Sunday, August 10, 2003

If Gay Marriage Upsets You, Then Don't Have One

I decided to shake a stick at this particular hornets' nest again. The emails already have been a lot of fun, but surprisingly more positive than negative.

I'm just trying to figure out how the sum total of morality in public life supposedly consists of anti-abortion and anti-gay positions. I guess those big Bibles were too heavy to carry around and consult all the time, so the religious right had to trim it down to the really, really condensed version: opposing the "Big 2." All that other stuff about helping the poor, the sick, the infirm, and the stranger among you, much less opposing capital punishment--well, to quote Pirates of the Caribbean, it's not a code, actually, it's more like "guidelines." Nice little morality you got there, where all you need to do is say that other people can't have abortions and/or sex, and all you need to do to enter the Kingdom of Heaven is throw stones at them. But that's next week's column.

If you're really up for a treat, the Marianne Jennings column alluded to in the fifth paragraph is available here. Enjoy. And the J.D. Hayworth joke made the paper!

The 'Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy'

East Valley Tribune, Aug. 10, 2003

It doesn’t strike me as odd that Catholics would believe one thing and Episcopalians another, and that as a Jew, I wouldn’t believe either. But those upset with society’s increasing acceptance of homosexuals have a different agenda. For them, it’s not enough for each faith to decide what is and isn’t allowed. No, some -- and certainly not all -- religions need buttressing by governmental fiat.

Apparently the Almighty isn’t all that mighty; without a constitutional amendment, these folks believe it’s curtains for divine Providence -- and welcome instead to Providence, R.I., whose gay mayor received about 80 percent of the vote.

It’s an amazingly selective sensibility that lets these people see migrants dying in the desert or kids denied health care, and blithely say, “That’s life” -- but gays entering into civil unions in Vermont rocks their very core.

President Bush isn’t sure about a constitutional amendment that, separation be darned, will let government assist certain, and certainly not all, religions. The lawyers are “looking into it.” Searching for “controlling legal authority,” no doubt. Sure, the phrase “separation of church and state” never appears in the Constitution. Neither does “presumption of innocence.” So unless you abandon both those principles, give that old chestnut a rest.

The Tribune’s other extremist columnist (in the other direction) last week denounced a Vast Left-Wing Conspiracy encouraging societal acceptance of homosexuality. (Hey -- if there’s a Vast Left-Wing Conspiracy, why not admit the existence of the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy?)

She complained that gays have been able to hijack the culture partly because they’re better educated; on average gays are twice as likely to have a college degree. Such an unfair advantage -- if you can’t get them pregnant, it’s so much harder to keep them barefoot and ignorant.

Nobody can coherently explain why if two gays marry that somehow jeopardizes everybody else’s marriages, when even repeated failed heterosexual marriages don’t. Newt Gingrich and Rush Limbaugh are each on their third “until death do us part,” but failures in their first two tries each doesn’t stop them hectoring everybody else about morality.

Look, if gay marriage upsets you, then don’t have one.

Why do ‘wingers, who complain about the “nanny state” when it tried to provide health care, education, and housing to people in actual need, suddenly want government to protect their feelings?

Don’t give me shopworn “slippery slope” arguments, either. When you stop two gay adults from having a relationship, who’s being protected? There’s no statistically valid evidence that people in committed gay relationships commit crimes, or don’t live as long, or threaten children. This prejudice doesn’t protect anyone, just some people’s sense of what’s yucky.

Ultimately, the arguments against gay marriage have no factual basis; they come down to somebody deciding what they find personally repugnant also should be outlawed. But lots of things that make lots of people go “yuck!” should remain perfectly legal.

Ever see open-heart surgery? Smell a dairy farm? Eat sauerkraut? Try to visualize the physical circumstances that allowed Congressman J. D. Hayworth to become a father. If that doesn’t make you go “yuck!” then you’re just not visualizing hard enough.

But “yuck!” ain’t good enough. It’s no basis in a free society for imposing what is essentially personal sensibility upon consenting adults whose sensibilities are different, and who don’t need you to “protect” them from themselves.

I’m enjoying this argument, because I think it’ll end one of the more tiresome tropes of the current liberals-vs.-conservatives debate, the one about which side is more fun. Sure, liberals want to take away ethnic and sexist jokes. But conservatives’ version of political correctness wants to take away sex.

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