July 23, 2003

You May Kiss the Groom

The United States of America has always faced obstacles to its principle of equality for all. We were slow to grant rights to non-property-owning males. It took even longer for us to recognize blacks, women and other minorities as human beings. The gay community? We’re working on that too.

In Lawrence et al. v. Texas, the Supreme Court overturned the Texas anti-sodomy statute that had been used to arrest two men caught in the heat of the—well, you know. With this decision, the Court has paved the road to granting gays the equal rights they deserve. Finally, our legal system is beginning to acknowledge real life! It’s about time. Welcome to the nineties, Court.

My stance on this issue has no basis in self-interest. I am a guy who is obsessed with neither men nor marriage. On my things-to-do list, wedded bliss ranks around number 5,104. But I do believe that any two people who muster a little mutual love in this world should have the right to commit to each other. Love is one thing upon which the world cannot overdose.

Critics say that uniting two same-sex partners ruins the sacrament of all things matrimony. Yeah, we really hold marriage on a pedestal in the United States, don’t we? We have TV shows like “Who Wants to Marry a Multimillionaire” and “Married by America,” for crying out loud. The Rev. Sun Myung Moon, lord master of the dying United Press International and self-proclaimed messiah, group marries thousands of strangers in some kind of McCeremony. In 1976, Janeane Swift married a 50-pound rock. More recently, in 1998, Janet Downes married herself by reciting vows into a mirror. Young people fantasize about getting a spouse as if it were an Olympic gold medal. Politicians talk up a storm about “helping and protecting families,” leading many to believe (correctly) that the needs of single people are not a priority.

Then there’s the marketing. Like everything else we consider holy, marriage is commercialized to death. Engagement rings! Bridal Shops! Magazines! Registries! Wedding planners! Lavish gowns! Some of the more elaborate ceremonies rival the Academy Awards in sheer spectacle.

Perhaps most ironically, this supposed divine coupling is subject to more government meddling than the economy itself. If marriage is strictly a commitment between a man, woman and God, then why do we require a state license, blood test, prenuptial agreements and the like? Doesn’t the meddling of a secular government violate the divine bonds of matrimony far more than the biology of the involved bodies? Very few people would make this claim. So much for the whole “sanctity of marriage” thing.

I suspect that the anti-gay contingent uses the defiling-of-marriage excuse only to cover its real fears. Apparently clarifying the position of the decision’s opponents, Court Justice Antonin Scalia wrote and read a passionate dissenting brief that was longer than the actual decision. Scalia’s dissent was the usual puke about the “culture war” and how the Court opened the door to incest, bigamy and animal sex. Way to fall off that slippery slope, Scalia. Unfortunately for him, the ruling is not about what we would like to watch people do; it is about what consenting adults have to right to do with each other behind closed doors. You don’t have to like it.

Bottom line, the definition of marriage strictly as a holy union between a man and a woman is a spiritual concept. Spiritual concepts should be left up to individuals, not government. The Supreme Court’s new and broader recognition of partnerships goes a long way toward legitimizing all legal love.

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