Words from an unlicensed wedding 06/20/03
Marriage foes divorce realityby Richard J. Rosendall
Originally published on July 25, 2003 in Letters from CAMP Rehoboth
as "Waving the Flag for Gay Marriage."
With our newsprint, airwaves, and cyberspace being deluged by right-wing doomsayers on gay marriage, it is hard to know where to begin to respond. On the other hand, the hysterical barrage of preposterous charges, and the reckless attempt to change the U.S. Constitution to settle a social dispute, gives us an unprecedented opportunity to show that we are in the mainstream and our detractors are not. Let's take a look around.
Columnist George Will (among others) worries that if gays have a right to consensual relations, there will be no way to prohibit bigamy, polygamy, prostitution, incest, or bestiality. This notion that allowing one change requires allowing all possible changes is not only a non sequitur, it flies in the face of history. Equality for women was also a change in marriage, yet the house did not cave in. It is as if gay sex is no longer considered disgusting enough, so our opponents have to compare it to viewing child pornography, as columnist Mona Charen does.
The key point about the "slippery slope" argument is that it works in multiple directions: if one minority can be disenfranchised by a popular vote, so can others. The key point about the Constitution is that it was designed to preserve personal liberty from majoritarian tyranny, not the other way around.
Maggie Gallagher writes, "Embracing gay marriage would declare that marriage is no longer about making babies." No, it will declare what is already true for heterosexual couples: marriage is not just for raising children. Unless barren couples are barred from marrying, and marriages without issue are illegitimate, the baby-making argument is a lie.
Ironically, the theocrats get even more upset when gay couples become parents. Rather than give us credit for providing loving and nurturing homes to children that straight people have thrown away, the homo-haters are ready to burn a cross in the yard. This suggests that the plight of actual children matters less to our adversaries than their abstract, ideological imperatives.
Given the number of gay couples with children, you might think "pro family" advocates would welcome the greater security that legal marriage would bring to those children. But the social conservatives' position is based on utter denial of reality. What they fail to grasp is that denying our existence will not make us disappear.
It is curious how gays, who are entirely excluded from marriage, can be responsible for its being on the verge of collapse. Instead of adultery and divorce being blamed, gay couples are slammed for embracing legal responsibilities. Thus an essentially conservative impulse is treated as a radical and destructive one, simply because gays are involved.
Stanley Kurtz writes, "Gay marriage would set in motion a series of threats to the ethos of monogamy from which the institution of marriage may never recover." His suggestion is that gay men are inherently promiscuous, and that straight men will not be able to resist our corrupting influence if gay relationships are tolerated.
Notice that it is not actual monogamy Kurtz is concerned about, but its ethos. He is not claiming that straight people really are monogamous, only that gays will blow their cover. Who is he kidding? Everywhere I look, I am inundated with straight smut.
As to homosexuals destroying civilization, let's remember that Edward Gibbon made a good case for blaming the Catholic Church for the fall of Rome. In fact, gays do not want to destroy marriage, we want in. The intolerant reaction recalls the old saying, "There goes the neighborhood."
Pardon me, church ladies, but check your organ lofts. Gay people have been in the neighborhood all along. Civil marriage will merely bring us a measure of security and stability we have long been denied.
Those who believe in American principles of liberty can be confident that marriage, families, and society will, if anything, be better off by welcoming gays into the fold. The Christian right's rigid definition of what constitutes a family, and the menace they see in families that don't conform to it, is the real threat to the common good. Like it or not, we do exist, and we are claiming our rightful standing in the society of which we are contributing members. That will be good for everyone but those who are distressed by other people's happiness.
Richard J. Rosendall is a past president of the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance of Washington, DC. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.