When Meredith Willson wrote the wildly popular musical “The Music Man” half a century ago, Harold Hill proclaimed trouble had come to River City, Iowa, in the form of a pool hall, which he claimed would corrupt young people unless the local citizens bought the musical instruments he was selling and got their children into a marching band.
He promised that playing music would keep children from “fritterin' away their mealtime, suppertime, chore time, too” and going to the track to watch “some stuck-up jockey boy sittin' on Dan Patch.”
Neither Mr. Willson, nor his mythical character Hill, could have foreseen what “trouble” the Iowa Supreme Court has brought on the state (and potentially the nation) when it unanimously ruled that denying same-sex couples the right to marry “does not substantially further any important government objective,” in the words of Justice Mark S. Cady, who wrote the opinion for the seven-member court.
Opponents of gay marriage vow to fight the ruling; but Iowa law requires a two-year process to amend the state constitution, and with Democrats controlling the legislature and gays a significant part of the party's base, it is unlikely the ruling will be overturned.
One must hand it to the gay rights movement. They have taken advantage of a morally exhausted nation that tolerates so many things that used to be intolerable - from abortion, to easy divorce, to pornography. And they have attacked American traditions at their strongest points, from the military, to pressuring Disney to allow “gay days” at their amusement parks, to marriage.
The problem is the Iowa court ruling vitiates a standard that defined marriage as between two people of the opposite sex, which was God's idea, not government's (see Genesis 2:24), while failing to substitute a new standard.
If gay marriage is now one of two equally valid choices, will other options be available anytime soon? On HBO, a popular series called “Big Love” portrays a Mormon polygamist and his three wives (he nearly took a fourth wife this season). I wonder why this never works with a woman having three husbands? But I digress, or do I? If this man lived in Iowa and wanted three wives, how could the Iowa Supreme Court stop him? Utah was not allowed to enter the Union until it agreed to outlaw polygamy. Today, under the new “no standards” established by the Iowa Supreme Court, it would be impossible to enforce anything.
As Iowa and other courts continue to dismantle the foundations of our nation without the approval of its citizens (each time the public gets an opportunity to vote on marriage, it votes to uphold the male-female version), they have an obligation to say where they intend to take us. What is the new standard for human relationships? Or do we make this up as we go, bowing to whatever pressure group makes the most noise?
To those on the political and religious right who are intent on continuing the battle to preserve “traditional” marriage in a nation that is rapidly discarding its traditions, I would ask this question: What poses a greater threat to our remaining moral underpinnings? Is it two gays living together, or is it the number of heterosexuals who are divorcing and the increasing number of children born to unmarried women, now at nearly 40 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention?
Most of those who are disturbed about gay marriage are not as exercised about preserving heterosexual marriage. That's because it doesn't raise money and won't get them on TV. Some preachers would rather demonize gays than oppose heterosexuals who violate their vows by divorcing, often causing harm to their children. That's because so many in their congregations have been divorced and preaching against divorce might cause some to leave and take their contributions with them.
The battle over gay marriage is on the way to being lost. For conservatives who still have faith in the political system to reverse the momentum, you are - to recall Harold Hill - “closing your eyes to a situation you do not wish to acknowledge.”
Cal Thomas is a nationally syndicated columnist.