Off the Kuff Rotating Header Image

Gay marriage

I’m trying, I’m really trying, to make sense of the idea that anyone, let alone the President, could think that amending the Constitution for the purposes of restricting the rights of a subgroup of citizens is somehow good public policy. I also don’t understand why the full force of the federal government is needed to settle the question. Make no mistake – the proposed amendment would very much deny states the right to make up their own minds about this. I just don’t get it.

Marriage is a religious rite and a civil contract. No one is trying to make any organized religion change its doctrine. It’s the civil contract, which confers many clearly defined benefits to those who enter it, that is being targeted for change. You could think of it as a gender-equity issue – why should spousal rights be denied to some people because they’re the wrong sex? I don’t see the problem.

There have been a lot of really ludicrous arguments about why gay marriage is bad that have been floated around lately, from the truly wacky (it could lead to bestiality! and child molestation! as if the legal distinctions regarding animals and minor children would suddenly be mooted) to those that say more about the advocate than anything else, like those who argue that it would somehow weaken “traditional” marriage. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I haven’t felt the slightest twinge to divorce Tiffany and head down to the nearest bath house. I think that any marriage that did fall apart as a result of what’s been going on in San Francisco was perhaps not built on the stongest foundation to begin with.

I attended a wedding between two women some years ago, at one of the more liberal churches here in Houston. It was one of the most traditional ceremonies I’ve ever been to – a high mass with full choir, both women walked down the aisle by their fathers. If you’d not seen the participants, you wouldn’t have known the difference. They’re still together, and last I heard were talking about children. The world continues to spin on its axis in the meantime.

Like Kevin, I don’t even think Bush is motivated by principle to do this. (Of course, I don’t think he has any real principles other than tax cuts and bidness deregulation, but that’s neither here nor there.) I think this is as clear a confirmation of Ruy Teixeira’s ongoing theme that Bush is rapidly losing support among independent voters, and as such he has no choice but to play to his base. Issues don’t get much redder or meatier than this one.

Of course, you know we’ve truly gone down the rabbit hole when Tom DeLay is counseling restraint.

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, said he appreciated Bush’s “moral leadership” on the issue, but expressed caution about moving too quickly toward a constitutional solution, and never directly supported one. “This is so important we’re not going to take a knee-jerk reaction to this,” Delay said. “We are going to look at our options and we are going to be deliberative about what solutions we may suggest.”

I thought I’d seen a squadron of pigs circling overhead while driving home, but I’d chalked it up to too much caffeine. Now I’m not so sure.

Related Posts:

  • No Related Posts

11 Comments

  1. Double B says:

    Charles,

    I’d like to get your opinion as to why Delay is cautious on this subject. As reactionary as Bush is he often pales in comparison to Delay. It seems the tables are turned regarding this issue. Are there more gays in his new district that he’s worried about completely turning off? I really can’t come up with any reasonable explanation for him to be hesitant about this other than its utter stupidity.

  2. Charles M says:

    My take?

    Tommy can do the calculus. There is no way this would pass the House, much less the Senate.

    For most Democrats in the House, voting for this would be political suicide. This plus the Rs there needing not only to hold absolute party discipline but entice a significant number of D defectors says lost cause.

    The situation in the Senate is only slightly better. Even with 52-47-1, they would need 15 Ds plus holding Chaffee, Snow and McCain.

    Tom wants to keep the base and having the issue on the table accomplishes this. Forcing a vote would be past counterproductive. Better to keep the issue alive than suffer defeat.

  3. Michael says:

    Dub:
    I think DeLay doesn’t want to have an amendment because he doesn’t think he can muster the votes to pass it to the House and he’s certainly aware that it also a non-starter in the Senate.

    If Bush goes hard on this, then it’s running against Congress, which is a long-standing electoral position, but not something the Majority Leader wants to see.

  4. Charles M and Michael have pretty much nailed it. Kos also did the math and arrived at the same conclusion.

    It’s still weird to see, but even an ideologue like DeLay can count votes.

  5. kevin whited says:

    When roughly two-thirds of Americans are opposed to gay marriage, how exactly is this playing solely to sociocons?

    I could understand if the Dem Left were irate because they thought Bush was exploiting a wedge issue (much as the GOP Right was irate when President Clinton exploited wedge issues). What I don’t understand is why so many lefties are upset because they think he’s hurting himself with independents. If you really think that’s the case, shouldn’t ya’ll be a lot happier about the fool who seems intent on heading over the cliff with the backwards religious rubes?!

