Daily Archives: July 4, 2003

With his latest Slate column Abolish Marriage Michael Kinsley manages to beat his own well-established record for running, jumping and standing cluelessness.

“Critics and enthusiasts of Lawrence v. Texas, last week’s Supreme Court decision invalidating state anti-sodomy laws,”

he begins,

“agree on one thing: The next argument is going to be about gay marriage.”

In point of fact they don’t. Fourth Estate bloviators and Baptist hysterics want to flap their gums about “Gay Marriage.” Ordinary everyday same-sex-oriented Americans have more mundane concerns. Like not being allowed access to a job or a place of residence because, prior to “Lawrence vs. Texas,” they were considered criminals by virtue of their very existence. Gays and lesbians could be denied access to their own children because Sodomy laws rendered them criminals. And let’s not even talk about the way this classification encouraged gay-bashers, discouraged police interest in anti-gay attacks, spurred anti-gay attacks by police, and allowed parents to toss their gay and lesbian children into the street with a clear conscience.

In recent years many states have begun to take notice of the fact that a sizable number of their citizens have “domestic partners” of the same sex. Vermont has formally recognized such alliances — as have numerous private corporations. This situation has come to pass thanks to the success of the gay rights movement in encouraging the same-sex-oriented to live free, open and honest lives. And in due course this will lead to same-sex marriage and/or its equivalent. Consequently the Supreme Court is not so much “taking the lead” on this issue as it is acknowledging that the lead has been taken already by others — in defiance of the sodomy laws they have just overturned.

“As Justice Scalia noted in his tart dissent, it follows from the logic of Lawrence. Mutually consenting sex with the person of your choice in the privacy of your own home is now a basic right of American citizenship under the Constitution. This does not mean that the government must supply it or guarantee it. But the government cannot forbid it, and the government also should not discriminate against you for choosing to exercise a basic right of citizenship. Offering an institution as important as marriage to male-female couples only is exactly this kind of discrimination. Or so the gay rights movement will now argue. Persuasively, I think.”

Back in 1969 when the Stonewall uprising gave birth to the modern gay rights movement, marriage wasn’t on anyone’s mind. We demanded our right to freely associate with one another — which was then, quite explicitly, against the laws of New York State. A gay and lesbian sub-culture that had flourished only in relation to the financial and social standing of the upper classes, was now being declared the birthright of the middle and lower ones. The street queens who took on the cops at Stonewall were then — and remain today — outcasts of both the larger culture and the gay sub-culture. The boys and girls of GLF (the Gay Liberations Front) and GAA (the Gay Activists Alliance) were resolutely middle-class. And a middle-class revolt was pretty much unheard of. By being forthright an honest we were, in effect, associating ourselves with street queens. So be it, we said then — while the likes of Bruce Bawer scurried away in cowardice and horror, until the gains we made for him allowed the possibility of speech. And that speech, needless to say, was utilized to attack us.

“Opponents of gay rights will resist mightily, although they have been in retreat for a couple of decades. General anti-gay sentiments are now considered a serious breach of civic etiquette, even in anti-gay circles. The current line of defense, which probably won’t hold either, is between social toleration of homosexuals and social approval of homosexuality. Or between accepting the reality that people are gay, even accepting that gays are people, and endorsing something called “the gay agenda.” Gay marriage, the opponents will argue, would cross this line. It would make homosexuality respectable and, worse, normal. Gays are welcome to exist all they want, and to do their inexplicable thing if they must, but they shouldn’t expect a government stamp of approval.”

And that is precisely what Lawrence vs. Texas offers. For in his ruling for the majority, Justice Kennedy made that “inexplicable thing” quite explicable. We are people with full and multi-facted lives of which sexual expression plays a part, and we are deserving of the same respect and consideration as any other citizen.

“It’s going to get ugly. And then it’s going to get boring. So, we have two options here. We can add gay marriage to the short list of controversies—abortion, affirmative action, the death penalty—that are so frozen and ritualistic that debates about them are more like Kabuki performances than intellectual exercises. Or we can think outside the box.”

“Outside the box”? “Here come those tired old tits again!”

“There is a solution that ought to satisfy both camps and may not be a bad idea even apart from the gay-marriage controversy.

That solution is to end the institution of marriage. Or rather (he hastens to clarify, Dear) the solution is to end the institution of government-sanctioned marriage. “

You mean End Marriage Altogether? Cause that’s what you’re asking for, dolt!

