Let’s plant a flag here. No one should be told who they can or cannot marry, and no one should be told as to what gender they should or cannot identify as. With that in mind, let’s talk about Ellen DeGeneres and Caitlyn Jenner.
Jenner recently appeared on The Ellen DeGeneres Show and, in response to DeGeneres’ queries, offered her own stance on gay marriage. Jenner admitted that she still generally holds politically conservative views.
“I have to admit that I remember fifteen, twenty years ago,” she said, “when the whole gay marriage issue came up, I was not for it.”
Jenner was a self-described “traditionalist”, who believed that marriage was an institution between a man and a woman.
“But as time has gone on, I think, like a lot of people on this issue, have really changed my thinking to, ‘I don’t ever want to stand in front of anybody’s happiness,’” said Jenner.
When DeGeneres pressed Jenner, the latter admitted that she was okay with and on board with marriage equality.
“If that word ‘marriage’ is really, really that important to you,” said Jenner, “I can go with it.”
DeGeneres later expressed concern on Howard Stern’s radio show about Jenner’s hesitantly changing views. Marriage equality, as DeGeneres argued, transcends simply conceding the word “marriage” to apply to a same-sex union.
“She still has a judgment about gay marriage,” said DeGeneres of Jenner. “I said, ‘you’re wanting people to understand and accept you’, and this is like really confusing to people.”
Back to the flag we planted: DeGeneres is absolutely correct. Marriage equality involves the recognition of the legitimacy, both legal and spiritual, in love between anyone, regardless of their sexual or gender identity.
Jenner has not convinced us that she has come to that conclusion. All she has shown us is that, like many moderate conservatives, she simply does not want to be the villain.
The fact that Jenner self-identified as politically aligned with those who would not understand her gender identity raises questions. But the fact that she is willing to change her mind on this issue should not be forgotten.
Jenner did something brave on DeGeneres’ show. She admitted, implicitly, that she was still uncomfortable with the idea of marriage equality. And then she asserted that her discomfort could be superseded by a moral judgment: that marriage equality ought to be accepted.
Few conservatives will say this and mean it. And, while it is still disheartening to hear the reluctance in Jenner’s voice, it is refreshing to hear someone concede that their discomfort alone should not determine their political and moral judgments.