They’re not legislators representing the people, responsible to deliberate about these issues.
That’s what the Yankee Institute thinks. Unless the matter is gay marriage and you’re a pro-gay marriage “conservative.” Then a decision imposed on the people by a court just means the “debate was over.”
The state GOP has “form” in this, as cops say on tv. Kerrigan was the worst example of legislating from the bench until then. Connecticut’s Republicans didn’t protest the judicial activism — until the state supreme court repealed the death penalty. They’ve never mentioned Kerrigan in their critiques of judicial activism since then. They don’t mind legislating from the bench when they agree with the bench.
Debate Not Over
The debate wasn’t over. Many people in Connecticut still opposed gay marriage. The state legislature itself recognized this. It amended the codification bill with one of the strongest religious liberty exemptions in the country.
The mainstream press in Connecticut lied about this history for years. They said the legislature “enacted” gay marriage, leaving out the fact that gay marriage began when the court imposed it six months earlier. With rare exceptions, the press does not misrepresent the history of the gay marriage fight in Connecticut anymore because I went back at them every time.
Many people in the state still oppose gay marriage. More importantly for the present, these people also oppose all the extensions of the idea the Left is now pushing, like transgenderism. Marriage and the natural family still have their supporters, who compose a significant force in Connecticut politics.
I would have explained all this to the reporter, if he had the slightest interest in writing a news story instead of a promo for the Log Cabin Republicans. But he never reached out. Another reporter from this outlet contacted me on an abortion story once. But on this? Nothing.
For Conservatism, Not Libertarianism
And look, I don’t fault any Republican leader for wanting to grow the party’s numbers. They should want as many voters as possible. But for conservatism. Not to undermine us from within on behalf of the very causes against which we fight.
A gay person could start “Gays for Social Conservatism.” A gay Republican group, say, that is libertarian in the sense of wanting to be left in peace, but otherwise insists that basic societal norms not be redefined for their (or anyone else’s) sake. They would support people’s freedom not to support gay marriage or any similar cause. As social conservatives, perhaps they’d hope for the gradual acceptance of gay marriage. They’d want to avoid the division that comes with its imposition.
That would be more consistent with conservative principles. But we’re not going to see that from the Log Cabin Republicans, or their allies at the Yankee Institute. They’re committed to libertarianism not just in economics but in social life.
Get The Stream’s daily news roundup, quick and served with a healthy splash of humor. Subscribe to The Brew
We don’t have real conservatism with the state’s Log Cabin Republicans. Not even the problematic cultural conservatism. In fact, imagine if Family Institute of Connecticut pumped a Republican group wanting higher taxes and bigger government. That is what the Yankee Institute and the CT GOP did to social conservatives here.
Yankee Institute is a libertarian, free market think tank. I don’t expect it to be swinging for social conservatives. But to be swinging for the Log Cabin Republicans? Yankee’s news site suppressed from its readers evidence that contradicted their preferred narrative. They didn’t include any of the real history of the gay marriage fight in CT, how we beat it in the legislature for a decade and how it only came about by judicial fiat.
That is the very same media bias that I had to beat down in the mainstream press in the years immediately after gay marriage was invented. It’s amazing to see “a project of” Yankee Institute promote it. And they didn’t even come to me for a counter-quote. That reporter knows me. Yankee knows me. It feels quite deliberate. They know their allies and friends hold other views. They should not have suppressed them.
And I expect them to mean what they say on their homepage: They want to help the people of our state “by advancing policies that promote smart, limited government.” And what’s a crucial part of limited government? Courts that don’t legislate from the bench.
A Senior Contributor to The Stream, Peter Wolfgang is president of Family Institute of Connecticut. He lives in Waterbury, Connecticut, with his wife and their seven children. The views expressed on The Stream are solely his own. His previous article was What Matt Schlapp and the Cultural Conservatives Really Want (It’s Not What We Want).