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Defending marriage.

One of the reasons maybe why I’ve been quieter than usual of late is Creeping Disaffection. When Multnomah County first began granting marriage licenses to same-sex couples (including a number of friends and acquaintances of mine), I said something not unlike the following:

It’s brilliantly savvy theatre—every marriage solemnized in this blazing spotlight (as opposed to the thousands, the hundreds of thousands, that have been solemnized in Unitarian and MCC congregations and liberal synagogues and in the sitting rooms of bed and breakfasts and barefoot on the beach; wherever straights have gotten married, gays and lesbians have as well, for all you did to manage not to see them)—every marriage on the sidewalk outside the county offices in the rain with a news camera present puts a human face on this (thus far) largely abstract battle.
Gays and lesbians are an invisible majority, after all; the only time most of the country has to see them is acting up in sitcoms, or on the news, where every year the coverage of the pride parade skips over the gay police officers and the gay librarians and the gay government clerks and the gay senior citizens and the straight allies and zooms straight for the freakshow eyebite: the drag queen in the feather boa, the bare-breasted diesel dyke. (To trade in unfortunately broad stereotypes, which they do, of course; ignoring the obvious benefits these individuals bring to the world, which we shall take as read: we’re all choir here, for the most part, and this is going on too long already.) —Instead, the media has to focus on long lines of people just like everybody else lining up around the block for the same rights and the same dignity enjoyed by everybody else. Professionals and parents, besotted college students head over heels and sober old folks seeking recognition for half a century together, all of them just like everybody else, except—gay. (Meanwhile, in the background, a scattered handful of protesters behind yellow police tape holds up hateful signs. Radio pundits scream incoherently about intangibles, pushing buttons that don’t work as well as they used to. Respected conservative pundits in the field tell us we must oppress these people because gay sex is so much better than straight sex. It’s like heroin. No, really!)
(Which is why I’m not yet that worried about backlash this fall: Oregon is bigger than that, honest it is, and if the sky hasn’t fallen in because of same-sex marriages, we’ll leave well enough alone. —Always reserving the right to be bitterly disappointed, of course.)

Good thing I reserved that right. Oregon is not only not bigger than that, we’re downright petty little shits:

Not to be cynical or anything, but we’ve always sort of assumed that should the initiative to constitutionally outlaw same-sex marriage in Oregon get onto the November ballot, it was all over. Well, it seems that this afternoon anti-marriage forces submitted a record number of signatures:
Backers of a ban on gay marriage turned in more than 244,000 signatures Wednesday to place the issue before Oregon voters this fall. It was twice the number needed and the highest number of signatures ever submitted for an initiative measure in Oregon.
While there of course will be challenges to the initiative, the signature-gathering process, and the validity of signatures, the proposal needs only 100,840 valis signatures to qualify. That more than twice that number were submitted virtually guarantees that voters this Fall will have the option of enshrining discrimination and unequal protection into the Oregon Constitution.

Oh, there’s been good news since then, and one can always hop up on a soapbox and unleash a hail of thundering invective—and there’s nothing like stupid, heartless, thoughtless bigotry to fuel some truly inspired mockery. But it’s sound and fury in the face of implacable fear and ignorance, which will enshrine bigotry in our constitution and strip (largely theoretical, yes, but) rights from neighbors, friends, family members. And the certain knowledge that this is nothing but a freakshow reflex, a thrumming of nausea through the body politic that will pass and leave its fervent supporters and ridiculous logic clinging to the liner of the dustbin of history is cold comfort; it’s hard to look forward to yet another Measure 14 at some point in the years to come that will strip this foulness away (and we will pat ourselves on the back once more: isn’t great we’re so much better than we used to be?) when what we want is decency now, goddammit.

