There are times when the political climate becomes so intense and lines are drawn so starkly one forgets that labels suchs as “liberal”, “conservative”, “left” and “right” are broad categories and not tightly-defined world views. There is much wiggle room in any such label so that principled people can still ascribe to certain political views even if they are opposite to what the majority of one camp believes.
That is the case of Mr Theodore B. Olson, a man most would thoroughly identify with American legal conservatism. He counseled Presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush in such cases as the Florida Vote in 2000 and the counterterrorist policies of post-September 11. Yet he is also a man formed in the 60’s, when the Republican Party and Conservatism in general were not as mingled with the Religious movements as they are now. A strict Constitutionalist, Mr Olson believes no one should be forbidden to marry the person of their choosing — even if it means same-sex marriage. For it would mean that the country treats its citizens differently, discriminating against sexual orientation.
To him, appeals to religion and morality form an “insuficient legal basis” to ban same-sex marriage. He says that he respects the convictions of those who come from this angle, but this should be a civil rights issue.
Liberals and Conservatives alike are surprised when they hear of the old master’s stance on gay marriage. Reactions in both sides vary from suspicion to outright hostility. For me it is a clear example of how we should approach each and every issue — to say nothing of their proponents — strictly based on the arguments, not on political labels or any such empty classifications.
And I, for one, would be honored to have Mr Olson on my side, or as an adversary.