Gay Marriage – The New Willy Horton

By John M. Kelley

Want to know what the new “values” issue is for the
Republicans to try and bolster the right wing vote for
the 2006 elections is? Look to Texas who will test
whether gay marriage can martial the forces. The
State of Texas has placed a proposal to ban gay
marriage and civil unions on the ballot as a
constitutional amendment.
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
isn’t. 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.

This requirement of a state sanctioned contract
between consenting adults is to protect the property
interests of the partners, children and potential
heirs, and other legally interested parties. The
state also has an interest in the civil rights of
those involved. The most dramatic changes have been
in the protection of the rights of women and children.
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.

While many religions require that marriage be between
a man and a woman that has nothing to do with the
civil contract between two people. Regardless of what
Senator Rick Santorum or Rev. James Dobson believes a
contract cannot be executed between a man an dog, a
man and a child or a man and a donkey. The confusion
comes because most states use the term “marriage” to
describe what really is a “civil union”. Marriage is
a civil contract that must be regulated by the state
and does not require a church’s blessing. Further, no
decision by the state will force churches to perform
marriages for same sex couples in their church.
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 1800’s. 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 operator’s 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
public’s 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
Republican’s 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 country’s subconscious.

We got so tough on crime that we now have the biggest
prison system in the history of the world. We rival
the Soviet Gulags in the number of people we have
imprisoned, half for nonviolent drug offenses. Whole
rural towns in Texas now have economies built around
prisons. We’re breaking the state budget with getting
tough on crime and so we need a new Willy Horton. The
Republicans needed someone that could be anywhere,
even wilier then the “bearded terrorists”. One that is
near enough to everyone to distract people from the
pillaging of the national treasury, the dismantling
and shipping abroad of our means of production and the
growing, internal intelligence gathering,
militarization of America. Hence, gays are bad, is
born.

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
GOP’s fight against integration and the passage of
voting rights for African-Americans in the 60’s. 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.


The Sanctity of Marriage

How does passing a law that prevents civil unions
between consenting adults interfere with the sanctity
of marriage? Religious
ceremony certainly hasn’t
insured the success of marriage. 40% of all marriages
end in divorce, 50% of all children in the United
States will spend some time in a single parent home.

I haven’t seen any data showing that millions of men
and women are waiting for gay marriage to be approved
so they can leave their heterosexual spouse to marry
their gay lovers. All current research shows that
homosexuality is a complex combination of
physiological and psychological factors that the
individuals so oriented have little or no control
over. Ask any homosexual and their journey is usually
a painful one of accepting themselves the way they
are, no one seeks out an alternative “lifestyle” just
to suffer discriminatory treatment all their life.

The so-called homosexual agenda is a quest for equal
treatment, not an attempt to recruit people to the
homosexual lifestyle. Those who talk of a homosexual
agenda need to look up homophobia in the dictionary.
One of the more ridiculous arguments I heard on a
national TV program was that we have to protect and
promote procreation. Does anybody really believe that
people will stop procreating if we don’t pass a
“Marriage Protection Amendment”. We can’t even get
people to wait until they are grown up and married to
procreate. The last I looked we were procreating
ourselves into a global crises. Texas has the second
highest teenage birth rate in the country (Mississippi
is first) and Corpus one of the highest rates in
Texas.


What Civil Union Really Means

What gays are asking for is to be able to make the
same legal commitments to each other as any other
couple that love each other. Can you imagine if you
lived with your spouse for 10, 15, 20 years or more
and you weren’t allowed to provide health insurance
for them, to be able to make decisions for them if
they are sick, to determine how they should be treated
in death, to inherit jointly owned property without
question. That is just some of the discrimination
that same sex couples face.

My brother died at age 38 in 1992 of AIDs related
illness. My parents after much self questioning and
education had accepted his sexual orientation and the
fact that he had AIDs. He died in our mother’s arms.
My parents were devastated and numb with grief. My
sister who is a right wing evangelical Christian swung
in and took over. Even though she rejected him in
life, would not allow him around his nephews and told
him he “would burn in Hell”, she decided to control
the events around his burial.

A ceremony was held in the church of her choice, with
a service performed by a minister who believed my
brother was a mortal sinner and would burn in hell.
No mention was made that he was gay. No mention was
made that he raised more then a million dollars for
the AIDS Quilt Project. No mention was made of the
many newly diagnosed HIV/AIDs patients he talked to in
order to share some of the peace and hope that he had
found in his own spirituality after being diagnosed.
No mention was made of the thousands volunteer hours
he donated, sometimes from a hospital bed, for
HIV/AIDs related education and causes. His friends
were made to not feel welcome and left early. I am
grateful that he had buried his long-term partner two
years before who had died from AIDs related illness.
His partner would have been excluded, in the cruelest
manner, from participating in the most intimate
process of love, burying and grieving a loved one.

So when you say you support the sanctity of marriage
please allow everyone to decide what that means for
him or her. If your marriage is threatened because
gays can marry it doesn’t have anything to do with
them. Think about it, no one should be denied the
full benefits of a loving relationship.

—–

John M. Kelley is a teacher, philosopher, writer,
artist, political activist, singer of ballads,
rebellious Irishman and agent for change who worries
daily about the world he is leaving for his
grandchildren. His blog is at
www.mytown.ca/johnkelley

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