Who will bake Bristol Palin’s wedding cake?
I’m only half-joking. With her second out-of-wedlock child on the way, the one-time “abstinence ambassador” has shown a disregard for “traditional marriage” that should offend any number of devout patisserie owners and pizzeria proprietors.
The young Palin’s recent remarks defending the pregnancy as “planned” are actually quite damning in that regard. She asserts, “Everyone knows I wanted more kids, to have a bigger family” and that she believed herself to be “heading that way”—an oblique reference to her broken engagement to Dakota Meyer—but that “things did not go according to plan.”
When everything does “not go according to plan,” that usually means the result is “unplanned,” but here I take it that by “planned” she means “wanted.” (If she needed the difference between “planned” and “wanted” clarified, and maybe avoid other situations that “did not go according to plan,” there’s a place she could go that helpfully has “planned” in its very name.)
I’m thrilled the baby is wanted, but Palin’s own narrative, and delight in growing her family, gives lie to the line conservatives continue to push: that traditional marriage is fundamental to family. By many conservatives’ definition, one 24-year-old and two kids is not a meaningful family. And, certainly, “heading that way” is not “marriage.” Jim Obergefell could have told her that years ago.
However flimsy they are as excuses, Palin needs to invoke “heading that way” and “having a family,” because those are the only reasons a “good” Christian can possibly give for sex before marriage. The alternatives are either unrealistic (IVF mixup? The supernatural?) or, among conservative Christians, unspeakable.
Just watch this clip of Palin stiffly bantering with premature has-been Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino. They spend much of the minute and a half euphemizing themselves. “Trust me, though, I’m not getting myself into another situation,” she says. “I avoid situations.” Welp.
So how could we possibly expect Palin now to admit a completely plausible truth: that however much she wanted a family, or believed that she would be married, she had sex before marriage because she wanted to have sex before marriage?
Imagine that. I mean, I’m sure there’s some fan fiction out there.
Because Palin says she wanted to have kids and thought she was about to get married, I imagine most of her conservative Christian brethren will be quick to forgive her. They may not even recognize her trespass as a very troubling sin. If she were to admit that she was less family-minded and more DTF, well, at least the sex was procreative. It’s not like she was gay.
That gay sex is non-procreative is one of the main the reason so many Christians find it troubling. (Well, I suspect there are others, less easily brought to light.) They have created a kind of catch-22 of sin by using that argument as a reason gay people shouldn’t be able to get married, and (in their minds, and Texas) eliminate the category of marriage as a possibility.
Indeed, one irony of the post-Obergefell world is that, finally, unmarried gays will get to live in sin.
Such a designation is easy to take lightly, especially if you’ve been sinning by others’ definition for years, but Palin’s defiant announcement reminds us that in many quarters, marriage equality will do little for how people think about LGBT people. For conservative Christians, the problem with sex will always be sex, not marriage.
LGBT activists’ emphasis on marriage equality has been an explicitly political choice. As Andrew Sullivan pointed out decades ago, to ask for marriage equality is an inherently conservative argument. It’s also a romantic one. Justice Anthony Kennedy’s decision was appropriately swooning and will likely be incorporated into people’s wedding vows for years to come.
But I hope it’s not too soon to remind people that when it comes to full equality, #lovewins is not necessarily about marriage, it’s about being able to love whomever you want—or to make love with whomever you want, even if you’re not planning on loving them longer than a night.
In the avalanche of rainbows, it’s easy to forget that marriage equality is a step toward LGBT equality, not its end goal. Full civil rights for LGBT people would mean accepting them as married couples, sure, but also accepting them as people who might have sex outside of marriage—just like Bristol Palin.
The impulse to mock Palin for her predicament is well-nigh impossible to resist. Obviously, I have succumbed to it here. But we should not let the deliciousness of the irony keep us from sensing the genuine human pain that’s at the center of it. Whatever her faults and hypocrisies, Palin is now single when she didn’t expect to be single, and a mother in a family structure that her closest allies regard as second-best. While she likely doesn’t share other single mothers’ economic struggles, she faces the same emotional obstacle course of intense joy and lonely exhaustion.
After all, what really separates conservatives and progressives in their reactions to unplanned pregnancies isn’t how they feel about the pregnancy, it’s how they feel about the woman carrying it. I hope Palin finds the support she needs, and I will be happy to bake her cake.