When I’m directly engaging whatever it is I’ve chosen as the Other Side of the Moment, I’ve lately been trying hard to keep Tarantino 25:17 in mind: I try, real hard, to be the shepherd. (Not least because it means I’m actually the tyranny of evil men, and the Other Side of the Moment is weak; we all need our power fantasies.) —It’s hard to make the Other Side of the Moment see the light when you’re sneering at them, and this is why 90% of all internet punditry is less useful than a hill of beans (at least you can eat the beans). But when it comes to the anti–same-sex–marriage crew, I’ve got nothing but a sneer. (I take some little solace in the fact that folks much better than I have lost their patience on this score—and quite eloquently, to boot.)

Now, if you’re a snowball that’s somehow chanced upon this particular hell, and you for whatever reason can’t countenance same-sex marriage, well, I’ll apologize for my sneer; I’m craven enough in my convictions to feel badly about doing it to your face. But you’re backing the wrong play, morally, historically, pragmatically—if you really want to defend marriage, for God’s sake, it makes much more sense to throw your weight behind something like this—

True.

Stigmatize adultery. Roll back no-fault divorce. Rail against quickies, planned at midnight for a 1 a.m. wedding. I’ll still fight you tooth and nail, but at least I could have some little respect.

(Defend marriage? You pathetic, deluded fools. Same-sex couples have been getting married all around you for decades, and they’ll keep on doing it, long after you’ve passed your little amendment. Men will kiss their husbands as you clap yourselves on the back, and wives will continue to feed each other cake, whether you will it or no. They’ve always had the love and the cherish and the honor, and the recognition of their friends and family, and nothing you can do will take that from them. Nothing. All you’ll manage to do is rewrite the tax code. Make it more of a grinding hassle to deal with insurance and wills. Keep loving families apart at times of illness and accident and death. Condemn children to needless, nightmarish legal quagmires. You will tarnish all our rings, and when we open our mouths to take our vows, we will taste ashes. —In order to save marriage, you will destroy it. Fools.)

  1. I protest.    Jul 11, 07:20 PM    #
    Kip on gay marriage.
    Kip at Long story; short pier writes with eloquence of his dismay that the bigots in Oregon have managed to get an initiative on the ballot to enshrine their bigotry in the Oregon constitution, in Defending marriage. I, to, am...

  2. Frank    Jul 11, 07:21 PM    #
    I wasn't aware that the bigots had succeeded. Damn.

    But thank you for writing that last bit. As I say in my latest entry, I wish I had written that. Bravo.

  3. Fables of the reconstruction    Jul 11, 09:42 PM    #
    A Mean Idea to Call My Own
    Long story; short pier:Defend marriage? You pathetic, deluded fools. Same-sex couples have been getting married all around you for decades, and they’ll keep on doing it, long after you’ve passed your little amendment. Men will kiss their husbands a...

  4. Alas, a Blog    Jul 12, 11:02 AM    #
    A few good links
    Why No-Fault Divorce is a Good Thing. Nick Kiddle responds to Susan Shell's essay against gay marriage. The best and most thorough response to Shell; I highly recommend it. There will soon be a ballot measure in Oregon banning same-sex...

  5. Jake Squid    Jul 12, 01:39 PM    #
    Amen.

  6. Loren    Jul 12, 05:49 PM    #
    I just happened to be surfing around and I have to say that this was an excellent, excellent entry. For all it's worth, I'm very impressed. Thank you, thank you, thank you for your comments, particularly the last paragraph.

  7. Myca    Jul 12, 07:57 PM    #
    Sweet Screaming Jesus, that's some tasty ranting at the end there! I wandered over here via Amptoons, and although this was my first visit, you can be assured it won't be my last.

    Damn fine post.

    ---Myca

  8. Mercurial    Jul 13, 06:56 PM    #
    Gay apology?
    From the PFLAG at Detroit, a quote from Paul Cameron, founder of the Family Research Institute and ISIS, the institute...

  9. Rana    Jul 26, 12:23 PM    #
    Beautifully said. Shame that we still have to keep pointing that out, isn't it? Fear and ignorance -- what a terrible combination.

  10. sue manley    Aug 9, 10:09 AM    #
    Thank you, sometimes I lose some hope, then I read a post like yours and I feel less alone.
    Thank you again.

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