- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 29, 2008




Here’s what to do if you aided in the passage of Proposition 8 in the recent California election — dodge, hide, run for the hills.

Otherwise, crowds will try to put you out of business, or maybe chant with unhidden bigotry about how you and every other member of your religious group are scum. Avengers will angrily accost you in the streets, even if you are an elderly, frightened woman. They will blacklist you on the Internet and try to cost you your job.

All that has happened and more to some who contributed money or campaigned for a state constitutional amendment restricting marriage to members of the opposite sex. The initiative, which passed with 52 percent of the vote Election Day, is set for review by the California Supreme Court, but why wait? Why not don brown shirts and make your feelings known, simultaneously underlining that there’s more than a little overreaching in this fight for gay marriage?

One of the central arguments of the advocates is an absurdity — that to prohibit homosexual marriage is a denial of equal rights under the law. The California court itself made that argument in a ruling back in May, as if heterosexuals and homosexuals do not have exactly the same rights — both groups are barred from marrying someone of the same sex and both are allowed to marry someone of the opposite sex.

That line of reasoning may sound like sophistry, but the inescapable truth is that marriage throughout history and in all known societies has been an arrangement of people of the opposite sex and that the special protections surrounding it have obviously had a lot to do with procreation and the institution of the family. The only way to make same-sex marriage an issue of inequality is to redefine marriage into something it has never been. Otherwise, you could as well argue it is an abridgment of equality to restrict Social Security benefits to the elderly and disabled, or to give Medicaid only to the poor instead of to the rich as well.

The equality argument has some advantages for its proponents, such as making gay marriage sound like a civil rights cause or allowing the courts to intrude where they do not belong.

The real issue is that gays have endured hurtful, ugly, unfair, social ostracism in this land, that they have fought for and are gradually winning acceptance and that many specifically would like to enter monogamous relationships recognized as something far more than mere cohabiting by the community and granting them the same legal privileges married couples have.

State legislatures can pretty much do this thing, and in fact, the California legislature did. Though not enough to make many gay activists happy, it established domestic partnerships that grant a wide range of the benefits and duties enjoyed by married couples. I happen to think other state legislatures should also establish civil unions of this kind, and believe they have the right in the absence of constitutional prohibitions to enact gay marriage laws, although I also worry that all kinds of socially corrosive, unintended consequences could flow from those specific laws.

I would guess along with others that either gay marriages or gay civil unions will ultimately be permitted in most states, even though 29 states besides California have voted for gay marriage bans and even such liberals as President-elect Barack Obama himself stand at least ostensibly opposed to gay marriage (though not civil unions). It has been pointed out that young people see things differently about marriage, and someday they will rule.

A major deterrent even for them, though, could be the screaming, morally superior, obnoxious crowds trying to cow others into submission. Have these crowds ever heard the word “backlash?”

Jay Ambrose is former Washington director of editorial policy for Scripps Howard News Service.

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