Friday, July 14, 2006

Gay Marriage

A friend sent me the following commentary on gay marriage, collected from an email listserve to which she belongs. My favorite point is the 3rd paragraph from the bottom (I added the bold font) that begins "The gay marriage debate is one of those freaky American moments..."

Imagine a wealthy, old-moneyed art collector whose walls are covered with the usual impressionist suspects. He's outraged at the new money flooding the market. The hedge fund guys, the Russian oligarchs, the high-tech boys, the crass media conglomerateurs. They don't deserve this gorgeous stuff. For them, it's just about ego and accumulation. So he and a group of his clubby friends pressure legislators to ban the new money from the market. They call it the "Defense of Art Act."

Such is the twisted logic behind those who oppose gay marriage, a group that celebrated at least a partial victory recently with the wimpy decision by the New York State Court of Appeals to let the legislature decide the matter. Opponents of gay marriage cherish the institution so much that they want to limit it to those who value it in the same way they do. The Court's reasoning was based on its validation of the logic behind the current legislation which prohibits gay marriage. As the New York Times reported:

“We support the limitation on marriage that the legislature has enacted," the court said, "both of which are derived from the undisputed assumption that marriage is important to the welfare of children." First, the court said, marriage could be preserved as an "inducement" to heterosexual couples to remain in stable, long-term, and child-bearing relationships. Second, lawmakers could rationally conclude that "it is better, other things being equal, for children to grow up with both a mother and the father."

What exactly is the Court saying? That the sacredness of marriage suddenly becomes an "inducement" to couples to stay together? I'm not quite sure what this means, and with a divorce rate north of 50%, I'm sure that neither do most Americans. Nor do I understand how gay marriage would remove that incentive for straight couples -- unless the temptation of entering into a gay marriage proves irresistible. Then again, if we really believe that marriage is an inducement to stay married, why not offer a financial bonus for gays to get married to straight people, a "stay in the closet" incentive?

And what about the "undisputed assumption that marriage is important to the welfare of children."? All the research I've seen suggests that children raised by gay couples are emotionally and psychologically no different from kids raised in straight homes. What's important to the welfare of children is a stable, nurturing, supportive and consistent environment -- which can come from many different kinds of domestic arrangements. And if marriage is so beneficial to society, then why does the IRS still have their infamous "marriage penalty"?

But the real question is why are we even going down this road when the entire argument that children benefit from two straight parents is off-point. It's not as if gay marriage is going to reduce the number of children in heterosexual families. Gay parents either adopt or, in the case of lesbian couples, inseminate. Neither of those involves the substitution of gay environments for hetero ones -- but the Court decision, which makes the invidious comparison of gay vs. straight families, suggests that it's a zero-sum game.

The gay marriage debate is one of those freaky American moments where a cauldron of national fears and anxieties gets projected onto an issue, elevating it to a great symbolic level where it doesn't belong. What's really going on is that opponents of gay marriage see the struggle as the last defense against the radicalization of America. They live in fear that the virus of homosexuality will infect their own families. They're tortured by the prospect that their own children or their grandchildren will turn out queer, and the best way to deal with that is to demonize the enemy, and through that, separate yourself from it.

Over our history, our basic "live and let live" instincts have occasionally been distorted by zealots. Zealots and the fear of zealots can influence legislators -- and have done so at ugly times -- which is why the New York Court of Appeals Decision is so dangerous.

The Constitution says nothing specifically about marriage, about birth control, about abortion. So when conservatives talk about strict constructionism they are really talking about a selective application of the principle. When the Constitution contains nothing to support their activism, they want to change it via the amendment process. The truth is, the Right doesn't trust the Constitution. Rather than let the judiciary interpret it, they'd rather modify it. And they don't trust marriage, either, to be strong enough to endure no matter whose union it happens to sanctify.

Drag Queen name of the day: Rose Budd

1 comment:

Bugsy (aka Joe) said...

This is what makes me so mad. Hypocrisy! Poor logic!

Anyway, nicely said.