It’s probably a sign of me having lived in Washington too long, but I’ve been thinking of a solution to the gay marriage controversy based on the carbon cap and trade principle. Since we are being asked to support heterosexual domestic partnerships and gay marriages at the same time, and since I can come up with no legal or philosophical argument for this lack of synchronicity other than that, in either case, it’s none of my damn business, it occurs to me that a true Washington resolution of the problem would be for heterosexual domestic partners to trade their sacred marriage privileges to gay couples for a fee. I’m not quite sure what to do if the heteros later decide to get married or the gays want a divorce but I’ve sent emails to several lawyer friends and expect an answer shortly. In any case, it seems a perfect Washington solution: a hopelessly complex response that deftly resolves a moral and spiritual issue by converting it into an aggressively amoral economic one.
Judging from the carbon cap and trade program, however, my plan may not work all that well, in which case I will have to return to my previous proposition on the matter i.e. if you don’t like gay marriage, don’t marry a gay.
But this thesis also has a problem, which is the large number of people who think that not only do they know whom they should marry but everyone else’s proper choice as well. This is the matrimonial equivalent of choosing what the whole neighborhood will have for breakfast.
The purported basis for this intrusion is supposedly the concerns of law, but other than needing children and providing adequate protection for them, the state has little serious concern with this matter. Of course, some like the Reverend Rick Warren have argued that letting gays marry each other could lead to an “older guy marrying a child” or presumably even an animal. The problem with this argument is that it could also be made against allowing a man and woman to get married. You let marriage happen in any form and there’s no telling where it will lead.
But since we have no need for additional children in this world and since there is no evidence that gay couples are any harder on their children than straight ones, the law’s real interest is minimal at best.
What actually currently drives the definition of marriage as a bond between a man and a woman is not the interests of the state but religion – or, more precisely, some religions.
In other words, what is being presented as a gay vs. straight issue is actually a religion vs. religion issue. Any law against gay marriage is an act establishing religion because it says, for example, that what Mormons or the Reverend Rick Warren believes is more important than the views of Quakers and Unitarians. The Constitution forbids this sort of differentiation as it clearly represents the “an establishment of religion.”
Unfortunately, the more enlightened sects have been completely overwhelmed by extremist voices from Jerry Falwell to Rick Warren. With the help of politicians and a media that considers only loud mouthed Baptists to be “faith based,” and cowed by the evangelical onslaught, progressive Christians have failed to fight back or even hold their own.
A direct challenge to laws like Prop 8 by these groups – defending the establishment clause of the Constitution – would be one of the healthiest things that could come out of the conflict. We need more progressive Christian soldiers marching as to war and fewer of them, like our president to be, palling around with those perpetrating bigotry in God’s name. Civil liberties groups also need to get a better handle on the establishment clause and fight the growing governmental preference of one religious approach over others.