Yesterday was a historic day for the United States, and I was as delighted as everyone else I know. I’ve supported gay marriage since the mid-1990s, when as a teenager, I read Andrew Hodges’ classic biography of Alan Turing, and burned with white-hot rage at Turing’s treatment. In the world he was born into—our world, until fairly recently—Turing was “free”: free to prove the unsolvability of the halting problem, free to help save civilization from the Nazis, just not free to pursue the sexual and romantic fulfillment that nearly everyone else took for granted. I resolved then that, if I was against anything in life, I was against the worldview that had hounded Turing to his death, or anything that even vaguely resembled it.
So I’m proud for my country, and I’m thrilled for my gay friends and colleagues and relatives. At the same time, seeing my Facebook page light up with an endless sea of rainbow flags and jeers at Antonin Scalia, there’s something that gnaws at me. To stand up for Alan Turing in 1952 would’ve taken genuine courage. To support gay rights in the 60s, 70s, 80s, even the 90s, took courage. But celebrating a social change when you know all your friends will upvote you, more than a decade after the tide of history has made the change unstoppable? It’s fun, it’s righteous, it’s justified, I’m doing it myself. But let’s not kid ourselves by calling it courageous.
Do you want to impress me with your moral backbone? Then go and find a group that almost all of your Facebook friends still consider it okay, even praiseworthy, to despise and mock, for moral failings that either aren’t failings at all or are no worse than the rest of humanity’s. (I promise: once you start looking, it shouldn’t be hard to find.) Then take a public stand for that group.