Monday, December 1, 2003

Torn-Up Safire

William Safire is all torn up about same-sex-marriage – or s-s-m as he coyly calls it – because his libertarian/conservative (“libcon”) views of personal freedom are clashing with his old-guard conservative views of protecting the status quo.

The libertarian in me says: civil union corrects an inequity in the law. There should be no legal or economic discrimination against homosexuals anywhere in the U.S. And what is lawful in Vermont or Massachusetts should be recognized in every other state because we are one nation when it comes to basic rights, popular statutes to the contrary notwithstanding.

That’s the easy part. More difficult is the argument that the primary purpose of society’s bedrock institution is to conceive and rear children in a home of male and female role models known as caring parents. But now that there are adoptive and scientific substitutes for old-fashioned procreation, and now that 43 percent of first marriages fail, the nuclear family ideal is not what it used to be. Little lock is left in wedlock.

But what about the religious dimension to marriage? The ceremony performed by clergy in a house of worship involves a sacrament, invokes God’s blessing on a man and a woman who take a solemn vow on entering a spiritual and not just a physical union. Won’t pressure to marry people of the same sex split denominations, dismay millions of churchgoers and infuriate many ardent believers?

Safire then craps out of the argument by saying that the cultural change should come without the handiwork of “activist judges” – by whom he means, presumably, the Vermont, Massachusetts, and US Supreme Courts.

The pace of profound cultural change is too important to be left to activist judges. As moral-political issues go, this big one deserves examination in communities with minds that can deal with internal contradictions — which is the libcon way.

Well, Mr. Safire, by that logic, segregation of public schools, bans on interracial marriage, and laws against contraceptives would still be on the books because, as “moral-political issues,” they would need to be dealt with by the communities, not the courts. I don’t think so, Bill. And frankly, unless you can prove that two guys getting married is going to have a direct and negative impact on straight people getting hitched, it’s none of your damn business. As you point out, you guys haven’t set such a sterling example, so maybe a little queer eye for the straight rite could teach you a thing or two.