  6. Those numbers change quite a bit when asked if the issue is worthy of a Constitutional amendment. Do you think it is?

    I’m upset because I get upset every time civil rights are threatened in the name of electoral politics. The question I have is why this doesn’t upset more people.

  7. Charles M says:

    Kevin,

    First, while two thirds of Americans may oppose gay marriage, a slight plurality opposes an ammendment. Furthermore, the opposition numbers collapse when the question is posed as “civil union” as opposed to “marriage.”

    Most of us don’t see ammendments as casual things introduced to salvage a President’s poll numbers. This just isn’t a pressing issue with anyone except the hard right. The majority of Americans, and my experience bears this out, are content to let the system work. Remember, Massachusetts was decided under the state constitution, not the Federal. CA, as was NM, is civil disobedience by local elected officials. Where is the right’s love of states rights? Where’s the activistic judiciary?

    No one is forcing Texas to perform gay marriages and while DOMA hasn’t been tested, one can make a very good case that a same sex marriage in Massachusetts wouldn’t pass full faith and credit muster in DOMA states. I fail to see any overarching Federal problem, other than Bush’s sagging reelect numbers.

  8. Patrick says:

    To me there is no other issue that more clearly defines the power of words than gay marriage. The problem is that “marriage” is a term that has values in both the religious and civil world. Both imply a union of two parties but one spiritual context and the other in a very real legal context. The solution to me is clear and relatively simple. The government needs to quit issuing marriage licenses and start issuing civil union licenses for any couple that wants to be so joined. Doing so would allow the state to have some legal way of defining relationships for the purposes of taxation, inheritance and benefit eligibility definition.

    Marriage and all that word connotes would apply only to the religious ceremony. And if a couple – gay or straight – can find a church that would permit and sanction a “marriage” then go for it, be it a Catholic Church, a Baptist Church, a Jewish Synagogue or Buddy’s All Night Church of the Krispy Kreme.

    The reason I think this works is that it allows gay couples to legal define relationships and obtain those rights that I think a committed couple should have. But my gay friends need to understand this is a double edged sword. Until now several companies have agreed to honor benefits for “domestic partners” without any official governmental designation. If such a process were available, I could see those same companies requiring a civil union licenses in order to extend those benefits. And BTW, welcome to the world of divorce which remains in the governmental realm of contract law.

    As far as the political aspects go, President Bush knows this constitutional amendment won’t pass. He also knows (or Karl Rove does) that he had to place a marker in the ground on this issue and solidify the base on the right which is looking at some of these budget proposals and wondering what’s going on. A lot of voters on the right will be single issue voters. He doesn’t give anything up on the left because he has nothing on the left to lose. The voters who decide these elections remain those in the middle. As a group they are conflicted on this issue but it’s not going to be a make or break issue for them. They are more likely to be swayed by the economy and foreign affairs. On the political chessboard, it’s a solid move.

  9. julia says:

    Well, off the top of my head, they still dont have an energy bill, the war is going badly, the Republican moderates arent keen, theyll have to use juice they need for other issues and theyll still look bad when it fails, and (the real reason, I think) Bush is not DeLays favorite person, even a little bit (can you say Frist? Apparently the press was more anxious to talk to DeLay, go figure).

  10. Bill Tomp says:

    You guys miss the point. The gay marriage issue ignites the Republican base and the religious right into voting. Bush needs that in November and gay marriage will help swell conservative turnout which in many key states is bad for John Kerry.

    The other issue bubbling beneath the surface is the conservatives aren’t depending on Congress for a constitutional amendment – they intend to get it through the state legislatures calling for a constitutional convention. They think their odds are better that way.

    They might be right. Legislatures, in general, are more conservative that Congress and this would include Democrats. The liberal lobby in Washington can put pressure on Democratic members of Congress. But that doesn’t work in St. Paul or Reno or Lansing as well. Many Democratic State Legislators will vote for the constitutional amendment out of fear of retribution at the polls.

    The real battle on gay marriage will be in 2005.

  11. Byron L says:

    Charles,

    I’m glad to see that you don’t have the urge to go out and file for divorce after seeing those scary pictures of gays and lesbians who have married in San Francisco. I know it may be scary to some insecure couples, but I’m pleased that you and Tiffany will be able to make it through this harsh attack against heterosexual marriage in America.