Bush, Iraq, and Gay Marriage

Okay, now that I've got your attention ...

This is something I've been meaning to address for a while, and I think it's time now. Regular readers of Dreams Into Lightning (yes, all three of you) have probably figured out where I stand anyway, but it's a good idea for me to spell it out here.

First of all, let me be really clear here: I disagree strongly with President Bush about a number of things, and gay marriage is one of them. Probably the biggest one. Bush has gone on record as endorsing a constitutional amendment to, as its supporters claim, "preserve the sanctity of marriage by defining marriage as between a man and a woman". That is, a constitutional amendment that would enshrine straight folks' "right" to protect themselves from understanding the truth: that relationships are to gay people what they are to straight people.

"But if we let gays get married, what next? What's to stop a brother and sister from marrying each other?" Well, if you define marriage as "between a man and a woman", nothing. Of course, out here in the real world, people recognize that gay marriage has everything to do with commitment, growth, and responsibility - just like straight marriage - and nothing whatever to do with incest. (That's why many domestic-partner laws stipulate that the parties not be related to one another.)

The New York Times' conservative columnist David Brooks has written eloquently in favor of gay marriage. Even National Review seems to be coming around: there's an excellent essay in the June 14 print issue, "Perversion" by Roger Scruton, which seeks to "rehabilitate the concept of perversion". Taking the case of pedophilia as a starting point, Scruton argues that the question of "consent" is merely a diversion: the true evil of pedophilia lies in the nature of the act, and in its consequences for the victim. His words on homosexuality worth quoting verbatim:

"Conservatives ... might be troubled by a concept of perversion that lets homosexuality so easily off the hook. Of course, there is the rampant bath-house promiscuity that some might reasonably liken to pornography, in its fetishistic and phallic focus. But we can legitimately regard this as a perversion while refusing to accept that the perversion stems from the homosexuality. And I think that this is part of what underlies the pressure towards gay marriage - namely, the wish to distinguish the normal from the perverted, without assuming that homosexuality is in itself the cause of either. A normal homosexual desire seeks union with another person just as does the normal desire of man for woman or woman for man. It becomes perverted in the same way, by being deflected from this interpersonal relation towards an act that demeans, objectifies, and desecrates its object. And the normal desire seeks to vindicate itself in a moral commitment, in homosexual just as in heterosexual relationships."

I can add nothing to this. However, Scruton goes on in his concluding paragraph to condemn gay marriage on the grounds that the real purpose of marriage is to have children! This is surely one of the weakest arguments against gay marriage, and I can't help feeling he tacked that single paragraph on at the end simply because he couldn't bear to face the conclusion that his own essay demands. Marriage, he proclaims, "marks an existential transition, a move away from the concerns of one generation towards a concern for the next." Presumably referring to falling European birthrates, he observes that "without marriage, as we are beginning to see, societies do not reproduce themselves." (How, then, does this explain teen pregnancy in social groups where marriage is rare?)

Picking apart this dazzling display of sloppy reasoning would really demand a full post, but I'll just touch on a few of the obvious points here. Is the true purpose of marriage, then, to have and raise children? That's what Scruton seems to be saying, but he doesn't spell it out in so many words because he can't. If marriage is only worthwhile for the purpose of procreation, then infertile persons should not marry fertile persons, because that would waste valuable reproductive resources. Infact, infertile people should not get married at all, because a marriage that cannot produce children is a "desecration"! Conversely, what about lesbian couples who conceive through donor insemination? What about adoption, for heaven's sake? What about birth control? Scruton is not really giving us anything new here: it's simply the "marriage for procreation only" argument, worded opaquely enough to discourage any of the difficult questions that such an argument invites.

Now back to Bush.

The President has no official role - NONE - in the constitutional amendment process; he's just a citizen like any other in that regard. And the likelihood of such an amendment passing is, I think, very close to zero. But as a member of the gay community, I cannot feel anything but disgust at President Bush's position.

But here's the thing. Gay marriage is an important issue, but it is not the only issue in the world. It is not even the most important issue. Gay marriage - whose outcome depends scarcely or not at all on the person of the President - pales into insignificance against the campaign against fascism in the Middle East and elsewhere, which depends on the President in great measure. The battle for freedom in the Mideast outweighs gay marriage by so many orders of magnitude that I can't even conceive of setting one against the other.

In Iran, homosexuals do not even have the right to live, much less marry. In Palestine, gay people are subject to arbitrary arrest, imprisonment, torture, and execution. These things are symptoms of the totalitarianism that still holds most of the Mideast in its grip. And that same fascism threatens all of us - gay and straight - in America.

Unlike the fine writers at National Review, I don't have to worry about losing my conservative credentials because I don't have any. I've been a liberal all my life and my basic values haven't changed. But the world has changed. The Democrats have sold out their ideals to the mafias of the Mideast, and it is the Republican Party - slowly but surely coming round to enlightenment on social issues - that we must look to for the defense of the freedom, dignity, and responsibility that we all hold so dear.

So that's where I stand: queer, liberal, Republican, and proud.