The coming clash of civilizations over gay rights

The “pro” countries are getting steadily more liberal: when the populations are broken down by age, one sees the majorities for acceptance rising steadily the younger the age groups. But the elders are changing too. Pope Francis’ remark last month to reporters on his flight back from a trip to Brazil (“If a person seeks God and is gay and has good will, who am I to judge?”) is the most dramatic indication of old structures creaking toward new positions. His predecessors, especially the last two, would have answered his rhetorical question with something like, “Because you’re the Pope, dummy!” Francis wasn’t changing doctrine, but he was a lot more accommodating. This Pope has a Lady Diana-like feel for the spirit and the causes of the times, and wants to put the Catholic Church, as far as possible, on the right side of history.

What comes next perhaps matters most in the 21st century giants: China and India. In his knowledgeable Peking Duck blog, Richard Burger writes that, even after 15 years of legal recognition and 10 years after its being removed from the list of mental illnesses (and centuries after gay lovers were an accepted part of Chinese life, at least among the aristocrats) homosexuality still offends against the deeply and widely rooted belief that “children must marry and continue the family line.” Uniquely, Chinese gays have gotten around this in an organized fashion, setting up arrangements where male and female gays marry in order to placate their families, then go their separate sexual ways. Burger doesn’t think matters will change much soon: certainly not enough for gay marriage to be accepted…

India and China make up two-fifths of the world’s population. It’s there, rather than in shrinking Russia, that the important struggles — to recognize gay men and women as fully equal to heterosexuals in their choice of partners and style of life — are taking place. For the pioneers, and the men and women who must make their mothers sick by revealing their sexuality, support is needed. It will not be shown by boycotting Sochi. Athletes are better off wearing a badge or waving a flag to show which side they are on.