“Or, framed to appeal to conservatives: End the government monopoly on marriage. Wait, I’ve got it: Privatize marriage. These slogans all mean the same thing. Let churches and other religious institutions continue to offer marriage ceremonies. Let department stores and casinos get into the act if they want. Let each organization decide for itself what kinds of couples it wants to offer marriage to. Let couples celebrate their union in any way they choose and consider themselves married whenever they want. Let others be free to consider them not married, under rules these others may prefer. And, yes, if three people want to get married, or one person wants to marry herself, and someone else wants to conduct a ceremony and declare them married, let ‘em. If you and your government aren’t implicated, what do you care?”

If the government isn’t “implicated” THEN IT ISN’T MARRIAGE !

Let’s speak real slowly so Kinsley can understand.

Marriage is a contract.

It declares that two individuals are now recognized by the state as a unit to which rights and privileges are granted relating to property. If one of the two parties should expire, his or her survivor is automatically entitled to the deceased’s property — barring any wills, condicils or contestations by other parties. Likewise said signatories have custodial authority over any children that may have issued from said uinion — or been acquired by it via an outside source. (Edward Albee was purchased for $310 dollars)

You can have “Commitment Ceremonies” until the Disney Cows come home but they don’t mean jack-shit unless you’ve got a contract recognzied by the state.

Let me say it again IT’S A CONTRACT !

And this is the reason why the services of priests, ministers or rabbis aren’t needed for divorce proceedings.

“In fact, there is nothing to stop any of this from happening now. And a lot of it does happen. But only certain marriages get certified by the government. So, in the United States we are about to find ourselves in a strange situation where the principal demand of a liberation movement is to be included in the red tape of a government bureaucracy.”

This “red tape” isn’t decor, dear. It’s the heart of the matter. (see above)

“Having just gotten state governments out of their bedrooms, gays now want these governments back in.”

Just as far as the foyer.

“Meanwhile, social-conservative anti-gays, many of them southerners, are calling on the government in Washington to trample states’ rights and nationalize the rules of marriage, if necessary, to prevent gays from getting what they want. The Senate Majority Leader, Bill Frist of Tennessee, responded to the Supreme Court’s Lawrence decision by endorsing a constitutional amendment, no less, against gay marriage.”

Drama Queens, the lot of them!

“If marriage were an entirely private affair, all the disputes over gay marriage would become irrelevant. Gay marriage would not have the official sanction of government, but neither would straight marriage. There would be official equality between the two, which is the essence of what gays want and are entitled to.”

An “official equality” of an utterly meaningless ceremony.

“And if the other side is sincere in saying that its concern is not what people do in private, but government endorsement of a gay “lifestyle” or “agenda,” that problem goes away, too.”

In your dreams!

“Yes, yes, marriage is about more than sleeping arrangements. There are children, there are finances, there are spousal job benefits like health insurance and pensions. In all these areas, marriage is used as a substitute for other factors that are harder to measure, such as financial dependence or devotion to offspring. It would be possible to write rules that measure the real factors at stake and leave marriage out of the matter. Regarding children and finances, people can set their own rules, as many already do.”

You mean we should have Kurt and Goldie and Tim and Susan as role models?

Then why did Barry and Diane tie the knot, praytell?

“None of this would be easy. Marriage functions as what lawyers call a “bright line,” which saves the trouble of trying to measure a lot of amorphous factors. You’re either married or you’re not. Once marriage itself becomes amorphous, who-gets-the-kids and who-gets-health-care become trickier questions.”

For lawyers to solve — and the state to pass judgement on.

“So, sure, there are some legitimate objections to the idea of privatizing marriage. But they don’t add up to a fatal objection. Especially when you consider that the alternative is arguing about gay marriage until death do us part.”

Who’s death?

Not mine.

Obviously Kinsley’s– and his ilk.

And in that regard I leave you with the words of Michel Foucault who in an interview with James O’Higgins in Salmagundi Fall 1982 – Winter 1983) noted in a discusion of gay “visibility” that

“These things are bound to disturb some people. But I was talking about the common fears that gays will develop relationships that are intense and satisfying even though they do not at all conform to the ideas of relationship held by others. It is the prospect that gays will create as yet unforseen kinds of relationships that many people cannot tolerate.”

“Slow Curtain. The End.”