Wednesday, 03 November, 2004
Pondering the same sex marriage prohibitions
Gay rights activists see the passage in 11 states of measures banning same sex marriage as a defeat, when they should view it as something of a minor victory. Five years ago, nobody even talked about gay marriage, and now it's being discussed openly and put to the vote. These new measures are temporary at best, even if they do pass the inevitable legal challenges. And if they're struck down, there's the possibility that the laws they were designed to strengthen will be struck down as well.
I'm not at all surprised that such measures passed in the states where they were on the ballot. The majority of the voting public is uncomfortable with the idea of same sex marriage. It's new and different. To them, it's bad enough that we acknowledge sexuality at all. Seeing homosexuality openly celebrated on nationwide TV is shocking. Is it any surprise that people who were brought up to believe that sex is private and homosexuality is evil would be distressed by the idea of same sex marriage and want to prevent it? This is more than an emotional issue. It strikes at the core values that people have lived with for forty years or more. (Forty-plus being the largest voting block.)
I think that banning same sex marriage is an important step in the process of our society reevaluating its sexual mores. We have to over react before we become rational. More importantly, it will cause us to discuss fundamental principles that make up our Republic, chiefly among them the Constitutional protections against the tyranny of the majority. This issue is not fundamentally different from laws that prevented interracial marriages, and in time--probably within my lifetime--same sex marriage will be commonplace. That doesn't help the thousands of same sex couples who want to get married now, I know, but that's the way things happen in our society. You don't change a society by forcing people to accept things that are contrary to their fundamental value systems. You do it by changing the fundamental values of the younger generations. In a very real sense, it's a war of attrition.
The debate won't stop at same sex marriage between two people, by the way. I already hear grumblings of threesomes, foursomes, and larger "group marriages" vying for equal rights. To tell the truth, I don't see where we could reasonably withhold the legal and civil benefits of marriage from such groups. That will cause some serious social upheaval as the whole concept of a family unit is redefined. Even that could happen in my lifetime. If it does, I expect to see a fair number of same sex couples protesting against it. Some things don't change.