Same Sex Marriage

Gay marriage is likely to become a reality later this year in Hawaii, where everyone is predicting that the state's top court will rule that it is a right under the state constitution. Once Hawaii recognizes same sex marriage, all other states will be required to recognize such marriages performed in Hawaii, under the full faith and credit clause of the United States Constitution. There is no way around this--the states are bound to recognize each other's legalities-- but conservatives are already howling about it, and looking for ways to resist it.

Once again trying to shape morals through government, the Republicans have announced legislation to deny recognition to same sex marriage, though one cannot overcome the U.S. Constitution merely by passing a bill. President Clinton just announced that he would sign such a bill if the Congress passes it; this raises the question why bother running Dole for President, since there is already a Republican in the White House?

Clinton, of course, is probably nervewracked that his first term will end as it began, with a debacle over gay rights; he will sacrifice almost any principle to political expediency at this point. But what is happening is shameful, and a return to really primitive behavior in this country, of a type we haven't seen since the South resisted integration. There is no moral difference; again, we have a class of people who believe that they are somehow diminished if another class is given the same rights that they already have. Only back then, you didn't have a majority in Congress rushing to pass anti-integration laws, or a President revoltingly announcing he would sign such a law if presented.

Although I believe that homosexuality, for many people, is a destiny, not a lifestyle choice, it really doesn't matter. Even if it were solely a choice, and even if it were a harmful one, it is an exercise of liberty that harms no-one else; under John Stuart Mill's fundamental conception of liberty, the government must not intervene to prevent it. To paraphrase the pro-choice bumpersticker: Don't like homosexuals? Then don't be one.

Heterosexuals have not been doing such a bang-up job, in recent decades, of staying married, or of raising children. The parallel again seems exact: today's poor heterosexual trash still get to feel superior to somebody. The Christian Coalition's vision of gay people, as embodied in the videos it shows its constituency, is screaming, barechested men clad in leather pants at a Gay Pride march; the religious right paints gay people as promiscuous and unfaithful. Then when gay people come along, requesting the right to swear to each other in a legally recognized sacrament that they will stay together until death parts them, the right, with classic circular reasoning, doesn't want them to renounce the perceived promiscuity.

Today, families are made from available materials. I raised somebody else's child. A friend of my brother's wound up living with two step-parents, after her mother divorced her stepfather and he remarried. A couple who adopts children is a family assembled from strangers. In a cold, violent and lonely world, there is no reason why we cannot extend the possibilities of warmth with a broader, more flexible definition of a family. If two strangers can swear, before the law, to become legally responsible for each other, and then swear soon after to become legally responsible for a child they have adopted, it is hard to understand why two males, or two females, cannot swear to hold each other in the same regard for life. Not only is no-one harmed, but a social interest in responsibility and stability is advanced.

The right wing reaction to gay marriage reminds me of a Christian millionaire opining that if a Jew can have a million, the value of money is somehow decreased. It is like a white man in a tuxedo saying that if a black man can also wear a tux, it makes a mockery of him. Just last week, the Supreme Court handed down a historic decision saying that laws, such as the one passed in Colorado, denying civil rights to gays are unconstitutional. If gay people are, as they should be, a category constitutionally protected from discrimination, then same sex marriage cannot be far behind.

The right is fond of saying that gay people are demanding to be treated better than other people. This is false; it is a favorite lie of the right. Gay people are simply asking for the right to live their lives like anyone else. I had the choice to marry or not, and chose to marry; and the sweetness of my marriage is not decreased if gay people also marry. To the contrary, as a human being I am rewarded if gay people also marry, because the stock of enduring love increases in the world.