Dear Auntie Pinko,
Well, a bunch of gay couples got married in Massachusetts
this week. Can we expect the Rapture before the end of the
month? I'm asking because I haven't actually noticed the seas
filling with blood and the rain turning to fire and stuff,
although I could just not be looking in the right places.
But anyway if there is going to be an apocalypse, I'd like
to trade in my SUV on something a little more politically
correct to impress the Recording Angel. Otherwise, is there
any reason I should care about this?
Auntie thinks you're being just a wee bit facetious, but
I certainly take your point. And I tend to agree with you.
For the overwhelmingly huge majority of Americans, the practical
difference made by gay couples "marrying" in Massachusetts
will be somewhere between negligible and nil.
Nevertheless, Marty, this is an important landmark in American
history for a number of reasons. While the effects might not
be noticeable to most of us right away, over time the ripples
are likely to spread out in ways that touch us all - and I
don't mean just by turning up the volume on the protests of
the irreconcilable religious fundamentalists.
While it's possible that Mr. Bush's campaign advisors will
downplay the issue of the proposed Constitutional Amendment
to ban gay unions, the proposal is on the table, and it will
keep coming back, like a bad penny. If there is a silver lining
to this cloud, perhaps it will be in provoking the larger
discussion of amending the Constitution as a social engineering
tool (generally a bad idea, in my opinion - even where it
concerns some goals dear to the liberal heart.) No matter
where you stand on the issue, it needs a lot of discussion
and scrutiny that it isn't really getting right now.
It might also re-animate a broader discussion of states'
rights. Traditionally, this has been the conservative bastion,
but in the context of this issue it might provoke some judges
to re-examine their views. It would be very helpful to remove
the "states' rights" stick from the hand of the GOP and turn
it back into a legitimate issue with implications that touch
both ends of the ideological spectrum.
Auntie Pinko would also like to see this begin a larger
review of the public policy implications of "marriage" and
the state's role in defining and promoting the institution.
I believe that the state has a vested interest in encouraging
adults to form stable partnerships that share economic interests
and provide for the well-being of couples and their children.
This is currently entwined with religious notions about the
sacramental and/or spiritual nature of such commitments, and
the rights of churches to enforce their deeply-held beliefs.
Perhaps a larger dialogue would help us understand and separate
the social ends of forming families from the religious nature
of marriage and family commitments.
The next step might force us to better define our nation's
values when it comes to using the mechanisms of law to promote
socially desirable policy. The dialogue on individual rights
and equal opportunities, versus community rights and protecting
vulnerable minorities is long overdue for rejuvenation and
new areas of discussion. In the long run, that could have
tremendous implications for everyone, gay or straight.
Since this is such an important issue to a fairly large
number of Americans, it is also bound to have an impact on
the upcoming election, whether the candidates want it to or
not. Just how far will Mr. Bush have to go to placate the
extreme social conservatives in his base? And if he does so,
how will this affect a large middle group of Americans who
don't especially like the idea of gay marriage but get "turned
off" by extremism and bigotry?
And in the mean time, Marty, while it may not mean a lot
to you, there are a good many families that are rejoicing
in the happiness of their sons and daughters, not to mention
couples planning futures together. So there are plenty of
reasons to care, no matter which side of the debate you favor.
And thanks for asking Auntie Pinko!
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