Marriage is supposed to be the topic in the Senate this coming week. President Bush will be speaking in the Rose Garden Monday to push the Republican anti-gay marriage amendment.

Here’s what I think:

1. No church or synagogue or mosque should be told by the government whom they may or may not marry. Thankfully, under the United States Constitution as currently written, none is.

Why change that?

2. All taxpayers (and even non-taxpaying citizens) should shoulder equal responsibilities and receive equal benefits from their government.

Latinos should be granted fishing licenses, women should be granted driver’s licenses, Christians should be granted marriage licenses. Overweight families should have access to federal flood insurance, Japanese-Americans – and WASPs – should be protected under the hate crimes statutes, disabled restaurateurs should be granted liquor licenses, gay couples should be granted Social Security survivors’ benefits, African Americans should have equal access to public schools, Native Americans should be allowed to vote.

This is America, where we are all granted equal rights under the law, and where we are all free to pursue happiness unless it hurts others.

In that long list, above, all those rights are granted* except one: Right now, gay couples and their children are not granted Social Security survivor benefits (or any of the other 1,138 benefits and responsibilities a civil marriage license provides).

*Yes, WASPs are protected under the hate crimes statutes. If a gang pulls a White Anglo-Saxon Protestant off the street on the way home from church, shouting anti-WASP slurs, chains him to the back of a pick-up and drags him through town until decapitated, that would be covered under today’s federal hate crimes statute – just as it was when this was done to an African American in Texas.

GREAT NEWS FOR HETEROSEXUALS ABOUT GAY MARRIAGE

It’s voluntary. That’s right: even in California, where the legislature approved gay marriage (but the governor vetoed it), you would not be forced to marry a person of the same sex.

What’s more (the news gets better and better), opposite-sex marriages would not only remain legal – and cherished – they would remain the norm. Ninety-eight percent of all marriages (or some number like that) would be between men and women. No church or synagogue or mosque would be forced to perform even a single same-sex marriage.

SO WHAT IS THIS WEEK’S DEBATE ABOUT?

Everybody knows the Republican plan to amend the Constitution will not pass. The purpose of this Amendment is to force Democrats to vote against it so their opponents can beat them over the head with that in November.

THE NONSOLUTION

A lot of very well-meaning people say they’re fine with equal rights, just not calling it marriage. Why not call it something else, separate but equal, and be done with it?

Personally, I’d have no problem with that. (Not all agree.) But for it to work, we’d need to pass a different Constitutional amendment – one that superseded the hundreds of thousands of local and federal laws and regulations and millions of contracts that refer specifically to marriage and spouses. It would have to say that for the purposes of all those laws and contracts, the words ‘civil unions’ (or ‘garriage’?) and partners (or ‘gouses’ and ‘louses’?) shall be synonymous with ‘marriage’ and ‘spouse’ and so on.

IRONY AND HYPOCRISY

The Republican Party turns out to be the party of Big Brother.

It can’t interrupt its August vacation when a crisis threatens the Gulf Coast or ‘Bin Laden Determined To Strike In the US‘ . . . but can interrupt its vacation to interfere with one family’s painful, personal end-of-life decisions.

It is the party that would never suggest legislating economic disincentives to divorce, because so many of its marriage proponents are triply divorced . . .

. . . that claims to abhor promiscuity, yet consistently works against stable same-sex relationships . . .

. . . that claims compassion, yet sees political advantage in beating up on gay people: whether by refusing to classify murders like Matthew Shepard’s as hate crimes, or refusing to include GLBT citizens in the long list of citizens protected against being fired simply for being who they are, or refusing to allow them to serve their country even when they have the precise Arab language skills that might have prevented 9/11 . . .

. . . or, yes, this week, by seeking to divide the country by proposing a Constitutional amendment that is presented for political purposes only.

Let’s be clear: gay marriage is already legal. Ellen DeGeneres and Elton John can get married in every state in the Union. But if the people of Massachusetts wish to grant them the right to marry not each other (which is legal) but the persons they love, then the Republican Party puts its foot down and says no: Big Brother must step in and override the Massachusetts legislature to forbid this.

Clearly, much of America is not ready for marriage equality. Those of us who are need to be respectful of those who are not. It’s an important discussion of a kind America is uniquely able to conduct, and it should continue.

While Democrats are not of one mind – even our 2004 presidential candidate opposed same-sex marriage – we are all but unanimous that no Church should be told by the government what kind of marriages it must or must not perform.

And we oppose what is proposed to be only the second Constitutional Amendment ever to restrict, rather than expand, individual freedoms.

The other, I need hardly remind you, was Prohibition.

You don’t have to favor wine, beer, or whiskey to know that Prohibition was a bad idea. And you don’t have to favor equal rights for favor same-sex couples to know that our Constitution should not be used as a political football to try to take the focus off Iraq, Katrina, Scooter Libby, and the $8 trillion in deficits that just three Republican Administrations will have racked up since 1980 – that’s $8 trillion out of a total $10 trillion since 1776 – by the time the keys to the White House change hands January 20, 2009.

The hearings this week are not about protecting marriage from the likes of Ellen DeGeneres; they are about protecting Republicans and the pharmaceutical companies and those energy companies that had their secret meetings with Dick Cheney when the administration first took office – meetings so secret even a lawsuit from the GAO could not pry loose the attendee list. THAT’s what this weeks hearing are about. Protecting Republicans, not marriage.

THE TRICYCLE MOVED – TODAY

Gary Diehl: ‘[You could wait for that motor you linked to yesterday], or you could go here and get an electric version that is cheaper, almost certainly quieter, and available today.’

Peter Wilde:Another pedal bike conversion: no emissions (electric motor), currently available (a friend just got his installed yesterday).’

THAT NOISY TREE

Mark W. Budwig: ‘One must address the issue of whether an unobserved tree even exists. Pick a tree, a real one, and then turn your back to it. Is it still there? If you say yes, then why is it even slightly problematical to make the further assumption that its leaves rustle in the wind even when you cover your ears?’

☞ Well, exactly.

Or at least I would have thought so until I read this:

Robert Cox: ‘Dan Nachbar wrote: ‘If you are a believer in the modern scientific method, then the answer, painful as it may seem at first, has been pretty well established as: the tree makes no noise.’ Not quite. The quantum mechanically correct answer is: ‘the question makes no sense.’ See the article ‘Is the moon there when nobody looks?‘ for an explanation. This question, by the way, is why Einstein didn’t like quantum mechanics. But experiments show that our ingrained belief that the world ‘is there when nobody looks’ isn’t accurate. I’m still trying to wrap my mind around this.’

A NICE SURPRISE

Commerce Bank (CBH), suggested here September 30 at $30.68, closed yesterday over 40 after it was added to the S&P 500. (That always makes stocks jump a bit, at least for a while, because S&P index funds need to buy shares to reflect the index.)

WEEKEND READING

You’re late! Go to work! But if you’re looking for something to read over the weekend, you could do worse than this interesting piece by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., in Rolling Stone.

 

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