Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Gay marriage — pushing the hot button

The California Supreme Court just stuck its thumb down on one of the hottest hot buttons on the American cultural landscape. By declaring a referendum banning gay marriage unconstitutional, the court opened a floodgate and today hundreds if not thousands of gay couples surged through it.

A constitutional amendment banning gay marriage will almost certainly be on the November ballot in California, just in time to add a culture war twist to what will already be a contentious presidential election. It will probably pass, too, inaugurating yet another round of wrangling over this issue, which arouses strange passions.

A large majority Americans oppose gay marriage, though a sizable plurality are okay with civil unions. This seems very strange to me. You're okay with gays having the same rights as married couples, as long as you don't call it marriage.

Uh... okay. Why?

I've never understood the visceral reaction of so many people to the notion of gay marriage. It strikes me as a very definite "none of my business" situation.

I've heard all the arguments. It undermines the institution of marriage. How? Will my marriage be affected by Steve and Dave getting married? Not as far as I can tell. And it's pretty clear that heterosexuals have done just fine on their own undermining the sanctity of the institution. About half of marriages end in divorce, so it's not like the institution is in great shape anyway.

Marriage is about procreation and protecting children. Really? So childless couples shouldn't be married?

Homosexuality is a sin. Nope. Sorry. Off limits. We don't base laws on theological concepts of sin, otherwise we'd be arresting gluttons at the ice cream parlor and stoning adulterers (heterosexual underminers of the institution).

It legitimizes a "deviant lifestyle." It's already broadly legitimized — otherwise the possibility of marriage would be as remote as it was in 1950. Mores change.

It opens the door to all alternative lifestyles — plural marriage or incest. This argument actually has some rhetorical force. If we extend rights to include some must we include any and all? Yet incest is taboo and illegal for compelling reasons of biology (which of course did not stop the legally and regally married of Europe from staying too close to the trunk of the family tree). Polygamy was common ages before the notion of homosexual marriage even existed; it fell out of favor for reasons of contract and inheritance, not on moral grounds.

Marriage defined as being between a man and a woman is not a bulwark against polygamy; polygamy is illegal because marriage is a contract between two persons.

And that's what this all comes down to, for me. The state should be out of the marriage business entirely. All marriages should be civil unions between two persons. Churches may define "marriage" however they choose and if it is unsound doctrine to marry homosexuals, they should not do so.

And then, instead of worrying about Steve and Dave's relationship, we can mind our own.

Jim Cornelius, Editor

1 comment:

  1. Prepare for the wrath of the self-reightous, Jim, you are being far too rational.

    I agree with you 100%, though.