Last Monday, 200 same-sex marriage opponents showed up on the law of the Vermont State House with buttons proclaiming, “Marriage—A Mother and Father for Every Child.” This perturbs me a bit. The main cause of children not having both a mother and a father in the home isn’t gay marriage, it’s runaway men. Occasionally it’s runaway women. But what is the Religious Right doing, or even saying, about the all-too-frequently exercised right of fathers to walk away from their children? Not a whole lot. In most states, the statutes criminalizing desertion and nonsupport of home and family are either unenforced or have long since been repealed. I don’t know of anybody trying to get them back on the books.
And so far, medical science has not devised a way to prove a particular man is the father of a particular child without a DNA sample from both. I would support a Nobel Prize in medicine for any solution to this problem, or perhaps even a Peace Prize, given the social significance involved. Actually, in the interests of gender equity, what I’d really like to see is something that would cause every man who impregnates a woman to develop a facial rash and some other highly visible, bothersome but not dangerous symptoms that would last at least 9 months.
But obviously, if we can’t find runaway fathers, we can’t persecute them. As long as homosexuals were closeted, they had the same protection. “Don’t ask, don’t tell” is a basic moral principle in our culture. Which suggests very strongly that what most anti-same-sex-marriage advocates really object to isn’t what gay people do in the bedroom, but the fact that they have the nerve to talk about it in the public forum. Marriage is only the most public way to make homosexuality public. If they’d stop holding parades, and publishing books and periodicals and blogs, and forming organizations and support groups, they could **** and *********** to their hearts’ content.
Which is a constitutional issue. We don’t object to gay sex. We object to gay speech. Speech is protected by the First Amendment. Maybe that’s because the Framers knew how much people want to limit public speech, given half a chance. Sex—well, it depends which Supreme Court opinion you read and when and by whom it was written. A lot of the folks on the Warren Court seemed to consider sex protected by the First Amendment, but these days that argument doesn’t fly, even with the current court “liberals.” But it wouldn’t really have to fly, if people would just shut up about it. Even the most restrictive of conservative judges has never advocated setting up an entire corps of jackbooted thugs to randomly police bedrooms, because we would really rather not know what goes on in them.
Which, I suspect, is only a special case of a much larger issue. We Americans don’t want to hear about people who are different from ourselves. We particularly don’t want to hear about how oppressed they are, or how badly we behave toward them. We will allow each oppressed group, as part of the “liberal bargain,” a few days a year to air their grievances all over the mainstream media, coast to coast, in glorious Technicolor and stereophonic sound, while we tune out, turn off, and watch football. Our willingness to grant them that much proves what nice people we are. After the few properly licensed days of exposure, the issue, whatever it may be and regardless of what, if anything, has actually been done about it, becomes “dead,”. As in dead horse, comma, beating.
Indeed, the Religious Right seems to value most the right of its members not to be thought of as bigots for being mean to various oppressed minorities. Being called a bigot is apparently an existential threat to many conservatives. It is often the reason given for opposing not only same-sex marriage, but even public advocacy of same-sex marriage. “If we let you talk about it, you’ll call us bigots for not letting you do it.”
Enough already. I favor same-sex marriage because, as a divorce lawyer, I see so little of fidelity and mutuality and sharing in this world that I refuse to be picky about who practices them. I also favor it because any excuse for a good party is a significant contribution to the quality of life. Also, it’s good for the economy. Caterers, wedding planners, dressmakers and haberdashers, and the manufacturers of small appliances all need all the help they can get. If you don’t like same-sex weddings, don’t have one.