After the Massachusetts Supreme Court made a decision that said the state could not prevent gay marriage, conservatives and the religious right went over the edge. Instantly conservative politicians called for a constitutional amendment to only allow men and women to wed. Preachers on the religious right assured us the country was rushing to the doors of hell opened by radical judges. The thought that gay marriage is a threat to the sanctity of marriage and of course part of the grand homosexual agenda is one of the grandest frauds ever proposed.
Legal Marriage Vs. Civil Marriage
First of all lets look at what marriage is and what it isnt. Marriage has two meanings 1) a legal contract between two people outlining certain legal privileges and obligations and 2) a spiritual pledge of two souls. If you want to get legally married you must go to your county courthouse, pay a fee, find a couple of witnesses and a person authorized by the state. Now that can be just about anyone including a judge, a justice of the peace or a minister even if he/she got his or her ordainment by mail. The act that makes the license binding is that both parties sign the document, date it and get it witnessed like any other contract. Spiritual beliefs are not required to become legally married, it is a civil contract, nor can a minister performing a ceremony legally marry anyone without a state license.
Changes such as the outlawing of women or children being forced into arranged marriages against their will and other changes in legal status (women and children were once considered chattel or property) have been paramount in the march towards freedom and human equality.
The spiritual act of marriage occurs based on a statement of love and commitment of two people to each other before their loved ones and the universal power of their choice. This may or may not involve a church but does for most people. This personal commitment is the sacredness of marriage. It has nothing to do with the civil contract.
The ruling of the Massachusetts Court that started the uproar, is that the civil contract called marriage by the state between two people cannot be denied to anyone based on gender anymore then it could be on race. The genders of the parties cannot interfere legally with their ability to make a civil contract without violating the equal treatment under the law
protection of the constitution.
Unfortunately, the unique history of getting a license from the state and then going through a ceremony with a minister blurs the two acts into one in the minds of most people and makes it an issue for exploitation.
The Hairy Hand
A friend of mine recently related a story he had heard about shell game operators in the 1800s. They would glue hair in the palm of their hands. Then as they moved the shells and slid the pea from one to the other they would frequently show the palms of their hands. The mark would be so caught up in the sight of the distracting hair in the operators hand it would insure they would lose track of the pea and of course forfeit their money.
The decision of the Massachusetts Court, the Supreme Court ruling striking down sodomy laws and the publics lack of understanding of the issue has given the Republicans the hairy hand issue they can exploit in each upcoming election. They think they can galvanize and get out the vote of the religious right and split Democrats to insure the reelection of Republicans and gain offices at every level.
The Republicans know that this is a successful strategy because it was one of the factors that helped George Bush Sr. win over Michael Dukakis in 1988 election. The Republicans played the race card repeatedly running advertisements showing Willie Horton an African-American murderer who was paroled and then committed another murder. This was given a voice over blaming Dukakis for being soft on crime even though he had nothing to do with the parole. In spite of the fact that crime was at historic lows, the Republicans succeeded in scaring voters with the fear not only of crime but hooking into age old irrational fears and prejudice against black males that was embedded deeply in the countrys subconscious.
What we will see is debates where Bush and other GOP office seekers challenge their opponents to defend the sanctity of marriage by supporting an national anti-gay constitutional amendment, which the
Republicans know will never pass. It has been a
nasty celebration of gay bashing that has rivaled the GOPs fight against integration and the passage of voting rights for African-Americans in the 60s. In historical Republican form, the Texas State Republican Platform not only would deny gay marriage it would also deny civil unions, criminalize gay sexual acts and prohibit criminal and civil penalties against those who would openly discriminate against gays.
The sad part about this is not that most of the conservatives are anti-gay (they are) but to them it is just an issue that they can exploit to divide the country over fears born of ignorance. They are willing to drum up new Jim Crow laws impairing the goal of freedom for all in America for political advantage. Their goal is to use the hairy hand trick to distract the public from any problems with the economy, war deaths in Iraq, the missing WMDs, the Patriot Act, the transfer of wealth, the gutting of the environment and social programs, the massive federal debt, the trade deficit, and on and on and on.