The Irony of It All: When Adversaries Unintentionally Reveal the Truth

How ironic! Sometimes it seems that it's almost impossible to get to the truth. Other times the truth is staring us right in the face, revealed unintentionally by the very people who oppose our view of it. For example, in a few weeks I have a new book coming out called Papal Bull: An Ex-Catholic Calls Out the Catholic Church. A "papal bull" is a formal proclamation by the pope. Examples include Unam sanctam, which declared that there is no salvation outside the Catholic Church, and Pastor aeturnus, which announced to the world that the pope is infallible on matters of faith and morals. "Papal bull" is also an unintentionally ironic phrase that in two words aptly sums up, at least for me, 2,000 years of Catholic Church history. Thank you very much, Catholic Church, for providing me with the title of my book.

When it comes to unintentionally ironic gifts of the truth, I would also like to thank Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. In this case, the subject is LGBTQ equality. One would certainly not expect Justice Scalia to be the great revelator of the path to equal rights and equal respect for LGBTQ people, but ironically he is! Rachel Maddow recently pointed out this surprising turn of events in an extremely entertaining and informative segment of her show that focused on both the Supreme Court's DOMA decision and the court's decision 10 years earlier in Lawrence v. Texas, which struck down anti-sodomy laws across the country.

As Rachel explains, Justice Scalia's dissenting opinion in the Lawrence case is "legendary" for the level of rage he expresses against the court's decision to overturn anti-sodomy laws on the grounds that they violate the Due Process Clause of the Constitution. But in venting his rage, Justice Scalia reveals the ultimate implications of the court's decision. Because the court found that it "furthers no legitimate state interest" for the state to pass a law "to further the belief of its citizens that certain forms of sexual behavior are 'immoral and unacceptable,'" the court's decision in Lawrence v. Texas not only declared the Texas sodomy law and all state sodomy laws unconstitutional but removed any justification "for denying the benefits of marriage to homosexual couples."

Likewise, in his dissenting opinion in the DOMA case, Justice Scalia ironically uncovers the far-reaching implications of the court's decision. In fact, he states that the decision not only declares it to be unconstitutional for the U.S. government to deny federal rights and benefits to legally married same-sex couples but establishes the legal argument for right for same-sex couples to marry in all 50 states and renders future Supreme Court decisions on this matter all but inevitable. Indeed, he states with profound disgust that as a result of the court's DOMA decision, "the view that this court will take of state prohibition of same-sex marriage is indicated beyond mistaking."

Thank you again, Justice Scalia. You are a veritable divining rod of the truth even when you may be outraged and disgusted by it. In fact, I find I must thank Justice Scalia a third time, for there is yet another instance in which he ironically reveals the truth -- one that Rachel does not discuss. In his dissenting opinion on Lawrence v. Texas, Justice Scalia refers to the phrase "the so-called homosexual agenda." The phrase "homosexual agenda" was coined by anti-gay advocates about 20 years ago. Whenever it is invoked, it is typically meant to convey that there is some vast conspiracy, a kind of evil empire of homosexuality, bent on taking over the culture. As intended, it is a despicable and loathsome phrase. But when the actual meaning of the phrase is revealed, I always find my unintentional irony alarm going off big-time. As Justice Scalia defines it, it is "the agenda promoted by some homosexual activists directed at eliminating the moral opprobrium that has traditionally attached to homosexual conduct."

Right again! Although I would amend Justice Scalia's definition to state that "the homosexual agenda" is promoted not just "by some homosexual activists" but by everyone who believes in freedom and equality for all people regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. Yes, the goal is for homosexuality, indeed all orientations along the spectrum of sexual orientation, to be accepted as authentic and as worthy of respect as heterosexuality. Likewise, the goal is for transgender and gender-questioning people to be accepted as authentic and as worthy of respect as genetic men and women.

Here's the truth, and in this case, there is no irony involved whatsoever: The LGBTQ agenda is indeed the human agenda, namely to be free and equal and to exercise the "unalienable rights" of "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." As Justice Scalia ironically reveals, the day is coming soon when that truth will be a reality.