Brokeback Government

It’s clear that no one (with the possible exception of a few Republicans in self denial) thinks the recent call for a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage is more than an election year political ploy. It’s also clear that this amendment is DOA. So the good news is that there’s really not much reason for concern, beyond the outrage that our government is wasting their time on this.

But the statements that get made when this issue comes up are blindingly naive. To wit:

Sandra Rodrigues of Utah, who has been standing outside the Russell Senate Office Building all week, shouting at senators and displaying signs urging “Stop same-sex marriage: It endorses masturbation.” “If same-sex marriage is endorsed,” she explained, “then you’re going to have children think it’s just another option to have pleasure.”

Said Exodus International’s Alan Chambers, who said he quit homosexuality 14 years ago: “Our children are being raped every day of school by what’s being taught. Are you mad? I’m mad. I’m so mad. God have mercy.”

Bishop Harry Jackson was shouting, “The gays are aggressive! Gays have called war! Gays are attacking traditional marriage!”

“Marriage is under attack!” cried out Sen. Wayne Allard, R-Colo.

“We can have anarchy!” warned Rep. Katherine Harris, R-Fla.

For cryin’ in your beer, homosexuality is not a disease, it’s certainly not contagious, and gays are not out soliciting converts. (Trust me, they don’t want you.)

To follow the logic of these fear mongers, the only thing that keeps their pants on is a firm set of laws. Otherwise they’d all be out humpin’ anything that could fog a mirror. Which given some of the scandals running through the federal government lately, may not be entirely wrong. But for most of us, who you are attracted to is pretty hardwired. And let’s face it, it’s not just based on gender. If it were, dating services would be lot simpler, and personal ads in the paper would be reduced to “M 555-1234”.

Further, no one has ever explained how allowing same sex marriages erodes the institution. It sounds like the same sort of logic that said allowing blacks to own property would erode land ownership, or allowing women to vote would erode the electoral process. I’ve heard two basic “erosion” themes. One is that if we open marriage up to gays, then more people will think it’s okay to be gay. I’m not going to debate the nature vs. nurture thing as it relates to homosexuality. Suffice it to say that if you think being gay is a choice, you don’t know enough (or any) homosexuals. The other erosion theme is the “slippery slope” argument. If it’s okay for gays to marry, why not polygamists, children, or farm animals? I think we can all agree that reserving marriage for human adults is valid. And what if we did open it to polygamy? What’s the danger here? There are probably a very small percentage of people who might make multi-partner marriages work, but the vast majority of men and women would be pretty self-policing about this. For most people, the desire to have a committed relationship with 2 or more other people is as definitionally out of bounds as having a committed relationship with someone of the same sex.

The issue here is only about allowing all people the legal benefits of marriage. Churches should feel free to enforce whatever limits on the institution are required by their theology. They are private organizations. As such, they can rightly exclude gays, albinos, Hispanics, or any other arbitrary demographic they feel threatened by. But the government should recognize the rights of all people. Throughout the history of this country we have fought cultural wars to overcome built in prejudice based on race, religion, sex, and ethnicity. This is just the next chapter. We’ll deal with that as well, but like all the others, it will take time. Eventually all the old prejudicial people die, and the more tolerant youth will rise to power. Those youth are already in place. We just need to wait for the power to shift generations.

On a final note, for those who think that homosexuals already have all the legal benefits of marriage by virtue of civil unions or domestic partnerships, you should read this analysis of the difference.

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