Grrr. Anti-gays do love their scare quotes, as in:
Them: There’s no such thing as same-sex “marriage.”
Us: Hello? Same-sex marriage is legal in 6 states!
Them is wrong, but the response from Us doesn’t get at what they really mean. And when you look at what they really mean, a surprising conclusion leaps out:
We have same-sex marriage in all fifty states.
This occurred to me as Will and I watched The Eagle. You might think Channing Tatum and Jamie Bell as a Roman Legionnaire and his extremely fit slave would hold my attention, but the picture’s moody and slow. On the up side, it allowed plenty of time for a wandering mind.
At one point, our boys are traveling in the far north of Britain, past the borders of Roman rule. Channing shouts at Jamie, “You’re still my slave!” And I wondered, Is he? Why?
Why should Bell go on as Channing’s slave without the Empire there to enforce it? Slavery is not a morally valid concept. It exists, to be sure, but our moral code (well, mine at least, and I hope yours) never justifies saying, “This person should be a slave.” Slavery is morally illegitimate, and exists only because a government (or a culture, or a person of low humanity and sufficient power) decrees it to be so.
That’s one way slavery differs from, say, honor. The US government awards the Medal of Honor for conspicuous gallantry, but it doesn’t bring honor and gallantry into being. It merely recognizes the fact, which exists with or without government.
Our opponents view marriage through this lens. Marriage is a real thing. It predates government, and marital law should reflect its real nature. Same-sex “marriage” is a morally invalid concept, one that exists only when the government forces it on people.
Now you might not agree that marriage is something more than marriage law, but it’s our opponents’ view, so consider it for a moment.
First, it means that marriage is different from our understanding of marriage. If marriage is “real,” and not just whatever we say it is, then we have to struggle with our imperfect human brains to understand it.
And this means marriage law has to evolve.
It’s happened before. People realized women aren’t mentally and emotionally weaker than men, and the result? The end of coverture:
As it has been pithily expressed, husband and wife were one person as far as the law was concerned, and that person was the husband. A married woman could not own property, sign legal documents or enter into a contract, obtain an education against her husband’s wishes, or keep a salary for herself. If a wife was permitted to work, under the laws of coverture she was required to relinquish her wages to her husband.
This used to be the legal essence of marriage. But people began to see that nothing justified such an automatic subjugation, so marriage law had to evolve.
In other words, we didn’t change the definition of marriage. No, we changed marriage law to reflect our better understanding of what marriage is (and our better understanding of human beings in general).
The same thing’s happening for gay people. I was a 70s teenager, and in the back of B. Dalton Bookseller, I furtively looked up homosexuality in the most popular sex book of the day, Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex* (*But Were Afraid to Ask). You know what the author told this teen?
He told me that homosexuals enjoy anonymous restroom sex, but most homosexual relations are more impersonal than that.
That homosexual encounters are always about the penis, never the person.
That public sex is the core of homosexuality. He asked, But all homosexuals aren’t like that, are they? and answered, Unfortunately, they are just like that.
And when it comes to “homosexuals who live together happily for years”?
They are mighty rare birds among the homosexual flock. Moreover, the “happy” part remains to be seen. The bitterest argument between husband and wife is a passionate love sonnet by comparison with a dialogue between a butch and his queen. Live together? Yes. Happily? Hardly.
The original version of this #1 bestseller reached over 100 million readers — no wonder it’s taken people so long to accept same-sex marriage! And this might explain a quirky contradiction of my adolescent mind. I had no guilt or denial over my attraction to men, but as far as being a homosexual, I certainly wasn’t one of them.
Lord. Who knows how many other people had their view of us warped by this vile piece of work?
Today, though, more than half the Fortune 500 companies offer domestic partner benefits, and less than half the country opposes same-sex marriage. That’s not a blip or a fad or a fashion. That’s 40 years of extraordinary progress. Anti-gays chalk it up to political pressure and liberal misinformation, but if that were true? Then people who know gays would be less likely to support our rights. And that just ain’t so.
Back, then, to this notion that marriage is a real thing, which predates government, and that marital law should reflect its real nature. Marry that with our better understanding of gay men and women. What do you get?
You get that marriage law must change if it’s to represent our best understanding of what it means to be human and married, our best understanding of marriage is.
So when somebody tosses those scare quotes at me and declares, There’s no such thing as same sex “marriage,” I’m going to reply:
We already have same-sex marriage in all fifty states. We’re just waiting for the government to see it.