Saturday, May 22, 2004

History Leaves Gordon in the Lurch

Some progress seems to be underway in the marriage wars. Max Boot, a prominent conservative, has been exhorting his brethren to abandon ship. Same-sex marriage is coming, he says, and those who oppose it will only end up looking intolerant.

It's a great article; a great summary of why the arguments against gay marriage are so weak. One point I'd like to add: the only right-wing talking point that has traction on this issue is that same-sex marriage will lead to polygamy, incest, etc. Because if moral judgments are no basis for marriage exclusion, why not let everybody in? I think this argument fails, because certain unusual sexual practices (like pedophilia) have clear harms; other (like polygamy) sometimes do and sometimes don't -- and maybe we should rethink our laws on them too.

But the point I want to add is that this argument is in essence an admission of failure from the right. When you make this argument, you fall back from the front-line issue of whether same-sex marriage itself is damaging. You come close to implying that same-sex marriage is bad not in itself, but because it might lead to other things that seem bad. Why aren't we debating the merits of same-sex marriage on its own terms? Because there's very little to say.

Still enthusiastically Not Getting It is the Washington Times, which insists in putting the word "marriage" in quotes when talking about gay marriages. The problem is, they're now talking about marriages that are entirely legal. The morality of the marriages is still being debated, but no one seriously argues they're anything less than bona fide. That's okay: you can't gauge society's progress by the Washington Times, or you'll end up concluding we're somewhere between Lord of the Flies and the end of a Gallagher performance.

Then there's this weird article in the LA Times, in which Laura Bush declines to endorse the constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage.

Asked whether she would invite a married, gay couple to a state dinner at the White House, she [Laura Bush] said, "Sure, of course."

Gordon Johndroe, her press secretary, said he could not imagine such a situation arising. He said the question was "trivializing an issue that people are seriously trying to debate in this country."

This is obviously damage control of some kind, but it's hard to figure out what Gordon was thinking. Why couldn't he imagine such a situation arising? I've been thinking about it, and I've whittled it down to four possibilities:

(a) Because the Bushes would never be friendly enough with a gay married couple to invite them to dinner;
(b) Because Gordon thinks no gay married couple would ever amount to anything, and therefore there would never be a gay couple worth inviting;
(c) Because the Bushes wouldn't mind inviting married gays to dinner, but the gays would have to cross the moat of rabid religious well-armed conservatives that surrounds the White House, and being sissies and all they'd probably never make it;
(d) Because Gordon's imagination is just generally pretty limited; he has a hard time imagining a turkey sandwich, much less two gays coming to dinner.

I try to use the word "turkey" whenever I can. For reasons I can't explain, I think it's pretty much always funny