Thursday, March 17, 2005

Gay marriage -- what's the big deal?

I live in the abysmal state of Indiana, whose legislature is just about ready to pass one of those gay marriage ban amendments to the state constitution. This reversion to native redneckness and religious fundamentalism would embarrass me, if it weren't for the fact that this nonsense seems to be a national trend.

Now, since I'm neither married or gay, I should be one of the most neutral folks around on this issue. So the fact that I find it just this side of ridiculous, for a number of reasons, says something.

First, near as I can tell, there haven't been a whole lot of constitutional amendments designed to restrict citizens' rights. The vast majority of amendments, starting with those first few we call the Bill of Rights, are designed to confirm or enhance our rights. The only previous national constitutional amendment that tried to limit individual rights, the 18th amendment, came in the moralistic prohibitionist wave of the 1920s, and was notable for how frequently it was observed in the breach. (And subsequently repealed by the passing of the 21st amendment a few years later.) To introduce a new amendment with the express purpose of limiting the rights of a large segment of our society seems damned anti-American to me.

But, of course, the intent is not to limit rights. No, no, no. The intent is to preserve the institution of marriage. As if the institution needs preserving; as a lifelong single guy, I can tell you that married folks get a lot of breaks in our society, legal and otherwise. Is the institution so endangered that it needs additional, express, somewhat redundant, constitutional protection? I think not.

I understand that a lot of conservatives are concerned about things like the rising divorce rate, unwed pregnancies, and that sort of thing, and rightly so. But how does prohibiting a large group of folks from getting married solve any of these problems? Hell, I'd think that the pro-marriage bunch would welcome with open arms this new group of people so desperate to be married. Seems to me those gays who want to tie the knot are the real pro-marriage group here. Why wouldn't the current supporters of the institution join together with the gay pro-marriage people to create a larger and stronger interest group (and voting block)?

No, let's address what this really is about. There are a lot of folks out there who are, to one degree or another, uncomfortable with homosexuality. They either have some sort of repressed something or another going on, or are just plain gay haters. Doesn't matter which, the result is the same -- one of the last socially acceptable forms of discrimination in America. Some people might disagree, but they'd be wrong; supporting a gay marriage band is discrimination, plain and simple, and as a progressive (or, more distinctly, a progressing) society, we shouldn't stand for it.

The arguments that marriage is defined by God or country or whomever as a union between a man and a woman are nonsense. A hundred years ago similar arguments were being made in an attempt to outlaw interracial marriage; at that time, they wanted to define marriage as a union between one man and one woman of the same race. It was bigotry, thinly disguised, just as today's arguments are. (As an aside, it surprises me how many African Americans are opposed to this gay marriage thing; you'd think they'd be a little sympathetic, but what do I know?)

And these God-driven arguments ignore the fact that the definition of marriage has changed considerably over the ages. Back in biblical days, marriage was often defined (and condoned by that God guy) as a union between one man and several women. Obviously, that definition has evolved over the years. So why shouldn't it continue to evolve?

The other argument that is so ridiculous that it's laughable (except that I hear it quite often on talk-right radio, and they're seldom laughing) is that the legalization of gay marriage will lead to legalized polygamy and bestiality. I have absolutely no idea how they get from John and Bob taking the vows to John doing the nasty with his pet goat, but there it is. Laughable, I said, but some idiots seem pretty serious about it. I wasn't aware that man-on-goat sex was a looming problem, but maybe I'm just ill-informed.

But then again, I wasn't aware that gay marriage was such a looming problem, either. I mean, with war in the mideast, nuclear weapons in North Korea, genocide in Africa, and who knows how many other earth-shaking dilemmas about, just how did gay marriage get to the top of the crisis list? Aren't there just a few slightly more important issues we should be concerning ourselves with? What's the big deal, anyway?

The big deal is that this is an issue being driven by the religious right -- who seldom are, of course. I'd call these folks a bunch of Neanderthals, except that would invoke the process of evolution, which they also don't acknowledge. (How can you not acknowledge a scientific fact? It's been proven, for heaven's sake!) This sort of thinking isn't new, but it continues to threaten to pull us back into the dark ages. I'm all for tolerance, but I'm extremely intolerant of people who are so intolerant of others. If these throwbacks want to believe and behave in a certain manner, fine; just don't force the rest of us to do so. And don't go about trying to amend our country's constitution in an attempt to infringe our hard-won liberties, in the pursuit of your ridiculous religious ideals. Get real, get tolerant, and get the hell out of my face.

But that's just my opinion; reasonable minds may disagree.

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