May 2004 Archives

Cal Thomas is a writer who I frequently disagree with, because he is so frequently wrong. His jeremiad against same-sex marriage, "Marriage Massachusetts Style," is a case in point.

I know what to expect when reading Cal Thomas' opinions, but he has outdone himself this time! His recent column, "Marriage Massachusetts Style," trots out all the usual anti-marriage viewpoints, but - like his tsunami analogies - none of them holds any water. Thomas and other conservative pundits have spent the past several months finding myriad ways to mischaracterize Massachusetts' pro-marriage and pro-family stance toward gays and lesbians as an egregious error made by so-called "activist judges." In the process, they have completely ignored the irony of the first same-sex marriages first being performed on the fiftieth anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education. Separate-but-equal is never truly equal; this is one reason why half-measures such as civil unions satisfy virtually no one.

Appeals to "states' rights" vanished from sight as soon as a single state took a step forward and trumped conservatives' slavish defense of tradition, proving that "smaller government" is merely a political tactic and not a principle. A newly intrusive federalism, in the form of a proposed anti-marriage amendment to the Constitution, now seems to be their preferred strategy. Of course, this is all done under the guise of "defending" or "protecting" marriage, as if what's happening in Massachusetts isn't a celebration of love and commitment just as it is elsewhere.

The anti-marriage "arguments" - and I've read many of them, from Andrew Sullivan's book Same-Sex Marriage: Pro and Con to articles in several conservative magazines and websites - rely heavily on false analogies. Cal Thomas - like Rick Santorum before him - does this by conflating homosexuality with polygamy, incest, and adultery. Irrelevant rhetoric predating our understanding of sexual orientation is another common tactic, as Blackmun's dissent in 1986's notorious Hardwick case noted: "[i]t is revolting to have no better reason for a rule of law than that so it was laid down in the time of Henry IV. It is still more revolting if the grounds upon which it was laid down have vanished long since, and the rule simply persists from blind imitation of the past."

We've known for decades that homosexuality is not a disease, a moral failure, or a chosen "lifestyle." The broken-window and slippery-slope canards (like Thomas' references to destructive tsunamis and earthquakes) don't support the anti-marriage case either, because they're only appropriate when describing negative events in a deteriorating situation. One small state taking one small step toward justice and equality is hardly the precursor to disaster that their sky-is-falling screeds imply.

Let's look at what won't happen as a result of Massachusetts' same-sex marriages: The earth won't stop spinning on its axis, civilization won't disintegrate, our culture won't self-destruct, and Provincetown won't be destroyed in a biblical rain of fire and brimstone - much to the reactionaries' chagrin. What will happen is an improvement in the legal status of gay and lesbian families - and a good example for other states to follow.

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This page is an archive of entries from May 2004 listed from newest to oldest.

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