I’ve let the dust settle some from the recent insistence of Congressional Republicans to throw their “base” a bone. I am referring to, of course, the recent attempt to ingrain discrimination against gay people into the Constitution.
I naturally called my Senators. I expressed by belief to the intern answering the phone in Mel Martinez’s office that protecting marriage was best done by making divorce illegal. I asked her if the Senator would introduce appropriate legislation to make divorce illegal, given his strongly stated desire to “protect marriage.” I guess I might have stumbled across one of the few honest people on Capitol Hill. This young lady told me, “the Senator’s not interested in protecting marriage, he’s interested in protecting the definition of marriage.”
There is something queer about this Senate crusade to outlaw gay marriage. If you listen closely, the leaders who oppose single-sex unions refuse to talk about gay people. They talk about activist judges, welfare rolls, the rights of voters and the birthrate of single mothers in Scandinavia. But there is not a gay man, a lesbian woman or a bisexual teenager in the mix.
Kansas Republican Sam Brownback, a 2008 presidential contender, led the charge for a constitutional amendment on the Senate floor , dominating the debate with a handful of blue-and-white charts that he said showed the need to ban same-sex marriage. He had line graphs, bar graphs and circle graphs. He spoke about French law and Dutch sociology. He went on about the benefits of two-parent families. “It’s important that a child be raised between a loving couple,” Brownback declared, a phrase that seemed, at first, to be an argument in favor of gay marriage. “Developmental problems are less common in two parent families.” He said that welfare encourages out-of-wedlock births and called for more research on marriage. But the Republican senator made no real mention of men who love men or women who love women.
In fact, the principal argument mounted by social conservative leaders like Brownback has more to do with the fragile state of heterosexual marriage than homosexuality. Their convoluted logic works like this: If society approves of long-term homosexual monogamy, then the “institution of marriage” will be weakened. This will lead straight people to abandon monogamy and harm the welfare of the nation’s children, who benefit from stable, two-parent families. “Our policies should aim to strengthen families, not undermine them,” explained President Bush in his Monday address to amendment supporters. “And changing the definition of marriage would undermine the family structure.”
This is why Brownback has been spending so much time studying Nordic marriage trends. He believes there is a direct (albeit inverse) correlation between gay marriage and heterosexual fidelity. “Where gay marriage finds acceptance, marriage virtually ceased to exist,” he said in the Senate, reading aloud from one of his big blue-and-white posters, this one labeled “Scandinavia.” “The institution no longer means much of anything.”
These straight-marriage-in-trouble arguments are everywhere in the current debate. They had dominated a press conference in the Capitol, just a few feet off the Senate floor. “When marriage declines, children and society suffer,” explained Matt Daniels, the founder of the Alliance for Marriage, an umbrella group of churches and synagogues that wrote the anti-gay-marriage amendment. “Violent crime, youth crime, welfare dependency and child poverty track more closely with family breakdown than with any other social variable, including race and income level.”
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